Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stitching the Made to Measure

The last few evenings have been spent very pleasantly on the sofa stitching up a storm.

I table basted this massive quilt top on Saturday and am glad to have that part behind me. I have a few weeks of hand quilting to look forward to now - I love having a big project to work on in bits and pieces. This is the first proper big quilt that I will have entirely hand quilted - usually I do a little bit of machine stitching in the ditch to secure the layers. But I could not face wrestling it through the machine, and I'm interested to see how it turns out done entirely by hand.

It is slow, but very enjoyable.

I outlined all the seams in the central star block with pink perle cotton. I didn't mark any quilt lines at this stage, but may need to for some of the other borders...will wait and decide when I get to that point.  Need to pick another thread now for the next border.

On the home front, only more day at work and I'm off for a whole 11 days....cannot wait!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sweet Baby Burp Cloths

During the week, one of my small girl's best friends, who lives a few doors down from us, got a new baby brother. This was cause for a LOT of excitement on my daughter's part - not least because, being in possession of a 15 month old sister, she sees herself as something of an authority on babies.

So I wanted to make a little present for her to give to her friend for the new baby, somethng that she could help me make. I had some cute little boy fabrics, but not in huge quantities and I decided that a set of burp cloths might fit the bill. I made some of these for myself last year before I had baby R and I used them loads. I made some with towelling backing, and some with flannel backing, and I much preferred the flannel, their shape held up much better to frequent washing and they were light and easy to use.

So I got cutting and then I had a small girl help me sew them together.

Aren't they cute? I used blue dotty flannel on the back, and topstitched 3 rows around the edges to give them a nice finish. They measure 17" x 10", a great size for mopping up after baby. They're all ready for the small girl to give to her friend tomorrow.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finish Along Quarter 2 (Wildly Ambitious) Plans

I totally missed the first quarter of this year's Finish Along and am determined not to let it slip by me again this quarter. It's such a great way of keeping track and I have lots and lots of UFOs stashed in various places around my house. Even getting ready to write this post I found UFOs I'd totally forgotten about.

Finish Along 2014

I debated whether to do a long or a short list. A short list obviously has the advantages of being actually achieveable. But sometimes if you do a long list, you push yourself more than you thought you would. So I'm going to put more on my list than I think is really achieveable in the hope that somehow, somewhere, I will find the energy to move some of these projects on. (This is slightly outside my control in that it involves my sweet baby girl remembering that once upon a time, for quite a long number of months, she knew how to sleep all night, every night. Bloody teething. Grrr.)

Anyway, moving swifly on. Here is the list. It's ambitious. But it's also exciting. Bring it on.

1. Baste, quilt and bind my Made to Measure quilt. This labour of love is going to be hand quilted, and I love the process and I can't wait to start stitching. I'm just dreading basting because of its monstrous 80" x 80" size. ( And I just realised, unbelieveably, that I never blogged this quilt top when I finished it. Doh. See what sleepless nights, 3 kids and a mental work schedule does to your brain.)

2. Spiderweb Quilt.

I have about half my bee blocks back now. Can't wait to get the rest back and get this quilt top pieced and finished. I absolutely love how it's shaping up.

3. Carol Singers Embroidery Hoop

Yes, I know it is April, and I know this is a Christmas embroidery hoop. Obviously, I'm 4 months behind, or 8 months ahead, whatever way you want to look at it. But it is on the list :-)


4. Cardigan for Rachel

I was making great progress on this till I realised I had made a couple of errors and my rows aren't lining up properly. So I need to rip it back a bit and redo it. But if I don't do it soon, she'll be grown out of the size.

5. Teeny tiny hexies

Need to move this on and get a panel done to make either a cushion cover or bag from. Possibly a supertote. Or a messenger bag. A bag. Definitely a bag.

6. Kona precut Hexies.

Half of these are basted, but I have no idea where it's going. (Am I allowed to say that? Maybe not) I'm just determined that wherever it is going, it's going to reach it before the end of June. Ideas on a postcard please.....

7. Tumbling blocks quilt top. This is a UFO for coming up on 2 years now. So high time it was finished. I want to add some lettering in the top left corner first. (I am willing to personalise this with a baby name, and sell it if anyone is interested.)

8. Another cushion for my sofa, using my blogger bundle fabrics. I have a few patterns in mind for this, but haven't made a final decision. But I'll definitely be using these fabrics again for whichever one I choose. All the better if I can work in some handquilting with the matching threads.

9. Sunburst crochet blanket.

This has been sitting around for far too long Will get moving on it.

Ok - yes, like a couple of others, I am now officially exhausted after just typing out that list. So not sure what the chances are of actually getting it done, but if I can push myself a bit I might achieve more than I expect. Off now to lie down for a little rest from brain overload.

Linking up to Katy :-)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Front Zipped Pencil Case Tutorial

I wrote this tutorial for a front zipped pencil case for Jennifer's Back to School Sewing series last year. But I thought it might be time for a rerun on my own blog. These little pouches/pencil cases make great presents - especially if they have a few cute little bits of stationery inside them. Plus, in my experience, with 2 kids in primary school, you can never have too many pencil cases, as my kids manage to break them, lose them, or just get bored with them and want something fresh.

Instead of going with a traditional top-zipping pouch design, I decided to make a feature of the zip and placed it on the front of the pencil case instead. This means that there is a slightly different construction method to a normal zip pouch, but its very easy to make, and a good alternative for people who have difficulty getting their zipper ends to turn out nicely rather than all squished up. I hope you enjoy making this - its a great way to use up some precious fussy cut scraps and would work equally well with a low volume print or a solid as the background fabric.

Please read through the full tutorial before starting to make this! Also please note that seam allowances are 1/4" throughout, except where specified.

Materials Required:

1 Fat Quarter of solid/low volume fabric for the background
6 small scraps for fussy cutting (they only need to be big enough to cut to 2" x 2")
1 Fat Quarter of lining fabric
An 8" zip

Approx 10" x 10" of fusible fleece
Approx 10" x 10" of woven fusible interfacing

Cutting Instructions:

From your features scraps, cut 6 squares, 2" x 2" each

From your background fabric cut the following:
6 pieces, 1.5" x 2" each
4 pieces, 1.75" x 2" each
4 pieces, 1.75" x 4" each
1 piece, 1" x 9.5"
2 pieces, 2 x 9.5" each

From your lining fabric cut the following:

1" x 9.5" piece
4" x 9.5" piece
5" x 9.5" piece
2 pieces 1" x 4" for the zipper tabs

From your fusible fleece cut the following:

1 piece 0.5" x 9"
1 piece 3.5" x 9"
1 piece 4.5" x 9"

From your woven interfacing cut the following:

1 piece 0.5" x 9"
1 piece 3.5" x 9"
1 piece 4.5" x 9"

Sewing Instructions:

1. Prepare your lining fabric:

Firstly, start by fusing your interfacing to the wrong side of the corresponding lining fabric pieces following the manufacturer's instructions. (Your interfacing is a half an inch smaller on the width and length than the corresponding piece of lining fabric.) The interfacing should be centred so that it is a quarter inch in from each raw edge of the fabric - as shown in the picture below. This is to reduce bulk in your seams.

Set aside for the moment. Next you need to make the front of your pencil case.

2. Make the Front Panel

We'll start by making the lower panel on the front of the pencil case. Take 3 of your feature scraps and for each of them, sew one of your 2" x 1.5" background pieces to the top edge, and another to the bottom edge. Press the seams.

Next, take 4 of the background pieces measuring 1.75" x 4" and piece them to the sides of the strips you just made as shown in the picture below. Press. Your front panel is made!

Now take your fusible fleece. Following the manufacturer's instructions, and in a similar way to how you did the interfacing, fuse the 3.5" x 9" piece to the back of the panel you just pieced, and the 0.5" x 9" piece to the corresponding strip of background fabric.

I decided to outline the fussy cut squares by hand quilting around them using perle cotton #8. You can skip this bit if you want, or add some machine quilting, but its very simple to do. Simply tie a knot in the end of your perle cotton, push your needle through from the back at your start point, embedding the knot in the fusible fleece,  and sew a running stitch around your squares. I added in some crosses as well just for fun. There is a great tutorial on hand quilting here if you need more help. 

3. Prepare your Zipper

Next you need to prepare your zip. Firstly, trim the excess zip fabric off each end to within a quarter inch of the start and end of the zip. (I forgot to take a picture of this stage with the original zipper, hence the shorter zip in the pic below!) I usually stitch a couple of basting stitches right at the start of the zip to keep it easy to work with.

Take the 1" x 4" strips of lining fabric you cut, and press them in half width-ways. Next, fold under half an inch from each of your raw edges (the short edges) and press a fold. This gives you a neat little tab to give you nice zipper ends.

Now you want to slide your zipper in between the folded edges and pin these in place over the beginning and end of your zip. They should come just far enough up your zip to allow you to sew a seam across them without hitting the metal. When you have both in place, your zip, including tabs, should measure at least 9.5" (longer is ok, you can trim back). If it isn't long enough, you might want to re-do your tabs.

Sew a seam across each tab - make sure to catch both the top and bottom fabric, and not to hit the metal end or start bits, as you will break your needle. It's useful to use your zipper foot for this, it will help you get closer to the metal tab without hitting it. It can be hard to get this seam totally straight, but you won't notice it in the finished pouch and your kids certainly won't!

Your zip should look like this. If you have any excess at the sides of the fabric tabs, trim it off so that your tabs and zip edges are a straight line.

4. Insert your Zipper

You're now ready to insert your zip. This is the fun bit! Firstly, open your zip a little way. This helps you get a straighter line when you sew. Figure out which end you want your zip to start at - make sure your fabric direction is correct. Take your front bottom panel and place it right side UP. Then place the zip on it right side DOWN, with the start of the zip at the correct side, as per the photo below. Line up the raw edges of the zip and the panel at the top.

 Now, keeping your raw edges in line, place the lining fabric right side DOWN over the zip and pouch front. Your right sides should be facing each other, and you should have the 3 raw edges lined up at the top. (Be sure, if your lining fabric is directional, to orient it the right way). Pin carefully in place. You can see I have pinned quite closely on such a small piece of fabric. The gap in the pins is where the zip pull is, as the zip curves a bit there to make room for it - don't worry, we will adjust that as we sew. (You can see I made one of my tabs a bit longer than I should, I'll trim that back in due course. If you have done the same, make sure that your zip is centred correctly and don't worry about any overhang.)

You need to change your presser foot now and use your zipper foot on your sewing machine if you haven't already.  Backstitch at the start of the seam to secure, then, slowly and carefully, sew your seam across, nice and close to your zip (my zipper foot allows me to get about 1/4" away from my zip, which is about perfect. ) You can see where the fabric is raised to the immediate left of my presser foot from the zip - I sew with the side of the presser foot flush with the side of the zip which gives me a nice neat finish.) Don't rush this bit as you want a straight seam.

Sew until you get close to where the zip pull is, removing your pins as you go. Leave your needle down after your next stitch, then lift your presser foot. Carefully reach in and pull the zip pull back to the start, where you have already sewed. Make any adjustments you need to line up your raw edges if they curved out a bit where the zip pull was, and quickly pin to hold. Lower your presser foot and continue sewing slowly and carefully to the end, backstitching to secure.  Press your fabric away from the zip on either side.

Now you want to repeat that process on the other side of the zipper to finish the front of your pencil case. First take the strip of background fabric and place it on the front of the zipper, matching the raw edges. Place the corresponding strip of lining fabric on the back. Pin and sew exactly as you did for the lower portion.

Press your fabric away from the zip. Hey presto, your pouch front is finished!

5. Make the Back Panel

Take 3 of your feature scraps and the 4 background fabric pieces measuring 2" x 1.75" and piece them together as shown in the middle of the photo below. Press your seams. Then take the 2" x 9.5" strips and piece 1 each to the top and bottom of the centre piece.

Fuse the corresponding piece of fusible fleece to the wrong side of the panel you just pieced, and add any quilting detail you wish to match the front.  Your finished back piece should look like this:


 And you're now ready to put your pencil case together!!

6. Constructing the Pencil Case

Take the front of the pencil case, making sure you have pressed it properly, and the back lining piece with interfacing attached (measuring 5" x 9.5"). Place them with the lining pieces facing each other, i.e the right side of the front of the pencil case should be facing down, then the back lining piece should be placed directly on top of it, with the right side of the lining fabric facing down and the interfacing facing up. Match and pin your raw edges carefully.

Sew a line 1/8" in from the raw edge all the way around. You could use a basting stitch, as the purpose is to hold this in place for when you attach the back of the pencil case, but as pencil cases tend to get pulled and dragged a bit by kids taking stuff in and out, I use a normal seam here to strengthen it. You can just see the seam in the picture below, and if you look at the zip carefully, you can see the back lining fabric peeking through where it's open.

Next, take the pieced back panel of your pencil case and place it right sides together with the front of the pencil case. Make sure that both pieces are oriented in the right direction.

Pin all the way around again, matching your raw edges.

Start at the bottom of the pencil case, back stitching to secure, and sew a seam all the way around and back to about 2.5" away from your starting point, back stitching again to secure. This leaves you a nice gap for turning. Your seam should be 1/4" in from the raw edges. Cut the points off your corners (make sure not to cut into your stitching!) so you can get a nice sharp corners when you turn it. It should now look something like this:

Reach into your gap and start pulling through the fabric to turn the pencil case right side out. Once you have it all pulled through, use a chopstick or knitting needle to poke out the fabric in your corners to give you a nice sharp point.  All you need to do now is to handsew your turning gap closed.

Push any excess fabric back in and press so that the seam runs straight and there is no bulge in the seam. Then slip stitch it closed with a needle and thread.

Press your pencil case carefully, and ta-dah, you're done!

Sit back and admire your hard work from the front:

And the back:

If you have any questions on this tutorial, please email me at fairyfacedesigns at gmail dot com, or ask them in the comments :-)

Monday, April 7, 2014

I'm going to buy a golden ticket...(but could do with a little advice)

Ok. This year, with neither a bump nor a newborn baby, I am planning, for the first time, on purchasing a ticket for the Fat Quarterly retreat in London. (Eeek. How exciting!!)

But I need some essential info from you more experienced ladies.

First up, who's going this year?

And almost as important, what do I do re: my sewing machine. Should I bring it? If so, do I bring it as hand luggage (I'm not sure what weight it is....better check). Or are there machines there I can use? I need to book my flights so I want to figure out the total cost if I have to bring luggage as well.

What should I expect? Is it worth the money? Please, someone give me the idiots guide to attending.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bees and Spiderwebs


Last month, I was the Queen Bee in the Modern Irish Bee. This is a scrappy Bee and we use our own stash to make the blocks which I am really enjoying. I decided on a Spiderweb block as I've wanted a spiderweb quilt for the longest time. I asked for bright, bold strips of fabric against a grey, low volume central star, and I also asked that the strips forming the star all from one colour group on each block, to highlight the secondary pattern of stars. Like this:

I used Heather's tutorial which is really easy and fun to make. In the last 10 days, my blocks have started to trickle in (we are a very relaxed Bee which I love!) and I was not disappointed!

I tried to spend the afternoon playing with the layout, I have about half the blocks at this stage. But I was thwarted by a small lady who wanted to eat them help.

Can't blame her. They look scrummy so far, no matter what way I lay them out. I have a feeling this one will be sewn up as soon as the rest of the blocks arrive.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My very own fabric heaven....


A little while ago, my good friend and enabler of my fabric addiction, Miss Cindy, asked me if I would put together a blogger bundle for her shop. I think she heard me squealing in glee all the way up in Galway while I did a little dance of happiness I gave it some mature reflection, then went back and told her that I would be delighted.

Ever since blogger bundles started appearing in fabric stores a few years ago, I was fascinated by the process of putting a bundle together. I've taken part in blogger bundle challenges, and, of course, I love putting together selections of fabric myself. I've never been hugely into buying bundles from one line of fabric (obviously there have been a couple of exceptions) because I much prefer to pick out fabrics myself.  So this was a little bit of fabric heaven for me.

I browsed and I picked, and I tried out various combinations until I arrived at this

 But you never know how its going to look till you see the fabric, really, do you? Screenshots aren't the real thing ;-)

Cindy sent me some lovely photos - I thought it looked great. 

And then I got this lovely bundle in the post (cue more squealing)

I stroked that bundle quite a lot the first few days I had it in my possession. You know when you really, really fall in love with a bundle of fabric? This was it, but even better. This bundle is everything I love about modern fabric. Bright, vibrant saturated colours. A mix of different print scales. Delicate prints, big bold beautiful prints. A colour mix that is totally me.

From ever before I had the bundle in my hands, I had plans for it. My sofas are in need of a bunch of fresh new cushions. And I had the perfect pattern in my sights, this one by Little Miss Shabby for Sew, Mama, Sew!

Saturday morning, I got cutting. Then I got sewing. (Eventually, I tore myself away and fed the near-starving children, then banished them outside into the spring sunshine so I could sew in peace.) I finished piecing and basted it, then settled in beside the fire to hand quilt it.

I had done some playing with my perle cotton, and come up with these thread choices. The following evening, I did the back and sewed on the binding. (I even did a lovely zip insert and for the first time ever I think the back of my cushion looks great but I forgot to take a picture in the excitement and I'm too lazy to go do it now.) And I got this:

 This was the proof in the pudding for me. I love how those fabrics play together.

I hope you like it too - you can buy the bundle here.