A UK MINI SWAP QUILT

Another swap quilt I’ve finished recently is my contribution to the UK Mini Swap.  As you may have guessed, this swap was limited to participants in the UK.  Despite having sent and received countless packages from overseas, I still get anxious and worry that my precious cargo will somehow get lost along the way!  This swap was a great way for those who worry about missing parcels or high shipping costs to get in on the action.  Organised by Nina of Bossy Oz, I was delighted to find out that my assigned partner liked improv.  You won’t need a second guess to figure out which route I took when it came to making the mini.

I decided to refer to a previous quilt I’d made for inspiration and used a variation of my Drunken Tiles pattern, which made another appearance in this quilt I made last summer.  This time I selected a neutral palette for the background, using both low volume prints and solids in cotton and cotton linen blends, with a little more of that beloved Joel Dewberry wood grain print.  Rich oranges and teal pop from the center, and from the corners, of the blocks in fabrics that I sourced from my scraps. I used some more screen printed fabric from Karen Lewis, some Cotton and Steel, Oakshott cottons that add a real depth to the quilt and some coordinating Kona scraps that seem to be breeding in the attic!  Despite my best attempts to use more of my scraps, the piles never seem to get smaller.

With the top coming together quickly, I was basting before I knew it.  My partner had mentioned that they liked FMQ so, like the last mini quilt, I took the opportunity to practice my skills.  I decided on 4 fern-like feathers, similar to the ones I used on my Oakshott Leaf Skeleton Quilt. I used the width of each column as a guide and really love the fluidity that the stitching adds to the piece.  As much as I love matchstick and line quilting, I really enjoy experimenting with FMQ and letting the thread take me to unusual places.

This quilt has been received and is making its new owner smile!

A RAINBOW MINI QUILT SWAP QUILT

Quilt swaps are a great way to become engaged with the online quilting community.  You make friends, learn a thing or two and, at the end of it, come away with a lovingly, hand-made quilt.  You may remember I participated in a second Schnitzel and Boo swap and the Instagram Mini Quilt Swap last year.  This year I’ve signed up to three swaps, with the first being the Rainbow Mini Swap, organised by Kate Basti through Instagram.

If the hashtags for these swap (#rainbowminiswap and #rainbowteamred, green, blue, yellow and for the individual groups) are anything to go by, nothing is more inspiring than a rainbow of fabric made into a quilt.  There are some really amazing quilts to be seen, each unique and beautiful to look at.  Despite the swap name, the minis didn’t have to feature a rainbow of colour but rather take inspiration from it.

I began the process with a quick sketch.  For whatever subliminal reason, I had the image of a totem pole in my head.  I imagined bands of colours across a Joel Dewberry wood grain fabric that I had buried in the stash.  In the end, it turned out to be not quite enough, so I luckily sourced some more from Simply Solids.  I made some more sketches before deciding upon a design which I turned into a paper pieced pattern.  I decided that would be the best way to make the blocks.  With the pattern good to go I began construction.  I wanted to arrange the blocks in colour wheel order, so began with red and ended with pink-red.

I can honestly say that choosing the fabrics was the best part of making this quilt.  I had 16 coloured piles of scraps that would form the bands of the totem poles.  The background would be a mixture of crosshatch, Essex yarn dyed linen and solids to give a scrappy looks.  For the colours I went straight to my favourites; Tula pink, Alison Glass and Carolyn Friedlander, all mixed with an array of Kona solids. I also included some hand-printed fabrics by the talented Karen Lewis of Karen Lewis Textiles. I’ve long admired Karen’s work on Instagram and this was the first time I’d gotten my hands on some of her screen printed cotton.  Her designs are perfect for this sort of project, even in small pieces, and I knew I wanted to include some from the project’s earliest conception.

The quilting stumped me for a long while on this one.  I still didn’t have an idea when I was sat at the machine with the basted quilt on my lap!  In the end I just placed the quilt sandwich under the foot and went for it, ending up with and all over meander which I think brings all the piecing together.  I chose a light cream thread so’s not to distract from the colours of the blocks.  The binding was simple; a small-scale black and white print from my LQS.

This one was a hard one to give away, but I have the pattern at least so I can always make another.  Paper piecing is something I enjoy and I love the challenge of designing my own patterns.  Before I sign off, I have to share this picture of Samuel’s reaction to the quilt.  I already posted this on Instagram but what the hell, it’s funny!  Thanks for visiting!

QUILTING FOR MY COMMUNITY

A few months ago, a close Instagram friend, @theorginaltrash, mentioned to the IG community that her daughter had been invited to represent the UK at the World Scout Jamboree in Japan this August.  It’s an opportunity to participate in cultural exchanges with Scouts from all over the world and undertake community projects to benefit the local area of Yamaguchi City.

We were asked to brainstorm and find ideas to raise money to help fund the trip.  Of course, the online quilting community is a great bunch, so the suggestions soon came flooding in.  Owning to my great affinity for Japan, I wanted to do something extra special to help, so I offered to make a quilt that could then be used as a prize in a raffle or drawing of some kind.  At the time I wasn’t sure what type of quilt it would be, only that it would be quite me!

Earlier this week, with the deadline for the trip fast approaching, I though it best to get moving and make the thing.  I decided upon a mini, not only due to the time constraints I had, but also because I thought it would be easier to send to the eventual winner. I had no plan, only that I wanted something improvisational, with lots of the colours and fabrics that I love.

After a fabric pull comprising of Kona Solids in teal greens, Oakshott cottons in rich, mossy greens, some Tula Pink Acacia, bits of black Essex Yarn Dyed from Robert Kauffman, Carolyn Friedlander and some contrasting purples, I got to work stitching and slicing.  I started with strips, piecing them into chunks before slicing angles into them and sewing them back together so the colours were offset. I added some pieces of the purple fabrics to some of the blocks before sewing them all together.  It was both freeing and fun, and the top came together very quickly.  The quilting was a simple wavy line from one edge to the other; not quite matchstick but enough to give some lovely texture. For binding, I deliberated for a long time before chosing a lime green bee print from Flora and Fauna by Patty Young for Michael Miller Fabrics.  This has been in the stash for a while and you may remember I used another colour way in my second Schnitzel and Boo mini quilt last year.

I’m very pleased with this one and can’t wait to send it on its way to its new owner.  To be in with a chance of winning the quilt, visit the Go Fund me page for all the details of how to donate and to learn more about the fantastic opportunity.  Thanks for visiting!

MONKEYING AROUND ON QUILT MONKEY!

Throughout the rich and varied history of TV there have been countless memorable duos who’ve remained every-present in the consciousness of consumers; Laurel and Hardy, Richard and Judy and Ant and Dec.  Well, as much as it blows my mind to say it, you can add another pair to the list; Katy Jones…and me!

Katy needs no introduction to anyone familiar with the modern quilting movement. Author, blogger and fabric designer, she knows her stuff, so I was honoured when she asked me last year if I’d be interested in presenting some episodes of her ever-popular quilting show Quilt Monkey.  To say I wasn’t a little nervous at first would be a big fat lie! I’d never done anything like it before and my mind was full of all the live TV fails I’d seen whilst lost in the depths of late-night internet browsing. Fortunately, Quilt Monkey, which is shown on QNNTV, isn’t filmed live and, even if it was, I had great support along the way.  My hand was well and truly held!

So, after a spot of planning, off to North Wales I went to film my episodes; a four-hour car drive from the attic here in Cardiff.  Me, behind a camera, talking about quilting!  Throughout the journey I was frantically taking notes, wracking my brain for funny anecdotes and inspirational nuggets to share with the audience.  Then I stopped and thought “I know what I’m talking about, let’s just focus on the quilting.”  So that’s what I did.  I have to admit it was a bit surreal to be stood behind the camera, lights shining down and a bank of TV monitors glowing at the edge of my vision.  I even had a microphone, something which l wasn’t expecting but in hindsight seems so obvious.  This was real and the cameras were rolling!

Luckily for me Katy was a dream to work with and displayed none of the diva qualities often attributed to people at the top of their game.  Yes, she needs a constant stream of tea, but then again so do I!  We chatted and cut fabric, then pressed and sewed it as I talked about piecing free hand curves.  We were having so much fun that before I knew it, a wrap was called on our joint episode.  I’d done it!  That episode is now up and ready to view.  Over the course of my trip I filmed a total of 4 episodes, to be released over the coming weeks.  In fact, my first solo effort goes live today! Throughout the episodes I’ll be talking about improv and inspiration, as well as showing you some techniques I used to create my Vegetable Patch quilts.

The whole experience was so fun and I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to return for another guest slot.  If you do get a chance to view the episodes I’d love to hear what you all think!  Thanks for visiting!

DESIGNING AND DIE CUTTING

The attic has been a flurry of activity lately, something which excites me so much that I sometimes forget to slow down and share it with you all here.  There hasn’t been much sewing as such, but rather preparation for it.  By that I mean I’ve been scribbling down lots of designs, gathering inspiration from all over the place and preparing fabrics, including lots of cutting!

Thank goodness then for my Sizzix Big Shot!  One thing I’m working on at the moment is a quilt for an upcoming blog hop featuring the new Scandinavia collection by Oakshott.  Now, as anyone who’s sewn with Oakshott fabrics before knows, they are a dream to work with, and I always like to take a little extra time to plan whenever I use them exclusively in a quilt.  I can’t share too many details with you now, you’ll just have to come back for the blog hop for those, but what I can say is there are lots of squares, half square triangles and, a first for me, a drunkard’s path block or two. This is uncharted territory and something that makes my inner perfectionist cringe a little.  Those curves will have to be pieced pretty bang on if that nagging voice inside my head is to be silenced. Despite the block’s name, I’m not sure a drop of bourbon would do anything to help either.  Best I stick to fueling up on coffee!

I intend to do a trail run with some questionable fabric before I dive in with the Oakshott, but I’ve already taken the first step towards achieving precise blocks by using the Bigz dies to cut out my pieces. My theory is that if they’re all cut out the same then they should all fit together easily.  That makes sense, right?  I’m using the Drunkard’s Path Arch and Fan die (659849) and the Drunkard’s Path Quarter Circle die (659850).  As well as accurate, the dies are a great time saver too, giving me more time to focus on the sewing!  Wish me luck!  If you have any tips for sewing the 2 parts of the block together, preferably without using a load of pins, comment away!

GRATEFUL

Remember way back when this blog was in its infancy and my head was full of questions about whether I was good enough and who the hell would want to read what I had to say?  Well, today was a milestone in my life as a quilter and I want to share it with you all.

That my quilt on the cover of Quilt Now magazine!  I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me, somebody who continually questions his ability.  Whilst I try to keep this blog and my Instagram feed a happy and positive place, I’d be lying if I said the road was always easy.  Sometimes things don’t go right, sometimes blocks design just don’t work, no matter how much you try.  My style of improvisational quilting often takes me down roads with dead ends, and I’ve no choice but to back up and try a different route.  In my quilting life there are definitely lows, but when things like this happen, it makes all the stress and swear words worth it!  So thank you!  You, who’s reading this, or who’s commented on a previous post or liked an Instagram picture.  Your support is wholeheartedly appreciated!

You may remember from a few posts I mentioned a quilt I made using my Sizzix Big Shot.  Well, this was it!  I can recommend the machine enough for accuracy when you need to cut out a lot of same shapes.  I so looking forward to expanding my collection of dies and seeing what else I make.  Who knows, it may turn out to be another cover star!

As soon as I get the quilt back I’ll share more details.  For now, look out for issue 10 of Quilt Now in a shop near you and let me know what you think!