January 2020

This is an extra post this month to explain how my scrap quilt is coming along.          I am aware that I have hardly mentioned it over the last few newsletters. I have had many interruptions over the last three months so progress has been slow or to be honest it had virtually come to a halt. However I am picking it up again now, so hope the momentum can continue alongside other projects on the go!

I like scrap quilts and have made several over the years. As a result I have been asked similar questions many times, so I shall address some of these here. Please forgive me if you are well versed and experienced in this field and have your own tried and tested methods for creating and stitching scrap quilts. I know there are many people who are “young” in the quilting world, so reading and observing a variety of ways to work with any technique can be invaluable. I learn something every day by reading, stitching and experimenting and this constantly refreshes and invigorates my knowledge.

  1. How do I chose my colours?
  2. Do I have a theme or is the result random (in the old fashioned sense of the word)?
  3. Do I plan everything first?
  4. What colour thread do I use when there are multiple colours in the work, and what is my favourite thread?
  5. How do I iron multiple seams in a small or indeed a large quilt?


The basic block in this little scrap quilt is a completed 4″ square consisting  of seven rectangles which measure 2″ x 1″ finished, and two finished 1″ squares. One of the squares is red in every block, but the placements are varied within the blocks.

How do I choosing my colours? This, and the next two questions in the list above, are answered in this section.

Basically I am choosing “brights”, and patterned fabrics, intermingled with some plains. When I talk about “brights” in this sense, I mean that I am not using the “sludgy” colour palette.

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As you can see, I also have some finished size rectangles which measure 4″ x 2″, cut from a lovely “gull” fabric. When I saw this at Cowslip workshops a couple of years ago, I thought it was fun, and different enough to make a statement.

My only criterion for these gull units are that they are introduced fairly regularly.  I have cut 5″ squares and either cut them horizontally across the centre, or vertically down the centre, because I want to keep the rotation of the gulls the same throughout. Having the gulls looking “north, south east and west”, was far too busy when I tried it out. However, when the gulls were all in the same rotation it looked calm and pleasing.Introducing these units also had the effect of breaking up the regular 4″ block arrangements . I hadn’t really thought it through, or had anticipated or realised the effect it would have. Another reason why it is sometimes a very good idea not to have a set idea in your mind, because “serendipity ” might never occur!

In the photo maybe half a dozen of the blocks are sewn together, but most are just placed in position on the floor of my sewing room, which is why it looks haphazard and rather uneven in places. I am continually assessing the arrangements, and often changing them! Looking at the photo, I can see one or two placements again that I shall change!

Another way I have also changed my original thoughts; and why not….?                          I decided to cut more 2″ x 4″ units AND  some 2″ squares, but this time using some of the fabrics already in use. These two additions have been really useful, because they have been able to infill some gaps, and that has worked really well. They blend in because the same fabrics as are in the quilt already are being used. This still ensures that the gull fabric is still a feature.

The subtle change of scale within the work is a plus, adding more intrigue and interest. It also gives the eye somewhere to rest, other than on the gulls! I have long found it fascinating to try to work out if quilts have been designed with a “regular” block size. (It certainly aids with final construction). It is not always evident what the technique has invilved, and to me that is always an interesting feature! As long as the designer/maker is happy with their choices that is all that matters. 

What colour thread do I use when there are multiple colours in the work? 

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In the photograph to the right, I have laid a white thread, and a khaki coloured thread onto one of my fabrics.

I think you would agree that the white shows up more readily than the khaki. This is because the white is very light, and the khaki is a mid tone, which blends so much better. I always piece with mid tone threads, for this very reason. They almost never show in the piecing, even if seams are opened out to press.

My favourite piecing thread is Aurifil 100% cotton. Although the reels are now in the region of £8.80 per reel, it is important to read that there are 1300 metres on an Aurifil reel, which is very economical, and it is an excellent quality thread.

The cost of Gutterman 800 mtre cotton thread is now in the region of about £7.50 ish per reel. Again, it is undeniably a good quality thread, but not nearly as economical! We can all look around for a bargain,  and will always find prices a little lower. But overall I have always thought that Aurifil is always reliable and always very economical and for that reason it is my first choice.

How do I press seams when they are small and there are multiple colours?          There are many ideas for pressing seams, and I usually tend to press towards the darkest colour. However this isn’t always easy, for a range of reasons. In my scrap quilt I am using lots of different colours and tones, as well as lots of small pieces, so I am letting the fabrics show me which way the want to be pressed! I will explain what I mean! I am using different weights of fabric, all 100% cotton, but ranging from Liberty lawns which are very fine, to mid weight cottons, which are heavier and firmer.

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In the photo to the right, perhaps you can see that the right hand piece of fabric wants to lie totally flat. It is a slightly lighter weight than the green one. I iron from the right side of the two unit piece sliding the long side of the iron from the lighter fabric to the the turqoise one. N.B. The angle of my camera in this instance, has given a slightly distorted view of the pieced unit. Both pieces were cut accurately! The way that the

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turqoise fabric is lifting slightly at the seam, shows that the paler fabric is lying flat. The two photos above illustrate the same point, but shown from the reverse side where there are multiple pieces.  All of the smaller units, such as the two pieces sewn together first in the top row and the three pieces sewn together in the second row, etc,  had been pressed after this inital pieceing and before they were finally all stitched into the “finished block”. Here the mid tone thread is seen more clearly. It doesn’t make a statement it just blends in!

At this stage I wanted to see how the individual units wanted to lie naturally. Then I turned the whole block over to the right side, allowing the iron to glide across the seams, but checking all the time, that all was well underneath! You can see that the top horizontal seam in the block on the right, has a twist in the seam. I don’t mind that. There is very little bulk overall, and that is the way it naturally wanted to lie. When it lies on the “cushion” of the wadding layer, it will not be noticed at all.

You may also notice that there are pencilled template shapes on some of the pieces. This is because I have hand pieced occasionally and had prepared some units in advance. Then I have used them within a machine pieced block instead, which I pieced with my 1/4″ foot.

After pressing individual blocks I always re-measure, wanting a 4.5″ block at this stage, so sometimes the finest trimmings need to be made!                                                              This is the stage I am at, as I write. When I have finished piecing the workI will give another update!

Below is a very different scrap panel, which I constructed from another quilt maker’s scraps a couple two years ago. It is approximately 6″ x 13″.  As she was working, Susan was putting all her scraps into her waste bin. The amazing quilt that she was making was to depict the flowers which grow with the challenge of the Atlantic seas and the Cornish weather during one year. Some days later when the scraps were building up she suddenly thought of me!!

DSC01785 (2)She had seen them in a different light when she peered into her bin.            I, apparently, came into her mind! She knew that I really liked the challenge of working with tiny pieces. She also knew that I liked recycling too. I was thrilled to bits when the bag of bits arrived, with a covering letter. Her scrap size, and my scrap size are rather different, but then we do both work on a very different scale! SUsan’s quilts are large and amazing. The photo on the left is my finished result.

It is a tiny Log Cabin panel, with distorted little blocks, and some very tiny pieces. I chose to face the finished piece of work, rather than use a traditional binding and I hand quilted with hand dyed threads!

When I initially looked at the scraps as a group, contemplating how I might use them,  I decided to add one more fabric of my own. It is the red batik. The other scraps were some of the “left overs” from a fantastic quilt, which has been well exhibited, and is truly a masterpiece. I am thrilled that I  made a special little panel using the special fabrics sent to me. Using up fabric scraps gladdens my heart, as I know it does for many quilters.

You may remember that A couple of years ago I put out a tentative request via my newsletter for any spare fabrics which might be recycled by putting together yummy fabric packs for sale. I, along with Rosemary, a very good friend, spent some happy hours putting fabrics packs together which had been sent to me from quilters all over the country.  We made well over 100 with each pack having 1 metre equivalent of fabric scraps which I colour co ordinated. All those bags sold and I still have some of those fabrics stored ready for another blitz. I know I shall enjoy the stimulation of creating gorgeous combinations of colours all over again. They are brilliant charity fund raisers. 

To complete this post I have been preparing for the next bird panel I am looking forward to making. This time it is to be a goldfinch. Many goldfinches visit our garden bird feeders every day. They are such a bright splash of colour, and we love them.

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All the finch family seem to be fearless! When they perch to feed, they can sit for a long time, seemingly concentrating hard on the process in hand. Most of the other small garden birds, flit on and off the feeders, taking flight, (or is it fright), very easily so I have easily been able to study the typical colour distribution in the adult gold finch.

They all have the same basic markings, but each bird is unique. I have used two reference books and a photo taken through our kitchen window of a goldfinch and  I have enlarged and traced my chosen image. From this I shall make a card template to transfer that outline shape onto my background fabric.

I have also chosen my fabric palette, so with my resources to hand I am itching to get started! Hopefully there will be something to show before too long!

Until next time…

Happy Stitching!


2 thoughts on “January 2020

  1. Hi Di, thank you for the second January post. Its very informative and interesting. I look forward to seeing more of your scrap quilt.


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