Posts Tagged ‘quilting’

Quilt blocks, that is.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of quilting. Or more specifically, I’ve been making a lot of quilt blocks. Like many people enamoured with a new hobby, I got very enthusiastic and threw myself into a number of projects. In this case, many of the projects were quilt block swaps. A block swap is when a group of people each make a number (usually 12) of identical blocks, send them in to a central co-ordinating person, and then get 11 different blocks made by other swappers and one of their own blocks back.

In my enthusiasm, I not only signed up for a “Blue & Yellow Block” swap on my favourite quilting message board, but decided to make 2 different sets of 12 blocks, so that I would get 24 blocks back, enough (with sashing and borders) for a full-sized quilt (or duvet cover). Part of what was driving my enthusiasm for this particular swap was that I already had a few blue & yellow fabrics, almost enough for two sets of blocks!

The first set went together well. I used a block pattern that we had recently done as a Block of the Month at my quilt guild:


The blue-with-white-spirals-and-yellow-stars fabric was leftover from another project (though I fell so completely in love with it that I subsequently ordered two more yards of it for a future project), and the solid blue and solid yellow were some of the fabric used as table decoration at our wedding.


First set done – all 12 block together look pretty cool!

Then I started on the second set of blocks and had a set-back: I had a much lighter (baby-boy) blue fabric in my stash that I wanted to use for the second set of blocks, so I bought some yellow-and-white checked gingham fabric to go with it. Only I didn’t check the bolt-end carefully enough and I accidentally ended up with fabric that must have been at least 70% polyester – ICK! Usually I’m pretty good at telling fiber content by feel, but this stuff fooled me. The problem was that it didn’t sew well at all – the seams went all puckery on me, the blocks didn’t come out to the right size, it was a disaster. This was back when t! was still working in town, and so I didn’t have the car very often. So going shopping for more fabric wasn’t really an option.

The lovely people on the quilting message board came to my rescue and sent me replacement fabric so that I could still do a second set of blocks!


It took me a while to find a block pattern that I could adapt so that I could use all 5 fabrics in each block (most quilt blocks call for 2 or 3 colours, or 8 or more) – which I wanted to do in appreciation of everyone’s generosity. I came up with this one:


It’s based on a block called “Antique Tile” which is actually meant to be done in 3 colours/fabrics rather than five, but I really like the way it turned out. It was a fairly fast block to do, as well, and I think the blocks look really good together without any sashing, so I’m going to keep it in mind in case I ever want to do a quick quilt:


I also made a gift block for the lady running the swap, using some of the yellow fabric that’s in the above blocks, and some pretty blue batik fabric that I bought myself as a treat with the money I received for my essay in Out of the Broom Closet. It’s the same pattern as the “Antique Tile” blocks, but with only two colours this time:


So that’s 25 blocks made.

Then there’s another online group I belong to, that does a group quilt 4 times per year. The way this one works is that someone sends out 25 squares of (the same) fabric to 25 participants. Everyone makes a block using the fabric they were sent, and any other fabric they want to use. The blocks are all sent back to the co-ordinator, and a name is pulled out of a hat to choose the winner of the 25 blocks. The winner is then responsible for buying and sending out the fabric for the next round. I’ve participated in this group three times so far, but haven’t won the blocks yet!


This is the block I made. The red fabric was sent to us, and astute readers will see that the blue and yellow (it looks more loke off-white in this photo) is the same fabric from my previous set of blocks. I didn’t realise until I was photoshopping this picture down to size that I set four-patch in the bottom right corner wrong. Oh well, it’s in the mail already, there’s nothing I can do about it now!

So that’s 26 blocks made.

Then, there was a more traditional-style swap, again on the second online group. I probably shouldn’t have signed up for this one, and I mainly did because I already had all the fabric I would need for the blocks in my stash: green and yellow solids, again from our wedding decorations, cream-on-white leftover from the backing of Frank & Jess’ wedding quilt (which they have since told me is going to become a baby quilt!) and a purple floral fat quarter, which I bought when my local quilt shop was having a 10-fat-quarters-for-$5 sale.

For this swap, we’re all making “Victorian Tulip” blocks. They’re meant to look like this:


This one was made by one of the ladies organising the swap.

I was doing really well. I had all my fabric cut, all my half-square-triangles made, the first two rows of squares sewn together, and then, even though I was very carefully following the pattern and instructions…


I put the last “leaf” triangle in the wrong way around. On all 12 blocks. So now I have to re-do the bottom row 12 times. I’m not looking forward to it, and so when this happened last week, I decided to take a break from quilting for a bit, and paint the bedroom instead. Which is coming along beautifully.

Once I’ve fixed these tulip blocks and sent them off (the deadline for which is October 1st), I have to make 17 more of these for yet another swap:


This one swap I definitely should not have signed up for, but I got carried away in the organizer’s enthusiasm for the project and the swap. It’s a Dear Jane swap, in Christmas colours. I picked one of the easiest Jane blocks available, thank gods, so once I get myself organised to sit down and do it, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

I’ve also done 1/3 of the blocks for a quilt I’m making as a gift, but you don’t get to see pictures of that until after it’s been gifted.

And, because all this isn’t enough quilting, I’m also working on an English Paper-Piecing project, which is eventually going to be a case for my hoop drum:


I love this project because it’s done entirely by hand, so I can take it with me to appointments, parties, etc. I can also do the basting (the red thread, which comes out once everything is assembled) in front of the TV.

Right – that’s all the quilting I am / have been working on for the past month or so. I promise to make quilting updates more frequently from now on, so that they’re shorter!

Oh, and today is this blog’s birthday. In the past year I have apparently made 86 posts and had almost 3000 unique visits to the blog. Happy Birthday, blog!

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This will, hopefully, someday, be a bountifully fertile 40′ x 40′ (1/8 of an acre, approximately) vegetable patch: 


However, there has been a significant setback to the plan. On Saturday we stopped by the Fearsranch to borrow a rototiller. It’s a good, old, solidly built two-tine Troy-Bilt tiller. As predicted by my friend Alan at the market, it is unfortunately not up to the task of chewing through 25+ years of field grass root mass.

This is the result of almost 3 hours of tilling:


So I have to figure out what to try next. Options include stripping off the sod by hand, begging a local farmer to till for me with real equipment, renting a much larger, more powerful rototiller, or gardening in raised beds rather than digging. The eventual solution may well be a combination of these.

In other gardening news, yesterday I spent a Home Depot gift card we got for a housewarming gift on a wheelbarrow. It’s a lovely wheelbarrow – thanks Ceri & Scott!

In non-gardening news, I went to my first local quilting guild meeting last night. It seems like a really good group. It’s a relatively young guild – The Highland Quilt Guild (Maxville) was only formed a couple of years ago, but has approximately 25 members. I liked that the meeting was structured and well run, but informal enough that members were speaking up and making jokes throughout. I met Francis, who lives on my road (which now means I’ve met everyone who lives on the road except for one house, which I think is a “country cottage” rather than a full-time residence), and Brenda who lives one road over, and whose husband hays the field next to ours.

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Last night I got to try out my new pasta-maker. t! got this action shot of me:


I made linguine using Allison’s recipe (except that I added a half-tablespoon of olive oil to the dough, a tip I found in a book that’s meant to make the dough easier to handle), and it turned out really well. Unsurprisingly fresh pasta is completely different from the dried, boxed kind, but I don’t think it will take us very long to get used to it. We had the linguine for supper with tomato and smoked sausage sauce, and I realised part-way through cooking that the meal was pretty much 100% local and organic – flour from the Berwick mill and eggs, vegetables, and red deer and wild boar sausages, all from the Vankleek Hill Farmer’s Market. It was very, very yummy, and felt very much like traditional food. Next time I make it I’m going to grate some pepper into the dough, and next time I’m at the mill I will ask if they have any flour that’s better for pasta than the standard hard white wheat bread flour I’m currently using. And with any luck this time next year, I’ll be making pasta with our own eggs. Now to learn to make tortellini!

Oh, and I really need to either a) keep the door to the guest bedroom/sewing room closed, or b) put that quilt top away somewhere safe:


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I have been trying to do a little bit of work every day on my sewing/quilting projects.

I finally finished all 9 blocks of my “starter” project and assembled them. Now the quilt top is waiting for the next stages, which I need to learn to do. So to teach myself how to attach the borders, assemble the layers of the quilt (top, batting, and backing), quilt it, and bind it, I’m working instead on my “window quilts” or insulated curtains. I figure it makes more sense to learn these somewhat tricky steps on a plain piece of curtain fabric rather than on a pretty quilt top that I’ve worked hard on.

So this week I cut the fabric for the curtains and then cut border strips as if it was a “real” quilt, and today taught myself how to do borders with Mitered Corners:



The curtain measures 60 inches wide by 36 inches “tall” and is the first of a pair I’m making for the two windows in the den. The curtain fabric is some I bought in Reading many years ago, and the borders are fabric that silly_imp gave me from her fabric stash a while back.

So far so good, though it’s slow going since I only tend to spend an hour or so on it, 3 or 4 times a week. At this rate I figure I may have the two window quilts for the den finished by Christmas… and then I’ve got a whole list of other projects waiting their turn:

  • Quilted curtains for the guest bedroom – squares are cut for this one
  • A pieced (but not quilted) duvet cover for the guest bedroom, made mostly out of old sheets
  • And, of course, finishing the first project, which will probably end up as a simple (but pretty!) wall hanging
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    Quilting progress

    I’m finally making some time to work on my sewing/quilting projects. My first project, which is going to be a quited wall hanging in “Wandering Star” blocks now has 4 completed blocks, and the squares pieced for 3 more:

    I think it looks quite pretty, even though my corners don’t meet up very well. I’m learning a lot about what I need to do to improve my accuracy, though, which is the whole point of this project. I think once it’s done I’m going make a dowel-rod style hanger for it. and hang it on the hooks of the shelf that Carolyn gave us for our housewarming, in the guest bedroom. I think it will look nice with the blue carpet and green walls not to mention the purples in the Monet print in that room.

    Project #2 is going to be quilted curtains (or “window quilts”), also for the guest room. I’ve started cutting the squares for a simple “Nine Patch” set of blocks, using fabric that I bought ages ago in the UK for various projects in my house in Reading. I laid out some of the squares to make sure that the pattern in my head would actually work, and I think it does:

    In it’s previous life, the blue checked fabric was my bathroom curtains, the green checks was the curtain on the pantry that I built in one corner of the kitchen, the blue with the green and blue pattern was a dining room table runner, and the plan blue was a large piece of fabric I used as a futon cover for my living room sofa. I plan to use old bedsheets for the backing, and possibly also for the batting. My plan for the batting is a sandwich of old flannel sheets and mylar reflective film (aka. an “emergency blanket”) to keep the cold out and the heat in overnight.

    When I’m in town next Tuesday, I need to remember to bring a couple of squares with me so that I can buy the right colour thread.

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    Fabric crafts

    This is my very first quilt block:

    Wandering Star quilt block

    Wandering Star quilt block

    I treated myself to a couple of half-yards of pretty quilting fabric for my “teach myself to quilt” project, which is probably going to end up as a 9-block square wall hanging rather than something actually useful. I’m machine-piecing the blocks, but I think I’m going to try hand-quilting it once it’s assembled.


    I have plans for other quilt-like projects: I’m going to be starting on window quilts for the den and guest-room windows (window quilts are quilted curtains with insulating layers that keep the cold air out at night), and a pieced (but not quilted) duvet-cover for the guest-room bed – all using my extensive stash of fabric. I’ve got pieces of fabric that are left over from 10-year-old projects, old curtains from my house in the UK, spare bed sheets from sets (we tend not to use a flat sheet with the duvet, European-style), and fabric that I bought at John Lewis in Reading years ago because it was beautiful and on sale, that I never actually used for anything – yet!

    The other big fabric-related project that I’m starting on today is dying the sofa slip-covers. When we bought our sofa, we didn’t like any of the colour/fabric combinations it came in, so we bought the plain unbleached cotton slipcovers for it, and I’m going to attempt to dye them a shade of burgundy that will hopefully go with the eventual pale terracotta planned for the living room walls.

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