THE PROCESS

Remember the wonky cross blocks I was making every now and then, when other quilts and tight deadlines weren’t pulling me every which way? Well, as some of you may know, I finished making the top. There was a happy coincidence actually, in that the particular day marked exactly one year from when I made the first block. It was completely unintentional and a nice way to mark the occasion.

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As I write this, the quilt is having some magic added to it by Trudi Wood, quilter extraordinaire! I’ve actually entered it into this year’s Festival of Quilts, along with one other, and is the first time I’ve had an entry in a competition. I wouldn’t normally enter, but something about this quilt pushed me to.

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I’m not ashamed to say I love this quilt, even though it’s not finished and I’m having a nightmare deciding on a binding fabric! Though perhaps what I love even more is the process behind it, the small steps to make the cross blocks, sometimes 2 or 3, sometimes a whole stack; in the morning, or at night whilst the house sleeps, I’ve never been so engaged with a project as I was when I sewed this one. I’m so excited to get it back and add the finishing touches, if only to allow myself to start another!

However prolific a maker you are, enjoy the process. Take time to savour the stitches and be rewarded all the more at the end of it. I know I was. Now, back to that bloody binding…

 

EASTER PAUSE…AND PLANNING.

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you’re all taking the time to slow down and surround yourself with the people and places that you love. We have a nice relaxing few weeks planned and are spending some time travelling around the country. With the sewing machine taking a well-deserved rest too, it’s the perfect time to take stock and plan for the coming months.

As well as the books and board games I’ve packed, I’ve brought along my trusty note pad. I intended to get organised and prioritise what I need to work on once the holiday is over.

First up will be to finish the wonky cross I’ve been working on for what seems like an age. It’s been one of those slow burning projects that I work on between more pressing deadlines. I think now the time has come for it to take a front seat and get finished. I intended to have it long armed, so I’ve only the top to concentrate on.

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I do so enjoy working on this project, and I’ve been lucky enough to receive some great scraps from the IG quilting community. I was running out of my own in these colours and, knowing that I wanted this to be a large quilt, I put out a call to arms for any fabric people could spare. Boy, did they deliver. I have so many now and can’t wait to get them all pieced into blocks.

Now, where did I put that notebook?

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!

BLOGGER’S QUILT FESTIVAL – TOTEM POLE QUILT

For the first time, I’m going to enter a second quilt into the Blogger’s Quilt Festival.  I’ve always admired the quilts in the ROYGBIV category but never had one to share.  Well, that all changed this year with my contribution to the Rainbow Mini Quilt Swap I participated in.

Of all the quilts I’ve made recently, my Totem Pole Quilt has been the most fun.  I had a great time choosing fabrics from my scraps to piece the pattern, which I designed myself. You can read all about this quilt in the original post here.  You know you’re on to a winner when the repetition of piecing paper pieced blocks doesn’t get to you.  I can honestly say that each of these blocks was a joy to make and I’m looking forward to experimenting with a second version some time soon.

You must all know the drill by now, so go forth and browse this and all the other festival categories.  If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate any votes you want to put my way.  Thank you!

BLOGGER’S QUILT FESTIVAL – VEGETABLE PATCH QUILT II

As the king of last minute, I’m frantically writing this to share the details of my entry into this spring’s Blogger’s Quilt Festival before I get myself off to the dreaded day job! For those of you who are unaware, the festival is organised by Amy of Amy’s Creative Side and takes place twice a year to coincide with International Quilt Market.  I highly recommend entering as it’s great fun and extremely inspiring, though even just browsing all of the amazing quilts on show is well worth it too.  I’ve seen so many creative pieces over the years and it’s where I’ve meet many of my favourite quilty people for the fist time.

This year, I’m entering my second Vegetable Patch Quilt into the Original Design category.  You can read more about my process behind designing and constructing this quilt in the original post. These quilts have kind of become my trademark in a way and I love sharing them with people. The feedback I’ve received has been amazing and I’m so grateful for all the encouragement I receive to get on and make more.  I can’t share too much with you all at this stage, but know that I have lots of exciting things planned involving these quilts and can’t wait to get sewing.

So, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love a vote from you, though I know from experience that it can be hard to choose!  So, go away and spend an afternoon browsing all the wonderfulness that’s on display at the festival.  You won’t be disappointed!

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 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!