First quilt for me

I have been a bit more productive this week, now things have got back to a more normal routine.

I finally finished a lap quilt I made for myself.  It’s for me to use in the evening whilst watching television or doing a bit of hand sewing.  My dear Hubby seems to have ice running in his veins and I like to feel nice and toasty!  This is actually the second quilt top I pieced but has ended up being the fifth to be quilted.  Isn’t it strange when we try to do something for ourselves, it often gets pushed back down the queue.

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I made this quilt from a pack of pre-cut squares I had bought from a quilt show over a year ago.  I absolutely fell in love with the charming patterns on the coloured squares as it reminded me so much of vintage children’s story books.  I bought some cream fabric with a very subtle pattern because I didn’t want anything to dominate the coloured squares.  The backing fabric comes from the Downton Abbey range and I like the way the the blue matches the more muted blues on the quilt top.

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I had the same viewpoint when it came to the quilting.  The cream squares were a bit more ornate but the patterned squares were quilted more simply as I didn’t want to cover up the illustrations.  I also stitched a heart in each corner.  This has developed into my identifying motif as there has been a heart somewhere on all of the quilts I have made so far.

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One of my favourite parts of making a quilt is the binding, not just because it’s a pleasing thing to do, but because it means that the quilt is almost finished.

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This quilt will be submitted to the exhibition in September organised by the quilting group I’m a member of.  The ladies in the group are very talented and I am very much looking forward to it and the other exhibits will certainly give me something to aspire to.

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I have already been thinking about my next project, working out patterns, and preparing to wash fabric in readiness but it seems Hubby might have other ideas.  He did mention on the day I finished the quilt “everyone else has a quilt, I want a quilt and I want to choose the fabrics as well”.  Any excuse to go fabric shopping and to sit behind my sewing machine!  Challenge accepted!

Don’t forget to pop over to Handmade Monday to see what’s been created.

My proudest make

I have a make that I am very proud of.

It has been a long time in the making.  It has prompted a full range of emotions.  It has caused me to roll on the floor, crying with laughter.  It came with no instructions and I often had to make it up as I went along.  There have been times when I got so frustrated with it, I felt like throwing it out of the window and consuming my own weight in chocolate to cheer myself up.  This project has taken up immense amounts of my time and I often have seen little or no progress in return for all that time.  It has been by far and away the single most expensive make I have EVER attempted.  Sometimes, (not very often) the sheer drudgery of this make threatened to overwhelm me and made me question why I ever started it in the first place.  It has also pushed my creative boundaries and challenged my preconceptions, changing the way I look at the world forever.

This project has cheered me up, made me sing with joy and taken me to places I would never have gone.  I have worried that I have not been “doing it right” and that it would end up a mess.  However, not once during the 17 years (so far) of this long, long make, have I ever thought “I’m done wasting my time and money and effort”.  It holds an eternal fascination of fun, hope and love.

I’m sure you will have guessed by now what my ‘make’ is.

Today is my twin sons’ 17th birthday.  They are still a ‘work in progress’ but they are funny, opinionated, loyal, kind (why is kindness so often underrated?), clever and lacking in common sense.  In other words, they are human.  They get some things wrong but get most things right and although I’m not a person to get all “gushy”, I am very proud of them.

As I was not able to do much sewing this week, I thought I would show you the birthday cakes I made for my sons.  They like chocolate and I wanted to put a surprise in the cakes.  Mini cake pops in various colours were baked in the morning and luckily they were both out Saturday afternoon and evening so I was able to make and decorate to keep it a surprise.

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It’s been a while since I’ve done any baking.  It was great fun playing with cake frosting, chocolate fingers and smarties.  I honestly don’t think I’m going to give professional bakers a run for their money but at least you can see it’s ‘Mum made’.

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I’m pleased with the effect when the cake is cut into and will certainly be using the mini pop cake tray again.

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Have a look at Handmade Monday to see what has been created since Easter.

Hen and chick

As Easter is upon us and eggs, chocolate or otherwise are everywhere, I thought I would show you my Spring season makes.

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The patchwork and quilting group I belong to, like to arrange a tuition day, twice a year.  One of our talented members, the lovely Nina, took on the challenge of teaching a group of us to make a chicken.  The main body of the chicken is foundation paper pieced.  I normally use pure cotton for my projects but I had a pile of odd bits of polycotton in Spring colours, that I thought I could use.

It was an enjoyable day, friends, sewing, tea and giggles.  Nina Smith not only sews but also keeps a flock of hens as well and she brought along the latest output from her ‘girls’.  Unfortunately, I had just stocked up on eggs but I shall be putting in my order for the next meeting as I like the idea of having eggs and knowing exactly where they are from, even down to the name of the hen!

I had to finish off my hen at our next group meeting but the other participants on the workshop were able to display an impressive flock of patchwork hens.

When I visited the Spring Quilt Show at Duxford last month, I noticed they were doing workshops for the first time.  It was difficult to choose from the variety on offer but one stood out.  English paper pieced Easter chick!

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Although I have used the technique before, I was interested to see if I did it the same way as the professionals and I have not used it to make a three dimensional object before.  The workshop was led by Nancy Adamek of Lina Patchwork Limited and it made for a pleasurable hour within the busyness of Duxford.

Nancy was interesting to chat to and I was interested to find out part of her story that brought her from Düsseldorf to Duxford.  Her interest in patchwork and quilting came from her Mother and it shows that skills like this are passed on in a similar way all over the world.

I came away from Duxford with my cheeky hand sewn chick and he seems very happy to nestle up with his crazy (patchwork) mother hen.

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Happy Easter everyone

J’s Quilt

This quilt was one of two special ‘commissions’.  I have two sons and as a consequence, anything that is done for one son is quite rightly done for the other son.  I suggested that I made a quilt for their birthday.  Size, pattern and fabrics were their choice and colour layout and quilting patterns were left to me.  J wanted a bigger quilt than his brother and I was more than happy to oblige.

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He knew he wanted some red fabric in his quilt, which turned out not to be smooth sailing when choosing the Fat Quarters.  I’m not sure whether it was the time of year or whether the fabric collections that season or the choice available at my local fabric shops were to blame but we struggled with red fabric.  It was either too Christmassy, too flowery or more suited to a 5 year old (he’s a strapping 6th former, so I knew I couldn’t suggest toy cars or Fireman Sam to him!).  Eventually, we managed to find somewhere with a good range and I left him to choose his 12 fabrics plus borders and backing.  I was surprised by some of his selection as I was unsure whether one fabric chosen ‘fitted in’ with the rest.  The colour of backing fabric was a big departure from the rest of the colour scheme as well, which was red, white and blue.  I should have had more faith in him as the fabric he chose for the quilt top really pulls all the colours together and ‘lifts’ the quilt.  The green backing fabric was a bit of a brave choice, but again was a complete success.  I’m never too old to learn and hopefully not too big to admit I would have got it wrong.  I’m glad I gave him total free rein and have learnt that I definitely need to be more adventurous!

I asked him which fabric was his favourite, as that was the one that went diagonally across the middle of the quilt and therefore was the most prominent.  Piecing up the quilt was fairly straightforward.  I try to make the back of my quilts a little bit interesting.  It was especially important that I used any leftover fabrics from piecing the front.  The green backing fabric was quite expensive and the resulting central panel meant I was able to justify buying it.  It was a case of ‘cutting my coat according to my cloth’!  I’m pleased with the way it looks and it reminds me of something a craft tutor said to me years ago “there’s no such thing as a mistake, just a design opportunity”.

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When it came to quilting the squares I came up with the idea that each fabric choice would have it’s own pattern.

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I like the way this gives variety to the quilt but there is also continuity through the blocks.  As the fabric choice and colour was more modern, I tried to use contemporary, abstract designs rather than traditional motifs.

I put put in a narrow red border with a wider blue border.

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I usually do a double fold binding as I think it gives a bit more strength to the edge of the quilt where it sometimes can take a bit of wear.  I used the same red fabric for the binding as I used for the narrow border.  Hopefully the red binding gives it a bit of ‘zing’!

I gave both his and his brother’s quilt to them on Mother’s Day – I know that’s not how Mother’s Day should be done, but I did get some beautiful flowers.  Both quilts have now been taken up into their bedroom, so I definitely count that as a success as above all I like my quilts to be used.

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Now the clocks have gone forward an hour, I shall be looking at Handmade Monday to see what is being created with the lighter evenings.  Roll on Spring!

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Last Sunday 15th March, was Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom.  For me and quite a lot of other people, it is a generally happy day but is tinged with sadness.  It’s happy for me, as I have two healthy, active teenage sons but it is sad because my own Mum is no longer with us.  This is intended to be my thoughts on how Mothers influence us. My relationship with my Mum was not always easy.  She did not suffer fools gladly and I honestly could never have described her as quiet and mouselike.  She could be infuriating, grumpy and always had to have the last word but guess what?  So could I!  She was also very intelligent, a prodigious reader, creative and loved to do things on the spur of the moment.

Most youngsters want to fit in and that part of me was mortified when my Mum painted our dustbin a flower powered shade of turquoise!  The other side of me secretly admired her “I don’t care what people think” attitude.  I loved her reply when my Dad asked her why.  “Because it looked tatty and turquoise gloss is a better colour than galvanised grey”.  Epic example of having the last word! She loved doing various crafts but other than embroidery, often didn’t finish things.  I think she would have been a Florist but her personal circumstances meant that was impossible.  Opportunities for working class women in the early 1950s were very limited.  She was part of that generation that ‘just got on with it’. Personal triumphs and tragedies were treated the same way, quietly.  One thing she did teach me was to NEVER ignore someone who has undergone a bereavement.  She experienced every parent’s nightmare with my older brother and years later it was still hurtful to her that some people had actively ignored her because they didn’t know what to say to her.  It was a very powerful lesson – no words you say can make a difference but just saying something, means a lot. I admit that I didn’t truely begin to appreciate who she was as a person until I had children.  I had twin boys and things were really busy and I didn’t really notice that she was slowing down.  She loved her grandsons and I was guilty of the “we’ll do that next week”.  I always thought she would be there because she was “Mum”.  Sadly that was not to be as she had a stroke and the Mum I knew in all her infuriating glory was replaced by this new person that I didn’t recognise.  The stroke had altered her personality and her health was very poor for the next few years but she never lost the ability to tell her identical twin grandsons apart. I also find myself saying and doing the same things she did and her influence runs deep.  Silly little things such as being unable to put a cup or glass on a table without a coaster and I can’t tell you how many times I have carried rubbish around until I found a bin.  Littering was not allowed at all and if we could not find a bin, it was taken home and put in our funky turquoise bin!

Afterwards, when sorting through her belongings I came across a very large flat chocolate box.  Inside was a treasure trove of cut hexagon fabric pieces. image I remember her cutting them out around about 1978.  She never did make them into anything.  She had cut the fabrics from old dresses (of hers and mine), there was an old apron, summer weight curtains and bits she had collected from jumble sales. image I usually piece quilts by machine but I needed a hand sewing project to take to a once a month crafting get together.  I had my long-term project. This quilt is a deeply personal project as I can recall where some of the fabrics came from and I remember her cutting out the hexagons.  It is a work in progress and I am enjoying the process of hand stitching the pieces.  It is going to be a variation on the pattern called ‘Grandmother’s Garden’, again appropriate as she loved flowers and gardening.  I have added the green borders as I want this to represent the lawn in the garden.  Although my Mother is no longer with me in person, what could be more fitting than to finish a creative project she started, as a quilt, that I can again wrap myself up with warmth and comfort.  It sums her up, creative, quirky, practical and above all loved. image

I’m going to have a look at Handmade Monday to see what creative projects have emerged over the last week.

Quilt Show

I love living in Norwich but, geographically, it is a bit out on a limb and I will take advantage of any opportunity to combine looking at quilts with shopping for sewing supplies.  Twice a year a quilt show is organised at Duxford Airfield.  Duxford is part of the Imperial War Museum and from my point of view is an ideal venue for a quilt show.  My husband likes looking at planes and I like looking at quilts.  We both enter the quilt show, have a cup of tea (I love tea), a cake and then husband gets half price entry to the Air Museum.  This leaves me free to have a really good look around at the quilts and to buy all the sewing supplies I NEED (more like want!).  Husband has a really good look around the planes and other military type things and I don’t have to worry about dragging around a bored husband.

I take the opportunity of these shows to buy supplies that either my local shops don’t carry, to look at items ‘in the flesh’ so to speak or to take advantage of special show prices.  I try to be organised and make a ‘wish list’ of items that I have researched beforehand or items that are for specific projects.  Strangely, however, it always seems that a few Fat Quarters always seems to find their way into my shopping bag.

I am not sponsored and have had no gain from any person or trader and any comments that follow are totally my own opinions.

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The blue scroll fabric is to back a future quilt project as is the maroon spots on grey.  I have been looking for some grey fabric for a long time but all the suitable fabrics have been at least £14 a metre which makes for an expensive quilt back.  I expanded my collection of Sissix Bigz dies.  These dies are great for appliqué work.  Back fabric with fusable web, die cut the shapes, iron onto the project and then secure around the shape in the stitch of your choice.  I bought these from Lady Sew and Sew and that is when the two bundles of Christmas Fat Quarters accidentally must have ‘fallen’ into my basket.  I wanted some small scale Christmas prints and like the Sissix dies, were at a good show special price.

I discovered Aurifil thread last year at The Festival of Quilts.  I had previously been using YLI thread which I had been recommended to me instead of using Guttermann.  Unfortunately, my sewing machine is not happy with this and appears to love Aurifil.  I can’t pretend that this is an economy thread, however, after having used it to free machine quilt a reasonably sized project and the hours spent, I came to the conclusion that this project deserved top quality thread.  There is nothing more frustrating than struggling with inadequate tools and material when working on a project as I discovered the day before I visited the quilt show.  I realised that I didn’t have a good pair of large fabric scissors.  I don’t really do dressmaking and usually use a rotary cutter.  After a visit to the Creative Grids stand I came away with a funky pair of titanium scissors along with some other interesting bits and bobs.  Water dissolvable thread (ok, I admit I’ve been looking at some fancy schmancy sewing techniques on a certain video app), crushed walnut shells (pincushions here I come), silver, iron-on, narrow bias tape for a future project I have in mind and finally a pair of free machine quilting gloves.  I have been using two squares of rug grip type material, which works for small projects, but for full sized projects there was nothing for it but a proper pair of gloves.  My final purchase from another stand was three packets of sewing machine needles, including a twin needle.

My final visit of the show was to Steve Broomhall from Sewing Machine World in King’s Lynn.  I had query about a very small part my sewing machine needs and he sorted it out virtually by the time I had finished explaining it to him.  I also took part in a workshop organised by the quilt show, but the end result will be revealed at a later date.

The standard of quilts on display as always was high but inspired me to improve my work rather than making me give up in despair!  I deliberately did not take any photographs of any of the quilts.  I am trying to hone my creativity and do not want to copy any quilts created by these talented makers.  This means I can get an overall impression of certain quilts and use that to influence future projects.  Husband and I came away from Duxford both feeling that we had a good day out.

I hope that you had a good day and I am taking a look over at Handmade Monday to see what has inspired other makers this week.

Foundation pieced tie block

I have a list of patchwork techniques that I want to master.  Last month, a very talented member of the patchwork group I belong to, did a tutorial on foundation piecing.  We have two meetings a month and luckily I was able to go to both meetings.  Remember, this means I watched the demonstration TWICE.  It was a very good demonstration, clear, concise and even telling us what potential pitfalls there were.

The following week, I was invited to an informal crafting day with two friends.  Perfect!  I could demonstrate how clever I could be with foundation piecing and make a few blocks for a future quilting project.  Oh how pride comes before a fall!

Sewing machine set up, templates drawn onto grease proof paper, selection of fabrics ironed and ready to be pinned and finally ruler and rotary cutter at the ready.  As you can guess, things did not go exactly to plan.  First two pieces joined perfectly (I thought), opened them out to find it faced the wrong way!  Shall I just say that my little seam ripper was employed more than once.  I made every mistake in the book, including wrong side of fabric facing out but the ultimate mistake was finally managing to sew a piece on perfectly, trimming the finished seam to a quarter inch and neatly managing to cut off the fabric that I had just sewn on!

paper piecing tie

After all the mistakes I made, I did finish the block and I am pleased with the way it turned out.  The crafting day with friends was great fun and it was good to be able to share problems and successes.  All that remains to be done to the block is to sew on a border.  This block is hopefully the first of several blocks for a future project for my quilting group, more of which later.

Tie pattern piecing

My experience with making this block reminded me to concentrate and above all to learn from my mistakes.  I would be interested to know what you have learnt from any mistakes you might have made.

Jo