Wednesday, 25 March 2015

In circles

As in, running around in circles...  Teaching, entertaining, cooking and tidying up.  Hospital appointments for my mother-in-law.  All the stuff that leaves you with nothing to show for how you have spent your day, but nonetheless necessary.

Not much sewing done, so all I can show you is a little hand applique of the circles block for my Quartet BOM (and also here).  I am no great shakes at applique so have been putting this off for a while; however, now that I have actually started, I am getting into the swing of it.

I am using YLI silk thread in either soft grey or light brown because one or the other colour blends with most of the taupe shades, and the very fine thread means my not-very-neat stitches melt into the fabric.

Hope to be more productive next week.  Meanwhile, here's a lovely colour study of Helleborus lividus, all dusky pinky and creamy yellow with beautiful marbled leaves.  Spring is definitely on the way...

Linking to Lee at Freshly Pieced: WIP Wednesday.  Love her studio.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Disappearing Hourglass and more...

Quick post this week as I am teaching tomorrow (String Quilts, my favourite, at my LQS) and we have friends visiting on Sunday, so lots of non-sewing things to do.

I have made almost all of my Disappearing Hourglass blocks: here are a few laid out on my small design board.  This number of blocks would be about the right size for a cot quilt, but I want something a little bigger.

Slightly to my surprise, I must confess, the piecing went really well, with nice sharp points.  I have always been a little suspicious of the various 'disappearing block' methods as I think they can give rather inaccurate results, but  (admittedly with careful cutting) these were a delight.  In fact the only block which went awry was one where the ruler slipped as I was cutting.

Spring cleaning turned up a box of ancient flannel fabrics (OK, not all that ancient, but distinctly out of fashion nowadays).  I also found some Foundation by the Yard and decided to make another quilt by this method and use up them up.

I made a small Christmas quilt years ago in just greens and tans with a smidgeon of red, but this time I will be using up all the rest of the colours in the box as well, mostly blue and brown.  It is likely to still be rather Christmassy: hard to escape that look with these shades of red and green, plus the snowflakes, of course....

Final WIP, just a glimpse, is the wedding quilt I have been working on for the lovely daughter of a dear friend.  I have almost finished the blocks and will be having fun soon with the layout.  This will be a cozy quilt for the newly weds this autumn, I hope.

So next week looks like it might be busy...  I have to make hay while the sun doesn't shine, as the garden will be taking all my time soon.  It is a cold, wet Spring here so far and I won't start gardening properly till the weather is more reliable, but it won't be long now: my machine needs to work overtime to get these projects more or less done before then.  Will keep you posted.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Spring cleaning the Chandelier

What does spring cleaning mean to you?  Pail of soapy water and a scrubbing brush?  No, me neither. For me it means pulling everything out of the sewing cupboard and finding projects which are almost but not quite completed, then completing them.  I feel so virtuous that I am then justified (in my mind anyway) in starting something new...

We don't have a chandelier, but I have now finished my quilt from the Chandelier Quilt-along which Lee of Freshly Pieced ran on the Bernina We all Sew blog (here).  I blogged about this here and ground to a halt while waiting for more background fabric, then Christmas etc happened.

So, encouraged by finishing my Scrappy Trip last week, I plunged on and finished the piecing AND quilting at a run: simple straight line quilting with the walking foot, lines about 1/2" apart.
I like the ribbed texture.

These are my tips if you are tackling a biggish project with straight lines if, like me, you don't have a guide to attach to your machine foot to keep the spacing accurate.

  • Mark lines parallel to the vertical seams.  I used a Hera marker which shows up fine on light coloured fabric - you may need to experiment of you have darker or busier fabric.
  • Don't mark every line.  I chose to mark lines 1" apart.  I quilted these and then went back and added the lines in between by eye.  They are not absolutely straight but I am a person, not a robot, and I think it adds interest to have a bit of wobble here and there.
  • Most important tip is to start all of the quilting lines at the top of the piece - do not reverse the direction of travel.  If you do you will get puckers as the fabric is pushed first one way and then the other.  I start in the middle of the quilt's top edge and then work out towards the right hand side ie the amount of fabric under the machine arm will reduce with each quilting row. Then I'm afraid you will have more of a battle as you work from the middle out towards the left hand side of the quilt, so there will be more fabric scrunched under the arm with each row quilted.

This quilt is a smidge under 60" square and it is do-able; I'm not sure about rib-quilting a really massive quilt, I'll let you know when I've done one.  Just resist the temptation to turn and work up from the bottom if you possibly can, it's worth it.

The soft grey speckle fabric on the back was a curtain remnant (Stippleglaze from Osborne & Little) which I must have picked up somewhere, but it is very lightweight cotton so fine for quilting. Scrappy binding to pull all the colours together.

So what did I start?  In the course of my spring clean I pulled out some charm squares bought on impulse at a show a couple of years ago - Wildflower by Kathy Davis for Free Spirit the selvage says - and just waiting for the right pattern to inspire me.

I thought about the Broken Dishes block in a star setting which I have seen on Pinterest and loved, but the 5" squares made an 8 1/2" block which would make a 16 1/2" star block - a bit clunky I felt.

What to do?  Ran through various possibilities in my head, nothing clicked. Then I remembered the Missouri Star Quilt Company had a Disappearing Hourglass tutorial.  Now I don't call this block the Hourglass block; to me the Hourglass is a square quartered diagonally, ie the centre portion only of the block shown above, but leaving the name aside, we were talking about the same block.

And this is the result.  Aren't they adorable little blocks - mine are smaller than the MSQC ones, being made from 5" squares rather than a 10" Layer Cake: mine finish at 7".  I am thrilled - I think the fabrics work well and are fresh against the white tone-on-tone (it has a swirly vine which you probably cannot see - barely there but not an actual solid, also from stash).

Couple of comments on the tutorial, which is lovely and full of Jenny Doan's usual enthusiasm.  I have a personal issue with the method Jenny uses to make her HST's: I think it is not helpful to have all those bias edges on the outside of the HST's as the stretchiness may distort the block.

I made my HST's by the time-honoured method of drawing a diagonal line corner to corner and stitching 1/4" either side, then cutting and trimming to 4 1/2" with my Bloc_loc square ruler.

I would also recommend pressing some of the main seams open to help flatten the block; this really helps when you come to cut up the Hourglass block as the ruler is less likely to slip.  Best Press is my best friend here.

They will look even better when they are joined up - next week, I hope.  Tune in then!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Secret Garden Scrappy Trips - finished

Some photos of the finished quilt on a cold but beautifully bright day.  Quilts always look good in natural surroundings, don't you think?  And not just so that I don't have to tidy up at home...

I started this quilt back in September 2014 with fabric purchased at the NEC in August.  It was meant to be a Scrappy Bargello, but turned itself into a Scrappy Trips: see this blog post for the story.

Quilt stats:  quilt measures 76" square.  The individual squares were cut 3", finishing at 2 1/2".
Made from two bundles of FQ's of Nel Whatmore Secret Garden plus some Fair Trade Fabric stripes and plains and a couple of Oakshott shot cottons.

The border fabric is part of the Secret Garden range and it was so luscious I felt it merited the mitred corners, something I rarely do.

On the back is a bright coral/orange print I got in the sale at my LQS - not really one of my usual colours but it worked perfectly.

Quilting nothing special, just a crosshatch in the middle and straight lines in the borders, but I didn't want to detract from the fabrics and felt the diagonals were in keeping with the diagonals in the design.

This quilt makes me think of summer heat and tropical fruit, all in short supply here just at the moment!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Project roundup

Working on lots of bits and pieces this past couple of weeks.  Never seemed the right time to blog; husband hogging the computer or I didn't have the right photo and the light was dreadful.  We are still quite grey and chilly here, with only the occasional stunning blue and sunny day interspersed.  But Spring has been sighted, and the mornings and evenings are not so dark when I take my daughter to/pick her up from the train station.

I managed a small finish, having put together a baby quilt from squares left over from this quilt top, pieced in May 2011, nearly its third fourth anniversary, and still waiting to be quilted.

Would you believe I've just seen the same quilt design/block made by Lee of Freshly Pieced which she blogged about yesterday - that's happenstance!

It's the classic Jewel Box block and Lee has a tutorial or you can look at the pattern I used which was a free one from Moda Bakeshop called Sunkissed Jewel Box by Mary Lane Brown (here).

The fabrics I used were Verna and Hunky Dory from Moda and Lizzie by Anna Griffin, plus an assortment of neutral just-off-whites.  I like mixing collections for a speedy quilt which isn't too predictable.

I love being able to make something from 'nothing' and the little squares had been sitting around in a bag for far too long.

I was inspired by the huge Checkerboard quilt in Sunday Morning Quilts and quilted  it just like Amanda Jean, to one side of the seam lines in two directions.  Just enough quilting as the squares are 2 1/4" unfinished, 1 3/4" finished.

You may just be able to see the large pink spot on the back - not quite long enough so I pieced in a strip of plain white.  Stripy binding from stash - it was by Heather Bailey from an old collection. Quilt measures 28 1/2" x 44 1/2".

I also quilted the fresh and fruity Not-quite Bargello top from here - I stopped because I was waiting for the border fabric and then was waylaid by other projects.  I haven't had a chance to sit and hand sew the binding - I like to save this sort of job for when I am not able to use my sewing machine - maybe a finish by the end of the week.  I don't have a photo so that will have to wait till next time.

Plugging on with my EPP Lozenge quilt.  At the last minute I decided I needed the quilt to be slightly longer than it is wide so had to make a few more lozenges.  It is almost square - but I couldn't bear it being wider than it was tall, it just didn't feel right.  Again, I will save the reveal on this one till I have squared off the top.

What I will claim as my WIP for the link up today is that I have finished hand piecing all 16 of the Rose Chain blocks which I started back on last November.  I am ready to join the blocks and then tackle the applique borders, so it's not going to be really finished for a while yet.  However it is satisfying to have got this far after a 10-year lay off....

Now for confession: today I went shopping for a white cotton wadding, full of resolve to quilt the Jewel Box quilt top mentioned above, having dug it out of the cupboard, and equal resolve not to buy any fabric, having been inspired by Crazy Mom Quilts' 6 month fabric fast.  I can do that, I thought...

Maybe not.

I don't feel too bad though as I didn't buy any fabric when I wasn't well - hah!- and didn't go to the sale at Farnham Maltings or the Ardingly Quilt Show in January, so this was my first splurge in a while.  I LOVE what I bought, the 'plains' are Peppered Cottons and have a real depth of colour, and the spots are so subtle I couldn't pass them by.

The musical instrument fabric is by Fabric Freedom (no name on the selvage, I'm afraid) and I couldn't resist: my younger son plays bass trombone in a brass ensemble so I have to make him something with this!

Linking to Lee at Freshly Pieced today - always great to see what she is up to, and all the other link ups.  There's so much making going on out there - what are you busy with?