Thursday, July 30, 2009

Village quilt

Village quilt
Originally uploaded by
crafty mathea
I seem to be in full holiday mode lately. My brain has turned to mush, and I can't seem to hold a thought in my head for more than a couple of minutes at a time. For instance, I finished this quilt last Sunday, and thought I'd wait and post it for Mini Quilt Monday. Monday came and went, and I forgot all about it. Every time I have spotted the quilt I have thought I must remember to take a picture and post about it, and the next minute that thought is just gone.
Well, here it is at last. The checkerboard or fields in front of the village is made with plaited strips of black and white fabric - a technique I saw described in Quilter's Newsletter Magazine a while ago. The village is a photo, enhanced in Photoshop and printed on fabric, and so is the castle on the hill (not actually a castle, but Whitby Abbey - the famous ruin overlooking Whitby Bay in Yorkshire). The rest of the landscape bits and pieces are applicued directly onto the batting. Size of quilt: 12x18".

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Placemat swap

I took part in a placemat swap on Flickr in June and this is the lovely placemat I received from Solidia. I just love that colourful path curving it's way across the neutral background. Or maybe it's a staircase to a magical place, each step with a flavour of it's own - sorry, my imagination is running wild here, but I can't help gazing at this pretty thing. It came with a matching coaster as well, and some lovely fabric that I'm sure I will find good use for if I can bear to cut into it ;-)

This is the placemat I made and sent in return. I was reading a book set in Greece when I started pulling colours for this. I have never actually been there, but somehow blue and white houses, the colours of sea, sky, terracotta and olives seemed right for it. The wonky little houses are made from a technique in Keiko Goke's book "Patchwork".

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Village: check ...

The road from idea to finished product may sometimes be a long one, but sometimes it is really all about throwing oneself into the process. "Just do it" as the slogan says...
I had a vague idea for this one, but once I started pulling fabric from my stash things started happening. Before I knew it I had all the right ones there, and could start cutting and assembling. It seems to come together the way I had imagined, Italian village, English abbey ruin and all.

Now I'll just have to find the nerve to take it to the sewing machine and prove to myself that my quilting won't ruin my vision of what this could be...
Just do it - right?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My first quilt

I'm throwing caution to the winds and leaving myself open for ridicule here. Yes, I have joined the Parade of Quilts and decided to show you the first quilt I ever made!
You might find it hard to believe, but I had never actually seen a quilt "in real life" when I decided to tackle this project, and had no idea how to go about it, but I had seen a quilt on a bed in a magazine and decided to make one. I was just a kid at the time, and the photo I had as my starting point was just 2" square and was of the whole bedroom, so the actual image of the quilt was tiny, but big enough for me to work out how the squares and triangles were supposed to match up.
I drafted it all on graph paper. So far so good. But then there was the question of fabric. This was way back in the early eighties, and quilting fabric was not exactly easy to find. My ever supportive Mum kindly donated a length of blue and white floral that she had meant to make into a summer dress, and after a lot of searching I found the black, white and red florals. So those were the colours I ended up with. Not because those were the colours I had decided on, but because those were the only ones I could find! I had of course never heard of fancy stuff like templates and rotary cutters (not sure they even existed back then... ) so I drew the squares on the back of my fabric with the help of a ruler and a ballpoint pen and cut them out with a pair of scissors. I'm amazed that I actually persevered - I seem to remember a big blister on my thumb... Anyway. I eventually got to the point where I could start stitching the pieces together, and borrowed my mum's old Singer and stitched happily away. Consistency when it came to seam allowances? Never occurred to me! That was a fact that became very clear once I started to stitch the blocks together. That didn't stop me, though. I just pulled and pleated, and managed to get them all together somehow.
Then came the task of quilting. I could see from the photo that there had to be something fluffy inside the quilt, and seams "in the ditch" (although I didn't know that was what it was called...), and I realized that there had to be some kind of backing fabric. But to actually stitch through all three layers? No! That wouldn't do, because the seams would show on the back... (!)
So I got hold of some polyester batting and pinned my quilt top down with short pins that kept falling out or burying their points in my fingers as I forced those seams through the two layers, pulling the material with all my might to avoid puckers and scattering dozens of pins to stick in our carpet only to be found by our toes during the next months...
Somewhere along the way I had also seen a picture of a Japanese futon with white tufts of yarn tied at intervals, so that was how I ended up attaching the backing, before I added strips of black, rolled the excess batting along the edges into it and machine stitched the edges down.
I'm actually amazed that I managed to finish this baby - and look at this precise piecing... ;-). But actually, the quilt has held up very well, considering all the use it has got over the years. And at a distance it doesn't look too bad...
I must admit, though, that it took several years before I attempted to make another one. And this time around I took a class and learnt all the nitty gritty of how to quilt, so it all turned out much better.
I have made loads of quilts since then, and my techniques have improved, although I still have lots to learn, as I found out while following Oh Fransson!'s Quilt-along earlier this year, making this quilt. But learning new things and constantly being challenged to try something new is what makes me keep quilting after all these years. That, and getting to play with lovely patterns and colours and finding ever new excuses to buy glorious fabric...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mini quilt Monday

Look! A new mini quilt, and on a Monday too! Well at least I finished it today, although the top has been ready for a while. It is the result of a workshop a while ago, and started out as a purple and cream nine-patch with teal borders and after some clever cutting, twisting of blocks and restitching we ended up with these little windmills. I think I might have to try making another one to remember how I did it...
Anyway, I eventually got round to layering and quilting it, using my version of the escape-hatch method so I didn't have to bother with binding. My version differs from the one Melody uses in that I make the backing of two pieces of fabric which I stitch together, leaving an opening in the middle instead of cutting an opening. I find this works well for small table toppers, -runners and the like. This one is 13 x 13", by the way. I quilted the windmills in a spiralling pattern to create an illusion of movement. I used a purple and teal variegated thread. Here's a close-up of the quilting.
Added later: the pattern is actually called Square Dance, and here is a description of how you do it.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


I seem to be fluttering about from this to that, unable to settle and work on any single project lately. Summer weather is partly to blame for it, my sewing space is just too hot when the sun is shining and settling in the shade with a good book has just been so much more tempting. But there is a little progress on a few things, which will be revealed in due course. A chance meeting with a friend from my guild brought back me that we have a September deadline on our challenge. Time to get started, I think! The challenge was to use the black and white fabric squares provided and make a small quilt (11"x18" at most). I immediately thought of a technique I'd seen in Quilter's Newsletter a while back of weaving fabric creating a undulating chess board. Luckily, my ongoing project of pruning my magazine collection meant that I found the magazine easily enough, so I'm all set to try it out.
I've been playing with that chess board idea in my mind, and finally it dawned on me what I wanted to do - now the pawns in a chess game are also described as armed peasants. And peasants live in a village, whereas the Queen and King are in their castle up on the hill. Village and castle equals houses, right? One of my favourite subjects. So that's what I'm going to play with today. I have several big projects on the back burner, but I think I need to work small for a while, play with techniques, and try out new things and just have some fun. Yes, that sounds like a plan.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Summer reading

There's precious little sewing going one here lately - it's just too hot! I know: I have been complaining about summer being late, and here I am moaning about the heat... Well, there's no pleasing some people I guess ;-)
Well, I am enjoying these lovely warm days really! Luckily my office faces northeast, so it's nice and cool during the day, but the moment I step outside I feel as if I meet a great big wall of heat. Shopping on the walk home is reduced to a few important items: watermelon and ice cream, and there's nothing for it once I get home but a big glass of water before I head straight for the shower.
Evenings are pleasant though - cool drinks and light reading well into the night. It never gets really dark at this time of the year, so it's easy to forget about going to bed, but there's time for sleeping when King Winter throws his big icy mantle around us.
I have been stocking up on summer reading, and I've already realised that I need to visit the library to get some more before my holiday starts, as I'm halfway through this pile already!
Tell it to the Skies by Erica James was an intriguing story about a woman with a secret past. A chance meeting in her Venetian neighbourhood triggers a set of events that forces her to delve into her childhood memories growing up with strictly religious grandparents and the events leading up to her leaving for Italy - "the path not taken" and the chance to make things right makes for compelling reading.
The Villa in Italy by Elisabeth Edmondson was very different. A bit of a mystery, but without any murders. Four very different people have each been left a bequest from a woman they have never heard about and must meet in a villa in Italy to find out what it is. Great reading, and I think it's the first time I have woken up at six in the morning on a workday just to finish the last chapter of a book before I get up!
Fay Weldon's wry observations about human behaviour is next, and then there is Barbara Erskine and Joanna Trollope for a bit of Britain past and present. I have read several books by all these three so I expect some good reading there. And then it's off to the library. Now, what should I look for there?