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

The twice-made Baby quilt…

Sometimes, that usually fair and just muse, er, Quiltiopoeia, eschews all her principles of “it will be beautiful if you take your time and take care” and her rebellious streak wreaks havoc in your quilty life. I have no idea where I’m going with this fable – but I tell you, this sweet, simple little baby quilt has caused me no end of trouble.

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I know, right? It’s one charm pack of Ambleside by Brenda Riddle for Moda, sewn together and quilted. How hard can it be? I tell you though, do not be fooled by her gorgeousness; she’s a tricksy minx.

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Earlier this year, we had that rarest of rare things – builders whom you actually like having around, who don’t say one thing and provide another, who work until the job is done, who fix problems promptly without complaint, who don’t suck air through their teeth every time they tell you about a minor problem as though you are going to have to sell your right femur to pay for this one, Missus. The father and son team did a great job replacing our decrepit bathroom for us with a “hotel bathroom” (cue clasped hands and joyous musical theatre exclamations from Mrs Cuckooblue). So when young master-builder saw me sewing and asked if I would make a small baby quilt for his niece-on-the-way a few months hence, I said yes, despite vowing to take on no new commissions this year. After all they were so nice, and it wouldn’t take too long, right?

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He chose my charm squares of Marmalade Flannel by Bonnie and Camille for Moda, left over from a little quilt my newest niece plays on, and an Ikea print, Rosalie, apparently designed by Cath Kidston. Oh, I was so on top of it, although somehow I fretted over every stage, the size, the quilting, the batting (Quilter’s Dream cotton). 2 weeks before the due date, I got it to the stage in the picture above, and then went to visit my aforementioned baby niece who was playing on her quilt. I had never used flannel before and was a bit disappointed in how it had washed. Soft, yes, but also kind of old looking. I guess like flannel pyjamas get old and comfy looking quickly..?  In my experience, quilts made with regular high-quality cotton fabrics remain beautiful, if not get more beautiful with subsequent washes, but somehow this flannel one didn’t. It looked better when first made. Disappointing. I think it’s one thing when it’s a gift, but another when someone has commissioned it, don’t you think?

So, some emailing of alternatives I thought they might like later, and all was going well. I used Quilters’ Dream wool batting, which is gorgeously soft with a higher loft than regular cotton batting but still washes pretty easily in the machine, and stipple quilted it. I had loop de loop quilted the Marmalade quilt above, but I thought it needed a bigger quilt really to show off the regularity of the design, I think I prefer the stipple on such a small one.

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Aren’t the fabrics pretty? See that perfect binding too (from Butterscotch and Rose by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda) ? Well, I had been tossing up between this one and a blue floral one. I would like to tell you that I made the right decision immediately, but I didn’t. I unpicked it all before I thought to photograph it, but I’ve just laid the old blue binding on the quilt so you can see why it was all wrong:

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I have learned to pay attention to backs and bindings over the years. Bindings in particular seem such a small thing, but they can make or break a small quilt like this. They DO show, and you need a nice frame. I just thought… oh, I don’t know what I was thinking!

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Pretty fabrics…

And then the monogram he asked for. Was hoping for a beautiful swishy silvered calligraphic embroidered monogram I could tell – he had to settle for applique. And after 24 hours of me gradually discovering that LF in olde-world lettering doesn’t look good or recognisable, Fs and Ls being near mirror images of each other, he agreed to a simple appliqued name. Phew! And very sweet it looks too, I think. In my experience with small children, they love seeing their names, the first word they recognise really. It’s a shame to have some elaborate script, that they can’t read, on their first quilt.

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Aw. It was worth the troubles for this little quilt. I love the softness and snuggly feel of the batting, love the classically sweet fabrics, even love the wee girl’s name. I hope Leah discovers her fingers and toes lying on it, watches the world go by under it in her pram or carseat, loves its snuggliness as she looks at picture books under it. Bless. Nothing like a new baby to tame that mischievous quilty muse.

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Come Back!

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Rainbow Liberty quilted blanket

Do I have time to show you this even though it’s waaaaay after bedtime? Oh I think so.

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I made one of these for my niece-who-is-on-the-way-and-about-whom-I-am-beyond-excited, but hers is more pastel colours and handquilted and somehow I never got a decent photo of it (the light etc) before I gave it to my sister-in-law in anticipation and with all our love and wishes for a safe delivery! I thought I loved it until I made this – I think it’s the vibrant colours. It’s for my neighbour/friend’s new grandchild. 

It was very easy really and started out as a charm pack from this seller on etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ZuzusCrafts

I laid it out as random patchwork to get a look at it, and although I liked it a lot… –image

… I knew she wanted “the same as yours” – not that I could get exactly the same fabrics of course. These are all brighter, and the rainbow actually works better for it. It looks different as a random selection doesn’t it?

These are some of the beautiful fabrics:

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It came out at 27” square,

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and whereas once I thought that was too small to be of use, esp when it’s not recommended that babies sleep unsupervised under quilts, i now think it’s the perfect pram blanket, carseat blanket, snuggler blanket when you are holding them in the cold UK winter, baby mat, anywhere where the parent/responsible adult is there. A clean surface to lay your baby down in a pinch on the grass or even to change a nappy. Washable and pretty, what more can you ask?

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Well a whole heap more, because I batted this with quilter’s dream wool, which has a higher loft than most batting so is “puffier” – and whilst warm it is breathable like cotton, not like fleece etc where there is more risk of overheating. I also backed it in the softest lawn cotton and stippled it – I honestly cannot believe the softness when you do this with lawn cotton. It’s like snuggling a cloud. Lawn cotton is thin, so you have to be a bit more careful when sewing with it, but it is deceptively strong and feels like silk. I remember running my hands over my mother’s silk saris when I was little and feeling like it was as though there was magic in the touch of them – I’m not one to say “feels like silk” lightly.

This is the backing – not Liberty, but lawn cotton, and pretty:

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I really hope she likes it – the baby is due in January Ithink.

I told my husband that I wanted a big one of these for Christmas, and he casually said, “OK I’ll run you one up.” He should NOT tease me this way! I saw though that Moda’s Regent Street lawn collection has just been released – and I’m thinking this may be a way of getting the Liberty Lawn look and feel without the pricetag? Here it is, but I think there are more colours in it – hard to know what the whole collection looks like at the moment as it is so new, but from what I can see online there are some pretty prints here. I think I may treat myself in the new year.

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And with the scary thought that I have already leapfrogged us through Christmas and into 2015, I will love you and leave you, I am off to hopefully dream about pinkness and pretty blue flowers 🙂

‘Til the next time, Poppy xx

Bitten by the tatting bug…

Tatting. Is it just me, or does the name not sound AT ALL like the thing it describes? Things should really. Like wobbly jelly. Sounds like it is. And belly. Well, as a mum I now know why that sounds like wobbly jelly. But tatting?

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This is tatting. Not some sort of shabby gossipping (tatty/chatting – see where I went there?) – or tapping your feet absent mindedly on a hard surface. It’s a form of lace. This is the above motif on my hand:

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Yes, as if I didn’t have enough craft and needlework inspiration going on in my head, I dusted off an old craft I learned when I was 12. Tatting is a really really old art, lace made from knotted thread and actually pretty robust because of all the knots. It’s normally made with a shuttle, but I never got the hang of it. I learned needle tatting because it’s MUCH easier. It’s probably not as neat or perfect, but really? Perfect lace? Am I that OCD?

I learned it from this book, although didn’t get that good at it then, it required more patience and time than my 12 year old self was (quite rightly) willing to put in.

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Sadly I have lent out or misplaced this book. Those teardrop shaped things on the front are shuttles, made of everything from plastic to bone. I have always used a darning needle – the needle should be as long as possible, and thin without much of an eye; about the same width as your thread, or not much bigger. I never found the perfect needle for my occasional craft. Until a few weeks ago when I half-interestedly googled “tatting needle” – and it seems in the last 28 years (28!! how can that be?) a couple of shops selling tatting equipment have opened. I got myself a bone-fide tatting needle from here: http://www.roseground.com/ , and some beautiful threads made for crochet and tatting made by “Lizbeth” and started:

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The above is going to have an edge all the way round to make a… doily. I have never had a doily in my life. but seems I am going to change that very soon.

The above 2 patterns came from this book which I treated myself to along with the tatting needle:

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It’s a really beautiful book – BUT the “how to tat” is written for shuttle tatters only. If you can needle tat already, then it has some really lovely patterns. I never learned how to tat with 2 needles, although I think you can – some of the patterns are for 2 shuttles, so if that puts you off then so be it.

The next 2 are also from the book, although I misread the pattern of the first, so it’s not really accurate. image

This motif above is worked in LIzbeth crochet thread size 20 in “juicy watermelon”

…and this bookmark is Lizbeth crochet cotton size 20 in “Tropical Punch”

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All these have been worked with size 20 thread and a size 7 tatting needle, which seemed to give the nicest result. I tried tatting size 20 thread on a bigger needle (paradoxically a size 5 needle, they, like thread, get smaller as the number gets bigger), but the stitches were loose and the whole thing looked… well, tatty. Boom.

The “brick” of tatting is one stitch only – the double knot, consisting of two halves which you make separately. With needle tatting you put the stitches onto the needle and then slide them off onto thread. Here are some action shots – I borrowed the Hubster’s camera arm to help last night in front of the TV

First half of double stitch:

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Second half of double stitch

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Leaving a space between stitches makes a picot (“pee-coh”) which is a decorative loop of thread which can also be used to join:

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Some stitches on the needle – when these slide off they will make the next chain:

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Obviously I just wanted to give you a flavour of the craft – in no way is this a tutorial! I’m not going to lie to you, learning it can be a fiddly process and it will probably take time – and a fair amount of unpicked stitches when you have fogotten to join picots – but it is a cheap, pretty hobby and very satisfying somehow.

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(A bookmark made with an immediate download PDF pattern I bought for £1.25 from an ETSY seller here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/164157235/5710-vintage-tatting-pattern-for-tatted?ref=shop_home_feat_2 . See, tatting is alive and well!)

If you fancied giving it a go, I would recommend getting a tatting needle and some nice thread, maybe in variegated (changing) colours – the needle was £3 and the thread slightly less. Probably start with a bigger needle (number 5) and a chunkier thread – maybe perle cotton size 8 would be nice and comes in gorgeous colours to make it easier to see when you are starting out. The thinner the thread (and needle) the daintier the tatting. I’m thinking of trying size 40 Lizbeth next. I guess the outlay will be a good book, or finding a good youtube video to teach you. You never know, once Kiddo is settled into school (his second day today!) I might do a wee “how to” series myself! It’s a shame to let this lovely craft die.

And what am I going to do with all these? I have NO idea. No wonder my practical husband is completely baffled by this! Wait until I sew one onto a beautiful lavender pillow, then he’ll be impressed. Or not…

Back to sewing next time, kiddo and his pals starting school has prompted a little flurry of sewing happiness – pencilcases, zippered money-pouches, lunch bags… ahhhh, bliss!

Until the next time, Poppy xx

A Quilt Quartet

I ran this one up yesterday thinking I really should have a quilt on show at least at this craft fair – which is only TOMORROW by the very way! I must say I have fallen a little bit in love with it myself.

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It is my favourite “child-size” quilt – two charm packs sewn up and bordered with white. 42” x 51” Quick, but when it’s such a beautiful collection as High Street by Lily Ashbury for Moda so very pretty. And big enough to be useful even as an adult. If you can be bothered to look back through my previous posts, you’ll see 2 other quilts made with this collection, both teamed with white. I had utterly fallen in love with the collection on paper and when it arrived, but haven’t really loved the other quilts / quilt tops I made with it. Now I know why, it needs to be a collection together with no chopping it up, no mixing it with white or anything else. Just bliss. I’m regretting using all my stash in the other quilts when i just want more of this!

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Cotton batting, stipple quilting (in all these quilts). This quilt was wonderful to quilt – partly because the collection gave me such joy,  partly because I remembered about my quilting table and fixed it on, and partly becasue I got myself some quilting gloves, and something called a sew-slip. The quilting gloves made a huge difference. I’ll tell you about it another time because I’m on a schedule – did I say it’s my craft fair tomorrow?

I said a quartet – I finished some WIPs, binding etc, for the fair, so i thought I’d include them here.

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This one is California Girl by the wonderful Fig Tree Quilts for Moda. Soft, beautiful, feminine, but so delicate that photos don’t do it justice – and direct sunlight washes out the colour on a picture (yes, spring is springing in Scotland!). I added the white squares to give it a bit of sparkle, and I really like the effect, otherwise it seems a bit too “shabby chic” for a baby. Cotton everything, stippled, 36” x 36”, a pram size or small baby mat.

This next one is the same collection. I really fell hard for it, and loved it when I got it – but made this little baby quilt last year (or maybe 2 years ago??), using the amazing “charm pack baby quilt by Elizabeth Fransson on “sew mama sew”. I love the pattern, but I think this collection is too delicate to be miixed with white.

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So I kind of lost my California Girl mojo, but having seen the first little pram quilt again, I might make up my remaining fabric into a bigger quilt, like the High Street one at the top of this page. It is beautiful, just not as “out there”.

And finally, this quilt.

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This is hard to part with. My mother has completely opposite home decor taste to me – she likes white, minimalism, and everything is beautifully spic and span. I like her house, but I know our won’t be like hers. I felt her living room could do with a little colour, and thought a sofa throw might be acceptable to her if it was pretty much all white, with a little strong colour (she like bright colours). This is Dena Designs fabric and white – I have forgotten which collection, I might google it. It is backed in white, and bound in fuschia, and I really like it, although white doesn’t work in our house. It has wool batting which makes it lovely, snuggly and warm. 45” x 51”

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But much as she loves my work and is appreciative, she’s just not going to go with throws in her house. So she has returned it saying someone else will use it and love it, and I should put it into the fair. Slightly sad, but she’s right. Luckily my good friend happened to be here when my mum came round with it, and stright away asked if she could buy it (she is also a sewist, how flattering) – SOLD to the lovely lady who will give it a good home 🙂

I’ll finish with yet another picture of my favourite! Such lovely lovely vibrant yet feminine colours!

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Less feminine are those size 10 feet!

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

PS. please check out my previous post if you want to see the things I have made for the craft fair – leftovers may get put onto this blog for sale if I ever get my act together! https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/82041667739/a-week-of-sewing-like-a-madwoman-i-feel-a-craft-fair

Elephants, peacocks and splashes of colour

A while ago I made a baby quilt which a neighbour of mine snapped up for her little baby grandson; on the back is the most glorious print from a designer called Violet Craft, who designs for MIchael Miller fabrics. My neighbour has a daughter in her twenties, and was smitten by the print from the moment she saw it, and asked if I would make a wholecloth quilt from it for her daughter. Her daughter seemingly just adores elephants and my neighbour is convinced she is going to be absolutely thrilled with this print.

And here it is:

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Isn’t it the most beautiful fabric? It’s called Parade Day in Grey from the collection “peacock Lane” by Violet Craft for Michael Miller fabrics.  It reminds me of celebrations, of fireworks. Of hot, dark nights in far-off lands. Of adventure, of the world being a wondrous place full of mysteries and laughter. My only regret is that I didn’t notice this collection until it was almost out of print, and this is the only fabric I got. I love the collection as a whole and its bright sorbet colours remind me of the summer days we rarely get in scotland!

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So I wasn’t sure about this brief; firstly a wholecloth quilt the top made from one piece of fabric) seems… well, cheating, doesn’t it? Although you can’t slice into this incredible scene either, so it’s not like I had any other solutions! Secondly, Catriona is in her 20s, and I was worried it would be too childish for her. Apparently she has a charcoal grey sofa and this will go well whilst providing the colour the room might need, so my neighbour was unconcerned, but I wasn’t. Still I made it, and you know what? I love it. I really do.

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It’s about 55” x 55”. In order to make it wide enough, I used 5.5” sashing of Kona charcoal, with a 3 inch border along the top. The charcoal was a good match to the background dark grey, which although nearly black it has little white lines on it, which adds a kind of “drawing” feel to it, and gives the print texture and movement, so dark grey was perfect.

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In order to reconcile myself with giving this to a grown woman, I decided on a more grown up but still fun backing. I love this numbers in words 100% cotton print from IKEA. The words are in deep grey, which is perfect, and it works reallly well with the front. It’s a grey day in Scotland today with no bright red elephants and trees bursting with colour to cheer it up here, so apologies for the dark pictures!

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Catriona lives in norway, so I wanted to make this as warm as possible. I almost went with wool batting, but the potential difficulty in washing it put me off. Cotton is the coolest, and I try not to quilt in polyester in case it might end up over a sleeping child. I tried for the first time Quilter’s Dream Orient – a blend of silk, tencel (eucalyptus!) bamboo and cotton, which supposedly combines the best of these natural fibres and although not as warm as wool, it supposedly isn’t far off. I really liked it, easy to quilt, no issues, nice drape and softness afterwards, machine washable. Apparently it won’t shrink, so maybe go with cotton if you want the antique crinkly effect after washing.

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The biggest issue I had and I’ve still not resolved in my mind is the quilting thread. I went with white as you can see, and it’s not too dense a stipple (although I seem to be out of practice!) to avoid breaking up the design too much. White works for the fabric itself which does have those little white lines on it anyway, but of course it doesn’t really work for the solid grey borders, where it all shows up, quilting mistakes and all. I didn’t really want to muddy the bright colours of the print by using grey thread, which would also have changed the back. The only thing I could have done was use a variegated coloured thread, although I was worried about making a mess of stringy colour all over the front. So in the end, white it is. Now the quilt is finished, I think it looks good as a whole, but I’m still trying to work out if I should have quilted it differently!

I am very happy with the binding though – this is a stripe I got from my local fabric shop, “Fabrication” in Haddington. I am pretty sure it’s from the Makower company from a collection called “space” – rockets and aliens for little boys. Laura, the lovely owner, had this on end-of-bolt offer, and I took all she had – it’s such a versatile print – stripe, boyish enough for boys, multicoloured enough to match most projects and despite that, not too “primary colour” to be used for adult projects. Perfect. And stripy bindings – well. Yummy. Calorie-free yummy.

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Finally, a label with mum + dad’s choice of message, and it’s off to its new owner for Christmas! 

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Hurrah. I hope she likes it. And hope your Christmas shopping, baking, sewing, crafting, playing or denial is all going swimmingly!

Till the next time,

Poppy xx