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.

Week 29/2018: What am I quilting?

I’ve finally started quilting the quilt for which I made this backing. Originally I had planned some simple lines, spaced quite far apart. I changed my mind though after buying a new sewing machine! Several weeks ago, I brought my sewing machine in for a repair job and since I was already in the shop I took the opportunity to test some fancy sewing machines as well. I decided to buy the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9400. It offers a lot more harp space, 28 versus 16.5 cm on my Janome 3160. It also has the walking foot option included and this works soooooo much better than the walking foot on the 3160. The stitches are much more even, things move much smoother (possibly also because of the extra harp space). Anyway, this much more enjoyable walking foot quilting experience made me decide to try a much denser quilting pattern for a change. The lines so far are only ½ and 1 inch apart.

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I do wonder whether it would have been better to use a more neutral thread for this denser quilting pattern. I picked the thread when I still had a lot less lines planned and perhaps I should have reconsidered this choice as well because it does stand out quite a bit.