English Paper Piecing Mayham*

I think it may have started with my hexagon pouch — which I never showed you, did I? Sorry about that, I totally forgot! Here you go:

Perfect for my embroidery tools! Anyway, I think that project started a little bit of a craze – in my head – for English paper piecing, which has now sort of taken over everything. I really enjoyed making that pouch, piecing it tiny bit by bit, and finally admitted that what I really want to make is a traditional, 30s-inspired, Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. I have a weird obsession with those 30s reproduction fabrics, and have been quietly hoarding them for several years now. Bits and pieces, sale buys, a jelly roll, etc. I think I always knew I wanted to do a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, but I kind of know it’s insane. I mean, I actually prefer a long-term project over quick-fix projects – or at least like to have a balance – because I love the slowness of a long haul project. I mean, it’s nice to know that you really put your heart and soul into a thing, to watch it grow tiny bit by bit. It’s very satisfying.

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, madness begun.

But this is extreme, even for me. I realize that this will take many years. That I look at it now, brimming with enthusiasm, but will probably hate the sight of it after a while. It’ll probably go away from time to time, when I need a break. But I want it. What’s the point of making something faster if it’s not the thing you really wanted? I’m using my hoarded reproduction fabrics and will keep an eye out for any on sale as I go, and I’ve already finished one flower!

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, Flower #1

Yes, one out of a millionty, but it’s a start. (Sorry for the not-awesome photo there, I didn’t realize it until just now.) I even made a Pinterest board of vintage GFG quilts for inspiration as I go. Aren’t they stunning?

Then my mother asked for some decorative pillow covers for her bedroom, to add a little color to the room, for Mother’s Day (we still celebrate the US version, coming up next weekend. I’m not sure why, now that I think about it). Of course I thought of a paper pieced design, because why would I do something simple when I could make it ten times slower? She helped me pick the fabric to make sure it matches just right – a gorgeous Kona fat quarter pack from The Village Haberdashery – and she wants something of a traditional design. I teamed the solids with a piece of Tula Pink Plume from my stash and I’m going for a Lone Star-ish design, in part inspired by this amazing quilt by Fancy Tiger Crafts. I’m so in awe of that quilt. Mine won’t be a star shape, I’ll continue the diamonds solidly then square it up, if that makes sense. I’m not sure if there’s a name for that or if it’s still a Lone Star design. In any case, I’ve got a little start:

Lone Star-ish pillow covers, WIP

and just over a week to go. Oy. There may also be something going on with some extremely tiny hexagons and two crazy people, but that’s a story for another day!

* No, that’s not a typo. Paulie Walnuts fans will understand. Everybody else, just pretend it says ‘mayhem’.

Easter weekend / Mod Sampler Quilt

I’m in a bit of an odd blogging place right now – nearly everything I’m working on is, temporarily, secret. There’s several knitting patterns, some fun news, and a new set of Little Dorrit & Co. embroidery patterns. It’s pretty busy around here!

One of the knitting patterns – a free one! – will be out within the next few days, and the embroidery patterns as well, and the fun news shortly after. With everything kind of converging all at once, what better to do than take a break?

A little while ago, I showed some quilts I’d made for others, but I didn’t mention that those were intended to be my second and third quilts. My first quilt was meant to be the Mod Sampler Quilt, an amazing (free) pattern by the ridiculously talented Elizabeth from Oh, Fransson. This pattern, combined with a series of detailed quilting basics tutorials, teach you pretty much everything you need to know to get started. She takes you through every step, so it’s the perfect beginner project. And since it’s a sampler quilt, you get to try a bunch of different block types, and it’s a nice large lap size, so it’s not too intimidating.

I’m sure you can see why the Mod Sampler would’ve been a great first project. But if someone asks to make them something, I try to always put that first – I’m afraid it’ll get lost in the shuffle if I don’t. When my father and brother presented me with their quilt projects, I had all but two of the Mod Sampler blocks sewn. Not two types – just two. (You can see some photos of my early progress in my Mod Sampler Flickr set.)

Over the Easter weekend, wanting a little break from the other things going on, all I could think about was pulling the WIP out of the drawer and at least getting those two blocks done. Maybe I’d even get crazy and cut the sashing.

So I gathered up my finished blocks and assorted fabrics …


… finished off the last two blocks …


… cut the sashing and starting piecing rows …


… and finished the whole top!!!


I’m so excited, I just keep admiring this photo so I can see it all at once (not something you get a lot of while sewing). I even managed to get a little start on the back …


… which will be that blue floral print with a stripe of blocks across the middle-ish. I’ve starting tossing around names for it; I’ve got a few ideas based on songs by Joanna Newsom, Elbow, and my beloved Langhorne Slim. Nothing decided there yet, and I’m sure I won’t have time to pick this project back up until some of the excitement has passed, but I’m already so looking forward to it.

(By the way, apologies to those who already saw these photos via Instagram or Twitter. I did hope to at least get a proper non-iPhone one of the finished top, but the weather has been all about the sudden changes this week. When I finish piecing the back, I promise to get nice shots of both to show you!)

Quilting, but not for me

This post is the last bit of my Big Week Off, as well as a little catch-up from, um, Christmas. I finally finished a quilt that has been a WIP for about 20 years, then realized I’d never shown the finished quilt I made for my brother at Christmas.

For Liberty or Union

I posted a WIP photo of this quilt back at Christmas time, but without my brother himself to hold it up for me, I was unable to get a photo of the full thing at the time. I won’t say much about it here – I already told anything there was to tell in the original post – except that I named it ‘For Liberty and Union’ after a line in a U.S. Civil War-era song, and he likes it very, very much. He tells me a lot, which is awfully nice.

For Liberty or Union

The quilt I finished just recently was actually made by my father but finished by me. He received all the materials about 20 years ago, as a birthday gift. As far as I know, he started it right away, but then our whole family moved to the Netherlands. International moves being just a touch disruptive, he lost the thread (haha, no pun intended) on this project for a good while. Then he started up again and actually finished the top on an antique Singer machine from 1893 (more on that another time). After which the family, in bits and pieces, moved to the UK. For various reasons, Dad decided that hand-quilting it as he’d always wanted wasn’t really in the cards, so he asked me to machine quilt it.

Here Comes The Sun

Not that I really know what I’m doing! Before this, I’d free-motioned one small lap quilt and that was my whole experience with quilting. I did the straight lines last fall, before concentrating on the one above, and that was fine except for not basting well enough and having to pick out several full-length lines after realizing it was bunching up. Lesson learned.

Here Comes The Sun

But we’d decided on a feather motif for the border. I got Dad to lay it out and transfer the pattern; he’s good at stuff that has to be measured all properly and stuff. I was terrified to mess it up, but after a lot of practice on scrap fabric and then a few false starts, I just went for it and vowed not to fuss over every little not-perfect line. (Sorry, it’s not that easy to see, I did actually try to make the quilting lines as visible as I could in photo post-production.)

Here Comes The Sun

Which really is the way to go. Even with my tiny bit of experience, I can tell that it’s better to get a flow going than keep starting-and-stopping. But yeah, it really could be a millionty times better. From a distance, seen as a whole, it’s fine. But up close … well, let’s just say I did for one split second consider not showing it to you. But then I thought it might be nice for beginning quilters like myself to see someone else’s first attempts. It’s encouraging to see that your first tries are just like other people’s! I did feel like there was a significant difference between where I started and where I finished, so that’s something.

Here Comes The Sun

I named it and made a tag in secret with both of our initials and the details of the quilt’s long journey. I chose ‘Here Comes The Sun’ because it felt like just the right level of cheerful but not peppy – it’s hopeful and comforting. I always name things after music, and especially in this case, because Dad and I have the music geek thing in common. But since it will really belong to both of my parents, I didn’t want to pick something that excluded Mom. I know that ‘Here Comes The Sun’ is a special favorite of hers, so it seemed pretty much perfect all around.

Here Comes The Sun

Christmas Gifts 2011: Big Brother

Civil War Quilt, in progress

Next up in the handmade gift round-up is this quilt, a (American) Civil War Era reproduction (or using reproduction fabrics, anyway) made for my brother, who is a history buff and especially taken with anything to do with early American life. When we visited the lovely Tikki London quilting shop, quite long ago now, and he bought himself the kit to make this quilt, I wasn’t really all that surprised. I’d already noticed it on the shelf and was waiting to see if he’d sniff it out himself.

Of course he didn’t buy that kit — or the extra fabric he ordered to make it into a larger bed-sized quilt — to make himself. He did ask me first, but he basically just handed it to me and said, “sew”. Not to imply that I minded! I honestly don’t – my family has done a lot for me, and I always jump when there’s a chance to do something in return. The brother rarely asks me to make things for him so when he does, I’m all over it.

Which makes this a very cheeky gift, in a way, since he pretty much bought it himself and I agreed to make it. The gift isn’t really the quilt exactly. What I did was used Christmas as the push to finish it (and I should mention that they were only squared up blocks and uncut fabric a couple of weeks ago) and used my budget allowance to buy the only bits he hadn’t: the backing fabric and the binding fabric (Kona Khaki and Espresso, in case you’re curious). I went over budget a bit, but got lucky and ordered the fabric during the 11/11/11 sale at the always awesome Simply Solids so came pretty close.

That’s it, really. The weather’s been dark and awful lately, so this photo is the best I could squeak out in a hurry. I quilted the bejeezus out of it early this week and got it all done in two days, and started handsewing the binding around the back last night. I got about one side done, and still need to make a tag for the back. Not too bad, really, with just over a week to go. And, this will be my first completed person-sized quilt ever, and I didn’t make a big mess out of it. Yay! To go with it, just for a few little bits under the tree, I mixed up some Cocoa Cumin Steak Rub, Memphis-Style Dry Rub for ribs, Greek Dry Rub for ribs (link soon, it appears to be having trouble right now), and a jar of Apricot Bourbon Mustard. Nom!

P.S. – If you’re interested in the SMS giveaway, there’s still about a day to enter it over here!

Not really a bed

Oscar sleeping on quilt WIP

I had absolutely no intention of blogging this today, or anytime soon really, but this ridiculous cat keeps doing this and I had to share! This is a quilt I’m working on here and there — my father sewed the top on Albus, our family antique Singer sewing machine (more on him another day, don’t let me forget). He’d always intended to hand-quilt it but then, semi-suddenly, decided one day he just couldn’t get to everything he wanted to do. So he asked me to quilt it. With all my experience (ahem-oneminiquilt-ahem). I really hoped I wouldn’t mess it up, but of course I already did. Not permanently, luckily, but having no real idea what I’m doing, I didn’t baste it quite right, so I now have to pull out what I’ve done (not too much) and start from the beginning.

In the meantime, Oscar keeps making a bed in it, no matter how many times I try to explain that it’s not actually a blanket yet. Sigh.

Now that I’ve mentioned this project, I’ll try to get some photos of the full top and my quilting plan sketches to share with you all very soon! And return to my embroidery, the one I hinted at in my last post, which hit a little snag when my original plan turned out, well, crappy. I have something new to try, let’s hope that plan works out a little better.

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