Friday, 30 January 2015


Today is my thirtieth birthday. And I decided I wanted to mark this year with a quilt. But finding the right combination of fabric and pattern has been quite the search. Right up until last weekend I thought I had it sorted...

Fabric: A couple of years back at the Fat Quarterly Retreat I picked up a fat eighth bundle of Oakshott Impressions (with a white weft/warp) and never found the right project for them. Even further back I picked up a Layer Cake of Puttin' on the Ritz - the only Layer Cake I've ever bought, because once I'd bought it I had no idea what to do with it... I've put the two together and I love the soft pastel effect they create - I know, not my normal choices... I've added in some fabrics from my stash, and picked up some extra Oakshott fabric from an IG destash, so I think I have enough fabric to make a quilt.
There is a lot of cream in the layer cake too...

But what quilt? Initially I had though of doing the Women of the Bible Sampler Quilt. When I went to look at the details of the first block, and saw the size of the pieces I needed to cut, I got cold feet, sure that I didn't have enough fabric. I have a bit of a fear of using up all of one particular fabric... illogical I know. So I turned to Pinterest for help and typed in "sampler quilt". And after a few minutes of scrolling up popped a Marcelle Medallion quilt. Back when everyone was making this quilt (I mean everyone) I decided that this was a quilt to go on my bucket list (it's a long list) but then I forgot all about it. I knew I had the pattern somewhere in a magazine. And when I found that magazine almost instantly I knew it was meant to be.

This much more scrappy quilt is ideal for the small pieces of fabric I have and I won't get jumpy by using up all of one fabric in one go. But I have to confess when reading through the instructions for the central block I nearly had cold feet again... templates....lots of bias edges.... Y-seams...aaaaagh. All of my worst nightmares rolled into one.

But I'm a grown up now (I think I have to admit that as I hit 30 and apply for a new mortgage) and I won't be scared of templates, bias edges and Y-Seams. I used the freezer paper technique for the templpates which reduces much of the inaccuracy I experienced 4 years ago (see my post on the Essential Sampler quilt for that rant). I trace the sewing line of the template onto freezer paper, then roughly trim in out, leaving less than 1/4" outside the line (so I don't blunt my rotary cutter in the next step). I then iron that template onto the fabric so it can't move, and use the 1/4" mark on my ruler placed over the drawn line to cut the fabric accurately with the seam allowance.

And then the Y-Seams. I pieced so carefully, pressed so carefully (take that, bias edges!) and when it finally came to the Y-Seams they were a doddle. My seams matched, there were no puckers and I have a central block I'm really proud of! But it's not a block to make a whole quilt from... Luckily the rest of this quilt is rotary cut and regular piecing!

The aim is to finish this quilt before I turn 31. By saying that here you can all hold me to account. Right? Or just laugh hysterically at me!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Essential Sampler Quilt [a {lovely} finish]

I don't know whether to celebrate, or to heave a huge sigh of relief...

Apparently I started this quilt on 21st January 2011. I've just read through some old blog posts about it and read that I hoped to finish it by January 21st 2012 - a year after I started it. Excuse me a moment while I laugh hysterically. We are now three years on from that, and four years on from when I first started it and I can finally tell you that it is FINISHED!

As in done.

I managed to get a couple of photos outside in between the
 flurries of rather pathetic snow #notquitejuno


This was my first foray into quilting, and was started as a monthly class at my local quilt shop and we used the book "Essential Sampler Quilt" by Nikki Tinkler. I pulled fabrics from my "stash" - again I must laugh hysterically - at that point my stash took up one 9 litre Really Useful box. Oh how times have changed. The first block I made for the quilt didn't make it into the final quilt, and along the way, as a refined my colour palette, a few more blocks didn't make it either. These are now sitting in the orphan block pile - some are even quilted. But I'm glad I sacrificed those blocks, because I love the simple palette I've ended up with. And I really don't love some of the fabrics I had originally picked out!
Pieced and quilted before I changed my colour scheme...

I didn't like all of the blocks in the quilt, so some got substituted out, but we still covered lots of techniques making this quilt that I'd never tried before: bias applique for a celtic knot block. I loved this technique, bought myself a little Clover iron, and bought a book full of similar blocks. One day, I will make a whole quilt using this technique.

Drunkards path and wedding ring blocks: my first attempts at piecing curves. In fact the first Drunkards path block was a discard, so I tackled curves twice. Having bought "A Quilters Mixology" late last year and discovering that my local quilting club has the accuquilt die for cutting drunkards path units from  charm squares, this is another technique I'm hoping to revisit in the near future.

And foundation piecing - we foundation pieced the mariners compass block and something just clicked. Just a couple of days after completing this block at the class I started my Farmer's Wife quilt and committed to piece it with this technique (until half way through when quilt maths suddenly clicked).

I also a technique I hated... templates. This is where that hatred comes from. But what I'm just starting to understand is that, as with most things, I just had to find the method that worked for me. Drawing round a piece of card is not the way forward: I've likely made a slight error when I've cut the template out, I'll likely make a slight error when I draw round the template. Chances are there'll be another small error when I cut out the fabric and, at that point in my sewing journey, a quarter inch seam wasn't always a given. So inevitably my blocks are pretty bad. Few finished at the size they should have, many points were chopped off and some were just awful. And because of that I've avoided templates for the last 4 years. Until recently, when I learned how to make freezer paper templates... I'll tell you about that later in the week.

The book instructions were to use the quilt as you go technique to finish the quilt. Scared of machine quilting, I chose to hand quilt. And whilst the technique to join the blocks stunk (you may have heard me mention it here), I absolutely don't regret chosing to hand quilt it. My hand quilting back then is even slightly better than my hand quilting now - I've got lazy by quilting so much with perle thread and using 'slightly' larger stitches.

So - my biggest regret: using the bloody stupid method for joining the quilted blocks together. I added sashing to each of the finished blocks, which enabled me to trim them all down to the same size. Except to start with you only trim the front. Then, pinning batting and backing well out of the way, machine the fronts of two blocks together. Once that seam is pressed and the batting is released, this now needs to be trimmed so that the two edges of batting butt up against each other. Easier said than done. I used some iron on batting tape to hold this layer together. Then the backing is released and trimmed so that one edge folds over and is slip stitched in place to complete the seam. Unfortunately I could not work out how to get this uniform, so my seams definitely don't meet on the back. And even more unfortunately, back when I first started putting the blocks together, my slip stitching wasn't great either.

On the plus side, I picked out a horrific backing material, which while not at all matching the colours on the front of the quilt, is at least busy enough to detract from most of the bad stitching and non meeting seams. My only excuse - it was on sale when I bought it and at that point I didn't know if I would stick with quilting.

I had planned to do some free motion quilting in the sashing on the finished quilt, and I did try. It looked wrong. It just didn't fit with the feeling of the quilt. I tried using some perle thread to hand quilt round the outside of each block, but it just made it more obvious that my blocks were all different sizes. So I added my binding, and in keeping with the feel of the quilt, I hand stitched it down on the back (not my favourite job).

So the quilt is finished. And whilst it is far from perfect, it is a really important part of my quilting journey. I know this post is quite wordy, but when I reflect back on this quilt, it's important that I remember where it took me and how it made me the quilter I am today. Also, coincidentally, as I've read back thorough old blog posts about this quilt, I've realised that I was making it alongside my Farmer's Wife quilt - another important quilt in my journey, and as I write this post, I'm curled up in that quilt!

Finishing this quilt was a goal on my Quarter 1 2015 Finish Along list (and on a few previous ones too!)

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

And was my January goal for a Lovely Year of Finishes.

So what's next? Funnily enough I have a few more unloved UFOs to finish, so perhaps I'll dig one of those out of the cupboard!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

WIP Wednesday [ EPPing]

I had a day to sew by myself on Sunday - uninterrupted. It was lovely. And I'l gradually share with you what I was working on. But for the most part I have spent the week hand-stitching. There's been a lot of binding involved, but also some EPP.

I've been working on a fairly new project - one I started just after Christmas. Trapies. These are mostly made of half hexagons and I love how they seem to spin. I've made two blocks so far (I know - not much) and I'll keep going until I get bored. Chances are that will be a cushion :)

The third block is basted and ready to piece and I think once I make that third and place them all together I'll get a better idea of how they will work with each other.

And the other project is an old one. In summer 2013 I made some hexagons. The plan was something quite involved for the Fat Quarterly swap, but I fell pregnant and lost all energy and inclination, so ended up scaling back my plans. But I already had a lot of hexies basted, and mostly sewn into flowers. I have spent the last 18 months moving them around my sewing area. I'm fed up of it, so I figure the best way to deal with it is to stitch them all together and make something...another cushion?

Slowly these little projects will become something more. Just don't hold your breath for a finish any time soon. But, pop back tomorrow for a finish!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Power of Nine Quilt Top

Here's my latest quilt top finish. It's a mini version of the Power of Nine Block of the Month by Rebecca Mae Designs. When I first saw the quilt back in December I knew I wanted to do it - I loved the setting. But I had no purpose for the quilt. Sometime I'll make quilts with no purpose, or rather, for me. But I couldn't justify this quilt on that basis (especially the cost). I decided to shrink the block size to 6" down from the original 12" and the shrink the sashing similarly.

I was expecting the blocks to be pretty familiar, but with the exception of the favourite Churn Dash and a another couple, each was new to me. Most used the square in a square block or flying geese units with clever colour placement and created fabulous blocks. Here are a couple of my favourites

I have to confess that I didn't follow the instructions from the point where I read to cut the fabric to one-sixteenth accuracy for the 12" blocks... I looked at the pictures and worked out the maths for myself. I foundation pieced the square in a square blocks and the blocks made from three triangles (not sure if they have a name) as I know I get better accuracy that way. And it worked - It's been a while since I made a quilt with such all-round good points.

The finished top is 30" x 39". The fabrics are a mixture from my stash. I think the white is Kona Snow, with four other Kona's for the coloured sashing (I can't remember which). I've then used Architextures and Botanics by Carolyn Friedlander, Comma by Zen Chic, Cotton and Steel basics, Michael Miller Tiles, Sketch and Pearl Bracelets.

And because I haven't shared a photo of Mia for a while, here she is - 11 months old yesterday.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Lucky Star Mug Rug [a finish]

So it may seem that I'm on a roll with these finishes, but after this, the next one is a good way off still. I made this block by accident (I totally mis-read my partner's likes for the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap). And by the time I realised I'd made over half of this block. It's just as well, because the centre of this block is bloody awful! So bad, that I've added a button...

Luckily I loved the colours I'd picked and I had a brainwave: during December I loved having a little mug rug/mini quilt (cause I don't put my mug on it) on my desk at work. It let me dream of quilting whilst actually project managing... I hope my manager doesn't read this! So I've decided that for each month this year I will have a different mug rug on my desk. It's a great excuse to make a mini each month! And once the month is over I can add them to my mini quilt wall. My mini quilt wall doesn't exist yet, but when we move to our new house I am definitely having one!

eeek - not good....

So the pattern is the July 2014 Lucky Stars block from Elizabeth @ Don't call me Betsy and finishes at 6". I did some stash shopping for the fabrics: Architextures, Cotton and Steel, Pearl Bracelets, Tile Pile from Michael Miller, and Violet Craft. I added some hand quilting: the yellow (which you can barely see) and the purple are in Finca #16 perle thread, and the peach in the centre is my first time using Aurifil 12wt. Although I love Aurifil for piecing and machine quilting, I have to say I'll be sticking to the Finca for perle quilting - it doesn't seem to fluff as much... if that makes sense. And I have a bit of a thing for bright coral at the moment, so a splash of colour for the binding. This should definitely brighten up my desk!

So this was a Finish Along finish (original list here)

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

WIP Wednesday [Power of Nine again]

I've spent more time this week working on the Power of Nine quilt. But Mia napped on Sunday afternoon so I have more than one block to share with you this time!

I'm loving these blocks - they are mostly new-to-me designs - mostly due to colour placement and the secondary patterns created, and it's really refreshing. I'm also really chuffed with my neat points!

So that's five complete blocks, seven left to go and I can't wait to get back to them! After yellow I can move on to green and blue and really start to get a feel for how this quilt will look!

And once Mia woke up on Sunday she helped me sort some of my scraps...

Linking up with WIP Wednesday

Monday, 19 January 2015

Whimsical Woodland Mug Rug Swap [a finish]

I may have cut it to the wire with my Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt, but my Whimsical Woodland Mug Rug is done a week ahead of the deadline! Go me!

My partner likes foxes, among other things, so I did a hunt for a fox design (no pun intended) - first I was looking for a paper piecing pattern, but nothing really grabbed me, so I moved on to an embroidery design and hit on the winter fox from my new favourite Urban Threads.

I carried on the colour theme with a log cabin on two sides, then pulled out my perle threads for some hand quilting. There was a delay whilst I ordered orange (and a few other colours for good measure) but I finished this on Friday night.

As I said before, a swap needs extras, and for this swap they had to continue the whimsical woodland theme. When I was hunting for fabric the other day I came across some hedgehog fabric which I've had for ages - I was sent it by Liz in Sweden and although I love it, inspiration has been lacking so I've never used it. I fussy cut a couple of hedgies, then hand quilted a frame around them... I now have a plan for the rest of the fabric! The green autumn leaves fabric was what I had originally bought for the mug rug, before the seasonal alteration! And again - bright coral lining!

This mug rug was a finish on my Q1 finish along list!
2015 FAL at On the Windy Side