Friday, 15 July 2016

Greenbelt Quilting Bee: The Silent Stars 2016 Quilt

Delighted to announce that Anne Bennett and I are hosting a new initiative at Greenbelt this year! The Greenbelt Quilting Bee  will take place on the Saturday afternoon of Greenbelt, 3-6pm, in the Christian Aid venue. (The Christian Aid theme this year is to do with making a home-from-home for refugees, so making a snuggly quilt seems particularly appropriate).

We will be making a Silent Stars Quilt, to reflect this year's Greenbelt theme. The idea is that ANYONE can have a go, from experienced quilters/sewers to children and complete novices!

How can you get involved?
Various ways!
1. If you are a complete beginner, just turn up and we will show you what to do! You can either do the REALLY simple (particularly child-friendly) option and simply draw a star on fabric, cut it out, and then add it to our quilt.

2. If you want a bit more of a challenge, you can learn English Paper Piecing. This is a traditional patchwork technique where small pieces of fabric are folded around paper templates, then sewn together edge to edge. Here is my daughter holding a demonstration star:

3. We will be adding the stars to the quilt but we will be Quilting As We Go, so you will also get to learn basic hand quilting skills! If you can sew on a button, you can do this. (If you can't sew on a button, I'm sure we can teach you quickly!).

4. Finally, if you are already an experienced quilter, there are two ways we would love you to get involved!

4.1 You are invited to make a star block, or star of your choice, in advance, and bring it along to Greenbelt to add to the quilt. All stars will be appliqued/quilted-as-you-go onto a quilt 'blank', so size is not critical. To guide your colour choices, we will be adding the stars to a navy blue background, so bright colours that would stand out will be best, and if you are using a background for your block, choose dark blue/black shades ideally.

4.2 And PLEASE, come along and join the bee and add your voice to ours as a guide, companion and instructor to those who are completely new to sewing! You don't have to be an expert, but if you can thread a needle and have ever quilted before you will be able to help explain the simple techniques to complete beginners.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Bookcase Quilt 'Pattern'

I've finally finished my improvised Bookcase Quilt! Several people have asked how to make it, and it was dead easy. So here are the instructions:

1. Choose at least three different sets of fabrics for three different shelves. How much you need of each depends on how big you want the quilt to be and how many fabrics you have! It helps to have at least one or two fabrics with a text based print.

You will also need bookcase fabric, enough for the shelves and edges (take into account the direction of the grain if appropriate), and a small amount of a darker shade for the places where the back of the bookcase shows behind some piles of books.

I also used a small collection of printed selvedges to make a pile of books. If you have many more selvedges that you've collected, you could incorporate these into your full shelves. You could even make an entire bookcase out of selvedges, as a library of all the fabrics you'd ever used - imagine that!

2. Cut the fabrics into strips of varying widths. If you have selvedges, leave them on. I used between 1" and 2.5". These strips will be the spines of your books, so you may want to think about the direction of the print for at least some of them.

3. If you wish, you can insert 'titles' into some (or even all) of the books at this point. I had a fat quarter of fabric printed as if it were vintage labels, and I fussy cut a few of these and inserted them into just three of the strips. To do this easily, cut that strip the same width as your fussy cut label (allowing for the seam allowance either side when you piece the strip next to others), and then just slash the strip and sew the label to form part of the strip. Alternatively, titles could be hand-embroidered on at a later stage, or you could print your own labels using your printer and specially treated fabric sheets?

4. Sew the strips together, lining up the ends at the edge without the selvedge, and letting the selvedges naturally stagger themselves at the other end. Don't bother pressing as you go, but alternate sewing up and down the strips to minimise a warp developing. Press at the end.


5. At this point, I cut the strip sheets in half horizontally, so that each strip sheet formed two similar shelves of books. One was a neat cut from the matched edges to the cutting line, the other had a neat base at the cutting line but a staggered top with various selvedges.

6. So now I had three completed rows of books (the straight cuts, the bottom three shelves), and three more raggedy string sets! The next step is to make the other shelves by using the remaining string sets and any other bits and pieces, appliqued and/or pieced together with the background fabric. I had three variations on the top three shelves. From top to bottom:

(a) I used most of a strip set as the width of my row, and cut a part of it off. I then added a wide strip of background fabric to complete the bookcase width, and then appliqued a small section of the strip set to it on an angle, to look like a few books leaning up against the rest.

(b) I sewed several selvedges together, topstitching through the selvedge edge onto the raw edge underlapping it, to make a 'pile of books'. I then attached this to the second row as before.

(c) the final row was made up of the raw staggered edges from one strip which had quite a few selvedges in it. If I'd planned this better I'd have made sure I used all selvedge edges on this row! As it was, I had to hand turn and hem quite a few of them. I added a strip of the background fabric behind the top edges and appliqued the whole top of the strip to it.

7. Cut the bookcase (brown in my case) fabric into strips for the shelves and piece together the book rows with the shelves (like sashing).

 8. Baste (I use spray glue), and quilt. I just quilted in the ditch along the shelves and between some of the books, and added a few hand quilted details of book bindings on some of the larger books.

9. Finally, use the bookcase fabric to bind the quilt, giving the effect of the edges of the bookcase.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Super Quick Strippy Quilt (Free Tutorial)

I bought a stash of co-ordinating fabric in a sale yesterday and challenged myself to make a quilt top out of it in what remained of the weekend!

This took a total of 7 hours.

I haven't quilted it yet (I've run out of glue spray to baste, bah), but I reckon if I had some I could have got the whole thing done in one weekend.

If you want to have a go at this super speedy quilt, here's what I did:

Materials: 9 half-metres of fabric, 3 each in 3 colourways (I had 3 different duck egg blue prints, 3 dusky purple prints, and 3 cream prints), plus 1.5m for the backing.

(This is enough to make a quilt roughly 52" by 64", and there is enough left over to do the binding and to also make a matching cushion or two from the scraps of the string pieced sheets).

1. Sort the 3 different colour sets of fabric out - two for the main strip set columns (blue and purple here) and one for the dividing colour (cream prints here).

2. Stacking the 3 coloured prints together, folding as necessary to fit on your cutting mat, cut down the grain (so the strips are 0.5 long) into 4" and 2" strips. I didn't use quite all the fabric - I had 6 of each strip (6 narrow and 6 wide of each print). Repeat for the other colourway.

3. From the cream prints, cut only 4" strips. You'll need 256" in total for a 64" long quilt (4x64) but I'd do a bit extra - maybe 270". Subcut these - I cut random lengths in the 6-12" range.

4. For each of the blue and purple strip sets, sew them together along their long (0.5m) edges to make a string sheet. I did this in a simple repeating pattern:

      Narrow strip of Print A
      Wide strip of Print B
      Narrow strip of Print C
      Wide strip of Print A
      Narrow strip of Print B
      Wide strip of Print C

5. Sew the cream strips together end to end to make 4 long strips each at least 64" long.

6. Press all seams (it helps the sewing together to press all the seams in the same direction on each string sheet).

7. Fold up the blue and purple string sheets lengthwise (so the folded pile is 0.5m wide and narrow enough to fit on your cutting board). Trim the ragged edges straight, and subcut into columns: I cut  the the blue string sheet into half (two columns of about 10" wide each), and the purple string sheet into two 4" columns and one wider 13" column.

8. Now simply arrange the columns and sew the long edges together.

9. A beautiful quilt top in about 7 hours - to be honest it might have been less, I kept having to get up and cook meals/deal with squealing children, so my counting wasn't that accurate!

10. Baste and quilt as desired. This is mainly fabric from a Lewis and Irene collection with bees in a meadow, so I plan to echo the subtle bee theme with a simple wandering clover free motion design - which also has the advantage of being very quick!

Monday, 4 January 2016

12 Hour Quilt

Last weekend I made a quilt in 12 hours!

Start to finish. Literally from getting the materials out of the bag and choosing which colours to use, to snipping off the last thread on the binding and handing it over to my son. (Although actually - as we'll see - there is a bit of binding that needs some attention....)

I got this book for Christmas:

Sherri Wood's 'The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters' 

And having read it from cover to cover, I wanted to get stuck in! Sherri's style is almost totally improvised, and the book includes several different sets of ideas for quilts based on some of hers. She calls this ideas 'scores' - I found myself thinking of them more as algorithms. The idea is that you choose two or three constraints - fabric quantity, shape, or whatever - and then just take it from there!

The first 'score' in the book, and the one this quilt follows, is called Floating Squares. You start by choosing just three fabrics. I was stuck - so I added an element of randomness by asking my 10 year old son to choose three for me, from the bag of fabric fat quarters and remnants that was another of my Christmas presents (what a perfect present!).

He chose the orange batik, the brownish floral and the yellow that you see in the centre and top of the picture above. We then decided together that we would use half as much of the brown as of the orange. The yellow became the 'filler fabric' that the score calls for by default, as there was more of that than the others - about 3/4 metre, whereas the others were a fat quarter and a quarter yard remant which we cut in half.

Following the score, we then hand-cut rough squares from the orange and brown fabrics - again, I let him decide on the size. It is part of Sherri's style that you don't use rulers and don't worry about straight sides! Perfect for quilting with kids - frankly, I myself lose the will to live if I'm asked to measure 45 3" squares, so goodness knows how a child would cope.

You then simply add enough of the yellow to the squares to get them to fit together!

When I had run out of the orange and brown (basically the bottom half of the full quilt above, minus the last row or so), I said it could be a wall hanging. But my son then asked if it could be made a bit bigger and become a quilt for him!

So I found some other fabrics and kept going until I had run out of yellow. Making all the bits fit together when I had run out of yellow required a bit of thought, but I got there! It was still a bit small, so I added a deep border (around 6-8") of some fabric I had in my stash. It has ended up being exactly width of fabric wide, as that meant I could do the long sides first and then the short sides, log cabin style, with wof strips from the metre of fabric I had.

To get to this point had taken one afternoon and evening - about 6 hours.

The next day, I rooted around in my stash for some suitable backing fabric. I didn't have enough of any one, so again I improvised and cut one brown metre in half, and added enough of a similar black.
Then came the quilting....
I'm not very experienced at the actual quilting, and I felt I could easily have stalled at this stage and had it sitting on my unfinished projects shelf for months, if not years. But having bish-bash-boshed it so far, I wanted to keep going!

My son helped me do a quick-and-dirty spray glue basting on the kitchen floor. I was musing aloud about how I was going to quilt it when I only had black or white thread, neither of which I thought would go with the yellow top. 'Can't you just stitch along the lines of the joins, mum?' he asked. So that's what I did - not along all the lines, but along a path that I found as I went, stitching in the ditch with a walking foot. It has ended up looking rather digital, I think!

Then the binding. I found another brown fabric in my stash and cut the strips, sewed them to the front, and then thought - hmmm. If I hand sew this around the back it will never get done tonight, and I'd like to give it to my son before bed time.

So I had a go at machine binding it. I don't know if this is a 'proper' method, but what I did was fold the binding over, and clip it in place, making sure it was covering the line of stitching. Then I stitched in the ditch all around the front of the quilt, the theory being it wouldn't show on the front and would catch the back edge in.
It isn't the smartest binding in the world on the back, but it was quite good enough for my son!
There are about three places round the edge, though, where I didn't catch the edge properly, so I do still need to do a little hand sewing to sort those out. That, however, can wait!
So, there you have it - an improvised quilt in 12 hours flat!

The funny thing is, I was very ambivalent when I started this as I didn't really like the colours my son had chosen. But I now love the result! And I am totally sold on this improv quilting lark. In fact, no sooner had I finished this one than I started, that same night, on the next 'score' in the book! I have finished the top for that one, so watch this space...

Finishing a whole quilt like this has given me so much more confidence - I highly recommend getting the book and trying improv quilting for yourself - or just sewing a jelly roll together and finishing the whole thing in a weekend, for a confidence boost!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Winter Scene Mini Quilt Hanging - Attic Windows

Isn't this adorable? So chuffed with it!

Its a pattern from the Christmas issue of British Patchwork and Quilting magazine called Attic Windows. I couldn't find the single scene fabric they had used, but I managed to find these two, a winter village scene for the top of my scene and ice skaters for the foreground.

It was quite quick and simple, despite requiring some precision cutting to get those nice mitred corners (they are half-square triangles with the strips then added). The scenic squares are fussy cut and the whole thing goes together like a mini quilt, with the dark window frame forming the sashing.

I quilted it quite simply, first by stitching in the ditch along the window frames, and then adding some free motion quilting to suggest ice skating traces on the bottom six squares.

The whole thing is only about 14" square and I have it up as a little mini hanging at the moment.