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.

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SIGNIFICANT OTHER SEWING

Oh my!  Has it really been that long since I blogged?  August has been and gone in the blink of an eye and I’m still waiting for the computer to wake up.  In my defense, it was summer, one of the best we’ve had for a long time, and what’s August for if not long, lazy days and holidaying in France.

I came back from Paris itching to sew.  It was bad enough that it had almost been 2 weeks since I turned on my machine, but for that machine to be a brand-spanking-new-barely-out-of-the-box machine, well, there were buttons I was just dying to press!  I have a list as long as my arm of things I need to catch up on, most pressingly my #NGAGB blocks, which I’m currently 3 months behind.  I hope to put foot to the ground and peddle my way through those in the coming week, as well continuing to work on a few other projects I have on the go.  I’ll share more of those with you soon, but first let me show you all something that was finished before I went on holiday.

We recently had a new addition to the family.  The BF’s sister gave birth to a little girl last month, quite the curiosity for her 2 brothers, and, rather than buy a gift, he wanted to make her a quilt.  I was excited when he asked if I would show him the basics.  My mind immediately thought ‘fabric shopping trip’ but hopes were instantly dashed when he asked to browse my stash to see if there was anything there he might like.  So we ascended to the attic where I nervously watched him purvey the shelves.

“This is nice,” he said, picking up a piece of my coveted Heather Ross Mendocino.

“Oh, there’s not enough of that to do anything worthwhile with,” I blurted out, before hastily pushing the fabric to the back.  “You can choose anything from here, look, all of this, look how pretty it is!”

I’d successfully averted his gaze from Tula Pink, Architextures and Botanics, and whilst he picked pinks and purples prints from the shelves I’d sanctioned, I couldn’t help wondering if I was a terrible person.  That lasted about 5 secs.

It’s mine, my precious!

After flicking through the pages of a few quilt books, he decided upon a square in a square block, opting to keep it simple as he lost his quilting virginity.  Working together wasn’t all plain sailing.  We disagreed on fabric, size and block layout.  It was hard for me to step back and remember that this was his quilt and it had to be made his way.  But I persevered and slowly it came together.  I gave him a quick tour of the machine and he got to work; cutting (though not all of it), sewing blocks (“this part is boring!”) and even messing around on the design wall.  My inner improvisationalist wanted random, and had to sit tight-lipped as he attempted a more formal arrangement.  After a few tweaks we came up with a layout we were both happy with, and he sewed the blocks together.  At the end of the day we had a completed top without tears, bloodshed or any fabric casualties.  Hooray!

The following morning we basted, made possible by my willingness to relinquish a piece of fabric I’d been saving for a backing of my own, before taking it in turns to quilt the top.  We choose a pre-set design, one of the nice features of the new machine, and the whole quilt took about 2 hours, allowing for tea breaks.  It surprised me that we’d got to the binding stage without the need for any shopping.  I got thinking about how much fabric I actually have and how many quilts there are waiting to be made on those shelves.  Though there were some binding options, he wanted a deep purple, but that was the only thing bought.  A quick hand sewing session once at his parents saw the quilt done and ready to be gifted.

I really enjoyed giving him a glimpse into, up until then, a world I rarely shared with him.  It was fun watching from a distance, seeing how he pulled fabric (often haphazardly with complete disregard for my folding) and arranged the blocks.  I’m not sure if he’s caught the bug but I definitely saw a smile of satisfaction as he admired his completed quilt.  Would I do it again…hmmmmm…perhaps!

MY HEAD RUNNETH OVER!

Oh my goodness you know when you have so much to say and you think you’ll never be able to say it all so you don’t take a breath and talk really quickly and then you think of something else you want to say and the list grows longer and longer and you start to fidget because the words and the sentences are growing and growing and building up in your brain like a pressure cooker but there’s nowhere for the words to go and it feels like your head may explode so you wish you could just snap your fingers and have it all stream out of your mouth in a wonderful wordy rainbow!

Phewwwwww!

Let’s stop there, if only to remember that punctuation is my friend.  In all seriousness, I think the last few weeks may have been the busiest quilty ones I’ve had since I stated this blog.  I mean my last post was weeks ago!  I apologise to anyone who may have been crawling the wall waiting for me to say something (no, no one?) but now that I’m here I do have a lot to share.  Firstly, and perhaps the most exciting news, is that this happened this week…

Hold the front page!  It’s only my dream machine, on the back seat of my dad’s car, making its way to my house!  After much research and nervous deliberation I finally succumbed to my inner desires and bought this beauty.  In my defense, the deal I was able to score, what with sale savings and the trading in of my old, beloved machine, was far too good to turn down.  I wasn’t expecting to be upgrading quite so early but I’m so glad I did.  You may not be able to believe that I haven’t actual sewn with it yet, just lovingly unpacked it and placed it proudly in the attic.  I’ve scoured the menu and will settle down with popcorn for the instructional DVD sometime soon.  The weather here has been unbearably hot and humid, no more so than in the attic, so that’s put me off a little.  But, bee blocks and future projects wait for no man, not even the weather one, so I’m excited at the prospect of having a good play very soon.  I’ll be sure to write up my thoughts and let you all know how I got on.

In other news, I attended the Fat Quarterly retreat in London last weekend.  I’m going to do a full write up when I blog about Sunday Stash this weekend, simply because I couldn’t talk about how much of an awesome time I had without mentioning all of the amazing goodies (not to mention the strained necked from the weight of said goodies) that I came back with!  Let me just say that it was such an amazing experience, full of creative people from all over the world, all joined in their shared passion for patchwork and quilting.

A few other bits and pieces have made me smile over the few weeks, mostly some secret sewing projects that I’ve been working on, but that’s all I can say on that matter for now.  You’ll just have to watch this space…

That’s all I’ve got!  This weather is really draining, and all I can think about right now is the glass of wine that inches from my hand. I’ve got a lot of projects in the pipeline, some secret, some not so much, and can’t wait to share some more with you all soon.  Thanks for sticking with me!