Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Suzuko Koseki Paper Piecing Bundle

I'm on half term and I am working away on some paper piecing projects including something for Fat Quarterly.  For the fabric, Becca of Sew Me a Song gave me the chance to make up my own Suzuko Koseki bundle, I could even get very fancy and say curated- I'm imagining myself stroking a London style beardy chin just writing the word, although its not quite the same image on a forty-something woman as it is on a young male hipster.  Anyway, I leapt at the chance and it arrived today.  I am thrilled and I love it. Twelve beautiful fabric fat quarters of rich colour saturation featuring my favourite fabric designer. 

The daisies are a new Suzuko Koseki print and I new I had to include them.  My other choices reflected a mix of colours, large, medium and small prints, light, bright and dark colours and a range of text prints.  I'll be using a neutral background with these to showcase their finery.  The Fat Quarterly project won't be for a while yet, but if you want to get your hands on this bundle, the lovely Becca has it listed in her shop right now!  Here as fat quarters and here as fat eighths.  You will find yardage of the different prints in her shop.

sib blog

Monday, 20 October 2014

318 Patchwork Patterns: How to Freezer Paper Piece

Welcome to the first stop on the  318 Patchwork Patterns: Original Patchwork & Applique Designs blog hop.  I have been a fan of this book for so long, first the original Japanese publication by Kumiko Fujita and the reissue and translated version reprinted by Zakka Workshop/World Book Media.  At the end of this post, there is a giveaway to win a copy of 318 Patchwork Patterns and all are welcome to enter, the winning copy will be sent anywhere in the world!

It is a book of few words but now I can actually read the brief text in the book!  More than anything else, it is a book to inspire!  It is a mix of paper pieced and appliqué designs. This blog post is going to cover two themes: firstly how to prepare and reproduce the small image in the book to make a 6" x 6" finished block; and secondly, how to sew the block using freezer paper piecing.  I am concentrating on block, #160, House on a hill and my 6" square block ended up as a small wall hanging.

The main construction method described  in the book for the pieced blocks is hand piecing but it is possible to machine piece the blocks using freezer paper piecing and even foundation paper piecing although some adaptations may need to be made on some designs.  If you want to follow the hand piecing method, Wynn has lots of hand piecing advice at Zakka Art.  You could even adapt some blocks for English paper piecing- the pin cushion block #15 from 'Sewing Goods' section would be a good example of a pattern that would work well using EPP- see Jessie's blog series English Paper Piecing Basics for this technique.

Preparing the Image
1. Enlarge: Method One, Photocopy
The majority of blocks in 318 Patchwork Patterns are 2 ⅜" x 2 ⅜" .  You can either use a photocopier to increase the size of the block by enlarging by 250%.  Technically- this will make the block slightly under 6" so if you want precisely 6", enlarge by 253%.  Now your block is enlarged.  If you want your finished block to face the same way as the drawing, the image needs to be flipped or mirror images in some way- we'll do this when we transfer the drawing to freezer paper.

2.  Enlarge: Method Two, Scan
I use a desktop scanner rather than a photocopier to reproduce the blocks and then some basic tools on my iMac to increase the image size.  I will also mention a method for a PC.  Firstly I scan the page I need.  My canon scanner scans at actual size and loads it to my desktop.  Alternatively, you could use a scanner app- I tried Cam Scanner on my iPhone and it worked fine.   Next, I use a programme called Preview that came with my iMac to isolate the design I want to use.  The scanned image will automatically open in Preview.  I choose Rectangular Selection from the selection tools.  This tool allows you to draw a border around the image that you want to select and it will show the size of the box so you can draw an accurate square or rectangle.

Once the square is drawn (shown as a dotted line around the chosen image) go to Tools and select Crop.

The image is now isolated and ready for you to 'Select All' and once it is selected, choose Copy.

You now have a picture that can be saved and is ready to paste into a document and resize.  I use a blank Microsoft Word document, paste it in and change the picture size to exactly 6" square using the right button on the mouse and choosing Format Picture and then the Size option.  I chose  6.01" to allow for the line around the block.  The advantage of using this method rather than photocopying is that there is now an option to 'flip' the image so that the design is reversed ready for piecing and the finished block will come out facing the same way as the original drawing.  In the Formatting Palette tools, you can then choose Rotation and Flip Horizontal.  

If you are using Windows, the equivalent to Preview is Windows Photo Viewer.  Choose Open from the menu bar and then Paint and you will see  rotation and flip options.

3. Trace and Number
The design is ready to number the pieces and then trace on to freezer paper.  There is no definitive method to number the pieces.  The designs in this book are too complex to be pieced in a single section, instead I usually eyeball the picture to work out how many sections there will be, give each section a letter, A,B,C etc and number the pieces.  There is likely to be a Y seam in most blocks so I keep an eye out for these too.  You can see my sections in this picture and I have numbered the top section and marked the Y seams on the chimneys/roof/sky.  You can also add tick marks to help match up tricky areas like diagonals- see section C where I have added them in blue.  There are no hard and fast rules here.  I could have sectioned the design a different way but the three horizontal sections seemed the easiest.

If the image has been flipped, you can lay freezer paper over the top so that the dull papery side is facing you and trace  transferring all the information.  If the image hasn't been flipped, lay the freezer paper on top with the waxy side facing you and use a sharp hard pencil to trace the image- then turn the paper over and write the piece numbers/sections information on the paper side- the image is now flipped.

4. Freezer Paper Piecing
i.  Once the pattern has been traced, I work on one section at a time and only cut out that section- so I don't lose any small pieces.  Each piece is cut out along the traced lined using a scalpel knife and quilt ruler.  Press the waxy side of the paper to the wrong side of your fabric using a hot iron and cut out allowing 1/4" eam allowance all round.  I use a generous 1/4" to allow for the space of the stitches, the important thing is to be consistent on all pieces.  This is all of section A prepared with seam allowances.

ii.   The first seam is straightforward. Pieces A1 and A2 are placed right sides together, I align the corners of the freezer paper templates on both pieces precisely using a vertical pin and this method, hold the pieces together and the stitch the seam from end to end.  I use a very small stitch, usually 1.5mm so that the stitches are secure and I don't need to secure the seam at the beginning and end.  Piece A3 is added in the same way.  The chimney area above the roof is complete.

iii.  The next piece involves sewing a partial seam in preparation for the Y seams when pieces A5 and A6 are joined.  When piece A4 is added,  the seam starts where the pieces of freezer paper meet together- see the photo below- and finishes where the freezer paper ends.  The seam allowances are left unstitched. For this type of seam you will need to secure each end of the seam.  Precision sewing is required!  Start by sinking the needle into the precise position by hand or using 'needle down' button, then lowering the foot .  Then sew slowly, three stitches forwards and three stitches back- counting each stitch!   If you prefer, you can hand crank this step. Then, sew forwards stopping exactly where the freezer paper ends and reversing to secure the seam.  It may help to mark the stopping point using a  pencil to give yourself a target to aim for.  If you go over by one stitch when you start or stop the seam you will need to unpick that stitch and sew it again.

iv.  Now, to sew the first part of the Y seam.   I like to sew from the intersection outwards as I find it gives better results and I have chosen to sew the shorter seam first between pieces A1 and A5.  As in the picture below, arrange the fabrics so that A4 is lying away from the seam and the needle is sunk where the intersection between pieces A1 and A5 starts.  As in step iii  above, sink the needle, lower the foot and sew forwards three stitches, backwards three stitches, and then sewing to the end of the seam.

 Repeat the same process starting at the intersection between A4 and A5 (see pic below) and sewing the seam outwards.

The completed Y seam can be seen in the picture below. You can press the seams how you wish.   When I trim the threads from each seam, I like to leave 1/2" of thread tails which discourages any unravelling and stop little bits of thread poking through.

Repeat with piece A6 for the other side of the roof using the Y seam technique in step iv.  That completes section A.  The remainder of the block is sewn by sewing the remaining sections B and C adding the pieces in numerical order using standard seams.   The sections are then sewn together to match the picture.  With freezer paper piecing, aligning the sections precisely when you stitch them together makes for a much better looking block so use the pin technique as before when matching the roof to the house, house to the hill and trunks to the trees. You can even use a little glue basting to get the alignment spot on!

 I added 2 ½" wide sashing around the block and then I hand quilted the block onto wadding.

I added backing and hanging corners and stitched in the ditch around the block.

I used a wide single binding, 2 ¼" wide and sewn on with a ½" seam allowance for a picture frame effect.  You can find my single binding tutorial  here

If you have any questions about freezer paper piecing, email me and I will do my best to answer!  Meanwhile, enjoy the beautiful makes on the blog hop!  You can find the blog hop details below and for those who like to sew along, Al is hosting a 318 quilt-along here.
GIVEAWAY TIME!  To win a copy of 318 Patchwork patterns, comment below saying what you would like to see featured in a paper piece design?  A cat? A hair dryer? A steam train?  Anything you like!  If you are a blog follower you can have an extra entry- just state how you follow in your second comment.  I will need to be able to contact you by email.  I will announce the winner on Friday 24th October.
Here are the other hop dates:

318 Patchwork Patterns Blog Hop

·      October 22nd  Penny Layman from
o   Project: Gardening apron with blocks from Vegetables collection
·      October 24th Angela Pingel from
o   Project: Wall hanging or bunting from Halloween collection
·      October 27th Amy Sinibaldi from
o   Project: Tote bag with appliqué blocks
·      October 29th Amber Carrillo from
o   Project: Blocks from Christmas collection
·      October 31st Latifah Saafir from
o   Project: Baby blanket from At the Circus collection
·      November 3rd Charise Randell from
o   Project: Make up kit and shoe bag from Girls’ Night Out collection
·      November 7th Amy Friend from
o   Project: Table runner with blocks from Fruits collection
·      November 5th Leila from
o   Project: Tea Cozy from Tea Time Collection
·      November 12th Caroline from
o   Project: Tote or pouch with appliqué block
·      November 10th Faith Jones from
o   Project: Mini quilt from Vehicle Collection
·      November 14th Rashida Coleman-Hale from

sib blog

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Craft a Creative Business : Book review

I've known Fiona Pullen for a while now, firstly on social media and checking into her Sewing Directory website.  Then I won a competition at Sewing Directory.  I met Fiona in person at the first Fat Quarterly retreat and then we met in person again as she has family in my area.  Now Fiona lives in Devon and she has written the book that she was born to write, Craft a Creative Business.  

Fiona is a dynamic hardworking woman with incredible business skills and a love of crafting, especially sewing.  She can problem solve all day long and is funny and positive even during hard times.  If I want anyone to tell me about business, I want it to be her!   Fiona writes with a friendly,  clear voice.  She covers a wide range of issues and topics relevant to a creative business (and many other small businesses) with no flannel, making complex subjects simple and easy to understand and absorb.  You can work your way through from beginning to end or, more likely, dip into the chapters that you either need to work on for your business or are naturally drawn to.  It's an interactive read; Fiona suggests at the beginning that you start the book with a notebook at your side and complete the activities as you go (these are the  ring bound notebook boxes on the page).  At the end of the book you will then have a notebook full of good ideas and plans for your enterprise.

This book is a joy to read and that in itself is an achievement in a book about business.  It is well laid out, with each chapter having a different background colour and information is presented in a mix of styles so you eye and brain is kept stimulated.  Its a neat size 6 ¾" x 8 ¼" too, easy to carry round and read on the go.

The coverage is vast, from tweaking your merchandise photographs to insurance, to google analytics.  
Its no surprise to me that the chapters that are particularly helpful are those on legal matters and the online themes of Social media and Online Market place; Fiona trained as a lawyer.  Legalities are not the most interesting to think about but they do have to be understood and mastering an online presence is an essential part of any business today.  Much of the success of Fiona's own business, Sewing Directory, has come from her knowledge of law and her social media skills.  Her etiquette guides to Twitter, Facebook and her Do's and Don'ts of Social Media are must read sections if you are new to any aspect of social media.

 I am self employed small business woman in my non sewing life- that sounds so fancy but really it means I run music classes for babies and toddlers as part of a supportive and friendly franchise.  Like many small businesses, I chose it because I love teaching (I used to be a primary teacher) and I wanted a job to fit round my daughter who was just starting school at the time.  Much of the online sections could be applied to this business, a non craft endeavour, and I worked my way throughout the section on Search Engine Optimisation (I think this could be Fi's specialist subject if she ever decides to go on Mastermind!).  The way Fiona explained it was easy to understand and my meta tags, which were a bit vague and wishy washy, are now focused, up to date and ready for google searches.

 There are special guests with varying words of wisdom from all over the craft world.  Some chimed with me, others not so much but there is something for every sort of craft business.  I especially liked Kristin's (Sewmamasew) contribution, I could not agree more with her focus on community and reciprocity.  I do lots of work for free, blog hops, tutorials sharing links with projects and books that I find interesting and I hope you will too.  Most of these came about through slowly building relationships with a variety of people and businesses over the years.  Most are unpaid or without direct material benefit, occasionally I get sent a book or some thread which is always a treat- who doesn't love free stuff, but most are goodwill, support and mutual appreciation.

I should declare that I was sent this book for free as a review copy and that obviously I know Fiona.  If I had a criticism the only thing that comes to mind is the font choice in the little post-it note style squares- its a handwriting style font and just not to my taste and was probably decided by someone else.  There is nothing else to criticise!  Fiona has a dedicated website to  this book and keeping the topics up to date.  If you are having even the vaguest thoughts about starting a crafty business, this book is your new best friend.  Read it, do the activities and be prepared for what having a small business throws at you.  Its a tough world out there and everyone needs a friend!  It goes on sale mid November as is available for pre-order.

Well done Fiona, I await your next book- there is so obviously going to be another!

sib blog

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Love Patchwork and Quilting: Winter House

I've so many things to blog about at the moment, I don't have time to get them all in, but I really want to share a foundation paper piecing project that is just about to come out in October's copy of Love Patchwork and Quilting.  You know my favourite things to paper piece are teapots and houses, so in preparation of the colder weather  a 'Winter House' foundation pieced cushion cover.

I love the photo styling!   I find cushions and pillows hard to photograph so its amazing what a professional can do!   This is a a skills builder project:  there are downloadable free full-size templates on the LPQ website for the paper piecing and I cover the foundation piecing process in details; there is a mitred corner border so the house looks like its sitting in a picture frame; and finally there is a machine stitched zipper opening which could easily be replaced by an envelope style opening too.

I kept to a muted cool palette with a hint of warmth just hinting at Christmas.  
This is the issue to look out for, you can see Lynne's new BOM top right in very pretty new Windham 'Mimosa' fabrics, as well as Cristina's stunning star quilt and a hint of Christmas with Ali's star stockings and Judith's easy paper pieced winter tree triangle projects.

sib blog

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Quilty Fun Birthday Block

Lori Holt of Bee in My Bonnet and Fat Quarter shop are celebrating a year since the publication of Lori's Quilty Fun book with cutting instructions for a free birthday block which you may have seen popping up on Instagram, blogs etc.  This is my version- I added a little flame to the candle too!

I went for saturated colours and a bright background- Michael Miller cotton couture in turquoise.  The little flame addition was a mix of a little Y seam and then paper pieced, fiddly but I like the effect.

The download is cutting instructions only- its easy to assemble if you are familiar with Lori's easy techniques like easy corner triangle which she covers in Quilty Fun and in her blog tutorials

For UK and non USA people looking for the book, it is available here at Kaleidoscope quilting and books.  Its an easy block to make, I cut mine out and laid it as the diagram on a tray and then worked my way through the main sections of the cake.   It would make a lovely block for a first birthday baby quilt too!
sib blog

Friday, 10 October 2014

Autumn Wonderland Maxi: Darling Ranges

I loved wearing the Megan Nielsen's Darling Ranges Dress I made when I tested the revamped PDF version last year and a few months back, I bought three metres of Autumn Wonderland by Elosie Renouf from her Bark and Branch collection for Cloud 9 from Eternal Maker  (I can only find some here in the UK and also here (thanks to Andrea!) with an eye to making another this year.  I am not a detailed planner when it comes to quilts, garments or sewing generally.  I do however do a lot of thinking and mulling over.  Sometimes I sketch out thoughts and have a particular fabric in mind but I rarely have buttons, zips, thread, interfacing all perfectly ready and I tend to go with the process as I make it.  When I came to make this dress I had maxi dresses on my mind.  The weather is changing, I hate wearing tights and leggings.  I tend to wear long thin socks instead and so my skirts and dresses need to be long to go from autumn to winter so I ended up with a maxi Darling Ranges frock.   

I made most of my alterations last time with a small bust adjustment and cutting the small size.  This time, I used the skirt from Simplicity Cynthia Rowley dress 1801 which has a maxi option.  The skirt pattern pieces are almost the same width as the Darling Ranges skirt pieces but they have a slight A line cut and the pockets are sewn in on the waist seam as well as the side.  The skirt length was around 37" unhemmed. 

I lengthened the three quarter length sleeve option by 2" and used the cuff pattern piece from the Tova pattern

I added a skirt lining as I realised the fabric was going to be a bit light for a winter dress and I had some  thrifted old silk crepe  which was just the right length and the colour was perfect for this fabric and not much good for anything else.  I made the outer skirt first, including the pockets, and then made the skirt lining and placed the two together wrong sides together so the lining became an interlining and the fabric was then treated as one layer for joining the skirt to the bodice.  It helped to add a little structure on the skirt button bands too. 

 For the hem, I cut the lining layer to the finished skirt length.  I then double folded the hem on the outer skirt fabric and hand sewed the skirt hem to the interlining so nothing can be seen on the right side.  It was a little tricky to get the hang and drape of both layers to work together and I found it easiest to hang the dress on a door and work from the floor to pin the hem in place.  It does make for a lovely swishy skirt and adds warmth without adding bulk.  The silk was also much easier to sew that I thought- I fear slippery fabrics!

I had some pink snaps left form other project- these are from Cowgirl snaps and I used my tutorial  to attach them.

The cuffs and tie were left over chambray poplin from this skirt.

I like the waist to be relaxed and use the ties to pull it in.  

The end dress has a bohemian feel, is incredibly comfortable and reminds me a little of 1970s Ossie Clarke V-neck maxi dresses.  I have another maxi dress ready to blog, more to follow soon.

sib blog

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Cotton + Steel Upholstery

My husband knows my magpie eyes.  He knows my tendency to go out to get some milk and come back with a table.  On one of my regular Sunday car boot sale visits, I picked up a foot stool with a tilting platform- I hurt my knee a few months back and I wanted something to rest my leg on.  And then on a quick round the block dog walk I came back with a chair that was been thrown out during student house rennovations over the summer.  Both have proved to be ideal for a little Cotton + Steel canvas upholstery adventure.  I started with the easiest project, the foot stool:

It had a rather nasty satiny fabric covering the top and as it was clean, I left that in place as a base and just removed the hinges and took the wooden tilting top off.  Then it was simply a question of using a shape gun and hammering the staples into the back.  The fabric is Melody Miller 'Gallop' canvas from the Mustang collection.

The whole process took 30 mins tops.  Very satisfying!  Here it is in situ in our tiny living room.

Next the chair, this was more complex.  I cleaned the chair up, vacuumed and wiped it down.  I had to patch the seat a little as the material had worn through to the padding so I used some quilt wadding and patched it over the gap.  The seat and back rest unscrew and the seat was covered using a staple gun again but the rounded corners needed a little stitching to ease the fabric in.  This print is Tiger Stripes canvas in aqua from Alexia Abegg's Hatbox collection  and the only UK shop I could find with some in stock is M is for Make. 

You can see the gathering technique below- very simple and just used at the rounded corners.  I used a long stitch on my machine and Gutermann sew all poly thread as it is strong.  I temporarily pinned the fabric in place using very chunky pins and then stapled into the fabric layer  underneath and the wooden frame.  This is all covered up by another layer of plain cotton with the raw edges turned in and stapled on to neaten everything up.

So far so good, but the back rest was a little more problematic as it was curved and more of it is visible so nowhere to hide staples. 

 Instead, I covered the inward curve of the back rest front first.  I used the big pins as before to hold the fabric in place and a variety of hand stitches according to whatever seemed to work best.  It was hard work to sew as it's all by hand and the surface has only a little padding.  I had to pull the fabric tight to make sure it followed the curve.  The catch stitch worked best and I ended up redoing some areas so that it was catch stitch all the way round.

 I then used a piece of freezer paper to make a template for the back fabric: this is the side that screws into the wooden back supports.  I pressed the waxy side of the freezer paper onto the back rest and drew around the edge and cut out the template.  I then pressed this onto the reverse of the canvas and  cut a generous seam allowance all round.  Where the curve dips at the top, the fabric needs to stretch a little more so I cut some triangular notches into the seam allowance.  Around the outer curves, again I used a gathering stitch to manage the fullness.  The freezer paper is then removed and the back fabric is pinned in place with all the raw edges folded in and slip stitched it onto the fabric that I had already sewn on.

 It was hard going, painful on the finger tips but the end result was so neat.

Both pieces of furniture are in use and the fabrics are making us all happy! 

sib blog