Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Colourful Kaffe

Last week I used a day’s holiday and some rail vouchers for a midweek trip to the Quilt Museum in York. After hearing Kaffe Fassett’s talk on colour at Festival of Quilts, I desperately wanted to see his Ancestral Gifts exhibition at the Quilt Museum before it ends on 5th September.

I met up with a couple of friends from Leeds MQG and we spent a very enjoyable hour or so looking at the quilts. The exhibition combines quilts from the Quilters’ Guild collection with modern versions of these quilts designed by Kaffe Fassett and made using fabrics from the Kaffe Fassett Collective. Photography was allowed, but the sunny day and the lighting in the gallery mean my photos with the iPad don’t really do the quilts justice.

Photo credits – Kaffe Fassett and The Quilters’ Guild Collection

The old quilts were amazing, especially given the circumstances in which they were made – all hand pieced, no fancy rulers and rotary cutters, and no daylight light bulbs! As well as admiring the colours and fabrics of Kaffe Fassett quilts, it was interesting to see how these quilts had been “modernised” by use of different cutting or piecing techniques and clever pattern placement.
Photo credits – Kaffe Fassett and The Quilters’ Guild Collection

After a few purchases from the museum shop, there was time for a leisurely lunch sat outside in the sun at the Italian Deli next to the museum during which there was lots more quilty chatter and discussion. Then it was time for me to get the train back home.

(But only after a flying visit to one of York’s other speciality museums.)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Festival of Quilts 2015 – Learning, Listening, Looking (and Lots of Liberty)

This year’s trip to Festival of Quilts is over and I don’t really know how to sum it up. There were some good bits (such as learning new skills, meeting up with friends and attending a Kaffe Fassett talk) but overall I just feel a bit meh about it and I’m not sure why. 

My trip was over two days and each morning was spent in a half day workshop. The first one was New York Beauty with Judi Mendelssohn and covered foundation paper piecing and curved piecing. This was my only third attempt at foundation paper piecing and was the first one where I have managed to get neat ¼" seams thanks to Judi’s excellent teaching. The majority of the time in the class was spent doing the foundation piecing, but the latter part was learning how to piece curves. Whilst I don’t know if I will make a New York Beauty pattern, I can see how the techniques would be transferable to other designs such as mini flying geese, Drunkard’s Path or apple cores.

The second workshop was with Sarah Humphreys and was free motion quilting. I could have spent much longer in this class and was just starting to get into the swing of it when it was time to pack up. We started off trying various patterns and it soon became apparent that each of us found some patterns easier than others. I think I tend to favour variations on straight line free motion quilting – I was happier with "square spirals" than with curves and my pebbles/bubbles (in the bottom right of the piece) soon turned into bricks/boulders and looked more like wall than a pebbly beach. 

One advantage of having to be in the NEC for workshops at 9.30am was being able to get a last minute ticket for the Kaffe Fassett talk "Past & Present: Colour in Design". This was supposed to be for 45 minutes, but lasted for nearly an hour. The talk was most interesting and covered the background to the Kaffe Fassett Collective, an insight into where he finds inspiration and a bit about his exhibition at the York Quilt Museum. It was illustrated with plenty of slides including many gloriously colourful scenes.

As to be expected at Festival of Quilts, there were some stunning quilts on display but I took no photos this year as there were either too many people or I had too many bags. There were some quilts that just took my breath away with the detail in their piecing or quilting and there were some items that just left me asking "Why?". I was hoping to come away full of inspiration from the quilts, but instead I came away with the realisation of my own limitations in terms of time, space or skill to produce such quilts. Another blogger has described it as being "intimidated by perfection" and I think this is an excellent description of how I feel.

Of course, no trip to Festival of Quilts would be complete without a bit of shopping. This year I didn’t browse the stands and instead focused on a few key stands. First up was some Liberty for my stash – lots of Liberty in fact. There were some quarter metres of sale designs (£8/m) from Fabrics Galore, some £1 scrap pieces from Alice Caroline and some further small pieces from Worn and Washed (who were a new-to-me supplier).

Other purchases (most of which were on my shopping list) were some Bosal R-form, Oakshott charm packs, Kaffe Fassett shot cotton scraps, a couple of reels of Aurifil, a bobbin ring, fine glue dispensers (for if I try glue basting when piecing) and a really sweet pair of Ernest Wright scissors.

My bargain of the trip had to be the first issue of Simply Moderne magazine as it came with a free pack of Aurifil thread (I think I was one of the last to get the offer as there were only five thread packs left). The magazine has some lovely photos for inspiration, but this issue has very few UK-specific features, so I’m not sure if I will be tempted to get future issues.

There were also a few freebies to be had – Fusible Warm Fleece and Steam-a-Seam from the Warm Company and a couple of mini charm packs from the Moda Bakeshop.

All in all, I enjoyed the workshops and lectures at this year's trip to Festival of Quilts and am pleased with the additions to my Liberty stash. By not taking photos of the quilts and not browsing all of the stands, I wonder if I feel guilty that I have not made the most of my trip, even though it probably would have resulted in me buying more fabric I don't really need.

Festival of Quilts seems very keen to put quilts into different categories – contemporary, modern, art, miniature, traditional, etc – and has made me think about what type of quilter I want to be. After some contemplating on the train home, I think I want to produce “useful” quilts; quilts that will be used and not ones to be admired from a distance accompanied by do not touch signs. At the moment I can't see myself spending many months trying to produce just one quilt to show standards and would rather use that time making several quilts that will be used and loved. With that in mind, it was serendipitous to come home to news that I have new great niece and will finally (after several great nephews) be able to use some of the girly colours in my stash.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Some Summer Sewing

Well, we may not be getting summer weather in the UK, but the wet weather has meant more time spent sewing, mainly little projects that I’d finished and move onto the next one before thinking about blogging about them. So here's a catch up of the last couple of months.

First up were a couple of useful items - a tiny biscornu pin cushion and case for my sewing glasses. The pin cushion was a quick handsewing project using 1" squares of Liberty tana lawn. As tana lawn is so fine, I reinforced it with some fusible fleece after piecing the four patch block and prior to sewing it together.

The glasses case used up the left over ½” hexies from my Union Jack quilt and was lined with some silk twill from my trip to the Adamley sale. At some point I’ll write a tutorial for this, but in the meantime the layout of the hexies is shown to get you started.

Next was an apron for Love Stitches’ apron festival which was raising money for a local hospice. This was in the patchwork sewing apron category and each apron needed a title and so this one was called “Measure Twice, Cut Once”. The patchwork elements were the block border at the top and foundation paper pieced scissors on the pocket (made using a pattern from Craftsy). In keeping with the title, the neck strap and waist ties were made from tape measure fabric.

Sunday was a washout weather-wise but productive for sewing. First was a very quick phone case made from leather for my husband's new phone. This was just a matter of cutting a piece of leather to size and stitching the sides together. I used Aurifil 28wt thread which was thick enough to give a little extra strength and not too thick to cause problems with the machine’s tension.

Sunday afternoon was spent making a batch of boob bags for knitted knockers! Knitted Knockers UK are a group of volunteers who provide free knitted protheses for women who have had a lumpectomy or mastectomy. One volunteer was having problems finding gift bags for the larger cup sizes and so I offered to make some. This cause has actually got me cutting into my Liberty stash as the fineness of the tana lawn means the drawnstring bags do not end up being too bulky.

Sewing plans for August include a trip to Festival of Quilts, finishing my husband's quilt (I've actually started it after several years of waiting!) and making a picnic blanket which is more in keeping with my new picnic basket that the existing £4.99 Lidl special.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Building Blocks Quilt

The boats quilt was well received in Norway, so much so that a second one was needed for my great nephew’s step-brother. After some discussion about what is popular these days with eight-year old boys, I decided to go with a Lego theme. Using Moda’s Blockhead baby quilt as a starting point, I planned a pattern using Quilt Assistant for a bigger rectangular quilt with no borders.

Apart from the backing, this quilt was made entirely from stash. The Lego blocks were made from FQs (including some left over from the boats quilt) and the background is some Timeless Treasure black/rainbow rain fabric found in the bargain baskets at Abakhans a few months ago. I backed the quilt with fleece and added a narrow binding in bright red.

An advantage of making a two-layer quilt with fleece is not having to worry about the distance between lines of quilting. I simply stitched-in-the-ditch around the Lego blocks using Aurifil 40wt in black, adding in a few “ghost” blocks where there was a large area of background. For these ghost blocks, I drew a template on freezer paper, ironed it on, stitched around it and then it was just a matter of peeling it off and ironing on in the next spot.

I’m pleased with how this Lego quilt turned out and I really enjoyed the design part of it, especially working out how to piece the blocks together with the minimum of seams. The Timeless Treasures fabric was a generous 44” for WOF so I just need to work out cutting instructions for slightly narrower fabrics before putting this pattern in my tutorials/project section.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Found - a new, local(ish) sewing shop

This weekend started early for me as I was off work on Friday afternoon for a little trip over to Heswall for afternoon tea in a sewing shop.

Love Stitch are based in the centre of Heswall and although the shop and cafe have been open since January, this Friday saw the launch of afternoon teas in the cafe. Through a Twitter giveaway, I had won afternoon tea at their launch event. Unfortunately I was so busy chatting and enjoying tea that I forgot to take any photos, but the lovely ladies at Love Stitch have kindly allowed me to use some from their Instagram and Facebook pages.

The official ribbon cutting was done by Paul Clarke (whom many of you will recognise from series three of the Great British Sewing Bee) and Betty Pamper, a local blogger and crafter.

(Photo credit: Love Stitch)
After we had enjoyed a glass (or two) of fizz, it was time to sit down for afternoon tea. Much to my delight I was seated at the same table as Paul (hark at me on first name terms!) who was more than happy to answer our many questions about GBSB, but conversation soon turned to fabric and yarns. An hour quickly passed filled with chatter, cups of tea, dainty sandwiches, delicious cakes and fresh-from-the-oven scones with cream, jam and strawberries. Too soon it was time for me to head home, but not before I had made a quick purchase of a couple of fat quarters of Liberty fabric to add to my Liberty stash.

(Photo credit: Love Stitch)

As well as a carefully curated selection of Liberty lawns and silks, Love Stitch have a range of dressmaking and patchwork fabrics, haberdashery and yarn. They also run various sewing, knitting and crocheting classes in the upstairs studio. More details can be found on their website, Facebook page and blog, or on Twitter and Instagram.

(Photo credit: Love Stitch)
It is always nice to find a new fabric shop and it is even better when that fabric shop sells Liberty and is short trip from home. I expect this first visit will not be my last, especially I am tempted to make an apron for their Apron Festival and am trying to resist signing up for their amigurumi workshop.