Friday 20 September 2013

Scrappy makes me happy {very}

There is something about scrap quilts that makes me find them so visually exciting. All those bits of fabric left over from previous projects that come together and effortlessly seem to make a whole new quilt.

My scrap bin was getting out of hand again so I revisited my version of a Spider's Web quilt that I first made nearly two years ago.

Slow and steady wins the race.

It is not something you can knock up in a week. Each web is constructed of eight triangles. In this quilt alone there are 128 triangles which I've slowly been adding to as the weeks have gone by. I've stopped at this point because I've run out of background scraps. I still have the inclination to go bigger though, so will wait for some more scraps to be produced and then continue.

The original construction of a Spider's Web quilt is to mark equal sides down from the tip of the triangle.

I don't do that.

On one side I mark down from the tip and the other side I mark up from the bottom.
The original instructions I wrote for this method are here.

What that achieves is two different shaped Spider's Webs and for me that is more visually appealing. I also find the original version can be quite 'heavy' with the same large Spider's Web row after row. This way I think it gives a 'lighter' look and breaks up some of that rigid heaviness.

The shape possibilities are endless, only dependent on what measurements you choose to use for each web.

And I just love it. I really love it for the fact it turns any old scraps into a mesmerising mix of colours that (in my head anyway) just seem to work.

It allows you to use up even the tiniest of scraps. It's like looking at a huge memory book of my life in quilts for the past few years.

And that makes me happy.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday


Wednesday 18 September 2013

I gave...

My partner requested a Noodlehead Super Tote and said her favourite colour was purple.

You had to make a small item as well. These are also a Noodlehead pattern: the free Open Wide Zippered Pouch. I enjoyed making one so much, I made it in all three sizes.

And I received...

A lovely cushion with some wonderful finishing touches. The little label at the right hand side says 'laugh often' and the zipper pull on the back has a little metal bird on it.

A beautifully constructed pouch.

And the small thing with the pins sticking into it is a finger pin cushion which I happen to think is the bees knees. All made by the very talented Amy. Thank you again.

The Sew Sew Modern (Round 3)  swap on Flickr. 

Sunday 15 September 2013

Dear Leila...

OK, so I now understand that when I am putting up these posts about hand piecing, a lot of people think they are EPP (which they're not) and even more people have questions about hand piecing per se.

So for Leila in particular who asked questions about hand piecing that I'd never really thought about, here's a post on how I do it. It's really 'simples' (stick with it if you're not British). There are also some really good resources already out there which go into it in much greater detail than I am going to and I'll mention those at the end of this post.

First off though EPP (English Paper Piecing) versus regular hand piecing- ie stitching two pieces of fabric together the way you would on a sewing machine.

While I admire some of the tiny, intricate EPP work I see on the internet, conversely I do see quite a bit where I think 'why did you go to all the trouble of EPPing that when a quicker and just as accurate end result could have been achieved just by sewing the bits of fabric together.'

I think EPP would be useful if you were sewing really tiny pieces of fabric together and you were worried about fraying but for the vast majority of the time, I don't personally think it is necessary. EPP just has too many stage processes yet I don't think you get a better end result.

So to get started with hand piecing you need your shapes. I tend only to hand piece more intricate shapes that would take a bit of maneuvering under the sewing machine.

The shapes I make with template plastic.

You can either cut them out with or without seam allowances and I explained the pros and cons of both in a previous post.

For the project I'm working on at the moment, I am using a template with a seam allowance and I explained how to mark the ends of your seams here

The size of your needle is important - the smaller and finer you go, logically the smaller your stitches will go and small is definitely what you are after. Clover Black Gold needles are the ones I use.

So taking my current project, I want to set this piece in, which involves sewing three sides of the shape with two inset corners.

You are going to start with the two pieces of fabric, right sides together and insert your needle through the marking dot you have made on both pieces of fabric. I'm starting on the right hand side of that brown shape and I'm going to sew in the three sides.

You are going to make a 'small as you can' stitch on the spot and then do it again to secure. You could also knot the end of your thread and then dispense with the two small stitches on the spot but I never remember to do that each time so this is what works best for me.

Now, if you feel confident, you're going to do a small line of running stitch towards your next end dot...which has a pin through it securing the two pieces of fabric. If you're not confident, pencil in the line between the two dots.

When you get to the end dot - and presuming you are then turning at an angle because eg. you are sewing a Y seam - leave your needle poking through the fabric nearest to you/facing you but not the back/other one and pivot it so it then goes through the new piece of fabric (at the back) that you'll be sewing along. Hopefully this next pic will make sense.

 I tend to use the nails on my left index finger and thumb as pincers and I bring them together between the fabric and push them up against the needle when it is in that corner position to feel if the needle has caught just the two pieces of fabric and not the third. It makes more sense when you try it rather than me sitting here typing it trying to explain it. Trust me.

I then like to do a couple of really small stitches to secure the corner and then you're all set and ready to start sewing to the next set of dots at the end of your line. Make sure you've secured those end dots together with a pin through them.

That really is the 'hardest' part and if you master it (which you will) it'll give you a nice, crisp inset seam with everything lying nice and flat and the points looking sharp. When you finally get to the end of where you are sewing, finish with a couple of back stitches and then you're done.

What is the optimum number of stitches per inch? I don't know and I don't really care. Just focus on making them small and evenly spaced and you'll be fine. If you can pile on as many as you can, onto the needle, before pulling the thread through, that will definitely speed things up.

Mine certainly aren't perfect but they do the job.

Do I press? I do a light finger press and then every time I complete a row or a block, I press.

Do I double up my thread? No, I just use a single strand of thread and off I go.

There are others who are way more adept at explaining hand piecing so please take a look at this video which I've recommended before - she gives instructions for both hand and machine piecing inset seams.

The ultimate book on hand piecing is also by Jinny Beyer - Quilt Making By Hand. I just can't think of any better book that explains the whole step-by-step process with clear visual instructions.

And that's it.


Adddendum: If you have any further questions I'll add them and answer them in this blog post.

With grateful thanks to The Photographer's Assistant age 11 who had to be dragged away from the more pressing business of  'styling my hair' to take the images for this post.

Friday 13 September 2013


Contentment is hand piecing.

Contentment is hand quilting with perle cotton but knowing when to switch to machine quilting.

 Contentment is being secure in the knowledge that what up close, may look like a complete dogs dinner...

...will miraculously transform itself into a quilt with movement, colour, interest and...


So that the only tiny bit of discontentment ... that it's finished.

And the search begins for another quilt bringing contentment.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Honeycomb Hand Piecing

I've always thought I would like to make a quilt that was just beautifully quiet. I've been thinking about it long before the words 'low volume' were being bandied around in quilty internet land.

Several years ago I started collecting fabrics like these.

I think at the time these were all the rage the 'look' was called 'shabby chic.' I'm not really sure any more.

I have looked at them over the years thinking I would like to make a quilt with them but as time has passed I've also fallen out a little bit of love with them, thinking they were a wee bit boring and a little bit too safe.

Enter some more, hopefully 'different' fabric, to spice things up a bit. Still trying to keep with the same values but just to add a bit more of a zing.


It's another hand-piecing project so this time I chose the honeycomb shape.

If it is to work successfully it requires a fair degree of accuracy.

So I cut myself a template.

I marked the intersecting corners 1/4" from the edge with a fine tip pen. I then took the little thingy (I have no idea what it is called. It was given to me during my very first quilt lesson), heated the end for about 20 seconds on a naked flame (I used my gas hob) and then centred it on to each pen mark, applied some gentle pressure which melted the plastic and allows you to push the end bit through to make your marking hole.

It's then a bit of a marathon to trace round the template (not forgetting to mark through the holes) and cut each individual piece out, especially if you choose to fussy cut as I did in some instances.

But once it started coming together it was definitely worth it.

I have no tips to impart on the technique for sewing honeycomb shapes together, other than to say it is Y seams all the way but really not difficult.

And this time, I do have a plan.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday

I'm going to make the honeycombs a sizeable central rectangle and then I'm going to make my own medallion quilt with lots of different rounds of who knows what.

That's my plan.

Edited to add: No, these are not EPP'd. I don't do EPP! They are just cut out and then I place the two pieces of fabric, right sides together, and sew from point to point with a small running stitch.
01 09 10