Monday, 26 October 2015

Mini rainbow New York Beauty quilt - 2nd entry in Bloggers' Quilt Festival

My second entry for this autumn's Bloggers' Quilt Festival is my variation on a New York Beauty mini quilt. I am entering it into the "Mini Quilt" category. To be honest, 2015 has been the year of the mini quilt so it seems appropriate to be entering a quilt in this category.

I made this mini quilt for the Sew My Stash mini quilt swap that finished earlier this month. My initial plan was a rainbow New York Beauty variation made of 9 blocks arranged diagonally across the quilt.

My initial sketch

After making a test block, I realised I didn't have enough rainbow coloured fabrics to do my vision justice, so I decided on an alternative arrangement of 4 blocks with a little more variety in the pieced arcs. At this point I was considering a pieced background of various black-on-white and white-on-black prints.

My initial fabric pull and updated plan

By the time I started piecing I had decided to use plainer black and white background fabrics to let the rainbow scraps really stand out. Here are the first four arcs pieced on foundation papers.

First four arcs pieced

 I added a bit more complexity with another 2 pieced arcs...

All components pieced and ready to sew together

Once the top was finished, I stopped for a couple of days to consider my options. My original plan had been to quilt the white background areas in white and the black areas in black. However, I had recently finished another mini quilt where I had used matching threads for complex quilting, and had been a bit disappointed that all the quilting was pretty much invisible on the front of the quilt. So, I bit the bullet and went for grey thread that would show up on both black and white background fabrics. It was a bit nerve wracking and a bit exhilarating, but I'm glad that I went for it. I stitched in the ditch around the points, and then free motion quilted in concentric circles using my domestic sewing machine.

A little bit nerve wracking and a little bit exhilarating!

I used the same black fabric for the binding and then sent it off to its new owner in Canada.

the finished quilt

And here's the mini quilt that came to live with me. I love it! Bright colours and plenty of kitties - what's not to love?!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Coronet - my blogger's quilt festival entry

My first entry for this autumn's Bloggers' Quilt Festival is my original mini quilt "Coronet". I am entering it into the "Quilting on a Domestic Machine" category.

finished mini quilt

It all started when I visited the dentist and noticed the brickwork above the front door of the surgery. Some of the bricks were shaped like pyramids and I noticed how it would be possible to create the illusion of 3D pyramids by using 1/4 square triangles in graduated shades of colour.

The idea languished in my sketch book for a while, until I was trying to decide on something to make as a secret sewer gift for a retreat I was about to attend. Using some ombre fabrics from my stash I made a selection of pyramid blocks, and then auditioned various background fabrics.

auditioning the blocks on dark grey fabric
In the end, I chose a fabric with a beautiful silvery sheen for the background, and arranged the blocks in a rainbow ordered circle, being careful to orientate the pyramid blocks to look as though light is coming from above.

the quilt top

Then came the quilting. I used two layers of Warm and Natural cotton wadding to make the quilting really stand out, and used a walking foot to quilt a few concentric circles, and to outline the pyramid blocks. After that, I switched to a darning foot and added a different free-motion quilting pattern within each circle leaving the pyramids unquilted.

free motion quilting in progress
 I think my favourite part of the quilting is the circle that looks a little like a mandala.

I finished the binding minutes before gifting the quilt to my secret sewer partner. There's nothing like working to a deadline, is there?

done, with minutes to spare - phew!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Kaffe Fassett Mini Quilt Swap

I've been a fan of Kaffe Fassett's colour sensibility for a very long time. I used to look at his colourful knitting designs for Rowan and wish that I (or my mum) had the patience (and in my case, skill) to make a jumper or cardigan. When he started to design quilting fabrics, I would lust over them in quilt shops and imagine ways to use them. So I was delighted when a Kaffe Fassett Mini Quilt Swap was announced on Instagram.

My partner didn't list any specific likes or dislikes on her sign-up form, so I had free reign to create. I started with choosing a selection of fabrics in rich blues and purples, offset with bright lime green.

Fabrics from the Kaffe Fassett Collective in blues, purples and lime green

I designed a quilt based on an adaptation of a half pineapple block. My partner did say that she would prefer a small mini (!) so I drew up 6" foundation piecing papers for the blocks and started to sew. The quilt needed just four blocks, so it didn't take too long, but it did create quite a bit of mess in my sewing room.

Foundation piecing the blocks

I added sashing and cornerstones to finish the 15 inch square quilt top.

The quilt top ready for quilting

I decided to use quilting threads that would not fight too much with the beautiful Kaffe Fassett fabrics, so picked out a Sulky variegated thread in lime green, and a gorgeous Wonderfil Tutti thread in a ranges of blues and purples. I had not sewn with Wonderfil before, but I think I'm a convert. My machine liked it, it stitched beautifully and it left very little lint. I stitched in the ditch around all the lime green squares and triangles, before adding little free-motion flower motifs in lime green thread. After that, I switched to the purple/blue thread and stitched long spindly curls which remind me a little of water lilies or chrysanthemums.

Detail of quilting in progress

I chose a green shot cotton for the back of this quilt, and I couldn't be more pleased with how the quilting looks from the back. It feels great to have gained enough confidence to use contrasting threads.

The finished quilting from the back of the quilt

After quilting, I completed the quilt with another shot cotton - this time purple for the binding. I had been worried that the busy Kaffe Fassett prints might detract from the overall quilt design, but I think using similarly coloured fabrics makes this hang together pretty well.

The finished quilt

And here's the quilt that came to live with me - made by Kari in Pennsylvania. On my sign up form, I had said that I love aqua and red and plenty of quilting, and Kari did a great job of choosing fabrics and sewing a quilt that I love. It looks fantastic in my sewing room, along with my spoils from other mini quilt swaps.

The quilt that came to live with me

If you would like to see more of the quilts made for this swap, check out the #KaffeMiniSwap hashtag on Instagram. There are some really amazing and inventive quilts.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Text Me Mini Quilt Swap

I've joined quite a few mini quilt swaps this year, all of which have been arranged through Instagram. The most recent one to conclude was the Text Me Mini Quilt Swap, which required participants to make a mini quilt containing at least two fabrics with text designs.

My partner listed her favourite colours as hot pink, gold, mint green, aqua green and lavender, and I thought I would try to make something incorporating as many of those colours as possible. The only thing I could think of that might look good with all those colours was a flower bed, so I started to design a flowery quilt block. This is what I came up with...

A sketch of my original mini quilt design

181 pieces in a 21 inch block. Crazy! I decided that I would use a selection of black-on-white and white-on-black text prints for the background and use my partner's favourite colours for the "flowers" and "leaves".

Keeping track of all the pieces

Completed top
Once the top was pieced, it was time to think about quilting. I am not really one for minimal quilting, so I decided to quilt the different components of the quilt with different patterns and in different colours of thread.

Thread choices for quilting
After some deliberation, I went for free motion feathers in the pink flower petals, starbursts in the gold flower centres, leafy shapes in the green squares, and pebbles in the background areas. Plus some stitching in the ditch around all the different areas.

Quilting the flower petals

The background quilting - I call this "pebbles", but Mr Q thinks it looks like a skin disease and calls it "pustules"

I finished the quilt with another white-on-black text fabric for the binding...

The completed quilt
As my partner is also a knitter, I added a Boxy Pouch sewn following a tutorial from Pink Stitches in similar colours so that she can store a small knitting project on the go. To give it a bit of structure, I fused the outside fabric to some felt before straight line quilting it.

Boxy pouch
I really enjoyed putting this quilt together. As usual, the top went together really quickly and then I agonised over the quilting. But once I had a plan, I really enjoyed the free motion quilting. I think I need to learn to trust my quilting instincts and just get on with it.

The quilt that arrived at my house was made by Charity in Washington. It is really lovely - beautifully understated with impeccable points and quilting that really enhances the design. I love that Charity let the text fabric (with lots of words about making and creativity) take centre stage. It looks fabulous on my expanding wall of mini quilts.

The mini quilt that I received

If you fancy having a look at the other quilts that were made as part of this swap, check out the #TextMeMiniQuiltSwap hashtag on Instagram.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Four patch tutorial

Next month (September) it is my turn to choose the block that members of the Comfort Circle of Do Good Stitches will sew. I've decided to go for something very simple, in the hopes that my bee-mates will make several of these smallish blocks (8.5 inches unfinished) each!

I've decided to go for a colour scheme of white, paired with lemon yellow, lime green and aqua.

the colour scheme for September blocks

The quilt I've designed uses equal numbers of "positive" and "negative" blocks so I'm hoping that my bee mates will make at least one pair of blocks each.

positive block - small white squares form a diagonal line
negative block - small coloured squares form a diagonal line

For each pair of blocks (one positive and one negative), you will need to cut:
8 squares 2.5 x 2.5 inches from white fabrics
8 squares 2.5 x 2.5 inches from a range of lemon/lime/aqua fabrics
2 squares 4.5 x 4.5 inches from white
2 squares 4.5 x 4.5 inches from lemon/lime/aqua

Fabric requirements for a pair of blocks

The sewing instructions below are for a "positive block" with large coloured squares. The "negative blocks" are made in exactly the same way but with large white squares.

Sew each white 2.5 inch square to a coloured 2.5 inch square and press the seam towards the darker fabric.

Step 1: sew white and coloured small squares together in pairs

 Sew two of these pieced units together (nesting the seams) to create two checkerboard squares, each 4.5 inches square.

Step 2: make checkerboard squares

Sew each pieced square unit to a 4.5 inch fabric square, paying attention to the orientation of the pieced unit. Press the seam towards the plain fabric square.

Step 3: sew checkerboard squares to large squares

Nesting seams, sew the two units together. Give the finished block a good press. It should measure 8.5 inches square.

Step 4: finished block

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Before and after

It's been a long time since I posted anything about our house renovation. We don't tend to move very quickly with renovating - taking our time to come to a decision that we will both love (no easy feat) and then tracking down all the bits we need.

Let me remind you what our spare bedroom looked like the day we moved into our house. "Amazing" 60s/70s carpet, floral wallpaper and two-tone green painted wood-chip walls that looked a bit like mould.

before - eek! - the day we moved in
Once the carpet was up and the wallpaper gone, we realised that the plaster needed to be replaced. We went back to the bare brick, and to our surprise found a bricked up doorway that had once led through to next door!

discovering a secret doorway

We had the room replastered, replaced the skirting boards and window architrave, and then we painted the walls a pretty duck egg blue (Mr Q took a lot of convincing about this colour).

The next job was to have a quieter carpet fitted, and move the furniture in. A super-comfy bed from Ikea, a fantastic antique pine wardrobe I found on eBay and a wicker chair that I've owned for more than 20 years (I originally carried it home from Habitat on Tottenham Court Road in London on the Northern Line of the Underground - when people looked at me like I was mad I explained that it was often hard to get a seat on the Tube).

The painting is by David Goodwin. I bought it at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre with some birthday money. It's something else that I brought home by public transport. The Orla Kiely bedlinen was a steal at TKMaxx, and I made the curtains and cushion covers.

I have a selection of objects that I love on top of the chest of drawers... a lino print by Shelagh Dwyer, a wooden bird sculpture by Michael Griffin, a tiny metal house and tree sculpture, and a ceramic bird dish from PrinceDesignUK.

 There are still a couple of finishing touches to go - some shades for the bedside lamps and a hook on the back of the door - but I am delighted with how this room has come together. Perhaps we should move in while we think about renovating another part of the house.

after - a study in tranquility

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Squirrel at the Wheel block tutorial

July is my month as queen bee of the Siblings Together Quilting Bee 2. This entails deciding on a block and a colour scheme for the quilt that bee members will contribute to this month. After a lot of indecision, I have finally come up with a block which is based on a traditional quilt block variously known as Squirrel in the Cage, Broken Wheel or Rolling Stone. I was particularly inspired by Camille Roskelley's Puddle Jumping design and Riel Nason's scrappy Rolling Stone quilt.

I'm going to call my variation Squirrel at the Wheel. My colour choices were inspired by the tangerine palette of Joel Dewberry's Notting Hill fabric line.

Joel Dewberry's Notting Hill fabrics inspired my colour choices for the quilt

Please use solid white or white-on-white fabric for the background. I'd like this to be as white as possible, so no cream please. For the centre and wheel fabrics (see picture below), please use oranges and bright pinks...

I'd like to have some blocks with pink centres and orange wheels, some with orange centres and pink wheels, and others that are all orange or all pink. Make whichever you would prefer. The 4 options are shown below. I just need one block from each of you.

4 alternative colour arrangements

The rest of this post shows how I made my block with a pink centre and an orange wheel.

From the background fabric:
cut 10 3.5 x 3.5 inch squares and 4 3 x 5.5 inch rectangles

From the centre fabric (pink in my case):
cut 2 3.5 x 3.5 inch squares

From the wheel fabric (orange in my case):
cut 16 3.5 x 3.5 inch squares.

All the squares are going to be used to make half square triangles.

Pair the 2 centre colour squares and 8 of the wheel colour squares with background squares. Pair the remaining 8 wheel colour squares with each other.

For each pair of squares, draw a diagonal line on one of the squares and sew a seam 1/4 inch either side of the line. I chose to draw 1/4 inch lines either side of the diagonal and sewed along the drawn lines.

Cut the squares along the diagonal and press open. Press your seams however you prefer - open or to one side. Then trim the squares to 3 inches lining up the diagonal line on your ruler with the diagonal seam line.

cutting along the diagonal

trimming to 3 inches square
At this point, I laid out all my blocks and fiddled with them until I had an arrangement I liked. You will have:
8 squares made entirely of wheel fabric (orange)
16 squares made of wheel and background fabric (orange and white)
4 squares made of centre and background fabric (pink and white)
4 rectangles of background fabric

triangles all sewn
The next step is to sew the wheel coloured squares and background rectangles together. Take two squares made completely of the wheel colour and sew them together. Sew this unit to the long side of a background rectangle. If you have chosen to press seams to the side, press towards the background rectangle. The following 3 pictures show this step which you will repeat for all 4 background rectangles.

The next step is to sew the remaining half square triangles together in groups of 4. First the centre colour ones...

Then the wheel coloured ones...

If you are pressing seams to one side, the following picture should help you with pressing directions to allow the seams to nest together more easily...

Each of these mini blocks should measure 5.5 inches square.

Sew the blocks together in 3 rows, pressing the seams in each row in alternating directions.

Finally sew the three rows together. Give the block a good press. Your completed block should measured 15.5 inches square.

Make yourself a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine. You deserve it!