Monday, 8 May 2017

Meet the Finishalong (not) Host - Me!

The 2017 Finishalong has a global team of hosts, and one by one they are introducing themselves in the "Meet the Host" posts throughout the year. Now I am NOT a Finishalong host, but I have the honour (!) of being the person behind the Finishalong Instagram and Facebook accounts (Social Media Director). And in that role I have been asked to introduce myself, too.

If you are meeting me today for the first time, you are very welcome to my blog Studio Sew of Course, where I share my quilts and other stitching, as well as glimpses of my garden and the area where I live.

Who am I?

My name is Sandra, and I was born and raised in The Netherlands. And before you think, "tulips, clogs, and windmills" that is not quite how it is living there. I never lived in a windmill, for one, though I lived in many places!

However, I did cycle every day to school at the other end of town - yes, everyone does cycle in The Netherlands! And in my student days I even went on a cycling/camping holiday to England with friends.

And I did not wear clogs... until I started doing a lot of gardening at our first proper "adult" house in Kent (UK). They do take some getting used to, but are perfectly warm and dry, and so easy to slip in and out of!

I also LOVE cheese, any cheese! And nowhere can you find such a wide selection of cheese as in The Netherlands, I think.

I studied at the Agricultural University in Wageningen (NL), and thoroughly enjoyed living in this small university town. Cycling all over of course! I spent a half year doing my internship in New Zealand, and eventually ended up with a MSc degree, and a future husband just months before he finished his studies and left to do a PhD abroad.

And so started my international life... Following my heart, and his work opportunities, we lived in many countries for relatively short periods of time. From three months to five years in one place, we lived in many different countries, in between coming back in The Netherlands for a while as well. And now we have ended up in Ireland, and have lived in this house longer than anywhere I have ever lived...

my first quilt, completely hand stitched
Growing up, I was often crafting, learning crochet and dress making from my mother, knitting from a neighbour, and many other crafts from magazines and books.
In England I came across my first patchwork quilt, and from then on I needed to learn how to make them. Beginner's classes started me of with drafting blocks, making templates and hand sewing (no rulers and rotary cutters at first!), followed by more classes, workshops, books and magazines, always wanting to learn more. A visit to a quilt exhibition has me peering closely at the way certain effects have been achieved, even now, so many years later. I just LOVE to learn new things!

Moving so often, quilt making also gave me an opportunity to find new people and make friends wherever I went. In some places it took a while to find out about them, but always I did find some group or other of friendly and welcoming quilters. And soon enough I was teaching quilt making, too.

Then in 2012, I started a City & Guilds Level 3 Certificate course, and as part of that we set up a (private) blog to share notes and work between us students. Which led me to start reading blogs, and starting my own blog soon after. Since I have a compulsion to stitch and sew (I sew, of course!), and fill the blog with my creative works, its inspiration and anything that takes my fancy, I named it Studio Sew of Course, and followed by being "sewofcourse" for all social media. I am very active especially on Instagram, but can be found elsewhere as well if you are so inclined.

Of course, I learned so much again in the course! The range of techniques covered in City & Guilds is enormous, and the design process poses challenges of its own. The course includes many, many samples and small projects, as well as five main items to be made, see my City & Guilds page for some of it.
Since the course my way of quilt making has changed, too. I have always been easily tempted to try something new, but now I'd try anything. And of course I made the most wonderful friends!!

In all those years I mainly hand quilted my quilts, not having a lot of confidence to use my domestic machine for quilting. This has led to a rather large number of half-quilted quilts, and unquilted quilt tops! Then I discovered the Finishalong a couple of years ago, and joining in has helped me to reduce the number of WIPs to a more acceptable amount. I also got a lot of practice in machine quilting as part of the City & Guilds course, so my confidence has grown somewhat. Now I have to just put it into practice some more... and remember to quilt with a less stops and starts - I hate tying in a million threads! Machine quilting may help finish some of my projects a bit quicker.

What's next?

My current Finishalong list contains some rather varied projects, and is not in danger of being finished any time soon. Besides, there are more projects in the house that haven't even made it on the list (yet). I can see my list grow longer before it will get any smaller! I do like the idea that I am working to finish those quilts, but I won't be beating myself up over it. And only projects I still like are making it onto the list in the first place.

I still teach a weekly quilt group in our local library, and we hold a yearly exhibition of our work there, too. They have a great exhibition space!
I am also working on another pattern or two (my few available patterns can be found on the Patterns page), I have plans to improve and extend the blog/website, and ideas for several new quilts are being turned over in my head... I have also been editing quilt patterns for several people over the past few years, too, and hope to do some more of that. I just love to puzzle on the quilt maths, and improving pattern instructions.

Besides that, I have a part-time job, we have three boys (13, 18, and 22), and a large (and rather unconventional) garden:

And I love going on walks and taking photographs (these are from last weekend):

One thing is for sure: I won't be bored for a long time yet!!


Thursday, 6 April 2017

Second Quarter Goals to Finish

- to find out more about the Finishalong, see my Finishalong PAGE -

Last quarter I only finished one project, and that means one very long-standing UFO has come off my list, so I am happy. However, it also means that there are a lot of projects from my last list rolling over to this one. Of course there are also one or two new ones appearing, so my list is growing! I won't be bored any time soon, that's for sure...

1. Flower Fans

This project was started a short while ago with the local quilt group. I am designing it as I go along, and I am finally using my collection of batiks.

2. Feathered Star top

Yes, you guessed it, this still needs quilting!

3. Hearty

The quilt top from (More) Hearty Good Wishes fabrics and sashiko-stitched linen is finished. It needs to be quilted and bound (not changed from last time).

4. Cubes quilt
Not worked on this at allrecently, time to finish it though, it's so close (not changed from last time).

5. Curved improv

The top is (probably) finished, time to turn it into a quilt (not changed from last time).

6. Sunflowers

The blocks are together for years, I intended to quilt it for free motion quilting practice. The idea is that the riot of colours and shapes will not show up my lack of experience too much... (also not changed from last time).

7. Stack and cut log cabin
Another top ready for quilting.

8. Notebook Cover
My new plain notebook for work deserves a cheerful new cover! Some of these Radiance by Beth Studley fabrics will be just the job!

Linking up with the 2017 Quarter 2 Finishalong at Sew Me.

I need to keep sewing, of course!


Friday, 31 March 2017

Weave - the Story of a Finish

About seven or eight years ago (maybe even nine...) I was given some Oakshott fabrics. There were two bundles, similar to the Lakes and Ruby Reds fat eighths bundles that are on sale on the Oakshott website these days, though it has been too long ago to remember whether they were exactly the same.

For a long while, I was stumped for ideas of what to make with these gorgeous fabrics. If you have ever seen them, and better still, handled them, you will know what I am talking about! These fabrics are shot cottons, and they have a lustre to them which comes from the different threads that are used for the warp and weft in the weaving process. They are also soft and drapey (is that a word?), which gives them a quality all their own.

In short, I wanted a SPECIAL project to use them in.

In 2010 I started working on it. Getting my inspiration from the quality of the fabrics themselves, I decided to focus on the theme of weaving, and played with my (then) EQ6. In the end I settled on a design reminiscent of a tartan:

The design was slightly adapted from my original plan due to the size limitations of the fat eighths, but I did not want to join pieces for the large purple square in the top right, so when I was at the Festival of Quilts that year I acquired a larger piece of the purple (and some other colours, too, of course). The hand of this piece was slightly different (I think they changed their manufacturer in the mean time), but the colours and lustre were exactly the same. Perfect!

I did not have any off-white Oakshott. I don't remember why, it may well be that the Oakshott range didn't include a suitable colour at the time. Anyway, I added a cream/white batik fabric to the mix for the "white" pieces, and that worked fine, too.

In March 2011 I started cutting, laying out the pieces carefully on my design wall (I have no such thing nor space for it) a piece of fabric on the floor. Deciding where each colour needed to go was hard, especially since I had limited amounts of each colour, but I did get there:

Sewing it all together wasn't too hard, though it required a clear head to keep the pieces in their correct order. But straight seams all the way, nesting the seams, iron at the ready - no problem.

Layering the quilt sandwich some time later, I started quilting. The quilt isn't huge, so I decided to hand quilt it, using quilting thread in pink, purple and wine to coordinate with the fabrics. I decided to want to emphasise the "weave" effect with my quilting, so I alternated the direction of my quilting lines in each fabric piece. I used straight lines and wavy ones for some playfulness, and for the lovely effect these quilting lines created on the shot cottons:

And then I became stuck!

The quilting took longer than imagined... There were sooo many threads to bury... There were other, newer projects on the horizon (yay)! I S.T.O.P.P.E.D.

Enter the Finishalong! In January 2016 I first decided to join in with the Finishalong, and this was on my list. And it remained on my list.
But I did get some little quilting done every quarter, until at the start of this quarter I realised there wasn't all that much more quilting required! Suddenly I was on a roll, and hey presto, it got DONE.

All quilting done, all threads tied off (how I dislike that part!), and binding in place. I used a faced binding for this one, because I did not want the binding to "frame" the weave effect. And I even wrote a tutorial for the Faced Binding:

So here it is:


Name: Weave
Design: own
Size: 48" x 48"
Fabrics: Oakshott cottons, off-white batik, patchwork print cotton (backing)
Pieced by machine, quilted by hand
Faced binding

Linking up at the 2017 Finishalong (listed on my Quarter 1 Finishalong list at number 2)


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Faced Binding - a Tutorial

- this post is part of the 2017 Finishalong Quarter 1 Tutorials Week -

Find the link-up for the Quarter 1 Finish-Along HERE or at any of the other hosts

Most of our quilts get finished with "ordinary" continuous double fold binding (also called French binding), but there are several other ways to finish the edges of a quilt. In this tutorial I show you how I do a FACED BINDING. A faced binding neatly and securely finishes off straight quilt edges, but does not show on the front of the quilt at all. It is often used for art quilts, but it can be used for any quilt where the binding may distract from the front, or when you want your colours or shapes to continue right to the edge of your quilt. If you need your quilt to be a particular (accurate) size, take note that the faced binding may reduce your quilt size a small bit. Depending on the thickness of the quilt sandwich this could be 1/4" or more.

For this method, we are using double folded binding strips as a facing (where I mention binding, I mean the binding strips that we are using here to face the quilt). I am using this method to finish one of my quilts for this quarter's Finishalong anyway (my only finish, it looks like). The complete quilt will be linked up shortly.
I have also used this method for another quilt, have a look at my wall hanging HERE if you like.

So let's start!

Your quilt needs to be all quilted and any threads tied off. At this stage DO NOT trim the wadding and backing (yet)!
If you have it, use a walking foot, or engage the top feed of your machine. It will help you stitch through the quilt layers smoothly without distorting. Also make your stitches slightly longer when stitching through the layers, this will help prevent puckering and distortion of the edges.

To secure the layers of the quilt, stitch down the edge of the quilt through all layers, just about 1/8 inch from the edge of the quilt top or so:

We will need FOUR separate strips of binding (= facing) 2" wide of the following lengths:
Two strips - the LENGTH of the quilt top PLUS 0.5" - these are your SIDE strips.
Two strips - the WIDTH of the quilt top PLUS 2.5" - these are your TOP/BOTTOM strips.

If needed, join strips with a diagonal seam (iron seams open) to make up to the correct lengths, just as you would do with the usual continuous binding. I needed to join a small length to each of my strips, so I cut five strips, joined them all in one long strip, and cut four strips to the required lengths from it.

Fold and press the strips double lengthways, wrong sides together, as you would for any double fold binding, to make a crease along the middle.

The main issue for faced binding is too much bulk in the corners, so we cut the ends of each strip at a 45 degree angle:

Open your strip flat, and align the 45 degree line on your ruler with one long edge of your strip.

Trim the corner, making sure to keep the correct length of the strip intact.

Trim the two ends of one strip angled in OPPOSITE directions!!

Fold the strip double again.

Position a SIDE strip along the SIDE edge of the quilt top, raw edges together. The beginning and end of the binding strip should extend about 1/4" beyond each corner of the quilt top. Make sure that the strip is positioned so that you will see a small triangle of the WRONG side of the fabric at the trimmed corner of the strip.

Stitch the strip onto the quilt sandwich with a 1/4" seam. You are stitching through all layers (use your walking foot if you have it). To guide a 1/4" seam from the edge of the fabric you may want to move your needle over so it sits 1/4" away from the edge of the foot.

Repeat for the other side edge with the second SIDE binding strip.

Trim the sides of the quilt at 1/2" from the stitching line (this should be approx 1/4" from the edge of the quilt top). Do NOT trim the TOP/BOTTOM yet!


Trim the wadding at the corners to reduce bulk.

Press the binding strip towards the edge of the quilt. If you have used polyester wadding, be careful when ironing, the polyester may melt! In that case, you may be better of just finger pressing the strip outwards.

Stitch the binding strip down onto the seam allowance, about 1/8" from the seam. This is called understitching, and helps prevent the facing to roll towards the front of the quilt when we're done. Make sure to push the binding strip firmly outwards when understitching.

This is how that will look:

Now start on the top and bottom of the quilt, using the TOP/BOTTOM strips. These strips have been cut a bit longer, since they have to stick out by about 1 1/4" at each corner. Position the strip with the raw edges level at the edge of the quilt top.

Mark at the corner where the seams of the SIDE strips are (about 1 1/2" from the point of the TOP/BOTTOM strip). You don't want to sew down the very corner of these strips, sew only between the SIDE strips.

Starting at the mark, stitch this strip down with a 1/4" seam allowance as before.

Repeat for the second TOP/BOTTOM strip. All four corners will now look like this:

Trim the edges of the top and bottom of the quilt at 1/2" from the TOP/BOTTOM strip stitching (again, approx. 1/4" from the edge of the fabric). 

Like you did for the SIDE strips, again press the binding strip outwards firmly, and understitch the strip to the seam allowance. Your corners will look like this:

Trim the corner of the backing fabric away at the very corner, so it doesn't stick out beyond the corner of the quilt top.

Now turn your quilt over so the back is facing you. Turn a SIDE binding strip towards the back. Because it is understitched, the whole quilt sandwich will roll with it. Pull the binding over so far that the whole binding strip lies onto the back of the quilt. The front of the quilt will show a little when looking at it from the side, but should not be visible when looking straight at the back.
Repeat for the other SIDE strip. The corners of the TOP/BOTTOM strips will be sticking out quite far:

Fold the corner of the TOP/BOTTOM strip to the back, angled towards the raw edges of the SIDE strip. Pull the corner firmly around:

Roll the TOP/BOTTOM binding strip to the back. The points of the strip will be tucked inside, and the raw edges will all be covered. Repeat for the second TOP/BOTTOM strip:

Check that your corners look neat and square from the front:

If you are happy, slip stitch the binding strips in place at the back, making sure your stitches do not go through all layers, so they are not visible from the front.

This tutorial is part of the 2017 Finishalong Quarter 1 Tutorial Week.
Here is the complete schedule so you can visit them all:
If you are looking for the link-up for your Quarter 1 finishes, you can find that HERE or at any of the other hosts. The link-up will be open until 4 AM (BST) on 2 April. If you want to know exactly when the linky closes in your time zone - I may again be one of those last-minute linker-uppers myself - check at the bottom of the link-up. It says how much time you have got left before the linky closes!

I better get to it and finish my quilt ready for some blog-worthy photos!