How To Foundation Paper Piece – Part 3

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JOINING SECTIONS

This is the 3rd part in my 4-part series called ‘How to Foundation Paper Piece’.   Please read the previous part one here and part two here if you have not already. 

Joining sections together accurately is really important in FPP.  The visual effectiveness and impact of the image can be lost if key intersections are misaligned. 

I lay out sections with fabric facing up to help you visualise how it goes together. If you’re working on a larger project you might like to pin the layout to a cork board or your design wall if you have one. Remember they won’t line up exactly when flat like this as each section has a seam allowance round it!

Start with the shortest joins between sections.  This will be tight under the sewing machine but it means you can practice where a small amount of slippage doesn’t impact as much as it’s over a shorter length.   In my example this is sections C & D. 

Place the sections fabric sides facing and roughly line up the seam to be joined.  As these section don’t have any important intersections between the fabrics that must line up, I start in the corners.  Take a pin and push through exactly in the corner. Push through to the second section aiming to hit the corner exactly again. 

You may have to re-adjust and try a couple of times but take your time. Practice makes perfect. I almost always now push the pin through perfectly aligned 1st time.

Now push the pin all the way through up to the head.  This helps to keep the fabric from slipping down and the pin ending up at an angle through the 2 sections.  Do the same for the other corner.

Next use wonder clips or similar (I don’t like pinning together as I find it shifts the fabric) to hold the sections in place.  As it is a short seam (1-1.5” long) 2 positioning pins should be sufficient. 

Remove the pins (at 90 degrees) and just have the clips holding the seam in place.  

Sew on machine only on the line and not into the seam allowance.  This can be sewn at your normal straight stitch length but I tend to leave mine at a length of 1.5 to make tearing the paper easier without straining the thread. Remember to do a lock stitch at the beginning and end. Remove the clips as you sew the seam ensuring neither section shifts.

Remove any remaining clips and open up the seam to check you’re happy with the alignment.  If you’re not happy, unpick and try again with the same process as above.  Sometimes I find the alignment looks off but once I have pressed it open a bit it looks good so don’t rush for the seam ripper. 

Turn block over, open seam with fingers and press so it starts to stay open. 

Use the roller, pressing firmly over the open seam.  I do this both on the front and back.  This will now be known as section ‘CD’.  Other designers’ instructions will similarly combine letters when sections are joined. 

Lastly remove the paper only in the area of the seam allowance so it sits as flat as possible. 

For longer seams the process is similar, just with more pins and clips.  In my example I am joining sections CD and E.  Place the sections you are joining, fabric face together, along the seam you will sew. My pattern sections have * where important junctions of fabric need to line up.  These marked line intersections are where I will pin through first. 

Check on the fabric sides of the pattern when pushing the pin through, as sometimes the fabric has has shifted over the intersection line.  

Check the positioning of the fabric and paper as you go through the second section, (with the locating pin) so you go accurately through the line intersection again.   Push the pin all the way through.  

Do this for any important intersections (these may not be marked, unlike my patterns). 

Now clip to the side of the pins to hold the fabric together. 

Next use more pins to accurately locate the corners using the same method as before.  

Place more clips round the pins and remove any pins that are not at important intersections.  I leave these pins in until the last possible moment to try to prevent the fabric sliding.

If there are any seams longer than 2” that have not been lined up using a locator pin then check the alignment with a pin and replace with a clip to hold it in place.  I also clip open any perpendicular seams so they stay open when sewing and don’t cause bulk. 

Sew on machine along the seam line (only on the line and not into the seam allowance at either end).  This can be sewn at your normal straight stitch length but I tend to leave mine at a length of 1.5 to make tearing the paper easier and without straining the thread. Remember to do a lock stitch at the beginning and end. 

As before, open the seam up and check you are happy with the intersections between the fabric. 

The intersections of fabric should match closely – the smaller the block or more different the fabric is, the more important this is.  It really is worth getting right so don’t be afraid to use your unpicker.  You can unpick part of a seam to correct an error but don’t do this too many times or stretch the fabric to much as you may distort the block. 

Finger press seams open.

Roll to get as flat as possible

My example shows blocks C, D and E joined – don’t worry if it doesn’t look square at the moment you can trim it once the whole block is together and ironed. 

Repeat the above steps for the rest of the sections. 

Once I have sewn the whole block together, I iron it (without steam), trim it square, and stitch all the way round 1/8from the edge. 

Lastly, I remove the paper (much easier with the foundation paper from Pattern Trace) and as this crumples the block I iron it again with a little starch (or similar) and pin it to my design wall until I use it!  

Next up….. Part 4 – MY TOP TIPS

Thank you for reading and keep stitching!!

How To Foundation Paper Piece – Part 2

HOW TO FOUNDATION PAPER PIECE, Uncategorized

Basic Principles and Piecing a Section

This is the second in a 4-part series “How to Foundation Paper Piece”.  If you have not already please read my previous blog post Part 1 –“Introduction, Patterns & Tools”

Basic Principles

FPP can be daunting and tricky to get your head around at the start, but once it clicks you will wonder why you found it so difficult!

The most important things to remember are:

  • You are sewing the fabric onto the back of the paper so you are creating a mirror image of what is on the front of the paper.
  • Make sure the fabric you are sewing on is the right way round and big enough.
  • Don’t think of it as one big whole just think about one section at a time. You can make notes on the paper if it helps, as it will be removed.
  • Take your time and enjoy it!

I am going to explain the process using my “Nice Iced Ring” Front Block Pattern.  You can find it here to purchase. I will try to explain in universal terms and then use photos and references of me doing my pattern.

Take any section of the block, I suggest starting with one that has the fewest and/or largest sections if you are new to FPP.  For my example I am using section E.

Fold along each of the seam lines between numbered sections – printed side to printed side.  The “Add a Quarter” ruler I use has a thin profile one side to make this easier.  Folding over your normal quilting rulers can create a double line due to their thickness.

Turn over the paper so the printed side is facing down.

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Place a large enough piece of fabric over the whole of the first area (labelled 1 and in my example, it needs to be the fabric I selected for the icing). Remember to put it on the unprinted side of the paper, with the pattern/ printed side of the facing away from the paper.  This piece of fabric needs to be bigger than the area (labelled 1) by at least ¼” (seam allowance) on all sides (except any sides adjacent to the outside edge of the section where seam allowance as already marked).  To make sure of this I like to initially cut a piece of fabric a bit too big and then trim it down once it is held in place.

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I use a small amount of glue stick (only on the area labelled 1) to hold the fabric in place and stop it moving while sewing or trimming. Some people just pin or use a long tacking stitch across the middle of the area to baste the fabric in place.

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Once stuck in place you need to trim the first bit of fabric down to the ¼” seam allowance.  Turn the section over so the fabric is facing the mat and the printed side of the paper is facing you.  Fold the paper back along each of the lines between area 1 and the other numbers in turn and use the ruler and rotary cutter to trim the excess off.

This is how my example looks now with the (icing) fabric covering area 1 plus a ¼” seam allowance on the adjacent sections and seam allowance at the bottom of the section.

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My example the “Nice Iced Ring” front block, I am making without the icing detail so have treated areas ‘1’ and ‘2’ as one area (I crossed out the 2 on the paper to remind me).

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Next, take some of the fabric for the area you want to cover (in this case 3).  In my pattern this is different to the fabric used in areas 1 & 2 as shown by the change of colour. The blue indicates the background.  This fabric should be bigger than the area you want to cover by at least ¼” on all sides. 

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• • •

Getting the fabric the right shape and size and the right way round is the most difficult part of FPP.  Often people have tried FPP and then got confused and given up when they have tried several times and can’t get it right.  Conveniently this is where most guides use overly large bits of fabric and gloss over the fact that you can get it so wrong.

It is confusing because you are creating a mirror image on the back of the paper and then reversing it when you are lining up the section to sew it on (as you always sew the fabric on while its finished face is against the finished face of the fabric already attached to the pattern).

You can very easily think you have it right but open up the fabric when the seam is sewn and realise you’ve got it completely wrong! The fabric might have the print on the wrong side or the print the right side but shape wrong, or just not enough seam allowance.

There are a couple of easy ways to make sure this doesn’t happen:

  • Cut pre-prepared sections of fabric much bigger than you need and trim them down after sewing. Berene from “Happy Sew Lucky” explains how she does this on her YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B0cTgce77A.  I started by using this method but it is wasteful of fabric when not doing simple squares or rectangles.
  • Print out the pattern a second time and cut each area of the section apart. Place these on the fabric (wrong side of fabric to unprinted side of paper) and cut round them adding at least ¼” seam allowance on ALL sides.  Sugeridoo does this in her instructional video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6vH6_zk-OQI have never used this method myself.

Personally, I use a method which allows me to use smaller scraps or efficiently cut from my main bit of fabric.  It is not an original idea but it is tricky to explain and I only recommend trying it once you have got the hang of the rest of the process! In essence you line up the new section of fabric with the existing one, fold the paper back along the seam you are going to sew so the printed sides of paper touch and flip the whole thing back and forth using your fingers as a visual reference to check the area is covered.  This is will be explained fully in my 4th part of this ‘how to’ series “Top tips and Tricks”.

• • •

Place this next bit of fabric face to face with the first fabric stuck to the paper.  Line it up along the trimmed edge of the first fabric which is adjacent to the length of the seam you are going to sew (for my example the line between areas ‘1’ & ‘3’) and with about ¼” or more at each end.

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Pin the fabric in place.  Do this at both ends so nothing gets folded over while going through the machine.

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With your machine on straight stitch at 1.5 length, sew along the line ONLY between the two areas (“1” & “3” in this example) with a lock stitch at the beginning and end.  Do not go further than this line at either end.

Unfold the fabric and press your fingers over the seam and then use your roller to flatten with firm pressure.

Now turn the section over so the finished fabric is on the mat and fold only the paper back along the seam lines yet to be sewn NOT the one you just sewed (on my block this is the lines between 3 and 5 and 3 and 6). Trim leaving 1/4” of the fabric past the folded paper.

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This is what the trimmed fabric looks like on my example, it covers area 3 with a ¼” seam allowance on the unsewn sides.

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Repeat the same process for area 4 and so on until the section is completely covered in fabric.

• • •

The next few photos show some of the stages to finish section E.  I have included them as the larger areas show the method more clearly.

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This is how my example looks once the fabric has been sewn to area 4 and trimmed.

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The fabric pinned and ready to sew for area 5.

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The fabric sewn and trimmed for area 5.

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Lining up the fabric for area 7.  Using my method of folding back the paper (printed side to printed side) to check the area of 7 will be covered once the fabric is sewn along the seam and opened up.  With this large section and large area of fabric I don’t need to flip it back and forward.

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The paper unfolded and fabric pinned ready to sew section 7.  Note: I did areas 6 and 7 out of order as they don’t touch each other.

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This is the fabric opened up for area 7 once the seam has been sewn but before the excess fabric is trimmed off.  When you trim this fabric off you can just trim round the paper pattern piece as the white area round the blue is the seam allowance for the section.

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This is the view as per previous photo but from the fabric side.

• • •

Use the same process, from folding the seam lines, to complete all remaining sections for the whole block.  Once completing all sections, I tend to use a little bit of glue again to stick down the edges of the last bits of fabric to stop them shifting when sewing the blocks together.  Others use a long basting stitch all the way around each section to do the same job.

Next … Part 3 – Joining Sections

How To Foundation Paper Piece – Part 1

HOW TO FOUNDATION PAPER PIECE

Introduction, Patterns & Tools

I found out about foundation paper piecing (FPP) a couple of years ago. On Instagram I came across beautiful small-pieced blocks with so much detail and decided to investigate how it was done.  I was determined to sew something so gorgeous and delicate.  I couldn’t fathom for the life of me how all the little pieces we so perfectly sewn.

I am an extremely practical person and my dyslexic brain’s super power is to visualize things in 3D and work out how things go together, so I was not daunted.  I found out it was a process called FPP and I downloaded and printed my first pattern, read a quick tutorial (no idea which one sorry!) and had a go.

I was hooked and didn’t struggle but soon learned others were intimidated or confused by the process.  I love encouraging and teaching my ‘in-person’ friends to sew, so it only feels right to try to help you online too.

I am going to go into a lot of detail, as most tutorials make it look simple and gloss over the tricky bits.  I hope you will find it useful.

There are 4 parts to this series:

  • Introduction, Patterns and Tools
  • Basic Principles and Piecing a Section
  • Joining Sections
  • My Top Tips

How patterns typically look…

An FPP pattern tends to have a page of written instructions describing the order the sections should be sewn together.  The designer may include diagrams to help explain how the block goes together and a colouring page (line drawings for you to test your colour combinations).  At the end of the document will be a number of pages containing the sections of the pattern to be printed at 100% and cut out.

The sections combine to make the whole block.  Some patterns will have more than one block.  For example, my “Nice Iced Ring” pattern you can get here contains a front and a back block.  Each section is labelled with a letter, and within each section are several smaller areas that are numbered. You sew the fabric onto the paper in numerical order.  Patterns assume you know how to do this – it is a generic method.

How to FPP is usually the same in principle but there are many variations.  I recommend reading and watching various tutorials, as each person will explain it slightly differently.  You can try the tips and tricks to see what works for you.  Ingrid of “Joe June and Mae” has a good example using a simple star pattern.  Berene Campbell of Happy Sew Lucky has a good You Tube channel.  Phoebe Moon Quilt Design also highlights the difficulties of FPP nicely in their Seven Deadly Sins article.

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The essential items to FPP are;

  • Sewing machine with thread (set to straight stitch & length to 1.5).
  • 5-10 pins and at least 6 wonder clips (in the photo above between the roller and rotary cutter – NOT A SPONSORED LINK)
  • A pattern and instructions for putting sections together – whether a PDF to print or a book with them in to trace or photocopy.
  • Access to a printer or photocopier if you’re not tracing by hand.
  • Fabric – from your stash, bought on a special shopping trip or reused fabric (cotton ideally but silks can be very effective – fabric should be about quilting cotton weight).

*** I suggest if this is your first go at FPP to start only using solid fabrics.  Fabrics with 2 different sides (ie prints) add a level of confusion. With solids it doesn’t matter which side you sew.

The nice to have items are:

  • A Rotary Cutter & Cutting mat.  You can eyeball seams to ¼ inch and cut with a pair of scissors, but I find I cut the fabric too small as paper and fabric move when not pressed against the cutting board.
  • An Add a Quarter ruler (yellow in above image – pink in link as charity version -NOT A SPONSORED LINK). This makes trimming the seam allowances to a good size super easy with a rotary cutter.  The ridge on the reverse helps to hold the ruler in the right place when using the cutter.
  • A seam roller (NOT A SPONSORED LINK) to flatten the seams as much as possible – alternatively you can press open with your fingers and iron.

NOTE: my seam roller was bought as a gift and as such is actually for wallpapering and not aimed at sewing – sewing ones tend to be wooden and have a slightly rounded barrel.  I find mine works well but I do need to be careful if I don’t evenly press the fabric as it can dig in – but these marks do disappear after ironing and subsequent sewing into finished items.

  • Foundation paper to trace or print the pattern onto. This is specialist paper which allows you to see through it and tear it off easily. In the UK I recommend Foundation Paper by Pattern Trace (NOT A SPONSORED LINK).  I will do a review post for this paper in the near future.  Note: I don’t recommend drawing tracing paper as it rips too easily once sewn and may come off before you want it to, especially if you have to unpick and redo a seam.

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I have provided links to example products and I encourage you to buy from independent sewing shops where possible.

Printing the pattern from PDF

Increasingly it’s become more popular to download these patterns online as they are relatively inexpensive and easy to deliver.  Plus printing them is a lot quicker than tracing.

Patterns are almost always in a PDF (portable document format), one of the easiest file types to view and transfer without losing data/detail.  I use Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free downloadable software, which allows me to view and easily print these documents.  Printing the pattern at 100% scale should be very similar in whichever software you use.

Once you have the pattern file open, go to file and print or click on the printer logo.  In the command box select “Actual size” or “100%”.  You can also select just the pages containing the pattern sections if you don’t need to print out the instruction pages.

screen print 100%

Do a test print of just one page.  Patterns tend to have a 1” reference box so you can double check with a ruler that it’s the correct size.  Once you are happy print all pages required.

Copying by hand

If you have a book or one copy of a paper pattern you can trace the section pieces onto more paper as many times as you want.  You may need to tape your paper to a window to see the lines. Ideally use pencil so no marks are later transferred to the fabric and make sure you copy the lines as accurately as possible.

Photocopying

If you are working from a book you can photocopy the pattern pages multiple times (on your preferred paper type) but again make sure the copier is not scaling down your pages.  Test print as above.

NOT PRINTED AT 100%

If this happens don’t panic and waste paper printing it again immediately.  If you are doing a stand-alone block (not matching it to full size blocks) you can still go ahead and use it, it will just be a slightly different size to that advertised.

Double-check your print settings, and try other programs (most internet browsers can handle PDFs as well). If needs be, you can always scale up/down in the print settings, but be warned it is tricky to get the size precisely right this way, so it should be a last resort.

Once you have got the hang of FPP it’s actually really fun to print the patterns at different scales to produce smaller or larger versions.  Just be careful when you go smaller as the pieces can become too small and the seams get too bulky to sew or quilt.  Equally, making a block too large can make it look overly simple.

 

Finally, you need to cut out all pattern pieces (this doesn’t need to be done exactly) and check you have all sections required in the pattern instructions.  I also like to have a copy of the instructions in paper format to easily check what I’m doing.  I pop anything I’m not working on in a folder or box as they can be little and get easily lost in a pile of fabric or scraps.

… have some exciting news coming soon… & a real life logo….

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No mum I’m not having another baby!! Or am I …

For absolutely ages I have been saying to people “One day I’m going to design some sewing patterns and sell them”, partially I think to justify why I do so much sewing and partially as a stay at home mum I need to validate myself.

Well, a few months ago I decided enough was enough and I need to pull up my big girl pants (size 18 to be exact) and get the hell on with it! I had some ideas sitting in the “one day” drawer at the back of my mind and one day I literally put everything else away and started experimenting …..

Once I had an initial pattern I needed to work out how to convert it into an electronic format. I’m sure it’s not the typical way a quilter designs but I used my CAD software from my days designing and detailing buildings.  I had to really dig around in the old memory bank from my days at uni using graphics software for the colouring, formatting and laying out the patterns but I got there.

Of course you need a logo to make your work identifiable so I played around with many options for almost as long as I took on the pattern designs.

So here it is!

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My amateur branding that I’m very proud of!   No it won’t work as an actual FPP pattern (though I really want to make one or two to go above my desk/s) but it gives the essence of what I do.  Ever practical I have kept it black and white so it goes with any of my colours of the moment or my patterns.

I have three blocks coming your way very soon (they are currently with testers or will be very soon) and I’m working on my shop around my two little darlings who are at home for the summer.

… and of course I will be having a release sale!!!.  Also did you know it’s my birthday soon…… And yes mum I do want fabric supplies and yes “And Sew I …” is your new grandchild.

…started quilting badly…

Work in Progress

Decided on how to quilt the big girls quilt and having finished the other one I was working on I cracked straight on!! Stitches and machine tested all good!!! Or so I thought!…

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No I noticed a few stitches were skipped! Being me I carried on hoping it would stop and I really wanting to feel like I was make some progress! Eventually I stopped in despair and turned to my trusty quilting Facebook group and a friend came to the rescue.  Turns out after refilling the bobbin something was catching! I must remember not to panic till I have re threaded it completely and cleaned it out and given it a new needle! 99% of problems solved by those.

With the stitching solved it was great I could crack on but again I rushed and didn’t properly mark my diagonal lines so ended up with a load of wonky lines.  Need to also look at the quilt from a distance as I missed this by not looking at it from a distance.

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Now to find my trusty unpicked… And then masking tape to mark the lines to follow!

… Another finished quilt..

Finished Makes

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This I started last summer while pregnant and building work was going on.. as you do when you have no energy and loads to do.

The fabric is a Robert Kaufman range by Carolyn Friedlander – Botanics.  I bought the jelly roll at Sandown when big girl was the age baby is now so – 4 years ago.  The fabrics attracted me because of there slightly architectural look and had a colour gradient!  Diving straight in making up as I went along, I played with mixing the fabrics with unsatisfactory results.  I subsequently grouped the colours in rows of 5 to a gradient.  The grey gradient didn’t really work so I did some un-picking and made the central strip dark and gradient out.  The grey group then evolved into the central section and 2 colour types splitting either side.  Then I decided to add another level and make it a stack/ stitch/ slice and flip quilt with some of the light fabrics from the jelly rolls as sashing.  Left overs from the rolls was mixed bold and light to make the binding.

I managed to finished the top before Christmas and then basted it while 8.5 months pregnant with 2 other projects – It was a good time to be crawling around on the floor!!.  A couple of weeks ago I dragged it out to work on while I struggled with what to do with my big girls quilt.

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I made up how I was going to straight line quilt it as I went along.  Echoing the seams and doing double rows to high light the flipped section and central dark grey horizontally.  The husband liked the larger gaps you see but I think I should possibly have gone for denser quilting.   I also need to work on consistency with the spacing between rows.

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The attention to detail I paid when pecicing has paid off as it was all pretty square so an improvement there.  While quilting a couple of the seams on the top started to come loose which is annoying but possibly down to trimming or maybe I need to lock the stitches at the end of each row.

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Press ganged my twin nieces into holding the quilt so I could photograph it! I think I’m going to have to make them quilts at some point soon based on there reaction! Only problem is I know there will want harry potter and not something timeless!

Best thing about quilting is the appreciation and praise I get! Especially from this one who has adopted this quilt pending completion of her own!

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…Playing with kids toys…

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I had a similar toy to this and loved playing with it and making the patterns which I think its why I bought it for my big girl.  Until now its not been a huge interest for her but she dug it out the cupboard and I couldn’t resist having a play with it too.

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There are some lovely EPP patterns here but I am slightly struggling to get past the primary colours.  Also to make something of a decent size would take me centuries at my current rate so thinking about speeding it up/ modifying the process of an impatient person like me.  They also all seem to make up a hexagon or triangle.  I enjoyed working out how to make more difficult shapes repeat.

 

…Stitch & Bitch #2

Stitch and Bitch

I forgot to take a photo again!! This just shows how much of a great time I’m having.  There were 4 of us this time.  2 from last time and 2 who couldn’t make it before.  I was sewing on the binding for a UFO, there was also knitting, crochet and embroidery. Lots of chat, really positive stuff about rediscovery of you after loosing your identity having children and realising that worrying about what other people think about you is bullshit (sorry mum I know you hate me swearing).  Also just doing something creative for the process and not worrying about the outcome! Thanks ladies lovely to spend time with you once again! xxx

… Throwback Thursday #4

Finished Makes, Throwback Thursday

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Mug Rugs!!! I love them,  so much better than a boring coaster and they also soak up any spills or condensation.  These rainbow strips I got as samples from a long shut down website/ shop – Strawberry Fayre.  I had to do something with these strip how ever small. I was not precious so just sewed them together really quick (had to be a colour gradient) not even fussing about even rows and then grab batting, backing and bias binding from the stash of leftovers.  In total about an hour was spent on the two and it got me back into sewing and a mental break after the baby.

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