“I don’t hand-sew all that much on Earth”, Karen Nyberg
This has got to be my new favourite quote of all time, ever!!!!
This is definitely one for the super-geeks: Karen’s making patchwork in space! Her out-of-this-world-made-in-space star block will be part of a star quilt celebrating the 40th International Festival of Quilts in Houston next year and you’re invited to submit a block for it too! You can find out a bit more here on makezine.com.
Boy has it got my mind whirring! What would you make? And, if you had to make it space, you know, zero gravity, no sewing machine…what do you think would be most troublesome about the task?! Threading a needle? I have enough problems with that here on Terra Firma! I think I’d probably be most worried about stray needles and pins puncturing my colleagues – or their space suits, eek! I’m pretty lackadaisical in the dropped pin department – I figure I’ll find them again when I need them. Something tells me that wouldn’t be the case on the International Space Station, haha! Can you imagine “Houston we have a problem: Boon’s forgotten her pincushion”!
Ahem. Something tells me it’s time for a cup of coffee. Will you be giving a star block a go? I’m pretty tempted
Oh yessss! I like a bit of fabric burning now and then, don’t you?! Ummm, it’s just me isn’t it? I can tell from the dumbfounded silence…
Burn test: polyester-cotton
Why oh why would you burn lovely, precious fabric? To find out what it’s made of, of course! Huh? Yes, seriously, you can determine the composition of fabrics with a very simple burn test. You didn’t know that? Welcome to my world: I’ll show you how!
You might think you don’t need to know how, it tells you on the roll in the store, right? Well, yes it might do, but if you’re like me and you love scrappy quilts (see this scrappy cushion I recently made), your fabric can come from anywhere: shirts so old the label has washed away, a half a metre picked up in a charity shop here and there, unmarked remnants from your fabric store, gifts from friends…stuff you have no idea what its made of. Sound familiar?
Can you tell the pure cotton from the polyester-cotton?
Why does it matter?
The fabric looks good, it’s the right colour, the right pattern and will go really well with all those other lovely quilting cottons you’ve collected, so why not go right ahead and add it to the mix? Because without having some clue as to what it’s made of you won’t know how to care for your finished quilt or how that piece of fabric might affect the appearance of your quilt a few years down the line.
This little scrap might need careful hand washing or it’ll disintegrate quickly, or perhaps it will need ironing at a much lower temperature than the cottons, or maybe it has some wool content and will shrink to nothing if you put it in the machine. If it’s a poly-cotton mix you might find it ends up with lots of unsightly pilling after a bit of use – would you really want that on something you’ve spent months, maybe even years making? If it’s for a dog basket you might not worry, but if it’s a crib quilt for a new baby, or something you hope will be cherished for years to come, it suddenly becomes important.
Knowing the fabric composition will give you confidence in the care of your quilt and how it will continue to look after use.
How do you do it?
Burn it, burn it! Ahem. I’m going to assume you’re planning to make your quilt in pure cotton fabrics, which is the usual material we use. You think the unknown fabric looks like cotton, and feels like cotton, but you’re not really sure, so to test for pure cotton, here’s what you do:
Cut a small piece of fabric a couple of inches square. Hold it with tweezers or nail scissors over a metal draining board or tin foil (have some water in the sink just in case!), then hold it over the flame of a match or a candle.
Burning a piece of pure cotton
This is what you are looking for
If it’s pure cotton it will:
- smell of burning paper
- burn evenly with an orange flame (see the picture above)
- have light grey smoke
- leave dark grey ash
- when the ash is cool if you rub it between your fingers it will leave black marks like charcoal and crumble away to nothing very easily.
Cotton ash rubbed between the fingers leaves a charcoal-like residue
If there’s some polyester in the composition it will be very sticky as it burns (you can prod it with a cocktail stick to find out, but you can also see it ‘bubbling’/melting if you look carefully) and when you rub the ash between your fingers it won’t leave any marks. It will also burn much more quickly with a more acrid smell and darker smoke.
Ash of polyester-cotton rubbed on the fingers is much ‘cleaner’
If there’s another natural fibre in the composition like wool or silk you should notice the smell of burning hair and it will be more difficult to light. You’ll also notice that it burns itself out.
Linen will burn like cotton, but more slowly. It can be difficult to tell a linen-cotton mix from a pure cotton with the burn test, but this particular mix is acceptable to me so I don’t worry too much. (I know the fibres will have similar laundry requirements and appearance to any pure cotton fabrics I might be using, so I don’t think there’s any need to get hung up on it.)
I learnt the burn test at school (we’ll gloss over how many years ago) and it gives me more confidence about whether to incorporate an unlabelled fabric into a quilt or not. My biggest hate is polyester – I just can’t stand that pilling, and if I can eliminate it I will!
Will you be giving it go? Let me know how you get on – and be careful, I don’t want to hear any stories about burning your hair off or calling out the fire brigade because your kitchen’s on fire!
Have fun and happy
PS you can find more of my quilty tips in the column on the right
It gets me every autumn: orange! I just love it! It’s my favourite colour and my favourite time of year, and this year the autumn light has made the colours so spectacular around here that I think they’re seeping into my bones.
Chapel Porth, Cornwall
Kim and I watched the sun set at the beach last night; there was a nip in the air, but it didn’t deter the surfers from making the most of the waves. It was spectacular and I felt so lucky that we just happened to go out for an unplanned Sunday walk and got to watch this unfold.
Then there have been the woodland walks with golden leaves to crunch through.
Not forgetting to pick some up to look at in closer detail and study with a paintbrush and watecolours at home.
Under the spotlight
And all this autumn colour seems to be pouring into the Christmas gift making too: check out this tea cosy and coasters!
Time for tea!
These little tea cosies are easy to design and make, here’s how I did it:
Make a Tea Cosy
- Measure the girth of your teapot (much like you’d measure your waist or hips!), divide the number in two and add 1 inch, then measure the height and add an inch and a half. Make two pieces of patchwork to these measurement in your preferred design (I love the simple postage stamp design of this one).
- Make a paper pattern based on the height and width of your patchwork, simply curving the top edges using something like a plate or a compass.
- Cut out two top layers from your patchwork, then cut off a half inch strip along the bottom of your pattern and now cut 2 inner layers for the lining from a cotton fabric that you like and two pieces of wadding.
- Make a rouleau loop hanger (follow the link to my tutorial)
- Quilt the patchwork to the wadding (excluding the backing/inner) x 2, ensuring the top edges meet (the patchwork fabric will be half an inch longer)
- Pin the rouleau loop at the centre top, on the right side of the patchwork, with the loop going towards the centre and the ends towards the seam
- Place the two patchwork pieces right sides together and stitch a quarter inch seam right around the three sides, leaving the bottom open, remove pins, press and turn right side out
- Place the two inner lining pieces right sides together, pin and stitch a quarter inch seam as above. Press, but don’t turn through
- Place the inner over the top of the outer, so that the right sides are together and pin together around the base (note that the wadding won’t be in the seam)
- Using the free-arm of your sewing machine, stitch around the base of the cosy, leaving an unstitched gap of about 3 – 4 inches, turn the cosy through this gap and close the gap by hand with a slip stitch
- Push the lining inside the outer, press so that the wadding is at the bottom edge and finally top stitch around the base through all layers, including the wadding. And That’s it!
The lining – this is a fab seersucker that I was given, so fresh and jolly!
I also made some matching mug rugs to go with this tea cosy. I sewed simple 9 patch squares for the tops and stitched them together using the instructions for making up mug rugs in this tutorial.
Drink with cake!
I think it’s going to make a lovely gift and I can’t wait to give it to someone special…I very much doubt there’ll be any cake left to go with it though!
Back during the week with more quilty goodness to share , ’til then Happy Stitching
Well hello, here comes the weekend already! Onwards and upwards with Operation Get Christmas Presents Made here! Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.
A few months ago I was inspired to give the Ocean Waves block a go after seeing a version in Densye Schmidt’s excellent book Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration and then this totally fabulous borderless quilt that Ann from Fret Not Yourself finished earlier this year (I can’t tell you how much I love the sense of movement Ann created with her wonderful colour placings – the eye just dances around catching those reds and oranges amongst all the calm blues – I could look at it for hours!)
Ocean Waves © Ann Brooks, Fret Not Yourself (Click on the image to go to Ann’s inspiring blog)
My own efforts weren’t quite what I was hoping for! For all my quandaries about my limited stash collection I’ve actually been given/collected a number of worn men’s shirts over the last couple of years which I think will look really good in this design. So I got my pencils out and planned a quilt for a single bed knowing it would be quite a lot of work and thinking that maybe I’d take a year or two (or four!) to complete it, as I’d want to hand quilt it. So I duly made a start and although my first two blocks were a bit clumsy they were passable enough. The next two were better quality, but over all I wasn’t happy with the finished size (they came out much smaller than I intended) and decided I’m going to make them a good few inches bigger (around 10 – 12″ perhaps instead of the 8″ these finished at; more experiments to follow). So I put them to one side and forgot about them whilst I got on with other projects.
Ocean Waves pillow
Then earlier this week, as I was wracking my brains about what to make for a particular male of the species (aren’t they always the hardest to make for?!) I had a bit of an epiphany, dug out these 4 little orphans and put them together to make this lovely soft cushion. And I’m over the moon – giving it away might be harder than I thought! I made a modification to the traditional design by adding an appliqué patch to the centre: there was a pretty big white space slap bang in the middle and I felt the centre really needed to have a more interesting focal point than that! It was also a very handy solution to covering up the fact that my four blocks didn’t quite meet up together in the middle either, but I’ll gloss over that bit and focus on the positive outcome instead, haha!
The centre panel
As I was needle turning the patch in place I was thinking about Victoria Gertenbach’s Work Quilts
series (also check out her wonderful blog The Silly Boodilly
) and thought maybe it would be fun to emphasise the utilitarian quality of the shirtings, so I embellished the patch with blanket stitch and buttons and gave the opening on the back a shirt quality too. Pleased indeed! (It doesn’t happen very often for me, so please bear with me whilst I bask in the glow of ‘success’!!!)
The simple back
So it’s not just a gift to cross off the ‘to make’ list, but something that reminds me of the people that wore some of the shirts, quilters that inspire me and part of the quilting tradition I love: waste not want not Good times!
Hey there! How are you? It’s been a bit stop-go ’round here lately and I’m trying to accept there are some things I’m never going to finish. But, that doesn’t have to be negative, right?!
For instance, I know I’m never going to finish the quilt I started with Amy Smart’s Virtual Quilting Bee, much as I’d like to. My quilting mojo was interrupted by too much illness and I’ve just lost momentum. So now I’ve got 6 blocks hanging around that are far too pretty to be shoved in a box and forgotten about, but there aren’t really enough of them to do anything substantial with either.
Enter Christmas. I love to make all the gifts I give to family and friends, which means I can often be making 20 odd things each year. So how handy is it when you’ve already got 6 cute blocks ready to burn a hole in your to make list?! Hmm, I thought to myself, 6 blocks could become 3 wee table runners… Here’s the first one hot off the machine:
2 blocks down, 4 to go!
The palette is fresh and spring-like and that block on the right is my absolute favourite of the 6 I made. It’s called Tilt-a-Whirl and you can find all the details here. Here’s a close up:
Detail of the Tilt-a-Whirl block
The other block I used in this runner is called Make It Do, which you can see in the picture below. I free motion quilted (fmq) this piece, which is the first time I’ve done that in a loooong time!
Make It Do
And, boy do I need some practice! But that’s another great reason to work on small projects isn’t it: you get to practice different things without too much time commitment.
The other two runners are currently works in progress and I decided to try setting the blocks on point to give them a bit more width. I forgot that it also gives you some darn stretchy edges to work with (and I ran out of starch, doh!). Still, it’s looking okay so far, so fingers crossed! I think I’ll fmq around the pink roses, but I’m not quite sure how I’m going to approach quilting the rest of it – any ideas? What would you do?
On point blocks
Well, I’m off to stitch on that final border, so if you’ve got any quilting ideas let me have ‘em! And don’t forget to share what else you could do with orphan blocks – how have you used yours?
Linking up with Freshly Pieced.
(click the image to discover lots of other quilty works in progress this week.)
Well hello Mr Gingerbread Man!
Want to make your own embroidered label for a quilt or Christmas gift, but need some ideas? Well have this one, for FREE!
Download me for free!
The design’s based on this little embroidery (below) I made last week – he was very rough and ready (can you tell?)! I posted about him here, and because I’ve had such positive comments by everyone I’ve shown him to, I thought you might like him too!
The original wonky doodle version! (approximately 1.5″ tall)
I rather like the wonkiness of the original version, but I’ve been practicing drawing with Inkscape (a vector drawing programme) and I’ve made this free pdf version a little crisper, so I hope you’ll like him just as much. You can always ‘wonkify’ him by tracing him less than accurately if you prefer! (Which is exactly what I did 2nd time around.) The new embroidery design is about 2″ square (ish!).
You will need
- The pdf: Gingerbread man label (click the link to download)
- HB pencil
- A piece of cotton fabric of your choice (large enough to fit into a small embroidery hoop)
- Small embroidery hoop (I used a 4″ one)
- Embroidery needle
- Embroidery scissors/fabric scissors
- Various colours of stranded cotton embroidery thread. I used some festive reds and greens with a gingery Sienna colour for the gingerbread man himself and an orangey colour for the ‘box’
- Transfer the design to your fabric in pencil, either with a light box or up at a window (although I managed to do it on the kitchen counter without any light behind it by drawing over the design in a darker pen first), making sure you have enough room around the design to centre it in the embroidery hoop
- Place in the hoop and follow my suggestions in the pdf for which basic embroidery stitches to use. Instructions for embroidery aren’t included, but I’m sure you’ll know how to do the basic ones anyway. If you don’t check out Jenny Hart’s Sublime Stitching embroidery tutorials - totally fab!
- Once you’ve finished your embroidery remove it from the hoop and trim it down with scissors or a rotary cutter and mat, leaving 1/4″ around the design + 1/4″ seam allowance (1/2″ total)
- Pin the label in place on your project and stitch down using the needle-turn applique method.
- Stand back, admire – and try not to eat the gingerbread man!
It took me about 45 minutes to stitch this little man, which is time well spent for finishing up a hand made project I think. It’s not a major undertaking and no special embroidery skills are required, so why not add a really personal touch to your work too and give it a go? If you do I’d love to hear from you – any feed back, good or bad, is most definitely welcome! Thanks guys
Indeed, I’ve finished 2 Christmas table runners for gifts this year – whoop whoop! Mustn’t get too excited yet though, still got another 16 gifts to go! How about you, are you on top of your ‘to make’ list for this Christmas?
I thought I’d share the two table runners I’ve just finished, or maybe you’d call them ‘table toppers’ – I don’t know, is there a difference anyway?! I posted about these two recently as I was getting them under way. They’re both pretty much the same design but made using different techniques and fabrics.
Free machine applique version
This version is my favourite so far, it’s got a more organic, natural feel that I really like.
The applique is raw edge and held down with free machine embroidery
The centre panel has a lot of machine stitching, but then the whole runner was hand quilted to create that lovely soft ‘heritage’ quality – that I think is the best thing about it! The ‘orange peels’ are also totally scrappy, which adds to this effect.
By comparison, this version made with fusible web appliqué is a lot ‘crisper’
I hand quilted the centre panel of this version too, but the flying geese and borders are machine quilted in the ditch (I really must get me an ‘even-feed’ foot – it drove me nuts trying to do this with a standard foot! I know, I know…how many years have I been doing this?!).
Applique with ‘Bondaweb’ and zig-zag, then hand quilted
I could do with some serious practice making flying geese units too…
What’s your favourite way of making them? I’ve tried several so far, and although I can easily (usually!) manage to get the centre points nicely lined up, I inevitably seem to lose them in the side seams. I’ve decided not to stress about it at the moment, and just keep plodding on until I find a way that works best for me. I suspect it has something to do with my squaring up technique though, and nothing ever actually coming out the size I intend it to. If you do have any tips guys, I’d be really grateful!
Let’s just focus on the middle shall we!
For the next runners I’m making I’m using up some orphan blocks. It seems like a great way to get on with the list: use up some ready made units that would otherwise be languishing in boxes for goodness knows how long (for ever?!?!) and bring them out in to the light of day for others to enjoy. Er, hopefully! I’ll let you know how that goes…
Wow, really, it’s Work in Progress Wednesday already?! This week I’ve got some little hand embroideries to show you. I’ve been making a few labels for Christmas quilt projects (some finished, some, erm, not even started!) that I’ve been working on sat in bed over the last 7 days between long bouts of sleeping.
Little robin redbreast
It’s been a bit of fun during a difficult time and I actually feel like I’ve achieved something, even if it is just something small. The embroideries are like little doodles really. I found a strip of white spotty fabric that reminded me of snow, cut the strip into several pieces and joined them back together again in a more square shape so that it would easily fit in an embroidery hoop, then I just doodled a few Christmassy characters in pencil and pretty much stitched over them in back stitch:
Using up an odd strip of fabric for making labels
Love gingerbread men!
Actually I think labels really make a project; I know it’s on the back and all, but it’s like a secret message to the person you made it for! Well that’s what I like to think anyway – and seeing as you spend so much time making a quilt why not spend a bit more and make the label special too? As you can see, I spent an awful lot of time sewing on the one below in a very special way: totally wonky!!!! The front has some flying geese units and I wanted the label to reflect the shape, shame I wasn’t awake when I stitched it in place
Finished! Little robin label stitched to the back of a Christmas gift – guess who for!
What do you do for labels? Do you design your own? Maybe you buy them in, or write them in pen? Let me know ‘cos I’m thinking maybe I could draw up some Christmas designs (I mean ‘properly’, not just doodle!) and put them in my Craftsy pattern store if you’re interested?
Getting out my embroidery threads was a bit of a trauma this week I can tell you. I have this really sweet Christmas tin for storage given to me a couple of years ago (full of chocolate that lasted less than a week: thank you Linda and Stewart…yum!) that I bagsied for my threads before Kim got a chance to fill it with his Lego bits. It sits on top of a cabinet above my sewing table looking all jolly:
My embroidery thread storage tin
And then…you open it and are confronted with the full horror of a slovenly quilter/seamstress/stitcher/embroiderer!
Oh dear, what a tangled web I wove!
What is it with embroidery thread? (Or do you call it floss? That sounds so wrong: floss is what you do with your teeth here in the UK!) It starts off all nice and neat in a little skein, but soon ends up in one big knot…
A bit of a mess in no time
I try to remedy this sometimes by making my own cardboard ‘spools’:
But seriously, the German’s know how to do it best:
These Madeira threads are a dream to use: the 6 stranded Egyptian cotton is exceptionally good quality (as you’d expect from Madeira) which rarely knots as you stitch and the thought that has gone into the packaging is brilliant! You have just one little end sticking out of the packet and gently pull out as much as you need and it never, ever gets tangled up or knotted with another skein. I absolutely love it, so why oh why oh fookin why is my local fabric shop discontinuing such a genius design? It is utterly dumbfounding. I’m gutted! So if anyone out there can recommend an online seller I’d be really glad to hear from you…or maybe you have another secret to keeping your thread tangle free that you’d like to share?!
Well, this post was a little longer than I planned and guess what…I feel a sleep coming on!
Happy stitching y’all – hope to be back towards the end of the week with some pictures of some finished table runners (just waiting for some decent light!). Take care.
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