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!

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!

SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME

This is going to be short and sweet! So much has been going on in the attic lately that I’ve found myself making lists of lists just to keep on top of it all.

I know there’s been a bit of radio silence around here of late but I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve been working away and will have lots of things to share once I return from a week’s jolly in Paris. I’m looking forward to going away, taking some down time and returning rejuvenated and ready to go!

Something to whet your appetite? Well, they’ll be some of this…

a bit of this…

and a lot of this…

Plus they’ll be some big changes to the site. It’s all so exciting! I’ll see you all soon!

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!

SEWING FOR SEWING’S SAKE – A WONKY CROSS WIP

I love sewing, there’s no denying that.  As I approach three years of quilting, my stitching schedule is busier than I would ever have imagined when I started on a toy-sized machine in 2012.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I thrive on the pressure.  Eleventh hour deadlines fuel my creativity, whether they’re for magazine commissions, Sizzix projects or Quilt Monkey episodes.  I love how far my quilting has been pushed and am grateful for all the opportunities that come my way.

That said, there are times I find myself pushing projects or ideas to the back burner because they’re not on the to-do list.  I sometimes feel pangs of quilt guilt whenever I work on something that isn’t in my diary; spontaneous ideas that more often than not remain unrealised due to my ever-demanding time constraints.

A few days ago, I ventured to the attic to pattern write and found myself sat at the machine and sewing scraps together far before I’d reached for a pen.  I guess this was my mind’s way of telling me I should be a little selfish.  Well, I’m so glad I was.  I loved it!  It was so freeing! I had no idea what I was going to end up with or what fabrics I would use. I had no measurements, sketches or notes to work from.  I looked at my out-of-control scraps, took a hand full of neutrals, threw in some teal and aqua (which are the most numerous of the scraps and seem to breed in the small hours of the morning) and with a full bobbin, put my foot to the floor!  Sewing, slashing and pressing, it was clear that my mind was taking me on a wonky cross journey; a block I’d long admired but never made, due to my, yep you guessed it, lack of time.  The process was so quick, what with chain piecing and mass pressing, that I had a dozen randomly sized blocks finished in about an hour.

I’ve decided to add to this project as and when I can.  I’m going to stick with the colour scheme, make them oddly sized and fit them all together at the end.  I thinking big, like king sized big, if only to make a real dent in the scraps situation.  I love the variation that the improv piecing creates, with long and thin as well as fat and squat crosses.  There’s no discrimination here!  The scrappy, low volume background really makes the colours pop and the addition of some linen and calico adds great texture.

I can’t wait to work on this a little more.  I’ll keep you all posted!

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 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!

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!