“Stars At Your Feet” – quilt tutorial

Hubster thinks this should be called “Jailbreak” as the stars look like they’ve escaped from their blocks of colour! 🤣👏

That these little stars are so naughty only makes me love them more! It’s the third time I’ve made this design which I originally came up with for a wedding quilt using a layer cake I was obsessed with at the time. Each time I’ve posted the design on Instagram, I’ve had so many requests for a pattern/ tutorial that I thought I really should oblige!

This quilt is particularly special – I’ve agreed to make it on behalf of my son’s class for the end of year teacher gift. She’s a very very special teacher, who happens to love art, and I know she’s going to be touched that the parents got together to give her this quilt. This time, rather than using only charm packs, I also included many favourite floral fabrics from my stash – it’s made it unique and special and I’d happily keep it!

But she deserves it more than I do; educating 23 nine year olds is no mean feat, especially when I seem incapable of getting one nine year old to even flush the toilet consistently! 🙈

Tutorial

I’m going to be pretty detailed even though many of you won’t need it, because some people who messaged to ask for a tutorial/ pattern are beginners! If you’re experienced, then please don’t feel you must read all this!

Okay, let’s do this.

Fabric requirements:

  1. 3 charm packs (OR 72 printed 4.5″squares and 64 printed 2.5″ squares from 2 mini-charm packs or cut from stash)
  2. 1.75 metres (a full 1.75 yards) of 44″ white background and inner border fabric
  3. 1 metre printed fabric for outer border and binding (a full perfect yard)

Cutting:

Cutting Prints:

1. Printed Star Points: you need 64 2.5″ squares for these.

If using only charm packs: Take one of the charm packs and select 32 of the darkest prints. These will need to contrast well against the white background so set aside the lightest prints for another project.

Cut the 32 5″ squares into half, to make 2 sets of 32 2.5″x5 rectangles. Save one set for another project and cut the other set into half again to make 64 2.5″ squares.

2. Star centres: Select 8 printed 5″ charm squares for star centres. Cut these down to 4.5″ square and keep in a separate pile.

3. Printed block backgrounds: choose 64 printed 5×5″ squares from the remaining 5″ charm squares. Use the darkest prints as they need to contrast well against the white background fabric. Cut these down to 4.5″ square.

Cutting white fabric:

1. White star centres and white block backgrounds: cut 8 strips measuring 4.5″ x width of fabric (w.o.f.). Subcut each strip into nine 4.5″ squares, for a total of 72 white 4.5″ squares.

2. White star points: cut 4 strips measuring 2.5″ x width of fabric (w.o.f.) . Subcut each step into sixteen 2.5″ squares, for a total of 64 white 2.5″ squares.

The above picture is what you end up with: 72 white 4.5″ squares, 64 white 2.5″ squares, 72 printed 4.5″ squares, 64 printed 2.5″ squares.

3. Cut White inner border: cut 6 white strips measuring 2.5″ x w.o.f.

Cutting printed border fabric:

1. Cut 6 strips measuring 3.5″ x w.o.f. for border

2. Cut 6 strips measuring 2.5″ x w.o.f. for binding.

Before you start sewing:

Draw a diagonal line point to point on the back of all the white and printed 2.5″ squares.

Sewing the White Star Blocks

This is what we’re aiming for:

You will make 8 of these blocks.

For each block you need 8 printed 4’5″ squares, 1 white 4.5″ square, and 8 white 2.5″ squares. Lay them out as below to get a nice mix of colours:

Then lay on your 8 white 2.5″ squares on the “points of the compass” squares as below:

*Notice the way the pencil lines go – they will make a “V” shape pointing towards the centre square.*

Now take one of the printed squares with its 2 little white squares over to the sewing machine.

(My machine has a vinyl seam guide on it, ignore it you don’t need it if you’ve drawn lines on your little squares!)

Match up one of the white squares with the bottom corner of the printed square as above.

Sew ALONG the pencil line as below:

You’ll end up with this:

Good. Now with a pair of scissors (or rotary cutter) cut off the bottom left hand corner, about 1/4″ away from the stitch line. Cut off and discard both the white and the printed fabric.

Fold back the white triangle:

And press:

Now do the same with the other white square… Lay your white square on the corner:

Sew along the pencil line then cut off the bottom triangle about 1/4″ away from the sewn line:

Fold it back and press:

This is where it fits into your block:

Do this to all 4 “compass point” blocks:

Finally, sew them together in rows using a 1/4″ seam allowance, then sew the rows together.

(Tip: use the edge of the unaltered squares as your sewing guide for your 1/4″ seam, as the squares you’ve sewn on won’t be as perfectly 4.5″ square)

Now make 7 more of these blocks for a total of 8. Each block should measure 12.5″ square.

Sewing the Printed Star Blocks

You will need 8 of these blocks.

The process is the same as when you made the white star blocks above, but below is a reminder:

First lay out your block using one of the 8 printed 4’5″square star centres you set aside at the beginning and 8 white 4.5″ squares:

Now choose 8 printed 2.5″ squares to become the star points:

Lay your printed 2.5″ square FACE DOWN on top of your white 4.5″ square. Your pencil line is ON THE BACK of your little square and should be orientated as in the picture below.

Sew along the pencil line:

Cut off and discard the unwanted triangle 1/4 away from the sewn line as you did for the white star blocks earlier. Cut off both printed and white fabric and fold it back as below:

Do the same on the other side:

Apparently I’ve lost some photos here 😱, but you do exactly what you did for the white star above, and then sew it all together to get your printed star blocks. Here are more pictures of making your star points and how it fits into the final block:

Note: if you like you can chain piece all the 32 printed star point blocks as I did – it’s quicker, but there’s also something nice about being intentional with your blocks, so so whichever you like, it’s supposed to be fun!

Make 8 printed star blocks. Each block should measure 12.5″ square.

Putting the quilt together

You should now have 8 white star blocks with a printed background, and 8 printed star blocks with a white background.

Lay your blocks out in a 4×4 grid alternating the white star blocks with the printed star blocks.

Sew them together in rows, then sew the rows together.

Adding the Borders

This piece should now measure 48.5″ square, but no one’s seam allowance is perfect! To avoid warping and wavy borders the best thing to do is measure your side before adding the border strip and cut the border to fit perfectly.

Sewing the inner white border

  1. First take the six 2.5″ white inner border strips and join them all, end to end with 1/4″ SA to make one long strip.
  2. Now measure the two sides, then cut 2 border strips to the correct measurements, pin at the start, and and middles of the strip, then sew on. Press and repeat the process with the top and bottom of the quilt. Press.

Sewing the outer printed border

Sew together the 6 printed 3.5″ strips and to end with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

As above, measure the two sides of the quilt, cut border strips to fit, pin at the end then the middle and sew in. Repeat the process with top and bottom outer borders.

AND YOU’RE DONE! 🙌👏👏👏❤❤❤❤❤

Phew, that tutorial felt like it took a loooong time. Let me know if you have any questions or something is just plain wrong. It’s just a free wee blog tutorial, so it’s not like it’s pattern tested or anything!

So to finish:

I used a lovely 100% a scrimless cotton batting called Katahdin Autumn weight by Bosal , and quilted it on my domestic machine with loops, leaves and flowers.

Grey chevron on the back:

It’s not been washed yet but it’s all drapey and snuggly already – I do love it! I did use some charm squares left over from other projects, mostly Little Miss Sunshine and Tuppence by Moda, but there are several other fabrics from my stash and scraps in here, some Bobbie and Camille, some Art Gallery fabric, Tilda border, even a Heather Ross print – this one was truly scrappy and for that reason has my heart. I really hope my son’s teacher loves it as much as I do. She deserves it.

Oh, I should have said, it’s 59″ square. Good throw size or picnic size. ❤

I hope you enjoy making this, if you decide to! Let me know if you do. You can find me on Instagram at @cuckooblue or comment here if you’d like.

Have a great summer, you lovely creative people.

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Toutes Les Étoiles/ All the Stars; a French-Inspired Quilt and tutorial

So my dad informed me I hadn’t written a blog post in 6 months. My dad! Who knew. So to appease his apparent need for some sewing chat and to kickstart my blogging this year, here’s Toutes Les Étoiles, the only quilt I ever named:

My friend got married in a beautiful château in France 2 years ago and invited us, starting us off on the most wonderful holiday near Bordeaux. When we got to the château, this was my room:

Isn’t it gorgeous? Authentic antique furniture – and check out that quilt! I examined it carefully and it’s certainly seemed to be a handmade quilt, just the right amount of wobbles and mistakes to feel authentic. Ahhhh. The wedding party had the château to ourselves for 4 days and it was truly heavenly; we all got on well in idyllic romantic surroundings with beautiful weather and the happy couple were truly happy. Great memories.

Anyway, a few months ago they bought a house in the country together (fairly near us) and since this year is their 2 year and aptly-named “cotton” anniversary, I thought a quilt reminiscent of their French wedding might be a good housewarming present.

I used a Moda layer cake of French General’s Rural Jardin which I’ve been hoarding for far too many years and is now out of print, but they bring out beautiful, authentic-looking French inspired fabric collections regularly if you like the look of this one. Check out the back:

Do you like it? I do. It’s some Toile de Jouy quilting weight fabric I bought years ago from a French importing shop, which sadly didn’t survive the recession. I pieced it together with some leftover charm squares cut in half.

It’s not difficult to see how you make this quilt top, but here are instructions if you need; at least the maths is all done!

Tutorial

*Stitch everything right sides together with a 1/4″ seam allowance, the more accurate the better! *

Quilt top measures 56″ x 64″

Fabric Requirements:

  • 3 – 4 charm packs* (or 1 layer cake cut into 5″ squares)
  • 1 yard of printed fabric for outer border and binding
  • 2.5 yards of white background fabric 44″ wide

*Note: you can make this quilt with 3 charm packs but 4 gives more options for removing fabrics with low contrast with the background fabric. You can cut 42 5″ squares from stash instead of a charm pack if you prefer. Leftovers can be used in the pieced backing.

Cutting:

Cutting the Printed Charm Squares:

1. You will need 100 printed fabric charm squares, for the patchwork and the inner border.

Remove any charm squares which have poor contrast with the white background, although one or two could be used for the star centres.

2.Choose 15 printed charms for the star centres. Cut these down to 4.5″ squares.

3. Take 60 printed charm squares and cut into quarters, yielding 240 2.5″ squares. Keep them in sets of 60.

4. The remaining 25 charm squares are for the inner border. Cut these in half yielding 50 5″x2.5″ rectangles. set these aside for the inner border.

Cutting the White Fabric:

1. Cut four 2.5″ x Width of fabric (WOF) strips. Subcut these into 60 2.5″ squares.

2. Cut 14 more 2.5″ x WOF white strips and subcut these into 120 2.5″ x 4.5″ rectangles.

3. For the two borders, cut 11 more 2.5″ x WOF strips. Join these together end to end to make one long strip and then leave aside until you are ready for the borders.

Making the Star blocks:

1. Take 120 2.5″ printed squares and on the back of each one draw a diagonal line in pencil from one point to the opposite point.

2. Now make your first flying geese unit. Lay one of your squares, right sides together (RST) onto on of the white 4.5″ x 2.5″ rectangle so that the pencil diagonal line goes from the top right corner of the rectangle into the bottom middle.

3. Sew along that pencil line

4. Cut off the triangle (both the printed and white bits) below the pencil line, cutting about 1/4″ away from the sewn diagonal line. Discard the cut off triangle.

5. Fold back the printed fabric to reveal your flying, um, goose.

6. Take another 2.5″ square, lay it onto the white rectangle with the pencil line going from top left to the bottom middle then sew along that pencil line.

7. Again cut off and discard the excess triangle fabric.

8. Fold back the printed triangle and press – you now have one flying geese unit, which will be one side of your star.

9. Make some more of these flying geese units. You will need 60 all together.

10. To assemble one star block, you need one 4.5″ square centre, 4 flying geese units and 4 white 2.5″ squares. Lay these out as below.

11. Sew a flying geese unit to each side of the centre square.

12. Next sew the 2.5″ white squares to the ends of the top and bottom flying geese units as shown below,

13. Sew all the rows together to make a sawtooth star block. It should measure 8.5″ (if your 1/4″ seam allowance is accurate).

14. Make 15 of these star blocks and press.

Making the Chain blocks:

Okay, this is where I confess that I lost some photos and can’t show you quite as step by step, but they are really easy. I’ve done a mock-up with some other fabrics below.

1. Take 60 of your remaining printed 2.5″ squares, sew them into pairs and then sew the pairs into little 4 patches, like the middle of the above picture. You will need 15 4-patches.

2. Next sew a white 2.5″x4.5″rectangle to either side of each 4 patch.

3. Now take the remaining 60 4.5×2.5″ white rectangles and sew a printed 2.5″ square to each side of each white rectangle.

4. Finally sew the rows all together. you should end up with a block that looks like this below! (excuse the blurriness, it’s cut from a bigger picture!) It should also measure 8.5″ square, if your 1/4″ seam allowance is accurate). You need 15 of these blocks. Press.

Assembling the Quilt:

Lay out your star blocks and chain blocks in an alternating pattern, starting with a chain block. Make a 5 by 6 grid as shown below….

2. …and sew it all together.

Adding the Borders

1. Measure the sides of your quilt. If seam allowances were entirely accurate the sides should measure 48.5″, but they never are totally accurate. Measure the sides and then cut white border strips to that length – this helps prevent warping of your borders that can happen if you over stretch the borders as you sew. Pin on the border at both ends and in the middle and then sew on the side borders.

2. Next measure the top and bottom borders (theoretically 44.5″), cut a length of white 2.5″ strip to that measurement. Pin and sew on your top and bottom white inner borders.

3. To make the scrappy inner border, sew together twelve 2.5″x5″ printed rectangles that you made at the beginning by halving the charm squares. Sew this to one of the sides of the quilt and trim off the excess. I figure it’s scrappy so it really doesn”t matter if it’s perfectly symmetrical.

4. With the remaining white strips, make a second white border in the same way as described above.

5. Finally, cut and join 2.5″ strips from your printed yardage fabric and add as the final outer border. I used the same fabric as my binding too.

…and you’re done!

I used Quilters Dream Orient, my all-time-favourite batting and free motion quilted it with a loop and leaf design. It’s my favourite quilting, it looks classy but somehow fairly modern and leaves enough areas unquilted to keep the quilt snuggly. Quilters Dream Orient can be quilted up to 8″ apart despite having no scrim, which is a real bonus for snuggly quilts!

Oh and I forgot to say, you can use halved leftover charm squares sewn together and bordered with 2.5″ white strips to piece the backing if you like!

Well, I’m pooped after writing all that. seriously, no wonder it takes me 6 months to get to a computer! I’ll resolve to do this a bit more often, hear that Dad? After all I’m on Instagram (as Cuckooblue) most weeks, even every few days… hmmm I think I might see a connection!

Off to admire my, I mean, my friend’s, new quilt.

If you make it, I hope you like yours too!

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

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

Charity sewing!

It’s a wonderful thing to sew for family and friends – especially children. The pleasure of knowing that someone loves you enough to make something for you shows all over their face when you gift something handmade. And that feels good. But it’s another level of feel-good to know that your handmade gift is not only going to someone for whom it’s a wonderful luxury, but to someone who has probably never had someone spend lots of time and money on making something for them. Especially a child.

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This one is going to the incredibly worthwhile UK charity called Sibling Together, which sets up fun summer camps for children who have been separated by the UK foster system to bond again. I just can’t imagine. Children who have had such a tough start in life that they end up in foster care is hard enough to imagine – but to be separated from their siblings? Presumably, after all they went through together? Tough times. I imagine some need the totally new start, but for some it is because foster homes can take one but not 2 or 3 children. My heart breaks just thinking about it.

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Anyway, at the end of the camp they gift a quilt to each child to go home with . Apparently they really treasure the quilts, presumably as a reminder of their sibling and their experience, but it’s a blanket isn’t it? Something comforting about a blanket. And this one is certainly bright and cheerful!

The back – Ikea’s perfect Nummer fabric.

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I made this using a tutorial by the effervescently wonderful Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Company, and is called the Double Square Star quilt. It’s pretty quick, it’s easy and it’s fun. I made it smaller than hers by using 16 blocks so it finished at 58″ x 63″ (it was square, but I trimmed the side borders so I didn’t have to piece the backing which was 60″!). Jenny shows you a block at a time, but it is easy to chain piece so long as you lay all your fabric out in piles beforehand, and it really was quicker than I had imagined. The tutorial is here if you fancy a go!

http://blog.missouriquiltco.com/double-square-star-quilt/

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I used 3 charm packs of “Bread n Butter ” by American Jane for Moda. I was so excited to use it, and I love the collection, but once I made a few blocks as above, I was regretting it. It was all too bold and primary coloured with the big blocks – just not me at all. In fact it was meant to be a gift for my friend with whom I used to work and who was retiring (and turned 60) but it just didn’t feel like her either. I liked it more once I put a big 5″ border around the outside, but was still not feeling the love; I needed to wait until I found the right recipient. After all, a quilt top is expensive, but finishing it is also expensive – far too much to be sitting around!

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But it was all the lovely folk on IG that made me recognise that my tastes are totally different as a 40-cough year old than they were as a 20 year old, and the idea of this one being my Siblings Together quilt this year was born. And suddenly I really liked it – it was like I could see who it was for and I got enthusiasm for it again. I quilted it with flowers and leaves and it transformed it in my eyes. I now think it’s great! Hurray! I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

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I really really hope that some wee person will like this quilt, maybe even grow to love it over the years. God knows, these children could do with some serious amounts of love. I’m so glad there are people like Siblings Together doing so much good in a harsh world. And so glad that I can contribute in some small way!

This is their website; they are on Facebook too.

http://siblingstogether.co.uk/

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Poor long-suffering quilt-holding hubster. I made him come to the entrance of the forest opposite our house and everything, just to take these pictures, so I’d better use them. I’m sure the neighbours laugh at us. True love that.

Enjoy the Spring my friends. Until the next time,

Poppy xx

PS. I’m doing tons of sewing which I just don’t have time to blog about – you can see it on my Instagram under “Cuckooblue” if you like – there is a link on the sidebar of this blog is you need it! Thank you so much for stopping by!

 

Use all the scraps! Using cut-off geese or binding triangles

I don’t know about you but I hate to waste fabric. So pretty; to sweep it into the bin feels sacrilegious. For a change I’m not even exaggerating. So when I’m making flying geese, those tiny triangles left over make me sad. “Use me,” they say. “Give me life and purpose, that I might bring joy to this world .” They haunt my dreams. Okay so now I am exaggerating. So with some of the leftovers of a recent quilt, I made a block:

I think it’s called a bow tie block; it’s certainly not my invention anyway! Each square finishes at 2″ – these triangles were left over from making geese with 2.5″ squares. I know this isn’t going to set the world on fire but – Hurray for a use for the geese off-cuts!

I know there are other things you can do – with my fancy fox quilt of a few posts back I did an extra line of stitching before cutting them off and made tiny HSTs… Never used them! I might still use them but it actually slowed down my working a lot; I’m not sure if I’ll do it again unless they were a lot bigger.

Anyway, you may well not need a tutorial but for anyone who would like one, here goes with a quick picture demo:

You need: 2.5″ background squares and triangles cut off from making geese or binding. Seams are 1/4″ throughout.

1.Lay triangle on top of the 2.5″ background square, RST as below. You want to ensure that when you sew and fold it back, the resulting triangle is bigger than the background square corner. Other than that it doesn’t matter where you place it. These are going to be wonky bow ties!

2. Here I’m just folding it back to check out will be bigger than my background square before I sew it.

3. Sew 1/4″ away from the triangle’s diagonal

4. Fold back the triangle and finger press (or use an iron)

5. Flip it over and trim the excess fabric with scissors (or your rotary cutter)

6. Finished and cute!

7. Repeat on the other side

…And sew together – make sure your white background stripes are all going in the same direction.

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An 8.5″ block. I’m thinking if I alternate them with blocks made from 2.5″ squares or 4.5″ squares I could actually make something fairly big from them? Or I could just keep collecting my geese triangles and keep going.

Anyway, an uncharacteristically un-wordy post today, I’m off. Hopefully next time I can show you which quilt needed all those flying geese!

Till the next time, Poppy xx

Fancy Foxes in Liberty!

Elizabeth Hartmann of http://www.OhFransson.com is a genius. Everyone knows it, but really, until you make her Fancy Fox quilt (or another of her patterns I assume), you don’t really appreciate it.

It really is a great pattern. Simple to piece using basic techniques, fun and cute, and the fox face is beautifully realised. She gives you all the cutting instructions and fabric requirements – and it all seemed to work out exactly as she said. I chose to make the original fancy fox pattern (there is a larger/giant block too with a different pattern) which you can get as an immediate pdf download here in her shop:

http://ohfransson.bigcartel.com/product/fancy-fox-quilts-pdf-quilt-pattern

It started with a friend of mine who fell in love with the fancy fox quilt but wanted me to make it alongside her. She sent me a gazillion pictures of Fancy Fox quilts, all of which I resisted, until finally I saw one in beautiful Liberty of London Tana lawn fabrics and I suddenly saw potential. I cut all my background fabric, noses and eyes, made these 4 with her, and then stopped for months as life took over. My friend decided not to go ahead with her project so no longer needed me to make them with her (she’s dyslexic), and these little foxes lay forgotten.

And then the lovely Michelle of http://www.coleandtaffy.com decided she wanted to make a Liberty fancy fox quilt, at a gentle 2 or 3 foxes a week, and we decided to sew along together on Instagram (she is @coleandtaffy and incredibly talented!). Soon we had others joining us, and my little foxes started multiplying, really without much fuss at all.

I have never sewn projects in this way – a kind of gentle, back-burner way. Usually I start, finish and end a project before starting another;somehow that makes me sew on some kind of self imposed deadline, like preparing for battle. I didn’t know I sewed like that until I sewed along with Michelle, who seems to have multiple projects on the go at all times. It felt like a very mindful way to sew. I would have chain pieced them all and had it done within a week had I been left to my own devices, but there was something very conscious and satisfying about sewing each fox individually. I even gave them names.

Meet Heather, Heather, Heather and Veronica:

10 points for getting the 90s film reference!

By midway, I started to think about some sort of colourwash layout. By this time, Michelle and a few other IG friends were not only cheering me on but had donated pieces of Liberty for my quilt and it was all starting to feel rather special.

One thing I would say is that at first my 1/4″ seam allowance was a little too scant, and it affected how much overlap there was in the background fabric under the chin (there was too little). This meant some of the noses would get blunted in the seam allowance when I sewed it together – so watch your seam alllowance very carefully! I bought myself a gadget, Liberty fabrics being too expensive to get wrong:

This is a seam guide called “seams sew easy” by Lori Holt and it’s genius. The only issue is you have to reposition it each time you replace the bobbin, but it’s still worth it. Not only did it resolve my seam allowance issue, but it meant I didn’t have to draw a diagonal line on the squares for the flying geese on the fancy fox block …or any other blocks where you sew a diagonal – snowballs, geese etc. HSTs are going to be much quicker now…

Anyway, suddenly I was done! Obviously the kind of suddenly that happens over months. Not really suddenly at all.

My background fabric was a grey cotton chambray for softness, and the cheek fabric was a white lawn cotton, to try and retain the sofness from the Liberty lawn fabric. I used kona black for the eyes and noses as I figured they’d be too small to really affect the softness… So I chose Quilter Dream Orient batting, with its scrimlessmix of silk, bamboo, tencel and cotton because it’s so soft with a beautiful drape and I splashed out on a Liberty back, an aqua daisy print called Bellis.

I really pondered the quilting. It seemed to me that lots of people in blogland had sent theirs out to a longarm quilter and gone for a woodgrain pattern. I knew I would never do that design justice, but I liked the idea of woodland. So I quilted a loopy leafy allover design using wonderfil invisifil thread – very fine polyester that I hoped wouldn’t show up too much on the very contrasting background and cheeks. The effect was good; subtle quilting without it being invisible thread but it kept snapping in my machine! Eventually by changing to a bigger needle, I just about got through. I’d really like to try it again for the effect but I’m reluctant to go through that again.. I don’t know why my machine didn’t like it! Annoyingly it doesn’t like Aurifil thread either…

Some pictures… because obviously I haven’t included enough!

Can you see the leaves? Kiddo says they are all baby foxes peeking out from their nest in a bush. He loves this quilt because it’s very soft and very snuggly, even before the first wash. And because ..foxes.

Hello Kitty Liberty! So cute. Why does every piece of Liberty just feel so special?

Aw my lovely Liberty foxes! The lap quilt comes out about 60″ x 52″ ish and is a really fun make. It looks good in most fabrics , so long as you ensure a high contrast between the cheek, eye/nose and background fabrics, And it’s actually pretty economical for prints – each fox face uses a  5″ x 9″ or 2.5″ x 18″ piece of printed fabric) I can imagine doing this lap quilt with half a jelly roll or half a layer cake  . I’m so tempted to buy the giant size pattern now – I don’t think I’m done with these foxes yet.

Meanwhile, I’m off to snuggle some very fancy foxes! 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

Spiderman and Invisibility (or how to quilt with invisible thread)

The thing about having a wee boy is that despite having all the loveliest fabrics imaginable and an itch to try out some really complex and beautiful quilting designs (Kaleidoscope quilt anyone?), your child will look at you, big brown eyes shining and say “Will you make me a Spiderman quilt, Mummy?” And then will proceed to pick out two almost identical, but crucially apparently NOT THE SAME, equally busy and very Spidermanny fabrics for front and back respectively. It’s done, he loves it and his mummy, I kept the fabric whole and added a border – it’s not in itself worth a blog post… except perhaps for the quilting.

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This is the “back” of the quilt where you can see the quilting. I chose to do loop and star quilting as Kiddo loves it, having seen it on a quilt I made for another wee boy; I can attest that it is much easier the second time round – once you get your head round it it seems it’s a piece of cake! I showed how to do loop and star quilting (on paper) here if you needed any pointers:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/2014/10/24/bartholomeows-reef-bermuda-baby-boy-quilt/

But on the front of the quilt I used invisible thread:

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Looking at the other side (which is not invisible) now, I am not sure I needed to bother. But I was concerned about the busyness of the print clashing with the quilting thread and it all looking like a giant mess. Especially as one side was very dark (the other had more white/light blue and grey in it). But for whatever reason, I chose invisible thread, and it certainly looks cleaner, but with subtle texture and pattern.

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That’s the side quilted with invisible thread and the next is the side quilted in a pale blue:

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The difference is more noticeable in real life! (isn’t it always?)

Anyway, this is the second time I used invisible thread, the first being on a project for Kiddo’s school last year when I made a quilt from the children’s drawings (but camera failure deleted the photos – arrrrggggh), and for which invisible thread was pretty important. At that time, I trawled through blogs and websites to try and get some understanding on how to use it, and made notes. Notes which I followed again with success again, so if only for myself I thought I would write them here too!

NB. *Apologies for not being able to credit the sources, but it was last year and I read quite a lot of articles about it… A google search will bring up all my sources! I do remember a newsletter from Barnyarns being really helpful – they are so knowledgeable about threads and notions! And it is where I got my thread. *

http://www.barnyarns.co.uk

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How to Quilt with Invisible Thread

  1. Invisible thread is either nylon (A.K.A. polyamide) or polyester. Polyester sews more like very fine thread and won’t melt as easily with an iron, so I decided to use it. I have some nylon invisible thread and it feels stiff, a bit more like wire but some folk prefer it apparently. The thread I used is called Superior MonoPoly clear very fine polyester, from Barnyarns. I used this as my top thread. It’s superfine but my Janome handled it easily.
  2. You CANNOT use invisible thread in your bobbin. It will stretch, break and tangle inside your machine. The tension would be all over the place even as you wind it. You need a very fine but strong polyester. I used The Bottom Line by Libby Lehrman for Superior Threads in my bobbin (I think Barnyarns recommended it as I got it from there too!) and it worked really well. It’s very fine (a 60 weight), but strong and I had no problems. You could try a 50 weight too but probably nothing thicker (the bigger the number, the finer the thread).
  3. Because invisible thread is a monofilament (one strand, not 2 or 3 ply), it is extremely fine (and stretchy). This means you need a very fine, very sharp needle. the thread will not expand to fill the hole made by a needle, unlike normal quilting thread, so you need a really fine needle like a size 70/10. If that’s not small enough try a size 60 (the smaller the number the finer the needle!). For sharpness use a microtex or a topstitch needle. I tried both and both worked well. I might say to go with a topstitch needle if you pushed me, but I doubt there’s a big difference. A 70/10 topstich needle was fine for me.
  4. I only free-motion quilted but I assume this next info is true for straight line quilting too. Turn the tension on your machine right down. because of the stretch, a normal tension will stretch and snap the thread. If your stitches are looking very very shiny and thin you will need to lower the tension even more. Experiment. On my Janome I had to reduce the tension to a 2.

and hopefully that’s it! Otherwise it was just like quilting with normal thread, and it feels like normal thread now it’s quilted.

I actually really like the thinness of the 60 wt bobbin thread too even though I usually only use 50 wt cotton – you can see the quilting but not too prominently (below). I need to do more experimenting!

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Phew! Hope that helps if you want to have a go with invisible thread, obviously there are loads of other options, I’m just saying what worked for me as I didn’t have any problems, but feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or experience with using invisible thread!

Happy sewing/crafting/drawing/art-making/life-making all.

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)

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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