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.

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 (my thanks to Lilysquilts for the photo) 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.