Thursday, 1 October 2015

Spool quilt and Leader & Ender progress!

The spool quilt is coming along nicely, eight spools to a row, three rows completed. My attempt at trying it Bonnie Hunter's way, didn't work out! I totally forgot that the half square triangles I would have to cut, would have to be bigger than my finished size required and I cut out a load of fabric and of course, it all came out smaller than was needed! Aargh! I should have read the instructions, but hey ho, they got put in a plastic tub for another project and I went back to my 'old' way.

My Leader and Ender challenge is coming along. Those tumblers really do grow quickly! Four rows so far!

These ones are two and a half inch tumblers and I have 37 tumblers in each row. It's amazing how somehow, despite mixing them up, I still manage to get the same tumblers next to each other when I join the rows. See those lime green ones at the front? I did that so many times without realising. It's weird, how your brain works when you're trying to be random and spontaneous with your colour choices.

All of these tumblers sewn, though, means more tumblers need to be cut, so I'll have a cutting session tonight. I have a doctors appointment later on, so once I'm back from that and have cooked everyone's dinner, the dining room table will be cleared and out will come the fabrics, the cutting mat and rotary blade!

Got a new book today:

It's really fabulous. Has some great patterns in and I've already spotted one I want to do, or could be achieved through a Leader & Ender project, as it's all squares or half square triangles, that are then set on point. It would grow so quickly...Yum! So many ideas! So many quilts I want to do!

It's difficult choosing which one to focus on. The Passacaglia is growing slowly, but I only get 10 minutes a day on it, whilst I'm waiting in the car for the kids to come out of school, so quite often, only get one or two pieces sewn. I could go earlier, I supposed, but that would mean sitting in a hot car, because, yes, somehow, even though its the first of OCTOBER, the sun has returned to the UK over the last few days. Big surprise!

Right. Back to the writing now. Am currently writing book 5 for Harlequin Mills and Boon Medical and this one's like pulling teeth - difficult, bloody and there's lots of tears - MINE!

Happy sewing everyone,

Louisa xx

Friday, 25 September 2015

Spools, A Pouch, A Book and Bonus Triangles!

I got my copy of Bonnie Hunter's More Adventures with Leaders and Enders! Trying to get a paperback copy of this book was RIDICULOUS! On Amazon, you could get an ebook version for about £6.54, but the CHEAPEST paperback version was selling for £999! (Yes, you read that right!) I even headed on over to eBay and found a copy on sale for £4000!

I kind of resigned myself to never getting a copy, or scouring charity shops or car boot sales and keeping an eagle eye out for it and in the meantime I bought myself a quilty magazine. On the back page, was an advert for and they had physical, paperback copies for under £20. Much better!

And it was worth the wait! Such great patterns in there, including a Spool quilt and an easy way to construct the spools, which is much better than the way I was doing it, so will change immediately! Talking of spool quilts, I've completed 18 spools so far. 

I ran out of neutrals and so had to wait, but I'm okay now. Whilst cutting the spools, I've been creating these bonus triangle scraps, which I'm saving and hope to use in a future leaders and enders project.

This last wednesday was the monthly meeting of Island Piecemakers and we were having a project evening to make a Christmas gift bag/pouch, small enough to hang on the tree/hold a Ferrero Rocher/work perfectly for an advent project. Our resident 'star' Lou Starr shared with us her design and soon we were all beavering away on our bags and chatting and enjoying sewing together. I didn't get to finish on the evening, but I put in an extra half hour today and got it done.

Later tonight, I'm going to start back on the spools and do it the Bonnie Hunter way. Can't believe I didn't suss this way out for myself, but never mind!

Happy sewing everyone!

Louisa xxx

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Spool Quilt and Leaders & Enders

This week, I've spent some time organising my stash and sewing area. I only have a small corner of a room and if I want to get my cutting mat out, I have to transport it, my rulers, my rotary cutter and my fabrics into the dining room, to have a table big enough.

I'd sorted through my stash a week or two ago, but yesterday, I spent some time cutting tumblers for my Leader and Ender project. I began a tumbler quilt two years ago, but only managed three rows of two and a half inch tumblers, before I put it away, enamoured with something else and it has sat there, my first ever UFO, awaiting completion, so i thought it was the perfect thing to get sorted, especially as Bonnie Hunter's current L&E is the tumbler! (I'm cutting up fabrics with any kind of animal print. My daughter is animal mad, and so this is for her)

So I started it last night. 

My main quilt challenge is a Spool quilt. The pattern for it is in Britain's Patchwork and Quilting Magazine and it works with Y seams. They instruct you to press the seams open, but I only had partial success with this and so I tried pressing the seams to the sides and had much better results. I'm using plains and neutrals for my background fabric and anything else for the spools. I really like it! It's a great little block to make and when it comes to sewing them together, there won't be any matching up to do with seams, except for the block edges themselves.

So there you have it! Are you following the Leader and Ender project? What are YOU working on? Who inspires YOU in the world of quilting?

Happy sewing!

Louisa x

Monday, 7 September 2015

Four Patch Frenzy!

So I've been working on getting an accurate quarter inch seam and boy, sometimes it's really hard!

Some gorgeous fabric I picked up from eBay!

The four patch has become my friend for this. I'm making up two patches, then sewing them together to make four patches, but trying to do it, so that my seams are all perfect, so that there's no trimming down of blocks, so that each of my four patches equals a finished four and a half inch block.

How hard can it be to sew a straight line??????

A cute little owl doorstop I made at my local quilters group

I marked it out on my machine, made sure the needle placement was correct and started off verrrrrry sloooooooowlllllly. It's so easy to veer off, or to let your eyes get thrown by the fabric pattern, or to look away briefly, or to move your hands wrong. My biggest problem is when I'm coming to the end of the piece, I always want to veer off towards my right for some reason.

BUT! Now that I'm aware of it, I bite my lip and keep my eye in and make sure I stay straight! It takes time, it takes longer and it's so easy when you're chain piecing to go fast, to not pay as much attention and so I'm deliberately making myself go slow.

I think I might have mentioned this in my last post? But I'm mentioning it again, because I think it's worth mentioning. These quilts are going to be one-offs. Your creation, with your name on it (please tell me you add a quilt label!) and you want to create the best quilt that you can. You're not working in a factory, you don't have to churn these quilts out. You're adding love and care and attention to detail.

You know that feeling when you sew a block together and go to measure it and it comes out exactly at the right size?

Yeah, baby! It feels good, doesn't it?

So that's what I'm working on. Still. School has restarted so my Passacaglia has become a 'car project', in that it gets worked on only when I'm in the car, waiting for the kids to come out of school, which is about 10 minutes each day, so that's going to take a long time to finish now!

And I've been getting more active using my Fitbit and I now regularly manage my 10k steps a day, which is great!

So what have you been working on? I'd love to hear it. And please tell me about how well you do with accuracy. Do you always sew a perfect block (and if you do, I kneel down in your presence)? Or do you do the same as me and veer off? Perhaps you find it hard to keep that straight line in the first place? What do you do to try and help yourself?

Please share, because there may be others out there who could empathise, or who might pick up a few hints and tips.

Happy sewing!

Louisa x

Monday, 31 August 2015

Passacaglia and Four Patches

So this is the start of my next rosette for Passacaglia. I'm going for a mixed colour rosette, as there were a few fabrics I was eager to use and couldn't wait! The outer ring of white-ish pentagons with the red/green A's are what I managed to get done today and I'm really loving this project so far.

However! I did also get a hankering to do something with my machine, so I tackled a job that's needed doing for some time.

Everytime I cut fabric or end up with scraps, I used to sort them by colours and put the scraps in colour coded tubs, e.g., all the reds in one tub, all the purples in another. I figured that someday, I'd use all these scraps somehow no matter how tiny the piece. But you know what? I hadn't touched them for years, except to add more. So I decided to take the bull by the horns and sort them out!

I took a colour and sorted the pieces, either into strips for string piecing, or by cutting them into 2 and a half inch squares. Anything that didn't fit or didn't cut down, got thrown away (gasp, horror, shock!)

Yes. I threw them away.

And it felt goooooooddddd!

I've never been happy about throwing fabric away before. I stashed everything, like a little fabric magpie, lining my nest, until I was sitting in a room almost bursting to the seams with waste fabric. By the time I'd sorted it, I'd discarded a whole shopping bags worth of offcuts that were no use, yet I ALSO had a huge pile of 2 and a half inch squares. So many that I had to find a container for them as well as a container for my string pieces.

I intend to make a scrap quilt of my own design/Bonnie K Hunter inspired. Can I say I love Bonnie? I do. I adore her and I love watching her when I can on Quiltcam. Unfortunately, due to the time difference, I'm usually asleep when its happening live and so I have to watch it without being able to join in, but I love how she takes something scrappy and turns it into the most beautiful quilts. And her Leaders and Enders projects? Inspiring!

So, I started on my squares and decided I would perfect the four patch. Four 2 and a half inch squares sewn together with a quarter inch seam allowance, should measure 4 and a half inches square when sewn together correctly, but often I would find myself having bigger squares, or smaller squares. I was always easing fabric in, or trying to stretch it out. Only occasionally would I get a perfect match in my seams. 

Now Bonnie is a big believer in getting those seams right first time. Check your seam allowance. Stop trimming blocks down. Cut right. Measure right. Watch your seam allowance.

And by doing so, I can now make up perfect 4 and a half inch four patches. It takes time, but it's worth it. I think when we're chain piecing we often speed through, eager to complete the task and this is where we make mistakes. I used to work in a factory and speed was of the essence, but in factories they have people to check the standard of work. Anything not good enough is either sent back, turned into a second or sold in the factory shop as a second, but essentially it doesn't matter.

But our quilts? These are one off pieces. With OUR names on. We ought to send out the best we can. We owe it to ourselves to be proud of our work. To accept compliments on what we've done, rather than stand there thinking, "well, you should know about all the mistakes in that quilt"

So, what have YOU tackled this week? Let me know, I'd love to hear about it. Happy quilting!

Louisa x

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Passacaglia and a Store Review!

Rosette number 2 is coming along! I chose purple as my theme colour, as it's one of the larger rosette's and purple's my favourite. It's not quite complete. It still needs 12 stars added to the outer rim, along with 6 trapezoid shapes, then that cog will be done and I can start another, with another theme colour.

The ladies on the Millefiori Quilts/Passacaglia Facebook page have been posting some lovely photos (of their completed cogs) ever since I joined, so if you are interested in joining in with this quilt, then I thoroughly recommend that you also join the FB group, too.

Last week, my husband and I took a trip to Chichester for the day. Before we went, I googled the area to check to see if they had any good fabric stores, and I saw that there was a shop called The Eternal Maker on Terminus Road, so we decided to pop in there on our way home.

It was very easy to find, plenty of parking outside and though the building doesn't look much from the outside (seems a bit dilapidated) it's actually very bright, large and delightfully charming inside.

I think it was the grounds of an old factory, but inside there is fabric aplenty, all sorted into colours, so it's easy to go to the section you want, for either solid or patterned. Then there are separate sections for fat quarters, jelly rolls, layer cakes and charm packs (though there weren't too many of those) it was mainly fabric from bolts. Up above and around you, completed quilts are on show, as well as soft toys and sock teddies, ribbons and buttons, lace and a wall of notions.

It wasn't cheap (on the island where I live, I can get fat quarters for £1.50 each) the fat quarters here were £3.50 each, but I did get myself a couple of metres of fabric for £14 a metre each. You can see some of it in the picture above (the outer layer of purple).

Well worth a visit! Pleasant staff, who just let you get on and browse (I do hate it when someone pounces on me the second I walk through a shop door and asks if they can help. If I want help, I will ask for it) and next door was a pleasant little coffee shop (The Eternal Baker) selling beautiful cakes (oh and a yarn section, too!)

You can check them out and order online too, or book into a class of theres, or even hold a party there! It's run by a mother/daughter team, who I didn't get to meet, because they were up at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, but I hope to meet them the next time I go and I will be going back very soon.

So, if you're in the Chichester area, do check it out.

So what about you? Do you live near a cool fabric store? Please share it in the comments, so that others can find out about it!

Thanks everyone. Happy sewing!

Louisa x

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Start of A New Project!

La Passacaglia! Ta-da!

I love starting a new project. All that planning, all that preparation. And with La passacaglia, a project that screams at you to fussy cut, you just know you have to start with great fabrics. Don't get me wrong, you can start with whatever you have, whatever is in your fabric stash, someone's old cut up shirts, if you want, but for me, I really wanted to start with great colours and great patterns and most people in my family tend to wear plain neutrals, so i had to buy in some fabric to get started!

My first choice was the fabrics I showed you in my last post. Once I'd cut out my templates, I needed to decide where I was going to start fussy cutting. Having see-through templates is good here, because then you can see what cuts you're making and what the potential pattern will be.

There's the potential for some waste with fussy cutting, but if you're careful and only cut the pieces you need, you can still get a lot of use out of the left over fabric. The first five diamonds created this beautiful shape:

 Isn't it pretty? Perfect fussy cutting and my first attempt, so i was really pleased with it. I didn't use paper piecing, but traced and drew out from my template for each piece, so the lines and cross hatching were on the back for me to mark up my seams and points. Again, this was my first attempt at doing this type of sewing, but it was very therapeutic and calming. 

Next, I cut out the five smaller, thinner diamond shapes from a plain, pale blue, so that the patterned pieces would pop.
 Then I needed another patterned fabric for the next round of pentagons and used my Daysail fabric. It was very fiddly, required lots of concentration, but I soon got the hang of it and ended up with this:
 I was loving it thus far! Again, I'd used fussy cutting and I was so close to finishing Rosette 1. Next I had to create ten 'stars', so I cut out the fabrics, using fabrics from my stash, in the same colour arc and created a long string of stars which I then attached to my cog to complete the rosette. What do you think?
I'm so pleased with the result! I pressed with my iron as much as I could, doing the front and back, as obviously, there are a lot of seams there and there's the potential for it to get lumpy, so pressed where the fabric naturally wanted to go.

Since this point, I've ordered some purple fabrics to start my next rosette. This one will be much bigger than Rosette 1 and will be one of the main cogs, so I chose purple as my theme, as it's my favourite colour.

So, let me know what you think. What challenges have you completed lately? Have you tried a new technique?

Louisa x

Friday, 24 July 2015

La Passacaglia!

So this is the book that has my next project in. Millefiori Quilts by Willyne Hammerstein. It's bilingual, so one page is in French, the opposite page is translated into English and it's beautiful!

There are just so many quilts in here, all using English Paper piecing. All the templates are in the back full sized! Which I love because who wants to be messing around with enlargements on printers and all that jazz?

This is the quilt I'm going to make after the Under the Sea quilt is complete. La Passacaglia.

Lots of interlocking circles, made from five different shapes - two differently sized hexies, two differently sized diamonds and one small triangle.

It's perfect for Fussy Cutting and that's what I'm going to do and I'm going to try and make each interlocking circle a different colour so that the patterns and 'cogs' stand out.

These are some of my fabrics for my first cog:

The fabric on the left is Daysail by Bonnie and Camille for Moda and the one on the right is by Dianne Kappa, part of the Four Seasons design for David textiles.

They both offer great scope for fussy cutting, especially the Four Seasons fabric, so i'll be doing a lot of planning and testing before I finally decide on which way to go with that. I've also got some blue solids from an old jelly roll to intersperse with the patterned fabric. You don't want pattern next to pattern, next to pattern. It will be too much for the eye and you really want the beauty of the wheels and cogs to stand out.

So! I have the book, the pattern, the instructions, the fabric and I'm itching to get started! What's on your to-do list?

Happy sewing!

Louisa xx

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Apologies for the delay....

Normal service has now been resumed!

I was away for a while. Busy with a hand quilting project, busy with writing (my actual job) and busy, busy, busy with family. There was school stuff going on, there was some legal stuff going on, my parents - who live a good four hour drive away from me - were both ill (they're better now, thank goodness!) and I just wanted to sew without having to think about blogging about it. Just sewing for relaxation. For taking me into another world where there were no stresses, you know what it's like!

So, anyway...everything's looking up again, and I'm back with a new project and one new massive project in the pipeline!

In June, I visited the National Quilt Championships in Sandown, Esher. I look forward to this show all year long, wondering about what quilts I might see, what inspiration I might come away with and maybe a few bargains along the way.

But, (maybe because of all the stress things going on?) I came away from the show feeling a tad disappointed. Not totally disappointed, because there were some wonderful quilts there in the competition, but I didn't leave with that wow factor. That need to get home and get sewing because of all the things I'd seen.

I didn't even buy any fabric!!!!!!! (I know, right? Something was wrong with me, or something)

What I did come away with, was the desire to enter my own quilt into the competition next year and I decided to make an Under The Sea themed crazy quilt.

The jellyfish I designed all by myself, which I was quite pleased with and the fish below it is three dimensional, which you can't quite tell from this picture.

Each hexie will be sewn together and each hexie will also feature a different technique or embellishment to really add variety and discovery.

When this project is complete, I am challenging myself to complete the Passacaglia Quilt from the Millefiori Quilt book by Willyne Hammerstein.

I think it looks an amazing quilt and I love to handsew, so this will be perfect for me. I've ordered the book from Lina Patchwork and today I bought myself some geometric fabrics to start with for when it arrives.

I'm hoping to post my progress on this challenge here on this blog, so make sure to look out for Passacaglia posts!

So, what have you been up to? Have you set yourself a mighty challenge recently? Do you have any pictures to share? I can't wait to hear.

Monday, 23 February 2015

I've broken my lightbox......

Oops! I got out my light box to help me trace a pattern onto a whole cloth and the bulb had stopped working. So I asked my hubby if he could get me a replacement bulb, which he did.

I was merrily working away, tracing my pattern when I noticed that it all felt rather hot. Burning hot. But stupidly I carried on and before I knew it, my pencil went into my fabric and found the large dip/hole that the bulb had created through the plastic!

Hubby had given me a sixty watt bulb instead of a fifteen watt!

I now need a new light box.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

So this is the latest project, a Christmas wall-hanging that I bought at the local sewing group's Christmas shop.

I bought two panels, but this one I thought would make for a great hand quilted project. As you can see, the picture blocks are interspersed with log-cabin style blocks, which are great for that 'stitch in the ditch' look. In the picture blocks, I'm going over the main features, such as Santa, the reindeer, the tree, etc.

Here's a close-up:
When the hand quilting is done, I will sew on embellishments - beads for the holly berries, bows for the teddy bear's necks, etc.

Really enjoying this project and its nearly finished!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

White Diamonds

So this is finished. I've called it, White Diamonds. For a first quilt to hand quilt, I think I was quite brave in my choice.

1) it was a big project
2) it was a pieced top

Pieced tops, especially ones like this, with lots of small pieces and lots of seams, provided quite a challenge. Learning to hand quilt is hard enough. Learning to hand quilt OVER seams is another. That was tough. It made me realise that I adore hand quilting, but I don't like going over seams.


I won't handquilt another PIECED top, but I will do whole cloths and I will do fabric panels.

At Christmas, I bought two Christmas fabric panels from my quilting group's visiting shop and they're both perfect candidates for hand quilting. I've made a start on one, but I've got no pictures of that, so will show you next time what I'm doing.

In the meantime, Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Quilt Progress...

So here is the quilt top. the Scrappy Exuberance Diamond Chain quilt, as designed by Kimberley Einmo.

I've hand quilted most of the white diamonds, as well as hand quilting small petal shapes into the central four-patches, so soften the geometric design of the quilt. I'm hoping to put peacock feathers into the white spaces of the outer border.

So a few more weeks worth of work...but I'm getting there and really enjoying the process!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Hand Quilting

Sandy, at Quilting For The Rest Of Us asked people to write in with their quilty resolutions for 2015. The theme was to have a resolution that you had not tried yet. To list something that you promised yourself, you would give a go in 2015. Along with this, you could choose a theme word, too.

I chose Hand Quilting.

Previously, I'd been put off by hand quilting. It seemed slow, laborious, the kind of thing I'd get bored with quickly. I like to see my quilts finished and quickly.

But something kept bugging me about it. I watched some YouTube vids about it and I don't know, it didn't seem boring seemed...soothing. Zen-like. And I liked the detail you could get. Plus, you put so much more of yourself into a hand quilted top.

So, I decided that this year, I would hand quilt a quilt! Using the jelly roll I got at Christmas and a pattern from a book by Kimberley Einmo, I started on the Scrappy Exuberance Diamond Chain quilt.

I pieced the top over a couple of weeks and then set to with the hand quilting and ran into my first issue.

Where were the tiny stitches? I couldn't make them happen? My needle going through the thread seemed to seize a big chunk of fabric and I was averaging four stitches to an inch. I knew there was something called Big Stitch hand quilting, but I didn't want that. I wanted the tiny stitches. The neat, itty-bitty stitches that added texture and flavour and passion.

I posed a question on the Celebrate Hand Quilting Facebook page and the lovely folks there swamped my feed with suggestions and ideas. I sat at my desk, trying to implement their good advice - loosen the material in the hoop, use the right needle, a short needle, wear a thimble with a inset ridge, take your time, but most of all, the one thing I'd forgotten to do, was use your top thumb to create an indent in the fabric, or a ridge, depending upon where your needle was.

Bingo! Got it. Within the hour of starting my first ever hand-quilting, I'd created a rhythm, a technique. I hated using a thimble to start with. I didn't like how I couldn't feel anything with that finger, but you know what? I adapted, it became part of me and I worked hard hand quilting that quilt, hour after hour.

Its not done yet. When it is, I'll show you a pic. But this post is just to offer hope to others who might be thinking of returning to this old tradition. To persevere. You won't be perfect to start. You won't get those itty-bitty stitches to start. But you will get there.

Now I'm contemplating purchasing Andi Perejda's Hand Quilting Craftsy class, but at the moment its £18.99 and I'm waiting for one of Craftsy's offers to bring the price down to £13.99 or even better there £9.50 offers!

So who else out there hand quilts? Have you ever tried it? What were your results? Have you ever tried a whole cloth quilt? I'm thinking of doing one of those next.

Useful websites:
Celebrate Hand Quilting
Tim Latimer Quilts

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Already Sew Much To Do...

Well, it's the New Year and already there seems so much that I want to do!

I received some lovely presents at Christmas, including new rulers, new quilty books and some new fabrics!

I received a beautiful fun jelly roll, a charm pack called Native Sun by Abi Hall for Moda. The books were Jelly Roll Quilts and More by Kimberley Einmo, Welcome To The North Pole, Santas Village in Applique by Piece o Cake designs, 3 Times a Charm and Quilted Skinnies.

The Skinnies gives you a skinny quilt design for throughout the year, so I want to make all of those. The Santas village quilt is Applique so of course I want to do that and the Jelly Roll book has a gorgeous quilt in it called Scrappy Exuberance Diamond Chain which I'm dying to do!

So I'm actually stuck doing nothing at the moment because I can't decide what to do!

Instead, yesterday, I sat and worked on handsewing my hexies as I listened to Quilting....For The Rest Of Us podcast. Sandy had just come back from Burma and it was fascinating listening to her tales about what it was like over there and the fabrics and textiles. I'll listen to part two today and decide on my quilty resolutions.

I also got a Fitbit at Christmas, so I am now slave to a bracelet that counts my steps. This is good for me, as I don't get out much, due to my MAV, because I never know when an attack of vertigo might hit and it's embarrassing and terrifying for it to happen in public. So I just tend to walk my dogs twice a day and then potter about my house, though one day I managed nearly 7k so I was very happy with that.

Also, my first book with Mills and Boon was released on January 1st so I was busy with that. If you want to read a copy, you can buy it from Amazon or Mills and Boon. It's called The Baby That Changed Her Life. If you do read a copy, let me know what you think!