English Paper Piecing Mayham*

I think it may have started with my hexagon pouch — which I never showed you, did I? Sorry about that, I totally forgot! Here you go:

Perfect for my embroidery tools! Anyway, I think that project started a little bit of a craze – in my head – for English paper piecing, which has now sort of taken over everything. I really enjoyed making that pouch, piecing it tiny bit by bit, and finally admitted that what I really want to make is a traditional, 30s-inspired, Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. I have a weird obsession with those 30s reproduction fabrics, and have been quietly hoarding them for several years now. Bits and pieces, sale buys, a jelly roll, etc. I think I always knew I wanted to do a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, but I kind of know it’s insane. I mean, I actually prefer a long-term project over quick-fix projects – or at least like to have a balance – because I love the slowness of a long haul project. I mean, it’s nice to know that you really put your heart and soul into a thing, to watch it grow tiny bit by bit. It’s very satisfying.

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, madness begun.

But this is extreme, even for me. I realize that this will take many years. That I look at it now, brimming with enthusiasm, but will probably hate the sight of it after a while. It’ll probably go away from time to time, when I need a break. But I want it. What’s the point of making something faster if it’s not the thing you really wanted? I’m using my hoarded reproduction fabrics and will keep an eye out for any on sale as I go, and I’ve already finished one flower!

Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt, Flower #1

Yes, one out of a millionty, but it’s a start. (Sorry for the not-awesome photo there, I didn’t realize it until just now.) I even made a Pinterest board of vintage GFG quilts for inspiration as I go. Aren’t they stunning?

Then my mother asked for some decorative pillow covers for her bedroom, to add a little color to the room, for Mother’s Day (we still celebrate the US version, coming up next weekend. I’m not sure why, now that I think about it). Of course I thought of a paper pieced design, because why would I do something simple when I could make it ten times slower? She helped me pick the fabric to make sure it matches just right – a gorgeous Kona fat quarter pack from The Village Haberdashery – and she wants something of a traditional design. I teamed the solids with a piece of Tula Pink Plume from my stash and I’m going for a Lone Star-ish design, in part inspired by this amazing quilt by Fancy Tiger Crafts. I’m so in awe of that quilt. Mine won’t be a star shape, I’ll continue the diamonds solidly then square it up, if that makes sense. I’m not sure if there’s a name for that or if it’s still a Lone Star design. In any case, I’ve got a little start:

Lone Star-ish pillow covers, WIP

and just over a week to go. Oy. There may also be something going on with some extremely tiny hexagons and two crazy people, but that’s a story for another day!

* No, that’s not a typo. Paulie Walnuts fans will understand. Everybody else, just pretend it says ‘mayhem’.

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

This is a little random, in the middle of a million embroidery and knitting posts, and since I barely ever post about sewing, but I wanted to share a little 10-minute-use-up-scraps project that I love. These little fabric bookmarks can be made in any size, to suit any book, and are a perfect use for scraps of those really precious fabrics that you can’t bear to throw away. This blue floral print by Tanya Whelan is one of favorite fabrics ever, I just can’t stand the thought of ever running out of it. So I saved even these tiny strips to make something I can use and admire every day.

Here’s what you need (my apologies that some of these photos are a little icky, the weather’s been all over the place and I figured these show what you need to see well enough):

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

– 2 fabric scraps about bookmark size. Any size you like, and of course it depends on the book you want it to go with. As a guide, the red one shown here is 2″ x 8″, the blue floral above is 1.25″ x 7.5″, the gray Echino bookmarks are 1.75″ x 5.5″ and 2″ x 7″. I’ve even made a tiny one from charm pack scraps (shown way below) that’s less than 1″ x 5″. None of these were measured out to be that size, they were all made from scraps I already had. Basically, the exact size is totally up to you and your scraps.

– 2 pieces of interfacing (I save those interfacing scraps for this too) to match the size of your bookmark. I don’t suppose it matters too much what kind of interfacing, it will just determine how floppy or stiff your bookmark turns out – both will hold your page just fine.

– Coordinating thread

– Ruler, rotary cutter, etc.

– Embroidery floss (optional)

This project is so simple, I’m sure you barely need me to explain it, but here goes anyhow.

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

First, apply your interfacing to your fabric backs, then trim both to be perfect rectangles in whatever size you’ve decided on. I usually just square (um, rectangle) it up and that’s the size it’ll be. Of course you can also trim first, then iron, that’s totally up to you.

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

If you’d like to embroider a little something on one side, this is the time. Do it after you’ve applied the interfacing to keep it all smooth, and keep in mind not to use too heavy a thread or else your book won’t shut all nice and flat. I’ve done a wee heart with 2 strands of ordinary DMC floss.

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

You probably don’t want to tie a knot on either end of your embroidery, also to keep it as flat as possible. I’ll assume you don’t need instructions on knotless embroidering for now, but of course just shout if you’d like some!

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

Ok, embroidery or not, next you’ll thread your machine and also set it for a slightly longer stitch, like topstitching. Mine is at a-little-over-3; I have no good reason for this length, it just works well for me.

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

Then sew! All around, about 1/8″ inch from the edge. Or whatever you like, just try to keep it consistent. I usually line it up with a mark on my foot and that’s about 1/8″-ish from the edge. (By the way, I pinned this one just to see if it made a difference, but it really didn’t for me.) And don’t forget to turn corners with the needle down for nice sharp angles!

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

If your fabric edges get a little misaligned like so:

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

don’t worry, you can just trim those right off. Line up the stitching with a mark on your ruler and trim that little tiny edge off like it never happened.

10-minute Fabric Bookmark Tutorial

And, huzzah! Fabric bookmarks galore! Oh, and I know you’re thinking that these will fray and get messy with any real use. Well, yes, they kind of do, but not nearly as much as you’d imagine. The interfacing keeps them from getting too frayed, and they actually look equally cute once they’ve softened up and the edges get a little loose (like the two on the right above, which have been in use for several years now). Please stop by and show off if you ever make some for yourself!

Chapter 3: Wildwood Flower (the end)

Wildwood Flower - finished

It took about two months, with lots of breaks in between to make decisions, but my mini-quilt is bound, signed, and ready to hang. It’s been named Wildwood Flower after the lovely Carter Family song of the same name. Well, it’s not an original Carter Family song, but they did it so wonderfully and perfectly that it became their song the minute they recorded it. No one’s ever been able to top it and I doubt they ever will. I don’t know a lot about 30s music, but The Carter Family is, in my head, what the 30s must’ve sounded like. These fabrics look like how The Carter Family sounds: simple but beautiful, bright and cheerful but ever so slightly faded.

Plus, I’m a music nerd and I just can’t help naming stuff after songs.

Wildwood Flower - finished

A few notes about this project:

– Every dang stitch of this – piecing, applique, quilting, and binding – was sewn by hand, and with almost no real modern tools. Just scissors, cardboard templates, needle, thread. This was not a plan, it was a little bit necessity and a little bit accident. Being away from my machines, I knew I’d be sewing by hand, but I didn’t really consider what I’d do without a rotary cutter, a big cutting mat, that sort of thing. I pretty much figured it out as I went using ordinary household materials. Cutting small patchwork pieces was a cinch with little cardboard templates and a ruler; I even used a wee strip template to mark 1/4″ seams on everything. Cutting the large cream pieces was more difficult – I was terrified I’d mess it up and have no more to work with (I was very strict about using only materials and tools that I already had for this project).

Wildwood Flower - finished

– Having recently been to the amazing quilt exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, this mini-quilt gave me a cool little glimpse of what quilting must’ve been like before all our modern fanciness. I’ll still use the tools that I have, of course, but it did make me think that a lot of them are really not necessary. Sure, they speed up the process, but where am I in such a hurry to get? It was nice not to rush through a project for once. I admit those tools can help with precision as well, but I’m convinced my cardboard templates were just as accurate.

Wildwood Flower - finished

– Except the center circle of the Dresden Plate, all of the prints came from a 30s-themed jelly roll (ordered from The Quilt Room about a year ago). I love pre-cut fabric packs – they give you a lot of design bang for your buck, especially if you’re trying to craft cheaply, and they force you be creative with their limitations. But then, I do tend to love small projects, or at least projects with small pieces – it’s like knitting socks: when working small, you get a lot of entertainment out of a small amount of material.

Wildwood Flower - finished

I’ve been reunited with my machines and I’m already back to whipping up some quick projects (see yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday photo for a little peek), but I do hope I continue to sew by hand here and there. I loved every minute of this project and it gave me what I think could be a really great idea for the future. More on that in good time!

(More photos in my Flickr photostream!)

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