New EPP Ideas for a New Year

A collection of eggs from my family of ducks. Aren’t they lovely?

Hello Everybody and Happy New Year!

I’m sorry there was no blog post from me in December 2019. My  husband and I caught a virus which we  didn’t manage to shake off until Christmas Eve. And then, two days after Christmas, with my son and his girlfriend coming to stay the next day, we lost power from all our sockets. We did discover two sockets on a different circuit and so we ran extension cables, attached to further extension cables, from these to whatever we needed to use. There were cables all over the house and up the stairs where individual items were constantly being unplugged, swapped around and plugged in.  I found I couldn’t have a heater and an iron on at the same time, or the washer and the dryer without overload and the result was a strong smell of burning that sent me running to disconnect  one of them. This went on until well into January.  It’s so easy  take these things for granted until they vanish, isn’t it? And now it feels so wonderful to have all the cables disappear and the power return. Despite the inconvenience it  was an adventure of sorts and certainly a holiday season that I won’t forget.

As we only used essentials my sewing light was not a contender and this is something I really need to be able to sew in the low light of winter. Before the power went, I did make a set of three, double-sided, accordion houses as a gift for my son’s girlfriend and made a start on a few others, which I didn’t manage to finish.

Double Sided Accordion houses with a Spring like theme.

Here are a larger set of unfinished ones, which are double-sided as well:

Above: Larger Accordion houses with a coastal theme Below: Larger Accordion houses with a farm theme

and a mini set of Japanese Indigo ones, also unfinished as yet. They are just one and three quarter inches ( 4  1/2 cm) from the point of the roof to the base!

After Christmas, in the little space between Boxing Day and New Year, I worked on a  block I started a while back and wanted to finish.  January was just around the corner, when skeins of geese fly over our house on their way to warmer climates and I wanted to record that in fabric.

‘Geese Flying Over’ 8 inches square

I chose a blue grey palette to suggest our  overcast January days and added a group of fussy-cut geese (these may actually be swans but let’s not go there), all pieced together in a  traditional Flying Geese block. I have called it ‘Geese Flying Over”. Now I just have to appliqué a house into the bottom left hand corner and the top will be done. Still lots more work to do before it’s finished, though.

What should you expect from this blog in 2020?  My plan is to add some ‘special’ posts between my ‘work in progress’ posts to feature a variety of experiments with fabric. I hope to include flower pounding and leaf hammering, vegetable dying, fabric bead making, the use of crayons, coloured pencils and paint on fabric, weaving with fabric, fabric collage, writing text onto fabric and a whole lot more.  Each of these techniques can be used to enhance any EPP project and I hope to show you how. I will also experiment with more of Deborah Boschert’s Design Guides, flag up some of the best tools for EPP , try out some new wall quilt ideas and make one or two traditional American schoolhouses as I just love them. All these in addition to my usual Scottish-theme- incorporated-into- traditional-American block-pattern mini quilts for the wall.

Till next time….

 

6 EPP Problems & Ways to Fix Them

 

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I will try to keep this post brief because I didn’t get any response to my question as to whether a post on this subject would be useful, so I’m guessing that maybe most people would rather figure out something as they go. But, just in case these tips are useful to someone, I am going to post them anyway. Here are a few potential problems and a few possible solutions:

Shock Horror, a Hole!

  1. You have through your fabric by mistake and make a small hole. This is most likely to happen when you are preparing to add binding. You cut away your batting to the quilt size and accidentally snip through the backing fabric. It feels like you have ruined everything. The backing fabric is quilted on and can’t be removed. You can’t face unpicking it all and starting again. You don’t want to waste all the backing fabric for one tiny hole, but if you try to mend it, it will show. What do you do?

First you mend the hole so it is secure. Then you find a creative way to cover it. Of course it depends where the hole is, but you can usually find a way to embroider, appliqué or patch over it in a way that is no longer visible. Then repeat this decoration in other areas of your quilt, so that it looks like this was the intended pattern all along. Here is a my ‘Tulips and Roses’ quilt where I made a very tiny snip in the backing fabric but the mend still showed like a small slub.

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To get around that I used the same fabric that was in each nine patch to add a small chequered ‘brackets’ across the binding to cover it, and then repeated this with one each edge and beneath my label.  Here is the back of the quilt (below). Can you see the chequered brackets? Strangely, I think I like it better with these additions.

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Help! Some of the Pattern has been Gobbled up!

2.  You have fussy cut images around the edges of your quilt, or added embroideries that need to be seen whole. You haven’t thought ahead to the binding and then, when you start to add it you realise that this will chop off a part of your pattern and spoil the overall look.

The solution is to add more quilt to your edges. Add a border right the way around, a couple of borders, a pieced edge, or a frame. You can use four narrow strips as I did, or a series of narrow rectangles sewn together. You can make these EPP shapes in the usual way and attach them with your preferred way of stitching, to the quilt edges. Then you can quilt stitch over them or leave them plain. If you have enough backing material you can bring the backing to the front to serve as binding, but if not, you may have to add pieces to your backing fabric to make it larger. Alternatively you can add a separate binding to the raw edges. When I was making ‘Dog Log’ (below) I had to add four new

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grey strips around the edges to prevent my backing fabric covering up the images.

Oh No! One Block is Wonky!

3. You have completed your quilt top and removed the papers around the centre and then noticed that one piece is not straight and has gone unnoticed before. This often happens when you use stripes or squares and find that one block’s stripes are not straight or the checks are uneven at the edges.  Do you leave it even though it bothers you every time you look at it? How do you fix it?

The answer is that you remove the piece and redo it. First you must stabilise the area around the piece you want to remove. Put the papers back into all the pieces that surround it and baste them to secure them. I would even sew through the papers in this case to make sure they are really stable (I always sew through my papers but I know a lot of people don’t). Then remove the problem piece, starch it if you want, iron it, re baste it around a new piece of paper, check that the block now looks the way you want on the front and re-insert it into the quilt, stitching it in the usual way to all the surrounding pieces. Remove the paper in that piece and then in all the pieces that surround it. This happened to me with my ‘Whitley’ Bay quilt below:

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The darker, large check piece next to the upper right of the yacht in the centre shows more of a blue line of checks at one end than the other (yes I know it’s only a little but I hated it), so I removed the whole piece and reinstated it so that the top and bottom edges both finished on a line of white squares.

A Piece is Too Small or Too Short!

4. You are joining pieces together in a quilt and somehow you have cut a piece too short. This often happens when making a log cabin quilt and you have lots of long pieces, which have a habit of not meeting where we want them to. You don’t want to have to cut more pieces or maybe you don’t have any more fabric the same. What can you do?

When we learn to make quilts we are told to leave a 1/4 seam allowance around our shapes and a little more around EPP shapes. Actually, you can leave up to half an inch for safety and cut it off later if you want to. I find this extra seam allowance gives body to the finished quilt and it doesn’t show. I always allow extra when making log cabin blocks, because it means there is a little more fabric at either end of each ‘log’ to extend you piece by the small amount you may need, without causing a problem. The wonderful thing about EPP is that pieces can be adjusted easily and re sewn, provided  you have enough seam allowance to allow small changes in length or direction. In ‘Tiny Dancer’ (below),  my two outer cream pieces were cut too short and I didn’t have any more fabric the same. However, I had just enough seam allowance to fix the problem.

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Arrgh! All the right pieces are in place but they don’t fit together!

5. This is an odd thing about EPP. You often have to sew the blocks in a certain direction. So if you have this problem check out another way of sewing it together. This is a common problem when piecing 6 and 8 point Stars and adding tiny squares all the way around a larger square. You find that once you get to the end, the whole thing is lopsided (or in the case of the stars, the points don’t meet). You might have the same number of squares on each side but on the final side it looks as if you have more and you can’t understand why. I had this problem with ‘Into the Woods’ (below) and you can see (at the bottom right) that I tried to extend the centre square to make it fit but that made it worse. The square was already the right size.

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The solution was to remove the strips of squares and rectangles on each side and sew  them back on in a different order, the top and bottom first and then the two sides. This keeps the centre balanced and prevents one side moving out of kilter.

I hate those sticky out ‘ear’s on my triangles and diamonds and I want to chop them off!

6. Well, I know how you feel. ~You get this urge to snip them away, even just a bit, because it’s annoying trying to manipulate them into place and tidy them away.

 

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I borrowed this picture from a wonderful EPP site messyjessecrafts.blogspot.co.uk because I didn’t have a suitable photo.

The answer is don’t. In regular quilting you can chop all sorts of bits off to reduce bulk. With EPP you need to live with these ‘ears’ and learn ways to tuck them in because to chop them off, at worst makes holes and at best weakens the points where they meet other pieces, and risks them coming away from each other in time. You can learn to next them neatly on the back and the ones at your quilt edges will be covered by borders or binding.  They are a necessary part of EPP so learn to take care of them!

I am late in posting in months because we seem to have had a long bout of bad luck. My husband is ill, I have a knee injury, one of my ducks flew away and has not returned, another duck is lame, with a foot infection and the constant heavy rain and lack of light that accompanies it makes everything more difficult and dreary.

I began well, trying to finish my series of armchairs but life has got in the way and I have only been able to finish one more, though I have made decent headway on the others.

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After a while I added a cat but have not sewn it down yet as I am not sure I like it.

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I think I have put too many scattered embroidery stitches on it.

I hope to have more to show you in my next post. Goodness, it will almost Christmas by then!

Till next time…..

 

Making an EPP Quilt – Some Ways

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A proper Scottish thistle in the wild section of my garden

In my last post we looked at planning a mini quilt and various ways of finding or creating a pattern of your own. So, once you have that decided, what’s next? How do you choose fabric? What paper pieces should you use? What are the best stitches to use to sew the shapes together?

Fabric

There is received wisdom of a sort to help with fabric choices but there are not really any rules and sometimes the most surprising combinations work beautifully. However, if you are a beginner, there are some useful tips on one of my Pages on this site. It’s called ‘Help with Fabric and Pattern’, so to save repeating it all here, why not check out the page for yourself?  If anything is not clear, please let me know.

 

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Paper Pieces

Regarding paper pieces I will just point what were the advantages and disadvantages with each type for me, though that doesn’t mean you will feel the same way. You can:

  1. Use sheets of shapes which are available to download online, print out and cut up. You can then colour them in to get an idea of how certain colour placements will work.

2. Make your own templates out of paper and cut them out, or make templates from sheets of plastic and draw around these to make your own paper shapes.

3. Print out blocks you like on printer paper and then cut out the individual shapes. This is what I tend to do because I like to play around with the position of the shapes in a block .

Each of the above three option are cheap and readily available but you have to cut out the shapes very carefully. The smallest slip can cause inaccuracies that make piecing difficult later, causing points not  to meet as they should. Not that this can’t be fixed. One of the advantages of EPP is that is it is much easier (though just as tedious) to unpick and redo shapes than if you were stitching by machine. I can’t tell you how many quilts I have redone, sometimes over and over, because the paper shapes didn’t align properly and often the whole quilt would be affected.  It can put you off forever unless you are pretty determined to redo it until it’s right.

Paper tends to be very thin, too, and when you are folding over the seam allowance the paper edges and corners can easy bend slightly or fold without you being aware of it, making your rectangles (for example) dip in the middle or narrow towards one end. Papers can be reused if they are in good condition but some are just too crumpled after being in your quilt for weeks, months or even years. Some people don’t sew through their paper inserts and so they do last longer. I do because I want to make sure they keep still!

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The papers for an Easter basket looking worn, especially at the corners, after a single use

I know some experienced EPP quilters who prefer to make paper pieces using flyers that come through the door, or magazine pages which have a little more stiffness to them. Some use thin card from food packets. I’ve never done this so can’t comment on its effectiveness.

Having bought some packets of paper pieces recently though, I would go for these every time if I could afford them. I have begun to buy the shapes that I find in a block I like and re-assemble it  on my desk and then play around with the pieces. This has meant no more printing or cutting out; it is easier to make the block any size I want (provided that shapes working together are available in the size you want) and, what’s more, piecing is a breeze because each piece is die cut and therefore exactly the same. The ‘paper’ used is actually thin card that keeps its shape when used over and over. No contest, as they say.

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Stitches 

I’m not going to say much about stitches because there is so much information available online, as well as video tutorials. It might be worth trying out each of the stitches to see which you feel most comfortable with.

In recent years there has been a wave of discontent around EPP stitches showing, although there is still a school of people who don’t care if stitches show because it proves that the quilt is handmade. I think there is a middle road. They can look ugly if they show too much, like pale teeth lurking between shapes. There are ways to minimise this look and ways to hide them completely, depending on how much effort you want to put in to ‘get the knack’ of it.

The traditional stitch is the Whip Stitch. This is because it is the strongest. Whipped stitches don’t need to show but often do unless you know how to do them properly and it can take a good while to perfect them. The secret is to hold the fabric (around the two sides you are sewing together) with your thumb and forefinger right at the top edge and take little stitches, skimming through the very top of the fabric, across the papers and your finger tips. Tip your work slightly upwards as you hold it, encouraging your needle to lift slightly as it moves from the back, straight across the top of the fabric, towards you.  Holding the pieces on the horizontal (parallel with your chest) allows you to dig down a little with your needle as you cross from one shape to another, causing the stitches to show.

The next secret is in the thread colour. Use a neutral thread like a light grey on multicoloured fabrics; otherwise match your thread to your fabric colour, and if joining a dark piece to a pale piece, use the same colour thread as the darker piece.

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A section of the first quilt I ever made, in 1981, with stitches that modern EPP quilters would find unacceptable. I only had black and white cotton in the house and it never occurred to me to buy matching cotton or to hide my stitches.

It seems growing numbers of EPP quilters are disenchanted with the whip stitch. They don’t want to work at getting the knack, they want instant no-show stitches and there is nothing wrong with that. Some people need to feel they are making fast progress. For them the Ladder Stitch or the Flat Back Stitch is the answer.  Feather Stitch, which is actually an embroidery stitch, can also be used and this is also done on the back. Personally I find these stitches slow and tedious. Flat back stitch does not allow the seams to fit as snugly together, either, but they all give an instant no-show stitch result.

None of these stitches are as strong as the traditional Whipstitch but if your quilt is not going to be washed over and over, or is going on a wall, it’s not going to matter much. In the end you must use the one you like. For me it is always going to be the whipstitch because I enjoy using it and I love that is is the traditional way.

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This is a mini quilt in progress. Even magnified like this, the stitches between the shapes are not easy to see.

So, that’s enough of the mechanics of EPP for now. What have I been making since my last post?

Last month was a UFO month for me and I am pleased to say I have made good progress on three. I am close to finishing ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’. Just some little flying geese to add to the right hand side of the topmost section and then I can make my quilt sandwich.

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‘Over the Hills and Far Away’

I finished the top of ‘Whitley Bay.’  (The problems I encountered doing this will feature in a future post)

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‘Whitley Bay’

I managed to put a wee Scottie Dog into each of my Attic Window blocks. I’m not sure what I am going to do with these.

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How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the waggly tail.

And I finally completed ‘The Sweet Life’ quilt that has been waiting years for a binding. I learned how to make binding and hand sew it to both sides of a quilt only last week

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Hand binding on both sides – took ages!

and I am super excited to see the quilt finished at last.

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‘The Sweet Life’, made from 4 large panels with a square insert in the centre

Next post – I thought I might look at some common mistakes and how to put them right. Would that be helpful? And, you never know, maybe some un-quilted minis will get quilted in the meantime.

See you then….

Planning an EPP Mini Quilt – Some Ways

Blustery, overcast and rainy weather is the norm in the west of Scotland at the moment

Well, keeping to the timetable I had in mind in my last post didn’t last long. A spell of dry weather took me out in the garden, a series of visits to the dentist put me in a slump and a couple of new quilt tops wouldn’t go together right.  I think, going forward, the best thing is for me to work towards two new quilt tops a month in general, and/or try to fix two unfinished or problem ones, without deciding on any specific one. Maybe that will work. Hmmm, time will tell.

I often wonder how artists, writers and quilters plan their work and how much planning they do. I know a lot of people that don’t plan at all, they just begin. Me, I adore planning. I love that more than the actual making, though I like the finishing too, the quilting and embroidery stitches.  There is nothing better than coming up with a design, hunting for the fabrics that bring your idea to life and imagining how its all going to look. I guess that’s what big name designers do – and then hand it over to someone else to make. What fun that must be.

Planning shapes, colours, patterns and pictures.

So how do people make a start on an EPP quilt? I see that quite a few buy  kits or follow a set pattern, particularly lovers of the Passacaglia quilt and other similar  fussy cut patterns. Lucy Boston is another favourite but with a more traditional look. Hexagons still seem to be by far the favourite, though I am not a great fan of those. That said, I do have a great hexagon pattern designed by one of my followers, in an earlier post, so if you do like hexagons check out my ‘Grandmother’s Posy’ guest post (July 2018)

As for fabric, people use what they have in their stash, buy some new pieces that they love, or collect several from a range of shades and tones recommended in the quilt pattern. Some people buy charm packs which I have found very useful for small, patterned, more utilitarian quilts that you want to use for table-toppers, runners, mats and dolls quilts, because all the colours and patterns coordinate with each other. And if you need it to be larger, you just add in a solid or tone-on-tone fabric between your patterned shapes.

‘Town Square’ made from charm pack of 5 inch squares. I find that any left over squares go on being useful.

The mini charm squares are a bit more challenging but a great place to start if you want to try making something tiny. They make sweet house shapes:

A house from a 2 1/2 inch square, using a Moda ‘Comma’ mini charm pack.

There are lots of patterns to follow for these pre-cuts on Pinterest and there are several books on Amazon devoted to making them.

But what if you don’t want to follow a quilt pattern or use pre-cuts or repeat one basic shape? Some people are very good at designing their own geometric patterns using the computer or graph paper, and that is probably the best way to create something personal and original, but what if that’s not your thing, either?  I wish I could do that but I’m not much of a pattern person; more of a picture person. I have tried to invent patterns but it takes me ages and they always end up looking a bit odd. And it’s not fun (for me).

If this sounds like you, too, what you CAN do is take a traditional quilt block where you already have a pattern as a starting point and move the pieces around to change the pattern slightly. You are not copying and these blocks are so old that you can play around with them without fear of complaint from the person who originally designed them. Just make sure it IS an old, traditional block (unless it’s for personal use only). You will find lots at  quilterscache.com on Pinterest.  Some of these “altered blocks” will turn out more successfully than others, of course.

My mini quilt ‘ Farm in the Hills’ was an altered version of the traditional block ‘Farm Friendliness’ .

‘Farm Friendliness’ block borrowed from quilterscache.com on Pinterest.

I moved the triangles around and created larger ones to make hills. Then I put a farmhouse in the middle. This was one that didn’t work out as well as I wanted but you get the idea.

‘Farm in the Hills’

A simpler way is  just to use different tones of fabric to emphasise different parts of the pattern. Make the original light bits dark and the dark bits light, emphasise   the centre or the corners and discover another version of the same pattern.

I quite often I use themed fabric in old blocks, finding my theme in its name. The names of blocks fascinate me and set me dreaming. I love seeing  skeins of geese flying over each year,  so I’ve begun working on a flying geese block , using geese in the fabric while altering the block a little to suit my purpose.

Geese flying over our garden in the early morning.

The Original block was ‘Geese Passing Overhead’ which you can see on the far left, below. The next picture shows how I have turned it around so the geese are flying upwards, printed it out and blocked off areas I want to use for some appliqué. The last picture shows how a further alteration of the design, adding in a paper dummy of a house and using larger triangles to accommodate the large geese in my flying geese fabric.

You can also  turn ‘on point’ patterns around so that they are square on, you can leave out middle squares, join up triangles to make larger triangles, turn a nine patch of tiny squares into one big square, or create long blank strips through the centre of a block to showcase special fabrics or appliquéd scenes. Just add or subtract parts of the pattern to suit yourself or your fabric.

The quilt below, that I featured in a recent post, was an on point pattern which wasn’t what I wanted so I turned it around, used only the centre section and emphasised different parts of the pattern. Here is the original block, called Purple Sage:

I used purple, Scottish themed fabric and called it ‘Hill and Heather’. Here is the same block now:

Many of my quilts feature houses because I am besotted with houses and I like to put them on a pieced or patterned background. But you can substitute a house idea with a dog idea, for example: dog fabric, appliquéd dog, fussy cut dog  – or any other thing you fancy.

Quite often I see pictures inside patterns. One example is the angel I saw in the traditional Storm at Sea pattern.

See the angel in the top left hand side? Block borrowed from quilterscache.com on Pinterest.

Here she is still in progress. I messed up the hair around her face so I am waiting for the motivation to go back and try and improve it.

‘House Angel’

See if you can see a pattern inside a pattern; something you can use. One idea is to look at the many examples of floor tiling on Pinterest and pick out a section. I have a board called ‘Quilts – EPP Pattern Inspiration’.  And a number of other EPP boards, too, which you are welcome to mine for ideas.

Sometimes I will see something that makes me think of something else and that leads to an idea, such as this this block I noticed on Craftsy.com:

It’s not a traditional block but the half square triangles in the top right hand corner made me think of an arrow. I imagined a house in the opposite corner or a tartan background and a caption reading ‘You Are Here’ and so I have made a start on that one.

Once I have the idea onto paper, I begin to search for the fabric I want, of the quality I want. Sometimes that takes weeks but it’s something I really enjoy. I always buy for the specific  quilt I am working on these days, to limit the build up of my stash.

When I have the fabric, I am ready for the making stage. But what about the paper pieces? Do you use paper, card, buy shapes or cut up a pattern you have printed out? And what stitches will you use to piece it: Whip stitch, ladder stitch or feather stitch?

This post has ended up a wee bit too long, but I hope it has helped you find more  ideas for your quilts. We will look at the making part of a mini quilt in another post.

Till next time….

 

 

Could You Sew to a Timetable?

A ‘quilted’ hill just a few miles away, taken this time last year.

I don’t know about you but I find that the patterns I have earmarked for Christmas or Valentines day never get done in time because I don’t start them early enough. I begin some things and drift on to other things I fancy and end up with a pile of quilts at various stages of not done.

So I thought why not make a timetable with a couple of quilts to do  each month and a couple of UFO’s added in, in case there is time for them?  That way I could factor in Spring Autumn, Winter and holiday themes  and begin them well ahead of time, too.

I could check my list each month knowing I only had to concentrate on those few. The ones that were not finished by the end of the month would be left as  UFO’s to be carried forward, or not, and I would move on the following months’s projects.   I have made plenty of timetables in the past, for exams, for housework, for writing and have never been able to stick to them but I’d thought I would give this a go, regardless. Of course it would mean that, in most cases, only the pieced quilt tops would be finished. It would be unrealistic to imagine I could quilt and bind them as well but I would make good progress, right? Hmm.

My list for July was to make:

An Attic Window with something Scottish in the window:

I ended up making two Attic Windows but they still need something in the windows. The piecing and embroidery in  Hill and Heather, mentioned in my last post,  was done early in July.

‘Foxes in the Den’, begun months ago, didn’t get a look in, but I managed to complete ‘Dog Log’:

If you remember, when I added the binding it cut off the edges of the images around the sides of the quilt, so I had to add a narrow pieced border and sew the binding over that that to reveal the whole image. It does make a difference so I’m glad I did it. This is how it looked before:

‘Dog Log’ with cropped images – not a good look!

That led me to squeeze in another dog quilt this month, a  much smaller (five and a half inches square) spin off from the one above (just under nine inches square). Here it is,  a Dog in the Cabin block that I need a name for. Any suggestions?

‘Sniffing the Morning Air?’ Log Cabin Block

It reminded me of another dog quilt I made for my son years ago called ‘Mr Pickles in he Cabin’.

Its amazing how far two fat quarters with dogs and bones can go!

And so to August. The main thing on my list for August is to make one of the unmade quilts that I bought the fabric for years ago. This was a pack of Laura Ashley pre-cut fabric squares called ‘Whitley’ Bay that I bought from France. It had a sailing ship on the top square but  when I received it, many of the images were not centred on the cut square. Who wants to use part of a sailing ship? I don’t buy cut squares now unless I can see every one. I started making it using more pre-cut squares with checks and stars that I bought from Ebay but they are quite thin and not of the quality that I would buy now. If the description says the fabric is suitable for dressmaking or shirts, I don’t buy it because I know it will be too lightweight. I didn’t know that then.

I had intended it to be cot size, using nine images, but I have cut it down five images, so it will be faster to complete and I can be rid of the pressure of it. I have done my best with the images but in these days of precise fussy-cutting, perhaps it’s isn’t really acceptable.  Here it is in progress with just the triangles to do to complete the top:

‘Whitley Bay’ in progress – just the edge and corner triangles to add to complete the top

I have teamed the Laura Ashley and checked squares with some duck egg tone on tone fabric and I have some fun decking fabric for the back:

‘Coastal Painted Planks’ by Makower UK’

Maybe that will help improve the rest of it though, as the saying goes, you can’t (often) make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

This month I also have  two new quilts ‘Little Star’ and ‘Walk in the Glen’ to make. In addition I need to appliqué some shapes to complete the top of ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’,  add the windows and doors to ‘ ‘Liberty square’ houses, finish two half-done Angel quilts and fix a problem with one called ‘Into the Blue’.  So August is more about fixing and completing than making, it seems.

I’m not sure if this is good progress but it is progress. I might be asking too much of myself, especially as soon it will be time to work in the garden again before winter but I can always make my list shorter. It’s early days. It will be months before I will know if this idea will really work in my favour.  I am sure I will still drift away from it often and make something completely different, just because I fancy it. But what the heck? This is meant to be a pleasurable activity.

So,  I’m thinking timetables can work if you see them as flexible, just to help you along. And if they work for you, rather than you for them. What do you think?

I have some very nosy neighbours at the moment!

Till next time….

Your Fabric Stash – Does it Serve You Well?

Hi Everybody,

I’ve been thinking about fabric stashes and what makes a fabric stash useful and worth having. I’m quite organised with my stash. A local sweetshop owner doesn’t like to throw away the plastic boxes that the sweets are delivered in, so he gives them away to people like me who like to hoard things in boxes. I keep them all on the shelves of a bookcase.

Most are square boxes organised by colour, fabric type and theme. I have boxes of blacks and greys, whites, cream, pinks , reds and so on for colours. These are mainly prints though I have a single box of solids and one for charm packs which include a good range of shades. I have boxes for muslin, linen, white cotton, batik, double gauze, grunge fabric, organza, Liberty prints, plaids and tartans.

I also have boxes based around the themes that crop up most often in my work – kids,  cats and dogs, birds, skies (clouds, rain, snow etc), Celtic themes, Christmas and novelty fabrics like text.  Then I have a few long thin boxes for threads, trims and embellishments, paper templates and that sort of thing.

What I don’t really have enough of are spots, stripes, grids,  tone on tone blenders and the sort of broad striped fabrics that make interesting borders and bindings. I notice over and over how useful it would be to have a choice of these and yet I never buy them because, if I am going to spend some money, I want to spend it on something I get excited about rather than something useful. This is a bit silly because these fabrics lift and enhance work in interesting ways.

I also don’t pay much attention to tones. I am always looking to have dark, light and medium tones in my work, only to find most of my stash includes prints that are much the same.  This is where charm packs can be useful because they do ensure you are buying a range of tones.

Moda ‘Boat House’ Charm Pack with a typical range of light and dark fabrics.

I began my stash because I wanted to create appliquéd fabric pictures and embroideries, so I bought various background fabrics in natural linens for that purpose but I didn’t really have the skills at that point. There was much to learn, so I put those aside and starting quilting because I had done some of that years before. I thought it would be fun to make baby quilts so I spent many happy hours designing cot quilts and buying the fabric for them.

Fabric bought years ago for a baby quilt with a dog theme.

As I made  one I planned more and bought more fabric for them.

Fabric bought years ago for baby quilt with a cat theme.

I also bought fabric that I thought would be fun without any real idea of what I was going to do with it.

Novelty Fabrics: I have too many.

I bought too far ahead and without clear purpose. I am now faced with having to start those USO’s (unstarted objects) soon, to get them done and out of the way, reducing them in size or adapting them in some way,   using the fabric for different things or selling it. It’s feels wasteful and and is holding me back, as I now want to do more ‘arty’ things with fabric – to  print and paint my own fabric, add layers, surface stitches, explore needle lace, fabric weaving –  and that is a long way from where I began.

So, now I am going to interest myself more in a range of tones and textures: stripes, grids, solids, linen looks, and tone on tone blenders and before I buy  will consider their purpose in relation to the project I am doing next or the possibility of them having multiple uses in the future. Now and again I might splurge on something if I see the perfect fabric for something I plan to make soon but I won’t do that often. Buying way ahead of time wasn’t a good idea. I had no idea how much making and exploring fabric and design would change me. But maybe it’s not like that for everyone.

In hindsight, I think the thing to do is to buy bearing in mind what you are into at the moment and not too much of it. Know that you may change your mind and ideas in the not too distant future. There is often a feeling that if we don’t buy a particular fabric now it  will be gone, and often it is, but we should be able to let it go. There will always be something that will work, if not today then a little later, and it might even be something better. I found this to be true.

I wonder how you manage your stash. I bet you’ve been more sensible than I have.

Strangely the fabric I most want to buy plenty of I can’t find, and that is genuine tartan in a medium weight cotton. I can find polyester cotton but I don’t like to  mix that with my cottons (am I being too fussy? I feel that the cotton will shrink whilst the poly-cotton will not) ; I can find brushed tartan which is too fluffy;  wool tartan which is too thick for EPP;  cotton shirting which is too thin and floppy; and plaid which, though lovely, is not authentically Scottish and can’t really replace a genuine tartan. So, if you know of anywhere I can buy medium weight cotton genuine tartans (not fashion tartans) please let me know. I would like so many of my designs to include tartan but it seems it’s not to be. Instead I have to concentrate on Scottish themes, incorporate a broader variety of  ‘tartans’ and plaids  occasionally and tell myself that not everyone loves tartan, so maybe it’s ok.

Acorn classic fabrics kindly sent me some swatches but they are shirting material and may be too thin. The swatch in the photo is the Gordon tartan

This week I have been working on the top of a new quilt which I have called Hill and Heather. The design is an altered version of a traditional quilt block called Purple Sage. I may add more embroidery to the trees on the far right and left, as they look a bit sparse. Then I can set about turning it into a little quilt.  Making this has taught me to think twice about using circles in little patches because if they don’t match up, it shows.

My husband is away, sailing on the tall ship ‘La Malouine’  to the Isle of Man, so I have a week to myself with fewer interruptions and I’m hoping to get plenty of new work done.

Tall ship ‘La Malouine’

Till next time……

Books on EPP – Worth Having?

 

 

I love nasturtiums and I’ve gone a bit crazy over red at the moment. I’m sure you will see it showing up in my quilts very soon.

So, is it worth buying books on EPP?  The short answer is yes, for various reasons, but some are likely to be more useful to you than others, depending on what you are looking for. But let me give you the l o o o n g answer too:

As EPP has become more and more popular over the last few years, a rash of new books have become available. These fall into various categories:

  • There are those all about the hexagon (and in many people’s eyes EPP = hexagons ) One book all about hexagons and the shapes that join together to make hexagons, is:

Hexa- Go-Go: English Paper Piecing by Tacha Breuchern(Stash Books)

Promotional photo from Amazon.co.uk

I don’t own this book as I am not much of a hexagon fan but I have seen it recommended over and over. It contains 16 quilt  projects and I’m told it has a great resource page and   author website worth a look.

However, the book is very expensive at the moment due to the huge popularity of hexagons but if you love hexagons, there is plenty of free information and tutorials online and  free patterns too. Check out Youtube and Pinterest.

  • Then there are  the books that give you the tools and techniques you need to make a number of shapes beyond the hexagon.  These also include a variety of projects that you can make with the techniques you have learned:

My favourite for this category is:

 ‘Quilting on the Go – Paper Piecing. Patchwork you can take anywhere: techniques, patterns and projects’ by Jessica Alexandrakis. (Search Press)

EPP is not mentioned in the title which is a bit misleading especially since Foundation Piecing is often referred to as Paper Piecing,  but  this book is only about EPP.

What I love about this book is that it covers everything you need to know at each stage from choosing your tools and joining your shapes, to adding edges and borders and then binding and quilting. There is plenty of information online about assembling a quilt by machine but it’s good to see someone showing you how to do most of it by hand. We don’t all own sewing machines.

There is also useful information about working with fabric colours and patterns, something many beginners struggle with, and information about being a quilter in a digital age.

The book includes ten different sized projects to master, ranging from a photo frame to a throw, and, in addition,  pages with suggested patterns for some of the most popular English Paper Piecing shapes with templates in case you prefer not to make any of the projects.

EPP is a celebrated here as portable hobby, so guidance is given about making a travel kit and working with scraps. The Resource page includes links to online UK supply companies

You know what though? I really wish all these books were ring bound. It makes it so much easier to work with a book alongside you that opens out flat. Quite a few embroidery books are appearing ring bound now, so maybe we can look forward to this in the future.

  • Fussy Cutting is all the rage at the moment and one of the first books to include this, in addition to EPP basics and a range of projects, is:

Quilting on the Go: English Paper Piecing by Sharon Burgess.

Promotional photo borrowed from Amazon.co.uk

It is unfortunate that this book has a similar title to the one above as it makes it easy to confuse the two. This book includes a large and varied number of  practical projects including a runner, a mini quilt, bunting and placemats.

Burgess has published two other  English Paper Piecing books:

Promotional photo borrowed from Amazon.co.uk

‘English Paper Piecing: A Stitch in Time‘ which is essentially another project book.

and a more comprehensive book:

Quilting Bible for Beginners: English Paper piecing.

 

Promotional photo borrowed from Amazon.co.uk

In this book, in addition to a new series of projects, she gives guidance on a broader range of subjects such as hand and machine sewing and using digital photography when planning a quilt.

Although it suggests that it is essentially for beginners, most EPP shapes are not difficult and I would say that Jessica Alexandrakis’s book above and Dianne Gilleland’s book below are equally useful for beginners and will take you beyond beginner stage when you are ready.

  • Then there are the books that I love best, the ones choc full of tips and techniques, so you can make make and fit together a variety of shapes to create designs of your own, and which don’t  include any projects to make. I don’t seem to be inspired by projects in books, preferring to come up with my own (much less practical) creations. For this reason my favourite EPP book of all is:

‘All Points Patchwork – English Paper Piecing Beyond the Hexagon’ by Diane Gilleland

Much of the same important advice is covered in this book but the emphasis here is on encouraging you to build your own designs, either by computer or hand drawn, rather than copy someone else’s. However, ‘Project Inspiration’ photos are included to show you the sort of thing that can be done with a shape once you have made it.

Nowhere else have I found step by step advice on how to tackle basting at very narrow angles. Triangles drove me crazy until I found this book. You are also shown how to appliqué your shapes if your prefer not to piece them. I feel that the absence of projects has allowed the author to include many more pages of tips and techniques for us to apply in our own way. There is an interesting resource page including books on basic quilting, EPP bloggers (not me, sadly), online tutorials and online supply companies.

  • Published recently and something different from all of the above is:

‘Flossie Teacakes Guide to English Paper Piecing (exploring the Fussy Cut World of Precision Patchwork’  by Florence Knapp

This is the newest addition to my EPP library (How delightful is the name Flossie Teacakes? I loved this name so much I named one of my ducks Flossie after I got this book. I’m not sure Ms Knapp would be flattered).

What this  book offers us, over and above the other books, is a sizeable amount of the history and background to English Paper Piecing,  the work of some well-known modern EPP’ers such as Sandra Cassidy (below). NB: Not all the featured modern quilters are fussy cutters.

It’s only right that I should showcase a Scottish EPP’er!

Here we get an in depth look at what’s needed to create beautiful fussy cut quilts.  Included are tips about design, the best  fabric to choose, how to make rosettes featuring a range of patterns from symmetrical to conversational, and in the last pages you are invited to bring these techniques together to make the ‘Ripple Effect quilt  top that the author has designed.

  • From Australia comes a book that teaches basic EPP skills alongside needle turned appliqué.

‘New English Paper Piecing. A Faster Approach to a Traditional Favourite  by Sue Daley’.

Promotional photo borrowed from Amazon.co.uk

This is a book offering 10 different designs using hexagons  squares, circles, pentagons, that fit together to  create these and further designs.  We are shown how to piece shapes using EPP and then apply them to a whole cloth background. There are some great videos of hers on Youtube if you want to explore her way of working.

 

  • Two English Paper Piecing books  that would suit people who like traditional designs with added embellishments are produced by ‘That Patchwork Place. These are :

‘English Paper Piecing: Fresh New Quilts from Bloom Creek’ and

‘English Paper Piecing II’ ,  both by Vicki Bellino. 

The photo shows the first book but both include a series of quilt patterns for you to copy,  with links to a website to download patterns.

There are so many patterns and ideas online, especially on Pinterest these days and, given that you don’t need  pattern instructions for EPP as you do for machine made quilts (unless you want to make the specific quilts or projects included in some books), you only really need one or two books that tell you as much as possible about technique.

A couple of the books in this post were  reviewed earlier on my Book Reviews Page on this site.  Why not check it out if you have a moment. It includes other low cost titles that were not intended for EPP but are perfect for beginners,  as well as other related subject area like appliqué embroidery and hand quilting. I will be adding to it from time to time.

And, wonder of wonders, I have a new, tiny mini quilt in progress, which I hope to show you in my next post.

Until next time…..

 

A Near Relative called Appliqué

The owl I made for an artist friend, Lisa Hooper. It is a copy of her driftwood sculpture.

Appliqué comes from the French word ‘appliquer’ meaning to ‘put on’ or  ‘apply’ one piece of fabric to another, either by hand or machine. The raw edges of the pieces being applied can be turned under and sewn or simply covered with decorative stitching.

Appliqué has been around for thousands of years, all across the globe. It began as a useful  way of repairing small holes and tears in clothing that was passed down over generations until it became a useful way of decorating textiles for a myriad of uses, from wrapping infants to shrouding the dead.

This was a small experiment in Crazy Quilting. The heart can now be appliquéd onto something.

Traditional variations  include bonded appliqué, broderie perse, cut away or reverse appliqué, shadow appliqué, fabric collage and Mola work. It’s worth finding out more about each of these.

Very recently, appliqué has had a massive revival as the boundaries of these older techniques have been stretched to encompass experiments with colour and texture,  layering and overlaying  and incorporating a range of materials such as jewellery or metal, with new and exciting results. Contemporary appliqué has now come to be regarded as an art form in its own right and it  forms a huge part of surface decoration in modern textile design.

The swallow I made for another friend, who ran ‘The Swallow Theatre’ close to where `I live..

But what does that have to do with EPP?  Well, it’s this: There are some simple and easy appliqué techniques you can use to aid or enhance your EPP work. I think of appliqué as a near relative that it’s fun to visit from time to time, for a bit of fun.

1. A group of shapes that have been used to complete a  pattern in English Paper Piecing  can be appliquéd onto a larger fabric background,  rather than adding more pieces to form a quilt. For example you could appliqué this ring of  pieced hexagons onto a cotton carrier bag, or a row of smaller ones onto a pillow case . This technique works well when you want to try out individual blocks or designs and finish them quickly, and when you are not ready to try something larger.

A group of hexagons flowers in blue Laura Ashley fabric, made so long ago and now languishing in a box.

2. If you want to give your shapes a slightly raised look you could appliqué, say, a single hexagon flower in the centre of each patchwork square in a mini quilt. Appliquéing them on will allow the flowers to  pop forward because they sit a  little proud of their  background. If you like, you could even stuff the flowers with washable wadding. In this cot quilt ‘Pastel Bows’, I appliquéd on  the centre of each bow and   stuffed it.

‘Pastel Bows’ with stuffed centres.

3. Paper inserts inside shapes to be appliquéd  give the shapes body and keep corners sharp and neat.

The basket and the bunny were appliquéd on after the patchwork was completed.

After your  fabric shapes are completed and pressed, the papers can be removed and the shape easily stitched to a background fabric without losing its definition.

4. EPP shapes have edges that are already turned under, making  it easy to hand appliqué using invisible stitches.

A rectangle of fabric tacked/basted to a paper insert. I usually use white paper but any colour will do.

5. Appliqué is a way of adding complementary colours, fabrics and designs to embellish what could otherwise be rather plain. In this quilt pattern ‘Over the Orchard’ by Kajsa Wikman (from the book ‘Quilts Baby!’ by Linda Kopp), you can see that without the appliqué in the centre panels, it wouldn’t have nearly as much personality.

 

I am part way through making a version of this quilt which I have called, ‘Over the Hills’. The edges are done and I have hills, groups of conifers, a farm cottage and some birds ready to add to the various centre sections. Just the appliqués to sew down and it will be ready to assemble and be quilted.  Here it is in progress:

 

6. Appliqué can be used as a means of adding a border (or multiple borders) to your finished quilt top or if you want to enlarge a small quilt, to display inside a larger picture frame for example. When I put the binding on the ‘Dog Log’ below, I found that the folded edge sliced off a piece of each of the images at the sides. I have now unpicked the binding to appliqué  a narrow border onto all four sides. These will  butt up against the squares with the images without any overlapping and allow them to be seen clearly. Then I will re-attach the binding to the new border.

‘Dog Log’ mini quilt.

7. Appliqué is a perfect way to create a pictorial quilt.  Appliquéd shapes don’t have to be geometrical because you are not piecing them together. This means you can use any shape you like. This mini quilt ‘Down in the Glen’ shows how you can use appliqué on a patched background.

Appliquéd house and trees using squares, rectangles and conical shapes, on a patched background.

I always use paper shapes inside my appliqué in true EPP style because I find the paper acts as a stabiliser but you can make shapes without papers. If you do use papers, don’t forget to remove them before you sew your shapes down! Otherwise you end up with a crackly project that you can’t wash (yes, I have done that on more than one occasion!). You can use a fine stabiliser like Pellon and leave it in if you don’t plan to wash your work, or you can use wash-away appliqué sheets in place of papers but they are thicker and I find them harder to work with.

8. Here,  a ” A Song of Eggs and Feathers’,  shows the focus is entirely on the appliqué rather than part of an overall design. Pictorial elements have been applied to square of printed cotton rather than a patched background.Each separate piece of the birds has been made using a paper shape wrapped with cloth before stitching it down and embroidering over it. This is more exacting than patchwork but also more fun.

‘A Song of Eggs and Feathers’, made for a poet friend, Ann Gray. Multiple shapes appliquéd to a printed cotton background.

‘Murmuration’ (below) is a  mini quilt that I am working on at the moment, where I have taken a fabric print that I love and added a little appliqué to suggest dusk in Scotland with a sky full of birds.

The border is pieced but I have appliquéd on the cottage, the smoke from the chimney, the hill  and the fence using paper inserts that were removed after pressing. I have starting adding some embroidery but there will be more to come and of course the hand quilting and binding.

If you are a patchworker or  English Paper Piecer, have you given appliqué a try?

till next time…

(PS  – apologies for using photos from earlier blog posts but I don’t make things fast enough to be able to show you new things as examples.)

Oh, Those Duckling Distractions!

This Plum at just a few days old. She is a Cayuga duckling and will always be all black. She looks as if she is wearing Barbie scuba diving flippers.

This post is just a quick note to say I haven’t disappeared, I’m still here and itching to be sewing, but have had to take some time out lately. A few small additions to my family have made sewing impossible, indeed have made most things impossible for a while.

You may remember in my last post I had just got two Runner ducklings, Flossie and Phoebe. And now I have Plum, a Cayuga duckling. Isn’t she a cutie? That completes my family of six ducks as I don’t think I can manage, or afford to feed any more. Here are my adult three, enjoying a swim in their pen.

Ducks in a Row: Lovely photo taken by a friend, Jane Carlton, on a recent visit to my home

Today, the ‘Twins’ are coming up to five weeks old. They are beginning to feather up, their yellow fluffy patches are turning white and their brown patches are becoming more speckled. Plum is just over 2 weeks old now and has tripled in size since her arrival.  If you have had children you may remember that when they were babies you would feed and change them and by the time you had put the washing on and tidied up a bit, it was time to feed and change them again. This is what it has been like for the past few weeks: A long round of feeding and watering, cleaning pots and pens and then more of the same, over and over, as well as fitting the needs of the adults ducks in between.  A lot of cheeping and whistling, a lot of mess and a lot of pleasure. But not a lot of sewing. I am exhausted at the end of each day.  A few more weeks to go and it will get easier, the weather will get warmer and they can go outside for a longer periods which will buy me some sewing time.

The ‘Twins’ are so much bigger than they were when I last posted. Here they are in their ‘play pen’, enjoying the garden for a short while.

Before I go on, I want to say hello to my new followers who have joined me at this awkward time when nothing seems to be happening on my blog. Welcome! Please bear with me for a little longer. And feel free to comment, ask questions and tell me about your experiences. I love to hear from people.

I have actually tried to work on a project in snatched moments here and there but I have rushed it and it has not turned out well. I am still trying to repair it and then I will write a post about the problems and what to do when things go wrong.

The Twin ducklings were a birthday gift but I also received a few books and I can’t wait to tell you more about them and to try out some of the projects suggested inside.

Two of the books I received for my birthday. I also received two others which I will tell you about in my next post.

The weather in Scotland is dire at the moment;  so much rain and quite cool even when the sun comes out for brief intervals.

More rain on the way – photo by Jane Carlton

It is the coldest June I can remember.  The rain is making everything grow profusely but it is too wet to go out and do anything about it. There are so many  flowers about and the bees are busy as ever, despite the rain.

So until next time, hang in there for me…… I will be back with some sewing just as soon as I can.

A bumble bee on a Geranium – photo by Jane Carlton

Gifts in Spring

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Bluebells carpet the floor in the wood behind our house

Spring came early this year and I wasn’t ready for it. Most surprising were the bluebells arriving two weeks ahead of time and a hydrangea in flower in May rather than in mid to late summer. The Rhododendrons look amazing this year, better than ever:

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We have a whole range of colours in bloom from vibrant reds and oranges, to soft creams and luminous whites:

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I haven’t shown up here for a while and I have missed writing my posts. Not only do I enjoy chatting to you all but it feels good to see my thoughts on paper. Often they’re not clear until I see them in black and white.

I’ve been busy gardening, trying to transform new areas of the garden, buying a few new plants, replanting things in bigger pots which I neglected to do last year, and having my grown up children to stay for a while. It’s been lovely to catch up and feel close in ways that aren’t possible by email.

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My favourite perennial, bought this Spring, Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’

I have done SOME sewing,  for a friend’s birthday. I found an embroidery pattern that said just what I wanted it to say . It suited her perfectly, in that she tries to live her life to the full every day.

For Kriss

It’s not my own design but I find that when you sew something different for the first time, someone else’s design is often hugely helpful. It’s a bit like a children tracing letters with their fingers before they write them. I have not made any embroidered messages like this before, but now that I have done it by following in someones else’s footsteps, I feel more confident about creating my own design and I have a clear idea of what I would do differently.

Embroideries like this are not quilted, so there is the issue of them not being fastened to the background fabric in the same way. The embroidery is only on the surface. It doesn’t go all the way through to the back because the reverse of the stitches are not tidy in the way that quilting stitches are. You wouldn’t want them to show. I did use an iron-on fusible interfacing between the front and back fabric but some ‘puffing’ is still visible in the centre area, as you can see in the photo. Anyone know how to avoid that??  I think next time I will try a double sided fusible interfacing and see if that works better.

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I made it in the colours of her living room and popped it in a frame. I hope it will remind her to keep doing what she does already. I think that these simple embroidered appliquéd or quilted messages are a great idea for a personal gift and are not too time consuming or difficult to complete.

Now we come to the real reason no sewing has been done. It’s the arrival of two, three-day-old, Runner ducklings, a birthday present from my husband They are such a delight (and a constant distraction).  Here they are, my two little girls, Flossie on the left and Phoebe on the right. I am smitten. They will be fawn and white when they are fully grown.

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I did ‘complete’ the Third Plus project I was working in the last couple of posts and ended up calling it ‘All at Sea’. I found that once I washed away the appliqué sheet behind the face, and quilted the design onto a backing, the initial puckering that had worried me seemed to disappear. I say ‘complete’ because I still intend to remove the paper boat, change the stitching on it and sew it back on with waves enveloping the sides. At the moment it sits on top of the sea and I don’t like that. Whether all this is possible at such a late stage, I’m not sure but I’m going to give it a try.

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I have ordered some tools for printing some my own designs onto solids as I want to give that a try before dying my own cloth. I hope to do a post on that in due course, if it’s not a complete disaster (or even if it is).

I find myself wanting to move away from the traditional patchwork designs to explore other things but I need to use up quite a bit of my stash of fabrics first.  And I have been wanting to open an Etsy shop for so long, as I really don’t want to hold on to everything I make, especially if some of it can bring some pleasure to someone else, but find it is not only complicated and time consuming (I can cope with that) but expensive. You really need your own website and some set up to allow card payments, you need to pay for listing your items even if they don’t sell, for labels, for inner and outer packaging and so on. I’ve come to realise that I can’t afford to do it right now, though next year is a possibility. On the plus side, I’ll have a whole lot more variety of stock available by then.

In a few weeks my ducklings will need a little less care and attention and it will be too hot to garden. That is the time I will get back into almost full time sewing but for now I will just look at my patterns in waiting and see what grabs me and make a start.

Enjoy the rest of Spring…

Bye for now….