Monday, 30 March 2015

brighten up Mondays {link to giveaway}

I am thrilled to be part of the Busy Girl Sews Tour, the blog hop for Heidi Staples' awesome new book Sew Organized for the Busy Girl. Full of helpful organising tips and useful ideas, that really are practical and realistic, as well as fun projects to make for yourself and as gifts. I found this to be a sewjo restoring book, that encouraged my joy and inspired my sewing. The result of which you will see towards the end of May!

Each Monday for the next few months the tour will take you blog hopping to see projects made from the book and provide inspiration for us busy girls and guys. The tour starts today over at Lily's Quilts with a giveaway - 3 lucky winners will receive a copy of the book. Hop over to enter!

Here's the schedule for Busy Girl Sews:

March 30 - Lynne of Lily's Quilts (Tour Kickoff & Book Giveaway!)
April 6 - Jodi of Tales of Cloth & Angela of Cut to Pieces
April 13 - Lindsay of Craft Buds & Debbie of A Quilter's Table
April 20 - Leanne of She Can Quilt
April 27 - Fat Quarter Shop
May 4 - Erin of Why Not Sew?
May 11 - Jennifer of Ellison Lane Quilts
May 18 - Svetlana of SOTAK Handmade
May 25 - Lucy of Charm About You 
June 1 - Maureen of Maureen Cracknell Handmade
June 8 - Becca of Bryan House Quilts
June 15 - Beth of Plum & June
June 22 - Jessica of Quilty Habit
June 29 - Caroline of Sew Can She
July 6 - Heidi of Fabric Mutt (Tour Wrap!)

Sunday, 29 March 2015

seriously fun stashing

Today is a mash up of my eclectic taste and some of my favourite things, beautiful fabric and cute stationery!

I happened upon an online shop that sells both too; ModeS4u sells all kinds of kawaii goodies - loads of adorable bento boxes, accessories, toys and much more. I picked up this cute black and white Alice in Wonderland by Kokka, which I plan to fussy cut.

and these gorgeous MT washi tapes - these are such great quality and pricier than some brands but I couldn't resist these patterns and some were on sale (the bottom one was 90p!):

It was hard get a good picture of them but you can see the two metallic ones better in the second picture, they are so beautiful. And how utterly sweet is this moon lunar eclipse tape, it has all the phases of the moon and a little bunny!!

So back to fabric...

There were a couple of lines I really wanted so I visited the Fat Quarter Shop. The first is Maker by Art Gallery Fabrics:

Now I have to be honest, this whole line does not appeal to me, though I love the retro vibe and think it has some gorgeous low volume prints. My picks were: Make Patches Shabby, Maker by Art Gallery Fabrics; Make Tests, Maker by Art Gallery Fabrics and Make Drafts Paper, Maker by Art Gallery Fabrics.

Similarly I found myself drawn to some of the Gossamer prints, there are larger prints I wasn't as fond of but I think these small prints are gorgeous:

The two on the left are beautifully retro: Mirrors and Water, Gossamer by Sharon Holland and Expectations Lilium, Gossamer by Sharon Holland. I am completely in love with the modern and fun Mesh prints, they are so perfect and could be great low volume backgrounds: Joy Mesh, Gossamer by Sharon Holland and Calm Mesh, Gossamer by Sharon Holland.

Then I couldn't resist some yummy fabric from Miss Matatabi...

and then these neon bright prints - they remind me of the early 90s: Geometric Lines in neon pink and Love Cats in Green, Retro Collection by Lecien. I have plans for these :)

Then more stickers and washi, obviously I have a problem but my planner looks amazing and it's so nice to make organising pretty!

Handy blank circles and flags, blogging and motivational stickers from The Reset Girl and some mad stickers and washi tape from Sticker Paradise.

I picked up more from Patchfinders, this gorgeous Freshly Cut Hyacinths, Meadow by Leah Duncan and some always useful 505 adhesive:

Seems like I had a bit of a spree so better get cracking with the planning and making now!!

Molli Sparkles

Thursday, 26 March 2015


I took some fabric, turned it into hsts

and started making blocks

I usually don't get much sewing in during the day and surprised I could today... all the kids were home and have had the dreaded stomach bug again. They didn't have the energy for trouble making though and mostly sat watching TV, so I took advantage when I could ;)

There was some random hugging 

and reading, writing and drawing too. Here's what Joan gave me:

A lovely note and a story - which is about a silly pufferfish that hit herself in the face because she lost her book but she was sitting on it!! She is currently obsessed with pufferfish and really wants to go to Japan to see some :) She thinks they are beautiful and is constantly drawing pictures of them. I got her a book from the library with different sea life in it, surprisingly our local library didn't have a book dedicated to pufferfish?!?

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

silence is perturbing

well that was an unintentional break... it hasn't been because anything wonderful or tragic happened, life has just been rolling along. Honestly I think it's not a good sign, it tends to mean I feel a bit stuck and when I'm disconnected to my making and writing it all feels a bit blah. Ambivalence doesn't sit well with me and so I am shaking it off and just trying to get back to it. 

I've been cleaning like a mad woman, when my house and space feel ordered I have a much better frame of mind. I even tackled my sewing space today and that felt good, it also motivated me to get some things done.

This week I finished another green tea and sweet beans quilt block, though it doesn't strictly follow the pattern because I chose to English paper piece different flowers again and then appliqué them:

I have 21 blocks to go (some of them are small) and then the filler blocks. I'm in no hurry though.

During the clean up I discovered a quilt top that I would like to complete so I'm working on that too, though I have decided just to get it done in a way that makes me happy rather than struggling with things I'm not enjoying any more, so quick borders it will be!

My husband is working hard to prepare for an exhibition he's organised at Yuck Print House. The opening is this Friday, if you are in the Manchester area I would love to see you there! It opens 6:30pm Friday 27th March and continues to Sunday 24th May.

Hope you're all having a great week and I'm intending to make the most of what's left of it!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced


Saturday, 14 March 2015

passion ~ le challenge ~ Chicopee flowers cushion

The theme at le challenge this month is 'passion'. I had lots of ideas of things I would like to make but after making my fresh flowers cushion I couldn't stop thinking about making a random bouquet. I decided to use my hoarded Chicopee by Denyse Schmidt charm pack to make the flowers, using shapes from Paper Pieces. Since I started English Paper Piecing it has definitely become a passion of mine and I enjoy discovering new shapes and ways of incorporating epp into my projects.

I have also developed a passion for appliqué. I love that you can create whatever you like and it's the easiest way to make a fabric picture - whether you machine appliqué or hand appliqué like I did here:

I wanted to have a simple background so I used XOXO in Ghost, Cotton & Steel Basics and added texture by doing some cross hatch quilting. I posted a cross hatch quilting tutorial yesterday so you can see how I did it. I don't usually quilt the back of my cushions but since this is only quite small, 12 x 20", I wanted to give it some structure (plus I was having fun with the quilting!). I used XOXO in Night Owl, Cotton & Steel Basics for the back and the binding. I quilted with Aurifil 50wt thread in #2021 for the front and #2783 for the back, I love how they blend so nicely with the prints.

I also added some hand quilting with perle thread, just a few little stitches gives it a pretty hand made look and adds some texture to the flowers.

I have managed to combine so many techniques into this one cushion! All of it makes me happy, patchwork and quilting is my passion.

See how everyone else interpreted the 'passion' theme and their finished projects at le challenge. If you have made something that fits the theme come and link up for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to the Fat Quarter Shop!

Le Challenge

Friday, 13 March 2015

cross hatch quilting tutorial

I am going to share how to do simple cross hatch quilting, some helpful tips and what to avoid. In the past I have tried various ways of doing this; using different basting methods, various marking tools / pens / machine guides, different stitch lengths etc. This is the best method I've found and I love the results. Cross hatch quilting is really effective and looks beautiful on quilts, it is also a great way to add texture to cushion covers.

1. Spray baste your quilt - generally I prefer to pin baste but cross hatch quilting requires a lot of marking and those pins will just get in the way. It is also important that your quilt is well basted and the spray is an excellent way to ensure that, I use 505 Spray Adhesive. If you don't feel happy about using spray you could use fusible wadding instead.

2. Use the longest ruler you have, it will make life easier! My 6.5" x 24.5" ruler is perfect for this and I use it often. How you chose to line your ruler up may well depend on your fabric. For instance if the print is directional you might want to make your first quilting line follow the pattern, there may be gaps in the print where you want your quilting lines to be or you could line the 45° mark on your ruler with the edge of the fabric to get an angle. For this project I used the X print as a guide, angling the ruler so the 1/2" mark on my ruler ran through the Xs.   

3. Mark your quilting lines - I use a Clover Hera Marker. This scores the fabric, leaves a neat straight line and I find that using a hera marker seems to further baste the quilt. 
You use a hera marker in the same way as a rotary cutter; hold the handle (the thicker end), align the edge of the marker with the ruler, press down and push forward along the length of the ruler while maintaining the downward pressure. The curved edge runs smoothly along the fabric (make sure you aren't using that pointy side!) in the same way a rotary cutter would. 
To create a perfect line don't move the hera marker forwards and backwards and try to get continuous lines as much as you can. I usually do this on a table or on the floor, pressing forward as far as my arm will stretch, then lifting the marker, realigning the ruler (if necessary) and repeating.

Make sure the first marked line runs through (or close to) the centre of the quilt as you can then work out from this and it will help avoid puckering later.

4. Decide on the spacing - you might want to create a small or wide grid effect, again this is probably best determined by your fabric choice. I used Cotton and Steel Basics XOXO in Night Owl and you can see marking the lines every 1" works perfectly. Only mark one set of lines (going one way), do not mark out the full cross hatch yet.

5. Quilt - I use a stitch length of between 3 and 4 (I have a pretty basic Janome sewing machine), you might want to experiment on a quilt sandwich to determine what exact length works best with your machine but it does need to be a longer stitch than you use for piecing. I always use my walking foot for straight line quilting.
Starting at one side, use the marked line as a guide and stitch along the line. When you reach the end do not travel back up the next line, you need to clip the threads, move the quilt and start back on the same edge where you began quilting. It is far better to quilt in the same direction!

Always quilting in the same direction helps immensely to stop those mother puckers. In the photo below I changed the direction of my quilting lines in the centre, so you can see in between those middle quilting lines the fabric is far more rippled. In the next step you will be quilting across the lines and that baggy channel I've created means that I am more likely to get puckers. 
I am using this piece for the back of a cushion so I wasn't that bothered and wanted to show you the difference. Again you could experiment with a test piece to see what works best on your machine, quilting one way or doing the lines back and forth.

6. Repeat - when you have quilted all the marked lines you need to repeat marking the lines across in the other direction. Using the hera marker after quilting the first set of lines again helps keep everything straight and neat. Quilt those lines then sit back and admire your cross hatch quilting and the gorgeous texture you've created!

You can create brilliant effects using this method - square cross hatching, or diamonds like I have done here -  you could also experiment with using irregularly spaced lines and different angles.

Please link back to this tutorial and leave a link below so I can see your projects if you use this method and find it helpful! I would love to hear about any other tips you have too :)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

enjoy every moment

I was thinking about what I've been sewing this week and didn't feel it was much but actually I've been so engrossed in my current project I nearly overlooked it! I did some English Paper Piecing, some appliqué, machine and hand quilting for this months le challenge project... all will be revealed this weekend when the link opens - we always have a giveaway so you should check it out!

I am currently finishing it up by hand sewing down the binding:

I did a little work on my green tea and sweet beans quilt too. I hate making bias strips and can never get them as thin as I would like so I got a smaller bias tape maker and used fusible web with it (after a colleague recommended it). Well my first attempt was a shocking mess, it nearly all went in the bin! After a couple of days I tried again and I'm not sure how but it just worked so well. Maybe I was in a bad mood or too tired the first time?!

I love the result, although I have now pinned them as well; I tend to chuck my sewing around a lot so better to be safe - it did fuse well so you wouldn't need to pin. This is just what I was hoping for and it is SO easy to work with, the strips are totally flat and even. If you hate making bias strips I would recommend giving it a try! This is the beginning of my second appliqué flowers block:

A little sponsor news...

The Fat Quarter Shop are currently having a great promotion (I would spend $100 just on buying more of that beautiful background fabric above - it's Whisper Firefly, Hello Bear by Bonnie Christine if you fancy it!):

And Pink Castle Fabrics are Spring cleaning and having a Super Sale, with loads of gorgeous deals to be had!

Hope you're having a great week and enjoying every moment too :)

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Friday, 6 March 2015

dun dun... dun dun

A fun finish this week, a shark pencil case for my son's friend using this tutorial.

It's not the most perfect sewing on my part but I enjoyed using a crazy stitch on my machine and hand stitching eyes - yeah I have no black buttons or white zips left, must add those to the shopping list! 

Yesterday was World Book Day and I let the kids chose characters from their favourite books. Joan chose a classic tale and wanted to be the gingerbread man - we made her mittens last weekend and I sewed some buttons on a hoodie. Bit of lip liner on the nose and cheeks and she was done (fyi the Chanel waterproof liner on her cheeks lasted ALL day so if you're in need of one I would recommend it!). Fred wanted to be a milk bottle, from his current obsession Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman. I appliquéd the obvious (but necessary) letters on his t-shirt and he wore a cheap glitter hat with a straw stapled on the side. They were both super happy and they each won a best dressed award in class - going up on stage in assembly! The school seem to appreciate hand made, make-do costumes. I am proud they were so confident in their choices and pleased my kids love reading as much as I do!

Children are such a blessing and the wonderful Jodi has invited us all to make hexie flowers for Rachel, whose new baby daughter Eleni is currently in NICU. It's a lovely idea to send her flowers stitched with love and, other than keeping her in my thoughts, it feels nice to be able to contribute something. If you would like to send flowers please read Jodi's post here.

at Quokka Quilts this week