Gifts and RSI often go hand in hand- Quilting

Happy New Year! I hope you have all had a nice break and are now as terrified of returning to work as I am.
I had a little bit of a sewing break over the winter months, but started 2016 with a sewing session and hope it’ll be more productive sewing year. Although I enjoy kicking out a dress or top in an afternoon, I have been thinking about some more long haul projects for this year.

The last long haul project I did was a quilt. This project was chipped away at ver three and a half months and spanned the end of Madmen and lots of Kinder Happy Hippos (would have been much speedier if that pesky day job didn’t get in the way or I didn’t have so many Kinder Happy Hippos to dutifully eat).
This project was bound to finish its days as a house warming gift for friends.
I haven’t put in man hours like this, since I embroidered this denim shirt and I haven’t made a quilt since this one for my niece. The wonder of children’s quilts, are that, like children, they can be small, meaning all of the arduous stages, like the cutting and piecing, were quite quick, where as this grown up quilt was grown up size.

The last big quilt I made was for my bed. It came from a time of necessity, when I was living in a flat of arctic temperatures and any extra layers were hugely appreciated. When I was making this quilt, I was much more gung-ho and I didn’t need ‘techniques’ and certainly didn’t need to iron seams or obey any rules of logic at all. This quilt was for watching rom-coms under and for curing Goldschlager hangovers under.
I do still have this quilt on my bed, despite now living in a properly insulated flat and being able to afford much nicer tipples than Goldschlager.
I look at it now and see lots of mistakes and wonkiness, but it also carries memories too, in the fabric choices and scraps and old t-shirts that made up squares. It is those elements of quilts that I really love; by their nature they are made to store memories- even the questionable ones.


I have become much more proficient as a sewer since that time and also during the planning process, I received this amazing book, by Sarah Impey for my birthday. Both these things, plus a new sewing machine somewhere along the line too, meant I had much more ambitious quilt plans.

I started to look at some other quilting blocks and at first was very excited…and then quickly very intimidated.
There is such an amazing resource available here, for endless combinations of blocks.

I was keen to make the quilt feel modern and avoid it looking like it was from a shabby chic, french chateau nightmare or a puddle where Laura Ashley threw up, after too much Goldschlager.
To keep it on the ‘desirable gift’ side of things, as opposed to ‘something you’d see in your great aunt’s guest room’, I thought a simple block would be more stylish (not to mention easier to pick up between sessions- this was definitely going to be over a few weeks, so needed something my brain could keep up with). I settled with just a simple triangle pattern, or a ‘half square’ if you’re in the biz.

Next came fabric choice. There are so many amazing quilting cottons available, it is very easy to go mad and end up with a selection that’s a bit of a hodge-podge. I decided that one half of my ‘half square’ block would be a plain chambray.
I felt this would make it neutral to most colour schemes and would be a good counter balance to lots of patterns.

My main ‘colour space’ (what a wanker, Sorry) was blue-grey so I ventured around that. Most of my choices were standard quilting cottons apart from one…
I spotted this amazing fabric with dragon fruit and guavas on from an eBay dealer based in India and had to include it- one of the recipients is an expert foodie professional, and I wanted a nod to that.
This fabric was more of a light cotton voile and had neither the sturdiness nor opacity needed for quilting. To get round this I backed with a lightweight interfacing and then just treated it in the same way to the other fabrics. A similar technique would work if you wanted to stabilise T-shirts or silk scarves for inclusion in a quilt.

I quite enjoy the mathematical part of quilting, working out a pattern’s repeat tessellation or the dimensions of fabric you’ll need. There is certainly a part of me that misses Algebra and Trigonometry and the need for a scientific calculator.
I have plans to make lots of mid length circle skirts ahead of the summer, not for the breeziness or ease of wearing but to treat myself and work out some circumferences and diameters of circles, hello π…oh baby (or if you want to make a circle skirt but aren’t a maths perv like me, you could use the app from the By Hand London gang instead)

For the template of my pieces, I just used some sturdy card, drew round it with a chalk pencil onto my fabrics and cut from that.
Now, I know there are more technical ways to cut your pattern pieces, but this was the easiest for me and meant I could get a chunk done in short windows of time I had free.

When working in a triangle block, it is worth paying attention to the direction of your fabric’s pattern. Most of my fabric choices were non directional but there were a few where I had to work out a sequence- sequential maths perversion ahoy.
A younger me would have said “do your utmost to avoid any order and then have 6 shots of goldschlager”, however times and have changed, so now I say “pay attention to the directional pattern and then congratulate yourself with two double G&T’s… not the cheap stuff”. 
Cutting in this way with scissors and a template, rather than with a cutting wheel and quilting ruler, does mean that discrepancies between the pieces are more likely, but I’ll live with that.
There are very snazzy quilting specific rulers and tools available that’ll help to get you closer to quilting perfection, but this worked for me.
In total I cut 364 triangle pieces for this quilt…Hello RSI*

IMG_3316***I can not blame my RSI solely on cutting these quilt squares, it is a combination of: cutting these quilt squares, despicably poor typing posture at work, obsessive eBay browsing on my iPhone, overly excited cocktail shaking and being a semi professional Maracas player.***

I used the following order to piece my quilt together,

– sew 2 x triangles together for a square
– sew the squares into a long strip
– sew the strips together

It was only after I cut 364 triangle pieces and sewed about 25 of my squares did I find this genius technique for a ‘Half Square block’…we live and learn, so often too late

Although I shunned the snazzy quilters ruler, I did pick up some other bits of quilters kit.

Firstly after reading some blog posts I bought some quilting adhesive, this is used to temporarily stick your wadding to your quilt top and backing, I was recommended 505 as a brand.IMG_3367
This is a miracle, it comes in a can and you just spray a light layer on. With the last quilt I made, I spent so long faffing about with quilters pins trying desperately to smooth out the fabric and wadding- get this stuff and expel fewer swear words.
Once I had bonded the backing, wadding and front, I edged the whole thing with bias binding.
Now you all know I can make my own bias tape as I did here, but didn’t much fancy making 8 meters of the stuff, so just bought a couple of pre made, extra wide rolls.


The other items of specialist kit I bought were quilt clips. I am a pro now people, I need this shit.
These help keep the bulk of your quilt under control whilst you add the quilting seam detail. For this fella, I just did my quilting in the troughs of the seam joins on the front, or ‘in the ditch’ if you’re in the biz.  I was grateful for the extra help from the clips as handling the whole quilt can be straining on a Maracas’ player’s wrists. If you have an extra quilters table for your machine, do use it and don’t, like me, leave it in the cupboard and then grumble about weedy loser wrists on your craft blog later.


And here’s the finished article…

I do enjoy the methodicalness of making a quilt, not to mention lots of straight line sewing! The variety of patterns, fabrics and styles you can combine, means the possibilities are endless and that I’d like to make a personalised quilt for everyone I know- so many ideas!
However undertaking this task would require me to quit my job and hobbies and washing and eating, as they can be quite time consuming.

In the meantime whilst I hand in my notice and stock up on power bars,  I hope this quilt gathers some memories for my friends in their new home.

…I’ll make yours next I promise.


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