Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sew Together Bags

Last weekend I participated in a secret santa swap with the wonderful and talented girls in my Knitting Group.

The other girls in the group have serious knitting and yarn dying skills. I'm pretty lucky that they tolerate my dodgy knitting skills and don't complain when I talk quilts and rock up with binding to sew on instead of knitting.

Bearing this in mind, it was a no-brainer that I was going to sew a gift for my partner and not knit it. When the partners were handed out I already had a pair of mini singing in the rain blocks and I had half a plan to use them for secret santa. Then my partner commented in passing that she'd love to learn how to paper piece so that she could sew my singing in the rain pattern. I took it as a hint and decided to turn those blocks into my first ever sew together bag.

By some fluke they were the perfect size. I love how the bag turned out.

Thanks to the Quilt Barn sew-along, the Sew Together bag came together really easily. I am very visual when it comes to sewing so the photographic instructions work far better for me than words.

I'm pretty sure that I could have made better choices when it came to choosing types of interfacing, but all in all I was really happy with the bag (as was the recipient). So much so that I went on to make a further two sew together bags.

I forgot to take a photo of the first one when it was completely finished, but here is are a couple of photos of it pinned ready to hand sew the final binding.

The third and final bag that I made was probably my favourite. I used some of my precious Melody Miller Telephone print. I love the proportions of the bag to the fussy cut and was very tempted to keep it for myself.

If it weren't for the fact that I have now made 3 sew together bags and don't think I can cope with the boredom of making a forth one, then I'd definitely make very very similar one for myself. How do people manage to churn out hundreds of the same thing? I get bored if I repeat myself and need to make new things every time.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sent and Received

When I first started blogging, I took part in a few swaps. They were fun to do and were a good way to fill the day while small children napped.

Then my children dropped their day sleeps and I started designing patterns.
Swaps went into the too hard basket. 
I just didn't have the time to stress about getting things made on time and I grew away from the part of the blogging world that was preoccupied with swaps.

But recently the world of swaps has invaded my instagram feed. I kept seeing beautiful mini quilts being made for the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap and grew tempted to join in. When the #igminiswap was announced, with a 3 month time period for making the quilt, I knew that I had to take part!

It was so much fun stalking my partner and working out what her tastes were. I was pleased to see that the mosaic that she provided for me had paper pieced designs and designs that could easily be translated into paper pieced designs. 

There were two images that stood out in her mosaic. One was a bright spring flower, the other was the Eiffel Tower. 

I started by designing a snowdrop and a daffodil, but I just didn't feel the love for them. 
I couldn't decide how to put them together in a quilt. 
I wasn't inspired. 
I scrapped the idea.

The other dominant image in her mosaic was a mini quilt with the Eiffel Tower on it. In the comments below, my partner raved about Paris. It was pretty quick and easy to design an Eiffel Tower block, but I knew that my design needed more. I wanted something whimsical without being too sweet. I had a few ideas, but none of them could be turned into good concise patterns. Finally I thought of singing in the rain, and it all came together from there.

I stressed a bit that the mini would be too graphic and not colourful enough for my partner, so it was a huge relief when she commented on an instagram picture of singing in the rain girl. I knew that if she liked her, she'd love the Eiffel Tower.

The best thing about taking part in this swap was that it forced me to design patterns that I wouldn't otherwise have thought of. I had to take a step out of my comfort zone and design a non-animal or bird pattern. I really enjoyed it and have a few more ideas up my sleeve.

My mini quilt has reached its destination in Australia and to say that it is loved would be an understatement. It was such a pleasure to design a quilt specifically for Janine and to see that it was so well received.

But swaps aren't all about sending, they are also about receiving goodies. Today a package arrived for me all the way from the States. Inside was the most beautiful mini quilt. To me, part of the fun of taking part in a swap is receiving something that you wouldn't sew for yourself. I love a wide variety of quilts, but have ended up making a fairly small selection of them. For the time being I seem to be stuck in a paper piecing rutt, but I don't think any of you are complaining about it!?

Tracey sent me a beautiful churn dash quilt. I love it. I love the design, I love the colours, I love everything about it!

I consider myself a very lucky girl and am excited to see what will come out of round 4 of the Schnitzel & Boo mini quilt swap (which I am participating in now!)

I have a feeling that I could become addicted to mini quilt swaps- I wonder if we should run our own NZ based one with sign ups after the madness of the Summer holidays is over- would anyone be keen? We've got a pretty talented bunch of quilters over here! Or I might try to arrange a few private swaps... hmmm decisions decisions!

Do you enjoy taking part in swaps, or do they stress you out?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

A few weeks ago Linda of Kokaquilts invited me to join in the Around the World Blog Hop. I'm afraid that I have to apologise to Linda for being such a slack blogger and taking so long to post, but... better late than never eh!?

If you are new around these parts my name is Juliet. I think its safe to call me a foundation paper piecing nut! When I am not designing a new pattern, I am sewing up another one to see if it works- we go through a lot of paper in this house!

To participate in the Blog Hop, I am required to answer the following four questions. I hope you enjoy my answers.

1. What am I working on?

There is quite a lot happening in my quilty world at the moment. Its exciting, fun and stressful all rolled into one. I hope that I can get everything finished in time!

For the last few months I have been working on a set of twelve patterns for the In Flight Quilt Along. Until recently it has all been computer work and I have gone through phases of loving, hating, being bored and being inspired by the patterns, but I am finally really excited about it all. I have sewn my first 6 blocks and I can't wait to see how everyone else interprets the patterns.

It's been a lot of work and it's pretty nerve racking- what happens if nobody joins in? But judging from the reception that the blocks are getting on instagram, I hope that I've got nothing to worry about.

I've never organised anything this big on my blog before and I'm making it up as I go along. If you are interested in joining in the fun, then you can find out more about the patterns and the fabric requirements here. The fun kicks off in January.

I have more or less finished work on my mini quilt for the Schnitzel & Boo Mini Quilt Swap. Its fun releasing snippets of detail about my design on instagram and seeing how people react. At the same time, I am slightly nervous as my work doesn't naturally fall within the spectrum of my partners taste. I hope she approves of what I have planned for her.

Another fledgling project is my safari quilt. I am loving this project. It has taken on a mind of its own and its really enjoyable seeing where it takes me.

It all started when I was sent a bundle of Utopia fabric designed by one of my favourite designers- Frances Newcombe.

As I think I've said before, most of the time I design a block first and then go looking for suitable fabrics so its a fairly new experience for me to have to work the other way round. Also being limited to the (awesome) utopia fabrics is weird as it places constraint on which patterns and colours I can use and by default affects the animals that will end up in this quilt!

The first thing that I decided when I saw the bundle was that I HAD to design a giraffe pattern. Here is the layout that I initially planned, but when I laid the fabrics together, the yellows were just too similar to the white background. What is the point of going to the effort of piecing a block if nobody can make out the details?

In true Juliet fashion, I scrapped plan A and am now making it up as I go along. So far I have pieced a giraffe, and a big cat. A hippo pattern is designed and ready to sew the next time that I have some childfree time.

Held up by my tallish 6 year old for scale
I think that I am going to use my other elephant design in this quilt as it would work better with the fabric quantities that I have available, but don't hold me to it. It could just be that I use a small version of this elephant and make it seem as if he is in the background. Anything can change about this quilt! It is growing and I have no idea how big its going to get!

I will eventually release these safari patterns for sale, but for the time being I am really enjoying just sewing and designing without the pressure to turn them into patterns immediately.

I've got a few other patterns in the works, but I need to find the time to get back to them.These days I am increasingly finding it difficult to find the balance between family, design and sewing. If I do too much of one, I get withdrawals from the others.

2.How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this and I'm not really sure.

If I have to try and define my style then I think there are three things that define my patterns and my style.

One is the detail. I am constantly treading the thin line between too much detail and not enough. I will admit that I've had too much detail in a few of my earlier patterns, but these days I think that I am finding it easier to find the balance. If the detail is becoming too insane, then I just make the finished block bigger, it's a really liberating way to work.

I love paper pieced detail and do my best to include all the detail within my design as I just don't trust my embroidery skills to do the patterns justice!

Another thing that I hear a lot about my patterns is that they show movement. I don't like my animals to be static and boring, I try to give them personality and movement.

Finally these days I really try to remind myself that I work with the medium of fabric. In the early days I limited myself to solid colour and then to really simple blender fabrics with realistic designs and textures, in the fear that the details on the fabric would interfere with my designs.

Recently, I have decided that it's madness not to make use of the amazing prints that are out there. I venture to say that this attitude towards fabric is unusual with regards to the kind of patterns that I design. I'm trying to show that pictorial paper pieced patterns can be detailed without being super literal. We don't always have to use realistic colours! Bears can have fussy cut zebras on their legs. Awesome tree fabric can be used to mimic giraffe markings.

Sewing and design is about having fun. Why limit creativity by limiting the kind of fabrics that you use?

This is the attitude that I take when I release my patterns too. I really want to encourage you guys to try your own thing. Make the pattern your own. Who am I to limit your creativity?

3. Why do I create what I do?

It all started for me almost five years ago when we moved towns. I had left my job behind and I didn't know anyone in the new town. Although I enjoyed being at home with my young daughter, I knew that I was going to suffer if I didn't find something to occupy myself. I started my blog, got my sewing machine out and taught myself to sew. Little did I know that I would end up quilting and selling patterns!

It has been a long journey filled with friendship, laughter, lots of learning and the occasional tear of frustration. These days I can't imagine not sewing and quilting. It has become such an integral part of my being. The journey is by no means over and I can't wait to see where it takes me!

I am a puzzler by nature. When I was an archaeologist I loved sitting in the lab and reconstructing ancient artefacts. It was so so rewarding to reconstruct items which had been broken for hundreds of years. In the same way, I get a huge feeling of satisfaction when I work out a better way to construct a pattern. Sometimes extending a line in a different direction or starting numbering from a different place can make all the difference.

Who would have thought that through designing paper pieced patterns I would find a creative outlet which is such a perfect fit for me. Equal parts creativity and logic.

4. How does my Creating Process work?

It starts with an idea. These can come from anywhere. My Cunning Mr Fox pattern was inspired by my daughter's school reading book, the big bear and 24 inch elephant came out of the blue. I knew that I wanted a whimsical design for the singing in the rain pattern and the pattern developed from there.

Once I have the idea, I generally have a quick search online for any similar patterns. A few ideas have been scrapped at this stage as I have felt that my idea is too similar to something out there already or when I saw that there are just too many designs of that particular item and I have nothing new to offer.

After satisfying myself that the pattern idea is relatively original, I go in search of an image (generally a photograph) to base the pattern on. These are generally just a very rough guide and give me a framework to hang my design on.

I tend to sketch patterns first to give myself an idea if they will work. Once this line sketch is complete then I will rework it again and again until I am happy that the piecing is logical.

Some patterns come together in one sitting, others take numerous sittings before I am happy with them. At times I find that leaving a pattern can be really good for me, when I get back to it, a suitable solution almost always presents itself.

I have previously written about the process of sending patterns to testers. Sometimes (like with the Odd Socks) it is not strictly necessary to get a pattern tested, but I still enjoy getting the extra feedback and having someone else look over the pattern. Its amazing what an extra pair of eyes can find.

Once the design is finished, I go looking for fabrics. Most of the time I have a vague idea of what I want, but there is always room for me to change my mind. Most of the time I work from what I have in my stash, purely because I am impatient and once I get to this stage of the project I just want to sew sew sew!

Thank you for taking the time to read my answers, I hope you enjoyed them.

I have asked my wonderful, warm and generous friend Leonie- the pattern testing extraordinaire to tell you a bit about her process to.

Thanks for dropping by!
Juliet x

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Odd Socks- A New Pattern

You know that feeling of panic when it suddenly hits you just how much you have to achieve in a very short period of time? When you realise that you've been saying "yes" to way too many things and the silly season is almost upon us.

That's what happened to me the other day! The minute that I had done it, I realised that I really shouldn't have signed up for the Schnitzel & Boo Mini Quilt Swap on Instagram, that there were way too many other things that I should be doing instead.

After the initial panic, I did what I always do, I sat down and wrote myself a list. Somehow the 'to do' list seemed a lot more manageable in that form. I started to pick things off the list one at a time. Unfortunately some things were waiting on fabric arriving so although urgent they couldn't be started on. Other things although important did not have a deadline and the work on the In Flight patterns is on going.

I decided to get the swap quilt made and out of the way.

I went searching for inspiration for my partner and once again panic set in. Her style was very different to mine. There was not a single reference to paper piecing in any of the material that she gave as inspiration and she described her style as "simple and pretty"- not words that I would ever use to describe my work! I turned to Deb for help and between the two of us we came up with a plan.

I have gone a bit left of centre with this mini quilt, I am pretty sure that my partner won't guess that it's for her. It's a bit cuter than I would normally do and creating the rainbow of colours definitely showed me where the gaps are in my stash. I hope that she likes it and understands why I chose to make this particular quilt for her.

I have called the quilt "Odd Socks".

As these socks have been proving very popular on instagram, I decided to release the pattern nice and quickly. I have sewn enough of these to be confident that the pattern works. Each sock measures 4" x 6". The pattern contains templates for both a left and a right sock. Three potential mini quilt layouts are provided, but feel free to use the pattern as you wish.

You can now find the Odd Socks Pattern in my Craftsy Store.

**This post contains affiliate links which means that I may receive compensation if you follow one of the links and then make a purchase.

The Winner is...

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for the book "Free Motion Quilting for Beginners and those who think they can't". I loved reading all your fmq experiences and really want to encourage you all to keep going. Sort out your basics and work from there, it really is possible for everyone to free motion quilt!

Unfortunately there can only be one winner and it is:

I have sent you an email. Please respond asap. If I haven't heard from you within 5 days I will draw a new winner.

For all of you who didn't win, I really encourage you to get your hands on a copy of this book. It really helped me to conquer my fear of fee motion quilting!


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