Seven Sisters – a leftover challenge

April 16, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | 4 Comments

Last year, our quilt group went away for a weekend retreat for the very first time, and we managed it so everybody could come! To mark the occasion, one of our members, who tends to end up with all the leftover material for our raffle quilts, collected all the leftovers, made 14 nice packages out of them, and we drew lots to choose from the packages. I got a pretty early number, and from all the packages still there at that time, here’s what I chose:

Seven Sisters - the Leftovers

I immediately fell in love with the paper-pieced stars and the colour scheme. But, what to do with them? The challenge was to use our package to make something for this year’s exhibition, coming up in November. After a while of having the pieces laid out and thinking back and forth, I decided to make a tablerunner. I’d have to add a few stars and quite a bit of background, and I was lucky again that the same friend who set the challenge still has about half a bolt of the background fabric, so I could get some from her. Otherwise I’d have had to be very creative. As it was, it just was quite a bit of work, since I wanted to mix the differently coloured stars up, so I needed to disassemble the blocks first before I could sew them together again. I learnt quite a few tricks about English paper piecing that way – and the fact that there are quilters that sew so densely that it’s almost impossible to get the pieces apart again, while with others you just have to look at the seam sternly and it will fall apart on its own.

So, here’s the table runner ready for this year’s exhibition (I even already attached a tunnel):

Seven Sisters - Finished Tablerunner

I decided to quilt spirals in the dark hexagons, so the stars could pop out even more:

Seven Sisters - Detail with Quilting

Oh, and you’re interested in how the original raffle quilt looked like? I was as well, since this quilt was from 2005, when I wasn’t yet involved with this group. It took quite a while, but after repeated asking one of the members found a picture she took back then, so here it is, and you can see exactly where my leftovers came from:

Seven Sisters - Original Raffle Quilt (2005)

Scrapbox management

March 19, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Posted in Patchwork | 2 Comments

Reading about Kate’s efforts at scrap management, I got inspired to have a look at my own, much smaller scrap collection. Being somewhat in need of a new handwork-in-front-of-TV project, I decided to see how many 1-inch-hexies I could create out of the contents. Turns out not as many as I thought. Here’s the box after emptying out, with everything that wasn’t going to become hexies lying around it:

empty scrapbox

On the left side, there’s a small pile of solids that doesn’t belong in there, since I do have another scrap bag just for solids. On top, a few pieces that are pretty much big and coherent enough to count as fabric, even though they live in the scrap box. And that big pile on the right, pretty much everything that’s too small to cut a 1-inch-hexie out of it. Also some non-patchwork fabrics, and some black and white stuff that I didn’t want to include in the rainbow of hexies I was planning.

Looks like it’s still going to fill the box, and it did. The pieces I did pull out became this:

scrap hexies

Hexies in all the colours of the rainbow. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them yet. The plan is to make more, keep them sorted by colour and maybe use them for some colour exploration or smallish projects. Since a hexie turns out to be pretty big for most of my scraps, I may also continue cutting rhombs for baby blocks out of the fabric left over. Lots of geometric forms to play with!

If you want to create your own EPP templates for hexies, baby blocks, triangles and more, I recommend the graph paper generator that I also link from my sidebar, so I can find the link whenever I need it. Very useful tool!

Progress on this may slow down now that winter sports TV season is pretty much over, but that also means that spring is on the way and it’s time to find inspiration outside.



A Year of Quilting

November 12, 2016 at 10:03 am | Posted in Patchwork | 5 Comments

Last weekend saw the yearly exhibition of my quilt group, where we show off everything we’ve created over the past year. Seeing everything hanging together, I’m always impressed by what everybody manages to do over the space of a year.

So I think this is a good time to look at my contribution for this year’s exhibition. Turns out, even though it doesn’t feel like that much, I did get things done.

First, the group projects. Every year, we make a quilt to raffle away for charity at the show. For quite a few years now, we decide on next year’s quilt during this year’s show, and then get together on the 6th of January to sew the top. It generally takes the rest of the year to add the borders, get the quilt professionally long-arm-quilted and add the binding. Here’s the result a lucky visitor won last weekend:


When the top was finished, we had one left-over block, which I used to make a pillow cover to go with the quilt:


Then there’s the yearly challenge project, where everybody gets the same constraints to make a 40*40 cm quilt. I already wrote about my contribution, and here’s the whole panel with everybody’s quilts:


And of course, I had my own quilts at the show.

Rainbow: Gravity


Looks like I haven’t posted a picture of the finished quilt yet, but there are a couple of relevant posts here and here.

Mexican Bird


There’s a whole pile of previous posts regarding this project:

  1. Getting started
  2. Paint by Numbers
  3. Adding hand embroidery
  4. Some decision making
  5. Documenting the Project

Looks like I’ve also been a better blogger than I thought! I think it’s good to occasionally look back at the things that did get done, especially with a hobby where things generally proceed at a glacial pace. Hope you enjoyed the little visit to our show!


After the Finish – Documenting the Project

September 18, 2016 at 7:19 am | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | 3 Comments

So, once a quilt is finished, in this case my Mexican Bird, the work tends to be almost, but not quite completely done. At that point of time my worktable tends to be a mess: left-over fabric, design sketches, photographs I’ve been working from, and samples all lying around. There’s way too much work in there to throw it all away, and those are the physical artefacts of making this particular quilt. So, what do I do with all that stuff?

First, the samples:


They still have raw edges that need to be cleaned up, which I take care of with zig-zagging around the whole thing. To put them away in a folder, I take a strip of strong cardboard, fold it in half and catch the sample beween the layers, attaching the cardboard to the fabric with enough space to punch a couple of holes in the cardboard:


Now I collect all the paper, sorting out what I want to keep:


There’s the photograph I took, the original tracing on transparent paper, and the smaller copies of that I used for working out the colours and other details.

All of this goes into an A3 folder, where it lives happily ever after together with all the other finished projects.


I’m now free to clean everything else away and start with whatever’s next!

Flowers – and an Eye

August 20, 2016 at 8:08 am | Posted in Embroidery, Patchwork | 5 Comments

I have finished embroidering the French knots on my Mexican Bird project, and was wondering if the flowers need a little extra as well. In the original painting, the pink flowers have a white highlight in each petal:


Since I painted the petals with a flat pink, maybe I should try to recreate this in embroidery? So I took my sample and started to experiment:

Mexican Bird - Test embroidered flower

From left to right:

  1. Nested chain stitches – doesn’t scale large enough
  2. Outlined in backstitch, then worked over with a horizontal satin stitch. Visually the right effect, but too heavy and way too slow to stitch.
  3. A bunch of straight stitches – not strong enough for me
  4. A dense herringbone stitch – going in the right direction
  5. Back to chain stitch, working them close and opening them up, I think this looks best visually.
  6. Another try for something similar with a feather stitch variation, not dense enough I think.

So, if I’m doing anything, it would have to be with number 5. Since the colouring is a bit different on the real quilt, I decided to try this out on one flower:

Mexican Bird - tryout for flower

I saw that it’s very hard to get a consistent form out of this, and looking from a distance, the effect just isn’t there against that pretty light pink background. In conclusion, I decided that putting in all the work needed to fill all the flowers wouldn’t make enough of a difference to the impact of the quilt to be worth it. I took the sample stitches out and called the quilt finished.

Oh, not quite finished! My bird’s still missing an eye! I had decided very early on that the eye is the perfect size for a spangle and bead solution, so now I just had to figure out the colour. Diving into my bead stash, I tried out different possibilities:

I’ve made my choice – which one would you choose?

Finished? – Not quite!

July 17, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Embroidery, Patchwork, Quilting | 5 Comments

My Mexican Bird project is progressing nicely. In fact, I took a picture a couple of weeks ago that I could easily sell as the finished quilt:

Mexican Bird with Binding

The machine quilting is finished, and a nice pink binding added, but I’m not quite there. If you look at the picture of the painting this is inspired by, there’s lots of white highlights:


I’ve added the tiny feathery lines with machine quilting before binding the quilt, and I’m now working on the stronger lines in some of the leaves and the dots between the stems and the leaves:


The spiral on the leaf is worked in chain stitch, the dots are done in French knots. Here’s another area where you can see both:


While the effect is subtle when seen from a distance, I think it really makes a difference, here’s an area where the dots are still missing for comparison:


I’m also thinking about highlighting the centres of the petals of the pink flowers, since they are a bit flat currently. Lots of TV stitching ahead!

Mexican Bird – Paint by Numbers

June 5, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | 7 Comments

I’ve got quite a few pictures to show you, but very little blogging time at the moment. I’ve been busy on the Mexican Bird Project, though, with what turned out to be a case of “Paint by Numbers”.

So, here’s a gallery of progress pictures going from a sketch on fabric to a quilted and painted piece. Sorry for the wonky and occasionally blurry pictures – the lighting conditions were not always ideal.

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I ended up using the Inktense blocks like watercolours, which gives the quilt the impression of being painted rather than drawn, which I like. I managed to get away with very little bleeding, after being worried about that with my samples.

Currently I’m adding the quilting that goes on top of the paint, and then I’ll need to pick the right colour for the binding.


Mexican Bird – New Project!

March 28, 2016 at 9:10 am | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | 2 Comments

It is almost a tradition by now that my patchwork group uses a couple of days on the long Easter weekend for sewing. Having finished my challenge project for this year, I needed something new to take along. A couple of things came together to create the idea for this one:

First, I got a set of Inktense blocks from my quilting friends as a birthday present. Not generally being somebody who uses paint of any kind on her quilts, I was a bit stumped what to use them for.

Second, I have a couple of beautiful folk art paintings from South America on my living room wall, and a couple of weeks ago my mom remarked (not for the first time) that one of them would make a beautiful quilt:


I agree with the suitablity of this one for a quilt, but wouldn’t want to appliqué all those bits and pieces, and what about those feathers? So when my mom brought this up again a couple of weeks ago, things suddenly clicked. This would be a perfect opportunity to try out my Inktense blocks! There would be some challenges involved, for sure, but I can easily imagine for this to make a very effective quilt. So, I spent most of the weekend making some samples:


Most of the shapes on the original painting are outlined with a dark colour, and I choose to quilt the outlines with dark grey thread. I also got myself a set of Inktense pencils in addition to the blocks, so I would be able to draw finer lines. You can see the lines below the quilting on the frame on the left side of the sample. When dry, Inktense acts a lot like pencil, but to fixate it and bring out the beautiful colours, it must be made wet. When you’re not careful, this can lead to bleeding, which you can most clearly see on the blue shape on the left.

I decided to try to recreate the white shading on the blue leaves and the structure of the feathers by quilting heavily on top of the finished colour field, and I quite like the effect. The colour underneath the white quilted feather is a bit weak on this sample to bring out the quilting nicely, though.

I finished all the painting first on this sample before starting to quilt. In order to possibly contain the bleeding a bit better and to try out a few more things, I created a second sample:


Here I put the grey quilt lines in first, and painted on top of the already quilted piece. My thoughts were that the quilt lines would possibly form a natural barrier for the bleeding, and the batting would soak up some of the water instead of it spreading out into the fabric. This mostly worked, and I like the effect. There’s only a little bit of strong bleeding on the brown twigs at the top. This sample showed me another potential problem, though. The white quilting on the blue leaf on the left suddenly isn’t white anymore, it’s blue! Looks like I need to be very careful to properly fix the pigment into the fabric before quilting on top of it, especially when using white thread. It also matters how much paint I use and in which way: painting with the Inktense sticks on already wet fabric gives a strong colour, but a higher tendency for bleeding out and the necessity to use even more water to fixate the paint.

So, definitely more adventure ahead when making the full quilt, but I have a much better idea now what to be careful of. I have now transferred the whole pattern to the fabric and am currently basting the quilt – it’ll be a few days before I can show much progress!

Challenge 2016 – Let’s go to the Fun Fair!

March 19, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Patchwork | 4 Comments

It’s a tradition by now that our quilt group does a challenge every year for our exhibition. Coming up with themes and fabrics doesn’t get any easier, so this year’s was a bit unusual. Here’s the fabrics we had to use, sorry for completely forgetting to take a “before” picture, so you’ll have to make do with the scraps:


The light green fabric isn’t a traditional patchwork fabric, but a waxed cloth like you’d use for a tablecloth that you can clean easily. The red was selected as a contrast colour for this, and there was a big green bead as well.

With this as a starting point, the result was sure to be very different from last year’s challenge quilt:


The green fabric reminded me of one of those pretty balloons that are for sale at fun fairs, and from there I came to the idea to create an image of the fun fair by night. I used lots of beads and sequins to try and capture all the blinking lights. Here’s a detail of the Ferris Wheel, so you can see the beading a bit better:


As always, I’m trying to make those challenge quilts with materials I already own, as an added constraint. I was pretty good with this one, I think I only bought the dark green sequins specifically for this project.

All the Colours of the Rainbow

January 23, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Posted in Embroidery, Patchwork | 3 Comments

I am currently in the process of finishing a project that has been in the works for more than two years. It’s the second in a series that I started after taking a course with Ruth Issett at the Schwäbischer Kunstsommer at Kloster Irsee in 2013. While looking for the post about the first quilt in that series I realized that I didn’t actually ever post a picture of that quilt, and neither have I shown you the things I created at that course! That definitely needs to be rectified. So let’s start with that series I wanted to show you.

The course was named The Puzzle of Colour, and given that title it was no surprise that we discussed the different colours and played with them all week. After returning home, I was full of more ideas to try out, and started to create the bits and pieces needed for this quilt:


You can see that the different rows run through the colours of the rainbow. I layered two adjacent colours on top of each other, created a pattern with running stitches and then cut into the upper layer to reveal bits of the layer below. You can see this a bit better in this detail shot, although I have to admit that this quilt refused to be photographed nicely:


Within the individual rows, the pattern gets larger from left to right. After I finished this quilt, I immediately started to work on another one. This time I was going to explore how the different colours look like with a light, medium and dark background. While it is still a work in progress, the effect is already there:


The coloured fabric is layered horizontally behind the white, grey and black front, and the circles are cut out. While I secured the edges with the sewing machine before cutting them out, this is still basically raw-edge appliqué, and I tidied up those edges with different embroidery stitches. This ended up as another research project, since I tried out many different stitches to see what would work in that function, and what wouldn’t. I’ll go into more detail on my findings in another post. For starters, here’s a close-up of the very first square I embroidered on that quilt:


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