Sunday, 27 January 2013

Addressing Fabric Stash Storage

Yesterday I had great plans to tidy up the Fabadashery workroom, knowing that I had come to the end of piecing the back and the front of my Easy Street Quilt.  I had a plan for a smaller project made up from the scraps of my scrappy Easy Street Quilt, but I needed to clear the decks properly. There were yards of fabric that had been dragged out and piled up, which had auditioned for the mystery quilt back in November.

Quilt Fabric sorted into colour families
I didn't know where to start, as my current system of storing my fabric in large plastic boxes was just not working for me.  By the end of the day all of my fabric was out of my cupboard.  It was time for a re-think on my fabric stash storage. There was not going to be any sewing today. If I am honest, I had planned to put aside the holidays to address the storage of my fabric stash, along with a load of other catch-up jobs, but the Easy Street quilt took over.  Since moving into the house in 2010, it has only been recently that I have finally had time to address my workspace. 
Fabric Stash Storage - Billy Bookcase IKEA
BEFORE - Fabric Stash Storage
A lot of stuff had ended up in here, piled up on these Billy bookcases from IKEA.  I have a workroom with a storage room attached to it. I wanted a dark room to store my fabric, so that it didn't fade. This works well as it is dark, and the light comes on and off automatically with a PIR, as I go in and out, so no risk of leaving the light on.
I split the fabric into Solids, Prints, Batiks, and Liberty Lovelies.  Then I sorted them into colour families.
Fabric Stash Storage Solution - Billy Bookcase IKEA
AFTER - Fabric Stash Storage
The majority of the solid fabrics I have adopted, and didn't really have a grip on what I actually had.  I tend to avoid solids, as I find they can deaden a quilt in one easy move. However, looking at the selection, it is not bad, and there is enough to justify  a 'solid' project.  In fact, I have been even more tempted after seeing this 'solid' fabric project by Rhoda.

Halfway through sorting my fabrics I decided to pull all the batiks prints from the fabric colour collections.  Batiks are great for blending and carrying colour, and sometimes if I am looking for a particular colour, it is often only the batik fabrics that seem to do the job.  However, they do not always belong to every quilt, and I find that a whole quilt in batiks, often doesn't demand enough of me with regard to fabric colour choice, as the fabric seems to do a lot of the work for you.  I thought by keeping them separate, I would look at them in a new light.

With the little Liberty fabrics, because of their lighter lawn cotton, and multi-coloured prints (which were hard to classify within the new system!), I let them have a little pile of their own.  The same could be said for the Rowan / Kaffe Fassett fabrics. Yes, they are lovely, but I have found it hard to mix them up successfully with the rest of my stash, so I rarely buy them.
It was a great exercise in familiarising myself with my fabric again. You will also see that I have taken the opportuity to tidy up my library of quilting and embroidery books.  It is starting to look as if I mean business! 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Fat Quarter Bundle - A Rite of Passage

Cherry Blossom at the Keukenhof Gardens
Cherry Blossom at the Keukenhof Gardens
A few years ago, I visited the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands to see the seasonal beauty of their lovely tulip fields. There were thousands and thousands of beautiful tulips on display, and I took loads of photographs of them. I really recommend a trip in March or April if you have the chance. However, of all the pictures that I took on that holiday, it was this picture of the spring blossom which was my favourite.
Sakura Park, Sentimental Studios, Moda Fabric
Fat Quarter Bundle
A late Christmas present (to myself) arrived this week.  This beautiful, Fat Quarter Bundle, Sakura Park by Sentimental Studios for Moda. The range features cherry blossom flowers and petals, and as you can see, the colours of the fabric are almost exactly the same as the picture I took. As a rule, I don't really go for pastel colours, but I was drawn in by the pretty blossom prints on the fabrics, reminiscent of the cherry blossom, when it comes out in the Spring.
I have had charm packs in the past. I have had a Jelly Roll, but a Fat Quarter Bundle, really feels like a 'rite of passage' in my quilting life. I have had it for several days now, and I still have not untied the knot and dismantle this perfect little package. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Quilt - Part 8 Backing

Redundant of having to add borders to my Easy Street Quilt, I moved my attention to the backing.  It's a big quilt, and big quilts need a lot of fabric on the back, as well as the front.  There were no decent sized pieces of fabric left after Easy Street that would do the job, and I was reluctant to buy more fabric, when the project had specifically been a 'scrappy stash buster'.

Fabadashery Easy Street Mystery Quilt Backing
Easy Street Quilt Backing
By the way, 244 quilters Linked Up with their Easy Street Mystery Quilt progress - I bet there were loads more out there working away on their masterpieces. With all the coloured fabric scraps of my Easy Street Quilt still draped around my workroom, it made sense to piece the back together from these pieces. 

Large Flying Geese Block with Cat
Is now a good time to teach me
how to use the Rotary Cutter?
Working out the sizes for the new sized blocks took a bit of time.  The squares and rectangles were easy enough to size up, but the Flying Geese blocks and Shaded 4 patches were more of a challenge. It really made me appreciate Bonnie's straightforward instructions. I used this opportunity to use the alternate Flying Geese method, using the two different sized squares, instead of cutting strips from triangles.  In addition to this, I decided to swap the red and purple, as I thought I might have preferred on the top.  I also extended the original Block A  outwards by a set of the smaller blocks, making a larger block which can be abstracted from the original Easy Street quilt pattern.  By making the block larger by a row it meant I could use smaller pieces.  I really was at the end of my fabric scraps, and by making the block pieces smaller, it meant I had a more scrappy background.  Going  'large' for the first time has convinced me that a large square cutting ruler from Creative Grids is now a necessity.

I admit I was in two minds about using the left over scraps. Part of me wanted to hold onto them, to use in future projects, then the other part of me felt it was time to move on - the fabrics would be better used in a quilt, than lingering in my stash, going out of fashion. By using them up it would be a good excuse to buy some more.  How do you feel about using up your fabric?

There are a few downsides to this pieced backing approach. With the additional seams, hand quilting is going to be a struggle to say the least, so I guess I have now committed myself to machine quilting the Easy Street quilt . Also, with a mix of lights and darks on the back, choosing a quilting thread colour is likely to involve a lot of deliberation.  I have not even thought about what sort of wadding I will use.

So this is what I have been doing with my time. When we woke up on Saturday, Suzi the cat and I had no idea I we would be piecing another quilt.  It has taken time, but I am pleased with the result. Joining up with Design Wall Monday.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Quilt - Part 8 (Borders and Binding)

I think it is fair to say that Part 8 of the Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Mystery Quilt involved quite a lot of work, so this is the second instalment of my progress so far.  The top is pieced together, and this weekend I put some time aside to choose the borders and the backing.

Easy Street Quilt Fabadashery Bonnie Hunter Mystery
Easy Street Mystery Quilt

After letting the cogs in my brain do their bit, I have decided not to add further borders.  With the quilt being quite large already, I felt it was large enough, and probably heavy enough, so to finish off the edge of the quilt I have decided to add a very thin, red inset into the binding.  The red adds some intensity to the purple and although only very thin, gives a nice outline.  I have pieced up the red inset from red scraps from 20cm to 70 cm long, and it is ready to go. 

Plans for Bonnie Hunter's  Easy Street Quilt Border and Binding
Plans for Easy Street Quilt Border and Binding
For the binding, I looked to see what I had left over in my stash, and one of the largest pieces remaining was the Sandy Gervais Moda print  'Friendly Folk'.  This looked better than the 'neutral', as the red berries and the green foliage on the print added something, and tied in the red inset strip.  I have enough of this to go around the entire quilt.  Again, it is all pieced together in a strip nearly 9 metres long.

Easy Street Quilt Binding Fabadashery
Easy Street Quilt Binding
These decisions usually take me a very long time, but in the long run it is rarely time wasted.  It also allows the luxury of playing with your fabric stash, as you audition the colours.  With the decision not to add borders to the quilt, it slightly altered my plans for the day, as these will be added once Easy Street has been quilted - no plans for that yet.

Meanwhile, I have been able to enjoy the first of the snow for the winter.  On Friday it snowed all day, with almost 6" settling, with advice to stay off the roads and many schools and offices closed. With the temperature not rising above 0 degrees, the snow is still about, but slowly thawing.

Snow Tutshill January 2013
Snow, January 2013

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Holiday Road Trip - Quilt Shops in Wales

Over the Christmas holidays we took off in our campervan to West Wales, towards Tenby and Camarthenshire for a few days.  As usual, I checked out what goodies could be found along the way, in the way of quilt shops.  As part on my internet research I came across an EXTREMELY useful website by Arnout Cosman, which has listed all the quilt shops, not only in the United Kingdom, but throughout the whole of Europe.  Not only are they listed comprehensively on the website, with maps, but there is also a download file available for your TomTom, Garmin or other GPS navigation system in your car.  As we have driven around Europe in our campervan, I have often dreamt of such a facility ...  As yet, I have not downloaded the file, so I have not tested it out for myself, but I will keep you informed of my progress.  It lists 166 quilt shops in the UK, and 227 in Germany - I think this is where we may be heading in the near future.
Anyway as a result of this find, I picked up a few new shops to visit on our journey, which included Isabeau Inspirations, Patchwork and Quilting Shop.

Isabeau Inspirations Quilt Shop, Crosshands, Llanelli
Isabeau Inspirations Quilt Shop,
Crosshands, Llanelli, Wales
This was a lovely shop, with a good selection of different fabrics including batiks, Japanese, novelty, and a good selection of shades, and tone on tone colours, and very helpful staff.  There was also a very large bead shop, Serendipity Beads, right next door. I picked up a few lovely fabrics whilst I was there.
Serentiy by Anna Fishkin for Red Rooster Fabrics DSN # 22147
(L-R) Serenity by Anna Fishkin for Red Rooster Fabrics DSN # 22147
Michael Miller 'Fairy Frost' D # CM 0376
Panzy Pazazz by Janet Broxon (P&B Textiles, 2006) 
I don't really use pink too much in my work, but I was blown away by this wacky, dotty pink print "Panzy Pazazz" by Janet Broxon (P&B Textiles, 2006).  It is a pink / magenta colour, which is a colour I find quite hard to find usually, and most of the dots and stars on it are in metallic gold.  Its too late for my Pies and Tarts quilt project now, but I can see me squeezing it into lots of my projects from now on.  I also bought some of the Michael Miller 'Fairy Frost' D # CM 0376, in a pink.  I had seen this on the internet, but it was hard to see the reflective nature of it, without seeing it the flesh.  It is a nice tone on tone fabric, with the pattern printed in a 'frosting'. On the left is 'Serenity' by Anna Fishkin for Red Rooster Fabrics DSN # 22147 in pink - I just thought it was pretty.
It is easy to be drawn in by the lovely bright quilting fabrics, so to balance these bright colours in my stash, I also looked for some interesting neutrals.

"My Favourite Things" by Anni Downs of Hatched and Patched Pattern # 7542,
(L-R) "My Favourite Things" by Anni Downs of Hatched and Patched Pattern # 7542,
Henry Glass Fabrics in two tones, and 'Bear Essentials' by P&B Textiles

On the right is the quilt fabric 'Bear Essentials' by P&B Textiles.  The little print reminded me of the plant, Honesty.  The other two are both from the same Henry Glass Fabric range, "My Favourite Things" by Anni Downs of Hatched and Patched Pattern # 7542.  The backgrounds are slightly mottled, with a random allover cross - I don't think you can go far wrong with that.
With the fury of the Easy Street quilt, my fabric stash is in need of a re-think.  I only tend to buy fat quarters or half metres, as I like to stay scrappy, but these small pieces are increasingly difficult to store.  Does anyone have any have ideas that they use?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Taking the Lead with Easy Street

Leaders and Enders Bonnie Hunter
Leaders and Enders from Easy Street
As a result of all my efforts on Easy Street I have created this little pair of scraps - my leaders and enders.  They are just a drop in the ocean of curtain lining scraps which I have acquired  making all the curtains for the windows of our new house. You can see that I have even tried to add a bit of creative embroidery by adding the purple dog ears from the Easy Street Quilt ...

As I have only just entered the world of machine pieced quilts, the leader and ender notion was a new one to me, so these are two of the few that have entered my life so far. Anyway, I soon discovered that there was a creative solution to this.

Book - Adventures with Leaders and Enders Bonnie K Hunter
Book - Adventures with Leaders and Enders
by Bonnie K Hunter
Enter stage right -
"Adventures with Leaders and Enders - Make More Quilts in Less TIme!" by Bonnie K Hunter. 
Yes, another Christmas gift from Santa.  I can really see the value of this exercise - I just have to decide which Leader / Ender quilt I am going to work on.

I have spent the weekend putting all of my Easy Street Mystery Quilt blocks together. No border decisions yet, and probably not until next weekend, when I am at home during the daylight.  I am thinking it will need to be pieced, but with no lead from Bonnie, I am adrift, and will have to work out a plan when I have a little quiet time to myself.
It was a beautiful bright, sunny, fresh day here in the UK today. They are promising some snow tonight .. the first of the winter. 

Easy Street Quilt

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Pies and Tarts Quilt - English Paper Piecing

Pies and Tarts Quilt Navy Background Scrap Quilt
Pies and Tart Quilt
Along with piecing my Easy Street Mystery Quilt over the holidays, I have also managed to complete the quilt top for my Pies and Tarts quilt.  This has been a hand piecing project for the past few years, started in February 2011.  The last few bits should have only taken about half a day to do, but Easy Street has rather taken over. When you are hand piecing, completing the top is a major milestone, so I thought I would share this with you.

I was also trying to use my stash and create a scrappy quilt, so I made up some slightly larger cardboard pies and tarts templates from cereal packets, adding on for the seam allowance, for the pies and smaller tarts to draw around for my fabric shapes.  I did a whole 'Pie' and some different sized slices to accommodate some fussy cutting and to use smaller scraps.  I found that a 5" charm square was the perfect size to fit the fabric template for a 'tart'.  As a result of all this circular cutting, a quick sift through my current stash will find fat quarters with awkward round holes in them - no neat strips for this project!

Because I only had a limited number of paper patchwork templates, I tended to cut the fabric in batches, pairing up colour schemes for each circle as I went along.  With a little bag of paper templates, some colourful fabrics scraps, and a needle and cotton, I was on my way.  It travelled with me everywhere, and gradually the Pies and Tarts quilt accumulated.  There are a variety of textured background navy fabrics used in this quilt.

Pies and Tarts Quilt Detail Bright and Navy
Pies and Tarts Quilt Detail

The construction of each block roughly went a bit like this
1. Tack fabric around paper templates
2. Select two sets of four coordinating 'slices'
3. Sew up four pairs of the two colours, overstitching them together
4. Sew the four pairs to make a circle or 'pie'
4. Press the completed circle to ensure a smooth circular edge
5. Applique circle onto a 8" square of navy fabric, removing paper templates as you go.

Pies and Tarts Quilt Navy Background Scrap Quilt
Pies and Tarts Quilt Top Completed
It was only once four blocks were pieced together (by hand, of course!) that it was possible to apply the smaller tart in the middle.  With the verticals and horizontals of the blocks, it was easy to place the circles in the same direction, which adds a diagonal pattern to the whole quilt as well.  I have added half circles to the edge, and to finish the edge I will be adding a very narrow navy border.

At this stage I am joining up with Finish It Up Friday  and HeLP for Hexiaholics - the next stage is to put it away for a while whilst I decide on the quilting pattern I will use, and it waits its turn to be hand quilted ....

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Quilt - Part 8 (nearly)

As soon as I pressed 'Publish' on my last blog post, I returned to my sewing machine to continue with my Easy Street quilt, only to find it had gone on strike, and the little workhorse was not responding.  After checking the 'troubleshooting' section in the handbook, and all the online forums, I still had no luck, so yesterday it went to the Sewing Machine Doctor. I am waiting for the diagnosis ... Anyway, never fear, I pulled out my Husqvarna Designer 1 Embroidery Sewing Machine, and continued on that.  It works fine, but I had got used to the single needle plate, had sussed out my 1/4" seam allowance, and had wound a bunch of bobbins. And now I am having to work without it, I really appreciate the Pfaff IDT (duel feed).

There is nothing quite like a 'Link Up' to motivate you on a project, so knowing that everyone will be sharing their progress on the Easy Street Mystery Quilt on Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville Blog, here is my offering.
Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Mystery Quilt
Easy Street Quilt - Block Layout
As you can see, all my blocks are complete, and this is the layout of the quilt.  As you may also see, at the time of writing, they have not been joined together, but probably by the time you read this, they will be!  Also, the instructions for Part 8 mention something about borders and a backing.  No plans yet, but you will all be the first to know when there are developments on that front.
Am I pleased with my colour scheme? Yes, I am.  Naturally, with hindsight and several hours on my Electric Quilt software, I might have changed a few things, but this was a mystery quilt, and I surrendered to the process, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

I always find with scrap quilts that you have to keep your faith in the scraps.  Sometimes a fabric may not feel right, but when mixed in with the rest,  it ends up being the essential 'player' which prevents the quilt looking bland. This was my 'not so sure' fabric.
I wanted to include it because of its whimsical sewing motifs, but it contained a little bit of WHITE, and it's background was insipid in contrast with my other warm toned fabrics. Turns out it is the one adding the much needed depth to the background fabrics.  On the other side of the coin, the 'Sing a Song of Christmas' print by Woodrow Studio, was the one which I had to hold back on.  With its pretty glitter, I wanted it all over, but I held back, and there is just enough to catch the light as the when quilt moves.
'Sing A Song of Christmas' Woodrow Studio Fabric
'Sing A Song of Christmas' Woodrow Studio
Today, I am also introducing Sparky, the other cat.  Sparky is not as interested as Suzi in the actual process of patchwork and quilting, but once he can see that all the activity is close to becoming a quilt to sleep on, he starts to take a very REAL interest.  There was a time when he would rolling around, rather than sitting on the quilt - I think he is thinking the same thing ...
Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Mystery Quilt with Cat
Sparky on Easy Street

As a reminder, this is only my second machine pieced quilt, and my very first Mystery Quilt. I have really enjoyed the Mystery Quilt process, made all the better by sharing the journey with quilters all around the world.  Knowing that most of you have been working as hard as I have to get this done has really motivated me. return to work tomorrow, where I know it is going to be very busy, so I have been keen to get as much done on Easy Street as possible. You can see my progress for each part on the links below
A big THANK YOU to Bonnie for taking the time to plan it and put it together. You have made a lot of people very happy.
PS: Don't forget that Bonnie's instructions will be taken down from her site in June 2013.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Quilt - Part 7

Easy Street Mystery Quilt Part 7
"It says Part 8 will be released TOMORROW!"

It is not an understatement to say that it was not only Suzi the Cat who was alarmed at the Rapid  Fire Release of the final parts of Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Mystery Quilt.  By the end of Monday I had completed Part 6, and just before I went to bed I printed off Part 7 -were we in for a shock!  It was too late to do anything, so  I went to bed knowing I had all of Tuesday and Wednesday to catch up.
The next day, joining the Flying Geese and blocks didn't take long, as Bonnie promised, and that allowed us to layout the pieced triangles in our colourway of red, purple, green and tan, for the first time. 

Cat with Easy Street Quilt Part 7
Easy Street Quilt Part 7
By 10 o'clock Part 8 had been released and so we had a sneak preview of the next stage.  Bonnie produced the BIG REVEAL.  Her quilt looks lovely, and the green and greys look great together. I was curious to how all these little quilt blocks we have been creating over the past few weeks were going to look in my colourway, so instead of completing my 'homework' for Part 7, I skipped forward to Part 8 to make one each of the two blocks which will make up the whole of the Easy Street Mystery Quilt.  Knowing what lies ahead, I have started to set up some chain piecing that will make lighter work of constructing the quilt.  Mine are in need of a bit of a trim and I don't have one of those HUGE square quilter's rulers - does anyone have any tips on how to square up the blocks without one?

Today I have gone back to complete the previous stage, so I have now officially completed Part 7 of Easy Street, joining the Flying Geese to the blocks, and making both sets of corner triangles, and  all the edge triangles / edge fillers.  From this picture you can see how my colour scheme is turning out.

Bonnie Hunter's Easy Street Mystery Quilt Part 7 and Part 8
'The Little Reveal' Easy Street Mystery Quilt