Figgy Leafy Twirling Goodness!

It’s late spring here in Scotland – daisies, birdsong, yellow fields full of rapeseed flowers and even sunshine. No place for Autumn leaves? Oh, I think we could make allowances.

I can’t tell you how much I love this quilt! The pattern is Twirl by Fig Tree and Co. It’s charm pack and jelly roll friendly and I’ve never seen one I didn’t like. I think it’s the curling twirling stems which make it. For such a simple quilt pattern, it’s really pretty!

This is made with a variety of Fig Tree & Co fabrics from different collections including Honeysweet, Tapestry, Somerset, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Farmhouse, Strawberry Fields Revisited, Butterscotch and Rose and my new favourite, Chestnut Street. Many were charms and mini charms left over from my Fig Tree EPP hexagon quilt top (which is finished by the very way! Another story for another day) –  but this quilt looks equally as good using just one collection or other fabrics. In fact it was seeing the beautiful version made by my friend @sewbernice on Instagram which made me finally move this quilt to the top of the “To Make” list!

I did add a few extra yellows from Riley Blake’s Vintage Daydream collection as in the picture above. I love a bit of yellow in quilts – in this particular quilt it makes me think of Autumn sun on these softly falling leaves.

I borrowed my mum’s spare bed to see what it looks like on a double bed as mine’s a king sized. And my room’s much messier! I shortened this quilt from the original pattern – it should be 4 leaves across by 5 leaves down, which would have made it fit the bed nicely. I had wanted it as a lap quilt (it’s approx 64″ ) but I think I’ll sleep under it in the summer. I probably shouldn’t have shortened the pattern after all. I’m a titch though, so it’s all good.

I used one of my favourite ever fabrics on the back – Budquette in Nightfall by Bari J. I had 4 metres stashed away, and much as it was painful to use it all up, I love that I will get to see it all the time. I love the back just as much as the front! It’s difficult to use precious fabrics, and expensive to make backs from designer fabrics, but when it’s a quilt you are going to use, it’s worth it – you pretty much end up with a reversible quilt.

I used Sew Simple light 100% cotton batting, which is scrimless – you have to quilt it at least 4″ apart which means fairly dense quilting, but even so it is snuggly and drapes really well. Batting matters! I did an allover loopy leafy pattern with Superior Threads So Fine! Thread in the top and Bottom Line in the bobbin, which gives a nice fine quilting line on both sides. I’m certainly into this thread combination at the moment, and my machine likes it, but I’m not done with experimenting. No wonder quilting is an expensive hobby. So many options!

Right, I’m off to snuggle a new quilt. Hope Spring is bringing you all much joy and creativity, my friends.

Till the next time, Poppy xxx

P.S. you can buy the downloadable Twirl pattern here if you like:

store.figtreeandcompany.com/Downloadable_Twirl_by_Fig_Tree_Co_p

Adventures in Foundation Paper Piecing

3 months. That’s how long it has been since I strung more than a few sentences at a time about sewing. Forgive me if I stumble, I feel like a baby giraffe starting to walk. Here’s a picture though to distract us all:

I blame and thank Instagram in equal measure for my absence; on the one hand it has inspired and renewed my creative life, on the other I can see how easily it could be the death of the blog. In a few short months of being addicted I have become part of a genuinely interactive and inspiring sewing and quilting Instagram community, one within which you make real friends. It’s so quick and so immediate in its reach and feedback. And yet, on reflection … blogs still feel important. The story behind a project, the details, the tutorials, time taken to tjink about a topic – I learn and I’m inspired so much from the blogosphere; even my small blog gets many hundreds of visits a month, even when I’ve had a hiatus. I think we sometimes need more than a quick eye candy sewing fix, addictive though that is in itself. So Cuckooblue is still here, even rising, baby-giraffe-like like a Phoenix. It is possible I may be over using metaphors in my zeal.

So this one is about Foundation paper piecing (FPP). It’s a pretty old technique, in which you sew onto marked lines on paper, rip off the paper and are left with some amazingly intricately pieced blocks, or blocks which would be difficult to piece by traditional methods. I don’t know if it is having a modern day resurgence, but it seems to be everywhere just now. This was my first attempt at FPP.

It’s a pattern called “Goosing around” which is created by the incredibly talented Jeliquilts; her immediate download PDF patterns are available for a few pounds at the link below, and I thought this was a great first pattern for me. I just printed it off onto ordinary printer paper, but you can use foundation paper too which is supposed to be easier to rip off afterwards.

http://jeliquilts.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-pattern-shop.html?m=1

This pattern is made up of 4 blocks which you sew together to make an 8.5″ block, as directed in the pattern. The technique does take some practice and you need bigger fabric pieces than you’d think, especially at the beginning – it is such a different way of thinking about making a block. The best way is to learn from a video tutorial, I think. I used this video by Karen Johnson of Connecting Threads; the “add a quarter ruler” and postcard method which she uses I think makes it much easier.

This was my next go:

It’s for a swap; in a month’s time I will be going to the Stitch Gathering 2016 in Edinburgh – a day of stitching classes (I will be doing my first ever sewing class – a little scary but also quite exciting!). There are secret swaps  organised – we each make a potholder (trivet) to swap with our allocated person (they don’t know who is sewing for them) and a nametag for a different person – perfect opportunity to practice some FPP I thought!  I was going to quilt the “goosing around”  block for my potholder swap, but I shamelessly stalked my partner’s pictures on Instagram and decided she would prefer the butterfly.

The butterfly is an FPP pattern by Nicole aka Lillyella of Lillyella.com, 3 different butterfly patterns are available as a free PDF download here:

tutorials & free patterns
This is mine in progress. See how you sew along the pattern lines and then remove the papers? I am still a real novice at this; But going carefully and slowly really does do the trick. I *might* have had to re-do some messed up sections in this one though…I would say have plenty of fabric and time and be prepared to re-do some when you are first starting out with FPP!

I used the new collections out by Tilda Fabrics, Memory Lane and Cabbage Rose. I cannot tell you how much I ADORE these collections! Prettiest Tilda fabrics ever, which is saying something. Prettiest fabrics ever, possibly. I’m really taken with them. I used insulated batting and a mixture of machine straight lines and hand quilting with perle cotton #8.

And the final bit of FPP I’m going to show you is the nametag I said I had to make for the stitching day. This pattern is by Megsmonkeybeans, here: http://megsmonkeybeans.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/a-pattern-for-you.html?m=1 who designed it for a nametag. It is so tiny – and you have to add outer seam allowances to the pattern yourself, so not a beginner’s pattern. Very cute though! This is the sewing machine I made for my partner, with the name scribbled, I mean expertly blanked, out:

I embroidered the details of the machine and the name using black perle #12 cotton – I couldn’t really believe it came out so cute! I was dubious when I saw the pattern. Oh me of little faith. This is it finished:

I LOVED using my tiny scraps to make a rainbow border. The scraps really are tiny, cut to 1.25″ square; only just big enough to include a kitten head, puppy kiss, turtle, typewriter key, flowers… I quilted with Superior thread’s The Bottom Line, a fine but strong polyester using white in top and pale blue in bottom bobbin (as the back is those blue kissing dogs). Impressed with the unobtrusive quilting line it makes – I would recommend the thread if you’re happy to use polyester!

I hope you get inspired to maybe try a little FPP yourself if you haven’t already, whilst I can’t currently see myself doing a whole quilt with this technique (some people do!),  it is really fun. Those butterfly blocks are charm square size too – I can see all kinds of possibilities with this technique!

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

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

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

Tilda and Wedding Quilt Prettiness

OOOH, Tilda. Tilda to the UK born child of Indian parents means watching strange, brightly-coloured movies in an unknown language on grainy VHS with a beautiful Sari-ed lady in the advert in a rice field and the song “Tiii-lda Basmati” (the best rice, which I still buy now). And possibly the only understandable bit in the movie for my brother and me. But now it means this: 

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Soft, vintagey, floral, prettiness with both a modern freshness of colour and an authenticity you don’t often find in modern fabric lines which are so often “trying” to have a vintage feel but don’t quite make the grade.

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I admit the colours are not showing up well in our first-week-of-spring-cold-but -bright Scottish sunlight; you might have to trust me about the gentle romance of these fabrics. I used fat eighths of the Apple Bloom and Spring Lakes collections, but then took out the teal colours from Spring Lake and added Taupey-greys and Cadet blues from other Tilda collections.

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It is a commission quilt; my friend commissioned it as a wedding gift for a lovely girl whom I did actually meet once and I thought was fabulous. I had a telephone consultation with her, and they live in a whitewashed Scottish cottage with pale, duck-egg blues and ivory/ white colours. I just knew Tilda would be the right fit. Not the rice obviously.

The big squares were cut to 8.5″ and the smaller ones making up the 4-patches were 4.5″, and I just alternated them. You would need 13 fat quarters or 26 fat eighths or equivalent to make this quilt which finishes at 61″ square with a 3″(ish) border. It’s a great throw size – big enough for 2 on a sofa or someone to nap under.

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This is the back – Pernille in Cadet blue, pieced with some charms from the Tilda collection “Happiness is Homemade”.

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I really love the back! Almost more than the front, always disappointing when it takes a fifth of the time… The couple’s bedroom is duck-egg blue, so I am hoping that this will make up for the pinks and greens on the front of the quilt; a certain degree of reversibility. I hoped that the other colours would make this quilt fit into their home even if they re-decorated. They’re going to need to keep loving shabby-chic pastels though!

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I quilted it in a loop + swirl pattern, and if you look very carefully you can maybe see a “L + M” quilted in the middle (the couple’s initials). It’s not showing up very well here, but that is kind of the point… Batting is Quilter’s Dream Orient, a natural batting made of cotton, silk, bamboo and Tencel (eucalyptus), which gives it a wonderful drape and softness, without a lot of weight. It is definitely my favourite batting for special quilts, although it is expensive.

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That bright, bright sunlight to which we have become unaccustomed over the winter certainly shows off the texture that free-motion quilting gives a quilt. I love that all those curves soften the geometry of squares, but so subtly.

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I feel pretty sure she’ll like it, if only because I had the opportunity to talk to her about her tastes. What I am less sure about is how I will feel about letting it go! Do I always say that? This time I decided to buy a few Tilda charm packs for a summer quilt for us, just to make the hand-over easier!

After all, with fabrics this beautiful and timeless, it’s worth allowing the name to share brain space with some slightly trippy childhood culturally-significant memories, huh?

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Hello long-suffering, quilt-holding husband!

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

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

Oh Dear, Oh Deer

Oh dear indeed. My camera wire malfunctioned whilst I was uploading 3 months’ worth of photos and makes onto the computer – losing almost all of them! Hence the absence of recent blog posts. But, less frustratingly, here’s the “Oh Deer”:

Ana's quilt

My good friend moved house recently and I really wanted to make them a throw quilt for their sofa. Their tastes are pretty clean and minimal; white, grey, subdued egg shell blue. They even manage to keep the children’s toys tidy! Ahem, yeah, just like me. 😉 And Ana seems to be slightly in love with the deer/ stag silhouette at the moment, which can be found in subtle places in their home – on a cushion, on a tea-towel and so on. So I set off through the UK online shops looking for a set of fabrics with a grown-up colour scheme, but bright enough to lift a room or grace a picnic – and preferably with a few deer too. DSC_0072

I have had this grey/ mustard/ teal colour scheme in my head for a while, and have been dying to make a quilt using it, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. And, being the kind of fabric-obsessed web surfer that I am, I also immediately knew my best chance of finding modern, clean, grown up yet quirky prints. “M is for Make” is a really fabulous shop. The owner, Kate, has a definite style and fabric taste; the shop is full of modern, often geometric fabrics or stylised prints, but with a healthy dose of whimsy in there – not taking itself too seriously. Well I think so anyway – she’s like a “cool hunter”!

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As you know, I most often quilt with precuts or collections – partly because there is no local quilt shop with a large selection of prints, partly because it is the cheapest way of getting a bit of lots of different fabrics, fat eighths only just being introduced in the UK (and fabric being twice as expensive as in the US). But choosing my own fabrics was SO. MUCH. FUN. And I was so thrilled to see that the colours on the computer did indeed match those on the fabrics I received. (Phew!)
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I had actually taken photos along the way in order to give you a bit of a tutorial and as an aide memoir for me for the next time, all of which are now fairy dust in the ether… although the construction is very simple and so it was probably unnecessary anyway. Here’s a bit of a guide, just in case you wanted the maths:

You will need for the quilt top (approx 55″ x 55″ finished) :  

  1. 61 (sixty one)  6″ fabric squares. Assuming you have well-cut fat quarters and you can cut 9 (nine) 6″ squares from each one, you only need 7 fat quarters. Not all fat quarters are that well cut. If you had more fat quarters, you would have fabric left over but would end up with more variety in your quilt. I had 14 different fat quarters and have fabric left over.
  2. A yard of white background fabric, cut into 3.25″ strips. 
  3. rotary cutter, decent ruler, thread etc etc you know the drill!

Cutting and assembly: 

The quilt is made from 2 blocks. Sew everything together using a scant 1/4″ seam allowance.

  1. Block A is a basic 4-patch. Take 2 of your 6″ squares and sew together, RST. Repeat with another 2 squares , open both out and sew together into a 4-patch. You need 12 of these.

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2. For Block B,

  •  You need to subcut your 3.25″ wide white strips into 26 (twenty six) 6″x 3.25″ rectangles and 26 (twenty six) 11.5″ x 3.25″ rectangles.
  • Then take a 6″ x 3.25″ rectangle and sew onto the side of a 6″ square. Repeat on the other side. Then sew a 11.5″ x 3.25″ rectangle to the top and bottom, finishing the block.
  • You will need 13 of these blocks.

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3. Easy peasy! Really at this point you should check all your blocks are the same size. They should all measure 11.5″ square. but seam allowances being what they are when the fascist quilt police are looking the other way, they may not all be the same. It’s okay. Find your smallest block and trim them to be all the same size; even if that is 11.25″ or  11″, it’s better than not being able to sew your quilt together or it not lying flat when it comes to basting.

4. And now sew together, alternating block B and block A in a 5 x 5 grid, as below. Very simple 🙂

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I decided not to put on a border, and just bound it in the beautiful Kona solid in teal. I used the number print from Ikea on the back, which looks great with this quilt – and such a bonus that it is 60″ wide, has a nice soft handle and is very cheap!

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I used my favourite Quilter’s Dream Orient for the batting, which gives it a gorgeous snuggliness and drape, and quilted it in a freemotion all-over loop-de-loop pattern. DSC_0034

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Obviously my house is not a Scandinavian inspired, white minimalist and modern looking house, so I appreciate that my sofa doesn’t suit this little quilt really -but I’m sure my friend’s sofa will!

Oh I nearly forgot to tell you the fabrics! They were mostly from the collections Yoyogi park by Heather Moore for Cloud 9 fabrics, Mod Basics from Birch Fabrics, Westwood by Monaluna fabrics, the Kona teal and a lovely fabric from Botanics collection Carolyn Friedlander. I could have just kept adding fabrics from that shop I really could, but tried to be restrained.

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Incidentally, the lovely Kate from “M is for Make” instagrammed my order picture and it got so many “likes” that she made some of them into a bundle called “forest bundle”. You can see it here if you are interested:

http://www.misformake.co.uk/search?type=product&q=goldteal

Right, I had better get off to bed. Why does the bloggy muse always float by so darn late in the evening? Hopefully my dreams will be filled with teal fabrics and peaceful deer tonight. May yours be too!

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Why do medical syringe pump bags have to be so … ugly?

Well, they are ugly. When I worked at a hospice, working with especially with female patients, young and old, I used to think it all the time. Some people have to have a continuous infusion of either painkiller or anti-sickness medication or somesuch in order to stay comfortable. Whilst it’s one thing when people are in bed and sleeping, many many people walk around with this, live with it as a permanent fixture in their lives. And yet, the bags they are given for them are practical but ugly dark blue canvas small bags with straps and stuff, wires sticking out, and go round their necks (which can be painful), the overall effect screaming “I am extremely medical and weird, please look at me with that uncomfortable mixture of sympathy and fear”. Or are a bumbag. A BUMBAG I tell you! Chav circa 1987. Women are not impressed, particularly those who are trying hard to make an effort to look nice, and they used to complain often or really fight against having a drug which will make them feel better – because it’s so visible. So when I got asked to make this:

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… I jumped at the chance.

The lady, whose lovely daughter commissioned the bag as a present, has to have a syringe pump dispensing chemotherapy for a week every few weeks. Not only does this remind her of her illness, but she feels it draws attention to her illness from other people. She’s a smart, trim lady who likes to look nice, and HATED the bumbag she was given – not only was it ugly and something she would never wear, it was very uncomfortable for her. She asked for a cross-body, lightweight bag which could comfortably fit her pump in the base, have a gap at the top for the wires to come out – and most of all would look like a bag she had chosen to wear! Look at the the typical bag I’m used to seeing on patients, compared to a custom one:

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So we set to work looking at colours and fabrics. It’s always harder when I can’t see someone, to get a measure of their tastes. She must be about my mother’s age (this was all done over the phone so I had thought maybe classic floral? Some lovely gentle colours…? Wrong, wrong. She wanted bright. Loves cerise pink. Loves bold patterns. I sent some pictures of fabrics based on that, and she chose this – Michael Miller’s Flock in navy. Lovely. My own cosmetics bag is made from this – not sure I would have chosen a bag for myself in it, but everyone’s tastes are different and valid! And once I made it I had several friends telling me they would buy it if she didn’t want it, so she has good taste 🙂

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It’s interfaced but soft and lightweight as requested; because I wasn’t sure of her size I made the strap adjustable; anyway the hardwear always gives a bag a more professional look. I didn’t put any kind of grid in the bottom as I wanted to make it washable (it’s going to be in the hospital a fair bit) – the pump is a sausage-shape with a diameter of 3″ so I made the base 3″ deep. Fingers crossed it fits ok! It’s about 10″ wide by 8-9″ tall… I think! I really should have measured it… enough room for a purse, lipstick etc. Zip closure with enough gap to let out the wires. And long cross-body adjustable strap so it looks like a real bag – that has got to be good for a woman, right?

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I had meant to line it with this, love and Joy by Dena Fishbein, as she likes cerise pink: 10699216_10203944494404633_720094229_n

And honestly can’t remember why I didn’t (it was a few months ago). Perhaps it was a cost thing because I wanted to keep the price down and this fabric is full price. From the pictures I went with this instead, Medallions from the Quilted Fish from Madhuri collection by Riley Blake, which I got in a sale:

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Anyway, apparently she loves it, which makes me very happy; I really wish her all the best; she’s going through a tough time. Hopefully when her treatment is over she will be able to give it to her granddaughter or something. It’s kind of hard to do commissions like this; I don’t take on that many commissions really as it’s a hobby, but for something like this obviously you want to help. But you also want to do it for free. You can’t always afford to use fabrics and time to do things for charity but you sometimes feel you want to. In this case, she would have been offended; I don’t think she would have liked to think of herself as charity, and had she been a personal friend (rather than mother of an old school friend) it would have been different, a gift.

This “sewing pays for itself” malarkey can be a bit fraught; I know I under-price, I know I shouldn’t. I find it hard to value my own work, even though I know it’s excellent quality and a lot of time and thought goes into it. I’m getting better at it. I would definitely try not to undercut folk if I was on Etsy or Folksy – I buy on Etsy loads, wonderful place, never had an issue with service ever, and it’s not fair to expect someone to create something beautiful and not get paid for their time, and when you undercut people by not getting paid, you create an expectation, whereas especially in the UK, fabric and supplies are very expensive! It has made me think I might make some (cheaper) syringe driver bags for the hospice or chemo pump bags for the hospital here as a charity thing though; stories like this are sobering, and make you remember how much people are going through in their lives. Perhaps if I can help a tiny bit, I don’t mean medically, but by making them feel less of a “patient” and more of a “person” again, perhaps these small thing all help.

Anyway, perhaps a bit sobering for a Friday night! Hope you make the most of your today, stories like this make me more determined to do that! Till the next time,

Poppy xx

A Patchwork Picnic

It isn’t though. It’s completely staged because I forgot to mention when I
wrote the tutorial for the one on the left that is was actually commissioned
for someone else. I don’t get to keep it. Yes, my new year’s resolution has
failed spectacularly to kick in, and I am still making for others with no
additions yet to our house. Still this one is a retirement gift for an
apparently wonderful NHS Healthcare worker (a Health Visitor) who seemingly
deserves things of much beauty and love. So. I’m spending time with it. Hanging
out. Like a crazy old quilt lady. I’ll may have to make me one too… 

I’m partly posting because I wanted a picture of the cushion when it was properly
filled – The cover is 19.5″ square and it looked too “floppy” last time, with a
20″ cushion pad. Now it has a 24″ pad and looks lovely! I think. I know,
everyone knows you should go bigger… And partly because I wanted to see it
alongside my Liberty dresden cushion, blogged here: https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/78267964842/liberty-dresden-pillow-love

My wee dog was most upset with this photo shoot. Usually a quilt on the
ground means happy hours of lazing about, snuggled next to mummy chewing a
stick, hopefully with the baby-dinosaur, which is clearly how he sees Kiddo,
engaged in some crafty activity and not charging about with various brightly
coloured missiles in his hands or leaping randomly off furniture. This time it
was a “I know it’s sunny but it’s way too cold for picnics” and everything
swept back in. He kept up this stance of protest next to a juicy pile of sticks
for some time before sloping back inside. Wee cutie. 

I know how he feels. Bring on summer. My ambition is to have a whole heap of
cushions ready for when it happens for real, hopefully very soon! Meanwhile, if
you fancy a go at either of them and need any guidance, the tutorial for the
one on the left is here:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/114218367457/liberty-star-patchwork-pillow-cushion-tutorial

and link to someone else’s far-clever-than-mine tutorial on Dresden plate cushions is within: https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/78267964842/liberty-dresden-pillow-love

Meanwhile, here’s to dreams of summer laziness amidst quilty love. And
apparently some big chewable sticks.

Till the next time, Poppy xx