Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Even better when you finish a project you have been meaning to work on for some time, when the initial plan you had changes and turns out better as a result. This version of my Crossed Orange Peel pattern was a challenge to myself, using slightly more difficult seam construction and it's my project for the April Aurifil Artisan challenge, which is to create a project using my favourite Aurifil thread. That is like a trick question though because I genuinely love and use all the different types of Aurifil thread for different projects. I've opted to focus on 50 weight thread because it is the one I use the most and for a variety of sewing methods.

The pattern is hand pieced and my original Crossed Orange Peel, see above, is different in that it has five pieces making up the central X of the blocks. I wanted to see if it was possible for me to piece that central section using one fabric. The Ladies Night print by Sarah Watts from the Black and White collection was absolutely perfect for this, by sheer coincidence five faces/dots fit beautifully in my pattern template.

Hand piecing as a technique allows you to manipulate the fabric and I was able to stitch the seams using one central piece. It is a little fiddly at the inner points but using a fine needle and 50wt thread helps keep stitches small and neat without adding bulk. I also cut into the seam allowance of the central piece to allow me to pivot at the point.

Curves are easy to sew when hand pieced and the blocks come together really nicely. The pink and black stripe fabric is Moving On Lawn by Jen Kingwell and even the finer lawn fabric is easy to work with and stitches beautifully.

Once the blocks were complete I spent quite a long time auditioning fabrics. I had posted background choices on my instagram feed and comments from friends prompted me to think about not just using one fabric for the background. After laying out a few fabrics and moving things around, the idea of piecing a strip of the bright Plummy Netorious print seemed like a winner. The colour pop added interest and though it worked it felt a bit messy using too many prints. 

Ultimately I decided to only use the text print with the Plummy, there was something that seemed a bit off about it though and it was bugging me. When I happened to move the stripe to be horizontal it clicked, somehow this became more visually pleasing to me and this is the layout I chose. I cut the stripe to width by measuring from the points inside the circle and adding 1/2". I cut the top and bottom strip so that the background measured approx. 21", this gave me a bit of wiggle room to square it up after quilting.

After piecing the background, it was time for quilting. With the original Crossed Orange Peel mini I quilted over the blocks after doing the appliqué, this time however I decided to quilt the background and then appli-quilt the blocks on top.

I wanted the quilting to stand out a little so did opt to use 40 weight thread for this part, just to add a little more definition. My friend Alison taught me a fabulous tip that I always use, to pull the thread from the reel and lay it over the quilt/project to see how the thread looks. It is far better than just holding the spool against it as often the thread can look different; it looks different on different parts of the quilt, as well as sometimes looking different than it does on the spool itself. Obviously you don't always get as much impact when it is a single thread and more than that it really gives you a better visual for how it will look stitched.

I was completely torn between these three colours; (from top to bottom) Aurifil 40wt in Aluminium #2615, Light Lilac #2510 or Bright Pink #2425.
My favourite colour is pink, grey is a go-to staple choice and (although I am not a fan of purple normally) the lilac shade is pretty. It maybe doesn't show as well in the photograph but the pink would have been the boldest choice as it shows up more on the text print. Aluminium felt a bit safe and also showed up more on the Plummy print. The Lilac looked nice and added a hint of another colour to the background but it didn't really match. I finally decided on pink, to be a bit bold, and then I asked my husband what he thought. He chose Lilac, which surprised me. His comments on why he liked it swayed me and the fact that the Lilac wasn't matchy-matchy actually works really well with the blocks too.

Relying on my trusty hera marker to score lines, I quilted a straight line grid pattern with my walking foot.

from left to right: Aurifil 50wt Grey Smoke #5004, Very Dark Grey #4241 
and 40wt in Light Lilac #2510

To sew the appliqué in place on the quilted background, I used Aurifil 50 weight in Very Dark Grey #4241 to top stitch around all the edges. This is definitely a new favourite colour, it is almost black but it is a softer shade than black and it blends so beautifully on the black prints.

The blocks themselves needed a bit of quilting and I chose to do something that I rarely (if ever) do after my first attempts when I started quilting... I stitched in the ditch. This is often the type of quilting recommended for beginners but I find it is difficult to do well, without getting stitches on the 'wrong' side of the seam (as in the line wobbles across the seam rather that being in the seam) and I haven't really tried it for a long time. Technically I believe stitching in the ditch does mean stitching ever so fractionally to one side of the seam, rather than aiming to stitch directly in the seam. With this in mind I aimed to stitch within the orange peels. You can see the stitching in the photograph above. I think it worked nicely and although I still prefer more visible quilting patterns generally, it is good to know I can stitch in the ditch when needed. Here's the trick I found helpful (it applies to lots of types of sewing generally too, it may just require some stitching experiments with your machine feet)... my walking foot provides the perfect guide. The inner left edge of my walking foot (as you are looking at the centre in front of the needle) acts as a guide along the 'outer' seam - not the fabric I am stitching on but the fabric next to the 'ditch'. The edge of that part of the foot is fractionally off centre and allows the needle to stitch very close to the seam.
FYI my walking foot is a 9mm closed toe, that came with my Elna 680.

Having a variety of greys proves useful! Grey is my standard choice of neutral because it tends to work with so many modern fabrics. On the darker sections between the orange peels I used Aurifil 50 weight in Grey Smoke #5004 and on the lighter sections I used 50wt in Arctic Ice #2625. 

Rather than make a mini, I created a lapped zip backing to make the Crossed Orange Peel into a cushion. The backing fabric is Linea by Makower and the binding fabric is a lovely thin black and white stripe by Yuwa. I always use 50wt thread for binding and it's one of my favourite things to sew. 

You can see the texture created by the quilting and the nice hue of that Lilac thread here:

Ta Da! The finished cushion about 20" square, stuffed with a very full insert that gives the pattern puffy dimension! It has quickly become a favourite cushion in our house and I'm so happy that I tried something a bit different, both with the construction and the ditch quilting. I also love the combination of fabrics and the glimmer of lilac thread in the background. 

The Crossed Orange Peel pattern is available to purchase from my shop or Etsy and it comes with a free bonus technique guide to hand piecing so it's suitable for all levels.