Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Some stitching and a lot of unpicking

This weekend I finally got round to tackling two quilting techniques that I’ve been wanting to try for a while – making a quilt with knits and spiral quilting.

Earlier this year I won four fat eighths of Woodland knits in a giveaway by Forest Poppy and The Village Haberdashery and I thought they would be ideal for my first attempt at a knit quilt. I worked out a pattern in Excel (much more fun than my usual tasks in Excel) which optimised the quilt size and eliminated any need for seam matching. 

The pattern is based on Flemish Bond brickwork, using the Woodland knits for the “stretchers” and some squares of white knit for the “headers”. I’m still trying to sew from stash and the only white knit I had was a rarely worn T shirt that was due to head to a charity shop. Unfortunately this was much thinner than the Woodland knits and so I ended up using a double layer held together with some 505 spray! Continuing the “make-do” aspect of the quilt, I pieced together offcuts of fleece for the backing.

I initially chose to quilt using a blue 40 wt Aurifil (from the Simply Solids goody bag) but halfway through I was having doubts. I ignored these doubts and finished the quilting but it was obvious that the blue was the wrong choice. It overpowered the blocks and the white squares were lost. I decided to requilt with white 50 wt Aurifil and to save having to re tack the quilt, I initially unpicked just the centre and restarted the spiral so that the new white stitching was a few millimetres to the side of the blue stitching. It was worth all the unpicking as I'm much happier with the white quilting.

The binding was cut from a FQ from the Fly Away collection by Dashwood (also from the Simply Solids goody bag) which was an ideal match for the yellowy-green in the knits. When making the binding strip I wasn't concentrating and managed to piece all my bias seams so that I had mitred corners instead of a linear strip – time for yet more unpicking.


I’m pleased to have finally scratched the itch of wanting to sew a quilt with knits and try spiral quilting and I now have another quilt for Project Linus. The spiral binding quilting is great to use with a pieced quilt back as there is no worry about getting seams and quilting to align. I can see myself using spiral quilting on future quilts and maybe using the pattern again, but I think I will stick to woven fabrics for blocks.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Hexie Origami

When Bonnie Hunter shared a link to a little hexie pouch, I knew I had another project to add to my to-do list, but unlike many of the projects on my list, this one got made fairly quickly. I used silk and linen scraps from an earlier quilt and lined it with some Liberty Rossmore cord.

Both the link that Bonnie shared (momentosdecostura) and the original link (maria-cecilia-mora) use interfacing instead of paper for the EPP, however, I decided to make my little pouch the traditional way using papers. These were removed prior to applying some fusible fleece to give the pouch some support and some loft for quilting. I hand stitched the lining in place and then did my first ever hand-quilting – just a simple echo of each hexie. 

Then it was time for the orgami part to come into play - following the instructions of where to fold and stitch and seeing the flat panel of hexies tranform into a pouch. I had planned on using a button and loop fastening, but I couldn’t find anything suitable in my stash. Instead I used the couture technique of covering a press stud which gives an almost invisible fastening.

The pouch was made using 1” hexie papers (from the SimplySolids goody bag) and I liked the pouch so much that I used some slightly smaller hexies (3/4”) to make a little matching thread catcher.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Quilt Assistant – free quilt designing software

I've been spending quite a bit of time trying a free quilt designing program for Windows PCs. Quilt Assistant is primarily planned for creating quilts from photos and drafting traditional blocks. However, hidden away is the computer equivalent of colouring pens and paper for designing quilts made up of a single shape such as squares, hexagons, triangles, and many more.

The online manual shows how to create quilts from photos and how to design traditional quilt blocks but it doesn't mention this other very useful design feature, so I've put together a few screen shots to get you started.

The single shape design feature can be accessed by clicking the “regular pattern” tab when creating a new blank project (the default tab is “free design”).

This tab allows you can choose your shape (or pattern) and adjust the size and count to create a workspace representative of the finished size of your quilt. The default setting is for squares, but there are several more exciting shapes available including clamshells and applecores.

In the workspace, you need be in “coloring mode” (the grid lines will be solid and a color selection palette will appear). This can be selected by the button in the upper right of the screen or from the "Mode" drop down menu.

Then it is just a matter of using the mouse to select colours, fill in the shapes and create your quilt design. There isn’t an eraser as such - if you make a mistake you recolour the shape using the correct colour or the background colour.

I've not tried using the program for its primary purposes of designing picture quilts or traditional blocks, but I've found it to be great for this type of designing, especially for hexagon quilts. It doesn't have advanced features such as pattern fills or importing jpg files of fabrics, but it is a lot easier than using pens and paper. The program is free from and while the author was at one time accepting quilt fabric in lieu of donations, this is no longer the case.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Simply Solids Super Saturday

Today I headed over the Pennines for the opening of the Simply Solids real-life (rather than on-line) shop.

There were plenty of people.

A comfy corner with some snazzy sofas.

Lots of fabulous fabrics.

Generous goody bags.

And a few purchases were made.

Justine and Lisa have created a bright and welcoming shop - for those wanting to visit, the shop address is Unit 104, Colne Valley Business Park, Linthwaite, HD7 5QG and there is plenty of free parking. Opening hours can be found on the Simply Solids facebook page and  do check out the Simply Solids website where they will be posting details of classes.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Simple sewing to make the heart sing

After feeling rather ambivalent about the quilt I finished recently, I was in need of some pick-me-up sewing and so I made the decision to cut into my stash of Liberty lawn. Earlier in the year in the Liberty sale I treated myself to a leather cosmetics case embossed with the Ianthe pattern. This little pouch is far too nice to risk any make up spillages and instead I use it for my hexagon sewing kit. I needed a small needlecase and scissor cosy for the kit and decided to make them out of the same print.

This was such a satisfying little project using hexagons cut from card, wadding offcuts, Liberty lawn and felt. They took less than an hour to make and, unlike the quilt, I love them. The needlecase is just big enough to take some piecing needles and a larger needle for burying thread ends, whereas the scissor cosy is the ideal size for my thread snipping scissors and holds them securely in place thanks to a hidden press stud.

The case and cosy are quick to sew and can be made from scraps. I'll add a full tutorial to the projects section in the next few weeks, but in the mean time here are some basic instructions. It is easy to make any size of hexagon using a compass and ruler so for this project you don't need die-cut hexagons.

  1. The size of the hexagon should be determined by the scissors and should be such that a corner (vertex) of the hexagon sits within a ring of the handle and the points of the scissors are within the hexagon.
  2. Cut two hexagons from thin card and use these as templates to cut your outer fabric, wadding and felt. The outer fabric should be 1 cm larger on all sides than the hexagon, the wadding a few millimetres larger than the hexagon, and the felt a few millimetres smaller than the hexagon.
  3. Glue the wadding to the card and thread baste the outer fabric to the hexagon, placing it over the wadding and taking care to stitch through only the fabric seam allowances and not the card. The stitches should be as far from the edge as possible to ensure that they are hidden by the felt.
    Glue or stitch the felt to cover the seam allowances. If using glue for the needlecase, it is advisable to only apply glue to the edge of the felt as it is easier to insert needles if the centre is not stuck down.
  4. For the needlecase, with outer fabrics together, whip stitch along one side to form a hinge.
  5. Stitch a press stud to the felt on the opposite side of the hinge (optional).
  6. For the scissor cosy, stitch a press stud to one corner of the felt. With the felt linings together, whip stitch along four sides, ensuring that the press stud is in the centre of the open sides.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A Looks for Less Quilt

I finished this quilt top in June, but it sat on the to-do pile until August when I eventually got round to basting it. It was another month until it was quilted and it was finished finally on Saturday, thanks to a day of burying the ends and stitching the binding at Leeds Modern Quilt Guild meeting.

I wanted to try making a quilt using something other than quilting cottons, but without breaking the bank. The quilt is a mixture of scrap packs of furnishing silk and some linen-look fabric and is backed and bound with factory shop seconds of Liberty lawn making it a case of luxury for less.

I prewashed the fabrics before cutting to make sure they were washable and used ½” seam allowances as the fabrics tended to fray and then quilted ¼” from the seams to stabilise the fabrics. I think the wadding is a Cloud Eco 70/30 recycled cotton/polyester blend, but I bought it over a year ago from Doughty’s at a show and I can’t remember the exact details. It has a nice degree of shrinkage which helps to hide some of the dodgy quilting. The linen-look fabric in particular could have done with being more heavily starched in preparation for the quilting (which was done using Aurifil 40 wt) as it had a tendency to creep resulting in puckers at the end of each rectangle.

I don’t normally label my quilts, but for this one I used my machine’s alphabet feature to add a label of sorts in one corner. I stitched this just through the backing and wadding and it is not very noticeable at all.
Spot the label!
Close up of the label.

Now I've made this quilt, it has not quite worked out as I had envisaged. I can't quite put my finger on what I don't like, but I'm more ambivalent over it rather than enthused by it. I wonder if it is the lack of contrast between the linen and the beige silk - perhaps I would like it more had I used only white silk. No doubt it will be a functional quilt, if not a fancy quilt, and will be welcomed as the evenings start to get chillier.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A summer of so little sewing

This summer has seen very little sewing. I started a new quilt, finished a block from last year’s FQ retreat, made a pair of pyjama shorts, stitched a bag for Festival of Quilts and that has been about it. I think I was knocked out of kilter a bit in May by some deaths and illnesses amongst family and friends and since then I’ve not really felt like picking up a needle and thread or reaching for fabric and scissors.

There are signs though that Autumn will be a bit more productive and maybe my sew-jo is returning. I made a quick iPad cover for my godson using an old LFC pyjama top and a FQ of fabric (but didn’t get time to take a photo). I’ve basted and quilted the quilt top and will get the binding stitched at Leeds MQG on Saturday. I’ve also added a few more hexies to my long term hexie liberty quilt project, a task which has been much easier thanks to some new additions to my sewing kit.

I switched from using Aurifil 50wt cotton to Bottomline 60wt polyester for stitching the hexies together and thanks to a bargain pair of rather blingtastic reading glasses I no longer struggle with close up needlework. The thread was recommended for EPP by Flossie Teacakes and I bought some reels at Festival of Quilts. It is a very slippery thread but I’ve had far fewer knots or breakages with it than with the Aurifil. I‘ve worn glasses/contact lenses since at school and am starting to reach the stage (or rather the age!) where I can see more clearly without them for close up needlework, especially when using the fine 60wt thread. I assumed that because my reading was not affected, reading glasses would be of no help. How wrong I was – this £2 pair of glasses have made such a difference to my hand sewing and are now an essential part of my sewing kit.

I'm hopeful that the next few months will see the sewing restart and soon there will be some small projects or progress reports to share with you.