A Bevy of Easter Pressies

That was an extremely unusual Easter all around, I think. A time when many people, regardless of belief, like to get together with family but this year couldn’t. We’ve barely left the house since the lockdown started, with much of our shopping being done by my brother-in-law and a very kind neighbour who works in Morrisons. As such, there was not a vast quantity of chocolate eggs floating around the house this year, but since commercial Easter eggs are typically a lot of packaging and not all that much chocolate, in recent years I’ve tried to make something for my family in addition to or instead of chocolate. Here are some of this year’s creations!

I’ve made my mum quite a few cushions, but I realised that I hadn’t given my sister one. Last year I enjoyed a really fun weekend trip away to Oxfordshire with the Quilt Group ladies and we did some classes at Village Fabrics, one of which was folded patchwork. I took along some beautiful blue and white batiks that I’d had for a long time – I bought them on my first ever trip to the Festival of Quilts! They’re also colours I know my sister really likes as well. They worked really well for the folded pattern and I had great fun fussy-cutting the circle prints for the cornerstones. The block finished at 18 1/2″, perfect for a good-sized cushion. To add a bit of detail, I found my sashiko supplies and quickly discovered why sashiko on batik isn’t widely recommended! But I adored the look of the crisp white stitches against the blues and blacks, so I persevered.

For the quilting, I decided to do some very simple walking-foot quilting so as not to distract from the clean, elegant look of the piecing, in blue and white cottons. The back and binding of the cushion was some pretty bird fabric that mum found for me, which suited the style of the cushion.

For mum, I decided that a new table topper would be a nice thing to make; I made her a Christmas one when I first took up quilting, but it’s a bit season-specific. A Spring/Easter one was definitely due! For this, I used five different Moda Ombre Confetti prints from a half-yard bundle I had in my stash – one white/cream for the background, a gold, a purple, a pink and a green. As our kitchen table is round, I decided to make another hexagonal topper – plus I do love sewing equilateral triangles! I started cutting and piecing without being quite sure how it would all go together, ended up cutting some more strips to get a decent number of triangles, then splotted everything on my design wall and moved bits around until a pattern fell into place. It zipped together in an afternoon.

I decided to really go to town with the quilting on this piece, with an assortment of dense fillers and floral/leaf motifs. Although it’s not a big piece, it still took a good amount of time to get it quilted – it still takes me by surprise how mentally and physically intense this kind of quilting can be! And of course I had to try and do it as secretly as I could – not easy when you’re in lockdown with the person you want to gift something to! Still, I’m really pleased with how it all came out, especially the big flowers. And it looked great on out Easter Lunch table!

The last gift I actually have photos of is a bag that I made for my niece, Nia. She needs a bag to take swimming and she loves mermaids and seashells, so I used these motif to make her a cute little tote bag. The internet provided a nice scallop shell, but I couldn’t find a mermaid in the pose I pictured, so I had to draw my own – and humanoids are not my favourite things to draw! I am rather chuffed with how it all came together in the end – enough that I may have to play with the mermaid design a bit more!

I used a faux-punto effect under the shell to make it really puffy and dimensional, enhanced by fairly dense echoed paisley shapes quilted around it.

I am particularly proud of the magnetic tail fastening, the addition of some extra stabiliser really helps to keep the fin shape looking perky! Assembling all the disparate bits into a bag in the right order took a little bit of pondering and puzzling, but I picked my way carefully through it. To make it actually useful as a swim bag, it’s lined with some waterproof fabric left over from when I made a change mat for Nia before she was born! I am not sure when the local pools are likely to be open again, but I’m sure she’ll think of other things to carry in it until then.

I also made a quilted panel wall hanging for my little nephew Aled (who is too young for chocolate anyway, even without his dairy intolerance issues) and a cork fabric wash bag for my brother-in-law – and I failed to take photographs of either of them while they were still in my possession! I can certainly say that, for me, boredom over the last few weeks has NOT been an issue!

Blast from the Past 5: Mother’s Day 2019

Buoyed by my success with quilted silk, I was keen to play more with the concept, and Mother’s Day was a perfect excuse to do so! Mum had been enviously eyeballing the cushion cover I made for my aunt’s mum, so I quietly arranged for a few more silk swatches from The Silk Route in pretty reds, oranges and golds, mixed them with the greens I had left over, then set to dreaming up what to do with them. For a change, I thought a rectangular cushion would be nice, so I cut a quantity of HSTs from my silk and arranged them accordingly, in a gradient from one corner to the other:

It reminds me of leaves turning colour! Barring a few shuffles, I stitched my HSTs together to make my cushion top.

Now, how to quilt it? Because of the leaf colours, I decided to roll with that as a concept, so I did some minimal dot-to-dot quilting across each pair of HSTs, leaving a space in the middle, then doodled free-hand leaves in each one. To make the leaf shapes really POP, I used some tight stippling immediately around each leaf, up to the edge of the dot-to-dot quilting.

Like real leaves, they’re all different shapes and sizes! XD I used wool wadding, which really makes the quilting stand out and enhances the shimmer of the silks, some of which were “shot”. As I progressed through the quilting, I tried to use threads that matched (within reason) the colours of the HSTs I was quilting, to enhance the colour changes across the top.

A couple of flaps for the back and some scrappy binding, and it was all finished! Mum was really pleased with it, she loves that it’s rectangular because it provides better back support.

Blast from the Past 3: Emerald Facets

This is a rather bittersweet post because the lady I made this cushion for passed away recently. It was a 90th birthday present for my aunt’s mum, a very dear and talented woman who did a great deal for others both near and far.

From having made her a bed quilt, I knew that she particularly liked blues and greens, and I had been wanting a good reason to do some quilting with dupioni silk, so I armed myself with some packs of 10″ squares from The Silk Route, plus a couple of shot cottons for texture variety, and doodled a pretty straightforward design of squares and half-square triangles.

Having arrived at an arrangement I liked, I interfaced my silk (to reduce fraying) and cut my pieces, making sure to keep the “grain” of the fabrics running all in the same direction. Assembly went pretty well.

Those larger squares were destined for some embellishment, and I had just the thing lurking in my stash – Markal Paintstiks! I created a couple of stencils in Inkscape, printed them onto freezer paper and carefully cut them out with a craft knife, then ironed them in place and had huge fun colouring them in with my shiny metallic Paintstiks.

I was so pleased with how well this worked! The metallic paints looked really luxurious against the silks. After the required drying period and a jolly good press to set the paints, I layered up the quilt with some wool wadding and started quilting. To make the stencilled designs really POP, I used quite dense fillers around them. With the bouncy resilience of the wool, this looked really effective. On the HST blocks, I used a variety of “dot-to-dot” designs, inspired by Angela Walters.

I confess here and now that I am UTTERLY in love with how silk looks once quilted. The natural sheen and shimmer of the silk is really enhanced by the stitching, and the whole effect is just opulent.

Once the quilting was complete, I used a blue Essex linen from Robert Kaufman to make up the cushion back and binding; it was a pleasing contrast to the glossy silk and, I feel, a rather luxurious fabric in its own right as well. To really bling up the back (and make use of some of the small left-over silk scraps), I created a pieced edge on the outer flap of the cushion, and worked out a way to add concealed buttons for the closure:

I was really happy with how this cushion turned out and was proud to be able to send it to such a wonderful person who spent so much time crafting for others. <3

Blast from the Past 1: Ty Cyw Cushion

“Ty Cyw! Ty Cyw! Tumty-tumty something-something TY CYW!”

Ty Cyw is a Welsh-language children’s entertainment section on S4C, and when she was younger it was one of my niece’s favourite things to watch when she visited Nanny (my mum). It translates as “Cyw’s House”, Cyw being a white cartoon chicken who lives with a variety of other cartoon animal characters and some live-action human friends, and they all have jolly japes together. As kids’ TV goes, it’s pretty cute and inoffensive – and it’s probably improved my Welsh a tiny bit, too! For my niece’s birthday a few years ago, I thought it might be nice to make her a cushion with Cyw on it, so I found a nice screen-cap of a waving Cyw and set to work!

The nice thing about this cartoon style, from a crafting point of view, is the fact that it’s all composed of simple shapes! I decided to use raw-edge machine appliqué and it was very easy to draft a pattern and get started. Somewhat unusually, I decided to use some specialty synthetic fabrics to add texture and interest.

I used a shiny stretch synthetic velvety fabric for Cyw’s body, gold stretch lamé for the legs and beak, and some shiny metallic red…. something…! for the comb and wattle. The background was crafting cottons that I already had in my stash. It was a bit of a battle to get the bondaweb fused to the synthetics and then to get each piece fused down without causing too much heat damage to the synthetic fibres. The strange red stuff proved the trickiest in this regard, but eventually everything was stuck in place and I could zig-zag around everything to make sure it was secure – important since the synthetics show a tendency to try and peel away from the bondaweb if I wasn’t careful!

Once everything was firmly attached, I quilted it quite lightly and cushion-y-fied it with some super-cuddly flannel for the back:

Nia was thrilled, and Cyw now has pride of place on her bed every night! <3

Hexagons With A Twist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mothering Sunday Gifts

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK, so I made a couple of gifts for mum that I hoped she’d like.

First up is a purse.  My first go at making a purse for mum didn’t go all that well.  However, I thought I could see how to fix what had gone awry, so I took a seam ripper to the failed attempt and rescued the zipped pockets, card pockets and magnetic snaps (important because I didn’t have any more suitable zips and no time to get replacements!).  The first thing I did was to trim down the card pockets so that the total depth was much less, making the purse a bit more elegant.  I also took about 1/4” off each side (after checking the width with a card), since I wasn’t planning to turn through and therefore didn’t need to allow for the seam bulk.

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I re-did the lining and the outer cover (fortunately, the new fabric I chose for the outer goes really well with the red lining fabric!):

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I used some much firmer interfacing for the outer cover (maybe a little too firm, but it’s come out ok) and a medium-firm interfacing for the lining.  The whole thing holds its shape really well now.

I was really pleased with the exterior zipped pocket I’d added to the previous version, but wasn’t fussed about the contrast strip, so I just added the outer pocket without any extra decoration:

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Luckily again, the gold-coloured zips go well with the new fabric I bought!  Because of the reduced depth of the purse, I made the outer pocket shallower as well, but it’s still pretty roomy.

The interior pockets are much the same as before, but they sit much better now that they’re not all twisted out of shape!

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Still plenty of room, hopefully!

To finish it off, I made some bias binding from left-over lining fabric (not a wholly enjoyable task, I have to say) and, after basting the layers together, added the binding all the way around the purse.  Machine binding is, alas, something I’m still not terribly good at.  Something to work on, definitely.

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The next thing I made wasn’t really planned at all, it just kind of… happened!  I had a whole bunch of 1-1/2” squares in yellow, cream and purple left over from a couple of different projects and I had my postage stamp template out because I’d just been using it for something else, so I started to arrange the squares on it with the purple in one corner, the yellow in the opposite corner and the cream between:

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It must have been fated to work, since I only needed to cut two extra squares to make a full 10×10 layout!  Once I’d made the postage stamp patch, it told me it wanted to become a cushion, so I rootled out some more of the cream fabric from the scrap box, added borders to bring it up to a sensible size (16” square), and quilted it with simple diagonal lines.  To add a bit of a twist, the quilting is partly yellow and partly purple, to match the respective corners:

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This is an effect I’m really happy with.  Some simple quilted lines around the border to frame it, and a nice envelope back from some more scrap-box fabric and my surprise cushion cover was finished!

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Mum seemed pleased with her presents, so that was a relief!  🙂  It is quite a challenge crafting for someone you share a house with and who doesn’t really understand the concept of privacy…

Linking up with Oh Scrap! and Monday Making (when it’s 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).  🙂

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.  🙂

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).  🙂