16 March 2018

English Paper Piecing ~ Queens Walk Quilt

I'm really excited today to share my latest pattern and my first pattern that is 100% English Paper Pieced (EPP), it is called the Queens Walk Quilt.  I really love EPP and actually my first quilts were all made using this technique, I only started to machine pieced quilts a few years ago, although hand sewing remains my true stitchy love.  The original quilt design was inspired by memories of the beautiful tiled floor that I had in the house I lived in when I was first introduced to my husband Andy, a fair few years ago now!  It started out as rough sketch scribbled on a notepad by my bed after a sleepless night....I even dream about quilts and pretty fabrics!

The block measures 10" square and comprises of 5 different shapes, based around an octagon at its centre.  Within the block, I really wanted to be able to offer lots of opportunities to fussy cut fabric and by having the larger centre, this also gives an option to showcase some larger fabric designs which personally, whilst loving them, I find more difficult to use.

Obviously as soon as the papers arrived, I couldn't wait to sew a test block .. and chose a mix of Liberty Tana Lawns (now available on the website woohoo!!) and Amy Sinibaldi fabrics......
For this 'test' version I used two different prints for the triangles that make up point of the star...so pretty.... oh the relief when all the shapes fitted back together again and the maths had worked!
...and as if by magic and the aide of a little technology,  I couldn't resist seeing what the start of a quilt would look like if you were to repeat the same fabrics across all the blocks.... I love all the secondary shapes that start to appear, the more blocks you add.
The quilt has a 30 block, 5 x 6 layout, which will measure 50" x 60", a nice throw size.  For my version, I knew I wanted the palette to be my usual scrappy mix of pretty colours, pink, red, blue, green, yellow, ivory and little hints of purple, but veering towards to the more aged side of things...soft and gentle...you know so it looks like something that you inherited from your granny! 

I've been using lots of Moda fabrics by designers including French General, Minick and Simpson, 3 Sisters, Brenda Riddle, Betsy Chutchian and new Moda designer Christopher Wilson Tate plus some of my favourite picks from across the shop...I can never resist adding pretty Lecien fabrics to a quilt!  

Here's a close up of the blocks I've made so far, I've had lots of fun adding some fussy cuts in to the mix.......

The living room floor, always makes a good impromptu design wall to see how it's looking... with Poppy in full drawing mode next to it.... how earth she can draw laying down I do not know!

I'm absolutely loving the fabrics all together and sewing each block.  Mum's also been joining in the fun too and has sewn some blocks for the quilt, the count currently  stands at 11 out of 30......
We've also had some acrylic templates made.  These have a 3/8" seam allowance included, which is my personal preference for EPP and  alignment lines and a centre hole to aide fussy cutting.    I can not tell you how helpful these are......they are not an essential and you can manage without them..... personally though, I think they just make the whole process so much easier and they definitely make fussy cutting and pattern repeating a doddle!  You can use them with a Rotary cutter, but as you know, most of my sewing is done on the sofa, so I draw around them and then cut out the fabric using scissors.
I'm glue basting (I use a Sewline Glue Pen and blue refills), but obviously thread basting is an option.  The trick with glue basting is not to over glue, I tend to sweep the glue pen firmly and with intent across the papers (not the fabric) just the once, the glue goes on blue and dries clear.   This way, I then have no problems removing the papers at a later stage.  Work around the papers basting one side at a time.  Make sure that you wrap the fabric around the papers tightly, if the fabric is too lose then this can cause seams, when you're sewing the shapes together, to go off and therefore the overall block will not join together neatly.    Also, this one is a 'do as I say not what I did' top tip...in my haste to get stitching I forgot.... but its really worth taking a moment to punch a hole in the centre of the papers before basting them, as this helps at the removing stage no end.

It's been a bit of trial and error to get the best layout out in terms of getting the seams to lay flat on the back, but I think I have now cracked it.  The picture below shows how the seams will 'nest' together and then I've added some more detailed photos of each shape showing the order that I've basted the seams around each shape.
So here's Shape 1, the centre Octagon..... you can see how by using the acrylic templates I am able to easily centre the paper piece and get consistent seam allowances all round.  You make one of these for the block.
Shape 2, which creates the band around the Octagon, I basted in two different ways, four of each.  When you sew these together you alternate between the two.
Shape 3,  is the triangle that forms the points of the star, these are also basted in two different ways.
Shape 4, is the kite shape that once added to shapes 1, 2 & 3, transforms the block back in to a larger Octagon
 Shape 5 is a quarter square triangle and once added completes the block and squares it off.
Now for the fun bit, how I sew the shapes together.   First off, lets talk about notions.  You really do not need very much which makes EPP such a great choice for happy evening stitches and for sewing on the go!  My thread of choice is Aurifil 50wt #2311,  I have generally stuck to my favourite neutral shade for all my stitches as I have been joining various coloured fabrics together, however, if I was working on a group of same coloured fabrics then I would colour match my thread shade to fabric shade.  I use a Clover Black/Gold Applique Sharp needle size 10, if you prefer a larger eye, check out our new Tulip Hiroshima Milliners Straw Needles #10 with a BIG EYE... I have received many glowing reviews for these and for some stitchers they use nothing else.  You'll also need a sharp pair of little scissors.   

If you are new to English Paper Piecing (EPP) here's how I sew the pieces together.  I've borrowed the pictures below from my 'A little happy Tutorial ~ English Paper Piecing ~ How I Baste and Sew EPP Hexie's' which you can read in full HERE, there's also more pictures on this post showing me glue basting, so well worth a look if your new to EPP.  For the sewing part, to recap, my top tips would be, to start stitching a smidge in from the end (can you see my starting knot on the left hand side of the hexie below) and then work to the edge and back again.  Make sure you use lots and lots of tiny little whip stitches, I think I average around 18/20 per inch, which literally just nip the fabric, try not to eat into the papers.

Can you see that even this example where I used black thread, the stitches are hardly visible... although bare in mind that the beauty of EPP is that it is handmade.  Those little glimpses of the stitches simply prove this.  There will be imperfections which just emphasise the love and time taken to make it!!!

For the Queens Walk block,  in the same way as I piece traditional hexies together, I started at the top (no1), stitched along the black arrow.  Then for the second and subsequent pieces I stitched along two seams in one go, as indicated by the blue arrow followed by the red arrow.  The important part is, that you take your time and line up your pieces that you intent to sew together accurately.

You'll find that you will at times have to bend the papers as you sew, that is absolutely fine.
Also note that when I knot off at the end of my stitches I like to leave a tail of thread approx. 1/2" long.
Once I added the first round of shapes to the centre Octagon, I then added four of the shape 3 triangles, if you refer to the layout picture above, you can see which ones from the two different basted versions I used.
Then to complete the inner Octogan, I sewed two of the Kite shape 4 pieces to the a remaining shape 3 Triangle.  You can do this as one continuous piece of stitching rather than breaking your thread at the pointed tip of the triangle, as indicated by the arrows.
I then added this trio group to the main block.  Again you can do this as a continuous line of stitching should you wish.  Make sure that you line up the corners on each of the intersections, as indicated by the circles, this will ensure that everything matches up nice and neatly.
Finally, all that is required to complete the block is to add shape 5, the corner triangles.  Ta Da a 10" square Queens Walk block.
Here's a picture of the back of the block, after I had carefully pressed it.  Can you see how by nesting the seams they are laying nice and flat.  When it comes to joining the blocks, I will need to press open the seams that are along the outer edge.

Just to clarify at what point to remove the papers, the general rule with EPP is not to remove a paper until it has something surrounding it on all sides.  I'm leaving the papers in until I have completed all 30 blocks, as this will help keep the blocks stable and stop the fabrics from fraying excessively.  If you're worrying about removing the papers if you have chosen to glue baste, I find that if you iron your work and then remove the papers whilst it still warm they pop out no problem.
I'm sure if you are an experienced EPPer this is all pretty self explanatory, but that being said, this is a totally doable block for a novice EPPer, so give it a go, although I must warn you it is rather addictive!

Once I have completed (with mum contributing too) all 30 blocks, I'll share a second post on how I will put it all together and finish it off.

You may recall from the beginning of this post (sorry, I know I've been rabbiting on for quite some time!) that the papers came to us cut as a block, rather than as individual shapes.  Having both been personally working on this, mum and I decided it was so much more convenient when it came to stitching to take a sheet and separate the 29 shapes within, as and when we were ready for them.  They are really easy to separate, a bit like when you open a jigsaw puzzle for the first time and split up the pieces.  With that in mind, rather than us sending you a bag full of  870 individual shapes, all mixed together, we have kept them 'as is' and packaged them in a flat 'pizza' style box.  We also thought this would come in handy for you to keep your completed blocks in as well.  The templates will also come carefully packaged in an appropriate size box.
In addition, should you wish to make a quilt using similar style fabrics and colours to mine, there is also a 'Starter' bundle on the website, comprising of 35 fat eighths inspired by the blocks that I have made.

To help you plan, a colouring sheet is included with every box of paper pieces.

I hope that you love the pattern as much as I do and I can not wait to see your versions in your fabric choices!  Remember to tag them with the following hashtags, so we can take a peek:


Here's another block I made, using fabrics from the super pretty Bunnies and Blossoms collection that has just arrived.  Imagine it in bright and cheery 30's reproductions or entirely from Liberty.....oh oh oh.......

So finally, here's a list and links to all of the Scrummy Supplies I've talked about today:

Queens Walk Quilt 30 Block Paper Piece Kit can be found HERE
Queens Walk Quilt 5 piece Acrylic Template Set can be found HERE
Glue Pens and Refills can be found HERE
Aurifil 50 wt thread can be found HERE
Clover Black/Gold Applique Sharp Needles #10 can be found HERE
Tulip Hiroshima Milliners Straw Needles #10 with a BIG EYE can be found HERE
Queens Walk Starter Fat Eighth Bundle can be found HERE
Liberty Tana Lawns can be found HERE
Amy Sinibaldi's pretty fabric collection can be found HERE
Bunnies and Blossoms fabric collection can be found HERE

See you again soon!

15 February 2018

How I made my Perfect Pairs Heart Quilt

A couple of weeks ago, I reached the point of no return and before I could embark on any more sewing the time had come to tidy my Sewing Room...to say it was a pit would be an understatement!

I had a huge sort out and gave two massive bags of fabric to a friends daughter who is embarking on her Textiles GCSE .  Despite this, I still have a mountain of fabric left over, no surprise since I own a quilt shop and as a perk of the day job, I get to bring home pretty snippets and end of bolts adding to my ever growing personal stash.  I set to sorting and folding, a somewhat therapeutic activity, and as you do I started putting together pretty combinations, one light, one dark...perfect pairs in my eyes.  

Before I knew it... a new quilt was in the making...my Perfect Pairs quilt.  The design was simple, pretty hearts appliqued on to a low volume background..... and in less than 2 weeks I had a completed quilt top.   Ok I admit that I did become a little obsessed and this was all I sewed, every evening and every spare moment during that time.  Here's my finished little quilt.........
The intention had been 160 different fabrics..however spot the duplicate heart, which I only noticed once I had sewn the blocks together...this will soon be rectified!!!

My Perfect Pairs quilt measures a sweet 40" x 50".  I had thought before I sewed the rows together that I would add some low volume borders, but in the end I decided I liked it just as it is.  I think Poppy also has eyes on it and is envisaging it as a lap quilt in her bedroom once it's been quilted and bound.

The nice thing with this is design is its total flexibility, it could be smaller, imagine it as a sweet pram  or crib quilt or indeed larger, by either adding more blocks or adding some pretty borders.

If you fancy making one, here's what I did.....

First off I grabbed the heart template I had made for the heart block in my Penny's Sampler Quilt.... however whilst making this quilt, I decided it would be really great to have an acrylic template...so I soon remedied that and look at these fabulous two part templates I had made......

The templates can be used in various ways depending on your choice of applique.  So for the Interfacing Method, which you can read about HERE or Raw Edge applique you would simply draw around the solid heart template or if you prefer the inner edge on the frame.

For needle turn, use as above to mark your finished size applique on the fabric and then draw around the outer edge of the frame to give you your 1/4" seam allowance and cutting line.  Personally, I found a 1/4" seam allowance great for this size applique (the heart measures approx 3" wide and tall).  If however you prefer a more scant seam allowance then simply eyeball and cut as required.

Did you also notice the additional guide lines I had etched on the template and the hole in the centre...these are particularly helpful to aide fussy cutting.

For my quilt, I chose to needle turn my appliques, which meant that I could do the whole process sat on the sofa!  I tend to machine sew at the weekends, so that my evenings can be spent with Andy, all be it always with a sewing project on my lap and in my hands.  I'll be sharing  'a little happy' tutorial very soon on how I like to needle turn my appliques.

Before moving on and if the thought of needle turn applique fills you with you horror....just to say that on Penny's Sampler, where the heart is exactly the same size..see below... I used the interfacing method, so honestly go with which ever applique method you feel happiest with!!

Once prepped, using my Clover Applique pins, I pinned the hearts to the centre of a perfectly coordinating 6" background square. 

To applique, I used threads to match the colour of my heart fabrics, which were a mix of 50wt and 80wt Aurifil threads.  I have to say 80wt is a dream to applique with and we will be increasing our colour range very soon.  I used a Clover Black Gold applique needle.

To join the hearts, I had originally thought that I would make 4 patches at random and then sew these together to make the quilt top.  However on Saturday, I couldn't resist laying them out to see what they looked like all together.... I went for a 10 rows of 8 heart blocks layout..... 

....I then had a change of plan and decided to stitch them together in rows BUT before doing so, I needed to trim each of the blocks to 5 1/2" square.  Hands up, this is not the most exciting of jobs and yes it's a little bit of a chore...it must be done!  Not only will it help with accurate piecing, it also ensures that the hearts are positioned dead centre.  Just think how annoying it would be if one little heart was out of line...ok so maybe you wouldn't find it annoying but for me with my OCD..no I couldn't cope!

To make life a little bit easier, I marked up my 6 1/2" ruler with washi tape.  I marked up the 5 1/2" finished block size and also a 3" square to indicate the central position of the heart, with an additional drawn line to show the centre point for the top and tip of the heart.
I was then able to place the marked ruler on top of each block, line up the heart, trim away the excess on one side.....
turn the block (or rotate the mat if you have a rotating cutting board like mine ...it's a OLFA one) then reposition the ruler before trimming the remaining two sides....
I estimate that I probably halved the time it took to trim the blocks by taking the extra time to add the tape... so it was well worth it!

Once trimmed I sewed my rows together with a 1/4" seam allowance.  I pressed the seams in alternating directions on each row, which allowed me to nest the seams when I joined the rows together.  I pressed this seam open to reduce bulk.

Nesting the seams really helps with nice matchy corners....

I've chosen a pretty ditsy Sevenberry floral to back my quilt with and of course I want to hand quilt. I'm thinking that I'll use a mix of colours in my favourite Aurifil 12wt to add to the scrappy feel.  I'm planning on quilting around each heart, the same as what I did on the Penny's Sampler block.  I may quilt around the squares too, but I'll wait and see how I feel and how much time I have.

That's a little happy tip by the way..... do the essential quilting so that your quilt is functional, after all that is the purpose of quilting to join together the quilt top, wadding and backing. Then once the essential quilting has been completed go back and add more if you wish!

Sadly, as this was an impromptu project... I don't have the time at the moment to hand quilt, but I'm thinking that this would be a super lovely project to take with me to sew on our family holiday to Yorkshire this May.  I will of course share it with you once completed.
I ended up with some pretty scraps from the 6" squares that I cut my hearts from, so I couldn't resist playing...these are 1" squares finished.  I'm not quite sure what they will become, but sweet aren't they...again I'll keep you posted!!


If you would like to make a Perfect Pairs quilt exactly like mine, mum and I cut some extras and have made up a gorgeous bundle of 160 x 6" squares, half low volume, half a rainbow of colours, all super pretty!

You can find the bundle HERE
There is an option to add an Acrylic Heart Template to your bundle or if you're planning some scrap busting, you can find the template for sale individually HERE
Aurifil Thread is available HERE
Clover Pins and Needles can be found HERE

Thank you to everyone who has already purchased a bundle and /or template from us already, mum and I really do appreciate it!

8 December 2017

English Paper Pieced Christmas Star

Every year I like if possible to make a new Christmas Decoration, last year I made my Tilda Pixies (you can read all about them HERE).  This years decoration, an English Paper Pieced Star...was inspired by one that I made about 20 years ago for a friend who was having a baby boy... it was obviously in a time when you didn't really photograph your sewing makes prior to gifting, so sadly I can not share it, but I remember that it was all baby blue fabrics and at the point of each star I glued in a glass headed pin.  I am assuming that the 'mum to be' did hang it well out of reach of said baby boy!!

I am reliably informed the following by Wikipedia......my Christmas Stars correct geometric name is a Rhombic Hexecontahedron, n geometry, a rhombic hexecontahedron is a stellation of the rhombic triacontahedron. It is nonconvex with 60 golden rhombic faces with icosahedral symmetry. It was discovered in 1940 by Helmut Unkelbach.

In plain English my star has twelve sides made using sixty 2" x 72 degree Diamonds.  I made the individual stars/sides exactly as I would any other English Paper Pieced star (see this A Little Happy Tutorial)....I glue basted and then hand sewed 5 diamonds together to form the 5 point star.  I use 50wt Aurifil Thread in a lovely silver grey #2600 with Clover Black Gold needles size 9.

Obviously time had dimmed the memory of how fiddly this was to make...not  fiddly enough that I won't say never again, but if I were, I would construct it slightly differently... here's what I would do next time.........

When joining the stars together, rather than adding continuously to the 'Mother Star'  I would make up three sections each one comprising of four stars /sides...like that pictured below.....
The reason for this being that I found that as I added further stars /sides the 'Mother Star' structure became increasingly wobbly and consequently more awkward to sew.....

Having thought about this only after I had slowly added eight sides to the 'Mother Star'.  I made the final section of four stars /sides separately and it was noticeably easier to then join these two larger sections together.

Obviously what I haven't mentioned yet but what you can see from the photo's is, that unlike normal English Paper Piecing, I did not remove the papers and the stars / sides were sewn together with Wrong Sides Facing.
I used bakers twine to hang my star...I simply folded aprox 1 metre of twine in half and tied a good size knot near the raw edges.  Then as I sewed my final seam, I slipped the knot inside a point of the star and then sewed up the gap tightly sandwiching the knot inside.

I am so pleased with it and it is amazing how it has gone from a flimsy structure to a very strong one, but obviously light enough to hang from the ceiling with just a drawing pin holding it up.

So in summary although at various points during the making and having said never again...... of course rather predictably, I'm now thinking how sweet a star would be, made with 1" 72 degree papers, but maybe that's an itch I'll have to scratch next year!!


If you feel inspired and would like to make one you will need:

(60) 2" 72 degree diamond papers available HERE (you'll need two packs)
(12) different fabrics, this would be a great scrap buster, alternatively you can find a fat eighth bundle of the 12 fabrics I used HERE
Bakers Twine to hang, I used THIS ONE
Thread to sew together, I used THIS ONE
My favourite needles are Clover Black Golds available HERE

I hope that you are finding a moment to enjoy some festive Happy Stitches!  See you next time!