watermelons for summer :: a twirly skirt

the beginning

The great wool tidy has revealed many treasures (as well as plenty for recycling) including this summery watermelon fabric and a pretty blue paisley that looks oh so French.  They’re cotton – and that bubbly sort of fabric – oh, what’s it called?  I can never remember, but have loved it ever since my Mum bought me a pair of pink and white stripe tailored shorts in it when I was 11.  Begins with an “s” … it will come to me.

Two metres of each fabric – perfect for a twirly skirt just like this long time favourite.  And perfect for the exceedingly hot summer we are having – lovely and soft and floaty and long – ‘t’will both keep the sun off and a breeze circulating :-)

I’ve made lots of these skirts – they are a little time consuming only in that it’s amazing how long it can take to gather up length after length after length of fabric – but they are so simple and can be dressed up or down to wear anywhere.  The only sizing is in the waist – and that’s elastic.  I’ve made Abby the most over the years – this little Aunt Grace number is still a favourite that she now wears with knee high black lace up boots and a little cropped jacket (I know – how they grow up).

abby's

I made a beautiful red, cream and black one for Mum one Christmas that she wears in winter with black opaque tights and a black turtleneck, and of course the original one I made with Ruth in class – that was such a lovely morning and such a delight to be able to simply wander upstairs to all the beautiful fabrics and trims when I needed something.  Oh if only all our sewing could be done with such treasures at hand :-)

original

You can use as many different fabrics as you like and completely go to town on the trim if you want.  I decided to keep this watermelony one pretty simple – given there was no more than 2 metres of any trim anywhere in Bootville, keeping it simple meant I didn’t have to go to the fabric store and spend money.  Of course, I may do this tomorrow, but for now, simple it is.

And, it occurred to me as I was slicing up the fabric, that you might like to make one too.  So here’s a really simple tutorial for how to make up your own.  Starting with … clear your sewing table.  This is so empowering :-)

ready to start

Then … cut the fabric!  I use a rotary cutter and quilting ruler.  Can you read that below?  Ignore that big 6.01 that’s staring out at you from the middle background.  I don’t know why it won’t go away.  Just choose your fabrics – order them from tiers one to six, fold them like you would your patchwork fabric (i.e. selvedges together, folded once, then twice, place your quilting ruler at the appropriate mark and with your rotary cutter, slice straight across the width of the fabric so you wind up with a piece that is – if we’re talking about tier 1 – 8 long x 42 inches wide.

Now – a word about this tier one piece.  It will be the yoke of the skirt.  When I was first shown how to make the skirt, I was told to cut just one width for the yoke ’cause you don’t want a lot of bulk around your waist.  However, these days (after a massive FAIL at losing weight last year – I have lost 4 kilos this year, but we still have a waaaaaay to go) one width only just makes it around my hips (well, lower stomach really, it’s a very strange thing my lower stomach).  I did cut this watermelony tier one piece just one width but it’s a bit snug.  I would recommend adding an extra bit of fabric just to keep it comfy – and eliminate the “fitted look” – if you find that one width is just a bit too close.  I reckon, measure your widest bit and add an extra 10 inches, don’t you think, in which case you’ll need two widths of 8 inches – one full one and one that you’ll use a bit of.

cutting instructions

Gathering – now that you’ve cut your pieces, the rest is just a repeat of side seams + gathering threads + gathering to size + stitching to previous tier.  Do your side seams first – you stitch each tier piece together so that they form a giant ring – and make sure you don’t twist the pieces or it will be like a piece of knitting joined in the round – an upside down twist that will be impossible to fix without unpicking.  Just be mindful.  And you probably have your gathering completely sorted.  But just in case you don’t, here’s a few strategies I’ve developed over the years …

::  I always do two rows of gathering thread at the longest stitch my machine will do, leaving nice long tails at both ends.  Now when I was a wilful teenager, I didn’t believe my Mum when she told me I needed two rows of gathering thread – I thought that was a waste of bobbin thread and my valuable time.  But she was right – one row makes mincy looking gathers that can’t be spread out as evenly and don’t sit as neatly.   Two rows it is.  Use a colour thread you don’t care about and wonder why you bought it – that way you won’t feel cheated as you race through it.

where to sew the gathering thread

:: It doesn’t matter how many widths of fabric I am gathering, I NEVER use two continuous rows of gathering thread.  You are almost guaranteed to snap the thread somewhere – and will have to start again – and it makes pulling it up a pain in the butt.  I ALWAYS stop and start at the beginning and end of each side seam.  So – in Tier 2 – which has 2 widths of 8 inches – I will start and stop twice.  That way I only have to pull up one width of fabric at a time.  In Tier 6 – which has 5 widths of fabric of 7 inches – I will start and stop 5 times.

:: To evenly distribute my gathers I do a little maths.  How wide is the previous tier – let’s say tier 4 – each width is 122cm wide and I have three pieces  = 366cm.  How many pieces are there in tier 5 which will need to stitch on to tier 4 – 4 pieces.  So I divide the bottom of tier 4 into 4 – 366 divided by 4 = roughly 91.5cm.  So starting at my central side seam (I always line up one side seam on each tier and call this the central side seam) I measure 91.5 and place a pin, then measure 91.5cm again and place a pin, and measure again and place a pin – and of course the last one will be back at your central side seam.  Then I pin tier 5 into place – the side seams of each tier 5 piece will match up to a pin on the tier 4 piece.  You with me ?!  So now you know your gathered pieces need to fit within these spaces.  Which leads me to …

:: Gathering it up!  First – will your fabric fray?  If it is of that persuasion, then please zigzag the edges first – I know, more thread, more time.  But if you’re fussing with the gathers for a while, some fabrics will nastily fray all the way down to your gathering stitches and that isn’t fun.

Second - I always pull from the left side so on the right side I tie a knot with the two ends from my two rows on top.  This way, when I’m cheerfully spreading my gathers out nice and even, they don’t slip off the far end without me noticing.  That may send very silly – but I have done it!  Once that knot is tied, you can spread your gathers evenly right up to the end and they are going nowhere.

Now don’t just yank on the gathering thread at the left- there’s always a bit of resistance at first – start with a gentle pull to loosen the bobbin stitches underneath and then your gathering threads will slide through the fabric nicely.  I don’t worry about doing it all evenly in the beginning – waste of time.  I just pull up as much as I need to to make this width fit my designated space (remember our pins) and then when I have it the right size I tie a knot in the left hand two top threads and then my gathers will not fall out and I can spread the gathers evenly right up to both ends.  Pin, pin, pin and sew …

:: Final word on gathering – I always sew the new tier on with the gathered side up.  The flat side of the previous tier will sit nice and flat on the bottom with minimum supervision – the gathers themselves need a bit more of your attention.  I like to keep the tops of the gathers neatly aligned with the straight edge of the previous tier and make sure there are no strange skewif bits going on – you know, you want your gathers to lay in nice straight lines not go awkwardly sideways.  If they’re on the bottom it’s much harder to see what’s going on and I wind up needing to unpick and straighten.  Keep your gathers on top.

sew with the gathered side up pin both ends then gather in between swathes of fabric

So off you go – sew, sew, sew, gather, gather, gather, sew, sew, sew … I added a tier of green – one always needs a good grove of greenery to survive a hot day, don’t you think.

getting there ric rac

Okay.  All your tiers are on.  Now before you get excited about trim, overlock or zigzag your tier edges.  This uses even more cotton.  You will think the end will never come.  It does, but not til after school pickup.  Then, when your edges are beautifully neat, give the whole skirt a good press so that all those tiers are sitting FLAT.  There’s nothing like a good bash with the iron to make a piece of handmade clothing go from looking slightly clumsy with bumpy bits to being polished and professional :-)  Now you can put on your trim.

done

For the waist, overlock or zig zag the top edge then turn over enough to hold your elastic. Stitch close to the lower edge of your turnover, leaving a gap to thread your elastic through.  Thread your elastic – sew the ends together, making sure you don’t twist your elastic (I can’t count how many times I have twisted the jolly elastic – eternally frustrating).  Sew shut your gap.  Overlock or zig zag the bottom edge of the last tier and hem it, just on the machine – I did about 1cm.  I seriously considered not hemming after overlocking it, but Abby reckoned it looked dorky so I hemmed it.  I’m an obedient mama.  Again – endless stitching – you think you will never get back to the beginning – and you probably won’t before the bobbin runs out!  Argh!

wearing it

It’s ready to wear!  Yay!  It’s taken about 4 hours.  That’s not too bad huh!  I’m rather fond of that red ric rac – will definitely be getting more tomorrow – a nice round of red for each tier, yes?  Yes!  I’ll need about 15 metres just to be safe.

pulled out ballerina poseNow I’m ready to hit the beach on another weekend of temperatures over 40 celsius – in my floaty, twirly watermelon skirt.  And when I’ve lost a few more inches around the waist, I may even tuck in my t-shirt and add a belt :-0

Hope this is all clear – if there’s something I haven’t made easy to follow, send me an email at lily(at)blockaday(dot)com and I’ll do my best to set you straight.  And if you do make a twirly skirt, send me a photo – I’d love to see how YOU put your fabrics together and what kind of trims you find.  Enjoy!

 

postcards from the beach – crochet a christmas garland!

When the afternoon wind picks up across the bay, we retreat from the front porch to the courtyard.  A warm and golden nook, rich in whimsy, colour and fragrance.  A lovely spot for wiling away an afternoon.  Mum climbed chairs and draped fabric.  I searched through a tattered paper bag of yarn – filled with knitted projects from so long ago.  I think it was the start of a blanket.  There’s also plenty of leftover mustard coloured yarn from the cardigan my Nanny knitted me for my eighteenth birthday.  That’s good – it was attacked during the great moth debacle of 2006 and needs some repairs to the cuff and neckline.

There was also a dear little knitting nancy.  Isn’t Mlle Nancy just the sweetest thing in a knitter’s basket?  Have you spent years lifting those wee loops over the nails, producing metres and metres of cord, with little idea of what to do with it, apart from dolls house rugs that is.  We’ve made plenty of those.

I think, if I was to search through every box in Bootville, I would find enough knitting-nancy-cord to take to the Elsternwick shops and back.  And ever the enthusiast, I am knitted more on the journey home …

… however, sitting in the courtyard, whilst Mum pondered the best way to suspend her shade canopy, I hit upon a brilliant use for this here red cord – inspired by the crocheted motifs I was stitching from that lovely book I shared yesterday.

See, I’ve learnt a couple of really neat new-to-me techniques that I so enjoy, I’ve been using them over and over and over … the slip ring (instead of chain 4 or 6 etc. and join ring ), making my stitches into the back loop only (provides a lovely “running stitch” effect) and creating loops on the underside so as to add extra layers.  Add that to some balls of 5 ply baby yarn that was in yet another bag of wool that Mum dug out of somewhere, and I designed a wee flower that just begs to be added to some knitted cord for a Christmas garland.

I’ve not yet finished my Christmas garland but figured that since it will take at least a week or so – and you might like to make one too and will also need some time before you put up the Christmas decorations to get it done – I would provide a wee tutorial right now, with just six finished and as many more to go as I am happy to make.  Would you like to crochet and knit a Christmas garland?  Course you would :-)  If you don’t have a knitting nancy doll, you can knit your cord instead – it’s just icord.

Okay … here’s the deal.  And please remember that this Christmas garland is an original pattern made by me and is for personal use only.  Cool!

:: A Christmas Garland Tutorial by Lily Boot ::

Gather your supplies – 5 ply yarn (Sport weight) for the flowers, 8 ply (DK/light worsted) for the leaves, 8 ply for the knitting nancy/icord, and 5 ply for the central stamen.  I used a 3mm crochet hook for all the crochet (courtesy of my brilliant Mollie Makes magazine!) and a yarn needle for attaching the flower to the cord.

Make your cord!  As long as you want.  I’ve produced about 3 metres.  I shall probably keep going  - the longer, the merrier :-) – well, until I get bored.

:: For the flower ::

Make a slip ring (here’s a really great description with instructions and pictures)

:: Round 1

Chain 3 (to represent the first treble), make 13 more trebles (tr) into the slip ring.  Pull the slip ring tight.  Slip stitch (ss) the top of the last treble into the top of the 3rd chain.  You now have 14 stitches to work from for the second round.

:: Round 2

Chain 2 (to represent the first double), *make 2 doubles (dc) in the back loop only of the next stitch*.  Repeat from * to * 12 more times.  Slip stitch the top of the last double into the top of the 2nd chain.  You now have 27 stitches to work from for the third round.

:: Round 3

Chain 6.  * Slip stitch into the next three stitches.  On the third of these stitches, chain 6*.  Repeat from * to * 7 more times.  Slip stitch into last two stitches.  You now have 9 loops to work in for the fourth round.

:: Round 4

*In the next loop, make 12 tr.  Make 1 dc in the second slip stitch*.  Repeat from * to * 8 more times.  You now have 9 petals.  Fasten off.

:: Round 5

Turn flower over.  Working on the back, fasten green yarn for leaves to the stitch underneath the centre of the first petal as per the photograph.  Work 3 chain.  Slip stitch into the stitch underneath the centre of the next petal.  Repeat until you are back to the beginning, making a slip stitch into the first green stitch.  You now have 9 green leaf loops on the back of your flower to work for the sixth round.

:: Round 6

In each green, work 1 dc, 1 half treble (htr), 2 tr, 1 double treble (dtr), 2 tr, 1 ht, 1 dc.  Repeat in each loop.  Finish with a slip stitch into the original green stitch.  Fasten off.

:: Attaching the flower to the icord ::

Cut a piece of the stamen yarn, at least 50cm long.  Using this, make 2 firm stitches through your icord as per the photograph leaving a tail of at least 5 cm in your position of choice.

Place your flower on top, bringing the needle with the stamen yarn up through the centre of the original ring.   Switch from yarn needle to crochet hook.

Pick up a loop of stamen yarn through one of the original centre trebles.  Make 5 chain.  Take directly across (from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock) and slip through the opposite original centre treble.  Repeat two more times (second time, going from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock).

Switch back to yarn needle.  Take the end of the stamen yarn back through the flower to the back of the icord where the 5 cm tail awaits.

Tie the two tails together in a reef knot.  Stitch the ends into the icord – one in one direction, the other in the opposite, as per the photograph.

Your first flower is finished!  Now, repeat as many times as desired :-)

I hope these instructions are clear.  I think this is the first crochet pattern I have ever written.  So if you find a mistake, I do apologise.  I have used these instructions 4 more times myself and they make sense to me, but if they fail to make sense to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me – lily(at)blockaday(dot)com – and I will do my best to help!

I hope you love making these flowers and the Christmas Garland as much as I do.  Send me photos of your work!  I would love to see what you make :-)

 

a spring bangle – it’s almost a how to

oh hello!  fell off the blogosphere for a week or so – must have been the school holidays – we were having too much fun :-) – there’s some lovely adventures to share and it’s sure nice to be back!

It’s a funny-peculiar time of year.  The deciduous trees are looking glorious – honestly, today when parking in my customary side street to pick up the wee girlies from school, my heart lifted up into the air and floated amongst the velvety green spring leaves of the plane trees.  They are transforming an elegant but bleak streetscape into a verdant cathedral of pale green light.   And the blossoms – everywhere is voluptuous with blossom.  But the weather – ghastly.  C–o–l–d.  Knife-like breeze.  Grey drizzle.  How on earth does the flora know it’s time to start the exhibition.

So I’m looking at spring, thinking of spring, choosing the colours of spring, but tugging my spring shawl tighter …. and putting on the heating at night.

During a shivery afternoon in the sewing shed, whilst helping Abby with her Gakupo costume (oy!  that’s another whole story) I made a bangle – from the inner cardboard ring of an almost empty ball of crochet cotton.  It’s lovely and thick and stiff.  I measured a piece of scrap batting against it (literally trimmed off the edges of a quilt – the only scraps I don’t keep are the pieces of trimmed thread – I am eternally optimistic!) …

quilted this onto a piece of lovely soft green polka dot (just like those leaves) …

cut larger circles out of the red of our roses (the first of whose petals we bottled in a batch of strawberry sauce on the weekend) … onto scraps of vlisefix first (left over from the Michaelmas banner), then ironed onto the scraps of red fabric …

and the smaller circles out of colourful wee scraps from the scrap basket – the yellow of the ranunculas, the blue and purple of the bluebells and stock, and the pink of the cherry blossoms …

work out where I like them …

then pop in pins at 12 o’clock to remind me, peel off the vlisefix and iron them on …

then embroidery … didn’t know when to stop, per usual

I work with this theory – a little bit is great and I can appreciate it’s elegance.  But I always push past this – only to then clap my hand to my forehead and think – oops, now it’s looking a bit manky – which I remedy by going completely to town – I always think this solves the crisis.  There’s no middle ground – a little bit – completely smothered.  Anything in between doesn’t work :-)  That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it :-)

I wrapped this wee quilty thing around the cardboard ring, nice and taut.  Folded over a hem and ladder stitched it hut.   Then cut into the edge, turned the edge in and glued it down with white glue.  I thought I would need to peg it, but I didn’t.

Instead, I wore it out to dinner at cousin Hannah’s – smelling slightly of eau – de – white glue.  Very spring like scent.

A fun and quick bit of stitchiness that drew me back to the sewing shed.  And who knows – it might serve as a totem and send these October showers on their way and bring back those magical days of warmth we had last month!

p.s. egads!  check out that wrinkly old hand.  It’s Julian’s fault.  I’m actually shedding skin like a snake.  And the dirty thumb nail – Julian’s fault again (if I was living in Queensland, I’d be able to blame Anna Bligh – alas, I’m now a Victorian so I’ll have to settle for Julian.)

 

quilted sunshine – a play in two acts

[ please note, this tutorial (instructions and pattern) is for personal use only, thankyou ]

:: Setting ::

A little sewing shed, tucked away among the trees in a Melbourne back garden.  It is a spring weekend.  However, the weather has turned blustery and bleak.  Golden light spills from the open sewing shed door.  Inside is cluttered and cheery with fabrics and colour.  From a laptop, the tinkling sounds of Lisa Mitchell compete with the clatter of a sewing machine.

A woman is stitching a quilt – straight onto a blanket.  She is singing along to the music and every few moments, jumps to her feet to add more notes to her latop, and press the long strips of fabric she is adding to her quilt.

Do come in! Pull up a chair and a cup of tea and watch what happens!

:: Introduction ::

Here it is!  A recipe for making your own quilted blanket.

Beautiful pure wool vintage blankets are not impossible to find at thrift stores. If I don’t see any, I always ask – sometimes they don’t put them out because they are not considered popular! Often they have holes or marks but I’m not precious about that.  I wash them in my machine, on warm, with wool wash, dry them on the garden line and away I go.  I rarely use them whole – this makes it easier to avoid holes and stains – you just fussy cut.

And there’s always things to do with the scraps.  They make lovely banners, runner backings, placemat backings, tote bag linings, slippers, little wheat and lavendar bags – their use is only limited by your imagination.  In fact, over at Myrtle and Eunice you will find a gorgeous dress for your little one made from a vintage blanket!

So let’s begin …

:: Act 1, Scene 1 ::

In which we trim the blanket to our desired size and choose our centrepiece and fabrics.

Remember, this is a quilt recipe!  Not the pattern for a heirloom quality, precision made quilt :-)

Oh hang on!  Should add here, we have washed our picnic quilt many, many times and dragged it around with us for over 2 years and it is immaculate – a quality wool blanket and good stitching will make a quilted blanket that will give you years of warmth!

Nevertheless, it is a relaxed and easy to put together quilt.  So … find your blanket, wash it and dry it.

First we cut it into a square.  I do this rather haphazardly.  I spread the blanket out on the floor as smoothly as possible (sometimes furniture gets in the way – oh well) and then take one corner and fold it over on a 90 degree angle to get the square length I want.  Smooth it out well, and measure to make sure it is reasonably straight.  Checked blankets are brilliant for this – I just line it up with the lines on the blanket!

Cut – and save the pieces left over for other projects.  Now fold the square piece of blanket in half and then in half again.  The folded point you wind up with is your middle – you probably knew that ;-) – place a pin in the fold of the middle.  Open your blanket back out.

Now you will need a centrepiece – I’m using a pieced block that I found in a box.  btw – all those little lines in the yellow triangles – they are pieced – I musn’t have had enough of that lovely yellow and white print to cut full half square triangles so pieced them!  In the past I have used a plain piece of fabric or a nice panel of something pretty.

Doesn’t matter how big it is but it should be square.  If you have a wonderful print – cut a nice big square so you can see plenty of its lovely picture, like here.  Or you can piece a block especially, like here and here.  Or if it is simply a starting point, you can keep it small.  This will work especially well if you have lots of shorter strips of lovely fabric that you would like to start your borders with.  That is, a smaller square to start with, will have shorter borders to start with.

This can be positioned straight or on point.  I have done both – straight – on point.  Today I’m using on point.  I’m in a bit of an on point mood and it does look very striking when finished.  Fold your centrepiece in half diagonally and line up with the centre point of your blanket.  Smooth it out and pin securely.  This will provide the foundation for the rest of your quilting so you want it smooth and straight.

Choose your border fabrics – this will depend on what you have available – ’cause really, after you’ve added your centrepiece, the rest of the fabrics are just borders.  Kind of like a simple medallion quilt.  You might want to buy something specially – which I did for the picnic quilt (all the fabrics were on sale at Allegro Fabrics – very cheap) or use scraps – which I did for this one.  For today’s quilted blanket, I’m using mostly scraps with some nice bigger pieces that I either found in boxes that had not been touched for over 2 years, or bought at Amitie.  And I’m sticking to yellows with a bit of green because it will be my “Quilted Sunshine”.  Good scraps will be long, full width pieces – the quilt gets big quickly.

You can lay them out to see how they work together … or you can just plonk them on higgledy-piggledy for a really scrappy look.  Even in this instance, I do think about it as I go – I wouldn’t mindlessly put three reds and pinks in a row – I think a bit of contrast works.

With these yellows, I shifted them around a bit, added different fabrics and took some away until I got it right.  Now – width.  I am using a variety of widths for my strips.  The narrowest I would use is 1 1/2 inch finished and the widest is 4 inch finished – wider than 4 inches and I think it looks a bit clumsy.  And I’m not following a particular order with the width – in and out and in and out!

:: Act 1, Scene 2 ::

In which we start to add our borders, straight onto the blanket.

Tips before we start …

All stitching on your quilted blanket is done with a walking foot.

At the risk of sounding nerdy, I really recommend regularly changing your rotary cutter blade and even indulging in a new ruler.  I did both yesterday and I cannot describe how much easier it is!  The blade slices through the fabric like butter (as opposed to using every muscle in my upper body and still having to go through a couple of times) and I can actually read the markings on the ruler.  Amazing!

Use thread you want to see because you will be quilting your borders as you go and it would be a royal pain in the bum to have to keep changing your thread.  For the bobbin – use a thread that will blend nicely into the blanket.  I am using Guterman Sulky on the bobbin and have a lovely pale lemon King Tut for the top.

Stitch length – you will need a bigger stitch than you would use for piecing – much bigger!  Will depend on the thickness of your blanket – my blanket today is pretty thick so I’m using a 4.

Have your iron set to cotton (despite the fact that we are ironing on wool – I find the sturdiness of a blanket stands up to the cotton setting just fine) and plenty of steam.  You will be ironing at the end of each seam you sew, so keep it close.

I put joins in my borders if needs require.  To just keep cutting a fresh strip each time is wasteful and patchwork is all about making do :-)  Just remember to turn your dial back to 2 for your piecing and then back to 4 for your quilting.  You’ll soon realise if you haven’t – your piecing will fall apart and your quilting will resemble mincing and take forever to get 2 inches.

And as my borders become long, I measure with a tape measure, firmly hold the tape in place with my left pointer finger, slide my little ruler under the tape, double check it, move the tape, and cut using the little ruler.

The order in which I add the borders … I’m starting on the right hand down side of my on point block and then working my round clockwise.  But you can do it anyway you like – log cabin style where you keep different shades to different sides, or courthouse steps style like this.

Okay … here we go.

Measure the first edge of your centre block.  Cut the first border to the same length (I have included the measurements I have used below).

Line up your raw edges well – you want to be able to just see the underneath edge all the way along otherwise it may not be properly caught.  Pin, pin, pin.  I know it is only a straight line, but you need to pin to counteract the dynamics of sewing … the fabric on top will always stretch a little – especially in this instance where the fabric on top is lighter.  You won’t be able to avoid all movement, but that’s okay, because this is a quilt recipe remember!

Start stitching just before the piece – anchors it well – and stitch just past it.

Press it back – pin it in place.  I keep the pins in as I add the next strip on – helps keep it in place.  Add next strip –  Now remember, the previous strip may have travelled a little past the edge of the block – so we will line the next border up with the block and allow for the this on the edge of the previous strip, as below …

You continue in this way – measure the length required.  Cut your border fabric to match.  Pin it in place.  Stitch.  Press back.  Pin.  Add next border on.

Now, as you make your way out, border after border, you might find that you need to add joins to your strips of fabric.  As mentioned in the tips, this is A-OK with me and true to the spirit of patchwork, but there are some things I keep in mind – and try to follow.  Don’t centre your join – looks glaringly obvious when it’s smack bang in the middle of a border.  And if you need an extra 2 inches at the end, don’t have your join there – it looks like a daft mistake.  Position your join about 2/3s of the way along the edge.  Then measure it (to ensure you haven’t stretched or bunched it), chop off each long end, and stitch.

You can mitre the join if the fancy takes you – if I’m using patterned fabric I don’t – a busy pattern will usually disguise a join anyway.  If I’m using a plain fabric, then I do mitre it.  Don’t know why really – it still stands out – but it seems to say, “I know how to do this properly!”  On this quilt, all the joins are straight.  No mitres to be found.  But again, you do what you like best.

:: Act 1, Scene 3 :: We Quilt

In which we admire the three borders we have added, pause for a sip of tea, then quilt what we have done.

I usually add a few borders and then quilt/top stitch around.  In this instance, I’m quilting a quarter inch from the seam then around again another quarter inch away from that.

I may very well add more lines of quilting once it is done – depends what time of day it is! – and I am handquilting around the centre star with perle cotton.  Should mention here – when I’m starting and stopping the quilting, I take a few steps forward, then back, then forward again.  I’m not fond of tying off the ends :-)

Whilst you are quilting – and adding borders for that matter - keep the blanket and fabric all nice and flat and straight whilst you’re quilting – stop and readjust as often as you need – and make sure the blanket is smooth and moderately taut under the foot – this will keep it straight.  And do not let the blanket drag or droop – this will pull on your stitching and warp it.

:: Intermission ::

Okay – I had hoped to finish the quilt today, but alas, family time and the coming of night defeated me :-)  I have finished all four sides all the way to the outer edge …

and then as the garden grew dark, in a burst of enthusiasm and desperation to see all the fabrics on and how they worked, I added all the borders on one corner …

I’m a bit impatient like that.  So!  Come back tomorrow to see how you cope with reaching the outer edges, how to finish your corners, and then add your binding.  Oh, and I shall get Abby to draw up a diagram of the quilt in Omnigraffle with the measurements (below) – we’ll save it as a pdf and you can print it out if it’s helpful.

Well, this will hopefully get you well and truly going!  See you tomorrow!

Exact measurements for Quilted Sunshine thus far …

Started with 12 1/2 inch block

Strip 1. 3 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches

Strip 2. 3 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches

3. 3 1/2 by 15 1/2 inches

4. 3 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches

5. 3 x 18 1/4 inches

6. 3 x 21 inches

7. 3 x 21 inches

8. 3 x 23 1/4 inches

9. 2 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches

10. 2 1/2 x 25 1/4 inches

11. 2 1/2 x 25 1/4 inches

12. 2 1/2 x 26 3/4 inches

13. 4 x 27 inches

14. 4 x 30 x 1/2 inches

15. 4 x 30 1/2 inches

16. 4 x 33 3/4 inches

17. 3 1/2 x 33 3/4 inches

18. 3 1/2 x 36 1/2 inches

19. 3 1/2 x 36 1/2 inches

20 3 1/2 x 39 1/2 inches

A-Bunting we will go – Act 4

In which Miss Lily puts those dangly bits away and claps her hands with glee – you can never have too much bunting!

Okay – I know this Christmas folly has gone on and on a bit – I was always the student who could never keep to the word limit :-) – but this final act is short and sweet!

Tie the dangly bits off in a knot that is flush with the point of the triangle.

Thread the dangly bit onto a relatively fine needle – clearly you don’t want it fat ’cause it will be a major pain to run through the two layers of fabric, but I have shaky fingers so cannot use those hair-like needles.  Use whatever feels good is my mantra!

Slide the needle into the bottom of the point, up between the layers and out an inch or so up.  (Gosh, you can barely see the needle in this photo – very useful photo!)

Trim the end off flush with the fabric.  Of course, my mate Pete reckons the dangly bits are a feature and thinks I should leave them on last week’s Halloween bunting.  Maybe it’s a boy thing.  But if time is sparse, feature they can be!

Give the bunting a good press with the iron and … (gleeful grinning and hand clapping going on here!)

Yum!  Christmas bunting.  This batch is for Nanny for her 83rd birthday – but there are plenty more triangles waiting!

Hope you found A-Bunting we will go useful :-)  If you would like any clarification of any of the steps, drop me an email!

A-Bunting we will go – Act 3

In which Miss Lily stitches binding, folds binding, irons binding, and then finally, attaches the binding to the triangles.

Okay – the binding.  I make my bunting in approximately 2.2 metre lengths – this is two widths of a standard piece of fabric.  So I cut two 2 1/2 inch widths, trim off the selvedges and stitch them together with a quarter inch seam.

Iron the long strip of binding in half, long raw edges together, wrong sides together.

Pin the raw edges of the triangles to the raw edges of the binding, leaving a 1 inch gap between the top of each triangle – and a 3 inch tail at each end – I don’t measure each of these, just use my eye.

I turn up the triangles’ tails as I go so that I can check the pattern on the reverse.

Stitch triangles in place with a quarter inch seam.

Before ironing over the binding, I finish off the ends.  Iron the end in at a 90 degree angle – I often stuff this bit up – you want the folded edge to be the longer edge.  Now, turning the fabric so that the RIGHT sides are together, stitch along the ironed crease and then trim the seam to a scant 1/4 inch.

Turn back out the right way -  I use a knitting needle to push out the point – never brilliantly I might add!

Now, iron the binding so that the fold is standing above the raw edges of the triangle and the binding.

Iron the folded edge of the binding over the raw edges so that it sits just on the stitch line – you don’t want to see the stitch line, but you don’t want to go over it because then the top stitching will be offline.

Stitch as close to the edge as possible.  I use the walking foot on my Mega Quilter for this – it makes such lovely strong, even stitches, no matter how many layers of fabric there are and never ever falls off the edge – it can stitch right to the end of the narrow binding tail effortlessly – marvellous stuff! :-)

And doing the binding this way makes a lovely sturdy and straight edge – it has beautiful structural integrity! :-) (a phrase that has stuck in my mind since university days when a structural engineering student questioned the reliability of the 100 year old wooden floorboards under my heavy piano – I haven’t stopped finding structural integrity issues since – I’m always waiting for the kitchen cupboards to fall off the walls!)

A-Bunting we will go – Act 2

In which Miss Lily matches points, zigzags edges and performs delicate manoeuveres with dangly bits of thread.

Match up your triangles – one individual piece with one backing piece.  (As you might notice above, I had to use 2 backing fabrics for this batch of bunting as I didn’t have enough of either to make the required 44 triangles!  Never mind, it will just make the repeating pattern a little more complex!)  The triangles are placed BACK TO BACK and it is important that the bottom point matches as precisely as possible.  The sides should also be aligned neatly as I will need to catch both with my zigzag stitch.

As I zig zag down each long edge of the matched triangles, I make sure I keep the raw edges lined up with the middle of the foot.  This makes the most attractive zigzag stitch – too much to the right and the fabric edge crumples, too much to the left and the stitch is too small.  Oh, I also make the stitch quite long but keep the width narrow.

And I use a thread colour that will look nice on every triangle colourway.  I don’t switch colours according to the colours of the different triangles or a different colour in the bobbin  – this just makes things look a little messy and busy – using the one colour keeps it neat and the eye is drawn to the fabric not the thread.  For this Christmas bunting, I used a Christmas red.

I don’t pin the triangles together – the pins make the fabric bulk up and distort.  However, if I find the fabric moving as I near the bottom point, I use a pin to hold the points together – with my left hand, I simply stab the pin into the point and hold it there as I sew towards it.

Now here’s the delicate bit!  When I get to the point, I raise the needle and foot, and pull the triangle away until the threads are about 4 inches long.   DO NOT CUT! :-)

Then I position the triangle ready to sew back up the second side, put the needle and foot down, and holding the 4 inch loop of thread out the back – I pull it back gently with my finger in the loop – I zigzag up the second side.

Why so much effort?  Well I like to hang the bunting across doorways and windows so I want it reversible.  But I definitely do not want to sew the triangles together face to face and turn them out – this is amazingly time consuming and fiddly and the bottom point rarely looks any good.  But I do want the bunting to be long lasting and washable.  So I zigzag.

But!  If I try to turn the corner at the point, the point just disappears down the feed dogs and by the time I get it out – there’s no point at all!  So I pull the threads way out and form a loop with them – this gives me a handle to hold onto whilst I stitch neatly up the second side, and when I’m finished I can thread the looped ends onto a needle, slip them between the two triangles and they are neatly finished off, point intact.

Oh – and I don’t have an overlocker/serger! :-)  I guess if you have one of these, you could just go zip, zip and done :-)

I usually chain piece, but just watch for the drag – the weight of a bundle of triangles can sometimes pull the points skew-if.

Oh – and I don’t stitch across the top, and I don’t worry if it doesn’t match exactly – the binding in Act 3 takes care of this!


A-Bunting We Will Go!

A Christmas Folly in 4 Acts

by Lily Boot

Act 1

In which Miss Lily chooses fabric, draws lines and cuts triangles.

Gather your fabric – I like four individual pieces and a fifth which will be the backing of each of the four. This way you can alternate the triangles, creating a pretty repeating pattern on both sides. The huge and lairy floral on the end is for the binding – because I will cut it into 2 1/2 inch strips which are then folded twice, these gorgeous swirly flowers will not overpower the christmas fabrics because you will only catch glimpses of them.

Cut one 8 inch strip from the full width of each of the four individual pieces.

Draw a straight line parallel to the left selvedge of the wrong side of your 8 inch strip.

Along the bottom edge of the 8 inch strip, measure 3 1/2 inches from the straight line and mark with a dash.

Draw a diagonal line from the top of your straight line to the 3 1/2 inch dash on the bottom edge. Now measure 7 inches from the top of the straight line, mark with a dash, then draw another diagonal line from the 3 1/2 inch dash to the 7 inch dash. You’ve now created your first bunting triangle!

Repeat all the way along the 8 inch strip to the end – I usually get around 11 triangles with a nice bit of leftover at the beginning and end to put in the scrap box.

Of course, you won’t need to bother with marking any more 3 1/2 inch dashes after the first one – you always mark your 7 inch dash from the point of the previous triangle.

Isn’t it just delightful how triangles sit together with such snug economy!

And when you’ve finished making lines – you slice along them! This way and that way and this way and that way – it’s almost like an old fashioned dance as you swish back and forth :-)

Now you are ready to stitch!

making your geese fly!

Having discovered how much fun it is to write and photograph a tutorial, here’s another one – The Making your Geese Fly Tutorial!

Now obviously, this isn’t even remotely an original technique (check here for basic instructions).  But I only learnt of its existence a short time ago myself – thankyou Mistress Amy.

Nevertheless, adopting it has been one of those pivotal moments in my patchwork life when I think WOW!!!!  I want to make Flying Geese for every quilt I make!  How could I not share such a blessing :-)  So without further adieu …

As with lots of patchwork techniques, there are mathematical rules that we learn to apply without really understanding why (at least, I don’t understand!)  But, like many things in life, understanding why is not essential as long as you remember to stick to the rule.  Thus, I am not about to explain why,  just how!

Choose the fabric for your geese – a 2 contrasting fabrics are good.  Select which fabric will be your centre triangle, and which fabric will be your side wings.

For the centre triangle, establish how wide your finished geese will be – in this instance, 4 inches – so, add 1 1/4 inches to this = 5 1/4 – and then cut a square that is 5 1/4 inches along each side (of course it is  – it’s a square!)

cut 5 1/4 square
This rule applies no matter how big your geese – if you want 8 inch wide finished geese – add 1 1/4 inches so you will cut a square of 9 1/4 – get it!

Now, so you have a wee bit better of an understanding why we are doing this, take a look at the back …

take a look at the bacl

… if I draw a line from point to point in both directions, I wind up with a square that is quartered into four triangles – these will be your centre triangles!  Aaaaaahhhh! So one 5 1/4 inch square will yield 4 flying geese units!

Now, if my finished unit will be 4 inches wide and 2 inches tall, I will need to cut squares of 2 7/8 inches from my side wing fabric.  You are cutting it at 2 7/8 because ultimately, this square will be cut in half, so, just like a half square triangle, you need to allow 7/8 inch seam allowance.  And you will need four 2 7/8 inch squares, for one 5 1/4 inch square …

cut side wings

Lovely!  Now, turn these squares over, and draw a line from one point to the opposing point, just like you would for a half square triangle …

draw a line from one point to the opposing point

… and now you are ready to sew!

Take the 5 1/4 inch square – face up – and pin two of your side wing squares face down in diagonally opposing corners …

pin two squares onto 5 1/4 inch block

… so that it looks like this – the inner corners will overlap and your drawn line will meet – jolly good!

Now sew 1/4 inch away from the drawn line down one side … down, down, down, keep going across the middle, down, down, down, through both side wing squares …

sew 1/4 inch away from line down one side

…  and then turn around, and sew back the other way.  Just like you would with a half square triangle – but of course, you’re doing two at once.
turn around and sew back the other way

Let’s take a peek at the back of our 5 1/4 inch square and see what’s happening to those diagonal lines we drew (remember, you don’t have to draw these, I just did this to show you why we cut such a square).

look at the back
Huh!  You can see that all four of our centre triangles have a seam line running 1 /4 inch from the cutting line.  Cool!

So, grab your scissors, turn your square back up the right way, and cut along the drawn line …

cut down the middle

Mmmmm …. looks a bit funny doesn’t it!  This totally threw me the first time I did it – egads!  I thought – there’s a line of stitching that cuts right along the edge of the V.

unfamiliar geese
Iron back the two triangles on each unit …

heart geese

… and now they look like pointy hearts with a very dodgy bit of seam allowance in the  V. No problem baby!

Take your remaining two side wing square and pin one, face down and with your drawn line running from the V formed by the first two squares, into the bottom corner of each of your face up “hearts”.

pin one into each heart point

… and sew 1/4 inch away from said drawn line, down one side, turn it around, and then down the other side.

all sewn up
Guess what you are going to do now!  Yes!  That’s it – brownie points for you!  You’re going to cut along the drawn line of each of your two “heart” units and press the side wing triangle – that’s right, it’s no longer a square – open.  This will give you four units!
and look what you’ve got!

Ha-ha!  Isn’t that so cool!  Now you have four beautifully accurate, perfect quarter inch seam allowance at the top point, flying geese.  And to borrow a phrase from all those quilt patterns that make me pull at my hair with despair – now you can make as many as your want and “assemble (they say quilt!) as desired” …

assemble as you wish

No hair pulling here though – it’s a breeze!  Just make sure you have enough patterns in mind that require flying geese, because you’re not going to want to stop!

Let me know if you have any questions – but now I’m off to the kitchen.  There’s a lovely warm, toasty aroma of baked chipolatas and pumpkin calling to me – not to mention the fiercely bubbling water that if it waits any longer for its peas, will have boiled away.

Good night and good sewing!

the family china – or what to do when you’ve got the Sturbridge Blues!

beautiful blues

Last year, whilst working at the job from hell, I was plonking down that hard-earned cash for regular shipments of fabric from the FatQuarterShop – and rarely had the time to put any of it to good use.

As I’ve noticed when I look around my sewing room, I’m rather fond of blue, so when the new Sturbridge Blues came out last year, I purchased a huge bundle of them and proceeded to create a simplistic, uninspiring, wonky blob.

the before blob

Needless to say, after producing the above, it was shoved to the back of the cupboard and forgot about it until last night when I was poking around the Marcus Fabrics website and found a free pattern using the Sturbridge Reds.  “Aaaahh,”  I remembered, “I’ve got all that blue somewhere.”

So amidst much dust-induced sneezing, I rummaged through the boxes and cupboards until I found my “The Family China” – so named by me because almost every women in my family has blue and white china – specifically, the Willow Pattern!  When I originally saw the blues I thought of all our china and decided to create a tribute to it!

It took me one episode of SeaChange and three episodes of West Wing to unpick just 10 of the blocks (there’s still four to go).  But I’m glad I perservered because I have had serious fun this morning resurrecting these gorgeous fabrics.

Now, I’m not claiming to have invented anything new – but after a bit of trial and error, I came up with a super-easy, no fancy rulers needed, quick way to piece an 8 wedge plate with a centrepiece.  It has worked so well – 8 blocks in 2 hours – that I thought I’d provide a little tutorial for all those out there who cut 60 wonky circles with a dinner plate and now need something to do with them – or just those who like to try something different!

Using the 8 different fabrics, I placed them in 4 pairs, fronts together.  I then found the diameter (ironed the circle in half) and sewed 1/4 inch down each side of my diameter line – just like you would a half square triangle.  Then I sliced down the middle and ironed them open.  Now I had 8 2-tone circles that looked a bit oval-ish.

the first quarter

Then I paired these up, face together, carefully butted the seam all the way along and pinned it, found the diameter and sewed 1/4 inch away of each side of the diameter line, taking care to watch where my foot was going, not where it had been – I find this helps stay straight!  Slice it down the middle and open it out.  Iron it flat.  At the four wedge stage – you have even circles with the points meeting nicely in the middle and it looks good.

cut down the middle

Again, pair up your circles, taking care to add them to a different colour combination,  mark your diameter through the middle of one of the quarters, carefully butt the seams and pin  …

find the diameter

… and sew 1/4 inch away from each side of the diameter line.

now you are creating 6 wedges
Slice it open down the middle/diameter line.  Iron flat.  Now when you open out your six wedge plate – it looks a bit like a wonky football – but that’s fine because you haven’t finished!

the wonky football

And see this wedge that has a flat end instead of a point, that’s the wedge you will be sewing through the middle of next.

don’t mind the flat bit

Okay, the final sew and cut  – pair up your wonky footballs, taking especial care to ensure you have all 8 different fabrics represented in your finished plate.

check for 8 different fabrics

Find your diameter – through the wedge with the flattened point/no point and sew down 1/4 inch away from each side of this line.

the final sew

Going through the middle is a little tricky – flatten the knob of seams firmly with the iron first, so as to sew over it with greater ease.  I had to sometimes go across the middle a second time, to get it straight – I tend to get narrow over lumpy bits.

Cut down the middle (taking care with the rotary cutter as you bump over the lump!) and voila!  you have an 8 wedge plate with a big lump in the middle.

Now, I started with 9 1/2 inch diameter plates, badly cut, and so expected to trim.  I made templates on the computer – just using Word – using the format shape option to precisely set my measurements – 7 inch for finished plate, 2 inch for finished centre, and 1 1/2 inch for donut hole (you’ll see).
templates

Then I printed them on regular paper, traced the shapes onto cardboard and used the cardboard shapes as my templates. Actually, I ended up cutting my cardboard 7 inch circle into one half and two quarters.  You’ll see why.
I took my plate – still folded in half – and using the quarter circle template, drew my cutting line onto the wrong side of my plate (still folded in half)

draw cutting line with template

Notice, I placed the top and straight sides of the template along the seamlines – not along the raw edges – this is IMPORTANT – if you place it along the raw edges your finished plate will be smaller – so don’t forget – line it up with the seamlines.

Now flip it over …

flip it over

… and trace, then carefully keeping the two halves together and smooth, cut along your drawn line.

donut hole

My points were pretty accurate in the middle, but there was still that big lump!  Who wants a big lump!?  Not me – and despite the 8 points meeting neatly, it wasn’t that pretty.  So get your 1 1/2 inch donut hole template – which I also cut into quarters – and lining it up with the raw edge of the plate – still folded in half  – trace a small quarter circle from the raw edge to the middle seamline, flip over your template, and trace from the seamline back to the raw edge on the other side.

Notice, I didn’t worry about the seam line this time.  That’s because you’re not going to see this hole, and you’re only cutting it out to get rid of the lump.   When you’re cutting through the seams, with your scissors, take care not to let the scissors whack forward in a straight line – mine wanted to do this, so it was careful little snips.

Here’s your trimmed plate, already for applique.

trimmed plate

Affix it to the centre of your block using your preferred method – I use iron on paper that’s sticky both sides – iron it to the wrong side of the plate, peel off backing, iron it to the block.  Take care to centre it …

centre your plate

and add your centrepiece which you have cut out using your 2 inch template.

I’m going to machine applique the raw edges which is why I didn’t cut seam allowances, but obviously, if you want to fold your edge under, cut a scant 1/4 inch seam away from the 7 inch template outline  and then the same with your 2 inch template outline.

Isn’t that cool!  This is a really easy and enjoyable way to make the plates – sorry if you’ve seen it before, but I haven’t.  I’ve only used patterns that call for wedge rulers, wedge templates or paper piecing so I’m really excited with my morning’s work! :-)

Here’s two finished rows – haven’t decided how big to make the quilt – no bigger than 64 x 64 – otherwise I’ll never quilt it.

8 in two hours

Now, if you like this wee tutorial – we’ll call it “Lily’s 8-Wedge Plate” – and try it out – let me know how you go and how I can improve it!  Have fun and thanks!

p.s. call back later this evening for an update on Monkton’s adventures!