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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

How to make a hexie quilt using English paper piecing.

Today I thought I would give you a little tutorial on English paper piecing.

I used to make lots of quilts but my favourites are getting worn and needing to be patched so I decided to make a new one. There's nothing quite like snuggling down with a quilt on the sofa on a cold winters night to watch a good film. I have made some 'clever' quilts in my time with intricate designs but realised that I prefer the plainer, more traditional ones so I decided to go with a scrap hexaginal quilt with a vintage feel to it. It turned out I didn't have enough scraps so I did end up buying fabric but only in fat quarters to retain the scrappy feel.

This method of quilt making is not for the faint hearted or anyone that wants a quilt in a hurry. It's a slow process but if you enjoy hand stitching it can be pleasurable. It is also very portable!

Many of these quilts are made with tiny hexagons but I didn't want a UFO on my hands so I have used hexagons with sides that measure 3 inches. This is how far I've got so far. It is about five feet long and still has some growing to do.
Paper templates are the first thing you need. Each one needs to be the size you want the finished patch to be, without seam allowences. These can be purchased already cut or you can make your own. I prefer to make my own and use paper from old magazines. If you decide to make your own and don't know how to draw a hexagon there are many tutorials online. I would suggest that you make a template from cardboard and use that to draw around. If you draw around papers that you've already cut they will slowly get bigger.

Next you must cut your fabric out. To get the correct size pin a paper template on to the reverse side of your fabric and cut it about 1/4 inch larger.
Now using the paper template as a guide turn the edges of the 
fabric and stitch to the paper with large tacking stitches in a contrasting thread. These stitches will be removed later.

Before you know it you will have a stack of hexagon patches basted to paper and ready to be joined!
This is the tricky bit! Hand stitching is not usually as strong as machine stitching so your joining stitches must be tiny and very close together. 
Take two patches and place right sides together. You need to stitch along the edge where the fabric turns over the paper. Try not to stitch in to the paper. I have used a neutral cotton on this quilt but if you are using strong colours you may need thread to match. Use a good quality thread which is strong. I always make two stitches in the corners or even a blanket stitch as this will be the weakest point and more likely to come apart as construction commences. I've taken a photo of the tiny stitches but am not sure if they will be clearly visable.
You can join your hexies in rows or you may prefer to start with a central patch and work out from it. Remember every time you come to a corner to add an extra stitch or two for strength. When a patch is joined to another one on all sides you can undo your taking stitches and remove the paper. Do not remove the papers from the outer edges which have not yet been joined to another patch.

Whilst you are stitching all of your patches together you will have plenty of time to think about edges and borders. I intend to have a plain, cream border and then some more patches outside that but haven't decided on the edge yet. It can be squared up or left with a sort of zig zag edge which is what you get with the hexagons. If you want the edge squared up at any time. Either for joining a border or for the edging you will need some half hexagons to fill in the spaces. Just cut your papers in half and proceed as normal.

Before you embark on a project of this kind I recommend that you search for images of hexagon quilts because there are many patterns which can be made from them. Pinterest is always a good resource.

Oh yes I forgot to mention that I wanted my quilt to be a little different and slightly quirky so a few of the patches are made up of more than one piece of fabric. Some almost look like crazy quilting. I have kept this to a minimum but they are there on close inspection. See if you can spot any in this pic.
If you have any questions please ask in the comments box and I would love to see your creations as well. I will keep you updated but don't hold your breathe because it will take some time.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Different types of felt

My blog has been sadly neglected for a while but I'm now trying to get back on track.
Many people are confused about the difference between craft felt, needle felt, wet felt and nuno felt so I thought I would explain the differences for you.

                                                             Craft felt

We are all familiar with craft felt. It comes in brightly coloured squares and is often used in card making. This is actually not made from wool as true felt is. It is made by machine using man made fibres. Great for using with children and an affordable option for collage and crafting but not great quality.I don't have a photo of craft felt because I never use it.

                                                              Needle felt

Needle felting is a fairly new method of making felt. It is made from wool and made by repeatedly stabbing a special needle with a barbed end in to the felt to tangle the fibres together. The more you stab the firmer and more stable the felt becomes.

The wool is easier to place and keep in the position you want it. It is not messy. It does not require too much energy and can be done sitting down.

The fibres are not permanently tangles together. If you pull them they can come apart. This is not a problem if you are buying a piece of artwork to go behind glass but I would not recommend using it for unprotected artwork or anything else that could get snagged. Anything made by needle felting has lots of tiny holes in it from the needle being inserted.

Wet felt
Wet felted wool is the oldest known textile to man. It predates woven fabric and has been found in ancient tombs. It is made from wool. The woolen fibres are placed in layers and covered with a net to hold them in place. Warm water is then poured over them and soap rubbed in. The whole lot is then rubbed with the hands to tangle the fibres together. It is then rolled up in a bamboo mat like a swiss roll and rolled backwards and forwards to add extra strength. It is then rinsed in cold water and thrown repeatedly on a table until the density required is achieved.

Wet felt is extremly strong and can not be pulled apart or torn. The fibres are permanently bound together to the extent that it can even be used to make shoes or slippers. Artwork can be displayed in any way prefered. With or without glass It has a smooth appearance. It can be stitched on both by hand and machine without clogging the sewing machine up with loose fibres.

It can be a messy job with water getting everywhere. It requires quite a lot of effort and needs the maker to be able to stand. The fibres are more difficult to control when making detailed work.

Nuno felt
Nuno felt is a term used to describe woollen fibres wet felted on to fabric. It can be on both or just one side of the fabric and is made in exactly the same way as wet felted as described above but with the addition of a layer of fabric.

This method enables the maker to make a very strong yet lightweight fabric which drapes well. It is perfect for clothing.

It is not suitable for detailed work. There is more shrinkage than the other two methods described. It is even harder work than ordinary wet felting.

I hope that this post has been informative but if you have any question please do not hesitate to ask in the comments box and I will be happy to answer.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Fabric collage art

I  have an exciting new product in  my shop. Fabric collaged pictures with free machine stitching. These pictures came about by chance really. I had a bad back and couldn't felt so decided to experiment. After a few false starts I came up with this Indian runner duck.
She was so pretty I decided to try something a little more complex so I made a sheep. I call her my hippie chic sheep because she has flowers in her fleece. For some reason I can't upload a photo of her but you can find her in my shop. Finally I have made a butterfly.
Now my back has recovered I am back to felting but I have had such good feedback from these collages that I will be making more in the future.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Dying with madder

Hi, I just thought I would keep you up to date on my 'slow stitch' blanket. I have made some more felt, this time from a sheep called Speckle. Her  fleece is not quite as soft as Sally's. It has a few more guard hairs in it but it's fine for a blanket.
The pieces in the photograph were all dyed with madder. The one on the left was only left in the dye pot for about half an hour which gave me a brilliant orange, the on the left was in the same dye pot foe a couple of hours and turned out a little bit darker. The brownish one at the bottom was also dyed in the same dye pot but I put it in an iron modifier afterwards to 'sadden' the colour. Three different colours from one dye pot!
Now that the days are beginning to get longer plants are starting to spring to life so I am going to wait until the docks and nettles appear before I try any more dying. I think they should yield greens but I will let you know.

Friday, 29 January 2016

New size in affordable mini felts available

I recently came across some canvases in a really cute 6 x 6 inch size and couldn't resist them. I am now busy making small felt paintings to fit them. They are all original and made with the same care as my larger pieces but the small size makes them more affordable. They cost less than a dinner out but will last a lot longer and have zero calories!
Here are the first two but I am in the process of making more.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Natural dying for slow stitch blanket

Hello everyone. Those of you who read my last post will know that I am making a blanket from nuno felt using muslin and fleece from my own sheep. I am using fleece from different coloured sheep and also dying some of the white with natural colours.
I have tried dying with plant material before but without much success. This is probably down to the fact that I am too impatient to let things soak and simmer for as long as I should. This time I was determined to do it properly. I consulted a book I have and would recommend called 'wild colour' to see what plants I can use in winter when not much is growing. One of the things that caught my eye was pomegranate because I had one in the fruitbowl. Surprisingly it is the skin, not the seeds which yield the colour and it gives a yellow.
I ate the seeds and then bashed the skin a bit with a rolling pin. I then bought it to a boil and left it to simmer for an hour. It then had to be left to soak overnight. Leaving something overnight is like torture because I want to do it NOW but I did leave it. In the meantime I used Alum as a mordant on the felt.
Next morning the water in the pan was , sure enough, yellow. Very yellow! I removed the skin and replaced it with the felt. Again more simmering, boiling and soaking. By evening the felt was a strong mustard colour. I added a little vinegar and reheated it which brightened the yellow slightly until I had this.
Next I decided to do some tea dying as I know from experience it is easy and fairly quick. I still had some felt with the alum mordant in it and used that but I think tea dye would remain colour fast even without it. I made a jug of tea with three teabags and immersed the felt in it. I expected to leave it overnight but after a couple of hours I went to stir it and discovered it had turned a lovely brownish rose colour so I took it out and rinsed it then. If left longer it would have been darker. Here is the tea dyed cloth.
In reality this cloth is a little darker than the photo  and has a rosy glow to it but I just couldn't get the photo the right colour. Trust me it's really nice.

I did try one other piece but it was a failure. I used cherry bark which should have given me a pink colour. It did but only just. It is so pale that unless held against white you wouldn;t notice the colour at all. I think I didn't use enough bark because I didn't want to damage the tree. I should have weighed the cloth and used twice the weight in bark but I didn't weigh either. I will overdye that poiece later.

When I have done some more I will keep you updated. Before long the nettles will be coming up and for once I will be pleased to see them because they are good for dying. I do have some berries in the freezer left from last autumn so I might give those a go. For now I will enjoy stitching the pieces I have already made.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Slow stitch

Hello, I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays. Now is the tricky bit when you have to get back in to your normal routine.
I was lucky enough to be given the book called 'Slow Stitch' by Claire Wellesley-Smith for Christmas.
This book advocates the process of stitching purely for enjoyment and the medative health benefits which stitching can give. It also suggests that using cloth which is either found, made in your locality or from recycled clothing makes the process more personal. Another idea is the making of a stitch diary. Rather like an art journal in cloth.
I admit I am not usually a patient person when it comes to getting things done. I like to get them done quickly. I do enjoy the process but always have so many ideas I can't wait to get started on the next project. This sounded like a good activity to be more relaxed. Something I could do gently in the evenings. 
I racked my brains for local cloth as old clothes are always recycled into rag rugs in our house. Then had a light bulb moment when I came across a bag of fleece shorn from our own sheep a couple of years ago. Feeling and looking at the fleeces I was surprised to discover I knew which sheep each fleece had come from. A couple of them have died from old age since these fleeces were put away. One of them was a grey Welsh mule called Cadbury who was a real character and my favourite sheep. I decided that cloth made from my own sheep was as local as I could get! I also decided I wanted my cloth to have lots of texture and a sort of homespun look so decided to Nuno felt it with muslin and let the muslin show through in places.
Next job was to prepare the fleeces. Here is a photo of fleece which I have decreased but not yet properly washed. It is from a sheep called Sally whom we still have.
Since then I have cleaned, carded and felted the fleece. I didn't make a huge piece of felt because big pieces are just too much hard work. In keeping with the slow ethos I decided to make more pieces of felt as and when needed.
Then another idea popped in my head. Why not make a sort of memory blanket from my rectangles of felt? I will remember the characters and feel of the sheep whose fleeces I use. I may even stitch their names on to the blanket at some time. A lot of the fleece is white so I have also decided to dye some of them with natural dyes.
Here is a picture of my first completed rectangle. The blue marks you see are from water soluble pen and will wash out.
Next time I will let you know how I get on with the natural dying.