Thursday, 17 July 2014

Another pair of baby quilts...

Following on from my last post about the first couple of baby quilts I made, I've got two more to share that were made with Alegria, a patterned organic cotton fabric designed by Geninne Zlatkis for Cloud 9 fabrics...

Alegria HST quilt with corner turned to show background

This first one, made for baby Isla, is a pairing of Alegria and Sketch in white-black by Timeless Treasures. The backing fabric is the Britten Nummer print from Ikea.

Here are the quilt-top fabrics prior to being chopped up...

Fabric for Alegria HST quilt

And after being made into half-square triangles...

HSTs ready for the Alegria quilt

I'm very fond of Geninne's art, especially her birds and I love the colourful cheery designs in the Alegria fabrics. Geninne has a beautiful blog that you might like.

Isla's quilt was quilted with lines of straight stitching, which I really enjoy doing with my sewing machine's fantastic walking foot, that helps to feed the thick layers of the quilt through without puckering...

Close up pf Alegria HST quilt during quilting

Quilting the Alegria HST quilt

I do love the look of straight-line quilting...

Close up of finished Alegria HST quilt 2

Close up of finished Alegria HST quilt 1

I used the Sketch fabric for the binding too, which I hand stitched to finish the quilt...

Stitching binding on Alegria HST quilt

The other Alegria quilt I made was for baby Adam and featured a pinwheel design...

Alegria pinwheel quilt

I used a plain grey organic fabric this time, instead of the Sketch and I did a colourful scrappy binding using the Alegria fabrics. The backing was the same Ikea print.

Close up of quilt with corner turned back

I baste my quilts using curved safety pins to hold the three layers (backing, batting and quilt top) together. It means a lot of scrabbling about on the bedroom floor on my hands and knees but it seems to work well to stop the layers sliding apart while stitching the lines of quilting.

This is Adam's quilt at the basting stage...

Basting the Alegria pinwheel quilt 2

Basting the Alegria pinwheel quilt 1

I quilted Adam's quilt with a free-motion loopy pattern, which you can see quite well on the reverse of the quilt here...

Close up of quilting on back of quilt

It was my very first time doing free-motion quilting (where you move the quilt about under the needle to make the pattern) and I was sweating, stressed-out and exhausted by the end of it! It was worth it though and its become a bit easier now that I've quilted a couple more quilts this way :)

Close up of Alegria pinwheel quilt

Isla's quilt (at the top of this post) was photographed pre-washing but I took pictures of Adam's after it had been washed and dried, so you can see the lovely crinkly post-wash texture in the picture above.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

First steps in (baby) quilt making...

I've made a lot of baby quilts for friends' new arrivals in the last year or so, but hadn't got around to sharing them here, so I'm making up for that now by sharing the first two. They were made with a fat quarter set of the Cloud 9 organic cotton Simpatico range, paired with an organic grey fabric that I already had and found to be a decent match with the grey in the Simpatico patterns.

Here are the quilts together on my cutting mat, the completed quilt top of one on the left and the half-square triangles of the other getting pressed and trimmed...

Making HST baby quilts

I'm not generally a fan of dividing things into 'boy colours' and 'girl colours', but on this occasion, I split the fabrics I had into the pink/yellow/orange patterns and the aqua/yellow patterns to make the two quilts. I think the modern-looking graphic patterns and the use of the plain grey fabric make the quilts fairly unisex, but on this occasion I had a little boy and a little girl to give the quilts to anyway.

This is the finished pink/yellow/orange quilt I made for baby Evelyn...

Pink pinwheel quilt

It's quilted with an all-over loopy swirl pattern, which I did freehand on my sewing machine by moving the quilt about under the needle. One of my first forays into free-motion quilting!

Close up of quilt corner 2

The back of the quilt was fairly plain except for a panel of patchwork strips made with pieces of the fabrics used on the front...

Pink pinwheel quilt with corner turned back

And a little label with Evelyn's name and date of birth on it in the bottom corner...

Back view of pink pinwheel quilt

You can see the scrappy binding I made from pieces of the same patterned fabrics in the photo above too. Here's a close-up of me stitching down the back of the binding by hand...

Stitching binding on pink pinwheel quilt

A nice job to do curled up on the sofa! :)

These pictures were taken before I put the quilt in the wash. The organic cotton/bamboo blend batting that I used in the centre of the quilt made it crinkle up nicely after the first wash.

I knew I wanted to make both these quilts using half-square triangle (HST) patchwork and this was the first time I'd ever made HSTs. I found a really useful tutorial on how to make four HSTs at a time (I can't find the exact one now, but this one is similar) and you're actually making quarter-square triangles this way, but I still call them half-square triangles, because they're still HSTs once you've made them, no matter what technique you use to get there :)

Once I'd made all my HSTs, I played about with layouts to decide what to go for...

Exporing layouts for pink HST quilt

There seems to be an almost infinite number of ways you can arrange HSTs and I love the way that something as simple as a half-square triangle block can create so many different patterns in a quilt. I went for the pinwheel pattern for Evelyn's quilt (top right in the above photo), but I also loved the layout on the bottom left, so I used that for my next quilt...

Blue HST quilt

This is a quilt for baby Tom and it's very similar to Evelyn's (same fabrics, same batting, scrappy binding and a patchwork strip panel and label on the back) but it has the different HST layout and straight-line quilting instead of the freehand loops.

The photos were taken after it had been washed, so it much crinklier-looking than the photos of Evelyn's quilt.

Blue HST quilt with corner turned back 1 

Back view of blue HST quilt

I really liked the effect of the straight-line quilting with this style of HST layout...

Blue HST quilt with corner turned back 2

Close up of blue HST quilt

I machine-stitched the binding down on Tom's quilt, which didn't give as neat a finish as hand stitching but means that the binding will be very robust.

Blue HST quilt folded up

I was pretty pleased with how the quilts came out, since they were two of the first ones I'd ever made and I loved packing them up to send to their new homes. I hope that they are getting lots of use with their new little owners :)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

A clutch of Liberty patchwork purses...

Unusually for me, I've been making more than one of something recently. In the past, I've usually made something and then intended to make another but never got around to it (that still happens sometimes...). So I've been enjoying the process of making more of the same and I've been getting a little bit better at the various processes with each one. Not a massive revelation by any means but its new to me! :)

So, here is my trio of Liberty patchwork purses...

  Green patchwork Liberty purse Purple patchwork Liberty purse
Purse open 1

They are all made with a patchwork of Liberty tana lawn cotton fabric on the outside, layers of compressed fleece or various types of interfacing and a silk lining. The pink and green ones were quilted with lines of stitching for extra interest and texture.

The pink one was my first, which I gave to my friend as a gift. I used this fantastic tutorial to make the tiny patchwork panels for each side of the purse exterior. Ironing the squares to a piece of interfacing beforehand (described in the tutorial), makes things more accurate and allows for the tiny seam allowances. I think my machine would have eaten the pieces of fabric if I'd tried to assemble the patchwork in the 'normal' way! I used squares of fabric 3cm x 3cm in size and seams of 0.5cm to result in finished squares measuring 2cm x 2cm. It was fiddly to say the least! I like the finished effect though :)

Here you can see the fabric squares ironed onto a piece of thin interfacing (at the top of the photo) and the finished patchwork panel after sewing at the bottom of the photo...

Patchwork before and after sewing 2

I put a piece of compressed fleece behind each finished panel and stitched lines of diagonal quilting, before cutting each panel to the shape of the bag pattern piece and assembling the purse. This purse was the squishiest of the three, but still held its shape well.

I was so pleased with the way the purse looked when it was finished, I kept it on the sideboard in my living room so I could pick it up and pet it every now and then! It was definitely the most professional-looking thing I'd made to date :)

Pink Liberty clasp purse 3


The green purse was made in the same way as the pink one, but with a much stiffer sewn-in interfacing inside, which gave it a very firm feel. I've got more photos of the process of making the green purse. Here's the front side of the patchwork panel after sewing all the seams...

Front view of green purse patchwork

And the other side...

Back view of green purse patchwork

A close-up of all those tiny seams - I almost burnt my fingertips at least a dozen times ironing all these open...

Tiny seams of green purse patchwork

This purse was kindly bought from me by my boyfriend's mum as a gift for her daughter. Hopefully its getting lots of use!

Green patchwork Liberty purse

The third purse used a different technique for the patchwork panel. I hand stitched the fabric hexagons together using the English paper piecing technique, which involves tacking pieces of fabric to paper templates, then hand sewing the hexagons together along each edge. Once its all sewn together, you remove the papers. If that sounds incredibly hard to imagine, here's a good tutorial with lots of pictures! The shapes in the tutorial are slightly different, but you'll get the idea :)

Here are some of my fabric-covered hexagons, ready to sew together...

Planning layout of purple hexagons

It may look at first glance that each of these purses is made from a random selection of thrown-together fabrics, but it involved lots of planning and playing about to find patterns that worked well together and then figure out the most pleasing way to arrange them. The pink and green purses are made from blocks of nine different fabrics and the hexagon purse has seven fabrics, all placed so that they form a regular, repeating arrangement.

Here's the fiendishly complicated-looking chart I made myself to work out how many hexagons of each colour I needed and where they were going to be sewn together...

Hexagon patchwork sudoku

The finished patchwork panel of hand-sewn hexagons...

Purple patchwork panel

I made this last purse as a single panel with no seam at the bottom by making a few adjustments to the purse pattern pieces.

You can see the charcoal-y coloured silk lining in this picture...

Inside of purple patchwork purse

I used a special 'leather-like' interfacing for this bag, which made it nice and firm, although I think in the future I'd use a combination of compressed fleece and lighter interfacings because the seams on the firmer bags were a bit under strain with the thickness.

I was really pleased with the look of this bag and it was hard to give it away! It was a gift for a lovely friend though, so I'm hoping its getting lots of love with her :)

Purple patchwork Liberty purse

If you're interested in having a go at making a purse like these ones, U-Handbag has a great kit called the 'easy peasy purse making kit', which is what I bought to make my first one (although I used my own fabric and made life harder for myself by doing a patchwork version...). You can also get more purse frames and all the glues and interfacing you need at U-Handbag.

If you didn't want to buy the whole kit to make a purse using this pattern, its also available as a PDF download. Another great place to get purse frames and other bag making supplies is Bag Clasps, which is also UK based and has a great range of reasonably-priced materials.

Hope you enjoy making a purse if you give it a go, I'm going to get around to making one for me at some point! :)

Friday, 30 November 2012

An ode to Instagram...

I've been a bit absent from my blog for a while, which is something I'm hoping to put right over the next few weeks.  One of the places I've been while I've not been blogging is Instagram (or IG to its friends and people short of space).

Spinning Leicester Longwool locks
My first IG photo - me spinning some curly yarn

If you haven't already heard of it, Instagram is an app for smartphones that allows you to edit photographs you've taken on your phone using various effects (called filters), which can turn out some arty and retro-looking results.  Once you've edited your photo, you share the pictures with other IG users and also via Twitter and Facebook, if you feel that way inclined.

A relatively new development is a web-based IG profile that people can view online, even if they don't have a smartphone with the Instagram app.  Mine is here and you can see all my photos and the conversations that I've had with people about my pictures.

Hunstanton hovercraft Beach hut at Hunstanton Cley windmill Sophie B on the beach at Cley
A recent holiday to Norfolk condensed into four Instagram photos

Instagram sounds simple enough, but its quite addictive and part of the fun is in finding other Instagram-ers taking photos that you like, so that you can follow their photo stream and chat to them if you're feeling friendly.  I follow a mixture of crafters, artists, cat people, rabbit people, horse people and people who tell a great story through their photos and captions.

It was inevitable that there would be cats on Instagram, since the internet as a whole is groaning with cat photos.  I've only taken a couple of cat photos so far, as I don't currently have a cat of my own and I have to either bother other people's cats, or find cat-related things to photograph...

Crabpot Books cat 
Hassling the shop cat for a photo at Crabpot Books in Norfolk

Junk shop kitten plate
One of a set of four (almost irresistible) kitten plates at a junk shop in Ulverston

One of my recent obsessions is patchwork quilting, which I got into entirely thanks to Instagram.  I started seeing pictures of amazing modern-looking quilts and other patchwork projects that people were working on and photographing as they went along.  I was soon following several inspiring quilters and learning about things I'd never heard of before, like English paper piecing, basting, batting and binding.

It wasn't long before I was up to my neck in fabric and new sewing supplies...
Basting my first ever hexagons Cutting up Liberty fabric for a quilt New rotary cutter Pile of lovely Liberty fabrics
Clockwise from top left: basting hexagons for English paper piecing... cutting squares for patchwork and shredding the scraps for spinning... amassing quite a stash of Liberty tana lawn fabric... playing with my new Tru-Cut rotary cutter

And then it wasn't too much longer before I had my first completed project, which is a frame purse made from square patchwork scraps of Liberty tana lawn fabric...
Pink square patchwork Liberty fabric clutch purse
I made this!  I'm quite proud... :)

So its been worthwhile getting into Instagram, just to discover a new craft that hadn't been on my radar before. I've made another patchwork frame purse, which I'll blog about separately so that I can include links to the places I found tutorials, supplies etc and I've got several other patchwork projects in the pipeline that I'm excited about. I just need to get on and do them!