Construction Complete

IT’S FINISHED!

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And literally in the nick of time, too.  I finished the binding mere minutes before I had to go out, but it’s done.  🙂  There’s some bits I would change and some bits I’m not happy with (aren’t there always?) but on the whole I’m pretty damn proud of it.

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The backing is a Marvel fabric I found in Birmingham, which I just couldn’t resist, and I used left-over yellows from the piecing to make a scrappy binding.  It finishes at approximately 36 x 48”, which seems to have become my preferred size for baby quilts.  Taken all together, it probably took me less than a week to make, but I was lucky I had the chance to really focus on it and keep the momentum going, or it would never have gone done in time.

Some of my favourite bits:

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Gotham’s graffiti artists are an educated bunch!  😀  I found this equation fabric in a shop in Beaumaris on Anglesey and couldn’t resist scooping it up.

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I’m pleased with how this tower came out, it was a bit that was really bothering me about how it would go together and it changed shape quite a bit during the design phase.  It was paper-pieced and ended up working well, even with tiddly pieces.

Awkward bits:

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Right in the middle there is probably the most awkward partial seam in the whole quilt.  It definitely needs sorting if there’s ever a Gotham 2.0.  (It’s not stained, that’s just drips from the iron.)

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Perhaps designing several blocks of 1/4 x 1/2” finished bits was not the best idea.  I know right?!  Who knew?!  It came close to working but isn’t right, so I’d do that differently next time.

For the quilting, I didn’t really have time to do anything terribly fancy (and I didn’t want to fight the busy buildings), so I ended up with organic straight lines for pretty much everything.  I used different shades of grey Guetermann polyester on the buildings, working mostly vertically but also following the shapes of roofs as applicable, the bat signal light effect was done with variegated yellow cotton from YLI and the sky was horizontal lines in blue polyester.  I used Superior’s Bottom Line in light grey for all of the back, so that it would hopefully not detract too much from Iron Man et al.  Mostly everything was fine, although I did struggle with a bit of puckering and shifting when it came time to quilt the sky, especially towards the top, which was extremely annoying.  I suspect an issue with my pinning, or perhaps it all got loosened up when I was shifting the quilt about during the building quilting (I used the walking foot almost exclusively).  So, things to work on.  Always things to work on!  🙂  But this one definitely counts as a triumph for me, especially given how much I had to hurry to get it done.

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social, Needle & Thread Thursday and TGIFF as and when they go live.  Thanks for looking!  🙂

Building Gotham City

Fabric architecture is where it’s at for me right now.  I’m currently building a Gotham-ish cityscape, complete with bat signal, as a baby quilt.  The design has been sitting on my laptop in Inkscape for a few weeks now, but I’ve only just in the last few days had a chance to implement it.

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This is my approximate design.  Lil bit on the busy side, eh!  From a design point of view, the important features are the buildings.  The HST background is kind of a placeholder – the intention was always to create a “night sky” look with midnight blue/purple/blue gradient, using randomly oriented HSTs to create more movement and texture.  After I’d drawn this, I was rather intimidated and unsure where to start with it.  Part of me wanted to start with the buildings – they’re in the foreground, after all!  But because of all the partial HSTs between the buildings and the fact that several buildings required a degree of foundation piecing, sorting the HSTs out first made more sense.  I had three midnight blue FQs (one solid, two with rather lovely star prints) earmarked for the night sky, and I needed to know how far down I needed bring them to create the look I wanted.

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I used two different purples to bridge the gap between the midnight blue and the dark blue that’s mostly around the buildings.  Once I had a good grasp of what colours each row of HSTs consisted of, I started assembling buildings and putting the top together.

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A good start!  There’s some serious fiddle in this quilt; quite a few bits finish at only 1/4” wide.  Luckily, the Pfaff is fantastic for this stuff.  I’ve equipped it with the straight-stitch plate to stop smaller pieces from being eaten by the needle hole, and everything is going together really well, barring instances of user error!  More about that later, though.

I started off intending to just use the six grey FQs I bought in Birmingham, but I quickly realised that I wanted a greater variety of greys, so I dug out the left-over Shimmer 2 FQs I used for my sister’s Weekender bag, and picked out the ones I thought would work.  The nice thing about using these is the fact that they add glitter and a sci-fi impression that I would not have got from the prints I started off using.

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I’m glad it’s a decision I made early on, before I’d got too far across the quilt.  I’m trying to keep the metallic prints more in the centre, though.  You can see the sky gradation happening here; I’m quite pleased with it, although I think I could have done with one more FQ of midnight blue and nixxed the all-purple row.  I’d say “maybe next time,” but that’s a big maybe!

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The problems with making this have been a combination of a lack of time, leading me to rush at it a bit, and the fact that I didn’t really write a proper cutting/piecing guide for myself.  I have a (occasionally hilariously wrong) cutting list and for piecing I have my laptop sat on my sewing table so that I can squint at the .svg in Inkscape and try to figure out what goes where.  It’s not ideal!  So there have been… issues.  More haste less speed and all that.  I’ve demonstrated that adage frequently in the last few days, given my habit of joining things the wrong way around or upside down.  The tall building on the far right in the pic above is a good example; it somehow managed to cause me a lot of hassle because I hadn’t formulated a sensible plan for piecing it, and an extra-special “duh!” moment happened when I thought I’d got the whole thing all done, only to lay it out on the floor, step back and then groan loudly when I realised that I’d managed to join the very top layer on upside down without noticing.  I did briefly consider leaving it, but then I sighed wearily, grabbed the unpicker, carefully excised it, flipped it over and put everything back again.  Ufff.

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However, I feel like I’m on the home straight with this now, barring too many more stupid mistakes.  Two more buildings are nearly done and I hope the two remaining ones won’t cause any trouble.  *crosses fingers*  Joining everything together has been interesting too; there’s a lot of partial seams and the HSTs are no help in this regard, although they look so good that I wouldn’t want to lose them.  I am in abject terror of someone asking me for the pattern because I’m not sure I can make sense of how I have gone about putting this together.  Between the foundation piecing, HST craziness, partial seam nightmares and the fiddliness  of some of the buildings, I wouldn’t know where to begin trying to explain it to someone else!

Oh, and my cutting table now looks like this:

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This is what 50 Shades of Grey was all about, right?  😀

Linking up with Sew Cute Tuesday over at Blossom Heart Quilts and Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts.  🙂

Wrestling the Weekender

Wow.  People were not joking about this bag being a challenge to put together and I haven’t even got to the point of trying to attach zips (still waiting for them to arrive) or assemble the whole bag yet (because see above).  Heck, just buying the materials has been a challenge – trying to figure out how many meters of 44″ wide fabric is equivalent to umpty yards of 54″ wide fabric on the fly is not easy!  So I rather over-bought on canvas and lining fabric.  Whoops.  At least I can always find a use for lots of solid dark-blue quilting cotton.

As mentioned previously, I used a quilt-as-you-go method for the outer body of the bag and I’m really pleased with how that worked out.

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The Shimmer 2 prints are so cool!  I kept the lighter ones for the main and top panels and used the darker ones for the pocket panels:

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I love the texture of them!

To save on “pretty” fabric on the main panels, I only used the Shimmer 2 prints down to about 1-1/2″ below the top of the where the pocket panel would start, then I covered the whole bottom area with my chosen lining/piping/handles fabric, which is a plain dark blue.  For the same reason, I also chose to use the lining fabric on the bottom panel, and this is the only place that I decided to use the iron-on vinyl.

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After some thought, I applied the vinyl to the unquilted fabric and then quilted it onto the canvas/wadding.  I think it’s more likely to stay put this way and it’ll provide good protection where it’s most needed.

Now that everything’s starting to come together, I’m really happy with the colours:

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Looks quite smart!  However, I’m rather less pleased that my machine started skipping stitches when I attached the pocket and piping to the main panels.

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That’s really bad!  Not sure what it’s down to – most of the stitching is ok, but it struggles and skips most over areas of extra bulk, like seams and the handles.  It could be because I was using a piping foot for this and thus couldn’t use the Pfaff IDT system (built-in walking foot). Or possibly I need to switch up a needle size.  Might be a speed issue, but I don’t think so – it seems to happen whether I go super-slow or not.  Anyway, it’s something I need to sort out or the whole bag might come unraveled at a crucial moment!  Also, I don’t like piping.  Not even with a piping foot!  *grumble*  (Except that it looks really good on a finished item, of course.)

This is about as far as I can get with the bag now until the zips and bag feet show up.  All the lining is cut out and interfaced (because I’m using patchwork-weight fabric) and I’ve added one pocket to one of the inner panels already:

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This was a bit of a “happy accident” – I accidentally cut out the pocket panel linings too short at first and didn’t realise until I was trying to interface it.  There would have been swearing, but then I realised that the two miscuts were perfect for making an inner pocket instead.  Yay!  The other panel is waiting for a zip for a zipper pocket.

If I don’t completely lose my rag making this bag for my sister, I have all the canvas panels ready-cut to make a second one for myself.  It all depends on how the final assembly goes!  But for now, I get to have a bit of a break while I wait for the rest of the bits to show up, and I’m off to a sewing show at the NEC tomorrow with my friends from Quilt Club.  I’ll try not to spend too much!  😉

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and Needle and Thread Thursday!  🙂

Mug Rugs – Using Iron-On Vinyl

I love a good experiment!  I’m planning to make some items that I might want to use iron-on vinyl for, so I decided to order some and have a play with it to see what it can (and can’t) do.

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I wanted to test how it looks when applied to fabric with a metallic element, and I wanted to see if it could be successfully applied over already-quilted fabric.  Enter my test subjects, four 4″ quarter-square triangle blocks (which were themselves a test to see if I could make big enough QST units from 5″ charm squares for a different project – the answer was no!).

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I grabbed four more suitable charm squares for the backs and some scrap wadding, then quilted my four little quilt sandwiches with some simple straight-line quilting:

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Next, the vinyl!  It’s easy to cut – there are helpful guidelines on the paper backing.  The “sticky side” I found to be not actually that sticky, though that’s probably a good thing.  If it were really sticky, it would be more likely to stick irredeemably to itself or be harder to apply to the fabric without annoying bubbles. The instructions tell you to place the peeled-off protective paper onto the vinyl to protect it during pressing, although you might also need a couple of bits of ordinary printer paper to protect your iron and ironing board from little bits of plastic poking out from the edges, which you will get unless you’re some kind of ninja-genius with a pair of scissors and are only dealing with regular shapes.

It appears to work ok on quilted fabric, although a fair bit of pressure is needed to seal it really well into the quilted grooves.  The metallic red fabric looks better than I feared it would, though it has lost a bit of the sparkle effect.  I think that’s the effect of making the whole thing shiny – it “flattens” the shine that was already there.  Claims of durability were somewhat undermined by me scoring the vinyl quite easily with my thumbnail, although it was warm from the iron at the time.  When the vinyl had cooled, it did seem more resistant to scratches, though I don’t think I would choose to use it for anything that would experience serious abrasion.  I’m also not sure how much flexing it would handle without coming unstuck.

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Here are the four mug rugs all finished and bound, with vinyl on both sides of each mat.  I am not quite sure that I am completely sold on how it looks over the top of quilting, but it worked a lot better than I feared it might.  I am not completely sure whether I will use it for the project I’m planning, but I think I will definitely use it for other things, such as more coasters or place mats.  I like the idea of them being more easily wipe-able.  And at least now I have a set of unique coasters for my cups of tea in my craft room – I can almost hear my cutting mats breathing sighs of relief!

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And what’s the project that may or may not see the use of iron-on vinyl, you might ask?  Well…

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Oh yes!  I’ve seen a few examples of Amy Butler’s (in)famous Weekender bag around the place, I really like the look of it, and my sister needs a birthday present next month and her old overnight bag has died a death (heck, I don’t technically need one but I kind of want one for me, too).  My plan is to get hold of the firmest, sturdiest canvas I can find and then borrow Elizabeth Hartman’s quilt-as-you-go method, and I have spent some time tracking down helpful blog and forum posts to help me piece this beastie.  If my sister is very lucky, I may well use my RK Shimmer 2 bundle for her one!  I’m considering using the iron-on vinyl over the top of the quilted outer pocket panels and the underside of the bag to add a bit of protection and waterproofing (the rest will be fine with a good coating of scotchgard, I think), though I’m a little wary of how it will perform over a larger quilted area.  The pattern only arrived today, earlier than I feared it would, so I have a good amount of time to make it before my sister’s birthday in the middle of March.  Yay!

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday!  🙂

Foundation-Pieced Crane – Quilted!

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

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I rootled around in my stash and discovered some more postcard-themed fabric, which I used to set the crane on point, then gave it a border with some textured chocolate-coloured fabric to bring it up to a better size for a cushion.

For the actual quilting, I started by quilting in the ditch for all seams, then elected to try matchstick quilting for the first time, by following one edge of each polygon shape of the cream background fabric:

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I love-love-love how it looks and feels (as a chemist, it reminds me of crystal grain boundaries!), and it gives the crane some definition and dimensionality that it was lacking before quilting.  🙂

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I didn’t want to clutter the busy postcard fabric on the corners, so I ended up using some neutral grey thread to quilt around the postcard edges and stamps.  I’m very pleased with this – it gives a nice feel and look without weighing down the design or competing with the matchsticks in the centre.  Even if it did mean I had zillions of ends to bury on each corner!

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And here it is all together:

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Currently I’m auditioning fabric for the back of the cushion; I’m an idiot, so I don’t have quite enough of the blue and white postcard fabrics left to do an envelope back with them.  Something fairly neutral is called for, I think!  And I need to hunt down some nice buttons, too.  🙂

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

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).  🙂

Something Old, Something New

After the Something Blue of the previous post (yes, that’s totally its name now), here’s some of the other stuff I’ve been pottering at recently.

Something(s) old

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These are the numbered pockets for an advent calendar that I started ages ago; I finally got around to doing machine applique around each number to fix them in place.  They were attached with bondaweb, but they’re so small and bondaweb doesn’t really do well on flannel, so the stitching was necessary.  I used three different colours of metallic thread and I’m really pleased with how it’s highlighted the numbers and made them easier to read.

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Next I’ll have to work on making the background for them.

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This is some of the FMQ quilting on FrostByte, which has really stalled.  I’d like to dig it out and do some more on it, though it’s not coming out at all as I thought/hoped it would.  I need to learn more fillers!

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Lastly, here are my Damask Suns all sashed and ready to be backed and quilted.  I’m really pleased with the contrast between the red/orange/yellow blocks and the blue sashing!  Next thing is to decide if it needs more of a border or not, and sort out backing.

Something(s) new

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My niece’s first birthday is at the start of September, so I decided to get a head start on her birthday present – a set of six building blocks made of fabric-covered foam, with letters and numbers appliqued on.  I worked out that six blocks can hold the whole alphabet and numbers 1 to 10 exactly, which makes me a happy bunny!

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These are my foam blocks.  They’re 5″ cubes cut to order, and I was impressed by how neat they are and how quickly they arrived; I don’t have much experience with ordering pre-cut foam, but this seems to have worked out well.

This is for a friend’s little girl.  The petal shapes are made by folding and stitching circles of fabric, which gives a really nice effect and is a fun thing to do while watching TV!  I still have quite a few circles to fold, then I shall arrange them into “flowers” on the quilt top (which is just a jelly-roll race with green batiks) and machine applique them on.  There may also be small yellow circles/hexagons for the flower centres, I haven’t decided yet.

Logo! Labels!

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At long last, I messed around in Inkscape and had an idea for a logo for myself!  It’s not a million miles from the current name of this site, so it sort of fits, and my quilting activities recently have certainly felt rather itinerant.

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This was also the first time I ordered anything from Spoonflower; in general I’m quite impressed, although the lightest grey I used is very faint indeed.  I’ll probably use up these first and then darken up the next batch when I need to order more.  There are two kinds of label – larger ones for proper quilts that I can write (or stitch) the name of the quilt and the recipient(s) on, and smaller ones designed to make loop labels for things like toys or bags.  I think I could see myself ordering more from Spoonflower at some point, I just love the whole concept of it!

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social!

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!)