29 September 2015

Daylight Company Desk and Sewing Lamps

It's officially Autumn now, and as the nights are drawing in (although as I type we seem to be having an un-seasonably warm end to September, which I very much welcome of course) we can expect the daylight hours to disappear quickly come late afternoon. So it's not always an ideal scenario for sewing for long hours into the night - and early hours, which I'm sometimes guilty of. So when Daylight contacted me to ask if I would like to review a few of their lights, I jumped at the chance. 

Daylight Company hale from the UK and are the market-leading brand of speciality lighting technology for the hobby industry across Europe. They specialise in 'daylight' lighting, bringing the natural light of the outdoors, indoors, using low heat/low energy bulbs that are ideal for close-up sewing work and perfect to use for long periods. 

They were kind enough to send me, not one, but three of their fantastic lights! I first hooked up the Task Lamp XL, as seen above, which sits proudly above my sewing desk. It has a 22" wide shade so it's a good size to spread the light around in a larger space. I honestly couldn't believe the difference it made when I first switched it on. It's fully adjustable vertically, horizontally and laterally to focus the light where you need it most. It absolutely booms light down onto my desk! It's dimmable for using at different times of the day and I find I often turn it down slightly in the evenings when its completely dark outside. During the daytime and especially at dusk, I have it on full. Funny how I probably use it in the opposite direction to general use?

You can really see the fabrics and colours you're using, there's no yellow tinge to everything like regular lights. To think I've gone from having a bulb hanging in the centre of the room (nope never got round to having a shade fitted, oops!) and a cheap clip-on lamp above my sewing machine, to all this! You can imagine my excitement when I go into my sewing room now and switch everything on! It's really like something out of the Starship Enterprise in there, goodness know what the neighbours think!

Over the weekend I had a major clean-out of the sewing room, I'm still not finished as it's all piled in the corner of our bedroom at the moment, plus I still need to go through my scrap bins, then I need to organise a little de-stash on Instagram (@messyjessedestash) if you're interested? So after my purge, I had a shimmy round and found space to fit another desk, covering my victorian fireplace I meticulously brought back to life when we moved in, but still practicalities call when you have a *tiny* house and a lot of fabric ;-) I digress. Back to the lamps! I then had the space to fit my other Daylight lamp, which is the super smart looking Ultra Bright Slimline LED Table Lamp. I've clamped it to the bookshelf with it angled above my my cutting desk. It has a long and flexible arm reach to bend where you need but without being floppy. The tube section where the light is, is twistable too! I thought that was quite nifty. If you don't have a shelf or didn't want to clamp it to the table you can purchase the base separately to use as a normal desk lamp. 

Back to my sewing desk I have the new Sewing Machine Lamp fitted. Like the other two lamps, it plugs into the mains, so you will have a wire loose at the back, which distracts me so I plan to use some self adhesive sticky dots (or similar) to trail it along the arm of my machine. It sticks onto your sewing machine using a sticky pad, which are very sticky I might add, so if you get one - make sure its in the right place first time! The lamp can then be slotted into place on the mount pad. Its fully removable, and comes with two sticky pads, so you can have another one fixed somewhere else and move the lamp whenever you need by slotting it into place. Easy, peasy. It has a flexible metal arm so you've got enough room to manoeuvre. It uses the same LED Naturalight as the desk lamps, but in a focussed area, which is ideal for use with a sewing machine. Though after testing it out for the last month I've found I can't use it in the evenings as its not dimmable and a touch too bright for me. I think perhaps, it could work better for me if I move it to the back of the machine and have it turned to the front so its not directly shining on my work at such close range? More testing required ;-)

Sewing, whether by machine or hand, can cause a great deal of eye strain so you really want to equip your area with an investment piece like the Daylight lamps. They will not only reduce eye strain over time but will also allow us to sew for longer intervals! Thats a win, win! 

I should point out, Daylight Company kindly sent me these lamps for free to review, however all views are my own. All the products featured are available to buy directly from their online store, with international shipping. I hope the reviews helped. Jessie

24 September 2015

Tutorial // Apple Cores & English Paper Piecing: Part 2 / Sewing

I'm back with part 2 of my guide for working with apple core shapes using the English paper piecing method. So today we're going to be joining our shapes together. It can look a little bit intimidating due to the curved nature of the shape, but it's really quite simple once you have a little practise. 

Gather your supplies; including your basted apple core shapes, needle, thread and scissors. I've recently switched to using Bottomline threads by Superior for EPP, and I can't recommend it enough. Take a length of thread (no longer than your arm span, to avoid getting tangled up), thread your needle and knot the end. 

This is where you join your shapes together. 

So place your two apple core pieces right sides together. Can you see where I've flipped these shapes? I'm going to sew right along those two opposing curved sides are, all we have to do is just adjust how we hold the pieces as we sew. 
Start with needle in one side and slide it through the opposite piece. 

Take the needle back through your starting place and repeat. I like to do this at least 2/3 times to start off and make things nice and secure. Bleugghh please ignore my non-manicured, 'crafty-workers' hands folks ;-) these were some up-close shots! 

Now with your pieces still held in the same position, begin whipstitching your shapes as you would do your regular straight-edge shapes (previous tutorial here). 

TIP: I do a lot more stitches per inch with curved shapes to ensure there are absolutely no gaps in my work and ensure correct alignment. 

Once you reach the point above; where the curves are separating in different directions. Stop. 

Re-position your shapes so they are lying at wide angle apart, almost lying flat - but not. 

TIP: My technique for a neat non-visable stitch is to place your (non-needle holding) middle finger underneath the section where you are sewing, use this as a balance to hold your pieces correctly. I've actually moved my thumb out of the way in the above photo so you can get a clear view of my stitch and my middle finger underneath holding the position - but I do like to have my thumb exactly where the needle pokes out on the opposite side. I do this to guide my stitches and be sure I'm 'eating' into the fabric evenly with each whipstitch. 

I find apple cores to be a very forgiving shape for not being visible from the front. Due to the shapes lying quite flat as opposed to  the normal way of placing two shapes right sides together and whipstitching tightly, here you are almost skimming the fabric so you aren't 'eating' into the fabric very deeply, which is generally the problem when stitches are visible from the front. 

Whipstitch all the way along the side, re-positioning as you need. Be sure to pull the thread firmly as you go to keep a tight seam.

Once you reach the end, take 2/3 anchor stitches (just as you did at the start). You'll want to go through the two folds here to make everything secure. This is why we paid extra attention to basting the corners of the apple cores; so we have nice crisp folds so the shapes are the same size and it matches up accurately. Knot your work to finish the seam. 

Your first pieces are joined! As a general rule, I sew apple cores in rows adding in one shape at a time. Once you have your row complete you will want to add more rows one by one. 

I like to remove the papers once I have all sides joined so I can move my work more freely. I lie my work on a flat surface and work the seams with a whipstitch just as I did when joining the individual apple core shapes together.

Once you come to an 'intersection', where four shapes meet together. Catch your needle through the first folds of the lower shapes, repeat 2/3 times. Then repeat for the other two folds of the upper apple core shapes. This will make everything really secure and very neat from the front.

Once you pass the 'intersection', pull the fabric tails or folds out of the way to keep everything neat as you continue whipstitching. 

This is how your work will look from the front. 

I hope my guide has helped you on your future apple core adventures! 

Helpful things to recap and remember:
* When basting your shapes, ensure you have nice tight, folded corners.
* Don't snip into the curved edge too deep, otherwise your fabric will weaken and tear.
* Use a neutral matching thread, if in doubt choose grey
* Remove paper templates once all sides are joined to allow more movement.
* Use anchor stitches at the start and end of each shape and 'intersections'

I'm using the 3" apple core templates for this tutorial. You can find them in my shop here.

If you have any questions, just jot them below and I'll reply in the comments so we can all share. Likewise, if anyone has any tips, do share! I love testing new ideas. Jessie

23 September 2015

Tutorial // Apple Cores & English Paper Piecing: Part 1 / Basting

As I've been progressing with my English paper pieced, apple-core cushion, I thought I'd share a short guide on how I do my apple cores shapes (or Axe Heads, as they're sometimes known). I use the Sewline glue pen for curved shapes like apple cores and clamshells. Really I really cant recommend it enough for curves, I find its such an easier process than hand basting with a needle and thread. These days I glue baste most of my shapes for time-saving but I still thread baste larger straight-edged shapes. 

So first things first. Take your paper shape and cut your fabric roughly 3/8" larger than the paper template. For speed, cut a strip from your fabric the correct width you need for your chosen template, then sub-cut into smaller sections to match the length of your template. Stack the pieces together and trim around the shape with scissors to make multiple pieces. 

For regular straight-edged shapes I've suggested cutting your fabric pieces at least 1/4" larger as a minimum, but for curves you really need that extra as it makes the process a lot easier. If you go skimpy on the seam allowance, everything just gets a little bit fiddly. 

TIP: If possible, it's useful to use bias cut fabric. The bias cut has a stretch to it so you can manipulate corners and curves without bunching. 

Snip into the two inner curves of the fabric. This allows makes it easier to turn the fabric over the paper template without it bunching. Try not to cut too deep so you loose the seam allowance and the shapes become weak when sewn together. 

Now follow my lead and swipe your glue pen along the inner curve first

(Note: I am left-handed, so these photos will look backwards to a lot of you, I glue from left to right and turn/baste the shape in a anti-clockwise direction, if you're right-handed you will do the opposite, I think?)

Push the fabric firmly along the fist inner curve. 
You might find it useful to pin your paper template and fabric together to avoid jolting the position. 

Your first edge is now basted!

For the next side, swipe the glue pen and push the fabric allowance into the outer curved edge. Hold the glue pen just as you would a regular pen - there's no need to let go of it between sides. 

Outer curves are a little bit trickier than inner curves, which is why we start with that one first. Remember to push firmly so you have a nice smooth edge without bumps
Most importantly you want your corners as neat as possible, which makes sewing the shapes together much simpler. So really try and push and flatten the corners as you start and finish on each side. 

Work the next inner curve and then finish with the final outer curve. 

I use more glue than I would for straight-edge EPP shapes as you want them staying put, but still, you don't need tons of the stuff. If you need to re-shuffle the edge to get it lying smoother, do it quickly as it goes tacky quite fast. 

Here's your basted apple core! Those tails will be covered when we join the shapes together so you don't want to cut those tails off

I'll be back tomorrow for part 2 of the guide on how to join them together, as it's a photo heavy post. 

If you're looking for more tutorials and guides, you can find my complete EPP basics guide here. I'm using the 3" size apple cores for this tutorial (which is measured by the length of the shape) you can find them in my shop here.

19 September 2015

Cover Girl! Quilter's Desk Diary 2016 Edition!

Would you mind very much indulging me while I brag tell about my cover photo on the front of the new 2016 Quilter's Desk Diary! I was browsing Amazon one morning a few weeks ago and it popped up the 'you may also like' section, (I get caught with that all the time!) I thought, "I recognise that cushion!? Oh, it's MY cushion!". It's an image taken from the 50 Fat Quarter Makes book I contributed to last year, and the same publisher releases this desk diary each year. 

I'm so honoured to be the chosen photo for the cover, what a compliment! I can tell you, this will be kept in my 'scrapbook' of sorts and enjoyed for many years to come. 
It features lots of inspirational quilts and projects from a wide range of quilters on every page and a week-to-view diary page on the opposite side, with plenty of space for notes and important dates. 

It also has a full page shot of the brilliant 1718 Coverlet quilt, I just adore this. It's a reproduction made by members of the British Quilt Guild, in commemoration of the original quilt, which is the earliest known British patchwork quilt to have a date worked into the piece. It comes from the fascinating book 'The 1718 Coverlet', there's a Facebook group who are doing quilt-a-long alongside Susan Briscoe, the author. 

 It seems September must be my month? As it's my month in the Homespun 2015 calendar too! This is a project I worked on last year, or the year before? (Wow, has it been that long?) It looks quite pretty hanging on my kitchen pantry. I should probably dig up the shelf edging and display that in my kitchen too! How silly of me.

You can find copies of the 2016 Quilter's Desk Diary at Sew and Quilt now. 
Have a great weekend! Jessie

16 September 2015

Apple Core English Paper Piecing

If you've ever wondered what my 'style' is, I really think this photo sums it up nicely. This is so me :-) I'm not pushing or promoting any kind of fabric, this is just me - all me, pulling from my stash. Like everyone, my quilting style and taste has changed and evolved over the years. I've never been one to really work from one collection, I always like to mix it up.

Its quite an eclectic mix, always with a vintage/antique feel. I love a floral too, can you tell? ;-) My new favourite are shirting fabrics, I know they're often featured in Civil War collections, I love those neutral cream tones with tiny ditsy prints. They're so versatile. I'm so changeable though, I'll no doubt work on something totally different next week!

Here I've started work on an apple core project, which will be a new cushion to live on my sofa. I haven't got a plan of sorts, I'm just making it up as I go along (same old). Its almost the size I need, so once I get to that point I'll think about how I'll finish it. I'm using the 3" apple core english paper piecing shapes from my shop. I'm glue-basting with these, I find it works so well with curved shapes. I'll post a few in action photo's on here so you get the gist of it, if you've not tried with this particular shape. For help with EPP you can view my blog series here, which includes a curved shape tutorial using clamshells as well. 

On a side note my Sew and Quilt EPP shapes are now sold in Europe (and soon Dubai!) as well as the UK! I've recently started to offer wholesale to other shops so it's been a busy few weeks. Exciting! So do ask your favourite quilt shops for them ;-) Or drop me an email if you have a shop, I'd be happy to hear from you. 

Have you tried apple core shapes? I'll keep you posted on how this turns out. Have a great week friends!

14 September 2015

The FINISHED Scrappy Irish Chain Quilt + FREE Downloadable Pattern!

I'm SO, so excited to share with you all my *finished!* Scrappy Irish Chain quilt! 
I've been waiting on this day a very long time. Too long in fact. 

Yes definitely too long! So I may have gone a little overboard on the photo's, but you don't mind, right? ;-)

Wow, I'm ridiculously happy to finally tick this one off the list and share with you! Long time readers might remember me posting the tutorial to make this along with my finished top waaaay back in March 2014, and starting on the quilt in January 2014I finally had it quilted by Trudi Wood in July this year, finished just in the nick of the time for Festival Of Quilts in August. Trudi amazingly managed to squeeze it in her already huge schedule and I'm so thankful! Didn't she do a fantastic job! I knew this was far too big for me to handle, I just didn't have the space, energy, time or expertise (most importantly!) to quilt this mammoth 90" x 90" quilt! A job for the professional. I was also knee deep in preparations for the show so it made sense. I had it hanging in my Sew and Quilt booth at FOQ and it was just brilliant to receive so many lovely comments from people. Really, it was the cheering on I needed to keep me standing over the four days! I love having it on our bed now. That's the icing on the cake.

Photographing this quilt was no small task I can tell you! It took a total of 3 different photography locations, 2 willing assistants, 1 chair and (almost) a few tears once I'd stained  the back of it it from draping it over a rusty fence. Yep I know, it was a really clever idea by me. All in the name of blogging of course. Thankfully, I managed to get that stain off once we got home, phew. 

I knew I wanted to go with a traditional quilting style, so I asked Trudi for feathers and a grid work of sorts, so she came up trumps with some dreamy custom work. She used a looping variation in the chains, which works really well too. I couldn't make a decision on the binding right off, I auditioned several but in the end went for a solid as all the printed fabrics I tried looked far too busy. Kona Woodrose is slightly darker than the Kona Peony used in the chains, which works well to frame the quilt, I think. Can you believe I hand sewed the binding in one evening! OK, technically it was two as I still had a tiny bit to do the following morning, but it was almost one evening ;-) I think that probably goes to show how much I wanted to finish it! It's also my favourite part of quilting. I love being cosied under a big quilt, watching some good TV with a bit of hand-sewing in tow. That's my ideal night right there.

So this is one B-I-G scrappy quilt! I raided my scrap bin to make the top, and I can't say it's made a dent because it's completely full again! I need another scrappy project, quick. 


Quilting: Trudi Wood
Fabric: Scrappy! Similar available at Sew and Quilt, Kona White, fabric in chains is Kona Peony, binding is Kona Woodrose


To celebrate the finishing of my #ScrappyIrishChain, finally! I am now offering a FREE downloadable pattern for everyone! Hooray! Yep, it's been a busy weekend. I've had a free tutorial on the blog for quite a while now, so now I've spruced it up and turned it into a PDF so you can save it and print it ready to start sewing immediately! Or refer back to it when you do want to make it :-)

Now remember to share on social media using the hashtag #scrappyirishchain  
I would be absolutely over the moon to see your versions! 

Please do respect my hard work in creating the pattern, please do not sell or redistribute my pattern. Instead link or direct people to my website, I would be ever so grateful. Thanks so much, happy quilting! Jessie.