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Colour Rush

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Do you ever get side tracked? I was hard at work, preparing orders and checking a supplier's website for a pattern reference, then promptly fell down a rabbit hole of colour.

One of the most common questions, I get in the shop is "how do I put colours together?" One answer is to look for a 'catalyst' fabric that you can use as a jumping off point to suggest a colour scheme. Simply analyse the fabric, see what colours it contains and then run round the shelves, pulling off these shades and tones to build up your palette. Sometimes once you've assembled a good stash of patterns, plains and tonals, the original catalyst might be discarded in favour of other designs.

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Well, Moda one of our fabric suppliers, have a really fun tool on their website www.unitednotions.com  called Palette Builder (find a link right at the bottom of their web page). Simply upload a photo and it suggests a range of solids. You can then alter the colours, so it's a really good exercise in looking at colour, balance and contrast (as well as a lot of fun). To say I have been distracted, would be an understatement! I now have colour schemes for at least a dozen new quilts... but I'd better finish my work first, before I start rummaging through my shelves of fabric...

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It'll all come out in the wash

Like all of us, there are some chores I loathe and others I quite like. (I won't say love, as that makes me sound very 1950s housewife!). I hate ironing, but quite like washing, or to qualify that statement, I get great satisfaction from a line of laundry in the sunshine. During the summer, the fine weather also means it's a chance to get my old quilts laundered.

I'm often asked how to care for old quilts, so here are a few tips that I find work for me. The photos above are a selection from recent laundry sessions, ranging from dirty 'rag' to clean Apple Core quilt.

1. Don't even think about it during the winter, or your home will smell like a damp dog as you attempt to dry a heavy double quilt over a 3 foot radiator over several days. Choose a fine day, especially when you have time, as it's not a 5 minute task.

2. I always hand wash old quilts in the bath. I find the soaking and washing is less violent than the shenanigans of a washing machine. Use gentle hand wash such as non-Bio Fairy or a specialist textile detergent like Soak. I also put at least one Colour-Run sheet in the first wash, to catch any loose dye (especially important for quilts containing red fabrics). Gently concertina the quilt into the bath, making sure it's all covered by water and suds and leave for at least 30 minutes. When you come back shoosh the water around and don't be surprised if it's the colour of Yorkshire tea! Leave for another 30 minutes. Do more shooshing around and drain, squeezing out as much water and dirt from the quilt as possible.

3. Refill with clean water and detergent and repeat, this time adding some Glo-white (or equivalent) and another sheet of Colour-Run. This time I keep popping back, say every 15 minutes and really start to wash and agitate the quilt (do use rubber gloves if your skin is sensitive - although the water shouldn't be too hot). I think of it like treading grapes, trying to squeeze all the dirt out. You may need to repeat a third time...

4. When you've had enough, drain and rinse with clear water. Now the fun part. If you're feeling brave, squeeze out as much excess water as possible, as wet quilts are incredibly heavy. Now put it on a quick spin in the machine. Eek! I turn the spin speed down to 800, never leave the machine unattended and usually chicken out after 3-4 minutes. It really does help to remove a lot of moisture and speed up the drying, however, there is the risk that the spinning can further shred any worn patches or popped seams. So it's a judgement call as to whether you're thinking of repairing the most aged blocks and fabrics.

5. Finally lay the quilt over the line, peg it well and leave to dry. If it's a sunny day, always lay on the line so the backing fabric is uppermost. I'll also rotate the quilt around on the line so there's no undue strain on any one part. I'll then turn it over later in the day, when the bright sun has gone, so there's no risk of sun bleaching.

Result? One clean, sweetly smelling quilt, ready to be used and enjoyed.

Foot note: old quilts may contain some marks or rust spots that won't come out. I've found that specialist rust stain removers aren't very effective, but if you have a secret 'ages-old stain-remover' tip, let me know!

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Flowers and Quilts, Quilts and Flowers

It's a natural pairing like strawberries and cream, Fred and Ginger or tea and toast. On fabrics, there's a floral pattern to suit everyone. Whether you like the blowsiness of a peony or parrot tulip, the retro-jolliness of a reproduction feedsack, the miniature prettiness of a ditsy print, or the sophisticated graphic quality of a Scandi pattern. For me, these are all must-have categories of floral fabrics in my stash. Be brave and put the large florals all together for a gorgeous clashiness, or give them room to breathe in a modern quilt with low-value coordinates or a white solid - the choice is yours.

My Mum gave me a glorious bunch of old fashioned roses from her garden today. Placed on her brightly coloured tablecloth, it was like a super-charged still life. Back home, their glowing colours, reminded me of an equally vibrant WIP quilt, that just needs the binding to be completed... And it made me want to start a new project with pinks and oranges ... together! Hot, hot, hot!

So, whenever you're suffering from colour-block, just look in your garden for ideas and quilt colour schemes. Or, if you're not green-fingered, head to your nearest flower shop (I'm very partial to Slinders in Rochester, only 3 doors down from Hometown), and treat yourself to a bunch of inspiration. Stocks, Alstromerias, orchids, gladis - just think of the quilting possibilities.

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Quilting mojo

I'm never at a loss for quilts to make, but like many of us, time is at a premium. But sometimes you see a fabric and just have to sew. On Thursday 2 huge boxes of fabrics arrived, just in time for our Moda Month promotion. It's a lovely new range of 20 graduated solids called Ombre. During the afternoon I was busy cutting a zillion fat quarters for our bumper packs (yep, all the cutting is done in-house at Hometown!) and I think the colours literally just seeped into my brain. So at 11pm last night I started a new quilt in combination with a Canyon Charm pack. I'm returning to an old favourite, Log Cabin, but with a new twist I've been wanting to try. Think I could have sewed all night, but I did need to consider the neighbours and working today! So the sewing machine and fabric is at the ready on the kitchen table for the next round this evening...

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