Saturday, January 28, 2012

An ugly duckling

Kathie commented on my last post that this is one of her favourite fabrics. Since this is the first fabric I pulled out to make this quilt, I thought I'd tell you the story of how it came about.

This fabric has been floating around in my 'stash' for some time. I don't have a lot of fabrics, mostly fat quarters and less, folded into small plastic boxes in the cupboard. I go for clear colours - modern, 1930's, reproductions - no set style. I just buy what I like. Sometimes I sort the fabrics by colour, sometimes by project. This little scrap (a fat 16th I think) came into my life through a reproduction fabric club. I've used up most of the other pieces that came along with this, but this one kept floating around, not get used and not knowing where to go. To me it reads grey (even though on closer look, it's actually brown) and I don't have any other grey fabrics (nor many browns for that matter) so it just shuffled from one box to another.
When I chose to do Lori's quilt-a-long I decided to do it as an exercise in re-learning how to machine piece. I immediately went to my 'use-them-up' fabrics (things I want to get rid of) and came out with some recycled shirtings in beige and white and this fabric popped out. On close inspection I noticed the pale blue strawberries which drew out the setting fabric which so many have you liked (another use-it-up left over dressmaking fabric). The red strawberries drew out one of my favourite fabrics - a raspberry red batik which I bought a fat quarter of many years ago and has since become one of my favourite fabrics - it gives a nice pop to things like the centre square of this quilt.

Then because I loved the two mismatched setting squares in the antique quilt that inspired Lori's 'pink lemonade' (did anyone else do them too?) I pulled out this special fabric from Melissa of 'Tiny Happy' in New Zealand. I've been a long admirer of her work and when she started producing her own designed fabrics I jumped at the chance to buy some. I like the way the hand drawn fabric contrasts with the repetition in the small print. (Note my ironing skills:) ).

The blue of this fabric is a lovely grey blue and it takes away some of the overly sweetness of the aqua one. As with all special fabrics that risk being 'too good to use' - the first cut was the hardest, but once I started I couldn't resist making this little sweetie for Miriam's four patch quilt.

After that, I just headed for my favourite fabrics to  fill in the rest. I'm starting to have a usefully full scrap basket now and I love digging in there for things. These blocks are tiny and a little bit of fabric goes a long way.

To cut a long story short, my ugly duckling fabric, which wasn't so grey after all (Kathie rightly called it brown) is a delicate little thing that found it's home at last amongst some pretty little florals and stony blues and just because it isn't pink, yellow or blue - my usual favourites - it's fast becoming my favourite fabric too:)

Monday, January 23, 2012

How did you spend your weekend?

A feverish five-year-old meant that I spent more time than planned working on this project - my 'not so pink lemonade' (I see that Lori's got her's quilted and the binding on! I'm loving seeing all the different variations of this). I'm just missing the corner blocks and the top is done. A head cold of my own meant that I should have spent an afternoon in bed myself, but I was so far gone with cutting and piecing those half blocks and wanting to see how it all fitted together that I just ploughed through. My wrist is complaining a little, but I can slow down now.
The chair in the photo by the way is a neat little Italian invention - a short legged (37cm -14 1/2 inches high) chair with a woven seat. There is nothing more comfortable for sitting in and sewing, embroidering, knitting or sorting beans. If only I had a wood stove and a stone floored kitchen to complete the picture:)
Do you ever get into a panic halfway through a quilt that you think it's all wrong? Well that's what I kept thinking all weekend. That pretty floral fabric was playing on my nerves a bit - I originally bought it to make a pretty summer dress for my daughter, then decided against it because it has a high thread count and is a little stiff. It's a very bright, aqua-blue. I chose the stonier blue in the two odd setting squares to tone it down a bit. I think with a dark grey blue for binding then I'll be happy with it. Seeing your work in a photograph is a good way to get a bit of distance and perspective, isn't it?

Monday, January 16, 2012

A bit of weekend sewing

There's nothing quite like a deadline to get me moving. This camera case was supposed to be a thankyou present/Christmas gift back in December. Sunday became the day so I sat down and sewed. The tutorial I used is here. I didn't folow the instructions too accurately, for lack of time. The recipients favourite colours are orange, lilac and green - not my colours at all, so I added in some blue. The solids are Kafee Fasset shot cottons. I started with a strip of pieced fabric.....

Added batting and lining......

Quilted it by machine, folded it over, sewed up the sideseams and added an old-fashioned press-stud. The pattern called for a button and elastic, but I settled for something easier. Look at that great piece of leftover fabric - I'm looking forward to using that. The strip of paper is my template/pattern. 

And this is the finished camera case. I'm not so happy about all the orange ending up on the front, I'll have to think about fabric placement next time I make this, and I will be making one soon for our own camera - I promised my daughter one a year and a half ago - I need another deadline.

I even put the camera in this to show you how it looked, but didn't manage to get a photo. It took me a few minutes to work that one out and I'm still laughing at myself:)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Progress report

 Lori's quilt-a-long; 5 out of 6 blocks. And look what I found in the cupboard while I was searching for scraps.........

Lunch anyone? The templates weren't sitting there ready to start work, but that's a new habit - template in the box, ready to go.

 More blocks than I thought. I'm about 2/3 of the way done on this top.

And now something completely different......

WIP's seem to be growing in there like mushrooms. I'm not even going to count them. Just keep my head down and work away at them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

About face

This is where I like to quilt, at the breakfast table while I'm waiting for the girls to get up, while the coffee pot is boiling - in those little scraps of time that crop up during the day - waiting for the pasta pot to boil, talking on the phone, waiting outside dance and music classes, sitting next to my daughter while she does her homework or 'reading' aloud to my younger daughter picture books that I know from memory. I have pieced during homemade puppet shows and have even pieced while wearing a crown and pretending to be a queen while my daughter played around me. This is the way I work.

My first quilt (top) was rotary cut and pieced by machine but it all went together so fast that I didn't realise that I didn't like it until years later when I began to hand quilt it. Hand sewing gives me time to reflect. The quilt that comes out at the end is always different to what I expected.

When I started piecing the shoo fly blocks in the previous post for Lori's quilt-a-long I thought I was going to piece the whole quilt on the machine. I only got far as one block - I wasn't enjoying the sewing machine, the steam iron, the rotary cutter and mat. Even for free-pieced quilts I just use scissors and the sewing machine, ironing just at the end of a session.

When I decided to go back to handpiecing for these blocks, what I enjoyed most was the silence. Yes it's slow, and I'll still be piecing well beyond everyone else in the quilt-a-long. Hand piecing doesn't get you anywhere fast - but I love it.

If anyone out there would like to see how hand-piecing is done, leave a comment and I'll put a description in my next post. (warning; hand piecing is addictive!)

Friday, January 6, 2012


It's not perfect, but it's done. I haven't machine pieced (besides free piecing) since I made my first quilt top in 1996. Lori's quilt-a-long seemed the perfect opportunity to relearn. I don't have any fabrics similar to those in her antique quilt so I'm doing this in a completely different colourway.

Today is the last day of a long series of Christmas celebrations in Italy - starting with the 8th of December (immaculate conception) holiday, when Christmas trees are traditionally decorated, finishing with the 6th of January, Epiphany, when the three wise men finish their long march across the sideboard to complete the Nativity scene, and the Befana, a kind old witch, comes during the night to fill up children's stockings with toys and lollies (or coal if the children haven't been good).

The girls have opened their little gifts and are out walking the dog at the park with their Dad, so sewing this  block was a little present to myself thanks to Lori the Befana:)

Later today we'll watch this film about the Befana, 'La Freccia Azzura'. I couldn't find an English version on the internet but is available on DVD. The music is wonderful.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New year's day

Some new year's day sewing while the girls were mooching around in their pyjamas. I have taken over my daughter's desk and set it up with my sewing machine and basket of scraps. Occasionally the scraps take over the dining table while I search for that elusive piece, but once it gets out of control I sort them all out by size - crumbs to use up first, recognisable shapes like squares and triangles, and then larger pieces. Any irregular shaped pieces are getting cut down to strips triangles and squares as that's what I'm using most - hand cut with scissors.

Another section - the checked fabric is not actually puckered, just badly ironed! Those yellows in the poverty patch are a bit closer in colour in real life. The white with the blue pin stripes got sewn on right side down, and if that wasn't enough, I made the same mistake with the teal (which is much less noticeable). I actually don't care, and chose to live with that. Just can't believe I made the same mistake twice.
This is what I got done in one morning. Not sure how sensible I am in choosing so many crumb sized scraps to make a king/queen sized quilt, but I'll make up time with the sashing (which will pieced too, but I have some nice long pieces).

This is what I aim to have left over at the end of the quilt. That's all I'm throwing out. If I've got fabric left over when I've finished the front, then I'll just have to turn it over and piece the back:)

Best wishes and happy sewing in the new year!