19 October 2018

A little happy tutorial ~ Needle Turn Applique

Without wishing to sound like a stuck record, I absolutely love hand sewing.  I hand sewed my first quilt in my late teens/early twenties by the English Paper Piecing method.... as you can tell, the going out night clubbing phase seemed to pass me by!  20 'ahem' years later, I still love EPP, but I also 'now love' appliqué.....

I say 'now love', as I am sure like many of you, I believed up until a few years ago, that applique in particular needle turn applique, was something only the most skilled and seasoned quilter could master...... it's a bit like Foundation Paper Piecing....it's one of those techniques that you can easily talk yourself out of, without even trying.  I hasten to add, before you shoot me down in flames, that clearly some of the more detailed designs that I swoon over on Pinterest have clearly been sewn by extremely skilled and seasoned quilters.  I guess what I am trying to say is, give it a go.... start simple and build from there....as with anything, the more that you do, the more your confidence increases and your skills become greater........it's all about finding the method of applique that you are most comfortable with.

To keep things simple, for most applique projects and certainly for those that I have designed and sewn so far, there are three different methods that you can choose from:

1. Raw Edge  ~ for this method, you first use a double sided adhesive interfacing to adhere you applique to the background before sewing it in place, leaving the edge of the applique raw and open to fraying.  You can find a detailed tutorial that I wrote back in 2013 for this method HERE.

2. Interfacing Method ~ for this method, you prepare your applique shapes using 'sew in' interfacing, prior to hand sewing on to your project.  It gives the look of 'needle turn' but does I think, seem slightly less scary to undertake!  You can find a detailed 'a little happy' tutorial HERE.

3. Needle Turn ~ for this method, as the name suggests, you use your needle to turn under the seam allowances as you hand sew the applique in place.  This is the method that I was most daunted by and hopefully today, I can share some tips that will give you the confidence to give it go.

Before I do, I just wanted to re share this picture of the appliqued floral wreath I made this time last year.  For this small design, I used a variety of techniques including both Needle Turn and the Interfacing Method.....can you tell which flowers were sewn from which?  The point I'm trying to make is that it doesn't really matter....I'm happy with how it turned out and that surely is what is important.

So let's talk Needle Turn applique.....

There are many different techniques for needle turn applique, but having tried various ways, watched and read lots of tutorials I now favour two different methods.  The first and probably the most well known, is where I use a drawn line as a guide for my seam line/turning line.   I used this method when I made my Perfect Pairs quilt.  Take care with your choice of pens/pencils, ultimately as you will be turning the fabric directly on the line, you shouldn't have any on view once you have appliqued the shape.  Personally I steer away from any permanent markers, just to be on the safe side!

EDITED:  I forgot to say that I find a sandpaper board very useful, as it holds the fabric in place when I'm marking the line.  

To prepare the heart applique, I used my acrylic 2 part template, available HERE, which allows for a 1/4" seam allowance.   For larger shapes such as the heart, I have found it absolutely fine to work with a 1/4" seam allowance, however as the applique shapes get smaller, so will the seam allowance need to.  A scant 1/4" is good and maybe down to an 1/8" if the shape is really small.... what you do not want is bulk.

I also find it helpful to finger crease along the 'turning' line....take care however not to stretch the fabric, particularly where the fabric is cut on the bias.

The only other prep required is on concave curves, where I need to snip the seam allowance to allow me to turn it under when sewing. Snip almost but not quite to the seam line.   Examples of this are on the  heart applique below....
....and can you see on this shape, which is the 'cream' on the figgy pudding, I added three snips.  Basically, you'll need to snip a concave (inward) curve, but convex (outward) curves you'll find you can just turn the seam.

Before I talk abut the sewing part, I want to talk about the other method of preparation that I use and the one that has caused a bit of stir when I've shared some pictures.   This is the method that Atsuko Matsuyama recommends.

Unlike all the methods that I had previously seen where the Freezer paper is adhered to the reverse side of the applique, for this method, you cut the freezer paper to the finished applique shape size and then iron this shiny/wax side down, to the RIGHT side of the fabric.

Then free hand, cut out the applique allowing for your seam allowance.... on these small applique shapes which are from my Warm and Cozy mini quilt, I eye balled a scant 1/4" seam allowance.

As I did before, I find it helpful to finger press the turning line before  I start sewing.  

Then rather than using the drawn line, you turn the fabric following the edge of the freezer paper.  I have found that having something with substance to 'turn' against has made the process so much easier!

You keep the freezer paper in place until you have appliqued the shape and then, peel it off.  Keep all the papers as you can reuse them quite a few times before the become non sticky!  

Finally, a note on pins, needle and threads.   

Before you can sew your applique you will need to secure it in its position on the background fabric.  There are various glues on the market, personally I have not used them, so I can not comment.  I'm a pinner!  I have for many years favoured Clover Applique Pins.... they are really short, the benefit being that your thread is less likely to get tangled up in them.  For standard quilting weight cottons.... I love them...however I am currently sewing a Liberty Tana Lawn applique quilt 'Liberty Periodical' which is going to be a new Block of the Month in January.  Tana Lawn is so much finer than quilting weight cotton and requires much finer pins.  For this project I am using Tulip Applique Pins, they're a tad longer than the Clover Pins, but much finer and very sharp!

My needle of choice for applique are Clover Black Gold Applique Sharps in either size 9 or 10's.  Historically my thread of choice and one that I am consistently happy with, is Aurifil 50wt 100% cotton (orange spools).  It's a fantastic multi purpose thread, great for machine, hand, EPP and applique.  However......just to throw a little spanner in to the works, Aurifil have introduced a new 80wt thread on very sweet wooden spools.  This is a super fine,100% cotton thread, which has taken the quilting world by storm.  Some quilters have had enormous success using 80wt for both machine and hand sewing, including EPP and applique.  Personally, I'm still a 50wt girl as I want to get the most value out of my thread, however I am a complete convert for applique.... 80wt is an absolute dream......it is so fine the stitches almost disappear! 

The only other thing that you'll need to know before we get sewing is that the rule is, to match your thread colour to the applique fabric rather than the background.

So, with all that said......let's get stitching!

To start, make a knot in your thread and then bring your needle from underneath the applique seam allowance through to the front, literally as close to the edge of the paper as you can get without nipping it.    I always, if the shape allows start sewing on a straight edge, and away from a corner or point.

Then use the tip of your needle to gently push the seam allowance underneath your applique...this is where if you have finger creased the seam in advance, it makes it so much easier.  Just to mention, I turn about 1/2" worth of seam allowance at a time and then hold it down with my thumb on my non sewing hand.  When you're ready to make your first stitch, in one movement, take your needle vertically through to the back of the background fabric skimming the fold line and then bring it back up to the front a smidge along to the left......bring it through so that it is just the teeniest bit underneath the applique shape, so that you just nip the edge of the applique fabric.  By doing this you will ensure that your stitches are small and neat and as non visible as possible.... try to keep your stitches close together, you don't want big gaps in between.

Continue along the edge of your applique shape.  I find that the freezer paper on top of the applique shape, holds the applique rigid and gives you something firm to fold against.  It's like tucking a sheet under a mattress!

When you approach a point or corner, you are going to have deal with the extra bulky seam allowance.   I didn't on the leaf in the example, but you may wish if there is a lot of excess fabric, to nip off the tip of the point, leaving just a scant 1/4".  (for this next step think hospital corners like those that your mum taught you!) Fold under the excess seam allowance on the tip of the applique, so that the fold line is almost at a 90 degree angle to the seam line that you've been sewing.  Hold it under with your non sewing hand, and then continue sewing until you reach the tip of the point.
Secure the point by sewing a couple of teeny over stitches. 
Then turn the corner and continue along the applique shape as before, using your needle to turn under the seam allowance.  Remember to keep your stitches as small as possible.
As I mentioned earlier, on convex curves, like that shown below, you'll be able to turn under and sew the seam allowance, exactly as you would on a straight edge.
Sew all round until you reach your starting point and then knot of securely at the back of the fabric.

If the shape has a concave curve, by snipping the fabric you'll be able to turn under the seam allowance right into the curve.
Where you have cut the fabric, by not quite snipping to the fold line, there is still some fabric that turns under, all bit it the most minuscule amount, but enough that you can get your needle and thread in to to secure and obviously to prevent it from fraying.

Before I talk about circles, I just want to clarify that I do not cut away the background fabric under the applique as some may, I'm happy with all the layers.

I thought it may be useful to also mention how I prepare circles for applique.  There are lots of different ways, but I've now settled pretty much on these.  For larger circles, I have found that I have best results with either needle turning using the freezer paper method above or I make them using the interfacing method.   But when they get small and if you slightly deviate from that perfect curve it becomes so noticable ....  I've found the method recommended by Sarah Fielke to be really helpful.
First off, you make some cardboard circles, to the size dictated by your pattern.  I cut mine from an old cereal boxes.  I then keep and reuse them.
Cut the fabric approx 1/4"  larger than the cardboard circle, I eye ball this.
Then using silver foil, make a little parcel wrapping the fabric around the cardboard circle, take your time with this. 

Then iron, the heat marks a crease on the circumference and folds under the seam allowance, leaving you with perfect little circle ready to applique in place.  If you do get any points on the curve, which are generally caused by a pleat in the seam allowance.....these can be dealt with when you applique in place...you can have a little play with the pleat and smooth it out, then secure with the stitch.
The only other thing with regards to applique is how to make Bias Stems.... personally I use a bias maker and you can read my 'a little happy' tutorial for how do this HERE.

Before leaving ...... just in case you were wondering...... for the light and dark blue flowers, I used the interfacing method.....for the centre circles I used the cardboard and foil applique technique and for the little red flowers and bow I needle turned, using the freezer paper technique.  If you fancy having a practice, you can find the applique templates for these flowers HERE.

I hope that you have found this tutorial useful and have managed to make it through to this point!  If you do have any questions, please ask away and I will do my best to answer them.

See you next week, when I'll be sharing the Warm and Cozy mini quilt pattern.

12 October 2018

Introducing the 'Warm and Cozy Mini Quilt' FREE Pattern

Autumn is my favourite season......it's the colours, the slight nip in the air and of course the restart  after it's summer break, of our cake and hot chocolate family tradition on a Sunday afternoon.  I love that as the evenings close in, you can lock the door, draw the curtains and light a candle (or two!) all before supper.  Rugby season is upon us, so the Sunday roast has made a return and the slow cooker has been producing comfort casseroles..... food in our house is definitely linked to the seasons.

When I started to design this mini quilt, I brainstormed everything that I love about Autumn and then attempted to encapsulate it all within two words......Warm and Cozy summed it up for me.

As I mentioned last week, as a little thank you to you, I'll be sharing this Mini Quilt as a FREE pattern here on the blog on the 24th October, but today, I thought I would share some close ups.  As you would expect, I've included a range of different techniques.....English Paper Piecing.....
Embroidery, Machine Piecing and Applique

I'll be sharing a separate 'a little happy' tutorial about the needle turn applique method that I used next week.....although feel free to use the method of your choice!

I have been wanting to include Prairie Points on a quit for some time now...they're so easy, but aren't they the cutest thing ever!
As you can see, I used a real scrappy mix of autumnal shades including lots of lovely Liberty quilting weight cotton fabrics, plus a mix of others from the 'workshop' stash.  As always, mum and I (well mum really... ) have put together some kits, that include everything* that you need to make  a mini quilt just like mine, which you can find on the website HERE.  

*All that you will need to add, is the threads and your choice of applique notions.

It goes without saying that this project would be another great scrap buster, so feel free to empty those scrap bins and sew along!

I hope that you love it as much as I do!  That's it for now, I hope that you have a lovely weekend full of happy stitches and I'll be back next week to share the applique tutorial next week... see you then!

5 October 2018

Hello...is it me you're looking for.....

I'm SO sorry for my rather extended and unintended break from blogging...I could come up with all sorts of excuses, but I am sure as all of you know, sometimes something needs to give and for the last few months for me it was blogging.  However I am really happy to be back in my little happy place.

There have been quite a few changes to the business since I last wrote, the main one being that we no longer sell fabrics individually...... GASP I know a pretty major change to say the least.  Obviously this was a HUGE decision to make, however, the principal reason being to enable us to spend our time doing what we love the most, designing, sewing and prepping our Block of the Month and Fabric Clubs and our own 'in house' range of Kits, Patterns and Templates.  By no means has the business down sized, we still operate our online business out of our lovely workshop in Ruskington, our fabric stash is still as large and growing (three boxes have arrived so far this week!) and it's all waiting patiently to be used all in the brand new patterns and kits we have planned.  The list is long!  It does make me smile every day, when we arrive at the workshop  open the door and the excitement hits that I get to design and play with such a rather gorgeous and humongous stash.... I'm very lucky!

Mum and I are also able now to work from home more frequently, which helps hugely.  For mum, she is enjoying spending more time with Dad.... she did after all come out of retirement to partner me in Pretty Fabric and Trims...not that anyone could stop her....I did after all, inherit my fabric hoarding and sewing skills from her!  Mum is the chief book keeper, Block of the Month and kit cutter and wrapper.  Dad gets roped in too and as its a pretty big job every week keeping on top of all the clubs.  He also does Poppy's school run...they have a very close bond.

For me, as a working mum, our new business model has definitely helped to provide a more stable home/work balance....it's not by any means perfect, as I still work all the hours possible, but I've stopped (well mostly) feeling guilty all the time.  Jamie has just started his GCSEs years at school, as well as being incredibly busy with sport.  There have been some really big achievements this year for him in both Rugby and American Football, so we're extremely proud of him.  But as you know there are two sides to every coin and encouragement and gentle prodding is required for him to put the same effort in to his academic schooling....he'd much rather be outside with a ball.  Poppy is in her last year of Primary school, we're currently awaiting the 11 plus results to see where her future schooling will take place.  Although, as we are very lucky to have two fabulous options, she's pretty much made her mind up regardless of the outcome that the co-ed Academy rather than the all girls Grammar school is her #1 choice.....she's very much a tomboy, loves football, golf and Fortnite, so that's the stance I'm taking when she stated "why on earth would I want to go to a school with no boys!" hummmmm.  

On the sewing front, I have been super busy since I last posted....you may wish to grab a cup of tea at this point!

I've designed and sewn two versions of my latest quilt design 'Happiness is Home Sweet Home' and also hand quilted the red version.  The poor Ditsy version is my 'to be quilted pile'.   This is a fully subscribed new block of the month club that has just started this week....but don't worry if you missed out, there's more news about future Block of the Month clubs lower down.   If you haven't already, please make sure that you have resigned up to our Newsletter, there were some new regulations that came into force this Spring and if you didn't re-register you will no longer be receiving our monthly(ish) newsletter.  You can do so HERE.

I finally put my 'Flirty 30 Dresden Plates' together and sent it out to be long arm quilted...it's just awaiting it's binding and then I'll blog all about this in more detail.  

Not pictured...but the 'Queens Walk' quilt is also growing rather nicely....mum and I have enjoyed sewing this project together so much...again I'll post an update and also share some of the blocks made by our lovely customers too....they're pretty special!

Our first English Paper Pieced block of the month 'Pretty Priscilla', also started this summer, blocks are just starting to appear on Instagram which is rather lovely.

I've been working on two new quilts.  The first is called the 'Liberty Periodical'...oh my goodness I LOVE IT...can you say that without it being conceited?  What I mean is, the joy it brings sewing with beautiful Liberty Tana Lawns is just beyond words....this I think, is going to be my heirloom quilt that I pass on through the generations. (that and my first BOM A Little Happy Year!...that one will always be pretty special)  Once completed, it's going to be a new Block of the Month club starting in January 2019 and sign ups will open as soon as I have the quilt top finished.....remember sign up to the newsletter to be first to hear.

I also started a second Liberty quilt, this time I'm using Liberty quilting weight cottons, alongside some cherry picked fabrics from the 'workshop stash'.  I wanted to make a traditional English framed quilt, so I've kept the design relatively simple.  It's based around appliqued EPP hexagons, EPP diamonds and orange peels...all will become clearer as the borders are added.  This again is going to be a new Block of the Month quilt for Spring 2019.....we're planning ahead folks!

There are two new Christmas projects, a sweet 'Christmas Tree' Mini quilt and my first set of Felt Christmas Ornaments/Decorations.  I so enjoyed sewing both of these, it nice to work on a smaller project in between the quilts and to achieve a finish...very satisfying and who can resist Christmas happy stitches...not me for sure.

EXITING NEWS.......as a little happy thank you for all your continued support, I've designed a brand new Autumnal mini quilt, which I'll be sharing as a FREE pattern on here on the 24th October.  I'll be revealing the completed Warm and Cozy mini quilt in my next post.... but I hope you enjoy the little preview in my photo's above...... for the first time ever I tracked down some little pumpkins /gourds (Instagram Gold!) in of all places Aldi.....Andy didn't quite know what was going on when I spied them from across the aisle and set off at speed with the trolley.....it's why generally he does the shopping to save himself any embarrassment from a loony woman with pigtails. 

Finally, I have a new kit to share with you today.... my Happy Hexie cushion. It combines traditional hand sewn English Paper Pieced (EPP) hexagons, appliqued on to machine pieced squares, with lovely hand quilting in my favourite Aurifil 12wt thread.  It has an easy pillow slip back (no zippers) with a pretty lace trim.  The kit includes all the fabrics...which are just so pretty in soft muted colours, EPP papers, wadding and quilting thread.  All you need to supply is your choice of sewing thread, I use Aurifil 50wt in my usual #2311,a feather cushion pad and of course your usual sewing tools and EPP notions.  If you haven't tried EPP before this is an excellent project to give it a go and don't forget there is THIS little happy tutorial to show you exactly what to do.

You can find all my current patterns and kits on the new website HERE plus all the latest Block of the Month information.  

Right, I think that has pretty much filled you in on what I've been up to for the last 5 months.   See you again next time!

Happy stitches