Category Archives: Patchwork and quilting

My first mini quilt is finished

I have spent several weeks, now, making my first mini quilt. This one measures 16 x 20 inches, and by ‘mini’ standards, it’s quite large  🙂  But it’s quite tricky enough for me, considering I haven’t made any mini quilts before. The only quilt I’ve ever made was 35 years ago, when I was 15, and I spent a whole winter hand-stitching a ‘grandmother’s fan’ design for a single bed, then hand quilting it….I ended up getting so bored with doing it, that as soon as it was completed, I gave it away to my cousin.

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So, mini quilts seemed more attractive, when I got back into this hobby recently, as I was under the impression that a small quilt might be quicker too do. Maybe.

This design is one from a design pack of nine by Lori Smith of  ‘From My Heart to Your Hands’. All the designs are nice, but this one attracted me. I have changed the tonal value placement slightly, but still kept to the basically red tones. (It’s the one on the top right in the image below.)

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Considering I felt at times that I didn’t know what I was doing, I am really pleased with how this has come out. The instructions in the leaflet were clear enough, but I am not patient enough to unpick seams when they are ‘off’, and it really shows in the finished quilt.

It’s very squiffy  😛

The points of the stars are often cut off at the tips, for instance. This is because, when I was pairing up the triangles before stitching them, I ‘evened up’ the seam allowances, instead of butting one triangle against the edge that would be fully in the seam allowance, if you see what I mean. Once I realised what was happening, I should have ditched what I had sewn together, re-cut more pieces, and started again – but I couldn’t be bothered, because I wanted to see it finished.  So, now I can see it finished for ages…with cut-off points. Hmm. I think I can learn something from this!

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Also, if I had made just one block first to check I was doing it right, I could have eliminated some of the problems, but again, no patience! I got all blocks to the same stage before looking at what I was doing, and sometimes what I was doing was daft. However, I’m trying to see this piece as very much a ‘learning project’, not something that I’m going to put on sale, or on display, or anything. OK, so I am showing it to hundreds of people on this blog, but still! And I did really enjoy myself making it.

The fabric was lovely to stitch with – it was from the Fat Quarter Shop, in the USA. I’ve since found a couple of places in the UK to buy reproduction prints from, but these *are* really lovely, if pricey to import to the UK.

This design uses only four fat quarters for the top, and another one for the backing. It was hard to decide which fabric to use for the backing , as I felt I was kind of  ‘wasting it’ by putting a good fabric on the reverse of the quilt, but now it’s finished, I’m glad I used a fabric that really tones with the front, rather than just a plain piece of any old kind of cotton that I had as a leftover from something else.

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I used Quilters Dream Poly batting, and I think that next time I’ll use 100% cotton – it seemed a bit thick and ‘bouncy’ to quilt through, and several online reviews that I have seen recommend 100% cotton. It cost about £5 for a pack 46 x 36 inches, from cottonpatch.co.uk, so I could get another mini quilt out of the piece if I wanted to.

I loved doing the quilting more than the patchwork. That must be the embroiderer in me, I think! Just sitting with a betweens needle in my hand, doing a simple running stitch for hours was great, and I am getting very tempted to try a wholecloth design next. My quilting stitch is still too large and meandering for my liking, but I’m prepared to work on that.

I encountered two problems with the quilting. One was that I used a pink Clover chalk pencil to transfer the design onto the fabric at first, through a stencil, but I found that the lead kept breaking. So I switched to a ‘dressmaker’s pencil’ instead. Both types are supposed to be able to be washed out afterwards. When the quilt was complete, I hand washed it with Stergene. The pink chalk has come out completely, but in some places, the grey lead of the other pencil still shows a bit. I think, now, that the Stergene has ‘set’ the pencil marks.

The other problem was that I chose a small cable design for the border – on a very busy floral print. Hmm. I have since found out that this is something that beginners often do – they choose a fancy pattern and put it on a fancy fabric, and it hardly shows up at all! But it was fun to do. In the centre of the quilt I just highlighted parts of the design with lines of straight stitching. I couldn’t manage ‘stitching in the ditch’, as I’d pressed all the seam allowances over to one side, so it ended up being quite bulky (pressing the seams open would have been better, but I didn’t plan ahead). So, I stitched ‘near to the ditch’ instead.

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In the end, as a first patchwork piece, I am very pleased with how it’s come out, despite the trials I had with it. Several other mini quilts are already being planned, so I can’t have been put off all that much  🙂

Book Review: “Civil War Legacies; Quilt patterns for reproduction fabrics”, by Carol Hopkins

I bought this book recently when I was in Birmingham, in the Cotton Patch shop, getting my ‘basic supplies’ for quilting. OK, I know this book isn’t necessarily ‘basic’, but I’d been reading the reviews on Amazon, and drooling over the photos in it, so when I saw the actual book in the shop, I couldn’t just leave it there, could I?!

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The book is a large format paperback of 80 pages (cost me £14, but the price varies online from £12 to £19). The book has 15 smallish quilt designs, with detailed instructions, fabric requirements, piecing directions, and so on. Average finished size of the quilts is about 22 x 28 inches – these are wall quilts, not bed quilts, which is exactly what I want to make. The back half a dozen pages give information on quilting basics, but I found that they were a bit too brief for me, as a beginner. That said, however, Carol does give a very useful tip for making ‘flying geese’ units (a triangle with two smaller triangles sewn to the short sides), using only a rectangle and two squares instead and then stitching diagonally across the squares and flipping back the squares across the diagonal to make the triangles, which means that the fabric is less likely to stretch out of shape, and more likely to end up the correct size. I have tried the ‘traditional’ way, and got in a real mess with it, so I was pleased to see this better method explained.

This is the quilt I want to make first (I could make all of them though – they’re so scrummy!). It’s called ‘Lincoln’s Logs’, and doesn’t have even ONE triangle in it (easier for a beginner).

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I’ve already bought some fabric – this is from a range called Chateau Rouge, by Moda fabrics. I bought mine on Ebay – if you live in the USA, you can buy it easily all over the place. In the UK, nothing’s ever that easy!

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Later on, I’d like to make this quilt from the book, too.

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And this one……

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You may have guessed, red is my favourite colour  🙂

The book is great, and a good incentive for me to practice basic techniques so that I can progress on to more complicated designs. A lot of ‘basic’ patchwork books have designs in that just aren’t my style – cot quilts, and ‘bright pastels’ that just put me off. But this book has muted, refined designs that are so lovely, I could make them all (time permitting). The instructions are really clear, and the pictures, as you can see above, are gorgeous. Well worth getting!

Title: Civil war Legacies: Quilt patterns for reproduction fabrics

Author: Carol Hopkins

Publisher: That Patchwork Place (imprint of Martingale & Company)

ISNB: 978 1 60468 057 7 (Paperback, 80 pages)

Price: US$24.99 (about £14 in the UK

Starting my first mini quilt

This is the first mini quilt that I’ve decided to make – it’s the design in the top right hand corner of the pattern pack shown below – the one with the red floral border.

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It’s a design by Lori Smith, of From My Heart to Your Hands, in the USA. She sells loads of pattern packs for all kinds of quilts. This pack, for nine quilts, cost $12, plus $4 shipping to the UK. Many of her designs are small (this pattern pack features designs that are all 16 x 20 inches each when finished). That’s exactly the kind of sized quilt that I want to make. Much bigger than that, and I’m going to run out of house space really fast!

I want to change the colours slightly – partly because it’s just impossible to get the same fabrics that any designers feature in their photos, but also because I fancy using a more subdued palette. I bought two fat quarter packs of reproduction design fabrics from the Fat Quarter Shop in the USA to begin with. These are in beautiful shades of maroon, red, stone, plum, olive and the odd highlight of orange.

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I washed all the fabrics before I started to use them, in case they might shrink later, or the colours might run.

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Lori’s patttern packs assume you have a basic knowledge of doing patchwork (nope, not really, but I have a beginner’s book called ‘Start Quilting’ by Alex Anderson, which helped fill the gaps). Lori’s instructions are  clear, though.

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I had a good hour or so cutting up the fabrics I’d chosen into squares and rectangles, but now I’ve got the rather scary prospect of stitching them all together to make something worthwhile.

Hmm, I think it’s time for some chocolate….

Starting out in my new quilting hobby

Well, as usual, once I decide I want to do something, I want to do it NOW!!

I spent hours surfing the internet for information about patchwork and quilting, and found some wonderful fabrics, but somehow I felt I needed to actually TALK to someone before getting some basic supplies in (other than my recent impulse purchases of some fat quarter packs from the USA). But I don’t know anybody who does patchwork. In the USA, patchwork and quilting is a huge hobby, with fabric shops just for patchwork fabric in every town, it seems. Not so in the UK.

However, I struck lucky. Each month, I go from Staffordshire, where I live, to Birmingham (about 50 miles), in order to do Dances of Universal Peace with a lovely group of people. I’ve been going for nearly four years, now. As I was surfing for patchwork fabric shops, I came across a really good one called The Cotton Patch, which also has a ‘bricks and mortar’ shop in Birmingham. Just out of interest, I checked on Google Maps to see if it would be possible to make a detour on the day I was in Birmingham for the dancing, to visit the shop. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I realised that the Cotton Patch shop is literally a hundred yards from the hall where I go for the dancing. I actually go past the door every month, but I’ve never noticed it before. Doh!!

So, last ‘dancing day’, I went armed with a list (I always have a list). In the lunch break, I sneaked off and had a wonderful 45 minutes in the shop, doing the equivalent of a trolley dash (except I had to pay for what I chose!). The woman on the till in the shop was really helpful, and advised me which books to get to start me off, which rulers would be good, which thread and wadding, etc. I had a great time.

This is the book she recommended:

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It’s called Start Quilting with Alex Anderson, and it’s got all the information I need to get started, and eight beginners’ projects. They’re not really my style (especially the bright colourways), but I can see that they carefully teach the basics in a planned way. Rotary cutting is dealt with, and how to piece the quilt so that it lays flat. Both hand and machine quilting are covered (I want to do hand quilting). Each project builds on the skills from the one before. The final project in the book is a sampler quilt, using blocks from all of the previous seven projects. It’s a great book to start out with – 48 pages for £10.95.

There's lots of info on rotary cutting the fabric for your quilt

There’s lots of info on rotary cutting the fabric for your quilt

All the projects are suitable for beginners

All the projects are suitable for beginners

The final project is for a quilt which contains all the blocks taught earlier in the book

The final project is for a quilt which contains all the blocks taught earlier in the book

Now I’m back to surfing the internet for the perfect fabric…..