Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Christmas Cracker Cushion

Hello! Thought I'd pop in and show you what I did with my Christmas Cracker from the free block tutorial I shared. I turned it into a cushion cover:

I simply added borders to get to the desired size, basted and quilted as normal, then added a zippered back and machine-sewn binding. 

A simple flap of folded fabric conceals the zipper:

A zippered cushion closure is so much nicer than an envelope backing - no gaping! - and is not at all difficult. I think I need to stock up on zippers and make a few more. My naked cushions would probably appreciate it. ;)

Bye for now, 

Hope x 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Christmas Cracker - A Free Quilt Block Tutorial

Season's Greetings! I have a fun, festive quilt block tutorial to share with you today - a Christmas Cracker! I've used leftover 5" charm squares, but jelly roll strips are ideal, or anything you can cut a long enough 2.5" strip from. It's pretty quick too - which is lucky, since Christmas is not far away... so let's get to it!

For a single block you will need:

  • 2 coordinating, 5" charm squares - these will be Fabric A (the largest pieces of the cracker) and Fabric B (the smaller pieces of the cracker);
  • 2.5" x WOF strip background fabric

Use a quarter inch seam allowance, unless specified otherwise.

Start by pressing your fabric to remove all creases. Use a little steam or spray starch, and be careful not to distort the fabric. Allow to cool.

Cut one charm square (Fabric A) into two rectangles, 2.5" x 5", then from one of these cut one piece, 2.5" x 4.5", and from the other cut two pieces, 2.5" x 2.25".

Cut the other charm square (Fabric B) into two rectangles, 2.5" x 5". From these cut a total of six rectangles, 2.5" x 1.25".

From your 2.5" background fabric strip, cross-cut 4 pieces, 1" x 2.5". Cross-cut these into two squares each, 1" x 1", for a total of 8 squares. Set the rest of the background fabric aside for now.

Draw a diagonal line, corner to corner, across the back of each of your 1" background squares. This will be your sewing line.

Lay out your pieces as shown, making sure you have the 2.25" Fabric A rectangles oriented the correct way, with the 2.25" edge running left to right.

Sew each end Fabric B piece to its adjacent Fabric A 2.25" piece. Press seams to Fabric A.

Place a square on the corners of the four inner Fabric B pieces, face down, as shown. Pay careful attention to the direction of the sewing lines.

Making sure edges are flush, sew along the sewing lines a smidgen to the seam allowance side of the line (i.e. the outside corner of the square).

Press to set seams. Finger press open, pressing the seams in two of the units (one from each side of the cracker) towards the background fabric, and the other two units to Fabric B. When pressing seams to the background, your corners and edges should all line up:

When pressing to Fabric B, your background should neatly replace the corners of Fabric B. In both cases you should end up with a neat 2.5" x 1.25" rectangle.

When you're sure everything lines up, press seams with your iron - being careful of your fingers with the small pieces. Trim seam allowances to a quarter inch.

Now you will have two pairs, the back of which should look like this:

Sew each pair together, nesting the seams where they meet. You should be able to feel them 'lock' together.

Press seams to one side - whichever side sits nicest. Lay out your pieces again as shown:

Sew the pieces together to finish the cracker, pressing seams to Fabric A.

And from the back:

To finish the block, make sure your cracker is freshly pressed and cooled and measure the length (i.e. the longest side). It should be 12.5".

From your 2.5" background strip, cross-cut cut two rectangles the length of your cracker.

Pinning at the centre, quarter way points and each end, sew a background strip to the top, and one to the bottom of your cracker. Press seams to the background.

Congratulations, you've finished your block!

Note: When complete, block should measure 12.5" x 6.5" (including seam allowance all round). If you want a border all round, rather than just the top and bottom, you will need two more pieces, 6.5" x 2.5", for each end. Depending on how long your 2.5" strip is, you may need more background fabric

If you make something from this tutorial, I'd love to see it! Add a link in the comments, send me an email, or tag me on Instagram (@hopetn). You can see what I did with my block here.

Happy sewing!

Hope x

Thursday, 3 December 2015

New Leaf - A New Pattern

Happy December! I am pleased and excited to start the month with a new pattern release! I call this one "New Leaf".

The quilt is pre-cut friendly - Jelly Rolls, Sushi Rolls etc. can be used for the main 40.5" x 48.5" lap quilt, and the 12.5" square mini quilt uses two fat quarters. Yes, there's a mini quilt included in the pattern, no extra charge. :) Here's the version I made using a couple of Bonnie & Camille prints:

I used half a Moda Jelly Roll for the colours and yardage for the grey in my lap quilt. I absolutely adore these fabrics by Basic Grey from their Fresh Cut collection. The other half of the Jelly Roll is destined to (one day) become a coordinating quilt of the same design.

As usual, I've tried my best to make this pattern amazing value. There are loads of tips, step by step instructions and illustrations, as well as a couple of variations including an ombre version:

I've also included colouring pages at the end of the pattern so you can play with colour before deciding on your fabrics.

I really and truly love this quilt and the pattern I've produced. It's not hard to put together, is suitable for beginners, plus I'm always happy to offer assistance if needed. I hope you'll give it a go!

You can buy the pattern here or if you're in the EU, through my Etsy Store.

Happy Sewing!

Hope x

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Hand Quilting New Leaf

Just recently, I decided to add some hand quilting to a mini quilt I made (for which a pattern is coming very soon!).

I adore the effect, really and truly, but I had so much trouble pulling the needle through that at times I had to use pliers! That mostly happened when I had two or three stitches on the needle. Tell me, was I doing something wrong? It surely shouldn't be so hard.

I'm very new to hand quilting, but do love the effect so want to do it again. If you have any tips for me, I'd be ever so grateful. 

I'm also curious to know, what's your favourite brand of needle? Let me know in the comments.

Bye for now

Hope x  

Friday, 18 September 2015

How-to: Unpicking Quilting

Last night I spent a lot of time un-quilting - unpicking the quilting I had done earlier that day. Not because I wasn't happy with the shape of my quilting, (I'm learning to let go a bit in that regard), but because the tension was off. There's a tip worth mentioning: Check your tension! It could save you so much time.

The quilting wasn't bad all over, but there were enough bad places that I didn't feel happy to let it go. So, out came the seam ripper.

Now, I don't like waste, so I try to conserve long lengths of thread wherever I can when I'm unpicking. Here's how I do it with quilting:
  • Turn the quilt over so you're working from the back - I'd much rather damage the back by accident, where I can potentially cover it with a label or even a patch, than poke a hole in the front. 
  • Pull the thread ends to the back (i.e. the side you're working on) - both the top thread and the bobbin thread. (Note that in the photo I had already done some unpicking, so you can't see the end of the top thread.) If your stitching overlaps like mine did, it's important to start from the last stitch you made. 
  • Gently tug on the bobbin thread until a little loop of top thread pulls through.

  • Carefully slide your seam ripper under the little arch formed by the top thread and bobbin thread, let go of the bobbin thread, and use your seam ripper to pull the bobbin thread through the top thread loop. You can use any thin tool really, just as long as it can get into that little arch.

  • Repeat for each stitch, or if your problem was a tension one like mine, you might be able to pull out several stitches at once through the existing 'loops' of top thread. 
  • Every now and then, gently pull the on the top thread and wind it up. I like to use an empty thread spool or bobbin. See photo below. The yellow circle is where the top thread comes through to the back.

You'll also want to trim the bobbin thread now and then as it gets longer, so that pulling it through that little loop remains a quick action.

This method is also great if you run out of bobbin thread or your thread breaks. You can unpick without damaging the thread or your quilt, until your thread tails are long enough to tie off and bury.

One final tip - watch a TV show or movie while you work. I watched The Darling Buds of May while I did my unpicking. I know it well enough to stay focused on what I'm doing and just look up for my favourite parts. It's good to re-focus the eyes now and then, and visual entertainment is a good way to remember to do that.

How do you like to unpick - if 'like' is the right word?! It's surprising just how many ways there are to do many tasks in sewing, unsewing included.

Happy sewing, and may your seam ripper be seldom called upon. ;)

Hope x

P.S. Just for clarity's sake, the pictures do show the back of the quilt - it's a pieced backing. :)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

ZigZag Love in Miniature

It's finished! My itty bitty heart quilt. What do you think?

Each heart in this quilt is 1.5” small and uses one mini charm from V and Co's Simply Style fabric collection. I normally love to piece tiny, rotary-cut patchwork pieces, but for this quilt I chose to make foundation papers. I foundation pieced the heart halves, then removed the papers before sewing the halves into rows.

It's hard to tell the size in photos, so here's one with my hand for some scale:

I kept the quilting simple, just in-the-ditch with black thread (though the background is actually dark navy blue), and pale green thread inside the zigzags and diamonds for some contrast. To quilt inside the diamonds without stopping and starting for each one, I used the same method I described in this previous blog post.

I actually added the borders after I'd done most of the quilting. Because I'd gone edge to edge with my quilting, it meant I could simply pull my threads to the top after quilting each row, then tie them off and not have to worry about burying them because adding the borders covered them up nicely. A little more green stitching on the borders, and I was ready to trim and bind.

(By the way, don't you just love trimming mini quilts? So much easier than trimming a large quilt!)

For speed, I chose to machine bind the quilt. It really is a nice, quick way to finish up a wall hanging. To make the stitching almost invisible, I used black for the top thread and green in the bobbin. The tension was spot on, so neither colour shows through to the other side.

I'm working on a second ZigZag Love pattern, with more sizes and variations, to compliment my first pattern. The foundation piecing pattern for little quilt will be included, as well as some larger sizes, so if you think you'd like to make one of your own be sure to keep an eye on my blog to find out when the pattern is released.

You can also sign up for my brand new mailing list! Simply fill in the form on my sidebar (up towards the top of the blog). When I start sending out newsletters you'll be the first to know about my new patterns, tutorials and other quilty news and exclusive offers. If there's anything you'd like to hear about, make sure you let me know.

Bye for now, and happy sewing!

Hope x

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Sweet Hearts

I've been working on a mini version of my ZigZag Love quilt. A mini mini. I'm almost there, just the binding to do and then I'll show you the whole thing. For now, here's a peek at the first row, laid on top of my original ZigZag Love:

I'll be back soon with the finished quilt.

Bye for now,

Hope x 

P.S. If you follow me at Facebook, you'll have seen this photo already. If you follow me at Instagram, you'll have seen a lot more. Why not head over and say hello? I'd love to see what you've been up to as well. 

Friday, 31 July 2015

How It All Began - ZigZag Love

It occurs to me that I haven't actually shared ZigZag Love - my first and most popular pattern - on this blog. So, here's a little bit about my quilt. :)

The quilt started out as a bunch of sketches on grid paper back in July 2012. I was playing with hearts and really, the design almost happened by itself. Most unusually for me, the actual making of the quilt happened just days after the design (I have LOTS of sketches waiting to be made into quilts). I had ordered a charm pack of Marmalade by Bonnie & Camille for Moda, and it arrived while the design was fresh in my mind. Perfect! I dug straight in and started sewing that same day.

After a bit of fiddling to figure out which way to press the seams, it was all smooth sailing. After cutting it all out, chain piecing made the sewing pretty quick, and soon after I was laying it out ready to piece the rows. That part took me the longest I think. 'Random' takes so much fiddling to achieve sometimes. ;)

When it came to quilting, I had plans for some free-motion in the zigzags, but I was having trouble seeing white thread on white fabric, so I gave that a miss and stuck with quilting in the ditch, and again about a quarter inch into the zigzags and diamonds. I like the way it turned out, the texture is just right I think. 

I didn't make the quilt with the intention of writing a pattern. It received such an awesome response on Flickr though, with requests for a pattern or tutorial coming from several people, so I decided to give it a go. And now here I am, a couple of years later with several more patterns available and more on the way. 

ZigZag Love remains my most popular pattern, and I get such lovely comments and emails about it from people who have made their own. I am incredibly grateful to each and every one of you who has bought the pattern - thank you a million times over! 

This pattern writing venture of mine would probably never have happened without this little heart quilt, where it all started for me. I hope it continues for a long time yet. 

Thanks so much for visiting, and for your support. Happy Sewing! 

Hope x 

P.S. If you'd like to see the original post on my other blog, When Inspiration Strikes, click here

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

How Did You Quilt That? ZigZag Love

A question I've been asked about my ZigZag Love pattern is how did I quilt in the diamonds? Did I start and stop in each one? Is there a way to do it without stopping and starting? Well, since I've drawn up a little diagram to show how I did it, I thought I'd share it here in case others find it useful.

The travelling in the seams is not really noticeable from the front of the quilt, and looks fine at the back too.

Bye for now, and happy sewing!

Hope x

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Willoughby Bay - A Sail Boat Quilt Pattern

I am happy to announce that I have a new pattern available! 

Willoughby Bay is a little wall hanging with a decidedly nautical feel. It would be great on the wall of a baby nursery or a child's bedroom, or anywhere you want to hang something cute!

I named the quilt for Willoughby Bay in Sydney, which I used to live just a couple of minutes walk from. I'd often retreat to Primrose Park and look out at all the sailing boats on the water of the Bay. It was several years ago now, but I've found a photo to show you:

Ok, so there aren't many sails, and there's as much tree as sea, but there are a lot of boats and it's what comes to mind when I think of sailboats. :)

These patchwork boats are very little - just 2.75" tall - and I think they're a lot of fun to make. Here's a close-up with a pen to give you more of an idea of scale: 

Cute, huh?

Cutting instructions are included for both a scrappy look as shown and a single fabric for each element. I'd love to see this quilt in some different colours. Deep indigo seas with jewel-coloured boats, or a colour palette based on a sunrise or sunset... One great suggestion I've had is for pirate ships!

The pattern is suitable for confident beginners, through to more experienced sewists. I have written comprehensive instructions with lots of diagrams throughout, so I think that a newer beginner could also give it a decent go. As ever, I'm just an email away if you need any advice. 

The pattern is available through Etsy and My Pattern Shop. Or, you can click the nifty button below to buy it now. All options offer 'instant' download after payment.   

I'd love to hear what you think of my newest design. If you have any questions or comments, please leave me a comment and say hello.  

Bye for now, and happy sewing!

Hope x

Thursday, 14 May 2015

(Copy) Right or Wrong

As a quilt designer/pattern writer, copyright is a subject I've spent quite a bit of time looking into and thinking about. To try to make it clear what I expect with regard to my patterns, I wrote a page on copyright which you can access by the FAQ tab at the top of this blog.

Since writing that page, I've been thinking more and more about it. Everything there holds true, but lately I've been wondering... what is important to me? Why do I write patterns? Why do I want people to buy my patterns? There's the obvious answer (income!) but there is a bit more to it than that.

I want you to buy my pattern because you want to make a quilt from the design. I want to show you how I do things and for you to feel confident trying them for yourself. I want you to enjoy the process, to love your quilt, and to feel like it is exactly that - your quilt.

Yes, your quilt. So that means you can do what you like with it. Sell it, give it, auction it, exhibit it, donate it... it's up to you. You made it, you put all that time, thought, money, effort and love into it, who am I to dictate what you do with it next?

You know what else I want? I want you to share. If you like the pattern, if you think a friend would enjoy making it, then please tell them about the pattern. Show them your quilt, show them the pattern. What the hell, even give them a copy of the pattern.

I know! That's a bit of no-no, right? Your friend should buy their own copy, really, and that is definitely the right thing to do. But you know what? I'm not going to jump on you and call you nasty names if you share with a friend. Please, please, please tell them how they can buy their own pattern, suggest that they do so (it's what I'd prefer, obviously), but don't feel guilty if they choose not to. I understand.

For me, making a quilt is about doing something I love. Writing patterns is about sharing what I love, and selling patterns is about doing that in a way that helps buy food and pay the mortgage. I hate that there should be guilt associated with quilting in any way, shape or form. I know that if you give someone a copy of my pattern you're not trying to deprive me of income, you're not being mean or nasty. You're not a bad person. You just want to share, right? And that you want to share my design, my pattern? That is a compliment to me, for which I thank you. Do remember though, that this is my income source!

Having said all that though, do keep scale in mind. One or two friends is very different to a whole quilting group or guild, and different to a class of students. No mass distribution, please! And if you fancy yourself a designer do NOT, under any circumstances, take my designs or anyone else's and rewrite them and sell/distribute them as your own. That is not acceptable, and it's incredibly inappropriate and inconsiderate. (Yes, it has happened to me!) Also keep in mind that what I have said relates to my patterns, not quilt patterns in general. If in doubt, ask. That's the safest and most respectful way to do most things, I think.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear them. :)

Hope x

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Rose Parade Spools - A Swap Quilt Received

I've shown you what I made for the #igminioz swap on Instagram. Well today, as promised, I'd like to show you what I received:

Isn't it pretty? I feel so very lucky. My partner Julie (@patchwork_gecko on Instagram) went to so much trouble. In the questionnaire I said that my favourite fabric line so far is Rose Parade by Moda. It's a line that is long out of print, but Julie went to the trouble of sourcing a jelly roll of Rose Parade to make my quilt with.

And not just a quilt - she also made me a coin purse, mug rug and a spool pin cushion with the Rose Parade fabrics, and included in the package some little spool blocks and some left over jelly roll strips. PLUS there was a tea bag wallet (with tea bags), chocolate (my favourites, she stalked me well!) and a charm pack of Fresh Cut by Basic Grey (who I'd said is my favourite fabric designer).

I feel so incredibly spoilt and happy and grateful. Everything is perfect for me, and I love it all. Did you notice the hand-stitched label and the selvedges on the back? Also, it just so happens that the turquoise of the border and binding is a very close match for the trim colour in my craft room, see?

How's that for perfect?

This is the first quilt anyone has made for me, and I am smitten.

Bye for now

Hope x

Monday, 20 April 2015

Millennium Star - A Swap Quilt

In my last post I shared a photo of a quilt in progress. That quilt is now finished and I'm so happy to be able to share some photos with you. You can click on any of the photos to get a bigger view.

This quilt is now living in Queensland with somebody I have never met! You see, I made it for a swap run on Instagram. (The hashtag, if you'd like to look, is #igminioz.) It was my first swap, and I had lots of fun making the quilt, despite a sore shoulder slowing me down with the quilting.

It is an interesting exercise, making a quilt for someone based on knowledge you gain of them through a questionnaire and 'stalking' them on social media. (It was a secret partner swap). I was very fortunate in that my partner, @strange_stitches, commented on and 'liked' my progress photos, so I felt I was on the right track. Still, I was very nervous and so, so excited when it actually arrived and she got to see it in person. Her reaction was all I could have hoped for and more, and actually brought tears to my eyes!

I admit to being rather proud of this quilt, and completely smitten. The fact that it has gone to a fellow patchwork quilter is, I think, wonderful. I know that she knows what has gone into making this, and that makes giving it away so much easier. I also got to watch her progress on the quilt she made for her partner, all the effort she put in, which was fun.

The pattern I used for the star is called "Millennium Star" and is from the e-book included with the Craftsy Class "Quick-Strip Paper Piecing" by Peggy Martin. I love that class. It has made paper foundation piecing so much more fun for me, and easier. I highly recommend it. I changed the orientation of the star to have more room to go to town with the quilting.

The quilt finishes at a touch under 25" square. The quilting is mostly done with Aurifil 50wt thread. The black quilting took a LOT of thread - I went through over four bobbins! I also used rather a lot of purple thread for the feathers. I used white cotton batting behind the star, and black batting of a cotton-polyester blend for the quilt as a whole. I pre-washed all the batting.

All in all, I'm very happy to have participated in this swap. Whether or not I will do another one remains to be seen. Though it was not all I had hoped it would be, I feel I was very lucky with the partners I was allocated, and the interaction I have had with them and a few others over the course of the swap. And the swap package I received from my partner... wow. I was, and still am, thrilled and touched. I will share that with you next time.

Bye for now,

Hope x

P.S. Have you participated in a quilt swap? What did you think?