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.

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 the end of January 2020 at 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!