Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sewing with Rascal

I used to work in a craft store that hosted preschool and children crafting sessions.

On many occasions I observed parents "helping" their children and quickly came to the conclusion that there is nothing quite like crafting with their children to bring out the inner control freak in Mums.

There was the Mum who wouldn't let her son make the rainbow button tree canvas that he wanted- he had to make a blue one to go with his newly decorated bedroom.

There was the Mum who became extremely frustrated with her three year old son because he decided that the portholes on his boat should become wheels.

There were countless other examples of Mums controlling their children's crafting. Observing this, I came to the conclusion that in the majority of cases , the more perfect the result of small childrens crafting- the more of a control freak the Mum.

Now in general I think (hope) that I manage to let my kids express their creativity without interfering too much, but teaching 5 year old Rascal to use my sewing machine may well have taken me right to the edge of my comfort zone.

A few times I really had to stop myself from unpinning her wonky pins. I had to remind myself that especially at this age its not about creating perfection. Its about working together, having fun, making something Rascal can be proud of and hopefully learning a few good habits in the process. In fact it could be argued that striving for perfection could be counter-productive for my girl in the long run!

The whole project started one day when I looked at my overflowing scrap basket. I gave it to Rascal and told her to choose some fabric that she liked. I didn't really have a plan but I thought it would be a fun exercise.

I took the fabrics that she had chosen and cut 4.5" squares. A few days later I gave her the squares and encouraged her to lay them out. At first she was a bit unsure what I meant but I showed her a few ideas and then left her to it. I really enjoyed seeing how her mind worked. 

I knew that using my sewing machine at my sewing desk was going to be tricky for Rascal, so I moved it onto a low coffee table and sat her down on a small stool. I also decided to help Rascal by putting my new 1/4 inch foot on the sewing machine- this was definitely a stroke of genius, as she was able to run the fabric along the edge of the guide easily. Unfortunately my sewing machine does not have speed settings and this would definitely have helped.

I wisely decided that Rascal should try sewing on some unimportant scraps first and quickly discovered that with a bit of practise guiding the fabric with her fingers went well. Using the foot pedal was erratic but not too bad, but doing the two at the same time was a recipe for disaster. We compromised. I pressed the foot pedal and Rascal guided the fabric. Then after a wee bit of nagging she did the foot pedal and I guided the fabric Finally she did the whole thing on her own (with close supervision).

Amazingly, no tears were shed by either of us.
We discussed what our sewing was going to be used for and Rascal decided that it would become a cushion cover.
Fabrics have been chosen for a pieced back to the cushion and that will be next weekends job.

I'm not yet sure how we'll go about quilting it. Would it be wrong for me to use it as FMQ practise? I know that no matter how dodgy the sewing, Rascal will love it!

Hmmm... the results of our first sewing collaboration are pretty good- does that mean I'm a control freak or a good teacher? 

On second thoughts, please don't answer!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Journey

If you've been following my blog and watching my sewing and designing for a while, you may have noticed that there has been a subtle shift in my paper pieced sewing recently.

My priority used to be to create accurate representations of items. I prided myself on being as accurate as I could be and on finding perfect fabrics to represent each animal, bird or thing in the patterns.

Then I entered my Bird Quilt in the Festival of Quilts. I was hugely proud of the quilt and smiled as I entered it, but looking at my entry next to all the amazing and colourful creations that others had sewn, it looked... well.. a bit bland!

Don't get me wrong, I still love the quilt and am immensely proud of it, but seeing it next to other quilts made me wonder if I could do something more creative- more artistic. Whether I could make more of a statement. Whether I could utilise the beauty of modern quilting fabrics more and let the fabrics play a greater role in the finished result.

I decided to try and play a bit. To have more fun. To make more of a statement.

Now I will admit that I stressed a bit about my decision to step away from the style that I was beginning to develop. But then I realised that I have never made any secrets about the fact that I see my blogging and sewing as one big journey.

When I looked at it this way, it just seemed wrong to get stuck at a halfway point because of a fear of what was to come. I realised that I had to take a leap of faith and hope that it paid off. If it didn't then there would be no shame in moving on again!

The next project that I undertook was Puzzled, a table runner for Make Modern. I don't know if you agree, but I find the design unlike anything that I have designed before. It is far sharper and I can't hide the fact that it excites me.

I can see many many possible uses for the one simple building block which is the basis for this project and I can't wait to share some of my ideas with you. To me, this simple pattern has so much potential for producing fun and stunning quilts. I really hope that I can find the time to play with it some more.

The first edition of Make Modern is released today so make sure you pop over, grab yourselves a copy and find out how to make my table runner.

The next patterns that I released after this change of heart were the bears. It is no coincidence that none of the sketches or images that I have produced of the bear patterns portray him in realistic brown and black fabrics.

I wanted to challenge people to try different things and to see my patterns in a different light. To experiment with fabric and colour.

Initial impressions are that my gamble paid off. It would seen that this pattern has caught the attention of people who would otherwise have ignored yet another realistic paper pieced design.

Only time will tell if people approve of Puzzled.

I intend to keep experimenting with my design. I have no doubt that some gambles will pay off and that others won't. I always find it virtually impossible to predict which patterns will take off  and which will tank, so please forgive me if I produce a few duds along the way- its all part of the journey!

As a final note I'd like to say thank you to everyone who took the time and effort to join in the Butterfly Challenge. Rascal and I will take the next few days to go through the entries and decide on the winners.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Butterfly Mini Quilt

I just realised that I forgot to show you the finished mini quilt that I made with the butterfly that was the inspiration for the Butterfly Challenge.

I made it for a private swap that I did with the lovely Susan over at Canadian Abroad. Susan sews the most beautiful quilts, cushions, bags and pouches, so it is an honour to own a piece made by her. She sent me this beautiful wee fabric basket. Isn't it gorgeous! The hand stitching is so neat and the Heather Ross fussy cuts are adorable.

Rascal hung around making very unsubtle hints when it arrived but the poor thing, they fell on deaf ears- this is mine all mine!
Once the butterfly was finished I looked at it and felt that it needed a border. I had been vaguely thinking of a low volume border, but when I saw the finished butterfly, I knew that it needed to be balanced by a big bold border. The problem was that I was working with scraps and definitely didn't have enough of any one colour to make a border.

I didn't want to add any other fabrics into the mix, so I was left with one option- a pieced border.

 I couldn't be bothered to do the maths and work out how many squares I would need in what sizes, so I just scribbled some lines for a simple paper pieced border and started sewing. 

I was pretty random in the fabric placement, but with the Lakes Oakshott Bundle you really don't need to worry as all the fabrics go together beautifully.

My intention was always to make this into a cushion cover, but when I showed the quilted top to my friend Debshe insisted that it should be a mini quilt. I thought about it and decided that she was right (even though this meant that it was going to be a mini quilt with a very ugly and badly basted back- who cares what the inside of a cushion cover looks like after all!).

I impressed myself by remembering to sew hanging corners into the back of the quilt then bound.

A job well done methinks!

Now to move onto planning my mini quilt for the instagram mini quilt swap- I can't wait!

Don't forget that the Butterfly Challenge closes at 10pm on 31st August NZT. 
Please please please remember that New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of the UK at the moment and even further ahead of the States.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Big Bear- Pattern Release

At times over the last few months I have thought that this day would never come, but I am super excited to tell you that the Big Bear pattern is now finally available from my Craftsy Store.

Three talented testers helped me to get the pattern this far. I loved seeing the photos of their work popping up on my instagram feed and realising that my crazy supersized the pattern really did work.

Amy was the first person to finish the pattern. She used Pat Bravo's Carnaby Street fabrics. Her bear is a pretty funky bear don't you think!?

Paper Piece Bear
I was the next one to sew big bear. I threw together an eclectic mix of Tula Pink, Frances Newcombe, Anna Maria Horner and Sketch fabrics.
I had lots of fun choosing the fabrics and took full advantage of the possibility to fussy cut that this big pattern afforded me.
He's very different to everything that I've sewn before but I love him. There is nothing quite like breaking your own self imposed and breaking out of the mould.
Paper Pieced Bear

Michelle chose to use her precious Umbrella prints fabrics for her bear. After the loud and fun fabrics used by myself and Amy, it was great to see how well the pattern works with a more subdued colour pallet.
Paper Pieced Bear

The final tester to have a go at the bear pattern was Adrianne, she had the great idea to turn the bear into a polar bear by using a combination of low volume fabrics. It was no mean feat to create a bear where all the features can easily be recognised, but I think Adrianne pulled it off amazingly well.
Paper Pieced Polar Bear
Each one of these talented sewist contributed to the pattern in a meaningful way and I really can't thank them enough. Make sure you go and visit their blogs and tell them how awesome they are.

The good news is that the Big Bear Pattern will be on sale from my Craftsy Store at the reduced price on $2.95 for the first 48 hours and after that time I will increase the price to $5.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Taking the Long Way Round

Sometimes when I am designing, I find that ideas take on a life of their own.

Initial ideas, although fun, can prove to be too much work or too fussy and toning things down can be the answer to my problems.

The other day I asked how people would finish off my bear quilt. There were quite a few great suggestions, but the one that caught my eye was Susan who said"... I would make bear paws blocks to go all around the perimeter and then bind it."

Now while I knew that she meant one of these traditional blocks, I couldn't help thinking how awesome a border with a different kind of bear paws would be.

As is always the way, I became really really excited by this idea, but it was Saturday morning and I was miles away from the computer. I waited really impatiently, and spent the rest of the day visualising exactly how I wanted to block to look. When I actually sat down behind the computer, the pattern flew together.

My initial plan was to make a trail of bear paws around the quilt, but there was a problem. A trail of paw prints means a double border, and a double border becomes too big and detracts too much attention from the centre of the quilt.
 I liked the idea, but somehow the execution was lacking.

I could've made the paw prints smaller, but this would have made them fiddly to sew and required a lot more paw prints so that wasn't the solution.

Then it struck me.

When in doubt, simplify, simplify, simplify! That is my golden rule.

I took away the majority of the paw prints and turned the 4 remaining paw prints around.

Aaaaah! Much better!

What was created was a quilt with some detail, a small injection of humour and a clean border to the block.

It was enough, but not so much that it completely over-powered the bear.

I can't wait for my dark blue border fabric to arrive so that I can start sewing again.

Is the quilt finished like this- ummm no, I don't think so. There will almost definitely be one more (plain?) border, but I'm a very visual person and I need to see what I've created before I make the next creative decision.

In the meantime, I feel satisfied that this design is the right one and I'm very happy that this quilt is one step closer to being finished.

Do you find that your design ideas take on a life of their own like this?
If so do you love the process or does it make you nervous?


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