Sunday, 11 March 2018

Novel finished, so time to quilt!

Writing news first...

I've finished Rurik-Reeka-Tilda. Hooray! It's taken me almost ten years to really get to grips with this story and make it something I'm really proud of. I sent it out to a few beta readers for a teccy review, and the feedback is about 98% positive. There are always going to be a few niggles and glitches to put right, or consideration to be given to plot points, but on the whole, I'm pretty chuffed with it.

Two out of the three readers returned their comments very quickly - they'd read the novel within 24 hours, so I came up with a new word to describe this...


That is, a measure of how much your reader keeps turning the page - and I'm pleased to say that the Mage of Merjan (yes, the story now has a title) seems to score highly in that regard. (At which point Squidge breathes a huge sigh of relief).

Pageturneyness is second only to Unputdownableness in the authors eyes...

But, having finished the writing, I've given myself a break before I embark on continuing to write the second book in the series. So I went on a one-day Mini-quilting course at Quorn Country Crafts.

Here's what a mini-quilt looks like;

This is a sample of what's achievable, made with one inch squares.
Not for the beginner in this technique! Love the corners on this mini-quilt. 

We were going to make some blocks from one and a half inch squares, ending up with maybe a couple of the designs from this selection;

The block to the left above the blue based block is the one I did...

First task - choose our colours. I'd seen the sample blocks, and decided to try to make some placemats for our new kitchen, which, if you remember, is grey units, black worktops and yellow on certain walls. I had quite a few bits and pieces from both my own and Squidgeling J's projects, so here's what I took with me.

We started by cutting freezer paper into one-and-a-half inch squares (this stuff is like magic - sticks to your fabric when you iron it on and enables really precise cutting). Then, we cut one-and-a-half inch strips of four fabrics and a background colour, which all had to be cut into one-and-a-half inch squares.

3 x four colours, 16 x background

Have to say, I'm not known for being a tidy worker...

For the triangles - or half squares - we used a different tactic. Four-and-a-half inch strips of each of the four colours were sewn to one long strip of background... Opened out and with the seams pressed, we then applied the freezer paper at an angle across the seam so we got perfect triangles of each colour.

Prepping the half square strips to save on waste

Loads more cutting followed, until you had the half-triangle squares, then you could peel off the paper.

Then the fun part. In the next pic, you can just about see the grid we worked on. We cut enough iron-on interfacing to cover 6 x 6 squares. Then, we very - VERY - carefully positioned our patterns of squares over the grid, taking care not to cover the black lines. A bit like when you get a box on a form for your signature, and it says 'Do not go outside of the box'...

These were then carried - oh, so carefully - to the ironing board and ironed into place, with paper above and below to prevent any of the glue transferring onto the iron.

First block of squares stuck to the interfacing

Now, the fun part - actually stitching! You sew a quarter inch seam on the back for every row of squares, cut through the interfacing, iron open, turn 90 degrees and repeat.

Front of block after the first set of seams

Uncut seams on the back

Amazingly, the block shrinks by one and a half inches both ways - and you end up with this;

Finished block!

You'll notice the edge squares look slightly rectangular - that's because they still have a quarter inch seam allowance for the border to be added. I was really impressed though - my triangles were all pretty much perfect!

It took me a while to get to grips with the basic technique, but after that, I was on a roll, and prepped and stuck down three further blocks. I stuck to the same basic pattern, but varied the fabrics in each one while sticking to a mix of grey, black and yellow.

 Today, I've finished them off;

Four blocks, ready to be bordered, backed and bound

It's a great technique, providing you are careful with your ironing and don't melt the interfacing. And get your positions right on the grid. And get all your squares cut up front if you are doing multiple blocks.

The results the other ladies got were fabulous too - some amazing mixes of colours, and using a source book, lots of different pattern possibilities too. I wish I'd had time to take pictures of some of the others... It works best with plain colours or small prints without large areas of space between the printing, and you can blend or contrast the colours to give different emphasis to the block pattern. Huge thanks to Jill for sharing the technique with us and for giving me yet another project to complete...

I'm wondering whether, when I get a chance (!) I can do this kind of thing with lots of different coloured fabrics. A whole block of shades of blue, for example, or reds, or turquoise, perhaps in patterns, perhaps not, and then put those together into a big quilt...

Think I need to write another novel between now and then, though, or the Mage of Merjan will never be joined by the other four books!

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