corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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and counting…

No use having pretty PJs and not having a pretty bed to lie in.

I’ve been making patchwork quilts for just over a year now and I’ve managed to rack up quite a collection but surprisingly we don’t have one for ourselves. The very first one (my ‘learning quilt’) was backed with a cheap shower curtain and given to my mum as a picnic blanket ( no pics); the next (still learning) went to my sister as a spare;

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with a bit more experience and practice I made a very special one for her which helped heal emotional wounds. Rockpools.

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I concentrated all my efforts and sewed up the universe for my son going off to uni. Big Bang
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I made little ones for my niece and grand-nephew.

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I repaid my long-lost friend’s kindness and hospitality with a giant all out Kaffe Fassett infused quilt. Frames

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So enamoured with Kaffe Fassett fabrics I selfishly made and kept one for myself but it resides in the living room and is for snuggling under when watching TV. For Me

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Each quilt so far has stretched my sewing repertoire, design and skill. I’ve done strips, triangles, circles, diamonds and squares.

Our bed is bare!

I know my husband would not appreciate my penchant for mega colour or real fancy piecing and there would be arguments about a quilt cluttering the marital bed, so with this in mind and in an attempt to keep the peace, I restricted the palette to blue and white in a geometric block. This is called by the manly name of Carpenter’s Square. Sources of inspiration for many quilts are either domestic objects or natural elements. It is unusual to find a quilt which is directly named after a tool.

It is just about complete, only the binding to hand sew on another 2 sides. But the sun was shining early this morning, so while the rest of the house lay asleep in their (unadorned) beds and the dew was fresh on the grass I took some photos. BTW, it’s hanging upside down!

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Each block is a different mix of blue and off-white with sashing in between and five borders which really add to the overall size. It measures 2m square and is just big enough to cover the bed with a little overhang down the sides.

I got the pattern from this book Quilts: The American Story which I bought for a song online as an ex-library book. Its condition is perfect and this is probably the first time I have loosely followed a pattern for a quilt. The original inspiration quilt was sewn up in traditional red and white and heralds from the late 1800s. The book rates this design as ‘advanced’ but to be perfectly honest with you, I am by no means an ‘advanced’ quilter and I managed it. The original is 3 X 4 blocks but I made mine 4 X 4 for a square quilt not a rectangle.

As far as quilt patterns go, I tend to ignore them and use the design as a starting point – I just buy a load of fabric, cut it up, sew it back together again and that’s the finished size of my quilt. I managed to just about get two blocks from 2 long quarters: one blue and one white.

The binding is made from all the little scraps and cut-offs, just pieced together in strips of 3.5″ and folded over. There’s a mighty lot of seams inside that binding but they’re acting like extra batting to give a padded effect to the edge of the quilt. And I like that it is random and improvised to counter the precision of the blocks.

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The back is just one extra wide fabric in a flowery cream on blue.

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The quilting is a very, very random and badly executed free motion stipple over the blocks with straight line stitching down the centre of the borders. This creates a rather stiff quilt due to the density of the stitching but in reality, this quilt will lie flat on the bed during the day and will no doubt be folded out of the way during the night (hot flushes determining the amount of bed linen employed).

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In a sense then it is purely decorative rather than useful but then you never know if the electricity will fail and we might need an extra layer. The quilt is still is sewn well and can withstand daily use if necessary.

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The label is yet to be sewn on; like a launching of a ship, this is the last thing to do and marks its completion and transition into use. The quilt is called “…and counting” – a multiple purpose name – firstly, to my continuing quilt making but more importantly as a testament to the years already shared with with husband and to the many more to come. He’s a patient, good man, he has to be, living with me. He has put up with a lot and is still here………

I am also constantly reminded of blessings – and taking time to count them. When days drudge by and worries spiral just take 5 minutes and reflect on the good things. There is the real – family, friends, house, food, constant flowing clean water, electricity and freely available energy, good infrastructure and free health care, employment and salary; and then there is the abstract but no less important – security, freedom, learning, sharing, choice, equality, creativity, happiness and contentment.

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Rest assured that I did not make this in one week! I started in October 2015 sewing one block a week in between clothes and other stuff. So it has only taken 6 months to make but hopefully there will be many years of use.


20 Comments

Snuggle on a Cuddler

AppleII’ve been experiencing a very first world problem recently, in that my old Apple Mac is now apparently obsolete and has decided all by itself to retire, albeit sporadically.  Gosh, 10 years old and you’re thrown on the scrap heap! I have knickers older than that. I now have a brand new one and normal service resumes. Thank you as always for your very welcome comments to recent blog posts but technology prevented me from replying individually – apologies.

And so life continues – a sewing post about a quilt and this is the very first one that I have ever intentionally made for myself.

A sprinkling of Kaffe Fasset pinks and reds tempered by some variegated greys and an exercise in precision. I sewed some 4X4 blocks and then got fed up with that and moved to 2 X 2 blocks, making absolutely sure that all the points and corners matched. When the world falls into chaos and violence, there is comfort in order and precision; there is everyday in the small things; there is routine and normality in 1/4″ seam allowance.

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We bought new sofas recently and one of them is called a Cuddler – larger than a single seat but smaller than a sofa – sort of cosy for two people who know each other well; covered in dappled grey, this new quilt fits right in but it wasn’t planned that way, just a happy coincidence. The fabrics were purchased way back at the beginning of summer  and the sofas about a month ago.

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The pinks and reds lift the blandness of the sofa and warm it up. I had three blocks left over and these became a cushion cover.

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The backing is pale grey and the quilting is a straight-line grid with inner squares. You can see how washed out grey on grey is.DSCN5869

When I started this quilt I started to sew hexagon blocks but got fed up with the fiddling and need to match too many seams – I got 4 made and they form the corners.

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It’s smaller than my usual Montana sized ones but just the right size to snuggle under on a cuddler.

This quilt is un-named apart from For Me!

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Cat Endorses Quilt

I know lots of you have cats, dogs and other domesticated animals who relish helping you with pattern placement, sorting fabrics and cutting out etc.. I’ve seen the pics!  Mine, (cat called Eddie) however stays well out of the way of sharp things like pins, needles and scissors so it was somewhat a surprise when the other day she came out and nestled comfortably on my latest quilting project as I sat in the garden and hand sewed the binding. I couldn’t shift her which I took to be a good omen – cats especially know ‘things’- and I now believe this quilt is not only endowed with effort and love but animal instinct too. Just wierd.

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Did anyone also note the colour coordination between my choice of clothes and the quilt? – You get bonus points – well done! [dress= Vogue 8870, pink & multi-coloured chiffon; cardigan = Burda Cocoon Cardigan 11/2013 #107, saffron yellow mohair blend]

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This one is for my very dear friend Caroline who I met this summer after a 20 year weekend break. She was busy, I was busy but we reconnected easily, simply and effortlessly. After a short but extremely enjoyable 4 day visit I decided she needed a quilt and so she gets one. She has no choice in the matter!

Starting point – a painting Caroline has had for as long as I have known her. Here’s the colour scheme.DSCN5543

Next was to personalise the style. Caroline is a photographer and has a million (or more) paintings, pictures, photos in her home either hanging on the walls or leaning against walls or stacked waiting to be hanged. So frames, borders, mountings are prevalent throughout. So the quilt pattern was going to be like frames around a picture.

I did get carried away a wee bit with this idea and some of my frames are rectangular, big squares, little squares and no where near square. Once again I made a quilt that has a basic plan interweaved with improvisation.

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Individual blocks

31 fabrics used which I determine to be significant as it’s a prime number and no one in the entire world understands prime numbers so they’re weird. All fabrics are Kaffe Fasset because Caroline is a bit posh and likes and appreciates the good stuff. they were bought online from FlorenceRose and I couldn’t recommend this Internet site enough! Excellent communication and personal service and not bad prices either! And although there’s only 20 involved in the planning stage, I bought many more and used them all.

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The finished blocks were round about 10″ with a few at 20″ to upset the regularity and some are only 5″ sewn together. My inspiration was this which is actually paper pieced – aye! in your dreams!

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The blocks are essentially constructed around a square in the middle with ‘frames’ or borders surrounding them. Sometimes the centre pieces are rectangle and every block is different. Approximately 9X9 grid with all the leftovers sewn into a stripey border.

Mine (or rather Caroline’s) has simple straight line machine quilting in a grid-ish pattern to keep all the layers together.

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Pre-quilting airing

It’s huge! About 96″ (2.4m) square. I have no idea how I got this through my little home sewing machine – sheer tenacity and brute force determinism I suppose. We have a King-sized bed and to check for fit (just like dressmaking) it reaches all the way from the head to feet and hangs over the edges too: perfect for wrapping yourself up in while watching a movie or Breaking Bad on the sofa with lots of room for one other! Take it in the camper van for days out while photographing landscapes. Lay it on the heather for picnics or lying back and gazing at the sky…..

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I never really use a pattern when making a quilt – I just buy a load of fabric, cut up and sew it back together again. When there’s no fabric left – that’s the size of the quilt! Maybe I should try to be a bit more disciplined……DSCN5691

And when there’s nothing on TV or it’s raining just gaze at the quilt…….count the fabrics, look at the frames, try to figure out the construction and method in my madness, or just simply smile at the colours. It’s a happy quilt.

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The backing is a simple black and white print to contrast with the colours on the front with a patched strip down the middle.lhd665_zoom__14098

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And no quilt is complete without a name and a label

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The quilt has already been posted, has arrived and been unpacked and just in from Caroline……..

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Her cat on the quilt!


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Pattern Whisperers Wanted and a Bag

Our kid wants a bomber jacket to match his Big Bang quilt. Must be navy, in quilted fabric and look like this –

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Apparently, no other variations are tolerable.

I have 3m of navy, quilted poly (yuk) with a % of spandex, a very long zip and matching thread – all I need is the pattern.

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So off you go….a men’s jacket pattern please that doesn’t cost the earth and your recommendations and advice if you’ve already made it. Teenage son is 6’6″ (1.96cm), very broad shoulders and extremely fussy!  Much appreciated in advance.

Now something for us girls……

For my recent trip away which was only for four days and i carried only cabin luggage my packing and luggage had to meet the restrictions of security and EasyJet.

Cabin luggage must not exceed
Maximum size of 56 x 45 x 25cm including handles and wheels or else they’ll charge you an extra ££ for hold. Imagine having to pay £30 because of a couple of extra inches!

All cosmetics and liquids etc must be under 100 ml and stuffed into a plastic freezer bag.

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You can bring liquids in your cabin baggage as long as:

  • they are stored in containers no bigger than 100ml and;
  • carried in a clear, re-sealable plastic bag with maximum dimensions of 20 x 20cms.

Each passenger can carry a maximum of 1000ml (e.g. 10 x 100ml). You’ll need to present your bag at security and you may be asked to dispose of liquids that do not meet these requirements.

Does anyone else see the futility of this rule? I mean, a beautiful hand sewn quilted, double walled cosmetics bag with a zip is obviously much more secure and pretty than a flimsy plastic bag which can be ripped as easily as, well, a plastic bag.

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Who would want to destroy such a thing of beauty, that someone (maybe your mother) took the time to choose the right fabrics and then sew them all together? A plastic bag – who cares? Anyway, I needed to fly, so I complied with the plastic bag aesthetic, but rest assured, with intense indignation.

In our house we have suitcases –  a giant sized one that holds enough for a family of three for a fortnight, a weekend sized one adequate for two, even my mother’s 1960s honeymoon blue Antler;

$_86We have carry-all bags that are great for weekends away when you drive to the destination;

523ce8381f35266423b62f75bb609675We have one night only sized bags – enough for a toothbrush and pair of knickers. But did we have a bag that is big enough but not big enough, for a few days away? No.

Best solution then was to make one.

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The pattern is designed by my quilting class teacher – Yvonne. It’s called the Aomori Bag which is a city in Japan. On the Quilter’s Quest website the patterns are not listed but if you really want this then just contact Yvonne and I’m sure she’ll be more than pleased to post it to you.

Measuring a perfect 15″ X 21″ X 6″ it is within an inch of the current limits and because it’s fabric and soft, can be squeezed and moulded to fit the cabin luggage requirements.

This is genuinely the first ‘real’ bag I’ve ever made. I have sewn a few others  here and here – but this one had to withstand the rigors of travel along with the so-called traditional female efforts of over-stuffing and so-called traditional male efforts of airport security. It has metal feet, a reinforced bottom with gussets and straps, a zip and loads of pockets.

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I was surprised by the number of pieces: most of which are lined and so doubles the cutting and fabric and sewing. I choose LIme Twist fabrics from Henley Studio Collection simply because I wear so much grey that I hoped this would travel well with me anytime and anywhere.

As I was intending to walk through any international airport in the world with this bag and I would no doubt probably be distracted by duty-free shiny things  (me being female and all) I included a zip for personal security (not in the pattern) so I had to make a gusset. I just used the bottom pattern piece as a template, added some seam allowances for the zip and voila, a zip closure. Best advice I can give is to not overthink this – it’s not complicated, unless you make it so. Same size as template plus 5/8″ for the zip in the centre and the L and R seam allowances on the edges.

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As usual, I hate to not use leftovers, so there was a bit of editing involved with the original pattern. I added pockets inside and out and even used the cutouts from the bottom corners to make a zip pull.

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One side has elasticated pockets to hold bottled water etc and the other has plain, straight versions to hold folded over Burda magazines.

I also added two lengths of straps – a short and a long for variation, primarily to use up the scraps and secondly to make me look stylish, no matter what the fashion – low slung or under arm – I’m ready!

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The result is that my bag made it through security although I was subjected to one degree less than full body cavity searching.

Really? I look like an international terrorist to you? I actually want to carry hand-made quilted cosmetic bags instead of plastic ones – doesn’t that tell you enough?

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Whoops! that’s not actually me….but I dress really well.

BTW –  Just finished summer reading of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – so might just be feeling a little bit trod upon and need to re-assert myself.

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Edited to add: I forgot to mention what I managed to pack into the bag – mostly from the Merchant and Mills Workbook:

2 pair trousers (Strides and grey linen pair)

2 jumpers

1 cardigan

4 sleeveless T-shirts (Bantams)

1 long sleeved T-shirt (Curlew)

1 pair shoes

1 jacket (Haremere)

1 shawl and 1 scarf

6 pairs of knickers (in case of emergencies), 2 bras

2 pair of socks

Plastic bag of makeup and cosmetics


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Rockpools

I’m interrupting M&M Workbook posts for a different story. I could have titled this post – The Power of Sewing or The Happy Ending or Quilts For Forgiveness or Making Up – but in the end I settled on what I named my latest quilt. I have a sister; you will not have heard her mentioned on the blog for as long as I’ve been blogging, and a little bit longer, we haven’t spoken to each other. About 5 years now.

My sister is younger than me, prettier, very sociable and personable, fitter and slimmer, and life and soul of any party. But this is not why we fell out. My sister has three boys and they were born within a few years of my son; our boys grew up with one another. Every Saturday and bank holiday when the boys were young we would go to a park or the beach or just to one another’s house. We went away for days at a time to the coast and had a laugh – a truly wonderful childhood we provided for our sons.

Like all family fall outs it’s simple and it’s complicated.

A month goes by, then two and before you know it a year has passed. It gets easier not talking. Another year and another. It broke my heart. It was easier to not think about what we’d lost and still time passed.

My sister has been sick, I mean very sick. As she was dealing with chemo and radio and drugs and all the side effects, I wasn’t there and it just about empties my soul thinking about it. Guilty, yes but more like sadness, a profound and overwhelming sadness.

In June this year I texted my sister and told her I sewed and was now making quilts. I gave her this blog address as I’d just posted about my son’s Big Bang quilt. I asked what colours she liked. I wasn’t really expecting a reply.

However, I did receive a short answer – blues and turquoise.

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Immediately I sought out fabric and spent many happy and involved hours deciding on a pattern.Every summer when we were children we spent months by the seaside, climbing over rocks, investigating rockpools and swimming. My sister loved to swim when she was young, she loves hot climates by the sea and loves bright, happy colours.

This is her quilt – Rockpools:

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For the last 5 years we have given our nephews their Christmas and birthday presents through a third party – our parents.  However, if I make anything for someone else then there is one condition that must be adhered to – I hand over the item in person. A neutral location, a time arranged with a limit and the quilt would be given over to its new owner. I don’t mind telling you that I was nervous: What would we say to one another? Would she even like the quilt? How would it end?

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And this is the happy part. My sister loved, I mean loved, the quilt. We talked easily and freely for half an hour, smiled and even laughed a little. I received more texts from her that same afternoon about the quilt and we were still texting each other well into the next day.

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I’m not claiming that the last five years have all been erased or the hurt and pain has gone, but it’s a start. A very positive and encouraging start.

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Without this quilt we wouldn’t have had this opportunity. It’s up to me to make the most of it…….
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