Whilst I was taking photos of this quilt last week a bee landed on my bed of cornflowers* almost directly in front of the camera's lens, offering itself up for an impromptu portrait and very kindly refraining from stinging me while it was taken. It's actually my favourite photo of the quilt, even though it only shows a little of it, as it feels so perfectly summery and oddly pertinent, for everytime my friend has signed her text messages 'B x', I have always mentally read it as 'Bee x', perhaps because of my wish to creaturise the people close to me.
At the start of the week before the summer holidays began I made my friend a Thea's Puzzle quilt as a birthday gift. You may remember that I made one here in shades of blue silk-cotton. I've always loved this quilt and its smaller size means that it drapes easily over the arm of a sofa and gets used more frequently, so I decided to reuse the pattern (which is by Amy Butler).
My friend has recently redecorated several rooms in soft shades of yellow and her sitting room is sunny and warm, so I was naturally drawn to making her quilt in similar shades. Sometimes though, it can feel like an imposition to launch my own taste in print and pattern onto someone else's home, so I chose solid fabrics and the only print was a flower cut from Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane range which I appliqued to the quilt patch on the back.
I've always loved choosing colours from the Kona colour chart and am often swayed by their names. However, unable to wait for fabrics to arrive, for this quilt I used Moda's Bella solids as the range is sold locally. I had to satisfy myself by making up names for the colours as I cut and sewed them together: freshly churned butter; lemonade; marigold; sunshine; buttercup; creamery; and egg yolk. I don't think I'm actually able to tell a difference in quality between the two fabrics, although I think that the shrinkage on the Moda is greater. I chose to wash the quilt once it was made as giving a quilt to someone unwashed can often make the recipient worry that they've somehow 'broken' the quilt after the first wash, so transformed is its appearance. Although the increased shrinkage means that it's a slightly smaller quilt than intended, it left it deliciously crinkly, soft and puffy, which seems a good trade off.
As the piecing of the quilt is relatively hard and abstract, I chose to free-motion the quilt with seaweed stitching in an attempt to soften the lines, as my friend's tastes, like mine, tend to be more traditional.
Free-motioning this quilt unveiled a curious discovery for me. As I worked I felt that the quilting was noticeably easier to control than usual and it was only when I came to replace the first empty bobbin that I realised I'd forgotten to drop the feed dogs and that this was responsible for the difference. I hadn't realised it was even possible to free-motion with the feed dogs up, but it very much is, and I found it so much more enjoyable. Just in case you want to experiment with it too, as a guide I had the tension set to 2 and the stitch length to 0 and I used a free-motion darning foot with a 90/14 needle (I use a slightly sturdier needle for quilting as it tends to put more pressure on it).
Even with the thick wadding inside (I used organic bamboo wadding) when you hold this quilt up to the light, it looks a very different colour as the sun streams through, reminding me of glassy boiled sweets.
I like sewing for friends, especially ones who you know will embrace stray cat hairs...the cat seemed to sense this and padded around me as I took photos.
I embroidered the quilt patch on my sewing machine using a tiny satin stitch and the message bears our own idiosyncratic way of sending love and good wishes.
While I was making this quilt my friend and I were both rushing around in an end-of-term flurry of activity and she texted one day to say that it felt like we'd barely seen one another. Oddly, it didn't feel that way at all to me. The entire time I'm making a quilt for a specific person they seem to drift in and out of my mind with snippets of conversation presenting themselves from nowhere. So while she hadn't seen me, I felt like I had scarcely been out of her company, having relived several lovely sparkly evenings and many happy hours of giggling and conversation as we've watched our children play.
We gave my friend her birthday gift over dinner this week and I made a cake covered with yellow roses. It's odd how some years I feel compelled to make a big effort for a birthday and then, quite inexplicably, will let a big round-number birthday pass with only a card and a cuddle. I think I prefer it that way though. A few weeks ago an unexpected package arrived for me from Amazon. My first feeling was horror: do I order so many things from Amazon that I can't even remember what it is that is meant to be arriving? But when I opened it, I found inside a hardback copy of Equal of the Sun sent as a gift from a friend, having both enjoyed the last bookby Anita Amirrezvani. It made me realise how much I love unexpected gift-giving: it makes me feel throughly loved everytime I notice the book sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.
* My bed of cornflowers was mocked for several weeks by all who saw them. In my immaturity as a new gardener I refused to thin out the stems as they grew, until they were a massive tangle of greenery, standing at well over a metre tall, completely devoid of any flower heads. However, finally, they have suddenly bloomed and they are glorious. I see this mass of blue as defiant loveliness in the place of what was once named 'mummy's insane bed of towering weeds' which threatened to block out the light from the courgettes and squashes growing in their shadow in the neighbouring bed. My grandmother visited last week and squealed with delight over them. I cut some for the vase I'd bought for her and photographed her standing behind them (she is even littler than me, so their height frames her face wonderfully!).