Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finished Table Mats and American Fabrics!

I'm pleased to say that I have now finished three of the mats.  The binding has been sewn on using blind stitch by hand (a big achievement for me, as I'd never done the stitch before).  

They were used for the first time at last night's dinner up north at my family's house.  It seemed ideal that the three of them were used then, as my Mum gave me the quilting class as a Christmas present.  Fortunately for me she loved them and has asked me to make her a wall hanging!  Another project in the pipeline for once I've finished my quilt... I'm going to try to do one thing at a time, at least in quilting terms. 

Now I wanted to visit home, as my family had just been on holiday to Florida, where they happened upon a quilting shop [Rainbow's End] (typical that they would find the largest one in the state when it's not their interest!). However Mum being loverly as she is, chose four fabrics for me, which are:

1 fat quarter of this, as I adore pandas!

1/2 yard of the Alexander Henry owls.  Hoot Hoot.

1 fat quarter of this.  Not sure what it is.  Mum said that it reminded her of Audrey Hepburn...

1/2 yard of 'bird on a ball' designed by Etsuko Furuya.  Beautiful!!
I think my Mum chose pretty well considering she wasn't sure what to choose or what it'd be best used for but I now have fabric joy fun times to look forward to.  I feel quite excited about using it though I think I'll have to think quite carefully for the best way to show-case the fabric.  Yay!

Now I'm off to make miniature felted animals with my Mum from the book 'Felties' by Nelly Pailloux.  Mum is battling with a 'vivid squirrel' and I'm going to try making a sleepy fox!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Introduction to Binding

I'm afraid that this will not be a post offering a tutorial with tips of how to improve one's binding but rather my experiences at making my own binding from fabric.  Tonight I had the third and final installment of my beginner's class in machine quilting (offered at Sally Bourne Interiors and I'd highly recommend it).  This is where I've been making my table mats (the pink 9-patch squares)

We were encouraged to choose a binding fabric that would co-ordinate with our projects.  It could either be taken from a bolt of fabric, giving a third colour option or be made from scraps. I chose to use a third fabric because then I have the scraps as I'm sure they'll come in useful at some point or other.  Cutting out the binding was fine.  Piecing the strips together went alright.  I did learn that if a join was slightly uneven that if you trim it along the edge it is more sympathetic to the mistake. Hurrah for me.

The ironing is where things started to go wrong.  How you might wonder.  Well I managed to burn myself with the tip of the iron just under my cuticle on my index finger.  Boo.

Burnt finger aside.  Here's a few photos from the process:

The bottom of my table mat with the binding pinned into place, plus the role of binding that I made.
The binding is now attached to the top of one of my table mats, is pinned into place and is waiting for me to hand sew it to the bottom.

Here's how the table mat looks on the top.  
Just another three to go.  I keep thinking won't they look great when they're all finished.  I think a dinner with a few friends must be had to show them off in style!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Central Block of the Animal Quilt

Today has been one of those murky confuseling days where you're just not quite sure how you're feeling about the world.  I spent most of the day knitting (what will be a tea-cosy) and then switched to working on part of my animal quilt.  I've managed to do the central piece, which is 19" square (including the borders). I've chosen such a large piece of the lion fabric in the middle because I fell in love with it and wanted to show it off.  I'm thinking of doing either free-motion quilting or lines...

Spot my super dinky travel iron in the top right-hand corner!
Now it's time for a bath with a book (House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe) before I head for an early night and Ph.D. research tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My First Attempt at Quilting

As I mentioned in my first post on this blog, I'm taking a 3 week course in machine quilting for beginners at Sally Bourne Interiors.  I've now completed the first two weeks of the course and have pieced together, basted and started to quilt 4 table mats.  The quilting is clearly a beginners try and on each mat I am testing out a different technique:  squares (outlining), a lined approach, stitch in the ditch (still to do) and free-motion quilting (still to do).

Here's my first attempt:

Next week will see the trimming, neatening up and learning how to make our own binding.  I'm quite excited, as I'm hoping to use those skills to apply to my animal quilt, which is still in progress but has had to slow down a little this week due to visitors.

Works in Progress: table mats, animal quilt, knitted tea cosy
To do: knit a tie

How about the rest of you?  What are you working on?

A Liebster Award!

Well I've had this blog less than a week and I logged in the other night and found out that Sarah at Pings and Needles  had given me a Liebster award.  She was so sweet in her comments saying how I could even sew in a straight line although I'm just a beginner.  Thank you so much!

The Liebster award is given by someone and then you gift it on to another three bloggers, who have fewer than 300 followers.  It's a viral way of sharing some bloggy love and enabling people to remember and discover those smaller blogs.  In order to accept the award, the recipient has to then gift it on to three other bloggers. Mine are:

a cuppa and a catch up: I love Nova's cheery blog and the way that she embraces her occasionally wonky stitches (sometimes putting them in intentionally).  Her use of colour, the Dr Seuss pillow for the Queensland Flood Appeal and the reference to tea in the title have meant her blog has won a little spot in my heart.  Go visit, as she's wonderful!  An all round crafty lady :-)

Stitches and Scissors: Darci's blog is a ray of multi-coloured delight.  She seems to share my love of animal printed fabrics, particularly one's with birds on.  I adore the choices she makes, animals and the  fabric she has chosen for her curtains in the sewing room should make the room an envy of all.  Go visit her for a dose of inspiration.

Fatty Unbound: An Awesome fatshion blog run by my dearest friend Kirsty.  I find the way that she brings colours and styles together exciting, empowering and a real way to show that fat and fashion can and do go together.  She also writes some interesting thought pieces concerning the media and her own life.  Plus she is a crafter and determined to begin in the world of quilting, something which I very much encourage!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The First Quilt Blocks...

As yesterday saw the cutting out of the squares for my four large corner quilt blocks, today came the piecing.  I've decided on a simple 9 patch block design, as I feel that it shows off the fabrics in the best way.  I'm using two patterned fabrics (blue whales and then multi-animals - both Eleanor Grosz), so on the top 2 blocks will have the whales running as a frame and the bottom two blocks it will be the other way round. The spots are a Kaffe Fasset range that I felt gave a nice bold effect with the blue and greens showing up quite prominently.

This is the 3-whales colourway.

This is the multi-animals colourway.  Apologies for the shadow, that was me taking the photo in my kitchen.
The remainder of the quilt will involve some applique (I think), a simple border style (log-cabin block inspired) and oodles of cream.  I think this is going to need quite an interesting binding to finish the project off with style.  Fortunately I'm a little way off from that point.  I'm also plotting what sort of quilting style to do but again there's time...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Quilt in Progress

For me the process of completing something is as much why I do them as for the end result.  This applies to my Ph.D. (I love writing and research), knitting (I often prefer the act to the end result), baking (how soothing is mixing together a cake?) and I'm hoping this will apply to quilting (I have a feeling that it will). Now today's post I think will be a tad picture heavy, as there are a few things I want to share.

The notebook where I've starting sketching designs for the quilt:

 This notebook has great sentimental value, as it was bought for me by my boyfriend last year for our 1.5 year anniversary.  He fell in love with it at Craft Candy (Sheffield, UK, craft collective). It's so perfect for us because he adores birds and my nickname from him is little bird, whilst he's my Big Bird.  The cover even features the two birds.  However I was unsure what to use it for because it has squared paper, whereas my journals are normally blank for writing and sketching in. Then the other night (yesterday to be precise), I was thinking about how to design my quilt and thought where better than in this book!

So... here are some of my sketches for my quilt design:

I'm aware that you might not be able to see the details but I thought I'd share my process, as best as I can.  It will be a square quilt with a simple plain block in the middle and then 4 9-patch blocks at the corner (or should they be disappearing 9-patch blocks...). The final picture for today shows my cutting board with the fabrics spread out ready to be pieced together.

Nothing too fancy for this Caroline.  I am a beginner after all, so I feel that is quite excusable to go for a simple design.  Also, how cute are those animals??  I found it hard to bring myself to cut them up at all!

A Big Thank You...

... to a woman I've never met but who wrote this series of posts called 'Quilting Without Obligation'.  They say don't be hung about what the folks on quilting blogs are doing, their fabric choices, their designs, the pressure to be original etc.  Remember why you're doing this and what you want out of the quilting. 

Perhaps this seems an odd post to have found so enlightening for someone who hasn't even made a single quilt yet.  However I've been sat with a sketch pad all evening designing my quilt, various swatches and trying to think of the best way for the fabrics to all fit together.  I was looking at patterns online, across the quilting blog-o-sphere and flickr.  So many of them require you to use many fat quarters (8 or more) whereas I want to use just 4 (the Eleanor Grosz animal print ones I have).  I've decided that I'm going to go with my 'gut' design that will showcase the fabrics I love with oodles of cream, some spots for the edging pieces, and a pretty binding and back.  This quilt is for *me*.

I'm nervous but excited.  This is going to be a challenge for me but I figure with a simple design, how can I go too wrong?  

Next I need to work out how to cut the various fabrics to make the sort of design *I* want.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My First Quilt Preparation

I'm not sure if I'm ready (in terms of skills) to tackle an entire single-bed sized quilt (c.130cm x 170cm) but I figure that I'd like to and I've found some fabric that I'd love to use, so why not give it a go.  Also I went to the John Lewis on Oxford Street today where it was the second to last day of their sale.  Most of last season's Amy Butler fabric were at 50% off, so I bought 3.5m of green/martini Opal Sky colourway of Midwest Modern, which is going to be the backing fabric for my quilt.  I'm focusing on blues/greens/limes with a hint of purple.  The main dominant fabrics on the front are Zoo Menagerie animals.

I'm trying to decide whether the multi-coloured lions will be *too* much.  But then I really like them and they think they could be a good feature fabric.  The spots is from Amy Butler's love collection and is the stone path/ ivory spots from soul colourway.  It was an 82cm remnant in Liberty*.

There will be sashing in cream (free spirit cream solid £7/m in Liberty) so that it isn't too over-powering.  I am making this quilt just for me to snuggle up under in my living room.  A joy of living in a flat that is converted from an Edwardian house is that it's beautiful but a peril is that it's drafty.  This seems to me like the perfect compromise.

* Liberty in London. Wow!  How had I never been before today?!  I say this because I've lived in London for the past 3 years.  The store itself is beautiful but the fabric selection is phenomenal.  All of the beautiful silks, home decor weight, quilting weight.  I was particularly enthralled with the range of Kaffe Fasset fabric (loving his colour combinations) and Free Spirit fabrics.

I'm now going to head back to my sketchbook to figure out the design of this quilt. Wish me luck!

Shoulder Bag

As my new sewing machine (Pfaff Select 4.0) arrived on Thursday morning, I'd been itching to tackle a new project.  I remembered that I'd been given 'Sew!' by Cath Kidston a while ago, which comes complete with pre-cut fabric to make the below shoulder bag.  This seemed like an ideal simple project to become better acquainted with my new machine.  

The bag features button on shoulder straps, a simple button closure, french seams throughout and the use of a t-junction seam to create extra width at the bottom.

My button holes weren't quite as neat as I'd like but I imagine that will come with practice.  I found it confusing because the button hole sequencing was the reverse of how it worked on my old machine.  I did sew on the buttons by machine, which was a first and I'm quite chuffed with that.

Things to make in the pipeline:
  • A pincushion. I'm still without one and it's becoming quite a hindrance, especially as my sewing area is also in my living room.
  • A mug quilt. This will give me a chance to practice some skills on a small object that can be just for me.  I imagine if I tackle it alright I'll make one for my Mum too, as she's very excited about my craft projects.
  • Also I have designs to make a big animal quilt. The fabric is here.  The design is coming together in my head. Next it's the skills!

Friday, January 14, 2011

First Things...


My name is Caroline and I'm 25 living in London.  I'm a full-time PhD student in Sexuality and Gender studies, who spends most of her spare time reading or crafting.  I'm going to use this blog to chart my crafting (knitting, sewing, baking and quilting) projects.  There will be photos galore, mostly taken with my iPhone 4, so I can do a quick snap and not be too stresseld over the lighting.  

How long have I been crafting?

  • Knitting: Started when I was 20 and a friend taught me how to do a basic knit stitch.  Didn't progress from making a huge burgundy scarf monstrosity that I've kept for sentimental reasons.  Competent at: simple cables and lace, knitting in the round (circular and dpn), miniature knitting, socks etc.  I'm yet to try making a garment.
  • Baking: As a child, I baked most Sunday afternoons with my Mum.  There would be a spread of Welsh cakes, pikelets, scones etc.  However during my teens I forgot about baking and lost all of my skills. I discovered this 3 and a bit years ago when I wanted to bake a birthday cake for a friend and it was a disaster.  I'm now competent at a wide variety of cakes and breads. My boyfriend is particularly a fan of my Toffee Chocolate Brownies.
  • Sewing: Again hand and machine sewed when I was young with my Grandma and at school.  I forgot all my skills but decided I wanted to try it again.  I'd now put myself at a competent beginner.  So far, I've made a mini-patchwork stocking, a circle skirt, bag, table mats and a few other odds and ends. 
  • Quilting: This is the latest of my crafting skills e.g. I'm just taking a beginners course in machine quilting at the moment at the wonderful Sally Bourne Interiors workshop.  In the workshop I'm making a set of 4 patchwork table mats.  I've bought the fabric and have started to design my first quilt!  It's going to feature four fat quarters of Eleanor Grosch's Zoo Menagerie fabric that I bought from the charming Backstitch.  

My sewing machines:

Singer 30, treadle in a walnut veneered cabinet.  It's my beauty, though I'm still just beginning to become competent with the treadle part.  I have to watch that I don't go backwards too often.

Pfaff Select 4.0.  This was quite reasonable at £399 for an ex-display model that only arrived yesterday from The Sewing Centre in Battersea, London.  I'm already in love!

I'll post some more pictures once I've some new projects to show you all!