Monthly Archives: October, 2013

Starting a new project

Back in the summer, I went into my local quilt shop and saw a sample for a class they were running this autumn. I was fascinated by the different sized blocks and how they all fitted together so neatly.

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The class was already full, so I asked to be put on the waiting list. And promptly forgot all about it, figuring that there was next to no chance of getting onto the course this time around, and that I’d have to wait for it to be re-run in the spring.

Then last Wednesday afternoon I had a call to say they had a last-minute drop-out, and was I interested in filling the spot. First session – Friday, 2 days away. Wow! Well, yes, I certainly was interested, and after a little diary re-jigging I was happily able to make it. Cue frantic stash raiding on Thursday to try and find the necessary fabrics – a selection of 10-15 different fabrics from the same colour family, but with a range of different values. Ok.

Eschewing my favourite pinks and purples for a change, I decided to work with the  blue/green spectrum – from pale aqua, through turquoise and teal to dark blue. I never thought I had much in the way of this colour family – until I went looking through my stash and scrap bin. Hmmm. It seems I have plenty (and this is just the scraps and fat quarters….)

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The couse itself was excellent.The teacher, the lovely Judy, is a quilty friend of mine, and once she’d explained the principle behind constructing the quilt top, I got stuck right in. A new departure for me, this course uses centimentres rather than inches – now, while I can spot a scant 1/4″ seam at 10 paces, and can estimate the remaining yardage on a bolt with a reasonable degree of accuracy, I have no idea when it comes to metric measurements. Although, upon reflection, this could easily be made using inches, I bought myself a 31.5 cm square ruler (12 1/2″), and got measuring, cutting and sewing. And here are the blocks I’ve made so far, although I’ll need a fair few more to make a decent lap sized quilt

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The next class is at the start of November, so I’m going to be kept busy over the next few weeks constructing these pretty blocks. Their extreme squareness appeals to my quilter’s OCD, and the fabrics I’ve chosen remind me of the ocean. This is one of the few things I miss about England, living here in land-locked Switzerland. The lakes are  undeniably beautiful, but we Brits are an island race, and I really do miss the smell, taste and sound of the sea…

Linking on up to Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.

An Alpine sewing weekend

Well, what a wonderful weekend I had at my quilt retreat! I caught up with old friends, made new friends, sewed like crazy, ate M&Ms like they were going out of fashion, chilled out in the hot tub in the rain, had two massages, sewed some more, talked the hind legs off a donkey and generally immersed myself in all things quilty. Fantastic!

We arrived on Thursday afternoon, car jam-packed full of all our quilting paraphenalia. Despite initial fears to the contary, it did all eventually fit. In fact, there must have been room to spare because my sewing machine extension table made a bid for freedom at one point, almost decapitating poor Libbi! Needless to say, it was firmly wedged in place on the way back…

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After squeals and hugs all round, we found ourselves a sewing spot and set up our machines. And before long the room was a hive of activity with sewing machines a-whirring, accompanied by much chattering and laughter. Despite the glorious view just a few metres from our sewing tables, we only had eyes for our fabric!

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As always, the Thursday was ‘free time’ for us to work on our own projects, so I got to work piecing my Chain Saw quilt. The plan was to finish the top this weekend, but unfortunately I hit a little snag when I realised I’d pieced together all my directional prints back to front… Grrrrrrr…..

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So in the end I sewed 32 out of my 36 blocks. They came together really quickly, and once I’d given them a little trim and a press, they looked lovely.

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Well, the more I sew, the more I learn, so hopefully I’ll be more careful next time and remember directional fabrics are called directional because they have a direction to them! Anyway, at least most of the blocks for the top are finished now…

Friday was designated Bag Day. Now I’ve made a few bags over the years, but my last foray into bag-making (the Weekender bag by Amy Butler) had traumatised me to such an extent that I vowed Never Again. Well, never say never, as they say. My resolve lasted until I saw the picture of this one! Billed as an optional workshop, the Aeroplane Bag pattern by Sara at Sew Sweetness ended up tempting every single one of us ladies 🙂 And with bag-making expert Katy Cameron on hand to help and encourage us, we all finished them too!

As I mentioned here, I chose Echino fabric for the outside of the bag, and a plain Bella royal purple for the lining. And it worked really well together. Here’s my completed bag – I’m so proud of it!!!

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I fussy-cut the fabric so that I had the zebra bang in the middle of one side and the giraffe in the middle of the other, then I stole Heather’s idea and added piping between the top and bottom sections of the bag, which I think adds a really nice touch. Finally, I embellished it with a beautiful folded fabric flower, taught by Quilt Fairy Gina as part of her Mystery Scrap Attack project.

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I was the last to finish, but thanks to the extremely lovely and patient Katy, we all got there in the end. And how beautiful they look, all lined up in a row, with Teacher behind them!

On the Saturday, it was time to tackle the Texas Teardrop pattern. I’d brought 2 possible choices of fabric with me, but when I saw Elita’s examples, and she talked about what worked well in terms of fabric, I realised that this wasn’t the right pattern for either of them. Never fear, they will go back into my stash for future use – in fact, I may well already have projects lined up for them! We were given free access to Elita’s extensive collection of scraps to make practice blocks, and I ended up making 2 – one using fusible interfacing, which I’ve tried before, and one using Lucie Summers’ Porthole technique, which was totally new to me.

I’ve not done any appliqué for a while, so I was pleased to refresh my memory on how to apply fusible interfacing and secure the raw edges. And it’s a good thing I was using scraps, because I totally stuffed up my first attempt. The fusible moved whilst I was ironing and didn’t meet up at one of the points, then half of it wouldn’t stick and it just ended up in an icky gooey yucky mess all over the fabric…

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Cue Elita to the rescue! She helped me rectify my boo-boo, and I got on with fusing the other pieces, more carefully this time! I then decided to use some of my machine’s decorative stitches to appliqué down the edges. Pretty pretty pretty!

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The porthole technique was interesting, but a bit too fiddly for me to be honest. I do have problems with my hands and fine motor skills, and I just don’t have the manual dexterity needed to do this well. But I persevered and made this second block – just don’t look at it too closely!

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And here are some of our finished blocks up on the portable design wall….

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In the meantime, Miss Speedy Quilter JJ (possibly the most prolific quilter I have ever met!) managed to get a whole top of these blocks done – take a look on her blog to see how pretty her pink and green batik version looks when it’s all done.

And now I’m back home, relaxed and happy. All my things are unpacked and put away and although I was sad that it was over for another 6 months, I left feeling totally inspired with loads of ideas for kickstarting old projects and designs for new ones too. I think I’ll be spending some time in my sewing room this week 🙂

I arrived home to a clean apartment, a rapturous welcome from Mr. Boy and Mimi Bubba, and yummy smells emanating from the kitchen. The ever-lovely RR (who, incidentally, is a fabulous cook) had prepared dinner for me. Two delicious curries – a vegetable jalfrezi and a muttar paneer – with naan bread. He had made the paneer from scratch, too…

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OMG it was so good! And all I had to do was roll out the defrosted naan dough and grill it. Oh, and eat it too!

All in all, a wonderful end to a wonderful weekend!

Quilt show – ready to roll…

Well I never, the quilt show is almost upon me. And I’m all ready! My entries are all quilted, bound and labelled, with the requisite hanging sleeves attached, and I spent an hour at my friend Chris’ this afternoon de-furring them (totally pointless even to consider doing so here…) I’ve just got back from handing them in at my guild meeting tonight, and I’m feeling exhausted!

In the end I decided to enter the maximum 3 quilts, along with the challenge. You’ll have to wait another couple of weeks to see all three, as one of them is too large to be put on the floor and photographed – the photo will have to be taken when it’s hung at the show. But I did want to show off my challenge entry, which, despite Very Unpromising Beginnings, turned out rather well (even if I do say so myself!)

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The turnaround all started with a great suggestion from Sarah at Thrift Store Crafter, who said she saw the snail trail block in the embroidery. So I took that idea and went with it! I made twelve 4″ snail trail blocks as an outer border, then I surrounded the embroidery itself with the fabric in the snail trail centres, and added a flying goose block at either end (each with one green and one neutral coloured wing). To echo the black diamond in the embroidery, I added some black bias tape running across the corners of the quilt, and finished it off with a skinny black binding. And it had to be very skinny, given the size constraints of the challenge. I think I came in one mm under the maximum allowable width. Phew!

For the quilting, I wanted initially to do something quite elaborate, but my lack of a working foot pedal meant I had to use my walking foot and the stop/start button rather than going free-motion crazy. In the end, it worked out brilliantly. In this case, I feel, less is most definitely more. I started out by quilting little on-point squares in the centre of the snail trail blocks, then I ditch quilted around the outside edge of each ‘swirl’.

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Once the blocks of the border were outlined, I turned my attention to the quilt centre. I wanted to echo the diamond shapes in the embroidery, so I used my walking foot to stitch a radiating diamond pattern on either side of the embroidery piece.  I started with a light green thread, and then I sewed between these stitching lines with a darker green thread. I think it gives the diamonds more of a sense of motion, creates more interest on the quilt, and adds texture to the whole piece.

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I did consider embellishing the quilt a little, but to tell you the truth, it’s not really me. So I just left it at that. And after all that, I find that I actually like it! We had to give the quilt a name, so I called it “Blackbirds Flock to Guns”. This is an anagram of Some Very Bad Words once uttered by RR during a somewhat frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful DIY session, and it reflects exactly what I felt when I first saw what the challenge involved! I won’t say any more, but you can probably work it out for yourselves if you really want to!

So here I am now, back at home, quilts handed in, all packed for my quilt retreat this weekend, sewing machine and fabric stashed in Chris’ boot, and I feel oddly bereft. All that energy I put into getting everything finished in time for the show has now dissipated and I’m at a bit of a loose end. Still, with Peaks starting tomorrow afternoon, and a weekend of full-on sewing planned, I’m pretty sure it won’t be all that long before I’m all quilted-up again! Watch this space…

It’s Wednesday, so I’m linking on up again to Lee at Freshly Pieced. Why not do the same?

Packing for Peaks :-)

Picture this. Twice a year, in April and October, a group of quilters gather in a chalet near Morzine in the beautiful French Alps for a long weekend. From Thursday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, our every need is taken care of. We are cooked for, cleaned up after and plied liberally with tea, coffee, wine and cake at regular intervals. There is a hot tub on the terrace with glorious views to chill out in, and a massage therapist comes to help soothe away any sewing-related aches and pains. For the 12 ladies lucky enough to be there, all we have to do all weekend is sew, chat, eat the delicious food provided, and then sew some more! No husbands, kids or pets to worry about. No housework. No cooking or washing up. Just sewing, and a chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones. And two self-appointed Quilt Fairies (Elita and Gina) to help you out with whatever you’re working on, from basting a quilt to ironing blocks, giving loads of encouragement along the way.

This is Patchwork in the Peaks, and it is quilting nirvana! For the past two years, my wonderful and talented quilty friend Elita has arranged this fantastic biannual quilt retreat. I’ve been to all of them so far, and I’m so excited because Peaks 4 is happening this weekend!

HOORAY!!!!

I’ve already started packing. Not clothes, mind you (comfy old jogging pants and hoodies all round for me!) but FABRIC!!!

Each retreat, we have a project that we all work on. Of course, everyone has different tastes in fabric and so all the quilts end up totally different, but also utterly gorgeous and inspiring. Here are some of the things I’ve made at past Peaks:

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Fab Five Quilt – Peaks 1, April 2012

This is my all-time favourite quilt, I think. I use it in the winter to snuggle up under in front of the tv. It’s just the right size, and such lovely cheerful colours. It’s also a big hit with Mr. Boy and Mimi Bubba…

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As a consequence, it’s rather furry, but I’m sure they think that just adds to its charm 🙂

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Double Hourglass Quilt – Peaks 2, October 2012

I really enjoyed learning the technique for this one, made with jelly roll strips. In fact, it was probably this quilt that got me started on my jelly roll obsession. I also love the fabrics, even though they’re not what I’d usually choose. But I just can’t decide how to quilt it, so until inspiration strikes, it’s staying in the quilting pile in the cupboard…

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Ricky Tims Convergence Quilt – Peaks 3, April 2013

Well, what can I say, I love this quilt! It’s now all packed up and ready for the quilt show, so sadly I can’t take it along this weekend for Show and Tell, but I will be taking photos with me 🙂

As for Peaks 4, we’ll be working on the Texas Teardrop pattern. Now, I’ve recently been loving the black, white and yellow look, so I started off with the idea of using this fabric…

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…, possibly with some of this thrown in too (you might recognise this from my Kaleidoscope quilt I made a few weeks back…)

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But then this fabric arrived in the post today (naughty Pusscat! Bad! You said you weren’t going to buy any more fabric!)

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and now I’m not sure anymore… I think it would look lovely for the Texas Teardrop pattern, but also I could quite easily see myself making another Broken Herringbone quilt with it, or possibly using it for some Purse Strings blocks. Oh dear. Well, I’m packing it anyway, I’m sure it’ll get cut into at some point this weekend 🙂

We’re also learning to make the Aeroplane Bag from Sew Sweetness Patterns as an optional extra. Of course I’m in for this one too! I decided that this was the ideal use for my Echino zebra fabric, which I’m pairing with some Echino dots and a plain Moda Bella royal purple colour I had kicking around in my stash. Of course, any short cuts that make sewing easier are welcome, so I treated myself to some pre-made Echino canvas strap fabric too. Aeroplane bag here we come!

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We’ll also have a Scrap Attack Mystery project to work on, a Peaks regular activity. The fabric is supplied by Elita (and boy does that lady have fabric!!!), and the pattern and lesson by Quilt Fairy Gina. This is always quick and easy, and lots of fun too. At past Peaks, we’ve made rug mugs, scrap bins, and little purses. I’m really excited to find out what she has in store for us this time 🙂

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Charm Square thread catchers – Peaks 1, April 2012

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Ticker Tape Mug Rug – aka Executive Drinks Mat – aka Kitty Perching Post – Peaks 2, October 2012

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Dumpling Bag . Peaks 3, April 2013

Of course, that’s not all, there’s plenty of time to work on other projects, and I’ve gone and packed a stack as I’m feeling indecisive at the moment and don’t know yet what I’ll fancy doing. Hopefully some free motion quilting, when my new foot pedal turns up! And of course I have popped in the ubiquitous hexies, just in case we have glorious weather and I feel like sitting outdoors basking in the sun and doing some hand sewing!

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So the packing is almost finished, and although I’m sure a few bits will be added before Thursday, in the meantime, I’ll be sitting in the comfy armchair in the corner of my sewing room with a nice cup of tea, beaming like a lunatic and thinking about the wonderful, relaxing weekend that’s almost here.