Completed: boxy pouches galore!

My daughter turned 4 years old and as a result no longer goes to daycare but to school. Time does really fly these days. We wanted to give her 3 daycare teachers a special goodbye gift and decided (well, I suppose this decision was mostly mine) on quilted pouches with improv piecing.

My daughter dug through my scraps to find pieces she wanted to combine. For a lot of the sewing and quilting she even operated the foot pedal and scissors button. This goes better each time we sew together. The original plan was to make the entire pouch using improv pieced scraps but we ran out of time and the piece we had made just wasn’t big enough to make 3 pouches. Instead I cut it into 3 wedges and let my daughter pick a solid fabric to combine with each piece. For some extra interest I also used a piece of cork leather for each pouch that was added after the pieced panel was quilted. I love it when a change of plan results in an even better looking item!

Add a lining, a zipper and some binding to finish off the inside seams and 3 pouches were completed. My daughter was super happy with how they turned out and excited to gift them. It was funny to see how she decided that certain fabrics definitely had to go in the pouch for a specific teacher.

A new journey has started. Going to school is very different from how we imagined it would be when we enrolled her. Schools in The Netherlands will be closed for at least another couple of weeks for most of the students. On the days she can go it’s just a couple of students in the class. On the other days there is a half hour online meeting with the teacher and we do some assignments with her at home. I am happy that she does appear to be enjoying herself. That’s probably an advantage of starting school now, she has no clue what it is really supposed to be like.

Newsletter

I’ve decided to try something new and am starting a monthly newsletter at the end of January. I’ve been digging deeper into Adobe Illustrator and am now using it to turn some of my designs into real quilting patterns! If you’d like to know a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes and don’t want to miss anything you can sign up for the newsletter here.

Tutorial: Greeting cards with fabric

I’ve been using tiny scraps to make greeting cards. I came up with the idea when I wanted to send a pretty card but didn’t really have anything suitable left and didn’t want to visit a shop to buy one. It’s a super quick method and I thought some of you might be interested in a tutorial so you can use up some of your own scraps in a fun way!

What do you need?

  • Blank (coloured) greeting cards
  • White or coloured card stock (I use 160 gms)
  • Fabric scraps
  • Ruler
  • Rotary cutter
  • Sewline glue pen (or another basting glue that doesn’t leach through the fabric)
  • Thread
  • Old sewing machine needle to sew through paper
  • Sewing machine
  • Double sided sticky tape

Method

1. Use the rotary cutter and ruler to cut a piece of card stock slightly smaller than the front of the greeting card.

2. Cut fabric scraps and arrange on piece of card stock until you are happy with the layout.

3. Use the glue pen to stick the fabric to the card stock. Only use a small amount of glue, it’s just to make sure the fabric doesn’t shift around when you’re sewing.

4. Put an old needle in your sewing machine.

5. Make sure the ends of top and bobbin threads are pulled out a bit before starting to sew. Sew through the fabric scraps and make sure to also leave a thread tail at the end.

6. Pull on the thread at the back of the cardstock to pull the thread that’s on the front through to the back as well.

7. Tie a knot in the threads and either trim short or weave the ends into the stitching.


8. Put a couple of pieces of double sided sticky tape on the back of the card stock.

9. Use a ruler as a guide to make sure that you stick the piece of card stock centered on the greeting card.


10. Write message on the inside and put in the mail!

Alternatives

For an even quicker make you can also stitch the fabric directly onto the front of a double greeting card. The stitching and thread ends will show on the inside of the card but that’s part of the charm of a handmade card right? Do make sure to open the card before you start sewing though or it may be very difficult to write your message afterwards. I probably don’t need to spell out how I came up with that last piece of advice…

I also like to make fabric postcards using the method described in this tutorial that I made years ago, but those postcards take a lot longer to make so it’s not something I’ll do when I only have a little bit of time to sew. Have you ever used fabric to make greeting cards? 

Completed: Are we out of the woods yet?

Oh pandemic of 2020… I started this quilt together with my daughter during the first lockdown in the Netherlands which lasted from March to May. I did show some of the process before, including how it started and how I assembled all the trees into a quilt top.

This is an image of a quilt with colourful improv trees

Basically, in an effort to stay sane with two kids at home 24/7 and hardly any time or energy left to do stuff for myself, my daughter and I started making improv trees using scrap fabrics that she picked from my scrap bins when my other daughter was sleeping. She enjoyed spending time in my sewing room with me and I could get some sewing done. Win win.

I turned all those super scrappy tree blocks into a randomly arranged forest representing the pandemic and uncertainty we are still in.

This image shows the back of an improv tree quilt with the haning sleeve and label.

After completing the front my daughter wanted to make more trees for a while, and a house, so I just used those for the back of the quilt. Which looks quite nice, but since the quilt is a wall hanging this side will not be on display very often.

I took a long time deciding how to quilt it. I considered simple straight line quilting from top to bottom, or wavy horizontal quilting, but that just didn’t really feel right or like it would add much to the design. Suddenly I realized I could create a denser forest by quilting tree shapes over the fabric trees. I really like how that turned out, even though I vouched doing a design that requires less starts and stops and burying of threads next time. The batting is Quilters Dream Poly Select which I like for wall hangings.

This images shows a detail shot of a colourful improv tree quilt that has trees quilted on it.

For the binding I chose a tiny white polkadot on petrol that I think works well with both the quilt and the colours that we’ve already used to decorate our daughter’s room. As usual I hand sewed the binding because I really love how that looks. On a quilt this size it doesn’t even take that long.

This image shows all four corners of a quilt binding.

The hanging sleeve was made from the same fabric and since I had never added a sleeve I looked around for some tips and tricks on how to do it and ended up following a tutorial from Suzy Quilts. I also added a label and then the quilt was finally completed right in the middle of the second lockdown in the Netherlands. What could be more fitting?

This image shows a detail shot of a quilt label

Now all that is left is hanging the quilt in my daughter’s room. Due to the lockdown all home improvement stores are closed at the moment, so I’ll need to dig around to see if we have any wooden rods and screw eyes laying around that would be suitable.

This image shows a detailshot of quilted trees on a scrappy improv tree quilt.

I wish everyone a very good (hopefully physically distanced) Christmas tomorrow. I am hopeful that 2021 will bring better times. In March I was very sceptical that we’d have even one vaccine ready by the end of 2020, how glad am I to have been proven wrong on this count. Stay safe and sew!

Completed: What makes you think I love triangles?

This quilt started as a “what if” experiment. I have a stack of colourful 10’’ squares and thought to myself “what if I layer them on top of each other, slice them into two triangles, put one triangle to the side and then repeat this procedure twice with the other one? The next step was mixing up the fabrics to get as much variation in the blocks as possible and sew them back together into squares.

I wanted to make 30 blocks and picked 33 different fabrics so I’d have some extra blocks to play with. After sewing several seams and a couple of trimming steps in each block I could square them to 8’’, so the final quilt measures 37.5 x 45’’ or approximately 94 x 112 cm.

It was a lot of fun to choose a layout. The 3 different sizes triangles in the blocks create additional shapes in the design and I kept adjusting the placement of the blocks over several days to achieve the final layout.

For the back I started with the improv pieced name of the recipient and added two rows of trucks/tractors because I know he’s into that kind of stuff. It gives the quilt a bit more of a child vibe than I usually go for, but I quite like it.

Let there never be any doubt who’s quilt this is!

The batting is Hobbs Tuscany cotton wool and thread a variegated Guttermann Sulky that I already had in my stash which is a very good match for several of the colours in the quilt.

Details of the walking foot quilting.

For the quilting I decided to go for a no markings needed design and sort of followed the shapes that I saw in the quilt. Quilting didn’t take as much time as I’d expected and I really like how it turned out.  

I love hand binding and this Karin Lewis Blueberry Park fabric is just perfect for binding because it seems to go with everything!

I’m thinking of making another quilt using this method but then using solids. Is anyone interested in a more detailed explanation of how to make these blocks? I forgot to take pictures when I made this one, but would be happy to make a small tutorial showing all the cutting and trimming steps.

Completed: A quilt for Lana

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So happy I finally finished this quilt! I basted it back in February and then all sorts of things happened in the world and the need to get if finished quickly disappeared. I quilted it a couple of weekends ago and added the binding over several short sessions.

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Batting is Hobbs Tuscany cotton/wool, which so far remains my favourite batting for quilts that will be used as blankets. It’s soft and drapey and, not unimportant, I like quilting it. The finished size of the quilt before I washed it was 96 x 114.5 cm, I didn’t measure afterwards but it’s probably slightly smaller now.

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On the back you can see the quilting much better.

I used a neutral Guttermann Sulky 30wt cotton thread for quilting. The quilting design is simple. In the lighter parts I quilted ½’’ away from the seam lines and in the darker parts I did a zig zag that is the mirror image of the zig zag created by the seam lines in the quilt. I only did very minimal marking for the zig zag and even though I didn’t always hit the mark exactly you can’t really tell in the finished quilt. The child’s name was quilted with a more shiny purple thread.

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Small marks to help me quilt in the right direction

For the binding I picked a black fabric and while it’s perhaps not the most obvious choice I like how it turned out. I still need to gift this quilt but I don’t think the parents read my blog so it’s probably safe to already show it here.

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All the long straight lines in the lighter parts of the quilt are done.

Although it’s not really obvious on this blog (yet) I have been spending so much more time in my sewing room lately and that is great. I am experimenting with different techniques, quilt designs and generally just having a lot of fun. Expect to see some more activity here in the coming months when all those projects (hopefully) get finished!

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Completed: Bellen blazen mini quilt

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Bellen blazen

This year the dutchMQG has set a theme for each quarter and there is usually also an activity organized around this theme. With this quarter’s theme “colour” we had the option to participate in a swap to make a miniquilt for another member. We had to make an inspirational mosaic for our swap partner and answer some colour-related questions.

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Mique’s mosaic

I had to make something for Mique and she said she likes curves, abstract art and happy colours. She also said she’d basically like her partner to make anything as long as it brought joy. Ah, well, that sounded totally doable and up my street!

In the questions she answered that she liked everything by the painter Kadinsky, so I had a look at his work and noticed a lot of colourful circles. So, combined with her liking for curves I figured I’d give her a quilt that, apart from the binding around it, doesn’t have a single straight seam in the top! I played around in Illustrator for a bit to get a layout I liked. Considering the options on how to piece the quite complex design I thought that English Paper piecing (EPP) would probably be my best bet. So I recreated the design using a compass on four A4 160gr sheets I had taped together and cut to a 16.5’’ square.

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The right picture shows the circles I drew with the compass, they’re a bit hard to see, sorry.

As a complete side note, I found Florence Knapp’s book “Flossie teacakes’ Guide to English Paper Piecing” extremely useful in figuring out how to wrap the papers and piece the curves. I ordered her book as soon as I saw that she had written one as I’ve followed her blog for several years now, enjoy her writing style and admire her intricate EPP work, despite my complete lack of understanding of her love for Liberty prints (sorry folks, most of those prints just don’t do it for me). Anyway, if you want to get into EPP I can highly recommend Florence’s book.

Since the theme was colour I wanted colour to play an important role in the design and I thought the cirles would be an excellent opportunity to play around with transparency. Years ago I bought a light and dark fat quarter bundle of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons so I had a lot of different colours to choose from. I cut a tiny piece of each colour and started playing around by laying the pieces of fabric on the still uncut piece of paper. When I found a layout I liked I labelled each tiny piece of fabric with the corresponding number of the pattern piece. There are 28 pattern pieces and 27 different colours.

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Playing with colour.

The next step was cutting the paper into templates and I made sure to also label each piece on the back (since the front would end up covered in fabric) and also indicated which other templates a piece had to be joined on each side to make my life easier later on.

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For wrapping around the paper templates I used a Sewline glue stick because Florence specifically advised this for wrapping curves. I didn’t have any trouble wrapping and it was certainly a lot faster than the thread basting I had used for my previous (and to be honest very limited) EPP endeavours.

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Piecing sections.

For piecing I used Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread which I have in several neutral colours, picking the shade that was least conspicuous for each seam. Sewing went smoother than anticipated (feared?), probably because I carefully considered the order in which I put things together, trying to keep the seams as short as possible and avoiding any sharp corners. It’s certainly not perfect, but close enough for me.

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All pieced, paper still inside.

For the back I decided to sort of stay in the Kaffe Fassett theme and selected four 10’’ squares with prints that certainly tick the happy colours box. I recently decided that I wanted to experiment a bit more with different battings and this time I used Quilters Dream Poly Select and so far I like working with it. It gives quite a flat finish.

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The overlapping circles of the top started to remind me of blowing bubbles which I did a lot with my daughter during the first couple of weeks of the lockdown. When I started considering how to quilt the top I decided that I wanted to incorporate that idea even more and selected a variegated thread to add more colourful overlapping circles. I used several plates to draw circles and quilted them with a walking foot. Since I was going to turn the quilt constantly to sew the circles the quilt was spray basted to prevent the fabric from shifting.

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Rejected binding options.

Selecting the binding took a long time as I auditioned a lot of fabrics before I found something that worked. White and grey fabrics were too boring and didn’t add anything to the design. Dark fabrics were better but dominated too much. In the end I pulled some leftovers from a solids jelly roll that, if I remember correctly, was designed/curated by Elizabeth Hartman. When I started playing with those it all came together. When the right colour was added to a side it enhanced the design so a colourful, pieced binding it was.

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I think the binding works well on both sides, which was a lucky accident since I originally planned to use a single binding fabric.

As a final touch I added a label. I rarely make labels this elaborate, usually it’s just my initials and the year, but for this piece it seemed like the right thing to do. I named this quilt “Bellen blazen”, which is Dutch for blowing bubbles.

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I am super pleased with how this small quilt turned out and I found it quite difficult to stuff it in an envelope to mail to someone else. I just have to remind myself that without this swap I would never even have made anything like this. I learned a lot from the process of making this quilt and am now contemplating making something similar for myself.

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Quilting close up.

Finally, I am guessing some of you will be curious to know what I received in return? Erica made me a beautiful quilt inspired by Katie Pedersen‘s “Fractured quilt” from the book “Quilting Modern”. This quilt is one of my favourites in this book so that choice was spot on. I also really love the colour combinations and that the quilt is bound in a way that you can’t see the binding (or should I call it a facing?) from the front. I think that really works for this quilt. I am going to hang it in my sewing room so I can look at it often. This was definitely a good swap to participate in.

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The quilt Erica made for me.

Completed: A sleeping bag for stuffed animals

200520_3After we finished my daughter’s pyjamas we searched for another project to take on together and decided on a sleeping bag for her stuffed animals. Mainly because I really didn’t feel like making them pyjamas too…

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We took some small improv pieces I had made earlier this year and sewed those together to create two larger pieces. I didn’t take any measurements, just sort of guessed what size would be large enough for the toys she would most likely want to put inside.

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The back, which is the inside of the finished sleeping bag, is an unpieced piece of cotton. Batting is Hobbs Tuscany Cotton Wool. From my selection of quilting threads she picked a pink variegated one. The quilting is a simple straight line wonky grid that I think matches with the improv nature of the pieces.

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I lucked out with the binding because I had a piece left over from a quilt that was large enough. I really don’t want to use my iron when my daughter is in the room and I feared that the fold in the binding would not turn out so great without using an iron .

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Normally I am all for the clean look of a hand sewn binding, but someone was a little bit impatient to get this sleeping bag finished so I decided to do a machine sewn binding instead. It’s probably sturdier too which is great for a toy. I used two decorative stitches and realised that the stitch in the ditch foot that I can attach to my walking foot could be really useful to get the stitches on the front evenly distributed on the edge of the binding. Turning was a bit fiddly, but it did work. The back is a bit less neat, but I am not too bothered by that.

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Her toys had a really good night’s sleep.

Week 20/2020: What’s on my design wall?

A completed quilt top!

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Are we out of the woods yet?

Super happy with how it turned out! I think I managed to keep the distribution of the trees pretty random. How did I do this?

  • I tried to place larger and smaller trees next to eachother so that their differences in height and width create variation.
  • I sometimes added a bit of filler fabric so that the tops, bottoms or sides of two or more trees that are placed in a row or column don’t align exactly.
  • I first created sections and within these sections tried to alternate horizontal and vertical seams when combining subsections of multiple trees.
  • I used 3 Y-seams or inset seams to avoid one seam running from top to bottom or left to right.

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The order in which the different sections were pieced.

I kept changing the layout of the part of the quilt that was not yet pieced so I could fit it to the part that was already pieced as best as possible. I also kept creating more trees as needed to fill up gaps. I definitely spent more time thinking about how I was going to piece the next part than actually piecing.

For the filler fabrics I chose 1 black and 2 white fabrics. The black fabric contains lines that come from hubs that connect to other hubs. I thought this was a great representation of a rapidly spreading virus. I deliberately used this fabric mostly in one of the corners and only a couple of smaller pieces in other spots. After all, we’re trying to get out of this situation and I am hopeful that we will, at least at some point.

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Don’t be scared of Y-seams, once you know how to do them they’re really not that hard.

One of the white fabrics has silver dots forming star constellations. These represent cured people and places without virus. The last fabric contains little lightbulbs with golden hearts. Which is kind of corny, but my little girl does like some sparkle and I thought they could represent all the innovations that take place in science and medicine right now.

Now I have to think about a back, which I’ll probably keep quite simple since the back of a wall hanging is very rarely on display. And how to quilt it… That part will take some time to figure out as well. Which is just as well since I also appear to have run out of batting.

Week 17/2020: What’s on my design wall?

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So, we have made more trees. The novelty of picking fabrics has worn off a bit so I’ve also added some of my own combinations. To a couple of pieces I’ve added a bit of white and silver fabric so they became large enough to turn them into rectangles. When I’m happy with the composition, I’ll have to find a way to piece all these differently sized pieces together. The gaps will be filled with white and black fabrics. I’m having fun so far.

The forrest is growing

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Are we out of the woods yet?

During the past two days my daughter and I have added more trees to our forrest and I think we’re getting close to the number that is needed. Some fabric combinations definitely work better than others, but overall I still really like where this is going. I even have a title! I am notoriously bad at coming up with good titles and in different times I would probably just have called it “The quilt with improv trees” or something equally boring. Now it’s called “Are we out of the woods yet?” which seems an apt description for the pandemic we’re currently in.