Back in late June I saw posts on the UKQU Facebook page, talking about a mini quilt swap, I had never done any type of a quilt swap before, and I was immediately intrigued. I had been in a bit of a sewing slump and had no mojo, maybe this was just what I needed to pull me out of it.

I filled in the short questionnaire about my likes / dislikes, hobbies etc and submitted it. Now the question that I wished I had answered differently was about my skill level, did I think I was a beginner, intermediate or advanced. I know that I am not advanced, not by a long shot. I thought about it, I have been making quilts for 4.5 years so can I still be a beginner? I didn’t think so, so I put down intermediate and hoped for the best!

My first teaser pic

After a few days I got an email to say that I had been placed in Team Nina and saw a list of names that belonged to my teammates. We were encouraged to follow each other on social media if we wanted to, so that we could ‘stalk’ our swap partner and see what her / his likes and dislikes were to help us with our quilt design. We were also told to ask questions using #TeamNina and that all of our teammates would have to answer so that we could find out more specifics from our swap partner, without giving away who we were going to make a quilt for.

The team leader, Nina, sent everyone an email telling them who their swap partner was and providing us with their completed questionnaire showing their likes and dislikes, the game was on, the stalking had begun….!

There was a flurry of questions over the first 2 weeks that I could hardly keep up with, I had a notepad and pen by my side, and I religiously wrote down every answer my swap partner gave to each question asked.

Several teammates shared photos of previous mini swaps that they had made or received and I suddenly had a lump in my throat, a churning belly and a feeling of dread, the photos showed exquisite quilts, that were technically challenging, very imaginative and beyond anything that I could have accomplished. All I could think was ‘what had I done, I should have said that I was a beginner!’ I started to doubt myself and my abilities and convinced myself that my partner would hate what I made.

Another teaser pic

After giving myself a stern telling off in my head, I started looking at my partners answers and thinking about what design I could make. Several team members were already cutting their quilts out and were racing ahead within 2 weeks of the challenge starting. I decided that I would not jump in and start until I was satisfied that I had a design that my partner would like and that I could create to a good standard. I waited another week and then I sent Nina a drawing of my quilt for her to approve the design and to make sure that I was on the right track with my thought process.

I should probably explain my thought process here, so you know how I came up with this particular design. My partner said that she loved sailing but didn’t want a nautical quilt as she had received 2 during previous swaps. She didn’t want a blue quilt, but she loved bright colours and embellished quilts. She liked raw edge applique and embroidery. She had been to New York which she enjoyed; she was a fan of going to the theatre. She had watched ‘Anne with an E’ (based on Anne of Green Gables) on television recently and had thoroughly enjoyed it.

Some of the things that my swap partner had done and enjoyed were the same as I had done. I’ve been to New York multiple times, I love going to the theatre, doing raw edge applique and embroidery, I really enjoyed ‘Anne with an E’. I had a twitching of an idea scratching around in my head, but more research was needed first. I wanted to make a quilt that included as many of my partners likes as possible, but for it to be a little different from other quilts that I had seen photos of.

Making two and choosing which I prefer

I decided that I would make a quilt that looked like a Broadway theatre showing a production of ‘Anne with an E’.

As I made up different elements of the quilt, I found that I liked some and others I just hated, for example, I made up the house that Anne lived in, it was all white and green, but it just did not look right so I did away with it and decided to include a stage instead.

I had made up a panel consisting of multicoloured 2-inch squares that I was going to use as the stage backdrop, but when I laid out the other parts of the quilt top, the panel just looked wrong, so I decided that I would enlarge it and it would become the quilt backing instead. Although my swap partner didn’t want a blue quilt, I thought that she might forgive me adding a blue background as the colour worked best when I auditioned other colours for this purpose.

As the quilt came together, I was happy with how it was going, I had to learn many techniques by watching YouTube tutorials, for example, how to make swag curtains!

The embellishing was slow and fiddly, with my sausage fingers trying to handle tiny beads.

The cut up squares used for the backing 

Part of the swap process is that you provide feedback and photos to Nina so that she knows how your make is progressing and if you are stuck, she can provide ideas or tips. Also, you are encouraged to post ‘teasers’ by way of blurred or black and white photos of snippets from your quilt, just to keep everyone guessing.

After a while the mini quilt was finished, and I am actually proud of it and will not be embarrassed to post it off to my swap partner come the end of September.

I sent a photo of the quilt to Nina, who said it was a fun and original quilt, and I was happy with that feedback!

Another part of this mini swap is that you include a ‘gift’ with the quilt, up to a value of £5.00. It can be something sewing related, crafty or it can be edible etc. Most of the team said that they would prefer to receive something not edible, but hand made. I decided that I would make a handbag friendly sewing kit, which I made and was happy with and also a mug rug.

Beads for  the embellishing

I would like to say at this point, that the ‘swap Mumma’s’ all do an incredible job of matching us to our swap partners and making sure that we are on the right track and keeping us motivated for over 2 months, well done ladies, superb job!

Now I’m discovering that the hardest part of this challenge is waiting to post the quilt off because I can’t wait to see if my swap partner is happy with it.

Will I enter another mini swap – definitely, but will I be a beginner or an intermediate – I will have to think about that one!

The finished quilt
The back of the quilt
The sewing kit
One of the pages