A Commission: Blue Diamonds

When I heard my cousin was getting married, I offered to make the happy couple a quilt as a wedding present, but they decided that it wasn’t something they were really looking for and declined the offer.  I’m completely fine with this – I would have welcomed the challenge of creating something to fit their minimalist, modern style but a quilt is such a big investment of materials and effort that I don’t really want to make one for someone who isn’t all that into the concept – certainly not a big bed-sized one!  However, my aunt happened to mention my offer to her mum, who announced that she would rather like to commission a quilt, please and thank you!

After a phone chat with her, I had a firm grasp of her desired colour scheme (royal blue, emerald green, aqua) and her general inspiration (a checked silk in that colour scheme from Malaysia), so I went away and doodled up a few possible options for layouts and took a whole mess of fabric photos so that she could have a look at what was available to me locally and pick out the ones that appealed to her.

She selected the diamonds as her preferred layout and several fabrics from Artisan Spirit’s Shimmer range, which I was super-happy about because I adore those prints!  A bunch of maths and a surprisingly lengthy amount of humming and hawing in the local quilt shop later, and I was all set to start making the quilt top.  Because the palette ended up being fairly constrained, I decided to make the design more regular rather than random:

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The colours are terribly approximate (that’s what you get when you don’t use EQ and you don’t have the time to import swatches into Inkscape), but you get the idea!  It took me a little while to gather the confidence to start cutting (I’m always more nervous about that when it’s on someone else’s tab), but thankfully my maths was on point and the construction went really swiftly once I got my teeth into it – it’s a repeated shape, after all.

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Thankfully, it was possible to do some strip- and chain-piecing, which made life a lot easier.  Because of the way I handled the sashing, I ended up needing to do partial seams on two sides, but some careful thought and measuring made it a pretty painless experience.  In fact, I found the hardest part to be assembling strips on a diagonal – it was difficult to keep track of where I was, especially when I was working from an image on my laptop screen!  Eventually, I did the sensible thing and printed out a layout that I could scribble on with impunity, and that made life a lot easier.

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It grew quickly!  To pin it, I took it to the village hall and sneakily borrowed an unused kitchen floor while the Wednesday Toddler group was using the main hall – I really am going to have to make something nice for the lady that runs that group, I’d never be able to pin really big quilts without her help!

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Like a numpty, I forgot to take my camera along when I did the pinning, so I didn’t get a pic of the whole thing when it was all spread out nicely – only a pic of half or it, which is all that would fit on my craft room floor!  While I was piecing, I cut whole diamonds for the set-in edges, and when the whole quilt was done I realised that I really liked the look of the points along the sides so I decided to keep them!  Initially I considered rounding them off to make scallop shapes, but was then persuaded that the diamond points were more in keeping with the rest of the quilt, so they stayed untouched.

I kept the initial quilting very simple, just running in the ditches along the sashing, with the idea that this would stabilise the layers nicely and allow more complex quilting if desired.  Once this “core quilting” was done, I decided to do a little extra straight-line quilting on the set-in triangles and diamonds around the edges to secure them where I wanted them to stay, then attached the binding.  I knew that I would be seeing my aunt’s mum at the wedding and decided to take the quilt along so that she could see it and tell me whether she wanted any more done to it.  To my delight, she was thrilled with it and didn’t feel that it needed any more quilting.  (Not that I would have minded the FMQ practice!)  I’ve since been busy burying all the thread ends (I think I’ve found them all now – I did my best to keep them in predictable places) and hand-finishing the binding, which is almost half-way done now.  I love the look of hand-finished binding, to my eyes it really completes a quilt (also, I kind of suck at machine binding, lol!).

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Thank goodness my other cousin and my brother-in-law are very tall chaps!  😀  The lady on the left is the recipient; I brought the quilt with me on dog-sitting duty so that I can finish off the binding and add a label, then I’ll deliver it to her on my way back to Wales.  🙂

I also really want to revisit some of the also-ran layouts I came up with, especially the one with the curves and the modified log cabins.  Possibly in different colourways, though!  😉

Give me Liberty!

…Or give me some other patchwork fabric.  That works too.  Yeah, I wonder how many times that pun’s been used?  Oh well!  :p  I seem to be failing hopelessly at not buying fabric right now, although at least a smidgen of it is for a commission.  I’m not sure if that makes it better or not!  A big contributor to my stash was the Sewing For Pleasure show at the Birmingham NEC a few weeks ago.  11 fat quarters for £15?  Yes.  HELL yes.  Please.  I may have gone a bit nuts at that stand!  Then there have been some more local purchases as well, including some lovely stripey shot cottons and some completely unexpected Liberty prints.

Sewing For Pleasure Purchases

The first stand to really suck me in and get me reaching for my wallet was Japan Crafts.  Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’m rather partial to Japanese-related fabrics and crafts, so their selection of shiny fabrics initially drew me in.  However, it was the sashiko supplies that really hooked me.  Sashiko is something I have wanted to try for a while, and here was a stand selling nice bundles of everything needed to have a go!  And a flexible attitude to mixing and matching supplies helped, too.  I ended up walking away with two small and one large panel of pre-preprinted sashiko designs, plus a generously sized skein of sashiko thread.

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I have a feeling my bundle was supposed to include needles too, but either I dropped them somewhere at the show or they got forgotten in the purchase kerfuffle, so I had to order some more, which was a bit annoying.  🙁  Still, I’m pleased with the designs and looking forward to maybe sitting in the sun and doing some hand-sewing!

As mentioned, I found a stand doing a very good (by UK standards, anyway!) offer on fat quarters.  I did not hold back!

Many of these were bought with a quilt already in mind, so I don’t feel too bad about them finding their way into the house.  🙂  And I picked up plenty of yellows after discovering that it’s a really under-represented colour in my stash.

I also bought a few fabrics from other stands as well:

The Marvel superhero fabric will hopefully be the backing for a quilt for my cousin’s first baby, due in May.  Also, I clearly cannot stay away from Moda’s Modern Backgrounds – I couldn’t pass up getting a couple of half-meter chunks.  I’m just a sucker for equations on quilting fabric!  Then some random fat quarters – I really liked the leaves in two different colourways and I love a good blue.

That was about it for fabric purchases, the only(!) other things I bought were some thread and a(nother!) FMQ foot for the Pfaff – the dynamic 6D spring foot – after thoroughly quizzing the staff on the stand to make sure that it would work on the QE 4.2.

They agreed that it would be fine and indeed they were right; it’s the foot I used to quilt Poppy’s Flower Garden and it seemed to work well, even though I threw silly things like fleece at it.  On the right are some #8 pearl cottons, which I’ve wanted to play with for a while, and which have already been pressed into service, a random grab-bag of shininess from Oliver Twists that I just couldn’t resist and that does potentially have a project to go with if I ever manage to start it, and some Aurifil that I picked out for my sister’s wedding quilt, which is finally basted and ready to go under the needle.

Local Finds

First up, the most important thing – fabric for my latest commission, bought from Calico Kate in Lampeter:

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The solid is Moda Bella in Royal Blue, and the prints are from Artisan Spirit’s Shimmer range, which I adore.  The brief was for a royal blue/emerald green bed quilt and the  design will be diamonds, which will hopefully look like they’re floating against the solid royal blue.  It was a bit tricky to sort out designs and fabric choices with the client because she doesn’t live near me and she has no internet access, so I had to take photos and send them to a family member to show to her!  But these are the prints she particularly earmarked and they go beautifully together.  I wanted to try and get more green into the top in the sashing between the diamonds or by adding another print, but unfortunately every green we tried fought hard against the other fabrics.  However, the Artisan Spirit range also has extra-wide fabric in a really great emerald green that I’ll put on the back, and I may bind it with green, too.

While hunting down the above, these somehow fell into my basket and followed me home:

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Shot cottons!  I think these are from Rowan, although I’m not 100% sure.  I have two FQs each of the red/green, blue/orange, pink/silver and blue/gold, and just one each of the blue/silver and light blue.  I’d like to find a project that will really show off the stripey-ness and shimmer of these fabrics, they’re very lush.  Fortunately, they also go really well with a bundle of “plain” shot cottons I bought a little while ago, so I’ll probably combine them to make a decent-sized quilt.  I think shot cottons are becoming my answer to the fact that I like the concept of a quilt with solids but the range of solids actually available to me (without having to order online) is horribly limited.

Lastly, I mentioned Liberty, didn’t I?  And I haven’t shown off any Liberty yet, have I?  Well now!  Look what I found hiding out at Wheeler Fabrics in Machynlleth!

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They’re got a small collection of luvverly Liberty prints in at the moment for a great price, mostly on the bolt but some as fat quarters.  I’m afraid I have no idea what any of the prints are called, I just picked out the ones that really “spoke” to me.  I love the sketchy look of this print and when I realised I was cherry-picking FQs of it out of the box, I figured it would make much more sense to just buy a big bit, so this ready-cut bit is ~1.5m.

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So is this bit.  With so many colours, it goes with lots of other prints really well.  I’m sure I’ve seen it before online somewhere and I loved it, I just didn’t expect to find any practically on my doorstep!

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I thought this print was a batik at first, it’s got that kind of organic look that demands a second glance.  It’s rather darker IRL, but at least this picture shows the print on it.  I bought half a meter.

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Same print, different colourways.  Half a meter of each.

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And likewise here!  A half-meter each of these.  I love the bright version of this print, but there wasn’t much else among the bolts that teamed up well with it, other than the pixelly effort above.  Still, it demanded to come home with me!

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And these are three random fat quarters that just caught my eye.  (Well, that purple would catch anyone’s eye, lol!)  No real plans for these yet.  I know they don’t go together, or with the other prints.  That’s fine, they’re not expected to.  🙂

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Finally there’s this.  I didn’t buy this bit!  I found it loitering in a pile in my hopelessly chaotic craft room, so I suspect it’s from mum’s fabric stash.  It looks sorta-kinda a bit like a Liberty print but there’s no way to tell.  It has a similar feel and weight to the Liberty prints I just bought and I think I can persuade it to get along with that punchy floral print, so they may end up in a project together.  🙂

So, that’s my recent haul, give or take a bit.  And now I really ought to get back to work so I can justify all this wicked spending I’ve been doing!  *pulls self away from the Liberty Craft Blog*

And I’ll link up with Sunday Monday Stash over with Molli Sparkles, just ‘cos I can.  😉

How Not to Do a Commission

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

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

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

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

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

Grizzling aside, I think it actually came out ok:

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

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

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

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

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

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