A Long & Winding Road

IMG_1572This is Lily. Isn’t she pretty? She makes the most delightful chuck-chuck sounds and for a bowl of  peas, she’ll be your friend forever. She’s going to appear on one of my quilts one of these days, for sure.

Just a quick post today because, though there is much in progress, hardly anything is completed. That’s what happens when you try to work on too many mini projects at once. On the one hand it’s nice to go from one to the other for a change of ‘scene’, but you reach a point when you’ve feel as if you’ve been sewing forever and nothing is even close to coming to an end!

I HAVE finished my ‘Monarch of the Glen’, though I think I may have overdone the embellishment. I do like adding surface embroidery but I can get a bit carried away sometimes.  I think it might look better if it was a little plainer. I used a variegated thread to make the leaf design. The shape of each leaf would have shown up more clearly in back-stitch but would have been untidy on the back, so I stuck with a running stitch to fit in with the quilting. For the deer I have used surface embroidery in brown and silver-grey, with a touch of pale brown fabric paint.


I didn’t add a binding this time. I sewed the edges closed with what they call a knife-edge finish. I read somewhere all British quilts were finished in this way once upon a time, and that was how you could tell British quilts from American quilts which traditionally add binding. The knife-edge finish is much easier to do than regular binding; just a whipstitch around the edges which are folded in over the wadding. It’s a good choice if you want to put it your quilt a frame, so bits of borders and binding to worry about.

I have also finished my ‘Little Boys’ Britches’ as this block was called in the early 19th century before women wore trousers. I had fun with the quilting on this one and decided to call it ‘Spinning Jeans’:

IMG_1741 copy

The light is awful today and my pictures are not very sharp. I will re-do them when (and if!) we get some sunshine.

This is what the block looks like behind a mount for a frame. You can see why the knife-edge finish is better because the mount would sit seamlessly against the pattern. Unless your binding is completely square and your corners perfect, which is so difficult in something hand stitched, the machine cut mount shows up any flaws. You are left with what looks like an uneven border.


I’m was working on a couple of Unicorn mini quilts for this post, to tell you about this mythical animal’s link to Scotland but it’s slow going and that post will have to keep for another time.  The two mini quits are very different. One is pale and delicate,  the other bold and bright. I have embroidered the centre of both of them:

These are not embroidered from my drawings. I have simply embroidered around a design already on the fabric. It’s an easy way to add an embroidered centre if you are not too confident about your drawing and it gives a centre picture a bit more ooomph.

The quilting is finished on both of them and now there are just the bindings to do:


I usually use cotton or cotton/bamboo mix for my quilts but I had some polyester scraps left over from my first quilting experiments years ago and I wanted to use them up. I knew polyester was a tad too puffy for a wall quilt, especially one so small (8 ins/ 20 cm square) but I was curious to see how it would turn out. I thought some puffy shapes might throw the Unicorn into relief. It does, but I’m not sure I like it better than if it was flatter.

I thought I might try leaving more wadding around the edge of this quilt to make a ‘border’ type binding but it didn’t work (too flabby!) and I ended up cutting away the wadding and going for the usual slim binding of between a 1/4 and 1/2 inch (1 cm).

One annoying thing about English Paper Piecing is that if you echo quilt around the shapes like machine quilters you have to contend with sewing through the extra layers of material below that tuck around the papers, and that makes quilting hard going. But, if you quilt in the ‘ditch’ between the shapes you are really sewing the wadding to the backing fabric and through the stitches that hold the top shapes together, rather than through the top shapes themselves. Does that make sense? It would be preferable to quilt through the centre of the shapes, as I have with the deer above, but sometimes you need something more subtle.

I do wish  I could find a book that gives tips and strategies about how to deal with specific EPP quilting challenges like these. I have most of the EPP books available on the market today, and a few old ones, and none of them cover anything like that. I am still searching for one that explains the best way to deal with triangles.

Here is the 2nd unicorn quilt (sorry about the piece of fluff on the lower gold triangle)  with the binding in progress, looking awful as it always does at this stage. The pins distort the binding, so I find it useful to leave it pinned for a couple of days for the cotton to ‘remember’ the folds and then take the pins out and let the binding relax while I sew it. It seems to keep a more even shape this way.


You will see that I used a checked fabric for both unicorn quilts. Not a good idea. It just happened to be what I found in my scrap bag that matched my quilt best, but checks are a nightmare to get straight and even. You end up with three little squares on one edge of the binding and two and half on another. I won’t be doing this again.

And you know what? I hate that the binding chops off the edge of the shapes, so the triangles lose their tips and the squares and end up not as true squares. I guess the only way to get around that is to add a border before the binding, so I am going to try that in future.

It truly is a long and winding road but I am hoping that it will get less punishing and more ‘user friendly’, as they say, as I crawl along it.  You can probably tell that I’m rather disenchanted with my efforts his week. I know that most people want their creations to turn out better than they do; that I’m not alone in that. However, I’ve learned plenty this week, so I guess I’ll just keep going.

Till next time….

2 thoughts on “A Long & Winding Road

  1. What a lovely post. I call white ducks, story book ducks. They are the ones always seen in childrens story books.
    I know what you mean about hand quilting.

    Julie xxxxxx


    • Thanks Julie, lovely to hear from you. I am completely besotted by my ducks and love how they scramble out of the pond to come and greet me. I know they are really hoping for food but kid myself that they love me too. I fancy making something tiny, so I might have a rest from Unicorns for a bit…


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