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!

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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!

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.

BLOGGER’S QUILT FESTIVAL – VEGETABLE PATCH QUILT

Swiftly following the anniversary of this blog is the Blogger’s Quilt Festival, which happens twice a year to coincide with International Quilt Market.  I was so swamped in the spring that the festival passed me by, so I’m excited to be involved again this time around.  The sheer abundance of creativity and inspiration throughout the festival makes it a date to remember for anyone as enamored by patchwork and quilting as me.  Just remember to set aside half a day to browse all the entries, oh, and bring biscuits too!

This time I’ve decided to enter my Vegetable Patch Quilt into the Original Design Quilts category.  This quilt remains something I’m immensely proud of.  Be sure to check out this post for more details about its conception and construction.  I’m not ashamed to say that every now and then I lay it out and just stare at it.  When I started my quilting journey, the idea of making anything remotely like this was laughable, let alone design it myself.  It’s funny what we learn on our quilting journey.  This was the quilt that solidified my love for improvisational piecing and abandonment of the quilting rule book (which so many people tell me doesn’t even exist!)

Much like the subject matter, the journey of this quilt was an organic one.  It began with an image of a leek, which took root in my brain and compelled me to fashion it from fabric.  Scraps of fabric littered the attic and I risked a local shortage of spray starch as I sewed and hacked my vegetable blocks.  So liberating and so inspiring!  Since I finished the quilt it has become the most commented-on thing I’ve made and I was pleased to share it with my fellow quilters at the recent Fat Quarterly Retreat in London.  It’s definitely a keeper, and I can see the patch ‘growing’ in the near future.

I have to end with a huge thank you to Amy from Amy’s Creative Side who works so hard to bring us the festival each year.  I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of organising that must go into it and I feel so privileged to be a part of such an amazingly creative experience.  Now, go forth and vote for your favourite in each category!

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!