Recently one of my staff team handed in her notice, I was very sad to see her go because she is a great practitioner and a lovely human being, but I was happy to see her progress in her career.
Naturally I wanted to give Miriam a leaving gift that was personal from me to her, no shop bought gift , it had to be hand made. A cushion was all I had time to achieve, so this is the tale of Miriam’s cushion.
I decided all would be made from my fabric stash, and wanted something very pretty, so Liberty prints seemed to fit the bill.
I wondered if perhaps there was a block called Miriam, well there is but it isn’t particularly pretty, and its also known as Crazy Susan, so that wouldn’t go down well. Stars was my second thought. Pinterest supplied this idea, Miriam’s cushion was going to be Fab.
15 different fabrics were picked out of my stash, and a new white on white fabric was bought to tie them all together, there was nothing suitable in my stash.
From each fabric one 2 ½ “ square and four 2⅞ “ triangles were required. I found it easier to cut 2 x 3 “ squares from each fabric and the same from the white to make 4 half square triangle units by putting a Liberty fabric square right sides to right sides with a white square, sewing two lines half an inch apart across the diagonal and cutting them apart, pressing to the dark side, then cutting down to 2 ½ “.
Half square triangle units are traditionally made by marking a fine pencil line diagonally across the paler fabric, so that it can easily be seen, and sewing a ¼“ from either side of the line. We press the seam allowance towards the darker fabric so as not to allow the darker fabric to show through the paler, it also helps to nest seams for a flatter, neater end result.
Once I had 15 sets of square and triangles, I had to decide on placement of the fabrics, with this pattern there are no blocks which can be made up and colour placement decided later, each fabric interlocks with its neighbours row on row , so the whole design must be laid out in advance. Thank goodness it was only a cushion, I don’t have space to lay out an entire quilt in this way.
Numbering the rows so that I didn’t get myself in a tangle I stitched each row individually, then pressed the odd rows in one direction and the even rows in the other direction so that the seams would nest neatly.
I was under time pressure, so as I worked I considered how to finish Miriam’s cushion, I wanted to finish the edge with a binding which would look like piping without the faff of having to use piping. But that left me with a problem of how to close the cushion cover.
A Zipper looks better than an envelope back, which I always think looks baggy and unfinished, but I couldn’t figure out how to put a zipper in a bound edge. So rather than make a matching back I had to make a smaller version of the front for back with a sashing to insert a zipper and leave a raw edge to bind.
Each side was sandwiched with a 2oz wadding bought specially at Abakhan (https://www.abakhan.co.uk/stores) in Preston; and quilted simply with diagonal lines, happily because the wadding was quite chunky, it didn’t need a lot of close quilting.
I sewed the front to the back wrong sides together with the raw edges on the outside, a ¼ “ seam allowance.
Finally I cut and stitched the binding ; I cut a 2 ¼ “ binding and folded it in half lengthways, right sides out, sewing it to the front of the cushion just a smidge wider than ¼ “ so that the first seam isn’t showing. It also stabilises and strengthens the seam around the edge being stitched round a second time. Then rolling the binding over the raw edge by hand, because I have folded the binding I now have a folded edge to hand stitch along the seam line on the reverse side.
I used the same fabric for the binding as the sashing so that any wobbliness of the binding or the hand stitching would be less obvious on that side. I was burning the midnight oil by this time; Miriam’s cushion had to be finished, she was leaving the following day.
I wanted to label the cushion, but not for it to be seen announcing myself constantly, so I made a label and stitched it inside the cushion, just under the zipper. It simply says it was made for Miriam, it is Miriam’s cushion.
When I gave Miriam’s Cushion to her, I pointed out my two errors, the zipper isn’t centrally placed, can’t figure out how that happened, but I didn’t have time to fix it, and the far corner fabric isn’t quite “right”, but I left it in because, as all quilters know, “only God is Perfect”.
There was one final flourish that I had planned to add but I ran out of time. It was a bible quotation I sought out especially For Miriam, a committed Christian, as she was leaving us for another job nearer to her home. I had planned it to be sewn inside like the label.
So here it is :-
To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19)
It’s more than simply Miriam’s cushion it is a gift to express fond appreciation of the person she is. Thank you Miriam for passing through my life however briefly, it has been a pleasure to know you, to work with you, to see you develop and flourish in your profession.
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.
For months now I have been searching without success for a stash of fabric I had put aside to make a quilt for a friend for Christmas, I had planned to make it last year but ran out of time and energy, so put the fabric aside in a safe place till I was ready to begin….but where? I can’t find it anywhere, and I guess even if I did now, I would not have time to make even the simplest quilt. I even pulled out one of my UFO’s and considered finishing it for her but decided not, I love her dearly, she deserves her own quilt conceived and made specifically for her, in her colours. It doesn’t have to be now and it shouldn’t be rushed or ill conceived, besides I am still having ideas about it, so clearly it is not yet a done deal.
However I am making something for her, her own stocking. I found in a charity shop some weeks ago a printed panel for a Christmas stocking, and bought it for £2.99, I guess it would have been £5 to £10 pounds or more to buy in a quilt shop.
I cut the two sides apart and cut out the shapes with a centimetre seam allowance, it needs to be greater than a quarter inch because I will use the seam allowance turned in on itself to neaten the seam. I will sew it at 5/8ths and this will ensure no white will show at the edge.
I cut a lining from a plain white fabric I had to hand and a piece of wadding for each side, and sewed all three together along the top edge the front and the lining right sides together, with the wadding on the back.
Then the wadding was trimmed back as close to the seam as possible , and the printed panel flipped over so that the wadding is now in the middle. I neatly pinned the top edge then tacked it to ensure the lining did not roll out and show above the printed panel. I will top stitch when it has been tacked together to keep the top edge stable.
Having tacked all three layers together I am now in the process of quilting the layers together with a gold machine embroidery thread to add a little Christmas sparkle.
We all as tourists may travel many miles and even cross continents to see the wonders of the world, but are less willing to be impressed by what we can find at home. This summer my Dearest and I, being unable to afford a foreign holiday, or indeed the fuel to take us very far, decided to explore what we had at home, or nearest to it. The plan was to improve our knowledge of what is on our very doorstep which can be enjoyed for free or near as, any time we like.
One day we went to Levens Hall just south of Kendal and probably only 15 miles from our front door. The house is mainly Tudor but dates back to 13th Century in parts, and was extended in the 16th Century. Inside the house is the OLDEST Patchwork Quilt in England dated to 1708. There is no date on the quilt or the bed hangings but the family claim it was made by the lady of the house and her step daughters in that year, the quilt is made of fabrics contemporary with that time. They are imported Indian cottons hand printed with exotic designs of birds and flowers in reds and greens which would have been incredibly expensive at the time.
I like to think of those wealthy but thrifty ladies making a Patchwork quilt to make best use of the scraps and left over fabric from the elaborate gowns made for them or by themselves in the fashion of the day. The fabrics are cut and pieced simply to show off the pattern, set in plain sashing and quilted quite closely with a simple grid of squares set on point in red thread. Each row of blocks alternates between a snowball block and a simple cross shape, a smaller lozenge shape fits between each cross , working diagonally across the quilt in both directions and each shape is set into a plain background fabric.
It was not possible to take my own picture of the quilt or the matching bed hangings which are displayed in a bedroom in low light, so I bought a post card, which gives a fairly detailed view, sadly although I could scan the post card I cannot publish an image of the quilt without permission of the owners.
The quilt is not Levens’ only claim to fame; it also has the most sublime Gardens designed for the house in 1694. The topiary gardens are the oldest surviving and the best in the world. I only wish we had arrived earlier and had time to give the garden its fair share of attention. We have agreed we need to go back another time, but when? Spring perhaps, or in June when the roses are at their best.
The café is open to the public, without having to pay to go into the house and gardens, the shop also is open to the general public so perhaps another day when we are passing, we can stop for a coffee and a browse, some Christmas shopping or whatever.
Another unusual feature is a smokehouse in the farthest corner of the garden, not for the smoking of food, but a place of banishment for those members of the early 17th Century household who had taken up the filthy habit of tobacco!
There is a walk I’d like to do from the house, into the Park on the other side of the A6, up the old avenue of trees which would have been the original approach to the house, I believe there is a waterfall and a picturesque bridge to be seen. It sounds like a perfect walk for an autumn day, and if we go on a day when the café is open we can plan tea and stickies as a reward at the end of the walk. That sounds like a plan.
Have you ever seen a person wearing a garment whose fabric you would happily have in your stash? I must admit until recently I hadn’t, but since I have been gathering checked shirt fabrics for a future project I have found myself studying passing gentlemen, many of the most unprepossessing type, and wishing I could have the shirts off their backs, only for my stash you understand. It has become a running joke with my Dearest, as I find my eye captured and held by men of all ages, sizes and types each wearing loud checks of all colours and design. I have yet to follow one down the street with covetous intent, but you never know….
My passion for fabric outstrips my available fabric buying resources exponentially, so I am always on the lookout for ways of acquiring fabric for quilting with the least outlay of funds. Inspired by my love for recycling and by the plaid scrap quilts I have seen on Pinterest I began collecting checked shirts bought in charity shops. My local charity shop has been an almost weekly supplier of treasure, and each so far costing between £1 and £2.50.
I find that a man’s “small” shirt will render the largest piece from the back measuring 21” by 25” measuring under the armholes and from yoke to tail, which is equal to a fat quarter, the front a similar amount of fabric in two halves, and then the sleeves although an odd shape will render at least as much as a fat quarter between them or less if short sleeves, but if I calculate each shirt to represent half a yard of fabric I don’t think I will be disappointed.
The smallest shirt I have bought for £1 (pictured) was age 11-12 and gave me a back measuring 18.5” by 22”, the biggest a 17.5” collar shirt from Boden which rendered a back measuring 31” by 30” but bizarrely was cut on the bias and looks like a table cloth, the sleeves were cut on the straight grain, so although large the shirt will similarly render only a half yard.
The inside of the Yoke is often cut on the bias which limits its use but two small squares could be cut from it for another scrap project, and the yoke will render squares or strings.
My rule in choosing which shirts to buy is that they must be 100% cotton, not seersucker, must be bright not muddy colours, and must be checked not striped. Mostly the shirts I buy are unworn or barely worn and that can be discerned by looking at the labels for wash fatigue and collar for signs of wear. So far I have made only two mistakes, poplin is too crackly, and does not iron well. To achieve a good mix of colour and pattern I will need perhaps 30 to 40 shirts, but that will give me 15-20 yards of fabric which should be enough for more than one quilt, one large and maybe a couple of lap quilts.
My observations on charity shop shirt buying so far are:-the louder the shirt the more likely that it will be unworn, perhaps it’s a case of loud shirts having a limited use, or that they generally fall into the unwanted gift, or “seemed like a good idea at the time” category, which languished at the back of the wardrobe for a couple of years and then got edited out to the charity shop. And…. children’s clothes, particularly summer wear in Britain, unless passed down from oldest to youngest, probably only has an 8 to 10 week window of wear, before its back to school uniform in September, so many summer shirts have hardly seen a washing machine more than half a dozen times before they are put away to have been outgrown by the following summer, so a future life in a quilt is a greener alternative to another 8 to 10 weeks life in a different boy’s wardrobe.
Here’s a quilt my mother made for her granddaughter to celebrate her 21st Birthday, Sally found the design in a book and brought it to Mum, “Grandma, I’d love this for my 21st Birthday, could you….?
Eek, no pattern, no instructions, just an image. So Mum set about it valiantly, scaling up the image then drawing it onto a backing layer, sourcing the fabrics, so many rainbow colours, so little time.
Each fabric piece was individually cut to fit the space on the backing where that colour belonged, and stitched to the backing along the very edge of the piece, so that the black bias binding used to “lead the windows” would cover the stitching. It was then quilted with images relevant to Sally’s life, the logo for her university, The University of Cumbria; a Dragon, because she was born in the Year of the Dragon; a set of Scales for a Libran; two Trefoils to represent the Guiding Movement; the logo of the University of Lancaster where she teaches swimming and a Gerbera to remind her of her Prom Night.There is also space for more quilted memories as they occur.
The quilt was displayed at the last Exhibition our quilt group had two years ago , the best photos of this quilt have my mother standing proudly in front of it, but she would KILL me if I published a picture her on my blog, so this one will have to do.
The Garstang Patchwork Quilters’ next exhibition is 19th to 21st April 2013, find us at Bilsborough Village Hall on the A6 north of Preston,Lancashire, UK. I’ll be there on Saturday morning, see you there.
Going back to the Sizzix Big shot, I have now solved my little dilemma, and indeed the dreaded yellow was the answer. I had spent a few nights trying to think how I might avoid using the dreaded yellow and came up with an idea that a lime or apple green might work but on looking again at what was already cut I found I had already introduced a pale apple green, so that would not work. With a heavy heart I reached for the secret yellow stash, cut a couple of apple cores and threw them into the mix… presto! The whole thing started to come together.
Then I went to my stash for a royal blue for the border but again…. it just wasn’t working, so off to the fabric shop I went,…..lavender blue? no, Airforce blue? no, Navy blue? no…..what about turquoise? Turquoise it is! I may even bind it in yellow too, but I’ve got time to ponder that while I do the quilting.
So next dilemma… how to quilt, and what to back it with?
If you want to make your own quick and easy Christmas stockings you can buy ready printed panels, or simply choose a Christmassy fabric and a simple lining. Once you have found or drafted a pattern you are happy with cut two stockings from the outer fabric and two from the lining, make sure you cut them right sides of the fabric together so you get a left and a right, rather than two lefts or two rights.
Stitch each outer and its lining together along the top edge, then lay the two right sides together outer on outer, lining on lining and stitch right round the whole piece, leaving a gap on the back seam of the lining as indicated between the points of the scissors in the photo
You can then turn the whole thing right sides out, hand stitch the opening in the lining closed and then tuck the lining in.
You might want to consider tucking a ribbon (to use as a hanger) into the back seam of the outer pair, but remember to put it between the seam on the INSIDE before you stitch it, you don’t want it between the outer and the lining do you?
You might also want to top stitch the top edge to stop the lining rolling out, and a few stitches in the seam at the toe to hold the lining in place. And if you aren’t wadding and quilting then choose a furnishing fabric to give some substance to your stocking.
And I need to finish a project I began 5 years ago, we were driving to Hull and back twice each weekend to facilitate contact with my Dearest’s 7 yr old son and 11 yr old daughter. To while away the long car journeys and thinking I might have two children staying with us at Christmas, I began to make them a stocking each to hang at the fireplace.
I have already made a number of Christmas stockings but they are for adults and generally fairly small for the kind of little stocking gifts that amuse adults, these stockings would need to be bigger, much bigger.
I can’t remember where I got the original pattern from, but it has been modified a number of times over the years. There are plenty of stocking patterns on the net if you’d like to try this yourself.
The fabric was my quilt group’s Christmas challenge fabric for 2007, sadly I’m five years too late to enter the challenge, but they will be finished this Christmas, come what may! There were two colours of co-ordinating fabric, and a collection of small panels. I chose two matching panels one for each side of each stocking, a different colour way for each stocking, so that I could tell them apart.
The panels were applied using bondaweb, and the edge stitched with Gold thread using a fancy machine stitch. I used a stitch which reminded me of icicles, it would have worked far better in silver but the embellishment on the fabric is gold, so my embellishments had to be gold too.
I will have to quilt the panels in gold tread before I stitch up the sides of the stockings, and I haven’t quite worked out how I will quilt them, but probably the holly leaves and berries, which I have used before. It’s easy to create your own quilting patterns or stencils, I found a simple line drawing of a holly leaf and berries on an advertising handbill, scaled it up and cut it out of cereal box. I might have used plastic film if I needed to use it on an entire quilt, but cereal packet is fine for a few uses.
Each stocking will have metre of ribbon folded in half and stitched into the back seam so it can be tied with a bow to whatever I want to attach it to, the banister rails are a favourite place.
I plan, if I have time to make a swing tag,a gift tag to hang from each stocking like the little dog on a Radley handbag, with just an initial for each of them V and T, the children are now 12 and 16, their gifts tend to be smaller and more expensive than back then, so the stockings are probably large enough, thank goodness I didn’t make them bigger, stockings have to be well filled at Christmas, a thin and meagre stocking is so dispiriting isn’t it?
This is the quilt which lives in my bedroom and is the first to be put on the bed if extra warmth is required, admittedly rarely because my Dearest likes a 14 tog duvet, while I’d be happy with 4 togs (it’s my age, I’m told). In that single week in May we call Summer when the nights are warm and the duvet is cast off the bed, a sheet and this quilt suffice to sleep under. It is my most used quilt but my Dearest still gets told off for sitting on it “en deshabille”.
The block is a simple collection of 16 x 2 inch squares put together randomly from scraps to create a 6 inch square, each block is interspersed with another block made of 4 quarter square triangles in ivory and burgundy, which are then placed with the colours positioned alternately in each row; so that each block of scraps appears to be set in the centre of a larger square of either ivory of burgundy.
Again I used some of my favourite tiny scraps, my 1960’s dress fabric features again, probably only because it could be made from such tiny pieces, and all I had left were the tiniest scraps. In fact I tend to cut 2 inch squares if I can from any fabric scraps I have left, on the grounds that if I can’t get a 2 inch square out of it, it probably isn’t worth keeping. These are then stored in a tin for my next scrap quilt project. It is hand and machine quilted very simply in ivory thread, I didn’t think it needed anything elaborate, scrap quilts don’t, their beauty lies in the fabrics.
The quilt is titled Remembrance, the blocks were a ”Block of the month” challenge which I won sometime back in 1996; made into a quilt that year and exhibited the following year. I didn’t attend the group meeting the night I won the blocks, I had been at a funeral that day, my cousin had lost a long fight with cancer. I thought of her often as I made this quilt, she was younger than me and the first person I had lost still in the flower of youth. Over the years this quilt has been packed away, or otherwise hidden from view, but whenever it surfaced my cousin was always my first thought when I saw it again, it might seem morbid but it isn’t to me, I’m happy to be reminded of her, she was a beautiful woman, and she lived her life. My memories of her are happy ones.