Tutorial: Appliqué and patchwork boiled wool pillow

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I can’t tell you what a fun project this boiled wool appliqué and patchwork cushion is. The wool is so forgiving and doesn’t fray, and wonky machine stitching seems to just disappear… If it’s not a fabric you have experienced before (and it was new to me!), boiled wool is a bit like wool felt, but it has a cosy, fuzzy texture and a little bit of  drape and stretch. The stretch gives boiled wool the advantage of making it rather easy to match seams (the exact opposite of what I was expecting). It has been an absolute revelation to me as a glorious fabric to work with – you just have to follow a few simple rules.

Working with boiled wool:

  • If you have one, use a walking foot. I’m not entirely sure I’d attempt this project without one..!
  • Use a ball point machine needle. I used a 90/14, which coped really well with the thick layers, especially when I was sewing the whole cushion together.
  • Use a longer stitch than usual. I found a 3mm stitch was fine for this project.
  • Don’t pull the fabric through the presser foot from the back – let the feed dogs do the work for you, and make sure you are supporting the weight of the wool fabric so that it doesn’t have to be dragged up to the presser foot by the feed dogs – that’s a sure fire of causing the fabric to stretch out of shape.
  • When ironing the wool (e.g. when you are pressing the seams open), press incredibly gently on minimum heat and try not to press the front of your work at all.
  • Use 1/2in seams.

Dragonfly Fabrics - Designer Dressmaking Fabrics

Huge thanks to Dragonfly Fabrics, my sponsors, for provided me with the boiled wool and velveteen to make this cushion.

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You will need:

  • A selection of pieces of boiled wool – I used a selection from my sponsors at Dragonfly Fabrics – where you can buy in increments of 30cm (12in). It’s hard to be specific because it really depends on how many different colours you want to use. To give you an idea, you need a 6in by 12in piece to make one square, one flower section and one flower centre, and 3 cuts of 30cm each would certainly be enough if you used just 3 colours for the cushion (which would look great and would be far less confusing than my more scappy approach).
  • 30cm (12in) cut of stretch velveteen in a coordinating colour for the back of the cushion. You could also use more boiled wool, or some other sturdy fabric with a bit of stretch, for example, a stretch denim.
  • 16in square of cotton fabric to line the patchwork section
  • Stranded embroidery cotton or cotton thread to match the flowers and flower centres
  • 17/18in cushion pad – I used an 18in duck down cushion pad for my pillow and it is a really great fit
  • Freezer paper
  • Pattern templates
  • Both the boiled wool and the velveteen shed tiny fibres everywhere whilst you are cutting them. I highly recommend a lint roller to pick up all the bits.

Pattern notes:

  • Seams are 1/2in throughout.
  • Finished size is 15in square.

Cutting the fabrics:

From the wool felt cut:

  • Nine 6in squares for the background.
  • Nine 4 1/2in squares for the flower petals
  • Nine 2in squares (although you can probably just about get away with 1 3/4in squares) for the flower centres

From the velveteen cut:

  • 2 pieces measuring 10in by 16in

Preparing the flower pieces:

Download and print out the templates. Make sure you open them in Adobe Acrobat reader and untick/deselect the ‘fit to page’. You can use the little inch square to make sure the print out is the right size.

Trace the flower template onto a piece of freezer paper and cut out. Repeat for the circular flower centre.

Iron the freezer paper flower template onto a 4 1/2in square wool piece as shown (shiny side goes against the wool).

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Cut out the flower, and then peel off the freezer paper. Cut out 8 more sets of petals in the same way. You should be able to use the same freezer paper template to cut all the flowers.

Iron the circle template onto a small piece of felt and cut out:

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Repeat to make 8 more flower centres. Again, you should be able to use the same piece of freezer paper to cut all 9 pieces.

Making the flower units

Decide on the arrangement of squares, flowers and circles and lay them all out on your work surface, and then take a photo! You will forget, so it’s great to have this as a reference. Here’s the kind of thing I mean – although it’s a rubbish photo, and shows how I made my arrangement in a horribly disorganised way – but it’ll give you an idea:

arrangement

Pin all the flowers in their respective squares, and put the circles somewhere safe until you need them.

Take one strand of embroidery thread or use ordinary cotton sewing thread and stitch each flower in place. I used a simple whip stitch  – here’s a lovely clear overview of how to do this stitch by Alison Glass at Sew Mama Sew. Put the TV on, or the radio, or your favourite podcast and just enjoy the hand sewing. If you want to give the edge of your flowers more definition, and make the stitching more of a feature, you can use a larger whip stitch with more than 1 strand of embroidery thread, or you can use a blanket stitch. Customize away!

Once you’ve done all the flowers, check your photo again, then pin and stitch all the centre circles in place.

Making the patchwork

Take two squares and pin or clip together. Adjust your stitch length to 3mm, if you haven’t done it already and stitch with a 1/2in seam.

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Refer back to your photo, and complete this row. Stitch up the other 2 rows and then very gently press all the seams open. They won’t stay very flat, and please don’t try and get them to go flat because you will spoil your beautiful wool, but you should be able to press them enough so that they stay open. Don’t trim the seams.

Take two of the completed rows and clip/pin together matching the seams. I find it helpful to clip the seam allowances so that they stay open. I pin through the seams so that I get them really nicely lined up:

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Stitch the final row in the place to finish the patchwork, and then press the seams open – again, don’t trim the seams.

Lining and ‘quilting’ the patchwork top

Clip the lining piece and the patchwork top together, wrong sides together and clip round the edge. Pin through the centre of each block too, to keep the 2 layers together (sorry pins aren’t pictured):

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Make sure the wool patchwork seams are open (the lining will help keep them open) and lying flat.

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Working on the right side of the patchwork, ‘quilt’ (officially I shouldn’t really say quilt if there aren’t three layers being stitched – don’t tell!) the two layers together, stitching in the ditch along the seam line, as shown. Repeat for the other 3 long seams.

Making the back section

Fold in 3/8in on one of the long edges of the velveteen pieces, and then fold again to make a double fold, hiding the raw edge. You can use an iron on a cool setting to help you make this fold – don’t press with too high a heat or you will destroy the lovely nap of the velveteen. Clip or pin this double fold as shown.

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As you can see, the backs of the clips are facing up in the picture – because you now need to flip the fabric right side up and stitch this fold closed on the right side of the fabric. I kept my stitch length at 3mm and continued with the ball point needle. Make the line of stitching a scant 3/8in from the folded edge to make sure you catch the fold with your stitching.

Repeat with other piece of velveteen. If this kind of thing bothers you, you will want to check that the nap will go in the same direction when the back pieces are in place before deciding which of the long edges to fold and sew on the second back piece.

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Finishing the cushion

Lay the cushion top, right side up, on your work surface. Place one of the cushion back pieces on top, right sides together as shown:

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Put the other cushion back piece on the other side, again right sides together with the cushion top, and so that the 2 folded edges overlap.

Pin or stitch together and stitch all round the edge of the cushion with a 1/2in seam. Trim the seam to a generous 3/8in and then use a zig zag stitch or overcast stitch on your sewing machine (or overlocker if you are lucky enough to have one) to finish the seam neatly (unlike the wool the velveteen will fray).

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Turn the cushion through to finish, and push the corners out with the blunt end of a pencil or similar.

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And that’s you all done. Enjoy your lovely cosy cushion!

Schnitzel & Boo Mini-Quilt Swap Finish Up

Right on the wire (and EXACTLY as I predicted – I know myself so well, it’s scary sometimes…), yesterday I finished sewing the binding on the mini-quilt I’ve made for the Schnitzel & Boo swap over on Instagram.

S&B miniquilt swap S&B miniquilt swap2 S&B miniquilt swap3

It’s not really obvious from the pictures – but it’s pretty small. The triangles have 2 inch sides, so this measures 16 inches at its widest point. I foundation pieced it in rows, and the stitched the rows together – I love using this technique, which means you have much less trouble with the edges of the triangles stretching. The only tedious part is tearing out the paper.. Next time I might piece onto thin fabric instead, and leave it in place when I’m done, but of course that would mean I’d have to draw the foundation stitching lines rather than just print them out. This mini has turned out almost exactly how I hoped, and assuming I have read my partner’s tastes right, she should definitely like it, so I’m feeling good about this one. Just have to wish it safe travels.

I wanted to send another handsewn something to go along with the quilt, and considered a zippy pouch or a pincushion, but right at the last minute (yesterday…) I decided on a little needlebook instead. I used my Sizzix die cutter to cut the 1 inch squares and used this super-quick, very easy method to piece them.

Snappy needlebook3
Snappy needlebook2

 
Snappy needlebook

I wanted to partially hide the Kam snaps so they didn’t show on the front of the needle book, so I inserted them in the inner fabric only – this has not been entirely successful, and next time I might do things differently, but all in all, another satisfying finished make, and definitely pretty enough to send off to my partner.

Speaking of swapping – sign ups for the winter ATC swap will be along next week, so watch this space. I am intending to do a nice long deadline this time round, mainly so that I can join in too, so the swap will run mid-November to the end of January if that helps with your swap planning! Anyone else out there swapping at the moment?

Have you tried Pattern Jam?

No, this isn’t another of my recipes….

My copy of fab new quilting magazine Simply Moderne came the other day – I have only had chance for  a quick browse rather than a proper read so far, but at the very back, in their sweetly named ‘Surf on Web’ section, I spotted a mention of Pattern Jam – ‘a new web tool to create your quilts’. Well, I am always after help with quilt design, and I loved the idea that Pattern Jam gives you the chance to design quilts using actual real-life fabric collections. 3 hours later, I hadn’t done any of the work I was supposed to do this afternoon….

It’s easy enough to get started with – there’s a video on YouTube that you can watch that gives you a bit of a start, but to be honest, it is fairly intuitive. You can choose how many rows and columns you want, the size you want the quilt to be, whether you want sashings and/or a border, then you choose from a selection of blocks and start building your design.

Here’s the first design I came up with, using fabrics from the Fine and Dandy collection by Lori Whitlock:

Forever Blowing BubblesIt’s a bit bonkers I know, but I rather like the bubbly ditzy effect, and the colours too, and it’s not a design I would *ever* have come up with so quickly on paper, so I immediately saw the advantages of being able to drag and drop the blocks, flip them around, and search and click to find different fabrics to try. 

The free version of Pattern Jam is limited because you can’t rotate the blocks, and you don’t have access to all the block designs. After feeling super frustrated that I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do, I decided to sign up for the Pro version – which is $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year. The design above was made with one block, but rotated in some places to create the ripple effect (well I think of it as ripple!). It was excellent to have the added options, and I think it’s pretty good value for a few months, especially as I don’t have any other quilt design software.

I had lots more fun, using just one designer’s fabrics (Denyse Schmidt) and one design, to see how using different colours, values, tones and patterns made a difference to the ‘finished’ quilt. This is where my time disappeared to… it was such an education, and really good fun:Denyse Schmidt quilt designs using Pattern Jam

It was fantastic to work on designs using the actual fabric designs and colours, and you have the option to click through and order fabrics if you don’t mind shopping in the USA! There is also the option to let the software calculate the yardage that you need for a quilt, but I haven’t used this feature yet, so can’t tell you how accurate it is.

It’s not by any means perfect yet (it’s all pretty new I think, so hopefully this is all going to be built on). There is at least one glitch – the designs which I saved to the public stream seem to have rotated so that all the blocks are back in the standard alignment, so they don’t look half as pretty (although when I open them to edit, the blocks flip round to my original design). I don’t *think* it’s something that I’m doing wrong! It’s also mighty frustrating that you can’t use different fabrics within the actual block, so for example, in my Denyse Schmidt examples above, you can see that the triangles bordering the central square have to all be the same fabric, and you can only use 2 different fabrics in the quarter square triangle blocks. And of course, there is a limit in the blocks available to work with… but, having said all that, I think the subscription is well worth it for now, and I hope there are going to be more good things to come from Pattern Jam in future.