a little bit of whimsy

pillow front sewing room secrets

I didn’t intend to stitch a mushroom house.

But then we were challenged at our sewing group to make a 12 1/2″ block suitable for a child’s quilt, with a theme of ‘homes and gardens’. The quilt blocks will be donated to a charity called The Linus Project, sewn into quilts and given to sick children.  Great, I thought, can’t wait to get started!

It was the red and white polkadot fabric that caught my eye – that’s when the idea of a mushroom house began to take shape.

pillow angle2 sewing room secrets

So I appliqued the little house and a couple of clouds in the sky. But I didn’t stop there.  I love details you see.  I can’t help myself.  I stitched a crooked picket fence, a birdhouse, creeping vines, window boxes, birds, bees, bunting and roses around the door. Finally, some wisps of smoke billowing from the chimney (just to show that someone is home!).

flower detail sewing room secrets

embroidery detail2 sewing room secrets

bird house sewing room secrets

door2 sewing room secrets

When I’d finished, I soon realised that my whimsical little block wouldn’t really be suitable for inclusion in a child’s charity quilt that is likely to be washed repeatedly. Back to the drawing board to think of something else.

But I was determined not to let this cutie become just another UFO (unfinished object) so I made it into a cushion and added some sweet red & white binding around the edges (way easier than making piping!) .

cloud sewing room secrets

cushion on chair sewing room secrets

And speaking of cuties, I forgot to show you what I did with my little embroidered Harriet.  I framed her in a patchwork frame that I picked up at Ikea last year – it couldn’t have been more perfect for her! And the best part?  The frame was only £6! All I did was add a little wadding behind and some ric-rac around the inside edge to make it pop!

Harriet7

Harriet1

Harriet seems content in her new home 🙂

Natalie x

 

 

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one way to bind a quilt

There are lots of ways to bind a quilt, but there is usually one way that we each turn to as our ‘go to’ method.  One way that works well for me is the technique that I am about to show you – I hope it is helpful for those of you who are just starting out on your quilting journey and are perhaps a little unsure of how best to frame your masterpieces 🙂

I’m using my little Zakka style butterfly table topper quilt to demonstrate, but the method works for any size of quilt, large or small 🙂

The first thing I do is trim the edges of the quilt

Trim sidesThen I calculate the amount of binding that I will need by measuring the perimeter of the quilt. In this instance, I am binding a small table topper quilt measuring 12.5″ x 21″, so the perimeter is the sum of all of the sides i.e. (12.5″ x 2) + (21″ x 2) = 67″.  Then I add about 10″, to allow for turning the corners and overlapping a little at the start and finish (I like to call these extra inches ‘wiggle room’ – love that expression!).  For this quilt I will need 77″ of binding.

Next I cut enough strips of fabric, which when joined together will give me one long strip of binding equal to the length I need. Now, this is where I differ a little from the norm in that I cut my binding strips 2¼” wide as opposed to the more widely used 2½” width. The reason I use 2¼” wide strips is because I like a ‘scant’ binding that sits snuggly against the sides of the quilt and I find that this width gives me the best finish.

For a large quilt I would cut the strips across the width of the fabric (from selvedge edge to selvedge edge), but for small projects, like this one, I sometimes cut strips from a fat quarter – it doesn’t really matter how you get there, so long as you make enough binding to go around the perimeter of the quilt, plus 10″ extra and without too many joins along the way!

Sew the strips together by placing two strips at right angles to each other, with right sides facing.  Draw a line diagonally from left to right like this …

Join strips

Then stitch on the drawn line and trim away the excess fabric leaving a ¼” seam at the join

Trim diagonal seam

Press the seams open so that the binding will lie flat when you apply it to the quilt

Iron seams openOnce you have joined all the strips together in this way, press the entire thing in half lengthways, wrong sides together.

Binding Collage

You are now ready to apply the binding to your quilt! Before you start any stitching, open the binding strip and bring the top right hand corner down to meet the bottom edge of the strip like this

Open out

Fold the strip back together again.  This forms a little ‘flap’ into which you will tuck the end of the binding later …

Fold down

I usually start applying the binding at around the midpoint on the bottom edge of my quilt.  Place the raw edge of the binding against the raw edge of the quilt top and pin.

Pin to bottom centre edge

Next, I mark ¼” from the corner edge like this

quarter inch marker

To stitch the binding on, I use a walking foot and a 1/4″ seam.  I start sewing about 3 or 4 inches from the folded end and continue to sew towards the first corner. Now comes the important bit – stop stitching ¼” from the corner edge (your marker will guide you). Backstitch a few stitches and fasten off (but don’t cut your binding strip!)

Start applying binding 5 inches from point

Now I fold the binding strip straight up forming a 45˚ angle, then I fold it down over itself to create a corner and align the raw edge of the binding with the next edge of the quilt.

Pull up

Pull down

Corner

Start stitching at the top (backstitching a few stitches at the start), through the folded corner and all the way down the next side, stopping as before ¼” from the next corner like before. Continue to attach the binding in this way until all four corners are completed and you are a few inches from your original starting point.

Corner collage

Trim the end of the binding and tuck it inside the folded end that you started with like this, so that it overlaps by a couple of inches

Tuck end in

Fold the flap back down again and continue to sew over the original starting stitches,  backstitching to secure and fasten off.

Join.

Now turn the quilt over so that you can stitch the binding down to the back of the quilt.

It doesn’t really matter where you start, just fold the binding strip over from the front of the quilt to the back until it’s PAST the 1/4″ seam line that you made sewing the binding onto the front.

I use a ‘blind’ stitch to hold the binding in place at the back of the quilt. I hide the knot on the underside of the binding and bring my needle up through the fold in the binding

Hide knot Collage

Next I insert the needle through the quilt backing and tunnel into the wadding for about 1/2cm just under the folded edge of the binding. Then I bring the needle back out and into the binding, as shown below

Stitch technique

The secret to ‘blind’ (hidden) stitches is to catch only 2-3 threads with each “bite” of the binding and to take the stitch slightly under the edge of the binding fold. Aim for evenly-spaced stitches (½cm – 1cm apart works well). Be careful not to sew through to the front of your quilt!

Tip** You may choose to use clips or pins to help you hold your binding in place as you sew –  it is not necessary to place a large number of them at a time, just enough for the next section ahead. Personally, I usually just hold it in place with my left hand as I go (I’m right-handed).

Continue to blind stitch the binding in place until you come to a corner.  At the corner, fold the adjacent binding strip over to form a miter. Now bring your needle up through the backing to where the two binding strips intersect and make a stitch right in the corner by pulling the needle through both layers of binding. Make a few more stitches along the diagonal fold to secure the mitered corner.

Corner stitch Collage

Starting from the corner, blind stitch the binding to the next side of the quilt

Make few stitches in corner to secure

This is how the corner looks on the front

Corner 2

Continue in this way until you have stitched all your binding neatly in place.

Finished binding

Butterfly table topper2

That’s it – you’re done!   Time to start another project 🙂

Natalie x

 

 

‘sweet dreams’

Cover sewing room secrets.It’s funny where we get our inspiration from sometimes. I can’t say for sure exactly where mine comes from, it just kinda finds me somehow. Sometimes it’s a colour or a memory or just because I have a ‘need’ for a certain thing, so I try to figure it.

The inspiration for my latest little embroidery design came from an old sketch that I stumbled upon, in amongst some old photos recently.

Sketch

It was Christmas 1983 when I etched that little scene in my jotter at school.  I remember I was on ‘Library duty’ in the sixth form centre at the time and should have been using the time wisely to revise French.  But, as you can see, I had other things on my mind!

I should explain that the sixth form library was a partitioned off area in the corner of a much larger room. The partitions were made of floor to ceiling glass panels so you could see in and out of the library into the larger room/study area. There was always a teacher present in the study area to ensure that students were using the time productively to study.

Now I have no idea why I thought that the library was sound proof (call me naive or stupid – you choose) but that day, as I sat in the library on my own sketching my little Christmas scene, I began to sing ‘Jingle Bells’ at the top of my voice.  Oblivious to the fact that the entire sixth form could hear me, I then went on to sing other Christmassy tunes. I had belted out several renditions of ‘Rudolf’ before the teacher on duty got up from her desk and walked towards the library door.   As she stood in the doorway and barked “We can all hear you!!”, the entire room erupted with laughter (including me). Needless to say, I got a detention that day for my shenanigans, but on the up-side I managed to hide the little drawing and I’ve kept it all this time … 🙂

sketch2.

And now, more than 30 years later, I have sketched that little sleeping mouse again – only this time as an embroidery design. He looks like such a peaceful little soul, that wee mouse, gently snoozing under his quilt.

Sleepy head

I added some mini bunting above him, just for fun!

IMG_7739

I simply l-o-v-e-d stitching his little patchwork quilt. Cute, cute, cute!

full quilt.

I am gifting this little piece of hoop-art to my God-daughter to hang on her bedroom wall. I can’t wait to give it to her … hope she likes it.

IMG_7735

I’ve popped the pattern in my Etsy shop – it includes instructions on how to decorate your embroidery hoop and how to finish your hoop-art at the back too!  (I also think this little design would look super cute on a pillow or as a panel on a little tote bag )

IMG_7742..

 Happy stitching and ‘Sweet Dreams’ everyone!

Natalie  xx

 

 

tidying up can unearth long forgotten treasure

I came across these tit-bits whilst I was tidying up today

Lola threads.

And it got me thinking.

Those gorgeous orangey shades reminded me of a certain lil’ redhead that I stitched once upon a time. .. can ya guess who? For anyone new to my blog, this is the sassy little lady I am referring to

Lola21

Needless to say, the tidying came to an abrupt end and I grabbed my pencils and paper and this wee sketch emerged …

Lola sketch

I am going to enlarge the drawing big enough for a cushion cover. I think Lola will look very ‘chic’ in a wide-brimmed hat and I’m looking forward to weaving those gorgeous strands into her lovely locks…

… am I sounding confident?  Like I have a plan and know exactly how to proceed? Good, cos I’m trying to convince myself that I do :).  Truth is, I have had these threads for years because I have absolutely no clue how to use them!  I bought them many moons ago for no other reason than I just had to have them. They shone and sparkled and called to me and I knew straight away that I needed them in my drawer life!

I am not at all sure how I will work the threads in –  they are all different thicknesses to begin with, not at all like ordinary embroidery floss.  I guess that’s why they are so appealing…

Lola threads

But I like them.

A lot!

So I am inspired to give it a whirl and see what happens, plan or no plan! 🙂

Happy stitching!

Natalie x

love entwined … slow progress

I’m making very slow progress with my Love Entwined quilt …

The truth is, I found stitching the zig-zag border very tedious (there, I said it!) and that led me to abandon the quilt for a long time. Eventually, I did pick it up again and have been getting on with things a lot better now that the border is finished!

So, the first vase is now brimming over with berries and blooms and I  just need to embroider a few stamens to a couple of the flower centres.

LE flowers4

LE flowers1

lily2

LE flowers5

LE flowers3

LE flowers2

Now I’m working on the second vase of flowers …

Vase2

I apply tiny drops of Roxanne’s glue-baste-it to hold the pieces in place before stitching them down.

Roxanne glue-baste-it

This amazing applique glue dries in minutes, holds great and is 100% water soluble, with no harmful chemicals, dyes or waxes.  It also comes with a super fine syringe-like applicator which allows for controlled droplets of tiny beads of glue just where you need it! I find glueing so much better than pinning, since I don’t prick my fingers so much 🙂 That’s gotta be a good thing, right?  Cos who wants blood on their quilt?

berries

Fern

And, best of all, I get to combine embroidery and applique on this quilt too … *happy sigh*

embroidery2

embroidery1

small purple flower

.. and it was so worth it to persevere with that pesky border, cos the end result is pretty cool! I love the whole 3D effect with the zig-zags 🙂 This is how the whole thing looks from a distance …

photo.

Whether or not I ever go ‘all the way’ with this quilt remains to be seen (the finished size is 90″ x 90″ – yikes!), but right now I’m not looking too far ahead. One piece at a time is enough for me …

Happy stitching!

Natalie x

 

 

zakka butterfly

Butterfly table topper2

The patchwork group that I attend are hosting a BOM this year, with different members of the group demonstrating a technique or a block that they have enjoyed doing and are happy to share with everyone.  The idea is that you can either make a quilt with all the blocks or you can just do particular blocks that appeal to you and make them into cushions, mini quilts or other small items of loveliness 

I have been asked to host a demonstration on my preferred method of applique for the March block. Oh the pressure! Yikes! This wee butterfly block is what I intend to go with.  What d’ya think?

Applique butterfly

The finished blocks will be 12″.  I wanted to use my block to make a table topper, so I stitched six 2½”  squares either side of the butterfly and added a 3” inch strip of the grey linen that I love so much.  Then I finished the whole thing up nice and neat with some gorgeous aqua binding.

Squares3

Butterfly table topper3

I quilted some simple blooms here and there, adding a cluster of beads to some of the flower centres for a wee bit of sparkle …

Squares

Applique3jpg

Back2

Applique1

The method of applique that I use is often referred to as the ‘freezer paper and starch’ method.  I like this method best, because I like how the pieces hold their shape as I work with them and I can get pretty smooth edges too 🙂

Butterfly head

Applique4.jpqI used fabric from my stash, because I wanted the finished quilt to co-ordinate with the little Zakka style nesting boxes that I made for the bathroom.

bathroom set.

And what do you do when you finish a quilt and get that lovely fuzzy feeling of accomplishment?  Yep, you make a nice cuppa tea, settle on the sofa with a quilting book and dream about your next sewing project! 🙂

Afternoon tea

Happy stitching everyone!

Natalie x

happiness is …

…a pot of tea, an open fire and some quiet stitching on a Sunday afternoon

LE centre4

I’m working on a new appliqué quilt called ‘Love Entwined’.  It is an historic appliqué quilt dating back to 1790, which has been interpreted and re-created by Esther Aliu (you can read more about it here). Esther is generously offering this magnificent quilt as a free BOM over on her blog, if you care to join in 🙂   Just hit the button in the sidebar and it will take you straight to Esther’s blog.

Original LE Black & White

Not much is known about the original, other than it is from the Georgian Era, England, heavily appliquéd and is described as a ‘fine marriage coverlet’.  It will be a real labour of love and will probably take me in the region of two years to complete!!

LE centre2

LE centre3

It took me ages to get started … partly because I discovered it just before Christmas when I had a million and one other things to do, but mostly because I was nervous about the huge undertaking that this quilt represents.

I mean this is BIG! Not just in size (96″ x 96″), but also in the challenges that it poses.  It is an intense appliqué project and I have never attempted anything quite on this scale before. Yikes!

The first challenge was choosing the fabrics.  This is the part that, for me, takes forever as I keep changing my mind!  Laying out some fabrics on my work table helped a lot 🙂

LE fabrics3

The second challenge was the Mariner’s compass block as I have never done one before. It took a couple of attempts, but I got there in the end …

LE embroidered dots

The appliqué pieces on this quilt are an awful lot smaller than they look, but I have been getting around it with a few carefully placed embroidery stitches 😉   

Now that I have finished the centre circle, I think I am over the worst.  Yeah right, who am I kidding?

flower

applique flower2

… one solitary little embroidered flower added, only nine more to go!

What new challenges have you set yourself for the New Year?

Happy stitching!

Natalie x

‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

Actually, it is likely to be somewhat more than a thousand stitches. I guess it would be several thousand, but as I didn’t count them whilst I was making this wholecloth quilt, I will never know the exact number of times the needle entered the soft peachy cotton fabric.

Morning star 34

I have always been fascinated when I have come across old quilts or coverlets in museums or books. I always find myself craning over the rope barriers in museums to take a closer look, to find out more about the maker.

Morning star 29

My mind sets off wondering how those women managed to create such beautiful, intricate and timeless treasures without the luxury of a fabric store with all its choice of fine cottons, without a ‘daylight’ bulb and without all the notions and mechanical aids of today’s modern world.  How different it was for those women of my past who didn’t have a fabric ‘stash’.  It is nothing short of miraculous how they did it  and I love how their strength and tenacity is preserved in the fibres of those beautiful hand made quilts.

These are some of the things that I pondered as I stitched ‘Morning Star’ and in my own way I felt connected to those women as my hands busied themselves with the rocking motion of the needle. I yearned to create something timeless as they had done, to create my own little piece to enchant the eye with intricate patterns.

Morning star 23

The journey began with a sketch on squared paper, doing my best to draw out a ‘scaled down’ version of the actual thing.

Morning star 24

I knew that if I could come up with a design for just one quarter of the quilt, then I could mirror and flip the pattern to create a whole quilt. I started with a design for the centre star; I practiced drawing feathers and gathered quilting templates from magazines and books.

Morning star 25

I ‘scaled up’ the design to a life size version and I transferred it on to fabric, mirroring and flipping the pattern until the whole top was marked out.

Morning star 28

Morning star 26

Morning star 14

Morning star 30

Morning star 22

Morning star 21

Morning star 18

Morning star 16

I tried out several different thimbles, but the one that I found suited me best was a Clover leather thimble with a metal centre on the pad. By the time I had finished quilting ‘Morning Star’ I had worn a hole right through the metal on two thimbles and was on my third!

Morning star 9

Whilst the thimble protected my finger on top of the quilt, the finger on the underside took quite a battering and I was forced to stop on many an occasion when it would start to bleed from repeated stabbings.  I didn’t want to risk getting blood on the quilt!  Someone recommended that I use ‘udder cream’ on the afflicted finger which I found a highly amusing notion at the time, but I have to say it did help to sooth my chapped skin 🙂

Morning star 10

It delighted me to work simply with just the cloth and the frame. It was a real escape, simply to sit with the gentle rhythm of the needle as it gathered all those tiny stitches and lulled my racing thoughts.  I was able to lose myself in the doing of it and I loved it.

Morning star 33

Morning star 2

Morning star 15

Morning star 23

I stitched ‘Morning Star’ back in 2005, so it is already a few years old and my hope is that I might get to hand it down to a grandchild at some point in the future and tell them the story behind the stitches.

I would like to tell them about those strong women who have gone before us, who stitched by candle light, making do with the materials that they had.  I would like to tell them about how every stitch in a quilt represents a moment in time in the life of it’s maker and I would like to explain to them that, although every tiny stitch stands alone, it is also part of the whole; connected to the rest.

Just like a family.

Natalie x

little hexie needle caddy

If you have been following my blog for the last however many weeks you will know that I have been afflicted with a bad case of ‘hexagon-itis’ and my wee pink tin of 1/2” hexies has been my constant companion.  I have really enjoyed re-acquainting myself with the simple pleasures of making hexagons (something I haven’t done since I was a child!) and I can at last reveal the final resting place for all those little six-sided cuties!

Needlebook on fabric pile

My wee pink sewing tin is empty – almost! Just a few lonely little hexies left languishing at the bottom for another day …

pink tin empty2

It has been a very interesting and rewarding mini-hexie-adventure, which began with a neat little pile of the prettiest fabrics …

fabric pile 2

which turned into these …

Hexie tower2

Hexies before joining

which were sewn together like this …

Hexies

which grew into this …

Hexy6

and was appliqued on to linen and embellished with pretty beads and the simplest of embroidery stitches …

Hexies long row with embroidery

and framed all neat and tidy with some dotty aqua binding …

Needlebook binding

to create the perfect home for all my sewing needles 🙂

cover

fully open with needles

Needlebook Open with needles

slope down to the right with needles

When I started making all those wee hexagons I had no idea what I was going to do with them all.  I just liked the cuteness of them and the fact that they require no special tools to construct, just paper, fabric, needle and thread.  No special effort or concentration … a way to just sit, be still and stitch for the love of it.

Needlebook9

Needlebook51

Needlebook47

cover angle flowers

Needlebook10JPG

Needlebook37

It’s been interesting sharing my love affair with hexagons here on my blog and on my facebook page, as it has revealed to me that people are ‘hexagonating’ all over the world! And loving it! It seems we all have a certain fondness for the humble hexagon.

I have written up a pattern for my little needle caddy and it will be listed in my Etsy shop from midnight on Thursday 15th August 2013. I have loved working on this sweet little design and it has been made even more fun by having all of you hexie lovers along for the ride, keeping me company in all my little sewing endeavours, during what has been one of the most glorious British summers for many a long year! Thank you, and happy ‘hexagonating!’!

close up thimble

I am taking a little summer break from blogging and facebooking, but I will be back in September again :). Whilst I may be absent from cyberspace for a few weeks, I will still be ‘around’ stitching and  creating .

Until September then … happy stitching!

Natalie x

hexagons for harriet

….. my ‘hexagon-itis’ continues to worsen and I fear I may be well on my way to a diagnosis of hexie-mania!

I really have got it bad! I sneak them everywhere with me – my wee pink sewing tin fits discreetly in my handbag and I find myself whipping it out for a quick fix any opportunity I get …(please don’t judge me)

Hexies in a tin

tin & hexies2

I’ve even been ‘hexagon-ating’ in public … yep, in the dentist’s waiting room, at my desk in work, on a park bench, in the garden  …

Garden table

hexies close up3

Hexies on the grass

On the plus side, I find that each time I make a few of these six-sided cuties, it seems to ease the symptoms … if only a little 🙂

Hexy flower with scissors

The recent heatwave in the UK has made it difficult to do any serious sewing as it has just been too darn hot! However, the last couple of days have seen a drop in temperature, which has been a welcome relief and I have been able to work on the cushion I was making for my sewing chair, using my ‘Harriet & her Teddy’ embroidery design (available in my Etsy shop).

Harriet before applique

Harriet side view

If you are not familiar with the English Paper Piecing method for making hexagons, there are oodles of great tutorials out there, so I won’t re-invent the wheel by doing another one here. For small hexagon paper piecing, I can recommend this tutorial from V and Co – it has lots of great close up photographs and easy to follow tips and advice. And for those of you who want to go to the next level and learn some imaginative and creative ways to use hexagons in your quilts, I would highly recommend a visit to Faeries & Fibres for lots of tips, tutorials and hexie inspiration.

Hexy flower side view

Hexy flower very close

Hexies close up

When joining one hexagon to another here are a couple of tips that work well for me:

  • I like to use a fine needle (size 10) so that I can easily catch the fabric as close to the edge as possible. This helps to make sure that your stitches don’t show up as much on the right side of your work.
  • I prefer to use ladder stitch rather than the more usual whip stitch for the same reason, that it helps to hide your stitches.

I also like to use a paperclip to hold the paper in place whilst tacking down the sides, but some people use freezer paper or even a glue stick to stabilize the paper template. 

hexie paper clip

I always think that a cushion looks so much more polished and professional when edged with some piping, don’t you? But I get put off at the thought of having to make all that bias binding and usually just end up doing the standard plain edge finish. But not this time…. 

cushion side on

Sewing is a continually evolving journey.  No matter how long you have been stitching, there is always a new technique to learn or a fresh way to look at something you thought you already knew.  I had come across tutorials in the past on how to make continuous bias binding, but had never tried it out for myself.  This technique is basically a way to eliminate the tedious task of having to join all those bias strips, end to end, to get the length you need. I used this tutorial by Sew Mama Sew to show me how and, oh my goodness! Why have I never done this before?  It’s pure magic! I don’t think I will ever make bias binding any other way!

Piping cord covered in continuous bias binding

Piping cord covered in continuous bias binding

I machine appliqued a row of hexies to decorate the back

Hexy border

back border

Cushion back

And so, my little Harriet now adorns this cute little cushion on my sewing chair …

Cushion on sewing chairUp until now, Lola has been ‘my girl’, but I know that there is room enough in my heart for little Harriet too 

Happy stitching everyone!

Natalie x

a bad case of ‘hexagon-itis’

 ….. there has been a sudden outbreak of ‘hexagon-itis’ in our house. So far, I am the only member of the household affected. The only cure (apparently) is to ‘make stuff’ – I’m gonna make something cute-sy with this little lot and see if I can ease the symptoms …. I’ll keep you posted *cough* … 

1/2" hexies

every path has it’s puddles ….

Harriet & her Teddy

I am writing this post long-hand.  I decided that today was just too sun-shiney to be indoors on the laptop, so here I am with pen and paper writing down my thoughts the old fashioned way.  Of course, by the time you read this I will have typed it all up neatly on my trusty keyboard; but that will happen much later, when the sun has gone to bed.

As I write, this is the view of my little piece of sky, lying here looking up to the heavens from   a sun lounger in the garden.  Ahh, dappled sunshine … my favourite kind! 

dappled sunshine

Lying here in the sun, you could say that life is pretty good right now … and so it is.  That’s the funny thing about life, some days are just better than others 

In my last post, I promised to tell you the story behind the stitches of the little embroidery pattern that I have been working on, featuring Harriet and her Teddy.   I wasn’t crazy about my original choice of background fabric or colours, so I experimented a little until I came up with something that I am now happy with. It has taken a little longer, but I think it has been worth it in the end and the pattern is now available for sale as a PDF download from my Etsy Shop.

Harriet's face & hat detail

Whilst stitching this watery little scene, it has made me think about how life ebbs and flows.  How sometimes, things are just peachy (like today) and at other times you wonder how you will get through the tough times.  I don’t know how it is for any of you, but as I’ve grown older, I have realized that life is often all about perspective and going with the flow.

when it rains

At the moment, Harriet is lying on my work table waiting to be stitched into a cushion for my sewing chair.  The idea being that next time something goes awry in my life … when I’m feeling stressed by a million things that all need to be done RIGHT NOW or I feel like I’ve encountered an insurmountable problem, it will remind me that I can just stand in the rain for a time and not let it pummel me. I don’t have to panic or shield myself. I just need to ride it out, to take what comes, knowing that I’ll handle it and it will all pass by soon enough.

I can follow Harriet’s example …. let go of the umbrella and just get a little wet!

When it rains2 Happy stitching  

wedding fever, a swap and a new pattern

The Very Berry Handmade Textile ATC swap has come to an end and, a little over a week ago, I posted my wee card off to my swap partner with a little note. 

ATC envelope

The recipient is an American lady, so my little offering has flown all the way across the pond to New York! I do hope she likes it.

In the meantime, I have received this delicate blossom tree from Kathie who blogs over at Dipity-do-dah.  Those sweet little blossoms are really, really tiny and are not embroidered on, but cut from fabric!! Wow! Thank you Kathie – I love it!

ATC received May 2013

You can see a lot more amazing designs over on the flickr group – such a diverse mix of ideas and interpretations!  It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to the next Very Berry Handmade ATC swap later on in the year.

Alas, no sewing for me today I’m afraid.  Instead, I’m off out shopping for a wedding outfit – the wedding is next Saturday, so I’m cutting it fine, yikes!    (Note to self: don’t kid yourself that you will find wedding attire in John Lewis haberdashery department … resist going in there. … resist … 😉 ).

We will be having some house guests stay with us from my husband’s side of the family, so I can feel a bit of spring cleaning coming on and some cake baking too! It won’t all be cushion plumping and kettle polishing though – I will be making sure that I set aside a little sewing time before the wedding to do some hand quilting on my Mile-a-Minute scrappy quilt (which hasn’t been ‘mile-a-minute’ at all, by the way – but that’s a whole other story for another day :))

MAM quilt5

MAM quilt4

MAM quilt3

And finally, I am super excited (and a wee bit nervous?) to tell you that I will soon be launching a pattern shop from my facebook page.  It isn’t up and running yet and I am working hard behind the scenes to get my first pattern on there for sale as a PDF download.  I have lots of ideas for stitcheries, wall hangings, dolls and more!  Here is a sneaky peek at the first pattern that I hope will be available soon ….

When it rains detail

This will be one of a series of fun stitcheries featuring Harriet, a little girl who never ventures far without her Teddy.  Each stitchery will depict a day in Harriet’s life, or reveal a little bit about her character. I’ll reveal the message behind this little scene, once I’ve finished stitching it 🙂

Now, it’s time I hit the shops – that wedding outfit ain’t gonna buy itself!  Happy stitching folks!

I’d like you to meet ‘Lola’

Do you ever have times when you get ‘half’ an idea, but it feels all scattered in your head and you just have to keep playing with it until it eventually becomes something solid?

‘Lola’ has been on my mind for a wee while now.

Lola1

After sketching her outline and transferring it to linen using a washable marker, I appliqued her headband using some of the red & white polka dot fabric I had left over from making the little LiliPopo glasses case. Normally, I like to applique by hand, but I thought this particular design would look better with some machine stitching.

Lola2

I started by outlining the basic shape of her hair using two strands of embroidery floss and a simple back stitch.  I then did some colouring-in with crayon! No kidding! Crayon! I thought it would be a good idea to have the colour show through any gaps in the stitching.

Lola4I wanted to keep her fringe heavy and have it sweep across her forehead to cover one eye. I have layered in some texture to her hair by varying the thickness and colour of the threads I used. The whole thing has been sewn using only three simple embroidery stitches – straight stitch, split stitch and couching.

That’s what I love about embroidery – the simplest of stitches are all you need to paint a picture on a blank canvas.

Lola8

I used a single strand of golden yellow for the ‘highlights’ and simply couched it in places to create waves (check out my hairdressing action 🙂 ) I also used some nobbly dolls hair that I bought ages ago, and it’s been perfect for creating a tight curl effect.  Again, I’ve simply couched it in place.

I’ve loved watching Lola’s personality come to life – to me she looks kinda cool and edgy – and I really feel that I’ve got to know her during our time together. And the name …. Lola? Well, I think it suits her don’t you?

And I couldn’t leave her nameless could I? Cos then she wouldn’t be real …… 

Lola11

I think I’m a wee bit in love with ‘Lola’ …. ♥ 

But what to do with her now?  …..I’m already working on it  🙂

Happy stitching everyone!

a parcel and a swap

I posted my ‘wee sheeps’ pouch to Lindsay today. Exciting to think that those ‘wee sheeps’ will be travelling all the way across the pond to Pennsylvania! My! this blogging stuff really can take you places!

Wee sheeps parcel

Next up…. is the Very Berry Handmade Textile Artist Trading Card Swap (phew! try saying that after a few glasses of vino!). I have until the end of May, or there abouts, to design a 2.5” x 3.5” textile card to swap with someone else in the group, so I’ve been looking through my stash for inspiration.

Fabric inspiration

The theme for the swap is “Something New”, which pretty much gives me infinite scope, since the whole process of blogging and swapping is all pretty “new” to me! I wanted to make something that will bring a smile to the person receiving it in the mail and I hope this little offering will do the trick 🙂

ATC borders

ATC final

It’s been fun making this little example of teeny tiny loveliness and, if I get time to try out a few more designs before the swap deadline, I’d love it if all of you would help me choose which one to swap! 🙂

Happy Stitching Everyone!

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a treasury of applique

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy1

Given the choice, I prefer hand sewing over machine and appliqué has got to be one of my favourite techniques.  It’s like a form of art, I guess – the way you can take the teeniest, tiniest scraps and layer them, so as to build a picture out of nothing.  The down side to this, of course, is that I find it difficult to throw even the smallest piece of fabric away.

I recently made a little appliqued sewing caddy and it has been getting such a lot of attention from fellow stitchers that I thought I would share it here on my blog.

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy13

I first saw the pattern by Hitomi Fujita in one of my quilting magazines, yonks ago, and I fell in love with it straight away (Australian Patchwork & Quilting, Vol.4, No.6).

Australian Patchwork & Quilting MagBut, you know how it goes – it went down on my ‘to do’ list and then was forgotten about, until a few months ago, when I was flicking through my collection of old magazines (I can’t throw them away either :)) and I came across the pattern again. 

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy14

I’m so glad I didn’t just file the pattern away again, because now I have the most wonderful little home for all my sewing essentials.

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy11

There is a place for everything, from my embroidery scissors

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy9

a small fastener ensures that my scissors stay securely in place

to my tape measure and leather thimble

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy8

pockets where I keep my pins, embroidery threads and the all important stitch ripper!

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy10places for a ruler, pencils and threads

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy15

there is even a pin cushion and needle book

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy3

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy7The great thing is that the needle book and the pin cushion are both detachable from the pouch, as they are secured in place with velcro. Genius!

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy6

but, best of all, I got to do lots of lovely applique on the outside

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy5

Sewing Room Secrets Sewing Caddy2

This labour of love is now one of my most cherished creations ….. every stitch holding a memory of thousands of tiny seconds of time spent in my sewing room doing what I love most ♥

Happy stitching everyone!

** Edited 21.12.13**  I have had many requests for the pattern for this sewing caddy. Unfortunately, I don’t know where you might obtain the pattern these days – some of my readers have tried contacting the magazine, but unfortunately they have not been very helpful 😦  I do know that some people have managed to get a copy via Ebay and others via Bonanza.com or by posting a request on quilting forums.

Under copyright law, I am at liberty to publish my own photographs of my interpretation of the design, so long as I give credit to the source and the designer (which I have done in this post) but, unfortunately, the copyright for the design lies with the designer (which is not me!) and so I am not able to re-distribute the pattern in any shape or form, sorry. Natalie x

time to just be me

One of my favourite designers, the talented Kate Popovski (aka LiliPopo), has just released a new embroidery pattern and my copy arrived last week.  I have been itching to get going with it, but there was always something else to do and I’ve not managed to find the time.

Today, with the March sun streaming through an open window, I managed to sit down in my sewing room, just me, and stitch for a few glorious hours. 

lilipopo in progress

Oh! there are few things more satisfying than those precious moments when nothing else requires your attention, other than the needle and thread in your hand and making sure there is tea in the pot!

lilipopo in progress2

I love combining appliqué with embroidery and have done so to great effect in many of my own projects, but I think that these little LiliPopo designs are perfect to showcase just how effective this technique can be.

My glasses case

ipad2

I shall need to carve myself out some sewing time next week in order to make a Mother’s Day gift.  I have some Suffolk Puffs lying around somewhere; I’m sure I can rustle up something lovely with those 😉

First though, I shall need to post this wee glasses case to my aunt in Northern Ireland.

Aunt Hilary's glasses case3

I just love days like today, when you can while away the hours just sewing, nothing else, just that.  Bliss x

a day of suffolk puffs and yo-yo’s

Sewing room secrets suffolk puffs

What’s in a name? Well,  I guess it depends which side of the pond you are on. American’s call these little gathered circles Yo-Yo’s (and it’s easy to see why), whereas we Brits refer to them as Suffolk Puffs.

sewing room secrets suffolk puffs

In the sewing world, a Suffolk Puff (or Yo-Yo) is simply a circle of fabric which is gathered around the edge so that it turns in on itself in a ‘puffy’ kind of way. The technique has a long history and references to ‘puffs’ appear as far back as 1601.  It is thought that they originated in the county of Suffolk when people would re-cycle worn out clothes and fabric scraps.  Very often the puffs would be sewn together to make quilts. 

sewing room secrets suffolk puffs

At my sewing group this week I spent the afternoon chatting with my lovely stitching buddies, eating far too many chocolate biscuits and making a whole bunch of these little cuties.

sewing room secrets suffolk puffs

(Confession: Some puffs are not featured in this photo due to the accidental smudging with chocolate 🙂 )

I will admit that I’ve got a bit of an obsession with these wonderful little fabric flowers at the moment – I can’t stop making them, they’re so pretty!  Best of all, they are super quick and simple to make – even kids and total beginners can master them with ease.  Want to know how to make one?  Easy peasy ……

1.  Make two circular templates from card about twice the size that you want your puff to be. My circles were about 3½” and 2½” in diameter.

2.  Draw around the templates on to the wrong side of your chosen fabrics and cut them out on the drawn line.

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4.  Tie a knot in your thread and sew a running stitch all around the circle quite close to the edge.

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5.  Pull the thread to gather the fabric into the middle.

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6.  Flatten the puff between your finger and thumb and secure the centre with a knot.

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6.  Lay one puff on top of the other and secure with a couple of stitches.  Attach a pretty button and your done!

sewing room secrets suffolk puff

You can now use these simple puffs to adorn all manner of things.  Try attaching a brooch pin to the back, sew them on to a hair clip or cover a whole cushion with them…. the list is endless! I’ll be showing you what I did with mine in a later post, but until then go puff crazy!

Happy stitching!

born to sew but forced to work!

Woke up this morning to a very wintry scene! The perfect day to snuggle up under a patchwork quilt and do some hand stitching.

Snow Feb 2013

But, alas, I will have to leave my cozy sewing room and get myself to work!

Mug rug1

This is my new mug rug for work – says it all really!