Japanese folded patchwork box

I finished making the Japanese folded  patchwork box from the kit I bought at the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show. It’s 5 inches square which is actually bigger than I thought and holds all the reels of thread I have with room for more. The photos look a bit overexposed but it gives you the idea of the nice fabrics supplied with the kit. I like that it means  you can use a plain background to each square and showcase the lovely fabric on the inside of each square.

The kit gives instructions on a clever way to get a circle with a folded-under border, using a cardboard template, a circle of fabric that’s bigger than than the cardboard template, and making a running stitch between the two that you pull on to draw it up round the cardboard and use spray starch to iron it down. I though this must be the ideal way to make a circle for needle-turn applique too.

This weekend was very busy, I’m more tired at the end of it than I was at the beginning! Very pleased to get the talk I was giving on Friday over and done with, though. I think it went quite well and the people were nice, but I’m glad it’s done nonetheless. I do get myself wound up about these things, and there was a lot of preparation involved. Only as I was leaving did I think to take a couple of pictures. Here’s one, but I don’t actually know which part of the building it is, where we had tea I think.

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I did remember this weekend that I wanted to try to make elderflower cordial, I thought of it last year only after the elderflowers had  all died, but I did buy the citric acid needed (and used a little bit for a different flavoured cordial but with fruit you buy in the shops, so it’s not the same!). We picked some elderflowers today and following the recipe on the BBC website I’ve got them infusing in a mixture of sugar dissolved in boiling water (cooled), citric acid, and slices of orange and lemon. They’re to stay in there for 24 hours, then when I get in from work tomorrow the liquid’s to be strained through muslin and put into sterilised bottles.

Right-oh, bedtime!

Harvest mouse!

I realise with a shock that it’s been a month since I last posted a blog entry: crumbs. However, at last another autumn block, easing myself back into the saddle after some time away working on the Farmer’s Wife cushion. I have also, to my delight, finished a jumper I started some 20 months ago!

Mouse and brown

I’ve wanted to do another block with the harvest mouse fabric for a while, but find the purple difficult to deal with in the context of the quilt as a whole, and from that point of view it wasn’t a good fabric to choose despite its autumn theme. Putting it with the dark brown and cream autumn leaf fabrics has worked well, I hope, to tie it in more with the other blocks and help the purple-ish ones I’ve already made blend in better. At least, that’s the theory! The colours remind me of copper beech trees.

It’s been a busy month because I’ve been working hard on a talk I’m giving on Friday relating to my work, which has meant lots of reading in the hopes I’m not going to make any obvious mistakes and will be able to answer questions at the end, and choosing carefully what to talk about, to keep it down to the required 40 minutes. I’ve been working on it at work and at home, so will be very glad when Friday’s over!

I’m also on a mission now to finish lots of projects so I can clear some of the backlog lying around in the flat (and attracting moths and damp, great) and start new things! Could take years… But I’ve finished a jumper I started making in Sept. 2015, a complicated cable knit which I had some problems with but also left lying fallow for months on end while I worked on quilting projects, like the green and pink lap top for my aunt. So hip hip hooray for that!

jumper

I’ve started on a new jumper using a self-striping yarn I bought either last year or more likely the year before, when the knitting and sewing shop in our village downsized and was selling off stock. I love the colours and that it’s cable-free, so am going great guns on it. For the next patchwork block I’m afraid I’ve taken apart one I did in the early days of the project but which isn’t working well in the quilt as a whole, so intend to keep the central square of the block but make a new outer part to it, and use the flying geese I’d made  for the original one with different fabrics in a different combination. It’s requiring more mental energy than I’ve had to spare in the last fortnight, so I hope I can resolve that this coming Sunday (Saturday being fully booked and looking like a write-off, crafts-wise).

 

 

Farmer’s wife 9-block cushion and visit to the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show

This week I’m visiting my family in sunny Northumberland (it actually is at the moment, too). Left hubby at home because he’s allergic to the large hairy mutt, and as a side issue is also at work.

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Large hairy mutt contemplating mischief

I got the train and Mum and Dad picked me up from the station late on Thursday night, then had Friday to wind down, and on Saturday Mum and I got the train to Edinburgh. I actually spent all of Friday until about 6 p.m. working hard on quilting the Farmer’s Wife cushion cover I sewed for my brother (who was out at work on Friday). By dint of staying up late in the week leading up to coming home, and taking the project to work so I could do some at lunch times, I’d done the quilting along the sashes and then around the shapes on four of the five blocks, and sewed the top and bottom edges of the back onto the front before I set off for my parents’. The last bit was because I have the sewing machine set up in my flat and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use Mum’s machine and didn’t fancy sewing the whole thing together by hand. Friday evening we first tried to get Mum’s old sewing machine to work, then we gave up and after dinner I stayed up til midnight sewing the back of the cushion on by hand. There is a theme here akin to the Christmas cushion cover and my aunt’s quilt – I need to organise my time better!

Here is the end result (complete with squint central square!). I don’t the off-white is so bright in real life, the flash / sun makes it look over-exposed. I’m glad I spent time doing the extra detailing on the back.

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The photo below was taken late on Friday night, when the dim lighting showed up how quilting round the shapes gives them more depth in certain lights. On the other hand, I would like to do free motion quilting in a fancy design all over it, but alas I don’t yet have those skills!

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Saturday was fun! We got there early (the trains were only at 8.33 or 10.20 and then we had to get from the train station to the bus station and get the shuttle bus out to where it was being held, which was a half-hour ride, so definitely worth getting the early train). We had a good look at all the stands, and the displays of knitting and quilting. Also some textile art for sale to people who can afford original artwork, but the detail in some of them was incredible so an art collector would be spending their money well. It wasn’t as busy as the one I’ve been to in London, which was a good thing, but still busy enough that there were some stalls where you had to negotiate your way to try and see what was for sale. There weren’t as many fabric stalls as I’d have liked, but then I’d already decided not to buy much as I’ve got a substantial stash at home and I now know that these shows aren’t really the place for bargains, more to see what’s out there (and even then, many online stores have more extensive ranges). Japanese fabric seems to be on the up, and there was a stall selling good quality Japanese fabric. Felting also seems to be popular and there were some fantastic creations on show.

I bought a kit to make a box from Japanese folded patchwork, which I’ve started because I didn’t have time to cut pieces for an autumn quilt block to bring with me, so it’s good to have a project to do here (though I do have knitting which I brought with me). The company’s called Euro Japan Links Ltd. It’s a 5-inch box with no lid, made from 5 squares. As well as the instructions, they give you the dark red fabric which is the backing to each square in this kit, wadding, and 7 squares from which you choose 5, which is good, and I bought two more fat quarters from their stall that I thought I might use in the box, or if not will use another time because they’re navy and cream so useful colours. Whether I’ll make the box successfully is another matter!

IMGP0652I also got a lovely little embroidery kit, which will be a new endeavour for me because I don’t do embroidery, just cross stitch, which I don’t think counts, but the autumn picture’s gorgeous so I hope to do it well. I got a few fat quarters, from a stall selling 4 for £10, mainly because I liked the dark blue but then spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding on another three to blend. In the end I found two to blend and got a random third that I think will match with a red and white check I have back in the flat.

Oh, and Mum kindly bought me a new pair of sharp little scissors because my current ones are quite blunt (and weren’t even fabric scissors to start with)!

Not loads but that’s good because I have to carry them back on the train, and have plenty projects to be getting on with and don’t really need anything else. But it was a good day out. Mum got a kit for knitting a teddy bear made from knitted patches which she’s started already, so I’m looking forward to seeing the end result of that one day! So long as the dog doesn’t get his paws on it, of course…

Farmer’s wife cushion centre block

After 8 blocks, and having decided those with off-white in them should form a cross (either 4-pointed or in the 5 corners) I still couldn’t get a layout I was satisfied with – either all four blues were too close together, or the two with the dark burgundy background were next to each other, or the two with the tan background and burgundy chevrons were next to each other. I had thought the two-colour tan and burgundy one with the sort of windmill effect would be the centre block, but decided it looked too dull. The arrangement on the left was the best I could come up with. Then I decided to make the last block my centre one, to fit the arrangement on the right. I wanted it to have all four colours in (discounted the plain burgundy that appears in one block), and by luck the last design I wanted to make was one I thought could carry four colours. It ‘s called ‘Gentleman’s Fancy’, I don’t know why!

Having decided on the arrangement of the four colours within the block, it came together quite quickly.

centre

Because the centre off-white square measured up okay, and the finished square was the size it’s meant to be, I honestly thought the centre tan square was straight but just looked wonky because the angle I’d cut through the pattern wasn’t straight so it was an optical illusion. Not so! Sadly not until I’d sewn blocks together did I actually take the ruler to it and see it isn’t lined up right. So the very centre square of the whole cushion is wonky – could that be some sort of metaphor?! I’m thinking of it as like a sewer’s version of a maker’s mark.

Anyway, I’ve now done all the sashing, much of which was difficult because I started by making the same mistake I did with the windmill-style block, thinking so long as the sash was the same length as the block I was sewing it to, it would all fit together. Again, not so! When I had two blocks each composed of, say, four pieces of the same width, and sewed them to either side of the sash, they didn’t line up with each other and had to be unpicked and redone, this time with pencil marks on the back of the sash to show where the seams ought to line up. I got there in the end but it took yonks and once again I had to take it on the commuter train of a morning and afternoon / evening, not the most convenient! Still, at least you get good light through the train window. (I’ve been struggling with light at home, specially with the pencil lines on dark blue, and once it gets to late afternoon / evening and the sun goes down). Oh, and I nearly forgot to say, I remade the first block, the one I’d tried with paper piecing, using the draw-around-the-stencil-onto-the-back-of-the-fabric method I’d used for the other blocks. It does look neater and the centre point’s a bit better, and it made it easier to sew it all together when I didn’t have a different type of seam to master.

Herewith the finished front (two pics with different light / focus):

9 blocks]

9 blocks

Needless to say, I’m about a week behind schedule for taking it home on Thursday!

Spider’s Web

The 8th of my 9 Farmer’s Wife blocks, and another tricky one. I’m just not used to triangle / kite / diamond-type things! This time I starched the fabric before drawing round the templates, I found otherwise the pencil was pulling on the fabric too much and it was hard to get it right, especially at the corners. When making the eight individual segments there were some pieces that just wouldn’t line up properly, usually the burgundy ones on the pieces made of three parts. I couldn’t see why just by sight, but making new pieces did the trick so there must have been an inaccuracy in drawing round the templates.

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These are the two halves ready to be sewn together. Lots of excess bits of pointy fabric in the middle to negotiate. When sewing sections together it was hard to see how they were going to line up until they did: I do admire the farmer’s wife who designed this in the first place! (Though I’m sure it wasn’t unique to her, and I find it astonishing there were / are so many talented craftspeople out there).

I would have liked all the lines I’d drawn on the back to line up, but in this section (below) they haven’t, so I hope it will be okay when I come to sew on the sashing.

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This is the finished item. Two shots, one indoors and one out to try and get the colour representation right (seeing as our landlords were away so I could photograph it on their patio, which we’re allowed to sit on in their absence). The one outside’s better for colour but casts quite a shadow at one edge. There is one point that doesn’t fit quite as neatly in the centre as I’d have liked, but with all those points to navigate I couldn’t do my usual and fiddle about with the fabric to get the needle in exactly the right place, so we’ll just have to live with it. By the time it’s quilted it probably won’t be too noticeable.

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Moving on to put the pieces together so I could decide on colours for the last block was quite a challenge, but that’s for another post!

A tricky Farmer’s Wife block (7 of 9)

This one took a lot of lining up! It’s similar to the first block I did, but the component parts are orientated differently and there is a cross in the middle. I thought about reversing the colours, but decided against it. I drew around the templates onto the back of the fabric, rather than using paper piecing as I tried in the first block, and found that easier but still time-consuming. For all I’d wanted to finish it by the end of the weekend, I didn’t quite manage it.

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On Friday night I laid out the six blocks I’d finished at that point onto various backgrounds to emulate the sashing I’ll do: first the plain burgundy I’d visualised, but it looked gloomy and the pattern burgundy fabric vanished into it. A few patterned ones followed, but in the end the plain blue was definitely best.

Having sewed the two sets of chevrons together, with the two horizontal arms of the cross, I then had to sew the two completed parts onto the vertical part of the cross. Below is my first attempt, which didn’t turn out as I hoped. One side took a few shots to get the points done accurately, but only when I’d ironed it did I see that the two horizontal parts of the cross didn’t line up with each other. I wanted to make this the central block, so didn’t want to leave it as it was.

not aligned

In order to line them up, I made pencil marks at the relevant spots on the back of the vertical part of the cross. It was easier said than done, but the end result is better than the first attempt.

I’ve a feeling the points at the edge of the finished block might not line up with the sashing too well, but there isn’t much I can do about it. When I’ve finished the last two blocks and made the final decision on block placement, I’ll start the sashing and then we’ll see.

Another two Farmer’s Wife blocks (6 down, 3 to go)

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I’m pleased with these latest blocks. The first one was surprisingly easy though I did a few bits of unpicking and resewing where the white points meet the other pieces, because if even a millimetre or so off they scream for attention because the contrast between colours is so great. On the second one, I tried using templates for two of the burgundy / blue half-square triangles but it was so time-consuming and I thought the end result no better than the other method I use, so went back to that with some relief. These 6-inch blocks are so fiddly! I measured the template for the squares on the second block before I started, so I would get the measurements for the half-square triangles right – after sewing together, each little square measures 1 1/8 inch! I’m not sure I could do any of the blocks that consist of more than 5 squares in a row, so am not even going to try.

I now come to deciding on the colours for the last three blocks. The fabric with the off-white fabric looks brighter than I thought, I hadn’t meant for it to be such a feature. I was going to leave it at three blocks with white in, on one each row, but it looks peculiar because there are always two touching each other at a diagonal with the other out on its own somewhere, so when ‘tother half suggested making four or five and arranging them in a cross shape, either with one either at the centre of each edge (as above if you imagine a matching bottom row), or one as the centre block and one at each corner, I agreed with him… well I have to occasionally, but wouldn’t want to make a habit of it! I need one more block that’s just the tan colour and the burgundy, or the one currently at the top left will look lonely, and then either one or two with off-white, and maybe just one with blue (so either in combination with the off-white, or one of each). I think the sashing should be the plain burgundy, which I’ve only used in one block, the first I made, though of course it means the one with the burgundy flower background will disappear into it. Then I’ll make the back either plain blue, or plain blue with a pattern of some of the cast-off half-square triangles incorporated into it.

All these decisions! It could be a painful weekend. I must get at least one block finished by the end of it if I’m to stand a chance of getting the whole cushion made before going home towards the end of April and handing it over to its intended recipient. I was going to say that if I felt confident about machine-sewing the quilting it would be quicker, but given that I end up pulling out the stitching and redoing sections by hand, maybe not! At least there is the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in a fortnight, though that tends to disappear without trace in the flicker of an eyelid… anyway, mustn’t think that far ahead and wish my life away, some of these blocks have worked better than I thought and I’ve enjoyed them, so will look forward to the next one. Cheerio!