Scrap Happy 2016

I’ve had to admit to myself that my ‘collection’ of both yarn and fabric has got a little bit out of control. Every project just adds to the boxes that adorn the spare room – but the thing that I kept coming back to (especially with the yarn) is that it’s all nice stuff, so I couldn’t bring myself to give it away. We’re talking lovely aran wool, bamboo double knit, pretty sock yarn, a random ball of something nice I’ve seen.

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It’s amazing how much I found when I started to look!

I’m not sure I was quite ready for how much yarn I was going to find when I started to look, but a cold damp Monday morning a couple of weeks ago I decided to look (I was procrastinating on a post-decorating tidying up chore, which funnily enough is what I’m still doing now!).

I was very happy with what I found – I’d already decided that anything artificial wasn’t going to make the cut, but apart from that it was the more the merrier. I’m not normally a rainbow sort of a girl, but how could I not with all these colours?

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I had two things to solve – how to use lots of miss matched weights of yarn, and second how to start a blanket with no idea how big it was going to end up.

To resolve the first I went for a 10mm hook and 3 strands of yarn – making it a very quick project to grow and using 3 strands of different weights means I’ve been able to balance things out across the blanket.

To sort out how to start a blanket when I had no real idea of how big it is going to get, I decided to use the corner to corner technique. I’ve used it a couple of times recently, and it meant I could just weigh the yarn (over 3kg!), divide it in half by weight and then I would know once I got to the half way point and need to start decreasing.

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The thing I’ve been most surprised about is how much I’m enjoying the project. It’s growing fast, it’s very, very warm to work on, in my mind the yarn is ‘free’, I’m making space in the spare room and the colours make my heart sing – what’s not to like?

Even though I’ve decided on a rainbow, I think because the colours are all natural fibres, and as the colour change is very gradual it’s not too over the top for me.

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I’m on a roll now with the scrap projects – I’ve got ideas about a new blind for my landing window made out of fabric samples, and maybe some wall hangings for my newly redecorated bedroom (the one that I should currently be tidying / sorting) inspired by these beauties on the purl bee website.

I wonder how far through the year I can get without needing to buy any new yarn / fabric…

 

JPx

 

 

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Quick Baby Cow Quilt

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Happy Cows

An old friend of mine who’s living in Canada had a baby boy a couple of months back and I really wanted to send a ‘hello’ to the new arrival. So I diligently got out my crochet hooks, bought some yarn and started crafting a colour change blanket.  It took me a few weeks to make, but somehow it just didn’t work out very well.  So, I have to confess that ditched it in the ‘one to try later’ pile!

Which all means that I’m rather late in sending something across the pond, and for the sake of speed, and because I was grumpy about my first try, I decided to dust off the sewing machine again and try my hand at a VERY SIMPLE quilt.  Actually, Quilt may be overselling it slightly, but there we go.

 

Beautiful fabric

Beautiful fabric

Jo had already found this fabulous fabric in the blue version (blue background, not blue cows!), and when I saw this bright green version, I grabbed it and ran.

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Funky?

 

My sewing machine and I have had a bit of an up and down relationship in the past (entirely the sewing machine’s fault of course), but actually, it behaved rather well on this occasion.  I’ve literally just stitched vertical lines along the quilt, onto a white fleece backing, and then edged it in a darkish grey.  I really wanted something funky and fun and not too traditionally ‘baby’ for this  project and I think it’s come out pretty well apart from perhaps a couple of corners which need a little love and erm, hiding.  I’m still learning the art of quilt making (and corners), so it was good to do this one entirely by myself (yay me!).  My last attempt took a whole lot longer and needed a fair amount of input from Jo (see here).

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It’s back to crochet for me now – a couple of projects in the pipeline, including a trio of little baskets for my spare room…..

Karey x

My Annual Need to Knit

I come from a family of knitters, The Old Bat knits, my sister knits, my step-mum knits, even my Dad was taught to knit as a child (as part of the physio care when he fell out of a tree and broke both arms!).

Attempt by The Old Bat to teach me to knit as a child were always something of a disaster. Perhaps not helped by the fact that she’s left handed and I’m not, and coming from a long line of german knitters I was being taught to knit the continental way (you hold the yarn in your left hand, wrapped around your finger which is held up in the air). I tested The Old Bat’s patience and she tested mine.

Last year's ball was a very plain one, but I love the feeling of snowball it has.

Last year’s ball was a very plain one, but I love the feeling of snowball it has.

A couple of years back I decided that with parental help a couple of hundred miles away, it was safe to have another go at knitting. Working on the ‘how hard can it be’ basis, I trotted into town bought a book, needles and yarn and was determined to tackle my lack of knitty ability. Now, whilst I can happily say that I can knit (and true to family tradition, I do knit yarn in left hand, finger dutifully in the air) crochet remains my favorite and my best apart from when December starts to creep around.

Please excuse the paint splattered hands!

Please excuse the paint splattered hands!

As the evenings draw in and the John Lewis add starts to appear on the telly-box the urge to knit takes over – during my ‘I’m going to bloody well learn to knit’ phase, I bought these books by Arne and Carlos.  I love them both, I love the pictures, the designs, the cosy idea that if we knit like mad and decorate our homes with enough knitted goodies all will be well with the world. For me they have become part of the run up to Christmas, along my log burner,  getting out my copy of Nigella Lawsons ‘ Christmas’ book and filling the little pockets in the kids advent calendars.

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I love both of these books by Arne and Carlos

 

My collection of knitted balls is slowly growing, anything ski / mountain related always goes down well in this house, so these were the first two I made.

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Snow on the trees – makes me look forward to skiing even more….

 

I’m pretty sure that some of the colour changes wouldn’t stand up to close inspection, but that’s the joy of these little balls – it doesn’t matter, a little mistake on a christmas ball just adds to it’s homemade character. In amongst the chaos, food and wine that make up the festive season in our house, no one is going to notice anyway.

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Mr Skier

 

This year I’m opting for the easy choice of stripes and playing around adding beads – I’m using up the yarn from my breaking waves cushion because even the scraps are just too lovely to be left in the bottom of my wool basket. Also because we’re in the midst of a decorating project at home at the moment  when I do get the chance of a cup of tea and a sit down (sitting carefully on an old blanket as I am the messiest painter and decorator known to man) I need some crafty creativity that is easy on my decorating addled brain (too many paint fumes maybe?).

This year I'm playing around adding beads.

This year I’m playing around adding beads.

I think three of these lovelies will be perfect, then I can put my knitting needles away for another year and get back to the serious business of crochet!!

JPx

Even Jerry the cat likes the Arne and Carlos book.....

Even Jerry the cat likes the Arne and Carlos book…..

Summer Top For Winter!

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Ooops.  I’ve done it again…..

I’ve done that whole – start a project then ignore it for 4 months – then pick it up and finish it off in a delighted way – only to realise that you won’t actually be able to wear it for another 6 months at least (and in this country, that’s not even a guarantee!) – then sigh.

So, this is the Summer Top For Winter which I finished last week (the middle of a pretty chilly Autumn).  I’m really delighted with how it turned out, albeit with a slight poochyness that I’ll have to wait a while to actually put it on properly.

The pattern for this top is a free one from Trish at Genuine Mud Pie (please see her lovely blog and tutorials here).  I loved the top that she made using this ‘gingko’ fan pattern, and just wanted to make a bolder version for myself.  Take some time to look at her really cute little crochet animals too. She also has another pattern called ‘sideways’, which I’m keeping my beady eyes on….

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From what I can tell, Trish used a kind of jersey / t-shirt material for the body of her summer top, but I found this blue linen which I wanted to use instead.  The only issue is that the linen doesn’t stretch at all, so I decided to add the slim side panels to allow for a bit of ‘movement’ – just incase I eat too many cakes 🙂 I think the colours work really well together here. The side panels are literally just three rows of Trebles (UK), leaving enough room for the arm hole and a small space at the bottom to create a small ‘flap’ opening which I think finishes the edges really nicely.

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The blue linen was just a good value piece I bought from my local haberdashers and the yarn is Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton 4ply in Peppermint (1831) – which I needed two balls of. So altogether, it’s a pretty affordable top to make.

Thanks Trish for the inspiration.

Now, on to warmer stuff 🙂

KB

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Autumn Leaf Crochet Mat

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I’m totally fascinated by the wonderfully intricate crochet patterns made with tiny hooks and beautifully fine cottons. Crochet is such a versatile craft, don’t you think?  I generally tend to work with 4ply and larger yarns though, although I’m working on a beautiful lightweight edging in a pineapple pattern a the moment (more of this soon :))!

With that in mind, I was spending a happy while (….hour or so….) pottering through pinterest (it really does suck you in doesn’t it 🙂 ), when I saw this Leaf Coaster from Sandra Pontos’ Blog (here):

 

Leaf Coaster from Sandra Pontos Blog

Leaf Coaster from Sandra Pontos Blog

 

I just love these – they’re so very pretty and delicate and look terribly simple as a finished article, but you can tell how much work (and counting) has gone into each one.  Originally, I was thinking about making these coasters in a fabulous neon orange cotton which I have hiding in my yarn stash, but then it hit me that I should try ‘upsizing’ the design instead. And so, the giant leaf mat was born…..

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I’m sure you’ve all come across this t-shirt yarn before?  This one is from Hoooked and is called Zpagetti.  (Have a look at their website here if you haven’t already – there are some amazing colour ways) It’s really wonderful to work with, because it has such a pleasing ‘springy’ nature….although to be honest, it’s a really good work out for your arms too. And because of it’s springy nature, it really does need proper blocking too…which I did using a cork board and some pins, soaking the whole leaf and then letting it dry in the sun.

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The pattern (a chart you can find in the blog mentioned above) used up about half a cone of Zpagetti on a 12mm hook.  I generally prefer using bamboo hooks, but you can buy a fab looking bright pink plastic hook on the Hoooked website if you’re in need of one.  By the way, this yarn is also excellent for making floor cushions.  This is one I made about a year ago for my daughter…there’s a free pattern in for it here.

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Because it’s such chunky yarn, the leaf only took me a couple of days to make – I love it when you can picture something in your mind and then have it sitting there in front of you after just a few happy hours of work.

So…the end result is not quite as lovely and neat as the little coasters, but I think it’s great.  Made in a brighter colour this could really make some fun outdoor seat pads for kids, or maybe even a bath mat.

Enjoy!

KB

 

Sew Stressful

Normally I find all things crafty pretty relaxing – and that’s a big part of why I love them. This week however has been a little different. An old friend of mine asked me to help out in creating a few bits and bobs for his impending wedding. Now, whilst I was more than happy to help out I hadn’t banked on quite how much fretting I was about to do.

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Karey helped me out with the writing on the tags – my terrible handwriting and ‘creative’ spelling wasn’t up to the job!

The idea was a straight forward one and nothing technically difficult. Essentially what was needed was a large fabric covered notice board to act as a seating plan. Each guest would have a pretty tag pinned to the board with their name on the front and their table on the back. I also needed to make a bit of bunting with the word ‘CARDS’ on the flags to decorate a pretty vintage suitcase. Thus, my friend and I planned an hour to take a trip into town for a spot of fabric shopping and pencil sketches were exchanged and ideas discussed on the details of how all these ideas would look.

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Got to love a bit of heat-and-bond applique!

I’m very happy with taking ideas out of my head and making them into a crafty end product, that I have no problem with. What I’ve been struggling with is making sure that the choices that I’ve been making through the week will be seen by my friend as good ones, rather than ‘what in the world were you thinking of!? choices. Was what I saw in my minds eye as I sketched badly in pencil and my friend was polite enough to pretend to understand the same thing? Not just making something for a friend, but making something for a friends wedding (which, for the record is this Saturday, so there’s no time for changing minds or plans!) has piled on the pressure.

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Nothing says vintage like a bit of bunting.

Well, I’m all finished and thanks to the powers of heat-and-bond applique (I love, love, love the crisp edges you can get on cut out lettering, it just makes me happy) and the wonders of a heat erasable pen to be able to mark up and get everything in place, I think I’m happy with the end result – but will G&G be?? I can safely say for those of you that see me around and about you’ll be able to tell how my creations are greeted – as the friend also happens to be my hairdresser, if you see me with sporting a very ‘unusual’ haircut, you’ll know that the outcome wasn’t good and revenge has been taken.

JPx

 

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P.S. I use the words stress and pressure in a making-something-crafty kind of a way, I do realise that there are real people out there with proper jobs looking after the sick, keeping our streets safe, coping with illness and genuinely doing things that are high pressure and stressful, and as ever I take my hat off to you!

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Pretty vintage suitcase for all the wedding cards..

 

Kids Crafts for Wet Days!

It’s raining. It’s a Bank Holiday. Here are a list of some ideas I’ve found over the years that can help to keep small people entertained when the English weather does it’s thing, and I can’t face them watching another movie. Most of them do need you to already have yarn of some sort in the house, but even if you haven’t (why not??!) you could probably improvise with a ball of string.

Finger Knitting

Finger knitting is easy to do and can be turned into scarves, belts, spiders webs, ninja belts. Once they’ve mastered the art, try it with two or three strands of different coloured yarn at a time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3LKAlDz9ig

 

French Knitting

I love this tutorial on how to make a french knitting doll from a loo roll tube – makes me come over all Blue Peter! When I was a kid we used to do this with 4 nails in a cotton reel, but this idea makes it less fiddly for little fingers and it grows quickly (which for any kids craft in this house is very important).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edVW5qS54fA

 

CD Weaving

I used to do this when I was small – but back in the days before CD’s we had to cut out a circle of card instead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xt5wQ5RCUw

Pom Poms

Pom poms are great – throw them around, use them to finish the finger knitting scarf you’ve just made. No need for a fancy pom pom maker, just cardboard, scissors and yarn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9dbhu9YhtU

 

Cross Stitch

Not such an instant fix as you’ll need to send away for a kit, but both of my boys (age 8 and 5) love cross stitch. We use kits made by Daisy Lynn Designs on E-bay. She makes great ‘First Stitches’ kits using ‘6 Count’ Aida fabric – which basically means that the crosses that make up the picture are nice and big, so they are easy for kids to start with. She does designs that will suit both girls and boys, and as the kits are only about £3.50 each and contain everything you need – needle, fabric and the chart I think they are great value for a bit of peace and quiet.

http://stores.ebay.co.uk/daisy-lynn-designs/First-stitches-Kits-6-count-/_i.html?_fsub=1263347011&_sid=926023281&_trksid=p4634.c0.m322

Fingers and toes crossed that it doesn’t rain like this for all of half term.

JPx

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pretty photos with this post, but it had to be quick!

 

 

 

 

Hello Yellow

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I always find colour choices interesting. I will freely admit to being, shall we say, consistent in my usual colour choices. Some may choose to call my choices boring, but hey, it’s my blog post, so I’m going to stick with consistent. I like blue, I like different shades of blue and if I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I’ll add in a bit of green or purple.

Now, in my defence, if I’m choosing colours either for something to crochet or sew, neither yarn or fabric are cheap. Add to that the fact that there is a lot of time and love that goes into even the smallest handmade item and to me that is  a strong recipe for sticking to what you know. Who wants to spend time and money making something and then not like it at the end?

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Out of an entire quilt, this was the colour combination I kept coming back to.

However, every now and again a I’ll see a colour combination and it’ll stick in the grey cells and be filed under ‘new, interesting and worth replicating’. It may well lurk in the grey cells for quite some time before I do anything about it, but it’ll be there and it wont go away. This was very much the case last summer when I made a new quilt from an idea I’d seen on Pinterest (here) and the colour combination that caught my eye was the mustard yellow against the dark denim. Yellow is not a colour I’ve given much thought to before, trying to steer my way through life avoiding like the plague anything that The Old Bat would deem to be ‘jazzy’, so this attraction to one spot of quilt came as a bit of a surprise.

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Look! Lovely yarn in the perfect colour = Happy Girl.

Like I say, the idea just lurked around for a while, but then when on a trip to Johnny Lou-Lou’s (that’s John Lewis to normal people) I found a lovely Rowan Holdiay Crochet pattern book I started to think.

Rowan Holiday Crochet 14 Designs by Marie Wallin

Rowan Holiday Crochet 14 Designs by Marie Wallin

The book has a lovely pattern for a shrug, but colour choices and budget lead me away from using Rowan yarn. Then I spotted that Sirdar Baby Bamboo comes in a lovely shade of mustard yellow – just the shade I’d been after, and a plan was hatched and an order placed with Black Sheep Wool (if you haven’t visited their site yet, take a look, it’s lovely!).

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It’s magic, crochet a rectangle, sew it together in the right places and voila, a fluid draping wrap.

The pattern is fantastic, you crochet a big rectangle and then sew together sections of the shorter ends to make the arm holes. It look me a while to get into a rhythm with the pattern (for that read, I made a fair few mistakes and had to rip back rows and start again) but I did eventually get into my stride.

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It’s an easy pattern to work – once you get into it!

 

 

The Baby Bamboo is soft and easy to work with and the fact that there was no tricky shaping made for happy mindless crochet. I especially love the magic as something that starts life as a flat boring rectangle transforms into a fluid draping shape that sits well and is lovely to wear.

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I love the finished result and am glad that I stepped away from my usual colour choices, I may have even bought some nice matching yellow beads to make a bracelet – they’re delicious, like little grains of pretty rice.

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And, ahem, maybe the beads were followed up by a pair of yellow birkies. I now have a new theory that it’s impossible to have a bad day when you’re wearing yellow shoes. I hope it works!

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But I do think I’ll draw a line under my yellow things there. Maybe.

 

JP x

 

 

Skirts galore

Ok, well, not galore, but a couple of them at least 🙂

 

 

Neon Orange

Neon Orange

 

After the exhausting quilt (see here), I needed a bit of a break and a couple of gin and tonics before I set up my sewing machine again.  (I will not be beaten by a sewing machine, I will not be beaten by ……)

But…I was totally inspired by THIS really cute skirt up on the Purlbee and decided I’d give it a go for my daughter.  The materials all just fell into place – I found the wonderfully bright neon orange elastic at John Lewis, and simply by chance Jo spotted the fabric in our local haberdashery shop (thanks Jo) – so I scooted down there and found a perfectly sized remnant – I can’t believe how nicely the two go together, don’t you think?  It was all going so well! (Note: The fabric is actually a Liberty print called Jodie C in a silk satin)

Finished Skirt

 

In theory, it’s a totally simple skirt to make.  But, ‘sewing machine’ had different ideas.  After jamming, breaking, straining, whirring excitedly and generally misbehaving I realised that ‘sewing machine’ needed some love (or a one way trip to the recycling).  So, skirt number 1 ended up taking a good three days of sewing, jamming, unpicking, sewing, sticking, unpicking before it finally came to fruition.  Jo was lucky enough to witness my total frustration, and was uncharacteristically quiet during the whole process (fearing, I think, for her own safety).

However, I sat down with my machine and had a good overhaul and it seems to be a much happier beast now….leading to skirt no. 2, which was made in about an hour and a half without a mention of ‘unpicking’ anywhere.

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This one was made from a remnant I found in our Crafts and Coffee fabric box, and a piece of plain blue, quite wide elastic.  Although I love the colour of the neon orange elastic, it’s reasonably firm and so not quite as comfortable to wear (I am reliably informed by my daughter!).  The wider elastic seems to sit better to my mind too. I also decided to add a small detail to the hem of no. 2, just to make it pop a bit more.

Being used!

Being used!

The really lovely thing about both of these skirts is that they’ve already been worn and covered in mud and shimmied up trees – what better repayment for the effort (and mild frustration 🙂 ) than to see them actually being used!!

The sewing machine is now back in my good books, and has been spied by my mum who has now requested a couple of cushion covers (brave woman!!).  I’ll let you know how they go.

Happy day.

Karey

 

 

Quick Quilt For My Boy

 

So, back many moons ago when I still had two brain cells to rub together, I read Geography at university. Although I was never much of an academic, I do have a deep seated love of maps and anything mappy. I had been pondering for a while on making a quilt for my 8 year old boy, but was struggling with fabric ideas – I wanted something that was boyish, but not too young that he would grow out of it too soon. So, when one day I was browsing fabric online (as you do) and I saw this new range of fabrics from Riley Blake, I was a very happy girl. It’s just lovely, although at the time I did have to search for a while to find a UK stockist, but then I came up trumps with Plush Addict  – and I was very, very happy to receive my bundle of fat quarters.

Now, I’m no genius quilter, I’m just happy with doing the basics and can make a passable job of a simple quilt. I have got into a habit of backing my quilts onto polar fleece. In my opinion it makes it cheaper (backing fabric and batting in one), slightly quicker and is soft and very easy to wash. My only reservation has been the polyester-ness of fleece. So, I was thrilled with the idea of bamboo fleece (also from Plush Addict) – all the soft loveliness of fleece but with the natural qualities of bamboo. It does seem to come in quite a limited number of colours, but as one of those happens to be the charcoal grey you can see the world maps printed in below, I was a happy girl.

 

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This fabric started off the whole idea…..

 

The fabric then lurked around in our spare room for a while, as these things do, until my son heading off to Cub Camp (for which he’d need a camp blanket) spurred me into action and I hatched a plan.

I wanted the quilt to be quick and easy – so I toyed with a lot of ideas and ended up with this as my plan. I’d cut the majority of my FQs up into strips 5cm, 10cm and 20cm wide, pretty much at random. I kept the world map fabric and the orange text fabric as whole FQ’s as I wanted to be able to see big patches of them in my finished design.

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I cut the fabric into strips – 5cm, 10cm and 20cm

I then stitched together my strips to make giant strips, the width I wanted my finished quilt to be. Now, one of the thing I’m rubbish at is being able to calculate what size of finished quilt I’ll end up with from the fabric I have – but I was going for something about single bed size.

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I then sewed together my strips to created giant stripes the width I wanted my finished quilt to be.

As I stitched the strips together I was random in my selection of fabrics, the only rule being not to have two of the same next to each other (because that would just be silly).

Once I’d made 4 of these giant strips, I cut along their length into widths of 5cm, 10cm and 20cm. I then mixed up all my quilt-width-strips and sewed them together, turning them round and mixing them up to get a random pattern.

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My finished quilt top…

To finish off, I added a border of unbleached cotton. I then pinned my quilt top onto my bamboo fleece fabric and stitched in the ditch across each of the stripes to attach the quilt top to the fleece.

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Finished!


I had some fabric scraps left over, so I used these to make the binding.

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The colour and weight of the bamboo fleece makes a perfect backing fabric – it has a lovely drape to it, it’s soft and not too bulky.

I’m happy with the finished result, and perhaps more importantly, so is the recipient. I’ll certainly be using bamboo fleece again, it has a lovely feel, good drape and is comfortable to snuggle up in. Now I just have to come up with another boy-friendly quilt idea for the smaller of my two boys….

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All done! One quilt for my big boy.

JP x