Friday, October 31, 2014

Editing Elephants- A Pattern Release

Some patterns take longer to release than others.

The concept for this block sprung into my mind one day. 

I could see it really really clearly. 

The design was complete and the basic design has stayed the same since day one. There were no doubts, no worries, I knew that this was the way that I wanted to design an elephant pattern and I felt confident that it was unlike other elephant patterns that are already available. 

I could also see how I wanted to use my fabrics. I wanted fussy cut fabrics in the ears.

I drew the block, took some time to decide what size to make it and sent him to the testers.

When Afton, the first tester got back to me, she had several pieces of feedback.The first one was easy to fix. It was a mistake which was a remnant left over from an earlier version of the block (oops!). 

The second piece of feedback that she had was really good but I couldn't immediately see how to fix it. It wasn't a mistake as such, it was just an area that needed to be made more logical to piece. It worked ok as it was, but we both knew that it could be better. We discussed it back and forth, but couldn't come up with a solution so I left it and sent the updated pattern to the remaining testers. I waited to see their versions.

Joanne sewed a great elephant and had some more useful feedback for me.

When the third and final block came in from Kelleigh, I took one look at it and immediately realised how I could improve the pattern to get around the issues that Afton had mentioned. It was a simple fix, but I guess that I had needed a bit of distance from the design to be able to see it. 

I was impatient to release the pattern, didn't want to wait on another tester and having just managed to work through most of the things on my to do list, I rewarded myself by allowing myself the opportunity to sew the block.

I hadn't been planning to sew the elephant at this point (although there was never a doubt in my mind that I would eventually sew it), and I hadn't bought any fabrics specifically for it, so it was fun to look through my stash in search of suitable fabrics. I ended up using a lot of my favourites.

I was really excited when I remembered the piece of Tula Pink Cameo Sky that I had, it was a perfect fussy cut for the ears and a great starting point for my elephant. I must say that when I was looking for a suitable fussy cut for the ears, I became relieved that I hadn't made the pattern any bigger. It would have been really difficult finding a print to fill the area of a larger ear.

The block itself came together easily enough. 24 inch paper pieced patterns are definitely easier to sew that 30 inch ones.

I love the finished result, and feel that like the Big Bear pattern, the scale of this elephant pattern allows you to take artistic license with fabric choices. 

I am confident that the extra time that it has taken to prepare this pattern was totally worth it. The pattern is now significantly better than it initially was (even though the changes may not be easily visible to anybody but me). 

This pattern really underlined for me the importance of getting blocks tested. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference. Whether those eyes are somebody else's or my own eyes after a period of time really doesn't matter.

At the moment my elephant is slung over the back my sofa where I can admire him while I decide what to do with him. I think that he's going to become a huge floor cushion to form the beginnings of a reading corner for my daughter. Either that or he will become a mini quilt to hang on the wall of my sewing room.

What would you do with a 24 inch elephant?

You can now find this elephant pattern in my Craftsy store. It will be at a reduced price for the first 48 hours.

**This post contains affiliate links which means that I may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.**


Monday, October 20, 2014

First Elephant Pattern Release

Hi Guys,

Sorry its been a bit quiet around here, I've been doing lots of work, but as yet I don't have too much to show you. Please bear with me though, I promise that it will be worth the wait!

In the meantime, I'm happy to say that I have just released another pattern. This elephant pattern contains pattern pieces for two block sizes- a 12 inch block and a 24 inch block. If you prefer to resize the pattern yourself, formulas are included for you to alter the pattern even further.

I had two sets of pattern testers this time, partly because I was so overwhelmed by the number of people who volunteered to help and partly because I decided it was a good idea to test out the two sizes. I love how each of the testers made the block their own and gave it their own twist.

The first group of pattern testers tried out the 12 inch version.

Fiona was very efficient and not only did she test the block, but she turned it into a mini quilt! Perfect for a little girl don't you think?!


Don't you just love the fussy cut fabric that Kirsten used for her elephant! So so pretty!

Jana was also making this elephant for her daughter and let her have creative control over the fabric choices. I think she did a great job don't you!?

The second group of pattern testers made up the 24 inch version

Sandy made this beautiful elephant for her daughter- what a lucky girl!

I love the simplicity of Patti's fabric choices, they work perfectly.

Debbie had lots of fun with her fabric choices- I love that this guy is such a riot of colour.

If you would like a go at creating your own elephant, you can now find the elephant pattern in my craftsy store. It is at a reduced price for at least the first 48 hours.

While you all have fun with the new pattern, I'll stay here and have a wee play with the baby elephant pattern which is now in the pipeline. I still haven't decided on scale and when I'm happy it will need testing, but I thought you might like a wee hint of what's to come... eventually...

What do you think- would this wee guy make a valid addition to our family of elephants?

**This post contains affiliate links which means that I may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.**

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why Super-size Paper Piecing?

While I struggled with computer software a few weeks ago, trying to make the elephant pattern as big as I possibly could, I found myself wondering whether it was worth it.

Is it just a gimmick to super size patterns, does it add something to the design? 
Or does it just limit the uses of the pattern and make the whole thing cumbersome and impractical?

I will admit that there were two reasons that I decided to enlarge my first super sized block- the big bear.

Initially it was a purely practical decision. I panicked about all the detail that I had put into the nose area of my bear design. I knew that the piecing would become insane and bulky but I was reluctant to compromise on the design.

That was the practical reason, but behind that thinking, there was the realisation that the bear would look amazing if it was big. I could see that it was a pattern with drama and impact, and I knew that by enlarging the pattern this would only be increased.

What I didn't realise was the difference to fabric selection that the big size makes. Suddenly a whole world of fabric selection opened its door.

Where I tend to limit myself to blender fabrics or fabrics with small scale designs for 12 inch paper pieced blocks, I discovered that by making everything bigger, it means that patterned fabric is less of a distraction.

Most large scale prints such as Tula Pink or Anna Maria Horner would be lost on small paper pieced blocks, but they are in their element in these large patterns. Fussy cutting fun features into the design becomes more of a possibility. Busy prints are less overwhelming.
Because a bear needs a pair of zebras on his leg don't you think!?

Suddenly fabric selection becomes more exciting and also a little bit more difficult.
These blocks have the potential to become a bit less mundane and a lot more artistic.
They allow you to really take advantage of the medium that you are working with- beautiful fabric.

Judging by the number of people who have bought and sewn the big bear, I can say with confidence that I am not the only one who sees the potential in big paper pieced designs. I love seeing the interpretations that you are all producing.

You can be assured that not every pattern will be super-sized, but where I feel that it will add to the finished result, I will definitely produce more super-sized patterns- I hope you approve!

Oh and before you ask, the elephant designs are both close to being released. I just need to hear back from a couple more testers and make a few adjustments.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Singing in the Rain

In my last post, I gave you a sneak peak of part of the mini quilt that I designed for the #igminiswap.

Its not the whole design, but for the moment I choose to keep the rest of it hidden so as not to spoil the surprise for my partner.

The other part of the design was my starting point for the quilt, but it wasn't enough.
I needed more.
I wanted something that was whimsical and romantic without being too cutesy or twee. I thought long and hard as to what it should be.

I considered the silhouette of a kissing couple and various other such images, but I either couldn't get the design ideas to work the way that I saw them in my head, or they were likely to become too complicated. 

I wanted a simple outline, something with impact that could be easily recognised.

Then it struck me, I needed a girl jumping in puddles. I loved the idea of such a carefree, romantic, fun image, it was perfect for what I had in mind.

I also loved that I could keep the image strong by using the strong saturated colours of Oakshott for the umbrella and simple solid black for the body.

Once I had made the block. I decided to have a play. I reduced it down in size to 7 inch x 5 inch. This time I used a background fabric with sparkles to depict rain and I used colourful fabrics to give the girl a cute umbrella, clothes and boots. 

 I must admit that although I like this version, my personal favourite is the first one.
I intend to use these mini blocks to make my first ever sew together bag- wish me luck!

I showed my blocks on instagram and immediately received a request or two for the pattern and volunteers for pattern testing.  My testers produced an interesting mixture of interpretations of the block. 
To me, this is part of the value of having my patters tested. Not only do testers give valuable feedback and ideas, but they also provide the opportunity to show the scope and versatility of patterns.

Nicole (Saphre1964 on instagram) had great fun with the pattern. She made up three different versions. I love the way that she incorporated rain and clouds in the background fabrics.

Allison went for pretty colours. I love the pink dress, don't you?
Virginia went for a simple colour scheme.
Sarah Elizabeth chose extreme simplicity- Liberty and oakshott- such a perfect combination don't you think!?

The pattern is now available from my Craftsy Store.  
Singing in the Rain will be reduced in price for at least the first 48 hours.

I hope you love this pattern as much as I do.

Oh, and a word to the wise- if you would like a chance to get your hands on a copy of the pattern, keep an eye on Sarah Elizabeth's blog!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Quilting Woes

It's no secret that I am a quilter who doesn't really enjoy the quilting part of making quilts.

I think that there are a few different reasons for this, but if I'm honest, I guess that for a large part its due to me being unrealistic. I look at other people's results online and expect the same of myself. I see their beautifully straight lines and amazing regular stitches and beat myself up for not being able to do the same thing.

I do this, completely forgetting that I am using a pretty average middle of the road sewing machine and many of the people I compare myself are using thousand dollar machines. My machine has difficulty dealing with differing thicknesses of fabric and will quite happily stitch on the same spot for hours if it comes across a bulky seam. If I sew too fast, the stitches become smaller, if I sew slowly and constantly they remain regular(ish). If I stop and then start again it can be really really difficult to regulate the speed so that it doesn't start with a charge of tiny stitches.

I also forget that many of the people who I am comparing myself to have been quilting for a lot longer than I have been and that it really is true what they say when it comes to quilting- practise makes perfect!

I recently unpicked the quilting on a whole table runner that I had quilted. It looked terrible. I was using my trusty walking foot for straight(ish) line quilting and it should have been ok, but every second stitch was skipped. I was in despair. The fabric had been provided by somebody else and it was for a publication. I panicked BIG STYLE! The worst part was that I just couldn't work out what I had done wrong. I was using good quality thread which I had previously used, the machine was threaded properly, I was using a new needle, I had not changed anything in my machine settings and everything should have worked perfectly.

If I'd thought I would have taken photos of the disaster to show you all, but I was so disappointed in myself that I just wanted the rubbish quilting out of sight as quickly as possible!

While I was unpicking, I ran through everything in my mind. I was baffled as to the reason for the dodgy quilting. Then it occurred to me that the only thing that was different to normal was my needle.

I was trying a 90 needle. Everything that I read said that this was preferable for quilting. I changed back to my trusty 80 needle and tried again. This time I quilted random wavy lines with my walking foot. It looked better and the stitches were as regular as I could hope for.

No stitches were skipped, but the holes from the old stitches were very visible and looked plain ugly in the close up photos. Then I had a though. I did something that I rarely do. I remembered various people saying that washing a quilt will hide a multitude of quilting errors.

I washed the quilt and gave it a quick tumble dry. My plan worked! The holes disappeared and the fabrics wrinkled up adding texture to the quilting. I must admit that I really love the result. It added a whole new dimension to the table runner and changed the project from a flat lifeless one to a living breathing fabric one.

This weekend I quilted my mini quilt for the #igminiswap. Almost a year ago, I had pinned this tutorial on quilting concentric circles. On Saturday I remembered about it and randomly decided to quilt that way without re-reading the tutorial. Remarkably, I managed to remember all the important steps.

Are the stitches completely uniform?- No
Are there wobbles in the lines- Yes
Do I care? Absolutely not!

I LOVE the result and can definitely see myself doing this kind of quilting again (even though it was pretty boring and there were a lot of threads to bury at the end)!

Phew! Yet another positive quilting experience.

The next time that I am beating myself up about my quilting please just give me a gently box in the ear and tell me to pull myself together. Remind me to stop being so hard on myself and that there are definitely ways to get good results from a mediocre machine.

My head and my heart know that quilting perfection is overrated and they are very forgiving of all my mistakes, my eyes just have a hard time catching up (although they generally love everything that I make a day or two after it is finished)!

I'm hoping that these two good quilting experiences will give me more confidence with my quilting and I have plans to try to be more adventurous again. In the short term this means more quilting using my walking foot, but I would love to give FMQ yet another go.

Over the next few months I will be making a few small projects as gifts. I reckon its time to try some fancy quilting on them- don't you!?!

How about you guys?
Is quilting a trauma for you too?
Are you too hard on yourself? Please tell me I'm not the only one!

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