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 – 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 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!

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!

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 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!

A VEGETABLE PATCH QUILT

I finally got around to photographing this quilt today.  I actually finished it about 2 weeks ago but have been waiting to take it to a friends allotment plot.  I couldn’t think of a more suitable location for a photo shoot.  After a couple of false starts we finally managed to meet up today and get the job done.  Thankfully, the storm held off just long enough for me to get my lens cap back on!

I loved making these blocks and am so pleased with how they’ve turned out.  The whole process was improvisational (recently, my mot de jour) and you can find out more about them in this post.  I didn’t really have a finished product in mind when I started but love where the creative process has taken me.  Most of these blocks started life as sketches on the back of receipts and the whole journey was, aptly, an organic one.

After I finished the top I wanted the quilting to really emphasise the earthy nature of the quilt.  For the backing I chose a seeded, natural cotton that has been in the stash for a while.  Thankfully I bought a lot of it, which is good as I can see it becoming the back to many more quilts like this.  I chose dense matchstick quiting in a white, cream and tan variegated thread.  The texture is amazing and I can’t help but be reminded of onion layers when I look at the back.

I was stumped on the binding for a good few days.  At first I was drawn to the colours of the vegetables, but after somebody suggested they should remain the main players and the binding shouldn’t compete with them, I opted for an old, go-to binding; a Carolyn Friedlander crosshatch, this time in grey.  Subtle, but still nice to look at.

My head is already full of ideas for more ways to explore this type of piecing and now, when I’m in the supermarket, I’m lingering just a little longer in the produce aisle!