Rescuing a quilt for a friend

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a big quilt, kindly held up yet again by my ever-patient and rather indulgent husband… no this is a tiny baby quilt about 30” square, held by a small 4 year old boy who liked the idea of doing Daddy’s job.

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My good friend has started quilting which has been great for me who can now chatter about fabrics and blocks for hours with someone real rather than virtual – I know, it’s like some kind of old-fashioned idyll isn’t it! Anyway, she decided to make a baby quilt for her neighbour using a Riley Blake stacker called Scenic Route. 

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So anyone NOT been caught out by the way that Riley Blake 5” stackers have 18 – 25 charm squares max compared to Moda’s 42 in their charm packs? Yeah well, well done if you haven’t. I got stung once (that’s all it takes) – and it seems Alison has just been through that rite of passage.  She decided on the disappearing nine patch which I blogged here: https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/89599354437/the-nine-patch-disappears-tutorial-and-layouts. But needed more charm squares, so I cut her a few from stash and scrap – Moda’s tweet tweet, makower’s space, moda’s summersville, Moda’s reunion, Riley Blake’s Pirates and a few more. I chose brighter colours as I was concerned that Scenic Route’s colours were pale and might just all fade into the white she intended to use. She did a great job making accurate blocks, and sewed it together…

And hated it.

Hated everything about it. Her love for the fabrics together, pattern, everything had just gone. When I went over for coffee, she couldn’t even bear to look at it, just wanted it gone so she could do something else, but was aware of the money she’d spent and the fact she had wanted to do something for the new baby. She refused to unpick it – just wanted nothing to do with it. After we decided to dump a couple of the blocks to make it square, I said I’d take it as a fresh pair of eyes, and see what I could do.

This is it on my sewing table.

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It’s really easy to lose the love for a project I think. Sometimes you spend so long in the thinking and choosing of fabrics and have been so excited by it that when it doesn’t turn out as you had envisaged you can come crashing down and lose all enthusiasm for the whole thing. I have definitely been there.

Looking at it objectively, there are some sweet fabrics. The colours haven’t been spread over the top that evenly – mainly the orange, but it’s not awful. The fabrics are too far spaced by all that white to be coherent together, they need to be tied together somehow. The biggest problem for me is the low contrast with the white – and that on such a small quilt, this D9P pattern doesn’t look finished. I think you probably do need to use strong colours when using this much white.

Anyway, I decided on a strong border, which ties in all the colours, and had a lovely piece of fabric from Riley Blake’s Pirates in green, white, brown and blue. I added 2.5” borders:

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And it definitely improved the quilt I thought. I had wondered if it needed more work, but then decided the border did the trick. I used Quilters Dream Orient batting and a fairly loose meander to help keep the little quilt soft and cuddly – I find dense quilting on a small quilt can make it too stiff. I think a free motion pattern helps to add texture and movement to a simple quilt made with squares, rather than using straight line quilting, don’t you?

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The back is a cotton print from Ikea – they used to sell 3 wide width metres on a ream for £5.50 or something. When I saw they discontinued it, I bought the last 2 reams they had. Sadly I only have enough left for one more toddler quilt. But I think it looks great on this one anyway, I hope this little lad grows to like it!

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I just bound it in the same border fabric. It’s really great how it matches so well with so many of the colours in the quilt.

I gave it to Alison today, and she was SO thrilled. She loved it! I must say, the colours are not my ideal, but she was so thrilled. It just goes to show that sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference. And that the emotion can sometimes blind you. I guess if she had put it away she would have done the same thing in the end, but she was feeling the pressure of the baby arriving any minute! It’s why it’s so lovely to have other sewing friends to help out in those moments.

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I wonder if I should get out one or two of my hidden away projects I lost enthusiasm for and look at them again… Or give them to Alison 😉

Hope your creative mojo is all good! Till the next time,

Poppy xx

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Vintage Modern Ruby Stars – Charm Pack Busting HST pattern #2 + tutorial

This is a story about Mojo. About abandoning a project for years and ressurecting it, with the bonus of ridding yourself of the nagging guilt that there is abandoned fabric in a box in your house.

Far, far too long ago I bought a Ruby layer cake, used half of it in a well received baby quilt… and then got stuck. Until now:

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Ruby by Bonnie and Camille for Moda Fabrics was an instant hit with quilters when it came out several years ago, and I was instantly seduced by the bright fresh colours – the red and aqua mostly, which was very “in” at the time, and the retro flowers…

But you know, although I rarely say this, I wasn’t as wowed as I wanted to be by the collection. It’s such a modern classic now, and so much beloved that it feels sacrilegious to say it; in hindsight I really should have sold it on to someone who did feel the love. There just seemed to be the wrong balance of what I think of as “headlining patterns” (like the flowers) and “supporting patterns”, as in there were just too many mild geometric patterns which I wasn’t all that enamoured with; it was like there was just too much filler. Too many just-okay supporting actors and not enough Daniel Craig.

Daniel Craig.

Anyway, back in Ruby land. Eventually I chopped the equivalent of a charm pack up into HSTs as below:

Quick method to make 4 HSTs from 2 charm squares:

  1. You take two 5” charm squares, one coloured and one white (or one “cool” and one “warm” coloured)image
  2. You put a coloured charm over a white charm and sew 1/4” seam allowance all round the edgeimage
  3. Rotary cut along both diagonalsimage
  4. Open them up and you have 4 HSTs – although beware they are cut on the bias and so can stretch.image
  5. Trim off the dog ear and you’ll have four of these:image

    They measure about 3.25” square, you should probably trim them to 3” square or something at this point, but I didn’t and it was fine. And the quilt police did not appear, although it felt like I was saying “Candyman” three times in a mirror… 42 squares in a charm pack will yield 168 of these. I’m not going to lie to you it was DULL. But so satisfying to have a big pile of HSTs to play with at the end!

… And so I merrily played. And played. I had meant to do pinwheels, but was underwhelmed and less merry. So I picked out 144 of them (the equivalent of using 36 coloured and 36 white charm squares) and sewed them together into nine 4×4 star blocks. You can see from the photo that once you have HSTs putting together the stars is really easy – once I’d laid the HSTs out, I sewed them in rows, then sewed the rows together to make the block.

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I was really very pleased with them and got them out at intervals to look lovingly at them, but mostly they stayed in a box, languishing. I’ve just looked at my flickr stream and it was 2 years ago I made these blocks! All because I wasn’t feeling the Ruby-love, had one Ruby charm pack left to add to it and was wishing I had just sewed them into square patchwork for a baby girl. But now and then you have to slap yourself out of your quilterwhinge and wo-man up, don’t you? So eventually I dug them out and promised to do something with them.

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Firstly, I laid my blocks into a 3 x 3 grid, added white sashing and red cornerstones. The sashing is 2.5” wide and cornerstones 2.5” square (unfinished).

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And added a 2.5” (unfinished) white sashing border round the edge followed by a 2” inner border of the red main floral Ruby fabric which I love so much. Finally another 2.5” white border, ready for piano keys.

…and then realised my issue was always going to be my feeling that there was a paucity of interesting prints. So I bought a Vintage Modern charm pack – now THIS one is GORGEOUS! I love it. It’s like Ruby plus. Uber Ruby. Anyway, so I mixed my remaining ruby charm pack and vintage modern, cut them in half and made a piano keys border. i used about 54 (maybe 56) charm sqaures for the piano keys border.

I mentioned how to make a piano keys border here, in case you wanted some instructions:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/77412217918/starflowers-chain-quilt-charm-pack-busting-hst

Now I love it. I really do. The mixture of the two collections is great and  the quilt has some “oomph” I think. I’m sure I would have loved it even more with a little Vintage Modern in the stars, but you can’t have it all.

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So, from what I had left over, I seem to have made this quilt with 92 coloured charm squares (and 36 white charm squares plus sashing and borders etc); 36 of them were for the HST star blocks. The quilt top measures about 60” square. I was quite glad that I needed to get some more fabric to make the piano keys border as with the addition of the Vintage Modern I think it ended up being something rather yummy, even against a honeycomb grey house in a weak February Scottish sun:

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Here’s to abandoned WIPs – sometimes they can surprise and delight you. And here’s hoping your WIPs, whatever they may be, are bringing you much pleasure.

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

*Edited*

p.s. My friend saw this post and sent me a photo of the baby quilt I made for her daughter 2 years ago in Ruby – am now thinking I was a bit harsh on Ruby! Pattern is “flowers in the attic” by Sweetjane on etsy, batting is high loft fire retardant polyester. image

p.p.s. Edited in 2015 – you can see the finished quilt here if you like:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/2015/06/04/vintage-modern-ruby-stars-quilt-finally-finished/

Starflowers Chain Quilt … charm pack busting HST pattern/ tutorial #1

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I have soooo many charm packs! I think it’s my quilty pleasure (boom!). 42 x 5” coordinating fabric squares, anyone? Oh, I think so. Although they are not cheap in the UK, they feel affordable if you are only getting one at a time. The problem is you can’t do an awful lot with just one on its own – you could make a baby blanket for a newborn, but that’s about it. Mix it with white and you have a small quilt, perfect for a young toddler, but not really big enough after the age of about 2 or 3. Now 2 charm packs is a different matter. I love sewing them together, putting a white 3” border on and making a traditional patchwork child sized quilt, which is actually still big enough (52” x 43”) for a throw on the sofa, something to put down on the grass for one adult to sit on, or a student take to college or university. And I’ve made lots of those and will likely make lots more. Still, not exactly BIG.

And I thought I should try and do something more exciting – I appreciate that to some the term exciting might be stretched in the context of sewing bits of fabric together, but in the context of knowing I’m amongst like-minded friends, I’ll just keep that word in. So I’ve made 2 quilt tops so far, each using charm packs to try and be a bigger sized quilt. This first one (above) is a starflower quilt made in High Street by Lily Ashbury for Moda; I’ll tell you about the other one another time!

It was inspired by this lovely quilt, but I wanted it smaller, and also decided to break up the stars. Each block takes 8 charm squares regardless, so a 9 block quilt would be 72 squares whether you do all stars or add the “chain”. image

You can see this quilt and more of Michelle’s work here: http://cityhousestudio.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-quilts.html?m=1  . She’s really talented.

My quilt is quite simple in construction, but in case you wanted a few directions, I’ve given a few instructions.

This is the first block – block A:

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It’s straightforward, but you can’t take any shortcuts with the half square triangles – you have to slice the charm squares in half diagonally and sew them back together, making sure not to stretch the bias edges. There aren’t too many in this quilt, so it’s not too much of a pain. Use a scant 1/4″ seam allowance throughout.

For block A you need:

  • 8 x 5” different coloured charm squares, cut in half along the diagonal to make a “charm triangle”
  • 4 x 5” white squares cut in half along the diagonal to make a “white triangle”
  • 4 x 4.5” white fabric squares
  1. Each charm square gives you 2 charm triangles. Sew one of these to a white triangle along the long diagonal edge. Carry on with the different colours until you have 8 different charm triangles sewn to a white triangle. When you press these open, you have 8 different HSTs, a colour on one half and white on the other.
  2. Then sew your remaining charm triangles together in pairs and press open to make 4 HSTs with a different colour on each half.
  3. Trim all your HSTs to 4.5” square.
  4. lie them out in the above arrangement, putting a 4.5” white square in the corners to complete the block.
  5. sew together into rows and then sew the rows together to make a block.
  6. Block A finishes at 16” square: you need 5 of these blocks.

This is Block B:

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For block B you need:

  • 8 x charm squares, cut to be 4.5” square
  • 4 x white rectangles, each measuring 4.5” x 8.5”
  1. Sew 4 charms into a four-patch. Next sew the long edge of a white rectangle on each side of your 4-patch. Put this aside.
  2. Take one white rectangle and sew a charm square onto each of the short sides of the rectangle. Do this with the remaining white rectangle.
  3. Put the rows together as shown in the photo and sew together.

Lie your blocks out on the floor in three rows of 2 blocks, starting with Block A and alternating them . Sew the rows together:

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And ta-da! Easy. This is it at 48” square. I do think it would be really lovely made as 16 blocks, and/or made with smaller HSTs.

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I’d originally meant to finish here and put a white border on using 2.5” strips of white, intending to bind with something bright and coordinating, probably a deep pink. That would have made a 52” square quilt using 72 charm squares… and mission acomplished – a decent sized lap quilt using fewer than 2 charm packs. The other 12 charms could even have been used as a strip down the back.

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But in the end I went all out and decided to add a piano keys border to make a larger lap quilt, one which could be used on the beach or as a picnic rug, as well as a sofa quilt or extra layer on a single bed. Partly because I impulsively bought several charm packs in this line and have a male dominated household, not to mention a country-style house interior which is better suited to muted colours and beiges rather than white and brights, so I need to use them up. And partly because although I enjoyed making this, I am likely to stick to my favoured simple patchwork squares. Bah, traditionalist. So I wanted to see it dressed properly this time!

For the piano keys border I used all my 12 remaining charms AND another charm pack… and about another 6 squares, which REALLY annoyed me. I would have liked it to be exactly 3 charm packs… but it would have only worked out if I had omitted the white border round the quilt centre like this (not stitched together, just laid out):

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I like it. But the Hubster started droning on about negative space being important in design… yadayadayada. He has no concept of running out of fabric. Although he did go on to say it looked as though I ran out of fabric. Drat it all.

So… Piano keys border

– using your remaining 12 charm squares, another charm pack AND 6 more charm squares cut from a fat quarter/stash/layer cake…

  1. First, if using, add a border round your starflower chain quilt, using 2.5” strips of white. Sew a strip to 2 opposite sides of the quilt first and then add the remaining 2 sides.
  2. Cut your charm squares in half, sew together lengthways until you have about 30 in each strip. I chain pieced, sewing them all into pairs, then the pairs into fours, then into eights etc. but others may prefer to just keep adding one to their strip. image
  3. Press all the seams in one direction. Sew a strip to one edge of your quilt and another to the opposite edge, checking first that it’s long enough! Trim the excess. Then add the other two strips on the other sides of the quilt – again check first it’s long enough and add more “keys” if necessary before you sew it on). How folk do the maths for fancy cornerstones, I have no idea.

…And finished! One starflower chain quilt top measuring 61” square from 3 charm packs (+ a fat quarter) and some white fabric (about 2 yards with some spare). Or a 51” square one using 2 charm packs, if you are going to be a stickler for original missions 😉

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It was so windy today in Scotland, this was the best picture I could get! But at least it’s not raining, so you can kind of see the colours in this lovely collection by Lily Ashbury. Now just to back, baste, quilt and bind. But not today! Enjoy your day/night/evening whatever you’re doing lovely peeps,

Till the next time,

Poppy xx