Thursday, 12 November 2015

Quilting Durham Cathedral?

Am I mad to even be contemplating this?

I was in Durham Cathedral on Monday night, for Evensong with a party of German guests. it was the first time I have been sitting in the Choir since taking up quilting. I found my eyes drawn to the marble marquetry floor - and realised that I was basically looking at a medieval quilt. In stone.

Look at this corners: it is basically flying geese!

 I took some sneaky pics (naughty) while we were showing our guests round afterwards. And I am wondering about trying to actually make a quilt showcasing some of these gorgeous patterns.
Lovely border designs: the middle section could be a great quilt block, too.

Probably would need to use foundation paper piecing for the more complex areas, I suspect?

I'm wondering if FPP designed on a computer would be a good way of replicating these curves/pyramids?
So I will start thinking about this. It might take some time, but wouldn't a Durham Cathedral Quilt be amazing?

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Baby Comfort Blanket

This week I turned a quilt square that I made earlier into a tactile comfort blankie for a friend's new baby. It was really surprisingly easy and quick!

 I took a quilt square - one of the string pieced ones I blogged about a few months ago - and sewed on various little ribbon tags around the edges.

I used a variety of different textures and sizes of ribbon.

Top tip - make sure, when you do this, that you sew them with the looped over end facing INWARDS (as in the photo)! Ahem - I did this for the first side, then realised I had sewn all the others with the loops facing out and had to chop them off and redo it.

Make sure that the bits of ribbon are not long enough to cause any sort of entanglement hazard. And I sewed them on with a double line of stitching, just to be double sure that they wouldn't come off when tugged and chewed.

I then laid a piece of baby fleece over the top of the whole thing (right sides together) and sewed all round the edge leaving a gap for turning, turned it the right way out and then handstitched the gap.

Stupidly, I then forgot to take a photo of the finished thing before giving it to mother and baby! But I'm sure you can imagine it. The lovely thing was that even though baby is far too small, at 4 days old, to be stroking and cuddling it yet, she clearly loved the kaleidoscopic patterns on the quilt square and her little eyes were scanning it busily!

The whole thing took less than an hour to make. If I'd had to make the quilt square from scratch, that would have added maybe another hour, but that still makes this a lovely little finish-in-an-evening project. I'm going to make more - I just need more friends to have babies now!

Monday, 1 June 2015

English paper piecing

The last quilt I showed you was a quilt for my eldest son ...this one is for my youngest, my daughter. (The middle son is having one made too, but that one is proving rather to follow on the complexities of that one!). I've made the top, added the fleece, and am just beginning to quilt it.

This is actually the first one I started, back in February on my quilting retreat. We were introduced to various hand sewing techniques, and the EPP took me right back to making hexagons with my grandmother when I was about 8! I found it very meditative and quite mechanical - I didn't have to think about it too hard - so it was perfect for a retreat.

The great thing about EPP is that it is portable and you can do a tiny amount at a time.So you can sit on the sofa and make up some patches with the templates and fabric whilst watching telly. Or you can sew two together in 5 minutes, or make a whole star in 15 minutes (if you've already got the pieces prepared, maybe 30 if not). 

Whereas I find that the machined projects really need to be worked on for at least half an hour at a time in one go, and before you can start you have to have cleared the dining table, got the machine out, etc.

 This book was one that I was introduced to on the retreat. It is really good, and talks about portability a lot.

It was from here that I got the idea of the white interlocking background, which is created by adding two white diamonds to each star and then tessellating them.

One nice idea in here is doing a reverse of this quilt, with white stars and coloured background, and writing on each star in fabric pen where you made it, so it becomes a journal quilt!

The flip side of EPP being so meditative is that it does build up quite slowly as the pieces themselves are quite small. I am shallow enough to have decided that I'm using bigger diamonds next time, so it builds up quicker! I definitely got to the point where I wanted to complete this, rather than keep going and spend years building up a big enough collection of stars for a whole quilt. Luckily, I'd already decided I wanted to frame the design with other fabric, and it is very satisfying how doing that doubles the size of the quilt top very quickly.

I was originally going to frame it in just the white fabric with yellow stars and use the navy russian dolls fabric (that forms the narrow inner border) as the backing. But then my daughter saw my son's fleece-backed quilt (see that previous post) and decided she wanted a fleece backing too! And when I laid out the white starry fabric next to the pieced top it looked a bit anaemic - I'm very glad I thought of using the navy as an inner border, as it really makes the colours 'pop'.

I'm going to start another diamonds pattern, to have on the go, as it is so relaxing and easy to pick up and put down. At the moment I'm playing around with different flower/leaf/garden ideas, so I may make a fun sampler rather than a proper all-over design next.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Pentecost Stole

I made this last year for Pentecost and had almost forgotten about it when I suddenly remembered I would get to wear it again this year!

I'd just been on my first needle-felting course, and had got terribly excited about the potential for stole making. With beginner's zeal, I needle-felted the whole background cloth from a big carded bat, as well as then adding the design, which took AGES! I suspect I might be inclined to wet-felt - or use bought in felt as a backing - next time.

The design itself was loosely copied from a variety of images that I found online, and was done freehand. I initially didn't trust myself to do the dove straight onto the stole, so I made one separately intending to add it. However, I had miscalculated the width (or rather, the narrowness) of the stole, so it was far too big!
So this little bird ended up on a wall hanging above my children's bed, as they clamoured to have it looking after them at night, and I had to pluck up my courage and do another directly onto the stole.

What I particularly loved about doing the dove was the slight three-dimensionality that you can achieve with needle felting. The wings go over one another, and the body and head are a little rounded. There is also (though you can't really see it in these photos) a slight colour variation, as I added very pale pink and grey wool to the cream in different places, to highlight subtly the different parts of the dove.

I have found, though, that the stole doesn't tend to hang very straight - it is not really heavy enough. So before next year, I need to work out how to add some interlining to give it a bit more body. Any ideas or tips from anyone who has done this before would be very gratefully received!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

My first finished quilt!

Here is my first finished quilt! Made for my eldest son, who requested 'grey' and 'not all flowery' and, most importantly, 'soft'.

In response to the last request, it is not traditionally wadded but backed with fleece. I'm sure this is taboo in all sorts of quilting circles, but he loves it! It also made my first ever attempt at the actual quilting relatively straightforward, as there could be quite big gaps between the quilt lines - I just quilted free form wavy lines across the quilt at about 2-3" intervals.

The hardest thing was actually managing the bulk of fabric through the sewing machine, as it is quite big! Goodness knows what it must be like using wadding...

I made the top using a 'jelly roll' of batik strips in a colour way called 'river rock'. The design is based on the idea I'd seen on the cover of a book of jelly roll quilts - just the strips, with additional strips of background fabric in random lengths sewn onto the ends to make it wider and give a staggered frame effect.

I'm really pleased with it! I did enjoy not having to do much cutting - probably my least favourite part of the whole process. So I will definitely use precut strips again. The simple long seams got a bit boring towards the end, though, so I'll probably mix it up a bit more next time - I might try a parquet squares effect with my next jelly roll?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

String piecing

I have a new crush! I am totally in love with string piecing at the moment.

Each of these took an evening, maybe 2 or 2.5 hours. Which I think is pretty good, as they were the first thing like this I'd ever tried! It would be quicker next time, I'm sure.

I'm currently learning new quilting techniques by following a free Craftsy class. It is a Block of the Month course, where each month focuses on a different technique and you end up with a sampler quilt of 20 different blocks.

This month has been string foundation piecing, and it is brilliant! Have a look at the class here.

You simply cut a background piece of fabric and stitch 'strings' - strips of fabric in various widths - to it. It gives the most wonderful kaleidoscopic effects, and is almost ridiculously easy! I can't quite imagine making a whole quilt in half square triangles or some of the other fiddly techniques, but I could easily imagine making a whole one using this.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Quilter's Prayer

Quilting God,
Take the ragbag of our lives -
Delve in, and pull out fistfuls -
The torn scraps of half-forgotten dreams,
Ragged fragments of failed plans,
Bits and pieces cut off, torn off,
Half-finished, regretted,
Or still taking shape.

Take blues of peacefulness and sorrow,
Greens of growing, playing, or envy,
Yellows of summer sun and sickness,
Whites of calm, quiet and cloud,
Reds of anger, pain and passion;
Greys of soft mist, old age and sorrow;
Scraps imprinted with memories -
A face here, a landscape there -

Quilting God,
Take these scraps of our lives
And combine them with the fibres of your story.
Pierce us with your sharp wisdom
So that, backed by your eternal presence,
Wadded with your incarnate fullness,
The thread of your indwelling spirit
Makes us one with you.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Wedding card

A mini-project today: making a wedding card for two friends getting married today.

For this, I used some scraps of pinky-purply felt that I had previously needle felted and then wet felted. I cut out two hearts, then quickly felted them together overlapping. I used a single needle and only a small amount of felting, as I wanted to keep the look and texture of two distinct hearts, but joined together as one.

I then sprinkled a small amount of gold strands over the top, and lightly felted them onto the surface just to give a little extra sparkle! I had originally planned to add initials or interlocking wedding rings, but when I laid them out they didn't look right, so I left it as it is.

Then just stuck it onto a plain card blank with glue dots - voila! It only took about 10 minutes and I'm really pleased with the result.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

New Blog!

Hello! Welcome to my new blog, devoted to my new hobbies of quilting and felting.

I am very much a beginner!

I've been felting for just over a year. I've done bits and pieces of sewing over the years, including some patchwork as a child, and a few basic children's quilts over the last decade or so, but have just begun to get interested in quilting proper after attending a 'Quilting and Prayer' retreat run by the Creative Arts Retreat Movement.

So this isn't going to be an expert how-to blog, but a place for me to talk about and show off my works in progress, and link to those expert blogs that I'm enjoying!

I've always loved fabrics, textiles, and colour. I've tended to buy lovely bits of fabric and then stash them away, not really knowing what to do with them! What I love about both quilting and felting is the excuse to surround myself with colour and texture - both crafts are so tactile, and the house is now overflowing with gorgeous dyed wools and beautiful fabrics.

My current work in progress
I'm not a terribly precise person, so this isn't the place for exactly matching corners. I don't think I'm likely to be designing and making some of those incredibly complex quilts that fill me with awe, but also seem faintly sterile to me. I'm not a matchy-matchy sort of a person either, and I gather quilts that don't match are known as 'scrappy'. I rather like a hobby where 'scrappy' is a term of endearment and indeed a technical term, rather than a condemnation!