Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Paw Prints

If you were paying attention last week, you will have noticed that some paw prints have been attached to my big bear.
I love how they turned out and am really pleased to tell you all that the pattern is now ready to be released.

I have included two versions of the paw in the pattern, and this will hopefully give you lots of flexibility in the way that you use them. I have made no secret of the fact that the paw prints were designed to compliment the big bear and little bear patterns, but its use should definitely not be limited to this.

How about a trail of paw prints ambling around your quilt for example?

They don't even HAVE to be bear paws, you could easily use them for many other animals.

As always, I have given them ultra imaginative names. There is the angled paw and the straight paw.

Michelle worked her magic and created a beautiful quilt back for Bjorn the Bear. Isn't it stunning! I love the way that Michelle incorporated the paw print into her quilt. If you haven't seen Michelle's work already make sure you pop over and have a look at her blog. She is a talented pattern designer in her own right and it is a real treat to have her as such an enthusiastic tester!

Fiona sewed both versions of the paw print. I believe that she is going to use them as lion paws- I can't wait to see how this project develops.
Shari sewed the straight paw print for me. Doesn't it look great in gingham?
If you would like to get your hands on my bear paw pattern, you can find it in my Craftsy Store
It will be reduced price for the first 48 hours.

This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you're not already a Craftsy member and you sign up or make a purchase after clicking through from this post, I'll earn a small commission.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Big Bear Progress

I'm a bit excited today! I've finally got a plan for my big bear.

In typical Juliet fashion, I was so excited when I finally created the bear pattern that I just jumped in with both feet. I didn't stop to think what it would become, I just wanted to sew it and sew it NOW!

After the block was finished, it lay draped over the back of our sofa for a while. I knew that I wanted to give it a border with paw prints in the corners, but I needed to wait until I found the right fabric for this.

When the fabric finally arrived, I jumped in with both feet and sewed my paw prints.

Now I knew all along that the quilt top wouldn't be finished when I added the paw print border, but I needed to see that stage of the project completed before I could make any more creative decisions. I'm a very visual person when it comes to this stage of projects.

I am really really trying not to spend a fortune on fabrics at the moment, so I went to my stash in search of a suitable fabric for the next border. Luckily I found a large piece of architextures fabric which will be just perfect!

... But then what...

It kind of bothered me that it was going to become a random square lap size quilt. I didn't know what to do with it and felt that this quilt needs to be out on display, not folded in a pile somewhere.

Finally, it struck me...

This bear needs a mate! Another bear added underneath, facing in the opposite direction.

Then it will be the perfect quilt for my son's bed.The widths of the borders in the mock-up above are not quite accurate. I will need to do some quilt maths to work out exactly how wide they should be, but I'm excited to finally have a plan.

I was planning to give Scallywag the bird quilt for Christmas, but the bears are far more suitable for a four year old boy don't you think! Rascal can have the birds, she loves them too!

Eek! I just want to start sewing but I don't have enough of the green sketch background- sulk!
I love it when projects finally show you what they want to become! Don't you?!?

I'm sure I've asked it before, but are you make it up as you go along quilters, or do you always start with a plan. (I think you can tell which kind I am!!!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Paper Piecing.

I was recently asked to name three advantages and three disadvantages of paper piecing. I thought that it sounded like a fun blog post so here are my answers.

We'll start with the disadvantages shall we?!

1. Paper Piecing can severely test your sanity!
Let's be honest... it can be a bit of a steep learning curve when you first start paper piecing. Its a time which can be fraught with frustration, swearing, the frequent use of a seam ripper and if you are in the wrong mood things being thrown across the room.

BUT... Stick with it and it does become easier... I promise!

2. Fabric wastage

In recent times, I have seen a few people publicly declare that they will never paper piece because it causes too much fabric wastage. Now while I will admit that there is definitely a certain amount of unavoidable wastage, I would like to point out that the degree of wastage really really depends on the methods that you employ.

If you use huge pieces of fabric and don't reuse the trimmings then yes, you will waste a whole lot of fabric. But if you cut your fabrics accurately and/ or reuse as many scraps as possible,then fabric wastage can be severely minimised.
The scraps in the photo above were created when I made a single large complicated paper pieced block measuring 11" x 18". The majority of the scraps are pretty tiny, but there were a few just big enough to be stored away in my tiny scraps drawer for future projects.

3. Most blocks have more than one paper foundation.
This means that you have to sew the paper foundations together. Seams can become bulky if lots of them join in one place and it can be difficult to get joins to meet accurately.

Mastering sewing your blocks together accurately is one of the signs of an expert paper piecer I've written some tips here if you're interested.


1. Sewing to paper you give the fabric stability.
As such, it allows you to sew angles that would otherwise be impossible. Worries about fabric warping or stretching of fabric which has been cut on the bias are minimised because the paper is there to hold everything in place until the very end.

2. The paper allows you to sew really small pieces 
Pieces which would normally be unimaginable because they are far too fiddly become easy. As such you are able to create amazing pictures and designs in paper pieced patterns. I just love creating pictures with fabric and it would be really really difficult to create these effects without the paper foundation.

3. If you can sew a straight line and count then you can paper piece!

Honestly, its not rocket science!

Now this may seem like a bit of a contradiction after point one of the disadvantages, but its not.  

A few weeks ago I spent a really special morning with my friend Deb. She had once previously tried paper piecing and it had not gone well. Ever since I began paper piecing, I would see her visibly shudder at the mention of it. But as she has watched my patterns evolve, she has steadily grown more tempted and the big bear pattern pushed her over the edge. I offered to sew one for her, but she decided that she wanted to sew one herself.

We started with something easier- a simple butterfly. I showed her what to do once, explained a few basics and she was off and running. I felt like a pretty slack teacher as I spent the majority of the morning drinking tea, knitting and chatted while Deb sewed.
Photo Shamelessly borrowed from Deb's blog!

It was amazing to see the sense of achievement that Deb emanated at the end of the morning. She is really talented with a sewing machine and sews the most beautiful quilts, but she had allowed paper piecing to form a block in her mind. I loved seeing the ease with which she stepped over her fears and started paper piecing. I now grin from ear to ear each time that I see her starting on a new paper piecing project!

In the last few years I have helped a few people to master their fear of paper piecing. People who, like Deb, just needed a few pointers and someone to have the faith that they could do it! Whether it has been a few emailed words of encouragement, passing on tips that have helped me to improve my skills, writing tutorials or teaching classes, I love it all!

I learnt the majority of my sewing skills from talented people online so it makes me ridiculously happy to be able to share my knowledge with others.

Paper piecing is not a mystery. If you want to, you can master it too! And if you run into trouble give me a shout and I'll see what I can do to help! I love sharing my skills.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

WIP Wednesday.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for the instagram mini quilt swap. Although I've taken part in a few swaps over the years, this is the first official quilting swap that I've participated in. 

Its exciting and just a tiny bit scary!
Part of the Initial design
There are so so many talented people taking part in the swap that its really exciting seeing all the inspiration mosaics and first tasters of designs appearing in my instagram feed.

One of the hardest things about signing up was that I had to assign myself an ability level- 
What the...?

If we're talking quilt designs, then my partner is assured of an original tartankiwi design, so I guess that puts me in the advanced group.

If we're talking quilting skills, my FMQ is shameful, my straight line quilting tends to turn into straightish line quilting and try as I might, even with a walking foot and a super steady speed, I cannot get my machine to do uniform length stitches (it drives me nuts!) so that would probably put me firmly in the beginners camp.

A pair of dancers? Much better!
I decided to play it safe and place myself in the intermediate group. I didn't want to disappoint my partner with the standard of the quilting and I thought it was only fair to do so.

It never occurred to me that the person who is making for me might be intimidated! I have seen a few comments on IG from people who are scared that their partner is far more advanced than them. 

Now I have no idea whether these people are talking about me, but I just wanted to reassure my partner if they are reading this- I've said it before, but do your thing as well as you can and I will love it! I will not be comparing our ability levels and am really excited to see what you come up with.

How do you assess your own ability? Does it bother you? Do you worry more about disappointing thre recipient of your quilt or intimidating the person making for you?

Maybe its the modest Scot in me, but I would find it really difficult to put myself in the advanced group when it comes to things like this!
Making Important decisions- black boots or coloured boots?
I'm making really good progress on my mini quilt- the blocks are pieced and I am just waiting on a little bit more fabric to arrive before I finish the top. I am really excited by the design, but at this stage I am not showing the complete design . There is one MAJOR design element missing from these photos but you will have to be content with seeing this small bit for the time being, as I don't want to give the game away. I'm pretty sure that my partner will be able to guess that the quilt is for her if she sees the remaining element of the quilt.

I am really loving the way that these blocks are coming together. The minimalist use of colour is unlike anything that I've done before but I think it works really well for these blocks, especially since the small amount of colour that is included is intense Oakshott colour!

The great thing about the pattern is that the construction allows for others to play around and add as little or as much colour as they want.
For those of you who are interested, the pattern is already being tested, so if all goes to plan, I hope to release it in two or three weeks time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Missing Piece

Today is my stop on a Blog hop is to celebrate the launch of Make Modern, the new Australian Online Modern Quilting magazine.
If you are new to these parts, Hello!
My name is Juliet and I love to design paper pieced patterns.

The thing is, I never forget that once I've designed them I set my patterns loose in the big wide world and at that point its your turn to interpret them.

I am all for encouraging you to use your own creativity, play with the designs and see what you can come up with. I believe that the sum of our talents often produces something far better than I either of us could do on our own.

My contribution to Make Modern Issue one is a table runner called Puzzled.

Sure you can make a table runner exactly like the one that I made (I really really love my one), but there is also a great potential for you guys to get creative and have fun!

I wanted to plant the idea in your heads that puzzled does not have to be used to create a table runner and in so doing to give you some inspiration how you could use the pattern.

So I decided to take this opportunity to whip up a quick cushion using the paper pieced part of the pattern.

The Front

For fairly obvious reasons I called my cushion the Missing Piece.
It really appeals to my sense of humour!
The Back
I used the final scraps of my Oakshott Cotton Lakes fat eight bundle to make the cushion, but I must admit that the fabric choices were dictated by the fabric. I used the four largest pieces of Oakshott cotton that I had. Its good that I did, as I was cutting it pretty fine with a couple of them.

I'm not entirely sold on the scrappy low volume background and think that I may have been better sticking with a solid cream background, but I ain't unpicking so it will have to do!

I pieced and quilted using Aurifil 50 weight thread. I stitched the ditch around the puzzle pieces to make them pop and then did random straight line quilting in the background fabrics.
You might ask why I designed a paper piece puzzle pattern when it could be argued that a jigsaw quilt could be achieved far more easily using appliqué.

To me, designing paper pieced patterns is a kind of a puzzle.
To others, actually sewing paper pieced patterns can seem like an (almost impossible) puzzle.
I had it in the back of my mind to design a puzzle pattern for a while, but it took me a long time to work out exactly how to do it. A few attempts were rejected before I finally came up with this pattern.

I hope that you can see how versatile this pattern is and can appreciate all the potential for fun. 

If you haven't bought a copy of Make Modern already, what's keeping you?

I'm hoping that I've just tempted you to buy a copy or even subscribe, but if you need a bit more persuasion, you can find a free taster here.
Happy reading and don't forget to have fun with my pattern!

 The other steps in the Blog Hop are as follows:

1st September                   Make Modern
3rd September                   Kristy @ Quiet Play
5th September                   Where Jane Creates
7th September                   Gina @ Party of Eight: Our Story
9th September                   Molli Sparkles
11th September                 Juliet @ The Tartankiwi
13th September                 cat&vee
15th September                 Ruth @ Ben and Charly’s corner
17th September                 Kelly @ Kelliotmagic
19th September                 Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts
21st September                 Serena @ Sew Giving
23rd September                 Melissa @ Ms Midge
25th September                 Anne @ Hudson Valley Quilts


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