Monday, 27 July 2015

July at Plush Addict

I am not sure where to start with  my July visit to Plush addict, new arrivals or sale bargains?  Let's start with new in the quilting fabric section.  Christmas and Halloween fabrics are arriving thick and fast and there are some beauties that will not hang around until October or December.  My absolute favourite is this one:

Skater's in White from Makower's Christmas Wonderland 2015.  You can find all the prints here , there is a bundle option here  and at £2.75/FQ,  they are great value too. 

Halloween fabric seems to be very popular with tween/teenagers ( judging from my personal experience) and I think you can easily get away with making an Autumn quilt and use Halloween fabrics and get months of use out of it before it gets stored in the summer - we have a Christmas quilt in use all year round!  This vintage signage style fabric, Witch Spell Black has a great drama to it.

I also like this Michael Miller Bone Head Gray Day of the Dead theme print, great for tween/teens and also available in an icy blue colourway

There are some more cutesy Halloween collections like Halloween Magic which has softer colours and some glow in the dark prints but I love the impact of these darker prints!
Away from the seasonal collections, there are some new Michael Miller arrivals that caught my eye.  First is Melodies which has a tutti fruiti colour palette and some very usable prints.  The Double Dot print is a perfect quiet print which packs a lot of colour.  L to r: Starfruit, Orchid, and Apricot.

For me, the stand out feature from this fabric group is Triangles in Jewel.   The designer of this collection is Sarah Campbell and she has years of impressive design experience to draw upon.  This is an immensely happy and joyful set of fabrics.

Seedling is a bold collection of prints from Michael Miller, reminiscent of woodcuts.  The most obvious to plump for is the Growl and Chirp prints.

Thomas Paul designed this collection and you can see his experience in interior fabrics coming through in these prints and the rich colour palette.

Let's have a quick look at the sale bargains whilst they are still around- offer ends midnight 29th July!   I found some Liberty Lawn on offer, Gymnasts print in black, £11.20/metre is an unmissable offer!

And in the quilting cotton, this Mako Retro Bake text print is rather lovely- nice backing fabric for kitchen makes.  Also available in pink.

If you want to find a bargain, get rummaging before the deadline, Wed 29th July midnight!

sib blog

Farmers Wife 1930s by Laurie Aaron Hird : Book Review

Do you remember the Farmer's Wife Sampler book of a few year's back?  It was one of the first online quilt-alongs that I took part in and it certainly introduced me to the delights of a sampler quilt block and the beauty of traditional quilt blocks.  when I heard that Laurie Aaron Hird had written a 1930s version,   The Farmer's Wide 1930s Sampler Quilt with 99 blocks not included in her previous books, I leapt at the chance to review it.

I liked the original Farmer's Wife book but I love this version.  Each traditional block has been renamed as either a woman's name or a noun that relates to a woman- like 'Granny'.  The blocks vary from relatively simple to complex with a fiendish number of pieces to sew together but they are all beautifully presented in a mix of reproduction fabrics and solids.   A range of construction methods are offered.  All the blocks have templates and foundation paper piecing options and there are rotary cut options for pieces that can be easily measured.   Here's a taster selection of some of my favourites from the book. 
The presentation is breathtaking.  I kept this book in the kitchen for the first few days so that every time I sat at the table I could leaf through it with every cup of tea.  The letters from farm women written during the Great Depression of the 1930s are collated from the original 'The Farmer's Wife' magazine - hugely popular in USA at the time - and considering the immense strain on people's lives at that time, they tone is generally optimistic and highlights the positive aspects of life.  Some made me laugh, one in particular from  'Little Irish Annie' recalls how she was born "an ugly duckling" and despite shaking her fists at her 'homely little face' she later learnt that although she was 'short on assets that you can "Cash in on your liabilities"'.  There are a lot more letters than the previous book - one for each of the 99 blocks- which makes for a thicker book and some very interesting reading.  I haven't read Laurie's Pony Club Sampler book but I wonder if this is more like that with it's more complex blocks and extended letter selection?

The layout of the book largely follows the previous Farmer's Wife book.  The letter excerpts and the block photos are presented side by side - each block is numbered for the construction pages that follow later and are they are not in numerical order in this section.  The photos show the blocks on point. I was very taken with 'Jewel',  it's quick to make and it was the first one I sewed up.  All the blocks I sewed for this post were foundation paper pieced using templates from the book CD.  

This block is 'Priscilla' and I did simplify it slightly- you can see extra seam lines in the book photo on the yellow triangles at the centre of the block and they were easy to omit.  It is a more challenging block  than would first appear as it involves Y seams around the centre propellor shape.

'Granny' is a straightforward block and I couldn't resist using a very similar floral to the picture, it's from Lori Holt's Flower Patch range.  You can find some at Pretty Fabrics and Trims as part of an orange repro style bundle

The letter excerpts and quilt block photos are followed by the assembly details with the blocks now arranged in alphabetical and numerical order- this also relates to the CD.  In the book you can see the block photos are now shown square on with the construction diagram and template numbers and quantities needed on the left.  Final quilt layouts and instructions are at the back of the book with fabric requirements for Lap Size (32 blocks), Twin Size (84 blocks), Queen Size (99 blocks) and King Size (126 blocks including some repeats).  The setting triangles for the suggested layouts are based on a two triangle templates but I am hoping I can work out rotary cutting measurements for these- she said optimistically.

The big difference with The Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt as compared to the original book is that all the designs are available as foundation paper pieced pattern on the CD- I believe this was the same for the Pony Club book.  All the blocks I printed off took two sheets of paper and I found it easier not to trim the corners off as it can sometimes short-change the seam allowances on the long acute angled pieces (you can see this on my Jewel block).  For those who prefer to hand piece, you can find all the templates on the CD as with the original.  Laurie Aaron Hird hand pieced all the blocks in the book and it is certainly a method to be recommended for dealing with the more complex blocks with many pieces although it does require patience and a long term outlook onwards completion!

I was totally enchanted with this book.   You can see all my torn up envelope bookmarks in it below!   Having enjoyed the My Small World Quilt-Along so much I thought this could be the perfect project to move on to when that completes.  I got in touch with Laurie to check that she was happy with that and she graciously gave me her blessing so I will be starting a Farmer's Wife 1930s Quilt-Along #fw1930sqal beginning mid September which gives you time to buy a copy and start planning your fabrics!   I have a lot of floral prints in my stash and I deliberately stayed away from them for #mysmallworldqal but for this quilt I am going to indulge my love of a pretty print to the max!  I found a great selection at Pretty Fabrics and Trims which was a new-to-me shop and you can see my first order below.  Sarah was so helpful and I love the selection bundles she and her mother put together Sarah selects and Penny Picks and I am very happy to have them as blog sponsors, particularly for this project. 

The quilt along will be a long project running over a year.  The blocks are small- finished size 6" square  - and the piecing can be challenging with very small pieces and Y seams.  It will start mid September, just before the My Small Quilt-Along finishes.  To take part, you will need to buy a copy of the book.  I will post here every Monday and my aim is that it will be a collaborative quilt along:  I will share one block a week and a guest bloggers posting either on their blogs or here will share the other.  There will be occasional breaks for big holiday periods e.g. late December.   Posts will involve sharing techniques, fabric choices, the usual stuff and as with My Small Quilt-Along, being respectful to the original text.  It will be on Instagram and other social media using the hashtag #fw1930sqal.   If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send me an email (link in right bar) or comment below and I'll send you some more information.  I already know some people are planning to mix blocks from the first book with this book which sounds like a great idea and how far you commit and how many blocks you make are up to you: quilt-alongs are about the fun of sewing together, not compulsion!  The quilt-along will be running alongside a separate yet-to-be-announced Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew-Along which I can only hint at  but  the two projects provide support for Farmer's Wife block makers everywhere!   More info to follow soon, meanwhile, you can find all the publisher's info on the book here:
 Copies are available at the usual online sources depending on where you live.  Book Depository sells worldwide.  I also recommend checking out Laurie Aaron Hird's blog where she writes in more details about the original The Farmer's Wife magazine.

*Edited to add*  Since posting this earlier today I have been having email exchanges with Angie from Gnome Angel who has also arranged a Sew-along in conjunction with the Fat Quarter Shop, Marti Mitchell and 25 guest bloggers.  Neither of us knew about the other's plans and we were both consulting the same publicist but without any connections being made.  We did think of running two quilt/sew-alongs simultaneously but I fear that over such a long project it could create repetition and confusion for those taking part so I have decided to bow out and leave Angie with her sewalong so I recommend you check her blog for the formal announcement coming soon,  she has some exciting plans!

sib blog

Friday, 24 July 2015

Using Fiskars Easy Action Softgrip Razor Edge scissors

 I can never have enough pairs of scissors and there have been more Fiskars scissors in my life than any other.  Ever since I can remember, there has been an orange handle pair of Fiskars scissors in my house, although I remember them as Wilkinson's Sword, it's a bit like Marathon and Snickers.  My mum always had one 'good' pair so I learnt from an early age that they were NOT for cutting paper!   I remember being impressed by the ergonomically shaped handles- unusual for scissors in the 1970s although they were a nightmare for my left-handed father. They were what I used from my early dressmaking attempts in my teens and onwards into my twenties and I still own several pairs.

Fiskars have recently added a new spring action Softouch scissor to their range that are specifically designed for cutting fabric on a flat surface and I was lucky enough to receive a pair to try out.   I collected all my Fiskars scissors together as a comparison exercise, from the oldest orange handled pair now consigned to paper, to the other general purpose pair which still have a 'Miss Green' label from my primary teaching days- there are never a decent pair of scissors to be found in a primary school!  Then there are some little orange handle scissors that I picked up at a car boot sale for £1 and even though they get used for paper, they are still sharp enough to cut fabric.  

 Top right are my dressmaking scissors, a general purpose spring action pair that I've had for around seven years and they are still very sharp.  I bought them on recommendation from a local fabric shop as they used them for cutting fabric and to save on hand strain and they are brilliant scissors. Then there are the little micro tip spring scissors which are incredibly sharp, cut through thick layers with ease and are invaluable for notching and clipping.  Bottom right are the new Easy Action Softouch RazorEdge and you can see how the handle comes up almost at a right angle to the blade and the bottom blade is horizontal rather than turning up towards the end- you can see the more detail in the picture below:

Another point of difference is the width of opening on the blade-  I am assuming, the larger opening on the newer scissors means you can make a longer cut in each movement.

So, I put them to the test.  Usually I lay my fabric out on the floor on a foldable gridded board- similar to this one.  I then place my pattern on top, finalise the arrangement, rough cut each piece and then cut precisely on a higher surface using a rotary cutter for straight lines and gradual curves, spring action scissors for  tight spaces like neck lines or armholes and micro tips to make tiny cuts for the notches.  For this test, I cut out a pair of trousers staying on the floor.  I cut through the pattern tissue as well as the fabric as I never find that has affected any of my Fiskars in the past!  You can also see that I on't use many pins- I find they distort the pattern pieces so I go for the minimum.

They are very accurate to cut with.  The lower blade slides under the fabric and stays in place as you cut; the upper blade is performing most of the action. You can see how I was steering them to follow the line and how well each cut followed it right to the end of the cut.  I also tried for trimming seams-  this usually involves me holding something in my hands and trimming back a seam allowance in half.  I I will probably stick to my usual spring scissors for this, I think the Razoredge blades are more suited to being rested on a surface to cut.  They were perfect for a job like cutting out trousers where each piece large and my cutting surface is on the floor and they a great addition to my Fiskars collection.

Thankyou for Sarah at Fiskars to sending me a pair to test, very much appreciated!  Fiskars scissors are on sale in many outlets.  Prices vary so it is worth shop around- I found these online but there are many more.
Softouch Razoredge Easy Action: Oh Sew CraftyAmazon, Boswell & Co
Softouch Microtip: Plush Addict, Amazon
Softouch Multipurpose: GUR, Amazon, Hobbycraft

What are your favourite fabric scissors?  I have others in my collection including Ginghers but Fiskars are my most used.

sib blog

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Little Joys Quilt-Along: Week 4

It's time for the third and final set of blocks for the Fat Quarter Shop Little Joys quilt along, the 'Present' or 'Season of Giving' block.   I played around with the colour combos to produce three different blocks.  You can find the free pattern schedule and links to the kit here

For all the blocks in the quilt along, I cut all the fabric and arrange and piece in an assembly line style.  This also allows for auditions like the different colour 'ribbons' quarter square triangle 'Hour Glass' blocks.  Talking of the ribbons, a little voice in my head did contemplate lots of ribbons as a border around the quilt- not sure if I'm going to pursue that but there's fabric left over from the Fat Quarter Shop kit that could easily be used for that purpose!

See you next Wednesday for a finished quilt top.  I've already tried the layout on the floor and it all looks very cute and colourful together.    For UK or Europe quilters are looking to buy the Penny Rose 'Little Joys' fabrics designed by Elea Lutz closer to home for lower shipping costs or want to avoid import charges, you can find them at Pretty Fabrics and Trims.
sib blog

Monday, 20 July 2015

July at Eternal Maker: Sale time!

Eternal Maker are running a sale until the end of July so I thought it was time to fit my monthly visit in! There's 20% off over 1000 items so it's safe to say there's something for everyone from fabric to patterns.  Here are some of my top picks.  Kona solids are the mainstay of my solid fabric stash and all Kona solids are down to £6.40/metre.  Eternal Maker sells Kona starts at ½ metre units rather than FQs

Essex linens are another basic favourite and the sold colour and yarn dyed versions are all in the sale.   I'm a fan of Bleach White and Orange- a soft coral orange shade.  All Essex linen is available in ¼ metre cuts. 

The Essex yarn dyed linens have a nice drape and can be used for clothing as well as bags, cushions, quilts etc.   That's Nautical on the left and Graphite on the right and there are other lighter colours available too. 

You can see the Nautical in use in this wonderful Stitch Rope Beach Bag project

Oliver+S patterns are part of the sale- click on the images to go to each pattern listing.  

This beautiful Anchor double gauze by Kokka that I featured last month is in the sale, £3.20/1/4m is a great price for double gauze!

 I still have a little piece of this charming Heather Ross Clothes line print from Far Far Away III and on a lovely light cotton/linen blend.

There are a few of her Nursery Versery prints available too.
This pretty floral from Tasha Noel's first fabric line, The Simple Life for Riley Blake is very pretty with its pale pink polka dot background. 

Also available in aqua and a few other prints from the same line like 'Doodles' in red and aqua and this red gingham are all in the sale. 

Alexander Henry fabrics do a retro print so well.  This Paris Paws kitty fabric is only £2.40/FQ until the end of July.

I couldn't resist this blast from the recent past: A Sherbert Pips quilt kit!  Includes all the fabrics need to make the top only with classic early Aneela Hoey designs. 

For those of you who like to use felt- I love it for Christmas decorations,  Woolfelt is included in the sale.

The minimum cut is just 10cm so this is a great time to get all the extra colours you need at the discount price.   From the colour names, these look like National Non Woven felts to me, as used in Alicia Paulson ornament and softie patterns and they are fantastic quality.

I hope you enjoyed my sale selection.  All prices are already discounted so no codes needed, enjoy!

sib blog

August Issue of Sewing World: on sale now.

you can find me on the back pages writing about Stash Clubs in my Final Thread column.  I have been given room for bigger pictures to make the layout a little easier on the eye!  Click on this images and they'll pop up larger.

There's a summer travel theme to this issue with a maxi dress pattern and a camper van notebook cover catching my eye.  A digital issue can be found here.  You can find more info at the Sewing World Facebook page and also on Twitter .
sib blog