Sunshine quilt

Sunshine quilt

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New year plans

The arrival of the new year used to make me feel really apprehensive - a whole year for unexpected things to happen - a huge stretch of time which might be filled with good things but might also be filled with difficult things too. Too long to contemplate and not really a reason to celebrate. My reaction to new year has always surprised me as I am generally very optimistic - but recently I have learned just how to deal with it. Not for me the lists of things that have happened over the past 12 months nor the resolutions. I just take it as another day. So tonight I am not out merry making - in fact I have just spent a couple of hours free motion quilting. Today is simply 31st December - nothing special. There is one bit of new year I love though - the early morning of new year's day  - out in the garden quiet ....when everyone else is still asleep ...

But....I do have one new year plan and this is to finish the quilt you see above on my washing line. And in the not too distant future. I have been trying to get a photo of the quilt top for ages, and between the storms which are chasing through the UK at the moment I caught a moment of the dying light and snapped this. It still doesn't really do the colours justice, but I do love the way they are highlighted by the bricks of our outhouses behind.

This quilt is part of the process of me learning about colour. I bought a pack of Kaffe Fassett squares in yellow, orange and brown knowing I would not usually choose these colours and almost daring myself to use them. This half log cabin quilt is the result. The pattern is inspired by Jane Brocket's Purple Rain Quilt. In a way I have cheated because although I have substantially added to the fabrics in the pack I just chose more of the same from the Kaffe Fassett collective following their yellow, orange and brown grouping. I haven't followed any special pattern for putting the blocks together, or even the strips within the blocks as you can see below

So now I need to get on with some piecing and then decide on a backing fabric. If I go for a Kaffe Fassett backing, which I probably will, I will order it from the US as the price is so much less than the UK ( $10.00 per yard compared to £13 per metre which is a big difference over the 5 or 6 yards I will need, even with customs and postage) so that may be a slight delay. But surely, ... surely I can get it done for Spring?

So that's the plan - definitely not a resolution, but just something nice to look forward to!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Quick knitting interlude

Just a quickie post to show you the Christmas dog coats I knitted. As you can see the dogs are big football fans with Kevin supporting Arsenal and Muttley following Burnley. The one without the coat is Wilf and I don't think he likes football ( He loves tennis balls though!!). He doesn't need a coat cos he wears his own black wetsuit all the time!

 I can recommend the pattern which we bought from ebay by Val Charman at Greyhounds4me. I adjusted the size a little - smaller for Muttley and bigger for Kevin, and doubled over the neck to make a slightly more substantial collar. The wool is used  double throughout ( I used Stylecraft basic double knitting) and it makes a really nice tough heavy fabric. Not sure how long either coat will last - you can probably see that both dogs had to be substantially bribed for a photo - Kevin especially wanted to play with his.

Friday, 27 December 2013

(Quilt) back to normal

I'm not a massive fan of Christmas - it's OK but I quickly get fed up with too much food, too much TV and too much stuff ( on sofas, on the stairs, on the kitchen table) so one of my favourite things about Christmas is getting back to normal. OK I know that's really sad - but it's how I am. One of the things I like best is cooking up the leftovers in a variety of ingenious dishes (chicken and ham pie and sprouts today!). I like the fact that I haven't got to go shopping and also that I haven't got to spend money on food after some pretty big Christmas shops. So it's all things frugal - and I like that.

Following on from my post Christmas parsimony I am going to talk about quilt backs today as it seems to fit with my less is more mood. Choosing a quilt back is one of my favourite bits of quilting. I like to choose something that goes with the front but looks good in its own right. The one above is from the shades of black collection by Me and My Sister for Moda. This was an extravagant purchase ( £12 or £13 a metre I think) as I needed 4 metres. It's funny how quilt backs make you realise how much fabric costs because you have to buy a large quantity in one go.

However I often choose something much more economical for a quilt back to limit the overall cost. I usually  use a shop in Southampton called Fabric Land. This sells really economical cottons. Lots are very bright patterns, but if you look carefully there are several small patterns that are perfect for backing quilts.The cotton is quite lightweight, but I am not expecting this quilt to be washed much so I don't need it to be tough. The fabric above which is tiny maroon leaves on a taupe background was priced at £3.69 a metre. I did the same for the quilt pictured below too.

It's just a simple red and white dot - another bargain at £3.69! But it's a perfect foil to the very busy front. The dotty pattern also hides a multitude of sins in the quilting.

I know some quilters like to use a big statement pattern on the back of their quilts as it can be the only opportunity to use some of the lovely large scale patterns such as the floral fabrics by Philip Jacobs. The closest I got to this was the back of my first quilt below.

As you can see, I chose a bold and very complex design of water lilies, and though I love the fabric in its own right it really doesn't work as a quilt back.

So I guess you live and learn. I'm making the most of the slightly quieter time at work between Christmas and New Year, fitting in some more quilting - so lots to show you over the next few weeks.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Countdown to Christmas

This year I have made loads of Christmas presents. I think the reason I have made more this year is partly my aversion to shopping which I wrote about in my last post, and partly as my skills improve I can make things I think people will actually like. In the picture above are two table mats I made for my younger daughter after my success with a larger table centre mat. These also used the quilt as you go method and were quick to make and fun too. I like the backs which are a mirror image of each other. I can show you these since she has opened them already as they are especially designed for her Christmas dinner table. This will be her first year cooking dinner as a married person and she and her husband are having dinner together before heading out later. I have requested some pics of the mats in use! I loved making them as they used up some pretty small pieces of Christmas fabric and some old scraps of wadding. Making the most of scraps makes me feel good and I guess is really what patchwork is all about.

I really thought I had started in good time with Christmas making this year - but needless to say it is the 22nd of December and I still have something on my needles and a half finished cushion waiting to be quilted. The cushion isn't quite so bad as I won't be seeing the recipient till new year. I've got lots of Christmas crafty makes to show you, including two very smart dog coats - but you will have to wait until after the big day. I foolishly forgot to take photos of the dog coats before wrapping them so I must make sure to get some photos being modelled by their owners.

Although I'm looking forward to Christmas, I'm also looking forward to a little bit of time off work ( unfortunately not the whole festive period) to catch up with my own quilting that has been put on hold. I have a finished quilt top that needs sandwiching and quilting which is for someone else and I also have a quilt of my own which I need to complete. It has been a work in progress for too long. Here's a sneaky peak. The photo is not very good as the light is terrible this time of year and it is too wet to take the quilt outside to take a picture.

This is another episode in the colour story from my post a week or so ago which I will tell you about once I get just a little bit further with the quilt. What do you think of it?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G - We're shopping

I heard this Pet Shop Boys song the other day when I was sewing and it got me thinking! I normally really hate shopping, for clothes especially. Christmas shopping has lost all its magic for me as well. When I do have to go into a department store, especially this time of year, I find the huge displays of stuff to buy (that I don't need) almost overwhelming. I don't want to be snobby about this - I really used to love going round the shops and choosing all my Christmas presents, but I think I've done it too many times and the novelty has worn off. It most certainly has lost its attraction for me.

But fabric ...... well shopping for fabric is a completely different matter. I LOVE shopping for fabric. Maybe it's because I don't have to worry about whether it suits me, or because I can buy just a little bit for not very much money, but for me shopping for fabric has some of the old magic that shopping for clothes or presents used to have when I was younger.

I found this list of quilt shops on the blog needles and lemons which I really liked. I thought I might try and make a list of shops I like in the Midlands soon. I've worked out that I use shops for quite different purposes - so I have those that I might make a special effort to go to which have a huge range, but I also like some of the small local ones where choice is limited but reflects what the shop owner likes. I do usually try and buy something wherever I go, however small, because I think it must be tough running a real live fabric shop when the internet is so all encompassing . If we don't use the little shops we will certainly lose them.

This weekend my husband and I treated ourselves to a trip on a vintage steam train  from Tamworth to York and back for our Christmas present.

It was a lovely ride, and when we got to York we headed for the shops. Not for us the busy Christmas streets or the queue for Betty's - no, I nipped into a fabric shop and he went to a model  railway shop. The Viking Loom was a really lovely craft and haberdashery shop - small but full of carefully chosen fabrics. For just a little more than £20 I brought home six fat quarters as a memento of our day in York that one day will find their way into a quilt and remind me of that trip. Now that's my idea of shopping!

Sunday, 15 December 2013


Two years ago I went to a two day colour workshop with Emma King and Sarah Hazell based on their book 'Exploring Colour in Knitting'. Although it was focused on using colour in knitting  we talked a lot about colour in a wider senses and how to use it. I must admit I had not really given how I used colour in my crafts much serious thought until then. I knew what I liked and what I didn't, but tended to pick wool and fabric just on instinct. Attending the workshop didn't change how I thought miraculously overnight, but it did make me start to think bit by bit about how I used colour in what I made. These two cushions above are an illustration of one of my first attempts at playing with colour. They are made from a needlepoint pattern adapted from this book

It's very simple and just requires you to stitch in colour blocks of  7x7 stitches framed in a grid of a single colour. I based my colour choices for the cushion at the back of the sofa on one of my favourite plants from my garden.

Now this all sounds very artistic - realistically this was an inspiration, not a lot more, as I was struggling to buy tapestry wools using internet colour charts or nipping into Hobbycraft between appointments and guessing what colours I needed. I soon worked out I should have made a 'shade card' of colours I had used already to help me buy new ones. But even with these practical limitations I think the cushions turned out well and I do love them for being all my own choices.

I'm less confident with my quilts, but improving. Initially my favourite quilts have been those made with a fabric pack like this, where I have used a jelly roll so I am sure that the colours will go well together ( Fabric: Mama Said Sew from Moda, Pattern: Garden Trellis by Pam and Nicky Lintott).

However, I am gradually getting more confident about fabric choices and have just completed a quilt top with my own colour choices which I really like. Unfortunately I can't show it to you just yet as it is a gift for an occasion next year - but let's hope it is the first of many. 

I feel quite excited at the possibilities - and if there is the odd mistake along the way - well maybe that's just part of the learning process.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Quilt unloved - but not unlovely!

You might wonder about the title of this post - so I will explain. When I went to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this year I ( along with many others I guess) subscribed to Popular Patchwork Magazine and they very kindly gave me the choice of two Jelly Rolls as a free gift. Neither were really my style - but I chose the muted greens, reds and blacks you can see above. When I got it home and undid it I knew it just wasn't for me - nothing wrong with it - but just not my thing. So it got put away until I realised it most certainly would be my mum's choice of colours. She lives in a very old, rather dark cottage where those colours would live very happily.

So then, what quilt pattern to follow? Well if you have read about my earlier brush with the quilt police in my post last week you will know matching seams makes me nervous. Why then (I hear you ask) did you choose to make a quilt where there are loads and loads of six lots of seams to be matched at the join of every hexagon? I think the real answer was because I wanted to know that I could!

The pattern I used was Hexagon Quilt Garden from this book by Pam and Nicky Lintott. To be honest other than all that seam matching it wasn't that hard although I did get in a bit of a muddle sewing all the triangles together. A very useful tip I learned from one of my Craftsy lessons was to quilt the top in invisible thread. I quilted all the triangles extending each straight line across the border. Invisible thread makes it so much easier to hop over the odd dodgy join without it showing.

So fabric and method unloved - but the quilt is by no means unlovely I think. I don't like it - but I accept that others will and I am pleased with the result.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Meet my stash!

I love to see what other people have in their stash - and as I was sorting through  last night I thought you might like occasionally to see what was in mine. I read or heard somewhere that you should sort your stash according to colour. I use this as a rough principle - and you will see that this is my blue stash. Well - not all of it obviously ... in fact just a little of it ....let's say this is my blue spots stash! I used to feel guilty about my stash until I read the wise words of Lynne Edwards in the introduction to 'Making Scrap Quilts to Use it Up' who explains how a stamp collector doesn't put their stamps on letters.....

What I love about my stash (oops fabric collection) is that I can remember where and why I purchased each of these fabrics. Clockwise from top left, the first two were purchased in John Lewis one evening on a week long work trip - bought to cheer myself up. Numbers three and seven were ordered from America . Number four was bought on a lovely visit to the restored Cromford Mill from Quiltessential with one of my daughters. Five was another late night John Lewis 'pick me up' but this time it was in a sale - too good to miss. And six was a leftover from Nel Whatmore Katharine's Wheel Quilt which I made for my daughter's spare room.

The second peek into my blue stash is a set of six fabrics - fat eighths I think - which I bought in Amsterdam last year from a fantastic shop called Bird Blocks. This is full of lovely little square packages of colour co-ordinated fabrics. I bought these to remind me of the Delftware we saw in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. You will probably have deduced  that since I still have all six pieces intact I haven't worked out what to do with them yet - but I'm thinking a cushion or similar - perhaps squares with a plain dark border to give a kind of stained glass effect. Any suggestions gratefully received.

And here is where it all lives  - in big plastic boxes

But just in case you thought this looks disgustingly well organised here is what the rest of the room looks like while I am sorting it out!!

Hope you enjoyed the first visit to my stash - more to follow in a few weeks - possibly the red box - try not to get too excited!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Quilt-as-you-go for Christmas

I was stuck for Christmas present ideas for my godmother - she is nearly 100 now and very difficult to buy for. In desperation I decided to try making her something. I've recently come across Craftsy - how could I miss it - it's one of those Google Ads that pops up next to every email I write - and despite its rather aggressive advertising I love it. This is based on the quilt-as-you-go technique demonstrated by Tara Rebman in this class. What I like best is there is not much planning and cutting, you just collect your fabrics together and go. The technique hides all the loose ends or not so neat bits and its very quick too.

I wanted a Christmassy feel so went for greens and reds to surround the sweet little robin. You can find him here along with a free pattern for a very pretty cushion cover. There is one fabric I really shouldn't have chosen but it was so Christmassy I couldn't resist. Can you see which one? It's the little bobble hats and mittens at the bottom which really doesn't match the green and red theme of the rest of the fabrics. My particular favourite fabric is the one directly above the robin which I think looks like mistletoe. I'm not sure if that's what it's meant to be. I've tried to find the name of the fabric - I've seen it in two or three shops - but the piece I've got has no selvedge left.

I also resurrected from my memories of school sewing classes how to make bias binding - previously I've only done straight stuff for quilts. All in all it worked a lot better than I expected - and the little robin will be winging his way to Harrogate on Monday.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Southampton Blanket

This is what is fondly known in this house as The Southampton Blanket! Its a knitted blanket made up of 9 x13 squares based on the 'Building Blocks' blanket pattern in Blankets and Throws to Knit by Debbie Abrahams. It's knitted in Rowan Wool Cotton in about 9 different colours. So why The Southampton Blanket? Well for my work I spend quite a lot of time travelling and often stay overnight in hotels. There is only just so much television you can watch - so I wanted a craft project I could take with me. And this was it.  All I needed was a couple of balls of wool, the needles and by the end the pattern was in my head. It came everywhere with me - I knitted in Switzerland, Spain (too hot for knitting) Teesside, Newcastle (ideal temperature for knitting!).... but mostly, you've guessed it, in Southampton. In the time it took to knit it I also attended a workshop where I learned to do mattress stitch properly which made a huge difference as my sewing up prior to this always seemed to spoil the knitting.

So here is the blanket in situ where it lives during the winter. And let me introduce you to the Quilt Model aka Muttley! He's very cute isn't he? We have other choices of doggy Quilt Model which I hope you will see as we go on - but for the sitting on the bed role he is probably just a little more appropriate than a black labrador.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Don't tell the quilt police!!

I was someone who took a long time to pluck up the courage to make a quilt. As Jane Brocket describes in her book The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making I feared not being able to do things accurately to make something I would be pleased with. I think she aptly describes it as the 'tyranny of perfection'(p8). Eventually I plucked up courage to give it a go and though I love my first ever quilt for the pleasure it gave me choosing and placing the fabrics it is full of imperfections - seams that don't match and squares that are wonky. This is a picture of it above with a distinctly non-square 'square' right in the middle.

And then I had a revelation. Quite a long time later, after improving my technique and actually managing to learn how to match up seams I came across this book. And suddenly it didn't matter about squares being wonky or seams not matching - in fact wonkiness was a positive virtue. Surprising how hard it can be to be deliberately wonky. So I have started to make some of Lucie Summers lovely quilty wall hangings.

This is my second attempt - I can't show you my first cos it's my older daughter's Christmas present and she might see it. It was so much fun to sew as I could focus on choosing the colours and the fabrics - and in my liberated state of mind I found myself choosing and using fabric I would not previously have had the confidence to use together.

And I realised, of course, that there are no quilt police, and if there were, they exist only in my own mind. The only person who looks for an unmatched seam is another quilter - and if they find one it probably makes them feel good as they realise that perfection really isn't necessary.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Getting started

Do you like it? I always want to ask people this when I have made something. I suppose there are not many people who are going to say no to your face - but you can usually tell. This one met with good reactions from the people I showed it to. It's a Christmas present for my son-in-law's mother. Not sure what that makes her to me - but she is a good person to make for because I know she appreciates it.

The cushion is pretty much pillow sized  (60cm x 40cm) and I envisage it being used on a bed. The main fabric I have used is from 'Washday' by Makower. I spotted it a Duxford Autumn Quilt Fair on the Patchwork Corner stall. I had one of my daughters with me (who incidentally has appointed herself as my Fabric Selector - nice job) and we loved it - it has a real 50's feel.

I think this was a real economic make - I bought 25cm of four patterns and I think it came to about £11.00 and I have got loads left.

So there you go - my very first post. I've managed to add a picture and a link- which I don't think is bad for a first attempt. Onwards and upwards. So hey? Do you like it?