On Wednesday, I set myself the challenge of making not one, but TWO ‘Teloujay’ bags by Jo Kay (@countrycowdesigns) in 48 hours! This requires a back story: It’s my mum’s birthday tomorrow (5th June). I’ve been been wanting to make her this bag for a while but the fear of bag making, coupled with being unwell this week, made me do some serious procrastinating.
I really had to give myself a talking to, telling myself that fabric and notions would not defeat me! Then, as a middle finger to my doubting inner voice, I decided to make 2 (plus, I knew I’d want one for myself). Forget the fact I only had 48 hours to complete them after motivating myself to get started.
With less than 24 to go, the above photos are what I had got to show for my time. I’m no bagineer so this make was very slow. Thank goodness the pattern is so informative, and had lots of photos, and a video tutorial to keep me on track.
I really pushed the boat out for this make: D rings, magnetic clasps, sliders, swivel lobster claps, zips and rivets! Never before had I taken a hammer to a project (for riveting purposes) and it felt so exhilarating! I think it’s a stroke of genius being instructed to make the straps first. A lot of care and attention is required to make them and they are integral to the handbag. Had these been left until the last section, I’d have lost all focus and rushed them.
I’m relieved to report that both bags were completed in time. 🎉 For those of you who followed the journey via my Instagram stories, you’ll remember that it was down to the wire and a very late night/early morning.
My mum adored her bag and I’m really happy with mine. Hats off to all the bagineers out there. Bag making isn’t easy. ALL THAT BULK!! I thought quilters had a lot to deal with but this was just next level.
I’m rocking my mum’s bag in these photos because I only had the time to get photos with one, which happened to be the bag I needed to remember to leave the house with. 😂 I’ll be taking mine everywhere!
If you’re thinking of making this bag, go for it! Yes, it’s a challenge and the process is time consuming however, this pattern takes you through each step with detailed, written instructions, includes a video tutorial, and lots of very useful photographs.
No more sewing for me until tomorrow (7th June). I’m having a well-earned 48 hour break. 🙌🏾 Then, a little FPP project to cleanse the sewing palette.
A pattern review of the ‘Unfolding Jacket’, by Wiksten, used to make a quilted jacket.
Back in March, I did my first ever pattern test and the outcome was an 80″ x 80″ quilt top. The pattern is called ‘The B.S. Quilt’ by Trevor Whittow (@thatgayquilter). ‘B.S.’ is short for Bento Stars but I’ve affectionately called mine ‘The Beautiful Santorini Quilt’.
Since I completed it, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think about how to quilt this giant. I considered hand quilting it, then I thought I would outsource it to a Longarm quilting service. They use a large, standalone machine called a Longarm that moves around the quilt, making it easier to quilt larger quilting projects. Compared to using a domestic sewing machine, where you move the quilt around and your sewing machine stays static.
The latter was very much on the cards, until I remembered that one of my reasons for completing the ‘Nova Coat’ by Papercut Patterns was so that I could practise coat-making before using one of my treasured quilts to make one. Instantly, the quilting situation was solved. A quilted jacket was on the cards!
I chose the ‘Unfolding Jacket’ by Wiksten (formerly known as ‘The Haori Jacket’) and spent an evening putting together and cutting out the PDF pattern after the children had gone to bed. As silly as it may sound when I had an 80″ x 80″ quilt to use, I kept thinking to myself, “I hope there’s enough of it for this pattern!” 😂 I was very careful with the pattern placement when cutting, just to make sure that I could pattern match efficiently and effectively.
Something that is worth mentioning, make sure that you wash your chosen quilt/quilt top before cutting out the pattern pieces. If you choose to assemble the coat without pre-washing, you will experience shrinkage when you decide to give it a wash. This will affect the fit of your jacket. If, like me, you completely forget then there are a few things you can do:
1) After you have quilted each of the relevant pattern pieces but BEFORE you sew them all together, steam press each individual piece. This will cause a small amount of shrinkage in a more controlled manner. Minimal shrinkage should occur because the fabric will be quilted.
2) Hand wash your quilted jacket, or put it on a short cycle, cool wash, to avoid any further shrinkage of the finished garment. A cool wash, because the heat can cause more shrinkage. A short cycle or hand wash means that the jacket will be in water for a shorter period of time, compared to a standard washing machine cycle, therefore aiding in the minimising of shrinkage.
3) Air dry your quilted jacket, rather than tumble dry.
These tips won’t necessarily completely stop shrinkage but they’ll certainly minimise it. All the fabric I used was 100% quilting cotton, which is quite robust, so I’m hoping that this will work in my favour. It took me one evening to quilt the main fabric of the jacket. I pin basted (the technique of using pins to attach batting and backing fabric to the quilt top) batting to the quilt top and created a wavy-lined design. I didn’t add any backing fabric, because I wanted the jacket to be lined in the usual fashion that is associated with a lined jacket.
If you’ve never quilted before but you really want to make your own quilted jacket, you can either straight-line quilt (using straight lines to create a pattern/design) each of the pieces for the jacket, or make use of your machine’s decorative stitches, using them to create a simple quilt pattern on your jacket.
Sewing the jacket, the lining, and attaching them to each other was very straightforward. I’d never used any Wiksten patterns before and found this particular one was with clear photography, and very detailed, well written instructions. Unfortunately, this pattern has been discontinued but if you’re lucky enough to have it in your collection, make use of it. It was a joy to make the jacket and it came together relatively quickly.
Here are some photos of me rocking my new, favourite jacket in sweltering heat. It’s a shame I have to wait until the winter to wear it.
I’m so impressed and blown away with the finished jacket and how it looks. It was worth the risk I took of cutting up my quilt top. I much prefer the design as a jacket and I’ll get far more use out of it in the winter months, than if it were a quilt. I’ll also be using the Wiksten ‘Unfolding Jacket’ a few more times to make jackets in a variety of fabrics. This garment-making project was a resounding success and I got to incorporate my love of quilting. What a win!
My experiences of pattern testing, as a new pattern tester.
At the start of 2021 I’d promised myself to make a concerted effort to improve my sewing skills. Quilting was one particular area of my sewing where I felt I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I’d started to really play it safe with my quilts, choosing blocks I knew I could easily and quickly make. My quilting was getting a bit boring and I needed to shake things up a bit.
That’s when I decided to get into pattern testing. For me, it’s the perfect way to try new and exciting patterns, improve my quilting skills and learn new techniques. Plus, I get to become more involved in the quilting community. So far, I’ve had really positive experiences with pattern testing and it’s lived up to my expectations.
The B.S. Quilt
My first pattern test was for Trevor Whittow (@thatgayquilter), a new quilt designer. I started his pattern ‘The B.S. Quilt’ in mid-March and finished my 80” x 80” quilt top by the beginning of April. The brief was to play around with the pattern and make it your own. ‘B.S.’ stands for ‘Bento Stars’, which were the standout design within the pattern.
As you can see from the quilt I produced, my pattern doesn’t resemble stars. I completely switched it up and came up with some modern-looking rings. I’ve affectionately named my quilt ‘The Beautiful Santorini’ because of the vibes I’m getting from the colours. I had a great time testing this pattern. Trevor made is so much fun by getting us all together in a group, coming up with a theme, and coining us the ‘Real Housewives of Quilting’.
During this pattern test, I learned much more about block placement, how to manipulate a pattern to showcase my individual style, and log cabin construction. Chain-piecing (the process of continuously sewing together pattern pieces to speed up assembly time and save on thread) featured heavily when making this quilt!
As a result of the first pattern test, I made a lovely quilty buddy, who also happens to be a new quilt designer. I registered my interest to test her upcoming patterns and was contacted shortly after to test the ‘Lemon Squared’ design. Ledine Watson (@sugarstitchesquiltco) specialises in making patterns that are fun and quick to complete.
Unlike larger size quilt patterns, Ledine’s can be completed within an afternoon and provide a deep sense of satisfaction once you’ve finished. This particular pattern is very versatile and can be made as a mini quilt, table runner or wall hanging. I chose to make a wall hanging.
I was very much a stitch in the ditch kinda gal up until this point, but Ledine encouraged me to take more risks. I get so concerned with potentially ruining a quilt that I’m quick to stick to what I know…but no more! I tried my hand at straight line quilting and was so impressed with the result.
Protostar Mini Quilt
I really enjoyed making the wall hanging, plus the feeling of completing a quilting project so quickly. I decided the next quilt that I tested would also be a mini quilt but it also needed to be a pattern that I really connected with. That’s when I came across the pattern testing call for the ‘Protostar Mini Quilt’ by Anna Brown (@waxandwanestudio). I’m more drawn towards modern quilting patterns and loved the design.
This mini quilt is part of a series enabling you to create your very own ‘rune’ that brings you comfort and healing while you sew. This particular quilt is entitled, ‘Boundaries’. Sewing forms a significant part of my self-care (hence the blog name and Instagram handle) so I immediately connected with this pattern. During the process of making this quilt, I contemplated the importance of having boundaries in my life.
The colours I chose reflect my conclusion: creating boundaries can be freeing, and ultimately lead to happiness and joy. Looking at these colours certainly brings me happiness and makes me feel joyous! This pattern was also a joy to make and brought me a lot of happiness. I turned it into a wall hanging to place in my sewing room.
During this pattern test, I got to practise precision piecing (look at all those points!) and play around with incorporating multiple African Wax Print fabrics into my quilt project, without detracting from the quilt pattern.
Squeaks and the Glass Insulator
‘The B.S. Quilt’, ‘Lemon Squared’ and ‘Protostar Mini Quilt’, patterns are all traditionally pieced (constructed using straight lines shapes, sewn directly together, to create quilt block designs). I wanted to push my quilting skills even further and try out some modern piecing techniques. One that I was new to trying was Foundation Paper piecing (FPP) (sewing pieces of fabric directly onto paper to create a quilt block design).
I had tried out a few FPP projects and jumped at the chance to test a pattern by Jennifer Larimore (@nerdynquilty). Her patterns are of cartoon characters that we all know and love. They are available for free and are solely for personal use, to avoid any copyright infringement. I must admit, it’s been that long since I’ve seen The Fox and the Hound that I hadn’t got any idea about this character. 🙈 I just thought the block looked amazing and so I reached out to test it.
This block was so much fun to put together. It came together exceptionally well and I just can’t stop looking at it! I stayed true to the colour scheme of this pattern because for some, it’s a recognisable character. True to form, I couldn’t resist putting in some African wax print fabric (check out the antennae).
Overall, I’ve had such a fantastic time pattern testing. It’s a great hobby for me that enables me to support designers I like and improve upon my quilting skills. At the end of each pattern test I’ve been thrilled to receive free patterns from these designers, but that’s not why I do it. Along the way, I’ve made some fabulous quilty friends and I feel much more a part of the quilting and sewing community. 💖
Pattern review for the ‘Nova Coat’ by Papercut Patterns
Since dusting off my garment sewing skills in February to make The Bettine 2.0, I’ve had it in my mind to finally sew a coat that I’d been wanting to make since November 2020. I found the Nova (formerly Sapporo) Coat by Papercut Patterns and instantly knew it’d be a perfect addition to my coat collection. Only this time, I’d be making one, instead of buying one ready to wear.
I really procrastinated over starting this make. Mainly because of fear, which I’ve since decided is very silly because I can’t hope to progress in my sewing skills if I’m fearful of trying new things. Any way, I gave myself a talking to and put aside an evening to cut out the fabric. There was so much to cut, what with there being the lining pieces and the main coat. Dealing with large pieces of fabric because of the length of the coat, was another challenge, but I organised myself really well and labelled the different pieces.
The pattern itself is well written but I found that the online, written tutorial was more useful. It was written in a much clearer manner. An example of this is when I went to attach the lining to the main coat. I read and re-read the instructions provided in the pattern and couldn’t really get my head around what was required. It was actually this confusion that prompted me to search for an online tutorial and found one on Paper Cut’s website. Also, photographs were used in the online, written tutorial, making it much easier to understand the instructions. The paper version of the pattern used simple illustrations, which didn’t always make things clear to me.I must add that I purchased the paper version of the pattern. The instructions for the PDF version may match the online, written tutorial.
There were times where I felt as though I would never see the end of coat and lining fabric, but I relished the challenge. Very different from my usual quilting. I really enjoyed making this coat and thought it was a relatively straightforward make. My tailor’s clapper was invaluable. Getting those seams flat and crisp was crucial in enabling key seams to line up perfectly (e.g. under the arms).
I’m absolutely thrilled with the finish of the coat. It looks more professional and precise than coats I’ve purchased in the past for copious amounts of money! I used 100% wool and find that this coat keeps me nice and snug when out and about with my little ones. I wear this EVERYWHERE! The fact that there are no buttons, toggles or zips to close the coat is of little concern to me. I breastfeed my 10 month old and it’s one less hassle to think about undoing the coat when he’s ready to feed.
The amount of ease in this coat is wonderful. The size that I cut out incorporates two sets of measurements, according to the sizing chart (I used a size 6). I thought that this was a novel idea. I’m usually in-between two sizes, based on my measurements, and for this pattern, I didn’t need to make any adjustments.
What do you think? I think it’s a resounding success and would encourage anyone contemplating making a stylish coat to give this pattern a try. If, like me, you’ve never made a coat before, this pattern will gently introduce you to the world of coat-making. I would advise referring to the online, written tutorial when making it, for added clarity. Make sure to read the instructions very carefully.
Pattern: The Nova Coat (formerly Sapporo) by ‘Papercut Patterns’.
Fabric: Calico Laine – ‘Winter Wool Fabric (WL126)’. Minerva – ‘Anti-Static Super Soft Lining Fabric (34)’.
Assembly Time: 1 evening cutting. 1 1/2 days sewing ( I completed this over a weekend).
As I mentioned in a previous post, in March 2020 I embarked upon my very first business venture. I remain a registered nurse (my NMC PIN is still active at the time of writing, 25/02/2021) but I’m no longer practicing. I’ve been a stay at home mum since September 2020 and wanted to have a career change whilst I had the opportunity. I must say that knowing I can always fall back on my nursing career takes a lot of pressure off me. I’m also very lucky to have a very supportive husband, who works very hard for our family. He really motivates and inspires me to succeed and make a success of my sewing venture.
My business, Quilted Beau, originally started off as a keepsake business making quilts, cushions and keepsake animals from sentimental clothing. I got my first order in June 2020 when I was 7 months pregnant and I considered it to be a large order. I was so thrilled to be actualising a longtime dream.
As COVID-19 started to pick up pace, I made the decision to stop receiving clothes to make keepsake items. I completely re-branded my business and started making keepsakes using African wax print fabric. This is what I currently do, with no intention of moving back into making keepsakes from sentimental clothing. My bestsellers are the animal keepsakes (elephants and giraffes in particular).
The plan is to diversify and add handbags and purses to the range, but not using African wax print fabric. Instead, using statement fabric that makes a really strong, visual impact. I want to be known for making bespoke, unique, statement gifts. That’s the product side of things.
My larger goal is to have an impact on the sewing community and to introduce people who have never sewn before, to our wonderfully diverse, and varied community. To do this, it means sharing my makes, sewing much more for pleasure and giving some helpful advice along the way. I have a Facebook group and Instagram account, both called ‘Sewing 4 Self Care’. The Facebook group is a small community of sewists who encourage and support each other in their self-care and sewing journeys. The Instagram account is my personal sewing account, sharing my makes and encouraging other sewists within the sewing community.
I want to be able to serve the sewing community in different ways. The first will be in the form of a podcast. More on this idea in a future post. The second will be in the form of online resources. What these will be on, I cannot say for sure as yet. I’ve got many ideas but I know that the further I embark on this journey, the more I will be shaped and influenced by my experiences, therefore my plans will change. That’s the really exciting thing about learning as I go. I can see my plans (and myself) evolving as different opportunities present themselves.
I’m so eager to bring all of my plans to fruition and to dedicating my time to various projects that are constantly forming in my head. However, I have to remind myself that I have two small children who also need me (they are both under the age of three years) and that there is no rush to do everything at once. I hope that when I read this back in a few years time, I took heed of my own advice and won’t look back in regret, having burnt myself out.
That’s my business in a nutshell. How it currently looks, and the plans I have to expand and make an impact on the wider sewing community. I’ve heard it said that if your dreams don’t scare you, you aren’t dreaming big enough. I definitely don’t have anything to worry about on that front!
A look back at where my sewing journey began and the progress I’ve made from 2017 to 2021.
On 2nd March 2017, my sewing journey began. I initially started this blog to document my thoughts as a new sewist and to see progress in the quality of my makes. Very recently, I took the time to re-read my previous posts and marvelled at just how much love and passion I had for all things sewing, at such an early stage in my sewing adventure. I was unwavering in my quest to improve my skills and share my makes. Not only was I extremely ambitious with my sewing goals, but surprisingly pragmatic when faced with sewing challenges. When I look back at my posts and my very first sewing projects, I’m filled with so many emotions (predominantly joy), and I have some great memories. I’m so glad that I was meticulously detailed in those early posts. I really get a sense of the direction in which I wanted to take my sewing.
As is always the case, life intervened and thus began a 3 year hiatus from regular sewing and blogging. On reflection, the time away has simply strengthened my passion for sewing and added another dimension to my sewing journey. Now, I want to introduce as many people to this wonderful craft in order to encourage creativity, promote self-care, and highlight the benefits of sewing on maintaining positive mental health and well-being. I want everyone to feel the therapeutic effects of sewing that I, and many others in the sewing community, enjoy every time we participate in a sewing-related activity.
It is no understatement when I write that I am nothing short of amazed to see the progress that I have made in my sewing journey. I used to write regularly about my wish to open an Etsy shop to sell handmade items. In part, that came to fruition when in March 2020, I launched my website Quilted Beau, opening a sewing-related business. I’ll write more about my business in a future post, but it’s amazing for me to have achieved one of my goals that I set all those years ago. Despite the many changes and challenges I’ve encountered along the way.
The quality of my makes has certainly improved. The amount of time it takes me to complete a project has decreased, which is just as well because I have two children under the age of 3 years to contend with. My fabric stash has grown since my last post in 2017 showing my fabric purchases. I now have a designated sewing room, as opposed to being assigned to the dining room table. This progress has all been gradual but steady. It’s not until I read my posts from 2017 that I could take stock of just how far I’ve come in my sewing journey….and in life.
To those of you reading this post who have recently embarked upon your own sewing journeys, I encourage you to keep persevering through the first weeks and months. There will be many learning curves (steep and at times unforgiving) but I promise you that it will be worth it in the end. Don’t believe me? Go and have a read of my previous posts from the early days of my sewing. They are no holds barred in terms of how I feel, and my makes leave a lot to be desired. Then, have a look at my current work. Things will get better and you will improve with time and practise. I’m certainly not perfect, I still make mistakes and I still have a lot to learn, but the progress is undeniable and I will joyfully celebrate it.
It’s now time for me to embark on another stage of my sewing journey. Spreading the word about how amazing sewing is, the fun that can be had creating your very own projects, and how beneficial it is for maintaining positive mental health and well-being. If you’re reading this and you’ve never sewn a day in your life, hopefully I’m about to change that!
We all have different commitments and responsibilities in our personal lives and although we have every intention to sit down and start sewing, this can be difficult because other things take priority. The tips I’m going to share are what I find useful when I need to have sewing time and let my creativity roam free. I stay at home with two small children, run my own business, and university beckons as part of a career change, so I can completely relate to having limited sewing time. However, it’s really important that we look after our mental health and wellbeing and we find time to sew for pleasure, if at all possible.
Gather together the patterns for your projects, your chosen fabrics, then start cutting. To make this process worthwhile, I batch-cut 2-3 projects at a time, over the space of up to a week. Once the week is over, I have piles of ready-cut fabric, and when I next have time to spare, I can get straight into sewing. The amount of projects you batch-cut and the time you allocate yourself to complete the process is up to you. I understand that it isn’t the most exciting of tasks, but it can be an efficient and effective way to organise your projects. Knowing that your projects are ready and waiting to go may give you extra motivation to get started.
Allocate Sewing Time
This is definitely easier said than done and is often sacrificed for other things, but when you become more intentional about protecting your sewing time, it becomes easier to find it. There are several steps you can take to do this:
1) Allocate your sewing time in advance, so that you can honour it and avoid the temptation to replace it with other things. Put it in your diary/calendar as a visual reminder. You can even go a step further and set yourself a notification for when it’s nearing time for you to sew.
2) Make it a regular occurrence and it will become habitual. How regularly you want to sew is completely up to you. It’s about choosing a time that best suits your schedule. For me, sewing time happens most evenings, once my children have gone to bed. I set aside a few hours to dedicate to my creativity. Of course, there are times when sewing time has to be cancelled, but because I am accustomed to regularly setting the time aside, I reschedule and then commit to keeping that time for myself.
3) Set aside a realistic amount of time. Decide on the minimum amount of time you will need and hold yourself accountable. When you’re starting out, small increments of time are best. When I first made the decision to allocate my sewing time, I began by putting aside 15 minutes at the end of every evening. I knew I would be too tired to do any longer than that after the children went to sleep. I was less likely to exchange that 15 minutes for something else because it was a short period of time. I would find myself looking forward to having those 15 minutes to myself every evening, doing something that I loved, and I started making it a priority. Eventually, without me realising I started taking 30 minutes, then an hour, etc. Before long, I had found a sewing routine that worked well for me.
4) The act of sewing needn’t be involved. There is so much that goes into the process of sewing, whether that’s creating a mood board, searching for fabric, choosing patterns, and much more. All of these things count, which means that you can enjoy your allocated sewing time wherever you are.
Join Sewing Groups
Whether they are online or in-person, sewing groups are a wonderful way of meeting other sewists who share your passion for sewing. You can use the groups and the sewists in them as a form of accountability. Seeing what everyone is making can inspire and motivate you to get creative and keep sewing. You will also have people on hand to ask questions of, and who can share in the trials and tribulations that are a part of our sewing lives. The act of sharing your sewing journey really does spur you on to take time for yourself and your creativity.
I really hope that you find these tips useful and can implement one or two of them. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll establish a sewing routine that suits your schedule, and allows you the opportunity to be creative and to progress in your sewing journey. I’ll be back soon with more tips on how to sew savvy.