28 February 2020

A Year of Happy Stitches

Well this week has flown by.  It's been a whirl of Block of the Month prep, pattern writing and sorting out and ordering supplies for The Spring Sampler, our latest club which is due to start in April.  Yet again we have been overwhelmed with the response to this new club and it is now fully subscribed, thank you..thank you..thank you!!

I've also been enjoying some secret stitching for another new club which is starting this summer called the Secret Squirrel Stitch Society.  It's going to be a quarterly Seasonally/Holiday inspired subscription club and within each parcel full of loveliness, you will receive:

  • An exclusive kit, designed by me, to make a seasonally inspired mini quilt... this might include EPP, applique, embroidery, machine piecing, hand quilting.... lots of happy stitches! 
  •  A second 'mini' kit, again designed by me & exclusive to Club members... for example, a felt decoration or a little embroidery design....think small and pretty!
  • A 'little happy' extra..which will be a little something special, either chosen or designed by me, just for you!

Places each quarter will be limited, and you will be able to either purchase an individual box or there will also be a option to pre-order all 4 boxes should you wish.  Our intention is that the smallest of sneaky peeks may be shared on social media, but the contents of the quarterly parcels will be kept secret until released.  Rest assured, the pretty projects will be in keeping with my usual style!

We're currently sorting out all the finer details at the moment, but I can tell you that sign ups will open for the Summer box on the 1st April,make a note in your diary so that you do not miss out.  I will share more pricing information as soon as I have it all finalised.

EDITED 30TH MARCH:  In view of the Coronavirus situation, we feel it is the right thing to do, to hold back on the release of our new Secret Squirrel Quarterly Club.  We will be continuing to monitor the situation and will launch the club as soon as the time is right!

I am SO excited to share the projects for the first Summer box with you... I can not tell you how hard it is keeping the contents a secret..which is the total opposite of my 'in progress' pictures that I normally share.  What I will say is, that one of the projects is inspired by the White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson.  We visited about 14 years ago when Jamie was just a baby, but their garden in all it's shade of white and silver has stayed with me.  One day I hope to have a white garden, but definitely when the football / rugby ball and puppy days are long gone!!

As a small business with new things starting all the time, we feel it's important to keep you in the loop.... so I would also like to tell you that this year, for the first time, we will be releasing a 12 Days of Christmas Box.  Advent Calendar style boxes have become increasingly popular in recent years and we have received many requests for one.  However, we wanted to do something that was in keeping with the Pretty Fabrics and Trims aesthetic.  So, I have designed a brand new Christmas themed wall hanging/mini quilt...think block of the month, but condensed instead into 12 daily packages.  In addition there will also be little extra's included, for example this may be one of my favourite notions or a little 'mini' kit for you to complete.   As with the Secret Squirrel Stitch Society, we're just finalising all the details, but pinky promise, I will share more information soon.

This week, I stitched February on my Phenology Wheel, a little project I started in January.  My plan is to record my favourite plants, animals, birds and the weather in stitches, each month.  At the end of the year, I'm going to make my embroidery into a mini quilt.

I had some extra Phenology Wheels printed on to my favourite linen/cotton and they have proven to be super popular, so again thank you so very much!  Mum and I are really excited to see yours progress throughout the year...so please do share!  The nice thing however with this is, that you can start at any time and just roll it through for 12 months.

In terms of the content, I am trying to remember to carry my mobile phone with me as much as possible, something I am dreadful at!  The plan being, that when I see something pretty when I'm out and about, then I can take a photo.  Plus I will also use images as reference points from old photographs, books, magazines etc.  I've been sketching my ideas in to my drawing pad, then once I'm happy, I draw to scale on a paper version of the wheel, we've included a blank sheet with the fabric so you can do this too, then finally, transferring the image on to the fabric ready for stitching.

So far, I have included in January, a beautiful Red Kite, once endangered, but now we are so lucky to see regularly flying above the house, snowdrops and lots and lots of rain!  For February, a winter aconite, flying geese and the first flurry of snow .. I wonder what will March will bring!

As if I didn't have enough works in progress, I also made a start on a Floral Alphabet I've designed.  Each letter represents a flower from a cottage garden or from the wild....

A is for Angelica.....
 B is for Bluebells. C is for.......

This will be available as new kit later this year...but again I will keep you posted.  I also have plans for individual letters / bunting / hearts etc ..but as always, my creative brain works at a much faster pace than my fingers can stitch!

Wishing you all a lovey weekend full of happy stitches!

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.

****Edited to add**** My favourite 'go to' thread for hand quilting is Aurifil 12wt and my favourite needles are my Big Stitch Hand Quilting Needles...both available HERE.

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!
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