Blast from the Past 4: Mini Graffiti Quilt

A smol Blast from the Past today! I was invited to a friends’ wedding back in August 2018, and although they didn’t particularly have a gift list I thought it would be nice to do something a little personal. Having seen graffiti-style quilts floating about, I thought it would be really fun to make a small wall hanging with their initials, surrounded by bright FMQ designs.

I found a fun (and chunky!) font that I liked, traced it onto freezer paper, and used it as a guide to block out areas of my quilt top for the quilting. The quilting went quite quickly, although I slightly wish I’d done more quilting in navy-blue thread around the coloured region. I’m still really pleased with how it came out, even the back looked pretty cool:

I love this effect and would definitely do something like this again in the future! FMQ doodling like this doesn’t come very easily to me, but I’ve always felt that the best way to improve at something is to keep doing it!

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

A Little Faith, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pfaff Sensormatic Foot

I love to make Christmas presents if I can. For last Christmas, our Quilt Club decided to try a Secret Santa with a maximum budget of £10. We all pulled a name out of a hat and had to get a gift for that one person. When I read the name I’d pulled, I was really pleased – I’d got Stef, our Fearless Leader and friendly local Rough Collie enthusiast. She has five Rough Collies of various generations, which she shows and breeds and does very well with. I decided the thing to do would be to creep on her FB page for doggy pics, find a nice one and then interpret it in fabric and thread. Result? One unique gift with minimal financial outlay – I just needed to buy a bit more bondaweb!

After looking at several doggy pics, I picked out a photo of Faith (centre, top) as my cover girl – she’s a pretty tri-coloured girl, and the colours and shapes in the photo looked like they’d be reasonably straightforward for a novice threadpainter to interpret.

Figuring out how to get from a photo on my laptop to an image in fabric required some thought and experimentation. I knew I wanted to lay down “blocks” of colour and then add details with thread painting, but how? I explored various different routes, but finally printed a simplified black-and-white copy of the image onto freezer paper, drew around the different tonal areas, then carefully cut out each bit with a craft knife and fused it onto fabric that I’d already ironed bondaweb to. Yes, it was a fiddle! Luckily, my fabric and thread stash already contained all the materials I needed to recreate Faith, all I had to do was audition assorted fabric scraps and FQs until I got a reasonable match to the colour version. As each piece was cut out, I fused it onto a background of lilac batik – it was the dog I was recreating, not what was behind her!

I did make one rather obvious boob, however. I didn’t cross-reference between the B&W and colour images enough, so when I stepped back and looked at my complete fused image, I discovered that I’d inadvertently used a swathe of grey where I needed tan. Ooooops! What to do….?

Markal Paintstiks to the rescue! I managed to mix up a pretty convincing tan shade and applied it over the (thankfully pale!) grey – sorted! Once that was reasonably dry and fixed in place, I cracked on with the quilting, and here’s where the sensormatic foot comes in.

That lil plastic almost-nothing right there? That thing caused me serious conniptions when I first started using my Pfaff QE 4.2 for quilting. I tried a couple of other FMQ feet and finally settled on a hopping foot as my weapon of choice. But I couldn’t find it! I was stuck, needing to get this project finished and I couldn’t find my fave FMQ foot! ARRRRRGH!

In fairness, as I’ve become more adept at FMQ with the Pfaff, I had been considering getting the sensormatic foot out and trying it again; I don’t like to be beaten by a piece of plastic the size of my fingertip! But I’m not sure whether I would have tried it again so soon without circumstances forcing me. In the event, I saddled it up and gave it a whirl on a test piece and…… IT WORKED. It was FINE! It needs a bit of judicious fiddling with the foot height and tension, but it behaved well enough that I felt comfortable unleashing it on my actual piece.

Although threadpainting is very often done with a free-motion zig-zag stitch, I tried this and my machine just didn’t seem comfortable with the notion, maybe because I couldn’t set the stitch length to zero? In the event, it was quicker to use a free-motion straight stitch and do my own zig-zags, and in fact this worked out better because I could “draw” in the longer hairs of Faith’s coat.

I used a wide variety of black, grey, white, tan, and brown threads in metallic, rayon, polyester and cotton to create the texture and colours of Faith’s coat, layering and blending where necessary. To support the piece, I used two layers of Stitch’n’Tear, which I have now decided is brilliant stuff! Even so, the density of the stitching made the piece very rippled and uneven, so I blocked it by giving it a good soaking and then mercilessly nailing it into shape with T-pins on my design wall – hooray for polystyrene sheets!

By pulling very firmly and using copious pins around the edges of the stitched area, I managed to get everything pretty well flattened out and behaving itself, and it thankfully stayed that way once it was dry and unpinned!

To finish everything off, I layered it with two layers of wadding and a backing of more purple batik (Stef’s favourite colour is purple!), then quilted around the stitched area with a sort of cloudy, flowery filler so that the main design really popped out against the background.

I was extremely pleased with how it came out, and I particularly love that the character of some of the fabrics still peeks through the threadpainting. More importantly, Stef loved it too! <3

….oh, and I did find my other FMQ foot eventually – apparently I’d hidden it from myself in a box of Clover Wonderclips. As you do…!

Surprise Success! Shibori Hanabi

My Shibori Hanabi wall hanging was born of a desire to try my hand at shibori with different colours. I started it about 18 months ago, stitching out the design, then “pulling up” each section, dyeing the piece, pulling up the next section, dyeing again… and so on, until the whole design was completely dyed, about 5-6 dyeing stages iirc!

I subsequently got a couple of books on shibori and discovered a lot of things I’d had to teach myself through trial and error!  I had no idea what, if anything, would remain of my original stitched design when I unpicked the shibori stitches, but in the event I was really pleased with how the different shapes came out, and the different colours were apparent, too.

For the backing, I used a “chunk” (technical term!) of cotton fabric that came from mum’s stash, mostly white but with flowers printed on it. It went through all the same dyeing phases as the shibori piece did, so that the front and back would tie together well.

I made a start on the quilting, using Glide thread, and was finding it an interesting but concentration-intensive process to define the shapes and textures left by the stitching and dyeing. Then other, more pressing projects popped up and I set it aside for some time while I focussed on other things. I did briefly toy with trying to finish it for the FoQ, but it was not big enough for the standard categories and I didn’t want to start adding borders where not needed, so I shelved that idea.

A couple of months ago, however, someone posted on the UKQU facebook group about the Scottish Quilting Show having extended the entry deadline and out of curiosity I checked the website to see what the categories and rules were. The lower size limit for “standard” quilts was smaller and I realised my shibori piece would be suitable – if I cracked on with quilting it! One entry form later and I had a month to finish the quilting and get it to the organisers by the Feb 25th deadline. I was also looking after my post-operative brother-in-law while mum helped my sister with her two small children; it became quite a challenge to sneak in quilting when I could! Somehow, though, I managed to get it finished and decided to face it instead of using a binding, a technique I’d never tried before! I love how it looks, though.

Proudly, I bundled it up and posted it off, and was relieved to get the confirmation of receipt email. I didn’t hear anything subsequently and family commitments made it impossible to get up to Glasgow to attend the show, so it wasn’t until someone very kindly posted some photos from the show on FB that I learned that it had been placed 2nd in the Contemporary category! I’m thrilled and I’m really looking forward to getting the judges’ comments back along with my quilt.

A Milestone Finish

I threw up a quick pic of this quilt in my previous post, but it deserves better than that. This is the quilt that started my on the path to becoming a quilter; it’s now finished and gifted, but my quilting journey continues.

It started way back when my sister announced her wedding and I enthusiastically declared that I would make the happy couple a wedding quilt, despite having never made any kind of quilt whatsoever before. Luckily(?) I’m a fast learner and had prior some experience with sewing machines to draw on. I did some research, found a heart pattern I liked that looked achievable and then got thoroughly overexcited buying fabrics in reds, pinks and creams, with no real idea of how big the final article would be or how much fabric I’d actually need. Then it dawned on me that perhaps a bit of practise on a less high-profile project might be a good idea, so I started a bargello instead, using the very cheap sewing machine I bought from a local supermarket.

It quickly became apparent that I didn’t completely have a handle on things when I started to assemble that bargello, so I bundled it – and everything else – up and disappeared off backpacking for most of a year. On my return to Wales, I sought out the lovely quilting group that I’ve been part of ever since and they pointed me in the right directions! With the bargello finished, I plugged away at the Wedding quilt heart blocks and top assembly, found some great fabric for the borders and back, and finally layered everything up.

Then more stalling happened when I realised that I wasn’t quite sure how to approach quilting it! By this time, I’d done other large bed quilts and was slowly building my FMQ skills, but it wasn’t until I was asked to dog-sit for a month by a quilty friend that I finally sunk my teeth into the quilting. She has a Horn cabinet, something I’d never tried before, but I quickly realised that this was just what I needed to help me quilt such a big item. Having armed myself with a surround to fit my Pfaff QE4.2, I set about quilting up a storm of spirals!

The hearts were quilted in the ditch around the outside, and I got really brave and did feathers in the top and bottom borders. To manage the size of the quilt, I mentally divided the area into approximate quarters and quilted each one from the centre out. This meant that, despite the large size of the quilt, I only had to wrangle at most half of the bulk of the quilt through my machine’s throat at any time. Trust me, that was plenty! Stopping the rest of the quilt from slithering off the table became the other big challenge.

Out of curiosity, I weighed the pins after I finished quilting – half a pound of metal! The quilt is heavy by itself, but that’s still a fair bit of extra weight to wrestle with.

I love how the back of a quilt shows off the quilting, this one is no exception! You can see the strip of “spare” hearts I pieced into the back – this is what happens when you start making a quilt without knowing how big it’s going to end up being! You can also see how the swirls “evolved” during the quilting process. Luckily, that’s not as obvious from the front!

I’m both proud and relieved to have finished this quilt, it was a first in many ways and taught me so much. Thankfully, my sister and brother-in-law seem thrilled with it too!

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.  🙂

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.

Shimmering Weekender

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!  🙂

Frogging in the Frost(Byte)

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So…. yeah.  I’ve had this kicking around for a while now and I found I kept making excuses not to do anything with it.  Slowly I’ve come to the realisation that this is because I really, really don’t like the way the quilting has gone on it, and there isn’t a lot I can do to salvage it because it’s slap bang in the middle of the quilt.  Eugh.  To quote pretty much every grumpy toddler I’ve ever met, I DON’T LIKE IT!

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Once I realised this was the problem though, it allowed me to admit the possibility of changing it.  If I really don’t like it that much and it’s stopping me from making any progress, maybe I should remove it and start again?  To this end, the other evening I grabbed my seam-ripper and started my frogging: “Rip-it!  Rip-it!”  I’ve only managed to unpick a small corner so far (I blame my horribly erratic FMQ stitch lengths and the hard-to-see thread) but I already feel like this is the right thing to do.  To be clear, I’m just getting rid of my terrible fail-feathers (fail-thers?) and the pebbling and the scratchy zig-zagging, but I’ll leave the general structure of big wonky hexagons – they help hold the layers together and I can work with them.

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And do I have something else planned instead?  Yes, kind of.  For months this project has been folded up and abandoned in various places in my craft room and those gorgeous fish on the backing fabric have been beckoning to me, making me feel bad for neglecting them.  I can ignore them no longer, so the new plan is to start by quilting from the back around some of those wonderful fishies, and then decide what else (if anything) to do next.

Cute koi!

A change of quilting thread is also likely because I’ve discovered blues I like better than my original choice.  Or maybe I’ll use metallics, since I’m a glutton for punishment like that.  In any case, there is a Plan, but first I have to get rid of all the crap I put on there before I knew what I wanted.  Ho hum.  All mistakes in life should be this easy to fix!

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.  🙂