# Those pesky angles…

Quite early on in my quilt journey I tackled half square triangles (hst)and made this quilt for a friend’s first grandchild. They were reasonably easy although I’m sure a few points got lost on the way so I thought I’d progress to half  rectangle triangles.

Now my basic maths knowledge recognised that these would be more tricksy because the angle of a half rectangle triangle (hrt), where the sides will be two different lengths, will vary whereas for a hst its always 90 degrees. Well I thought I got this sussed but sadly not.  They ended up all over the place in terms of size…. I used the tutorial on the Modern Quilt Guild i.e. went to the experts, but their method didn’t work for me. I started making these but then got distracted but I have this quilt in mind for a child, not one of mine, the colourway is a million miles away from theirs, so I want to get that finished sometime soon. You can see from the diamonds made that there is inconsistent piecing so points would be lost. Oh and they are all supposed to be the same size….

I should have persevered but went the easy route which was to buy a die for my Accuquilt. Then with perfect cut pieces with neatly cut off corners you can more easily match the edges – in theory. But I never tested the theory as I’d lost heart but recently, wanting to get back to that quilt, I thought the design would look good on a long cushion for the bed. It would be a good test of whether I’d improved and get some practice in to make these blocks. So  I blew the dust off the die, cut a bunch of pieces and then sewed them together to check whether I had actually got more accurate and/or using die cut pieces was more fool proof. Well one of those statements is true because this time they came out with 1/4″ seams and points to match. I found carefully pressing the seams so they locked when you butted them up against each made a huge difference.

it wasn’t all plain sailing as you have to remember that you can’t just switch them round like a hst so they still fit, those pesky angles again, you have to have enough sewn pieces with the seam going each way. So in the picture below the four pieced together hrt will not fit together to make a diamond because the seam goes right to left. They need four hrt with the seam running the other way.

It also occurred to me, which it certainly wouldn’t have done a couple of years ago, that I need a pressing plan. In other words a clear diagram on which way to press seams so at the overlapping points they all fold over neatly not get bunched up.  So it’s been a useful exercise.

I used two layers of batting on the front to accentuate the quilting but it is such a stuffed pillow that you can’t really see the padded effect. By contrast the back is from the head board material and I wanted to quilt this but it was so stiff the quilting lines didn’t show. I’m not complaining, that saved me 30 minutes of sewing on a busy day

I found it was quite time consuming piecing on the angle and I’d need well over 100 hrt to make a mid sized quilt. I may need to think about some sashing or playing with the design. Or of course cut my own hrt but using a bigger size than the die. Now that really would see whether I’d improved. I must have a play.

Linking up with Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts  who has own beautiful quilt on her blog.

# A very self indulgent post

All quilters with cats know that cats and quilts go together. They have this sixth sense when a quilt is being laid out and are there to curl up on it in a trice. So it’s quite hard to get a quilt picture without one of our two cats photo bombing it unashamedly. Even when it’s just a couple of small blocks there they are preening themselves for a photo. Well very sadly our lovely grey cat Minty won’t be doing any more quilt photo shoots, as a collision with a car and even with nine lives it wasn’t enough to save him. I doubt if he knew anything about it and he’d had a good life albeit at nearly 6 years old it was too short.

I’m certainly not blaming the driver, Minty was the colour of tarmac and frankly not the brightest of cats. We agonised about him becoming an outdoor cat because he wasn’t let out other than on a harness for the first two years with us but he spent much of his indoor life plotting to escape. His best trick was to hang back when the doorbell rang waiting for it to open and while I’d be dealing with the visitor he’d  dash through our legs then make a break for freedom. I could see from his increasingly irritable behaviour that the frustration of being kept in was telling on him so in the end, on the basis that it’s quality of life not quantity that counts, we let him out.  I don’t regret that for an instant, with his ears pricked forward and his tail upright as he ventured outside he loved the freedom and excitement of being able to explore and hunt. I think we will see more birds at our bird feeder now.

While I have no regrets about that decision I’m grateful that our other cat Skye isn’t as keen to go outside and if she does get out through curiosity so far she’s kept close to the house whereas Minty would dash away as fast as his legs could carry him!

He is very much missed and I can’t believe I won’t see his face at the window asking to be let in again. It is all a bit of a shock  but as this blog is my quilting journal and Minty was part of it I thought this quilt tribute  would be fitting and mark this sad time.

# Tax Avoidance

I’ve  been a bit wary of provocative titles since a post back in October last year entitled The Exploitation of Orphans caused a charity supporting orphans in Africa to sign up!! I felt quite bad about it but clearly no one had read the actual  post because they would have realised very quickly that it was all about orphan blocks. So with this post about a quilt that was done largely when I should have been preparing my tax return I avoided the quilt title tax evasion,  which in the UK is an illegal activity, and went with tax avoidance  which is entirely legitimate provided it’s through a proper arrangement.  I did not want to attract any unnecessary attention when it comes to matters like tax…

But the sorry truth is that this quilt was a great diversion from the tedious job of pulling together all the information needed for my tax return. And anything to avoid knuckling down to fill in endless spreadsheets.  But my tax return had to be completed by the end of January which was achieved (the £100 fine for a late return might have been an encouragement) and this quilt wasn’t finished until mid February so in the end I did get my priorities right.

This was another one of those quilts that was inspired by someone else’s creativity. Poppy of Cuckoo Blue had on her Instagram feed some lovely blocks of bright colours paired with random low volume fabrics. Her finished quilt and tutorial is on her blog in the link. It’s stunning. Poppy would be the first to admit this block is not original but her blending of brights  and low volume just appealed to me .

With my scraps mounting I already had a plan to make use of them but this caught my eye and the other  quilt idea was abandoned. Incidentally for readers in harsher climates this rather pathetic amount of snow is the sum total we have had in middle England. I rushed out to get a snow picture before it melted hence the poor light. 30 minutes later it had gone …. I have very disappointed children .

But back to the block it’s perfect for using scraps because it only requires squares of 4 1/2 inch and 2 1/2 inch. I had the right sized dies for my Accuquilt so I was away. I wanted to make the top entirely out of scraps and  I had sufficient cool colours  like greys, blues, greens and vaguely blue/green to make this quilt and indeed enough left over blocks, more or less, to make up a small cot quilt. It’s very satisfying  almost like making a bonus quilt.

The other great advantage of this block design is that it is perfect for chain piecing and it was a very quick make in practice.  It would’ve been even quicker if I hadn’t had to do my tax return! Or for that matter feed the cats!

It’s quite a busy quilt so I didn’t want to add further busyness  by complicated quilt patterns. So I went for an all over pattern using free motion quilting and a loop to loop design  and kept to the existing columns to keep the scale the same. I tend to find it hard to keep the size and spacing consistent in an all over design without some constraining lines. The quilting is a bit denser than I would normally use but with Orient batting from Quilters Dream it still has a reasonable drape.

And it was a pleasure to quilt. Not too big at 70″ by 60″ but thanks to the tender ministrations of Tom from my local quilt shop, The Cotton Patch, the nightmare experience of constantly breaking threads and missed stitches of this quilt  from last year was a thing of the past. For the princely sum of £60 ish, I forget exactly, the machine had a very overdue service. I was gently reminded that quilting with wadding creates very much more fluff than ordinary sewing so a professional defuzz is required. I must get in the habit of an annual service. There is no excuse, the sewing shop is all of 10 minutes drive and the machine back usually within the week. When it came to the quilting clearly it wasn’t just a pleasure to me …..

This has got to be one of my favourite quilts – I love the sheer variety of fabrics and colours within the cool range I chose. The odd splash of pink or lime green adds to it’s eclecticism. Is that a word? You get the drift.

It’ll be put to use in my sewing room which has a bed in it and doubles up as a spare bedroom. But I’ve now officially run out of beds to cover in quilts… except no 2 son who would like a new quilt as his old is too small and much damaged through careless use.  Sigh….. but he’s chosen such a boring design. But I must get on with this but after the curtains are finished another boring sewing task. Well I guess it can’t all be fun !

This is my February OMG for Patty at Elm Street Quilts  it’s also on my FAL Q1 2017 list

Linking up with Leanne and Nicky at Scraptastic  Tuesday and  Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation , Amanda Jean at crazymomquilts and TGIFF.

# It’s curtains for me…

Yes it is quite literally curtains for me. Long overdue curtains for our front room which is supposed to be the teen lounge.   So far they refuse to use it because with no curtains and facing the road they feel they are being stared at. It’s nonsense as the house is set back but I guess with dark evenings and the lights on there is a sense of being in a goldfish bowl.

Its a mystery to me that despite loving sewing, duty sewing always falls off the list… after all it’s fabric and sewing but still curtains are boring and cumbersome. This is for a large bay window and I’m going to adapt some ready made curtains but which come with eyelets and I need a different curtain heading. It seemed such a good idea when I bought them…which was 5 months ago. But I must brace myself…

So I have two One Monthly Goals my own personal goal of these curtains and one with Patty at Elm Street Quilts which will be  much more fun finishing off this scrap quilt.

It needs basting and then quilting. Don’t be surprised if the quilt comes first…..

Linking up with Patty at Elm Street Quilts  for February’s One Monthly Goal

# Texture and a bit of plaid

So for something completely different….. textured plaid

One of the blogs I follow is Persimon Dreams and Kim holds  a quilt challenge that runs for the first few months of each year, this is season 8, where a theme is given on the Sunday and you have to produce a finished quilt within a week then the following week there is voting. Then another challenge is announced 2 weeks later and so on.

Now it doesn’t have to be a full sized quilt and the majority are mini quilts but still involving many, many hours of work. It amazes me how many quilters fit this challenge in every couple of weeks. I want their lives!!! But for me I check out the theme and see whether it sparks something or gives me the excuse to play with something new. Like last year one of the challenge themes  was confetti and I’d been itching to play with this technique where you cut up fabric and then lump it back together a bit like a collage. The resulting quilt was this picture of Skye our lilac cat.

Well this last Sunday the theme was texture and looking for inspiration as I sat on the sofa casting around for inspiration the first thing I saw was my kindling basket and it reminded me that I’d wanted to have a go at weaving with bias tape

Weaving has been around for ever and this type of weaving is basically the same as weaving with ribbons but using bias tape. A couple of quilters Mister Domestic and t_jaye@com have really developed this idea. The link to Tara gives some very useful information on this technique and her invention the Wefty. Both blogs and their IG pages give some super examples.

It’s quite a simple concept but much more time consuming than I first thought and a bit tricksy. It involves a gazillion pins, yards and yards of bias tape and a foam board and the acceptance that for the duration of the creative bit there will be a room in your house of absolute chaos.  Even my children moaned about the mess!!!!

Having played with this yep of weaving I’d add these tips. I used foam board with 5mm thickness if I could have got thicker board it would’ve been better.

Always remember to put a light weight fusible on the foam board first, I didn’t with my first as you can see above.  You then have to manoeuvre a very flexible bit of weaving onto the fusible after it’s been constructed which meant lots of reconstruction…

Getting the weft and warp tape as tight as per possible also helps but maintaining that tension was difficult. I found inserting pins at the cross over point, you can see a few here, helped but then I would have needed even more pins and I’d run out by then.

Using homemade bias tape whilst in theory a quick process using these…..

…but in practice I found it hard, even with a hot iron, to make the folds of the tape stay in place. I was using 1/2″ tape mostly so it was thin which didn’t help. Starch would have helped I’m sure but I hate the smell and residue. And with the benefit of hindsight using half inch tape to start with was perhaps a bit too ambitious.

You can buy a Wefty to do the actual weaving….

but I wanted the 1″ and 1/2″ size and wasn’t sure I’d get them in time and I wanted to get on with the process as soon as possible. So I constructed one from a piece cut out of a plastic milk bottle. Mind you being transparent meant I kept losing it in all the mess so with the next one I cut it out on the label side of the milk bottle. It worked very well and saved me a few pounds!!!

Other than that it was just patience and practice. A basting stitch round the edge once it was fused to the interfacing kept the edges together  then it was just basted into a quilt sandwich and bound.

I made a couple. My first one has a looser weave as I went over every two threads. It wasn’t as effective and it would be completely impractical other than for a wall hanging as the weft and warp threads keep moving each other. You can see the wobble factor!!

I had more success with the second one where the weft and warp go over one thread so it’s inherently tighter and also using pins to secure the cross over points was helpful and stopped the shift. I used prints this time which I think adds interest. So this one is staying up, well it will do when I’ve put a hanging sleeve on it.

As an aside anyone who has been to  my house will be smirking because they will know that this hall table never looks like this in real life. Piles of letters, papers, thank you cards, a piece of maths homework that shouldn’t be there but in someone’s school bag, telephone holder and Internet equipment etc etc had to be removed to stage this picture.  And that lovely bowl as an accent piece? In fact it’s a papier-mâché bowl made by one of the twins aged eight. Plenty of arty and craft stuff comes home from school all  received with maternal pride and an encouraging word but with this  one I was truly wowed!

An outtake shot of Skye quilt inspecting….

Linking up with Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts, Myra at Busyhandquilts and Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation and

# A tutorial- how to ensure your quilt will have a colour run disaster

I have never had success in getting the colours to run in any of the quilts I’ve washed. And boy in my house where quilts are regularly  used and abused is washing a frequent event. However that all changed with this beauty when an accident with mud and tea (don’t ask…) meant a wash was essential. So I thought I’d do a quick tutorial on how to ensure as much as you possibly can that you get that elusive colour run…

1. Choose your fabric colours carefully.  A pale but interesting quilt like this one made of good quality but mostly unsaturated colours is less likely to run.

Better to choose dark colours, reds are perfect. But the almost cast iron guarantee to colour run I’ve found is using a dark red flannel backing.

2. Choose your design carefully. This may sound obvious but if you make a quilt solely from red or dark flannel fabric such as the one below then of course the colours may run (hurray) but into each other and not show (boo). You need to include a pale preferably white/cream for maximum effect.

3. Do not use colour catchers, let all that loose dye do its business. I did use colour catchers, quite a few, but whilst they came out very pink there was obviously too much loose colour for them to contain

4. Use a small domestic sized washing machine for a very large quilt, even better if it has built in water and energy saving features. What this means is that your quilt will sit for a significant amout of time completely immobile, absolutely sodden and all squashed up giving plenty of opportunity for the red fabrics to touch the white ones.

5. Put your quilt in a tumble dryer without checking

If you follow these tips you should find a quilt that close up looks like this and has a lovely patchy pinkish hue!

Of course this tongue in cheek tutorial is a rather sorry and cautionary tale in how not to do something. I love the flannel backing on this quilt but next time it will be the palest they do….after all you can’t see it in normal use. The quilt has largely been rescued I’m pleased to say by the use of all these…..

When I realised that one of the culprits is my A rated energy saving washing machine I took it to our local launderette to use their big drum machine, which is quite possibly older than me, with the latest colour run treatment and that worked well. I’m pleased air drying has left the flannel as soft as before and it has the most gorgeous crinkly effect.

Which leads me to the contentious area of pre- washing fabric to eliminate the risk of colour runs.   Quilters and I’m guessing dressmakers as well fall into two camps on this topic. I don’t pre wash as I don’t fancy the extra work, I like the shrinkage and crinkly effect it makes (which I accept for dressmakers is a big no no), I like the feel of unwashed fabric and I’ve found in this sad tale that the red flannel just kept giving up red dye! So prewashing may take away some of the loose dye but from my experience it isn’t eliminated with just one wash.

One huge advantage of going through these trials and tribulations is that I’ve learnt loads and I have certainly fallen in love with woollen batting as a practical choice.  I genuinely have lost count of how many times the quilt has been washed and yet it’s still warm and cosy  and any doubts about how washable a wool batting is have been well and truly banished.