Tug boat cushion for a little boy

My craft fair went amazingly well, I’m so thrilled! In fairness, the tiny school PTA had asked a variety of wonderful craftspeople to come, and had used social media brilliantly to advertise and people came with money and expecting to buy stuff, which was great, none of that “expecting something for nothing”, not that my products are expensive as I’m only trying to fund my crazy sewing habit. Almost everything sold, the cushions and liberty pouches proving very popular. I had another commission though which I’ve just finished:

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Angus’ mother lives in Australia but her mother lives locally, so after seeing the caravan cushions (in the last post) on facebook, she got her mother to come and buy three for her daughters! But then begged for one for her son, so here it is.

This photograph on google was the inspiration for this little boat (http://www.berkeley-engineering.com/CanduE-Z.html) :

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The stars fabrics are local shop basics, but designer ones are: Boat cabin is polka dots in Navy by Makower, boat stripe fabric is from Pirate Matey by Riley Blake, Flag is from Space from Makower, First full flag is from Going Coastal by Emily Herrick and the third one is also from Pirate Matey from Riley Blake.

I really hope she likes it. I wonder if I should have made the little tug a tiny bit smaller – if I make it again I think I will do that.

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Raw-edge applique is a fun and quite easy technique, where the black thread looks like a child’s drawing and adds a whimsical air. If anything I struggle not to be too neat! I probably should have been less neat here. I think if you do free-motion quilting it’s pretty straightforward. Even writing with the machine was fine – I’m not saying it’s perfect but it’s fine enough I think. One thing I found was that unlike with free-motion quilting, I had more control doing this WITHOUT dropping my feed dogs. Just in case anyone else struggles a bit with their line sometimes and that rattatat-tat of the needle going so fast and all over the place!

These were the other caravan cushions she chose (the three on the right):

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It has been reallly fun to make pictures with fabric – not something I do much of. I might need to do a bit more experimenting!

Well, a few more things to sew up – it’s always so difficult to say no!) and then a well needed rest for me I think!

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

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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

Oasis quilt for baby Maisie

A few weeks ago, my neighbour phoned to ask me to run over and meet a very special little girl, who just been adopted by a very special mummy.  My neighbour wanted to commission me to make her a quilt, and asked if I could chat to the mother about it.

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This lovely lady and her husband had wanted a child for over 10 years – and although it’s not my place to describe her story and health troubles, trust me, it’s so heartbreakingly sad – but also so amazing that this point has arrived!  Anyway,she had heard 6 weeks previously that she could adopt a 5 month old baby girl; adopting a baby is almost unheard of in the UK, the child is usually older, and so it is very special for adoptive parents here not to have missed the first few years of the child’s life.

Anyway, all her previous heartache has been washed away with this sweet baby girl’s smile. My 4 year old son, who likes a captive audience, kept her entertained by doing all his “supercat” jumps and “running like Turbo”, so I saw that smile a lot! Maisie is her name; I used Steam-a-seam to applique letters on, and then slip stitched in place after quilting. Steam-a-seam is the only fusible web I trust to stop the edges fraying too much in the wash, but I still sew the letters in place as a quilt gets so much washing.

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Maisie’s mother told me she adores “shabby chic” and quite traditional prints – and pink for girls. She has bought some big playroom boxes in the roses design from Ikea and loves them – I knew what she meant as I have the matching fabric from Ikea, which I decided to put on the back –

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Bearing this in mind, I picked out the two Oasis Trail charm packs by Three Sisters (Moda) which I’ve had for ages and sewed them together in traditional simple patchwork with an off-white border. I still maintain  that 3 Sisters’ fabric is the softest moda fabric hands down – lovely to work with.

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This was my first opportunity to use my new basting gun – a microtach gun by Avery Dennison so I was a bit excited! Can you see the little black tacks which look like tiny ants? Those are tacks that the gun puts through the fabric layers when you are basting. They are very fine plastic, and come in white (so hard to see to remove when you are using light fabrics like these!) or black – and the gun is easy to use – point the needle of the gun into all three layers of the quilt sandwich, pull trigger, and pow! It’s in place. (A very gentle pow by the way. noone will be calling the police on you). I usually use pins to baste, but they were interfering with my quilting flow, as I had to stop and take them out – and I kept breaking needles when I missed taking them out… Not so with these – you can quilt over them if you need to, and they don’t get in the way. Did it stop the slightly jerky edges I got when I had to stop to remove a pin when stippling?

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Yes, I think so; although maybe noone else noticed those things, I did.  And the quilting experience was MUCH nicer. The only annoying bit was removing them – hard to see, so you have to be careful, and you cut them out – fiddlier and more time-consuming than pins, but I did it methodically whilst watching TV so it was pretty relaxing. I think I will continue to use them over pins purely because it’s so much easier to quilt with them.

So here’s my patient husband, holding up yet another quilt, this time in Maisie’s mummy’s taste – size 42” x  51”. I used Quilter’s Dream Orient batting for its properties of washability and warmth. So soft and silky too!

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Having experienced years of miscarriage before Kiddo arrived, I understand how it tortures a very maternal woman not to have a child, a gaping hole which just can’t be filled even if everything else is great. It’s not rational but it’s all consuming, and vanishes once you hold that child in your arms. It was so joyously uplifting and rather moving to meet this baby and mother, so obviously in love with each other, and a real privilege to sew up an heirloom for Maisie, which I hope she will treasure for many years.

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Vintage Modern Ruby Stars – Charm Pack Busting HST pattern #2 + tutorial

This is a story about Mojo. About abandoning a project for years and ressurecting it, with the bonus of ridding yourself of the nagging guilt that there is abandoned fabric in a box in your house.

Far, far too long ago I bought a Ruby layer cake, used half of it in a well received baby quilt… and then got stuck. Until now:

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Ruby by Bonnie and Camille for Moda Fabrics was an instant hit with quilters when it came out several years ago, and I was instantly seduced by the bright fresh colours – the red and aqua mostly, which was very “in” at the time, and the retro flowers…

But you know, although I rarely say this, I wasn’t as wowed as I wanted to be by the collection. It’s such a modern classic now, and so much beloved that it feels sacrilegious to say it; in hindsight I really should have sold it on to someone who did feel the love. There just seemed to be the wrong balance of what I think of as “headlining patterns” (like the flowers) and “supporting patterns”, as in there were just too many mild geometric patterns which I wasn’t all that enamoured with; it was like there was just too much filler. Too many just-okay supporting actors and not enough Daniel Craig.

Daniel Craig.

Anyway, back in Ruby land. Eventually I chopped the equivalent of a charm pack up into HSTs as below:

Quick method to make 4 HSTs from 2 charm squares:

  1. You take two 5” charm squares, one coloured and one white (or one “cool” and one “warm” coloured)image
  2. You put a coloured charm over a white charm and sew 1/4” seam allowance all round the edgeimage
  3. Rotary cut along both diagonalsimage
  4. Open them up and you have 4 HSTs – although beware they are cut on the bias and so can stretch.image
  5. Trim off the dog ear and you’ll have four of these:image

    They measure about 3.25” square, you should probably trim them to 3” square or something at this point, but I didn’t and it was fine. And the quilt police did not appear, although it felt like I was saying “Candyman” three times in a mirror… 42 squares in a charm pack will yield 168 of these. I’m not going to lie to you it was DULL. But so satisfying to have a big pile of HSTs to play with at the end!

… And so I merrily played. And played. I had meant to do pinwheels, but was underwhelmed and less merry. So I picked out 144 of them (the equivalent of using 36 coloured and 36 white charm squares) and sewed them together into nine 4×4 star blocks. You can see from the photo that once you have HSTs putting together the stars is really easy – once I’d laid the HSTs out, I sewed them in rows, then sewed the rows together to make the block.

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I was really very pleased with them and got them out at intervals to look lovingly at them, but mostly they stayed in a box, languishing. I’ve just looked at my flickr stream and it was 2 years ago I made these blocks! All because I wasn’t feeling the Ruby-love, had one Ruby charm pack left to add to it and was wishing I had just sewed them into square patchwork for a baby girl. But now and then you have to slap yourself out of your quilterwhinge and wo-man up, don’t you? So eventually I dug them out and promised to do something with them.

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Firstly, I laid my blocks into a 3 x 3 grid, added white sashing and red cornerstones. The sashing is 2.5” wide and cornerstones 2.5” square (unfinished).

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And added a 2.5” (unfinished) white sashing border round the edge followed by a 2” inner border of the red main floral Ruby fabric which I love so much. Finally another 2.5” white border, ready for piano keys.

…and then realised my issue was always going to be my feeling that there was a paucity of interesting prints. So I bought a Vintage Modern charm pack – now THIS one is GORGEOUS! I love it. It’s like Ruby plus. Uber Ruby. Anyway, so I mixed my remaining ruby charm pack and vintage modern, cut them in half and made a piano keys border. i used about 54 (maybe 56) charm sqaures for the piano keys border.

I mentioned how to make a piano keys border here, in case you wanted some instructions:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/77412217918/starflowers-chain-quilt-charm-pack-busting-hst

Now I love it. I really do. The mixture of the two collections is great and  the quilt has some “oomph” I think. I’m sure I would have loved it even more with a little Vintage Modern in the stars, but you can’t have it all.

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So, from what I had left over, I seem to have made this quilt with 92 coloured charm squares (and 36 white charm squares plus sashing and borders etc); 36 of them were for the HST star blocks. The quilt top measures about 60” square. I was quite glad that I needed to get some more fabric to make the piano keys border as with the addition of the Vintage Modern I think it ended up being something rather yummy, even against a honeycomb grey house in a weak February Scottish sun:

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Here’s to abandoned WIPs – sometimes they can surprise and delight you. And here’s hoping your WIPs, whatever they may be, are bringing you much pleasure.

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

*Edited*

p.s. My friend saw this post and sent me a photo of the baby quilt I made for her daughter 2 years ago in Ruby – am now thinking I was a bit harsh on Ruby! Pattern is “flowers in the attic” by Sweetjane on etsy, batting is high loft fire retardant polyester. image

p.p.s. Edited in 2015 – you can see the finished quilt here if you like:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/2015/06/04/vintage-modern-ruby-stars-quilt-finally-finished/

Liberty Dresden Pillow Love

Liberty. Dresden. What’s not to love?

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Yeah, I knew you’d get it. Maybe only those with such a need for the aesthetically pleasing that they wander through blogland searching for it, really get it as we do.  Liberty Tana Lawn is quite honestly the diamond of fabric – silky soft, so bright and pretty your heart aches, and such magnificently classic prints that I swear they will NEVER date. Never.

Are liberty fabrics expensive? Oh, you bet they are. But did I say they will never date? So, an investment then. And that’s what I’ll be telling the Hubster when he works out how much Liberty has suddenly entered this house.

And then the Dresden. Such a pretty block, and so classic. But they can look a bit old fashioned… I must say I didn’t really think I would ever make one – and I probably wouldn’t have, had they not appeared in blogland with bright, fresh colours and a clean modern feel. And a few years ago I saw Jo from www.mybearpaw.com ‘s lovely dresden pillow in the flesh and it helped change my view that Dresdens weren’t modern:

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I even got myself an EZ dresden ruler last year , but had never used it. So when my sewing friend Alison had had a hard week, I invited her over for our first (and hopefully not last!) sew-therapy session. I knew just what I wanted to do. I bought a Liberty charm pack fromPickClickSew on Etsy and added a few more prints from my stash until I had 20 x 5” squares. With the Dresden Ruler I  cut 2 wedges from each square, so when Alison came over we each had a pile of 20 wedges ready to get started on. And we did.

I used instructions from this marvellous and easy tutorial from the amazingly talented Elizabeth Fransson:

http://www.sewmamasew.com/2010/04/dresden-plate-block-sew-along/

She made this black and white doll quilt, rather than a cushion, but the principle is the same of course.

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I used Essex linen in natural for my cushion back, cut to 17” square. In fact Alison and I both decided on linen for our cushion backs, so with identical fabrics and linen, you’d expect the cushions to be very similar wouldn’t you? But whilst I decided on a rainbow effect, Alison went for a scrappier look. Also once we’d made the dresden plates we had to decide on how to applique them onto the background linen; she chose to zigzag hers on the machine with white cotton, whilst I hand stitched mine on, and added batting and a bit of handquilting too. They did end up looking quite different! This is Alison’s:

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The zigzag applique made a kind of outline effect, which is really pretty. Amazing how all the fabrics just look great together. Her cushion front was finished well before mine!

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…at which point mine was still pinned to the background, and was being handstitched. I had made the inner circle, but hadn’t appliqued it on yet, so the inner circle is small and raw-edged in this picture below:

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… and then after a couple of hours watching a film, I’d stitched on the dresden and inner circle, added some cotton batting to the back and lightly handquilted with perle cotton – just a simple running stitch around the outside, and either side of the inner circle. It looks surprisingly like it’s pieced onto the background, it really doesn’t look like applique.

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It’s taken me almost a week to finally decide on the back – and I decided to splash out and use this lovely piece of purple liberty which I had. It would be so easy to cut corners or scrimp on fabric and then end up with something I don’t love as much as I would have; I’m not making more of these for our house, so it might as well be as close to perfect (in my eyes!) as it can be!

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I went with an envelope back, very simple to do of course – cut 2 pieces of fabric which when overlapped will make a 17” square to cover the cushion front, like 17” x 14” and 17” x 11”. I pinned mine to cotton batting as the Tana Lawn is very lightweight fabric and I wanted to match the weight of the front. There is a significant overlap as you can see, otherwise the cushion gapes, especially without a button closure, but you can have a smaller overlap and add a button, poppers, whatever. Double hem the two edges which will be in the centre, lay the big piece over the smaller, or however you want the back to look when it’s finished, and pin together.

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lie the cushion front onto the pinned together back, right sides together, and pin:

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Sew all round with 1/2 ” seam allowance, then zigzag the edges to prevent fraying.

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Unpin, turn out and:

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View of the bit of very simple quilting:

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You can’t really see the envelope back – benefits of choosing a busy print:

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My piano and my Liberty Dresden Pillow. Ahhhhh.

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Whatever you’re up to this weekend, hope you’re having fun!

Till the next time,

Poppy xx