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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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!

A GOSSIP QUILT – WIP III

Sometimes the quilting journey is even more enjoyable than the finished quilt, something I can definitely say of the Gossip Quilt.  Placed out of sight for a few good weeks whilst I worked on other things, I returned to this quilt with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm.  Creativity swayed the direction many times in the construction of the blocks as well as the final layout.  You may remember my original plan was to have the top composed entirely of full log cabin blocks in the colours featured on the backing fabric.  With my increasing love of negative the quilt top quickly took on a whole new look.

I agonised over the layout with this one, more than I have done with any other quilt I’ve made.  I wanted to convey a sense of gossip, using the blocks as “tidbits” that were spreading and, much like gossip, becoming distorted in the telling.    The layout I finally settled on came to me after some gratefully received Instagram advice.  Never has a design wall been so useful!  The final quilt top is a mash-up of several versions I posted pictures of and I’m so pleased with it.  The weather here in Wales has been atrocious of late so I stole a few moments to photograph this outside during a lull in the rain.  Recently, taking pictures of anything in the house has been a chore, owing to the abundance of grey gloom!  The wind was trying to get the better of me but I was quick fingered on the shutter and ran back inside, pug and quilt top in my arms, before the clouds ripped open once more.

Now to order the batting and decide upon a quilting design…and a thread colour!  In an ideal world there would be a variegated thread with these exact colours running through it.  I’m off to have a look, but not before I link up with Lily’s Quilts for the small blog meet.  You should all know the drill by now!

ACCENTUATE THE NEGATIVE

As many a recording artist has told us, in life we have to “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive“.  Lately I’ve been doing the opposite and giving prominence to the negative, that is, negative space.  With my January blocks for the #NGAQB in the safe keeping of their recipient, it was time to get back to old WIPs abandoned in the name of Christmas and camaraderie.  Top of my list was the Gossip Quilt, which I desperately want to finish.  As I pulled out the blocks and put them back on the design wall, creativity, much like Frodo and the One Ring, took a path I did not expect.  I had negative space on the brain from the ideas formulating in my head for the February #NGAQB block and the more I looked at the Gossip Quilt blocks the more I liked the idea that was forming.

You see, my original plan was to have each 12.5″ block  be a full log cabin, joining them all together to make a 5 x 6 block quilt top.  I took some solid black and began revising the arrangement, adding areas of negative space to and around the log cabins.  I loved it!  Such a simple thing, similar to what I did with the Dinosaur Quilt.  So now, as well as the full size blocks, I’ve started to make smaller log cabin block and sash them in varying widths of black.  I might even have some full 12.5″ square negative space too.  That’s the joy of the design wall; nothing’s place is permanent on it.  Now that the some of the blocks have been reduced in size they’re coming much quicker, and I hope to have the top pieced by next weekend.

Today, I took a break from the Gossip Quilt to work on my February #NGAQB blocks.  All was going well until I came to square up one side…

Yep, I was that much short.  You know those days when nothing seems to go right?  When fabric doesn’t want to play ball and you drop your pins all over the floor, well today was one of those days in the attic.  The negative, the real negative, was well and truly being accentuated.  Apart from some paltry scraps, I had no more of the background grey and didn’t have the patient to order more and wait for it to arrive.  I panicked and got stressed.  I called out to my bee mates for suggestions, taking myself away from the machine whilst I waited for their responses.  A calm descended after a dog walk and a cup of tea.  On my return I looked at the block differently.  They say things happen for  reason and I think they really do.  A quick slice and dice of the block allowed my to add some wonky sashing that has totally transformed it to something I never envisaged.  A happy case of measure once, cut twice!  Don’t you just love it when things like that happen.  My quilting  is far from perfect but sometimes, in the mistakes I make, I see the potential for something closer to it!

Have you ever turned a problem into a positive?