star gardener

 

The first proper patchwork quilt I made completely by hand, was a huge purple and green sampler quilt.  It was a bit of a monster and took me a wincingley long time to make….5 years from start to finish (I believe the word of the moment is “slow sewing” which I guess is what I do….) but in that time I made other smaller quilts, moved house 3 times, lost my dad to a horrid horrid illness, loved, lost, and loved again…. that quilt could have told the story of my life.

I’ve used those colours here as a little memory for myself.  Partly to remember that monster quilt, but also to remind myself… it’s not a race…it’s sewing…if my “dear ethel” quilt takes me 5 years…so be it (though I’m hoping it won’t.  On nights when I can’t sleep I think about it being finished, the strips of coloured sashing around the blocks, tiny squares, flying geese, ripples and ripples of quilted stitching)…. I started sewing the “dear ethel” blocks last Summer and I’ve made nearly 80 so far… so I’m about two thirds of the way through with the blocks but in the grand scheme… there is still a whole lot of sewing to be done (that can almost be said in a sing song way to this which sadly I can remember being played a lot from when I was little……the video is pretty bad)

Anyway, this little block is called Star Gardner.  The edge is made up of a series of small triangles which is often called “sawtooth” patchwork…basically because all those little triangles look like the teeth on a saw.  And although is a bit fiddly, it’s one of my favourite types of patchwork, and sewing it is something that gives me a whole world of pleasure to sit and do while the household is asleep in the early hours of the morning.

 

union star

 

I finally gave in and used some of the brown fabric I bought a couple of weeks ago from a vintage shop (it was supposed to be saved for a blouse I’d like to make at some point but I didn’t need to use very much) to sew this little block.  I wanted something to compliment the two pink fabrics and nothing from my fabric stash seemed to work.  Then I remembered the brown fabric, put them together and was very happy with the results…  The block is called Union Star, and involved another fiddly sewing session of pinning lots of 1 inch triangles together.

It’s not hard to see that this would make a lovely repeating block for an all over patchwork design.

 

 

mrs miller

 

When I was growing up, and was just a little girl, there was a lovely lady in our village called Mrs Miller.  She always wore the most amazing bright red lipstick, and she always had time to stop and chat to me and my sisters when she saw us playing in our front garden.

She used to tell us, how when she was  small, she’d gone to boarding school, and she’d tell us exciting tales of midnight feasts and boxes of tuck sent up from home.  I used to love Enid Blyton books, and hearing Mrs Miller talk it was like those stories coming alive (especially the Naughtiest girl in the school series).

When I saw this block was called Mrs Miller’s Choice I knew I was not only going to sew it but also I knew exactly which colour it was going to have to be.

So this little block is made with many fond memories of a very lovely and kind lady and her wonderful bright red lipstick.

raspberries 2014 002

 

For years I thought I didn’t like raspberries, until I tried some home-grown ones from an allotment… what a difference in taste…deep and warm and soft and just delicious.  I was then given a dozen or so scrubby looking raspberry canes which really didn’t look much at all, planted them and was astounded by the luscious fruits they produced.  The variety we grow is Autumn Bliss and it’s brilliant for the English weather.  The first “Summer” crop doesn’t tend to be all that (often those early fruits are a bit meagre and somewhat on the scabby side, though this year we’ve had loads already and they’ve been so very good it makes me close my eyes) but the ones that come late August, September time are magnificent beasts.

Soft fruits like raspberries are very labor intensive to grow on a commercial scale, you need to hand pick the fruit, and then if the fruit has been allowed to get too ripe (which is when it tastes the best) it won’t travel well and will get all mushy by the time it gets to the shop.  Even a small garden has room for a half dozen raspberry canes, you can grow them in big pots on a patio but you’ll need to keep them well watered and fed. I think they are are best thing we’ve grown…. nothing beats looking under some big leaves and finding a monster sized, sun warmed raspberry, deep red and juicy, just waiting to be eaten and burst in your mouth.

These raspberries in the top picture are a type of Chinese Raspberry (not sure the exact variety) they are so beautiful and almost twinkley in the sunlight.

 

raspberries 2014 005

 

The fruits look like clusters of tiny glass beads… if allowed to ripen properly they are so sweet, if not they’re a little on the tart side but still taste good.  The plant itself is incredibly prickly, worse than a bramble and it protects it’s fruits with thousands and thousands of tiny thorns and prickles so may not be the best plant to grow if you have small children running around.  I always have to be really careful picking the fruit or I end up swearing and getting in a right old temper.

 

raspberries 2014 010

 

Ours have fruited pretty well this year, and the berries don’t ripen all at once which is good because then we don’t get a glut and are forced to eat lots at once (though that wouldn’t really be a problem because they taste so nice)

 

raspberries 2014 013

 

The fruit is also a little bit sticky and the butterflies seem to like them.  I keep lifting up leaves and finding secret treasure troves of sparkly red berries.

 

raspberries 2014 018

 

The Autumn Bliss raspberries are voracious growers, when I moved about 5 years ago we dug up the original plants (they’d doubled  as they send out lots of runners and shoots for new plants) and planted them in a relatively small bed.  Each year they just seem to do better and better, we don’t make a huge fuss of them, we just let them grow where they want….these ones have started growing up right outside our living room window.  We really have been able to just lean out of the window and pick the fruit (which is very handy when it is raining).

 

raspberries 2014 020

 

It’s been really hot and humid and maybe because we are quite sheltered here, they’ve just grown and grown.  I’m not short by any means and they tower over me.  It’s amazing how tall they are this year.  7ft and more wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

It sounds ridiculous to talk about snow…but in the winter when the raspberry leaves have pretty much dried up and just a few sad old brown things flutter around, the plants look half dead.  If there is a heavy frost or even better, snow, (I don’t care how old and sensible I get… my heart will always leap for snow) the plants are transformed.  They become diamond encrusted and elegant, and in a winter garden, drab and bare, are to me things of beauty.

We (well The Arpette…he’s the gardener) cut the “half dead looking” plants right down short in the spring, to maybe 8 – 10 inches from the ground… they then just look like dead sticks poking up mournfully out of the soil .  But within a few weeks, the most brightest of green leaves start appearing at the top and out the sides.. and before we know it they are full of life and growing like there’s no tomorrrow.

 

raspberries 2014 021

 

The weekend has been really heavy and hot, thunderstorms and more rain than you can shake a stick at…..Bernard has spent most of it in a small poly-tunnel (a fancy word for something no higher than half a hula hula hoop, covered in plastic) where we have strawberries and salad leaves growing…. it’s crazy, the rain is bucketing down and there sits the cat under the plastic fast asleep.  Every so often he looks up at the rain, but then cuddles back asleep again.  At one point it came down very hard and that woke him up and he came in (more for a snack than anything else) then he was out again. The thunder and lightening didn’t seem to trouble him in the slightest….

 

raspberries 2014 022

 

The raspberry plants have gotten so tall this year, they remind me a little of Triffods…..especially when they start moving about in the wind.  We don’t stake them or string them, they seem to be fine, mostly this is because we’re very sheltered here, and there are no long runs of empty space for the wind to rush through.  Nor do we net them as the birds really don’t seem to be interested in them.  In fact the only birds I’ve seen on them have been small sparrows and blue-tits, and they’ve been eating caterpillars and tiny insects rather than any fruit.

My blueberries on the other hand are a different matter.  As soon as the fruits are formed and are still a soft opaque teal, I drape garden fleece (last year it was an old net curtain) around the bush and peg this to the plant (with the same sort of pegs I use to hang out the washing)….they look like Edwardian ladies off on a motorcar jaunt.  the sun gets through the fleece fine, and this way the fruit ripens and gets big and fat, a delicious deep and dark blue…. if not the blackbirds and pigeons would eat them all (one year a blackbird sat there eating the blueberries while I was just a few feet away…. he wasn’t scared by me at all, not when he had blueberries for breafast).

 

raspberries 2014 027

 

The raspberries are very popular with the bees, they tend to be buzzing around the plants pretty much from the moment I first go outside in the morning when everyone else is asleep, to twilight….their soft hum is a constant lulling sound in the garden.  This little chap visited about a dozen or more flowers and berries before flying off with pollen laden pantaloons.

 

 

 

 

 

corn beans and triplets 008

 

In between various other sewing projects this week, I’ve managed to fit in sewing up another two little mini blocks for my dear ethel quilt. Using up some of the last pieces of one of my all time favourite fabrics (which started life as a “dutty” old tattered 20p at the car boot pillowcase) I’ve just finished piecing this little block which is called Corn and Beans, it’s also called Simple Design and Northwind (maybe a reference there to eating those beans!).  I know the fabrics are both very similar in tone but I thought the pink floral fabric just looked so pretty with the blue striped fabric.

 

corn beans and triplets 003

 

This block is called Triplet and I’ve used two Lecien fabrics.  I love using tiny floral prints and I think Lecien tend to make some of the prettiest ones I’ve seen.  This green fabric is another one of my “all time favourites” (of which there do seem to be a few) although it does fray a bit more than most of the other cottons, it’s lovely to sew and is so soft to handle.  I really do wish I’d bought more of it at the time, I rarely buy more than a fat quarter of any one fabric, finding a little of everything works better in my quilts than a lot of any one fabric…. but this is a fabric that owns my heart.

 

little bear quilt

 

One of the most basic things I love about quilts is the comfort and support they give, you can wrap them round you if you’re not feeling brilliant, they keep you warm and they are nice to cuddle.  If you’ve had one for a long time they almost become a friend.

Yesterday Kate Davies (one of my favourite knitwear designers) posted a piece about a young chap called Thomas and his amazing dog Potter. On August 3rd, Thomas’s mum Mairead is having a coffee morning and raffle to raise money for My Canine Companion, which is a charity that trains and provide service dogs to children with disabilities.  To be quite honest, it’s a charity I’d never heard of before. However, I read about their work and thought they sounded brilliant.  Although I’ve never had a dog, I can appreciate that these dogs are more than just a little bit special.  They don’t come cheap, it costs over E10,000 to train each one, but they make the whole world of difference to the children who they belong to.

If you’d like the opportunity to win a small “hand sewn everything” quilt* to wrap someone precious up in (and even better, to raise money  to help train another “magic” dog like Hairy Potter)  then please go to Mairead’s fundrasing page as I’m sending her one of my baby quilts to raffle off  (amongst some other very nice prizes she will be raffling an i-pod and a Kate Davies Peerie Flooers kit ) to help raise funds for My Canine Companion.  The tickets are just 5 euro’s each.

Her fundraising page is here.

 

*everything is handsewn, the patchwork, the quilting and the binding.

 

 

Lunch time here at the weekend tends to be a very simple affair, generally not much more than a sandwich, however it’s always nice to have something to hand that can be quickly rustled up but which looks a bit more fancier than it is.

A couple of days ago I made a few of the pastry tartlets for small Homity Pies, and had a couple left over.  I often grill vegetables to add to a salad for lunch and thought they’d work well tipped into a pastry base with a little goats cheese.

 

quick tomato tart 002

 

I used my Homity Pie pastry recipe, baked the pastry for 5 minutes with baking beans in the centre of the tart, and 15 minutes or so to finish at gas 7, then allowed it to cool completely before putting into an airtight tin (the sort I’d normally use to store a cake or biscuits)

 

quick tomato tart 005

 

I’ve made a little tray from some baking foil, then chopped up a couple of small cherry tomatoes and some goats cheese.  Then I’ve given sprinkled over a little sea salt, a little black pepper and poured over a glug of olive oil.  Then I put this under a hot grill for about 5 minutes or so.

 

 

quick tomato tart 007

 

Then it’s just a case of tipping the tomatoes and cheese into the tartlet and tearing up a leaf of basil, serve with a big green salad.

Any roast vegetables would work well, the goats cheese and oil help to keep the ingredients a little.

 

 

contrary wife and others 009

 

Another two blocks made for my “dear ethel” quilt….. this one is called Boxes and Baskets.  The blue fabric was purchased on-line and was a bit brighter in the “flesh” that it looked on the screen… I like it with this very pale green lecien floral fabric…..the blue is very much a life and soul of the party-esque fabric, where as the green fabric would probably be washing up in the kitchen.

 

contrary wife and others 006

 

I thought I’d use two bright and colourful fabrics for this block which is called Spider.  I’m really not a fan of anything with 8 legs, and if I see a spider on the carpet I leap onto our sofa quicker than most people would believe possible…if it was an Olympic event then I’d be wearing a gold medal!  Rather than use brown or grey, or anything remotely sombre (or spider coloured) I thought I’d use something nice and cheery and hope it helps to repel anything creepy or crawly from the bedroom.

I spent the day yesterday with my friend Anne who is the most marvellous knitter…but yesterday the talk was all fabric and patchwork and quilts…she’d been to see the Kaffe Fassett exhibition which is on until November at the American Museum which is just outside Bath.  She was telling me all about it, and had bought one of his quilting books so we were pouring over that….and sorting out some fabric as she is planning to make her first ever quilt (this is a lady who doesn’t blink at running up curtains, making clothes, knitting incredibly complex jumpers….she’s also a top notch musician and can do her own DIY)…. although I’ve never made a Kaffe Fassett quilt, I’ve got several of his books which have been very inspirational over the years.   I love how he really mixes up his palettes of colour, and gives a fresh look to some old favourites…..I don’t think I’ll get to go to the exhibition in Bath but am keeping my fingers crossed it will appear somewhere else.

bags of mini blocks 002

 

While I’m working on my “dear ethel” quilt, I’ve found it really helpful to plan a couple of blocks ahead of myself, all this means is that I cut out a few blocks at a time and then pop the tiny pieces into little bags and pin them on to a board.  I also draw out a thumbnail sketch of how the block works and keep that with the pieces.  It allows me to pull all the fabrics I’m using out onto my work table, pair them up and decide which would suit a particular block.  Then when the little pieces are cut out and tidied away on my board, I can fold up the fabric.  I’m naturally a bit of a messy worker, so trying to find tiny triangles and squares when the table is covered in fat quarters and scraps is normally a right old hoo hah.

I really notice a difference when sewing with proper quilting weight fabrics, the better quality you buy, the less the fabric frays (unless it is a particular open weave) and that makes sewing smaller pieces of patchwork much easier.

If I’m sewing patchwork then I now only use 100% cotton (or a cotton and linen mix) and make sure it is the right weight for quilting.

Also, I always wash my fabric (pretty much within minutes of getting home, it’s soaking in a bowl of soapy warm water) this helps if there is any shrinking, dye run etc but it also removes any size from the fabric (used in the dying process).  Once the fabric has been dried and ironed, it’s much softer and a lot easier to sew.

 

contrary wife and others 004

 

In between quilting up the cosy for my new computer, I’ve sewn a couple more mini blocks for my “dear ethel” quilt (the rest of the ones I’ve sewn so far can be viewed here)

The name of this block is called Contrary Wife.  I love green and pink together, and I guess it’s those two different green squares at the corners which make this “contrary”.

It makes me think of the supposed tradition in patchwork and quilting where a “mistake” needs to be made somewhere in the pattern.  I’m not sure where I first read this but when I went to the American Museum just outside Bath a few years ago and looked at their collection of vintage quilts, the more I studied those quilts, the more I kept seeing a “mistake” in each one.  I’m not sure how intentional any of them were, maybe the needlewoman (or man) just ran out of a particular fabric… however I’ve often seen it in quilts, generally in a small corner where it is just a case of the fabric being placed so the print or pattern runs in a different direction, so clearly they had the fabric, which makes me think it was deliberate.

If you are able to go, they’ve currently got a Kaffe Fassett exhibition on which my friend Anne (in my eyes she is the queen of knitting….her hand knitted socks are just the best) has been to see and she said it was brilliant…..

 

 

 

 

As anyone who follows my blog knows, I’m currently sewing a series of small patchwork mini blocks which I hope to make into a quilt I’m calling “dear ethel”. (You can see them all here)

 

water whel and others 011

 

I’ve been quilting for more years than I realised (um just over 15) and in that time family members and various friends have received quilts as presents, often when they have a baby…..but I’ve never really made a quilt for me (seriously even the cat has two quilts)

 

rebel patch 024

 

I’m very much a hand quilter….in fact I’m a hand patchworker too.  It’s not that I don’t have a sewing machine, I’ve got three, a Bernina 1008, a pretty basic Singer from the early seventies and a beautiful antique one (which must be due a telegram from the Queen anyday now) and on a shelf there is even a dusty overlocker, but I really prefer to quilt by hand.  I can sew patchwork on a machine , but I love to feel the fabric in my hands, and I’m happier sewing without the aid of a machine. So basically it takes me a fair old time to make a quilt, and yes, I could do them all on a machine, and if you like making them that way then that is great, (I’m really not knocking machine made quilts, I know they can be made much much quicker, and I’ve seen so many really stunning machine quilts which would have taken a month of Sundays if they’d been sewn by hand) but it’s not for me.

 

 

rebel patch 006

 

For me, the pleasure of patchwork and quilting comes in the constant touching,holding and handling of the fabric, and the slowness and time in piecing the blocks together.  The time spent is important, each stage takes time (such a precious commodity nowadays…. it’s a very guilty pleasure spending this much time on myself…..at this point I want to shake out my hair, turn and say in my best Catherine Deneuve voice “but I’m worth it”), and each fabric choice is carefully considered…. even colours and fabrics which clash do so by purpose.

 

mrs bryan and others 009

 

Some years ago I bought a book about a quilt made by Jane A. Stickle  and quite simply, I fell head over heels in love.  The quilt was made during the time of the American Civil war and is made up of over 200 blocks.  It’s a book I look at regularly and had been telling myself…one day I am going to make a “dear jane quilt” of my own.  One day last year for no particular reason, I sat down and started drawing out the little blocks the quilt is made up of,  I’d noticed that the blocks in the original quilt varied in size and I really wanted to do the same, however after drawing out about a dozen very small blocks I began to think about why exactly was I  making this quit….. I’ve never been keen to make someone else’s designs, I’m interested in how people put different colours together, but I like designing my own quilts, working with what fabric is available to me.  So I stopped what I was doing and thought it was time for a good re-think (I’d not cut out any fabric or anything, so it wasn’t a complete “aggghhhh” moment or anything).

 

patchwork pleasures 007

 

I’d seen an amazing reference book of quilt blocks (well if you want to get all picky, they are actually patchwork blocks) at our local library and I kept thinking about that book, and the ever growing pile of vintage reproduction fabrics I had, and the “dear jane” quilt…..and suddenly it all became clear.  I wasn’t going to make a copy of the “dear jane” quilt, that was hers, I was going to make “my quilt”.

 

silent star and illinois 002

 

I love how the main part of the “dear jane” is made up of small blocks, so I thought I’d use that idea, but chose my own blocks from the reference book.  So I went through that, noting down which blocks I really like, then I had to cross some of those out because I’d decided my blocks would be 6 inches square and anything that was smaller than an inch would make me go blind trying to piece together. (some of the triangles I’ve sewn are one inch wide on the sides, and there are more than a few one inch squares, but I know my limit.  After all, this is supposed to be enjoyable)

 

little blocks 005

 

Regarding fabric, my favourite ones seem to be reproduction ones of nineteen thirties feed sack fabrics, I’d also been given some vintage fabric from my friend Sylvia, really pretty fabric from other friends and sisters and car booty finds and I had some small treasured pieces from my Nanny… I’d also got some favourite fabrics that weren’t much bigger than the size of a postcard so it just seemed like the most natural thing in the world to work with them.

 

churn dash mini quilt block 001

 

 

I’ve bought a few fabrics recently to add a little more variety, these are also reproduction ones, and I’ve made a block in the same colour choices from a block in a quilt I made for a friends baby.  But I mostly wanted to use fabrics that I loved, or are precious for various reasons of sentimentality not cost…..

 

ednas choice mini blocks 003

 

This quilt is probably the nicest thing I feel I’ve made (and yes,  I know I said that about my grannies paperweight blanket, maybe it is it’s twin in the happiness I feel from making it)….some of the fabrics are so precious, tied up with such deep and happy memories, it’s a bit like looking at a photo album.

 

second set of blocks 021

 

As I mentioned at the start, I’m a hand sewer, and sewing these mini blocks at times is fiddly but it’s also very relaxing.  I read this post  yesterday by Sophie at The Woven Nest, and I think I know what she means, there are times when so much seems to be flying around in my mind, but when I sit and sew everything quiets down and seems calm.  Maybe my little blocks are my version of her field of clover…..

 

hexagons and ethel 002

 

There is a show on tv called Parks and Recreation, and in it there is a wonderful old lady called Ethel Beavers (she’s my favourite character), she is exactly the sort of old lady I’d like to be when I grow up… so as homage to her, and the original Jane A.Stickle quilt, I’ve started referring to my quilt as “dear ethel”.

 

mrs bryan and others 018

 

I’m not sure how long this quilt will take, I started it last Summer and I’ve now made just over 70 blocks.  At the moment I think I need about 122 (though that number seems to change…)  plus sashing and a border…. but all that is a long ways off….. it’s not a race, it’s just sewing.

 

rice bread and tart 011

 

Whenever we have rice we always seem to have some leftovers, never enough to make egg fried rice the next day, so it used to just get put in a bowl in the fridge and often as not would be forgotten about.

Then I was reading The HandmadeLoaf by Dan Lepard and he wrote about adding different grains to your bread and how the texture and flavours can change.  So next time we had leftovers, I put the rice in along with the water, honey and yeast, let it do it’s thing before adding the flour….. and hey presto (making bread is magic isn’t it….you never really know how it’s going to come out and sometimes my bread can look a bit …homemade in a very rustic way… but other times it looks artisanal.) from the oven appeared a wonderful loaf of bread, which smelt so incredibly good baking, it was perfect for toast, the rice helps to crisp the bread…. and it smelt very nice toasting too.  So now when we have leftovers, it always gets made into bread……unless it is risotto rice …I tried that and although the bread was nice it didn’t work for breakfast toast as the bread was slightly savoury, but it was good in sandwiches with some roast peppers and goats cheese.

Anyway this is my recipe for rice bread

Ingredients

some leftover rice (maybe an english tea cup amount or an american cup…)

honey

yeast (I currently use a dry yeast because I can’t find fresh yeast anymore*)

bread flour (always from Shiptons…their flours are brilliant)

oats

spelt flour (if you don’t have any don’t worry… your bread will still come out fine)

sea salt

sunflower oil

 

Method

Put a couple of spoons of honey in a big bowl (I use a desert spoon so it’s not very precise), add your yeast (if you are using dry it’s about a table spoon, think it’s double that if you are using fresh)

Weigh your leftover rice, and take a note of the amount.  Add to the honey and yeast.

Weigh some oats, I use between 50g – 75g. Make a note of the amount.  Add to the honey,yeast and rice.

Weigh your flours.  Your combined dry ingredients want to be in the region of 650g so the below sums are an example

rice 50g                                               (50g)                 (75g)

oats 75g                                               (50g)                 (75g

spelt 125g                                            (100g)

bread flour 400g                                (450g)                (500g)

 

warm some water, add 400 ml of water to the honey,yeast, rice and oats.

If you are using spelt flour, add this to your bread flour, and then add a handful (cup) of flour to the honey,yeast, rice, oats and water, cover with a clean tea towel for about 20 to 25 minutes.

 

 

rice bread and tart 016

 

 

The flour want to be in a big bowl, add about a teaspoon of crushed sea salt, mix in thoroughly, make a well in the centre of the flour, add a splosh of sunflower oil (maybe a tablespoon or two) and then add the yeast,honey rice mixture.

Stir well until it comes together so you can start kneading it (if you are doing this by hand then a sink full of warm soapy water will be needed)

Kneed the dough until it is soft and silky and the temperature of the dough seems to drop (if it is very sticky then I’ll add a little more flour but only a sprinkle)

Add a small splash of sunflower oil on to your work surface, roll the dough so it is covered in a light sheen and then place it in a clean bowl with a tea towel.

Allow to prove (anywhere from an hour to an hour an a half

When the dough has risen, gently knock it back and put into a floured proving basket (I’ve stopped using shaped loaf tins as I find this makes for a nicer… cough cough … bigger… loaf of bread.  Cover with a dusting of flour and a muslin cloth. Leave for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn your oven on to gas mark 7.  Allow to get hot (15 to 20 mins)

Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment, carefully tip your dough out in to the middle and quickly (but very carefully) slash the top of the dough with a really sharp knife and put into the oven.

After 15 minutes turn the temperature down to gas mark 6, and allow to bake for another 30 minutes.

When the bread is ready, remove from the oven, allow to cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour before smearing with butter, jam, honey….

* I use Allison’s Dried Active Yeast…

quilting wrap 007

 

 

Before I start quilting I like to thread up a dozen or so small needles, that sounds like a lot but once I’m quilting I get a bit grouchy when I have to stop just to thread a needle, having a few pre threaded and all ready to use makes life much easier.  (and  used them all up I know it’s time to walk around the house and garden stretch the knees, shoulders etc….it’s really easy to just keep sitting and quilting for long periods of time but you can actually end up doing yourself a mischief so it’s important to take regular breaks and really stretch out those fingers)

I use a couple of different brands of needle, I like Clover needles, especially their Black Gold Needles in number 10 (they are really eye poppingly expensive but are very good)… other cheaper brands which are less likely to make your purse or wallet cry  are John James and Milward.  I tend to favour a size 10 but a quick rummage through my quilting needles shows they range from 8 to 12 (which are ridiculously minuscule,  I only use those for very small projects where the fabric is in my hands and not in a hoop.)  I’ve even got some vintage Blue Dorcas quilting needles and they are a size 7… so I think it is good to try a few out and see which you prefer.

I normally use Gutermann hand quilting cotton thread, though a couple of years ago I bought some Star hand quilting thread which is very good but haven’t been able to find it anywhere since.

The last piece of equipment you’ll need is a quilting hoop (which just looks like a really fat embroidery hoop…they tend to be about an inch high and width wise start at about 14 inches)…. I don’t use one for this project as it is so small*  but certainly for anything larger I’d be lost without one.  I’ve got a couple of different sizes, I probably use the 14″ one the most, I’ve got one that is 18 inches wide but that takes up a lot of lap.

Ooh, I nearly forgot, you might want to wear a thimble as it doesn’t take too long for the needle to make your finger tip really rather sore…

 

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Most quilting patterns start in the the middle of your quilt, however, there is always one that likes to be different and Baptist fan is one of them

The pattern is made up of a series of “fans”.

I find the best results come from starting at the bottom right corner, and working along in rows.

Start by making a knot in one end of thread, and insert the needle in the edge right up to the first quilting line, which in this case is the lowest little curve line, it’s about an inch wide.  Pull the needle through so the knot catches in the wadding and the  thread is held nice and tight. Insert the needle again but this time in the tip fabric, make a few small running stitches (making sure the needle goes through all three layers) and pull through at the top.  Don’t worry about the back, you don’t want to learn un-picking…. just keep making small little running stitches.

And if they aren’t really tiny…. don’t fret, it’s more important to keep them as regular in size as you can.

 

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Once you’ve quilted (and yes… you really are quilting)  the first arc, you need to move the quilt round, the needle will be to your right again, push the needle through the wadding to the edge of the second arc and then make more little running stitches ….

Keep turning your work so that the needle is always on your right, “so” you are sewing right to left.

If you are using a hoop then this supports your fabric, giving space underneath for your needle (though you never bring it all the way through like as with a stab stitch), and your left hand holds the hoop.

If you’re working on something small and so aren’t using a hoop then your left hand holds the fabric, and moves it as you quilt.

 

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If you’ve run out of thread while you are mid arc, make a knot in your thread as close to the fabric as you can-I often put a pin or needle in the knot so I can slide it down to the bottom, insert the needle tip into where the thread comes out in the fabric and push the needle back in, slide it along through the wadding about an inch, then bring it back up through the top fabric.  Trim it about 1/2 an  inch and then put just the tip of the needle behind the thread tail and wiggle it from side to side and the thread will disappear .  It sounds a lot trickier than it actually is.

To start a new thread in the middle of an arc, knot your thread.  Slide the needle alongside your last two or three stitches, bringing it out where your first new stitch wants to be and pull the thread so the knot goes through the top fabric and then catches… you need to do this gently so you don’t pull a hole in the fabric, once the knot has caught, use the needle tip to slide the tail out of sight.

Once your first “fan” is finished, take a couple of back stitches in the very edge of the wadding where it touches the top fabric, and cut the thread leaving an inch tail.

So that should be your first “fan” quilted!  Hoorah.  Time for a cup of tea, stretch out those fingers, do a little jazz hands, rotate your shoulders and have a little walk about (I know this no doubt sounds silly… but do you want to go to your doctor and say “I’ve got a crooky shoulder/neck from quilting”….

For the next “fan”, fasten the thread just on the very edge of the wadding, insert the needle through the wadding so you can slide it through and bring it out on the right side of the arc, just to the side of the largest curve of the previous “fan” and continue to make the small running stitches along the curve.

 

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Once your first row of fans are finished, you’ll then want to quilt your second row.

Again, start at the right side of the quilt and quilt the smallest arc first, bringing the arc of the fan down to the tops of the fans on the bottom row.

 

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As you grow more confident you’ll find yourself wanting to start a new row before the row you are working on is finished, this is fine, and it’s one of the things that appeals to me about this pattern.  You can easily have 3, 4, 5 or more small quilting needles tucked into your quilt top whiles you are quilting different rows.  You just always need the fan below and the next one to it to be finished before quilting the fan that sits on top of it.

 

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Continue in this way, working back and forth until your quilt is fully quilted.

Explaining something without actually being there to physically show how to do something is always hard, and I remember the light bulb moment when my friend Alison “corrected” how I was quilting…. I think to begin with I was back stitching, then stab stitching, and was obsessed with how the back of the piece looked….. Alison taught me to just relax, have a cup of tea (maybe a biscuit!) and just let your fingers find their natural rhythm.

 

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This is easily my favourite quilting pattern, and there are a few variations on it which I’ll post another day, it looks lovely but for me the best part is how it feels…. so ripply when you run your finger over it…. for me it’s just the best part.

 

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* If you’d like to use a hoop but your project is too small, or you want to quilt the sides properly, then securely tack some spare fabric to the sides of the back of the “extra” wadding and backing fabric, making sure this won’t be in the way of the actual quilting.  This supports the piece being quilted, and allows small pieces to be worked in a hoop which would otherwise need to be held by hand.

If you are totally new to quilting then I’d recommend going to your local quilting supplies shop and buying a couple of metres of American muslin and maybe a metre of cotton wadding .  Go home, wash the muslin, iron it and then put the “quilt sandwich” together like I’ve shown in the last couple of posts and just practise…. first attempts (and second and thirds) never look perfect and it’s easy to get cross, fling it across the room and say “I can’t do it”…..some practise fabric is always good to have, and if I haven’t quilted for a few months then I tend to spend an hour or so using some scrap calico, just getting back into the the flow and rhythm of the stitches.

If you click on the pictures they should come up really big, I appreciate it’s a bit hard to see what I’m describing because my thread is cream, it’s a bit easier to see when the pictures are bigger.

 

 

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