Friday, 26 May 2017

Scrap Vortex - finished!

Really thrilled to have finished this one: I started making the Scrap Vortex quilt last summer in summer 2015 (where did all that time go?!) as part of Amanda Jean Nyberg's quilt-along on her Crazy Mom Quilts blog. 

I loved Amanda Jean's quilt and her bright and cheerful colour palette, and her approach to using scraps in many and varied ways. I reviewed my own scraps and was slightly surprised to find I had quite a few brights bits, so it seemed like a great opportunity to join in.  Here is my finished-top post from August 2015.

Having got the top together reasonably speedily (I started in June 2015, here), it languished unfinished as I was anxious that I wouldn't be able to spiral quilt it.  I read various posts about how to do this and was particularly worried about the starting point, the small circle in the very middle of the quilt. 

I got as far as layering the top, wadding and backing last autumn, and then chickened out. It all sounded quite scary and I didn't want to make a mess of the quilt and have to unpick a lot of tiny stitches, possibly damaging the fabric. Even a scrap quilt deserves good quilting.

Eventually in February/March this year, as part of my major drive to quilt and complete my backlog of unfinished tops, I plucked up the courage. I was in a bit of a groove with finishing quilts and had been using my walking foot a lot.  I reasoned that if I started off with a slightly smaller stitch length and a very slow speed I should have enough time to turn the quilt slowly enough to get round the initial very tight curve. 

I made a template out of greaseproof/silicone paper and practised on some scrap calico and wadding. Somewhat to my surprise this worked out very well, and I checked that the paper tore away without damaging the stitches, which it did easily because the short stitch length had perforated the paper. 

Once the diameter of the spiral had increased I was able gradually to increase the stitch length and to eyeball the spacing between the lines of the spiral. I guess if you have a guide bar which fits the walking foot for your machine you would get a more accurate and regular spacing between the lines: I don't have this for the Juki but fortunately I don't mind the odd wobble as it goes with the informal scrappy style of the quilt, I feel.

The process of spiral quilting, once started, proved quite straightforward, though there is inevitably a lot of turning of the quilt sandwich. (Quilt measures 61" x 66" so not too huge.) It is important to try and keep a smooth curve and not stop and start jerkily after repositioning the bulk of the quilt. It also takes rather longer than you might think, and uses a LOT more thread, as the quilting is fairly dense. But I love the effect and think it absolutely suits the character of this quilt.  I am so pleased I finally tried something new!

So why has it taken me till May to blogpost this finish? The reason for the delay, having finished the quilting, was that I couldn't find the scrap binding strips I had planned to use.  Needless to say I had put the strips in such a safe place that I didn't think to look there, eventually finding them when I had looked every other possible place, twice or three times over the space of several weeks. So exasperating...

So this has been a rather drawn out project but nonetheless one I feel very positive about.  It is one of those quilts which cheers me up whenever I look at it. I love all the tiny pieces and the interplay of colour and pattern and the way that fabrics you would never put together in a million years if you were planning a quilt, just work brilliantly because they are rubbing shoulders with a zillion other little pieces.

So thank you, Amanda Jean, for your inspiration and helpful instruction (tutorials here on the Crazy Mom Quilts blog, I've linked you to week 4 but you can pick up the rest from that one): I am saving my new scraps towards another Scrap Vortex quilt in a few years' time. Meanwhile I still have the other leftovers' quilts from the bright scrap bag awaiting quilting....

Linking to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, her finishing rate is astounding! Have a great weekend and enjoy the sunshine!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Friday finishes: Squares and Strips mini-QAL

Hello everyone, I have such a lot to tell you as last week I went to Cowslip Workshops for a sewing class with the lovely Irene Blanck.

But that will have to wait for another post: I have been promising my young protegees Miriam and Sophie that I would post about their first quilts, which they finished and I photographed last week, just before heading off to Cornwall.

So here they are, two fabulous first quilts, made to an amazingly high standard by two talented young women who take instruction brilliantly and have mastered so many new skills in a very short time.  I have had great fun teaching then and it is rewarding to see them achieve and grow in confidence, both in their technical skills and their feeling for colour and fabric.

We started off in February, when they bought the layer cakes (photo towards the end of this post here) and they have come to me once a week, and done a bit of homework in between. Over the previous few months they had made a number of smaller projects, cushions and pouches, to get familiar with cutting and using a sewing machine. For the record here are some of the smaller items.

But this was to be their first quilt. Vital statistics then: Sophie chose to go bright and use Wing & Leaf by Wren & Friends, and Miriam was sophisticated with a classic palette of black and white with red accents: Volume II by Sweetwater, both collections from Moda. Here are their first sixteen-patch blocks:

This was a great pattern for beginners, from Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew (tutorial here).  Amazingly I discovered today that Allison has recently posted here (end of April, just as we were finishing our quilts) about another version she had made of the same quilt  - how spooky is that, possums? as Dame Edna would say.

The pieces are fairly large and there is variety in the four different blocks from a large one-patch to a sixteen-patch, a strippy four-patch and a square in a square, but there aren't too many seams to match. Cutting from layer cakes meant there was very little wastage, plus 10" squares are easier to manipulate for cutting than great hunks of yardage or even fat quarters. 

Here's an indication of just how economically we were able to cut for the square in a square (pieces rearranged in the second picture) and the strippy block.  There is no waste at all cutting the sixteen 2 1/2" squares so I haven't bothered to show that!

In addition, for beginners with not much stash and nervous of choosing fabrics, a designed collection is a good way in.  Miriam and Sophie each added four other fat quarters to the mix, just so they could make the quilts slightly bigger and have more choice when it came to laying out the blocks.

The quilts measure 48" x 64", made up of 48 eight inch blocks set 6 x 8, a good size for wrapping up in but not too big to wrestle through the machine for the first attempt at quilting. Both girls chose a simple diagonal crosshatch so the experience wasn't too traumatic.

If you follow this blog you may recall that I decided to join in with Miriam and Sophie and make it a mini-QAL (see this post) - why should they have all the fun after all?

Typically, having so much more fabric to use/use up, I made my quilt larger (too big to fit it all on the washing line for a complete flat shot) but I more or less kept to schedule and finished sewing the binding on earlier this week.  So I am claiming a finish for Finish it up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts today. Amanda Jean sounds like she's been having a crazy time of it! I love her latest book, and hope to blog about it when I have a moment to tackle one of her great projects.

Meanwhile I can't tell you how glad I am to have finally used some of the pink and green fabric I have had put by for at least ten years. I had a ball making this quilt and I chose to quilt it with parallel lines in the style of Rita of Red Pepper Quilts (as in this quilt, for example).  

The lines end up 2" apart and I did have to do a little bit of marking with my Hera marker to help me across the larger blocks (as I don't have a guide bar on my Juki sewing machine) but otherwise the quilting was very straightforward, just a lot of bulk to heave around. 

Despite the fairly close quilting the quilt drapes and scrunches up beautifully and I am delighted with the end result. Finished quilt measures 80" x 96", a total of 120 eight inch blocks set 10 x 12. I had all the fabric in my stash including backing and binding so it feels brilliant to have converted that into something which can be used and enjoyed.

Final shot of the girls.  I wish that this may be the first of many quilts along their quilt road and that patchwork and quiltmaking may be as enjoyable and interesting for them as it has been for me for twenty four years.  

And I make the same wish for you, and for me too for the years ahead - I hope I have many more quilts in me, I certainly still have plenty of fabric stashed! Have a great weekend.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Friday finish - Jelly Roll Race 3.0

Hi all, I've had a busy couple of weeks since coming back from France and done a number of fun, non-quilty things including a visit to Sarah Raven's garden in East Sussex to see the tulips.  

Fabulous colours always provide inspiration for fabric buying and combining (quilters never really switch off their quilt antennae, after all), as well as the joy of seeing beautiful plants well grown around lovely restored traditional farm buildings: I am so lucky to have these opportunities. Here are a few photos to share the joy!

Anyway, spurred on by all of this loveliness, I have managed to get some more quilting done, and finished stitching down the binding on this one late last night, so I am linking to Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday.

I started quilting this quilt in February but ground to a halt as I ran out of the variegated aqua thread I was using on the back.  My LQS couldn't get fresh supplies for a while so the quilt languished in a corner half done. 

Here are the threads I used: the variegated grey was  kinder to the many different colours in the main part of the quilt than the solid grey thread, though I preferred the solid in the inner and outer borders as it was less obtrusive there.

I pieced the top in April 2016 (see this post), so not that long ago really....  I had had the jelly roll (pb&j by Basic Grey for Moda) sitting in my cupboard for an age and just fancied doing a Race-type quilt top to see whether it really was as quick as everyone said.

There are a lot of Jelly Roll Race versions out there but the one I chose to make is the third one from Missouri Star Quilt Co. (this is the link to the video tutorial).  It is probably a little slower to make than some of the others but I really like the punctuation the grey flying geese give to the horizontal lines.  

I wanted to emphasise this in the quilting, so rather than just straight line quilt across the whole thing I echo-quilted round the triangles.  Slightly complicated as you need to work out the right order for the echo lines so none of them cross, but I was able to do that at the machine as I worked along the rows. Here's a close-up.

The inner frame got the usual tramlines treatment in harmony with the tramlines along the Jelly roll strips. and then the Ta Dot border was crying out for triangles to echo the flying geese.  

I was so lucky and found that my 4 1/2" Creative Grids Quarter-Square Triangle ruler fitted perfectly which made marking the quilting lines really easy with a Hera marker. Isn't it great when you can use a tool you already have for another purpose?

I used the leftover backing fabric for the binding, it's a slightly brighter aqua than the rather off colours of the jelly roll but I think it is OK.  The backing was from a sale, the inner and outer borders from stash.  All in all another quick project, which gave me a chance to scratch the itch to use an entire fabric line and make a really speedy top, but there's enough interest in the fabrics I think to make it an interesting quilt.

I am delighted to have got it finished and I can tick another o/s project off the list - hooray!

And now for something completely different, as they used to say.... 

Here's a peek at what I bought in France:

  • Some sumptuous fabric from Petra Prins' stall for the beginnings of a Di Ford/Dutch Chintz style medallion quilt - using the fabric picture for my centre, as I'm not up to tackling broderie perse anytime soon.
  • Gorgeous linen in my absolutely favourite colour to make a tablier - gardener's apron with crossover back straps.  I have had a look at the hand drawn pattern, all in French but I think I have enough dressmaking experience to just about cope, 
  • unlike for the wool - beautiful cashmere for a scarf but I haven't a clue about the pattern - I am going to have to get some help with this one. Maybe a winter project when all my UFOs have been put to bed?
  • Rolling rulers - more on those when I have really got to grips with them.
  • EPP in various shapes and a book about Lucy Boston patchwork which I quite fancy having a go at, having been inspired by the work on display at Nantes.
Exchange rate not fantastic so not a cheap visit but I am pleased with all my purchases and re-energised to make progress on everything else.  

I am going off to Cowslip workshops shortly so cannot go too mad on more fabric, though I am sure to be tempted just a little.  You won't be surprised to hear that the quilt I will be making with Irene Blanck is called....Tulipa!

Have a great weekend, however you choose to spend it, and keep on making (and growing) lovely things!