OAKSHOTT BLOG HOP AND A LEAF SKELETON QUILT

A big, warm welcome to my stop on the Oakshott Autumn bundle Blog Hop.  I’m mighty excited to share what I’ve been working on over the last few weeks with you all.  When I first saw the bundle that Oakshott have put together I knew I had to get my hands on it.  I mean, come on, just look at those colours, which are not done any justice by my photography.  Most people stare at me with a look in their eye that screams “Is this person for real?” whenever I say “Yeah, I’m more of an autumn, winter kind of guy.  I’d rather be cold than hot.  Give me a log cabin and a roaring fire over a beach any day.”  A sun worshiper I am not, so these crisp, season-changing colours are right up my leaf-littered street.

Though not my first outing with Oakshott, I’d never used them on this scale before, but I can tell you the pleasure was multiplied.  The bundle is a beautiful thing to behold.  21 perfectly folded fat eighths tied together with a contrasting ribbon that got the creative cogs turning.  Obviously something autumnal was going to come out of this fabric, but I was aiming for something a little different.  After a few inspirational dog walks I became interested in the idea of capturing leaves that have broken down and become skeletons; those wispy, frail-looking things that sit amongst the bottom of the leaf litter.  I got to scribbling and finally came up with something I thought would work.

I had so much fun making these blocks and could have easily made many more.  Sometimes, with certain blocks, I almost get a “ugh, how many more?’ kind of feeling.  Not with these.  They were fun and fast to make (especially when your making them at night with a dog at your feet and Dione Warwick for company.)

The quilt layout is simple and finishes at 44″ x 60″.  The leaf skeletons blocks are pieced into rows, with the odd one turned upside down for some added interest.  Since I requested some additional yardage in the nutmeg colourway, I used that to add some negative space in between.  I kept the quilting simple and used a variegated thread to quilt leaf shapes around the skeletons, whilst using the open spaces to add some more elaborate, fern-like leaves. The backing is a great monochrome leaf-shaped print I found at Ikea and the binding, an orange line print from my LQS.  I recently started cutting my binding strips to 2″ and I really like the skinnier binding on this quilt.

Want to make your own leaf skeleton block?  Well you’re in luck.  Here’s a tutorial!

Leaf Skeleton Block

The fat eighths in the bundle measure approximately 27″ x 10″, though you may find some slight variation.  Since this block is pieced  improvisational, exact measurements aren’t essential as we’ll be squaring the blocks up at the end.  You may want to read through all the instructions first to get an idea of the technique.  Before starting, I pressed and starched all my fabrics though feel free to skip this step.  Each of the fat eighths will yield 2 blocks, though you need to mix and match from different fabrics to achieve contrast.  Take your first fat eighth and cut it as follows, remembering the exact measurements may be ever so slightly different.

Two .75″ x width of fabric strips from the shorter side

Two .75 x length of fabric strips from the longer side

Four rectangles approximately 4″ x 13″ from the remaining fabric.

Take the one of the longer strips and cut it in half.  Take the 2 shorter strips and cut each in half to give 4.  Take the second longer strip and cut it into 6 pieces the same size as those cut from the 2 shorter strips.  Take 2 of the rectangles and cut each from corner to corner to give 4 triangles.  You can see that in the example above I’ve taken fabric from 2 different coloured fat eighths.  This will make each side of the block a different colour.  If you’d like both sides of your block to be the same, simply use all the rectangles from the same coloured fabric.  However, the leaf skeleton fabric must be different in order for it to be seen, so be sure to take that from a different fat eighth.  I found it easier to cut all my fabrics first and then mix and match the colours.

Take the remain 2 rectangles and place them on your cutting mat.  Using a rotary cutter and ruler make 5 angled cuts along the length of each rectangle, varying the widths as you go.  Be sure to cut one rectangle with the angle towards the left and the other with the angle towards the right, as shown in the picture.  If you want a particular colour to be on a specific side of your block, it’s important to cut as follows.  To be on the RIGHT hand side of the block, the cuts must match the green fabric above.  To be on the LEFT hand side of the block, the cuts must match the orange.  If you don’t mind what side they appear on, of if you’re using the same fabric, just make sure you have one set of cuts going one way and the other going the opposite.  Hopefully you’re all still with me and I’m not confusing you too much!  Its gets easier from here on, I promise!

Take your 1o short strips and place them into the cuts you’ve just made.  Using a quarter-inch seam (although accuracy is not as important for this block) sew a strip right sides together to each of the cuts then press the seams to the side.  Make sure to keep the pieces in the correct order.  I found it helpful to chain piece all the strips first, then snip them and place them back onto my mat.

Next sew each of the pieces of the rectangle back together, making sure to line up the edges as shown above, and press the seams to the side.  Repeat for the second rectangle.  You should now have 2 rectangles each with 5 strips in them.  Yay!

Cut each rectangle from corner to corner to give 4 triangles.  Again, a little thought is needed to make sure you cut in the right direction.  You can see above that in the block, the leaf skeleton “arms” always point upwards.  You’ll want to make sure that you cut from the corners that will result in that.  Also, you can see that the direction we cut when we inserted our strips has resulted in the green fabric being on the right of the block and the orange on the left.  Just be sure to refer to the pictures before making any cuts.  The worst that can happen is that your leaf limbs will point downwards rather than up, and who knows, maybe you’ll like that!

Sew a plain triangle to the cut side of your striped triangle and press to the side.  Repeat for the other 3 striped triangles.

Use your ruler to straighten the other side of the block, taking care not to cut too much away.  Take your first long strip and sew it to the long edge, allowing a little overhang.  Now sew the other side of the leaf to the strip.  Despite the amount of fabric build up in the central section of the block, I pressed my seam to the side and had no problems.  Do what works for you.

You now have a completed leaf skeleton block!  All that’s left to do is to square it up.  Due to the improvisational nature of the block the finished size will depended on a few things, most notably the amount you trimmed from the side before inserting you leaf’s spine.  You may notice that you fabric has distorted somewhat, due to all the bias edges.  Panic not!  This is a fun block and shouldn’t course stress.  Just trim all your blocks down to the size of your smallest one.  I found that I could trim mine to 6″ X 10.5″ for a block that finishes at 5.5″ x 10″.

And there you have it, a leaf skeleton block all ready for your own leaf skeleton quilt.  These really do look good en mass, and I’d love to see them mixed in with some other leafy block for a real forest feel.  I’d love to see your versions of the blocks, so feel free to add any links to your work in the comment section below.  If you’re on Instagram, feel free to tag me or use the hashtag #leavesfromtheattic so I can check out what you’ve been up to.  This is my first ever tutorial, so please be gentle with me!  If you have any questions or there’s something you don’t understand, please leave a comment below and and I’ll get back to you.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Oakshott for giving me these goodies to play with, and to Lynne of Lily’s Quilts for organising the blog hop.  Make sure you check out all the other great stuff that my extremely talented peers have come up with by visiting all the other stops of the hop.

Thanks for visiting!

21st October – Sonia Spence – www.fabricandflowers.blogspot.co.uk

22nd October – Rossie Hutchinson – www.r0ssie.blogspot.com

24th October – Mary Menzer – www.fairlymerry.blogspot.com

28th October – Alison Dutton – www.alison-sews.blogspot.co.uk

30th October – Kati Spencer – www.fromthebluechair.com

31st October – Wynn Tan – www.zakkaArt.typepad.com

BLOGGER’S QUILT FESTIVAL – VEGETABLE PATCH QUILT

Swiftly following the anniversary of this blog is the Blogger’s Quilt Festival, which happens twice a year to coincide with International Quilt Market.  I was so swamped in the spring that the festival passed me by, so I’m excited to be involved again this time around.  The sheer abundance of creativity and inspiration throughout the festival makes it a date to remember for anyone as enamored by patchwork and quilting as me.  Just remember to set aside half a day to browse all the entries, oh, and bring biscuits too!

This time I’ve decided to enter my Vegetable Patch Quilt into the Original Design Quilts category.  This quilt remains something I’m immensely proud of.  Be sure to check out this post for more details about its conception and construction.  I’m not ashamed to say that every now and then I lay it out and just stare at it.  When I started my quilting journey, the idea of making anything remotely like this was laughable, let alone design it myself.  It’s funny what we learn on our quilting journey.  This was the quilt that solidified my love for improvisational piecing and abandonment of the quilting rule book (which so many people tell me doesn’t even exist!)

Much like the subject matter, the journey of this quilt was an organic one.  It began with an image of a leek, which took root in my brain and compelled me to fashion it from fabric.  Scraps of fabric littered the attic and I risked a local shortage of spray starch as I sewed and hacked my vegetable blocks.  So liberating and so inspiring!  Since I finished the quilt it has become the most commented-on thing I’ve made and I was pleased to share it with my fellow quilters at the recent Fat Quarterly Retreat in London.  It’s definitely a keeper, and I can see the patch ‘growing’ in the near future.

I have to end with a huge thank you to Amy from Amy’s Creative Side who works so hard to bring us the festival each year.  I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of organising that must go into it and I feel so privileged to be a part of such an amazingly creative experience.  Now, go forth and vote for your favourite in each category!

LEWIS AND IRENE – A GIVEAWAY WINNER

Just a little bit of belated housekeeping today.  I’ve been so consumed with deadlines of late that this little giveaway completely slipped my mind!  So, apologies if you’ve all been on tenterhooks but I can now reveal that the random number generator picked farmquilter’s comment.

Congratulations!  I’ll be in touch to arrange delivery of your prize.  Thanks to everyone who entered!

INTRODUCING LEWIS AND IRENE

There’s nothing nicer than taking a trip to a city or town, only to discover a new fabric shop. My quilted heart skips a beat every time I see the words sewing or haberdashery emblazoned across a shop front window.  A while back, quite a while back actually, I visited Hereford and sought out Doughty’s, a place I heard great things about.  You may remember I blogged about the experience in this post. One of the things I picked up was a great dinosaur print by an unfamiliar-to-me manufacturer, Lewis and Irene.  I really liked the look and feel of the fabric and set about investigated the company further.

A quick tour of their website and I was sold.  Their fabrics are “threaded with love and printed on 100% pre-shrunk cotton with a light Schreiner finish”.  They have some great collections, featuring a wide range of styles and colours.  Being the dinosaur geek I am, I was always going to be taken with Jurassic Coast, a bright and breezy collection with a perfect binding print.  Another favourite from their Autumn 2014 collections is Fox & Friends, which is full of cute critters and leafy tones, a lot of which would be right at home in my stash.  They have some great upcoming lines too, and I do love a fabric company that gives impatient quilters like me a sneak peek.  I’m particularly looking forward to Spring Hare, coming in 2015.

Jurassic Coast

Jurassic Coast

Fox & Friends

Fox & Friends

Spring Hare

Spring Hare

I contacted Hannah, the creative director, who was kind enough to answer some questions and tell me a little more about the story behind Lewis and Irene.

“The directors of Lewis & Irene are Bryan (Managing Director) and Jacqueline Taphouse (Finance Director), Andrew Heaton (Sales Director) and I (Creative Director).  Andrew and Bryan have been in the textiles business forever.  Bryan for over 40 years now! We are based in Romsey in Hampshire.  Bryan and Jacqueline are my parents so it’s very much a family run company. It was Jacqueline who decided to start Lewis & Irene – we wanted to create a fresh company that designed for the modern quilter and had a wide appeal with lovely designs. We feel it’s exciting times for the craft industry with so much renewed interest in sewing and creating.”

“Once we had decided to start the company we had to think of a name.  My Grandpa died in 2012 and my Grandma died of cancer 26 years ago when she was just 58 years old. They were really incredible people. They showed such love to their little family despite not coming from the most loving backgrounds themselves. As a family we are very close and their influence has been passed down through three generations now. Their names were Lewis & Irene and we couldn’t think of a nicer tribute to them. ‘Threaded with love’ couldn’t be more appropriate! We have a lovely designer who Bryan and I work with very closely. The designs are a real team effort with each of us contributing something and it’s my very favourite part of my job! Lots of our collections have quite personal relevance.  Jurassic Coast for example is inspired by my little boy who is 4 and loves dinosaurs.  One of his favourite places to go is Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset so he can hunt for fossils and look at the dinosaurs bones in the marine center.  He runs around with his bucket and spade knowing it’s where the dinosaurs lived and his little imagination runs wild!  Every collection has a real meaning to us.”

I’m really looking forward to adding some more from the collections to my stash.  The variety of prints is great, with focal fabrics as well as useful blenders and small-scale prints that would work well in almost any project.  Fancy trying some of their fabrics for yourself? Yes?  Well isn’t it your lucky day. Lewis and Irene have generously provided a vintage fabulous forties for me to giveaway to one lucky reader.  What’s a fabulous forties I hear you ask!   It’s forty strips of fabric, each cut to two and a half inches, exactly like a jelly roll.  These cuts are so versatile and there are loads of great quilt patterns that use them.

To be in with a chance of winning, please sign up to follow the blog then leave a comment telling me what you’d make if you won.  If you’re already a follower go ahead and leave your comment.  I love hearing all your ideas!  For a bonus entry, go and like the Lewis and Irene Facebook page and leave a separate comment telling me you’ve done so.  I’ll leave the competition open for a week before randomly drawing a winner.  Good luck and thanks for visiting!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

A SECOND HALF SQUARE TRIANGLE QUILT

It’s officially October, my favorite month, and this latest finish is woefully late.  You see, back in June a work colleague and his wife brought home their newborn son.  Another colleague and I decided it would be a nice gesture to make a baby quilt for them. We had a collection and went shopping.  My friend is a student of fashion design and has similar tastes to me when it comes to fabrics.  We like the same colours and designs so the whole process was blissfully easy.  It’s not the first time we’ve collaborated on a project, having made a graduation quilt a few years earlier, and it was fun to teach her some new things, like half square triangles.

We chose a simple chevron layout, alternating the rows between light and dark fabrics.  We knew the sex of the baby before we pulled fabric, but wanted to stay away from the traditional blue palette, instead opting for something a bit more modern.  We chose low volume prints, including some Botanics by Carolyn Friedlander, paired with mustards and blacks.  We used a variety of fabrics including some Robert Kauffman Essex linen and some double gauze.  This was my first time sewing with some Cotton and Steel basics.  They are so much nicer in person!  Some might think black an unusual choice for a baby quilt, but we were both sold and really like the bold statement it makes.  We pieced the top together in a day before I took it home to finish.

With a simple layout we opted for some equally simple quilting, wavy lines across the entire quilt top.  The quilting was a joy to do and I really dig the texture this type gives.  The backing was some Ikea Britten print that I had in my stash, whilst the solid black  binding continues the simple feel of the quilt.  This was the first time I’ve cut my binding strips two inches wide.  I really like the look of a skinny binding and I think this works better than my usual two and a quarter-inch strips.  The quilt finishes at 37″ square.

We’re both really pleased with how this one turned out and can’t wait to gift it, even if it is a little late!

BEYOND NEUTRAL BLOG TOUR – A WINNER

Just a quick hello from me today to announce the winner of my Beyond Neutral giveaway.  Thank you everyone who entered!  I really enjoyed reading through your comments and learning what inspires you.  Whilst there were many great answers, my favourite came from Karen, who said…

“I’m so fortunate to live in the Maine woods with the ocean just a few miles away. All I have to do is turn my head in any direction and see all the inspiring colors of nature and the gorgeous geography of granite boulders, blueberry barrens, rocky coastlines, hills and mountains, rivers–it’s all here. Multiply all of this beauty by 4 very distinct seasons (plus mud season) and the possibilities are endless. John’s book is truly a revelation!”

Congratulations Karen!  I’m intrigued to find out more about ‘mud season’!  I’ll be in touch to arrange delivery of your prize.

BEYOND NEUTRAL BLOG TOUR

Readers old and new alike, welcome to my stop on the Beyond Neutral blog tour.  Now, you must excuse me if I suddenly yell out for smelling salts or a paper bag to breathe into.  You see, this is kind of big deal for me.  Regular readers of this blog will know how I’ve talked about John Adams, AKA Quilt Dad, at length.  He was the first male quilter I stumbled across whilst navigating the then-scary world of quilt blogs some years back, and as if my collaboration with him in the #NGAQB wasn’t enough, I now get to talk about his amazing new book!  How much of a groupie do I feel right now!

All images courtesy  of Martingale and Brent Kane

Beyond Neutral does exactly what it says on the tin.  For so many quilters, the background of their quilts are always destined to be some shade of white, grey or cream.  How refreshing then to see a book full of quilts that challenge that norm.  Sixteen quilts, each inspired by the beauty and wonder of nature.  The natural world is my go-to source for inspiration (Vegetable Patch Quilt anyone?) for so many of my own projects and John’s book looks to nature’s palette to inspire his bold and exciting colour choices; so far beyond neutral that neutral’s still packing its bags!

Any quilt that cites grass, trees, waves or rocks as a source of inspiration is going to be a hit with me.  There are so many great quilts in the book that I struggled to pick a favourite.  The beautiful locations and gorgeous photography make each quilt jump from the page and demand you make it before all others.  It’s no surprise that Pacific Crest became the cover star.  I was in love with it the moment I first saw the book.  The dynamic piecing coupled with John’s ballsy fabric placement creates a real sense of  movement and a quilt that truly wows.  Beginner quilters needn’t shy away from these designs either.  John’s clear and concise instructions along with simple piecing make the quilts in Beyond Neutral approachable for all skill levels.  The countless options for fabric selection makes each quilt so versatile and open to interpretation you’ll probably want to make more than one version of each!

Another that pulls at the heart-strings is Fox River.  Simple yet strikingly effective, the unusual pairing of woodland-themed prints with cool teals and yellow-greens makes for a visually intriguing quilt.  The eye is drawn across the top by intersecting lines of solid fabric that punctuated the prints in a most non-traditional way. I love it!

With so much quilty goodness, I couldn’t possible keep it all to myself!  The lovely people at Martingale are offering one reader their own digital copy of Beyond Neutral.  To be in with a chance of winning simply leave a comment on the post telling me what inspiration you take from nature, the more creative the better!  I’ll pick a winner in a weeks time.  Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to all who entered!