Sunday, 27 January 2013

Time for Fun

No matter how busy life gets it is important we carve some time for FUN.  It has been an incredibly busy week for the Patchsmith.  Firstly there was the QuiltingGallery Mug Rug Swap registration and sign ups (be quick to join in – registration ends 28 January 2013) then there was the Craftsy blog feature – what a wonderful team those Craftsy lot are. Then Craft Gossip checked in on the Quick Fuse Applique blog from last week and finally I uploaded a new pattern – Love Hearts Mug Rug.  Phew!
Photo courtesy of Moda Bakeshop
But I have still managed to fit in a couple of extra things – or should I say the promise of extra things.  On my Pinterest board I have had the Herringbone pot holder by Melanie Dramatic on my board since before Christmas.  Well I am pleased to say I made this super little pattern this weekend but instead of a pot holder I have made it into a little wall quilt.  It is now hanging above my worktable next to the Heart Bouquet mug rug/wall quilt and another mini quilt I will be releasing in the Spring.
The pattern is free and uses charm squares (one pack of 5" charm squares will make four pot holders).  I used The Ladies Stitching Club charm pack from Moda which, on reflection is too busy for the pattern - a bit too much 'in-your-face' for me as the herringbone gets lost in amongst all that colour.  The charm pack didn't seem so bright when laid out but in this pattern - well it is just too manic and I don't think anybody would want this much colour in their kitchen! 

Photo courtesy of Moda
Next time I make this – and there will be a next time – I will use fabrics that contrast a bit more.  I also found that once I quilted the 10” square and trimmed it, I was left with 9½” block but that is plenty big enough for a dolls quilt, mini wall quilt or pot holder.  

To hang this mini quilt I used the 'fast finish triangles' from the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative.  I am going to use this method for all my mini quilts in future.  Two 3" squares were folded in half to make triangles and these were added to the back of the quilt before binding.  I cut a chopstick down to size and used that to hang the quilt from two small tacks in the wall - perfect.
The second thing I have done this week is to enrol in the Free Motion Quilting class at Craftsy. I have free motion quilted before (the lap quilt in my lounge is squiggle-quilted and I have added small amounts of free motion quilting on my mug rugs) but I lack confidence.  So I am going to set aside a little time each week and improve my skills.  I will keep you up-to-date and post pictures of how I get on.  If you want to join me then why not jump onboard.  Who knows, I may add more quilting to my Across the Pond sew along makes.  Talking of which a new project will be coming up very shortly – if you didn’t get a chance to make the bird pincushion (super little pattern) then think about jumping onboard in February.  Just click on the tab above or here 

Better go – I have a blog to write on Mug Rug Swap Etiquette for the Quilting Gallery mug rug swap.  Sew until next time .......  

Monday, 21 January 2013

Quick Fuse Applique

Night Owls Mug Rug
This week I thought I might cover some hints and tips for quick fuse applique.
(Note:  To see the stitching close up on any of the mug rugs pictured just click on the mug rug - this will take you through to my Craftsy shop where you can scroll over the picture to bring it more into focus.)

What is quick fuse applique?   It is a method of fusing fabric to fabric using a fusible webbing.  You may know fusible webbing as ‘bondaweb’, ‘wonder under’, ‘steam-a-seam’, ‘Vilene Vleisofix’ - it is all generally the same format - paper with double sided fusible webbing attached.  It allows you to fix shapes of fabric onto a background as shown in the Bunny Hop mug rug below.
Bunny Hop Mug Rug

How is it used?  One side of the fusible webbing is paper and the other side is an adhesive webbing.  You trace a design onto the paper side, cut it out roughly then fuse it onto the WRONG SIDE of your chosen fabric according to the manufacturer’s instructions (normally with a warm iron).  This will fuse the webbing to the fabric.  You then cut out the shape accurately, peel off the tracing paper and position the shape onto the RIGHT SIDE of your mug rug before fusing it in place.  Details of how to applique via this method are included with every Patchsmith pattern.

Storage of fusible webbing.   Some people like to cut sheets of fusible webbing (10"-12” square is a good size) and store the fusible webbing flat, in a bag.  Others like to store it on a roll which is how I store mine.  Whatever you do you should try not to fold it as this may make the webbing separate from the paper.  Whichever method you use it is also a good idea to pop a little silicone sachet (the type that come in handbags or shoes) into the drawer or bag in which it is stored because any moisture in the air can make the webbing separate.

Positioning applique shapes.  Take your time when positioning your applique shapes onto your mug rug prior to fusing.  I always have the applique sheet on the ironing board as I fuse the pieces onto the mug rug - this is how I constructed the Hive on the Side mug rug.
Hive-on-the-Side Mug Rug
If you do make a mistake it is sometimes possible to gently pull the webbing shape off and reapply it but this will depend very much of the fabric used.  You will only be able to do this once though as the webbing will lose its adhesiveness.  Also when laying your shapes out on the mug rug remember to take into account the ¼” border and ensure all shapes are at least ¼” from all edges of the mug rug (unless the pattern states otherwise).    For example, with the Winter Birdhouse mug rug, when you apply the birdhouse you will want to position it slightly closer to the central seam to allow for the ¼” border on the right-hand side.  In reality this does not normally detract from the look of a mug rug – it is just more pleasing to the eye.
Winter Birdhouse Mug Rug
Stitching the applique shapes in place.   With quick fuse applique the fabric is fused in place so the purpose of your stitching should be to secure the fabric to enable it to be laundered without separating.  You can stitch by hand or machine – both give differing looks to the shapes as mentioned previously HERE  The choice is totally up to you.  I use both methods – sometimes in the same mug rug as in Moonlit Cat mug rug shown below (the fish bones were hand stitched whilst the cat and moon were machine stitched).  I find machine stitching subtle but I also like the rustic look of hand stitching. 
Moonlit Cat Mug Rug
When hand stitching the most common stitch used is the blanket stitch but you could also use a straight stitch, cross stitch or a simple running stitch.  The main thing is that you stitch close to the edge to stop the fabric fraying and to hold it in place.  You should be aware however, of the impact the stitching will have on your mug rug.

Tip:  When stitching small pieces or felt pieces use only one strand of cotton rather than the usual two strands.  This will minimise the impact of the stitching.  In Black and White Cats I did not want the stitching on the mouse or the fish to stand out too much so only one strand was used. 
Black and White Cats Mug Rug
The size of stitch you use will also impact the overall look.  A small stitch appears neat and modern whilst a larger stitch can appear rustic and country.  In all honesty you most probably have a natural stitch length which will become evident once you start appliqueing. 
Finally the colour of the thread you use can be influential.  Nowhere is this more evident than in Valentine Hearts where the gingham heart has contrasting stitching whilst the stitching blends in perfectly on the solid red heart.  Many embroidery cottons come in a matt or sheen look and you will have to decide if you want your stitching to co-ordinate and blend or contrast and become a stitching feature.  Both have their appeal.   On the Christmas Delivery mug rug below I have co-ordinated the thread with the robin redbreast but contrasted the thread on the envelope.  This has given definition to the envelope whilst the robin needs no such enhancement.
Christmas Delivery Mug Rug

Tip:  If you do not have access to embroidery cotton you can get away with using two strands of sewing cotton.  This will secure the applique in place and in many cases you will not be able to tell the difference.

This all sounds like a lot of decision making but once you start stitching you will find you make these choices naturally and you will discover your quick fuse applique style.  Remember that sewing, quilting and embroidery should be fun, productive and satisfying so do not worry if your stitching isn’t always even or the cotton doesn't blend perfectly.  Do the best you can, learn along the way and have as much fun as possible. 

That's it for this week’s hints and tips.  Next week I will cover the etiquette of participating in a mug rug swap. 

Sew until next time ...... 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Patchsmith Star

Winter is truly upon us and with it comes the crisp winter nights when the sky is full of hundreds of stars.   I cannot conceive the distance between them and me but when they twinkle they seem to be twinkling just for me.  In reality they are twinkling for all of us here on earth because it is the shifting layers of air around the earth that makes the starlight appear to blink. 
I have always wanted a star named after me so I decided I had better make it happen - literally.  Hence my latest pattern - the Patchsmith Star mug rug and just like me it is quite simple (I was going to say 'easy' but .... well .... I just didn't want to be inundated with offers!!!).  I love all the paper-pieced stars around at the moment but they require matching of seams and can be quite expensive in terms of time and fabric wastage.  The Patchsmith Star on the other hand is appliqued in place and is very thrifty as you can use those itty-bitty scraps of favourite fabrics that you just can't bear to throw away.
The pattern comes with three options for the sidebar - the horizontal strip which is quick and simple; the checker board version which requires a little bit of seam matching and the pinwheel version for all you practising patchsmiths.  I like all three versions, so much so that I am going to make another couple to give to male colleagues for their desks at work.  But which version - the quick, strip, patchsmith?  Mmm .... perhaps I should ask the audience!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Pattern Update

14th January 2013 UPDATE
I have updated the
Tea and Cake, Scottie Dogs
and Red Elephant mug rug patterns
to bring these early patterns in line
with the new pattern format
introduced in September 2012. 
Only the format has changed - the patterns have not changed. Therefore, there is no need to reprint them if you have the earlier version - unless you want to.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Two Owls and Winter Birdhouse Mug Rug Patterns

In January 2013 Michele at the Quilting Gallery organized the Quilting Gallery's Mug Rug Swap. Everybody who joined in made two mug rugs - the Two Owls and the Winter Birdhouse.  So I thought I would share some hints and tips when making these fun mug rug patterns. 

Both mug rug patterns are quick and easy - both allow plenty of variation through the use of the fabrics that you choose.   Let us look at the Two Owls mug rug pattern first.
Two Owls Mug Rug
I made this mug rug in both a night-time and a day-time colour scheme.  The night-time version is hand sewn whilst the day-time version is machine stitched.  Both use the quick-fuse appliqué method.  If you look at the owl wings on both versions you will see the difference between hand and machine applique. 
The machine stitched pieces look sharper (above left) whilst the hand stitched pieces (above right) look bigger and softer.  Hand stitching tends to be more prominent whilst machine stitching can be less obtrusive.  I used a short zigzag machine stitch for the day-time version whilst the hand stitched mug rug was completed using two strands of embroidery cotton and a simple blanket stitch.   Both methods have their advantages but I would recommend that you use the method you are most comfortable with.
One feature I particularly like to use is to make the appliqué pieces stand slightly proud creating an almost 3D effect.  This is achieved by quilting very close around each appliqué piece.  It actually distorts the shape of the branch making it rounded and more like a branch.  It is very subtle and does not interfere with the use of the mug rug.  I like the look it creates and it is a process I use often. 
I quilted close to the cross on my Easter Cross mug rugto make the cross puff up.
The day-time mug rug is not quilted at all to give it a smoother, sleeker look which just goes to show that you do not have to quilt to create a stunning mini quilt. 
The eyes and beak are made of felt which is really easy to work with and the black pupils on the eyes were created using a straight stitch which was overstitched in the same place a couple of times.  This worked a treat but for all those embroidery wizards amongst you a French knot would give a similar effect. 

Finally I bound the night-time version in the same fabric as the background to continue the night-time look whilst the day-time version was bound using a scrappy border.  Both were bordered using the mitred border method (see Mug Rug Basics above for details).

With the Winter Birdhouse mug rug - this pattern combines a simple patchwork block with quick-fuse appliqué to create a stunning little mug rug.   
The robin is constructed using a very simple method whereby the redbreast and body are stitched before cutting out the bird shape.  Details are provided in the pattern with full colour diagrams.  Try it – you will be surprised at how easy it is.  
The Winter Birdhouse mug rug was bound using a single fold binding (shown on left above) - details of which can be found in Mug Rug Basics.   This colourful mug rug isn’t just for winter though - you could replace the white felt roof with a fabric roof, leave off the felt snow on the birdhouse shelf and make the bird any colour you like (maybe a bluebird or a blackbird)  to create an all-year-round mug rug.  

If you are participating in a mug rug swap (or any swap for that matter) be sure to check out my guidelines on swap etiquette to make sure everything goes smoothly.

And don't forget to check out the many fun and functional mug rug patterns in my Craftsy store.    You can also find many of my patterns in paperback book format on Amazon (see the sidebars for links and details).  Until next time.....

Monday, 7 January 2013

Paws for Thought

Have you ever wondered where ideas come from? We are all made up of the same molecules and atoms yet we regard our thoughts as uniquely ours.  However, how often have you thought of something only to find that somebody else has thought of it too almost at the same time?  Yes – me also. 
For instance, when I made my Pumpkin Patch mug rug I thought it would be a good pattern to redesign slightly to make into an apples patchwork square ..... and low-and-behold Bee-in-my-Bonnet came up with a row of apples in her recent sew-a-row-quilt (and she did it so much better than I could’ve done with apple cores included).  
Sew-a-Row Apples courtesy of Bee In my Bonnet

It is often through several of us having similar ideas that a trend starts.  And it is one of the things I love about the quilting community - we share ideas, knowledge, hints and tips.  It has always been that way with stitchers and quilters - it is woven into the heritage of quilting.  One of the lovely things about the Across the Pond Sew-Along is the way we are sharing sources of free patterns and making them up together.  It is the modern version of the traditional quilting bee.  Why not jump aboard - there is no commitment.  Check out the latest project made by the members at the Flickr group here - you will also find a chat thread for this month's project.
Talking of ideas, sometimes I find they just present themselves to me as I am going about my daily routine, as in the Black-and-White Cats mug rug ...........
There are two black-and-white cats in my neighbourhood – one old and cunning (he lives next door) and the other young and speedy (he lives over the back fence).   A couple of weeks ago as I approached the river on my daily walk, I saw the older cat had caught a mouse which was lying motionless on the grassy bank beside the cat.   The younger cat had obviously spied this and thought now would be a good time to challenge the older cat, especially with such a tasty reward if he pulled it off.   Backs arched, hissing and wailing ensued and the old cat fluffed up his body making him appear twice his normal size.  It was a dreadful din.  The older cat moved forward towards the young interloper with teeth barred.  It was enough to frighten off the challenger who turned and skulked away.  It was also enough to rouse the little field mouse who must have just been stunned, for he too scurried away into the undergrowth.   I have to say, the older cat didn’t seem very bothered at losing his treat – either that or he was just too old and tired to chase after it, for he lay down on the grass in the winter sun as I walked on by. 
And from all this commotion a new design was born – one mug rug with two options – you can have mice or fish – the pattern includes the template for both.   Of course you could include a river with fish and then put mice on either side of the river and then the two cats – but then we are talking more a storyboard than a mug rug!  But hey, if that idea grabs you – then go for it.
Until next time ....... and in the meantime, if somebody creates something that you had an idea to do why not let them know what a great idea it was and how well it turned out - after all, if you shared the thought then why not share the praise.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Next in the Pecking Order .....

I completed the red bird as mentioned in my previous posting.  This time I constructed the beak from a separate unit and attached it pretty much as you would a hanging loop.
I constructed a brown triangle of fabric approximately 3/4" long and 3/4" wide.  I positioned this brown beak on the RIGHT side of one of the main sections making sure the beak was facing inward.  The beak was stitched in place when joining the two main sections together. 

I like this look and it was so much easier than my first method.  However, check out Susie's blog as she paper-pieced her yellow beak in place and it looks perfect.  Of course the pair of us are just being pedantic as this bird would look gorgeous if the beak was in the same fabric as the main body - exactly as the pattern states. 

I can't wait to see how your bird has turned out so please post to the Flickr group once it is finished.

Until next time ......

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Tweet Start to 2013

Happy New Year everybody and I hope 2013 brings you everything you wish for or more-of-the-same if you are quite happy and content with your lot.
Here at Patchsmith Palace there are feathers flying!  All those of you who took the first PalaceTour will remember Henrietta, the faithful guard-bird.  Well today saw the introduction of another feathered friend at the Palace and Henrietta is a little jealous.  It is the January Across-the-Pond sew-along project chosen by Susie.  Susie very skillfully (she is a canny girl on the computer) found a wonderful FREE pattern for a bird pincushion/sachet created by Joel Dewberry and decreed that this is the first 2013 outing for the sew-along group.
I don’t know about you but there is always room for a pin cushion (or two, or three ..... okay maybe a few more than that).  I was lucky enough to get some new heart pins for Christmas and they are desperate for a home.  I was also craving some down-time after the hustle-and-bustle of the last few weeks so I set out to complete the January project on the first day of the month.  And it is done. 
Here are my hints and tips for this project – for all those swimming in the sew-along pond .....

1.         The pattern states that you will need 20” x 20” of the main fabric – this is far too much – in reality you will need 20” x 8” (or two 10” x 8” pieces).  So fear not – no more than a fat quarter.
2.         Step 2b and 2c instructs you to sew along the line marked on the wing. I couldn’t see a line on the template.  If you look at the photo at the top of the pattern it is clear to see that you need to embroider in a gentle curve along the wing.  So I suggest you wing it (excuse the pun!).  Talking of winging it - that is the name of the fabric I used for the body and belly of the blue bird - 'Wingin It' by Buggy Barn.
3.         Step 4a and 4b.  When pinning the body to the belly use lots of pins. 
4.         Step 5c.          You stitch one side of the body to the belly and then the pattern suggests you stitch the rest of the belly to the bird at the same time as stitching the whole thing together (leaving a 2” gap for turning).  I would advise that you stitch the second side to the belly for a couple of inches, from the tail to the bottom of the bird as you did at step 4b.  Stop sewing, break the thread and then pin the rest of the bird together.  This will make it easier for you to pin and stitch the back of the bird where the two tail sides meet.  (This sounds complicated but when you get to step 5c just pin the other side to the belly and stitch for a couple of inches from tail towards front.)   
5.         Finally, I added the wings after I had put the body together (but before I padded the body) for fear that I might catch them in the stitching. This worked really well and I was able to position them exactly where I wanted them.
6.         I tried to be clever and make the beak a different colour by stitching a scrap of yellow fabric onto the main bird piece before sewing the bird together. This was virtually impossible to turn through and although I did manage it, I wouldn’t do it again.  
I did however, add a very thin bit of wadding to the wing which gave it a more substantial feel. 

My reflections on this project – I LOVE IT.  I love this little bird as a pin cushion or just as an ornament.  I included a hanging loop on the blue bird but I think it is slightly too big to hang so I left it off the next bird I made.  This is a really versatile project and would make a lovely gift.
I also think that the wing would make an excellent needle case which you could attach to the body with Velcro – now wouldn’t that be tweet? (Sorry, but it had to be done.)  Another good use would be to fill a bag with rice and add it to the bottom of the bird before stitching the body closed so that this could be used as a paperweight. 

Sew why not join the Across the Pond Sew Along group this month with this wonderful project.  If you do then don't forget to post your finished birdies to the Flickr group and why not leave your reflections on this project in the January 2013 thread there or as a comment below.