Always a first time!

There’s always a first time for everything.  I seem to have had a few ‘firsts’ lately.

First occasions can be quite daunting at times  (think the first day at a new job!) but they also give us the opportunity to try new experiences and products, learn new skills  and meet people.

So here I am writing my first blog and using Aurifil thread for the first time.

As you can see, I am hand-sewing hexagons to make a bag, using 40 weight Cotton Mako. I like the way the thread glides easily through the fabric without twists and knots.  And I am also happy that each spool comes in its own cellophane wrapper so that it is kept clean while it sits on the shop shelf.

Making the individual hexagons

 I’ve used a pattern designed by Sue from Busy Fingers Patchwork
You need to make 15 such hexagons which includes the batting, then join them together to form the bag.  Add handles and buttons and voila! The bag is ready for use.

The finished hexagon bag.

If you wish to make a more stable base, you can make a template to fit the base from cardboard.  When you have the dimensions you require, use the template  to cut the shape from templastic.  Cover this with lining fabric and insert it into the base of your bag.

Ready for shopping.

Now that I’ve finished this bag, I’m keen to complete another one using the same pattern which has been in UFO status for longer than I’m prepared to divulge!

Lana flowers make a neat trimming

Last Saturday I was guest speaker at the Sea Breeze Quilter’s  meeting. The day was wet & blustery outside but it was still a great day as we were snug, and busy, inside at the Altona Meadows library.

As usual I rattled on about thread, why cotton thread works so well for patchwork and why Aurifil thread is nice to use and of course I always mention the other textile art threads in the Aurifil range when I give one of my trunk show talks.

Doris crocheted these beautiful medallions with 2 strands of Lana & 1 strand of Brillo

I must have inspired Doris G. to go home that night and start crocheting with the Lana thread, because the next day I received this wonderful photo above.

Doris had purchased a spool of  variegated pink 8005, a solid pink 8442 & spool of Brillo 800 which she worked together with a fine crochet hook.

I had warned her that miniature crochet with Lana was addictive, and she said it was great fun, and that she would be making more when she worked out a project to use the flower motifs.

Seeing these pretty motifs set me thinking and I had to start writing a list of hand crafted Christmas ideas:

  • Make them into snowflakes …just imagine them made up in shades of  silver and white, hanging on the Christmas tree
  • Stack several together to make a brooch
  • Attach fittings to individual motifs to make earings
  • Stitch several to the ends of a scarf to create a designer look

Back in August I posted some photos of the brooch and necklet  that I had made crocheting with Cotton Mako 12 and I think similar designs could be made with Lana.

If you want to make your own Lana motifs you can download a free crochet pattern from the panel on the left.  Lana & Cotton Mako’ 12 are available for purchase from the Always Quilting online store

So what do you think?

Do you have any clever ideas for using miniature crochet motifs?

We would love to hear your ideas for using crochet motifs so please add a comment.

Christmas Cheating

I suppose my blog this month should be titled “Christmas Cheater Panel”  as I am showing some quilting I did on a panel I was given.
As I was in a hurry to complete the panel as well as  make some Christmas gifts for my patchwork friends, I did a minimum amount of quilting on the panel.

I also think that the Christmas decorations are only up for such a short period, it is not ‘worth’ the effort in going overboard with the quilting. The beauty and pattern of the panel is the important thing – enhanced by the quilting.

My panel with some Brillo quilting on it.

I used the Brillo – the Aurifil metallic thread to quilt around the letters of the panel, and on some of the other pictures. The spools of Brillo are made of wood, and in themselves an attractive item.  I used a topstitch or metallic needle and took my time quilting – feed dogs down and free motion.
On the other ‘illustrations’, I used some Ne 28 or Ne 50 Cotton to outline some of the details.

Some more of the quilting on the panel

Soon – too soon to me – I will be putting up the Christmas quilts, wall hangings and decorations – and hurriedly completing gifts for my friends.

Would your friends like a stocking full of Cotton Mako for Christmas?

I had been wondering what I could use for Kris Kringle gifts for my textile buddies this year when I found  this lovely little Christmas stocking in the box of decorations.

This Christmas stocking is just the perfect size to hold a couple of spools of thread.

It is just the perfect size to hold a small gift, a spool of thread, a packet of needles or an other little stitching tool so I am planning to make my own version of small stockings.

The pattern is really quite simple.

  1. Trace around a sock to draw up a small stocking shape. Choose a sock with a heel rather than a tube design, it doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact a simple shape is best. You might have to re-draw the shape to shorten the length of the foot. My stocking is 16cm (6″) H x 12cm (5″) long in the foot.
  2. Cut 2 stocking shapes from the main fabric, remembering to add a 1/4″ seam allowance on all edges.
  3. Cut 1 strip of feature fabric for the top facing (twice as wide as the finished “height’ of the facing band by the length to go around the top of the stocking, plus seam allowances ) The band on my stocking is 5cm (2”)  finished height.
  4. Place stocking pieces right sides together and stitch around the ‘boot” shape leaving the top open.
  5. Turn stocking right side out
  6. Stitch narrow edges of the feature fabric together to make a circle, the same diameter as the top of the stocking
  7. Fold the circle of fabric in half with wrong sides together so that the band is now approximately the finished “height”.
  8. Tuck the “facing” circle inside the stocking and stitch around the top edge of the circle to attach the facing to the stocking.
  9. Turn the facing out, & over the top of the stocking, to cover the seam.
  10. Now fill with treasures.

If this stocking design is not suitable you will find a wonderful selection of  ideas for other designs with a google search.

I found this delightful design for a stocking with applique fairy lights.  It is a free pattern by Helen Wright :  “Fairy Light” design

For the machine embroiderers, I found a curly Christmas stocking motif  on the Azile Embroidery  website. This design is  not free, but it did make me wish that I knew more about computerised machine embroidery.

Of course when you have made your little stockings, there could be nothing better to fill them with than some of the threads from Aurifil.

Have fun hand crafting some Christmas gifts.

Funky Chickens….My Bag is Finished

Back in July I was inspired to create a quilting design after purchasing some cool fabric.

My original idea of a four-patch design was discarded as I really like this fabric and, in the end, I just didn’t want to cut it up too much.

Added Ric-Rac and stitched handles to top fabric panel

The initial hand quilted motif has been augmented with some machine quilting using Aurifil Variegated 50wt (orange spool).

Hand quilted and Machine quilted with button embellishments

When the quilting is finished I then straighten the edges of the block and begin building a panel by sewing additional, coordinating  fabrics until I have a rectangle that measures 32 inches by 20 inches.

“building” materials for my market bag

I have also decided to add  an outer piece of tablecloth plastic to keep my bag waterproof and clean. The plastic is lightweight and easily sewn as part of the bag construction. I cut the plastic slightly larger than my cut bag rectangle.

Outer plastic layer adds protection from dirt and water

Fold your rectangle in half with right sides together. Using a walking foot (this keeps all layer moving through your machine at the same pace) stitch side and bottom seams, leaving top open.

While bag is inside out, grab one of the bottom corners and match the bottom seam line with the side seam line. Flatten the bag corner forming a triangle. Mark 2″ from the triangle tip and mark a sewing line across the width of the triangle. Stitch along this line making sure to secure your stitches at both ends.

Creating a flat bottom gives the bag some stability

Make straps using two different fabrics. Cut 2 lengths of each fabric 2 inches by 20 inches. Creating two straps, sew two fabrics , right sides together , leaving one small end open for turning. After trimming corners and turning right sides out, press and edge stitch.

Two fabric Straps

Place your handles with unfinished edge along bag top in your desired position. Stitch these in place. Make your bag lining just as you made your bag ADDING at least an inch to height measurement AND leaving a large enough gap in the bottom for turning out. I have added several inches as I wanted a wider header at the top of the bag.

Place your bag, with right sides out,  into the bag lining with wrong  side out. Stitch all round the top edge making sure your handles are in the ‘down position’ so they are not caught in this seam. Carefully pull the exterior bag out through the gap in the lining. Stitch the gap closed in the lining. Top stitch around the bag top. I have added the green ric-rac and you may want to add some trims or embellishments as well.

Top stitch bag and add embellishments

If you are looking for more clever, quick, ideas for making  bags visit master bag maker Lisa Lam’s blog 

There is still plenty of time before the holiday season to make a variety of bags for your friends and family You can never have too many bags!

November already and it is time to start Christmas planning

So many people have told me that they love using Aurifil threads,  but that they have to use up the other threads in their cupboard before they can change over to use Aurifil for all their sewing.

Well I’ve found the perfect solution, so that you no longer need to feel guilty about those other threads in your cupboard

Make your own ‘loose thread” fabric and use it to make all sorts of Christmas things ….. starting with hand-made Christmas Cards!

Make your own Christmas cards this year

Card stock can be purchased from specialist paper stores or made by cutting 110g, A4 paper in half, then folding in half to make a card.

Purchased card stock will include the envelops but you can buy C5 envelops to match the cards that you make for yourself. ….. and making “loose thread” fabric is simple. Read on.

This melange of threads could loosely be called "fabric"

 Unwind some of those spools of thread that you no longer wish to use or, if you only have thread that you love in your cupboard, start saving the thread tails from your sewing.

All you need is some thread trimmings and some water soluble film

Sandwich the loose threads between 2 layers of water soluble film and start practising your machine quilting. The idea is to lock all the loose threads together with stitching that intersects. You might need to use a hoop to hold the “fabric” together until it is reasonably firm.

Spread the loose threads thickly, and evenly, between two pieces of water soluble film

My first round of stitching was fairly close stipple meander, in a neutral colour, but although these stitching lines are anchoring the loose threads they do not intersect, so the fabric would disintegrate if the soluble film was washed away.

Make sure that the surface stitching covers the complete surface and that all the stitching lines intersect

To connect all the stitching lines my next layer of stitching was a “loop de loop” background fill, in Christmas greens & reds. This stitching design is meant to cross over with intersecting lines and, as it is stitched over the top of the stipple, the loose threads end up really locked together.

Soak the "fabric" in water to dissolve the stabiliser

When you are happy that you have made a very stable piece of fabric, soak it in a bowl of water to remove the wash away stabiliser. Spread it out flat and when it is dry cut shapes to attach to the card stock.

Use the "loose threads" fabric to cut shapes to decorate your Christmas cards

Not  only have you made some individual cards, but you have also used up some of that unloved thread AND practised your machine quilting on something where mistakes will not matter!

PS: Don’t tip out the wash water. It can be used to stiffen, or starch, fabric for embroidery.

PPS: If you don’t have the time, or patience, to complete the detailed surface stitching,  a faster method is to sandwich the threads between a layer of home spun and a layer of organza or net. This method only requires sufficient stitching to hold the layers together. (See the trees on the centre card)

Another quick “no sew” method to make cards is to find a great conversation fabric with Christmas motifs. Simply iron some fusible web to the fabric, trim out the shapes and iron them onto some card stock, (see right hand card above).

So get to and start making crafty Christmas cards this year.

Water soluble film & fusible web are both available for purchase on the:
Always Quilting website.

Love the positive feedback about Aurifil


Aurifil Cotton Mako' 50 is available in both a 1300 metre & a 200 metre spool

It is nice to hear feedback from people who actually use the prizes/product give-aways that they win, or receive,  so I was delighted to read Mary Mack’s blog post about the 50 weight Cotton Mako’ threads that she won in the Aurifil competition on Facebook not so long ago.

So often the product gets put aside to be “used one day when I get around to it”.  However Mary got stuck into a piecing and quilting project to really test out the threads.

Now I know that you are used to seeing/ hearing/ reading me rabbitting on (raving on) about how well the Aurifil threads stitch, how versatile they are, how your machine will like them ….. shall I go on …. but I don’t need to because this is what Mary had to say after her independent testing:

“But I was learning that all “they” say about this thread is true. More accurate piecing, better quilting, less breakage, less lint. It really is as great as others have said. Since the thread is thinner, you really can put more on a bobbin, and you don’t have as much lint in your machine after using it. I really checked this out. “

And you should see the projects that were used for the testing.

Mary made two lovely table runners, using an Eleanor Burns Autumn Leaves pattern with lots of pointy piecing and then she quilted them heavily so that they have a beautiful rich textured appearance. The finishing touch was the addition of some clever fibre optic lights. Such fun.

You really must visit Mary Mack’s Blog to see these beautiful table runners for yourself. 

The latest thread kit from the factory.... a set of 4 piecing colours in Cotton mako' 50

PS: We now have the above piecing kits, and the full colour range of individual spools, in the Cotton Mako’ Ne 50 solid colours in stock. Visit the Always Quilting website to check out the colours.