Friday, 20 June 2014

Stacked Coins Quilt

Sorry there'll be a few posts coming rapid fire to showcase my current projects! First up:

I decided to make this Stacked Coins Quilt for Button, from the pattern on Moda's Bake Shop. It's a fairly simple quilt, good for cranking out in a relatively short time. As it was my first foray back into quilting after a few years, I wanted something fairly quick and easy. Also I didn't really know how long it would take me, and I envisioned Button arriving early and chaos ensuing. I only fairly recently got a new sewing machine, a Janome DC3050! I haven't named it yet, but I haven't used it much, so hopefully as I start to use it more I'll come up with something suitable.

I'd never heard of the brand Janome before, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use, and how versatile (and no, I'm not being paid to say that - I wish!) I don't know if the brand has made it to the US - I always used a Brother machine which was pretty great, especially given that I got it in middle school (I was a crafting geek even then!), and it was still working well when I left. However it was a bit difficult to transport to the UK!

Anyway, the quilt. In hindsight it is pretty big, but I didn't really have a concept of size in my head (I literally googled 'Baby Quilt' and found this one). Oh well, I have a smaller, more portable crib quilt, planned for later, so maybe this one will be kept until Button is big enough for the cotbed (yes, we got a crib and a cotbed, we maybe went a bit overboard!). Or I can use it when I'm sitting with him or something (Ahhh I got all excited again, only a few weeks now!).

'Little Ark' fabric by Riley Blake Designs

I started out by sourcing this adorable fabric on Etsy, which is Noah's Ark themed by Riley Blake, who I've only just discovered, but there are so many adorable fabric lines! The fabric came from the US. Normally I would go to a fabric store and try and be a bit more frugal, but I've found it very difficult to find really good fabric stores in the UK, at least now that I'm not in Edinburgh, which is really sad. John Lewis does have a good haberdashery section, and usually has a small selection of designer fabrics (at great expense!), but being in the centre of Sheffield it's a pain to get to. So this fabric, plus the shipping cost probably ended up being as expensive as going to John Lewis, but on the other hand I wanted really cute fabric, and I fell in love with this fabric as soon as I saw it.

I got charm packs for this quilt (which probably drove up the price further) because I do not yet have a rotary cutter and mat. I really like working with charm packs and roly polies or jelly rolls and whatever other silly names these things are given, because cutting is probably the part I find the most tedious, I like to just get to the sewing! At some point I want to get a rotary cutter and mat, but scissors works well for most purposes, so until I see how much crafting I actually am capable of once I am responsible for a small person, I will hold off.

The first thing I'd say about the quilt itself is that I think I probably should have chosen a fabric more suitable to the pattern. Once I cut the 5" squares into 2.5x5" coins, the pieces that had the actual ark on them were cut up so you can't really tell. I tried to rectify it by lining up 2 of the half ark squares in the centre of the quilt, but I'm not sure it's really noticeable to anyone but me. It's still an adorable fabric, and you can still see the animals and the raindrops, and I know it's Noah's Arks, so I'm happy with it regardless. Perhaps at some point I'll get some more of this fabric to make something else, but for now this will do. Hindsight, eh?

Here's the pieces lined up to create the stacked 'coins' - 22 in each stack. I was really trying hard to plan this quilt properly so it looked really random. I realised as I was laying the pieces out that I'd cut the coins the wrong way around, so that the patterns are 'upright' when the quilt is horizontal. I even was consciously thinking about this while I was cutting and I still managed to get it wrong. Oh well, again, not really that important in the grand scheme of things, but it bothers me slightly.

Here's the top all done. This probably took me about 3-4 hours, mostly because my ironing board was in the other room, and because I realised halfway through that I'd sewn one of the strips upside down and had to undo it. I am a bit of a speedy sewer, which often leads to mistakes and things lining up poorly Fortunately this pattern didn't have to many fiddly corners to line up, so worked out well!

Here's the back. I really love the idea of putting a patchwork detail in the back (not my idea, it was in the pattern!), and I think I'm going to use this in every quilt from now on. It makes such a nice touch! I planned the back before I'd fully cut all the charm squares, so I decided to cut these coins the opposite way so that it would still look upright when the quilt was horizontal. Maybe that way it will look like I planned it that way from the beginning! Sadly one of the patches on the back will probably get cut off in a weird way depending on how the binding goes on, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I didn't take pictures of putting the layers together, but there's a really nice tutorial that the pattern links to (here's the links here for basting, quilting, and binding). They're really easy to follow with lots of pictures and even a video link for the quilting bit, so I definitely recommend having a look. I had a bit of a problem with this one because I have very limited floor space and my table is too small, and also being so heavily pregnant this did not make my back or pelvis feel very happy, and A was sitting on the couch watching the World Cup, alternating between saying 'Make sure you're not overdoing it, Dear!' and 'Move move you're blocking the tele!'.

I was utterly terrified of all of quilting and binding before this quilt, so much that when I made quilts back in high school and college I usually sent my quilt top and back off for a professional to do the rest. Basting seemed easy enough, but when I sent them off I just let them do the batting as well. It was VERY expensive. So knowing how to do it myself is definitely a bonus. All I needed was a darning/embroidery foot, which I got on Amazon for £5. It's a bit squeaky, but it does the job! For the batting I found a bamboo/cotton blend on Amazon, which from the reviews sounded perfect for a baby quilt, and I have not been disappointed. It's really soft, and is the perfect weight to make a baby quilt that still has lots of movement and isn't stiff, but still feels like it should be pretty warm and cozy. I have no idea what the brand is, but if you're interested, this is what I got.

I decided to do the quilting bit in stippling all over in white, as in the tutorial. Partly because it seemed fairly straightforward, and partly because it looked like I'd be very forgiving! I practiced on some scraps for a few minutes - I found I had to play with the tension a little bit to make sure both sides looked good. I probably should have practiced more, but I'm very impatient, and I also didn't have that many scraps as my fabric stash is still small.

Starting out! 

Free motion quilting was actually a lot easier than I was expecting, and I think this pattern lends itself well to the stippling because you have convenient strips to follow. I think the key is just really paying attention to where you're going so you don't go back over your lines (unless you like that look, I guess!).

After a few strips are done.

I like that the strips are slightly different in width. I think it makes it look a bit more polished on the front.

Just over half done, and I really like the effect. You can see my basting pins in the right half. I ran out of pins, so they're spaced perhaps a bit too far, but so far it hasn't been a problem!

This is as far as I've done so far with the quilting, because I ran out of thread. For some reason I thought 300m would do it. WRONG. So I went to HobbyCraft to get more thread, and would you believe they had no 100% cotton thread in white?! You'd think that would be a staple, but then again HobbyCraft has never been really great for quilting. So I ordered some online, again from Amazon, but it wont arrive until next week! :( That is basically how this blog came about. I really can't handle doing nothing.

Because I got home from the shops around 4, and I really couldn't handle just sitting around, I decided to use the time to making the binding, which because of the cutting and ironing aspect I wasn't looking forward to. It went pretty well actually,  and now I'm all ready to finish up when my thread arrives!

A longggg strip of binding.

I decided to put a very small patch of colour in the binding, I don't know if you can see it hidden in there, but I used one of the dark raindrop patterned coins and added it in. I thought it'd make it a bit more interesting since the binding is the same fabric as the back of the quilt. Again, in hindsight I think it'd have been better to use a different fabric from the binding, but partly this was a cost issue (I could only get the fabric in full metre lengths, and I had just the right amount left over), and partly this was because that was how it was done in the tutorial. It should look brilliant from the front though.

So until my new thread arrives next week, that's all for the moment. I'm working Monday to Thursday next week, so I suppose I'll probably be too exhausted to have done much work on it anyway (being a vet at 35 weeks pregnant is really tiring!). Maybe I'll jump on the 'Finish Up Friday' bandwagon and post next week if/when I've finished by then since I have that day off from work!

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