I have some new followers; hello and welcome! I never know whether the people who join me here are experienced English Paper Piecers who want to move on from hexagons, or beginners who want to give the technique a try. Or, perhaps they are just interested in any kind of textile work, even if they don’t want to try it for themselves. I’d love to know!
The purpose of this blog is mainly to see what I can do with English Paper Piecing, other than the ubiquitous hexagon, so you will only find one post on hexagons, a unique pattern that was designed by one of my followers (see ‘Grandmother’s Posey Guest Post – A New Hexagon Design’). I want to see how small I can go with this technique, how large, how pictorial, how abstract. I want to embroider, quilt, paint and dye my English Paper Piecing backgrounds and designs and much more, so many of my posts are experiments with one thing or another. In between experiments I have been making small quilts, mainly wall hangings, with a Scottish theme, many of them featuring houses.
Since my last post I have been working hard on finishing a few quilts that have sat about unfinished for a while. It is always fun to do the top patterned part, but there are so many stages to a quilt that it is easy to put one aside once you have completed the top, in favour of starting another top. As I very much want to move on to something quite different in the near future, it is important that I get all this unfinished work completed. So, there may be a run of posts showing recently completed work with comments before I move on.
While I was working to complete these quilts it occurred to me that not everyone is likely to want to make a quilt. There are so many stages to quilt making: Once you have finished your top layer with its English Paper Pieced pattern, you still have to add backing fabric and wadding/batting in the centre. Then you have to quilt it, add binding, a sleeve if you want to hang it and a label to show who made it. But English Paper Piecing doesn’t have to be just about quilts. Of course you can use the technique to appliqué patterns onto tote bags or towels but there are a few other possibilities too, that I would like to show you in future posts. So if you love the technique but are not sure if quilt making is for you, perhaps there will be something there to suit you.
In the meantime, here are the quilts that I have completed since my last post. They will be familiar to many of you from previous posts but maybe it will be interesting to see how they look now that they are finished:
It’s going to be a long, picture-heavy post, so buckle up!
This is ‘Windblown’, a six inch mini quilt made for a picture frame. The quilting is not easy to see but I chose a circular pattern to represent the strong winds we have up here in the west of Scotland. I find square quilts often look distorted when photographed from above, so I bought a small easel to eliminate this problem. This quilt has polyester batting/wadding in the centre, which causes the shapes to puff out slightly but if you want a flatter look, cotton or bamboo is a better bet.
Here is ‘Geese Flying Over’. I love seeing the geese flying over our house between late November and January each year. I can hear them coming long before I see them. The naturalist and writer Helen Macdonald described the sounds they make as “discordant bugles” and that’s exactly right. I have found that when quilting stitches run up and down or across from the centre it is important they are not pulled too tight or they pull the centres of each edge in a little, as you see here. I have started to get a bit annoyed that the edges of my pictorial quilts cover part of the pattern when the binding is added, so I need to thinking about this more carefully beforehand, or add ‘knife edge’ finishes instead.
This is ‘Attic Window’, a really useful block for beginners to try because it is made up of only three pieces and you can put anything you like in the ‘window’, in this case a little black Scottie dog. This tiny quilt is also an example of a knife edge finish, which doesn’t interfere with any picture on the surface of the block but it can look a bit unfinished somehow. It works ok for projects you put in a frame because the edges are covered but I feel that it wouldn’t be as attractive on a quilt hanger without a fabric frame. What do you think? This has thinner bamboo batting inside which makes it more floppy, as you can see by the kink in the top as I tried to balance it on the easel. Bamboo works better for a quilt designed to go in a frame where you don’t want the bulk/higher loft that you would get with polyester.
This is ‘Thistle Jam’. It looks rather Christmassy with the red and green though it was not intended as a Christmas quilt. Here the fabric frame around it doesn’t interfere with the pattern as it does with more pictorial surfaces. Something to bear in mind when you are choosing your surface pattern.
You will see that the mitred corners are open along the crease. I used to sew right up to the top of each corner to close the gap but it often looked pinched. However, I am not sure I like them open either. I think it’s probably best to give them a press and see if they sit neatly and if not you can always add some stitches later.
Here is the back of Thistle Jam, in case you wonder what they look like on the back. The quilting stitches make a nice pattern. It is the same green fabric on the back with the same bright red quilting thread so I’m not sure why the colours look a little different in the photo below.
This is a wall picture made for a quilt hanger that I made some years ago but wasn’t happy with the embroidery at the bottom, so I removed it and re-did it. I would have preferred to just put ‘Welcome’ but the space seemed to want more than a single word which looked lost in the centre.
It has a slim sleeve on the back, for a quilt hanger.
And lastly here is ‘Little Kitties’ a mini quilt of one inch squares surrounded by a border. A border before the binding is the best way to avoid the pictorial part of your pattern from being covered but of course it requires more work and more fabric. It does make the quilt larger, which does give it more presence on a wall. As I was attaching the binding, I was upset to discover a small flaw in the fabric near the corner, the sort of flaw that, with a little friction, could become a hole. The only way to deal with something like this is to mend it as best you can and then cover it. This is why there is a little kitty face in the top left hand corner. It’s not what I would have wanted but the only way to save the quilt.
The binding has finally been sewn on to “Over the Hills and Far Away’ (below), a much larger wall quilt. I am certainly pleased to see that completed. The binding, added separately, was sewn on by hand, both sides. I notice that there is no information, as far as I can ascertain, online, showing you how to sew on binding totally by hand. In all cases it is machine one side and by hand on the other. Sewing it on entirely by hand is done slightly differently and I hope to create a post on that soon, in case it is something you would like to try. Not everyone has a sewing machine. Most of my mini quilts (all those above) have the backing fabric brought to the front and folded into a faux binding. This works on tiny wall quilts because the edges don’t get the wear that larger runners and bed quilts might. It is also cheaper because you don’t need to buy extra fabric for the binding. However, proper binding, as in the example below, looks and feels so much better and is not very much work on a small quilt. In fact it is much less fiddly.
The next batch of quilts I am trying to finish are those that I thought would benefit from some surface embroidery, so it may take me a little longer to get through those. ‘A Walk in the Glen (below) is an example of what I mean. I plan to embroider the man and the dog and scatter some French knots in shades of purples across the flowers to give them the quilt more ‘lift’ and texture. I’m not sure if I want to add the pinned on thistles at the sides, or not.
And there are two or three finished tops still waiting to be quilted. Here is one of them:
So, until next time….