How I Came to Enjoy Paper Piecing

Have you ever tried paper piecing? What do you think of it? I must admit that while I have tried it in the past I’ve never really enjoyed it. I think that may be due to the projects that I tried. Although I can happily chain piece four hours I find I am not generally a fan of repetitive tasks and so given that my past trials of paper piecing saw me piecing together eight segments for one block, again and again, it is perhaps understandable that I wasn’t too much of a fan. However, following the paper piecing class held by Karen from easy patchwork at Peaks I have discovered a new admiration for this method of piecing.

PaperpiecingIn Karen’s class we constructed a lovely leaf block. There were just two pieces to the block, both different and that was it. That is was possible to create something so beautiful so easily, and so quickly was definitely a turning point for my relationship with paper piecing.

LeafKaren had suggested a number of ways in which we could use our leaf block including on a cushion or wallhanging. I choose to incorporate mine into a table mat. The leaf block had been constructed from scraps of some autumnal Sandy Gervais fabrics that I had in my stash and I choose to combine them with Grunge Basics in Peacock as my background fabric. I toyed with several ideas for quilting the mat but eventually decided to stick with the leaf theme. I stitched in the ditch around the leaf segment in the block and then continued the stitching so that I outlined a whole leaf shape incorporating the pieced block. I then added a few more scattered leaves and the overall finished effect reminds me somewhat of leaves in puddles, a sight that can be all too common in autumn time.

Pieced matIf you would like to have a go at making this block yourself you can find a copy of the pattern available in Karen’s Craftsy store. I’ll definitely be making more, as one table mat is rather lonely all on it’s own.

My New Obsession

How would you like to open your curtains to a view like this every morning? Peaks 6 Retreat - View from Les 4 Vents, Morzine, FranceWell I had the pleasure of doing so for a long weekend at the start of the month when I attended the Peaks retreat in Morzine, France. This biennial 3-day retreat is run by the lovely Elita from Busy Needle Quilting and after the wonderful experience I had at the retreat when I attended for the first time last April, I was more than delighted to be able to attend again this time. For three days I joined Elita, her helper Gina and 13 other lovely ladies as we invaded the chalet Les 4 Vents in Morzine. We were very well looked after by our hosts who provided everything we could want. The accommodation, the food, the location, all were perfect. Even the weather was at its best, with plenty of sunshine and warmth. We even had the pleasure of being able to dine al fresco each lunch time. Life doesn’t get better than that!

Peaks 6 Retreat - View from Les 4 Vents, Morzine, FranceThe schedule at the retreat is very relaxed, there were three different classes, a couple of fun evening activities and lots and lots of free sewing time. The first class, on Friday morning, was on the spinning card trick star that I showed you in my last post.

Peaks 6 Retreat - Spinning Card Trick Star Block Quilt | Mud, Pies and PinsThat evening we had the stash attack project and I’d like to share my makes from that with you today. We started with some 3” fabric squares, mostly taken from Elita’s scrap stash and learned a new-to-me, and probably new-to-most, technique for quickly chain piecing 1” squares from our 3”scraps. Most people then went on to use their pieced squares as a design element in a sewing machine mat with hanging storage pockets. But as I already have a mat for my sewing machine, and didn’t need to make another, I decided I would put my pieced squares to a different use.

Peaks 6 Retreat - Liberty and Grunge table mats | Mud, Pies and PinsAs I was piecing the squares from some Liberty scraps I had brought with me I couldn’t help but notice how well they coordinated with the Grunge Basic Sugar Cookies hexagons I had left over from making my tree-skirt-that-wasn’t and decided I would have to pair up the two. I inserted a 2×10 strip of 1” Liberty squares into each hexagon and had the basis of some rather fun table mats. I had brought a few other pieces of Grunge Basics with me and selected some in Raspberry for the backing and binding. I decided to mirror the front design on the back by inserting a strip of the Sugar Cookies into the Raspberry. Before binding I quilted the mats with a simple diamond design.

Peaks 6 Retreat - Liberty and Grunge table mats | Mud, Pies and Pins Peaks 6 Retreat - Liberty and Grunge table mats | Mud, Pies and PinsNow I have to say that I think I became slightly, or should that be totally, obsessed with the Grunge Basics at this stage. I love the play on colour in the fabrics, how well the work as background fabrics and how stunning they look combined with the Liberty prints. I will definitely be teaming them up with Liberty fabrics a lot more in the future, and I intend to add plenty more to my stash as I really am quite in love (read obsessed) with them. I guess you could say that not only have I brought home some great makes and wonderful memories from the Peaks weekend I have also brought back a new obsession.

I hope you’ll pop back later in the week when I’ll share the last of my Peaks makes. In the meantime I’ll leave you with one of my many great memories from the weekend – the view from my sewing table!

Peaks 6 Retreat - View from Les 4 Vents, Morzine, France

Ho, Ho, Ho and On We Sew – October

Well October is here and I’m sure that there are many people out there who are starting to get geared up Christmas. The shops are starting to fill up with lots the festive goodies and there are plenty of Christmas makes appearing all over blogland. Here, however, Christmas couldn’t be further from my mind as we are currently enjoying some magnificent warm autumnal weather. The skies are blue, the sun is shining and we’re still wearing t-shirts! Eating al fresco is still a daily occurrence, albeit only at lunch time, and with so much greenery still around it really is hard to believe that the winter season is drawing ever closer. Despite all of this I still did a little festive sewing this month and for this edition of Ho, Ho, Ho and On We Sew I’d like to share my tree-skirt-that-isn’t! Spinning card quiltNow I’d better give a quick intorudction to Ho, Ho, Ho and On We Sew for those of you that may not be familiar with it. In a bid to ensure that we were well and truly organised for Christmas this year myself and Fiona over at Celtic Thistle Stitches, along with a series of guest hosts, have been hosting the monthly Ho, Ho, Ho and On We Sew link party since the start of this year.Christmas Link Party Button2The idea behind the link party is simple. Each month you link up what you have been making that month as part of your preparation for Christmas. Each month’s link party will be accompanied by a tutorial to inspire your gift or decor making, and there is a giveaway for those who link up their finished makes. This month’s link party is being hosted by the very talented Janine over at Rainbow Hare. Janine has a tutorial for the most adorable Christmas tree ornament so be sure to pop over and check that out. You have from now until the end of the month to join in and link up your makes and when you’re over at up over at Rainbow Hare don’t foget to check out the great prizes on offer for all of those who join in the link party this month.

So as I mentioned earlier this month I made a tree skirt. Except that, well, it isn’t. At least not yet. When I was at the Peaks retreat two weeks ago, and yes I know I still need to tell you all about that, the first project we tackled was making a Spinning Card Trick Star. The project was designed to use charm squares but I quickly went about resizing it so that I could use a layer cake of Basic Grey’s Jovial that I have had sitting in my stash for a while. I used their coordinating Grunge Basic Sugar Cookies as my background fabric and opted for a hexagonal layout for my stars.

HexagonquiltNow my original idea was to make up the hexagonal quilt and then to cut out a central circle/hexagon and a side seam before binding so that the finished bound quilt could be used as a tree skirt. However, as I got to the quilting stage I got to thinking about our plans for this Christmas. Plans that probably mean I won’t bother putting up a tree at home this year, or at least not a full sized real tree. So I realised that if I were to make a tree skirt I would be doing so to pack it away till next year. By then I was quite in love with the hexagonal quilt that was passing through my machine so I knew I wouldn’t be cutting into it, at least not then.

FenceI decided I would bind the quilt as was and that I could then use it as a nice sofa throw for the Christmas season, or even decoratively as a table topper for our round dinner table. Either or both of those ideas would allow me to use and the enjoy the quilt this year and I knew I could still cut into it in a year or two when I would actually have a use for a tree skirt and I have already put away a roll of extra binding just for this purpose.

DrapedNow I have to admit that with only two months left to go I find that I am almost, but not quite, running out of things to make and I cannot help but be overly delighted that I am so organised this year. I have created all that I wanted to create for myself and as we have decided to do Secret Santa at home for the the first time ever this year I don’t actually have any gifts left to make, in fact some of those that I have already made are not technically needed any more. I’m sure, however, that as I see more and more ideas popping up all over the web in the weeks and months ahead I’ll come up with plenty more things that I “need” to make and will undoubtedly get to the end of the year wishing I had more time! But even should that turn out to be the case I can be happy with all I have acieved and how successful Ho, Ho, Ho and On We Sew has been for me.

What about you? Have you started in on your Christmas makes yet! If you have be sure to pop over to Rainbow Hare before the end of the month and link up whatever you have finished up this month. I look forward to seeing all your makes.

Why Too Much Fabric is Never Enough

When I sat down to write a post today I had fully intended to write about some of my makes from the Peaks 6 retreat last weekend. Then I realised I couldn’t find my camera cable and that most of the photos I wanted to use were still on my camera.  So, instead I thought I’d share a few thoughts on my stash and a problem I’m sure effects many of us – the problem that too much fabric is never quite enough.

My latest frustrations arose when I decided I was going to join in the Bright Sky QAL that Alyce over at Blossom Heat Quilts is currently hosting. Alyce’s Bright Sky quilt pattern is a large single star quilt that is fat quarter friendly. Perfect I thought. I love large block quilts, and this is most certainly one of those, and my satsh has a large selection of fat quarters so I should have no problem finding fabrics to use. Boy, was I wrong! I started by getting the pattern. Then I did what I so often do with patterns, I drew up my own version in EQ7 so I could audition fabrics. And that was where the problems started.

SpainGrungeI found a nice Kate Spain and Grunge combination that I liked but then discovered I was going to be a little short on one of the Grunge fabrics. Now, for many that wouldn’t be a problem, a quick trip to the local quilt store would fix that. Me, I have to get online and order it from abroad and at the moment I am trying to avoid ordering fabric unless absolutley necessay.

So back to the drawing board I went. For myself, I couldn’t come up with any combinations that appealed to me and so I dediced to try some fabrics I have stashed away to use for quilts for the boys. I started with some of Robert Kaufman Stargazers – I have a fat quarter bundle and while there is technically enough fabric I feel I am one fat quarter short of the layout that best appeals to me.

StargazersThe same goes for the One Bizillion BC fabrics that I have stashed away. There just doesn’t seem to be the right combination in the mix, even when I factor in all of the coordinating fabrics I have in my blenders stash.

BizillionIt’s quite a shame really as I had great notions of piecing these two guys into the central block. I guess they are going to just have to wait a little longer to be used.

DinosAll of this has got me to wondering if I should start buying more larger cuts of fabric. I do tend to buy yard (and larger) cuts of the solids and background fabrics that I use, but for the rest it is usually half yards or fat quarters. For the most part this works well for me as it gives me a large selection of fabrics to work with and as I usually prefer to work from my own desings I find that I design projects with my stash in mind. There are plusses and minues to buying more. On the plus side I would have more flexibility as to what I could sew. On the down side I would probably have a lot less variation in my stash. Buying larger cuts of fabric would mean cutting back on the number of different designs I could buy as neither my budget nor the storage space I have available to me would allow me to buy significantly more volume.

At the end of the day, however, it is the variation in my stash that appeals to me most so I am doubtful about ever changing my buying habits. While I may not be able to join the QAL right now there is absolutely no reason why I can’t make up the pattern at a later date when I have the right fabrics available to me. I would much prefer to make a version of the quilt that I really like rather than making one that is okayish just for the sake of joining in, a version that I know would never be my ideal. For now I’ll find another project to work on that works with what I have and I’ll be more than happy that I can do just that.

What about you? How do you prefer to buy fabric? Do you like to buy it on a project by project basis or do you keep a stash of favourite fabrics that you add to as necessary for each new project that you begin? I’d love for you to share what works best for you.

Do stop in on the Round the World Blog Hop

Last week Karen over at easypatchwork tagged me in the round the world blog hop. I first got to know Karen through the monthly Doll Quilt Swap in which I particiapte. She was my first swap partner and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the swap group. I’ve not yet met Karen in person but all of that is about to change as we will both be attending the Peaks 6 retreat in the French Alps at the weekend. Needless to say I am really looking forward to the weekend.

But as this post is supposed to me an introduction to me and my blog I guess I had better tell you a few things about myself.

1. What quilting/sewing thing am I working on?

First of all let’s change the “thing” in that question to “things”. There are always at least a few different projects on the go here. At any given time I always have a couple of on-the-go projects as well as a few different larger and small projects on my sewing table. At the moment my on the go projects are my version of the Lilipopo christmas lists stitch along, the last step of which I plan to finish on the train to and form work today, as well as more of my English Paper Pieced (EPP) Liberty butterflies.

LilipopoOn my work table there is a quilt for my nephew that was started a few months ago and which is top of my to-finish list now that autumn is here and the evenings are getting cooler. There are also three mini quilts in various stages of production. One of these is for the monthly doll quilt swap group in which I am a participant, the others are for the IGMiniSwap and for the Little Quilt,Sew,Vote,Swap Group that I recently joined on Flickr.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work differes in that it is largely my own. I am not a fan of patterns and remaking the desings of other. I much prefer to design my own pieces. As a totally self taught quilter I don’t believe in rules. I love to play with techiniques and ideas in non-traditional ways to make them my own and to make what I want to make with the techniques I choose to use. A prime example of this would be my EPP work. I started with designing EPP Liberty butterflies and am working on an ever expanding collection of these for a quilt I plan to make.

ButterlfiesI have taken these ideas and designs to make a smaller prototype version of the quilt which also incorporates some Quilt As You Go (QAYG) blooms of my own design.

butterflyquiltNot content to just create butterflies I have also used my skills with EPP to design and make dragonflies, a camera and even a teddy bear. There are several more designs in the works as I play around with using EPP to create a whole host of unique designs.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

I have always loved to create. I knit, sew, crochet, quilt, cross stitch and embroider and am always in the process of creating new items. In recent years I have started to use the Internet and blogs more and more in order to find new information, learn new skills or to help me to fabricate new ideas. Because I have learned so much from so many others over the years it felt only right that I too should start to share my work, ideas and ideals and in the process maybe help some others in the same way I have been helped over the years.

Mermaid4. How does my writing/creating process work?

I have never really thought much about either my writing or my designing /creative process. When it comes to creativity I find that I draw inspiration from all manner of sources. In the past I would often just sit down and sketch out ideas with pen and paper as they came to me. More recently I find that I have become much more reliant on modern technology. I will often pull out my camera phone to photo something that sparks off an idea in my head, add a caption to the photo to remind me of why I took it and then come back to that idea when trying to desing something. I will regularly sit down to my computer to sketch ideas for blocks, quilts or EPP designs.

Dragonfly 2.svg - Inkscape 28092014 223722My writing process is almost scientific in it’s evolution. Having trained as a fisheries biologisist and having been used to writing scientific articles for publication in journals, and elsewhere, I pretty much use the same techniques I always used in the past when writing for my blog. I start with the topic, ensure that the strucutre of the writing includes an approximation of introduction, results and discussion sections and that each has the appropriate illustrations. It is not something I really think about or plan but rather something I pretty much do as I go.

So there you have it, a little bit about me and my blog. To keep this hop rolling around the world I’d like to tag two friends of mine who I hope will introduce themselves and their blogs next monday, October 6th.

Elisabeth over at Shark’s Dinner has been a good friend of mine since I moved to Switzerland over 10 years ago. She’s always been a great sewer and has never failed to wow with her creations. In more recent years she has taken up quilting and I never cease to be bowled over by the beautiful pieces she creates. Her EPP designs are particularly stunning.

Francine from Mochawildchild is another talented quilter whom I first met earlier this year when I attended my first ever retreat, Peaks 5. I find her style to be bright and modern and she has a great eye for colour and desing combinations.

I hope that you have enjoyed visiting with me and my stop on the hop and that you will continute to follow it and join in the fun as it makes it’s way around the world!