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!



Anemone: I think that’s it…

I think this quilt may finally be big enough.

This was before, the way I showed you last time.

This is now, with an extra row of flowers on the right hand side. I still have to make the dotty fillers.

As you can see, I’ve taken out that dark blue flower. It was just annoying me too much.

To me, it’s now large enough. I’ll still want to make coloured fillers to go round the edge so that it’s a simple zigzag, but there are sufficient complete flowers now, in my opinion. Now for several quiet days attaching all 14 new flowers and 13 dotty fillers. For clarity, this quilt is 70 inches wide by 67 inches high, and each flower is roughly 10 inches square. Big, eh?

For the back, my current plan is to use a single fabric backing, but to face the edge all round with an outer row of black hexies so the final edge of the quilt will be the zigzag edge of the hexie flowers.

Once it’s faced, I can start the hand quilting. There’s something to keep me out of trouble for several weeks! Before I start, though, there’s still a fair bit of work to be done. Once that’s finished, I have to make a decision. What colour thread shall I use for the quilting?

I was going to enter this quilt into the quilt section at Mackay Show. That has been postponed for the foreseeable future, but once it’s on again, I should have the quilt ready.

Every lockdown has a silver lining…

Anemo’ Inspo’

Yes, OK, the title’s a bit of a stretch…

What I’m trying to say here is that when I saw Wild Daffodil’s latest post, I was inspired to crack on with more Anemone quilt hexie flowers, especially a pink one! If you click through on the link and scroll to the end, you’ll see her gorgeous pink anemone and may have a lightbulb moment about the reason for this quilt’s name (if you’re not a gardener). I had only 5 more to do until I thought I maybe had enough.

So I chose a very strong pink, with blossom on it rather similar to the amelanchier blossom she’s already showing. It’s the one at bottom left. The other flowers fill what I feel are colour gaps; it’s all getting a bit neutral down that side, and you know how I love my brights! What do you think? I’m a bit worried the blue with teal spots is too dark and strong for this quilt… Would it be better in a different location? What do you think? And is the quilt big enough now, or do I need another row on the right?

Finally, I leave you with my latest face mask, made from scraps of the top I’m wearing. It wasn’t quite enough, hence the black filler pieces at the sides. The linen is too loose a weave for an effective mask, so I’ve lined it with batik to increase the impermability.

, everyone: Stay home, Stay safe and Stay well.

Anemone: talkin’ and stitchin’

The restrictions on movement are getting tighter.

Everyone in this household is safe and well, sheltering (mostly) in place. We still have to buy groceries and medication, etc, but the Husband has sensibly said that we should not both go, one of us is enough to shop. But given that my everyday life isn’t that different, I’m not feeling restricted, trapped or stressed. I have things to do, many, many books to read, food to cook and fabric to sew. I’m OK. Where I do get stressed is in worrying about friends in danger zones, especially those already not in perfect health.

So, well, I’m cooking and reading, but mostly sewing! No big surprise there. Before, from a few days ago.

After, below. I got another long row of flowers assembled (the one on the left in the image below), and am about to sew them in. After that, I’ll cut fabric for what is likely to be the last row if it looks about right. I’m still thinking about what to do on the back. I have a variety of fabrics, but I like to make the back work with the front, so it needs a little thought. I think I’ll also face the back edge rather than straighten it off and bind it. Probably…. I also like the idea of stitching the outer edge to a straight band of fabric, so long as it works well visually. We’ll have to wait and see, even me!

Over the past couple of days I’ve enjoyed a number of conversations with blogging friends, on the phone, by Skype and on FaceTime (hello again, Anne, Dale, Sandra, Jan and Linda!). It’s such fun to put a voice and a face to your online ‘voices’, and I hope we can continue to stay in touch. It’s interesting to hear how your daily lives are affected by the pandemic, and how you’re dealing with it. I have learned things and gained ideas from talking to you all, so thank you for your time, your friendship and your warmth in reaching out to a (comparative) stranger. Anyone else up for some cheerful conversation and a lot of laughs? If so, say something in the comments 🙂

Stay home, stay safe and stay well.


Anemone quilt: how to do hexies

It’s this quilt again.

Pauline said she couldn’t get her head around how I made the hexie flowers, and could I explain? It’s not at all hard to do, but a bit tricky to explain in words, so there will be lots of pictures. You can click and zoom on any of them. This isn’t going to be interesting or new for everyone, but if it demystifies the process for even a couple of you, I’ll be happy.

Let’s get started. For each flower you need a centre and six petals. In this quilt all the centres, or hearts, are black. To save time, I just cut squares that will accommodate the 2″ hexie papers*, rather than laboriously trace and trim out hexie shapes in the fabric. You can fold and hold the fabric in place if there’s a bit extra, but with the trimmed shapes, you might need clips, pins or tape to hold it in place while you stitch. Most of my hexie quilts use much smaller papers, but I liked the big ones to showcase the fabrics.

Then start wrapping each hexie paper with the fabric and stitching it in place. This is called ‘basting’. Fold a corner of the fabric over the paper, stitch down until the next corner, where you fold the fabric over again and stitch down to secure the fold. I start with a good knot, which at the end of the process I use to help me pull out the basting at the end.

At the end, simply do a double stitch to secure, and snip the thread. Now repeat that six more times with the petal fabric.

Once you have all 7 hexies done, arrange them around the heart so that the pattern is pleasing, if appropriate. You can obviously use all different fabrics, or two, or three or just one.

Take the heart hexie, and one of the petals, laying them face to face. Knot the end of your thread. Start stitching along the edge where they meet. The stitches should pick up just a few threads at the edge of the hexies, and not pass through the paper at all. Work on the basis of at least 10 stitches per inch.

When you reach the end, pick up the next petal in the layout, lay it on the front of the heart, face to face, and continue with the thread from attaching the previous petal. Carry on all the way round until you reach your start point. Do not knot off and cut the thread.

Put the edges of the two adjacent petals together, and using the same thread, stitch these two edges together. Knot off and cut the thread. Work around the flower to attach all the petals to each other.

You will end up with a neat, crisp flower on the front.

At this point you have a choice. If you have used lightweight fabrics, quilting cotton, shirting, etc, you can leave the corners of the fabric on the back, as they won’t make an enormous difference when quilting. If you have used firmer or heavier fabrics, it would be a good idea to trim them off to leave a ¼ to ½ inch seam allowance, depending on how close to the edge you have basted. This will reduce the thickness and weight of the final quilt.

Use a pair of sharp scissors and snip away the excess fabric. You don’t need to get an immaculate result, just tidy it up a bit.

So there you are, a pretty, tidy hexie flower. There’s an endless variety of ways to join these. As you can see from the photo at the beginning, I’m separating the flowers with polka dot hexies. You can also surround them with a border and then a separator, or you can create diamonds using extra hexies, and so on. A quick search on Pinterest for ‘EPP’ or ‘Hexie Quilts,’ or a simple Google search will show a huge choice. One of my all-time favourites is a baby quilt using white petals, yellow hearts and green borders and separators, like a field of daisies. All the fabrics were different, which gave it a visual richness that flat, same fabrics would have lacked in this simple design.

Once you’ve joined flowers together, you can pull out the basting from all the hexies except the ones around the edge. Press well first, then unpick the basting, starting with the end stitches and pulling on the knot once you have one or two stitches left. Slide the paper out. You can use it again. It may need a bit of an iron to flatten out; papers get creased when you fold your work up between sessions.

I’m sometimes asked why I stitch through the papers instead of stitching only through the fabrics. It’s because I’ve tried both ways, and I prefer this one. It gives a crisper edge and sharper corners, as the fabric is tensioned over the paper more than using the other method. You may find the fact that you don’t need to unpick the basting is worth the lack of precision. Alternatively, you can buy little glue sticks you can run along the back edge of each paper and stick the fabric down. I don’t like this method as sometimes my papers stay in for years on a long term project, and by the time I remove them, the glue has stuck tight and shreds of paper remain, which is a Bad Thing, and ruins your papers for future use.

I hope this has clarified the process for you (looking at you, Pauline!), and that you might be tempted to give it a try. Who knows, being in lockdown might actually provide the impetus of boredom needed!

If you do, I’d love to hear about it.


Note: hexie papers are sized according to the length of each side, not by diameter. You can buy them from any quilt shop in packs of 50 or 100, and in a variety of sizes. 2 inches is a fun size to start with, as you get results quickly, but isn’t such a great way to bust your scraps if that’s what you want to do.