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.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A Looks for Less Quilt

I finished this quilt top in June, but it sat on the to-do pile until August when I eventually got round to basting it. It was another month until it was quilted and it was finished finally on Saturday, thanks to a day of burying the ends and stitching the binding at Leeds Modern Quilt Guild meeting.

I wanted to try making a quilt using something other than quilting cottons, but without breaking the bank. The quilt is a mixture of scrap packs of furnishing silk and some linen-look fabric and is backed and bound with factory shop seconds of Liberty lawn making it a case of luxury for less.

I prewashed the fabrics before cutting to make sure they were washable and used ½” seam allowances as the fabrics tended to fray and then quilted ¼” from the seams to stabilise the fabrics. I think the wadding is a Cloud Eco 70/30 recycled cotton/polyester blend, but I bought it over a year ago from Doughty’s at a show and I can’t remember the exact details. It has a nice degree of shrinkage which helps to hide some of the dodgy quilting. The linen-look fabric in particular could have done with being more heavily starched in preparation for the quilting (which was done using Aurifil 40 wt) as it had a tendency to creep resulting in puckers at the end of each rectangle.

I don’t normally label my quilts, but for this one I used my machine’s alphabet feature to add a label of sorts in one corner. I stitched this just through the backing and wadding and it is not very noticeable at all.
Spot the label!
Close up of the label.

Now I've made this quilt, it has not quite worked out as I had envisaged. I can't quite put my finger on what I don't like, but I'm more ambivalent over it rather than enthused by it. I wonder if it is the lack of contrast between the linen and the beige silk - perhaps I would like it more had I used only white silk. No doubt it will be a functional quilt, if not a fancy quilt, and will be welcomed as the evenings start to get chillier.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A summer of so little sewing

This summer has seen very little sewing. I started a new quilt, finished a block from last year’s FQ retreat, made a pair of pyjama shorts, stitched a bag for Festival of Quilts and that has been about it. I think I was knocked out of kilter a bit in May by some deaths and illnesses amongst family and friends and since then I’ve not really felt like picking up a needle and thread or reaching for fabric and scissors.

There are signs though that Autumn will be a bit more productive and maybe my sew-jo is returning. I made a quick iPad cover for my godson using an old LFC pyjama top and a FQ of fabric (but didn’t get time to take a photo). I’ve basted and quilted the quilt top and will get the binding stitched at Leeds MQG on Saturday. I’ve also added a few more hexies to my long term hexie liberty quilt project, a task which has been much easier thanks to some new additions to my sewing kit.

I switched from using Aurifil 50wt cotton to Bottomline 60wt polyester for stitching the hexies together and thanks to a bargain pair of rather blingtastic reading glasses I no longer struggle with close up needlework. The thread was recommended for EPP by Flossie Teacakes and I bought some reels at Festival of Quilts. It is a very slippery thread but I’ve had far fewer knots or breakages with it than with the Aurifil. I‘ve worn glasses/contact lenses since at school and am starting to reach the stage (or rather the age!) where I can see more clearly without them for close up needlework, especially when using the fine 60wt thread. I assumed that because my reading was not affected, reading glasses would be of no help. How wrong I was – this £2 pair of glasses have made such a difference to my hand sewing and are now an essential part of my sewing kit.

I'm hopeful that the next few months will see the sewing restart and soon there will be some small projects or progress reports to share with you.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Festival of Quilts (3) - The Quilts

After doing some shopping and some sewing in the workshops, I found the best time to view the quilts was the last hour of the show. The crowds had gone and it was easy to walk up and down the quilt aisles, taking photos of the quilts that caught my eye. Most of the photos I took were of quilts which I thought were “do-able” and will be added to my library of quilts I’d like to make. A couple of the quilts stood out for their quilting alone (but I didn’t get the details).

The quilts that I most appreciated this year were the miniature quilts (no bigger than 12” on the longest side).

Much has been written and said this year about “modern quilts” and the Festival even had their definition of a modern quilter (my thanks to Lilysquilts for the photo) as part of its setting up a new group in the Quilt Guild. Whilst it can be helpful to group quilts as modern, traditional or art for exhibitions, I would find it much more useful if there were a simply colour coding on the show label indicating the type of quilting. I don’t have a long arm machine nor a frame, and it would be nice to see at a glance which quilts were quilted on a domestic machine with nothing more than an extension table.

Despite my best attempts to view the quilts in a logical fashion, when blog posts started appearing about the Festival, there seems to be a whole section of quilts that I managed to miss. Even so, I came away with lots of ideas and inspiration – now I just need to find the time to sew.

Festival of Quilts (1) - Shopping

Last week I had a two day mini sewing and shopping retreat to Festival of Quilts. It didn’t get off to the best of starts as I arrived at the station to find all trains to Birmingham were cancelled, but somehow I ended up at the NEC on time despite getting a slightly later train and having an extra connection at Stafford. 

Rather than have one very long post about my trip, I’ll split this into three – shopping, sewing and quilts

I’ve been on a fabric fast lite since the start of the year and have been trying to sew from stash before it threatens to take over the whole house. My shopping list wasn’t very long, but I knew from past experience how easy it can be to stray from the list. To try to limit temptation, I took a separate show purse with me and transferred my spending money to it, leaving some spare cash and the cards safely packed away in my main purse. The plan was that the shopping stopped when the money ran out.

I stuck fairly well to my list in terms of items, but maybe not in quantity and even got a free little gift (the pins) from Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine. Thursday’s purchases were some Liberty scraps from AliceCaroline, some Liberty FQs from the Little World of Fabric, half a metre of Liberty from Fabrics Galore, paper pieces from Hannah’s Room, Superior Bottom Line thread from The Crafty Quilter and a Millefiori Quilt book from QuiltMania

Friday’s shopping opportunities were curtailed by the lack of space in my bag and the lack of funds in my purse. A small emergency transfer (I deemed it to be an emergency) of funds rectified one of the problems and allowed a few more Liberty scraps to find their way into my bag, along with some half metres of Oakshott and some half metres of shot and striped cottons from K&K Machines.

As I’m trying not to add to my stash, I didn’t really browse the stalls which actually made for a more relaxing trip. I didn’t feel the need to hunt out the latest fabric releases or to try to find all the special offers. I even had time to sit outside in the sunshine and have a quiet lunch away from all the crowds before heading off to my first workshop.