As I mentioned in my last post, RR’s lovely cousin Miss L got married last month, and I spent the summer sewing away to create two different outfits I could wear to her wedding. My fair weather option was a beautiful 1950s-inspired sundress with contrasting collar and cuffs (which I was happily able to wear – it was a glorious day!) – but as you can never really count on the weather in England, I also had a chilly day standby option – my beautiful peplum dress.
Back at the start of the summer, when I initially made the toile for this dress, I had plans to make it in a beautiful blue and white heavyweight stretch cotton.
But as I was making adjustments to my pattern, it occurred to me that this fabric would be far better suited to a summer-weight coat instead. And once I had this thought, I couldn’t get rid of it. I couldn’t envisage it as a dress fabric anymore, it was definitely coat fabric! So although I loved the pattern, and the toile was fitting beautifully, I needed a Plan B.
Cue a morning of fabric rummaging, as I made my way through my dressmaking stash, and hit upon what, if it worked, could be an absolutely stunning option. The remnants of my pink bouclé fabric I’d purchased last year for my couture sewing class with Susan Khalje, and which ended up becoming my Marfy jacket.
Me in my Marfy jacket
At the time, at Alice’s insistence, I’d bought enough of this glorious fabric to make a matching skirt, but had never quite got around to it. And now I realised why – this fabric was just crying out to be made into a beautiful dress instead! Especially when paired with a divine purple silk satin lining I’d picked up at The Silk Society on Berwick Street on my last trip home.
The only problem was, the pattern called for 2.3m of fabric, and I had a mere 1.3m left. And the fabric has a directional weave, limiting my layout options. What’s more, I’m a bit OCD about pattern matching, so I wanted the weave to follow through across the width of the dress. Nothing like trying to make things easy for myself, eh?!
But nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say! And so I cut my pattern pieces out of silk organza underlining, spent pretty much an entire weekend playing with the layout until I managed to get it all to fit.
And without including any hem allowance, leaving out the collar, and scrapping any idea of a belt.
Still, a hem can be faced, a collar wasn’t absolutely necessary, and I don’t much like belts on dresses anyway, so this wasn’t a huge issue for me!
So I basted the organza to the bouclé fabric, took a deep breath, and cut. And then very slowly started to sew.
At first, it all seemed to be going like a dream. I used the same couture techniques I had learned from Susan to make my jacket (using a silk organza underlining, then catch stitching all the hem allowances down to the underlining to control any fraying), and used a walking foot to make sure the fabric didn’t slip as I was sewing it.
The dress was almost finished, and fit like a glove, when the unthinkable happened.
When trimming back my seam allowances, just before catch stitching the final seam, I accidentally cut off the skirt vent on one half of the back of the dress. I just wasn’t concentrating, and before I knew it, that little rectangle of fabric was no longer attached to my dress, but sitting forlornly on my sewing table, asking me what the heck I was thinking of.
It has to be admitted that at this point some Very Very Bad Words were uttered, and I can neither confirm nor deny whether they rhymed with “Oh bucket!” They may well have done, and worse too!
Still, I’d invested a lot of time into this dress, and the fabric could in no way be described as inexpensive, so what’s a girl to do? Gather the scraps and try and carefully piece them back together to make some kind of vent facing, which could then be sewn back onto the dress as if nothing had happened.
So that’s exactly what I did! I am a quilter, after all…
Gathering the scraps
Matching pattern and sewing together to make a large enough piece for the vent
Attaching the new vent onto the bottom of the centre back seam
Buoyed by my success, I wondered whether I could repeat this exploit to create a collar for the dress too. I mean, it didn’t strictly speaking need one, but it would be a lovely addition if I could. So, after a whole day’s work with silk organza, fabric scraps, needle and thread, I created this lovely piece of FrankenFabric…
… which was just big enough to allow me to cut out the collar piece. Yay!!!
Finally, I added the hem facing and attached the lining, to create my glorious, beautiful, learning experience of a dress.
Finished peplum dress
Lovely little side peplum
Magnificently pieced bias-cut collar
Divine (and exceedingly flattering!) little cap style sleeves
With my Marfy jacket (sporting newly attached trim!)
And after all that, this is all the fabric I had left.
So the fabric may not have been cheap, but at least nobody can accuse me of wasteful extravagance, can they?!
Have you ever had one of those projects? The kind you thought was going to be an absolute breeze? That you left till the last minute because you thought it’d take a day at most to piece? The one you never realised you could be so wrong about? That you ended up cursing out and wanting to rip apart with your bare hands in frustration? The project that, once finished, you took such deep satisfaction at managing to overcome all the issues that the Quilt Gods threw at you, that it actually seemed worth all the Very Bad Words that were uttered during its construction?
I have. And it will forever be known as The Quilt from Hell…
It all started out innocently enough, with some Very Good News. My lovely schoolfriend, Ms S, and her husband, Mr M, announced last year that they were expecting a baby boy. I was so happy for them, as I knew how much they’d been looking forward to becoming parents, and I immediately decided that the new arrival would need a quilt.
Now Ms S is an exceedingly talented lady. Not only is she pretty and kind and a complete brain-box, she is also extremely crafty. She creates, sews, crochets, bakes a mean chocolate muffin, and even has her own Etsy shop. I am in total awe of her! So the quilt needed to be super special. And when we were in the US back around Thanksgiving, I found just the thing, handily bundled together as a super-cute kit. The fabric range was Boy Crazy from Riley Blake Designs, and included cars and robots and space rockets, and lots of other things that little boys like to play with.
The pattern seemed deceptively easy. It consisted of 12 scrappy 16-patch blocks, set on point, alternated with plain white squares, and a couple of directional borders.
I know, sounds like a walk in the park, doesn’t it??! But one word in the last paragraph would come back to haunt me. And that word is ‘directional’… Given some of my previous experiences with directional fabric, you might think that warning bells would sound at this point, but no. All I thought was – oh how pretty, the little cars are all driving in the same direction!
I won’t be making that mistake again…
The first issue I encountered had nothing at all to do with directional fabric, though. It was an error in the pattern itself, which called for the white fabric to be cut into 8″ squares.
While I was cutting them, I remember thinking “Gosh, 8″ is a funny size for setting squares – wouldn’t it usually be either 7 1/2″ or 8 1/2″‘?” but I foolishly ignored the Inner Voice of Reason and continued cutting happily away.
It was only once I’d made the 16 patch blocks that I realised that – yes – the finished block size was indeed 8 1/2″ square. So my setting squares were too small. So I had to recut them. And I didn’t have quite enough fabric. A small annoyance, easily rectified with a visit to my stash to retrieve some Kona white.
So, then, so far so good. The main part of the top was duly pieced with the right sized setting blocks, and I even decided to jazz it up a bit by appliquéing Daniel’s name into the setting squares. This was all RR’s idea, and a jolly good one, too, I have to say 🙂
Then the directionality of fabric came into play.
Border 1 – little cars, all driving from the left of the quilt towards the right. The fabric supplied in the kit was cut both crosswise and lengthwise to make this possible. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough of it. There was just about sufficient to do the top and bottom border, but not enough for the sides. Lateral thinking was called for, and so one of the discarded 8″ setting squares was cut into 4 cornerstones. And it was still 1″ too short on each side…
After some Very Creative Pressing, Plenty of Pinning to ease the fabric of the quilt top, and Lots of Words Beginning with ‘F’, I managed to get the first border to just about fit.
It almost looks like it was planned that way, doesn’t it? If you can ignore the fabric puckering and rippling round the corners, that is…
Next up – border 2. And the same problem reared its ugly head. The border was once again directional, and once again there wasn’t enough fabric. Well, this time there was more than enough for the top and bottom borders but, unfortunately, not quite enough for the sides. So, to make it fit, I had to piece it, by cutting into the surplus from the top and bottom. Fortunately, there was just enough left over.
And yes, it really was only 2″ or so short, which made it all the more annoying…
Ok then, quilt top pieced, issues overcome. Now for the backing. A beautiful piece of large scale directional fabric.
Uh-oh! Did she just say directional? Sadly, yes… And therein lay the next issue. The print was oriented lengthwise across the fabric rather than crosswise. And there wasn’t enough fabric to piece it so that it ran in the right direction. Grrrrrr……
So out came the rotary cutter and I chopped up my 3 yards of fabric into smaller pieces, which I then proceeded to sew back together, to make a hodgepodge of a backing that just managed to fit.
Perhaps hodgepodge is a little harsh. Let’s call it improvisational, shall we???
After all that, the actual quilting was a piece of cake. I used white thread to echo quilt the appliquéd letters and the edge of the setting blocks. Then I quilted concentric squares in the 16 patch blocks, using a vivid orange colour to co-ordinate with all the bright colours in the prints.
Finally, I quilted parallel straight lines around both borders, again in orange.
To finish the quilt, I decided to use a bias binding, to make my stripes appear diagonal. I’d never done it before, but my friend Ms E has used it on her quilts and talked me through how to do it at the last Patchwork in the Peaks quilt retreat. I thought it looked beautiful and had been wanting to give it a try for ages. And anyway, I figured, what else could possibly go wrong???
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!
This is what could go wrong. I miscalculated and cut the square to create the bias strips too small. So there wasn’t enough binding, and I had to cut another square. And when I cut the strips from this one, I cut them the wrong way…
Some more creative cutting and piecing just about salvaged the situation (along with a stiff gin and tonic…). And the quilt was finally finished. Ta da!!!
It was delivered to the adorable little man himself last week, when I was back in the UK. Ms S and Mr M loved it, and Baby Daniel showed his appreciation by throwing up his milk on my jeans, then all over his Daddy’s jumper 🙂
Looking back, though, I have to say I’m rather proud of myself. Normally when things go wrong I would simply go and get some more fabric to put them right. But I’m on my 6 month Fabric Fast, so that wasn’t an option. I was forced to think creatively about how to get round the issues. And no, the quilt isn’t 100% perfect, there are seams where I’d prefer there to be no seams, and a slight puckering in the corners, amongst other things, but you know what? It was a labour of love, and I think that makes it more personal.
After all, there can’t be many babies out there who have the honour of owning The Quilt from Hell!
And by the way, people, apologies for the rotten quality of the photos – they were taken in our hotel room the morning I delivered the quilt, when I suddenly realised that I hadn’t quite got round to photographing it yet…
Well, for the first time in ages, I finally have a quilt top finish to report! It’s my Flumpagon quilt (hexagons with elephants…), and I’m loving how it turned out.
I started this quilt a while back, when the Fat Quarter Shop was having a sale on patterns, and this little cutie by Lori Holt of Bee in my Bonnet caught my eye. It’s her Cherry Blossom Table Runner – just beautiful!
I decided that it was also the perfect excuse to buy some fabric I’d been drooling over for a while – the Madhuri range by Riley Blake Designs, it’s gorgeous, full of bright colours and beautiful patterns, but most of all, elephants. And this would be the ideal project for it. After all, who wouldn’t want an elephant themed table runner??? So I was seriously excited when my order arrived!
The first hiccup came when I looked at the pattern – the table runner dimensions were given as 36″ x 64″. That sounded awfully large, so out came the tape measure and I measured the table. It’s actually 40″ x 54″. Oh dear…
So what to do? Ok, I could have just made the table runner shorter, but even so it would have been almost as wide as the table. The dimensions were all wrong. So I did what I always do in such situations. If in doubt, make it bigger…
Instead of the 17 blocks Lori put into her table runner, I made 23, and set them as an almost-square, instead of a rectangle. Then I added my borders, a skinny pink one to match the setting blocks, and then the elephant one. It ended up measuring 49 1/4″ x 52 1/4″, and here it is. It’s so pink and lovely!
It was also lots of fun to make. Ok, so matching all the points drove me to distraction, and I had to creatively add some cornerstones to the borders due to how the elephant fabric had been cut. I had ordered the right amount of yardage for once, but the top and bottom of the elephant fabric was cut right through the middle of the elephants. So I had nine lines of elephants marching across the fabric, and two half lines of elephants… This was meant to be a Flumpagon quilt, not a flump massacre quilt, so a solution had to be found. It’s not ideal, but oddly enough, I kind of like it 🙂
Here is the fabric I have set aside for the backing and the binding – the red is for the binding and the diamond one for the backing.
And finally, here it is being examined by Chief Quilt Testers Mr. Boy and Mimi Bubba…
All I have to do now is decide how to quilt it, and decide whether I can bear to give it away. And that will be another story entirely 🙂
Linking on up to Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.