review

Very happy to have the honour of kicking off the book/blog tour of Amy Adams new book Countryside Softies: 28 Handmade Wool Creatures to Stitch published by Stash books. So welcome Amy!

Writing a craft pattern book has it’s ups and downs.  Some days the ideas flow to a point where you realize you can’t possibly fit all this into just one book.  And then, once it’s all over and with the publisher, new ideas pop up which make you think ‘why didn’t I do that at the time!’.  The pond was one of those new ideas, and I’m delighted to offer it to you as a free pattern here…

You will need:

  • Blue felt for the pond (plus extra or another colour for the base)
  • Light blue felt for additional pond area
  • Green felt for the lily pads
  • Pink or white felt for the lily
  • Selection of embroidery threads in blues and greens (I used pearl cotton 8)
  • Small button for the centre of the lily
  • 1” (2.5cm) of Velcro
  • Sewing needle, pins, scissors and the patterned out templates
  • Plus: A Riverside Softie made from the book ‘Countryside Softies’ by Amy Adams (Otter, Swan, Kingfisher or the Duck) [or maybe the dragonfly which is offered as a free pattern via the Stash books website]
  • Pattern/template

What to do:

First, print out the templates provided (use the scale indicators to check you have them the correct size) which will help you work out exactly how much felt you’re going to need. Cut out the blue pond shape, and also the largest lily pad.  Position the pad on the pond, and fix in place by stitching some veins on the leaf in backstitch.

Stitch blanket stitch around the edge of the lily pad leaf.  This will make the edges of the leaf curl up slightly.

Next, cut out the lighter blue pond area, and anchor in place onto the pond base with some backstitched wavy lines.  Add a few more ripples to the pond in other areas too.  Cut out 2 small lily pads, and also sew them in position by adding backstitched veins to the leaves.

To make the lily, cut out the 3 petal shapes, place them in a pile in order of size with the largest at the bottom, and secure the flower in place by sewing a button in the centre through all of the layers of felt including the pond base.

In the centre of the large lily pad, attach one of the pieces of Velcro.  The other piece will need to the sewn onto the base of your chosen Softie to attach it to the pond.

To finish off the pond, cut an additional pond shape, place it underneath the pond, and secure the 2 together by sewing blanket stitch all the way around the edge.  I used the Otter Softie on mine (he is one of my favorites from the book!) and finished off my pond further by making a little fishing rod from the stick.  I attached the fish (the pattern for this is in the book) to one end with a little embroidery thread, and also added a ‘No Fishing’ sign to the other end.

Naughty Otter, I don’t think he can read!

Disclosure: Whipup.net was provided with a pdf review copy of this book, and the link to Amazon is an affiliate link.

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Sarah Fielke – one of my quilting heros has a new book out Quilting from little things published by Murdoch books. Sarah previously has coauthored two books with Kathy Doughty titled Material Obsession, these books are just beautiful and I reviewed the first one here. But now Sarah has taken the plunge and is going it alone. Her new book is based on the premise of ‘From little things big things grow’ and so she has designed 10 ‘Dolly’ / mini quilts using a technique or block design that allows you to practice your skills and then she takes these techniques and explores them further as 10 full sized quilts using the Dolly quilt as a jumping off point. Of course you could only make the Dolly quilts or only make the full sized quilts if you like too. They are all quite beautiful and inspirational.

I asked Sarah a few questions about the quilts and her design process and her love of fabric and quilting and this is what she said.

1. You describe your aesthetic as being traditional meets modern – with a mix of traditional designs and eclectic fabrics – can you explain your design process a little more?

I have a huge library of quilting and design books, all with little tags sticking out of things I find interesting, and I also keep a load of sketch books and notebooks. Often when I start a new quilt I don’t even look through those things, I have just an idea in my head and away I go. I don’t usually draw quilts up before I start, unless it’s something that I need precise measurements for. Usually I just cut and sew. I have process books too, where I write everything I do for a single quilt down as I go along – that way I know how much fabric I used, how many pieces I cut etc when I get to write the patterns.

If I am stumped about starting something in particular or need more inspiration, I sit down in my studio with my books and just leaf through things, and sketch as I go. Sometimes that’s enough just to get me thinking in another direction. And sometimes just a piece of fabric or a colour combination is enough.

The quilts frequently don’t end up where they started out going, but that’s one of the things I enjoy. I began making a Philedelphia Pavement recently for example, and it’s ended up with applique borders and white diagonal lines that I didn’t plan. Using a design wall is the best way to work for me, I leave things to percolate and move blocks and colourways around a lot until I’m happy with the result.

2. You have a lovely big fabric stash and talk a bit about it in the book – you obviously have a big love of colour and pattern – can you tell us what your all time favourite 3 fabrics are – ones that you keep coming back to over and over?

Oh my gosh, that’s like choosing one of my children. I love my stash and I cultivate it at every opportunity. I tell my husband that he wouldn’t stop a painter buying paints – but I dont think he’s buying it :) Favourite all time 3 fabrics. OK…

1. Cath Kidston little floral print thingy – have used this over and over and over. Nearly all gone but I hoard it like gold.
2. There’s a piece of this old fish fabric in so many of my favourite quilts. I used it first in a quilt called Ponds in Jane’s Garden which I adore, and because I loved making it so much the fabric stuck with me. I’m down to about a 6″ square.
3. Kaffe Fassett’s big florals. I can’t pick just one, I love them all. The current obsession is this one from his latest re-colouration range of old favourites. The pink and yellow is killing me.

3. Again on fabric – you say that dots are your go-to fabrics for backgrounds and fillers and that you rarely use solids – why do you love pattern so much – what is it that attracts you and what do you think that it gives the quilt that a solid background wouldn’t?

Awesome question. And for me it’s very simple, although some will undoubtedly argue! I like to use pattern because it moves. To me a solid is a dead spot. When you look at a quilt that engages your eye and makes it travel around the quilt, you know you have balance right. There’s a place for solids in my quilts – I do use a lot of white and plains for applique backgrounds, but even those usually have a tone on tone spot, a shot cotton or are a textured linen or something interesting. Of course, you can have too much pattern and have everythng be a mish mash, so it’s important to give the eye a place to rest as well. No matter how busy my quilts are there is always something consistent to hold everything together. Having said all that, there are two quilts in the book with a fair amount of solids in them!

4. I am a huge fan of your designs – I love the bright colours and crazy mix of fabrics – but I am especially attracted to the Dandelions quilt, one of the few quilts in the book that does indeed use solid fabrics. Can you explain your design process here and why you used solids in this quilt?

I started out making this quilt with a picture I saw of a beautiful sunny patch of grass covered in daisies, and a little girl running through it. The different colours in the grass and the innocence of the little girl got me thinking about a single bed quilt for a little girl’s room. I played around for a while with the Dandelions and a load of different backgrounds, but decided to get the fresh effect I wanted of the grass and the little flowers scattering, I needed solids. Thank heavens for the Kona Cotton colour card and a million shades of green to choose from :)

5. Another quilt in the book that I am drawn to is ‘A wing and a prayer’, I love the use of the text print in the background and the solid fabrics on the bird heads – and it looks like you might have used some vintage fabrics too?. Again how did you come to design this quilt, what design decisions did you make along the way?

This is my favourite quilt in the book. I don’t know why, I just loved making it. I have always loved the antique American Eagle quilts you see in US museums, but I didn’t feel Eagles were really relevant to me, so I came up with the fantasy birds. Their heads are bright Essex linens, and the other solids in the pieces borders are from Oakshott which are some of my favourite “solid” fabrics in the world. This is one of those quilts that just fell together. I happened to order the text print fabric and leave it on the bench with the Essex linen… I was sent a present of the Kaffe border print… I was doodling and the birds and the colours just jumped into my head fully formed. I would have quilted it forever but I had to stop to make the deadline :)

6. Many of the quilts in the book are hand quilted by you – and they are so beautiful. I am quite in awe of your skill and patience. Can you tell me when you get the time to hand quilt and how long it takes you to hand quilt a quilt? Any secrets tips you can share with the Whipup audience about your method?

I love hand quilting. I would rather hand quilt than do anything else. Even though I have a fantastic machine quilter who I love to bits (Kim Bradley), I am always disappointed when I have a quilt done on the machine. Only that when I’m piecing, my mind is already working to where I will quilt it. I press my seams in directions on purpose depending on where I want to quilt, on the up or the down side of the seam. I quilt for hours and hours when I’m working on a big quilt, I just put in a DVD and off I go. Working at the sewing machine for long hours gives me backache but hand quilting never does. I always get asked how long it takes me to hand quilt something and it’s such a hard thing to answer, because each one is so different. To give you an indication though, the quilt that took me the longest to quilt in the book was probablyThe Night Garden, and it took around 80 hours to quilt I think. Stopping and starting is always slower than straight lines.

Tips for hand quilting:
- DO use a hoop AND a thimble, no matter how much you think you don’t need them, you will get a better result. Take the time to get used to them. Don’t rush – it’s the journey, grasshopper!
- and don’t pick out every single stitch that you think isn’t perfect or you will just make yourself cranky and never get the quilt done.
- Quilting needs practise, and the more you practise they better you will get. You’re much better off quilting something all over and have it feel handmade, than trying to be perfect and it ending up in a bag in the cupboard.

Follow along on this Aussie Quilting Blog Tour -

Monday, April 11: Red Pepper Quilts
Tuesday, April 12: Patch Andi
Wednesday, April 13: Rosalie Quinlan
Thursday, April 14: Whip Up
Friday, April 15: Fat Quarterly blog
Saturday, April 16: Cinderberry Stitches
Sunday, April 17: One Flew Over

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book: haiku knits

by kath_red on November 26, 2009

in Books, Features

Haiku Knits: 25 Serenely Beautiful Patterns Inspired by Japanese Design by Tanya alpert. Watson-Guptill (October 20, 2009)

Haiku knits is an interesting and eclectic collection of knitwear designs with an aura of patience and calm, inspired by Japanese simplicity and the natural world. Tanya combines different yarns to create undulating surface textures, and asymmetry and unusual finishes give each design a unique aesthetic. Possibly not to everyone’s taste – but if you too are attracted to, or yearning for, something a little different in your knitting and your wardrobe then get your hands on this book as it will provide.

The techniques section is quite thorough, each pattern has charts included and detailed instructions for putting together these often tricky patterns suitable for advanced knitters or those wanting a challenge. With combinations of opposing yarns (such as mohair and linen knitted together) each design has different challenges to overcome and often specify hard to find but beautiful and interesting yarns.

A beautifully simple looking pullover – has a wide neck that falls off the shoulder and a slightly flared sleeve – the simplicity of the design is offset by the fact that it is knitted in silk/stainless steel yarn and linen paper yarn, a unique and interesting capelet ‘long night’ is knit in section then put together so it forms a kaleidoscope effect – the linen yard gives it shape and the metallic rayon adds a shimmer – i am actually not sure about this one – it looks challenging to wear as well. The gorgeous kimono style jacket from the cover has me won over – worn open the wrap belt hangs very elegantly, while when tied (and worn upside down as a bolero sweater) it is equally flattering.

A perfect knitting book for those who like a challenge and are interested in taking their knitting to new places.

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book: Felties

by kath_red on November 18, 2009

in Books, Features

Felties: How to Make 18 Cute and Fuzzy Friends by Nelly Pailloux. Andrews McMeel Publishing (October 20, 2009)

Here are some tiny little felt characters sure to win your hearts, with their engaging personalities and almost manga aesthetic, with their big heads and eyes and funny simple style.

Felties is well served by glossy gridded pages, and to-scale illustrations and templates, and the book’s modest scale still allows each character a dedicated page spread with easy to understand instructions. There is a very brief intro/techniques section at the front – but as each project is quite simple I can handle this briefness, although I would have liked a bit more background about the designer/maker as this personalises a book for me – but I know others like to get stuck straight into the projects.

The little guys are cheek-squeezing cute – with oversized heads and eyes and tiny bodies – I love the sun loving rat best, and the retro alien and little bears, puppies and pandas all won our hearts + the projects are so quick that you can easily make up a whole set to make some kids very happy.

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book: Embroidered effects

by kath_red on November 1, 2009

in Books, Features

Embroidered Effects: Projects and Patterns to Inspire Your Stitching (Sublime Stitching) by Jenny Hart. Chronicle Books; Spi edition (September 9, 2009).

This is not just a book with groovy embroidery designs and lots of transfers to help you re-create the groovy designs, it is in fact an extremely comprehensive book on embroidery for beginners.

Jenny really goes into such incredible detail with her explanations of techniques and tools and materials, it is obvious she loves her craft and has thought deeply about how to explain it those who may be not quite sure how to get started. Along with chapters on the basics (fabrics to use, threads to use, tools to use) there is a fantastic stitch dictionary with excellent clear illustrations and instructions – showing where the needle goes in and comes out, where you are supposed to hold the thread and which direction you should be heading. Often a second technique for doing the one stitch is described – I love that Jenny is not precious about how you get it done and she allows for different styles of stitching in her instructions.

There is a whole section on the different patterns/designs – with transfers in the back to help you get just the right look – the designs are shown stitched onto outfits, aprons, shirts or as framed pieces, pillows, tablecloths, even shower curtains, but alas no doilies.

With Jenny’s usual fun and slightly subversive designs you will find tattoo embroidery for you sleeve shirt, colourful day of the dead skulls for your summer skirt, cute little bluebirds for the fronts of your jeans, adorable framed child’s art, embroidered text and more.

For more of a taster – check out these free online tutes from the book

Mahjong embroidery tablecloth
Floss blending tutorial

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