Just before Christmas I signed up for my first ever mini swap. I’d been thinking of joining one for a while and this one caught my eye as it was UK based. For those who don’t know, in a mini swap you are assigned a partner at random, and have to make a quilt especially for them, and in turn a secret-somebody will make one especially for you. A little like a handmade secret-Santa. It is a great way to connect with other people as you are encouraged to post progress on social media, (with the hope your partner unwittingly comments or ‘likes’ your post), and spy on others to guess which quilt may be coming your way.
I had so much fun being a part of this mini swap. It was great to challenge myself and try something new and enjoy sewing for the hobby (as opposed to for my business). What I love about the quilting community is that everyone is so encouraging – there is no sense of competition, all abilities are welcome so anyone can have a go, the diversity of ideas and skills is inspiring and everyone joins in chatting and commenting on each other’s work and offering advice or opinions when appropriate. I joined Instagram just before the UK Mini Swap and I’ve really taken to it over any other social media as people have been so welcoming and engaging there. You don’t just feel like you’re talking to yourself as I sometimes do on Twitter or on here, and you really do feel like you’re making virtual friends.
I was assigned to make a quilt for Mel, and now that she has received her package I can tell you all about it…
Firstly, my brief:
“Not fussy and I’m sure I will love anything you make for me! Up for the surprise!
I like modern quilts. I love bright colours…pinks, yellows, oranges, turquoise and my new favourite colour with bright colours is grey!
Favourite designers include Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, Cotton & Steel, Liberty prints. Totally blown away by paper piecing @alexouq on Instagram is amazing!
I am happy with any shapes really, love stars.”
She also posted an inspiration board, which looked like this:
I decided right away that I would do some sort of star shape inspired by the cogs from Alex Lunz’s (@alexouq) La Passacaglia quilt (top left), and that I would try to include the fussy cutting Mel liked so much. Not thinking I’d have the time to do an actual EPP La Passacaglia cog (sorry non-quilters for all the jargon!), I decided to make something with my current favourite technique – foundation paper piecing. I raided my stash for some Anna Maria Horner & Cotton + Steel prints in Mel’s favourite colours, and threw in some Denyse Schmidt and solid prints for good measure.
This was the result:
The pattern is a New York Beauty block by PatternBrat on Etsy. It was so fun to make, working on sections in between other projects and obligation sewing. I’ve gotta tell you though, trying to fussy-cut fabrics and line them up perfectly using FPP was a total ball-ache! My un-picker and I became close friends and it was really fiddly to get right. I can see all the imperfections still, but I’m pretty pleased overall. I think the peeping lions and little bunny vignettes were worth a few red faces and bad language!
Quilting it was also a challenge as there are some really bulky needle-breaking seams in a design like this. I decided to keep it simple outlining a few bits with straight-line quilting and then free-motion quilting the background.
Kira took a liking to it, as she does most quilts, and I felt a little guilty prizing it out of her paws (especially as I found it quite hard to let go of too!)
A handful of extra goodies including some hexagon paper pieces with some fabric scraps (so Mel can do her own EPP), some chocolate as she has a little boy, nail files and some notecards fit for a fellow cat-lover and my package was complete. I do hope Mel enjoys her mini as much as I did making it.
With a knock at the door this morning, my own special package arrived. A big box filled with beautifully tissue-wrapped goodies in sugary-sweet colours – it honestly felt like my birthday had arrived and I may have made a few squeaks of excitement. Who doesn’t love receiving gifts jus’coz?!
Turns out my swap partner was the lovely Kathleen, aka @mrs_clackers. She had sent a lovely card, and as she hadn’t revealed too much on Instagram I had no idea what to expect. I had sent her a really waffley brief, talking about all sorts of unrelated stuff in the ‘about me’ section and probably boring the pants of her (yep, I talk too much. Wouldn’t surprise me if y’all are just scrolling through the pictures right now…). So I carefully unwrapped it and hubby heard from the next room…
” OH MY GOD IT’S LOVELY!”
And it really, really is.
Kathleen, has made something truly unique and personal to me. Some regular readers (and those who know me in the real world) will know that I made 1000 origami cranes for our wedding last summer. The ceremony was held in a Japanese inspired courtyard and we planted a tree to commemorate the occasion. I am touched that Kathleen incorporated all of this into a mini quilt for me, and the result is stunning. It really is better than I could have imagined and is something very special that I will treasure forever.
Also a happy coincidence, is that the cherry blossom tree in our garden is currently flowering, which made for a perfect photo-styling opportunity.
Don’t you just love the detail in her blossoms and the Katy Jones fabric she’s used for the tree? it’s perfect.
And in case I haven’t gushed enough about my parcel, here are some pics of the thoughtful little extras she sent me too. A gorgeous notebook (I LOVE elephants, I can’t even remember if I told her that or not), soap that looks and smells good enough to eat, and some fudge which the hubster has already made off with – “oh these must be for me?”. Amazing to be on the receiving end of such kindness from a ‘stranger’. Kathleen, I can’t thank you enough and hope something just as lovely is headed your way.
Special thanks to Nina, aka @bossyoz for organising the swap, and to Alison, aka @patchworkalley who was a fab swap mama for our group. I definitely recommend a mini swap for anyone thinking about it – I’m already looking forward to joining another 🙂 xxx
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