Irish Charm

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.

Linking up with Oh Scrap!  :)

Block Party

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.

Action shot!


I think she likes them.  :)

Linking up with #CreativeGoodness at QuiltShopGal.

New Pretties, aka Don’t Eat Yellow Snow

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!  :)

Linking up, for the first time, with Sunday Stash over at Molli Sparkles.  :)

Something Old, Something New

After the Something Blue of the previous post (yes, that’s totally its name now), here’s some of the other stuff I’ve been pottering at recently.

Something(s) old


These are the numbered pockets for an advent calendar that I started ages ago; I finally got around to doing machine applique around each number to fix them in place.  They were attached with bondaweb, but they’re so small and bondaweb doesn’t really do well on flannel, so the stitching was necessary.  I used three different colours of metallic thread and I’m really pleased with how it’s highlighted the numbers and made them easier to read.


Next I’ll have to work on making the background for them.


This is some of the FMQ quilting on FrostByte, which has really stalled.  I’d like to dig it out and do some more on it, though it’s not coming out at all as I thought/hoped it would.  I need to learn more fillers!


Lastly, here are my Damask Suns all sashed and ready to be backed and quilted.  I’m really pleased with the contrast between the red/orange/yellow blocks and the blue sashing!  Next thing is to decide if it needs more of a border or not, and sort out backing.

Something(s) new


My niece’s first birthday is at the start of September, so I decided to get a head start on her birthday present – a set of six building blocks made of fabric-covered foam, with letters and numbers appliqued on.  I worked out that six blocks can hold the whole alphabet and numbers 1 to 10 exactly, which makes me a happy bunny!


These are my foam blocks.  They’re 5″ cubes cut to order, and I was impressed by how neat they are and how quickly they arrived; I don’t have much experience with ordering pre-cut foam, but this seems to have worked out well.

This is for a friend’s little girl.  The petal shapes are made by folding and stitching circles of fabric, which gives a really nice effect and is a fun thing to do while watching TV!  I still have quite a few circles to fold, then I shall arrange them into “flowers” on the quilt top (which is just a jelly-roll race with green batiks) and machine applique them on.  There may also be small yellow circles/hexagons for the flower centres, I haven’t decided yet.

Logo! Labels!


At long last, I messed around in Inkscape and had an idea for a logo for myself!  It’s not a million miles from the current name of this site, so it sort of fits, and my quilting activities recently have certainly felt rather itinerant.


This was also the first time I ordered anything from Spoonflower; in general I’m quite impressed, although the lightest grey I used is very faint indeed.  I’ll probably use up these first and then darken up the next batch when I need to order more.  There are two kinds of label – larger ones for proper quilts that I can write (or stitch) the name of the quilt and the recipient(s) on, and smaller ones designed to make loop labels for things like toys or bags.  I think I could see myself ordering more from Spoonflower at some point, I just love the whole concept of it!

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social!

How Not to Do a Commission

Follow these hot tips for an authentically frustrating and stressful experience!

First, make sure the client is a friend of a family member – this means that backing out or saying “no” is that bit harder.  Oh, and they’re only paying for the materials, not your time.

Next, make sure the client has no idea what you do or how a quilt is constructed.  Ideally, they should also have no idea about size, colour or design and no apparent interest in discussing any of these points.

Lastly, time the commission so that it coincides perfectly with a really stressful event in your own life, such as a house move that falls through *after* you moved out of your old place.

Congratulations!  Now you’re all set for maximum hair-pulling and ARGH! moments!  😀

Grizzling aside, I think it actually came out ok:

These are also the only WIP shots I have of this quilt, since I only got re-united with my camera a few days ago.  I usually like to have a good progression of WIP pictures, but it simply wasn’t possible this time.  :(  The brief was for a “king-size” quilt for a wedding at the end of August.  However, I couldn’t get any dimensions other than the standard measurements for a UK king-size mattress, which I based the size of the centre panel on.  And I did manage to eventually get a colour brief of “maybe blue, definitely NOT brown” and some fabric picks to work with.  I took it upon myself to throw in some cream-coloured fabric to warm things up a smidge.  Given the circumstances, I shamelessly chose the simplest design I could think of – rail fence with some sashing.  I think it actually took me longer to figure out how to sort out the sequence of 2″ squares around the centre than it did to piece the rails together.

With the borders, the quilt has ended up being approximately 80″ x 90″, so it’s a bit on the small size for a “proper” king-sized quilt, but there should be at least a bit of spare quilt to hang over the edge of the bed.  It’s also easily the largest thing I have quilted to date.  Nearly all of the construction and quilting was done while camping out for three weeks with my aunt and uncle, so I’m feeling like it’s lucky there’s a quilt at all.  Also, I now feel I very much owe my aunt and uncle a quilt too – this beast would never have reached the quilting stage if they hadn’t engineered a chance for me to borrow the floor of the local village hall to do the pin-basting on and let me take over half their dining table and living room with quilting stuffs.


The rail-fence centre is quilted in straight lines, with some wavy lines courtesy of the pre-programmed stitches of the Pfaff.  Originally, it was all going to be only straight lines everywhere, but the cream border was crying out for something extra and luckily I’d bought some cream-coloured thread of exactly the right shade and weight, so I essayed a filler design of leaves to hold everything down and give it a necessary finished look.


It came out pretty well, I think, and I discovered an important truth about leaves – they can be almost any shape at all, but if they have a sort of point and a mid-vein then they’ll look like a leaf!  I call this the “Quilter’s Fancy” Tree, aka the Lolwat? Vine.

It’s almost complete now – all that’s left is hand-finishing the binding, which I’m about half-way through already, and burying some thread ends from the quilting on the stripy outer edges.  And I should probably sort out some manner of label to add to the back, once I discover the names of the happy couple…

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, Let’s Bee Social, Free-Motion Mavericks (when it goes live), Can I Get A Whoop Whoop (when it goes live), TGIFF (when it goes live; I ought to be done with the binding by then!)

You Might Be A Nerdy Quilter…

…if you find yourself wanting a fabric equivalent of the Dewey Decimal system.

In other news, I’m not dead, just in the middle of trying to move house.  It rather puts a crimp on the amount of sewing I can do, especially as my craft room is in the process of being packed up.  Hopefully a more regular service will resume once we have a new house.  :)

Marsala Spice – Block Tutorial

Here’s how I made my Marsala Spice blocks, with the added bonus of measurements for a couple of smaller versions.  And then I promise I’ll shut up about this until I’ve got it quilted!  (Or at least started the quilting.)

tutorial_1904_21Here’s the basic block.  You can see that it doesn’t make the whole “interlocked rings” pattern – it just makes 1/4 of it.  I think of these as “sub-blocks” versus the full block that makes a complete ring.  Throughout the tutorial I show the largest version, but the construction for the smaller versions is identical except for the size of the pieces.

Fabric Requirements

I refer to the marsala-ish fabric as the background, the pink print as the star, and the two gold-ish prints as ring 1 and 2.  The quantities given will make one full block, so multiply up to make the size of quilt you want.

Size 1

Sub-block 12″ finished, full block 24″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (3.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (3.5″ x 4.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (3.5″ x 3.5″), 16 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (2.5″ x 9.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 12 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (2.5″ x 9.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 12 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*

Size 2

Sub-block 6″ finished, full block 12″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (2″ x 4″), 8 x (2.5″ x 2″), 4 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (2″ x 2″), 16 x (1″ x 1″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (1.5″ x 5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 2″), 12 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (1.5″ x 5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 2″), 12 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*

Size 3 *** UNTESTED ***

Sub-block 9″ finished, full block 18″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (2.5″ x 5.5″), 8 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 16 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (2.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (2″ x 2″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (2.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (2″ x 2″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 1.5″)*

*: All of these background pieces and 4 of each of the ring pieces form the centre of the sub-block, and if you’re making a lot of blocks all with the same fabric then they’re easiest to piece by cutting suitably wide WoF strips (one each of background, ring 1 and ring 2), attaching the two ring strips to either side of the background strip and then cutting the pieced strip into sections of the desired width.

All seams are 1/4″, and are pressed open.


Because I was using the same fabrics for my blocks, the first thing I did was to construct the centre three squares as described above:

Then I took the remaining 2.5″ squares of the ring fabrics and drew diagonal lines in pencil on the reverse:

tutorial_1904_1(The “extra” line is so I could sew along it to make quick HST units from the scraps; you don’t have to do that if you don’t want.)  Once this was done, I applied all these pieces right sides together to their respective background units as shown:

All pieces of the same size need to be put together in the orientation shown, or the block won’t work!

That one on the right is wrong, I had to unpick and re-do it.

Then the corners are trimmed:

For each sub-block, each size of background piece needs one ring 1 and one ring 2 corner unit.  I failed to adequately take photos, so here’s a clearer example; the bits outlined in red is what we’re making:background_units

The same process of adding corner units also needs to be done with the ring 1 & 2 pieces and the small star squares.  In this instance I didn’t bother to draw a line because the star corner units are so small that you’re across them a moment after you start sewing (this is even more true with the smaller block versions).  Again, all units need to be pieced as shown below, or the block doesn’t work.

Again, the seams are trimmed to 1/4″ and pressed open.  The sub-blocks can now be assembled!

First, join all short ring unit to the large star squares, like so:

Then join these new units to the longer of the background units, making sure to match the ring colours:

Set these pieces aside for now. We’ll need them again after the centre is complete.

The centre pieces and their arrangement.
The centre pieces and their arrangement.

To make the centre, take the strips of three squares (ring 1 – background – ring 2) and all the longer ring strips of the same colour (in my case I used all the light-coloured ring strips) and join them with a partial seam, as shown (up to the second seam works well):

The end of the long ring strip must be lined up with the square of the same colour, the star unit corner should end up pointing away from the middle three squares, and all units must be constructed identically.  Once the seams are sewn, the end of the seam can be pressed open.  Don’t press the whole seam yet, it makes life awkward later.  Up to the first perpendicular seam is fine.  (Note:  I’m assuming here that all seams are pressed as you go.)

Then, join the short background piece with the other ring corner unit to the end of the centre unit, as shown:


Then take the second long ring strip, and join it all the way across the centre unit:


The second short background piece can now be attached:


And finally the partial seam can be completed to finish the middle unit!

Lastly, attach the side units that we made earlier to create the interlinked look:

Try to make sure the ring pieces of the same colour line up to enhance the illusion.

Tah-dah, you’ve completed a sub-block (or, hopefully, four sub-blocks)!  These can now be joined, matching seams where necessary, to create the final full block.  This pattern is pretty chain-piecing friendly, so although the middle section is a bit fiddly, it comes together surprisingly quickly once you get into a rhythm.

Other Thoughts

The largest version of this block (and I suppose the medium version, too) could be done with a jelly roll if it contained duplicates (e.g., 40 strips of 20 fabrics, 44″ long).  One 12″ sub-block requires approximately half a jelly roll strip (20.5″ in total) per ring colour, so making one complete ring would need two identical jelly roll strips (blue in the example), plus half of four other jelly roll strips (red, orange, yellow, purple in the example).


I haven’t tested this myself as of yet, but am interested in seeing how it might work out!  Maybe I’ll try it once I’ve had a bit of a break from making these blocks (and when I have a suitable jelly roll to play with).  If you make something using this pattern, I would love to see it.  :)

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Top-Only Entry

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Marsala

Life happened and I didn’t get to quilt my Marsala top(s) yet.  Heck, I only just managed to get some last much-needed fabric for the back yesterday.  But that’s ok, I’m really happy with my top and would not have wanted to mess up the quilting by rushing and trying to get it done by today.  So here it is, Marsala Spice is my official entry for the 2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge!


spice_1804_2 spice_1804_8 spice_1804_3

Tah-dah!  :p

Quilt stats

  • Size: 72″ x 72″
  • Material:  Assorted 100% cotton fabrics, including an over-dyed solid
  • Pattern:  Own design (watch this space for a tutorial…)

A reminder of my original design:


More info on the Pantone Challenge can be found at On The Windy Side and play crafts.  Thanks guys, it has been awesome fun working with a colour that I would probably never have tried otherwise.  😀  No, honestly, I’m serious!  😉

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Top(s) Finished!

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Marsala

Marsala Spice Topspice_1804_2

Yay!  It’s not completely as I envisaged it, but it’s ok.  No idea whether I’m going to get it quilted in time, but if I don’t I’ll just enter it as a top only.  If nothing else, I really like how the block came out in  large quantities (and large sizes).

Obligatory close-ups/gate picture:


I’ve started putting a back together for it, using some spare blocks and the un-dyed fabric I bought:

spice_1804_1The centre is together now and I’ve started adding the necessary borders, only to discover that I fluffed my calculations a bit and I’m short on two sides.  Argh.  :(  Back to the fabric shop on Monday, I guess!

A Marsala Side-Project

While I was making the Marsala Spice blocks I ended up with a pile of HST units needing a home, so I pieced them randomly together:


Then, because I wanted to test out a possible idea for another quilt, I stacked pairs of blocks together and cut them up again, then skiffled the bits about to make two new “fractured” blocks:


They trimmed up nicely to 5″ square and made 12 new blocks in total, to make this:


It’s an interesting effect, though quite difficult with HSTs of this size and density; the reverse is a nightmare of seam bulk.


I was thinking of turning it into a cushion or maybe adding the blocks to the back of the main quilt, but those seams would make it rather less than comfortable.  It’ll probably be a wall hanging, assuming I don’t break ALL the needles trying to quilt it.  :s

More info on the Pantone Challenge can be found at On The Windy Side and play crafts.

Also linking up with Can I Get A Whoop Whoop!TGIFF at Quilting in Amsterdam and Oh Scrap! :)

Tranquillity on Sunday

Today has been extremely frustrating *glares furiously at WordPress*, and I am in need of some tranquillity.


Hopefully I’ll get to post some Marsala Spice progress tomorrow, and I’m working on a tutorial for the blocks.