Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Small World - Part 5 finished!

Back again to finish the third and fourth components of part 5, the pieced arcs and the hexagons. I decided I would hand piece these, and I'm not going to lie, when I looked at the size of the templates in the pattern, especially the teeny tiny triangles, I did get a little bit scared. But I really want to say, there is nothing to fear, this honestly was a breeze. Yes it is a bit of a tedium to cut all those little pieces, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn't take that long (I reckon you could easily sit down to start the arc section and have it all finished in a few hours if you really wanted to). Another way to do this that a lot of people are choosing is to foundation piece, and Kerry has shared some pics on how she went about this.

As with my other templates, I used freezer paper. I worked on one row at a time - don't go confusing yourself with a squillion tiny bits of fabric, things will only get lost and/or confused. I raided the ziplock bag of tiny scraps I'd been saving in the making of the quilt, and found plenty there to meet the needs of this part. I chose the right number of light coloured and medium coloured scraps, cut them into appropriate sizes, then one by one stood at the ironing board, pressing the template piece on, tracing round with a pencil and cutting out, leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance (I eyeballed this and didn't draw it in, but if you like to be super careful or are new to hand piecing, it can be very helpful to draw the second line in). 

Lay the pieces out in front of you, and starting from the left hand side, stitch two pieces together, add another, and another, and so on. You can see in the photo on the left below, I pinned at both ends of the stitching line, making sure that the pin went through exactly at the right spot on both pieces. Again use a tiny running stitch, taking a back stitch at the start of the line (I immediately remove the first pin before I start to stitch). Literally it will take ten or so seconds to stitch that tiny line! 

You don't even need to stop and cut your thread to start the next piece - just pin the next piece on in the same way, take the needle through to the other side, and start stitching the next line (take a back stitch first). As long as you align your pieces correctly and start at the right end, you can sew the whole row of triangles in one go.

Once you've got all three arcs sewn, now comes the fun part of stitching the rows together. I used a lot of pins again, aligning the tip of the skinny triangle in the row below with the midpoint of the bottom of the triangle in the row above. Stitch in one line, taking a back stitch at the start and end of each drawn line, and taking the thread through to the next piece (that is, don't stitch the seam allowances down, just pass through the intersecting points and take a backstitch before you start again).

I didn't take a picture of the appliqué part of this step, but all I did was finger press the top edge of the rainbow over by 1/4 inch, paint the seam allowance with a little starch, and then press with the iron. Glue into place and stitch. I have to confess at this point I made a little error - I hadn't realised that the inner semi-circle left by the rainbow was not meant to be an extra piece appliquéd on, but was just the background fabric poking through from underneath, and therefore the bottom edge also needed to be turned under and appliquéd. When I realised this, I'd already attached the top edge, and so it was a bit awkward to press the bottom edge into place. As a result, it looks like a bit of a dog's breakfast. (You can see it in the picture at the top of this post). I might still go back and appliqué a piece over the top instead. Or I might just leave it.

 Also a note about the number of pieces in the triangle arcs - look carefully at the pattern, some of this part gets covered up by the adjacent hexy rainbow, so remember that you don't have to do complete arcs (through to the right hand side, see above). Think about this when you place the piece on the background ready to appliqué, and also remember that you'll be losing the bottom of it in the seam allowance when part 5 is sewn to part 6, so you need to account for that too.

Apologies for the sideways pictures (?!) Next on to the hexagons. (If you don't fancy making this section out of hexagons, you could just cut a single fabric using the semi-circle template, perhaps one that is patterned in a hexy cheater pattern, or anything else that fits in with your project). I did these using the English Paper Piecing method, basting my fabrics onto 1/2 inch hexy papers and sewing them into rows. Remove all the papers and press. Then press the freezer paper semi-circle template onto the wrong side, taking care with the placement - you'll be turning the edge over by 1/4 inch so make sure you've left enough space. I found mine to be pretty tight in places, so I let the seam allowance of the hexies out in order to leave enough to turn over (see how they're a bit pulled out of shape in the pic below?)

Trim carefully! Then paint with starch and press over the edge of the freezer paper.

Glue onto the background, taking care with placement, and appliqué in place.

When you've finished, trim the background away, leaving an allowance behind, then remove the freezer paper.

All done!

Please let me know if you have any questions about any of these techniques, or share what you've done.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Small World

When Kerry emailed me to ask if I would like to be a co-host of the quilt-along she was planning for My Small World, I didn't hesitate to say yes! I had already purchased the Quiltmania Spring edition especially for Jen Kingwell's gorgeous pattern. At the time, I said to Kerry that I didn't think I'd be able to do much more than my allocated part (part 5), but to my surprise I've found this to be one of the most compelling projects I've worked on in a long time and I've nearly finished it! I don't like to gush, but I really have had so much fun working on this one and I'm really pleased with the way it's turned out.

So, onto part 5. This part contains four different versions of rainbows, each appliquéd onto the background - pieced arcs, a half Dresden, hexagons, and a New York Beauty variation. If you haven't tried any of these before, perhaps this part looks a little daunting. But I'm here to reassure you that it's really not, and you should give them all a go! As with many parts of this quilt though, if there's something that's not quite your thing, there's always an alternative way of making it, or swapping something else in that you feel happier making. I've been mainly machine piecing this quilt, apart from the appliqué parts, but for part 5, I've hand pieced three out of the four components.

First - the background. The one thing I did differently to the pattern was to substitute in bigger pieces where these would be covered by the rainbows. I didn't want to go to the effort of piecing tiny square only to cut them away later. It's very simple to work this out by looking at the diagram, simply by counting the number of squares in a row you want to cover in a bigger piece, and adding a half inch (quarter inch at either end). So if it's six squares to cover, cut your piece 6.5 inches by 1.5 inches (instead of six 1.5 inch squares). (Excuse my rather rubbish iPhone pics, by the way).

Next the pieced arcs.

I like to use freezer paper to make my templates. Trace the template onto the 'paper side', cut it out exactly on the line, and press onto the fabric, then trace around onto the fabric with a pencil. No shifting of the template, works beautifully.

Cut around the pencil line, leaving a 1/4 inch seam. You don't have to draw the 1/4 inch line in, but it is useful. Your first pencil line, around the template, is your sewing line, but it helps to keep things lined up if the seam is exactly cut at 1/4 inch, but this isn't super important. The main thing is to pin exactly on the sewing line, on both pieces that are being sewn. And by pin, I mean pin. A lot. Start by finger pressing the half way point on both pieces, matching the creases and pinning at that point. Then gently ease the curve around, placing a pin approximately every 1/2 inch or even closer, making sure that you're putting the pin through the pencil line on both sides.

Then sew with a tiny running stitch, securing with a back stitch at the start (as well as a knot!) I generally load 5 or 6 stitches onto my needle at a time, pull the needle through, then take a backstitch before stitching the next 5 or 6. Remove the pins and hold the edges of the piece taut as you go, easing as necessary.

As an alternative to this method, you could also appliqué semi circles - starting with the largest, then adding progressively smaller semi circles. Or you could cut the pieces as per the pattern, but just appliqué the top edge of the piece onto the background, add the next piece and appliqué the top edge down, and so on.

Next comes the half Dresden plate. Again, I used freezer paper for my templates, tracing ten templates and cutting out, then ironing onto my fabrics. This time I machine pieced them, simply stitching  from the bottom corner straight up the line to the next corner and stopping. As with stitching all small pieces on the machine, a slightly smaller stitch length is useful. I left the freezer paper on for this step, using it as a guide for where to stitch, exactly next to the template.

When they're all stitched together, you can fold the top triangle edges over - it helps to trim them back slightly. I sprayed a little starch into a jar lid, and painted the edges of the fabric with starch before pressing them into place, which helps them hold their shape.

Then the piece is ready to be appliquéd on. To do this, I like to use Roxanne's basting glue - I just dab a little on the outer edge of the piece and press down onto the background. No need for pins!

I'll be back in a few days with some pictures of the next two rainbows. In the meantime, if you're on Instagram you can see a few pics of the tiny pieced triangles in progress. Find me at @petitselefants.

Thanks for sewing along! It's so fun seeing everyone's versions of this special little quilt. :)

Danielle x

Sunday, December 29, 2013

That was 2013

Another year almost over! Who can believe it? The last few months of the year have been particularly manic, and added to that has been my return to work a month ago (I took this year off on long service leave, it went by in a FLASH). Needless to say, I tried to squeeze in a bit of sewing, not anywhere near as successfully as I had hoped for, but nonetheless, I did my best.

I've taken on quite a few new projects this year, all big ones, and haven't really ticked much off my to-do list (including both the ones that were already in progress last year, and the ones I'd planned but not started). I did finally eke out a sleeping bag for each of my three kids - long-promised. Above is Elli's, pink of course! The pattern is by Flossie Teacakes and was very easy to follow. I often hesitate to sew little projects because I find them so fiddly, but this was not at all. I made all three in just a couple of hours.

The Marcelle is finished and currently in a state of half-quiltedness. Hopefully I will finish it in the not too distant future. This quilt did my head in a bit. I was glad to see the end of it!

I've made two Anna Maria Horner St Louis 16 patches this year, one of which is on our bed, the second still needs to be quilted. Such a great pattern (and quick!) and perfect for throwing together a huge bunch of your favourite fabrics.

I've been quilting along in the Amitie Bring Me Flowers block of the month. I'm only about two months behind, which is not too bad! Lots of applique in this one, my favourite!

I learnt to do paper pieced letters - and I love it! These ones are for Catherine.

Another one awaiting quilting, a simple subway tile pattern made up in Floressence (by Art Gallery Fabrics), with a few others thrown in. I love this one so much. This will be going to live with my aunt.

Finally, you might notice in the sidebar (and if you follow me on Instagram you may already know this) that we now have a shop! Jeannette and I started Polka Dot Tea Fabrics in October. We're running a little store on Etsy where you will find a selection of gorgeous Japanese texty, floral and geometric prints, and some other goodies. We're building up our stock of Michael Miller Cotton Couture solids (our absolute favourite solids - so lovely and soft and beautiful to sew with). If you're feeling the need for a little post-Christmas fabric shopping, pop on over and have a look. We have a sale on at the moment - just enter January at checkout for a discount of 20 per cent (minimum purchase is $24). Sale finishes on 5 January. We hope you'll come and have a look, and especially for my fellow Aussie readers, we'd really love to encourage you to shop locally! Particularly as the dollar is falling at the moment, it's going to become much better value to keep some of your fabric custom at home. Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far. 

Happy New Year!

Danielle x

Monday, September 9, 2013

A new project - and a quiltalong!

I've been quilting as much as I can (which some weeks is not very much, unfortunately) and not blogging, as per usual. One project I've just started is the Marcelle Medallion, which I've wanted to tackle ever since I first saw versions appearing around the start of the year. It was bumped to the top of my to-do list thanks to the intervention of Penny and Jeannette. Penny is hosting a quiltalong on her blog - you can find the homepage for the quilt along here - and Jeannette and I are going to help out a little along the way.

So my job here today is to help you out with the piecing of the centre medallion. Penny has already given us a couple of great and super-detailed tutorials for the medallion, using English Paper Piecing and foundation paper piecing. I thought I would try a slightly different paper-pieced method, namely freezer paper. This is a fairly new-to-me technique but one which I'm sure I will use a lot more of in the future. It's perfect for slightly odd-shaped blocks where there are points coming together at odd places. The medallion in the centre of this quilt is the perfect candidate. There are triangles, but they're not your usual-shaped triangles. And there are y-seams! But fear not, I forged ahead, and though I'm not quite finished (I've got three of the four segments done) I'm confident it's going to work out fine.

Freezer paper piecing is similar to other types of paper piecing insofar as you are really only dealing with the EXACT (finished) shapes. You sew only on the boundary of the shape, not within the seam allowance, point-to-point. You could, technically, do all of this without the freezer paper (and that is how the instructions in the book are presented), but the freezer paper just gives you some extra stability, and extra assurance that you are sewing in the exact spot that you need to.

So first thing you need to do, is trace all of your template pieces onto freezer paper - sewing lines only! Cut out carefully on the lines and label each piece (I found it useful to also write on the paper which fabric I was using with each piece, so as to avoid any mix-ups - there are several pieces which look similar and it would be easy to make a mistake). Also note you will need to make two copies of the AB template. (I made the medallion one quarter at a time, re-using the paper pieces each time). Press the piece onto the reverse of your fabric and then trim around it adding in a scant 1/4" seam allowance. You can see in the picture below that the 1/4" line on my ruler is just a tiny whisker inside the edge of the paper. That's what I mean by scant.

I might also point out here that with this method you will end up with pieces that appear to be the mirror image of the way the pieces look in the book. Don't worry about this, your medallion will look exactly the same in the end. Just take care to orient the pieces correctly when pairing up matching seam lines - if you are looking at the diagrams in the book, your pieces will be mirror images so take that into account.

Pair up your two AB pieces first and take them to the machine. Make sure the papers on each piece are exactly lined up. Line up your needle to start exactly at the point of the triangle (exactly next to the point of the paper). Sew carefully alongside the edge of the paper to the end point. You can take a couple of backstitches to secure if you like. Press seams (I mainly pressed the seams open, especially where there were many seams coming together). Pair up all the other pieces and sew in the same manner.

When you come to sew a pair to another pair, the principle is the same. Push or fold the seam allowance out of the way, and start with the needle exactly at the start of the sewing line (this should coincide with the end of another seam - if it's not exactly at the same point, you will end up with a little gap).

Sewing in the corner squares is where your y-seam comes in. Take it slowly, sewing one side at a time, from the centre out to the edge. Take care to line the pieces up under your machine's foot, so that the needle comes directly into that critical starting point.

A note about the papers - when I sewed the first quarter, I took the papers off after sewing each initial pair. With the second quarter, I decided to leave the papers on when sewing pairs to pairs and I think it gave a better result.

Any questions? Please leave your questions or comments and I'd be only too happy to help!

I can't wait to see how everyone's going with their centres! Good luck!

PS Don't forget to share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #mmqal.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A little blogging...

Despite best intentions, I've once again fallen out of the blogging habit (not that I could really genuinely call it a habit, being as infrequent as it is!) That's due in part to the ubiquity of Instagram. I really love it for its quilting and crafting community, the ability to share things the minute you've finished them, or when you're in the middle of doing something and need some instant advice on what colour goes where, or how to do a certain technique - you can guarantee someone is lurking in the wings to offer their advice.

And so I've been resorting to Instagram for my 'microblogging' fix. But this weekend, Instagram decided to chuck a hissy fit and not work. Help! What to do? A little discussion on Twitter ensued, and a few of us decided to put up a blog post on our long-neglected blogs, in substitute for lack of Instagramming over the weekend!

So here's a little taste of what's been happening chez Petitselefants this weekend.

Binding a little baby quilt. So pleased to cross this one off my to-do list, it's been sitting around for a few weeks now and the baby it's heading to is nearly 8 weeks old.

I put this together from 5 inch squares cut from my stash, mainly Bonnie and Camille leftovers from other projects. Sixty-four squares in rows of eight make for a quick stash-busting quilt.

And this is a little sneak peek of a quilt I've been working on for a little while. It's all finished now and we've been trying to get some fancy half-decent shots of it as it's going to be published in a book!  Very exciting, and I can't wait to show you the whole quilt!

So there you go, my non-Instagram blog post. Hope you're all having a lovely, quilty weekend.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

A little knitting

Many moons ago, I used to knit cardigans and jumpers, for myself and my family. Big projects that took a lot of time and concentration. Nowadays I'm all about mindless knitting. Enter the scarf, the shawl and the cowl. Repetitive knitting that can be done in front of the TV, at soccer practice, any place where it is likely that one will be interrupted by a small child.

I'm already on to my third version of this scarf. It's an easy four-row repeat that is simple to remember - no chance of getting muddled up with where you are in the repeat. And just a little bit of a twist in the pattern to keep things interesting. Regardless of how mind-numbing you want your knitting to be, we don't need the endless monotony of acres of stocking stitch or 2x2 rib, do we?

I picked up this lovely squishy Blue Sky Alpaca/Silk yarn on my visit to Purl Soho in New York in January, and now have gifted the resulting scarf to my lovely aunt who recently celebrated a significant birthday.

I knitted this in fingering weight (4 ply), but the first version was lace weight (2 ply). Version 3 is also fingering weight. It gives a nice skinny, long scarf. Just the way I like them!

If you'd like to try making your own - here you go! The pattern came with the original skein of lace weight yarn, purchased by my Mum somewhere in deepest, darkest Canada. I'm afraid I've misplaced the info about the shop. If anyone recognises this stitch pattern please let me know so I can provide the credit!

Cast on a multiple of 4 + 2 stitches (I cast on 34 stitches). EDIT: I used 3.75mm needles to give a nice open gauge - but use whatever you feel comfortable with. It's a scarf, the gauge is not hugely important.

First row: K2, P2 - repeat to last 2 stitches, K2 (wrong side)
Second row: K2, *K1, yo, K1, P2 - repeat from * to last 2 stitches, K2
Third row: K2, P3 - repeat to last 2 stitches, K2
Fourth row: K2, *sl1, K2, psso over both stitches, P2 - repeat from * to last 2 stitches, K2

Repeat until it reaches your desired length (I think the rule of thumb for a scarf is knit it the length of your body!) Two skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca (total 100g) yielded the perfect scarf.

Basically, you're making an extra stitch in the second row, and an eyelet, and in the fourth row, getting rid of this extra stitch and in the process giving it a little cable effect. Clever!

Next up I'm planning on something a little more challenging - a lace-edge shawl, knitted up in Swans Island fingering weight from Suzy Hausfrau. I'm itching to get started on it! 

What knitting projects are on your sticks at the moment?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hand Quilted with Love by Sarah Fielke

Like many of you, I waited patiently for this lovely book to materialise, having been tempted with a few sneak peeks here and there by Sarah over Instagram and Twitter. Just those few little snippets were enough to know that this book would be amazing, and it certainly is! 
Material Obsession books one and two have been staples on many quilters' bookshelves for ages. Who hasn't spent a good hour or two re-reading and flicking through, soaking up the colour? Sarah's first solo book Quilting from Little Things was just as beautiful and full of inspiration. And now we have Hand Quilted with Love, which is (to the relief of some) not just about hand quilting, although this is Sarah's preferred method of finishing her quilts, but more about Sarah's making of the quilts she's always wanted to make. Her passion for her craft shines through in the way she describes the inspiration for each quilt, and in the luscious photography.

I was lucky enough to be given a head start on one of the quilts from the book and being a big fan of appliqué I was quick to choose Millefiori. This quilt was a huge challenge for me in terms of colour selection, and this is not the kind of quilt where you want to play it safe - better to go bold or go home! And I'm happy to say I'm so proud of how this has turned out. Big thanks to Sarah for giving me the push I needed to test my colour boundaries and try some new things.

This is a bit of an epic quilt to make, being as it is almost 100 per cent hand-sewn (appliqued and quilted). But in the scheme of things, it hasn't really taken me all that long to make - working mostly in the evenings, I started this around three months ago and it's almost finished. Even the hand quilting (using Perle 8 thread) has been quick - I'm nearly done and started less than two weeks ago. I really do encourage anyone who's been put off by the idea of hand quilting to think again - using Perle 8 thread makes everything go much faster and it's really satisfying to see the quilt come alive with each shape being outlined in a different colour thread. The book provides lots of tips and tricks on both hand quilting and needleturn applique, and you can see Sarah's hand quilting technique in action (and how to make perfect applique circles) thanks to the wonders of YouTube on her blog.

Incidentally, I also made a version of the fabulous Whirligig from Sarah's previous book, and it is still awaiting its hand quilting moment in the sun. After this experience with Millefiori, I'm well and truly inspired to take it out of the cupboard and finish it!

But back to the book! I'm already daydreaming about what other projects I'll make. While the Made to Measure medallion quilt from the book's cover is definitely a contender (I love Lynne's version, and there are quite a few others popping up now), I think I'll tackle this fabulous checkerboard design with its applique border. I have been hoarding stacks of Kaffe Fassett and Keiko Goke colours which would be perfect for it.

And this teapot and cup one takes my fancy too! Just to name a few!

Be sure to visit the other stops on Sarah's bloggy book tour and see what other beauties have already been whipped up. You can pick up a copy of the book from Book Depository or direct from Sarah's website.
SewTake a Hike - 4th May
Belinda Stitches – 5th May
True Up - 6th May
LilysQuilts (UK) - 7th May
Creative Dabbling (Australia) 8th May
Mrs Schmenkman Quilts (USA)9th May  
I'm A Ginger Monkey (UK) - 10th May 
Petits Elefants -(Australia) 10th May
Prints Charming (Australia) - 11th May
RedPepper Quilts (Australia) - 12th May
HandMade by Alissa (USA) - 13th May
Meet Me at Mikes (Australia) - 14th May
Sew Mama Sew (USA) - 15thMay