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.


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.


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!)

Suddenly, A Bag

It’s my sister’s birthday tomorrow.  I made her a bag.Bag_4

It’s a slightly modified version of the Two-Zip Hipster from Dog Under My Desk.  The pattern went together pretty well, despite the fact that I used Ikea furnishing fabric for the outer and the weird selection of interfacings I could find locally rather than all quilting-weight cottons and Pellon, which I don’t think exists here.  I did have fun fussy-cutting the outer fabric for the inner and outer pockets.  🙂

I also made and added a little clip to hold keys:Bag_1

And an extra zipped pocket on the other side of the lining:Bag_2Bag_3

It went a bit wrinkly at the corners, but seems to be ok now the bag’s all finished.  Bags can never have too many pockets, to my mind.Bag_5

I also decided to use webbing for the strap rather than making one from the fabric:Bag_8All in all, I’m pretty pleased with it!

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social!

Japan Fan Club – FINISHED!


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!  😀

Finished Things!!!

And on a more cheerful note, squee!  Finished things!  (That are gifts, as it happens.)

Reversible table runner


We have here a table runner for my aunt and uncle; they came down for a quick visit the other weekend and I managed to finally get some binding on it and give it to them.

Below are the quilts for my cousin’s little boy and girl, which I’ve had in various states of almost finished for ages.  Finally I went on a binding spree and did them both when I had a quiet moment home alone.  And the next time I take it into my head to edge a quilt with black fabric, bind it with more black fabric and hand-finish the binding with black thread, I would like to have some sense slapped into me, please!  It’s basically impossible to do in anything other than natural light, and even then it’s a challenge.  but it’s DONE!!!

Coin Stack


 Colourful Chevrons


These have all been finished for a few weeks now, but I had to wait for a dry, calm, sunny day to take them out and photograph them (not to mention needing to brush all the wadding lint off the Coin Stack, which I only managed today).  At this time of year, in this part of Wales, such things are hard to come by!  I’m so glad to have these done and I have a follow-up quilt laid out on the floor now for a little brother or sister (due at the start of April).  It’s a straightforward Plus quilt so it should be quite quick to assemble – just a bunch of 5″ squares.


(I’ve filled in the gaps and shifted one or two things around, but that’s the gist of it.) With any luck, I might manage to have it done by the time baby #3 appears and be able to give all three kids their quilts at the same time.

Linking up with TGIFF for the first time!  🙂

Play Craft’s Equal – Piecing!

frost_2702_5Look what I did!

frost_2702_4Check out those points!

frost_2702_2IT WORKS!!!  *excited flailing*

I mean yes, I did a bunch of calculations to be as sure as I could be that it *would* work, but it’s still nice to find that everything is fitting as it should and going together really well!frost_2702_9I am SO pleased with this so far!  I still have a few more rows to do, but I’m now confident that they won’t give me any trouble.

In general, the piecing has been as straightforward as it can be with three different sizes of triangle.  I’ve trialled a couple of different approaches now (strips versus building up large triangles from the smaller ones), and I think I prefer the latter.  I am also absolutely confident that I DO NOT want to piece triangles any smaller than this; the 1″ triangles are just about manageable, but anything smaller would be a nightmare in terms of lining everything up and managing the seams.

Tips for construction

Not put off by walls of maths and the prospect of endless equilateral triangles?  Want to try one of these?  Here are some of the things I’ve found when piecing this beastie.

  • Accurate cutting is your friend!

Obviously, starting with carefully cut pieces is crucial since it makes lining everything up to join *so* much easier!

  • Don’t skimp the seams!

Use the full 1/4″ seam allowance, or even a thread or so more.  Using a 1/4″ presser foot helps a lot with this.  I found that using scant seams on the smaller triangles meant that they came up a bit large when I joined them to the largest triangles, which meant more need to ease and argue to get everything lined up right.  My guess is that the 3/4″ seam allowance given for equilateral triangles is slightly out, but is the closest approximation we can sensibly measure with cutting rulers.  It’s fine as long as you’re aware of it.

  • Be mindful of the fabric grain

If possible, try to make sure that the grain of the fabric is pointing up and down the quilt.  This should make the overall quilt more stable and make piecing finished strips easier, but it means that a lot of the piecing of individual triangles is along bias edges, so care is needed to avoid stretching the triangles out of shape.fabric _grain

  • Minimal pinning

These aren’t very big triangles so I found that mostly they don’t need a lot of pinning; I could just line the points up and sew.  Especially on the smallest triangles (remember, mine finish at only 1″ tall!), pinning would distort them too much and make things worse, not better.  I kept pins for matching points and the largest triangles once the strips were long and heavy enough to pull the triangles out of alignment.  If possible, I kept pins away from the stitching area to stop them throwing off the presser foot.

  • Press seams open
Actually, I think it could be MUCH worse…

The random nature of piecing this makes it pretty well impossible to nest seams pressed to the side, and the dog-ears from seams pressed open are invaluable for helping to line up triangles when piecing.  Press ’em open, it makes life a LOT easier!

  • Press ALL the things!

Don’t even THINK you can get away with not pressing seams!

  • Use pins to line up points

When piecing complete strips or finished triangles together, I use a pin to line up the points as closely as possible by passing it through the back of one point and then through the front of the opposite point and pinching them tightly together against the head of the pin while I added a second pin to hold them flat and in place for sewing.frost_2702_8

  • Sew a straight line!

Sounds stupid; of course you’d want to sew a straight line!  But with the bulk of the seams (and maybe a pin) under the presser foot, it can be easy to wiggle off course and miss catching points together properly.

  • Have a pointy thing ready to tame rebellious seams

Pressing the seams open results in lots of little dog-ears and pointy seams that have an annoying habit of flipping up and scrunching when they’re sewn.  I kept my seam ripper to hand so that I could use the point to press them flat or coax them to lie nicely under the presser foot if necessary.  Essential when joining finished strips together.

Strip versus triangle piecing

I started by piecing same-size triangles together into the longest strips possible, then joining strips together and connecting them with larger triangles.  This works, but I felt it wasn’t as precise as it could be because you end up with lots of long seams and lots of points to match, which can be a bother.  Not to mention, depending on the pattern, long strips aren’t always an option anyway.  The advantage of this method is that it’s reasonably easy to keep track of where you’re up to with a strip.

What I refer to as “triangle piecing” means piecing the smallest triangles into medium-sized triangles, then piecing the medium-sized triangles into large triangles and then joining all large triangles into a finished strip.  Sound confusing?  Yes.  That’s the biggest disadvantage of this piecing strategy, really.  You can end up spending a fair bit of time squinting at numerous pairs of triangles and trying to figure out where they go and what you need to add next.  It helps to define the large triangles before piecing them (I outlined them in pencil on my print-out), or it can get very muddly, and between sewing machine and ironing board things can get very mixed up too.  It’s *not* impossible, but it does need patience and attention!  However, as mentioned, depending on the pattern this approach may well be necessary anyway and I did feel that the piecing of the finished strips with this approach seemed neater and more precise.  I’ll continue using this method for the last few strips.

Thoughts so far

I am SO SO SO proud of how well this experiment is working!  Some of my points are bit more “off” than my inner control freak would like, but given what I’m trying to do I think they’re actually pretty damn good.  My inner control freak can STFU for once!  I wish I could say that the quilting will be beautiful and complement the frosty triangles wonderfully, but I have to be honest and say that quilting’s my weakest skill; I’ll attempt some all-over feathers, but be prepared for disappointment there!  I would totally do this kind of thing again, in fact I’d love to make one with larger triangles (because I think accurate cutting/piecing/point matching would be vastly easier) and with shot cottons (because shot cottons might be my new fabric obsession).  But I’ll probably need a wee break from equilateral triangles for a bit once I’ve finished this one!  😉

Linking up with QuiltShopGal’s #CreativeGoodness, in case anyone else is mad enough to want to try this.  :p


Play Craft’s Equal – CUTTING! SEWING!

See here and here for my previous posts about using Play Craft’s Equal.

Frostbyte triangles

I love these fabrics, they’re so SPARKLY!  (Even if my cutting and ironing boards are now covered in glitter.)  Anyway, these are some of the triangles I’ve cut for Frostbyte; they are 4.75, 2.75 and 1.75″ tall, and have been cut starting from the largest and working down, which worked well because I could cut up any left-overs from larger strips for the smaller triangles.

Half-equilateral triangles
Not the same!

I also re-discovered that not all half-triangles are created equal!  Initially I just cut them at random without referring to my printed Frostbyte diagram, but then part-way through cutting the medium-coloured, medium-sized triangles it occurred to me to check against my print-out and I realised that a lot of the ones I’d cut didn’t “point” the right way.  Ooops.  But fortunately I realised in time and could cut the rest of the ones I needed the right way around, though I did have to go back and re-cut both the large dark half-triangles.

Medium triangles

Part-way through cutting the smallest triangs, I confess I got kind of bored (I’d done all the dark ones and was still faced with the prospect of cutting some 220-odd more light- and medium coloured ones, blah!), so I took the large and medium triangs over to the sewing machine and started piecing neighbouring same-size triangs into strips in a vague sort of way.

Triangle strips

This is not entirely how I intended to piece this, but I think it’ll work.  I also think that my medium-coloured fabrics are a bit light in places (depends which bit of the print is showing), but I think I’m still going to like the finished product, even if it’s not identical to the concept image.Triangle stripsWhee!  😀  (We’ll see if I’m still squeeing when I have to join triangles of different sizes…)

Linking up with Freshly Pieced’s WIP Wednesday.

Quilting the Japan Fan Club

Japan_Fans_1002_4It’s all gone a bit Art Deco, and I LIKE it!  😀Japan Fans quilting

I did most of the outline quilting on the fans at Quilt Club last week, now I’m working on the straight lines on the “plain” halves of the fan blades.  One half of the curtain is now quilted like this, next I will do the same to the other half and then steel myself for the FMQ.Japan Fans quiltingI was worried that the metallic thread would be too much on the blades (especially the black ones), but I think it helps to differentiate fans from frames, which is important given they’re all the same fabrics!  This is particularly important for the red fans because they sit right next to the red frames.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

Editing to also link up to ALYOF at Sew BitterSweet Designs and Fiber of All Sorts. I’m aiming to have this completely quilted and ready to give to Mum for Mothering Sunday on the 15th.  🙂

Project Linus – The Scrappening

After finishing the two Bear Adventures tops, I found I had quite a lot of squares and strips left over.  In the spirit of not wanting to waste anything from the charity’s supplies, I cut the strips into more squares, made a big pile of four-patches and then pieced them into four bigger squares in a fairly random way.butterflies_2The sashing and borders are from my own stash.  It reminds me a lot of a window, and the green and yellow looks like dappled forest light.  Although I like this a lot, it’s not really very kid-friendly (it looks like the world’s greenest wall hanging), so I rummaged in my scrap drawer for some colourful bits and threw some butterflies at it:Butterfly WindowMuch better!  😀

The butterflies were added with fusible web, but could do with a bit of zigzag or blanket stitch around them to make sure they stay put and give them a nice bit of definition.  Quilt Club is tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to handing my three Linus tops to Cath so she can add them to the cause.  🙂

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

Project Linus Sewing Day

Cath from Quilt Club has been involved with Project Linus for some time, and recently became an organiser for our area.  In a show of solidarity and team spirit, most of Quilt Club showed up to attend her first Project Linus Sewing Day last Thursday.  We were told to turn up armed with our sewing machines only, everything else (including thread) would be provided.Linus_2901_2

She wasn’t kidding!  There was a long table crammed with baskets full of enticing fabrics (why are other peoples’ scraps always more interesting?), wadding, loads of reels of thread (though I ended up using my own because I prefer to piece with cotton).  As well as familiar Quilt Club faces, there were several people I hadn’t met before, including the lady who runs night classes in PW&Q at the local college.  Everyone was very friendly and keen to quilt up a storm of Linus quilts!

Continue reading Project Linus Sewing Day

The Scraps of my Heart(s)

After making all the heart blocks for the Wedding Quilt, I was left with a whole bunch of half-square triangles trimmed from the corners.  The larger triangles come from the bases of the hearts, the smaller ones are from the top points of the hearts.heart_scraps_largeheart_scraps_small
I didn’t keep all the off-cut triangles; some weren’t cut well and I chucked some of the smaller ones because I wasn’t sure they’d be big enough to do anything sensible with.  But there’s still a whole bunch of the things!  😮

Continue reading The Scraps of my Heart(s)