Tragedy and Comedy Finished

…and here it is all quilted and bound:

Tragedy and Comedy

I could maybe have been a lil more creative with the quilting, but in the end I kept things fairly simple, with sharp stippling in red and back on the masks and smooth stippling on all the background areas.  The eyes and mouth were left largely unquilted because I liked the way that looked.

Quilted texture

The back shows the quilted design really clearly as well:

Because this is intended as a wall hanging, I added corner pockets at the top to hold a dowel, and did reasonably successful machine binding for the first time ever thanks to the application of loads of Clover wonder clips:

Corner pockets

All the quilting was done by using the 6D spring foot with Guettermann Sulky rayon thread, a 80/12 embroidery needle, a tension of 4.0 and a pivot height of -1.

I didn’t have any skipped stitches (that I noticed) and very few thread breakages.  This was a HUGE improvement over the last time I tried quilting with rayon!  This time, the thread behaved really well, even allowing me to thread-paint over some warbly spots where I’d wobbled off the line thanks to my not-amazing FMQ skills.  Woo!

It’s in the post to its new home now and I will be in a mild state of anxiety until I know that it’s arrived safely and that its new owner likes it – most Craftster swaps are done with a reasonable degree of secrecy so unless she’s checked out this blog, the recipient should have no idea what I’ve sent her.  *bites nails nervously*

This Is My Proud Face

…and also my Tragedy face and my Comedy face:

Here’s the original design for comparison:

So, that worked then!

Well. Crap.

I’m not going to claim there were no hiccups along the way, the seam ripper saw action more than once, but on the whole I was pleased by how well this design went together.  It was probably rather overkill, but it was also massively educational and will give me loads more confidence to tackle the creation of the other foundation-pieced designs I have in mind to do.  It’s now all basted up and ready for me to start quilting on once I’ve shovelled a bit of work out of the way first.  Yay!

Honey and Rainbows

I’m kind of eyeball deep in cracking the piecing of the mini swap quilt (and, ummm, keeping up with the day job), but I decided to take a cheeky afternoon today to limbo under the January deadlines for two online quilt bees – the 2017 Rainbow Scrap Challenge and the Honey Pot Bee.

The idea behind joining both these follow-along projects is to make me use more of my scraps – and it seems to be working so far!  And yeah, I am totally merging them to kill two quilty birds with one patchwork stone.  😉

The Honey Pot blocks for January (there are two each month, picked by two different people each time) were Strawberry and Starflower.  I also joined the Facebook group, and have been blown away (and rather intimidated!) by some of the examples people have come up with.  However, finally I rounded up some suitable scraps and made my own versions of these blocks.  Here’s my Strawberry (I decided I only wanted to do the small version):

It’s supposed to look like it’s ripening, but I’m not sure how apparent that really is!  It came out quite traditional in appearance, and made me dip into some very chintzy Moda prints that I got in a scrap pack some time ago.  I’m not sure about the use or positioning of that stripey shot cotton, but I CBA to unpick it – it stays!

I’ve already decided that I’m likely to end up with (at least) two quilts after this exercise – one that’ll be more scrappy-happy like the Strawb and one that will be slanted towards the RSC17 theme, that is, whatever the current month’s colour is on a Kona Graphite background.  Speaking of, here are my Starflower blocks:

I didn’t originally intend to add yellow here, but when cutting my purples I found I’d miscounted and only grabbed seven – instead of having another rootle in the purple basket, I thought it might be more interesting to chuck in a complementary colour for one blade of the star and the Shimmer diamonds were begging to join in, so in they went!  Thankfully, the purple looks better against the Graphite than I feared it would – it’s a pretty dark grey and if I didn’t have 5 yards of it, I would probably be considering something a bit lighter.  However, I really like this and am half toying with the idea of sticking with Starflower as my RSC17 block and making them all like this – seven blades in the colour of the month, plus one in the complementary colour.  I think it might be interesting, but I might do a mock-up in Inkscape first to make sure.  Or I can stick with seeing what February’s Honey Pot blocks are and choosing the most appropriate to go along with the Starflowers.  Decisions, decisions!  And it looks like Molli’s just posted the blocks for Feb, so I’m gonna go have a read and a ponder.  🙂

Craftster Mini Quilt Swap

Work is trying to bury me under the Christmas backlog, it’s tax return month and I just lost a favourite pet, so of course it must also be time for me to do a craft swap.  In fairness though, I signed up for this one before life went a bit nuts.  Just one of those things you can’t predict.  To add to the fun, I have elected to do a massively complicated self-designed quilt layout – again, a decision I made before things went a bit sideways in my non-quilty life.  However, it’s been a good distraction and I adore a challenge, so for the past couple of weeks I have been chasing polygons around in ever-decreasing circles.  Also, diamonds?  They are SO not a girl’s best friend!

My partner in the swap specified red, black, white, grey and silver as favourite colours, and the theatre and travel as interests.  I’ve always quite liked the duality of the tragedy and comedy masks, so I did a Google image search and looked at loads of images to get some inspiration.

Comedy and Tragedy by Martha Bennett

This one in particular, which featured diamond patterns in red and black on the masks, really caught my eye and set my mind whirling.  I didn’t want to copy the image exactly, but I liked the notion of diamonds and red/black and fragmentation so much that I decided to play with it more, and came up (after a few variations) with the image below.


Did I mention recently that I love Inkscape?  I really love Inkscape!  Hooray for open-source vector jiggery-pokery!

Drawing the basic image, however, proved to be the easy bit.  The swap organiser has firmly stated Views on the subject of applique, so this is going to have to be foundation pieced, and I’m aiming for it to finish at about 16-1/2″ square.  It will be by far the most complicated foundation piecing I have yet done, and orders of magnitude more complicated in design than my Origami Cranes.  Even with my slowly improving skill at getting Inky’s snapping features to do my bidding, it took me quite a lot of fiddling, experimentation and pondering to sort out a workable-looking “map” of component parts for the comedy side, and yet more time to do the same for the tragedy side because of the very awkward blend of mirror and rotational symmetry, except not quite.  The diamonds proved to be really quite awkward to piece around in a reasonably non-destructive way, but I’m pretty much there now and part of my shopping trip last Saturday was to Calico Kate in Lampeter so that I could pick up some nice fabric for the quilt – because of the fiddly nature of the pieces, I wanted to make sure I had fabrics that would “read” clearly (and enough of them!).


The red, the black and the silver/grey dotty ripples are new, the other bits are scraps of RK’s Shimmer 2, Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost and a speckly white/silver/light grey effort that I can’t recall the name or make of, which I had kicking around in my newly sorted scrap bins and wanted to also include in the background.  This is a pretty good representation of the actual colours, unlike subsequent pics, which were taken under the rather yellow lights in my craft room!  As a useful exercise, I wrote out comprehensive piecing instructions and diagrams to help with assembly.


Tentatively, I started assembling the first section, and was gratified to find it behaving itself.


I’m loving this squiggly red print!  Really striking against the shimmering background.

Right from the get-go, I decided to trim all seams within each section to 1/8″, rather than the more usual 1/4″, which has helped a lot to manage seam bulk already.  Given this is an art/mini/wall quilt, and I’ll be quilting it fairly well, I decided I could get away with a smaller seam allowance here.  Completed sections are joined with a 1/4″ seam pressed open:


Another thing that has proved extremely useful for joining completed areas is mini binding clips.  I bought some recently because they looked so jolly handy for all sorts of things (and they were on offer on Craftsy!), and decided to use them here instead of pins to avoid rippling up these fairly small and heavily pieced bits.  It works a lot better!


The top section was joined using pins, the bottom section was joined (mainly) using the binding clips – there’s a definite difference in accuracy!  I’m thrilled that this looks to be working so well, and I hope to crack on and do the rest in fairly short order so that I can get to the quilting.  🙂

Scrap Heap Challenge

To return to more familiar, less sad topics, one of my goals for 2017 is to do more with my fabric scraps, which has already begun.  However, to keep up the good work, I realised that I needed a better system than a large bin full of bits of everything I’ve made since I started quilting.  What I had was this:


…but absolutely full to over-flowing with bits of fabric.  The only way I could fit everything in was to stuff everything in as hard as I could, and to find anything I had to upend the entire thing onto the floor and paw through it in the hope that I’d find the specific bit I was looking for.  Obviously, not really a great solution.  Enter these:


During my shopping excursions last Saturday, I made sure to go to Cheapie Charlie’s and pick up a dozen plastic baskets in two sizes to sort my scrap fabrics into in colour groupings.  However, it wasn’t until yesterday that I got a chance to prise them from the world’s stickiest labels and actually put stuff in them.  Despite fears at one point that I’d underestimated the required number/size of baskets, it worked out really well:


As I guessed they might, blues, greens and white/cream/neutrals vastly outnumber all the other colours, so I suppose I’ll be doing a blue scrap quilt next.  🙂  Other colour groups I chose were red, orange, yellow, brown, pink, purple, grey and black, plus one basket for very mixed prints that refused to fall obediently into any specific colour group.  I also threw away a fair bit of volume in terms of really ratty old wadding that was still attached to the trimmed edges of previous quilts and the really super-tiny scraps or ultra-skinny strings that I honestly couldn’t see myself doing anything with.  I’m sure some fabrics ended up appearing in more than one colour grouping, but that’s ok.  I’ll either re-sort if necessary or they’ll add a nice bit of variation.

To continue the organisational theme, I’ve started to sort my embroidery threads into the shiny new plastic storage boxes I bought for them.  I say “started” because it’s quite a slow process (great for when ignoring watching TV!), but it really needs doing and it’s super-satisfying to see a tangled soup of flosses become nice, tidy, usable rows of bobbins.


Years ago I bought a whole load of embroidery flosses in plastic bags.  They weren’t in skeins, they weren’t labeled, heck, I don’t even think they were really sorted.  Maybe they were left over from kits?  Anyway.  At the time, I sorted them as best I could, knotted them into approximate skeins and kept them in a ratty cardboard box, as you see here, along with other skeins I bought subsequently, plus tangles of WIP friendship bands (remember those?  I was a lil obsessed with making them when I was a teen).  They weren’t really useful like that though because as soon as I went looking for anything, the whole lot ended up in even more of a bird’s nest, so like any normal person would, I put the lid on and ignored the whole lot for umpty years.  Now, though, I find myself actually wanting to use them and to know what I’ve got, so I bought three large embroidery thread boxes, which handily came with card bobbins, and slowly, slowly, progress is being made:


The perle cottons (bottom left) and the Kreinik metallic spools (bottom right) may well find a different home, but I’ve already en-bobbin’ed all the metallic and rayon flosses I bought for using on quilts, plus a good amount of the mystery flosses (the pic of the cardboard box above is after my efforts last night – it was much fuller before I started!).  I’ve also got about 10 intact (or nearly intact) skeins (from a variety of makers) that were in the same box, which I may put on labelled bobbins if I feel especially enthusiastic about it, plus I have all these DMC flosses that I picked up a while ago for almost nothing at Craft, the local thrift-type shop:


Who can resist cheap brand-name craft supplies?  Not me, clearly!  I was doubting my ability to fill three thread boxes, but actually I’m starting to think I may manage it after all!

The WIP Whip-Round

Better a little late than never, today I corralled all my quilty WIPs, took new mug-shots of them all and am sharing them here in a “name and shame” list.  🙂  They range from “partly quilted” to “bunch o’ blocks”.  The Great Hexagon Project is not included since that’s my “slow stitching” thing that I know is going to be a little-and-often job and when it’s done, it’s done (or I use up the hexies in other projects).

Turns out I have 11 official WIPs.  Each one is listed in the Rogue’s Gallery below with a brief description, last sighting, photo(s) of the current state, what needs to be done next to move it along, and a project prognosis.

1. Oh, Christmas Tree


What Is It?  An advent wall-hanging.

Last Sighting:  Quilting the Christmas Tree, back in February 2016.

What’s The Hold-Up?  I really, REALLY hate quilting this thing with the wadding I used.  It’s ghastly fluffy polyester rubbish that I bought way back when I didn’t know what “proper” wadding ought to look like.  Oh, and I am using metallic thread on it because I am some sort of crazed masochist.


However, I haven’t tried quilting on it since I poked the wibbly needle-holder on my Pfaff.  The pockets are ready to attach once the quilt is finished, so I think it’s time to see if I can’t cut this tree down to size at last.

Dead or Alive?  This one’s still got life in it!  I really want to see it finished.

2. Frostbyte


What is it?  A wall-hanging assembled from a procedurally generated pattern.

Last Sighting:  Frogging in the Frost(Byte), almost exactly a year ago.

What’s The Hold-Up?  Un-doing is never as much fun as doing.  Especially when it involves trying to extract layers of not-very-good and not-very-visible machine quilting.  Looking at it today, I realised that I’d covered a lot more area than I remembered.  That makes it worse.

Dead or Alive?  I really don’t want this project to be dead, I think it still has potential buried in there if I can make myself spend some evenings attacking it more with the seam ripper.

3. The Wedding Quilt


What is it?  The “wedding” quilt that I promised to give my sister and her husband when they got married almost six years ago.


Last Sighting:  A Billion WIPs, back in January 2015!  Eeep!

What’s The Hold-Up?  I finally managed to baste it, with fancy bamboo wadding and all, but I am unduly nervous about tackling the quilting on this, especially as I’d like to do some (or all!) of it as FMQ.  Right now I’m unsure how to start or what I want to do on it, and indecision is a total progress killer.


Dead or Alive?  Definitely still alive.  My aim is to get this one done in the first half of this year, so it can be their anniversary gift.

4. Damask Suns


What is it?  A throw-sized quilt that I started as part of a group project at Quilt Club.

Last Sighting:  Something Old, Something New, August 2015

What’s The Hold-Up?  I can’t decide if I want it to be bigger or not.  Also, I wish I’d used the blue batiks for the negative space around the stars to make them more star-like.  There’s no way I’m going to try and retro-fit that, but I am considering using left-over strips to make more suns in my retroactively preferred blue/yellow combo so that it can 1) be more like I should have made it in the first place and 2) be a more sensible size.  But it’s rather at the back of the queue in terms of sewing priority.

Dead or Alive?  There’s a pulse.  Just.

5. Black&White D9P/Batik Lonestar


What is it?  A double-sided Disappearing Nine-Patch/Lonestar bed quilt.


Last Sighting:  A Billion WIPs, again.

What’s The Hold-Up?  The Lonestar back (or will it become the front?  Ooooo, suspense!) needs to be finished.  IIRC, it needs to be squared up a bit better and brought up to size.  I’m also struggling with the fact that, at this point, this may just not be me any more.  It looks like the last dregs of my teenage taste escaping.  Hmmm.


Dead or Alive?  It’s touch and go with this one.  There’s bits I really like, mostly to do with the Lonestar.  But there’s much of it that just isn’t speaking to me these days.

6. Marsala Spice


What is it?  A bed quilt I designed as part of the Pantone COTY challenge in 2015.

Last Sighting:  2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Top-Only Entry


What’s The Hold-Up?  It needs basting.  I have an idea for lining up the front and the back (or trying to!) and then doing some quite elaborate FMQ designs in the tile blocks.  I have actually bought some special soluble threads to help me achieve this, I just haven’t taken the plunge with it yet.  I also kinda wish that I hadn’t used that leafy print on the front, so that’s a bit off-putting, but I shouldn’t use that as an excuse to not finish it.

Dead or Alive?  This one’s definitely still kicking!  Despite my slight misgivings about how the final flimsy finished (morals of the story – always calculate your yardage before you go to the fabric shop and always listen to your own instincts when it comes to your own design), I like it a lot and I think it’ll be a really good canvas for some FMQ practice.

7. Irish Charm


What is it?  Scrappy Irish Chain throw/bed quilt.

Last Sighting:  Irish Charm, September 2015

What’s The Hold-Up?  Not really sure, other than my butterfly brain!  It needs borders adding (I have the fabric for that) and it’ll be backed with a sheet I salvaged from the great Airing Cupboard Clear-Out.  It’s also a project that I am actively looking forward to quilting, since I have quite a clear idea of what I want to do.


Dead or Alive?  Very much alive.  I have quite a lot of affection for this one, cutting all those squares helped me through a stressful period and I love the shabby chic, country-cottage vibe it has.

8. Crying Over Spilled Tea


What is it?  It was a test piece for me to practice the D9P block (clearly necessary, as the oops in the middle demonstrates).

Last Sighting:  Lost to the mists of time….

What’s The Hold-Up?  Lots of things, really.  The colour?  The fact that I stupidly trimmed the starting squares to 4-3/4″, thereby making cutting up the nine-patch blocks (or trimming more charm squares to make it larger) just that bit more annoying?  The size?

Dead or Alive?  Ehhhhh.  The next-of-kin and executors are hovering vulture-like over this one.  While there are things I could do to it, I’m really not sure whether the end product will be worth my time, which already has many claims on it.  It’s not even the kind of project that I’d donate to Project Linus – unless I wanted to give some poor kid a complex!  It might see new life as a test-ground for FMQ patterns.  Maybe.  And then possibly be relegated to the dog’s bed.

9. Paper Cranes


What is it?  Blocks from a craft swap I participated in over on Craftster last year, based on my own design.

Last Sighting:  Craft Swaps, August 2016

What’s The Hold-Up?  I need to make more blocks to make the layout I’d like.  The templates are printed, but I haven’t seized an opportunity to crack on with them as of yet.  Alas!


Dead or Alive?  Kicking and screaming!  This is a project I feel very positively about, plus it has other peoples’ efforts in it, which adds an extra dimension of expectation.  This will be a QAYG project, to cut it down to manageable size and provide some relief among all the BIG projects I seem to have!  Those three cranes at the top are an oops – one of my partners made them too small initially (probably thanks to US/UK printer differences), but she very sweetly did three more full-size ones as replacements, so the first three will go on the back – they’re too cute to not use.

10. Disappearing Hourglass


What is it?  Blocks I made by following a tutorial by the Missouri Star Quilt Company on Youtube.

Last Sighting:  Apparently never?


What’s The Hold-Up?  I made all these blocks with layer cakes of Moda’s Cold Spell and Snow, then decided that I wanted it to be a bigger quilt (just what is it with me and big quilts?!), so I halted progress on putting the blocks together until I got more Cold Spell (check!  Bagged the last layer cake in the shop, in fact).  New blocks will use both the stronger blues, as here, and the lighter all-cream prints, to mix things up a bit.  I also found a Moda layer cake of blue/cream flannels, which are going to be perfect as the backing.  Most of the delay on this one is down to my low distraction threshold and the comparatively low priority of this project currently.

Dead or Alive?  Alive, just dormant.

11. Monster


What is it?  A thing that should not be, horror personified in fabric form.

Last Sighting:  …In Which I Create a Monster

What’s The Hold-Up?  It’s hideous, I hate it I hate it I hate it.

Dead or Alive?  Due for a lethal encounter with the seam ripper.  RIP!  😉

So there you have it.  I’ll be honest, I was actually expecting the list to be much longer, but perhaps 11 projects is plenty when 7 of them are throw-sized or larger!  Clearly some are much more likely to see completion this year than others, but most of them still have a spark of life that makes me want to see them done and dusted.  I really want to be crossing at least some of these off by the end of 2017!

The Pfaff QE 4.2 – Two Years On

When I look at my site stats, one thing always grabs my attention – the number of views of my post “Heaven or Hell? Thoughts on the Pfaff QE 4.2“.  It is by far and away the most “popular” post on my blog!  Even when I’m being lazy and not generating much new content, it’s the post that seems to attract clicks.  I’m going to guess that it’s because many, like me, found their shiny, expensive, new sewing machine to be a bit of a challenge to get used to.  Well, it does get better, I promise!


It is a finicky machine, to be sure, but I’ll repeat here that choosing a quality needle (Schmetz seems to have become my weapon of choice, even if I do have to order them online) and good thread (I love YLI’s range of variegated quilting cottons because of the vibrant colours and I’ve also used and enjoyed Aurifil and Superior products) and making sure the needle is right for both the thread and the fabric is very important.  I stopped trying to use universal-type needles for anything a long time ago – in my experience, they just never give a nice result.  Usually I use a 70/10 microtex needle with YLI’s Soft Touch in Natural for piecing – this combination gives me nice, accurate seams and the light beige colour blends well with most other colours.

For quilting or embellishment, anything goes!  I switch to a heavier needle (usually a 90/14 quilting needle) to use with thicker quilting cottons or a metallic needle to quilt with metallic thread.  I’m not OCD about changing needles every 8 hours, but I do change them regularly and especially before and after really big projects.

Regular servicing is also a must for any sewing machine.  My Pfaff is now due for its second service, I just need to be able to steal the car for the (now rather longer and more tedious!) drive to Carmarthen to the shop I bought it from.  When I take it in I’ll be asking about the needle threader, which vexingly is no longer lining up with the needle eye.  It’s a small thing, and a feature I never thought much of before I had one, but I really miss it now!  At least I can thread my own needles if I have to.

Between services, I do my best to keep the bobbin area reasonably free of fluff.  While I was making mum’s wall hanging, I found that the Solvy shredded little bits all over the place during sewing (as a film, it is noticeably more brittle than most fabrics), so I made sure I cleaned them out of my machine frequently – I’m not sure what it’d do if it dissolved inside the Pfaff, but I am very sure I don’t want to find out!  At the same time, I managed to track down and evict an entire herd of dust bunnies that had wedged themselves into difficult niches and grown to monster size.  I had to use tweezers to grab them and hoick them out of their nests, just poking them with the little brush really wasn’t doing it.

Speaking of tweezers, recently I found myself performing a little “minor” surgery on my machine and it’s something worth checking.


I was in the process of making this little HST quilt top for Project Linus – a super-speedy, fun little thing – except that it wasn’t speedy at all because I found that my needle was refusing to stay in the needle-holding assembly, no matter how many times I tried to re-seat it and tighten the screw.  It was deeply annoying.  While fiddling about with it and cursing, I noticed the small screw at the back of the needle holder and observed that the whole assembly was very loose and rattly.  It’s also part of the thread path (that silvery hook affair at the base), so it’s an important little bit of kit and it occurred to me that it really shouldn’t be as wobbly as it was.


Without really thinking about it, I undid the screw and the whole needle holder fell apart into a bewilderment of very tiny bits of metal.  Whoops!  Luckily, I didn’t lose any of it into the guts of the bobbin area, and after careful examination of the little bits and application of the afore-mentioned tweezers and a set of very small socket screwdrivers (I have a Thing about socket screwdrivers), I managed to reassemble it again and make sure that the rear screw holding it all together was tightened properly.  To my vast relief, it would hold a needle again – PHEW!  And in fact, the Pfaff is now sewing noticeably better since my impromptu tinkering.  I definitely wouldn’t recommend randomly disassembling bits of your sewing machine without very good reason, but I would say that it’s worth checking that the needle-holder assembly isn’t really loose if your stitches are not looking as good as they might, given that it affects both the stability of your needle and the security of the thread path.  If it’s hard to get at the screw, try moving the needle as far as possible to the right, so that the shaft is not right in line with the IDT system.

Pfaffing with Feet!

My collection of feet for the Pfaff keeps growing – it’s like a mechanical centipede!


I got these five (L-R: piping foot, couching foot, beading foot, cording foot and braid foot) as a set in a very good deal when I was wrestling with the piping on the Shimmering Weekender for my sister.  It was better than no piping foot, but I wasn’t convinced that it was up to the task of wrangling the sheer mass of fabric I was trying to feed through the machine.  (you have to disable the IDT system to use it, unfortunately)  So far, the only other foot I’ve used from this set has been the couching foot, and I’m keen to find an excuse to try the other three this year!  I already have some beaded trim – I need to find an unsuspecting project to put it on.

Given that I want to make a Weekender for myself at some point, I paid a visit to the Pfaff stand at the Festival of Quilts and asked for their advice after my difficulties with assembling my sister’s version.  They recommended the grand piping foot as a better alternative to the little plastic standard piping foot.


As you can see, it’s a much heftier beast, and can be used with the IDT system.  Making myself a Weekender is something I really want to do this year – I will report my findings with this foot when I do!

The last foot I bought for my Pfaff last year is the 6D spring foot for machine embroidery and free-motion quilting:


I have four variations on the theme of FMQ feet for the Pfaff, but this one has easily become my favourite.  I held off from buying one for a while because I wanted to be absolutely sure that it would work with the Quilt Expression 4.2, but the ladies on the Pfaff stand assured me that it would, and it’s a purchase I have not regretted.

So, that’s a bit of an update and a “where I’m at” with my brilliant, tricky sewing machine.  After the weekend, I’ll be sharing an overview of my UFO pile and what they need to become finished.  🙂

A Birthday Bunch of Flowers

And here it is!  The official First Project of 2017!  I made this for mum’s birthday at the beginning of January – a shot of spring in the middle of winter.

We already have a lot of cushions, so I decided to make a wall hanging this time, with a flower motif and a blue background.  After rootling through my scrap bin and pulling colours I liked, I decided to do tulips and daffodils.


To make the background and the appliqued flower petals, I randomly pieced fabric together.  The blue background was trimmed to 15″ square and I cut petal shapes from the red and yellow scrap fabrics.


I used my couching foot, matching thread and a specialty embroidery floss (metallic red or yellow rayon) to attach the petals to the blue background, which I had already sandwiched with wadding and a pretty butterfly print as the backing:



The stems were also machine-couched, using a pretty variegated green thread and some left-over yarn from my crochet scarf – the colour variation is subtle but pretty.  🙂  The quilt was partially quilted when I appliqued the petals and stems, but after some pondering I decided that it needed more!  Using the same green thread that I’d used to couch the stems, I used FMQ to doodle leafy planty shapes along the bottom of the quilt, kind of like thready zen doodles:


I’m not very good at feather shapes!  But otherwise, these turned out nicely and emboldened me for quilting the “sky”, which I did with light-blue variegated thread and loose swirls and echos around the flowers.  I decided not to worry about quilting over the stems and it’s not very obvious where I did.


As is often the case, the quilting is much more obvious from the back:


I’m glad I did it, it makes the piece look much more finished and I like the movement of the sky quilting.  Before I attached any embellishments, I trimmed the quilt, added corner pockets at the top to hold a dowel, and bound the quilt with a nice dark red print.

Obviously, by now you can see that something is missing – my flowers don’t have enough petals yet!  Here’s where my secret weapon comes in – soluble stabiliser, aka Solvy.  It’s something I have been fascinated by for a long time and I happened to buy a 10m roll of it a few months ago so that I could play with it.  This seemed like a good time to try it out and make my flowers a bit more 3D.


I took scraps and snippets of specialty embroidery floss and little bits of ribbon and sandwiched them between two sheets of Solvy in an old plastic embroidery hoop (luckily, it just fitted under the Pfaff’s foot if I raised it to max height).


Then I used FMQ to “draw” my petals and fill them in with stitching so that they would hold together and form useful structures.


Initially I did little overlapping circles on the daffodil petals and trumpets, but when I got to the tulip petals I’d gained more confidence in my technique so I tried a more needle-painted look to resemble the markings on real tulip petals – I’m quite pleased with the effect!


It is still possible to see the shimmer of the metallic or rayon threads in the petals after they have been cut out and soaked to dissolve the Solvy.  One problem I found was that this method is not a very efficient use of the Solvy – the size of the hoop put limits on how large I could make the petals without the sides of the hoop interfering with the mechanism of the sewing machine, so I used a different technique subsequently.

The final embellishment to make, following the theme of the backing fabric, was a butterfly.  This time, I used a scrap of blue-green organza as the bottom layer of my Solvy sarnie and filled it with snips of blue, green and silver metallic embroidery floss.  Then I stitched over the whole area of the embroidery hoop with overlapped circles and doodles with iridescent white metallic thread in the needle and variegated gold metallic thread in the bobbin (I kept the bobbin thread the same for all of the butterfly stitching – like many real butterflies, mine has a comparatively plain outer wing).  This was a much more efficient use of the Solvy – once the hoop was filled, I removed it from my sandwich and used a butterfly outline I found online to mark out the shape of two fore wings and two hind wings, all of which fitted nicely on my sewn area.  Using variegated dark blue quilting thread, I couched metallic blue embroidery floss around my wing shapes to give them a clean edge and also used the same thread and FMQ to stitch veins across the wings.


Finally I added sequins and beads to amp the glam level up to 11, fashioned a little body from two glass beads and a silver headpin, and attached everything to the quilt by hand.  The daffodil trumpets were by far the most annoying part to attach – thank goodness I only needed to do four of them!


It was a few days’ effort, and I am so pleased with how it came out given how experimental some of it was.  Importantly, mum seems to like it too.  The other reason that I am proud of it is that, other than one new embroidery floss skein (the yellow rayon), all the materials in this quilt came from my stash or my scraps bin.  2017 – the year of the scrap quilt?  Bring it!  ;D

Linking up with Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday, Free Motion Mavericks and Oh Scrap – all links in my sidebar.  🙂

A (Belated) Look Back At 2016

Well.  That was an… interesting year.  I would prefer not to have another one like it any time soon, please.  But on the crafting front, I think it went better than expected for me.  I completed a big commission, did some experimenting, built a city out of fabric, and sent some hexagons ’round the twist (and some others around the world!).

I sewed for charity and for others, and even snuck in a project or two for myself.  I successfully participated in two sewing swaps – one for quilt blocks of my own paper-pieced design and one for EPP hexagons.



There were some hiccups too – I still haven’t got back to my fairly terrible shot-cotton project to salvage it yet:


It’s still quite possible that that lot will have a one-sided meeting with a seam ripper; I haven’t decided yet and I have other, more biddable projects calling for my attention.

So there was quite a diverse range of projects and techniques, really!  Bags, quilts, cushions, dressmaking, crochet, beads, machine quilting, hand quilting… I learned a lot from each of these projects and I’m looking forward to seeing what new things I learn in 2017!  I’m pretty sure it will involve dyeing – I treated myself to a Procion Dye starter kit that just arrived and I’m really looking forward to playing with it.  The main challenge with that will be creating dyed fabric that doesn’t look impossibly hippy-ish.  Nothing wrong with the hippy look, but it’s not really me.  😉  There’ll probably more embroidery too – I have a delightful box of hand-dyed House of Embroidery embroidery flosses that arrived on the 24th of December (Happy Christmas, me!) that I keep crooning lovingly over – they really are gorgeous.


They’re a shameless indulgence, but I do have some projects in mind for them and I got them on offer thanks to Mary Corbet’s Needle n’ Thread.  There were several different options for buying smaller colour groups, but when I realised that I loved several sets too much to choose and that all the ones I liked would add up to a larger boxed set, I caved in!  There’s a really nice range of colours in this set, including loads of greens, my favourite colour.  🙂


The on-going hexagon map project is still on-going and I have several other WIPs that I’d really like to take by the scruff and finish at last – most notably my sister’s wedding quilt (it’s basted, let’s see if I can get it done by their anniversary in June!), my long-neglected Marsala quilt (I have some great thread and ideas lined up for the quilting, just need to figure out getting the beggar basted), and my scrappy Irish Chain needs some love (and borders).  There’s a pile of other projects waiting for attention, too.  I’m sensing a not-too-distant-future post with a run-down and prognosis for all my major WIPs and goals for 2017.  I also already have a 2017 finish to share soon that was a test-bed for a technique I’ve wanted to try for some time, so I’m really looking forward to showing it off here too.  🙂

Hexagons With A Twist

In part 1 of n, I mentioned that I was getting quite into EPP.  Part of the reason for this is because I’ve had a project in mind for quite some time, but was unsure how feasible it would be.  The project would involve hexagons, but generated by a small program written by a good friend of mine, which can output .svg arrays of hexagons that range from perfectly regular to highly distorted according to the preference of the user.  To test the practicality of piecing the distorted hexagons, I selected a small sample (90 hexies) and, after some grooming of the shapes in Inkscape to avoid any concave angles, I printed out two versions – one on card to cut for templates and one on paper to use as a guide for later assembly.

To make life even more complicated, I decided that I wanted to piece my distorted hexies from recycled tie silk.  I have a large collection of silk ties that I have purchased from charity shops, washed and unpicked for use in patchwork.  They come in a marvellous array of colours, patterns and weaves!  Some are very thin, whereas others are are much more thickly woven.  To stabilise my silk and stop it behaving badly or shredding too much, I ironed my chosen colours to the lightest interfacing I could obtain locally.  I didn’t put too much thought into colour arrangement – just grabbed a hexie and a silk at random and put them together.


The distorted hexies were a bit more fiddly than regular hexies, but my examples were quite small and I suspect the distortion factor was quite high for this sample.  If I repeated this project, I would make the hexies larger and a little less distorted.  They do look really cool, though!

Thanks to my “map” of the layout, the assembly of the finished hexies went quite smoothly:


Once my hexies were complete and assembled, I had a band of distorted hexagons looking for a home, so I appliqued them to a square of grey Essex yarn-dyed linen that I had hunted down at the Festival of Quilts particularly for this project.  I really love this fabric, the weight and texture of it is lovely!  It does shred terribly easily, though – I used an edge-binding stitch on my square to stop it unravelling completely before I managed to finish the applique and quilting.

Once the applique was finished, I made up a quilt sandwich and hand-quilted the hexagon strip with wavy lines in blue perle silk and the linen with straight lines in grey perle cotton, then turned the finished top into a cushion:


I really, really love how it turned out!  Originally it was intended as a birthday present for my friend who wrote the hexagon software (it seemed very apt to give him something generated from his code), but the piecing and hand-quilting took a bit longer than I expected so it ended up being a Christmas present for him instead – I managed to finish it just in time.  🙂

Despite the challenges of this piece, I really want to try it again, with some modifications, and also with more control over colour placement.  This may be a really good application for some of the beautiful Liberty prints I indulged in when I was at the Festival of Quilts!  😉

Linking up with Monday Making, Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday and Oh Scrap – all links in my sidebar.  🙂