Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Miniature Hexagon Patchwork, The Joy of using Hexagons each side measuring 5mm.

Miniature Hexagon Patchwork, The Joy of using Hexagons each side measuring 5mm.  

During the Christmas holidays I came across a tin of unfinished hexagon projects.  The common feature being miniature or small.  Tidying and sorting made my fingers itchy to finish or restart at least one of the started pieces.

Unfinished miniature patchwork projects by Jackie Wills

For those who have been reading my previous blogs, my last big project was using 10cm hexagons, each side measuring 5cm.  I almost became complacent and sleepy sewing large hexagons.  Jumping to the extreme I picked up the unfinished work using hexagons with each side measure 5mm.  Quite a difference,  but exactly the same technique magnified.  Yes, using 1cm hexagons with sides of 5m is fiddly.   Enjoyably fiddly.

If you plan to do this yourself I would recommend long natural thumbnails, they become a great tool folding fabric with precision over the miniature 90gsm hexagon papers.  Sewing darker colours together using matching thread makes sewing less easy, do not succumb and use light thread to sew dark hexagons together.  It will wreck the look. 

Last night I accidently put on an older pair of reading glasses and could not understand why I struggled to view my stitches. Made a massive difference using proper glasses and a good overhead lamp.  

My personal preference is to allow plenty of fold over fabric, creates a bit of bulk on the back but adds texture.  The deep purple fabric hexagons have been created using quite heavy chintz, so the purple hexagons have been hard to keep accurate.  See hexagon centred on fabric image below top right.

Do not use irregular badly covered hexagons, as they will spoil the overall look.  I noticed a real difference using lighter weight turquoise fabric, perhaps more dense and harder on the needle but much easier to fold over the paper hexagons.   

I find using a long fine crewel needle size 10 far easier than a shorter length big eye quilting needle.  Size 9 is OK, size 8 not recommended.  Compare the needles in your sewing box and experiment with the size that works for you.  

Paper hexagons can be purchased from www.patchworktemplates.co.uk

See miniature hexagon patchwork demonstrations: https://www.youtube.com/user/thejaxcollection

My renewed enthusiasm for this project of old has been most rewarding.   Like a good book its hard to put down, making one more hexagon often leads to a string of six and 20 minutes lost time......

Miniature hexagon patchwork by Jackie Wills using 1cm hexagons, each side 5mm

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Using a sewing machine with a stop/start button for the first time

Using a sewing machine with stop/start button for first time.

Years of using a sewing machine foot peddle plus other injury has taken its toll on my leg.  Constant repetitive pressing and releasing of the foot peddle made sewing unbearable.  It will never get better, only worse the more I do the action, so I resigned my sewing machine days were over.  A great sadness.

A few weeks ago I had to use my machine for a chore after a break of several months.  The repetitive action almost made me cry, not so much in pain but in realisation that I really missed making things and being creative with my trusty Husqvarna.   At this point I looked online to check out the latest sewing machines, perhaps a machine with a knee control.   I must have been living in the dark ages because all these machines popped up with stop/start buttons, a mechanism new to me.

I phoned The Exeter Sewing Machine Company to ask if they had a machine with this option to try. Always helpful they advised I should visit for a demonstration.  A few days later with an extra spring in my step I bounced into the shop.   A young lady showed how the stop/start button and speed control on a Brother sewing machine worked.  Yes, it worked, a light press on the button and the machine zoomed, the speed adjusted with a sliding control near to the stop/start button.  In truth I was not convinced I could do the intricate embroidery and precise stitching without the familiar foot peddle control action.   Also I was not familiar with Brother sewing machines, after so many happy years using vintage Bernina 730 and later Husqvarna Lily.

I came back to my studio unconvinced.   After a few days I realised if I wanted to use a sewing machine again I had to go for it.   I purchased a Brother Innovis 350 from Exeter Sewing Machine Company.  So easy by phone and debit card.   It arrived the next day.   I briefly read instructions and within an hour the machine was threaded and fabric underfoot.  I pressed the stop/start button and the machine came to life with perfect tension straight stitches.  

I will not pretend I found it easy.  The stop/start button is instant, and the slide speed control is slow or too fast.  Using a hand instead of a foot to control action stop/star and speed takes getting used to. I need my hands to control the fabric.  Definitely need to multi task and think ahead.   Would I ever get used to it?   I walked away several times in frustration.  Each time I returned was easier.   Also I took the manual to bed and read every word.  

There came a delicious high point when I discovered the capabilities of this machine exceeded all my expectations.  The emphasis is practice, practice, read the manual and practice.  I feel a whole new sewing adventure starting.   See my video clip of this machine at work 

stop start button on Brother sewing machine.

freehand embroidery and applique created using stop start button

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Finished. Final Part 14

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Finished. 

On 12 February 2014 I wrote the part 1 of 14 parts on this series.   Ten months later the hexagon quilt or coverlet as I now like to call it is finished.   Like most things in life work did not map exactly as planned, creativity allows flexibility.   Initially The Coverlet was going to drape the bed completely, some months ago the plan changed because I felt the the bedroom would be swamped by colour and would remove the relaxing mode vital to the place you sleep.

I have some hexagon rosettes remaining and with those I plan to remake by sewing machine the bolster pillows already on the bed and I may even restyle the bedhead.   

From one spare curtain, plus additional complimentary fabrics from my collection,
each hexagon has been a joy to create, each stage a pleasure to view and the final result pleases me enormously.  Midway making my partner of 20 years unexpectedly proposed to me and we married within five weeks in May.  Its been a wonderful year.

I have created a little video clip to show the end result https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSWJBAWXpqg

Patchwork paper templates can be purchased from www.patchworktemplates.co.uk and links will take to further gallery images.

For those who have been following progress I hope its been enjoyable too.   

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons - Machine Quilting. Part 13

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons.  Machine Quilting. Part 13

Add the remaining backing panels until the quilt has been fully backed.   Remember to do lots and lots of tacking to keep the layers together and flat.  When it comes to joining two backing panels together, allow at least 2cm overlap.   Always much easier to press, pin then hand sew with small oversewing stitches.

Allow in excess of 10cm backing fabric to surround your patchwork top.  This will be trimmed later.  My personal view is that its better to use more fabric than less.

The purpose of quilting is to keep the layers together. Top patchwork, centre if applicable and backing. Traditional quilting is well documented. My personal view is that you do what pleases, so long as the layers are kept together and achieve a nice flat patchwork top.

In this instance to keep the layers together I have opted to do a singular machine embroidery stitch within each hexagon. I have chosen neutral colour thread front and back.  Experiment before working on your patchwork to check machine tension through the layers. Try out different stitches. Explore those forgotten stitches on your machine.

I find it easier to use a singular stitch rather than a group or line of stitches.  Secure before and after the stitch.   I have been quite random placing the stitches, not concerned that each stitch is dead in the centre.  Sometimes I change direction too.  Move from stitch to stitch without breaking the thread.   Threads can be cut afterwards.   Note that the tacking cotton has not been removed.  The tacking is essential to keep the layers flat and together.

Of course, if you may prefer to hand sew a decorative embroidery stitch, once in each hexagon.  Add some texture by using crochet cotton, wool or other embroidery thread.

Left: view from the backing.  Snip thread afterwards.   

Another option is is sew mother of pearl buttons in the centre of each hexagon.  Buttons look lovely but not recommended in quilts made for children. They can also be uncomfortable to sit on.  

When finished remove all the tacking cotton. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons - Backing. Part 12

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons - Backing. 

Part 12

Time has now arrived to think about putting a backing onto the patchwork quilt.   There are many well documented methods to do this.  I am going to demonstrate my method.  

The whole point of quilting is to keep the top, centre and backing layers together.   I am not using a centre layer of wool or wadding in this instance as the hexagons are made of upholstery weight fabrics and I do not want my work to be too heavy.   I am just backing my work by tacking first then using a sewing machine to keep the two layers together.  

I have made a video clip to accompany this method.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko-cUHmFdcI

I find it easier to work in sections and on an ironing board.  My ironing board is waist height and is 17.5" wide.   Using chosen backing fabric, cut a wide strip of fabric about the width of the ironing board and allow a couple of inches extra either side of your work.  Keep patchwork and backing well pressed.

Tack section as shown in the video clip. Horizontally and vertically, starting in the centre.

There should be very little or no puckering.  More tacking makes easier work in the long run.  The finished result should look like images below: 

After tacking ensuring the layers are kept together firmly, I can now start the process of machine quilting.  My next blog will demonstrate how.  

Repeating the link for the video demonstration again:

Friday, 24 October 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 11

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 11

Progress seems to be a bit slow but I am pleased with this progress.  I put work on the intended bed. It looked lovely in the sunshine, and the colours work so well with matching Gosford curtains,  however my gut feeling is that its going to totally overpower the room.  I have reviewed my plans.   This will not be a full size bed quilt as intended but instead I am opting for a smaller coverlet.  I want to keep the gentle tones and relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom.

Adding the border, sewing hexagons into strips and then sewing one long length down the side of the patchwork.
Removing papers:   Soon my borders will be
complete and now they have been partially added I can remove some of the papers.   This will make the work lighter and easier to carry around.
Using a seam ripper or sharp pair of small scissors break the tacking cotton and remove it.  The paper hexagon should just fall out.  If it does not give it a gentle tug and it should come away easily.   Only remove papers one or two hexagons away from the border, i.e. in the centre of work.
 Paper happily removed.  Crumpled, yes very, due to being moved around and folded whilst working.  The edges of the paper hexagon are still intact, demonstrating that the stitches sewing the hexagons together have been small and fine.  I am not saying this method will work for every hexagon.

The papers used are 10cm point to point across the centre (each side measures 5cm) and can be purchased from www.patchworktemplates.co.uk  Lots of other sizes and shapes available from this website.
The above template has been recycled by ironing it.   Use a moderate temperature and always iron over a cloth.   Paper template, cover with a cotton handkerchief or piece a fine cotton fabric then iron.   Do not use steam.   As demonstrated the creases have been removed and with care, paper template can be used again.

I have made a short video clip to go with this blog:


Friday, 10 October 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 10

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 10

I have had a few relaxing evenings sewing hexagons into the quilt.  Just a few gaps need to be filled.  Laying patchwork out at night where it will not be disturbed gives opportunity to place covered hexagons in the gaps.   In my case work was laid down on the dining room floor, so twixt turning the sausages, basting potatoes and whisking cream, eyes divert to the project.  Washing hands before touching my work of course.


 Above left: empty gaps                    Above centre: beige NO!           Above right:  Far too busy

So important not to be hasty in making decisions.   Create more fabric covered hexagons if need be and keep arranging them until you are content with result.  Mine were laid on the floor for several days.

Content with decisions its a good plan to pin chosen hexagons next to the gap that it needs to filled.  If you don't like loose pins in your work tack with thread instead.   Doing this makes your work portable and ready to sew without the need to keep popping and collecting another hexagon to sew.  Another method is to photograph your work, print out and use as a pattern.   No real need to print out if its on a tablet computer.   

Image above shows work is coming along nicely.  Sewing the hexagons into the gaps will take a few days, picking up work whenever I can.  

This week I have been working on a new website to run alongside current websites.   Still needs a bit of tweaking but if you would like to have a look go to:   www.patchworktemplates.co.uk.   

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Short Follow up to last blog: Rotary Cutter and Cutting Base Rotary Mats. Do I need one?

Short Follow up to last blog: Rotary Cutter and Cutting Base Rotary Mats. Do I need one?

I received many messages after publishing my last blog post: Rotary Cutter and Cutting Base Rotary Mats. Do I need one?  The gist asking me to give the rotary cutter another go.  So I did.   I thought about it for a bit first then decided to compare the cutting task I use most, namely preparing solid colour fabric for using with hexagon paper templates.  

1) The traditional method using scissors: 

Work on ironing board.  Place a paper template on fabric.  Check for more than 5mm seam, snip then rip the fabric into a strip.  Iron fabric then concertina over.  Place template to check for seam allowance then cut using scissors.  Trim any frayed edges if you like a neat look.  Time it takes to make 12  fabric pieces. Took me 2 mins and 20 seconds.

 2) Using a rotary cutter, metal ruler, and cutting mat.  

Iron fabric then fold over four times, place ruler onto guide line. Trim edge of fabric with rotary cutter.  Place template onto fabric, check for 5mm or more seam allowance then using mat guidelines cut using rotary cutter.  Rotate fabric and cut into 12 fabric pieces.  Took me 3 mins and  40 seconds.  


Pictures show same result.  The extra time it took using the rotary cutter was mainly taken up in ironing more fabric than I needed.  I realise I have the rotary cutter the wrong way around in the above image, was taking a photo at the time! 

The rotary cutter is useful and has advantages for many patchwork and quilting tasks.  So I guess its all down to personal preference.  For me using scissors and the sound of ripping fabric is a joy.  

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Rotary Cutter and Cutting Base Rotary Mats. Do I need one?

Rotary Cutter and Cutting Base Mat.  Do I need to one?

This blog maybe a little controversial.  It is prompted by an email received from one of my customers this week.   In brief she was having difficulty using these tools to cut fabric.   The question was long winded and I spent some time drafting a reply.   Time took over and I decided to respond the following day.   Re-reading my draft in a different light after sleeping on her words, I realised my answer should be much simpler.  In short .... Dear Mrs T,   Do you really need to use a rotary cutter and mat for cutting fabric?

I came to this conclusion after thinking about my own experience with a rotary cutter and mat.   My first encounter with these tools occurred in 1990.   I was given a set by a lady whom I had been giving classes to in London.   A very generous gift at the time and I could not wait to try this new technology.  At the time  I had 20 sewing years behind me so using new tools was going to be revealing and possibly challenging.  I tried.  I tried many many times.  In short the rotary cutter scared me.  The exposed blade, just one slip of a finger, just seconds away from a wound.

Far easier to rip a strip of fabric and trim the edges with trusty safe scissors.   Twenty four years later and the rotary cutter remains in my drawer, through fault of my own, abeit a bit rusty.  The blade is still sharp.  I am sure one day I will return to it and with the aid of you tube video clips learn to use it properly, perhaps concluding "how did I manage without it".......  

The mat has been great, how did I manage pre-1990?     I currently have several laying around my studio.  Finding it hard to throw the original one out as it still has plenty of life in it yet.  Having a mat with inch grid and diagonal lines has been incredibly useful for all sorts of projects, mostly cutting stencils or paper using a basic craft knife.  The mat and cutter shown below are my gift from 1990.  Its true to say that the sewing technology of 1989 has survived. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 9

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 9

Some progress during this week of happenings, despite work being laid out on the floor most the time.   Gordon, my new husband is very patient that the dining room carpet is mostly taken up by an unfinished sewing project.  Means that he can have meals on a tray watching the TV.

The images below look almost identical.  Look twice and two differences can be found.  Decisions, decisions.  I cannot make up my mind whether to use four strong red hexagons as shown in the lower part of the left hand image, or replace with two cream unobtrusive hexagons as shown in the right hand image.  Both look OK but solid red is a harsh emotional colour.  Years ago we had a bright red carpet covering a very large room.  It was an expensive Axminster wool carpet. It made me feel angry and unsettled.  I never felt peace in that room.   Strange how colours affect emotions.  Just writing this has made my mind up.  Remove the two red.  

The second error also involves red.   I am removing the strong pinky red rosette bottom left hand corner and replacing it with the one shown in the right hand image.

Decisions made.  Gordon, darling it will be dinner for two on a beautifully laid up table in the dining room tonight.   

Friday, 5 September 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 8

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 8

Gosh, progress has been slow.  Just checked my last update on this quilt was 2nd May 2014.  Yes, lots  has happened, just short of five months being blissfully married.   The summer has passed in a flash, and sadly the nights are drawing in.   Closed the curtains at 8.30pm last night........its going to be a long long winter.   Thats the negative and now for the positive.  Long dark nights, time to get cracking on the quilt again.

I unwrapped the roll of part sewn work and loose hexagons fell over the bed.   Now, where was I?  The hexagons seemed larger and very very creased.   Straight to the iron.  Creased work is never pleasing to work with.   Immediate reaction is what what I thinking of placing those yellow hexagons either side of the centre.  They screamed at me.  Wrong, wrong wrong.

After the initial shock of seeing the yellow hexagons I took the work downstairs and laid it flat out on the floor to see the full effect.  Not such an eyesore, different light, laid full out the sunshine blobs not too bad.  Going to carry on and see if they eventually work, which I think they will.  Its strange though how, after a break of a few months suddenly mind thinks quite differently.

Thanks for being patient with this update.......be assured am back on track for further faster progress.  Its funny my fingers are itching right now to pick up a needle and start work immediately.  Alas time forbids.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Velvet Patchwork Hexagon Wedding Purse by Jackie Wills

Velvet Patchwork Hexagon Wedding Purse by Jackie Wills

Crikey I have just realised that my last blog was written on 2 May 2014 and it is with apologies that this blog is not going to be a continuation of "Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons" .  Work has stalled on the large hexagon quilt mainly due to my preference of spending time outdoors whilst the evenings are long and light.  Be assured it will be continued soon.

After 20 years together Gordon, completely out of the blue proposed to me.  Five weeks later we married at Cockington Church which dates back nearly 1000 years.   The marriage was simple and unorganised.   I picked a once worn TK Maxx dress from my wardrobe, bought a new hat and matched it with a pink cravat for Gordon.   The guests were invited the day before (we did not want too many people) and afterwards had tea and coffee at Cocktington Court.  Perfect.

During the reception my mother presented me with a present she had made.   A velvet patchwork hexagon purse.

It is made of 19 hexagons (a rosette of seven plus another round of 12). Another round of hexagons, half folded over finishes it off.   It is lined with sateen and a cord drawstring has been inserted.  Two velvet bobbles attached to the end of each drawstring.   Finished off with a row of individually sewn faux pearls and further crochet embroidery.   The colours are rich and vibrant, and the texture luxurious and soft.   

Below the faux pearls beautifully hand sewn on to the edge of the purse,  a row of crochet embroidery and drawstring can  also be seen.

Knowing my love for hexagons, this is the perfect wedding gift that my mother bestowed to me.  It will remain precious and cherished for the rest of my life.  

Below: Gordon and I arriving at Cockington Church for our wedding.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 7

Creating Hexagon Pattern Combinations

Over the last few weeks I have spent time laying out covered hexagons on the floor.  I picked them up, moved them around, created patterns, and generally explored the infinite possibilities .  Its a wonderful adventure exploring how colours work together, how colours change when placed together.  

I cannot stress enough how important it is not to rush into sewing the hexagons together.   Just keep looking at them.   Squint your eyes to see if anything jumps out.    I was convinced that a line of grey hexagon down each side of the centre track would work.   I kept looking at it and after several days I realised it would be a dreadful mistake.   The centre red rosette looks painfully wrong.  Its to powerful and draws the eye immediately.  Both these plans were abandoned.

After much thought and deliberation I came to the point where I was confident that the pattern would work.  Take a look at the two images below to see my conclusion.   I laid the hexagons out on the bed to check for size and proceeded to hand sew the hexagons and rosettes together.   One red hexagon in the centre is just enough to draw attention without it shouting out at the room.  The cream rows either side of the centre panel looks softer than the grey.  A gentler easy on the eye look.  

Progress has been slow this month because my partner of 20 years proposed to me out of the blue.   Wedding preparations have somewhat overtaken the need to make the hexagon quilt.  We are hoping to marry in the next couple of weeks, so I am understandably distracted!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Create a patchwork quilt using large hexagons. Part 6

Looking at the hexagon rosettes.  Looking at combinations

The design process is really about to begin now.   Over the last few weeks I have created over 30 rosettes using the spare Gosford Cranberry curtain.   In addition I have created lots of hexagons in two neutral colours cream and grey.  I am not convinced they will work in the design so the only way to find out is to create hexagons and throw them in with the rest.   In addition red and yellow hexagons have been added to experiment with.
scattered hexagons and rosettes

Rosettes coordinated into groups

Next co-ordinate similar rosettes together.   I find  that doing this helps take stock of what you have created and will enable you to use them in a balanced way in your design.

floral centre
fauna centre

Above:   Surrounding a rosette with the same colour creates a completely different look.   Take time doing this and enjoy the process of eliminating the results that are wrong.   My view is that the red is far too bright against the gentle colours.  Looks a bit of an eyesore.

Above: By changing three of the hexagons from red to grey adjusts the look.   Adding another round of hexagons softens the red.
There are endless combinations.  Avoid the mistake of rushing.  Lay the hexagons and rosettes out in a place they will not be disturbed.  Return and juxtapose.   Enjoy this process.

Left:  I have removed the red altogether and created a completely different look.  I think the grey works very well, as it softens the leafy centre.  The floral red outer  rosettes will balance the centre rosette.  Keep moving the hexagons and rosettes around.

If its inconvenient to leave them in a place without disturbance, lay out and take lots of photos.  Look at the photos and decide if any changed should be made.   The look is completely changed again by removing the leaf rosettes and replacing them with combinations of floral.

Believe it or not this is a fun process and should not be rushed.  Enjoy.  Ask others what they think.  Its always good listening to other ideas.

Also think of the bedroom, the bed, furniture and flooring.  If in doubt take your work and lay out on the bed.   Get a real feel for the design, the colour balance and the ultimate look that appeals to you.

Do not be in a rush to sew together.

My next blog will take the design a step further.

Take a peep at
www.patchworktemplates.com for more information and ideas.