Sewing Equipment for Patchwork

nonsenseHusband and I never quite agree on anything. Don’t get me wrong, we have the same objectives, values and dreams and together we are a formidable alliance. However, we have very different ways of getting anything done and we are both always right! 

Scarily, last night, we almost approached a problem the same way.

“By golly”, says I “we were on the same page there.”

“If we’re not careful”, says he “we might actually agree on something!” 

There then followed that shocked, stunned, eerie silence that seems to last forever as we let this bizarre idea sink in. Then, simultaneously, we both said:

“Nah! Never happen!”

The same goes for patchwork. There are many ways to achieve the same result, which is why there are so many different tutorials about the same pattern. But we are all aiming for the same thing.  A beautiful sewn work of art. 

When you start out though, this can be really confusing.

If you have never sewn patchwork before then the idea of it is quite simple. You get several pieces of fabric, cut them into bits and then sew them together again.

Simple? Yes? Definitely… but

The thing is, these days the beginner can start hunting on the Internet and reading hundreds of tutorials and watch thousands of films and soon you are being told about all sorts of things, all of which apparently matter.

20170218_150836Like thread strengths and types, cutting mats, templates, pins, starch, machines,  fabric types,  jelly rolls,  snowballs, in the ditch stitching,  tailors chalk…

Thus follows confusion and information over-load. 

So, what do you really need to start sewing a patchwork project?

Well, actually, not that much.

What you need is a simple and straightforward guide to the equipment you need to get going, so that instead of spending all your energy and brain-cells on choosing the right type of sewing thread, you can use them for the fun stuff like deciding which pattern to sew and what fabrics to use.

Below, in orange, is a link to such an equipment list. It doesn’t include any fancy stuff… just the basic information to get going. 

CLICK HERE to go to article.

If you get addicted to this hobby, as many do, then there’s plenty of time to get technical later, but to start you only need this lot. Meaning that you buy less equipment, so have more money to buy more fabric to sew more patchwork – which is the fun bit and why we do this hobby anyway. 

20170207_102549After all, what is the point of a well-equipped sewing room if you can’t afford the fabric to sew – and there’s so much of it to choose from? Follow some equipment guides and you’ll find that half the stuff you will never use, and the other half you won’t know how to use!

I’m now off to use my decision making brain-cells to decide how many different shades of blue fabric I really do need for the next project…

Bye for now



Patchwork Discovery during Spring Cleaning

Snail TrailYou know it’s Spring when you hear the first dulcet tones of the ice cream van driving up the road. 

Last year, every-time we heard the twinkling twanging sound of the ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’, the toddler had hysterics! So maybe we are more sensitive to the van’s arrival as we try to obscure the sound with tuneless singing and dancing! Today we were all quick to notice it’s arrival, more so perhaps because the toddler’s reaction was to calmly declare that the ice cream man had come.

That was the total level of interest, apart from waving it goodbye as it drove away down the street. (Thankfully, he hasn’t realized that we can buy ice cream from the van – only I’m too tight!)

My sister was even sly-er than me with her excuses… She convinced her children that when the ice cream van drives around playing his music, it’s because he’s letting everyone know that he has sold out of ice cream so don’t bother asking for any. Pester-free existence!

All signs point to the fact that Spring is well on the way.

The washing is drying on the line more days than not,

Flowers are popping their heads through the leaves,

and the ice cream man has arrived.

So, today I felt inspired…

…to have a little Spring clean of my sewing stuff. This involves getting things out, going “Oh gosh I forgot I had that” and then putting it back for another day.

20170219_211345However, one crumpled bag stuffed at the bottom of my main sewing bag caught my attention.

20170219_211510It was full of bags of blue fabric, most cut into triangles of different sizes as well as a couple of sewn blocks. The design is the ‘Monkey Wrench’ or ‘Snail Trail’. A fairly common block – click HERE to learn more about this block.

20170219_211607Unusually for me, everything appears highly organised and apparently under control. Bags are even letter and color coded, my goodness! The problem, in this case, is my hand-written instructions.

I often sew things slightly different to the tutorials on the Internet/books/ etc. Instead I work out my own method and directions and sizes. This is the base process I use for all of the videos I share on the Internet. 


The total effort of my instructions!

However, in this instance, I must have decided that this would be a private project so I made instructions for my eyes only. 

I guess it made sense when I was doing it but they are not so helpful now. Hence, I have a bit of a cryptic challenge on my hands. This has got me so puzzled that instead of putting this project back in the bag, I’m going to try and finish sewing it. I’ll let you know how I get on. Wish me luck!

I’m now off to persuade my husband that I can’t do the ironing this week on account of it not being Tuesday… Surely, when it comes to ironing, any excuse has got to be worth a try!!!

Bye for now


Snowball in Patchwork

tempOver the weekend a lot of places had some snow. We had about twenty snowflakes so not much of an event to shout about… unless of course you are three!

“Mummy mummy,” came the screaming voice on opening the bedroom curtains at silly’o’clock in the morning, “it’s snowing! “

“Yes dear.  Go back to sleep.”

“I can build a snowman.” he declared whilst bouncing up and down excitedly on our bed.

We watched out of the window together, waiting patiently for each snowflake to fall through the lit sky under the streetlight. Few of them, if any, reached the ground before melting.

“Darling,  there’s not even enough snow to make a snowball.”

“But it’s snowing.  We can make a snowman!” 

Any weather snowballs

In patchwork there is a well used pattern which is called a snowball.  It is when a small square of fabric is sewn over each corner of a large square, at a diagonal, and the corner trimmed resulting in a sort of circle shape that vaguely looks like a snowball. As usual words don’t do this process justice so below is a set of diagrams explaining the process a bit clearer.


Whenever we use this process to cut off a corner on a shape we call it ‘snowballing’. Below are some pictures of other shapes that have had 1 – 4 corners ‘snowballed’.


This can be really useful in a lot of patchwork block patterns (a lot of my video tutorials include this process). And ‘snowballing’ can be quicker than sewing together a lot of half square triangles (click here to learn about half square triangles)

snow-nine-01However, as pretty as a uniform snowball block looks, there are also a variety of patterns that you can make by using the full snowball block in different color variations, or by adding alternate solid or nine-patch blocks between them.

Here’s a link to my latest video tutorial… CLICK HERE.

I’m now off to make a ‘snowball’ pudding – a very rich and delicious desert – if not rather sickly and alcoholic! Hic!

Bye for now


ps. To access the recipe for snowball pudding ‘like wot my mam’ used to make –  (Click here!)

Wrinkles and Crinkles in Patchwork

oopsSometimes our creations are not as great as we’d like. 

You know – a few wonky seams, a lumpy bit of quilting, a missing point or two, a bit of a mess, to our eyes at least!

I’ve just made a small quilt like this. Every time I look at it I just see another disaster or mess, another missed seam.

Never mind ‘stitching in the ditch’ – I wasn’t even in the same field!

For a while I have had it scrunched up in a heap in the kitchen. As I passed by it I growled at it for pretending to be a quilt. Pretending to be a work of art. It had to go. 

20170212_131312So, instead, today I gave it to the toddler – to do with it whatever it is that toddlers do with a blanket. So far it has been a door, cape, blanket, roof of a den, mountain and car park. He’s not bothered that it’s squiffy. And the way he’s throwing it around you can’t even tell it’s squiffy. He is really pleased with it.

Now, I could decide to quit sewing as a result of this recent and stressful disaster, or I could decide to learn from my mistakes.

If a school report were written about this quilt, it would eerily reflect all those I ever had at school…

‘Alison shows promise but must try harder’

Here are my five top tips to improvement:-

1. Check that your pre-cut squares are actually square before you start;
2. Take your time to line things up before sewing, and even pin if necessary;
3. Sew your seams with care to be a consistent 1/4 inch rather than seeing how fast you, and the machine, can go;
4. There’s no such thing as a short cut – really, there isn’t;
5. Unpick your mistakes rather than trying to hide them.

20170212_131248You might notice the theme to these points all revolve around time issues. Why, with this quilt, I thought I had a time problem I don’t know – but the result showed careless and sloppy sewing practices. In the end, patchwork is a hobby, it’s meant to be fun. There are no time limits, except perhaps if you are sewing a gift, and then I’m sure the person would rather something beautiful and late than a mess on time. (My mum’s 2015 Christmas present didn’t reach her for ten months!)

The next quilt will be sewn with care and love.

As my dad says, ‘If a job’s worth doing then it’s worth doing well.’

And as much as I dislike this quilt, toddler loves it, so I guess there is no bad quilt, just a chance to learn.

I’m now off to think about my next sewing project – note the word ‘think’ not ‘charge in and hope’!

Bye for now



Colors in Patchwork



As a child I loved coloring pens.  Every birthday or Christmas I would get a new set, all lined up prettily and neat in their packet. I would spend hours just looking at them and it would be a while before I would open them and start to use them, always being sure to put them back in the right place.


Still Wrong!

Sometimes, I would reluctantly allow a visiting friend to use them but lo and behold if they put them back in in the wrong place or worse crime still… upside down. 

On boring rainy days I would tip them all out of the packet and try and find the best rainbow arrangement to put them back in, so that the color ‘flowed’ across the packet.

There are many ways to do this. There are the obvious colors and the tricky ones. 



Green to blue to people to red to Orange to yellow to green.  Easy? Yes – But what about brown, grey, black or light or dark colors.

And what happens when the color on the pen doesn’t quite match the color of the pen.

This drama with colors has followed me all my life!


My red-orange-brown box

Like when I became obsessed with cross stitch embroidery – the thread organizers needed sorting;

Like when I was a draftsman and we used water color paints for hi-lighting design features – the paint pots;

Like my younger son’s building brick collection.

And now patchwork fabric.

There are theories on dark and light,  variable tones, hues, saturation, summer and winter,  warm and cool, etc. etc. There are many videos and books that explain it all. Some are really simple and some are mind-numbingly complicated. To view, and buy, a handy chart you can take with you shopping to help get that perfect match or clash, depending on what you are after, click on the following pretty picture (It’s great for decorating choices too – and buying your new outfits) :-

Personally I choose my fabrics by whether they look nice! But, uh-oh, the scraps still have to be organised. 

tempIn my recent wander around my local fabric shop I saw this color delight and just had to share it. Surely, happiness is this!

I’m now off to organize my son’s pens, yet again, whilst he sleeps…

Bye for now