Friday, March 30, 2012

Let's talk about inspiration...

Thank you for your lovely comments about the Modern Chevron Baby Quilt I posted a couple of days ago.

A few of you commented on how I found the idea for the design on a manhole cover and that got me thinking about inspiration and wondering where others found their own.

Obviously there is plenty to be found out there on blogs, flickr and Pinterest. Wallpaper is always a good one for patterns, as are rugs.

Sometimes the raw materials themselves provide the spark.

I bought these scrapbooking woodcuts and lovely wool felt/fabric fat quarter at the Marseille Craft Fair, not knowing what I would do with it. It's been sitting on my sewing table since then, where it will stay until I find some inspiration or it makes me feel so guilty that I put it away.

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I also bought these charms and metal beads but I knew straight away that I would make some simple earrings with them. Just need to sit down and do it! (The little Eiffel Towers might become zipper charms.)

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My favourite kind of inspiration is when something inspires me to create something else i.e. a bathroom tile layout to make a baby mat or a gay-friendly hotel bar to make a quilt.

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I saw this window grill in Lambesc, it looks like a quilt block asking to be made. 

When you get an idea does it usually turn out how you planned? Better or Worse? Or maybe just different?

Do you guys get that Great Moment of Regret/Doubt that I do? It always strikes after I've cut all my fabric and before I sew it all together.  So essentially just when I need motivation the most. Way to go, muse.

It's Friday, woo hoo! Here's a cute little video from a series on one of the French kids' channels. It's stop-motion animation and just so clever. It inspires kids' creativity and helps them to eat healthier so wins all 'round! (If video below doesn't work hopefully this link to it will.)


And a shout-out to the lovely Adina at Gluten Free Travelette for nominating me for a Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you!

Have a great weekend, tout le monde!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tutorial: Modern Chevron Baby Quilt (Crib size)

Chevrons are everywhere at the moment and I love 'em. I know I'll want to make this quilt again so I'm documenting it for my forgetful future-self and anyone else who might be interested.

Orange Chevron Baby Quilt Tutorial

If you've ever thought of sewing a quilt this is a great one to get started with. It's made from squares and half-square triangles which are quite easy to put together. Plus I've also got plenty of helpful links to guide you through the whole process.

Folded Modern Chevron Baby Quilt

Before we start - here's where I took my inspiration. A manhole cover. Romantic, oui? Just be thankful I photoshopped out the cigarette butt.

Chevron pattern on a French manhole cover

This pattern will produce a crib sized quilt (45 x 60 inches) for your baby-wrapping pleasure. You'll need to decide on two contrasting colours (I've gone tangerine and a beige/taupe) and then assemble some fabrics.

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I chose 4 different neutrals (a half yard of each) and 7 different tangerines (fat quarters of each). A neat trick is to find a fabric with a repeating pattern in regular rows, like this one:

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By just altering the spacing of my cutting, I ended up with three different looking blocks from the one fabric:

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Once you've had fun pulling your fabrics together, you can start cutting:

From your tangerine colours you will need a total of 180 x 3 in squares.

From your neutrals you will also need a total of 180 x 3 inch squares.

Then we need to make the 72 half-square triangles (HSTs). What follows is an explanation of how I like to make them, but there are other methods. Get your google on or see this tutorial over at Jennifer's That girl...that quilt.

So, back to the HSTs -  you'll need:

36 x 3.5 inch tangerine squares, and

36 x 3.5 inch neutral squares.

Take a neutral 3.5 inch square and draw a line diagonally corner to corner on the wrong side. I use a Hera marker, but a water soluble fabric marker works too. Match this neutral square with one of your 3.5 inch tangerine squares, right sides together.

Marking out half square triangle blocks

Then using your marked line as your guide, sew a seam a quarter inch either side of that line.

Sewing half square triangle blocks

Chain piecing really speeds the process up here. Feed your units in one after the other to sew one seam, then clip them apart, flip them around and feed them all back in again to sew the other seam. Then you'll have all your squares sewn up lickety-split.

chain piecing half-square triangle blocks

You might notice I've evenly mixed my tangerine squares while my neutrals are still in their individual colour stacks (just lumped on top of each other). This way my tangerine fabrics will be evenly distributed among the neutrals in my HST units. (I didn't want all of one orange fabric ending up sewn to the one neutral.) Then I could just grab from the top of each stack without thinking about it.

Once you've cut apart all your two square units it's time to cut along the marker line to give yourself two HST units.

Separating the half square triangle blocks

Press your seams either open or to one side, as you prefer. Remember to press and not 'iron'. Ironing involves running the iron back and forward like you'd iron a shirt, pressing is putting the iron down, shot of steam, lift the iron up and repeat. No moving the iron across the fabric as this stretches and distorts your triangles.

Pressing the half square triangle blocks

Now I have made these triangles a wee bit larger than the 3 inch finished product required. This is so there is some fat to trim so your HSTs are accurate and make pointy looking points. Yes, it adds another step, but it makes for a good-lookin' product.

Right, so trim/square up your HSTs to 3 inchs either with a square template or, like me, using the 45 degree angle line on your cutting mat:

Trimming the half square triangle blocks to size

Now you will have all your units cut and ready to lay out in your chevron pattern. Just follow the grid below, alternating your colours within each chevron in a way that's pleasing to your eye.

Quilting pattern for the Modern Chevron Baby Quilt

All laid out? Good. Break open a block of chocolate and then sew the whole thing together - first join your squares to make rows, then sew the rows together.

The completed patchwork quilt top

Whee! We're on the home stretch now. Now to make a backing. I used the tangerine left overs in mine, between two pieces of IKEA flat sheet. If you're getting jack of it all (or have run out of chocolate) and just want to finish, go with a single large piece of fabric.

Back view of the Modern Chevron Baby Quilt, showing the quilting pattern

What quilting pattern are you going to use? It can be as simple as a large grid, using the seams as a guide or some fancy free motion quilting to highlight your chevrons. I went for a straight-line pattern echoing the chevron shapes.

Marking out the quilting pattern to echo the shape of the chevrons

I drew the pattern on my quilt top with a water-soluble marker, one inch from my outer seams (added bonus is you aren't quilting over thick seam lines where multiple layers meet).

Make your quilt sandwich with backing, wadding/batting and then your quilt top. You can pin them together (great tutorial on this at Red Pepper Quilts) or you can spray baste them together. I chose to spray baste as my quilting pattern had lots of pivots and I wanted the extra hold as I hauled the quilt through my machine.

Drawing the quilting pattern on the quilt top with water soluble marker

Choose the thread colour for quilting - I went with thread to match each fabric colour but you could easily use tangerine on your neutral chevrons and neutral on your tangerine fabric for a different look. Don't forget to consider the back as well. In retrospect I wish I'd only used tangerine thread on the back (bobbin thread) so the quilting stood out even more on my neutral backing. We live and learn, huh?

Once you've quilted it's time to bind. My favourite binding making/attaching tutorials are here: at Crazy Mom Quilts and Red Pepper Quilts.

Time to bind the quilt

Once your binding is attached you have to trim excess batting and backing, fold the binding over to enclose the raw edges of the quilt and then secure by sewing. You can machine sew it with precision (Red Pepper Quilts tutorial) or go for a quicker machine sew by using a zigzag stitch (like Rachel in her Stiched in Color tutorial). I chose to hand sew this one.

Hand sewing the binding down on the quilt

I choose a thread to match the backing (rather than the binding) and use a long length of it doubled up. I thread the two cut ends through the needle and the uncut loop hangs at the other end. I put my needle through this loop when making the first stitch to secure the thread without having to use a knot. I sew an uneven ladder stitch - about a quarter inch in the binding (I just zip along inside the fold) and then a smaller stitch into the quilt back and batting before heading back up into the binding. And I love using binding clips to hold it all in place; much more friendly than pins.

Securing the quilt binding with binding clips makes sewing it down a lot easier

After it's all done, throw it in the wash to get rid of your water soluble marker, dry and then find a baby to snuggle with. Mmmm, babies.

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Even though I'm late I'm going to link this up to the Tangerine Tango Challenge pool, which I first saw over at Ali's blog a.squared.w.

And there you have it. Not hard when the internet is here to guide you! If anyone is still reading, I wish you many chevrons and babies and plenty of time to enjoy them all.

 P.S. If you see any boo-boos please let me know.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

The City of a Thousand Fountains: Aix-en-Provence

About 2000 years ago Aix-en-Provence was a Roman spa town, courtesy of its mineral hot springs.

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A place where a hard working Roman could go to kick off his sandals and soak his weary corpus.


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If you spend some time wandering Aix-en-Provence's charismatic streets you'll soon see why it's sometimes referred to as the city of a thousand fountains.

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The majority of the fountains were built from the 17th century onwards, but I think the Romans would've approved.

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I hope you all had a great weekend. I made two batches of cardamom panna cotta, trying to replicate the masterpiece I ate at l'Épicurien a few weeks ago.

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Blandina had kindly emailed me a recipe (she's Italian and therefore in the know), as had Susan, who's son is a chef! Isn't blogging awesome?

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I made Blandina's recipe completely with cream (although you can replace part of the cream with milk), and Susan's son's recipe was half-and-half. There was more sugar in Blandina's recipe and I used some vanilla as well. In the other I put two peppercorns, trying to get a bit of spice in there.

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Both versions were delicious. As you'd expect, Blandina's was richer - the ultimate winter dessert. Susan's son's was lighter (so I could eat more of it!) but still beautifully creamy and would be a perfect summer meal-ender. I feel very chic being able to say I now have seasonal panna cotta recipes. As for the vanilla vs peppercorns - not much difference there. I might have to boost the amounts.

I guess that means I'll have to make more. Life is cruel.

Have a great week, everyone. Someone please do some exercise for me!

Friday, March 23, 2012

An afternoon in Cucuron

After a morning spent exploring Silvacane Abbey near La Roque d'Antheron we headed to the nearby village of Cucuron for lunch.

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Cucuron is another village with medieval roots, located in the south of the Luberon Valley.

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We parked near the Étang, the large walled-in pond in the centre of the village:

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Interesting fact: this is where Russell Crowe took Marion Cotillard for a music-dinner date in the Provence-set movie A Good Year.

We had a great feed of galettes (buckwheat crêpes) washed down with a Breton beer (except for the kids, who had whiskey). Then we took a walk around inside the ramparts.

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Lots of lovely colour courtesy of the windows.

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We also found the village church - Notre Dame de Beaulieu:

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Built in the 13th century with a very different design aesthetic to Silvacane Abbey.

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We walked up to the St Michel tower:

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The views over the village rooftops were lovely - especially with the early spring blossoms.

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More beautiful details to admire on the way back down.

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Not to mention this lovingly maintained beast. Any Royal Enfield buffs out there? Is this a replica? (I love those leather seats.)

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Cucuron really is charming and just the right size for an afternoon of leisurely exploration.

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And here we are at Friday again. Must be French video time.

So, this happened in 2003. Why doesn't anyone tell me about these things??



Have a great weekend, Bright Eyes!

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