Sunday, 24 November 2013

BLOG 175

Happily, I have completed the quilt I was making for the newest member of our extended family. It is constructed using the string quilt technique which I featured step-by-step in BLOG 173. I must say that I have enjoyed the speed of this technique. It has enabled me to make inroads into my modest collection of children’s prints and working with the bright colours has brought me joy. I am at my happiest when I am immersed in colour.

                                      String quilt

I have a mind to make a little felt book to accompany the quilt so that the recipient can play I Spy with it. From the close-up below, you can see that there is plenty of detail within the quilt for her to do that. That way she will interact with the quilt and actually look at it!


Instead of adding a batting layer this time, I had some fleece in stock and used that instead. The colours are child-like and the feel is soft and cuddly; ideal! I quilted it all over by machine to hold the layers together and to add texture.

                                         Fleece backing

I chose not to add a border but bound it with a colourful stripped fabric cut on the bias.

                                        Binding fabric

All I need now to do is to add her name and sign mine. Job done!

Here is a lovely string quilt from the Festival of Quilts this year. It was made from colourful fabrics with silk insets, I just love it. Perhaps this might inspire me now to make inroads into my collection of Batik fabrics.

                            FOQ String Quilt


                                     FOQ String quilt detail

 Next Saturday I will be showing my quilts at a Quilters’ Guild Area Day, at Thornton Hough on the Wirral (all welcome!). In the afternoon I have also been asked to do a mini workshop for those present (up to 50 sometimes!). This is the project I will be getting them to make. It’s a small Xmas wall hanging, an easy and straight forward project which is ideal for the festive season. I think it will make a good quick present for a neighbour, friend or relative. It only needs to hang up for a few days over Xmas and then it can be confined to the loft with the rest of their decorations without guilt! (ASIDE: Some people don’t appreciate your efforts so make sure that you only make quilted items for those who you know will appreciate the work that has gone in them. From she who knows!)

             Xmas wall hanging

Sunday, 17 November 2013

BLOG 174

I have pressed on with the children’s string quilt, teaching the technique at the Gresford group this week. Several attended the demonstration with enthusiasm but it will be interesting to see how many were inspired to have a go. I expect that the few weeks before Christmas is not the best time to start a quilt but, as a quilt is usually a long term project, there’s nothing to stop them from getting started. Remember that a journey starts with the first step….. and a quilt starts with thefirst stitch.

I too decided to embark on a creative journey this week. I am a constant pencil doodler and my doodles usually consist of making shapes and then colouring them in a positive/negative way, as can be seen below. I wondered if I could take one of my doodles and interpret it in fabric. The process had to be enjoyable to encourage me to continue.


Usually, I leap straight into working with fabric but this time, because of the complexity of the design, I decided to work the idea out with coloured paper first. I drew my design onto a sheet of card using nothing more than a compass, drinks mat and pencil.

                                  Design onto paper

I then placed 3 coloured sheets, one on top of another, and secured them for cutting out. Why 3 sheets? I don’t really know but it just seemed to be a good idea at the time.

                                              3 sheets

I cut out the individual pattern pieces and placed them back in their sequences.

                                      Pattern pieces

Then came the fun bit (allegedly!) where I reassembled the pieces so that no adjacent shapes were the same colour (perhaps I did 3 sheets for added interest and variety!)

                              Re-assembled pattern

Then I stepped back, like a designer ought to do, to assess what I had done. It didn’t ignite any enthusiasm in me or inspire me to continue; in fact I couldn’t make head or tail of it. I also concluded that it would be a very difficult pattern to use as there are many curved edges. Back to the drawing board!

So I did what I usually do when I hit a mental barrier; I returned to something I knew I could do and which I really enjoy doing: namely using fabric as a paint palette. I have many ready-fused and pinked strips left over from previous projects so I got them out and started to explore making squares with a vertical line, rather than my preferred diagonal line. I drew several 4 ½” squares onto baking parchment and started to overlap the strips and bond them with the iron.

                                              First strip

Initially, I worked 4 squares at a time, trying to get a gentle movement of colour from one end to the next. Once cooled, they are lifted from the parchment and cut into accurate 4 ½” squares.

                                          First 4 squares

As I trimmed each square I placed it onto the design wall trying out different lay-outs, alternating the direction and just generally ‘playing’.

                              Squares on the design wall

This is what I came up with over the next few days. It is 7 squares across by 6 down but, as yet, I don’t know what I am going to do with it. Perhaps it is the start of a series; perhaps it will be a ‘play’ piece which I can use to explore an idea. Again, who knows, I certainly don’t. All I know is that I felt compelled to use the fabric and to see where it led me.

                                          Completed piece

Here’s my latest art project. We had to compose a still life using torn paper from colour supplement magazines.

                          Paper still life

It was great fun and very freeing and, as usual, my mind starts to wonder if it could be done if fabric. Of course it can, I have done it many times before!

                                          Fabric still life



Sunday, 10 November 2013

Blog 173

First of all, please accept my apologies for the late posting of this blog. I can write the blog and take and import all the photographs but it is my husband who uploads it! He has been away in the Forest of Dean helping on his Auntie’s farm after his cousin broke his heel (never knew that as possible!) There were sheep and cattle to attend to and his cousin needed to be ferried to hospital for operation and consultations and the like. So I have been on my own for 12 days which has been very strange after 42 years of marriage but I have quite enjoyed it knowing that it wasn’t a permanent state of affairs. I made my own porridge (Rog always said it was his job and needed scientific precision to get the balance right! … it took me 2 days to crack it), I managed the log fire (but broke the glass on the front), I jammed the garage door so couldn’t get at the stuff I needed in there (but it wasn’t actually jammed, I just wasn’t turning the handle correctly) and I couldn’t put together the new office chair when it was delivered (son-in-law did that). But apart from that I enjoyed my time home alone.

But how did I fill some of that time? I sat at my sewing machine with a basket of fabric at my feet. It was filled with strips of my collection of children’s fabrics which I want to use to make a quilt for the newest member of our extended family.

                                         Basket of fabric

Again I have chosen the string piecing method because it is so fast and jolly to do. This one will have larger squares and be sewn onto a calico background rather than the paper background that I was using for the Christmas quilt. This means I can hand sew some of the strips on by hand when I am at craft clubs. The strips are cut at 1” 1 ¼” 1 ½” 1 ¾” and 2”.

Cut calico squares at 8 ½ (you can use any cotton fabric for the background, especially those you don’t particularly like as they won’t be seen!)

Place the first strip RS up along the diagonal and pin another on top so RS are together.

                                                   2 Strips

Sew a ¼ sew and flip the strip over to lie flat (press with an iron or use your finger to make sure there are no creases in the seam).

                                           Sew and flip

Sew one square after another (I call it leap frogging) so there is no need to waste threads.

                                            Leap frogging

On completion, press the squares from the WS first to settle the stitches and then from the RS so that they lie flat for trimming.


Use a square ruler to cut away the excess fabric from around the edge. Place the 8 ½” line of the ruler onto the edge of the calico and  cut the top and the right hand side first (If you are right handed).

                                               Cut 2 sides

Rotate the square and place the 8 ½” line on the cut edges before trimming the other 2 sides.

                                  Rotate and cut again

These are my trimmings and I save any larger pieces that I can possibly use on a corner. The rest I discard.

                               Save larger trimmings

Here are the first 4 blocks. I want to place them together so that no two fabrics are duplicated.

                                                    4 blocks

And 4 lots of 4 blocks. Progress is quick and steady, especially as the fabric strips are prepared in advance of sitting down at the sewing machine. Preparation is all!

                                                4 lots of 4

Another thing I have had a go at are Zentangles, described as follows: ‘The Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.’

Really it is sophisticated doodling but it was interesting, if time-consuming. I think you have to learn to ‘get in the zone’ but it may be worth a look at for you creative souls out there.