20 October 2017

A Little Happy Sew Along ~ Advent Calendar ~ Cutting Instructions and Embroidery

Welcome to week 1 of the Advent Calendar a little happy Sew Along!  Thank you for sewing along and big thank you to everyone that purchased a kit from us!!  This week, I'll be giving all the cutting instructions, plus we'll be getting all the embroidered elements ready.

BEFORE STARTING Always Remember to:

1. Read all instructions before you begin.
2. RST means right sides together.
3. All seam allowances are 1/4”.
4. FWOF means width of fabric.
5. If you need any help, please do get in touch!

Cutting Instructions

I've shown above the three different kits that we offered on the website...you can order one HERE, but by all means feel free to grab some fabrics from your stash!  

Here's what you will need to make your Advent Calendar:
  • A - Binding - Cut (3) 2 1/2" x FWOF strips
  • B - Front Top - Cut (1) 8 1/2" x 18 1/2" rectangle
  • C - Numbers - Cut (1) 7" x 17" rectangle 
  • D - Linen Front - Cut (1) 18 1/2" x 21 1/4" rectangle
  • D - Linen Christmas Countdown Panel - Cut (1) 5 1/2" x 10 1/2" rectangle
  • E - Pockets, from each of 8 different Fabrics - Cut (3) 3 1/2" squares
  • F - Backing Fabric - Cut (1) 20 1/2" x 31" rectangle (for those of you who purchased kits you can leave this piece of fabric as is)
  • F - Pocket Linings - Cut (4)  3 1/4" x 18 1/2" rectangles
  • H - Pocket Trims - a selection of ribbons and lace 
  • - Buttons - (4) small buttons for Pockets and (1) large button for the Countdown Panel
  • J - Ribbon for ties

You'll also need (not pictured)
  • Light Weight Sew In Interfacing I use Vilene L11 Cut - (1) 7" x 17" rectangle for the numbers and (1) 5 1/2" x 10 1/2" rectangle for the Countdown Panel 
  • Wadding - (1) 20 1/2" x  31" rectangle  (for those of you who purchased kits you can leave the wadding enclosed as is)
  • Aurifil 12 wt Thread or Embroidery Floss in a complimentary shade.

Lets get stitching!

First off you will need to print of THIS TEMPLATE, which includes both the numbers and also the Christmas Countdown text.

Rather than embroidering the numbers on to individual 2" squares, it's far easier to work with a larger piece of fabric.

So, on your Fabric C rectangle, using an erasable marker draw a rectangle measuring 6" x 16", then within this, draw a grid with 3 rows x 8 columns with the squares each measuring 2", you will have 24 squares in total.

At the centre of each square pop a little dot.....make sure that what ever you use to do this, it is erasable!!!

Transfer the numbers on to the fabric from the sheet you have printed off, using the dot (as shown by the arrow) to help you position them centrally within each of the 2" squares.  You may find THIS TUTORIAL helpful.   Using Back Stitch embroider all the numbers.  A Back Stitch tutorial can be found HERE.

Once you have embroidered all the numbers (1 - 24), cut using the drawn grid lines as a guide,  the (24) individual 2" squares.  From the piece of interfacing put aside for the numbers, cut (24) 2" squares.

Place a 2" square of interfacing on top of the right side of an embroidered 2" number square.  With a 1/4" seam allowance sew around all 4 sides.  Overlap the stitches at the start / end for a secure finish.
Snip off all four corners, taking care to ensure that you do not cut through the stitches.
Carefully cut a little cross in to the interfacing only.
Turn through.... a chop stitch is great for pushing out the corners.
Give each square a nice press and make sure that the centre dot reference point is removed.
Repeat for all 24 numbers!

The Christmas Countdown Panel is made in exactly the same way...just a little big larger.......  

You will need the piece of Fabric D Linen and the piece of Sew In Interfacing both measuring 5 1/2" x 10 1/2".

Then as before.......transfer the Christmas Countdown Text to the centre of the linen and embroider using Back Stitch.  Place the interfacing on top and sew around with a 1/4" seam.  Trim the corners, then pop a cross in to the centre of the interfacing...turn through and press.

Please remember, so that mum and I can follow your progress, if you're sewing along and sharing on social media please use the hashtags:

#alittlehappysewalong or/and #prettyfabricsandtrims

That's it's for this weeks Sew Along.  See you next Friday when we'll be working on the pockets and adding all the pretty trims..... my favourite bit!!

19 October 2017

La Conner Blog Tour ~ Floral Wreath Mini Quilt

Today is my turn on the La Conner Blog Tour.  La Conner is Jera Brandvig's second collection for Lecien fabrics and oh my what a beautiful collection it is!  As a quilt shop owner I get to see a lot of fabrics and I love it when there is a story behind a collection...or a collection has a meaning to its designer.......  Jera does just that and seems to design from the heart...she talks about La Conner on her blog HERE.  When Jera contacted me and asked me to be part of the blog tour to celebrate her fabric release I was absolutely thrilled...and said yes without hesitation.  

La Conner is so pretty...the collection is made up of an array of pretty florals, in shades of cranberry (reds), peony (pinks), sage (light green), evergreen (darker green), blueberry (dark blue),  wicker (grey/beige) and rain (aqua) and gasp...it also has tiny little hints of metallic.  I know metallic...remember those horrible metallics from years ago that made your fabric feel like cardboard..oh how things have changed.  La Conner is beautifully soft and a joy to sew with.

For my project, I knew I wanted it to feature lots of hand sewing....hand sewing works for me right now as , I generally do most of my sewing in the evening, when everyone is fed and watered and happy.  It works...I sew why Andy watches TV and at least I can be a little bit sociable!  Anyway...in my head I envisaged a fabric version of a painted floral wreath... so I set to drawing some applique templates and away I went!

I chose a couple of pretty blenders to compliment the La Conner fabrics...a delicate cream on cream pin dot from Kate Greenaway and a dainty dot in a lush raspberry pink from the Quilters Basics collection..both by Lecien.  For the flowers I used a mix of applique techniques....for the light and dark blue ones, I used the interfacing method...(LIKE THIS) ...for the centre circles I used Sarah Fielke's cardboard and foil applique technique and for the little red flowers and bow I needle turned, using the freezer paper technique that Atsuko Matsuyama recommends in HER BOOK.

Thread wise, I used a mix of Aurifil 50wt and 80wt (80wt is so super fine, your stitches are almost invisible!) #5007 #5020 #1128 #2260 #2311 with Clover Black Gold Applique/Sharp needles... and as you can see my favourite teeny tiny Clover Applique Pins! 
Of course I decided to hand quilt the mini....as per usual I used yet another favourite combination of Aurifil 12wt #2425 #2310 with Clover Gold Eye Embroidery Needles.
Originally I had planned on straight line quilting outside the wreath...the lines were marked using my Hera Marker at 1" spacing and then simply outlining the flowers.  But for days I just kept looking at it..it didn't seem finished....  

I went ahead and added the flange edging....I wanted it to look like a mount inside a frame...and the binding and I still kept looking at it and then earlier this week, I had a light bulb moment and started to add some shadow quilting......

and just get going until the centre of the wreath was full....much better!
I love the texture it's created.

Thank you so much Jera for inviting me to be part of the tour and for the beautiful fabric!  If you haven't already, please do make sure you pop and visit the other talented bloggers who have been making such pretty things with La Conner.....here's the list....

If you feel inspired to make your own pretty floral wreath, you can download the FREE Applique Flower Templates HERE and below is a list of the pretty fabrics and trims that I used from my website:


La Conner is available HERE
Raspberry Pink Dainty Dot is available HERE
Kate Greenaway is available HERE
Aurifil 50wt is available HERE
Aurifil 80wt is available HERE
Aurifil 12wt is available HERE 
My favourite Pins and Needles and available HERE

See you again tomorrow, for the first instalment of the Advent Calendar A Little Happy Sew Along!

17 October 2017

An interview with..... Amber Johnson of Gigi's Thimble Quilt Patterns

Over the past couple of years I have 'met' some really, really lovely people in the quilting community across the world...through running Pretty Fabrics and Trims and also through social media. Personally, I have found Instagram in particular to be a complete joy.... being able to share a love of sewing and quilting with like minded people is truly wonderful and turns what can be quite an insular hobby in to a very sociable one.  Earlier this year, a thought crossed my mind about how some of these people discovered their love of quilting, so I decided to pluck up the courage and ask the question (and a few other questions whilst I was at it!)..and I thought it would be nice to share this with you.

Today I'm sharing my little interview with Amber Johnson.  Amber is an author, a blogger at A Little Bit Biased and writes and sells quilt patterns in her shop Gigi's Thimbles, you can also find Amber on Instagram HERE, and just to say....she's also extremely lovely!   As I am sure you already know.... the quilting community is extremely generous and I was tickled pink when Amber kindly agreed to not only answer my questions, but also to write a little quilty pattern for my readers, which I'll link to at the bottom of this post....but for now, here some of Amber's beautiful patterns for you to enjoy...

Rustic Pines....Part of  the 5 Fat Quarter Fun series....a FREE pattern on Amber's Blog...this one is made up in a mix of gorgeous wovens from Snowfall, which you can find HERE

Pearl Quilt available as both a Paper Pattern or PDF Pattern in Amber's shop...imagine this one made up in beautiful Sevenberry prints available HERE!

Smooth Sailing Quilt available as both a Paper Pattern or PDF Pattern in Amber's shop..this one would look fabulous made in Ann's Arbor, which you can find HERE
and here's the little interview.......

Who or what inspired you to start quilting?
I was inspired to start quilting when I was visiting my grandmother one afternoon, about 18 years ago.  She was an avid quilter and I was a newlywed.  My husband travelled a lot for his job, we didn't have children yet and my immediate family lived a few states away.  I needed a hobby and asked her if she would teach me how to quilt.  She was thrilled to have someone else in the family interested in quilting.  I sketched out an idea I had in my mind and she took me shopping for fabric.  We spent several afternoons together going over quilt-making basics and making my first few blocks.  Then I was left to my own accord to finish the quilt top.  It took me 3 years...ha!

You have been writing and selling quilt patterns since 2009 and have also written a gorgeous book 'Vintage Vibe' .  How best would you describe your style?
Thanks for your sweet words about my book, Vintage Vibe: Traditional Quilts, Fresh Fabrics.  I kind of think that title captures my style perfectly (the book title is based off a very vintagy, two-color quilt in the book called, Vintage Vibe).  I have been drawn to old, vintage things for as long as I can remember and an old, vintage quilt that is soft, wrinkly and hand-quilted makes my heart sing!  But I also love combining modern colors and fabrics with classic quilt blocks.  Mixing the old with the new, I guess that's me. 

Vintage Vibe....Amber's gorgeous book!

Do you use specific software for your quilt designs or do you use a pen and graph paper?
I use EQ7 to design my quilts and then write the instructions up in Word.  It's been fun getting more and more familiar with both programs over the years.  I get excited as I learn and improve my skills in that department.  

Which of your patterns would be most suited towards a beginner quilter?
One of my best selling patterns is Square Dance and it's a great one for beginners.  It's charm pack friendly and comes with instructions for 4 different size quilts. 

Square Dance Quilt available as both a Paper Pattern or PDF Pattern in Amber's shop
 Do you have a long list of works in progress (like me!) or are you more disciplined and complete a project before starting on the next?
I usually have a handful of projects going at once but it does kind of drive me nuts if I have much more than that.  There was one time a couple of years ago (I think it was right after I finished my book) that I got really ambitious and finished all of my works-in-progress!  It felt so good for a minute and then suddenly, I felt all the creativity leave my soul!  Whenever I thought about starting a new project I thought, "Is it worth it?"   It was kind-of a sad place to be.  I think there's something to be said for having projects at different stages.  It keeps the creative juices flowing.  

What is next on the quilty agenda for you?
What's on the quilty agenda next?  Well, I have a few more quilt patterns bouncing around in my head so I'll try to get those on paper.  I also want to push myself to start gathering ideas for some possible fabric designs.  Not sure if anything will come of it but I really want to push myself to learn and do something new.

As I mentioned earlier, Amber kindly designed a lovely Table Topper called Gather Round.  You can download a FREE copy of it on her blog HERE.  The pattern is charm pack friendly .....perfect if you love that scrappy feel, or you could as I did, use a mix of fat quarters.......

I chose a pretty mix of Lecien fabrics from the shop, which is available as a FQ bundle HERE.
The table topper measures 27" square and was a really lovely project to make up..perfect for beginners as it is a mix of squares and half square triangles.  In fact Poppy, helped me sew the squares together!

I chose to machine quilt, which I did in a crosshatch design....
...and look how gorgeous it would be if you were to make up multiple blocks (with the help of a little photo editing!) and sew them together... isn't Amber clever!!!

I hope that you have enjoyed today's post and learning a bit more about Amber, make sure you pop over to her blog and to see her version of the Gather Round Table Topper. Thank you so much Amber for agreeing to work with me today and for sharing so generously!

See you again very soon.... I have another finish to share!!!  Whoop Whoop I'm on a roll!!

9 October 2017

Needles and Thread....and what goes with what

I've been meaning to write this blog post for an age... today is the day!  As you all know my absolute favourite thread to sew with is Aurifil thread....12wt, 40wt, 50wt, 80wt and Lana Wool.....I love it all!  However, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is 'which needle to use with which thread when I'm hand sewing'?

Over the years I've tried many different needles and I think you only realise the difference it makes to your work is when you actually do find that perfect needle.  Back in late Spring, I decided to order in a whole load of needles by Clover, the Japanese company who make many of my favourite sewing tools, the ones that I use time and time again ......  my Hera Marker, my teeny Applique Pins, my 1/4" Bias Maker to name but a few.  Since then, I've quietly been trying them out on my sewing projects over the summer and guess what.....  I finally had that eureka moment and I can happily say that I now have my go to favourites.

First up, what needle is best with Aurifil 12wt?

Personally I like a firm needle that isn't to bendy and for 12wt, it needs to have a decent size eye..... who knew 10 years ago I would even consider that to be important factor!  My needle of choice for these reasons is now a Clover Gold Eye Embroidery needle.  They come in packet of 16 needles ranging in length from 34.9mm through to 44.5mm.  I find that I naturally have a larger stitch when I'm quilting with 12 wt and so I like to have a slightly longer needle, so that I can get two or three stitches on my needle in one go.  They glide through the fabric and wadding sandwich with ease, have just the right amount of tension and are super sharp....yes....definitely sharp!

On my Advent Calendar, I used this combination of needle and 12 wt cotton thread for the hand quilting and also the embroidery......

and again on the bonus Quilt Label I included with the last month of the 'A Little Happy Year' Block of the Month......
For the hand quilting on The Potager Medallion quilt and the Popsy Doodle Dandy quilt (more about that soon!)

I also have been using them with the Aurifil Lana Wool 12wt for my Little House Pincushion.  (Another Little Happy Tutorial for which is coming soon!  Exciting hey!)

Should you prefer an even longer needle, the Clover Gold Eye Milliners needles are a fabulous alternative and have all the same advantages, but a slightly smaller eye, but big enough to get 12 wt through, no problem.

What needle is best with Aurifil 40wt, 50wt or 80wt?

For finer threads, such as the Aurifil 40wt, 50wt and 80wt my needles of choice have for a long time been Clover Black Gold needles.  If I'm totally honest, sometimes a rogue needle makes it's way in to my pin cushion and I use it.. and wonder why my stitches are not so neat.  The moment I switch back to my Black Gold's it is so noticeable.  I still remember the very first time I used them, I phoned mum up to tell her how fabulous they were!!! They seem to glide effortlessly through the fabric...possibly due the polished axis.  They are very fine, but extremely strong and and do not bend easily.  You can choose from Quilting Needles (be warned some of these needles are very short!) or Appliques/Sharps.  My personal favourite are the Applique/Sharps.  They come in a mixed size pack, but because I prefer a longer needle I use size 9's or 10's.  (Did you know the lower the hand needle size number, the longer the needle.) The only downside to these needles that I can think of, is that the eye is small....but I would imagine that you'll only be using 40wt, 50wt or 80wt thread with them and you can always use a needle threader if push comes to shove.  Just for the record, I have squeezed 12wt in before... obviously that was before I needed varifocals!

Over the summer, I've used them on various projects including those below.

I've used a combination of both 50wt and 80wt thread with the Applique/Sharps needles on this recent applique project (I'll be sharing this later this month as part of the La Conner Bog Tour).  
I've also been using them for all my English Paper Piecing and I've seen an improvement in the size of my stitches.  Just to say, I personally use 50wt for my EPP as I tend to pull my thread quite hard and I love the balance of fineness combined with strength that this thread gives me.  I know however from talking with some of you that you have had fabulous results with 80wt and almost invisible stitches!
Finally, I used them again with 50wt to hand applique the numbers on the Advent Calendar and to sew down the binding...

Scrummy Supplies

You can find all our pins & needles (and thimbles...an essential when quilting!) HERE
and our wonderful selection of Aurifil thread HERE

If you would like to read about my other favourite Quilting Tools and Notions, take a peek HERE.  Did you also notice the lovely appliqued Tilda Pincushion and Bonnie and Camille Pincushion...these were gifted to me by two of our lovely customers/friends..... you know who you are.....thank you so much I LOVE them very much!!!!

I hope that you have found this post helpful.  

Happy Stitches!

2 October 2017

A Little Happy Tutorial ~ Drunkard's Path Block

Morning everyone, I hope that you all had a super weekend.  This week our first parcels full of loveliness go out to our 'Potager Medallion Quilt' Block of the Month members.  I don't think it will be a big surprise to find that the first part of the quilt that they will be making is the background centre section comprising of the Drunkard's Path blocks.  They're really lovely, but I am sure some people are feeling a little nervous about tackling those curves....so I thought it would be useful to share how I like to stitch my Drunkard's Path Blocks. 

Each Drunkards Path block is made up of two parts as shown below.  Our BOM members will be receiving these on a sheet of A4 paper.  These templates include a 1/4" seam allowance.  What I like to do for all my templates in true 'Blue Peter' fashion is to glue them on to some cereal box card to help preserve them!

I then drew around each of the templates on to the fabric.  I use a Frixion Marker for this.  For the purpose of this example and also on the Potager Quilt,  I chose a lighter 'low volume' for template one and a darker shade for template two.

I them carefully cut out the shapes along the drawn lines.  I'm all for batch cutting, but accuracy is required for this step, so I cut them all individually.

Then with RST folded each of the pieces in half, as shown on the diagram below, and finger creased the fold.

Using the fold line as a guide, with RST pinned the two pieces together along the curved edge.

I popped a second pin in matching the upper edges....

..and a third pin in matching the bottom edges.

I then added a couple more pins in the gaps. I found 5 pins worked absolutely fine, but feel free to add more should you wish.

With a 1/4" seam allowance set on my sewing machine and with the speed turned to slow, I then carefully started stitching the seam...remember to remove the pin as you approach them.  I once didn't bother and tried to stitch over the pin... but my needle hit the pin, which resulted in the pin bending in half and ramming itself in to the bobbin case, causing all sorts of damage to my machine....be warned!

Slowly keep sewing along the curved edge until you reach the end....keep the last pin in until literally the last moment!

You'll find that there maybe creases in the Template One background fabric, these will press out, as will the finger pressed fold line...but can you see how it lines up...good isn't it!

For our BOM members the Drunkard's Path block will finish at the required size of 6 1/2", but may just need a teeny bit of trimming to size....

I press my seam toward the Quarter Circle (Template Two).

Things to consider..........If you are using directional prints, you may wish to rotate the template so that it is sitting in the position as per the finished block on your quilt, see the example below....

Troubleshooting........ obviously it doesn't always go to plan, perhaps those creases shown earlier have actually caused a little pleats in your seam, or maybe you 1/4" seam allowance has gone array as below......

Don't panic, simply unpick the small area where there is an issue, pop in some pins and re sew, maintaining a 1/4" seam.

When it comes to joining blocks, to keep a nice curve from one block to the next.....

.....I like to match the two sewn curved seams first (see below) rather than say the top and bottom edges of the blocks.  Then with RST sew the blocks together again with a 1/4" seam allowance.

Also to help reduce bulk, I press my seams open.....

The fun thing with Drunkards Path block is in deciding how to join them together...for this little example block, I went for a full circle, but there simply are I SO many options.   I really want to make more of these blocks and make a quilt....but first I must tick off some of my other works in progress...who knew I could show some self control!

I hope that you have found this useful, as always if you have any questions, please do get in touch and I will do all that I can to help!

Happy Stitches!