#30DaysofimprovQAL – Week 1 Stripes

Yikes! Instagram has a lot to answer for! After reading a post by Shannon of @shannonfraserdesigns I decided to join in with the 30 Day Improv QAL. Shannon along with Amanda of @broadclothstudio are hosting the QAL and providing weekly prompts (via email), ideas and short videos. If you ‘do’ Instagram then follow #30DaysimprovQAL to see the numerous ways the prompts are being interpreted.

Ah! Interpretation! That’s the rub for me! Improv patchwork is way outside of my comfort zone: no pattern, no cutting instructions and lots of room for interpretation 😱

Anyways, I followed the advice given, chose five fabrics and cut each piece into quarters, one quarter for each week of the QAL. I decided to set aside 20-30 minutes every morning to act on the prompts.

And here’s the photo record of my first week of improv (I’ve copied the daily prompts in red).

  • Monday – keep it simple by just exploring cutting and piecing your strips. See how alternating the direction you piece your strips in helps limit (or exaggerates) the wonk.
I cut through all five fabrics using a rotary cutter without a ruler.
Strips stitched together all in the same direction. Feeling quite proud that some do have a bit of a wonk!
  • Tuesday – play with scale and see how piecing skinny strips feels different to super wide strips and how it can add complex detail to your block.
Stitching together the skinny strips was tricky. The seams didn’t want to go under the machine foot and kept shifting. Even, quarter inch seams they are not!
  • Wednesday – lean into the wonk by combining your free hand cutting while piecing your strips all in the same direction. See how much ‘wonk’ you can build into your piece!
Look at me! Cutting fabric freehand with scissors!
Strips not so wonky but the block has certainly got a wonk!
  • Thursday – pull out that rotary cutter and give your strip sets a fun slice and sew it back together. Then dice it up again!
Before the slicing, stitching and dicing.
After, slicing, stitching and dicing. I have to confess to not giving any thought to this process – treating it like making a quilt from random scraps rather than contemplating ‘stripes’!
  • Friday – incorporate some negative space in your block composition to see what effect that has on your stripe motifs (this is a great opportunity to put your trimmings from earlier in the week to good use!).

I hoped throwing in some negative space fabric would create improv blocks. I quickly realised that’s not how it works! I decided to try ‘interpreting’ traditional patchwork blocks.

The top two blocks are based on the ‘Blocks In A Box’ block. The block on the bottom left is based on a Four Patch and the one bottom right… Well! That one got made and then chopped and stitched some more and I have no idea what it might be based on! This all took me at least 1½hours – way more time than the 20-30 minutes of the previous four days.

End of Week 1 Conclusion: The short version – I really have no idea what I’m doing or what Improv Patchwork is! The longer version – I think the two blocks on the bottom row provide some sort of exploration of ‘stripes’. From a practical point of view I realise I cut my fabric strips way too narrow. My blocks are a mass of bulky seams that will be a nightmare to quilt! Maybe I didn’t need to use all five of my fabrics? Maybe choosing multi-print fabrics is going to make this QAL quite problematic?

I’ll be glad to have the weekend off from improv! Hoping to return to the challenges of Week 2 in a positive frame of mind!



Bargello in the heat!

I’m British so I’ll start with the weather! Today is officially the hottest day ever in the UK 🥵 We have spent 48hours sharing in the extreme heat enveloping much of mainland Europe. Not being used to extremes of weather you can bet this is a major talking point here! The BBC website is keeping us up to date with all the numbers.

So! Whew! DH and I made a pre-breakfast visit to the allotment this morning – watered most everything, harvested a few beans, courgettes and raspberries before returning home. Since then we’ve shut ourselves indoors, with windows, doors and curtains all firmly closed. Now, at 4pm the thermometer indoors is registering 29ºC, guessing outside must be 10ºC hotter as Heathrow (40 miles away) recorded 40.2ºC at lunchtime. Thankfully we are assured our prevailing Atlantic airflow comes into play overnight bringing much cooler air and maybe even some rain (yes! please!).

It was certainly warm last Saturday but not too hot for my Bargello Workshop. The class went well. By the end of the day the four friendly, enthusiastic participants produced Bargello blocks which looked just great:

I suggested the block could be used to make a table runner. Before the Workshop I created a table runner using one of my sample blocks:

I used the no-binding, ‘bagging’ method to attach the top, backing (unbleached calico) and wadding together. I free motion stitched an open meander across the runner to hold everything together.

For demonstrations of the Bargello patchwork process in the Workshop I used strips of fabric from a roll of Artisan Batiks by Robert Kaufman. I chose the roll because it has duplicate fabrics – I was hoping for seven of the fabrics to be repeated at least three times so I could make three strip sets. The first strip set produced this Bargello block:

Three blocks make a quilt measuring 31″ x 43″ which looks great (in my humble opinion) but isn’t a particularly practical size (and I’m all about the practical!).

I searched online for images of Bargello quilts with borders, turns out there aren’t many, but what I did see convinced me to be brave in my fabric colour and print choice. Working at Purple Stitches yesterday was handy! I narrowed my border fabric choice down to three before seeking Eve’s (shop manager with an expert eye for colour) advice – always a good move when teaming up fabrics 😉 I came home with 1.5m of ‘100 years Conservatory 9993′ by Patty Sloniger for Andover fabrics. I’m so pleased with how this print fits with the Bargello – to my eye the border adds to the centre rather than taking anything away for it – wonderful!

The completed quilt top now measures 40″ x 51″ which is a reasonable lap quilt size and – quite by chance – the perfect size for the hanging space in our hallway 🙂

As a post script, working with Batik fabrics is not something I do often/ever. The crisp feel of the fabric doesn’t appeal to me but it’s been good to get over that and try working with them on one project at least. The saturated colours are definitely to my taste. I searched the internet for tips of using Batiks and found the following blog posts useful, both in learning more about the fabrics and in sewing with them.

Information about sewing with Batiks:

For a quick overview try this page on the Fabrics Galore website.

Claudia shares ‘10 Tips for Sewing with Batik Fabrics‘.

And on the allpeoplequilt website there’s another useful summary of how to handle Batik fabrics.

I took on board some of the advice including using a 70/10 needle and found piecing the Batiks was straightforward as the close weave of the fabric prevents it stretching or fraying.



Saturday Quilting Bring and Share (287)

Welcome to Saturday Quilting Bring & Share. It’s lovely to back 🙂 Hope you have enjoyed a peaceful Easter break. Bring along your projects and share in the tips, tutorials and news to be found via our Worldwide Quilting Community. If you click on any of the links below do leave an encouraging comment wherever you visit to help grow the Community good-vibes 🙂

As usual I’ve been working on more than one project at a time 😌 But there is progress to share. I finished quilting another Trip Around the Stars quilt as part of my investigation into the spray baste vs pin baste debate – read more about that here. Yesterday I made the binding and hope to finish the quilt in the next few days.

I also made progress on the Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks. Feeling a bit tired and in need of a session of ‘no-brainer’ stitching I remembered the RSC and then 😳 realised I hadn’t made the yellow-gold blocks for March and didn’t even know the colour for April! So that was a good bit of motivation.

The blocks came together quickly and I even found time to delve into my pink scraps (for pink, so it transpires, is the colour for April), cutting 1½” strips ready for another peddle-to-the-metal sewing session.

Here are the links into our Worldwide Quilting Community. I hope you find plenty of interest:

The Rainbow Scrap Challenge is the inspiration behind one of Cynthia’s scrap projects. Every month she makes placemats from fabric scraps. Later in the year she will donate them to a local meals on wheels charity who will gift a placemat to recipients of one of their holiday meals.

Christa Watson’s series of YouTube videos are great if you are fairly new to patchwork quilting or want to try a different technique (she shares plenty of tips for more experienced patchwork quilters too). In the latest video she takes us through the method of making a quilt, start to finish using one of the free patterns, Puzzle Box, available from her website.

Sometimes scrolling through Instagram does bear fruit…. My scrolling stopped when I saw a wonderful version of the Modern Squares quilt being show cased by Judy Gula. I found her website and enjoyed reading the guest post by the quilt designer/maker Christine Vinh. She used a selection of very colourful fabrics called ‘Earth Made Paradise’ by Kathy Doughty. The pattern is ideal if you are puzzling over how to use a collection of busy, large scale prints to best effect in a quilt. Needless to say I have the pattern download and have added it to my ‘must make’ list!

Patty has created the illusion of curves in the careful placing of her Half Rectangle blocks. It is a very striking design in her colour choices of black and wasabi.

Linda’s Seaglass modern applique quilt displays her usual great colour choice and placement of fabrics with really effective free motion quilting designs. I’m so glad there is such a wealth of inspiration and knowledge made readily available by talented textile artists who are generous enough to blog about the processes they employ.

Leader-Ender projects quietly grow in the background while other projects are being worked on. Katy’s leader-ender quilt has 1,368 squares lovingly stitched together. I don’t need to tell you that Katy is a prolific quilt maker!

Forget Me Not is a new fabric line by Allison of Cluck Cluck Sew. Go to her blog post to see the new fabrics and catch a glimpse of the new patterns she’s designed to showcase the collection.



A catch up, with finishes and new ventures!

After an unscheduled break from writing blog posts I have a bit of catching up to do! So, without further ado, here we go:

The Beginners course ended successfully with my student finishing her lovely quilt. She’s looking suitably proud of her achievement in this photo!

I can share a finish too – the pretty, pretty version of my Trip Around the Stars quilt I made as the demo for the class is complete.

I added binding in the bright pink I’d used for the star points. I stitched the binding down by hand – not such a chore on a quilt that measures 38″ x 46″.

The lovely decoupage print extra wide backing is from Purple Stitches.

For the quilting I stitched one of my go-to favourites: a wavy line grid. I used a walking foot with a guide set at 1½ inches.

Thinking about what it’s like for absolute beginners trying to get their heads around patchwork quilting prompted me to rise to an online product challenge. I’ve produced the ‘Patchwork Quilting Equipment Guide: Best Buys for Beginners‘. My aim was to provide the information needed to make purchases that are fit for the job and will provide value, project by project, over many years. I’ve included sections on rotary cutting equipment, threads, needles, pins & scissors, fabric, wadding and sewing machines. Of course I got a bit carried away and added lots of extra information including how to care for the tools and even an explanation of all the weird cuts of fabrics us patchwork quilters talk about so blithely! The Guide is now ready to purchase as a pdf download.

My most recent project has been a ‘learn something new’ endeavour: the making of a little coin purse using a decorative purse frame. I have to say it was a bit fiddly and I’m not convinced about the practicality of this particular design. I find the opening of the 8.5cm/3¼” frame is a bit tight even for my small-medium sized hands. That, combined with the broad base style of the purse, makes it difficult to reach into the bottom corners.

As I’ve already prepared fabric with interfacing to make another nine purses I’m going to experiment with other pattern templates that have a smaller, more rounded shape. I only bought two of the small metal frames so I’ll move onto 10.5cm/4″ frames to find out if they are more practicable (hopefully the pieces of fabric I’ve prepared will be large enough!). The first pattern template I used was one that came free with a tutorial.  Next up, I’m going to try creating my own pattern template following the directions in this tutorial.

Linking with Wendy for the Peacock Party and Michelle for the Beauties Pageant. Wendy is making preparations as she is the guest exhibitor at the Taupo Quiltmakers show in June while Michelle is enjoying over-thinking a fabric pull for her next Plaid-ish quilt.

Happy Stitching! And, most importantly, Happy Easter!