Category Archives: Patchwork

Hooray – My Patchwork Quilt is Finished!

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Sorry, I’ve been off the blogging radar for a few weeks.  My excuse is that this is my 100th post and I wanted it to be a milestone! I wanted to show y’all my finished quilt. It’s an English paper-pieced “tumbling blocks” quilt made from fabrics we’ve had in our house since I was a kid.  It’s taken 24 years!

tumbling blocks patchwork quilt

Early readers were introduced to my quilt in my Time to Finish the Quilt post.  I finished hand sewing the patchwork pieces together over 20 years ago but couldn’t get past the quilting hurdle.  I tried (several times) – I failed – it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t even tolerable – I finally admitted defeat.

tumbling blocks patchwork quilt

When my Mum was alive she was always offering to pay to have my quilt professionally quilted but I couldn’t bear to post it off somewhere – just in case.  Also, a part of me wanted to do it all myself.  However, when I was making my memory quilts (from my Mum’s jeans) I found a local long-arm quilter – a Scottish champion no less.  Kay – aka Borderline Quilter – made such an amazing job of those quilts I wanted her to quilt my matrimonial quilt too.  Unfortunately, I had to undo all my sub-standard hand quilting so she could start afresh and work her magic.

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The back of the quilt is a Laura Ashley sheet which I bought over 20 years ago so it’s now officially vintage.  I dropped my quilt off at her house at the beginning of the summer and got it back a few weeks ago.  I still had to hand sew the binding all the way round and started that tedious but satisfying job yesterday.  Today, I finished the job –  the matrimonial quilt is finally finished.  I wish I could show my Mum but I can share it with my gorgeous husband and hopefully keep it in the family for generations.

tumbling blocks patchwork quilt

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Crochet Granny Square Dress for ME

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crochet granny square dressI purchased this fabbo fabric in Australia – I am normally an upcycler of fabric and can’t recall buying any fabric in a shop, other than a charity shop, for at least 20 years.  I couldn’t resist this printed cotton fabric though – it was meant to be.  I was in Australia to teach crochet and was on a trip to the craft store to help my hostess choose yarn.  I only got 1.5 metres and had no idea what I would make.  It was too good for pyjamas and there was too much fabric for just a skirt – a dress?  If they can do it on the Great British Sewing Bee, then I can do it.  Do you like my self portrait? – you can just see the camera remote in my right hand!

Now, I’ve never made a dress, I made a skirt at school, and a couple of skirts when I worked in a posh tea room in Pasadena, California over 20 years ago and needed to look smart and English rose-like on a budget.  I am not a big fan of sewing machines, I prefer hand crafts, but even I am not about to hand sew a dress!  I find it difficult to buy dresses because they never fit – so I thought this would be a way to get a dress no one else would have and that would fit me – short body, big boobs!

My friend lent me this pattern which was her mother’s – it wasn’t my size but I thought I could use the shapes to give me an idea.  I bought some amazing papery material from our local scrap store for 25p/metre.  It is used to make disposable surgical gowns so I thought I could use it to make a prototype “paper” dress.

ntage simpicity dress pattern

I cut out the pieces using the Simplicity pattern I had, pinned it together and tried it on.  Too big.  I did some cutting and snipping and made a smaller version.  I used this version to make a paper pattern from wrapping paper (all I had).

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I then used some more surgical gown paper to make a new version and sewed it up (including zip) tried it on and it fit.

surgical gown paper dressI made adjustments to my gown prototype and corresponding snip, nips and tucks to my wrapping paper pattern and then cut out the fabric.  I make all this sound easy – it wasn’t – well not for me anyway.  I could have just bought a pattern my size but where’s the challenge/satisfaction in that?  I would have still have had to customize the pattern a to fit me.

bust darts french darts

facings

back of crochet dress

The front is one piece with two darts on each side – a bust dart and a French dart (into the side seam).  The back is two pieces with a zip in the centre back seam and a small dart on each shoulder.  I know I sound like I know what I’m doing but I just learned the technical lingo from a couple of vintage (charity shop) books on dressmaking I just knew would come in useful.  Now I have the pattern it should be easy to make more, well, zips are never easy (I hate them, but buttonholes are even worse). I hand sewed the hem – the most enjoyable part of the whole process.

hand sewn hem stitch

The whole process took me three days (and evenings) but I am so pleased with the result – I may have to make a couple more with different fabric.  I did use a reclaimed zip and upcycled pink linen fabric from an blouse for the facings.  The thread was also from charity shop.  I have a strip of fabric left over – very short skirt? Although, come to think of it, my ironing board does need a snazzy new new cover.  Watch this space.practice paper dress

Mum’s Jeans Memory Quilts are Finished

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four upcycled denim memory quilts

It’s a coincidence that my Memory quilts are ready to be blogged about today – Mother’s Day UK.  I finished sewing the binding round the edges on Friday night and yesterday I was out all day visiting a quilt exhibition in Cumbria as it happens; so, today was my first opportunity to photograph them.  I dodged the hail and nearly got my fingers frozen off but here they are.  I will try and get some more detailed photos it’s just that hail stopped play today.

denim jeans pocket quilt

I made these four quilts for my children from my Mum’s jeans.  They all called my Mum “Gabby” instead of granny and each one has been dedicated to them in memory of her from me. I had only nine pairs of small jeans and they were paint spattered – she was an artist.  I used practically every scrap.  I cut, pieced and sewed all the denim tops together last summer but had them quilted last month by a very talented local quilter.  Thanks Kay, for your care, imagination and skill – you made some pretty special quilts extra special.

cled denim stone wall quilt

Three were backed with some of my Mum’s stash of Laura Ashley fabric and one with a lovely blue and cream ticking fabric – again from my Mum’s stash.  I have spent the last week hand sewing the backing on to the front to make the binding.  I never imagined they would look this good.   Between us we did a fantastic job.  I love every inch of them.  I still have yards of Laura Ashley fabric and my Mum’s fleece tops so I might get another flash of inspiration.

upcycled denim stars and stripes US flag quilt

Mum’s Jeans Memory Quilt Part 1:

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denim jeans and clothes for memory quiltOne year ago today, my Mum passed away very suddenly, a few weeks after her 70th Birthday – way too young.  My daughter came to me that day, tears rolling down her cheeks, and asked “what are we going to do with all her clothes?” My Mum lived next door, we saw her every day, and although she was a glamourous granny, she favoured jeans and t-shirts with a fleece on top around the house.  She painted, and many of these clothes had paint splodges on them – very bohemian.  My reply to this tricky question – “we’ll make a quilt”

work jeans with paint in memory quilt

Last July, I finally got around to it and decided to use her jeans to make 4 small memory quilts for each of my children (her only grandchildren).  I had been thinking of making a jeans quilt with our family’s outgrown/worn out jeans before she died so this did seems an obvious thing to do.

My Mum was skinny – not a lot of denim in her jeans and I only had nine precious pairs to work with! I cut them up carefully, along the seams to minimise wastage, and proceeded to piece them back together in a meaningful and artistic way.  I did a little internet research into jeans quilts and found the amazing women of Gee’s Bend in America who made quilts from overalls and scrap fabric and I loved the worn “lived in” knees used in their quilts.

gees bend work quiltgees bend work quilt 2gees bend work quilt 5

So, after looking at a few images of Gee’s Bend Quilts, I scribbled my designs on the back of an envelope and set to work.  I wanted to make each one different but include a little of each colour denim and an equal distribution of paint splodges per child.  I managed to make four decent-sized quilts which, like the loaves and the fishes, seem to add up to way more than nine pairs of size 12 slim-fit jeans.  I forgot to take pictures of this process except one quick snap of quilt number four.  I made all four tops in less than a week so didn’t have time to lark about taking photos.

This quilt depicts the stone walls of my house, the brown jeans at each side are the quoin stones on the left of my front door and the right side of my hall window.  The  stones are sandstone and whinstone rubble in-fill, typical of older stone houses in my village.  This photo is not the actual bit of wall depicted in the quilt, but it is my wall, decorated with my hand made upcycled Hovis bread bag bunting I put up for the Queen’s Jubilee and when the London 2012 Olympic torch changed hands right in front of us last June.  My Mum’s house was attached to mine and built at the same time with the very same stones and presumably the very same hands – so the same walls enveloped us.

upcycled plastic hovis bread bag bunting

Here is the one snap of the Wee Man’s “wall” quilt pieces laid out on the kitchen table before sewing.

denim memory quilt before sewing

Now, I’m an artist who can handle a sewing machine to sew patches together, not an expert in actually quilting quilts. So today, on the anniversary of her death, I took my four completed quilt tops to a prize winning quilter – here in the Scottish Borders – Kay – so she can quilt them for me.  For the backing, I am using some of my Mum’s stash of vintage Laura Ashley fabric – some dated 1976! and lovely 100% cotton batting which I purchased today from Borderland Fabrics in Jedburgh.

I will post pictures of all four quilts when I get them back in March.  Then, I’m going to commission Kay to quilt my matrimonial quilt as well because the resolution I made to quilt it by hand last year has not held up.  Sometimes you gotta admit defeat!

recycled denim jeans memory trivet mat

With the seams of the jeans, I also made two trivets – waste not want not and I love them very much – we used them on our Christmas table this year along with my Mum’s hand made Christmas napkins and my great grandparents silver-plated cutlery.  I can’t wait to show you the finished quilts, keep in touch, Jakki.

Every Quilt Tells A Story

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vintage laura ashley patchwork baby quiltWhen I was first married, my husband and I spent a couple of weeks visiting my Mum in Oxford (we lived in California then).  The 1990 World Cup was on TV and the three of us worked on a patchwork baby quilt for the twinkle in his eye – he did the cutting – he’s a mechanic and good with his hands plus the direct descendent of two wonderful seamstresses.  Our first baby wasn’t born until three years later but we had the quilt ready – I’m nothing if not organized.  We used my Mum’s stash of Laura Ashley fabric that seems to have been around my whole life.

We now have four children but the quilt remained in the hands of number 3 who was six when number 4 came along and was not going to relinquish it – she still has it in her bed today.  So, when I was pregnant with number four, my three kids and I made a new quilt for the baby but that’s another story….

Today, as baby number one approaches his 19th Birthday, the original quilt is in a poor state of repair – the back and front have separated, some of the fabric has holes or is as thin as tissue paper and and it’s certainly too fragile to wash.

hole damage to vintage laura ashley paper-pieced quilt

heirloom grannies flower garden quilt in need of repair

I don’t claim to be an expert on quilt repair I’m just sharing how I fixed mine.

Mine is a hand sewn English-style paper-pieced patchwork – the very traditional granny’s flower garden pattern.  It wasn’t until I went to America did I discover patchwork can be done on a machine!  It’s funny because tradition seems to dictate that Brits focus on the hand sewing of the patches and then neglect the actual quilting, while Americans seem to use a machine to piece their patches and then hand quilt.  My quilt was all hand sewn but not quilted at all.  I had just folded the original backing fabric around the wadding and then hand sewed the patchwork piece on top – so there was no binding either.  It held up for nearly 20 years so not too bad.

new patch for old english patchwork quilt

To repair my quilt I made new “duplicate” patches to sew on top.  I still have the original fabrics – inherited from my mum – and it was very nostalgic, therapeutic and reassuring to work with them.  I’m pretty sure there’s enough – now vintage – Laura Ashley fabrics to make quilts for any grandchildren that might come along!

I couldn’t find the original template so I measured my hexagons and used a computer program to draw new ones (30mm sides).  I printed the hexagons onto regular printer paper and cut them out.  Normally, in English patchwork, the fabric is tacked (basted) on to the papers and then the papers are removed when it is all sewn together.  For my repair, I  folded the fabric around the papers and tacked/basted without piercing the paper so I could remove the paper before applying the patch.  I found it worked best if I ironed the fabric around the paper first.

grannys flower garden patchwork rosette reverse side
I ended up sewing four new rosettes of seven hexagons each and around 12 individual hexagon patches. Here’s some of them…

grannys flower garden patchwork rosette reverse side
The pinkish fabric on the bottom is not in my original quilt but it’s in my Mum’s beautiful quilt so I have added it as an extra reminder of her.

pink laura ashley patchwork quilt hexagon flower garden pattern

I hand sewed all the new patches directly on top of the old patches using slip stitch.  For added security and strength I put and extra piece of salvaged white sheeting fabric behind the original top.  I was surprised how well this worked, you really can’t see the difference.

new patch on old quilt

When the patches were all sewn on it was time to sew the back on.  My daughter wanted to keep the original back even though it was very thin (soft and comforting) because her granny had sewn two patches on it when it got caught between her buggy wheel and the pavement!  I cut off the very frayed edges and then made a new binding with some plain pink Laura Ashley fabric – from the stash.  I sought a little help on this from one of my favourite blogs flossieteacakes.blogspot.com.  The original wadding was in a sorry state so it was binned.  New wadding would have been too bulky as the old stuff had squashed thin – the repaired quilt needed to remain small enough to be taken on trips!

I decided to use an interfacing product called Vilene X50 which I bought at my local quilting store.  It is also known as Pellon I believe.  It had grid lines like graph paper which are iron on.  Anyway, it was the perfect weight for me.  I ironed it on to the backing fabric and then sewed the binding strips to the backing also.  I then folded the binding on to the front, ironed it, turned it under and hand sewed it to the front.  I think normally one hand sews the binding on the back but I wanted to be sure to get the join exactly in the middle of my hexagons.  I didn’t get the binding perfectly centred but that’s because I never measure anything – it’s art not science!

Two more holes had developed on the back so so I applied two more patches – I repair punctures also!

Finally, I washed the quilt carefully by hand – it came almost clean.  I put it in the front loading washing machine in a large net bag and then spun it.  I line dried it in the fresh Scottish wind!

Here’s the repaired quilt in my flower garden sitting on my Mum’s old garden bench – I’m wishing she was here to sit on her bench with a coffee and a cigarette like she used to.

repaired flower garden quilt on garden bench in my flower garden

It took me about three days to repair the quilt  but it was very rewarding and I enjoyed every minute of it.  Equally rewarding was involving my daughter – quilt owner and client – in the process.  She managed to gladden my heart by getting bitten by the patchwork bug and is now making a patchwork cushion cover with her beloved “Gabby’s” fabric.

hand sewn english paper pieced patchwork

how to make a granny's flower garden quilt

Here’s my daughter’s wonderful stitching – even neater than mine – and her project in progress – not bad for a 13 year old.  We spent a wonderful evening on the sofa “patching” together and watching The Waltons on DVD courtesy of Love Film – just listening to that theme tune cheers me up.  We were both delighted that Ma Walton’s patchwork quilts featured quite heavily.

When I was little, The Waltons was one of my favourite TV programs – I wanted to be one of those barefoot, denim dungaree-clad kids – I did have denim dungarees but mostly wore shoes – too cold and wet in Britain.

By the miracle of modern science – and the scanner I got for my Birthday – I can share with you a page from my six-year old self’s school “news” jotter. What I can’t understand is how my Mum managed to keep such a beautiful, tidy and uncluttered house given that she never chucked out any old fabric or old school jotters/reports/artwork.

a page from my jotter age 6

Anyway, it seems I have now turned into “Ma” Walton with my very own ramshackle house, lots of kids and a wonderful American “Pa” for my kids. Unfortunately, however, I can’t move in my house for bits of old fabric and old school jotters!

If you find this story useful or interesting, please leave a comment, thanks.

Memory Quilt Patchwork Oven Mitts

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My Mum loved patchwork, especially the traditional granny’s flower garden pattern. Like me she was also an upcycler of old fabric.  I have her amazing bed quilt but was unaware she made this oven glove.  My Aunty (her sister) showed it to me on a recent visit.  I was thrilled; clearly my Aunty used it and treasured it; and, it features fabrics which mean a lot to me.  The white hexagons with flowers are made from my old Sanderson fabric bedroom curtains.  I remember picking them out with my Mum in Selfridges in Oxford in the late 70s/early 80s. They were super expensive as we had big bay windows.  In fact, not long after that I was so desperate to have my room redecorated in Habitat red and white graph paper wallpaper that my ever practical Mum let me change rooms to the downstairs living room as that room needed new curtains and the Sanderson ones were practically new.  They must have bit the dust eventually though or maybe the patchwork bits were a sample.

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The red and orange stripey background fabric is at least as old as I am – forget vintage – approaching antique – I think they were our blinds or curtains too in the 60s.  I don’t remember the fabric in use I just remember that my Mum made my twin brother a sausage dog and it’s paws were made from that fabric.  He loved that dog.  Once he donated it to our primary school bring and buy sale but then we had to get there early to buy it back again.  Eventually the mice got to our homemade toys in the attic and they had to go, otherwise I think we’d still have them today.

Time to Finish the Quilt

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Upcycled Tumbling Block Pattern Quilt

Eloping with Greg and getting hitched in Jeans 23 years ago, may not have been the most traditional wedding; but, that doesn’t mean I’m not a traditional kinda gal! . I did get married after all; and, start work on the family heirloom quilt.   In those 23 wonderful years, we’ve managed to make 4 great kids and renovate our way up to a house big enough to fit them all in.  However, the fabulous matrimonial bed quilt, started all that time ago has been in a succession of attics for too many years.

It’s a king-sized, hand-stitched tumbling block pattern quilt made from upcycled clothes and fabric my mum and I had stashed about the place and collected at the time. It’s funny now, at over 20 years old, it’s officially vintage!

It was going to be my New Year’s resolution this year to finish my quilt and I took it out of the attic just before Christmas in readiness. My mum and I had fun looking at all the patches and remembering where each scrap came from.

Unfortunately though, in a very sad twist of fate, my mum died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage just after the New Year.  I am so pleased that we had that time before Christmas reminiscing about the fabrics and the time she helped me with the quilt when she visited Greg and I in California. My mum spent ten years making a Laura Ashley granny’s flower garden quilt for herself which she had on her bed for over twenty years and some of the same fabrics are in my quilt – tears are rolling as I write this.

My quilt is all pieced together and all I need do is hand quilt it! Like a little girl I just wish I could show it off to my mum when I finally finish it. I’ll just have to snuggle under it with my kids and have a good cry as we remember the best Mum and Granny in the world.