How amazing are these awful Christmas kittens panels?!?! There’s three of them but I do love this kittens-in-a-basket one the best. I mean, what’s more traditionally tacky than kittens in a basket!?
I snapped up these panels from the charity shop a few months ago for the back of my Christmas quilt:
– if you haven’t already caught it on Flickr or Instagram. It’s one single gigantic (60″ square) Swoon block, all made from stash and scraps and just a few purchases to get enough of the right colors.
The top is all sewn now and I’m putting the back together from these ridiculous kittens, some of my low-volume scraps from the front, and that floral vintage sheet above – yes, it really is that bright! I love vintage sheets or fabric so much – and even better if there’s tacky cats involved!
The next project my hand-sewing pals and I are working on is (yay!) for me! I searched for a looooong time for a pattern I really loved and that would be fun for us to sew by hand. Finally, I came across the appliqued orange peel design, and then in looking for examples, I fell in love with this beautiful mini-quilt made my Paloma from Three Kitchen Fairies and that sealed the deal. And the design happened to work out perfectly with the fabrics I had picked out already, so it was pretty much meant to be.
Sigh. Looking at them just makes me happy. The pile divided freakishly well into soft backgrounds and bright peel fabrics. Let’s just have another look, just ’cause they’re so damn pretty.
I tested out one peel with the freezer paper method: cut a peel template out of freezer paper, iron onto the back of the fabric, cut the fabric with a quarter-inch overlap and then baste it just like it was being paper pieced. Pin and applique that onto the backing fabric and when there’s about an inch left to sew, remove the basting stitches and paper, then finish up the last inch. Voila!
It was so much easier than I expected, and so pleasing to do.
I made up little kits for the hand-stitchers and should get all the blocks back this weekend. Eep! Just the thought of it makes me a little giddy – I can’t wait to play with them!
It was a while ago now, but remember when I told you about my little hand-sewing quilting bee? I haven’t blogged about it since because we left a few months between each ‘assignment’ to give us lots of time to finish them. Also, I waited to show you these first finished bee blocks until my turn was almost up too – a little blog-continuity and whatnot.
So these were my blocks for Karen, aren’t they the cutest?! So so so sweet. (There’s close-ups of each block on Flickr.) And I totally learned something about English Paper Piecing that I’d never realized – that you could just cut up a piece of paper into any shapes you like and, voila!, you have the templates for paper piecing right there. How did I never get this before? It seems so obvious now, I hate to even admit I didn’t get it – I just always thought of paper piecing in terms of those most-used shapes: hexagons, diamonds, etc. I was so excited by this and now I’ve even started a little just-for-fun mini-project of my own with the same process. (More on that soon.)
Karen had us each make three tiny blocks, all paper pieced stars, and initial the corner of each of our blocks. So itty-bitty! Of course when we got to the pub and gave our finished blocks to Karen, we couldn’t help but lay them all out together and see what it will look like finished:
Lookit how charming it’s going to be! Those blocks are all with Karen now to be turned into her mini-quilt. Of course I’ll share it when it’s finished – either with my own photo or pointing you to her blog when she posts it herself – but in the meantime, my hand-sewing friends have been working on blocks for me and I’ll show you more about that tomorrow!
One last little bit of Christmas 2012 showing off, I couldn’t leave this stuff out! My awesomest-in-the-whole-world knitting group did a Secret Santa swap this year, exchanging gifts at our now annual Christmas dinner and it was so lovely, it just made me love our group even more. I know some of you are out there in internet-land, so pardon me for being squishy for a second, but every last gift was so lovely, so thoughtful that it really made my heart feel enormous. It was the proper true spirit of Christmas.
Ahem. (Little tear in my eye.)
Seriously, it was the best. I Secret Santa-ed the amazingly talented and adorable and so sweet Suzy, of Suzy Sewing. Suzy’s gradually working on developing her own line of patterns, which will be under the name Suzy Patterns. (They’re going to be amazing, just you wait and see.) So even though she’s not ready for a launch or anything yet, I wanted to make something for her sewing room, something special that made it really hers.
So I embroidered her logo! Embellished with a little sprig of vintage flowers, just because it was cute.
And I framed it in a hoop (no photo of that, sadly, because I had to pack it up the second the glue was dry!) and used my pal Carina’s excellent embroidery hoop framing tutorial to learn how. Highly recommended! I wasn’t convinced I could get that lettering as neat as a logo should be, so I also got her a coffee mug for her studio and made a little coaster to go with it:
My Santa was my very good friend Christa (who doesn’t have a blog but really should, doncha think?!) and she spoiled me rotten! Lookit!
My new tiny bunny friend is called Dorothy and was handmade by Christa from a vintage pattern with vintage fabric, with tiny Liberty fabric details. Isn’t she lovely?! And not just any Liberty fabric, but a print I’d admired in a quilt at the Festival of Quilts last summer, which Christa hunted down for me and then treated me to a piece of in my Secret Santa package …
… as well as a couple of others that I’d admired on a recent shopping trip. That one (at the back of the pile) will be used right away in project for the bedroom redecoration I’m working on and will blog about soon; the two fabrics at the front really need to be used together, don’t you think? But I can’t decide for what yet. It can’t just be any old thing. And excuse the bunny bum in this photo, you just had to see Dorothy’s adorable tail. (Also, it reminds me of how a guy-friend in high school used to call me ‘bunny bottoms’ as a term of endearment, which I still think is so sweet.)
And lastly, I did a Christmas swap with my penpal from the Netherlands, who I met on Ravelry during the 2012 Tour de Fleece. (Hi, Mirjam!) She sent me the most exciting TWO packages for Christmas, full to the brim of Dutch treats I missed – kruidnoten and a chocolate J and stroopwafels and hagelslag and everything I ever said I liked …
… as well as lovely baking kits and some beautiful spinning fiber and ornaments and … seriously, talk about being spoiled, it was insane! I grabbed that quick Instagram photo before I just dug right in.
I sent Mirjam a slightly less extravagant package, but I did make her a little handmade gift for the studio space she will soon have in her new home:
I already forgot a bit now, but I think those pieces are 1″ square – maybe 1.5″, but pretty small. I used Elizabeth of Oh, Fransson’s Quick-Piece Tiny Squares method which is, as advertised, amazing for precise piecing of tiny pieces. I’m not sure it made it faster so much, for me anyway, but definitely neater. I used the fabrics I’ve been hoarding from the big V&A museum Quilts exhibition a few years ago, because I know my penpal loves textile history.
As always, more photos over on Flickr, and that’s about all for Christmas 2012, folks! It was a little insane, as always, and I’ve already decided I’m taking a year off from handmade Christmas (or at least handmade by me – there will almost definitely be handmade shopping though) for a year, just for a break from Christmas stress and to allow me to come up with some new ideas. But this year was a pretty good success, I’d say!
So there’s about a week left to Christmas, right? Here’s a tutorial for a quick but lovely ornament you can make with stuff you almost definitely have around the house. It’s a good one to slip into a card, use as a tag on a gift for some extra-special wrapping, or just as a little treat for yourself to break up the Christmas panic. These are modeled on ornaments my family has had on the tree ever since I can remember* and they’re some of my favorites. I love that they’re quite large, larger than ornaments normally are, and let you showcase beautiful fabrics.
You can use whatever quilting-type fabric you have handy, but I made mine as a gift, so I went that little bit further and bought some Christmas-colored Liberty Tana Lawn pieces just for this project. That does make these ornaments extra-pretty, but it’s also a nice use for your favorite scraps. Here’s what you’ll need per ornament:
– 2 x fabric pieces, minimum 4.75″ square
– 2 x medium-weight fusible interfacing pieces, minimum 4.75″ square
– 1 piece of Wonder-Under, minimum 4.75″ square
– removable fabric pen (we use Pilot Frixion pens** – you don’t want one that needs to be washed out with water)
– sharp scissors
– sewing machine & thread to match (or contrast with!) your fabric
– some kind of string or thread for hanging (not shown) – I used some perle cotton floss
– a printed copy of my heart template (Download here!) and a bit of light cardboard – I used the back of a cereal box
** Note: be careful with these Pilot Frixion pens! We love love love them but have noticed that they leave a white mark behind when ironed away. We didn’t notice for a long time because we do all of our embroidery pattern work on white fabric and, besides, it won’t matter if you stitch right over the line anyway. But if you change your mind about line placement, it could leave a mark.
First things first. Cut out the large heart template, trace it onto your cardboard and cut that out. We’ll come back to the little heart later – until then, don’t throw anything away.
Next – apply your interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric squares:
If you are using Liberty Tana Lawn, be sure to test your interfacing on a scrap first! This medium-weight interfacing worked well for me. You want it stiff enough not to droop when hung, but not bubble or wrinkle. And iron very carefully – I went very slowly and left them untouched on the ironing board for a minute or two until they were completely cool between each ironing step.
Apply your Wonder-Under to the interfacing side of one square, peel back the paper backing, then apply the two squares together. If you’ve used a directional print, make sure they’re both facing the same direction before you iron!
Now you basically have a double-sized, interfaced, square of fabric. Trace your heart onto one side of the fabric square.
Now sew along the line you just drew. Make it easy on yourself and start along one of the straight lengths, not a curve. Also, you might want to use a small stitch length for this to make the curves a little tighter. I set the stitch length on my machine to about 2.25.
Remove your line marking and cut out the heart close to the stitching, about 1/16″ or so, or as close as you can cut neatly.
Thread a string through the top of the heart and there you go! (And I just noticed my ornament magically changed prints!)
Of course, you can use this method for any shape or size ornament you like, or with different prints on each side, or even with a bit of decorative stitching maybe. They’re perfect for customizing to the recipient.
Oh, and remember when I told you not to throw anything away? If you were really using 4.75″ squares at the beginning, you should have these funny little triangular fabric-interfacing-Wonder-Under sandwiches left. Cut the smaller heart from my template and it should be just the right size to make mini-ornaments from those scraps! I didn’t sew these because I didn’t trust my skills on something so small, but I bet they’d be cute with some hand-stitched running stitch or blanket stitch along the edge.
I hope you like them, and come back here to show off if you make some!
* Because these are not really my original idea, I’m just re-creating something made long ago by some unknown crafter, I’m happy for these to be made for sale by the enterprising among you. It’s hardly mine to own!