Half-finished offerings

Posts were thin on the ground last week as I'm finding it difficult to fit them in around the other things that I'm doing at the moment. I rarely have unfinished projects lying around, but now, added to the coat and skirt that I talked about last week, the time scale of things means that I'm hopping between writing two patterns, a tutorial, making several Christmas presents, and learning to use Adobe Illustrator properly....so you may be seeing a lot of half-finished things appearing here over the next few weeks.

These silks are being used to make my mother a quilt for Christmas. My mother has wanted a quilt for a long time and has taken to stealing my father's in the evenings, while he sweetly freezes next to her (although she says that he is always too warm, so this isn't actually as quilt-greedy as it sounds). When I discussed the idea of making her her very own quilt we decided upon a large, blousey floral scheme that I'd spotted in a stunning quilt made by Jane Brocket, largely drawing on the collections of Kaffe Fassett, Philip Jacobs and Martha Negley. I made several attempts at narrowing down my choices, but became increasingly worried that they might not be quite right once they arrived - the prints tend to be on such a large scale that it's difficult to tell from online swatches what they may be like in reality. Eventually, I decided that I'd rather work with plain silks in varying shades of English sea - mostly brooding and dark with occasional hints of light in amongst them. My mother's always loved the sea and I knew that even though it might not be as bold a quilt, it was a safer option which felt more as though it would properly reflect 'essence of Mama' within the fabrics...and I've realised as I write that it's very similar colours to the velvet ribbon cushion that I made for her a few years ago. I bought these silks several weeks ago at the Knitting and Stitching show....without consulting my mother over this fabric u-turn...which will mean that she may find this a surprising quilt to unwrap on Christmas day.

Having now worked with silk several times I felt I had more of an idea of how I could best work with the slippery eels. These are Indian silk dupioni which give a deliciously crisp rustle, which in the end I decided to retain by not pre-washing them....so it will now be a dry-clean only quilt. I interfaced every piece with ultra-soft interfacing and then bought a pinking blade for my rotary cutter so that the edges would be even less prone to fraying. Finally, I've been sewing with a 1/2" seam.

I love that I have learnt something that felt a little mind-blowing making this quilt. I've always been a pressing-the-seams-to-one-side kind of girl, but for this quilt I chose to press them open. I know that quilters tend to be split on which is the best way...but for me pressing them open was rather a revelation; I couldn't believe how much neater and more perfect everything looked and I actually thought it gave a much nicer finish from the right side too. So I have leapt over to the other side and will never press to the side again (except on especially lazy days, as I do believe that this way requires more frequent pressing).

In my next post I'll show you a little more of this quilt as the quilt top is now finished and I'm busily hand-quilting it with hand-drawn flower motifs whenever I get a spare moment....I can see that I may still be hand-quilting it on Christmas eve.

How is your own Christmas sewing going?

Florence x


  1. Oh such beautiful colours, i've been intending to make a quilt for my mother-in-law for christmas, however, choosing colours for someone else has been so full of dilemmas! The fact i haven't even begun it yet may result in it being a birthday present and i think solids may be the way forward! For my boys i'm making them a floor cushion each (quite achievable in the timescale) and my eldest, 6, loves your sleeping bags for soft toys - so much so that he's requested one for his collection of puffles - any ideas on how to make a multi-pocketed sleeping bag would be much appreciated! And for my mum i found a lovely pattern for fabric slippers in Making magazine - i was thinking denim with striped inners. I don't have half-finished projects, just a heap of not-even-started projects!

  2. I'm debating making a quilt for myself, but I never seem to be able to pluck up the nerve to do it!
    I also wanted to let you know that I made a zipped lined make-up bag from your tutorial! The instructions are really clear and although mine doesn't look quite as professional as yours I'm pleased with it and will definitely be making some as christmas pressies!

  3. I'd love to hear your tips on sewing with silk in general. I'm hoping to embark on sewing a silk crepe shift dress, and am a bit nervous about dealing with the "slippery eels" as you put it!

  4. I can't wait to see this finished!
    I like pressing the seams open, too. My blocks come out so much nicer and neater. I feel like I'm breaking some kind of law when I do it, but I much prefer it to pressing to the side.

  5. Ooh, I didn't realise you could get a pinking blade for rotary cutters! I shall be investing in one immediately I think.
    I have quite a long list of Christmas sewing to get through - the last six weeks or so of late pregnancy put paid to my actually being able to reach over my enormous tum enough to reach my sewing machine and so now my new son has arrived I can get on with it once more. First and foremost is to finish the quilt (my very first one) I started for his first Christmas. I also have quite a lot of personalised bunting for my eldest daughter's friends (who were all rather unhelpfully born around Christmas-time).
    I am contemplating making the Tabitha bag from your pattern for my mother-in-law (not least because that's my middle daughter's name!). Oh, and I bought your sleeping bag pattern for various children's treasured toys so I need to get on and make them too!

  6. How funny, I've always pressed seams open and I feel a bit uncomfortable when a pattern calls for pressing them to one side!

    I'm just making a scarf out of an old raw silk sari. It's quite rustly and I suspect my grandmother's always dry-cleaned it. I'm actually going to hand-wash it when I've finished sewing, in the hope that it'll lose some of the rustle...

  7. It sounds absolutely gorgeous!

  8. I love the colours you've picked and I can't wait to see this quilt grow!!

  9. Looks like it will be lovely -- be sure to show us when it's done.

    I have a lot of Christmas sewing to do -- I've been thinking I should make a list, but looking at the list might overwhelm me. Funny how I've been thinking about what I want to sew for Christmas since July, but now it's mid-November.

  10. Niki - I think choosing the colours for someone else is actually the most difficult aspect of quilt making - it feels like an imposition to make something so large for their home in colours or patterns that they might not love that I'm left feeling quite overwhelmed every time I begin.

    I didn't actually know what Puffles were, but having googled them I can now see that they are tiny little things and may require a completely different sort of bag altogether! While you could simply sew panels into the quilt to make different sections, I think the whole thing would need to be made a lot shorter too to stop them becoming trapped at the bottom of the bag.

    Kezia - I'm so pleased you liked the tutorial and I think if you could see my very first (& truly ugly) attempt with a zip several years ago you would probably be very proud of your own first attempt...it's something that gets very quickly easier with practice and making them in bulk is the perfect opportunity - I'm sure they'll look wonderful.

    Smee - Congratulations! You are surely wonderwoman to be attempting all those things with a new baby! I'm so pleased you are managing to find little pockets of time to fit in doing things you love.

    Thank you so much for all your lovely comments. x


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Florence x