Saturday, 15 July 2017

Terrific Triangles - and a finish to share!

Gosh, nearly 3 weeks since I got back from Italy.  I had a great holiday and will show you some quilt related holiday snaps in my next post.  However I thought it was about time I posted something sewn by me rather than by all the talented people whose work I have been admiring recently.

So, on Friday last week I gave a talk/demo to a lovely quilt group near Horsham, West Sussex and the theme was triangles, with an emphasis on half-square triangles but a nod to the other sorts. This was a great opportunity for me to pull out all my triangle quilts made over the last n years. And to start a few new triangle quilts, just in case I didn't have enough to show...

I particularly wanted to demonstrate the methods I have come to favour for accurate HSTs, which have made making triangle-heavy quilts a pleasure rather than a pain. The choice for me nowadays is between making HSTs slightly oversized (so I never have to measure and cut n-and- seven-eighths) and then trimming to size with the Bloc_loc square ruler, OR using triangle papers such as Thangles or Triangles on a Roll.

Which method I use for a particular project depends on the size of HST, how many I need of each fabric combination, or whether the HSTs are being made from offcuts from a method such as stitch and flip eg the corner scraps from making flying geese by this method, which I hate to throw away.

So here are some examples of what I mean: this week I trimmed HSTs I made last week by the conventional method of stitching 1/4" either side of a drawn diagonal line.

I had a layer cake of Dapper Wovens which I wanted to use to make a variant on the Vast quilt from Jeni Baker's lovely book on HSTs, appropriately called Patchwork Essentials:The Half-Square Triangle. The fabric is quite soft because of the weave and I definitely didn't want to risk distortion, so stitching on the diagonal before cutting was the best option to preserve the bias edge as much as possible.

I paired two 10" squares, and drew my diagonal line with a yellow Chaco-liner as pencil didn't show up and pen dragged too much on the soft fabric.  Having stitched either side and cut on the line, I then carefully pressed the seam allowance open and used an ordinary square ruler with a diagonal line to trim.  I just happened to have a 9 1/2" square so that fitted perfectly and there was very little waste. The scraps are so pretty I had a hard job throwing them away but there are limits!

Next week I hope to lay out and stitch this quilt together.  NB Since starting to write this I have done so but don't have a decent picture, so I will have to keep you in suspense a little longer!

Filled with renewed enthusiasm for HSTs, I dug out a plastic bag of offcut HSTs from when I made this quilt called Sweet Beginnings (the larger quilt shown part way through the post). The flying geese for the main blocks were all made by the stitch and flip method, but I loved the fabric so much I couldn't bear to chuck the scraps.  However the leftover triangles were quite small and the HSTs definitely needed to be trimmed before use. 

I put on an audio book and spent an evening with the 2 1/2" Bloc_loc square, trimming to 1 1/2". Yes, I know the HSTs will only measure 1" finished when they are sewn into a quilt, but they are really cute. I think I will make a small scale version of Amanda Jean Nyberg's Remainders quilt from her new book, No Scrap Left Behind: I know just how she feels about scraps!  Watch this space.

What about the promised finish, I hear you ask?  OK before I went away I had decided to 'use up' the final final scraps from the Wedding Stars quilt I made two years ago. (This post shows the quilt I made with the leftover nine-patches). This time I wanted to use the leftover quarter-square triangles used for the Ohio Star points, and a while ago I pieced all the remaining bits into QSTs, and chopped up odd leftover squares to make a few more. 

I trimmed the QSTs using this brilliant ruler from Marsha McCloskey, the Precision Trimmer, which I bought many years ago (it is still available on her website here).  It is so accurate and the fine lines cross over in the middle so it is really easy to line up for QSTs.  Ordinary bias square rulers can be used but you will need to note where the centre point is to line up each time.

Having started to trim, I belatedly realised that I had used two different sizes of squares to make the QSTs and now I had two sizes of hourglass units which didn't fit together... I didn't want to 'waste' fabric by trimming the larger hourglass units down to the smaller size so I was faced with a bit of a dilemma.

What to do to rescue the situation? First of all I put the blocks away for a few weeks in deep disappointment, but you will recall that I went to the quilt show in Nantes in April and enjoyed seeing the old Dutch quilts featured in Petra Prins's new book (see this post: the Dutch quilts are towards the end).

Many of these 18th and 19th century Dutch quilts are made from lots of HSTs or QSTs, and sometimes they mix different sizes, with one size in the middle and borders of a different size. So I decided to copy our quilting forebears and make a simple medallion with 3" hourglasses in the centre and 4" hourglass blocks around the edge.

A small spacer strip (1/2" finished) was required to make it all fit, and I found the stripes for the spacer strip and binding and the two backing fabrics (joined, of course, in the spirit of making do) in my stash.

I finished the quilting in time for my talk but hadn't time to stitch down the binding so I am claiming the finish today for Finish it up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts.  Altogether a very satisfying conclusion to the journey with challenges and disappointments overcome.

The quilt measures a shade over 52" square and is simply machine quilted with straight lines on either side of the seam lines to avoid the bumps where the seams butt together. The quilting is quite dense but I like the texture it gives the quilt.

There are 63 x 3" hourglass units in the centre of the quilt, set in 9 rows of 9, and the border contains 120 x 4" hourglass units set in 3 rows all the way around.

I hope you have fun challenging yourself to use your scraps this weekend, and don't despair if you hit a difficulty: part of the fun of making is in finding a solution, even if it takes a little while and a bit of lateral thinking!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

French Quilt Show Part 2

Very belatedly, and in haste as I am about to go on a short holiday, here are the rest of the photos from my lovely visit to Nantes for the Quiltmania show at the end of April: see this post for Part 1 photos.

The pictures are of the historic Welsh quilts from the collection of Jen Jones. If you want to know more about the history, here is the link to the book Jen has written which is published by Quiltmania. The quilts were made mostly during the 19th century from wool and densely handquilted. 

I have seen reproductions of several of these quilts in various books, but to see so many of them brought together was amazing. And to be able to get up close and see the intricacy of the handquilting which overlays the piecing was really wonderful.  

While the piecing is reminiscent of Amish quilts the Welsh quilting patterns are in a style which is all their own, much more organic with leaves, spirals and paisley shapes. I bought a book of Welsh quilting designs so maybe one day I will embark on my own version....

The quilt in the next two pictures is rather different in that it is not quilted, being made from thousands of pieces of wool, probably clothing scraps, very finely pieced together in a dazzling, intricate and very large top. It is so big I have only been able to photograph a small section.

I really love piecing but even I would find making this a daunting prospect!

There are also a couple of photos showing the traditional Welsh costume for women from the same period. The fitted jacket over the skirt and apron looks as though it would be quite flattering to wear and certainly warm for the winter, but maybe not ideal summer wear and not easy to launder: I write this after a very hot day here!

Apologies for the brevity of this post but I hope you find the photos of interest.  For me they are a reminder not only of a great show but of our connection to the women of the past who lived very different lives to our own but who made beautiful quilts full of life and energy from the simple materials they had available.

Wishing you a creative time in your own lives, and I will check in again on my return from Italy!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Tulipa workshop

It is now four weeks since I was down in Cornwall at Cowslip Workshops for my weekend class with Irene Blanck: above is Irene's beautiful Tulipa quilt which we were learning to make. I am sorry I haven't blogged about it more promptly but on getting home I was caught up in all the usual tasks, and also I had an overwhelming urge to finish some pieced projects and clear the decks a bit.

However my delay in posting is no reflection on what a wonderful time I had. It was a real holiday, Cowslip is such a wonderful place and you can enjoy being right away from all the usual domestic stuff associated with home. I stayed in a lovely B&B, Poole Farm, where Greg and Louise looked after me very well indeed. I am happy to say I shall be going back mid-August to stay when I do a two-day class with Karen Styles of Somerset Patchwork: another complex quilt with lots of tiny pieces!

For now, I'd like to show you some photos of Irene's work and what I managed to accomplish in the two days.  It was amazing how the time flew by.  It probably looks as though I haven't done a lot but I feel that I have achieved masses and learned so much. Irene was terrifically generous with her knowledge and skill, sharing lots of tips she has developed over the years she has been making her beautiful applique quilts. She was also really good fun to be with and very relaxed as a teacher!

Here is a pic of Irene with lovely Jo Colwill (right) whose talent and warmth make Cowslip the wonderful place it is. And, as always it seems on quilting classes, the other ladies were delightful and fun to spend time with.

Organised chaos - I felt right at home!

The quilt we were working on was Tulipa from Irene's book Focus on Patchwork (published by Quiltmania). All Irene's patterns are also available individually from her: her website is

I adore tulips as you know from this post, so this seemed like a good choice of quilt for me to tackle, and I thought there would be some piecing involved too, so not quite so far out of my comfort zone. Well, I was mistaken about that as every part of this quilt is appliqued, even the 'nine-patches' and the zigzag outer border!

We did however use paper pieces to prepare the geometric shapes such as the eight pointed central star and Irene had some really great tips to help get a perfect meeting of points in the centre - I am v pleased with mine, all thanks to her help and advice! Let's hope I can remember it all when I get to the smaller stars on the pattern... Outer points of the diamonds could be better but I am no expert at this applique lark, just hoping to improve over the course of making this quilt.

I also learned the best way to make narrow bias stems with the Clover bias maker and how to save time  with Roxanne's basting glue. My whole quilt centre is now placed and ready for me to sit down for some relaxing hand needle-turn applique in the evening, and no pins anywhere to prick fingers or tangle the thread.

Irene shared some of her beautiful quilts with us: it's so great to be able to get really close and study the fabrics. Irene loves sharp chartreuse green as you will see from several of these pics!

Lovely traditional English paper-pieced quilt with great choice of fabrics!

I love the intense blue of the vases in this quilt. And there is actually some piecing to frame the applique!

Irene also works in more muted colour palettes. Her work is very varied and often based on traditional quilts but her own style shines through. She even pieces her backs, sometimes with lots of pieces as in the quilt above!

These following pics are close-ups of Irene's pattern, Potty McDotty, which I love: quirky flowers, interesting backgrounds, lively fabrics for the vases, and a pieced (or appliqued) border to tie it all together. If I get the needle-turn bug properly then this will definitely be on my to-do list.

And now for something completely different, as they say: here are some photos of the Quilts in the Barn exhibition of quilts by Petra Prins and Di Ford, with some quilts also by talented local quilters, which was just coming to an end at Cowslip while I was there. 

The quilts include many of those exhibited at Nantes which I have already posted about (here), but I am including more photos to show how very different they look in a bigger space under different lighting conditions. Enjoy!

It was a gorgeous exhibition and I am so lucky to have been inspired by so many talented quilters over the past few months. I hope you have been inspired too.  Have a great weekend!