Thursday, 10 January 2019

A New Felt Flower Pattern: Coming Soon

I'm currently dreaming of spring and busy working on lots of floral things, including this project...

... which will be January's freebie for my newsletter subscribers.

The main project will be a mix of felt and embroidery, but I'll be including an embroidery pattern option too (because you guys know I can never resist a project variation!). I can't wait to share the finished design with you all.

Not yet a subscriber? Follow the link to sign up to my monthly pattern newsletter for a free project in your inbox each month this year, plus a bonus project at some point to make up for the fact that I was too busy to send a newsletter in December (oops!). You can also sign up for updates about what's new here on my blog and over in my shop.

Here's a peek at some of the other floral designs in progress in my studio at the moment - keep your fingers crossed for lots of winter sunshine so I can get these tutorials photographed and in my shop a.s.a.p!

P.S. Remember you'll also always find lots of free crafty projects in my tutorial archive

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Fifteen Felt Christmas Ornaments Finally Finished!

Oh, hello, what's this? Another blog post about getting things finished?? HURRAH.

If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll know that I was working hard to finish lots of my personal creative projects last year, including a patchwork blanket, a couple of quilts, and a set of felt Christmas ornaments I was making from Alicia Paulson's lovely patterns.

I bought several of Alicia's kits way back in 2012 and 2013 and had really made very little effort to devote any focused time to them... so, unsurprisingly, most of the designs were still sitting in pieces, unstitched, in a drawer in my flat many years later.

Well now, happily, I can say that all fifteen ornaments are finally finished! Woohoo!

Don't they all look fabulous together?

That photo ended up being my most popular Instagram photo from last year - and, indeed, my whole time on Instagram. Watching all the "likes" roll in for this project was a weird and fun way to finish the year!

Fancy a closer look at the ornaments? The first batch was the slowest to finish as they technically took me 5-6 years to complete...

... then it took me just a month to get another four finished this autumn...

... and the final four were ready just in time for Christmas.

I completed the sweet Gingerbread Girl in early December - I probably could have managed it slightly earlier but I wanted to make sure I was super focused and in the zone when I stitched her face to get it juuuuust right. She is so charmingly folksy, I love her.

The next two got finished in the middle of the month, while watching made-for-TV Christmas movies (I love made-for-TV Christmas movies). There's the cute (double-sided) Notevena Mouse (as in "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse")...

... and the lovely (single-sided) Lighted Window.

The very last design I stitched was the Whistling Tea Kettle which is the one I took most liberties with when it came to not following the instructions.

There was a lot of satin stitch in Alicia's original design and I a) do not enjoy and b) am terrible at satin stitch, sooo my version looks slightly different to hers while still keeping to the same overall pattern. Could I (should I) have used this project as an opportunity to improve my satin stitching? Probably, but never mind!

I deliberately missed out a row of blanket stitching on the kettle, too, because I was finding it frustrating and honestly just wanted this thing finished. I'm pretty pleased with the end result, though, even with the changes.

Just like the other big projects I finished last year after years of them being just works in progress, it is hugely satisfying getting these ornaments completed! I've been meaning to finish them "in time for Christmas" for so many years (and so many different Christmases) that it felt wonderful finally having them ready in time for one.

Having said that, though, I have a confession to make: although I basked in the glorious feeling of getting these ornaments finally finished (which was an excellent Christmas gift to myself), I didn't actually hang any of them up at Christmas!

My holiday decorating style is, these days, best described as very minimal. I put up a few decorations around my flat along with all the cards I'd received from friends, but I don't put up a Christmas tree... and even if I did, it would have to be a VERY big tree to fit these ornaments on it as they're quite large (though you might not guess it from the photos). The Gingerbread Girl, for example, is about 17cm (almost 7 inches) high.

Also (and it's embarrassing to admit this) there's a bit of me that's a teeny bit worried that I'll have them on display and someone will come round to my house and think I made and designed them and say something nice which ends up feeling not so great. I've had this happen several times before with handmade-but-not-by-me things and honestly hearing "oh wow this is the best thing you've ever made, I love these so much!" about something that isn't your work is super awkward and slightly devastating! (Even if you yourself think they're nicer than your own work, too!) (Ugh, maker feelings are so complicated).

So, I think I'm going to end up giving some of these as gifts to friends and family in the run up to next Christmas and possibly just keeping a few of my favourites to hang on doorknobs and other suitable places in my flat. (If you're a friend of mine please do feel free to drop hints about which ones are your faves!)

I'm going to give myself the year to think about it though - who know, by the time next Christmas rolls round I might have decided that I can't bear to part with any of them and I'll have found the perfect places to display them all! We shall see...

Want to make some of these ornaments for yourself? Click here to find all the patterns (and much more loveliness) over in Alicia's shop.

For lots more Christmas crafting ideas, visit my archive of free tutorials.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Making a Patchwork Quilt: the hand-quilting is FINISHED!

Remember my patchwork quilt?

This quilt is officially my longest running work in progress: I started it way back when I was a teen, which is so long ago that if the quilt was a person it would now be a teenager itself, definitely old enough to drive a car and maybe technically an adult by now (yikes). 

After a flurry of quilt-making enthusiasm when I was a student, I put the part-finished quilt top away in a cupboard for years. When I rediscovered it in a box in 2012, I thought about just getting rid of it but that felt a bit wrong so when my mum said she liked it I decided to try and finish it as a gift for her. I got the quilt top finished by 2014... then put it in a box again and didn't look at it for another four years.

Last year I was full of enthusiasm for Finally Finishing long-running projects (including a patchwork blanket and another quilt), so in the spring I bought wadding, white backing fabric and white quilting thread ready to complete the quilt.

I washed and ironed the fabric and put the quilt sandwich together (if you're not familiar with quilting, this is the step when you put all the layers together ready to sew them) then started the hand quilting in the summer.

Now, I don't know if you've ever done any hand quilting but it's a seriously labour intensive process and a very repetitive one! It's also not exactly the ideal project to work on during the hot summer months (and last summer really was hot). So, after making a start I ended up taking a break for a couple of months... but I did a big push this autumn to put the hours in and managed to finish the quilting at the end of November. Woohoo!

I thought the Christmas quilt I made my sister took a long time, but this one is a bigger quilt and made up of smaller squares so I had a lot more (and longer) lines to stitch so there were waaaaay more hours of stitching to put into this quilt.

The Christmas quilt was also a lot neater than this one: I'd used a proper block for marking out the squares for the Christmas quilt and cut and sewed them super neatly. The squares for the old patchwork quilt were a lot more randomly sized - and sewn together rather wonkily, too! I started out the hand quilting using my previous method of using masking tape as a guide line to stitch along... but I soon abandoned this to stitch freehand, following the not remotely straight lines of the "squares". So, all the quilted lines on this quilt are pretty wobbly (and my stitching isn't that neat to begin with, I have so much respect for people who manage to do neat hand quilting because mine all turned out so messy!) but hopefully this just adds to the quilt's handmade charm rather than detracting from it.

I'd originally hoped to keep the fact that I was finishing this quilt a secret from my mum (so it would be a big surprise when it was done) but I soon realised that this was going to be impossible, simply because of logistics of hiding something that big. So I told her about it and we've spent many happy hours sitting watching TV and movies together in her living room while I stitched and stitched and stitched. Sometimes this fella kept us company, too.

I've mostly kept the quilt stashed in her spare bedroom, working on it in bits and pieces when I went round to visit. I took it back to my flat a couple of times thinking I'd be able to really focus on it and push the project forwards but this turned out to be a terrible strategy because I'd spend the whole evening hunched over the quilt, stitching away happily while listening to podcasts or audiobooks and the next day my neck and back would be very angry with me!

For the Christmas quilt I stitched pairs of lines at a time, working steadily outwards and marking off each pair on a neat little chart as I went. For this one I worked a bit more haphazardly, sewing out from the centre but stitching several lines at once. I didn't make a chart to track my progress this time, just laid the quilt upside down on the floor at regular intervals to get an overview of how much stitching was left (the stitched lines are much more visible on the back than the front as they stand out against the plain white instead of getting lost in all that colour and pattern).

By November 20th, I'd stitched out to the first two corners of the quilt. It was amazing what a difference finishing that first corner made: it suddenly started to feel like an actual quilt instead of just a big bundle of fabric.

Excited by the prospect of finally getting this baby FINISHED, I devoted the next few evenings to quilting. I got the third corner finished on the 22nd...

... then started on the fourth and final corner. I couldn't resist laying it out to take a few more "in progress" photos before the quilting was finished.

Having the end in sight felt great!

Sewing these final few lines was definitely the most enjoyable bit of the quilting process (hand quilting is so boring, you guys! oh my goodness!!), and I was full of glee when I tied off the last stitch that weekend.

Even though it's now been over a month since I finished the quilting, I still haven't taken any photos of it "finished" and ready for the binding.

I have trimmed off most of the excess wadding and backing fabric (another step that's made it look much more like a real quilt), bought a fabric sample card so my mum can choose the perfect colour for the binding fabric (this important decision is still in progress but she's currently leaning towards blue), and sold the quilting hoop to a friend (because frankly, I plan on never hand-sewing another quilt as long as I live!!!).

Once my mum has decided which colour she wants for the binding, I'll measure the quilt and order enough fabric plus some matching thread. Then it'll be time to get started on the final stage! Maybe this time round I'll actually follow the instructions properly (unlike last time)? Watch This Space.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

A Year of Wreaths: January Rainbow Wreath Tutorial

Banish the January blues with this bright and cheerful rainbow felt wreath!

felt rainbow wreath

These happy colours are perfect for brightening up dull winter days and I’ve added a bit of sparkle too (yay!).

Want to welcome visitors but prefer a more muted colour palette? Just switch in your seven favourite shades in place of the rainbow colours. 

felt rainbow wreath

This tutorial originally appeared on The Village Haberdashery's blog - visit their shop for lots of crafty goodness! I'll be sharing all twelve seasonal wreath tutorials here on my blog as the year progresses.

You will need:

The template sheet provided (click here to view, download and print the PDF)
A 30cm polystyrene ring wreath base
Felt in 7 rainbow colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink
Black and white felt
Gutermann Metallic Effect Thread #41 (or other metallic thread)
Sewing scissors
Embroidery scissors
Sewing needles and pins
A glue gun and glue
A heat-proof mat for the glue gun
Newspaper to protect your workspace from any glue drips
Optional: a piece of string or co-ordinating ribbon for hanging the wreath

To make the wreath:

1. Use the templates provided to cut out 7 small felt circles (one of each rainbow colour), 7 large black felt circles and 7 white felt letters spelling out the word “welcome”.

cutting out felt circles

Tip: embroidery scissors are perfect for cutting out small felt shapes!

2. One by one, sew each small circle to a backing large circle. Use Gutermann Metallic Effect thread and whip stitch, keeping your stitches as even as possible. If you're using metallic effect embroidery thread (floss), just use a couple of strands of the thread (floss).

Tip: this metallic thread is easy to sew with, but I’d recommend cutting a shorter length of thread than you’d usually work with to make sure it doesn’t tangle.

stitching with metallic thread

3. Add one letter to each circle in colour order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink. Use more of the metallic thread to sew each letter in place, sewing around the inside of the letters with backstitch as shown.

adding the felt letters
felt welcome letters

4. Use the templates provided to cut the felt strips for wrapping the wreath. Cut 4 standard strips and 1 wide strip from red felt. Then cut 5 standard strips from each of the other 6 rainbow colours.

rainbow felt colours

5. Beginning with the wide red strip, position the felt pieces on top of the wreath base as shown. Add the pieces in colour order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink), overlapping them slightly so that none of the polystyrene ring base will show through at the edges of the wreath.

arranging the rainbow felt on the wreath base
arranging the rainbow felt on the wreath base

6. When you’ve added all the pieces and are happy with the arrangement, insert pins to hold the felt in position.

pinning the rainbow felt to the wreath base

7. Turn the wreath over. One by one, wrap the felt pieces around the wreath and pin the ends in place.

pinning the rainbow felt to the wreath base

The back of your wreath will now look something like this:

rainbow wreath in progress

8. Use a glue gun to secure the ends of the felt at the back of the wreath. Work on one piece of felt at a time, removing the pin(s) holding it in place and folding the felt back slightly. Carefully add a dab or two of hot glue to the wreath base, then very carefully press the felt down into position,.

IMPORTANT: take care when working with the glue gun as the glue gets very hot! Always place it on a heat-proof mat when not in use, and use newspaper or other scrap paper to protect your workspace. Work slowly, squeezing the gun with care to control the amount of glue you’re using and keeping your fingers out of the way of the hot glue.

Tip: you may find it helpful to test glue a couple of scrap pieces of felt before you start, so you can see how much glue you need to use to hold each piece in place.

using the glue gun
back of the rainbow wreath

9. Once the glue has dried, turn the wreath over and remove the pins from the front. The front of your wreath will now look something like this:

front of the rainbow wreath

10. Arrange the felt circles on the wreath as shown, spelling out the word “welcome”. The edges of the circles should touch but not overlap each other. When you’re happy with the layout, pin the circles in place.

Tip: position the circles so they help hide the join where you started and finished wrapping the wreath.

adding the letters to the rainbow wreath

11. Use the glue gun to attach the circles to the wreath. One by one, remove a pin and set aside a circle. Add two or three dabs of glue on the wreath then carefully press the circle back in place. Make sure to keep the letters neatly aligned as you glue them in place!

felt letters in place on the rainbow wreath

12. Your wreath is now finished! If needed, cut a length of string or co-ordinating ribbon and knot it securely around the top of the wreath. Use this to hang the wreath in your chosen spot.

felt rainbow wreath

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P.S. Subscribe to my newsletter for a monthly free pattern and visit my crafty tutorial archive for lots more free projects.

This tutorial is for non commercial use only: you can use it to make as many wreaths as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a couple of photos if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to this page on my blog, and do not reproduce my entire tutorial / share my templates on your site. Thanks!