Monday, September 1

Double Dutch Random Sampler Quilt Along: my Crazy Quilt Block

The Double Dutch Random Sampler Quilt Along is a very relaxed Quilt Along. There's no pressure, no deadlines and anyone can join in. That's my kind of Sew Along :)  Every two months or so one of the ladies of our local Double Dutch Quilt group posts a new block suggestion on their blog. All of these posts are in English (just in case you were wondering...)

Previous Double Dutch QAL blocks

The first one was Lotje's House Block (very cute, I made several). Next was Muriel's Diamond Cross Block (made several of those as well) EvaMarie chose a very appropriate Windmill Block and the most recent block was Mari's Improv Curvy block (I haven't tried that one yet, sounds intriguing though). Today I'm adding a 'Crazy Quilt Block' to the lot!

What is a Crazy Quilt Block?

While I was researching Crazy Quilt Blocks on the internet I saw two different types of 'crazy'. One is where you use a pattern, well that's not 'crazy' enough for me and sounds rather restricted. So I'd rather do the improv version where you simply start and built up your own block. When I made my block (the one pictured above) I didn't use a tutorial, I just started sewing one scrap to another. Later I found out that it's far more common to use some sort of foundation for your improv Crazy Quilt Block, like paper or muslin. My block is doing fine without foundation but I can see the advantages of using foundation paper or fabric. Some quilters even add some batting to make a 'Quilt as you go' type of block.

How to make a Crazy Quilt Block

I was going to make a tutorial to show how to make a Crazy Quilt Block but I noticed there are already a few good ones out there. My &Stitches colleague Julie has a tutorial for a Crazy Quilt Block with foundation. She has even added some decorative trims and stitches to her block, something I'd love to try too! On Completely Cauchy I saw another Crazy Quilt Block tutorial in which paper from the Yellow Pages (or is it a phone book?) was used as foundation! Aneela's Crazy Scrappy Block tutorial is for a block without foundation and pretty much sums up how I made my block. So there's lots of different options: sew with foundation or not, add embellishments or keep it simple. Use lots of different colours or a limited palette. Make it 6, 9 or 12 inch. It's all up to you. :)

I started with a very cute Charley Harper fabric and as you can see I roughly followed the shape of the bird and started with five sides. After that it's much like sewing a crazy log cabin block. You keep on adding strips all around and -important!- cut them at interesting angles after you've added them. Continue until you have reached the size you want. I made a 9" block using a limited palette of blue, grey, orange and red as these are the colours I chose for my Sampler Quilt.

On Flickr I found this lovely 'Bunny Vortex' block Maritza Soto made for a Quilt Bee. Julie Frick made the Bee Blocks into this amazing quilt. If I didn't already have more than 5 (possibly nearly 10 I lost count/am in denial) quilts 'in progress' I'd start my Crazy Quilt tonight! Hope you will enjoy making this block as much as I do.

Don't forget to join our Double Dutch Sampler Quilt group on Flickr if you want to sew along with us and share your progress with us.

Friday, August 29

How to Pixelate a Photo (without using Photoshop)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my Big French Knot project  which basically is a pixelated Rose stitched in French Knots. Today I will show you how I pixelate pictures in a photo editing program called GIMP.* GIMP is free software and comparable to (but not the same as) Photoshop. If you can't afford Photoshop, GIMP is a good alternative.

First download GIMP

Open the photo you want to pixelate (or pixelize as GIMP calls it) by clicking FILE > OPEN. Some pictures 'translate' better to a pixelated image than others. If there is little variation in lighter and darker shades in the original photo it might just end up as a bunch of coloured squares in the pixelated version. Also: the less pixels you choose (we'll come to that in the next step), the harder it'll be to recognise whatever is on your photo.


You can change the size of the pixels by using the little up-and-down arrows. The width and height are linked automatically so when you adjust the width, the height will be adjusted simultaneously. The higher the number, the larger the pixels will become.

When you're done pixelating, you can export the image (in a PNG format for example) and save it for future reference. Go to FILE > EXPORT.  I always use the standard settings in the export process.

Et voila: you've created a pixelated picture! Although obviously not as sophisticated as dedicated quilt or other design programs (such a cross stitch design software), I figured this could be a nice free tool for some to prepare work on pixelated embroideries and quilts.

*Disclaimer: I'm not tech savvy at all so don't throw any too technical questions my way. :)

Friday, August 22

I'm in the new Mollie Makes Embroidery Book!

My Cloud pillow project. Photo by Vanessa Davies
Just two weeks ago a new Mollie Makes book was released, it's simply called Mollie Makes Embroidery.  I was very pleased when I was asked to contribute to it last year and I was even more pleased when I received my copy and saw how wonderful it has turned out!

My project in this book is the cloud shaped pillow embroidered with a cat and a polar bear, you see pictured above. The umbrellas are really mini-samplers, featuring some of my favourite stitches like the Bullion Knot and the Wheat Ear Stitch. I'm really happy with the result although making the cloud-shaped pillow 'cloud-shaped' was a bit of a challenge but I got there in the end.

The grey-and-white-socks cat in my Pillow design is inspired by my own cat Milo. :)

Carina's project. Photo by Vanessa Davies
The first half of the book features 15 projects from (amongst others) my &Stitches pal Carina, Mollie from Wild Olive, Sophie from What Delilah Did and many more embroidery designers. The projects and designs are 'typically' Mollie Makes: charming, fresh, modern but with a retro feel to them. Even a technique that seems a bit outdated (at least to me) like Silk Ribbon Embroidery gets an impressive, new look in Mollie's Pretty Posy Ribbon Runner Project.

Many different embroidery techniques are highlighted in the different projects: from 'free form' hand embroidery to Cross stitch and from Crewel to Stump work.

Mama and Baby Owl by Michelle Galletta. Photo by Vanessa Davies

The second half of the book consists of an extensive 'how to' section (about 80 pages) and many stitches and techniques are explained in words, pictures and with diagrams. Obviously the 'basics' are there but also less obvious stitches and techniques like the Raised Fishbone Stitch and Bargello are included. As is a section about Machine Embroidery, often overlooked in Embroidery books.

I think the great projects and incredibly useful techniques section make this book a 'must' for new embroiderers and more experienced stitchers alike. Mollie Makes Embroidery is published Pavilion Craft (UK) and Interweave (US) and now available in bookstores and in online shops.

Wednesday, August 20


Here's a half-finished Owl for you. With just a few pencil lines on fabric to roughly mark the outline and the eyes, I started embroidering. Although I started this piece stitching a quite natural looking Owl, I added some not non-natural colours along the way and I'm glad I did.

I love owls and a few years back I got to stroke a real owl which was really awesome. Here's a dorky photo of myself with two of the owls from the Owl Centre I visited in the UK :)

Friday, August 15

5000 French Knots

I've been working on this project on and off in the last month or two.  I think there are at least 5000 French Knots in this project, probably more but I didn't really keep count.

The idea for this piece came from a brief for the 2014 Hand & Lock Embroidery Prize. It had a theme I really liked 'Floral: pattern & geometry'. Obviously I wasn't going to enter the competition but I did feel inspired to do my own Floral/Geometry Embroidery experiment.

I started by pixelating a photo of a rose (I will post a tutorial on how to pixelate a photo later this week) I made the pixels quite large, so when you see the piece close up you probably won't recognise it as a rose. But when you see it from a distance it starts to look more like a rose. At least I think so...

The image was ten by eight squares after I pixelated it (so 80 squares to fill in total). I then simple drew a grid onto fabric with a regular grey pencil and a ruler and made the squares 1" each. That was the idea anyway, some squares were slightly smaller, others slightly bigger. Up till that moment I didn't know how I was going to fill the squares but I quickly decided on French Knots. I liked the idea of filling the straight lined grid with soft round shapes, adding an almost organic feel to the pixelated piece.

I mostly used 3-4 strands of floss and about 35 different colours (or shades). Lots of pinks (including a not particularly pleasant colour I would call 'dusty liver') purples and reds of course and shades of grey and green too. At first I tried to match the floss exactly to the colour on the pixelated picture but that didn't really work out very well, there were just not enough floss colours available to make exact matches. And there were instances where I thought I'd found the perfect colour but when I started stitching it turned out much lighter/darker/duller than expected. So I just tried to get the colour about right and paid more attention to comparing the value of the colours (light, medium, dark) right next to the square I was about to fill.

I think it all worked out quite well in the end. And to think I had such hard time mastering the French Knot when I first started with embroidery years ago.... :)

Thursday, August 14

And Flossy the Sheep goes to...

Pippirose! Congratulations. I will contact you soon so I can send you some embroidery goodies, including Flossy the Sheep. :)

Many thanks to all embroiderers who entered the giveaway, I really wish I could send Flossy the Sheep to each and everyone of you! Remember you can find Flossy the Sheep and other adorable bobbins at Missy's Shoppe Sugar Cookie 

Friday, August 8

Furry Nice Class Reminder

This is my second version of my Polar Bear pattern (see my first version here) because after stitching him on regular fabric  I wanted to try to and embroider him on patterned fabric as well. I chose a rather busy Liberty print. Obviously this Polar Bear is far from finished but I will stitch along with the students of my second Furry Nice Class that starts late September so he definitely will be finished in the next two months.

If you are interested in joining the class too you might want to do that today or tomorrow as the Early Bird discount ($40 instead of $45) expires after tomorrow! Find more info about the class here.