A most marvellous year with a somewhat crappy ending….

homemade mincepies

I hope you all had lovely Christmases, most festive Yuletides, Winter celebrations warm and merry, in the company of loved ones be they family,friends or furry and fluffy ones (and by that I mean animals rather than anyone particularly beardy)…

I can’t quite believe it’s the end of another year, this year more than any other I shake my head and wonder where on earth the time has gone….and I think that is one of the really nice things about keeping a blog, you have the chance to look back, not just skimming over notes,scribbles  or entries in a written diary (mine always end up looking like they’ve been written by Prince Charles with his spidery old scrawl), but you also have the picture prompts and straight away I’m remembering how cold we were that day going for a walk, the smell of the horses in the field, the taste of that elderflower cordial….

I always enjoy looking back at what I’ve been up to, not in a maudlin old way but remembering the high points, the happy times, the taste of jam made from hedgerow fruits and finding the kitchen invaded by the kittens from next door…….

So I’ve put the kettle on, made a pot of tea and am happily looking back and remembering the past 12 months……

January was all cold mornings, we had some pretty heavy frosts where the broccoli and herbs looked quite other worldy covered with a delicate silvery frost, and the marshes down the road flooded which was quite exciting when we went out for our Boxing Day walk…..I was determined to sort out the sides of my granny’s paperweight crochet blanket and made umpteen half hexagons to fit in the gaps on the top and bottom, actually I got right carried away making them and had enough to fill all the sides for a scarf I’d also been working on….another walk saw three graceful swans which were making no end of row as they were eating and snuffling about in the river, then bottoms tipped up, one, two then all three at once…

I got into my head to make a couple of cushions using the same crochet pattern and made two fronts….a year later they’re still waiting to be finished so that’s somethng on the New Year’s to do list….I also had a good tidy up in my work room and found some old floral embroidery testers I’d made a couple of years back.

I spent some Christmas money and bought Felicity Ford’s excellent Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook which is a wonderful and inspirational resource, it’s really to help you plan and design stranded colourwork but I found it a great read for patchwork planning too…

The first part of Februarysaw me still tidying up my work room, it never seems to take long to get all pickly and this time tidying I tried to make sure all the tins and boxes were opened to see what treasures were hidden away…and I found more embroidered samplers, some inspired more by beautiful fairisle jumpsers and tank tops than traditional embroidery samplers….the weather was still cold, we had some proper heavy frosts and the marshes seemed constantly half hidden under a low laying mist…baking cakes for Sunday afternoon tea and pack up is always part of my routine of a weekend, and never more so than in the Winter where a fat slice of cup seems much more appreciated with a cup of tea.

I bought a huge bundle of beautiful coloured tapestry wool, the little skeins were 10 pence each and the happiness a huge pile of them turned out on my worktable gives me is priceless., and some new to me vintage sewing needles, these what I prefer to use when I’m hand sewing, they seem to bend less and the points keep sharper……I also un-ravelled a whole load of crochet squares, I’d trimmed them with white originally but I decided I’d rather a blanket to match my granny square crochet scarf….

My boyfriend’s birthday is in February and one of the presents I made him was a tweed cycling hat, the pattern is by The Little Package company and both styles of hat are so nice to make….

For me the most exciting part of February was being asked to design a pair of baby quilts for one of my friends….lovely Darren who has The Little  Red Roaster (Norwich’s best coffee shop) is having twins and he wanted two quilts made for the new arrivals….

 

At the start of March new neighbours moved in next door and within a few days we met their two little cats, Bob and Izzy soon became regular visitors in our garden and although at first Bernard was a bit wary of them, he soon became great chums with Bob…most mornings start with a nose rub greeting, quick bottom sniff then Bernard and Bob wash each other….Izzy gets the odd look in.

The weather is getting nicer, blossoms and catkins seem to be out earlier that usual, and on days when it’s not too cold we head up to Little Tinkers, a small horse and donkey sanctuary which is just up the road, we tend to go the long route which is over the marshes so we’re generally quite out of puff and rather muddy when we get there.  I love the donkey’s and would one day dearly love one of mine own, but for now I’m happy to cuddle this gorgeous one, so friendly and loved being scritched behind the ears.

I found an old copy of Cold Comfort Farm in a local charity shop, it’s been on my must read lists for the longest time…..it’s so funny and very good reading.

Bread gets baked a couple of times a week and I use a natural starter that my friend Daisy gave me, it makes for a good, robust loaf which isn’t heavy and which smells so nice and homey.  I even used the natural starter to make hot cross buns which came out perfectly….the kitchen always smells wonderful on baking day.

Most of the month has been spent working on the quilts, designing the patchwork tops and choosing fabrics…sometimes having free rein is a bit overwhelming so Auntie Ally said Kate (Mrs Darren) liked stars…after that the designing was much easier.  To help me with the patchwork I painted up a series of patterened papers so I was able to make little paper patchworks…..playing really with moving the papers around, but I was able to see the designs much clearer than with just plain coloured shapes.

Spring has most definitely sprung, everywhere in the garden there are bursts and pops of bright colours….the cherry tree is a riot of gaudy pink, the raised beds are edged in soft blue smudges of forget-me-nots and cats eye speedwell….golden dandelions grow up alongside alpine strawberries through the cracks on the the patio paving and garden path….sitting out on the back door step often seems the nicest place to be.

Early morning sunshine is streaming in through my work room window and I pin up some patchwork as I prefer the softer, muted light this gives…I also like the shadows that some crocheted garlands cast.  Work on the quilts is progressing nicely, all the patchwork piecing and quilting is sewn by hand, so these were never going to be weekend makes…..holding the quilted tops up in the sunlight and the pieced fronts show through, all ghostly and reminding me of stained glass.

The bread proves and rises outside now, covered with a tea towel and placed in a warm spot, a few loaves get the odd poke from a curious paw but then cats are curious…..Izzy likes to hide up under our sprouting broccoli, she runs and sits there as soon as I open the back door, some days she lets me tickle her, stroke her face and ears, other days she’s back over the fence in a flash or peeps at me from around flower pots and watering cans.

One of my favourite walks each year is up the road to our local university, the woods that edge it’s grounds are a fair treat for the eye when the bluebells are in flower…the air becomes heavy and fragrant, and the scent of the bluebells soon has me all heavy eyes and sleepy…..I never fail to gasp as we turn the corner and our eyes are just flooded, overwhelmed with the most intense blue…….truly breath taking.

The forget-me-nots fill every spare bit of ground in the garden, huge swaithes of blue cover path and step edges.  Occaisonally a cat darts out from under it’s floral bower, disturbing any bees that may be taking their breakfast.  Flowers in the garden inspire me to embroider  lavender bags, made from an old linen shirt from Anne that I’ve tea dyed and weathered.

The quilts are finished, as the binding is carefully stitched into place, I say my goodbyes, wish good things and so much happiness for the twins…and I can’t help but wonder about how these quilts will journey, become snuggle blankets and sleeping comforts, toy beds for their favourite dolls, maybe be taken away to university, and one day get tucked around their own sleeping babes…….I’m a daft old thing and get very sentimental about my quilts.

I finally find some skinny coat hangers in a “tat” box at a charity shop so I can make dottie angels happy hanger tutorial….it’s nice for my fingers to work now with yarn and a hook rather than a needle and thread…..

Bernard is enjoyng the sunshine and warmer weather, he tends to nap upstairs, snuggling then stretching out on the quilt and blanket we have on our bed…..often you can hear him snoring while he sleeps, from time to tie his paws twitch….what do you dream of little trumpster.

Sadly this month I lost one of my oldest friends, my dear Rupert who was in his eighties and who I’ve known for some thirty odd years…him and his wife have been like grand-parents to me and my sisters and he had the best sense of humour of anyone I’ve ever met….their kitchen all pipe smoke and warm, a place of comfort with the kettle on for tea and a plate full of biscuits produced before your coat is barely off……

June sees the first of the hedgerow harvesting, baskets filled to the brim with billowy white clouds of elderflower blossom to make the sweetest cordial…even Bernard is half intoxicated by the sweet scent (picked while the blossom is all powdery and pollen rich, and before it begins to smell like tom cat pee)…the cordial it makes is so refreshing, and the bottles I make don’t last us 5 minutes.

The sourdough bread swells and grows enormous in the Summer, often looking more like neolithic fertility figurines than a loaf of bread….

The tiny wild strawberries in the garden are growing up everywhere, tiny berries which seem to taste different from plant to plant are scattered over yoghurts or are tumbled over puddings in the evening.

A plate of sausage rolls are made for my pastry fiend with tiny little leaves on top…

The meadows and pastures over the marsh are so abundant and full with flowers, and the colours seem to change from week to week…..one morning the fields are all golden with marsh buttercups and yellow rattle, a few days later a fine spread of ragged robin and rose bay willow herb….the wild flowers I’m seeing continue to inspire me with my botanical embroideries, generally I use vintage silks sourced from a local antique shop which sells all sorts of truck…most days see me head out for a slow amble over the marshes which are now sucha feast for the senses, the colours are glorious, the smell of the blossom is lovely and the sound of bird song and buzzing bees very soft and lulling …..

I also become somewhat obsessed with paper piecing hexagons…no piece of scrap fabric is safe and some thousand odd of tiny fabric wrapped papers are made and are sewn together with a series of small stitches… numerous cushions begin to appear on the sofa.

July was hot, a proper scorcher….. by mid-morning I felt all drowsy and and slow, cold drinks and sitting somewhere shady with Bernard seemed to fill my days.

The chives in the garden all flowered at once, huge purple pompoms of blossom which I used to flavour sandwiches or sprinkle on top of goats cheese pizzas.

Just down the road there are huge marchmallow plants, each year they get taller and talle and this year they were taller than me, huge blossoms of the softest lavender.

I bought a bag of the most brilliant blue threads, shiny silks that sew through linen like butter.

Last month I made hexagons, this month I can’t stop making ice-creams, slowly stiring egg rich custards and mixing in cherries from the wild trees just down the lane, or gooseberries from Jan’s allotment…..I made a lovely raspberry sorbet with last years berries I found lurking in the back of the freezer and even a small handful of the wild strawberries make an ice-cream so good I close my eyes and remember Summers spent down at the beach in Southwold.

We bought some little panibois “tins” to bake smaller loaves of bread in….oh my goodness, these are so nice to use and I felt all “artisan” and proper bakery when I opened the oven door and saw such pretty loaves baking in them.

Everything in the garden is green and growing, the beans almost grow while you watch them, and the lettuces are coming up as fast as I can eat them.

August too was hot and humid, nights were spent feeling all frazzled under a sheet and hoping that Bernard wouldn’t jump and cuddle leaving me feeling all sticky and sweaty when I woke in the mornings…..

The headgerows are fair heaving already with ripening harvests, most saunters out see me return with a basket filled with something to cook with….mirabelle plums and blackberries are picked and slowly covered with sugar and vodka to make warming Winter tipples…..

This was also the year I tried my hand at pickling walnuts …..I picked the walnuts too late so they weren’t a great success but I’ll have another go in 2016…..the Autumn Bliss raspberries in the garden are coming on a treat, already they are swollen and deep red, delicious picked all warm and popped straight into my mouth.

August also saw the start of my dress making obsession…I think I made about 7 dresses in around 3 maybe 4 weeks, I used the dottie angel pattern by Simplicity…..I tinkered a bit with the pattern so it fit me better, I guess I’m a bit of an odd shape as I have quite wide shoulders and a broad back but I’m a bit hollowed chested and the original pattern wasn’t doing me any favours…however post tinker and I’m very happy and every time I wear one of these dresses it gets a compliment.  Where possible I’ve tried to use vintage threads and notions when I’ve made the dresses (my darling boy bought me some vintage dressmaking tools for Christmas 2014 so I got to use those while drafting the pattern) and two dresses have been made from silky feeling sixties prints.

I also was nominated in August for a Liebster award, this was my first blog award and I really was quite chuffed….Zeens and Roger who nominated me probably didn’t expect quite the lengthy old answers that I gave but while writing them I unknowingly planted a seed that would soon come to fruition……

It seemed the sunshine was never going to end, September had some really glorious days, and often I’d start the day with a cup of tea sitting on the back door step with Bernard and Bob from next door keeping me company.

The little crab apple trees just up the road seemed their fullest ever, and I made several trips with my shopping basket in hand to pick the beautiful coral and salmon coloured fruits….where as last year there was such a bounty here of blackberries I wasin danger of turning into one myself, this year hasn’t been no where near as good, but the silver lining has meant I’ve looked elsewhere for fruits to make jam…..the hedgerows round abouts where i live are so laden with wild fruits, rosehips, and haws, rowans, elder berries and wildling apples and crabby ones……all delicious in jams and jellies and syryps.

One of the first jellies I’ve made was an apple one flavoured with vinegar and herbs from the garden…this was used to make the nicest vegetarian gravies I’ve ever tasted…..the jellies using just hedgerow fruit are very citrussy and are ideal as breakfast preserves.

I finally finished two projects which had taken a little while to complete….first up a knititng bag made form no end of hand pieced hexagons….it’s nice and roomy and has pockets inside…..second was a grannnies paperweight crochet scarf which I’ve been working on for ,oh I don’t know how many years…a good few at any rate…..it reminds me of richly embroidered velvet coat collars by Paul Poiret and I love it…..I spent so much of this month secretly wishing for the weather to turn so I could start wearing it.

 

Oh October….you are my most favourite month…partly because my birthday is in October (yep, I’m that shallow) but even when it’s all wet wild and windy I love the changes this month brings…..the man with the roast nuts barrow sets up stall on London Street, the smell wafts all the way down to Jarrolds where you turn the corner and know Autumni s well and truly here…..

More jellies were made, this time using some foraged japonica quinces which I left in a bowl in the parlour to ripen up…opening the door each morning and the sherbety aroma was so uplifting and smile inducing…..I also made some soothing syrups as I always end up with a crocky old throat come Christmas….some of the foraged finds bought home possibly the teeniest weeniest little old snail I think I’ve ever seen…I know he’s just going to eat all our veg but I didn’t have the heart to squish him…but instead allowed him to “run” or slide free behind the compost bin.

Izzy from next door had babies in the Summer and her four kittens have been running amok in the garden…carefully planted seedlings have been upturned, chewed, covered with earth while the kittens themselves have been making most merry…poor old Bernard hasn’t known what to make of them, and often comes running down the path as the tiny tots are in full pursuit.

A little more tinkering with the dottie frock pattern, this time splitting the bodice from the skirt and inserting side pockets…. I’m so happy with this pattern and am finding a pocket to be perfect for my hankies.

The little seed planted back in August began to grow, and I picked up my knitting needles…I’ve been able to knit for a few years but only simple scarves, and dishclothes…nothing more fancy than that….but I kept thinking about wishing I could knit better and decided I didn’t need a fairy godmother ot wave a magic wand.  This was something I could do myself….so I began to practise, small samples/swatches with stitches chosen from an old Harmony guide…suddenly I was knitting, slipping stitches, passing them over, knitting two together…I even dabbled with cables…..and then I fell in love, completely hook line and sinker…I saw this gorgeous gorgeous shawl on Instagram and wanted it so bad…I was on the verge of asking a friend to knit it for me then thought no, I would do it myself……mistakes have been made, stitches un-knitted, full rows un-ravelled but oh how proud I have felt, watching the stitches slowly grow……thank you so much Zeens and Roger and Buttercup and Bee for those original Liebster questions.

Oh, and I got nominated for another blog award, this time by Sharon over at Creativity and Family.

 

November is suddenly upon me and all I can think of is my knitting….at the same time I find out about Wovember and a British Breed KAL over on Ravelry by Louise of Knit British … I’m setting my alarm earlier and earlier to enjoy my quiet time knitting on the sofa with Bernard all snuggled up next to me, often with his head on the wool. I’ve become a wool convert and love the warm scent of my sheepy Shetland wool.

I finished the shawl and when I attempt to fling it around my shoulders half near strangle myself to death…..I re-check the pattern and realize my gauge or tension is way off so if I want to wear the shawl without doing myself a permanent mischief I’ll need to unknit it and start again ……oddly this doesn’t make me sob my heart out, but instead I know I can do it…the feeling of knowing I can do it is just wonderful.

Then it’s a mad flourry as the Christmas fairs are now starting, work days start while the lark is still sleeping and commssions for stockings are posted off…..I start to make a toy for on eof my little nieces birthdays but realize it won’t be ready so will have to be a Chrtstmas gift instead…..

Just down the road there is a beautiful rowan tree with pale pink berries, even when I’m super stressed and have 101 things to do, stopping and looking at it never fails to make me smile and feel a little calmer.

And so the year is nearly over……December started with two busy craft fairs and then a series of commissions, family came to visit, a cat toy needed to be made (complete with teeny dottie angle frock and a green cardigan)and slowly burning the candle both ends began to take it’s toll…a prickly throat soon became a nasty cold and laryngitis but then worse of all our beloved Bernard (the trumpiest and sleepiest cat ever) had a nasty lump come up under his paw……an overnight stay at the vets and an operation has meant it’s all been a very fraught here.  Everyone’s kind comments when I wrote about him being ill has meant so much to me….the kindness of strangers and internet friends never fails to amaze.

Finding time to knit has been my escape from all the worry and fears*….the shawl has been un-ravelled, I did that Christmas Day afternoon, and it’s slowly being re-knitted on rather larger needles….(plenty of swatching for the correct tension was done before hand) the wool smells so sheepy and comforting, and where as in the past Bernard has pinched yarn or tapesty wool, he’s been very respectful of my shawl wool…I think he’s enjoying the scent as much as me and will happily rest the tip of his nose against the ball of wool….I’ve also started making plans for a second shawl, thinking about how I can change the cloverleaf pattern so I don’t have two shawls quite the same….

So I’m wishing you all a very peaceful 2016, with lots of good times and laughter and health and happiness….

*We got the results of the biopsy late Christmas Eve, and I’m afraid to say it wasn’t good news, the lump they removed proved positive and the cancer is the sort that will return…We have to go back to the vets next Thursday to talk over the options on future treatments so for now he’s being spoilt rotten like you wouldn’t believe.

A vintage style patchwork knitting bag…….

a vintage style knitting bag

At the start of the Summer I had a brief and rather passionate fling with hexagon paper piecing, sewing them seemed to fill every moment and I became somewhat obsessed and after umpteen cushions had been sewn then thought to make myself a big, fling it across my shoulders tote bag, sadly what in my head looked amazing, in reality was rather pants, so after some colourful language I unpicked the pieces and thought about using the patchwork for a granny style knitting bag (I’ve already got 3 but I really like this type of bag and the ones I have are all full with different works in progress that will one day maybe get finished……)

I wanted to make a nice big bag that along with whatever I was knitting, would also accommodate a book, and a few sewing/knitting supplies.

lay the pattern on your patchwork

After drafting up what I felt was a decent size bag I then set about making sure the hexagon patchwork  I’d already pieced would be big enough, and then sewed together hexagons for a back to match.

I had some striped fabric that was possibly mattress ticking (no doubt car boot treasure which I’d been saving to one side), which I thought would be nice and sturdy for lining, and which would give a bit of weight to the bag.

To stop my paper pattern from flying about I use large washers that I bought from my local ironmongers, they’re about 20 pence each and are surprisingly heavy, they’re about 2 inches square so aren’t huge but do the job (and super cheap to boot).

hand pieced patchwork for a knitting bag

You’ll need to cut two pieces for the outside of the bag and then two pieces the same size for the lining.  I included a half inch seam allowance in my pattern.

pin the pocket section to the lining

Because I’m always losing stitch markers and those rubbery things you stick on the top of knitting needles to stop them poking you in the eye or whatever, I thought I’d include some pockets in my bag…..this is pretty much what I do when I make a tote/market bag else I’m constantly having to delve down in the bottom of my bag and feel rather like James Herriot.

My pockets are about 8 inches deep, along the top of each I’ve hand sewn some grey binding so it looks a bit neater than just turning the seam over. (though I could have done that and then sewn binding along the back)

One of the pockets I’ve divided into 3 and the other by 2, just pin equal distances along from the edges and sew up  from the bottom to where the binding is sewn.  I followed the lines on the fabric but if you use a non striped fabric then maybe you’ll want to pencil in a sewing line. (I also just pinned the fabric around the outside to stop it wiggling about too much while I was sewing.)

pin the lining sections together

Lay the 2 lining section together with the pocket sides facing each other, pin them together, and measure up about 12 inches.  This is how far up you’ll want to pin your sides. (if you click the picture to make it bigger, you’ll see that there is a pin placed horizontally along the side where your sewing will need to start and end.)

measure up about 12 inches from the bottom

Now do exactly the same for the main fabric of your bag, right sides together and pin around the outside edge.

cut out notches from around the edges

Once both pieces have been sewn you’ll need to cut little notches around the sewn edge, this gives the edge a smoother and neater look when you turn the bag inside out.

It’s not really necessary to do this for the lining although I found because my lining fabric was quite heavy it needed it but if you’re using a light weight fabric then I don’t think you’d need to do it.)

Whenever I’m cutting notches I use a pair of button hole scissors from Merchant and Mills…these are totally brilliant scissors which have a fat and stubby blade so you can’t get carried away and cut out huge pieces from your work.  Honestly, as far as I’m concerned these scissors are worth their weight in gold, I use mine all the time.

pin around the edges

Turn the main fabric “bag” inside out and pin the edges out around where you’ve sewn, some of the patchwork may be a bit on the stiff side so you’ll need to shove your hand in and nudge out the edge with your fingers.

For the top where you haven’t sewn, fold over about half an inch and pin the edges over.

tack around the edges of the bag

After the edges have been pinned you’ll want to tack or baste the sides and edges.  I prefer to use one colour for the edge where I’ve sewn and then a different colour for the top edges.  (if you click on the image you’ll see I’ve used pink for the main body and then blue thread for the tops…this just makes it easier when I un-pick the stitches.)

Cover the patchwork with a cloth and give it a press.  (my fabric was a proper jumble, wool, cotton, silk, synthetic, covering it with a cloth just protected the fabric and also my iron.)

One the bag is pressed, un-pick the tacking from the main body (the pink thread.) but leave the thread in place that is keeping the top sides in position.

pockets

You also need to pin and stitch the top sections of the lining but don’t turn it inside out.  Make sure you pin and tack the sides so the raw edge is sewn against the back.  The pockets will be facing forwards.

If you squish the lining bag out a bit you’ll see how the pockets form.

pin the lining in place

Place the lining in to the main fabric bag, line up the edges and where they meet pin into place (I’ve used a pin horizontally in the picture)….. then pin the top sides together, working upwards from the horizontal pin.

If the sides don’t quite match and the two top edges of the bag don’t lay flat together you may need to un-pick the turned sides of the lining and just adjust them so that the top section lays flat.

pin some binding over the patchwork edge

Along the edge of the patchwork I like to just sew a piece of binding to protect the edge.  In part it’s because the patchwork is hand sewn and where it’s cut to form the shape of the bag it’s easy for the stitching to come un-done, it also gives a bit more security to this part of the bag (it’s where it goes through the slit in the handle).

hand sew the binding over the patchwork edge

And then just sew the binding in place.  You don’t need to sew in a big piece, maybe 4 inches at most.

I’ve not used it on the lining fabric as that is proper sturdy being a type of mattress ticking.

feed the fabric through the handle

Slide the top of the outer fabric through the slit in the bag handle.

I find it easier at this point to lay the washers or weights on top of the handle to keep the fabric in place.

You can also see where the binding is supporting the edge of the patchwork.

pin the lining into position

Fold over the lining and pin it in place along where the main fabric is folded.

If it’s a bit wiggly it doesn’t matter at this stage, you can adjust it so it looks neater once both sides are pinned.

pin around the lining inside the bag

Pin the pieces all together and check that everything is laying straight and that the bag is hanging right before you begin sewing.

I find it’s easiest to un-pin the two sides of the back (or front) before sewing the handle section, that way my hand can slide in and I can check I’m not sewing through too many layers of fabric.  I use a small whip stitch like when I’m hand piecing over papers.

check it sits neatly before sewing

Once both handles are sewn and I’ve checked that the bag is hanging nicely, I then whip stitch the sides together, sewing up from the centre where I placed the horizontal pin up to about an inch from the wooden handle (this allows the handle a little room and the bag will swing nicely when filled with wool.)

ready to fill with wool and needles

Once the sides are sewn together you’re all ready to fill your bag with wool and needles (and a packet of Werther’s Originals will fit nicely into one of those pockets).

These are a few of my car boot needles, lovely wooden needles that make a calming and resonant clickety clack when I’m knitting with them.

The wool is from my lovely local knitting shop and is a wonderfully soft blend of alpaca and Peruvian highland wool, which I’m planing to knit up in to a nice big scarf as soon as I can make my mind up on a suitable pattern (I’ve got three skeins in an aran weight  and am thinking I may be needing more as I prefer a scarf that really can be wrapped round that one extra time.)

Patchwork, pockets and double blast when it all goes wrong…………

Over the past month or so I’ve been busy sewing together lots of small hexagons using the English Paper Piecing method, this has kept me well and truly out of mischief as it’s not the fastest sewing in the world, but it’s nicely portable… sitting on the back door step with a pot of tea one side and a basket full of little hexagons to sew together the other is a perfect way to spend a Summery afternoon…and if Bernard comes along and stretches out over my feet, well so much the better.

The only downside to these little hexagons is that they’re mightily addictive and as I’d already sewn bunting with them, and a notebook/ringbinder cover ,pincushions and numerous cushions I was wondering what else to make when a little light bulb switched on overhead and I thought to make a big tote style bag for when I go into town and get our vegetables.

At this point I think I’d better say what the bag looked like in my head and what it looked like in reality was very very different….”dream” bag looked beautiful and wafted granny chic goodness…the bag I made looked too fussy and made me want to cry because I’d spent so long making it…..even when I showed my boyfriend I could tell from his expression he didn’t know whether to laugh or to console my tears…..anyway, the bag is now about halfway through being un-picked and before you say “but it looks fine” in real life I think you’d be mumbling to yourself “goodness if I say I like it she might gift it to me and then she’d expect me to use it…I think I should have used the patchwork to make a granny style knitting bag, and a large piece of the patchwork is proving to be salvageable.

So what went wrong….I think I tried to do too much with something that was already a bit fussy.  A couple of years back I bought some old dresser cloths from a car boot that were a bit tatty and stained in the middle but which had beautifully crocheted lace edges, I’d cut out the offending middle but had kept the crocheted lace.  In my head this was going to look really delicate as a side detail, the lace peeking out between the two sides…..on a pin cushion or needle case, maybe even a book cover it would look really good, but it was too much on the bag…then I cornered in the bottom of the bag so it would have a deep gusset (shudder…I just hate that word) and instead of looking all neat like other bags I’ve made, it just looked bulky because of the crocheted edging hunching all up underneath.

Anyway, I did want to just show how I did a couple of things that I’ll use again but for different projects….

sewing on vintage trimming

First up is sewing along the vintage crochet trim….from sewing the cushions I had a pretty good idea of where I needed to sew along the hexagon edges to join them, (sadly you do get a bit of wastage when you sew squares out of hexagons)….I cut the linen that the crocheted trim was worked on to about 1/4 of an inch and then used this as a guide to pin then tack into place the trimming…I didn’t want any of the linen itself to poke out between the side, but only the crochet lace.  When the patchwork was turned over this gave a nice straight line that was good to have when I sewed the two sides of the bag together.

And while this really was too much on a bag, I think it would look nice on the side of a much smaller project.

fold over twice and pin down before sewing

In the big bag I use at the moment I am forever having to rummage around in the bottom of my bag for a pen or for my phone, for the “dream bag” I thought I’d be all fancy and make a pocket with an elasticated top to hold small things that would be nice and near to hand.

My pocket shape was pretty generously cut, about 10 inches or so across, then I folded over about a 1/2 inch and then another 1/2 so the raw edge was tucked right under in the middle.  A few pins to keep all in place and then sew along both the top then bottom edge of the seam.

thread through and secure elastic

I find this to be the easiest way to sew in elastic…

Don’t cut the elastic, just use it as is straight off the cardboard….poke the elastic through the seam until it pops it’s head out the other end and then pin it in place.

Sew over the end a few times on the sewing machine.

gather along elastic then secure end

Now gather the fabric along the elastic, runching it up until the top[ of the pocket is as wide as you’d like it to be.  I left mine about 61/2 inches wide.  Pin the elastic through the fabric at the end and then sew over the edge a few times so that the elastic is held nice and secure in place.

Now you can trim the reel of elastic away.

fold edges over and pin before tacking

Pin the raw edges of the pocket over, about 1/2 an inch.  I prefer to tack or baste the pocket, press the seam then pin it into place on my bag.  I find this makes the pocket edge look a bit neater.

Sewing the elastic in while it’s still on it’s cardboard reel seems a bit odd at first but I now find it a lot less fiddly and also you end up using only the amount of elastic you need.

finished bag

And this was the finished bag……it’s not the worse thing I’ve ever made but it really didn’t come out how I wanted it to so I was rather disappointed.  (I think my boyfriend felt the time wasted on it could have been spent more wisely on doing house work!)

It’s not the end of the world, as I say I can still use most of the patchwork and the un-picked pieces can be made into another bag, it’s just double blast annoying as I spent quite a lot of time pfaffing and fannying around getting it all right only for it to look rather pants.

Too many colours and too many textures….too much for some but perfect for me.

using a light weight interface on the back of silky fabrics

In between feasting on home-made ice-creams and sorbets  (all in an attempt to keep cool rather than me being a greedy pig), I’ve been sewing more little hexagons together for another cushion (though I’m also thinking about making a new bag using any which are leftover)…I found up another scrap bag which was home to some pieces of blanket silk, soft subtle shades which had originally been used to trim the edges of vintage blankets which I’d cut off when I was using the wool fabric for Christmas stockings and hot water bottles…

Rather than throw pieces away I’d just been tucking them away (for a rainy day or for when you never know when they might come in handy)…I tried making them into hexagons because the different coloured silk were a beautiful vintage palette, however the silk was quite fragile and started to split and tear as I began to join it…..I’m not one for giving up that easily though so bought a piece of a medium weight iron on interfacing and carefully positioned all the cut silks shapes onto the Vilene and just pressed them together with a low set iron…..the hexagons are a little puffy but I quite like the effect, and it means I can use up pieces that would otherwise have been made into stuffings (which was a shame to do when the fabric was so pretty).

mixing prints and fabric textures and weights

This new piece of patchwork is a proper old jumble of fabrics, no end of different patterns, prints, colours and then there are the different textures, lightweight tweeds, barkcloth, cotton, silks and satins, soft feeling chintzes and brushed cottons…

My favourite part of the day is first light, sewing when it’s early, when the shade and sunshine is dappled and dancing over my work table…sometimes I’m joined by Bernard, other times himself is still asleep and he’s all sprawled out on the bed, faintly snoring and wiggling his paws while he dreams.

a complete jumble of textures and prints

I love how this patchwork of hexagons is coming together, I know it’s not for everyone, too many colours, too many textures, too much of everything…and then the time…hand sewing is always a bit slow…it’s not a fast way of working, even though the hexagons are reasonably haphazard where they fall, some are moved along, nudged over to where they shine and sparkle a little bit brighter.

It’s fun to play, tipping out a work basket full of fabric wrapped papers and spreading them out over the carpet….it reminds me of rainy afternoons when me and my sisters were small and we’d set out a huge jigsaw puzzle on the table or carpet, it would keep us quiet for hours on end….I’m very aware of when I’m hand sewing I’m less talky, concentrating on the stitching rather than chitter chatter and nonsense …(I’m the first to admit I’m no Jane Austen heroine but instead know myself to be Miss Bates)…..

A hexagon how to without sewing through the papers…..

threaded needles

What can I say…it’s like an addiction, little 2 inch wide hexagons have started to take over all and everything…there is a pile of ironing draped over the bannisters upstairs that is threatening to tumble at any moment and a list of chores as long as my arm but all I want to do is make hexagons and sew them together…..

I’ve become like those ladies at Bingo with all their cards spread out before them…instead of cards though it’s umpteen needles all threaded up with different coloured basting and tacking threads, to keep stopping and starting to thread a needle is an interruption to the hexagons so I like to thread up nearly two dozen assorted “sharps” and applique needles and pin them to the cloth on my sewing table…nothing is coming between me and my hexagons.

pin over the first corner

The other day I wrote about how I like to empty out a scrap box of fabric and make hexagons from a proper old assortment of prints and fabrics…..for the most part I don’t fuss too much about ironing the fabric first, I’m happy to just pin and cut round the papers.

When I sew the fabric around my papers I do it a bit differently from how you may have seen other people do it, I don’t sew through the papers but just through the fabric. I don’t have any problems with the hexagons dropping out while I’m working and it saves me the bother of having to un-pick all those tacking stitches.  For the most part I use a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance, veering towards 5/8 of an inch, but even then it’s only guessed at.

I wrote about this briefly the other day but was later asked if I could explain how I sew the hexagons in place so that they aren’t loose and liable to drop out when you pick them up….

I start off placing a hexagon on the fabric, pin though the centre and cut around the fabric leaving the seam allowance…..then fold the fabric over one side of the paper shape and then carefully down over from the top, you want the fabric nice and tight around the paper…and then pin into place, going through both the paper and fabric.  Depending on the type of fabric I’ll sometimes pin every other corner or even every corner if it’s particularly slippery fabric…..however after a while of making the hexagons, you may find for some fabrics you don’t need to pin all the corners but instead can fold the fabric over as you sew round….always pin the first corner though as it keeps the fabric that bit more secure. (it also helps if you have long nails to hold the fabric in place…if not you may find using pins easier)

fold and hold corner into place

Fold the fabric down along the top edge and the bring the fabric over from the side so you have a second corner covered, hold the fabric securely with your thumb nail (apologies for my grubby nails but I’d been weeding earlier in the day)…just like before, you want the fabric to be nice and tight around the paper template.

secure the fold with a series of small stitches

Using a fine sharp needle make a series of small stitches through the layers of fabric but not thought the paper to hold the corner seam in place….

make the stiches as small as you can

Start at the bottom of the fold and carefully make 3 or 4 stitches upwards to the top of the fold…try to use small stitches and insert your needle almost directly under the line of where the fold edge lays….work up to the top and then make one or two stitches back down to the bottom again….keep working round in this manner.

Keep the end pin in place until you are ready to sew the last corner, and keep the central pin in place until the last corner is actually sewn.

finished patchwork hexagon

As you sew the fabric, the hexagon is rotated clockwise however as you move your hands it feels like you are working anti-clockwise so it feels a bit odd to begin with.

Using really sharp and fine needles does help a lot as does using good quality tacking thread….I tend to favour vintage cotton thread as that seems to be less tangley, but more often than not I just pick out what thread is in my sewing basket.

I also find it easier to use a contrasting coloured thread to the fabric so I can see my stitches easier.

For hexagons that have sides wider than an inch, you may like to run your thread along the fabric in a series of small running stitches, still avoiding going through the papers.

I’ve found this method works fine on hexagons with sides of up to 2 inches (4 inches wide across the centre of the hexagon)…when they get bigger than that then you may prefer the security of sewing though the papers themselves as the sides do begin to gape a little.

It’s also better for your needles, we all know cutting paper with fabric scissors will blunt them quicker than anything so sewing through all the papers can’t be good for needles, some needles can be sharpened in a bag of emery but the Clover Black Gold ones won’t like that treatment one bit (the black coating comes off…..

Chintzes, silks, psychedelic nylons, worn pinnies and caravan curtains……

patchwork sewing outdoors

Yesterday was gorgeous, after a weekend of rain and a gloomy, overcast start to the week, the sun shone and it was so nice and sunny that me and Bernard spent most of the day out in the garden doing some sewing (okay, he wasn’t sewing, but instead curled up on my lap which felt somewhat like having a hot water bottle on my knees as he’s a very warm kitty)……I’ve become rather obsessed now with making more hexagons, the cushions from last week were intended as a way to use up the hexagons I’d found whilest tidying but as they began running out I couldn’t help myself and began to make more…..

One of the many things I love about making hexagons is that they are so portable which is why I sat out in the garden slowly turning pink with a pile of pinned papers on the little table in front of me…..and Bernard much prefers me to hand sew when he’s all cuddled down on my lap…he’s not a fan of my sewing machine.

hexagons ready to make a square cushion

I finished up the third cushion cover, a big square one this time which will go on the nanny chair (Bernard was pulling the other two cushions about so I thought to make one for what is really his sulky chair….he tends to sit there when he’s not feeling so cuddly)…..such a mix of fabrics, colours, prints and patterns…..as always there are some proper favourites that I use a little of in nearly all my patchwork, but there are also fabrics used which normally I’d wrinkle my nose up at…just small pieces of prints I find less than appealing seem to work when they’re cut down and mixed in with a selection of fabric more in tune with my tastes.

When I’m hand sewing the patchwork for my quilts I’m really fussy about which fabric I’m using,  I tend to shy away from using “vintage” sheets as I find that a lot of them aren’t 100% cotton so don’t feel nice to sew or they bobble or the fabric has worn really thin….even though I’ve seen some really bright and cheery quilts made from them, using them isn’t for me….however their mix of print and gaudy colours is ideal when I’m lining Christmas Stockings or hot water bottles and have found small scraps of them work fine when I’m making hexagon patchwork….

I love the back as much as the front

And it’s not just old scraps of sheets that can be used, all those small pieces that aren’t big enough to dress a mouse with seem to be perfect for wrapping around a hexagon paper….I’ve used cottons and chintzes, silk edgings from vintage blankets, lining satins, polyester scraps from Sylvia which I think were originally pussy-cat bow blouses from the seventies, lightweight needle-cord, psychedelic nylons and bizarre folk patterned brushed cottons, fabrics that probably started out as curtains for a caravan and pieces from old and worn pinnies…..a mix of pattern, print, texture and weight……

I really like how the patchwork looks from the back…..I sew my hexagons a bit different in that I don’t sew through the paper template but instead stitch the fabric securely to itself at the corners, making a little pocket for the paper to sit…..the papers come out pretty easily and it’s a lot less pfaffy than having to cut all the basting stitches out….but also the hexagons keep nice and neat on the back, giving a bit more structure and stability to the patchwork as a whole.

hexagon cushions

These are the three cushions on some patchwork which is waiting to be basted (I bought some fabric at the start of the year for the backing but then decided to save it for when the dottie angel frock pattern becomes available*…..so need to re-think what to use for the back)

A lot of these are fabrics I wouldn’t dream of using for a quilt patchwork but I love how they combine together when sewn over papers….there’s something nice about about being able to use up pieces form a scrap bag and making something from nothing.

Using up scraps doesn’t end there…I hate putting things out, I think I’ve inherited this from my dad as he was a proper old hoarder, always telling me and my sisters as we were growing up “blast, don’t put that out, that’ll come in right handy”….so even when I’ve used up scraps to make the hexagons, tiny snippets from trimming round the papers get saved and used as cushion stuffing (my nanny used to use old pairs of tights and I can remember sitting with her on the sofa helping to chop up old laddered stockings for stuffing to make long sausages she’d put by the doors to stop winter drafts whistling in.)

I love how each cushion is different yet they sit together beautifully, they’ve all got fabrics in common but also have one or two exclusive to themselves.

*believe it’s September in the UK but is available now if you like in the US.

Fabric wrapped hexagons and using up each and every scrap……..

papers pinned to fabric

When I’m making my little hexagon patches I’m happy to use up scraps of fabric that on first glance look a bit ugly or fogey (that’s old fashioned in a bad way)….generally I empty out a scrap fabric box and pick out fabric in a willy nilly fashion, I have a pile of paper hexagons to one side and it’s often a case of just placing the paper onto the fabric, pinning it securely with a pin in the centre, followed by a quick trim round the edges.  As long as I leave at least 1/4 of an inch I’m happy, and more often than not there is a bit more than this.  (all the tiny bits that get cut off go into a big bag I save for stuffing which I use for pin-cushions or for cushions)

This is pretty quick to do and you’ll be amazed at how many you can get prepared like this in 15 or 20 minutes.  Some fabrics may need a bit of an iron over if they are super crunched and wrinkly, though I don’t tend to bother if I’m using cottons, older fabrics that are a bit synthetic will only need just a very light touch.

pinning fabric around paper pieces

Once I’ve got a nice pile of hexagons all prepared I start pinning the fabric around the hexagon’s corners.  I generally use a pin every other corner although if I’m using a particularly silky or slippy feeling fabric then I pin every corner.  (I’ve tried doing this with Clover Wonder Clips but they make a small hexagon feel very heavy so I’d suggest to leave those for sewing the hexagons together and to use pins to keep the fabric in position.)

When I’m sewing the fabric in place around the papers I try not to poke my needle all the way through the needle, instead I only sew through the folds of the fabric and use 4 or 5 tiny stitches to hold the fabric securely in place, the thread then passes along the back to the next corner.  It’s a bit more fiddly than sewing through the papers like some books suggest, however when all your hexagons are joined together you don’t have to pfaff about removing all the threads from the hexagons but can often just shake or pop them out. (and the stitches at the corner help keep the hexagon a neater shape and adds a bit more strength to the patchwork.

I’ve seen examples of really old paper pieced patchwork where the papers were left in and were sewn into the fabric,  the papers were then left in for extra warmth as these patchworks often weren’t quilted but just draped over the bed, so sewing the papers in securely makes sense for then, but I think nowadays you don’t have to do it like that.

I use bright coloured basting or tacking thread, often in contrasting colours to the fabric I’m sewing in place as I find it easier to see my stitches and am less likely to think I’ve caught a lose thread in from the fabric if it is fraying at all.

sewing threads and patchwork hexagons

When I’m piecing the hexagons together though I prefer to use vintage threads (I always test the strength first, pulling tout a little thread and giving it a bit of a tug between my fingers, threads that break too easily aren’t purchased), most books suggest using grey threads when you are using a variety of colours and although I am happy to use them I also like using shades of brown and salmon pink….I’ve found these blend in really well and although the odd stitch may show it’s not something I’m going to lose sleep over….the vintage threads I particularly like are silky ones that are smooth and fine, they slip through the hexagon edges like butter.

I find using the sharpest finest needle you can find makes paper piecing much easier, the best choice would be Clover Back Gold applique needles (they are a bit pricey, I think the last ones I bought were about £4.50 for 6 needles but they’re well worth the money and this is coming from someone who makes her own papers rather than spend the money on pre-cut ones…..I also like using vintage “sharps”…generally I find them to be sharper and stronger than most modern day needles and so skinny you can hardly feel them in your fingers.

I love hexagon piecing, it’s a great way of using up small scraps that I wouldn’t other wise consider using, even the most frightful print can find a home surrounded by prints from the sixties and seventies and modern day reproduction flour sack florals…..each scrap of fabric becomes precious, every fabric counts……I also like this method because it’s a really traditional English way of working patchwork, very different to the way patchwork tops were worked in America……

And apart from the traditional pin-cushion that I think every nanny’s sewing box held, I like using hexagons for other projects around the home too…I’ve listed a few of the things I’ve made below and hope they inspire you to make something yourself.

Traditional hexagon pin-cushion

English paper pieced hexagon bunting

Notebook or photo album cover

Hexagon patchwork cushion

I’ve woken today with very sore fingers tips caused by tiny pricklings of the needle (I do try and use a thimble but don’t always remember) so am now off to make some cold tea in which to soak my poor little fingers…(I read once that at the end of the day ballerinas soak their sore feet in bowls of cold tea….I tried it out on my hands after a hard days sewing when my hands really ached and my finger tips felt hot and puffy….a 10 minute soak worked marvels.)

Colour clash and patchwork for the sofa……………..

hand pieced patchwork cushion

This week I’ve been hand piecing hexagons over papers and have just finished making a pair of cushions for the sofa….in fact I’ve found sewing the hexagons together so addictive that I’m now well on the way to making a third cushion (I’m planing on making a big square cushion for the nanny chair as Bernard is already showing an interest in these ones…)

It’s a bit of a colour clash against the crochet blanket but I quite like that, the more colour on there the better in my book.

These came about from me having one of my many tidy ups (I start way more of them than I ever seem to finish) and in one basket I found a whole load of small hexagons (over 400 of them) and thought I should get on and do something with them…I’d pretty much said to myself that I wouldn’t start something new until I’d finished a few of the items in the pile of half made things in the bottom of the wardrobe and squeezed in amongst the shelves of fabric…but a little voice said these would definitely count towards finishing off a half started project……so after making two cushions and using up over half of the hexagons I feel I deserve a couple of gold stars for sure…..

fabric sewn over papers

The hexagons are all 2 inches wide (1 inch wide sides) and pretty much just use fabric from stash box hoards….some of the fabric is newish (I count anything from the last 15 years or so as new) and then there are fabrics which are older, most of these come from when two friends who had sewn for years gave me huge bags full of scraps accumulated over a lifetime of sewing…..there’s some car-boots pieces in there too, and I guess if you read my blog you’ll recognize several fabrics that turn up time and time again in my patchwork makes……

I don’t sew the fabric directly through the paper, instead I prefer to secure it at the corners and run the basting or tacking thread along the back, it sounds a bit fiddly but this works for me and I find it’s good because then I don’t have to take out any tacking stitches at the end.  The papers are held in place fine and don’t drop out like you’d think they would. and when I’m all finished then the papers can be popped out no trouble.

By themselves some of the fabrics are a bit….frumpy or fogey-fied (old fashioned in a bad way), but when they all get mixed together they look much better…also I think the prints look good because you only see a small part of them.

whip sttich the two pieces together using an applique needle

I’m cheap so I make my own papers, you can now buy hexagon paper punches which if you do a lot of English paper piecing would save you money in the long run, however I know Sew and Quilt now stock an amazing range of hexagon papers (and other shapes too if your maths isn’t up to drafting all those triangles and diamonds)….the paper piecing goes a lot easier if you use really fine and sharp “sharps” or applique needles….Clover Gold Eye are a favourite of mine, and I also keep a look out for vintage “sharps” as I find they’re lovely and strong and super super skinny.

I also like using Clover Wonder Clips, I’ve got the small size and they hold the hexagons together so well, a lot less prickly than trying to jiggle patchwork held together with pins*.

Start by clipping two hexagons together, and secure your thread with a few stitches along the back in one of the corners where the fabric is folded over on itself,  then whip stitch tiny stitches along one edge of the hexagons to join them together…when you get to the corner, work back down for a couple of stitches to secure the thread.

joining in a third hexagon

When you attach the third hexagon into place you start off like before, secure the thread into the back where the fabric is folded over on itself and use a wonder-clip at the end of the first edge of the hexagon to hold it into place and sew along the two touching sides, when you reach the end of that join, tuck the needle out of the way…..

secure the end while you begin sewing the second side

Then fix the wonder-clip into place so it keeps the second edge of the third hexagon secure, and now begin sewing tiny whipped stitches along this new edge.  The paper hexagons will fold really easily so you can bend them over in your hands as you are sewing along the edges.

start off with a cluster of seven hexagons

Keep joining the hexagons around the first shape until you have your first cluster of hexagons……at this point you can join two clusters together to make a very traditional pin cushion.  This is also how I made my hexagon bunting.

I really like to spread the hexagons all around where I’m working, I try to use as many different prints and patterns as possible and by spreading out and making a bit of a pickle, I get to see more of the available choices that are waiting to be picked up and sewn into place…..

sewing  hexagons around the outside edge

Keep working outwards, I prefer to piece until I’ve got a few rounds made before I fill in the sides, although sometimes I join up lots of smaller clusters together rather than making one big piece.  (If I’m on the train then making small 7 piece clusters is easier than manoeuvering about one big piece)…….

This was how I worked the hexagon wrap that I made my eldest sister the other year for her birthday….however because I want these hexagons for a big square cushion then I’m finding it easier to keeping working outwards until it’s the height I want….a couple more rounds and I think I’ll be there.

*when I’m sewing patchwork together like for “dear ethel” and aren’t sewing over papers, then I use pins, but when I’m sewing over papers then I find the Wonder Clips hold the papers together neater and I’m not having to force a pin through two pieces of paper.

hand sewing hexagons and paper piecing on the cheap……

hand pieced hexagon patchwork

When I was having a bit of a tidy up last week I found a whole load of fabric covered paper hexagons…I’d already sewn some together in clusters but had obviously moved on to a new project and had promptly forgotten about them.

As it’s so lovely and light in the mornings I’ve been getting up really early (this is also thanks in part to a certain gentleman that mews for attention at a most ungodly hour)…while the rest of the house is sleeping I try to be quiet so I thought I’d sew more of the hexagons together and make a couple of cushion covers.

back view of the hexagon patchwork

The hexagons themselves are 2 inches across at the widest point (so the sides measure 1 inch)…I cut the papers all out by hand a few summers ago, at the time I couldn’t seem to find anywhere that sold a hexagon paper punch though since then I’ve seen a few places on-line….I could have bought some pre-cut papers but I’m happy to cut and make my own out of sheets of old note paper and a couple of free magazines from a local health food store.  (if you’re going to do this then it’s super important to be very accurate with your cutting, if not your hexagons won’t have equal sides and then you’ll be spending all your time rotating them round to try to get them to fit together…trust me, I speak from experience.)

This set of joined hexagons is pretty much ready to have a back sewn on, the cushion cover will measure about 19 x 15 and a bit inches….and is made up of 123 little hexagons.

hand pieced hexagons

Once I start sewing hexagons I find it hard it very hard to stop, so I’ve begun piecing together some more to make another cushion cover.  As well as being “thrifty” and making my own papers, I also like to make my own cushion inserts*….

I’ve sewn the hexagons together pretty randomly, I try not to use the same print or pattern too often and try to mix up the colours and tones as much as possible.

papers in hexagon piecing

Making hexagons is a great way to use up odd shapes of fabric from a scrap box, I like to pin my hexagon in place on the fabric and then cut round it, generally leaving a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance (5/8 inch if possible) and then I sew the fabric over on it’s self, securing all the corners with 3 or 4 small stitches..

I don’t sew through the paper as I find the slightly extra seam allowance holds the hexagon template in place fine, and it also saves having to unpick all the basting threads…..sewing the fabric over the corners means the hexagons keep a nice neat shape and adds an extra bit of stability to the patchwork.  And I like to remove them from the centre of the patchwork, keeping them in really only the outside edge.

work basket while sewing patchwork

My sewing work box changes with each new thing I’m working on at any one time…when I’m making posy brooches then there are fat wool needles tucked into a piece of blanket fabric, transparent threads and pieces of felt, brooch pins and small fabric scissors, today it’s full of a selection of vintage threads  (I like piecing the pieces with pink and brown threads, I find they blend as well as traditional grey), a needle-case full of super fine sharps and applique needles, odd papers that I remove from the patchwork centre, a handful of Clover wonder grips which I think hold the hexagons in place better than pins and my most poshest ooh lah lah embroidery scissors.

*All the wool fabric scraps that get left over from when I’m sewing Christmas stockings, tea cosies, hot water bottles and coat hangers, gets cut up into small pieces and then I sew together a couple of big squares cut from old curtain lining or a couple of fat quarters of an un-wanted fabric to make a pocket which I then fill with the fabric snips.  This makes for a lovely fat cushion which you can plump up like a feather one, and which gives a good home for fabric pieces which you can’t really do a lot with.