Friday, 29 January 2016

Scrappy Cushion with built in bubbles!

Cushions can transform a room. We have had this conversation before but it still holds true. If you have summery cushions and wintery ones, you can alter the whole feel of your living space to suit the seasons.

And they are cheap. You can buy a cheap cushion in Ikea or a discount store and make it over using scraps of fabric. I have had a square cushion on my sofa for some time and although the cover is quite nice, I am sick of it so it is change time!

Here is what I used to get the job done...
- an assortment of fabric scraps which sort of went together. the scraps have to be big enough to get squares 11.5 cm x 11.5 cm.
- some plain fabrics which coordinate well
- a cushion insert 
- 279 cotton mix wadding 80/20 by Vlieseline
- fabric for the cushion back
Your usual sewing and quilting needs

You will need this template to make the bubble pattern on the cushion and I have provided some measurements so that you can be sure that the printed size is correct....

Make a template from it that you can draw around - thin card or template plastic does the trick. You will see that there are a few sizes on the template sheet? And they are numbered in order of size. The trick to this is to choose a pair (1 and 2 or  2 and 3) and then use the smaller of the two to draw the cut out from the square and the larger of the two to cut your quarter circle insert piece.

This way, you can put different sized bubbles onto your project!

When you have that sorted out, start cutting your squares. I have deliberately not given actual amounts of squares so that you can use any cushion. Don't worry, this isn't hard. Just measure your cushion and make the little quiltlet to form the front and back the same size.

To make the bubble squares, you need four quarter units like this one...

They are joined together and sewn like this....

To make a quarter unit, take one of your squares and using the smaller of the two quarter circles, draw around and cut out the shape from one corner...

Go to your solid and cut out a quarter circle using the larger of the two shapes...

Crease both pieces in half to find the centre...

Now pin at the centre with the right sides together and the creases matching up. It doesn't look as though it will work does it? Well have faith and carry on!

Now pin the extreme edges....

Manipulate and coerce the fabric until you can pin it all along....

Use LOTS of pins! Now sew the curve and remove the pins. Iron the quarter circle unit and you will have something like this.....

When you press the unit, press the seam towards the original square like this...

Make another three with different coloured squares but the same colour plain...

Sew them together and add into the mix of squares at random. Make a couple more and place them as you sew to get a nice pattern. Here is what you have when the top is finished and pressed.....

Lay this top onto a piece of wadding which is slightly larger than the patched panel....

I am using the new 80/20 cotton wadding from Vlieseline and as usual with their products, I am a little bit in love!! It is so soft and snugly. It quilts beautifully too and feels luxe.

Pin it well and quilt with your choice of pattern. I have Machine quilted mine on my beautiful Janome Horizon with a dual feed foot. 

The choice of pattern is a simple 2.5 cm square grid

Did you notice the angled bar that comes with the dual feed foot? This helps me to get the quilting straight without using 64,892 water soluble markers drawing the guidelines all over the quilt top.
Simply sew one line and then let the bar run along it as you sew the second.

Trim the cushion top. The back of the cushion in my case is made from strips, joined together and then quilted the same way as the front....

Because I am using scraps, I did not have enough of one piece to make a whole cloth back but it really doesn't matter. Use what you have.

Now place the two trimmed pieces together with the right sides touching and pin.
Sew all around the outer edge, leaving a gap to insert the cushion. Turn out through the gap and put the cushion in. Close the gap by hand.

All done! Now go and transform your living space!

Love and hugs
Debbie xxx

Friday, 22 January 2016

Salvage those selvedges!

As sewists and quilters we don't throw much away. We are a bit famous for that! Small scraps of everything go into ever smaller gradings until we are left with cotton fluff and some harder core members of the community will save even that to stuff dolls in the traditional old fashioned way.

Saving scraps is virtuous and it is what crafting is really all about. Somehow we have lost our way a bit and we want coordinated projects with purpose bought fabric and everything matching.

Nothing wrong with that and I would be a hypocrite if I said that I wasn't nuts about lovely fabric just like the rest of the world's sewists. However, have you ever noticed how beautiful selvedge edges and be? Look at some of these...

Now not all selvedges are great looking but if you buy high quality fabrics, you should hit the jackpot every time - I would go so far as to say that an attractive and usable selvedge may be a sign of the quality of the fabric.

Some manufacturers have gone one step further and in recognition of sewists and quilters using the edges to squeeze every drop of value out of a fabric purchase, they have started making the selvedges special too. Got to applaud this move!

Well then, will all that said, what can we do with selvedges and how do we salvage them so that they are usable?

For a start, when you buy fabric, buy the best quality that you can so that you actually get a selvedge! The next thing to do is not to cut it off too narrowly. This would be less than ideal....

If you cut it too narrowly, you will have no seam allowance and you loose some of the selvedge.
I know that the main aim is to use the actual fabric as much as possible but if you cut the selvedge too narrow, you are missing out on your bonus gift from the fabric manufacturer! No cut it with about 2-3 cm of fabric like this....

Now you have something to work with. Find yourself a basket or a container and each time you buy fabric, put the selvedge in and when you have a collection, you can make anything - a search of Pinterest will show you what I mean.

In the interest of keeping this simple, today we are going to make a pot holder using a quilt as you go method and selvedges. It looks clean and modern and it is very easy.....

So what do we need:
a collection of selvedges
22 cm x 22 cm 272 Thermolam wadding from Vlieseline
23 cm x 23 cm backing fabric
coordinating bias binding
And that's it!

And how do we go about it?

Begin by sorting through your selvedges and planning your next move. This project will involve sewing the selvedges on diagonally so make sure that the longest is 32 cm long. You can cut some of the longer ones and use them somewhere else.

Lay the backing fabric down with the wrong side up....

Place the wadding over the top of it....

Pin the bottom right hand bit which is out of the way (we will begin working in the top left hand corner)....

Notice that the selvedges have a finished edge and a raw one (where you have cut)? Choose the nicest bit of the selvedge; usually the bit with the printing on it and lay the machined edge to the top left...

Sew the top left hand corner only.

Now add another one, aligning it nicely and covering the raw edge from the previous one. This is important in the quality of the finished item.

Keep adding strips in this way, selecting nice ones and aligning them well. Some may be thicker than others and this is okay too. this project is designed to evolve and be absolutely unique. It would be very difficult for anyone else in the world to have a pot holder exactly the same as yours!

Keep going until it is time to remove some pins... 

Take the pins out, keeping the back very smooth as you go (your walking foot will help here). This is what it will look like when it is covered completely.....turned ninety degrees for reasons known only to myself!

Trim it back to 22cm x 22cm or thereabouts. It is up to you how big or small you want it. I need a slightly larger one for larger pots but it is your pot holder.

Here it is from the back, all quilted....

But I want round corners on mine. This is optional and you can bind with mitred corners...

If you go down the rounded route, grab something suitable (I am using a bangle) and trace around it then trim the corners....

I have made my bias binding from the same fabric as the back. Make a hanging tab from some of the leftover bias binding...

Then bind your pot holder....

 Slip the tab in the back seam as you bind...

And there we go! A nice pot holder which is functional and practical and best of all, made mainly from pieces that less enlightened people throw in the rubbish!.

Change the way you look at your scraps forever and don't forget to have a look for more ideas on Pinterest. You can make anything from slippers to a quilt or bag!

This little project was made on my lovely new Janome Horizon MC8200QCP Special Edition and frankly I am more than a little bit in luuurve! When I have trained myself up a little bit more, I shall tell you all about it.

See you next time!

Love and hugs
Debbie xxx

Friday, 15 January 2016

Road Test: Do rotary blade sharpeners work?

Did you know that in many cases it is recommended that we use a new rotary blade for each new project? Imagine the money and pile of  used blades after a year if you are a fairly prolific sewist or quilter!

No that won't do at all and there does have to be a better way! So of course, like all responsible 21st century crafters, I went straight to Google for some sort of solution.

Foil was the first thing that I saw. Apparently if you have several layers of ordinary kitchen tin foil and fold it up to a pad, then run the blade through it, a miracle will occur and you will come out with a sharp blade.

I am sorry to say that it didn't work for me at all. Maybe I wasn't holding my tongue right!

No, it was clear that something a little more purpose built was needed.
Enter the TrueCut Rotary Blade Sharpener which was sent to me in return for an honest review.

I have been asked a lot of questions about how best to keep blades sharp so the time seemed right to decide if this piece of kit is an investment or not.

My task here is to review the blade sharpener and not to show you how to use it. The instructions which come with it are super clear but if you are a more visual learner, I did find this YouTube video from the company which shows the actual technique.

So, what are we looking for? Here is the product....

It feels like good quality from the outset. Not cheaply made at all. All of the components are made from stern stuff. It is 30cm long and a nice weight which means that it sits really well on the table top.

Firstly though, let's look at safety bit and a bit of science....

A huge advantage of this model is that you don't have to remove the blade from your rotary cutter first. Obviously, the more times you handle the blade itself, the higher the probability of a cut finger.

The low profile of the unit means a lower centre of gravity and it won't tip. That is safer too - a high narrow cutter is not so stable.

On the bottom, it has eight little blue feet which are really high quality rubber and once positioned, they won't move. 

I tried really hard to get the unit to scoot across my wooden desk but it stayed resolutely put.

There are some holes down one side and you could use them to screw the sharpener to something but it really isn't necessary. I used it on my cutting mat and it didn't budge at all.

One thing that I loved was the little Allen key in the bottom which means that you can take the sharpening stone out periodically and turn it to reveal a new surface and it is brand new again!

Using it is really easy as you can see in the video link that I found. it comes with a comprehensive instruction sheet too.

So what is doing the work for you? Undo the three cream wheels and pull the movable bar back and you can see a strip of grey...

That is the sharpening stone and this is what is producing the result for you. The stone is only on one side, hence you are instructed to turn the unit to sharpen both sides.

Hardly any pressure is needed to sharpen your blade so the unit is also good for people with gripping and joint problems. Bear in mind though, if your blade has nicks in to from running over pins, nothing will save it. To be fair, the talent of the blade sharpener is in repairing normal wear and tear to a blade.

But, the big question is......does it work? Well, in the interests of fairness, I sharpened two blades, one was a fairly elderly Olfa blade and the other a generic home brand one which came in a pack of ten. Both had had roughly the same amount of work. 

Not surprisingly, the Olfa blade fared a little better. I am assuming that the quality of the metal in that blade was also better to begin with and it responded well. The generic brand blades also had a marked improvement though and it is worth noting that if you do buy these blades, they will still sharpen well but you may have to put in a little more effort to keep them that way.

Neither blade came back to 'brand new' first time. That could be down to my technique though or they may need a little more TLC because this is the first time that I have sharpened them. I will give future updates to let you know how I am getting on.

I do think that this particular blade sharpener is worth the investment. I cannot speak for others on the market although they are available. Clean and accurate cuts are only possible if your blades are up to the job. 

The TrueCut Blade Sharpener made a difference to my blades and I am looking forward to using it again a few times and honing my skills as well as my blades.

Thank you to Groves for giving me the opportunity to do this road test. If you are in the market for a rotary blade sharpener, stockists information is available from  or by ringing 01453 883581. 

Love and hugs
Debbie xxx