Another Quilting Weekend

So our longed for weekend quilting retreat at the Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton finally arrived and then zip, there it was in the rearview mirror.  But oh, it was glorious while it lasted.

Angie and I went to our first quilting weekend way back in November of last year, so we knew what to expect, but that didn’t make it any the less enjoyable.  For Tracy, it was her first opportunity to see for herself what we had been chattering on about for the previous six months.  I’m sure she enjoyed herself because she tells me she is boring the pants off her non-quilting pals with talk of it.  We all three revelled in our time there.

If first experience had taught us anything, it was not to try and rush through to the end of our chosen projects, but to take our time and enjoy the journey.

Tracy began work on a full size quilt made up of sawtooth stars.  She dipped in and out of other work but still managed to create a good number of them.  She took her pattern from a monthly quilting magazine.  I know she told me the name, but I’ve forgotten it, so I’ll have to refresh my memory with the details when we next get together.

Angie decided to do a little scrap busting and got most of a table topper quilt done – I think it just needs some outer border fabric to finish it off.  The pattern she used was the ‘Mosaic Ohio Star Quilt’ by Jackie Taylor.  With that done, she then began making splendidly large flying geese blocks towards a full size scrappy quilt called ‘Due South’ taken from a new quilting book from Carrie Nelson  ‘Miss Rosie’s Farmhouse Favourites.’  (Lovely title.)

My Civil War Sampler will also be a full sized quilt one day too. Although I’m in no particular hurry to complete it, I still managed to get twelve 8” blocks completed towards the fifty that i need, so I’m happy with my progress.  I also managed to finish the quilt top of my medallion quilt, ‘President’s Pride‘. (More about that in a later blog)

Jackie Taylor, from White Cottage Country Crafts, organises the weekends, and her passion for her craft is infectious.  Her unfailing patience and good humoured approach are at the centre of why we had such a good time.

In the company of such a group of skilful sewists from across the country it was fascinating to wander around the workstations and see what was being created.  When I complimented one lady on her work she said she had been quilting for thirty years, never losing her enthusiasm and still learning. How marvellous is that!

Preparing for our Weekend Away

Our quilting retreat weekend at The Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton is at the end of this week, and we’ve been preparing the projects we want to work on.  Tracy has cut out all of her pieces ready for sewing (so organised) while I’ve been pulling together a collection of fabrics to make a start on a sampler quilt.  I have Barbara Brackman’s ‘Civil War Sampler’ on Kindle, but I decided there’s nothing like a hard copy for ease of use, so I bought the book as well.

Angie has taken a laid back approach to it all and had decided to wait until the weekend arrives to be inspired.  At our last sewing group she did narrow her choices down to just a few, but In the meantime she’s been having a big push to finish all her UFO’s.  She bought a fabulous ladder display unit to hang her quilts from, and I think that’s been part of her motivation to get going.

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I’ve taken out the Medallion quilt, President’s Pride, which I began while on our last retreat in November, to try to get that up and running again.  All it needs is the last border of 4½” shoo fly blocks sewn on all the way around and then it’s ready for batting and backing. I seem to have the attention span of a firefly at the moment with so many UFO’s at all stages of development it’s time I set my shoulder to the wheel too.

We’ve been having a bit of fun making some bags to hold our equipment.  One of them is from a pattern I found on Craftsy called the Bionic Gear Bag.  It’s as eccentric as it sounds, but it really is a clever thing with loads of zip pockets, a fold down ‘tray’ at the front and some nifty little accessories to go with it.  One of them is called a Dumpling Dish but it reminds me more of a Cornish pasty when it’s zipped up.

Not long to go now….  I can’t wait.  (Tracy’s had her suitcase packed and ready for days!)

Westering Women IV

I backed and quilted the four sections of my Westering Women quilt and now came the task of joining those sections together using my chosen method.  There are loads of ‘quilt-as-you-go’ tutorials on the internet, and they tend to differ depending upon the project they’re being applied to.  The tutorials that most closely matched my needs were….   Lily’s Quilts,  Lawson and Lotti  and  RocknQuilts  ….and I am grateful to the authors for their inspiration.  By the way, this is nowise a tutorial.  It’s simply an account of how I got on the first time I attempted a ‘quilt-as-you-go’ method and the problems I encountered along the way.

My goal was to quilt each section of patchwork as much as I could before joining them, but leaving at least one inch unquilted all round the edges.  (Since my quilt has 1” sashing strips it was easy to gauge this distance for some of them.)  I used a combination of ditch quilting and an overall wavy design on each block.  If the ‘quilt-as-you-go’ technique worked for me, I hoped to gain the confidence to maybe try more complicated designs on my domestic sewing machine in the future.

At the edges where my first two sections were to be joined I trimmed the batting and backing to ½” wider than the front fabric.  (The first time I did this I trimmed to 1″ wider but I found it to be way too big a margin and just got in the way, so I reduced it.)

Next, I pinned back the backing and batting out of the way, matched my points, and sewed the two sections together.  Because I left at least an inch unquilted I found I could easily overlap the excess batting and backing so the sections lay flat and I could press my new seam properly.

I laid out the joined sections face down, folded back the backing fabric only and pinned it out of the way.  I soon realised I had nothing to tell me if my front fabric was laid out okay underneath so I made sure to keep on gently pulling and spreading the two sections to keep the quilt top fabric properly taut.

I found the next step a bit tricky.  The tutorials say to overlap the batting and then cut through them so that the two sides butt up against each other.  Putting a metal ruler between the batting and the back of the fabric gave me the peace of mind so I wouldn’t accidentally slice through my quilt top.  All the same my heart was in my mouth when I picked up my scissors for the first time.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get this to work for me properly.  There always seemed to be a bit more overlap than I wanted, so I had to use my small scissors to trim tiny adjustments so the batting edges would butt up and lie flat.  As I periodically slid the ruler up along the seam line, I kept on making sure the fabric underneath was properly spread out each time.

I wanted to make sure that the edges of the batting would stay flat so I took my work to the ironing board and applied some joining tape.  I used ‘Heat Press Batting Together’ ¾” wide tape, and it does just what it says.  I tested it out on a sample of the batting fabric first to make sure it gave a strong enough join and that I’d got the iron at the correct temperature.  The weave of the tape itself is quite fine so I don’t think it adds much in the way of bulk to the quilt sandwich.

I used a small travel iron to apply heat to the tape, but next time I think I’ll dig out my clover iron.  It might save me a trip to the ironing board and from having to rearrange and spread everything out again when I get there.

My last step was to turn under and press one of the backing fabric edges by ½” then hand stitch the seam closed.  Again, I thought it important to keep making sure the quilt top and batting layers were properly spread out beneath.  I found that when I slid the top piece of my old darning mushroom under the quilt it was much easier to push my needle through and it kept the fabric layers taut at the same time. (My mushroom actually looks more like a toadstool.)

It was back to my sewing machine to finish off the quilting across my new seam.  I could still get to it easily enough, albeit with a little pushing and pulling.  Then it was onwards and upwards to join sections three and four in the same way.  Because I’d got plenty of batting and backing still all around the sides I was able to add a narrow border and finish off my Westering Women quilt with a flange binding.

It’s fiddly, it’s time consuming, but it works for me.  I know that I can complete just about any size quilt on my domestic sewing machine from start to finish. Right now, I’ve got a smile on my face to rival the Cheshire Cat.

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Link to previous Westering Women post
Link to first Westering Women post

Westering Women III

It’s been a while since I posted anything about the Westering Women BoM series I’ve been following.  I’d like to say an insane fear of ‘Y’ seams is the reason for my lack of progress, but the truth is more prosaic. (Although ‘Y’ seams are still a bane to me.)

Summer holidays and Christmas derailed my timetable plus I became taken with other projects.  Before I knew it I was already three blocks behind with the last block due at the end of December.  So, after all the festivities were over, I turned a new leaf and made a determined effort to catch up.

Some of the blocks needed Y seams if they were to be made in the way the instructions said. But I cast about and found alternative methods that served the purpose and I’m really pleased with the outcome.  (Block 8: Chimney Rock and Block 9: Sagebud for Fort Laramie were the headache). By the time the December block was published I’d caught up (Block 12: Road to California) and I’ve completed the full set, so right now I’m feeling a little smug.

I’ve made a start on the sashing and found some nice silver grey fabric for the backing.  Once the blocks are all sewn into rows, I’m going to put this quilt together in the same quilt-as-you-go fashion as my Jackleberries quilt.

Barbara Brackman has already announced her new Block of the Month series.  It’s called Yankee Diary, and she’s already put up a post about it’s design along with fabric recommendations.  I’m looking forward to the first block being posted.  One of my many new year resolutions for 2017 is to keep up with making them as they are published at the end of each month… (we’ll see how that works out!)

Link to previous Westering Women post….

Jackleberries II

I’ve completed all the blocks that make up the original Jackleberries quilt now. It’s been awhile since I started this project because I’ve put it to one side in favour of other stuff so often.

Since I only want to make a tablecloth for my dining room, and the Jackleberries pattern is for  a double bed quilt size, I don’t need all the blocks I’ve done, so I auditioned them to see which ones I wanted to keep by laying them out on the table top. I’ll use the leftovers for something else, maybe a cover for my sewing desk. I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve always known that I wouldn’t be able to get even a tablecloth-sized quilt under the arm of my sewing machine. It’s just not large enough, so I’ve been doing some research on the net about ‘quilt-as-you-go’. But there are so many different techniques that come under the umbrella of that name it’s really quite bewildering.

After a lot of thought I decided to use a method where I sew together my blocks into manageable ‘panel’ sizes, so I can quilt each of them individually and then join them into a whole afterwards. For me it’s a bit of an experiment, but at least I’ll be able to manipulate the panels under my machine. I’m not doing free motion quilting, just lines and patterns using my walking foot, and each panel won’t be quilted to the edges where they have to join to the next. I’m hoping I can manage to merge the quilting lines so these joins won’t be noticeable once sewn together.

So that’s where I’m at for now. I’ve added lightweight bamboo batting and a busy patterned backing fabric to each panel, and I’m working my way through quilting them -although I’ve got a feeling that Christmas makes might mean I put my Jackleberries quilt to one side again soon.

 

Link to previous Jackleberries post…

A Quilting Weekend

No sooner home than off again, with Angie this time, for a glorious weekend of nothing but sewing from morning to night amongst like-minded people.  Jackie Taylor from White Cottage Country Crafts organises regular weekend quilting workshops at the Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton. They’re very popular, and from the moment we arrived we could see why.

We dumped our suitcases into our smart single hotel rooms and headed straight for the conference centre. As we set up our sewing machines in the spacious room, we were greeted with afternoon tea and coffee with biscuits – just the ticket – and that set the tone for the whole weekend. The sewing room was open to us for as long as we wanted to sew, and our only interruptions were for meals and tea breaks – breakfast, lunch and three course evening meals – a feast of good food every time.

Jackie had already emailed us with some suggestions as to what we might like to make, although there were plenty of people just doing their own thing. Everyone there was pursuing their passion for sewing, which made for good company all round, and we soon realised that some people had travelled long distances to be there.

I decided to make ‘President’s Pride’ a medallion quilt from Mary Etherington and Connie Tesene’s book ‘Civil War Remembered’. I was told it was a good choice but that I’d have to get my skates on if I wanted to finish it over the weekend. By Saturday evening I realised I wasn’t going to get it done, so I just relaxed and carried on carefully sewing my blocks to see how many I could do without rushing. I decided to put it away until after Christmas when I got home. I’ll pull it out again when I’ve got my Jackleberries quilt finished.

Angie chose to do the bed sized ‘Sophie’s Quilt,’ a White Cottage Country Crafts original pattern, using ‘The Cookie Exchange’ fabrics by Moda. They’re a lovely bright and breezy Christmas collection, and she soon got down to business. She’d almost finished the quilt top by the time we were ready for home.

As the weekend progressed we saw some lovely quilts coming together. A large area in the centre of the room had been left open so people could lay out their work on the carpet to get an idea of how things were coming together and to rearrange blocks before sewing. On Sunday we took the opportunity to meander around other people’s desks to see what they’d been up to. Though many had been coming to these workshops for a number of years, and we were complete newcomers, still we knew we were among friends. Angie says quilters tend to be gentle folk and I tend to agree.

Throughout the days we were there Jackie was on hand to give advice, encouragement and suggestions so help was always at hand – she’s a great teacher. I know we’ll be back for more of the same when the next quilting weekend comes along (because we’ve already booked!!)

Angie has finished her beautiful quilt now. As a bonus she bought extra fabric and magicked up another complete quilt top, based on the disappearing nine patch pattern, for use as her backing. It’s double quilted too for extra warmth.

Barbara’s Cushion

Barbara joined our group as a complete rookie.  She cheerfully admitted she’d never done any serious sewing but was fascinated by some of the projects the rest of us were working on and wanted to have a go herself. Her first ever piece was a hand sewn snowman she completed from scratch, learning to do blanket stitch along the way and getting a feel for working with fabric. (She’ll hate me for showing a picture of it, but by the time she sees it it’ll be too late.)

When Barbara purchased her sewing machine from DC Nutt in Bloxwich it was a leap of faith for her, as she’d only had a little practice on some of ours.  We all pitched in and taught her the basics of how to operate it, and it wasn’t long before she was sewing a passable quarter inch seam. I taught her how to sew a small change purse, and the result turned out pretty good, although I do wish I’d planned it better. (I’m not really much of a teacher.) Luckily, Angie was on hand to keep the train on the tracks.

On our day out at Malvern, Barbara picked out some lovely Rose & Hubble fabric and Angie helped her choose some more in different designs and shade of blue to complement her purchase. It was Liz who steered Barbara in the direction of a disappearing nine patch project and taught her how to properly rotary cut.  By the time I went on holiday she’d sewn her nine  patches together.  While I was away she cut, rearranged and sewed her blocks then Tracy helped her make the ‘envelope’ closure for the back of her project.

I received an email from Barbara telling me she’d finished her cushion, and she attached a picture.  Unfortunately, due to some international gremlin in the works, I was only able to see a tantalising top inch of it because the picture wouldn’t open properly.

What makes me proud is how our little sewing group pulled together to help Barbara develop her skills, and I’m very pleased to reveal her first proper sewing project.  A  delightful blue cushion that I’m told now resides on the back seat of her car for all the world to admire.  I can’t wait to see what she makes next.

Florida Holiday III

I’ve returned from my holiday now, and settled back in at home. I did visit one other quilt shop while I was over in Florida –  Flash Sew and Quilt in Fort Myers on the west coast. It’s a great place, full of lovely fabrics, patterns and notions, and an active workshop was in full swing on the day I went there. I heartily recommend it as a place to visit, but unfortunately I only have a picture of the store front as my phone battery died after that.

What I did notice in Florida is the pattens and fabrics on offer mostly seemed to be bright, breezy and colourful. I didn’t see many patterns for projects based on Civil War colours. Maybe it’s something to do with the quality of the light there, i dunno really.

On the home front, I needed a bit of a breather to recover from jet lag. But a couple of days later I was itching to meet up with my quilting pals and see what they’d been up to. I was amazed at their sheer productivity. Tracy had made a lovely hourglass blocks quilt from start to finish, and Angie, my word, had been busy sewing loads of Christmas goodies for friends and family plus a gorgeous appliqué Christmas quilt.  I can see I’d better put my skates on.

… link to previous Florida Holiday post

… link to Florida Holiday II

Florida Holiday II

Since I’m on holiday with two men in tow,  I know I can’t expect to visit every quilt shop in Florida.  (Even though I might like to!)  But when we reached Dunedin on the west coast I put my foot down with a firm hand.

While chatting, I heard about an aladdin’s cave of a store, right there in town, from a newbie quilter who worked on reception at the motel we stayed at. She told me she had been taking lessons there and just loved it, so of course, I simply had to check it out.

Rainbows End Quilt Shoppe in Dunedin really is a knockout place. Room after room piled high with fabrics all gathered together by colour. By the time I walked through to the second large room I had already picked up too many fat quarters to carry but I just couldn’t help myself. A kindly assistant came to my aid with a carry basket so then I had space to pick up even more.

In the furthest room I came across two lovely ladies working away on their quilts, so naturally I stopped to chat and to see what they were doing. One had appliquéd a succession of lovely pink teapot motifs onto hers and was busy hand quilting it. The other was in the midst of hand appliquéing every type of flower you could imagine in a succession of beautiful colours onto her quilt top. I was so in awe at the quality of their work.

I could have spent all day at Rainbows End, but instead I spent too much!!


… link to previous Florida Holiday post

… link to Florida Holiday III