I've always loved vintage sewing items, from fabric to patterns to books and magazines, they've always fascinated me. It's the reason I got interested in sewing, it's the reason I named myself Vintage Sewing Box on social media many, years ago! A few weeks before Covid changed our world, I visited the Bronte Museum in Haworth and I was in awe of all of the wonderful vintage sewing and patchwork items that were there.
The Bronte sisters were avid sewers and painters as well as readers and writers. They were such a creative family. I love the quilt on this bed and I want to recreate it someday, in my own colour palette.
There was even an exhibition by an artist called Tamar Stone, of tiny patchwork quilts. This was displayed in the Bronte house and it was lovely to see. If you can visit one day, I highly recommend it. The Brontes are an important part of British literary history and it is so interesting to learn about their lives.
I've been looking through the vintage sewing things my Gran left to me. It's really inspiring to see them, but also very emotional as they bring back memories. Unfortunately she did not finish much of what she had, and many of her kits are untouched. It makes me determined to use and enjoy what I have. If you'd like to see more in detail, I have a video showing everything on my YouTube channel and there's an unexpected twist in the middle as I decide to start working on one of her table cloths. I hope I can do it justice.
Have you collected any vintage or antique sewing things? What do you treasure? I'd love to know.
When I first saw this Cute Cathedral Cube pouch by Ali - Arabesque Scissors, I knew I had to make it! It is small, and cute, and the possibilities for the fussy cut in the centre make it so much fun! I've made two other patterns from Ali's Cathedral windows range and they are so well written, I knew this was the perfect project for me.
Her instructions are easy to understand and her patterns have wonderful diagrams. She also has a video on her Instagram page to help with the tricky bits. I loved making this little pouch, I know I will be making more! I used Liberty quilting cotton and I added a tiny, quarter inch hexie flower to the centre. I think this pouch will store my tiny hexagon projects, it's just perfect for that.
I used some Clover tools that I haven't used before so I thought I'd share. Clover sent me these tools to review but all opinions are completely my own. First up is the Roll and Press. I thought I wouldn't need this but it is a brilliant tool! I love it for pressing seams when you don't want to set the iron up. It works a lot better than finger pressing and it's great if you are doing foundation paper piecing.
The Hold-it Precision Stiletto was so useful in making this little cube pattern. There are a couple of tiny areas to sew and using this lovely tool means you can hold the fabric down under the presser foot of your machine without getting fingers in the way! Safety first!
I started using these patchwork scissors and I have to say they are excellent. They have a serrated edge and they cut so crisply, I really love them and I won't be going back to my ordinary fabric shears. Another great thing about these scissors is the plastic protective case. This means you won't get them mixed up with other scissors, and we all know that would be a disaster don't we! Plus it keeps the blade away from any little hands that might pick them up when they shouldn't. Thank you so much to Clover for sending me these tools.
If you are looking for a quick, fun project that will be lovely to make but will also teach you some new skills, I really recommend this pattern by Ali Arabesque Scissors. You use foam inside the cube to give it structure and I love sewing with foam, the results are wonderful and it isn't difficult as I initially thought foam would be. In fact, I use foam in all of my patterns.
Take care, happy sewing x
I've been sewing since I was five years old, on and off of course, but it has always been a huge part of my life. Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how my sewing has evolved and changed and I've realised that at this point in my life, I am enjoying sewing more than ever before. And I think I've realised why. There have been three big changes in the way I go about my sewing and those three things have increased my enjoyment so much. So I thought I'd share these changes with you because maybe it will give you some ideas for getting more enjoyment out of your hobby.
1. Let go of Perfectionism
I used to undo my stitches all of the time when I wasn't happy with them. I used to feel frustrated that they didn't look perfect and get annoyed at myself when I felt I couldn't produce something how I thought it should look. But somehow, I've let go and realised I am human so I will never be perfect. I now see my embroidery stitches like handwriting, I am making my mark on the fabric and if it's not perfect that's ok because it is an extension of me. We don't constantly use tip-ex to correct our writing when it is a bit shaky and uneven, so why keep undoing stitches? Also, the same principle applies to choosing fabrics for a project. I used to overthink it all of the time. I'd go back and forth over choosing colours and fabrics, changing my mind and ending up frustrated. My early quilts were very calculated in terms of pattern and colour placement. I didn't think I could do random patchwork. But last year when I started doing tiny patchwork, I let go of that and started just going for it. Choosing fabrics without thinking and just putting together what feels right to me. The colours and patterns and how they are placed in what I make are an extension of me and represent my point of view. Once I started working in this way, sewing from the heart rather than the head, I started to love and enjoy what I was doing more.
2. Slowing Down
In the past, I would rush to finish a project because I was fixated on the end product. I was desperate to have a new quilt, cushion, dress, whatever it might be. I let the end goal overshadow the process and I would rush to get there. I don't work well in a hurry and rushing in this way caused mistakes which led to frustration. Last year, for some reason, I began to slow down. I think doing more EPP projects led me to this slow state but I now approach all projects, even those on machine, in a slow, methodical manner. Slowing down allows me to immerse myself in what I am doing, to notice every tiny detail in the fabric and to enjoy each and every stitch. It's taught me that although I love the end product, it is the process that I enjoy most of all.
3. Allowing myself to make what I want, when I want
Sewing is my hobby and therefore should always be enjoyable. It is also an important part of my wellbeing and intrinsic to my positive mental health. It's my creative output and my relaxation. So I decided a while back to let go of the guilt when it comes to how many half done projects I have because this was stopping me from starting new things. Now, If I want to start something new, I will. If I want to switch between projects, I will. And if somebody asks me to hem their trousers or fix a hole, I won't! Just kidding, I will of course. But first and foremost, I have thrown out the rule book of obligation. If I don't feel like making something that day, I won't force myself because that will take away the joy. I've found that by going with what I feel like doing, my enjoyment has increased and I am also finishing more projects than I usually would.
So what about you? Do you have any little rules or mantras when it comes to sewing? What do you do to ensure you are enjoying your stitching and not becoming frustrated? I'd love to know so please leave me a comment.
Take care and stay safe,
Happy sewing x
When Elise Baek asked me if I would like to be part of the book tour for her soon to be released Patchwork Gifts book, I was absolutely delighted! I've never been asked to be part of something like this before, what an honour! I've been following Elise for about a year on Instagram and her work is wonderful. Her designs are fresh and exciting, she uses beautiful fabrics and she is really inspiring, so I knew her book would be fabulous, and I was right!
On receiving my copy of the book, I quickly opened it as I couldn't wait to see the projects inside. They are all wonderful and it was so hard to narrow it down to one. I love the Double Wedding Ring Table Topper as I've been wanting to make one for so long. But I decided on the Meadow Mini Quilt. I fell in love with this design as soon as I saw it because I knew it would be perfect for the many Liberty prints I have. Also, I want to give this as a gift to someone special and I knew that person would love this. It also speaks to my love of tiny EPP so it was clearly the right project for me!
I enjoyed every stitch of working on this project. I really took my time over it, doing a little bit each day. I think the finished result is joyful, bright, cheerful and makes me think of Spring.
If you are thinking of buying this book, I really recommend it. The projects are so lovely and very well explained. I know this won't be the last thing I make from this book, as well as the double wedding, I have my eye on the toadstool pincushion and the kite lavender sachets. I hope my version of the Meadow mini quilt did justice to the original. Thank you to Elise for letting me be part of this book tour, it really has been an honour and the highlight of 2020 so far for me. Make sure you check out the rest of the people on the book tour, every single one is a fantastic maker and it is so inspiring to see what they make. Elise is also running a really fun bingo competition so head over to her Instagram and be sure to follow the hashtag #patchworkgiftsbook.
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful festive period and I wish you all health and happiness for the coming year ahead. What better way to start the year than with a new project! I've been thinking for a long time about making a quarter inch hexagon wall hanging and I decided over Christmas that it was now or never. If I don't start it this year, I never will. So I set to work gathering scraps and basting my tiny hexies ready to start. If you are anything like me, you like to know the details behind projects so I thought I'd share with you why I want to make this quilt, my inspiration and my method, just in case you'd like to join me with your own quarter inch hexie project. I know quarter inch hexies aren't for everyone but already one lovely person has asked to join me and I'd love it if more people would like to join in too.
I've wanted to make a large piece from tiny quarter inch hexagons ever since I saw Miss Leela's Wedding Medallion Quilt. Please click the link and check it out as it is amazing! I've also compiled a Pinterest board with some ideas and inspiration from other quarter inch projects I've seen. I don't know the layout of my piece yet but I will use these designs as a guide to get me started.
There's a little bit more to making this piece than just wanting to though. Firstly, it will be predominantly made from scrap fabric. I am conscious of the effect the textile industry has on the environment and I strongly believe in making sure the fabrics we do buy are carefully considered purchases and are not wasted in any way. So this project will use floral fabric scraps left over from my other sewing projects in addition to some solid coloured fabrics that I have purchased specifically for this piece. As I am making quarter inch hexagons, even the tiniest of pieces can be used so this is a great way to use up scraps.
Sewing has always been a sort of therapy for me. It allows my mind to be calm and the rhythm of stitching helps me to relax and reduces my stress levels. I've recently struggled again with low mood and feelings of anxiety and worry. I want this project to be the one that I turn to to help me through those feelings and to provide relief from them. Nature has always had a positive effect on my well being and so I plan to fussy cut tiny flowers for many of the hexagons. I know that seeing these tiny blossoms will lift my spirits and will also remind me to focus on the small things in life that can bring us joy. I hope that by thinking in this way, I can feel better. Only time will tell but I will be sure to let you know how it goes and if it does work.
Staying true to myself, I will be making this quilt up as I go along, it seems to be the way I do everything these days! I will be using Hexiform shapes from Ashmead Designs and I'm buying them bit by bit as I think I will need 1000s! I love the Hexiform because you don't need to remove it at the end as you do with papers. It acts as a layer of wadding/batting and it gives a lovely structure to the piece.
I'm using Superior Threads Bottom Line Thread in colour 623 because it blends really well with most colours of fabric. As it's polyester, it is really strong and I need to use a strong thread as I've decide to sew the hexagons together using a ladder stitch rather than the usual whip stitch. When working with such small hexagons, I was finding that my stitches looked really big when I whip stitched, no matter what thread or needle I used. Ladder stitch definitely takes me longer than whip stitching at the moment, and it feels like I'm learning from the beginning all over again. But hopefully I will find my rhythm with it and when I do, I will post some video tutorials on Instagram just in case there's anybody who would like to see.
I don't really have a name for this project yet, but I'm sure one will come to me in time. For now I'm calling it the tiny hexie project! I'm hoping I can spend about 45 minutes a day on it most days and if you want to follow my progress, I will probably show where I'm up to once a week on Instagram.
If you fancy joining me with your own quarter inch hexie project or similar, let me know! It will be fun to stitch along together.
I’ve recently made a few changes to how I sew on my machine to combat two issues I was having. The first issue I was having was some trouble when sewing with Liberty tana lawn on my machine. The needle was dragging the corners into the machine because the hole in the stitch plate was so large (see left stitch plate below). This meant they were getting tangled in thread and the corners weren’t crisp or they would become jammed. So I invested in a straight stitch plate which has a much smaller hole (see right below). It cost me £20 which is quite a lot of money but I know I won’t be changing my sewing machine so I was happy to buy it. I’m so pleased with the results too! It has completely alleviated the issue I was having and now I can sew tana lawn with no problems. It’s actually really nice for all patchwork and it adds more stability when starting off at the corners when joining shapes so I’m really happy I finally purchased it.
The next problem I’ve been having was generally inaccuracy when piecing seams. I feel fairly confident when hand sewing but when it comes to my machine, I was consistently disappointed with the results I was having. So I decided it was time to buy a quarter inch foot! I should have bought one a long time ago but I always try to make do with what I have.
The foot has a guide on it that makes it really easy to line it up with the fabric and repeatedly create accurate quarter inch seams.
Its also important to pin properly to ensure seams line up when joining rows. I press seams open and line them up, pushing a pin through the seam line on both sides.
Making these little changes has definitely improved my accuracy. My seams aren’t perfect but I’m much happier with the results. Have you got any top tips for accurate sewing? Please share any you have in the comments below.
As a little change from the usual EPP topic of conversation around here, I'm going to share with you my finished FPP (foundation paper piecing) cushion. I started this as part of the Summer Book Club QAL run by Kate Basti using her Tall Tales book block pattern. When I began this project, I knew I was going to make a cushion/pillow rather than a quilt. Reading is one of my little boy's favourite things to do. I often find him in his room reading books to himself either sitting in his little armchair or lying in bed. It's hard for him to sit up in bed to read because there isn't anything comfortable to lean against, which brought me to the idea of making him a cushion and a book themed one would be perfect! After searching though my fabric stash and buying some story themed fabric to add to what I already had, I realised that my cushion needed a little something extra to make it really exciting. I had some Three Little Pigs fabric that I had bought about 10 years ago and that gave me the idea for incorporating The Wonky House pattern by Larisa who is @stitchingnotes on Instagram. It's such a cute pattern and I thought it would go perfectly with the books and I hoped that if I could get the sizing right then I could use the houses as the front covers. Well somehow I managed to pull it off! So it was my first attempt at FPP and even though it really isn't perfect, I really love this cushion.
First of all it felt fantastic to actually finish something! Most of my projects are very much long term projects so I don't often experience the feeling of finishing something, and it feels nice! Secondly, the cushion is so soft and squishy and lovely to cuddle into. Once I'd pieced the front and back panels, I quilted them onto wadding by stitching with my machine in the ditch and adding hand quilting details. This gives it a lovely quilted effect and makes the cushion extra comfortable. I loved added the hand stitched details, I think that was my favourite part of making this cushion. There was something so soothing and relaxing about repetitively stitching into the quilted fabric, I loved it. Thirdly, I used some fabrics that were very special to me. I bought them many, many years ago in the hope of making a child of mine something special, and that has eventually come true and means so much to me.
I will give this cushion to my little boy on his third birthday which is coming up very very soon! It's so incredibly important to me that I make things for him that he will love. He loves the story of the Three Little Pigs so I hope it will help him to retell the tale and I hope that beautiful illustrations on all of the fabrics I've used will be something he can use to help him develop his speech further. I remember being a similar age to him and having a dress that had a park scene printed on it. It was full of detail and I loved looking at it and imagining stories. I hope he does the same with his cushion.
I really enjoyed FPP once I had got my head around the technique and I'm sure I will be trying it again. I think FPP is like magic! It's so fun how you can create images with your piecing, I can't wait to tackle some other patterns. If you are a beginner at FPP like me, I recommend both of the patterns I have mentioned here as they are definitely both achievable for beginners. I did have to use my seam ripper a few times but once I'd gained an understanding as to how to do FPP, it wasn't as tricky as I first thought. My piecing wasn't perfect but I am trying to embrace imperfections and learn from them for next time! And don't forget to check out this blog post of mine from a while back as it is full of useful hints and tips for FPP success!
I'm lucky enough to be going on holiday tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm holidaying in the UK so I won't be going on a plane, in fact, we are just travelling in the car and it will be about a 5 hour journey without stops. I've been thinking about which sewing projects to take with me for months! For me, more thought goes into that than it does into what clothes to take, but if you are reading this then I'm guessing you put lots of thought into your travel sewing projects too! I usually pack too many sewing projects, for fear of running out - which never happens! As I like to switch between projects often, I need to make sure I have a variety with me because otherwise I run the risk of losing interest and doing nothing. It's a family holiday so I anticipate many an evening spent playing board games together so I want to take projects that are easy to pick up and put down. Whilst I'd love to take embroidery with me, I know that any stitching time will be in the evenings and I just can't see well enough without a daylight lamp, so I think the conclusion is to take EPP projects with me!
First up, I'm going to take my current two scrappy projects - quarter inch hexies and three quarter inch diamonds. I don't yet have a concrete plan for these projects, I'm just making it up as I go along, but taking some pretty scraps, sharp scissors and glue pens will be all I need in addition to the paper templates, thread and a needle. The ultimate portable project!
I'm also going to take my current Sew and Quilt blocks of the month. I am loving this quilt so much that I know I will be thinking about it whilst I am on holiday and I will end up desperate to work on it! So I've been glue basting as many shapes as I can like mad to make sure that I can just pick it up and stitch.
I will pack my projects in small pouches like this one pictured below. I also purchased a Clover Needle Dome as I thought this might be useful for keeping needles safe and threaded ready to sew. So far I really like it and it works perfectly. I also purchased some needles in little cases, again hoping that this would be a safe way to store them whilst travelling. Crucially, I stocked up on Sewline glue pen refills! I'm pretty certain I won't need this many but running out on holiday would be a disaster!
Do you take your sewing projects on holiday? Have you ever taken your sewing machine on holiday?! I'd love to hear all about it so please leave me a comment here or over on Instagram.
I absolutely love all things to do with sewing and I write this blog and share my pictures on Instagram and Pinterest to share my joy with you. The more I share, the more I am connecting with others and I love it! I don't have anybody in my 'real' life that shares this passion with me so I love talking all things stitchy with all of you online. However I really struggle with putting myself out there into the world, and I’m definitely guilty of writing a blog post and not telling anyone about it as I just find it hard to “promote” myself as such. But I’ve received lots of lovely compliments about my blog lately, so I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads it. It blows my mind that so many people are interested in what I have to say. So I will try harder to be braver and to announce my posts on Instagram each time I write one. I’m surprised by how much I love writing, and particularly writing about sewing! I really love having this little space to share my thoughts and I have lots of ideas for more things I want to share here in the future. Today I want to talk to you about what I share and why. I also want to tell you a little more about me too.
As well as my own sewing journey, I share products, companies and patterns that I genuinely love. Currently there aren't any affiliate links on my site and there isn't any sponsored content. I share what I love and what I think will be of genuine interest to my readers.
Sewing can be an expensive hobby. With endless new beautiful fabric ranges being released, gorgeous notions and tools, not to mention fantastic sewing machines with all of the bells and whistles, there's always something to tempt us! I like supporting small, independent businesses wherever possible. I find you are more likely to get excellent customer service and a unique product and that's what I love. However I am not averse to shopping the sale in Hobbycraft or John Lewis either, and both of those shops are the only sewing shops available to me locally.
I know some people have huge fabric stashes full of variety and that’s fantastic. I have quite a small stash of fabric, many of the fabrics I've got were bought years and years ago, I tend to hold onto things for far too long! I'm trying hard to use what I've got, but I have bought some fabric this year too. I also love repurposing fabric from old clothes and this costs significantly less than buying new fabric.
I am currently a stay at home mum, which is my dream job but it doesn't bring a wage in! So I have to consider every purchase carefully. I don't spend much money on cosmetics, clothes or going out, any spending money I do have, I spend it on my hobby. I’m not judging anyone for their spending habits, I’m simply just sharing mine. Believe me, I’d love to spend lots of money on the latest fabrics and I feel the pressure to keep up sometimes, but it just isn’t possible for me.
As well as being passionate about sewing and sharing what I love, I am passionate about sewing being accessible to as many people as possible. I see and feel the benefits of sewing each and every day. It is calming, soothing and relaxing. It helps improve mental health and wellbeing and this article in the Guardian newspaper explains it beautifully. But if sewing is an expensive hobby that requires so many tools and notions, and if we constantly feel we need to use the latest fabrics, how can it be accessible to all?
That's where embroidery and English paper piecing come into their own. Both types of sewing require minimal, relatively inexpensive tools and materials. Making a large quilt is a huge commitment in terms of time and investment of money, but there are many smaller embroidery and epp projects you can do at a fraction of the cost. Over the coming months, I hope to share more projects here that are inexpensive to make as I strive to include more balance in my blog between projects that I have chosen to spend money on and projects that cost very little. I also hope that continuing to provide some free tutorials and free printable patterns will be a step towards making sewing accessible to more people. Speaking of which, have you seen my free printable Dresden flower template? Click here to find it, print it and make it! Thank you to everyone who has given this a go and shared it online, it's been really exciting for me to see everyone's versions of it and I really appreciate it.
What are your thoughts on the topic of sharing online? Do you feel a pressure to keep up with others or are you happy doing your own thing? I'd really love to know. You can leave me a comment here or send me a message via the contact form on the home page if you wish.
Thanks for reading and happy sewing!
Every year that I've been to the Festival of Quilts, I've gone without a plan. This has led me to walk around a little bit aimlessly, not knowing where to look or what to buy because there is so much to see and so much choice. So this year I went with a shopping list and I did manage to get some items from the list, but then I went off piste and bought more floral fabric. In fact, my list said no kits (as I have so many!) and it also said solid fabric and linens. As you'll see, I didn't stick to that either! Before you see what I bought, I just want to say that I had been saving up for the Festival of Quilts for a long time. This is the one occasion each year where I buy quite a lot of things at once. For the rest of the year I will buy very little.
My first stop was one of my favourite shops, Sew and Quilt. I got to meet the very lovely Jessie and Robin and chat to them about the show. I've admired Jessie's work for so long. In fact, I wouldn't have even tried EPP if it wasn't for her. I'd never considered doing EPP even though I'd seen it and admired it. I was put off by the thought of making my own papers because I was short on time and just wanted to do the sewing part. I was also put off by the idea of thread basting. But one day I thought maybe I should try it and I was googling EPP papers and stumbled across her shop and the rest is history and I'm so glad! Through her I discovered glue basting and pre-cut papers, both of which make EPP a breeze. From Sew and Quilt, I bought three Liberty fat quarters and some Aurifil thread for my machine.
Next I went to Olive and Flo Handcraft and bought these beautiful Cotton and Steel fabrics. Olive and Flo Handcraft is such a lovely shop with a fantastic selection of modern fabrics.
I then went on to Pretty Fabrics and Trims and met the lovely Sarah and Penny and bought this beautiful kit which I've been admiring for so long. I had told myself not to buy any more kits but I just had to go against that to buy this and I know I will really enjoy making it.
Next up was Alice Caroline where I allowed myself to buy a few too many Liberty fabrics. They were all so lovely I had a difficult time choosing. I am planning something Christmasy with the red and green squares and I'm really excited about that.
Finally, I bought some more hexiform shapes from Ashmead Designs as I use them quite often and I thought it was a good opportunity to stock up.
There are so many fantastic stalls at the festival, it can be quite overwhelming! But I really enjoyed it and I will hopefully be back next year. If you have never been before, I highly recommend it. My two blog posts about the festival are only a glimpse into what it is like there, there is so much more to see.
Have you been? What did you buy? I'd love to know in the comments below.
About the Author
My name is Emma and I love all things sewing, especially EPP. My little blog is the place where I document what I'm making. I hope you enjoy reading what I'm up to! All opinions are my own and I only share things that I think you will love. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.