Polaroid blocks

Polaroid blocks are my latest obsession.  I love how you can use them to highlight the tiny details that might otherwise be overlooked in a busy print.  Take this pirate fabric as a case in point.  Did you notice the pirate shark, complete with eye patch and wicked teeth, in the main fabric?

Pirate shark patchwork block

Pirate shark Polaroid block

Polaroid blocks were all the rage a few years back and I think it is time they made a comeback.  I know that all the fussy cutting makes them greedy of fabric but I don’t care.  There are just so many adorable fabric designs that are crying out to be made as Polaroids.  Who could resist the cute little images from these Dashwood Studio prints?  (Oops!  Error alert – the pigeon fabric is part of the VeloCity collection from P&B Textiles.  This is what happens when you chop off selvages).

Polaroid quilt blocks in fabrics by Dashwood Studio and P&B Textiles designs

Polaroid blocks in fabrics by Dashwood Studio and P&B Textiles

And I adore these quirky illustrations from favourites by Heather Ross.

Polaroid blocks in Far Far Away and Tiger Lily fabrics

Polaroid blocks in Heather Ross fabrics

Aneela Hoey is another great designer whose images are perfect for Polaroid blocks.

Polaroid blocks in Little Apples fabric

Polaroid blocks in Aneela Hoey fabrics

Then there are these fab ones by new(er) kids on the block, Cotton and Steel.

Polaroid quilt blocks in Cotton and Steel designs

Polaroid blocks in Cotton and Steel fabrics

And if you really want to overdose on cuteness, you”ll love these sweet little images by Australian designer Natalie Lymer.

Polaroid blocks in fabric by Natalie Lymer

Polaroid blocks in Cinderberry Stitches

I love all these blocks however my absolute favourite from my latest batch of Polaroids is this little one.  A crow peeking in the branches from the Yoyogi Park collection by Heather Moore.

Yoyogi peeking Polaroid block

Yoyogi Park Polaroid block

Ok, I think that’s enough cuteness for one day.  I’m back to the cutting board as I have another 80 blocks to trim up.

If you’re inspired to make your own Polaroid blocks, then this tutorial by Capitola Quilter is a great one to use to get you started.

Milk churn patchwork quilt

What do you give someone when you want  something that says “you’re special”, something that says “thank you”, something that says “I love you”?  For me, the answer is usually always a handmade quilt (sometimes it is cake but that is another story).

Earlier this year, it was my privilege to make a custom order quilt for a couple who have a jersey cow stud.  When I showed my client a  fun quilt pattern featuring rows of milk churns (remember those?) we knew we’d found the perfect design.  I mean, dairy farmers and milk churns, what could be more appropriate?

Milk cow kitchen patchwork quilt

Milk churn patchwork quilt

The fabric collection is Milk Cow Kitchen by Mary Jane Butters for Moda.  Nostalgic, a bit kitsch, the collection features tiny jersey cows, vintage cars, kitchen utensils, milk bottle tops and my personal favourite, lots of moos!!.  There is even a recipe for strawberry jam.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt detail

Milk churn patchwork quilt detail

To make the quilt I used this free pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop.  I did change the pattern slightly by  adding an extra column of milk churns to make it wider and I changed how I added the sashing.  The milk churn lids were made as larger strips that are then cut down making it much quicker and easier to put together than it first looks.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt detail

Milk churn patchwork quilt detail

The finished quilt was professionally long-arm quilted with an overall pattern called Cloud Nine.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt backing

Milk churn patchwork quilt backing

And for the backing, I chose this green Lulu fabric from the Up Parasol range by Heather Bailey.  It is one that I wish I had been able to buy more of as it really is the most lovely light olive green.

The 100% cotton wadding in the quilt makes it irresistibly soft and warm and gives the quilt a beautiful drape.   At 70 inches by 64 inches, it is a very versatile size and perfect for a bed or a sofa.

Today I received the good news that Royal Mail and Australia Post did their bit and delivered the quilt safe and sound to its new home.  And I’m very pleased to say that it was a very welcome present that will be much loved for many years to come.  A special gift for a lovely couple.

Checkerboard quilt – a work in progress

Strangely I seem to have a number of half-finished quilts cluttering up my workroom.  I’m not sure how this happened.  Best not to dwell on the how and instead focus on getting them completed.

With this in mind, over the past week I have been working on a checkerboard quilt top that had been languishing on my dining room table for (many) months.   I had decided to use a jelly roll for the patterned sections and then very quickly wished that I hadn’t.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love using jelly rolls.   Sadly this one seemed to have more than its fair share of strips not cut on the grain and many were slightly wider than 2 1/2 inches.   After a bit of judicious cutting, thankfully this wasn’t too much of a problem.

Rather than cut out individual 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch squares, I used this strip piecing tutorial by Red Pepper Quilts.  I selected 33 strips from my jelly roll, cut them in half on the fold line and then attached a 2 1/2 inch wide strip of plain fabric  to the long side.   Although not really necessary, I cut the jelly roll strips in half to reduce any potential problems if the strips were wonky.   I really needed only 32 jelly roll strips for the quilt.  The extra one was to allow for any cutting errors (sad to say, there was one) and also ensured I had plenty of options when putting the quilt top together so that similar/same patterns weren’t right next to each other.  The sewn strips were then cut down to 10 1/2 inches long and then sewn to another pair of sewn strips.  Although these strips were slightly shorter than the 11 inches recommended in the tutorial there was more than enough fabric available when cross-cutting the strips.

Ambleside strips for checkerboard quilt

Checkerboard quilt strips

I worked on a quarter of the quilt at a time as I don’t have a large enough space in which to layout the full quilt design.  Making up blocks of 16 squares each as per the tutorial made it much easier to nest the seams together and the reverse stayed very neat and tidy too.

Ambleside checkerboard quilt blocks

Checkerboard quilt blocks

My quilt top is now complete and ready for quilting.

Ambleside checkerboard quilt top

Checkerboard quilt top

I love the colours in this one.  They are so soft and pretty.  And the white squares make it look lovely and fresh.   Here is a close-up so you can see all that prettiness in detail.

Ambleside checkerboard quilt top detail

Checkerboard quilt top detail

It reminds me of meadow flowers strewn across a white sheet and I don’t even mind the greys in this one.  Now I just need to choose the backing fabric and the quilting pattern.  Decisions, decisions.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I used an Ambleside jellyroll by Moda –  a very pretty, country cottage collection of rose, daisy, gingham and lace designs – and Bella Solid in Off White for the plain squares.

Back with more soon.

Russian flower nozzles

Last week I bought a set of these instant flower nozzles from Iced Jems.   A friend mentioned them to me  (thanks, Hot Chop Threads!) and as soon as I saw them, they jumped to the top of my ‘must -have-list’.

Russian piping tips

Russian flower nozzles

Often the nozzles are mentioned elsewhere as Russian flower nozzles (because they come from Moscow, apparently) and this set from Iced Jems is a selection of the many Russian flower nozzle designs available.   These seven nozzles provide a good selection and I am not sure that you would miss the others as they are really a variation on a theme.

The nozzles promise the ability to quickly pipe intricate buttercream flowers on your cupcakes.  Could it really be so easy?   Only one way to find out – bake some cakes, make some buttercream (I used American buttercream here) and get piping!

My set includes two rose bud nozzles  – this one and the other similar nozzle that produces finer petals.

Russian piping tip - rose bud

Russian flower nozzle – rose bud

The other five nozzles in the set produce variations of tulip flowers like these.  Don’t you love those little stamens?

Russian piping tip - tulip

Russian flower nozzle – tulip

So what did I think?

Well, I love the nozzles and they quickly turn any cupcake into a beautiful posy of flowers.    More creative effects are possible by adding piped leaves, using multiple colours of buttercream in the piping bag to give a striped effect, or using the rose bud nozzle as the starter for a larger rose.  Something for me to try on another day.

I did find the nozzles took a bit of practice to get the flowers to form properly without sections breaking or worse, not adhering to the cupcake at all, or looking more like a blob than a flower.

To get the flowers to stick to the cupcake, I found that it helped if I spread a little fresh buttercream on the cupcake just before piping so the flower had something to stick to.   And wiping the nozzle tip between each flower helped ensure each flower piped cleanly.   The consistency of the buttercream was absolutely critical to success.  It has to be fairly stiff to form the intricate flower.  Once the buttercream warmed up from the heat of hands, I found I piped blobs rather than flowers.  Easily fixed by popping the piping bag in the fridge for a minute or two to cool down.  Timing was important here as you can’t let the buttercream get too hard.

Now off to make more buttercream and give those other nozzles a try.

Improv patchwork

Funny how things don’t turn out how you planned.  One of my New Year resolutions was to write a weekly blog post.  And we can all see how well that turned out!   Well, I am not giving up on my resolution just yet.  So on to my first post for the year.  Better late than never.

Two weeks ago I spent a fabulous day with amazing quilter Charlotte Newland at The Village Haberdashery learning the techniques of improvisational patchwork.

First up was making blocks from scraps chosen at random from plastic bags – with NO peeking!  Given that I have a thing about colours going together, I found the no peeking aspect particularly challenging.   And I was pleasantly surprised at how well my scrappy block turned out (ooh, the Liberty print!).  Doing this with your own scraps must bring back many happy memories of items you’d made earlier.

Improv patchwork block

Improvisational patchwork block

For our next block we were allowed to add in pieces of our chosen fabric (the orange butterflies) along with randomly chosen scraps.  I love the tiny pieces of text fabric in this block.

Improv patchwork block

Improvisational patchwork block

The main part of the day was spent making a piece of improvisational fabric from three fat quarters.   Below you can see what I made after a lot of cutting and sewing.  This was a lot of fun and very liberating.   Need to cut with a ruler?  Nah.  Your seams aren’t a perfect 1/4 inch?  Doesn’t matter.  Want to leave in the selvages?  Go ahead.  What bliss!

I’m not sure I like my final result but this isn’t a surprise as I did deliberately choose fabrics that weren’t my favourites.  I haven’t decided what to make with it yet.  A wall quilt, perhaps a mat for the cat…

Improv patchwork sample

Improvisational patchwork sample

 

Charlotte also showed us how to sew improvisational curves, snowball blocks and sticks.  Sorry, I don’t have photos of these as I was far to busy sewing.

Thanks, Charlotte for a great class and an opportunity to work outside my comfort zone.  I know that I’ll use what I have learnt in future quilts, particularly the improv log cabins and curves.

Drawstring bags

This Christmas I resolved to make as many presents as possible.   As well as making the presents, I also took the opportunity to gift some of them in a re-usable wrapping.  Enter the lined drawstring bag.

Shabby chic drawstring bag

Striped drawstring bag

This size (about 10 inches high) is perfect for holding smaller presents, such as socks, underwear, books or chocolates, however the bags can be made in any size that you like.  I used this fabulous tutorial by Jeni Baker.   I did change it slightly in that I cut out a square at the base of the bags to create the box, rather than struggle with lining up seams on the corners.  On Jeni’s blog, you’ll find other tutorials showing how to modify the basic bag pattern, such as this one that I used to make the striped bag above.

It is easy to customise these drawstring bags by choosing colours and fabrics to make a truly individual gift.  Here is one of my favourites, a suitably christmassy bag incorporating a polaroid block.

Lined drawstring bag with bear polaroid

Polaroid block drawstring bag

As well as a re-usable option for present wrapping, I had read on the Daily Stitch recently that drawstring bags are the perfect gift for new mums. Who knew?  This one was made following Jeni’s basic tutorial although I omitted the contrast top and added pom pom trim instead.  It is so cute even the bear likes it.

Drawstring bag

Lined drawstring bag with pom pom trim

These little drawstring bags are remarkably versatile, easy to make and suitable for people of all ages.  Great for holding toys, a nappy, pyjamas, sewing supplies, underwear for a holiday…  The list goes on.  It is a wonder how we all managed so long without them.

Christmas presents for men

Choosing Christmas presents for men is something I always struggle with.  Finding presents that are useful, that they might actually like AND that are light and easy to post to Australia makes it even more difficult.  Socks might fit the brief however there are only so many pairs of socks any man would want.

Having decided to make as many presents as I could this year, the hot water bottle cover designed by Emma of Simple Pleasures Sewing was a perfect choice for my hard-to-buy-for male relatives.  Hottie covers are light, unbreakable, soft, practical (well, perhaps not in summer but come winter time and it will be their best friend) and, most importantly, easy to personalise.

The mechanic in the family is getting this great vintage car blueprints hottie cover (It’s ok.  He never reads my blog so it is safe to show it here).  The cover is lined in the teal Flurry spot that you can see behind the hottie cover.  As well as this indigo colour way, the outer fabric comes in other great manly colours of charcoal and black and also a fabulous vintage planes design.

Vintage cars hottie cover

Vintage cars hot water bottle cover


Whilst the teenage boys will be finding hottie covers made in this gorgeous London maps fabric under the tree.

London map hottie covers

London map hot water bottle covers


I love this map fabric (Passport by 3 Sisters for Moda).  It is like a giant i-spy game and comes in coloured versions too.  Being teenagers however I thought the masculine grey tones looked more grown up and would suit them better.

Their hottie covers are lined in a co-ordinating grey spotted Flurry fabric, making the inside just as fabulous, and all hottie covers are machine quilted to make them extra cosy.

I’ve loved making these hot water bottle covers and know that the men who receive them will also love them.  A win-win situation all round.

How to make a tiara cupcake topper

For a recent cake order, I was asked to include a tiara as one of the cupcake toppers. I did not have a specific mould or cutter for a tiara and no time to order one. What to do? Thankfully necessity is the mother of invention so time to get a bit creative with my existing cutters.

 

Here is my tiara topper, complete with a sparkly ruby heart jewel.

 

Tiara cupcake topper, tiara cupcake decoration

Tiara cupcake topper

And this is how I made it for anyone else who might like to make one too.

 

What you’ll need:

 

Tiara cupcake decoration materials

Tiara cupcake topper materials

I used florist paste to make my tiara however fondant mixed with a bit of tylose or gum trag would also work. Roll the paste until it is 2-3 mm thick. Don’t roll it too thin or the tiara won’t stand up.

 

Tiara cupcake decoration method

Tiara cupcake topper method

Use a frangipani cutter to cut out the main tiara shape (I love it when cutters are multi functional). Then use a small heart cutter to cut a heart shape on each side of the tiara. Use a small oval cutter to cut an oval in the centre.  The heart cutter I used was 1.5 cm at its widest point and the oval cutter was 1.3cm long.

 

Now it looks like a tiara. Stand it up, curve it into shape and leave to dry.  When it is dry, paint it with edible metallic paint or dust with metallic lustre dust.

 

To make the jewel, colour a small piece of paste dark red. Roll it out about 1mm thick and cut out a heart using a tiny heart cutter. Paint with edible glue and shake over edible glitter. Glue it onto your tiara. Ta-dah! You now have a headdress fit for any princess.

Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

What do you do when it is cold and grey outside?  For me, I like to sew, particularly if I am making something that will be cosy and warm.  
 
Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Cat and mouse fabric

I had picked out these fabrics some time ago thinking that they would be perfect to make into a hot water bottle cover.  The gorgeous green is one from the Miss Kate collection by Bonnie and Camille (Moda) whilst the statement Cat and Mouse fabric is from Timeless Treasures.  

 

And here is the finished item, whipped up on the weekend.  A lovely hottie cover perfect for a friend who loves cats (obviously!) and who has two black and white cats of her own.  

 

Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Hot water bottle cover in Cat and Mouse fabric

As usual, I took the time to pattern match the design – mis-matched tails and paws would not sit right with me – and machine quilted the cover with an all-over diagonal pattern.
 
Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Hot water bottle cover in cat and mouse fabric

Kona solid in charcoal was used for the bias binding whilst the green fabric is the secret surprise (who doesn’t love those?) on the inside. And it is beautifully soft and warm, being made from 100% cotton.  

 

My friend loved her hottie cover and will use it every day.  It’s the perfect gift to warm the body and the heart.