Friday, 28 November 2014


Last month I shared my mix tape quilt finish with you.

The quilt was gifted by my sister-in-law, Steph, to Chloe. My husband's family knows Chloe's family since forever and Steph is very close to them - like a big sister!

You can read Chloe's story here on the local new website - in short, she was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 2 and underwent intensive chemotherapy. Aged 12 she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. And by September this year she needed a new heart. Yesterday, she got her new heart, and although she isn't out of the woods yet, she now has a future to look forward to.

Chloe can now go on to enjoy life because someone, somewhere, lost theirs. And at the very worst time in their life, grieving and in pain, that family had to make a decision to donate their loved one's organs.

I'm telling you all of this because Chloe is one of the lucky ones: so many people still die whilst waiting on the transplant list. Sign up to be an organ donor. Discuss your wishes with your family - it will be them who have to consent should the worst happen. It may not be the most cheerful of subjects to discuss over a Sunday dinner, but it is a conversation that could literally save lives.

If you are in the UK you can sign up to be an organ donor here.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for Chloe and thank you for registering to be an organ donor.

Normal quilty service will be resumed soon!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ellie-Jo's Advent Calendar [a finish]

That's the second week in a row I've missed WIP Wednesday... but I missed it because I was desperately trying to finish off this project (it was supposed to be gifted today, but of course there's been a change of plan because I called in at Homebase to get dowel to hang it on my way home from work and I stayed up late). A couple of weeks ago I finished an advent calendar for my nephew, James, and yesterday I finished one for his sister, my niece, Ellie-Jo.

It's pretty much the same, so I won't bore you with too many details here - I didn't make any effort to get the pockets matching or placed the same, so the numbers are all in different places, but you get the idea.

Just realised I need another button - for the dot on the i

I have to confess, that by the end I was a bit sick of attaching patches to pockets. I really had to force myself to get the last few finished. And this was the first time I've tried out the blanket stitch on my new-ish Brother machine. To put it bluntly, it sucks. I will get my Husqvarna serviced and use that when I need to do any large amount of blanket stitch: on my Husqvarna, one blanket stitch is a straight stitch forward, then a stitch to the left and then back over to the right in the same place, and this is repeated. It means that you can turn the fabric at any point except between the left and the right stitch. And I do. On the Brother a blanket stitch is a stitch forward, a stitch back, a stitch forward, a stitch left and a stitch right. First off these feels inefficient - more thread, more time.... and more opportunity for me to turn the fabric at the wrong moment in the stitch and that backwards stitch going off into the background. Which is pretty obvious when you're using red thread on a white background.

I'm done whinging now - you get the picture. Needless to say, I'm glad this is finished. I can wait 11 months before I need to contemplate making another one for Mia!

And can you believe Mia was nine months old this week. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone - she stayed still just long enough for me to get one photo!

Oh - and the advent calendar is another tick on my Finish Along list.
Finish Along 2014

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A Day with Jennie [2]

Saturday was the second day with Jennie (you can read about the first here). I booked up for these classes well over a year ago based solely on the fact Jennie was teaching them. I went to a couple of classes with her back in 2011 and was not going to miss another opportunity! It was about three weeks ago when we finally found out what we were going to be making. Friday's class was lovely - I was absolutely thrilled with what we would be making. I was less enamoured with Saturday's. I don't like basket blocks and this was a basket block. The sample photos looked old fashioned and very "not me".

Newcastle is not a hotbed of modern quilters. I don't know anyone else who would even recognise the difference between a modern quilter and a traditional quilter, let alone call themselves a modern quilter (except my mother-in-law because she puts up with me). I'm not getting into a debate about modern and traditional here, but I know that I am definitely not traditional, but I'm also not a modern quilter through and through. I met a lady at the class who asked me, for the first time, if I was a modern quilter! And that got me thinking about the work Jennie does. I don't think it would fall under the category of modern quilting, but it certainly isn't traditional. But Saturday's class was much more traditional, so I spent a long time thinking about how I was going to make the block and take part in the class, and still end up with something I could use and enjoy, rather than a block that would get stuffed in a cupboard and never used.

Rainbows are always good. And low volume. And some solids. This is what I came up with.

It still needs the flappy bits to be sewn down and tweaked and rolled. But I like it.

This was a day-long class but I had finished piecing my four blocks by lunchtime. During the Friday evening lecture from Jennie, she had shown us a quilt which had got me thinking. If I take the Friday panel as the centre of a medallion quilt, this quilt had perfect corner blocks for the next border. I asked Jennie about them on the Saturday morning, expecting to buy the book they were in. It turns out they are in the book that is out of print ("Tucked up in bed", but due to the font used in the title, it can easily be misread, so hasn't been reprinted). So she photocopied the templates for me and whilst she continued to teach the other 19 ladies the basket block, she taught me how to do the corner block.

Jennie is incredibly generous with her time, and her teaching, very witty, very well rehearsed and professional and a truly lovely lady. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from her I would highly recommend it, even if the end result isn't totally to your taste - the techniques she teaches will open your eyes and you will have a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Day with Jennie [1]

I have been looking forward to this weekend for over a year. Two day-long workshops with Jennie Rayment. Jennie is an author and teacher who takes the characteristic of fabric exploited in the cathedral window technique and takes it further than you could ever imagine.

That characteristic is that a bias folded edge can roll and curve. And once you've worked out how to create bias edges in a block by folding fabric cleverly and inserting squares and rectangles into seam lines, the possibilities are endless - and I'm still trying to get my head round them!
The full piece so far - there's still a lot of rolling to do on the border,
but eventually it will all look like the top right corner

Today we did a project called "Does it Need a Button". A central 12" block, plain 3" borders, an ingenious 3" border with more bias edges to roll, and a final 3" border. I chose to make mine in a single colour. Jennie is known as the Calico Queen in the UK and the Muslin Mistress in the UK (she's happy to be referred to as the muslin mistress as she works with muslin and has been a mistress - apparently it's best to test drive in this day and age!) and some of my favourite pieces by her are made entirely from calico, with the folding and rolling and manipulation providing texture and interest rather than colour. Last time I did a class with her I used brightly coloured batiks and ever since I have wanted to repeat the blocks in a single colour. So this time I started with a single colour - turquoise to match our bedroom.
The centre panel - the colour isn't true, but you can see
the rolling and folding and piecing in this picture

I now have to make a decision: the piece at the moment is 28" x 28" and I have a few more edges to roll and stitch in place. I could stop there, layer it up, minimal quilting, matching binding. Ta-dah. Or. I could use it as the centre of a medallion quilt: take some of the blocks we made the last time Jennie visited (I already have the book), and make a whole quilt, finishing it off with a matching border to the one we did today. I need more long term projects like I need a hole in the head, but this would certainly be different. And long-term.
You can see the "blind hem stitch" I'm using for stitching down the
rolled edges in this picture. The insert is called a Baltimore Rosebud

Today finished with an hour-long talk by Jennie. Even if this type of patchwork isn't your thing, if you ever have the chance to go to one of her talks - I haven't laughed so much in years! Tomorrow we have our second day long class. I've just finished cutting the fabric and this one is anything but a single colour :)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Mini Mix Tapes (A {lovely} finish)

This evening I completed my mini quilt for the IG Mini Swap!

And an interesting bit of fussy cutting!

It started as a single half-sized mix tape block I made on a whim. I made this lonely block eight friends in loads of different scraps of fabric, then wrapped them all in a huge amount of white fabric.
I even pressed it before I basted it!

That huge amount of white open space required quilting. It's a like a garden after fresh snowfall - I couldn't wait to make loads of footprints in it.

I spent most of yesterday quilting this up, and I will confess that by the time I had finished I had a few doubts. I wasn't sure about the curve in the quilting - straight diagonal lines may have been better.... but thanks to the lovely people of Instagram, I think I'm happy with it again.

I picked some of my favourite tried and tested free motion motifs - matchsticks, circles and figure eights - I also added in some fans which I've only done once before, and a brand new pattern of circles and semi circles.

Binding was a challenge. I really wasn't sure what fabric to use. After a bit of help from Instagram and family members I went for Domino Dot in black. I cut it 2.25" wide (narrower than normal for me) and I stitched it by hand to back to make it as narrow as possible.

I'm pleased this is finished - I just need a few extras before the posting deadline of early December, but I'm also pleased how it is finished. I love the mix tape block (obviously) and I'm getting more and more confidence in my free motion quilting, so that I now really enjoy making those first footprints in the snow.

The finished quilt is 24" x 24". It's pieced and quilted in Aurifil 50w.
Fabrics included: the background is Kona white; the backing (not shown) is Ikea Nummer Britten (not very original); the binding is Domino Dot in black; other selected fabrics include:Cotton and Steel basics; Pearl Bracelets; Dreamin Vintage from Art Gallery; Nature Elements from Art Gallery; Tula Pink; Color Me Happy from Moda; Kona solids; a little bit of Bonnie and Camille from Moda; Carnaby Street from Art Gallery....

Just a quick footnote: you may have seen my original mix tape quilt a few weeks ago. I made it for a thirteen-year-old who needs a heart transplant. Over the last few days she has deteriorated. If prayer is what you do, then please include her in your thoughts. If prayer isn't your thing, please cross you fingers that a heart can be found for her in the next few days.

The mini mix tapes quilt is my goal for November in A Lovely Year of Finishes

A Lovely Year of Finishes 
And was also on my Q4 Finish Along list.

Finish Along 2014

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

WIP Wednesday [back to work]

Yep - I went back to work this week after my maternity leave. So productivity has plummeted. It's certainly been a bit of a shock to the system. By the time I'm free to sew in the evening I'm knackered. I have done bits of hand sewing - I'm trying to get Ellie-Jo's advent calendar finished, but it's slow going and not particularly exciting to show you.

Yesterday I had a little more energy, so I sorted out the remaining background and organized the colours for the Preppy the Whale quilt I'm planning. I even got the first block done. And tonight I've made another 3. I love how quick these are! I may go and make a few more now...

Linking up with WIP Wednesday.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Finished quilt tops

I'm setting myself up for a lot of quilting in the next few weeks. Yesterday I bought 5 metres of 125" wide batting.... the man at the shop asked if I was making a tent - I'm not sure a tent made of batting would be particularly weatherproof! Some of the quilts are barely even started, but I made good progress this week in making up a few more quilt tops:

The butterfly quilt: I made three butterfly blocks using a pattern from Tartan Kiwi and made up the size of the baby quilt using a fabric I picked up at Harrogate - it's Theodore and Izzy Mountain Meadow by Andrea Turk for Camelot Fabrics. I started off with this fabric and picked the fabrics for the butterflies to match.

Boats Quilt: You've may have seen a few boat blocks that I've made, and over the last week I've been making foundation pieced Maltese Cross blocks. Today I put them all together to make another baby quilt.

I was stretching my fabric with this quilt - mostly through poor forward planning and making it up as I went along. I didn't buy nearly enough of the light blue fabric, but by blind luck discovered that in the stash I inherited from my Gran there was a three metre piece the same colour (as near as dammit); the red is left over from my Joy Jelly Roll disaster - I unexpectedly had enough for the sashing, but not enough to make a Maltese Cross block too, so the red Maltese Cross block is a Kona solid, not the print.

And the white.... I was using the same fabric for my niece and nephew's advent calendars. The boat blocks had taken up far more white than I had expected.... so I eeked out enough for the Maltese Cross blocks - I wanted the white placed like this in the blocks to represent wind turbines.... This meant that I was one strip of the white short to bind both advent calendars. Which is why the advent calendars are partly bound in green.... in the future, I really should plan better!

Batik wall-hanging: I started this at a class in May 2011 and I thought it was about time to get it finished - I've rolled each of the curved edges and appliqued them in place. Now it's another one to baste and quilt.

And another very long term UFO - this is from 2011 too:

It was a mystery block of the month by our LQS. The blocks are nominally 14" finished (some of them are...). They've sat for a while because I made a total cock up on the final block - I marked the cutting lines from the template in biro. I won't do it again. I learned my lesson. But it's a block that at the time was a write off - looking at it today, I can't see any marks any more, but I've realised there also isn' much contrast in these blocks. I'm making a cushion cover for the maternity cushion that now protects Mia from the fireplace (and vice versa). The cushion is 19" x 50" - not an ideal size for 14" blocks so I've hashed this together.

And my mini quilt for the IG Mini Swap is ready for quilting too:

There's a few more quilt tops to finish before the quilting marathon starts!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Teardrops [a finish]

You know those quilts you start because you absolutely have to? When you have many other things you should be sewing.... this was one of those quilts. I got Issue 3 of Quilt Now and dropped everything to pull navy and emerald from my stash - and a bit of pink and get piecing. The fabrics are Navy: Violet Craft, Domino Dots, Pearl Bracelets, Cotton and Steel Basics, Kona and a slightly marbled navy; and Emerald: Safari Moon, Pure Elements; two Pearl Bracelets and two Color Me Happy. The pink is Kona Candy Pink.

I finished the quilt in an afternoon. I've used it to show off my favourite colour scheme (favourite at that moment in time - it changes regularly), but if you were to size it up, it would be a great pattern for showing off larger scale prints too.

I'm pretty pleased with the back of the quilt too. Most of it is a fat quarter which my Mother-in-Law brought back from New York for me. It seemed a shame to cut it up, but wasn't quite big enough, so just a single stripe of Pearl Bracelets.

It took me a while to think about how to quilt it, but a certain small person has recently had some sleepless nights (related to teeth...) so I had lots of time to think about it. I decided to fmq a star-ish design in each of the navy diamonds.

You can see it better from the back. I made a right mess of one corner where the fabric moved and puckered a bit.

Luckily I've hidden most of it with the binding, which is Color Me Happy.

The finished quilt is about 18" x 18" and was from Issue 3 of Quilt Now magazine and designed by Sonia at Fabric and Flowers.

This will now hang next to my bed, where I have a narrow strip of wall in a corner next to the curtain, perfect for some mini quilts! And this is a sixth tick off my Finish Along List which you can find here.

Finish Along 2014

Thursday, 6 November 2014

James's Advent Calendar [a finish]

Last year I thought about making advent calendars for my niece and nephew. But my niece was only 9-10 months old and I left it far too late... isn't that always the case - I always forget that you need advent calendars a month earlier than all the other Christmassy stuff.

But this year I remembered! And one of those advent calendars is now finished (the second is a little way behind).

The design is based on a pattern in issue 13 of Love Patchwork and Quilting but I made a few changes... I made the whole thing bigger so I could fit on the kids' names (to prevent arguments, perhaps not this year, but definitely in the future);

I quilted the background with a fairly wide cross hatch just to give it some more body when I fill the pockets with goodies and prevent the front sagging too much, and that meant that I bound it rather than bagged it;

I embroidered the numbers because I don't own stamps and also embroidered the top of each pocket but attached them to the background by machine (the opposite to the pattern); and I made the pockets by cutting a piece of fabric double the size, stitching all round RST, and turning through. And I didn't have a pocket for 25th December - you get enough presents that day without chocolate!

But I did add the pom pom trim to the bottom - I've never used it before but it is perfect. And I loved the chunky buttons in the corners.

This was quite a bitty project with lots of hand work. I need to keep momentum going to get Ellie-Jo's finished, and I'm sure I'll be making one for Mia in the future.... for now, this is another tick off my Finish Along list!

Finish Along 2014

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

WIP Wednesday [Foundation Piecing]

Totally unintentionally I have found myself doing a lot of foundation piecing the last few days: I've been making more mini mix-tape blocks for the #IGMiniSwap. I need to add some white to bring it up to size and then decide on some quilting.

I've made the remaining two butterfly blocks for a baby quilt. This is a pattern by Tartan Kiwi and is definitely the best butterfly block I've seen.

I've been catching up on the Vice Versa BOM and rather than use templates, I foundation pieced the funny shaped triangles in these final blocks.
I had a little helper

And today I started some Maltese Cross blocks (also foundation pieced) to finish off the boats baby quilt. The theory is they look a little bit like wind turbines!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday

Monday, 3 November 2014

If you can't stand the heat... [a finish]

...Get out of the Kitchen!

A good friend celebrated her "significant" birthday last weekend. She absolutely loves the Great British Bake Off so to celebrate her big day I made her a mini quilt.

Just a few weeks ago I discovered a website called Urban Threads - they sell machine and hand embroidery designs. I don't do machine embroidery but I do love some hand embroidery. And the designs on this site are so different to the usual twee flowers and never-ending Sun Bonnet Sue! I spent many hours browsing the site, and I could spend many, many hours completing a lot of their designs. For this project I picked "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen".

The majority of the embroidery, which is all done by hand, is backstitch in one or two strands of DMC thread. I used satin stitch for "kitchen" and it seemed to take forever. The colour scheme was an easy pick - I love friends who have Pinterest boards to help me!

I finished off the mini with a couple of borders and some flying geese and some free motion quilting. I even added a label!

This is another tick on my Finish Along list for Q4. You can find my original list here!

Finish Along 2014