Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Making a Christmas Quilt: Part Two

By December 2015, the Christmas quilt I was sewing for my sister looked like this:


(If you've not read Part One click here to catch up!).

2016 was a very busy year for me and (I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this) it took me nine months to get around to shopping for wadding and backing fabric to complete the quilt. When it arrived, though, I was excited to get stuck into the quilting process.


I found some nice red extra-wide fabric which wasn't a perfect match for the deeper red in the quilt top, but still looked good and meant I didn't have to worry about joining fabric together to make the back of the quilt. After washing and ironing the backing fabric, I ironed the quilt top...


... and laid all three layers out on our living room floor, pinning them together with special curved safety pins. 


As well as the wadding, backing fabric, and quilting pins, I also bought some special thread designed for hand-quilting and a massive (16 inch / 40 cm) quilting hoop - you use the hoop to help hold the fabric as you stitch. It was, I'll be honest here, a bit annoying having to buy a great big wooden hoop as well as all that other stuff (making a quilt is not cheap!) but all the hand quilting tutorials I read said you needed one and they were right.

I'd decided to do the quilting with red thread, sewing a line either side of each seam. I used masking tape to help mark out a line for me to stitch along, which I found worked really well.


It took a while to get the hang of the hand-quilting, and I'm sure if any "proper" quilters took a look at my stitches they'd be appalled by how messy they are... but I made slow and steady progress. Sitting under the layers of this quilt as I stitched it was super cosy!


It's a little hard to see the quilting lines in photos, but they stand out much more clearly in real life and as well as holding the layers of the quilt together they give it a lovely bit of added detail and texture.


The hand quilting process was relaxing but boy was it time-consuming! I timed myself one afternoon and found it took approximately one and a half hours to sew one of the grid lines across the quilt. With 44 lines to stitch in total, that's at least 66 hours of quilting (and probably a lot more - to say nothing of the time spent on all the other stages!).

In October I hit the halfway point...


... then spent so much of my spare time quilting that I got totally sick of it and had to take a break for a couple of weeks to do other things to stop myself going a bit bananas.

By late November I had just two lines left to stitch. I'd drawn a little diagram of the quilt and marked off each line in red pencil when it was finished so I could easily track my progress. It was very satisfying seeing it slowly fill up with red lines!


At the end of November, the quilting was finally finished! I took a late night victory selfie and (foolishly) predicted that I'd have it finished by Christmas.


The quilt was looking soooo gooood...

 

 ... though its size meant it was tricky getting a decent photo of the whole thing!


I asked my Facebook and Instagram followers what colour they thought I should use for the binding (there was a pretty decisive vote for red!), started looking up binding tutorials... and then got no further.

December that year was incredibly hectic. I packed everything I owned up into boxes, moved across the country and into a new flat, then almost immediately began lots of DIY projects. I might have possibly been able to find the time to do the final bit of stitching for the quilt, but I definitely didn't have the space in my brain for planning fabric purchases and getting my head round the binding instructions.

So, the quilt went in a box and it stayed there... until last month! A mere 17 months after I finished the hand-quilting! I know this is not the longest time anyone has neglected a work-in-progress (heck, I myself have another quilt which has been "in progress" since I was a teenager) but FOUR Christmases have now passed since I started making my Christmas quilt. Full of enthusiasm for Finally Finishing Things after finishing my mini squares blanket - I was DETERMINED to get this quilt finished.

Over the course of a few April evenings, I trimmed away the excess fabric and wadding, cut the binding fabric into strips and sewed them together, ironed them, then began sewing them to the quilt.


I totally misunderstood the instructions for how to do the corners (oops) but managed to get them looking okay in the end (though not remotely how they were actually supposed to look). 

Adding the binding wasn't exactly a quick process but after all the hours of stitching that have gone into this quilt (and all the months in between) it seemed to go by in a flash.


Now I know this is a bit of a tease as I don't have final photos to show you yet, but it is amazing how much impact adding the binding had on the overall look of the quilt. It actually looks like a quilt now instead of just a bunch of fabric sewn together. I know technically all a quilt is is a bunch of fabric sewn together but I'm sure you get what I mean - it looks complete now, it's delightful. 

I did a very happy dance when it was finished and I cannot wait to show you guys photos of how it turned out!

Friday, 25 May 2018

My Newsletter Has Moved!

http://eepurl.com/dvfYO1

Your inbox has probably been filling up this week with emails from everyone from big multinational companies to individual bloggers and makers like me, getting in touch with you about updating your newsletter settings. As you probably know, this is because there's some new EU data protection legislation (GDPR) which came into effect today and we all need to make sure our mailing lists comply with the new rules.

I've been busy behind the scenes getting ready for the new legislation (which covers lots more things than newsletters!) which has felt a little like doing my tax return - quite boring, rather complicated, a bit stressful, but very important!

I used to use a service called TinyLetter to send my email newsletters. TinyLetter was lovely and simple to use but when I looked at how best to manage my mailing list to comply with GDPR I realised I needed to switch to a service with a few more features.

So, I've moved my newsletter to TinyLetter's parent company: MailChimp. I know it's a bit of a faff for my current readers to have to resubscribe to a new service but I'm quite excited about the possibilities offered by MailChimp (well, as much as it's possible to be excited by newsletters, anyway).

I've set up four different newsletter options, so you can choose how often you want to hear from me and about what topics. You can subscribe to just one, or all four, or any combination you like, and easily manage your subscriptions at any time in the future via the handy links which will be at the bottom of every email I send.

For example, I love writing my chatty weekly-ish newsletters and sharing lots of links with you guys but I know not everyone wants to hear from me that often! Now you can choose if you want a weekly-ish update about everything I'm up to or just get emails when I add new products to my shop and/or run sales and other special offers.

I'm also making my monthly free patterns a separate newsletter that you can subscribe to without having to receive any of that other stuff. This month's free pattern is a tutorial for sewing the felt flowers pictured at the top of this post.

As well as giving you guys more choice about what you subscribe to (and me more tools behind the scenes to help me manage my lists and comply with the new legislation), MailChimp has lots more tools to help me make my newsletters look nice - hurrah! They might be a bit funny-looking for a few weeks/months as I get my head around all the settings, but hopefully my newsletters will soon be lovely and bright and colourful.

The new service will also give me lots more room to grow my mailing list long-term: I'm not sure if I would ever have actually outgrown TinyLetter's 5K subscribers limit (I just hit 500 subscribers on my old list this week, which felt like a pretty huge amount to me!) but a girl can dream, right??? It's always important to have goals to work towards, haha.

Still interested after all that newsletter-related waffle? Click here to see the new newsletter options and subscribe.

P.S. I've also added a new Privacy Policy to my blog this week, giving you more info about how I collect, use, and protect your data here on my blog and throughout my business. 

Monday, 21 May 2018

Making a Christmas Quilt: Part One

After finishing my patchwork mini squares blanket last month (which was a work-in-progress for six and a half years), I decided to tackle another of my slightly neglected WIPs: the Christmas quilt I'm making for my sister.

My youngest sister loves Christmas so when I spotted a gorgeous collection of Christmas quilting cottons at the Festival of Quilts in 2014, I decided I absolutely had to buy a bunch of the prints and make her something festive. Full of quilt-related enthusiasm after my two days at the Festival, I decided to make her a cosy quilt to curl up under during the holiday season. I decided to hand sew the whole thing, because I love hand-sewing... and also because I haven't used a sewing machine since 1998!

It was going to be a big task, but one I was excited about! I ordered my favourite prints from the collection in August 2014...


... then in the autumn I washed the fabric, ironed it and cut it into squares.


(I still have these scrappy off-cuts in a bag somewhere - they were just too lovely to throw away! I must try to think of a tutorial to make use of them sometime...)

Once I'd cut out the squares I laid them all out on the floor to try out possible layouts for the quilt. It took a while to get a good balance of the prints but I got there in the end.

 

I spent a lot of hours that winter watching made-for-TV Christmas movies and sewing these squares together. I love made-for-TV Christmas movies, and it turns out that they're the perfect easy background viewing to accompany hand-sewing a quilt. I like to think my choice of viewing also helped infuse the quilt with festive vibes! This sounds a bit ridiculous, I know, but if you can stitch love into something - which I think us makers know we absolutely can - then I'm sure it's possible to stitch in some Christmas spirit along with it.

Because I am an idiot I initially thought I'd be able to put in lots of evenings working on the quilt and have it ready for Christmas 2014. Hahahahahahahaha. This was... not a realistic goal.

When it gradually dawned on me that I wasn't magically going to be able to hand stitch an entire quilt in just a few weeks, I pushed my deadline back to Christmas 2015 then immediately neglected the project in favour of other things (you know how it goes with works-in-progress: always so many distracting projects to work on!).

I picked it back up the following summer, getting all the squares stitched together in rows and making a start on joining the rows together.
 
 

By October 2015 I had just two more rows to add - the end was in sight! (Well, the end of this stage of the process was, anyway).


For the first year of working on this project I'd managed to keep it secret from my sister. I'd been tempted to blog about the process as I went along, but decided it was better to keep it Top Secret so I could surprise her at Christmas with a massive parcel full of quilt-y goodness.

Unfortunately, I forgot to properly hide the in-progress quilt one day when she came to visit and of course she spotted it and asked what it was and I immediately blurted out that it was a Christmas quilt I was making for her. Oops! (I would clearly make a terrible spy). It's a shame the surprise got spoiled but it has been nice being able to mention the quilt on my blog and social media as I've worked on it, so there's the silver lining to that cloud.

In late November I stitched the last few squares together...


... then photographed the finished quilt top with help from my dear departed furry assistant.


It was looking lovely, but there was still a long way to go...

I'll be blogging about the hand-quilting in Part Two next week - stay tuned!

Friday, 18 May 2018

5 Ways to Customise a Denim Jacket

Today I'm sharing five fun and easy ways to customise a denim jacket so you can get crafty and turn that plain jacket in your wardrobe into something really special.

DIY Denim Jacket Tutorial
DIY Denim Jacket Tutorial

I love the 90s vibe of the current denim jacket trend - I was a 90s teen and denim jackets totally make me want to start listening to mixtapes, spend hours chatting on the phone to my friends, and maybe write a zine or two!

Whether or not you're a nostalgic 30-something like me, if you've got a plain and boring denim jacket you want to customise then you've come to the right blog post. I'll be showing you how to personalise your jacket with custom lettering, sequins, patches, embroidery and badges, creating a fun and colourful look.

This post is sponsored by StickerYou, where you can create custom die-cut stickers, labels, badges, temporary tattoos... and custom printed patches!

https://www.stickeryou.com/

Custom patches are great for small businesses, clubs, and for creating things like wedding favours, but there are no minimum order requirements at StickerYou so you can also use the site to create totally unique patches to match your personal style. You can upload your own artwork or even photos to their online editor, or use StickerYou's selection of fonts and artwork to create your designs.


Denim jacket decorated with badges, sequins and patches


1. Lettering.

Use felt or fabric to add a nickname or other word of your choice to the back of your jacket - I decided to add the word "CRAFTER" to my jacket in bright rainbow felt letters. If you also want to join the crafter club you can use the templates provided at the bottom of this post to cut out your letters. To write a different word, either draw your own large letters on a piece of paper to create your templates or print the word of your choice in a very large font size.

Decorating a denim jacket with lettering

If you're using fabric for your letters, back them with some iron-on interfacing to make them sturdier (and easier to handle when you sew them to the denim) and help prevent the edges from fraying.

Pin the letters along the top of the back of the jacket, using a tape measure or large ruler to help you position the middle letter in the centre of the jacket and to evenly space the other letters.

Decorating a denim jacket with lettering

Sew the letters in position with whip stitch and matching sewing thread(s).

Customising a denim jacket with lettering


2. Sequins.

You can't beat a bit of sparkle! I decided to add a few lines of sequins to my jacket, using five bright colours to create a rainbow design. You could also use sequins to make sparkly shapes on your jacket, or to further embellish the lettering.

Customising a denim jacket with sequins

If you're just using sequins in one colour, use sewing thread to match the sequins. If you're using multiple colours like I did, use blue thread to match the denim.

Add sparkle to a denim jacket with rainbow sequins

I used two stitches per sequin, so the stitches formed a roughly straight line, following the lines of the jacket. If you're sewing decorative shapes with your sequins, use an erasable fabric marker to draw the shapes on the denim then use the lines as a guide when adding your sequins.

I stitched two long lines of sequins down the back of the jacket...

Customise a denim jacket with sequins

... one line along the front...

Adding rainbow sequins to a denim jacket

... and a mini sequin rainbow on each of the cuffs.

Rainbow sequins on the cuff of a denim jacket


3. Patches.

Here are the custom patches I ordered from StickerYou (I love the idea of being in an actual Cat Lady Club, don't you?). 

Custom printed patches from StickerYou

I found StickerYou's patch editor really easy to use, and was able to put together my three patch designs from their selection of images without any hiccups or computer rage (hurrah!). StickerYou are based in Toronto, Canada, so it took a little while for the patches to reach me via the international post but they were shipped very promptly and arrived in good condition.

When you've got your own patches ready to add to your jacket, decide on the placement of the patches and sew them in position one by one. I stitched two of my patches on the front and the third on the shoulder of my jacket. Use whip stitch and matching sewing thread and take care to only sew through one layer of the denim!

Customising a denim jacket with printed patches
Decorating a denim jacket with custom printed patches

If you sew a patch to a pocket like I did, make sure you start your stitching at the top of the patch (and thus the top of the pocket) so that when you've sewn around the patch you won't have to reach too far inside the pocket to finish your stitching.

Adding custom printed patches to a denim jacket


4. Embroidery.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to embroidering a denim jacket! You could go big and bold, or just add subtle interest with a few stitched details. I decided to roll with my 90s nostalgia and decorate the back of my jacket with a retro geometric pattern - choosing embroidery thread to match my rainbow theme.

Rainbow embroidery threads to decorate a denim jacket

You can use the geometric patterns provided at the bottom of this post to decorate your jacket, sketch your own designs, or find some patterns you love in craft books or online.

Trace each pattern onto a piece of tissue paper with a fine pen. Use large tacking stitches to secure the tissue paper to the denim, then sew along the lines with your chosen embroidery thread. I used three of the six strands in my thread and stitched my geometric patterns with backstitch (for a bolder line, try chain stitch).

Adding embroidery to a denim jacket

Once your stitching is finished, remove the tacking stitches then carefully tear away the tissue paper. I gradually filled the space in the central panel of the jacket with geometric shapes, creating a colourful abstract design. 

 Denim jacket decorated with 90s geometric embroidery
Customising a denim jacket with lettering, sequins and embroidery

 
5. Badges & Pins.

Last and by no means least, it's time to add some badges and pins! Denim jackets are perfect for showing off your collection of enamel pins, kitsch badges from your childhood, and any other fun pins you've picked up over the years.

Badges and pins to decorate a denim jacket
Denim jacket customised with pins, sequins and custom patches

I pinned a single badge on one side of my jacket...

Customising a denim jacket

... and a whole cluster down the other side, to create a pleasingly asymmetric look.

Badges on a denim jacket
DIY customised denim jacket decorated with badges, sequins & custom patches

You'll need to remove the badges and pins whenever you wash the jacket, of course, but that just gives you a chance to mix things up and add in some new faves! I'd definitely recommend hand-washing your jacket once you've added the custom letters and other embellishments, to help keep your jacket looking at its best.

Click on the images to open the templates and/or embroidery patterns in a new window or tab. Download the image or make sure you're viewing it at full size and print at 100%.

Lettering templates to decorate a denim jacket

90s geometric embroidery patterns


DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by StickerYou, where you can create custom printed patches, die-cut stickers, labels, badges, temporary tattoos, and more.

DIY customised denim jacket tutorial