Thursday, 14 August 2014

Festival of Quilts (3) - The Quilts



After doing some shopping and some sewing in the workshops, I found the best time to view the quilts was the last hour of the show. The crowds had gone and it was easy to walk up and down the quilt aisles, taking photos of the quilts that caught my eye. Most of the photos I took were of quilts which I thought were “do-able” and will be added to my library of quilts I’d like to make. A couple of the quilts stood out for their quilting alone (but I didn’t get the details).

The quilts that I most appreciated this year were the miniature quilts (no bigger than 12” on the longest side).



Much has been written and said this year about “modern quilts” and the Festival even had their definition of a modern quilter as part of its setting up a new group in the Quilt Guild. Whilst it can be helpful to group quilts as modern, traditional or art for exhibitions, I would find it much more useful if there were a simply colour coding on the show label indicating the type of quilting. I don’t have a long arm machine nor a frame, and it would be nice to see at a glance which quilts were quilted on a domestic machine with nothing more than an extension table.

Despite my best attempts to view the quilts in a logical fashion, when blog posts started appearing about the Festival, there seems to be a whole section of quilts that I managed to miss. Even so, I came away with lots of ideas and inspiration – now I just need to find the time to sew.

Festival of Quilts (1) - Shopping



Last week I had a two day mini sewing and shopping retreat to Festival of Quilts. It didn’t get off to the best of starts as I arrived at the station to find all trains to Birmingham were cancelled, but somehow I ended up at the NEC on time despite getting a slightly later train and having an extra connection at Stafford. 

Rather than have one very long post about my trip, I’ll split this into three – shopping, sewing and quilts

I’ve been on a fabric fast lite since the start of the year and have been trying to sew from stash before it threatens to take over the whole house. My shopping list wasn’t very long, but I knew from past experience how easy it can be to stray from the list. To try to limit temptation, I took a separate show purse with me and transferred my spending money to it, leaving some spare cash and the cards safely packed away in my main purse. The plan was that the shopping stopped when the money ran out.

I stuck fairly well to my list in terms of items, but maybe not in quantity and even got a free little gift (the pins) from Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine. Thursday’s purchases were some Liberty scraps from AliceCaroline, some Liberty FQs from the Little World of Fabric, half a metre of Liberty from Fabrics Galore, paper pieces from Hannah’s Room, Superior Bottom Line thread from The Crafty Quilter and a Millefiori Quilt book from QuiltMania


Friday’s shopping opportunities were curtailed by the lack of space in my bag and the lack of funds in my purse. A small emergency transfer (I deemed it to be an emergency) of funds rectified one of the problems and allowed a few more Liberty scraps to find their way into my bag, along with some half metres of Oakshott and some half metres of shot and striped cottons from K&K Machines.


As I’m trying not to add to my stash, I didn’t really browse the stalls which actually made for a more relaxing trip. I didn’t feel the need to hunt out the latest fabric releases or to try to find all the special offers. I even had time to sit outside in the sunshine and have a quiet lunch away from all the crowds before heading off to my first workshop.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Festival of Quilts (2) - Sewing


After spending my first morning at Festival of Quilts doing some shopping, it was time for the first of my two workshops. I’ve been to Festival of Quilts before, but this was the first time I had booked any of the Academy Workshops. I chose two half day (3 hour) workshops – the Honeycomb Quilt (with Sue Bouchard) and Modern Log Cabin Variations (with Sarah Humphreys).


In the Honeycomb Quilt workshop, Sue showed how to cut hexagons using a diamond template and how to stitch them with triangles using no Y seams. We were sent a class supply list which included yardage and the option to order a kit in advance, but it was not made clear that the kit was for the die cut shapes. Spare kits were available on the day and over three quarters of the class chose this option which meant that the few of us cutting our shapes (myself included – I had carried my mat and was determined to use it!) were always playing catch up with instructions. I managed to get my table runner completed in the class (just don’t look too closely at the points) and as Sue had kindly given us a set of templates and instruction booklet I may try this pattern and technique again at home.

In the Log Cabin workshop, Sarah showed us how to make three variations on the log cabin block – wonky, wavy and improv. The class was very well structured with us being given just under an hour for each block before the class as a whole moved onto the next one. The first hour just flew by as each round I fought the temptation to square up my wonky block. The second hour introduced two new techniques to me – free hand rotary curve cutting and stitching curves. The third hour saw us using up our “left overs” to make an improve block, but unfortunately this was cut short by a power failure in our classroom which took a good 10-15 minutes to rectify. Sarah very kindly stayed on after the end of the class so that we could make up some of the lost time.


I thoroughly enjoyed both workshops and was very pleased that I managed to use fabric from my stash for the supply list. It was difficult to tell at the time of booking what would be required as the supply list was only sent with the tickets. A downside to taking the classes was having to bring your own cutting mat and rulers as these were rather bulky to carry around the busy halls. Another little niggle (which didn't affect me ) was that tickets were later released for previously sold out workshops which may have been annoying if you had booked your second/third choice of workshops.

My afternoon workshop finished at 4.30pm and it was surprising how quiet the halls were for the last hour of the show - it was an ideal time for looking at the quilts. My top tip for FoQ (assuming you don't want to try to book workshops on the day) is not to arrive for opening time as there will be a big entry queue and instead to stay until until closing time when it is much less congested.




Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Carried away


I’m off to Festival of Quilts for a few days and this year I’ve booked a couple workshops to do in addition to all the shopping and looking in awe at the quilts. Reading through the supply list last weekend, I realised that I have to take a cutting mat and rulers – cue some searching at home for a suitable bag. Finding nothing either big enough for the mat or strong enough to stop the ruler corners poking through, it was time to time to get the sewing machine out and make one.

The pattern was made up as I went along and what started out as being a simple tote bag ended up having a lining, a button fastening, an outer zip pocket and an inner patch pocket. Everything was from stash. The main fabric was two small fents of furnishing fabric from Standfast and Barrack (50p each) interlined with a remnant of curtaining bump (also from S&B, £1). The outer zip was from an Abakhan bargain bag (£1.80 for the whole bag), the lining was left over from making the Mommy Poppins bag and the button was from my button tin.




I wanted this bag to be able to be carried either by hand or on the shoulder, but given the size of the bag and shortness of the carrier (me!) the hand straps couldn’t be very long otherwise the bag would drag along the floor. A bit of clever folding resulted in an integrated short handle between the shoulder strap that, thanks to some fortuitous cutting and pattern matching, is almost invisible.


If you’re going to Festival of Quilts on Thursday or Friday and spot this bag, do stop me and say hello.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Sewing Machine Makeover – Another Modification



I have a mini sewing machine that is light enough for me to carry it to Liverpool Sewing Club and Leeds Modern Quilting Guild. However, whilst it is good that that it is light in weight, it is not so good that it is light on features. 

Back in January, I gave my mini machine a makeover which allowed me to use my spare Husqvarna feet on it and I found a tiny light that could be attached to it. However, each time I used the machine I would find myself reaching for a non-existent thread cutter. While sewing blocks at a Leeds MQG meeting, I realised that the machine had a handy gap in the casing which was ideal to secure the threads prior to cutting, but I still needed snips or scissors to cut them. 


However, all it took was 5 minutes, a craft knife blade and some washi tape and this gap became a thread cutter. I wrapped washi tape around each end of the blade, leaving 2-3 cm of the blade exposed.


I then secured the blade to the machine with more washi tape, positioning it a few millimetres below the gap. I’d like to pretend that I chose the pink leopard print washi tape as a safety feature so that the blade was highly visible, but it was just what was to hand. 


I’m very pleased with this cheap and cheerful upgrade to my mini sewing machine. The blades were £1 for ten from the market and the washi tape was £1 for three rolls from The Works. My next challenge is to find a way of covering the feed dogs and maybe making a lightweight extension table so that I can do small pieces of free motion quilting!