Monday, 25 July 2016

15% Off English Paper Piecing Patterns

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Happy Monday to you! In an uncharacteristically short post (my interlude with brevity is only likely to last a day - normal loquacious service will be resumed shortly), I just wanted to let you know that my English paper piecing patterns all have 15% off this week - just use the code SUMMER at the checkout until 31st July. Find them here, here and here.

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Wishing you a lovely week, 
Florence x

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Random Thoughts and Recommendations

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Thank you so much for all your thoughts on my last post - it was comforting to know that so many others out there were feeling similarly crestfallen. If you're still feeling glum, do have a look at Nina's comment, which includes some proactive and positive suggestions. 

Returning to some sewing, look at these gorgeous flowers, above, that Cvitron has been creating using my Perpetual Spring EPP pattern! It quickly became apparent watching Christine's Instagram feed that there were more whole flowers accumulating than are needed to make a wallhanging, so I'm excited to see this pattern made up on a grander scale than I've attempted myself! Any thoughts that English paper piecing is a slow process will be dispelled looking at Christine's progress - you can see more of her gorgeous work over on Instagram

Enormous Strawberries

In other matters, I have been eating absolutely vast strawberries this week - look at my hand for scale! Aren't they amazing?! And they had none of the usual blandness that can come with larger strawbs, but rather, they were the juiciest, sweetest things imaginable. I would very much like to say that I grew them myself, but I shall refrain from letting my farm girl aspirations influence my ability to write truthfully. 

There are a huge list of fruits that I can't eat due to food intolerances although strawberries aren't one of them, but I have been avoiding them for the last few years simply because they make my teeth feel too sensitive when I come to brush them later (which has always seemed odd, as I don't suffer hot/cold/sweet foods tooth sensitivity...it's just fruit). Anyway, I have recently changed my toothpaste and was delighted and amazed to find that I can now eat strawberries with no pain at all. Any small new addition to the 'Things I Can Safely Eat' list is nothing short of life changing for me, so I'm thrilled. Without wanting to seem like a toothpaste advert, if you're interested, it was this one, bought only because the shop I was in didn't stock my usual Sensitive toothpaste and we were running out, but I will now buy it in industrial quantities. 

Fellow dressmakers may be as blown away by this tiny video from Colette Patterns as I was, which shows how to turn a strap in less than 30 seconds, with none of the usual sweary wrestling match. I want to make something with tiny straps now so that I can experience the joy of this first hand.

If you'd like something wonderful to listen to while you're sewing this week, then I'd really recommend listening to the surgeon, David Nott, in his appearance on Desert Island Discs. It's often the less well known interviewees that make for the most fascinating castaways and he was just so inspiring and humbling when he talked about his annual missions to war zones where he works on a charitable basis as a surgeon. You may need tissues. Discussing it with a friend when I snuck out to join her for breakfast earlier this week, we were both surprised that his view of what was truly remarkable in his extraordinary life was finding a woman who fell in love with him. We also both felt that listening to it had completely changed our perception of the Queen (in a positive way).

I really enjoyed reading the late Kent Haruf's Our Souls at Night recently (an author actually recommended to me a few years ago by a reader of this blog - I'm so sorry I can't remember quite who, but thank you!). It's a wonderful story with engaging characters and a very unusual premise for the storyline. Both of my parents have also now read and enjoyed it, so it's a recommendation from three. If you're already a fan of his writing, you may enjoy this feature in Granta Magazine from Kent Haruf on his path to becoming a published novelist. 

In other thoughts, we booked to go away in England rather than abroad this summer and on the basis of our weather so far I'm now feeling slightly glum about that. It's a rare thing for our family to make any plans at all until just before they happen and this has been a lesson in why I do prefer to live that way - I'm not a person who knows what I'm going to want to do in a few weeks, let alone a few months time and I'm now cursing myself that earlier in the year we had a momentary desire to plan ahead and then miraculously found the efficiency to act upon it! I am really craving some sunshine to warm my bones (and does anyone else really love touching the top of their head on a blisteringly hot day and finding that their hair has retained the same amount of heat as a loaf of bread fresh from the oven? I do. I also love this on my children's heads too. I've also suddenly realised that I have a habit of putting these weird asides in brackets as though by excluding them from the flow of the rest of the post, they may seem more like a small, incidental passing thought than an firm indication of my own self, in case there isn't a single reader who shares such a thought. Even being aware of that, I find myself unable to take it out of brackets. You can mentally remove them if you wish and then tease me for having odd thoughts in the comments)! It seems increasingly to be the case that global warming means we don't really have a summer anymore... just a period where the temperature rises mildly while it continues to rain and a winter also sadly lacking in any extreme other than rainfall. 

Finally, moving on from my quintessentially British grumbling about weather, I have a new sponsor to introduce. If you ever play around with the idea of designing your own fabric, Prinfab not only allow you to have it printed on a variety of substrates, but you can also sell your designs through their site, like an English version of Spoonflower, which sounds fantastic! 

Do feel free to leave any of your own random thoughts or recommendations in the comments. 

With midweek good wishes, 
Florence x

Ps. While on the subject of random recommendations: my sister bought me this after I borrowed some from her when we went away together earlier in the year. It really does work. This year, I have the softest feet I've ever walked on (also, returning to bracketed thoughts about how the sun changes the feel of things: when you've been in the garden for hours barefoot on a hot day and then walk back into the house and the normally-fairly-unremarkable-feeling-carpet suddenly feels like velvet! I love that too).

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Six Days On...

Honey, sleeping

Why post about politics on a sewing blog? Is that what people are coming here for? I'm guessing, almost certainly not. Particularly if you're British, I imagine you are coming here in the hope of momentary relief from the constant news stream, which so many of us find ourselves glued to as events have unfolded since the EU referendum. But I've been writing this blog for nearly nine years now and it's a diary of my life, albeit the largely stitch-related side of it, but a diary all the same. So in a week when the most seismic political and social change for my country within my life-time has just occurred it seems almost impossible to carry on and not document it in some way. What we put on the internet leaves a permanent record of ourselves and for that record to be that I sewed on oblivious, seemingly without a care, would feel like an embarrassing misrepresentation of myself. So please feel free to skip over this post if you'd prefer - it's here more for me than for anyone else. It is not intended to needlessly rile people or to make 'Leave' voters feel that I am attacking them - I understand and respect that many feel positive about the forthcoming changes. It is simply a post documenting how I feel, to be woven in amongst the patchwork of life that is also recorded here.

To date, since seeing the first results coming in last Thursday and slowly realising as the night went on what was about to happen, the world feels like it's been turned on its axis for those of us who wished to stay a part of the EU. The magnitude of this decision and the ensuing chaos feel almost impossible to absorb: our prime minister has resigned; there has been a vote of no confidence in the opposing party's leadership and many of his shadow cabinet have resigned; Scotland is likely to have a second referendum; Ireland's troubles have been placed in danger of reigniting; our economic stability has been put in jeopardy and many people's EU-facing jobs are already at risk; our country's choices are also likely to affect the stability of both the EU and many other countries' economies; many people who live and work here feel unwelcome and scared, with hate crimes in Britain up 57% from the previous week. It's perhaps this last thing that is most upsetting of all: the vile racism and xenophobia that this vote seems to have legitimised leaves many of us feeling that we are living in a country that we no longer recognise or want to be part of.

This feels like a public school boys' game gone horribly wrong: a referendum offered only to win an election and then fought to raise profiles, with neither Westminster side ever believing that 52% of the voting British public would call their bluff, and it has implications that will last for years to come. I feel unexpectedly grief-stricken, as well as furious, about what has happened.

I also feel guilt that I did nothing - other than discuss the referendum with like-minded people - in the run up to this vote. To have remained quiet and apparently neutral now makes me feel somehow complicit in what has happened. My friends and acquaintances all - bar one, as far as I'm aware - were planning to vote Remain and the few posts I saw from others who I follow on social media were in favour of Remain too, so in the bubble in which I can now see that I exist, posting Vote Remain literature felt like it would have been preaching to the converted. Even my grandmother - only a few years off being 90 - on being handed her postal vote by my mother apparently turned to her and just said rhetorically and emphatically: we want to stay, don't we?

Negativity makes me feel uncomfortable and I find myself searching for some piece of hope or positivity in relation to all of this with which to tie up this post, but there feels so much uncertainty that I can't think of what to say at this point - it still just feels too bleak. So I will simply say that I am sending love out into the world irrespective of how anyone voted and that regular sewing bulletins will be resumed shortly,

Florence x

Monday, 20 June 2016

Peony English Paper Piecing pattern

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My Peony English Paper Piecing Pattern is finally ready to meet the world! I rarely ever make quilt-related things twice, but I did with this (you can see my other version here), so I feel I can safely say this is an enjoyable pattern to sew. I think what holds my attention about it is the lack of repetition; each new round of the flower is a different shape and offers room to introduce new fabric prints, colour or placement. It's also a refreshingly quick make when it comes to EPP - perfect for mini-quilts, wall hangings, the central medallion of a quilt or super-sizing to make a whole lap quilt!

Peony English Paper Piecing Pattern


So here are a few details about what the Peony EPP pattern includes:
  • Full-size pattern pieces that can be printed on regular printer paper at home. 
  • Photos demonstrating tips and techniques.
  • Illustrations and diagrams showing exactly how the pieces go together.
  • Lots of tips for how to English paper piece curves - from wrapping the papers to sewing the actual pieces together. 
  • A colouring sheet so that you can plan out a colour scheme. 
  • Used at 100%, the actual size pattern pieces produce a finished design that measures approximately 13.25" x 13.25", but the pieces can be scaled up on a photocopier and adapted for a full-size quilt if you wish. 
  • The pattern includes a seam allowance around the perimeter of the completed piece - this means that you have extra room built in to: frame it; bind it; make it into a cushion (which you'd need a seam allowance for); or appliqué it a background to use as the central medallion in a quilt. 
  • This pattern should be a suitable challenge for anyone who has successfully completed at least one paper piecing project already. 
  • It's instantly downloadable for you to save and print out from your own computer.
  • It costs just £6 (at the time of writing, that's around $8.80USD, $11.70AUD, $11.30 CAD).
  • You can buy a copy, here!


It's always a real treat to see new versions of my patterns appearing on Instagram. If you'd like to share, hashtag your progress with #PeonyEPP or email me a photo if you have a private account/don't use IG!

Florence x

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A Stripy Grey Top and a Squirrel's Nut Pile

Handmade Grey Stripy Top

I was sent this fabric a few weeks ago by my lovely blog sponsor, Girl Charlee, after much debate about the virtues of different fabrics in relation to retaining one's modesty (i.e. one's bra not being entirely visible through it).


In the end, they sent a few different samples of stripy greys over (Girl Charlee have so many knit fabrics that they actually have multiple varieties of grey stripes!) for me to choose from. Jen liked my original choice, the super sheer stripe on the left hand side, while Mark felt the slightly thicker knit jersey on the right may be more versatile (which led to some merriment over whether I would align myself with the exhibitionist or the prude!). In the end, I requested some of more demure jersey on the right and thought about drafting a habit to wear in the nunnery, while Mark filled me in on an exciting new line of lead fabric sheets they're soon to be releasing due to customer demand - apparently they're not overly drapey and require a welding torch and hammer rather than needle and thread, but they do cover all modesty! For colourways, they're anticipating stocking grey, dull grey, anthracite and original lead. But in reality, while my final choice is definitely comparatively less sheer, it's still actually an incredibly fine fabric!

Handmade Grey Stripy Top

But ridiculousness aside, buying dressmaking fabric over the internet can be so tricky and it's a total delight that Girl Charlee are so willing to talk through whether a fabric might be exactly as I'm imagining it to be, if it will be right for an intended project and suggesting alternatives just in case it isn't.

Anyway, onto the actual fabric. This fabric is a real surprise. It looks almost identical to this fabric in terms of weight and sheerness, even though it isn't a slub, but the feel is like no other jersey I've ever felt. It is the softest jersey imaginable. It feels like the kind of thing that you'd wrap babies in. It looks like respectable daywear, but I secretly feeling like I'm going out in pyjamas each time I wear this top because it's just so ridiculously soft. It also retains the smell of fabric softener more than any other fabric I've ever known (dressmaking gives a perfect comparison place for this as, like most dressmakers, I prewash all my fabrics before cutting into them to avoid the finished garment suffering first-wash-shrinkage), which caused me to keep burying my face in it while I was sewing this. Fabric softener is one of my favourite smells - it smells like care, comfort and warmth all at the same time and possibly also has underlying connotations for me of momentarily being at the high point in the never-ending laundry cycle.

Which makes me suddenly want to ask (the point of my asking this comes much later in the paragraph - there is actually a link, even if you can't work out what it is yet) if you have a subconsciously collated file in your brain of nice things people have said to you over your lifetime - perhaps more passing asides than intentional compliments? What I love so much about them being unintentional compliments is that they're even more valuable because the accidental compliment-giver says the thing with little thought, not intending to flatter particularly. It just happens that their comment strikes a chord with a value or trait that delights you more than they'd imagine. And so you can quietly squirrel the compliment away in a nut pile without any awkward blushing or embarrassment. That this would count as one of those nuts possibly makes me odd (you've finally got to the link), but over a decade ago, when I sold some of my then-toddler's clothes on eBay, the buyer reviewed the transaction commenting only on how amazing the clothes had smelt when she unpackaged them and then sent a message asking which washing powder I used. For some reason a stranger at the other end of the country thinking that our clothes smelt nice made me feel really happy. I can actually think of two other nuts in the pile involving smell, but only because I'm thinking about it. The other nice thing about this particular filing cabinet is that I can't remember a single other thing in it as contents from it reappear through word association just as unexpectedly as the original compliment did. If you were just able to rummage around in there and see them in a great big list, I think they'd cease to feel so special. I would love to know if anyone has a similar mental filing cabinet. I would also really love to know what's in it, but appreciate people may not want to share their nuts; I feel quite protective of mine too, which is why I'm revealing only one of the scent-related compliments.

Handmade Grey Stripy Top

So, having quickly detoured around a squirrel, eBay, communications from the North of England and the random contents of my head, the one thing that I'd change about this top is that for some reason I did a far narrower hem than my usual chunky 1" turn up and I'm not so keen on this as it looks a bit less 'finished' to me. I often seem to do this during dressmaking: that is make some small, random change that later perplexes me as to why I might have done it.

Florence x

Ps. You can get 10% off fabrics at Girl Charlee using the code 'Flossie'.

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Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Double Gauze Shirt


I cut this shirt out last year and then found that the weather changed, causing my spring/summer dressmaking bug to finally desert me. I always remember a woman who worked in my local fabric shop several years ago telling me, with a look of complete mistrust and suspicion on her face: Quilters are weird. They're here constantly all winter and then in the summer they just disappear and nobody knows where the go or what they're actually doing. The implication seemed to be that they could actually be off murdering people for all she knew, only to reappear in September ready to absolve themselves of their crimes by indulging in some gentle needlework.

I was actually buying dressmaking fabric at the time, so she wasn't aware that I also quilt, but inwardly I was amused to be one of the weird breed of quilters who, like migratory birds, change where they're headed the moment the weather warms up. But rather than going on a killing spree, this quilter at least, is just dressmaking. The wish to make clothes in late spring and early summer hits me every year and has little to do with any particular logic or rationale related to a summer wardrobe, but feels more like a gravitational pull. Although, my English paper piecing continues regardless of the season.


Anyway, returning to my most recent make, this shirt is made from a quite extraordinary fabric. It's a double gauze with a large check on one side and a much smaller check on the other face. But it's softer than a Nani Iro double gauze and also has a slightly puffy feel to it reminiscent of a seersucker. I really, really like it. I haven't spotted it in a single online shop though, so unfortunately, I have nowhere to point people for a source of it - do let me know if you know of one. I've lightened the above photo up quite a bit, as its one downside is that it's a beast to photograph. I bought enough yardage to make a shirt and a skirt (not to be worn at the same time!), but sadly I was trialling an extremely fancy pants iron out for a manufacturer on my initial attempt to make this last year...and found that the pants on that particular iron weren't quite fancy enough as it suddenly sprayed a trail of white and brown debris all over the shirt which proved to be indelible, so the fabric set aside for a skirt had to be cut into when it came to remaking the shirt. If I was given a penny for all the iron-related traumas I've experienced now, I would have enough to buy myself a very large ice-cream, possibly with a flake. (Actually, I was sent an electric toothbrush by way of apology, so I fared rather better than being given the ice-cream and it was also quite nice to come to the shirt afresh this summer and found that I'd already cut all the pieces out, so that I could get straight on to the fun part).


It's shown far better in the photo at the top of this post, but I was able to use the contrasting smaller check side to make the button placket, shirt sleeve hoikers (what's the official word for those?) and collar and it's a really nice feature to have the check peeking out from inside where the collar falls down. As I said earlier - I found that it's virtually impossible to photograph it so that the print shows up clearly.


I finished with french seams throughout, just because. The pattern is my own and the same one that I used to make this shirt, although I've shortened the sleeves a little this time around (I never feel like they are when I'm actually wearing it, but the photos made me retrospectively feel they were too long on that shirt) and left off the collar in this version. So really it's more like this shirt, but less drapey, so to me it has more of the feel of the first shirt than the second! Like a pony perfecting its one and only trick, I have plans for this pattern in several other fabrics.

Although actually, I'm more of a two-trick pony, because I've also been remaking this top recently and have plans for more as my sister would like one too. It's so good to be gathering a handful of patterns that feel completely reliable in terms of fit and that get regular use in my wardrobe, although it can make me lazy as it feels far easier to just remake those patterns in different fabrics than to challenge myself to try something completely new.

What are you drawn to sewing now that the weather is warming up (or cooling down if you're in Australia)?

Wishing you a lovely weekend,
Florence x

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Peony and the Hanging Pod

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My latest piecing is finally finished and this one actually came together really speedily (about three weeks), which isn't something that I find myself writing often! I finished it sitting in the new garden hanging pod that my husband bought for me and which I adore. I've actually been longing for one of these pods for the last three summers and our conversation around it always went something like this:

Me: Don't you think those those hanging pods are completely dreamy?
The Delectable Mr Teacakes: Yes
Me: Do you think we should get one then?
TDMT: No. 
Me: Why not?
TDMT: Because only one person can sit in it at a time; we'd fight over it.
This conversation was repeated again this year, but with the addition of the following lines: 
Me: Why don't we get a hanging pod and all say that it's just my pod and then no one will argue over it?
TDMT: Oh, go on then!

I was quite shocked that TDMT would reward this kind of selfish reasoning, but you'll find below that it's all worked out for the best!

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The effect of the hanging pod theoretically belonging to one person has meant that sitting time has actually been distributed evenly amongst bottoms, because each person has felt delighted to be able to borrow the pod and I've enjoyed thinking 'Yay! People look so happy in my pod! It was a WISE purchase'. I think it may actually be the Pod of Happiness. I don't look happy in the photo below, but that's because I'm concentrating - I was totally happy inside. The pod is perfectly positioned to watch my son doing footballing-related tricks on the lawn. So it goes something like this: stitch, stitch, stitch, observe and admire bit of footballing skill, stitch, stitch, stitch, observe and admire bit of footballing skill, and in this way, it is the perfect place to practise any opticians suggestion when doing close-work of frequently looking up to switch between short and long-range vision. It is nothing short of heaven and the best purchase we've made for several years...possibly several decades (which means that not since I saved up for many months to help my sister to buy a Cloud Mobile for her Carebears has there been such a fine purchase)!

EPP Pod

So here's one final close-up shot of my flower, which I think would probably be a peony if it were anything.

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Totally off-topic (topic being hanging pods with a side of English paper piecing), I came across this little video today made by the Good Housekeeping Institute, which I have now watched about 45 times. My mind is blown.


But enough about impressive t-shirt folding feats, back to garden furniture. Sadly, the addition of the hanging pod has not solved our outdoor dining problems.  Our garden furniture now comprises of: 1 dreamy hanging pod; 1 wooden bench that lives in easy chatting distance of the hanging pod; one wooden table with two attractive, but broken (and therefore largely unusable) wooden chairs on the patio away from the pod and bench. If we want to eat outside, rather than risk death by sitting on one of the attractive-but-broken wooden chairs, we tend to sit on the lawn together (also necessary because two chairs isn't enough for four people to eat a) sociably b) without perching, which isn't conducive to relaxed dining). This isn't ideal, because it means that we have to lock Nell inside while we eat. Shockingly, while Nell doesn't steal food inside, outside with people sitting at her level she appears to believe that the Laws of the Wild apply and that snaffling things off people's plates and then inhaling them before they can be prised from her jaws is fair play (The prising would only serve the purpose of Nell not being rewarded for stealing; not because I'd want the food back for myself!). This is why even though the pod is loved by all, ultimately, it was a highly indulgent purchase. To justify it, I will now attempt to spend the entire summer in it, even when it's raining. This is actually feasible, as the half-egg shape means that the hood protects against laptop screen-glare in bright sunlight and light drizzle in less clement weather. 

Florence x

Friday, 13 May 2016

Thoughts Around Yellow...

English paper piecing with Oakshott Scandinavia

The end of April and beginning of May have proved to be Three Weeks of Illness around here. Just as I'd got better from the last bug, I was suddenly hit with a dose of flu, which was surprisingly more debilitating than I'd first thought when it initially arrived in our house in the form of man-flu, and it came complete with tonsillitis for me (which felt particularly sneaky due to it not declaring itself with the first sufferer due to his lack of tonsils). But it's amazing what can be achieved when you are in confinement and forgo a social life - this flower feels like it's sewn itself. 

English paper piecing with Oakshott Scandinavia

I noticed something odd happening while I was constructing this flower though and I'm wondering if anyone else finds themselves doing the same. When yellow is the predominant colour (I'm looking at you, Perpetual Spring) then I'm a huge fan and celebrant of the colour, however, the moment it's mixed in with other colours, I find myself wanting to root the yellow out. And so despite this gorgeous bundle of Oakshotts including a yellow and it looking completely delightful in bundle-form, every time I've cut some petal pieces from it, I've ended up discarding them. 

Oakshott Scandinavia

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You can see a mock-up of some yellow inclusion in my magic mirrors above. I found the same thing when piecing my passacaglia cogs - despite the fact that it's seemingly just a riot of colours, I just couldn't seem to make the yellow work for me in there.

English paper piecing with Oakshott Scandinavia

So my flower is continuing to bloom ever-larger as a yellow-free zone, which feels a shame as I loved how the colours looked in bundle form. But I'm interested to know whether anyone else stumbles around the colour yellow and whether there's any art/science theory behind this or whether it's just my own loopiness. I know that yellow is perceived as the brightest colour by the human eye, in part because it reflects more light, so perhaps it's just a personal eye-thing of the yellow jarring because it seems so much brighter than the other colours? Or maybe it's because unless I'm actively craving a rainbow (as for this pencil case or this quilt, neither of which would have worked without the yellow), then yellow adds too much jauntiness.

I'd love to hear how you feel about yellow - or whether you have a colour that you feel like this about that isn't yellow. I did actually struggle with the lilacy colour at the centre of this flower too, but included it on the basis that I was in danger of eroding the glorious Oakshott Scandinavia bundle of its intrinsic loveliness....there's always a danger that I could end up working entirely in shades of white. 

Wishing you a lovely weekend, 
Florence

Ps. And no, it's not an illusion, nor is the flower absolutely tiny: the rope bowl holding this flower is absolutely vast! Rope bowl tutorial, here
Pps. I'm planning on writing the pattern for this flower once it's finished, if you're interested. 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Other People's Sewing

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I thought I'd share a few of the beautiful things that people have been making recently using my patterns. I follow RubyLovesRed on Instagram and when I opened the app up yesterday this was right at the top of my feed and the first thing that I saw. I actually emitted a little squeal of delight: it's so beautiful. When I wrote the Perpetual Spring English Paper Piecing pattern, I made it up in mostly solids and it's been a wonderful surprise seeing what it looks like made up in patterned fabrics. This feels so elegant and airy (I also love the grey fabric with a smattering of white flecks - I must find out what it is as it's like a more sophisticated polkadot).

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a_L (I've suddenly realised I don't know her real name and can't find it anywhere on her website or IG, so apologies for calling a_L 'her' and 'she') maker of these next Perpetual Spring rosettes runs the lovely screen printing company, Peach + Pluto. I love her work, so I was excited to see how a_L's version would come together. She used Cotton + Steel fabrics and fussycat macrame plant holders and tiny japanese bowls. Dreamy. If the fiddly inbetweeny bits that join the rosettes have been daunting anyone, a_L got around this by appliquéing her rosettes to a background fabric, which looks fantastic. 

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There are a few other Perpetual Springs in progress that I'll hopefully share with you another time. Here's Sharon's version of the Ring-a-Roses EPP pattern (I've just realised, it's in nearly identical colours to a_L's Perpetual Spring!). Sharon made this for a mini-quilt swap (so generous!), and is now working on a version to keep for herself. I absolutely love it - there are so many different prints in this, but somehow it still looks completely cohesive and balanced. Beautiful. 

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Victoria (if you don't already follow her then do go and take a look at her gorgeous IG feed - she's a prolific quilter and her work is beautiful) made these adorable sleeping bags using the Three Bears Sleeping Bag pattern. All of Victoria's sleeping bags were sold to raise funds for Glasgow Children's Hospital back in April and you can find out more about that here, if you'd like to. 

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Isabel made this pair of sleeping bags for two rabbits, with ticking pillows and Liberty print covers. They feel deliciously old-fashioned. If you like Liberty prints, Isabel's feed is packed with them! 

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Unlike later patterns (#PerpetualSpringEPP, #RingARosesEPP) I don't think I've included a specific hashtag for sharing in this pattern, so it's a bit more random as to whether I or other people making the same pattern ever stumble upon seeing them, but the sleeping bags with their creatures inside would look particularly sweet all lined up, so belatedly, please do hashtag any makes with #ThreeBearsSleepingBagPattern if you fancy creating a little pool of sleeping bags. If you'd like more sleeping bag inspiration, here's a few other posts containing gorgeous sleeping bags that people have made! And here's some other Ring-a-Roses makes too, if you'd like to see. 

Can I be terribly seasonally inappropriate and share this gorgeous one from under Amy's Christmas tree? As someone who currently has flu in May, I feel I can. My daughter has an app that counts down to Christmas...there are less hours left in this year than you might have imagined. I love this Aneela Hooey Little Red Riding Hood print. 

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A few months ago, Martha emailed me to share a few photos of her rope bowls. I was quite literally awe-struck. The idea that my tutorial was a starting point for a rope-bowl-maker-extroidinaire was a bizarre thought - Martha clearly quickly surpassed my own rope-bowl-making abilities! I feel particularly admiring of the one in the centre that's slightly urn-like. I'd said in my tutorial that rope-bowl making feels like the sewist's version of throwing pottery - these completely exemplify this for me - they look like works of art. Do go and have a look at Martha's blog to see more of her work.

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Wishing you a lovely end to the week, 
Florence x

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Bits & Pieces

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I can't remember now what I saw on Instagram that prompted this sudden purchase, but I was left with a yearning for some softer, calmer colours and Oakshott's Scandinavia bundle answered this perfectly. I bought the tiny fat 1/8th pack, which may seem too small to be good for anything, but I actually think when a fabric isn't patterned, I often end up using it much more economically as I'm not trying to fussy-cut certain parts of the print, so I'm hopeful it will still be usable. It was even lovelier than I'd been anticipating and it looks so deliciously creamy and soft bundled up here in perfect colour order. It's very deceptive once unfolded, as one moment it looks quite coloured and the next the colour is barely there because of the white thread used on the warp of the fabric.

English paper piecing curves

This week I've returned to some more curved paper piecing. I designed these shapes one evening last week and if it goes to plan, then it will hopefully become a pattern. However, its progress has been hampered slightly by what-comes-next fabric-indecision (thank you, people of Instagram, for being such a wonderful advisory board). I'd really like a wise man to come and give me the gift of decisiveness (which sounds alarmingly like I'm comparing myself to the baby Jesus; I'm not. I'd just like a gift from a wise man) because it would up my productivity levels quite incredibly. Discussing it with my husband this evening he said: I think you just need to go for it, because in the time you've spent feeling indecisive you could have actually finished and completed all three options that you were weighing up! This is probably true and I've suddenly realised while writing this that maybe my husband is actually the wise man!

English paper piecing

Nb. You might think Magic Mirrors can cure indecisiveness as you can essentially see a mock up of all the options...but for some people, even that doesn't help!

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In other news, thank you so much for all your wonderful advice to my quilting dilemma in the last post. I'm yet to finish unpicking all the machine stitches but, as suggested in the comments by Pieces of Cotton and also Cathy, I've now trialled some diagonal hand-stitching in a large corner and really quite like it. I couldn't quite face doing tiny hand stitches though and I suddenly remembered that I had the solution to that sitting patiently in a drawer. A few years ago I'd met Kim Porter of Worn & Washed at The Festival of Quilts and had fallen in love with how soft and squishy her quilts looked - possibly a combination of the batting she was using (I have a vague recollection that it was 100% poly, which made me rethink this option as they felt absolutely gorgeous), the soft, recycled fabrics, but also her larger quilting stitches. The three elements came together to make her quilts feel and look utterly divine! Anyway, she'd sold me some of her needles and thread and when I took them out of the drawer this week, it felt most enabling to see the label bearing the words 'needles for thicker thread and bigger stitches'. I find it really hard to do things on a larger scale, so for me, what you can see below feels like huge (and quite liberating!) progress. And this corner of the quilt feels exactly the way I'd hoped it would, so although I'm not looking forward to all the unpicking, which I think will take several hours, I think I'll enjoy the finished quilt more. Kim doesn't seem to have a shop as such, but if you're interested, I think she's going to be at The Decorative Living Fair at Eridge Park in May.

big stitch hand quilting

This post is brought to you from the middle of the night as I've woken feeling hideously nauseous after eating food containing garlic, which I normally avoid. When I came up to my sewing room with the idea of writing a post to distract myself, I saw that my half-finished quilt was in here and I can now attest to the wonderfulness of a wool batting, because I'm sitting under it right now and I was toasty within about thirty seconds of draping it over me. The voile backing is so incredibly soft and lovely so I've now added a quilt made of voile on both sides to my list of things to make at some point.  I made this one back in 2010 and it's by far and away my loveliest quilt in terms of 'feel', but I find the colours a bit wishy-washy now that my daughter is six years older and she tends to have this one out on her bed (or more often trailed across her floor because she's a teenager and that's exactly where I would have left it at her age too!). There aren't a huge range of fabrics to choose from when it comes to voile though - Free spirit used to do a collection of voile solids, but that seems to have disappeared. Finally, in writing this post and thinking about quilts-past, I've also realised that I've made three quilts for my daughter and only one for my son and his lone quilt is incredibly basic, so this too may need to be added to the quilt list too!

Sleep tight (or be highly wakeful and effective if you're reading this during the daytime!),
Florence x

Monday, 18 April 2016

A Quilt Block, a Quilt Dilemma and Some Random Thoughts


I bought these Anna Maria Horner Loominous fabrics last month and they're beautiful - they all have slightly different weights and textures and the feel of some of them surprised me by being perfect for dressmaking, as well as quilting. However, as I'd purchased them in fat quarters, I decided to use them for quilt making rather than a tiny bandeau top. I'd also somehow missed that they have shiny threads woven through them, so that was another revelation on seeing them with my very own eyes. The floral at the top is one of my favourite Kaffe Fassett prints, which happens to go well with them.


Not having had quite enough of English paper piecing curves with my Perpetual Spring pattern, I decided to draft something with a few more of them and found myself surprised anew (this is seemingly the post where I'm surprised by everything!) by how much easier they are to sew than I imagine them to be when I'm not actively sewing them.


Below is a photo of the block - mid-construction - reflected in my magic mirrors to give an idea of what it would look like if there were more of them. Although I've mentally moved onto my next EPP project, so I'm not sure that there will be more of them.


On other sewing matters, this quilt top (which I adore and very much want to get on with using!) has come to a sorry pause in production due to quiltification issues. Here is the sequence of events in reference to the photo below, which shows machine quilting in the upper half and hand stitching in the lower half:


1. I started off doing really dense straight-line machine quilting, which is a look that I love as when viewed at a distance I think it tends to change the way the prints look, making them appear as though you're seeing them through the blur of rainy window pane. However, having gone to the trouble of buying dreamy wool batting and backing the quilt with voile for softness, I was alarmed to find that the dense machine stitching makes the quilt feel stiff and unyielding. So after a few hours of quilting, I stopped and left it for a week to have a think about what to do.
2. I had a think about what to do and there were no helpful thoughts to be found in my head. Just a yearning for the feel of a hand-stitched quilt.
3. With no plan and pretending that the machine stitches weren't there, I began to do some hand quilting. I kept to the same density of stitch lines using small stitches. I did not consider that doing these two things in combination would mean that the quilt would take several years to complete. I only realised this a few days later when I had achieved just six lines of quilting and had only covered 2" with them.
4. On realising that the enormous quilt is now a hideous mishmash of hand quilting and machine quilting (I think those two things can look completely dreamy together, but my section of machine quilting is so large that there's no sense of the two intermingling) I put down my needle and have been background-thinking about this problem ever since February, without ever reaching a logical conclusion.
5. Here are the options that I think I have: do I finish this the easy way, by speedily unpicking the hand-stitches and machine quilting the whole thing and accepting that it's not quite as squashy as I'd like, but that it does look exactly the way that I wanted it to? Does dense machine quilting become softer with washing, I wonder? Do I unpick all the machine quilting, which will take forever and may leave holes in the fabric, unpick the hand-stitching and then hand quilt it with larger stitches in rows more widely spaced? Do I leave it under the bed for a few years festering while I think for a bit longer? I would love your input and Nell is now guarding the quilt for me (along with my trailing laptop cable), with her beautiful black button eyes, until I have been placed on a more sensible track.


In other random thoughts:

A few months ago, I decided to leave my less natural skincare products behind and have switched over to using Fushi products. I use their organic, cold-pressed Rosehip Oil in the morning as it's really quickly absorbed and has an oddly 'dry' feel to it that makes it perfect for using under make-up; and I use a mixture of Rosehip Oil & Evening Primrose Oil in the evening to treat my hormonal skin. The rosehip oil is also fantastic for treating scars, which is necessary after a freak (and slightly amusing) incident a few months ago when I was draining some ravioli rather too enthusiastically and a piece leapt up from the colander and slapped me on the forehead, leaving a large burn - although thankfully not in a square, with perfectly pinked edges! I also use Fushi's organic virgin shea butter on my skin and hair. It has a really hideous consistency that needs to be warmed in your palms to emulsify and it takes a lot of work to absorb it into the skin, but the results are miraculous. I really love that their products are so pure that with most of them you can choose to drink them, put them on your food, put them in your hair or put them on your skin.

I found Fushi's glass bottles slightly maddening though as they tended to drip, leaving little drops of oil about the place. I've now decanted them into little bottles and found them to be much more user-friendly. Plus, I've put gorgeous Rifle Paper stickers on them, which make me happy every time I use them.


Let's talk weird clocks. When I was a teenager, my father travelled a lot and was sometimes away for a few weeks at a time. As well as him arriving home, I would also always really look forward to the gifts he'd bring with him, which seemed deliciously foreign, such as a Japanese kimono or a little origami bookmark. From one trip, when I was about 12, he gave me a digital alarm clock. Several years later when I was away at university, one term I painted quite a lot of my furniture and I decided to spray my alarm clock silver (completely obscuring the settings in the process!). Since then, my husband and I have regularly agreed that the alarm clock is a hideous monstrosity with its flaking silver paint, but for some reason neither of us could bring ourselves to replace it...it had become this weird thing that we felt sentimentally attached to, even though neither of us knew why; almost like a talisman. However, this month we painted our bedroom, got a brand new bed and finally it felt like the right time to move on and have a grown-up alarm clock (I love the video which tells the story of the name behind this clock). I hope the adventure continues to be just as good with a new alarm clock in tow but if it falters even slightly, I shall buy a spray can and modify it! Do you have anything in your own home that is hideous but that you're too attached to to get rid of? I feel slightly ashamed to be sharing a photo of this, but it feels worthwhile to preserve the memory of it and also to properly convey what a curious thing it is that I've chosen to have this by my bedside for twenty-seven years. And just in case you're wondering, it's set ten minutes fast for tricking-ourselves-that-we're-late purposes that we find we no longer need, so our new clock is set to the right time.

Finally, a book. Last night, I read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin - it's a simple, easy novel to read, but at the same time it draws complex and interesting characters that I quickly became attached to - I absolutely loved it and read it in one long sitting. Have you read anything good lately?

Florence x

Monday, 21 March 2016

A tutorial: How to Make String Art (with a needle and thread)

String Art Tutorial How To

In the house where my husband grew up, there was a piece of string art on his bedroom wall that his father had made years earlier: it's strung on painted black wood, with red thread wrapped around the nails that have been carefully tapped into place. We've taken it with us from house to house and it's so geometrically perfect and fascinating to look at; although the colours don't feel overly restful and I've always really regretted not taking the opportunity to ask my father-in-law to make one for me in different colours when he was alive. 

string art


One of my birthday gifts from my husband this year was nine identical empty box frames. It felt like a really lovely invitation of a gift and contemplating what to make to go in them has preoccupied my thoughts on and off. Initially, I was going to create nine English paper pieced quilt blocks, but I struggled to find fabrics that felt right. Finally, last week I realised that I'd really love to have a go at making something inspired by my father-in-law's string art, but without using nails and wood.

I used some beautiful Melton Wools from Abraham Moon for the backing - it's really lovely and many of the colours have a soft heathered appearance - I'm planning to make some cushions from them at some point. Melton II and Melton III are my favourite ranges (although they have lots of herringbones and tartans for dressmaking too). If you have a spare few minutes and are as enraptured as I am at seeing cloth being woven, then do go and watch the video on the Abraham Moon site, as I think you will love seeing the traditional processes this British mill use.

String art close up

The first evening that I began experimenting with string art, I stayed up until 3.30am, as captivated by this new form of making as I had been when I first began making rope bowls. Just like the bowls, it's often a surprise to see exactly how the piece will turn out and what form it will take - it's really thrilling to watch the point at which a curve begins to form, threads begin to cross over one another and a new pattern begins to appear! The one below was the first I made - I wish I'd stuck to the outline of the circle a bit more religiously, but I love the colours changes in it.

pacman string art

I made quite a lot of different designs and, if you're interested, I'll put some links to how to create them later on as there are a lot of sites studying mathematical geometry that will put you on the right track. However, as the original 1970s designs were mainly nails and string, I thought I'd write up a quick tutorial about how to go about a basic abstract design like the one below, created using needle and thread. Officially, it's string art, but that seems like a beast of a name to give to something made with finer threads, so from here on in I'll refer to it as thread art. Let's begin.

String art tutorial 5


Ingredients List: 
  • Cloth/Fabric
  • Lightweight interfacing (optional)
  • Embroidery Hoop
  • Ruler
  • Frixion/erasable ink pen or chalk
  • Protractor
  • Thread
  • Needles (I used Clover's Gold Eye Embroidery Needles Sizes 3-9)
I have an absolutely loathing of skeins of embroidery floss, because not only does it seem to tangle itself into the most hideously untanglable knots, but it's also multi-stranded, which offers further potential for knotting. Instead, I used Lana wool thread made by Aurifil, which is 12-weight (so quite thick), single-stranded and served on a spool, which combats all of my badly-behaved-skein-of-embroidery-floss problems. In the UK, it's stocked at Eternal Maker and Pretty Fabrics & Trims.

I ironed a thin layer of fusible web to the back of my Moons' Melton Wool cloth to stabilise it, although I'm not entirely sure this was necessary. 

To get a really even finish, it's often desirable to make quite a lot of markings on the fabric and they need to be clear and precise. I think Frixion pens, which disappear with ironing, are about the only thing that would have worked on my textured cloth - they left perfectly clear marks and were erased in seconds with the iron, once I'd finished. 

String art tutorial 1

Begin by drawing a circle onto your fabric. All of my designs are based on a 4" drinks coaster, but any size will do. 


String art tutorial 2

Next, use a protractor to mark dots at evenly spaced intervals around the perimeter of the circle. I found that 5 degrees apart was perfect for most of my designs, but again, anything will work as long as you're consistent. 

String art tutorial 3


To produce a similar shape to mine, which my son has named 'pac-man' after the iconic 1980s video game character, start about two-thirds of the way across the circle, but you can actually start anywhere. The nearer to the edge you are, the more narrow the curve you'll create; the nearer to the centre, the fuller the finished shape - you can see examples of both on one of my pieces below. 

Moon string art


To make things clearer, I've created a few diagrams about the stitch order you should follow! 

Print

You can see on the above example, that I'm always moving to the right at the top of the circle and to the left at the bottom of the circle; making lines that pull against each other in opposite directions like this is what eventually causes the threads to form a curve (or would do on a less ugly diagram, but you get the idea).

Print

You can actually use far longer lengths of thread for thread art than you'd ever use when hand-sewing. To change thread colours, just overstitch or knot a few times on the back of the fabric to secure your stitches before changing colour. I love the point where the threads overlap and a triangle appears. Just keep sewing until you've reached the bit where the gap (to the right of number 1) is finally filled in.

abstract string art

I thought I'd share some of the other resources I found useful, as I did quite a bit of research. The flower below came from a pattern that I found on this site

flower string art

I regretted doing the one below in white, as it looks more snowflake than flower, but it's a really pretty pattern. You can find it here

snowflake string art

The pattern below I found on a maths website: it's a cardioid. I haven't heard of a cardioid before and I feel more inclined to believe that it's actually a juicy fig that's been cut open and is lying on my work surface! You can find details of how to make your own fig quite a long way down this page. 

fig string art

I may redo the next one at some point as it's quite a long way from being perfectly executed, but it's a curved stitch isometric cube...that disguises its own cubeishness once you've stitched it. 

String Art in Progress cube string art

When I turn it the other way up, it makes me think of someone wearing a gas mask...so I prefer it this way up. 

horseshoe string art

This lucky horseshoe just arrived of its own accord as the result of some free form experimentation. Ditto the raindrop below. 

teardrop string art

There are at least another nine or ten designs that I ended up cutting off the cloth and starting over with. Interestingly, some of the more complex designs that I really enjoyed creating didn't look as aesthetically pleasing once they were finished. These are the final nine I've chosen and at some point this week I'll hopefully get them into their frames and up on the wall. 

string art

Some more general links, just in case you're interested: I love this design, but I didn't like the colours I chose for it, so I haven't shared it here. This design is amazing and would look really impressive - I didn't attempt it as most of my pieces were around 4" finished and it seemed one that would only work on a larger scale. I researched some books around thread art, but it seems that many of the really good ones went out of print when string-art went out of fashion. However, I'll be scouring second-hand bookshops for How to Enrich Geometry Using String Designs and Curve Stitching: The Art of Sewing Beautiful Mathematical Patterns and/or hoping that thread art may come back into fashion and cause the books to be reprinted. 

Born in 1977 and owning our own original piece of string-art, I feel I may have reopened a box that also contains Burt Reynolds' moustache and John Travolta's dance moves in making these. Revival is an odd thing: there's something slightly cringe-inducing about revisiting an era, but these are too much fun to make to leave permanently behind in the 70s and I'd implore you to join me on the dance floor in making some of these yourself.  

Florence x

Ps. Whilst on the subject of 70s-inspired crafts, for the last few years I've seen more and more woven wallhangings popping up in my Instagram feed - I'd love to make some of those too!

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