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!

SIMPLY SOLIDS BLOGGER BUNDLE

A few months ago, the lovely ladies at Simply Solids, a great fabric store in Huddersfield, asked me if I’d be interested in curating a bundle for a new stash club they were rolling out. The ‘Blogger’s Choice’ bundle is made up of fabrics chosen by bloggers and quilts designers, and once the first three names were announced, it was clear that I was in awesome company. After Karen Lewis and Nicole Dakiewicz selected their fabrics, it was my turn. I thought about it for weeks beforehand and am now so excited to say that my month is live and flying through the postal system to land in the stashes of subscribers.

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As you may know, pulling fabrics is one of my favourite parts of quilt making. I went for a palette of rich blacks, hot pinks, earthy browns and a splashes of gold. I took the jumble print from Carkai by Carolyn Friedlander as my starting point and added some Handcrafted by Alison Glass, as well as some great blenders like the modern batik print by Me and You for Hoffmann Fabrics. I also couldn’t resist throwing in some Essex yarn dyed from Robert Kauffman for texture.

I received my bundle yesterday and it looks SO good in person! I think I may have outdone myself.  The metallic painter’s canvas has to be seen in real life. It’s just gorgeous!

There’s still time to sign up to the stash club and receive my bundle. Other bloggers will be announced over the coming weeks. For all the information you need to subscribe, visit simply solids here.

Thanks for dropping by!

NGAQB II – MEDALLION ROUND ROBIN

True to my word, I held off from joining anymore swaps for about, oh, I don’t, five minutes! In my defense, the latest thing to lure me with its charms is the second incarnation of the No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee, which this time takes the form of a round-robin-style medallion swap.  Pretty hard to resist, right?

You may remember last year when the hashtag #NGAQB popped up all over Instagram.  It was such a fun and creative experience that there was no way I couldn’t be involved the second time around. This year, John Adams took charge to round-up seven male quilters to partake in what promises to be an awesome swap.  No different to any round robin you’ve seen before, each month will see one quilter add to another’s quilt before sending it on. Fun, fun and more fun!

I’ve spent the last few days pulling fabric and making my centre ‘square’ (a term I apply very loosely). I’ve chosen a saturated palette of deep teals, mustards and red-purples (surprised?) with accents of greys, blacks and beige neutrals.  I went for an improv approach, sewing and slashing with abandon to come up with something I hope the others guys will find inspiring.  I want each future round to reflect the quilter who added it, and instructed them that anything goes!

This first part is en route to Scott, along with a bunch of fabric, some I used and some I didn’t.  I hoping that snippets of the centre block’s fabrics scattered throughout the quilt will add some continuity and bring all the additions together.  The pile is full of Tula Pink, Alison Glass, Carolyn Friedlander and many more of my favourites. So much great stuff to play with!

As for my first addition, it’s going to be on a Molli Sparklified unicorn. Yes, you heard right. I’ve already got an idea of what I want to do and cannot wait for it to arrive.  Watch this space!  Have any of you experienced a round-robin swap?  Tell me all about it!

BLOGGER’S QUILT FESTIVAL – TOTEM POLE QUILT

For the first time, I’m going to enter a second quilt into the Blogger’s Quilt Festival.  I’ve always admired the quilts in the ROYGBIV category but never had one to share.  Well, that all changed this year with my contribution to the Rainbow Mini Quilt Swap I participated in.

Of all the quilts I’ve made recently, my Totem Pole Quilt has been the most fun.  I had a great time choosing fabrics from my scraps to piece the pattern, which I designed myself. You can read all about this quilt in the original post here.  You know you’re on to a winner when the repetition of piecing paper pieced blocks doesn’t get to you.  I can honestly say that each of these blocks was a joy to make and I’m looking forward to experimenting with a second version some time soon.

You must all know the drill by now, so go forth and browse this and all the other festival categories.  If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate any votes you want to put my way.  Thank you!

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!

A SECOND VEGETABLE PATCH QUILT

I knew I would end up making a second Vegetable patch quilt.  Even when I was elbow deep in purple strips, fashioning the red cabbage from the first quilt, I couldn’t help but let my mind drift to other vegetables and how they might be constructed. Like the first, this second version was completed some time ago, and since it’s not really the weather for allotments yet, I took advantage of a weathered wall and the smallest segment of sunshine to snap some photographs whilst away for the school half term a few weeks ago.  I’m not ashamed to say that I am in love!

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As pleased as I am with the finished product, once again it was the process of its construction that really got me going.  The first thing I did was to think about vegetables, perhaps more than any sane person really should, in a creative way.  I was drawn to both their outward appearance as well as the patterns and textures that can be found beneath the peel and skin.  I wanted the blocks to work in harmony with the first, and was looking for vegetables with similar colours and tones.

The first block to be completed was the red onion, which, up until recently, was my most liked media on Instagram (thank you beloved followers).  I saw this block as the younger brother of the leek block from the first version and had two things I wanted to achieve with it.  Firstly, to increase the curves and have the rings be more rounded.  Secondly, I wanted the colours of a red onion to be really obvious.  I wanted people to know what it was as soon as they looked at it.  Fabric section for this block was key.  I mixed Kona solids with small-scale prints by Denyse Schmidt and Violet Craft amongst others.  Purple is a colour I’m lacking in my stash so I was pleased to find pieces that I could use amongst my numerous scraps.  I can’t lie and say I wasn’t worried when I was making this block.  Yes, my idea was working and the fabrics looked great together, but to make those curves you must have a lot of seams.  I mean, a lot!  Luckily, once it was pressed and starched and stretched…oh my…it lied pretty flat, and what didn’t was quickly sorted out by the quilting.

Next came the green element.  I chose asparagus for its outside detail and the range of colours it comes in.  Like the carrot block from the first version, I wanted this block to showcase the thin, long nature of the vegetable.  After scribbling down my process on paper, I made a test block, the first time I’d done so for these quilts, and realised that some changes would have to be made to better convey the asparagus.  I made my initial strips wider and re-worked the tips.  Again, fabric selection was important, and thank God for crosshatch by Carolyn Friedlander.  It’s so textured and perfect for these kind of blocks. I was a little worried that the neutral background would be lost when I came to sash the blocks, but the mix of linens and solids really makes the asparagus spears stand out.

For the red element I choose a chili and like the tomato block, it has a lot going on inside!  I created the seeds first, then cut free hand curves, another first on this project, to create the iconic shape of the chili.  The background was a kona solid in a since-forgotten shade of red that really make the block stand out and gives it some “fire”.

The last block was pumpkin.  I probably struggled with this once the most.  I knew I wanted an orange element to complete the quilt top, but was stumped for a long while before settling on the seasonal squash.  I was probably influenced by the recent Halloween celebrations and the fact that I was snacking on a lot of spiced pumpkin seeds.  Go figure!  Again, like the chili pepper, I constructed the seeds first, then used a similar technique to the red onion to create the shape of the pumpkin.  I debated whether or not to add some green before settling on a small section. In hindsight I think it’s a tad too vibrant, but think it still works by creating a little contrast.

So, I now had the four blocks and was very pleased with them.  The rest was easier!  I knew I wanted the layout to be the same as the previous version.  That meant sashing the four blocks with Essex yarn dyed linen in flax from Robert Kaufman before adding a wider border in the same fabric.  The backing was the same as before, a seeded, off-white cotton, and the quilting was also the same, although this time it was done on my new machine with a wider throat!  Lots of organic, dense quilting that suits the subject matter perfectly. Binding…you guessed it, the same!  My long-hoarded crosshatch from Carolyn Friedlander.

I love these quilts and they are my most favourite things I’ve ever made.  They look really good together and seeing them like this makes all the trail, error and mishaps worth it.  Remember, I have no pattern for these blocks.  No templates or measurements to cut.  It’s all in my head, and even then I only have a vague idea about where I’m going with it.  But that’s part of the fun, exploring my creativity, and it’s something I would encourage you all to do.  You might be surprised where the journey takes you.  For me, it was to the bottom of the allotment!

Thanks for visiting!  Oh wait, I need your help!  I really want to build my stash of basics, fabrics that are perfect for these types of blocks.  I have a lot of solids, but I’m looking for suggestions for small-scale prints in greens, reds, oranges, purples and browns.  I have some ideas, like Crosshatch, Sketch, Pearl Bracelets and Squared Elements, but do you know of any more?  Leave your suggestions in the comments and there might by a prize at the end of it for one of you!

A SECOND SCHNITZEL AND BOO MINI QUILT SWAP QUILT

These days, I seem to be finishing quilts quicker than I can blog about them, which is something I’m not use too!  When I began blogging, the computer would wait patiently whilst I frantically sewed on binding.  Now, there’s a seeming endless list of post waiting to be published!

Today is the turn of a quilt I completed last month as part of round three of the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap.  You may remember the quilt I made for round two of the swap last year, which was great fun and just a little bit difficult to part with. This time around I was pleased to discover my assigned partner, Nicole AKA kwilter100 on Instagram,  had similar tastes to my previous partner, so I was once again able to express my love of all things improv.  I was thinking bright colours, wonky piecing and a lot of quilting; all things my partner seemed to like!

I began by cutting random widths of fabric and strip piecing them.  These were then sliced into and sewn back together, creating a stepped effect.  Like most of the quilts I make, the fabric pulling was one of my favourite parts.  My partner requested large-scale floral prints coupled with aqua and pink.  I purchased some Anna Maria Horner ‘Pretty Potent’ floral as a starting point, and then raided the stash for coordinating prints.  There’s a little Tula in there, as well as some Carolyn Friedlander (surprise, surprise) and some Cotton and Steel.  Everything just works so well together!

I made a total of four improv blocks before cutting them down and filling in the negative space with some black yarn dyed linen by Robert Kauffman.  I then went to town with the quilting, both following and going against the seam lines, even crosshatching in some areas, with the lines around a quarter of an inch apart. For the backing, I chose a stash staple that I’ve been waiting for the perfect project to use.  The colours were just right.  Binding was another Carolyn print from her Botanics collection.  Love, love, LOVE!

Received and hung up, I pleased to say Nicole was happy with it, which is the whole point of a swap I guess!

A UNITED STATES OF AMERICA QUILT

Regular readers of this blog will know it’s no secret I’m not enamoured with my job.  Yes, I must have one, and yes, the money pays the bills, but after five years doing the same thing, I’m really ready for a change!  I recently found out that a colleague and close friend would be moving on to pastures new.  In fact, as I write this, he’s working his last shift.  I couldn’t let the occasion pass without giving him a small token of appreciation to thank him for all the times he’s lent me his ear and kept me relatively sane in the workplace!  So, I did what us quilters do best and made him a quilt.

One of our traditions was to play a game of “Name all the American States in the shortest amount of time.”  Every other Friday, during the graveyard shift, we would try to best our previous record and not get tongue-tied over all the ‘M’ states!  When I began thinking about what to make him, the answer came quickly – a states quilt!

This was so fun to make!  Followers of my Instagram account may remember I already attempted one of these.  I ran into difficulties early on when I realised that the state templates I found were all different scales, and so fitting them together would be nigh on impossible!  Fast-forward to the second attempt and I decided to use a map that already had the states fitted together to make my templates, thereby ensuring a perfect fit.

The first step was to cut all the states from the map.  I decided to laminate them to make them more durable.  I’ll probably make another of these in the future so having the templates ready to go will be a great time-saver.  The states were transferred to fusible web before being ironed to the wrong side of my fabric choices.  It’s important to remember when transferring shapes to fusible web that they need to be reversed, so that when you cut them out of the fabric they are the right way around.  Of course, this doesn’t apply to circles, squares and other symmetrical shapes.

Pulling fabric for this project was my favourite part.  After some secret information gathering from his girl friend, I learnt the recipient’s favourite colours.  The fabrics are modern, manly and evocative of the states.  Florida is green and swamp-like, Colorado has a rocky feel and Arizona evokes hot, dusty plains.  There’s a really eclectic mix of fabrics in the map; Kona solids, Oakshott cottons, Tula pink, Carolyn Friedlander and Cotton and Steel.  Once the states were cut out, they were pressed into position on a background of black Essex Linen; a go-to fabric for me these days for all sorts of projects.  I ensured the first state, Washington, was placed level on the fabric before placing the others one by one.  It was fun to watch the map grow with each new addition.

Due to some of the states being quite small (bloody Delaware!), I thought it best couldn’t be bothered to stitch around each one individually, so I chose dense matchstick quilting to add texture to the quilt and secure all the pieces down at the same time.  I began by marking a straight line on the edge of the quilt and used this as a guide to quilt across the top.  I started with lines a quarter inch apart, then went back and filled in twice to leave lines no more than an eighth of an inch apart.  The texture is awesome!  To finish the piece, I used a Joel Dewberry wood grain print for binding.

The last addition was a label, made with the monogramming feature on my new Janome.  I have to admit I’m a little bit in love with it and it makes the perfect finishing touch.  I’m pleased to say the quilt was well received and hopefully it’ll be a reminder of our fun-filled Friday nights for years to come.

HAPPY NEW YEAR…LET’S PLAY CATCH UP!

Happy new year…although even that’s belated now, owing to the fact that it’s the 6th of January already! Can you believe it? Time doesn’t just fly…it hitches a ride on a super sonic jet and doesn’t get off!

It may seem like I’m complaining…and I am…but time’s relentless pace has its pros too. I have a great feeling about 2015, particularly for me and my quilting journey. I have several things in the pipeline that are really exciting, and I’ll be sharing details about those as soon as I know more myself.  For know, let’s deal with a little bit of forgotten house keeping from last year.  Over the next few days my posts will be dealing with all the loose ends I forgot didn’t have the time to tackle during the frantic festive period.

First up is my Instagram Mini Quilt Swap quilt I made during the last few months of 2014.  Organised by Sandy Greenberg, AKA curly_boy1 and Mr January in the #NGAQB, the swap was a huge success, attracting over 600 swappers.  It was the first time Sandy had organised anything like this so it was great to see the Instagram quilting community showing faith in a novice.  The swap was totally stress free, most likely due to the large period of time between receiving partner details and the posting dates.  This also allowed for a lot of thought on what to make, as well as a lot of mind-changing!

My partner was Meli, who posts as theshortmunchkin.  I was told that she’s a US Navy RN, so I used that as my inspiration for her mini.  I really wanted to do something with naval flags, but with more of a modern twist.  I imagined them all strung out on some string, rows above rows, with bright, vibrant colours replacing the traditional reds, blues and yellows.  I drew up some basic paper piecing patterns for a variety of different flags and set about pulling fabrics.  I didn’t start out with a rainbow of colour in mind, but the fabrics seems to arrange themselves like that as I was rummaging through the sash, and who am I to argue?  Sometimes, in my more subservient moods, what the fabric wants, the fabric gets (unless it’s destined for a vegetable patch block, in which case it’s being starched into submission).

I am so pleased with how the quilt turned out.  There are some old favourites in there, including Tula Pink and Carolyn Friedlander, mixed up with some vibrant Kona solids.  For the background I used some widescreen crosshatch that I seem to have an abundant supply of due to it’s 108″ width!  The quilting was wavy matchstick in an off white thread; simple but very effective.  The binding was my new go-to print from John Lewis.  It’s like a black scratchy line, not too dissimilar from those featured in the Botanics collection.  This was also the first time I used any applique in a quilt.  It was only a small circle, but it really finishes off that particular flag nicely.

I’ve been assured that Meli likes the quilt and have seen that she’s hung it up already, so I couldn’t have done that bad a job.  I’ve become really addicted to mini swaps recently and have signed up for three more this year!  Do go and check out this swap’s hash tag on Instagram.  There were so many great makes, and the one I received was particularity fetching…even if I am a little bias!

Here’s to a creative year.  Thank you all for following along and taking the time to read my ramblings.  I really appreciate all your support and can’t wait to see where the attic takes us this year!