Anemone, finally finished

Can you believe how long this has taken?

Not the hand quilting, which was long enough, but the whole thing. I started this lovely six years ago! And looking at it now, fully completed, I wonder why I was bonkers enough to put it on the back burner. Still, the hiatus hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm for it. I still love it soooo much! I really like faced hexie quilts, because it retains the distinctive shape of the outer edge, and although it’s meticulous, laborious work to create and apply the back facing, I feel it’s really worth the effort when you look at the front.

I don’t have my handy quilt holder-upper (aka the Husband) today, so I have draped it tastefully (I hope) over a sofa. Possibly you can’t see every single hexie, but you get the idea.

Weird that the pink quilting thread looks black, but there you go.

And here’s a close up.

And the label, which I have concealed behind a hexie of appropriate colour on the back of the quilt, stitched in so that you can flip it open just enough to read it. I’m beginning to find labels a bit intrusive to look at unless they carry an important message (as in the DfG or Ovarian Cancer quilts), so I think I’ll keep this ‘hidden message’ option going forward.

And so we say farewell to Anemone. Next cab off the rank should be Delft, but I suspect I’ll finish assembling the front, remove most of the papers and then put it away for a bit. My fingers need a break from hand stitching for a good long time. And there’s another hat cut out and waiting for me, not to mention other quilt projects.

You’ll just have to wait and see what I pick next!

Anemone: row 24 quilted

I decided it was time.

I’d been neglecting Anemone in favour of feverishly stitching away at Delft. I’ve reached the point with Delft that it can just sit for a bit until I’m ready to piece large sections together, never my favourite part. Anemone has been quietly waiting on my cutting table (and yes, taking up all the space and preventing me starting yet another new project). Time to start hand quilting again.

So that’s what I did. And now I’m up to row 24 and three more are marked up ready to go. It’s actually quite soothing. I can listen to podcasts or YouTube videos while I stitch along the rows of scallop shapes. Three rows at a time is about enough before the fingers get too sore and I have to take a bit of a break before starting again.

It’s still hexies, but at least I’m not sewing them together any more…

Anemone: 7 rows done

It may be time for a day off.

Not because I’m bored, or not enjoying this, but because I need to let my fingers heal. The calluses haven’t re-formed yet, and the needle sticks have become small but painful wounds due to the repeated damage in the same place. I’ve anointed them with spray bandage to keep them closed, since the stick-on kind is a pain in the backside on the tips of fingers. It may be enough to let me carry on working, but somehow I think it may be time to give my body a chance to heal itself without interference.

This is what most people would call big-stitch quilting. I do want to finish it this side of Christmas, which is why I’m not going for smaller stitches. Life is just too short, and I do very much like the soft texture I get with this clamshell shape and size of quilting. I also like the pink thread; it was a toss up whether I’d use white, grey or pink, but I’m happy with the decision to with colour – of course!

I’ve calculated this quilt is going to need at least 50 rows of clamshell stitching. I’m 7 rows down, so making decent progress. I haven’t quite got to the quilt-like-a-machine stage where I load x needles with x length of thread at the start of each row, but by row 20 I’ll probably be there… Making exactly the right size of knot at the start of each thread so that it’s still small enough to bury but too large to pull out, and the trick of forming and pulling down the knot to bury at the end of each thread is a skill you don’t forget after your first queen-sized hand quilted project!

Now let’s see if I can resist Anemone’s siren call….


Anemone: let the quilting begin…

So, it’s time to begin the final stage.

This quilt has been sitting on my work table for the past 2 years, waiting for me to get my act together. And today, finally, I did.

I made a clamshell template to fit the width of the individual hexies, decided on pink quilting thread, found my thimble and needle and squissors, and away we went. I’ve pulled out both my pale pink ceramic quilt-marking pencil, and my 0.1mm lead mechanical pencil. The former’s for marking on dark fabrics, and the latter for light fabrics, and both wash out or rub off with an eraser quite easily.

I have the first three rows done. I decided the bottom row was going close to the edge, particularly as this is a faced (rather than bound) quilt. That has the function of holding the edge securely.

After that first row, my fingers have, thankfully, quickly remembered what they’re supposed to be doing.

I’m looking forward to the appropriate calluses forming I must say, as my fine quilting needle has a distressing tendency to ram itself backwards into a random fingertip when it hits thick fabric, despite the fact that I’m using a thimble!

Three rows down, many, many more to go…

Holiday handwork

I can’t do without sewing, even for 10 days.

So I’ve been casting about for a project to take with me. I considered some very simple crochet (which is all I’m capable of), making more dishcloths and face washers, and I may still take some cotton yarn and a hook with me, but I wanted something a bit more, well, creative. I debated taking Anemone, but I need more space for hand quilting than the interior of the caravan allows. My Dahlia tapestry? Nah, not in the mood… Plus I don’t have the right kind of chair in the caravan to work comfortably with the frame.

Where I left it in March…

So, it’s time to pick up where I left off in March. I’ll be taking the Days Gone By hexie quilt I’m make for Days for Girls.  It’s a decent size now, so I’ll make big sections to add to the main one once I’ve done some laying out to make sure there’s no visual clashing. A few photos on my phone will keep things on track, and when I go back to the Saturday sewing sessions on my return, I’ll have some respectable progress to show. It would be nice to have another couple of rows done, at least.

The handy thing is that everything I need fits into a small work basket, so it’ll stow away neatly in the caravan. It’ll be good to get back to hand sewing again. Even after the months of work on the Anemone quilt, I miss the peaceful rhythm of hand stitching.

I won’t even mind if it rains while we’re away…

Anemone: Facing Finally Finished!

Yeah, yeah, I know.

It has taken an age. But that’s what happens when you decide to face the edge of your hexie quilt using the angled edges instead of straightening it all up and doing a nice normal binding. Mind you, it looks fabulous.

It’s a fiddly old process. You have to trim the batting and backing so that they sit ¼ inch inside the edge of the outer hexies. Then you have to make and stitch together 4 long chains of hexies to go on the back as facing. You have to stitch together – as invisibly as possible – all the outer edges. Then you have to remove the basting and the papers and pin down the facing onto the backing, keeping everything smooth. Then you have to go all the way round again, stitching down the inside edge onto the backing. It’s a tad mind-numbing. You can’t watch TV while you do it (although you can, and I do, listen to an audiobook. Or two, or even three).

But it’s done, and I’m really pleased with the effect. Now for the hand quilting. That’s going to have to wait till I get back from next week’s forthcoming trip north for a quick break in Cairns.

Next on the agenda is piecing together scrap batting for the second scrappy Sugar Sprinkle pillowcase, sandwiching and quilting. This is the first one, quilted with some moderately wonky-directional lines. I think I’ll do wavy lines on the other one…

I have another milestone to celebrate too, but not quite so decorative. Mouse and I have been gradually building up the length of our morning walks. It has been difficult because of my back pain, but the Husband solved that problem by buying me what’s know as a shooting stick, or spectator seat. When my back starts to hurt, I can stop and sit for a few minutes wherever I am, rest it till the pain eases, and then carry on walking. It has been a total game changer, and doggo and I are now powering through 3 or 4 km a day, something unheard of in earlier times. I’m working up to the 5km mark, and that’ll deserve a proper celebration, don’t  you agree?

Whether we’ll still manage it when the hot weather comes is another question; I might have to get up at 5 to walk him, feed him at the usual 6am and then we can both collapse for a bit, rather than feeding at 6 and walking at 7am. But for now, we have cool, fresh mornings, some with a mild nip in the air. The Crush is in full swing, and cane fields all around us are slowly being harvested. The landscape is reappearing from behind its 2m curtain of green sugarcane, and on these winter mornings there is a mist lying over the earth on cold mornings. It’s lovely, and makes walking a real pleasure.

Excuse me now. Mouse is demanding to go out and do zoomies in the back yard, preferable with his rope toy.

Your wish is my command, O Master…


Anemone: creeping along around the back

It’s slow, fiddly work, but will be so worth it.

Here’s the exact how-to, with pictures to make all clear (hopefully…).

Trim the edge of the backing and batting away from the quilt top by about 3/16″. I prefer the minimum necessary, and think a quarter inch is too much, the outer hexies get a floppy edge.

Stitch your hexie facing together in pairs. Offer up a pair to the edge of the front, and hem the facing to the front using tiny stitches. It helps if you pull the facing back a tiny bit to give you a clear space to run your needle between the fabric layers..

Stitch both sides of the pair to the outer edge of the quilt front. Stop and knot off. You can see the stitches if you look very carefully, but they are small and neat, and with this ‘hemming’ process they’re not right on the edge and will resist wear a bit better.

Take your next facing pair. You need to stitch the right hand edge of the right hand hexie to the left hand edge of the one you’ve just finished sewing in. Lay them face to face and stitch inwards towards the centre of the back. Knot off, and flip the other half over. Now you’re ready to sew the next top edge.

At this point, I like to undo the basting on the previous pair and pull out the paper. I fold the seam allowance back in tidily and pin the free edge down through the quilt layers to secure it.

Once all the facing hexies are sewn onto the outer edge, you’ll come back to this inner pinned edge and hem that down too. After that, you’re ready to start quilting. Because the batting goes right up to the edge, you can also quilt right to the edge if you wish.

Yes, it is labour intensive, but doesn’t it give a pretty result?

Anemone: facing the next stage

That’s a big chunk of work completed.

First on the agenda was to snip away the excess fabric on the back. It’s not really necessary, but I’d like this quilt to be as soft and supple as possible, so it was worth the investment of time.

Following a few more hours of work today, the quilt is sandwiched and trimmed out. It was a tricky one to sandwich because there’s no straight edge to line things up to, the light, soft fabric of the backing is harder to control than firmer regular backing, and the quilt itself needs to be handled a bit more gently than usual because of all the hand sewn seams around the edge.

The easiest way to manage the job turned out to be first sandwiching the backing and backing on the floor, then hanging that up on the design wall, batting side out. Onto that I pinned the quilt top, just along the top edge, and then I rolled it up and sprayed adhesive onto the batting from the top down, unrolling the top and smoothing out as I went along. I masked everything off with pieces of plastic drop sheet, which I seem to be able to get several uses out before they get impossibly gummed up!

I’d left the outer row of hexie papers in place to stabilise the edges, stop stitches unravelling and keep the folds crisp till they could be stuck down permanently.

Once the top was in place and smoothed out, I went round the edge unpicking the basting, gently pulling out the papers and sticking the hexies back down again.

Then I pinned each hexie on the outside edge through the sandwich, and finally, I trimmed out the excess batting and backing.

Now I’m ready to start assembling sections of the facing and stitching them in place along the outer edge. Finally, I’ll hem the inner edges down onto the backing. And then, and then, I can start quilting!

I’m having to take things a bit slowly just now. My back is going through a rather painful phase, and to top that off, I put my foot down a hidden pothole in the grass when I was walking Mouse the other day, and I’ve managed to tear the ligaments down the outside of my right ankle. There’s some quite spectacular swelling and bruising, and I’m lurching around in a rigid brace. Happy days….

Never mind. In a while, I’ll be able to sit contentedly and start hand quilting this baby 🙂

Anemone: back at it

Did you think I was taking a break?

Nope. I’ve spent the past two days adding the additional columns of hexie flowers at left and right. It’s laborious. It’s fiddly. It’s, dare I say it, booooorrrrinnnggg. But it’s done. The front is finished. I’ve even taken out all the papers except those at the extreme edge. But it looks exactly like the last version I showed you, so no photo of that.

Once it was all in one piece, I counted up how many hexies I’d need for the facing on the back. Turns out it’s 78, or 39 each of the spot and floral fabrics. I’ve made a start, so I thought I’d show you what I plan the back should look like:

What do you think?  I find it fresh and pretty, and a quiet antidote to the riot of colour on the front, without being dull. The backing fabric will go right up to the edge of the front hexies, and then be trimmed back just a little so the edge is nice and flat rather than thick and bodgy. Where the outside edge of the front and back hexies meets, I’ll whipstitch them together, edge to edge. Where the inside edge of the hexies meets the backing fabric, I’ll hem them down onto the backing. Does that help to explain the plan?

Because these edging hexies will also need to be quilted, the facing has to go on before quilting, so that’ll be the final stage. It’s going to take a fair while to get there, so don’t hold your breath.

Next steps: finish making the facing hexies; piece together the backing; trim out excess fabric on the reverse of the quilt top; cut batting and spray baste the quilt sandwich; trim away excess backing and batting; stitch together sections of the facing, press hard, remove papers and whipstitch to outside edge. There will be some easing required, I think, so I won’t be hemming down the inside edge till right at the end. And then it’ll be time to quilt!

Now, excuse me, I have an appointment with another 44 hexies.

Anemone: facing facts

Sorry, sorry, yet more puns…

So, the back of the Anemone quilt. I’m not going to straighten out the edge and give this quilt a conventional binding. I have plenty of straight edged quilts. No, I’m going to face the ziggy zaggy edge with yet more hexies on the back. Lots more handwork to do…. Firstly, I have to make all the hexies for the facing. Then I’ll layer it with batting and backing and spray baste the layers together. I’ll trim out the excess of both backing and batting so it’s back a quarter inch from the edge of the outer hexies, and then I’ll lay down the facing on top. The facing strips will need to be assembled into long strips. I’ll starch and press the bejasus out of them, remove the papers and gently lay the strips on top of the backing and quickly pin them in place. I’ll need to whip stitch the outer edges of the quilt together, and finally, hem down the inner edges of the facing onto the backing.

The main backing is going to be this nice blue and white voile in the leaf and animal print. I’d originally bought it to make clothes, but I’m a voile convert for a quilt backing because it feels so soft and lovely when it’s quilted. The facing will combine the navy and white spot with the pink floral. I think this is a pretty combination, and will produce a reversible quilt where the back is just as pretty, if a lot less colourful!

I’ve decided what I’m doing for the quilting. It’ll be offset hexies, the same size, but overlapping the intersections, like a ghostly outline of a second quilt overlying this one, but slightly ‘slipped’. Hard to describe, but hopefully all will make sense once I can show some progress. I’ve decided on a medium-pale grey quilting thread, which will blend nicely into most of the colours and only show a bit on the black.

The original plan for this quilt included entering it in Mackay Show in June. The Show has been postponed to who knows when, so that’s not exactly a deadline any more. But one of the show criteria is that quilts need to feature a hanging pocket. Given that this won’t have a straight edge, I’m having to consider how it might be hung, and I’m thinking tabs along the top edge. Time enough to finalise that. So, quite a lot still to be done…

… in case you thought this baby was in the home stretch!