Fancy Foxes in Liberty!

Elizabeth Hartmann of http://www.OhFransson.com is a genius. Everyone knows it, but really, until you make her Fancy Fox quilt (or another of her patterns I assume), you don’t really appreciate it.

It really is a great pattern. Simple to piece using basic techniques, fun and cute, and the fox face is beautifully realised. She gives you all the cutting instructions and fabric requirements – and it all seemed to work out exactly as she said. I chose to make the original fancy fox pattern (there is a larger/giant block too with a different pattern) which you can get as an immediate pdf download here in her shop:

http://ohfransson.bigcartel.com/product/fancy-fox-quilts-pdf-quilt-pattern

It started with a friend of mine who fell in love with the fancy fox quilt but wanted me to make it alongside her. She sent me a gazillion pictures of Fancy Fox quilts, all of which I resisted, until finally I saw one in beautiful Liberty of London Tana lawn fabrics and I suddenly saw potential. I cut all my background fabric, noses and eyes, made these 4 with her, and then stopped for months as life took over. My friend decided not to go ahead with her project so no longer needed me to make them with her (she’s dyslexic), and these little foxes lay forgotten.

And then the lovely Michelle of http://www.coleandtaffy.com decided she wanted to make a Liberty fancy fox quilt, at a gentle 2 or 3 foxes a week, and we decided to sew along together on Instagram (she is @coleandtaffy and incredibly talented!). Soon we had others joining us, and my little foxes started multiplying, really without much fuss at all.

I have never sewn projects in this way – a kind of gentle, back-burner way. Usually I start, finish and end a project before starting another;somehow that makes me sew on some kind of self imposed deadline, like preparing for battle. I didn’t know I sewed like that until I sewed along with Michelle, who seems to have multiple projects on the go at all times. It felt like a very mindful way to sew. I would have chain pieced them all and had it done within a week had I been left to my own devices, but there was something very conscious and satisfying about sewing each fox individually. I even gave them names.

Meet Heather, Heather, Heather and Veronica:

10 points for getting the 90s film reference!

By midway, I started to think about some sort of colourwash layout. By this time, Michelle and a few other IG friends were not only cheering me on but had donated pieces of Liberty for my quilt and it was all starting to feel rather special.

One thing I would say is that at first my 1/4″ seam allowance was a little too scant, and it affected how much overlap there was in the background fabric under the chin (there was too little). This meant some of the noses would get blunted in the seam allowance when I sewed it together – so watch your seam alllowance very carefully! I bought myself a gadget, Liberty fabrics being too expensive to get wrong:

This is a seam guide called “seams sew easy” by Lori Holt and it’s genius. The only issue is you have to reposition it each time you replace the bobbin, but it’s still worth it. Not only did it resolve my seam allowance issue, but it meant I didn’t have to draw a diagonal line on the squares for the flying geese on the fancy fox block …or any other blocks where you sew a diagonal – snowballs, geese etc. HSTs are going to be much quicker now…

Anyway, suddenly I was done! Obviously the kind of suddenly that happens over months. Not really suddenly at all.

My background fabric was a grey cotton chambray for softness, and the cheek fabric was a white lawn cotton, to try and retain the sofness from the Liberty lawn fabric. I used kona black for the eyes and noses as I figured they’d be too small to really affect the softness… So I chose Quilter Dream Orient batting, with its scrimlessmix of silk, bamboo, tencel and cotton because it’s so soft with a beautiful drape and I splashed out on a Liberty back, an aqua daisy print called Bellis.

I really pondered the quilting. It seemed to me that lots of people in blogland had sent theirs out to a longarm quilter and gone for a woodgrain pattern. I knew I would never do that design justice, but I liked the idea of woodland. So I quilted a loopy leafy allover design using wonderfil invisifil thread – very fine polyester that I hoped wouldn’t show up too much on the very contrasting background and cheeks. The effect was good; subtle quilting without it being invisible thread but it kept snapping in my machine! Eventually by changing to a bigger needle, I just about got through. I’d really like to try it again for the effect but I’m reluctant to go through that again.. I don’t know why my machine didn’t like it! Annoyingly it doesn’t like Aurifil thread either…

Some pictures… because obviously I haven’t included enough!

Can you see the leaves? Kiddo says they are all baby foxes peeking out from their nest in a bush. He loves this quilt because it’s very soft and very snuggly, even before the first wash. And because ..foxes.

Hello Kitty Liberty! So cute. Why does every piece of Liberty just feel so special?

Aw my lovely Liberty foxes! The lap quilt comes out about 60″ x 52″ ish and is a really fun make. It looks good in most fabrics , so long as you ensure a high contrast between the cheek, eye/nose and background fabrics, And it’s actually pretty economical for prints – each fox face uses a  5″ x 9″ or 2.5″ x 18″ piece of printed fabric) I can imagine doing this lap quilt with half a jelly roll or half a layer cake  . I’m so tempted to buy the giant size pattern now – I don’t think I’m done with these foxes yet.

Meanwhile, I’m off to snuggle some very fancy foxes! Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Adventures in Foundation Paper Piecing

3 months. That’s how long it has been since I strung more than a few sentences at a time about sewing. Forgive me if I stumble, I feel like a baby giraffe starting to walk. Here’s a picture though to distract us all:

I blame and thank Instagram in equal measure for my absence; on the one hand it has inspired and renewed my creative life, on the other I can see how easily it could be the death of the blog. In a few short months of being addicted I have become part of a genuinely interactive and inspiring sewing and quilting Instagram community, one within which you make real friends. It’s so quick and so immediate in its reach and feedback. And yet, on reflection … blogs still feel important. The story behind a project, the details, the tutorials, time taken to tjink about a topic – I learn and I’m inspired so much from the blogosphere; even my small blog gets many hundreds of visits a month, even when I’ve had a hiatus. I think we sometimes need more than a quick eye candy sewing fix, addictive though that is in itself. So Cuckooblue is still here, even rising, baby-giraffe-like like a Phoenix. It is possible I may be over using metaphors in my zeal.

So this one is about Foundation paper piecing (FPP). It’s a pretty old technique, in which you sew onto marked lines on paper, rip off the paper and are left with some amazingly intricately pieced blocks, or blocks which would be difficult to piece by traditional methods. I don’t know if it is having a modern day resurgence, but it seems to be everywhere just now. This was my first attempt at FPP.

It’s a pattern called “Goosing around” which is created by the incredibly talented Jeliquilts; her immediate download PDF patterns are available for a few pounds at the link below, and I thought this was a great first pattern for me. I just printed it off onto ordinary printer paper, but you can use foundation paper too which is supposed to be easier to rip off afterwards.

http://jeliquilts.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-pattern-shop.html?m=1

This pattern is made up of 4 blocks which you sew together to make an 8.5″ block, as directed in the pattern. The technique does take some practice and you need bigger fabric pieces than you’d think, especially at the beginning – it is such a different way of thinking about making a block. The best way is to learn from a video tutorial, I think. I used this video by Karen Johnson of Connecting Threads; the “add a quarter ruler” and postcard method which she uses I think makes it much easier.

This was my next go:

It’s for a swap; in a month’s time I will be going to the Stitch Gathering 2016 in Edinburgh – a day of stitching classes (I will be doing my first ever sewing class – a little scary but also quite exciting!). There are secret swaps  organised – we each make a potholder (trivet) to swap with our allocated person (they don’t know who is sewing for them) and a nametag for a different person – perfect opportunity to practice some FPP I thought!  I was going to quilt the “goosing around”  block for my potholder swap, but I shamelessly stalked my partner’s pictures on Instagram and decided she would prefer the butterfly.

The butterfly is an FPP pattern by Nicole aka Lillyella of Lillyella.com, 3 different butterfly patterns are available as a free PDF download here:

tutorials & free patterns
This is mine in progress. See how you sew along the pattern lines and then remove the papers? I am still a real novice at this; But going carefully and slowly really does do the trick. I *might* have had to re-do some messed up sections in this one though…I would say have plenty of fabric and time and be prepared to re-do some when you are first starting out with FPP!

I used the new collections out by Tilda Fabrics, Memory Lane and Cabbage Rose. I cannot tell you how much I ADORE these collections! Prettiest Tilda fabrics ever, which is saying something. Prettiest fabrics ever, possibly. I’m really taken with them. I used insulated batting and a mixture of machine straight lines and hand quilting with perle cotton #8.

And the final bit of FPP I’m going to show you is the nametag I said I had to make for the stitching day. This pattern is by Megsmonkeybeans, here: http://megsmonkeybeans.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/a-pattern-for-you.html?m=1 who designed it for a nametag. It is so tiny – and you have to add outer seam allowances to the pattern yourself, so not a beginner’s pattern. Very cute though! This is the sewing machine I made for my partner, with the name scribbled, I mean expertly blanked, out:

I embroidered the details of the machine and the name using black perle #12 cotton – I couldn’t really believe it came out so cute! I was dubious when I saw the pattern. Oh me of little faith. This is it finished:

I LOVED using my tiny scraps to make a rainbow border. The scraps really are tiny, cut to 1.25″ square; only just big enough to include a kitten head, puppy kiss, turtle, typewriter key, flowers… I quilted with Superior thread’s The Bottom Line, a fine but strong polyester using white in top and pale blue in bottom bobbin (as the back is those blue kissing dogs). Impressed with the unobtrusive quilting line it makes – I would recommend the thread if you’re happy to use polyester!

I hope you get inspired to maybe try a little FPP yourself if you haven’t already, whilst I can’t currently see myself doing a whole quilt with this technique (some people do!),  it is really fun. Those butterfly blocks are charm square size too – I can see all kinds of possibilities with this technique!

Until the next time,

Poppy xx

My first ever patchwork tote bag

There’s just nothing like a deadline to make you JUST HAVE to sew up something completely unnecessary and random, have you noticed? My deadline – an artisan sale with 2 other local friends and crafters IN A WEEK. Woefully behind. And so of course, today this happened:

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I met a lovely girl on Instagram who is involved in a charity which gives children from the Ukraine who are still affected by low level radiation from the Chernobyl disaster all those years ago, a holiday in the beautiful unpolluted country which is Wales. She agreed to make 17 quilted tote bags and placemats as gifts for the children and their families – and then sensibly asked her Instagram buddies for help.
Her blog and more details is here: http://glindaquilts.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

I have made so many bags (evidence on my Flickr stream) but never a patchwork/quilted one and perhaps that’s why I dropped everything to make one – and because the idea of giving something to a child who has little is overwhelmingly feelgood.

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The other side! Somehow, I just really like it. For some reason my husband LOVES it!

So I won’t do a full tutorial unless folk really want one but I might outline the process. I started with a mini charm pack (42 x 2.5″ squares) of Little Miss Sunshine by Lella Boutique for Moda. That second picture is all from the collection. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, I sewed 24 squares into a 3 x 8 square piece of patchwork and pressed. For the other side I had to add 6 more 2.5″ squares cut from my scraps (I think I used 7) to make another 3 x 8 square panel. Then I sewed a 2.5″ x 16.5″ linen strip along the top of the patchwork panel and 7.5″ x 16.5″ linen piece to the bottom.

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I just used polyester batting but after trying a bit of light quilting, I didnt like the floppy feel or the puffiness. So I decided it would be a good idea to quilt straight lines 1/4″ apart. And it was… it just took AGES! I have no patience for straight line quilting. I really like its clean modern look, but there’s a reason I FMQ everything – I would abandon my hobby for pig farming or something if I had to straight line quilt a whole quilt. Anyway my IG buddies spurred me on (thank you!).

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I tell you, I love the effect. The texture, the structure it gives. Poly batting turns special. Look at what the quilting does to the back of the panel – almost a crime to line the bag and cover it up!

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Okay it doesnt show it’s yummy tactile texture! This fabric is an unbranded but gorgeous cotton; I lined the bag in it too. Boxed the corners to make a 4″ bottom, and used some cream cotton strapping I had around, magnetic snap closure and ta-da. My first patchwork tote bag. Dimensions 13″ wide at top x 11.5″tall x 4″ deep. For a minute I thought about keeping it but then the image of a wee girl who has very little entered my head and I got a grip. I hope she likes it! And I hope the children have a really good time.

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I must say I have a big crush on Little Miss Sunshine. Which is just as well, as I am making the end of year teacher gifts out of it… so be prepared to see more of it if you check back in! I can’t promise I will ever do this much close straight line quilting again though!

Hope you are enjoying the same beautiful weather that we in Scotland are. Summer is here, hurray. Until the next time, Poppy xxx

Starflower chain quilt – finally finished!

Do you have a quilt top drawer? What am I saying! If you answer yes to “Have you quilted for more than 3 years”, then you’ll know all about the quilt top drawer. I don’t know why some tops just   get put off the big finish; you lose love for the fabrics, you have other more pressing projects to a deadline, you feel it needs a bit more added. But look what happens if you open that drawer now and then:

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Look at that! My Starflower Chain quilt from… ughhh, February 2014. Eeek. At least that’s when I did the tutorial here, using 3 charm packs and a fat quarter:

Starflowers Chain Quilt … charm pack busting HST pattern/ tutorial #1

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Somehow I couldn’t find a reason to quilt this quilt before; it’s 61″ square so too big for a baby quilt, all the wrong colours for my house, too girly for my son, too pink & fancy for a picnic quilt for our boy-heavy family. And then I heard of Siblings Together.

Turns out that children placed in the UK foster care system are often separated from their siblings. I understand that it’s difficult to take in several children, but how awful for these kids. Anyway Siblings Together is a charity which puts on camps for these kids to get to spend time with their siblings. And some amazing quilters are leading the drive to make a quilt for each child to keep as a reminder of their time at camp. And I decided that this quilt top finally had purpose! You can read more here about the quilt and block drive here:

http://siblingstogetherquiltgroup.blogspot.co.uk/p/siblin.html?m=1

I pieced a back:

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..using some of my favourite warm fabrics. I love the back! Almost more than the front.

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I just stipple quilted it this time, it feels like an awfully long time since I stippled… It’s because I got a half-board of a new batting – EQS Sew Simple 100% cotton LIGHT batting, without scrim. I like Sew Simple and it is much cheaper than my absolute favourite Quilter’s Dream batting – but it usually has scrim, and I worry about that tiny bit of polyester melting in the event of a fire. Probably overkill I know but you have to do what you feel is right for you. Anyway this new scrimless batting has to be quilted less than 4″ apart, so the easiest way for me is to stipple. It quilted nicely by the way, although I had felt it was too thin when I first opened it out; the finished quilt has a nice drape and softness. It is probably more lightweight (cooler) than Quilter’s Dream cotton though (and Warm & Natural which is actually 12.5% polypropylene).

As it happens I also made a couple of blocks for the quilt as you go block drive. They are asking for this pattern and have a tutorial on the blog here:

http://siblingstogetherquiltgroup.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/block-drive-for-siblings-together.html?m=1

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And the amazing Nicky of mrsssewandsow.blogspot.co.uk is putting all these blocks together that quilters send in to make more quilts! Some people are really special. She’s a very talented quilter too. That second photo of my blocks is hers by the way, from her Instagram.

Anyway it feels really good that this neglected wee quilt top will go to a little girl who will hopefully get pleasure and comfort from it for many years to come.  If you fancy donating a quilt block, top, back, fabric, time or skill to this informal amazing kind gang of online quilters all over the country and elsewhere, then do check out the siblings together quilt blog (or the original siblings together site if you want to know more about the charity and camps).

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Ahhh, the evening sun as a WIP becomes a finished quilt. Quilter’s bliss.

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Spiderman and Invisibility (or how to quilt with invisible thread)

The thing about having a wee boy is that despite having all the loveliest fabrics imaginable and an itch to try out some really complex and beautiful quilting designs (Kaleidoscope quilt anyone?), your child will look at you, big brown eyes shining and say “Will you make me a Spiderman quilt, Mummy?” And then will proceed to pick out two almost identical, but crucially apparently NOT THE SAME, equally busy and very Spidermanny fabrics for front and back respectively. It’s done, he loves it and his mummy, I kept the fabric whole and added a border – it’s not in itself worth a blog post… except perhaps for the quilting.

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This is the “back” of the quilt where you can see the quilting. I chose to do loop and star quilting as Kiddo loves it, having seen it on a quilt I made for another wee boy; I can attest that it is much easier the second time round – once you get your head round it it seems it’s a piece of cake! I showed how to do loop and star quilting (on paper) here if you needed any pointers:

Bartholomeow’s Reef Bermuda Baby Boy Quilt

But on the front of the quilt I used invisible thread:

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Looking at the other side (which is not invisible) now, I am not sure I needed to bother. But I was concerned about the busyness of the print clashing with the quilting thread and it all looking like a giant mess. Especially as one side was very dark (the other had more white/light blue and grey in it). But for whatever reason, I chose invisible thread, and it certainly looks cleaner, but with subtle texture and pattern.

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That’s the side quilted with invisible thread and the next is the side quilted in a pale blue:

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The difference is more noticeable in real life! (isn’t it always?)

Anyway, this is the second time I used invisible thread, the first being on a project for Kiddo’s school last year when I made a quilt from the children’s drawings (but camera failure deleted the photos – arrrrggggh), and for which invisible thread was pretty important. At that time, I trawled through blogs and websites to try and get some understanding on how to use it, and made notes. Notes which I followed again with success again, so if only for myself I thought I would write them here too!

NB. *Apologies for not being able to credit the sources, but it was last year and I read quite a lot of articles about it… A google search will bring up all my sources! I do remember a newsletter from Barnyarns being really helpful – they are so knowledgeable about threads and notions! And it is where I got my thread. *

http://www.barnyarns.co.uk

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How to Quilt with Invisible Thread

  1. Invisible thread is either nylon (A.K.A. polyamide) or polyester. Polyester sews more like very fine thread and won’t melt as easily with an iron, so I decided to use it. I have some nylon invisible thread and it feels stiff, a bit more like wire but some folk prefer it apparently. The thread I used is called Superior MonoPoly clear very fine polyester, from Barnyarns. I used this as my top thread. It’s superfine but my Janome handled it easily.
  2. You CANNOT use invisible thread in your bobbin. It will stretch, break and tangle inside your machine. The tension would be all over the place even as you wind it. You need a very fine but strong polyester. I used The Bottom Line by Libby Lehrman for Superior Threads in my bobbin (I think Barnyarns recommended it as I got it from there too!) and it worked really well. It’s very fine (a 60 weight), but strong and I had no problems. You could try a 50 weight too but probably nothing thicker (the bigger the number, the finer the thread).
  3. Because invisible thread is a monofilament (one strand, not 2 or 3 ply), it is extremely fine (and stretchy). This means you need a very fine, very sharp needle. the thread will not expand to fill the hole made by a needle, unlike normal quilting thread, so you need a really fine needle like a size 70/10. If that’s not small enough try a size 60 (the smaller the number the finer the needle!). For sharpness use a microtex or a topstitch needle. I tried both and both worked well. I might say to go with a topstitch needle if you pushed me, but I doubt there’s a big difference. A 70/10 topstich needle was fine for me.
  4. I only free-motion quilted but I assume this next info is true for straight line quilting too. Turn the tension on your machine right down. because of the stretch, a normal tension will stretch and snap the thread. If your stitches are looking very very shiny and thin you will need to lower the tension even more. Experiment. On my Janome I had to reduce the tension to a 2.

and hopefully that’s it! Otherwise it was just like quilting with normal thread, and it feels like normal thread now it’s quilted.

I actually really like the thinness of the 60 wt bobbin thread too even though I usually only use 50 wt cotton – you can see the quilting but not too prominently (below). I need to do more experimenting!

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Phew! Hope that helps if you want to have a go with invisible thread, obviously there are loads of other options, I’m just saying what worked for me as I didn’t have any problems, but feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or experience with using invisible thread!

Happy sewing/crafting/drawing/art-making/life-making all.

Until the next time, Poppy xx

 

 

 

Mini Dresden Pincushiony Gifty Goodness!

I have the BEST ever next door neighbour. She’s the generation before me, but possibly even better for that. She’s fun, cheerful, quirky, loves children, independent and adventurous, in love with her husband and family, esp the grandchildren, and her home and garden are open, welcoming mazes of treasures. Her garden has stone owls, hidden copper dragonflies, sparkly things twirling from trees, squirrels and chickens (real ones) – she even has a window in her hedge, for goodness sake. AND SHE SEWS. OMG. I love her. What do you give a lady like that for her birthday?

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This is a pincushion – it’s filled with lavender because I tried polyfil toy stuffing and I didn’t like the puffiness nor the lightweightness for a pincushion. i heard you could fill them with crushed walnut shells or somesuch, which adds weight and sharpens yours pins (is this true?)  – but since I didn’t have any I filled it with dried lavender. It is kind of potent, but I think she’ll like it.

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I made a tiny dresden block with Liberty of London Tana lawn fabrics – you literally need squares of 1.5″ – I am addicted. 3.5″ dresdens – I could die from the cuteness.  I downloaded the template from here:

Mini Dresden Pattern Digital

which is free if you sign up to the newsletter (no biggie, the fabric shop is gorgeous) or $1, and includes instructions on how to make it. It’s so easy to make a dresden block – I admit though that the tiny-ness what a bit fiddly, but it didn’t take more than an hour or so and that was the first attempt.

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I whipstitched mine by hand onto a charm square of “modern backgrounds paper” fabric by Zen Chic for Moda, and made a centre circle in the same fabric. My centre circle is not perfect, I should have slowed down a bit to stitch  such a small circle, but sometimes you can feel your quilting-time-hourglass sand running out! I did some hand “quilting” to flatten down the circle a bit, you can probably see it.

I backed it with a square of cotton batting for some stability, before sewing it RST to a red floral charm square leaving a hole to turn it right sides out, filling with dried lavender flowers and whipstitching the hole closed. Easy peasy.

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Aw cute. Thank you Westwoodacres for the pattern!

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Until the next time,

Poppy xx

Happy scrappy boho sewing

I’m tap-tapping on my phone in kiddo’s bed as he has sore ears. He’s been calpolled and is now sleeping, but I am too comfy to get up now. Those soft little breaths from him sleeping peacefully is way more restful than whale song and waterfalls. Those hippy relaxing music CD makers missed a trick. Although on a CD it might just sound like heavy breathing, which would be less calming and more creepy stalkerish. I digress, I meant to say there would be less chatter and more pictures!

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My dear artist friend just had a birthday. She paints but doesn’t sew and really appreciates handmade things. I decided to raid my scrap piles and try a scrappy log cabin effect. This is an instagram pic (I’m Cuckooblue) and admittedly there are filters on here, but the light was bad when I photographed it on the bed so the filter captures the spirit of it actually better!2016-03-13 21.51.58.jpg

It’s very bright and quite crazy, even without the filter. I think objectively I should have limited my colour palette somewhat. I would like to have another go at that. And I am not crazy about the quilting – I wish I had gone with the original plan to densely straight line quilt it but I thought there were enough straight lines, and that artists are free flowing souls. Now I’m kicking myself for not thinking of concentric circles in invisible thread. Next time.

… So, despite the fact I like it and, weirdly, the Hubster loves it (?!), I think all those regrets freaked me out and I started again, this time making her this:

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A “Big and Beautiful Betty” bag, with pattern and supplies from the amazing Lisa Lam.  I have made 4 of these in the past, and the pattern is straightforward yielding a professional looking bag with a vintagey art feel. It is also fairly big unless you still have a toddler in tow (in which case you need a bag on wheels, obviously.)

This is the other side:

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I went for a mustard yellow lining :

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Fabric is La Strada by Alexander Henry (from a 2008 collection I think) and is riotously difficult to get hold of now. I have a bit of this left and a small piece left in the blue colourway, the latter of which I am probably going to die with. I have replaced the fabric strap with a crossbody leather strap on my bag which adds to the cost but makes for a really beautiful and unique bag.

…and she loves it! Phew. My original post links to Lisa Lam’s pattern and supplies shop (U-handbag); you can see it here:

bags, bags, bags of bags!

Right, kiddo (who did waken and wail loudly like a banshee whilst I was writing this, poor wee scone) seems to have settled again, so I will love you and leave you. May your crafts be crazy and your ears be painfree.

Until the next time,

Poppy xx