Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Fancy Forest [A Finish]

This is the quilt I was going to finish when I finished my Tula Nova. Luckily I had a day off a week later and this was top of the pile! Two years after I started it, my Fancy Forest quilt is now a finish!

I started this quilt as part of the Elizabeth Hartman All The Animals Sew Along hosted by @gnomeangel in 2018, but I only got as far as the foxes and the rabbits. In Autumn last year, I picked it up again and pushed it over the finish line - a finished quilt top. I love the rainbow effect - which I wasn't sure was working at the half way point.

I love the owls - I've made loads of these blocks now, yet I still managed to sew one together wrong. I was away at the Sewing Shindig Retreat that weekend, so I couldn't just recut the pieces I messed up. We had such a laugh about my little mistake, which I didn't realise until I'd finished piecing my owl, that I decided to leave him and not redo. So I have 7 mean owls and one slightly sheepish one! I think he's cute and he reminds me of a fabulous weekend! And the final blocks were made two weeks later at our Local Modern Quilt Guild retreat. So this quilt is full of memories.

It took me a while to get round to basting the quilt. I'd bought some Elizabeth Hartman extra wide backing for it when I first started making it, but when I came to layer it up, it wasn't big enough. I swore! Then I went online and managed to pick a bit more up in a sale, which was something of a miracle given how old this fabric is.

I thought I knew exactly how I wanted to quilt it, but then I saw some quilted that way on Instagram and decided that actually, I wasn't keen on the finished appearance. So I thought vertical organic staraight (i.e. wobbly) lines. I did four lines and then unpicked them. Back to the drawing board. The eventual quilting pattern was a sudden brainwave as I was feeding Josh in the middle of the night. Vertical "straight" lines but over shorter distances! It's a zigzag with soft curves and random heights. There was an initial learning curve, about which way I needed to have the quilt - I found it was important that the previously quilted section was between me and the machine, rather than behind the needle, so I could see it and not cross over the previous quilting lines, and whilst that meant I had to force quite a large chunk of quilt through my machine, it was definitely worth it - but I do appreciate the larger throat space on my machine now! The quilting also turned out denser than I had originally visualized, but I love it.

And my final touch of genius was the binding. I'd originally planned to use the same navy fabric I'd used the background. But I couldn't find it. So I'd ordered some rainbow and white striped fabric. And then I found a rainbow. And the minute I saw it I knew I had to have it! It's Buzzin Around Stripe in rainbow from Andover and it was perfect! I don't recall ever getting so many compliments on a binding before!

The finished quilt is a whopping 67" x 91" and is a Finish Along finish!

Monday, 17 February 2020

Lion Heart EPP

I recently did a bit of pattern testing for Laurel at Porcupine Stew Threads. Laurel designs EPP patches, which are just a bit more challenging than your average EPP pattern! I'd been looking at her patterns for a while, but postage from the States made it very expensive, so when she announced she was looking for pattern testers for her new PDF patterns I volunteered straight away! And this is the result:

Isn't he lovely? I used some Ruby Star Society, Lizzy House and Giucy Giuce for the tans in his mane, then a Moda spot and a random cream for the lighter sections. He's appliqued to a Libs Elliot background.

The design is fantastic and I love the result, but this isn't a pattern for the beginner. I adored making it because it was more challenging than a regular EPP design, and I would definitely make more of Laurel's pattern for exactly that reason. The biggest struggle I had was making those fine EPP points crisp and accurate - there may have been a small amount of fudging.

This finished lion was wrapped round an A4 pre-stretched canvas purchased from The Work for just a few pounds, using my brand new staple gun - bought especially for this project - the power! It's going to hang in Joshua's room.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Tula Nova [A Finish]

I can't believe it's been nearly two years since an epic day out in Huddersfield with the amazing Tula Pink. That day at Simply Solids was pretty close to the best day ever: a morning lecture by Tula where we got to see some of her quilts - and the amazing quilting by Angela Walters - and then an afternoon workshop with her starting work on the Tula Nova pattern.

The centre that I made that day became a cushion, but I redid my centre and kept going with a rainbow or stars around it to create my final Tula Nova. All of the print fabrics are Tula All Stars with Pompoms and Stripes. The solids are all Kona. This was my first real time working with Tula Pink fabrics. I'd long been a fan of her patterns, but not her fabric. After this day I was a convert. We won't discuss how much Tula fabric I now have, nor how many of my current WIPs are Tula WIPs! But this was the start.

The medallion is all hand pieced using English Paper Piecing. I learned about fussy cutting to get those animals central and the spots where I wanted them, and pattern matching to get those strips where I wanted them. The pieces in this quilt are quite a bit bigger than some of the other EPP projects I was working on and I really enjoyed the changes of scale - plus it went together really quickly.

I knew early on exactly which colourway of the Pompoms I wanted to use as my background but I have to confess, pattern matching the seam was a challenge. But the hardest part of the whole quilt was hand-appliquing the centre to the background. It was so big heavy and so easy to baste it so it didn't lie flat. I did it in two halves and machine basted it in place. And even though it was flat at that point, as I was hand-appliquing it, there were still a few points where I had to ease it a little so it stayed flat.

Adding the borders was a grovelling-around-the-floor job and then I basted it and then I left it. I wanted to hand quilt it, but it just wasn't calling to me. I did a small amount in the middle, but just didn't fancy it. Last week I had a day off work and I was planning to quilt a different quilt. I had a sudden thought that if I added a few machine-quilted lines to the Tula Nova I might feel more comfortable adding the hand-quilting. Once I'd started I just kept going and by the end of the day I had quilted in the ditch across the whole quilt top, and I had decided that it didn't need any hand-quilting. I did the ditch quilting with my machine set up to free motion because I didn't want to be forever manoeuvring the entire quilt through my machine.. Most of the time I'm pretty pleased with how well I stayed in the ditch - there are a few wobbles, but I'll take them! Why are the wobbles always where the thread will be most visible?

In the background I eyeballed a cross-hatch, using the spots as guidance and then I went all round the border seam as well. And all of a sudden it was quilted. The backing I've used was a bit of a treat. This quilt is a special one so I splashed out on some Tula Pink wide-back - Pinkerville in the purpley colour way to match the Pompom of the background. I love this fabric (I love the non-wideback version more - it has unicorns and Loch Ness Monsters!). It feels lovely and smooth!

To finish it off a used the Stripes in the same colourway as the Pompoms, because you can't beat a striped binding! And because this quilt was special, I even hand-sewed the binding. Over the last few years I've finished something each year on my birthday. This year, this was the quilt. Finished just a week short of two years after starting.

The finished quilt is approximately 70"x70". It's hand pieced and hand appliqued using Mettler 60w silk finish cotton thread. It's machine quilted using Aurifil 50w thread (and a smidge of Coats). It is also a Finish Along Finish!