Friday, 22 September 2017

Round We Go [month 1]

Of course I joined in with @Gnomeangel's latest quilt along. But this one is a little different. It's slow, just a single block a week for nearly a year, and it's all EPP (with a bit of applique for the finish). The pattern is by Sue Daley and is called Round We Go. Each block is an EPP star block, finished with curved edges resulting in a 7" diameter circle block.

I was stumped for a colour scheme on this. I had originally thought all low volumne, then I saw some of the coloured mock-ups and decided I wanted to use colour too. So I went towards my standard rainbow. Until I noticed this washi tape in amongst the other (many) washi tapes in my drawer, and the colours just drew me in (you can see it along the bottom of the pattern booklet in the photo below).

So here's my fabric pull: peach, coral, pink, purple and aqua, with grey-tone low volumes to finish it off. The original plan was a royal blue background (maybe darker than the blue in the photos below), but I've also found a wine-like purple in my stash that may work even better. Here are the first four blocks with the different options.
These show the colours of the blocks much more accurately than the photo below

The purple is really hard to get right in a photo
I'm also not sure on how I want to finish this project. The pattern has you applique the circles to individual blocks, which are then sewn together. I could do that, and maybe have a scrappy royal blue background, which would be less of an expense (as I have at least some fabrics that would work in my stash), or a whole cloth quilt, with the circles arranged more randomly - I do have the purple fabric already in my stash... something to ponder.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Travel Pouch [A Finish]

To say I am chuffed with this finish would be an understatement! It became one of those projects that always loomed in the background and I dreaded tackling it. Of course, I built it up out of all proportion and left myself just 7 hours of stitching time to get it finished. Which it turned out was exactly what it needed.

In May 2016 I made my not-quite-a-sister-in-law-but-she-seems-pretty-permanent, Saika, a scrappy pouch (nicknamed the Baby Brain pouch as I made such a bloody mess of it) as a birthday present. Her partner, my sister-in-law, then requested the same style as a travel pouch for their trip to the States. I had 18 months! No problem. She had certain requirements: it had to be big enough to fit a flat sheet of A4 paper inside, and it had to have space for passports. I added the requirement that it should be a zipped closure so nothing could get lost, and that was where I stumbled. I couldn't think of how to do it.

Until 3 weeks ago when someone posted a wallet on Instagram with the exact zippy finish I was looking for. They linked back to the pattern in Zakka Style by Rashida Coleman-Hale. I instantly checked with my guild mates to see if they had it, which they didn't, then ordered it.

I did a bit of the scrappy piecing on Sunday afternoon, but the reality was I left it until yesterday to really start it. And I mean from the planning stage up - I knew what I wanted on the inside, but it was all in my head and I didn't have any measurements. And I wasn't quite sure how the internal zip part was going to work. But sometimes you just need to sit down and make a start and get on with it. And when I did, it went together like a dream. Though I believe I sat talking to myself for most of the evening (only way to get a sensible answer sometimes)!

The inner zip went together easily, the outer zip took a bit more attention, and the binding saw the first real use of the seam ripper, but it was finished before bed last night, ready for Steph to come and get it today - she flies on Tuesday and we won't see her again before she goes - not cutting it fine at all.

The inside contains 4 pockets designed to fit credit cards (on the far right), a zipped pocket for valuables (orange!), a slim pocket which I hope will fit a boarding card (but I didn't have one to hand to check) (far left), space for two passports, a large-ish open pocket (behind the passports), and then at the back, a large pocket that will take an A4 sheet of paper. I used lightweight interfacing on the inside pockets, but in hindsight it might have been advisable to use something heavier-weight to put in-between the outside and inside as well, as it is a bit floppy.

The finished pouch is 14.5"x 10.5" when fully open - and half that when closed! The outside is made entirely from scraps, so when the next Scraptastic Tuesday link up opens, I'll be sharing there too.

Scraptastic Tuesday

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my Q3 plans here.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Bloggers Quilt Festival: 365 Quilt Challenge

It had to be this quilt for the Bloggers Quilt Festival hosted by Amy. This is my finished 365 quilt.  Eighteen months from first stitch to last, and a baby along the way - this was most definitely a challenge! A block a day for a year - it totally took over my life!

I started piecing tiny, deceptively straightforward, 3" blocks in January 2016 - that first inner dark border. The blocks became increasingly complex through January and into February as Kathy, the designer, walked us through new techniques each week/10 days. By the end of March, we had the centre and the first dark border complete. Then I gave birth to Jessica. And fell behind.

It was most inopportune timing, as the blocks for May and June were the 6" blocks that made up that first light border. They combined all the skills we'd learned to far with some of the smallest pieces of fabric I've ever worked with! But each individual block was a stunner.

At one point I was over 80 blocks behind, but what else is a girl to do with her maternity leave: Jessica and I kept on piecing.

By September I had just about caught up. Which was just as well because that's when we got the first of those outside corner blocks. My word. I have never pieced such a complex block. The other three corners followed on the first of October, November and December and each one was a mammoth challenge! But worth it!

I finished the final block - Y-seam hell - just two weeks into January - I was truly amazed that I had kept at it for the whole year. And the reason I did was because we had such a great little community over on Facebook - there were about 30 of us regularly posting, generally keeping up and finishing quilt tops during January.

For the first time ever I decided to send this quilt out to a long-armer for quilting: the thickness of some of the seams would have meant inevitable thread snapping and needles breaking and I would have fallen out of love with the quilt and possibly never finished it. I picked Cath a.k.a Cumbrian Long Armer, because she sounded like me - a mum, working from home. She turned out to be the nicest person, who lived in the most gorgeous spot on the Cumbrian coast. Whilst I entrusted the quilt to Royal Mail to get it to her, we picked it up in person as part of a lovely weekend away in the Lake District. I picked an all over pattern to let the piecing shine.

I put off the binding. But put on my big girl panties in May and did a matched binding to reflect the rainbow.

I put off the hanging sleeve too, but eventually did that and embroidered a rather minimal label! My quilt hung at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this summer in an exhibit dedicated to 365 quilts, alongside the quilts of friends who made the journey with me.

If you're interested in making your own 365 quilt, Kathy will be running the challenge again in 2018. I cannot recommend it enough. Start out in January and work through in order and even the most beginner quilter can make this quilt. There isn't a single template, no foundation piecing, no hand work. It is entirely rotary cut and machine pieced. I can honestly say that this has been the most amazing quilting journey I have ever been on!

I'm linking up to the Bloggers Quilt Festival and going to go and have a look at the other wonderful entries!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Toby's Foxes [A Finish]

This is the last of the finishes I've been saving up and waiting to share with you. It's a baby quilt I made for a friend's little boy, Toby, and although it's really a "welcome to the world" present, the delay in getting it finished, meant that I only gave it to the family this weekend, when he was christened (and Mum and Dad got married!).

The pattern is the fox block from Elizabeth Hartman's Fancy Forest quilt - I told you I was getting my money's worth out of this quilt. I picked a fun rainbow of colours and a navy background that I already had in my stash.

The backing had to be foxy too, though I ended up buying two foxy backings, so now I need to make another one!

Quilting this was a challenge. I'd always planned to do a cross hatch but what colour thread: navy would blend well on the background but be stark on the fix faces, grey would show everywhere, but not be as stark on the foxes... in the end I picked a mid grey and it's not perfect, but I don't think there was a perfect option...

The finished quilt is 42" x 52".

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Fox cushion [A Finish]

Good friends of our got married this weekend. Holly, the bride, likes foxes (i.e. "For Fox Sake!") so when I saw the Sleepy Fox pattern by @3rdstoryworkshop I knew it was perfect.

The fox is foundation pieced and went together very easily, though the Art Gallery fabrics I used were very unforgiving. I use freezer paper to foundation piece and I've never had a problem before, but this time, I struggled to get the fabric to feed evenly though the machine. There are a couple of places where I'm not totally happy, but once washed you won't ever know.

I quilted it up with some matchstick quilting in the background on the diagonal. This inevitably led to quite a bit of distortion, however, the finished cushion would have been larger had I not been an idiot when trimming....

I added the eyes with a small amount of hand embroidery and a cushion back using the same tutorial I turn to every time by Adrianne @adrianneonthewindyside. It is foolproof and magical and gives such a neat finish.

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Pineapple Cushion [A Finish]

You know when you see something on line and just have to drop everything and make it. This was one of those things. The Pineapple block was part of's summer block party. I had no intention of joining in, but you see things pop up in your feed... and this pineapple did just that. I have a bit of a thing for pineapples at the moment, so I stopped, took a look, and before I knew it I'd made a block.

I taped it to the wall for a bit and enjoyed looking at, until it fell down and got lost in the rubble of my sewing desk. So when it came to writing up my quarter 3 Finish Along list, I decided it was time to do something with it, rather than let it become just another orphan block. Both girls had expressed a liking for it, and the best way to have something to be shared is a cushion on the sofa. Popular with all the family except my husband. He's so tall he doesn't need or like cushions.

I added some more background to the original 12" block - making it up to 18", and then I quilted it. You may notice that I quilted another recent finish in a similar manner - this was the practice run for that cushion (which was a gift) - if it all went wrong on this it wasn't the end of the world. Except for the distortion caused by the diagonal quilting, which then required some quite severe trimming, it was successful!

The backing is a leftover from the backing I used on my Fussy Cut Sampler quilt - it's bright and crazy and not a bad match. It's also an Asda duvet cover! I decided to use a bright yellow zip. You can't see it, but I know it's there!

I found a cushion pad and put it on the sofa while the girls were out at toddlers/nursery. I heard the shriek from upstairs when Gran brought them in and they saw it! It makes it all worthwhile!

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Coral, Queen of the Sea [A Finish]

So in my last post, you will have read about how I found a Little Red Riding Hood doll panel, but by the time I cam e to stitch it, I had two daughters who needed dollies. I went on a hunt online and found a mermaid doll - perfect for Mia. And it turned out that the panel was in stock at the fabric shop just a few minutes drive from where my dad use to work. I rang the shop, and they put one aside for me. I warned them it was my Dad coming in to pick it up. He's a good-un so he popped in on his way home from work one night and the ladies in the shop immediately knew who he was!

 It still took a few months for me to get round to making her. The pressure of a million things to do before we went on holiday seemed the perfect time to add this to the mix - wouldn't it be great for the girls to have new dollies when we go camping. Thank goodness she only took a few hours one evening to make up.

Mia loved her in her little suitcase, and she certainly helped entertain the kids in the tent!

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Little Red Riding Hood [A Finish]

Back in 2016 I was in our local quilt shop when I cam across a Moda printed panel for a Little Red Riding Hood doll. I bought it, and then ignored it, despite it appearing on my Finish Along list several times. By the time I actually got it out of the packaging in March this year, I realised that one dolly wasn't going to cut it, because two daughters means two dollies! A bit of online hunting and I found Coral Queen of the Sea - you can read about her in my next post!

With two dollies in hand, I set about making Little Red. It took about an hour of cutting out, an hour of sewing up on the machine and and half an hour to stuff and slip stitch closed. Why did I wait so long? I gave Little Red to Jessica when we went on holiday. She came in her own little suitcase, with her accessories and a dolly bottle, and certainly kept her entertained in the tent!

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

#1yearofstitches [A Finish]

Back at the start of the year I came across #1yearofstitches on Instagram and Facebook. The idea was that you stitched every day for a year. The rules were pretty loose - onestitch, one type of stitch, any project, anything goes. I love embroidery, and last year I started expanding my repertoire of stitches, so I jumped on board with the aim of further extending my abilities.

 I set up a hoop, with a random white-ish solid, backed with my trusty interfacing (I use a lightweight woven fusible interfacing behind all of my embroidery which stabilises the fabric and prevents puckers - it's called SF101).

Each day from January to June, I added a stitch: by that I mean that I added a type of stitch and did as much of that stitch as I wanted to. So one day I did a row of chain stitch, the next day, I added a row of blanket stitch, the next day I did a bullion knot wheel and so on. I repeated stitches. I fell in love with chain stitch, so my hoop contains a fair bit of it. But over the course of 6 months I used sixty-two different embroidery stitches. Some I used multiple times, others only once. Some I love, some just looked a bit weird! But it definitely extended the number of stitches I would use in an embroidery project. It also showed me that different stitches can be used to create different effects: I used satin stitch to fill in small areas, but I also used it to create a striped effect.

The threads I used were Finca perle #16. These are beautiful - they have a gorgeous sheen, and have the weight equivalent of about 2 stranded of regular stranded embroidery thread. This means you can easily do very fine work. The colours are a little limited when you've been use to the hundreds of colours provided by DMC, but I purchased quite a few new colours as I went along. It's the same thread I use for hand quilting so more colours is always good.

By June, I found that the hoop was becoming more of a chore. I would sit down to hand-stitch each evening and find that it took me longer and longer to decide what to add next. I had no plan with this hoop - I just added what I fancied where I fancied - it's been interesting to see the hoop develop in this way, but the decision making started to cripple me. It became the only thing I was hand-stitching, to the detriment of several other hand-sewing projects I currently have on the go. I missed a few days for various reasons and I never picked it up again. Until August. I made a decision. No good having a hoop making me feel guilty, that I never picked up again. It was time to finish it.  I spent three or four evenings, filling in the gaps until I was happy that it was finished. You can see below how I finished off the hoop - I just draw in the fabric. Sometimes I cover the back with felt, but I hate doing it! I also like the idea of being able to see the hoop guts!

This has been a brilliant project: whilst I may not have stuck to a stitch a day for the year, I learned so much, and I've created a hoop I love. It has inspired other hoops - I made a small similar hoop for my mum for her birthday, and used it as inspiration for the mini hoop swap I took part in earlier this year. My embroidery will always be more adventurous after this experience.

If you want to see how the hoop developed, I posted a weekly update here on my blog - you can see the posts by clicking here. I also posted a daily update on Instagram which you can find under the hashtag #jenniesthreads1yearofstitches. And if you have some time to kill, I'd strongly recommend looking at the #1yearofstitches hashtag and see what everyone else has created - there are some masterpieces!

This is a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Far Beyond the edge of the World there lived Flamingos [A Finish]

I started this quilt on a bit of a whim. I'd been watching the build up to the quilt along for the Fussy Cut Sampler Quilt book on Instagram, and I'd had a look at the book on Amazon a few times and just not committed. Then, on 31st May,  the day it started, I'd had a long day at work and just needed to relax. I saw the first block pop up and I liked it. I made it, without the book, based on the knowledge that the blocks were 9" finished and the good fortune that the block was very straightforward. I ordered the book as soon as I'd finished. I had to make blocks 2 and 3 the same way because my book hadn't arrived...

The book arrived in time for block 4, and it was beautiful. A really lovely book - detailed information on techniques and beautiful photos. It made me look at fabric in a different way - fabric I thought was not a fussy-cuttable fabric, suddenly was...

My favourite block! And the last one in the book.

I am not a fussy-cutter. I don't have fussy-cuttable fabrics (at least I thought I dind't). I made my first block with the fabric nearest to hand given the impromptu nature of the start. It was only after I'd finished piecing it that I realised these blocks may lend themselves to a fat quarter bundle I bought last summer. Pineapples, flamingos, bright colours, palm trees. What's not to like! I added in some other fabrics from my stash - but apparently they are weird colours, so I didn't find as many as I would have liked.

Because I hadn't planned to make this quilt, I didn't have the opportunity to make the blocks ahead of time - mostly I was making and posting them on the same day - the book is split into chapters of four blocks, and each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday you had to post that week's four blocks to be eligible for any prizes. I am pleased, and slightly surprised to say, that I managed to post every block on time. Sometimes by the skin of my teeth. Most of the way through the quilt, I was a maximum of 3 blocks ahead at any time.

I bought the fabrics on holiday in Sidmouth in August 2016, and at the start of July I suddenly had this ridiculous idea that it would be great to take the finished quilt with me this year - to show the lady at the shop! As the quilt along wasn't due to finish until mid August, that meant getting ahead. After a mammoth cutting out session (and eeking out the very last of quite a few of the fabrics) I got all the blocks pieced by 29th July and I laid them out on the church hall floor. We were due to go away on 2nd August, and I knew that if I decided to add sashing, this would never be finished in time, and possibly not for a long time - I would lose momentum over the holiday and I hate sashing, so would probably ignore it for a lot longer. But if I didn't use sashing, there was a chance: Both of getting a headache when looking at the quilt, and of finishing it in time. I took the risk and went no sashing! And I love it! It totally works. It's crazy, but there's enough variety in the blocks, that I get away with it. That was Saturday night.

Sunday morning was early, thanks to my daughters, and they decided to help me baste the quilt. First up, I didn't have enough batting, so I made up some Frankenbatting using an off-cut from a previous quilt and a wide zig zag stitch on my machine - you can't  tell in the finished quilt, even after a few washes. The backing is an Asda duvet cover (shown above) - the other side of the one I used on my long time gone quilt. It's also pretty crazy! Can I just say, that if you don't like basting quilts, you can borrow my daughters to help you. Once you've basted a quilt with them, you'll realise just how delightful a process it is to baste a quilt without them!

And then I quilted it. "Straight" organic lines, about 1-2" apart, down the length of the quilt. With help. Jess was absolutely mesmerised by the sewing machine! I bound the quilt using whatever scraps I had leftover. Perhaps more than any other quilt, I was right down to the last few pieces of fabric (except for one, particularly ugly coloured flamingo fabric, which I seem to have bought 2m of... obviously thinking quilt backings for baby quilts when I originally bought it!).

And it was done. Amazing what I can achieve when I set my mind to something! The finished quilt is 56" x 72" and made of 48 blocks. I found I was increasingly fussy cutting as I worked through this book, not just for this quilt, but paying more attention in other quilty projects too. I definitely plan on making this quilt again, and next time I will be fussy cutting. I'm already starting to curate my stash in that direction a bit! And the best bit - Mia demanded that she have it on her bed when we were camping - I think she love it as much as I do! The picture below was the reaction on Sunday afternoon when having watched me work on it all day, she was finally allowed to cuddle it/play with it!

This quilt was optimistically on my Finish Along list this quarter! Miracles do happen!