Wednesday 30 November 2016

Advent Activity Calendar

The year rushes by and it's already time for Advent.  I celebrate Christmas from a mid Winter festival perspective rather than a religious time of year and I enjoy a count down like many others so our advent calendars have just come out of the cupboard.  My daughter has a mini stocking calendar that I made her back in the baby years and enjoys a chocolate each day and for a family activity, we have a pocket calendar made from one of Karen Lewis' printed kits from a few years back (spot the wrongly placed number!) and we fill this with activities on scraps of paper.

We have a mix of things and some get changed each year depending on their success.  Last night we sat at our kitchen table and planned it around three different work schedules and commitments whilst listening to Christmas music. Here are some ideas if you want to do the same.  A quick Google will give you lots of other ideas varying from those suitable for young children, a traditional religious focus, charitable ideas and many more:
  • Coffee and Christmas snacks at a local cafe
  • Takeaway night
  • Christmas playlists- we each choose a different theme, mellow, Motown, classic, alternative
  • Baking Christmas cake- mine is a last minute recipe
  • Board game evening
  • Films- we pick a few DVDs from charity shops of films we haven't seen or favourites from the past.  A Charlie Brown Christmas always gets a viewing
  • Youtube Christmas songs/carols from different countries and in different languages
  • Watch Elf and decorate tree
  • Find out and share Christmas traditions from a different country
  • Hot chocolate night, maybe with new recipes- I like this one
  • Haiku
  • Christmas jokes
It always makes December extra special, some of the activities become so silly (often charades or anything that involves singing or reading out loud) that the memories become part of the family cannon.  If you have any new or unusual ideas for activities, please share below, it's always good to try something new!

Sunday 27 November 2016

November at Eternal Maker

Be quick and you'll catch the end of the Black Friday sale!  Prices are already discounted by a generous 30%.  Here's some ideas from the newest arrivals for this month's visit to Eternal Maker.

Row by row, left to right:

  1. Peico Animals: Mono print on canvas, Kiyohara Japanese fabric
  2. Moda Thicket, Swirls in natural.
  3. Kokka Weekend City by Yumi Yoshimoto.  Rich colours and a graphic scribble effect.  Canvas so good for bags, cushions etc.
  4. Robert Kaufman, Tahoe Flannel in Olive Ivory Plaid.  Super soft fabric.  Ideal for  snuggly lounge/PJ pants.
  5. Studio M for Moda Mixologie, Jelly Roll.  Bright saturated colours!
  6. Windham Fabrics, Maribel, Pink and Navy Cubes, Annabel Wrigley.
  7. Moda Thicket, Triangles.  Bold monochrome print 
  8. Robert Kaufman, Tahoe Flannel in Cranberry Stripe. Twill stripe effect of snuggly flannel.
  9. Moda Whisper Double Gauze Batiks, Gulls in Navy.  Cotton double gauze.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Black Friday: Sew-Ichigo discount and more!

Here's a hotch-potch of Black Friday offers for those of you who like a bargain but safe from your armchair.  Some from sponsors, some from people I've worked with and some because it seems like a bargain!  Penny and I have marked all our Sew-Ichigo foundation paper patterns down by 40%, Thursday - Monday. Visit our Payhip, Etsy and Craftsy shops to get your discount on single patterns and pattern packs. 
  • Etsy - reductions already applied, no code needed
  • Payhip - use the code sew40 at checkout
  • Craftsy - reductions already applied, no code needed

Kellie at Plush Addict has organised some mega Black Friday offers, they are also a sponsor so a Black Friday mention for them!

Mark at Girl Charlee sent me an email mentioning that they were offering loads of discounts so you may want to partake.

Anna from Eternal Maker (another sponsor) has been mentioning a Black Friday sale on Instagram,  I have no further details but I can't resist her treasure trove shop, keep a look out!

Creative Bug is doing a great offer, 3 months membership for $1 a month (£1 for UK).  I've joined Creative Bug before an I used it a lot for a few months and then cancelled it but you get to keep a class each month even if you leave.  They've recently added new dressmaking and alterations content so I thought I'd give it another go!


Tuesday 22 November 2016

Simple Sampler QAL: Foundation Pieced Simple Economy Square

If you are following the Sewing Directory #simplesamplerqal and you are relatively new to quilting, this week's block, a simplified Economy Square, might by your first experience of a foundation paper piecing block.  

This block can be made in the more conventional way but it's also a great way to get to grips with how foundation paper piecing works.  I've written a detailed tutorial at Sewing Directory but I thought I'd show the template here for extra clarity.  The whole block is made up of four economy square blocks so each template needs to be printed to the correct size.  The dotted line of the outer square is the seam allowance, then you can see the square outline of the finished size (6") and the inner on-point square (a scant 4 ¼").
The fabric measurements given for this block were generous so if you follow that your pieces should cover the paper including seam allowances but you do need to check your printing is accurate initially.  Usually the printing instructions say print 'to scale' or print at 100%.  There is often a margin of error between different printing systems and PDF files so check your print and you might need to make adjustments.  I find my printer tends to print very slightly small (a 6" block might be 1/16" too small) so to allow for that, I might up the print scale to 101% which would make the whole template just 1% bigger.  So, get your quilt ruler out, check your template pattern and make adjustments to print it at the correct size before sewing your block.  As this is a sampler quilt, there are techniques that are going to challenge you, be brave and give it a go!

Saturday 19 November 2016

November at Plush Addict: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Time for my November visit to sponsor Plush Addict.  Kellie has just had some very colourful new arrivals including a spectacular Alison Glass Seventy Six bundle of 30 fabrics for Andover.  This is not going to be restocked so if you want an amazing bundle, maybe an amazing Christmas present, it's waiting for you.   There's also a Christmas shop section if you are looking for Christmas fabric and related products.

From left to right, row by row:
  1. Makower Frosty Advent Printed Stockings.  Lovely to use for an advent calendar or hanging decor. 
  2. Alison Glass Seventy Six: bundle of 30 fabrics.  Stunning fat quarter selection of saturated colours plus greys and white prints. Also available as yardage.
  3. Tilly & the Buttons Cleo Dungaree Dress Pattern.  Very popular pattern from Tilly Walnes, quick to sew up- suitable fabrics can be found in the denim sectioncorduroys or this floral twill would also work well.
  4. Moda, Manderley by Franny and Jane.  Inspired by a country estate next to the sea, it's a very pretty selection designed by Jane Davidson (Quilt Jane from Splendid Sampler) and Frances Newcombe. 
  5. Clothworks 25 Days of Christmas, red Peppermints
  6. Andover Fabrics, Floral Spendour Green. Gorgeous sugary colour selection from this floral range. 
  7. Dashed Studio Advent Calendar panel.  There's still time to get this stitched up and ready for 1st December. 
  8. Andover Fabrics, Floral Spendour Blue.  Nine fabrics in the blue colour way, designed by Cathy Nordstorm. 
  9. Robert Kaufman Jingel 3, Reindeer in white by Ann Kelle
By the way, there just might be a few Black Friday surprises next week from Plush Addict ;) 
I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

#Simplesampler QAL Strings Block & a Couple of Tips

This weeks #simplesamplerqal, block is a strings block - a great introduction to foundation paper piecing.  You can find my tutorial at the Sewing Directory.  It's easy but takes a while, depending on the width of the strips.   For this version, my strips were skinny as I was using up scraps.

Removing the paper is fiddly and a small stitch certainly makes it easier but I have another couple of tips for you.  
  1. Start from the  triangular corners and work inwards to the strip in the centre which is the first strip to be added.
  2. Instead of ripping the paper from the edges of the block which are on the bias and will easily history, instead, tear the paper from the centre and then tear outwards.  This places much less strain on the weakest parts of seams- the start and end.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Wendy Ward's Beginners Guide to Making Skirts Book Tour: Rusholme Maxi

Welcome to the second stop on Wendy Ward's Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts book blog tour.  I was honoured to be asked to take part!  I'm  a big fan of Wendy's work, I've had great results with her patterns and I like her straight talking style and her secure methodology.  This book is guide to making eight basic skirt shapes - jersey straight, wrap, circle, A-line, bubble, woven straight, culottes and button through and covers all the techniques you will need.  Each style is a starting point, with three style variations to add new details to your garments and increase your sewing skills.

There's a lovely group of bloggers - Handmade JaneMarilla WalkerPeas and Needles, and Elisalex from By hand London taking  part and we've each been kindly supplied with the fabric of our choice from Fabworks Online to make a skirt from the book and showcase the styles.   I chose the A-line skirt, Rusholme.  I lengthened the pattern at the hem to maxi length and opted for pockets and a straight waistband.  I also added a lining on the advice of George of Fabworks.  I wanted a check and  find wool itchy so I chose Teal and Charcoal gingham check: a soft brushed cotton with herringbone weave and good drape.  Other brushed cottons are available as I think this one has since sold out.  It's medium weight and the lining supports the fabric, gives a quality finish and adds extra warmth for a winter skirt.  George sent me this sapphire satin twill lining which was a great colour match and feels lovely and silky.  As always, don't forget to prewash and dry flat!

Full size patterns are included at the back of the book and you trace trace the parts needed for the style you're making and some pieces like waistbands are used with more than one skirt style.  Some larger pattern pieces come in two-parts so check out the pattern sheets thoroughly to locate everything you need. The styles are printed in rainbow of colours with a  key on each sheet so you know which is which and I found Swedish paper was perfect to see the lines through the paper; dot and cross paper was a little too opaque to see the lighter colours.  To pattern match the checks, I cut the pieces out flat rather than on a folded double layer.  For the front skirt I drew the fold line in chalk on the reverse, pinned the pattern aligned with that, cut one half and then flipped the fabric over the chalked line so I can match the pattern exactly.  For the two back pieces, I cut one and then laid it on the fabric to act as a pattern piece for the next one.

I cut a size S and my only adjustment was to sew slightly narrow seams from the top of the hips up to the waist and at each end of the waistband as I like a bit of ease around the waist.  I lengthened the hem by 3" on the skirt back and front and used a quilt ruler and a chalk pencil to mark directly on the fabric.  For the lining, I used the same main from and back pattern pieces, but cut them 1" shorter than the skirt.   I also added some of the skirt fabric to the top of the lining as I cut into it a little too keenly and needed to rectify my mistake!  I used Wendy's method to insert the invisible zip (I usually use this method although not any more!).  There is a fair bit of hand basting but it's worth it for the accuracy and all my checks lined up first time.  It also helps to mark the back of your zip with pencil so you can match up each side exactly - you can see a similar method here.  I also used 1" strips of interfacing on the zip seams  which Wendy mentions for invisible zips.  Adding a skirt lining isn't covered in the book but it just involves sewing a second skirt, pressing the raw edges of the centre back seam by ¾" and hand stitching the lining to the zip.  The top of the lining is caught in the waistband and the bottom edge is hemmed. ***Edited to add: Wendy will be covering how to line ALL the skirts in the book on her blog next week! ***

 I cut my pocket facings on the bias for visual interest and I block fused this fabric with sheer perfect fuse before I cut them out  to stabilise the grain.  Once I'd sewed my pockets, I secured the top opening to the skirt front along the top stitching to keep them secure. 

I anchored the lining with a thread chain which is covered here.  

The front of the book introduces to each skirt, the cutting plans and requirements and then the putting it together details take you through construction and refer you to more detailed techniques at the back of the book.  Each skirt has large uncluttered photographs, including close-ups so you can clearly see the features and the styling is clean and modern throughout.  The techniques are clearly illustrated and easy to follow.  The size range is UK 8-26.  once you have some sewing experience, it would be easy to mix the styles up, I like the idea of a button front Rusholme.

I was very pleased with the resulting skirt. It's a classic shape, a great fit and has generous pockets.  Wendy's Beginner's Guide to Making skirts is a solid book for any dressmakers bookshelf, great for beginners and beyond - there's always something new to learn!  If you want to read more about the book, Wendy has done a series of posts featuring each style, see more at her blog.
Disclaimer: I was given the book and fabric as part of the blog tour.  All views are my own.

Friday 11 November 2016

Simple Sampler QAL- Triangles and a bonus extra

For those of you following the #simplesamplerqal,  using my tutorials on Sewing Directory, these are the three most recent blocks.   Hourglass which uses half-square triangles to make quarter square triangles- a bit of trimming involved but not real waste:

Flying Geese block.  The method for the is a traditional technique which is straightforward but it is a little wasteful.  It's one of those methods that it's good to know as it helps beginners understand how the geese shape is formed but there are alternatives once you've mastered this. There is also a bonus to this method (see below).

When you come to stitch the diagonal seam line, if you pencil in a second line half an inch away from the previous seam and sew a second seam  on the part of the square which will be trimmed off, you will end up with some extra, smaller half-square triangles that could be used on another project!  Once the second line is sewn, cut between the two lines.  To make each of the eight geese needed for this block, you could generate two half-square triangles so a bonus of sixteen at the end, maybe to use to make a pot holder or mug rug?

The Sawtooth Star uses geese made with a no-waste method.  This works well for solids or non directional prints and there's no waste and minimal trimming, one of my favourite methods- it's fast too.

I'm enjoying making these blocks for a second time!

Wednesday 9 November 2016

November at Village Haberdashery

I think it's time to think about Christmas making, I had all my Christmas fabrics out yesterday to plot some decor ideas for work so for my visit to Village Haberdashery I'll be looking at seasonal fabrics and ideas.  I have an unashamed love of Christmas novelty prints from the subtle wintery whisper prints to the familiar Christmas motifs in red and green!

From left to right, row by row:
  1. Juniper Berry- Reindeer Games in Winter vanilla
  2. Cosy Christmas- Recipe in red.  There's a brilliant free tutorial on the shop blog on how to make the domestic goddess retro apron too. 
  3. Holiday - Corny Cane in Green.  Wonderful retro themed Christmas collection of prints from Michael Miller including these candy canes on the perfect Christmas green background.
  4. Holiday- Fawn Memories in Cream
  5. Dashwood Twist.  A modern basic in a wide range of colours (over 20!)- choose exactly what you would like with the build-a-bundle option.
  6. Lore - Fable Forest in Grey.  Subtle wintery print by Leah Duncan and printed on organic cotton.
  7. Sevenberry Penguins. Novelty print on lovely quality cotton. Penguins are 8cm tall. Suitable for dresses like the Emery dress or for quilting.
  8. The Emery dress.  If you want to use any of these fabrics to make a fun Christmas dress, the Emery dress designed by Christine Haynes is a classic, basic fit and flare style with long sleeve options for colder weather.  In-seam pockets are included and there's a ribbon that can be added too.   It works well sewn in quilting cotton, poplin or even flannel  (see those links for brilliant sewing blogger Emery dresses) and is a very versatile pattern. 
  9. Winter Essentials III- House in red

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Autumn Leaves Go Anywhere Bag

I've made many bags over the years and almost all of them are from Anna Graham's Noodlehead pattens.  She writes crystal clear instructions and they've always been bags I have used and used.  The Go Anywhere bag pattern has been on my computer for ages and buying this wonderful Sevenberry linen/cotton tree fabric in Fabric Rehab's recent closing down sale (same print, different colour on sale here) was the impetus to get it made.

A mix of Carolyn Friedlander's Euclid linen/cotton blend prints- available here and here for the main bag and lining.  These fabrics use Robert Kaufman Essex linen as a base so they are wonderfully stable to work with.  I used Sevenberry tree fabric for the outer pocket and some left over mid-weight denim for the outer and inner pocket linings.  The beauty of this bag is that no other hardware is needed and interacting is minimal if you use heavier fabrics like these.  To interfacing the handle and to support the pocket, I used Pellon Shape Flex SF101 (hard to find in the UK but available here).   It's the best interfacing I've used for bag making and Vieseline is not quite the same.

It's a bag of many pockets- three on the front, two at the back (as below) and one inside.

I used a tote bag most days, enough room for purse, phone, keys and groceries for whatever we are eating that evening. 

It's a straightforward pattern, my only extra tip was to try out something I saw on someone else's blog or feed ages ago (sadly I can't remember who) and use a little piece of plastic canvas to support the back of the magnetic fasteners.  The canvas is trimmed to size and fits behind the fabric and is followed by a snippet of wadding to stop the metal prods pushing into the fabric. 

As ever with Anna's patterns, I am really happy with the result and the bag has gone straight into use and compliments the amazing autumn colours this year. 

Anna's Noodlehead paper patterns are available in the UK- I found them at Minerva Crafts, Sew Hot, Pretty Fabrics and Trims and many more.   See other Noodlehead bags I've made here:

Thursday 3 November 2016

Mini Apron FQ Stash Buster

Sometimes my two worlds collide, last week I sewed up twelve aprons for my day job running music groups for babies and children.  Our theme for the next couple of months is preparing for Christmas and we start the term with a baking song.  What better to go with our bowls and spoons than an apron for everyone to wear!

Each apron is double layered and sewn from two fat quarters and I used scraps for some of the pockets.  You can use the fat quarters either way directionally to produce different sizes although you do need to consider how the print works.   I was sewing for children from around 18 months- 4 years so I wanted a range of lengths. 
 Initially I followed this clever tutorial which produces cute curved pockets for a 'no waste' method, alongside this hand drawn infographic but after I'd sewn a few I went free style!

I turned to my stash of various ribbons and tape for the neck straps and ties and I dug into my dressmaking remnants so many aprons were backed with chambray.  

I also stitched up a special extra trimmed version as a Christmas gift (getting ready early). This would make a great gift for a child age 2-6 years, especially accompanied with a plastic mixing bowl and  spoon and maybe an easy recipe too.

I loved sewing these and I've been seeing them in use this week with my little singing bakers, adorable!