Blogger’s Quilt Festival: time to vote!

Me again…

The Cloths of Heaven final, frontJust to remind you that all the entries are in and voting is now open, so if you’d like to vote for The Cloths of Heaven quilt I posted about 5 days ago, and the Bookcase Quilt 4 days ago, now’s your chance.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 5.10.41 pmYou can go to this post, or you can click on the logo button below. Once you’re there, go to the Original Design Quilts category for The Cloths of Heaven, or the Small Quilts category for the Bookcase Quilt, and find the familiar image to vote.

There’s loads of brilliant work there to enjoy, and plenty of inspiration in all the categories.

Go on, get clicking on those little corner hearts and voting. It doesn’t have to be for me!


Blogger’s Quilt Festival: my entry

The Blogger’s Quilt Festival starts today. This fun event allows quilters everywhere to showcase their work in a wide range of categories. Clicking on the button below will take you through to the website where all the entries will be showcased, and you can vote for your favourites, but voting doesn’t open for 4 days, so you’ll have to wait a little, to give people enough time to enter.


I’m entering The Cloths of Heaven as an Original Design Quilt. It’s not some-thing I’d normally do, but enough of you said I should that I’m going to do it! Entry requires an entire new post about the finished quilt, and as many of my more recent followers are not familiar with either the quilt or its story, here goes.

Construction pageA bit of background. My brother’s eldest daughter was getting married and was delighted to be offered a large quilt as a wedding gift. We created a Pinterest board together, using colour, imagery, texture and ideas for embellishment as inspiration for the finished thing. I had in mind a piece of poetry, one of my all-time favourites, and it seemed a perfect starting point. The poem is WB Yeats’ He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, a tender offer of hopes and dreams to the beloved.

The Cloths of Heaven centre detailOver the course of many months, the idea evolved and gestated. I did a lot of experimentation, since this was to be a wedding gift and I was not prepared to let errors sneak through. Section by section it was assembled, embellished with hand-written calligraphy for the poem, 3D leaves, spangled star constellations, both hand and machine quilting and a purpose-made label to commemorate the happy event.The Cloths of Heaven label

And here it is, the finished thing. It now graces their bed in England, and she and her husband lie snug under a covering into which I have sewn hope, love, faith and my best wishes for their continued happiness, health and love for each other.

The Cloths of Heaven final, front

The Cloths of Heaven 24: over the line

Today is my birthday, and as a reward, The Cloths of Heaven is finished, at last.

The Cloths of Heaven final, frontThe Cloths of Heaven centre detailI started it on 30th October last year, and it is finished today, three months later. I originally gave myself 6 months, then brought the deadline forward considerably when I realised I could get it carried back to England if I did so, rather than taking my time and having to entrust it to the mail service.

The Cloths of Heaven border quiltingI’m tired, I admit. The last couple of weeks have been intensive, the quilting has taken its usual toll on my hands, but it has been absolutely worth it. The process of building this quilt has helped to clarify for me that increasingly, my creative process on these large pieces is more about the quilt being tailored to the intended user on several levels, and less about simply making something pretty or interesting, or even doing something just to see if I can. I’m making a creative statement about the person, if you like, rather than simply making something useful and attractive but generic.

The Cloths of Heaven labelI’ve enjoyed the growth of my skills and the exploration of ideas and processes intensely, including the involvement of those of you following this blog, who have been kind, encouraging, helpful and, frankly, indispensable in keeping me on track! I’m very, very happy with the finished quilt.


Some stats, for those who are interested:

Started 30th October 2015, completed 31st January 2016
Finished size: 88 x 88 inches
Fabrics: 100% cotton, mostly generic fillers and solids, but the blue, green and red batiks are from the Fossil Fern range by Benartex. I’ve been calling the colours Reef, Rainforest and Bushfire in my mind. The clouds are made of fine grey polyester tulle.
Construction: machine piecing, hand and machine appliqué, hand and machine quilting, hand lettering.
Threads are 100% cotton Gütermann Ne50 in dark blue and dark jade for construction and hand quilting weight in dark blue, dark jade, dark magenta and pale lilac. The silver used on the constellations is a Sulky machine embroidery thread in bright silver.
Assembled in 5 units (centre and 4 sides) using the quilt-as-you-go process, where sections are pieced and quilted before being attached to each other with sashing strips.
Hand finished binding and label, hand stitched yoyos in the border.
Label was created in Word, saved as a .jpg file, and the image reversed in PicMonkey, then printed out on transfer paper and heat bonded to white fabric.

For more detailed information on each process, you can find all the posts about The Cloths of Heaven stages 1-24 by typing ‘Cloths of Heaven’ into the search panel in the bar on the left.

It has been suggested that I should enter this quilt into a show. That’s very kind, but I know this quilt is not ‘show quality’. It’s original and different, but not, as we know, perfect! Furthermore, by the time any of the shows come round, I hope it will have been lying on my niece and her husband’s bed for some time fulfilling its intended purpose. But what do you think about entering it into the Blogger’s Quilt Festival?  All I have to do is write an entry post and show photos, which shouldn’t be too taxing. Tell me what you think about doing that. I have never entered anything in it before, and am even having trouble deciding which category it should go into. I feel a bit shy about exposing myself that way. What if I don’t get any votes? :-/

I’m going to have a short break from big sewing. There are lots of small bits and pieces I want to work on for a while; more scrappy blocks, a secret sewing gift, some more F2F blocks, a bit of embroidery and finally, I’d like to start my selfish sewing: the first block for Bee, Myself and I (see the link in my side bar).

There’s a new quilt already knocking on the door in the back of my mind, and it involves creating a lot of original paper pieced designs. I’m resisting the urge to dive straight in and am sticking to pencil and paper for now…

We’re off on our travels on 6th February, back on 17th. I’ll be posting along the way from time to time – come on, you didn’t seriously expect me to disappear from view entirely, did you?


The Cloths of Heaven 23: In the home stretch

I’m back with a needle in my hand...

Border quiltingThe borders are attached. I’ve spliced together many, many pieces to make the batting for these from my enormous store of batting scraps, now much reduced. I’ve joined many, many widths of fabric strips to form the borders themselves. It has been tedious in the extreme, but it’s done. I made up a template for the sinus wave template I was considering and did a test but it looked, well, meh… So I got out paper and a pencil and just scribbled some more till I came up with something I liked better.

I’ve got the border on one side quilted already, with the pattern I finally decided on. Simple circles and triple chevrons, evenly spaced along the border. The bad news is, it needs quilting by hand. Eeek. The good news is, it uses a lot less yoyos (if any, I haven’t quite decided yet)… Hurray! Speaking of which, I have 124 yoyos made. That’s going to be more than enough for the new border layout, however I use them, so the time I save I can use to hand quilt.

quilting coloursThe interesting part of this simple pattern for me is that each line of quilting is in a different colour: the circles are lilac and the three lines of the chevrons are in dark magenta, jade and dark blue. It’s a detail most people wouldn’t notice, but I love it!

Tomorrow I should be able to get the opposite side quilted, and perhaps one of the others, depending on how much real life demands my attention. The green binding is already made and waiting. Once that’s on, I’ll make the decision about the yoyos. If I don’t use them here, I’m certain to find something else to do with them!

Looks as if this quilt is going to be done in time after all…

The Cloths of Heaven 22: Let’s go round again

It’s ready for the final addition: the border.

Can I just say again? I love this quilt… It’s been such a satisfying piece to produce because at each stage I’ve been able to achieve what I wanted, and if change was necessary, it was always for the better instead of watering down the concept.

Cloths of Heaven side panels

It doesn’t really taper in towards the bottom, it’s just the angle I had to take the photo at. And I simply CAN’T get the colours to look right in indoor light…

I’m OK with the small inconsistencies, the bits where things don’t quite line up. This will happen when you have lots and lots of long edges. Fabric stretches, a little here and a little there, and some is worse than others. It happens when pieces are handled a lot, as in quilting, and become slightly warped. It happens when you are trying to line things up blind, where seams to be aligned are on the inside of a multi-layer sandwich and all you can see is the plain fabric on the outside. I can hear it now: Vergeet niet, lieverd, perfectie is voor de Lieve Heer. Thanks, Ma.

I love the quilt the way it looks now, and it’s tempting to stop. But this size (76 inches square) isn’t quite large enough to cover a queen bed with a good overhang. So I’m going to add the 6 inch border, yoyos and all.  Thankfully, the quilting design that’s now nudging away inside my head for liberation requires fewer even than my second estimate. Think sinus waves, of varying lengths, in different thread colours, each line strung at intervals with yoyo ‘beads’.

There will be a short interlude for loads of pressing and cutting…

The Cloths of Heaven 21: positively purple

I expect you’ve been wondering where I’d got to. There has been a lot of non-‘Cloths of Heaven’ activity recently.

There was an excellent reason for that, as you probably realise by now, but it was time to get back to my main job! But behind the scenes, I’d been quilting the two long and two short side panels. They’re done, a nice simple grid running through the squares on the diagonal. I tested a number of thread colours against all the fabrics of the front and back, and the jade/teal green was the best by miles. The quilting went quickly and pleasantly, just a couple of times when I didn’t check my bobbin before I started a long line, only to discover at the end that I’d got just the first inch stitched and the rest was a long trail of top thread. Grrr… I am loving this QAYG construction method. No aching shoulders and frayed temper from hauling a huge quilt through the narrow throat of my domestic sewing machine.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 3.41.57 pmScreen Shot 2016-01-21 at 3.42.17 pmI’ve been plugging away at the job since finishing the quilting, and both short sides and one long side are now joined, very tidily and invisibly.

I considered using the sewing machine to stitch down the final seam on the back, but it would have left a visible line and instead I’ve hemmed the edge down by hand. There are lots of tutorials out there for a variety of methods of joining the quilted panels, but my favourite is to use a 1″ strip to join the two front edges, leaving a ½ inch wide visible band, and a 1¼ inch strip on the back, with one edge pressed over to give a neat hem which will just cover the stitching line from the front. You can used a 2 inch strip pressed in half instead, but this way I was able to recycle all the edges I’d trimmed off the quilted panels, very economical!

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 3.41.23 pmNow, purple. Several of you commented favourably on the purple I’ve used for the backing on the side panels. I agree! So much so that I’ll be using it for the 6 inch outer border too, front and back, as well as the sashing strips that join the side panels to the centre panel. I looked at a number of other options in the same colour range, including one very lovely purple/dark pink batik, but in the end, it was going to be too ‘loud’ in the overall colour scheme, which is not what I wanted for the border. I think fate must have intervened on my behalf, as there was just enough left on the bolt to do the job plus 8 inches to spare… The quilting design for the border is still evolving in my head, but I think I’m getting there.

I really must start churning out more yoyos. I don’t have nearly enough done, not even half.

The Cloths of Heaven 20: dismissing obstacles

A friend (Hello, Miss C!) has an enviable approach to problem solving. Presented with an obstacle or difficulty, her response is “Excellent!”, and she proceeds to solve the problem with gusto.

I wouldn’t go that far, but faced with the need to work in subdued light and finding myself 6 frustrating inches /15cm short of the length of batting I needed, I worked around the problem instead of allowing it to defeat me. There’s a ‘proper’ way to do things, and then there’s the other way.  If you have to work in semi-darkness and you’ve run out of batting tape for joining two pieces seamlessly, you improvise, and spend a peaceful half hour going the old school route, slowly joining the pieces of batting with needle and thread, using herringbone stitch. There was no way I could face bright tropical sunshine at that point, so going to the quilt shop for more tape was out of the question.

Purists would also probably throw up their hands in horror at how I’ve achieved my quilt sandwich for the sides of The Cloths of Heaven, as well. The rest of you would shrug and say, “well, at least it’s done”. But faced with my slightly fragile convalescent self and a job I don’t love at the best of times, I took a big fat short cut. I defy you to tell the difference when the thing is done.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 8.28.21 pmI am clearly fully recovered; I offer as evidence two fully sandwiched and pinned long panels, one sandwiched and pinned short panel and one fully quilted short panel! Yes, OK, I worked in semi darkness, so the lines may not be ruler-straight, but as we all know (all together now…) Finished Is Better Than Perfect!

I shall complete both the shorter sides first, and join them to the left and right side of the centre panel with sashing strips. Then I shall quilt the two longer sides (which incorporate the 4 corner panels), and join those to the other two sides with more sashing. There will be a slight difference, in that sashing will only run horizontally, but I’m OK with that. The sashing strip will (should!) be only half an inch wide.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 8.28.40 pmMy plan is to use the lovely fine purple print I’m using for the backing of these panels to sash with, assuming I have enough left over. I still haven’t quite decided on the fabric for the border. I haven’t found a print yet that I like enough, which also incorporates enough of the colours. The search continues; more fabric shopping, oh dear…

There will be a brief hiatus in The Cloths of Heaven posting while I and the rest of the F2F group complete an urgent project.  I hope to have something to report in my usual mid-month progress report.


Laid low…

5 whole days with nothing much to show for it 😦

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 6.05.42 amI’ve been feeling absolutely lousy due to my oncologist fiddling around with new medication which didn’t suit me at all. Three days of feeling dreadfully nauseous, followed by two days of light-sensitive migraine. You truly wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.

I haven’t touched The Cloths of Heaven. It’s OK, I have time in hand there. I did manage to get January’s F2F blocks for Emmely done, though.  There’s a substantial pile of green offcuts and tiny scraps on my cutting table, and the blocks themselves are up in the F2F Gallery, in case you feel like taking a look. I have come to the conclusion that improvisation and wonky are not really for me. It was interesting as an exercise, and I enjoy other peoples’ work in that area, but I get much more personal satisfaction from symmetry. I have also done a little bit of embroidery for a secret sewing project, but you’ll have to wait a while to see it – a long while, in fact, since it’s for the end of February.

Today I’m feeling a fraction better, and it’s time to start cranking up the pace a bit. I’d like to get the backing and batting for the side panels on CoH cut and sandwiched. I’ll see how I go.

Normal service will be resumed shortly. I hope.

The Cloths of Heaven 19: border control

I’ve finished piecing the borders.

The work of the last few days has been pretty repetitive, and frankly, much too dull to post about. But now, I have all four side panels pieced, so I can show you the outcome of the earlier poll. I give you Radiant, in all its glorious colours!

Borders finishedYou can see now what I was aiming for; the overall impression is still blue/green, but there’s a gorgeous red glow surrounding the centre.

Speaking of which…..

Borders and centreI can’t get far enough away in the room to take a shot straight on to the design wall, hence the slightly annoying angled shots.

None of the sides are attached yet; tomorrow it’ll be time to start cutting the backing and batting strips, sandwich the panel, and then quilt, prior to attaching them to the centre. I’m still slowly churning out yoyos for the outer border; up to 56 so far.  Only another 150 or so to go, then…

I’m feeling really happy with how this quilt is coming along. I love the challenge of bringing to life something that has only existed in my head, and this is a lot more complex than most of my work!

I think if I can keep up the momentum, I should be able to get it done in time (with a little space to draw breath) for second week of February, and the handover in Sydney to another niece who can carry it home to her sister!

The Cloths of Heaven 18: quilty math

I have to rethink the yoyo border.

I made 30 yoyos to see how fast I could get. They take a minimum of 5 minutes each, even using the Clover yoyo maker and working flat out, and I’m quite fast. Cut your circle, insert the fabric into the yoyo template, stitch all round, draw up the thread, distribute the pleats nicely, stitch through and knot off. Done.

Yoyo testingI laid out enough to cover a 10 inch section of the border. It takes 18 x 1½ inch yoyos, laid out as I’d originally planned.

I have a total length of 328 inches of border to cover. That’s 32.8 x 10 inch sections x 18 yoyos. A total of 590 yoyos. Eeek!

At a rate of 5 minutes per yoyo, that’s 2,950 minutes, 49 hours. If I did nothing else for 5 hours a day (unlikely…!) it would take me 10+ days.

New border optionsSo, yes, I’m rethinking. I still want to use yoyos, I love the textural aspect they bring to the surface design. But instead of covering the surface densely with them, I shall quilt the border instead and use the yoyos to enhance the quilted surface. I’m looking at triangular or trellis quilting patterns with yoyos at intersections or in the spaces. The yoyos will be in the colours used in the side panels, so I’m looking at a plain dark background colour, coloured stitching and coloured yoyos.

Dot & dash layoutOf the designs on the above page of my notebook, I’m liking the ‘dot and dash’ version at the bottom, where zigzags of yoyos weave through zigzags of stitching. This design would only take 6 yoyos per 10 inches, which amounts to only 197 yoyos or about 16 hours. Two hours a night for 8 days. That’s quite doable!

So, another rethink resolved. It’s a weight off my mind. I had been avoiding the calculations, knowing it was going to be a lot of yoyos. I just didn’t think it would be so many. I may well end up embellishing the border a bit more, time permitting, but this is a good solution.

And now, it’s time to get back to the sewing machine. Side panels to stitch together!