I've now been quilting for three and a half years. This blog is my personal quilting diary, that charts my progress (and occasional regression) from the start. I use it so I can look back at my past projects...and hopefully see my skills improve!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

2016 New Year Quilting Resolution and Going Cold Turkey!

2015 has been a great year!  My resolution was to improve my FMQ and to produce a wholecloth by the end of the year.  Whilst there is always plenty of room for further improvement, I feel I made a lot of progress.

For 2016 I don't think my resolution will be anything like as pleasant, but it is something I want to get to grips with.  I have built up quite a stash of quilting cotton fabrics.  I want to reduce my fabric buying!  I think it would be unrealistic to buy nothing all year, but my aim is to only buy 1 metre of fabric for every 5 metres I use!  This will mean keeping a record of my stash use in Excel...which is not as easy as it sounds, as I make a lot of scrappy quilts, just using a little piece here and there.  Wish me luck!

I have signed up for the 2016 Quiltmania Mystery quilt which is designed by Petra Prins this year.  I will get a fabric pack for the quilt every two months, so I will have some new fabric to look forward to!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Have been plagued by migraine headaches, but managed to get my Christmas wallhanging finished.

I added crystals for extra bling.

I also made a little bunny from calico and quilting cotton for my grand daughter.  She is made from a pattern by Maureen Mills of  Sweet Meadows Farm.

Happy Christmas, all!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Back to my Tablecloth Project

I rested my finger for about 10 days after putting a machine needle through it, while FMQing my tablecloth quilt.  I say I rested it...I mean, I stayed away from the sewing machine.  In the meantime I hand pieced a couple of rosettes for the Passacaglia quilt.

My finger is a lot better, so yesterday, I got back to machine quilting.  I have missed it.

I have a number of misgivings about this tablecloth.  I'm happy with the way the embroidered flowers are popping off the surface.  I don't dislike the centre of the quilt.  I painted the motif in the centre, as it really didn't look defined enough with just machine stitching.  I don't like the colour of the painted, swirly motifs in the corner.  I may try painting over them with a lighter shade of blue.  I also painted the dragonflies and a few flowers.  I'm OK with these, except that I have noticed from the photo, that one wing of the dragonfly doesn't match the other.  This should be easily fixed.  .  What I really don't like at the moment, is the texture of the scribbling on the quilt or the way the four FMQ motifs around the edge look.  I echoed around the motifs three times.  At the moment, I think they look messy - not the look I was going for.  If push comes to shove, I can scribble over the tops of these, but I'll wait until the whole top is quilted, and then decide.  It might be that I just need to go over the scribbling to improve the appearance and texture of the top.  Time will tell.  The edge of the quilt is rather dull.  In retrospect, it might have been better to add some cotton fabric behind the tablecloth and extended the quilting out further.  Lots of things to think about!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Have I Lost the Plot?

Last Friday I managed to put a machine needle through my finger while FMQing.  Not my finest hour!

I decided to take a rest from my machine until my finger recovers...but in the meantime, I have started a hand sewing project - La Passacaglia.  I am using materials from my stash.  I have a fair old stash of batiks which I am hoping will work for this project.  I have found a lovely, Facebook group for support.  I'm not sure I could have made a start with this without all the helpful information available there. 

I have managed to make the first rosette (90 pieces).  It has gone together well and I am going to enjoy the journey.  I am using Inklingo and hand piecing using running stitch.  I like the idea of having a project that will be portable and that I can pick up or put down as I wish.  I am planning to use a limited palette of colours with occasional shots of brighter colour.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Finish and Dilemma

I finally managed to get the facing on my Vintage Butterflies tablecloth quilt.  I am now struggling with myself.  I have several projects on the go.  I have some Christmas projects that I want to get done, but I am also thinking about starting quilting another vintage tablecloth.  It is lovely to have a choice of projects, but at the same time, I'm dithering.  None of this is made easier by the fact my left wrist is strapped.  I've no idea what I did to it...all I know is that it is painful!  I need to just get on with something!

I have made a start on Christmas projects. I used Superior metallic threads and attempted to use random, continuous feathers as a background fill. I saw the panel as part of a free project by Karen of Redbird Quilt Co on www.bearcreekquiltingcompany.com/blog/2015/09/19/chickadees-and-berries-christmas-gift-trio/

I was able to buy the panel here in the UK, (I have to admit, I bought 3), but not the other fabrics, so I have had to make changes to the given pattern.  I have enough left from the first panel to make 4 coasters and two placemats, so the panel goes a long way. I should probably add the binding to the wallhanging first!.

Happy quilting, all.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Finish - Almost

I don't know how many hours I've spent quilting this tablecloth, but it has been fun!  It is lovely to be able to take a damaged, but pretty tablecloth and make it usable again.  I don't know if it qualifies as recycling or upsizing.  I'll have to look at the definitions!

This time, I wanted to try using a finer quilting thread, so used 60 wt Superior Bottom Line in white.  It behaved very well and I was really happy with it, particularly for all the scribbling.  It is one of the very few threads I've used, that haven't left the bobbin case area covered in lint.

One of the challenges of quilting old tablecloths, is to design motifs that will fit comfortably between the embroidery motifs already on the cloth.  I really enjoy this aspect, but must have spent three weeks mulling over the look I wanted for the quilt.  I was worried that feathers might overwhelm the existing embroidered butterflies, so chose to quilt flowers instead.  There was quite a large empty space near the scalloped edges of the quilt, so I drew scallops to break up the space.   I didn't want to have exactly the same flowers on each side of the quilt, so I mixed them up a bit.

Once again, I made extensive use of Cindy Needham's background stencils.  I used the circular Universal stencil to mark out the centre medallion and clamshells to add interest.  I used the 3/4 inch grid stencil for the circles and the triple line stencil for the border.  By the time I had finished quilting the tablecloth, I was looking for a border that would be elegant, simple and quick.  I LOVE the triple line stencil, and can see myself using it a lot.

Happy quilting, all!

Friday, 25 September 2015

A New Project is making Progress

After several weeks of indecision, I have taken the plunge and started to quilt my old butterfly tablecloth.  I don't think it is terribly old, as the embroidery is done by machine, but it is pretty and I can only hope I make a decent job of it.  The tablecloth was very inexpensive, as it had a small hole in the middle.  I have fused a small patch of cotton behind it and strategically placed some lace butterflies (another eBay purchase) over the top to disguise the hole.  I used Superior Monopoly to sew them down.

I decided I didn't want to use trapunto for this project.  The stitching twice aspect gives some potential for a lack of tidiness on my part, not to mention the extra work, so I thought I'd try a double batt for this project to see if I like the effect and whether or not it is a viable alternative.  I am using a layer of Hobbs Tuscany wool on top of a layer of Hobbs Polyester.

I have done very little stitching so far, but I am getting a nice puff.  I won't know if I'll get the light and shade I want until I start the background fillers.  I still have quite a bit of blank space around the motifs and edges so will need to break these areas up, before I background fill them.  I haven't decided what stitches to use for the fillers, yet...so I still have a lot to think about.  It would probably be better to work out ALL the design aspects first.  I would probably end up with a more coherent design, and wouldn't have that slightly queasy, anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach!  The irony is that in real life, I am very risk averse.  I look three times before crossing the road, etc...but when it comes to quilting, I fly by the seat of my pants!  Perhaps it's because if I make a bad design decision, no one will die!  :) 

I normally use Isacord for my main quilting, but have decided to use white Superior Bottom Line this time...another experiment.

A corner of the tablecloth

 The first few stitches

The lace butterflies that hide the hole in the cloth

I am finding the design aspect one of the most interesting and most enjoyable  parts of each tablecloth project.  I enjoy the quilting most of all.  I love the purr of my little, old  Bernina 1008 as we stitch along.  It is very therapeutic and a bit compulsive.

Happy stitching, all!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Tree of Life Finished

I have finished the Tree of Life quilt today.

I added one line of echo quilting around the tree and flowers motifs. I decided on gridwork for the centre panel inside the loopy border, with cathedral window fmq using the same size gridwork outside the loopy border.

I used Superior Monopoly in the top and Bottom Line 617 in the bobbin around all the motifs..  I used a fine calico for the backing and for the facing.  I've decided I like facings rather than binding around my quilts.  For this quilt, I cut 4 strips of calico 4.5 inches wide about 10 inches longer than each side.

 I sewed on the calico stopping a quarter inch from each end, leaving 5 inches either end.  I sewed mitres in each corner, trimmed and turned.  I used some strips of Mistyfuse to hold the facing in place, in readiness for sewing down.

I enjoyed the method I used for creating the blocks.  I made a major error when I added the outside border.  I forgot to measure the length of the sides and just pinned and sewed.  I didn't realise I had wavy borders until I had basted the quilt sandwich and stitched in the ditch!  The quilting has reduced the effect, but I'm NOT happy.  I am so annoyed with myself.  The border looks OK, but not great.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Tree of Life Ready to Quilt

This quick project is ready to quilt.  The centre is a panel by Di Ford and Petra Prins.  The pattern is from her book.  I added an extra pinky-red  border, as I used a different method for producing the half square triangles and mine ended up oversize.  I didn't want to cut them down, so added the extra border.  Maybe, I should learn to follow a pattern, but I do feel the need to wing it most of the time.  The windmill blocks used lots of different reproduction fabrics.  The outer border is tan paisley from Collections for a Cause.

The centre panel and some of the lights were too light for my taste, so I tea dyed the entire top.  The photo below shows the partly pieced top prior to tea dyeing.  The quilt top (above) is slightly darker than shown by the photo.  One day I'll learn how to manually adjust the white balance on my camera. 

After all the stitch in the ditch, I will FMQ around the motifs, maybe a couple of echos, then a background fill...not sure what, yet.  I'm not sure how I am going to quilt over the outer border.  I am thinking about adding a facing, instead of binding, around the edge of the quilt.  I'll decide when it is completely quilted.  I am sure I should plan everything meticulously.  I have a habit of doing what I feel like on the day...and I sometimes regret it!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Second Tablecloth Finished

I finished the old tablecloth project yesterday.  Boy, I put in the hours on this project, but I am happy with the result.

This is a close up of part of the central medallion.  I drew it up using Cindy Needham's Ultimate Stencil...so much quicker and easier than my usual method of drawing something out by hand using rulers and round plates and then using a light table!  I know it is daft, but I was so pleased with the little scallops around the centre ...done using one of Cindy's clamshell stencils.  I could never have drawn them all the same size without the stencil.   I added little pearls to anchor the lace inserts - yet another of Cindy's great ideas.

A close up of one of the corners, showing the pretty lace edging.  I used Cindy's grid stencil for marking this out.

It is such a pleasure to be able to extend the life of a rather tired tablecloth and turn it into something I will enjoy looking at and using!

I have another old tablecloth that may be my next project.  It was very inexpensive, because it has a hole in the middle of it!  I will mend the holes and cover them  with  some pretty,  little lace butterflies I have.  At the moment, I'm thinking of using some flower  motifs to compliment the butterflies but at the moment, I am just drawing out ideas on paper.    The butterflies will distract me from the darker, chillier mornings and evenings we are getting now. :(

Happy quilting, all!

Update:  The lovely Cindy Needham has featured my quilt on her blog.  Thank you, Cindy!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Quilting Second Old Tablecloth

I am quilting my second old tablecloth.  I learned an awful lot from quilting the first one.  There are challenges not always faced with something I have pieced myself.  It is usually square for a start!  This tablecloth is posing some new head scratching.  There are lace inserts and lace at the corners of the tablecloth.  Solution: I've backed the tablecloth with pink cotton so the wadding doesn't poke through.  The tablecloth has a slightly scalloped edge.  I am hoping that the pink cotton will give me a straight edge.  I don't want to quilt the lace, so plan to use small pearls to anchor the lace.  All of the above solutions have been gleaned from Cindy Needham.  Thank you, Cindy!  I had a set of her background filler stencils arrive last week, and so far I've used the Ultimate Circle centre template for the medallion motif, the medium clamshells stencil for the medallion surround, the half inch grid template for the gridwork in the centre and corners of the tablecloth.

It is all going very well.  I added some wool wadding behind the motifs for a trapunto effect.  The wadding layer is polyester. The polyester is giving a slightly stiff texture where I have scribble stitched, so I may try something else next time.

I used my Westalee ruler foot extensively for all the straight lines and medallion curves.  It is a godsend!

So far, I've got two borders quilted...two more to go - then finishing and beading.  I'm having the best time!

Happy quilting, all!

Original tablecloth ( had started to mark up the centre)

Two borders still to quilt

Centre medallion

Centre of border

Monday, 24 August 2015

Quiltmania Mystery BOM 2015

I have managed to finish Part 4 of the Quiltmania 2015 Mystery BOM.   It is amazing how much time can be spent on one block!  There were several stages to this:

  1. Piece the block. Attach cheesecloth backing.
  2. Fuse applique flowers and leaves to the block.
  3. Outline all the appliques with stranded cotton, so trapunto stuffing can be added from the back.
  4. Add the stuffing to the appliques.
  5. Embroider the appliques.

Hand embroidery is not my forte, but I am persevering with this project.  I find the hand stuffing onerous, so I don't think I would do another quilt using this method, but I have been delighted to get experience using methods I would never have tried otherwise.  There are two more parts yet to come...I'm guessing sashing and borders?

Happy quilting!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Festival of Quilts 2015

Very little practical progress since last week, but I did spend two lovely, exhausting days at The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham.  There were a huge number of lovely quilts on display.  I didn't see a large number of reproduction style quilts on show.  I was disappointed by this, but I just have to accept that my personal preferences are in the minority in the greater scheme of taste in quilts.  Although I don't have numbers to back this up, me feeling was that the majority of quilts on show were in the art quilt category...and lovely, they were.  I managed to spend the money I had saved to spend at the show as well as my birthday money, so came home with some quilting goodies.  I bought some reproduction border fabrics and fabric for broderie perse from Petra Prins - not to mention a pattern for Di Ford's Sutton Grange.  I also managed to get my hands on a versatile ruler (intended for a longarm), to use with my Westalee ruler foot.  A couple of books came home with me as well, not to mention a new A4 rotary cutting mat (as my old one is in a bad way).  I took 130+ photos of quilts but haven't got around to resizing and compressing most of them yet, but can't resist showing the Tentmaker of Cairo's lovely work.

 I needed a couple of days to get over the trip.  I have lots of projects in mind, but at the moment I am struggling to decide on the order of tackling them!  In the meantime, I have taken a quilt out of my cupboard to work on.  This quilt was the third I ever made (two and a half years ago) and the first and only paper pieced quilt I've made.  I ruined the quilt by machine quilting it REALLY badly.  I did not have the skills and in retrospect, I should have just stitched in the ditch.  So, now I am unpicking ALL the FMQ, and have started quilting it again.  Last time, I used a rainbow King Tut thread.  This didn't work well, as the thread disappears and then reappears which isn't great.  The main problems are with the quilting.  My tension is off for most of the quilting and my stitch length varies hugely - really short at the tops of loops and very long on straight seams.  The motifs are a mess.  Yuck.  This time, I am using a gold, metallic thread.  I am using my ruler foot, so that the straight lines are quilted straight!  So far I have spent a whole day unpicking...nearly there.  I have redone about a quarter of the quilt.


I am hoping that when it is done, I won't have to hide it away, anymore!

Happy quilting, all!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A FMQ Finish

One of the main reasons I want to become more proficient at FMQ, is so that I can machine quilt wholecloths.  This week I took an old tablecloth that, I think, cost me £5 a few years ago and quilted it.

I used Hobbs Tuscan wool wadding and a tonal white backing.  The centre wreath motif was a free quilting design from Forest Quilting.  I resized it so that it would not cover the embroidery on the tablecloth.  The motifs around the quilt were a combination of a Forest Quilting motif, which I rearranged and my own curled feather design in the centre.    I ditched around every embroidered motif, as I wanted to feature the embroidery.

Overall, for a first effort at quilting a wholecloth, I am pleased.  However, there are a few areas I need to improve on, next time.

  1. Echoing around the motifs (maybe three times) would create more 'light and shade'.
  2. The gridwork would have looked better if it had been slightly smaller. 
  3. I should have used heirloom style feathers instead of 'banana' feathers.  The feathers would have looked crisper.
  4. Using a finer thread for the pebbles would have given them a crisper outline.
I learn best from my mistakes.  I am glad that I decided to start with a rather tired looking tablecloth instead of a real heirloom.  It definitely looks a lot better quilted, than it did before, so that's a win in my book!

I am off to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham tomorrow.  It will be my first ever visit.  I am prepared to be overwhelmed!

Happy quilting!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Two Finishes in one Week

It's been pedal to the metal over the past week.  I had two long term quilting projects that needed to be finished.

The first quilt is for my younger son, Peter.  He is a mariner...hence the maritime theme.  This was also my first attempt at designing a medallion style quilt.  I used a wide range of techniques in piecing the quilt including foundation paper piecing, broderie perse and English paper piecing.  The ships came from a purchased panel.

The second quilt is an 80 inch square quilt I started about a year ago.  The pattern for this was created by Joanna Figurola of Figtree Quilts.  Piecing the top was very straightforward, but then the problems started.  I wanted to quilt it entirely by hand using big stitch and using perle cotton. The wadding was so heavy, it was absolute murder on my hands. I found that I liked the look of it in the spools but it looked awful in the sashing. I then unpicked the sashing quilting and quilted it using the tiny throat space on my Bernina 1008. I realised after it was too late to change it, that I would have to quilt the feathers on half the quilt upside down, as I couldn't fit more than half of the quilt into the throat space. To cut a long story short, the quilt has taken me a year to finish. I really fell out of love with it. I just hope the passage of time will help to rekindle my fondness of it!

 Happy quilting, all!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Is it me?

First...the things that make me happy...

I am making good progress with one of the borders on the quilt I am hand piecing.  This border has over 670 little pieces of fabric in it.  There are lots more borders to go after this one, but I'm enjoying the process.

Somewhere on the Internet a couple of years ago, I saw someone had made some fabric bowls in the shape of flowers.  It has taken me a long time to get around to it, but yesterday I had a go and made two.  I am pleased with them.  I fused some angelina to the fabric before I thread painted the bowls, so they catch the light and sparkle.  I had to learn from my mistakes, so the first one took some time to make.  I made the second one in a third of the time.  It is fun to play!

I get fed up with my tools rolling off my sewing table, so I made myself a 'tooly'.  I purchased the pattern on Craftsy.   It is just great.  It sits well on my table next to my machine.  I now know where my seam ripper, marking pens, rotary cutter etc are...and the big bonus is that all I need to do is grab it, close it and I am ready for my patchwork group meeting...no more spending 20 minutes looking for my supplies to take with me.

It was a quick, easy make.  The fleece provides a sturdy non-slip base and doubles as a pincushion.  The pattern called for a hairband as a closure, but I didn't have one.  I did have some white knicker elastic, so hand dyed it.

Now...is it me?

I have had a subscription for Quiltmania magazine for the last two or three years.  The latest issue hasn't arrived.  I know via Facebook groups that other foreign subscribers received their magazine two weeks ago.  I emailed the magazine using their contact form...You'd think they might have the courtesy to reply...but no.  I posted on their Facebook page...still no reply...so I messaged them via Facebook...no reply.  I think I am generally fairly calm and pragmatic, having spent many years teaching...but I find being ignored a challenge!  What makes it worse is that I am half way through the Quiltmania Mystery quilt, so cannot continue without the pattern that is printed in the magazine.  I'm not really sure where I go from here.  The materials for the quilt are sent by Petra Prins in the Netherlands every two months, but are no use to me without the pattern.  Feeling frustrated and invisible! I quilt because it helps me to relax and it makes me happy.  I don't need angst in my life.  Maybe I'll feel better after a good night's sleep!

Update this morning: I have had a message reponse from Quiltmania today. They are sending out another copy for me...so fngers crossed!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Decisions, decisions

I love to break up large projects with small projects.  I need that instant gratification of a quick finish sometimes.

I've had some fabric lurking in my stash for a while, but didn't know what to do with it. I thought I'd have a go at making a bag. The colours are pretty loud, but I guess I'll never see another the same. The pattern was designed by Susan Brubaker Knapp.  My husband's comment was 'I guess I'll see you coming!'

 I have started to make a second bag, from the same pattern, using batiks this time.    This has prompted some thought about the choices I make when I FMQ.  OK...so we quilt for a practical reason - to hold the layers of fabric and batting together.  This can be as simple as straight lines or stitch in the ditch.  The purpose of FMQ, must, then, be to enhance the appearance of a quilt.  When I quilted the bag above, I followed the contours of the designs, so the quilting is very subtle.  I used pebbles along the sides and bottom of the bag.  I wanted to Australian fabrics to be the main event.

That brings me to my second bag.  I have just started quilting the panels.  The batik fabrics are quite 'busy'.  I thought about whether to use a brown or orange thread.  In the end I went for orange and used a simple, freeform design.  I don't know if the design would be called paisley, mussel shells or freeform feathers.  When I stood back and looked at the quilting, all I could seem to see was the quilting, with the fabric taking a back seat.  I feel disappointed about this, but this panel will just show a little at the top of the front of the bag, and at the back.


Fabric unquilted

So, what have I learned...I should have gone for the brown thread!  I will need to think carefully about the thread and design I use for the front panels.  Hmmmm.

I am making good, if slow progress with my hand pieced Billings quilt.

Happy quilting! xx