Wednesday, 29 February 2012

February FMQ

It's just as well February has 29 days this year: As with last month, I am leaving the completion of this month's FMQ Challenge from SewCalGal till the last minute. Entries close tonight. There is a reason for this: I read the tutorial/watch the video early in the month and then keep thinking it through in my head. By the time I come to stitch it I know the design well and know how I'm going to do it. Then I just go for it.
I didn't consider last month's leaves to be particularly successful, though my Mum thought they were lovely.

This month it's feathers - slightly scary. But I found it a lot easier than the leaves - maybe because I've had a bit more general FMQ with Linda's quilt and because of some of the tips on speed that were in the tutorial. This has helped improve the consistency of my stitch length too. So here are my feathers:
I had a few issues with tension, but they aren't too obvious and I eventually got it sorted. I think I would still struggle if I tried to lay these out on a quilt, as I have quilted each feath individually, with no idea about how I could link them together if they were on a big quilt. But I'm sure that will come.

I definitely see more feathers in my future!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Somebody take my computer away from me!

I may have been surfing a bit this week. I may have been tempted a few times. I may have given in to temptation a few times. Make that three times!
Firstly the New York Beauty blocks. There's a quilt-along brewing... and plenty of time still to join in. These blocks are foundation pieced, which I really enjoy, but involve curved seams, which I've done before but need lots of practice.

Sew Sweetness
It's split into ten tutorials for ten different NYB blocks between the start of March and beginning of May. I don't think I'll make them all, but I can't quite decide. I do love this one, but I also love some of these. Check out the Flickr group here.
And then there are the Granny Squares - have you seen these popping up all over blog land? At first I could see the attraction, and then I saw some of the blocks and changed my mind entirely. Again - take a look the Flickr group! There are some fantastic blocks with beautiful modern and colourful fabrics (the kind I couldn't find in my stash yesterday). I know two couples who are expecting babies later this year and think a couple of 12-block quilts will fit the bill nicely.
And then yesterday I signed up for my first ever bee. It's called Stash Bee and uses stash fabric (duh!) There's still space to sign up! Hive 4 kicks off in April.
Until then, I really need to get a couple of quilts finished.... and tomorrow I need to do my final FMQ sample for the monthly challenge (nothing like leaving things to the last minute!).

Monday, 27 February 2012

Modern Mini Challenge

So have you seen the Modern Mini Challenge hosted by Jennifer at Ellison Lane Quilts around blog land?
Modern Mini Challenge
I've been following the blog-hop and thinking.... it's not like I haven't signed up to enough already this year..... but have you seen some of the wonderful inspiration in the blog hop? And have you seen the prizes? Click on the button and check it out.
So then yesterday I thought I might..... and today I came home from work and didn't fancy playing with any of my current projects. I read some blogs and I've been totally inspired by some of the fantastic modern colourful fabrics that people are using.
So I pulled my stash out. And got totally disheartened. Turns out I don't have much modern colourful fabric.... I pulled out everything that nearly ticked that box and found some purples and greens that fit the bill and I've started playing. I don't know quite how it will end up yet.... the fabrics are Moda (purple and green woodprint, pattern fabric) and Michael Miller (green with spots) and Makower (pink) and unknown (other pattern). There may be some applique. That's as far as I've got.

Tomorrow I will have a house full of ladies ready to try another new patchwork block: this time we're trying flying geese units.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Swoon, stars and farming

That sums up my weekend really. I have spent most of it sat at my sewing machine. Though I did go out for a lovely dinner last night (mmmm seafood risotto with fish from the fishquay at Tynemouth...mmm...).

I have made 2 more Farmer's Wife blocks, bringing me to a total of 68 (I think). Both were rotary cut, rather than foundation pieced. First up is Homeward Bound. Although simple I really love this block and I think I might shrink it down to half size and try amini quilt to see what it would look like across a whole quilt.

And then Railroad.
I made another Swoon block. This is my fifth 24" block from the Happy Mochi Yum Yum fabric - just four more to go. This isn't my favourite colour combo, but I think it will look good once all the blocks are together.And then I got on with my Oh My Stars quilt. All of the tutorials have now been posted, so I just have to finish stitching them. I made 28 blocks this weekend: Plaid Stars, Chequerboard stars, Quattro Stagione Stars and Radiant stars, and Saw Tooth Stars (there are a couple of variations in amongst these sawtooths):
I still have a fair few blocks to do, especially 4" blocks, but my progress chart is now looking really healthy and the end is in sight. The only variation I still have to do is the Shimmering star: I'm skipping wony stars and I don't have the range of fabric to do the final star variation (it's a courthouse steps style block). I'm now starting to think of quilting ideas... and I have a self imposed deadline of Easter, so it's ready for when Mum and Dad come up to visit.

In other news I have been given 6 feather pillows of various shapes and sizes just begging for some cushion covers - there are some tutorials I've seen on the web for some beautiful block patterns that would be perfect. Watch this space.

And Michael has man flu. Needless to say, he isn't getting much sympathy for his sniffle. :)

Friday, 24 February 2012

Relegation Rescue February 2012

Back at the beginning fo February I had an idea for a bit of a linky party called Relegation Rescue. You can find the original post here. All you have to do to join in is rescue a project from falling off of your WIP list and onto your UFO list by showing it a but of TLC, then write a blog post about the project - why you started it, why you stopped. You never know - you may fall back in love with it. And you absolutely do not have to have finished something to join in - just a few stitches counts as "rescued"!

Once you've posted, or if you're just visiting, please go and visit some others (here's hoping there's more than just me playing) and give them some encouragement with their old project.

My "rescued" project this month is my Vignette quilt. I love this quilt and I adore the fabrics I picked (Lily and Will). It's a mystery block of the month quilt by Leanne Beasley (and Leanne has now shared 10 blocks - that's how far behind I am). I finished block 1 last September (but can't find any blog post on it - must share this with you sometime) and blocks 2 and 3 seemed to stall. It's just that other projects got in the way. And because there is so much embroidery, it takes time. This is block 2. I pieced it during the bank holidays we had last year for the royal wedding (April) and didn't get much further with these blocks. But I picked it up again, and I have done some of the embroidery on the pieced section. It is still a long way from finished, but it is out of my own relegation zone. Maybe if I stopped signing up to more quilt-alongs I would be able to finished some of my WIPS!

This is my first attempt at a linky (it took me a while to get it to work)! It will be open for a week. I look forward to seeing all of you WIPs.

Have a good, stitchy weekend - I had the day off today, so should have loads to share later this weekend :)

p.s. I'm linking to my own post to make sure it works.....

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Once upon a time....

.... there was a froggy called Fergie. Fergie lived with his mammy and daddy and was a good little froggy until one day. Fergie got up in the morning and felt like being a naughty froggy. He wriggled and squirmed when mammy froggy tried to get him dressed; he threw his cereal on the floor at breakfast; when they went out for a walk he lay down in a puddle and at bedtime he refused to go to bed. What a naughty froggy.

What Fergie didn't know was that all his bad behaviour was being watched by the Wicked Witch. Once mammy and daddy froggy had gone downstairs and left Fergie alone in his room, the Wicked Witch appeared. She was going to punish Fergie for his bad behaviour. She got a giant paair of scissors and cut him in half and took out his stuffing. Then she disappeared as quickly as she had come.

Fergie was very scared and cried. He wished he hadn't been so naughty. A good fairy heard his crying and felt sorry for him. Fergie had been very naughty but the punishment was very hard.

She carefully stitched him up again, but still felt sorry for him. She set to work making him a soft cosy blanket that would always comfort him. When she was finished, Fergie looked even better than before and he would never be sad again because of his lovely soft blanket. When mammy and daddy saw his blanket the next morning they thought it looked lovely. Fergie had learnt his lesson and was never naughty again and they alll lived happily ever after

This little froggy is for Aiden, who picked it himself. Ich hoffe, dass du deinen neuen Frosch magst, Aiden!

I was the wicked witch who cut the froggy in half - I really had to build myself up to do it - it felt like sacrilege. By the time I had finished him I was covered in green fluff. The fleecey fabric is beautifully soft, but an absolute pig to work with!

P.S. I didn't pick the name Fergie!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Piece and Plenty

It's Farmer's Wife time! I'm bored of titles that say "Farmer's Wife" so I'm going for the name of one of the blocks this week!

Since the start of the year I've been practicing my rotary cutting and piecing, and this week I was comfortable to move away from foundation piecing (which I've used for the first 63 blocks) and try measuring and accurate piecing! I started of with some half-square-triangle blocks.

Block #38: Four Winds. I think this block is the block with the most pieces in the whole Farmer's Wife quilt.

And block #64 Peace and Plenty (fewer pieces in this block). I picked a brown batik. I'm not 100% sure I like it, but it's pretty well pieced and I have used it in anotherblock. Maybe once the blocks are all together it'll be fine.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Tango Challenge: Nine Pins

Back in January I decided to take part in the Tango Challenge. I decided on a beautifully garish colour combination of orange and pink. The "design process" has been a little haphazard and has changed every ten minutes, right up until I finally attached the binding this morning.

At one point I had decided to do an applique flower with a border made up of 1" squares in all different orange fabrics. It turns out I have a remarkably large collection of oranges in my stash. So I started making nine-patches. I fell in love with nine-patches, so gave up on the idea of applique and borders. I was always going to use black as my neutral colour, so had an idea of orange nine patches and another-colour nine patches in a lap quilt.

But I've really fallen in love with nine-patches and have an idea in my head of a rainbow quilt (not in the rules of the Tango challenge). So I reduced my plans again. I wanted a table topper for the glass table in our living room. Orange and pink? Orange and yellow? Orange and lime green? (Our living room is decorated in blue and yellow!). If it aint gonna match, it may as well not match properly! I went for pink. So pulled all of the pinks out of my stash and cut a 1 1/2" strip off of each. Then I pieced just one nine-patch in pink, picked out eight orange nine patches and a big piece of black. I tried wonky. Nope. I tried straight. Yep. A bit of raw-edge applique with a beautiful variegated Guetermann Sulky thread. At close of play yesterday evening I had finished top. My husband is away for the weekend, so I stuck it up on my "design wall" (lounge wall) with masking tape, went and made a cuppa, came back and.... it was going to be a wall hanging.
This morning I was going to quilt it with the same variegated thread. But didn't want to detract from the simplicity. So went for black quilting, echoing the squares. Binding: orange? black? pink? Simplicity = black. Ta-dah - a finished quilt just 16" square.
I've called this quilt Nine-Pins. Before I moved to the north-east of England, I lived with my parents in Bedfordshire and played in an English ceilidh band (traditional English music is like traditional Irish music, but more stompy). One of the dances we used to do was called nine-pins: four couples formed a circle and a extra person stood in the middle. They were called the nine-pin and would go up to each couple in turn and chose one of them to dance with. The rejected half would go into the centre. Once the nine-pin had danced with half of each couple they joined the four in the centre and circled until at some random point, the music stopped and there was a mad rush as every one in the middle tried to grab a partner, leaving one nine-pin (hopefully a new one) back in the middle to start again. It's the ceilidh version of musical chairs! We normally did it at the end of the evening once some drink had been consumed! My little pink nine-patch is my nine-pin!

Result of this challenge: I LOVE LOVE LOVE orange. I didn't hate it before, but now I love it! Thanks for bearing with my ramblings today!

I'm linking up to Sew Happy Geek's Manic Monday and Sew Modern Monday at Canoe Ridge Creations

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Swooned together

Yesterday evening was Friday night sew in. I had planned to work on a project that needed some TLC, but the attention-seeking Swoon won over. Last weekend I completed the final of four 12" blocks and I had planned what I wanted to do with the sashing so it was time to pull everything together. It took a bit longer than I had planned but here it is: The centre brown square in each of the Swoon blocks is 31/2", so I cut my sashing to the same width and used the blue fabrics to make stars in each of the corner stones, mirroring the stars in the centre of each swoon block. Once I've decided how to quilt it (maybe something like this), I'll finish it off with the brown fabric as binding, which I hope will frame it (it's going to be a wall hanging).

You can't see it well from the photo, but the blue in the centre of each side is striped, and the same fabric is in the botttom left block. If I can get stripes to work with Swoon, I should be able to use stripes in any other block.

My big swoon (nine 24" blocks) will be finished off a little differently, with narrower sashings and no cornerstones, as I don't have enough of the Happy Mochi Yum Yum fabric to do something similar.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Little Embroidery

When it comes to buying birthday cards I really struggle. Most cards seem twee and unimaginative or grossly overpriced. My Mum celebrates a "significant birthday" on Friday, so I wanted a special card. I used to make all of my birthday cards when I did a lot of cross stitch, but the last one I made was in June last year (it was also the last time I did any cross stitch). I decided to resurrect the tradition, even if it's only a one-off (and not cross stitch).
I designed this embroidery myself. I love hearts as a design shape, and I've just filled it with all things pretty and interesting (which I can draw). If you look carefully you can also find all the letters of the alphabet - they are all there - I checked a few times!

I was going to mount it on a piece of card, but my card-making skills aren't as good as my quilt-making skills, so I used an off-cut of wadding from the Melrose quilt I finished last weekend, and found a beautiful dark blue batik fabric in my stash for the backing and the binding (it's a Beautiful Batik by John Louden Fabrics and although it's beautiful, it's a batik of the non-colour-fast variety, so I was limited with what I could use it for). The finished size is approximately 6.5 x 7.5". I think I will attach it to a card in some way before I send it. Happy Birthday, Mum!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Swooning and beyond

I have two projects on the go with the Swoon pattern from Camille Roskelly. One making the 24" blocks in Happy Mochi Yum Yum and a red background and a 12" version in browns and duck egg blues. One bright and cheerful, the other elegant and subtle (my middle names!).

This weekend I completed my fourth 24" block in white and green. This is my favourite colour combo so far.

And this is the fourth (and final) of the 12" blocks. I've got some ideas for sashing and then this will be a wall hanging for our bedroom.

Earlier this week, Katie, who got me into this Swoony mess with her Flickr group announced some ideas for the next quilt along. There are two options, both patterns by Camille: On a Whim or Hopscotch. On a Whim uses fat quarters, Hopscotch uses a jelly roll. I think I'll do both. But first I really need to finish my Swoony projects!

A quilt of firsts

Back in January I finished piecing the front of the Melrose quilt. It's called that, because that's the name of the fabric line from Red Rooster fabrics. The pattern is the free one that came with the range.

On Friday I finally layered up the quilt. Yesterday I quilted it. I had planned on wavy lines, like on my Christmas quilt, but a comment Kim made about free motion quilting not being too difficult and looking lovely kept nagging me. So I had a go. I did random circles and swirls in the gaps between the main blocks. The quilting is quite tight, so that the panels with the large print really pop. I then did straight lines round those panels and all the way round the edge.
Although the lighting on this photo isn't great, it does show the quilting.

The quilting isn't perfect, but I'm really chuffed with how good it is for a first real attempt on a quilt top. So free motion quilting was the first of my firsts.

Here's a bigger shot of the back - Look at Charlie peering round trying to work out what's going on!

Today came the second of my firsts. I have a confession: I've never used mitred corners on my binding. I'm self-taught on binding quilts so I started off by hashing the corners a bit, but a year of mini Calendar girl quilts led to me refining this process till I was happy with very neat corners and no rough edges. But one of my new years resolutions was to try mitred corners on my binding. And today I did. I used this tutorial and it worked wonderfully. I don't think I'll ever go back. I didn't do the pinking shears step in the tutorial. I will next time - I got fed up of frayed bits of fabric. I am also falling in love with stripey bindings - the two quilts I've finished this year both had stripey binding and they just look stunning.

It seemed to take forever to hand stitch the binding to the back (another resolution is to try the machining to the front binding). But it is finally finished, and I love it. It's not perfect, but it's another step on my quilting journey.

Also, I've seen some photos on blogs where people have used hair clips to hold binding down. I tried it today and it was another revelation. No going back to pinning my binding and stabbing my fingers!

I think the rest of my day will be given over to Swooning. I've neglected these blocks for a couple of weeks while I've worked on other projects, but in the last week Katie has started a thread on the Flickr group about the next quilt-along. I am definitely in, but I really should finish Swoon first - deadline = mid March - by then I'd like to have all nine blocks pieced, but probably not quilted. I'm quilting these giant blocks using the quilt as you go method, but I need to find just the right backing fabric first. Then I'm on the lookout for a red and white striped fabric for the binding.

I spoke to my Mum yesterday - she's been having a look on my blog and had a couple of comments: my first attempt at FMQ in the FMQ Challenge - leaves, was not, in my mind, a great success. Mum loved it so much, she nearly called me to tell me. I know how I'll be quilting her next quilt. And the Farmer's Wife block that I really don't like (Country Path) is one of her favourites. Typical!

Friday, 10 February 2012

On Your Marks, Get Set, Farm!

The Farmer's Wife quilt along is back in action this week, so I thought I would use this post to catch you all up on the blocks I've made during the time off, show off the two blocks I've made this evening and show you a group picture of all 64 - yes 64 - blocks. Yes - I am ahead of schedule!

So first of all, here are the blocks I've made since the beginning of December: First up #76 Sawtooth and #101 Wedding Ring. I had these blocks prepared before the break, and just didn't get them put together due to Christmas stitching. Once all the Christmassy-ness was over I pieced them so I didn't lose any pieces. I was having a bit of a citrus-sy night when I chose the fabrics! I love the green fabric - it makes me think of jigsaws. Mum hates it! So this quilt is safe with me...

While Mum was here over Christmas we got all the blocks out - it was amazing to see them all together. But some blocks didn't work. I will be redoing three blocks in total - two quite straightforward and one not... . We've picked out the new fabrics for these blocks and a few others too. I started off by redoing one of the straightforward blocks #1 Attic Windows. Althought it's not as bright as the original (on the left) I much prefer the one on the right.
Then I tackled a bit of a problem block. I originally started #24 Country Lane back in July. If I'd finished it, it would have only been my fifth or sixth block. But I didn't finish it. It nearly made me give up on te farmer before I'd even started. I hated the fabric combination I had picked and I didn't like the design much. Mum helped me pick out new fabric (the old went in the bin) and I tackled it head on. I still don't like it much.... but it's done and it's not too horrible.When I first started this project I decided that there were two blocks that I wouldn't use in the final quilt - they are two blocks which have an appliqued curving handle on a basket. On a quilt made entirely of straight lines except for these two I felt they stuck out like a sore thumb, so I've been on the look out for alternatives: During January a bit of a Swoon craze took over blog land. The original blocks are 24" finished. In a fit of madness I mentioned on the Flickr group that a 6" version would work as a FW block. So here it is. The individual squares are just 3/4". It was the first block that I didn't foundation piece, and although it was a bit fiddly I am so pleased with it.
I'm really liking this pink fabric at the moment!

And then last week we started up again with the suggestion of posting a picture of all our finished blocks so far. I was at 62 blocks - 64 blocks makes a nice 8x8 collage, so two more blocks were required. Last weekend I prepared this block: #18 Century of Progress. This is another block that has bothered me since day 1 - I just didn't understand the colour placement in the original design. So I've changed it. The colour scheme is a practice for my Tango Challenge piece, which is still very much in the planning stage. Beautifully garish!
(more pink)
Please don't look too closely at the seams - the outer ones are pretty good, but the central one is appalling - I really struggled with the bulk of all the seams at the centre, even after cutting and spreading the seam allowance as much as possible. If I did this one again I would suffer the templates so I could press the seams open - this is one of the disadvantages of foundation piecing.

And then finally, Postage Stamp (#68) - a second block pieced without a foundation. I think my piecing has improved enough in the past 6 weeks that a few more blocks may be pieced by accurately rotary cutting rather than foundation piecing.


So here is my collage of all 64 blocks together (with pretend yellow sashing) - 47 left to go. And I haven't left all of the hard ones to the end (just some of them!).

If you have a bit of spare time, be sure to stop by the Flickr group and check out all of the beautiul blocks that have been posted.

Also, the signup is ready for February's Friday Night Sew In one week today! Have a great weekend (I have two quilts layered up and ready for quilting!)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A Galaxy of stars

well - maybe more like just a constellation!

Today I made another 12 blocks for the Oh My Stars Quilt Along - here they are:

I made four Patchwork Stars. For some reason I made a conscious decisions not to make a 12" version. I can no longer remember why.... so I may go back and make another.
I made three Chevron Stars, which were really easy and pretty.
I made two woven stars... little buggers. Firstly, it's taken me about five attempts to get this tutorial printed. In ran out, paper ran out. Wireless network went down.... The green one has dreadful seams. I was ready to give up. But I'd already cut the pieces for the blue one. The seams on the blue one are far better. But I've put the colours in the wrong place - no - a different place to what I had intended. I still looks ok, but I don't think I'll be making any more of this block.And then three nested stars. I really like these, and the design (and the patchwork blocks) have given me the opportunity to use some of the Dogwood Trail fabrics which have a white background. It took a while to get my head round the cutting, and each star is effectively two stars, so they were more work than the others.I now have eight 12" blocks, nineteen 8" blocks and twenty-five 4" blocks - that makes a total of 52 blocks finished out of the 111 blocks I need - that's nearly half way - here is a photo of my progress chart. I'm nearly up to date on the 12" and 8" blocks, but only have half of the 4" blocks I should have. But I still love the fabrics I'm using and yesterday I bought some fabric for a border.

Yesterday I started another project. It's the twisted braid jelly roll quilt from"More Layer Cake, Jelly Roll and Charm Quilts" by Pam and Nicky Lintott and is lovely and straightforward. We're doing it in a series of workshops and I'm going to keep the progressto where it shuld be, rather than rushing ahead and getting it finished. I'm using Cabbages and Roses by Northcote Range for Moda for my jelly roll and I've added in some cream background. The finished quilt will be a 2012 Christmas present for Sheila.

My LQS has just brought in some flannel fabrics. They are gorgeous. Very usefully, a friend of mine is due to give birth to a baby boy in June and I've been on the look out for some fabric for a quilt - here is the fabric - isn't it beautiful.
I also got some more flannel to back my Chasing Chevrons quilt. It's going to be a summer quilt, so I'll quilt it without wadding to make it lighter, but the flannel will still give some snuggle value.And a bit of luxury: a Puttin' On the Ritz Layer Cake in Grey. So I'm browsing for layer cake patterns - I've never owned or worked with a layer cake before.... I think I might just stroke it for a bit.

And the layer cake wasn't my only first yesterday - I also learnt how to drive in the snow. We must have had a good 1/4 inch of haily type snow. Not the nice floaty soft snow. It was horrid. It's all gone already today.