Kitting up for an alphabet quilt

I have a soft spot for simple, old-fashioned cross stitch designs. I buy vintage ones whenever I can. This particular chart pack, though, has been in my stash for years, but I’ve only recently worked out what I can do with such a large design!

ABC 1

The chart pack was a free gift that came with World of Cross Stitching magazine, ages ago. It  is by Faye Whittaker, of All Our Yesterdays. She specialises in cute images of Edwardian-looking children, usually seen only from the back (so no fiddly facial features to stitch!). If it was stitched on 16 count evenweave, the chart says, the whole sampler would be 38 inches high. I haven’t got that much wall space left in my house if I made it as a picture, so I had to come up with a different idea for how to use this pretty cross stitch chart.

What I’ve decided to do with these designs is to make an alphabet lap quilt, with each letter stitched individually on white 28 count Zweigart Cashel linen fabric (over two). I then only have to handle small pieces of fabric at a time (9 x 9 inches cut size, for a finished 7 x 7 square), and not have to struggle with one huge piece, if I were to stitch the whole alphabet in one go. I estimate I will need one and a quarter metres of 55 inch wide fabric to make this though (the finished quilt will be about 39 by 65 inches, including the fabric borders).

Each letter will be bordered with a red fabric stripe, except for the corner squares between each letter, which will be a plain blue square. That’s the plan, anyway. For the cotton fabrics, I raided my stash and found these two red patterned fabrics, and the plain blue, which pick up colours from the threads to be used for the cross stitch.

ABC 2

Although I’ve attached the threads onto a DMC thread sorter, I’m actually using Anchor threads for this piece, so I had to use a conversion chart to work out the Anchor equivalents, as the colour key for the chart lists DMC thread colours.

ABC 3

The chart comes as one large foldout piece of paper, like a map. That’s quite tidy to store, but a nightmare to stitch from, so I’ll have to scan it all in and divide it up into the individual letters, to make it less unwieldy, and more portable.

ABC 4

The chart has an upper case alphabet (the one I’m going to stitch), and also a lower case one, for if you wanted to do door name plates, and so on, but I don’t think I’ll be using that.

I’ll need to make up two ‘extra’ motifs at some point, as I want to stitch seven rows of four squares, which is the 26 letters of the alphabet, plus two more at the bottom corners to balance the design. I think I’ll take two of the child motifs from within the chart, and adapt them a bit, changing the colourway, and making them look unique enough that most people won’t notice that they appear twice in the design. If I use one of a child who looks off to the left, for the right hand corner, and one who looks off to the right for the left hand corner, I reckon that should do it!

This will be a good project for when I’m out and about, as I could just take one letter with me at a time. So many of my stitching projects are kept on frames, and so aren’t very portable, but this can even be stitched in the hand, without needing a frame at all if I keep my stitch tension relaxed, as each letter is only about five inches wide and high.

It’s not a quick project, though, so expect only occasional updates!

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…and the results are in…..

Thanks so much to everyone who commented on my previous post, where I talked about the possibility of either expanding this blog from being only about embroidery to including posts about my three doll’s houses as well, or whether to start a second blog to write about them. That post became my ‘personal best so far’ as to comments – over four dozen of you commented, and it was really interesting to read all of your opinions.

It became quite clear, from reading them all, that the vast majority of those who commented would like me to combine the two themes – embroidery and the miniatures hobby – into this blog, rather than start a new blog for the minis. To be honest, I had set up a second blog, and written a couple of posts already (just not publicised it), but it wasn’t working for me, somehow.

This blog has been going since 2009, and I have a very large, regular readership now. I was a bit torn as to what to do, as I know that some of you are purely ‘stitchers’, and many of you do both hobbies. But as several of you said, to have two blogs would not only be more fiddly for you all to keep up with, but it would also be more work for me to maintain.

A couple of people also said that they like the idea that whatever I write about would be showing what I *as a person* am interested in at any one time, and I think that is what has been the most persuasive factor in my deciding to stick with the one blog.

This is the first mini-quilt that I made - it measures about 20 inches by 16
This is the first mini-quilt that I made – it measures about 20 inches by 16

For instance, in the past I have written a few times about patchwork and quilting, as I ‘dabbled’ a couple of years ago with that hobby (I still have three mini quilts kitted up, ready to make). And a couple of times I’ve talked about things that are completely ‘non-craftlike’, depending what occurs to me. So, to blend the blog’s usual topic of embroidery with other topics isn’t completely new, but I am definitely planning to do some different things in the coming months.

My Georgian style doll's house
My Georgian style doll’s house

I own three doll’s houses now – one was bought fully built and painted on the outside – I’ve had that one for 34 years, now! The other two have been bought in the past couple of years as flat-pack kits, so I intend to share my decorating and collecting stories with you. I have many doll’s house scale kits of various types (miniature flowers, furniture kits, dolls, etc.), which I will be doing kit reviews of, too.

But the blog posts to do with embroidery will still continue – my stash isn’t getting any smaller, despite me always making stuff – while I make one thing, I seem to buy two more projects, so there’s always lots of gorgeous things to create and then write about!

I’m aware that a few of you said that if the focus of the blog changed from being almost exclusively embroidery-based to being less focussed on stitching, then you might not follow it any more, but although that is your choice, I think that would be a shame, although I know I can’t please everyone all the time. But I’ve always found that the hobby of miniatures can appeal to lots of people, even if they don’t make things themselves – the attraction of the tiny just draws people in! So hopefully most of you will stay, and see what I write about….

A tiny doll's doll that I made from a kit from Tower House Dolls, which is only an inch and three-quarters tall
A tiny doll’s doll that I made from a kit from Tower House Dolls, which is only an inch and three-quarters tall

Thanks again for all the feedback, it really did help to clarify things for me.

 

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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.

4 Fabrics 1

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.

4 Fabrics 2

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

4 Fabrics 3

4 Fabrics 4

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.

4 Fabrics 6

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….

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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:

Starting 1

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…..

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