Here is my nomination for Q3 of the 2019 Finish-A-Long. As usual I’m linking through Sew of Course in Ireland.
After the effort it took to get En Bourgogne quilted I really need a smaller project for this quarter, but all my unquilted tops are full size. I remembered a Christmas Tree panel I’ve had for several years and decided that now would be the time to quilt it. But … I can’t find it. I know I haven’t thrown it away (I never throw anything away) but it’s not in the shelf with the other panels, it’s not with the multi-coloured fabrics, it’s not in a project box and I simply can’t find it anywhere. Having set my mind on a panel for this quarter’s project, however, a panel I must have, so I took a quick trip up to Hobbysew.
To be honest, I didn’t really care for most of the tree panels I saw — too garish or too cutesy or too plain … just not what I wanted. Then I saw a couple of blue and silver tree panels and I realised that blue is a much better colour for Australia, being cooler and lighter. I also found two sets of small panels and some coordinating silver and grey fabrics, so there will be a blue and silver wall hanging done in time for Christmas this year. (Finding somewhere to hang it will be another matter — all my walls are covered in bookcases.)
I don’t know what the dimensions will be yet — I’m aiming for 50″ x 60″ or smaller, but we’ll see. As for the quilting, I’m going to do outline stitching of the main tree, and FMQ for the rest, with sparkly machine tacks here and there.
The main stumbling block between then and now was the difficulty in choosing fabrics for borders. I was a little concerned that creams and caramels would blend too much with the outer edges of the blocks, but I didn’t want to go much darker as it would be too heavy. Bonnie had added a border of neutral four-patches, so eventually I decided to stick with a light inner border but to use a fabric that hadn’t been in the blocks. I chose to cut up an old cream-on-cream pillow case which had been part of a Sheridan 100% cotton set I had given to my parents in the early 2000s. After they died and we were cleaning out the house, I couldn’t find the sheets but I did find the pillow cases. One portion of the fabric is slightly stained from hair oils and sweat but to me that’s a bonus, since it means a little part of my parents will be in the quilt forever — the fabric is perfectly clean and sound, and the stain gives the border an subtle ombre effect.
I auditioned about 25 brown and green fabrics for the second border:
I chose the medium green eucalyptus leaves fabric as it picked up on the greens in the quarter square triangles and was neither too bland nor too overwhelming. I think it came out well.
My big mistake for this quilt was misplacing two of the B blocks, which had centre and edge variations — I still don’t know how I managed to miss it but I put a centre block on the edge and an edge block in the centre. What’s more, I even photographed one of the errant blocks after doing the borders and still I didn’t pick it up. It wasn’t until I was halfway through the quilting that I noticed it, and by that time it would have been far too much work to fix it, so there it stays.
I had run out of Matilda’s Own cotton batting when the time came to baste this and my usual shop was out of stock so I opted for SewEasy 100% cotton instead. Unfortunately this is a much denser batting than Matilda’s Own and made the quilt a lot heavier than I had anticipated. It’s a sturdy batting and it certainly held up well to being pushed through the machine but the sheer weight of it means I probably won’t buy it again. It also has a polyester scrim, which I discovered when I came to iron out the creases on basting day — if I’d realised that beforehand I’d have thrown it in my tumble dryer with a couple of wet flannels. Ah well, I’ll know better next time.
Given the complexity of the pattern, I knew that there was no point in trying anything fancy for the quilting. The additional weight meant that it was going to be difficult to manoeuvre, even given the Janome 9400’s large harp space and my sewing table, so whatever I chose to do had to be simple and could not require frequent turning. With that in mind, I opted for a diagonal grid down the four-patches and the cream squares with additional FMQ.
For the tall triangle stars in block A I drew a 6.5″ circle and went around it with the feed dogs down (which is why the circles are a bit wobbly). I would much have preferred to do this with the walking foot, but the quilt is much too heavy for all that shifting.
As I wrote a few weeks ago I tried some ruler work on the B blocks but it was an abject failure. Instead I did FMQ diagonal lines through the corner units and a vague oval / leaf shape in the hourglass units for blocks B and C. I’m a firm believer in the adage “every piece needs a quilting line”, especially for quilts that will be used all the time.
Borders were quilted with the walking foot. I did my customary serpentine stitch in the first border and diamonds in the outer border.
Since the border was green, I chose brown for the binding. After auditioning several fabrics, I chose a Jinny Beyer fabric I’ve had for a couple of years — it’s mainly a pinky brown but there are subtle patches of yellow-green that pick up the border colours beautifully. I stitched it down using the HP2 walking foot, which produces a great edge.
Of course, things couldn’t go smoothly even for that very last step — I ran out of thread with a side and half to go. I had the same thread in a bobbin, but you can’t use a bobbin as a spool because the thread comes out backwards and is much more likely to shred. Instead, I wound the thread onto a second bobbin so that it was right way around and then finished the binding.
So, the quilt is finished. Well, actually, I still need to bury a few thread ends and sew the label on, but it’s quilted, bound and photographed. I don’t have room to lay it out and it’s too big for the curtain rail but I’ll try and get an outdoor photo sometime in the next few days, weather permitting.
Size: 230 x 230 cm (about 90″) square
Design: “En Provence” by Bonnie K Hunter
Fabric: scraps from the stash, all cotton
Batting: Sew Easy 100% cotton
Pieced: by machine (Janome HMC 9400 QCP) October -November 2017 (blocks); April 2019 (borders)
Quilted: by machine (Janome HMC 9400 QCP), April-July 2019
Bound: July 2019
1. Pressing to one side may make it easier to create quarter-square triangles, but it produces very bulky seam allowances.
2. It would be a good idea to take a photo of a layout before you stitch it together so you can pick up silly mistakes like swapping edge and middle blocks.
3. SewEasy cotton batting is denser than Matilda’s Own
For the second quarter of 2019, I’m nominating a larger project (but still only one). As usual, I’m linking through Sandra of Sew Of Course in Ireland.
This project is only eighteen months old so it barely qualifies as a UFO in my book, but I’m going to finish it off anyway.
In November 2016, Bonnie Hunter launched her annual mystery quilt, En Provence. The palette for this project was based on the lavendar farms in southern France — lavendar, purple, magenta, green and yellow. I love the palette and was very tempted to do the mystery but decided to wait until I saw the completed top. I’m glad I did, as I didn’t like the balance of colours in Bonnie’s quilt — too heavy on the dark purple and magenta for my taste.
As the year progressed, I saw other versions in different colourways and liked them better than the original. This top by Melinda Shackelford was in brown and green, and it was the one that convinced me I could make this quilt. I decided to do a version in caramel, brown, green and burgundy (hence the name change). Several times during the year I made notes and calculated fabric requirements.
I changed the quilt’s construction, too — Bonnie made it up as a 15″ block with 3″ pieced sashing, but I loathe pieced sashing and I saw that it could be made as three different 9″ blocks instead. I replaced the tall triangle unit with a quarter square triangle in Block B (which reduced the curve along the brown diagonals), and I used print squares instead of neutral four-patches.
I started cutting and sewing units in early October 2017. I used fabrics from my stash, ranging from greens and caramels that had been bought in 2017 all the way back to a crimson poplin which was so old it was 36″ wide (early 90s) and a dark brown print that had been used in Autum Mood (1988). I was in no hurry, and I gave myself permission to make mistakes because I wanted this quilt to be about enjoying the process rather than making a perfect project — I had spent too much time with deadlines during the year and was feeling the grind.
The method I used for the quarter-square triangles required pressing to one side rather than open, and consequently I decided to press to one side for the whole quilt. Unfortunately this made for some very bulky areas in the seams, and served to reinforce my preference for open seams.
As my AHQ commitments died down I spent more and more time on it, and towards the end I was working several hours a day. I finished setting the blocks together on 30 November. I knew that it needed a border or two, since the size (81″ square) was a little small for a queen bed, but I couldn’t decide on what fabrics to use, so it languished in a box for eighteen months.
For my FAL goal, I’m going to add two borders to the top, then quilt it. I’ve chosen the fabric for the first border (shown in the photo) but I’m still not sure about the second.
Piecing was done in 1994 in a workshop with Sara Nephew at the Australasian Quilt Convention. This particular design is called “Stream”, and features three different heights for the blocks, making a sinuous curve rather than a straight line.
I did all the in-the-ditch stitching with MonoPoly clear thread in the needle and Invisafil 100 wt polyester in the bobbin, and had no issues once I’d adjusted the bobbin tension. I intended to practice my ruler quilting using the same threads, but unfortunately I had significant problems with the ruler foot not permitting any fabric movement. I’m not sure if it was connected to the timing issues I discovered last week but I don’t think so. When I have some free time I’ll make up another sandwich and see what I can do with normal thread.
I eventually decided to do a little more quilting in the largest blocks with the walking foot, which went well but I don’t need any more walking foot practice. I also considered doing free motion quilting in the “top” diamonds, to hide the seam allowance, but I ran out of time due to issues with another quilt. There’s enough quilting to hold all the layers together and it’s destined to cover the cutting mat or to cushion cat bottoms, so I decided that enough was enough and put the binding on.
As you can see, matching points with binding is not a skill I have mastered yet (which is why I usually add a border, even it’s only a narrow one). To be fair, though, my piecing wasn’t exactly great either, and seams were pressed to one side rather than open, resulting in some bulky intersections and a rather less-than-square top. If I had pieced it this year I think I would have done a better job.
The backing is a very old Cranston VIP print, roughly the same age as the top. I didn’t set the top squarely on the backing, as you can see, but then the top isn’t quite square anyway so I’m not fussed. I didn’t have any of the original dark green solid left, but I had another that works well, and in fact is an almost exact match for the green in the backing fabric.
The binding was stitched down by hand using Superior Threads Kimono 100 wt silk thread. I love using this thread for appliqué and binding — it seems to melt into the fabric and is barely visible even in close-up.
Name: Tumbling Blocks
Size: 80 x 80 cm (31.5″ x 31.5″)
Design: Stream (tumbling blocks variation) by Sara Nephew
Batting: Matilda’s Own 100% cotton
Pieced: 1994 by machine (Janome MemoryCraft 8000)
Quilted: January-March 2019 by machine (Janome HMC 9400 QCP)
Bound: April 2019
1. Seam allowances matter!
2. Pressing to one side causes too much variation in thickness and contributes to uneven edges.
3. It’s hard to attach a binding to a pieced edge.
I’m joining the 2019 Finish-A-Long, but I’m barely dipping my toe in the waters, so to speak. I hate setting goals I have no reasonable hope of achieving, so for the first quarter I’m going to nominate one small project that I’m certain I can get done. As I’m in Australia, I’m linking through Sandra of Sew Of Course in Ireland.
This top is one of my oldest UFOs. It was made in a workshop with Sara Nephew in 1994, when she attended the Australasian Quilt Convention in Canberra. I loved her workshops but, as you can see, my fabric choices weren’t great. The pink, mint green and floral green fabrics were bought for a sampler class in 1988 (the results of that were so horrendous they’ve never seen the light of day in thirty years). I think most of the others came from curated long quarters packs.
The top is roughly a metre square so it shouldn’t take long to baste, quilt and bind. Even though I don’t like it, I’m sure the cats won’t be as fussy.