Thursday, 30 July 2015

Hubba Hubba: A quilt for a special little girl - Part 1

I love making quilts for people and have attempted, somewhat successfully, to give quilts to my close friend's children on their birthday. With one such first birthday coming up in October, I recently set about piecing a quilt. What makes this quilt especially important is that the baby's mother is one of my closet friend's who lost a baby girl late in her pregnancy the year before. Often it is only through tragedy that we can appreciate the gifts we have. 

As most good project do, this one started off with the purchasing of a couple of cute Hubba Hubba charm packs during a Hobby Sew pre-cuts sale. I love the bold colours that still have a girly feel, perfect for a quilt intended to follow a child through to the teenage years. Having spent a lot of my quilting time on appliqué designs I was keen to try a more complicated pieced quilt and eventually settled on this one from the Moda Bake Shop, but half the size. I don't even know the name of this block, but I should end up with a roughly 40" x 50" quilt. Seemed easy enough; charm squares paired with some cute spotted fabric to tone down the sometimes extremely bright prints. I generally really enjoy the cutting out stage of making a quilt. I love cracking out the graph paper and working out how many metres of fabric I need to get the bits I want. In this case however; I think I underestimated the time it would take to do the blocks properly. They are small, cute and a little fiddly. 

My workroom can often be a busy space. Between my dog and children there is almost constant interruptions and distractions. Given that I didn't have much fabric to spare with this quilt I was keen to avoid mistakes at any cost and to find an efficient way to work through the various steps. The quilt is made from 80 charm squares which are initially sewn to 80 5"squares of spotty fabric. I thus decided to do each step 80 (and ultimately 320, but 80 sounds better) times. 

The first stage was easy, sew the 5" squares together all around the edge then cut twice through the diagonal. Great. I then pressed these now triangles into squares. Not too bad. Then it got tough. I now had 320 squares that needed to be trimmed to 3". Ouch. No kidding, I think I aggravated an old wrist injury from holding the ruler still. Lucky I started the project so early as I am not progressing anywhere near as fast as anticipated. I've just had to do a little bit here and there when I've had time so as not to ruin my body in the process. It's done now though and I'm almost half way through sewing two quarters together to form two halves. The rest of the quilt should come together a lot quicker, right??

Here is the lowdown on this little girl's quilt. 

  • 2 x Hubba Hubba charm packs (80 squares used)
  • 1 x 1/2 yard of four different spotty fabrics = 2 yards (I'm going to use the leftovers for binding). Cut these into 20 x 5" squares per fabric.
  1. Sew charm pack pieces to spotty pieces with a 1/4" seem all around the edge.
  2. Cut the sewn squares in half diagonally, twice. 
  3. Press these now triangles into smaller squares.
  4. Trim the now 320 squares to 3" making sure the seem is centred diagonally.
  5. Sew into cute blocks pressing seems all the same way to make a pinwheel in the middle (this will be explained further in the next post).

I'm impatient to get through to the quilting stage of this project cause I have some grad plans to use my circular rulers along with some FMQ to create something pretty on top. But tell me, what are your tips for getting through the tedious trimming stage? I honestly think I would have died had I decided to do the quilt bigger.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Princess and the Pea - Quilt and Growth Chart

When my baby girl was born, my Mum had set a bit of a precedence with the Jack and the Bean Stalk growth chart she'd made for my son (see here). In true Big Mama style, she came out with this wondrous pair: matching Princess and the Pea cot quilt and growth chart. I had some input into the colour scheme but essentially this is all Big Mama's design and work. She has incorporated some machine embroidery to do Aimee's name and birth details but the majority is appliqué with free motion quilting. As is usual, I don't think the photos do the beautiful quilting justice so you'll just have to take my word for it. 

I love the thought of Aimee snuggling under this gorgeous quilt, all warm in her cot. These are true works of art and pieces I'm hoping Aimee will keep for years to come. I just wish she had kept the pattern pieces from the appliqué! I think there'd totally be a market there.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Easiest Quilt I've Ever Made

As stupid as it sounds, I totally get mummy guilt when I spend too much time sewing, even if half the time the children are in the room with me playing. In an attempt to free myself of said guilt, yesterday I made my son a play-mat quilt. He is a three year old boy so the obvious choice was Lightening Mcqueen!

Here are the instructions.

1. Buy licensed panel from fabric store and accompanying themed fabric to go on the back.
2. Sandwich together with your choice of batting.
3. Quilt as simply or as detailed as you feel you have the time and inclination for.
4. Bind in matching colour.

For mine, I did the equivalent of 'in the ditch' stitching around the black border, a larger stipple all over the centre and wavy lines with intermittent stars in the red border.

Done. Love. Happy days.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Sewing through ones finger - A right of passage or what not to do?

I finally did it. I sewed through my finger today. Middle finger on my right hand. I was using a quilting ruler, it got a bit stuck on a seam, and in went my finger. Ouch! In fact it's not so bad. Only hurt really to start with. Very strange seeing an entry and exit point though. What worried me more was that I got a drop of blood on the quilt I was working on. All fixed now but it certainly added to the drama in my house this evening.

What I was wondering though, have I just passed some sort of sewing right of passage? Did I just earn my self a little quilting kudos? Or on the other hand, am I being a bit careless? The stupid part is that I own a special poking tool to keep those fingers out of the way. Add to that, yesterday I dropped my sewing scissors and stabbed another finger on the same hand. What's going on? I'm claiming sewing kudos cause I'll sure as anything be back on the machine in the morning!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Helicopter Appliqué Quilt - a lesson on selecting fabric and colours. - UPDATED

It's a common problem: Find a quilting design I love, decide to replicate, can't find the same fabric. Solution: Do it from your stash!

This gorgeous appliquéd and pieced quilt was made for a friend's baby on the occasion of his 1st birthday (see here for what I made his older brother). The design comes from 'Cherished Quilts for Babies and Kids', produced under the Better Homes and Gardens label, but I've completely changed the colour scheme. And what an agonising process it was picking all those fabrics!

As mentioned in my previous blog, I'm a fabric addict, probably like anyone reading this piece. I buy up things I like when on sale so that hopefully my overall production costs will be a bit less. For themed appliqué like this, I find fat quarter bundles a real saviour; someone else has done the hard part of matching the complementary fabrics. Despite this, it did take me a long time to select exactly which fabrics I would use. Main considerations are:
  1. Do I have enough? Particularly relevant for binding, which is the same fabric I used for the helicopter body. 
  2. Does the pattern look ok given the size of the pieces? i.e. small vs large pattern.
  3. Do the fabrics match given their locations on the quilt? Nothing worse than fabric standing out for the wrong reason.
  4. Take your time.
I started with the central appliqué panel and was clearly happy with the results. I was then unsure how to proceed with the rest of the quilt and happily found some white fabric with colourful spots that complimented the busy design nicely. As with all quilt piecing, photographing potential layout is a great way to see the overall look of a quilt before stitching it together. I also had great fun quilting this one with the square border blocks giving me ample opportunity to hone the FMQ skills. I couldn't have been happier with the finished product but let me tell you, I spent so long swapping potential fabrics in and out and seeing how they all went together. What did I learn? Do exactly that. Take your time and make sure you're happy BEFORE anything starts being cut out. Happy quilting!


After writing the above article, a family member asked me to make another quilt like this for a little boy who is about to be adopted into the family. At very short notice, this is what I came up with thanks to a cute charm pack and some leftovers! Which colour scheme do you prefer? The original or the replica? 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Quilting Rulers - what's the big deal??

I've been a fan of Free Motion Quilting since I got into quilting about four years ago. It's such a wonderful art-form and in all honesty, I draw better with my sewing machine than I do with a pencil in my hand. That all being said, I've always been interested in what machine quilting rulers had to offer. There are several types on the market and I have recently investigated the Westalee rulers. I chose this brand mostly because of their specially designed foot which prevents you from accidentally slipping and stitching over the rulers. They also have an excellent range of YouTube clips that show how to use their various rulers. Even better than that, they are entirely Australian owned and made. 

This is my favourite so far.
I started off with the sample pack of rulers to get a feel for the concept and how I may be able to use them in my quilting. It didn't take long for me to fall in love and imagine all sorts of ruler possibilities. The rulers are covered in various markings that mean each one can be used to create different designs. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to manipulate the ruler and fabric I was working with and the little grip strips you can purchase on the website held on nicely as I stitched. The new catalogue recently published shows endless possibilities for imaginative quilt blocks, borders and really anything you want. 
Perhaps the feature that most interests me is the way Free-Motion-Quilting can be integrated with the ruler work. The rulers give that precision that I love but also leave space for the free motion designs I've got so good at doing. Here are some cushion covers that were quilted to try out the rulers. The Westalee foot also fits really well on the Bernina low-shank adaptor I already had - but are available for all machines. 

The most difficult part for me when using the rulers, is regulating my stitch length. I've been totally lazy lately and have been using the Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) for all my quilting. This is not a major issue as I used to do a fair bit of quilting without the BSR, but pedal regulation is a skill I need to brush up on.

Now I'm desperate to piece a few quilts so I can practice more ruler work!

Friday, 15 May 2015

Fabric addicts 101
I just love that feeling of having an idea for a new quilting or craft project, walking to the sewing room and having all the supplies there ready to go. It's easy and means you can take advantage of the inspiration at hand. That my friends, is why a fabric stash of reasonable size is a necessity of any serious or hobby quilter/crafter.

Is it possible to own enough fabric? And how on earth does one ever manage to stop buying it? I'm a money conscious mama - so I like to buy on sale. But as my husband likes to remind me, how much of a saving is it if that fabric just sits in a drawer. He just doesn't get it. How will I ever be inspired if I don't have pretty patterns to look at? And I will use it... one day...

I love the perfection of seeing folded yards of fabric and neat little fat quarters all in matching patterns and colours. Never be ashamed of your stash. I always think that there are worse things I could spend my (or my husbands) money on. And, perhaps more important than anything else; it makes me happy!

Where to buy?
So I've heard that fabric is about to go up in the USA. This will no doubt carry over here, especially with the low Australian Dollar. Never the less, the Fat Quarter Shop is a must visit website. It's important to buy up big to balance out the cost of postage, but that's not hard. Check out the sale items as you can filter by percentage off.

Closer to home, Craft Depot is a cracker. They have sales all the time and clear fabric for $5 and $10 per metre. The postage is reasonable and they ship really quickly. Get on their mailing list so you know when sales are on as right now, they have an extra 20% off all fabrics except the $5 ones. I may have bought nine metres of beautiful, modern florals.... on the spur of the moment.... whoops...

Got these during a precuts sale at Hobby Sew
Locally, I try to stay away from Spotlight and Lincraft unless I'm getting something simple or something that requires huge quantities. Unfortunately the nearest Spotlight to me is in NSW (across the state line) and the closest Lincraft is crazy small and completely disorganised. Thankfully, Canberra has a couple of smaller shops that have a fantastic range of fabrics. My favourite is Hobby Sew. Not only do they do online orders, but the store is jam packed with precious fabric. It also helps that the staff are friendly and knowledgeable. It's vital to be on their mailing list as they regularly put out catalogues with some great deals.

Please post pictures of your fabric stash. Where is it? In boxes? Oh shelves or in drawers like mine??