Bear’s Paw Quilt 2

The outer border is made up of triangles… and cream to fit in with everything else. I’m about half way round with the quilting.


Stitching in the edges of the cream triangles accentuates the blue, making them puff up slightly to stand out. When I’ve gone all around the border, I’ll then stitch the bottom edge of the triangles….it’ll be easier to work in one continuous line rather than stopping and starting for each. I hope that makes sense….difficult to explain in words!

I was hoping to get this quilt all finished before I go off on holiday this coming Wednesday. Not much chance of that though, as there’s too many none stitching jobs to do before then. I’m ready for a holiday. Two weeks in the US…..the second week staying with my brother and his wife both of whom I haven’t seen for three and a half years! Having family abroad definitely has it’s disadvantages.

I’ll be posting photos on my other blog  as this one is mainly for my textile life.


Bear’s Paw Quilt 1

I’m adding a number 1 to the title above because there will be more posts. In an earlier post I talked about my quilt group; a few friends meeting regularly to exchange pieced squares. Each time it was someone’s turn to gather in squares stitched by the other members. Each square was generally any size up to about a foot square. The recipient would choose a pieced pattern and give out instructions. Sometimes even cloth was handed out if the recipient wanted particular fabric. Mostly there would be a paper template and a list of colours to use. We’d all go home and get the square ready for next time. The Birds and Trees Quilt was begun in this way….I had to stitch more pieces than the other members did though, as it was quite complicated, and required a border.

This quilt was begun via the group. The Bear’s Paw design is a traditional one, one of hundreds that have been used in the US for generations. There’s something rather nice about turning to a traditional pattern for a change. No two Bear’s Paws Quilts are alike, even though the pattern has been used over and over. We all put our own stamp onto the designs.

My quilt was chosen for my daughter, who at the time was about to go off to university. She chose the colour scheme….blue and cream. I wanted each bear’s paw square to contain a variety of different fabrics making up the whole. I made the extra squares so that there were enough for the quilt top, and stitched them together with plain cream banding, cornered with small blue squares.

For some time the quilt remained in that state, folded and stored in the cupboard. As always, life takes over, and quilts take a back seat to the more important things. Next time it came out I made a border, using triangles in blue and cream to reflect the smaller triangles in the bear’s paws. I had to fiddle a little with the centres of each side to fit the triangles neatly around the edges. Next I added a dark blue outer border.

I bought some starry cloth for the backing, and pinned it to the top layer with a thin layer of batting or wadding in between. The pins are like ordinary safety pins, but have a curve in one side specially for this purpose.

I hand quilted the whole thing leaving the borders. I’d intended to write something all around the outermost cream band using machine stitched embroidered words. I had done this on a quilt for my mother. Those words were ‘ night night sleep tight mind the bugs don’t bite…see you in the morning yawning……..see you later alligator….in a while crocodile ‘ Chosen because this was a little night time routine we had at bedtime, said as she’d tucked us in and then left to go downstairs. For my daughter’s quilt I asked her to think of something she’d like. I quite liked some of the words from  ‘I love you to the moon and back’ but left it to her to decide. All that was over ten years ago….the unfinished quilt has been waiting in the cupboard. Yet another Phd to my name ( if you’re wondering it stands for ‘Projects half done’)

So…..I brought it out into the light of day and decided to finish it. I definitely don’t want so many Phd’s. Life is cluttered enough without all these projects sitting around.


For the quilting, I used the same outline for the cream edges that I’d used in the body of the quilt…..


The spaces in between each fishy shape were too large to leave unquilted. I settled on a plain cross. Very simple to work. The next two photos show before and after the crosses were added.


……and with the crosses….




Birds and Trees Quilt is finished!

All stitching complete. And a feeling of accomplishment. My first entirely stitched by hand quilt. One unfinished project is ticked off the list.

You may recall that the back of this quilt (or cloth) was pieced from fabrics from my stash. I didn’t want to spend any money in the process of finishing the project. I posted a few pictures in earlier posts showing the back, but since then I’ve quilted the whole thing and the back has taken on a character all of it’s own. Here’s some of the ones I like….


I like the way ghost birds appear on the back…..


And on the paler squares, the trees have appeared in contrast…..


For the edges, I folded the outside edge of the front over to the back and pinned it down all the way around…..


And then slip-stitched it down on the back using the same embroidery thread as used for the quilting…..


Here’s the finished quilt / cloth spread over the bed…..



Birds and Trees Quilt (part 8)…. more border

As spring gradually unfurls outside the window, I’ve been stitching the final part of the cloth – the border. In running stitches picking out the triangles in ecru thread and the coloured squares in similar colours to each square.


The corners…….


The whole border is now finished. At the end of each day I fold the cloth up and push it to the end of the table under the window so that we can use the other end as dining table. We went for a stroll locally in a lovely green space (such a blessing to have these open spaces to enjoy….a little piece of countryside within the city). I was so happy to see Forget-me-nots growing everywhere. They were a favourite of my Grandmother. I picked a few for the windowsill.


Birds and Trees Quilt (part 7) The border….

All the quilting is now finished in the main cloth. It didn’t take as long as I thought. Time to start on the border. Plain and simple, two lines of running stitch either side of the narrow inside edge.


I made this bit of the border out of strips of different cloth….mostly warm colours, reds, browns and purples. the thread I’ve used for the running stitching is one of those that changes colour subtly along it’s length ( perhaps a little too subtle, but hey ho).



Birds and Trees part 6…and the quilting begins…..

After stitching the birds and trees panels, the next step is to quilt the whole cloth. Traditionally (and if one is a purist) there should not be any area left unstitched bigger than a square inch. Often vintage quilts have diagonal lines of quilting going in opposing directions forming diamond shapes all over the quilt, regardless of the actual design in the patchwork piecing.

When I tacked the whole thing together I did so in a spiral starting at the centre, working outwards to the edges. As I have been working on the quilt I’ve come to quite like the curved lines made by the tacking stitches. So that’s how I’m going to quilt it. Not in a spiral, but in concentric circles, beginning in the centre around the large panel of trees.

In a nod to tradition ( ha) I’m making the lines of quilting one inch apart.


I’m removing the tacking as I go. This is the first time I’ve worked hand stitched quilting over an entire quilt top, so it has been an interesting few days. Hand stitching is theraputic, one cannot rush it. It progresses at it’s own pace. I’m enjoying the peace of it.



Birds and Trees Quilt (part 5) about the birds…..

I mentioned before that originally the bird’s eyes were going to be buttons, but I decided to embroider them instead. All the birds are appliqued to the background in the normal way. So quilting…… a few are embellished with stitching just inside the edges of the bodies. Small running stitches in a vaguely matching colour, and double threads. Most are quilted just outside the edges with ecru thread (single).



…and the legs and feet are embroidered.

Throwback Thursday…….

I was searching through some old photographs the other day and came across this one. Taken secretly, while I was sitting on the window sill stitching in the ends of a rug I had woven at college. Looking at the picture I can remember the moment….perfect peace at my (then) boyfriend’s house, with summer garden outside, and because I was working with textiles I was in my happy place.


I love that this picture is black and white….developed and printed at college by my boyfriend photographer at college. I have others from this time, but for the moment they are hiding. After two moves in as many years many things have been misplaced. I have no idea what happened to that rug. One of life’s little mysteries.

Even now decades later, if I’m stitching or weaving or doing anything creative, I’m in my happy place.

Birds and Trees Quilt (…or Cloth)…part 4

The process of creating a quilt (or cloth) is long. Many hours of patient stitching are involved. It’s a kind of step-by-step journey from beginning to end. Each stage cannot be hurried, and each one involves much thought. Mainly about the technique required to do the next bit. And there’s always a next bit. My feeling is that when I’ve finally got to the part where the very edges of the quilt (or cloth) are being finished THEN I can say it is finished. Even then…..there maybe a few tweaks that can be done.

This cloth is far from finished. Each blog entry reprisents a different stage in the journey. There will be more… I’m intending to show the process from beginning to end. In the past I’ve only ever worked in a traditional way. Not that I’m a purist, but because that’s how I’ve approached patchwork and quilting. More recently I’ve been inspired by a few textile artists who work with stitching of all kinds. The inspiration has led me to some of the quilting on this Birds and Trees cloth. I’m using it as a learning and growing project.

Ok…the top (or right side) and the underside (or back) of the cloth have been laid one on top of the other, wrong sides together as they will be in the finished article. I spent quite a long time smoothing each out so that both layers were smooth and flat. The back is a little bigger than the front, but that doesn’t matter, as long as the back overlaps the front all the way around.

I then pinned with safety pins at intervals all over, starting at the centre and working out to the sides and corners. This stops the layers from shifting. I then tacked….starting at the centre and moving in a spiral outwards. Each line of stitching about an inch and a half apart. I removed the pins as I went.


Spreading the cloth on the table helped to keep everything flat and smooth.


When all the tacking was done I could then begin the actual stitching, permanently joining front and back as one cloth. The trees are made up of triangles, so I decided to work stitches around each triangle in a thread that fairly closely matched the colour of each. I’m using standard embroidery cotton thread….the kind that comes as 6 threads twisted together. I cut a length and separate one thread at a time.

The tree trunks have lines of running stitch, in a thread a little darker than the trunk itself. I am not worried about making the lines of stitching totally parallel….in fact I like the slightly haphazardness of tipsy lines. When the lines are all done, the fabric buckles a little and makes ridges…something else I like. It creates texture.



Then to add more texture I worked rows of stitches in some of the other sections of background to the trees. This time, because the areas are larger than the trunks, the ridges formed are more obvious….more texture.


The stitches in these areas can either go vertical, horizontal, or diagonal in either direction. I like to change the direction randomly. When the piece is finished this will catch the light differently when viewed as a whole.

The birds have been outlined in ecru thread, running stitches made just outside the bird on the background area. To vary this I outlined inside the edge of a few birds, using a thicker (2 threads) thread.

I’ll post the pics of the birds next time.

More Birds and Trees Quilt…part 3

The more I think about this the more I decide not to put batting inbetween the front and back of this quilt. It was originally going to be a wall quilt. As batting adds warmth and thickness to a quilt, maybe this doesn’t need it. It will have a back and front, therefore two layers, and the layers will be stitched together with quilting stitches.

I could add (but then again maybe not) a layer of cloth instead of batting.

The last couple of days I’ve been embroidering bird’s eyes. In my original plan they were going to be buttons. I did sew buttons on a couple of birds in the early days, but looking at them now I don’t like them. So instead I’ve embroidered them.

I used cotton embroidery thread, (the kind that comes in six thread widths) split in half so that each thread was made up of three threads.


I haven’t decided how exactly I’m going to quilt this now that all the eyes are finished. Maybe it can no longer be called a quilt now that I’m dispensing with batting? Maybe I should call it Birds and Trees Cloth from now on?

The back is all finished and ironed…..


There’s a piece of my skirt in there. I’ve just noticed that it sits right next to a piece of Megan’s skirt. Mother and daughter both on the project I began for my mother.