Friday, 20 January 2017

Friday finishes - finally

Hi everyone - hope you have had a good week.

I have been buzzing around this week on all sorts of admin and general catching up, so the only actual sewing I managed to do was to make 3 plain white housewife pillowcases out of an old sheet (which had worn out in the middle) and sew on a button!

I cut the pillowcases out a few days ago, and rather than start on any 'pretty' sewing I thought I should clear these out of the way first. I cheated a bit in that I cut the pieces making use of the sheet's hems so I didn't have to hem the open edges, but I did finish the sides with french seams so there shouldn't be any loose threads.

No point in photographing boring white pillowcases, so here are pictures of two finished quilts I promised you in my last post. I also thought you might be interested to learn how I chose to quilt the tops, bearing in mind that I still haven't mastered free motion quilting: will 2017 be the year I finally get to grips with it?

Back in late October, when life was just normally busy and not as complicated as it was to become, I resolved to finish some WIPs. I had a turn out, and was horrified to find quite so many tops - with backing fabric set aside - just needing to be quilted.

I think I counted twenty, which doesn't include some nearly finished ones which are waiting for borders or similar. I was so ashamed I could not face making a to-do list, but sorted out suitable sized waddings from what I had available and made a start.

I chose which tops to tackle first based on how easy they would be to finish - hoping that a few quick finishes would encourage me to carry on. The Madras Plaid quilt featured in that late October post has been quilted but not yet bound, as I have misplaced the fabric I wanted to use, so I cannot claim it as a finish just yet.

The following two finished quilts have been utility quilted with simple cross-hatching.I finally managed to get the binding stitched down over the holidays, so this post is a catch up.

I like the spacing of straight line quilting generally to be determined by, or have some reference to, the block structure. This small quilt (41" x 55"), which uses the Anvil block in a straight set, is diagonally cross-hatched. I wanted to avoid stitching through the diagonals of the HSTs as I feared they wouldn't line up properly because of the sashing. So I chose to put the diagonals through the centre of the floral squares in the middle of the blocks.I then put another line of quilting in between to give me an evenly spaced grid of lines 2 1/2" apart.

I thought I had already blogged about this quilt but cannot find a post so it must have all been written in my head! Briefly, the quilt came about because I had a stack of leftover pink and cream 2" HSTs from another project and wanted to use them up. The Anvil block uses eight HSTs so it seemed a good choice, and I used a blue/grey floral which I had in my stash and which is one of the very first fabrics I remember buying, over 20 years ago!

The number of HSTs determined the number of blocks, the amount of floral left after making the blocks determined the width of the border, and I put a narrow sashing between the blocks because I didn't want to have to butt up all the seam allowances which are always a bit bulky with so many HSTs. The blocks measure 6" so they are quite dinky, and I had just the right amount of a softly brushed pink floral in my stash for the backing. Very satisfying using what I had; even the wadding was a leftover piece from another quilt.

The other finished quilt (61" square) is also based on Anvil and uses Fig Tree fabrics, again left over from a previous project. This time the 8" blocks are set on point which gives a rather different look, and as well as narrow sashing I have used a cream tone on tone fabric for the setting triangles so the blocks 'float'.

I discover that I blogged about this top way back in March 2014 (see this post). I'm a little shocked that it was quite so long ago...

This time  I quilted a grid using the lines of the sashing and the 'verticals' of the HSTs as a guide, but because the blocks are set on point the effect is again of diagonal cross-hatching.  The spacing is variable however as it is closer on either side of the narrow cream sashing which is 1" wide, then spaced at 2" because that is the finished size of the HSTs in the block.

Here's a glimpse of the backing fabric which is a gorgeous caramel colour, not at all what I usually use but Fig Tree fabrics somehow always appeal.

Linking to Crazy Mom Quilts: I really love her finished quilt and am so envious of the FMQ. Looking forward to a weekend at my sewing machine: too cold here for much else though  we don't have snow on the ground, just very heavy frost.
Hope you stay warm this weekend and have fun.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Quilt stats

In my haste to get the last post out to wish you a happy New Year, I forgot to include my string quilt's vital statistics: vital more for me than you maybe, as I use this blog as a record of my finished quilts.

So here is a summary and a flat shot - always important for quilt nerds like me who like to work out how a quilt has been made:

Finished size: 74" x 100"
35 blocks, set 5 x 7
Block size: 11 1/2" made up of four 5 1/2" string squares joined with 3/4" skinny sashing and cornerstones
Main sashing and cornerstones between blocks: 1 1/2"
Orange inner border: 1 1/4"
Blue outer border: 3 1/2"
Purple binding: 2 1/4" straight cut doublefold

All of the above measurements (except the binding) are finished measurements.

And two pictures of the back so you can admire the swirly feather quilting by my friend Chris:

Please excuse the repetition of subject matter in this post: I have not managed much sewing since the beginning of the month, though I have finally managed to stitch down the bindings on four quilts which I will post about on Friday.

Instead I have had my mum to stay for a few days, and to celebrate her birthday with us we visited Down House in Kent which is the home of Charles Darwin. By way of a diversion from my normal quilty posts, I thought you might be interested in this link to the website from where you can navigate around and find out more, and see photos of the house including one of Darwin's study.  

We had a very interesting visit, particularly for my elder son who is an ecologist and entomologist. He felt a connection across the years, as so much of what he does still involves close observation and collection of specimens: despite huge advances in genetics, the artefacts and equipment used are not so very different in some respects to 150 years ago.

I guess it may be similar to the connection I think many of us who make quilts feel to the makers of the past when we see old textiles and quilts. Our tools and techniques are not so very different either, though I wouldn't willingly part with my electric machine and tank steam iron! As my son will shortly be moving to Michigan, I hope this will give me an excuse to visit some of the wonderful museums of quilts in USA. That's the plan anyway - watch this space!

Till Friday, hope you have a productive week.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

OK, many apologies for long absence from this place: just too many other things happening which demanded urgent attention, mainly to do with my dear elderly mum-in-law's health breaking down over the past two months, necessitating many, many hospital visits and general rushing around.  She is now in a lovely nursing home and not doing too badly, all things considered.  

But I don't want to dwell on that side of things in this blog, which is a place to escape to where I can think about happy, creative things over which I might have some small amount of control.  And I do want to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2017, where you get all your quilt tops finished promptly and don't find your stash encroaching into all corners of your living space or your clothes always covered in stray threads... 

So, in view of these thoughts and my best wishes for you, no surprises for guessing what my own New Year resolutions might be.  I am not sure I will make much progress on achieving them in 2017, or ever, but if I don't set goals I have no way of assessing whether I have achieved anything at all when I look back.  And this blog is so helpful in this respect: even just looking at my last two posts, I am astounded that I actually managed to sew anything at all as recently as October - it seems aeons ago that I spent any time at my sewing machine!

Nonetheless, I do have a finish to share with you this 1st January, though more thanks to my longarming friend Chris who kindly returned the top I delivered to her (mentioned in this post) beautifully quilted with a swirly feather design and ready for binding.  

I wanted to give the quilt to a very good friend who was visiting us after Christmas, so having spent most of the festive season in the kitchen, cooking and clearing up, I found myself late on the evening before her visit stitching on the binding.  I didn't quite get it finished in time so we agreed I would deliver the completed quilt before the end of January, to give me a bit of leeway as I still have all the kids at home and we are definitely not yet back to normal after the holidays.

So my first New Year resolution I guess I can say I have kept: I finished handstitching the binding this afternoon, and the quilt will be packed up and hand delivered to London well before the end of the month - hooray!

My friend has already seen and said she liked the  quilt so I am able to post these pictures, taken outside on a very dull grey afternoon, just before it started to rain.  So hard to get enough light at this time of year for photos, and I hate the yellow cast I always get with flash.  Guess I should learn a bit more about photography to be able to correct that, but there always seem to be other things to do...

Here are a few close ups to show some of the scrappy fabrics used, including a few novelties.  I never consciously choose to buy novelty fabrics nowadays so not quite sure how they end up in my scrap bag: one of life's little mysteries, but a nice one in a fun quilt like this!

Dalmatians and strawberries.

Debbie Mumm flowerpots from long ago and a variety of stars.

 Hearts, and Amish buggies in the border (above) and gingerbread men (below).

Must away to play a game with my quilt holder and his sister: they are all grown up but still enjoy a game, and it is still Christmas-tide - reality doesn't really start till Twelfth Night when we take the Christmas tree down.  

Hope you enjoy whatever holidays you have left with your loved ones, and snuggling up in a cosy quilt too.