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

Pirate Ship Wallhanging Den… ooooh-arrrgh me hearties

Well, between the hexagons and the cold winter nights which make me less inclined to sit with a sewing machine and more to stay snuggled handsewing and watching TV with the Hubster, I’ve felt I haven’t much to say, hence the 2 week gap between confessions.

But then my sweet, craftilicious-supermum-and-all-round-gorgeous friend stopped by with her 4 year old, and I put up THE PIRATE SHIP. She was smitten. Instantly. I knew the kids would be, as they always are, but Alison was completely in love too. She desperately wants to make one herself for her children but felt she needed some pointers. So I thought I might detail the process here, although I didn’t take photos at the time, so you might have to make do with some sketches! It’s very simple though, and all raw edge applique, so not difficult!

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I made this for Kiddo’s 4th birthday party with a pirate theme – it hangs over the bannister, making a pirate den out of the space under the stairs. All children love it – especially becasue of the portholes which they can look out of – or use magnetic fishing rods to go fishing out of.

Behind it I put a wee soft cushion area, and drew some porthole pictures which I stuck onto the wall with bluetack.

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Ours is obviously for under the stairs, so is pretty huge, dropping down the flight of stairs, but this could easily be smaller and hung to divide up a child’s room, a corner of a room, or as Alison is hoping to do – for some bunk beds.

I can’t really give full instructions or a pattern just because everyone’s size will be different, but the shapes are really simple, so here’s how I did it. I also made a load of red and blue bunting from my fabric, so you might have leftovers too.

Materials (all fabric from IKEA, it’s all extra wide, about 150cm wide):

  • 2.5 metres bomull fabric in natural from IKEA (£1.50 per metre) for background
  • 1.5 metres red ditte fabric £3 per metre
  • 1 metre blue ditte £3 per metre
  • 1 metre black ditte fabric £3 per metre
  • thread, scissors, fabric pencil/chalk or similar
  • safety pins (or normal pins if you don’t think  you’ll lose them on such a big item!)
  • clear vinyl if you have it (I didn’t but might add this in for the portholes)
  • sewing machine – using a zigzag stitch
  1. I guess the most obvious thing is to measure your space and decide how big it should be. Then cut the background fabric as large as you want it to be. Lay it out on the floor like a big sheet of paper. From now on, it’s like making a big picture on that “paper”
  2. Next cut the top of your blue fabric into waves or a choppy sea. you could leave it flat so it looks like a horizon, which would still look good.
  3. Lie it on the bottom of your background and smooth out the wrinkles.
  4. Next draw out the ship’s base. (is it a hull? I should have more seafaring knowledge!). My ship was about 24” tall and 50” wide, but your might be smaller. The shape is simple; here’s a drawing: image
  5. lie it onto your sea. Now cut 2 long strips of black fabric, maybe a couple of inches wide. Use them as masts for the sails, on your picture, with the ship’s hull covering the ends. image
  6. It will already be starting to look like a cool picture! Ok. Now for the sails. I cut big rectangles, roughly the size I wanted the sails, one big, one medium and 2 smaller. I actually freehand cut everything without drawing it and it was all fine, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it being perfect. But the top and bottom lines of the sails should be parallel, and the curve should match on both sides as much as possible. Here are drawings, alongside drawing of the pirate flag elements. I didn’t want the skull and crossbones to look too scary!image
  7. Now lie all your bits onto your picture and voila! It should look like a pirate ship. I actually did the portholes after I’d sewn the rest on. image

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  8. Once you’re happy with it, pin everything onto the fabric with safety pins. Take it to the sewing machine and use a zigzag stitch all the way round every line of your picture to secure it. It looks better if you use the same colour thread as the applique fabric, like blue for the sea, red for the sails etc. I know it will fray a bit over time. I know it’s not perfect or obviously not a commerical shop-bought product, but it still looks cool, and is durable enough for many many playtimes! Noone has noticed on ours because of the size of it. Sure, if you can be bothered to turn under the edges and applique it properly, go ahead, it will look wonderful!image
  9. Once it’s all sewn up, draw 3 circles for portholes using the red fabric. Mine were about 9” diameter, I didn’t even bother to draw round a plate – but it would have been neater if I had. It’s still fine! It’s all very forgiving. Pin onto the hull of your ship and zigzag all the way round. Next draw an inner circle in the middle of each and cut this out , through all the layers of your picture. Zigzag round the raw edges to secure, you should probably do this a couple of times for each, or use a close zigzag. My inner circles are 5-6” diameter. You can sew some clear vinyl or lace onto the back of the portholes, and probably should if you have very young children whom you are worried might stick their wee heads in and get stuck, or worse, dangle. *shudders*.image
  10. Then I took my hanging up the stairs and asked the Hubster to hold it where I wanted it to go. I did 3 marks where I thought ties should go, then very firmly sewed long tapes (actually I made them with 3 inch strips, iron in half lengthways, open, iron the lengthways edges to meet in the middle and sew up the side to make a strong tape). Our bannister is made of slats so I wrap my tapes round the slats and tie firmly, but I guess would have had to put some nails in otherwise, or found another way to hold it in place. It takes a few minutes to put up and take down, so I just get it out for playdates. Which is pretty frequent these days!  At least it’s getting plenty of use 🙂

    And get ready for some swashbuckling!

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Not into pirates? How about a house with windows and a door? Or a castle? Or a wee simple car, hold on, like this one (I’m getting my pencils out!)imageimage

Or if I had boys’ bunk beds to decorate like my friend Alison, I would be very tempted to hang the hanging in front of the beds, to make a den for each boy. I would definitely use clear vinyl for the windows, I wouldn’t be able to sleep thinking of the accidents that could happen otherwise, but then I am paranoid. I think I would do a scene, like an aeroplane or spaceship for the top bunk and car for the bottom. Actually what I’d do is a spce scene, with 2 rockets, some stars and planets, and space themed bedding – and glow in the dark planets and stars all over their rooms! Those boys would have such adventures, they’d never go to sleep!

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Well, me hearties, I know it’s not “posh sewing”, but it is a fun sewing project, and I hope you’ve had fun thinking about what you might do… or not – not everyone wants a big pirate ship in their house. Although my 4 year old wouldn’t believe you 😉

Till the next time, have fun – and I’d love to see any wallhanging dens you make!

Poppy

xx

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