A Slothful Rainbow Finish

The original sketch Slothy is based on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghost sloth is made of stars and rainbows!

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

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

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!  🙂

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!  🙂

Science! Baby Quilt

And suddenly, a baby quilt!

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A good friend of mine, who I worked with for four and a half years, had her first baby a couple of weeks ago.  I’d planned to make him a quilt anyway so I already had these fabrics pulled, I just needed a spark of inspiration and a kick up the bum – handily provided by the email announcing his birth!

The colour scheme is based on my friend’s preferences (her favourite colour is blue) and the fact that she is a chemist and her husband is an engineer, so I used the most science-y fabric I had to hand!  These are two of my favourite prints in the quilt:

I chose to do a random arrangement of squares that finished at 9, 6 and 3″ and started with a rough sketch of an arrangement on some graph paper so that I would know how many squares of each size I would need to cut.

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The layout meant there were some partial seams to deal with, but by going slow and thinking carefully about which bits to sew in which order, it all worked out well.  Because I wanted it done and sent off quickly, I decided to do a simple diagonal cross-hatch pattern for the quilting.

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The quilt is backed with a funky chevron print that has a lovely soft feel, and bound with left-overs from piecing the top.  I’m very pleased to say that the whole quilt (other than the wadding) came from my stash.  🙂  It’s all washed so it just needs a label and I can post it off along with a card and some well-earned Cadbury’s chocolate for the proud mum!  🙂

Linking up with Monday Making, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop? and TGIFF (when they go live).  🙂

Origami Crane Cushion

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And here’s my finished Origami Crane cushion.  I’m really pleased with it.  It’s actually been finished for a lil while, but the weather’s been too foul (and I’ve been too busy) to take any decent pictures until today.  🙂

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The back is another envelope arrangement, with some nice wooden buttons I found at a local haberdashery shop.  It now lives on my bed and is great when I want to sit up and read a book.  🙂  Hooray for finished things!

Linking up with Monday Making, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop? and TGIFF (when they go live).  🙂

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.  🙂

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!)

Birds of a Feather – Finished!

plus_1104_1The quilt for my cousin’s newest little girl is finished.  🙂  I’m quite chuffed with it, especially with how quickly it got done (though it’s pretty straightforward, as patterns and quilting go….).plus_1104_2

It’s bound with scraps left over from making the top.

plus_1104_3Here it is with its “brother” and “sister” quilts.  🙂  (Apparently I really like yellow for baby quilts!)

Linking up (FINALLY! Don’t ask….) with TGIFF over at Sew Fresh Quilts.  🙂

Patchy the Easter Bear

My niece is a bit too young for Easter eggs, even if she didn’t have a dairy allergy.  I decided to finish off the teddy I was making for her instead.bear_0304_1I started him before Christmas, and did quite well on piecing the basic squares, but then stalled on construction.  He’s made from most of a flannel layer cake with accents of normal quilting cotton.  I lined him with interfacing because the weave of the flannel is very loose and stretchy and I wanted to give him more support.  I didn’t actually know how best to handle the flannel, so I used a 1/4″ seam allowance, but I should probably have used 1/2″.  The nappy-looking panel is actually a pocket.  His muzzle was a happy accident – I only realised the same fabrics were opposite each other on the two front halves after I’d sewn them together.  His eyes were done on the machine with a decorative stitch and his nose and mouth are hand-stitched.

bear_0304_3He’s quite a big chap!  I stuffed him by shredding up some fluffy polyester wadding I bought some years ago, before I actually knew what I was doing quilting-wise.  Patchy must have been very hungry; he ate almost all of it.  Thank goodness, too – I’d bought something like two metres of the stuff and it was otherwise kind of useless.  I have about enough left to make a wall hanging, which is about the only other thing it might be good for.

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Linking up with Can I Get A Whoop Whoop and TGIFF!  🙂

Japan Fan Club – FINISHED!

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This is my proud face:  😀 😀 😀 😀  It’s taken over a year, but at last mum’s new Japanese-style door curtain is finished!  (Ummm, just in time for us to move out of the house it’s useful in, but oh well!)  It’s also well in time for Mother’s Day this Sunday and for the A Lovely Year of Finishes challenge for March.  🙂  Mum’s seen it in progress, but I’ve managed to keep most of the final quilting and finishing secret, so I don’t think she knows it’s done yet.Japan_Fans_FINISHED2_2

The backing is some fabric from mum’s stash, and was just the right size for this project.  Most of the quilting was done before the back was added, and only a small amount of in-the-ditch quilting around all the gold sashing was done afterwards to hold the sandwich together nicely and stop the backing flapping about a lot.  For this I used a gold-coloured (NOT metallic!) Aurifil on top and grey YLI soft touch in the bobbin, which has blended in really nicely with the back.  The top stitching all around the quilt was done with grey YLI soft touch and seems to have worked well, though it does show up quite a bit on the black areas.Japan_Fans_FINISHED_4

Now it’s done, there are a few things I think I would have done differently.  I’ve never done a turn-through backed quilt before, and if I did another then I would be wary of doing such dense quilting.  The quilt “pulled in” quite a bit because of the background quilting on the grey areas and that affected how flat (or not!) the quilt lies and made trimming it square tricky.  I should also really have done the foundation quilting in the ditches first, not last!  I did this for a reason – because I wanted to use that quilting to hold the three layers together – but in practice that was a bit of a silly way to do it!  The dense quilting really affected the squareness of the blocks and there was nothing much to brace against to mitigate the effect.  The backing worked out astonishingly well, though, and I’m very happy with how neat and square it is.

All in all, I am ever so pleased that this has come out looking even slightly like I imagined/hoped it would!  Fingers crossed mum likes it on Sunday and that it keeps many draughts away!  🙂

Linking up with TGIFF, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop? and ALYoF!  😀