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?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fox Pattern Release

Wow, last week was a just a little bit crazy!

Thank you all for you enthusiasm for my new patterns. It means a lot to see you all getting so excited about the things that I design. I hope that I can keep coming up with designs that won't disappoint.

I know that you are all waiting for the big bear pattern, but it has to be free of mistakes for me to release it so please forgive me if I take a week or two more to get it ready. I have made a few alterations since sewing it and these are being checked before I release the pattern.

In the meantime, I've released the Fox pattern.

My pattern testers were super speedy and did a great job. This Tula Pink Fox by Frampuna just blew me away when I saw it! How perfect is that fabric selection!?! Having used some Tula Pink fabrics on my big bear, I can definitely see me incorporating more in my paper piecing

Chrissie has tested for me a few times and I know that I can always rely on her to do a great job. She chose batik fabrics (like she did when she tested my Panda pattern). I think they work really well.

The good news is that the fox pattern can now be found in my Craftsy Store and will be available at the reduced price of $2.00 for (roughly) the first 48 hours. After that it will revert to my usual pattern price.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Big Bear

Remember this big boy?

Yeah, I know, its been a while!

I must admit that if I hadn't announced on my blog that he was coming, I might have given up on him completely.

 Lets just say that the computer software that I was using was not designed to deal with printing 30 inch blocks.

There has been shouting at the computer.
There has been swearing at the computer.
There have been tears of frustration.
There have been numerous threats to give up.
There have been emails to the technical help department of EQ7.
The laptop was VERY lucky not to have been thrown across the room.

In the end, sick of hearing me complain night after night after night, my hubby finally grabbed the computer and saved the day. God I love that man!

I had intended to wait till I had feedback from all the testers before I sewed the block and I patiently waited for as long as I could. Initially this was easy as I had a whole load of projects with deadlines that came first, but when I got to the end of this list  I could wait no longer.

Yesterday was finally the day! I started while the kids were at school/ preschool and by school pick-up time it looked as if a fabric bomb had gone off in the house (oops!)

I stick by my initial assessment - fabric choice will really make or break this block and as such it is fair to say that I have never stressed so much about fabric choices as I did for this block.

Before I started sewing, I laid piles of fabric out in roughly the position that they would take in the quilt. This really helped me to judge whether there would be enough contrast between the different elements of the quilt. Computer software is good, but in the end of the day there really is no alternative to just playing with fabrics.

What I really enjoyed was that because the scale of the block it was fine break my own rules and to use big prints in the pattern. I used fabrics that I would normally never consider using for my paper piecing designs and they look amazing! Tula Pink, Frances Newcombe, Anna Maria Horner and Lizzy House to name a few.

I had fun with the fabrics; I fussy cut the zebra for the front paw and also a horse on his flank. I made sure that none of the blind mice weren't doing headstands but other than that, I wasn't too precise about their positioning.

Pen included in the photo for scale
Even though I thought I had made all my fabric choices before I started to sew, I found that I had to make a few changes as I went along. I swapped out a few light fabrics that I felt looked out of place. It was nerve racking because by this stage I was aware how well the bear was coming together and I really didn't want to put a foot wrong.

There are a few changes that need to be made to the pattern before it is ready for publication and I still have to hear back from a couple of pattern testers, but hopefully it won't be too much longer till the pattern is ready for release.

Now I have to decide what to do with the block. What do you think?

A thin border and then a thick border?
A thin border and then a scrappy border?
What would YOU do with this block?

How are you getting on with your butterflies for the Butterfly challenge? Remember entries close 31st August 8:00pm NZT. You don't want to miss your chance to win some scrummy Oakshott Cotton do you?

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