How to … create a quilted playmat (part 1)

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I’m new to quilting, but I was recently asked to make something for a friend of my Mum-in-law, who is expecting a baby grandson quite soon. Since most of my baby creations have been very girly (think pinafore dresses and all things pink!), I turned to Pinterest for inspiration, and landed on the idea of a playmat.

Like so many projects, what seemed daunting at first was easily broken down into manageable stages, and with the help of a little imagination, and a few YouTube videos, here’s what I did …

Preparation

1. Choose three to four cotton fabrics that work well together. Similar colour tones and/or patterns are good.

2. Prepare your patchwork pieces. I find it best to use a cutting board and rotary cutter, to ensure straight lines. You can choose any size and fabric combination you like, but here’s what I used:

Patchwork squares

  • Fabric 1: 3 x squares (15 x 15 cm)
  • Fabric 2: 3 x squares (15 x 15 cm) plus 1 x rectangle (15 x 7 cm)
  • Fabric 3: 1 x square (15 x 15 cm) plus  2 x rectangles (30 x 7 cm)
  • Fabric 4: 2 x large squares (30 x 30 cm)

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3. I also wanted to add an applique letter and animal outline, so using fabrics 1 and 2 I traced round a stencil downloaded from google (just search for ‘applique animal template’) and cut out the H and elephant shapes.

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Stitching the applique into place

4. Starting with the 2 large squares, I pinned the applique shapes in place. Depending on your machining confidence you might want to tack (baste) these in place next. I was feeling gung-ho and just went for it!

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5. Using a zigzag stitch, sew around each shape, staying quite close to the cut edge. If following curves, keep your machine speed slow, and (keeping the needle in the fabric) raise and lower the foot as needed to maneuver your fabric.

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Stitching the patchwork pieces together

6. Assemble each horizontal row of pieces by pinning (and tacking/basting if you want) and then sewing with a straight stitch. You don’t need a massive seam allowance (mine was 1 cm).

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7. Sew the rows together, making sure you match the joins.

Patchwork

8. Now you’ll have most of your quilt top sewn together. If you have any overhanging edges, trim them so that your joined pieces become a clean rectangle. And now you’re nearly there!

Coming soon: part 2: adding a border, padding, and a back piece.

My top five handmade gifts for June

Starting my new handmade business has been a real eye opener to how many talented crafters are out there. Now I wonder why I ever bothered buying mainstream ‘off-the-shelf’ products from huge high street chains, when it’s so easy to choose something more personal.

So in the first of a series of posts, here are five amazing items that I’ve spotted on Twitter this week, which would make great gifts:

Decorative heart signs by @shabbyloveLDN

Handmade gifts: Decorative heart signs

Personalised mum-to-be hamper, by @hampersbylucy

Top handmade gifts: personalised hampers

Possibly not handmade, but my sister-in-law would love this mug! Available from Not on the High Street 

May contain gin mug

Lovely wooden giraffes, from @EJDesigns1

Freestanding giraffes

Handmade sterling silver agate earrings, from @MomentoJeweller

Agate earrings

Confessions of a fabric addict

Fabric shopping … it’s addictive!

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, as when talking to other makers we all sheepishly confess to having a huge stash of lovely materials that are just waiting for the perfect project. And I hope I’m not the only one who shops (whether online or in person) with a specific list to fill, only to get distracted by patterns that I just can’t resist – and end up spending double my budget!

So this week is about using up more of my stash. I spent the weekend pre-washing and ironing so that everything is ready to go.

And in the meantime, let me show you how I’ve already used up some gorgeous fabrics, on this latest range of cushion covers.

green-floral-cushion birdcage-cushion beachhuts-cushion  butterfly-cushion

Up and running!

lilac-buntingWell there’s been little time for blogging in the past few days, because I’ve been so focused on getting this little handmade business up and running.

As a comms specialist in my *other* life, I’ve made the most of my business skills to sort out some admin and marketing tasks. Thanks to a fantastic graphic designer called Katerina, I now have branding for my Etsy shop, as well as this blog and my Facebook page. Check out Katerina’s work, also on Etsy.

And of course I’ve been busy making things.  Along with a range of cushion covers and wheat bags, I now have bunting listed in the shop … and will soon add fabric lampshades and other items.

Moving slightly away from homewares, tomorrow will be all about babies, so watch this space for dribble bibs and pinafore dresses!

It all started with …

Singer sewing machine
My Mum’s old Singer (now mine!)

… well I guess my Mum is responsible for my new handmade business, since she got me started with knitting, sewing, and making when I was a child. At the time I found it all a bit frustrating, and poor Mum had to spend as much time undoing my mistakes as she did creating anything of her own!

Many years later I asked her to show me again, and ever since then I’ve been making clothes, toys, and homewares. Mum even gave me her old Singer sewing machine – the one she used in the 80s to make clothes for me. It’s gone slightly yellow with age, but it’s still in perfect working order.

So now here I am, embarking on an exciting new Etsy adventure. I’m loving putting my various crafting skills into practice, and have a list of products I plan to make and add to my listings in due course. So do check back from time to time, to find out what’s new.

Thank you for shopping … and in case you’d like to know more about Cheshire Gifts please also visit me on Facebook.

Cheshire Gifts: live on Etsy!

Products from Cheshire Gifts
Natural wheat bags and cushion covers

It’s an exciting day, as Cheshire Gifts launches a shop on handmade sellers’ website Etsy.

So far there is very limited stock available, but over the next couple of weeks more will be added, so keep checking back.

(The difficulty is splitting my time between the admin of setting the shop up, and actually creating items to sell … Oh and looking after my two little girls too!)

You can visit the shop here: www.cheshiregifts.etsy.com

From small acorns: creating a handmade business

oak treeTen years ago I lived in London and worked at Canary Wharf. I was a fully subscribed member of the rat race, commuting by tube to my competitive corporate job and surviving on caffeine and sugar just to get through the day.

Five years ago I quit my job, moved to Cheshire, and became a freelancer. Still doing the same work, but self employed and feeling a little more in control of my own life.

Today I’m looking forward to my third period of maternity leave, and thinking about new, more sustainable ways to help support my family. And after years of friends telling me that I should sell the things I make – knitted and hand sewn clothes and accessories – they’ve finally convinced me to give it a go!

My new business may not help me get rich, but I already love that I can spend part of every day being creative. And I’m even enjoying all the business admin that must be tackled.

I’ve always said that knitting takes too long, and the raw materials are too pricey, to make a great business. So I’m branching out and learning some new skills with which to stock my shop.

In the next few weeks I will learn to make fabric lampshades, as well as the art of paper cutting. With the help of some online guides I’m experimenting with making cufflinks, and while awake in the early hours this morning I ordered materials to make wheat bags.

It may be an eclectic mix, but my diverse set of products should appeal to a wide audience, so here’s hoping that I achieve some sales. Watch this space for the launch of my new little shop, very soon!