Book review: “Love Acrylics” by Courtney Burden = 5*

If I could give this book more than 5*, I really would because it is absolutely phenomenal! I am going to start by saying that I am not an acrylic painter (or any sort of painter really!) and yet, after working my way through the activities in this book, I am counting down my working hours until I finish so that I can start playing with paints!

Love Acrylics, by Courtney Burden and published by Search Press, is absolutely jam-packed with ideas, inspiration, challenges, activities and prompts for making creative acrylic art!

You can see from the contents pages exactly how vast this book is – from colour to texture, design to process, exploring to finished projects…this book has got you covered!

Courtney starts the book by exploring supplies, tools, materials and brush care (and manages to make these pages look inspirational too)! With 100+ activities, prompts and inspirations, this book will leave no stone unturned! From dry brush painting…

to abstract creations…

and from abstract mirror image printing with splodges…

to finding calm within a chaotic world/painting…

…to say this book has got you covered is an understatement. This is THE book for anyone who wants to begin to explore, create, make, play, experiment, let loose and have fun!

I am going to sign off this book review with a quote from Courtney which sums up this 5* book so beautifully:

“My hope is that it inspires you to be more creative, colourful and whimsical every day of your life. This bool isn’t filled with just a bunch of rules or traditional painting techniques: instead, with each play, prompt and project, I encourage you to create freely, like you’re a kid again – not focused on rules or the final outcome, but enjoying the process and soaking up the fun along the way!” ~ Courtney Burden

Book review: “Four-Step Watercolour” by Marina Bakasova = 3.5*

I found it difficult to decide on a number of stars for this review as there were parts of the book that I thought were amazing but also parts that I felt were lacking…so I averaged it out at a 3.5* out of 5.

‘Four-Step Watercolour: 150 Skill-Building Projects to Paint’ is immediately enticing by the title and offer alone…watercolour projects in 4 steps? I’m in!

Following the contents page, the book starts with meeting Marina, the author and creator, before moving on to materials, tools and techniques.

The technique pages are amazing and I really, really love how Marina covers a range of techniques in a bitesize, accessible manner. Once you’ve had a play with the techniques, you can then move on to the four-step projects!

The projects are broken down into a variety of themes including vegetables, drinks, flowers, animals, and more! I think it is incredibly clever how each theme is assigned a colour so you can flick through the book and visually identify the theme by the colour on the page’s corners!

I also really like how each project says the ‘skill level’ as easy, medium or high. In reality, however, I didn’t feel the labels were that accurate as it very much depends how you classify “easy”.

The palm leaf is categorised as ‘easy’ so I presumed this would be suitable for beginners and it was my first attempt at watercolour. I found the “four step” instructions too simplistic and unclear. As a beginner, I really struggled to know what to do (how to apply it, what brush to use, what technique)…so whilst I tried to follow the instructions, I ended up being unable to, and did my own thing instead!

I had another go with the tulip too but I found the same problem…it just didn’t have enough instructions to make it accessible if you’re new to watercolour.

So, with that being said, I averaged this book at 3.5*. If you’re fairly confident with watercolour and you’re looking for an ideas sourcebook then this would be a fantastic book for you! If, however, you’re not familiar with watercolour and you’re looking for an easy-to-understand, accessible book on watercolour then I wouldn’t recommend this book (Search Press do have some amazing Watercolour books that are definitely more accessible so check out my other book reviews and, in particular, the Search Press ‘Love Watercolour’ and ‘Watercolour Plant Art’)!

Book review: ’10 Step Drawing: Nature’ = 5*

There is a new addition to the Search Press ’10 Step Drawing’ series and what a fabulous addition it is!

’10 Step Drawing: Nature’, by Mary Woodin, aims to guide you through creating your own nature images (animals, flowers, trees and more) within 10 steps!

Now, I’ll be honest with you here, when I flicked through the book and saw the sumptuous images I really didn’t believe such detailed drawings could be created in 10 steps…well, I was wrong! Mary really does expertly guide you through each image in 10 achievable steps! Before we get onto the drawings, I just wanted to show the contents pages:

The book is divided into 3 different ‘nature’ themes including: ‘Meadows and Wetland’, ‘Forest’ and ‘Coast’. I was really impressed at the wide variety of nature drawings within each theme (there are 60 options). and even the contents page is beautifully illustrated. So, from wildlife to plants, this book has you covered!

The instructions and the layout of each drawing is really well placed and easy to follow. Each of the steps are numbered along with their corresponding instructional image and short textual instructions. I love how accessible this is by making each step a short, achievable step which doesn’t feel overwhelming.

I also love how under each title, there is a little extra info to inspire, encourage and inform! The final image is the largest image and I think that really helps for clarity so that you know what you are progressing towards. I also really like that the colour palette is at the end underneath the final image as it means you can focus on the actual mark marking in steps 1-9 before exploring colour in the final step. That really helps to make sure we’re not getting distracted by colours in the earlier steps and that we can then focus on the structure, the marks and the shapes!

I’ve really enjoyed looking through this book and I have cracked out my pen and paper to start the 10 steps too! These are my steps 1-9 for drawing the ‘Juniper’ from the book and I am now looking forwards to step 10 and adding the colour!

This is a really beautiful, accessible and inspiring book which is full of creativity and ideas for drawing nature!

To find out more about Mary Woodin you can head to her digital platforms:
Website: https://www.marywoodin.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marywoodin/?hl=en

The book is available on the Search Press website here: https://www.searchpress.com/book/9781782218555/10-step-drawing-nature

Book review: ‘Cute Hand Lettering for Journals, Planners and More’ = 4*

‘Cute Hand Lettering for Journals, Planners and More’ is a new Search Press book by Cindy Guentert-Baldo which seeks to inspire you with tips, tricks, ideas and challenges for creating your own hand lettering styles!

Firstly, don’t be fooled by the size of this book as this pocket-sized book is absolutely jam-packed with ideas to create a variety of hand lettering styles (as you can see from the detailed contents pages!)

The book starts by explaining who Cindy, your hand lettering tutor, is! Cindy is based in the USA and has a wealth of crafting experience! You can find out a bit more about Cindy through the book but also through the following channels:

Cindy’s website: https://cindyguentertbaldo.com/
Cindy’s YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/cindyguentertbaldo
Cindy’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/llamaletters/

I absolutely love how accessible this book is. The layout is clear and easy to follow. Cindy doesn’t presume any prior knowledge and so gently guides you through ‘what is lettering’, ‘tools and materials’, ‘jargon’ and explaining the book’s layout with encouragement and positivity.

The book is split into 7 chapters and each chapter has a different colour so it makes it really easy to follow. Chapter 1 is the ‘intro’ chapter. Chapter 2 starts with looking specifically at your own handwriting and playing with basic lettering, cursive lettering, and connecting your letters.

Throughout each chapter there are pages so that you can practise which is a really good opportunity to explore what you’re learning!

Chapter 3 then takes you through the process of adding flair, style, swirls and more with your own everyday writing to turn it into hand lettering. Chapter 4 progresses your lettering that little bit further by exploring block lettering, bubble lettering, overlapping lettering and bouncy lettering. Chapter 5 takes us another step further by looking at how we can add doodles and flourishes to our lettering as well as looking at composition (spacing, layout etc). As ever, these chapters are full of lots of tips, tricks, techniques and practise spaces to help you along the way!

Chapter 6 brings the whole book together by looking at how you can use all of these techniques that you’ve learnt within different shapes and spaces (from journals to notes, headers to shape-fillers, banners to labels) as well as combining different lettering techniques.

This is a really beautiful, well-presented book with lots of inspiration, tips, techniques and encouragement for adding sass, flair and style to your hand lettering no matter what the project!

The book is available to buy from the Search Press website https://www.searchpress.com/book/9781782218616/cute-hand-lettering

All of the images are my own but they have been approved by Search Press for the purpose of this review. They cannot be taken or re-used in any other circumstances.

What is fussy cutting in patchwork?

When I first started fussy cutting, I really struggled to find any information about what it actually refers to in patchwork and how long the technique has been around. I’ve been fortunate enough to go behind the scenes of St Fagans National Museum of History with Elen Phillips who is their lead Principal Curator Contemporary & Community History. Elen showed me some of the patchwork, English Paper Piecing and quilts within their collection and it was astounding to see hexies from hundreds of years ago which had been fussy cut so that, for example, the lines would radiate outwards! Here’s my version of lines radiating outwards from the centre of my hexie flowers

So it seems that fussy cutting is far from a new technique but I wonder whether the stitchers then knew it as “fussy cutting”? It is really hard to find any literature/written references to the history of fussy cutting!

What does fussy cutting mean in today’s age? There is no set definition in the Oxford dictionary so what do patchworkers mean when they talk about fussy cutting? I’m going to share a blog post about what I think fussy cutting is within the patchwork and quilting world!

Within patchwork, fussy cutting typically refers to cutting a piece of fabric in a way which specifically targets a section of the pattern (it may be because you want to show off a whole motif, part of a motif or to recreate the motif from pattern matching).

It probably makes more sense to show what I am talking about! So if you were making an English Paper Pieced hexagon (hexies) quilt, you may just decide to cut the fabric in any which way so as to get the most hexies as possible out of it! I used the Sally Kelly Fantasy collection to cut some hexies to make an English Paper Pieced cushion from.

I didn’t do any fussy cutting as I wanted to maximise the fabric that I had which meant cutting into it in whatever way in which to maximise its capabilities and to get the most hexies from it!

The other thing I wanted to say is that, in my view, fussy cutting refers to targeting a print or a motif in a specific way. This means that means that, for me, fussy cutting isn’t just using a specific colour. All patchwork essentially involves choosing colours to use in whatever we are stitching. What marks fussy cutting out as a specific patchwork technique is that it is looking beyond colours and to the potential of the actual print/motif in what we’re making.

So, what sorts of fussy cutting are out there? There are lots! I am going to stick with English Paper Piecing for my examples on this post but you can fussy cut with anything (any EPP shape, dressmaking, scrapbooking, card making, patchworking).

Fussy cutting a whole motif:

This refers to specifically targeting a motif/print so that you can show it in its entirety within your patchwork shape/block. This could mean fussy cutting it so that there is a whole motif in the centre of your patchwork shape like I did with this strawberry fabric.

You could also fussy cut a whole motif but move it slightly further to one side of your patchwork shape. This can often create a really interesting secondary design as well as the design created by the targeted motif.

You can see that I chose to move the strawberries slightly further down in my diamond (rather than placing them at the centre of my patchwork piece) and it has created a slightly different overall effect to the previous block.

Fussy cutting an identifiable motif

You don’t always have to fussy cut a whole motif for it to be identifiable! For example, I wanted to fussy cut Santa for a Christmas block but he was much too big to fit in my EPP shape (typical Santa eh?)!

I wasn’t going to let that stop me though! I still fussy cut him (it sounds more morbid than it really is!) and I managed to fussy cut enough of him so that it is identifiable despite the fact that it isn’t a whole motif!

Similarly, I couldn’t fit the whole unicorn in my patchwork pieces but I could still fussy cut them in a way that makes the original motif identifiable.

Pattern Matching

Oh the joys of pattern matching…pattern matching and I have a love/hate relationship. I love the finished look but I do find it incredibly difficult to do!

I know some people feel it is a pointless technique as it involves cutting up a motif just to stitch it back together again. I understand that but essentially all patchwork is cutting up fabric and stitching it back together again. I don’t think pattern matching is futile for those reasons as it is a method that enables you to still capture the whole motif that may not have otherwise fit in your shape. For example, I absolutely adored this cat and I really wanted to use it as a whole motif on the 2020 #fussycuttingsewalong but it was too big to fit as a whole motif within the individual house.

The only way I could use it was to pattern match it and, yes, that involved cutting the motif up into four and stitching it back together so that I have matched the motif’s pattern across all 4 of the EPP shapes in my block.

You don’t always have to pattern match across all of your patchwork shapes! It can still look really effective just by pattern matching a motif across two shapes.

Similarly, you can combine pattern matching with some blenders/solids to make your pattern matching pop even more!

Mystery sections

I absolutely love the potential of fussy cutting mystery sections!! It is really great for making sure you use every scrap within your stash! Say that you’ve fussy cut several blocks with identifiable/whole motifs using this striking owl print like this:

This could also mean that you’re left with a fabric that has lots of owl legs on it! These can absolutely still be used to create a new kaleidoscope effect.

You could create a similar effect by fussy cutting just the eye of the owl…

Both of these blocks have used a section of the owl print in a way that makes it hard to identify the original motif in order to create a new pattern/design. It is a really fun and creative fussy cutting technique that challenges you to look at patterns/motifs in a completely new light in order to see new design potentials. It also works fabulously for making sure no scrap gets left behind!

Mix and Match fussy cutting

Fussy cutting doesn’t always have to be used for every single one of your patchwork pieces. You could also go for an overall scrappy look but sneak in a bit of fussy cutting! This works fantastically when you don’t have enough fabric to fussy cut it consistently so slipping in some fussy cutting every now and then can really make it pop against the rest of the patchwork. I really loved this flower on the Makower fabric but I only had enough to fussy cut it for one hexie (as well as the half hexie at a push!)

I decided to intersperse that fussy-cut flower in amongst other fabrics from the collection. It still works beautifully in amongst non-fussy cut hexies to create a stand-out effect.

You also don’t have to fussy cut identical motifs. Fussy cutting can be a really great opportunity for using a range of prints in your stash and seeing what you can create such as words, scenes, new creatures etc!

So, there we go! My summary of fussy cutting (with a particular focus on fussy cutting when English Paper Piecing), the different styles of fussy cutting, the benefits of different techniques, how to ensure there is no wastage and hopefully some creative inspiration too! I do also have a range of fussy cutting videos available on my YouTube showing all of the different fussy cutting techniques – sometimes it helps to see it in action!

Looking at Vlieseline battings…

Vlieseline are well known as the leading brand for interfacings but did you know they do a range of battings too? I have been having a play with several of the Vlieseline battings in differing fibres, thicknesses and colours and I wanted to do a post to share these with you! This isn’t an exhaustive post about the Vlieseline battings so do head to their website to see more of the battings that they produce.

Before I launch into the different types of battings, I wanted to highlight how Vlieseline are taking a massive step forwards to be more sustainable in the products they create. Where possible, recycled fibres are used and they have a sustainability statement on their website available here which highlights their commitment to be more environmentally focussed and aware in the work they do.

So, let’s talk battings! There are 5 Vlieseline battings that I am going to cover in this post and I have made 4 patchwork and quilting samples to showcase these battings, their pros and cons, and how they feel (I didn’t quilt with one of the battings and I’ll explain why when we get to it!) I’ll also talk about loft in this post. When talking about a batting’s loft, this refers to how thick the batting is and how much puffiness it provides once quilted. This is generally only a guide as the puffiness of the quilt will also depend on the fabrics you used on the patchwork too and quilt backing too, but the loft guide is still good to know!

Batting 1: Vlieseline 266

Vlieseline 266 is a beautifully soft wool mix batting in a natural colour. It is 80% wool and 20% polyester which can be machine washed on a gentle spin (you don’t want to felt it!) up to 30°. It is a lightweight batting with a low loft (this means it isn’t very thick and so it doesn’t provide too much puffiness when quilted).

It quilted really beautifully and it can be quilted up to 10cm apart. I used it for quilting this Art Gallery Fabrics EPP Christmas Tree wall-hanging (fabrics are from Fine City Quilting) and I quilted an echo of the tree (both inside and outside the tree to make it pop).

I really liked how soft the batting felt, the natural colour and how it still offered a slight loft to the Christmas Tree without being too thick.

Batting 2. Vlieseline P250

Vlieseline P250 is a white, heavyweight batting which is made up of 80% recycled polyester and 20% polyester. The Vlieseline website says it is suitable for a range of products including quilts but I personally wouldn’t use it for a quilt (which is why I didn’t make the sample with it).

It is nearly 4cm in thickness so unless you have an industrial machine for quilting, I wouldn’t even attempt to use it for a patchwork quilt as it is just so thick. It would, however, work well for upholstery.

Batting 3. Vlieseline P120

Vlieseline P120 is a very soft medium loft batting in white. It is made up of 80% recycled polyester and 20% polyester. It is just under 1cm in depth so it offers a medium puffiness/loft to the quilting.

I used it to quilt an echo (or 3!) around my Cloud9 EPP Colourburst Hearts block using the Tinsel fabric collection.

It is a really nice general batting which works well for both smaller projects and larger projects.

Batting 4: Vlieseline P140

Vlieseline P140 is a thicker weight than the P120 with a depth/thickness of around 2cm.

It is high loft white batting made up of 80% recycled polyester and 20% polyester. The Vlieseline website says it is suitable for all projects. Personally, due to the high loft (and 2cm thickness), I found it a real struggle to use for a small patchwork project (such as this wall hanging) both with the quilting and the binding.

I had to quilt it incredibly densely to be able to flatten it enough to attach the binding.

That being said, and despite the struggle (and use of lots of thread with dense quilting), I liked the finished look as it offered a LOT of loft to the overall block which looked really effective.

It comes down to personal preference and balancing out how much you want high puffiness to make your patchwork pop versus having to do a lot of dense quilting to get it to be manageable.

Batting 5: Vlieseline HH650

Last, but not least, is the Vlieseline HH650. I LOVED using this batting on my patchwork wall hanging because you don’t have to do any basting…the batting does it for you! This is a fusible batting so I simply cut it to the same size as my patchwork block (if I cut it bigger than my block I would have ended up fusing it to the damp cloth so it is important to cut to size). I then placed it inbetween the block and the backing (NB. make sure you iron both the block and the backing beforehand). Then, using a damp cloth, I pressed the iron onto the quilt sandwich (not moving the iron or pushing the iron, sinply holding it on) for 15 secs to bond them together. I repeated this on the back of the work too to ensure it was all bonded well and lay flat.

No pin basting, no crawling around the floor spray basting…it is all basted in 1 move by ironing them together. Now, I found it super easy to do on a small patchwork wall hanging and I am yet to try it with a quilt (and making sure there are no ripples or puckers when ironing both a larger patchwork quilt top and quilt backing together) but I really like how this one batting does the basting work for you.

It is 100% polyester which can be machine washed up to 30°. It isn’t suitable for heavyweight fabrics but it quilts beautifully with light to medium weight fabrics – perfect for patchwork then!

It has a low to medium loft and is a really fabulous batting to work with. I’ll definitely be using it again!

So, there we go! A look at a range of the battings Vlieseline offers! Don’t forget to head to their website to see the full range!

10 ideas for Christmas presents for you and/or the sew-er in your life!

Christmas is less than 2 weeks away and, in amidst all the madness, sewing can offer a real opportunity to slow down and to focus on being in the present moment. Whether you’re buying a new sewing gadget/haberdashery item for yourself or buying for a sewing friend, here’s a round up of 10 ideas for Christmas presents to suit a variety of budgets…

I’ve organised them in price order (from lowest to highest with the RRP included if I know it). I’ve included links to shops that stock the items where applicable as well as details of who to contact re finding your nearest stockists!

1. Trimits Festive Motifs

Trimits have released a range of Festive motifs that can be ironed on or sewn on. They’re washable up to 40° and come on plastic free packaging (yay!). There are 6 designs to choose from and they are a really fun way to add something extra to handmade/homemade cushions, make up pouches, tote bags and stockings! At a bargain RRP. of £1 per motif these are a fabulous stocking filler! To find your nearest stockists contact groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk

2.Trimits Festive Buttons

Trimits have also released these 2 packs of Festive buttons! These can be great additions to add as embellishments on Christmas cushions, stockings, wall-hangings, on bunting and even for your festive garments!

There are 2 mixed packs available. Each pack has a variety of button sizes with a range of festive designs! With an RRP. of £3.25 per pack, these are an affordable and fun sewing goody to get! To find your nearest stockists contact groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk

3. Hemline Buttons

If you want something without a Christmas theme that can be useful all year round then Hemline buttons are the perfect option!

Hemline produce more buttons than I could possible capture in 1 image!

They range from teeny tiny buttons through to large statement buttons, wood buttons through to shell buttons, plain buttons through to fancy buttons….and if you can’t find the perfect button for your project you can even make your own with their self-cover buttons!

They’re the perfect gift for anyone who loves fabrics, sewing, patchwork, dressmaking, and textiles! Minerva stock a huge (and I mean huge) variety of Hemline buttons:

https://www.minervacrafts.com/shop/sewing/buttons&brand=Hemline

4. Clover fusible bias makers

Stained glass patchwork is becoming more popular and it is a really fun way to produce a stand-out design that makes your fabric pop!

Clover have produced a range of fusible bias makers in a variety of sizes to help you when making lattice, meshwork and/or stained glass patchwork!

This is a really fun way to get a gift for someone who wants to learn a new technique or for a gift to yourself as a New Year’s resolution to learn a new patchwork skill. Clover also have video tutorials and projects on their website to accompany these products! Prices start from £6.20 (and vary according to the size that you buy). To find your nearest stockists contact clover@stockistenquiries.co.uk or head to the Minerva website:

https://www.minervacrafts.com/shop/quilting/accessories/clbiasmaker-m-clover-fusible-bias-tape-maker

5. Sew Easy 3 in 1 tool

Sew Easy have released a new 3-in-1 tool which is a needle puller, thread cutter and thimble….all in 1 tool!

This is a great little gadget for anyone who hand sews as it can easily fit in your sewing pouch and is super portable.

It has an RRP. of £6.99 and you can contact groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk to find your nearest stockists!

6. Hemline Thimble Organiser

What can you put these sewing goodies into? Well, the Hemline Thimble Organiser is a great option!

It is a rainbow-coloured thimble shaped container (measuring approx 12.5cm x 12cm) which you can fill with chocolates, sewing goodies, fabrics or as a desk organiser for pens/pencils/scissors etc!

The RRP. of the Thimble Organiser is £7.99 and it is a really fun alternative to a single-use gift bag. To find your nearest stockists contact groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk

7. Clover desk needle threader

This desk needle threader comes in 3 colours and has a solid base so that you can rest it on your sewing table as you use it (no awkward balancing act!)

It is designed to be quick and easy to use and is compatible with a range of Clover needles. It has an RRP. of around £10. To find your nearest stockists contact clover@stockistenquiries.co.uk

8. Sew Easy Sashiko Tote Bag kit

More people are enjoying the slow, methodical motion of hand sewing such as that involved with sashiko. Sew Easy have released a Sashiko kit which literally has everything you need in one kit except for the scissors! This is always a massive plus as it means you can start sewing straight away!

The kit contains the fabric for making the tote bag, Japanese embroidery thread, gold-eye embroidery needles in a range of sizes, a Sashiko template, and a water-soluble fabric pencil as well as the instructions.

The kit has an RRP. of £21 and it is a great all-in-one sewing kit. To find your nearest stockists contact groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk

9. Gütermann Hand Quilting Thread Pack

This thread pack contains 10 x 80m reels of the most popular colours of the Gütermann hand-quilting threads. They’re 100% mercerized cotton so they have a silk-like lustre and they’re super strong. To find your nearest stockists contact gutermann@stockistenquiries.co.uk

10. Gütermann sew-all thread pack

Lastly, Gütermann have released a new sew-all thread pack which has a whopping 20 x 100m reels of their sew-all polyester threads in a range of colours.

The kit has an RRP of £27.90 which is a great saving as if you bought 20 reels individually (with an RRP of £2 per thread) it would cost you £40!

These threads are my go-to every time! They literally are sew-all! To find your nearest stockists contact gutermann@stockistenquiries.co.uk

Book review: ‘Beginner’s Guide to Screen Printing’ by Erin Lacy = 3*

“Beginner’s Guide to Screen Printing” is a new book by Erin Lacy and published by Search Press. All of the photos included in this blog are from the “look inside” function on the Search Press website available here.

I have no experience of screen printing which means I am the ideal, targeted audience for this book! I found the front cover immediately enticing (which is perfect as that is what first grabs your attention)!

Erin, the author, is a UK-based creative who graduated from the London College of Fashion and has founded her own business to promote printing as a craft. The photos throughout the book are fresh, beautifully styled and calming to look at!

The book covers a range of topics (such as tools and materials, repeats, gradients, tessellations, resists and more) alongside 12 projects. The idea is that, as you progress through the book, the projects offer new techniques and challenges.

The introduction itself provides a solid foundation for progressing through the book with a wealth of information about tools, inks, paints, surfaces, frames, fixing the fabric and more.

So, here’s the honest part… I really liked the projects but I felt they were incredibly muted which left me feeling quite flat. Screen printing has massive potential but the contrast between the surface and the print on a lot of the projects was quite hard to differentiate and didn’t grab me.

The instructional photos and the writing are clear and easy to follow but the actual prints (as you can see with the dragonfly) felt like they didn’t do justice to this skilled craft.

Similarly with the pebbles, I know it is aimed at beginners but this felt very basic and didn’t adequately offer visuals for the potential of printing gradients.

The projects themselves have lots of inspiration (I particularly like the cork coasters and wooden bunting) but the actual motifs, paints used to screen print onto the surfaces, and the photos of the finished projects unfortunately left me feeling flat and uninspired. Whilst I love the wooden bunting, you can barely see the prints (and the same for the skirt and the cushions). Now, I know I can simply change the paint colours when I do it myself but I didn’t feel the urge to start making based on these photos. For me, a book should be so enticing, creative and inspirational that I can’t wait to start crafting!

It is on this basis that I would give it an overall 3* review as, project photos aside, the instructions are great and easy to follow so the book is worth getting for the instructions as a beginner’s guide to screen printing.

Book review: ‘Dresden Quilt Blocks Reimagined’ by Candyce Copp Grisham = 4*

When I saw the front cover of ‘Dresden Quilt Blocks Reimagined’ by Candyce Copp Grisham (published by C&T publishing), I knew straight away that I wanted to read it because the front cover is so immediately enticing! As a side note, all of the images included in this review are available through the ‘look inside’ function on Amazon.
Even the ‘Contents’ page is beautiful (and making a contents page stunning is no easy feat!)
The book is split into 9 sections and primarily focuses on machine piecing the dresden blocks
The first section is a quick introduction to the rationale behind the book as well as the origins of the dresden block. The second section explores tools, techniques, choosing fabrics, cutting fabrics and the maths behind fabric requirements for the dresden blocks.
The third section starts to focus on edges (straight edges, pointed edges, curved edges, 3-sided edges) and centres with accompanying photos and diagrams throughout.

There’s even a flow chart to help you visually see the processes and steps needed for the variety of dresden blocks.

The book then offers some more advanced options for the dresden block in the fourth and fifth sections. These include strip-set piecing, symmetric blocks, asymmetric blocks, single fabric wedges, split wedge blocks, sawtooth dresdens, flying geese dresdens, layered blocks, bordered blocks, partial blocks….the dresden world is quite literally your oyster! There is a HUGE variety of styles, techniques and combinations which both inspire and encourage you as the maker.

The sixth section is a gallery showcasing a range of finished dresden pieces from a variery of makers. What I particularly like about this section is how the photos are accompanied by a short text highlighting the method/technique used.

This section also includes a troubleshooting page and a glossary. The final sections provide the template patterns (section 7), a resources page (section 8) and a short text about the author (section 9).
This book is full of rich, vivid colours, sublime fussy cutting and modern dresden blocks, that when combined create a book that is a truly creative and inspiring.

Reflections on the #fussycuttingsewalong as a creative sampling process

I have just finished reading a recent article by TextileArtist.org about using sampling as a crucial, creative process in textiles for pushing the boundaries, to play, to create and to explore. I was really struck by this article as it talked about how it can feel quite scary and overwhelming to jump straight in with making a whole textile piece straight away (don’t get me wrong, if you can do this then that is AWESOME and keep going!). There are 2 ways to respond to that anxiety, you can either let it dictate what you do next and therefore not create, or you can start making something which is doable, small and fun. Sampling typically works on a much smaller scale so if you try something and it doesn’t work then you haven’t lost lots of time or resources. You can also then use those small samples that haven’t worked out how you wanted them to in your mind’s eye, to then start exploring and creating in a different direction next time.Straight away my mind jumped to the #fussycuttingsewalong (just search for that hashtag on Instagram to see som of the blocks being made by people from all around the world). I’ve never thought of the sewalong as a sampling process before but this article really made me reflect on its role in the creative process for me. We make 1 block each week rather than a whole quilt (although people can absolutely sew them together into a quilt!), no 2 weeks are the same (in terms of theme + fussy-cutting style combos), if a week doesn’t work out how you planned then it is forgotten about by the following Monday as we start making for a new theme, and these fussy cutting samples enable us to develop, play, explore and strengthen our own style and tastes. These weekly blocks are achievable and doable around our everyday lives as a way of sampling and stretching our fussy cutting wings!For example, I made this block as a pattern matched seaside scene. If I am completely honest, I really wasn’t happy with it because all I could see were the flaws, the wonky angles, the lines that didn’t match up.If I hadn’t made it, then I just wouldn’t have known that it is a process I a not comfortable with (despite wanting to be) and that I need to keep playing with this process. Furthermore, if I’d jumped straight in with pattern matching as a whole quilt, especially being the perfectionist that I am, I would be feeling really gutted with using my time and energy to make something that didn’t work out how I’d plannned. Viewing this block as part of my fussy cutting sampling process means that I can acknowledge that this is only a 2″ hexagon and it is only one part of my exploration of fussy cutting using 6-point diamonds for 2019.Once it is added to, and becomes part of, my #fussycuttingsewalong quilt which is made up of all of my fussy cutting blocks, it is just acts as a representation of another week of sampling fussy cutting styles/themes/prompts with 6-point diamonds.