Scrappy Plus Sign Quilt (- and tutorial)

Gosh – first of all, Happy New Year! I hope this year is a happy and creative one for you all. I’ve been really slack at blogging last year, but I am keeping up regularly on Instagram, so do come and say hello on there if you are an Instagrammer!

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Now and then though, I feel the need for more words than you can put on Instagram, and this quilt calls for one of those times. It isn’t my design, in fact a lot of folk have made a “Low Volume Plus Quilt” before, but since I changed the measurements from what you can find on google to be charm pack friendly, I thought I would include those measurements here.

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I completely love this quilt! The design was first devised by the amazing Ashley of Filminthefridge.com , who took one of the borders of Alexia Abegg’s “Marcelle Medallion” quilt and made it into a quilt all on its beautiful own. You can see hers here; it is a slightly different pattern to mine and different measurements, but a similar effect:

http://filminthefridge.com/2013/04/02/marcelle-plus-quilt/

A scrappy low volume quilt has been on my radar for a few years now; but I realised  that in doing so many fairs and commissions, I had accumulated a great stash, but had had no time to do any of the selfish sewing I had wanted to for a while… suddenly 2016 felt like the right time to try some of those long-awaited projects. Just before Christmas and New Year. Well, the muse strikes when she strikes!

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I had accumulated some low volume fabrics (fabrics which read as neutral or almost white) for the background, but in order to keep it really scrappy looking, I started with a couple of Moda charm packs of a great low volume line – Zen Chic’s Modern Backgrounds Paper. I then topped up with all kinds of low volume fabrics from stash and scraps, including lots of leftover charm squares from other projects. Because of that I had to choose measurements which were as charm pack friendly as possible, and decided on this block:

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Excuse the terrible image! I made it on Word, but then couldn’t work out how to save it as a jpg to insert – ended up taking a photo of it. I’m not going to win any awards for tech any time soon!

Obviously for the bright crosses, you can’t use charm squares – unless I guess you used  five 2.5″ squares of the same colour and increase the scrappiness! That would look cool too.

It’s such an easy block – there are no seams to match, and it is all extremely forgiving. You can likely work it out from the diagram above, but just in case you would like some basic directions for a 50″ x 60″ quilt, here goes:

You will need: 

30 different printed fabrics, size 2.5″ x 11″

120 low volume fabrics, size 2.5″ square (or 30   5″ charm squares, cut into 2.5″ squares)

120 low volume fabrics, cut into 4.5″ squares.

I liked making mine as individual blocks, so that’s how I will describe it, but obviously you could chain piece them all if you like. Sew using 1/4″ seam throughout.

  1. First cut your printed fabric strip into one 6.5″ x 2.5″ piece and two 2.5″ squares.
  2.  Sew a low volume 2.5″ square to each of the printed 2.5″ squares, and both ends of the printed rectangle.20161129_171907
  3. Sew the 4.5″ low volume squares in rows as the  diagram or the photo below:20161129_181342
  4. ~Ta-da! Easy-peasy. The block should measure 10.5″ square and will finish in your quilt at 10″ square. 20161129_184356
  5. Make 30 of these blocks and then sew them into a 5 x 6 grid as shown in the “I’ve just been basted” photo below: 20170105_165253

It goes together so quickly and I loved making those blocks! And I have a new-found obsession with low volume fabrics; me and any new found fabric obsessions are not a good combination for my wallet.. I might need to start doing commissions again! I batted it with my favourite Quilter’s Dream Orient batting – an all-natural blend of silk , cotton, tencel and bamboo that quilts, feels and drapes beautifully and quilted it with some free-motion loops, daisies and leaves. I’m going to have to show you some photos:

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And OH MY. Look at that backing. It’s my current favourite print – a grey/navy floral from Tilda’s Memory Lane collection. It is a definite indulgence, but I’m so happy to have a whole quilt back with it. I love the back almost as much as the front! Because the back is so dark, I didn’t want the thread to be too visible in the bobbin. So I used The Bottom Line thread in white by Libby Lehrman for Superior threads – it is a 60wt polyester which has given a beautiful subtle quilting line in my print, not too obvious in the navy but keeping the pink flowers fresh and clean. In the top thread I used one of my favourite cotton threads – Konfetti 50wt Egyptian cotton thread by Wonderfil which doesn’t break in my machine unlike, sadly, Aurifil does. And a size 70 topstitch needle. Thread can make such a difference to a quilt – especially when you don’t want to detract from the prints or busy up the design too much. So important – but I do agonise over it sometimes!

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I’m off to snuggle it, and hopefully also  the wearer of those battered old shoes which you can see below that quilt! Wishing you all a wonderful 2017.

Until the next time, Poppy xx

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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

Liberty Star Patchwork Pillow/ Cushion + Tutorial

Hello lovely creative types, so… how best to gloss over my prolonged bloggy abstinence? How about we make up with a tutorial? You might not need one as it’s pretty simple, but you know, since I took pictures…

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This is Liberty of London fabrics and linen. The pattern was actually born when i decided to make a thank-you present for my lovely neighbour who let me use her shower for 2 weeks whilst our bathroom was ripped out and replaced. I now have a hotel bathroom! I’m so tempted to hold dinner parties in it – it’s the nicest room in the house… Anyway, she is more traditional, so I made her this:

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This is made with Kona snow cotton… and Liberty fabrics I actually bought at THE REAL LIBERTY OF LONDON SHOP. In London no less. I was slightly in heaven. But also a bit overwhelmed by all its beauty after this pilgrimage (the shop itself is just aesthetically gorgeous)… and by the prices. I felt I should buy something so bought a little charm pack of 36 2.5″ squares, although I had to add 4 more from stash to make this. I must tell you though they came from  Alice Caroline Supply (http://www.alicecaroline.co.uk/) and are cheaper to buy from the website. But that wasn’t really the spirit of it all was it? My neighbour was suitably pleased.

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Bit of wobbly hand-quilting action going on there.

But I wasn’t thrilled to be honest. I thought that the patchwork border got lost round the sides of the cushion. Amateur. This is what it looked like before it became a cushion – I thought it would make a pretty mini-quilt or wall hanging…

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See what I mean? So I was a bit disappointed. Anyway, I thought I would try and fix it with an extra row of sashing:

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And certainly you can see it better. but if you decide to make one, you can decide on how you like it! So, for many folk, that will be it as it’s quite simple construction and with a little experience it’s straightforward to work this out, but as sometimes it’s nice to work from instructions, here goes! This is for the Liberty and Linen cushion. Clearly you can make it in anything you like – a moda mini-charm pack and white solid would be nice.

To make the patchwork cushion front, you will need:

  1. A 10″ piece of Linen (44″ wide, I’m assuming your solid comes as 44″ wide)
  2. Forty 2.5″ x 2.5″ Liberty or patterned fabric squares
  3. 24″x24″ square piece of batting (I used cotton)
  4. 24″x 24″ square piece of cotton backing fabric (this will be on the inside of the cushion, so it doesn’t need to be too nice)
  5. rotary cutter, ruler, scissors, thread, sewing machine, unpicker (you won’t need that) etc

Cutting instructions:

Let’s cut all our fabric up first.

1. Cut the linen fabric into four 2.5” x 44” strips.

2. Strip 1: cut into
Four 2.5” x 2.5″ squares
Four 2.5” x 4.5” rectangles
One 2.5” X 13.5” rectangle

3. Strip 2 : Cut into
One 2.5” x 13.5” rectangle
Two 2.5” x 10” rectangles

4. Strip 3: cut into
One 2.5” x 22” rectangle
One 2.5” x 18” rectangle

5. Strip 4: again cut into
One 2.5” x 22” rectangle
One 2.5” x 18” rectangle

You should now have linen cut into:
4 x (2.5” x 2.5) squares
4 x (2.5” x 4.5”) rectangles
2 x (2.5” x10”) rectangles
2 x (2.5” x 13.5”) rectangles
2 x (2.5” x 18”) rectangle
2 x (2.5” x 22”) rectangles

6. And your 40 Liberty 2.5” x 2.5” fabric squares (either buy as a mini charm pack or cut these)

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Photo shows my cutting in progress. If you think you’ll get confused, label each pile’s measurements with a scrap of paper. I started to arrange my Liberty fabrics in a rainbow.

Layout

Now arrange your layout as you like it. If you are going for random, this will be easy, you won’t need to lay it all out, you can just start sewing! But I did this:

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In the centre, the top two squares will be the top two points of the star, the bottom two will be the bottom points of the star etc. The 4 in the middle will be aa 4-patch which makes the centre of the star.

I think of a rainbow (unsurprisingly!) when thinking about which colours go together. Red – orange – yellow – green – blue – dark blue/indigo – violet/purple – red to enable the colours to meld in a natural way. Obviously orange is made from red and yellow which is why it’s in between them etc, so it works better than red and green next to each other for example, when green has no red in it. Anyway, have a play around until you like it.

Making the patchwork star centre

(BTW I’m not generally a big presser until the end out of sheer laziness, but with this, given it’s going to be a centrepiece and small, I pressed at almost every stage. It keeps everything neater, there’s no doubt.)

1. Sew your centre 4 patch, first by sewing 2 squares together, then the second 2 together, then join them as a 4 patch. Press.

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2. The star points are flying geese rather than HSTs – much easier.  You are aiming for this:

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This is how you do it:

  • Draw a diagonal line in pencil joining opposite points on the wrong sides of each of your eight squares reserved for the star points.
  • Lay one of these patterned squares, right side down onto one of the 2.5” x 4.5” pices of linen, with the bottom end of your diagonal line towards the centre of the fabric (it won’t be in the centre). Make sure your edges line up nicely.
  • (if you are using directional prints then be careful with this step, you could easily end up with your fabric upside down. Ditto with getting the two fabrics mixed up – I did this and had to change my layout – rather than unpick…)
  • Sew along your pencil line.
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3. Now before you cut off the excess, it’s worth folding down the right side to check you are happy.

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4. If you are then you can go ahead and trim that excess piece on the wrong side – both the linen and patterned. You’ll end up with little triangles of scrap for a tiny project. Press.

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5. Repeat the process on the other side of your linen rectangle as shown in the picture. Don’t worry that there is a bit of overlap, that’s in the seam allowance when you sew them all together. Press.

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6. And you have one side of your star!. Do this with all 8 points onto your four 2.5” x 4.5” pieces of linen.

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7. Now take your top row star points and sew a 2.5” x 2.5” linen square onto either side. Repeat for the bottom two star points.

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8. Sew your side star point pieces to the centre 4-patch…

9. And then sew the top and bottom rows on.

10. Press everything.

Is it looking lovely yet?

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Adding the sashing

11. Sew one 2.5″ x 10″ rectangle to one side of your star. Trim off the excess (I always make sashing bigger and trim in case my seam allowance isn’t always perfect). Repeat on the other side. Trim excess.

12. THEN sew the 2.5 x 13.5″ pieces along the top and bottom, trimming the excess linen afterwards. Press.

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Making the patchwork borders

13. Sew your top 8 liberty squares together and put to one side. Repeat for the bottom eight squares. Now make the left side and right sides which will both have 6 squares. Press.

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(somehow I managed to sew 9 squares on the bottom row! Doh! Had to unpick after all…)

14. Sew the sides onto your star block first and then press, before sewing on the top and bottom pieces. pin your patchwork strips to the linen first to ensure it reaches the full length, and match up the seams at the corners as best you can. Press.

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Now at this point you can batt, back, quilt and bind and use as a mini quilt or wall hanging which measures 16.5” square (above). Or you can add the outer linen border to finish your cushion as I did.

Adding the final linen border

15. This is exactly what you did before. Sew the 2.5” x 18” linen strips onto the sides of your star block and trim the excess.

16. Now sew the final two pieces, the 2.5” x 22” rectangles to the top and bottom and trim the excess. Press everything…

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 And Ta-Dahhhhhh! You’re done!

17. Now, make a quilt sandwich as normal. Lay the cotton backing fabric face down, lay over the cotton batting, lay over the patchwork piece and smoother everything over to ensure there are no wrinkles. I pinned with safety pins (it’s not worth getting out the gun for such a small piece I found) to baste.

18. Quilt as you like – straight or hand quilting on this would be lovely! I machine- quilted with an overall stipple…

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19. And then did a little decorative hand quilting with perle 8 cotton in a red colour.

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20. Finally add your cushion back and a zip as I did (or make an envelope back as I showed here:  https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/78267964842/liberty-dresden-pillow-love   ).

My back is Heather Ross Unicorn in Purple from Far Far away II – and I LOVE it.

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Your cushion cover will measure about 19.5″ square.

Add an insert (go a bit bigger, maybe 22 – 24″ square, as you can see from the  picture above, mine isn’t full enough at 20″ square, I’ve ordered another insert) … and enjoy your new cushion!

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Well I hope this makes up for the absence. Actually, I Firefox has crashed so many times when I have attempted a blog post, I’ve lost 3 already, and this one crashed at least 15 times. I kept saving as a draft and wrote most on Word and copy/pasted. Anyone else having trouble? I’m either going to have to abandon Firefox (likely) or Tumblr (less likely). As a plus, I have a few posts to share when I resolve this. Meanwhile, hope your creative mojo is mojoing away.

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Edited: you can see how it looks with a fuller cushion insert and in the sunshine here:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/2015/03/26/a-patchwork-picnic/

Pixelated Heart quilt for a New Year Wedding

My friend asked me if I would make a quilt for a lovely couple in their EIGHTIES who are getting a second chance at love. I guess those who are loveable may find love again no matter what their age…

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The Pattern is Pixelated Heart by the amazing Blue Elephant Stitches. I hope the happy couple love this sweet pattern as much as I do!

This is her quilt, made with low volume fabrics instead of white fabrics (I didn’t have the budget for that) – it is utterly stunning!image

You can find her blog and “how to” for this pattern here: http://blueelephantstitches.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/pixelated.html

She is SO talented, seriously you should look at her blog. And so generous – look how she breaks down this quilt for us to make it easier to sew as blocks rather than strips! And she invented the granny squares quilt, which is on my to do list. I love her work.

I had 2 rouenneries Deux charm packs – a beautiful collection from French General for Moda. I cannot get over how much I love French General fabrics, rich yet muted, classic but not old-fashioned, very very French.  I didn’t want to cut too much away from the charms but 5” charms were just going to make too big a quilt (again for budget). So I cut them to 4.5” – this quilt finishes at about 54” square.

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You can see the construction of mine best on this photo (top in progress). Obviously because I was using white fabric rather than low-volume fabrics as contrast, I didn’t need to sew the whole quilt as 4.5” squares, which saved time (another thing I didn’t have). It used 71 printed fabric squares and 40 white squares. I sashed it as above but then decided it needed a border, so I cut the sashing to 2.5” on the sides and 5” top and bottom… image

Then added a 2.5” red border from Rural Jardin which I had in stash. Definitely better.

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Stipple quilted – much as I like to experiment, there are reasons why classic quilting is classic, and I thought for a quilt like this I should go down that route. Had I used low-volume fabrics, straight line quilting would have worked, but I really think something as simple as this needs texture from the free-motion line, don’t you?

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Just LOOK at those scrumptious fabrics. It makes me want to go eat strawberry cream patisserie. New Year. Must. Resist.

What I really like about this is the size, the fabrics and colours, but mostly the fact that although it’s a heart, it’s not too cheesy – and when you fold it up or use it, it looks like a pretty patchwork quilt; it’s only when you spread it out and look from a distance that you see what it is. Perfect for a wedding gift for this loved-up pair apparently. Ahhhh.

Argghh, can’t seem to get this picture to orient the right way. Tilt your head to the right to see what it looks like draped over a box, and you’ll see what I mean about not knowing it’s a heart.

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Quilted with my favourite Quilter’s Dream Orient batting.

Things I don’t like about the quilt:

1. There is not quite enough white space aroung the heart. This was a budget / size thing for the backing and batting.

2. Budgetary concerns meant it has a plain white backing – it’s perfectly nice, but not as wonderful as it could have been and what the fabrics deserved.

3. It’s not for our house. Aye, there’s the rub. This quilt is designed and made for the happy couple but I don’t actually know the octogenerians in love, although I would like to. But the idea of a quilt in their new home signifying their love made me think about the pillowcases I’ve been meaning to make for my own son for ages. About how when I joked that a tiny baby quilt I was making was for him, he was actually disappointed that it wasn’t (even though it was tiny and completely unlike his tastes, I thought he would laugh!). It has shown me that I need to clear the decks and do selfish sewing for the next 6 months; make all those things for us that I need to, sew new buttons onto my coat etc. When you decide to sell a few things to fund your hobby, it seems that  hobby can inadvertantly grow legs, arms, and heat-seeking missiles and take over your life when it wasn’t supposed to. I guess everyone assumes you want to make a living from it eventually, so think they’re being helpful by recommending you etc – and whilst it’s SO flattering and lovely, you have to be careful. Particularly with deadlines when you’re well overdue making pillowcases with stars and trucks on. If you made a living from your hobby, it wouldn’t be a hobby would it? I definitely need to learn to say no for a while! Sometimes.

Oooh a random outburst. Must be New Year 😉

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And with that, may your 2015 be productive, happy and creative. May we all learn to say “no” once in a while.

’til the next time,

Poppy

xx