Sewing with young children, some tips and tricks

During the past year I’ve sewn quite a bit with my then 3-year and now 4-year-old daughter. It started so that I could do some crafting while going lockdown-crazy but it turned into something enjoyable for both of us. At first, she would just sit next to me or sit on my lap and hand me fabrics. At some point she wanted to use the scissors button on my sewing machine and I would tell her when I was done sewing a seam and she could cut the thread. After a while she also wanted to use the foot pedal. This took a bit longer to master, but she can now start and stop when I tell her to. I did have to make up the “only sew when there is fabric under the presser foot” rule though, because she would otherwise just go whenever she felt like it.

If you had asked me 3 years ago if I thought it would work to sew with a 3-year-old I would probably have said “are you crazy?”, but now I think it is absolutely possible if your child is interested and capable of following some rules. I thought it might be useful for other (grand)parents to see what I have learned from this experience so today I am sharing some tips. 

  • Keep it simple
    • Don’t try to make something super complicated with a young child around. You need to focus on your child and make certain that the sewing you do together is safe. For that reason I like to make improv blocks. You can just cut the fabric with scissors and it’s not so important to sew exact ¼ inch seams or perfectly matched seams.
  • Leave perfection outside the sewing room anyway
    • With the improv sewing we mostly do I just trim the seam allowances to approximately ¼ inch. The back of those pieces are ridiculously messy and uneven compared to the other things I sew, but I don’t mind. It’s the back. It will not be on display when the item is finished.
  • Be clear about what your child can and cannot touch in your room
    • I do not want my child’s hands near the needle of the sewing machine and for that reason I am still guiding the fabric through the machine while she controls the foot pedal.
    • Rotary cutters, sharp scissors and iron are off limits. There is only one pair of scissors in my sewing room that she is allowed to use and she knows this.
    • My daughter knows she can touch some of the buttons on my sewing machine like the thread cutter and speed control (yes, the latter can give some surprises while you’re sewing…) and she knows not to touch the others. It really would be too annoying if she changed the straight stitch to a zig zag or the stitch length. Has this always gone well? Hmm, I did at some point have some tension issues with my overlocker because she had touched the differential feed and stitch length dials, she now knows to stay away from them.

  • Be clear about which fabrics and supplies your child is allowed to use
    • My daughter knows she can pick anything from my scrap bins, but not from the larger pieces that are stored in the closets. When we need a larger piece of fabric for something I’ll make a preselection and give her a limited number of options to choose from. If I would not do this my daughter would most likely completely mess up my fat quarter storage system looking for pretty fabrics. This way she will also not end up disappointed because she picked a fabric that I was still saving for another project and do not want her to use.
  • Get a seam roller
    • Pressing seams certainly results in a better looking finished project but I really do not want a hot iron in a room with my child. She knows it can get hot and that she shouldn’t touch it, but accidents can happen and I rather prefer to have my daughter’s skin intact over perfectly pressed seams. At first, I finger pressed seams and that worked somewhat but at some point I bought a Clover seam roller and that does work much better. I now just use the seam roller when my daughter is in the room and give the pieces we made another press with the iron when she’s not around.
  • Plan ahead
    • There are some steps in a project that you can’t really do without a rotary cutter or iron or that need your full attention. When we sewed a bag for one of her teachers, I cut the pieces for the bag when my daughter wasn’t around so that she could help with the construction later on.
  • Follow your child’s interests
    • Ask what your child would like to make and then turn that idea into something manageable. We started because she found some improv trees I had made that she liked and she wanted to make some trees of her own and I thought we could just give it a shot. When she wanted to make pyjamas for her stuffed animals we made a sleeping bag instead.
  • Accept that your sewing room will turn into (an even bigger) mess
    • My scraps are now super messy boxes on the floor because my daughter is always rummaging through them. I can live with this.
  • Stop when you notice your child starts to lose interest
    • Children don’t have a very long attention span. If they want to do something different after sewing only 3 seams, that’s just fine. If you continue because you want to finish something they’ll just start looking around your room trying to find something more interesting to do and make a mess. There were days we added just 1 or 2 trees to our forest, that’s fine. Eventually we had enough trees to make an entire quilt.

And finally, if you really want to sew and your child doesn’t, you can also sew while your child is sitting next to you cutting up pieces of paper, taping fabric scraps to paper, sorting your beads or watching Netflix. Just saying…

For our latest project we made her teachers mug rugs as an end of schoolyear gift. She picked the fabrics from my scrap bins and told me how they should be put together. She operated the foot pedal for some of the seams and for others I sewed them while she sat on my lap. She cut the thread and sometimes lifted the presser foot. She picked the thread colours for the quilting and edges of the mug rug and decided whether we should do straight or wavy quilting lines. I absolutely love how both of them turned out!

Have you ever sewn with young children and have some other tips that make the experience even more fun?

Completed: Stitch & Flip for Lette

Last year I made a quilt for my nephew and of course his little sister should get one too! I used the stitch and flip triangle technique from the book “Quilting modern” by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pederson. Each square got two triangles on opposite corners.

I started with the light grey background and used scraps for the triangles. When I ran out of the light grey I added the black and at some point also started to cut triangles from yardage, fat quarters and layer cakes because I wanted a different fabric for each triangle and not all of my scraps were large enough anymore. I even unpicked a couple of squares when I realised I had duplicates. When I ran out of black background I switched to neon green. I also made some pink squares but liked the overall look better without the pink. The blocks finish at 4 ¾’’.

The squares were rearranged on my design wall until I found a layout I liked and pieced together into the top. Then it took a very long time before I knew what I wanted to do with the back. For her brother I had included his name on the back and I thought it would be nice to also do that for this quilt but I just couldn’t decide on which fabrics to use. The solution came when I started to play with solids.

The batting is Hobbs Tuscany cotton wool, which remains my favourite. For the quilting I did a walking foot orange peel design that I found in Jacquie Gering’s book “Walk”. A book I can recommend to anyone who wants to get a bit more adventurous with their walking foot. To stabilize everything and get rid of most of the basting pins I first did some stitch in the ditch quilting using white Aurifil 50wt thread. For the orange peels I used 28wt Gutermann Sulky thread in 6 different colours. I only marked dots using a template and stitched from fabric intersection to dot to fabric intersection. This worked well and quilting went a lot quicker than I had expected. The curves aren’t exactly identical for every peel, but that’s ok. This curvy design adds a lot more to the quilt than a straight line cross hatch would have done.

The binding was the next hurdle. I always wonder how some people can already pick a binding fabric at the start of the project. I don’t even try anymore, probably because my quilts develop organically and I don’t always know at the start what it’ll look like in the end. A fabric that I think will work at the start nearly always doesn’t. Anyway, I thought I’d figured something out that would work, cut out strips from several solid fabrics but when I draped them around the quilt, it was just “meh”. Then I ordered some fabric but it turned out way too dark. However, it looked absolutely great with the top I had up on my design wall so unexpectedly I had suddenly solved another back problem. Still no binding for this quilt though. I proceeded by holding up lots and lots of different fabrics from my stash until I found the fabric that you now see. This is the aqua crosses fabric from the Safari life line from Stacy Iest Hsu. Only problem, I had maybe half a jelly roll strip left so that was not going to cut it. Luckily, I found a fabric store in the Netherlands that still had enough of this fabric in stock and all was well in the end. This fabric works with both front and back of the quilt.

In total I used 175 different fabrics in this quilt, 3, background fabrics, 160 triangles, 11 fabrics on the back and 1 binding. I think this is a record for me. I finished the quilt just in time to gift it on my nieces 1st birthday. If hope she’ll enjoy using it for a very long time.

Completed: wholecloth handquilted pillow

With the Dutch modern quilt guild we have a theme each quarter and we are challenged to make things that fit inside this theme. Last summer the theme was modern traditional. The challenge was to create something with a modern twist using the churn dash, ohio star, dutchman’s puzzle or basket traditional block.

I played around with the idea of doing a wholecloth quilt where the quilting defines the shapes of the traditional block. I got as far as making a small quilt sandwich and machine quilting the outlines of the Dutchman’s puzzle. Then I got sort of stuck on what to do next and it just sat in one of the piles on the desk next to my sewing machine.

The first theme of 2021 was slow stitching and we did a Zoom hand quilting workshop for which I needed something to practice on. Instead of making another quilt sandwich I simply pulled the unfinished Dutchman’s puzzle from the pile and started stitching in the background triangles without much of a plan. Just starting is sometimes the best way to get out of indecision. I used the Sulky 12wt Cotton Petites thread that I had received from the DutchMQG for this theme and I really liked sewing with it. It sewed smoothly and didn’t tangle.

After filling in the background triangles it was time to do something with the geese and I thought the piece needed a bit more colour so I switched to the thicker Wonderfil Perle 8 thread that I already had in my stash and picked green, blue, pink and yellow. After finishing I didn’t like the yellow so much because the contrast with the green background wasn’t as good as with the other 3 colours so I replaced it with a light brown which worked much better.

At some point I also started to hate the black machine stitched lines and pulled those out as well. Much, much better.

For the back of the pillow I picked a quilting cotton from my stash and underlined it with another piece of cotton before installing an invisible zipper. I am very happy with how this pillow turned out. I am now toying with the idea of doing a larger wholecloth quilt to create a handquilted sampler using traditional block shapes. I do tend to overthink these things and am currently stuck on what to choose for the background fabric since that is going to define the look of the piece so much. Suggestions anyone?

Sewing room tour

Despite always finding it interesting to take a peek into other people’s sewing spaces to get inspiration on how to improve my own set up, I have never shown my own sewing room on this blog. In February I spend a couple of days doing a much needed clean up and decided that would be a good moment to also take some pictures of the room. It is usually not as tidy, but since taking these pictures I’ve been pretty good at keeping it in this condition.  

I am lucky to have a large space to use as a dedicated sewing room. When we bought our house a little over 6 years ago I sewed very often and a proper sewing room was very high on my list of requirements. This room is on the top floor of our house and while the ceiling is slanted it does not really reduce the amount of usable space since the roof only starts about a meter up from the floor. I can stand upright in most of the room. The large window provides a lot of natural light and the high ceiling makes it feel very roomy. I love this room.

My sewing machines are on a large IKEA desk. I usually have it set up like this with the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9400 on the right, the Janome 3160 QDC in the middle and the overlocker on the left. I absolutely love being able to use two sewing machines at the same time. I mostly use the 3160 for piecing quilt tops and then use the 9400 for quilting or garment sewing. It saves a lot of time changing threads and needles when I am working on different projects at the same time which is nearly always. Next to the sewing machines I have some containers in which spools of thread are stored and some often used notions and accessories for the 9400.

Our old dining room table holds my cutting mat. I find it ideal that I can walk around the table to cut or mark things from every side. At some point I’d like to raise the table so I don’t have to bend down to cut fabric but at the moment I’m also occasionally using this table to work from home so that’ll have to wait a little while longer. Next to the cutting table I put my dress form. I’m not making a lot of clothes for myself these days so I am not using it all that often. It’s a good space to store measuring tapes though.

My ironing board is set up next to the basin. This is mostly due to how the sockets are distributed across the room. Ideally it would be a bit closer to the sewing machines so I wouldn’t have to walk back and forth so much.

On one side of the room a previous owner installed some shelves and a built in closet with sliding doors. The shelves hold my sewing books and patterns. The build in closet is really deep so I can store huge amounts of stuff in there and to be honest the contents of this closet are only semi-organized. This is certainly a part of the room that could still do with some improvement. This closet contains large things like batting and fabric yardage, both quilting cottons and apparel fabrics, but also several coats that we’re not using because they’re out of season and lots of other random stuff that I may or may not need at some point. Above the closet I installed a curtain rod to display the mini quilt and quilted postcards that I received in swaps from fellow members of the DutchMQG so I can enjoy looking at them when I’m sewing. It also holds many artworks created by my daughter while she was playing in this room as I was sewing.

On the other side of the room I put 3 IKEA MALM chests of drawers. The left one currently holds sewing machine accessories and notions like elastics, interfacing and overlocker thread. The middle one contains smaller cuts of quilting fabrics like fat quarters, layer cakes and jelly rolls. The one on the right is a more jumbled collection of yarn, apparel fabrics and miscellaneous stuff. The two on the left are lower so I can store sewing machines that are not in use on top to create more space on my sewing desk when needed. Next to the chests of drawers there are also two large containers that hold a lot of fabric. One container contains woven fabrics for either bag making or clothing, the other container mostly contains knit fabrics. At some point in the past all my fabric fit in those containers. Imagine that! This was prior to my taking up quilting seriously.

Fat quarters somewhat organized by colour. I obviously don’t get too obsessed about this.

One downside of the slanted ceiling and the big window is that there is not a lot of straight wall space that can be used for a design wall. The only space where it fits is in between the door and the basin. The design wall is just a piece of white flannel with a hanging rod at the top and a smaller rod at the bottom to keep it hanging straight. I sometimes would like it to be a bit wider but most of my quilts fit well on this size.

By nature I am not a super tidy person. I’ve found that the trick to keeping your sewing room organized is to have a dedicated place for each item so you know where to put it back after using it. Yes, this probably seems very obvious, but it has made a huge difference for me in being able to find that specific ruler or fabric marker that I need. I am still super happy with the mobile pegboard that I came up with several years ago. I use it to store my rulers, scissors, rotary cutters, markers/pens, bobbins, even more spools of thread and works in progress. The tutorial for the mobile pegboard is currently the most popular post on my blog and I sometimes wonder how many of these are already residing in other people’s sewing rooms.

During the clean up I realized that I still don’t really have a good spot for storing my hand sewing supplies and that is something I will need to fix because currently I am just moving these items from one place to the next which is a well-tested recipe for creating chaos. One thing piles on top of each other and before I know it complete table surfaces have turned into mountains of stuff.

I’d also like to get a better container for storing scraps. They’re now in 2 open containers on the floor. A situation grown from sewing with my daughter so she could easily grab the fabrics that she wants to use but it is messy. Something with a lid is probably a better idea.

Well, this post turned out much longer than I expected. Do you also enjoy peeking into other people’s sewing rooms?

My next newsletter goes out in a couple of days so if you’re interested to find out a bit more about me and what I get up to there’s still time to sign up.

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.

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: 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.