Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chatelaine- Free BOW Sampler Quilt Block 48

This weeks gorgeous block is Tudor Rose. While researching the history of this traditional block, I found that it was attributed to Loretta Leitner, a daily columnist for the Chicago Tribune during the 1930's, who wrote under the pen name, Nancy Cabot. Every day Nancy shared a quilt block pattern which was available for readers to purchase and this was one of those blocks.
I think its a lovely block and it will be a perfect addition to our sampler quilts.
Unfortunately, this is another one of those blocks where the measurements should be taken to the nearest 1/16". To avoid doing that to you, I have taken them to the nearest 1/8" and you will have to trim back the centre square, just a smidgen, to achieve an accurate 6" finished block (this step is clearly marked in the pattern)
To download this weeks free block pattern, just visit HERE.
Also, a few people have asked how many blocks will be required for this quilt. I'll be sharing two layout options and some border options, in future posts. The on-point layout will require 83 blocks and the horizontal layout will require 80 blocks. Of course feel free to design your own, adding or reducing the number of blocks to suit. This is your quilt, so its all up to you; I'm just giving you some options and inspiration.
Meanwhile, my little stack of gorgeous blocks will continue to grow, as we continue to sew:
Happy sewing :)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nutcracker

It's early December 1974. I am six years old. I'm surrounded by women dressed in evening gowns and men in dinner suits and bow ties. I am in the balcony, dead centre. My program is already wrinkled from devouring the contents in anticipation. The chandelier dims. The red velvet curtain rises. The orchestra begins to play and I am taken on a magical journey with the beautiful Clara, the gorgeous Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker.
This beautiful ballet, introduced me to the wonderful world of theatre and dance. I have seen many productions of The Nutcracker since then and I have loved them all, but I don't think you ever forget that first time. It's also the inspiration behind my new Christmas design, Nutcracker:
I really love this little quilt and he will be a wonderful addition to our Christmas decorating this year. Its a quick and easy design, using basic piecing and some quick corners and he finishes at around 18" x 37".  I'm sure all the kids will love him because he is a generous size and he's such a sweetie.
He may not magically transform into a prince, but I think he's pretty cute, from the top of his hat to the tips of his shiny black boots. He's a great little stash buster project; I raided my older fabrics, to give him an authentic feel and I am very happy with the end result.
Nutcracker is available as a PDF pattern only. The pattern includes detailed written instructions and lots of step by step colour diagrams to assist in the easy construction of your quilt. From now until Christmas, PDF patterns of Nutcracker are available at the discounted price of $5.95. If you wish to purchase a copy, just visit my store HERE.
I really enjoyed designing this little quilt. I hope you love him as much as I do and that he adds that something special to your Christmas decorating for many years to come :)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Free October 2015 Calendar

School holidays start this afternoon and I'm looking forward to spending the next two weeks, relaxing with Cohen (and Maddi when she isn't working on Uni assignments or at work). Its been a fast paced term and the kids, and the mums, are beginning to show the signs of exhaustion: its time for a well deserved break :) It's also time for your free October Calendar:
This months featured design is my Sunday Brunch pattern. This is one of my favorite designs and I use my set quite often both on our dining table and our outdoor setting.
The pattern pack includes instructions for the tablecloth, placemats and coasters and they all look lovely on any table. The main block used throughout all three projects, is the Oddfellows Chain block and its one of my absolute favorites :)
So as my monthly special, from today until the end of October, PDF versions of this pattern are available at the discounted price of $5.95 in my store HERE.
To download and print your free October Calendar, just visit HERE.
Next week, I'll be releasing a new Christmas pattern. He's just adorable and I had lots of fun with him, so I thought I'd share a little sneak peek:
Just a few more tweaks to the pattern and I'll be happy to release it, so watch out for this one next week, I'm sure you will love him too :)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thursday Tip #10

{Thursday Tip: A regular weekly feature sharing my quilting tips. There are no rules in quilting, these are just the things that work for me and might help you. There are no quilt police, so use them as a guide; no ones watching :) There is no wrong way to do anything......just relax, experiment, learn, create and have fun. }
I get asked a lot about how to choose fabrics for projects. Now days we are spoiled with lovely precuts of complete fabric ranges such as Jelly Rolls, Charm Packs, Layer Cakes etc. and our choices have already been selected for us.  So, how do we choose fabrics from our stash or the scraps from these precuts? Here's a few of my tips for choosing fabrics from scratch:
  • I always begin with a main fabric and for me 95% of the time, its always a blue or aqua fabric usually with a floral print. Its the fabric I'm most "attracted" too and I usually select all coordinating fabric based on this main fabric.
  • Look closely at your main fabric. Identify all of the colours that appear in the fabric. Look at how brown fades through to gold or burgundy fades through to pink etc. Select fabrics with the same warm/cool colour values.
  • Consider using a colour wheel to help you identify warm or cool colour hues.
  • Add one additional fabric at a time to the main fabric, to see how they work together; what may appear minimally in the main fabric, may overpower or dominate throughout the quilt.
  • Stand back and critique your fabric choices. Remember you will be seeing these fabrics in smaller amounts over the whole quilt. Its also helpful to walk away and look at your choices later with a fresher eye and change any fabrics which you feel overpowers your selection.
  • Mix different patterns but be careful of the scale of the pattern. Large polka dots might not work well with small floral patterns or thick stripes might overpower delicate patterns. I find a large selection of different patterns works best for me.
  • Also consider the size of the pieces you will be cutting when choosing the scale of a pattern. Thin strips or small pieces, don't work well when cut from large scale patterns.
  • Don't be afraid to use solids. They can add a dramatic feel to a block or emphasise a colour throughout a quilt.
  • If you can, sew a test block to ensure the colours are balanced and that there is lovely contrast throughout the block.
  • Make sure your fabric choices are evenly distributed throughout your quilt, so your eyes are not drawn to one particular section.
  • Scrap quilts, like the Postage Stamp Quilt, are great practice but they also help to develop your "freedom" with using colour. Pull a large selection of fabric and take out anything that may be too overpowering or just screams "NO" and play around with combinations as you sew,
  • Trust your instincts. If your combination feels right and looks balanced to you, then go for it. Don't be afraid to break out and play with colour, it just might work :)
Nature is great inspiration for choosing colour. Take some time to really look at your surroundings and appreciate how colours work together before choosing fabrics for your next project. Kids use colour so well when they draw or paint. They commit to bold colour choices, they break the rules, they have fun and create, which is what life is all about.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chatelaine- Free BOW Sampler Quilt Block 47


This weeks lovely little block is Courthouse Steps. There are a few variations of this block, all equally as beautiful, but this one with the cornerstones, is my favorite.
This block is an easier variation of the traditional Log Cabin block, and its a perfect block to teach beginners. The construction is a little different to the Log Cabin, which has the dark and light pieces wrapped around the centre square. In this variation, the dark and light halves are divided on opposite sides of the block.
This is a lovely block on its own but it also looks stunning when used as a secondary block in a quilt layout.  I hope you enjoy sewing this one.
To download this weeks free pattern, just visit HERE.
A huge welcome to everyone who subscribed to follow my blog via email. I was unaware that so many people preferred to read blogs this way, so I am very thankful to those who asked for me to include this as an option :)
And as promised, here are the collages for Blocks 27-36 and Blocks 37-45:
Blocks 27-36
Blocks 37- 45
Happy sewing :)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Greg Mystery CAL Part 1

Earlier in the week, Shelly from Spin Cushions released the first installment of her new Greg Mystery CAL. I have been looking forward to this one, even though it is a mystery and I have no idea what I'm making. I decided to use this lovely cotton wool from Bendigo Woollen Mills:
This is a monotone blanket and there were some beautiful colours to choose from, so I choose this lovely Glacier, which will match our decor perfectly. I'm thinking I'll either throw this blanket over the couch or maybe at the end of our bed as more of a decorative throw.
The first block is called TOM and it was quite quick to crochet; I had half of the first one finished while I waited in the car, picking up Cohen from school. The pattern is very clearly written and easy to follow and I was quite proud of my first attempt.
I had to crochet nine of these little 5" blocks to complete the first part and because they are portable, I managed to finish them quite quickly either in the car or while dinner was cooking. All my ends were sewn in and then they were ready for blocking.
I love how blocking really exposes that centre wheel; they look so pretty. So Part 1 is complete and I'm (im)patiently waiting for the next installment.
I'd just like to take a moment to welcome all the new followers to my blog. I know most of you have come to visit from the lovely Jenny of Elefantz. Your comments and emails were all so lovely and encouraging (and I'm positive I have answered everyone but I apologise if I have missed a comment). For those who asked, I have added the "Follow By Email" link on my sidebar, as this is your preferred method of reading blogs. Also some of you asked for me to continue adding the collages of the Chatelaine Blocks, so I will add the ones I haven't yet shared, to next Wednesdays post. I hope you enjoy visiting my blog and find a little inspiration in the things I share.
Thanks again to everyone, especially to Jenny. She transformed one of my blocks into a gorgeous pincushion and it illustrates just how versatile it is to have a reference of sampler blocks in your collection for all your projects and I'm sure she will share it with you soon :)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rustic Egg and Bacon Tartlets

During Spring I like to cook quick and easy lunches, which can be eaten outdoors as we soak up the sights, sounds and warmth of a new season. I like meals that I can prepare ahead of time or one's that require little preparation and these Rustic Egg and Bacon Tartlets are just perfect:
These little tartlets are packed full of flavour and very easy to prepare and cook on those lazy weekends. Most elements can be prepared ahead of time and then thrown together and popped in the oven and you don't have to stick to the recipe: add ingredients that you already have in the fridge and make them your own.
Crunchy, flaky pastry combined with bacon, cherry tomatoes, spinach, Parmesan and Dijon mustard, make these little tartlets a special treat. I could eat eggs at every meal but this is my favorite combination for a leisurely lunch and we usually compliment them with a simple salad and some crusty bread.
Although they are yummiest straight from the oven, they can be eaten cold, so they would make a perfect addition to the picnic basket or lunchbox. I think the reason I love these tartlets so much is that there's no need to be fussy, just jam pack those little cases with lots of filling and enjoy!
To download the recipe for these Rustic Egg and Bacon Tartlets, just visit HERE or right click on the image below and save to your computer.
I hope you and your family enjoy these little morsels of yumminess :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday Tip #9

{Thursday Tip: A regular weekly feature sharing my quilting tips. There are no rules in quilting, these are just the things that work for me and might help you. There are no quilt police, so use them as a guide; no ones watching :) There is no wrong way to do anything......just relax, experiment, learn, create and have fun. }
Choosing how to quilt your project is half the fun. Quilting on your domestic machine is made easier and enjoyable with lots of practice and a positive attitude. Make sure you are relaxed and enjoy the process, but most importantly, don't be too critical of your work. You have to start somewhere and perfect results are unrealistic. It's important to remember, you are learning a new skill and injecting a whole lot of love into one of your projects.
I have a post planned on free motion quilting which I will share later but for now, here are a few tips for basic machine quilting:

  • Begin with smaller, more manageable projects, such as cushions or placemats. They are easier to work on and completing smaller projects gives you more encouragement to keep learning and quilting.
  • For straight line quilting, its best to fit your machine with a walking foot which acts as an extra set of feed dogs on the top of the quilt. It works with the lower feed dogs to grab and pull the three layers of the quilt evenly through your machine and eliminates puckers etc.
  • Good preparation is key. Ensure your machine is free of lint and dust and have a good stash of bobbins wound and ready to sew. Whilst quilting, make sure your feed dogs and bobbin case are cleaned at regular intervals: I give mine a quick clean every time I change bobbins.
  • Ensure your machine is fitted with a new quilting needle and choose a thread that suits your needs; I prefer to use machine embroidery threads for quilting: they have a lovely sheen and they blend more with the quilt instead of dominating.
  • Decide on how you wish to quilt your project and mark your lines using a hera marker, a chalk pencil, masking tape or a water soluble pen. You can also use a guiding bar, which usually comes with the machine and is inserted in the side of your needle shaft or the walking foot, to ensure your quilting stays evenly spaced. 
  • As a rule, I always mark a 1/4" line around the raw edges of my project so I can see where the binding will go. I mark my quilting lines using this as a guide so my cross hatching and straight line quilting is even throughout the quilt.
  • To begin quilting, position the quilt, under the needle, where you intend to start and take one stitch. With the needle up, lift the presser foot and pull the top thread tail so the bobbin thread tail comes up through the stitch. Lower the presser foot, take two stitches forward, then two stitches in reverse to secure the thread and then begin quilting. You will also need to do this at the end of quilting to secure the thread.
  • If you are beginning or ending your quilting at the raw edges of the quilt, its generally not necessary to secure your stitches, the binding will secure these for you.
  • For basic straight quilting, quilt 1/4" from each of your sewn seams. To pivot in corners, on small projects only, lower the needle into the project, lift the presser foot and pivot the project, lower the pressure foot and continue to quilt.
  • When quilting larger projects, avoid pivoting the quilt as you work. It is much easier and more manageable to quilt in one direction, tie off, then turn the quilt and start again in the new direction. This will redistribute the weight of the quilt better and will alleviate any puckering.
  • Ditch stitching is great for around stitcheries or applique blocks. Stitch as close as you can to the folded seam; I open mine just slightly with my fingertips, as I quilt, to expose the seam and when it relaxes the ditch stitching is barely visible. Keep a close eye on the needle as you sew, to achieve a lovely even finish.
  • If you have pin basted your project, be sure to remove pins as you approach them to avoid hitting them with your machine needle.
  • Take your time. Its far better to quilt slowly and accurately than having to unpick rows and rows of quilting :(
As with every new skill we learn, practice makes perfect. I look back at some of the first projects I machine quilted and they are not perfect but it doesn't make me love them any less. I probably love them more, because I sewed them from start to finish, all by myself with lots of love, sweat and tears and maybe a few swear words :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chatelaine- Free BOW Sampler Quilt Block 46

This weeks super sweet block is Old Windmill. This is a very easy block to piece and of course its the pinwheels that make me love this one so much; you can never have enough pinwheels :)
In American history, during the early 1900's windmills pumped water for the livestock and the homesteads. They were vital to the survival of all who lived on the properties, so there a quite a few blocks inspired by the humble windmill and I love how the women included them in their quilts.
I hope you enjoy sewing this block. It may be simple but its very pretty and will look quite lovely in our sampler quilts.
To download this weeks free pattern, just visit HERE.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sophie Parts 17 and 18

I have a little more progress of my Sophie to share with you. The later parts contain fewer rows but as the blanket grows, it takes longer and longer to complete them. Some of the easier rows seem to take forever but combined with a good movie, they are quite relaxing.
Here's Sophie at the end of Part 17:
This part added the first half of the Diamond border. Those little zig zag hills are easy to crochet but fiddly, so I was glad when they were done (even though there's another row of them in Part 18). Apart from those, it was a quick and easy part to complete.
Here's where I am at the moment, at the end of Part 18:
The Diamond Border is all complete now and its a lovely frame for Sophie. Part 18 is the last official part of the blanket but I have decided to crocher the optional "Fantasy Border" because I think it is a lovely way to finish this blanket.
Eight more rows and Sophie will be complete, which is great because tomorrow I'm joining a new CAL by Spin Cushions called "Greg". This one is a mystery and will be a monotone blanket made with varied blocks. I can't wait for the first installment to arrive in my email box and get this one on the hook.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday Tip #8

{Thursday Tip: A regular weekly feature sharing my quilting tips. There are no rules in quilting, these are just the things that work for me and might help you. There are no quilt police, so use them as a guide; no ones watching :) There is no wrong way to do anything......just relax, experiment, learn, create and have fun. }
Hand quilting is relaxing and therapeutic but it may seem daunting to beginners at first. It gives our projects that lovely soft finish, which can not be achieved any other way and it looks so pretty. To help you get started, here are a few of my hand quilting tips:
  • Your needle is your most valuable tool. A size 10 "between" needle is ideal for hand quilting as the eye isn't too big or too small and it's strong enough to move through the three layers of the quilt sandwich without breaking. Personally, I find it easier to "rock" the needle when it's been used for awhile and develops that little bend (just be careful it doesn't snap).
  • Quilting threads are a personal preference, so you may need to try a few to decide which one works best for you. I prefer to use Gutermann Hand Quilting Threads; they are strong and relatively tangle free.
  • There is a large range of thimbles, adhesive pads etc. to protect your fingers as you hand quilt, so choose what works best for you. Personally, I can't/don't like to use them, so I rely on my fingernails and if I need to, I grab a few Bandaids from the First Aid box :)
  • Quilting hoops are beneficial when working on large projects. There are a few different styles available and all of them work well. Do not place the quilt in the hoop too tightly; there needs to be enough give or movement so you can rock the needle as you work.
  • When I'm working on smaller projects, I find it easier to hand quilt without a hoop.
  • I use plastic stencils for my hand quilting designs and I mark them with a water soluble pen. Be creative with that lovely negative space :)
  • To prevent your thread from tangling, cut shorter lengths of around 18" and make a small knot at the end, which will be buried in the wadding.
  • To bury your thread, insert your needle from behind the quilt, in the spot you want to start and draw the thread through, giving a slight "tug" until you feel the knot go through the backing fabric and become buried in the wadding.
  • Keep your quilting stitches small. If you are new to hand quilting, aim for around six stitches per inch and as your technique improves aim for around eight to twelve stitches per inch.
  • When you begin to hand quilt, keep one hand beneath the quilt and one above. The top hand moves the needle down into the sandwich and then up again ("rocking" motion) ensuring you go through all three layers. The bottom hand, guides the needle, keeping your stitches even. Load the needle with two or three stitches before pulling the thread through completely.
  • When you have finished stitching or have run out of thread, bring the thread up to the front of the quilt and tie a knot so it sits right on top of the quilt. Insert your needle in the exact hole and slide it under the top layer of the quilt sandwich about an inch away from the knot, pulling it through. Give it a slight "tug" until the knot disappears into the wadding and then pull the thread lightly and cut the thread, level with the quilt top and massage gently so it disappears beneath the top layer.
  • Watch a few You Tubes videos to see that "rocking" motion in action; I find the best way to learn any new technique is to see it in practice and there are some wonderful video tutorials available.
Hand quilting connects us to the talented quilters of the past. Be patient, keep practicing and don't stress if your stitches are uneven or a bit wonky, just enjoy the process and give that special handmade touch to all of your projects. 
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