Thursday, 31 January 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today I'm thankful for so many things! January has been a great month, a vast improvement on 2012 so far :-) I have enjoyed so many things that I didn't have the time or the energy for last year. There are even signs of a long awaited shelf appearing in my sewing room...
Meanwhile, today I have gone from this...

to this...


and to this, the top two complete rows! If you are following this as a beginner to patchwork, you need to know the ironing bit...

See how the seams are pressed one way on the top row, and the other way on the second row? That will help so much when sewing the rows together.

 Here are all the lovely rows, pressed and ready!

Take the top two rows, and stitch them together, sewing from left to right. 

I very rarely pin, preferring to use my fingers to gently manipulate the fabric through the machine, making sure the seams match up. 

Sew all the rows into pairs, each time working from left to right.

Then sew pairs into fours, this time sewing from right to left. I hope that makes sense. It just means that it will correct any slight warping of the fabric that may occur if you sewed each seam in the same direction.

Two halves ready... and a grand finale!

I love this quilt! It is so bright and colourful, so not at all me ;-)

I would never pick a wide range of colours like this, all my quilts are 'safe' shades of a similar palette. 

This is great! Can't wait to get on and quilt in and start using it. 
I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial on how to make the simplest of quilts, made effective through using a charm pack (or four). If you make one yourself, please do send me a photo, I'd love to see it!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

It's a stitch up...

We're still deep in snow, and now slippery ice. It's been great fun over the last few days, but also a good excuse to stay in and sew! While the snowman is still standing, I'll happily use the opportunity to hibernate...

 So, it's now time to turn this lot...

...into a quilt. To start with, take the two columns on the right hand side and stack them carefully, with the ones from the bottom of the photo underneath. You should end up with two little piles:

Simply take the right hand one, and position it carefully face to face with the left hand square, making sure all the edges match. I rarely bother pinning, and will hold them in place. It now makes a big difference if you have a quarter inch foot on your sewing machine...

If you look closely, you should see a slight metal edge to the foot. So long as you keep the fabric butted up against the edge, you will be sewing a neat quarter inch seam, and all your squares will then come together nicely. For our next trick, when you get to the end, don't bother removing the fabric. Just do one or two stitches over nothing, and slide the next two squares under the foot.

This saves both time and thread, and also helps to keep the column together. You will rapidly end up with the whole column in one long chain...

My preference is to keep it together at this point, until each column is ready. So, I just lay it back in place, and pick up the next pile.

 In no time at all, you will get them all done.

If you want to skip ahead, the next stage is to snip the tiny stitches in between, and start joining the rows together. It's time for a warming hot chocolate here first though :-)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Easy peasy patchwork...

Several kind local friends (hello to you) have confessed, generally at the school gate, to enjoying the blog. However, as they have yet to discover the great joy of cutting up brand new fabric in order to sew it back together, they refrain from commenting or joining in. Yet. 
When I ordered my charm packs last week, I knew I was heading for a very easy quilt design. Sometimes, when the design is too easy, the finished item isn't so satisfying, as you know there was very little skill involved. But this next quilt isn't about that for me, it's about making a very simple, homely quilt, that just looks comforting and makes you want to snuggle up.
Coincidentally, one friend emailed to ask how to get started with patchwork, and was looking for some straightforward advice. Then another one asked why I hadn't been linking the blog to facebook lately, as that's how she follows it. 
So, this blog entry is for all you lurkers!
To start with, you will need to get hold of some charm packs. Four will make you a decent sized quilt. A standard charm pack contains 42 squares, each one 5 inches squared. The beauty of them is that you get a range of different fabrics, all from a series and therefore all working well together. Charm packs are available in all good patchwork shops, and sometimes in department stores. However, as they are small and light, the postage isn't too bad so you can easily get them online. On this occasion, mine came as part of an order from America, so they were very good value at only $36 for the four, plus postage.

As you can see, I'm using two identical packs of Bella Solids, and then two different packs of patterned fabrics. However, both these packs are fabric designed by Kate Spain, and therefore it's a fairly safe bet that they will coordinate well.

To plan my design, I started out by splitting each pack of solids into four piles. The packs are arranged in colour order, so this separated out the colours.

I pulled the duvet off the guest bed, as it was easier to lay the squares out on a flat sheet. I took one set of squares at a time (ie a quarter of a charm pack) and laid them out as they came, not trying to manipulate the layout at this point. When all the solids were spread out, it looked like this...

Unfortunately the bedsheet is bright pink, so the effect so far is not great, something like Elmer the Elephant, but bear with me... One thing I did do, was to add in one extra charm square that I had leftover from the last project. This enabled me to create a grid which is 13 by 13 squares. However, if you just have the four packs, you can do a 12 by 14 grid.

The next step was to take each of the patterned charm packs and divide them into four equal piles, again distributing squares of similar designs.

I then took one of the four piles from each fabric range, and mixed them together to blend the two ranges.

Next step was to position them randomly in between the solid squares...

At this point, it is really useful to take photos and upload them to your computer. I don't know why it is, but you notice things differently that way, and can spot clashes that you hadn't seen. It's also good to look from different angles! 

I stood and stared for ages, and made various changes. Fortunately I can leave it spread out overnight, and check again in the morning before I start sewing. I will then be back to show you the tricks of how to sew this lot together faster than you might think... 

Friday, 18 January 2013


Today is a perfect day to be staying at home and looking after a puppy. The snow is falling, and settling deeply, and it's all white and pretty outside. 

Earlier this week I looked out and saw a deer in the garden! We live on the edge of a town, but next to a small strip of woodland which is home to all sorts of wild animals.

Today, though, it is great to be warm and dry, and able to get on with my red and grey quilt. I started this before Christmas, and cut all the fabric and divided it into four equal piles. This way I can work on a quarter at a time. The first section came together quickly, but there has been a pause since then!

However, the second quarter is now done...

 and the third is well underway...

It's a fun way of displaying a range of fabrics.

I've tested it out on the guest bed; it will be wide enough to go over the sides, but only twice the height of this photo. The sizing is an experiment, so I'll have to see how the finished quilt looks!

After making my recent charm pack bag, I really loved the contrast of mixing up plain charm squares and patterned ones. Just as I was wishing I'd done a whole quilt, I saw an advert for Southern fabric and a special offer they were doing... falling straight into temptation, I ordered seven packs of charm squares at a very good price :-) They arrived yesterday, and I am itching to get started, but trying hard to restrain myself until red and grey is finished!

Hope you are warm and cosy!

Monday, 7 January 2013

The charm pack bag...

I'm hooked. After making Billy's bag, I realised how quick and easy it is to whip up a bag using charm squares. I've had my doubts about charm squares before, as I do feel they can stifle creativity more than they support it. However, I laid out all that I had left over from two different packs, one of solids and one of vintage modern. Couldn't believe my luck that I had exactly the same number left of each! I decided to put them all together in one bag and just go for it. 

When I saw how the fabrics worked together, I began to wish I had enough for a whole quilt. There was something old fashioned, and appealing about the look. Simple, colourful, and soothing.

The rows were so quick to chain stitch together.

I managed to make the top in less than an hour. 

 The usual straight line quilting!  

And a rapid finish!

Uh oh... Supersize me?!? Should maybe have given some thought to the dimensions before I started stitching... Perhaps making a quilt would have been better after all...