Completed: Kantha running stitch pillow

Some days I simply crave a finish. Luckily I have plenty of unfinished projects lying around to satisfy that itch. One was half a pillow that I started for one of the projects in the Alison Glass stitch club 2020 that focused on hand stitching. This was a project from the June issue to get familiar with the Kantha running stitch. The idea was to create a piece of patchwork from strips and just fill those in with the running stitch and then sew it to a back to create a pillow.

I gave it my own twist by using a single background colour and a couple of floating colourful rectangles. The colour of the Wonderfil perle 8 cotton threads I used for the Kantha stitching were matched to the colour of the strip I was sewing and I think this looks really nice in the strips that have a splash of colour in them.

The front of the pillow was completed in just a couple of days. I enjoyed doing the running stitch and once I got the hang of loading multiple stitches on the needle sewing was pretty quick. Then I got kind of stuck on the back. I had found a fabric in my stash that I thought would look nice but I wasn’t sure what kind of closure I wanted to do. Envelope? But I felt the print on the back might not look so good cut up. An invisible zipper? But I didn’t have a matching colour… And so the piece sat unfinished for more than 6 months even though I picked it up a couple of times but I kept asking myself the same questions.

In the end I decided that an invisible zipper would look best and that this pandemic is taking too long to wait for matching zipper colours. I’d have preferred to use a black one but I did have grey on hand and since the zipper is invisible you only really see the zipper pull anyway.

The front was already constructed as two layers and I only trimmed it square and did an overlock stitch around the edges to prevent fraying. For the back I also cut a lining piece because I feel that pillows do look better when they’re lined instead of a single layer of fabric.

Whenever I make a project like this I think I should do hand sewing more often since I enjoy it so much when I am doing it, but then usually I end up not not doing any hand stitching for months. This quarter my guild’s theme is slow stitching though and that is a very good reason to pick up some hand sewing needles soon.  

I also should buy more pillow forms because each time I make a new cover I have to remove one from another pillow. Or I should stop making more, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon right?

Completed: Dress 18 from Knippie December 2019/January 2020

I made a dress for my daughter using a pattern from Knippie December 2019/2020. If you feel it doesn’t really look like the line drawing you’re absolutely right. The pattern came from a party issue of the magazine and it features a lace ruffle at the shoulders and a detachable overskirt. I am not big on ruffles and detachable skirts aren’t really all that practical for everyday use. I was looking for a basic dress pattern for knit fabrics and couldn’t really find anything else in my stash that fit the bill so decided to give this one a try skipping on the extra frill.

I gave my daughter some options for fabrics from my stash and she picked this lovely stripe. It feels very soft on both front and back and behaved well under my sewing machine. Sewing the dress was quite straightforward. Stripe matching was definitely more successful on one side, however, and when I got to hemming I realized this was probably due to how I cut the back bodice because the stripes at the back hem are definitely not so straight…

I followed the instructions for attaching the neck binding but this is definitely not my preferred method. You start by sewing the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the bodice and then fold it over to the right side, fold the other raw edge under and topstitch. I find this super fiddly and had to use a lot of pins to get it to look somewhat decent. With a solid fabric this is probably easier than when you’re also dealing with a stripe though. The V is created by folding the attached binding at the front and sewing a small diagonal seam. One advantage of this binding method over what I usually do is that the finish on the inside is very neat. I just find it a lot easier and faster to attach the binding already folded.

One of the annoying things of the current pandemic situation is that it’s not possible to buy matching thread. I didn’t have any dark enough blue thread left and in the end decided that topstitching with black thread would be preferable to waiting until I could buy matching thread with the risk that by that time my daughter no longer fit the dress.

My daughter is happy with her new dress so that’s always a win. I do find that the V-neck finishes a bit on the low side though. It’s a too cold right now to not wear anything underneath which now sometimes peeps out. Otherwise it looks comfortable to wear and that’s one of the most important things when you’re an active 4 year old.

Completed: curvy crosses drawstring bag

In December I participated in a winter swap organized by the dutchMQG. We each had to prepare 12 gifts for another member and some of the gifts had to be handmade. They were opened in the 12 days preceding Christmas and it was a lot of fun to see what everyone received. I had to make something for Ingrid and she loves blue and plus blocks so to combine those two in an item was a given. Each quarter we also have a specific theme at our guild and at the time it was curves, so I also wanted to include some curved piecing

For my final gift I made a quilted drawstring bag. I first sewed 9 improv curvy cross blocks to create a panel for the front of the bag. This was framed in a dark blue solid fabric to make it large enough. For the back panel I used a single piece of the same dark blue solid. The front was quilted in the ditch and on the back I quilted one large curvy cross.

The front and back panels were sewn together and the corners at the bottom were boxed so that the bag can stand up on its own. I did not use a separate lining. For the sides I used French seams and for the corners the seams were bound with a strip of fabric because the layers just got too thick for French seams.

For the closure at the top I used a single layer of the dark blue solid because that would make it easier to close the bag than when you have to pull a quilted layer together. The top was folded over to create the channel for the drawstring. It was attached to the main piece and again I used some binding to cover the seam.

I dug through my collection of saved ribbons for something suitable to use for the drawstring and found this nice off white piece that was just long enough. I am very pleased with how this bag turned out!

My first newsletter goes out on Saturday so if you don’t want to miss it there is still time to sign up here! I will share a personal story of how I came to be where I am now and what my plans are for the near future.

Completed: boxy pouches galore!

My daughter turned 4 years old and as a result no longer goes to daycare but to school. Time does really fly these days. We wanted to give her 3 daycare teachers a special goodbye gift and decided (well, I suppose this decision was mostly mine) on quilted pouches with improv piecing.

My daughter dug through my scraps to find pieces she wanted to combine. For a lot of the sewing and quilting she even operated the foot pedal and scissors button. This goes better each time we sew together. The original plan was to make the entire pouch using improv pieced scraps but we ran out of time and the piece we had made just wasn’t big enough to make 3 pouches. Instead I cut it into 3 wedges and let my daughter pick a solid fabric to combine with each piece. For some extra interest I also used a piece of cork leather for each pouch that was added after the pieced panel was quilted. I love it when a change of plan results in an even better looking item!

Add a lining, a zipper and some binding to finish off the inside seams and 3 pouches were completed. My daughter was super happy with how they turned out and excited to gift them. It was funny to see how she decided that certain fabrics definitely had to go in the pouch for a specific teacher.

A new journey has started. Going to school is very different from how we imagined it would be when we enrolled her. Schools in The Netherlands will be closed for at least another couple of weeks for most of the students. On the days she can go it’s just a couple of students in the class. On the other days there is a half hour online meeting with the teacher and we do some assignments with her at home. I am happy that she does appear to be enjoying herself. That’s probably an advantage of starting school now, she has no clue what it is really supposed to be like.

Newsletter

I’ve decided to try something new and am starting a monthly newsletter at the end of January. I’ve been digging deeper into Adobe Illustrator and am now using it to turn some of my designs into real quilting patterns! If you’d like to know a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes and don’t want to miss anything you can sign up for the newsletter here.

Tutorial: Greeting cards with fabric

I’ve been using tiny scraps to make greeting cards. I came up with the idea when I wanted to send a pretty card but didn’t really have anything suitable left and didn’t want to visit a shop to buy one. It’s a super quick method and I thought some of you might be interested in a tutorial so you can use up some of your own scraps in a fun way!

What do you need?

  • Blank (coloured) greeting cards
  • White or coloured card stock (I use 160 gms)
  • Fabric scraps
  • Ruler
  • Rotary cutter
  • Sewline glue pen (or another basting glue that doesn’t leach through the fabric)
  • Thread
  • Old sewing machine needle to sew through paper
  • Sewing machine
  • Double sided sticky tape

Method

1. Use the rotary cutter and ruler to cut a piece of card stock slightly smaller than the front of the greeting card.

2. Cut fabric scraps and arrange on piece of card stock until you are happy with the layout.

3. Use the glue pen to stick the fabric to the card stock. Only use a small amount of glue, it’s just to make sure the fabric doesn’t shift around when you’re sewing.

4. Put an old needle in your sewing machine.

5. Make sure the ends of top and bobbin threads are pulled out a bit before starting to sew. Sew through the fabric scraps and make sure to also leave a thread tail at the end.

6. Pull on the thread at the back of the cardstock to pull the thread that’s on the front through to the back as well.

7. Tie a knot in the threads and either trim short or weave the ends into the stitching.


8. Put a couple of pieces of double sided sticky tape on the back of the card stock.

9. Use a ruler as a guide to make sure that you stick the piece of card stock centered on the greeting card.


10. Write message on the inside and put in the mail!

Alternatives

For an even quicker make you can also stitch the fabric directly onto the front of a double greeting card. The stitching and thread ends will show on the inside of the card but that’s part of the charm of a handmade card right? Do make sure to open the card before you start sewing though or it may be very difficult to write your message afterwards. I probably don’t need to spell out how I came up with that last piece of advice…

I also like to make fabric postcards using the method described in this tutorial that I made years ago, but those postcards take a lot longer to make so it’s not something I’ll do when I only have a little bit of time to sew. Have you ever used fabric to make greeting cards? 

Completed: Are we out of the woods yet?

Oh pandemic of 2020… I started this quilt together with my daughter during the first lockdown in the Netherlands which lasted from March to May. I did show some of the process before, including how it started and how I assembled all the trees into a quilt top.

This is an image of a quilt with colourful improv trees

Basically, in an effort to stay sane with two kids at home 24/7 and hardly any time or energy left to do stuff for myself, my daughter and I started making improv trees using scrap fabrics that she picked from my scrap bins when my other daughter was sleeping. She enjoyed spending time in my sewing room with me and I could get some sewing done. Win win.

I turned all those super scrappy tree blocks into a randomly arranged forest representing the pandemic and uncertainty we are still in.

This image shows the back of an improv tree quilt with the haning sleeve and label.

After completing the front my daughter wanted to make more trees for a while, and a house, so I just used those for the back of the quilt. Which looks quite nice, but since the quilt is a wall hanging this side will not be on display very often.

I took a long time deciding how to quilt it. I considered simple straight line quilting from top to bottom, or wavy horizontal quilting, but that just didn’t really feel right or like it would add much to the design. Suddenly I realized I could create a denser forest by quilting tree shapes over the fabric trees. I really like how that turned out, even though I vouched doing a design that requires less starts and stops and burying of threads next time. The batting is Quilters Dream Poly Select which I like for wall hangings.

This images shows a detail shot of a colourful improv tree quilt that has trees quilted on it.

For the binding I chose a tiny white polkadot on petrol that I think works well with both the quilt and the colours that we’ve already used to decorate our daughter’s room. As usual I hand sewed the binding because I really love how that looks. On a quilt this size it doesn’t even take that long.

This image shows all four corners of a quilt binding.

The hanging sleeve was made from the same fabric and since I had never added a sleeve I looked around for some tips and tricks on how to do it and ended up following a tutorial from Suzy Quilts. I also added a label and then the quilt was finally completed right in the middle of the second lockdown in the Netherlands. What could be more fitting?

This image shows a detail shot of a quilt label

Now all that is left is hanging the quilt in my daughter’s room. Due to the lockdown all home improvement stores are closed at the moment, so I’ll need to dig around to see if we have any wooden rods and screw eyes laying around that would be suitable.

This image shows a detailshot of quilted trees on a scrappy improv tree quilt.

I wish everyone a very good (hopefully physically distanced) Christmas tomorrow. I am hopeful that 2021 will bring better times. In March I was very sceptical that we’d have even one vaccine ready by the end of 2020, how glad am I to have been proven wrong on this count. Stay safe and sew!

Completed: Teacher’s bag

My daughters go to daycare and one of the teachers recently left. My youngest is probably her biggest fan so we were a little sad when we heard the news. So, I decided to make her a gift with a little help of my eldest.

The original plan was to make a simple tote bag with appliqued fabric scraps on both sides. My daughter was in charge of scrap selection and placement. My task was to sew everything in place according to her instructions.

I fear I may no longer be able to make “simple” tote bags. After completing the front and back panel I thought “hmm, you can of course see the zig zag stitching inside the bag, a lining to cover that up would be nice”. This was quickly followed by “if I’m making a lining I may as well make the bag even more useful by adding a patch pocket”, “a key chain so keys don’t get lost among all the other stuff would also be nice” and “an adjustable strap so she can choose whether to wear it as a shoulder bag or cross body would be great and I do still have webbing and sliders in my stash”.

After all that I was sort of able to stop myself from adding more features except that I really wanted to add a closure at the top of the bag. One of the quickest closures to install is a magnetic snap. Sadly I didn’t have any in my stash. There was, however, still time to order some so I did.

I am very pleased with how this bag turned out. There are some risks when you let a 3 year old select scraps but I really like what she picked and how they’re arranged. I didn’t have enough black webbing to make both sides of the strap so I let my daughter decide whether the teacher would prefer yellow or pink as an accent detail. No idea whether pink was really the correct answer to that question but I certainly like it!

Completed: What makes you think I love triangles?

This quilt started as a “what if” experiment. I have a stack of colourful 10’’ squares and thought to myself “what if I layer them on top of each other, slice them into two triangles, put one triangle to the side and then repeat this procedure twice with the other one? The next step was mixing up the fabrics to get as much variation in the blocks as possible and sew them back together into squares.

I wanted to make 30 blocks and picked 33 different fabrics so I’d have some extra blocks to play with. After sewing several seams and a couple of trimming steps in each block I could square them to 8’’, so the final quilt measures 37.5 x 45’’ or approximately 94 x 112 cm.

It was a lot of fun to choose a layout. The 3 different sizes triangles in the blocks create additional shapes in the design and I kept adjusting the placement of the blocks over several days to achieve the final layout.

For the back I started with the improv pieced name of the recipient and added two rows of trucks/tractors because I know he’s into that kind of stuff. It gives the quilt a bit more of a child vibe than I usually go for, but I quite like it.

Let there never be any doubt who’s quilt this is!

The batting is Hobbs Tuscany cotton wool and thread a variegated Guttermann Sulky that I already had in my stash which is a very good match for several of the colours in the quilt.

Details of the walking foot quilting.

For the quilting I decided to go for a no markings needed design and sort of followed the shapes that I saw in the quilt. Quilting didn’t take as much time as I’d expected and I really like how it turned out.  

I love hand binding and this Karin Lewis Blueberry Park fabric is just perfect for binding because it seems to go with everything!

I’m thinking of making another quilt using this method but then using solids. Is anyone interested in a more detailed explanation of how to make these blocks? I forgot to take pictures when I made this one, but would be happy to make a small tutorial showing all the cutting and trimming steps.

Completed: A quilt for Lana

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So happy I finally finished this quilt! I basted it back in February and then all sorts of things happened in the world and the need to get if finished quickly disappeared. I quilted it a couple of weekends ago and added the binding over several short sessions.

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Batting is Hobbs Tuscany cotton/wool, which so far remains my favourite batting for quilts that will be used as blankets. It’s soft and drapey and, not unimportant, I like quilting it. The finished size of the quilt before I washed it was 96 x 114.5 cm, I didn’t measure afterwards but it’s probably slightly smaller now.

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On the back you can see the quilting much better.

I used a neutral Guttermann Sulky 30wt cotton thread for quilting. The quilting design is simple. In the lighter parts I quilted ½’’ away from the seam lines and in the darker parts I did a zig zag that is the mirror image of the zig zag created by the seam lines in the quilt. I only did very minimal marking for the zig zag and even though I didn’t always hit the mark exactly you can’t really tell in the finished quilt. The child’s name was quilted with a more shiny purple thread.

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Small marks to help me quilt in the right direction

For the binding I picked a black fabric and while it’s perhaps not the most obvious choice I like how it turned out. I still need to gift this quilt but I don’t think the parents read my blog so it’s probably safe to already show it here.

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All the long straight lines in the lighter parts of the quilt are done.

Although it’s not really obvious on this blog (yet) I have been spending so much more time in my sewing room lately and that is great. I am experimenting with different techniques, quilt designs and generally just having a lot of fun. Expect to see some more activity here in the coming months when all those projects (hopefully) get finished!

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Completed: Bellen blazen mini quilt

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Bellen blazen

This year the dutchMQG has set a theme for each quarter and there is usually also an activity organized around this theme. With this quarter’s theme “colour” we had the option to participate in a swap to make a miniquilt for another member. We had to make an inspirational mosaic for our swap partner and answer some colour-related questions.

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Mique’s mosaic

I had to make something for Mique and she said she likes curves, abstract art and happy colours. She also said she’d basically like her partner to make anything as long as it brought joy. Ah, well, that sounded totally doable and up my street!

In the questions she answered that she liked everything by the painter Kadinsky, so I had a look at his work and noticed a lot of colourful circles. So, combined with her liking for curves I figured I’d give her a quilt that, apart from the binding around it, doesn’t have a single straight seam in the top! I played around in Illustrator for a bit to get a layout I liked. Considering the options on how to piece the quite complex design I thought that English Paper piecing (EPP) would probably be my best bet. So I recreated the design using a compass on four A4 160gr sheets I had taped together and cut to a 16.5’’ square.

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The right picture shows the circles I drew with the compass, they’re a bit hard to see, sorry.

As a complete side note, I found Florence Knapp’s book “Flossie teacakes’ Guide to English Paper Piecing” extremely useful in figuring out how to wrap the papers and piece the curves. I ordered her book as soon as I saw that she had written one as I’ve followed her blog for several years now, enjoy her writing style and admire her intricate EPP work, despite my complete lack of understanding of her love for Liberty prints (sorry folks, most of those prints just don’t do it for me). Anyway, if you want to get into EPP I can highly recommend Florence’s book.

Since the theme was colour I wanted colour to play an important role in the design and I thought the cirles would be an excellent opportunity to play around with transparency. Years ago I bought a light and dark fat quarter bundle of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons so I had a lot of different colours to choose from. I cut a tiny piece of each colour and started playing around by laying the pieces of fabric on the still uncut piece of paper. When I found a layout I liked I labelled each tiny piece of fabric with the corresponding number of the pattern piece. There are 28 pattern pieces and 27 different colours.

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Playing with colour.

The next step was cutting the paper into templates and I made sure to also label each piece on the back (since the front would end up covered in fabric) and also indicated which other templates a piece had to be joined on each side to make my life easier later on.

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For wrapping around the paper templates I used a Sewline glue stick because Florence specifically advised this for wrapping curves. I didn’t have any trouble wrapping and it was certainly a lot faster than the thread basting I had used for my previous (and to be honest very limited) EPP endeavours.

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Piecing sections.

For piecing I used Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread which I have in several neutral colours, picking the shade that was least conspicuous for each seam. Sewing went smoother than anticipated (feared?), probably because I carefully considered the order in which I put things together, trying to keep the seams as short as possible and avoiding any sharp corners. It’s certainly not perfect, but close enough for me.

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All pieced, paper still inside.

For the back I decided to sort of stay in the Kaffe Fassett theme and selected four 10’’ squares with prints that certainly tick the happy colours box. I recently decided that I wanted to experiment a bit more with different battings and this time I used Quilters Dream Poly Select and so far I like working with it. It gives quite a flat finish.

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The overlapping circles of the top started to remind me of blowing bubbles which I did a lot with my daughter during the first couple of weeks of the lockdown. When I started considering how to quilt the top I decided that I wanted to incorporate that idea even more and selected a variegated thread to add more colourful overlapping circles. I used several plates to draw circles and quilted them with a walking foot. Since I was going to turn the quilt constantly to sew the circles the quilt was spray basted to prevent the fabric from shifting.

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Rejected binding options.

Selecting the binding took a long time as I auditioned a lot of fabrics before I found something that worked. White and grey fabrics were too boring and didn’t add anything to the design. Dark fabrics were better but dominated too much. In the end I pulled some leftovers from a solids jelly roll that, if I remember correctly, was designed/curated by Elizabeth Hartman. When I started playing with those it all came together. When the right colour was added to a side it enhanced the design so a colourful, pieced binding it was.

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I think the binding works well on both sides, which was a lucky accident since I originally planned to use a single binding fabric.

As a final touch I added a label. I rarely make labels this elaborate, usually it’s just my initials and the year, but for this piece it seemed like the right thing to do. I named this quilt “Bellen blazen”, which is Dutch for blowing bubbles.

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I am super pleased with how this small quilt turned out and I found it quite difficult to stuff it in an envelope to mail to someone else. I just have to remind myself that without this swap I would never even have made anything like this. I learned a lot from the process of making this quilt and am now contemplating making something similar for myself.

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Quilting close up.

Finally, I am guessing some of you will be curious to know what I received in return? Erica made me a beautiful quilt inspired by Katie Pedersen‘s “Fractured quilt” from the book “Quilting Modern”. This quilt is one of my favourites in this book so that choice was spot on. I also really love the colour combinations and that the quilt is bound in a way that you can’t see the binding (or should I call it a facing?) from the front. I think that really works for this quilt. I am going to hang it in my sewing room so I can look at it often. This was definitely a good swap to participate in.

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The quilt Erica made for me.