Adventures in Foundation Paper Piecing

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was my next go:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

My first ever patchwork tote bag

There’s just nothing like a deadline to make you JUST HAVE to sew up something completely unnecessary and random, have you noticed? My deadline – an artisan sale with 2 other local friends and crafters IN A WEEK. Woefully behind. And so of course, today this happened:

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I met a lovely girl on Instagram who is involved in a charity which gives children from the Ukraine who are still affected by low level radiation from the Chernobyl disaster all those years ago, a holiday in the beautiful unpolluted country which is Wales. She agreed to make 17 quilted tote bags and placemats as gifts for the children and their families – and then sensibly asked her Instagram buddies for help.
Her blog and more details is here: http://glindaquilts.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

I have made so many bags (evidence on my Flickr stream) but never a patchwork/quilted one and perhaps that’s why I dropped everything to make one – and because the idea of giving something to a child who has little is overwhelmingly feelgood.

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The other side! Somehow, I just really like it. For some reason my husband LOVES it!

So I won’t do a full tutorial unless folk really want one but I might outline the process. I started with a mini charm pack (42 x 2.5″ squares) of Little Miss Sunshine by Lella Boutique for Moda. That second picture is all from the collection. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, I sewed 24 squares into a 3 x 8 square piece of patchwork and pressed. For the other side I had to add 6 more 2.5″ squares cut from my scraps (I think I used 7) to make another 3 x 8 square panel. Then I sewed a 2.5″ x 16.5″ linen strip along the top of the patchwork panel and 7.5″ x 16.5″ linen piece to the bottom.

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I just used polyester batting but after trying a bit of light quilting, I didnt like the floppy feel or the puffiness. So I decided it would be a good idea to quilt straight lines 1/4″ apart. And it was… it just took AGES! I have no patience for straight line quilting. I really like its clean modern look, but there’s a reason I FMQ everything – I would abandon my hobby for pig farming or something if I had to straight line quilt a whole quilt. Anyway my IG buddies spurred me on (thank you!).

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I tell you, I love the effect. The texture, the structure it gives. Poly batting turns special. Look at what the quilting does to the back of the panel – almost a crime to line the bag and cover it up!

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Okay it doesnt show it’s yummy tactile texture! This fabric is an unbranded but gorgeous cotton; I lined the bag in it too. Boxed the corners to make a 4″ bottom, and used some cream cotton strapping I had around, magnetic snap closure and ta-da. My first patchwork tote bag. Dimensions 13″ wide at top x 11.5″tall x 4″ deep. For a minute I thought about keeping it but then the image of a wee girl who has very little entered my head and I got a grip. I hope she likes it! And I hope the children have a really good time.

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I must say I have a big crush on Little Miss Sunshine. Which is just as well, as I am making the end of year teacher gifts out of it… so be prepared to see more of it if you check back in! I can’t promise I will ever do this much close straight line quilting again though!

Hope you are enjoying the same beautiful weather that we in Scotland are. Summer is here, hurray. Until the next time, Poppy xxx

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

 

 

 

Mini Dresden Pincushiony Gifty Goodness!

I have the BEST ever next door neighbour. She’s the generation before me, but possibly even better for that. She’s fun, cheerful, quirky, loves children, independent and adventurous, in love with her husband and family, esp the grandchildren, and her home and garden are open, welcoming mazes of treasures. Her garden has stone owls, hidden copper dragonflies, sparkly things twirling from trees, squirrels and chickens (real ones) – she even has a window in her hedge, for goodness sake. AND SHE SEWS. OMG. I love her. What do you give a lady like that for her birthday?

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This is a pincushion – it’s filled with lavender because I tried polyfil toy stuffing and I didn’t like the puffiness nor the lightweightness for a pincushion. i heard you could fill them with crushed walnut shells or somesuch, which adds weight and sharpens yours pins (is this true?)  – but since I didn’t have any I filled it with dried lavender. It is kind of potent, but I think she’ll like it.

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I made a tiny dresden block with Liberty of London Tana lawn fabrics – you literally need squares of 1.5″ – I am addicted. 3.5″ dresdens – I could die from the cuteness.  I downloaded the template from here:

Mini Dresden Pattern Digital

which is free if you sign up to the newsletter (no biggie, the fabric shop is gorgeous) or $1, and includes instructions on how to make it. It’s so easy to make a dresden block – I admit though that the tiny-ness what a bit fiddly, but it didn’t take more than an hour or so and that was the first attempt.

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I whipstitched mine by hand onto a charm square of “modern backgrounds paper” fabric by Zen Chic for Moda, and made a centre circle in the same fabric. My centre circle is not perfect, I should have slowed down a bit to stitch  such a small circle, but sometimes you can feel your quilting-time-hourglass sand running out! I did some hand “quilting” to flatten down the circle a bit, you can probably see it.

I backed it with a square of cotton batting for some stability, before sewing it RST to a red floral charm square leaving a hole to turn it right sides out, filling with dried lavender flowers and whipstitching the hole closed. Easy peasy.

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Aw cute. Thank you Westwoodacres for the pattern!

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Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Tilda and Wedding Quilt Prettiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hello long-suffering, quilt-holding husband!

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Postage stamp thoughts…

Happy 2016 lovely creative folks! Thanks for stopping by – despite it being 4 months since my last confession. And since switching to WordPress I get stats, which shows you guys keep checking in, so double thank you for putting up with my prolonged absence!

SO much to tell you about; I had an amazingly successful craft fair and have some thoughts on that; some Christmas stockings for which a tutorial has been requested several times; I have some quilts in the making; I did some free motion embroidery; my EPP hexagon quilt top is 3/4 done; I wanted to show you how I made a wee felt mouse doll in a tin for a friend… it’s hard to know where to start!

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(A few things from my craft fair)

But I’m going to show you the postage stamp quilt that I am currently so into that I am finding it difficult to do anything else, despite it supposedly being a side-project. Including neglecting the shabby-chic commission quilt for a wedding which was 4 months ago… don’t panic, they knew I’d be busy! They didn’t know I would be seduced to the Dark Side of the, er, superbright & scrappy, admittedly. (I don’t think I’ve got the hang of Dark Side quilty metaphors…)

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I have had this yearning for an ultrabright, not very grown up, superscrappy, rainbow, box of sweeties, star-bright, flowers and unicorn vomit quilt for a while, having been inspired by the bazillion amazing, scrappy postage stamp quilts out in blogland, but was actually pretty shocked to discover that I didn’t have many scraps big enough to cut a 2.5″ square from. You need 1,024 X 2.5″ squares for a 64″ square quilt. I was reluctant to cut into uncut FQs in case I needed them for other projects and found myself short. I had about 300 mostly different, big-enough scraps, in the colours I wanted, which I cut up but obviously I needed a whole heap more:

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So I decided to use charm packs. I have a terrifying weakness for charm packs and precuts. To have a tiny bit of a whole collection of beautiful coordinating fabrics in my hand makes my heart flutter a little. But it does mean that there are more errant charm packs hanging about having a fabric party in my cupboards than there will ever be quilts. That’s scrap, right?

It wasn’t until I saw this just perfectly-perfect quilt from “Focus on Quilts” (http://www.focusonquilts.com.au/one-more-post-before-i-leave)

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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

The twice-made Baby quilt…

Sometimes, that usually fair and just muse, er, Quiltiopoeia, eschews all her principles of “it will be beautiful if you take your time and take care” and her rebellious streak wreaks havoc in your quilty life. I have no idea where I’m going with this fable – but I tell you, this sweet, simple little baby quilt has caused me no end of trouble.

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I know, right? It’s one charm pack of Ambleside by Brenda Riddle for Moda, sewn together and quilted. How hard can it be? I tell you though, do not be fooled by her gorgeousness; she’s a tricksy minx.

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Earlier this year, we had that rarest of rare things – builders whom you actually like having around, who don’t say one thing and provide another, who work until the job is done, who fix problems promptly without complaint, who don’t suck air through their teeth every time they tell you about a minor problem as though you are going to have to sell your right femur to pay for this one, Missus. The father and son team did a great job replacing our decrepit bathroom for us with a “hotel bathroom” (cue clasped hands and joyous musical theatre exclamations from Mrs Cuckooblue). So when young master-builder saw me sewing and asked if I would make a small baby quilt for his niece-on-the-way a few months hence, I said yes, despite vowing to take on no new commissions this year. After all they were so nice, and it wouldn’t take too long, right?

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He chose my charm squares of Marmalade Flannel by Bonnie and Camille for Moda, left over from a little quilt my newest niece plays on, and an Ikea print, Rosalie, apparently designed by Cath Kidston. Oh, I was so on top of it, although somehow I fretted over every stage, the size, the quilting, the batting (Quilter’s Dream cotton). 2 weeks before the due date, I got it to the stage in the picture above, and then went to visit my aforementioned baby niece who was playing on her quilt. I had never used flannel before and was a bit disappointed in how it had washed. Soft, yes, but also kind of old looking. I guess like flannel pyjamas get old and comfy looking quickly..?  In my experience, quilts made with regular high-quality cotton fabrics remain beautiful, if not get more beautiful with subsequent washes, but somehow this flannel one didn’t. It looked better when first made. Disappointing. I think it’s one thing when it’s a gift, but another when someone has commissioned it, don’t you think?

So, some emailing of alternatives I thought they might like later, and all was going well. I used Quilters’ Dream wool batting, which is gorgeously soft with a higher loft than regular cotton batting but still washes pretty easily in the machine, and stipple quilted it. I had loop de loop quilted the Marmalade quilt above, but I thought it needed a bigger quilt really to show off the regularity of the design, I think I prefer the stipple on such a small one.

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Aren’t the fabrics pretty? See that perfect binding too (from Butterscotch and Rose by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda) ? Well, I had been tossing up between this one and a blue floral one. I would like to tell you that I made the right decision immediately, but I didn’t. I unpicked it all before I thought to photograph it, but I’ve just laid the old blue binding on the quilt so you can see why it was all wrong:

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I have learned to pay attention to backs and bindings over the years. Bindings in particular seem such a small thing, but they can make or break a small quilt like this. They DO show, and you need a nice frame. I just thought… oh, I don’t know what I was thinking!

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Pretty fabrics…

And then the monogram he asked for. Was hoping for a beautiful swishy silvered calligraphic embroidered monogram I could tell – he had to settle for applique. And after 24 hours of me gradually discovering that LF in olde-world lettering doesn’t look good or recognisable, Fs and Ls being near mirror images of each other, he agreed to a simple appliqued name. Phew! And very sweet it looks too, I think. In my experience with small children, they love seeing their names, the first word they recognise really. It’s a shame to have some elaborate script, that they can’t read, on their first quilt.

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Aw. It was worth the troubles for this little quilt. I love the softness and snuggly feel of the batting, love the classically sweet fabrics, even love the wee girl’s name. I hope Leah discovers her fingers and toes lying on it, watches the world go by under it in her pram or carseat, loves its snuggliness as she looks at picture books under it. Bless. Nothing like a new baby to tame that mischievous quilty muse.

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Come Back!

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

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

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

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… I jumped at the chance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poppy xx

A Patchwork Picnic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time, Poppy xx

Pixelated Heart quilt for a New Year Wedding

My friend asked me if I would make a quilt for a lovely couple in their EIGHTIES who are getting a second chance at love. I guess those who are loveable may find love again no matter what their age…

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The Pattern is Pixelated Heart by the amazing Blue Elephant Stitches. I hope the happy couple love this sweet pattern as much as I do!

This is her quilt, made with low volume fabrics instead of white fabrics (I didn’t have the budget for that) – it is utterly stunning!image

You can find her blog and “how to” for this pattern here: http://blueelephantstitches.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/pixelated.html

She is SO talented, seriously you should look at her blog. And so generous – look how she breaks down this quilt for us to make it easier to sew as blocks rather than strips! And she invented the granny squares quilt, which is on my to do list. I love her work.

I had 2 rouenneries Deux charm packs – a beautiful collection from French General for Moda. I cannot get over how much I love French General fabrics, rich yet muted, classic but not old-fashioned, very very French.  I didn’t want to cut too much away from the charms but 5” charms were just going to make too big a quilt (again for budget). So I cut them to 4.5” – this quilt finishes at about 54” square.

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You can see the construction of mine best on this photo (top in progress). Obviously because I was using white fabric rather than low-volume fabrics as contrast, I didn’t need to sew the whole quilt as 4.5” squares, which saved time (another thing I didn’t have). It used 71 printed fabric squares and 40 white squares. I sashed it as above but then decided it needed a border, so I cut the sashing to 2.5” on the sides and 5” top and bottom… image

Then added a 2.5” red border from Rural Jardin which I had in stash. Definitely better.

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Stipple quilted – much as I like to experiment, there are reasons why classic quilting is classic, and I thought for a quilt like this I should go down that route. Had I used low-volume fabrics, straight line quilting would have worked, but I really think something as simple as this needs texture from the free-motion line, don’t you?

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Just LOOK at those scrumptious fabrics. It makes me want to go eat strawberry cream patisserie. New Year. Must. Resist.

What I really like about this is the size, the fabrics and colours, but mostly the fact that although it’s a heart, it’s not too cheesy – and when you fold it up or use it, it looks like a pretty patchwork quilt; it’s only when you spread it out and look from a distance that you see what it is. Perfect for a wedding gift for this loved-up pair apparently. Ahhhh.

Argghh, can’t seem to get this picture to orient the right way. Tilt your head to the right to see what it looks like draped over a box, and you’ll see what I mean about not knowing it’s a heart.

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Quilted with my favourite Quilter’s Dream Orient batting.

Things I don’t like about the quilt:

1. There is not quite enough white space aroung the heart. This was a budget / size thing for the backing and batting.

2. Budgetary concerns meant it has a plain white backing – it’s perfectly nice, but not as wonderful as it could have been and what the fabrics deserved.

3. It’s not for our house. Aye, there’s the rub. This quilt is designed and made for the happy couple but I don’t actually know the octogenerians in love, although I would like to. But the idea of a quilt in their new home signifying their love made me think about the pillowcases I’ve been meaning to make for my own son for ages. About how when I joked that a tiny baby quilt I was making was for him, he was actually disappointed that it wasn’t (even though it was tiny and completely unlike his tastes, I thought he would laugh!). It has shown me that I need to clear the decks and do selfish sewing for the next 6 months; make all those things for us that I need to, sew new buttons onto my coat etc. When you decide to sell a few things to fund your hobby, it seems that  hobby can inadvertantly grow legs, arms, and heat-seeking missiles and take over your life when it wasn’t supposed to. I guess everyone assumes you want to make a living from it eventually, so think they’re being helpful by recommending you etc – and whilst it’s SO flattering and lovely, you have to be careful. Particularly with deadlines when you’re well overdue making pillowcases with stars and trucks on. If you made a living from your hobby, it wouldn’t be a hobby would it? I definitely need to learn to say no for a while! Sometimes.

Oooh a random outburst. Must be New Year 😉

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And with that, may your 2015 be productive, happy and creative. May we all learn to say “no” once in a while.

’til the next time,

Poppy

xx