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

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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

Wedding Quilts and Guilty Quilty Musings…

I’ve had to give up this quilt in a hurry, and have only just looked at the hurriedly taken photos and I tell you, they JUST DON’T do this thing justice.

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Is it showing up better closer up?

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So my neighbour, the one I made this quilt for (Rural Jardin by French General for Moda):

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…loves hers so much that she asked me if I would make a throw for her  son’s friend’s wedding. Her next door neighbour’s son actually – they grew up together, and of course my neighbour loves him as though he is her nephew. I know I’ve been quilting lots lately, but I thought I could fit another in especially I’m very very fond of said neighbour of mine.

So after going through some ideas – modern, bright, mixed with white, patterned, traditional… She decided she wanted an “heirloom” quilt – something that would grow with them, not bright or modern. We chose “etchings”, which I had used for my brother’s housewarming quilt here: https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/52416558284/in-love-with-my-machine

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I really thought it was the right one, the little Parisian street maps and blueprints making it quirky but amongst classic prints, the colour palette which fits in anywhere. The fabrics by 3 sisters are remarkably soft and almost luminous yet always so classic. Ordered it. Brandished my rotary cutters with determination ready to cut it – and stopped. It just felt wrong. I think the couple are young, they don’t have a fancypants house like my brother (the Hubster and I are definitely the poor relations!) and I couldn’t see them using it as a picnic blanket or letting their first baby puke on it whilst he tried to fit all his toes in his own mouth as babies are wont to do.

Panic as the deadline was days away. No time to order new fabric. Looked around my fabric laden room – and my eyes settled on these.

Vintage Summer by Little Yellow Bicycle for Blend fabrics. And my heart sank a little bit.image

Sank because I KNEW these were the right ones. I had bought them originally for my brother until I saw their very grown up house and decided against. Sank because I had been saving them for almost 2 years for something special and never used them. And here today was the day. For folk I didn’t know. And yet who else just now would they suit this well?

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I should have taken better photos, because I can’t tell you how much I love this quilt. The colours are so vibrant, the patterns are cool, fresh, arty, fun, classic and timeless all at the same time. The fabrics are really soft, and because backed it with a grey print from 3 sisters which are always supersoft, and batted it with my favourite Quilter’s Dream Orient – a mixture of bamboo, silk, tencel and cotton, it has a beatiful softness and drape.

This is the most beautiful quilt I have ever made. In my opinion. Even the Hubster said “wow, that’s a NICE quilt.”

And so began 24 hours of incredibly selfish quilty guilty musings. 

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Can I really bear to let it go?

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WIll this couple (whom I don’t know) really love it as much as I do?

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Should I have really used up these fabrics on a commission?

The answer is I’m not sure how I will resolve my own selfish feelings of loss, but I do think it makes the perfect wedding gift for a young couple – classic enough to have as a sofa or bed throw but informal and pretty enough to use as a picnic or beach quilt and lovely for a first baby to discover their fingers and toes on or learn to roll over on, machine washable, full of beautiful comfort and practicality.image

Check out my embroidery! This is a most rare occurence and took ages, but I rather like it. The labels are by Riley Blake – they make a full panel of rather nice labels in 3 colourways, which was much nicer than doing my own.

And then I took it over to my neighbour tonight who was so thrilled. She is a huge fan of handmade and my quilts and fell in love, saying she almost didn’t want to give it away… a sentiment I told her I understood! But she assured me of how highly she thinks of this couple, how much they appreciate attractive, quality things, how much she thinks they will love the quilt. And I walked away feeling happier that it would be loved and go to a good home.

This collection is difficult to find now, but they did a “cheater” print – a patchwork print of all the fabrics, a bit of which is worked into the finished quilt actually and looked pretty convincing. So how did I muster up the strength to walk across the road and hand the quilt over today? By rising above my selfishness of course. And because this piece of loveliness arrived through the post today 😉

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Until the next time,

Poppy xx