25 September 2014

'Fun Of The Fair' by Melanie McNeice - Book Tour & Giveaway!

Doesn't this cover look so fun and inviting?! I thought so too! It's Melanie McNeice's latest soft toy book offering; Fun Of The Fair and today is my stop on the book tour to celebrate it's upcoming release next month with a giveaway for one lucky reader!  

The book features six ridiculously cute fairground inspired animals, all of which I'm dying to make! You can expect to see loveable lions, mischievous monkey's, sweet seals and more.  

Melanie states that the patterns are suitable for all skills levels, and although I've not had the chance to sew one up myself at the moment, I think they would be very straight-forward to sew. 


Each pattern has very helpful step-by-step instructions that even a very novice sewer could tackle, along with helpful tips to keep you on track. You can also hop over to tutorial section on Melanie's blog where she really goes into some detail for toy making techniques. 

Before I was contacted about this book I wasn't aware of Melanie and her hugely successful company; Melly & Me. If you have been living under a rock, as I clearly have!  Melanie is multi-talented business women who has created over 100 sewing patterns, designed multiple fabric collections for Riley Blake Designs, travelled across Australia teaching sewing, author to five books, all while running her Melly & Me online shop, oh and looking after her family with two children! Yowzers, I'll have a glass of what she's having! ;-) now I know you want to hear more from this wonder woman don't you? Over to you, Melanie...

How did you start your sewing career?

Well I always say that it was my sister who MADE me!!  :) About 10 years ago my sister, Rosalie Quinlan, was already a successful pattern designer and it was when I was home with my baby/toddler children that she persuaded me to start sewing.  I had always believed that I didn't have a creative bone in my body after working in Insurance and Information Systems, but she convinced me it would be a great hobby to overcome my feelings of "lack of accomplishment" and boredom.  I took to quilting overnight and purchased a sewing machine 24 hours after she started me trying - It was love at first stitch!  I think it was about 6 months later that Rosalie started her attempts to convince me to start designing.  I kicked and screamed for a while, but eventually started my hand at original designs - the rest is history! (thanks sis!!!!)


When did it go from hobby to full-time business?

I think somewhere in the first two years the tide suddenly turned very quickly.  It went from a lot of fun and just a hobby business to fund my growing fabric addiction to a full time focus.  That said I did put a lot of effort into getting my name known and promoting Melly & me.  We even went to the "International Quilt Market" in the US in an attempt to expand into the international market.  I think even when it was a hobby I took it pretty seriously and was fairly determined to make a go of it.

You have accomplished so much; from starting a successful sewing pattern company, teaching, designing fabric, writing books and more! – how do you manage it all?

Well that is an awfully good question!  I think being a work-a-holic helps, haha!  I have just added part time study to the mix and am finding time management pretty hard at the moment, but I seem to always get it done.  I am a pretty driven and self motivated person so I think I just always make the time and make it work.  I am also a compulsive over-comitter which gets myself in trouble - but I look at this as a positive at the end of the year when I see how much I have achieved.  Loving what you do helps tremendously - you always find time to do things you love and that excite you!

What do you enjoy most about your creative job?

I love the feeling of anything new coming to life!  Whether this is a new book being published and finally available, a new toy created in the studio, or new digital artwork for that next fabric collection!  I just love seeing something fun and new coming from nothing.  I love it most when those creations make people smile - I think that is my business plan - to make people smile!!


Your new book is just delightful! How did you come up with the theme?

Actually at the time I came up with this theme I was playing around with some "Fun Fair" based fabric designs for a possible new fabric collection.  The fabric collection was never completed and was never meant to be, but it birthed the ideas for this book!!  This book was instantly in my mind's eye and it was almost effortless to put together as I could see all the designs so clearly in my imagination.  You can actually find the digital artwork that I had been playing with for fabric as decoration within the book!

What big things do you have planned for the future of Melly and Me, can you share?

I am actually looking forward to seeing what the future might bring!!  I am just starting work now on my next book which will be available in about 12 months or so - another toy based book with 10 "fantasy" themed  projects which is super exciting!.  I am always working on the next fabric collection and the next pattern design, but outside of that I am looking for that great new idea to branch into something challenging and new!  I am not sure what it might be just yet, but I am hoping some new journey and direction for Melly & me will be just around the corner!


- - - - - - - - - - GIVEAWAY - - - - - - - - -

Melanie sounds like an sewing and organisational dream! This makes makes me want to get my butt in gear, and with my wedding happening next month I need all the organising help I can get!! 

With that in mind, for your chance to WIN a printed copy of the book sent by the publishers at F + W Media, simply leave me a comment on this blog post with any tips or ideas you follow to keep organised? It can be sewing / or non sewing related. Anything!

For an additional entry you can follow me on Bloglovin for all blog updates! Drop me an additional blog comment to tell me so I can count the extra entry. 

Competition closes Thursday 9th October 2014. Best of luck! 

23 September 2014

English Paper Piecing Basics: Week 7 // Finishing Techniques

Hello friends! Today I'm going to give you a little tutorial on how I like to finish my English Paper Piecing quilts and some ideas for other ways of finishing - on our 6th and final post in the English Paper Piecing Basics blog series

Applique

The easiest way to finish your EPP quilt top, while maintaining the uneven edges is to appliqué your top to borders - as seen in the hexagon example below. Decide on your border width size and allow a slightly longer length so you can miter the corners. Appliqué the quilt top to all four sides so you can then baste and finish your quilt as you would a straight edge quilt. 



With the diamond EPP quilt I'm currently working on, I am in the process of appliquéing each finished star to a square backing fabric - I will then machine sew all the blocks together and finish as I would a regular quilt top. 

You will notice in a lot of Grandmothers Flower Garden quilt designs there are two straight sides and two sides with jagged edges. This allows for a completed flower ring to run down the sides of the quilt, which was probably a practical reason for sleeping under! 


Binding

Another method of finishing is to use a matching binding. Here's a helpful tutorial on how to tackle odd shaped corners, which would apply when trying to negotiate those hexagon edges. 


Facing

For my favourite shape; the diamond, the binding method wouldn't be a good finishing technique because the points would be covered which could compromise the design. So for the project below using triangles and diamonds I have used an EPP facing technique to create a matching border to the back of the quilt, here's how I did it! 

Cut the backing fabric and batting slightly larger than the finished design, baste and quilt as desired. 

With your chosen fabric, create a matching border shape; baste EPP shapes and sew together to form a ring border.

Flip the border ring and quilt right sides together, whipstitch all sides. 

TIP: If you haven't quilted right up to the edges of the quilt keep the papers in as long as possible to make it easier to whipstitch the shapes together. 

TIP: Pay special attention to the corners of the the quilt, take 3 or even 4 stitches to make sure your corner's are well covered. 

Trim off the excess. 

Press the border facing well, making sure all seam edges are nice and neat. Now pop the papers out, taking care not to pull too heavily to put strain on the stitches. 

Un-fold the border facing to the back of the quilt. You should start to see your finished EPP quilt take shape!

Use a knitting needle to poke the corners, (this is why it was important to take extra care sewing the corners). 

Slip-stitch the the border facing to the back of the quilt. Fold over the 'dog-tails' (diamond points) underneath as you sew. 



Finished!! Perfect and neat! and all those points are still showing nicely. You can also use this method of finishing for hexagon quilts just as well. In fact, a half hexagon shaped border facing would be lovely for a large grandmothers flower garden quilt as it would leave a nice straight edge to the back. 

And of course, a very simple way of finishing your quilt with an uneven edge is to baste and quilt as normal. Then trim the backing fabric down to about 1/4" larger than the finished quilt top and trim the batting down 1/4" smaller than the finished quilt top, following along the uneven quilt top shape. Turn the backing fabric under to line up with the shape of the quilt top and slipstitch closed. 

I hope this has given you some helpful information on how to complete your EPP quilts! and congratulations on getting to this level with your project it always seems far in the distance when you are making up hexagon flowers or whatever design you're working on! Thank you for joining me on the EPP Basics series, I had wanted to talk about a couple more topics but time has not allowed me with our impending nuptials next month! >.< perhaps I'll delve into some other EPP areas once I've got that out the way ;-)

Here's a recap on what we've covered on the series;
Week 4 // Fussy Cutting Tutorial 
Week 5 // Matching Shapes + Pattern Ideas
Week 6 // Curves + Clamshell Tutorial

15 September 2014

Fat Quarter Style Book Winner!

Annnnnd… the lucky winner of the fabulous Fat Quarter Style book giveaway was...


Congratulations Two Wednesdays! I have emailed you! wohooo, happy Monday indeed!


Thank you to all that entered, remember you can purchase the book here if you still wanted a copy. Have a great day friends, EPP blog series will resume next monday, sorry! It's been a busy weekend. xo

8 September 2014

English Paper Piecing Basics: Week 6 // Curves + Clamshell Tutorial

This week I'm going to hopefully take the fear out of English Paper Piecing curves! There are endless design opportunities to be had when using curved EPP shapes; they are ideal for appliquéing to a larger quilt design or using them in quilt borders. I'm particularly taken by this and this vintage clamshell quilts, so let's try and overcome this so called 'daunting' method so we can recreate beauties like those shall we!? 

Some of the popular curved EPP shapes include; clamshells, apple cores, Dresden's, circles and hearts - all of which feature one of more curved edges. 

Today we're going to be looking at clamshells, which are a great shape to get started with if you haven't tried curves before - because they feature both inner and outer curves. 

Ok let's begin. So for this tutorial I'm using the Paper Pieces 3" clamshell shape. Start by cutting multiple squares that are roughly 1/4" bigger than your paper pieces template. Stack 4 layers together and cut around the shape leaving enough room for turning over.




I'm going to show you the two main methods for basting curves, glueing and hand sewing.  This is where the nifty little Sewline glue pen is a real timesaver! 






Place a dot of glue on the paper template and press onto the fabric to secure. 

Swipe your glue pen from one side of the outer curve. 

Swipe the glue halfway across the curve and begin pulling down the fabric - be firm when you turn the fabric over to avoid bumps and pleats showing through on the other side. 

Glue across the other half of the curve and pull down the remaining fabric. You will notice pleats to the back of the shape, this is fine - you need these to ease around the curved edge. 

Volia! A nice smooth curve, aaaaand you only need to baste the outer curve, how easy was that?! 

OK. So if you don't have a glue pen and fancy trying it the traditional method - this is how;

Grab a couple of paper clips to hold your template to the fabric in place. Take a length of thread, knot the end. 

Take a running stitch from one side of the outer curve - close the the edge of the fabric. 

Gently tug on the thread to pull the fabric over the template shape. 

Carry on sewing until you reach the other side and pull taut. Take a 3 or 4 stay stitches to secure. This method I find is a little fiddlier, but also gives good results. You may want to press the edge to help keep the seam flat. 

So once you have made enough clamshell shapes for your desired design (mine is going to be x5 wide). Take two, and place right sides together. Find the point at the side of the paper template - make sure they are both lined up precisely as this will make your sewing a lot easier down the line! Thread your needle, knot the end and take 3 very small stay stitches to join your shapes together, tie off. 

TIP: Join your points together in sets of two, it will be easier than a whole line of them, and will avoid over-handling them. 

Now we've done our first row of clamshells we want to add them to a background fabric. Cut a piece at least 1/2" wider on each side than your finished row and at least 1" wider on the top and bottom.

Press the backing fabric in half lengthwise, this will be our measuring guide to line up the top of the clamshells. But first we have to remove the paper templates!

To remove the paper templates, just give it a little tug and slide out. You can see above the traditional hand sewing method clamshells keep their shape perfectly, whereas the glue pen method are a little stretched - just give them those a little press with the iron. 

Take some quilting appliqué glue with a fine nozzle and dab some very small dots around the edge. 

Lay the clamshells to line up with the pressed line. 

Now you need to appliqué the shapes to the backing fabric. Following along the top scalloped line, run small appliqué stitches - we'll cover this in more detail on our 'EPP finishing week' ;-)

Once you've appliquer the whole row we can add the next row...

With the next row I'm making a set of 4 clamshells because my first row was 5. (The next row will be 5 and then 4 and so on). 

Place some dots of glue on the back edge as we did before. 

Line up the row so they just cover the tacking stitches we did to join the shapes together. Make sure they are nice and straight to carry on neat rows all the way down.  

Applique this row and continue again until you have the finished size you need! 

See, not too difficult at all is it? I hope this helped you. See you next week for more English Paper Piecing fun!