I mentioned my plan to make squishy foam alphabet blocks for my niece’s first birthday a few weeks ago, and at last here are the finished articles!
They were a lot of fun to make – I went to town with the decorative stitches on my sewing machine and every face of every cube is decorated differently. If I had a “suitable” stitch (like ants on the letter A), then I gleefully used it!
All the satin stitching around the letters seemed to take forever, but the effect is great and I know that they’re secure against prying little fingers.
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…
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.I 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.
He’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.
It’s my sister’s birthday tomorrow. I made her a bag.
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:
And an extra zipped pocket on the other side of the lining:
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.
I also decided to use webbing for the strap rather than making one from the fabric:All in all, I’m pretty pleased with it!
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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!!!
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.
YESSSSSSSS! All those triangles, all together! So pleased with this one! 😀 For reference, here’s the original image I’ve been working on, created from Equal by Play Crafts (and thank you to Lori for pointing out that it was AWOL!):
In a spirit of doing ALL the experiments, I have bought some 100% wool wadding for this (I have not tried wool yet) and I ordered some Aurifil thread for the quilting (I have not tried Aurifil, either). And I couldn’t resist picking up some super-cute koi fish fabric for the back. They manage to combine all the colours in the fabrics of the top, and I like the idea that, if I go with my all-over frosty feathers quilting idea, they’ll look (hopefully!) like they’re swimming below a skim of ice. (I doubt I’m going to be that lucky, but I’m nothing if not ambitious!)
It will most likely be a wall hanging, or some other purpose that doesn’t demand a lot of washing and wear; the wool wadding seems to be a bit picky about cleaning methods and I’m not convinced all that glitter on the fabrics won’t all come off in the first wash. Certainly there seems to be quite a bit on my ironing board! Plus it’s kind of a funny size (~30 x 34″) to do anything with, especially as I have no intention of adding borders.
After trying this pattern, I came to the conclusion that, although my light and dark fabrics worked well, my medium fabrics were less effective because the print is just too large – in some places the medium triangles look reasonably obvious, in others they’re almost impossible to distinguish from the light triangles.
I don’t mind this overly much, I suspected that it would be the case and I still like the outcome because I like these fabrics. However, it does alter the look of the pattern a bit. Were I to do this again, I would lean towards choosing solid or reads-as-solid fabrics over larger prints. The use of two different prints for each shade was also a little confusing, though mostly because of the above-mentioned issue with the medium-coloured fabrics being too light in places. That’s not something I would necessarily avoid in future, but again it changes the very graphic look of the original design. I would also tend to avoid very directional prints, or the effort of getting everything pointed in the right direction could be maddening!
Fat quarters versus yardage?
I mostly used fat quarters for this; it did work out ok and my yardage estimates were pretty good. However, I would say that, because of the approximation used when calculating the number of triangles in a strip (counting two half-triangles at each end of a strip as one whole triangle), there would be less wastage and yardage estimates would be more accurate if WOF yardage were used rather than fat quarters because it reduces the number of strips required (1 WOF strip = 2 FQ strips). That means two fewer “wasted” half-triangles. Alternatively, calculations for the number of strips needed could be approached differently to give a more accurate result.
Using up “ends” from larger triangles to cut smaller triangles also helped reduce waste and proved to be essential for cutting enough of the light-coloured triangles. I almost ran into trouble when piecing the final strip when I realised that I was one medium-sized light triangle short and didn’t have a large enough piece of the light-coloured fabrics left to cut more. I told myself that, if necessary, I would replace it with a medium-coloured triangle, but in the event I found that I had an extra dark triangle the right size, so I substituted that instead. At least with a pattern like this, such antics go pretty much unnoticed! 😀 I also came up a bit short on small light and dark triangles, but had more enough scraps left to be able to cut extras with no trouble. So I can’t count, but it all worked out ok anyway! :p
So, feathers? Feathers. Despite the fact that I have never quilted a feather in my life and I still haven’t really mastered FMQ on the Pfaff. Yay. This may well be time to bust out the water-erase fabric pen I bought, if only I can remember where I put it!
My Aurifil thread arrived, along with some YLI Soft Touch and some Superior Bottom Line and a ridiculous variety of different types and sizes of needles:
Somewhere in here there must be a combination that will work for me! I’m pleased with the colour of Aurifil I chose – it’s called Silver and proved to be a really nice soft grey with a hint of blue, perfect for a frosty look. If Aurifil proves to work well for me, I may pick up their thread shade card – it’s horrible playing “guess the real colour” on a computer screen. :/ I picked grey for the other two as well so that they have the potential to blend with a decent range of colours, I hope. The site I bought these from, New Threads, has a really useful-looking page of advice on choosing the right needle to match the task and the thread, and I shall be using the suggestions in my experiments.
Additionally, I recently discovered that The Cotton Patch run a “Make Friends With Your Pfaff” course that focuses on patchwork and quilting, and the next one is at the end of March (which unfortunately coincides neatly with when we’re likely to move house, but oh well). It was £45 because I didn’t buy my machine from them, but I suspect it will be money well spent so I signed up for the last available place, and hopefully they can help me see where I’m going wrong with my machine and give me some tips on making the most of it. In the meantime, I’m going to Pfaff about with a few thread/needle combos and see how I get on. 😉
I mean yes, I did a bunch ofcalculations 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!I 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.
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
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.
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! 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.Whee! 😀 (We’ll see if I’m still squeeing when I have to join triangles of different sizes…)
These have been sitting around in a poly-bag for far too long, all trimmed and ready to go, so I finally got up the enthusiasm (and floor space!) to lay out, join and quilt them:This is the final layout I decided on – a randomly mixed variant really wasn’t working for me. Annoyingly, I found that I had two pink blocks too many and not enough greens, so I ended up remaking those two with a left-over blue charm square (thank goodness I saved the “spare” two) and reshuffled things a little so the colours flowed better.
I added borders of yellow polka-dots, and backed it with the same:I still don’t know what I think of these charm squares – they’re quite strange shades, really. Very hard to match with anything. But I’m very pleased I struck on this arrangement, it should be cute enough for a little girl. 🙂 Right now I’m most of the way through straight-line quilting it with some multicoloured variegated thread in similar soft colours and it’s looking really good! More stuff to add to my “needs binding!” pile. 😉