NGAQB II – SO FAR

The second incarnation of the #NGAQB is well under way. You may remember my last NGAQB post, where I shared my center with you and explained my fabric choices and what I was hoping the other members of the bee would add to it. Well, from what I’ve seen posted in Instagram, I can tell you that my expectations have been more than met! I asked for improv and boy did I get it! If you haven’t been following along, now’s the time! I can tell that there are going to be some stunning quilts once the rounds are complete.

In the bee, I always receive quilts from Molli Sparkles, so it was both an honour and a slight worry that I was to be the first to add to his center block. Perhaps starting block is a better word, since there’s no obligation to keep the block centered. When we started we were told and encouraged to add to all sides or add to one. As you can probably guess, this really appealed to my improv-inclined brain!

Molly had used an amazing paper pieced pattern of a unicorn for his starting block. The minute I saw it I was totally blown away by his fabric choices and was so excited to dive into my own stash and see what I could find. In my mind, I wanted to create a kind of improvised forest in which the unicorn could gallop, unbridled and free. I used a lot of Kona solids in vibrant pinks and purples, along with some Anna Maria Horner, Lecien L’s Modern and Cotton and Steel. I hacked and slashed fabric before piecing it into long-ish strips, adding some freehand curved seams for interest. The piecing was very freeing and of the moment and I soon had enough to add to unicorn block. I decided to leave the top edge, in the hope that the next person to receive this would continue working upwards, taking inspiration from my long thin strips and adding to the magical forest feel!

The next block I received belonged to Quilt Dad. Like Molli, John had paper pieced his starting block, this time a trio of feathers. Once again, I was so inspired by the colour palette and excited to see that John had used one of my all time favourite prints, a wood grain by Joel Dewberry, albeit in a tiny role.  I wanted it to be the star! I had a little left in the stash and was determined to use it!

For John’s block, Molly had added a first round of epic beauty! I was a little scared to continue, lest I ruin it. I took inspiration from the Totem Pole Quilt I made for a past swap.  I pieced long, improv strips and attached these to the quilt log cabin style.  This was a real scrap-busting exercise as I had a lot of red pieces that were perfect for this, including some of the new Blueberry Park collection by Karen Lewis and some snippets that had been waiting for their moment to shine longer than is polite to mention!  Fun, simple sewing for both of these blocks, and I loved every second!

I’m so excited to see how these and all the other quilts in the bee evolve!

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 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.

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!