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.

Product review: Clover buttonhole cutter

I have been making a new dress this week: the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress using the Equateur 6 Lequilt fabric by Stof and stocked by Minerva Crafts.This dress has buttonholes. I’m not going to lie, cutting buttonholes scares me because what I always worry that my hand could slip, cut through the buttonhole itself and ruin what I’ve spent hours/days making!This weekend I have been using the Clover Buttonhole Cutter whilst making my vintage shirt dress.I used my Janome sewing machine to sew the buttonhole and it never fails to amaze me how clever the machine is at making a buttonhole to the size you need simply by placing the button at the back the foot!Then, I placed the cutting mat underneath my buttonhole (making sure the rest of the dress was well out of the way) and used the cutter to cut through the fabric with an ever so slight rocking motion forwards and backwards.I was surprised by how effective such a small cutter could be and also how clean the cut was!Using a seam ripper to cut the buttonhole is good too but it doesn’t give anywhere near as smooth a cut as the Clover buttonhole cutter!I can’t wait to start making lots of new dresses with buttonholes now!For Clover stockists information or if you are a retailer and want to stock Clover items then please contact clover@stockistenquiries.co.uk

Butterfly Dance Doris Dress

I have finished sewing another Sew Over It Doris Dress but this time I used a quilting cotton.

I first used fabrics from the Butterfly Dance collection by Sally Kelly (for Windham Fabrics) in 2018 when I made an English Paper Piecing quilt for British Patchwork and Quilting.

I immediately fell in love with the vibrant summer colours and beautiful floral designs throughout the whole fabric collection. When I first made the Doris dress I just knew I wanted to make another one but with a fabric from this collection too!

The rich colours, detailed patterns and overall vibrancy means this fabric was a winner from the start! So, I prewashed the fabric and started cutting out the pieces (with Misha’s help of course!)

The Doris dress has 2 variations: a shorter version (suitable for fabric with a width of 115cm and up) and a knee length version (suitable for fabric with a width of 140cm). As this stunning fabric is a quilting cotton it isn’t wide enough for the knee length dress version but the shorter version is quite short on me (as I am 5′ 7″) so I didn’t want to make anything indecent! I decided to adapt the pattern slightly to make the dress a length that lands between the 2! For this, I used the fabulous Clover curve ruler with mini ruler set.

Clover products are always incredibly high quality and so I knew this would be a great ruler set from the start.

There are 3 rulers in the pack: a shallow curve ruler (the middle ruler) for hems and hip lines, the deep curve ruler (top ruler) for necklines and arm holes) and the mini straight ruler (bottom ruler). What is really clever about this set is how it also shows you the what the radius of the arc is at different points on the ruler (where it says ‘R50’). How clever is that?!

I used the shallow curve ruler to adjust the length of the dress so that it wasn’t too short but also so I could create the fullest AND longest skirt possible from the quilting cotton.

I also used a lightweight Vlieseline interlining (F220) which is made from 100% recyled polyester. We live in a world where we are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and recycling anything and everything. I love that Vlieseline are creating products that support this aim!

Once the dress was sewn, it was time to choose the buttons for the finishing touch. This meant I had another opportunity to venture into my precious button tin which I inherited from my Grandma (who was also called Doris). There are so many beautiful buttons and I love how a lot of them are still on the cards – it is a real piece of social history! Why don’t we do buttons like this any more?

There were a lot of different options but my eyes were repeatedly drawn to these golden yellow buttons.

This is a bold choice for me! I thought I would go for a delicate navy button so choosing these buttons definitely pushed me out of my safe, comfort zone! I am so pleased with how they turned out though!

They really work beautifully with the rich colours in the fabric!

So with another Doris dress completed, it was time to start twirling (which I have decided should be obligatory now with any outfit that calls for it!)

The dress pattern and the fabric has so much swishability! You just have to be careful not to overswish as there is a very real risk of falling over….!

I managed to catch myself just in time! I love this fabric, I love the dress pattern and I love how they’ve enabled me to create the perfect new summer dress! It also gave me the perfect chance to start using my new Janome overlocker (Olivia the overlocker) – isn’t she a beauty? I love how compact it is yet still being incredibly powerful and enabling a much more professional finish to dressmaking!

2019 #fussycuttingsewalong group quilt

So, here it is! The idea for the 2019 #fussycuttingsewalong group quilt. The colour theme for the group quilt this year is pink embroidery (the brighter the better) and green fussy cutting on the diamonds – khaki, jungle, lime, dark, light, sage, olive, emerald, pear, shamrock, mint…this is the perfect chance to fussy cut the greens in your stash! This block combines fussy cutting, embroidery, hexagons (as a nod to the shape that started the #fussycuttingsewalong) and diamonds (the shape we are currently using on the #fussycuttingsewalong). There is absolutely NO pressure to take part in the group quilt – it is completely optional and it won’t impact your participation in the sewalong in any way. You can make more than 1 block if you have multiple words/ideas.

The block for the 2019 group quilt is made up of 1.5″ 60 degree diamonds and 1.5″ hexagons.

If you don’t have these size templates you can buy them from places like Lina Patchwork and Paper Pieces.

If you have a printer at home, it is super easy to make your own. So, here is a step-by-step guide for the 2019 #fussycuttingsewalong group quilt block! If you already have the correct size templates then just skip ahead to step 8.

What you’ll need:

– 1.5″ hexagons and 1.5″ 60 degree diamonds (or a printer/106gsm card if making your own)

– a pencil

– a ruler

– low volume fabric (this is a cream/white blender fabric which won’t detract from your fussy cutting)

– a green fabric for fussy cutting

– standard sewing tools (scissors, thread, needles)

– pink embroidery thread

Step-by-step:

1. Get a sheet of 160gsm card and print off 1 sheet of the 1.5″ hexagons that are available as a free download from Love Patchwork and Quilting. Make sure you set your printer to print at full size.

2. Once you’ve printed the sheet of 1.5″ hexagons, use your tape measure/ruler to make sure each edge of the hexagon measures 1.5″.

If the edges don’t measure 1.5″ you’ll need to adjust your printer settings to make sure it prints at the correct size. Unfortunately, if it arrives with me and it is the wrong size it won’t fit the group quilt so this is definitely not a step to skip!

3. Set aside 2 x 1.5″ hexagons (these will be used later) and take 4 x 1.5″ hexagons. With the flat edge of the hexagon at the top, use a ruler and place it diagonally so that it is going from the top left corner to the bottom right corner.

4. Use a pencil and mark this diagonal line.

5. Repeat this so that you draw the line from the top right corner to the bottom left corner.

6. This will split your hexagon into 2 diamonds (with sides measuring 1.5″) and 2 triangles. You can draw a line through the 2 triangles to disregard them and then cut along those diagonal lines.

7. Repeat this a further 2 times so that you have a total of 6 diamonds.

8. Now the fussy cutting starts! Stripes, central motifs, pattern matching, sections, different motifs in each diamond, scrappy fussy cutting….the choice is yours! So long as it is mostly green and it has been fussy cut, it is completely up to you how to fussy cut your 6 diamonds! You can do a different motifI chose to fussy cut these Art Gallery Fabrics flowers which are from the Indie Bohème collection by Pat Bravo. I lined the stem of the flower up with the point of each diamond.

9. Now, you’re going to join these diamonds in trios. Take 3 diamonds and join them together using the photo as a guide for placement. You are joining them so that the 3 narrow points sit together. I like to use a tight whip stitch and start/stop my stitching by doubling back on myself before making a knot so that the knot isn’t at the weak part of the joining (I have a YouTube video showing how I cut, baste, and sew 6-point diamonds).

10. Repeat this so that you have two lots of diamond trios and then place these to one side.

11. Now, for the embroidery! I would love it if you could embroider a word which summarises how you feel about the 2019 #fussycuttingsewalong. This could be what the 2019 #fussycuttingsewalong means/has meant to you, how it makes you feel, what it represents for you, what you’ve got out of it, or a general summary for your views on your #fussycuttingsewalong experience! Even if it is a word that you’ve seen someone else use on their block, you can absolutely still use that word because it is personal to you and your stitching/fussy cutting combination. If anything, if there are multiple blocks with the same word on then it just strengthens the meaning of that word.

12. Using a pencil, write this word onto your hexagon. Make sure the hexagon has the point facing upwards – this bit is key otherwise it’ll be difficult to join with your diamonds.

Just a general tip, if you write it too big it may not fit on the hexie but equally so if you write it too small it could be hard to embroider. It is a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears…we need to get it just right!

13. Place this hexagon underneath your low-volume fabric and use your pencil to mark that word onto the fabric directly (this pencil line won’t be seen as you’re going to embroider on top, it is much better for marking low-volume fabrics than frixion pens and blue fabric pens which have a nasty habit of returning!)

I’ve used a fabric from the Art Gallery Fabrics Nature Elements for my low volume fabric.

Also, don’t be like me in that I really should have ironed the fabric first as it will be much easier to mark your word on ironed fabric!

14. Place this fabric into an embroidery hoop (if you’d rather not then that is okay too, find what works for you).

15. Using a PINK embroidery thread (the bolder the pink, the better!) to embroider your word onto your low-volume fabric. I’ve used backstitch but you can use any embroidery stitch that you’d like. You can totally add additional decorative embroidery too! If you’re unsure about how to backstitch, there is a really great photo tutorial on backstitch here as well as lots of other embroidery stitches on that website.

16. Once you’ve finished embroidering your word, you can take the fabric out of the hoop (if you used one) and use the hexagon template to place on top of your embroidery (point upwards) and cut around with 3/8″ seam allowance.

17. Then, baste this hexie using your preferred basting method.

18. For your second hexagon you are going to repeat this embroidery except this time, embroider the country you live in (I wanted to visually show how international we are as a community). You don’t have to embroider the whole country so, for example, if you live in Canada you might choose to just embroider ‘Can’. You can be as specific (down to the city – just no postcodes or house numbers for confidentiality reasons) or as creative (embroidering a flag or motif that represents where you live) as you like.

20. Now comes the joining part (and use the visuals as a guide to help with placement etc).

Take a diamond trio and, with the long flat edge of your trio to the left, join your embroidered word (with the hexagon point facing up) to your diamond trio by sewing the left/bottom left of your hexie to the top right of your diamond trio.

Take your 2nd diamond trio and, with the long flat edge of your trio to the right, join your embroidered country hexie (with the point facing up) by sewing the right/top right of your hexie to bottom left of your diamond trio.

21. The final step! You’re now going to join your two halves together. Using the photo as a visual, join your 2 halves together with your embroidered word at the top of your block, the embroidered country at the bottom of your block and the long edges of your diamond trio on either side of the block. Again, please make sure your threads/knots are secure so that they can withstand being posted/handled!

22. If you’re happy for it to be in the 2019 #fussycuttingsewalong group quilt then drop me a direct message on Instagram for my postal address and you’re all done! Ideally, please could they arrive before May 2020 as the very latest. I will let you know when your block arrives and share update photos of the quilt coming together. If you’re sending it to me from abroad then please could you mark the block as a ‘gift’ on customs with a value of less than £10 otherwise I get stung by customs. Please do know that I value your time and effort and that I know your time and effort is worth a lot more than £10.

So excited to see how this quilt progresses!

Book review: ‘Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe’ by Jenny Colgan = 5*

I am not going to pretend that I am not biased because, as a massive Jenny Colgan fan (the sort who still squeals when she sees there is a new Jenny book coming out!), I am blatantly biased. However, that also means I have high expectations because Jenny’s books are always so fantastic to read!

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe is no exception. It has all of the trademark Jenny Colgan-isms that I’ve come to associate with any of Jenny’s books including humour, warmth, food, comfort, love, heartache, trials, tribulations and triumphs. I got into the book incredibly quickly (which is a sign of a great book) and the ending didn’t feel rushed. It was a truly captivating, engaging and enjoyable read from start to finish which I’ve already gone and bought as a present for those I know will enjoy it! 5*!

Product review: Clover 45mm Rotary Cutter

Rotary cutters…for most of us who sew (especially patchwork and quilting), this is one of the first tools we buy and there are lots of sorts, sizes and prices out there on the market so what makes a rotary cutter a good rotary cutter?

Well, you want something that is not too lightweight that you lose your grip when using it but equally so you want something that isn’t too heavy that it is cumbersome and tiring to use. You want something that is comfortable to hold through the repetitive action of measuring twice/cutting once. You want something which is durable and isn’t going to break or blunt after a handful of uses. You also want something that looks good! The Clover 45mm rotary cutter has all of these features and more!

It is a really good size (sturdy but not too solid) which sits perfectly in the hand thanks to the soft-cushion handle and the lever can lock into place to either keep the blade exposed or keep the blade covered (it is really nice to not have to continuously hold a button in to expose the blade).

If you’ve ever used Clover products before you’ll know their products are high quality, durable, reliable and incredibly well thought out. What I really like about this rotary cutter is the fact it comes with instructions (I never ever thought I’d be excited about rotary cutter instructions but here I am!)

Why do the instructions matter? Because this rotary cutter has several features which are incredibly clever but which I wouldn’t have known unless I was told (hence the instructions!)

Firstly, this rotary cutter is suitable for both right handed use and left handed use!

You don’t need to buy special left-handed rotary cutters because this one has you covered! You simply unscrew the cover, reverse it and re-screw the cover and it becomes a left-handed use rotary cutter! So simple yet also so clever.

I also really like that safety has been considered in relation to changing the blades. There is a protective holder on your rotary cutter (and with the rotary blade refills) so that you don’t have to hold the blade directly when changing over. Again, this is something that is simple yet incredibly clever for considering practicality and safety in the same process.

Changing rotary cutter blades is something we often don’t do frequently enough and it makes a massive difference to have a sharp blade when cutting fabric. The rotary cutter blade refills come in packs of 1 or 5 and I definitely recommend getting the 5 pack as it’ll make it much easier to refresh your blades regularly!

So, what makes a rotary cutter a good rotary cutter? The proof is in this post – the Clover rotary cutter is the definition of a good rotary cutter! Strong, reliable, durable, clever, comfortable, easy-to-use and it looks beautiful with your fabric! What more could you want?

For stockists information or if you are a retailer and want to stock these items then please contact clover@stockistenquiries.co.uk

Book review: “Happiness for Beginners” by Carole Matthews = 4*

I absolutely ADORED the main storyline of this book. It is set on a farm which offers support and activities for children and young people who struggle within mainstream education. I’ve worked with children and young people who struggle within mainstream education so I know first hand just how good alternative provisions can be and also the struggles that they can face (especially around funding). This book captures it perfectly and it is so refreshing to read a chick-lit novel which also tackles such an important topic which is not typically spoken about within fiction writing. I really, really enjoyed this book. It has the perfect combination of romance, heartache, humour and real-life topics. The only thing I didn’t like (and this is completely my personal preference as I know other readers may like this) were the times when it felt like the main character was talking to me directly as the reader – I much prefer being an external observer to their world rather than being spoken to directly! Nonetheless, it is another fabulous Carole Matthews book!

Product review: Vlieseline Creative Sample Pack

I have been doing lots of machine sewing this week which means I have had the perfect opportunity to start using the Vlieseline Creative Sample Pack from Lady Sew and Sew.

It can be ridiculously frustrating to start a new project and think you’re all sorted with your fabric and thread before then realising you don’t have everything after all because you need a specific sort of interfacing. Well this sample pack is the answer because no matter what your project, there is sure to be an interfacing for you within this pack!

There are 10 sorts of Vlieseline products in this pack (with 20cm of each). Not only is each Vlieseline sample clearly labelled so that you know what you’re using, but there is also plenty of information about how to use the sample and what products it is best suited for.

I love how accessible the sample pack is…you don’t have to sort through them trying to match the sample product to the correct name/information – all of the hard work is done for you!

There are also a range of booklets showing even more products made by Vlieseline!

I have been making the Sew Over It Doris Dress this week which requires a lightweight interfacing so I have used the soft fusible interlining from the Vlieseline Sample Pack.

This is used around the neckline and where the buttons are.

It worked beautifully! It ironed onto the fabric well, it was super soft to sew, and it provided enough strength for the multitude of buttons that I have used!

This is a great sample pack and I can’t wait to start playing with the other samples!

To buy your Vlieseline Creative Sample Pack, head on over to Lady Sew and Sew.