Friday, 29 January 2016

Kindle cover - quick make

I always forget how quick and enjoyable it is to make something small rather than a great big quilt. Though it doesn't use up much of the stash!

So having had no sewing for over a week because my mum-in-law was taken ill and I spent every day hospital visiting (she's on the mend now, thankfully), I stole some time last night and made this kindle case for my daughter at her request.  I resorted to taking most of the photos outside as it is still so grey and overcast here.

My daughter chose the outer fabric - an ancient one from my stash - because she thought it was appropriate to have letters on the outside as well as on the kindle.  I was surprised she didn't go for any of my bright modern prints and text fabrics, but who can predict the ways of 23-year olds?

After some research on Pinterest, I found this tutorial for a sleek and simple case with pockets front and back by Jess of Sew Crafty Jess, and cut out my pieces accordingly.  The inner fabrics are brushed cottons (to keep the kindle cosy!). I only had fat eighths so used two different ones.

When I had nearly finished I tried the kindle for size.  It slipped down to the bottom of the case and there was, I felt, a bit too much extra space at the top.  So I tweaked the pattern and adjusted the folds so that I would have a flap at the top to take up the extra fabric.  This means that the outer pocket on the back is the full length of the case, with a shorter pocket at the front.

My daughter's kindle is now a perfect fit and kept in place securely by the flap.  The pockets are useful for storing the charging cable and any other relevant bits and pieces.

I can heartily recommend the tutorial.  The measurements and instructions are clear.  I had everything I needed to hand, including a pony tail elastic and cover button for the closure, and scrap wadding. Making the case took only a few hours and I feel like I have really achieved something this week.

I hope you have managed some sewing this week too and that you have a fun weekend.
Linking to Finish it up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts.  Always nice to see everyone else's finishes.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Neelam top - a challenge completed

Nearly but not quite there with my Wednesday WIP, so instead I am going to show you a small top I finished earlier in the week, which is now ready to layer and quilt.

Last April I went to Nantes in France to the Quiltmania Show, Pour l'Amour du Fil, which I loved and which I blogged about at some length here and here. Gosh, it seems an age ago.

One of the things I bought was a small kit with a pattern and selection of fat eighths (or metric equivalent) from a company called Neelam: the stall was selling what I think are fabrics printed in India with woodblocks using natural dyes.  I have provided a link but didn't manage to click the translate button so I have guessed at the French description!  I must go back and have a proper look later.

The sample displayed looked lovely and so I succumbed and bought the kit and a couple of fat quarters for backing.  Included were some pieces of raw silk in a beautiful rich red.  The colours really attracted me, and it is a good thing I still like them, because making up the top has been a bit of a challenge.

Basically all the instructions are in French, which is not unreasonable for a kit sold, and bought, in France at a show mostly attended by French people! I do have schoolgirl French so can pretty much manage the verbal instructions - but the measurements are in centimetres, which is more of a problem.

I think it's a bit like recipes - you should not really try and convert quantities from metric to Imperial or American when baking, but should stick with one set of weights throughout. Well, I don't have a metric ruler so I thought I would redraft the pattern into 'English' inches.  But I am a bit too impatient to get out the graph paper and do a proper job; I thought I would be fine measuring the templates and working out the equivalent measurements.

All I can say is that it mostly worked, but not quite.  The snags came with the triangles where it is not so straightforward, and I had to fudge a bit along the way.  You will see that the central octagon has a rather smart narrow chevron border.  That's because the octagon turned out half an inch too small, and I didn't have enough fabric to recut, having fussy cut this piece.  So I am making a virtue of my bungle as I quite like the chevron trim.

I also added the corners to the blue squares on point in the wrong order (knowing no better) and have lost the points of the red silk triangles which form the central star.  I should have added the dark blue triangles first and then the red silk triangles which would then overlap neatly, not the other way round. Actually it would probably have been better if I had made the blue squares on point a little bit bigger. Never mind, it will show less when the top is quilted.  Planning to do this by hand as the top is only 24" square and the fabric is quite fine.

The block reminds me a bit of the Swoon block which was all over the blogosphere a while ago and which I still want to make.  Not quite the same but similar-ish.

I am glad to have finished this top despite the problems, which were largely of my own making. I should have spent more time on the redrafting. There was actually quite a lot of helpful information in the pattern, with cutting diagrams and piecing plan as well as templates: it's just that it was all designed and labelled in centimetres...

I had started cutting out before Christmas and had to abandon the project when visitors started arriving, so it was a relief to retrieve the pieces from where they had been scattered about the house, and finally get the top assembled. My aim is to sit down and do some hand quilting this weekend so that I can post a proper finish very soon.  Meanwhile I am linking to Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday as I feel good about not having this one in pieces any more.

We aren't expecting snow I am glad to say, so if you are on the east coast of America and watching the weather forecast anxiously, I hope you will stay warm and safe this weekend.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

WIP Wedding-sday Quilt

Hi all.  Couldn't resist the play on words as I am linking today to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced!

On this bright and frosty morning I am in the middle of making a quilt as a wedding present for the daughter of a friend who is getting married in April.

I have known her since she was a baby, the daughter that is, not the friend, and she shares a birthday with me so that makes her extra-special.

Here is just a quick peep at the fabrics (mostly Peppered Cottons and a few tone on tones to fill in gaps in the range of colour) and the Bargello layout.

The top is going together really well and the colours make me happy.  It looks a lot more complicated than it is - always better than the other way round...

Hope to show you a completed top quite soon.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Bountiful Baskets mini quilt

Here's a little top put together at speed to give me a finish for today's link to Crazy Mom Quilts: Finish it up Friday. Not the most worthy motive I know but I needed a deadline!

Making the 6" blocks for the Moda Sampler Block Shuffle (which I blogged about yesterday) was such fun that today I tackled a little kit I have had lying around for ages.

Lori Smith of From my Heart to your Hands had a series of small patterns called Four Plus One Equals Fun, which seem to be still available on her website. I chose Bountiful Baskets which came packaged by my LQS with 5 fat quarters, four print and one background, all tied up with a ribbon. Who could resist that!  I did change the background for a softer cream however, the white was a bit bright.

Anyway I was encouraged by some success with the Shuffle 6" blocks to go even smaller: these baskets finish at 4 3/8" according to the pattern.  Mine were slightly bigger but nothing I couldn't fudge when it came to putting the blocks together.

The quilt finishes at 17" x 23" : I chose to put borders on all four sides - Lori bordered only 3 sides so her finished quilt would be 16" x 20", small enough to fit on a fat quarter of backing (though she also gives a pattern for a pieced backing).

Such a pleasure to make something small.  This top went together in a couple of hours and won't take long to finish, though I may hand quilt so don't hold your breath....  Usually I make quite big quilts and they take forever.  Only drawback is small quilts don't use up much fabric!

Do visit Lori's website if you like traditional quilt designs.  Lori has lots of gorgeous small patterns as well as bigger quilts - very inspiring.

Have a great weekend, with time for sewing too.  Thanks for visiting my blog.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Sampler Block Shuffle: still shuffling along

Not much of a chance to get stuck into sewing this week, but I did manage one evening to make the latest two blocks of the Sampler Block Shuffle, blocks 19 and 20, plus a few extra variations of some of the other blocks.  

I am now completely up to date (till tomorrow, of course, when the next two blocks are released).  I am picking my block patterns up from Fat Quarter Shop and if you use this link it will take you straight to the current posting and with a further link to the block patterns themselves.  When new ones are released they are underlined and you can click and print the patterns and then stitch up the blocks at your leisure.

One of the nice things is that FQS are also showing blocks made up in different fabric palettes and with colour and value variations: the block makers may or may not have followed the pattern directions for their colour and value placement, and the patterns themselves give variations, so you can have fun making several alternative blocks - as I have. I suppose this might be why Moda have called it a block shuffle. I certainly expect to have to do some shuffling around when it comes to layout time.

The fabrics I have chosen to use are a range called Calico Craze by Barbara Brackman & Terry Clothier Thompson for Moda.  It is a few years old. I bought a bundle of fat quarters in a stack with lovely Moda ribbon, so I guess I got the complete range. I don't usually buy fabric in that way and sure enough the bundle, although beautiful, has languished in the cupboard as I didn't want to break it up and didn't have a project for which would use all the range.  

Well, I have now, and I am enjoying mixing and matching the prints. I confess I have added a few extra FQs from my stash to give me a bit more flexibility and especially some backgrounds and semi-solids such as the crackle fabrics, and one or two bigger scale florals. I hope to use up all the scraps in the flying geese border in due course.

I have mentioned this QAL in a couple of earlier posts (here and here) but I have not said all that much about it. This is almost the first sampler quilt I will ever have made (though I guess the Sawtooth Stars quilt-as-you-go is a sort of sampler as the middles of the stars are all different).I don't always like the look of sampler quilts, especially as they used to be done in the 70s and 80s with (often) just 12 really big, ungainly (in my opinion) blocks.They seemed to me to lack an overall cohesion and balance, as some blocks were inevitably more or less complex than others.

However I have come to admire more recent sampler style quilts and especially the Dear Jane and Farmer's Wife varieties where the blocks are quite dainty and there are lots of them - see Pinterest for some mind blowing examples if you are not familiar with them.  

These blocks are not quite so small, finishing at 6" and the instructions suggest making them from two Layer Cakes and 1.5 metres of background fabric.  I am having fun cutting strips of the required widths (mostly 1 1/2", 2" and 2 1/2") from my FQs  and then sub-cutting as required.  I can then mix and match the fabrics for my multiple versions of each block.

The QAL started on 6th November and is scheduled to finish on 12th February, with borders and finishing instructions to follow on 19th Feb. Not too late to join in!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Rainbow Pinwheels - finished

First finish of the New Year but I made this little top in the autumn as a teaching sample (blogged here).

I had layered it up in December in the (vain, foolish, completely unrealistic? - add the adjective of your choice) hope of finishing it off before Christmas as it is so small.  However this was not to be.

Having decided to start 2016 by going through my heaps of WIPs and UFOs, reminding myself that I probably should not buy any more fabric till 2020, I then spent a ridiculous amount of time this week trying to find the various things I needed to complete the top.

This included locating the binding fabric which had been tidied away for the holidays... Sure enough, I only found it when I had given up in disgust and started looking for something else: does that ever happen to you?

I was so grumpy that I don't feel it was really the best start to a new year but at least I am back on track now.  I am pleased with the quilting which avoids the area of greatest bulk at the centre of the pinwheel blocks as well as all the pitfalls of quilting in the ditch.  I just marked the lines with a Hera marker and used my old Bernina and walking foot. The quilting lines are a smidge over 2" apart.

So here are the vital statistics.  Quilt measures 25" x 34 1/2".
I made the quilt from a Charm pack of Best.Day.Ever. by April Rosenthal for Moda.  Backing by V and Co, binding from Wren and Friends, I think.  I'm not usually an orange person but this cheerful rainbow seemed to want it.

The idea for the rainbow layout came from a quilt I saw somewhere on Pinterest a while ago - sorry, not sure where now.  The primary colours of the charm pack suggested this arrangement, though I had to use a couple of neutral pinwheels where I ran out of a particular colour for a couple of the rows.

I used 35 of the forty two 5" squares in the Charm pack (I didn't use the very light prints).
I paired each print square with a 5" square of Kona Snow cut from yardage (allow 1 metre and you will have enough for narrow plain borders).

My 35 paired print/plain squares yielded 70 x 3" (finished size) pinwheel blocks, two of each colour/design, and they are set 7 x 10 with 2" borders.

I hope to post a mini-tutorial in due course with a few tips to help you make the sweetest, neatest little blocks which will go together like a dream and all your points will be perfect.  There's a goal/resolution for the New Year!

Linking to Amanda Jean's Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts: thanks for the spur to get a finish out there promptly.  Let's hope it is the first of many for us all....

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Happy New Year

A day late wishing you health and happiness for 2016, fun with your sewing and peace in your life and in the world: big and little wishes all rolled up together.  Thank you for taking the time and trouble to visit my blog this past year, I really appreciate it, and special thanks to anyone who has been kind enough to post a comment; it is lovely to be able to share what I have made and thrilling to know when at least one other person somewhere in the world likes it!

Ashamed to note it is nearly a month since I last blogged.  Usual excuses at this time of year, usual resolutions being made for the year ahead...   I hope you all had a good break over Christmas.  At our house there was lots of preparation, celebration, relaxation, and no sewing at all as I had to clear the dining room, my sewing space, for all the eating, drinking and conversation.

Still, I wouldn't have it any other way for these few weeks - so long as I can now clear the fridge and larder of tempting treats, get back to normal cooking, and bring my quilty stuff back to where I can access it easily. Everyone returns to work on Monday, the Christmas tree and decorations go away on Wednesday (Twelfth Night) and this weekend is transition time when we turn the page in the diary and look forward.

So, you may have noticed I have a new header to this blog: all credit goes to my daughter's friend Anna who is a whiz with computer design.  I thought that after two and a half years of fairly basic posting I should up my game and try and offer a bit more.  The idea is to make a few tutorials more readily accessible and post a gallery of quilts as a record of each year's finishes.  I'm not there yet as I have not added that content, but hopefully will do so over the next couple of weeks.

I know that blogs have been around for a while and there are more dynamic ways of sharing content, especially photos, but I am not yet ready to join all the social media stuff - always behind the curve, on the edge, where I can observe and consider before dipping my toe in the water, not just my age, always been that way.  So blogging it will be, for the foreseeable anyway.  Hope you will still join me?

Enough reflection, what little have I actually managed in December?  Well, I sold some quilts at a local craft fair in our adjoining village.  I no doubt underpriced them, but the aim was to cover the fabric cost and make sure they went to a good home.  I was fortunate in that I know almost all the purchasers.  I still find it hard to part with my 'babies' but I am starting to find that it is the challenge and process of making that is more fulfilling than having the finished quilt.  Almost.

I know there has been much debate on-line about getting a reasonable return for one's work and not underselling/devaluing the skill and hours of labour involved in making anything handmade.  And I totally understand and sympathise with the concerns expressed.  However, realistically it seems to me that people who don't know much about quilts, quilting or indeed making in any craft form, are just not going to pay a price which truly remunerates the maker for her or his time and effort.  I think that unless we are very lucky, most of us will still make quilts for the pleasure of making and giving, with maybe the occasional sale to clear the decks and make some room for more quilts!

And speaking of more quilts in the making, I returned my sewing machine to its usual place yesterday and caught up (nearly) with the blocks in Moda's Sampler Block Shuffle (see this post for my start date: I am downloading the patterns from the Fat Quarter Shop here).  I have deviated a little in that I have made multiples of some blocks, shuffling the colour and value placement, and I have decided to miss out the two applique blocks, one of which was released yesterday.  Although it is a nice block (by Jan Patek, whose naive style I like) I am not great at applique and I do prefer to piece. Chain piece, if possible...

Enjoy your weekend!