Saturday, 31 October 2015

Star Baby Quilt

This little quilt has been about a month in the making. According to the dates on the photos, the first image was taken on the 25th September (although the idea had been lurking ever since my friend told me she was expecting a few months earlier). I had a vague idea of the look that I was after from discussions with her about how she was planning to decorate her nursery and what her favourite interior styles were like; lots of white, almost Scandi style, with pops of bright colours.

I spent a long time researching into baby quilts; the sizes, the most popular shapes and types of quilt, the best fabrics to use... It seems there is a lot out there on the subject and you could be researching into it forever!!! The star pattern I eventually settled on wasn't from a specific blanket, but rather a shape that I had seen somewhere along the line. It seemed such a simple idea yet very sweet and perfect for my project!!! I started sketching out the designs onto the back of envelopes, working out what shapes I needed to cut and how many of them (top photo), and also how many star shapes I ought to have in the quilt to make it seem even.

Once that was decided I could play with the fabrics!!! At work (C&H Fabrics) I came across a really lovely printed flag fat quarter, and had sudden visions of matching each of the different colours and patterns on the flags to other fabrics to create my star. The flags would be at the centre with a selection of the other materials randomly placed around it. Everything that wasn't part of a star would be white.

I started by cutting up lots of squares, which were then turned into triangles. Thanks to my watching endless American quilting videos, I switch really easily between inches and centimetres when making quilts, so I apologise if I confuse anyone with my random measuring methods.

The squares were cut out in five and a half inch squares with were then simply halved diagonally for the triangles. Each coloured triangle was matched to a white one and then I sat and chain pieced all of my triangles together until I had a long line of squashed bunting.

These then got ironed flat ('press those seams!'). Now the fun part begins. The quilt block is formed of one 5 1/4 inch square of flag fabric, which is surrounded by four of the triangle squares, and the gaps filled in with four white squares (also 5 1/4 inches to take into account the 1/4 inch that gets eaten up into the seam of the triangle square).

I made up nine of these blocks and then set up a picnic blanket outside to be able to begin arranging them and playing with how the colours worked together.

Once I was happy with the arrangement, I could stitch all of the blocks together, row by row.

At this point I hadn't really though much about how to do the back, as I was concentrating so hard on the front!! But as I sat and looked at my finished top I thought about how to change the pattern slightly but keep the colour and fun in the back.

I think when I laid another piece of the flag fabric over the centre star panel it all completely fell into place and I had to find another envelope back to draw the new design on.

The pattern was very simple, one big square in the middle surrounded by lots of smaller flag fabric squares in the exact same place as on the top of the quilt. So essentially you have the same pattern but without the triangles.

This took a little bit of time to measure out, as I had to make sure that everything matched up to the top piece. I didn't want to over complicate the back with lots of little squares so changed the size and shape of some of the squares to fit.

It took me the rest of the afternoon to stitch the bottom together by which point it was dark and gloomy outside.

A few nights later, I went back to the quilt and layered it up with a layer of my favourite cotton/bamboo blend batting in-between.

I had decided not to baste my quilt but just use the pins to keep it all together and hope that it wouldn't move, which worked for the majority of the time. I stitched all around the outside of the star shapes with a centimetre allowance, and also inside of the flag squares to hold the centre steady.

For the areas where the white squares met, I decided to do a little diamond square to hold it down and to make each diamond the same size, used thin paper to draw out my shape and stitch over then rip off.

The quilted quilt!!! (Sorry the photos are bad, at this point all of the making of this quilt was done in the evenings.)

The back was not bad, it didn't exactly match up all over, but generally the star stitch lines worked around the centre flag fabric so I was chuffed with that.

The next two nights were taken up with binding the quilt. I prefer to cheat and use bought binding rather than make my own, and this little blue polka dot binding fitted the bill exactly!

Lots of hand stitching went into binding the back of the quilt, as all you quilters will know, and I spent a while stitching in all of the loose ends of thread and going over everything to make sure it was perfect, until I finally deemed it finished!!!

I am really chuffed with this little quilt and hopefully the little one that uses it will be chuffed with it too- when he/she arrives! It was given to my friend yesterday at a baby shower/maternity leaving do and she really liked it too. I might make a few more now - just in case any other friends start expecting!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Pumpkin Time!!

I am a huge fan of Autumn/Winter traditions. I think as the nights draw in and it gets dark so much earlier (especially now the clocks have gone back!!), we need to have the comfort of a nice tradition. For me, the start of the Autumn traditions begins with all of the October birthdays, followed by Halloween, the Christmas Panto, Christmas itself and New Year to round it all up. We are currently on number two of the all time favourite traditions- Halloween! And more specifically, pumpkin carving!!

I seem to be the only one in my family who can stand the smell of pumpkin flesh, therefore it falls to me to choose the biggest, plumpest and most orange pumpkin, design the features and carve it up.

I really like his little button nose this year!! (Created by carefully poking through a screwdriver from the outside.)

Raawwwwrrrrr!!! Scary stuff.

I like to think of the black marks as war wounds or battle scars, to show what a tough pumpkin this is. Not afraid of a barny. He would snap your hand off if you got too close!

And of course, once the scooping out of the innards is complete, you are left with lots and lots of pumpkin slices. This year the pumpkin is so big there was masses of it scooped out. I started by making Pumpkin, Potato and Carrot soup for tea yesterday. (Not really following a recipe just softening some onions, throwing in the carrot and pumpkin along with parsley, ginger, cinnamon, chili seeds, salt and pepper and frying for a little while. Then added in two small jugs of vegetable stock along with chopped potato and celery for crunch, leave to boil for 15 or so minutes. Blend with a hand blender until pureed or slightly more mushy and add in a tub of half fat creme fraiche, stir, season and serve with crusty bread!! Delish.)

I put the remaining pumpkin flesh in the fridge (seriously, when I mean there was lots, there was lots!!!) overnight and this evening made another few handfuls into Pumpkin and Ginger Tea Loaf, which I started making last year. The smell of this baking in the oven is amazing, totally autumnal.

And whilst this bakes in the oven, I can think about what to do with the final handful of pumpkin in the fridge (I really did mean it about the amount that was scooped out of this gigantic beast!!). How are you decorating your pumpkin this year? Do you make it into lovely edibles?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Emmetts Garden

The Parents, Elvis and I went to Emmetts Garden this morning. A lovely National Trust place in Kent. There isn't really a lot there, a rockery, a rose garden, some lawn areas and a big bit of woodland. There were hundreds of different types of mushroom and toadstool, including some really gigantic ones that absolutely dwarfed Elvis!! He was most impressed.
I was collecting brightly coloured leaves on my way round, citrus yellows, warm ambers, deep reds, mottled, speckled, curly, flat... Autumn really does bring out such a variety of woodland colours.
We made a friend as well, Dad nearly trod on the incredibly hairy caterpillar who was sunbathing himself amongst the fallen leaves. I have no idea what species he is, if anyone does know please leave a comment!

After our trundle through the woods we drove (and got a bit lost) for a while until we got to The Vineyard pub in Lamberhurst. Very posh stuff!! We sat outside on the patio in the sunshine, probably the last time we will be able to eat outside like that this year.

And now I am home I can play with the leaves and conkers collected on the walk, such beautiful colours!!