Friday, 18 May 2018

A Secret (kind of Japanese) Garden

This is the biggest quilt I've ever made, so it's going to be a long post :))

So huge I couldn't take a proper photo of it.

To begin with - my Mum is decorating her bedroom in a kind of Japanese style, and she chose dusty pink wallpaper for most of the room and a highly decorative and extremely busy focal wallpaper with Japanese motifs above the bed. When I suggested making a quilt for her, she said it had to be very simple and quiet, because the wallpaper is so busy. So, I didn't get to play with the beautiful Japanese patterned fabrics, but I couldn't just make it plain, either.

I chose a pink Moda Grunge for my background, and tone-on-tone warm grey for the sashing, I also smuggled in a Japanese pattern, but it's going to be on the bits that hang down on the sides, so that doesn't really count, does it? ;)) But I still needed something - some point of interest - and I remembered I had just the right thing.

When I was maybe 12-13 years old, my Mum took a machine embroidery course, and made a lot of beautiful stuff, but her final project she never finished. It's this really exquisite panel using a wide range of silk threads to create colour transitions - mind you, it was made on a very basic foot-operated sewing machine. You can see pencil lines where the flowers were left unfinished. 

Here's a close-up:

I mean, I found it hard to persuade that machine to stitch a straight line with the right tension for me.

It had been folded away for many years until I took up quilting five years ago and rummaged through Mum's fabrics to see what I could put to good use. I found this panel and took it with the other bits and pieces, and so it came to live in my stash. When I took it out on this occasion, it matched my Mood Grunge pink almost exactly, so I took it as a sign that it was meant to go into Mum's quilt. It can hardly be called Japanese, but it will work with the vibrant colour and busy pattern of the wallpaper.

So, I pieced a very simple top in just a couple of days, sandwiched it and contemplated it in awe (with panic starting to set in): How do you even begin to quilt this?

See how tiny and lonely the bird looks?

Forgot to mention - I had only two weeks left till Mum's birthday and she was coming to us for a week just then, arriving a couple of days before her birthday, so I had even less than two weeks to do the quilting. (That's also the reason I didn't post anything about it in progress - it was a Secret Project).

But I did it - with a couple of hours' quilting every morning, on the dining table, because the quilt is actually larger than the whole of my sewing room. In case you're wondering - I quilted it all on my very usual domestic machine - Janome 6260.

I started with the bird block, using a selection of my beloved YLI variegated threads to pick up the colours from the embroidery and kind of continue the design:

I made all the design decisions on the go, so I thought I might add more birds to keep it company, and thus the large blocks became kind of "pictures" too. All FMQ with very little planning.

I think they bear a slight resemblance to the Japanese/Chinese "birds and flowers" images, but if you disagree, I won't insist.  I tried to use kind of Japanese quilting patterns for the small blocks, too, but I don't know many of those.

"What if I use a different quilting pattern for each block?" I thought light-mindedly, without even counting the number of blocks in question (the answer is 42 - who could have thought!).

It was fun and games for some time, but very soon I was running out of ideas, considering that the density of quilting had to be more or less consistent, too.

I went through Pinterest again and again, searching for more suitable patterns. They didn't all turn out nice, some look really clumsy.

I also ran out of some of my threads in the process.

Some of the patterns did turn out very similar or (almost) identical to the others, which I only discovered at the end of a day's quilting when I spread the quilt out on the bed. Luckily, the side rows of patterned fabric could be all quilted with the same pattern, because you can't see it with all the flowers anyway.

Anyway, I did it, and I couldn't believe I did it when I spread it in the living room again to trim and bind.

I know a lot of people make huge quilts like that on a regular basis, but for me it was a feat, and I actually like how it turned out - very simple if you look from a distance, but with a lot of texture and subtle colour if you look up close.

I think Mum really liked it and certainly appreciated the addition of her bird to it. I hope it fits the room, but before it travels to its home, I'll be (hopefully) sending it to a quilt show here in Ireland, so Mum left it with me for the time being.

Linking up to Off the Wall Friday at Creation by Nina-Marie
Can I get a Whoop Whoop? at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Free Motion Mavericks at Lizzy Lenard Vintage Sewing
Show iff Saturday at Sew Can She

Friday, 6 April 2018

Indian Elephant Has Arrived

It's been a long journey for such a small elephant, but along the way he's not only found some temple arches to walk through, but also some bling to adorn himself (that's the exuberant Orient, after all).  And finally, here he is.

You can read more about his journey here and here, I'll just tell about the quilting in this post. I usually prefer some sort of overall quilting pattern for the whole of the quilt or at least for the whole of the background. Here it was evident that each part needed its own quilting, that's why I kept putting it off and spent a long time considering the options.

The elephant was easy, I just echoed some of the shapes, trying to keep him not too flat, and created an arching pattern in his coat (blanket? rug? saddlecloth?) to rhyme with the border arches.

Finally, I decided to quilt the immediate background with paisley-feather-mussel-like something in golden-brown variegated thread.

Then quilted simple rosettes into the corner patches,

And mini-arches in the narrow borders.

Finally, the "temple arches" were quilted with stylised architectural details, and the space between them - with echoing curves.

Despite the small surface area, it was a lot of fiddling, but that was not all, the handwork still remained, and the quilt sat waiting till I was in the mood to do that.

I went to three shops to look for suitable trimmings, and there was not a lot of choice in something Indian looking, but small-scale and not too colourful, so I just bought this gold lace, blingy red trim and some plastic "gems" that rhymed with the trim. Some hand stitching - and the elephant is ready for any ceremony he wants to attend.

On the whole, it's very unusual quilt for me in an uncharacteristic colour way, but it was fun to let it go and see how it developed of its volition.

Linking up to Off the Wall Friday at Creations by Nina-Marie
Finished or not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts
Free Motion Mavericks at Lizzy Lenard Vintage Sewing
TGIFF at Celtic Thistle Stitches
Show Off Saturday at Sew Can She

Monday, 2 April 2018


Again, an idea I've lived with for some time, since I made my horse quilt, actually, which only came to fruition now, in a couple of days of frantic drawing, tracing, cutting, pinning and stitching in between taking the kids out here, there and everywhere.

This is a series of little horse portraits - curve-piecing samples for a workshop, which incorporate 3d manes to make them come to life.

They are just flimsies at the moment, because this is how I prefer them for the workshops, quilting will add some texture, and the eyes will be brought to life by a couple of strokes of paint or crayons.
The choice of fabrics changes the style completely, from almost realistic to something fairytale-like.

For these two, the manes are made with loosely spun knitting yarn (leftovers from some knitted hats), for the third one, I used felting wool (unfelted in this case, in the horse quilt I felted the manes before stitching them into the seams - they look less natural when felted, but handling is much easier then). I wish I had made it longer, because it did shrink a bit with all the handling. the manes will probably be partially stitched down after quilting, to keep them in place when the quilt is folded, carried or stored.

I got so carried away, I have two more patterns ready, but will have to pause for a while.

Linking up to Main Crush Monday at Cooking up Quilts
Linky Tuesday at Free Motion by the River

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Neon Quilt Finished

My, it's been a long time...
The quilt was actually finished long ago, I just didn't get around to photographing and posting it. Here it is:

Has anybody else noticed that the faster the quilt is to make, the longer it takes to post it, or is it just me?

The previous post tells everything about making the top (not much to tell - improv curve stack-and-whack). The quilting is curves and spirals, not too dense to keep it soft, in a beautiful variegated YLI thread in shades of blue, going into green and purple.

The binding is pieced from the strips of batik fat quarters left over from cutting the squares - blends with all the medley in the quilt itself.

I really love how fast these improv pieced quilts come together and plan on making another one (some day).

Linking up to Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts.
Off the Wall Friday at Creations by Nina-Marie

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Splashes of Neon

Another productive day in my sewing group, and another improv curve piecing top.

The Eastern branch if the Irish Patchwork Society received a call for charity quilts for an orphanage in Russia, and I thought I'd try more improv piecing for that, because the time is limited, and this technique works really fast for me.

As I saw, a lot of our members are making quilts for smaller kids, so I decided to do something that's  more suitable for a teenager or a pre-teen (at least I hope this would appeal to them). The top finished about 45'' by 52''.

I had a fat quarter bundle of very nice and bright batiks ("Aurora" collection by Freedom fabrics), which were bought for another project, but were not used in the end, so I decided to use them, I also added a piece of bright blue-purple ombre fabric and dark grey butterflies to get to 42 squares of fabric. The squares had to be 9'', because the batik fat quarters were a bit smaller than usual.

I used stacks of four squares (mostly) and cut them free-hand in a more or less diagonal direction, then mixed the pieces and stitched them together. The finished blocks had to be trimmed to 8'' square. You can check out my previous quilt in the same technique, but with a different pattern of cutting, to compare the resulting effect.

I then had to spend quite a lot of time trying to create an interesting layout out of these blocks - it proved tricky, because the bright shapes stand out so and really draw your eye, so you have to organise something that is by itself random. I hope it turned out modern and dynamic.

Linking up to Linky Tuesday at Free motion by the River
Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Elephant Walking On (and Mass Production Curve Piecing)

This is a story full of adventures and discoveries, errors and disappointments - it's the story of how I made the borders for my elephant block.

I had several cuts of the "Spice Trail" collection by Freedom Fabrics, which have really nice tasty colours, and I had in mind some kind of Indian carpet that they often depict on elephants' backs with arc like patterns in the border. I thought they would work nice for curve piecing. I started with a simple border with paisley patterned fabric:

Then I started making my arcs, and I had to modify my curve piecing process for mass production of identical blocks, which I'll talk about later. It must be said that with curved parts it's impossible to calculate in advance how much fabric you're going to need, you can only estimate ... you see already where this is going, don't you? Yes, I didn't have enough fabric for four borders. I also cut several pieces out of the wrong fabric, which depleted my stock.

So much so for the carpet, I decided to make it more vertical by adding another border:

Had I designed and planned it properly in advance, I would have pieced it in a different way. Then I decided to add a little bit of remaining patterned fabric and so I went from an 18'' by 22'' block to a 32'' by 47'' - all in a couple of days. What do you think of that? I think I have to stop here.

Now, some technical tips and tricks in case anybody is interested:

Mass Production Curve Piecing

Friday, 5 January 2018

Indian Elephant

As it often happens to me, I made a sketch for this long time ago, and it's only now that I managed to bring it to life - please meet the Elephant block:

The fabrics were purchased specifically for it and have been waiting all this time - over a year - in a separate bag, so that they didn't get involved with any other projects going on :))) I think the fabrics really make it - the contrast and the patterns are very eye-catching. It now needs a suitably Indian border, which I'm still considering, and I plan to add some trimmings for more Oriental splendour after it's quilted (and an eye, an eye is definitely needed).

It's a simple curve-pieced pattern, the size of a fat quarter, giver take, and it came together very fast. If you'd like to try some simple curve piecing, check out these beginner tutorials here and here.

Linking up to Off the Wall Friday at Creations by Nina-Marie
Can I get a Whoop Whoop? at Confessions of a fabric Addict

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