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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Quilts of Gratitude

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Teachers… I’ve always had a lot of respect for them. And now even more.

Last year my little boy started at a local nursery but was utterly distressed to the point where his behaviour changed profoundly (read “lovely boy became a rabid, savage, tantrumming monster”), following which I took him out and put him into another nursery in a neighbouring village with – seriously – THE MOST amazing nursery teachers in the universe. So kind, yet firm, warm, confident, listened to us, listened to him, encouraged us to become part of their school and community. He settled within a few days. Not one tear or tantrum; he has completely thrived. They turned our family around, took out all the worry and stress we were feeling for our son. They gave us so much. All I could give them both on his last day of nursery were quilts:

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So don’t get me wrong. Anyone who has made a quilt knows this is not a small gift, or even an inexpensive gift. But I was so glad I could give them something in which the evidence of how much I appreciate them was in every little stitch. Of thousands of stitches. Even then, it doesn’t convey all my gratitude (although they were overwhelmed as you would expect lovely folk to be!) – but short of giving them our car, this was the best I could muster 😉

Anyway, the first quilt was a slight variation on the Little Lady Patchwork’s “Charming Stars” quilt pattern from Moda bakeshop, to be found here:

Charming Stars Quilt

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As you can see, instead of doing all stars I did 5 star patches and 4 nine-patches. It went together very quickly, partly because charm pack nine-patches are superfast – I didn’t think too much about fabric placement, just went with a variety in each block. Quick, and I think I prefer it like this – now how’s that for a bonus 😉

The fabrics are “Tapestry” by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda. It used 2 charm packs (well, 77 charm squares to be exact), some white cotton and 12.5” of a border print. The fabrics are so timeless, as they always are with Fig Tree Quilts’ collections, but not as “sweet” as some of the collections; she lives in a farmhouse, so I thought this might fit in with that traditional feel. The quilt measures about 52” square.

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Do I have any regrets about this quilt? Did I preempt a “…brown border??” question which might have been forming in your head? Well, although I like the quilt a lot, especially in our house and double-especially in the flesh, I can’t help but wonder if I might have preferred a different coloured border. I had some red, and some of the minty bluey colour. I think it would have changed the feel of the quilt completely. On reflection though, this will fit into a farmhouse better than the other options. I now can’t work out if that final answer is the truth or if it’s my natural “life’s too short to go round regretting small stuff you can’t change” mentality.

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You might have seen this second little quilt in the making a couple of posts back, where I showed how to make it (https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/89599354437/the-nine-patch-disappears-tutorial-and-layouts). I actually really love it finished – although this isn’t a quilt which really works in my house, I found it a tiny bit hard to let it go. This is partly because it is made with a very rare, older, gorgeous Fig Tree Quilts line (Strawberry fields) as well as with a more recent one, Honeysweet. The two collections mixed beautifully. The following pictures show some of the so-pretty-my-heart-aches prints:

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I showed them to a few folk, and this one in particular stole several hearts. I bound it in a slightly retro feel blue floral from their “Whimsy” collection, that I had in stash, and it was perfect. I hadn’t really thought I would like this D9P pattern so much, but quilted up it looked really great. The top took much longer to make than the charming stars one, which surprised me somehow – silly really, you make blocks, cut them up and re-sew them – how did I not think that might take a while??

Both quilts measure about 52” square – lap size/ sofa throw size, perfect for those chilly winter evenings in front of the TV in Scotland. Both used 2 charm packs. I used my favourite Quilter’s Dream Orient batting in both, for softness, warmth and washability, used plain white backings (to keep costs down in truth) and stipple quilted both. I resisted washing them, although I love seeing them all crinkly; in this country where the lovely crinkliness of quilts is not well known I think it’s better to give them looking “new” and let them wash them and acquire that beautiful antique look. For once I did put a label on saying thank you and the date – I hope they bring these wonderful teachers warmth and comfort for many years to come!

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As an aside (kinda), all the other parents felt the same way about these teachers; the nursery parents got our kids together and did fingerprint trees, got them framed and gave them to the teachers all together on the last day of nursery. They were so touched. All very emotional, but in a good way.

I downloaded the finggerprint tree here – edited the legend in Microsoft “Paint”, printed on some nice ivory card and used a lovely non-toxic ink called Tsukineko Memento ink (colour Lilac Posies). The kids did 4 fingerprints each and I wrote the name by one of them. We all really loved how they turned out.

http://onefabday.com/diy-project-free-fingerprint-tree-template/

Now onwards to school and beyond… I’m not sure if I’m ready for this! How can my baby be growing up so fast?? Thankfully at the moment, the thing he seems most aghast at when listening to the story of the three little pigs is not that a wolf can blow down a house and try and eat little talking pigs, it’s why they would possibly want to leave their mother’s house in the first place… I think I’m safe for the moment 😉

Hope you are all enjoying a summer holiday! Until the next time,

Poppy xx

The Nine-Patch Disappears…. (tutorial and layouts)

See? Not a sign of it anywhere…

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Hello you lovely craftilicious folk. So I’m in the process of making 2 more charm quilts – and I’m a bit close to the wire with this deadline. Hopefully by next time I will show you them both finished (or I would have had a deadline fail…actually I prefer the words deadline unsuccess).

For quilt 2, I have been playing with the Disappearing Nine-Patch a.k.a. D9P.

This is a pretty common block, and all over blogland, but it’s easy and makes quilts which look more complicated to make than they are. Just in case you’re not too familiar with it, I did these “show + tell” pictures with some 2.5” scrap squares.

How to make a Disappearing Nine Patch block (D9P)

1. Start with making a nine patch. You can use all prints or solids and prints. I decided to use prints and white solid. You need 4 squares of white and 5 prints (my prints were all different in my real quilt).

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2. Sew them together in rows as shown below. The middle one is special as you will see, but in my real quilt it was just whatever randon charm square came out of the pile.

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3. … and sew the rows together to make a nine-patch

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4. Next get your rotary cutter and ruler and slice down the middle of the block, and again at right angles as shown below:

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5. Play with your new blocks! See what has happened to the middle square? It has become the littlest square in the block and will be distributed more widely throughout the quilt. You might use this in your thinking in some quilts.

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That was the layout I eventually used.

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That picture is a very common layout. I once did a baby quilt in that, again using white solid ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/8048473613/ ).

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Or a “bigsquare-littlesquare” look. Bear in mind that when you use lots of prints it will look more complex and scrappy…

In fact, I’ll just show you how they look. I took pictures of the different layouts whilst I was trying to decide what look I was going for.

Making the Quilt top – finished size 52” square

  • 80 printed 5”x 5” charm squares (2 charm packs with 4 left over)
  • 64 solid white 5” x 5” charm squares (or enough white fabric to cut these)
  • rotary cutter and ruler
  1. Make 16 nine-patches as shown above, and slice into quarters. At this point you should trim your blocks to make sure they are the same size. Mine were pretty much the same, so I didn’t bother out of sheer laziness, and I just tried to match up the seams well when I was sewing.
  2. And then play! Until you get a layout which pleases you.

Note the pictures below are taken with ONLY 12 nine-patch blocks, not 16 as in the finished quilt top. This is the one I eventually went for obviously:

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I liked this one below, but the hubster wasn’t so keen. I quite liked that it was simple and easy on the eye (some people don’t like complicated patchwork) and the fabrics touch each other. Although I would have needed to do some jiggery pokery and shuffling around of the blocks if I had gone with this layout – still you get the idea). Hubster thought it was too simple for his eye. I think he has seen so many quilts, his brain has progressed beyond simple patterns and now he likes “interesting”. This has an advantage of being symmetrical around the edges, unlike layout 1 (did you spot that?)

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Next, I alternated the blocks between a square above and a reconstructed nine patch. I think on a bigger quilt or one with more blocks it would have been a more obvious “chain around the 4-patch” look.

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At this point I realised that with 12 blocks I was better laying it out as a 3 x 4 block grid, so here is that same layout with the pattern a bit easier to see.

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And finally, this is the one which almost won out. It looks pretty scrappy, but it is organised chaos! In the end I decided to go a safer, less complex pattern as it is for someone else.

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There are more options of course – you could take each D9P 4-block unit and sash it in white – 2.5” strips or smaller would be nice, choosing any of the layouts above for it, or mixing it up with a traditional nine-patch. And, as you can imagine, if you use all prints you get a very scrappy look! 5” squares would be too busy for me in that case – but 10” (layer cake) squares would be perfect! You could even just place them randomly.

OK, well again it’s wayyyyy past my bedtime. Hopefully next time I can show you these two little lap quilts finished and we can do some prettiness chat! By the way I used a charm pack of Strawberry fields and one of Honeysweet, both by Fig tree Quilts for Moda for this quilt.

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Edited: more pictures of the finished quilt are here if you would like to see :

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/91088996087/quilts-of-gratitude