"Containing 15 fresh, fun fat-quarter projects, from doorstops and drawstring bags to tablemats, aprons and cushions, this book is ideal for sewers of all abilities. It starts with a comprehensive techniques section, guiding you through a variety of useful techniques, from inserting a zip and sewing buttonholes to creating patchwork. The techniques are fully explained and are combined with easy-to-follow step-by-step photography. The book then leads on to the projects; each contains inspiring photography, instructive hand-drawn illustrations and heaps of handy hints and tips. Each project is made from fat quarter fabric, but there is no reason why you can’t cut your own or use up some of your cherished left-over stash fabrics instead."
Search Press Book Review – Fun with Fat Quarters by Wendy Gardiner
“15 gorgeous sewing projects for using up your fabric stash”
As you can see from the cover, this is a book of projects for using up those lovely little pieces of fabric you have bought or accumulated over the years, but which don’t quite go with the rest of your stash. It’s a new book from Search Press, which came out earlier this year.
The book is well presented and has nice clear pictures – a mixture of photographs and sketches. The book is aimed at beginners, starting off with “What is a fat quarter?” and going on from there to materials, tools and techniques.
I decided to have a go at making a pinwheel block, as I’d always been scared of having to sew the triangles together (don’t ask!) but this way is really easy!
The projects start at Page 41, but a lot of them didn't really inspire me - things like the apron could be resized to fit a range of people, and the draught excluder would be great as a child's first sewing machine project as it's just straight lines (though they may need a bit of help with the "box ends").
There are some lovely cute projects, such as the drawstring shoe bag and lingerie bag with applique high heels and underwear! I liked the description of the party clutch and the “Bubble” technique, which I’d only seen previously using shrink polyester. The “Tucked and stitched pillow” looked like a great opportunity to try out all those fancy stitches on your sewing machine, and the tucked bit suddenly looks easier than I thought it would be!
What I made:
I had some sample pieces of upholstery fabric I’d collected over the years, so thought this would be a good opportunity to use them up by trying to make pinwheel blocks.
I actually got out my iron this time! It’s amazing how much easier it makes things … (Yeah, who knew!)
So I followed the nice clear instructions, and although my blocks aren’t perfect they’re not too bad, especially as upholstery fabric is quite thick and there’s a lot of fabric where all the corners meet.
Once I’d made a couple of blocks I wondered what I should do with them … once I laid out all my pieces of fabric I realised I had enough to make a cushion, and I even had a zip.
I tried various layouts …
I sewed the pieces together in strips, evened them up and sewed them all together to make a square.
I found some plain calico in my material box which I used for the backing, and I actually got the zip right this time – no visible stitches on the outside – I’m really proud of it!
So here is the finished cushion, which I love and will be staying in my lounge.
Thanks so much to my lovely colleagues at Search Press for my review copy of this book.
You can buy your copy here for just £10.99: http://www.searchpress.com/book/9781782211464/fun-with-fat-quarters
In case you’re wondering why I am working on my patchwork skills and not my silk painting at the moment, my long term plan is to make cushions out of my hand painted silk fabrics. Watch this space and sign up to my mailing list to be the first to know!
In other news …
Spring 2016 silk painting course dates coming soon ...
I have set up a new group for silk painters in the UK. Everyone who has tried silk painting is welcome to join us - we've got a mix of new and experienced painters so it should be great fun. We can get together in a friendly environment and chat about stuff / share hints and tips etc. Here it is! https://www.facebook.com/groups/1640085952923187/
You can also find me on my Facebook page :)
About this book
I’m not a patchworker but I love this book! It makes me think that I could be one!
The instructions are fantastic, so clear, with lots of pictures and diagrams, and tables to show you exactly how many blocks and how much fabric you need for each type of quilt.
So, I decided to have a go at the Ripple quilt. A small one. I chose this one because it was all straight lines and no diagonals so I thought I’d have a chance of getting it right!
It starts off with an insight into how to collect, prepare and store your strips, which would be really helpful for someone with a larger stash, and suggests steam ironing them before use to reduce the chance of shrinkage.
The book then talks about each quilt design and gives some ideas for how to select fabrics to make them look effective. It also has some pages of general instructions, including some great pictures on how to bind a quilt using straight-grain binding.
Each section of the book is a complete project. This makes it easy to concentrate and not get lost! It also tells you the size of your finished block, which in the “Ripple Effect” version is 12ins x 16ins. I knew I didn’t need a full size quilt, so wondered whether I should just make a couple of blocks and turn them into cushions or bags … Or whether to make a long thin one to go across the end of the bed … which would also mean it would fit in the sewing machine! Decisions!
Time for a look through the fabric stash! Unfortunately, unlike Gudrun, I don’t have a nice pre-cut set of strips anywhere so I have to choose my fabrics and then play with the rotary cutter and mat … time to go and make them earn their keep!
As I have a lot of black fabrics, and it’s that time of the year, it would be fun to make a Halloween quilt thing for the end of the bed. However, I decided to play safe and just make a cushion, as I had a rectangular cushion pad which needed using up and this block looked just right.
Ironing your pieces, as instructed, will really help you with this project! However, I was upstairs and the iron was downstairs so that didn’t happen …!
So, cutting and sewing the pieces was easy. The instructions were brilliant and clear enough that I felt really confident working on it. I’m really proud of what I achieved in an afternoon.
Having made the block, it was a bit too small to make a good cushion cover, so I decided to put a whole run of black all the way round – needed a strip and a bit – as this meant it stayed similar dimensions. I also then discovered that the remains of my pretty purple paisley FQ, which I’d taken two strips off to make the front, was a perfect size for the back!
I had an absolutely awesome fun time making this and I LOVE my new cushion! I even managed to put in a zip!
I also had just enough left over to make a matching pincushion ... Who would have thought it would need that much stuffing...
Thanks so much to the lovely people at Search Press for my review copy of this book!
Black fabric strips 2.5 inches wide by 42 inches.
Patterned fabric 21.5 inches square.
I was lucky to be recently given a copy of Quilted Flowers by Nikki Tinkler to review, thanks to my lovely colleagues at Search Press.
Here's what they have to say about the book:
"This book explains how to make 20 simple quilted flower inspired gifts, including cushions, bags, a wall hanging, a quilt, needlecases, greetings cards, a table runner, bunting and much more. Each project in this book is accompanied by a beautiful, full-colour styled photograph of the project together with a close-up detail; clear, step-by-step instructions; a list of the materials and equipment needed; and diagrams and templates where required. All the basic techniques are explained at the beginning of the book, making this an ideal book for beginners as well as more experienced stitchers looking for inspiration.
• There is nothing quite like this book on the market, making it the first point of call for anyone interested in quilted flowers
• 20 beautiful, unique projects to give away as gifts, or to keep for yourself as a wonderful treat
• Clear step by step instructions make the quilted flower projects accessible for beginners, with plenty to inspire the more experienced"
64 pages. RRP £7.99
This book is part of Search Press's "Love to Sew" series, which currently has about half a dozen titles. The projects themselves look quite simple, and it looks like a good way to use up offcuts from your fabric stash.
The book looked nice when it turned up - square format, sturdy papery pages with the products nicely photographed in lifestyle settings. The book is well presented with materials, instructions, project pictures and some tips on each double spread. There are no progress pictures though, only words, which some people might find tricky to follow.
I thought I'd try out one of the projects to see how easy / hard it was.
Small projects are also a great way to support local makers and fabric designers, as even if you just buy a fat quarter from them it can go a long way!
There's some good information at the front - it talks about the different types of wadding for hand and machine sewing - I didn't know there was a difference ...! There is also a helpful double spread showing how to do a range of hand stitches for sewing and embellishment, and a set of templates in the back of the book.
I decided I would try out the first project, which is the "Mini Daisy Quilt". This is a 16-patch mini quilt with stitched daisies and an edge binding, which should come out about 2ft square. Thankfully I have a sewing machine, so I hoped this wouldn't take me too long.
Experienced patchwork people may want to look away now ... a certain amount of unorthodox technique happened during the construction of this piece!
As a novice patchworker I liked the way it suggested the colours I could use and told me how many pieces of each I would need. I decided to use some random fabric I had, and to make the squares a bit smaller, as I knew I didn't have much wadding and wanted to do it that day! I had also never done edge binding before and was a bit nervous!
So, the instructions were fine - the fabric marking pen though fades INSTANTLY - suggest using something else like tailor's chalk which will stay on, or using a temporary stitch to mark the centre of each template so you can trace them on properly just before you embroider! I put my piece of patchwork into an embroidery hoop as I thought that would give me a better chance of sewing more even running stitch - I think it worked...
If I did this again, I would do more embroidery on it, and use a less patterned fabric so it would show up more.
Machine quilting all the lines outside the flowers was fine - I used an awful lot of pins to keep it in place - I'm not sure whether this would have been easier or harder with larger squares ... I started in the middle and worked my way outwards, which it didn't tell me to do, but I thought it might be a good idea as I was scared my wadding was going to run away! I did have to remember to seal all the ends of the stitching rows before skipping over the flower petal, which was a bit annoying.
This would probably have come out better if I'd used a rotary cutter for my pieces rather than a ruler and scissors - as they didn't quite line up so this made the "stitch in the ditch" harder. I also did a couple of rows of zig zag stitch around the edge of the whole thing before tidying it up, to make sure it would stay relatively square - the outside corners were flopping around quite a lot, even with pins in. Yes I know I was supposed to do tacking stitches all the way across it, but that wasn't going to happen!
I wasn't in the mood for tackling doing binding strips, and had it in my head that these would need to be bias cut (but on reading the instructions again they don't have to be), so I used wide satin ribbon instead and just sewed it on from the outside. I quite like the row of little stitches! There is another, better, explanation of how to do binding at the front of the book in the "Basic Techniques" section which I found later, so I might give it another go some time.
My finished piece was approx 30x30cm and used 2x10cm strips of cotton fabric, 30x30cm of wadding, about 1m30 of black satin ribbon and a piece of old t-shirt for the back! I used crochet cotton for the flower.
The one thing I don't like about my piece is the gaps in the grid lines on the back where you had to leave room for the flower petals to come through. It looks really bitty. I think I'm going to go back and fill those lines in, and never mind about the whole "Petal effect" thing... It's fun the way it goes across the boundaries between the pieces, but I think it looks messy without the full lines of stitching, given you get a pattern change along the line anyway.
PS - I just realised why my flower looks weird. I embroidered it on to the top fabric before I assembled the quilt, rather than doing them through all three layers for that 3D effect! Whoooops!
All in, this took me about 2.5 hours, and was quite a fun way to spend an afternoon. It was really nice to have a project which I could completely finish in a few hours, so if the rest are like that then I'd thoroughly recommend this book.
I am impressed at how good my teeny little quilt looks, given I didn't follow the instructions anywhere near precisely ... More experienced stitchers will, of course, get more professional looking results!
I then decided it would be a good thing to have something I could actually use, so I turned it into a pencil case instead!
There are a good range of projects in this book, ranging from a simple felt applique card using blanket stitch through to an embroidered and quilted Christmas table runner. Some nice ideas which could be easily translated into projects of your own.
You can get this book here: http://www.searchpress.com/book/9781844488476/quilted-flowers
Last week I got quite excited by the shape of Star Anise!
Fun with shapes!
I decided that I would paint some on an 18” square, which I could use as a cushion cover, or cut up if I hated it(!). This would also be a good trial piece for a larger scarf.
I decided to go with quite a free approach to the outliner this time, so didn’t do myself a pattern beforehand and just “went for it” and drew directly on the silk with the outliner. I thought that the background would be more fun if it was patterned rather than plain, so I extended some of the points of the seed pods into long lines so they would intersect and give me a nice geometric pattern.
Because of these lines, I decided to call this piece “Star Crossed Anise”, a reference to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, which I was reading a little while ago. It’s amazing how a plan comes together!
I decided to stick with brown for the seed pods.
I love the different shades of brown, but it was a dull afternoon and I wanted something to spice it up! Thankfully I’d run a one of my Beginners Courses that day, so had some paint left in the palettes – time for a rainbow extravaganza!
Next time I will draw my long lines a bit slower (and possibly use my special ruler technique … more on that another time!) as although they looked fine on initial inspection, a couple of them weren’t quite strong enough to hold back the paints when I started in with the texture techniques … something to bear in mind for future paintings!
I will definitely be doing some more work inspired by star anise, as I love the shapes!
Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing a little bit of my process. Happy creating!
About Star Anise
Illicium verum (star anise)
Star Anise is an evergreen tree and produces an essential oil containing anethole, which is used for flavouring drinks and confectionery and also in Chinese traditional medicine.
It is thought most likely to be native to southern China and northeast Vietnam and has been cultivated since about 2,000 BC.
Star anise fruits are harvested just before ripening, when the essential oil content is high, and used to produce a spice which is similar in flavour to aniseed. Star anise is widely used in Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines and is one ingredient of Chinese five spice.
It is also cultivated as an aromatic ornamental in tropical climates, on account of its small, scented flowers and fragrant leaves.
Thinking about the experimental process ... it's a wonderful thing! I spent several hours at the weekend sitting with a pad of paper and drawing leaves, both real and fantasy. At some point I will use them as the basis of some new work.
This time I only used pencil on lined paper, as it was what I had in front of me, but you could try a range of different pens, pencils, colours, and different papers too. If you're feeling exciting you could do a collage (a great way to recycle your junk mail - pizza toppings make fantastic textures!), or paint something, or even go the whole hog and paint a full colour background on your page and then draw on top!
Keep your scribbles, even if they end up in a shoebox under the bed rather than in a scrapbook or sketch book. If you get low on inspiration then just go and take a look in your box - you'll soon find something which excites you!
You may never use them, you may use them months or even years later, but remember to keep creating. Everything you do helps you to grow as an artist, to hone your physical and mental artistic skills.
A box can be a great thing, when used alongside traditional sketchbooks, especially for those who work in 3D. Little luggage labels can be attached to objects so you know when/where/why you chose them.
Taking photographs also helps to develop your eye as well as your technical skills, doesn't take up space, and can give a wealth of inspiration for future projects. Try taking photos from different angles, or of close up bits you would not normally give a second glance. I quite like drain covers - there are so many fabulous geometric designs which can be tweaked, coloured, embellished and tesselated for borders and abstract work!
Now is a great time to collect and press some leaves, and take pictures of those gorgeous autumn colours and sunsets. These lovely warm colours, reds, oranges, russets, will keep us going through the depths of winter until the snowdrops come again in the spring.
I leave you with one of my favourite quotes:
I had a great time this week working on Liz Climo’s lovely free colouring page. It was originally A4 size so I enlarged it a bit and printed it out so I could trace it on to silk. It was a great exercise in fine outlining work and quite relaxing as I knew I couldn’t sell it. Besides, I rather fell in love with the octopus! My version is approx 18 inches square.
Here’s a few pictures (I forgot to take progress pictures of this one … sorry!)
If you like this idea, there are loads of free colouring pages out there on the internet, which are great to paint when you are getting started, but please remember that you can’t sell them.
If you would like to find out more about developing your own designs, book a place on my Inspiration Day to find out how! (NB: Some prior silk painting experience is required).
For those who don’t know who Liz Climo is, she’s a fabulous web comic artist and Simpsons animator. You can see more of her work here:
Here's the link to Liz's free colouring page:
Experienced silk painter, glass fuser, teacher, enthusiastic and inspirational.