A Slothful Rainbow Finish

The original sketch Slothy is based on.

April has been a strange month for me. It’s not been unproductive (in terms of crafts or work), but it feels like it was. Weird. However, I can share a finish that has taken me to some new places and that I am very proud of – the Rainbow Sloth is finished!

It took a degree of dithering over a few of the finishing details (how to do the face/eyes/claws, to embroider or not to embroider, hanging solutions, leaf arrangement and attachment), but finally it has all come together!

The face was trickier than I expected – mostly because I wanted to show the classic sloth face-markings but not end up with something that looked like a skull. To make it appear “fuzzier”, I ended up quilting the white areas quite heavily with a thread with a special property – Madeira’s “Halloween” glow-in-the-dark polyester thread, which quilts really nicely. I deliberately allowed the quilting to overlap the darker areas in places to help blend the transition better, and left the eye and nose markings unquilted so that they retained some dimension and definition.

I perhaps slightly lost the plot for some of the face quilting – in my defence, it’s quite a challenge to quilt with a colour that blends in perfectly with the fabric you’re quilting!

Sloth’s eyes and nose are scraps of a synthetic, slightly metallic, leather-look fabric that I have had for literally years – more than long enough for me to forget how annoying it is to sew with. It sticks to the machine’s foot, rucks up and generally refuses to stay put – and of course you can’t pin it where it’ll show because pins leave “scars”. I had to completely re-do both eyes after the first try ended up a total mess.

However, it was also a great choice for the claws, so when I came to do them I pinned a generously sized piece of tissue paper over the area I wanted to place the claws, drew claw shapes based on what I could see through the paper, then carefully slid a piece of the synth-leather underneath so that it was sandwiched between the quilt top and the tissue paper.

This made stitching it down along the lines an infinitely more pleasant and accurate experience – to complete the look, I only had to carefully trim the excess material away from my stitched lines et voilà! Claws!

As you can also see, I did decide to embroider a bit on the leaves – and I think I can say with confidence that I can totally do French knots now! The floss used for all the embroidery is DMC’s speciality glow-in-the-dark thread – because if you’re going to glow, GLOW! Right? Right! This is the same floss as I used to outline Slothy, and a bit is also couched into one of the vines on the branch.

Without rootling out and setting up a tripod, this was the steadiest photo I could manage of the piece after the lights went out, but it shows the general idea. I’m really pleased that the different patterns of French knots on the leaves can actually be distinguished, and the glowing stars on the background fabric can be made out, too.

Because I knew that I wanted at least some of the leaves (especially along the top) to overlap the edge of the quilt, I had to think carefully about the order of attaching the binding, hanging solution and leaves so that they didn’t interfere with each other. To begin with, I trialed different leaf positions until I had a look I liked, then attached them one by one. To keep the nice leafy look of them, the best way to attach them appeared to be to stitch along either side of the midvein of each leaf, far enough to to make sure the leaf was firmly attached and wouldn’t flop, but not so far that the stitching would obstruct other features or get in the way of the binding. This also means that the leaves can be pulled back to “peek” underneath.

If I hadn’t literally only just had this thought, it could have been super-cute to add some little “hidden” creatures underneath the leaves as a kind of quilty “Easter egg” – ah well, perhaps next time! 😉

Once the leaves on the branch were attached, I tackled the hanging solution:

After quite a lot of thought, I made a folded “sleeve” that matched the top edge of the circle, interfaced it for support, drew a couple of angled lines at either end and, with the aid of a lil more interfacing for reinforcement, inserted long buttonholes along each line, but only on one side of the sleeve. The idea is that a wooden dowel can be passed easily through the buttonholes and be held inside the sleeve, thereby supporting the quilt despite the slightly unconventional shape. The sleeve was initially attached to the back of the quilt with a line of stitching 1/8″ from the edge, then held down more firmly when the binding was attached. (Incidentally, this photo also shows a bit I’m really fond of, namely, the “ghost” sloth on his branch, created by the quilting on the back. I was very particular about matching the needle and bobbin threads so the shape is really easy to make out.)

The binding was next – I confess I “cheated” a bit here and used a nice navy-blue satin binding from my favourite haberdashery shop in Cardigan, folded around the edge of the quilt, clipped into place and then secured with this decorative leafy stitch. Part of me is still slightly wondering whether I should have used a green thread for this, but actually I like that it doesn’t shout for attention against the rest of the quilt, while keeping the “rainforest” theme.

Ghost sloth is made of stars and rainbows!

Finally, with the binding safely on, I could attach the last three leaves at the bottom (the stitching holding them in place overlaps the binding) and call the piece finished. 🙂 It has certainly been an interesting journey and the destination, I hope, will not disappoint the recipient! Slothy is on his way to his new home in Canada right now, hopefully he’ll have a swift(!) and comfortable journey. He also allows me to tick off a scrappy milestone myself, given that he is almost entirely made with materials I already had in my stash – the only things I bought specially were the two glow-in-the-dark threads and the binding – and creating that ticker-tape effect sure had me burrowing through the scrap baskets!

Will be linking up with Needle’n’Thread Thursday, Can I Get A Whoop-Whoop and TGIFF – all links in the sidebar.  🙂

Dyeing to Experiment – Round 1

I’ve long been fascinated by the dyeing process – heck, my second-year web project at Uni was on the chemistry of fabric dyes – but it’s been a while since I last tried to dye fabric myself. I did dabble with fabric dye for the Pantone Marsala challenge a couple of years ago, but that was a pretty straightforward dye bath with Dylon – dunk, wait, rinse, wash, sew. More recently, I have been intrigued by ice-dyeing and the Japanese technique of shibori resist dyeing. Was there, I wondered, any good reason why these two techniques couldn’t be combined? I couldn’t see one! For added fun, my fabric for this experiment was printed white-on-white with a feather pattern:

Shibori + ice-dyeing + print fabric?  WTH, let’s DO this!

Originally I bought 6m of this fabric thinking that I would ice-dye it and make a dressing gown from it, although I’ve since decided to use it just for dyeing experiments and look for a different fabric for my dressing gown. To make it easier to handle, I cut it into four ~1m pieces and one ~2m piece, then washed them all with Colsperse to remove any fabric treatments. Unfortunately, I probably didn’t use enough Colsperse – after reading some fairly fruitless and contradictory results from an internet search, I emailed Colourcraft (the makers of Colsperse) to ask them directly how much I ought to use when washing fabric in a washing machine with their product (it is the 21st century and I have better things to do than wash umpty metres of cotton fabric by hand!), and what they told me suggested that I should have used three times as much. This may be relevant later on.

After looking up some shibori tutorials and ideas online (the Townhill Studio blog was especially helpful), I felt like I had a reasonable handle on what I should be aiming for, so I cut one of the 1m pieces into four very generous fat quarters and started marking up the first with a pattern of loose, wavy lines with my water-erase pen – or I tried to! Unfortunately, it’d been a while since I last used that pen and it had dried up with neglect, so I grumblingly decided to use my air-erase marker pen instead – a rather crucial decision, as I will show later. All marking and sewing was done on the reverse of the fabric.

I’m actually not a big fan of this pen in general – it disappears disconcertingly fast (except when it doesn’t), so it was a bit of a race against time between marking up the fabric and managing to get it stitched while the ink was still visible. Add a thumping migraine and I really wasn’t a happy bunny last Saturday!

Townhill Studio suggests using short lengths of white yarn or thick cotton as stoppers at each end of the stitching, but I didn’t have anything like that instantly to hand, so I used some small, cheap beads instead – it worked, kind of. I also started off using Superior Thread’s Bottom Line for the stitching, but this turned out to be a very bad idea because it snapped far too easily when I tried to draw up the threads. I found myself replacing several lines of stitching in this first piece and subsequently used Guettermann polyester thread, which is much stronger, for all stitching (although it is very much not immune to breakage if pulled too hard!). When sewing the lines, I found it went much faster if I finger-pressed along the line before I started to stitch – it made it much easier to follow the line as drawn. As mentioned, this was absolute murder to do with a migraine, but I really liked the effect once it was finished! (And I had downed some painkillers and hidden in a dark room for a bit…)

The next design I tried was some concentric circles:

I marked a staggered grid of dots 5″ apart (errrm, except for one I apparently didn’t measure right!), then used a cotton reel and a roll of masking tape as templates to draw the surrounding circles. The outer circle was sewn with a single pleat like the ripples, the inner circle was sewn with a line of running stitch and then gathered and bound firmly into a “stalk” with the remaining thread tail. I also tucked a bead into each gather and positioned it in the middle of the circle, where it became a knobbly end to the bound-up stalk.

Unfortunately I don’t have any WIP photos of the third piece of shibori I tried – it was late and I was tired! It was a random scatter of six-pointed snowflake shapes drawn in different sizes across the fabric, then each spoke was sewn with a single pleat. The fourth fat quarter was left entirely un-sewn so that I could see how the fabric dyed without additional shibori effects.

Some of the air-erase pen marks were still quite visible, but Google suggested they could also be removed with water, so I immersed all my pieces (including the un-marked, un-sewn one) in cold water overnight to remove any remaining marks. (HA!)

The following morning, I set up my dyeing rig – a set of stackable wire cooling racks and a plastic box that the racks fit into like they were made for it, both purchased from local discount store Charlie’s for £not lots.

Two racks fit neatly in the box and still allow the lid to be put on; three racks peek over the top but could still work if I really wanted them to.

Two fat quarters fit nicely side by side on one rack, so I set up two racks so that the upper fabrics would drip dye onto the lower ones. Plenty of newspaper was put down to save my floor from any potential spillage of dye.

I also armed myself with some plastic spoons for handling the dyes, the gloves that came with my dyeing kit and a dust mask to prevent inhalation of anything nasty:

For the ice, I bought a bag of party ice from the garage across the road, then smacked it repeatedly with a rolling pin to break up the ice cubes a bit:

I used about 3/4 of this bag of ice for this dyeing session.

Now I have to make a confession here. As much as I like the notion of tie-dyeing and ice-dyeing, I don’t overly like the “rainbow vomit” effect that often seems to occur when these techniques are used. Shibori usually manages to be much classier, and I have decided that a key factor in this is the restrained use of colour. Consequently, I decided that I would only use a maximum of two colours on each each of my pieces – turquoise and navy blue for one side and ultra blue and emerald green for the other side:

Six of these came in a starter kit, the navy blue, black and emerald green were bought individually.

Before I could dye my fat quarters, however, I needed to finish preparing the fabric by soaking it in a solution of soda ash so that the dyes would stick to the fibres better, and here is where that air-erase pen came back to bite me:

The moment the soda ash solution hit the fabric, all the purple pen marks returned with a vengeance – useful for a spy sending a secret message maybe, but since I’m not and I wasn’t, I wasn’t best pleased! In fairness, I had been half-wondering whether this was going to be a problem so although it was very annoying, it was not a huge shock. Fortunately, after half an hour in the soda ash solution, the marks seemed to dissipate quite a lot and I figured that any that hadn’t would probably be hidden by the dye anyway, so I moved onto the next stage, arranged my fabrics on the racks, covered them with chunks of ice and finally sprinkled generous quantities of my chosen dyes over each side:

RHS: Navy blue+turquoise, top: shibori ripples, bottom: shibori snowflakes. LHS: Emerald green+ultra blue, top: shibori circles, bottom: plain fabric.

I covered the box with cling film to stop everything drying out and then left the whole lot for 24 hours to melt and do its thing. Well. I did poke the snowflakes a bit at one point to make sure they were being thoroughly dripped on.

The racks did a fantastic job of holding the fabric out of the melt-water dye mix.

24 hours later, all the ice was well and truly melted and I was keen to see what results I’d got. I was really quite surprised to see what had happened to the green+blue side particularly. For a dye that claimed to be blue, it sure contained a lot of red. The green split a little too, although not as obviously. In comparison, the navy+turquoise side was much more as I expected to find it.

I used Procion dyes and clearly they’re not all pure colour – some are blends of different colours and the different dye components separated in a chromatographic fashion thanks to the movement of the water (mobile phase) over the fabric (stationary phase). Interesting, but not exactly the look I was going for! Dangerously close to Rainbow Vomit, in fact. “Ultra” blue is perhaps not all that ultra after all! However, I rinsed everything thoroughly in cold tap water and performed the rather tedious task of unpicking all the shibori stitching I’d spent so long putting in. Next time I will find some white yarn or cotton to use instead of beads – it will be much easier and I won’t feel compelled to salvage scraps of yarn like I did with the beads! A hot wash with more Colsperse and I could finally see the finished effects (the fabrics were still damp in this photos, so they’re a little darker than when dry):

It’s a bit of a mixed bag! The shibori tended to be not as distinct as I hoped, and I have some theories as to why, which I will discuss below. The circles were the most effective, probably because of the chromatographic effect of the separated dye components. I’m not mad on how the colours worked but I think there’s promise there. The plain fabric from below the circles is what I was expecting to see when I applied green and blue dyes. It’s ok, although a stronger, darker green would be nicer. The snowflakes were a fail as far as the shibori stitching was concerned (pretty much none of them came out) but the feathers against the marbled blue background is really attractive so I can’t call it a complete fail. The ripples worked pretty nicely, I was relieved to see. And not a hint of purple pen anywhere, thank goodness!

On a more general note, the colours (especially the navy blue) ended up being much less saturated than I expected and wanted them to be. Stronger colours would help improve the shibori contrast and the appearance of the feathers, so I will aim to improve upon this in future experiments.

Conclusions and Conjecture

This was a really interesting first experiment and I learned a lot. The first thing I learned is that air-erase pens are a poor choice for marking shibori designs! I’m looking into some chalk-based marking tools right now, in fact. I also learned that dyes cannot be relied on to not split when used with the ice-dyeing technique, although this may result in interesting effects when planned for.

The shibori stitches generally did not work as well as hoped, which I put down to several possible reasons: 1) 24 hours may be a long time in politics – it’s certainly a long time in fabric dyeing! Long enough for dye to wick into even the most firmly stitched folds and pleats, perhaps? I suspect so. 2) In my attempt to remove the pen marks, the fabric was really well soaked with water before application of the soda ash solution and before dyeing – I theorise that this excessive wetness may have facilitated the movement of dye into the stitched folds. A shorter soaking time may produce crisper results in future. 3) The stitching wasn’t tight enough – next time I will use yarn stoppers and better thread.

Concerning the comparative lightness of the dye colour on the finished pieces, I suspect that part of the problem was too little Colsperse during the pre-wash phase, which thus failed to remove all the “finish” on the fabric before I dyed it. This finish would prevent the dye from sticking properly to the fibres of the cotton. Certainly there was a fair bit of “loose” dye released from the fabrics during rinsing. I also wonder if the water in the very wet fabric diluted the soda ash solution too much, which would also reduce the effectiveness of the dye. A shorter soak in water and a longer soak in the soda ash solution might help. After the email from Colourcraft (and having seen the results of experiment #1), I re-washed the remaining un-dyed fabric with the right amount of Colsperse, so it should now accept dye better.

Things to Try Next

  • A different marking method that doesn’t react with soda ash!
  • Less (no?) time soaking in plain water, longer soaking in the soda ash solution
  • Less time under the ice (8-12 hours max?)
  • “Staged” dyeing process – start with the lighter dye, then add a second darker dye (possibly with extra ice) after ~8-12 hours?
  • Get a washing bag for protecting delicate items in the washing machine to reduce fabric shredding (the dyed pieces were pretty badly knotted and matted together after their last trip through the washing machine)
  • Try stitching some designs on a sewing machine with a long-ish stitch length – will not work for all techniques but might be a real time-saver for others

This has given me plenty to think about and I am not nearly done with my experiments yet!  I hope I can share more results with you soon. 🙂

Feeling Slothful?

I’ve been a bit distracted by my most recent Craftster craft swap – this time for a mini “art” quilt, however you define that! Having looked back over previous art quilt swaps, it seems pretty open to interpretation. Luckily, my partner provided a number of different “themes” and colour schemes that she likes – some of which are unfamiliar to me, others I can get right behind. “Bright rainbow colours” and “sloths” jumped off the screen at me (and indeed, she has a lot of sloth pictures pinned!), so… Rainbow Sloth it is!

The ticker-tape technique has intrigued me since I saw these two stunning examples by Craftster member sheepBlue, but I hadn’t had a suitable project that was crying out for the ticker-tape treatment until now. To check the validity of the idea, I looked at a huge number of sloth photos on Google, then did a rough sketch of a pose I liked and filled it in with a “ticker tape” effect in coloured pencil. Warning, very sketchy sketch ahead!

Yes, this could work! Although not with a white background, obvs. My partner also mentioned that she’d be interested in a “non-standard” quilt shape, so I decided to try a circle.

After cleaning up and re-scaling my rough doodle in Inkscape, I printed out templates for the circle and the sloth and got cutting. The background fabric was not my first choice, but actually I really like it – the stars glow in the dark! I may throw some other glow-in-the-dark features at the quilt before I’m done, too. Essentially, some part of me still has all the taste and discernment of the child of the ’80s I once was..! The star fabric also got a decent application of starch on the back because it seemed quite flimsy and I didn’t want it stretching or wrinkling as I added things to it. I hoped to applique the sloth by using a freezer-paper template method, but it turned out that my freezer paper is broken, so bondaweb had to come to my rescue instead. Slothy hasn’t been ironed in place yet because I wanted to do his branch first and also because I got terribly distracted by leaves.

Apparently one side is meant to be shiny? My roll did not get that memo!

I have never tried reverse applique before, but this looked like a good moment! After drawing a selection of leaf shapes in different sizes on card and cutting them out, I used these templates to cut out a bright “markings” shape the same size as the template and a green “leaf” shape to which I added a seam allowance of ~1/4″. I then drew a mid-vein and some organic curvy markings on the back of the pink/purple fabric:

Once these markings had been over-sewn with green thread and straight stitch, I carefully clipped away the green fabric to expose the bright-coloured markings on the right side of the leaf, then used my couching foot to couch dark green rayon along the mid-vein and around each leaf marking, to make them really pop:

For good measure, I threw some faux-punto into the mix as well!

Instead of wadding, I used a couple of layers of thick-ish sew-in interfacing that I seem to have masses of, and added it before I couched on the rayon embroidery thread, then carefully clipped away the excess away from the mid-vein and markings:

To give the leaves a finished look, I backed them with a different green fabric, then turned them through, gave them a quick press and topstitched all the way around to close the turn-through gap:

Finally, to make the “faux-punto” really stand out, I set up my FMQ foot and doodled free-motion “veins” between the leaf markings to hold the front and back layers together and enhance the leaf appearance:

Even without the FMQ, the leaves still had a really pleasing feel and dimension to them, with a nicely convincing leaf-like curl. I am really proud of how these came out (although I could have done without my thread breaking umpty times during the free-motion sewing!), and I think they’ll look good on the quilt, too:

(That may not be a final placement!)

As you can see, I’ve already filled in the branch with ticker-tape bits, the next job is to quilt those down (there’s already faux-punto wadding underneath) and figure out how to add texture to the tree bark. Slothy will get some faux-punto too, when I get to fixing him in place – which can’t happen until I decide whether any of the leaves are going to go behind him or not. Lotta new things and experiments in this, so huge amounts of fun for me! 😀

Linking up with Free Motion Mavericks.

 

With Love… – March #TheHoneyPotBee Mod

Here is my block mod for #TheHoneyPotBee #AsYouWishBlock by Alida of Tweety Loves Quilting. It was inspired by Alida’s own suggestion for a border for the envelope block – I saw those lovely Flying Geese and my mind started flying too!  I’ve often wanted to play with “wonky” Flying Geese because so many of the designs with them are so striking, and I wanted to show that this was a letter with love in it, so I tweaked my Geese to slowly evolve into hearts.

You will need:

  • A completed #AsYouWishBlock, made with Alida’s pattern found here
  • The Flying Hearts pdf pattern, found here
  • Your usual sewing paraphernalia
  • Fabric for the Flying Hearts (scraps work well for these)
  • Fabric for the background
    • Cut a rectangle 4-1/2″ x 5-1/4″ from your background fabric before you start
  • A rotary cutter, cutting mat and quilting ruler
  • Clover wonder clips or similar (optional, but they do make life SO much easier!)
  • Embroidery thread and needle (optional)

All seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise noted. Familiarity with the foundation-piecing technique is assumed.

Piecing

First, download the pdf of the paper pattern and print it out. Seam allowances are already included in the pattern and do not need to be added.

IMPORTANT!  Make sure that you print the pattern in landscape format with no scaling or at 100%, and use the 1″ square to make sure that the block has printed at the right size, or it will not fit the #AsYouWishBlock!

Cut out sections A-G, and note the layout and piecing as shown in the coloured image and described below.

  • Section A – A1, A5, A8, A11, A14, A17 and A20 are Geese, all other pieces are background.
  • Section B – B1 and B3 are the Arrow, all other pieces are background.
  • Section C – C1 and C4 are the Arrow, all other pieces are background.
  • Section D – D1 and D5 are the Heart, all other pieces are background.
  • Section E – E1 and E5 are the Heart, all other pieces are background.
  • Section F – F1 and F5 are the Heart, all other pieces are background.
  • Section G – G1 and G5 are the Heart, all other pieces are background.

TIP! You may have noticed that this mod has some pretty small pieces in some of the sections. Don’t panic! Make sure you cut a bit of fabric that will cover that piece and that is generous enough for you to handle comfortably. After all, it will be trimmed to size during piecing and you may even be able to use the offcuts for another area! 🙂

Piece all sections using your preferred foundation-piecing method. Join D>C, then DC>B, then DCB>A. Join E>F>G. You should now have two rectangles ABCD (4-1/2″ x 14-1/2″) and EFG (4-1/2″ x 5-3/4″). Do not remove the paper until the entire #AsYouWishBlock has been fully assembled.

Embroidery (Optional)

If you would like to embroider something on the top-left rectangle, do so before assembling your block. A blank “template” rectangle is given in the pattern pdf for you to draw and/or write on… as you wish! You can then use your preferred fabric-marking method to transfer your design onto the 4-12″ x 5-1/4″ rectangle of background fabric (I used a window as a “light-box” and traced my letters with a fine pen), then embroider it with the thread and stitches of your choice. If you need a lil inspiration, I highly recommend checking out Mary Corbett’s Embroidered Letters lessons. She also has a wonderful array of different stitch tutorials if you want to try something new. 🙂

Block Assembly

Join the 4-1/2″ x 5-1/4″ rectangle of background fabric (with or without embroidery) to section EFG.

Join this to the top of the #AsYouWishBlock.

Join section ABCD to the right-hand side of the #AsYouWishBlock to complete the Flying Hearts design.

Enjoy your letter, sent with love!  🙂

Pantone Challenge 2017 – Something Greenery for St. Patrick’s Day?

Remember that fashion for lime-green a while back? That stuff was EVERYwhere! Now that trends have moved on, it’s pretty common to find unloved lime-green apparel on the racks of many a charity shop round about. Some of it is really nice quality linen, and I have been diligently collecting such items whenever I have encountered them for… hmm, several years now!

Some of my pre-loved pieces are more lime-green than others! (Terrible photography notwithstanding – stupid rainy Welsh weather, spoiling the light…)

Charity shops are great places to “mine” for interesting specialty or luxury fabrics if you don’t mind doing a bit of rummaging and can adopt a “work with what you can find” attitude to the process. Originally I started collecting old ties and other 100% silk items from charity shops and have amassed quite a collection of gorgeously coloured and patterned silks that I would have struggled to assemble from “regular” fabric shops. Some of my silk ties were recently showcased in a EPP hexagons project with a bit of a difference.

Something else you may find in charity shops is hand-embroidered linens, and here began my linen-hunting journey. During a routine tie-hunting mission in the Tenovus shop in Haverfordwest several years ago, the lady behind the counter drew my attention to a set of circular table mats in several different sizes – six small, six middling and one large, just right for a very decorous tea party – with an attractive pink-and-purple pansy-ish design.

“They’re clearly machine-done,” she sniffed, “but you could take the lot for £10.”

I looked a lil closer.  They were not machine-embroidered.  The back of machine embroidery doesn’t look like that!  Not to mention, the Mystery Embroiderer who made these mats has missed little areas – the curve of a pansy petal left not quite finished, the curious absence of clusters of French knots.

Did she miss these bits by accident?  Run out of floss or time?  Get bored and just want finished?  We’ll likely never know!

Given the cracking deal I was getting on all the ties I’d found in the shop, I figured that a tenner for the mats wasn’t bad going and so they came home with me. I’m not a huge collector of embroidered pieces but these were rather appealing. But what to do with them? The obvious idea, given my growing interest in patchwork and quilting, was to use them as appliqued elements in a quilt, but the linen ground fabric looked “wrong” on the quilting-weight cottons I sat them on and the local fabric shop’s linen offerings weren’t much better, being quite a coarser weave and in not terribly attractive colours. Back to the charity shops, then! The linen used in clothes is usually a fairly fine, nice quality and I decided it would be quite fitting to applique my charity-shop embroidered mats to charity-shop linen patchwork.

One smaller mat lived permanently folded up in my handbag so that I could pull it out and “sit” it on any potential candidates and gradually my collection of green linen grew. I did once try buying a couple of things from Ebay, but the colour matching was horrible and something advertised as 100% linen proved to be a linen/viscose mix – not what I wanted at all!

To date, this has been a real back-burner project, rumbling on gradually as I’ve slowly collected resources for it. The clothes have been washed as I collected them (some of them more than once after an Unfortunate Coffee Incident…), but not taken apart because I was afraid of it all shredding before I could do anything sensible with it – piecing the body of the top is definitely an “in one fell swoop” task, I feel.

It’s being poked forward into the light now thanks to the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year Challenge, run by Sarah of No Hats In The House and Rebecca of Bryan House Quilts. What could be more suitable for Greenery than a quilt made of recycled green linen? At the very least, it’s made me dig out the supplies and examine them and I believe I have enough to make a nice throw quilt at the least. No guarantees on whether it’s likely to get finished by the Challenge deadline – I’m definitely no Cindy Needham or Kelly Cline! But it’s a really good excuse to make a start on this project at long last. 🙂

The Crystal Crown – February #TheHoneyPotBee Mod

After the very positive response my modification of the #SewRoyalBlock got on #TheHoneyPotBee Facebook group, I asked Molli about the idea of sharing the pattern for it and got an extremely supportive thumbs-up, so here it is – a foundation-pieced band of glittering jewels to adorn your crown.  Rainbows optional, but fabulous!

You will need:

  • The pdf of the pattern, found here
  • Molli Sparkles’ pattern for the #SewRoyalBlock, found here
  • Your usual sewing paraphernalia
  • Fabric for the “diamonds”
    • approx. 3″ x 2″ scraps work well for this; note that the central diamond is longer than the others!
  • Fabric for the background
    • a 5″ strip cut from a fat quarter should be more than enough
    • cut two 1″ x 4″ strips from your background fabric before you start foundation piecing
  • A rotary cutter, cutting mat and quilting ruler
  • Clover wonder clips or similar (optional, but they do make life SO much easier!)

All seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise noted. Familiarity with the foundation-piecing technique is assumed.

Assembly

First, download the pdf of the paper pattern and print it out. Seam allowances are already included in the pattern and do not need to be added.

IMPORTANT!  Make sure that you print the pattern in landscape format with no scaling or at 100%, and use the 1″ square to make sure that the block has printed at the right size, or it will not fit the #SewRoyalBlock!

Cut out sections A-G and note the piecing order and layout as shown in the coloured diagram. Piece 1 in each section is the coloured diamond; all other pieces are the background fabric.

Piece the sections using your preferred foundation-piecing method, then join them in the order A>B>C>D>E>F>G. The clips are really helpful for holding sections together and flat as you join them. Do not remove the paper until the entire #SewRoyalBlock is completely assembled.

Take the two 1″ x 4″ rectangles of background fabric and join them to the short edges of your jewelled band as shown below. Use the ruler and rotary cutter to trim the strips level with the top and bottom of the band (see diagram).

Your finished band should measure 3″ high and 8-1/2″ long.

Now, get on over to Molli’s place and follow the instructions there to assemble your #SewRoyalBlock, using your jewelled band in place of the horizontal gold-and-purple band.

Stand back and admire your beautiful new crown!  🙂

The Honey Pot Bee – March Blocks

How did it become March so fast? Moreover, how did it get to be almost the middle of March so fast?! That’s just rude, that is.

Anyway, I managed to finish my March Honey Pot Bee blocks over the last couple of days, so I can show them off now. 🙂

First up is the Echo block by Amy Garro of 13 Spools.

These blocks went together so quickly and smoothly that I didn’t take any progress pics! Despite (or perhaps because of) its elegant simplicity, this block gave me a lot to ponder as I tried to fit it into my “scrappy, RSC17+contrast colour” theme for some of the Honey Pot Bee blocks. This month’s RSC17 colour is red, for which the contrast colour is green. Although I like Christmas colours, I wanted to avoid a very “Christmas” vibe for these blocks, which meant very careful selection of the green – tricky, since I love dark forest greens and consequently have a lot of them! Going completely scrappy was an option, but I liked the colour contrast between the two halves and wasn’t sure I had enough different red fabrics to pull off the look I wanted. I briefly considered making one half of each block green, but then decided that was less of a highlight and more of a direct competitor for the red. In the end, I decided to use two different reds in each block, and “tie” the blocks together by using the same greens in each. Even while making the blocks, I came up with still more ways I could have approached it. Part of me is still pondering whether I should try and make some of the other variations I considered! However, I’m pretty pleased with these ones, especially the way that solid red vibrates against the grey background, and they look pretty smart next to the other blocks in this “family”:

I think I did the right thing. 🙂

Next up is the As You Wish block by Alida of Tweety Loves Quilting. I had a LOT of fun with this one! I really like foundation (or paper) piecing and have really started to explore the possibilities of my own paper-pieced designs, so when I saw the Flying Geese as a “serving suggestion” in the original pattern, I couldn’t resist having a play with the idea and taking it a little further. I drew up an encircling string of Flying Geese in Inkscape, then tweaked them so that they gradually became Hearts that are either floating into or out of the envelope, depending on how you view it:

The blank space on the left looked rather bare, so I decided to embroider the words “With love…” on it in a pretty font – more on that below!

Although the Geese in the layout are all the same colour, I decided to do an ombre look in the real thing, running from blue through purple to red:

The Geese pieced really well despite having some quite dinky bits, and I was really pleased with how they framed the envelope block:

Being a bit of a Doctor Who fan, I couldn’t resist making the envelope Tardis Blue and lined with stars. I don’t think that’s the Doctor’s handwriting, though… 🙁

The embroidery took the longest, partly because of decisions I made. I chose a font that was not very complex, but also wasn’t a very thin line, so it had to be filled in somehow:

I used a red Frixon pen to trace the font onto my background fabric, then set it up in a plastic clip frame:

Not sure how much I like this frame, it was quite difficult to get much tension on the fabric without the clips coming undone. I don’t think I’d want to use it for Srs Embroidery.

My next poor decision was to use pink-and-purple variegated rayon to do the letters in satin stitch. The thread colour doesn’t go well with any of the other block colours and embroidering with the rayon proved quite a fiddle! If I did this block over, this is the bit I would do very differently. However, I didn’t have much of the background fabric left so I persevered with it, and the final block is not too bad, even if it’s not what I would choose with hindsight!

And you’re going to laugh at me now, but I didn’t know Frixion pens erased with the heat of an iron! I’d only chosen them because of the fine line they draw:

My careful marks to indicate the corners of the embroidered area vanished along with the creases I was trying to get rid of after I unframed the fabric – whoops! Instead I had to use a quilting ruler to get the text reasonably central when I trimmed it down. This block was a real learning experience in so many ways. Overall though, when it sits with its Bee mates, I think it looks pretty good.  🙂

I still don’t quite know what the destination is, but GOLLY I am enjoying the journey!  🙂

A Little More Pfaffing

I have a confession to make.

I may have slightly accidentally bought a new sewing machine.

…Ooops?  🙂

My Quilt Expression 4.2 was due (overdue, really) for her second service last month, so I dutifully packed her into the back of the car and took her on the road trip to Carmarthen.  While there, I cast a wandering eye around the shop (which is usually packed to the rafters with assorted makes and models of sewing machine) and lit upon the dainty form of a Pfaff Passport 2.0.  It’s a model I’d seen there before, and I had been intrigued by the notion of a portable sewing machine that still had the integrated IDT system and build quality of my larger Pfaff.  Recently I have been battling with a lot of lower back pain, so a smaller, lighter machine to carry to Quilt Club and to have set up for piecing duties at home, while the 4.2 handles the larger piecing and quilting jobs, was not a new or unwelcome idea.  I’ve also always slightly suspected that the QE4.2 does not really appreciate having her considerable personage lugged about hither and yon like a piece of cargo, although she bears it nobly.

Seeing my interest, the shop owner (not being daft!) encouraged me to have a play, and also mentioned that he had a newer Passport 3.0 available as well.  I had to have a play with that, too!  The main differences between the 2.0 and the 3.0 are mainly down to the stitch library (the 3.0 has about 20 more pre-programmed stitches) and an auto thread-cutter (2.0 doesn’t have this, 3.0 does).  Otherwise they’re pretty similar in layout.  The price difference?  Thanks to a deal from the shop owner, about £50.  Another advantage is that most of the feet I have for the QE4.2 will also fit on the Passport (with the exception of the FMQ feet because it’s a different system).

Built to travel with a hard case and a slot for the pedal and cables!

I pottered around town while the QE4.2 had her service.  I came back to the sewing machine shop.  I had a bit more of a play.  Mum met up with me and we went for tea to discuss the idea.  One does not spend several hundred quid on a new sewing machine without some deliberation first!  Was it a sensible purchase?  Would I get enough use from it?  In the end, the fact that I had recently received a little more money from my great aunt’s estate, which happened to be about the same as the cost of the machine, was the clincher.  Also the fact that, personally, 2017 has had a rough start and godsdammit it’d be nice to have something nice and spoily.  So, thank you VERY much, auntie Hillary!  I now have two sewing machines to remember you by.  I think you might approve of that.

Of course, with a large (and rather unplanned) purchase like this, there’s often a little nagging voice that says, “…Did I do the right thing?  Was this the right use for that money?”  I got my new machine home, but didn’t even manage to unbox her initially because work was busy and the little bit of sewing I did manage, I did on the QE4.2 because she was all set up and ready to go and I don’t want her to think I don’t love her anymore.  In fact, I didn’t manage to pull out my Passport until last Thursday, so that I could take her on her maiden trip to Quilt Club and do some foundation piecing (more on that soon, I hope).  I’m thrilled to say that it was a very comfortable experience (by which I mean that I was not in crippling agony the next day) and she sewed beautifully.  Buyer’s remorse, begone!  😉

Sisters by a different mister? Big Pfaff in Little Pfaffing? Pfaff and Pfaffability? …Ok, I’ll stop now!

Thank goodness I have a big craft table!  😉

Jars and a Crown

Yup, more Honey Pot Bee blocks!  I shook off some work yesterday and spent the afternoon happily making Quilter’s Pantry blocks to, imo, good effect:

This is the one I’m keeping – I couldn’t resist pairing up these two novelty fabrics like this!  Here it is next to the Strawb:

Not totally sure where this is going, but if nothing else, I’ll end up with a number of blocks that I can use in smaller projects if I like and I’ll have had fun making things I might not have otherwise.  That’s a win in my book.  🙂

The jars were so much fun to make, in fact, that I decided to make more and put them together into two little tops for Project Linus:

They’re intended for premie babies and babies in ICU, so they really don’t want to be too big.  Now, however, I am trying very hard to shake off a mental image of a larger baby quilt with lots of different shapes and sizes of jars to play “eye spy” with.  And I totally don’t have enough novelty-type fabric for that.  *sits firmly on hands*

While I was playing with my jars, Molli smacked us all with another Wild Card block – the rather glorious Sew Royal block – because what’s a bee hive without a Queen (or several!) and what’s a Queen (or King) without a crown?  A challenge was also issued – take this crown and make it your own.  Challenge accepted, my friend!

I woke up Inkscape and marked out a rectangle for the band of the crown, thinking that some foundation piecing and diamond shapes were in order.  After some fiddling, I ended up with a band of off-set diamond or kite shapes I was happy with:

Once I had the foundation-piecing sections marked up, I printed them out and got piecing.  I used two diamond prints from Jennifer Sampou’s Shimmer 2 for the points of the crown, and a third dotty Shimmer 2 print for the band because I didn’t want a directional print in all that foundation piecing!  I think this crown may end up going with my RSC17 blocks, so I used Kona Graphite for the background:

The scraps of colour were just that – scraps I dug out of my recently sorted baskets and arranged in colour order to make sure they flowed well before I pieced the sections.  I still rethought my red and purple choices during assembly, though.

In general, I think it came out ok.  There was one lil hiccup, but I saved it and I don’t think it’s obvious to the casual observer so I’m certainly not going to point out what it was.  You get an Internet Cookie if you guess, though.  😉  (Or possibly a Welsh cake, since I made a bunch of them yesterday.)

See my side-bar for link-up buttons!  🙂

Bleen and Grue!

No, not a number between six and seven and a thing you are likely to be eaten by.  I’m talking about turquoise, aqua, blue-green, green-blue, aquamarine, seafoam, teal, cyan, cerulean – the colours that lie in the spectrum between “true” green and blue.  They can be awkward to work with sometimes, but I love them anyway.

This is February’s RSC17 colour, and to continue on with my plan of combining two sewing challenges into one I chose use it to make one of February’s Honey Pot Bee blocks, the lovely Star Kisses by Fi of Living Cloth.  Turns out that I have lots more of this colour group than I thought, so much so that I ended up further splitting it away from the blue and green baskets I put together a few weeks ago.  I need more baskets, dammit!

Once I’d gathered all my teal-ish scraps together, I carefully sorted them into three broadly similar piles.  Then I said, “Oh sod it,” and jumbled them all up again to make my blocks.  Larger or more distinctive prints were used for the feature squares and the other colours were used for the smaller squares and flying geese corners.  Once again, my Shimmer 2 left-overs played a significant part thanks to having a number of gorgeous prints in this colour family.

To continue my theme of adding in a contrast colour, I dug out a slightly corally pink blender (not actually the one I had in mind, but the only one I had enough of to make what I wanted) and threw it at some of the star corners to add some punch and variety.  When rootling around for fabrics, I also uncovered a big chunk of Tula Pink’s Chipper fox print left over from making a tee-pee and was overjoyed to find that foxy fitted neatly into a 3.5″ square, so I couldn’t resist doing this:

The pink of the blender is just about close enough to the pink on the fox for it to work well, and the background is teal.  Clearly Tula knows her colour wheel too, lol!  The blocks went together really well despite my cavalier approach of not bothering to draw diagonal lines on the flying geese squares.  I just trusted the Pfaff to sew straight and aimed it at the opposite corner.  It worked pretty well!

Initially, however, I wasn’t wholly sure about the first fox-free block I made, but after I looked at it from a distance and after a night’s sleep (and next to the purple Starflower blocks from last month), I decided that I do love it and am very happy with the way both blocks have turned out:

I’m really enjoying how this is going so far and I’m looking forward to seeing how this more “modern” rainbow sampler ends up.  I’ll keep on making two blocks each month for this project and keep adding in quirks through the use of the contrast colour.  Tomorrow I plan to make several of the other Honey Pot blocks for February, the Quilter’s Pantry block by Adrianne at On The Windy Side.  I don’t have all that many “novelty” prints, but I’m going to make the best of what I’ve got.  🙂

Roll on March!  😀

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