Ruler Quilting – A New Approach to FMQ

This week I held the first of my new Ruler Quilting Classes. I was really excited to show the five ladies all about how rulers can be used on a domestic sewing machine to create fabulous free motion designs.  Ruler quilting offers the opportunity to switch the way you think about free motion quilting.  By using rulers you are able to create smaller, manageable structures which are great to look at on their own, or you can embellish them with more traditional free motion designs, like pebbles, ribbons, figures of eights, feathers and zig zags. During the class, there is lots of practice in the morning (or on the first evening), and in the afternoon (or second evening) the class focusing on marking and making the cushion sampler below.

In the class, we learnt about ruler feet. The ruler foot looks exactly like your darning foot, except it is thicker. It doesn’t have the bar that fits over the needle screw and it doesn’t hop. instead, it will just glide over the material. Setting the ruler foot to the correct height is critical so that the fabric moves easily, but the height of the foot is not so great such that the stitches don’t complete properly or the ruler is able to slip under.

It is now possible to spend your life savings on rulers for use with a domestic machine – however, if you buy just a few, but good ones, then that is really all you need to get started. Rulers with good markings are equivalent to extra rulers, as you can use that one ruler in more dimensions with great accuracy. Before you buy any ruler, have a good look at it and see if there are options for you to use them in different ways, for example

  • Do they have markings so that you can echo the lines you have drawn at ¼” or ½” or more
  • Do they have degree marking at 45’ or 60’ so that you can accurately create a triangle or circle of your ruler work
  • Do they have clear starting and end points that mark ¼” from the needle or have a lip to stop you going past the point
  • Do they have both horizontal and vertical lines so that you can use the ruler at 90 degrees to your work with just as much accuracy without having to twist the quilt

There is more to the ruler than just the shape of the outside edge!

I buy Handiquilter rulers and have built up a little stock now. They are beautiful but expensive. In the class, each person can use my Handiquilter Rulers, but each pupil in the class had access to all four of the rulers that Angela Walters brought out earlier this year. They are versatile, the right size for domestic quilting and all four retail at around £90 in the UK, which is much less of an investment to make to continue with ruler quilting after the class.

As with everything, it is practising that makes us proficient. Ruler quilting is definitely something for you to try – for many people, I expect this to be the breakthrough in free motion quilting that they have been looking for.

For details of further information on my Ruer Classes 1 & 2  and other GillyMac class click here.

Liberated Quilting : Finding What You Like

Years ago I bought a book called “Liberated Quiltmaking II” by a lady called Gwen Marsden. I found the whole technique that she used for improvisational piecing very refreshing. I like rules, but I also like to know how far I can bend them and this book showed me a new way to piece patchwork without so many rules or worries. Early on, I made a number of small items using this technique and gifted them away. I wish I had taken more photos of my very early work. Not because it was uber memorable, but so I could have better recorded my journey through quilting and more importantly my journey to find the things I like most in the wide array of techniques and genres that make up the patchwork and quilting world. After a lot of small pieces, I did make a quilt, very loosely based on ideas gleaned from Gwen’s book.

Around the same time as this, I found a blog by Kate Pedersen called Sew Katie Did . Kate’s improvisation technique was more controlled but created the most amazing edgy modern pieces. I remember on our first family holiday in the Lake District, taking my sewing machine and working my way through a number of the pieces in her book Quilting Modern (which funnily enough she wrote with Jacquie Gerring, who also wrote WALK, the book I reviewed for #fridayreads this month). This is a piece I made on that holiday whilst Brian fell walked with the girls.

These two pieces are strikingly different but are linked by the more free approach they take in piecing. I think with quilt making my heart probably rests somewhere between the work of Gwen and Kate. I would be more certain if I felt more confident in working around a blank canvas, the complete opposite of creating a quilt strictly from a pattern. However, I can say with certainty that this is the direction my own personal quilting is most likely to go in the coming years.

I currently teach a class once or twice a year on my own GillyMac version of Liberated Quilting. Last week there were ladies here at the studio, eating cake and challenging themselves with colour and a more relaxed approach to piecing. I am not sure if they were complete converts to throwing away patterns, but I know they all enjoyed the day, as did I in hosting it.                 

Keeping You Organised : Free Document Wallet

Before I go on holiday (or travel for business – when I used to do that regularly), I frequently had a really vivid dream.  It was one of those dreams that you wake up from all upset and worried and it takes you a moment to work out that actually it is all ok and it is just a dream – whew! The dream involves me trying really really hard to get to the airport and every mode of travel I try fails along the way. This leads to me being hideously late. Normally when I get close to the airport, I also realise that I haven’t got my passport with me and have to return home to collect it.  I feel stressed writing this down!

I have put these dreams down to my husband who is perpetually late for everything – except the airport. In normal everyday life, he doesn’t believe he is late until it is past the time he needs to be somewhere. So he can plan to go into Putney to coach rowing at 11am – which is a journey of about 30-40 minutes, so he should leave by 10.20am. However, in his mind, he isn’t late until it’s after 11am – even if he is still at home at 10.55am. Conversely, when we go to the airport we have to get there super early – hours earlier than is necessary – which then involves a ridiculous amount of hanging about and shopping!!  So let’s just blame him for my dreams! 

Before I went to New York in April, I did ponder my dream and thought it may help to make myself a document wallet so I knew exactly where the passports, travel documents, insurance papers etc., were. It was a huge success. It was small enough not to be bulky but big enough not to get lost. The zip, which is part way down the front didn’t get snagged on the content. All in all, I was really pleased with it. I made another one a couple of weeks ago for my daughter who was off to Slovenia on holiday with her pal… again it was a success. So I have written up the pattern to share with you all.

I hope you enjoy it – and your husband isn’t as funny and crazy as mine. 🙂

GillyMac Document Wallet

ps. We’ve been married 15 years today and he is the best!!

 

 

 

Off To The Beach

I loved this bag from the moment I saw the pattern. It was smart,  big and had the opportunity to use some really fun fabrics. In May half term my older daughter is off to find some sun in Slovakia, so hopefully, she will like the bag as much as I do and want to take it on holiday with her. The pattern is by Swoon Patterns. I enjoy making Swoon Pattern bags. The instructions are clear and reliable and the results are always really professional.

I used fabric from Sophie Allport. Sophie Allport isn’t your normal ‘go-to’ fabric store, her collection of canvas/homeware curated fabrics is great. I don’t have a little boy … but if I did, the Dinosaur fabric would be on my wishlist … in fact I love it so much, I may buy some anyhow!  Just a note on the Sophie Allport fabric – it is expensive at £25/m, but it is 150cm wide… that is super wide and so it is much better value than it may appear at first.

This bag is a little different as the handles are not sewn down on to the bag front, instead, they are threaded in a continuous loop around and through the bag. This makes the bag really different. I decided to buy handles ready made. I find that bought handles can often make a big difference to the professional look of the final bag. I recently found that U-Handbag is selling pleather handles on a roll. They are 1 1/4″ wide, backed with hessian. and come in 3 colours.  They are also beautifully edge stitched. They are too thick to easily sew onto a bag but could be attached with Chicago screws or something similar.

Although I used pleather for the handles, for the base piece of the bag I had a piece of real leather big enough – just. It also wasn’t too thick. The thickness of the base of this bag is important to consider as to make the bag corners you will be sewing through, the outer thicker fabric, your equivalent to the flamingo fabric and the fleece interfacing  all doubled over on itself… and my machine was fine with this except over the (already created) seams, where I needed to hand crank the machine through those bits carefully – and I won’t lie .. I broke several needles.

By comparison, making the buttonholes for the handles was much easier. This involved creating buttonholes through the flamingo fabric, fleece interfacing, lining and light/medium woven interfacing was easily enough after a few practise goes!

This bag doesn’t have many pattern pieces, so cutting out took me around 50 minutes and making the bag took 3 hours (max).  I have added to the bag by installing a meshed zipped pocket in it – for my daughter’s suncream and bits and pieces she needs regularly. I have also made a document wallet for her and a make-up bag to. I used the pattern from the Grainline Portside bag for the document wallet and winged it a little bit for the make up bag.

Metro Rings: Using the Quick Curve Rulers (with free quilting plan)

Deborah and I made this stunning quilt together. She did the hard work in the patchwork piecing and I got to quilt it, and whilst I wanted the background to be a brilliant white, she chose the wonderful colours that make up the rings.

It was made using the Mini Quick Curve Ruler by Sew Kind of Wonderful. At the end of last year, I invested in a number of both the mini and full-size rulers for my classes. I really like working with rulers and teaching using good rulers. The best rulers are the really versatile ones. By that, I mean ruler with good markings on them so you can move them increments of partial inches and lines on so you can cut with the ‘on point’. These rulers have all those features AND they have matching quilting rulers which are excellent for identically matching the curves, inside and outside of your piecing work.

This quilt can be made using the larger ruler, but we chose to use the smaller one as I wanted to check out the suitability of this pattern for a cot size quilt – and it doesn’t disappoint. It is built using 2″ x 10″ strips, (for the larger quilt jelly roll strips are suggested). Although the pattern suggests using 20 10″ squares, in fact, we would recommend not bothering with this and just cutting up scraps, which are 10″ long, into 2″ slices. We found that the more colour tones we used and patterns we incorporated the more interesting the final quilt became. Fabric with smaller prints work best with this quilt as larger prints would get chopped up and lost. The strips are sewn together in batches and then cut cross-ways using the ruler.

As with all our rulers, we added Handi Quilter gripper to the back of them to stop them slipping as we cut out the fabric. This is essential and the Handi-Grip product is the best one that I’ve found (and a little goes a long way).  The rulers have a slot in them that you place the rotary cutter in and move it along. We did think the slot was quite wide, but if you are consistent with how you place your cutter then this isn’t a problem.

More of an issue with the mini version Deborah was making, was that the pieces were small and partly bias cut, so were quite unstable. This meant that if you didn’t iron them they would curl slightly and not sew together well, but if you ironed them, even a little too vigorously, they would stretch and be useless.  When you test out a quilt pattern, you are most often halfway through the patchworking build before the penny drops and we see how to get it working well. This quilt was no different and after a number of goes building the curved block only to find that they were too small, we tweaked the pattern to make it ‘full proof’.

The choice of the colours used in the blocks joining the rings is really important. If you decide to make this quilt yourself, consider carefully what colour and pattern to use for these pieces. Deborah chose a Dashwood Twist in smoke and a Kona grey.

Below I have attached a free quick reference guide for quilting this piece. The correct quilting rulers make the job much easier and I enjoyed filling in the shapes I made with very basic designs. This was not a hard quilt to make look good.

 I am thrilled with this quilt. It would make a stunning baby gift or maybe one day I will get around to making the larger one for my bed! Sew Kind of Wonderful has lots of patterns using the quick curve rulers. The rulers themselves can be bought from Creative Grids, though I did have to buy the matching quilting rulers from Sew Kind of Wonderful in the USA.

 

GillyMac Metro Rings Quilting Plan

There are two classes this year to make this quilt… 20th June and 6th November, both classes are at my studio in Maidenhead and run from 10am -3.30pm – with lots of tea and homemade cakes – of course! Every student gets an original copy of the pattern to go home with.

 

My Latest Adventure with Aneela Hoey – The All-In-One Box Pouch

I’m a HUGE fan of Aneela Hoey, her patterns and the way she can create such fun mini projects, most of which can be achieved in an evening. This time I wanted to make the All-In-One Box Pouch. The standalone pattern has been recently updated, but a version of it can also be found in Aneela’s book – Stitched Sewing Organisers.

I have to admit to having a tendency to be distracted by sparkly things and for a long time now I have been loving working with Robert Kauffman Metallic Essex Linen. I find that for these boxes, the added firmness of the linen fabric is really helpful and of course, like a child, I love the way it sparkles in the light! For this project, I have used Ebony Essex Linen with Gold Metallic Threads and twined it with Tula Pink’s Tabby Road Fur Ball Fabric in the Strawberry Fields colorway.

I enjoy evenings making things much better when I have previously got myself all prepared. As well as fabric, for this project, you will also need fusible interfacing (I used light-medium Vilene F220/304), fusible fleece (I used Legacy Extra Lofty Fusible Fleece) and also clear vinyl (I used sparkly vinyl – obviously:-)). The day before I spent an hour cutting out, fusing on and ironing binding strips – all ready for my solo #saturdaynightcraftalong.

The first thing to make is the front pouch. I hadn’t made a pouch like this previously  – but having done it, I will certainly be adding it to the techniques I used most frequently. It is created by adding the binding and zips to the vinyl and then casing it in the lining and basting the external fabric on the reverse. If that wasn’t clever enough, the 20″ zip is then sewn around the pouch … then the whole lot has binding applied all around the edges.  I’ve missed out a few steps, as Aneela’s Pattern is her own, but believe me it is super clever and not hard when you take it step-by-step!

After the fervor of making the front pouch it was time for tea and cake and a little hand sewing to finish the binding off. Then I was off again !!!….. making the back pocket and then adding it and the front pouch to the exterior pieces of the main pouch. The pouch is then sewn together and suddenly you are finished. WHEW !

All in all (without cutting out). It took me 2 1/2 hours to make this – so 3 1/2 hours with cutting and fusing.

The important points to highlight about the pattern is that however experienced you are, read it properly and follow it closely. Don’t skip the kick -off steps making up the tabs, adjusting the top of the long zipper or marking up the material as directed. These are all vital to your success. My bag is now filled with my traveling medicine cabinet. You can get a lot of stuff in this pouch!

I so loved making this, I have already cut out the pieces for another one. Once again I am using the Metallic Essex Linen (this time Navy with Silver Metallic threads) but for the lining, I am going to use a Cotton & Steel/Rifle Paper Co.  fabric range called Amalfi. I like the combination of the Sun Girls and Waves fabrics, both in Coral. I thought I would use the Waves fabric for all the binding and the Sun Girls for the linings of both the front and main pouches. I think this combination will be perfect for my older daughter on the beach later on in the summer.

The next class with spaces on it to make the Aneela Hoey All-In-One Box Pouch is on 3rd July (7pm-10pm). Call Gill on 07818 551232 or email on mail@gillymacdesigns.com to book a space.

More information about Aneela and her patterns can be found here.

Happy Sewing …… Gill

 

Teen Modern Quilting Challenge : Part 1 ~ Ice Dyeing 

Sometimes a challenge can get the creative ideas flowing and a month or so ago my Saturday Morning class were set a challenge, to create a small piece of work, based on one of four pictures of places special to me. There were of St Basil’s Basilica in Red Square, the Isle of Skye, the Dead Sea in Israel or the Blue Mountains in Australia. All places I had visited for the first time in my teens or 20s that I just loved and still do.

I wanted the girls to look at the colours and mood of the pictures, not necessarily the composition, and use small pieces of fabric to create a modern mini quilt top – about the size of a large placement.  Using just plain fabric would be a good start, but to add to this, and give their mini quilts ‘movement’, we decided to give ice dyeing a go. Although I dye frequently for myself, I’d only ice-dyed once before – so it was an adventure for all of us!

We started with fabric which had no manufacturing residues on it. If you give any fabric a good wash in a machine it should be fine.  I like to used Egyptian cotton which has a high thread count and arrives ready for dyeing. There is no need to dye large pieces – in fact, the pieces we were dyeing were around fat quarter-ish size in area.

I prepared a soda ash solution*, which is a fixing agent, ahead of time and let it cool. Each piece of fabric was soaked in the soda ash solution and wrung out.  Then it was up to each individual how to arrange their piece. They could fold, pleat, scrunch, roll or twist their fabric pieces. We then secured the folded fabric with a couple of elastic bands. The fabric bundles were placed on a metal rack (I used a cooling rack) which was suspended over the sink. This is so that as the ice melts, the fabric isn’t sitting in a pool of mixed up dyes. The dye that isn’t soaked into the fabric just drips off the metal tray.

We then covered the pieces completely in ice. It can be hard to get the ice to stay on top of your mounds of fabric so crushed ice can be easier if you get into trouble. Once completely covered (and with gloves on), we used 1/2-3/4 teaspoon of three or four power dyes (I used Procion MX dye) sprinkled

over the ice. The colour of dyes was chosen on the basis of what we had and what fitted with the mood of the picture we would be working with. As there were 5 people dying 10 bits – all of which were on one rack – we expected some crossover of dyes as the ice melted – which was another element of excitement for us. Finally, we sprinkled 4 tablespoons of salt onto the ice. This was to help the dye fix into the fabric rather than wash away later.

This was then left for 24 hours, for the ice to melt and the dye to settle into the fabric bundles, at the end of 24 hours, once again with gloves on, the bundles were unwrapped and rinsed in very hot water and placed in washing machine where they were all washed together on a quick 30 minute was with normal washing detergent.

…. and…….this was the outcome. We were thrilled!

   

Now the next stage could begin – they were going to start to compose their pieces!

*I used 10 teaspoons of soda in 500ml of hot water. Be very careful when you dissolve the soda ash. Always wear gloves, do this in a well-ventilated room and do not inhale the gas that is generated. Just a few precautions and you will be fine. Always follow the soda ash manufacturers instructions to the letter. If you have any of this solution left afterwards, then store it in an airtight container, label the container (very important) and store it for the next time.

Happy Sewing …… Gill

Note: All Gill’s Child/Teen sewing classes are full at this time. To go onto a waiting list, please email mail@gillymacdesigns.com

 

Teen Modern Quilting Challenge : Part 2~ Make The Modern Minis

The Saturday morning girls are always quick to adopt new ideas and find pretty much everything we do (except hand sewing) really exciting. Lola chose to work from the picture of St Basil’s Basilica and the other 4 decided to use the picture of the Dead Sea. Just to remind you, the girls’ challenge was to use the colours and mood of the pictures but, at this stage, not to focus on the shapes in the pictures.  We divided the pictures into columns and worked on the colour palettes in these sections, building up strips of colours represented in the pictures.

The girls weren’t afraid to try inserting gentle curves in their pieces to add movement and interest. We also found that mixing the solid Kona colours with the ice dyed fabrics worked perfecting to break up the flatness you can sometimes get with plain colours alone. Once sections were completed, the next section was started using their knowledge of the combinations that worked from the last section.  We found that by cutting into the work already done and adding in Metallic Essex linen also added a sunshine sparkle to the dead sea pictures and a rich opulence to that of St Basil’s.

Over a couple of classes, the patchwork element of the mini quilts was completed and next we planned to do some line drawing of the outlines of the objects in the pictures on top of our quilts.

We used a heat transfer pencil to replicate the images we wanted to sew onto the mini quilts. This was not completely successful. Initially, tracing the outline of the pictures onto paper was quite easy. We taped the pictures and paper to the window and traced away using the special pen. At first, we didn’t reverse the image when we traced it – but trial and error sorted us out and we started again, tracing the mirror image this time.

We lay the mini quilts facing upwards on the ironing board, the traced image facing down and with a very hot iron and a dry pressing cloth and some persistence, the image transferred.  The downside of using this method was that if you took a peek to see if the image was transferred, getting the paper back down in exactly the right place to avoid double images was really hard (and we did have some double images). Also, the marks didn’t transfer as the thin pen lines we had drawn, they were thicker and more smudged. This wasn’t ideal, but we worked around that by sewing over the lines more than once.

The sewing was very successful. Jess’s larger image of a palm tree looked stunning when sewn in and even with the smaller imager, the girls all found ways to make them work.

Until this point, we hadn’t had a clear plan of what we would do with these pieces, but a casual conversation about transporting school work led to us all having the idea of making zip up folders for their school bags… We ironed the mini quilts onto single-sided R-foam to give them extra body. the girls chose lining fabric from my stash and we used metallic Essex linen for the backing. The pieces were so successful that with the remnants I made each of them coin purses.

We all loved this project. Now the girls have moved on to their piece for the Festival of Quilts in the Summer… more on that soon.

Happy Sewing …… Gill

Note: All Gill’s Child/Teen sewing classes are full at this time. To go onto a waiting list, please email mail@gillymacdesigns.com

 

Travel Bags – Sewing with Leather & Adding Zips

Earlier this month I headed off to New York for 8 eight days with my family. Our trip started on the Tuesday after the Easter weekend. This lovely long weekend before we headed off meant that once I had got my classes finished and the house and family prepared for the trip, I had a day to myself to dedicate to sewing a leather travel set.

To put this in context, I’d had the pattern for 3 months ahead of this time, the fabrics for 2 months before that, and a month ago I’d traced the pattern and decided on the hacks I was going to make to the design, ready for a day when I got time to sew for myself. So this was nothing like a spur of the moment thing! The pattern I’d chosen was the Portside Travel Set by Grainline Studios. I make a lot of their dressmaking patterns and was intrigued to have a go at this set.

The set comprises a large cabin bag/weekend bag, along with a zipped document holder and a structured zipped pouch which could be used for toiletries, but I found it super useful for the chargers, plugs and all that type of paraphernalia that a family on tour requires. I’ve recently been enjoying sewing with leather when making free machine embroidered gifts, where I’ve added leather panels to  ‘pimp up’ the pouch. For a similar reason, I had bought leather to make this bag just a little bit more special. Adding the extra zipped compartments and meshed pockets made the bag more functional – as key items could be held securely and found quickly when travelling. All the linings with this travel set are drop-in – which I opted to hand sew in place, so were easy to modify.

Whilst the pattern, like all Grainline patterns, was great, having some knowledge of bag making allowed me to swap out plain interfacing for more structured foam, and to add in meshed and pillar box zip pockets in the travel bag and the ‘toiletries’ bag.I also felt the travel bag needed a firm base, so I added a fabric covered stiff removable bag bottom, as well as adding bag feet.  These things are easy to add and you can customise this bag however you want to because the base pattern is so good.

This was not a hard make at all. With all bag making, there is a lot of time required to cut all the various pieces out in fabric, lining, leather, interfacing, foam etc., but when that is done, this is a really enjoyable make. At points I was sewing through 2 layers of leather along with foam, for this a size 90 leather needle, a longer stitch length and going slowly was required.

Having returned from New York, the bag was a roaring success with a couple of people asking where I had bought the set! The document holder is a great size and my charger bag was perfect for chargers and earphones which always end up rattling about at the bottom of a bag. The meshed pockets in the main travel bag worked well.

The Portside Travel Set Pattern retails for £14 for the ‘proper’ paper version or around £11 ($16) if the pdf is download from the Grainline website.

For details of the 3-evening classes to make this set visit GillyMac Designs website or click here.

Guest Blog : The Making of a Baby Quilt by Jessica

Over February half term I decided to make a baby quilt, well more like a throw. I made it as a gift to my form tutor, as his partner has just had a baby. He’s also been my form tutor for the last five years so it’s also as a thank you gift. I go to sewing classes with Gill Towell of Gillymac Designs where I have made three different and unique quilts. We have also entered two quilts as a group for the National Festival of Quilts. We came 2nd with one and got highly commended in the other.

I started by looking for fabric suitable for baby boys and found that there were lots. I then had to work out what size I needed and how many squares I needed. I bought a fat quarter bundle which came with 5 different materials. As I was short of a few squares, I bought another bundle which I thought has colours in it which would bring all the fabric together  – which indeed it did!

I started off by drawing out my pattern and seeing which patterns would work well together. I then assembled it by making blocks of 9, 3 across 3 down. I decided to have 6 squares going across by 9 squares down. Once I had made the patchwork top centre,  I added the borders which I decided to have white so that it would accentuate all of the colours in the main panel. After that, I glued it to the backing using temporary glue. I then quilted the whole thing using a walking foot creating a grid design. I finished the quilt by making my own binding and sewing it around the edge. This gave the quilt a nice finish and made the whole thing come together.

The most challenging bit was adding the binding and trying to make it look neat at the corners. I also found matching the fabrics and making it look nice was quite difficult and took a long time.

My favourite part of the quilt is how it all comes together and how the colours work well. I like how the binding finishes the edges and how it brings it all together. I would definitely make it again as I had so much fun making it. There is so much effort and concentration involved and I have learnt so much from doing it.

I would do it the same way because it’s a great design and I like the way in which it turned out.

I am giving it away sometime next week before my form tutor goes on paternity leave.