CRAFTING THANKS

Many of you may have heard me refer to my ‘American mum’ on my various social media platforms. Debi Pedersen is the real-life mum of Stacey, a very dear friend of mine, and somebody who I’ve grown close to in the 8 years I’ve known her.  She and her husband Jim were kind enough to put us up when my partner and I embarked on a tour of California with Stacey, back in 2008.  We had such a great time and vowed that we would keep in touch.  In the years that followed, we’ve met up in London and they have stayed with us here in Cardiff when they visited to celebrate Stacey’s 30th birthday. They really are awesome people and have done so much to support my growth as a quilter that it was only natural I’d want to repay them in the best way I know how.

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Now, I’ve been known to use the Pedersen’s residence as my own personal post office. If I make a purchase or partake in a de-stash and the seller won’t ship internationally then Debi kindly let’s me have fabric and other notions sent to her for storage.  I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve done this and I inevitably end up with a towering pile of purchases waiting to be collected. I always envisage that one day I’d return to CA and collect it all, but more often than not Debi surprises me and has it posted out.  So thoughtful!  On one of these occasions she included in the package some blueberry-themed fabric she had picked up for herself at a local store, asking if I might be able to make something for her with it. Shamefully, that was about 2 years ago.  Life got in the way and the fabric fell ever-deeper into the stash.  It took a house move and a load of unpacking for it to resurface and prompt me to get a move on. The heart of Debi’s house is her kitchen.  Both her and Jim and amazing cooks and she has such a passion for all things culinary. With that in mind, I decided that a table runner, rather than a quilt, would make for a more fitting gift. Refusing to keep her waiting any longer, I liased with Stacey to get some secret table measurements and set about making!

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The resulting runner makes me smile, not only because I know it’s going to a deserving person, but also beacuse I had such fun making it. As always, I indulged in the fabric pull. Using the blueberry fabrics that Debi had sent as my inspiration, I mixed them with some stash favourites, including some new L’s Modern Garden by Lecien, various Carolyn Friedlander prints and some coordinating Kona solids. The background is Essex linen in steel. I kept the construction simple, making a load of stitch and flip blocks before trimming them down to squares using my trusty Sizzix Big Shot.  Then it was a case of arranging them into a long lightening bolt shape and sewing them all together.  For the quilting, wavy organic lines compliment the angular piecing. I used Aurfil 50wt against an amazing First of Infinity print for the backing.  It had been waiting patiently in the stash for its moment to shine and I think that it has found it! With a text print from the Architextures collection, the runner was done.

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In the weeks since completion, the runner has crossed the Atlantic and arrived safely in the States. I’m pleased to report that Debi and Jim love it and I’m so glad that I’ve finally been able to thank them both in some small way.  I love that a small piece of me is in their home and their hearts and hope that they’ll continue to love and use it for genrations to come.

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Thank you guys!

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THE BUSINESS OF BLADES

Whatever I do, I’m all about quality. Making a cake? Use the best ingredients. Need a new pair of jeans? Invest in more expensive ones and they’ll reward you in the long run. My mantra is no different when it comes to my quilting. I love the feel and weight of really good fabrics. I love the knowledge that my thread isn’t going to snap every five minutes because it didn’t cost 50p. When I first began quilting, rather than rush out and buy everything, I took the time to curate a collection of quality tools that I knew would not only do the job, but do it well.

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I mentioned in a recent episode of Quilt  Monkey that us quilters are so often blinded by all the pretty fabrics that we sometimes forget about the things that makes using those fabrics easier, namely our sewing machine needles and our rotary cutter blades. To change either of these after becoming accustom to their dull and blunt predecessors is a simple pleasure that many of us of forget about. Yet such an act can make all the difference to the quality and accuracy of our sewing.

Now, I know some of you will be like me, wanting nothing more than to take what we spend on these things and buy yet more fabric. I hate the fact that blades are marked up so much here compared to in the US, where everything seems cheaper. Yet, with that little voice of quality whispering in my ear, I was sure to buy only the branded blades for my cutter, thinking anything else would be substandard and uneconomical. Well, how wrong I was!

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A few days ago I received some blades from the lovely people at Barnyarns. I’d purchased items from them before and was pleased to see they’d arrived on Instagram. What piqued my interest was a post about the range of unbranded blades they now stocked. I read that the blades were made of quality steel and fit most of the top brands, like Olfa, and many different models. I was intrigued.

The blades arrived, were promptly tested and I can say that I’m throughly impressed. I received the 45mm size, but these replacements are also available in 60mm. They come in pairs, housed in a small plastic case for safety and ease of transport. You’d think that a lower priced product would do away with things like that, but just like their more expensive counterparts, these are nicely packaged and perfect for storing your dull blades for disposal.

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As for the business of cutting, I’d never know I wasn’t using a branded blade. The cliché  of ‘a hot knife through butter’ seems obvious, but the cuts were so beautifully clean I can’t help but use it. I was layering fabric and the blades had no trouble slicing through 5 layers; they probably could have handled more!

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I’m so pleased that these blades changed my mind about unbranded notions for my quilting. Of course, there are some things I won’t change, but the savings available on what is a top quality product makes these my blades of choice for the foreseeable future. Thanks Barnyarns!

Do you need to change your blade? Do yourself and your cutter a favour and try these out. Head over to my Instagram where I’m giving away 5 pairs of 45mm blades to some lucky people. Then you can let me know what you think!

Thanks for visiting!

QUICK AND EASY QUILTS

When I first started out on my quilting journey I sent an email to Lynne of Lily’s Quilts, asking for advice about how to start a blog. I really admired her work and thought she’d have great brains to pick. Thinking back, the email was probably cringe worthy to say the least, but Lynne was kind enough to respond and give me some great pointers. I remember being so excited. It was like I was talking to quilting royalty and had been invited to join this crazy, fun world of quilting

When I was asked to take a look at Lynne’s new book, Quick & Easy Quilts, I jumped at the chance. As some of you may know, I’m a bit of a bibliophile and getting my hands on a crisp, new book is almost as good as fabric deliveries! When the book is about fabric, then I’m winning.

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Published by Kyle Books with bright and cheerful photography by Jan Baldwin, it’s the kind of quilting book you can’t help but smile at as you flick through. I have to confess that I loved it even before I opened it. The cover is beautifully tactile; embossed, with a sheen across that title that begs to be stroked. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right; I’m mad, but you’ll understand what I mean if you get a copy.

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I was pleased to see that despite the title, many of the projects look decisively more difficult than Lynne’s clear and concise instructions make them. The Supernova is a stunning, impactful project that looks like it would take you weeks, yet through clever strip piecing it could easily be a weekend project.

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Lynne’s eye for colour has always made the quilts she makes special, and the ones in this book are no exception. Though it’s hard to pick a favourite, the cool, water-inspired fabric pull of the Out on the Ocean mini quilt makes my heart sing, as does the freehand curved piecing, something which I’ve experimented with myself a lot in the past. It was refreshing to see several improv pieced projects alongside Lynne’s more usual precisely-cut-out-projects.

Amongst the twenty modern projects featured, there really is something for everyone, regardless of ability or skill. Whilst tidying up the sewing room the other day, I couldn’t help but pull some fabric ready to make some Schoolhouse blocks. I’ve seen these beauties from Lynne before and the wall hanging in the book looks so awesome I think I need one of my own.

To get you all inspired for some quick and easy quilt making I have a copy of the book to give away to one luck reader. To be in with a chance of winning, simply leave a comment on this post telling me what type of quilter you are. Do you like long cutting lists and precision, or are you like me and love to hack, press and slash? The competition is open to all and I’ll draw a winner in a week. Good luck!

The giveaway is now closed and the winner has been notified.  Thanks to all who entered!

EASTER PAUSE…AND PLANNING.

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you’re all taking the time to slow down and surround yourself with the people and places that you love. We have a nice relaxing few weeks planned and are spending some time travelling around the country. With the sewing machine taking a well-deserved rest too, it’s the perfect time to take stock and plan for the coming months.

As well as the books and board games I’ve packed, I’ve brought along my trusty note pad. I intended to get organised and prioritise what I need to work on once the holiday is over.

First up will be to finish the wonky cross I’ve been working on for what seems like an age. It’s been one of those slow burning projects that I work on between more pressing deadlines. I think now the time has come for it to take a front seat and get finished. I intended to have it long armed, so I’ve only the top to concentrate on.

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I do so enjoy working on this project, and I’ve been lucky enough to receive some great scraps from the IG quilting community. I was running out of my own in these colours and, knowing that I wanted this to be a large quilt, I put out a call to arms for any fabric people could spare. Boy, did they deliver. I have so many now and can’t wait to get them all pieced into blocks.

Now, where did I put that notebook?

THE DENIM STUDIO BY ART GALLERY FABRICS

Oh my goodness! I could sit here and list the reasons why I haven’t blogged in such a long time, but to be honest, I can’t even remember them all. I know there was the small matter of buying a house to deal with, Christmas, and lots of small deadlines that seemed to get the better of me. So, I say we forget all that and jump straight in with the loveliness that is the new denim collection by Art Gallery Fabrics.

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Those of you who follow me on Instagram will now how excited I was when Christopher, aka The Tatooed Quilter, asked me to be part of a blog tour celebrating this new fabric release. From my experiences of sewing with AGF in the past, I knew that this was something I had to be involved in, not to mention these were denims designed for quilters! I was sold.

As I waited patiently like a fabric-crazed animal for my supplies to arrive, I got to thinking about what I would make with them once they had. The collection is made up of 25 different fabrics so there really is something for every project. I’d requested some of my favourite prints in the lightweight denim, some solids in the smooth denim and a few colours of heavier, textured denim. When I ordered them I wasn’t sure what they’d become, so I played it safe and got a bit of everything!

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At the drawing board, my mind recalled a story about the time my grandmother gave my dad some money to buy a new pair of jeans. As a boy, I was told the cautionary tale so many times I’ll never forget it!

With three children to raise and my grandfather long-passed, money was tight, so my dad was overjoyed at the thought of a new pair of jeans. With the money in his vice-like grip, he went to the big city to seek out them out. Once there, he became enamoured with a pair of patchwork jeans, made up of oddments of denim and detailed with crazy stitching. It wasn’t too long before the money in his hand had been replaced with a bag in which a pair of the mismatch jeans was tucked. Upon returning home, my dad couldn’t wait to show my grandmother what he’d bought. He was sure to be the talk of the town with these new threads! How pleased she would be to have such a popular son!

My grandmother did not agree. So mortified was she that my dad had spent the money on what she saw as rags, she took what little change there was, clipped him around the ear and caught the next bus to Cardiff to return them!

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The mini quilt I made pays homage to this story. I used a variation of my tried and tested ‘Drunked Tiles’ quilt to piece small, oddly-shaped pieces of denim together, blending both the prints and solids to create my own mismatch of denims. I added some improv diamonds throughout the top, starting densely in the top left corner and becoming less frequent as you move across the quilt. I fell in love with the rich ochre of the textured denim but was worried about the seams it would create, particularly in the blocks where it meets at four places. Whilst they were thicker than usual, I pressed them open and decided upon a dense quilting pattern to take care of the rest.

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The quilting was a joy to do and was another favourite, an edge-to-edge sea of mussel shells, quite dense so as to secure all those seams. The mini lies beautifully flat.

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I don’t think I’ll ever be a quilter who likes a lot of unquilted space. I say, the denser the better! The Aurfil 50 weight blends beautifully into the denim and yet adds just the right amount of visual interest.

The fabric was a dream to sew with. It presses beautifully and is so soft. I can see this become a stash-staple, particularly the solids, and can imagine lots of lovely fabric pulls that combine it with other AGF collections. For me, the rich colours evoked a western theme; cowboys and cacti, dusty plains and low suns.

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I can’t wait to hang this on a wall in the new place. I think it’ll look perfect in the dining room, where the cacti live.

Thank you for sticking with me during my leave of absence! To any new followers I may have acquired since my last post, I can assure you, the wait isn’t usually this long!

Be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour, as well as the hashtag #thedenimstudiobyagf on Instagram, and do your stash a favour, get some AGF denim in it!

Monday 14th – The Tatooed Quilter

Tuesday 15th – Me

Wednesday 16th – Sariditty

Thurday 17th – Ginger Peach Studios

Friday 18th – Modernhandcraft

A SIZZIX GIVEAWAY!

I’ve taken a break from quilting to let you all know about a great giveaway from Sizzix that I’ve just found out about. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as my shoulders are about to drop off!  I’m still not entirely on board with the whole ‘take regular breaks’ thing!

Anyway, by signing up to the Sizzix newsletter you have the change to win a Big Shot plus machine. This is the machine I have and I can’t say enough how great it is!  It’s versatile and suited to so many quilting projects thanks to the array of dies available, everything from squares to hexagons.  It makes your piecing quicker and more accurate every time.

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Sound good?  Simply fill in your details here to be in with a chance of winning.  The competition closes Friday 27th November at 10am GMT. Good luck!