Tag Archives: quilting

Happy New Year!

1 Jan

Well, goodbye 2012. It was nice knowing you!
It’s been an exciting year for me. In the spring I set myself a goal of having 20 patterns available on Ravelry, which I achieved as the year drew to a close. I’ll have 10 more coming out in February, which were finished some months ago – more on that soon.
Over the summer we published issue 50 of The Knitter, with a frankly bonkers 50 patterns, and redesigned the magazine.
My only regret was all that work meant I could only take a one week holiday while
Storm had 7 weeks at home before starting school.
I made some new friends, and got to know some others better.
My journey as a minimalist is now in its third year. At Christmas this meant having an emptied car driving home after the festivities, and actually being able to see out of the back window for a change! Being a minimalist doesn’t mean all white interiors and a penchant for Philippe Starck (at least, not to me). It means fewer possessions, and more real life. Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist are both great places to start if you’re curious.

While letting go of possessions has felt relatively easy, one of my biggest challenges as a minimalist is reducing my commitments. For about four months over the summer my workload meant I barely had a moment to just ‘be’, and also resulted in much reduced blogging here.

So my goal for 2013 is to look at balance, say no a little, and have some more fun and get some more adventure in my life!
I’ll have 2 pattern collections coming out this year, but first up is a very exciting trip to New York for Vogue Knitting Live.
In the meantime, here are my key moments of 2012. I hope you had a good one, and wish you all the best for 2013,


1) Storm starting school. And starting to read and write. Just wow.
First school packed lunch. Awww.
2) Making new friends and renewing old bonds

3) The death of one of my oldest friends – in itself a terrible loss, but with some surprising silver linings.

4) Starting and finishing (!) quilts for my dad and Storm

5) Being able to call myself a designer – after 20 plus years of dreaming about it


6) Watching my husband launch his fledgling breadmaking business

7) Helping Storm learn to swim and being able to share my passion for swimming with her

8) Handmade birthdays and a minimalist Christmas
Christmas chutney!

9) Being constantly reminded that happiness in work, family and friends is more important than anything money can buy
10) And this picture… (thanks Steven)


Quilting the easy way, part 3: Super neat quilt binding

16 May

I’m not going to talk about mitred corners. Partly because I can’t get the hang of them, but also because there are heaps of posts out there already about that.

But! It is a bit frustrating to machine piece and bind a quilt only to have to hand stitch the ‘wrong’ side of the binding. I just couldn’t get it to look neat on the first quilt I made.

Then I stumbled across a great YouTube vid, which of course I now can’t find, which showed me Another Way. This is what you get at the end of it…


All you do is make sure that when you sew on the binding to the top of the quilt you leave a raw inner edge which you can fold the binding over and meet the stitching on the other side – so make your seam just under half as wide as the binding.

Like this…

Once you’ve machined on your binding (and done your fancy mitred corners, natch) fold over the binding to the underneath of the quilt and then simply lace the the edge of the binding through the seam. Like this…


Clever huh!?

The eye burn half log cabin quilt

9 May

Oh hai.


Yeah, I know. The last month was my first long absence since starting this blog. It all started when I trod on my camera card reader. Whoops…


But then a bunch of stuff happened and I lost my mojo to be honest. Work was crazy, I got ill, Storm kept getting ill, a relative turned out to have cancer, and then an old friend died. I haven’t smiled quite as much as normal lately.

But! No more! Time to get the mojo back. Today is my friend’s wake, and I’ve been feeling, well, sad and weird, as you would.

So I decided today was also time for a new quilt.


You know how there are things you want to do, but are scared to do them? This quilt was one of them. It’s BRIGHT. But, my now departed friend taught me some good lessons in the 13 years I knew her, and one of them was to go for what you want in life and not be afraid. She was pretty amazing that way.

A quilt might not seem like something you should be afraid of, but I’ve not done much more than sew squares together so far, so tackling a more complex method, with a heritage going back probably centuries, feels like a big step.


And then there are those colours. I’ve been stockpiling fabrics and scraps for ages, to make a bright quilt, but didn’t have enough until someone very generously gave me a jelly roll a couple of weeks ago (and that’s on top of the one the girls at work gave me for my birthday – I mean, are they like buses or something?).


It’s made up of fabric from Amy Butler’s Soul Blossoms range, which I was a bit over, to be honest, but cut into two and a half inch strips I like it much better, as it’s all about the impact of the colours and less about those very iconic patterns.


This morning was also the first I had any time to myself in weeks so I just went for it, and got three and a bit blocks done. I am so excited about how they look.


As I type, Storm is leaning on my right hand side, warming me to through to my very heart and I’ve just dashed out to grab some chocolate cakes out of the oven I’ve made for her to decorate later.

Slowly, the mojo is returning. I can tell life is going to feel strange and sad for a while yet. But that’s OK.

Secret birthday project #1: The Test Card quilt

26 Feb

We spent a lovely day at my parents yesterday, and I got to give dad his birthday presents.

Last year I asked dad for his old work shirts, to make him a quilt. It was just before his birthday and I hadn’t finished my first quilt yet, so I knew I wouldn’t get it done in time. I stuck them in the bottom of the airing cupboard and almost forgot they were there.

Fastforward to a few weeks ago, when my quilting bug struck again, and I found them while digging through fabric for my Village Cricket quilt (for some reason, quilts have to have names in this house).

It seemed rather self indulgent to be making a quilt for me, when I still hadn’t started dad’s so I bit the bullet.

Once I’d cut up the shirts into usable fabric pieces I thought might work together I laid them out, thinking they could be a Log Cabin design (not all of these are his shirts btw).


But I wanted to make a ‘man’ quilt, and this arrangement seemed too fiddly and fussy for dad.

Instead, I settled on a plan of 7in wide squares and rectangles, in a random layout. To break it up a bit I made some 7in square(ish) blocks out of swatches from Deckchair Stripes.

This is what they looked like, nested in the gingham bag they came in. Love it!


I bought a whole pack for £15, which I thought was a bargain for 60 strips, and used about a fifth of them, settling on blues, with a few bright colours.


They’re all named after sports. Darts was my favourite.

A lot of the swatches were wonky, so I did some evening up, being very fussy about squaring off the shapes.


Which left me with this little pretty pile.


Then I sewed them into threes.


And cut them into squares.


The blocks took an afternoon, but were perfect for the bright zings of colour the quilt needed, among the grey, black and dark red check of dad’s shirts.


Then I laid it out, and pieced it in a couple of evenings. And here it is. (Well, the top anyway)

I’ve not finished the quilting yet (luckily, dad is the patient type). I’m using bright blue embroidery thread (DMC 995), again, to add a flash of colour.

It reminded me of the BBC Test Card (although when I looked it up, I thought, not so much actually).

The quilt is backed with a soft flannel sheet so it’s ultra snuggly, and once again, the wadding is good old Bamboo Blend.

He seemed to like it. Yay!

Quilting, the easy way. Part One.

9 Feb


I love quilts. I was smitten from the first time I read Jane Brocket‘s, The Gentle Art of Domesticity.

Trouble is, making a quilt can seem like a pretty big deal. So I managed to take three years to complete the first one.

My second (kingsize) quilt is currently hibernating – it’s so big  it’s tricky to find the space to work on it. But, hey, why finish a project when you can start another? You know what I’m talking about.

(I wish I could be faithful to my projects like Jen, but honestly, it’s never going to happen.)

The team at The Knitter recently gave our ops ed Helen a couple of Moda charm packs for her birthday. I had the lovely task of choosing them in Country Threads – and it gave me the quilting bug again.

So I spent a free morning turning this pile of fabric…



…into this lovely neat pile of 5 inch squares (that’s 12.5cm, if you’re a metric kind of guy/gal/whatever).


I ironed each piece of fabric and then cut them out with my rotary cutter, mat and quilting ruler. (You can get these cheaply on ebay).

Later, my folks Storm to the (amazing) M Shed, so I spent the afternoon laying out all the lovely squares (just 192 of them).


You can guestimate the size of your quilt by putting down a diagonal spread of squares, as tall and wide as you think the quilt will probably be. In this case my diagonal was 14 x 10, but after a while I realised I’d got more squares than would fit, so I pulled out some of the squares near the edges at random, and eventually filled a space 16 x 12 squares.



For a simple, patchwork quilt, first, place squares you only have one or two of. Some of my singles (from an Etchings by Moda charm pack) were quite dark reds and greys, so I tried to spread them out evenly across my rough grid, along with the pale teals that were dotted through the pack as well.

There were a lot of lighter creamy squares from the charm pack, so they were laid out next.


The main job, was then working with the squares that came from fat quarters and half metres of fabric. A fat quarter will yield 16 x 5in squares, and a half metre double that, so you need to make sure these are evenly placed to avoid ‘pools’ of colour.


The trick is to get all your singles down, and then put down the largest quantity of the strongest colour or pattern you have available next. So if you have 24 cream squares and 16 red squares, put down the red ones first, as they’ll catch your eye most.

Work through your fabric supply in this order, laying down singles, then large quantities of strong colours/patterns, large colours of neutrals, smaller quantities of strong colours and then finally smaller quantities of neutrals.


Not all my original planned fabrics made it in. I had about another 50 squares in two fabrics which were gorgeous, but didn’t look quite right, and there was another fabric in my first pile for this project that I didn’t even cut up.


It may seem a shame to cut squares you then don’t use, but there’s always another quilt to be made, so they’ll get used up eventually. Better to hang fire on a fabric that doesn’t quite work, than ruin the overall effect.

I ended up with a colour scheme of dark red, cream, pale teal and grey which I absolutely love, and is a bit more stylish than my first two attempts.


I don’t have a craft room or a studio, and I also have a kid who loves nothing better than to ‘get involved’ with my projects. But I also know that, after a whole day working on a quilt, I’ll probably not feel like sewing that evening as well…

So how to keep everything in order until the sewing machine comes out?


First I drew a layout plan.


And then folded an A4 sheet of paper in half for each of my 12 columns of squares.

On the front,  I put the number of the column and a rough description of the top square in the pile.


On the back, I put the number of the column and a rough description of the bottom square in the pile.


One column was the same at both ends, so I described the 2nd square from the top as well.

Then I placed all the squares from each column inside (in order, piled on top of each other) and fastened the sides of each folder paper with masking tape.




Now I can sew as much or as little as I fancy, and know that all my pieces are not going to get jumbled up.

A few other quilting tips I’ve picked up on my short but sweet quilting journey…

(1) Take pictures of your layout as you go. This is my first properly ‘random’ layout, with no plan at the beginning. Taking pictures makes it easier to spot when a square is in the ‘wrong’ place, rather than just by eye.

(2) Look at your quilt ‘upside down’. If it’s going on a bed or your lap, you’ll be looking at it from this end just as often. Does it still work?

(3) Do your layout on a cotton sheet or blanket. The pieces stick to the fabric, so they won’t fly around the room at the slightest breeze (although, do yourself a favour and keep the door shut).

(4) Plan your quilt in daylight if you possibly can. Subtleties of colour are lost in artificial light, so daylight may not be so forgiving of your mixing and matching!

Oooo, here’s one I made earlier (OK, the only one actually…)


OK, enough quilting! I’m off to knit a sleeve (in the round, no shaping, easy!), and watch a cheesy film. Night!