14 February 2020

Positive stitches


In life, I generally have a positive outlook, as my Nanny Flo would say, "my cup is half full, never half empty".

I really believe that having a creative past time contributes enormously to my overall positive view of life and my general well being.  For me personally, I think hand sewing helps greatly.  Hand sewing, whether that be English paper piecing, applique, embroidery, making felt decorations, hand piecing .... all have the same effect.. those measured, slow and repetitive stitches, give me time to lose myself in my thoughts.

I do have tendency to have the longest 'to do' lists and I have been known to have 'ever so slightly' over optimistic expectations, as to what can physically be achieved in a working day, so hand sewing make me slow down.  It gives me time to review and rationalise my thoughts, contemplate new things and reminisce.  It also means that I can sit with my family, happily stitching, rather than being tucked away in my sewing room, so there is always an opportunity for us to talk.

Nan would also say "idle hands make fretful minds" ......how I use to snigger inwardly as a teenager, when she would come out with these quotes, but in hindsight I now know that she was a very wise woman.

I like to think that each little stitch that I make, will tell a story and become a memory for both myself and my family.   My hands, with my podgy and scratched fingers and unpainted nails, that oh my goodness, don't I wish were long, slender and manicured, have sewn many a mile, they have served me well.  They have stitched together quilts that have provided a reassuring hug when needed, they have sewn decorative stitches that have made people slow down and smile and they have, as both my nan's and mum's hands did for me, taught both my children how to sew.

Our motto for the business is 'a little happiness in every stitch' now you know why.

Have a lovely weekend, full of ‘happy stitches’!

12 February 2020

A little happy tutorial ~ Hand Quilting


I thought I would share today some of my 'little happy' tips for how I like to hand quilt.  I know I've been promising this blog post for days...months..years..ahem!!!   I do not profess to be an expert hand quilter and I am sure there are many that find my big stitches unappealing, however, I think they are one of things that makes my quilts recognisable as mine and most importantly, I thoroughly enjoy hand quilting my way!  WARNING...it's a very rambling post, so you may want to grab a mug of tea or coffee or something equally refreshing!

First off, lets talk about what items I use.  99.9% of the time I use Aurifil Cotton 12wt thread, I love how the 12wt, makes your stitches visible, yet not over powering... but heavy enough that all my hard work shows up.  I use a Clover Goldeye Embroidery needle.  I'm right handed and I wear a Prym Ergonomic thimble in size large on my right hand middle thimble.  I also like to have a little pair of scissors to hand.

For the wadding, most of the time I use Sew Simple 100% cotton wadding, occasionally I have also used 100% Bamboo wadding, but the 100% cotton is my go to and the one that is in all our kits.  The general of rule of thumb in terms of the wadding is to allow an extra 4"  all round on top of our quilt size and then a further 4" all round for the backing fabric.  So for example for a 60" square quilt top, your wadding would need to be 68" square and the backing fabric 76" square.  Once quilted, you then trim away the excess wadding and backing fabric.  On a mini quilt I make this 1" all round not 4".  

These days I use a quilting basting spray rather than pins...if you're on Instagram, at the top of my page in my saved stories, you can see a series of photo's where Andy (my willing helper) and I basted my Liberty Periodical quilt.  I've screen shot them and added them below....








So once you've you layered your quilt, you're ready to get started, but just to add, I do not use a quilting hoop, I simply lay the quilt on my lap and use it's own weight to get the right tension in my stitches.  If you find it easier 'hoop' up, there is no right or wrong!

I always start in the centre.


I make a knot in my thread and start from the back.  Put my needle in and then tug the thread so that it goes through the backing fabric and embeds itself in the wadding.   You may need to gently use your nail to gently help close the hole.  The reason that I always start on the back of the quilt is that I found that although the hole left in the fabric closes very easily, very, very occasionally it can just pull the the warp or weft threads slightly in the backing fabric, it's hardy noticeable, but if you're like me, your eye always goes to the slight imperfection in my work, but because it's on the back, then I don't worry in the same way. 

Also when I put my needle in, I don't start directly underneath where I want my stitch to begin, I move the needle just a smidge away, but I keep it in the line of where my quilting stitches will be.  The reason I do this is firstly, it gives the knot more chance of bedding into the wadding, but if I'm using a darker quilting thread and my fabrics are light in colour, then I will not see the trail of thread underneath.


So in summary, here's my thread and knot on the back of the quilt....


I've then given it a gentle tug and it disappears into the wadding, leaving the tiniest of holes....


and here it is after I've gentle closed the hole with my nail.


I then do a series of even running stitches.  Mine are not super tiny like traditional stitches, I get about 5 to an inch.  I hold my needle as I would for any hand sewing, rather than the traditional rocking method.


I like to put 2/3 stitches on to my needle at a time, I think this helps keep my stitches in a straight (ish) line...


and I use my thimble to push the needle through the layers.  


When it comes to finishing, I take my needle to the back, knot the thread ....



..and then pull the knot back into the wadding.  I then bring my needle back out an inch or so away, do a little over stitch just to be on the safe side, that way I know there is no fear of the quilting coming undone, then take my thread back in, come out again about an inch away and then pull tight and cut off.  Again, for all of this, I follow the line of my quilting stitches, so there is no worry of unsightly lines of thread being seen through the backing fabric.  Also, if there are any little holes from where you pulled the knot through, just use your nail to gently close them.


Here's the back of my Summer Sampler.  As you can see generally I tend to shadow quilt around the outside of my applique shapes and blocks.... normally my stitches are anything from 1/16" to 1/8" away from the shape or block outline.  From talking with people, one of the things that they worry about is the size of the stitches on the back of their quilts..... initially they can be tiny or too big, but certainly different in size to the stitches on the quilt top.  What I always say is even stitches do come with practice, so you will get there and honestly if all the stitches look the same, who would know that isn't what they are meant to be like anyway!


When I want to grid quilt, I use a Clover Hera Marker and a quilting ruler to crease mark the lines, which I then follow with my stitches.  I never use a pen or pencil or marker of any description.


When I did the grid quilting on my Spring Sampler, where the hand quilting went underneath the flowers, I simply ran the stitches through the backing fabric and wadding only and then bought my needle back to the front and continued hand quilting as normal when I reached the other side of the flowers.


I hope that helps and takes a little bit of the mystery of hand quilting away...honestly just go for it.  You will soon settle in to a rhythm of quilting and find a size of stitch that works for you.  

Happy stitches!

18 April 2019

Revisiting Hand Embroidery



I really am, never happier than when I am hand stitching.  In recent years primarily, that has been either English paper piecing, applique or hand quilting.  However, I also adore hand embroidery and I have always loved including little hints of it in my mini quilts.   It has been on my mind for some time now to re introduce some of my earlier embroidery designs in to a new range of kits to add to my portfolio.

A few weeks ago I decided to drop everything and make it happen.  I had a lovely time going through my folders and looking back at my previous work from a few years ago.  Like everything though, over time, how you do things develops and naturally I think you add a little bit more of yourself.  For the new kits, rather than being embroidery alone, I decided that I wanted to incorporate all my favourite hand stitches in to the new range.

I am so thrilled with how the new kits have turned out.  Initially, there are two new designs, Posie, which includes gorgeous Liberty Tana Lawns in muted colours combined with a lovely Linen.  The colours in the embroidery pick up from those in the fabrics.  Also I should mention that the lovely fabric used for the embroidery, is a linen/cotton mix and I have had the design printed on to it, so there will be no need to transfer.


I also wanted to indulge my love of faded florals and chose a selection of fabrics in the pretties palest pinks and ivory, with thread colours to match.......


 If you are new to English Paper Piecing, the Chrysanthemum Plates are constructed in the same way as the Dresden, for which you can find a little happy tutorial for HERE.

 For both kits, I've kept the embroidery stitches nice and simple and again there are tutorials for some HERE, there are also instructions included with the kits.

Both 'Posie' and 'Faded Floral' Embroidered Mini Quilt Kits are available on the website HERE.

Obviously, you know me by now.... my sketchbook and head are full of ideas, so I also couldn't resist starting a third project.  This one, which I've called the 'The Summer Sampler' really does combine all my loves, with a pretty mix of pieced and embroidered blocks.  

Again, I'm using the beautiful Liberty Tana Lawns, along side a mix of low volumes, together with the linen/cotton fabric for the embroideries.  The overall feel is light and airy, with little splashes of colour... like a cottage garden in full bloom.......



 I'm also adding pretty ribbons and lace, along with my favourite vintage Mother of Pearl buttons, which I just can not get enough of..ever!

This is going to be a 'mini' 4 month Block of the Month club, which will run over the summer months and will include all the fabric, trims, wadding, backing fabric, plus the embroidery and quilting thread...so everything except your choice of piecing thread.  As always, I use Aurifil 50wt in my machine and for the EPP and 80wt for the applique.

Sign ups will be opening on Easter Monday via the website.


I hope that you have a lovely Easter weekend, what ever you plans! 


Happy Stitches

18 February 2019

A little happy tutorial ~ Rainbow Kisses Quilt Part 3


Today I am sharing the final instalment of the Rainbow Kisses quilt.  I hope that you enjoyed sewing the centre applique panel, which I shared HERE.   If you would like to catch up and sew this pretty quilt, you can find the first instalment HERE.


BEFORE STARTING Always Remember to:

1. Read all instructions before you begin.
2. RST means right sides together.
3. All seam allowances are  1/4”.
4. FWOF means width of fabric.
5. If you need help, please do get in touch!

To complete your quilt top, you need to first decide on your lay out...... are you going to go for a scrappy random look, like this.........



 or perhaps a more orderly lay out like this.......


To complete, the instructions are the same for both options, you will just vary the positioning of your 9 patch blocks accordingly.

You will need to cut:

From your Background Fabric:
(84) 5" squares
(8) 2" x  32" rectangles
(12) 2" squares
(4) 2" x 5" rectangles
(8) 5" x FWOF rectangles

From a grey fabric:
(4) 2" x 32" rectangles
(4) 2" squares
(4) 2" x 3 1/2" rectangles

Right..... lets get sewing!

First off, we're going to construct the Inner 9 Patch borders.  Using the reference diagrams of the completed quilt above as a guide (Random or Orderly), layout the inner 9 patch units and (12) Background fabric 5" squares into a Top, Bottom, Left and Right side border.

With RST sew the units together. Remember to use a 1/4" seam allowance and as usual I had Aurifil 50wt in #2311 in my machine.

Press the stitches to 'set' them , then press with the seams open.

The Left and Right Side units should measure 5" x 23"

The Top and Bottom units should measure 5" x 32"



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Next, we're going to add the units to the Applique Centre.

With RST, pin and sew the Left and Right side borders.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.

With RST, pin and sew the Top and Bottom borders.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.

The Centre unit should measure 32" x 32”. 



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Now for the Grey Stripe border.  Lay out (2) Background and (1) Grey 2" x 32" rectangles as shown in the diagram below.

With RST sew the 3 rectangles together.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.

This unit should measure 5" x 32".

Repeat with the remaining Background and Grey 2" x 32" rectangles to make 4 units in total.




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For the Grey Stripe Corner blocks, layout a (1) 2" x 5"  Background rectangle, (3) 2"  Background square units, (1) 2" x 3 1/2" Grey rectangle and (1) 2" Grey square as shown in the diagram below.

First sew in to 3 rows and then, sew the rows together.  Press the stitches to 'set' them , then press with all the seams open. The completed Corner unit should measure 5" square.

Repeat to make a total of 4 Corner blocks.



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With RST, sew the Corner blocks to (2) of the Grey Stripe units as shown.

These units should measure 5" x 41".


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Next, we're going to add the Grey Stripe units to the Centre unit.

With RST, pin and sew the Left and Right side borders.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.

With RST, pin and sew the Top and Bottom borders.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.

The Centre unit should measure 41" x 41”. 


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Moving on to the 9 Patch Outer borders.  As you did for the Inner 9 Patch borders, using the reference diagrams of the completed quilt above as a guide (Random or Orderly), layout the 9 Patch units and remaining (72) Background fabric 5" squares into a Top, Bottom, Left and Right side border.

With RST sew the units in to rows and then the rows together.  Press the stitches to 'set' them , then press with the seams open.

The Left and Right Side units should measure 41" x 14"

The Top and Bottom units should measure 41" x 68"


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With RST, pin and sew the Left and Right side borders to the Centre unit.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.

With RST, pin and sew the Top and Bottom borders.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.

The Centre unit should measure 68" x 68”.



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Finally, for the outer Background fabric border, sew (2) 5" x FWOF rectangles together.  Subcut this to yield (1) 5" x 68" rectangle.

Repeat to yield a second 5" x 68" rectangle.

Repeat the process again a further two times to yield (2) 5" x 77" rectangles.

With RST, pin and sew the Left and Right side borders.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.

With RST, pin and sew the Top and Bottom borders.   Press on top of the stitches to ‘set’ them, then press the seams open.




The quilt top should measure 77" square.

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To complete your quilt, sandwich the batting/wadding between the backing fabric and the quilt top.  Baste.  I use a spray glue baste but you can pin or tack the three layers together.

Machine or Hand Quilt as desired.  You could choose an all over quilt design or alternatively if you fancy hand quilting, I would first quilt in a cross hatch through all the 9 patches.  Then in a square following the grey stripe border and then for the centre applique, I would shadow quilt around all the applique shapes approx. 1/8" from the applique edges.

Once quilted trim away the excess batting & backing.

Finally, add the binding. 

I hope that you have enjoyed sewing your Rainbow Kisses Quilt and enjoyed this FREE pattern..... a little happy thank you from me to you!

Happy Stitches