Sunday, September 30, 2012

Echo Stained - Ta Da!

Echo Stained

There she is, Echo Stained. This pattern is by Sarah from Narcoleptic in a Cupboard. I started this quilt as part of Sarah's Stained Quilt Along and finally, although I am one of those trailing along, I have finished it. That picture above is after she has been washed and dried.

Echo Stained

The fabrics are Echo by Lotta Jansdotter with Kona Charcoal as the sashing and the binding. I quilted along all the sashing lines. There was a lot of stopping, starting and turning. The quilt is about 42" x 53" so the quilting, although fussy, was quite doable.

Echo Stained - detail

I love how the washing makes it all bumpy and textured. I used a variegated grey-white-black Sulky thread for the quilting on the front and the back.

Echo Stained - detail

The coloured squares are nice and puffy so the quilt is soft and nice to use.

Echo Stained - back

I used an Ikea fabric on the back.

Echo Stained

This last picture is before I washed it.

Echo Stained is also my only finish for this quarter of Rhonda from Quilter in the Gap's Finish Along (you can see my optimistic list by clicking here) but since I love this little quilt so much I am good with that. The rest will roll over to the next list, as I love all the projects, but I tend to run out of time (at least that is my story and I am sticking with it).

And to show Echo Stained off a bit more I am also linking up at Katie From the Blue Chair's End of my Hallway link too. And tomorrow I will link her to {Sew} Modern Monday which Megan at Canoe Ridge Creations has restarted for fall - the button is on the right sidebar.

As always, each of these links will take you to other wonderful projects and inspiration.

I am off to work on the rest of my outstanding bee blocks, I am at the end of the month for them, hopefully life will provide a bit more sewing time for October.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mostly playing with colours

New York Beauty

I made that New York Beauty block today for Michonne in my Always Bee Learning bee. Today I am certainly learning. It took me most of the day, although that is not the block's fault - I am feeling very tired and lazy after a month of crazy work and had to take a nap or two. But, you can see my repair at the top and the repair still needed also at the top. And it is 1/4" too small on two sides so tomorrow the bottom parts must come off and two larger pieces added.

I thought it good to share my challenges lest anyone think I am that good at paper piecing - after all this is a "learning" bee. Oh and I have one more to make tomorrow, I decided that I best call it a day on paper piecing today.

Fabrics for Mod Pop

A couple of weeks ago I rambled on and on about picking colours for the Mod Pop Quilt Along. That stack above is where I am at today. I think that this bundle needs more reds and oranges to warm up the bubble gum pinks. The two blues are Essex Linen, royal blue and aqua. I think I am down to picking between them, or maybe I should use them both, alternating the chains??

Possible colours Mod Pop QAL

I have been trying to decide on my colours for a while now. Another Poseidon bundle fell in my shopping cart after I cut the first one up for the first Mod Pop. So I first thought I could pair it with a bunch of yellows.

Possible colours Mod Pop QAL

Or maybe just with pinks?

Possible colours Mod Pop QAL

Then I took out the lightest pinks and added reds and oranges. And just this blue cotton for the focus?

Possible colours Mod Pop QAL

When I put these in the flickr pool, a lot of people liked the aqua cotton.

Possible colours Mod Pop QAL

Surprisingly I found l loved this one - I am not normally that partial to red and blue. That is the royal blue Essex Linen from the first photo. I really like the idea of using linen with the cottons for this.

Possible colours Mod Pop QAL

I had thought this would be the favourite, the warm colours with snow but the blues are just so much better. So, do you think I should use both blue and aqua linen with the warm colours, imagine more reds and oranges in there too?

I think I will make a sample block or two tomorrow. It is time for me share some tips about piecing this quilt, so playing with the colours a bit more will help me to do that.

Liparis from Oakshot

I did manage to wash the Liparis from Oakshott today. They unravelled just enough to really show off the different coloured threads. Each is woven with black and a bright colour.

Liparis from Oakshott

I am thinking about what to make with these fabrics. These remind me of colours in the night, glimpses of colour reflecting off of puddles and cars and shiny windows, in a beam of a car headlight or  streetlight. Of evenings walking out late in the heart of the city.

Liparis from Oakshott

Look at the colours when you get close. I think these would make stunning evening dresses.

Liparis from Oakshott

I have to share all the photos, they are just so wonderful. I know most of you don't pre-wash, but for these it was sure worth it to see these unravelled edges.

Time for binding

This is likely where I will be tonight. Cuddled under one quilt - the No Primary Colours quilt - while hand sewing the binding on my Echo Stained and catching up on blogs, email and flickr - I am far, far behind. There is one day left in this quarter and I need at least one finish for Rhonda's  Finish A Long. Wish me luck.

I hope you are able to relax a bit this weekend.



Sunday, September 23, 2012


My wonderful pillow from Aylin

That stunning pillow, Happy Circles, came to me from one of my favourite quilters, Aylin (Nilya 2011 on flickr), who lives in Berlin, for the first round Modern Quilted Pillow Swap, which has now changed its name to X-Factor Pillows. I love it and I use it every day as I relax on my bed and read the internet. It is even more stunning in real life.

Mini Quilt from Aylin

Aylin is a wonderful quilter and participates in many flickr swaps where we have been partners before. A while back I sent her a little mug rug that folks seem to like. So with the pillow, she sent me this wonderful little mini quilt. I am taking it with me today to hang at my office next to my desk.  Thank you Aylin, I love both of these!

When these two beauties arrived at my house towards the end of August I was still out of town and when I returned I have been thrown in to an incredible work schedule and have not had time to share them properly here before.

Angles - for the Modern Quilted Pillow Swap

The second round of the swap ended a couple of weeks ago - and this is a swap that you cannot share your own work until after all the voting is done. So there is Angles, a red/pink pillow/grey/Liberty pillow that I made. Using the grey print instead of a solid was my big challenge. It is quilted with bright red Aurafil thread. Guess what, Aylin picked it, it has arrived safely in Germany and looks great on her sofa.

A pillow for me - from the X-Factor pillow swap

And in that round, this lovely pillow, which has great quilting and text and wonderful fabric including puppies, came to me from Lee who blogs at May Chappell. It will look beautiful on my sofa, although the light in the living room is so bad that it is almost impossible to take a good photo there. Thank you Lee, I love it!

Live Life French Bakery

These charms are flying off to Sarah in the Shetland Isles for the Japanese Charm Swap. She let me sneak into the swap and I promised to send my charms early. Well, they were delayed in the mail and only arrived Thursday afternoon. I pressed, cut, counted and packaged them and got them off on Friday (although missed the mail cut off so they are on a plane on Monday morning I think). I hope this amazing fabric - Live Life French Bakery by Suzuko Koseki - will make up for the fact that my charms are likely to be arriving last of all.

Oakshot Lipiary Bundle

A short time ago, my friend Lynne from Lily's Quilts asked if I wanted to play with some of the Oakshott Lipari fabrics - these are shot cottons with black as one of the woven threads - and of course I said "yes please". I am a huge fan of shot cottons, you have seen them used here before. They arrived Thursday too, and they are wonderful. Thank you Lynne and Michael Oakshott.

Oakshott Lipari bundle

If you put them under a light, look at their shine! I am thinking about what to make - these rich jewel tones sure remind me of Christmas decorations and so maybe something for the holidays is appropriate.

I hope you have been enjoying your weekend, I had a lovely late lunch yesterday (after working the morning) with my friend Marianne from The Quilting Edge and today I have yet more work, but maybe tonight I can sew a little too.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cutting Fabric - where I go on and on about my least favourite part of quilting

she can quilt

As part of the Mod Pop QAL, I will set out my approach to cutting fabric. Although this is my least favourite part of quilting, it is a step which makes a significant difference in the ease of construction and overall final appearance of your quilt, just as it is a critical part of garment making.

While I appreciate that most of you cut fabric all the time, there might be some who have some questions. So this post is to share my approach, which is not necessarily the best one but it works for me. I used a fat quarter and this approach also works for a piece of fabric cut across the full width of fabric.

It is important to remember that fabric is woven in a grid. The threads that go from selvage to selvage are called the weft and the other threads are called the warp. When fabric is woven, the warp threads are set up on the loom or machine and the weft is woven across them, so generally speaking warp threads are stronger or better aligned than the weft. If you hold your fabric and try to pull it along the warp threads,  there will be little or no "give", there is a slight more "give" if you pull along the weft threads, but if you hold it at a 45 degree angle to the warp and weft and pull, it will stretch a lot. This is called the bias of the fabric.

Therefore, when you cut fabric in straight lines - strips, squares, rectangles - it is best to cut along the warp or weft fibres which will give you a strong edge that does not stretch. It will also unravel less. When you cut a curve, you are cutting across the bias of the fabric and it becomes very easy to stretch the fabric as you handle it, or later as you are sewing it,  thus distorting your pieces.

So, the first step in cutting your fabric is to try to get a nice line along the weft or warp fibres to work from.  To do this, first press your fabric.  I pre-wash it too, but many quilters do not prewash and I leave this debate to others, stick with your own preference.


Check that the edge of the fabric opposite the selvage edge, if it is not the selvage, is cut along the warp - if it is you should be able to pull the next warp thread off easily all along its length. If it is not cut this way, trim it until it is. Then fold the fabric so that the selvage edge is meeting the opposite cut or if your piece of fabric is larger, so that the selvage meets the other selvage.

Slide those edges right and left until you can lay the fabric down into a nice fold opposite the selvage edge while keeping the edges lined up together, as shown in the picture above.


Next, I line the fold up with a line on my cutting mat. Some people don't use the mat lines and instead line this fold with their ruler but I find the mat lines to be easy to use and reliable. You can check to ensure your mat is not warped by placing your ruler over it and seeing if the lines all match up. In the picture you can see how the fold at the top is lined along the line.


Now look at the left side edge of the folded piece. If you cut left handed, then whenever I say right you need to substitue left and when I say left substitute right. In this photo you can see that the edges don't line up perfectly and this is often the case. Fabric can stretch on the bolt, it can stretch as it is handled and shipped. And often these edges have not been evenly cut at the fabric shop.

However if the selvage edge is even with the opposite edge or other selvage, and the fabric is wildly out of line on the left edge, you can take a minute to try to minimize that. First, pick up the fabric and stretch it along the bias at several points on one side. That is, hold it at the 45 degree angle points and give it a good tug. Then do the same on the other side. Often this is sufficient to remind those warp and weft threads to get back into their grid. If this does not work, your can either just carry on or you can throw it in the washer. Washing will usually get rid of all the stretch that has been added and bring all the threads back into place. Once you are done, press and fold it again.

If you like to starch your fabrics, this is the best point to pick up the fabric, starch and press it and then fold it back into place. I don't starch my pre-washed fabrics but many people prefer the added stability that the starch adds and adding starch will reduce the tendency of the fabric to stretch once curves have been cut.


Now, making sure that the top fold is still lined up with a line on the mat all the way across the fold, I then line the ruler with the mat lines and overlap the edge a little - enough to ensure that when I cut I will cut fabric along the entire cut.


In this photo you can see how the ruler is lined with all the lines on the mat. Once everything is lined up, place your left hand on the ruler to hold it in place, make sure that no part of your fingers or hand extent over the edge of the ruler even by a tiny bit, and cut along the ruler with your rotary cutter. Always cut away from your body.

If you are making a long cut across a full width of fabric piece, place your left hand close to the selvage end, cut to the point just at the end of your left hand, stop, carefully lift your hand and move it further along the ruler, check to make sure that the fabric has not shifted, hold again and cut, until you get to the end of the fabric. Otherwise, you will find that the pressure of cutting, especially as you move away from your body will push the end of the ruler and your cut will not be straight.


The picture above shows the cut edge and the fabric to be discarded. Now you have a nice straight edge which should also be perpendicular to the top fold - and your fabric will be square with the cut being along the weft threads.


Now you can line your ruler up to cut strips off your fabric. In the picture above you can see the ruler lined up to cut a 2.5" strip. I line the ruler with the straight edge of the fabric, the top fold and, assuming that both of those are still lined with the mat, I also line the ruler up with the mat lines. Cut the strip with the rotary cutter and then you are ready to cut your next strip. Your strips can then be cut into smaller pieces. For smaller pieces you can again line up the strip with the mat and use the approach of lining up all the ruler and mat lines for really precise cuts.

If you are cutting strips from a piece that is cut selvage to selvage, the best practice is to cut with just one fold and the two selvages together for your first truing up of the edge and for all subsequent strips, but I often will fold the piece a second time and work with the fabric 4 layers thick as it is easier to cut a shorter distance. If you do that, be careful to watch that your folds are straight and lined up or you will see V shapes along the edge of a strip, especially near the fold. If that happens, pick up the entire piece of fabric, carefully refold and position it, cut the first edge again and carry on.

Some curves - for Julie's pattern Mod Pop

Now we can look at cutting out curved pieces. Since these are bias cuts, starting with a good cut for the base piece that is along the warp and weft threads as described above gives you the best chance of having pieces that stretch the least as you use them. This will lead to the nicest sewn curves.

As we are working on the Mod Pop Quilt Along, I am going to use the cutting of quarter circles for this explanation but my tips should help you to cut most any curve. Since we are working from Julie at Distant Pickle's pattern, to respect her rights, I will not be sharing the measurements of the pieces and you can get them from your pattern.

After you have cut your fabric into squares or rectangles, get one of the fabric pieces and one of the templates. You can make a template by tracing the template pattern onto a piece of cardboard and cutting the cardboard out. Look for a piece of cardboard that is sturdy but not too hard to cut smoothly and if you want the template to be thicker consider gluing a few cut pieces of cardboard together. Alternatively you can purchase a template from Julie (go here).

Templates can be slippery on the fabric, whether made from cardboard or acrylic. One way to address that issue is to be aware of this issue and hold the template carefully. It can also help to add, small pieces of non-slip material to the back of the template such as sandpaper, sticky tape, or store-bought non-slip material. A bit of low stick glue will also work nicely and will need to be replaced from time to time. You will see in my pictures that the templates from Julie came with a bit of glue to hold them in place while shipping. I left a bit of it in place to help address the slipping issue.

There are two basic methods to cut the fabric - using a rotary cutter along the template, and using the template to draw a cut line and cutting with scissors.


If you are using your rotary cutter, you can use any size cutter, but if you have a rotary cutter with a blade of smaller circumference it will be easier to use. Place the template on the fabric, position it carefully to ensure that fabric is under it to the outside of the straight edges so your piece of fabric is not short on those straight edges. Hold the template carefully with your left hand, again ensuring that no part of your fingers or hand extend into the path of the blade along the curve. Steadily move the rotary cutter along the curve.


 If you are cutting from prints and want to use your clear template to help you "fussy cut", first locate your preferred cutting location, hold the template in place and cut the straight edges. Stop and reposition the template to ensure that it is in the proper place along the straight edges, reposition your hand and cut the curved side. It is not advisable to try to make your way around the entire template in one go as it is really hard to avoid the template shifting a little and thus the resulting cut will be less precise.


If you are comfortable cutting several layers of fabric at once, you should be able to make precise cuts of up to 4 - 6 layers of fabric cutting this way. Just be very careful to watch for shifting of the fabric in the layers as you position the template and cut the fabric. The most precise cuts are obtained if you cut only one or two layers of fabric at time.


An alternative way to cut the curved pieces, and my preferred way, is to use the templates to draw your lines and cut with scissors. First, cut the strips, then squares and/or rectangles with your rotary cutter in the usual way. Then take a single piece of fabric, position your template as explained above for either regular or fussy cutting, and then draw the necessary cutting lines on the fabric. I use a heat sensitive pen but any marking pen or pencil will work. Then cut the curve with sharp scissors, preferably ones reserved for cutting fabric only.


If you are cutting with scissors, you can speed up the process by marking some of the fabrics and then cutting those pieces in a stack with others. As with rotary cutting, as you add more layers, the less precise the cuts become so I generally stick to 4 - 6 layers. Also, when cutting with scissors you will be holding the fabric off the table in your hand. A stack of fabrics will fan out really quickly so keep moving your holding spot along to where you are cutting, checking that the other edges are also still lined up together.


The benefits to cutting with scissors is that you don't have to be standing at your cutting table and instead can be watching TV or visiting with family or friends. The benefits to using the rotary cutter is that the cuts will almost always be more precise. You can try both methods and see what works best for you.

Remember that the pieces you have cut on the bias are easily stretched so handle them as little as possible until they are ready to be sewn.

If when you cut all these pieces you have a nice set of smaller "pie" shaped pieces left over from cutting the "L" shapes, keep them. You can take their measurements and make another proper size "L" shape and use them for another project using drunkard's path quarter circles. A wonderful explanation about how to calculate that template is here where Leila from Sewn explains how.

I also wanted to point out that it is not necessary to cut all the pieces in one sitting. You can cut some of them, sew some of the blocks and then cut some more. I tend to sew quilts in this manner as I really don't like the cutting part so I spread it out.

If you have any questions let me know or if you have your own cutting tips to add, please share them in the comments.



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mostly for the bees

Stars for Kelleigh - BAMS

I have been catching up on my quilting bee blocks. This star block is 12.5" unfinished and is for Kelleigh in the Bee a {Modern} Swapper group. She is making her first full quilt.

Stars for Kelleigh - BAMS

We use our own fabrics for this bee, and she asked for scrappy stars so I used mostly all the colours. As you might have noticed, wonky stars are my favourites so these came together quickly.

Four Acres for Chrissy, Modern Stitching Bee

This block is called Four Acres by Solidia Hubbard on page 68 of the Modern Blocks book. Chrissy asked us to make one using pink, aqua, orange and brown and one with any colours we liked for her month in the Modern Stitching Bee. In this bee we also use our own fabrics.

Four Acres for Chrissy, Modern Stitching Bee

I used chartreuse, blue and grey on my Kaleidoscope quilt and that is what I pulled out for my second block. I love these colours together.

Pod Blocks for Stephanie - Always Bee Learning

These Pod blocks are for Stephanie in the Always Bee Learning group. They are from the Quilting Modern book - I just love this book by the way. This is an interesting technique, and not hard, although I want to play with it more so that my pods will be a little less pouffy. Stephanie kindly said she liked pouffy, I hope she meant it, as they are in the mail.

Stargazing block for Marci - Modern Blocks Bee

Marci asked for the Stargazing Block by Angela Pingel on page 178 of the Modern Blocks book for her month in the Modern Blocks Bee. I love making this block and her fabrics were so pretty. The background fabric is a bit more greenish, but after three tries with my camera I settled for this photo.

Stonehenge block - for my month in the Modern Blocks Bee

September is my month to pick a block and send out fabric in the Modern Blocks Bee. I picked this block, Stonehenge by Amy Ellis on page 182 of the Modern Blocks book. I sent my group 2 different cuts from Tula Pink's new line The Birds and the Bees with white so that they can make the blocks with a bit more variation in colour than my test block. I was late sending them so I am hoping a chance to play with this beautiful new fabric line will make up for it a little.

Quilting - Echo Stained.

Yesterday I had a few hours free to sew in the afternoon, so I got out my Echo Stained quilt, from the Stained QAL which had been sitting basted since the end of June, just waiting for quilting. In a moment of optimism I decided to quilt around all the solid lines about 1/4" out. Even though this quilt is not huge, it was an energetic afternoon and evening with all the turning and shoving, starting and stopping. I am really pleased with how it has turned out.

I hope that later today I can get the binding on and finish it up, we shall see if I can sneak it in as I have to do a lot of work work too. I am trailing along on Sarah's QAL but this one is on my list for Rhonda's Finish Along, so maybe I will be able to get it done by the end of this FAL quarter after all.

And Cindy sent out the Fluffy Sheep Quilting newsletter yesterday with the Modern Shopping Bag tutorial in it. I am flattered that she deemed it good enough to be included. I hope people liked it.

I hope you all enjoy your Sunday, it is a beautiful day here.