Thursday 23 May 2013

Ice Cream, Witches and Alphabets

It has been a busy week here at Patchsmith Palace.  First there were alphabets and letters everywhere:
  then girls names:
then guys:

After all that stitching there was only one thing for it (or maybe three) – raspberry ice cream sundae:
followed by peach ice-cream:
and another but with extra raspberry sauce:
And then, after all that sugar, it was time to make my get-away:
I’m sure to come back down to earth in a day or two!

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Saving Time and Money in the Sewing Room

Okay, I promised you some practical hints and tips following my philosophical rantings last week so here they are. 
Zakka Elephant Bookmark - all is not quite as it seems ......
the button eye is from an old dress, the hair bow  from the hanging loop off a top and the bright pink neck and dress ribbon is from a chocolate box wrapping!

Buttons         It is often cheaper to buy old shirts and clothes from charity shops/thrift stores and take the buttons off rather than buy new.  Children’s clothes are a good source of cotton fabric and cute, novelty buttons.

Bag making             The same applies to old bags found at thrift stores and jumble sales (no I don’t mean the dear old ladies who will not let you have that Prada handbag for 50 cents!!!).   Unwanted bags often have fixings and hardware that can be re-used.  I did this with my very first bag – the Zakka messenger bag - all the pieces came from the charity shop and cost only pennies.
Ribbon          Take ribbon off chocolate boxes and gift boxes.  Always check that the ribbon is not nylon before using it.  I also use the hanging loops from clothes as followers of my blog may remember.

Keep a hand torch in the workroom – if you drop a pin or a needle onto the floor it will be easier to find with a light shining on it.

Don’t put a needle down on a flat surface because it will be difficult to pick up.  Place it in a pin-cushion or on a mug rug instead.  Do I need tell you it will be much easier to pick up if it is placed on a Patchsmith mug rug?
Patchsmith mug rugs - great for cups, mugs and ..... needles!!!
Velcro dots  Make your own Velcro dots by tracing around a small coin onto the back of ordinary sew-on Velcro.  You can make a lot of dots from a very small piece.

And here are some tips specifically for mug rugs:

1.         Always unpick from the back.  If you are careless with the seam ripper you can patch the back whereas a patch across the front may just be noticeable (you would think!).
2.         Don’t worry too much about seam matching – if it is a little out it really won’t matter.  If you look closely at the patchwork block on my Extra Raspberry Ice Cream Sundae you will see the seam on the left-hand side is a little out.  Obviously I didn't notice at the time but now that I do I still think it is a lovely little mug rug.
3.         Remember that a mug rug will most probably hold a cup so do not place buttons in the area that you anticipate a cup resting – not unless they are quite flat buttons - as it may make the cup unsteady.  Wherever possible try to place them towards the top or bottom of the mug rug. 

The button on this honey pot is nicely out of the way of a cup.

4.         Use a small pair of nail scissors for cutting out little pieces of appliqué.

5.         Move the fabric, rather than moving the scissors when cutting circles or arcs – this will make for a smoother cut (this may sound odd but try it, you’ll see what I mean).

6.         Let fusible webbing cool completely – it is easier to peel.  You may want to get your mug rug finished NOW but go make a cup of tea. By the time you bring your cuppa back to the sewing room the appliqué should be cooled and ready for peeling.
7.         Use felt for very small pieces – it is less likely to fray.
Felt stars on Dad/Pop Mug Rug
8.         To hang a mug rug that is already bound attach a small washer to the middle of the back, 1/2” down from the centre. The mug rug should hang from a small tack quite nicely.

So there you have it.  I am off to Bronte country for a few days – it would be lovely to return home to find an outpouring of hints and tips left in the comments below.  All are welcome.

Sew until next time ......

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Memorial Day, Flag Holidays and a Giveaway

Memorial Day is only a couple of weeks away and flag holiday season will soon be here. So be prepared with the perfect table decoration or hostess gift from the Patchsmith.

First up is the Stars and Stripes mug rug pattern - applique stars with the American Flag on the side.


Or perhaps you prefer the Uncle Sam mug rug - this pattern includes instructions on strip-applique and a foolproof way of quilting the star on the side.

These two little patterns  are not just for the holidays though - they will make the perfect gift for Father's Day, a birthday or as an end-of-term 'thank you' for a favourite teacher. 

(Don't forget all PATCHSMITH PATTERNS are only $1.99 each and come with colour diagrams, easy to follow instructions and full size applique sheets.) 

Both patterns are so quick and easy to put together that you will have plenty of time to make one to give and one to keep for yourself.

Talking of giving away - 'Alie Makes' has a giveaway where you can win a $25 fabric gift certificate.  Alie also has a copy of my Spring Chicken mug rug pattern to give to the winner.

Alie is a relatively new blogger and she needs our support - so head on over and join her as she starts her journey into blogland - you never know where this new friendship may lead!   

Alie's giveaway closes this Friday, 17th May so there isn't a moment to spare.


Monday 13 May 2013

Fabric of Life

My first mug rug swap made from scraps
This week I read a blog where the quilter had adapted a pattern to make use of the fabric and notions she had to hand and I was proud - proud of the 'make-do' legacy of quilting and proud that this legacy was still being used.  I know what you're all thinking - what has happened to the light-headed Patchsmith?  Well this week I want to get deep and share a little of my values concerning our craft. (If philosophical ramblings are not your thing then feel free to close the page and come back next week when I will be sharing some practical 'make-do' hints and tips for quilters.)
Buttons covered with very small scraps of fabric
I am strong supporter of the make-do-and-mend philosophy and when I am asked what batting or fabric I used on a certain pattern, my answer will usually be "I used scraps" or "scraps of batting".  Sometimes the fabric I use is from an old dress or shirt picked up from the charity shop, more often than not it is from my scrap box.  I keep and use scraps of all shapes and sizes - even down to 1" square.   I believe this is in keeping with the history and thrift of quilting.  ‘Recycle’, ‘upcycle’, ‘downshift’ – these terms were not in existence one hundred years ago.  Yet they were present in everything created, everything made, everything used and everything done. They were a necessity – the ‘fabric of life’ and, without them the brave New World and working communities would not have thrived.
Wnter wall quilt made from old shirts
Quilting and using scraps is not about getting back to basics either as basics have never left the quilter or home sewist – basics are woven with every stitch we make, every weft we follow and every needle we thread.
Black and White Cats Mug Rug - fun with fabric

To me quilting is about honesty, authenticity, creation and connection.  To me quilting is also about ‘fun’ and I am well aware that it is only because we sit on the laps of grandmothers, mothers and the women before them, that we have the luxury of sewing for ‘fun’.  We are the thread through time – a thread that runs across lands and generations, a thread that is born from watching, learning and sharing.  It is through us that this connection continues, into the future and into perpetuity.   We are that connection. 
Learning from our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers
As quilters and sewists - do we make any less contribution to mankind and history than the ‘great’ men and women? Theirs may be a singular life of achievements and progression of thought, whereas our history is a weaving of relationships, hearts, homes, warmth and love. When Lincoln died that day in 1865, laid out upon a bed, were his final moments made any more comfortable because of the quilt he lay upon?  And whilst they may have found the shroud of Christ do we know who stitched it?  I believe we may never know as the answers lie in the detail of everyday life and it is these very details that remain hidden from history. 
What I do know however, is that our craft is a craft that creates comfort and connection from scraps of fabric.   And through blogging we can be sure that the details of our craft are better recorded today than at any other time in history. 

Jinny Beyer's remarkable historical collection of quilt patterns
(Note:  I do not minimise the growing numbers of historians among us who are patching together the history of quilting – people such as Celia Eddy and Jinny Beyer, to name just two.)

So there you have it - a little bit of the Patchsmith's philosophy.  Bored yet?  I hope not but don't worry - next week I will be back to my practical self.  

Sew until then ....... 

Friday 3 May 2013

Sewing Room Storage

Life presented me with a few sewing room challenges this week – firstly my fat quarters were overflowing and I had started to stack them on the floor - not an ideal place for fabric. Then my jelly roll strips were disorganised and untidy and getting more so each time I went to use them.  And finally, the bookshelf in the sewing room fell down on Tuesday evening!

The bookshelf dilemma was relatively easy to solve in the short-term – I moved all the books to the living room bookcase.  However, the fat quarter storage required a trip to Ikea where I purchased two tall CD storage units.  There are enough sections to seperate according to colour and pattern.  I love it.  When I walk into the sewing room now it feels ordered and calm - as opposed to chaotic and messy.
As for the jelly roll situation – serendipity stepped in to help solve that mess.  Firstly I folded each strip and secured it with a plastic coated paperclip.  This is providing a great way of keeping the strips tidy and it allows me to swap them around when deciding on fabric choices (I wouldn't recommend using metal paperclips as they may rust over time).   
But I was still left with the problem of storing all the folded strips.  That is where Amy from Amy Made That comes in (and quite frankly, it is hard to keep her from nosing around any sewing room – so be warned!)
It was Amy’s turn for the May sew-along project and she chose ‘May baskets’ as this month's project.   The baskets can be any type you like whether it is appliquéd or quilted baskets or actual pots constructed from fabric.  Amy mentioned two fabric constructed baskets on her blog and I decided to make the free basket pattern from The Sometimes Crafter.  Less than one hour later and I had created the ideal place to put my jelly roll fabrics.   
I hadn’t checked the measurements before making the basket so I didn’t know that it would be the perfect fit for my new storage unit too. How cool is that? 
I adjusted the pattern slightly because I didn’t have stiff interfacing and the box was too floppy for my needs.  So I top stitched each side and along the bottom edges.  This firmed the box up considerably and helps it keep its shape.  If you decide to do the same then do not top-stitch right to the edge or into the corners as you may catch the other side – stop stitching ¼” from the side/edge.  An alternative would be to top-stitch the sides and place a piece of card in the bottom of the box. 

Check back with Amy this month as she will be showing off her choise of May basket and if I know Amy it will be a stunner.  Also pop over to Susie's Sunroom where Susie shows off her string baskets made using the Pink Penguins free tutorial.
The bonus for me in all this (aside from a neat workroom) was that I was left with 4½” square scraps after cutting out the box and, as the project took less than an hour, I still had most of the evening left - with nothing planned.  So I set up an audio book on my tablet and set about making a pretty little coaster using one of the gingham scraps, my Spring Lambs mug rug pattern and a few simple embroidery stitches. 
What a blissful evening – May sew-along project done; storage sorted; I listened to good book and hand stitched a pretty little coaster. Evenings don’t come much better than this.

If you fancy spending a blissful evening making May baskets then hop on board the sew-along and make some friends on both sides of the pond.  And don't forget to post your photos to the Across-the-Pond Flickr group. 

Sew until next time .......