Monday, December 28, 2015

Old fabric, new project

About 40 years ago my family lived in England and my mother was nibbled by the quilting bug while living there. She managed to collect some Laura Ashley prints, some of which were off-cuts from the clothing line that they did. One pile was blue - I think this was made into a grandmother's fan design and finished a few years back.

For years, there was a pile of red fabrics cut into diamonds, hidden away in a box. The last time I was at my mother's house I found them and imagined that I could do something interesting with them. I was inspired by the recent red and white quilt exhibits, but red really isn't my thing.

I think my mother planned to do 8-pointed Le Moyen stars. She partially pieced 1 or 2 and some of the other cut pieces showed signs of being sewn and then unpicked. I admit that some of the 'old school' methods were much harder than those we use today - like tracing out templates, using scissors to cut, marking seam allowances, etc.

After having a play with the diamonds, I decided to use them to make a large medallion - I know it as a Lone Star, but I've seen a few other names as well: Star of Bethlehem and Blazing Star. Usually it's made by creating strip sets of the fabrics and then cutting across them at a 45 degree angle to make the component pieces. I've never done this, but it looks to be pretty straight forward. There are two disadvantages to this method: firstly, you have to start with strips and I have pre-cut diamonds. The second disadvantage is a little less obvious.

If you look closely at my mother's diamonds, you can see that all of the swans are fussy cut and the directional print (red on white) has all of the flower motifs lined up along the diamond. If you cut strips on the grain, all of the patterns are leaning and you lose the lovely radial effect when the pieces are laid out. If you look on the internet, most quilts like this are made from solids or prints that don't have an obvious direction.

So, after a bit of experimentation, I worked out that if the strips are cut at 22.5 degrees, the patterns line up. You'd think this would be a big fabric waster, but I managed to get 14-15 diamonds from a fat quarter no matter which way I cut the strips.

I pulled a few fabrics from my stash including some corals (yuck), oranges, and greens. Usually I would not go with green and red (think Christmas) but one of the original fabrics has orange and lime (or is it avocado?) green flowers. The plain red is actually a shot fabric with red in one direction and white and orange in the other, so more orange there too.

I found a template on Jinny Beyer's website that I could color in to trial some designs. After about 5 tries, I settled on a design that makes the best use of the pre-cut pieces and 3 fabrics from my stash. I've had to order yard lengths - one green print and one orange one for the biggest rings which require 40+ pieces. I was careful to pick patterns that were not directional so I can cut them on the grain.

So far, so good. I'm really enjoying this process of making a design work with some limitations (the pre-cut vintage fabrics). I never would have mixed these colors, but in the end, I think it's a nice combination. No idea if there will be pieced borders outside of the center medallion (finish at 42.5") - I will cross that bridge when I get there.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A pillow for a favorite teacher

My daughter's favorite teacher, Ms. J, announced that she was leaving at the end of this year, so I was naturally enlisted to create a gift. Coincidentally, Robyn had a paper pieced dolphin pattern that she needed testing, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. This was especially true since Ms. J was the organizer of the school Eco Warriors - what Eco Warrior doesn't love dolphins?

The last pattern test I did for Robyn was my arctic hare which I made using fabric from the scrap basket. This time I thought I'd be a bit more refined and just use one fabric for the dolphin and another for the background.

I admit I started late (Sunday, day before last day of school), but I figured I'd get through it pretty quickly. I confess I was being very optimistic. I think my main problem was lack of planning; I had not really worked through what I was going to do besides the dolphin and probably should have considered all aspects of the project beforehand. This is especially true in a country where shops are not open for extended hours - on a Sunday they would all be closed before 5.

Usually I would have made an overlapped flap in the back to take the cover off easily for cleaning but since I didn't have much backing fabric and was concerned about the timing, I thought I'd forgo that and just sew the inner into the pillow for all eternity. Turns out this is not as easy as it sounds and the time it took to shove the inner into the too-small gap and then hand sew the opening shut (especially with the added piping) almost undid me (besides, it was after midnight by this time).

For the quilting I chose a pattern that would go quickly, and it did. The water ripples on the back took about 20 minutes and the wavy lines around the dolphin on the front took about the same. My daughter thought the orange piping would be a good option, and I agree it was the right choice. Next time, I'll start just a bit earlier when I have a gift to make - I admit I'd do a few things differently if I had more time. Still, I think it was a nice gift for a great teacher - I only wish she wasn't leaving.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Finished baby quilt

I finished the green wedge baby quilt last night. I struggled finding a good binding fabric and came up short on my first 5 choices. Since the whole thing was made from fabric in my stash and some pieced together batting, I wasn't going to let the binding break my make-do streak. I ended up with a fabric with a good shade of green that I initially rejected because of the bright aqua blue. I realized when re-trialing it that the blue wasn't a bad match and would be less noticeable in the 3/8" that shows on the binding and I'm happy that it's done.

The quilting is very simple with 45 degree diagonal lines in one direction. I marked out 4 of the lines through the center circles of the blocks and then eyeballed the others in between. Although I'm not a fan of straight quilting like this, it took little time and works well.

It's definitely on the big side for a baby (51" x 37"), but since few parents actually use blankets on newborns, it will hopefully be useful (and loved) well into childhood.

This one is being gifted tomorrow at lunchtime, so it's just in time.