A very self indulgent post

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

 

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Tax Avoidance

 

 

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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.

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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 .

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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!

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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.

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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 …..

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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.

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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 !

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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…

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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.

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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.

img_5158img_0065It 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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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…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….

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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!!!

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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….

IMG_5284.JPGLinking 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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…..

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Stash – all that glitters is probably gold

Well for someone who thought that her fabric collection was probably quite large enough a rather significant amount of fabric has entered the building!!! A combination of pre and post Christmas sales, some fabric gifts as well as  purchases with specific projects in mind and some essential tools meant that, well, I’ve had a bit of a splurge…

So confession time….

I love these scissors by Kay Buckley. Yes they are pricey but Massdrop gave a good deal on them. I won’t tell you how many of the purple mid size ones I’ve bought or been bought but they simply disappear. I think no 2 son may be responsible… in a recent deep clean of his bedroom it unearthed 2 of the smaller red scissors!

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Next up is a collection of fabrics from Moda Modern background lustre. My UK spellcheck is refusing to use the spelling luster! I loved the Grey Modern Background range last year and these metallics are wonderful. They are the sort of fabric that in pictures is a bit blah but in real life they are absolutely gorgeous.  And the 30% discount at  Simply Solids, which contrary to their name does not stock simply solids but a very wide range of patterned quilting fabrics, drew me in. It would have been criminal not to take advantage of that discount….

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My Mum and Dad kindly bought me as part of my Christmas presents some liberty fabric  sample packs. These would be perfect for paper piecing being so fine  or a special project

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Now in terms of bargains these were a real steal although of course I mean this figuratively!! I’d had my eye on the Acacia range by Tula Pick at my local Hobbycraft. I’d got a half jelly roll of it from Craftsy sometime ago before our foreign exchange rate plummeted and I would need a personal loan for any US purchase and postage but wanted more. These fabrics were only £6.50 per metre. There is 8m in all. Yes a lot but given a quilt backing uses 4m …..and the rest will augment the pre cut.

img_5197Now these I admit to being an indulgence… I use industrial quantities  of Essex Yarn Dyed Linen, the colour flax mainly. I was intrigued by the metallic version of Essex Linen  and these mysteriously found themselves in my online basket…. again far lovelier in person when you can see the metallic effect more easily

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Excluding those bought in Hobbycraft, which is a sort of smaller scale US Jo-Ann (although to be fair I’ve never been to a Jo-Ann but I had reason to look at their website recently and they look huge) these were all on line purchases. However I am very mindful that I have a great local quilt shop in the Cotton Patch within 15 minutes drive so support them as well. But my purchases from them are less pretty….they do have modern fabrics and I’ve used them when I’m struggling to get a match and want to see the fabric in real life, but not a great range as they have a broader base of quilters. But they stock a wide range of notions and waddings, rulers etc etc  but do you want to see pictures of seam rippers, pins, wadding? They very  quickly get integrated and used in whatever project is going on at the time. But one such purchase was the gridded fabric for my design wall but it was out of the bag onto the sewing machine within an hour… Needless to say some of the other purchases may reside a bit longer before being used!

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Scraps galore

Tonight has  been a real quilt marathon. Take out meals ordered, newly returned and serviced sewing machine set up on the big dining table and everything in place to convert this top…

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Into this quilt…

 

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No outside pictures yet as it’s night here but this gives an impression of its scrappy and colourful design. Update… grey day here but dry enough  for an outdoor shot..

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It is destined for Siblings Together, a charity supporting children in care and is the work of ST Bee 2. Thank you ladies! This block is a great scrap buster and was inspired by a quilt I had eyed up on the internet by Katie Pedersen.  I checked with Katie that we could her copy design albeit its simpler and she was fine with that.

Unusually I kept an eye on the clock. I started at around 4.30pm and finished on the stroke of midnight. Just as well as I was getting complaints about the noise from my teenage residents! 7 1/2 hours seems a long time but it flew by and at 80″ by 65″ it is a largish quilt . I also ‘walked’ over 3000 steps in the process. I was obviously in monitoring mood!

I used Quilters Dream Orient.  I’d forgotten how lovely this is, beautifully smooth and fantastic drape. It made basting a cinch and getting to the sandwich stage almost a pleasure. By fluke the quilt’s width was virtually the width of the table so that helped.

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In the interests of full disclosure whilst one end of the room was all calm and serene,  the other end well had the proverbial bomb blast look.  No 2 son is a keen cook and very competent but feels he’s failed if he hasn’t  used every bowl  in my drawers and spread himself across every work surface!! This mess was solely to produce some delicious welsh cakes. Don’t you think sewing mess is so much nicer!

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Linking up with Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts and Leanne and Nicky for Scraptastic Tuesday

This is a finish under the FAL Q1 2017

A look back at Q4 Finishes and targets for the Finish Along Q1 2017

Let’s start with a confession, I hadn’t appreciated that Finish Along (FAL) targets had to be WIPS, not just a bunch of fabric, but actually started….. I think I must have got confused with the One Monthly Goal which I also do to keep me focussed. That can be anything even a twinkle in your eye. Anyway as a consequence some of my Q4 FAL targets aren’t proper in fact only 3 of them are!  But nevertheless looking back at the targets for Q4’s Finish Along I did OK. Four out of six….

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And the finished items ended up looking like….   Cloudburst, My Hybrid, Waste not Want not and sewing machine cover

The ones that got away include my perennial quilt made of strings it’s now a top so will reappear hopefully for the last time on the next FAL list. I’m making no promises! The other non appearance is my second son’s quilt and to worsen the crime and  in a moment of child cruelty it’s not happening. This is down to the fact that I know full well it will end in a crumpled mess and this son is a heavy user of things and they routinely end up damaged. He’s also always complaining he’s too hot!! But the clincher is that it is a very boring quilt design..sigh. I will wait and see if he reminds me.

So to FAL 2017 Q 1, well in keeping with my selfish approach of doing what I want to do and not feeling compelled to do something which saps the joy from me, this will be a list to allow for sewing on a whim – a phrase I have shamelessly pinched from The Quilters Table blog!!! But following the rules of the FAL these are all started projects in that machine foot has been engaged and stitches made!

This  is the composite.

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It includes a bee quilt for Siblings Together (1) and the string quilt (2) both are tops just need basting and quilting. What will hold me back is that my bigger sewing machine with a large throat for quilting is in for service and I’m not sure when I’ll get her back. It’s a good excuse but won’t last the whole 3 months of the quarter. Making quilt backs and basting is my least favourite part of the process.

The pouch (3) is an example of one I made earlier as I need to make a pouch for a secret swap. I have pieced the panels but don’t want to reveal anything at this stage.

There is a scrappy quilt (4)  I’ve just started inspired by Poppy of Cuckooblue. I am calling it ‘Tax Evasion’ because I really should be doing my tax return!! I was getting overrun by scraps particularly neutrals and blues and having seen Poppy’s version of this design I thought it would be perfect  for using them up. It is also a great block for chain pieced, mindless sewing.

And finally a scrappy pink quilt (5) that has been in bits for too long. There are small drunkard path blocks in the mix but I struggled then with the tight curve but I’m hoping experience will have made it easier. I want to make a  baby quilt as a friend is having a baby in the summer, not sure what gender but there’s a 50-50 chance this will be the right one for her!

Outside the FAL and because I treat this blog as a reminder then I need/ want to complete the following….

There are a couple of dog quilts I want to make it for a friend who is about to get another puppy to join her golden labrador. When I had twins she sweetly bought me matching pink and blue cot blankets, so I thought I would reciprocate.

There’s the wonderful January block quilt. I made one of these a couple of years ago, I’m hoping mine will look something like this albeit it will be in a deep red and neutrals. If it’s good enough I’ll put it in for the modern quilt group challenge for this year and if not I will double it up and put it over my bed as a wall hanging.

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A design wall at last

I’ve long envied quilters with large expansive  design walls. They are so useful for holding blocks in process, great for trying out different designs and colour combinations and they give a quilter’s sewing room, well, the proper look.

But with rooms given over to the children and general living coupled with wall mounted radiators I don’t have a nice spare wall. But it did strike me that maybe I could squeeze In half a design wall….

Utilising a quilt that was neither fish nor fowl in that it was an odd size, rather stiff from lots of quilting and hadn’t really found a home it could double up as a large wallhanging and then on the reverse, with the addition of gridded flannel it could be a design wall!

It was a simple job of inserting a 6mm pole into the binding channel which is a tip I picked up from Barbara over at Cat Patches (quite the funniest blog around)

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and then sewed on the grey flannel. In fact with the benefit of hindsight I should have reversed the process.

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Anyway here it is up as a wallhanging…

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And a quick turn round – a design wall, at last!

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Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Quokka Quilts/TGIFF

2017 -plans and thoughts

 

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Yvonne of Quilting Jet Girl is running a link up for 2017 plans and I thought it would be a good idea to have a go if only to give myself a good laugh at the end of the year as my ambitions sadly get frustrated by life intervening.  Anyway with a fresh year what lies ahead.

General themes

1. Participating in One Monthly Goal now run by Elm Street Quilts and the Quarterly Finish Along this year has been very useful to get me focused on tasks that need a bit of stamina and a final push. This bionic bag is a case in point. I only had a couple of days left but it just gave me the excuse to set aside other tasks to get this done in time. So they will be a definite this year.

2. I want to try and build up a small stock of completed tops. I wanted to offer up some quilts for a flat being refurbished for Syrian refugees by one of our local churches in the summer but the task of producing 4 full sized quilts in 6 weeks just wasn’t going to happen. If I’d had a few tops up my sleeve then I could have helped. I won’t quilt them as they just take up too much room.

3. There are a 101 good sewing habits I would like to adopt but inspired by Debbie of a Quilters Table post on instant sewing  there are a couple I’m really going to try and apply. Firstly try and set up a design wall, it will have to be relatively small but something to hold blocks in progress. And also spending a few minutes each sewing session to tidy away fabrics and put away tools and rulers and not allow clutter to build up on my sewing table – I can hear hysterical laughter coming from my mum here!!! This is what it can look like but at its worst and this to be fair was abnormal as I’d agreed to my daughter using the room to clear out hers when she redecorated.

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4. I need to have a good sort through my fabric collection. I’m keeping scraps less than  fat quarter separate and they become my go to fabric for charity blocks and other smaller process like bags etc. I have plenty needless to say but I’m conscious there will be similar sized pieces in the wrong place.

Specific makes

5. I want to finish my glitter quilt in 2017. This wonderful design by Jen Kingwell makes for a beautiful quilt but it’s time consuming. I’ve done around 42 blocks but need another 25+. I’ve been a bit stalled recently but must get back into the habit of doing a couple of blocks each Saturday night as part of the Saturday night craft along hosted by Lucy of Charm About You.

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6.  Whilst I have had quilts at shows as part of a Modern Quilt display under the auspices of the UK Quilters Guild actually entering a quilt into a show on a competitive basis has frankly daunted me. One of the reasons is that I’m not an accurate piecer. I get by, most of my points survive, but when I look at the precision  of quilts in shows I know I am a long way off. I’m going to try and improve and if possible muster up the courage to enter a quilt into a show.  I need to make it first and ideas are mulling around.

7. There will be more quilts for Siblings Together. This quilt I made in 2016..

img_4570I’ve again got some ideas I just need the time. There’s also a quilt top made from blocks from my Bee that needs to be quilted.

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8.  I would like to get on with a quilt to remind us of many happy holidays in S Africa. I have the fabric but no design ideas. Design doesn’t come easy to me, I’m a great copyist though… I just need to find the right inspiration.