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.

Like what you see?  Remember you can follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest to see more of my lovely makes.

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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.

Like what you see?  Remember you can follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest to see more of my lovely makes.

Adventures in free-motion embroidery

Over the past few months, I have been exploring free-motion embroidery.  In an earlier post, I showed off a cute little owl that I made with Sam at Fabric HQ.   I felt pretty chuffed with the result and wanted to do more.
 
Then I saw that Claire from My LoftLines was holding a class on free-motion embroidery.  If you haven’t seen Claire’s work then you absolutely must.  It is gorgeous.   It is quite different from Sam’s style in that Claire’s work is more machine embroidery with little touches of fabric.  I signed up straight away.
 
Claire’s class was run over two sessions.   For the first session, we practised using our sewing machines to embroider patterns and to follow lines over fabric.
 
Free-motion embroidery exercises

Free-motion embroidery exercises

This exercise I found very challenging, especially when sewing over fabric.  Claire uses glue (glue!) to hold down the fabric before embroidering over it.  I’ll let you into a secret.  I hate glue.  Give me bondaweb any day.  I have nothing but admiration for Claire’s skill in getting her fabric to stay put using glue.  Mine just puckered and went all wonky.
 

On to week two.  Like all the worst students, I did no practice homework in between the classes.  My drawing skills are non-existent so you can imagine my distress at the thought of having to come up with a picture to convert into fabric art.

On my way out to the class, I grabbed one of my favourite books – “The Comic Adventures of Boots” by Satoshi Kitamura (I just love this book.   It makes me laugh and I find something new in it every time).  It is designed as a graphic novel so I searched through it desperately to find the simplest image that I could.
 
So, after much trial and tribulation (and a lot of help from Claire who thankfully has the patience of a saint), let me introduce you to Boots the cat.
 

Boots the cat

Someone, who shall remain nameless, said that Boots is saying “Oh, no” because he has just realised that his paws have turned into oven gloves.  As is the way with these things, once the thought is out there, oven gloves are all that you see (sigh).
 
Boots is now framed and has a permanent place in my workroom (otherwise known as the dining room).  He will be there to remind me that nothing in life is as bad as looking at your paws only to find that they are now oven gloves.
 
If you are eager to try free-motion embroidery then you can book a class at Fabric HQ or check with Claire.  If you can’t wait and want to just get stuck in right now, then have a go at this lovely free tutorial from Simple Pleasures Sewing School.  It would make a fabulous housewarming gift for yourself or someone special. 

Hoot, hoot hooray. What a fab day!

Last weekend I spent a morning with Sam of Stitched Up By Samantha.  Sam makes wonderful fabric art using free motion embroidery.  I’ve admired her stunning pictures since forever, but this time I got to find out how she does it and to have a go myself with some other like-minded ladies.

I’ve tried free motion embroidery at home before but never had much success.  It is so much better to have an expert on hand to help solve any tricky problems.  Sam is a very patient teacher and first took us through the process of setting up our sewing machines for free motion embroidery.  

If you’ve been sewing for a while, then the hardest part is probably getting to grips with the idea that you can draw, (yes, draw!) with your machine.  It didn’t take long before we were all happily scribbling away on scraps of fabric. 


Then it was on to creating our own mini work of art.  I chose to make a cute little owl and this is how he turned out.  Not bad for a first attempt.

Now I just need to find a frame for my sleepy little fellow. 

I loved doing free motion embroidery.  It is such a lot of fun.  If you would like to try it yourself, Sam holds regular classes at Fabric HQ.