Monthly Archives: October 2013

Blue Squares Baby Quilt

While I was planning the pink heart quilt (a.k.a. my startled chicken quilt), my former colleague emailed me to ask if I could also make a quilt for a baby boy–her other daughter was expecting in February! I scoured the Internets again for inspiration and found another adorable mini-quilt  adorable mini-quilt that I could scale up to a baby quilt and adapt to the colours my former colleague requested.

Now, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal and have all sorts of things to say about gender colour assignation, but since this was for a paying client, I guess it isn’t really my business–I just don’t want you all to judge me for falling into gender clichés!

With that out of the way, let’s talk quilts. Particularly, let’s talk about square quilts. What you need to know is that I love them. Love, love, love them. If we were to have a debate right now about nesting seams vs. sliced bread, you can pretty well be sure what side of the argument I’d fall on. So I got to work cutting up whatever blues, creams, and whites I had to put this quilt together. I bought an Accuquilt for this very purpose, but decided to use the roller and mat to cut this time, to try to work on my accuracy in cutting, since sometimes working quickly comes at the expense of working accurately. I probably spent more time arranging the pieces on this quilt than cutting them, but I wanted to make sure that the gradation from dark to light was subtle and that there weren’t any pieces blatantly out of place.

Piecing took no time at all–I had the whole quilt pieced in about an hour. Kiwi helped.

She had a traumatic visit at the vet's that morning. You could say she was feeling... blue!

She had a traumatic visit at the vet’s that morning. You could say she was feeling… blue! (yeah, yeah, tip your waitress, yada-yada.)

I had some of the same problems with the quilting that I had for the startled chicken quilt. While the quilting on this was much simpler than the chicken quilt, I was still getting some skipped stitches (but again, this got sorted by replacing the needle). I stitched straight diagonal lines about a quarter inch from the centre diagonal line of each piece.

Finished quilt

Finished quilt.

To get the lines more or less straight, I initially used a water-soluble pen to mark the diagonal, but this was going to be less effective on the darker squares, so after marking about four of the diagonals, I switched to the Clover Hera marker,  which marks a crease in the fabric rather than applying ink to it. I bought the hera a while back, but this was the first time I’d used it and it was perfect for the job. I initially planned to also quilt on either side of the ditch, for a super-pimped crosshatch pattern, but after finishing the plain double-crosshatch I figured it looked lovely as is. I used Aurifil 4663 40wt thread for the quilting, a variegated light blue.

Quilt top detail

Quilt top detail.

The backing and binding are both from Mo Bedell’s Full Moon Lagoon, in a beautiful aqua shade.

Love how that crosshatch looks on the back.

Love how that crosshatch looks on the back.

You can see in the picture below that my machine binding still needs a bit of work, but overall I’m quite pleased with it. I can only imagine it’ll improve with time.

Backing and binding

Backing and binding detail. I adjusted the stitch length after a couple of rows–my machine defaults to 1.8 and I always forget to change it.

While this wasn’t a particularly challenging quilt to make, it is one of my favourites so far. I love the colour play in it. I hope my former colleague is as pleased with it as I am!

AmysCreativeSide

Entering this one in the two-colour quilt category for Blogger’s Quilt Festival. I debated whether to put this one into the baby quilt category or the two-colour category, and went with the latter, since the challenge for me in this quilt was making the colour work effectively.

 

Blogger’s Quilt Festival: Dreamweaver Quilt

On the fenceI’ve shown a couple of glimpses of the Dreamweaver quilt, but haven’t said much more about it. The summer before last, in my very early quilting days, I went to Liverpool for the day with a friend. My intention was to spend most of the time in the Tate Modern there, but my friend had other ideas so we ended up “shopping” on the high street. I absolutely detest shopping so when we came upon a big Waterstones I pulled her in so that I didn’t have to keep looking at clothes. I quickly found myself in the craft section and thus began my love affair with Tula Pink. I’d never even heard of her at that point, but one of the books I leafed through was Quilts From the House of Tula Pink, and I think we know how that story ends.

There are several quilts in that book that I’d like to make, but there was absolutely no question that I’d be making the Dreamweaver quilt first, and that this one would be for no one else. As it happened, ten days later my ghetto fabric shop was having its summer sale so I spent an evening there trying to pick the twenty different fabrics I needed for this quilt. In the end, I spent about £85 on fabric that I was no more than ambivalent about.

Meh. Mehmehmeh.

Meh. Mehmehmeh.

The Germ opined that since this is the quilt that will be on our bed, it would make me absolutely miserable to look at it every day if I didn’t absolutely love every aspect of it, and he was absolutely right. I’ve since used most of those fabrics in other projects and I quite like them in other contexts, but there are a couple of fabrics in there that still make me cringe and this quilt would have been no more than meh had I used them.

When I went to the Festival of Quilts a couple of months later, I had a couple of goals: Christmas fabric for an advent calendar and fabric for the Dreamweaver quilt. I spent two days at the show and was absolutely delighted to meet Tula Pink that year (this was 2012, before she became the headliner in 2013).

Me and Tula Pink. Apparently selfies make my face look twice as long as it actually is.

Me and Tula Pink. Apparently selfies* make my face look twice as long as it actually is. *Hate that word, swear I’ll never use it here again. SORRY.

She signed my book and tried to convince me to buy her Prince Charming line to use in the quilt, but I confess that I love her quilt designs more than her fabric (though I adore Saltwater and the newest line that just came out at Market this week–Fox Field–looks amazing), so I gently rebuffed the suggestion and kept looking. I roamed those halls for two days and didn’t settle on anything until the last hour of the show, when I accosted the poor ladies at the Doughty’s batik stand. Those poor, poor ladies. They were absolutely exhausted after four days on their feet and there I was, bouncing about pulling bolts and asking them what they thought. They were, nonetheless, delightfully kind and helped me come up with the twenty different fabrics I needed. So I spent another £85 or so, but I knew that this was it–I absolutely loved these fabrics.

And then nearly six months went by before I got started. Last Christmas we drove to Germany for Christmas (funny story–as I was driving on the horrid bumpy roads in Belgium I pictured us arriving into Germany with nothing but the chassis left. Luckily, this didn’t happen, since the car broke down in Holland and we had to be towed into Germany) and since I had ten days to get through without much English and without the Internet, I took the sewing machine with me and got the quilt top cut and pieced. It came together quickly and beautifully, turning from a fabric stash to a finished king-sized quilt top in two days.

Chop chop!

Chop chop!

I find these left over strips really endearing. I think I have a photo like this for every quilt I've made.

I find these leftover strips really endearing. I think I have a photo like this for every quilt I’ve made.

Then I sat on it for another few months, until a weekend in April when I pieced the back, basted, and quilted the whole thing. Have I mentioned this thing is HUGE? Sheleg popped in to supervise. The back is mostly off-white, with three strips of the twenty fabrics in the order they appear in the front, each a different width. The quilting is simple vertical straight-line stitching.

That's a bit crooked, don't you think?

That’s a bit crooked, don’t you think?

A week or two later I took it with me to the Yorkshire Dales for a proper photoshoot.

On the grass.

On the grass.

On the fence

On the fence.

On the fence some more

On the fence some more.

And on the fence still some more.

And on the fence still some more.

She was right. It was crooked.

She was right. It was crooked.

And now that it’s been on our bed for about six months, not a day goes by where I don’t look at it and delight in how much I love it.

On the bed.

On the bed.

AmysCreativeSideLinking this one over at Blogger’s Quilt Festival under the Roy G. Biv category, where I stand no chance of winning, because have you SEEN what I’m up against? I am awed, quilters–AWED!

Futzing

In the past month I’ve felt like I’ve mostly just been futzing around. Nothing was getting done–though lots of things were on the go–and I just felt like I was getting nowhere with my sewing. I had figured that once I quit my job and was home all day I’d be sewing non-stop, but in the two weeks after I’d left the job I hardly got any sewing done at all. Firstly, because we went down to London for a few days, and secondly because I’m trying to pack up my life, since Quilting Rainbows is moving to Munich in three weeks. THREE. WEEKS.

So like any panicky person who needs to wrap up her life promptly would, I’ve spent most of the last two weeks in front of my sewing machine. I’ve started and finished a few little things, and made progress on a few big things.

Right before I left work, one of my colleagues commissioned me to make a baby quilt for the baby girl her daughter was expecting. She had a very broad idea of what she wanted–something pink, with a big heart. I did a quick search around the internets and found this adorable mini-quilt by Plum and June. My colleague really liked it, though we both agreed that the grey wasn’t really on for this and that I’d go with whites and creams instead.

For all my love for half-square triangles, I’ve not actually sewn any, other than in my sister’s chevron quilt, for which I used the tutorial from Missouri Star Quilt Company. I thought I’d try the traditional method, with marking a line along the diagonal of two face-to-face squares, and well… no. That was not going to work, because the end of the line kept running sideways on me in the sewing machine. Plus, marking lines on fifty squares? Do you people know me at all?!?! (I think since about four of you read this, two of which are related to me, the resounding answer in Toronto was “YES!” while elsewhere, it was “Nope, not really.”)

Beginning square size x .64=finished square size

The problem was that the tutorial (like most Missouri Star Quilt Company tutorials) uses pre-cuts, and I wanted to end up with 4” finished HSTs. WHAT TO DO?!?! (Google, of course.) The formula is essentially “beginning square size x .64=finished square size”.

Handy! Speaking of handy, guess what Germans call mobile phones? That’s right! So I saved that handy little chart right onto my… Handy! Ich muss deutsch lernen, people! (Germs also capitalize Nouns<–see what I did there?!) But anyway, I digress.

So once I had the square size sussed out, I got busy cranking out 7” squares to make 4.5” HSTs. I used fabrics I had on hand, and chose three dark pinks and three lighter pinks/creamy pinks. I don’t know why I chose the design I chose for laying out the hearts (which, looking at it now, makes it look like a startled chicken), and I made a couple of placement errors that meant the same fabric was aligned on some of the blocks, but it was a fairly minor distraction (which I only really noticed after I’d quilted the thing–oops!). Once I laid out the pink HSTs, I made cream/pink HSTs for the heart border, and then filled out the rest of the space with white/cream squares.

Quilt top

Surprised chicken

To quilt, I decided to put to practice one of the patterns taught by Leah Day in Craftsy’s Free Motion Quilting a Sampler class  (*affiliate link, see disclaimer below). I used the echo paisley design inside the heart, using a pink variegated Aurifil 40wt (4668) thread. I’m not delighted with the free-motion quilting results, but it came out okay. While I was able to create really nice paisley echos on a practice block, it’s a lot harder to do with the weight of a quilt to move along (and that’s just a baby quilt, which makes me worry about anything bigger). I think my main problem with FMQ is scale–I quilt too small and too tightly together, which means I’m working harder, and also that the design is less apparent than it would be if it were bigger.

Paisley FMQ

Paisley FMQ

FMQ detail

FMQ detail

Once I finished the FMQ, I used white Aurifil 40wt thread to straight-line stitch around the shape of the heart.

Straight-line quilting

Straight-line quilting

This is where things got ugly and words were sworn. I’d had no trouble with the thread for the FMQ, but I was getting constant thread breaks for the straight lines. I admit, I thought I got a bad batch of Aurifil and I might have said some unkind words about Alex Veronelli (but not really–how could you swear at that punim?! He’s flipping adorable), but it really made no sense that it would be the thread, because I’d been working on a bunch of QAYG straight lines a couple of days earlier and got no thread breaks at all. Then I started messing around with the tension, but still, thread breaks and skipped stitches. I looked in the manual (which, if you happen to be reading this, Janome people, you have A LOT of work to do) to try to identify the problem and narrowed it down to the needle. I don’t have many needles at home and had managed to violently break my last quilting needle when switching feet the day before. All I had was a 70, so I was using that, which is where things went wrong.

The following day I rushed off to my ghetto fabric store, where they don’t sell anything brand name (and honestly, I hate brands, but sometimes they are the only thing that works) and bought a bunch of needles. I rushed home and stuck one in, only to discover that things had gotten worse! WELL. On closer inspection, I realized I bought overlocker needles :(. The following day I went to the local sewing machine shop (not my favourite shop, but a Janome dealer) and bought some Schmetz needles. HALLELUJAH, people. I tried an 80 needle first and though there were no thread breaks, I was getting an occasional skipped stitch, so I switched to the 90 and the angels rejoiced and I finally finished quilting the damn thing.

For the back I used a Tilda fabric I’d had in my stash for ages (Huh. Just noticing how crookedly I put it on.), and for the binding I used Full Moon Lagoon from Mo Bedell for Andover Fabrics. I kind of love how the FMQ creates a really subtle heart design on the back.

Subtle FMQ heart

Subtle FMQ heart

I fully machine sewed the binding, and while it’s still not perfect, I’m pleased enough with it. Below is a detail of where the binding went wrong, but since it was right on the edge and was holding the binding together, I didn’t fix it. In other instances where there was a gaping hole, I stitched over to keep things tightly shut. I did accidentally stitch the binding to the wrong side, so the “top stitching” side faces the back and the ditch side faces the top, but I’m sure I’m the only one who’ll notice that.

Machine binding gone wrong

Machine binding gone wrong

I know I’ve pointed out all the things that went wrong or that I only consider to have turned out ok, but I’m really happy with how this quilt turned out! It took far longer to make than I’d wanted to spend on it, and in financial terms it was probably a loss, but it was interesting to make and taught me a few things, so I’ll consider the “loss” my tuition fee.

While I was working on this, my former colleague discovered her other daughter is expecting a baby boy in February and asked me to make a quilt for him. More on that in a separate post.

* An affiliate link means that I may get a commissions if you decide to purchase anything from the company I linked to, in this case Craftsy.com. I only recommend products and services that I use and love and I love Craftsy. Deeply.