Crazy Patchwork Cushion… continued…
Nearly two years ago, and before being thrown out of my studio to make room for a sixteen year old, I made a crazy patchwork cushion for a group challenge from 1980’s scraps some of which were Laura Ashley fabrics.
I wasn’t happy with the way it was finished but as with many of my projects I ran out of time and completed it in a rush in order to submit it to my quilt group’s annual challenge.
So the plan was to deconstruct it, well take the back off. I’d stitched it with a long stitch to make that easy. Put a zip in the back, instead of the envelope back that I’d had to do as a quick temporary fix.
Then I needed finish the white embroidery on the front, so that all the edges were finished in the same way.
Finally I top stitched round the edge, I do this a lot on cushions just to give definition to the edge and to make them fit the cushion pad better. I do like a plump cushion.
My cushion was made particularly to go to work with me to pretty up my office, but just as it was being made we were told we would soon be moving to a new “agile “ working environment where there would be 3 desks to 5 staff . The “personalisation of work spaces” would be frowned upon, or rather strictly forbidden. So my Crazy patchwork cushion will remain at home, and pretty up my new studio, on my Windsor chair with a view of the back garden.
The crazy patchwork cushion will also be submitted to my group’s biennial exhibition later this month, so that’s two items… see my next blog post for the third item.
This year’s challenge from my Quilt group, was Crazy, put simply anything made from crazy patchwork, fill your boots. My plan was to collect silk ties to cut up, and I did buy a few from my favourite charity shop, but I soon realised that I would need a lot of ties, to have enough variety of colours and patterns, so back to the stash.
I found a bag of scraps, (well three actually), sorted it into three piles, blue and white Laura Ashley scraps dating back to 1977, (of which more later), a pile of pastels some Laura Ashley of the same vintage and some from the 80’s, and a reject pile the colours of which would not meet the criteria for my piece, brown orange, cream etc.
I wanted to work on small pieces which could be joined together in a larger piece, and had seen a number of crazy patchwork studies created as large hexagons, all I needed was a large hexie pattern. So out came the cereal packet, compass and ruler, not difficult, simply draw a circle, divide into 6 equal parts (60 degrees), and draw a line from radius to radius, where the circle intersects, to create a hexagon. The size of the hexagon was determined by the size of the cereal packet.
Initially I followed the advice in my only Crazy patchwork book, (big mistake, but excellent lessons) I cut and laid the pieces on a backing fabric cut from cotton calico (lesson one backing layer too thick). I overlaid the pieces by a eighth of an inch and then stitched them down with a fine zig-zag stitch using transparent filament, (mistake two, this is nasty scratchy stuff and leaves a ridge of stitching which then causes drag when using machine embroidery stitching on top).
Running out of time (72 hours and counting) I realised using differing coloured threads to embroider the patches would take time I didn’t have and possibly require threads I didn’t have, so I decided I could pull the whole thing together and achieve balance by using one colour for the embroidery throughout, white.
As I picked the embroidery stitches to decorate my scraps I made my next mistake (number three), I didn’t try out every stitch on scrap before I began, and there’s no unpicking it afterwards! Had I tried them out first I could have adjusted the length and width of stitch to get the optimum look of the embroidery stitch. I would have also realised that the thread I was using would not work well with some of the more open, spidery stitches leaving a barely visible embroidery, a bold thread would have worked better (mistake number four).
Now comes the fiddly bit, piecing the hexagons by machine, stitching into acute corners requires some skill, the trick is not to stitch right to the edge , leave yourself a quarter inch of wiggle room, it doesn’t matter if you leave a little hole at the corner, you will be embroidering over it anyway.
It’s at this time I discovered mistake number five, for some reason I can’t fathom I had only made 6 hexagons, and of course I needed 7, with only 48 hrs to go I didn’t have time to fiddle about with my previous method so I cut another hexagon in calico, grabbed some spray tack, sprayed liberally, cut up some scraps and dabbed them on in a haphazard way, forgot the filament zig-zag and completed with white embroidery. No mistakes and it turned out the best of the 7 hexies. Finally mistake number six , I then decided to piece the edge to create a square, all the blue sashing is made of part hexagons cut to fit around the edge, and pieced in. It would have been so much easier and quicker to applique to a straight piece of sashing. I dread to think how many times I pieced and unpicked that border, and every time it was wonky.
Consequently I ran out of time to finish it properly, I should have put a zip into the back but I didn’t have one, nor time to buy one so I made an envelope back, which I don’t like and will replace, I stitched the final edge seam with a big stitch so I can unpick it easily, and the pieced sash edge has not been embroidered where it joins the crazy patches, so when I unpick it I’ll add more embroidery.
At least I managed to produce a “finished” piece of work to submit for the challenge, it didn’t win a prize. That’s ok ,I wouldn’t have quibbled with the judges decision and loved the crazy bag made by Anne Thistlethwaite which won. Well done Anne.
The technique for printing on fabric is really quite simple, cut a piece of freezer paper the same width as a piece of A4 printer paper, then cut a square of fabric and iron it to the freezer paper waxy side up, so the fabric is completely welded to the paper. I created a word document for each line of the poem, and tried to set the line in the centre of the printable area, bearing in mind the fabric is ironed to the top 7 inches of the paper.
Put the paper in the printer, face down and press print.Then Presto, out comes a piece of fabric neatly printed with a line of the poem, just about centrally placed. Peel the fabric from the freezer paper. Trim the piece of fabric down to the desired size making sure the printing remains centred, and press with a really hot iron, to fix the ink onto the surface.
Challenge four, putting it all together. The sashing for the Owls came from my stash and was a perfect match, but I couldn’t find a fabric to sash the blue squares, nothing in my stash of fabrics was working, and I was running out of time. As you can see I tried various yellows, cream and taupe but it just wasn’t floating my boat and it looked too busy.
I decided the best option was to source some more fabric from the same range, the Internet was my only hope. I only had half a selvedge as a clue to what the fabric range was called and who made it. Nevertheless it only took me a few clicks of the mouse to trace it from the scrap I had, and find a supplier for the background fabric. I also found another fabric from the same range for the backing. Flashed the plastic, and the fabric arrived two days later, I love the Internet.
Challenge five, once I had the quilt top put together and the wadding and backing tacked in place I realised that the blue squares lacked something, there was too much plain space around the lettering, my first thought was to create a quilting template of an Owl and quilt the centre of the square but I wasn’t sure how that would work with the lettering. Maybe just a pair of Owl eyes, above the lettering, but that would be too asymmetric. I decided to keep it simple, a circle in the middle to echo the Owl medallions, and some flowers embroidered round the edge to echo the flowers on the background fabric, and to add colour. I used a space dyed thread, but I think a darker yellow or orange might have worked better.
I used one of the rejected yellows I had auditioned earlier for the sashing of the blue squares to bind the edge of the quilt and to add a little contrast. It worked well with the backing fabric too. The label is a little wonky, but it matches the sentiment, made by imperfect hands.
And so, I managed this Christmas to complete a quilt in time to give it to my Dearest Friend, and even better my lovely Sister volunteered to make a detour from her day out with her daughter to a Spa to deliver it in person to my friend. It was the day before Christmas eve. I am so blessed in my Friend, and my Sister. Thank you both for being there for me.
It’s Challenge Month again and this year’s challenge was to take a greetings card, and create something using the card as inspiration. We had to bring the card and finished item to the quilt group meeting tonight.
For months I have searched high and low for a greetings card which sparked my imagination, I even found an interesting sympathy card which might have worked but the card was bought for the purpose for which it was made, and went to a bereft friend, I could not find it again.
So last week I set myself a harder challenge, I would use a card I had, whether a card I had in my stash of “just in case” cards or one which had been received and kept for sentimental reasons, it was crunch time, I did not have time to look any further and would have to make do with what I had.
I found a rather tatty card I’d bought in a sale, (pictured) a hand finished decoupage card with wrapped presents and bunting. It was the bunting which caught my eye. Last year I made red, white and blue bunting to decorate the garden to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee year and the London Olympics, I made it from off cuts of furnishing fabric, cut with pinking shears and due to the wet and windy weather it didn’t survive too well, this year I had planned to make some more, in prettier colours. This card with its Sweet Pea colours chimed with what I had wanted to make, so that was decision made.
I have a triangular cutting ruler which is pennant shaped and ideal for the job of cutting all the pieces….could I find it…… not! It took me a week to search the house, The thing is, when I have lost something I know my subconscious knows where it is so I often go and stand where I think it might be and wait for my subconscious to direct me, in this case it kept directing me to where a chair stood but I kept moving the chair to search beyond it. Doh! I found it at last, on the desk chair under a pile of other things which I had shoved out of the way several times to search the area in which it was sitting. I must have moved it 5 or 6 times in the week I was searching. Note to self, tidy up for goodness sake!
Next step, what fabric? I didn’t really want to use my precious quilt fabric stash, at £12 a metre it’s way too expensive for bunting just to decorate the garden this summer, so back to the charity shops I went, this time as well as looking for checked shirts to cut up I looked for cotton or poly /cotton sheeting or duvet cover sets in the right colours and patterns, I found a lovely pair of fine cotton curtains in blue and yellow, I think they may be home made as the cotton is dress weight not furnishing, they are now in my stash;I think they will make good quilt backs for lap quilts, not bunting. High and low have I searched but no suitable fabric did I find. Desperation set in on Sunday night, bearing in mind the bunting had to be ready to hang by Tuesday night.
Sometime after midnight I went into my studio (the spare bedroom) and opened the drawers, I had decided to pull out any fabric I knew I would never use for quilting, so what did I find? A flowery pink, poly cotton I’d had for more than 20 years, it was too thin and poly for quilting and would never have graced a quilt of mine, a pale blue bought at Abakhan which was coarser in weave than I was used to and not quite what I had in mind when I bought it, and another green fabric which is at least 30 years old, looks as if it may be a Laura Ashley but I suspect is a fake, printed by another company to take advantage of the popularity of the ditsy prints Laura Ashley made so fashionable on the 70’s. There should have been a fourth colour; a lavender shade, but I had none I was prepared to part with,three colours would have to do.
On Monday evening, after work and shopping, I cut out the pennants and stitched them on the two long sides, turned them out and put a row of tacking along the edge to hold the seams in place till I could topstitch them. I really did burn the midnight oil for this one.
On Tuesday evening after work and a walk to pick the last of the Elder flowers for drying (of which more another time), and a long chat with my neighbour in the front garden, I top stitched the pennants and stitched them to a 5m length of cotton tape, eh Voila, my Sweet Pea bunting was ready to go by midnight.
Tonight I came home hot and bothered from work, and was just about to jump in the shower when Mum called, she wasn’t feeling well, and would not be going to the quilting group tonight. I took a shower anyway and while I stood in the shower pondered, should I still go, should I not? I decided not, much as I wanted to take my bunting and have it displayed as Cecily would have enjoyed a good display of work, did I really want to drive in this heat and sit indoors on such a lovely evening? No, I decided not, instead I hung the bunting in my garden, and sat on the front step in the late afternoon sunshine, chatting to my neighbour and enjoying a glass of Pimms with ice and cucumber. Sometimes the simple pleasures in life are what counts.
I do have warm hands, always, and so I make lousy pastry, the saying would have me cold hearted too. Blue hearts may look cold too but they make an easy to make, simple quilt.
The quilt belongs to my mother, I don’t actually remember it being made but I’m pretty sure it must be a block of the month challenge, each heart just a four patch; 3 blue squares and a cream one, set on point alternating with plain cream squares. Some of the creams are evidently different from their neighbours, if one person had made all the blocks, all the creams would match, or there would be a selection of creams carefully placed to balance across the quilt.
It’s such a simple rustic quilt , quilted and tied, no need for anything elaborate.
Here are two more quilts made from the inspiring work of Ricky Tims, not mine I’m afraid, these two were both made by my Mother.
The first probably made at the same time as my first and to the same instructions, I think we may have been lent a book or attended a workshop together.
The second, I’m sure was made in response to a Women’s Institute Challenge to use a particular challenge fabric inspired by Gustav Klimt. Or perhaps it was made from the left over fabric. The lime and copper fabrics look to be plains while the other two fabrics are patterned fabrics which have patterns taken from the paintings of Klimt, I particularly love the blue.
When I have a few hours to spare…. Some time in the next 5 years! I think I have the right two fabrics to make another one of these.
Another year, another challenge, as a long-standing member of my quilting group I do try to rise to the annual challenge, but a couple of years ago I was stuck for an idea, we had to use flowery fabric, and I didn’t have much time, so what to make? Thumbing through magazines looking for inspiration I came across several Union flag cushions, I’d also seen them in fancy interiors shops, I’d picked up and put down with a gasp examples at exorbitant prices. Then I saw in a magazine, a pastel shaded version, in pretty Liberty prints, and knew that I could produce something similar at a fraction of the cost.
In my stash was the red and cream, both Liberty fabric scraps, and the navy, a 1980’s Laura Ashley dress, My sister reminds me again we had one each of these too, and when she’d worn hers out I gave her mine, which clearly didn’t get worn out before it was retired to my fabric stash. I can’t find a picture of the dress but I guess if you were around in the 80’s you’d remember those dresses, huge mutton leg sleeves, drop waist, voluminous skirts,( think a newly married Princess Diana). Needless to say….. There is enough left to make something else as well, and I already have an idea.
So where to find a pattern? I could have spent hours searching the internet for a pattern but fortunately and coincidentally on Armed Forces Day there was a pull out supplement in the newspaper; an advert on the back page pictured half a union flag which was just the right size, so I traced and reversed it to create a sectional pattern to work from. The red diagonal stripe is appliquéd onto the white, the rest of the pattern is pieced.
Union flags II
Just before Christmas 2011 my stepdaughter asked me to help her make a gift for a friend who loves the Union Jack; she wanted me to help her make a cushion like mine.
Happy to encourage creativity in others I was pleased to assist, this time we bought fabrics, and I amended my technique to simplify the pattern, using more appliqué rather than piecing. The diagonals are all appliquéd on this cushion. The white fabric was lined to prevent the blue showing through.
We were very pleased with the result; I hope her friend was too.