My Splendid Sampler Quilt Finale!!

Last night I was doing a happy dance round my sewing room! I have finally finished my Splendid Sampler Quilt, it’s been quite a journey, pushing me out of my comfort zone, but I did it!!

For those of you who haven’t been reading my posts for long, this journey styarted in February last year. Pat Sloan is a quilt and fabric designer and a fantastic teacher, she has a brilliant website and facebook page, she organised the Splendid Sampler quilt with Jane Davidson as a quilt-a-long. Over 80 designers from around the world each designed a 6″ block and every Sunday and Thursday a new pattern would be released, 100 blocks in total.

There were all sorts of designs and new techniques to learn. I didn’t know anything about foundation paper piecing before, the first time I did it I couldn’t get my head round it at all, without the support of the facebook group and the designers, I would have struggled at times, but there was always someone there with a bit of advice and encouragement. There are applique blocks, pieced blocks, embroidered blocks, foundation paper piecing and English paper piecing, big squares, tiny squares, folded squares.

One thing I think I got better at was choosing my fabrics, there are some blocks that just don’t work, too busy or not enough contrast, other blocks positively sing! The advantage of 6″ blocks is that it does encourage you to just have a go, what’s the worst that can happen! You’re not committing lots of fabric and time to a design or technique you might not like, on the other hand you might find you love a new technique, like I did (eventually!) with foundation paper piecing.

Some of my favourite blocks!

The facebook page was great, lots of support and tips, for example I’d never heard of furling seams before, but it makes a much neater block. Everyone posted photos of their blocks and it was amazing seeing how different the blocks looked in different colourways. There were some amazingly creative quilters too who kept to the design whilst making it their own, one lady incorporated beautiful appliqued geese onto the blocks, another was making it a Christmas quilt, so blocks became Santas and snowmen etc. There were a few very talented embroiderers who just put a little bit of exquisite embroidery on each block. There were a few who you looked forward to seeing their blocks each week as they were so beautiful. The camaraderie was (and still is) great! Many people are just starting their quilts so if anyone fancy’s making their own Splendid Sampler quilt, Pat and Jane are publishing a book with all the designs in, so you can do it in your own time.

I decided fairly early on to use quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) which was another new technique to me, as I wanted to quilt each block according to the design, rather than a random allover pattern. It would also have been rather a big quilt for me to have managed on my machine. I started sashing the blocks in early summer and started quilting soon after. Half the blocks have an ivory pattern fabric backing and the other half have a variety of pretty fabrics. I was hot and cold on this idea pretty much as soon as I had started it, but once committed I had to continue, it caused a few headaches when I was arranging the blocks, but I love the chequerboard back now.

I still had quite a few unquilted in February when I finished the last block but at least I was nearly there. Some blocks are quilted in the ditch, others with free-motion quilting, I did notice that there was definitely a correlation between how much I liked the block and how adventurous I was with the quilting – I think the blocks I really like I was scared of spoiling them with the quilting, when I wasn’t too bothered about them I tried all sorts of different quilting patterns! It’s taken me about a month to finish all the quilting and stitch it all together. I had a few disagreements with my sewing machine whilst I worked out which bit it didn’t like, but we made friends in the end!

I didn’t spend too much time trying to arrange the blocks, mainly as it was a bit too overwhelming having 100 to choose from. In the end I chose 16, half with ivory backs and half with a variety of patterns, I tried to have a selection of types, embroidered, appliqued etc as I didn’t want say, all the appliqued blocks to end up in the same area. I stitched those together and then moved on to the next 16. The only two blocks I placed in a specific place was my label block in the bottom right hand corner and the selvage block just above it as I thought that one made a nice record of a lot of the fabrics I used.

It’s been an amazing quilt to work on, it’s been a pretty intensive year trying to keep up with the block releases and it has seemed to take over a bit. However much they say work at your own speed it’s not a race, I did try and more or less keep up, mainly because I desperately didn’t want it to end up as a UFO! At the beginning I thought the name Splendid Sampler was a bit odd, but I can see now that the quilt is a sampler in the true sense of the word as it showcases so many different techniques. I loved making it but I’m glad I’ve finished it as I’m ready to move on to something else now, there’s a few clothes I need to make…oh and two quilts by the end of May!

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Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

It’s amazing the difference a little bit of sunshine makes. We’ve just had a lovely weekend, chilly mornings due to the clear skies,but lots of sunshine. I managed a couple of hours tidying up in the garden in between glossing skirting boards!

I finally got round to trimming the membrane underneath the pebbles in my planter corner, I’ve sorted my pots a bit too, I can’t arrange the properly yet as next-door still need access to that corner, but at least I’ve got a nice view from our arbour for my morning cup of coffee.

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The rose tree that grows over the arbour is just coming into leaf, they’re a beautiful shade of red, especially with the sun behind them.

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I moved Hubert the Heron back to his place overlooking the pond. We usually move him a bit nearer the house for the winter as the back is quite exposed with a gate to a footpath, but everything will soon be greening up.

Daphne the Duck has a new place too by the daffodils. I made all these wire sculptures at workshops run by Susan Nichols, some were through the WI, others I went to her workshop in Fridaythorpe, I’ve made a goose and a chicken too. I rather fancy making an owl next to sit on top of my obelisk.

The trees are just starting to come into leaf, in the sunshine you could just see a shimmer of new leaves at the top of the trees, really pretty. It won’t be long before it’s all green again.

Hopefully we’ll have a few dry days now so I can get out into the garden a bit in between decorating jobs!

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Mothers Day Gift

Apologies if this is a bit of a proud Mum post!!

My 19 year old daughter Helen is in Uni at the moment but she came home for Mothers Day weekend. She gave me the most beautiful present, I’m so pleased with it. Her stitching is so neat and according to her boyfriend she spent forever choosing the buttons in John Lewis’s.

I think handmade presents are so special as you’ve given so much of your time and thoughts in creating a gift.

Linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday.

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Mothers Day

Here in the UK it’s Mothering Sunday today, or Mothers Day as it is usually called these days. My mum is in her 80’s and her birthday is in a few days time as well, so you do get to the point of wondering what to buy…

A few weeks a go I saw a post from Faby Reily on Facebook about her lavender card, it was perfect for Mothers Day, even better, if I didn’t get it finished for Mother’s Day it would suffice a few days later for her birthday!

I’ve managed to finish it, together with her present, a lavender sachet from the same range…

I really like these designs by Faby Reilly, I’ve stitched a few of her patterns now. I love the way she uses lots of different stitches and how the back-stitch outline doesn’t necessarily follow the line of the cross-stitch, the eye sees what it wants to see. This design uses cross-stitch, eyelet stitch, tied cross-stitch, french knots together with a few Mill Hill beads to add a bit of sparkle.

I stitched the card first, the main trauma was stitching the writing, mainly because my eyesight is not what it was! The letters are stitched in ‘petite stitches’ otherwise known as MINI cross-stitches, these are stitched over a single thread, they do give a lovely smooth script. I particularly liked the french knots on top of the cross-stitches of the lavender, it gives like a 3D effect. I decided to make the card up like I did for our Wedding Anniversary card (Sweet Roses) I backed the embroidery with some felt and then found a decorative paper that co-ordinated beautifully.

I stitched the lavender bag next, the chart is very easy to follow and clear, but I’ve decided I’m no good at long distance counting!…

I stitched the front and back and then started pressing the sides under as per instructions. This is when I realised the sides of the front and back missed by two stitches! I worked out in the end that my error had been between the lavender and the butterfly. When I counted from the butterfly to determine the height of the trim round the top, I was two out before I started…it was time to reacquaint myself with my stitch ripper! I decided to stitch one seam together before I tried to re-stitch the border rows, I was still one stitch out as for some reason I’ve got two rows on the left and three rows on the right between the blue line and the border!!

Faby has tutorials on her website on how to make everything up, including the lavender sachet. The sachet is made up by whip stitching the back-stitch outline, it gives a really crisp finish, I add lavender mill hill beads every fifth stitch, I also used the same beads to make the ribbon holders. I threaded a flower charm onto the ribbon as a finishing touch.

Faby Reilly Design

I gave it my mum this morning and she loved both the card and the sachet, as a needlewoman herself she appreciates the work that went into it, she laughed when I gave her a photo-frame too so she can frame the card, I told her it took me too long not to get framed!!

I’m linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, why not follow the link and have a look what everyone else has been stitching.

 

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So near and yet so far!

…and don’t quilt when you’ve just had a couple of hours broken sleep after a night shift!!!

We’ve had workmen in this week putting new floors down and now new doors and skirting, I decided to keep out of their way in my sewing room and try and finish my Splendid Sampler quilt. Everything was going swimmingly, I quilted and trimmed the last few blocks and stitched the blocks into 4’s and then 4 blocks of 16 squares.

I’ve made things slightly more complicated for myself by deciding months ago to have a variety of pretty cottons on the back, ever since I started this I’ve been hot and cold on the idea, but once I’d started, I had to carry on. Luckily I love the back now! In the end I backed half the blocks with the pretty fabric and used a simple ivory pattern for the rest, so I could do a chequer board on the back.

I found it quite difficult to arrange the blocks, this is where I could really do with a design board, there was just too many and I knew I couldn’t leave it laid out anywhere whilst I sewed it. In the end I just chose eight ivory backed blocks and eight patterned ones (of at least four different patterns) and arranged those, then moved on to the next sixteen. I did try to have a mixture of embroidered, pieced and applique too. I found it quite hard keeping track of which ones had plain backs and which ones patterned. In the end I pinned all the patterned ones with one of my big flowerheaded pins, that helped enormously.

I was cracking on nicely over the last few days, machine-stitching the joining strip on and hand stitching the back strip down. I did a night shift on Wednesday night and although I went to bed the next morning, what with drills, saws and hammers it was a very disturbed four hours sleep. I then decided to do something nice and gentle, my quilt! At 10pm last night I thought I was winning, I just had three big seams left to do…and then I turned it over!! ARGGHH!!!

I guess I’ve got a date with my stitch ripper tonight!

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Hands 2 Help Quilt Challenge

“What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.”
It’s that time of year again! Hands2Help Quilt Challenge is now in it’s 7th year and it will be my third year of making a charity quilt. It’s organised by Sarah from Confessions of a Fabric Addict and each year there is a choice of three charities to choose from, two in America and one in Canada, however you can also choose your own charity if you wish. Last year 194 quilts were donated, Sarah also very kindly offers to help those of us from outside the US by quilting any top sent over, to save on postage.
This year I’m being a bit rash and hoping to donate two quilts, mainly because my mum was having a clear out and found a quilt top she’d never finished, she was happy for me to donate it to Hands2Help, so I’ll send that one over to Sarah for quilting.
I’m also planning to make one for ‘Emyr Owen’ Latch charity. Latch is a Welsh charity which supports families of children with cancer, looking after their social and welfare needs as well as their emotional needs. Latch were a huge support to a friend of mine when her son Emyr was diagnosed with cancer. After his death they very bravely (I thought) set up a local branch of Latch to help support other families. In particular they’ve managed to raise enough to buy a holiday home for families to use, to give them a bit of a break in difficult times. I contacted Sandra to see if a quilt would be any use to them, she immediately replied that they have a big charity auction at the end of May, so I’m aiming to have it ready for then!
If you’d like to join in the Hands2Help challenge, just follow the link to Confessions of a Fabric Addict and  sign up.
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Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

It’s officially the first day of spring today and despite a few wet days, it is finally beginning to feel like spring! I had a wander round our garden today and although it is in desperate need of a tidy up, there’s quite a bit of colour out there.

I’ve been getting somewhat despondent with the garden over the last month as I’ve been so busy trying to sort the house out I haven’t had chance to get in the garden at all, so it does need a seriously big tidy up. It doesn’t help that next-door are changing the boundary fence, so there’s areas I can’t tidy up until they’ve finished, although I have to say, what they’ve done so far is looking very nice. I’ve already told them I’ll be growing lots of climbers up it! I’m also completely redesigning a large area and I’m about half way through clearing it, I have organised for some young muscles to come and help which should make a big difference.

Daffodils always make a garden look springy, I’ve got big ones and little ones, I find the little ones stand up to the weather much better, I’ve also got quite a few highly scented ones, the perfume wafts around the garden.

The first camellia flower came out today, it’s alovely soft red colour, what I think might be called carmine red. I’ve bought a couple more camellias this year on Otley market as they do seem to like our soil. The magnolia stellata is just about to come into flower, it’s one of my favourite shrubs in the garden, it looks fabulous when it’s in full flower. I’ve a miniature flowering cherry too, it’s only about 12″ tall, so you can imagine how tiny the flowers are, it’s very pretty and delicate.

I’ve three hellebores near the pond with lots of flowers on, they’re not easy to photograph as all the blooms point downwards, so I literally pointed the camera upwards from underneath and hoped for the best, I think they’ve come out pretty well.

Jack Frost Brunnera

A few years ago I bought a Jack Frost Brunnera at the Harrogate show, it’s done really well and the foliage is just appearing now, it is covered with forget-me-not type flowers in early summer. Pulmonaria self seed themselves all over the garden, they get a bit tatty late in the season but the flowers are really pretty at the moment.

Pulmonaria

We’ve got lots of workmen coming in over the next few days, so I’m hoping to be able to escape into the garden for a bit, weather permitting, if not I think I’ll have a potter in my sewing room…

Garden in March

 

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Handmade Cards

Doesn’t time fly when you’re happy! It’s our tenth wedding anniversary tomorrow, we’re celebrating with a weekend in the Lakes, staying near Ullswater. After all the disruption at home it will be wonderful to escape for a couple of days for a bit of walking.

I decided a few weeks ago to make a special card and when the Sweet Roses card by Faby Reilly popped up on facebook I ordered the pattern immediately. The sentiments are perfect for the occasion.

Faby Reilly Design

I stitched it fairly quickly and then this week I made it up into a card. Faby has excellent tutorials on her website about making up all the cross-stitch items she designs, cards included. I backed it with a square of felt but I felt it needed a bit more, probably because my card was a little on the big side and I haven’t got any fancy scissors to make my felt look pretty! I found some decorative papers and cut squares using my die cutter, it just lifts it a bit. I added the ribbon down the side and a little heart button. I’m really pleased with it, we’ll probably frame it afterwards.

Next weekend it’s Mothering Sunday, so I’ve stitched another of Faby’s designs,the Lavender card. I love lavender and I’m hoping to finish the co-ordinating lavender bag to go with the card. I’ve stitched the card, I’ve just got to mount it.

It’s a lovely design, I love how Faby uses lots of different stitches, there’s eyelet stitch, tied long cross-stitches and TINY cross-stitches for the lettering – it tested my eyes but it does give a lovely effect. I particularly liked the french knots on the lavender sprigs, it gives a sort of 3D effect. I’m tempted to give my mum a picture frame as well so she can frame it afterwards as there was a lot of work in this card!

I’ve just started stitching the lavender bag so I will hopefully get it finished for Sunday, if not she will get it for her birthday three days later!

 

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Tealed with a Kiss

It’s not as easy as it looks to design your own quilt block!!

I wanted to make one more block for Kate Chiconia’s Tealed with a Kiss quilt, it’s going to raise money for ovarian cancer charities, hence the teal colour as that is the colour that represents ovarian cancer, a bit like pink for breast cancer.

With my first block I’d struggled to find teal coloured fabrics in the local shops, so when I went to the Harrogate quilt show it was something I was keeping my eye out for. I ended up with five potential fabrics.

The 12.5″ block needed to have a X incorporated in the design and my initial idea was to do two large log cabin blocks, cut them in half diagonally and then rearrange to make a cross shape. I drew it out on paper, however I decided I preferred to have squares in the centre with log cabin borders going outwards. In the end I decided to make four squares using a sort of log cabin, stitch them with the cross in the middle and then trim. OK it meant wasting the other half of the triangle, but I can save them to use another time.

Trimming the squares

I measured diagonally across the squares, added another strip and then thought it was big enough. I stitched the squares together with the ivory X, unfortunately I didn’t allow extra fabric at the end of my strips for the corners, I was still in log cabin mode!!

When I came to trim it two of the corners were short!. I debated whether to put another border round the whole block, but in the end I decided to add a triangle to the corner of each block, it might be that after quilting the corners are trimmed off and disappear, if not at least they all match!

Both squares are going in the post tomorrow, flying off to Australia, hoping they look OK with all the others! It looks really blue in the photo below, but it is teal coloured, I promise! I’ll keep all my teal fabrics together so next year I can be a bit more organised.

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Stitch-a-long 8

It’s three weeks since I last posted photos of my flower lattice, this is what it looked like then;

Since then I’ve spent a morning at Embroiderers Guild and an evening at home working on it. It’s surprising how quickly it grows once I concentrate on it, I think there is an element of procrastinating when flowers look hard as it’s all pretty new to me and I don’t want to spoil it, I keep putting it off until it’s nearly time to post and then wonder what all the worry was about!

At Embroiderers guild I embroidered the basket. I’m really pleased with the main one, even though I’ve realised this evening that I’ve not done the stitch quite right, I prefer my version! It’s created with whipped spider web stitches. The thread is basically woven with something a bit like a half hitch knot along a framework of threads, so it only goes through the fabric at each end. I couldn’t work out how to do it in reverse to go back again, so I started at the same side each time. The stitch is meant to have knot lines down each thread whereas mine looks more like a basket.

The final bit of stitching is my favourite, the ladybird. Isn’t it cute! The body is stitched with padded satin stitch, which means there’s an outline of stem-stitch and a few french knots underneath it to help give it a bit of body, a 3D effect. I put three black french knots on top as our ladybirds often have seven dots altogether, three on each side and one on the top. I think there’s a few ladybirds in the design so I’ll enjoy stitching those.

The daffodils are stitched with ribbon with french knots for the centre. The pattern calls for a soft mink coloured ribbon, I didn’t have anything similar so I decided to go for proper daffodil yellow, it stands up well against my tiger lilies anyway.

 

I’ve finished three blocks now, the next one is called ‘Agapanthus, hollyhocks, delphiniums & beetle daisies’ It’s a really pretty block so I’m looking forward to stitching this one. Just to give you an idea of scale, the sides of the diamonds are about 3.5″.

There’s quite a few of us taking part in the stitch-a-long now. It’s organised by Avis, so if you fancy joining in just drop her a line. There’s some beautiful projects being stitched so please have a look what everyone else is creating. We’re all different time scales so if there’s nothing there do have a look later.

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