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.

 

The Bumper Post of Finished Things

Usually I try and spread things out a bit into dedicated posts, but recently there’s been a fair amount of busy creating and not a vast amount of posting, so things have kind of snowballed.  But in a good “yay things are finished” way, so that’s ok.

Baby Round The World

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This is the finished quilt I posted about here.  Not much to add other than binding, it was an easy finish.  The only bit of drama was this:

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Yep, that feeling when you cut all possible strips from your binding fabric and it still came up too short!  Uff!  Luckily, I had ends left over from the top, so I added in just a small piece of bubbly circles to fill the gap – job done.  No, no pictures of the fill-in bit – I completely forgot.

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It’s done!

It was an absolute pig to get together – it nearly killed me *and* my poor sewing machine!  I’m fairly happy with it, however, and I’m still in complete love with the RK Shimmer 2 line, so that’s good too!  But I’m going to need some time to forget how frustrating it was before I try making another one for me.

Poppy’s Flower Garden

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It’s good to finally get this one done and handed over, I’ve had it on the back burner for too long.  It’s for a friend’s little girl; by chance, they happened to be visiting our area this weekend and little Poppy’s third birthday was just a few days ago, so the timing couldn’t be better.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t made any progress on it since I last mentioned it way back in August!  After a hasty purchase of wadding (I wonder when I’ll finally cave and just buy a bolt?) and some frantic riffling through the stash for a backing (hello fleece!), I quilted up the top sans flower shapes with a FMQ flowers ‘n’ leaves ‘n’ stippling motif:

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My hot pink variegated YLI thread was perfect for this project!  Quilting on the fleece was a challenge because it’s so stretchy – it was hard to stop the quilt from puckering or distorting, I probably needed some stabilising straight stitching first before I started on the FMQ, but once the whole thing was done it looked alright.  It’s interesting how much more obvious the quilting looks on the fleece side!  After the quilting was done, I arranged all my petal shapes (once I’d finished folding the last ones), pinned them approximately in position and then used machine blanket stitch to fix them in place.

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The flower centres were cut from some off-cuts from a strip roll and appliqued on with a zig-zag stitch.

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The binding is yet more left-overs from a strip roll – you might recognise the prints from the Round The World quilt above!  It goes with the front and the back, which makes me really happy, and the recipient seemed really pleased with it, so job’s a good ‘un!  It’s always nice to get something off the UFO pile.

Linking up with Free Motion Mavericks,  Oh Scrap! and Monday Making.  🙂

Quilting the Christmas Tree

Yesterday was quilt club and I had no idea what I wanted to work on, so I grabbed a miscellaneous selection of projects to take with me, including the Christmas tree advent calendar I’ve been working on.

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I couldn’t find the fabric I’d originally decided to use for the back, so I grabbed the next best thing, a dark snowflake-y print with a bit of a shimmer about it, bought yonks ago from Abakhan:

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I’m sure I meant to do something else with this, but it hasn’t happened yet, so at least it’s being used for something!

I also grabbed the last chunk of the hugely fluffy and frankly not very nice polyester wadding that I bought literally years ago from Galeria-Kaufhof in Germany before I knew what I was doing – it was just about big enough for this project, and I will be very glad to see the last of it!

The pockets will be added once I’m happy (ha!) with the quilting:

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I trimmed down the background around the tree so that it would fit on the wadding, which also meant that it fitted very nicely lengthwise across the width of the gold snowflake backing, then pinned the layers together.  It was a bit of a challenge, I’m not used to pinning anything so fluffy!

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For the quilting, I’d already decided that I would start by doing FMQ around each shape, following the lines of zig-zag stitch and using the same colour of thread, but because of the bouncy wadding it took me some fiddling to figure out what settings to use to quilt it without skipped stitches and/or broken thread and/or broken needles (yes, plural).  There may have been some swearing!  Eventually I caught the trick of it and quilted around all of the tree shapes.

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Because of the maddeningly fluffy wadding, the tree clearly needed more quilting to tame it a bit.  Smelling a challenge, I dug out a reel of green metallic Wonderfil (I bought it with this project in mind, after all), switched out my needle and started quilting random curvy zig-zags similar to the shapes of the tree bits.  It took a bit more fiddling with settings to get it to work, but the process was not nearly as painful as I expected.  (And the thread behaved itself and refrained from embracing inappropriate bits of sewing machine!)  About half of the tree has now been quilted like this and it’s helped a lot:

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(Yep, there are a lot of thread-ends to bury!  Oh, the joys of frequently breaking thread!)  I may well quilt some garlands with red or gold metallic thread as well, to make it really sparkly.  And try to ignore the fact that quite a bit of this will be invisible once I attach the pockets!  (In certain areas, this will in fact be a bonus…)

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The quilting on the back looks pretty cool, actually.  It’s not entirely without wrinkles, alas, but I’ve decided that I am not worrying about that in this instance.  :p

Once I’m done on the tree, I plan to quilt the background quite heavily (probably with a cream thread, I don’t know that my sanity could cope with more metallic) to squish it down and allow the tree to stand out a bit.

Linking up with Free Motion Mavericks!  🙂

Crane Wall Hanging – Finished!

Hooray!

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

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

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

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

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

This photo is a much better representation of the colours:

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

Linking up with Free-Motion Mavericks and TGIFF!  🙂

A Trio of Cushions

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And they’re finished!  😀  I used a simple envelope+buttons arrangement for the backs, luckily my favourite haberdashery stall in a local market had just the right buttons in just the right colours:

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And here are some close-up shots:

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You can read more about the fronts here and here.

I must say a big thank you to the people who offered suggestions on how to finish off the quilting on Elsa, it really was a help!  Lifting the “ground” level brought everything together much better.  And after doodling around a bit and trying a few of the suggestions (and screaming in frustration at my white rayon, which decided to HATE almost all my assorted needles for some reason – the “right” one turned out to be a microtex 80/12), I ended up with this:

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It’s not at all what I thought I’d end up with, but I think it works.  🙂  I got a great tip from Carole Gold about using tracing paper to test and stitch FMQ designs, and although I wasn’t able to use it this time because it turns out we have nothing like that in the house (not-quite-moving house really sucks), it’s a great idea that I’m definitely going to try on other projects once I’ve grabbed myself a roll of baking paper to use.  🙂

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social, Free-Motion Mavericks, Can I get a Whoop Whoop? and TGIFF.  🙂

Let it go, let it goooo!

Here’s the third cushion cover that I’m making as a Christmas present (the first two are here).   It’s for a little girl, so I chose to do Elsa from Frozen as an applique – her mum tells me she’s a fan.  I found some wonderful metallic-finish fabrics at a recent craft show and dug out a slightly shimmery white from my stash and I was ready to rock some Frozen goodness.

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And what would Elsa be without some magic-y icy swirls?  I doodled a few up in Inkscape and appliqued them with a wonderfully frost-coloured fabric:

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And no matter how hard I tried, the shiny bits (well, all the bits are shiny) refused to photograph well.  🙁   I used a different colour of the swirl fabric for the outer border, which brings the top up to the same size as its fellows (20.5″ square).  The Elsa applique was secured with machine satin stitch in a variegated teal thread and the swirls were done with an icy-looking metallic thread.  And I will not be rushing to do satin stitch around iddly-tiddly little fingers again in a hurry!

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As with the Minecraft cushions, my first action was to quilt in the ditch all the way around the border to secure all the layers together and make a nice boundary.  My plan after that became somewhat nebulous, but I decided to start with the obvious things, so I quilted (with the same teal thread) around Elsa and then broke out the metallic thread to do the same around the icy swirls.

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As I did so, I started to add in random flourishes and twiddles and joined some of the applique swirls together in whatever manner seemed appropriate at the time.  My confidence grew as I quilted each swirl and I worked from bottom to top, so the upper swirls are a bit more elaborate as a result!  I’m probably going to go back and add a few more twirls in on the lower bits.  At this point, though, I’m a little stumped.  I cannot decide whether to leave the ice-swirl quilting as it is or add further quilting in the background to make it look more snowy.  I like the magic-y bits and I don’t really want them to be lost, but the rest of the top looks a bit “bare”.  To delay any firm decision in that direction, I dug out some pale blue rayon thread and started quilting the “ground” instead.  I made it a bit more wavy than I’d initially intended, but I think it’s just about ok.  I’ll do more lines of quilting below those two, probably spacing them further apart as I get closer to the bottom of the panel.  Yay progress!  🙂

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and Free-Motion Mavericks (when it goes live).  🙂

Sssssssssss………… BOOM!

Christmas is coming, they tell me.  Thanks to the nature of crafting, it feels like I have to start thinking about Christmas presents in August to have a hope of finishing anything!  But I’m off to a good start here (shhhh-I-know-it’s-October-already!), with themed cushions for my cousin John’s three children.  Here are the first two.

The two boys are great fans of Minecraft, and the Minecraft characters make fantastic subjects for patchwork thanks to their pixelly designs.  I chose the Creeper and the Blaze, partly because I wanted to use Bali Pops to make them and I happened to have a green set and red-orange-yellow set:

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Figuring out which colours to use where was harder than I thought it would be, especially with the Blaze face; the Red Hots Bali Pop contained fewer dark browns than I remembered and they weren’t as dark as I remembered, either!  But the Creeper came out very well; I added in a couple of greys and a black from the Licorice Bali Pop set as well.

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I decided that I didn’t want the main designs of the cushions “disappearing” over the curve of the cushion pad, so I added complementary plain 2.5″ borders to bring the size up to 20.5″ square and frame the faces nicely.

For quilting, I couldn’t resist practicing a bit of my FMQ.  I’ll freely admit right now that I’ve never played Minecraft (Terraria is my dig-it-craft-it-fight-it sandbox game of choice), and I’d always slightly assumed that Creepers were animated angry bushes!  After a bit of research I now know that they’re not, but I couldn’t resist quilting my Creeper face with a “creeper” pattern of leaves!

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This one is hiding in the bushes, clearly!

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Before doing the FMQ, I outlined the eyes and “mouth” with black straight stitching and also quilted in the ditch all the way around the border.  There’s some ends to tie off and bury and I quilted a few extra leaves into that gap in the middle at the bottom, too.  A bit of a trim and an envelope back (I have two solid green fat quarters ready and waiting for that duty) and I can call him done!

I used plain calico to keep the back tidy and not shedding fluff everywhere, and I actually really like the look of the quilting on that side, too:

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Almost a shame that it won’t be seen much!

For the Blaze, I decided that only a flame pattern would do – except that I’ve never quilted a flame in my life!  However, I refused to let that put me off, threaded the Pfaff up with variegated orange thread and let rip.

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….and apparently it worked.  Mostly.  They aren’t the most amazing flames ever (I had more than a few directionally challenged moments), but for a first go I’m very pleased with how they came out.  Once again, I’d outlined the eyes and gone around the border first, then I quilted the flames in layers that were roughly 2 squares high, working my way back and forth up the face from the bottom.

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Definitely more of a challenge than the leaves, but I like it and would do it again (on the right project!).

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And here’s the back.  Again, I’m almost sorry that it won’t be seen much.  Ah well!

I hope I get a chance to finish these off soon; life is looking uncertain again and I’d like to actually finish something for a change!  I also have a more girly cushion for my cousin’s little girl to share soon, it is very sparkly.  🙂

Linking up with Free-Motion Mavericks and Can I get a Whoop-Whoop!

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!)