Friday, 20 January 2017

Friday finishes - finally

Hi everyone - hope you have had a good week.

I have been buzzing around this week on all sorts of admin and general catching up, so the only actual sewing I managed to do was to make 3 plain white housewife pillowcases out of an old sheet (which had worn out in the middle) and sew on a button!

I cut the pillowcases out a few days ago, and rather than start on any 'pretty' sewing I thought I should clear these out of the way first. I cheated a bit in that I cut the pieces making use of the sheet's hems so I didn't have to hem the open edges, but I did finish the sides with french seams so there shouldn't be any loose threads.

No point in photographing boring white pillowcases, so here are pictures of two finished quilts I promised you in my last post. I also thought you might be interested to learn how I chose to quilt the tops, bearing in mind that I still haven't mastered free motion quilting: will 2017 be the year I finally get to grips with it?

Back in late October, when life was just normally busy and not as complicated as it was to become, I resolved to finish some WIPs. I had a turn out, and was horrified to find quite so many tops - with backing fabric set aside - just needing to be quilted.

I think I counted twenty, which doesn't include some nearly finished ones which are waiting for borders or similar. I was so ashamed I could not face making a to-do list, but sorted out suitable sized waddings from what I had available and made a start.

I chose which tops to tackle first based on how easy they would be to finish - hoping that a few quick finishes would encourage me to carry on. The Madras Plaid quilt featured in that late October post has been quilted but not yet bound, as I have misplaced the fabric I wanted to use, so I cannot claim it as a finish just yet.

The following two finished quilts have been utility quilted with simple cross-hatching.I finally managed to get the binding stitched down over the holidays, so this post is a catch up.

I like the spacing of straight line quilting generally to be determined by, or have some reference to, the block structure. This small quilt (41" x 55"), which uses the Anvil block in a straight set, is diagonally cross-hatched. I wanted to avoid stitching through the diagonals of the HSTs as I feared they wouldn't line up properly because of the sashing. So I chose to put the diagonals through the centre of the floral squares in the middle of the blocks.I then put another line of quilting in between to give me an evenly spaced grid of lines 2 1/2" apart.

I thought I had already blogged about this quilt but cannot find a post so it must have all been written in my head! Briefly, the quilt came about because I had a stack of leftover pink and cream 2" HSTs from another project and wanted to use them up. The Anvil block uses eight HSTs so it seemed a good choice, and I used a blue/grey floral which I had in my stash and which is one of the very first fabrics I remember buying, over 20 years ago!

The number of HSTs determined the number of blocks, the amount of floral left after making the blocks determined the width of the border, and I put a narrow sashing between the blocks because I didn't want to have to butt up all the seam allowances which are always a bit bulky with so many HSTs. The blocks measure 6" so they are quite dinky, and I had just the right amount of a softly brushed pink floral in my stash for the backing. Very satisfying using what I had; even the wadding was a leftover piece from another quilt.

The other finished quilt (61" square) is also based on Anvil and uses Fig Tree fabrics, again left over from a previous project. This time the 8" blocks are set on point which gives a rather different look, and as well as narrow sashing I have used a cream tone on tone fabric for the setting triangles so the blocks 'float'.

I discover that I blogged about this top way back in March 2014 (see this post). I'm a little shocked that it was quite so long ago...

This time  I quilted a grid using the lines of the sashing and the 'verticals' of the HSTs as a guide, but because the blocks are set on point the effect is again of diagonal cross-hatching.  The spacing is variable however as it is closer on either side of the narrow cream sashing which is 1" wide, then spaced at 2" because that is the finished size of the HSTs in the block.

Here's a glimpse of the backing fabric which is a gorgeous caramel colour, not at all what I usually use but Fig Tree fabrics somehow always appeal.

Linking to Crazy Mom Quilts: I really love her finished quilt and am so envious of the FMQ. Looking forward to a weekend at my sewing machine: too cold here for much else though  we don't have snow on the ground, just very heavy frost.
Hope you stay warm this weekend and have fun.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Quilt stats

In my haste to get the last post out to wish you a happy New Year, I forgot to include my string quilt's vital statistics: vital more for me than you maybe, as I use this blog as a record of my finished quilts.

So here is a summary and a flat shot - always important for quilt nerds like me who like to work out how a quilt has been made:

Finished size: 74" x 100"
35 blocks, set 5 x 7
Block size: 11 1/2" made up of four 5 1/2" string squares joined with 3/4" skinny sashing and cornerstones
Main sashing and cornerstones between blocks: 1 1/2"
Orange inner border: 1 1/4"
Blue outer border: 3 1/2"
Purple binding: 2 1/4" straight cut doublefold

All of the above measurements (except the binding) are finished measurements.

And two pictures of the back so you can admire the swirly feather quilting by my friend Chris:

Please excuse the repetition of subject matter in this post: I have not managed much sewing since the beginning of the month, though I have finally managed to stitch down the bindings on four quilts which I will post about on Friday.

Instead I have had my mum to stay for a few days, and to celebrate her birthday with us we visited Down House in Kent which is the home of Charles Darwin. By way of a diversion from my normal quilty posts, I thought you might be interested in this link to the website from where you can navigate around and find out more, and see photos of the house including one of Darwin's study.  

We had a very interesting visit, particularly for my elder son who is an ecologist and entomologist. He felt a connection across the years, as so much of what he does still involves close observation and collection of specimens: despite huge advances in genetics, the artefacts and equipment used are not so very different in some respects to 150 years ago.

I guess it may be similar to the connection I think many of us who make quilts feel to the makers of the past when we see old textiles and quilts. Our tools and techniques are not so very different either, though I wouldn't willingly part with my electric machine and tank steam iron! As my son will shortly be moving to Michigan, I hope this will give me an excuse to visit some of the wonderful museums of quilts in USA. That's the plan anyway - watch this space!

Till Friday, hope you have a productive week.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

OK, many apologies for long absence from this place: just too many other things happening which demanded urgent attention, mainly to do with my dear elderly mum-in-law's health breaking down over the past two months, necessitating many, many hospital visits and general rushing around.  She is now in a lovely nursing home and not doing too badly, all things considered.  

But I don't want to dwell on that side of things in this blog, which is a place to escape to where I can think about happy, creative things over which I might have some small amount of control.  And I do want to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2017, where you get all your quilt tops finished promptly and don't find your stash encroaching into all corners of your living space or your clothes always covered in stray threads... 

So, in view of these thoughts and my best wishes for you, no surprises for guessing what my own New Year resolutions might be.  I am not sure I will make much progress on achieving them in 2017, or ever, but if I don't set goals I have no way of assessing whether I have achieved anything at all when I look back.  And this blog is so helpful in this respect: even just looking at my last two posts, I am astounded that I actually managed to sew anything at all as recently as October - it seems aeons ago that I spent any time at my sewing machine!

Nonetheless, I do have a finish to share with you this 1st January, though more thanks to my longarming friend Chris who kindly returned the top I delivered to her (mentioned in this post) beautifully quilted with a swirly feather design and ready for binding.  

I wanted to give the quilt to a very good friend who was visiting us after Christmas, so having spent most of the festive season in the kitchen, cooking and clearing up, I found myself late on the evening before her visit stitching on the binding.  I didn't quite get it finished in time so we agreed I would deliver the completed quilt before the end of January, to give me a bit of leeway as I still have all the kids at home and we are definitely not yet back to normal after the holidays.

So my first New Year resolution I guess I can say I have kept: I finished handstitching the binding this afternoon, and the quilt will be packed up and hand delivered to London well before the end of the month - hooray!

My friend has already seen and said she liked the  quilt so I am able to post these pictures, taken outside on a very dull grey afternoon, just before it started to rain.  So hard to get enough light at this time of year for photos, and I hate the yellow cast I always get with flash.  Guess I should learn a bit more about photography to be able to correct that, but there always seem to be other things to do...

Here are a few close ups to show some of the scrappy fabrics used, including a few novelties.  I never consciously choose to buy novelty fabrics nowadays so not quite sure how they end up in my scrap bag: one of life's little mysteries, but a nice one in a fun quilt like this!

Dalmatians and strawberries.

Debbie Mumm flowerpots from long ago and a variety of stars.

 Hearts, and Amish buggies in the border (above) and gingerbread men (below).

Must away to play a game with my quilt holder and his sister: they are all grown up but still enjoy a game, and it is still Christmas-tide - reality doesn't really start till Twelfth Night when we take the Christmas tree down.  

Hope you enjoy whatever holidays you have left with your loved ones, and snuggling up in a cosy quilt too.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Housekeeping 2 and a finished top

Hi all,
Hope you have had a good week.  I have been continuing to clear out boxes and trying to consolidate my quilting stuff which has migrated into every corner of our not-very-large house.  As we will shortly be having to store even more belongings from our almost grown up children I am trying to be creative in finding space.  Along the way I have made some discoveries...

Having triumphantly bordered and packed up my string quilt last week and sent it for longarm quilting, I found another stack of completed string blocks tucked away. If I didn't love string quilts so much, I might have been quite cross!

So now I have enough for a fourth string quilt, though I have had to find a substitute for the narrow black sashing as I ran out of the original fabric. Still, that's no bad thing for a scrap quilt, is it?

Though the blocks are together now, I haven't chosen the second sashing and borders, so this quilt will have to wait a little longer to qualify as a finished top even.

However I do have a finished top to share: Madras Star and Lattice.

I pulled out every box from under every bed and behind every sofa, and am ashamed to admit that I have at least 20 finished tops with backing allocated just waiting to be quilted. I really do have to prioritise quilting, starting next week, but I still have piecing on various projects to do, which I love so much more.

As a compromise, I made myself put borders (inner one 1 3/4" plain calico, outer one 2 1/2", strip pieced from Madras cotton leftovers) on this almost finished top which must be at least 10 years old.

I also pieced the backing from the large pieces I had set aside for that purpose: who knew I was so organised way back then?!

So this is my finish for Finish it up Friday and a link to Crazy Mom Quilts, as it is a definite lurch towards a finished quilt - I've moved to the next level anyway.

Aren't windy days great for photographing quilts?

Hope to get this one layered and quilted next week.  Good luck with your own UFOs/WIPs this weekend.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


OK, so after last post's two small finishes, I have been encouraged to tackle some of my WIPs - seriously. No distractions. It really is time. No excuses.

I have got back in the groove with some chain piecing: I love the 365 Challenge but I have missed the rhythm of pushing fabric pieces through the sewing machine and generally being able to disengage the brain for a while. The chain piecing is purposeful and in order to finish genuine WIPs. I promise I haven't started any new projects, and I will show more in coming weeks.

My efforts yesterday, however, focussed on getting a top ready for longarm quilting. I made another string quilt a while ago.  My carrier bag of scrappy scraps was overflowing, I used my favourite technique which involves stitching the scraps and strings on to very lightweight vilene squares - this gives stability and you don't need to rip out the paper, hooray.

The top had got as far as blocks joined with double sashing, but then I needed a backing.  I have made two string quilts like this in the past (says something about the scraps I generate), and I favour a snuggly brushed cotton for a country style quilt.  So while on holiday in Cornwall I went to Cowslip Workshops and bought the backing.

Yes, I know that was back in August...  Yesterday I decided the time had come.  I wanted to border the quilt blocks, so I worked out the maximum size the finished quilt could be with the backing I had bought, and worked out my borders based on the amount of fabric I had (chosen from stash) for the borders.

Then I cut and stitched the borders, joined the two backing pieces, pressed everything and delivered all to my friend Chris at The Quilt Room this afternoon.  Job done.  You won't see it for a while but I will do proper photos when it is quilted and bound.  I can just about justify the longarming on the basis that, apart from the vilene foundation and the backing and wadding, the quilt is entirely from stash or scrap bag. It will be one of those quilts it is easy to be comfortable with. Not precious, just cosy.

While in the mood for a turn out, and looking for some calico (muslin) for another project, I tipped out all my boxes and was appalled not only by the amount of fabric I seem to have squirrelled away, but by the number of WIPs, including some I had completely forgotten.  

Many of these are at the finished top stage and I had even parcelled away backing and binding: it is just the quilting which is holding me back.  I don't know whether I can even bring myself to count up and admit just how many are waiting for attention. All that work counts for nothing unless it is actually finished and becomes a quilt someone can use.

But that's for another post.... Thank you for reading and sharing my quilting life. Hope you make progress with some of your WIPs.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Two small Friday finishes

Well, it's something, I suppose! Despite all my best intentions expressed in the last post, still too much to do on the home front and sewing has had to be set aside for a few more weeks. Now finally I have a little more time and I have decided to take a short break from the 365 Challenge to clear one or two of my WIPs.

Maybe it is having to empty my mum-in-law's flat to prepare it for sale that is making me twitchy about the amount of fabric and unfinished projects tucked away in odd corners, but this week I went through some of my boxes and dug out some half finished items. Needless to say they only took a short time to complete - so why hadn't I tackled them before? Probably the siren call of new fabric and patterns....

Anyway, here is a blast from the past, and two tiny finishes for Finish it up Friday - it's been a long time since I have been able to type those words....

First is a small table runner made from coral coloured fabrics in a sort of Bargello layout. It measures 15" x 25" and the rectangles are 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" finished. Most of the fabrics are from a range by French General for Moda quite some time ago.

The story behind this small patchwork piece is that about 6 years ago I was asked by a friend to make her a quilt for her bedroom, to co-ordinate with a rug and an upholstered chair in a soft coral pink. I don't usually take on 'commissions' as I always seem to be short on time and it is not always easy to judge whether what you are making is quite what your friend had in mind.  

However, for various reasons, I agreed, on the basis that my friend would buy the fabric, and pay to have the quilt long arm quilted. I knew her bed was a large double and she wanted the quilt to drape to the floor so there was no way I felt up to quilting what would turn out to be a king size quilt.

I was also anxious that we might not be able to find fabric to match the colour scheme of the bedroom and explained that we quilters are at the mercy of the fabric manufacturers and that the quilting industry is as much at the mercy of fashion when it comes to current colours as the clothing industry.

Anyway as it turned out there was this range in precisely the colours required, my friend chose Trip around the World which was nice and straightforward for piecing, and the top went together like a dream. Apart from her shock at having to buy 9 metres of backing fabric (I said it turned out kingsize, didn't I?) it was generally a happy experience for us both, and my friend Susie Green made a fantastic job of the quilting.

Apologies for the slight colour cast on these photos of the finished quilt - back in 2010 the camera decided to use flash and I guess I let it. The true colours are as for the table runner below.

I had very little fabric left over but just enough to make two pillow shams, and then I thought that was that. Until I opened a box which had not been unpacked for some time, and found just enough fabric scraps to make, back and bind the table runner. I shall be delivering this rather belated surprise next week!

My second finish goes back even further, to a time when I was asked to contribute to a series of basic quiltmaking books. I had made a baby quilt in soft blue and pink Shoo Fly and Nine patch blocks, and found amongst my fabrics that I still had six blocks  which I had at some time in the past sashed into a very small top.

So this week I layered and quilted (hardly a very onerous task!) and bound with a bias strip, so as to have the plaid on the cross - horribly stretchy but just about OK and worth doing for the look of it.

This is a tiny quilt, measuring just 13 1/2" x 19 1/2" (the blocks finish at 4 1/2" square), so I think it is destined for a local premature baby unit. Still, it is nice to have finished it, rather than it being yet another UFO.

So I can, with a clear conscience, link to Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, though I admire Amanda Jean's finished WIP far more than my feeble efforts. Must do better next week!
Hope you all have a happy and productive weekend!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sewing again at last - 365 Challenge updated

It is well over two months since I last blogged - apologies to anyone out there who may have been kind enough to stop by, just to be disappointed. Such a lot has been happening that I am not sure how (or whether) I am going to recap it all, but I will concentrate in this post on what I have managed to do in the past two weeks.

After no sewing at all for two months I managed to get back into my 365 Challenge (see this post) and first of all caught up with a few 'missing' blocks from earlier months. By 'earlier' I mean March and April (!) - I confess I had skipped one or two of the more difficult blocks and needed to go back and fill in the gaps before embarking on the new stuff.

These months were mostly the small (3") blue blocks which will form the first border of the medallion. I now reckon I am up to date and should probably lay out and sew the border together or I could get into a real muddle. I have about a hundred blocks sitting in a box so it's probably time...

Next up though was May: large, ie 6" finished, light blocks which will form the next border of the medallion - here's the link if you'd like to see what I mean.  

I had made a start on the light blocks before my life was taken over by organising village events and my mum-in-law had a series of health crises.  I had managed to do about half the May blocks so was pretty much on  schedule, when real life got in the way.  I shouldn't grumble, patchwork is a hobby and needs to take second place sometimes. At least fabric doesn't go 'off' and it will still be there waiting for us when other things are less pressing.

So, back to business and I have made progress: May is now complete and I am into June. Here are the blocks I made last night, not yet pressed.  I don't know whether any of you are doing the Challenge but I have found that because the pieces are so small it is usually OK just to finger press the seams as I sew them.  If I had a mini iron set up next to my sewing machine I guess I would use it, but my ironing board is in the next room and I just want to keep sewing...

Once our village fete was over and we had tied up all the loose ends, we had a week's holiday in Cornwall.  I will save our holiday snaps for another post but will share some of the fabric I bought at Cowslip Workshops which I shall use in this quilt. I do love blue...

And I will leave you with a glimpse of my sewing room (aka dining room when we can squeeze on the end of the table). Another good thing about the summer is being able to eat outdoors as I don't have to push my sewing to one side so we can eat!

Thanks for visiting my blog - I shall try not to fall so far behind again.  Hope you make progress this week on all fronts!