When it rains, look for rainbows

Is there anyone who doesn’t love rainbows?  They are so beautiful; a symbol of hope and a promise of better things to come.
 
Rainbow over rooftops

Rainbow over rooftops

The beautiful colours of Fancy by Lily Ashbury simply lent themselves to a rainbow quilt.  Even the press information about this collection described it as being like “rays of sunshine on a cloudy day” and “gorgeous, lush, and drenched with colour”.  

 

The collection was missing a purple so I hunted though my fabrics to find something suitable.  This was harder than it might seem as purple, particularly a dark reddish purple, is not a common colour in quilting fabrics (they seem to tend toward lavender and bluish purples).  Thankfully I found two.  

Purple fabrics

Purple fabrics

The sharks tooth is a fabulous match as the pattern mimics others in the Fancy collection.  The second had little birds on it.  At first, I wasn’t sure if this would really work with the other fabrics.  But then I remembered that in the song, “happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow” so it was obviously meant to be.  

 

The spectrum of colours made a coin quilt design an obvious choice for me.  I had so much fun making my last off-set coin quilt, I decided to use this as the basis for my rainbow quilt.  For this quilt, I used a jelly roll and simply removed any duplicate fabric strips.  The fabrics were used in the same order they were presented in the jelly roll and the same design was used across a row in each of the five columns.  A Flurry spot (Dashwood studios) in light teal was the perfect choice for the background.   

 

I had no dilemmas about what to use for the backing fabric.  It just had to be unicorns.  I mean, what else would you expect to find behind a rainbow?  Visitors to my Bucks Open Studios event were asked to help me choose which unicorn fabric to use.

 

Unicorn fabric from Far Far Away collection

Unicorn fabric by Heather Ross

It was an even split between the green and the purple colour ways of this lovely whimsical design by Heather Ross from her Far Far Away collection.

 

In the end, the decision was taken out of my hands as I could only source enough of the green colour way to complete the backing. Either one would have worked however the green is a beautiful, soothing colour that is the perfect counterfoil for the riot of colours on the front. 

 

The lovely, swirly Curlz (it’s my favourite) was used as the quilting design and a glorious sunshine yellow from the Linen Cupboard collection was chosen for the binding.

 

Off-set coin rainbow quilt

Off-set coin rainbow quilt

 

This cuddly, warm quilt in cheerful, sunny colours cannot fail to  banish dark days and rainy skies.  

Festival of Quilts – a picture post

On Sunday I made the journey to Birmingham (UK) for the Festival of Quilts.  It was almost overwhelming seeing so many gorgeous quilts on display (not to mention the shopping opportunities – but more on that at another time).  Rather than give an overview of the show, I thought I would share some of my favourite quilts.  They may not have been THE prize-winning quilts however they were all winners in my book.  

I loved the calm serenity of this quilt from the pictorial quilts section.

Quilt 67 - Marshwood Vale by Kate Dowty

Quilt 67 – Marshwood Vale by Kate Dowty

The sunny outlook and bright colours of this pictorial quilt I found very appealing.  You could find something new in this quilt each time you looked at it.

Quilt 60 - Good Morning Gorran by Brenda Thomas

Quilt 60 – Good Morning Gorran by Brenda Thomas

This close-up shows the amazing detail – all done a small domestic sewing machine.  Respect!

Quilt 60 - Good Morning Gorran (detail) by Brenda Thomas

Quilt 60 – Good Morning Gorran (detail) by Brenda Thomas

Here is one of my favourites from the contemporary quilt section.   A quilt covered in little dresses.  So cute!  And I loved the hats and shoes quilted in the background.  Can never have enough of those.

Quilt 718 - Nostalgia by Jannie Bloemers

Quilt 718 – Nostalgia by Jannie Bloemers

Quilt 718 - Nostalgia (detail) by Jannie Bloemers

Quilt 718 – Nostalgia (detail) by Jannie Bloemers

This quilt by Andy Brunhammer from the Art Quilt Category looked fairly nondescript until you looked at it through a camera.  Suddenly, the image revealed itself as the face of a sleeping woman (Bette Davis, no less).  How is this effect achieved?  I have no idea although it has “something to do with pixels”.  

Quilt 563 - Sleep Jezebel by Andy Brunhammer

Quilt 563 – Sleep Jezebel by Andy Brunhammer

I loved this tiny quilt by Joanna O’Neill.  It reminded me of the seven basic plot outlines – wo/man against something/someone, rags to riches, a quest and so on.  It is now difficult to think of a book that would not be improved by the addition of at least one cat.  

Quilt 8 - A Tale Worth Telling by Joanna O'Neill

Quilt 8 – A Tale Worth Telling by Joanna O’Neill

As lovely as these quilts were, I still prefer a quilt that can be used as more than a decorative piece.  I like quilts that keep you warm at night, share your picnic and that you can hide under during the scary bits in Dr Who (I still have nightmares about those statues!).  
This scrappy quilt, in which “no yardage was harmed in the making” was a delight.  Such a glorious collection of colours.

Quilt 327 - No Yardage was Harmed in the Making of this Quilt by Alison Robins and Krista Withers

Quilt 327 – No Yardage was Harmed in the Making of this Quilt by Alison Robins and Krista Withers

I also loved the blues and metallic gold fabrics used in this traditional sampler quilt.  Can you believe it was her first quilt?

Quilt 474 - Learning Curve by Janet Ann Bowden

Quilt 474 – Learning Curve by Janet Ann Bowden

And this one with a simple but very effective design of squares and half-square triangles.

Quilt 721 - Bank Holiday by Ruth Burdett

Quilt 721 – Bank Holiday by Ruth Burdett

Any of you who follow my Facebook page will have seen that I also entered a quilt in this year’s show.  Here it is on display.

Quilt 328 - Pot Luck Coins by Jen Kelson and Jenny Otto

Quilt 328 – Pot Luck Coins by Jen Kelson and Jenny Otto

And I received some very nice comments from the judges too.  All in all, a great day out.    

Bluebird Park quilt – a tutorial

This quilt I made was one of the most popular at my recent exhibition for Bucks Open Studios.  I have to confess, it is one of my favourites too.  
 
Bluebird Park quilt

Bluebird Park quilt

A number of people have contacted me since asking for the pattern. The world definitely needs more quilts so here is a tutorial to enable you can make your own version.
 
What you’ll need:
1 layer cake* (I used Bluebird Park by Kate and Birdie for Moda)
0.5 metre fabric for binding
3.5 metres backing fabric (more if you need to match patterns)
Wadding or batting approx. 60 inch by 66 inch (I used 100% cotton Quilters Dream Select)
Co-ordinating cotton thread
 
Cutting instructions:
To make the quilt top, cut each of the fabric squares from the layer cake into a 6 1/2 inch square, a 3 1/2 inch square, and two rectangles, each 3 1/2 inch by 6 1/2 inch.  The picture below will make it clearer as to how to cut your fabric.
 
Cutting diagram for Bluebird Park quilt

Cutting diagram for Bluebird Park quilt

 
You don’t need to always cut the largest square from the top left if the design placement would work better if, for example, the large square was cut at the lower right.  You just need to ensure that you get all four shapes.  Before cutting, I also checked that my layer cake squares were exactly 10 inch square.  It is probably not essential to do this so if you’re more of a “let’s get stuck in” kinda gal, then just get cutting.
 
Whilst you have your rotary cutter to hand, from the binding fabric cut 6 strips, each 2 1/2 inch wide, across the width of the fabric.
 
Sewing instructions:
Once you have cut up all your layer cake squares, you can start to have some fun. You now sew your layer cake squares back together using a different fabric design for each of the four positions in the cutting diagram.  
 
Using a 1/4 inch seam, sew a rectangle to a large square and press the seam toward the square.  Then sew another rectangle to a small square, pressing the seam toward the small square.  Finally sew the small square strip to the large square strip, nesting the seams where the points of the two squares meet.  This large square forms the block for the quilt.   
 
The quilt is comprised of 42 blocks which means you will use all of the layer cake.  If you wanted your quilt to go on a single bed, then I would make it as 7 rows with 6 blocks in each row.  If you wanted your quilt as a sofa throw like my version, then lay it out as 6 rows with 7 blocks across each row. 
 
Here is some printed card that I cut up to show the layout for the blocks.  
 
Bluebird Park quilt block layout

Bluebird Park quilt block layout

I couldn’t show the full quilt layout however there is enough that you should be able to see the repeat of the pattern.   The first four blocks in rows one and two form the repeat.  So row four would have the same block placement as row two.  This means your first block on row four would have a small square in the bottom left, the next block would have a small square in the top right, the third block would have a small square in the bottom right and so on.  
*Update:  the block orientation of the first two blocks on the second row is not correct.  The large square and small squares should be diagonally opposite each other.  The small squares in the first two blocks on the second row are in the correct position however the large squares in these blocks need to be moved from bottom to top and top to bottom respectively.  Many apologies for the error.
 
If you are using a directional fabric, such as Bluebird Park, you might want to lay out your quilt design before making up your blocks so that you don’t end up with bikes riding sideways or rabbits standing on their heads (unless you don’t want your quilt to have an obvious up or down).
 
Once you are happy with your block placement, sew blocks together for each row and then sew the rows together.  You will now have finished your quilt top, yay!
 
Sew your backing fabric so that it makes a piece at least 4 inches bigger on all sides than your quilt top.  Baste the backing, wadding and quilt top together then quilt as desired.  Finally sew your binding strips together to make one long strip and attach it to your quilt.
 
Congratulations!  You now have a lovely soft and cuddly quilt.
 
I hope you enjoy making your own version of my Bluebird Park quilt.  If you have any questions regarding the instructions, please do contact me.  Have fun!
 
 
 * layer cakes are produced by Moda and comprise 42 10 inch squares from a single fabric collection. 

Gender neutral baby quilt

When I saw this gorgeous rabbit fabric, I knew it would make a lovely baby quilt.  It is sweet without being overly babyish.  The stylish choice for all modern babies.
 
I have used it to make a whole cloth quilt using the same tutorial from Brighton Sewing Centre that I used for a previous quilt.  The only change that I made was to cut the main fabric one inch larger on all sides to allow for shrinkage.  
 
Crib quilt

Baby quilt

I chose the rabbits in a gender neutral aqua however it also comes in an equally pretty peach.  The backing is a gorgeous fluffy cloud fabric from the Storybook collection from Moda.  Perfect for sweet dreams.  
 
After auditioning lots of fabrics for the binding, I finally settled on this gold spot print which adds just the right amount of colour.  As before, I quilted in straight lines by eye whilst taking care to avoid the rabbits.  
 
Crib quilt

Baby quilt

The final quilt is about 1 metre square and has been washed to give it that lovely antique look.  And as it is 100% cotton, it feels cuddly and soft.
 
If, like me, you have fallen in love with the bunny fabric I have used (part of the Dress Me For The Playground collection by Dear Stella), it is available from Fabric HQ.  

Fresh cut coin quilt

Fresh Cut is the latest design by Basic Grey for Moda.  I snapped up a couple of charm packs (5 inch squares) as soon as it arrived in the UK.  It is a gorgeous collection of soft aqua, peach and beige with accents of hot pink, bright green, grey and a really lovely spicy orange.  It reminds me of a summer garden just after a shower of rain. 
 
Now, what to make with it?  Rather than take the easy option and just sew the squares together, I decided to stretch my charm squares with a background fabric to get a larger quilt.  So, ta dah,  here you have another coin quilt.
 

 

This design is super easy to put together.  Simply cut the charm pack squares in half to make the fabric “coins” and sew them back together again in long columns, interspersed between columns of a background fabric.   
Coin quilt detail
 
Charm packs make a LOT of coins to play with.   I had so many left over that I incorporated a single strip on the back, making the quilt fully reversible.
 
 
I wish I could show you a close up of the background fabric but it just would not photograph.  It is a really lovely off-white tone on tone pattern of little crosshatches from the Doe collection by Carolyn Friedlander.
 
For the binding, I chose the tiny floral with the grey background from the Fresh Cut collection which makes a lovely frame for the quilt.
 
This quilt is a great size, about 50 inches square.  Just right for a sofa throw or to keep at the end of the bed for those chilly nights.

Whole cloth baby quilt

A new baby calls for something special.  In this mass market age, it is often difficult to find a gift that is individual and unique.  
 
A little whole cloth quilt such as this one fits the bill perfectly as it is relatively quick to make and can be made in any combination of colours or fabric patterns you choose.   What is a whole cloth quilt, you ask?  Good question.  A whole cloth quilt has the top layer made from a single large piece of fabric, without patchwork or appliqué.  Often they are very heavily quilted in intricate patterns.  In this example, less so.
I made this one in about two days following a Brighton Sewing Centre tutorial.  It is a mystery to me as to how they made their version in an afternoon.  Perhaps they meant they only worked on it in the afternoons.  Anyway, moving on.
 
The tutorial makes a lovely crib quilt, about 1 metre square.  I used a pretty aqua for the backing and a gorgeous grey floral print for the binding.  As per the tutorial, I quilted in lines following the gingham check.  The quilting is not that obvious on the gingham, however it shows up very effectively on the back as a series of unevenly spaced lines. 
 
 
I have washed this quilt to give it that lovely, crinkly vintage look.  And, as it is made from 100% cotton, it will be gentle on baby’s soft skin.
 
So there you have it.  A lovely handmade gift to welcome a new arrival.  

Pot luck off-set coin quilt

It must be pretty obvious by now that I love, love, strip quilts.  I love the simplicity of them and how they really show off the fabrics.  My latest strip quilt is a variation of a design called chinese coins, or stacked coins.  
You can see where the pattern gets its name as the coloured fabric columns look like piles of money.  Often the fabric coins are stacked exactly on top of one another.  In this case, as the coins are off-set, they look as though they have been piled higgledy pigglegy.
A single jelly roll, from the Pot Luck collection by American Jane for Moda, was used to make the quilt coins.  I love the retro look of these designs and colours.  To me they seem very reminiscent of the 1950s.
For the back I used a fantastic giant text print called Nummer, from Ikea of all places.  Many quilters use it and this was the perfect project for me to try it for myself.  I think it is the perfect partner for the quilt top; the large writing works so well with the little numbers on the tape measures. 
 
The quilt was professionally long arm quilted with a design called feathers.  I chose it because of the tiny chicken fabric.  After washing, the quilt did shrink a bit but I don’t care.  It is still a great size (about 60 inches square) and I love the textured look and feel that the quilting creates. 

Rae’s quilt – a remake

Those loyal followers of Dashwood Studio will remember this lovely quilt, appropriately nicknamed the Stacked Books quilt.
The very talented Rae from Fabric HQ designed and made it to show case Dashwood’s beautiful Retro Orchard fabric collection.   
 
This quilt has been admired by many and a number have asked for a pattern so that they can make their own version.  As it was made with no thought of making more, sadly there was no pattern.   So Rae asked me to draft one up from the original quilt.
 
Cue much measuring and many calculations,
Selecting and cutting fabrics for a test version, 
And finally piecing and machine quilting.
Here is the final test version, made up in Origami Oasis with Flurry in green used for the contrast strips and binding.
Even if I say so myself, I think this version looks just as pretty as the original.  Stacked Books is a terrific design that easily lends itself to other fabric combinations.  It is a great usable size too, being approximately 1.2 x 1 metre, and would make a fab throw or child’s play mat.
 
If you’d like to create your own version, Fabric HQ will be running a class to make this quilt later in the year.  Keep an eye on their website or sign up for their mailing list to be notified of the class dates.  

Fleurologie quilt take 2

A rare sunny day this week was too good to miss.  It was the perfect excuse for me to take a stroll along the canal nearby and photograph my latest quilt. 


Bella Solid in off-white was used for the sashing between the blocks of colour cut from my last Fleurologie layer cake.  I just love the 
Fleurologie fabric collection.  It is bright, colourful and just so pretty.   This is the second quilt I have made using it. 

This one however is very different in style from my first Fleurologie quilt.  The white sashing makes this quilt more subdued whilst the hot pink binding (as seen earlier with the corner trimmer) provides a strong border to the quilt that frames it perfectly.  I spent ages checking various fabrics at Fabric HQ before deciding that this pink – Kona Solid in Bright Pink – was just right


The pattern, called Ruby, Pearl and Opal, is available free on the Moda Bake Shop website.  Although there are a number of small pieces in the pattern, it was an easy design to put together.  It would be a good one for beginners to try as there are no seams to match up (yay!)


I even broke out of my comfort zone and made the “equally snazzy pieced backing” which I agree does look rather lovely.

For the long arm quilting, I chose a design called Curlz.  I haven’t used it before but certainly will again.  It gives a lovely overall texture to the quilt with just the right weight to it.

So there you have it; a beautiful quilt measuring  146cm x 177cm.  One that any girly girl would love.

A Christmas quilt

My sister-in-law has been going through some difficult times of late.  Not eating properly and little sleep doesn’t help either.  For the times you can’t be there in person, a quilt shows you care by providing comfort and warmth.  When wrapped in a handmade quilt you really are surrounded by love and Christmas is the perfect time to give a gift of love.  

My sister-in-law loves autumnal colours and this Honeysweet collection by Fig Tree and Co contained all the colours she loves best.  The reds and greens also look suitably Christmassy.  

The pattern is from Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott.  It is an easy design to put together and I love the way the blocks create an optical illusion, appearing to float in the background fabric.  

A cherry fabric from the Eden collection by Nel Whatmore was used for the backing and a stylised flower design was chosen for the long arm quilting.  

The binding fabric is from the Honeysweet collection.  I couldn’t source this one in the UK and ended up ordering it from the USA.  I’m glad that I made the effort to find it as it tones perfectly with the Cherries fabric.  Being a perfectionist has its benefits.

My sister-in-law loved her quilt.  All of it.  She loved the colours and the design.  She loved the soft feel of it.  She loved the cosiness and warmth.  As soon as she pulled the quilt out of its wrapping, she curled up in the armchair, pulled the quilt over her and fell asleep for an hour.  The healing has begun.