Blocks 51 and 52

In my stroll to the finish line of 64 blocks I’m evening up the number of ‘stars’ as opposed to ‘diamonds’, as the pattern of the finished quilt alternates blocks with the centre 4 flying geese reversed. The first of these ‘star’ blocks I finished in February and enjoyed putting together, even though in the scheme of the quilt in may be more green than most, I love the colour combination. I made a similar one earlier but with the diamond centre and a bit of brown, so I wanted to make another with the flying geese reversed. I did want to include brown in this but just couldn’t make it work. If this isn’t the only block in the quilt that consists of only 4 fabrics, it’s certainly one of very few. Lots of nice Moda fabrics again, including Prairie Cactus, one of my favourites.

Green

This next block, on the contrary, is not one of my favourites. It’s the subject of my last blog post reworked so that the centre square is a lighter shade of brown, repeated on the outer four corners, and with the dark brown triangles on the outer edge replaced on two sides with all that is left of one of my favourite fabrics for this project (salvaged from an unsuccessful block I took apart). The trouble is that I could not get the centre four squares right, no fabric I tried looked right, so in the end this was the best I could muster. I’ve nearly run out of this fabric so couldn’t afford to do too much fussy cutting, hence the purple remains and I don’t like it. I don’t like the overall effect in that when it’s gloomy and you stand back from the block, the centre four squares blend into the dark orange of the star so it looks like a big dark lump in the middle. I think it would have been better with a smaller print but there was only one in my stash that sort of worked, but alas not well enough. So this is the best I can do. Orange and brown

I think I’m going to have to have a recount of how many blocks I still have to do! Thought it was 10 but if these really are blocks 51 and 52 then it’s 12…

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!

North American wildlife block

I didn’t really set out to make a specifically North American block, but searching for ‘woodland’ fabric on Ebay in an attempt to find more of a fabric I’ve used before but run out of, I came across material with moose, bears, and deer. It had autumn coloured leaves and some pine cones, so autumnal enough to fit my theme and I couldn’t resist! It wasn’t actually that easy to make it blend in with others, perhaps because the background is very white and I’ve been steering away from that to more tan coloured backgrounds, or because there’s something about the way the animals are drawn, can’t quite put my finger on it.

Moose

The centre came together easily but not the outer edge, and I’m not actually sure they go together. I like the fir tree patterned fabric but have only used it in one other, recent, block and won’t use much more of it (if any) in the remaining blocks because the green is quite different to other greens I’ve used. I think it’s a Moda fabric by Holly Taylor and I actually bought more to make a Christmas quilt or wall hanging with, but it’s completely out of stock anywhere I’ve tried, so I’m conserving what I have left. The dark orange I salvaged from a block I took apart and have been trying to find a way to reuse it ever since, but there are some tans and some greens especially that it shouldn’t go anywhere near.

Sorry the background to the photo’s a bit confusing, it’s the wicker lid of my laundry basket because I took it outside to photograph in natural light but didn’t want to put it directly onto the concrete because it had been raining, so grabbed this to use.

I’ve got 13 blocks left to make for this quilt and have started on the next block though I’m worried it’s using too much of one fabric in the same block. I tried deciding on my next blocks at the weekend but it’s getting a bit mind-boggling now, trying not to repeat myself, wanting to use more of certain fabrics I’ve got left over but not having ones to match them with, etc. etc. I’m keen to move on to the next thing so must stay focussed!

3 more autumn blocks

I made these over a couple of months, I think Nov – Dec., but thought I’d save them up to post them all together and a lot of time seems to have passed, with some intervening Christmas projects too. The last one is a rather wintery autumn, but I don’t care, I like it! Though whether the shade of green in it will tone with the other blocks is another matter…

I think these are blocks 47-49.

animalschrysanth2winter stag

The dark tan fabric that appears in all three, and the brown with a red and tan pattern that is in the first and last images, were both bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show I went to at Alexandra Palace in London in October and are by Moda. Don’t think I’ll be repeating the ‘Ally Pally’ experience, it was more expensive than the one at London Olympia I’ve been to in March and the heating was on so high I felt really ill at one point. I wasn’t the only one, judging from the red-faced persons fanning themselves; not much fun. Anyway, the fabrics with pine needles on are ones I bought in an online sale maybe last year and bought up what they had left to make a Christmas quilt one day, though I could have done with a bit more but it’s discontinued. I think they’re Holly Taylor for Moda. I really like her colour schemes.

In retrospect I’m not that keen on the middle one with the chrysanthemum, maybe a bit too brown, even though it is an autumn-themed quilt, there’s something depressingly 1970s living room about it, but I hope it’ll fit in with the rest okay.

I took all the blocks to show my Mum when I went to see the parents before Christmas, and we decided I need 14 more as well as the one I’m doing. So it must be 8 x 8 blocks though I forgot to count! The one I’m working on also has animals on it. Then I’m going to have to take stock again, count how many of the two different designs of block I have so I’ve got an even number at the end of it (!) and try and plan the next ones carefully. There are a few fabrics I’ve only used once and would rather include them in more than one block, for example, but then again there are some I used at the beginning that I wouldn’t choose now, like ones with a white background which aren’t great in an autumn quilt.

However, at home I’m making a baby quilt for my husband’s brother’s new baby, which was born on Saturday, so will of course prioritise that, then get down to the block planning. There’s also the pyjama bottoms I’m going to make for my brother and have bought the fabric for, so want to get on with those while the weather’s still cold, as it’s a warm brushed cotton fabric. So whether I’ll be able to plan blocks as well I’m not sure, could be it has to wait until February. Well, there are worse problems!

 

Christmas pyjamas!

 

It’s Christmas Eve! We’re in a self-catering cottage in the English Lake District, where the views and the wildlife are amazing.

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I finished the hems on my Christmas pyjamas in brushed cotton.

Though I think I made them a size too big I’m still pleased with them and think they’re the best of the three garments I’ve made. I won’t wear them to bed but they’re nice to sit around in – loose and comfortable! The pattern’s a New Look multi-option and unisex pattern. I don’t know the manufacturer of the lovely fabric, but bought it online from Croft Mill, at a reasonable £5.50 per metre.

The pattern has pockets, which I thought would be hard to do but it was ok.

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I’ve also today posted to Mum and Dad a patchwork quilted mat I made for them, to put underneath a nice red glass bowl they’ve got standing on a polished wood sideboard.

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The fabrics are by Moda and came in a pack of 6 inch squares I bought on eBay then cut into quarters. I love the rich autumn / winter reds and greens. I used it as an opportunity to try some freestyle machine quilting (no idea if that’s the right terminology, I was going to write freemotion, but is that only when you use a long arm machine?), by drawing a leaf vine design on with chalk. Unfortunately I kept not being able to see the lines, partly because sewing at night when even electric light on good enough. Some leaves turned out quite well, others not so much, with spaces where they join the ‘stem’, or zig-zaggy loops. The light’s not the only reason for that, though!

Anyway, I enjoyed doing it and the project’s a nice size to practise on. I’d like to be able to make the same pattern on the double bed autumn quilt I’ve been working on for years, but don’t think it’s possible!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to walking to Grasmere tomorrow to go to church, where Wordsworth’s buried so I assume also worshipped. Then a roast dinner using the small oven in the cottage, but no pressure to have it ready by a certain time as there’s just the two of us. Ooo, Carols from King’s has started – Happy Christmas everyone!

Two autumn blocks and two new fabrics

Phew, I’ve finished two more blocks for my autumn quilt. I really wanted to make one using one of the scenes from a pumpkins fabric that I’m using for fussy cutting so started with that at the centre.

Pumpkins

I love the oak leaf motif fabrics, and the sparkly orange has proved so much more useful than I thought; when I bought it I wasn’t sure I’d use it at all but in fact have gone back and bought two more fat quarters in case I run out. I chose the fabrics for this first block before Christmas but didn’t start sewing til the New Year, was making great progress on the middle square – or so I thought – then realised just as I got into bed one night that not only had I sewn green where orange should be, I’d sewn the pieces on upside down to how I’d planned! Unpicking and resewing set me back a day, so I only finished it last Monday.

I’m having New Year enthusiasm to crack on with this and would love to have all the blocks finished this autumn, so worked hard to finish the second one, having planned most of it at the weekend in what few hours of daylight there were available in this gloomy winter.

chrysanths

It’s been lunchtimes as well as commuting time and evenings, and maybe I’ve been a bit too focused, but am glad they’re done. I’m pleased with the fabric used at the small squares at the corners of the middle square, it was pure fluke, purchased when I was getting some red fabric for another project I’m planning and just struck me as being nice, but then when I was struggling to get the right fabric for those corners I thought I’d try it and I think it works well. I want to make my next block using it for the background of the eight flying geese round the edges, not least because I’m getting concerned I’m using the same fabric in that position for all my recent blocks, as for these two (it’s from the Moda Thistle Farm range). It’s such a good shade for a background but I don’t want to have more of it than anything else – plus, I’ll run out. The bold patterned fabric with the chrysanthemums on a brown background was a gamble, but I think it works well here, though I think I’ll be using it very selectively.

I’ve also been getting on with my cross stitch cushion cover and am nearly there except I’m using gold thread for overstitching now and it takes forever. Also working on jumper in a Noro yarn, but there just aren’t enough hours in the non-working part of my day! Monday tomorrow, yuck….

 

 

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:

side 2 comp

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!

quilted comp
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.

sides not quite matching comp

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.

lining comp
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.

strap attached comp
Strap sewn to top of bag

 

inside out comp
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:

base comp

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….

something missing comp

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.

almost finished comp
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.

finished bag comp

side 2 finished comp

side 1 finished comp

 

A Happy New Year to all!