Monthly Archives: July 2013

Stitchers have friends too

My friend and I had no idea when we were performance poetry-obsessed, urban Uni flatmates that thirteen years later we would choose to sit inside on a sunny afternoon by the coast, each with an embroidery hoop, rather than swim in the sea or build castles on the beach.

Here we are, though, having a whale of a time. She’s making an incredibly detailed cross stitch picture based on a Victorian wallpaper. I’m embroidering a toy patchwork tortoise shell for my son. Both are far more useful to the world than performance poetry. Discuss.

Embroidery friends

Embroidery friends

Embroidered tortoise shell

My embroidered tortoise shell

My friend’s cross stitch

My son more-or-less demanded that I make him a patchwork tortoise after he helped me so expertly to wrap one up for a new baby last week. That was the second one he has seen leave the house destined for the clutches of other children. I think he was right to suggest that it was his turn to own one. As I said in a recent post, every baby should have a patchwork tortoise.

Here are some pictures of the patchwork tortoise under construction. I am using the English paper-piecing patchwork technique, which makes a lovely change from all of the sewing machine chain-piecing I have been doing for my quilt.

Pieces of shell pinned to paper templates

Pieces of shell pinned to paper templates

Back of tortoise shell. Pieces sewn together with tiny hand stitches. Paper will be removed when all shell pieces are sewn together.

Back of tortoise shell. Pieces sewn together with tiny hand stitches. Paper will be removed when all shell pieces are sewn together.

Front of tortoise shell almost complete

Front of tortoise shell almost complete. You can see the basting stitches I used to keep the paper in place under the fabric.

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Almost ready to quilt…

All I need now is my 9 metres of backing fabric to arrive, a friend with a really big wooden floor (check) and hundreds of safety pins (check).

Finished quilt top 3

Cheeky, pleased “I’ve made a quilt” smile and a bag of cotton batting
Finished quilt top 2

You can see the colours really well in this shot

Every baby needs a patchwork tortoise

While taking time out from my quilt for making those tremendously tricky decisions mentioned in my last post and finishing off the academic year, one of my greatest friends had a baby. This, of course, meant that I was compelled to make a present or two for the little one. Here’s the first:

Patchwork turtle

Patchwork tortoise

And here’s the second:

Books not sewn or included in baby's present

Books not sewn or included in baby’s present

Because every baby needs a patchwork tortoise and matching, personalised bunting.

I’ll get back to my quilt soon, as soon as my summer holidays start. I know you’re all waiting with bated breath for quilting news.

Look what fell out of my quilt

Leftover block
When I pinned all of the patches around the quilt ready to sew as the border, I found I had a gaping hole. This was intensely annoying as I had counted and recounted and then counted again all of the patches as I was making them. I KNEW I hadn’t made a mistake. But, as quilting is basically all about counting and ironing, and I am not much good at either, I accepted that I would have to cobble together a replacement patch from my poorly cut leftovers. Then this fell out of the thing while I was sewing the border on.

Perhaps I should use it in my next quilt. Or even build another quilt around it. Maybe I should leave a patch from every quilt I make in future to carry on to the next one, sort of like a quilt version of a chain letter.

Anyway, enough of this procrastinating. I have decisions to make:

1. What shall I use as the batting for the quilt – big, fluffy polyester or thin, dense, warm (expensive) cotton?

2. Am I going to quilt it by hand or by machine? There’s no way polyester would fit under the arm of the machine, and I’m not convinced that even cotton will be easy enough to move around. I need to have a practice at quilting something a bit smaller before I let myself loose on this quilt as I have never done anything like this before and I’m not sure how tricky it’s going to be to sew straight or loopy free-hand lines on something so big. I don’t even have the right feet for my machine yet, although I do have an excellent, Textiles-teaching friend who can source them for me and hopefully show me what to do with them. I like the look of hand-quilting and I am ready with a huge embroidery hoop, but I don’t want it take months.

3. Depending on my choice of quilting style, I will need to baste the batting and the quilt back to the quilt top with safety pins or a needle and thread. Both methods are likely to take hours and I have nowhere at home to lay the quilt out for long as it’s a small place with a small boy running around it.

4. What fabric am I going to use for the back and the border? I can’t decide whether I want to emphasise the bright reds of the quilt or give it a really dark border. I think I need to take the quilt top with me to a fabric shop (and a couple of friends) to hold it up against different options.

These are my conundrums. I enjoy having them. I’ll let them fester for a while. But now I’m going to take a day off quilting and watch Andy Murray play his big match. Bet he doesn’t give a monkeys about quilting.

Quilt top is complete

Quilt top is complete!  I skipped into the sitting room to beckon my husband in to see how it looks on the bed.  Now there's just the small matter of actually quilting this enormous object so that it is not just a glorified sheet and keeps us warm this Winter.


I skipped into the sitting room to beckon my husband in to see how it looks on the bed.
Now there’s just the small matter of actually quilting this enormous object so that it is not just a glorified sheet and will keep us warm this Winter.

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