Saturday, 18 March 2017

Friday Fabric Finds is Back!!

I've made a few major life changes this year, which has meant I have more time and energy for blogging (yay!!), and something I enjoy doing is sharing what's new in my sponsors shops. It's a bit of eye candy for my readers, and it's a nice way for me to say thanks to these shops for continuing to support my little blog :o). So I'm planning on getting back to my Friday Fabric Finds posts, hopefully once a fortnight.

Since it has been SO long since I've done one of these posts, I thought I'd do a quick introduction about each of my sponsors in this post. First up is Sew Me a Song - the very first business I approached to ask if they would like to sponsor my blog. Sew Me a Song is run by Becca, in Maine in the United States. Becca has a beautifully curated little shop, with a focus on fabrics by Japanese designers such as Suzuko Koseki, Nani Iro, Yuwa and Isso Ecco. Becca also stocks a lovely selection of basics such as dots and stripes, and gems from designers like Melody Miller, Anna Maria Horner and many more.

Probably my favorite section in Becca's shop is her beautifully curated bundles. Some of these are put together by designer, such as this AMAZING Suzuko Koseki bundle. Suzuko is one of my absolute favorite designers, and this bundle of fat sixteenths is an awesome way to get a huge selection of her prints.


Another one of my favorites is this text bundle by Kei for Yuwa. These are 55% linen/45% cotton and give such a gorgeous texture to projects. I sneak these fabrics into quilts whenever I can ;o).


Polka Dot Tea Fabrics is an Australian-based fabric shop, run by my friend Heidi who lives in beautiful outback Australia, in Bomballa, New South Wales. Polka Dot Tea started up a couple of years ago, and she is knocking it out of the park with the range of fabrics on offer. Heidi and I have incredibly similar taste in fabric, and ALL my favorites are featured there (Heather Ross, Lizzy House, Anna Maria Horner, Tula Pink and Carolyn Friedlander - just to name a few!) Heidi has complete bundles of a huge range of collections, or you can buy fat quarters or yardage of all of them.

I've been seriously eyeing off Heather Ross's latest gorgeousness, Sleeping Porch. The colours in this collection are just spectacular - and it's printed on cotton lawn which is dreamy to work with.


I don't think it's any secret that I'm a massive fan of Carolyn Friedlander (I think every single quilt I've made since Architextures came out has at least one of her prints in it) - and this bundle is pretty delicious. Carolyn's fabrics are just so incredibly useful, the perfect modern blenders.


Last of all, I'm certain you have heard of my long-time sponsor, the Fat Quarter Shop. They are based in Texas in the United States and stock a massive range of fabric, patterns and haberdashery. A few of my new favorites there are Pond, Elizabeth Hartmann's latest collection for Robert Kaufman.




And of course Friedlander by Carolyn Friedlander. I was lucky enough to win a bundle of this as one of my prizes at the Australian Modern Quilt Show last year, and am using lots of these in my current project. It's another winner for sure.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend! We are enjoying the end of an especially long summer - it's been warmer over the last few weeks that most of our proper summer which has been lovely! I'll be back next week to share a few of my recent project beginnings!

xx Jess



Thursday, 16 March 2017

Spellbound Quilt Top (aka a punch in the face!)

A few months ago I was approached by the Fat Quarter Shop and asked if I'd be interested in participating in an upcoming quilt along, using a soon be released It's Sew Emma pattern called Spellbound. I was instantly drawn to the design (it's such an interesting and graphic quilt) and very quickly said yes. The version featured in the pattern was made using Maven by Basic Grey, a really gorgeous neutral collection, and it was very tempting to make my version using a similar neutral palette. But I thought it would be fun to choose a completely different palette to show how versatile this pattern is - so I went with a bunch of solids in colours inspired by sunset.


The Spellbound pattern actually uses a couple of jelly rolls (a background solid jelly roll and a print jelly roll) in addition to a few half yards of prints. But because I really wanted to use the fabrics pictured above, I decided I'd just make the jelly rolls myself. For the 'background' I used two different blue fabrics - Kona Solid in Midnight and Bella Solid in Night Sky (the two fabrics on the far left). And for the print jelly roll, I cut two strips each from the pile of warm coloured solids on the right (all of these are Cotton Couture). As this pattern involves sewing a lot of bias edges, I starched each of my fabrics well before I cut them (and I would recommend doing this - even if you use a jelly roll to make it!!) 

This quilt came together really quickly - it took around 15 hours to piece the whole thing, and it's not a small quilt (it finishes at 64.5" x 80.5"). The pattern recommends using the Creative Grids 90  degree double strip ruler. I really love Creative Grids rulers - I have several and they really do make cutting so easy. But for this quilt I actually used my 6.5" Bloc Loc Half Square Triangle ruler for the cutting, and it worked perfectly. Regardless of what ruler you choose to use, the blocks are big (16.5") so it really does come together fast!


This quilt is SO far out of my comfort zone colour-wise, and I have to admit I wasn't sure if I liked it while I was making it - there were many moments when I thought perhaps I should have used a more subtle palette. But since finishing it a few weeks ago, it has really grown on me and I've decided I actually really love it! I've decided to call a Punch in the Face - sort of in jest, but also kind of seriously, as it really does pack a punch with all the saturated colour in there. I think what saves it from being TOO much is the lighter yellows and pinks in there - they help balance out the deeper, more saturated colours. 


My 6 year old daughter is completely in love with it, so it is destined to be a new quilt for her bed once I decide how to quilt it. Although it would be a super fun quilt to do some straight line free motion quilting on (maybe with some ribbon candy in some of the strips), I think a simple diagonal cross hatch might be the way to go. There is so much going on in terms of colour, I think simple might be best ;o). I'll be sure to share the finished product once I get a chance to quilt it - hopefully in the next month or two, as I'm being pestered by the small one about when she'll get to snuggle under it!!

I'll be back in the near future with a few works in progress I'd like to share. I'm working on four different projects at the moment, three of which are English Paper Pieced and I plan on sharing a few of my tips for EPP. And since they will be super long term projects (I'm totally embracing slow sewing this year!) I thought it might keep me motivated to share updates once a month or so :o) 

I hope you are all having a great week!

xx Jess

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Meet the Host - Abigail from Cut & Alter {Finish A Long 2017}

Today's the day for the next installment in the Finish A Long 2017 Meet the Host posts, where we get to learn about Abigail from Cut & Alter. I have only 'met' Abigail through the FAL, so it is lovely to learn more about her!

Back in November I was surprised and delighted to open an email from Rhonda inviting me to become one of the global host of the 2017 Finish-A-Long. There are 13 of us in all and over the course of the year we'll be introducing ourselves. Nicky from Mrs Sew and Sow started off in January followed by Jess from Elven Garden Quilts in February and now in March it's my turn.


Hello, my name is Abigail and I blog here at cut&alter. I found the FAL late on in 2015 and couldn't believe how it motivated me to get things finished. I have always been a list maker and the FAL is no exception. My lists are somewhat larger then most people's, although I have certainly seen longer as well! I know that I will never get everything ticked off within the current Quarter but it does give me 1) accountability 2) a reason to tidy up and reorganise my studio each quarter to find those projects which have been languishing on shelves and at the bottom of boxes 3) it brings projects to the front of my mind and a lot of work goes on in my mind even before I get in the studio 4) if a project has been rolled over just one too many times I can then see that it's probably never going to get finished and I can pass it on (does that count as a finish?!!). Last quarter I had a particularly low completion rate and this one is shaping up to be the same but I have a few finishes and some projects are considerably further on!
A current quarter finish
I live in Stratford upon Avon with my husband, who is from New Zealand, our two daughters and a black and white cat. We have been back in the UK for just over 4 years and prior to that we lived in Otaki, New Zealand. We have been called gypsies before now due to our constant moving, and usually not within the same area. This is the longest time I have ever lived anywhere! (Can you keep a secret? Maybe, just maybe, my feet are itching again!) Some of the other places I have lived are: Nottingham, Leamington Spa, Sydney, Wellington, London, Waihi Beach, Cambridge, Tauranga, Rowington, Shirley, Waitarere Beach and Feilding. The whole idea of living here (the UK) or there (NZ) was the inspiration for this quilt. I was delighted when Should I Stay or Should I Go? was awarded Best Piecing in Show last November in Bristol!


Up until January this year I home educated the girls, which was brilliant. I always felt honoured to have as much time with them as I did and whilst it certainly was tiring and had its moments we had a lot of fun along the way. They have now started school, primary and secondary, and have settled in really well. We have a new rhythm in our lives which, for me, is taking some getting used to. I thought I would have all the time in the world, that I would have time to sew, quilt, go to the gym, make lovely healthy food ...... oh silly, silly me!! You don't actually get much done in the six hours between 9am and 3pm do you?!! One thing I have done is learn to do improv curves - I love them!!!!


I have been sewing since a child but, like a lot of women, I came back to sewing when my first child was born, although I had been making curtains for our houses every time we moved! Little children's clothes are such a pleasure to make - fitting is not important, they don't use much material and they are quick (although when sleep deprived they sometimes didn't seem to be that quick). I had made a puff patchwork quilt for my eldest soon after she was born and then made a simple square quilt from vintage Laura Ashley soft furnishing fabric from our various childhood houses. These two quilts are well loved and well worn!


It wasn't until 2010 that I 'learnt' to quilt. I took a 6 week night class in NZ and a passion was born. I joined my local quilt club and I listened to the other ladies of my group talking about all their WIPs. I was horrified! I vowed that I would never have projects sitting on my shelf - I would start and finish one before embarking on another. Oh how naive I was! Needless to say I have lots of projects on the go all of differing ages. Last year I finished my most long standing project - ANZAC Hearts, it was on my FAL2016 Quarter 2 list! This was a Bee quilt and I love it - luckily as much now as when I started it in 2010!


Back in 2015 I made the decision to purchase a longarm quilting machine and I totally love it!!! I bought a Handi Quilter Avante and it brings me a lot of joy. With the girls at home I did not have the time I would have liked for learning and practising but I am getting there. I have done a few customer quilts and hope to do more this coming year. Before then I have a backlog of my own tops that are waiting to be done. This was the first quilt I quilted on my machine ....


Wow - this has become a longer post than I thought. When I first sat down to write this I did wonder what I would write! So, here's a quick 10 9 other things about me to finish (I got stuck on No 10!):
1. I make quilts for Project Linus
2. I am a member of the Oxfordshire Modern Quilt Guild
3. I am left handed
4. At 25 I spent a week in Coober Pedy, having read about it as child of 12 - it was awesome!
5. I love salads
6. I have only ever spent one night in hospital and that was with my daughter when she was 3 and had to have her tonsils out
7. Both my children were born at home - one in NZ and one in UK
8. I will go to QuiltCon ..... one day!
9. I would love to go to Alaska

There you have it! Remember there's just a couple of weeks left for you to get your Quarter 1 list project finished. The link up opens on 26 March and will remain open until 01 April. Be sure to link up because there are amazing prizes to won (and I should know because I have won twice before!!) I look forward to seeing all the finished projects this quarter. x
 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Off the Grid {a finished quilt}

This blog post has been a long time coming. I finished making this quilt back in October last year, but I've only just got around to editing all the photos and actually writing about it. Which is kind of annoying, as this is one of my very favorite finishes ever, and I've been pretty excited about finally sharing it. But life happens, and when you've got three small children things take months longer than they need to a lot of the time ;o).

So, a bit of background. Around the middle of last year, I started thinking it would be cool to make a quilt that was inspired by aerial views of farmland, and after doing a quick Google image search I knew it was something I wanted to do. Green is my absolute all-time favorite colour, and I've actually only made a couple of quilts that feature green - so it was about time! And then a few weeks after this, the Modern Quilt Guild announced their 9 Patch Challenge as part of QuiltCon 2017 and it felt kind of fateful. So I started making a quilt, intending to enter it into the 9 Patch Challenge. It didn't get juried in, but I've made a quilt I'm so proud of and am completely in love with, and at the end of the day that's what it's all about.



This quilt started the way a lot of my recent quilts have - a pile of fabric, a vague idea and a design wall. I cut a bunch of strips, made a bunch of blocks, and started putting them up on my design wall. I had farmland in mind when I chose the fabrics for this quilt - greens, yellow-greens, ochres, and rich browns. And to start with I thought the layout would end up something like this, with narrow sashing between blocks in these colours.



But as I got further into the piecing, I decided my original vision probably wouldn't work like I wanted it to. So I played around with the blocks I'd made for a few weeks, until that lightbulb moment when the design really started to take shape. I didn't take a whole lot of photos at the beginning of this quilt - so fast forward a lot of piecing later, and the design finally started to take shape. Apologies for the darkness of these photos - my design wall is in an awful spot for taking decent photos...



Once I was happy with the layout of the green/brown/ochre blocks I started trying to figure out what on earth I would do in the rest of the quilt. At some point (most likely while I was trying to get to sleep one night...) inspiration struck and I decided to continue the 9 patch theme into the negative space, using pale grey and dominantly white prints to create the 'background'. As you can see from the next few photos, it was very much like putting a puzzle together. Such a fun process, figuring out how to make all the pieces fit.



Once I'd filled all the gaps with grey/white 9 patch blocks, it was simply a matter of joining all those blocks together with white sashing. It's impossible to see in these photos, but every single fabric I used is a print - even the whites are tone on tone. 


I won't lie - putting this quilt together took a very, very long time. It involved a lot of trimming, a LOT of problem solving, and a huge number of partial seams for the final stages of construction. But I think this quilt is more 'me' than any other quilt I have ever made - and I enjoyed every moment of putting it together. Over the last year or so, quilt making for me has become so much less about the finishing and so much more about enjoying the process and embracing the idea of 'slow sewing'. I love Carolyn Friedlander's concept of Savour Each Stitch, it has become my sewing mantra.



Over the course of piecing the quilt top, I had (as usual) been thinking about how I'd quilt it. During the making of this quilt, I travelled over to Adelaide to the Australian Machine Quilting Festival and happily Aurifil Threads Australia were there with the ENTIRE range of Aurifil threads, including the relatively new 28wt (grey spool) threads. So I bought a few spools in colours I thought would be good for this quilt. I wanted this quilt to be all about the texture, and since 28wt is a pretty heavy weight thread I thought it would be fun to give it a try.


I've included a lot of photos of the quilting on this quilt, because it is such an important part of this quilt. It is entirely free motion quilted - yes, even those 1/4" spaced straight(ish) lines. I quilted this one over a few months, so it didn't feel too monotonous doing all that straight line work (and to give my shoulders a break. That kind of quilting requires a lot of focus, and I find I do get a bit tense when I do it for long periods of time!)


I started off by quilting the green/brown/ochre blocks, using various grids and x-shaped designs throughout these blocks. I only quilted one of the two fabrics in each block, allowing the unquilted fabric to pop beautifully.


While I was quilting the blocks, I was trying to decide how to treat the white sashing strips. I did toy with the idea of hand quilting these, but in the end I decided machine quilting was the answer. Walking foot quilting them did cross my mind, but the thought of burying all those threads was not especially appealing ;o). And in the end this quilt required a huge amount of thread burying - it would have been far worse had I walking foot quilted!!


I think my favorite part of this quilt is those sections where the lines intersect in the sashing - it's a little nod to the grids in the piecing, and the texture is fabulous.



A close second are those 1/2" checkerboard blocks. I'm becoming a bit obsessed with tiny piecing lately, and quilting tiny piecing is so rewarding. Again, amazing texture.





 This is my favorite block in the entire quilt - it's 1/2" squares, and I used a green 28wt Aurifil to quilt this one. I just can't get enough of how puffy those little squares are :o).


I'm so happy to have FINALLY shared this quilt properly. And I'm will be back later this week with another finished quilt top!

xx Jess


Friday, 10 March 2017

Melody Miller Placemats

Today I'm sharing a quick and easy project I put together yesterday, as part of the Placemats Sew Along with the Fat Quarter Shop. I've been meaning to make a set of placemats for a veeery long time, so when I was asked if I'd like to participate in this sew along, I knew it would be the perfect prompt for me to get it done, rather than leaving it for another few years. And this was a seriously quick project - all four placemats took about four hours from start to finish. I call that a win! I'm so thrilled with how these turned out - such an easy way to add a burst of colour to our outdoor eating area.



I made these placemats using a Soft and Stable White Project Pack, kindly supplied by FQS for this sew along, combined with a couple of long-hoarded and very favorite Melody Miller linen/cotton prints. Although the Project Pack comes with full instructions to make strip-pieced placemats, I decided to make use of these gorgeous prints. Not only do they look awesome, but because they are a pretty heavy weight fabric, they will stand up to regular use really well (I made a Necessary Clutch Wallet from one of her cotton/linen prints almost four years ago, and have used it constantly since - and it is still going strong!) And with three smallish children, hard wearing is a pretty essential feature for household items like these! I've not used Soft and Stable before, but I have to say it is ideal for this kind of project - it is lovely to sew with, and looks fantastic quilted. Plus it's washable, so we will be able to throw them in the washing machine when they get grotty!



I made a couple of other very small changes to how I made my placemats compared to the instructions provided in the pack, for purely aesthetic reasons. I wanted to quilt the placemats, so rather than just stitching the strips on quilt as you go style, and then sewing the back on around the edges as per the instructions, I decided to layer my back, Soft and Stable and front, and quilt all three layers as I would a quilt. I used another long-hoarded, favorite fabric on the back of these too - a print from Anna Maria Horner's Garden Party collection.


The other small change I made was to bind them as I would a regular quilt. The instructions provided in the pack teach you how to use the backing fabric as a binding (by folding it over onto the front). This would have been the ideal way to do it - except that I only had enough of my chosen binding fabric to make regular binding. Because I was using a single print for the front of each placemat, I decided they really needed a contrasting binding to finish them off. And happily, I had JUST enough of that fabulous Waterfront Park cerise print to bind the floral place mats - I think you'll agree, it is the perfect combination! I chose a Cotton & Steel print for the binding on the tea cup print placemats - I love how the navy works with the coral.



I wanted to quickly mention the threads I chose for the quilting on these too (because I stash thread almost as much as I stash fabric). I chose a variegated coral Aurifil 40wt for the pink tea cup placemats, and it works awesomely well for a bit of subtle interest. For the floral placemats, I used a heavier weight 28wt Aurifil. I bought a selection of Aurifil 28wt cotton while I was in Adelaide for the Australian Machine Quilting Festival last year for a quilt I was making at the time (and I will be sharing that particular quilt soon - I just need to get around to finishing off editing my photos for the blog post!), and one of the colours I had was the perfect choice for the floral placemats. I'm a bit addicted to 28wt threads at the moment - they give such great definition to quilting stitches and I'm finding I'm using them every chance I get.


These four placemats have found a home on our new outdoor table. Our summer project this year was building a deck in our back garden, and we have been using it almost nightly over the last few weeks, making the most of the longer days before day light savings ends. The only problem is the table seats eight - so I'll be needing to make another set of four sometime soon ;o). I have a few other Melody Miller prints earmarked for the next set of these - so stay tuned, I'm hoping to get them sorted in the near future!


I know I've been promising a few finished quilt posts for a few weeks now - life has conspired against me of late (a really nasty cold + real job doesn't leave much time or energy for blogging), but I'm almost finished editing the photos so I'm hoping next week will be a big blogging week for me ;o).

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend! I'll be celebrating my brother's 30th birthday and my nephew's 2nd birthday over the weekend, and hopefully get a bit of sewing in around all the cake eating...

xx Jess