Did you know how much variety you can get with just one simple patchwork block: the string quilt is awesome!
Here’s the basic block I made (you can read more about how to make it here):
Making a patch from strings of scrap fabric
So far I’ve sewn 42 patches using up lots of blues from my scrap basket; I really love scrappy quilts, they’re the epitome of ‘make do’ and re-purposing fabric from old clothes. Lots of the fabric scraps in this quilt top have been given to me by friends and there are old shirts and off cuts from other projects too. Once you’ve made a number of blocks you can really begin to play around with layouts.
First of all let me introduce you to the diamond quilt! This layout is easy to achieve - just remember you need four blocks to make a diamond and you won’t go wrong! Obviously I didn’t remember my own advice…just pretend you can’t see that bottom row, haha! Or maybe I was a bit hyper on caffeine or something (the perils of living so close to a Starbucks!).
Diamond layout (gone slightly awry in the bottom row, oops. I know, I know, I could have cropped it, but hey, I’m human!)
Next we have the chevron layout. Again, very easy to achieve: begin your first row by rotating adjacent blocks through 90 degrees and then the blocks in each row underneath follow in the same direction as the one above.
And here we have the even simpler diagonal stripe version – every block is facing the same way.
The single diamond string quilt layout requires a bit more thought, but is easy enough. Start off with central diamond and radiate your blocks out from there.
And finally today (or I could go on forever!) here’s a combination layout of diagonal stripe and diamond, which really seems to emphasise the scrappy look. I started off this design by arranging a diagonal row of diamonds, then I added a diagonal row of stripes either side and then another diagonal row of diamonds beside that, etc.
Diamond and stripe
A lot of the fun in designing string quilt layouts is to start from somewhere other than the top row as it feels unfamiliar and forces you to be more inventive. And just think, this version I’m working on is fairly monotone – add more colours to the mix and you’d give yourself a whole other range of possibilities!
I’m going to keep my finished layout for this quilt under wraps for now and leave you guessing for a while – but hopefully not too long, I want to get it finished up asap! It’s so much fun to make!
If you’re looking for more string quilt inspiration check out the blog Anne told us about in a previous comment String Thing Along, because if I haven’t got you all excited about string and strip quilts this sure as heck will! And I tell ya, once you start you won’t ever want to throw a scrap away again! What? You never did anyway? Well, at least you know what to do with them now
A red reindeer, stars, hearts and flying geese all in one 18″ cushion – most Christmassy indeed! I’m really pleased with the way the simple ‘big stitch’ hand quilting highlights the background hearts and makes the reindeer stand proud. I wonder where he’s off to?!
Here’s the pillow in situ – it goes well I think; it’s got that cool Scandinavian look with those pale greys and folk art feel.
Hand quilting and needle turn applique
The back is in the luscious red, which makes it good enough to use this way round too, don’t you think? The scrappy asymmetrical binding is something I’m really fond of, I can’t seem to help myself and just put it on everything at the moment!
Here’s the back
My signature rouleau loop and button fastening, with two closures, keeps the pad secure. I used the contrasting star fabric for the rouleau loop, which not only looks great but makes it easier to find in all that red, haha! The buttons were a lucky match from my button jar.
Rouleau loop fastening
I love these types of fastening, they’re so simple to make (check out this tutorial) and you’ll generally have enough matching fabric scraps to rustle them up without having to go to the haberdashery for things like zips (which aren’t always an eco-friendly option).
Ready for the season to be jolly!
If you like this Scandi style fabric by the Henley Studio as much as I do follow the link for details. It’s lovely to sew with and it comes in a great range of co-ordinating prints and colours, you could use it for so many things – it would make a great lap quilt. Dammit, now that’s giving me ideas! Also, if you’re interested in how I made those flying geese borders so accurately (well, at least for me!) take a look at my how to guide, which also includes the free pattern.
How have your Christmas in July projects been coming along – only 5 days left now! Can you believe it’s almost August? Already! We’re having the most wonderful summer here in the UK that it seems a bit odd to be thinking about a Christmas pillow, but boy does it feel good to know that when the time finally comes we’re going to have just the thing to decorate a cosy chair to cheer the soul on a cold winter’s night!
Linking up with Finish it up Friday with Amandajean of Crazy Mom Quilts – a fabulous blog, I’m sure you’ll agree! And for the first time I’m also linking up with TGIFF, which is over at Quokka Quilts this week – take a look!
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. Hopefully these photos will help illustrate:
Making a string patch from scraps
(It’s also worth noting that you can chain piece these patches by adding a strip to say 10 patches before you go over to press them open – it saves a lot of time!) 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.