Tuesday, 9 February 2016

My Small world [quilt top]

A lot of my sewing time recently has been dedicated to this project and I'm really pleased to say that I now have a finished quilt top.

I have mixed feelings about this quilt. As I said last week, I have loved putting it together. It's been a real workout for the brain cells, as some of the instructions are more than a little vague... and I've tried to find ways to avoid templates at all possible opportunities.

I've learned a lot. Most importantly: I love freezer paper! I've used it so much for this project: for all my applique, for foundation piecing any units that stray from squares, rectangles and half square triangles, and for creating those few templates I couldn't avoid (curves).

I've definitely improved my applique and freezer paper is the key. I create and cut out a template (without seam allowance) from the freezer paper, iron the shiny side to the wrong side of the fabric, then cut the fabric eye-balling a quarter-inch seam allowance. I then use sew-line glue and fold the seam allowance over to the dull side of the freezer paper. A bit more glue on the reverse of the shape holds it in place whilst I applique it. Once finished, I cut away the fabric behind the applique and gently remove the freezer paper.

I had success with clam-shells. I tried EPP clam-shells this time last year and it was ok to a point, and then the shapes started going a bit squiffy and going out of line, and that's when I stopped. I can't say I was 100% happy with that last attempt. So I searched for some tutorials. The first I found involved a cardboard template and turning the seam allowance using kitchen foil and an iron, then appliqueing the resulting clams onto a foundation fabric. It was incredibly unsuccessful... I couldn't get the curves smooth and I couldn't get the positioning of the clams correct relative to each other. Lucky for me, Instagram came to the rescue. I posted my less-than-satisfactory attempt and Sharon @Lillabellelane suggested checking out a video tutorial by Sue Daley. It was eye-opening. I tried it the very next morning and it went so well that I am almost tempted to attempt a full clam-shell quilt! I would highly recommend checking it out if you are considering clam-shells!

The part of the quilt I most enjoyed, and was the most challenging was the fifth section - top left: green background and a variety of arcs: that New York Beauty style arc was perhaps the biggest test of the lot: avoiding using templates, I carefully traced the templates onto freezer paper, butting up against each other to create the full arc and a foundation piecing template - I carefully trimmed the top of each of the three arcs right up against the finished line. I pieced it in the standard way of freezer paper foundation piecing, which I love, then left the paper in place and used the same template as an applique template, trimming the piecing, then turning the seam allowance over and gluing to the reverse of the freezer paper. I figured this was a more forgiving method than trying the machine piece the curves.

One final learning: hind-sight is a wonderful thing, and I wish I'd done this as I went along: there are a lot of seams in this quilt. I've kept each of the six sections separate until today when I finally stitched them together, and what I've found is that in a few areas the seams have started to come apart at the edges. In order to prevent this, stitch a single stitched line all round the edge of each section, about eighth of an inch from the edge. This helps keep the seams together whilst waiting to be pieced, and the stitches disappear into the seam allowance. I have taken this step on the finished quilt top...

The original pattern included some embroidery: the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa and Sydney Opera House floating in the sky. It seemed a little odd to me (the floating in the sky part) and these particular places have no meaning to me. So I left it out. Instead I did a couple of bits of embroidery in chaotic part of the quilt: there's a cat in one of the windows, and I embroidered out family name rather than find a fussy-cuttable fabric in section 2.

So whilst I've enjoyed creating this quilt top, I'm not sure I like it. Last week, I really didn't like it. I said as much. It's about the chaos of the colours - scrappy. Turns out I don't like disordered scrappy. Give me a rainbow any day. But in rainbow order! It's an important learning. This week, with the top all together and the final two sections added, I find that I like it a bit more. Maybe once it's quilted, I'll like it enough to actually hang it on the wall when I finish it!

Of course a quilt top is only half the story and you definitely haven't seen the end of this project yet: let the hand-quilting begin!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

WIP Wednesday [My Small World again]

I've been plugging away at this quilt and have made some really progress over the last couple of weeks: parts 1-4 are now complete and work has started on 5 and 6.

This has turned into quite a strange project for me... I love the process of making it - it's proving to be a real workout for my quilty brain - I'm not working from the templates unless there really is no alternative; I'm making up the foundation patterns for certain elements, and I'm working out my own cutting instructions (rather than reading the instructions two or three times to realise that I've just read the cm measurement....) and I'm having a ball! I'm picking out some of my favourite fabrics, and finding some lesser used fabrics I'd forgotten about. But I don't actually love the quilt. It turns out that pure scrappy is just too much for me! But despite this I look forward to working on it, I'm looking forward to quilting it. I just might not have it on display when it is finished. Unless Mia takes a liking to it.

But this learning curve has already informed my decision making when piecing the border for the Pixelated Heart Quilt: rather than piece the coloured squares in random order, I went for rainbow order and I'm chuffed to bits with it!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday, possibly for the last time :(

Monday, 1 February 2016

January [review]

New year and new energy! January has been good to me! Firstly I had a finish - an actual finish. Of a proper full-sized quilt! It's been a year since I had a full-sized finish! My pixelated heart quilt is on our bed right now! I love it. As does my daughter!

And blocks... I set myself a challenge at the start of the year to make 365 blocks - one per day. For some projects a block is obvious: I made thirty-two blocks in the 365 Challenge (there was a bonus block at the start of the month!), so I'm up to date with that;

I made 22 of the Farmer's Wife blocks below (5 are from December), so I'm still not up to date with these;

And I made the first block in the Zodiac BOM.

Other quilts don't have such well defined "blocks". For the My Small World quilt I'm counting a row of each section as a block: for some blocks this means they are very simple and completed in just a few minutes. For other blocks, like the hand pieced clamshells, or those with applique or lots of foundation pieced elements, it takes considerably longer, so I figure it will average out in the end! Here's the latest photo I have of this project, but weather-dependent, I will have some more up to date photos later this week showing all of January's 15 blocks!

And I finally made a start on the quilt for the new Baby: this quilt is made up of lots and lots of foundation pieced units and I'm counting four units as a block!

The remaining blocks belonged to the pixelated heart quilt, or are English paper pieced blocks I've completed. For the moment counting blocks is turning out to be a really good motivator, getting me sewing and stealing the odd moment here and there on even the most "pregnant" days! And an 85 block total for January means that when I inevitably have to slow down/pause in April, I can do so in the knowledge that I'm still on track.

How was January for you?

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Pixelated Heart [a finish]

Wow - that was unexpected. Back when I wrote up my Quarter 1 Finish Along List, this quilt was definitely in the "totally unrealistic" category, yet I'm very chuffed to share it as a finish here today!

We took the photos at Matfen Country House Hotel where I was treated to a birthday afternoon tea today. Turns out that neither Michael nor I feel comfortable photographing quilts in public, which is why this is all I have! It was also blowing a gale and starting to snow....
I'm not 100% sure why this made it to the top of the pile, but I got some lovely feedback both here on my blog and on Instagram when I posted my goals, but most specifically about this quilt. Maybe that was the push I needed - so thank you!

The story of this quilt starts back in June 2015: Although the pattern is straight forward, Katy Jones (@imagingermonkey) headed north to take a class at a local quilt shop, and I decided to go. A nice, child-free day. The pattern calls for 8 different fabrics from which you cut lots of squares. By cutting from just a limited number of fabrics, you can fold the fabric up and cut 4 or 8 squares at once - it could be cut in an hour or so. Easy. But I had nothing in my stash that would work: I buy fat quarters and some of the fabrics needed more than that. And the only background fabric I had enough of didn't work with any of the tentative fabric pulls I made. But I did have a mad idea... how about eight colours rather than eight fabrics. I could do a rainbow. And what about a scrappy background?

I talked it over with a friend who was going to the same class. She thought I was mad: working close to full time, small daughter.... when was I going to get all that fabric cut? But I couldn't get it out of my head. Nor could I shake the idea that the original pattern finished as a small lap quilt, and really I wanted to make it bigger... so an extra three rows of squares all round would make it bed-sized!

I did it. I started cutting. Whilst I had hundreds of low volumes out I cut for the My Small World quilt as well. I had a safety net: I don't work on Fridays and if I hadn't got it cut by then, I would go back to the quilt shop, buy eight fabrics and cut it all out Friday evening. I am so pleased I didn't need to do that!

I got this far in the class and then left it for months...
The class was a brilliant day. Lots of laughs and lots of sewing. Heaven. I pieced two-thirds of the quilt at the class, and when I posted it on Instagram I got my highest ever number of likes - proof indeed that this was the way forward. But When I got home, I never got it out again. I thought about it. Changed my mind on the border a few times. Thought I would need to cut more fabric. Played with other projects....

When I got it out again a few weeks ago, I quickly pieced the remaining third, settled on a border design that needed no additional cutting, and just got on with it!

The finished quilt is 81"x81" (before washing). It was pieced entirely with Aurifil and quilted with wibbly lines in a silver-grey Aurifil thread. I quilted it in just 4 hours! The backing is the top of duvet cover, which matches the duvet we often have on our bed. The fabrics on the front are some of my favourites. As such Carolyn Friedlander fabrics feature heavily, as do Art Gallery fabrics, Pearl Bracelets and leftover fabrics from previous quilts. It makes me happy every time I see it!

Not the best photo of the quilt but it does show up the quilting well!
Come the end of the quarter I'll be linking this finish up with the lovely Finish Along ladies!

2016 FAL

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Zodiac BOM [Aquarius]

This year I decided not to take part in any BOM programmes. I did decide to take part in a block of the day quilt, and I'm still supposedly making two Farmer's Wife blocks a week. That's plenty. Until I saw the Zodiac Block of the Month from At Blank Pages. I didn't take a lot of convincing....

The first block, Aquarius was in my inbox first thing on 21st January. Filled with the enthusiasm of a new start, I got started cutting my fabrics straight away: I've decided on no particular fabric pull, rather any warm colours that take my fancy. The grey frame will run throughout the quilt pulling it all together and I'm planning on using my birthday money to buy enough of the Modern Background fabric I've picked for the background to do the same. Oranges, purples, pinks, yellows, reds, peaches.... all in scope! For someone who normally includes aqua or green in her quilts, this is a bit different for me!

For this first block I've used Pearl Bracelets orange on orange and Alison Glass Mercury in pink. I have no idea what the purple fabric is! I feel that I am quite an experienced paper piecer - funny angles, multiple templates and lots of pieces don't scare me. But, boy, this block was tough. Not all of the points meet where I would like them too, though I am pretty happy with the centre. I'm sure by the time I have a finished quilt (!) I won't notice the odd imperfection (or I'll be so old I won't be able to see them!).

Let's see how long I keep up with this one!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

WIP Wednesday [Blocking and Plotting]

I haven't blogged in a week, but that does not mean I haven't been sewing. I just figured that actually you didn't need to see each block as I completed it. I have been sewing up a storm - first up: blocking!

The Farmer's Wife quilt: I've made further progress with 8 blocks: this brings to 28 in total and all of the blocks scheduled in 2015 are now done. I do still have 6 blocks to make to be properly up to date, but I'm getting ever closer!

If you're a real Farmer's Wife fan, you may be observant enough that you don't recognise the block bottom middle. That's because it's not in the book. The block that should be here was called daffodil, and looked like...well....a daffodil. I really don't like it - along with most flower and basket blocks. As this will be my quilt I'm substituting such blocks with some of my favourites from my Blocks Pinterest Board. This particular block is called Urban Churn Dash.

The 365 Challenge quilt blocks: We're now three weeks into this challenge and I'm still on track! I'm being careful to keep a good balance of colours and these blocks are really nice and quick to complete. We moved on to half-square-triangles this week!

And this week's fabrics feature Carkai, Pearl Bracelets, Art Gallery and Botanics amongst other, less-identifiable ones.

As for plotting, I've planned out and made the first few blocks for the quilt for Baby.

Once I was happy with the first four blocks, I ordered more of the background fabric - Architextures Cross Hatch in Lake - and then did a mammoth cutting session last Saturday from this sunrise-inspired fabric pull! Oodles of foundation piecing lies ahead.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Pixelated Heart [quilt top]

When I posted my Finish Along goals here and on Instagram last week, I got some lovely comments, but especially about my pixelated heart quilt. And possibly because of that, it made it to the top of the pile. After some backwarding and forwarding over the border I just went with my original plan and got piecing. I'm pleased I did!

I have to confess that I never want to piece a 3" square ever again at this point, but I love how the finished quilt top looks. I got some help basting it on Monday, and some willing quilt-holder-uppers helped me get this photo. It's not great, but with the weather the way it is at the moment, it's the best I can manage.

 And even better: this weekend, Daddy will be in charge and Mummy will be sewing. Or more precisely, quilting this monster, because I can't wait to get it on my bed!