Friday, 30 June 2017

Get Cozy [A Finish]

This is a quilt that came out of my love of all things sew-along. I made the blocks - armchair, sofa, side table with lamp and pot plant last November along with a fair few others, and then wondered what on earth I was going to with them!

The pattern for the pieced strip is by Pen and Paper Patterns (who also created the snail pattern I've been sewing up each week) and is a dream to follow. There's nothing tricky - it's all rotary cut and it goes together like a dream. I had just received some of the Les Fleurs fabrics from Cotton and Steel, and I just knew I had to have a Les Fleurs sofa! The original pattern is completed with a quilt ladder, but that is something I will likely never ever have room for, so I replaced it with the just as unlikely, pot plant (I can't keep plants alive). The pot is pieced, but the leaves were free motioned on as I quilted.

I had a sudden brainwave that I could add some of the large floral print from Les Fleurs to complete is as a toddler quilt, so I ordered some. Unfortunately it was on back order and I didn't receive it until March, hence the delay in getting this quilt finished - for a change it wasn't just my procrastinating that caused it!

It took me a while to decide how to quilt it, especially the pieced panel. In the end I did a large stipple over the floral print fabric, then match-stick quilted on the "wall paper" of the pieced strip. Mia and Jessica were pleased to hear that this quilt is not leaving the house, but is for them.

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Charm About You

Fancy Forest Baby Quilt [A Finish]

Time for the final rush of finishes for the quarter! This is just one of the many baby quilts I'll be making this year and it's for a friend who had her second child, a boy, back in March. I made Preppy the Whale for his older sister, so it felt right to return to an Elizabeth Hartman pattern for him.

As I said in my earlier posts about quilts, using this pattern - I'm getting my money out of it - I think this is just the first such baby quilt!

I used a grey with stars on for the background - it's from To the Moon and Back by Lewis and Irene and I need to buy more! All of the animals are made from solids, mostly Kona. I quilted a 3" cross hatch in pale grey.

I showed the girls this quilt yesterday morning. Mia loved it and gave it a hug, and Jess kept saying "Wow". It's just as well I've picked up some fabric to make us the full size quilt very soon!

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Charm About You

Thursday, 29 June 2017

365 Quilt Challenge 2016 [A finish]

I can't believe I've just typed that heading! When I made the block for January 1st 2016 I could not have imagined the journey this quilt would have taken me on. So make yourselves comfortable and grab a cup of tea, because this blog post may get lengthy!

I'd seen the 365 Quilt Challenge on Facebook. I think every quilter on Facebook must have been aware of it. Loads of my friends had signed up and it kept popping up as a "Page you might like" thing. In the end, in November 2015, I joined the group, had a poke round. Decided it wasn't for me.

One of the things that really put me off were the fabric requirements: you needed x amount of dark dark fabric, x amount of medium dark fabric, x amount of dark medium, medium, light medium, light, background.... I just couldn't get my head round those requirements. I'd looked at the mock ups on the wesbite and couldn't bring myself to pick a colour. I put it to the back of my mind.

But I had obviously at some point subscribed to the emails, and when the first few popped up in my inbox, I though "these seem easy - I'll have a go". I think it was then, about 4th January 2016, with no real plan that I had the idea for my colour scheme. Once I had seen how the blocks were turning out, I knew that I could use a dark background and then any colour I wanted and still end up with "dark block", especially if, when it came to the light blocks I used a light background with the colours I liked. Out came my daughter's crayons and I had a plan.

I'd like to remind you, that at this point, I was five months pregnant. Doesn't everyone take on a mammoth project the year they're due to give birth to their second child? Up until the end of March, I kept up to date. And by 17th April, just three days before Jess was born, I had completed the centre of the medallion and the first dark border. I knew, as Jessica's birth approached, that even if I never made another block again, at I had completed something that would stand as a quilt in it's own right, albeit a small one.

It was around this time, that the best aspect of this quilt became apparent. I had joined a UK based Facebook group for the 365 quilt, and I have never experienced a group come together like we did: we got to know each other, we chatted, and as Jessica's due date came and went, everyone wanted to know.... And once she's arrived, and I'd posted to let everyone know, I got the loveliest congratulations for "Our 365 Baby".

Inevitably, I took a break, not from sewing entirely, but from this project, in the weeks after Jess was born. I was still sewing (it truly does keep me sane), but not this. I did the odd block through May and into June and by this time last year, I was 42 blocks behind. At the worst point I hit 84 blocks behind. And I'm not going to lie, it was a mammoth effort to pull myself back. I found that spending a day or so cutting the fabric for the next chunk of blocks and then piecing a bit here and there in spare minutes really worked - I had quite the system going!

The 6" blocks released in May and June last year were absolute stinkers. We were dragged into this project with the exceptionally easy 3"blocks in January, but by midsummer we were ploughing through 6" blocks with more pieces than I care to think about. The blocks were beautiful though - not your bog standard churn dashes and pinwheels, but complex and beautiful - some of the half square triangle units finish at less than half an inch in some of the blocks. What I found truly amazing is that some of the blocks I would have thought were impossible without foundation piecing or using templates, but through careful cutting, corner covering and angles, every single block was rotary cut without the need for templates!

These were the pieces for just one of the 6" blocks....

By mid-September I was back up to date and on the 21st September we moved from the sublime to the ridiculous with the instructions: "Trim the half square triangle units to 1 and 7/32". And so ensued a discussion: does one say "thirty-secondths" or "thirty-seconds" or my preferred option "thirty-tooths"? The girls (and guy) on the Facebook group cried with you on those days, and we heaved a collective sigh of relief on the days when the block was "easy". Easy is, however, a relative and changeable term, and what I classed as easy in September was definitely not what I would have classed as easy back in January!

Then came the 12" blocks for the corners. Kathy, who designed the quilt, outdid herself. These blocks were absolutely horrific little stinkers. So. Many. Pieces. So many covered corners to get the right way. Y-seams.Each 12" block was genuinely the equivalent of making 16 of the hardest 3" blocks. But there was another block released the next day already.

On 8th January 2017, I made the final block - just a week behind! And it was some block - Y seams all over the place. But I will never, ever be scared of a Y-seam again!

And then I hit a slump. the next step was to add the final borders. And if you've read this blog for some time, you'll know that sashing, and long seams are my least favourite part of the process. I did bits here and there. But it wasn't until 5th February, that I finally added the the last of the pieced borders and a final, plain black border to tie it all together. And the reason I did it on that particular day. It was a weekend. But it was also a beautiful day - there was no wind and lots of bright sunshine. Which meant once finished, I could lay the quilt in our front garden and hang out of the bedroom window to photograph it, without it being blown into the North Sea - which is normally the case! I knew we wouldn't get another day like that.

Next up was backing fabric. On such a special quilt, I splashed out and order Tula Pink Free Fall from the US. I then bundled up the quilt and the backing and entrusted it to Royal Mail to get it over to Cath in Cumbria. We'd hatched a plan.

I decided towards the end of 2016, that I wouldn't quilt this one myself. It's the first time I'd ever contemplated not quilting a quilt myself. But with so many seams, I knew that if I tried to quilt it myself, I would break needles, snap thread and generally get very cross with the quilt.So I asked for contributions towards the cost of long-arming for my birthday, and got in touch with Cath Brough who is Cumbrian Long Armer. Michael and I had a holiday to the Lakes planned for late March and she confirmed that she could get it quilted and was happy for us to pick it up in person.

So at the end of March, we went to see her and picked up this monster of a quilt. The work she had done on it was stunning, and the quilting made it come alive. I chose a bubbles pantograph as I felt an all-over design would not detract from the piecing, which really is the star of the show! I brought the quilt home, trimmed it. And then did nothing.

The prospect of binding it didn't really appeal. Inevitably I left it until midsummer to hand sew over nearly 400" of binding. And you know what - it took no time at all - two hours to make the matched binding and attach it to the front of the quilt and then four nights in front of the TV to hand sew it down.

And the quilt was finished. And I love it. And I cannot believe that I did it.
Here is the THE photo from our recent photo shoot at Seaton Delaval Hall.

I learned so much from this quilt: although I was already quite an experienced quilter, this improved my accuracy without a doubt. It taught me some organisational skills which have proved invaluable - such as cut out a load of blocks, hold them together with clips and pin them to a noticeboard - this is a great way of sewing for a busy mum who grabs moments here and there. Everything is where I need it and in manageable chunks!

I realised that I don't like having my quilts long-armed. That is absolutely nothing against Cath - she did a fabulous job, I love the effect, and she was such a helpful and friendly person. But I don't like the fact that I didn't complete this quilt from beginning to end. Of course, if I had decided to quilt it myself, you may not be reading this post now! Or ever!

I learned that a support group can be fantastic - the lovely ladies (and Bruce) over on the Facebook group have cheered me on when I fell behind, congratulated me when I achieved minor miracles and laughed over thirty-tooths with me. I think if it weren't for them, you wouldn't be reading this post either.

So here are some stats and facts for you: This quilt was a stash quilt. Although I did have to buy some of the "light" and "dark" fabrics I used as my backgrounds, all of the coloured fabrics came from my stash. I would love to say it was a scrap quilt, but while it does have a scrappy look, with hundreds of different fabrics, and no cohesive background fabric, it actually created more scraps than it used!

The family crazy was never far away - even during the final photo shoot!
The finished quilt is made up of 365 "blocks" either 3" (all of which are dark) or 6" (all of the lights are 6" and there are a few darks too). There are 4 12" blocks, one in each corner, and the centre medallion was (I think) 10 days worth of "blocks" including the four light 6" corner blocks. As a group we were daft enough to add up the total number of pieces in the quilt to 10909 (with some variation as some of us used slightly different blocks - but I'm not counting my own quilt to give you an exact figure!). It finishes at 94" x 94" and I completed it with a scrappy matched binding.

The next adventure for this quilt, if I get my act together and add a hanging sleeve, will be in Birmingham. Twenty of us from that Facebook group will be hanging our quilts at the Festival of Quilts in August in a special exhibit. I won't be able to go in person, but if you're planning on going, I'm sure my quilt would love to see you there!

This is a Finish Along finish! You can find my original list here.

Charm About You

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Long Time Gone [Week 15]

Well this week was the week. The Pineapple log cabin blocks. When I first got this pattern, and was contemplating joining in the sew along, this was the week that scared me. Sixteen, foundation-pieced, five-inch-finished pinapple log cabins.

These are the last real blocks - just some checquerboards next week and then constructing the complete top. I knew that if I wanted to have a finished quilt by the deadline of the end of the quilt along, some forward planning would be required. So as I was cutting the many many many pieces of fabric for the other blocks in the qquilt, I made sure to cut strips to use for these blocks too. I've then been piecing them here and there throughout the project so I didn't have 16 to do all at once. By last weekend I had 8 done - less than I had hoped. But I've ploughed through the final 8 and I'm pretty pleased with how they look!

I can see the end now!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Long Time Gone [Week 14]

This week is equilateral triangles. In the pattern, this unit (all 30 odd of them) is designed to be template pieced. I do not like templates. I find my accuracy, which is normally pretty hot, goes totally out of the window when I use templates. So I created my own foundation pattern, and these units went together remarkably quickly.

They create two "blocks" for the final quilt and I am starting to think about putting this beast together....

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

#100days100blocks2017 [Blocks 11-20]

Whoops! I may have fallen behind on sharing these blocks with you (we're up to block 38 today!). I'm following along with the Tula Pink City Sampler quilt along again this year, and I'm using Garland by Cotton and Steel, along with of the C&S basics, and the coordinating Kona solids.

Here are blocks 11- 15

And 16 -20

I think it's going to be quite a bright quilt, don't you?

Long Time Gone [Week 13]

Week 12 was all about flying geese - 64 of them.....

Made up into 3 blocks.

There's just a few more weeks to go of this quilt along, and I am amazed I am still on track - but. There are some tough weeks ahead...

Monday, 12 June 2017

#1yearofstitches [Week 23]

Another week and I am becoming more and more certain that this will be a 6-month hoop. The space is filling up, and I think I'm ready to move on. So I'm now working on "finishing" it - that may mean it becomes a six-months-and-two-weeks project, but I want to enjoy looking at the hoop once it's done, and not regret not"finishing" it. This week I started filling the gaps.

Monday 5th June: Butterfly chain stitch in yellow and orange at the bottom of the hoop. This was my second time using this stitch and I really like it!

Tuesday, 6th June: zig-zag chain stitch in dark pink, just above the butterfly chain. I found I had to add in some extra stitches to preserve the shape of the zig zag.

Wednesday, 7th June: Scroll stitch was a new one for me - in aqua, just below the butterfly chain.

Thursday, 8th June: Another new stitch was plaited fly stitch - this filled up the bottom box nicely.

Friday, 9th June: So I moved onto the box on the far right. I added a row of open chain stitch in green - this was another new stitch and I found it quite difficult to keep it even.

Saturday, 10th June: I added a column of wheat-ear stitch to the same box, in purple. I first used this stitch right at the beginning of this journey and this was the first time I returned to it since.

Sunday, 11th June: And rounding up the week, but not quite filling up the box, a column of twisted chain stitch.

#1yearofstitches #jenniesthreads1yearofstitches #embroidery

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Fussy Cut Sampler Quilt

I wasn't going to join in... but you know me and a quilt along. The first blocks started being posted on Instagram, and I'd had a rough day, after a terrible night (thanks, Jess), and making the first block, immediately, without planning, was just the pick-me-up I needed. I confess I didn't have the book at the time - I'd ordered it, but was still waiting on the post, so I was working a little bit blind. But here it is.

Of course the lack of planning, and working without the full picture in front of me (i.e. the book and how things would develop), whilst enjoyable at the time, has downsides. I just grabbed a few pieces of fabric that had been lying around from other projects. It wasn't until I had the pieces cut that I suddenly thought of the perfect fabric. Which was of course upstairs. And after the previous night, there was no way I was risking waking the girls by going on a fabric rummage.

The book arrived a few days later, and I unburied the bundle of fabric I had in mind. It's all about pineapples and flamingos! I've since unpicked that first block, and remade it using some of the new fabrics. I've also had time to peruse the book, which is absolutely beautiful. There are some blocks that feel very traditional, whilst there are others that feel very modern. There is lots of help to make fussy cutting work for you and lots of examples.

The problem I have, is a stash that is nearly 100% un-fussy-cutable. Or so I thought. This makes you look at fabrics differently - it's not all about the novelty fabrics. It turns out that more of my stash is fussy-cutable than I thought. I've added in quite a few stash fabrics to the original bundle of pineapples and flamingos so I can have a bit more of a go with the fussy cutting, but the fabrics aren'tideal. On the other hand, the patterns are ideal for the fabrics - bigger pieces (the blocks are 9" rather than my usual 6") means I can showcase the fabrics better.

I think there will be another quilt made from this book where I really commit to fussy cutting. Meanwhile, I'm already adding some more fussy-cutable fabrics to my stash!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Fireflies [A Finish]

I know! Another one! I often find that I pair quilts up, and work on them side by side and finish them very close to each other. This one is the partner of the Owls quilt I shared earlier. And it's appropriate, because this quilt is for the sister of the little boy who is getting the owls quilt. Sadly, she has had to wait a little longer to get hers - 2 years. Better late than never?

This is another quilt made using the Fancy Forest pattern by Elizabeth Hartman and I picked out just the firefly block and set 6 of them in a column. The background is Kona aqua and the corals are all from my stash: Figures by Zen Chic, Fossil Ferns, Architextures Cross Hatch and a random polka dot.

I really struggled with the quilting on this one. To start with I stitched in the ditch around the fireflies, then I did a stipple in all the background using a variegated aqua thread. It looked dreadful. I unpicked it all. I decided to quilt it like the owls and did a 3" cross hatch in the background in a pale grey thread that blended much better with the fabric.

The finished quilt is 37" x 45".

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Owls [A Finish]

Yep - you read that right - a finish! 2017 is turning in to the year of the baby around here and that means a lot of quilts need to be made. I tend to work in arrears, so the recipient of this quilt was born in January. So only 6 months late - which is about average for me!

A few months ago I bought the Fancy Forest pattern by Elizabeth Hartman. At £22 it was about the limit of what I would pay for a pattern to be honest. But I am going to make sure I use it. This quilt uses just the owl block, and I picked the layout myself. My next finish will show you just the fireflies. I have another quilt in the works which is just the foxes. Then I decided to actually follow the pattern, and I'm making a baby quilt as shown, using all the animals. I know there will be another baby owl quilt in the summer, my mother-in-law has already requested a full size owl one (and I've found the perfect fabric for the negative space), and my eldest daughter has made it very clear that she does not appreciate all these quilts being given to other people - so I'm going to make the full size quilt from the pattern for us to keep. I think I'll get my money's worth out of this! And once I'm done with this pattern, Awesome Ocean, Elizabeth Hartman's latest pattern, may have be purchased as well. Not only do I love that this pattern is so versatile, it is also such a well written, well-illustrated pattern! Everything is rotary cut, and then there are lots of covered corners which could easily go wrong - but her diagrams are faultless - even at my most sleep-deprived I knocked out a firefly block with no problem!

The fabrics are mostly Kona solids, with the odd random piece for good measure. The background is my favourite part of the whole quilt: it's a navy with tiny pale blue stars from "To the Moon and Back" from Lewis and Irene. I've just ordered another 5 metres of it for our very own Fancy Forest! It's backed with a navy sheet.

Knowing how to quilt it was hard. In the end I stitched in the ditch around each owl, then did a 3" cross hatch in the background in Aurifil navy thread. The finished quilt is 44" x 39".

This is a Finish Along finish! You can find my original list here.

#1yearofstitches [Week 22]

The weeks just seem to fly by, don't they. And I'm starting to think that my hoop may not last the year - will this be a six-month hoop? I'll let you know in a couple of weeks...

Monday, 29th May: Blue twisted chain stitch - just a short line towards the bottom of the hoop.

Tuesday, 30th May: Tacked Herringbone stitch. This was a new stitch for me and I love it. I started with herringbone stitch in orange, then at each intersection I used yellow thread to do two small tacking stitches in the form of a cross. the end result was fab! It's on the far right of the hoop.

Wednesday, 31st May: Another new stitch: butterfly chain stitch. I did this with dark purple for the "wings" - that is the straight stitches, and then added a pinkier, lighter purple for the wrapping - it's right at the top of the hoop.

Thursday, 1st June: And another new stitch: laid work tacked with cross stitch. Using long stitch I laid out a simple grid, then at each intersection I embroidered a tiny cross stitch. It's right in the bottom right of the hoop in two shades of pink.

Friday, 2nd June: Little purple French knots to fill in the laid work.

Saturday, 3rd June: After some new stitches this week, I reverted to a line of three yellow cross stitches to fill a gap at the top of the hoop.

Sunday 4th June: Another L'Abeille Stitch to add to the column of triangles - this time I used pinky-purple.

#1yearofstitches #embroidery #jenniesthreads1yearofstitches

Friday, 2 June 2017

May [Review]

This year is going so fast - how is it June already???

May was a fun month - we had loads of family time with some great days out, and some plodging on the beach. The girls are growing up so fast and Jessica has such a mischievous streak to her! These are two of my favourite pictures from last weekend!

Mia on the left and her cousin, Ellie-Jo, on the right. They are BFF!

As for the sewing, it's been about blocks this month - 123 of them to be exact. I'm hoping that some of them at least will start to become quilts in June - lots and lots of baby quilts.

The #100days100blocks2017 has started again, and mine has a Christmas vibe, with Garland by Cotton and Steel.

I've joined in a new quilt along - the Fussy Cut Sampler quilt along - I'm only a couple of blocks in, but it's easy and quick so far and I get to use a bundle of fabric I got last year and have been impatiently waiting for a project.

And I've started the Summer Sampler 2017.

I did get a couple of quilts finished, but I still need to blog about those! I'm hopeful there will be more finishes in June!

Needless to say, with all that fun, I haven't touched the APQ resolution for this month, and the double wedding ring quilt remains exactly as it was at the start of the month!