The Orphanage Quilt

If old WIPs make a satisfying finish, imagine all the good feelings brought on by finishing six at once! This quilt has been on my mind for along time, back when I asked my Do Good Stitches bee back in February to send me some scrappy improvised blocks. And then as they arrived, I added them to my orphan block pile, wondering when I was finally going to take the plunge and sew this thing together. To say it made me nervous was an understatement. This is not usually how I quilt. It's not a pile of squares sitting next to the machine and sewn together at random and it's not carefully laid out blocks that need concentration and working out. It sits somewhere in the middle, not in a happy medium kind of way, but in a road-less-travelled, throw-the-rule-book kind of way.

My orphan block box is a scraggly mix of leftovers from finished projects and abandoned quilts that started with a bright future but quickly resulted in disillusionment. It is a place of discomfort and guilt, bereft of inspiration.What else do you do with leftover blocks? It's times like this I realise that in my quilting life, more than anywhere else, I am a hoarder.

And it's a good thing I am, don't you think? I used only about half of my leftovers, but with the ones that made their way back to the box, I now feel a sense of peace and purpose. One day I'll do this again. Maybe it can be a yearly ritual. Like a jubilee. Setting those old expectations and dreams and "I don't know what to do with this so you can go here" into a quilt to start afresh with new projects and a little less guilt.

As I was showing my progress on Instagram, a few folks asked me to explain my progress, so I took lots of photos to give you an idea here. Like I said, there's no rules in improvisation. I went mostly by feel.

There's no way I could have achieved this without my design wall. I laid out the blocks, keeping in mind that I want to sew them together without going around corners. So I made them into bigger blocks of 2-4 pieces. Coincidentally, most of these were divisible by 3. That means they were 3", 6", 9", 12", etc, so a little mindful arranging made them fit together easily. When they didn't, I had strips and strips of leftover half-rectangle triangles from my Tent City quilt that I added to anything that was too small, and then trimmed back down if I needed to without worrying about keeping my points intact.

I sewed those bigger blocks into 3 large slabs and was almost going to sew those together when I realised I was out of wadding. This actually felt a lot like providence because I did have long, wide strips of wadding, leftover from other quilts mostly the perfect size for my slabs. The one that was too narrow, I sewed to another and pressed the seams open so it would fit.

I used a Quilt-as-you-go method I first came across on Maureen's blog, which I had only ever used with smaller blocks. I spray basted the quilt top slab to one side of the wadding and then quilted lightly over the two layers. Then I trimmed all the way around the excess wadding. And then I did the same with the other two slabs.

I trimmed the whole quilt a little again, just where there was uneven edges. Then using a 1/4" and my walking foot, I sewed the quilted slabs right sides together. I lay out my backing fabric and taped it to the floor so it would stay taut, sprayed and laid out the quilted top.

I then went back to my machine and first quilted either side of the thick seams to hold them down. Then I used a straight, meandering stitch, basically zig-zagging my way around the quilt. I wanted to try something different and more improvised than straight line quilting, but now that I'm done, I wish I'd stuck with my favourite! I used a mix of hand-quilting, thick variegated Aurifil thread, and my go-to white. It was a fun experiment, trying to keep with the improv theme, but I think simple, horizontal lines would have held it together more.

Undoubtedly, the very best part of quilt-as-you-go is when you suddenly remember that you can use you backing as your binding! I simply trimmed around the backing 1" from the quilt top edge. I then folded it in half towards the quilt, then over the edge of the quilt again, and top stitched. When I came to a corner, I folded the overhanging pieces to the left to make a little triangle. The I folded the same method, folding the fabric in half and then over again to make a neat mitered corner.

I'm not sure if I would usually use a binding this dark, I generally pick out a colour somewhere in the middle, but I love how this all hangs together. In a quilt with a lot more low volume than I usually try in scrappy quilts, I think it makes the darker tones shout out happily.

There is much joy in this quilt, in the trying something new, using something old, freeing myself of quilts hanging over my head, some for years. Some were hard to let go, like my Penny Sampler. I would love to make that quilt again someday! But for now, the colours stumped me, I was never sure about them. Other blocks were a relief to use, like the Ohio Stars and the leaves. The leaves were generously made for me by an old bee and the colours just didn't go together like I hoped. Oh, it's good to see how much I've learned about colour over the last five years! I also love the contrast and interest the lovely flowers add, but I was sad when they arrived late, lost in transit for weeks before getting here. I'm glad they finally have a home!

All in all, this quilt was made by about 20 people from about 15 old quilts! Because half were for do. Good Stitches, it'll be heading to a charity next. A quilt of previously hope-less blocks for someone struggling for hope. Gosh I love long-coming finishes! I love new starts, renewed confidence, and stories with happy endings.

Star Crossed Sew Along

The first thing that crossed my mind, when I was sent this Star Crossed pattern to try, was how fun it would look in scraps, little scraps. I'd had in mind for a while that I wanted to make a quilt featuring Maureen Cracknell's Luminous Field Print, a delicious low volume floral, made of beautiful warm colours. And I knew this would be just perfect! I pulled a bunch of matching prints from my stash and started to cut.  In usual fashion, I immediately altered the pattern, and got so excited about the design that I ran straight for the single (twin) bed option.

Unfortunately 20 blocks worth of star points quickly ate up my stash of Luminous Field. It was then that this Catnap print by Lizzy House made its debut. As much as I would have loved Maureen's floral art to be a feature in this quilt, those cats, fitting perfectly in a 4.5" square, a perfect colour match, and pretty challenging to use anywhere else, became a very fun change of direction. I'm pretty excited with the result. It's everything I love about scrappy postage stamp quilts but sparkly! I love that the eye has somewhere to rest and move. It's like fireworks, don't you think?

This turned out to be the quilt that broke the camel's back, mechanically speaking. My machine, long in desperate need for a service, starting groaning and breaking needles. I managed to coax it along gently for this finish. And my iron died a messy, spluttering death on the home stretch! It felt like the perfect opportunity to try out Jeannette from Gone Aussie Quilting's quilting service. I can't wait to see the result! What kind of edge to edge design would you try out on these sparkles?

So, after pushing myself to get some hard-won finishes the last month, being without my machine for a few weeks actually feels like an exciting creative challenge! I'm thinking hexies. I'm thinking appliqué. I'm even thinking Broderie Perse. Ooh!

Thanks so much Fat Quarter Shop for inviting me to make this pattern! Check out these other blogs and #starcrossedsewalong in Instagram for other interpretations of the design.

Daisy of Ants to Sugar
Lucy of Charm About You
Julie of the Crafty Quilter
Angie of Gnome Angel
Dana of Old Red Barn Co.
Natalia of Piece N Quilt
Heather and Megan of Quilt Story
Amy of Sew Incredible Crazy

This is making me happy {a Windmill Block tutorial}

Thank you to those who joined in my discussion about my latest quilt earlier this week.  Your thoughts, which were coming in at the same time I was making these blocks, made for some great food for thought.
I started cutting these purple strips because at some point in the making of my Basket Weave quilt, I thought maybe purple would help. I changed my mind and started to think up other ways to use them.
A few evenings ago I was flipping through one of my quilt block books, trying to imagine them in less brown-and-forest-green prints. The Windmill Block struck me as an easy way to use these strips without cutting them into hundreds of triangles. My book comes with templates, but I prefer my ruler and making it up as I go. Here's what I did:

I cut 5" squares from this Essex Linen in Grey, and then cut them in half to make triangles.

I sewed one of my strips (which were 8.5" because of my original plans, but you're probably only need 7") to one of the short edges of the triangle, pressed open and trimmed, using the 45 degree line as a guide.

When you repeat this step for the other triangles, make sure you sew them all the same way! I always made sure I had my strip facing down over my triangle. (and when I didn't, I decided to make a couple of blocks going the other way!;))

I sewed two lots of triangles together into two bigger triangles, then sewed the final seam to get my block.

About the time I was running out of scrappy purple strips, I wrote my last post about colour and creating. So instead of going back to my purple scrap bucket for more, I pulled out some of my favourite purple prints by Denyse and Anna Maria. I love the variations in tone these fabrics bring to the quilt. And as I was cutting them up and sewing them together, I felt different. It made me happy. The goal moved from plowing through my scraps to creating quilts I loved. I gave more attention to colour and tone. I brought in just the amount of clash I love in a quilt. (and it turns out there can be plenty in purple!)

And I realised that recently, I've been quilting from an idea in my head, like using up my problem prints or scrap wadding, rather than thinking much about colour design. And sometimes that works, like I think it did here, and sometimes it doesn't. And in my windmill quilt, I love that it has the beginnings of a scrappy quilt, with more intentional prints brought in to give it some grounding. If I'd started with my freshly cut stash, I wouldn't have made these pieced windmill arms, and if I'd used only scraps, you wouldn't see any of that burst orange or pinky tones. And I love what both bring to this quilt.

So now I am madly trying to quilt it before I hold my first stall at The Olive Tree Markets tomorrow. I would love to photograph it there for you. So many amazing creations and colours!
My lines are a bit more wiggly that I would like, and I've been feeling a bit flat about it, but this photo gives me hope that it's not so obvious from further back?
Now. Any ideas for tiny triangles? I'm collecting a few!

Super Simple 15 minute Cushion Cover

So my day started with a knock at the door. It was my lovely new neighbour, whose own day had started by finding one of my new chickens being eaten by her dog. :(
She felt so terrible, and I felt so terrible for her. Pet clashes can be such a terrible thing for neighbours. But I knew her dog couldn't get out but my chickens could, so I assured her that she must have flown over the fence and there was nothing else she needed to do. I went out the back and saw with relief that it wasn't one of my favourites (isn't that awful!). And she went to work and I went to play group. 
Then when I got home, I thought of her again. What an awful way to start the day! And I just felt compelled to give her something to maybe make it nicer and help her feel ok about it.
But what does one give to a new neighbour? I decided on a simple cushion cover.

When I lay the cushion on the fabric, I suddenly thought of a super simple way to throw together a cover. So I thought I'd share it with you here.

I cut along the width of the fabric, next to the edge of the cushion.

Then I folded the selvedges over at each end and sewed them. If you had pretty selvedge, you could leave this bit!

Then I wrapped the fabric around the cushion, right sides facing in and pinned the overlapping edges together.

Pull the cushion out, lay the folded square out flat. I shifted mine a little so the envelope opening would be more centred.

Pin along both sides.

Then I set my machine to an overlocking stitch and sewed up each raw edge.

Turn inside out and viola! A super quick and easy gift in nearly no time!

 I added my little dino boy because I like him. Then I wrote a card saying

"I'm sorry your day started with a dead chicken. I hope it got better from there. :)" 

and left it on her front porch, which neighbours my sunroom, before I had time to talk myself out of it.
Now to clip my chicken's wings! Poor little thing. 

Apple Leaf Block {a template and tutorial}

In our new spare room/office (a result of our latest re-arrange), there hangs a couple of oversized 'baffles'. They're sound-deadening thingamies that Tim uses when he's recording music, that we've decorated so they don't look so out of place. We stapled some Ikea fabric to one and I pinned these beautiful apples, a mixed-media artwork by my very talented friend, to the other. 
Below the baffles lies the very bed I slept in when I was Tully's age. And on the bed lies a simple wool blanket.

June is my month for the Scrappy? Sew Bee it! virtual quilting bee and I'm asking my bee buddies to make me a quilt inspired by these apples to go on this bed. Thank you!
I asked Tim, who is as technical and design savvy as he is musical, (a great catch, really), to do up this Apple Leaf Block template as a PDF for you so you can make up this block for me (if you're in my bee) or for yourself (if you're not!). You can access the PDF file here.

Print the file, making sure your printer is set to no Auto rotate and centre, or scaling, or any other such thing. I've included a 1" square for checking it's to scale. You'll only need to cut out the leaf. The surrounding 6.5" square is just to show you how it eventually sits in the block, but you can use it as a template too, if you don't have a rotary cutter and mat.

So really what I've made here is an Orange Peel or Cathedral block. But though I searched, I couldn't find one where the leaves were appliqued onto little squares, and then they were sewn together. Instead, they were appliqued to the whole cloth, or 12.5" blocks, or pieced. And because my Bee just uses scraps, I thought a mix of neutrals on this scale would look much nicer. 

Cut around your leaf and affix it to your 6.5" block diagonally accross it, using your favourite adhesive method.
 *confession! While taking advantage of my sleeping toddler to get these blocks done in daylight, I realised I had run out transfer paper! So today, my favourite method was spraying 505 through my fly screen...

If you're in my Bee, I'm not fussy about your applique method. If it helps, I only ever use white thread, and my zig zag for these leaves was stitch width:2, length: 1.

Zig zag around your leaf.

For this quilt, I'd love a mix of neutrals, solids and prints, for the background, and colours from the above Apples art (Teal, green, aqua, red, ochre, and a little orange, yellow and pink)
Once you've made your applique leaf squares, there's several ways you can put them together.

You can make circles or flowers (and you can see above this is essentially the same pattern) or you can do a X and O variation.
For my quilt, I'd like them like this:

Sew your squares together (hopefully your corners match better than mine! I was racing the pre-school bell!) to make 12.5" blocks. (For my bee, you only need to make one.)

These came together SO quickly! And are such a satisfying way of eating into those scrap buckets. I can see myself making many more of these.

Enjoy! xx