Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Measure once and cut twice

No, wait....it's measure twice and cut once. Doh!!! I cut some background blocks onto which I planned to applique four of my Brinton Hall rosettes and applique them I did. When I put the four blocks together to admire my work I realized that two of them were smaller. I quick check revealed that I cut two of the backgrounds 1/2" narrower (the length was fine). As my old Mom would say, dough head! What's a quilt maker to do? Well these blocks are alternated with squares of print fabric so I might just cut some of the print squares a little larger so that I don't have to re-do the blocks. Or I will reverse sew, cut two more background squares and applique the hexagon rosettes for the second time. My mantra is "if it bothers you fix it but if you can live with it, live with it". I like to let a little time pass before I make my decision. It is amazing but the more time that passes, the easier it is to live with the little imperfections. It is kind of like wrinkles. The first one comes as a bit of a shock but after while you learn that you can live with it (and its many neighbours).

I've got four more rosettes made for my Brinton Hall quilt. I adore this fabric and do not want to waste even a scrap of it so what I did was put the fabric on my printer and I made a copy. I cut out hexagons from different parts of the fabric and when I liked what I saw I place the copied fabric and cut out the real fabric being sure to leave a generous seam allowance. I generally use a 3/8" for all of my English paper pieced hexagons.


This is one of my favourite fabrics. I love not only the colour but also the energy of the wavy stripe. I wish there were more of these types of fabrics on the market.


Isn't this one fun? I love the effect of the pale green arches - they look like curve edged star points.


This is hands down one of my favourites. This is yet another wavy print that creates so much visual interest. I think that the turquoise/red colour combination is an absolute classic.


I've also been working on The Meadery. The central medallion is still in the works but I've started on some of the outer components. There will be two large diamonds that will be on either side of the medallion. I'm not sure what I will put in the middle of the diamonds so while I give it a little more thought constructed the first two rounds of diamond hexagons. I'm using my open donut method so this means the diamonds are not stitched closed and they won't be closed until I start adding them to what I put in the middle. So here is the first round. It is a directional print so I was careful with the placement of the hexagons.


This will be the second round and it too is a directional print. The colour looks washed out but it is a lovely creamy yellow - like Cornish clotted cream. Yum!


This is what the two rounds together. There will be at least another three rounds but I've not decided what colours I'll use although I want to stay within the cream and honey family.


I had previously shown you my little hexagon pincushion.


I wasn't 100% satisfied with it so I played around with it and I've made a second pincushion. I'm much happier with the results. I'm going to write up the instructions and I'll share with you how I made it so that you can make your own. Time permitting I'll have it available on Friday. Failing that it will be sometime this weekend.

I thought you might enjoy seeing a new picture of Jinx. He likes to climb a ladder to get on top of the arbor. Here he is sitting atop the ladder. What a guy! I can't believe he has been with us for a year. Where does the time go? The good news is that he is maturing and has (for the most part) stopped stealing my sewing!


That's it for today. Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Monday, August 24, 2015

I've been busy and more blocks

Phew! I've been busy, way too busy lately! I'll be teaching a workshop on English paper piecing in London, Ontario this fall. I've been putting together my course material and samples and wanted to test out the course so I ran a mini workshop on Saturday. I had a few samples on the table to help inspired and get the creative juices flowing. In no time flat I had the students sewing up a storm.


I was able to fine tune my workshop and it is ready to go. I won't share a picture of my class sample because if you've never done any English paper piecing you would be overwhelmed and think that you couldn't make it. However once I share my tips and techniques it is the easiest thing ever!

I've been on a couple of road trips to quilt shops - such a treat for someone who doesn't drive. I went to Sew Sisters in the west end of Toronto. She has a good selection of contemporary prints and wonderful pricing. There is always a room full of sale fabrics. I bought fabric.

I've also been to Quilt Junction in Waterford, Ontario.  This is a really lovely little store with a wonderful selection of the types of prints I love - old fashioned florals and Civil War type prints.The owner is Lana and she is very warm and welcoming. We talked briefly about the possibility of a workshop so if you live out that way and are interested sign up for the shop newsletter.  I bought fabric.

The third shop I visited was The Quilting Bee in Fonthill, Ontario. There is a huge selection of Civil War prints and floral prints. This shop is bright and airy and there is a large sale section in the loft. This is my second visit to this shop (I went last year to hear Edyta Sitar). I bought fabric.

I've been trying to work on my Brinton Hall quilt (from QuiltMania magazine) and have some hexagon rosettes stitched (these are 1" hexagons). Here are the first four. They must be appliqued to a background fabric.


The six outer hexagons are from a treasured piece of fabric sent to my be a friend in the US. It is a border print so careful cutting produced that narrow orange ring around the centre.


I love what can be done with chevron type prints. I chose to use a centre hexagon that resembles the outer fabric so that the entire unit appears to be cut from a single piece of fabric. What fun!


The centre of this rosette was made from the last scrap of the fabric used for the first rosette. Directional prints create such vibrant and lively blocks, don't you agree?


One final note is that I have had several of my patterns listed for free so if you haven't downloaded them yet now is the time to do so. As you know I've been moving them over to Craftsy and will start charging a small fee for at least two of the patterns starting in early September. Those patterns will be 81 The Giant Monstrosity and Baskets and Nine Patches.

81 The Giant Monstrosity

Baskets and Nine Patches

I've got lots more ideas and patterns in the works. As they are published I will make them available free of charge for a period of time so that all you lovely readers can download them. After that I'll move them over to my Craftsy store Faeries and Fibres

Today I think my day is free so I plan on getting some work done. My fingers are just itching to sew and sew they shall! Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cutting out paper hexagons and removing paper hexagons

I had an email from Diane. She printed out the hexagon template sheets from my blog and wanted to know if there is an easier way to cut apart the hexagons other than with scissors (e.g. a precision cutting knife or a rotary cutter and ruler). She also want to know when I remove the papers. So what does all of this mean? Time for a little demonstration.

How I cut paper hexagons

I print my hexagon templates on regular printer paper (20 lb stock). I know many people like cardstock and I've tried it but it is just too thick for me and I've found that when it comes time to join all the hexagons into a rosette or some other shape  the cardstock is rigid and that makes sewing difficult. However, I am a firm believer in doing/using what works for you so if it is cardstock by all means use cardstock.

I like to cut out my hexagons with scissors. One of the tricks is to have a good paper of scissors that you use for this purpose. Personally I love the Fiskars Micro-Tip Easy-Action scissors. They have a lovely sharp point that allows me to get into tight spaces and they are spring loaded so they are extremely comfortable to use. They are particularly helpful if you have arthritis in your finger joints.

The first thing I do is cut my hexagon sheet in half horizontally.This yields two smaller more manageable sheets to work with.



The next step is to cut the sides from each of the two sections.


I cut on the vertical lines and extend my cut beyond the point where the hexagons touch (inside the red circle).


To cut the hexagons I make the cuts indicated by the red lines. notice that the red cut extends beyond the point. This makes it easier to manoeuvre the scissors so that I can make the cut on the green line. As soon as I make the cut on the green line the hexagons is completely cut out. I repeat this process with all four side pieces. I usually work over a bowl or a box so that the hexagons can drop into it as soon as they are cut out.


Now all that is left are the two centre sections. I trim the excess paper from the outside edges using the technique described in the previous step. I cut on the red lines with the red lines stopping at the exact point where the hexagon corners touch. I make the cuts on the green lines and you will see that the two hexagons are now cut out.


The last step is to make two cuts as indicated by the green lines and then cut around the centre hexagon on the red lines. Each time I cut on the line another hexagon drops into my bowl.


The hexagon template could be cut with a ruler and rotary cutter/precision knife but there is a lot of wastage. Instead of cutting the sheet in half  as in the following picture one could cut on the red lines and then trim the hexagons. There would be less hexagons available per sheet.


There is another option for cutting out hexagons. You can find an excellent tutorial with easy tips for cutting multiple hexagons at Geta's Quilting Studio however the technique still involves some cutting with scissors. Geta's post also has a dowloadable pdf with six sizes of hexagons ranging from 1/2" to 2".

When do I remove my paper hexagonss?

First off I baste from the back because it is much gentler on the paper hexagons with means I can get multiple uses from each paper hexagon. To extend the life of the paper hexagon even further I
remove the paper hexagon as soon as it is completely surrounded by other hexagons. I have a bag of 1" papers that I've used to make four quilts. As soon as they get too soft to use they go in the recycling box!

That's it for today! I continue to work on The Meadery and I am making a class sample for techniques I will be teaching in London, Ontario in November. Lots of sewing to do and it is already sweltering and the cicada's are humming like crazy! I'm going to plop myself in front of the fan and try to do a little sewing! Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H

Monday, August 17, 2015

I'm baaack!

I'm back from my blogcation. I had a lovely two weeks off but didn't get nearly as much done as I had hoped. One of the things that I did get done was to write up a pattern for my hexagon mini quilt called  Quilting Bees. The pattern is now available for sale in my Craftsy store Faeries and Fibres


I did get some work done on my new quilt The Meadery. I had already cut strips of honey coloured fabric and from them I rapidly cut a big pile of hexagons.


I kept them in a bowl and in the evening I basted them.


In no time flat I had a really big pile of hexagons basted and ready to be stitched together.


And stitch them together I did! Here is the first of two strips that will frame my medallion.


The next strip will be longer and I'll stitch the two together to make a big "L".  I'm not entirely happy with the grey background of the medallion fabric against the honeycomb and am mulling over some ideas for change.


It has been very hot and humid here the past several days. Jinx has been climbing a ladder to get on top of the arbor where he sprawls under the wisteria! Here's a picture of him on his back with his tail hanging between the slats of the roof.  What a life!


Time for me to tidy my sewing room. It was on my "to do" list and it is still on my "to do" list. Maybe I should have a cuppa first...yes, I think that I should have a nice hot cuppa before I do anything else!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My patterns, a reader question and time for a new quilt

I've opened a Craftsy store called Faeries and Fibres and there is a button on my sidebar that will take you directly to Craftsy. I'll  add my free patterns to the Craftsy store. The links that are already in my blog will remain but moving forward I'll post my patterns on Craftsy. If you have trouble accessing them drop me a line and I'll see what I can do to help you out!

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In the last post I wrote about some pincushions and I had a link to my Tiny World Pincushion Gallery

Silvana asked "Sono tutti una meraviglia, e il modello è sempre lo stesso?" which I understand to mean "are they all made from the same pattern" or something to that effect. Silvana is a no reply blogger so I was unable to email her my answer which is that I use Mimi Kirchner's pattern to get started and then I make little changes to make the worlds different. I made my own patterns for the trees and some of the houses. Thanks to Google translator I believe the Italian answer is "Io uso modello di Mimi Kirchner per iniziare e poi faccio piccoli cambiamenti per renderle diverse . Ho fatto i miei modelli per gli alberi e alcune delle case".

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I had previously mentioned that I was getting ready to start a new quilt so today I thought I would give you a hint of what I have planned. The whole design isn't worked out but I've got some ideas sorted. I also thought this would be a good opportunity to answer a question I received about how I design a quilt.

When I start a new quilt I look for inspiration. Sometimes it comes from a combination of colours I see or architecture. Old quilts are a great source of design and colour inspiration. Other times the fabric in my stash inspires me. It is the later that is my inspiration for my next quilt.

I have mentioned in the past that I am a non-denominational quilt maker which means I'll use any technique that works for me and I'll use the fabric that meets my needs. This sometimes means that I shop in the home dec department of fabric stores. They sell 100% cotton so why not? Well I found a great bolt of decorator fabric. It had a grey background with large mandalas (they are about 19" across) in yellow, gold and cream so I bought a piece of it!


I loved the print and thought it would make a fabulous centre medallion in a quilt. The grey reminds me of stone, the yellow of honey and the cream of Cornish clotted cream. All of these things spoke to me of my Cornish heritage and I knew that I wanted to make a quilt in which it would be reflected.

I also want to incorporate other aspects of my life and my family. As a child I remember chewing on chunks of honeycomb given to me by my grandmother; it was such a sweet, golden treat and when the honey was sucked from the comb we would delight in chewing on the wax!  I wonder if the honeycomb was the beginning of my romance with hexagons! Coincidentally it was that Grandmother that showed me how to make hexagons over a cardboard template.

My Mom has a love of bees and she often incorporates them in her quilts. She loves her garden and bees are critical to the success of every garden. They are also helpful when making a quilt . Mom was making a quilt that she calls Afrika and there were places where the seams didn't line up. What to do? Cover them with bees, killer bees! You can see and read about her quilt here. My new quilt will provide the perfect opportunity to incorporate bees for my Mom!



All of these elements are my inspiration and they will fire my creativity. So the plan is to design and make a quilt that I will call The Meadery. Mead is a beverage made of fermented honey and it is tasty! Have any of you watched the series Larkrise to Candleford? One of my favourite characters is Queenie Turrill. She raises bees and is renowned for the mead that she makes from their honey! A meadery is the place where mead is made and it is also a type of restaurant common in Cornwall, England.

I am going to need hexagons for this quilt and they will form the honeycomb. I'll use a variety of honey colours from the palest yellow to the richest golden orange. Many years ago I made a small quilt for my Mom. I called it Quilting Bees. I plan on making the honeycomb so that it resembles the honeycomb in this quilt.

Quilting Bees by Karen H 12 1/2" square

Close-up of Quilting Bees by Karen H

Step one is to cut oodles of strips of honey fabric. I'm planning on using 3/4" hexagons for the honeycomb so I'm using 2" strips. I'll also go through my bin of leftover hexagons that have basted and I'll add them to the pile of hexagons I'm going to need. I'll use my rapid cutting technique for cutting my hexagons from these strips so that I can get sewing as quickly as possible!


So listen people: I've decided that it is time to take a bit of a blog vacation or a blogcation as I like to call it!


I'll be off for the next couple of weeks but will be checking and replying to all emails and comments. If you leave a comment and don't hear back from me it means you are a no reply blogger and I have no way to contact you because and email address isn't linked to your profile. 

As always, until I post again happy, happy, happy sewing. I'll be back in a couple of weeks and hopefully at that time will have lots to share with you!
Karen H

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pincushions galore

I love making and collecting pincushions of all descriptions because a quilt maker can never have too many pincushions. Everywhere I like to sit and sew you will find a pincushion. Some, like my Tiny World Make-Do Pincushions, are more elaborate. I do use them but I also have made myself a collection of them that I keep them in my bookcase. In the following picture the canoe, teepee and trees are my own creation but the starting point for was Mimi Kirchner's pattern. I have a whole gallery of tiny world pincushions which you can see here.

Teepee at M'Chigeeng by Karen H

Today I thought I would share some more pincushions, two of which I made very recently.


The blue pincushion in the upper right is reversible. I've written a pattern and it will be published in the September/October 2015 issue of Hexie Love magazine. The magazine is devoted entirely to hexagon projects and there are all sorts of patterns, articles and ideas inside each cover. The magazine is published by Julia Wood of The Hexie Blog. It is priced at $5.99 USD per issue. You can't beat that price!

This is the reverse side of the pincushion. I've made a few of these pincushions and they are great fun!


The second pincushion is a prototype. I just finished it this morning and plan on making another but I'm going to try to sew it a little differently from the first to see if the results are better.


The third is a combination pincushion/needlecase. This is my own design. I've made quite a few of these over the years. I've never written up a pattern but may do so in the future. The top is pretty and it also serves as a pincushion.


Needles can be tucked away safely inside!


I hope you've enjoyed my little show of pincushions. I love each and every one of them.

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H


Friday, July 31, 2015

REWIND: Back Basting Applique

Welcome back to REWIND! Every now and then I "rewind" and republish one of my older posts that you may have missed! Today I'm going to share a post from November 2014  in which I write about back basting applique.


I used this applique method to make fruit and flower blocks in the border in my Gardens of a King quilt designed by Missie Carpenter of Traditional Primitives. It is a great technique to add to your skills set so why not give it a try? You'll be surprised at how easy it is and the great results that you will achieve.

Gardens of a King by Karen H
Pattern by Missie Carpenter of Traditional Primitives

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TUTORIAL: Back basting applique

I am not an expert when it comes to applique but I enjoy doing it and I think that sometimes just a little bit of applique can add so much to a quilt. There are lots of different ways of doing applique and each has its own place. One of the methods I like is back basting applique. There are small applique blocks in Gardens of a King quilt that lend themselves perfectly to back basting applique.
So what is back basting applique? Simply put you baste your applique fabric to the background but you baste it from the wrong side. Once it is basted you do needle turn applique that is surprisingly easy!

The first step is to draw the shape on the wrong side of your background fabric. I will use a fleur de lis shape. I place my design on a light box or tape it to a window. I place my fabric over the pattern  with the wrong facing side up and I trace the shape with a fabric safe marker that makes a fine line. I like to use a mechanical pencil or a Frixion pen.


Cut a piece of applique fabric that is large enough to cover the entire shape.


I place the the applique fabric on the right side of my background fabric and hold it up to the light to make sure that it is correctly positioned which means that the applique fabric extends beyond my drawing on all sides. Depending on the size of the applique I may place a few pins to hold it in place. I then take a needle and thread and run basting stitches on the lines.


I turn the fabric over and on the right side I draw on the lines of the basting thread with a fabric safe marking tool. I like to use my mechanical pencil or a Frixion pen. If you use a pencil be sure that you can see the line but you don't want it do dark that it will show after the applique is finished. A chalk pencil would work equally well. Use the marking tool you have in your tool box that you like and that works for you!


Trim the excess fabric leaving a narrow seam allowance. I like to leave somewhere between 1/8" and 1/4". If there are inner points or curves you will need to clip them to make it easy to turn the seam allowance. In fact I like to clip all the way around the shape. I find that it makes turning the seam allowance much easier. I do not clip right to the line; I stop a few threads short of the line because I can always clip more but I can't clip less!


Now it is time to applique. Remove a few basting stitches and tuck the seam allowance under on the drawn line with the tip of your needle. Stitch until you reach the point where you need to remove another couple of basting stitches. Continue in this manner until the applique is completed removing only a basting stitch or two at a time. I like to use Superior's The Bottom Line thread for my applique. A soft taupe colour seems to work on virtually all colours!


This is the fleur de lis from the front.


This is the fleur de lis from the wrong side. When I press the piece all of the Frixion pen marks will disappear!


This method works well for simple shapes like the fleur de lis but it is even better for more complex, layered designs and small pieces! As with any applique work you have to give thought to the order of sewing pieces. For example in the picture below I stitched cherries before the stems because the stems sit on top of the cherries. The leaves were stitched before the branches. I'll often write the order of sewing pieces on the wrong side of the fabric so I know what to do next. I marked all of the leaves and most of the cherries as "1" because there were stems and branches that had to go on top of them. I back basted all of the pieces marked "1" at the same time and then I appliqued them in place. At the bottom of the picture you can see there is a cherry that is on top of another so the top cherry was marked "2". I continue numbering all of the shapes in this way. The back basted piece in the picture is the last stem that I need to applique and then the piece will be finished.


HELPFUL TIP: One of the tools I keep in my sewing kit is an orange stick (just below the scissors in the picture). It is great for turning applique edges especially if there is an inner point or inner curve to be turned. The wood just grabs the fabric and tucks it neatly into place! And it does it the first time so if the seam allowance is narrow there is little or no fraying. A needle is slippery so if I have to poke the fabric a few times it might start to fray and that will make the applique more difficult!

An important consideration is if your pattern is oriented the way it should look when it's finished your will need to create a reverse image for tracing on the wrong side of the background fabric. If you just trace it onto the wrong side of your fabric the final applique will be a mirror image of the pattern. To eliminate this problem I trace my pattern on the wrong side of the pattern with a fine Sharpie marker and that is what I use to trace the design on the wrong side of my fabric. Problem solved! Another option is to use your printer to print a mirror image.

* * * * * * *
I adore the Gardens of a King pattern by Missie Carpenter of Traditional Primitives. In fact I like it so much that I am seriously considering making another. At first glance you wouldn't think so but it is English paper pieced just like my hexagon quilts! These blocks measure about 6" across and they were a great way to use up some really small scraps.


Look at this block with the tiny little hexagon in the middle! Love it! I used Missie's starch basting method to prepare all of the pieces.


When I made the Gardens of a King quilt I made it exactly as per the pattern because I was testing the pattern for Missie. I don't get any compensation for testing or promoting this pattern nor do I have a commercial interest in the pattern - Missie just asked me if I would be willing to test the pattern for her and I thought that it would be a fun thing to do. I enjoyed making Gardens of a King and am so proud of my quilt top that I can't resist sharing it with you!


Some of the applique blocks are challenging and if applique is not your thing you may think that this isn't a quilt you could make. My applique work is far from perfect and I had to work really carefully on this block; the purple flowers were very difficult because I used cotton fabrics but the pattern is based on wool applique which I understand is fast, fun and easy. When you are making a quilt from a pattern you can change it up to suit your skill level or design sense. I think that if you had a large pretty print you could just skip the applique and frame the fabric with the oval. How quick and pretty would that be? Very quick and pretty and it can be just as effective as the applique!


I would like the next Gardens quilt to have more a Canadian flavour to it! I'm already jotting down ideas about how I might do that. I also bought a fabric challenge kit so I may combine the challenge with this quilt pattern and come up with something similar but uniquely my own.

I know that some readers have purchased the Gardens of a King pattern and have had some questions. I'm always happy to answer/help and I know that Missie too is always available. What you may not know is that she has set up a help page on her blog and I encourage you to visit Missie's help page on her blog. She has developed some very unique approaches to piecing that you will find helpful and worth adding to your skill set. She is also working on a new quilt design that has fleurs-de-lis! It looks very interesting and I can't wait to see the finished quilt!

Well people, I've got stuff to do so I had better get on with the doing. Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H