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.

Completed: A pair of toddler pyjamas

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I made some garments! Admittedly, quite simple ones, but I did try some new patterns which was fun. Ever since my daughter spotted a fabric that I had used to make a pair of pyjama pants for myself she has been bugging me to make her a pair too. With the weather warming up she has recently transitioned from sleeping in an insulated onesie to real pyjamas so she could actually use another pair.

There wasn’t enough left of that particular fabric though, so I had a look in my stash for something else that she liked. I still had plenty left of a Robert Kaufman Laguna jersey with an Ann Kelle print. It might look familiar to some of you because I also used it for one of the maternity t-shirts that I wore during both my pregnancies. It feels very soft so I think it will make a comfortable pair of pyjamas too.

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No, I did not even attempt to do any pattern matching here.

I chose the sleeping johns pattern from Meg McElwee’s book “Growing up sew liberated” and decided to just try making them with my daughter present in the room. While tracing the pattern I warned her that if she made the tracing paper shift she’d get wonky leggings and she understood that this was something that we wanted to avoid. It is a very simple and quick pattern to make with only one pattern piece. We actually managed to pick a pattern and fabric, trace the pattern, cut the fabric, adjust my overlocker (someone had put several of the tension dials to 1 so I was extremely glad I had done a practice swatch before starting on the real thing!) and assemble the leggings except for hemming during a single nap of my youngest daughter.

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She also found this owl ribbon I had used previously in a pair of trousers I had made her and wanted me to use it for this pair as well.

 

I made the leggings as instructed except for how the elastic was put in. The instructions tell you to fold the waistband down to create a casing and then to put the elastic in between the fold. The elastic and casing are then topstitched at the same time. I prefer to first overlock the elastic to the top edge of the legging and then folding the whole thing to the inside to stitch in place. I think my method is easier to get right because the elastic is already tamed.

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The book suggests combining the sleeping johns with the crossover tee to create a set and since I still had more than enough fabric left I decided to do just that. I even found a good matching ribbing in my stash and now sort of wish I had finished the hem of the pants with ribbing as well to get an even more matching look. The t-shirt is also easy to assemble although I did scratch my head a bit at the edgestitching of the neckline ribbing until I realized that the overlap is actually stitched closed during this step. I also first sewed both sideseams and then attached the ribbing to the bottom instead of sewing one side seam and then attaching the ribbing before sewing the other side seam.

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The size chart in the book put my daughter in 3T, the garments turned out a bit larger than the Dutch size 104 my daughter now wears. I don’t have any size 110 yet to compare it to but I think the 3T is closer to that than to 104. She’ll be able to use this set for a good while.

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And if you thought that just because I had made sure the overlock stitches looked good before starting on the legging I could simply start sewing the t-shirt a couple of days later, think again. This time someone had found the differential feed and stitch length dials. And no, I did not even attempt to unpick those teeny tiny stitches. After all, if you touch something, things may get wonky…

 

 

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.

Completed: fabric bunting

200505_2Like many other parents right now I am often struggling to find indoor activities that are fun to do for my daughter and that I also enjoy doing. My daughter usually likes drawing and I wanted to make some bunting to use for birthday celebrations. Several weeks ago I thought I’d combine the two.

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Flag decoration in progress. I cut some cardboard to put inside the flags to prevent the ink from the markers seeping through to the other side.

I prepared some white flags from old sheets, covered the table, put my daughter in some protective clothing and handed her my fabric markers. Was she excited to be allowed to use real markers instead of pencils or crayons? You bet.

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We decorated them together and it was quite fun to do. I had only sewn 6 of the white flags to decorate, which wasn’t really enough for proper bunting so I created some more from a fun IKEA fabric that also has a white background.

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I then may have gotten distracted by a certain tree project, but eventually I created binding using a 25 mm bias tape maker, glued the flags to the binding at regular intervals with Prym wonder tape and sewed it all together.

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Just in time for my youngest daughter’s first birthday.

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.

Week 16/2020: What’s on my design wall

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With my kids at home all the time I am finding it difficult to find time for creativity. Well, apart from drawing and glueing with my daughter that is, but somehow that’s just not the same as using thread to put colourful pieces of fabric together.

Today, however, I found the solution. My husband and I both have a room on the top floor of our house. His is mostly used for working from home. Mine is filled with sewing related stuff, but I also use it for work. Our kids don’t really spend a lot of time on this floor. Now, however, we are spending so much more time at home and it’s a bit weird that mom and dad go upstairs to work instead of somewhere else. As a result our 3 year old daughter is spending a bit more time in those rooms now. She loves my husband’s whiteboard and finds my mowing machines fascinating (in Dutch the work for sewing machine (naaimachine) is even closer to mowing machine (maaimachine).

Today she noticed some improv trees I had up on my design wall and she really liked them. They are not for her though, which she found a bit disappointing. I suggested that we could make her some trees and she found that a very good idea. I let her pick fabrics from my scrap bag and only guided her in a different direction when she picked scraps that were too small. I just love what she put together. It’s bright, it’s happy and we are going to make more tomorrow. I intend to turn them into a wall hanging for her room.

Waistbands should keep your (sweat)pants up

A while ago I bought 4 pairs of sweatpants for my daughter. Even though they were bought in the same shop at the same time and 3 were the same model, 2 fit just fine and the other 2 simply slid down her legs and ended up at her ankles when she was wearing them. Not ideal…

To solve this problem I wanted to make the waistbands narrower. One possibility is to take out the elastic and replace it with a piece that is the correct length. However, the elastic was attached to the rest of the pants at the same time as the waistband. This is nice because it prevents the elastic from twisting inside the waistband, but has the disadvantage that I’d have to unpick the whole overlocked waistband seam to get the elastic out and then reattach the whole thing with new elastic. Especially the unpicking part of that activity is not very high on my list of fun stuff to do.

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Waistbands that were made narrower by adding an extra piece of elastic to the back.

So, I figured out another method to make the waistband narrower by adding a tunnel at the back of the trousers and threading an extra piece of elastic through that tunnel. This cinches in the back of the pants. They now stay up, so problem solved.

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Tunnel construction.

The new piece of elastic has to be narrower than the original waistband. My elastic was 2 cm wide and I cut the (woven) fabric for the tunnel 4 cm wide and slightly longer than half the circumference of the waistband. A narrow edge of each side of the tunnel was pressed to the inside. The finished tunnel needs to be wide enough to easily thread the elastic through. I first attached the long sides of the tunnel to the inside of the back waistband by stitching closely to the edge. I used a regular straight stitch and thread that matched the colour of the pants since the stitching is visible on the outside of the waistband. Then the elastic was threaded through the tunnel and secured at one of the short edges. The elastic was then pulled as tight as I needed it to fit comfortably around my daughter’s waist instead of sliding down. The other short edge was secured and the excess of elastic was cut off.

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Yay, the waistband now stays around her waist where it is supposed to be!

This was a pretty quick fix for this problem and the print fabrics add some fun to the waistband so I think I’ll use this technique again when faced with more too wide waistbands.

Completed: The red quilt

I made this quilt in 2016 but thought I had lost the pictures, I found them though so to keep a more complete record of all the quilts I made I am showing it today.

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When I started designing this quilt I wanted to make a red quilt so I started playing with lots and lots of red fabrics. Apparently I am not so keen on that much red because in the end all that was left was one red square, a red binding and some red quilting thread. It was an interesting experiment but for me red just works so much better as an accent colour.

If I remember correctly the grey fabric was a Kona cotton layer cake called Silent Film. I am not sure whether I used all the shades that were in it.

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For the backing I used a print from the Blueberry Park collection by Karen Lewis for Robert Kaufman. I’ve used it before for a backing and I am a little sad that most of this fabric is gone now. I did buy another print from this collection when I was in New York last year and am now regretting not getting more of it. Somehow it blends really well with a lot of other prints. The design on the back was kept simple with the child’s initial and two floating squares. I am pleased with how this turned out.

For the quilting I created a straight line quilting grid but used 4 different Gutermann Sulky thread colours that were matched to the fabrics in the quilt. The red thread crosses through the red square and then I worked from dark to light grey to the outside in each column and row. It is difficult to see in these pictures but I thought it added a bit more interest.

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I am now wondering whether I used so much more of the light grey in this quilt or whether I used it for another quilt as well. I guess it is probably the latter…

This was not a very complicated quilt to make but I do love the graphic effect with the different shades of grey and that pop of red.