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Dear Katy...

So recently I've had a few people contact me with questions about problems they were having either with quilting in general, or in some cases a very specific issue.  I know that some time ago I asked for suggestions on tutorials, and I've been trying to work my way through them (with apologies to the strap people, I know, I know, but I just retrieved my 'photo studio' from the kitchen decorating endeavours after 3 months, so I might be able to get that set up now), but while I've been tackling more general areas, like HST cutting sizes and the like with the Quilt Making and Bag Making Basics posts, I was wondering if there was something specific that anyone wanted to ask around bag making or quilting.  Post your question below and I'll try and tackle it in a Dear Katy post.

Now there are a few conditions to this:

1. I will not necessarily tackle each question in the order asked, since I will try and tie them in with what I'm working on at the time so that I can get good examples.
2. I don't hand sew, so I'm really not the best person to ask about that.
3. If your Dear Katy question has humorous elements, you may get an answer faster ;o)
4. I cannot promise to make my replies 100% serious, but then if you read this blog already, you probably know that!
5. I cannot promise a post a week, but I will try for at least one Friday a month.

Okay then, have at it!
Work In Progress Wednesday

As it's the first of the month, I'd like to start with July's calendar offering - it seems the perfect time of year for garden parties and bunting:

Now I wish to make a complaint.  All I've heard this week on the radio etc is how fabulous the weather is, and my IG feed is filled with friends lounging in the garden.  It may be nice down south, but we're getting warmish drizzle and clouds, and it's just icky!  So keep your good news to yourself, all of you out sunning yourself ;o)

Anywho, moving on, I actually adulted this week.  I decided on Friday morning that I wasn't going to be removing that excess grout any time soon, so I was just going to move everything back into the kitchen and live with it until I have the time and energy to deal with it.  Since I wasn't starting work til 1, I'd got it all done by lunchtime, and now I feel so much better that things are all readily to hand, and I'm not tripping over bags of stuff in the hall!  Also, I now have all my reusable shopping bags back :oD  Not only that, I taxed my car and then I walked the 2 miles to Tesco on Saturday to enjoy the brief interludes of sunshine while I grabbed a couple of things I needed for dinner AND I even did work on my blog migration, even if it did inadvertently spam Twitter and FB, sorry if that hit you, I've now cleaned up the mess...  After that I sewed :o)

Finishes This Week:

The kitchen?  No photos though... (let's pretend the grout isn't there too, 'kay?)

I did get that last Brit Bee medallion done too, but I can't share photos of that just yet (couple of weeks though now, yay!)

In Progress This Week:

My small world is growing again, and now it has a cushion cover to match.  Why has it got a cushion cover you ask?  Well this was my first stab at this block that I'm calling the factory.  It was too dark.  Waaaay too dark.  I'd joined it just to the piece above, but after looking at it for half an hour I frogged it and made another one.  Can I just mention that these things take for-flipping-ever to cut and sew together?!  Plus there's an awkward y-seamy kind of a thing in there.  So I think I should get points for doing it twice (there's actually another one in my future for the extension part too o.O )

Here's how the whole thing is looking now.  It's getting really hard to photograph now that it's 72" x 56", especially trying to light it as it doesn't get enough natural light across the whole thing (dark cloudy skies notwithstanding), and the artificial lighting isn't even across it.  I think I'll fit the whole width on my design wall, but I'll never get the whole height on there, so I'm going to need to work out another photo option soon!

To Be Worked On This Week:

Do you know, now that I can see most of the hall floor, I think I might actually do some hoovering!
Taking my gran and her friend out to lunch on Saturday
Repotting a few herbs
I suppose I'll keep growing my world too :oD

Hope you all have a great week!  Linking up with Lee and the gang:

Quilt Making Basics - 16 Patch Block Layouts

Picking back up on the theme of the last couple of months, this month I thought we'd look at 16 patch blocks.  Whilst you can get some pretty complex blocks out of a 9 patch, by the time you move up to 16 or more patches, you can really go to town.  When you get up to the larger numbers of patches in a block, you also start getting merged sections, especially in the centres, which gives a whole new perspective again.

This is the most basic of 16 patch blocks, a simple 4 x 4 square grid:

Switch out some squares for HST units and you get the Starflower block, which I've been teaching a supersized version of recently:

Mixing up the centre a bit to add in some QST units gives a Martha Washington star.  In this example I've made the outer points on the star into flying geese units rather than individual HST units:

Now back to that Dutchman's puzzle from the 4 patch week that I said could be seen both as a 4 or a 16 patch.  If you're dividing things down to their smallest size, then there are 16 HST units in this block, it's just that when they're the same colour we choose to connect them to make flying geese units instead:

Here's a Celtic Twist block that takes a bit to wrap your head around:

Can you see how you would split this up?  There are a lot of bits merging across boundaries between sections here, but the clues are in the corners.  Here's how it actually splits down:

I hope these make sense, but if you have any questions, please let me know!
Cotton + Steel Mini Swap

At the start of this year I decided to sign up for a few swaps to get my creative juices going.  The end dates were nicely spread out between April and June, so I figured 3 was the perfect number to handle.  Having completed the Rainbow IG Mini Quilt Swap and the UK Mini Quilt Swap, my final task was the Cotton + Steel Mini Quilt Swap.

This was the one I was most cautious about, I have to admit.  With all the other swaps I've done, I've been free to use whatever fabric I wanted, but with this one I was totally at the mercy of what particular Cotton + Steel lines my partner liked.  Combining the options she had given me line-wise with the colours she preferred (no primary colours, and a non-white background), Tokyo Train Ride seemed the best option for the main prints, and I chose a couple of bundles from the Fabric Fox, who were generously offering a discount for swappers, one of which combined some of the Tokyo Train Ride prints with some of the basics.  Throw in a little Mochi and I was all set to create.

For my next task I looked to her design preferences and inspiration board and deduced that arrows, geese and chevrons floated her boat, as well as framed prints.  Alrighty then, let's make up an insane story for the wee TTR dudes to go on a train right through the forest, past the river, through the mountains to the town then, and get those arrows and chevrons in...

The above was an IG photo of the screen in Illustrator when I was designing it, and then I broke the arrows, geese and chevrons into paper pieced sections.  I had originally hoped to use the free geese that Kelly from Jelliquilts made for Craftsy after seeing them in someone's IG feed, but alas they were too big, so I had to draft my own little 1" jobs.  I know, it's insane, but by paper piecing them it seemed okay...

Having pieced it, I then had to work out how to quilt it, which was when I really started to sweat, why on earth do I make such ridiculously complex piecing that doesn't lend itself to nice, uniform quilting?!  Anywho, I sucked it up and quilted in the ditch round the outside and inside of the framed sections, added a platform for the wee dudes to stand on, an FMQ path through both forest and mountains, and some serpentine stitching for the river.  I then added train tracks next to the chevrons, and quilted straight lines in the ditch round the geese and out to the edge of the section behind them.  The arrows got some flight lines from behind the head of the arrow, and then I did the head in the ditch too.  All the quilting was done in a neutral to match the Essex Linen background, so it's not obvious unless you're up close and personal with it.

And here it is done.  I forgot to take a photo of the finished package, but I was in a bit of a rush to get it in the post due to some unexpected changes in plan!

My partner seems to like it though, so Percy Pig And Pals obviously distracted her ;o)
Work In Progress Wednesday

So I never made it to West Kilbride at the weekend due to a slight miscalculation of when my MOT was due, so I went to Kwik Fit instead (that being the only option open on a Saturday!)  Living the life, I tell ya...  Anywho, 2 of my beginner quilting class finished their very first quilts last Thursday, I was so proud of them!  The other 4 should be finished this week I hope (it's the last week!), and then I'll do a show off post for them, although there's a timetable change for this last week, so it'll be some time next week before I can post them all.  Mentally I had some plans to do some grown up adult business stuff this weekend, but the MOT and an annoying trip to the bank to get them to rescan my ID documents again was as much adult as I was prepared to handle on Saturday, so My Small World took over.  It's a tough life, right?  I did drag myself away on Tuesday to work on the last of the Brit Bee medallions, but by the weekend I'm hoping to be back on construction (it's ever so slightly addicting).  I can adult the next week...

Finishes This Week:

Are you kidding, that thing is going to be monster!

In Progress This Week:

Here's my not-so-small world.  At the moment it's nearing about 56" square (I've actually added the next section down on part 3 on the left), and I've got an additional section at the bottom to add on, plus the sky to complete.  I'm putting the sky off til later, it's less exciting ;o)

This is going to be the last part of the medallion:

To Be Worked On This Week:

Finish that medallion - we're getting so close to show off time, can't wait to see mine!
A little Small World action will be creeping in too.

Hope you all have a great week!  Linking up with Lee and the gang:

Camera Challenge 6 - Finding Your Inspiration And Gaining Your Composition

Hopefully you now understand the mechanics of how to get various effects in your photos, so the next obvious step is to look at the composition of the shot.  This part is completely personal, but there is a good chance that you have some people whose photography you admire, and whose style you would like to be able to imitate.

At this point I’m going to tell you to embrace the policies of a book I picked up a wee while ago – Steal Like An Artist.  Now that doesn’t mean you download people’s photos and claim them as your own, but to follow a number of people that inspire you, and acquire ideas and adapt from all of them.

For example, say your particular passion is clothing photography:  you may have someone you follow that’s particularly good at posing their models – take a look at what makes them appealing, perhaps it’s that the models always stand in a certain way, or in a certain place.  Another person that you follow may be very good at finding backgrounds for their photos – look at what draws you to these backgrounds and see if you can think of anywhere that will allow you to do something similar.  A third person may be very good at styling their photos, adding the perfect accessories – look at what makes these little touches perfect.  Now bring all those ideas together, posing ideas from person one, background ideas from person two and styling from person three, and see if you can develop your own photographic style.

In order to be able to steal like an artist though, you’re going to have to find the artists to steal from, so that is your challenge for this month.  Make it a realistic task for yourself – if your chosen artist specialises in shots in the desert when you live half the year in 10 ft of snow, you may have a bit of a problem!  That’s not to say that they have nothing to give you, but just wishing for different weather conditions is not going to make it so ;o)

Where do you find them?  Well, there’s a few places you can look:

Pinterest – this seems to be an obvious one, but there’s so much on there that it makes it challenging to sift through for what you want.  Try searching under the genres that particularly interest you as a starting point.
Instagram – I use a site called Ink361.com, which allows you to view your photos from IG and print them on all sorts of substrates/use them in blog posts/view your feed (although the latter is a little flaky)  They have an IG account though, @ink361 and at several points throughout the day one of their ambassadors will post an inspirational photo.  Another inspiration feed is @natgeo, which is National Geographic's feed and has a range of shots from different photographers on their staff.  Through these 2 accounts I’ve found quite a few people to follow just because they have beautiful photos – now the bonus of this is that these people usually only post once a day, or even only once or twice a week, so your feed isn’t going to get cluttered, but you will get little shots of inspiration throughout the day.
Blogs – there’s actually an Ink361 blog too, which posts top 5-10 shots on a particular theme a few times a week, but I’m sure there are plenty of other blogs out there to inspire you in your particular area of passion.
Websites – outside of blogs there are also no end of sites which can inspire you, for example retail sites, Etsy, Better Homes & Gardens, google your area of passion and fill yer boots!

Having built up your inspiration, try and get a few shots combining your mechanical knowledge of how to set the camera and your newly developing compositional style.

I look forward to seeing what inspires you :o)
Presents For The Wanderers

Happy birthday mum!  Happy early Father's Day dad!

So my parents are currently gallivanting around the west coast of Canada, and no doubt will be having a fabulous day celebrating my mum's birthday.  Before they toddled off, I issued them with their respective birthday and Father's Day pressies to use on their travels.

For my mum, I actually made this toilet bag last autumn, but for some reason it didn't feel right to hand it over either at Christmas or for Mother's Day, but for this birthday it was perfect.  I'd been fascinated with roll-up toilet bags since seeing some in Nature Et Decouvert in Provence a few summers ago, and had pinned many commercially produced options with the thoughts of making one some time.  I saw a Craftsy class with Annie Unrein which had a similar idea, so I thought I might be able to bypass writing a pattern for myself (being kind of short on free time right then).  Having taken the class I decided I would take some of the ideas she had and run with it, mostly in a different direction, but it was a fabulous exercise in learning how I didn't want to do it (and no offence to her, but we definitely have different technique preferences).  Mine is also rather smaller, and a more suitable size for a toilet bag in my mind (I think hers was for make up rather than toiletries).  Anywho, after all that, I liked my result, but if you want a pattern, go see Annie on Craftsy!  I want to revisit this idea at a later point, but with different pocket arrangements and combinations.

For the fabric I chose a line from a few years ago which I thought she would enjoy because of the holidays that they'd taken in India in the previous few years.  For the lining I added fusible laminate so that it was wipe-outable if anything spilled in transit.  I made the central zipped pocket pleated, so that it could accommodate more things than a purely flat pocket would, and I made the top pocket from mesh with an elasticated top and pleated bottom, again to allow for some flexibility of contents.  The closure is a snap hook and D ring, bought for adjustable straps, but it works perfectly here!

For my dad I recreated his wee pocket Canon for the front of a travel document wallet (since his 5D would have taken up too much room ;o) )

Again I reviewed a whole collection of different commercial options and did a kind of 'best of' set of features, so on the left there are 3 pockets, the front 2 of which are closed and tiered to allow for visibility of different sizes of travel document, and the back one of which is open at one side to allow for large papers such home printed boarding passes to fit in without having to fold them up too much.  On the right the front 2 clear pockets were designed for driver's licences, but would also work for passports, train tickets and the like.  The middle row of pockets are for passports, and at the back is a zipped pocket for currency or anything else you want to keep extra safe.  I will produce a pattern for this, including the applique for the front, and I'll try and get it out to my testers in the next few weeks.

Now I'm off to sulk that I'm stuck in cold, rainy Glasgow ;o)