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Saturday, 16 October 2021

Experimenting With Improv Curved Patchwork Quilting

Improv Curved Patchwork Quilted Mini Mat by eSheep Designs
Improv curved patchwork quilted mini mat...
Towards the end of August, I happened upon a YouTube video showing the fascinating art of improvised curved patchwork quilting.

It was mesmerizing. I immediately made a commitment to do some research on the technique to try it out myself.

Traditional quilting involves straight edged geometric designs; apart from curves based on (geometric) circles,  you rarely find organic curves. Traditional quilting can also be quite regimented; not much is done without knowing beforehand that it will be done.

When I saw this being crafted on the fly — the "improv" part — it intrigued me even more.

Improv Curved Patchwork Quilted Mini Mat by eSheep Designs
Reverse side...

The "cutting and piecing as you go" method is sort of like how some people do crumb quilting with scraps. You don't know what you'll end up with when you're finished, which ensures that each work is unique.

This can also be done with fabric scraps, but since I was just learning the technique, I decided to start with six 8" x 8" squares of coordinating fabrics from my last Bluprint purchase.




Here they are, some Lily and Loom Red Sky selections...

Lily and Loom Red Sky fabrics
Six coordinates from the Lily and Loom Red Sky collection...

The process is pretty simple, although it's always a bit unnerving when you're attempting something for the first time and the first step is to cut into fabric without guidance. (By the way, this project also prompted me to change out the blade on my rotary cutter — I'm worse on that than I am about changing needles!)

The idea is to stack a couple of fabrics, right side up, offset by some amount (a couple of inches or so in my case here). Then you slice a slow curved line with your rotary cutter through both layers. Take away the top right piece and the bottom left piece and sew the two remaining pieces together. (I used a 1/4" seam allowance.)

improv curved patchwork quilting
A simple process... (sorry for the bad lighting in these photos)

It looks like a difficult sewing job (third photo above) since the edges don't match, but it turned out to be surprisingly easy. (I did not pin or glue, both of which I saw others do.) Go slowly and use a pin or a stiletto to guide and hold the fabric underneath the presser foot as you sew.   

Of course, do keep in mind that the greater the curve, the more challenging it will be to sew the unmatched edges together. (So long, languid waves instead of short choppy ones.)

improv curved patchwork quilting
Press the seams to one side...

Pressing after sewing each seam is absolutely necessary. Here is what my first seam looks like from the back. 


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I repeated the basic process with the remainder of the fabrics, creating different looking curves by varying the angle and location at which the fabrics are stacked before cutting. 

improv curved patchwork quilting
All six fabrics have been used...

You'll end up with an oddly shaped piece like I have here. The idea is to build onto this until you have a big enough panel to cut whatever shape you want out of it.

At this point, I figured it was enough to cut my first circle and therefore started on a second panel.

improv curved patchwork quilting
Another circle...

For a template, I traced around a 7.5" dessert plate. 

improv curved patchwork quilting
Both circles done...

For those of you who are curious, if you're judicious about placement, this technique isn't overly wasteful with fabric. Here's what's left of my original six squares.

Lily and Loom Red Sky fabrics
My remnants...

After cutting out and fusing matching pieces of fusible fleece to each circle, I proceeded to quilt one of them. (I kept the other side plain.) The two circles were then placed back to back, trimmed to match and basted together.

The final step was to bind the edge with some binding that I had left over from making my Route 66 bag collection.


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For a first attempt, I'm entirely happy with how this turned out. All told, it took about three hours to do and was a fun exercise in "on the fly" creativity

It's also a bit zen inducing. The moment you lay down the fabrics and think hmm, do I curve this way or that or do I start here or there, you're not thinking of life's other problems.

Improv Curved Patchwork Quilted Mini Mat by eSheep Designs
Quilted side...

Had the fabrics been solid colours, I would have quilted both sides, but I saw how the quilting sort of hides the print.

Improv Curved Patchwork Quilted Mini Mat by eSheep Designs
Plain side...

On the unquilted side you can see fun hedgehog print more clearly. (Although next time, I might topstitch the seams.)

I really like how these fabrics work together and may continue this experiment with the remainder of the stash to make a larger mat.

'Til next...

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
My version of Candy Tomato's "magic basket"...
I knew there had to be a name for this shape and once again, the internet came to my rescue.

Today's project is from the YouTube channel of Candy Tomato; she called it a "magic basket". (Video was uploaded on July 30 if you want to look for it.) Its magical claim to due to the fact that when you press down on it, it puffs out into a pleated pumpkin shape.

When I saw it, the words lantern and barrel immediately came to my mind. A subsequent Google search revealed that there is such a thing as a barrel lantern.

Anyway, after checking out the video and leaving her a comment, I knew I had to make one of my own. 

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
My basket came out smaller than intended...

As sometimes happens in video tutorials with no accompanying verbal explanations, however, I ended up making a wrong assumption.

The end result is that while I still managed to complete the basket and it more or less looks like it should, it is decidedly narrower in girth than designed.




Where did I make my mistake? I didn't realize that the measurements for the various panels were exclusive of seam allowance.

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
Original basket had two handles; with my smaller version, I decided one was enough...

So while I had a template measuring 5cm and 4cm by 15cm, I cut my fabric to those dimensions and then used a 1/4" (6mm) seam allowance when sewing them together. What that means is that I lost over a centimeter with every two panels (there are sixteen panels in total for the exterior). That then resulted in my lining pieces being too large, since they were eight pieces cut to 9cm x 15cm each.

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
Rivets allow the strap to rotate...

None of that was insurmountable, however, and if I didn't tell you, you wouldn't know that any of this happened. ;-)


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Due to my mistake, however, almost everything needed to be resized, especially the base. Luckily I found something in the kitchen that was just the right size to use to trace a circle... a ramekin.

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
My base turned out to be about 3.5" in diameter...

I backed two fabric circles with fusible fleece and then quilted them together before binding and sewing it onto the bottom of the basket.

Recognize the loopy quilting? I showed it to you last week in my update on FMQ.

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
View of the bottom...

The fabrics were Lily and Loom selections that I had left over after making my project bag.


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The original project was exclusively hand sewn by the creator, to whom I give the utmost props since I cannot imagine doing that myself. On the other hand, it should give all of us hope and encouragement that we should be able to sew most things if we put our minds to it, since it is really such a basic skill that requires nothing more than needle and thread... well, and maybe some interfacing and a hot iron.

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
View of the (dark) interior...

Speaking of interfacing, the exterior and lining are supposed to be fused together using a sheet of fusible web, but I didn't have any and didn't want to buy it. I did, however, have some stitch witchery tape (product by Dritz that does the same thing), so I applied strips of it at appropriate spots to achieve the desired effect. Fabric glue could have worked also. (Just don't leave the two sides loose; they need to be adhered together for the pleats to function properly.)

Barrel Lantern Fabric Basket crafted by eSheep Designs
Overall, I enjoyed making this, mistakes aside...

With the overall size reduced, I changed up the original (two) handles, turning it into a single handle. And to facilitate it being able to be dropped down out of the way, I attached a couple of rivets loosely to the ends instead of sewing them down with buttons as trim.

In the end, this little basket turned out differently than intended, but it was the perfect small project to allow me to practice some more FMQ. Don't know what will become of it, but at least it doesn't take up too much space!

'Til next...

Saturday, 2 October 2021

"Oh, Look at You Doodle..."

XP-PEN Graphics Tablet
My new graphics tablet...
That was what hubby said as he saw me guiding a virtual pen across my computer screen.

Back in July, I purchased a graphics tablet to assist with my fabric design efforts.

After spending hours and hours digitizing my sheep drawings using a mouse, I finally decided that there was a better way to go.

A week of looking at various options and reading reviews convinced me to forego the name brand in this space in exchange for a bigger working surface. Thus it was that I ended up selecting an XP-PEN Star G960S Plus instead of a starter Wacom model.

The working area of my tablet is 9" by 6". Contrast that with the 6" x 3.7" working area of a Wacom One. Ratings on Amazon are quite close (4.6 vs. 4.3 with advantage to the Wacom), but my decision to buy was prompted by finding a $30 coupon on the XP-PEN unit. It brought my price down to $76.99 CDN before taxes. (The Wacom was around $92 last I looked.)




As I said above, the point of purchasing the tablet was to ease my fabric design processes. But when I finally started to practice my free motion quilting in the middle of the summer, it came in unexpectedly handy for that too!
FMQ practice on a graphics tablet
Learning two things at once is too cool!

Fellow blogger Daryl at Patchouli Moon Studio commented that it would help the FMQ process by practicing drawing the designs on paper. Well, as much as I tend to caution people against the "kill two birds with one stone" philosophy, this ended up being an excellent way to do just that.

FMQ practice on a graphics tablet
Free motion doodling...

I could familiarize myself with how to use the tablet and learn some FMQ "movements" at the same time.

As much as this activity reminded me of the "zen doodling" that I did several years ago (which I have mostly stopped due to experiencing a retinal migraine one time while doing it), the part about keeping the pen down is different and takes discipline to maintain.


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In terms of actual FMQ, I have read that stippling is difficult to master. It certainly seems stressful in having to have an idea of where to move so that the entire surface gets covered.
FMQ practice on a graphics tablet
It's hard to stipple even when just doodling...

Someday I hope to be able to cover a quilting project with FM stipples. In the meantime, I may just stick with loops and curves.
FMQ practice on a graphics tablet
Doodling loops...

Of course, being me, I couldn't stay too long away from practicing on the actual sewing machine.


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Here is some loopy FMQ. (Tackling relatively small areas is helpful when it comes to practicing on an actual project.)

FMQ sample
Practicing on a real project...

This circle measured about 3.5". Other parts of this project involved small vertical panels, which I did with alternating loops and tight waves.

FMQ sample
Alternating loops and waves...

I decided to do this particular project for its small quilting opportunities; you'll be able to see what it actually is next week.

Several weeks ago, I said that I was going to try a new thing here and ask readers to send me sewing stories that I can feature every now and then, to assist in creating ongoing content for the blog.

Currently, I am asking you to submit to me (via email; click through to my Blogger profile on the sidebar at left to get the address) a description of the best thing that you've ever sewn and why it deserves that title — along with a photo, of course. Be sure to let me know how you want to be identified; feel free to use an alias if you want. (I will respond to every submission that I receive, so please check your SPAM if you don't hear back!)

There's no time frame/limit for this; however, if the idea fails to gain any traction within the next couple of weeks, I won't repost this notice.

'Til then...

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Things to Sew for Travel [Pt 4]: Small Stuff

Things to sew for travel
Things to sew for travel...
After covering roll up toiletry totes in part 1 of this series, drawstring bags in part 2, passport and documentation organizers in part 3, what's left for part 4 of things to sew for travel?

Small stuff.

These are things that will ease your travels by giving you some of the convenience of home (storage trays), simplifying your needs (mini wallets) and managing things you don't normally have to manage (key cards). The advantage of these things is that they're small and shouldn't take long to sew — and who doesn't appreciate that?

Today's post is set up in the same way as the previous three in this series. I will show you some of my own past projects while introducing similar ideas from fellow crafters.




A Place to Drop Things


When you're at home, perhaps you have a place to hang your keys when you come in the door. At night, you might take off your watch and ring and place it in a jewelry dish.

When you're travelling, those familiar places aren't there. Form a new habit by sewing up a tray that can corral all of your small things and keep them safe. If it can be made to be collapsible, all the better.

One of my earliest tutorials was for such a tray. (Still in use; it's permanently at our home away from home.)

Cutting Corners Collapsible Travel Tray by eSheep Designs
Cutting Corners Collapsible Travel Tray...

Several years later, I incorporated some of the ideas that I had after making the first one to create this second tray. I've given a couple of these away as gifts; one is always packed in my travel bag.

Flat Pack Travel Tray by eSheep Designs
Flat Pack Travel Tray...

By the way, both tutorials are available in PDF format for your convenience.

If you don't like these, do a search online and you'll find several other variations. Here's one that's different.

Hexagon Fabric Tray from A Spoonful of Sugar
image courtesy of A Spoonful of Sugar...

It's a hexagon-shaped tray from A Spoon Full of Sugar. (It's not collapsible, but you could always change it up to be so.)


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You Don't Need to Carry Five Credit Cards


Or even three. When you're travelling, don't take your normal everyday wallet, because what if you lose it or have it stolen? Much better that you only need to replace one credit card and an ID in that case than the alternative. (Many of us don't know the exact contents of our everyday wallet, potentially making the replacement chore even more challenging.)

I recommend you make yourself a minimalist wallet to carry when you're away from home. Here are a couple that I made last year, from YouTube tutorials.

The first meets the definition of being minimalist, with only three pockets. However, it can hold coins, cards and cash, and that may be all you need in certain circumstances. As you might guess, it's a quick and easy sew.

Asaco's Craft Memo Minimalist Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
Minimalist wallet...

Credit goes to Asaco's Craft Memo. (My original post also shows two other small wallets from that YouTube channel.)

This second wallet is not truly minimalist, but is likely still a step down from what you normally carry. With traditional card slots and paper money pocket, this one also includes a zippered compartment for secure storage of coins.

JSDaily Mini Wallet crafted by eSheep Designs
Small bifold wallet...

This project is more challenging to sew than the first (and not just because of the zipper), as I detailed here in my original post. Credit goes to JSDaily.

An online search for the term "minimalist wallet" will usually yield a lot of decidedly masculine options, the vast majority of them leather tooled. If you're looking for a compact wallet for a guy, check out this one:

Mini wallet by SomeRandomnessByMe YouTube channel
image courtesy of SomeRandomnessByMe...

It's from the YouTube channel of SomeRandomnessByMe. Suitable for any kind of non-fraying material, the whole wallet is made out of one piece.


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Keep Your Key Card Handy


Just as your car key is now no longer a traditional "key", neither is your hotel room key. So do you reserve a spot in your mini wallet for that or do you keep your hotel room key card in a separate place?

A lanyard is always a convenient option because it can hang around your neck — say you're at the buffet at a beach resort — or you can loop it around the straps of your tote bag or purse while on the go.

It's a truly simple thing to sew, and unless it's also meant to keep ID in view, you don't have to incorporate a see-through component by using vinyl. That said, I used vinyl on mine.

Purse lanyard by eSheep Designs
Purse lanyards made out of scraps of vinyl and ribbon...

For those who want to combine the two into one — i.e., mini wallet and lanyard — here is the perfect combo project from Yoan Sewing Studio on YouTube.

Yoan Sewing Studio Lanyard Mini Wallet
image courtesy of Yoan Sewing Studio...

This little "wallet on a string" has two zippered compartments to protect your small stuff behind the window card slot. Clever design and it even comes with a downloadable PDF pattern. (I recently saw a new pattern for almost the same thing selling for $4.99, so hopefully I've saved you some moolah if this is something you're looking to make.)

Again, if these don't turn your crank, the internet is full of similar takes on the idea. One is sure to appeal to you in time for your next trip.

Happy trails and safe travels, folks!

'Til next...