Friday, 26 February 2016

Scrappy and proud

This week I have still been in overdrive, chain piecing madly and determined to use up some of my scraps. In the photo above you may recognise the colour palette of my Wedding Stars quilt from last summer.  

I loved making that quilt because I was really comfortable with the colours the bride chose from my stash.  What's not to like about country reds and blues? And lots of different fabrics, the more the merrier.

When tidying up recently I came across the box where I had packed away the leftover squares: there were quite a few so I chain pieced a whole lot more nine patches, some with red centres, some with blue, just as for Wedding Stars.

I wanted to make a different layout however (partly, I confess, because I wasn't in the mood to make hourglass blocks, which are more fiddly than nine-patches) so I looked in my stash for what I could use.

I turned out some remnants of brushed cotton plaids and chose to use the non-brushed side, and to go for a scrappy double nine-patch layout. I decided to sash the big blocks but did not want the sashing to overwhelm the pieced blocks: I found some ticking-type stripes in red/oatmeal in three different widths which had been in the cupboard for years. Not enough of any one fabric, so I decided to use a bit of all three in keeping with the scrappy, 'use what you've got' ethos of the project.

Please excuse the quilt top being slightly crumpled in the photos - it was ironed but then folded with creases in.... So annoying when that happens.

I included this photo to remind you about opening your seams when you make four-patches and nine-patches.  It is easy to do (provided you do not use an excessively short stitch length) and makes the seam intersections lie very flat which is a help when you come to quilt the top.  

Because I prefer to nest/butt seam allowances wherever I can, rather than press them open, this for me is a good solution to the problem of bulky seam intersections.

So, all things considered, a good result: I used only what I had to hand, and I cleared up the leftover squares lurking in the cupboard. This seems like a 'free' quilt top, though I think I may have to buy a backing.... it's a good size (63" x 78") and it was relatively quick to make, with plenty of straightforward sewing at speed, my favourite!

As it is a finished top, I am linking to Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday.
Hope you get a chance to enjoy making and/or finishing something this weekend.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Fabrications and fabricating

One nice thing which happened during the mayhem of the last few weeks was that I received copies of Fabrications magazine for Jan/Feb and March/April, as I am lucky enough to have quilts featured in both.  Here is a copy of the mags and there follow some of my rather more amateurish pics of the quilts:

The chevron baby quilt (on the cover of the March/April mag) uses the method without half-square triangles which has been around on the internet for a while.  I don't know which genius first invented it or I would credit them, but what I did for the magazine was draft a version which you can make with just one charm pack of 5" squares and 1.25 metres of background.

This version makes a small but acceptable size baby quilt (34" x 47") with only a few 2 1/2" squares left over, and it fits on a single width of backing fabric.  With a bit of luck you might, like me, also find some leftover wadding to use too!

I do love to see just what it is possible to do with pre-cuts.  They have become a part of all our lives since they first appeared and it is hard to imagine life without them. I am often guilty of buying a single Charm pack on a whim and not having a clue what to do with it when I get home.  Am I alone in this?

My other quilt was featured in the Jan/Feb issue and called Sweet Beginnings.  It's a rather different palette than I usually use and quite low-volume.  

I wanted to feature the linen novelty prints and play around with value to give each block a different emphasis.  I also did not want the sashing to detract from what was going on in the blocks, so I used a cream Essex linen and scrap squares for the cornerstones.


OK, so the quilts for the mags were made a while ago, to allow for editorial/publication schedules: what am I fabricating now?  Funny how fabricating nowadays has the sense not of making, constructing, manufacturing, but rather of 'making up' a story or forging a document.  I digress.

Well, rather than finishing any of the many things I have started, I felt in the mood for some serious chain piecing and to spring clean some of my scraps.  I have always wanted to make a Bushel Basket quilt from Edyta Sitar's book, Scrappy Firework Quilts, and now seemed to be the right time....  Right for me in the mood I am in, not necessarily right for the rest of the family who might have preferred me to tackle some actual spring cleaning of the house.

So the weekend was spent in trimming scraps into 1" strips (yes, 1" strips) cross cutting into pairs of rectangles, and chain piecing madly.  I don't consider myself a particularly addictive personality, but this sort of sewing definitely brings out my compulsive side.  The urge to make 'just a couple more' of the dainty 5" (unfinished) blocks and to keep on playing with colour and value was irresistible.  And I didn't even try to resist, with the result that I have now made 101 blocks out of the 144 I probably need.  I say probably because I don't want to make the border featured in Edyta's book, so I may make more blocks and finish off with just a binding.

The great thing about sewing like this, and the reason it appeals to me so much, is that provided you can leave your strips out you can stitch a few strips between other tasks and pick up where you left off really easily, which isn't true of a quilt requiring more complex cutting or piecing.  Also I have enjoyed poking through my stash for odds and ends which I can chop up and add to the mix. Although the strips are skinny it is surprising just how much fabric you can 'tidy away' into a useful scrap quilt.  Very satisfying. 

Friday, 19 February 2016

Sampler Block Shuffle - update

Just catching up after 10 days without sewing a stitch - hospital visits and associated rushing around for my MIL and a number of other things on the domestic front I won't bore you with.  After all, this is a space for creativity, relaxation and making things which stay made, not for the general stuff of 'real' life.

I have missed sewing so much, it is my way to unwind and have some personal time, and accordingly is always the thing which gets squeezed out by more pressing needs.  So when I have the chance I go a bit overboard to compensate.  First to receive my attention were my Moda Sampler Block Shuffle blocks, which I was up to date with when I last posted about them (here).

On Tuesday I finally managed to make up for lost time and I have now made all the blocks, some of them once, some twice and a few three times in different colour/value arrangements.  The decision how many to make was influenced by a) how much I liked the variations shown on the pattern sheet, and b) how many pieces there were in the block - some blocks much more intricate than others.

Whilst I really like the intricate blocks, they are quite fiddly (finishing at only 6") so that may have influenced my decision...

Anyway I finally got around to counting how many blocks I have made and discovered that, rather than the 30 for which patterns are provided, I have made 60 (and I didn't use the two applique blocks at all).

I always intended to make more as I don't want to set the blocks with plain alternate squares, but I was slightly surprised to find just how many extra I had made.

I can really recommend the process of making just a few blocks at a time over a period: it was relatively painless.  I kept all my fabrics for the quilt in one place, using a FQ stack of an old reproduction line called Calico Craze by Barbara Brackman & Terry Clothier Thompson for Moda, with a few extras and neutrals thrown in.  This meant I didn't spend ages looking through my stash for particular fabrics, I just chose from what I had pre-selected.

To eliminate fiddly cutting of single squares, I cut strips in the required widths and cut the squares and rectangles I needed from the strips, returning the strips to the box and then going back to those cut strips for squares for future blocks; this had the further benefit of making me use what I had already cut and therefore being a bit more adventurous with my fabric combinations.

Making the blocks in several variations also freed up my fabric/colour choices within the limited palette.  As I have so many blocks to choose from in my layout I feel more relaxed as I can always reject any I don't really like.  And because the blocks weren't very big and didn't really take all that long to make individually, I was less bothered about 'making mistakes'.

I am still mulling over what layout to adopt.  The blocks are meant to be set on point so I may stick with that idea and put them together with a narrow neutral sashing: there are a lot of seams so a buffer between blocks would make my life easier and I think would help it all to lay flatter than trying to join the blocks together edge to edge.  Time to look at some Dear Jane quilts on Pinterest for inspiration - those blocks finish even smaller, at 4 1/2".

Finally, as time is ticking away for my Bargello Wedding quilt (blogged here) I managed to staystitch the edges, seam the backing fabric, press everything and deliver to my friend Chris who will be long arm quilting it for me.  Just a teasing photo for now but I will reveal properly in due course.

As I have now finished this quilt as much as I can, except for the binding, I am claiming a finish and linking to Finish it up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts.  I love the Pixie basket and will definitely be making one of those this weekend!

Hope you manage to finish something too.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Joint finish: Sawtooth Star cushion

Hi everyone - Happy Friday.  Happy to reach the end of a very busy and productive week.  Not much on the sewing front but I had a mini-trip to Glasgow with my daughter at the beginning of the week. 

She is moving to a new job as part of her graduate training scheme and will be spending 18 months working in Scotland.  I was actually born in Glasgow but left as a child (no trace of an accent now), so it was all new to both of us.

Have to say, despite cold, wind and rain, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I think she will have a great time.  We found a lovely flat-share (fingers crossed while the paperwork goes through), stayed in a nice hotel, and walked and walked.

More mother-daughter time followed when we got home as she suddenly wanted a new cover for a cushion she made when she was about thirteen (where have those ten years gone?).  She is not much of a sewer as she has always been busy with sport and study, but she can do it when she tries, so this is very much a joint project, and she wanted me to post it on the blog.  Though she didn't want to appear in person!

I did the calculations and cutting out; she sewed the patches together; I added the backing and binding and even tackled machine binding for the first time.  Having always been a bit of a purist about hand stitching the binding, I was quite pleased with how this went.  

Here is a tutorial by Rita of Red Pepper Quilts which covers making a straight grain doublefold binding as well as the machine stitching side of things.  It is quite old now (2009) but covers all important points.  I generally cut my bindings 2 1/4" and join the ends with a diagonal seam in much the same way as Rita.  So very happy to recommend this method if you are new-ish to quilt binding.  

I used Clover wonder clips to hold the binding in place rather than pins which Rita shows - probably because Clover hadn't invented the clips in 2009!  Here's a fun video of the clips in use; I must say I hadn't noticed the little dots on the reverse were 1/4" guide marks - you learn something new every day!

The cushion is not large, just 12" finished, so the maths was pretty easy: 4" centre square, 2" x 4" flying geese for star points and 2" squares everywhere else (add 1/2" to all these finished measurements for cutting).

My daughter is pleased as Punch with her achievement, so maybe she will become a fully fledged (aka obsessed) quilter in the future, when she has more time.

And here's a picture of my new coffee mug which I think is a pretty good match for the colours of my new blog heading - do you agree?

Linking to Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it Up Friday - love Amanda Jean's finishes and her photography.  She also has a binding tutorial - the link is in Rita's tutorial.  They both produce really good quality work and I admire that so much.  It's usually just as easy to do it right as wrong provided you have good instructors and instructions.