Hello 2018

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2018 brings you good health and happiness, and everything you ever wished for. I've had a lovely Christmas break with the family and am still in holiday mode this week, truth be told. We are doing a major spring clean at the moment - decluttering the house and garage, sorting out the kids' rooms, and a big tidy up in my sewing room. We still had unopened boxes since we moved house in April! We did a major cull amongst the kids' toys and clothes (they outgrow both so fast) and have thrown out heaps of junk and filled several boxes with clothes and toys to donate. I really think clutter and mess in one's living space is a reflection of one's state of mind so it feels incredibly cleansing and therapeutic to get rid of it all.

I was especially shocked to see how much space is taken up in my sewing room by all my UFOs so I'm going to make it a mission this year to finish them. Starting with this cot quilt and cushion set I made for a dear friend's new baby - I started it in our old house when my friend was still pregnant (*blush*). The house move got in the way, (and then, you know, life), but I'm so happy that it's finally finished and being enjoyed by an adorable little lady.

The lovely fabric I used is Lauren Nash's first collection for Riley Blake Designs, called 'Bunnies & Cream'. I adore the soft pastel colours - and the bunnies & strawberries are so stinkin' cute. It's still available in stores if you wanted to get your hands on some. It's perfect for fussy cutting and hexies!

The sweet doll and bunny in the photos are alas not hand-made (mentioning as I have used them before in blog posts and always get questions about them and requests for a pattern). They are from British retailer Mamas & Papas from a few years back - the rag doll is called 'Famiglia' and the bunny is from their 'Millie & Boris' collection.  You may get lucky if you search for them on ebay.

I gave myself some time off our decluttering mission yesterday to start a tote for another special little lady - I am winging this one without a pattern and kinda still suck at bag making so I hope it comes out OK! Here's the panel I made with some precious fabric scraps which if all goes according to plan, will turn into a pocket at the front of the tote. I love some of these fabrics so much I decided to hand quilt the panel so I could savour the pretty designs. Seriously, I love fabric so much, I think I may need help! Anyone else in the same boat?

See you very soon I hope, with pictures of the finished tote. If I don't ruin it!

Happy Holidays + Zakka Cushion

Hi friends! Hope you all had a great Christmas with your nearest and dearest, and enjoying a happy and relaxing holiday week. Christmas was such a lovely day at our home - I made our first Christmas ham (with maple syrup and orange glaze - yummm). It came out of the oven looking so scrumptious and we were all so very hungry that I completely forgot to take a photo!! It was incredibly delicious, even if I say so myself. On Boxing Day we were joined by friends and their kids for a 'left-overs' party. It was a pretty hot day (34C) so we set up gazebos by the pool side, playing water games, cooking sausages on the barbie, and enjoying ice cold drinks. Great times.

Now for some selfish sewing! This year has been a really great year for me and Down Grapevine Lane - I’ve been so busy on the ‘business’ side of things - illustrating two new fabric lines, working on my new book, launching my quilt pattern series, sewing magazine commissions, collaborations, and so on and so forth. But a few weeks ago I realised I don’t sew for pleasure anymore! And the never ending quest to come up with something ‘original’. You know what? I just made this simple square patchwork scrappy cushion 'just because' - and it felt so good!

I wavy quilted the cushion front in Aurifil Pink 2410 (50wt), added a sweet little Zakka tag, and bound with bias gingham. So pleased with how it looks on my sofa in our living room.

Wishing you all a lovely holiday season and happy and healthy new year in 2018. The wreath in this image is a free embroidery pattern from my Tutorials section - you can download it here. Happy Holidays!

New Patterns!

Hi friends - it's almost time for Christmas, are you getting excited? As the countdown to the big day begins, I managed to squeeze in two final quilt patterns just before the holiday season kicks off. Both of these quilts have been sitting in my 'to publish' pile for some time - those who follow me on my social media will most likely recognise them. So I present to you 'Poppy Lane', which is a large throw size quilt, and 'Monthly Sampler', a sweet little mini quilt to hone your appliqué and hand embroidery skills. Both of these patterns were launched at the Australian Quilt Market recently and are available for wholesale order via Creative Abundance and Checker distributors.

My first pattern 'Poppy Lane' is a large throw size quilt depicting cute floral cottages lined up in rows - the fabrics I used are Liberty of London tana lawn florals paired with Essex linen in natural. It's simple and quick to piece, and suitable for all levels of quilters.

My second new pattern is a sweet appliqué and embroidery wall hanging, including templates for both Northern and Southern hemispheres. It's best suited for intermediate and advanced sewists - it may be a bit of a stretch for those who have no appliqué and embroidery experience, though I personally never let that put me off. Always the deep end, that's my personal sewing motto!

You can purchase these patterns from my Etsy shop (see below links). Or ask your local quilt store to order them in!

'Poppy Lane' quilt instant download PDF pattern -----> http://etsy.me/2zk1NZR
'Poppy Lane' quilt paper pattern -----> http://etsy.me/2oDazyI

'Monthly Sampler' mini instant download PDF pattern -----> http://etsy.me/2kFzcW1
'Monthly Sampler' mini paper pattern -----> http://etsy.me/2AOLP8g

Thanks for visiting. Time to get back to sewing a few more presents before the fat man in red arrives!

5-Minute-Pouch Tutorial + Amaretti Recipe

It's that time of year again - end of the school year here in Australia and Christmas is just around the corner. Which means... time to make some teacher gifts!

Last year I made some amaretti cookies for the kids' teachers and they were so popular I decided to do the same again this year. For those of you who haven't come across them before - Amaretti are Italian almond cookies, similar to French macaroons in flavour. Intensely almondy, crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Gluten and dairy free too!

If you can't find almond meal or almond flour at your supermarket just get a bag of natural almonds (skins on, unroasted) and grind them up in the food processor. Don't skip the almond extract in this recipe - it is the most crucial ingredient that gives the cookies that intense almond taste. Also a tip - I always make a double batch when I bake these (just double the ingredients) as they are so moreish, and one batch lasts about 10 minutes in our house. Ha!

I put the cookies into small cardboard party treat bags (you can also use mini noodle boxes) and then popped them into these super quick pouches I whipped up. The fabrics are all from my Sweet Prairie collection for Riley Blake Designs. I also added some necklaces and brooches I made using these cute stitchery frames my pattern distributors Creative Abundance sell - contact them for retail stockists.

These pouches are so sweet and really take just 5 minutes to make. I first measured the party treat bags I was using (which are 4" x 6" and about 2" deep) which determined the size of the pouch - mine measure ~6" at the bottom and ~11" tall finished. You can adjust the size of your bag very easily by just cutting bigger or smaller fabric in the first step of the tutorial below. It's completely flexible - you can even make large Santa sacks!

1. Cut two pieces of fabric, measuring 6" x 12" (adjust this size depending on your requirements).

2. Fold one short edge of one of the pieces of fabric in by 1/2", wrong sides together. Press. Fold in again by another 1/2" and press. I didn't get overly precise here, I just eyeballed roughly 1/2" width of fabric before folding and pressing. You can use a ruler and mark lines for your folds if you wish. Top stitch along the folded edge, about 2mm away from the edge. Repeat for the other piece of fabric.

3. Place the two pieces of hemmed fabric right sides together, making sure the top (hemmed) edges are up against each other. Pin together in several places near the edges. Starting along the top right edge sew a 1/4" seam all the way around three sides of the pouch until you get to the top of the pouch again. Secure your beginning and end stitches well. Mark a 1" square on the two bottom corners and cut these out with scissors. (Tip: Don't worry about the fact that the seam may unravel when you cut the stitches - we will secure that seam in the next step).

4. This is the trickiest step so I included a few photos to show what you need to do here. We will now make a 'box bottom' for our pouch so it sits better on a flat surface. Where you cut one of the 1" holes, put your finger into the hole and open it up, then pinch the fabric in the other direction until the two seams meet. Using your fingers fold the seams in opposite directions (one to the left and one to the right), making sure they snugly nest in the middle. Pin across both seams. Sew a straight 1/4" seam accross as shown. Repeat for the other hole.

5. Turn the pouch inside out, push the corners out with a pointy blunt object (like a chopstick), and press if the fabric got too wrinkly (I didn't bother). Pop your goodies in, tie it up with some string and add festive decorations as desired!

Hope you enjoyed this quick tutorial and will be making these handy pouches for some festive treats!

Quilted Tree Skirt

I've just had a whirlwind weekend in Melbourne attending the Australian Quilt Market, where I promoted my quilt patterns and my book Quilt Petite at my distributor Creative Abundance's stand. It was so much fun catching up with old friends, finally meeting people I've known online for literally YEARS but never met in person, and meeting lots of new people! After a stressful journey back home (my original flight was cancelled so there was a scramble to get the last few remaining seats on another airline's flight that evening) I'm finally recovered and can start planning for Christmas! My favourite time of year!

My first Christmas project this year is a quilted tree skirt, which I finished just before I flew to Melbourne. For years I meant to make a tree skirt but never got around to it, so in all our old Christmas photos our trees have bare metal feet - which really doesn't look very good. So much better to have a pretty festive skirt, don't you think?

The pattern is a Craftsy online class by Caroline Fairbanks-Critchfield (Sew Can She) - it's a step-by-step video tutorial, plus a PDF pattern to download if you want to attempt it yourself without the videos. The fabrics I used are from my latest collection Sweet Prairie by Riley Blake Designs (plus the red text print from my previous collection Sweet Orchard, as I needed an extra red).

The skirt is supposed to have tassels at each point - I skipped these as I have two playful cats and I knew the tassels would have been to hard for them to resist! But here's what the skirt should look like with them (image courtesy of Craftsy).  Here's the link to the class on Craftsy. It looks harder than it is - trust me it's a very forgiving pattern!

I also want to make another festive cross-stitch this holiday season, as I find it the most relaxing thing in the world. Remember this one I made last Christmas from Helene Le Berre's new book La Magie de Noel?

There are so many adorable projects to choose from in this book, but I think this is the one I'm going to stitch next (image from the book). Isn't it just adorable? Thinking I may turn this one into a festive cushion... We'll see!

Thank you for visiting and I hope you found some festive holiday inspiration today!

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