Tuesday 30 June 2015

Super speedy chain-piecing tutorial

I have just been writing up my latest pattern, Cross My Heart, which is made up of rows of 5” squares - a super easy quilt, and so quick to put together, thanks to some speedy chain-piecing. 

Now, I’m not just talking about chain-piecing the squares here, one row at a time, I’m talking about chain-piecing the whole piece! You really could have this and many other quilts done in a day using this method!

I have tried explaining this method verbally, and got a little tongue-tied, so I thought I would write a tutorial, pics an' all.

Lay out your quilt blocks as the your pattern shows, in this case I’m using the Cross My Heart quilt as an example.

Working from the right-hand side towards the left of each row, place each square on top of it’s neighbour, so in the case of the Row 1, place orange on top of dark blue, then grey on top of this, then yellow on top, then yellow again, yellow, dark blue, turquoise, white, and finally white again.

Do this with all of your rows, then label each one with their number, Row 1, Row 2, and so on. I use scraps of paper for this. Place each pile next to your sewing machine, being sure to keep them separate. If I have a lot of rows, I bring my ironing board to the table and use that. 

So we’re going to sew all these rows together at the same time. Starting with Row 1, take your first two squares, in this case the two white squares, lay the second square on top of the first and sew down the right hand side. This placement is very important, particularly when you have two different coloured squares, as in Row 2 below. Do not break thread.

Now move on to Row 2, and do the same, in this case turquoise onto white, then again, without breaking thread, Row 3 – dark blue onto yellow – and so one until you have attached the first two squares of every row.
Now break your last thread. 

Pull your chained pieces back through the machine so you can start again at the top. Open out your first two sewn squares of Row 1, take the next square from the Row 1 pile (turquoise) and place on top of your second square  (white), sew down the right-hand side as before. Don’t break thread.

Now do the same with Row 2 (turquoise onto turquoise) and so on. To keep track of which row I’m on, I turn over my numbered scrap of paper on the row I’m working on, then when I go back, I know where to go next.

When you’ve attached the third squares to all of their rows, break your last thread, pull your sewing back to the top and carry on with the rest of your rows. 

Once your rows are all sewn together, you should have a unit looking something like this with your rows attached to each other by strands of thread.

Carefully place onto your ironing board, and press your seams in opposite directions, so for the even rows, press seams towards the right, and for the odd rows, press seams towards the left. Now pin the first two rows together - as you have pressed your seams in opposite directions, they should lock into each other, matching up your seams nicely! Pin and sew all your rows together, press from the front and attach any borders. You now have a complete quilt top, how quick was that!?!

I made this quilt for my nephew's 18th birthday, he's a design student (no pressure then!) off to uni in the autumn, hopefully this will keep him warm in his student digs!

I pulled the solids from my stash, and then decided to add this orange print from Carolyn Friedlander's Botanics collection, I love how it just blends in with the solids.
When it came to the quilting, I chose to use wonderful Auriful threads in six different colours, and a couple in a heavier weight, which just added to the quilt's texture.

The Cross My Heart pattern is now on sale click here for more details and for so much more quilting fun!

I'm linking up with Let's Bee Social over at Sew Fresh Quilts, for more inpsiration and new projects, come and visit.

Monday 22 June 2015

Lovely HSTs and another published quilt!

I recently came across this method for constructing Half-square triangles (HSTs) by the wonderful Lynne Goldsworthy of Lily's Quilts, and wondered if I could adapt it for bigger sizes. After playing around with Illustrator and my quilter's ruler, I worked out the measurements needed, then had a play with some fabric, and couldn't believe how easy this method is. And what's more you don't have to trim down all those squares at the end - how many hours I have wasted?!! Because this is more or less foundation piecing, your sewing is so accurate that your squares come out the size they should be, unlike the two-squares-together method, which can come out a little wonky. 

Admittedly this method only works if you want a lot of identical HSTs, which many patterns do call for, but would not work for scraps or charm squares, we’ll have to stick to trimming down for those I’m afraid.

Anyway, I was so happy with this find, that I have written a little tutorial here to share the love, together with full-size templates for 2”, 2½”, 3”, 3½”, 4” and  4½” finished HSTs, and a handy table to work out how many HSTs you'll get from different cuts.

When writing PDF patterns and templates, I always print them out just to make sure they fit on the page at 100%, then realised that not everyone works on a Mac, or has Acrobat Reader, so I have also written a how-to guide on printing at full scale.

On another subject altogether, I was, and still am actually, feeling quite chuffed with myself this weekend. I have a quilt featured in July’s edition of British Patchwork & Quilting, and its none other than my mammoth Bargello quilt I designed and made for John Louden & Co! This was a bit of a mathematical nightmare to be honest, but I’m so pleased the mag used my graphics as well as the table to show which row goes where. All that head rubbing and muttering was worth it!

This quilt is made from John Louden’s range of Tie-Dyed effect fat quarters, which create this beautiful colour spectrum, just what we in such a dark and dank June! Did I miss summer??

I also have a very nice mention in P&Q's News and Views section - big smile!!

Update: Just in case you were wondering what on earth I was going to do with all those HSTs.... 

I’m linking up with Tips & Tutorials Tuesday over on Late Night Quilter, Let's Bee Social on Sew Fresh Quilts, and finally Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday - come and visit for lots more inspirational ideas and general quilt loving. 

Thank you for visiting, your comments are always welcome.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Sunday Stash #9 and a Doughty’s Special

When I sorted out my fabric stash a few weeks ago - ironed and folded all my lovely fabrics, then stood them on my shelf, in colour order - I was very pleased with the outcome, and also a little scared by the amount of fabric I own! I do believe in the mantra “you’re not a proper fabric addict unless you have a ridiculous horde”, but this was just silly! So I did try and vow to only use my stash for upcoming projects… 

...until that was good old Doughty’s announced a new range to hit their shop… Je Ne Sais Quoi (or Menage a trois as I called it in my quilt group, oops!) 

These fabrics are designed and printed in France on good quality cotton and are 60” wide. AND… they’re only £4.99 p/m. Now I was a little sceptical… surely at this price, they couldn’t be that good quality… I just had to find out, which of course meant buying more fabric. Ahem…

As well as a couple of novelty designs, this collection also has a good range of ditsy and geometric basics, and these are what I went for, in these three colourways.

 I also ordered a few of their Ditsy Basics range to check the scale, I love the chevrons!

They are all great! I love the colour combinations, they feel nice and have a good weight. As usual I couldn’t wait to cut into them (stash? What stash??) They were delivered on Thursday and I’ve managed to design and make a quilt top in the blue/green range, as well as make a cute little turtle for a friend’s little girl, isn’t she sweet! I do love this colourway of orange and pink together, and the soft grey through all the colourways seems to bring them together.

On about a new quilt, I decided to dig out my Hex and More ruler that I bought at QuiltCon and have a go at half-hexagons. However, full hexagons and triangles took hold yet again, and after much muttering and tutting I came up with this design, which I think I’ll call From Side to Side. I’ll be working on the pattern next week, but I’m quite pleased with it in my new fabrics.

Finally, I’d just like to add my finished mini quilt from my last blog, I do like how the grey sets off the multi coloured diagonals. 

I hope you have like my ramblings, thank you for visiting. If you would like to leave a comment, please do, and if you would like more inspiration and ideas, why not pop over to Molli Sparkles’ Sunday Stash link-up, and Let's Bee Social over on Sew Fresh Quilts.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Every Scrap is Sacred!

I have dedicated this week to developing my quilt kits. These have been in the back of my mind for years, even before working for Doughty’s! Now that I have a few patterns under my belt, I feel it's time to move on to pre-cut kits. I do love a pre-cut, and having spent time helping customers choose colours for their projects, I know that not everyone is confident when it comes to colour co-ordination. Enter the pre-cut - where the hard work of matching fabrics is all done for you and you can get on with the sewing!

After much deliberation, I have settled on what fabric I want to use, and am now working on getting some of the million ideas that go around my brain daily onto paper! As I am determined to actually try out all my patterns before publishing them, I like to practice with my own stash first before cutting into anything new and ‘special’. Today however, I really have outdone myself! 

A few months ago I ran a quilt workshop for Doughty’s on my Whirlwind of Colour quilt – one of my designs for John Louden. Before the class I had to pre cut some jelly rolls using my Sizzix Big Shot Pro and their four-strip die… a very nice bit of kit! Anyway, I tend to cut a metre of fabric at a time, so the only wastage are thin strips cut from the folded edges and I put these in a bag with a half-hearted idea of doing something with them one day... sad I know!

Now, as I was sitting with my sketchbook the other night, half an eye on the TV, something stirred at the back of my brain, and out popped this…. Something to do with all those strips!

I knew some of the block would have to be foundation-pieced, but felt to have the whole centre strip done like this would drive me mad when it came to taking the papers out. So I decided to try something I’ve not done before – string piecing, or stitch-and-flip I think some call it. I made up a couple of panels using muslin as a foundation. I then drew up the foundation block, worked out the measurements for the white strips and grey triangles, and made up four gorgeous looking blocks, don’t you love them!!!

I think I’ll border it in white, or maybe grey, I’m not sure… but definitely with more strips for the binding. Just goes to show, every scrap is worth keeping! Oh dear, what have I said!?! 

There will be a pattern for this very soon, once I've turned it into something... so watch this space.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings, thanks for stopping by – your comments are always welcome. Today, I’m linking up with Let’s Bee Social over at Sew Fresh Quilts, and Freshly Pieced’s WIP Wednesday.

Sunday 7 June 2015

Sunday Stash #8, Boro and Two New Patterns

A couple of weeks ago we went to visit my mum in London, which just happened to be the same weekend Middlesbrough Football Club were playing at Wembley… we honestly didn’t plan it this way! As some of you may know, Justin is a Boro fan, and I myself have been known to go to the odd game. including Ostrava in the Czech Republic, and Eindhoven for the Uefa Cup final, I'll have you know! Me a glory seeker?? Never!

Anyway, Justin was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Monday, and after seeing a friend Sunday afternoon, we decided to wonder over to Trafalgar Square where we’d heard Boro fans were starting to congregate. Now, I don’t know if this is just with Boro fans, or it’s the same with other family clubs, but I can honestly say that I love being around these fans. Not only are they the most friendly of people, but they really will have a laugh with anyone! I especially found this on a 5hr journey on a Czech train going from Prague to Ostrava! But that was a lifetime ago!

I’ve heard there were approx. five thousand fans in Trafalgar Square that night, and yes, some were climbing on the statues, and there may have been the odd half naked body in the fountains, but there was also such a great atmosphere, loads of families with young kids, lads a little tipsy on London-priced beer, and just a great joy of being there and sharing the hope for the match the next day. Does this happen with other teams?? I really don’t know. There was no trouble all night, all weekend for that matter. The only dampner on the whole thing was that the actual team ‘failed to turn up’ as the pundits say, and lost 2-0.

As we were in London, I of course had to visit Liberty. So having sent Justin off to Wembley, me and mum went ‘up west’ where I had heard the landmark store had recently revamped their haberdashery dept. I was not disappointed, its beautiful and I strongly recommend a visit. Rather than having the tables of goodies around the balcony, there is now a separate room with even more kits and sets and general gorgeousness than ever! So inspiring! The scarf hall also looks amazing at the moment.

Unfortunately, as much as I love Liberty, working for myself at the moment means I can’t really justify buying their fabric. So how happy do you think I was when on Sunday morning, having walked around Spitalfields craft market, then Brick Lane to find The Rib Man, (best ribs ever!!!) we came across a back street fabric merchant, owned by a very smart older gentlemen. Sadly I can’t remember the name of the shop, or exactly where it was… hopefully I’ll find it again one day. Not only were there some beautiful dress fabrics, suitings, and heavier weight cottons, but I also found a horde of beautiful Liberty prints, for about half price! I recently bought this dressmaking book, with great intentions, so I treated myself to a couple of metres of each of these. I’m hoping to make a summer top or two… if not they’ll make lovely soft quilts!

Talking of quilts, I thought I’d just share my latest pattern releases with you. First we have Floating Lilies

This bright and modern quilt is based on hexagons and 60degree triangles, which when used together, avoids having to tackle those tricky Y-seams. The pattern also features partially-seamed hexagons for which I have added a new free tutorial here to whet your appetite! I have also included suggestions for pieced backing and for quilting your finished top. I am particularly pleased with the back where I decided to do more partial hexies, but in the oppposite colourway.

My second pattern is Snowballs in Spring, based on the traditional and very simple snowball block.

I was amazed at how quickly this quilt came together, and plan to make more of them. I decided to sew the blocks in a wonky Trip Around the World pattern, but I became worried it wasn’t working, the fabrics seemed a little too busy to show off the design. However, after a ponder over how to quilt it, I thought concentric circles emanating from the design’s centre square may bring the pattern together, which I think it has, I’m now very happy!

Both of these patterns include fabric requirements, full colour cutting and sewing instructions and layout plans. There is advice and suggestions on backings and quilting and I have included Helping Hand hints and links to my free online tutorials to guide you along the way. These patterns are available from my Folksy shop, in both PDF format (£5.95) and paper format (£6.95).

I hope you have like my ramblings, thank you for visiting. If you would like to leave a comment, please do, and if you would like more inspiration and ideas, why not pop over to Molli Sparkles’ Sunday Stash link-up.

For a bit of mid-week socialising, why not pay a visit to Let's Bee Social over on Sew Fresh Quilts, I do love this lady's work!

Tuesday 2 June 2015

How to Sew Partially-Seamed Hexagons

I came across this technique last year when I was working on a project for John Louden, only then I used squares, and I found it was much simplier than it looks! Thankfully, it is equally as simple with hexagons, which made my latest quilt, Floating Hexagons a joy to make. 

So I thought I would share this joy and give you an easy-follow guide on how to make these simple blocks. I am working with 4½” hexagons, and 1½” x 4" white border strips.

1) Take your coloured hexagon and pin a white strip along its top edge, with the left side hanging over the end of the hexagon very slightly. Sew only halfway across this seam, shown by the red dashed line. Secure with a couple of back stitches, and cut thread.

2) Open the seam and finger press upwards. Now moving anti-clockwise, pin your second white strip along the next edge of the hexagon and carry on across your first white strip. Sew along this whole seam, and cut thread. 


3) Unfold and fingerpress this second strip back as you did before, and carry on with your next three white strips. 

4) When you get to the last strip, fold your first strip up and out of the way so that you can sew along the whole last side of the hexagon. Fingerpress this strip back as before, then fold your first strip back down so that your can see your first seam, pin and sew along the whole length of your first strip, finishing off your partial seam, and so that your first and last white strips are joined like the others.

5) Now use your quilter's ruler to trim your block up, my block needs to be 6½” tall, so I aligned my ruler as below, noting that the 1¼” ruler marks line up with the inner seams of the white strips.

6) Trim all your ends and you now have a partially seamed hexagon!

7) If you would like to put this new skill to work, look out for my latest pattern, Floating Lilies, which uses these blocks together with triangles to make this gorgeous quilt. This pattern will be released onto very soon!

Thank you for visiting, your comments are always welcome. If you are looking for more handy tips, why not pop over to Late Night Quilter's Tips & Tutorials Tuesday link up. Enjoy!