Sunday Stash – The Fabric Guild

 

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One of my favourite places for quilt backings, those huge hunks of 4m/5yds essential to finishing off a quilt, is The Fabric Guild based in Leicester here in the UK.  Now I know those of you who in live in the US this won’t be of immediate interest but let this make you very grateful for your own wonderfully stocked quilt shops across the length and breadth of your country at prices that make us weep….  So here good quality quilting cotton is around £12-£14 per metre which is equivalent to around $15 per yard. But with the Fabric Guild being around  £4 – £10 pm you can see the attraction. Ok you have to be selective, not all fabric is equal if you know what I mean, but I’ve got some great branded quilting cottons for a fraction of the price over the years.

They claim that they are the largest quilt shop this side of the Atlantic. Now whilst that may be true in terms of bolts of cloth in practice they are not the brands that I would normally seek out so in that sense the choice is not extensive.   But on the basis that the fabric will be a quilt backing and a simple all over design is fine then it’s unusual if I can’t find something to stash away.

I normally order online and if I have one niggle they are  never very speedy. But they do open for a few hours each week to the public and as it’s only an hour or so away I thought  I would shop in person. They brand themselves as similar to an American warehouse club.  You are charged a one off membership fee of £5 (not for online sales) and then the shop is yours to rummage. I’ve been a couple of times but this was the first time to their new premises. And what an improvement. The old one was dark and warehouse like but seemed bigger. The new premises are lighter and more attractive. The only downside is it’s hard to find which is not helped by only having a small sign, and I’m talking no bigger than a propped up A3 poster in the foyer  so if you go take note of what the outside looks like  –  you will need it to find it!!! I think it maybe to do with the requirements of the trading estate they are on to deter traffic?  Anyway parking was fine when I went.

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They stock mostly cotton or poly cottons. Brands include Rose and Hubble, Makower some Stof,  Birch Organics and a small stock of Cotton and Steel. There are other brands  I didn’t recognise like Adlico anyone? But for me there was enough choice for picking up some backings for some quilts I’ve got planned for Siblings Together.  I was after plainish and masculine. The striped one has already been used in fact in this quilt.

 

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I also chose a number of fat quarters, mainly pastels as I always struggle to find these amongst my stash and at £1.75 per quarter I wasn’t going to complain.

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But the best purchase were these wonderful canvas linens from the Maker Maker line by  Sarah Golden for Andover. They are only fat eighths so that’s around  11″ by 21″ but with 9 coordinating  fabrics they can easily be combined.  This was priced at £15 but I was sold it for £10 as by then it was proving a largish order.  That’s customer service for you. The fabrics just took my fancy and will be perfect for bags and pouches and are already coordinated.

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The Fabric Guild, I will be back….

 

Linking up to Molli Sparkles Sunday Stash this week over with Alyce at Blossom Heart Quilts 

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May’s surprise quilt and a bit about blogging….

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No not another reference to Theresa May and the UK’s snap general election but the fact that I’ve cracked on and got this  month’s bee quilt done for Siblings Together. Yes I do feel just a little smug!!

To some extent I  always feel I’ve cheated when I finish off a quilt made up of bee blocks. After all it isn’t all my own work so you get a very clear head start. And this one, when I kicked it off earlier this month, is made even easier by a great design by Trudi Wood from the magazine Quilt Now which has lots of negative space courtesy of a large chunk of plain fabric.  But what makes this quilt a bit special is the very speedy and prolific response from my lovely bee mates from the Siblings Together Bee 2.   I did hint that I’d try and get the quilt done for this year’s camps. That spurred them on. And there are a good few blocks left and more to come to make quilt two in due course.

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With great skill I managed to misplace the magazine so had to decide the measurements for the two large white sides on the fly. But it looks OK and I’m pretty sure the original quilt in the magazine was asymmetrical. I was going to check how Trudi had quilted it but decided to give it a simple design of echoing  the squares.   It has a nice jaunty but hopefully masculine backing fabric as this one is really being geared to older male siblings who go to the camps.  Certainly it got a very big thumbs up from no. 2 son who is 14 and hallelujah! I’ve persuaded him that this design is perfect for his new large size quilt.  He’d chosen another design but it was boringly dull and I’ve been putting it off for ages. So a win win all round even if after this quilt and the other made up with bee blocks there will be 3 of these in the end!!

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Whilst blogging about this quilt I remembered it’s my first anniversary of blogging around about now and having read a couple of posts on blogging which got my brain cells firing I thought I reflect back on why I blog, what blogs I like to read and what that means for this blog.

I am a joiner in. I’m not one that likes to sit on the sidelines nor particularly somebody who wants to take centre stage but being part of a group and participating and sharing is something I enjoy in the various aspects of my life. When I started out quilting in 2014 I found quilting blogs really helpful and inspirational. Did I like everything – absolutely not. But it gave me ideas, tutorials in abundance and lots of insight into how and why people create what they make. And being a joiner in I wanted to make a contribution but also for me blogging is a record of what I’ve made and learnt along the way. To that end my blogs are useful references for me and I go back to them from time to time to remember a measurement/technique etc.

Yvonne of Quilting Jet Girl did a very thoughtful piece on blogging recently. She is a prolific quilter , vastly talented and regularly blogs. She is what I would call a professional quilter/blogger in that she has sponsors and giveaways et cetera. Amongst the many excellent points she makes is that blogging in the area of quilting at least is gradually declining. Others have also noticed this and with the growth of Instagram and the very immediate connection with followers that that app gives, many are preferring to share that way. I had an IG account at the time I started my blog and still use it frequently but I do like reading blogs because Instagram can only go so far with information about the why’s and wherefores of what people make. I’m nosy I like to know the details.

I have noticed though over the last few months I’ve been a lot more discriminatory about what blogs I actually open up and read. If the picture is a work in progress with little text and not a design that appeals then I’m likely to pass on. There are bloggers where everything is awesome. Fantastic for them but that’s not my life. I like to read the ups and downs of crafting and how life’s highs and lows impact. I enjoy the personal elements, the realism and the working through of problems and acceptance that perfection is a bit of a myth. Learning for me is seeing mistakes first hand and then knowing with some confidence how to improve or correct it. If I can learn by others traveling that path first so much the better.

I’m also not likely to open up blogs that are particularily commercialised unless I’m looking for fabric or interested in that book or fabric range. And this is where I’m in the fortunate position of sewing for pleasure and not a job. I don’t need to make an income from it and if that were the case it would in fact hugely put me off creating. But there are bloggers for whom their blog is in effect a marketing tool and they are often very well written and interesting but when they tip over to being too commercialised then I’m not as interested. Getting that balance right must be really difficult but many do in addition to Yvonne above there are others like Jo Avery of My Bear paw and Rachel of A Stitch in Time.

There are blogs I definitely look out for. A couple are daily bloggers. Barbara of Cat Patches is one. I love cats and her take on her own cats just tickles me. I find her dry humour very funny and craft wise, although she has skills particularily hand sewing that I’m never going to have, she’s adventurous, inspirational and prolific. I’m currently enjoying a short virtual break with her and her husband as they travel in Nevada!

Another daily blogger is Bonnie Hunter. Now Bonnie as any US reader will know is very, very big in the quilting world she is a prolific and very talented designer and teacher of traditional scrappy quilts. OK you could never call me a traditional quilter with modern quilting being more me but her absolutely boundless energy is infectious.  She writes well and aspects of her life, like her new backwoods cabin are interesting (I quite fancy a log cabin bolt hole myself!!!). And although a supremely positive person keeps it real and shares the ups and downs of life.

Another blog I really enjoy but is totally different from the two above is Kate of Fabrikated. Kate is another prolific and talented sewist this time of beautifully styled and original but very wearable clothes (having an enviable figure helps!) and recently knitting. She writes very interesting discussion pieces usually centred on something she has made but not always.  As my fashion guru she is very engaging and informative  and her writing attracts some really interesting comments. In fact I often revisit her posts to read the many detailed and constructive comments which I don’t do with any other blog. The exception to that would be the occasional blog posts on more ‘out there’ bloggers such as Molli Sparkles. He is quite happy to rattle the cage and comments can get quite ansty. I love a bit of contentious passive aggressive commentary!! And the whole issue of gender, which is the subject of the post I’ve linked, in quilting is fascinating – one for another blog.

But what is interesting is some of my favourite bloggers make things that actually aren’t my thing. And yet their writing about the creative process, their lives and craft choices make me come back for more. I suppose this is like real life. I don’t expect my friends to like the same things I do or live their lives the way I live mine but our values and approach to life are the same which makes the connection.

There are of course some excellent bloggers out there who write and craft things that are more similar to what I make. Jayne of Twiggy and Opal and Debbie of A Quilters Table are two such examples out of many. Both are original and very talented quilters and are definite trend setters in modern quilting. I have shamelessly copied from them in both design and colours. They seem to have more hours in the day than me given what they produce alongside demanding family and work schedules. And of all the quilt newsletter type communications, in addition to their blogs, Debbie’s takes some beating.

So what does that mean for my blog? Well I won’t be aiming for encouraging passive aggressive comments you’ll be relieved to hear. And also for a start it’s never going to be a daily event. I enjoy writing but a daily journal has not been part of my habit. I tend to blog when there is something specific to show and try to weave in something more than just about that item. I will continue with that pattern. But my area expertise is still quite rudimentary and so aside from general comments I don’t have the expertise say of Kate who really does understand fashion and how to put colours and textures together. Mine are a bit more random I’m afraid. And sadly I don’t have the talent to be a trend setter!! That said I will aim to carry on blogging about what I’ve made and the lessons learnt along the way.

My blog I accept is not the most personal. There’s no picture of me for a start. Trust me that’s no loss but it’s a bit of a thing in this house that the children are banned from putting their picture on the Internet. Or at least that was the rule but now they are teenagers I’m pretty sure that rule has been ditched. But I know that they would be appalled if they saw pictures of themselves on my IG feed or blog and I wouldn’t do that without their permission. Okay I confess there maybe a picture of a sleeping child under a quilt but it’s not identifiable. I do put in the odd anecdote if it’s relevant because I think it connects with people and there is nothing new under the sun that we haven’t all had to face.

I’m also never going to seek sponsors or have sidebars with lots of buttons and links to other blogs and so forth. The fact that I have no idea how to link up a button has absolutely nothing to do with this design choice. My nose has just grown longer… but actually in truth I quite like the minimalist style of my blog even though it’s through ignorance not choice!

Thanks to everyone who has left a comment. Your encouragement, ideas and questions have been hugely enjoyable. I wish I were better at getting back to every one. But you know who you are.

So all in the plan is I shall carry on joining in and sharing what I’ve made and the ups and downs of life.  There will be the odd anecdote thrown in and more realism than perfection, in fact none of the latter, but hopefully it will hit the button and resonate with those who link up and read it.

 

linking up with Amanda Jean Crazy Mom Quilts and  Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation.

To Russia with love ….

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This bag is just so not me…. I don’t like pink and I’m not that fond of squares simply sewn together. But sometimes you have to make for the recipient and hang up your preferred quilting principles and design to one side. Normally I try to reconcile the two and come up with a design that works for me and the recipient but I had to admit defeat on this one.

This bag is for a child coming over to the UK from the region of Belarus and Russia hit by the Chernobyl disaster. Holidays are organised across the UK for children from this region.  As a nice touch Jennifer organises a bunch of sewers to make bags for each child and a table topper to take home. The children this year are predominantly girls around 10 years old. As good luck had it I had a 10 year girl in the house the other weekend and asked her advice about fabric choice.

I was all ready to go with recycled denim with pink/red accents rather like last year.

 

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I liked this bag. I would have used it and even my teen daughter said she liked it but declined the offer to make her one, so clearly she didn’t like it that much!!! But something Jennifer said about these children having very little hit me that whilst using recycled denim might be tick the box for us who have so much and therefore actively want to reuse and repurpose but it might look cheap from the recipient’s perspective where repurposing might be an absolute essential. So hence 10 year old Nicola’s input to choosing fabrics from my collection . Of course she went straight for the girly pinks, chequer board design. Who am I to argue!!

 

I used Jennifer’s tutorial (linked above). It’s relatively quick and easy. I made mine an inch longer but kept the width the same. The top pieced half is about 8″ deep. There’s a large pocket inside. I narrowed the straps using 2.25″ not 2.5″ width. Crucially I added not just batting but a fusible interfacing product called  Vilene S320. I think Vilene have changed their name to Visilene or something like that?   You iron it on  and what it does is give the fabric a stiffness and it feels more like canvas. It’s perfect for the outer part of a bag to give a nice bit of firmness and structure.  Cotton has little structure of its own and I like the effect of the fabric being stiffer and is my go-to for a more finished and professional look.

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This will shortly be winging it’s way to Jennifer along with the table mat I made a couple of months back. That is more me although that pink and lavender isn’t. You could ask why do I have so much of this fabric if I don’t like the colour. Well they are left overs from a couple of baby quilts and a quilt for a very ‘pinky’ girl’s quilt I was asked to make.  Is it any surprise then my Siblings Together quilts embrace blues…..

 

Linking up with Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation and Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts (sorry tried to link but it kept freezing my ipad….but you all know where she is!!)

This is a finish under FAL Q2 blogged here.

May’s Goal

Writing that title almost sounds like a political statement. Theresa May certainly has got her work cut out…..

Anyway unlike Theresa May’s goals of winning the general election and securing a successful Brexit  I am much more prosaically referring of course to the fact it’s time to set my One Monthly Goal for Patty of Elm Street Quilts.

The quilt I’ve just finished was a completely unnecessary quilt and was a diversionary tactic from the real task at hand of having a go at a show quilt, yes one that will be judged! So to spur me on it will be my goal to ‘make significant progress’ and to be more specific that I will have made at least two thirds of the blocks needed to make up the quilt top. Niow I’ve said it, time will tell whether it happens!

I have started and here is the first block and also the various fabrics I’ve ordered.

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I’m trying out Art Gallery’s Pure Elements solids.  They don’t have the colour range of Kona but they are beautifully silky to touch. But the first block was made a month ago. There really is no excuse for not making more progress with a Summer deadline. So what’s stopping me? I think it’s the lack of a clear design and knowing there will be a lot of experimentation and agonising over colour and design choices all set against the backdrop of someone judging my stitches, design and overall accuracy. I’m used to a freer hand. The theory is it’s going to be similar to this quilt but then different. Helpful eh? I have ideas but nothing definite. I think I just need to make lots of blocks and then play with the layout. So rather like Theresa I need to grit my teeth and get on with it….

Medallion Quilt

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I’m a great believer in the drip drip effect. Slowly  coming round to an idea and changing your stance as you see more images or hear more ideas that challenge your preconceptions. Medallion quilts are an example for me. These are quilts which are built round a central block. This is an example of Girt by Sea a current Sew Along promoted and designed by a group of very talented Australian quilters/designers. The pattern is available here. It’s very fitting for the UK of course and I was tempted but it would crowd out other things I want to do.

Girt By Sea is a modern medallion quilt pattern collaboration by 6 Australian quilt designers. Find out more at BlossomHeartQuilts.com

I was also influenced by the fantastic medallion quilts made by Nicky Eglinton. She is a prolific quilter and makes countless quilts for the charity Siblings Together.  She has this ability to take orphan blocks that someone else has fallen out of love with and then build a quilt  around them. Quite literally.  It’s a real gift and one of my  favourite quilts from last year was made this way along with many other medallion quilts she has made which are modern, fresh and beautiful.

As usual my quilts are a melding together of ideas from other quilts and designers. I  love this quilt made from scraps by Katie Pederson and whilst I thought I’d  do a straight copy it struck me I could just extend one of the squares and make it into a medallion. In fact Katie has done a whole load of variations with these blocks.

On one level it’s a very simple quilt in that it is made up of only these two blocks. These are very easily and quickly put together with chain piecing and absolutely perfect for scraps.  My scrap jars are positively  roomy as a result! These come out at unfinished 4″.

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The clever bit is Katie’s placement which if I’m honest I found very difficult and I had to keep constantly referring to her quilt. Being on point didn’t help.  Most quilts are made from smaller blocks which you then make into a bigger block and then piece together.  This became one organic whole. I couldn’t get my head around breaking into into bigger sized blocks. Presumably it’s circular medallion nature didn’t help.

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The problem then came with construction. It took an age to layout and with cat and children banned from entering (I had to relent in respect of the children as the television is in that room) I had to construct it as quickly as I could. There are some 300+ pieces in this quilt  and it took a couple of days but it was so worth it and I love the finished result. All down to that simple but tricksy layout and I think the medallion style works very well. One thing that surprised me was how much background fabric was needed – at least 3m. It’s all those seams!

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There’s an error in this quilt. A number of IG friends said to leave it but I just couldn’t….

But with the top finished I made a complete hash of the basting. Ridiculous really as it’s not that big and as a medallion quilt you know where the centre is. As this blog is my go to reference I’ve listed below what I should do next time to avoid such a waste of time. So feel free to skip if this degree of detail is not your thing or you are a world class baster!! Mind you one thing I learnt thank heavens for spray basting. My quilt teacher was very anti this way of basting partly  because it can leave a sticky residue (in my house that’s nothing unusual) and secondly the fumes can trouble those with chest/ asthmatic conditions. There’s not much wrong with my chest and using spray glue  it meant that for the numerous times I had to re-baste it I could just peel the top off and re- place it.    If I’d had used pins, Dear Reader, things would have got very fraught. So my to do list for next time.

1. Exactly halve the backing fabric by hanging it over the bannisters and do not just second guess where the middle is. (I use a 4m length of fabric which I then halve and resew to get the necessary width  – this is a good length for the 65-75″ edge quilt size I tend to make)

2 Trim the backing so it has a straight edge

3. Measure the top and make sure you have the right size batting. Such an obvious point but so tempting to wing it.

4. Always baste backing to batting first. Do not trim at that stage

5. Then place top on top of batting and backing  to complete the sandwich. Before trimming carefully check by going round every edge to make sure the backing and batting are extending beyond the top. Then trim.

I’m undecided where this quilt is destined.   I’ve promised a friend’s daughter a quilt but not sure it’s girly enough for a 6 year old. Alternatively  it may live here for the many teenagers that end up here for sleepovers.

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Linking up with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation, Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts and  Leanne at the Devoted Quilter for TGIFF

 

Plan B -Siblings Together Bee 2 May Mama

This month should have been Charlotte’s as mama for the month of May with the prospect of making butterfly blocks of her own design which she has been tempting us with on her IG feed recently. Unfortunately a family bereavement has meant that Charlotte understandably needs to deal with all the issues and sadness following this loss. We all wish her well.

So to keep the ball rolling the bee will be going for  ‘plan b’, a design I spied relatively recently in Quilt Now. It’s designed by Trudi Wood and if that’s not recommendation enough it struck me as reasonably simple but very effective. I’m sure I’m breaking every copy right law going but here is the picture from the magazine – but it is for charity after all!!

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Now what I’m after bee members is simple quarter square triangle blocks like the ones below… 4 please.

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You must be thinking this is very straight forward where’s the catch!!! Well there are a couple of points to be careful of please.

  1.  I’m being very picky over colours as I’m thinking this would make a great older boy/teen quilt. I love the royal/deep blue colours of Trudi’s design. So please limit yourself to royal blue and all darker shades of blue up to darkest navy.  So no lighter blues, turquoise , aqua etc please. You can also use dark greys or black and white prints as I’ve used above. Absolutely no flowers or anything ‘pretty’. For example I considered this fabric but rejected it on the basis it was a bit too girly and fussy.

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But in recognition that I’m being difficult then please, please feel free to contact me if you’ve nothing suitable in your stash.   I’ve loads of these types of masculine fabrics and can easily send you some if that would  help.

2. The other thing to bear in mind is that the final block should have an hour glass look to it with the two darker fabrics facing each other rather than being adjacent to each other. You just need to check when you construct the quarter square triangle block that you’ve got the quarter segments the right way round to get the hour glass effect. As you can see below I failed to do with the second block.

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Right, demanding mama over!  Now to the blocks themselves.

You will need 2 darker royal or navy blue or dark grey 10″ squares and two lighter squares (not lighter blue but lighter because of white/light grey back ground).  Make half square triangles using your preferred method.  Do not trim them but make quarter square triangles.  Now trim to 8.5″.

This is the ‘grandmothers sucking eggs’  bit. I was wondering how to trim the blocks to ensure that cross over point was bang in the middle. I discovered my omnigrip square ruler has a clever scale on the diagonal line.  So I could line up the diagonal line on the diagonal line of the block and then position the cross over point on that line at 4.25 and then trim – see pic below. I’m sure everybody else knew this but just in case…..

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I’m going to make the quilt a bit bigger and have 9 rows and hence need 27 blocks. If everyone makes 4 then I  should end with quite a few more so and if I get enough then  I will happily make another quilt

And finally the sharp eyed may have seen the blocks in Trudi’s design with 2 small quarter square triangles and 2 plain squares. They are easier to see in the picture with Trudi. We don’t need many of these but if you fancy making one of your blocks in this design then please let me know and I will let you have the measurements.

It really is a privilege to make quilts for this worthwhile charity. For other readers who don’t know the charity it provides an opportunity for siblings separated in the care system in the U.K. to meet up and have a holiday together to create memories for hopefully lifelong relationships in the future even if they never actually live  together  again. To have a momento of that time each child  is given a quilt.

I was trying to explain to my teenage children about why I make these quilts (‘you are not sewing again?’ is a constant moan). Initially from their perspective  the prospect of not being able to live with their brother/sister and living in separate homes wasn’t seen as too much of a disadvantage! I then pointed out that for all the squabbles and arguments once any one of them is challenged by anyone outside the home they rush to their defence and the family bonds are strong.

I was reminded of this when I had a recent call from school about one of my sons’ behaviour. For those of you who have only had or have angelic children (like my daughter) you won’t know the ‘joy’ of having a call from school about yet another misdeameanor. It has happened all too often ….. although sometimes it’s been entertaining like the time my son was disciplined for being overheard in a private  conversation saying a female teacher ‘looked a bit like Donald Trump’. I gave the school short shrift on that one – a private conversation? This time however it was exactly what I was talking about, sibling protectiveness, as my son had ‘lamped’ another boy (the teacher’s word not mine) who’d called  his sister something rude and biologically impossible. My daughter was thrilled to bits he had come to her rescue  and of course he was utterly unrepentant!!

As very much a work in progress I’m linking up with a Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts