Is there anything quite so nice as finally getting around to making something you've been plotting for months? I'll answer that – no; there isn't 😀 I've been trying to find the time to make this little wall hanging since last summer. I still have unfinished quilts in the unfinished quilt drawer (yes, there are enough to qualify them for their very own drawer), but I couldn't put this off any longer.
This is a little quilt of firsts for me too – my first novelty fabrics, my first batik fabrics, my first foundation pieced quilt, and the first time I've quilted with the sewing machine. I'm not at all sure that I should even call this a quilt as it doesn't have any wadding, apart from the foundation fabrics and interfacing I added to the surrounding pieces It really is more of a wall hanging, although the layout and templates came from my favourite quilting book: Little Book of Little Quilts by Katharine Guerrier:
I first bought this book many years ago but loaned it out to someone who never returned it (don't you hate that? So rude). But even though I didn't have it in my possession any longer, I'd poured over the sweet little quilts in there for so many hours that they'd stuck in my memory. A couple of years ago, I finally found a second hand copy of the book to replace my original and since then, I've made several of the designs and have others on my making wish list. I've made a few that are more or less straightforward copies of the designs like this cute picnic style quilt that's quilted with utility stitches using embroidery threads:
And my all time favourite from the cover:
Admittedly, this is amongst my unfinished quilts – although I've finished piecing the top, I'm yet back it and quilt it. I made this one over several weeks in the summer last year and learned a lot about applique in the process. I also learned alot about economy as I set myself the rule that I could only use fabric from my stash to make it. I always thought that the farmer bunny panel would be my favourite before I actually made the piece, but my favourite turned out to be the wheelbarrow panel full of colourful yo-yo flowers, which I love – despite using a piece of slightly discoloured cabbage print fabric for the wheelbarrow because I just couldn't bear not to use it:
My next quilt that was kind of from the book was based on that first little green and red picnic quilt. It occurred to me that the layout looked like a window in a wallpapered wall, and when I came across Sarah Watts' Timber & Leaf collection for Blend Fabrics, I made a new version of the picnic quilt that I called 'Window on the Forest' because I somewhat fancifully imagined that I was looking out of a window onto a forest full of fussy cut critters:
Soon after finishing this one, I pieced another top like it, but using one or two different fabrics from the collection and this is still languishing in the drawer of quilt shame, waiting for me to finish it up. I did also make a mini version of this for a Mum to be in Alaska, for her new baby's nursery wall:
And I even made some scatter cushions for myself:
Anyway, getting back to 'Liberty Beach', last summer I decided that I'd make my own version of this little quilt from Katharine's book:
I adore the design but had something a bit different in mind for the fabrics. I have a small but ever expanding stash of Liberty Tana Lawn and after pondering over it for some time, I started to imagine chic little beach huts featuring Liberty prints:
And boats with Liberty sails:
I then had a truffle around for fabrics to use for sky, sand and beach and discovered the marvellous world of novelty prints! There wasn't a sea print that I particularly liked but I then found some splendid bright batiks and thought they'd be perfect! This little collection of cuteness has been sat in a project bag ever since (the sharp eyed among you will notice that I only used one of the Very Berry Liberty prints in this stash – stash building rule 101 – buy a stack of fabrics you 'need' but use ones you already have – LOL!) along with a little bundle of mini checks to use for the boats:
I thoroughly enjoyed making the quilt and learning about foundation piecing, which I'd never tried before. I know that most people like to use paper for foundation piecing these days, but I've always been drawn to a more traditional way of doing things, so I bought some batiste and used that instead, cutting it into little 4 inch squares:
I then got to work transferring the templates from the book onto tracing paper with a heat activated transfer pencil before ironing the designs onto the batiste squares. A very funny thing I found with the heat activated pencil was that it transferred as clear as a bell on the first couple of squares, and then not so great on the next few. After waiting ten minutes or so and trying the next one, it worked well again. Isn't that odd? The quality of the tracing was the same each time, as was the heat of the iron and the pressure I applied… The lesson I took from this was that I shouldn't waste any more time trying to solve the puzzle and just do a couple at a time (I'd still love to know what the scientific explanation is though) 🙂
The most time consuming task came next, which was sorting through my fabrics (including my 'scraps' – that term does seem a bit mean – let's call them 'size challenged delights') and putting together combinations for each of the huts and boats. Katharine's notes in the book tell you to make templates for the boats and huts and I'm usually very good at following directions, but I suspect I may be getting a bit too big for my sewing britches as I poo-pood her and didn't bother. Wrong! Although I'm sure you wouldn't need to make templates if you were a) experienced at foundation piecing or b) free and easy with your fabrics so that you cut larger pieces than you thought you needed, I failed on both these counts and really should have made the templates as I ended up having to unpick some pieces that were too small or the wrong shape and, horror of horrors, wasting at least 6 square inches of fabric – eek! 😮
I found that the hardest thing about foundation piecing was making yourself think about placement the wrong way around, because you're sewing on the reverse side. Apart from the very first piece of fabric you place, you place each piece right side down, facing the right side of the last piece you added. This is easy enough to remember in itself, but I struggled to place every piece at the right angle so that the fabric would cover the right area once stitched in place! After having to unpick several incorrectly placed pieces, I soon got my head around it – pain is such an effective teacher. I was slightly amazed at how reasonably tidy I managed to keep the working side, given that I'm certainly not the best, nor most controlled, machine stitcher. I used a nice slim needle and my walking foot and forced my right foot to go slowly on the power peddle:
I also managed to place a couple of pieces out of order on my early blocks, simply because I wasn't paying enough attention, and kicked myself for that too, but I eventually managed to get all the foundation squares made:
The next job was to work out exactly how I wanted the layout to look and what the final size of the completed quilt should be, so that I could cut all the other pieces that would sit around the foundation pieced squares. In the book, Katharine advised me to back all the extra fabrics with whatever fabric I used for the foundation squares, but I decided to use iron on lightweight interfacing instead and that worked fine. I did consider adding a layer of wadding as well, but as this is intended to be a wall hanging, I thought it wouldn't add anything positive, even if it did go against my quilty instincts to leave it out.
In my first layout, I originally cut the bottom waves batik from the half metre I had in the most economic way:
But I immediately saw that it looked silly and wouldn't work, so I cut with the direction of the pattern that made most sense for the image and pieced two parts together to make it wide enough. Once it was all together, I roughly squared it up:
Next, I cut my jaunty seafaring themed backing fabric to size and hand basted the two together in a grid:
I had a little machine quilting practise using some 'size challenged delights' before moving onto the real quilting. I found that it was great fun just stitching in wavy lines with my walking foot. I used a variegated sulky cotton thread, in every shade from pale aqua to deep purple that was perfect for the subject.
The binding was next and I did a final squaring up of the quilt before Clover wonder clipping it into place:
I usually use my 'binding tool' ruler to join the ends of my bindings, but I'd read about Lori Holt's super simple method of joining (that you can read about here) and decided to give that a go this time. It really is genius – so simple and tidy. I don't think I'd use this method on a quilt that was going to be used a lot and / or washed, but it is brilliantly simple for little quilts like this one. Because there's very little weight to the quilt, and because I'd managed to get it nicely squared so that it would hang well, I decided to add simple triangular corner pockets for hanging with a dowel onto a picture hook. You can really see the variation of colour in the sulky thread I used for the quilting on the back too:
My final job was to make and add a quilt label that was in character with the quilt:
I printed the design and lettering onto white lawn and then added embroidery and applique to fancy it up. This is my second printed quilt label and I'm still not that convinced by the method – hence embroidering over the lettering! In fact, I think I may well remove the label I added to the last quilt I made and replace it with an embroidered one – I don't think the ink will last that long on these printed ones. You could definitely accuse me of over fussiness here, but I hate the idea of something not lasting for as long as I intended while making it.
So that's another quilt ticked of the making wish list and popped into my shop. Plus, it's given me an idea for another little project I want to make this week – more of which later! 🙂