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July 2013

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in miniature

July 27, 2013

What is it about mini things that we love so much?  We love mini cars, mini people (think they’re called babies), mini creatures like puppies and kittens and, well, just about anything ‘little’ that has a bigger counterpart.  Being miniaturised immediately adds a big dollop of cute, and who doesn’t love cute?

When I received Tone Finnanger’s latest Tilda project book, ‘Winter Wonderland’, I was immediately attracted to some miniature figures she had included.  There are boy and girl versions of a fox, bear, bunny and deer – all in great little fabric prints and with gorgeous little faces.  None of them stand over 15cm, which is pretty tiny – but they pack a powerful punch of cute!  My initial reaction to them was: “yes!  I have to make these”.  My almost immediate follow up reaction was: “no! they will be so fiddly!”.

My initial reaction did eventually win and I made three of the little boy critters about a month ago, complete with their super little shorts.  They weren’t perfect and the super little shorts drove me insane as I tried to make them to a standard I was happy with.  I said to myself: “hmm, they’re cute, but I will never make anything that small again – even using my surgical hemostats (viscious scissor like pincers with a vice like grip), turning out the tiny body parts after hand sewing them was very tricky.

Then I posted them on facebook and everyone loved them.  I mentioned to a few people that there were girl versions of these that had twirly skirts, and as they seemed quite keen to see these and I do like to please people if I can (plus am partial to a twirly skirt myself), I decided to give them a try.  As usual with these things, second time around was much easier and I was much more pleased with the final critters, so have decided to add them to the shop – I think I can bear to make the little blighters again…


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July 21, 2013

It feels like making patchwork with hexagons is a kind of right of passage for a patchworker these days.  I can’t tell you how many blog articles I’ve read about the subject, whether it is someone embarking on a very, very long labour of love to English Paper Piece (EPP) their first full size quilt of 1 inch hexies, or someone looking around for a machine sewn hexie solution because they are desperate for a hexie end product, but refuse to spend a chunk of their life making it.

My first hexie make was going to be a quilt, but at the time I was in my early twenties and all I knew about patchwork and quilt making had come from a Laura Ashley book on home decorating.  Nobody amongst my family and friends at that time was into sewing and I’ve never discovered any family history of it.  My Mum could knit although by the time I was ready to learn that, she’d forgotten most of it and was too busy working full time and running the home to teach me.  That does sound a bit whiny – it isn’t meant to be as I love learning new stuff under my own steam.  Although these days the internet teaches me most things, I’ve always been an avid digester of books and there’s not much you can’t learn through those two mediums, if you’re determined!

Anyway, back to my first hexie project.  It was supposed to be a quilt.  It turned out to be a cushion.  At least it was a large floor cushion!  It wasn’t well made and I had to stuff it with old tights as I didn’t have the money for anything else, but it was a first step and one I never forgot – I always wanted to try it again and do it better.  I did some other patchwork between then and my next hexie make, but not a lot.  Then, this year, I decided that I wanted to try another hexie quilt and having aged in wisdom as well as years, I set out to make a small cot quilt.  It took what felt like a very long time.  So much hand sewing made the skin on my hands SO dry.  But I finished it.  I was even pretty pleased with it.  Where it let me down a bit was in the hand quilting, which I’d never attempted before and found out I wasn’t very good at!

After making that small quilt, I felt that I’d ticked it off my list and would probably not use EPP and hexies for another quilt – the time it took was impractical.  And what have I been doing this week, only 4 months later?  Yes!  Piecing hexies!  Amazingly, although my hands are suffering in the same way, I am much, much quicker and my stitches are smaller and neater.  Because I’ve been doing some learning and practising, even my hand quilting is much improved – very satisfying.

There are some great tutorials on working with hexies by hand or machine on the internet (this blog has some great resources and is a good read too) and there are so many videos about patchwork and quilting on YouTube.  You don’t even have to make a quilt or even a cushion – many people use hexies as part of another project or as applique decoration – just Google “hexie” and you will be amazed how many project ideas you find.

If you’re tempted to use hexies to make someting, please do try it.  Don’t expect immediate results that you’re delighted with, but think of it more as the beginning of a long relationship with a very engrossing, enjoyable and slow pastime that once tried you will frequently want to rinse and repeat!


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Christmas in July…

July 12, 2013

I totally love Christmas.  Always have.  I seem to have spent the majority of my adulthood trying to recapture the magical feeling of the Christmases of my childhood, but I’ve never managed it.  I can’t really say what year the transition happened but, at some point, I moved from excited anticipation and generalised visions of sparkliness, through drink fuelled party Christmases, and finally through to the slightly bloated ate too much turkey Christmases.  What’s amazing is I carry on trying to make the childhood Christmas happen again – and I don’t ever think that will stop, they were just so lovely.

One of the ways that I try to rev up my childhood Christmas spirit is making sure that I have enough of a build up to Christmas.  Ideally, this involves having the house, presents, tree and any jobs done the day before Christmas Eve.  Admittedly, that doesn’t always happen, but I feel that I should aim for it so that I can have at least a couple of days of watching Christmas TV to help transition my mind to Christmas.

But you can start to prepare too early.  I’ve always hated that shopping ‘talk’ about Christmas seems to start in October or even September – it kind of spoils it and makes it feel too commercial and not twinkly.  But this year, for the first time, I’ve got to be a part of that retail world – how will I handle it?  Can I avoid being a total hypocrite?

I knew that I would want to be able to offer some Christmas products this year, but wouldn’t have believed I would be working on their designs in July…  But this is really what you need to do if you have realistic hopes of making things available for people to buy for Christmas.  Many people with busy lives want to get organised early – it’s a fact.

When I was little, Christmas stockings weren’t a tradition in our house – not at all sure why – so I’ve always felt like a missed out on something, despite having lots of perfectly wonderful Christmases growing up!  So that’s how I decided what I’d like to make as my Christmas product – although I haven’t been able to settle on just one design, so am designing several.

The first stocking I’ve come up with is pictured above.  This is a Scandinavian inspired longer and slimmer stocking that I’ve made by piecing together traditional styled Christmas fabrics which I’ve then hand quilted.  It was very weird putting up Christmas decorations for the photo shoot on a hot June night, but it looks convincing!  I’ve since worked on another design in patchwork and linen, this time for a more grown up and feminine style of stocking, but it isn’t quite right yet.  I also have another felt design in the works and have been working on that earlier this week – in spite of the melting heat.

Despite how much I love Christmas, and how much fun I’m having designing the Christmas stockings, I don’t think I will put them on the web site until at least September – you can start your preparations TOO early!  I do hope that people like them though so that I can turn my little studio into a bit of a Santa production line – might help me recapture that magic from childhood…