Friday, 19 December 2014

From fabric fast to buying binge

In January I started a fabric fast and though I gave myself a few exceptions (mainly for Liberty lawn), on the whole I have managed to stick to it. I’ve resisted the temptation of many online sales and tried to buy only for specific projects and only when at shows. Unfortunately, with just two weeks to go, I have fallen off the wagon spectacularly and in the last eight days have bought 14 metres of fabric to stash.

It started last week when I needed half a metre of grey fabric to bind a quilt. I went to my local fabric shop (which unluckily or luckily depending on how you see it happens to be Abakhan) and came out with the half metre of grey but also two metres of Downton Abbey fabric. Both were from the bargain baskets where craft cottons cost ~£22/kg and the Downton fabric worked out at £3.60/m! (If you’re not familiar with the Abakhan bargain baskets, there are some photos of the very baskets in this news item on their website.)

Next to break my fast was some Priory Square by Katy Jones which started arriving in UK shops last week. When I saw the designs, the “You are here” map print immediately caught my eye. One of my friends grew up in an area shown on the map and I knew I had to get some to make something for him. Less than 48 hours after it appearing on Simply Solids website, two metres had been ordered and delivered.

Yesterday, Abakhan’s ground floor reopened after refurbishment (it was closed for the first part of this week) and so I went along in my lunchtime to take a look. I didn’t come away empty handed. More Downton fabric was spotted and purchased.

Today I found out that another great nephew is on the way and I fancy making this boats quilt for him. Of course, this meant I had to get some fabric for the background and so it was back to Abakhan. I found some that looks very sea-like and I am hoping that the directional print doesn’t cause me problems when making the HSTs.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t all I bought today. I also spotted four more Downton fabrics and a piece of Animalia Splendor from the Art Gallery Fabric’s Safari Moon collection. As the Art Gallery Fabrics cotton is so fine, it works out at an astounding bargain of £2.80/m.

Today was my last day in work before the Christmas and New Year closure and so I hope this is the end of my fabric purchases for 2014, though a certain shop’s sale does start on 27 December!

Monday, 24 November 2014

No knitting, but plenty of stitching and shopping

It is at times such as Saturday when I went to the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate that my purse is very glad that I only sew and don’t knit. For anyone who knits and sews, this show must be so full of temptations.

This year I decided to book one of the many workshops offered and the first part of my visit was spent learning three different tailoring techniques with Celia Banks from Sew Fundamental. The 90 minute workshop was very well organised and Celia taught us how to use a bias strip to set in sleeves, a new to me way of making a welt pocket, and how to get the perfect sleeve vent. The most technically challenging of the three was the welt pocket and at times I had no idea how it was going to work, but Celia took us through it step by step and there was a Eureka moment when suddenly it all became clear.

The rest of my time was spent shopping, chatting with some familar faces and putting faces to online names. I wrote a shopping list on the coach on the way to Harrogate and I managed to stick to it fairly well with only a few “off-list” purchases. I found several pieces of vintage Liberty lawn which I bought just because I love Liberty and I bought one new FQ of Liberty lawn for a project I have in mind. The shot and peppered cottons are for a quilt for my husband - we’ve finally decided on a pattern, so perhaps 2015 will be the year he finally gets his quilt. The Bottomline thread is for my ongoing hexie EPP quilt and the Flatter was bought for all the FQs in my stash that have stubborn creases from having been there so long. The magnetic bag clasps were on my list, but the slide in frames were an off list purchase which at £5 for two (with a free pattern) were too good to miss. The Gutermann thread at £2 a reel was another off-list purchase as were the back issues of Love Sewing and Quilt Now at only £10 for four magazines.

After all my sewing purchases, there was just time for a quick walk up the hill to Betty’s for one final bit of shopping before getting the coach home.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Some stitching and a lot of unpicking

This weekend I finally got round to tackling two quilting techniques that I’ve been wanting to try for a while – making a quilt with knits and spiral quilting.

Earlier this year I won four fat eighths of Woodland knits in a giveaway by Forest Poppy and The Village Haberdashery and I thought they would be ideal for my first attempt at a knit quilt. I worked out a pattern in Excel (much more fun than my usual tasks in Excel) which optimised the quilt size and eliminated any need for seam matching. 

The pattern is based on Flemish Bond brickwork, using the Woodland knits for the “stretchers” and some squares of white knit for the “headers”. I’m still trying to sew from stash and the only white knit I had was a rarely worn T shirt that was due to head to a charity shop. Unfortunately this was much thinner than the Woodland knits and so I ended up using a double layer held together with some 505 spray! Continuing the “make-do” aspect of the quilt, I pieced together offcuts of fleece for the backing.

I initially chose to quilt using a blue 40 wt Aurifil (from the Simply Solids goody bag) but halfway through I was having doubts. I ignored these doubts and finished the quilting but it was obvious that the blue was the wrong choice. It overpowered the blocks and the white squares were lost. I decided to requilt with white 50 wt Aurifil and to save having to re tack the quilt, I initially unpicked just the centre and restarted the spiral so that the new white stitching was a few millimetres to the side of the blue stitching. It was worth all the unpicking as I'm much happier with the white quilting.

The binding was cut from a FQ from the Fly Away collection by Dashwood (also from the Simply Solids goody bag) which was an ideal match for the yellowy-green in the knits. When making the binding strip I wasn't concentrating and managed to piece all my bias seams so that I had mitred corners instead of a linear strip – time for yet more unpicking.


I’m pleased to have finally scratched the itch of wanting to sew a quilt with knits and try spiral quilting and I now have another quilt for Project Linus. The spiral binding quilting is great to use with a pieced quilt back as there is no worry about getting seams and quilting to align. I can see myself using spiral quilting on future quilts and maybe using the pattern again, but I think I will stick to woven fabrics for blocks.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Hexie Origami

When Bonnie Hunter shared a link to a little hexie pouch, I knew I had another project to add to my to-do list, but unlike many of the projects on my list, this one got made fairly quickly. I used silk and linen scraps from an earlier quilt and lined it with some Liberty Rossmore cord.

Both the link that Bonnie shared (momentosdecostura) and the original link (maria-cecilia-mora) use interfacing instead of paper for the EPP, however, I decided to make my little pouch the traditional way using papers. These were removed prior to applying some fusible fleece to give the pouch some support and some loft for quilting. I hand stitched the lining in place and then did my first ever hand-quilting – just a simple echo of each hexie. 

Then it was time for the orgami part to come into play - following the instructions of where to fold and stitch and seeing the flat panel of hexies tranform into a pouch. I had planned on using a button and loop fastening, but I couldn’t find anything suitable in my stash. Instead I used the couture technique of covering a press stud which gives an almost invisible fastening.

The pouch was made using 1” hexie papers (from the SimplySolids goody bag) and I liked the pouch so much that I used some slightly smaller hexies (3/4”) to make a little matching thread catcher.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Quilt Assistant – free quilt designing software

I've been spending quite a bit of time trying a free quilt designing program for Windows PCs. Quilt Assistant is primarily planned for creating quilts from photos and drafting traditional blocks. However, hidden away is the computer equivalent of colouring pens and paper for designing quilts made up of a single shape such as squares, hexagons, triangles, and many more.

The online manual shows how to create quilts from photos and how to design traditional quilt blocks but it doesn't mention this other very useful design feature, so I've put together a few screen shots to get you started.

The single shape design feature can be accessed by clicking the “regular pattern” tab when creating a new blank project (the default tab is “free design”).

This tab allows you can choose your shape (or pattern) and adjust the size and count to create a workspace representative of the finished size of your quilt. The default setting is for squares, but there are several more exciting shapes available including clamshells and applecores.

In the workspace, you need be in “coloring mode” (the grid lines will be solid and a color selection palette will appear). This can be selected by the button in the upper right of the screen or from the "Mode" drop down menu.

Then it is just a matter of using the mouse to select colours, fill in the shapes and create your quilt design. There isn’t an eraser as such - if you make a mistake you recolour the shape using the correct colour or the background colour.

I've not tried using the program for its primary purposes of designing picture quilts or traditional blocks, but I've found it to be great for this type of designing, especially for hexagon quilts. It doesn't have advanced features such as pattern fills or importing jpg files of fabrics, but it is a lot easier than using pens and paper. The program is free from and while the author was at one time accepting quilt fabric in lieu of donations, this is no longer the case.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Simply Solids Super Saturday

Today I headed over the Pennines for the opening of the Simply Solids real-life (rather than on-line) shop.

There were plenty of people.

A comfy corner with some snazzy sofas.

Lots of fabulous fabrics.

Generous goody bags.

And a few purchases were made.

Justine and Lisa have created a bright and welcoming shop - for those wanting to visit, the shop address is Unit 104, Colne Valley Business Park, Linthwaite, HD7 5QG and there is plenty of free parking. Opening hours can be found on the Simply Solids facebook page and  do check out the Simply Solids website where they will be posting details of classes.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Simple sewing to make the heart sing

After feeling rather ambivalent about the quilt I finished recently, I was in need of some pick-me-up sewing and so I made the decision to cut into my stash of Liberty lawn. Earlier in the year in the Liberty sale I treated myself to a leather cosmetics case embossed with the Ianthe pattern. This little pouch is far too nice to risk any make up spillages and instead I use it for my hexagon sewing kit. I needed a small needlecase and scissor cosy for the kit and decided to make them out of the same print.

This was such a satisfying little project using hexagons cut from card, wadding offcuts, Liberty lawn and felt. They took less than an hour to make and, unlike the quilt, I love them. The needlecase is just big enough to take some piecing needles and a larger needle for burying thread ends, whereas the scissor cosy is the ideal size for my thread snipping scissors and holds them securely in place thanks to a hidden press stud.

The case and cosy are quick to sew and can be made from scraps. I'll add a full tutorial to the projects section in the next few weeks, but in the mean time here are some basic instructions. It is easy to make any size of hexagon using a compass and ruler so for this project you don't need die-cut hexagons.

  1. The size of the hexagon should be determined by the scissors and should be such that a corner (vertex) of the hexagon sits within a ring of the handle and the points of the scissors are within the hexagon.
  2. Cut two hexagons from thin card and use these as templates to cut your outer fabric, wadding and felt. The outer fabric should be 1 cm larger on all sides than the hexagon, the wadding a few millimetres larger than the hexagon, and the felt a few millimetres smaller than the hexagon.
  3. Glue the wadding to the card and thread baste the outer fabric to the hexagon, placing it over the wadding and taking care to stitch through only the fabric seam allowances and not the card. The stitches should be as far from the edge as possible to ensure that they are hidden by the felt.
    Glue or stitch the felt to cover the seam allowances. If using glue for the needlecase, it is advisable to only apply glue to the edge of the felt as it is easier to insert needles if the centre is not stuck down.
  4. For the needlecase, with outer fabrics together, whip stitch along one side to form a hinge.
  5. Stitch a press stud to the felt on the opposite side of the hinge (optional).
  6. For the scissor cosy, stitch a press stud to one corner of the felt. With the felt linings together, whip stitch along four sides, ensuring that the press stud is in the centre of the open sides.