thinking outside the (scrap) box
Last week I made a bag, using a fabulous and very simple pattern, by a friend of mine. I don't often (if ever) make bags, and the process was so enjoyable that this weekend (when I really should have been doing many many other things judging by the mountain of laundry that is sat by the washing machine) I pulled out some of my best fabric scraps and my ever favourite 2.5" bigz square die and starting cutting squares.
Watching the little pile grow was so much fun, and when I'd cut what I thought was probably more than enough I starting sewing them together into rows, following the pattern pieces for the bag as a guide.
Soon I had 2 pieces that were big enough for the main panel of the bag. I added a front pocket (which wasn't in the pattern, but I had cut more than enough squares so it seemed like a good idea) and attached the handles.
Now I'm waiting for some stiff interfacing to arrive and I can add the bottom panels of my bag and sew it all together. I think I need to plan a weekend away with my new bag!!!!
I love how by thinking outside the box ever such a little I changed the entire look of the bag - this one screams 'I make quilts', don't you think?! And what is even better is I made it from scraps - so it didn't cost me anything, except for the interfacings. More money to spend on new fabric and maybe some new dies for my big shot too!
I've been working on some bits and pieces that are for editorials or web projects that can't be fully shared as yet so I thought I'd share just the sneakiest of peeks of one of them today.I'm using some of the basic 'building block' dies such as half square triangles and squares to make these blocks and I'm really enjoying playing around with layouts and sketching out ideas onto paper before I do the piecing.One of my favourite dies are the half square triangles - they make cutting and piecing accurate half square triangle units such a breeze. There's no need for marking with pencil lines or trimming down to size. Half square triangles are such a useful unit in patchwork, but the cutting, marking and trimming can be very tedious. Not with these dies it isn't!What do you find tedious in patchwork, but love the finished look of?
english paper piecing - on the move
Last week I promised I'd show you what I take when I'm travelling to english paper piece with.
Many people are wary about taking scissors and needles on a plane because of the heightened security restrictions these days, but as long as you know what you can take and what you can't you'll soon be happily stitching away in the mile high sewing club!
Scissors - you can see from the photo mine have a very short blade. From handle to tip they're about 2" (the cutting part actually measures about 1/2"). These particular scissors are called little gems and they're 100% safe for flight. They're also very sharp - they do cut thread with no problems at all, despite their tiny size!
The TSA states that scissors with a blades less than 4" are allowed but British flights are sometimes stricter, and I've been told different things by different security staff when I've flown, so in my opinion - get the smallest you can possibly find. Nail scissors are ok too.
If you're still not sure then pack a thread cutter - it's a concealed blade that is completely safe for flights and can picked up quite cheaply (mine is the red plastic thing in the picture and cost £1 from a quilt show). Clover make a lovely one that can worn as a pendant, it's more expensive but does look nice (and it works really well).
Needles - these are fine for flying. You can take as many as you like to be quite honest! I think you might get some issues if you were taking super long thick needles, but regular hand sewing needles are no problem.
I then take a glue stick for help when I baste my hexagons, and some thread. I try to pack as light as possible and take 2 little sewing kits with me (both were made by a friend of mine and I've used them so much!) One is especially for my papers and fabrics and one is for my tools. You should be realistic - on a flight how much sewing will you actually do? Don't pack a massive bag full of bits, take enough to keep you busy, possibly a little too much, but don't go silly. I have packed enough to make five full double ringed flowers. It might take me the outward and return journey to make those, because at some point I'll have a nap, watch a film and read a book or magazine. Space is tight on a plane, and you can always pack extra in your suitcase for whilst you're away and the return trip.
Tending to the garden
Not a lot of progress to show you this week with my grandmother's flower garden quilt, but I do have 5 flowers completed now.If you're wondering why I've sewn the black and white spotty hexagons to just part of the flowers then let me explain....that's the background.Rather than sewing all of the background/sashing once I've finished the flowers I'm doing it as I go, that way I'll be much closer to finishing when I have all the flowers done, and I won't have to sew hundreds of black background hexagons in one go.They'll go together like this....Obviously I've still got a long way to go before my quilt looks quilt-like, but I love how it's looking so far!This week's job is to baste/tack a whole heap of individual hexagons ready for a plane trip to the US next week. An international flight is the perfect time to stitch up some hexie flowers, don't you think?!Next week I'll show you my inflight sewing kit - you can take scissors and needles on flights, you just have to be careful with the sizes.Have a wonderful week - what are you working on this week?
a simple cushion
My sister in law recently asked me to make her a cushion for a Christening gift. It had to be monogrammed and for a little boy. I planned lots of different, more complex, designs but then settled on something that was nice and simple, because unless you're a big fan of patchwork or a quilter yourself I think over complicated designs can be a little too much for a lot of people. Simple squares or simple strips can be just as effective and appreciated more. Besides, there's nothing worse than making something that the new owner really dislikes, is there?
My 2.5" strip die came out and worked through some of the red, white and blue fabrics in my stash. Quick as a flash I had a simple strippy cushion. That strip die is so useful - once I'd cut out the strips for this I cut some more strips for the binding for a quilt that I also used the strip die to make! It gets so much use, and I never tire of how clever it is - that great big long die makes cutting strips an absolute breeze.
For the monogrammed 'S' I drew that out onto fusible web, stuck it onto fabric and cut it out with some applique scissors. It wasn't the most fun I've had recently and just made me want the 4" sassy serif alphabet dies even more (especially as I had to label a baby quilt that day using the same freehand technique). The smaller 2" alphabet would be so very useful as well....I think I'll start making my Christmas list (it's not too early to think ahead, is it?)
The Spring Quilt Festival - Exeter
I'm just back from a wonderfully busy weekend at the Spring Quilt Festival in Exeter demonstrating the Big Shot and quilting dies with the Cotton Patch.
This was the first time I'd met the Cotton Patch staff and it was such fun, they were all a real joy to work with and a great bunch of people.
From left to right -
Nikki (having to duck down because she's so tall!), Liz (the boss lady) and Denise (who has been at the Cotton Patch for about 18 years - although she doesn't look nearly old enough to have worked there for so long!) Denise's husband, Alan, was also at the show. He's the engineer for the sewing machines - what he doesn't know about sewing machines isn't worth knowing!The show at Exeter is only a small one, and I wasn't sure it would be very busy, but I was pleasantly surprised - lots and lots of interest in the Big Shot and lots of new customers, many of which already had Big Shots from card making or scrap booking and were excited to see the patchwork dies. My favourite thing about demonstrating is showing just how easy it is to cut a huge pile of pieces for a quilt in no time at all. I think an awful lot of people think you can just cut a layer of fabric at a time, when in reality multiple layers work much better - I usually layer my fabrics up to between 6 and 8 layers. The look of genuine surprise on peoples' faces is wonderful, usually accompanied by a gasp and 'it actually cuts 32 hexagons at once? Wow!'I also tried cutting felt for the first time which was really lovely - beautiful clean cuts and perfect shapes for applique and crafts. I'm going to have to get myself some thick wool felt and have a play with some felt appliques.Cotton Patch is the largest patchwork and quilting shop in the UK, and has built up a huge customer base for mail order and internet sales over the past 20 years. They are so knowledgable about the products they sell, and clearly all have a real passion for what they do. Almost every person that I spoke to was a member of their mailing list or a repeat customer, and every one of those people had great things to say about the shop, which is wonderful.Cotton Patch are also stockists for gracie frames, handiquilter, and the sweet sixteen. Here's Liz playing with the sweet sixteen (and Nikki peeking in from behind!)You can just see on the right of the picture here one of the quilts the Cotton Patch made up using the strip die - I love the modern chevron look of that quilt, and it's a lovely simple pattern that looks much trickier than it actually is.I can safely say the huge hits of the weekend were the hexagon dies, and the applique owl, neither of which surprised me at all. Cutting hexagons by hand is never fun, and everyone loves an owl! Quite a few ladies sighed 'if only I'd had that when I made a hexagon quilt 30 years ago!'I've now got a lot of hexagons cut and ready to baste thanks to my weekend in Exeter. This picture shows just about half of what I cut over the weekend! I'd better get to it - those hexagons won't sew themselves, will they? (Now, when will Sizzix bring out a die for that, I wonder?!!!)
slow and steady wins the race
Happy Easter!I hope all of you that celebrate had a relaxing weekend, and if you're lucky enough to have a day off today, have a wonderful Easter Monday too!
I've been making some very slow progress on the grandmother's flower garden blocks I started last week. Like I mentioned before, this is a long term project, and I'm just picking it up as and when I can. I'm not preparing all my fabrics and pieces beforehand, because as I go along my choices may change, and it seems silly to cut everything out now and have to store the cut fabrics safely.
This is where I'm at as of today.
2 flowers have been made, and another few flowers are prepped. As I'm away at a quilt show with Sizzix this coming weekend I hope to make a little more progress on an evening in either the hotel bar or my room. If I want to go queen bed sized I'll probably need around 100 of these flowers. Yikes!!! That 1.25" hexagon die is going to get a lot of use!I had some other english paper pieced blocks that I designed for a class I'm doing later this summer, and I'm using my big shot to cut some of the borders.I like to use the big shot this way - incorporating all kinds of technique into one project. The big shot is just one tool in my arsenal of quilting supplies, you don't have to use it for the whole project, but it certainly helps speed things up when you do use it.I've used templates and scissors to cut out the english paper pieced centres, rotary cutter and ruler for the background and the first border, and now the second border will be half square triangles cut using the 2.5" HST die.These little triangles just need piecing into HST blocks and adding to the quilt top below. Then I'll consider the next border. I'm not planning much further than a border ahead, and taking things quite organically - hoping that as the quilt progresses it'll almost tell me what it wants next. It's great fun looking through my dies and finding ones that will work.If you live near Exeter then I hope you can make a visit to the Spring Quilt Festival this coming Friday, Saturday or Sunday. I'll be on the cotton patch stand, so if you do come by make sure you say hi!
I've been thinking ahead to Summer. With the crazy snowy weather as it is here in the UK (as we come to the end of March!) I need to cheer myself up a little and at least dream about the warmer weather we are bound to get any time soon (I live in hope!)
The Summer means more time spent outside, and less time spent at the sewing machine, so I need portable projects that can be hand sewn and my default hand sewn projects are usually hexagon english paper pieced.
My 1" and 1.25" hexagon dies are getting a work out at the minute, the 1" is turning junk mail, used envelopes and (dare I admit it?) bills into hexagon papers and the 1.25" die is making light work of cutting my fabrics into perfect hexies ready for basting. I love using the dies for cutting paper. It should be incredibly obvious to use them this way, as Sizzix is so big on scrap booking and paper crafts, but when I realised I could actually cut papers from my hexagon dies it was like winning the lottery. Simple things, eh?!
It's so satisfying getting these prepped and ready for sewing together. My long term vision is a traditional grandmother's flower garden quilt, something big enough to cover a bed. I know it's going to take me a long, long time but having this kind of project where I know there's no deadline helps keep me sane amongst a stack of projects that are more urgent.
In a couple of weeks I'll be at the Spring Quilt Festival in Exeter demoing the Big Shot on the Cotton Patch stand and, as I'll be away from home for a few nights, my hexies will be there keeping me company on an evening. I'm hoping to get a fair few 'flowers' stitched up. I'll keep you posted on my progress! This is where I'm at so far. It's a start, albeit a small one!
Have a wonderful week - keep warm and happy stitching!
Easter treat bags - Spring Quilting Blog Hop!
It's day 1 of the Sizzix Spring Quilting Blog Hop and I'm delighted to kick off the week! We've got 5 days of fabulous spring and Easter ideas from some very talented ladies! Here's the line up for the week...
Monday 18th March - Me!
Tuesday 19th March - Carolyn Forster
Wednesday 20th March - Laura Taylor
Thursday 21st March - Hadley Gordon
Friday 22nd March - Anna Draicchio
To make the week even more exciting, you can enter this exclusive competition to get started with your patchwork and quilting adventure... Click here to enter! The closing date is 28th March at 10am GMT.
So here we go then with my project!
Easter is coming up fast, and the stores are full of overly packaged chocolate eggs that look great with all that bright cardboard and shiny foil, but once they're opened they're quite disappointing. In our house the actual chocolate eggs seem to get leftover and forgotten about, so I try to make things more interesting and use little handmade bags stuffed with favourite sweets and little eggs, and maybe a tiny toy to leave in hiding places around the garden for the annual Easter egg hunt my children and their cousins have.
I've called them 2 minute treat bags, and admittedly 2 minutes is probably pushing it a little bit, they take more like 5 or 10 minutes each, but they're still fast and you can whip up a whole easter egg hunt's worth in very little time.
You need Sizzix Bigz Die Birds 3 (number 657685)
I used layer cake squares for my bags (layer cakes are pre-cut 10" squares that you can buy in a set), and scraps of fabric for the bird appliques. Make a couple at once, using one bird shape for one bag, and the other bird shape for the second bag.
For 2 bags you need;
4 layer cake squares (or 4 10" squares of fabric - use pinking shears for a zigzag edge to prevent fraying)
1.5 metres of ribbon
6" square of scrap piece of fabric
6" square of fusible web
embroidery floss/cotton and a needle (to sew on the buttons)
Firstly, following the manufacturers directions for the fusible web, apply fusible web to the reverse of the scrap piece of fabric and cut the bird shapes using die 657685.
Lay one of the 2 different birds on a layer cake or 10" fabric square, in the middle but towards the bottom of the square.
Use one of the small circles cut from the die as an eye, and press the applique with an iron to fuse (because these are fast treat bags you don't need to sew the appliques on, the fusible web will hold just perfectly. If you were making something that was to be washed or have heavy use, use a blanket, zig zag or straight stitch to fix into place).
Sew a small button onto the 'eye' with embroidery floss or cotton thread.
Take the ribbon and cut into 2 lengths, set one aside for use on the second bag
Fold the ribbon in half, and pin onto the bag front approximately 3" from the top. Note that the folded end is just overlapping the raw edge of the side of the bag.Take a second layer cake square/10" square and lay right sides together on top of the bag front.Make sure the ribbon is poking out the top of the bag, and pin and sew using a straight stitch and 1/2" seam allowance round the 2 sides and the bottom of the bag. Don't sew the top - it won't be much of a bag without the top edge open!Turn right ways out and poke the corners out well so they're nice and pointy
And repeat the steps above for the second bag using the other bird shape.
When you're done, stuff with small treats and tie the tops closed with the ribbon. These little bags are also perfect for birthday party bags, or for stocking stuffers at Christmas.
fun with tumblers
The past week I've been playing a little bit with the 4" tumbler die (657616). This die is great for using with charm packs, you can cut a single tumbler out of each charm square with just a little bit of waste. It's also one of the cheaper dies that you can get, priced at less than £15.
I do think it's one of those shapes that you might overlook, because unlike a half square triangle or a square you can't use it with other dies to make fancy shapes. But it's actually a die that you're likely to pull out again and again.
I pieced these tumblers together in their expected setting for a fast cushion cover (which isn't quite finished...bear with me, I've had a busy week!)
And then these tumblers I put together in a slightly different way and ended up with a dresden plate (again, not quite finished!).
Want to know how?
Here you go!
For a full circle you need to cut 14 tumblers. I also cut a further 7 tumblers to make additional 'petals' for an extra layer.
fold each tumbler right sides together and sew a 1/4" seam along the top edge
chain piece this step to speed things up
Turn out the right way and poke the point with a stiletto or knitting needle/chop stick to make it pointy
Sew 14 of your 'petals' into a circle. Press the seams so they all go in the same direction, and carefully pin in the centre of a background square (I cut a 20" background square from white fabric, and folded it into quarters so I could centre the block easily). I also added additional petals around the circle, just popping them under the circle and pinning into place.
Using a large dinner plate as a template cut a circle from cardboard (my circle is 11.5" in diameter). Then cut a circle from fabric 1/2" larger than the template (all the way round). Press the fabric all the way around the template. Spray starch is useful here, it will give you a nice crisp edge.
Make sure it's even all the way round
Remove the template carefully and pin to the centre of your dresden plate circle.
Applique all the way around the dresden plate - making sure all the petals (including the additional second layer ones) are stitched down, and all the way around the centre circle too. I hand stitched mine, but you could use the sewing machine for speed.
And there you have it! A completely different look from the same tumbler die!
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