Friday, 21 October 2016

Book Review: A World of Quilts

If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen that I've been putting in lots of hours of work lately on the Christmas quilt I'm sewing for my sister. This seems like a good time to review one of the quilting books that's been on my "to review" pile for a while!

A few years ago I reviewed Quilt Love by Cassandra Ellis and adored it. Her aesthetic isn't my usual taste (I'm a sucker for really bright, bold colours) but Cassandra writes so passionately about quilt making and the joy of making special, meaningful quilts full of character, memories, history and emotion. The book was also really rather beautiful! I pretty much fell in love with it and the whole idea of making a quilt.

So, I was delighted when her publishers (Jacqui Small, who publish so many gorgeous titles) sent me a copy of the follow up - A World of Quilts - to review. Unfortunately they sent it at a time that I was feeling a little overwhelmed by work and it (and a few other titles) has sat on a shelf ever since. Hopefully this review will be worth the wait...

Like Quilt Love, A World of Quilts is a beautiful hardback. This time round the designs are inspired by quilting traditions around the world, with 25 contemporary quilt designs included in the book. The designs are inspired by styles such as Postage Stamp, Rail Fence, Kantha, Wild Goose Chase, Amish Sawtooth, Wholecloth, Utility, String, Welsh Bars, Log Cabin, Pojagi, Irish Chain and many more.

Then there's a "Quilt Masterclass" section, which covers everything from designing your quilt and choosing fabrics to binding the quilt and caring for the finished quilt. I found this section very useful when I came to start the actual quilting part of my Christmas quilt recently, it's filled with lots of helpful tips.

You can, of course, get a quilting how-to from lots of different books - so what makes this book special? For me, it's Cassandra's whole approach to quilting.

She writes in the book's introduction that she realised quilts were "the absolute summation of homes, families, communities and individuals. They were practical and very, very personal, which meant they became completely precious to the individual and family. Quilts represented both the maker's creativity and their family's history. As well as a means to provide warmth, quilts could be the ultimate storytellers."

Her writing is so encouraging and inspiring!

"Find a story and a quilt that moves you. Do not fret over your stitching skills or be anxious about your choice of fabric. Most of all, don't give a moment's thought to whether you feel you are creative. Just make."

She encourages you to work with fabrics that have real meaning to you, including recycling old shirts and dresses, and using luxurious fabrics like silk and velvet to create something really special. I'm so used to seeing quilts made with purpose-designed quilting cottons it makes a nice change seeing something like, for example, a quilt made from vintage saris.

Even the Masterclass section is inspiring. The advice isn't at all prescriptive, instead there's lots of emphasis on doing what works best for you and not worrying too much about small imperfections. "The Japanese have a philosophy of kaizen, which means continuous improvement while being happy with what you have created now - and I love this idea. Just remember, it is the making that is important, not the perfect triangle."

This is basically exactly what I needed to hear as I embarked on hand quilting my sister's quilt - it's being made with so much love, what does it matter if my stitching isn't quite straight and my stitches are a bit wonky?

Each of the 25 designs in the book is introduced with a page about the history of the traditional design or local quilting tradition which inspired it. Together these are like a mini history of quilt making, they're so interesting to read!

Then there's an in-situ photo of the quilt looking lovely and all the practical information needed to make the quilt. The projects are rated by difficulty: "easy", "a little more challenging" and "requires patience and concentration" so you can see which ones you feel up to tackling.

Each design is illustrated with a clear photo of the quilt laid out flat and (apart from the simplest designs in the book) also a diagram showing the arrangement of the pieces and the block sizes. Cassandra has also included a little "make it yours" section for each project, with suggestions for ways you could vary the design through your fabric choices, sizing, etc. Not much information is given about how she's chosen to actually quilt each design, though - the instructions focus mostly on making the quilt top then quilting and binding is covered in the Masterclass section.

All the designs in the book are inspired by traditional designs - these are Cassandra's interpretations of them, not a how to guide for sewing 25 different traditional quilts. For example, the English Paper Piecing quilt features just 66 pieced hexagons arranged in decorative rows across the quilt.

I love this idea of incorporating a time consuming, traditional technique in a contemporary quilt. The look is very fresh and - of course- the quilts will be much quicker to make!

All in all this is a really wonderful book and one I highly recommend if you're thinking about making a quilt, or even just curling up on the sofa reading about quilts and daydreaming about the one you'll make one day.

A World of Quilts: Designing and Making Contemporary Quilts Inspired by Traditional Patterns by Cassandra Ellis is published by Jacqui Small. RRP £25. It's available from Amazon UK, the Book Depository and many other bookshops. 

It's also been republished in the US as World of Quilts - 25 Modern Projects: Reinterpreting Quilting Heritage from Around the Globe, a paperback published by C&T Publishing, available on Amazon USA.

Please note: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Kitsch Festive Stocking for Mollie Makes

I'm delighted to have a project in the current issue of Mollie Makes (issue 72).

Here's a peek at it on the first page...


... here's me on page 59 (it never gets less weird seeing your own face staring back at you from a magazine!)...


... and here's my stocking project in all it's kitsch, pom-pom-and-tassel-covered glory :)

I love crafting throughout the year, of course, but I think Christmas crafting is my favourite! There are so many nice festive projects in this month's issue of Mollie Makes, it's a joy to have my stocking published alongside them.

The new edition of Mollie Makes Christmas got a little mention, too (with my partridge and pear wreath on the cover, yay!).

Click here to see more of the crafty, creative goodness in issue 72 of Mollie Makes. It's in UK shops now and available online here. The digital edition is available from ZinioGoogle Play or Apple Newsstand.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Christmas Ornament Tutorial: Sew a Felt Reindeer Bauble

My series of free Christmas ornament tutorials continues! Today, how to sew a reindeer ornament:

felt reindeer ornament

This reindeer bauble is part of a set of cute felt Christmas ornaments I designed for docrafts Creativity magazine last year.

I've already shared tutorials for the snowman bauble and the stripey stocking... the rest will be popping up on my blog over the next couple of weeks. 

felt Christmas ornaments
 felt Christmas ornaments
felt reindeer ornament

To make the reindeer bauble, you will need:

- templates (see the bottom of this post)
- royal blue felt
- light brown felt
- small pieces of red and dark brown felt
- matching sewing threads
- black and white embroidery thread (floss)
- white narrow ribbon
- silver seed beads
- toy stuffing
- sewing scissors (I recommend using embroidery scissors to cut out the small felt shapes)
- sewing needles and pins

felt reindeer ornament

To make the reindeer bauble:

1. Use the templates provided to cut out the following felt pieces: two blue bauble shapes, one light brown body, one light brown head, two dark brown antlers (one left and one right) and one red nose.

2. Gradually build up the reindeer picture on one of the bauble shapes, sewing the pieces in position one by one and using the photos as a guide.

Start with the reindeer's body then add the head, then the antlers. Finally, add the red nose. Use whip stitch and matching sewing thread, holding or pinning the pieces in place as you sew.

Tip: you'll be sewing around the bauble later on so you can leave the bottom edge of the reindeer's body (where it follows the curve of the bauble) unstitched until then.

3. Add the embroidered details using half strands of embroidery thread (i.e. for six stranded thread use three strands), switching to a larger needle if needed.

Use black thread to backstitch the reindeer's smile, and to sew a few small stitches close together for each eye.

Tip: if you prefer, you could stitch a French knot for each eye or use black seed beads.

4. Fill in the background space around the reindeer with sparkly silver seed beads, sewing each bead in place with a double thickness of blue sewing thread.

5. Cut a 15cm (6 inch) length of narrow white ribbon. Fold the ribbon into a loop and sew the ends to the top of the undecorated bauble shape. Use whip stitch and blue sewing thread, sewing into the felt not through it.

6. Place the front and back bauble pieces together so the ends of the ribbon are sandwiched between the two layers and the loop sticks out the top above the reindeer.

Hold or pin the two bauble pieces together and blanket stitch around the edge, using half strands of white embroidery thread. Start at the top (where the ribbon loop sticks out), stitch most of the way round and leave a gap for stuffing..

7. Add small pieces of stuffing to gradually fill the bauble, stuffing it lightly so it's evenly filled but still very squishy. Then sew up the gap with more blanket stitches and finish your stitching neatly at the back. 

felt reindeer ornament

This tutorial is for personal use only: you can use it to stitch as many felt ornaments as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a photo or two if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire post or share the pattern itself on your site. Thanks!

The fourth tutorial in this series will be posted next week.

Want more free, festive felt tutorials? Check out my tutorial archive!

For even more crafty goodness, check out my books: Super-Cute Felt and Super-Cute Felt Animals.

Click here to view the template sheet, make sure you're viewing it full size then print it at 100%.

felt reindeer ornament tutorial

Friday, 14 October 2016

Upcoming Class: Make Felt Christmas Ornaments

On Sunday 27th November, I'll be teaching a festive sewing class at the Village Haberdashery in London: making vintage-inspired felt Christmas ornaments!

These ornaments are so much fun to sew - there are so many different possibilities when it comes to decorating them! You can also choose to stuff them for a 3D look, or leave them flat.

You'll receive the materials and patterns you need to make the baubles, choosing from a traditional red and green colour-scheme...

... and a modern pink, blue and turquoise colour combo.

Then I'll teach you how to make the baubles, decorating them with ribbons, sequins, beads and simple embroidery.

As well as your finished ornaments, you'll get a copy of the pattern to take home so you can make as many as you like for your Christmas tree or as gifts for friends.

Click here for the full details of the Christmas ornament class and to sign up.

I'm also teaching two other classes at the Village Haberdashery, later this month - follow the links for more info!

Weather-themed Felt Baby Mobile class, Saturday 29th October.

Felt Autumn Wreath class, Sunday 30th October.


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