STASHING #20

Just dropping by to share a few more slithers of fabric goodness with you all before we depart for a half term holiday.  We’ll be caravaning it for a few days in West Wales so I thought it prudent to stock up on some more Fox Field so I can work on my Rose Star Quilt lest the rain stop us from leaving.  I’ve also heard mentioned of a new fabric store close to where we are staying, so it’s highly likely I’ll return home with more fabric than I went with.  Every holiday needs a souvenir, right?

From top to bottom – Chevy Lace, Geo, Scribbles, Ponies, Leaf Zigzag and Fox Bunny in the mint colourway.

Again, I bought these in the department store where I work, who are happy to cut in 10cm increments.  These thin strips are perfect for EPP projects when only a small amount is needed.  Don’t be fooled into thinking I’m done with this collection though.  I’ll be back for larger cuts the moment I notice the bolts getting thin!  This pretty lot has already been fussily cut into and I’ll be sharing my Rose Star quilt progress soon.

No Molli this week, so I’m linking up with Quirky Hannah for Sunday Stash.

PATIENCE AND TIME

Let me start off by saying I have never been more compelled to share my thoughts than I am right now.

Yesterday, thanks to Google, I was informed of the 40th anniversary of the Rubik’s Cube.  Fundamentally a simple thing, it’s brought enjoyment and frustration to thousands of people.  Just like that, as it has so often done of late, inspiration struck.  All I could think of was making a Rubik’s mini quilt.  Like the cube, the quilt would be simple, comprising of six 3 x 3 grids made with coloured and black solids.  What could be easier?

Today I woke ready to tackle what, in my mind, was a straightforward project.  I could never have imagined the profound effect this session of patchwork who have on me.  At first, things went to plan.  I chain pieced some pieces, then pieced them to each other.  The grid lines were a little off in places but I soldiered on, wanting to have the top ready for quilting this afternoon.  After a while it became increasingly difficult to ignore the wailing voice of the perfection that lives inside my head.

“It’s suppose to be a Rubik’s Cube,” it said mockingly, “you can’t have anything less that perfection!” 

I realised then that neither he nor I would be happy with what we currently had.  I needed a change of plan.  I grabbed some graph paper and began scribbling with a pencil and ruler.  I’d paper piece it!  The lines would be parallel and even my OCD would be pacified.  No chance!  Something wasn’t right, things were going wrong.  I’d paper pieced quilt blocks a hundred times over before this.  Why were so many things telling me this block shouldn’t not be made?

I didn’t listen.  I was riled, angry at myself.  Why couldn’t I do this?  I thought, without any sense of ego, that I was an good quilter.  Why was this seemingly simple thing proving so much of a challenge?  I was embarrassed thinking myself undeserving of blog followers of the title of tutor.  “Applique!” a voice yelled in my head.  “Applique the coloured squares onto the black background.”  That wasn’t a bad idea.  I just needed to reach for my temporary fabric spray to secure the pieces.  Oh no, I ran out of that didn’t I.  Fusible web?  Used the last of that ages ago!  A dab of glue stick seemed to do the trick, until it came to stitching them down, when they started to move around like a embarrassing uncle at a wedding.  Then, in a moment of utter frustration, I snapped, reaching for the rotary cutter and hacking into the two blocks I’d made.  I wanted to cry, scream from the roof and banish my sewing machine to the bottom of the ocean in a chain-clad chest.  “Such beautiful fabric shouldn’t belong to somebody who can’t even sew a simple block!” I yelled, feeling ashamed of my stash.

I’ve since calmed down, aided by coffee and a cathartic outpouring on Instagram.  I really did question myself today about whether I was good enough.  People’s words have been all together moving and inspiring.  The creative community is always at hand to talk you down and offer reassurance.  It’s a place where everyone can sympathise, empathise and despise collectively.  We are there to remind each other that we are good, brilliant in fact, and that perfection is not what we strive for.  Everything we do is flawed, and as one of my followers said, it’s that which makes it perfect.

I’ve learnt so much in the last few hours.  I took the dog out, distancing myself from all things sewing.  He ran in the grass while I touched trees and looked closer at nature.  My mind began to clear like clouds in the sky until, just like that, the answer to my problem came to me.  That quilter this morning was not me, and nor where those blocks.  I’ve been quite vocal about my love for all things wonky and improvisational.  I was going about it the wrong way.  Trying to fit a square block into a triangular hole.  What I make is a reflection of me and my personality.  Just because Rubik’s cube is straight and even, it doesn’t mean mine has to be!  Just like that, the weight of embarrassment and disappointment was lifted by acceptance of the type of quilter I am.  Much like the solution to cube that started it, all I needed was patience and time.

I hope you can all take something from this very raw outpouring.  When I began my journey here I never imagined I’d be sharing my failures.  I thought the idea was to show,  your successes, and hide all the bad stuff under the bed.  We all make mistakes, and for me, not sharing this with you all would have been quite a big one.  If you have a project that you’re struggling with, step away from it, take a day or two, and accept the fact that some projects just aren’t meant to be.  You’ll be a better quilter for it.  Rethink and rummage through your stash, because your next great project it waiting for you there.

Thanks for staying with me.

STASHING #19

Not so crazy with the fabric this week, because sometimes less is more…oh what the hell, we all know more is more when it comes to fabricitis!  That disease has gone and got me good and there ain’t no curing it!  Though even if there was, I’d push the pill to the side of my mouth and pretend to swallow it!

Just two modest offerings today.  Firstly, those of you who follow me on Instagram will know how excited I was to received my EEP templates from Paper Pieces a few days ago.  I wanted a long-term, hand sewing project and ordered a variety of shapes to see me through week-long caravan holidays and cold winter nights.  I want to really embrace fussy cutting so alongside the paper pieces I also ordered their acrylic equivalents to allow me to precise cut out the bits of fabric I need. The first of those will be these stars in mint from Fox Field by Tula Pink.  I’ve gone a little Tula crazy lately and will have more to share with you once the goodies arrive, but this will do for now.  I’m lucky in the fact that the haberdashery department in the store where I work cut in 10cm increments; perfect for smaller projects like this.

Secondly is this delightfully charming Hungry Caterpillar panel from Makower.   Again, Instagram may have given you a clue about my intended use for this but I’ll be posting more details about my Vegetable Patch Quilt soon.  For now, I’m happy to stare at the colours in this caterpillar.  So awesome!

That’s it!  Sunday means a Molli link up.  Go check out all the other stashing going on.  It’s contagious I tell you!

NO GIRLS ALLOWED QUILT BEE – APRIL

It’s always the way!  You let yourself get comfortable, throw around a little swagger and cockiness, and before you know it April’s been and gone and your bee blocks aren’t done!  Time really did catch up with me last month.  What with work and all the little side projects I had going on it was inevitable that some plates wouldn’t get spun.  Fortunately, the situation has been rectified and I’m back on track, having posted out April and May bee blocks yesterday.  Phew for a little breathing space!

When the #NGAQB started to take shape many moons ago, I was excited about all the new male quilters I’d get to meet and interact with.  It was like being invited to an exclusive club, where Facebook was our smoking room and we talked fabric rather than finance.  I had that new-boy-in-the-class feeling as I wasn’t familiar with any of the group, except one, Mr. April and the Quilt Dad himself, John Adams.

When I began quilting, Quilt Dad was a shining beacon.  He held my hand and guided me through the construction of my first quilt, for which I used his awesome wonky log cabin tutorial.  That quilt was the first I saw through to the end and would never have been as good if it weren’t for John’s informative and easy-to-understand instructions.

I’m sure that John needs no introduction to many of you quilty folk out there but as per tradition, he took a few moments to share some of himself with the group.

I am a father of three, originally from Brooklyn NYC but now living in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. I live with my 9 year-old twin girls, my 8 year-old son, and a crazy German Short-haired Pointer named Bristol. Though I often wish it could be, quilting and pattern-writing is not my full-time job; by day, I lead branding and brand marketing efforts for a global software company. I am a completely self-taught quilter (thanks, blogs and internet!) and have been sewing for about 7 years now. I earned my undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of North Carolina and, when I’m not sewing, enjoy cheering for the UNC Tar Heels.

I was originally inspired by the blossoming worlds both of craft blogging and modern fabrics back in 2004. I was living in Charlotte NC at the time and began mixing and matching fabrics and buying fat quarters in my local quilt shop even before I knew how to sew a stitch. I was really drawn to the creative process of mixing and matching colors and prints. That was when Amy Butler’s Lotus line had just come out, and the options for bright modern fabrics was growing like crazy. Before long, I decided I was going to make a quilt and read free tutorials online until I felt comfortable with the basics.

I started my blog, QuiltDad.com, in 2008 on a whim, mainly to be eligible to join a swap at the time but ultimately to share my love of patchwork with others.  Since then, I’ve remained very active in online quilting communities through swaps, virtual quilting bees, and guilds. Today, I try to apply my own quilting aesthetic to designing original quilt patterns for both fabric designers and companies and frequently contribute to creative blogs, books, and other collaborative endeavors. I’ve contributed to several collaborative quilt books, have two book titles of my own (Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays and the soon to be released Beyond Neutral: Quilts Inspired by Nature’s Elements) and was a co-founder of the popular e-magazine and book series for modern quilters, Fat Quarterly.

Having said all that, the NGAQB is one of the most unique, exciting projects I’ve been a part of and I can’t wait to see the beautiful things that emerge from it.”

As he mentioned, John can be found blogging at Quilt dad and on Instagram as j_q_adams.

John requested feather blocks for his month, based on a pattern by Anna Maria Horner.  Print and colour were pretty much left up to us.  Aside from no novelty fabrics, we had a free reign.  I was guided by John’s love of pattern and chose floral and geometric prints in bright, saturated colours by Joel Dewberry, Amy Butler, Tula Pink and, of course, Anna herself.  I strayed from the instructions a little as I didn’t want all my feathers to be the same.  So, rather than sew long strips as per the instruction, I made smaller strip sets in different fabrics.  I really liked making one side of the feather in one piece to offset the balance.  I went for a warm grey for the feather quills and the background was Kona Snow, as per John’s request.

I went through an emotional roller coaster when I made these.  One minute I loved them, the next I wanted to fling them from the roof. !  Now that they’re done I can confidently say that I love them.  I think I’ve been bitten by the feather bed bug!  For anyone else attempted these my advice would be gentle, gentle!  The bias is prone to stretching so go carefully with your iron.  You may also want to over shoot the background, as I have done.  That way you’ll have some leeway to square up and ensure all your blocks are the same size.

I love this bee a little more with every new block I make.  The group is made up of such inspiring, dynamic men and I can’t wait to get some of their handiwork fall through my letterbox come October.  Remember to follow along using the hashtag #NGAQB and I’ll be back soon with Mr. May.

A 150TH ANNIVERSARY QUILT

As some of you may know, when I’m not quilting away in the attic or messing around with dinosaur models, I pretend to be a grown up at my regular day job at John Lewis in Cardiff.  John Lewis is a chain of department stores that, owing to their generous partner discount, sees a large chunk of my pay spent recklessly in its stores various haberdashery departments.  The Cardiff branch is the only one in Wales and I’ve been working there since 2009.  Whilst I usually work in stock management, I’m no stranger to the staff on haberdashery and my face has become a regular feature whenever new fabric lines arrive for sale.  My love of patchwork and quilting has become common knowledge and I’ve since worked on the department, providing cover during busy periods and sharing my passion with other, would-be quilters.

Last weekend, John Lewis, founded in 1864 as a draper shop on London’s Oxford Street, celebrated its 150th anniversary.  The event was marked across the country, with all stores holding special in-branch events.  A television advert was filmed to spread the word, along with the hashtag #JL150, and a range of specially commissioned products were created.  Amongst these was a whole collection of fabrics, taking inspiration from original samples in the archives.  With its roots firmly in fabric, I was asked to create something over the celebratory weekend using the 150 collection.  What else could it be but a quilt!

Since it had to be completed over the weekend, I chose to make a scaled-down version of my Drunken Tiles quilt (let’s be honest, I was still over the moon that I’d been published and couldn’t get enough of it!)  As I mentioned, all the fabric came from a new collection printed especially for the anniversary.  Bold, geometric patterns mixed with softer florals and vibrant solids, they certainly had a heritage feel to them, whilst placing one foot firmly in the ‘now’.

The top came together speedily and the FMQ brought in the crowds, all anxious to find out more about the technique (“Oh, I thought a computer did all that!”).  I backed the quilt with a gorgeous teal solid to highlight the variegated thread, and the binding was a charming dot print I used in one of the tile centers.  I really enjoyed making this quilt and interacting with the customers who passed by as I was sewing.  It certainly did a lot to spread the word about men who quilt, with some people having to do a double take as I pinned on my binding!

I initially heard  the quilt was to be raffled off to support a local charity, though now I think there are plans to hang it in the branch restaurant as a reminder of the 1050th anniversary.  I’m quite honoured that the quilt will be a permanent fixture of the branch and look forward to any future occasion where I can get my quilt on and get paid for it!

STASHING 18…AND A GIVEAWAY!

Last week I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a new LQS.  Well, I say stumble, the man actually told me about it and, shock horror, offered to take me!  Never again may he moan about how much fabric I buy when he willing places it within my reach!  The first fabric I saw after walking through the door was something that I’d been coveting for a while.  In fact, I’d only looked at it online that very morning.  If there are quilting gods, then this was definitely a sign from them.

‘Hearty Good Wishes’ by Janet Clare for Moda is a stunning debut collection.  The dusky colours feel like they’ve been weathered by salty sea spray and the depictions of whales and seaweed are so charming.  I could have easily walked away with something from every bolt but I restricted myself to just a few pieces.  The whales were too difficult to leave behind, so I took some in each colourway, along with some seaweed and fish.  Given the close proximity of the shop I’ve no doubt I’ll be back for some more pieces from the collection.

I actually returned a few days later to have a chat with Susan, the owner, and find out a bit more about the place.  The Patchwork House in LLantrisant is all at once charming, quaint, cute and any other heart-warming adjective you can think of.  It opened in October of 2013 and stocks a carefully chosen selection of Moda fabrics, including yardage and precuts, Aurfil threads, yarns and notions.  Sunlight streams through the windows and makes everything all that more appealing.

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Susan told me she’s always had a love for fabrics and was taught to sew by her mother.  She runs beginner’s classes in the shop, and had previously done so in the town hall.  Her interest in patchwork began when she attended an evening class in machine embroidery.  As she waited in the queue she was taken by all the patchwork she saw in the other line, the one for the patchwork class, and promptly switched.  She’s been an avid quilter ever since.  Her fabric tastes are traditional, reflected in the wide range of Moda she stocks, but recently she began buying Kaffe Fassett for the shop and would love to make a quilt from that one day.

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Like me, Susan said that she is always sewing and, during quiet times in the shop, finds herself straightening bolts and folding fabric.  She’s currently working on a charm pack sampler, which she hopes to hang along side the other quilts she’s made.  I had such a nice time chatting with Sue.  Her shop is truly lovely, exactly how a quilting shop should look and feel.

She was kind enough to give me a ‘Soho Chic’ charm pack as a prize for a giveaway.  To be in with a change of winning, simply follow my blog AND like The Patchwork House’s Facebook pageLeave a comment below letting me know you’ve done both of those and I’ll draw a winner in a week.  Good luck!

Today as usual, I’m linking up with Molli Sparkles for Sunday Stash.  I’m off to check out all the other wonderful goodies now…

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

The winning comment was number 7.  Congratulations lindarees!  I hope you enjoy your prize.