What is the 2021 #focuscuttingsewalong?
The 2021 #focuscuttingsewalong is an Instagram based sewalong (previously the #fussycuttingsewalong) which focuses on weekly prompts for focus-cutting half-hexagons using paper piecing. I know there is a lot of text on this page but that’s because I’ve wanted to include as much information as possible so that you know all about the sewalong and our 2021 plans.
What is Focus Cutting?
I use the term focus cutting instead of fussy cutting That is because I think words have power to elevate and power to downplay. I want the sewalong to be a positive one and one which values what we make. We are not being fussy. We are being focused.
Focus cutting refers to taking a specific motif/pattern on a fabric and cutting it in a way that highlights it as opposed to cutting the fabric ad-hoc. There are many ways to focus cut including selecting a whole motif (such as a flower) so that it’s centrally placed within your patchwork, pattern matching a motif so that when your patchwork comes together the original motif has been re-created in a way that flows from one shape to the next, or choosing to only focus cut a section of a motif (so the original motif is no longer distinguishable) in order to create a whole new design.
You can find out more about Focus Cutting here: https://naomialice.co.uk/focus-cutting-definition-terminology-and-tutorials/
What is Paper Piecing?
This is not a new technique and it is sometimes known as mosaic patchwork, english paper piecing or EPP. Again, because I believe words have power, I choose to use the term ‘paper piecing’ rather than english paper piecing. This is because there is no solid information that clarifies where the technique originated and I am not keen on using a nationality as a descriptive term for a patchwork technique when there is no factual basis for doing so. I believe it is more inclusive to use the term “paper piecing” (which is different again from foundation paper piecing) and so I use this term for the sewalong and my own work. You can read more about language, and paper piecing here: https://naomialice.co.uk/paper-piecing/
Paper Piecing is a patchwork technique which involves paper templates. You place the paper template onto the wrong side of your fabric and baste the template (either with thread or with glue) so that it is held in place. You then hand-stitch these pieces together. I prefer to use whip stitch but you can use whatever stitch works for you. Once the shape is secured on all sides, you can remove the paper piece and reuse it.
There are tutorials on my YouTube channel showing how to Paper Piece (including focus cutting). My YouTube channel is available here: http://www.youtube.com/c/NaomiClarke
I’ll be uploading new tutorials so you can also ‘subscribe’ to my YouTube channel for free and then you’ll be able to see when new videos are released!
What will the format for the year be?
Every Monday I post a photo on Instagram explaining the instructions for that week’s block. I will do this on a wooden framed blackboard (so you can identify what posts are the instructions posts) which will show that month’s overall theme, that week’s focus cutting style and an example of a focus cut hexagon block. Along with the photo, I post written instructions explaining that month’s overall theme and further specific details about that week’s focus cutting style. Sometimes, there are specifics for that week’s focus cutting style so it is important to read all of the post because you have to have met each week’s prompt to be able to enter the competition at the end of the month!
I try to keep to a regular format so that people can know roughly what to expect. I don’t want it to be hard nor do I want to add unexpected surprises as the aim is for the sewalong to be an accessible, consistent, fun and creative activity! So, whilst there will be some variations (such as freestyle weeks), you can roughly expect each month to include the following: identifiable motif, mystery sections and pattern matching.
Generally, there will be a new theme every month. Our first theme of 2021, which will run for January, is the Pantone color/colour(s) of the year. After January, there will be a new theme and you can scroll through some of the posts on my Instagram to see examples of previous themes.
There’ll be the return of some favourite themes from previous sewalongs as well as some new themes for 2021. I don’t provide all of the themes in advance because it can feel a bit overwhelming (and anxiety provoking if there is a theme you don’t think you have fabrics for) to be told all 52 prompts in one go! If, for any reason, you would like to know the themes in advance then please send me a direct message on Instagram and we can go through the themes (although they will sometimes need to be changed last minute so it cannot be guaranteed). The weekly challenges will follow a standard rotation of identifiable motifs, mystery sections, pattern matching and the occasional creative curveball! Whilst I vary the themes, I have a standard rotation of challenges within each theme to provide a constant throughout the sewalong.
For these reasons (with there being specifics and wanting people to be in the present moment), I really encourage people not to make ahead of time as this defeats the point of the sewalong being that we are all sewing together at the same pace!
At the end of every month there is a giveaway where I invite people to share their blocks from that month. This giveaway is open internationally and the winner is selected at random. To be able to enter the giveaway you HAVE to have followed the prompts for each week that month (including the specifics where applicable!) and follow the requisite people on Instagram.
What are the blocks we are making for 2021?
Each week we will look at focus cutting a block with 6 half-hexagons forming a larger hexagon medal shape. There is a video coming soon to show how I prefer to stitch these shapes together. The sewalong is primarily based on focus cutting the half-hexagons but we may also explore focus cutting at the centre of our hexagon medal too.
It is up to you to decide what to put at the centre of your block. There are lots of different shapes that will fit in the middle of your 6 half-hexagons from hexagons, triangles, diamonds, hexagon-thirds, another shape or leaving it blank!
What size half-hexagons should I use?
This is completely up to you! You can use any size you’d like to use.
If you are used to using 1″ hexies, 1.5″ diamonds and 1.5″ houses on a previous #focuscuttingsewalong (which are roughly equivalent in size for focus cutting) then I would recommend going for 1.5″ half-hexagons.
If you are used to using 0.5″ hexies, 1″ houses and 1″ diamonds on a previous #focuscuttingsewalong (which are roughly equivalent in size for focus cutting) then I would recommend going no smaller than 1″ half-hexagons.
If you haven’t done paper piecing before then either the 1″ half-hexagon or the 1.5″ half-hexagon is a good size to start with. A 1″ hexagon is a hexagon where all the sides measure 1″. The 1″ half-hexagon is the 1″ hexagon cut in half so 3 of the equal sides measure 1″. You can then use corresponding 1″ shapes to fit inside your block so the centre might be a 1″ hexagon, 2 x 1″ half-hexagons to form a hexagon, 3 x 1″ hexagon thirds that stitch together to form a hexagon, 3 x 1″ 60 degree diamonds that stitch together to form a hexagon and so forth. The centre is completely up to you and adding different shapes makes it slightly trickier but it is your choice. I’ll use a hexagon at the centre of my block.
What do I do with all of these half-hexagon blocks?
For the same reason that I don’t give all the themes upfront, I also don’t stipulate what you should do with your blocks! The focus is on the making and the community rather than the end result! So it is completely up to you whether you wish to keep them as blocks in a box or pouch to look at every now and then to remind you of your 2021, to make them into bunting, a quilt, coasters, tote bags, zipped pouches, cushion covers, needlecases, or applique them onto existing projects! The possibilities are plentiful! There are lots of options for layouts and you can join your blocks in any way you’d like to. The sewalong is based on focus cutting the half-hexagon block each week with different weekly prompts….the joining is up to you! You don’t have to join them either, you can absolutely sew along just for fun with no plan for what to do with the blocks (it is a great way to engage in creative mindfulness by focussing on the present moment and not worrying about the future patchwork plans….)
What does it cost to take part?
It is 100% free for you to take part in the sewalong! It is free because I genuinely feel the #focuscuttingsewalong community on Instagram has developed into something positive and something special. I choose to make sure that there is no charge for taking part in the 2021 sewalong so that it is accessible for EVERYONE to take part in no matter what their financial situation. All I ask for in return is that you are kind to one another, kind to yourself (no slating your work), and kind to me (there may be some themes/instructions you don’t like but I will have tried really hard to make it as open as can be so that it suits as many people as possible!)
What does taking part entail?
- For starters, it doesn’t involve signing your life away – you can join in for 1 week, 12 weeks or all 52 weeks! I want it to be fun and to fit in with you!
- Taking part means bringing your humour, your encouragement and your willingness to invest in you!
- Just over half-way through the year I’ll organise a group quilt to reflect on the sewalong for that year. Participation in the group quilt involves sending me (the host) a block based on a theme (yet to be decided). This is entirely voluntary – you can 100% take part in the sewalong without taking part in the group quilt! This is just an added extra because it is nice to have a tangible object as a reflection of our year of creating and sewing together!
- Taking part also involves using the hashtag #focuscuttingsewalong on any posts related to your sewalong journey (this might be fabric shopping, placement advice, joining advice, progress photos and, of course, your blocks) as well as tagging me into your posts with the blocks. Using the hashtag helps people to support and encourage one another. Tagging me into your post as @naomialicec helps people to know who to ask questions to if they’re interested in taking part. Keep reading for more tips on using Instagram (and the difference between using hashtags # and tagging people with @).
- You could also use an additional hashtag to track your own progress throughout the year! So, if I wanted all of my 2021 blocks to be visible under the same hashtag I would use #focuscuttingsewalong but I would also use #fcsa2021naomi so that I can track my own progress under one hashtag!
Okay, I’m really interested! How do I join? Is there a specific start date?
The 2021 #focuscuttingsewalong officially starts on 4th January 2020 but you can join in at ANY point in the year – you do not have to catch up on previous weeks (although if you want to then you are very welcome to!) If you search the hashtag #fcsa2021naomi on Instagram then it will bring up all of my posts from the 2021 sewalong so you can see the year’s instructions and examples!
Just make sure you’re following me on Instagram http://www.instagram.com/naomialicec
You can also turn on post notifications so that you’ll be alerted whenever I post about the sewalong (go to my Instagram profile, click the three little dots in the top right of the profile and then click ‘turn on post notifications’).
I really want to join in but I am not that used to using Instagram, are there any top tips?
Instagram can feel a bit overwhelming to begin with as it seems like there is so much to do! A lot of using Instagram can be picked up as you go along. The key parts to Instagram (especially for this sewalong) are:
- Follow the people whose work you like! If you follow me, you’ll be able to see the weekly prompts. If you follow others taking part in the sewalong then you’ll see their posts both sewalong related and non-sewalong related. You can follow people by clicking onto their profile page and clicking the “follow” button.
- When you upload your photos, make sure you tag people by putting an @ in front of their name. This allows the person to be tagged directly into your post and they’ll get a notification too. If you tag me into your sewalong posts directly, by putting @naomialicec into your post (there’s a ‘c’ after the naomialice which gets missed out a lot – in hindsight I probably shouldn’t have included it but I did!), then it helps me to see what people are making and to comment and cheerlead your creations (which I love to do). It also helps other people to know who to ask questions to as they can directly see who is hosting the sewalong and they can then click on the name to be taken through to their profile. You can also tag the fabric manufacturer, the shop you bought the fabric from, the designer, the paper pieces supplier, the thread company…lots of options and it all helps to support other creatives!
- Hashtags! There are so many hashtags to use! Hashtags are not directly linked to any one person but people can ‘follow’ a hashtag by searching for it and then clicking the ‘follow’ link. Using the #focuscuttingsewalong means that anyone following the hashtag can see your lovely makes as well as like, comment on and support each other. You can add up to 30 hashtags per post and these help other people find your makes through using hashtags like #patchwork #paperpiecing and #focuscutting. There is no year on our hashtag as it enables all of the progression of the sewalong to be tracked in a single hashtag. Alongside using the #focuscuttingsewalong you could also add your own name or initials as an additional hashtag so that, by the end of 2021, you could see all of your sewalong makes as a single hashtag! So, for mine, I could use #FCSA2021naomi