I made a quilt. And it’s huge.

I think I’ve said before much I enjoy cold and wet Sunday afternoons snuggled up watching episodes of Poirot. Back in London I’d make a little fort on the sofa with my favourite blanket, surrounding myself with drinks, snacks and the remote. I was cosy. It was ace. But we had to leave the blanket behind when we moved to America. We’ve made do with the duvet since then, but dragging it between the sofa and the bed is a ballache. We definitely needed a new one, so I thought I’d give quilting a bash. That was back in April. Fast forward six or seven months and I’ve only just finished it. So what took me so long?

On the bed landscape

Snuggly on the sofa, snuggly on the bed, too. 

Let’s go back to the beginning. I started work on it not long after we moved into our apartment. I found a simple yet striking large-scale gingham design on Pinterest which would scale up easily enough and could be made in solid colours. No faffing about with fussy shapes, tiny squares or print matching. It took me a couple of sessions to cut out and piece the squares together, and I miscalculated my fabric requirements a little and needed to jigsaw a couple of squares together. Though if I do say so myself, I’ve done a really good job with the piecing. I managed to get the corners pretty precise, so I’m feeling kinda smug.

Couch and cushions

I made those cushions from the scraps from the quilt. I’ve got some place mats to finish as well so my living/dining room will be completely matchy-matchy. 

Summer quilting hiatus

Once I’d finished the top and the backing things kind of ground to a halt. It was starting to get really warm in Seattle and I found I couldn’t face the idea of swathing myself in a quilt just for the sake of a finished project. So it sat in the cupboard for a couple of months, until I joined the Make It Happen group at Drygoods Design. MIH is like guided studio time – you work on what you want but there’s an expert, Julienne, on hand to help you with anything you need, whether it’s pants fitting or binding your first quilt. I’ll mainly use my time there for sewing clothes, but I wanted an excuse to get this quilt done.

Couch and cushions and backing

You can see the backing a bit better here. I bought all the fabric and the batting at JoAnn in Ballard. 

So that’s what I did! The first thing I did was to make the quilt sandwich, which was a task in itself. I had help to safety pin everything together, but I still ended up with a blister on my finger! Then I had a couple of sessions of wrestling it through a machine to quilt it. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy, so I just went for straight lines on either side of the seams. This meant I didn’t have to mark anything on the quilt itself as I could just use the seam and a walking foot as the guides, and concentrate on the bulk. I quilted the entire thing on a standard machine, so getting it through the gap was an ordeal. I rolled it up into a sausage and worked my way out from the middle, so it would get easier as I went along, but those first few lines were a killer.

Lesson learned

By the time I’d finished quilting, I was completely over making it. It had already taken three MIH sessions plus some solo studio time, and I just wanted it done. But I had a small problem – I hadn’t taken into account that the backing had to be a bit bigger than the top on all sides to allow for shifting when quilting. It wasn’t even, so I had to trim off a bit from the two long sides so the backing looked vaguely presentable – it still had the selvedges on it, which I didn’t want to show. It means that the front is a little weird, but I’m not too fussed – something to remember for next time, though.

On the bed close up

Anyway, the last part was binding. I made several miles-worth of bias binding, looked up this useful tutorial for getting nice, neat corners and wonderclipped it all up. Because of the size of the quilt and my impatience, I machined the whole thing by stitching in the ditch. In hindsight I probably should have done it all by hand because I ended up with a bunch of gaps that didn’t quite make it and I had to handstitch them anyway (and it’s a nicer effect). However, I was so desperate to wrap myself up in it that I’m ultimately not that bothered. I know – I could have wrapped myself up in it WHILE handstitching, but that’s beside the point.

It’s not perfect, and I’ve learned a lot on this project. But I am kinda proud of myself for seeing this one through to the end and I’m so pleased with the overall effect. I doubt I’ll ever make a quilt this big ever again, but I might have a go at a baby quilt sometime soon. As always, one of my friends is currently pregnant, so it might be a suitable gift… Anyway, now that it’s cooler here, this quilt is coming into its own. Chris and I have been enjoying it on the sofa, and if it gets really cold it looks really nice on the bed too. The only trouble is, it looks like Netflix have removed Poirot from their list. WHAT AM I TO DO?

On the bed


On the cutting table: May

I’ll be honest. Right now, I’d rather be outside. Seattle is gorgeous today – the sun’s out and it’s so warm that I’ve even got my legs out. I want to be out and about enjoying it, but Chris saw fit to swipe my keys this morning and I am stuck in the flat till he gets back this evening. Blogging it is.

I’ve got a small backlog of makes, but since they all need to be photographed let’s chat about my sewing plans for this month instead! As American bureaucracy is forcing me to be a lady of leisure, I think I can manage four projects this month:

I’ve been promising myself for ages that I’d make myself a basic, multi-purpose white shirt. I finally found the perfect medium-weight cotton shirting in District Fabrics (my new local fabric shop) so I’m getting on with making the Sew Over It Ultimate Shirt. It’s already half-finished, but I made a mistake with the sleeves that I haven’t corrected yet. Tomorrow’s job will be to get it finished!

Part of my Me Made May pledge was to finally do something with the sand washed silk that’s been sitting in my stash for the best part of a year. After seeing Leigh’s gorgeous version, I’ve plumped for the Alex shirt dress from the Sew Over It City Break ebook. I’m just wondering if I have enough fabric now – the pattern calls for 3m, and I have 2m, but I managed to eke my shirt version out of much less than the recommended length…

Sandwashed silk

This doesn’t do justice to the colour. It’s more of a petrol blue.

Continuing my Sew Over It fangirling, I’m going to make the Vintage Shirt Dress for a friend’s wedding next month. I don’t have any fabric for this yet, but I’m looking forward to scouring the fabric shops of Seattle to find something. District Fabric is lovely, but there’s another good one in Capitol Hill and one in Queen Anne that I haven’t tapped yet. I feel a tour coming on!


My last Vintage Shirt Dress. Can’t wait to wear this one again.

Finally, I’m halfway through a mammoth quilt, inspired by this one I found on Pinterest. I’ve done the top so far, and since it’s queen-sized, I’m wondering how I’m going to fit it through my machine. I’ve bought a walking foot, and I’ve been watching a free Craftsy class about making my first quilt. I may have bitten off more than I can chew for a first quilt, but I’ve enjoyed picking up new skills so far.

Quilt top unfinished

One quilt top. It’s HUGE.

In the time it’s taken me to write this, the weather’s turned on a sixpence. Clear blue skies to an almighty thunderstorm in less than an hour. Perhaps I’m better off locked in the flat after all…

Anyway, what’s on your cutting table this month?

Craft envy: because TV ruined my imagination

Yes, TV ruined my imagination to the point where I can’t think of a decent intro to this post. So let’s just jump straight to it.

What has taken my fancy on the internet in the last month?

After last week’s quilting triumph, I really, really, really want to do some more. I don’t think I’m ready to make a bed-sized quilt just yet, so I’ve been looking in particular at some smaller projects that’ll spruce up my sewing space. OK, it’s the kitchen, and I do have to move out at the end of the day, so whatever I do has to be small and portable. I’ve been thinking of a quilted and bound mat for my sewing machine plus a sewing machine cover. The mat’s easy enough to do, but the cover’s the kind of thing I’d need a tutorial for. This one by Ros from Sew Delicious doesn’t look too taxing and I love the combination of prints and colours used too. It’s so going on the list.

Love the fresh prints used here. Nice cheeky nod to sewing there too. From Sew Delicious.

Nice cheeky nod to sewing there. From Sew Delicious.

Ooooh it's swishy and a little bit Downton Abbey! From sewaholic.net

Staying with sewing, once again Tasia from Sewaholic has pulled it out of the bag and released yet another pattern I want to sew. Immediately. The Gabriola skirt would be a bit of a departure for me, fashion-wise, being a maxi. I’ve never tried on a maxi ‘cos I’m 5’ 4″ and therefore think I’m just too small. I need Chris to get things down from high shelves for me. Anyway, Tasia is small too – she can pull it off, so I’d like to give it a go. I like the swish of this skirt, plus the panels on the front give it  a bit of interest. Again, it’s going on the list, but only once I’ve got the Zinnia sewalong out of the way (is anyone else doing this? They only seem to be posting once a week and I’m getting a bit impatient…) and completed the Hollyburn skirt that’s been sitting in my pile of unfinished projects for a bit too long.

It might finally be pushing into spring now that it hasn’t rained in days and the sun’s out (must be time to crack out the BBQ), but that hasn’t stopped imake in Guernsey persevering with their year-long snowflake crochetalong. I am not feeling in the least bit Christmassy, but the intricacy of crocheted snowflakes is a draw for me. The ladies of imake are using patterns from 100 Snowflakes to Crochet by Caitlin Sainio and are suggesting two or three snowflakes per month. They’re so pretty and delicate that I have to confess that I’ve bought the book and had a go at a couple. I rarely use yarn lighter than DK or a hook smaller than 4mm, so using crochet thread on a 1.5mm is a bit of a challenge, particularly when it’s so easy to split the threads with the hook. But they’re nice quick projects to work up – the advanced level ones only take about an hour at the most to complete and they look gorgeous when they’re done. I’m thinking that they’re going to be some sort of Christmas decoration come December – perhaps tree decorations or a long chain to drape over things. Anywho, I’ll do another post on these closer to the time. I need to block what I’ve done already as they’re a bit crinkly at the moment.

Oooh delicate and pretty! See imake.gg for more info.

Oooh delicate and pretty! See imake.gg for more info.

Finally, I love this idea for using loose foreign change from the Turning Stones blog. Having just been on holiday and come back with yet more small change in euros, this seems like a nice idea. I’ve got a small drawer full of loose change, and let’s face it, I’m probably not going to go back to Brazil or Japan anytime soon. And if I do, I’m not going to worry too much about packing the coinage. Indiri has put her coins straight onto what looks like an MDF backing, but I think they’d look good on a black background instead. It’s a simple yet effective idea and would finally make use of something I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of.

I also like it 'cos it's a bit shiny. From Turning Stones.

I also like it ‘cos it’s a bit shiny. From Turning Stones.

A weekend for Jo

Quilted cushion - cutting

I love this fabric. SO pretty. And here’s where I cut it up!

Man, I’ve had a good weekend! After a long overdue haircut, spending some quality time with friends and my soon-to-be goddaughter, I tried out quilting for the first time! And do you know what? It’s frickin’ awesome!

I’ve wanted to have a go at quilting for a while. I love a good cotton print, but they’re not always suitable for making clothes. They’re easy to sew, yes, but too stiff to drape nicely. They can also be mega expensive which I think defeats the object of sewing your own clothes a bit. Quilting seems like a nice compromise as you can indulge your fabric obsession and make lots of pretty things without too much bother.

I didn’t know whether I would enjoy the actual act of quilting so I decided to take the Quilted and Bound Cushion class at the Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead, led by Judith Dahmen of Needles and Lemons. Making a cushion cover is probably the perfect project for a beginner – you learn the basic techniques but without the time/money investment in a full sized quilt.

The class itself was so enjoyable. I was one of two students (the class normally takes up to four) so Judith was able to give us some close tuition, which I really appreciated. I had already chosen and cut my patchwork fabric into 3.5 in squares so I was able to get straight into arranging my layout and sewing it all together. I bought a fat quarter pack of Winter’s Lane by Moda before Christmas, which I had been dying to use for something in my old house, but then I moved in with Chris. Luckily the colour scheme goes nicely in the living room. This project meant new skills all round, as it was the first time I’d used a rotary cutter too.

Quilted cushion lay out

Here it is, post quilting and neatening, but before I put the back on and bound it up. I tried to make sure that the images on the fabric remained mostly intact.

The sewing itself wasn’t particularly hard – just straight lines and pivoting – but I needed help with the binding, especially the corners. Judith also gave us lots of handy tips for cutting (I fudged mine a bit at home, but it seemed to work out ok) and neatening up our work to produce a nice finish. It never would have crossed my mind to press the seam allowances in different directions through the rows and columns so they sit flat and slot together nicely when you sew them together.

As I may have mentioned before, I love a bit of tessellation, so the exact fit and accurate quarter-inch seams really pleased me. When it came to the actual quilting, I chose a simple cross hatch design which I think looks really effective with the fabric. Once that was done and neatened up, the rest seemed to come together really quickly. Fixing the zip in took a bit of wiggling, but I think that was because of the thickness of the material more than anything else – at that point I was sewing through about four layers of fabric plus wadding. As mentioned above, the binding was a bit of a fiddle, but it’s nothing I can’t improve on with practice.

I had so much fun at the class – I’d really recommend it to anyone thinking about taking up quilting. The Village Haberdashery has a range of quilting courses and classes, so check it out if you’re interested in learning a new skill!

So would I do it again? Hell yes! I came out of the class feeling inspired and I now want to make ALL the quilts. However, I’m going to temper my enthusiasm and start small – I’d like to make a sewing machine cover and a matching mat and then I think I’ll have a go at making something a little bigger and more ambitious. Looks like the list of Stuff I Want to Make is going to grow exponentially… Anywho, here’s a couple of gratuitous shots of the finished project.

Quilted cushion in situ

Here it is in situ. I think it goes quite nicely with that chair, though I have been vetoed regarding its permanent home.

Quilted cushion close up

OK, not that extreme.