Friday, 29 May 2015

How to transform a cushion

Would anyone think that I was exaggerating if I said that this cushion must be one of the ugliest in the world?



To be fair, it isn't new and it isn't a nice colour - really insipid lemon jaundice but not in a nice first-blossom-of-spring way. In a word it is blech!
So why not throw it away I hear you shouting. Well a couple of reasons spring to mind. 
It is not actually ready for that yet and it flies in the face of crafting at its essence to toss something just because it wouldn't win a beauty contest. Another reason is that it is my Mum's favourite chair cushion. 
So let me show you what can happen to something which isn't so nice when we add pretty fabric.....ta dah........


Hardly the same ugly duckling now! Everyone has a little something in the home that could do with a makeover and it makes us feel very virtuous when we do something like this. So, what do we need?

3 co-ordinating  fat quarters of pretty fabric
1 fat quarter of thin wadding
1 fat quarter of fabric for the back
your cushion insert. Mine measures 40cm square which is pretty standard.

your usual sewing needs

This is a machine quilted make but you don't need a walking foot because we will only be using two layers of fabric.

Start with the half square triangles (HSTs). You will need to take the first two fabrics and cut 32 HSTs. To make a half square triangle, cut a square. In this case, the square measures 8.5cm x 8.5cm. 



Now cut it in half diagonally....



That's all there is to it. Seriously. To achieve a pattern, you will need a second triangle (different fabric) and you join it to the first like this....



The pattern on this project is called a chevron pattern and it is made up from the two sorts of HST.  To make the chevron pattern, they will be sewn together like this....



Sew them up to make a block. Mine measures 24.5cm x 24.5cm which will allow a little for the sashes on the side. To construct your block begin by sewing the HSTs together to form a square and ironing them flat



Then sew two of the squares together, keeping an eye on the pattern.



Now sew two of these rectangles together to form the row.



Then sew two rows together...



Finally, sew the four rows up so that you have the block. Iron it and you should have something which looks like this....



Getting pretty but not big enough for the cushion yet so let's add some red sashes. Cut the sashes 6cm wide and don't measure the length. This will be trimmed off. Just make sure that your 6cm wide strips are long enough to do the job.
Sew two sashes top two opposite sides...



And then on the top and bottom. Now cut four more 6cm wide sashes but this time use the floral fabric that you used in the middle. Once again, don't worry about the length. Trim the excess.



Iron the cushion top now and lay it onto the wadding. pin so that it cannot move. The wadding is slightly larger than the panel but it has to be because fabric moves as you work. Again, trim the excess afterwards.
Quilt by top stitching next to each seam (about 1/2 cm away from the seam)



This will really make the layers behave! When you are done, the quilting looks like this...



It stabilises everything beautifully. Trim the excess wadding away now and place the completed top right sides together onto an untrimmed piece of backing fabric. Sew all the way around the outside leaving a gap for turning out and putting the cushion insert in. 
Slip stitch the opening closed once you have done this. And finally - she says with a flourish- here it is again...


A new lease of life and ready for the summer! It is now the sort of cushion that can accompany you into the garden with a good book or on a car journey or anywhere else that you might need a cushion!

Thank you so much for stopping by. Now go and have a rummage. Everyone has a cushion which could do with a makeover!


Love and hugs
Debbie xxx

Friday, 8 May 2015

Chicken scratch bread cloth plus some VERY good news!

Chicken scratch embroidery of Broderie Suisse is a really cute use for gingham. You don't have to count anything much as you do with some embroidery and the whole idea is built on a few simple stitches. It is fast too and great for beginners. However, it is very addictive so please do not tell me that you were not warned!

I love the idea of practical uses for things so this time, we are making a bread basket liner which is something that every cosy home needs. See what I mean?


A bread basket liner may seem very uneccesary but it is actually one of those little luxuries that makes life sweet. It costs pennies to make and very little time.

But before we start, I have some happy news to share with you. I have just signed a book contract with Vivebooks in the UK!


My new book is going to be part of a series called I Wish I Could Sew and it is a whole collection aimed at complete beginners. There will be a bit in each section where I show you what is what and then this will be illustrated at the end with a pattern or two to help you to put it into practice.
The most exciting bit for me is that because it is to be a eBook format, it will have embedded videos so it will be just like having a teacher with you all the time. 

If you enjoy my blog style, you will LOVE the books. 

You can rewind the videos too. There are only so many times that you can rewind a teacher!

So watch this space! I will keep you posted as new things happen.

Okay and now let's make a bread cloth. Here is is in its basket...


I really need to buy more bread now, looking at it is making me hungry!
But wait, there's more....


To add to the over all lushness, I have used a floral print on the back...find out one reason in a minute....

So what do we need for this one?

Fat quarter pink gingham (medium squares)*
Fat quarter floral fabric to coordinate
Dark pink Perle 8 cotton
Water soluble marker
Your usual embroidery and sewing needs

OPTIONAL- ranger archival ink: jet black, funky stamp of your choice, 8cm piece of 2cm wide cream cotton tape. Label making instructions can be found here on an earlier post.

*when you choose your gingham, aim for about ½ cm squares – any smaller and the design becomes fiddly and hard to see, any larger and it is too loose.

You have a chart for this one and it is super simple. Each square represents a stitch, just as in 'normal' cross stitch.


The border is incomplete because then you can make it as long as you need to. It also emerges on the other side of the heart

Here’s How:
Cut a square of gingham 34cm x 34cm. Cut a piece of floral the same size.

TIP: do not make the mistake of thinking that you can count the squares to achieve this. Gingham is NOT exactly square. Measure and then 'go by eye' to make sure that it looks good.

Take the water soluble marker and the chart and mark out the pattern using primarily the solid pink squares. Begin with the heart in one corner. Count 4 squares in each way and make a mark in the solid pink square. Proceed from there to mark out the heart.

TIP: You do not have to use this method but it is much easier when you begin stitching. You just stitch over your marks and then erase them with water.

Mark the border as well, again, using the solid squares. I have 23 double crosses on the 'heart side' of the pattern and the two sides where there isn't an interruption, there are 32 double crosses but you can make this design larger or smaller and you can put a heart in each corner if you like.

There are 3 basic stitches in this design; double cross stitch, running stitch and woven circle.

The double cross stitch (Smyrna Cross Stitch) is made over a square just as you would a ‘normal’ cross stitch. Use the gingham square as your guide.


Then come back the other way...


You then come back and do another one over the top.


As you see in the photo above, a continuous running stitch makes this quick. Embroider a second row under the first so that the woven circles have something to 'cling to'.

Make the heart with double cross stitches around the outside using the chart as a guide and then begin the woven circles with a running stitch. The running stitch to fill in the heart is simply made from square to square. We will come to that more in a moment.


We are now ready to move on to the next lot of stitches which will fill in the heart and also give some extra interest to the border.

The woven circle which has a few variations is made in conjunction with the running stitch on the heart itself and the double cross stitches in the border. We are using two variations in the pattern. One is in the heart and one is on the border. The woven circles are known as surface stitches because they are mainly worked on the front of the project (the surface).

Variation 1(border): Start with the double cross stitch that you already have in place and then make surface stitches of petals by going from the corner of two diagonal ones. Just come up at the base of a double cross stitch, weave the thread under the opposite stitch and then go down where you came up and move to the next stitch.


I have a useful image with this stitch worked in blue to show you where to go with this stitch...



Those of you who are paying attention will notice that this image has three rows. It is not from this project so don't worry that you have missed a row! But it does show the stitch nicely. And it shows you another pattern with the same stitch - as I said, versatile!

As you can see from the previous photo, our bread cloth has a double row of these flowers worked on top of each other. To achieve this, just go back the other way on top of the previous row of stitches, doing exactly the same thing.

Variation 2: Remember a bit ago we talked about running stitches on the heart? Start with these running stitches (these will go in two directions) and here is the photo again....




and then make the surface petals by coming up with the needle at the corner of one running stitch and then securing the stitch at the corner of the remaining three. 
This is a similar stitch to the other one but this time, you are going across to the end of the running stitches. Here is a close up of the working....



Come up at one running stitch, weave the thread under the next three to anchor it and then go down where you came up. Repeat this until the area is all filled.


Work the heart and the border and remove the water soluble marker lines with clean water.

Make yourself a label – this is easy and fun and adds so much to your finished product! Choose a nice stamp which will fit onto the tape when it is folded in half. Fold the tape in half and stamp with the ink. That’s it!

Trim the completed top and then attach the label in the opposite corner to the heart to balance things a bit. Now lay the top face down onto the floral fabric with the right sides together and pin. Machine sew all around leaving a gap for turning out. Turn out through the gap and slip stitch the opening closed.

TIP: using floral fabric rather than a light coloured plain ensures both a pretty result and also that you will not see the threads on the back of your work as you may with a light, plain fabric.

Hand or machine top stitch all around the perimeter to keep things neat. Tidy any loose threads.

Well there you go! That is a very old and mostly forgotten European peasant embroidery technique. I think that it looks lovely and it really is easy once you get into the rhythm. Here it is again proudly doing its job....



Thank you so much for stopping by; I have really enjoyed your company!


Love and hugs
Debbie xxx

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Use those scraps- make applique patches for EVERYTHING!

Want more stash busting ideas? Well read on! This make is about making embellishments for your work and it uses tiny amounts of bits and pieces that you usually have left over from larger projects, you know, that odd button or the last few flower embellishments on a metre.

Continuing the theme of bright and happy and diving once more into the bottomless scrap basket, I have had a new idea which I think that you just might like - applique patches! 
This little make uses bits of fabric, felt, buttons and ribbon and other cute embellishments. You can then use the patches on all sorts of things. They make great finishing touches for everything from bags to pot plants and you can use them on clothing too. Have a look at some applications...



I made a quick crochet cover for an ugly and cheap plastic pot and hot glued a patch to the front. Mixed media is fun and very on-trend!



Here a patch is adorning a bag (you can find the bag pattern in the shop if you love this one). You can see from these two that these patches are versatile and can have different 'moods'. So how do we make them?

You will need to go hunting for a few things:
scraps of fabrics
scraps of felt
fabric glue
buttons
ribbon and braid
pinking shears
water soluble maker
thread and free motion embroidery needs for your machine (this varies a bit so I won't go into detail. Check your sewing machine book)
Handy to have:
a Sizzix big shot and some dies. This makes the job easier but it isn't essential
Hot glue gun

You also need a few images. I tend to stick to the same ones in various combinations. Flowers, hearts and birds are all good. The deer is another one - anything which makes you feel happy and suits the project will work.
Consider making these a few at  time and storing them in a box for when you need something special.

Okay, let's get started. I am going to do four at a time to show you how versatile and easy this is. We will make two hearts, a circle and an oval to begin. You need four pieces of felt and your pinking shears first. 
Here are four basic shapes.... 



Print them off in a couple of sizes and make templates from card. Then all you have to do is trace around the shapes onto the felt with the water soluble maker and then cut out with your pinking shears. Here is what we have now...



Notice how bright the colours are? These are more summery, you can use different colours for different times of the year; think red and grey at Christmas, pastels for Spring. I think that you get the idea!
Next, find some fabric to go with the felt colours and then cut that out with normal straight scissors so that it is about 1cm smaller. Glue the fabric shape to the felt. Here is where we are now...



You can add another layer to some....



And then it is time to embellish! Anything goes here so enjoy yourself. I like heart motifs and flowers but as I mentioned before, birds are good too and anything else that takes your fancy.

By the way, one of the best places to find applique maotifs are children's colouring books. they are already line drawings and you can change the size easily.

Here are some of my ideas based on bits and pieces. There are still some layers to go on some - as you can see, these look simple but there are lots of steps for you to get your teeth into.



The next thing to do now is to set your sewing machine up for free motion embroidery. Check your manual for specific details.

We are going to use black thread too. This will keep the colours from becoming gaudy. Go around the motifs to anchor them on now with the black thread. Go around some of the larger parts of your design twice. Then it is time to give each one an individual personality.

Number one is the oval. I have left this one quite plain with the four hearts...



I thought that the fabric was busy enough without adding to it!

Number two is the large round one....



It now has a flower shape cut off a long row of them - you can buy these by the metre wherever your buy ribbon and lace but mine come from here. An orange button finished it off.
Number three is a heart with flowers...




Some leaves and a couple of buttons worked wonders. 

Finally, the smaller heart is a variation on the third....




This time a small bow and some more of those flowers that you cut off the row worked well with some yellow buttons. 

I love these and they are so handy. Make them in bulk when you have time and keep them in a box. I use them for brooches (just add a brooch bar to the back). They are super bag charms and they look great on crochet pot covers, cushions, key rings and just about anywhere else.

Here are some more ideas....





I originally designed these motifs to zing up my crocheted pot covers but they really can go anywhere.

Thank you so much for visiting! I have enjoyed your company and I hope that this tutorial is inspiring. Go check that scrap basket!

Love and hugs
Debbie xxx