A Shimmer and a Sparkle

I have been a bad, bad girl.

2016 is the year of adding to the stash, right?!  :p  Help me out here, Molli!  In my defence, I bought some of this before Christmas and the rest before I noticed all those stash pledges and manifestos popping up.  I’m sure I will buy more fabric this year, but from now on I’m going to try and make sure it’s (mostly!) just what I actually need to complete current projects!

Pre-Christmas Purchases

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This wasn’t what made me click through from the Craftsy email, but the moment I saw it I knew beyond all doubt that I needed – NEEDED! – to own this bundle of Van Gogh inspired fat quarters from Robert Kaufman.  And the fact that they were all gone when I checked last week has only confirmed how right I was to buy them when I saw them!  No definite plan for them as yet; I would like a pattern that will show off the swirls of texture and colour, possibly something with hexagons or equilateral triangles?  Still pondering.

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Moda Modern Backgrounds in Ink – assorted background prints in greys and blacks were something that I didn’t really have in my stash, and some of these have chemical structures on!  ALL the love!  😀 For the same reason, I couldn’t resist a 4-yard cut of one of the prints in Paper:

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Fabric plus chemistry = <3  😀  (Even if it is organic chemistry – I can’t quite shake the notion that Moda rummaged through my Year 2 Uni notes when creating this print!)

January Purchases

…and then I got really carried away!  I’m going to blame the 365 Challenge – such a neat idea, but I simply didn’t have enough fabric (within a given colour range/style) to make it.  (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)  I’m probably going to use some of the Moda above, but when I checked the yardage I decided that I didn’t have enough, so I went rummaging for things that would (hopefully) work with the pattern – and be things that I would want around if I don’t jump in after all.

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A bundle of Shimmer 2 from Robert Kaufman was an early entry (the first Shimmer range skated right by me and by the time I noticed it and wanted some, it had disappeared off the face of the planet), but then I couldn’t decide between that and RK’s Sparkle range so, umm…

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…yeah.  One bundle of cool Sparkle and one of warm Sparkle, thank you very much!  In fairness, I love a bit of glitz and glamour and these are such glorious fabrics that I’m not worried about not using them!

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For more neutral goodness, this bundle of Blueberry Park by Robert Kaufman also fell into the basket.  I love the very graphic designs and they should go with the Shimmer and Sparkle ranges beautifully.  Again, I have the 365 Challenge in mind for (some of) these; we’ll see how it goes.

Last but not least:

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Oh yes!

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I have been very very curious about the Cotton+Steel prints but they simply don’t seem to be available locally, so when I saw then on Craftsy for a steal (ha!) of a price, they had to be mine.  There’s plenty of colours in here that I’m limited on, so it’s a good addition to the collection.  :)  I’m hoping they will be fabulous for baby quilts, since I seem to need a never-ending supply of those!

So I have been completely profligate and irresponsible – until I remind myself that, even with postage and tax, these all work out collectively to cheaper (approx. £9-10 a meter on average) than I would likely pay for them here, assuming I could even find them.  So… win?

Crane Wall Hanging – Finished!

Hooray!

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The Origami Crane wall hanging is finished, bound, labelled and on its way to its new home in Kentucky!  :)  (It is straight, I promise – it’s just the pole is sitting cock-eyed!)

The cranes were quilted in the ditch initially, then I used FMQ in Wonderfil metallic thread on the cream background and in light green cotton on the circle fabric.  Each crane’s background is a different filler:

The metallic Wonderfil was… ok to use, I think, but as with the other metallic threads I’ve tried, it has some serious sproing factor.  I found it was forever climbing off the reel and wrapping itself around bits of sewing machine with disastrous effect, and I got quite good at spotting when this happened *before* it broke the thread or the needle.  The next time I use metallic thread, I’m going to stick a long straw or something over the first bobbin thread guide on the Pfaff.  That thing is almost more trouble than it’s worth…!

Because I thought Alison (the recipient) had done such a beautiful job on the bracelets, I also made her a bonus cushion cover from the left-overs:

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It’s 16″ square and quilted simply with a diamond pattern.  I hope she likes it!  :)

This photo is a much better representation of the colours:

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The cranes I’ve made here are a smaller version (finishing at 8″ square), but you can find a pattern and tutorial for a 12″ version here.  :)

Linking up with Free-Motion Mavericks and TGIFF!  :)

Origami Crane Pattern and Tutorial

At long last I’ve managed to do a tutorial for my Origami Crane block (finishes at 12″).  I’m planning to request it as my block in an online quilt block swap, so it seemed only fair to provide some instructions to go with!  If you’re confident with foundation piecing, you can download the pattern here: Origami_Crane_pattern and get started (print the pattern with no scaling!), or see below for how I pieced this block.

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Preparation

Basic sewing and rotary cutter skills will be useful.

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You will need:

  • the pattern
  • three different fabrics (background fabric, fabric 1, fabric 2)
  • fabric scissors
  • paper scissors
  • a rotary cutter
  • a cutting mat
  • a quilting ruler with a 1/4″ mark
  • pins
  • neutral-coloured thread for piecing
  • a seam ripper (hopefully not necessary, but just in case!)
  • a sewing machine
  • iron and ironing board (steam setting OFF!)

The pattern is intended to print on A4 paper without scaling, though I have tried to ensure that it will print ok on US Letter paper.  There are six pages – five with different parts of the block and one with an overall joining scheme.  Each block part also has a list of fabrics that correspond to the labelled areas on the block part.

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On each block piece page, there is also a grey 1″ square for checking the scale – if this square is not 1″, the block will not be the right size!  I recommend printing just one part to begin with and checking the size of the grey square to make sure your printer settings are correct before wasting paper printing out all the pieces at the wrong scale!

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Once all the pages are printed, cut out each part carefully around the outermost lines and make sure to keep the piecing lists:

The outer line is the seam allowance for joining the block parts – don’t cut it off!

Lastly, make sure you have shortened the stitch length on your sewing machine.  About 1.5mm works well.

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Assembly

Here’s how I pieced part A – the other parts are all pieced in much the same way.

Important!  When cutting out fabric pieces, always make sure that the fabric is right-side facing down and the foundation paper is printed side facing up.  This will ensure that the fabric always ends up the right way round and less fabric is wasted due to miss-cuts.

In my example, I have chosen a cream music-score print as the background fabric, a big floral print as fabric 1 (the main parts of the crane) and a solid pink as fabric 2 (the smaller detail parts of the crane).

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The first piece (A1) of part A is background fabric.  I folded the paper along the stitch lines so that I could get a good idea of the shape of the piece, then cut out a piece of background fabric with a very generous seam allowance.  It’s a good idea to secure the first piece of fabric to the paper with a few pins to stop it wandering off where it shouldn’t.

I then repeated the process to cut out A2 (here, A2 is cut from fabric 2).

When held up to the light, you can see that the fabric comfortably covers area A2 with plenty of seam allowance.

Next comes the clever bit!  I stumbled across this trick on the internet, but can’t remember where, I will add a link if I find it again.  This is an easy way to join the two bits of fabric and make sure that they cover the right areas.  It seems fiddly initially, but it works brilliantly and soon becomes second nature.

First, make sure both pieces are covering their respective areas, then pin along the stitch line between the two areas, like so:

When the piece is flipped over, the pins create an anchor point for where the seam will be.  You can check whether the seam allowance is large enough, and trim it back a little if it’s very large.  (I recommend caution with trimming, though – if something goes wrong then that extra fabric might be useful for re-alignment.)

Next, fold down and pin the main flap of the second piece (A2 here) so that the fold runs snugly along the stitch-line pins, like so:

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Try not to distort the fabric, and make sure that the pin(s) does not catch any of the seam allowance underneath.  Flip back to the paper side and remove the pins along the stitch line.  This will allow the seam allowance of A2 to be unfolded:

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The fold in the fabric should line up nicely with the stitch line.  If it does, sew along the stitch line between A1 and A2:

Fold A2 back along the stitched line to make sure that it is still correctly covering the whole area:

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If all is well, the seam allowance can be trimmed to 1/4″ (with a rotary cutter – the scissors are just attention seekers!), set and pressed:

Repeat the process for A3 (fabric 3 here):

The last piece of part A is A4, another background piece, attached in the same way as before:

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Once the whole part is pieced, it can be trimmed to size along the outer edges by using a ruler and rotary cutter (there is no need to add an “extra” 1/4″ allowance, it is already included):

If you have cut out the paper parts carefully, the risk of cutting paper with the rotary cutter blade should be minimal – the 1/4″ seam allowance should line up with the 1/4″ mark of the ruler.

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Part A is finished!

Assemble parts B-E in the same way. and join them as described in the pattern.  Note that the seam for D6 can be trimmed to 1/8″ if necessary.

Joining the parts

For larger areas of fabric (particularly the background), it is helpful to pin it in place to the paper to stop it wriggling and wrinkling during the final assembly.

Part A is joined to part B:

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Use pins to line up the two parts so that the points match:

I put a pin straight through the all points I want to match and then use more pins to secure the two pieces together, then sew along the seam line:

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Then open it up and check that the points match!

Hooray!  :)

At this point, I removed the paper that covers the seam allowance between the two parts (this saves a lot of hassle later!), making sure not to stretch the surrounding fabric too much, and press this seam open to reduce bulk:

Part C attaches to part D like so:

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Part E attaches to the top of CD:

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Last of all, AB is attached to CDE to make the finished block:

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If all has gone well, no unpicking will have been necessary and the block will be 12.5″ square (12″ finished):

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If the blocks aren’t going to be used for a while, it’s probably worth leaving the paper attached for support; it can be carefully removed if the blocks are to be used straightaway.  Be gentle when handling the blocks and removing the paper; due to the nature of foundation piecing, the fabric grains will be pointing in various directions and it will be very stretchy and easy to distort as a result!

Ooops…

Things don’t always go to plan:

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I wasn’t concentrating and attached a new piece before I’d pressed the previous one!  That seam ripper came in handy; luckily I could get away with a partial unpicking to release the pink triangle so it could be pressed properly.

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So don’t do that!  :)

Over to you

I hope this tutorial is interesting and helpful.  If you make something with this block, please link back to me and show me what you’ve made, I would love to see it.  :)  If you have any feedback or comments, I would also love to hear them – please let me know if there’s something that I’ve missed or if something isn’t clear!

Linking up with Monday Making, Sew Cute Tuesday and Let’s Bee Social when it goes live.

Frogging in the Frost(Byte)

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So…. yeah.  I’ve had this kicking around for a while now and I found I kept making excuses not to do anything with it.  Slowly I’ve come to the realisation that this is because I really, really don’t like the way the quilting has gone on it, and there isn’t a lot I can do to salvage it because it’s slap bang in the middle of the quilt.  Eugh.  To quote pretty much every grumpy toddler I’ve ever met, I DON’T LIKE IT!

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Once I realised this was the problem though, it allowed me to admit the possibility of changing it.  If I really don’t like it that much and it’s stopping me from making any progress, maybe I should remove it and start again?  To this end, the other evening I grabbed my seam-ripper and started my frogging: “Rip-it!  Rip-it!”  I’ve only managed to unpick a small corner so far (I blame my horribly erratic FMQ stitch lengths and the hard-to-see thread) but I already feel like this is the right thing to do.  To be clear, I’m just getting rid of my terrible fail-feathers (fail-thers?) and the pebbling and the scratchy zig-zagging, but I’ll leave the general structure of big wonky hexagons – they help hold the layers together and I can work with them.

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And do I have something else planned instead?  Yes, kind of.  For months this project has been folded up and abandoned in various places in my craft room and those gorgeous fish on the backing fabric have been beckoning to me, making me feel bad for neglecting them.  I can ignore them no longer, so the new plan is to start by quilting from the back around some of those wonderful fishies, and then decide what else (if anything) to do next.

Cute koi!

A change of quilting thread is also likely because I’ve discovered blues I like better than my original choice.  Or maybe I’ll use metallics, since I’m a glutton for punishment like that.  In any case, there is a Plan, but first I have to get rid of all the crap I put on there before I knew what I wanted.  Ho hum.  All mistakes in life should be this easy to fix!

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Right now, in my head, that sounds like a euphemism for something ruder.  And it’s all my own fault, too.

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Really, I don’t know what I was thinking.  The general concept – applique a bunch of green prints in the shape of a Christmas tree – was simple enough, or it should have been.  But there’s nothing so simple that I can’t usually find a way to make life harder for myself!  Instead of using fusible web or freezer paper templates (like any sane person might), I decided to use paper templates to cut out my shapes and then attempted to glue-baste them.  Uhmm…. not so satisfactory.  I think I had vague ideas of being able to trim back the backing fabric afterwards to reduce bulk, and also avoid that slightly “crunchy” feel of fused fabric.  But… this is going to be a Advent calendar wall hanging!  It doesn’t need to be snuggly!  No one will care if some areas are bulkier!  WHAT WAS I THINKING?!  Ahem.  Still.  This is the stuff of which learning curves are made, I believe.  Also, I don’t actually own any freezer paper (it’s not such a common supermarket sight here in the UK), but this project has made me want to get some to try – I think it would have been better than what I did do.

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And then, to make things even better, I started to machine applique around my glued-on shapes with thread that was entirely the wrong shades of green and in completely the wrong style of satin stitch – too wide, too dense.  In fact, it looked so dreadful that I didn’t even pause to find the camera – that stuff got hit with the seam ripper so fast it didn’t even have time to blink.  If you want a mental image, picture a fat, stripy green worm with ugly kinks in it laid across some fabric, and you’re about there.  Luckily, I also have a goodly quantity of plain dark green thread that is doing a much better job of things, especially with a less dense zig-zag stitch to lighten things up as well.  Also, turns out that sewing green to other green with more green is hard work – who knew?!

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So all the green has now been safely appliqued, which at least means I can stop panicking about losing bits of fabric or the paper pattern.  It’s not Christmas for a while yet, but I’m persevering with this because I would like it done now, please.  And really, there isn’t much more to do – just baste and quilt it and attach the Advent pockets in a pleasing way.  And next time I try to do something like this, I will know better how to deal with it – or at least what not to do.

Linking up with Monday Making!

Craft Swap!

A friend from an online game and I decided to do a craft swap before Christmas.  She’s a very clever beader and made me three truly fabulous bracelets.

In return, I am making her a wall hanging using my Paper Crane pattern.  I hope she likes it!

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I re-sized the pattern from the original 12″ finished block down to 8″ finished, which was more manageable (and meant I could fit more of the pieces onto one page of printer paper).  Then I picked out my fabrics and set to!  After some humming and hawing, I ended up with four pairs of fabrics I liked, and decided to make four cranes.  The set-in triangles are fabric I originally bought to make box bags with, but the slightly oriental feel and the colours went so well that I couldn’t resist using it for this project!

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Then a house move/Christmas/New Year/work happened and I didn’t manage to make much more progress until the last couple of weeks, when this project has leapt forward again.

Craft goes in craft place; unfortunately, so did everything else...
Craft goes in craft place; unfortunately, so did everything else…

I’m now busy quilting it and hope to be able to send it off to its new home in Kentucky very soon!  :)

Linking up with Monday Making!

Science! Baby Quilt

And suddenly, a baby quilt!

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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.

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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.

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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!  :)

Linking up with Monday Making, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop? and TGIFF (when they go live).  :)

Origami Crane Cushion

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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.  :)

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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!

Linking up with Monday Making, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop? and TGIFF (when they go live).  :)

Foundation-Pieced Crane – Quilted!

Here’s what happened to the foundation-pieced crane I showed off in the last post:

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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:

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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.  :)

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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!

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And here it is all together:

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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.  :)

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and WIP Wednesday.  :)

Adventures in Foundation Piecing

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:

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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.

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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*

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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….!  😀