Monday, 29 June 2015

Sewing with friends

Yesterday I spent a wonderful day sewing with friends. As always it was a day full of laughter, great food and even a little sewing. Our very first sewing day was just over a year ago, but it feels like we've been getting together for so much longer. There's something about sewing with friends that means no conversational topic is taboo and we cover a lot of different topics, maybe that's why we feel like old friends! This year Julie had the brilliant idea to have our own little birthday club. In my last post I shared the (belated) gift I made Rachael. Today I'd like to share the gorgeous gifts that I received. Yes, my birthday is coming up!
Rachael made me the most amazing Liberty pillow using the Wheel of Fortune pattern from Jen Kingwell's new book Quilt Lovely. The background fabric is a beautiful linen/cotton blend.

 Julie made me this adorable pouch using Tessa's new zipper pouch tutorial (featuring Denyse Schmidt fabric), a stunning Liberty log cabin pin cushion and a Liberty wrapped wooden spoon.

My friends know me well! And they totally spoilt me! Next up is Deb's birthday so we'll be spending the next few weeks plotting a surprise for her.

Finally, just to prove that I did get a little sewing done, here's an update on the hand quilting on my Pack Patch mini. It's my go-to project for our sewing days, it's so easy to pack (especially when you have loads of books, produce, gifts and food to carry as well) and hand-stitching and chatting go perfectly together.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Birthday Club Sewing

Last weekend I finally made a start on my overdue birthday swap item for Rachael. After weeks of indecision I decided to make a pouch. Thank goodness, with that decided, the decision making got easier!  I've been wanting to make a mini lone star pouch ever since Melissa (clothwork on Flickr) made this incredible one for me in our swap last year.

The lone star pattern is from the book Little Lone Star Quilts by Lorraine Olsen (the link is to the Kindle edition downloadable on Amazon, it's not an affiliate link). The book includes patterns for lone stars from 5" to 13", the smallest star uses 1/2" diamonds. The secret is a new-to-me technique for fold-and-sew paper piecing. The process is really clever and so much easier than I was expecting!.

For the star I chose several Tokyo Train Ride fabrics, a Denyse Schmidt Hope Valley fabric and an Anna Maria Horner fabric for the centre. The background fabric is Moda Cross Weave in grey/black.

To finish the pouch I used Noodlehead's Open Wide Zippered Pouch Tutorial.  I'll be giving the pouch to Rachael at our sewing get together on Sunday, I'm crossing my fingers that she likes it.

This gift is the second finish from my Finish Along Second Quarter goals so I will be linking up to the Finish Along when it opens in July (eek, soon!!).

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Quilt The Book [Progress #1]

Yesterday I listened to Carolyn Friedlander's Hand Work is Fun Webinar (which I loved!).  It got me thinking about the applique quilts in Denyse Schmidt Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration and how, given how slow I'm likely to be, I really should make a start on them. So today I spent some time going through the fabric requirements for what looks to be the easiest of the five applique quilts, Floral Applique. I'm hoping that by starting with the easiest, I'll pick up the skills to tackle the harder ones (particularly the Hawaiian quilt, eek!). Thanks to the needle-turn applique class I took with Carolyn Friedlander at Quiltcon, I already have all the notions I need and most importantly, the confidence to make a start.
The colour scheme in the book seems to match the style of the quilt perfectly, so for this quilt I'm planning on following the solids list in the pattern and adding a few print scraps from stash. 
Armed with a plan, I really wanted to make a start. I was hoping my Modern Solids box would have some of the solids listed in the pattern so I could start cutting (I'm impatient like that), but unfortunately it doesn't have any of them. It's probably a good thing, there are a few other projects I should be working on this week!
As for my Ocean Wave's quilt, by squeezing in a few minutes cutting and sewing here and there, I've been able to finish five more blocks this week.  I love the way the different shades of blue and green give movement and add to the illusion of ocean waves.

And one last update from my Quilt The Book project, I've pieced a back for the Wagon Wheel quilt. It's now with a longarmer waiting for the magic to happen.  I can't wait to see it quilted!

Note: The Webinar link above is to Carolyn Friedlander's blog post, if you're a member of the Modern Quilt Guild you can access it through their website under Events>Webinars Past.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

No Ripping Foundation Paper Piecing [Part Two] Cutting and Sewing

No Ripping Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial Part Two

Yesterday I shared Part One of my "no ripping foundation paper piecing tutorial". Part One covered preparing the block templates from freezer paper and preparing cutting templates. Today I'm covering how to cut the fabrics and sew the block. These instructions refer specifically to my Sugar Loaf block but you can adapt the instructions to any foundation paper pieced block.

You'll need

  • Freezer paper templates as described in Part One
  • Cutting templates as described in Part One
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Fabric
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Quilter's Ruler
  • Cutting Mat

1. Cutting

Note: The measurements below are for reasonable size pieces but are not hugely generous. You may wish to cut larger pieces if you're new to foundation paper piecing. As you get familiar with the process you may choose to cut smaller pieces.

Background fabric
  • 6 1/2" x 4 1/2" for pieces one, five and six. This size allows 1/4" added to every edge.
  • 4 3/4" x 1 1/4" for piece seven

Triangle fabric
  • 11" x 1" (cross cut into 3 1/2", 3 1/2" and 4", these are pieces two, three and four respectively)

From the large background rectangle, cut pieces one, five and six. This is where the cutting templates you prepared in Part One come in handy! Lay your templates out on the rectangle of background fabric (fabric is right side up) as shown above. Ensure that you have about 1/4" around each template. The above layout ensures that:
  • the outside edges of your block are cut on the grain (no stretchy bias edges)
  • if your fabric is directional, the print is running in the same direction
  • there is minimal fabric waste.
Using your rotary cutter and ruler, start with piece six.  Lay the ruler over template six at the same angle as the template, add a 1/4" to the template edge and cut the background fabric. Remove piece six, then repeat the process for piece five. You're then left with a triangle of fabric for piece one.

If you used an old needle to create your freezer paper templates in Part One, replace the needle now. Rethread your machine if you haven't already.

You're now ready to start sewing!

2. Sewing

Flip the freezer paper template (prepared in Part One of this tutorial) over to the shiny side, centre the background fabric piece one over section one, with the right side of the fabric facing up. Make sure to have a 1/4" seam allowance on all edges. Holding the template and fabric up to the light can help determine whether you have the fabric positioned correctly. Iron the fabric directly to the paper so that it is firmly stuck. When applying the iron I don't worry about the iron touching the paper, it's also possible to iron from the reverse side. Check that the fabric is positioned correctly before continuing, if not gently peel the fabric off and start again).

Take the template to your cutting board, gently peel a little of the fabric away from the paper along the first seam line (shown as the dashed line below).

Fold the template along this seam line.

Line the 1/4" line of your ruler up with the folded edge of the paper, trim excess fabric so that you have 1/4" fabric overhang. You're now ready to sew the first seam.

Take your fabric for piece two (3 1/2" x 1" triangle fabric), line it up with your cut edge, right sides together. Centre piece two so that there is a 1/4" overlap at either end of section two. The blue arrows below show the ends of section two, your fabric needs to go 1/4" beyond these two points.

Note I don't reduce the stitch length, as there are no papers to rip out afterwards you can get away with your normal stitch length. You will be cutting through seams though so it's up to you. Personally I like the fact that unpicking is so much easier at my normal stitch length.

Fold the template back on the crease line you've just created. Holding the second piece of fabric in place, and with the freezer paper on top, line your needle up next to the fold. Sew the two pieces of fabric together, taking care to sew next to the fold but not through the paper.

Fold piece two back against the freezer paper and iron to set in place. Hooray, you've completed the first seam. You're now ready to attach piece three.

From now on you're just repeating the above steps.

The next seam line is shown by the pencil in the above image, between piece one and three. Gently peel the fabric on that side away from the freezer paper and crease the template along the perforated seam line. Trim excess fabric, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance beyond the folded edge.

Take your fabric for piece three ( 3 1/2" x 1" triangle fabric). Line up with the cut edge. Sew in place as before.

Set with an iron. Peel excess fabric back from the next seam line (where piece four will be attached). Fold the freezer paper along this seam line.

Trim the excess fabric, leaving 1/4" seam allowance.

 Sew piece four (4" x 1" triangle fabric) in place.


The next two pieces are probably the trickiest to add, this is where using cutting templates really helps. Your fabric pieces are generously sized and already the right shape. It's just a matter of taking care to line the fabric up so that it will cover the entire section when folded back in place. If you're not sure, try folding the new piece back before sewing the seam to check whether it covers the section.

Tip for adding piece six, before sewing, make sure piece six overlaps the corner of the paper as shown by the arrow above.

Finally add background piece seven (4 3/4" x 1 1/4"). Iron again. Trim excess fabric from the edges of your freezer paper template so that your block measures 4 1/2" square.

Gently remove the freezer paper template from the back of your block.

You've completed your first block.

Your freezer paper template can be reused (my record is nine times). It's even easier the second time as the creases have already been made.

Summary of the steps

Once you've repeated the process a few times it will get easier. I thought it might be handy to have a little summary of the steps for those who've done it a few times already and don't need the detail that I've gone into above....
  • Iron fabric to template.
  • Peel fabric away from template.
  • Fold template along seam line.
  • Trim excess fabric.
  • Position new fabric.
  • Sew along fold.
  • Repeat.

Thank you for reading my tutorial! I've taken a lot of care to write it, if you think I've made a mistake or anything is not clear, please let me know in the comments. I'll do my best to help!

If you use my pattern or tutorial I'd love to see..
#woodenspoonquilts on Instagram
Wooden Spoon Quilts on Flickr.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

No Ripping Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial [Part One] Preparation

No Ripping Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial

As promised yesterday when I released my free Sugar Loaf Block pattern, here is my tutorial for foundation paper piecing, no paper ripping required. I've broken the tutorial into two parts. Today I'm sharing Part One, Preparation. I'll show you how to create your block template using freezer paper and how to create cutting templates to minimise fabric wastage. Then with all the preparation done, tomorrow I'll show you how to piece your block (find Part Two here).

What makes this technique a little different is that freezer paper rather than ordinary paper is used as the foundation. The fabric is ironed to the back (shiny side) of the freezer paper which holds it in place while you add the next piece of fabric. Then, rather than sew through the paper and rip it out afterwards, the freezer paper is folded back out of the way along the seam line, the seam is then stitched next to the paper fold. Because you don't sew through the paper, there are no papers to rip out afterwards, you simply peel the freezer paper away from the back of you block!! There is a little prep work to do before you start, just to create the freezer paper templates. But, in my opinion, this additional step is completely worth it. Ripping paper out after the block has been completed is not my favourite way to spend time.

I first learnt this technique from my friend Merran who shared it with us in a block she assigned our doGoodStitches group a few years back. I've been using it ever since.

This method really comes in to it's own when you're making multiple blocks from the same pattern. Each freezer paper template can be reused multiple times, my record is nine times before the freezer paper loses it's ability to stick to the fabric. You can also create several duplicate templates at once. So with a little preparation you have enough templates to make many blocks, none of which will require paper ripping once they've been sewn.

One other thing that I've always found handy is that I don't adjust my stitch length, no paper ripping means that you can get away with your normal stitch length. I'm always grateful for that when I need to unpick a seam!

Using freezer paper has the added advantage of stabilising your fabric as you sew. If you use this technique combined with cutting templates for each angled fabric piece, with practice, you'll find that you hardly waste any fabric.

The only time I wouldn't use this method is if the pattern involved lots of different sections and lots of tiny pieces. Although if you get to love this method as much as I do, you might want to use it even then (I know I have!).

I hope I've persuaded you to give this method a try!
Sugar Loaf Block

My instructions refer specifically to my Sugar Loaf block pattern, but this technique can be applied to any paper pieced pattern.

I've written the tutorial for people who are new to foundation paper piecing and people who are familiar with it but would like to give this method a try.

Today I'll show you how to:
  1. prepare freezer paper templates of your pattern (using your sewing machine without thread)
  2. prepare cutting templates to reduce fabric wastage and improve piecing accuracy (it's easy to make mistakes if your fabric pieces are not the right shape or size)

In Part Two I'll show you how to cut your fabric and sew the Sugar Loaf block.

You'll need

Copy of the paper piecing pattern (find the Sugar Loaf block here on Craftsy)
Freezer paper
Paper scissors (optional)
Sewing machine
Old needle (optional)
Stapler (or washi tape)
Rotary cutter and cutting mat
Tracing paper for making cutting templates (optional)

Download and print out your pattern. Ensure that your printer is printing at 100%. If you're using my Sugar Loaf block check that the block measures 4 1/2" (including seam allowance).

1. Prepare freezer paper templates of your pattern

Using paper scissors or a rotary cutter, cut your freezer paper into approximately 6" squares (large enough to cover the block and leave room to staple). Each template can be used multiple times (as I said above, my record is nine times before the freezer paper completely loses it's ability to stick to the fabric). I usually make 3-4 templates at once.

Stack your freezer paper squares together and staple this stack to the back of your pattern printout, making sure the shiny side of the freezer paper is face down. Ensure that the freezer paper extends beyond all block edges (I find the easiest way to check this is by holding the pattern up to the light).

Remove the top thread and bobbin thread from your sewing machine. Replace needle with an old needle if you wish.

Sew along lines of pattern as marked on the printout. I sew along the lines of the block edge but not the seam allowance lines, I find it easier to add the seam allowance later with my ruler.

The needle perforations serve two purposes:
  • create freezer paper copies of the printed template
  • make the freezer paper easy to fold.
It is possible to use a pencil rather than needle perforations to mark the pattern on your freezer paper but I've found it's easier to fold the paper with needle perforations.

Cut away excess freezer paper using your ruler and rotary cutter to add the 1/4" seam allowance.

Use a pencil to transfer the pattern numbers to your freezer paper templates.

Your template is ready, the Sugar Loaf block should measure 4 1/2" across from edge to edge.

2. Prepare Cutting Templates

I make templates of the angled pieces to help with accurate piecing and to optimise fabric use. To do this, flip your freezer paper template over to the shiny side, place your tracing paper over the template and trace lines around each angled section (for this block it's 1, 5 and 6). Using your ruler, add 1/4" seam allowance to each edge and cut along this line. This gives you the minimum size for each piece of fabric required. I typically add 1/8" to 1/4" on each edge when cutting my fabric out. If you're just starting out with paper piecing you may wish to add more than that until you get a feel for how much extra fabric you need.

Now you're ready to cut fabric and sew your blocks. Part Two coming soon!

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Sugar Loaf Block [A Free Pattern]

Sugar Loaf Block... Free pattern

My first downloadable pattern is ready to share! It's a super simple foundation paper pieced pattern for the Sugar Loaf block that I first used here in a pillow. You can find the pattern in my brand new Craftsy Store. And best of all, it's free!! I'm a little excited to have finally got to this point!

The pattern is for a 4" finished block, but because it's paper pieced you can easily enlarge or reduce the pattern on a photocopier. Just remember to adjust the seam allowance back to 1/4".

I'm written a foundation paper piecing tutorial to go along with the pattern  (find Part One here and Part Two here). I use a technique that I learnt from my friend Merran, it's a brilliant way to paper piece, especially if you're making the same block over and over. It involves making reuseable block templates out of freezer paper. The best thing about the technique is that there is no paper ripping. Once you've sewn the block it's ready to use.

If you make this block, I'd love to know! Tag me on instagram (I'm rachelwoodenspoon over there) and use the tag #sugarloafblock. I've also overcome my shyness and created a Flickr group so if you're on Flickr you can add your photos to Wooden Spoon Quilts.

sugar loaf block pillow

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Quilt The Book

Did you see Jolene's (Blue Elephant Stitches) recent blog post Quilting Through a Book? Jolene posted that she is planning to make all the quilts from Simply Retro by Camille Roskelley, then she invited her readers to join her by either making all the quilts from Camille's book or any other book of their choice. No hesitation, I'm in! Can you guess which book I'm choosing? Here's a hint, my latest finished quilt top was the official start of my quest... And this book is my most favourite quilt book ever. I've already raved about it here, here and here. Not to mention in my last post!

No real surprise, I've chosen Denyse Schmidt Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration. I've made the Irish Chain quilt already so not counting that and the Wagon Wheel quilt top from last week, I have eighteen quilts to go. Not all of the quilts are quilts that I would normally choose to make, and frankly some of them scare me but I'm excited about the challenge and looking forward to pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Jolene is thinking that she will complete the project in a year, I'm guessing I will take a lot longer than that.

6. Four finished blocks :)

Would you like to join in too? With Jolene's blessing, I've created a new group, Quilt the Book, over on Flickr and started using the hashtag #quiltthebook on Instagram. This will be a no stress, no deadline kind of challenge. Also, there are no rules so feel free to define your own if you wish. My only real plan is to make quilts that I love, so that may mean I change the block size, quilt size or make my own twist on the pattern. I'd love if you feel inspired to join the support group. Which book would you choose?

Not to put you off joining in, but I've just started my third quilt from the book! It's my month to assign blocks in the Sew Sisters Bee (we're here on Flickr), a Bee made up of the lovely women in my doGoodStitches Care Circle group. I've chosen the Ocean Waves block. I didn't realise until I started reading the instructions, just how small the blocks in the book are! Those HSTs are only 1½" finished. I didn't think I'd be very popular with my bee if I assigned a block that contained 48 1½" HSTs so I've increased the block size, the HSTs in my blocks finish at 3" (and there're only twelve per block). Instead of a crib sized quilt, my quilt will be twin bed sized which suits me just fine. I can't wait to see what combinations my bee mates come up with.
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