Forage and sew
Use natural dyes to create a beautiful geo quilt - Alicia Hall shows you how
4m (157 1\2") unbleached calico fabric 115 x 115cm (45 3/8 x 45 3/ 8") cotton wadding Eight avocado stones Four large handfuls of fresh nettles or 20 nettle teabags 0.4g saffron 2 litres soya milk White sewing thread Rotary cutter Erasable fabric marker Three large saucepans
We can’t think of a better tribute to nature’s glorious colour palette than this pretty handdyed patchwork project. What looks like a simple geometric lap quilt at first glance is so much more – it’s a celebration of slow crafting and all things botanical, dyed with avocado stones, nettles and saffron, and lovingly sewn together by your own fair hands.
Give it pride of place on the wall above your bed, or drape it over your favourite armchair.
01 Prewash the fabric to remove any invisible coatings that may affect how well it dyes. From the calico, cut two 4m x 3cm (157½ x 1¼") pieces for the binding, one 150 x 130cm (591/ x 51¼") piece for 8 the cream triangles (this will be left undyed), one 35 x 150cm (13¾ x 591/ 8") piece for the yellow triangles, one 50 x 150cm (19¾ x 59 1/ 8") piece for the grey triangles and one 180 x 150cm (707/ x 59 1/ 8") piece for the 8 pink triangles and the quilt back.
02 Mordant the fabric by soaking it in a soya milk solution made up of one part soya milk to two parts water for at least 12 hours, stirring it a couple of times. Once the fabric has finished soaking, squeeze out the soya milk solution, put the fabric on a spin cycle in the washing machine, then let it air dry. This mordanting process helps the dye to stick to the fabric, and works best if the fabric is left to rest for several days after the soya treatment before it is dyed.
03 Fill a large saucepan with 5 litres of water and the eight avocado stones, fill another large saucepan with the same amount of water and the nettles, then fill a third large saucepan with the same amount of water and the saffron threads. Heat all of the pans and keep them gently simmering with the lids on. Be careful not to let the nettles boil as the dye will turn brown.
04 After an hour, take the pans off the heat, then leave them to develop more colour overnight.
05 Remove the avocado stones and any large pieces of nettle, and use a sieve covered with a piece of thin fabric to strain out the smaller pieces. The saffron threads can be left in when the fabric is dyed.
06 Place the two binding pieces and the 180 x 150cm (707/ x 59 1/ 8") 8 piece in the avocado dye, the 35 x 150cm (13 ¾ x 59 1/ 8") piece in the saffron dye and the 50 x 150cm (19 ¾ x 59 1/ 8") piece in the nettle dye. Heat the saucepans to a simmer before turning off the heat. Leave the fabric soaking for several hours until you’re happy with the colours, then squeeze out the excess dye and leave the fabric to air dry out of direct sunlight. Once dry, iron them to set the colour, then rinse in the washing machine on a cool cycle and leave to air dry.
07 From the large pink fabric piece, cut a 115 x 115cm (45 3/8 ") square for the backing using a rotary cutter, then cut the remaining strip into 14 14 x 14cm (5½ x 5½") squares. Cut the yellow piece into seven 14 x 14cm (5½ x 5½") squares, the grey piece into 11 14 x 14cm (5½ x 5½") squares and the undyed cream calico piece into 32 14 x 14cm (5½ x 5½") squares. Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the wrong side ( WS) of each square, then cut along the marked lines with a rotary cutter to create a total of 128 half square triangles.
08 Pin each coloured triangle to a cream one with right sides (RS) together, then sew along the diagonal lines using a 1cm ( 3 /8") seam allowance, as shown. Press the seams open.
09 Once all the triangles have been sewn into squares, sew them into strips using a 1cm ( 3 /8") seam allowance, referring to the layout pattern on page 99. Next, press all the seams open and lay out the rows on a flat surface.
10 Referring to the layout pattern for placement, sew each row together using a 1cm ( 3 /8") seam allowance, taking care to match up the seams, then press them open.
11 Place the quilt backing WS up and lay the wadding on top, aligning the edges, then place the quilt front on top, RS up. Pin all the way around. The wadding and backing will be slightly larger than the front of the quilt to allow for any movement during sewing.
12 Start sewing from the middle of the quilt, next to the horizontal seams, and work outwards to prevent the fabric from bunching in the centre. Sew around the outside of the quilt, roughly 0.25cm ( 1 /8") in from the edge, and trim away the excess backing fabric and wadding.
13 Place the binding strips with RS together, sew one short end, then press the seam open. Starting halfway along one edge, pin the binding to the quilt front, RS together and aligning the raw edges. Sew 0.5cm (¼") in from the edge, folding the binding at a 45º angle at each corner. Turn the quilt over and slip stitch the binding to the back, folding the raw edges to the WS, and mitring the corners.
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