A finally finished postage stamp quilt!

This quilt has been a LONG time in the making!

64″ x 80″ of 2″ scrappy fabric goodness. Worth the wait?

I started it as a Leaders and Enders project. You know, when you have a big box of small pieces next to your sewing machine and you start and end long seams and chain piecing by sewing them together and always leaving a piece under the needle?

Like this above. It stops your machine eating the fabric when you start sewing something together, especially like an HST or corner. And then at some point you realise you have a heap of blocks sewn together – a quilt with hardly any effort!

That was my box of squares – those pictures came from my original blog post when I was making the quilt top and I described that process and Leaders and Enders in more detail. The post is here if you want to see it.

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/cuckooblue.co.uk/2016/01/13/postage-stamp-thoughts/amp/

Hee hee, patchwork craziness! It’s not staying on this bed… But it is the first quilt I’ve made that actually covers my king sized bed! The top anyway.

Anyway, 2 years ago I found I had all these 8 patches and I spent a happy relaxing weekend sewing them all together. There’s something so restorative about mindless sewing, especially when vast quantities of interesting fabrics are involved!

But then, gosh, I dunno. 64″ x 80″ is a big quilt and I got put off by the basting. I’m a terrible basting procrastinator. Anyway, I finally plucked up the courage, and guess what? Yep, totally fine. I never learn!

This time I used a new batting by Bosal – called Katahdin Autumn weight. It’s needlepunched 100 % cotton batting, crucially with no scrim. I say crucially because I dislike the polypropylene scrim binder that you get in many battings. It can range from 5% (eg Sew Simple cotton) to 12.5% (Warm & Natural “cotton”). This is a conversation for another day, but suffice to say I almost exclusively now use Quilters Dream battings for this reason, although it’s very expensive in the UK. However this new Katahdin batting came on the market, and I’m impressed! It’s maybe a smidge heavier and less silky than Quilters Dream Cotton (Select weight) but really very good. I will definitely keep using it. Although Quilters Dream Orient will be reserved for my special quilts obviously!

How sweet is this backing? I got it from The Fabric Guild UK at an amazing price. I wish I’d bought the whole roll. I love it. Oh and I did some loopy free motion quilting to soften all those lines of course.

I’ll leave you with my “quilt in the wild” shot – not really so wild; it’s the entrance to the forest next to our house; we were literally opposite our house! But I love the way that firstly my husband looks like he’s been pixelated, and secondly how those majestically tall trees can make an 80″ quilt look like a handkerchief! ❤

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

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My first ever patchwork tote bag

There’s just nothing like a deadline to make you JUST HAVE to sew up something completely unnecessary and random, have you noticed? My deadline – an artisan sale with 2 other local friends and crafters IN A WEEK. Woefully behind. And so of course, today this happened:

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I met a lovely girl on Instagram who is involved in a charity which gives children from the Ukraine who are still affected by low level radiation from the Chernobyl disaster all those years ago, a holiday in the beautiful unpolluted country which is Wales. She agreed to make 17 quilted tote bags and placemats as gifts for the children and their families – and then sensibly asked her Instagram buddies for help.
Her blog and more details is here: http://glindaquilts.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

I have made so many bags (evidence on my Flickr stream) but never a patchwork/quilted one and perhaps that’s why I dropped everything to make one – and because the idea of giving something to a child who has little is overwhelmingly feelgood.

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The other side! Somehow, I just really like it. For some reason my husband LOVES it!

So I won’t do a full tutorial unless folk really want one but I might outline the process. I started with a mini charm pack (42 x 2.5″ squares) of Little Miss Sunshine by Lella Boutique for Moda. That second picture is all from the collection. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, I sewed 24 squares into a 3 x 8 square piece of patchwork and pressed. For the other side I had to add 6 more 2.5″ squares cut from my scraps (I think I used 7) to make another 3 x 8 square panel. Then I sewed a 2.5″ x 16.5″ linen strip along the top of the patchwork panel and 7.5″ x 16.5″ linen piece to the bottom.

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I just used polyester batting but after trying a bit of light quilting, I didnt like the floppy feel or the puffiness. So I decided it would be a good idea to quilt straight lines 1/4″ apart. And it was… it just took AGES! I have no patience for straight line quilting. I really like its clean modern look, but there’s a reason I FMQ everything – I would abandon my hobby for pig farming or something if I had to straight line quilt a whole quilt. Anyway my IG buddies spurred me on (thank you!).

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I tell you, I love the effect. The texture, the structure it gives. Poly batting turns special. Look at what the quilting does to the back of the panel – almost a crime to line the bag and cover it up!

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Okay it doesnt show it’s yummy tactile texture! This fabric is an unbranded but gorgeous cotton; I lined the bag in it too. Boxed the corners to make a 4″ bottom, and used some cream cotton strapping I had around, magnetic snap closure and ta-da. My first patchwork tote bag. Dimensions 13″ wide at top x 11.5″tall x 4″ deep. For a minute I thought about keeping it but then the image of a wee girl who has very little entered my head and I got a grip. I hope she likes it! And I hope the children have a really good time.

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I must say I have a big crush on Little Miss Sunshine. Which is just as well, as I am making the end of year teacher gifts out of it… so be prepared to see more of it if you check back in! I can’t promise I will ever do this much close straight line quilting again though!

Hope you are enjoying the same beautiful weather that we in Scotland are. Summer is here, hurray. Until the next time, Poppy xxx

Starflower chain quilt – finally finished!

Do you have a quilt top drawer? What am I saying! If you answer yes to “Have you quilted for more than 3 years”, then you’ll know all about the quilt top drawer. I don’t know why some tops just   get put off the big finish; you lose love for the fabrics, you have other more pressing projects to a deadline, you feel it needs a bit more added. But look what happens if you open that drawer now and then:

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Look at that! My Starflower Chain quilt from… ughhh, February 2014. Eeek. At least that’s when I did the tutorial here, using 3 charm packs and a fat quarter:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/2014/02/21/starflowers-chain-quilt-charm-pack-busting-hst/

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Somehow I couldn’t find a reason to quilt this quilt before; it’s 61″ square so too big for a baby quilt, all the wrong colours for my house, too girly for my son, too pink & fancy for a picnic quilt for our boy-heavy family. And then I heard of Siblings Together.

Turns out that children placed in the UK foster care system are often separated from their siblings. I understand that it’s difficult to take in several children, but how awful for these kids. Anyway Siblings Together is a charity which puts on camps for these kids to get to spend time with their siblings. And some amazing quilters are leading the drive to make a quilt for each child to keep as a reminder of their time at camp. And I decided that this quilt top finally had purpose! You can read more here about the quilt and block drive here:

http://siblingstogetherquiltgroup.blogspot.co.uk/p/siblin.html?m=1

I pieced a back:

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..using some of my favourite warm fabrics. I love the back! Almost more than the front.

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I just stipple quilted it this time, it feels like an awfully long time since I stippled… It’s because I got a half-board of a new batting – EQS Sew Simple 100% cotton LIGHT batting, without scrim. I like Sew Simple and it is much cheaper than my absolute favourite Quilter’s Dream batting – but it usually has scrim, and I worry about that tiny bit of polyester melting in the event of a fire. Probably overkill I know but you have to do what you feel is right for you. Anyway this new scrimless batting has to be quilted less than 4″ apart, so the easiest way for me is to stipple. It quilted nicely by the way, although I had felt it was too thin when I first opened it out; the finished quilt has a nice drape and softness. It is probably more lightweight (cooler) than Quilter’s Dream cotton though (and Warm & Natural which is actually 12.5% polypropylene).

As it happens I also made a couple of blocks for the quilt as you go block drive. They are asking for this pattern and have a tutorial on the blog here:

http://siblingstogetherquiltgroup.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/block-drive-for-siblings-together.html?m=1

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And the amazing Nicky of mrsssewandsow.blogspot.co.uk is putting all these blocks together that quilters send in to make more quilts! Some people are really special. She’s a very talented quilter too. That second photo of my blocks is hers by the way, from her Instagram.

Anyway it feels really good that this neglected wee quilt top will go to a little girl who will hopefully get pleasure and comfort from it for many years to come.  If you fancy donating a quilt block, top, back, fabric, time or skill to this informal amazing kind gang of online quilters all over the country and elsewhere, then do check out the siblings together quilt blog (or the original siblings together site if you want to know more about the charity and camps).

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Ahhh, the evening sun as a WIP becomes a finished quilt. Quilter’s bliss.

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Mini Dresden Pincushiony Gifty Goodness!

I have the BEST ever next door neighbour. She’s the generation before me, but possibly even better for that. She’s fun, cheerful, quirky, loves children, independent and adventurous, in love with her husband and family, esp the grandchildren, and her home and garden are open, welcoming mazes of treasures. Her garden has stone owls, hidden copper dragonflies, sparkly things twirling from trees, squirrels and chickens (real ones) – she even has a window in her hedge, for goodness sake. AND SHE SEWS. OMG. I love her. What do you give a lady like that for her birthday?

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This is a pincushion – it’s filled with lavender because I tried polyfil toy stuffing and I didn’t like the puffiness nor the lightweightness for a pincushion. i heard you could fill them with crushed walnut shells or somesuch, which adds weight and sharpens yours pins (is this true?)  – but since I didn’t have any I filled it with dried lavender. It is kind of potent, but I think she’ll like it.

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I made a tiny dresden block with Liberty of London Tana lawn fabrics – you literally need squares of 1.5″ – I am addicted. 3.5″ dresdens – I could die from the cuteness.  I downloaded the template from here:

Mini Dresden Pattern Digital

which is free if you sign up to the newsletter (no biggie, the fabric shop is gorgeous) or $1, and includes instructions on how to make it. It’s so easy to make a dresden block – I admit though that the tiny-ness what a bit fiddly, but it didn’t take more than an hour or so and that was the first attempt.

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I whipstitched mine by hand onto a charm square of “modern backgrounds paper” fabric by Zen Chic for Moda, and made a centre circle in the same fabric. My centre circle is not perfect, I should have slowed down a bit to stitch  such a small circle, but sometimes you can feel your quilting-time-hourglass sand running out! I did some hand “quilting” to flatten down the circle a bit, you can probably see it.

I backed it with a square of cotton batting for some stability, before sewing it RST to a red floral charm square leaving a hole to turn it right sides out, filling with dried lavender flowers and whipstitching the hole closed. Easy peasy.

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Aw cute. Thank you Westwoodacres for the pattern!

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Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Postage stamp thoughts…

Happy 2016 lovely creative folks! Thanks for stopping by – despite it being 4 months since my last confession. And since switching to WordPress I get stats, which shows you guys keep checking in, so double thank you for putting up with my prolonged absence!

SO much to tell you about; I had an amazingly successful craft fair and have some thoughts on that; some Christmas stockings for which a tutorial has been requested several times; I have some quilts in the making; I did some free motion embroidery; my EPP hexagon quilt top is 3/4 done; I wanted to show you how I made a wee felt mouse doll in a tin for a friend… it’s hard to know where to start!

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(A few things from my craft fair)

But I’m going to show you the postage stamp quilt that I am currently so into that I am finding it difficult to do anything else, despite it supposedly being a side-project. Including neglecting the shabby-chic commission quilt for a wedding which was 4 months ago… don’t panic, they knew I’d be busy! They didn’t know I would be seduced to the Dark Side of the, er, superbright & scrappy, admittedly. (I don’t think I’ve got the hang of Dark Side quilty metaphors…)

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I have had this yearning for an ultrabright, not very grown up, superscrappy, rainbow, box of sweeties, star-bright, flowers and unicorn vomit quilt for a while, having been inspired by the bazillion amazing, scrappy postage stamp quilts out in blogland, but was actually pretty shocked to discover that I didn’t have many scraps big enough to cut a 2.5″ square from. You need 1,024 X 2.5″ squares for a 64″ square quilt. I was reluctant to cut into uncut FQs in case I needed them for other projects and found myself short. I had about 300 mostly different, big-enough scraps, in the colours I wanted, which I cut up but obviously I needed a whole heap more:

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So I decided to use charm packs. I have a terrifying weakness for charm packs and precuts. To have a tiny bit of a whole collection of beautiful coordinating fabrics in my hand makes my heart flutter a little. But it does mean that there are more errant charm packs hanging about having a fabric party in my cupboards than there will ever be quilts. That’s scrap, right?

It wasn’t until I saw this just perfectly-perfect quilt from “Focus on Quilts” (http://www.focusonquilts.com.au/one-more-post-before-i-leave)

focus on quiltspostage stamp quilt

that I truly fell head over heels. I think it’s because a lot of the scrap quilts you see have a tendency to go quite dark, and I really wanted a crazybright quilt; hers kind of all coordinates and still manages to look happy-scrappy. So I started with a base of the same collection as she did, my favourite collection, Happy go lucky, by Bonnie and Camille for Moda, and then added a few other packs which used similar colours; adding a bit of pink, but no brown, black, dark green or purple.

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I highly recommend visiting that blog page btw, she shows off a variety of utterly gorgeous quilt confection perfection, as well as listing the charm packs she used for her quilt.

Once I partly pieced this 16 x 16 square piece (about 32″ square) I reflected on how it looked a little “flat”. Maybe the colours were too coordinated? It used some “happy go lucky”, “beach house”, “one for you, one for me” (it’s just OK) and “garden project” (which is really really nice) – all for Moda. So I chopped up and threw in some “Sunkissed” and “Ambleside” which I had left over from other projects. Once it also had my own scraps in, it seemed to have a bit more depth from the varying shades of each colour, which I think helps, although it will be paler overall.

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Some more 16-patches ready to be sewn at some point, this time with scraps in:

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But… I think the thing I will enjoy the most is looking at the pieces of scrap fabric I used from my stash. Already, my eye sees them immediately + recognises them as fabrics I bought with love and have used. I like the effect of the charm pack squares but I don’t have that same feelingyou know, I think I might have to raid my stash after all to make it feel more unique and like it’s mine.

By the way I am doing most of this as a “Leaders and Enders” project. This is a technique devised by Bonnie K. Hunter I think (http://quiltville.blogspot.co.uk/). You know how when you finish a line of sewing, you cut your thread, leaving long ends of thread which essentially get wasted? Or when you start sewing, esp piecing triangles or delicate fabrics, your machine tries to eat the fabric? My mother-in-law always uses a piece of scrap fabric to start and finish her sewing (the needle stays in this fabric piece when you finish sewing/ switch off the machine).

Well, a leader/ender is a small bit of patchwork you want to sew together; you use that instead of scrap fabric so it doesn’t eat the corner of the HST you’re making for your proper project, chain piece everything you want to, and then finish with another small piece of your “leader/ender” quilt.

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That’s my “Ender”, which I left in the machine for whichever quilt I decide to work on next time, when it will act as my “leader”.

Before you know it, within a few quilts you have sewn together lots of small 2.5″ squares, first into pairs, and then into 4-patches. Without you really noticing you’ve done it. Well, it slows you down a little I admit. But I certainly didn’t notice sewing 1,100 little squares into 4-patches, as much as I would have done had I tried to just piece them all at once (I might have sworn off quilting forever!).

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I kept them all in a shoebox next to the machine, which was also good for the ten min mindless sewing break. Healthier than fags and booze… 😉

Once you put the 4 patches together, the 16-patches seem to go together pretty quickly, and because it’s scrappy, it’s all pretty mindless. Instead of trying to keep your rows in order, you just sew randomly. Bliss.

There are other ways to do this of course. The amazing goddess of modern square-based quilting, Rita from Red Pepper Quilts has a great tutorial on doing postage stamp quilts using 2″ x 7″ strips cut from scrap or stash. (her squares will finish smaller at 1.5″). I can see that working very quickly, though not as a leader/ender. Her fabulous tutorial is here:

http://www.redpepperquilts.com/2012/04/postage-stamp-quilt-tutorial.html

Meanwhile… My New Year’s resolution after playing more guitar and moving more is to sew less for others and more for us! My boy wants a Spiderman quilt, which is making me very happy, and I envisage a scrappy string quilt (I have lots of strings), a liberty quilt, 1030s feedsack repro picnic quilt, Heather Ross quilts for my two nieces and of course a bright bright postage stamp quilt! There, it’s in black and white – you’re my witness. After the 3 commissions I have to do first. I’ll start after that 😉

Until the next time, may 2016 bring you much love, joy, peace and happiness,

Poppy xx

Hexagons in Spring

This is my only slow-burning project. I’m not really a slow-burning kind of girl; hence this has been a lesson in patience and process rather than product. But the thing about slow-burning is you don’t really realise how productive you have been.

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I’ve posted about this a few times before (links at the bottom) – it’s an English-paper-pieced quilt top in the making, made of 1″-sided hexagons. I have to say I thought I might get to about 200 and turn them into a cushion, but I had that hankering, you know, the one which says “I will be a real quilter if I can do this”. That one. Even though you ARE a real quilter if you put front, batting, back and some stitches together. (Real, albeit maybe not astonishing.) Doesn’t matter though, we are our own worst critics, and sometimes we feel we should put ourselves through a rite of passage.

Apparently this is mine.

My all-time favourite designer is Joanna Figueroa of Fig Tree Quilts for Moda, and this will be a homage to her work – hexies, hand sewn, kept as collections. I realised that although I wanted a scrappy feel, I also didn’t want a bright mish-mash, which I’d rather keep for a hard-wearing machine-quilted picnic quilt. But a hand pieced hexie quilt of my favourite designer’s collections? I’m being buried in this. I am NEVER letting it go.

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This is “Honeysweet”. I just love how all these florals feel traditional but not dull or stuffy.

Avalon/ buttercup

“Avalon”. Isn’t it amazing how that random navy blue can somehow fit into a hexagon quilt with no other blue in and you accept its scrappy nature? Or I just refuse to even contemplate that it doesn’t. It WILL fit. It will.

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That’s “Buttercup”, so pale and floaty…

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And this is “Strawberry Fields”, an earlier collection which I can’t find anywhere now – I got this single charm pack from Australia. This quilt has definitely NOT got a small carbon footprint… I love this collection; so much nicer in real life, fresh, vibrant, mellow, pretty, perfect.

Fig and Plum/ buttercup

“Fig and plum”.

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“Tapestry”; this is one of my all time favourites – you can tell by the number of quilts I have made with it!

Fresh Cottons

This was a cheat because at the time of taking this picture a few days ago, it wasn’t sewn in – it is now though, along with some more. It’s “Fresh Cottons”. I’ve always been underwhelmed by this collection, but once it’s together it is nice and does work. It’s not my favourite; I’m not keen on the minty green somehow. It made the cut though, unlike “Mirabelle”, a more recent collection which I really didn’t take to at all.

I think this is about 1100 – 1200 hexagons sewn together. I was aiming for 1400 (about 60″ square), but it may be more like 1600; mainly because there are other and new collections which I love too. The nice thing is you can buy a charm pack and get the full collection and 160 paper-pieced 1″ hexagons from it, so it’s not like I have to buy a lot of fabric to get the collection. I have some “California girl” to go in:

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Some “Somerset”

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Have ordered some “Aloha Girl”:

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And the release of this beautiful collection in September will make the end of the summer bearable:

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That might be enough. But if she keeps making such beautiful collections I might just have to keep going! Turns out slow burning is OK after all.

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And the best bit? Spring’s here, the sun’s out, and I can sit out in it whilst still sewing. Bliss.

Till the next time,

Poppy

xx

p.s. you can find the three previous posts about this quilt here:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/63599622305/hexagon-crazy

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/74315915679/sexy-hexies

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/84367443052/the-1000th-hexagon

Pixelated Heart quilt for a New Year Wedding

My friend asked me if I would make a quilt for a lovely couple in their EIGHTIES who are getting a second chance at love. I guess those who are loveable may find love again no matter what their age…

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The Pattern is Pixelated Heart by the amazing Blue Elephant Stitches. I hope the happy couple love this sweet pattern as much as I do!

This is her quilt, made with low volume fabrics instead of white fabrics (I didn’t have the budget for that) – it is utterly stunning!image

You can find her blog and “how to” for this pattern here: http://blueelephantstitches.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/pixelated.html

She is SO talented, seriously you should look at her blog. And so generous – look how she breaks down this quilt for us to make it easier to sew as blocks rather than strips! And she invented the granny squares quilt, which is on my to do list. I love her work.

I had 2 rouenneries Deux charm packs – a beautiful collection from French General for Moda. I cannot get over how much I love French General fabrics, rich yet muted, classic but not old-fashioned, very very French.  I didn’t want to cut too much away from the charms but 5” charms were just going to make too big a quilt (again for budget). So I cut them to 4.5” – this quilt finishes at about 54” square.

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You can see the construction of mine best on this photo (top in progress). Obviously because I was using white fabric rather than low-volume fabrics as contrast, I didn’t need to sew the whole quilt as 4.5” squares, which saved time (another thing I didn’t have). It used 71 printed fabric squares and 40 white squares. I sashed it as above but then decided it needed a border, so I cut the sashing to 2.5” on the sides and 5” top and bottom… image

Then added a 2.5” red border from Rural Jardin which I had in stash. Definitely better.

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Stipple quilted – much as I like to experiment, there are reasons why classic quilting is classic, and I thought for a quilt like this I should go down that route. Had I used low-volume fabrics, straight line quilting would have worked, but I really think something as simple as this needs texture from the free-motion line, don’t you?

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Just LOOK at those scrumptious fabrics. It makes me want to go eat strawberry cream patisserie. New Year. Must. Resist.

What I really like about this is the size, the fabrics and colours, but mostly the fact that although it’s a heart, it’s not too cheesy – and when you fold it up or use it, it looks like a pretty patchwork quilt; it’s only when you spread it out and look from a distance that you see what it is. Perfect for a wedding gift for this loved-up pair apparently. Ahhhh.

Argghh, can’t seem to get this picture to orient the right way. Tilt your head to the right to see what it looks like draped over a box, and you’ll see what I mean about not knowing it’s a heart.

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Quilted with my favourite Quilter’s Dream Orient batting.

Things I don’t like about the quilt:

1. There is not quite enough white space aroung the heart. This was a budget / size thing for the backing and batting.

2. Budgetary concerns meant it has a plain white backing – it’s perfectly nice, but not as wonderful as it could have been and what the fabrics deserved.

3. It’s not for our house. Aye, there’s the rub. This quilt is designed and made for the happy couple but I don’t actually know the octogenerians in love, although I would like to. But the idea of a quilt in their new home signifying their love made me think about the pillowcases I’ve been meaning to make for my own son for ages. About how when I joked that a tiny baby quilt I was making was for him, he was actually disappointed that it wasn’t (even though it was tiny and completely unlike his tastes, I thought he would laugh!). It has shown me that I need to clear the decks and do selfish sewing for the next 6 months; make all those things for us that I need to, sew new buttons onto my coat etc. When you decide to sell a few things to fund your hobby, it seems that  hobby can inadvertantly grow legs, arms, and heat-seeking missiles and take over your life when it wasn’t supposed to. I guess everyone assumes you want to make a living from it eventually, so think they’re being helpful by recommending you etc – and whilst it’s SO flattering and lovely, you have to be careful. Particularly with deadlines when you’re well overdue making pillowcases with stars and trucks on. If you made a living from your hobby, it wouldn’t be a hobby would it? I definitely need to learn to say no for a while! Sometimes.

Oooh a random outburst. Must be New Year 😉

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And with that, may your 2015 be productive, happy and creative. May we all learn to say “no” once in a while.

’til the next time,

Poppy

xx