Monday, 31 August 2009

Think I've got it!

First purse, originally uploaded by soja.

No posts for a week and then two all at once. I guess that's what comes of having several projects on the go at once.

Anyway, I think I've worked out the purse pattern I've been playing with for a couple of weeks. This is the second (and first successful) fabric prototype, I've played about with a few paper versions.

I used the knowledge from Cotton and Cloud's kit, but couldn't use the pattern, as the kit was for a larger, curved frame purse, whereas this is a small rectangular framed purse. Fortunately, U-Handbag has a tutorial explaining how to make your own pattern from your frame.

I used some of the practice quilting sandwich I still had leftover after making the bibs. The polar fleece blanket I used in the quilt sandwich definitely had more body than the fusible fleece, so seems to have made a good substitution here. I bought 10 of these frames for $16 from Cotton Touch, an Etsy seller based in Thailand, they arrived prettily wrapped and in good time. The fabric (except lining) is from Ikea.

I managed to buy some strong glue and cotton string for the cording at the local hardware store . I used bondaweb, to prevent fraying really, and then appliqued the flower pieces onto the already quilted fabric before attaching the frame.

I think I've got a pattern that works now, this was pretty easy, if a bit fiddly because of the size. Gotta tidy up all this sewing stuff before Dad arrives on Wednesday....

Mini Tortoises

Mini Tortoises, originally uploaded by soja.

I made up a pattern for these little tortoises last night, they are about 3" long and already in the post to my Etsy customer. She had mentioned that she and her husband had just got married, so I included these as a little gift (she was buying a tortoise soft toy so I guessed that she liked tortoises).

I'm pleased with how they turned out, and as I have the paper templates and they are my own design, I think I might try and write a little tutorial for them.

Been a bit quiet blogwise. I've spent the week trying to get the new freemotion foot to work with my machine better. It does, but I still have to rip out a lot of stitches because of tension problems, which disappear when I switch to the old foot. I've also been working on my own design for a metal framed purse. Not quite there yet. Dad arrives on Wednesday for a two week visit so will probably not post much, then back to work. Eek.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Stripey Puzzle Ball

Stripey Puzzle Ball, originally uploaded by soja.

I think it was a little quicker to cut and sew two balls at once. In Joelle Hoverson's book, this project is in the 4 to 8 hour section, and I'd say that's right, these took over eight hours to make together.

More Puzzle Balls

Moda Print Puzzle Ball, originally uploaded by soja.

Green print from Moda's Nouveau range. Attaching the segments is getting easier. :-)

Folded Star patchwork

Folded Star patchwork, originally uploaded by soja.

Trying something new (to me). I wanted something I could do away from the sewing machine. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be to get a good result, maybe because this cotton from Ikea is slightly thicker than quilting cotton, so a bit harder to press the points crisply.

They are small, the white blocks are 5" square, but took hours. I don't think I'd want a whole quilt of them, but I think a few would make a good feature on a quilt or bag. The red, yellow and blue one reminds be of a Primal Scream album cover.

Friday, 21 August 2009

All Quiet on the Western Front

Just checking in. It's got hot here again, 35ºC, if I get up early enough, it's bright and cool and I can get stuff done before the heat sets in, but during most of the day, it's stultifying.

I'm desperately keen to play with free-motion quilting, I've tried again with the plastic foot, and got it to work a little better, I'm bidding on another over at Ebay, I've bought the two books above, my favourite local haberdashery shop has started selling white cotton (yippee!)..... but I'm still waiting on the wadding I ordered from the UK to arrive. I do still have some polar fleece blanket, but the pale blue colour shows through the white cotton.

The Encyclopedia of Quilting and Patchwork Techniques arrived this morning, so perhaps I can get some ideas for piecing, and have a top finished by the time the wadding arrives. I'd like to have a go at making a bigger quilt, I'm really enjoying watching Genie's coming together over on her blog, but want to make a couple of smaller projects to get used to the free motion bit first.

I also found some replacement Olfa blades for sale on Ebay (US seller) for less than half the price I can get them from the UK, they arrived earlier this week. Wow! Much easier to cut with. Which sadly leads me to believe that I must have been sent a cutter with a duff blade by the shop I ordered the rotary cutter from :-( It looked like it had lint on it when it arrived (in new packaging) but I thought this might have been from the fabric I'd ordered at the same time, and it was the first time I'd seen a rotary cutter in real life, not a picture. Which is a bit naff, the fabric was also really badly cut, the curve of the cut was so bad I had to scrap 3" to straighten it up. Hopefully they were just having a bad day, it's only the second time I've ordered from them, the price of their wadding is good, and theoretically it should be quicker for things to arrive from the UK than the USA, Australia or Canada. It's just annoying because it's the sort of thing that you might query if you were in a shop, so it's like being taken advantage of because you are buying online.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Puzzling Patchwork

Fabric Puzzle Ball, originally uploaded by soja.

I made one of these last year for a friend's baby. The instructions are from Joelle Hoverson's attractive book 'Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts. It is made up of twelve sections, like last time, there was one point when I wondered if they all would fit together and make a ball. And then when they do it seems like a little bit of magic might have been involved.

I added lazy daisy stitches to each ends of the segments. The print fabric is from Moda's Nouveau line. The ball is about 51/2" high.

The structure sort of makes them a little bit bouncy. Very clever.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Drum roll please, trumpets blaring....ish

I've done it. I've opened up a shop at Etsy. :-) Waded through all the Spanish international postage charges, worked out how to reduce all the megabytes and kilobytes on my photo files, taken pictures in the best light I could find in the flat, hummed and hahhed and ermed over prices, weighed different sizes of jiffy bags and tissue paper on the kitchen scales, made up a little banner on Gimp and there we are, got a few things listed, loading took a long time.

So there you go, wonder if I'll sell anything? If you are interested, you can find me here:

The same name and banner as the blog, it seemed to fit and meant that I could use the same one :-) And save a little space in my memory.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Baby girl gifts

Baby girl gifts, originally uploaded by soja.

More free motion practise. :-)

I really like the way the bib turned out. I sort of followed the seedhead circles and petal shapes on the fabric with the quilting, without trying to follow the print exactly. This cotton is lovely, much softer, and a finer weave that some of the thicker Ikea cottons.

The ruffle-bottom onesie I made up quickly. I wanted to get it finished, washed and in the post today. It would have been quick, but don't look too closely, the machine really chewed at the fabric. Eventually, I managed to get it sewn using tissue paper under the fabric and unpicking the applique and redoing it by hand. I had to fold over the fabric on one of the ruffles where it had made holes eek! Perhaps I should have used a ballpoint needle. Hopefully, people will be far too distracted looking at the baby to notice.

Anyway, it seems to be some sort of national holiday, the post office and all shops are closed, so I couldn't get it in the post anyway. Ah well.

Still too chicken to attempt quilting the pinwheel quilt. Much easier to regulate the stitch length on smaller pieces.

And here's the back.

Flipped coin quilt back, originally uploaded by soja.

Ikea fabric with appliqued circles to link to the front. I was worried the black was going to be too "strong" for the rest of the quilt, but with the applique circles I really like it - I like the back as much as the front I think.


Flipped coin, originally uploaded by soja.

Better light? And washed and wrinkled. I love it! I like all the fabrics better together here than I did apart. I even like the quilting. :-)

Friday, 14 August 2009

Flipped coins

Flipped coins, originally uploaded by soja.

OK, how do people photograph quilts?! I'll try and get a better picture later.

Why all the circles/bubbles/flipped coins? I don't know, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I like it. They are all hemmed and handstitched on, so shouldn't fray. I'm not sure how they will wrinkle when it is washed, I might add some quilting to them if they seem to need it.

The backing fabric, which I trimmed, folded in half and stitched to the front to bind the quilt is a very nice soft cotton print from Ikea.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


Quilted!, originally uploaded by soja.

Um, yes, I know this doesn't look much like pinwheels....

The thing is, I've been having a bit of trouble with the quilting, and decided I needed to try something larger than the sandwiches I had made earlier, but a little smaller than the pinwheel quilt.

So I made this up yesterday from the white fabric and batting I had left and 11 charm pack squares. These are another Moda design - Clementine, from the same Ebay seller as before. I decided to just quilt and not stop and unpick every second squiggle.

In the end, it seems the problem was something to do with the new darning foot. It seems to fit ok, but I just couldn't get the tension right at all. After trying everything I could think of with the tension, thread and needles. I swapped back to my old broken-but-fixed-awkwardly-by-me darning foot, and no tension problems. Why? I might see if I can get some advice from somewhere, maybe a quilting group on flickr.

What to do about the foot? I'm sort of happy to have actually finished this with this technique, but frustrated too, because I don't know why I was having the problem. I like the design of the old foot because it has a bigger ring to see through, but my repair won't hold out for long. The new foot is plastic, and much quieter to use, I see lots of other people using plastic feet, so don't see why that should be a problem. Humph.

I have to say.... a give away

Ha ha, it rhymes, not me giving away, though perhaps I will, it's just I'm not sure there are many people out there that would be interested....

Anyway, Bake and Sew posted about this great fabric give away over at I have to Say, what beautiful fabric, sigh, I wish there was a lovely fabric shop here.... Though I do have a little fabric ordered from Etsy seller TheHandMadeRepublic, thanks to an unexpected tax rebate - thank-you Mr Spanish tax man. And now I'll just have to go over and have a look at I have to Say's Etsy shop FreshSqueezedFabrics - any seller that will squeeze 8 to 10 yards into a priority mail package sounds good to me!

And another fabric give-away. From never entering a give away, I've entered two in one day, (blushing a little). I just went over to SimplyThisAndThat's blog to say thank-you for the Pinwheel Baby quilt pattern, while taking a break from the actual quilting which is getting a little frustrating. And she is having a beautiful fabric give away, if I make enough quilts I guess I'll have scraps one day too.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

And this wasn't the winner

It didn't even make the top three. Wow.

On the quilt front, I'm waiting for the new darning foot to arrive in the post.

Next step - on your knees!

Hand basted quilt, originally uploaded by soja.

I (almost) feel like I have just hand quilted the whole thing!

But wouldn't that look great? Perhaps on some linen, embroidery thread spiral... hmm, another project.

I was going to try the curved safety pins for the first time, but a little note with my order said that they were out of stock and would arrive in about two weeks. So back to thread basting. I'm not really sure that using pins would be quicker. You still have to put them in, much like the needle, and then you have to stop and take them out as you quilt.

Not so arduous, bit hard on the knees, as I stuck the layers to the floor. The long and strong Milliners needle made the process easier. Note to self that the masking tape was a bit too sticky for the batting.

A second overcast day, and very windy - bad for photos, but oh my! Us dog walkers are all delighted with the slight reduction in heat. I actually wore three-quarter length sleeves today without baking.

Next step, free-motion quilting, not sure whether to wait and hope the new foot turns up soon, or go ahead and use my self-repaired one. And the pieced back? I love it almost as much as the front...

Monday, 10 August 2009

Quilted bibs

Quilted bibs, originally uploaded by soja.

What to do with all the practise quilt sandwiches?
Colourful absorbant cotton on the outside, and some fleece blanket inside - sounds like a good combination for a bib. Lots of bibs.
And the one thing I can find in this town is bias-binding, no fabric, but trims and bias binding a plenty.
Despite the cotton being pre-washed, it still wrinkled nicely after washing.
Quilt back pieced, just got to baste and quilt. Pretty good weekend.

Sunday, 9 August 2009


Quilt top finished, originally uploaded by soja.

Fabric arrived/collected from the post office yesterday (Friday) morning, along with rotary cutter and batting.

2am Saturday morning quilt top finished. :-) Much bigger squares/pieces than the first quilt = much quicker and easier to do. Though this ended up a little smaller than the pattern, despite my efforts to be accurate. :-( So I still need to work on that - but I'm happy with the result. :-)

Pattern by Jodi for Moda Bakeshop.
I followed V and Co's great tutorial for making the pinwheel blocks.
Moda Nouveau by Sentimental Studies - 1/2 yards purchased from Etsy seller Whipstitch and a charm pack of the same from Ebay seller Emerald City (both US).
White quilters' calico from Cottonpatch (UK).
White cotton thread from Ikea.

Time for dog walk and bed.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Making me happy today

Making me happy today, originally uploaded by soja.

New plants!.

These lovely bright flowers on the table that I don't know the name of, and the bourganvilia against the wall in the background. These are what I see through the window from my sofa. :-)

And fabric in the post for more quilt plans. It's a good day.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

My Sewing Machine

Well, I still think of this blog as a little notebook for me - and I love it for that! It is the first notebook I have ever had that I am not able to misplace, lose, tuck into a drawer somewhere and spend hours looking for.... etc etc.

I have noticed though, that a few people have come here looking for information about Lervia sewing machines, so I want to give them some information. I'm not an expert, or professional, but I did learn to sew on my Mum's machine a little before I started school and so before I learnt to read and write. Thirty years ago - eek, how did that happen?

I've had this machine, I think, for about two years, and she has got a fair bit of use in the last year and a half. For the price, I think it is a pretty solid mechanical machine. To me, the weight of the machine indicates that it has more metal than plastic parts, which I take as a good sign.

The biggest problem I have had is with tension, partly my fault. I have only recently learnt that you should only adjust the upper tension when the foot is down. This has made so much difference! I don't remember having been taught this by my Mum, or at school, or reading it anywhere - and now I want to pass on this information to everyone, it's logical, when the foot is down the machine is "in action". Perhaps I knew and had forgotten, I spent five or six years travelling and working, without a machine...

Of course, using decent thread and needles is very important. Not just because of the project you are sewing, but using thread that is weak and frays, or bent, blunt needles can damage the machine, foot plate and bobbins. I generally use gutermann 100% polyester thread, or the 100% cotton thread from Ikea. I have also used special machine quilting thread and some special shiny metalic and embroidery threads with success.

I have just started buying schmetz needles online from Jaycotts, I invested in a box of 100 size 14/90 needles so that I would not be tempted to use old needles, it also works out a lot cheaper. This is the size I use most frequently for medium-weight cotton (like the solid colours from Ikea) and for quilting. I use size 12/80 for light weight cotton (quilting/dress weight) and a size 16/100 needle for some of the thicker furnishing and canvas weight fabrics (again, mostly from Ikea) and with lighter fabrics if there are a lot of seams/layers to sew through - for instance when attaching a strap to a bag.

This machine came with a zigzag, buttonhole, zipper, button and blind hem foot. I have bought a few universal feet to use with it. This Lervia is a low-shank model. I use the walking-foot a lot (universal from Jaycotts - but comes in Janome packaging), not just for quilting, but to make sure patterns are aligned, seams stay even and I find it prevents ribbons and trims from slipping around. I am also just beginning to learn free-motion quilting and have been using a metal darning foot, as it broke this week I have temporarily fixed it, but have a new one ordered. I also have a generic invisible zip foot, pintuck foot and have a 1/4" patchwork foot ordered. From my old singer machine (I miss it's solidness - she's in England) I find that the feet I have for her also fit on this machine - this may not always be the case - I know some Singers are slant-shanked machines, so their feet would not fit onto a low-shank machine.

Well, this is a long post! I am so grateful to the people that have put all the information on the internet, I hope this is paying just a little back. Living far away from a library has made the internet the first place I turn to for help. If there is anyone out there that would like more information on the sewing machine, feet, techniques or help with something, please leave a comment, and if I can help I will!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Japanese fabric Purse

Japanese fabric Purse, originally uploaded by soja.

Another thing on the list! I was a bit worried that the clasp would be very tricksy, so I thought buying a kit would make it simpler - and I have been an admirer of Cotton and Cloud's blog for a while. She makes a lot of lovely knitted things, including a knitted purse like this and writes about her furry friends.

I bought this kit, with this beautiful Japanese fabric from her Etsy shop, and I love it! Getting the cording into the clasp was a little tricky on the second half, I think because getting in the material had been a bit too easy so there was too much material in there... but overall it was quick and simple - thanks to having everything spelt out very clearly in Cotton and Cloud's directions.

'Cos baby I'm free, to do what I want.....

Learning to free-motion quilt, originally uploaded by soja.

Another thing on the list. I bought a darning foot about this time last year, but apart from quilting just enough fabric to make an oven glove in February, I hadn't used it. I was a little intimidated by the constant jumping and noise it made. And all the stuff on the internet about the process being difficult.

So I decided I'd just make up a few quilt sandwiches with some cotton from Ikea and some more of that fleece blanket and have a go - this way no precious quilt tops or projects damaged!

Well, it was fine, strangely, my machine didn't seem to mind at all - no tension problems or chewing of fabric, thank-you Miss Machine. Really, she had been so moody recently I actually kissed her.

I also decided to try out some different thread, though not quilting thread as I can't buy it here, and only have a little left, so it's precious stuff. I used 100% cotton thread from Ikea for the first two attempts, on the red and yellow fabric, 100% polyester Gutermann thread on the blue and 35% cotton, 65% polyester Coats Duet thread on the orange.

I need to practise to get my stitch lengths equal, and the curves, especially when I was getting adventurous and trying to make circle like swirls on the orange, need to be smoother, but for a first proper go, I'm pretty encouraged.

The only bad thing, is that the all metal darning foot that I had bought from Jaycotts last year has broken! Already! The metal spoke that sits on top of the needle screw snapped. I'm not sure whether I should contact the company and tell them, it seems a bit bad for it to break after so little use. I managed to continue by using some picture hanging wire and a nail and sort of wiring this onto the foot in place of the spoke. Any quilters out there have a recommendation for a decent foot?

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Buttercup Bag

Buttercup Bag, originally uploaded by soja.

I wanted a smaller, lighter coloured, more summery bag. I've seen loads of these on the internet. The pattern is Rae's Buttercup Bag generously available for free at:

I used some mediumish weight cotton for the exterior and some canvas weight fabric for the lining, both from Ikea.

I modified Rae's pattern a little. She does not suggest using interfacing, I wanted my bag to be fairly shaped and not too floppy, so I added a layer of fleece to the lining layer. I don't have and proper fleece interfacing, I just buy €2.50 polar blankets from Ikea and and cut them up. Has anybody used fusible fleece? What's it like? I've ordered one of Cotton and Cloud's lovely bag kits with some in it so I can find out.

I also added a zippered pocket to the inside, really because I need the practise, each time I do it I get a little (little) better. I follow Autumn's great tutorial at SewMamaSew. Inside of a magnetic clasp, I made a loop and matching button to close the bag. I changed the direction of the pleats, so that I had a centre pleat and two mirrored pleats either side (in Rae's pattern all the pleats are in the same direction).

Finally, accidentally and unwantedly, I made the bag bigger, Down to my unorthodox method of copying the pattern. I traced it off of my computer screen, ahem...No, I didn't damage the computer, but I hadn't realised my computer had enlarged the page. Thought it looked big...

Overall, I like this bag, although it is still a bit too floppy - I think this maybe because it is bigger and next time I will add some interfacing to the strap, or maybe use some stiffer fabric.