Tag Archives: free motion quilting

Finished in February II

Story Cushions

The first Story Cushion I made was The Very Hungry Caterpillar cushion it’s in the blog for April 2014. You can see it here.

It had been in the making a lot, lot longer. It was actually the catalyst to my long path to free motion quilting and to my beginning patchwork. I had the idea for the cushion and realised it was something I would need to actually learn. I was lucky, I found a great teacher in Kate Higgins and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just before Olivia’s 2nd birthday she became obsessed with very same Very Hungry Caterpillar story so…… on to the net to order fabric and cushion number 2 was on the way.

The panel and the foods fabric were soon cut and the book pocket made.

The caterpillar and butterfly were outlined with this amazing multicoloured cotton thread. I love this and have it in several (rather expensive-but-worth-it) colour ways, this one is ‘primaries’, there must be around 50 colour ways.

Next it was on to the quilting and I have to sing the praises of another sewing thread here. I kept reading about this thread, it was everywhere; it was on just about every professional blog I read; it was in magazine articles; on pinterest; everywhere.  You really can’t miss it and I decided to stop ignoring it and invest in this Aurifil. I bought mine from Barnyarns, simply because I’d had some freebees from them and they really seem to know about thread.                               I am converted, it is ultra smooth and it doesn’t break and I really have to say it’s made a huge difference to the flow of my free motion work. I’m totally sold and don’t think I’ll go back to quilting with anything else. I only regret not trying it sooner!

So it was caterpillar quilting  for the caterpillar side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And butterfly quilting for the butterfly side.

 

 

Now there was one more thing. I’d made two story cushions and I have three grandchildren and although Heidi had the cushion that matched her quilt it’s not a story cushion with a pocket for a book!

So cushion number three. It could’t be the same as Dougie’s,  I didn’t need a particularly good imagination for that bit of sibling interaction! So here is what my search led me to choose.

 

Once again I outlined the motives and then stippled in between on the outside of the pocket.  But this time the  top half was plain/plainish  so I decided to write on that.

After sketching out a couple of font ideas this was my choice. Think I might use it again, simple but effective I think.

I can’t believe how quickly these two cushions came together. The first one took me so long. The quilting was so much easier, having a new machine since I first began has helped a lot. The Pfaff is so much more controllable and the Aurifil is a great find. Mostly of course its all down to experience and I must say that is pretty satisfying really. I think these two are destined to take up residence in the girls’ teepees where they both enjoy having stories read to them and where hopefully, in the future they will curl up to enjoy a book themselves.

Finished in February

 

It’s a great British tradition to complain about the weather and in January and February this year there was plenty to complain about. One of my favourite ways to keep reasonably fit is to walk in the glorious countryside around here. This January I regularly found myself paddling or sinking to my ankles in mud. In February it was the turn ‘The Beast from the East’ and storm Emma and general biting cold winds that upset us so much.

But – and it’s a very positive but – there was no golf, no gardening and so – there was a lot of sewing time.

Enough time to finish Olivia’s  just-about-begun quilt, a story cushion for her birthday and a story cushion for Heidi just so that she didn’t feel left out.

And enough time for a few little projects along the way. The red scraps made their annual appearance just before Valentine’s day.

Olivia’s quilt had been an embarrassingly long time in the making. I was in the middle of making Dougie’s Quilt when we went on one of our long trips to Spain and I decided that while we were away I would hand appliqué the elephant patches. So far so good.

Well when we got back it was summer.  Summer = golf + gardening = very little sewing. Then of course came the autumn and it was all stops out to finish Dougie’s quilt in time for Christmas. So the little elephant quilt was the no.1 priority for January. It was easy to piece together with yellow, grey and white patches to match her bedroom.

 

 

It needed a little bit of planning to get the balance right before piecing and once that was done 

 

 

the next step was simple and speedy and I soon had the batting and the yellow and white pin-spot backing together and ready to quilt.

I wanted a quilting design to fit in the yellow, white and grey squares, the elephant squares would just have simple outlines.  Here’s what I call ‘the pink claw of quilting’. My quilting gloves are actually cotton gardening gloves that have a fantastic bobbly surface perfect for ‘getting a grip’!

Now the next bit is worth posting, I’ll know where to find it rather than having to think really hard to remember it. I don’t have any idea why, but the sequence for binding around the corners  just won’t lodge itself in my brain. So here it is – in pictures.

and in words:

  • having pressed a diagonal fold at the beginning of the binding (see last photo) sew the double thickness binding strip leaving a 5cm tail at the start, using a quarter-inch seam
  • stop a quarter-inch from the corner, secure and break thread
  • fold the binding strip 90º to the right
  • fold the binding strip back on itself level with the edge of the quilt.
  • sew across the folded edge stopping and turning the corner a quarter-inch from the edge. Do this on all corners
  • trim and tuck the end of the binding inside the folded tail  before sewing the last 5 cms.

The   corners turn back really nicely and it’s on to my favourite bit, sitting quietly folding the binding over and hand stitching to finish the quilt.

I hope Olivia enjoys her quilt, if she’s like Dougie and Heidi it will become her relaxing quilt probably becoming part of the soft furnishings of the teepee we gave her for Christmas – which leads nicely on to the next project  … Story cushions’ But that’s for another day.

Heidi’s Quilt

IMG_5422I’ve been missing from here for such a long time. Nothing blogged since the spring and we’re almost into a new year! It isn’t that I haven’t been busy making, more that I’ve been even more busy with other things.

Since my last blog I spent two months in Spain and survived the annual walking holiday with my sister – this year in the wonderful north Lake District. I’ve added new beds to the garden and visited gardens up and down the land. But most of the ‘busy’ was being in Bristol in the first few weeks after our lovely new granddaughter  was born. We felt so blessed to be able to spend so much time with our family at such a special time and we were more than willing to make ourselves useful helping. And of course totally smitten by our latest little addition.

I have been making, but just not blogging. Most of the makes were little ones, squeezed in-between travels and the intention to record them just never became a reality.

Just as we arrived back in the country in November I lost my mum which stopped me in my tracks for a while and nothing much happened around here, I found myself spending a good deal of time with family, quite rightly. But I had promised Heidi a quilt and I had begun back in the summer and I found it a solace to return to finishing it.

Bethan had decided IMG_1950on a fab, subtle colour scheme and we set about finding fabrics in grey, coral and mint. Nothing could have filled the brief better than Bonnie Christine’s ‘Hello Bear’ for Art Gallery Fabrics.  The bears are gorgeous! I love the quality of AGF cottons, they are just lovely to work with and appear to go on looking like new for many years. The range is a large one and we narrowed it down to eight designs with the addition of a solid grey.

imagesNext was the search for a pattern. I’d bought Allison Harris’ ‘Growing Up Modern’ some time before and liked the look of a number of the quilts. We settled on ‘Sparkle’. We loved the design and the  classic hourglass blocks suited our fabric choices.                                                       Allison’s directions are spot on and the book starts with  some really good tips for novice and experienced quilters alike.

Cutting and peicing the top went along quite speedily, there were opportunities for chain piecing the half square triangles, which helped move things along nicely.

The clear instructions and accurate measurements meant that the top was soon done.IMG_1957

And then I added a border in the peachy coloured ‘follow me’.

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So, top done but no plan for the quilt back so there was an opportunity for a little diversion. We were having a little nursery chair reupholstered and it seemed to calling out for a cushion! Enter a template for a huge dresden plate borrowed from my sewing class.

Now, I have made a dresden plate block before but it was small and not brilliantly executed. However, as usual, once a plan has entered my head I have to make it come to fruition. So pleased I did. I love the cushion!

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Randomly ordered piecing for the dresden plate.

 

 

 

 


On both sides

 

 

Next to add the centre and a backing. my favourite for cushions is a lightweight cotton domette. Not too thick or heavy, just enough to give a little bit of substance to a cushion.

IMG_1990I used one of my favourite stitches, a running cross stitch, to quilt the fabrics.

A little bit of piping around the cushion top was all that was needed to finish it off.

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The colours  are perfect against the silver grey of the chair, just what we wanted.

 

Back to the quilt back. I decided I had enough of the fabric left to make square patches and enough of the ‘follow me’ for a border. Simple.  I just about got it done before we headed of on our travels so I had to leave putting the quilt together until our return.

I free motion quilted with a simple loopy line, or rather two simple loopy lines. One in mint and one in coral.IMG_5426

And made a labelIMG_5423

So Heidi’s quilt was finished before Christmas and very nearly coincided with her moving into her big cot in her own room.IMG_5420IMG_5428

Unfortunately I don’t think that the photographs of the finished quilt do the colours justice. It was grey and raining here what felt like every day throughout November and December and the photographs had to be take indoors in poor light. I didn’t do a great job. Maybe I can add a few more when the I’m in Bristol in the sunshine    –   In the meantime I’ve begun the planning for my next baby quilt.   A Nains’ life is a busy life – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

Storytime

IMG_4358Eric Carle what did you do? Well apart from inspiring generations of children to read and thousands of art projects in infant and nursery classes everywhere that is. I particularly enjoyed entertaining and teaching my classes and my own children with what is probably the most popular of his books ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ The deceptively simple illustrations are charming as well as educational and the book always contributed to mini-beast science projects.

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Here's the fabric panel that started it all!
Here’s the fabric panel that started it all!

Well this particular version of Eric Carle’s iconic illustration started me on a journey that is still in its very early stages. When the caterpillar and butterfly panels first caught my eye I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I saw a cushion with a pocket for a story book. The butterfly would be stitched with coloured thread that would raise areas and make it tactile as well as visual.

Inside the pocket
Inside the pocket
small caterpillar fabric
small caterpillar fabric

There was only one problem and it was quite a big one! I’d never done anything like it and I didn’t really know where to start. I really had no idea how over ambitious all this was! The next part is a bit of a blur really. I know I had visited Yarnia and I know that Trish had told me about their classes. I had a look at them on the web. I saw Kate’s ‘Free Motion Quilting’ workshop. I’d never heard of ‘free motion quilting’ so back onto the internet. WOW! This was just it!

It didn’t take me long to sign up for the course and although that first day was a total mystery (see here) to me I have persevered through many trials and tribulations; a new and rather splendid sewing machine; an online course (sadly I have moved too far away from Kate to continue under her tutelage) and lots of other sewing projects; classes with Mel since our move to Aberystwyth and finally I felt ready to have a go at my story cushion.

So I bought some extra small caterpillar fabric from Little Fabric Bazaar and this just-right multicoloured quilting thread from AberdasheryIMG_1224IMG_4361 I quilted the butterfly and the caterpillar and used the original polyester wadding since I’m an expert quite a bit better now. It does give  a bit more ‘oomph’ and should be used for baby items because it is more breathable.

I sliced the caterpillar side in half – eek – and added the fabric for the pocket.

Next I quilted the surrounding white fabric. I have to give some credit now to Lori Kennedy at the Inbox Jaunt whose amazingly generous blog has inspired me. Every single week she posts an FMQ tutorial. Her designs are fun, non-traditional in many ways and really appeal to me. I have watched and learned (and will continue to) and have finally felt confident enough to have a go at my own.

So quilted caterpillars for the caterpillar sideIMG_4365IMG_4366And in collaboration with my daughter, Bethan, butterflies for the butterfly sideIMG_4363IMG_4362This has been a long time as a WIP (work in progress) in my cupboard but it has been so much more. It has driven my progress for the past year, nagging at me quietly to keep on. The first class I did with Kate took me back to work with her on my first attempts at patchwork which in its turn grew my fabric obsession and reignited the interest I had in sewing in my younger years.

Stemming from all that has been this blog and so a wealth of things to do with the time I gained from retirement.

So thank you Eric Carle and thank you Hungry Caterpillar and thank you  all the people in-between. I’m enjoying every moment of it. I hope Dougie will enjoy many a story comfy with his cushion!

 

 

 

Time to change cushions

Christmas cushionsI did love the Christmas cushions. They were bright and warm and very cheerful, but they did shout ‘Christmas’ and in the middle of January it was definitely time for a change. The trouble was that having them made the original sofa-matching ones look dull, stiff and over-stuffed. Time to make some new ones. I loved the pop of red, and it picks up on other little accents so keep that.

Bark and Branch

1181_bark_and_branch_fat_quarter_bundle_in_winterI’d bought ‘Bark and Branch’ by Eloise Renouf for Cloud 9 Organic Fabrics some time ago and really wanted to use that.  What to do with it?                Image 03-02-2014 at 22.22 (1)                                                   I added a couple more fabrics from my stash and started with a Disappearing  9 patch but that didn’t work for me at all.                               I searched in all the obvious places for a block I fancied and what came to mind was the Bento box I’d used for the Christmas table runner. It was fun to make and I thought the mix of dark and light in the collection would be good.

Two blocks, quartered and pieced ready for two cushion tops.

I added a red border – for the colour pop then once my quilt sandwich was made it was time to try out the new machine.  I free motioned the centre and the wider pieces but put the machine to work on the narrower pieces and on a little  asterisk  stitch to bring in a little more red. So easy!

Fabric covered buttons.
Fabric covered buttons.

I wanted to try out buttonholes too, so for the back two halves with two fabric-covered buttons. The buttonhole function is so simple; once the foot is on and the size set just sew and cut and there you have it!                                                                                                                                            I made a third cushion adding some red from the ‘Winter’s Lane’ collection I used for my Festive Table Runner to make a spiral block. The overall look of the cushions is a great mix of the blues and reds from the room, the cool winter blues and the hot red. Close up? Well I think I’m making some progress in piecing, design and quilting . Satisfying.

Harry’s Quilt

Quilt
Quilt

Here’s Harry’s quilt. I’m pleased with the finished effect. I’ve enjoyed every minute of making it, from choosing the fabric to the Free Motion Quilting, despite it still being such a huge challenge. I’ve certainly had plenty of time indoors with the rain and the storms hitting the Cambrian coast throughout January. I planned it and bought the fabric in November but had lots of things in the making and didn’t think that there was any hurry to get started since Harry wasn’t due to arrive until January.  But Harry was in a hurry and he arrived on November 22nd. Happily after a very short stay in hospital he has got off to a great start in life and he is all the more special for his early arrival.

'Locally Grown' by Marissa and Creative Thursday
‘Locally Grown’ by Marissa and Creative Thursday

The fabrics are a selection from Makower ‘Locally Grown’ by Marissa and Creative Thursday with a teal and white spot sashed with a yellow and white spot for the path.  For the first time I used a variegated thread for the quilting and I think it does add to the finish, but wouldn’t be suitable for all projects and would work out expensive on a large quilt.

I found the Jungle Path pattern on the Moda Bakeshop site and it’s by Jess at Sew Crafty Jess. Both are great places for tutorials and patterns. I took the plunge and added pics to Jess’ flickr feed as well. So another first.

The blocks were straight forward and could be quickly chain-pieced

Block Layout
Block Layout

and you can see the ‘path’ beginning to take shape.  Fairly soon there were 16 blocks ready to be placed into rows and columns of 4. As usual there was a lot of block-shuffling and groaning as I attempted to get the overall pattern of columns and rows. Then on to the sashing with the yellow and white to sew the rows into strips and then to join the rows to finish piecing the quilt top.

I didn’t have enough of the fabric to make the quilt back just as Jess had so I came up with an alternative, making a row of piano keys and bordering them with a handy piece of plain teal from my stash.

Machine FMQ writing
Machine FMQ writing

Time to implement the biggest challenge of all. I’d succeeded in some free writing on my sister’s quilt but was that beginners luck?  Quite a bit of sewing Harry, but it’s not too bad (I hope)!

After my last giant-sized quilt this one is very much more manageable. Maybe baby quilts are the way forward friends and family?  So the sandwich was soon put together, this time with a polyester wadding, which sort of goes against the grain (I do prefer to work with natural fabrics) but  it is much more breathable and less dense than cotton and so the right choice for a baby quilt.

Hearts and loops FMQ on the sashing
Hearts and loops FMQ on the sashing

Next on to the quilting,  a  heart and loop design for the pathway I thought; I’m comfortable with this one it flows easily and my natural sizing fitted the path.

 

I’ve begun sketching new design to try to get the movement into my mind and muscles and I plumped for this organic looking form to quilt around the blocks. I couldn’t quilt over the section where I had written Harry’s name and I could have planned the placing better. This is the main learning point from this project and I will remember next time!

Now at this point I had a very exciting new baby of my own. I’ve been thinking about a new sewing machine for a while and I eventually took the plunge. It arrived as I was doing battle with the quilting and I wondered about the wisdom of trying it out right away.

Well I did and WOW what a difference. Smoother, more controllable  and so many bells and whistles I can’t begin to write about. I put the finishing touches to the quilting with a ridiculous grin on my face. I love it!                                                                                                                                    My last job was to make the binding from more of the teal and white spotty fabric, enjoying the smaller size again as I hand finished it! You can see the binding and the four animal motifs of my ‘Locally Grown’ choices here.

Nain's Nik Naks
Nain’s Nik Naks

I bought these little labels last year but I just don’t seem to be able to add them to my finished projects. It might just remind me if I add a picture here.

 

I hope Harry, Nonnie and Tom enjoy the quilt as much as I enjoyed making it.

Meanwhile in Aberystwyth we were experience  a period of extreme storms and surge tides that devastated our lovely promenade.  Just in case Harry ever visits here he might be interested to see some pics of his early history.