Quilted to life: Tilda Stems Quilt

I have never done so much “custom” quilting on a quilt before – and never been so proud of a quilt! I’m amazed at the difference it’s made to what was originally an “it’s quite nice” quilt top. And I’m amazed at what our domestic quilting machines can do!

This started life 8 months ago, having spent a sweet but somewhat tedious few weeks sewing up zillions of cushions for kiddo’s school library, I had that sudden urge to make something more complex. You know the way that you find yourself suddenly making something unplanned just for the joy of it? Totally normal right? I really don’t care what the bank manager says. 😜

I had had the “Stems” quilt pattern from Fig Tree and co on my to-make list for a long time, and a Tilda fat quarter bundle of both Memory Lane and Cabbage Rose lines. I still absolutely love these fabrics, rich but so pretty. So without thinking too hard, I just started… And immediately turned to Instagram for help!

Most folk chose the green dotty (would you have?). I wonder how different it would have been with the charcoal!The pattern is great, very easy and lends itself well to chain piecing, so it came together quickly.

You know… I quite like this, but I still wish I had put a wider inner white border. If I do this again, I definitely will. As a result I didn’t love it immediately. Good size though – 53″ x 68″ and since it was such a spontaneous project, there was something freeing about not having invested hopes and planning into it.

Anyway I had other projects to do, so I put it aside for a few months until a few months later…

When I decided to quilt it – with feathers! The first feathers I’ve done on an actual quilt! Not actually that difficult and to be honest I thought they were ugly whilst I was doing them! I love them now, it goes to show that you can be too close whilst you’re quilting, give yourself a break 😄 Quilting always looks better when it’s done.

See? Not perfect, but overall 😍 I used Wonderfil Konfetti 50wt cotton thread in white.Then it hung around for some more months, until I worked out what to do in the petal sections. A stipple? Loopy meander? In the end I decided I needed a hand project and went for some big stitch hand quilting.

I tried pink and white thread but the black won, as it stands out strongly up close, and gently from any distance. I used Spagetti thread, a lovely silky 12 weight double gassed for low lint, non glazed, non twisted thread. Good value too!

Some folk find quilting through the the layers of quilt top, batting and backing difficult, and many resort to doing one stitch at a time or giving up. The technique of hand quilting is different from the running stitch action if you want to go quickly and load several stitches at once. There are a number of ways to do it, including using a hoop which I sometimes do. I put some videos on my Instagram , @cuckooblue :

It’s easier at the edge as you can put your supporting thumb on the top of the quilt. The quilting videos on my Instagram have explanations of how to quilt like this through the layers.The needle “rocking” is key to getting stitches forming at the back (ie going through all the layers). Rock your needle! 🙌 😎

Finished! Except for the borders, which again waited a few months whilst I pondered. I decided to quilt a leafy vine on the inner border and a flower and petal design in the dark blue border. The latter doesn’t show up in photos but it’s a lovely surprise up close!

Can you see? There are quilting videos on my Instagram page (@cuckooblue) but I took a video of me explaining how to do the border quilting if you’re interested:

Finally finished the binding last night and I’m so thrilled and, I don’t mind admitting, quite proud! Let’s allow ourselves to be proud of ourselves now and then, although I know being humble comes more naturally to most of us ❤🙂

Stats: 53″x 68″

Pattern: Stems by Fig Tree and co, plus an added 4.5″ border.

Fabric Memory Lane and Cabbage Rose by TildaQuilters Dream Orient batting

Quilted on domestic (but fancy) machine Janome 8200mcp with Wonderfil Konfetti cotton thread

Hand quilted with Spagetti 12wt cotton thread in black.

The transforming effect of quilting! Up close it’s so much more noticeable. Sewing really is our superpower!

Hope you’re all having a lovely Spring! As you can see from the picture above, Scotland is blessing our Easter Sunday with sunshine, for which we’re most grateful! Till the next time,Poppy xx

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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

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