Patchwork mat

I made this patchwork mat for Mum and Dad’s sitting room windowsill, to protect it from being scratched by ornaments. It’s about 11 inches square. A great bonus was that I was able to make it from fabric I already had, I think in all cases bought for the autumn quilt but then not used. Though the pinecones fabric I just loved and bought even though I thought it might not go in the autumn quilt, so am glad I’ve found a good use for it!

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I followed the instructions in Linda Clements’ ‘The Quilter’s Bible’ on how to piece an 8 point star and used a multi-sized 45 degree diamond perspex template. Needed a bit of help from the other half to work out how it works! The piecing is by hand, the quilting on the diamonds by machine. The bit I’m least satisfied with is the centre, because there were insane amounts of fabric at the back making a big lump, and I couldn’t decide what to trim and what not. In the end I did trim quite a lot but I think it’s made a bit of a hole in the middle, if you were to go poking it that is, it’s not particularly noticeable otherwise. But there is still something of a lump, not that it matters with an ornament on top. You can’t really see it in the photo – or indeed in life unless it’s pointed out – but I hand quilted pine needle shaped motifs in each corner, but they don’t stand out. You can just see a bit of one if you look very closely at the top left of the photo (the viewer’s left, that is).

 

As usual, I couldn’t get the ends of the binding to meet and had to do a fudge. When reading the instructions I thought this was how you had to lay it out, but then re-read it and saw you’re supposed to open up the fabric, lay it out as for when you’re joining binding strips together, and sew, but I just didn’t have room. As in the baby quilt, I ended up just putting one end inside the other and sewing over it at a diagonal, so there’s going to be a bit of fraying. I really must work this out before binding my autumn quilt, but given that I haven’t finished the patchwork blocks yet there is  time (a few years of it!) to work on that. Here’s a picture before I hand sewed the baclk of the binding, I think it shows the colour better.

A propos of nothing, some allotment photos. Really pleased with last year’s dahlias which overwintered in the garage and were replanted in a sunnier spot this year. This deep pinky-purpley one’s got so many flowers!

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Godetia, the seed planted directly into the ground where they are to grow, have been a revelation. Definitely planting them again next year! Here they’re mixed with dwarf dahlias and asters I grew from seed indoors then in our mini plastic greenhouse.

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This squash bed has gone a bit mad! (And yes, there is a renegade potato in there from last year). I planted a pumpkin and what we thought were baby gem squash seeds my husband’s father gave him, but they turn out to be what he thinks are patty pan squashes. Apparently he was also given some mixed squash seeds by father-in-law (passed me by – was I told? Hmm). Not sure I like the look of them, apparently you can eat them young like courgettes or presumably roast them when they’re older but they’re an awkward shape and I’m worried I won’t know when they’re ripe. I thought we’d planted everything far enough apart but clearly not, given that I can no longer work out where one plant ends and another begins. A recipe for problems I suspect but not much I can do about it now. Since this was taken more pumpkins have appeared and one is orange already! Need to read up on when to pick them, I guess not yet but haven’t grown them before so don’t know.

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P.S. I realised after posting last time I’d mislabelled nasturtiums as nicotiana. Don’t suppose anyone noticed, but if you did, sorry!

Baby quilt

The baby quilt has been safely received in Australia. Not that the baby needs it in the hot weather they’ve been having, though they’re near Melbourne where it gets chilly in the winter so they may have a use for it in a few months’ time.

Baby quilt

Baby quilt hanging

Shan’t lie, I enjoyed using pre-cut squares! Apart from a few a cut from the cloud fabric I used for the back.

Doing a wavy design was fun, I can’t do freemotion quilting so it was nice to find a way of quilting that didn’t involve straight lines. I had a bit of a to-do working out how to do it, til I thought of using thin craft masking tape. They don’t line up, but I don’t think it matters.

Baby quilt back

I had my usual issue with finishing the binding. I almost had it right and in fact thought I’d finished, though not exactly as in the book I had it close enough that it would pass. Then I found I was so tired and the light so poor I’d managed to put the entire binding on inside out… then I couldn’t go to bed til I’d unpicked it so that was a late night. The result was that because I’d already trimmed where the binding met and it was at the wrong angle when you put on the fabric the right way round, I just had to sew over the top of it, complete with frayed edges (thought about blanket stitch but it seemed to make it worse and I’m bad at blanket stitch).

Baby quilt binding problem

So it remains the case that I have yet to finish a quilt with the binding done properly, grrr. Perhaps by the time I actually finish the autumn quilt that is my original ‘first patchwork quilt’ I’ll have worked it out!

We’ve had a weird extra-warm spell for mid-February so I spent a lot of time in the allotment this weekend, which was great (if back-breaking). Wish I could be there now!

Patchwork baby quilt

My husband’s brother’s wife has just had their first baby so I’m making a little quilt. They live in Australia and it’s summer now so I guess this will come in most useful in about 6 months’ time; or they could use it as a mat for him to lie on; or whatever they like!

I finished the quilt top last weekend and this weekend intend to quilt it. I can’t decide what quilting design to use. I’m bored with straight lines and in a way find them difficult because if it goes wonky it’s really noticeable so has to be pulled out and redone, which I don’t much fancy. As it’s only small I can do freehand, but need to decide what exactly. I get hyper-safety conscious when it comes to babies so don’t want any loose threads or things coming undone, so want a minimum of ends that need to be fastened in and will therefore be moving from one edge of the quilt to the other so the ends can be within the binding. Not that I’ve ever managed to start quilting in the middle like the manuals say, I can’t manage it without it looking messy.

I feel mildly guilty at the gender stereotyping of this fabric, though I know the respective grandmothers will approve and I don’t suppose the baby’s going to know or care! There’s no other circumstances in which I would use these fabrics, so I enjoyed it. All but the clouds fabric were part of two packs of 30 charm squares I bought on Ebay, I think cut and put together by the seller rather than by the manufacturer, so I don’t know what the make is. The plain colours felt to me like they’re thinner than the patterned, and puckerered up a bit when sewing, but improved with ironing and I think will be okay when quilted. The cloud fabric is Le Tissu by Domotex and is good quality. I bought a piece to use as the backing and cut just a strip off so there a few squares to include on the front so front and back tie in. I haven’t decided on the binding material yet.

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The squares are 3 inches. There were more elephants I think than anything else so I had to include 2 or 3 on each row. The brighter blue fabric with bigger spots is the one that I think ‘pops’ so I wanted to make sure they were arranged so they were distributed evenly (but not symmetrically!) across the quilt. Needless to say I spent yonks trying to make sure there aren’t any inadvertent patterns in the way the squares of different fabrics are arranged. There are a couple of runs of diagonal elephant squares but at least they go in opposite directions so still look a bit random. It’s amazing how much effort random-that-isn’t-really-random takes. The only thing I tried not to do but couldn’t help was always having a bright blue dotty square next to an elephant square, it just wouldn’t work!

The corners of the squares don’t all meet perfectly, but none so badly that I felt it was worth unpicking and redoing, as I thought the same thing was likely to happen again, or I’d be worse off than before. This is the worst of them, so on the whole I’m quite pleased

baby quilt corner

Now I just have to hope that quilting it doesn’t ruin everything!

Oh, and I washed the quilt top after I’d made it because the fabric felt a bit rough and I wasn’t going to wash the squares first because of fraying, and it seems to have survived okay.

Mum’s Christmas present

I know, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m writing about Christmas! I had to wait until after Christmas Day to share this post because it’s about the present I made for my mum, and I didn’t want to spoil the surprise in case she read my blog. A week’s passed since Christmas, and I’ve been trying to finish two projects that for psychological reasons only, I wanted to have finished by the New Year. Haven’t managed either, of course, but one awaits only tassels and the other really only needs another day, so I’m writing this now lest another thing I wanted to do by the New Year isn’t done! Ignoring a pile of ironing in the process, of course.

I started this in October, having seen a fab fabric by Lewis and Irene, featuring farmyard animals which though cartoon versions, were recognisable breeds – belted Galloway cows and Herdwick sheep, for example. My Mum’s a Knitter (capitals intended) and I thought this would be a great fabric with which to make a knitting bag. Plus, I’ve never made a bag before or grappled with lining. I bought the main fabric and another consisting only of sheep, also by Lewis & Irene, from one website; they were discontinued. I got them all from the same manufacturer because I’ve learned the hard way from my autumn quilt that matching fabrics by different designers is hard, not just regarding colour, but also the thickness of the cotton. I wanted a third because the two blended together too much, but on a second website found another featuring pheasants which I really liked, so it had to go in even though it blended a bit, then another that was from a different Lewis and Irene range, with the same theme but with much smaller design elements, more ‘ditsy’, and which had a matching but dark teal background so acted as my contrast.

I bought a pattern from Etsy, though it was for jelly roll strips and I wanted to do squares, so I changed the sizing a bit. I cut strips with help from my husband, who helpfully pointed out that if I just went for it with the farmyard one I’d be cutting off some animal heads! I’ve been known to do that before. I made sure to cut it in the direction that would leave me pieces of the right size for the strip across the top and for straps etc. Then the fun part of cutting squares (I ended up cutting a square-shaped hole in a piece of paper and holding it over the farmyard fabric to make sure I got the best scenes! Followed of course by ages arranging the squares just so.

The squares for the two sides of the bag, sewn together:

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side 1 comp

 

I sewed strips across the top, as per the instructions, and decided to make the base from the same fabric as the lining. It’s probably the least exciting of the four fabrics! Then I quilted it, just doing diagonal lines across the squares. Same as I always do, I’ve never been brave enough to try anything else. BUT this  was the first time using the new quilting foot Mum got me last Christmas after the cheap one I bought online first didn’t work well, then broke completely. This one was so much better, definitely a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. Thank you, Mum and Dad!

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Two sides and base of the bag-to-be after quilting

 

Getting the squares to meet on the side seams when putting them together after  quilting is hard because you can’t see the squares from the reverse because of the quilt line. I  had one unpick and redo, and it still isn’t perfect, but it’s okay. More annoyingly, I didn’t think to make the outside squares into rectangles, making them wider to accommodate the 3/8 – 1/2 inch seam allowance required for sewing the sides of the bag together rather than the 1/4 inch for patchwork squares, so the quilting doesn’t have continuity at the edges, which looks messy. It would never have been perfect, but it would have been less obvious.

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I didn’t have enough fabric to make the lining from a single piece, but it worked out well because using two pieces meant the sheep on each side of the bag could all be facing the right way up! No spacesheep swirling in zero gravity. I had to put a little piece in between the two, just because of the amount of fabric I had, but I think it’s okay. Unfortunately the interfacing I had wasn’t good and I had some problems getting it to stick.

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Lining

I made the pocket and the straps from the teal background with ditsy-ish hens; sewing a 1/8 inch topstitch down the sides of the straps wasn’t easy and the result a bit wobbly, but when I unpicked the wobbly one quite late at night and redid it, only to then realise it  wasn’t the wobbly one I’d just done but the okay one, I decided to pack that in and just leave it alone. Sewing on the strap ends to the top of the back within a very small seam allowance, as per the instructions as I understood them, means I don’t think it would bear much weight. My attempt at it was messy, but you don’t see it when it’s finished.

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Strap sewn to top of bag

 

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The lining pinned face-to-face with the outer bag, ready to be sewn together.

I had immense difficulty fathoming out what the instruction for the base of the bag meant. Triangles were involved, and scarily, ‘snipping’ off their points (for ‘snipping’, read ‘hacking off 3 inches of material’). I only worked it out by setting up the bag as it would look when finished and trying various origami-type set-ups til the right one presented itself. Better diagrams in the pattern would have been appreciated. It’s amazing how often I find myself puzzled by pattern instructions; I think that’s where YouTube comes in. Still not sure it’s quite right, unless the edges are meant to have a fold a bit in from where they join the side fabric:

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I left a hole in the lining and, again late at night, having sewn around the top of the lining and outer bag, with difficulty, and in a scene less bloody than ones on farming programmes but still reminiscent of calving, pulled the outer bag through the gap in the inner lining.

Only to find….

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no handles!

I’d trapped them between the bag and lining. So had to unpick it and do it again. Though I only unpicked the parts where the handles were, tied off the ends, and redid that part, thus avoiding the tricky bit where the side seams of the bag meet. I find sewing circular or tubular shaped things on the sewing machine really hard.

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More like it!

Then after the magical ‘big reveal’ of turning it the right way round, some top stitching to keep it in place, and it was finished.

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side 2 finished comp

side 1 finished comp

 

A Happy New Year to all!

Cathedral Windows Christmas tree decoration

I’m just back from a week staying with my parents in the home I grew up in Northumberland (for those who don’t know it, a county in the far north east of England, bordering Scotland, with hills and a beautiful coastline). While there I made a Christmas tree decoration using a pattern I bought on Craftsy months ago. I’ve never done cathedral windows before, and think the effect of them is stunning, but knew that when the pattern introduction said it would be ‘easy’, ‘quick’, and ‘simple’, that wouldn’t be true – at least not for me!

It’s a double-sided decoration, the ‘O’ shape on one side and ‘X’ on the other. I followed the instructions with not the least idea of where they were heading. It’s a bit like origami, but with sewing. At least I though to use spray starch, because the pieces are tiny.

Here are the two sides after the first stage was completed:

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Can’t explain how I did it (and if I’d known what it would look like once unfolded would probably have positioned the left and right green triangles so the fabric pattern wasn’t facing the same way, but as it turns out you can’t see that when it’s finished); but the pattern if anyone would like to do it is by Shelley’s Studio. The green is scraps left over from the Christmas cushion cover I made for my brother last year. Hope he remembers to bring it out this year!

Then you sew a third colour on at the corners, and open up pieces to reveal the colours beneath, and sew them down. Rather like slits in Tudor gentleman’s robe, I suppose. This is one side mid-process:

O midway compressed

Unfortunately I forgot that I am hopeless at binding, at least the part where you have to get the beginning and end to fit together. I also definitely needed a longer piece of binding. I cut the pieces before going home and took them with me on the train, so when the pattern said ‘at least 14 1/2 inches’ I cut it to exactly that but should have made it longer. Although it’s a single rather than double binding I turned the edge up to stop it fraying, which the pattern didn’t mention though I think it looks better. But I ended up with not enough to make the fourth corner mitred like the others, and with a lump, not to put too fine a point on it, at the point where the start and finish of the binding met. So all I could do was make it as neat as possible and try to hide it under a thicker piece of velvet ribbon hanging than I would have chosen. Fortunately Mum had some I could use, because I forgot to bring any with me. I would have preferred to have the end of the hanging ribbon inside the binding, but even without the mess at that corner which needed to be disguised, couldn’t work out how to do that.

The overall effect of the finished item is nice, though the ‘X’ has come out better than the ‘O’. I would make one again, but be prepared to spend a long time on it. I wanted to leave this one with Mum and Dad so stayed up late, a Christmas ‘tradition’ I really must stop!

The ‘X’ in two different lights (to try and show the gold snowflakes):

X compressedX on wood

 

And the ‘O’:

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And in situ (blurred I’m afraid, I was in a rush)!:

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Different fussy-cut pumpkins (and more sparkle)

I feel more inspired now that autumn is kicking in.

I was looking for ways to re-use the green and brown fabrics here that I’d rescued from blocks that hadn’t worked and I’d taken apart, so after much fiddling about with different options – as usual – I eventually came up with this one. The pumpkin fabric is from a piece I bought in the clearance section of a website and at first I’d discounted it because most of the motifs are too big for what I’m doing, but then I thought I could do as for the last block and ‘fussy-cut’ small pieces out of it. It does lead to wasted fabric, but worth it for this and not so bad when it’s on sale. Maybe the centre square could have been a different fabric, but a big block of something plain in the centre sometimes looks a bit too stark. I do realise my pattern now seems to be to use these plain pieces in shades of tan for the background of the flying geese and don’t want to do too many of them, but I think it’s okay for now.

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I’ve  made slower progress on finishing this block because I’ve been working on a machine-stitched project at home. Top secret so pictures after Christmas! I’ve got as far as making the quilt sandwich and doing one line of quilting, but ran out of thread! It was just as well because that was Sunday and this coming Saturday morning we’re leaving for a week’s holiday so I wanted to spend Sunday afternoon (after my driving lesson) choosing colours for the next block so I can sew it while we’re away, and if I hadn’t run out of machine quilting thread I might not have stopped then I would be holiday-block-less.

I’ve also bought the backing piece for the quilt. It came yesterday so I washed it and it is still on the dryer as we speak – it’s rather large so drying it on my free-standing electric dryer is awkward, but we don’t use the tumble dryer due to expense and have nowhere outside to hang things (it’s raining anyway). My plan is to applique leaf shapes on it which will be made out of autumn fabrics. That way I can use some that I bought online but have turned out to not be the right shade, or were early mistakes. I think it should look good and removes difficulties of the seams of pieces making up the back not lining up with quilting lines, but it will take a long time and is not exactly something I can do on the train, so I thought I’d get a head start and alternate doing that at home with making up blocks on the daily commute. At least, that’s the plan!

I think this is block 33 and I’m looking at a 8×10 block quilt… so only 47 to go! I don’t know if I can get my head round that.

The estate agent through whom we rent our flat is coming to do a flat inspection while we’re both out at work tomorrow. I don’t like people looking around while we’re not there but there’s nothing I can do. I’ve been on a washing, ironing, and dusting spree because I don’t want to have laundry hanging around while she’s in there, so more ironing tonight, hoovering, tidying of the baskets of fabric and piles of paperwork (and hiding of candles! Not that our contract says we can’t have them but you never know)… by the time I’ve done all that, then on Thursday and Friday actually do some packing, I’ll be so whacked I’ll probably be too tired to make the most of being away. Hope not, because we’re going north and I’m looking forward to fresher airs and if it isn’t cloudy every day seeing some stars. Too much light pollution as well as air pollution down south.

Autumn block with fussy-cut fun pumpkins

I like the term ‘fussy cutting’ that I picked up from Peggy Cooper’s lovely blog (https://peggycooperquilts.com/) – it’s something I do occasionally but hadn’t thought about it having a name – now I know it I’m going to use it more! I’m not sure if using it as an adjective as in the title is the done thing, but I’m doing it anyway…

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The flying geese round the centre square use the very last of the special autumn leaves fabric I love so much: they’re recycled from a block I didn’t like and took apart, and I’m so happy I did because they’re used much better here. I’m not convinced about the use of colour in the central triangles at the edge (where two flying geese are sewn together), but the number of variations I tried in order to get this the best I could was ridiculous! In the end I had it all except the four small squares at the corner of the sort of block-within-a-block, so when I found a remnant of the fabric that I ended up using I was really pleased. It’s one I’ve tried to work into other blocks because I like it, but it’s only ended up in one. Part of the problem is that the background’s white and bright, and the other is that the motifs on it are quite widely spaced. Hence the fussy cutting, so I could get a tiny part of the edge of a sunflower in alongside the leaf and pumpkin in two squares. I would have liked more, but there just weren’t enough on the piece of fabric. I kicked myself for cutting squarely round the pumpkin used on the top right, because it would have looked better at an angle, but I used it anyway because it’s nice to have the two pumpkins with different patterns. That fabric is very thin, not easy to work with, and a couple of the corners of those squares came out stretched when I ironed them so they don’t look their best. I now realise I should have starched them… too late!

One problem with having spent so long choosing the fabrics for this one is that I only finished sewing it together on Sunday afternoon and didn’t have time to choose fabrics for the next one, so have no sewing to do on the train for my daily commute, I feel bereft!