Sunday, 1 February 2015

January's Handmade Gift

I decided to start my year of Handmade Gifts (see this page or the tab at the top of this blog for more info) by making a quilt!  I have to admit although I love starting quilts I have never actually finished one... I tend to lose interest after piecing the top and move onto something else so this was quite a personal challenge for me too.

My best friend is having her first baby, a girl due in March, so I decided to make a baby quilt for her.  Coats Crafts kindly sent me samples of the new V & A collection (on sale this month I believe) which is called Bhandari  the collection has strong colours and prints inspired by traditional Indian fabrics.

It may not be the obvious choice for a baby quilt but my friend loves pink, and I didn't want to make something too babyish that the baby would grow out of quickly. I wanted to make it fairly large and in a fabric which would hopefully appeal for a few years.

The exact fabrics I received are above.  I decided to pull out the turquoise one and add in a few pink Kona Solids which matched the pinks in the fabrics.  The prints are quilt bold so it needed some solids to break them up a bit, and to add in more pink.  In total I used 8 fat quarters but had about 1/3 of each left over at the end so I could done it with less.

I decided to cut the squares 6 inches, and have 5 rows across and 6 rows length ways.  I started by laying all the squares out on my new cutting table to decide on the layout, I wanted to make sure each row and none of the same fabrics, and none of the same fabrics were next to each other but other than that the order would be random.

I then pieced one row at a time, putting them back on the table after sewn so I didn't lose track with what was going where.  For the backing I had a piece of fleece from Abakhan Fabrics which I thought would be ideal.  It was navy blue, and would be nice and soft against the baby and keep her warm too.

 I decided to quilt it diagonally across the squares, which created larger squares in the quilt as you can see in the picture above.  For the binding I opted for pink pre-cut bias binding.  I wanted to make the overall quilt a little pinker as there is more purple than pink in the fabrics.

Below is a picture of the finished quilt, my first ever quilt finish!  Plus I did the whole thing in under a month (I started mid Jan).  I only get the odd hour here and there to sew so normally projects drag on for months but this challenge to do one per month made me do it a lot quicker than I normally would as I was conscious of finishing before the end of the month.  I cut it bit fine and finished 6pm on the 31st Jan!

My next project will be a mother's day present, I had intended to make an embroidered notebook cover but my mum was flicking through my new craft books a couple weeks ago and spotted something she wanted.  A yarn holder from Sew-Licious: Little Things by Kate Hexall. my mum uses larger balls of yarn than the ones it is made for so I'll have to make a larger version for her but hopefully it won't be too difficult  to adjust the pattern.

The one in the book is pictured below.  I haven't decided on fabrics yet but I'm considering using the striped fabric from the new Amy Butler collection ,Violette.

Yarn holder from Sew-Licious: Little Things by Kate Haxell published by Cico.

To find out more about the fabrics I used visit the Coats Crafts website.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Feature on Sew Mama Sew and giveaway!

I am very excited today for 2 reasons, firstly my book is charting in the US.  Not particularly high yet, number 79 in reference books on but I'm still excited nonetheless I wasn't sure whether it would make any kind of splash over there or not.  It only went on sale in the US and Canada yesterday so I'm hoping it's going to build over time.

The second reason is that an article I wrote for Sew Mama Sew has been published!  You can read it here, they are also giving away 5 copies of my book too.   I wrote about the sense of isolation you can experience when working from home alone, something I'm sure many of you can relate to.

As well as all that excitement I have also had a really busy few days shooting photos for a whole set of new tutorials for the site, techniques guides.  There will be guides to different hem and seam techniques, pressing tips, sewing tips from an expert stitcher, a guide to hand stitching stitches, a guide to machine stitches and some alterations tutorials. 

I'm going to be busy editing photos and uploading the tutorials for the next couple of weeks and then I'm going to put the live 1 per week over the next 3 months. 

I'd love to know what sewing techniques you'd like to see featured in the future, please do comment below and let me know and I'll see if I can get them into the next lot I do.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Year of Handmade Gifts

Hello everyone, welcome to 2015!  I realised at the end of last year that as with every year I planned to make several people handmade gifts, even bought the fabric ready and then never got around to it so I decided this year I will aim to make 1 handmade gift a month and share my progress through my blog.

I'd love to have you sew a long with me, making your own handmade gifts too so please do either post links to what you have been making in the comments section each month or come and join the Facebook group I've set up.  I thought we could share our pictures, links to useful projects, ideas and inspiration in the Facebook group.  Do feel free to nab the image above to use on your blog and link back to this post for anyone who wants to join in.

I've decided I'm not going to be too strict with myself so will aim for 12 handmade gifts in the year, but not necessarily 1 made each month.  I'm sure there will be some months I might manage 2-3 and other months where I don't manage any.  So as long as it averages out to 1 per month I'll be happy.

This is the last handmade gift I made, a pin cushion and needle book set for a secret santa I held at my sewing group.  I'm sad to say that is the only handmade gift I managed last Christmas and even then it was a last minute rush! I was so busy with book promotion I didn't have chance to make anything else.

I'm going to star the year off by making a baby quilt for my best friend who is due to have her first baby in March, a little girl.  My friend is obsessed with pink so I'm sure the baby's room will be very pink!  So I'm planing to use the fabrics above, the new V & A collection - Bhandari, to make the quilt as the purples will go well with pink plus it has pink in the prints.

I'll probably mix in some pink and purple Kona solids, any will probably leave out the turquoise print as it doesn't quite fit the colour scheme.  The fabrics aren't in the shops yet but will be on sale shortly. I am going to try and write a tutorial for the site whilst I make the quilt, just deciding on the design.  It will be pretty simple, either squares or I was considering bricks like a brick wall kind of look.

Then after the quilt I need to start thinking of something for mother's day.  I made these gifts for my mother in law a couple years ago and she loved them.  I'm considering personalised notebook covers for this year maybe.

So will you be taking the handmade gift pledge in 2015?   If so do comment below and let me know what you plan to start with or come join the conversation in the Facebook group.

Monday, 22 December 2014

A look back on 2014

Well what a crazy year 2014 has been, I think I've done more than most people do in 3 years in this year.  It started off very stressful with my son just out of hospital after an operation on his throat, my husband in hosptital for 2 weeks, me finishing off writing my book and putting my house on the market....and that was just January!

It only got more manic from then, The Sewing Directory got super busy whilst The Great British Sewing Bee was airing.  I was busy interviewing many of the contestants, and writing up the supplies and techniques featured in the show (find them here).

Editing with my red pen (just like school!)

At the same time I sold my house, started packing up and getting ready to move and then the sale fell through!  All of this was going on whilst editing my book, reading the 240+ pages over and over again to make sure every little thing was right.  I've been blogging about the whole book writing process here if you'd like a look.

The house had to go back on the market but luckily we found another buy fairly quickly, although we had to take quite a big financial hit.  But on the plus side by the end of May we moved from Cardiff to Devon, city life to country life.  It was quite a big lifestyle change but I am really enjoying it, we're loving having our own garden to grow veg (pictured below).

Half of our back garden before we planted veg
Also in my new house I now have sewing room which is in the house.  In the old place it was in the garage which was cold and a bit damp (I had to wash my whole stash when I moved!), now it's half of my bedroom so I can easily sew whenever I feel like it and I'm surrounded by my stash!

There's a post about my sewing room, with photos here.

My new sewing room

By the time we moved and unpacked it was the summer, most of which was spent entertaining visitors and exploring our new area.  Although I did squeeze in a trip to the Festival of Quilts too which was brilliant, I did buy a large amount of fabric whilst there (blogged here)!  Also in the summer my book went to print so I had to start on the promotion to ensure people would be talking about the book in October when it went on sale.   Plus start of the summer I set up a new website to accompany the book, full of business guides and advice for craft businesses:

My haul from FOQ!

The autumn and the winter of 2014 was pretty much taken up with the book, all the PR, the book going on sale, the book hitting number 1 on the Starting a Business chart on Amazon!  I also managed to squeeze in a trip to London to meet the amazing Zandra Rhode and talk about her new fabric collection.  Do take a look at the stunning pics of her studio here.

Me and Zandra
On top of all that I was of course still running The Sewing Directory, and freelancing for many magazines.  The Sewing Directory has grown hugely this year with around 50 new businesses listed plus a large amount of new content.  Some of the most popular includes the brilliant bag making series, Lauren Guthrie's guide to making thermal lined curtains, Lorna Knight's tips for accurate fitting and the beginner's guide to cross stitch.  Plus there were over half a million unique visitors to the site this year. I also managed to blog quite a lot this year, this post is now my 300th post on this blog!

It has been a whirlwind of a year, I'm not quite sure how I managed to fit it all in.  To be honest it has been very stressful and exhausting but I did manage to get a lot done.  I'm hoping that 2015 will be much more relaxing!

The one thing I really didn't get much time for last year was sewing, my list of projects that I want to sew has grown hugely and I barely managed one or 2 things of the list.  So next year's plan is to sew much more.  I'm setting myself the challenge of sewing one handmade gift per month for 2015, if anyone wants to join in and blog their progress throughout the year please do.  I've blogged about it here and will set up a Facebook group for it in the new year where we can share projects, photos and ideas.

So how was your 2014?  What have you got planned for 2015?

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