A good friend of mine, who I worked with for four and a half years, had her first baby a couple of weeks ago. I’d planned to make him a quilt anyway so I already had these fabrics pulled, I just needed a spark of inspiration and a kick up the bum – handily provided by the email announcing his birth!
The colour scheme is based on my friend’s preferences (her favourite colour is blue) and the fact that she is a chemist and her husband is an engineer, so I used the most science-y fabric I had to hand! These are two of my favourite prints in the quilt:
I chose to do a random arrangement of squares that finished at 9, 6 and 3″ and started with a rough sketch of an arrangement on some graph paper so that I would know how many squares of each size I would need to cut.
The layout meant there were some partial seams to deal with, but by going slow and thinking carefully about which bits to sew in which order, it all worked out well. Because I wanted it done and sent off quickly, I decided to do a simple diagonal cross-hatch pattern for the quilting.
The quilt is backed with a funky chevron print that has a lovely soft feel, and bound with left-overs from piecing the top. I’m very pleased to say that the whole quilt (other than the wadding) came from my stash. It’s all washed so it just needs a label and I can post it off along with a card and some well-earned Cadbury’s chocolate for the proud mum!
And here’s my finished Origami Crane cushion. I’m really pleased with it. It’s actually been finished for a lil while, but the weather’s been too foul (and I’ve been too busy) to take any decent pictures until today.
The back is another envelope arrangement, with some nice wooden buttons I found at a local haberdashery shop. It now lives on my bed and is great when I want to sit up and read a book. Hooray for finished things!
Here’s what happened to the foundation-pieced crane I showed off in the last post:
I rootled around in my stash and discovered some more postcard-themed fabric, which I used to set the crane on point, then gave it a border with some textured chocolate-coloured fabric to bring it up to a better size for a cushion.
For the actual quilting, I started by quilting in the ditch for all seams, then elected to try matchstick quilting for the first time, by following one edge of each polygon shape of the cream background fabric:
I love-love-love how it looks and feels (as a chemist, it reminds me of crystal grain boundaries!), and it gives the crane some definition and dimensionality that it was lacking before quilting.
I didn’t want to clutter the busy postcard fabric on the corners, so I ended up using some neutral grey thread to quilt around the postcard edges and stamps. I’m very pleased with this – it gives a nice feel and look without weighing down the design or competing with the matchsticks in the centre. Even if it did mean I had zillions of ends to bury on each corner!
And here it is all together:
Currently I’m auditioning fabric for the back of the cushion; I’m an idiot, so I don’t have quite enough of the blue and white postcard fabrics left to do an envelope back with them. Something fairly neutral is called for, I think! And I need to hunt down some nice buttons, too.
The thing I love about patchwork and quilting is the sheer variety of techniques on offer. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, lol! Something I’ve read about a lot but had not tried is foundation piecing (sometimes known as paper piecing). In essence, a design is printed on a foundation (often paper or calico) and then the fabric is placed underneath and the lines are used as guides for highly controlled stitch’n’flip piecing. For more complicated designs, several parts may be required to create the finished design. There are some staggeringly complex foundation-pieced patterns available (The Tartan Kiwi does beautiful ones, I love her birds; Fandom In Stitches has a ginormous range of fan-made patterns for all manner of subjects from Disney to Doctor Who), but I decided that, for my first pattern, something simpler would be good. And because it’s me, I also couldn’t resist the idea of making my own pattern!
After reading around a little on how foundation patterns work and being inspired by an image I’d seen in one of those Grown-Up Colouring Books, I sketched a nicely graphic paper crane image in Inkscape and started to chop it up into something that might work as a pattern:
After squinting at it a bit, I decided that I needed five sections to make up the whole design and drew each one up with the necessary seam allowance and carefully labelled the order in which I thought they ought to be pieced. Then I printed out a copy and lost it in the muddle on my crafting table for some weeks!
Then, because yesterday was Quilt Club and I hadn’t a single idea in my head of what I wanted to work on, I went riffling through my muddle of UFOs and found the pattern again. And I also found a couple of FQs with postcard motifs, in two different colours, and a lightbulb went on in my head.
I grabbed everything, plus a handy cream-on-cream print that didn’t run away fast enough (and which I see I’ve accidentally photographed the wrong side of, ooops!) and bundled it all into a bag for Quilt Club. Knowing that people there had done foundation piecing before was a great comfort and help, and everyone put up very politely with my growling whenever I failed to line up a piece quite right and had to reach for the seam ripper yet again! I think I re-did one bit about five times before I managed to get it lying correctly, by which stage the paper had almost disintegrated. But guess what? IT. WORKED.
ERMAGERD, IT WORKED! *happy flailing*
Ok, there are two points in particular that I feel could have lined up a bit better, I probably ought to have paid more attention to fabric grain direction and the lighter postcard fabric is a bit too close in tone to the cream background fabric, but I am over the moon with how well this came out. However, I am wondering whether there are better ways to cut the pieces than “hack out a generous chunk approximately the right shape and hope” – I feel sure there must be!
The unfinished block ends up being 12.5″ square, which is a nice size. I’ll probably give this one some corners and turn it into a cushion. If life ever calms down enough to allow me to sign up to the Quilt Block Swap over on Craftster, this may very well be the block I ask for – I think it could be delightful done in a variety of scrappy prints. I could also see it done in shot cottons, of which I have a nice bundle. Hmmmm….! 😀
I must say a big thank you to the people who offered suggestions on how to finish off the quilting on Elsa, it really was a help! Lifting the “ground” level brought everything together much better. And after doodling around a bit and trying a few of the suggestions (and screaming in frustration at my white rayon, which decided to HATE almost all my assorted needles for some reason – the “right” one turned out to be a microtex 80/12), I ended up with this:
It’s not at all what I thought I’d end up with, but I think it works. I got a great tip from Carole Gold about using tracing paper to test and stitch FMQ designs, and although I wasn’t able to use it this time because it turns out we have nothing like that in the house (not-quite-moving house really sucks), it’s a great idea that I’m definitely going to try on other projects once I’ve grabbed myself a roll of baking paper to use.
Here’s the third cushion cover that I’m making as a Christmas present (the first two are here). It’s for a little girl, so I chose to do Elsa from Frozen as an applique – her mum tells me she’s a fan. I found some wonderful metallic-finish fabrics at a recent craft show and dug out a slightly shimmery white from my stash and I was ready to rock some Frozen goodness.
And what would Elsa be without some magic-y icy swirls? I doodled a few up in Inkscape and appliqued them with a wonderfully frost-coloured fabric:
And no matter how hard I tried, the shiny bits (well, all the bits are shiny) refused to photograph well. I used a different colour of the swirl fabric for the outer border, which brings the top up to the same size as its fellows (20.5″ square). The Elsa applique was secured with machine satin stitch in a variegated teal thread and the swirls were done with an icy-looking metallic thread. And I will not be rushing to do satin stitch around iddly-tiddly little fingers again in a hurry!
As with the Minecraft cushions, my first action was to quilt in the ditch all the way around the border to secure all the layers together and make a nice boundary. My plan after that became somewhat nebulous, but I decided to start with the obvious things, so I quilted (with the same teal thread) around Elsa and then broke out the metallic thread to do the same around the icy swirls.
As I did so, I started to add in random flourishes and twiddles and joined some of the applique swirls together in whatever manner seemed appropriate at the time. My confidence grew as I quilted each swirl and I worked from bottom to top, so the upper swirls are a bit more elaborate as a result! I’m probably going to go back and add a few more twirls in on the lower bits. At this point, though, I’m a little stumped. I cannot decide whether to leave the ice-swirl quilting as it is or add further quilting in the background to make it look more snowy. I like the magic-y bits and I don’t really want them to be lost, but the rest of the top looks a bit “bare”. To delay any firm decision in that direction, I dug out some pale blue rayon thread and started quilting the “ground” instead. I made it a bit more wavy than I’d initially intended, but I think it’s just about ok. I’ll do more lines of quilting below those two, probably spacing them further apart as I get closer to the bottom of the panel. Yay progress!
Christmas is coming, they tell me. Thanks to the nature of crafting, it feels like I have to start thinking about Christmas presents in August to have a hope of finishing anything! But I’m off to a good start here (shhhh-I-know-it’s-October-already!), with themed cushions for my cousin John’s three children. Here are the first two.
The two boys are great fans of Minecraft, and the Minecraft characters make fantastic subjects for patchwork thanks to their pixelly designs. I chose the Creeper and the Blaze, partly because I wanted to use Bali Pops to make them and I happened to have a green set and red-orange-yellow set:
Figuring out which colours to use where was harder than I thought it would be, especially with the Blaze face; the Red Hots Bali Pop contained fewer dark browns than I remembered and they weren’t as dark as I remembered, either! But the Creeper came out very well; I added in a couple of greys and a black from the Licorice Bali Pop set as well.
I decided that I didn’t want the main designs of the cushions “disappearing” over the curve of the cushion pad, so I added complementary plain 2.5″ borders to bring the size up to 20.5″ square and frame the faces nicely.
For quilting, I couldn’t resist practicing a bit of my FMQ. I’ll freely admit right now that I’ve never played Minecraft (Terraria is my dig-it-craft-it-fight-it sandbox game of choice), and I’d always slightly assumed that Creepers were animated angry bushes! After a bit of research I now know that they’re not, but I couldn’t resist quilting my Creeper face with a “creeper” pattern of leaves!
This one is hiding in the bushes, clearly!
Before doing the FMQ, I outlined the eyes and “mouth” with black straight stitching and also quilted in the ditch all the way around the border. There’s some ends to tie off and bury and I quilted a few extra leaves into that gap in the middle at the bottom, too. A bit of a trim and an envelope back (I have two solid green fat quarters ready and waiting for that duty) and I can call him done!
I used plain calico to keep the back tidy and not shedding fluff everywhere, and I actually really like the look of the quilting on that side, too:
Almost a shame that it won’t be seen much!
For the Blaze, I decided that only a flame pattern would do – except that I’ve never quilted a flame in my life! However, I refused to let that put me off, threaded the Pfaff up with variegated orange thread and let rip.
….and apparently it worked. Mostly. They aren’t the most amazing flames ever (I had more than a few directionally challenged moments), but for a first go I’m very pleased with how they came out. Once again, I’d outlined the eyes and gone around the border first, then I quilted the flames in layers that were roughly 2 squares high, working my way back and forth up the face from the bottom.
Definitely more of a challenge than the leaves, but I like it and would do it again (on the right project!).
And here’s the back. Again, I’m almost sorry that it won’t be seen much. Ah well!
I hope I get a chance to finish these off soon; life is looking uncertain again and I’d like to actually finish something for a change! I also have a more girly cushion for my cousin’s little girl to share soon, it is very sparkly.
After my disappointment with Moda’s very cream-coloured “Snow” the other week, I couldn’t get the idea of a scrappy Irish Chain out of my head. And I couldn’t get anything into my head, either, so I had several therapeutic no-brain days of cutting out and then sewing together many, many 2.5″ squares to make this:
The biscuity-gold squares are mostly from the Moda scrap packs I bought the other week, the cream background is a combo of the Moda Snow and cream-on-cream Cold Spell layer cakes (I figured they were so close in colour that I might as well pretend that they were the same), and the floral bits of the chains are about half a strip roll of floral prints that my aunt and uncle brought me back from the ‘States as a present. Other than the overall layout of cream background, gold frame and floral chains, there was no particular piecing plan beyond “try not to put two squares of the same floral print directly next to each other (corners don’t count)” – this was a real absence of mind effort! For all that, I am rather fond of it.
Some of the scraps of goldish prints weren’t quite big enough to cut a 2.5″ square, so I cut 1.5″ squares instead and pieced them to make 2.5″ four-patches – a bunch of these mini four-patches are sprinkled throughout the top like fabric Easter eggs.
Funnily, although I was worried about the blue-ish squares not being right during piecing, it’s the pink/purple squares that really leap out in the final design. I think that’s ok though – looks a bit like blossom peeking out from foliage. Or something. It’s not a “charm” quilt in the strictest sense, but I decided it was fairly charming anyway so the name Irish Charm stuck. You can see that I cheated a bit on the sides – even with the four-patches I didn’t have enough gold squares to do a 5×5 layout, so I did a 4×5 layout instead and then cut the blocks on one side in half and moved half to the opposite side to balance up the design. Here’s an earlier layout before the blocks were joined (on my bed because that’s the largest available flat surface!):
It came out very Country Cottage, though a good friend assured me that this is totally fine because I live in a country cottage! (Please ignore the horrific wallpaper though – it’s a rental property and has the décor from DIY Hell.)
Although I put this together with the idea of giving it to my aunt and uncle who so kindly hosted us when we were between houses and helped so much with the commission quilt I had to do, I’m not sure it’s really them. I think it needs a border, though, so I shall give it one and listen to see if it tells me where it wants to live. For quilting, I’m thinking something fairly simple – maybe cross-hatching on the cream background and a sort of viney flowery FMQ thing along the chains. Gotta source/piece a back first though! And find somewhere suitable to pin-baste it – now that’s the HARD part.
I mentioned my plan to make squishy foam alphabet blocks for my niece’s first birthday a few weeks ago, and at last here are the finished articles!
They were a lot of fun to make – I went to town with the decorative stitches on my sewing machine and every face of every cube is decorated differently. If I had a “suitable” stitch (like ants on the letter A), then I gleefully used it!
All the satin stitching around the letters seemed to take forever, but the effect is great and I know that they’re secure against prying little fingers.
I had a chance to go to Lampeter on Friday and visit the wonderful Calico Kate, always a fun experience although my bank account doesn’t agree! However, I was quite focussed and I had a plan, so only a bit of “oooo, that’s nice!” fabric snuck into my basket! Coupled with an online order I placed last week, I now have lots of new prettiness to coo over:
Bali Pops in Taffy and Red Hots – I canNOT get enough of these things, I love them so much! And these two are absolutely perfect for the Minecraft cushions I want to make for one of my cousins’ children – a Creeper and a Blaze. The Creeper’s already well under way, a bit approximate because I’m dealing with non-exact matches and multi-tone colours, but I’m pleased so far!
Moda layer cakes – Cold Spell and Snow. I’ll be honest, I thought “Snow” was going to be more, well, snow-coloured, rather than the very cream colour it proved to be. That’s a bit disappointing, since I was hoping to combine these two layer cakes and make a Disappearing Hour Glass quilt for my aunt and uncle who so kindly hosted us while we were looking for somewhere to live. But I don’t think there’s sufficient contrast for that here – the cream-coloured Cold Spell prints are just too close to the cream solid. So now I’m thinking Irish Chain instead, although I think I’ll need another Cold Spell layer cake to make it work. Hmmm.
More Moda, this time some scrap bags – it’s like a lucky dip for quilters! No idea what range(s) all these are from, they just promise that the fabrics in each bag will blend with each other. One set looks quite Christmassy, the other seems more traditional/US patriotic, but there’s a good cross-over of colours between the two packs. They’re mostly not what I’d buy for myself, but useful to have. Possibly also candidates for a scrappy Irish Chain – I don’t know why, but I have that pattern on the brain right now!
Wait, how did you find your way into my basket? Oh well, you might as well stay now… Seriously, Oriental/Asian print fabrics are some of my favourites, and these should go well with the ones I already have. These ones are from Kona Bay. I love the ladies, they’ll look wonderful peeking out from a Garden Fence.
…And this is the fabric I actually went in the shop for! The red, blue, green and spots are all from (I believe) Moda, and the cream is from Andover. Another cousin (I may have mentioned that I have a lot of cousins) has commissioned me to make a quilt for her children using some vintage curtains that have a particular meaning to her family.
This is what she gave me to work with – cute, no? The weight’s good, not too heavy for patchwork, but very in need of a wash and stained and torn in places.
They all seem to go together really well, and I love the textured look of the “solids” (including the cream, although you can’t see it here), it really echoes the feel of the vintage fabric. I’m still pondering the spots – on the one hand it ties in really well with the colours of the vintage fabric, on the other hand I’m concerned that it’s a bit too busy.
My mission is to rescue as many of those adorable lil boys and pandas as I can and quiltify them, ideally keeping the vintage feel but adding a lil modern flair if I can. My plan is to fussy-cut out all the presentable images and sash them with narrow borders of red, blue or green (or maybe a sort of gold to match the boy’s hair?), then arrange the resulting shapes pleasingly and fill in the gaps with simple blocks of colour or cream (to lighten things up a bit). The idea is to showcase the lil figures without lots of fussy patchwork or prints to distract from them. It looks ok in my mind’s eye, but I’m going to have to test the theory to be sure! This is one of those moments when I wonder if it wouldn’t be worth having a copy of Electric Quilt to play with. When I get a moment, I’ll run up a small example and show it to my cousin to see what she thinks – she’s the one that needs to like it, after all!