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!

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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!

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!

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!

NO GIRLS ALLOWED BEE – DECEMBER, AND THE FINAL POST

At only a modest two months late we find ourselves at the last post of the 2014 No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee! It’s fitting that the bee should come full circle, ending with the founding father, Molli Sparkles.  Mr Sparkles needs no introduction, having already left his glittery stamp on the modern quilting world in far more impressive ways than I could describe here.  I count myself so fortunate that I was able to connect with Joshua way back when, and am both pleased and proud of where our interaction has taken us.

For the final month of the bee, Joshua requested hash tag blocks in a rainbow of tone on tone colours.  Now, as the tutorial so helpfully suggests, a test block is indeed a mahvelous idea; if you haven’t nailed down that exact quarter inch seem, your block isn’t gonna grow up to be the right size.  Trust me; I have an orphan block stuck to my design wall to prove it.

Once I sorted the seam issue, I sewed up a storm, choosing to focus my fabric selections on the teal and yellow areas of the colour wheel. Since I made blocks for Mr.  I’ve grown quite an attachment to fabric arranged in colour order, so it was great fun to pull these. Tula makes an appearance, as does some great small-scale prints that seem to be the staple of my stash.  I can’t get enough of fabric like that!

If these blocks seem familiar, you’ve probably seen a ton of them crop up on Instagram as part of the Sew For Sydney movement Joshua initiated to help victims of the Sydney terror attacks.  It was a real call to arms, with hundreds upon hundreds of blocks from all over the worlds being sent to help the cause.  What a great bunch you all are!

And with that the bee comes to an end!  Mark me off the list gentlemen, I’m officially up to date.  What fun the whole experience of being in a bee has been!  I’d stumbled upon the word many times in the early days of my foray into quilting, and was eager to be involved in one.  Well, I couldn’t have wished for a nicer bunch of bee mates.  I’ve learnt so much from these guys and can’t wait to see what they all get up to in the future!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed taking this journey with me.  Be sure to keep your eyes open for the finished quilts over the coming months.  They’re going to be ace!

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!