I love scrap quilts! And I started making one, oops… They have a wonderful quilting heritage that’s hard to ignore – couple that with just about as many gorgeous fabrics as you care to lay your hands on, then add a sprinkling of alchemy to create order out of chaos, and well, what’s not to love?! Scraps really lend themselves to ‘string’ quilts – creating patchwork blocks from leftover narrow strips of fabric. All you’re really doing is creating a larger piece of fabric from lots of little bits that you then cut up again and arrange in whatever pattern takes your fancy!
Arranging the blocks into diamonds
Making a string quilt wasn’t on my to-do list this week, nor was sorting out my baskets of scraps. But as Sunday morning rolled on I felt completely overwhelmed with the disorganised mess my work area had become and impulsively decided something had to be done there and then. I’ve been donated lots of old clothes lately by a number of friends, “use them for patchwork” they said, and they’ve been hanging around in bags under the table, on chairs, stacked on the floor…waiting for me to sort them out. And there were bags and bags of them.
In the beginning… (it got so much worse)
I posted this picture on my Facebook page as the sorting began and Anne from Mama Says Sew suggested it was like trying to fit a quart into a pint pot! She couldn’t have been closer to the truth. So I decided I had to be ruthless and not sentimental (I feel so guilty getting rid of any fabrics friends have given me!): out went the jerseys, anything with elastane or lycra in, old woollen jumpers, items that had worn too thin, very loose weaves, light weight cottons, patterns I’m really unlikely to use… I kept good quality cottons, several linens and some silks. Not everything is useful for patchwork, but will potentially make great cushion/pillow backs, etc. Once I decided what to keep I cut the clothes up into useable pieces of fabric, reducing bulk and making it easier to store. Then I started sorting through my ‘small-scraps’ baskets. And wished I hadn’t! By the time I finished I think I donated about 7 or 8 bags of clothes and scraps for rags to local charity shops. Later on in the day Anne suggested I made some of the scraps into quilts to reduce the bulk even further. What a novel idea, I thought, haha!!!! I noticed I had rather a lot blue scraps and after all that organising thought I deserved a bit of fun, so decided to see what, if anything, I could do with them – et voila, the beginnings of a blue string quilt!
Scrappy fabric detail
How I made it!
These are very quick to make up: I used a square of muslin as a foundation (about 6.5″), then pressed a diagonal crease across the centre (a little spray starch stops it from stretching too far out of shape as the muslin is very thin); I then took two strips of fabric (varying widths but all with parallel edges) right sides together and placed the right hand edges along the crease on the muslin, ensuring the fabric went right from one corner to the other), next I stitched a 1/4″ seam through all three layers. Then I flipped the top strip back and pressed it in open. I carried on with this process adding a strip (right sides together) on top of the last one, making sure it covered the full width of the muslin, stitching a 1/4″ seam through all three layers, pressing it open, etc. Once I reached the corner I turned the block around and did the same until I reached the other corner and the whole of the muslin was covered. Finally I trimmed the patches to 5.5″ and machined a row of straight stitch about 1/8″ away from the edges to stabilise them. I don’t plan to stitch the patches into blocks until I have enough for a lap quilt, so that I can play around with the layout. I have some exciting ideas I want to try out! (Well, in my head they’re exciting anyway, ha!) I’m glad to say the studio space is feeling a little more organised now and has given me the head space to think about some new projects – as well as some table space to finish up a couple of small ones – the reindeer pillow for one! I’ve finished the quilting now and it just needs to be made up. It should be done by the end of the week, so come back for a peek! Until then happy sewing! (NB There’s no Work in Progress Wednesday this week as Lee’s on holiday – hope she has a great time, but I’m going to pop over to Diary of a Mad Fabriholic, Alidiza and of course Fret Not Yourself to see what they’ve been up to this week instead – coming?!)
Summer Blues, a long work in progress
Work in Progress Wednesday, already?! I don’t know about you but I’ve still got a whole pile of works in progress, so I could show you any number of things this week! I chose my Summer Blues quilt though because it’s all happy and summery and that’s a good feeling! I’ve been working on this quilt on and off for about 6 years. There’s a lot of hand piecing (all the 9 patch blocks and half of the sashing), but I decided to finish it up by machine just so that I could get on with the hand quilting and actually use it sooner rather than later. It’s the first full size quilt I made (mostly) by hand and I feel like my ideas and skill level have improved and moved on significantly, so it kind of got put on the back burner. If I remember correctly I even cut most of it out with scissors – now that’s old school! I’m glad I decided to finish it though because I still think it’s really pretty, despite the patchwork not quite matching up as it should in places – oops!
Hand quilting in progress
I began buying all the Kaffe Fassett fabrics for the patchwork 6 years ago, so when I came to choose backing fabric at Cowslip Workshops recently I was pleased to find the Phillip Jacobs Gloxinia design in the perfect colour way (see the top photo) – serendipity! I’m hand quilting it so I decided I didn’t want too many seams on the back (it makes it very hard on the fingers trying to go through so many layers!), so have stuck to just the one fabric. It’s 2 pieces that I seamed down the centre. You can’t see the seam at all – and the trick to doing this is to
Match the pattern:
- When you buy your backing fabric, measure the length of the quilt x 2, add 12″ (the backing fabric needs to be larger than the quilt top) PLUS (and this is the important bit!) the length of the pattern repeat. Your retailer should be able to tell you the repeat length.
- Cut your first length the length of the quilt top plus 6 inches (for a full size quilt), which allows for ‘shrinkage’ as you quilt.
- Place this length right sides together with your remaining length (which will be longer) and match up the pattern along the seam.
- Pin and baste in place along the seam allowance (basting is useful on a large quilt as it stops the pattern slipping out of alignment as you feed it through the machine) and machine together.
- Once you’ve removed any pins and basting, press the seam open and trim the top and bottom edges square and to the same length.
Now you’re ready to begin the process of making a quilt sandwich!
Making a quilt sandwich!
Finding enough level floor space at home to do this required moving a lot of furniture about before I could even start! First of all I laid the backing fabric on the carpet (wrong side up) making sure I kept that centre seam straight. I used masking tape to tape it down working from the centres outwards and ironing as I went. Next I laid the wadding/batting on top and held it in place with masking tape again working form the centres out (I didn’t iron it though). Then came the tedious task of de-threading the quilt top and trimming any seams (why did I make them so HUGE?!?) before I laid it down centrally on top of the batting (right side up and with about 3″ of batting and backing fabric showing all round). The next important thing was to keep the sashing parallel to the seam on the backing fabric. I devised a cunning plan!
I marked where the seam was on the backing fabric by inserting a safety pin at either end and then tied a strong piece of thread between them – voila, a straight line! Then I matched up the straight central sashing on the quilt top to the line of thread, basting along this line through all three layers with safety pins (from the centre out). Once that was done I removed the line of thread and continued basting and ironing from the centre out with pins, taping down the edges to keep it all nice and taught. I then decided to baste through all three layers with needle and thread because this is likely to take me a while to quilt and I really don’t want to end up with rusty pins marking the fabric.
Once it was basted with thread I removed the pins, then the masking tape (do this very carefully on your wadding) and was ready to begin quilting! I think the best advice for making the quilt sandwich is to take your time, it’s this process that will determine how flat your quilt lies once it’s finished and if you’ve spent hours on the patchwork it would be a shame to cut corners on the basting – on a quilt this size be prepared to spend a good few hours doing it.
You can clearly see my basting and quilting on the back – but check out that seam!
I’ve begun quilting the sashing ‘in-the-ditch’ (in the seams along the lines of the sashing) and will probably do the same through the 9 patch blocks, but I think I may try something a bit more imaginative in the sashing itself – but that’s probably a while off yet, so I’ve got plenty of time to decide!
If you have any tips to share for making a quilt sandwich make sure you leave them in the comments below, we’d love to hear them
Linking up with Work In Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced – hop on over to discover lots more work in progress this week.
I started the weekend on a very positive note, with a big smiling face! Good things have been happening to me lately, surprises completely out of the blue. Over a month ago I responded to an online customer survey and as a result won a month’s worth of free coffee at Caffe Nero – I love my local Nero’s so you can imagine my excitement! (I often sit and write blog posts there.) I got even more excited when I discovered that ‘a month’s worth of free coffee’ actually means 30 drinks tokens to be used before the end of December – so in effect free coffee for 6 months, woohooo! But, you don’t even have to spend them on coffee, you can use them on any drink from behind the bar, so that mean’s oodles of hot-chocolate, lovely frappes and iced drinks too. Heavens, lucky me!
Earlier in the week I’d been out for a short run and stopped not much more than a couple of feet away from a young fox cub (one of my favourite animals) eating a bird, he just kept on looking up at me and watching me – it was one of those moments I won’t forget. I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to a fox before that hasn’t just run off! We must have been watching each other for a minute or more.
But perhaps the biggest surprise this week was online. I was scrolling through my Dawn Chorus Studio home page on Facebook when I saw a big ol’ picture of my Grandma’s Hothouse Pillow. It took a while too sink in that I was seeing it because someone else had posted it; once I realised I was astonished to discover that the free pattern had been featured on Quilting Club’s page (part of Craftsy). Quilting Club has close to half a million followers! (I know, gasp!)
I was overwhelmed with the amount of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ the pattern had received, but one of the most lovely things was seeing a version of the pillow that a quilter called MaryAnn Mings had made! She used green and yellow batiks on a black background and had given it as a gift to her sister. It’s such a lovely feeling to inspire someone to make such a pretty gift for someone to enjoy. But the green pillow wasn’t the last, MaryAnn went on to make a fantastic red floral version too! She adapted the pattern to make it larger and had the great idea of making up the hexie flowers and appliqué-ing them onto a plain black background (rather than piecing the hexie flowers into black hexagons) – and I’m really pleased to say that she’s very kindly agreed to let me share her photos here with you!
Great variations made my MaryAnn Mings
They’re fab aren’t they?! Thank you so much for letting me show them here MaryAnn
And it’s got me thinking…the pattern has been downloaded from Craftsy
3,700+ times now, so if any of you lovely readers have also had a go at making it (or a variation of course), I’d love to feature it here on the blog, or perhaps I could set up a Pinterest
board where we could share them? What do you think, would you pin your version of the pillow if I set it up? Or any of my other patterns
for that matter!
In other Facebook news, have you come across the amazing Kaffe Fassett Collective
group? It’s a really active group of quilters and crafters sharing projects they’ve made using Kaffe Fassett, Phillip Jacobs and/or Brandon Mabely fabrics. They’re such a friendly bunch from all over the world – I just love the way people are happy to share tips and help each other as well as share their own quilts. And it goes without saying that one of the best things about this page is that whenever you open it up you get an amazing burst of colour!
How was your weekend? I wonder what this week will bring – I feel quite excited! Happy stitching.
Wrack and ruin. That’s my garden at the moment. So I was delighted when I went out after the heavy rain today and found enough roses to make this sweet little posy. Pretty over the moon I can tell you!
From the garden
I was so disorganised this year that even forgot to sow my beloved sweet peas that I like to scent and colour my home the whole summer long. Still, these aren’t a bad second best are they?! And they do smell heavenly as I sit here at my desk beside the open window listening to the blackbirds sing as I write and sew (the white rose with the yellow centre is a highly scented rambler called Wedding Day). It’s raining really heavily again now, with a faint rumble of thunder in the distance; I’ll be surprised if there are many blooms left by morning so I think I should make the most of these while I can!
Have you seen the Dawn Chorus Studio Facebook page recently? I’ve been trying to post much more regularly (daily if I can!) with lots of pictures of inspiring things I’ve come across from all over the world, including pictures of quilts, great patterns, colours and textures; the picture of my roses reminds me of some beautiful images of Kaffe Fassett flowers I posted the other day. Oh and if I come across any great giveaways or fabric deals I’ve been posting those too (as well as a sneak peek of something new I’m working on); come on over and and share what’s inspiring you, I’d really love to see you there and have a chat
Until then, back soon and happy sewing
Fabrics and trim for a festive project!
Things have been getting a bit exciting here in the Dawn Chorus Studio this week (aka I’m getting excited at the kitchen table!): things are afoot! For some time now (months and months) I’ve wanted to put together a pattern for a Christmas stocking that I think you’ll love, but I’ve never quite managed to get it sorted at the right time of year. Yes, it’s finally dawning on me (no pun intended!) that most people are somewhat more organised than I am and like to think about and begin their festive projects well in advance. I bet you’re one of the super organised quilters and crafters I have in mind too, aren’t you – go on you can confess!
This week I’ve drawn up the pattern and I plan to make some samples over the weekend, yippee! It’s exciting of course because it meant a trip to the fabric store! Simple pleasures and all that! I came away with a Moda Solstice charm pack (designed by Kate Spain, and I’m totally in love with the blue-greys – yum! The red Candy Cane Stripe is from Moda’s Winter Wonderland collection, the antique white is from Moda’s Bella Solids line and finally the blue-grey fabric is Tilda’s Summer Fair in Nina Slate Blue (which you can buy on-line here).
Designs in the Solstice charm pack
Selection of grey/blues from Solstice, and Tilda’s Summer Fair
Ribbons and braids with a folksy feel
And of course I couldn’t come away without a small selection of ribbon and braid. It would have been rude not to!
So that’s me sorted for the weekend, how about you, what have you got up your sleeve?
Have a lovely weekend and happy sewing
Yes! Another finished project to cross off the list. And that makes me smile. It was only small piece and a very straightforward design, but there was still a fair amount of hand stitching to do, so it feels good.
I love the richness of the Phillip Jacobs and Kaffe Fassett fabrics against the plain black panel, I think they may even make my heart sing! As you can probably tell from the room shot below I seem to have a thing about these particular designers’ fabrics… My scrap stash of them is getting a little low now, so I think I may have to do a wee bit of shopping in the near future. What a chore!
Finished ‘Auricula’ pillow
I don’t usually go for ‘representational’ designs, but needle turn appliqué really lends itself to that. Working through this has given me lots more ideas to try for the border of the grandma’s flower garden quilt I’m working on (you can see it on the chair in the picture), so expect a few more cushions to make an appearance as I try them out! Apparently I’m not the only one that uses the small form of a pillow to work out designs, have you seen Malka’s wonderful contemporary designs over at A Stitch in Dye? I really love her work and was impressed to see that one of my local quilt stores was stocking her Moda fabric line Simple Marks. Maybe I should add some to the shopping list?!
Here are a few pictures of the finished project.
The panel is offset to the right and the top, just because I like asymmetrical designs!
To the left of the panel is a string of patchwork strips that I also used in the flower motifs. When I came to quilt it, I did simple outline quilting (by hand) around the auricula, added some free-form veins to the leaves and quilted a grid on the background.
I used a black hand quilting thread because I didn’t want the quilting stitches to detract from the design on the centre panel, but they show really well on the reds.
Hand quilted in a diamond design
Have you tried needle-turn appliqué? It’s very simple and effective and really relaxing to stitch. I have a couple of free mug-rug patterns with instructions if you’d like to have a go at something small to try it out. Let me know if you do!
Have a great weekend and happy stitching.