Have you come across the beautiful screen printed fabrics by Karen Lewis? I came across them last year on Instagram. Love them. Unfortunately, and quite understandably, the screen printing that Karen does, adds a premium to the fabric, and I can't really justify buying the panels she prints up. Sometimes she posts scrap packs and charm packs on Instagram and they are gone in seconds. Last year I was lucky enough to be quick and snag a scrap pack. I didn't have a plan for the fabrics, but just added them into scrappy projects I was making, including this baby bib for Mia.
I will add at this point, that the care instructions that come with the fabric recommend cool washes and no tumble drying. Unfortunately I live with two dogs, a small child and my husband, and anything that isn't wipe clean really needs to be machine washable and tumble dryable. Mia's bib inevitably got thrown in the washing and I was sad to see that the screen printing faded. Sad, but not surprised, and I was aware I was abusing the fabric by washing it like this. But it made me cautious - there is no point using Karen's fabrics in anything in our house that will need to be washed. I have to say that I thought this knowledge would cure my desire to buy lots of her fabric. But it didn't. Back in March I was lucky again, and I snagged two, yes two, charm packs: one coloured and the other neutral.
Mini quilts go on the wall and do not need to be washed. Therefore my purchase was justified. It was the first thing I sewed in my new sewing space in the new house in April this year! But it took me until ear;ier this month to actually get round to quilting it.
At this point I will take a slight diversion... to another recent finish. At about the same time I was playing with the charm packs, news was trickling through that Karen would be bringing out a range of fabrics commercially with Robert Kaufman. The "screen printing" would be done using an industrial process. Maybe these would hold up better to my washing/drying habits. I messaged Karen. who quite rightly, advised against it. To be honest, most patchwork fabric probably doesn't include tumble drying on its care instructions.... But I continued to hope...as one does. At Harrogate in September, I picked up two fat quarters of the brand new Blueberry Park - black and bright pink! My plan: a dolls quilt for Mia, that I would wash and tumble 5-10 times before I let her have it. To see how it washed up.
Can you see a theme in the projects I like to make with Karen's fabrics? I quilted this up just befpre the charm pack quilt and made the biggest mess you can imagine. I confess I didn't really baste it, just went for it, because it was small. If I say that when I started quilting, the top was straight on the wadding and backing, maybe you'll understand... there was a bit of an undesirable twist. And as such a rather horrific amount of puckers on the back. I wasn't unpicking. It can stay awful and I simply won't show my mother. On the plus side, I planned to quilt the mini quilt in the same way. So I took the lessons learned: 1. don't use a cheap, shiny fabric to back the quilt; 2. Baste the quilt properly; 3. Echo quilt the whole top and then go back to do the more dense quilting.
I followed those lessons learned and here is my finished mini quilt, complete with pancake-flat back!
As always, I failed miserably to plan ahead with the binding, so I ordered some of Blueberry Park to finish it off in a lovely light grey with my favourite Allotment print. It took another couple of weeks to get round to sewing down the binding, but yesterday I finished it!
And the result of multiple washing on the Blueberry Park fabric? Disappointingly, but again not surprising. After two cycles I thought I see some deterioration compared to the non-washed scrap I still had. I did a third wash to be sure and the fade is noticeable enough to know that after 10 washes it will be obvious.
But don't worry - I still haven't been put off these gorgeous fabrics! I just know that I need to pick my projects carefully. There's no point in me buying a full fat quarter bundle and adding it into my stash to be mixed in with other fabrics for any project. But I need to be more considered.... plan ahead. Use just a little in projects that won't be washed, or will be washed very infrequently, under circumstances where I can be a little more careful - i.e. cool wash and no tumble. I'm pretty sure there'll be more Karen Lewis fabrics in my future, but perhaps not the double bed quilt I had pictured!
The mini quilt, made with charms, was on my Q4 Finish Along list which you can find here.