Well, it’s finally September and I made it through another summer. Summer in Switzerland is usually very hot and humid, but this year everything seems to have been somewhat topsy-turvy. Instead of sticky, icky and muggy, it’s been grey, cold and rainy, much more England-like than Switzerland-like. As I don’t cope at all well with the heat, this has been wonderful, but it has to be admitted that my poor sun-worshipping friends have all been rather down in the dumps these past few months.
So what have I been up to over this unexpectedly English summer? Well, loads actually, including a visit from my beautiful niece Miss B, a long weekend in Berlin, a trip home to see Mum and to take in all four days of the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham, and a wonderful stay-cation with our friends Mr and Mrs S and their kids, who flew in from New York to spend their summer holidays en Suisse. Phew! Suffice to say, it’s been busy!
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been sewing. Oh no, indeedy! But what’s a girl to do when only snatched moments of sewing opportunity present themselves?
That’s right – grab each and every one of them! Especially when it’s cold and rainy outside 🙂
This summer I seem to have mainly been making a ton of blocks to try and get up to date with my Blocks of the Month. And I’ve found that when I’m time-limited, individual blocks to make up sampler-style quilts are a great thing to sew. It seems like it’s achievable to make just one block if you haven’t much time, and it’s also intensely gratifying to create something pretty so quickly. Even more so when it’s all done from your stash (get me!)
And here are my Blocks of the Month:
Sugar Block Club 2014 – Using the Taxi range by Alice Kennedy
Blocks of the Month from Love Patchwork and Quilting Magazine – Using a FQ bundle of Bungalow by Joel Dewberry
Ok, so I didn’t make ALL of these blocks over the summer, but I did make most of them, and I have to say I’m loving the way they’re coming together.
So now September’s here, and there’s a distinct autumnal nip in the air of a morning. Things are finally quietening down, and hopefully I’ll be able to get back into my usual routine after this past few months of craziness. Which will definitely mean more sewing. Lots of it. And hopefully more time for blogging too…
So watch this space!
Linking up for the first time in ages with WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.
Over the years I’ve discovered the Caribbean from afar. I’ve read books and articles about the islands, seen documentaries, and drooled over friends’ holiday photos. I knew that all the islands have a different character, and were a riot of colours. That the flowers were hot pinks and reds, the foliage lush and green, the sands (generally speaking) almost white, soft and fine, and that the sea was a glorious, ever-changing shade of turquoise.
But it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that I finally made it here for the first time and the beautiful reality of it just blew me away.
As a quilter, I love colour, and so, naturally, I was in my element! And all I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks is how to capture the essence of the Caribbean in a quilt.
Or, indeed, in several 🙂
Blues, aquas, turquoises
Luscious shades of green
Yellows and oranges
Hot pinks, purples and reds
These photos may not even begin to do it justice, but hopefully will be enough to spark memories of the beautiful colours that we saw during our wonderful holiday.
I’m still not sure how I want to capture all this vibrancy in quilt form, but the Caribbean we saw was gloriously untamed and wild with colour, so I’m pretty sure it will be scrappy and probably quite improvisational. And thanks to an impromptu gift from the wonderful RR, I know what I’m going to use for the backing…
And one more thing I’m sure of is that I just can’t wait to get started!
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…