A Grab Bag

I’ve been sewing, but not updating! In fairness I’ve been doing a bunch of other things – like sewing a plush as hell black faux fur coat and then getting married in it. (I also wore a dress underneath).

Not visible in the pictures: a fine dusting of fluff on everything in my studio, including all my shelves because it floated everywhere. Not a bad effort for being thrown together in two nights before the wedding though.

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I also finished off a single bed sized quilt for a commission. I hadn’t tried this lattice pattern before and while I love the final result I think I would probably try a different construction technique in future. I do love the little aeroplane pattern on the backing though.

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Plus when I was in Melbourne last I visited Making the Australian Quilt: 1800-1950 at the National Gallery of Victoria. I found it super fascinating and also got to demonstrate some good quilt-nerd facts to my date. I was particularly enamored with the Wagga quilts and some of the silk log cabins. As per usual, I found the crazy quilts boring and hideous, but I can respect the skill that goes into them.

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I also really loved this red and white quilt which was made as a prize in a raffle? So much advice stitched into one item!

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Newly in progress and hopefully to be polished off shortly is another pinwheel quilt (I had a hell of a time finding matching fabrics to pull to to synch with what my friend gave me to work around – baby loves their jewel tones a little too much it seems.)

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Minimalism and Wholecloth Quilting (?)

I have two (2) things to show off today! The first is a quilt which I made as a birthday gift for someone very dear to me. It’s my first experiment with English paper piecing, as well as the first quilt which is (sort of, I guess) a wholecloth quilt. I’ve been fascinated by wholecloth quilts for ages now, and it might be something I experiment with more later this year. I’m keen to try out multiple layers of imagery in them in subtly different thread colours, because why would I start with something straightforward? That would be the easy way out.

But anyway, a few more progress pictures. I should also mention that the design was inspired by some of the quilts I’ve seen Modern Handcrafts make.

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Arranging the hexagons and deciding on my fabric choices.

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I sort of love how all the tiny safety pins look spread across the quilt – like a school of fish.

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I think this might be as far as  I go with paper-piecing. I’m still chipping away at the (very small) paper pieced block for the Sleigher quilt I started, uh, a year and a half ago. I love the lightness of this quilt though and the quilted lines were also my first experiment with using a disappearing fabric marker. It worker surprisingly well and has me thinking about whole cloth projects with more seriousness.

And the finished quilt, with a black and gold binding.

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The other thing I’ve been making fast progress with has been the nesting quilt I showed some early progress on in my last post. I’ve around 2/3 of the way through sewing the initial four block portions, I think perhaps another few hours and the whole top should be complete. I like naming my quilts, and I’m still tossing around potential names for this series (this is 1 of 7). Part of me wants some kind of play on the ever smaller quilts, or something to do with the repetition and inversion of form and colour that will be apparent through the whole series.

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Presently completed four-block squares.

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Dwindling pile of single blocks.

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This quilt top looks like complete chaos and I love it (this is just laid out to get an idea – the final version will have some sage and yellow to offset it a little.)

The other development is that I finally got shelves for my studio! No more storing everything in a pile of plastic containers inching ever closer to my workbench. Left is all my fabric arrayed by colour, right is lengths suitable for backing or binding and a separate cube for each WiP.

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Variations on a Theme.

So, for the better part of the last two years almost everything I’ve made has been chevrons. Different colours and sizes, sure, but chevrons as far as the eye can see. It looks like 2015-16’s look du annual will be hexagons.

The hexy-rainbow I’ve been working on has continued to come together swiftly. (Also this will be posted in my Etsy store when it’s done – if you’d like to bags it before it goes up, post a comment or email me at contact AT fukitu.com.)

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300 safety pins and the death of the remaining cartilage in my knees later…

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All the free motion quilting done, awkwardly piled over my worktable for trimming before the binding.

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Quilt waterfalls.

So far so good – although there was one casualty of this quilt (aside from my knees and wrists.) My poor little Brother BM-2600 gave up the ghost in a sad fashion part way through the free motion quilting. After probably an hour and a half of running it solidly at top speed it made a very sad noise, slowed to a crawl and started to smell lightly of overheating electrics. I ran it into the ground (I suspect I burned out the motor.) I bought a replacement from the same point in Brother’s line: the GS2510. I’ve heard some people have issues with the longevity of Brother machines, but honestly I’ve never had an issue with their entry level mechanical ones: I used the 2600 for eight years and probably sewed on it for an average of 10-15 hours a week. I should confess I never took it for a proper service, figuring if it blew a gasket in a spectacular fashion I could just afford to spring for a new one and instead just aimed a can of compressed air at the bobbin-zone once in a while. All things considered, given it cost me something like $250 when I bought it I think I got a good deal of life out of it.

I also had a lovely haul arrive from Hawthorne Threads.

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My plan for this is a drunkards path quilt, which should measure about 185cm x 185cm when complete.

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However, when you trim the white L-shapes for this quilt you’re left with a bunch of smaller quarter circles, which seem to suggest they ought to be in a complementary quilt which is slightly smaller.

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And then of course, you’d trim the L shapes for THAT quilt and be left with slightly smaller again quarter circles. Needless to say I took to my high tech design wall.

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Expect some delightful smaller and smaller drunkards paths until I get sick of following this weird little rabbit hole. I find the idea of recursive quilts echoing back and forth very very satisfying.

One last tiny hexagon tease though, something I’m revealing in full next week:

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Further Finishes

Something about the New Year is making me want to finish what I’ve started before I begin anything new. In my last post I showed off the coat I’ve finally finished after some eight months – today I have two more finishes, and one WiP I’m making good progress on.

First! The baby quilt I finished just before Christmas. I recently located the photos I took and then immediately lost among my extensive library of memory cards.

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I love it: it’s soft and lightly quilted and just right for a snuggly floor quilt for a baby.

Next up: I finished the French Braid quilt I started about four years ago. Finished! Done! (Also now listed on my Etsy) The odd thing about working on a quilt for this long is how much my tastes have changed. I still like this quilt, but I can’t imagine I’d do anything with such a deliberate lack of intention or form to the colour arrangements? I find that I much prefer sewing with a strong sense of purpose and a clearly defined outcome now. With this though I cut the strips for the chevrons (chevrons are one thing that hasn’t changed in my quilting) and then pulled them out more or less at random to sew together the blocks.

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This next one is the early stages of quilting together a top I’ve had sitting aside since last May. It’s the twin to the hexagon quilt I made last year: where that one went from a high density center to low density colour at the edges this does the opposite: I used the leftovers from the original to sew it. I’m doing a free motion quilting, same as before, but this time in a regular Gutermann thread, instead of the Sulky thread. Sulky thread gives an amazing finish and looks beautiful, but also broke anytime I changed speeds even slightly while quilting, meaning I had to rethread my machine about every 5-10 minutes through the whole 7+ hours of quilting.

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The patterns not being completely matched is annoying me slightly, I have to admit but it was the most efficient way to use the leftover fabric. I’ve quilted one sixth of this so far, which took just over an hour – the combination of pulling such an enormous mass of fabric around my machine and the extra effort required for free motion quilting anyway completely annihilated my mid-back, so I might have to pace myself when it comes to finishing this off.

I’m waiting on a gigantic order from Hawthorne Threads too, but I’ve told myself I’m not allowed to cut into it until I finished up this hexagon. I’m looking for the perfect 6″ drunkards path template set too, which is a tougher thing than you might think (I suspect I’m going to go for the Marti Mitchell templates) so I can’t cut into it until that arrives anyway. I’m excited to post my next project once it is underway though!

 

So This is Christmas

I feel as though everyone I know is out at a Christmas Party – meanwhile, I’m having my own Christmas celebration, including catching up on a long overdue post. First things first. My new studio space! I moved in and sewed some luxe-as-hell pink velvet curtains.

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The first thing I started sewing in the new space was a cream wool and gold leather sculptural coat inspired by an Alexander McQueen piece I saw in an exhibition in Melbourne last year. Here’s my inspiration wall (they allowed photography in the exhibit.)

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In typical me-fashion I basically sketched the pattern onto the fabric and started cutting.

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Pictured: my design process.

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The tea cup and tennis ball are crucial parts of the sewing process. (If you roll around on a tennis ball for 5-10 minutes your mid-back might forgive you for kneeling on a wooden floor for an hour.) I’m still working on the coat, but this week I’ve been watching cheesy Christmas movies and teaching myself padstitching techniques as I shape the upper. Also, here’s an in-progress shot of the button tab for the back and pinning the hair-canvas.

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Updates to follow! ( love a good WIP, don’t I?)

Also, I’ve started and very nearly finished a new quilt. This one has a time limit, so it’ll be done before Christmas. You might remember the post I made about the beautiful fabrics from Western Samoa which I felt conflicted about using. I wound up using some of them to make a quilt for a friend’s new nephew who has Samoan heritage: I felt that using them like this, in an exchange (I traded a quilt for one of his exceptionally beautiful paintings) was an appropriate way to make use of them.

I sewed most of the quilt top while staying with my Grandmother. Pre-washing and drying in the sun:

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I had to work with more limited tools, because there’s only so much you can pack in a suitcase. Here’s pressing and laying out the pattern:

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And backlit after sewing up.

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Updates pending! I’m determined to have some WIP finishes for 2015.

Free Motion Quilting is Go

I have a finish and an almost finish to show you all today! First up: the teal chevrons.

Back teal quilt

This is the wideback I chose for the backing – colours were influenced by the request of the friend commissioning the quilt. I mostly pulled the fabrics from my stash, which was exciting – nice to use what I had on hand instead of ordering and waiting impatiently for fabrics to arrive.

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Folded teal

Here’s the finished product – the recipient was extremely happy which is always gratifying. Another commission is also almost complete – I’ll be spending tomorrow sewing up the binding. I wrangled my Brother-2600 into free motion quilting which I’m quite proud of – it doesn’t have droppable feeddogs, so I just turned the stitch length down to 0 and hoped. It worked very well in the end, although I need a higher quilting table because being hunched over the machine for five hours today means I spent a solid 10 minutes working the crunchier bits of my shoulders over with a tennis ball this evening.

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Pin basting stage.

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Purple hex detail

I used a Gutermann Sulky 40 weight thread for the quilting. In general I liked it – I love the shimmery barely there quality of it, and how it ties all the colours together. I don’t particularly love how it snaps as soon as I ramp up the speed on my machine (strangely only the top thread, not the bobbin thread) although that seemed to happen mostly in the first 30 seconds after I rethreaded the machine. I had a theory that maybe winding on a new bobbin was pulling at the thread and changing the tension, but winding the bobbins off a second reel of the same colour didn’t repair the issue, so the only solution seems to be to sew slowly.

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Hex yellow quilted detail

 

The inspiration for the colours and shape came from a shot on Instagram I saw of a colour theory talk being given at one of the major quilt conferences in the USA – someone had illustrated a colour wheel using a hexagon and immediately I was drawn to the geometrical possibilities. I chose a forest green for the backing fabric for this one and I’m happily back using the bamboo/cotton blend for the batting. Such a dense quilting pattern has given the quilt a satisfyingly heavy hand.

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Baby’s First Quilt Convention

Well, not quite my first convention, but the first I’ve been to since I was in my teens. I made it to the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne last month and really enjoyed myself. It’s held in the Royal Exhibition Building which I’ve often walked past and wanted to look around so this served a dual purpose of allowing me to finally get a bit of a tour.

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The exhibition itself was split about evenly between vendors and the exhibition of competing quilts – I restrained myself from spending too much but got a new rotary cutter and a few fat quarters, plus a whoooole stack of pamphlets for machines for me to lust after.

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I also got a chance to drive a couple of long arm machines for the first time ever. This is the Juki Virtuoso (excuse the poor lighting) and you drive it with two joystick like handles, then the machine automatically adjusts the length of your stitches as you speed up or slow down (I know this is probably very elementary to a lot of people reading, but I’d never seen one in action before.)

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The quilts I was most taken with in the exhibition were the wholecloth quilts and those which used a couple of very large blocks of colour and very fine and detailed quilting.

This is a detail from Sanderson’s Apprentice by Karen Terrens:

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And this is a detail shot of Turkish Delight by Phillipa Thomas. I’m particularly fond of her use of silk as a construction fabric – as much as I love patterned cottons I’ve been interested in using other materials for some time (I think I posted a sample block of a chevron quilt pattern in dupioni silk a few years back) and it’s exciting to see someone constructing a bed sized quilt out of silk.

 

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I should also add that the posted information about sharing photos from the exhibition indicated it was allowed as long as appropriate credit was given to the makers – if anyone whose work is featured in this post would like the images removed please leave me a comment and I’ll take them down immediately.

As for my own quilting, I’ve been working on a chevron commissioned quilt – it’s close to done, actually. Some pictures of it in progress (I’ve been sewing it while visiting my Grandma).

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Toasty warm in front of the fire.

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George stayed home, but Pudding here helped with the all important basting process, making sure the fabric didn’t move while I was pinning it.

Steadfast Refusal to Use Autumnal Colours

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Remember the rainbow gradient quilts I mentioned in my last post?

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They’re coming along nicely! One (at the top of this post) has already been spoken for (a pal saw my upload of it on Instagram and asked if she could dibs it).

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The tops are all sewn together and they’re just waiting on the batting arrive. I’m going back to cotton/bamboo batting I’ve raved about so much and I’m making the most of the luxury of space in my studio by ordering a whole roll of it. I can’t wait. I also bought a proper quilting foot and I’ve figured out how to make my poor beleagued BM-2600 do free motion quilting, I hope. I’m planning a kind of spirograph inspired pattern with the quilting – riffing off the hexagonal shape of them. I’ve also got a custom commission in the works.

It’s for a friend’s mother who is a sportsmad Dundein-ite who apparently sits up until the wee small hours in the bitter cold to cheer for her teams and needs something to keep her warm as she does so. I pulled the fabrics for it from my stash this afternoon and I’ll be cutting them tomorrow. I’m thinking something similar to the chevrons I did last year since it’s still one of my favourite patterns and will come together quickly.

Colours pulled for Chevrons

Soothing greens and blues. Yes this does mean I’ve technically added three more WIPs to my list, but I did claim 2015 was the year of finishing WIPs up, so I still have oodles of time to knock these ones out…

I also finished off the baby jumper I was working on:

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I took some snaps hastily on my tablet before posting it off so the first of these two photos is closest to the actual colour. It’s only the second actual garment I’ve knitted; I usually stick to simpler things like scarves which have decidedly more margin for error. I only had to frog a couple of rows and those were mostly because I tried to knit while flying through turbulence. Learn from my mistakes. Turbulence is the universe telling you to just sit tight and enjoy another complimentary wine rather than trying to cable anything.

I have the gorgeous red cotton from a few months back coming together as a cabled hat right now – my first attempt at knitting in the round. So far I’m not the biggest fan of knitting in the round, it seems to go much slower than I’d like but the cotton is dreamy to work with so I’ll make do. I also have not one but TWO generous colleagues in Australia offering to show me how to crochet which I think I will enjoy. It looks a lot more portable than knitting (one needle, rather than 2 to 5).

Also! I realised I never did come through with my promise to show off the truly enormous rainbow quilt from a few years back. It lives on our bed now and our latest redecoration means it now matches the bedroom.

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Finally, to make up for this fairly scant post have a truly hilarious author photo, courtesy of a friend of mine. My current portrait aesthetic seems to be ‘austere’ which is quite at odds from the saturated colour work I’m doing but never mind.

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Finally Some Finishes

FINALLY after what feels like an age I have some finished quilts to post about! I polished off the binding on Indigo Pinwheels yesterday and finished the quilting of my lingering French Braid shortly after. I decided that was close enough to finishing some WIPs to allow me to cut into some new fabrics.

Here’s the finished images of Indigo Pinwheels. If you have a hankering to throw it over your own couch/bed/pet then it’s up for grabs.

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And the French Braid is getting close to completion too (I forgot that thin stripes photograph horribly. Newsreader Syndrome.)

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For the next quilts I’m making I’m using the rainbow gradient fabrics I mentioned in my last post, cutting stripes off each and sewing them together from greatest to least density of colour and then cutting an equilateral triangle out of the middle. The way it’s set up should allow me to sew the offcuts together into a second triangle so from one set of cuts and sewing I should get two inverse quilts – one moving from darkest at the centre to lightest at the edges and the other the opposite. I have a couple of action shots thanks to my lovely partner who was working in his studio at the same time as I was in mine.

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I think this is the first new quilt I’ve started since the Fair Isle quilt in November/December. I’m enjoying working with such lush colours.

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I had time to sew up the yellow and orange segments yesterday before I had to call time around 1am. Here are a couple of pictures to show you what I’m on about. The finished quilts should be hexagonal, around 200cm across.

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I’m still working on the baby cardigan I mentioned last time – knitting is for travel, I’ve decided. I can’t sit that still when I’m at home. I should have it polished off in the next day or two and then I have a hat planned with a scarlet cotton. My quilts will wait until I get home again.

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Shades of Green

Quite accidentally everything I’ve sewn or knitted lately has been one of many shades of green. I can’t seem to shake it. I’ve started knitting up the baby jumper I mentioned in my last post. It’s coming together well – it’d been a while since I made anything that had stocking stitch in it and I forgot how quickly it knits up. Most of this knitting was done in planes and airports – I got caught up in one of Melbourne’s famous storms and spent 2 hours sitting on a runway. Time flies when you’re almost finished the back of a cardigan though. Now I’m just knitting up the sleeves and swearing never to knit on anything smaller than a 3mm needle again. The sleeves of this are knit on a 2.5mm and I constantly feel like I’m about to bend the needles in two.

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While I was in Melbourne (before the skies opened and conspired to keep me stuck at the airport forever more) I stopped by Morris and Sons to get the wee little needles – I couldn’t find any in that size for love nor money in Wellington before I left (at least not without going off to dig through second hand stores). I love Morris and Sons – they have this gloriously light and airy feeling store with shelf upon shelf of yarn arranged by colour. My love of rainbow colour gradients is pretty well documented and being in their store is like having some deep part of my brain thoroughly massaged. I snapped a few photos while I was in there – only on my phone, so they don’t really do it justice – but still enough to capture some of the lovely warmth of the store.

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The other greens I’ve been working with have been the green and brown chevron quilt top I’ve been finishing off as part of my dedication to ploughing through my WIPs. To be honest I was a bit uninspired by this top when it was just individual blocks, but now I’ve pulled it together into a full quilt top I’m liking it a lot more. The final version is only going to be a wall or lap quilt – it should be around 48″ by 36″ and I’m quite looking forward to something which should come together so quickly. This and the pinwheel quilt I’ve been blogging about are both going to be up on my Etsy store when I’m done – although if you’d like me to hold one for you just shoot me an email (contact AT fukitu.com) and I can arrange that too!

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In less good news, I have to move out of my studio which I’m a bit heartbroken about – I love it, but the landlord is putting up the rent by more than we can justify paying (I share it with my partner.) I’m hoping something else comes along soon, because I don’t miss having quilting projects strewn across the lounge. I’m using this as a reason to be fairly brutal about which WIPs I think I will actually finish – moving back out is going to put space at a real premium so I’m trying not to hold onto half finished projects which I don’t have a hope of completing. What are other people’s thoughts on abandoning WIPs? I personally find it hard to let go of something I’ve invested so much time in, but there are some quilts where I can really see that my skill level has progressed so much that it’ll be quite obvious the quilt was completed over a fairly long time period.

One last picture before I take myself off to bed. I went a bit wild on the Hawthorne Threads website a few days ago and lo and behold, my parcel has already arrived! I’m pretty impressed – six days to be packed, shipped and arrive on the other side of the world is no mean feat. I was quite inspired by a lot of the Quiltcon images I saw on Instagram and decided to make my next project a colour gradient hexagon queen bed quilt – I did some preliminary sketches and I think this fabric should be enough for 2-3 quilts all in slightly different configurations. I’m banning myself from cutting into it until these WIPs are finished and listed in my Etsy store. The struggle is real.

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