House Mania

I definitely suffer from an insatiable need to make houses and have to stop whatever I am working on, from time to time, to make some. Over the last month I have taken a break from making my Scottish themed quilts to make a few houses as it feels as if  I haven’t made any for ages . Then I thought maybe you would like to make some, too.

There are lots of easy ways of making your own English Paper Pieced houses, using bought paper pieces;  printing out patterns you like on Pinterest, cutting them up and wrapping the shapes in fabric (for personal use only); or designing your own shapes using scraps of paper or card.

House templates that you can buy come in various sizes and shapes and are easily available online both in the UK and abroad:

These are usually made from fine card which makes them easier to work with than paper which is so flimsy. With paper you have to be careful not to crumple the template when you fold your fabric over it.  The small brown one, third from the left  above, looks lovely covered in Liberty fabric (see below). You can piece these into a quilt (see 2nd pic below), or appliqué them onto something:

‘Housie Housie’, a mini quilt using Moda fabric.

The smaller white one (the last template on the right above), is seen used here in Liberty blues and would make a lovely border:

What is interesting about these house shapes too, is that they tesselate, fitting tightly together like a puzzle:

You can flatten the point at the top to make a different roof:

Or you can join them together to make zig zag houses:

And if you prefer not to buy house-shaped templates, you can make your own from paper or card. This way you make a whole lot of different and more interesting shapes:

‘Bluebell House’ – it’s going to be pieced into a field of bluebells.

‘Coastal Cottage’

‘The Bothy’

You can make tiny ones and turn them into brooches:

Or giant ones to put on your mantelpiece:

‘Christmas Tree House’

Houses can be assembled from other shapes, too, like diamonds, squares, triangles and rectangles.

The houses above have been made with 60 degree diamonds and equilateral triangles for the roofs, and squares or squares and a rectangle for the walls.

These are covered with fabric and tacked. Now the pieces can be sewn together and the papers removed.

You could add a whole row to a table runner or placemat.

In this starry one, above, I have used bought templates for the roof and one wall (a 60 degree diamond and a square) and then created a larger house shape of my own to make a wall that fits into the roof space.

House blocks can look lovely in frames, too.

(If this one doesn’t look secure in it’s frame, it’s because it hasn’t been stuck down yet. I’ve just popped it in to see what it would look like).

Recently I found a House Ruler reduced in a sale which was rather exciting. It is made by Creative Grids and enables you make a whole range of sizes of houses, as well as other shapes (half and quarter square triangles, trapezoids, parallelograms and diamonds). The ruler is a foot tall and nine and a half inches across (30 cm x  24 cm), so it’s quite big. Has anybody used one of these?

I have a new idea for houses using this ruler, and I am itching to start working on it but I have a number of part-made quilts that I must finish first.

Do you make houses? What is your go-to method of making them and what do you do about doors and windows? Do you sew on small patches or embroider them on? I’d love to know. Drop me a line in the comments section and tell me about your favourites….

Till next time….

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A Long & Winding Road

IMG_1572This is Lily. Isn’t she pretty? She makes the most delightful chuck-chuck sounds and for a bowl of  peas, she’ll be your friend forever. She’s going to appear on one of my quilts one of these days, for sure.

Just a quick post today because, though there is much in progress, hardly anything is completed. That’s what happens when you try to work on too many mini projects at once. On the one hand it’s nice to go from one to the other for a change of ‘scene’, but you reach a point when you’ve feel as if you’ve been sewing forever and nothing is even close to coming to an end!

I HAVE finished my ‘Monarch of the Glen’, though I think I may have overdone the embellishment. I do like adding surface embroidery but I can get a bit carried away sometimes.  I think it might look better if it was a little plainer. I used a variegated thread to make the leaf design. The shape of each leaf would have shown up more clearly in back-stitch but would have been untidy on the back, so I stuck with a running stitch to fit in with the quilting. For the deer I have used surface embroidery in brown and silver-grey, with a touch of pale brown fabric paint.

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I didn’t add a binding this time. I sewed the edges closed with what they call a knife-edge finish. I read somewhere all British quilts were finished in this way once upon a time, and that was how you could tell British quilts from American quilts which traditionally add binding. The knife-edge finish is much easier to do than regular binding; just a whipstitch around the edges which are folded in over the wadding. It’s a good choice if you want to put it your quilt a frame, so bits of borders and binding to worry about.

I have also finished my ‘Little Boys’ Britches’ as this block was called in the early 19th century before women wore trousers. I had fun with the quilting on this one and decided to call it ‘Spinning Jeans’:

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The light is awful today and my pictures are not very sharp. I will re-do them when (and if!) we get some sunshine.

This is what the block looks like behind a mount for a frame. You can see why the knife-edge finish is better because the mount would sit seamlessly against the pattern. Unless your binding is completely square and your corners perfect, which is so difficult in something hand stitched, the machine cut mount shows up any flaws. You are left with what looks like an uneven border.

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I’m was working on a couple of Unicorn mini quilts for this post, to tell you about this mythical animal’s link to Scotland but it’s slow going and that post will have to keep for another time.  The two mini quits are very different. One is pale and delicate,  the other bold and bright. I have embroidered the centre of both of them:

These are not embroidered from my drawings. I have simply embroidered around a design already on the fabric. It’s an easy way to add an embroidered centre if you are not too confident about your drawing and it gives a centre picture a bit more ooomph.

The quilting is finished on both of them and now there are just the bindings to do:

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I usually use cotton or cotton/bamboo mix for my quilts but I had some polyester scraps left over from my first quilting experiments years ago and I wanted to use them up. I knew polyester was a tad too puffy for a wall quilt, especially one so small (8 ins/ 20 cm square) but I was curious to see how it would turn out. I thought some puffy shapes might throw the Unicorn into relief. It does, but I’m not sure I like it better than if it was flatter.

I thought I might try leaving more wadding around the edge of this quilt to make a ‘border’ type binding but it didn’t work (too flabby!) and I ended up cutting away the wadding and going for the usual slim binding of between a 1/4 and 1/2 inch (1 cm).

One annoying thing about English Paper Piecing is that if you echo quilt around the shapes like machine quilters you have to contend with sewing through the extra layers of material below that tuck around the papers, and that makes quilting hard going. But, if you quilt in the ‘ditch’ between the shapes you are really sewing the wadding to the backing fabric and through the stitches that hold the top shapes together, rather than through the top shapes themselves. Does that make sense? It would be preferable to quilt through the centre of the shapes, as I have with the deer above, but sometimes you need something more subtle.

I do wish  I could find a book that gives tips and strategies about how to deal with specific EPP quilting challenges like these. I have most of the EPP books available on the market today, and a few old ones, and none of them cover anything like that. I am still searching for one that explains the best way to deal with triangles.

Here is the 2nd unicorn quilt (sorry about the piece of fluff on the lower gold triangle)  with the binding in progress, looking awful as it always does at this stage. The pins distort the binding, so I find it useful to leave it pinned for a couple of days for the cotton to ‘remember’ the folds and then take the pins out and let the binding relax while I sew it. It seems to keep a more even shape this way.

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You will see that I used a checked fabric for both unicorn quilts. Not a good idea. It just happened to be what I found in my scrap bag that matched my quilt best, but checks are a nightmare to get straight and even. You end up with three little squares on one edge of the binding and two and half on another. I won’t be doing this again.

And you know what? I hate that the binding chops off the edge of the shapes, so the triangles lose their tips and the squares and end up not as true squares. I guess the only way to get around that is to add a border before the binding, so I am going to try that in future.

It truly is a long and winding road but I am hoping that it will get less punishing and more ‘user friendly’, as they say, as I crawl along it.  You can probably tell that I’m rather disenchanted with my efforts his week. I know that most people want their creations to turn out better than they do; that I’m not alone in that. However, I’ve learned plenty this week, so I guess I’ll just keep going.

Till next time….

A Mixed Bag of Minis

I live close to Wigtown, Scotlands National Book Town, which holds a book festival each year from late September to early October.  To celebrate its 20th anniversary this year, the artist and illustrator Astrid Jaekel covered the exterior walls of eleven buildings in paper designs. Here are some of her designs. Aren’t they fabulous! I just love them and wish they could stay up forever.

I have more variety to show you in my quilts today, as I have digressed a little from my usual designs since my last post. I have been working on one quirky (maybe a little odd) black-and-white mini quilt, a few more of my usual Scottish themed ones, one for Christmas, and one just for fun. Some are traditional patterns that I have re-imagined and some are just traditional patterns with a pictorial element to them.

I have been making good progress with my plan to do a whole lot of quilt tops first, rather than do one at a time but actually it’s rather addictive and I can see that I might  eventually feel overwhelmed by all the ones I then have to finish. Luckily they are small!

I’m in a hurry to finish the series of 8 inch square mini quilts I have planned because I am itching to try something else altogether; something more ‘arty’ using paint and stitch, with only the odd pieced background, maybe.

I have noticed that I am rather rubbish at triangles and have been avoiding them for years. I also notice that guidance/tutorials on the English Paper Pieced triangle are non-existent. None of my EPP books cover them. So, if you come across a tutorial, or are good with EPP triangles and feel like passing on a few tips, I’m listening. In the meantime I have bought myself Gwen Marston’s ’20 Little Triangle Quilts’ to get in some serious practice. IMG_1646It comes with templates inside and, in this book, none of them have an added seam allowance which is great for EPP addicts. There is a whole series of these “20 Little” books but strangely, some come with templates on card stock, some on paper and some do have an added seam allowance, which is annoying when you don’t expect it. You you will probably notice that my fabric tends to pucker where the points of my triangles meet other pieces. I think I have stitched the triangle point in too tightly, worried that a gap might form in this area. When I figure it out, I’ll you know.

I’m thinking a trouble shooting page might be good on this site where people could share tips and strategies and pass them on.

By the way, I watched Stacy Dooley’s documentary called ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ a few days ago and if you are in the UK I urge you to watch it on BBC I Player. I knew cotton used a lot of water but didn’t realise HOW much and had no idea of the effect that producing cotton, and clothing in general, has on the environment and people’s health. I was shocked and saddened to learn the reality of the fast fashion business in particular and I’m glad to say I live miles away from any high street and can’t afford to buy more of what I already have, anyway. However, I love cotton and most of what I buy is cotton. I have always thought of it as a wonderful, natural product, and wouldn’t quilt with anything else. However, I have now resolved to buy and use less.

My quilts are made from best quality cotton, usually from designers like Moda, Lewis and Irene, Riley Blake and occasionally Makower and Robert Kaufmann. I choose these because their fabrics don’t shrink, the colour doesn’t run, creases iron out like magic and they are the right weight to produce good results. However, fabric from these makers is now becoming quite expensive for even a Fat Quarter (18″ x 22″ piece) so next year I plan to paint and stitch over old sheeting instead.

So back to my recently made quilt tops. I am strangely happy with a this black and white one that I call ‘House Angel’. I told you it was odd ;

IMG_1641 I wouldn’t say I believe in angels but I like the idea of my house being protected something larger than myself.  The idea came from a traditional pattern I was looking at called ‘Storm at Sea’, which I love, when I saw an angel. Can you see her in the top left hand corner? And can you see two others, one on either side of her?

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Storm at Sea 

I chose to feature just one but I think I will make another quilt that includes all of them, maybe for Christmas.

The danger of these unfinished quilts is that they can look a bit blah when they have just been pieced, not necessarily squared up and have ugly tacking/basting stitches all around the edges. But even the most basic one is transformed once quilting and/or surface embroidery is added. I may paint the House Angel’s face, embroider her wings and embellish the house doors and windows.

My thoughts have turned to Christmas recently as I always buy my gifts early, to spread the cost, reduce stress and because I have noticed that prices go up as we get closer to Christmas. I have only one family member left to buy for which is good because we are only in October. I bought some lovely Lewis and Irene fabric recently, with scattered red thistles, and planned to add some of it in with a red, green and tan mini charm pack I wanted to use up. I wanted to call it ‘Thistle Jam’.

However, much as I loved the thistles, they didn’t work with this little on point pattern. Sometimes the ‘mood’ that fabrics project just isn’t right, so I used some little stars I had in my stash instead. Now, it’s more like Pine Tree Jam. Sadly, the triangle tips have caused some puckering but I am hoping that when I add the border, it won’t be as noticeable.

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For a continuation of my Scottish theme, I first chose to make this simple block aptly named ‘Bonnie Scotsman’. I am still wondering whether to add a stag and a moon like the paper shape I have placed on it, or if that is too obvious and I should add something more unusual.

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I have begun the first of two Unicorn mini quilts. This one has a lovely soft feminine colour palette. I know some little girls that dream of unicorns and think they might like this one.  IMG_1638

I have also begun a second Luckenbooth, using Liberty fabrics in gorgeous candy pinks (see my March 19th ‘Update – Work in Progress’ post to find out what a Lukenbooth is, if you don’t already know)  but it’s not coming right and I have unpicked some of it and I am leaving it to one side for a while, so that I can see what’s gone wrong without getting upset about it.IMG_1644

Lastly, I have had fun making a modern version of the pattern traditionally called ‘Little Boy’s Britches’ that was popular in the 1800’s, long before women started wearing trousers. I thought would be great if it featured pairs of jeans.

IMG_1637Soon I will add the stitching up the leg and across the belt, fly and pockets and then they will look more like jeans. I was thinking of embroidering something in the centre like ‘Love Your Jeans’ or ‘I love My Jeans’. What do you think? Better left blank?

So that’s it for today, more Scottish themed ones to come before a return to some houses (with a difference), more angels of different kinds, two or three with birds (starlings and geese) and a some fun ones of different kinds. And lots more pesky triangles!

Till next time…

 

A Duck, More Ducks and Some Sewing

I had this ornament before Daisy, my black and white cat, brought in a duckling. Prophetic, eh?

I have discovered that ducks and sewing don’t really mix, even though they may give equal pleasure. One makes you a whole lot wetter and muddier.

My life has been duck-full lately. I stopped sewing for a spell in the garden. When was that? April? I gardened happily until June when my cat brought in a duckling and deposited it,  unhurt, on the living room floor.  You may remember me mentioning this in passing in one of my earlier posts (EPP Loves the Hexagon).

Baby Maple that Daisy, my cat, brought to me

My little duckling has turned into a beautiful female Mallard with all of her mature colouring. She is aptly named, Maple.

My grown up Maple

When she was five weeks old I decided to buy her a friend, a lovely Aylesbury duck which I was certain was a female. I called her Alba.

Then one day, a couple of weeks later, when I opened the shed door for a moment to put a tray outside, Maple flew out of the open pen,  through the small space above my head and into the sky. After a couple of days and assurances from several people that she would not return, I bought another Aylesbury duck, a female friend for Alba, called Lilly.  Maple, I decided, was a wild duck after all. I had simply taken care of her until she was ready to go out into the world.

In the meantime, I had been having doubts about Alba. If she was female she should have had a well developed quack by 9 weeks but all she had was a croak. I had Lily delivered by the seller, so that I could ask advice from someone more experienced. And Alba, it turned out, was a male. So now I had a mum and dad. Not really what I had in mind, originally.  After Lily’s arrival, Alba began showing off , becoming quite skittish and bossy, so he has been renamed Bossy-Boy. And it suits him perfectly.

Bossy-Boy is at the back, Lily in the front.

 

But that’s not the end of the story because, no sooner had my Aylesbury pair settled in together, Maple returned. I couldn’t believe it. She came sauntering down the garden path and led me a merry dance around the garden before she let me pick her up. She was very hungry and thirsty and seemed happy to be returned to the pen. She has become more and more tame over the weeks since and clearly loves being part of our duck community.

So that’s my duck story. But not the end of it, I’m sure.

Dismayed to find it was already August, I thought I had better get some sewing done. Usually I do one quilt and finish it and then think about starting another but I thought I would try a different approach this time.

‘Monarch of the Glen?’ I plan to embroider over the stags head as well as hand quilt the surface.

Having got so behind I thought it would be a good plan to complete a series of mini quilt tops, all the same size, one after another and finish them later.  I could do this more quickly which would make me feel as if I had made good progress. I decided to do three Scottish themed ones and a couple of fun ones. All of them are based on traditional, out-of-copyright blocks, re-imagined for my own purposes.

‘Dog Log’, a variation on the traditional Log Cabin block

 

‘Liberty Square’. The house shapes that circle the square will be more obvious as houses, with windows and doors, eventually.

It was a good idea but didn’t really work. Too many of them needed small changes and when you have half a dozen quilt tops needing little changes, it doesn’t do much for motivation. I must say that I would recommend buying paper pieces if you can afford them. I make my own templates and because I am not a maths whizz, they are always slightly inaccurate. The bought ones are a breeze to put together and you don’t have to spend ages tweaking a block that is not quite square, or has a wonky triangle in it somewhere, and so on. I make my templates, not just to save money but because my ideas don’t always have standard shapes to fit them.

‘Harbour Side’ – a take on our Scottish seaside communities, little boats in a harbour with tartan accents.

‘Close Community’. Two tartans meeting around 4 neighbouring houses (still unfinished)

Followers of my Facebook ‘Forest Moor Designs’ Page, will have seen these five new mini quilts already, so apologies for that, and  I am afraid that, even though I have lots more cut out and ready to go, I have done nothing since. I am hoping this blog post will motivate me to have something more to share soon. I have about twenty (all 8 inches square) to complete, before I move on to something new.

Just a couple more things:  I framed one of my mini quilts to see how it would look in a frame. This is ‘The Wind in the West’: 

Not too bad, but in future I will make the quilt to fit the frame and not the other way around. That will ensure that borders don’t show and triangles don’t get chopped off (lesson learned).  Also, I have a new logo for my sometime-soon-to-be-opened-I-hope shop on Etsy. Someone said the font is not very clear, and I agree, so my daughter and I are working on that. I do love the way the crosshatching looks like little sticks in a forest, though.

So that was what I did in August but I am determined to have a few more mini quilts to show before the end of September.  I have also been thinking how lovely it would be to have two Indian Runner ducks when my husband gets around to enlarging the pen….  ; )

Till next time……

‘Grandmother’s Posy’ Guest Post – A New Hexagon Design

In my last post we were talking about English Paper Piecing’s love affair with Hexagons and how I had never got very excited about them. Then I received a message from someone telling me about her intriguing and very different design for a hexagon, so I asked her if she would be willing to tell us about it in a guest post. So, let me introduce Julie Caisey and her Hexagon Project:

“Hello, my name is Julie and I am a sixty-two year old grandmother of six.  I used  to cross-stitch, and once produced a quilt that combined cross-stitching with quilting, as in this nine patch quilt which is great to use in winter when it is very cold.

I enjoy all sorts of crafts from knitting and crochet to embroidery and quilt making.  I like intarsia and fair-isle knitting and ever since I could hold needle and thread and operate scissors l have loved embroidery. The first stitch I ever learnt was the French Knot. 

I have loved English Paper Piecing from a very early age.  I was shown how to do it  when I was about six.  I started by drawing around square shapes to make templates and eventually, learned how to draw a hexagon with a pencil and compass.  If I was lucky, I had paper with squares printed on it, which made it easier. At that time I had to use fabrics I had at home, so my very first quilt was made up of fabrics from the sixties like Crimpline, which resulted in a very odd quilt but it was a good way to learn!

In time I discovered that quilts are better made with 100% cotton fabric and I began hand tracing shapes from books I found in the library, carefully cutting them out on stiff paper templates. I found Radio Times covers were the best for this! Then, quite suddenly in the 1970’s, quilting became popular, templates, papers and fabric began to be more available and I was in my element! …………

I find English Paper Piecing  very relaxing as it takes my mind off of things that I don’t want to think about. Three of my grandchildren have a “granny” quilt (and the younger three will get theirs eventually……..) However, these quilts were machined as I made their quilts to be used;  for den making, sitting on and quietly reading or just snuggling under to watch a film. They needed to be robust! 

More recently I created a EPP patchwork lesson for a friend’s home schooled children because they wanted to do some patchwork.  I designed a hexagon project that they could fit in between other lessons, over a school year. They found it easy to follow so I am sure you will too.   

You will see that, essentially, this is a pattern of graduating hexagons, using smaller and smaller hexagons and half hexagons to create an overall pattern of interconnected hexagons. The largest (centre) hexagon has a 3” edge and each subsequent hexagon graduates down from here. Going too small might be difficult but the whole project could be scaled up or down, if required. And of course you can make several blocks and join them together.  The important thing to note with this pattern is that the centre line point-to-point of the smaller hexagon, fits exactly to the outer edge of the larger hexagon. 

The centre hexagon can be fussy cut or embroidered. I am in the process of making a cushion cover using this pattern, with a pink and white floral embroidered centre.

 

HOW TO MAKE THE PATTERN

Right,  here are the instructions Try it, have fun, and do ask questions if you get stuck!

First, here are the templates you will need for the project:

THE CENTRE 

NB: this patchwork has been designed to have an optional embroidered centre. Place the large template between the marking behind the embroidery and pin it. This may be easier if you hold the embroidery up to the light and get help to pin it with two pins. Fold the fabric over the template and tack/baste it down. When tacked in place, trim the excess fabric. DO NOT TRIM BEFORE TACKING in place in case you cut off too much.

THE FIRST ROUND

Lay your half hexagons around the large hexagon….

 

 

 

 

 

 

and once you have them in position…

…..sew them into place.

THE SECOND ROUND

For this round you need 6x small hexagons and 24 x half hexagons and also 6 x 1 1/2″  hexagons:

Lay the hexagons all around the previous round …..

and sew into place.

THE THIRD ROUND

For this round you need 12 x 1 1/2″ hexagons and 6 x 1 1/2 half-hexagons. Join 2 hexagons together 6 times. Lay the hexagons and half-hexagons around the previous round.

and stitch into place.

THE FOURTH ROUND

For this round you need  6 x medium 1 1/2″ hexagons and 24 x  medium 11/2″ half -hexagons to stitch around the medium hexagons.

You will also need 6 x large 3″ hexagons for the outer edge.

And there you have it!

The trick is that each subsequent round is based on the large hexagon. If you place the centre of all the different size hexagons over each other the centres fit along the sides of the hexagons.”

Thanks so much Julie, for this new idea and all these lovely photos and diagrams. If anyone makes her pattern, please send a photo. I’m sure Julie would love to see how it turned out for you.

Next time we have some more Scottish takes on old quilt blocks.  Till then…..

EPP Loves the Hexagon. Why?

 

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Beginning a ‘Grandmother’s Flower Garden’, l979

I have never been drawn to the hexagon as a shape but like most English Paper Piecers, it is the shape I started with. The above picture shows my first attempt at ‘Patchwork’, which is what we called it then, this circle of hexagons around another in Laura Ashley fabric which was so popular at the time, the late 70’s and early 80’s. I have not sewn a hexagon since and, as you can see, the above practice piece never developed into anything. It languishes in a box with other practice pieces. I moved on to the diamond, which became my first completed quilt in 1982 and then I stopped.

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‘Tumbling Blocks’, a finished baby quilt for my daughter, 1980

It was to be more than 30 years before English Paper Piecing returned to my life. I went abroad, got involved in the lives of my children and in writing. Then after the death of my parents and my brother and a move to Scotland, I felt I needed to find something slow and healing to do in my spare time. Short Story writing was about other people’s, often dismal, experiences. I wanted to replace it with something more joyful and to learn a new skill.

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‘Tulips and Roses’ in simple squares, 2016

I didn’t return to the hexagon or the diamond. This time I began with simple squares and rectangles but found, in time, that I was less drawn to patterns than to pictorial quilts, though these might have a pattern as a background. I was hungry to learn as much as possible about EPP, everything that could be achieved, and yet I found only the hexagon over and over. I couldn’t understand why, when there are so many shapes to use. Books on EPP do cover a few more shapes but I have seen almost nothing on animals, human figures, pictorial themes, landscapes, or improvised modern shapes using this technique.

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‘Welcome’ – an experiment in making figures with EPP

I belong to an English Paper Piecing online group that brings piecers together from all over the world, many of whom enjoy working with hexagons. I asked the group what drew them to the hexagon (also known as hexie) shape in particular, when there are so many other shapes they could make using this technique. What follows is a selection of what they said, followed by their names:

“I discovered EPP when i found a quilting and patchwork magazine 2 years ago. It had 1000 free hexagon papers and that was the start of my journey. I have discovered that they are very forgiving and i am hooked. I am in very poor health and my attention span is very low so i find great pleasure in hexies. I have now made them in 3 different sizes and i use the method of drawing, cutting, basting and sewing together as mindfulness to calm my mind. They are soothing and enjoyable and personally i dont think it matters what shapes we choose. We are all at different skill levels and at varying times in our journey. I am in awe of members talent and dedication but for me, for now, hexies get me through each day. I EPP almost every day and i cant relax fully without them. Its a wonderful new hobby.” (Fiona keel)

 “It’s a very satisfying shape as all the sides and corners fit round without sticking out when basting. They fit together perfectly without thick clumps of backing at the corners. A bit of tradition, feeling you are carrying on a piece of history that goes back hundreds of years.” (Michelle Beard Pearson)

“For me, it’s the way the corners naturally tuck under. I can mindlessly baste hundreds without a plan and when the ‘perfect ‘ pattern comes up … I’m ready to join. I do the other shapes but my first love is the hexie.” (Irene Paulus)

“I’ve done lots of other shapes but there’s something very soothing and satisfying about hexagons. I particularly like doing them in modern fabrics and colours; traditional with a twist. ” (Pippa Wellard)

” I love hexies as there is so much you can do with them . . they fit together so well and because they can be based round the 360 degrees of a circle they can be made up of so many other shapes (hexies, triangles(equilateral, right angled, isoceles), squares, rectangles, kites, trapezoids/half hexies, diamonds/parallograms, jewel . . the list is almost endless) . . you only have to look at the new hexagon blocks :0)”  (Riva Mollison)

“One reason is that I can cut the papers myself. Some of the patterns are hard to cut and expensive to buy.” (Cindy Barratt)

“Fiskars has an extra large hexagon punch. It makes a one inch hexie. I make my own, from junk mail cardboard. We take long camping trips and if I run out, I can always grab a few brochures from the rest areas, etc. ” (Donna Becker)

farmwifejournal.blogspot.co.uk

Photo via farmwifejournal.blogspot.co.uk showing Fiskars Hexagon Punch.

“Hexagons are considered the most efficient building shape in nature, which is why bees use it. Probably not why it was used all those years ago but it most likely was fashionable at the time. I use them because of tradition and they’re easy to find templates for.” (Brittany Duncan)

“I don’t know why I like them so much, but I have two quilts made. One is a GFG, and the other just random. I have hundreds of hexies completed and in boxes. Not sure why I keep making them, but it is relaxing hand work when I just don’t want to sit at the machine anymore.” (Sharon Dickman)

“I think it’s that it’s the most easily recognized and you don’t need to buy patterns or books and more templates, etc, so easier and more economical to do. After you get your feet wet, and the bug bites you, you can move on to another. Lack of materials available in some areas, too. Not everyone shops the web!” (Colleen Karels Barber)

“I have used many different shapes but always come back to hexies, hate the little ears e.g. diamond shape make.” Nicolette Mathee

“It’s an organic shape. Straight from nature and honeycombs. I always have hexagons on the go.” (Sue Morgan)

“Readily available as a starter and you can do a design such as grandmother’s flower garden with just hexies.” (Brit Staven Eddy)

“I’m in Australia, and the family I married into have made a load of EPP quilts, all hexies— so for me, I continuing the tradition” (Hayley Smyth)

A number of people said carrying on a tradition was an important reason, though I found it interesting that they appeared to be referring to an EPP tradition that had grown up within their own country rather than the original English tradition, which did include other shapes.

There were several references to the shape of the hexagon being common in nature (honeycombs, snowflakes, organic molecules, quartz crystals etc) as being a reason to find it attractive; someone suggested that I should Google Brian Cox talking about hexagons  ( https://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=kxDEcODUEP0); another mentioned the ‘The Honeycomb Conjecture’. This states “that a regular hexagonal grid or honeycomb is the best way to divide a surface into regions of equal area with the least total perimeter. The conjecture was proven in 1999 by mathematician Thomas C. Hales.” (Wikipedia)

“Ahhhh yes! The Honeycomb Conjecture! I’d forgotten that. I adore bees and hives and skeps and was drawn to hexagon EPP over the other shapes. Now I know why! 😃 (Viki Sprague)

So, in sum, people find the hexagon attractive for its natural shape, for ease of making because materials papers and patterns for it are more readily available. Moreover, it is easy to sew. The fabric wraps around a hexagon paper very neatly and leaves no protruding ‘ears’ as in many of the other shapes. You can get into a steady rhythm making them, while watching TV or travelling. And you can add many other shapes to them, if you choose to branch out a little eventually. It all makes perfect sense. So now I know, and you do too 🙂

On a slightly different subject (!), I have acquired a Mallard duckling.

I now have yet another time consuming thing to distract me from everything else. One of my cats brought it in and dropped it, unharmed, in my living room. It was too young to put back outside, so it has joined our family. My husband is busy making it a home and a run, while I wake at dawn fretting about whether it is eating or drinking enough and whether it is warm enough.

Until next time…..(perhaps there will even be some stitching done!)

 

Inside, Outside and All Around the House

Hello Everybody,

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I love planted pots all around the house

There’s not a whole lot of sewing going on here at the moment but I thought I would check in so that you know I am still here; I haven’t fallen off the planet. I stopped sewing in April for my annual tidy up in the garden but rain prevented any decent progress for weeks, after which it suddenly turned very hot. Now the sun is fierce, the ground too hard to weed successfully and insects multiplying, so much of my time in the garden is spent watering. I am however, pleased to say that I have repotted all the plants in our courtyard and around the perimeter of the house, something that hasn’t been done in a while and a job that I was able to do in the shade.

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The stone wall between our courtyard and front garden, lined with small plants

When I haven’t been in the garden, I have been spring cleaning my house, re-organising my wardrobe, visiting family in England, buying (even more!) plants and enjoying some of the lovely outdoors that is on our doorstep.

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A walk around a nearby loch on my birthday in May

I love watching the farmers busy on their tractors at this time of year and the birds following them up the hill and down again.

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The view from one of my windows

I have made a few tiny things recently but just for family. I made another matchbox for my son and a small embroidery for my daughter. Unfortunately both were rather rushed as I left them until just before our trip down South and they took longer to finish than I anticipated. My son is head arborist at the Royal Horticultural Garden Wisley in Surrey, England, so my matchbox had to reflect his love of trees and woodland.

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My daughter is very happy at the moment but often has some spells of feeling low, so I made her a little bear to help her believe in herself and inspire confidence. The photo was taken before I stitched the edges and sewed all around it with a bright turquoise blanket stitch.

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A Bear Hug from a pattern found on Pinterest via dubout.tumblr.com

Last Christmas, I had a spell of making little paper houses; four for my son, a few for my daughter and one of her friends and then a couple for a friend of my own, for her birthday. Finally I have made one for myself. The houses are so charming, just under two and a half inches tall, with an LED flameless candle light hidden inside so you can light them up at night. I used pale pink and blue tissue paper in the windows but dark colours show up even better. I love the idea of a whole street of tiny  paper houses lit up on my windowsill!

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Lit (below), and unlit (above) paper houses, on my bookcase.

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Most of the things I make are for other people, yet there are wall hangings and runners I would love to make for myself. This probably means buying more fabric to make them something I can’t really justify, given that I still have half a dozen unfinished quilts in various stages and quilts I bought both pattern and fabric for years ago but have not got around to starting.

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A Clematis in flower on the back patio

Then there is the itch to try more arty things, to experiment with styles that are new to me, like the American primitive patterns, or new techniques like needlelace and other surface stitching ideas. These blog posts of mine must often seem far from what is generally thought of as English Paper piecing especially when, for so many people, it centres around the hexagon. Not a hexagon in sight here, so far.  But it is all part of the same journey; to discover what I can do with English Paper Piecing, beginning with a  simple base, enhancing, adapting and pushing traditional boundaries wherever I can. And, if possible, giving it a little flavour of Scotland at the same time 😉

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A single Allium at the front door

 

If you ever have questions, please ask. Maybe thinking about the answer will lead me to further experiments.

I hope you are all having a warm and wonderful summer.

Till next time…..

 

 

 

Mini Quilts – What’s the Purpose?

IMG_0734Hello Everybody,

What is a mini quilt for? Well, I want to say it’s to bring joy but perhaps that’s not very helpful. So, I have been giving some thought to the matter….

I belong to a local group of women who like to get together, now and then, to discuss where we are with our individual projects – both art and business related – share information, and ask and answer questions.  I love the company of the members and always learn a thing or two; though I often leave with more questions than I had when I arrived!

At the last meeting, I was sharing my new idea for a series of mini quilts with a Scottish theme, in tartans or plaids. I had also brought several earlier finished projects with me, to show the changes in the direction of my work since I joined the group. One of the members held up a quilt I had made using Liberty prints and said “It’s lovely but what are you meant to do with it?” (or words to that effect). It had not occurred to me that anyone would wonder what my little quilts were for or what they should do with one. I couldn’t believe I had overlooked something so important. That their purpose wasn’t, and should be, more clear.

I think the difficulty of knowing instinctively what  you might do with a mini quilt may be largely due to the fact that we no longer uphold and pass on our quilt-making heritage here. Quilts are not a common sight in households across the UK, as they are in the United States. There, I imagine that the mini quilt is seen used in different ways quite often in different households and this inspires new ideas and uses.

The most common uses seem to be as table toppers (round, square,  hexagonal or rectangular) to decorate the centre of tables, or as long runners on dining tables. Someone once told me that they wouldn’t want to use them for such a purpose because of food stains. There are of course quilted place mats and mug rugs and tray cloths intended to be used for serving food (often with insulated linings) but I don’t see the mini quilt falling into this category. They don’t need to be used in this way.

Their use, as I see it, is primarily decorative:  A splash of colour on a wooden table, a pretty centrepiece for a vase of flowers, a scratch-proof base for a row of candlesticks.  They can be removed when the table is laid, if required. I have one on a small side table for drinks but it is under glass. It shows through but is completely protected from stains.

 

 

Mini quilts bring colour to the top of a tiny chest or small leather suitcase, a sewing chest, the space under or beside a table lamp on an occasional table, and warmth to a deep window sill.

mini quilt on chest

Image borrowed from Norma Whaley at timelesstraditionsquilts.blogspot.co.uk

Other uses are as a lining for an attractive or antique basket, a lining for a drawer (does it matter that only you see it?), a mat to display a old and much loved doll or teddy, a soft place to drop your keys when you come in the door…

 

And then of course there is the wall. And even here there are so many choices: The larger mini quilts bring life to an empty wall,  narrow ones look fabulous behind a sofa or above a fireplace, or a bed.

Fall Quilts above Fireplace

This lovely image is borrowed from carriedawayquilting.blogspot.co.uk

The easiest and most inexpensive way to hang them up is probably the wire quilt hanger, quick to find online and available in a variety of sizes. There is a generally a small sleeve attached to the back of quilt intended for this purpose (see picture below), for the hanger to slip inside. However, there isn’t one and you don’t want to make one, you can buy hangers with small clips at each side to attach the quilts from the top. These tiny quilts lovely in porches and kitchens, and in tiny corners that won’t accommodate anything larger.

 

 

Mini quilts (sometimes called ‘Baby quilts’ which is a bit confusing as this refers to the size not the user) vary quite a lot in size from three or four inches square to three or four feet wide by four or five feet long. I assume the term really just means it is significantly smaller than the traditional, bed sized, quilt. The larger mini quilts look wonderful handing on a wall, especially in a nursery or child’s room, on poles or  wooden dowelling. Command Strips are used to fix them too, though I have never tried these.

 

Lately I have noticed two interesting ways of displaying a small quilt. Here is one, the image borrowed from http://carriedawayquilting.blogspot.co.uk. Do visit this site for her fabulous ideas on how to decorate with quilts.

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Another lovely image borrowed from carriedawayquilting.blogspot.co.uk

And this one: A quilt inside a wall mounted basket. Lovely for primitive designs. What are your favourite ways of displaying quilts? Have you seen any unusual ways of displaying them?

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Borrowed from Pinterest. Unfortunately no link to the source.

Then there is framing behind glass: There are quilters that do not believe in hiding quilts behind glass and those that are happy with it as long as the fabric does not touch the glass. I have tried framing my latest quilt and discovered a few problems I hadn’t anticipated.

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‘The Wind in the West’ mini quilt

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‘The Wind in the West’ framed mini quilt

I haven’t hung the frame on the wall, so the picture is a bit distorted with the camera looking down on it, and the unavoidable reflections, but can you see the problem? It is an 8 inch quilt fitted into an 8 inch cut out area but I haven’t accounted for the binding showing. I am left with a small border inside the mount. This creates a frame inside a frame inside a frame. I really don’t like this, especially as hand made quilts may look square to the eye but are rarely perfectly square and a mount will show this up. To avoid this a little I have offset the quilt so that the cottage sits against the left hand edge and the binding only shows on three sides but it’s not much of an improvement.

The other problem with frames and binding is this:

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Quilt in progress; just need to add some embroidered grasses

Where you have radiating points, the tips can be cut off by the binding or a frame; something to avoid in the future with a bit of forward thinking.

So I am experimenting with framing but it seems to me that the best way is say goodbye to binding and to wrap and sew the fabric around a piece of card or thin board inside the frame. I will post more on this as I experiment and find better solutions.

I have already discovered that, as mini quilts are often square (made up of quilt blocks are traditionally square), they don’t led themselves to many off the peg frames. It would be better to custom frame a quilt but this can be expensive and unnecessary when good quality, inexpensive frames are available both in shops and online. I am beginning to think I have to make a quilt to suit a frame, instead of the other way around, and to buy the frame first to make sure I can fit the quilt perfectly to it.  There is also the option of a box frame which comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. I will be tackling that in another post as this one is already much longer than I meant it to be.

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I have a number of Scottish themed quilts in progress right now but I am going to be taking a short break from sewing, as Spring has finally arrived and my garden needs work. However,  I can post short pieces about them when it rains – which is likely to be often around here!

Until next time, I wish you all  l o n g  sunny days….

 

 

 

This Tartan Seat is Taken

Spring seems to be springing this morning and, though the ground is a little frosty, the sun is shining, the daffodils and crocuses are out and look what I have just seen in my back garden!

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Over and over I have found that when I have finished piecing the surface of a quilt and I am ready to do some hand quilting or embroidering  I suddenly stop for a few days.  Part of that is about thinking how best to tackle it, letting my subconscious work on it for a while, but it’s also the fear of making a mistake and ruining what I’ve done so far. I have to gather courage and while this is all going on in the background, I make something else.

Recently I have made some more matchboxes. This one was for my husband for Valentines day:

 

Around the edge it says “There’s no Sunshine when you’re gone.” Those goggly eyes made him laugh!

And this was one for his birthday. The vegetables inside are edible cake toppers:

 

Each side has a different garden tool on it and around the inside it says, “Happy Birthday Special Gardener.”

I have also made some paper houses –  but more of those in a post coming soon.

Remember this first picture of an empty tartan chair? It was on one of these blog posts about three years ago:

 

How time flies! Eventually I added a hook and put a cat on it. Now I’m thinking I might stuff the arms to match the seat cushion and put it in  a box frame. I want it to look more soft and comfy and protrude towards you in the frame:

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I have just laid the chair in the frame, to get an idea of how it might look. I definitely need a solid fabric background behind it though. Off-white like the cat, or white like the frame? Or another colour, a very pale mint green perhaps? What do you think?

I had always intended to make a series of these chairs with cats and dogs lounging on them, so I’ve made a start on a few more. I thought it might be fun to make a chair with a box pleat on the base like this one in progress:

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This is how I began the one above; with a drawing:

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In this drawing I made the chair too wide, so I folded in a middle section until it looked about right. Then I usually play with ideas of adding a button back or fancy arms, little stumpy feet, or a fabric cover over the back. And then I like to add a cat, or maybe a dog. I want them to look as if you would never want to disturb them in the chair.

I photocopy the drawing of the chair and in true English Paper Piecing style, I cut out each paper shape, place them onto fabric and cut around them (leaving a seam allowance) until it all looks like this:

 

Then the fabric is tacked around the paper shapes and they are all sewn together until they resemble the chair in my initial drawing. The chair has a back too, and this will be sewn to the front with interfacing between, to stiffen the chair slightly.

 

Here is my initial drawing of this chair, so you can see what it will eventually look like:

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I think I might add a cushion, in that space between the cat and the left hand arm of the chair. The cat looks adrift.

I have begun a third, that I think will have fancy corded curls on the arms and little wooden-ball feet, and perhaps a dog on it….?  I haven’t quite decided, as it’s very unlikely that I will get more than one or two of these chairs finished before I am drawn back to the pile of quilting that is clamouring for urgent attention.

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So, until next time….

thanks for visiting.  Comments, suggestions, or experiences you’d like to share, are always welcome!

 

 

Update – Work in Progress

Hi Everybody,

This is just a short post to show where I have got to with my Scottish themed quilts in progress. I’ve added little bits to three of them and they are now ready to square up, surface quilt and embroider and then bind. Seems like a long way to go still but they are looking a little more promising than when I last posted. These will be the first to be finished and then there will be another two to follow.

First up is my black and white ‘Wind in the West’ mini quilted picture:

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All I have done to this is to add a window and door to the cottage, appliqué  a strip of fencing around the edge of it and pop in a running rabbit (bottom right). I think its’s about ready to quilt now. I’m not sure whether to add a touch of colour or keep it all black and white, or grey . What do you think?

The second one has had a lot more detail added now:

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The cottage has chimneys as well as a door and window and a series of conifers have sprung up around it which I hope gives the scene more depth. I haven’t  decided whether to outline some of the ‘hills’, and continue the quilting lines from one hilly square to another, or to quilt tree shapes here and there. That might mean the quilt ends up being called ‘Into the Woods’ instead of ‘The Glen’

Then there is my mystery quilt. Are you any the wiser? The clue is probably in the crown:

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I shall probably outline-quilt the surrounding squares and rectangles and add some surface embroidery, especially across the seam in the heart and around the edges of the crown. I have stuffed the heart, so that it sits proud of the rest of the quilt because, for me a meaningful heart has to be one that is full.

Ok, time for the big reveal. Ta-da! This mini quilt is a representation of a Luckenbooth, that very old, traditional form of jewellery, usually a brooch and usually wrought in silver, that originated in Edinburgh in the early 1500’s. The design is a heart, or a couple of entwined hearts, sometimes with added gems and almost always topped by a crown. The brooches got their name from the stalls that popped up along  The Royal Mile (Edinburgh’s High Street), a patch of which become known as the “luckenbuiths” or locking booths out of which merchants traded. Although the  Luckenbooth was originally a brooch, as time went on the same motif has been used in various traditional and stylised ways, to fashion rings, pendants, charms, earrings and bracelets.

Here is a simple, inexpensive one I found on Ebay, sold by the jewellers Alexander Castle in Glasgow:

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As you might expect, the Luckenbooth was a love token, given as an engagement ring might be today but also presented to new-born babies to bestow love and protection. They were also handed down through families from mother to daughter. I found one among my mother’s belongings after she died, a gift from my father almost half a century before.

I wanted to celebrate this lovely Scottish emblem and the sentiment it has carried with it for so long. Maybe my little quilt can be yet another means of sending love down through a family.

Till next time……