Learning to Hand Quilt

This week I have been learning how to hand quilt, thanks to my lovely and extremely talented landlady, and some great tips and tutorials on Craftsy.com
http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2013/07/basics-of-hand-quilting/

It took me a while to get the hang of it, and I have to say I am very much a beginner, but I am getting there. At the moment I seem to be able to manage about 5 stitches per inch although I can’t promise that they are all identical in length. I have found that I do best when I use just one thimble, an in-between needle (these are small quilting needles), and no hoop (although I am only working with a cot size quilt).

The technique that seems to be working for me is to:
1. Insert the needle vertically from the top of the quilt and through the three layers until I can just feel it with the tip of my middle finger on my right hand (I’m left handed!!) which is underneath the quilt
2. Use my middle left finger (with thimble) to gently lay the needle down horizontally on its left hand side until it’s almost lying on the top of the quilt
3. Use my left thumb to create a ‘hill’ in the fabric in front of the needle point
4. Gentle push the needle through using the thimble on my left middle finger
5. Pull the needle all the way between my left forefinger and thumb and repeat the process

So far I am sticking to sewing one stitch at a time until I get the hang of it. My landlady uses a second thimble on the finger underneath the quilt but I can’t seem to get on with that as I can’t feel the needle properly and so don’t have as much control over the size of the stitch. I’m hoping that in time I will be able to get 2-3 stitches on the needle which will speed things up a little.

I splashed out the other day and bought a few stencils so that I could sew a pretty pattern on the border. I’m looking forward to that as much of what I’m doing at the moment is stitching in the ditch and therefore quite hidden.

I will update you on my progress in due course and will eventually post photos of the finished quilt. I’m aiming for something that looks a little like this:

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Fingers crossed………

Working with a Professional Photographer

A few months ago, prompted by my being accepted as a seller on the new Country Living online store, I decided to invest in some professional product photography. I didn’t know how to go about finding one so I simply googled ‘product photography Topsham’ and discovered a local photographer with a studio just a couple of miles away. I got in touch, liked her quote, and arranged a date for the photo shoot. http://www.kimberlyrainford.co.uk

I was really nervous when the day of the photo shoot arrived. I had no idea what to expect. I had already complied a list of shots I wanted and had borrowed a white painted chair from a friendly local shop owner. As soon as I arrived I knew I was going to really enjoy it. Kimberly immediately put me at ease and I had a lot of fun. We even constructed a make shift washing line with nails and string so that we could hang up my tea towels. We spent an hour and a half photographing just four items – each time changing the angles and experimenting with the lighting.

A few days later Kimberly sent me the results of our photo shoot and I was delighted. They were clean, crisp, bright and just what I had been hoping for. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to upload them onto my online shops.

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The results have been amazing. Since uploading my new photos my online sales have increased considerably. For me that has meant that I now often have at least one order per week. That is a material increase for me considering that prior to that I had only three online orders in 2014; three in 2103; and one in 2012!

My excitement on hearing a new order arrive in my inbox at times turns into a moment of panic as I worry I may not have enough stock!! Avocet cushions seem to be the most popular, followed by my Curlew cushion – perhaps because they have quite neutral colour schemes.

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Another exciting thing that has happened is that my products have sometimes -like today- made it to the front page of Folksy https://folksy.com/folksy-favourites. It’s easy to know when this happens as my viewing figures increase significantly.

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All this has shown me just how important it is to get the photos right. When I first started I read quite a few online guides that talked about the importance of good product photography and I always made an effort with mine. I used to take my cushions down to the slipway in Topsham and photograph them on one of the benches there so I could get good natural light. It also felt right to be by the water surrounded by ducks and the resident Topsham geese whilst taking photos of my estuary inspired products. But whilst those photos weren’t bad, I had no idea just how big a difference getting them done professionally was going to make.

So this post comes with a big thank you to Kimberly and the best investment I have made to date for my little business 🙂

Around the World Blog Hop

Last week the lovely Lisa from The Quilting Bird (http://thequiltingbird.wordpress.com) asked me if I would like to get involved in an around the world blog hop. I was delighted! What a fabulous thing to be asked to do and what a wonderful way to link up with bloggers I have been following and others I hadn’t yet met.

The rules of the Blog Hop are 1) Acknowledge the person who nominated you 2) Answer four questions. 3) Link to one to three bloggers to carry on the Around The World Blog Hop, it’s like passing on the Olympic flame!

So here goes………

What are you currently working on?

Like many people I would imagine, I am currently working on a few different projects. In fact, I end up wasting time trying to decide which one to work on when I find myself with a bit of time spare.

One of these projects is my first ever quilt. Last year my mum bought me some of Lynette Anderson’s books for Christmas. I love the ‘cottagey’ feel to her quilts. Having never quilted before I decided to start with the Flower Spool Quilt in her book ‘Country Cottage Quilting’. I just loved the fact that it was made up of tiny squares. It brought me right back to my childhood when my mum would sew my summer dresses and I got to choose the fabric. I always went for the same sort of thing…..pretty flowers…the tinier the better….and always blue!  I also loved the way that her quilts incorporate appliquéd motifs of things like cotton reels; quirky birds; pretty flowers; and a host of cottage garden images. As appliquéing is what I do most of the time when I sew I thought this would be a perfect way to get into quilting.

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This is a photo from Lynette Anderson’s website. Mine won’t be as professional as this but it gives you an idea of what I’m working on at the moment.

I have been working on this quilt for over 6 months now and am hoping to get it ready in time    for Christmas so that I can give it to my 10 month old step granddaughter as a pressie. Two months to go – fingers crossed!

Alongside my first quilt, I’m also working on trying to keep up with orders for my cushions. Since investing in some professional product photography the orders have been coming in pretty regularly. High quality photos really do make all the difference.

I’ve sold out of my Curlew cushions so it’s a busy weekend of sewing ahead, particularly as an order for one popped into my inbox this afternoon.

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This is my curlew cushion – inspired by the lovely estuary town where I live.

How does your work differ from others?

I always find this a difficult question to answer. The owner of the local gallery shop says that she was attracted to my products because of the high quality of workmanship. It’s hard to say those sorts of things about your own work but I do know that I take a great deal of care and have always been a perfectionist.

My style has changed quite a bit over these last few years. I used to make seaside inspired home accessories like beach huts and bunting cushions. But since I moved to Topsham my work has become more refined I think – more subtle. So instead of the usual sailing boats and quirky seagulls cushions which can be found in most seaside towns, my products now depict elegant wading birds using fabrics that mirror the soft dusky colour pallet of the South West wetlands.

So far I have designed cushions featuring Curlews; Oystercatchers; and my signature design, Avocets. Two of those have been turned into screen printed tea towels which have proven to be very popular. My plan is to have tea towels available in all three of my current designs and in time, to grow my range to cover a whole host of wading birds.

Why do you write/create what you do?

When I was younger I dabbled in bits of dressmaking and then just stopped sewing…..until four years ago when I had a sudden urge to make and frame a lightly stuffed seagull. I shyly showed them to a local shipowner who loved them, bought them, and my business was born.

I don’t think it is at all a coincidence that four years ago was the time when I met my other half. I finally felt free and grounded. I had never thought of myself as a creative person until then. I guess it was just waiting to get out.

I find sewing a great way to relax and put aside the stresses and strains from the working day.

How does your creative process work?

I love the feeling I get on a Saturday or Sunday when I know I have a whole afternoon to myself when I can take over the kitchen table, put a Jane Austen audio book on, and settle down to a a few hours of sewing. Time just goes by and I find that I’m wholly absorbed by what I’m doing. Some processes are more relaxing than others. I always get a little tense when I’m about to do the Avocets’ beaks. Free motion machine embroidery stitch doesn’t give you much room for getting things wrong when it comes to delicate bits like that. But I’m getting better….and quicker…..and am freeing up more. My favourite bits are the swirling lines on the wings. I love allowing myself to be completely free with those so that they look like lightly sketched pencil lines.

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Passing on the Hop

So that’s me…and now I would like to introduce you to the lovely Cathy at Blueberry Patch and the equally lovely Amie of the Sewing School who will be taking up the mantle and hopping the blog to their parts of the world.

http://cathy-blueberrypatch.blogspot.co.uk
http://sewingschool.blogspot.co.uk