Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Hexie success

At the start of last year I signed up to the Pile O Fabric Skill Builder BOM. Actually I signed up to a few BOM clubs but the others quickly dropped by the wayside. This is a really fun BOM. Alyssa is a real perfectionist and master of technique and I learnt so much in just the first few months. Starch, glue basting, careful piecing. Lots of video tutes and lots of detail. Now I have to admit that I am still way, way behind on this BOM with many blocks still to be done. I keep considering abandoning it but just can't quite do so. I feel there is much more still to be learnt. Not least FMQing the blocks which is the whole reason I joined in the first place! Not a single block quilted as we type ...

Where I really ground to a halt was on the April blocks, the Chev 'n' Hex and the Diamond Carat. Hand sewing. English paper piecing. 

Picture from pileofabric.com

Picture from pileofabric.com

I am definitely a machine sewer. I lack patience, and application and I am not particularly skilled or experienced at hand sewing. But the whole point is to learn new stuff of course, and having abandoned crochet I was keen on developing a hand sewing project for long car journeys and holidays.

Over the next few months (yep, months) I basted all the pieces, sorted my layout, and got to sewing those hexies together. I think I made things harder for myself by using the monofilament thread that Alyssa suggests, but I just wasn't happy with the visibility of my stitches using cotton. My hexies were all such different colours that nothing blended with them all.

It took forever. I wouldn't say I hated it, mostly, but I certainly didn't enjoy it either. Boring and repetitive, yet too tricky to be able to switch off and just sew like I can with hand binding. 

Anyway during a long drive last Friday I posted such thoughts on Instagram, and was met with lots of encouraging voices telling me to just give up, leave it, it wasn't worth it. Just the kick up the bum I needed. My completer-finisher tendencies kicked in. I WANTED to finish this block. I want to finish the whole sampler, one day!! And so over the weekend I cracked on. Actually picked this little hand sewing project up rather than just leaving it for car journeys. 

And the Chev 'n' Hex block is done.

The good news is, I never have to EPP another hexie ever again if I don't want to.

The bad news is I still have the Diamond Carat block to piece ...

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Fabric wanties - or not!

So it's nearing the end of the month again and time for the monthly Fabriholics Anonymous link up and confession booth.


My word it seems a lot of you have leapt fallen off the wagon this month! Even our illustrious leaders Rebecca and Jess have caved, not even 4 months in ladies!! I guess it can be a diet, not a fast, eh?

So I know it's not nice but I am just a teensy bit smug that my fabric purchases for this month have yet again been zero. Sure, I've practically wiped out the haberdashery and notions section of Simply Solids and developed a serious (and expensive) addiction to Flatter, but not a single charm square of fabric has crossed the threshold of this house. And actually, it's been absolutely fine.

I've got over last month's dressmaking fabric wanties thanks to overindulgence of my other addiction in the run up to Easter  - Cadbury's creme eggs and, indeed, rubbish chocolate in general. I currently have no desire whatsoever to make any clothes for my not very attractive waistline, even the ready to go Parisian top has been stalled until I manage to sort myself out. 

So instead I'm just really enjoying sewing rather than shopping. I'm hoping to have a 3rd April quilt finish to show you before the end of the month, and I'm getting super excited about the Aviatrix Medallion QAL with this utterly gorgeous stack of fabrics all ready to start cutting this week.

It makes me so happy to have pulled all this from my stash. I do have occasional panics about "what if I use all my fabrics?!" but truly, it's not very likely. Barely a dent has been made. Even pulling my precious Botanics for the Aviatrix isn't too painful because due to my obsession I actually bought a full half yard bundle. 31 half yards, to be exact. This project will use 15 fqs from the range. I'm good for Botanics for a while yet, phew ;-)

Shall we look a bit closer? After all, you are here to see fabric, right?

Okay so my background will be Sketch in Mist and my block accent will be Kona Snow. Basically because that's what I have in my stash in sufficient yardage (I panic stashed such basics in December!!) and because they work. Phew.

Blues L-R: Botanics; Lizzy House jewels; Architextures; Botanics; Kona Prussian

Oranges L-R: Unknown coral solid; Waterfront Park; Botanics; Botanics; Botanics

Greens L-R: Botanics; Scrumptious by Bonnie & Camille; Botanics; Botanics, Unknown solid

Yes, yes I need to label my solids better. Moving on.

Yellows L-R: Botanics; Botanics; Comma by Zen Chic; Moda Bella Cheddar; Botanics

And last but not least my neutrals:

Greys top to bottom: Kona Steel; Botanics; Riley Blake Willow; Botanics, Botanics

I got lots of helpful feedback on Instagram about whether or not to add in the solids or extra prints. I started with all Botanics but really wanted to expand on that for a couple of reasons. It is one of my ongoing goals and challenges to myself to work outside of fabric collections. Such creative decisions don't come easily to me but I have been much happier with the finished quilt whenever I have done this, it seems to add more sparkle when you mix things up. And I really wanted to ensure I had a really good range of values in each colour stack, from light through to dark, which I couldn't quite achieve with the collection on its own. It was so much fun playing with different options from my stash.

Oh and I will be buying a quilt back for this once it is time to baste it. Because it is huge, and I have nothing suitable big enough, and I am hoping to love it far too much to piece a mish mash of unwanted FQs together to back it! Just a heads up on that. But quilt backs are allowed anyway, right?

Now I need to finish up binding a quilt and then I can fully immerse myself in cutting happiness. After pressing all my lovelies with Flatter, of course ;-)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

WIP wednesday

Just a quick post today to link up with Lee at Freshly Pieced.

I've been cracking on with the Dottie quilt I started last week at the Leeds MQG meeting. It is on the Q2 FAL list, after all. All sashed together.

Backing pieced with considerably more care than usual.

And I ignored the children for an hour this morning* and got it basted. I'll be marking it up and starting quilting as soon as I'm done here.

I also spent a considerably enjoyable few hours yesterday pulling together this delightful stack of loveliness for the Oh Fransson Aviatrix Medallion quilt along

I'd been resisting this one for ages but I've caved, and I can't wait. Just need to hang fire for Elizabeth's post next week about cutting and templates because I haven't a clue what I'm doing, frankly. Give me time to get the Dottie quilt to binding stage, hopefully. 

Linking up and off to see what everyone else has been up to. Happy Wednesday!

* Actually I didn't really ignore them. The baby was napping and the big girl did a combination of playing happily and helping me out. She knows all about quilt sandwiches now, you know ;-)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Sparkling cider finish

Hurrah, another finish! I haven't managed to get much sewing done this week as it is the Easter hols, which means that rather than stitching during baby's naptime I have been spending time with my big girl. And in the evenings I am somewhat too exhausted to sew!

But I had got bits done here and there and was determined to finish this on Friday in the car on the drive down to stay with my parents in Leicester. A hefty detour due to an M1 closure made that easily achievable!

I like handsewing binding in the car, I struggle to read these days without getting sick but I can sew and I find I need to be forced to sit still in order to apply myself to such a task!

Anyway, it is all done and ready for some lightweight summer silky snuggling.

This is an all voile quilt. The top is made from an Anna Maria Horner rainbow voile bundle bought from Westwood Acres last Summer. 

Amanda no longer has these in stock sadly but I notice she does have some truly gorgeous AMH Field Study bundles in FQs, half yards and even yards. The backing is yardage of AMH and Joel Dewberry voiles from Lady Sew and Sew. The binding is scraps of AMH and cloud 9 Koi voile leftover from previous projects. The wadding is Sew Simple supersoft cotton from my roll. All together this makes for a very lightweight quilt. Noticeably so much more so than the other quilts I have made of similar size. It drapes beautifully. Normally the first thing I do after binding is wash and tumble the quilt (with a couple of colour catchers!). I don't intend to wash this one till I need to. It doesn't feel like it needs it and I don't want it to change!

The pattern is Sparkling Cider, designed by and available from All Washed Up. This is a simple, fun, fat quarter friendly pattern that really shows off large chunks of fabric. I love piecing but didn't want to chop these voiles up *too* much so this was perfect. Instead of buying background yardage I used the lowest value FQs from my rainbow bundle to give a scrappy low volume effect, unusual for me but I like it.

Working with the voile was really fine. I pressed it with plenty of starch to give the fabrics more body and was a little more careful with my cutting to avoid ruler slippage. I am often guilty of sacrificing seam allowance to preserve a perfect point and was careful not to do that with this quilt as the edges of the voile seem quite fine and delicate. I did go over a couple of iffy seams a couple of times to be sure. I only came a bit unstuck on the basting. I always spray baste and the AMH voile didn't take to the spray at all so I had to add pins. Despite this it quilted beautifully and was so easy to handle through the machine due to its light weight.

The quilting just vanishes which was my intention here. I did my usual wavy line machine pattern with my walking foot and a pale grey Aurifl 50wt thread (#2615).

The Joel Dewberry voile on the back feels completely different to the AMH voile. While that is silky to the touch, the Joel Dewberry is softer somehow. It took the spray baste much better as well. Both very lovely, but different.

I had the pleasure of snuggling under this one the last couple of nights but it has now been well and truly claimed by my biggest girl and I'm not sure how I'll get it back!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

WIP Wednesday - Guild sewing

So on Saturday just gone we had our first Leeds MQG sit and sew day. I was really quite excited for this, as 6 hours uninterrupted sewing is something completely unheard of around here. I do make time to sew, as Lisa pointed out how else would I get through almost a whole bottle of Flatter in a month, but it is hours grabbed here and there during nap time and in the evening and generally when I *should* be doing something else. So yep, this was going to be a treat and well worth lugging my huge sewing machine to Leeds for!

I took some time deciding what project to take with me. I wanted to work on something exciting so decided to break open a new quilt project. I had bought a layer cake of Hello Luscious from Pink Castle fabrics ... just about 2 years ago. I had also bought a Dottie quilt pattern, perfect for layer cakes, from Cluck Cluck Sew. I even had set aside a border print. And then this project sat, and sat and sat, I didn't even take the layer cake out of the package.

So I decided this would be a good, compact and handy little quilt project to take with me. No need to pull yardage from my stash. I chose some Moda Bella Feather as background fabric and chopped it up, then packed that along with all my sewing paraphernalia. Late on Friday evening I though it might be a good idea to check through my layer cake. The last layer cake I opened had a couple of miscut squares, plus the pattern required 42 pieces so I decided to count. Pulled out a textured solid square that read as white and replaced it with a square of my border fabric.

And realised I wasn't totally in love with the prints :-(

Back when I bought this I didn't know about the awesome that is the United Notions website and so had bought it without checking out the whole line. I liked the colours together and it looked nice and bright. And when it arrived I thought the top print was pretty. So didn't look any closer.

This is maybe the issue with impluse buying and hoarding fabric. I didn't quite appreciate what I was buying. I wasn't as interested in fabric designers and collections as I am now and I wasn't so sure of my tastes. I do like crisp prints and bright, saturated colour. This is kind of muted and, dare I say, a bit chintzy for my liking.

Anyway it was too late to come up with a plan b (and anyway I had already added it to my Q2 FAL list!) so I pressed on.

Guild day was so great. We meet in The Arch cafe in Leeds, a lovely venue with fab food and coffee too. So many people I wanted to chat to, but this was my uninterrupted sewing day!! I got on with cutting my layer cake. And cutting, and cutting, and cutting. Because as well as not looking at my fabric I hadn't read my pattern. I got so much less done than I had expected!! But as always with piecing, it seems to take ages then suddenly starts flying together and after a couple more evenings work I have my rows all ready to be sashed together tonight.

And now the blocks are together, it is growing on me again. I love that about piecing. Chopping up and sewing together fabric can change it so much. The individual is never representative of the whole. In this case I definitely love the look of the collection all together more than each individual print - although there are some lovely ones in there.

I am particularly pleased with this (unintentionally) fussy cut bloom.

I really need to think about how to get the most out of my guild sewing days. I don't think I pitched it quite right this time. It was great to have a new project to get my teeth into, but I wanted to chat too! And see what others were doing, and learn from them. Lots of people took longstanding projects that they never quite get to at home. And many people were handsewing, leaving them free to be sociable at the same time. Tackling my Skill Builder BOM could tick both of those boxes, I think. I realised later that I have never sewn anywhere but at home, in my own space, and it was strange not to be doing so. And there was limited space too, of course, again not something I am used to. I did take along my Sparkling Cider quilt too, and spent some time handsewing the binding while we went through the Guild agenda, and was really pleased I had done so. This still isn't done, although I did get a little done today while supervising playdoh during the small one's nap.

How do you get the most out of group sewing sessions? How do you hit balance the between getting things done and gaining from others? What would be your preferred kind of project to take? Let me know, I am interested to hear. This is going to be a monthly event from now on - so exciting!

Linking up with Freshly Pieced!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Playground quilt finish

As intended posting my FAL Q2 list gave me a much needed kick up the bum on the binding front and last week I finally finished my Happy Go Lucky Playground quilt! I had been trying to hand sew the binding down in the evenings, snuggled in front of the telly with my husband - how romantic. More romantic than me at the sewing machine while he walks the dog, anyway. But this quilt has a dark navy binding which I was trying to sew with dark navy thread to the dark blue and black backing. And it was proving impossible, frankly. So a couple of days last week I forced myself to sit down during baby girl's nap time and get it done in daylight. Much better!

And so it is all done, washed, tumbled and in use. My husband long since claimed this for his own as the only member of our household without his own quilt and he has enjoyed having creative authority on many of the fabric choices.

The Kona olive background fabric.

The dark and manly backing.

The annoyingly cut on the bias but doesn't it look fab binding.

He chose the quilting design too (from my very small repertoire!) and even selected the thread to use.

I love this. I do love Camille's patterns and her fabrics, always such fun to piece and simple but striking in the end. I need to make more from this book.

And it is a hit with the small one too, of course.

Hurrah. First finish of Q2. Some details, for when I forget.

Pattern: Playground from Simply Retro by Camille Roskelley
Fabric: Happy Go Lucky by Bonnie & Camille - a partially used layer cake plus some coordinating extras from Waterfront Park and Pam Kitty Picnic and Love ranges. Background solid is Kona Olive.
Backing: Chunks from stash - Mama Said Sew sewing guide in black, yarn dyed Essex linen in black, blue Andover wickerweave and some leftover Kona olive.
Binding: Making Tracks in Indigo from Tsuru by Rashida Coleman-Hale for Cloud 9 fabrics. Cut on the bias of course.
Size: 60" by 72"
Quilting: Straight lines 1/4" each side of each seam line, in Aurifil 40wt pale grey 2600.

Now I just need to apply the same dedication and get the Sparkling Cider binding sewn down too! But my big girl is home for the Easter hols so I may have to employ the assistance of Elsa and Anna if I'm going achieve that in daylight ...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Finish Along 2014 Q2

Time for me to get accountable and join in with the infamous Finish Along!
Finish Along 2014

I can be quite determined when I make a plan so expect this to be both achievable and achieved. Famous last words eh?

1) Playground quilt.

Why have I not finished this yet? It just needs the binding to be sewn down. It has been sat in a pile in this state for about 3 weeks. The combination of dark binding, dark backing, dark thread and evening sewing time is putting me off. Needs to be done.

2) Sparkling cider voile.

As above. Unfinished and therefore unusable. Very annoying. Get it finished Hannah!

3) Travel Duffle 2 

Barely had I finished one when I cracked on with another. Why? I don't know really, it was a beast to make. So now, funnily enough, I have stalled. But not for long, because you can't have too much handmade luggage, right?

4) Dottie

Okay, I haven't actually started this one yet. But this is my project pile for our Leeds MQG sit and sew day this coming Saturday! I have had this pattern, the Hello Luscious layer cake and the border and background fabric for years. Easily 2 years. And it's just been sat on the shelf! I still love it, I still want to make it so with 6 hours of uninterrupted sewing coming up this is my plan. If I can figure out how to carry all my stuff that is.... Anyway once I've started, I must finish, so it's on the list.

5) Vaguely festive giant churn dash

I feel a bit MEH about this, and doubtful it will happen this quarter but I figured if it wasn't on the list it definitely wouldn't. I made these giant churn dash blocks as test blocks for my Siblings Together Bee quilt and had the idea to turn them into a *vaguely* Christmassy quilt. I am a bit of a humbug really but thought it would be nice to have a special quilt to pull out during the season of all things merry and bright.

So I have this stack:

And haven't made a single further block. They are easy really, but the fabric choices are paralysing me. Though looking at this stack again cheered me slightly so maybe, you never know!

Okay, that will do. Linking up with Katy ...

To travel handmade ...

... you need enough handmade bags to hold all your stuff, obviously.

I have made my beloved Weekender bag


And also a Sew Sweetness Aeroplane bag

but I wasn't any good at travelling light before I had children, and so now that I do these bags barely hold the tip of the packing iceberg.

I bought the StudioCherie Travel Duffle pattern sometime last year, after seeing Elizabeth's fun version. The main appeal was that this bag is BIG. Like if you fill it you can hardly lift it big. That's my kinda luggage.

So, I sourced some jute webbing for the handles. I couldn't find the required 3.5" width so I bought 2" wide instead. After pondering a variety of patchwork and QAYG options splurged on 1.5m of this awesome Anna Maria Horner print (Social Climber in teal from Hand Drawn garden). I have to admit - and I realise this is bordering on sacrilege - that I don't have the unreserved adoration for all AMH's prints and collections that so many people do. But the ones that are good are just so beautiful. I think I appreciate the prints individually more than all together in collections. And I thought this would be perfect for this bag.

And then, as usual, I stalled. So many new projects, new fabrics to buy, blah blah, that's how I am. My Travel Duffle sat unmade. Until this month. The whole point of the fabric fast for me is to make me return to all those unmade projects - those WNQIPs (works not quite in progress) that I bought the stuff for but didn't ever actually even start. So I looked at my fabric again.

Pulled some chocolate brown sketch for the handle trim. Poor old brown gets a bit of a hard time these days, yes Hadley and Kelly I'm looking at you ;-). But I actually really quite like brown. My living room curtains are chocolate brown. So are 2 of the walls. I have brown boots, brown bags. I like it. And as you can see from the picture above it is an accent colour in the Social Climber print. I didn't have an orange or yellow that matched and I have no desire for a bag with pink trim. Grey wasn't going to work due to the brown - so brown it was. I only had half a yard but as my webbing was narrower I only needed 2" strips to trim the handles. I used an aqua Aurifil 50wt thread for the top stitching (#5006) to pick out the main colour of the print. And was pretty happy with how they turned out.

I grumped a bit about the fact I didn't have a long enough cut of the aqua Lizzy House jewels I wanted to use as the bag interior. And reluctantly cut some Kona Snow instead. I had panic stashed yards (about 8?!) of this at the very end of December so no worries there. Unfortunately I failed to read Jeni's advice on cutting the backing and batting slightly larger than the front before I did it and did experience a little shifting. Turned out that it didn't matter at all as the pattern allows for that and your final panel pieces are cut from the quilted pieces with just enough to spare.

This bag is unlined. I think that is one of the things that made me stall on making it as I was unsure how to finish the interior. I don't have an overlocker and didn't fancy zig zagging all those seams so I made 1/2" finished double fold bias binding (from 2" bias strips) and used those to bind the quilted pieces.

I did ponder ignoring the pattern and making regular cross grain binding but I am glad I didn't, the main panel ends up curving as it meets the ends so that bias stretch is definitely needed. Finishing the pieces this way means you do actually end up with 3 small quilts before you start constructing the bag which felt rather odd!

Soon to be a bag quilts ...

I have to be honest, I found this bag a bit of a battle. I don't know why, as I have made bags before and not struggled but this pattern wasn't quite so detailed as others I have used and I was scratching my head at times. I managed to insert the main zip incorrectly not once, but twice. Thankfully for once I had used pins rather than glue basting it so it was relatively easy to unpick.

3rd time lucky! I added topstitching to hold down the inside flaps rather than handstitching them down

The pleats on the end pocket had me flummoxed until I actually looked at the pattern pieces (I had cut everything with a rotary cutter or scissors). Once I had added the end pocket that panel piece was a mess so next time I would hold off binding it until that pocket was on. And actually I will make 2 end pockets next time. This bag has no interior pockets so I think the more exterior ones the better-  I already added an extra side pocket.

I added topstitching alongside the zip on the end pocket 

Unfortunately at the final stages of construction my machine let me down. There are a lot of things I love about this machine but its inability to handle multiple layers is not one of them. Thankfully it got me through all the topstitching, but when it came to the final bag construction it started skipping stitches. Ugh. I had this with the last bag I made on it, a Super Tote for my mother in law. It is really disappointing, as I love to make bags and made several (including the beast that is the Weekender) on my old machine -  a lower spec Janome - without it batting an eyelid. I changed needle several times but it didn't help at all and I ended up adding in some hand stitching over the zip area to reinforce it as the skipped stitches were so troublesome there. I just went around the rest of the bag several times. Which looks not so great, as you can imagine!

Some interior photos - you can see the binding, and all the quilting and stitching lines

And here the raw (zig zagged) edge from adding the end pocket - yuk!

When I finished this the other night I breathed a huge sigh of relief that it was done.
Stuffed it full of quilts and cushions to take the photos.

And marvelled at its capacity, plus its ability to scrunch down small. I just used my regular cotton quilt wadding so it is soft when empty.

Apple for scale - big bag!

And so I immediately pulled fabrics for another.

I have a twofold plan to tackle the skipped stitches. It involves purchasing some titanium tipped needles.

And pulling my husband's Grandad's old machine out of the garage. This is the machine I started sewing on, and I reckon it can handle it.