…want to channel my inner Frida Kahlo…

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I wrote this 2 years ago and never got round to posting it! Its not finished or edited but i’m going to share it as it is because this is me! I can’t wait to get to some galleries soon.

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Last week baby and me escaped the house with my granny for a trip to the V & A for the Frida Kahlo exhibition – ‘Making Herself Up’.  I know a little about Frida Kahlo and liked the strong colours and self portraits which I wish I could do!  I really enjoyed the exhibition easy to chunks to read and just enough detail.  The items were also well displayed.  I enjoyed rediscovering and finding out more about her difficult life.  I do now wish I had bough the exhibition book.

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I didn’t realize quite how ill she had been all through her short life and how much that had impacted on her art.  I know I should not but I wish I was bed bound to be able to do nothing but my art.  It was the objects they had on display I found most interesting maybe as they are more easily absorbed when holding a wriggly baby or because I am the type of person.

photos of corsets (i now can’t find and this was pre IG account)

The idea that she had the guts to wear clothes that suited her requirements and not what was popular or socially the norm.   Long skirts to hide the effects of polio on her legs and large tops to hide her medical corsets.  Makes me wonder if I should have more confidence to wear what I like and not what is normal on just physically fits.  Obviously I need the time for practice making clothes, adjusting patterns to suit my body shape mainly.  I have been toying with the idea of making a set of long corded stays.  A mixture of  something which would go under a Jane Austin style dress and something made up in my head to smooth my double c-section tummy and nicely shape my huge post baby feeding boobs.   Anyway I’m rambling.  Look at these examples of Frida’s clothes.  ALL THE COLOURS!

I of course I saw a quilt pattern where only other quilters would, this time in the exhibition backdrop.

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It was lovely to get out the local area and wonder round London.  I would have killed (not literally) to be baby free and be able to stop and sketch and do as I wished in my own time.  Baby was fairly good! She drew in the crowds everywhere we stopped and always smiled or cooed appropriately.

After Granny went home me and baby ventured on the underground by ourselves with the big buggy which was not as bad as I feared! We went to meet the hubby at his office.  on the way we walked through the Temple area of London.  Wow… I never knew that such pretty Georgian/ Victorian lanes were just over the river from Waterloo.  I felt like I could just step back in time.  I could imaging my swishing skirts and holding a much better posture in a corset especially having a quick look round the fashion gallery before I left.  In this heat it would have been unbearable.

After some baby appreciation at the office we walked to Covent Garden to go to my favorite restaurant – Flat Iron!!! If you have have not been you are missing out on the most amazing steak and chips.  If we are ever in town its where I always want to go!  Baby was very good until we almost arrived at our station and she woke up and ended up staying awake till 10 but the disruption did seem to help get over the bottle strike she has been on.

Overall a lovely day out combining my interests of art, architecture, costume, history and food! I must do it more often!

THE SATURATION QUILT

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It’s been a long time! Sorry for that – I’ve had 2 lockdowns, more home schooling and life just like the rest of you I’m sure, since the last post.  I have been busy; if you follow me on Instagram you will know and I suck at writing more than a few lines so these longer posts I keep putting off.  I will do some catch up blog posts soon but for now I want to tell you about the Saturation quilt!

The Saturation idea developed way back in September 2020.  I saw some stained glass in my Instagram feed – having done a glass course a few years ago and have a box of bits, it made me want to get them out and play.  Stacking the glass but rotating the layers gave a cool effect and straight away all I could think of was a quilting block in solid fabrics. 

Layers of Glass the initial inspiration for the Saturation blocks

That night I had a block drawn up and a cool blue sea/glass mock-up got me very excited but I needed to be sewing up my fractured skull sample and pattern for Halloween so it was put to the side. 

First mock up on EQ8

Once I was able to return to this embryo of an idea, I’d decided I would test the block trying a freezer paper technique – something I had wanted to try for a while but the pieces in my previous blocks were too small to be accurate.  I made a sample and gifted it to my mum as her birthday present.  I bought 4 FQ’s in a colour gradient I knew Mum would love and one metre of cream background fabric. 

Well, the birthday present turned into a Christmas present and was it was duly gifted.  It looked great and I had really enjoyed experimenting with freezer paper (though the very acute points had been difficult to maintain) and with some different straight-line quilting. 

First Test Quilt made for my Mum in her colours

Quilting lines mirror the block line in the central space

Before New Year I did some proper planning and had scheduled my year with Saturation being my first quilt pattern to be released…  then everything changed again! I had to home school for 3 months and after that I need to recuperate! After re-energising, sewing other people’s designs and projects (posts to follow), I cracked on writing the saturation pattern up, finding some testers and decided to release in mid-July. 

Now with EQ8 software at my fingertips I created mock-up after mock-up and realised how incredibly versatile the pattern would be.  Knowing there are loads of amazing creatives out there I got more and more excited about the pattern’s potential. 

I wanted to support my friend Helen Steele , who screen prints her own fabric, with the launch of her first ever co-ordinated bundle – Lush collection.  I suggested a collaboration and for me to make a saturation quilt in her fabrics which she could take to Festival of Quilts for her first ever stand there. 

Mock-up of 48″ Saturation quilt in Helen Steele’s Summer Lush Bundle colours

After seeing a mock-up of how the quilt could look Helen and myself adjusted the bundle and settled on these beautiful prints. 

I couldn’t wait to start sewing and pre-cut all the sections as soon as I got my hands on the fabric.  While Helen printed some more of the background fabric I used the photo of the double curved block already made to play and generated these layout options which were popular on Instagram. Opinion was split between the 2nd and 4th from the left.

In the pattern I recommend using freezer paper for at least the A sections of each block type to significantly reduce the amount of printing and cutting and sticking you do. All sections can be done in freezer paper but I found reusing the smaller acute angled triangles lost some of the accuracy as they lost their stickiness. Being accurate with this pattern really pays off as the matching points really made the design. Don’t worry about getting the points spot on, it is not difficult and I recommend if not experienced with freezer paper piecing to use standard or specialist foundation paper for all sections other than A. Below is a video where I show you how to use the freezer paper for this pattern.

Here is the finished quilt! I quilted it similarly to the one for my mum but with white thread so it didn’t standout. I bound it using strips cut from the … For the eight single curved blocks, Helen specially printed me pieces slightly larger than her normal panel size and I only needed one panel of each of the other colours.

I’ve been really pleased with the response to Saturation and had some great reviews. Any creative will tell you we are in it for these kind of comments and not the money.  Your makes and words really do mean the world!

Review from @natalies_needles on Etsy

As Natalie mentions, the Saturation pattern has 6 pages of alternative layouts with a basic breakdown of how to make them and fabric requirements to help those less experienced quilters and illustrate the versality of the pattern. 

I’m taking a few paper copies of the pattern to festival of Quilts at Birmingham NEC next weekend and will be on stand G56 with Helen Steele for the majority of the show.

I have a bed size version I want to make so I am planning a sew along at some point – maybe starting in November 2021 as the fabric I want to use is not yet out and I might have something I need to work on for Halloween. 

Fractured Skull Sew Along Prizes

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The first prize I’m going to award was not even a prize before today. I felt the creepiest and spookiest (to me) of the skulls needed some recognition. @_mrsfish’s panel not only has all the bones and skull fabric, a beetle in the mouth and blood spattered fabric as the background, but when it was pointed out the skull was on a coffin a shiver when down my spine! So @_mrsfish a skull pin and maybe some other little bits will be flying over to you in Australia as soon as possible.

So now to start with the original prizes – @robotsmumsews unicorn thread gloss is going to go to this beauty!! My biggest daughter loved the ‘fire’ background of @sew.ari.sew ‘s version. I was super impressed with the fussy cut on the forehead, the home ice-dyed fabric which went into it and colour pallet I wouldn’t normally go for. Well done Ari, fantastic effort for someone relatively new to quilting.

Next is the bundle of fabric and scrap pack from @oliveandflohandcraft which goes to Carol @therunninghare as I love the pink and would never have put this soft green with it. Combined with the accurate piecing and fussy cut bugs in the eyes I couldn’t resist.

@therunninghare

The next prize is the Karen Lewis £30 voucher donated by @patiagnesd. This goes to @nathaliedelesse who blew me away with her beautiful scrap colour wheel skull. I’m a massive sucker for a colour wheel/ or gradient and this is just stunning and something I would never have thought of!

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So you know I said I was a massive sucker for a colour wheel or gradient I’m afraid that is why I couldn’t resist @xole’s Giucy G fire skull. The neutral background really let the dominant skull burn into my mind. The gradient really is perfect to me. Xole gets an electrinic copy of her choice of Lou Orth’s quilt patterns which should suit your style down to a T.

Lastly (well almost), is the electronic copy of the Fraktal quilt pattern, Modern Quilt Club’s collaboration with Paula Steel. This goes to @pattiknitsandsews for her perfect skull. This panel is a better version of what I originally envisaged with the skull design. I love the simplicity of the grayscale skull offset with the orange background. Made perfectly halloweenie with the spiders. What nailed it for me was the quilting which looks like the spiders webs over the skull, the straight line quilting which kind of looks random but well thought out and beautifully symmetrical.

Finally, I wanted to do a completely random winner so all those who participated were written on a bit of paper and popped into a Disney frozen bowl and on my Instagram ‘live’ I pulled out @finecityquilting. So you also get a Lou Orth pattern of your choice.

Picking winners was really difficult there are so many skulls which look amazing and others you could see the effort which had gone in. Thank you all so much for participating in my first sew along I hope you have enjoyed it as much as me.

Helen xxx

Fractured Skull Panel SAL Finishers Gallery

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Thank you everyone who took part! First a special shout out to those who took on my bit of fun spooky picture challenge:

@thebeveleh Chris Ostenstad

Patricia Dunham

Now for a gallery the finished skulls. I have tried to get everyone but please message me if your missing. They are in no particular order:

From left to right : @mopheaded1 , @pattiknitsandsews, @maikahaza

From left to right : @nerdynquilty, @ma1anie, Margaret Pannell Vachon

From left to right : @therunninghare, @missmerrycherry, @ringaringarosie

From left to right: @nathaliedelesse, @tish.dunham & @freakymysty

I love the diversity of all of these and have no idea how I could possibly pick just 5 prize winners! Honestly thank you so much all of you for making my first Sew Along ‘sew’ much fun!

Helen xxx

Breast Cancer Awareness FPP Block

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It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and this year it is also the first anniversary of the death of the mother of my daughter’s best friend.  I unfortunately didn’t get to know her very well before she died as the girls had only been together at school for a little over a year. My daughter’s friend and her dad have coped incredibly well and I feel honoured to have been there to help.  But I want to do more. I don’t want others to have to lose their mother, wife or daughter. 

For my small contribution to the cause, I have designed a Foundation Paper Piecing block.  It’s the iconic pink ribbon (an international sign), symbolic sometimes of loss and sometimes of success.  This block is free to download here

I would like as many of you lovely people as possible to make this block in October and share it on social media with a link to how to check your breasts such as this to make others aware.  I have tried to make this catchy with the slogan ‘Make + Share = Aware’ in the hope more will social media users will pay attention and join in!

I would like you to tell your sewing friends and get them to do the same.  Just doing this will be enough but if any guilds or groups would pool their blocks and make a quilt that could be auctioned or raffled or donated to someone in need that would be amazing. 

If anyone would like to donate any money for using the block, I have set up a Just Giving page.  This money will go to Macmillan nurses in the UK as that is the charity that our friend wanted any money, raised in her memory, to be donated too.  

Fractured Skull Panel Sew Along

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HELLO and thank you for joining me here. I’m doing a sew along for the Fractured Skull Panel …eek! I am so excited to see some more skulls in fabric combinations I’m sure I will have never thought of.  And to be sewing another myself!!!

I only released the pattern last week and decided to do a sew along on Saturday so still doing some planning so bear with me.  I want to do some ‘live’ chats each week to introduce what we’re going to do and answer any questions you guys have.   

I plan to do these on a Saturday night 10PM GMT so 5pm EST or 2pm PST or 8am (Sunday) AEDT.  I will confirm the platform this will be on but most likely Zoom or Instagram/ Facebook Live.   

Most of you guys use Instagram but a few of you are Facebook users so I have set up a Facebook group found here.  Those of you who use both please could you post on both. 

I will endeavour to help any of you struggling with anything and respond to any direct messages as soon as possible but with 2 young kids and ME/CFS my free time can be unpredictable.  I also welcome any suggestions and feedback but it must be delivered with kindness.  This leads me to the boring bit…

The Rules

1-    Be nice or don’t say anything, 

2-    Have fun!

This sew along will be super chilled.  If you start late, no problem. Or if you don’t keep up, don’t worry! … Loads or a little participation is great!!!

I will send out more detailed info on a Thursday night confirming what we will be doing and giving details of live chats or updates. 

Timeline

Week 1 – 10th October – Introductions, Colouring & Fabric pull

Estimated time required: 10mins to 10hrs depending on how quickly you can make fabric decisions.

Week 2 – 17th October – Most of the Sewing

Estimated time required: 8 to 10hrs depending on how quick you sew.  If you think you will be slow or short of time this week, I would suggest starting to sew in week one. 

Week 3 – 24th October – Joining Sections & Finishing

Estimated time required: 2- 8hrs depending if you will just finish the panel or make it into anything?

FINAL DAY – Halloween 31st October – The Big Reveal 

I will pick a winner (not exactly sure if it will be my favourite or randomly) in the first week of November.  I don’t want anyone to feel left out or excluded if they are struggling because of the technicality or due to life getting in the way, so you will be eligible as long as you have signed up and done something.  Prizes are still being organised so will be announced as we go along!

Lastly, if you have not already got yourself a copy of the pattern link to shop is here.

And if you’re on Instagram please post to your feed the sew along ‘I’m in’ image so your friends know you’re doing it and can join before it’s too late. 

About The Fractured Skull Panel Pattern

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Before I get carried away in my next exciting project, I thought I’d better tell you about the Fractured Skull Panel Pattern released on 1st October 2020. No subtlety about it you can buy it here.

Flicking through Instagram one day in September I started seeing lots of Halloween sewing.  Being British, Halloween was not a huge thing as I was growing up.  But now I have little ones who love sweets and dressing up, I can’t resist indulging those angelic little faces, and Halloween has grown in popularity here in the UK anyway.

I started mulling over what I could design if I wanted to do something for Halloween but i was not getting excited about any of what i had come up with. At the time, I was developing a collection of simple fun blocks to release at the end of October (these are still in the pipeline but a bit delayed). Then it hit me pretty much halfway through September (I seem to do everything last minute!): how cool would a skull be in a grey scale?! (I may have been sitting on the toilet at the time.. as I have a postcard of Damian Hirst’s “For the Love of God” in my understairs loo… odd I know, but I had to hide it when my big girl was a toddler as she found it scary!)  But how? There was no way I would be able to achieve what was in my head – right?

Image from Wikipedia of Damian Hirst’s – For the Love of God

I decided I would give myself a morning to have a play with the idea to see if I could make it work. Well I liked what I did so much so I posted it in my stories and yes, I was not biased, it really did look good! 

So for the next two days the kids got to watch TV (educational obviously) while I worked on the pattern and hubby worked to earn the money to buy my fabric. 🤣

I was so rusty on the computer using the free CAD and drawing software (both of which kept throwing tantrums) I had used for the Nice Iced Ring Pattern.  It took me all weekend to get the pattern worked out, labelled and printed.  On Monday morning the toddler and me hovered for an hour outside our local quilting shop waiting for them to open so I could get some suitable fabric to sew it myself.

We grabbed various shades of expensive grey fabric, legged it home so the toddler can be shoved in front of TV again (totally wasn’t educational TV either time) and I sewed until I couldn’t see straight.  I only made half the panel to test how it went together, what tweaks were needed, how long and how much fabric it took. Instructions got written and just a couple of days later I emailed it off to a few lovely people on Instagram who were willing to test it for me. 

So somehow I went from having the idea and giving it a go, to having a pattern, testing it, writing instructions (no mean feat for me), and sending it to a bunch of testers in just seven days!!!  

My First Test Sew

That weekend me and the hubby had our first kid-free days since before the toddler and thanks to lockdown we really needed it! I couldn’t help checking how my design was manifesting in other people’s hands (obviously I got told off by the hubster). BUT …. Look at what a fabulous job they did…

by @bobbypinbandit
by @quilting_mccabe
by @skullsandneedles
by @robotmumsews

Where the time between then and now has gone I don’t know. I sewed a couple of samples myself and tried to get people as excited as me.  Well, it worked! I’m writing this sitting at the kitchen table (because I have discovered I can’t work next to the hubby in the study – he is too distracting) with more patterns sold than I could have imagined and about to start my first sew along with over 40 people signed up!! So exciting!

Halloween Sweet Tub Sample – Skull pattern printed at 50% (8″x 10″) – Tub Pattern by Rosie Taylor Crafts

Fractured Skull Panel Cushion Displayed as a wall hanging

Fractured Skull Panel Cushion – If I were to make again I would add 2″ either side to make the cushion square

How to Foundation Paper Piece – Part 4

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TOP TIPS

These are my top tips for foundation paper piecing some of them will be familiar if you have read the previous 3 parts of my “how to foundation paper piece” guide.   Read them here – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Everyone paper pieces differently; you get some really accurate piecers, and you also get some slightly more “It will be all right on the night style piecing”! I tend to land somewhere in the middle of these two styles. I really like to use every scrap of fabric and of course sometimes I get things wrong and fudge them and that’s ok in my eyes!   

1 – Make notes on the paper. Some patterns are confusing and it can be tricky to remember which fabrics go where.  To make the process quicker either write a word or mark a colour on the pattern to help you sew the right fabric next. 

2 – If you are using more than 3 fabrics or colours are similar make a reference page with swatches stuck or sewn on and labelled to refer back to and check scraps against.

3 – As a beginner and for complex blocks pin the sections to a board or design wall to see how they will eventually be sewn together.  This helps you to keep an overview of how they will go together and I like to see my progress.   

4 – Glue basting first and last fabrics.  When I learnt about this it was a game changer. I was not stabbing myself with pins or warping seams when unbasted fabric shifted while sewing.   I use a super cheap kids Pritt stick and I try to use as little as possible.

5 – Use fabric efficiently by folding over paper pattern backwards along seam to check you have enough fabric and you are not creating much waste.  This is difficult to explain in writing so I have done a video.

Alternatively, I’ve broken it down into little steps to help you understand.     

  • Fold the paper pattern back on itself along the seam line so the printed sides are touching. 
  • Select a scrap or section of fabric you think will be big enough.
  • Hold the fabric finished side to finished side against the block.
  • Line-up the new fabric to the seam allowance.
  • Holding fabric and block with both thumbs and first fingers I flip backwards and forwards to check the fabric covers the whole area. 
  • If the pattern it is large or I’m struggling to see through the copy paper I make sure I have folded the pattern where the next seam will be and hold my fingers where the fabric needs to finish as I flip backwards and forwards

6 – Prep and piece multiple areas at a time either on one section or multiple sections.    This means you save a little time not going back and forth between the cutting mat and sewing machine.  I suggest only doing this once you are confident and when areas on the same section are not next to each other. 

7 – Fray Check – I occasionally screw up a little and don’t allow quite enough fabric.  The area I want is covered but after use the fabric might give on the seam.  Obviously try to avoid this but sometimes you only notice once it’s too late or don’t have enough fabric to redo … shhhh… don’t tell anyone.  A small section of lightweight iron-on interfacing can also help after the paper has been removed. 

8 – When joining sections, line up the important/obvious fabric intersections first and not corners.  If the corners are slightly out it doesn’t matter much as long as you take any difference into account when sewing a perpendicular seam to the one which is out.    

9 – Don’t be afraid of Y-seams! To be honest I have never had a problem with Y-seams but I think it’s because I didn’t know they were scary and didn’t mind un-picking and do a lot of pinning/ clipping and taking it slow! I have done a video showing the making of my nice iced ring back block which you can see here if you want to know more.  Happy Sew Lucky also has a good video here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pyDBxy6bFk

10 – A victory lap round the block when you finish helps to ensure seams stay flat around the edge and do not pull apart.   If I’m not going to be quilting much over the panel, I also like to iron a lightweight interfacing on once I have removed the papers.  I do also love to starch from the back (before interfacing) to make my block nice and crisp!

11 – Scrap bin for each project.  If I’m working on multiple projects at once, I like to have a scrap bin for each where I store any offcuts (unless smaller than ½” or 1.5cm) in case I have a purpose for them.  I then also don’t have to hunt through too many scraps.  Then when I have finished the project I can easy sort those scraps into my main scrap storage. 

12 – The seam ripper is your friend – don’t be afraid you use it!  It’s ok to get things wrong. If you’re not happy with a block, take a section apart or just part of a seam. I have done “surgery” on my blocks many times as you will have seen on my Instagram stories if you follow me!