Archives for category: Sewing

So, after the quilt I made for my brother-in-law using his old shirts, I went to work on several baby quilts.  This one is for a friend’s baby girl, who was one of the only girl babies to be born to the many friends of mine who have had babies this year.  It was so much fun making a girly quilt.

Baby quilt

Baby quilt

For the plain squares I used two designs by Anna Maria Horner which I had bought a while ago and was saving for something fun.  The eight other squares were made mostly with scraps that were left over from a workshop at the V&A, which I helped to organize.  I love that I didn’t buy any new fabric to make this quilt!

Baby quilt detail

Baby quilt detail

This was the first time I’d tried diagonal quilting – in all my previous quilts I’ve always stitched in the ditch.  I loved the effect and have used it in subsequent work, and it’s made me think about different ways I can quilt projects in the future.  I’ve officially graduated from trying to hide my quilt stitching!  It’s much more fun to let it show.

Baby quilt detail.

Baby quilt detail.

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Brother-in-law's quilt, top side.

Brother-in-law's quilt, top side.

It’s been ages since I last posted (and by the way, I did finish my script for Script Frenzy), but I haven’t been lazy.  I’ve made several quilts in the last few months, one large and a few small.  And now that I have joined the Committee of the London Quilters as their new Secretary, I better get cracking and show those quilts off!

The first one is one I made for my brother-in-law to put in his new house, which he bought in February.  Since I thoroughly enjoyed making my first quilt out of my husband’s old shirts, I decided to do the same for my brother-in-law and upcycle the shirts he didn’t use any more.  I asked my mother-in-law to secretly send me all of the old shirts he was about to send to the bin, and I cut them up and made a huge quilt out of them – with different designs on the top and the bottom.  Luckily, he wears a lot of blue – so everything matched. The little bits of brown are from a pair of trousers (my husband’s, not my brother-in-law’s).  I can’t say for certain that every single piece of fabric came from one of his shirts, but they were either worn by him or by his dad or my husband, so it’s all in the family.

Brother-in-law's quilt, bottom side.

Brother-in-law's quilt, bottom side.

The quilt was made as a surprise and it certainly was.  I was really pleased with the reaction from my brother-in-law – he really appreciated it.  I was less pleased with the two days of neck pain that I had after frantically quilting for 9 hours the night before I gave the quilt to him.  Our kitchen table was no match for the weight and bulk of a king-size quilt.  I hadn’t realized how much of the weight I was managing with my neck and shoulders while putting the quilt through the machine.  It sure took me out of action for a couple of days!  Next time I make a quilt this big I’ll have to think about how to save my muscles and not overload them.  It was worth it, though.

Brother-in-law's quilt - front detail.

Brother-in-law's quilt - front detail.

I made this quilt six months ago for my husband’s birthday and keep forgetting to blog about it!  It’s a lap-sized quilt rather than a full one so he can easily bring it from room to room and use it all over the house, particularly (right now, anyway) in the study, which is the site of most of his PhD work. His thesis is on an American modernist poet, Hart Crane, whose most famous work is an epic poem about the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge quilt front

Brooklyn Bridge quilt

I made the centre panel in one of the V&A’s Digital Textile Design courses (the perks of being one of the supervisors is you get to do one too if there’s time!), with a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge that I found on Flickr (with Creative Commons licence, of course).  The photo was printed on silk.

photo detail

Centre panel printed on silk

The gray pieces of fabric on the front are scraps from a colleague who sews all her own clothes (only in gray), and the back is made entirely out of old trousers.  I did the orange quilting by hand in perle cotton.  I wasn’t sure it would look good with the grays, but it did, and now orange and gray is one of my favourite colour combinations.

Brooklyn Bridge quilt back

Who'd have known old trousers could be so useful?

detail of stitching

Detail of quilt stitching

Controlled office chaos

Controlled office chaos

I think this picture of my office says it all – planning for the Patchwork Social, coming up this Bank Holiday weekend at the V&A, has had me organizing, cutting, prepping, and sewing for the last several weeks.  I’m in my element, though – a huge event requiring lots of logistical thought PLUS the creativity of sewing PLUS doing good for others?  Wow.  I couldn’t ask for more.

The weekend is going to be full of great activities – including sewing patchwork blocks by hand or machine, making a ‘virtual quilt’ from designs inspired by the museum’s collections, and learning how to re-purpose your old clothes and textiles into new treasures with Sarah Baulch of ReVampt.  There are also family activities and the chance to cheer on members of Girlguiding London and South East Region (LaSER) as they sew towards their craft badges.

The ‘doing good’ part is because all of the hand- and machine-sewn patchwork is going to be made into quilts for Project Linus UK, a charity supporting seriously ill and traumatised children.  Project Linus will be donating the finished quilts to Great Ormond Street Hospital and Kids Company.

I was running up some example quilts yesterday with the beautiful fabric we’ve got – all 200 metres of it donated by Coats Crafts, plus needles and thread too – and feeling so happy that what I was making was going to go towards making a difference in the life of a child in distress.  It was such a good feeling – now I realize why all the Project Linus volunteers I’ve met are so dedicated to their work.  Over 20 people from Project Linus will be volunteering this weekend, and some of them have already been a great help in cutting and prepping some of the fabric.  (If I’d had to do all 200 metres myself I’d have gone nuts!)

I’m really looking forward to the event and hope that everyone who comes will enjoy it.  In fact, I’m wishing it were tomorrow already.  I may not be able to sleep tonight!

'Here's one I made earlier!'

'Here's one I made earlier!'

Last week I went to the BurdaStyle London Meetup at the swanky Sketch restaurant.  I’m more of a quilter than a dressmaker (although I’ve just attempted sewing a block/sloper bodice so that I can start making my own clothes for my own hard-to-fit measurements), but I didn’t find that my lack of clothes-sewing made any difference.  It was great to meet the people there – thanks to Melissa of Fehr Trade for inviting me, and thanks to Nora and Carol of BurdaStyle, who hosted the evening and who were very skilled at introducing people to each other.

I got to meet some great people, including Polly and Clare from Selvedge magazine, Helene, Houkje, Susannah, Emily from the London College of Fashion,  Christian from Twisted Thread, and Amy from the East London BurdaStyle Sewing Club, among others.  See the pictures in the BurdaStyle Flickr pool.

Now that I’ve joined BurdaStyle, I’ve got to say how impressed I am with the whole open-source philosophy.  That doesn’t often come out in the world of sewing patterns.  No wonder they get so many new members every month.  As someone who works with digital and who knows the value of open source, I’m totally behind that endeavour.  And as soon as I can figure out how to work with my own measurements, I’ll be using some of the copyright-free BurdaStyle patterns to make some clothes for myself!

Coverlet by Ann West, 1820.  Museum no. T.23-2007

Coverlet by Ann West, 1820. Museum no. T.23-2007

The Quilts exhibition has opened!  OK, so it opened last week and I just wasn’t on the ball to write a blog entry immediately after seeing it at the private view and I was on a plane to Ottawa right after that.  But I’ve just seen it again today and it is truly fabulous.  It’s garnering rave reviews, and quilters from all over the world are in London to see it.  I met with a trio of Texan ladies a few days ago who organize the International Quilt Festival, among other things, and they just loved it.  It was such a pleasure to talk to them about the events and courses my department has been organizing, and about the interactives that have been created to go with the exhibition (such as the fabulous Quilt of Quilts, where you can upload images of your own quilts!  I added three of mine.)

Chintz bed hangings, 1730-50.  Museum no 242-1908.

Chintz bed hangings, 1730-50. Museum no 242-1908.

The quilts themselves are breathtaking.  I particularly loved the patchwork commemorating the Duke of Wellington, with the paper pieces still intact on the back of the patchwork, and its odd little rhyme which is not at all what it seems at first read.  I also loved the ‘Alphabet of Love and Courtship’, especially Q for Quakings.  And the patchwork made by Girl Guides for their group leader while in Changi prison in Singapore during World War II was heart-rending.  There are a number of contemporary quilts commissioned for the exhibition, and I had the luck to meet maker Sarah Impey at the private view and talk with her about how she made her wonderful piece ‘Punctuation’.

V&A/Liberty limited edition fabric

V&A/Liberty limited edition fabric

Of course, the shop is also stocked with irresistible goodies.  I’ve already bought some of the wonderful limited edition fabrics made by V&A and Liberty Art Fabrics.  All 18 of the patterns are gorgeous but I like ‘Petals’ best.

The years of work that Sue Prichard, the curator, and Claire Smith, the assistant curator, have put into this exhibition has paid off – it’s just fabulous.  All quilters or sewing aficionados should go see it.  I hope they will also come to the Patchwork Social, which I’m organizing for the first May bank holiday weekend, 1-3 May.  We’ll be sewing patchwork blocks to be put together as quilts for the charity Project Linus UK to support children with serious illness or trauma.  I’m really excited about the event and we have so many lovely people from Project Linus who are going to be volunteering at the event and helping people with their sewing.  If you are a quilter or are interested in making a simple patchwork block for charity, it would be great to see you there.

Lizzy House e-book

Lizzy House e-book

Earlier this week I was reading the fabulous True Up blog and saw that fabric designer Lizzy House had released a new e-book called ‘How to Enter the World of Textile Design: For the Quilting Industry’ ($25 US).  I nearly choked on my baked potato (yes, reading blogs while eating lunch – again!).  This is exactly the kind of book I’ve been looking for.  In January I  made a plan to start designing fabrics this year, and while I’m still at the beginning stages, I know that eventually I’ll be trying to design a fabric line that gets taken up by a manufacturer.

I immediately sent myself a reminder email to buy the e-book as soon as I got home… but after about 10 minutes of trying to do work and still thinking about the book, I decided to buy it right away.  Transaction went well, download not so great, thanks to my work computer not having enough memory for anything bigger than 10MB (the e-book is about 275MB, so it takes a while to download and needs a lot of space free).  Extremely frustrated by the piddly amount of memory on my work computer, I emailed Lizzy herself to see whether I could still download it onto a different computer (my own, much more trusty laptop – yeah, the one with six keys that don’t work but which still has never caused me a minute’s trouble with available memory).  Lizzy replied very quickly and assured me that she’d guide me through downloading the e-book at home if I couldn’t do it with the link I’d saved.  As it happened, the link did work and I  managed to download the e-book right away when I got home (after what seemed like an interminable afternoon waiting to get home) – but thanks, Lizzy, for being so willing to help!

The book was everything I’d hoped it would be.  First of all, it looks beautiful – some great photos, lovely colour combinations and nice design – but of course, the content is what’s most important and it really was exactly what it said in the title.  Lizzy gives an account of her own experiences breaking into the textile design market, and then some very clear guidelines about how to put together a fabric collection.  ‘Anatomy of a collection’ was the most useful section for me personally, because I haven’t gotten as far as getting ready to present a collection (another really useful section), but I know that as I continue experimenting with design, I’ll have those points in mind so I know what to work towards.   I was pleased to see that a lot of things I’ve noticed about fabric collections but never really taken the time to analyze fully (especially in the Colour section) were confirmed for me in the e-book – it’s as if Lizzy has written them all down and made very clear.  My only small niggle was a few typos/correctable mistakes.

All in all, though, it’s a winner.  I was so engrossed in my reading that I nearly finished the book in one evening – until I was told very sternly, for about the fifth time, to go to bed!

I’d highly recommend this e-book to anyone who’s interested in knowing how the quilting industry works, and who is planning on submitting their designs to manufacturers.  There’s no design instruction – it’s assumed that you’ve already gotten familiar with that part yourself, which is clear and obvious from the title.  There are plenty of great books about design.  This one’s about the industry, and I’m really glad that someone wrote it, because I don’t think this information is readily available.

I’m really looking forward to referring to Lizzy’s book over and over again.  I’ll certainly be looking at fabric collections with a new eye from now on.  Especially the 200 metres’ worth of fabrics we’ll be using for the V&A’s Patchwork Social, which I’m in the middle of planning right now!  (YES!  I figure that since Sue Prichard has mentioned it in her blog, I’m allowed to talk about it on mine now… sometimes I think I have the best job in the world.  More about the Patchwork Social in a future post.)

Sashiko hot water bottle cover

Sashiko hot water bottle cover

This hot water bottle was one of my husband’s Christmas presents.  I made the cover from some felted wool given to me by a colleague, and embellished it with some sashiko embroidery – my first try at this beautiful Japanese stitching technique.  I chose a pattern that symbolizes prosperity, both because of the meaning and because I liked the look of the stitch.  It was also one of the less complicated patterns!

I got inspired to make the hot water bottle cover by TeresaDownUnder’s Stipple Quilted Hot Water Bottle Cover tutorial on her blog, Patchwork, which I first found through the wonderful Sew, Mama, Sew! blog.  I didn’t do the stipple quilting but I did follow her instructions for making the pieces.

Back of hot water bottle

I used the button off an old jacket for a closure

For a lining I cut up an old pillowcase and drew the pattern onto it as a guide.  I added a layer of quilt batting in the middle, so with the felted wool I ended up with quite a padded hot water bottle cover.  Luckily, the heat still comes through and it’s just the right warmth to have in the bottom of the bed.  Because the layers were so padded, I did the sashiko stitching only through the top surface of the felted wool layer.

I loved working with the sashiko needle – it was much firmer than a regular embroidery needle, so I could guide the fabric onto it rather than guiding it through the fabric.  I did a lot of the stitching on a very bouncy train journey, and it still turned out pretty evenly!

I’m going to use sashiko again in future projects.  The look of the patterns and the action of the embroidery is very meditative and relaxing.  I love the traditional look of the white/ivory thread on a dark background, but I think I may also experiment with lots of colours to see what can happen.

Pink/red/blue side

Pink/red/blue side

My sister loved the pictures of the birthday quilt that I sent her a couple of days ago.  The work still isn’t done, but here are a few pictures of both sides with the full design and some details.

I’m currently working on the assembly and quilting part.  I’ve done this before, so I knew what to expect, but this time it’s a little harder because it’s double-sided and I have to make sure that the designs line up the right way.  I’ve therefore basted one side of the quilt to the batting, and now am about to attach the other side.

Green/red/blue side

Green/red/blue side

The usual instructions in quilting books and on websites say to attach with safety pins first, then baste by hand.  That’s what I’ve done, and it works pretty well.  What really gets me, though, is that out of all the advice and instructions in a book or on a site, the assembly part only gets about a page or two of text and rarely merits a picture.  That can be a real shock when a first-time quilter comes to do the assembly, and realizes that even after the hours and hours they’ve spent doing the patchwork, they still have a huge amount of work left.  It takes at least an hour to safety-pin a bed-sized quilt together, and about 2 hours to baste by hand – and you also have to find a big enough floor space for it all to happen.  I wish more quilting publications focused more attention on this stage.

Detail of green/red/blue side

Detail of green/red/blue side

Here’s a sneak preview of a quilt I’m making for my sister’s birthday.  I’ve nearly finished with the patchwork (both sides – it’s double-sided because I couldn’t decide what fabrics she would like best!), and I’m estimating the basting, quilting and binding will take another 2 weeks – so it’ll be done just before her birthday.  Too bad she lives in Canada and it’ll get there late!

It needs ironing, as you can see.

One side of the double-sided surprise birthday quilt

One side of the double-sided surprise birthday quilt