Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Quilted Cushions for Christmas

I love alliterations. I also love how these cushions for The Boy's sister, D, turned out. I made the cushions to match the ZigZag quilt that I meant to give her for her birthday but which didn't get done until Christmas. 

D's presents: ZigZag Quilt with matching cushions

Cushion 1: Pop Art Cushion

Pop Art Cushion
Finished size: 30 x 30 cm

D loves pop art, especially Roy Lichtenstein. I ordered a screen printed sample panel on ebay. The original plan was a folded log cabin in black and white to frame the image but I forgot to take into account that the folds wouldn't stay folded when the cushion was inserted. So, in the end, I hand quilted the edges of the white frames. Both the black and the white fabrics were 100% cotton from my stash. My mum helped a LOT with this one, mainly because we were at my grandparents' house and had to use a very retro sewing machine that I was pretty incapable of sewing with. To be honest, she did all of the sewing for this one because I couldn't get the machine to behave at all. It's her old one from a long long time ago so she knows all its tricks.

Cushion 2: ZigZag cushion

ZigZag Cushion
Finished size: 50 x 50 cm

The second cushion cover I made for D matches the design of the ZigZag quilt that I made her. I used some of the remaining Bella Solids from the charm pack that I used to make her quilt (Bella Solids in bleached white) and black quilter's cotton from my stash. I didn't have time to quilt the cushion cover but the half square triangles are quite small so it's not really necessary in my opinion. I backed the pieced panel with some spare white fabric and zigzag stitched around the edges.

ZigZag cushion: getting better at half square triangles!
Cushion back & closure
Both cushion envelopes are finished with Tula Pink's Salt Water Sea Debris in aqua to match D's ZigZag quilt. I enclosed the edge of the envelope with a double folded strip of white and sewed on some snaps to keep the cushions closed. I found these great duck feather cushion inserts at John Lewis. They were less pricey than I was expecting, too!

Zigzag stitching the inside edges
The next time I make cushion covers I want to try to enclose the inner seams. Those zigzag-seamed edges really don't agree with my OCDness. Everything must be neat and tidy and perfectly straight. Everything! Luckily I'm moving into a new flat very soon so I have an excuse to make all of the pretty cushions for myself.

Xx me.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Fabric shopping

I am currently in Philadelphia visiting my friend Z. Apart from being my best friend in whole wide world, Z also moonlights as my post room for anything that can't be posted to places outside the USA. I pay her in boost bars and assorted ridiculous things in the post. 

When I turned up in Philadelphia last week Z had a frankly embarrassing horde of boxes for me to open. Among other things, this included some fabrics that I couldn't wait to get my hands on.

1. Silks
In Britain, fabric shopping is a very expensive pastime. To be honest, if you, like me, refuse to use synthetic fabrics and much prefer wools and silks, making a piece of clothing yourself is often significantly more expensive than buying it on the high street. Fabric is much more affordable in the USA and with the Mecca that is Mood Fabrics now selling online there is also significantly more choice. I ordered five different silks and silk blends to make blouses for work and perhaps a pretty summer dress. Here they are: 

Left to right: 
infinity silk crepe de chine, 
grey mini diamond stretch charmeuse, 
Anna Sui sapphire silk jacquard

Black paisley crepe de chine
 Italian cherry blossom cotton-silk voile

2. Quilting cottons
I also ordered some pretty quilting cottons, which I plan to use to make this stunning quilt from this great new book, Classic Modern Quilts. 

Top to bottom: Salt Air - Sea Garden (coral), La Belle Fleur - French General, Nature's Christmas (berry), Chateau Rouge - French General, Christmas Countdown (tonal red), Blitzen - Grunge Solid (red). All by MODA.

Chez Moi - Mimi - Prism Floral (aqua, MODA)

3. Ralph Lauren Los Cabos sheets
I also got this Ralph Lauren sheet set (king sized flat and fitted sheets and two pillowcases). The pattern is called Los Cabos and I. Real life it is a much richer shade of blue. I used this to back Samuel's quilt (check it out here) and love how soft and silky it is. I find it very difficult to find wide backing fabrics that I like and using pretty patterned queen or king sized sheets makes things much easier. I'm planning to use the pillow cases to make some pretty pillow case dresses for my friend C's little girls. 

Ralph Lauren Los Cabos

I am very excited about my stack of fabric loot and can't wait to get started. I've promised myself that I will finish both the hidden stars quilt and the quilt I'm making for C's older daughter before I start anything new though. 

Me x

Saturday, 1 March 2014

WIP: Hexagon Quilt February 2014

I've been on holiday for the past two weeks and, annoyingly, was rather ill for some of it. This did, however, in combination with rather a lot of time spent in aeroplanes, give me a fair bit of time to spend on the hexagon quilt.

Here is February's progress report:

Progress: February 2014
Flowers: 6 pink flowers, 1 partial pink flower
Sections: two sections of 3 pink flowers each
Loose basted hexagons: 7 white, 41 print

Very pleased with myself, especially given that I'm currently still in the US and have a 6 hour flight back to London tomorrow and a trip to Germany coming up next week. Yay for sewing on the plane!

Me x

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

2014 Sewing To Do List

This is my sewing to do list for 2014. I am a little bit obsessed with making lists of things. It helps motivate me and keep me on track, which is necessary as I have a rather short attention span and become distracted easily.

Sewing To Do List 2014

Learn to make piping
Learn to sew a work blouse/shirt
Learn to make button holes
Hidden Stars quilt
Alexander McQueen tweed skirt
Wool work shift dress (and jacket?)
At least two work blouses
Alter shirts for work
Forest friends quilt for A
Forest friends quilt for M
Finish Snowflake wall hanging for TQQ 
Green chiffon slip

All of these projects are things for which I already have the fabrics so, hopefully, all I will have to buy is things like buttons, lining and interfacing. Unfortunately, my obsession with textures and silky things will probably result in me buying all sorts of things that aren't on the list. Luckily, my new job means that I'll be working a lot so hopefully the lack of time will curb my spending.

Me x

Saturday, 15 February 2014

ZigZag Quilt

ZigZag Quilt for D

D's ZigZag Quilt - Leo loves photo bombing
The boy's sister, D, got this quilt for Christmas. It was originally meant to be a birthday present. Her birthday is in August. Do you think there might be a pattern here? Whoops. Unfortunately, a small detail known as the PhD submission deadline got in the way of the birthday present completion deadline. Anyway, all's well that ends well and she loved her birthday/Christmas present when she finally got it.

I decided on a black, white, and grey zigzag pattern because D recently bought some grey and white zigzag patterned sheets that she loves and also because her room is decorated in black and white, with light blue walls. She is frighteningly stylish and generally looks too cool for school. I really wanted the design to complement her personality and style.

Started: December 2013 (I sewed exactly one seam in August)
Finished: December 2013
Size: lap sized 130 x ??? cm
Quilt top: Bella solids 5" charm pack in black (9900PP-99), silver (9900PP-183), and bleached white (9900PP-98). I used 20 silver charms, 40 black, and 60 white.
Backing: Tula Pink's Salt Water Sea Debris in aqua because D loves kite surfing and the sea.
Binding: Tula Pink's Salt Water Sea Stripes in aqua The grey/blue progression really tied in well with the grey chevrons on the quilt top and the blue backing fabric.
Batting: Hobbs Heirloom wool batting. SO much better than everything else I've ever tried
Quilting: Machine quilted on my mother's Singer Samba 60 with some random white thread she gave me from her sewing cabinet.

Back of D's ZigZag Quilt: Tula Pink backing and binding
I pieced the top using half square triangles, which was a new technique for me. As it turns out, neither my rotary cutting skills nor my quarter inch seam allowance skills were consistent enough to be able to finish this quilt without the help of The Quilt Queen (a.k.a. my mother, who has nothing to do with the quilting queen of interweb fame). As demonstrated by the reject block below, things just weren't matching up to my exacting bordering on OCD standards. Luckily TQQ was around to save the day! I learned so much just from her going through and correcting my blocks so that they were up to scratch. My half square triangles aren't half bad now. Just keep practising!

Rogue block - so much for consistent seam allowances.
I embroidered a quilt label and whip stitched it to the back of the quilt. This is one of my favourite steps of quilt making. I keep promising myself that one of these days I will finish a quilt with enough time left to get really creative with the quilt label instead of just stitching the recipient's name and the date.

D's ZigZag quilt: quilt label
Here are some photos of the quilt in progress. I need to get better at taking photos as I go along. Isn't that what I started this blog for in the first place?

Quilt in progess: pin basting
Quilt in progress: quilting

I'm really happy with the colour combinations in this quilt. I generally find choosing colours and prints that complement each other quite difficult so this is a big thing for me. I really like the contrasting binding and the way the colours in the binding tie together the front and the back of the quilt.

I learned SO much, both on my own and from the TQQ while making this quilt. All of the half square triangles from now on!

Love, me xx

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Completed: hexagon travel sewing kit

Finished hexagon travel sewing kit - pattern by thezenofmaking

I finished my hexagon travel sewing kit today. Yay! I used this wonderful tutorial from Haley at thezenofmaking. It was really very quick to make- Haley's tutorial is really straightforward, well illustrated, and clearly described. Also, I liked the fact that there was a significant bit of hand sewing involved because I like hand sewing. It is small enough to fit in most of my handbags, while also fitting my YLI thread spools and enough hexagon sewing bits and bobs to carry around and keep me occupied. My next plan is to make some of Haley's altoid tin sewing kits- I have a lot of altoids to get through first though!

Sewing kit with altoid tins and hexagons

The other great thing about this bag is that I didn't have to buy anything except a magnetic handbag snap for it. Making things that don't require spending money on new materials always makes me feel like I'm winning. The hexagon flowers are made from my favourite Liberty of London tana lawn: Lodden in green. This fabric is simply a joy to work with. I could go on and on about the amazing properties of Liberty's tana lawns.

The main green solid is from Kaufmann I think and it's pretty close to my favourite shade of green. The lining fabric is a blue and white polka dot which is, in my opinion, the perfect blue. Now, if only I could remember where I got it from (Kaufmann perhaps?). It's been in my stash since this quilt and just waiting for the perfect little project as there was only a tiny bit of it left. Now there are only a few scraps left but I can't bear to throw them away. I have so many fabrics that I wish I had bought more of!

                      Supplies                             WIP bag goes travelling (on the train)
I embroidered my initials on the centre hexagons with some embroidery floss that I inherited from my great grandmother (yes, my initials are ET). Using her things always makes projects more special and, generally, I only ever use them on things that I make for myself or my mother. I like remembering my grandmother and great-grandmother by wearing their jewellery and using their crafty things. I'm currently debating whether to attach this doily which my great-grandmother crocheted to the back of the bag, which is currently just plain green. Hmmm.... Choices, choices. Oh, I also embroidered a needle and thread on the inside hexagon flower.

Embroidered hexagon flowers. Bottom right now has a needle & thread on it.

I'm so pleased to have replaced my ubiquitous hexagon transportation system, a plastic zip lock bag, with something so much better thanks to the lovely zenofmaking. Now back to the monster hexagon quilt and the five other projects that I've started but not yet finished!

Old and new hexagon paper piecing travel solutions

Love, me x

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Ellie's Quilt

My friend S recently had an adorable little girl named Elizabeth Eleni (Ellie) in October. This is the quilt I made for S's baby shower.

Ellie's Quilt

Ellie's Quilt in progress

Started: 10th September 2013
Finished: 5th October 2013
Size: crib size 102 x 142 cm = 40" x 56"
Quilt top: I roughly followed this pattern:  Bricks in Bloom by Tracey Jacobsen of traceyjay quilts. I used Heather Bailey Fresh Cut fabrics from a couple of fat quarters. Machine pieced on my little Singer.
Backing: pieced from Jungle Babies panel and print by Patty Reid designs, which I picked up from a bargain bin at a quilt shop in Pennsylvania for about $3 back in 2009. It's been sitting around waiting for a baby quilt ever since and there was only *just* enough of it.
Binding: 2.25" double fold binding, hand stitched to front.
Batting: Hobbs 80/20 poly/cotton blend.
Quilting: Horizontal lines in the ditch and at a 45° angle with Guterman 100% cotton thread.

Quilt back: some puckers

This is the very first quilt I've made all by myself without any help from anyone, whatsoever. As you can see in the photo above, I'm not very good at basting all by myself yet. I ended up with some serious folds in the backing fabric; they were simply too big to be called puckers!

Embroidered label

Quilted and trimmed and ready to bind
I had a bit of a near fail getting the quilt done in time for S's baby shower and was doing some desperate last minute applique-ing in the train, only to realise that I'd forgotten some of the bits- namely, the trunks for my stylised trees and the big E for Ellie that was meant to go next to them. This resulted in me dashing to John Lewis, buying some ribbon and actually finishing the quilt right there in the shop. Luckily, JL has a sewing corner in its haberdashery department and the ladies that work there were absolutely lovely and more than happy to lend me some scissors.

The tree trunks did get sewn on in the end or rather at the very last minute (see below) but the E for Ellie didn't make it onto the quilt, unfortunately. Here's the finished product. Unfortunately, I only have photos taken with my crappy blackberry so they're not very good.

Ellie's Quilt: finished
I also made S some fleece backed burp cloths and a swaddling blanket, which I used to figure out how to bind a quilt before ruining the actual quilt. This was super easy and made a great present for the baby shower. I'm sure I'll be making them again for the next new baby. I bought this pack of 6 muslin squares from John Lewis, cut each square into thirds, layered them on top of each other with Heather Bailey's super soft Freshcut paisley dot fleece fabric and self bound them. After doing two I got bored and really needed to get a move on with the actual quilt so I didn't bother backing the remaining 4 squares.
Burp cloths and a fleecy swaddling blanket

The swaddling blanket is made from two layers of Aqua Rose Bud flannel from ladysewandsew, bound with Heather Bailey's Freshcut Crest in red. Making this took less than an hour. I meant to embroider Ellie's name on one of the corners but I forgot. Whoops.

Quilting love,
me x

Monday, 20 January 2014

WIP: Hexagon Quilt

As the whole point of this blog is to document my sewing projects, here is one of my current works in progress.

The Hexagon Quilt

August 13th 2013
19 flowers finished and some sections started.
Started: 3rd June 2013. Here are my first two flowers:

The first two flowers - 3rd June 2013

Finished: Who knows!?! A long, long time from now! It's a great portable project though. As it turns out, the Cambridge to King's Cross train = one finished flower.

Size: Aiming for Queen sized, or whatever size my bed is when I finally finish the monster.

Quilt top: My hexagon templates are courtesy of the wonderful Geta. The flowers are "Painted Mums" from Heather Bailey's Freshcut range, which I adore. I have no idea whether I have enough of it to finish the quilt. Probably not. I should go do some maths. The centres are a green solid which used to be part of an IKEA pillow case, a yellow polka dot which I bought for this quilt back in 2008 and a peachy pink dot from my stash.

Backing: Currently I'm thinking solid white cotton. This may change, obviously.

Binding: I LOVE this self binding method that badskirt introduced me to but I don't know if I have the patience for it. I could also bind it with the Freshcut peachypink dotted paisley. Hmmm... perhaps I should buy some more before it sells out.

Batting: I recently made a quilt with Hobbs Heirloom wool batting which was gorgeous and so easy to quilt. I'm waiting to see how the quilt holds up when it's washed a couple of times as it's the first time I've used wool batting.

Quilting: I have some gorgeous YLI hand quilting thread in yellow, green, and peachy pink. I'm in love. I've also been using YLI quilting thread to sew together my hexagons and it's a dream to work with! I like that it's a little stronger than "normal" hand sewing thread. Also, I was given a box including some lovely browns as a gift and I don't plan on quilting anything in brown anytime soon so they're great for sewing my hexagons together!

YLI 100% cotton hand quilting thread
yellow, spring green, and peach

13th August 2013: 19 flowers
31st December 2013: 28 flowers
20th January 2014: 30 flowers

I love making lists. Here's my list of progress for this quilt:
finished small flowers:15
finished partial large flowers: 4
Finished sections: 3 pink, 3 green + 5 yellow
basted & ironed hexagons in boxes: 131 flowered, 43 white, 0 yellow, 10 green, 9 pink

My original plan was to try to make four small flowers per month, which means that I'm slightly behind but not by much. Weee!  Also, I made loads of basted hexagons in preparation, so that counts, right? I store my basted, ironed hexagons in these handy macaron boxes from Pierre Hermé, which are just the right size.
Basted hexagons in macaron pastry boxes
While this is a great storage solution, carrying my hexagon quilt project around with me currently involves a rather unsightly zip-lock freezer bag. I really want to make one of these absolutely genius travel kits. It's one of the many sewing projects on my "to do before the new job starts" list.

Love, me xx

Monday, 13 January 2014

First post - first quilt

I've decided to start a blog predominantly as a record of my sewing/quilting/embroidery shenanigans. Maybe people will read it. Maybe they won't. It's the 21st century version of what my mother calls her "Quilting Brag Book". Hopefully it will mean that from now on I won't spend hours and hours on a project for someone, give it to them, and then realise that I've completely forgotten to take any decent photographs of it.

So, here's to ALL of the (mostly undocumented) pretty projects I've made so far and to all of those to come. Now all I have to do is learn to take decent photographs.

I've been embroidering and hand sewing since I was a little girl but only recently took up quilting. I am very lucky because my mother is The Quilt Queen (not the actual Quilting Queen of blogosphere fame, it's just my nickname for her when she rescues my latest project) and always seems to be able to fix my latest quilt nightmare. Unfortunately, she lives in another country so this usually results in half of my luggage allowance being taken up by some doomed sewing project or another.

I digress. Here's the very first quilt I made:

Samuel's Sunbonnet Sue & Sam Quilt

Samuel's Sunbonnet Sue and Sam Months of the Year Quilt
Started: January 2009 
Finished: June 2010
Size: no idea but somewhere around 60" long, given that I'm 5'6" tall.
Quilt top: Blocks hand pieced and needle-turn appliqued. Sashing and borders machine pieced by my mother.
Backing: Ralph Lauren Los Cabos
Binding: Ralph Lauren Los Cabos
Batting: no idea, possibly 80/20 poly/cotton blend. Whatever it was that my mother hand on hand at the time.
Quilting: Machine quilted in the ditch along sashing. Blocks hand quilted to enhance design.

Quilt back and label (WIP)

So, I started making this quilt when my friend O told me she was pregnant back in 2008 (!). I've always loved Sunbonnet Sue quilts so this seemed like the perfect excuse to make a months of the year unisex quilt. Unfortunately, little Samuel was born WELL before this quilt was even approaching finished. When I finally got it to them in July 2010, by which time I had already moved to the UK, Samuel was crawling. Erhem. Whoops.

Here are some photos of the individual blocks. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of all of them, which is, in retrospect, rather sad.

My mother had to help me add a border to this one because it was much smaller than the other blocks. This is the first block that I made for the quilt. In the final version I quilted it to give it more depth and a horizon. Apart from the background fabric this block is made entirely from scraps.

January: Frosty the Snowman

No detail photo, which is a pity because this is one of my favourite blocks. Apart from the snowy sky background, everything in this block is made from scraps.

Again, this block was much smaller than the others so my mother helped me add a border to it. Little Samuel's mummy is Irish so there had to be a St. Patrick's Day block! My favourite thing about this block is the little net ruffle on Sue's bonnet.
March: St. Patrick's Day

April: April showers....
This block was changed quite a bit before the end- I added some rain clouds (stuffed with scrap batting to make them three dimensional and interestingly textured), a puddle, and the words "April showers...." I bought a far eighth of wood print fabric for the tree and bright yellow for Sue's raincoat. This one really reminds me of the yellow Macintosh I had for my American Girl doll when I was little.

April: April showers... bring May flowers

May: ... bring May flowers
This is the first pieced block that I made and I was instantly hooked. Apart from the green background fabric and Sue's polka dot dress everything is made from scraps, mainly men's shirts.
May: April flowers... bring May showers

No detail photos unfortunately. By this time I really wanted this quilt to be finished before little Samuel could walk so the last block, June, shows Sam & Sue swimming in the lake and is quilted with ripples.

Again, no detail photos to be found at the moment. I might go trawl my flickr stream and old computer back up CDs and see if I can find some. Anyway, this block has the quintessential American little red waggon. I actually bought fabrics for this block because I wanted the background to look dry and summery.

Sam and Sue go to the beach! This is the first block that I embellished and my ice cream cone and shovel turned out a little small, didn't they? By the time I realised this though there were such big holes in the fabric from the embroidery floss that I couldn't really rip it out and start again.

August: Sue and Sam at the beach

Picking apples. I originally had a gorgeous block of Sue flying a kite for this one but then I found out that O was having a boy and thought I needed more Sams and fewer Sues for this quilt. The apples are little red buttons and I found some cure squirrel buttons to add some more texture. I hand quilted the sky with swirling lines for wind.

October: Hallowe'en 
Sadly, no close up pictures again. I love the orange on brown print and really wish I'd bought more than a fat quarter!!

November: Guy Fawkes
Samuel's Daddy is British so the quilt needed a Guy Fawkes block. I used metallic thread for the fireworks and the sparklers. I HATE working with metallic embroidery thread because I can't seem to get the thread tension even and it's always tangling and pulling apart, usually at the same time.

December: Christmas
Lots of embroidery on this one. Unfortunately, the red DMC embroidery floss I was using for the wreath's bow bled a bit when I washed the block. Sad embroidery panda.


Homeless Blocks:
This quilt generated a couple of homeless blocks as my plans for it changed. Originally, each Sunbonnet Sue/Sam was meant to be appliqued on white backing but then I discovered pieced backing. Anyway, this block didn't really fit in because I love the "April showers... bring May flowers" thing too much so, if I remember correctly, I just appliqued it to the backing. Or maybe I turned it into a cushion. I honestly don't remember.  
May V1.0

My favourite thing:
My favourite thing about this quilt is probably that about 90% of the fabric is from scraps or from my own stash of fabrics, which was very small at the time. Luckily my mother let me paw through her scrap box. Making a quilt without spending a fortune on new fabrics is SO satisfying!
I also really enjoyed embellishing the blocks with ribbons, buttons, embroidery and bits of ruffle. I love things with interesting textures! Mainly though, I was just pleased as punch to have succeeded in finishing a quilt, albeit with a lot of help from my mother.

Onward and upward!
xx E