Scandi Bird quilt – finished at last

The Scandi Bird quilt is finally finished!   It has only been 5 years in the making but the final result is worth it.

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

Each of the birds was first appliquéd onto squares of plain off-white fabric.  They  weren’t difficult to do, just very time-consuming.  Whilst I’ll never say never, I can’t see me rushing to make another appliqué quilt.  They are not my zone of genius.  Still, it was good to step outside my comfort zone and give it a go.

Initially I was planning to have 41 birds in the final quilt separated by blocks of four fabrics.  Given that it was taking me so long to complete the birds I then changed tack to have fewer birds and more co-ordinating fabrics.  This meant I had to raid my fabric stash for some additional fabrics since I only had a limited amount of the initial fabrics and what I had would not stretch that far.

Fabrics used in scandi bird quilt

Fabrics used in scandi bird quilt

On the left are the fabrics initially selected for the quilt and on the right are the extra fabrics I pulled to add to the quilt.

Smaller squares in coordinating colours were added as a frame around each appliqué bird to form a block before sewing the blocks together.

Scandi bird quilt block

Scandi bird quilt block

The coloured squares have been placed in a scrappy arrangement.  Many people think that scrappy quilts are easy to do when in fact they take a lot of careful planning.  I’ll share some tips on how to create a good scrappy quilt in a later post.

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

At 64 inches square, the quilt brightens up the bedroom and is easily big enough to cover the top of the bed.

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

It is perfect as a throw when reading,

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

Or daydreaming in a sunbeam.

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

Scandi bird patchwork quilt

Quilts don’t have to live solely inside.  They also make fab picnic blankets.

DSC_0015

The quilt back features sassy 1950s ladies, carefully pattern-matched as always for a seamless look (I think the recipient secretly likes these ladies better than the quilt front).  For the binding I used a bright blue floral that also features on the front of the quilt.

Scandi bird patchwork quilt - detail

Scandi bird patchwork quilt – detail

Wavy lines were quilted horizontally across the quilt which gives it a lovely, cozy texture.  I’m quite proud of the quilting on this quilt as it was done on my domestic sewing machine – the largest quilt I’ve quilted so far.

This quilt went to its forever home in December last year where it is cherished and well-loved.

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Giant Granny Square Crocheted Baby Blanket

Over a year ago now, a friend announced that she was expecting a new nephew in April and she wanted to make a gift for him.  Foolishly I offered to show her how to make a giant granny square blanket.  I mean, everyone can crocket a granny square, right?  Well, teaching her was an epic fail as she could only manage to create a chain stitch!  Feeling responsible (she had already bought the yarn – from a charity shop, but still) I offered to make the blanket for her.

My friend made the first four chain which formed the centre ring, so she had some creative input into the blanket.  I started off well however it quickly transpired that my blanket wasn’t going as planned.  It had definitely developed a twist (argh!).

Giant crochet granny square fail

Giant crochet granny square fail

A quick look on Google and I found a couple of solutions.  That is the lovely thing about the internet.  It is so much easier to find someone who has come across the same problem, and more importantly, found a solution that they are happy to share with the world.

Turns out, the simple solution is to turn your work on each row.  Basically this means that you crochet clockwise on one row and then anti-clockwise on the next row.  Kerry Jayne Designs has a really clear tutorial on her blog that explains how to do this.  Thank you, Kerry Jayne.  You are a life saver!

Turning the blanket on each row does change the look of the stitches – but in a good way as there is now no wrong side since both sides look the same.

Giant crochet granny square blanket detail

Giant crochet granny square blanket detail

The blanket was finished in time for the baby’s arrival.

Giant granny square crochet baby blanket

Giant granny square crochet baby blanket

It finished at just over a metre square which is the perfect size for a baby or toddler.  The colours are lovely too and make a pleasingly understated palette that is not too babyish.

Giant crochet granny square blanket

Giant crochet granny square blanket

Did the new mum like the blanket?  I’m happy to say that she loved it which is the best accolade.

There was quite a bit of the brown and cream yarn left over after making this blanket.  I’ll share what I made with it in a later post.

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Blue and white upcycled shirt quilt

Blue and white is such a classic combination.  It is both fresh and calming with the relaxed feeling of a lazy summer’s day on the beach.

Summer day at the beach

I used blue and white as the starting point for a quilt that would be a gift for my brother.  He loves rummaging in charity shops so it seemed appropriate to use pre-loved shirts and create an upcycled quilt for him.

Trawling the local charity shops, I looked for men’s shirts in a variety of patterns.  Anything would do  – stripes, spots, checks, tone on tone designs – provided the fabric was 100% cotton and the colours were predominately blue and white.  I even found a few floral, James May shirt style patterns.  Best of all was the little boy’s demin blue shirt covered in dinosaur skeletons!  I mean, who doesn’t love a dinosaur?

Stack of blue and white shirts

Stack of blue and white shirts

 

I wanted to keep the design uncomplicated so as to show off the patterns of the shirt fabrics.   A straight forward nine patch block seemed just the ticket.  The shirts were cut into 4 1/2 inch squares and sewn randomly together.

Blue and white shirt blocks

Blue and white shirt blocks

 

Men need encouragement in their lives too, so I embroidered positive affirmations onto some of the plain fabrics and incorporated these into the quilt blocks.

Words to live by blocks

Affirmation blocks

 

White sashing, 2 inches finished width, was added to separate the blocks and to give it a fresh look.

Blue and white quilt

Blue and white quilt

 

A swirling design, called Hot Cocoa, was chosen for the long arm quilting.  It adds a great texture to the quilt.

Quilt detail showing quilting design

Quilt detail showing quilting design

 

And here is the finished quilt, complete with a dark navy binding to frame the quilt.

Quilt made from upcycled blue and white shirts

Quilt made from upcycled blue and white shirts

At 72 inches square it is a great size to use as a bedspread or to throw over the back of the sofa.  I love that it is a classic design with little personal touches that make it unique.

Have you made a quilt from upcycled clothes?  I’d love you to share a photo and if not, I’d encourage you to give it a go.  So much clothing ends up in landfill and it seems a crime to waste it when it can be re-purposed for a longer life.

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Quilters Hangup – a review

Today I put the finishing touches to the quilt I’ll be exhibiting at this year’s Festival of Quilts in Birmingham.   Anyone who has exhibited a quilt before will know that these preparations include the addition of a hanging sleeve.

Attaching pre-prepared quilt hanging sleeve

Attaching Quilters Hangup

In the past, I have made my own hanging sleeve (essentially a tube of fabric attached to the quilt back that allows a hanging rod to be inserted).  Nowadays I don’t bother making my own.  Instead I use a ready-made quilt hanging sleeve called Quilters Hangup.

I first came across Quilters Hangup last year and I love them.  They are made from a sturdy cotton fabric and come in a natural unbleached muslin (this in the one I use) and black.   Pre-made to the regulation 4 inches tall, the Quilters Hangup also includes a pleat at the top edge that allows quilts to hang flat!    And the rainbow thread on the back  is a pretty touch.

Pre-prepared quilt hanging sleeve

Quilters Hangup

Quilters Hangup may not be the cheapest option however they do save a lot of time.  Simply cut to length and hem the ends.  There is enough in each pack to make a hanging sleeve for even the largest Super King size quilt.  Quilters Hangups can be sewn into a quilt before or after sewing on the binding.   I prefer to hand sew my Quilters Hangup to the quilt after binding.  My quilts are made to be used rather than hung on a wall, so it is essential that I can easily remove the sleeve.  Plus making the sleeve removable means that I can re-use the hanging sleeve when exhibiting other quilts the same size.

I’m sure Quilters Hangups are readily available in America as they are a USA product.  For those in the UK, I purchased mine from Sew Hot.

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New Quilting exhibition, Rheged Gallery – a picture post

Last week I made a flying visit to Cumbria to see the New Quilting exhibition at the Rheged Gallery.

New Quilting exhibition - Rheged Gallery, Penrith, Cumbria

New Quilting exhibition – Rheged Gallery, Penrith, Cumbria

Over 70 quilts are on display and 30 quilters have contributed quilts for the exhibition.   There is so much to see – traditional designs, modern quilts, detailed hand quilting, elaborate machine quilting, 3D works, quilts that look like maps, ones that look like travel posters, free cut quilts, improvised piecing and appliqué.  There are even some quilts from the early 1900s on display.

New Quilting exhibition - Rheged Gallery, Penrith, Cumbria

New Quilting exhibition – Rheged Gallery, Penrith, Cumbria

One of my quilts features in the exhibition and here it is on display, yay!

A Life in Film quilt - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

A Life in Film quilt – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

And here is a closer look at the quilt, titled “A Life in Film”,  that I made for my nephew.  It features Polaroid blocks that highlight aspects of his life – growing up on a farm, his love of basketball, a special trip to the zoo, his love of chocolate cake, to name but a few.  I know he’ll love snuggling under it when reading or watching TV.

A Life in Film quilt - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

A Life in Film quilt – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

But enough about my quilt.  Here are some of my highlights and favourite quilts from the exhibition.

Cologne Cathedral quilt by Greta Fitchett - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Cologne Cathedral quilt by Greta Fitchett – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

I loved this quilt of Cologne Cathedral by Greta Fitchett which represents a scene reflected in other buildings.  Those lines between the blocks are really skinny and must have been so difficult to get straight.  It reminds me of photographs made from contact sheets.

Coming into Land quilt by Alicia Merrett - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Coming into Land quilt by Alicia Merrett – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

This was another of my favourites, by Alicia Merrett, showing a pilot’s view of a country landscape at night, with an air strip on the right hand side.  The quilting really helps to accentuate the contours of the landscape and I love the bright colours of the houses shining in the dark.

Sweet City quilt by Marita Lappalainen - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Sweet City quilt by Marita Lappalainen – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

This quilt by Marita Lappalainen made me smile.  Recycled fabrics and crochet pot holders feature in this work of an imagined city.  She said that she wanted to make something “fairy tale like, childish and fanciful”.  I’d say she has nailed it.

Detail of Bitter Pills quilt by Sara Impey - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Detail of Bitter Pills quilt by Sara Impey – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

This quilt, Bitter Pills,  by Sara Impey was especially thought-provoking.  It is a whole cloth quilt featuring free-motion embroidery.  The juxtaposition of the bright colours of the capsules against the “bitter pills facing society” serves to heighten the power of this work.

Detail of Log Cabin quilt made in 1900 - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Detail of Log Cabin quilt made in 1900 – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

This shows the detail from one of the quilts, made in 1900, that is on display.  The quilt is quite large – certainly large enough for a double bed – and must have taken hours to hand sew all those tiny seams.

Detail of Blue Cabin quilt by Joy Salvage - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Detail of Blue Cabin quilt by Joy Salvage – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

A modern day version of a log cabin quilt was also on display.  This one is by Joy Salvage, a young quilter in her mid 20s, and features log cabin blocks where each of the logs are only 1/4 inch wide!

Detail of After Boro quilt by Janice Gunner - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Detail of After Boro quilt by Janice Gunner – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

I’m a great fan of scrappy quilts and I loved this one by Janice Gunner.  The colours she has chosen and the lovely hand quilting have transformed old fabrics (often rags) into something beautiful.

I could go on and on about the quilts but really, the best thing is for you to see them for yourself.  The exhibition runs until 23 April and is well worth a visit.

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Bergamot marmalade

Like Ida in the film, Love Is All You Need, lemons are my favourite fruit and like her, I really can’t imagine the world without them either.  (This film, along with A Good Year, is one of my guilty pleasures and both are perfect for this time of year when the days are short and dank and the nights are long and chilly).  Let’s face it, lemons are so useful.  Equally at home in savoury or sweet dishes and even in the odd cocktail (G&T anyone?).  Or there is the healthier option – add a squeeze of lemon juice to a cup of hot water for a great way to start the day.

One of my Christmas presents was this fabulous book by Helena Attlee.

The land where lemons grow by Helena Attlee

The land where lemons grow by Helena Attlee

Part history, part travelogue, part horticultural guide, this book covers the history of citrus fruits in Italy. Written in a gentle, conversational style you will find yourself effortlessly learning about all things citrus whilst longing to pack your bags for a holiday in the sun.

I had been reading the chapter on bergamot and wishing for smell-a-vision. The next day I came across these gems in the supermarket. Yes, these golden orbs  are real bergamot fruits from Italy.  Bergamot is the outcome of a natural cross between a lemon and a sour orange and the best are grown in Calabria.

Bergamot oranges fruit

Bergamot fruits

Bergamot can be used in many ways.  The essential oil is a staple in the perfumery industry and is also used to flavour Earl Grey tea, giving it that distinctive scent.  Of course Bergamot fruits can be used in cooking however I chose to make marmalade with mine.  A quick search of the internet found a number of bloggers who had shared recipes for bergamot marmalade .

David Leibovitz has a recipe for bergamot marmalade.  He includes some handy tips such as “don’t use a food processor, as that will make the marmalade muddy”.  Advice that I ignored entirely (sorry, David) and he is quite right.  Using a food processor does result in muddy marmalade (I had no choice having cut my strips a little too thick).  But who cares?  It still tastes great.

Giulia Scarpaleggia writing as Jul’s Kitchen also has a recipe for bergamot marmalade, based on David’s recipe, along with more information about Helena’s book.

However it was Victoria’s recipe from Bois de Jasmine that I used. Victoria is a trained perfume specialist which is how I first came across her blog – searching for information about a particular perfume.

I followed Victoria’s recipe faithfully although I didn’t bother blanching the fruits first.  I was also saved the trouble of putting the seeds into a muslin bag as there was not one seed in my fruits (is that normal?) and I used the food processor.  Next time I’ll take the time to chop the rinds more finely before cooking.

Bergamot marmalade

Bergamot marmalade

The citrus flavour really livens up a piece of delicious sour dough bread toast.  However it is quite unlike any other citrus marmalade having what some have described as a floral or incense-like aroma.  To me, it smells of heaven and tastes divine.  It is sunshine in a jar and the perfect antidote to the grey, cold weather of mid-January.  Definitely banishes those winter blues and will have you dreaming of sun-drenched beaches on the Amalfi coast.

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Field of Light at Waddesdon Manor

Last night I went to Waddesdon Manor again – this time with my camera which I had forgotten the last time (face palm, as my niece would say).  My purpose in going was to photograph the light installation by world-renowned artist Bruce Munro.

Named Field of Light, the installation is made of 9,000 lights “planted” in the Manor grounds.  During daylight hours they looks particularly uninspiring.

Field of Light – daytime

Once darkness falls however, they light up and take on an ethereal beauty.

Field of Light at sunset

Each globe cycles through subtle changes in colour.  In one case moving gradually from golden yellow…

Field of Light – golden globes

…to bright turquoise.

Field of Light – turquoise globes

The lights cover a large area near the Aviary and appear to stretch for miles.  To my mind, they look like fields of bright coloured tulips…

Field of Light

Or city lights seen from afar.

Field of Light landscape

It is a really beautiful exhibition and sadly is only on for a few more days.  It finishes on 2 January 2017.

Field of Light scene

Catch it if you can…and don’t forget to take your camera.

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A great gift for that hard-to-buy-for person

I’m been wracking my brains thinking of Christmas gifts that might appeal to that hard-to-buy-for person, or the person who has everything, for the fussy person and the ones who just don’t know what they want (let’s face it, we all have at least one of these types on our lists).  The last thing you want to get them is something that they will stuff in a drawer, or worse, re-gift to you next year.  So my suggestion is this – cupcake toppers that you add to your own cakes!

Wait, hear me out.  Who could refuse some delicious cakes – perhaps they’re shop bought or you’ve made them yourself with some help from the kids – topped with luscious buttercream and some WOW cupcake toppers.  Your cupcakes will be beautiful to look at, yummy to eat AND no need to find space for extra stuff.  Plus they will be handmade which will make them just that little bit more special.

Here are some lovely designs for you to consider.  Teachers, dads and granddads would love cupcakes decorated with these cheery Santa and reindeer toppers.

Cupcake toppers - Santa, presents and Rudolf

Cupcake toppers – Santa, presents and Rudolf

Friends who like all the trimmings would delight in these cute pudding and robin toppers (just so you know, the pudding and robin are made from chocolate flavoured fondant for extra tastiness).

Cupcake toppers - Christmas pudding, trees and robin

Cupcake toppers – Christmas pudding, trees and robin

Or what about these adorable snowman and polar bear toppers?  They would certainly put a smile on someone’s face.

Cupcake toppers - snowman, snowflakes and polar bear

Cupcake toppers – snowman, snowflakes and polar bear

The ones I like best however are these ones, which will look like a little painting when presented in a cupcake box.  First up, a scottie dog playing in the snow with a snowman.  How cute is that?

Cupcake toppers - snowman and scottie dog

Cupcake toppers – snowman and scottie dog

Scottie dog again, this time posting a letter to Santa.  I hope Santa gets it in time.

Cupcake toppers - letter box and scottie dog

Cupcake toppers – letter box and scottie dog

And my favourite – bright lights welcoming you home on a dark, snowy evening.

Cupcake toppers - snow scene

Cupcake toppers – silent night

All these designs will be available at my table top stall at the Frost Fair in Thame (it’s on 1 December between 8pm and 10pm at the John Hampden School if you are in the area).   And if you’d like something custom-made to reflect the interests of a special someone, then do contact me.  I look forward to seeing you at the Frost Fair!

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Heart quilt – work in progress

I’ve been wanting to make a heart quilt for ages and finally decided to take the plunge.

The pretty aqua and pink floral fabric below is the one that I chose as the starting point for my quilt.  I then selected other fabrics in co-ordinating colours of pink, green, warm grey, aqua and bright navy.  Most fabrics were from stash however I did need to purchase a few more (as if I needed an excuse).

Fabric selection for heart block quilt

Fabric selection for heart block quilt

Here are the fabrics that I chose.   They look very light and pretty with a really summery feel (the dappled sunlight only adds to the effect).

All blocks were made using the heart tutorial by Cluck Cluck Sew.  I made the 10 inch block size and separated them with 2 inch (finished width) sashing.

Footprints on my heart

Footprints on my heart

This block is one of my favourites.   It has tiny footprints as part of the fabric design.  For me, it is a visual image of the old saying – “Some people come into our lives and leave.  Others leave footprints on our heart and we are never the same”.   I didn’t notice this when I selected the fabrics so this is one of those happy accidents – love those!

Heart quilt front

Heart quilt top

And here is the finished quilt top – finished size about 60 inches square.  Photographed on rather a dull, grey day however it still retains its prettiness.  If you look closely, you’ll see that I substituted one of the navy fabrics for another with more white in it which I think works much better.

Half square triangles

Half square triangles

When making the heart blocks, I also took the wise advice of Jeni Baker.  In her last newsletter, she recommends making half-square triangle blocks from the off-cuts as you make each block.  Initially I was going to save the cut off triangles in a plastic bag, knowing full-well that I would probably never get back to sewing them together.  Doing them as I went along means that I now have a stack of half-square triangle blocks ready for another project.  Win-win!

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Chocolate crackles! Yum-my!

Any fellow Australians out there will immediately recognise chocolate crackles.  They are a staple birthday party treat, along with fairy bread, mini sausage rolls and frog in a pond (not as awful as it sounds – this was a chocolate frog in green jelly).

Chocolate crackles

Chocolate crackles

Chocolate crackles are quick to make and can be made well in advance.  Because there is no baking involved, chocolate crackles are also a great, easy recipe to make with small children.

Here is the original recipe from the Kellogg’s website:

Ingredients

250gm Copha
4 cups rice bubbles/krispies/pops
1 cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup desiccated coconut

Mix rice bubbles, icing sugar, cocoa and coconut in a large bowl.
Gently melt the Copha, let it cool slightly and stir into the other ingredients.
Spoon mixture into paper patty pans and refrigerate until set.
Makes 24.

Having promised to make chocolate crackles for a recent event, I was horrified to find that Copha (solidified coconut oil) is unique to Australia and doesn’t have an equivalent in the UK.  What to do?

Thankfully I found another recipe (from Green Gourmet Giraffe, which she got from The Sydney Morning Herald) that uses chocolate instead.  Phew!  Here is the alternative recipe.  I’ve added in weight measures for the dry ingredients as Australian cup measures are slightly larger than UK or American ones.

Ingredients

200gm milk chocolate
100gm dark chocolate (I used one that was 54% cocoa)
3 cups (90gm) rice krispies/pops
1 cup (80gm) unsweetened desiccated coconut

Mix rice and coconut in a bowl.
Melt the chocolates together – I did this in a bowl over a pan of simmering water however it could be done in a microwave.
Pour the melted chocolate over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spoon mixture into paper patty pans and refrigerate until set.
Makes 16.

Now that half-term is coming up, this would be a good recipe to have up your sleeve if the kids get bored, or if you need a quick make for school fetes or parties.

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