English Paper Piecing Tips and Tricks

Last year I attended the Fat Quartley Retreat in London and was lucky enough to attend a series of workshops, including one led by Tanya Bruecher on English Paper Piecing.  Tanya has written the very helpful and colourful book Hexa-Go-Go which provides a great introduction to paper piecing with hexagons.

Following my introduction at the FQ Retreat, I very much got addicted to piecing hexagon flowers, finding it the perfect way to pass my 20 minute tube ride on the way to work in the morning.  With a growing collection of hexagon flowers, I decided to design my own baby quilt.   I based my design on a ‘hexagon’ of hexagon flowers with a neutral background and complimentary border to make my flowers standout and to keep a fresh and modern aesthetic.  The colour scheme of lime greens and turquoises is based on the Cloud 9 leaf print shown in the centre top hexagon.  I also had great fun with the quilting, using a geometric design that echoed and emphasised the hexagon shapes.

Spring Hexies


My Tips and Tricks

There are already a number of really helpful tutorials on the basics of English Paper Piecing out there. One of the most comprehensive is by the Fat Quarterly team and the key sections are available from the links below:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

In addition to the basics, I have assimilated a few extra tips along the way, which I thought I would share in the hope that they encourage you to give English Paper Piecing a go.

Equipment Essentials

When paper piecing I couldn’t do without:

Paper shapes

This website allows you print out your own graph paper in a variety of shapes and sizes including your English Paper Piecing staples of hexagons, triangles, diamonds and squares.  To save time when cutting out your shapes, take a single print out, heavily staple four of five sheets of blank paper to the back and then begin cutting.  You will get five shapes for everyone cut which saves an awful lot of time.

An alternative which I admit I haven’t used is to buy you shapes pre-cut with the most extensive range available from Paper Pieces (this is a US based company so may take a week or so to reach you)

Draw a Plan

Before you start, draw up a plan to work out how many shapes of each colour you will need. I find this stage invaluable in making the most efficient use of time.  There is nothing worse than getting three quarters of the way through a project only to discover you are going to have to cut more shapes, especially if you are running low on any of the fabrics!  My plan was drawn using the iPad app Touchdraw but I have seen people put together just as good plans using Word or Powerpoint so please don’t think you need any specialist software.

My Spring Hexies plan


Fabric Cutting

First cut you fabric into squares or rectangles approx about 1/2″ larger on all sides than you paper shapes.  For example, when I am working with hexagons I cut my fabric into strips and then squares, when I am working with diamonds, I cut strips and then rectangles.

Once you have you fabric shapes, you can either stick down you paper shapes individual onto the wrong side of the fabric and then trim the edges with a pair of scissors to just over 1/4″ from the edge of the paper.  An alternative method, and favourite of mine, is to use your rotary cutter to cut multiple shapes at once.  Stick one of you paper shapes to the wrong side of one fabric piece, then place it on top of a pile of another 4 or 5 pieces to create a small stack.  Using your one paper shape as a guide, use you ruler to cut round the shape just over 1/4 inch from each side, cutting through all the pieces of fabric stack at once.


I am a die hard glue baster.  I did start with thread basting but it felt like you were having to essentially sew each hexagon twice and found the process too slow.  I now use my Sewline glue pen to put a small strip of glue along each edge (1st image), before folding over and sticking the fabric in place (2nd image).  Using this method you will whip through the basting stage and be ready to get sewing in no time.

Make it portable

My favourite thing about English Paper Piecing is its portability.  I have a snap frame purse which I load up with basted shapes, thread, needles and scissors, and carry about in my handbag for those adhoc moments when I have a few spare minutes to get sewing.  I also took a project on a recent long haul flight and found it a great way to distract myself from the usual terror of take-off and landing, as well as the many hours of travel itself.  My husband was delighted as I am not usually a very good flying companion.

Portable piecing


Hand sewing

I find hand sewing in general rather addictive and tend to forget the time when I am engrossed in trying to complete something.  A couple of invaluable tips I have picked up along the way to make the process run more smoothly include:

  • Thread you needle using the end that you just cut – this reduces twisting.
  • Run you thread through bees wax to reduce knotting.
  • Learn how to do a quilters knot – it saves loads of time.
  • Whenever you reach a corner or a join, do a loop knot (i.e make a stitch and then loop your needle through the thread before pulling tight) – this will reduce the potential for unravelling.

Removing the papers

I find this stage perhaps the most tedious as you feel like you have done all the hard work working stitching you shapes together, and know you have to remove hundreds of pieces of paper. I have found it a time consuming and fiddly process but there are a couple of tricks to speed things up.  First, press the area you are going to remove the papers with a hot iron – I cover the quilt top with a tea towel and then hold the iron for a few seconds on each spot.  This helps to melt the glue.  I then use a seam ripper to loose the folded fabric from the shape.  A seam ripper slides easily between the paper and the fabric without causing any damage.  Once the all the edges have been loosened, I use the point of seam ripper to lift out one of the corners of the paper, before gently pulling out the rest.


Hopefully these tips will prove helpful for any budding English Paper Piecers.  If you are interested in discovering more, you should check out the ‘Addicted to Paper Piecing‘ Flickr group for some inspiration.

Spring Hexie Flowers


New Fabric Goodness – My Portland Quilt Market highlights

I greatly enjoyed following coverage of the recent Quilt Market in Portland on Twitter and blogs such as True Up.  It looks like come the autumn us sewists will be spoilt for choice with so many fantastic new fabric collections, and that I really need to get sewing and clear some room to accommodate them all!  

As a little bit of a self-indulgence but also hopefully inspiration, I thought I would collate some of my favourites.

Cloud 9

My first ever quilt fabric purchases were Cloud 9 fabrics – the cute ‘Forest Friends’ followed by ‘Nature Walk’ – the red leaf print in this collection is still my all time favourite fabric.  Thankfully there are some new collections on the horizon which look set to complete for the top spot. 

Up, Up & Away – Skinny La Minx

Up, Up & Away

A new collection from one of my favourite fabric designers – Skinny La Minx.  The prints won’t be available until November so lots of time to save up and make space, but that hasn’t already stopped me from trying to pick a favourite – I am currently torn between the two prints below.

Free as a Bird - Pollen

Up in the Air - Dark Red

Bark & Branch – Eloise Renouf

Another emerging favourite from Cloud 9 is the Bark & Branch collection by Eloise Renouf.  I had already come across Eloise’s work as one of my Etsy favourites, so I was very pleased to see her put a whole collection together for Cloud 9.

Continuing with the clouds theme, I have already picked out my favourite print, and can’t wait to add to my stash when it is released in September.

Passing Clouds - Gold

Birch Fabrics

Another of my favourite fabrics manufacturers, who I love for their many retro-inspired collections.

Charley Harper

I first became aware of Charley Harper last Christmas as my card designer of choice.  I love his bright colour pallets and clean retro designs (an emerging theme in this post) which I think will make great feature fabrics for bags and accessories.

Available in October 2013, I have featured a couples of the prints from the collection that have already caught my eye below.

Octoberama Blue

Twig Fall - Mineral

Eiko - Jay-Cyn Designs

Japanese inspired collections seem to be an emerging theme at Quilt Market and I really liked the simplicity and colour palette of this Jay-Cyn Designs collection.

Stamp Stripe - Pool

Birds and Blossoms - Dark

Art Gallery Fabrics

Nordika - Jeni Baker

The final collection I wanted to feature is another set of scandinavian inspired prints by Jeni Baker. I love the simplicity of the designs which so effectively evoke the nordic meadows that inspired the collection. The prints are available in two colour ways – Alpine Valley and Frost Valley.  I particularly love the Whimsical panel print below which would make a beautiful whole-cloth quilts. The Nordika collection will be available in July.

Whimsical - Mist

Tulips Vines - Liquorice

In from the cold

So it appears I had a rather unintentional hiatus from blogging.  You see, I went and got myself a baby bump, and whilst rather luckily avoiding any form of nausea, the one thing my early pregnancy did do is put me right off sewing.  I know, strange!  I couldn’t even hang out in my little sewing room without feeling uncomfortable, and started to find all the blogs I had hither to been hooked upon rather well…uninteresting!  Not that they were of course, it was all in my head.  Anyhow, I appear to be returning to normal on the sewing front, and I have a couple of projects to share with you.

Traditional Lampshade Making Course – taught by Angela of Cocoon Home at Homemade London

To try and get back into the swing of things, I booked myself on a course at Homemade London which I had been wanting to do since last year.  Having learnt the less complicated process of making drum lampshades, a conversation with my mother-in-law about whether I could now re-cover her vintage silk lined lampshades, led me to realise that making traditional lampshades was a whole different ball game.  Scouring the Internet for guidance and information led me to the Homemade London website and the course being taught by Angela Constantinou from Cocoon Home on Bespoke Lampshade Making.

Run over two full Sundays the course offers a fantastic opportunity to learn a new skill from a very talented craftswoman, and in a very stylish and friendly environment.  I was soon to learn that main tools for making bespoke lampshades are lots and lots and lots of pins, together with a thimble to protect yourself from said pins.  By the end of the first day, we had learnt to bind our frames and create the lampshade cover and lining, and the second day was spent sewing our covers to the frame.

My finished lampshade is shown below.  The outer fabric is ‘Pincushion Khaki’ by Skinny LaMinx which you can buy from the Swedish Fabric Company.

My Lampshade - outside

The silk/satin balloon lining is the aspect I am probably most proud of because boy that fabric is slippy to work with yet the end result looks almost professional!

My Lampshade - Lining


Learning to Crochet

Having decided one weekend that learning to crochet was an obvious activity to while away the 48 hours before I had to head back in to work, I did just that.  I set about gathering the necessary equipment from my local yarn shop in Chiswick and identified an amazing free Crochet School by Crafty Minx (I seem to have a thing about minxes, don’t I?).  The hardest part for me was learning to hold the crochet needle, your work and the yarn at the correct tension, all at once.  The solution appears to have been stubborn persistence, and I am just about getting the hang of things.  The other issue seems to be my ability to count stitches correctly – I have the same problem with knitting as a number of triangular toy scarves made in my younger years would testify – so I am still working on that bit.  My first project of significance is the simple baby blanket shown below – unfortunately, I still have about another 25 rows to go until it gets to the size of something that might actually cover a baby!

Baby blanket to be...

I have also been experimenting with various small shapes and granny squares, and intend to make them into some sort of mobile for bump. A blue star is still needed to complete the set.

Crochet Experiments


Looking back, moving forwards

For me, 2012 has been a year in which my sewing skills have developed substantially through new techniques gleaned from the vast online community of very talented sewists, and more latterly, from using my very shiny new Janome Horizon 7700 sewing machine. My focus has very much been on smaller quilting and sewing projects which have allowed me to test out ideas and skills, with quick results. Techniques I have attempted include curved piecing, hand quilting, quilt-as-you-go, zippers, snap frame purses, english paper piecing, foundation paper piecing, portholes, appliqué and improv piecing.

2012 Makes: 1. Gold Retro Flower, 2. Hand Quilting, 3. First go at QAYG Yellow, 4. Patchwork zipper bag, 5. Snap Frame purse - taught @ The Make Lounge, 6. Hexagon placemats, 7. Circle of Geese, 8. My first porthole - taught by Lucie Summers at the Fat Quarterly Retreat, 9. Deco Flower appliqué cushion, 10. Mod Mosaic improv piecing


It has also been a year of acquiring vast amounts of fabric which I now need to put to good use. I literally have no space left. To counteract this excess, I have enthusiastically signed myself up for a series of classes and BOMs for the coming year, as well as creating a list of personal projects I hope to complete in the coming months.

The BOMs I will be joining in with are:

The Sugar Block Club by Amy Gibson of Stitchery Dickory Dock is a follow-on of sorts from her 2012 BOM series for Craftsy.  If you haven’t used Craftsy before and I would really recommend signing up and following this free series as Amy shows you how make 20 different quilt blocks.  I have found the last two months lessons on quilting and finishing up particularly useful – I am constantly referring to Amy’s demonstration on joining up and finishing your quilt binding.

The Skill Builder block of the month is another one which has grabbed me because of the variety of piecing methods included.  The Pile O’Fabric blog already has some brilliant tutorials for different quilt blocks and techniques and the BOM series promises some impressive looking modern blocks, although I am proposing a slightly more muted colour scheme for my own quilt.

The final BOM series looks likely to be my favourite as I really love foundation paper piecing as a technique.  The creation of each block seems a bit like magic as scraps of fabric sewn to paper turn into the most wonderfully neat geometric blocks.  I also particularly love any blocks involving stars so I am really looking forward to getting stuck in and I already have my tester block to get started on.

Aside from the BOMs, I also planning a series of utility projects to create objects that I will use in everyday life.  I have learnt the hard way this year that it is best to focus on making things for yourself and those that you love.  The projects I have on my 2013 list so far include:

  • The Weekender Bag by Amy Butler – I feel like I need to conquer this pattern to be a true sewist and have identified my ideal fabric in the form of Ellen Luckett Baker’s Stamped collection for Kokka.  I intend to follow the QAYG first shared on the Oh Fransson blog.

Stamped by Ellen Luckett Baker for Kokka

  • Carrying on with the bag theme, I have already started making my husband the Office Organiser Bag from the Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam.  He has complained for sometime about the squeaky nature of his current laptop bag and I have promised a super durable but quiet replacement.  I am also incorporating some scraps of a much loved jumper which he finally decided to ‘recycle’ after my many years of encouragement.
  • A sleeve for my new laptop for which I have now found the perfect fabric in the form of ‘Type’ by Julia Rothman.

    'Type' by Julia Rothman

  • A bird themed Bucket Bag for a soon to be one-year old using the free Bag-Making Basics class on Craftsy.

Finally, I have signed myself up for a couple of classes – one online and one in person.  The online course is by Rachel Hauser of Stitched in Color.  She has two courses available – one on curved piecing and the other handstitching.  I really want to improve my handquilting having experimented on two projects in 2012, so I have signed myself up for the latter.  The projects included in the class look amazing so I am really looking forward to getting started.  The second class is a half day workshop at Raystitch in Islington, London on pattern drafting from an item of your existing clothing.  I have felt frustrated many a time when a much loved pair of trousers reaches the end of its days, or when I would really love them another colour, so I can’t wait to to learn the basics of pattern drawing.  

I am really looking forward to the next few months as I get going on my BOMs, bag making projects and classes, and I can’t wait to share progress with you along the way.  Happy 2013.



Summer Sewing

As the nights draw in and I start to have to physically resist turning on the central heating, I thought it was a good time to reflect on and share some of my favourite summer sewing projects.  I have continued to explore the blogisphere, and more lately Pinterest, to hoover up brilliant tutorials and projects which fill up my Flipboard app everyday.  In the very vague hope of finally getting round to sewing everything I would like, I have also taken advantage of my two favourite iPad apps – iBooks and pdfPrinter – to create my own depository of sewing inspiration.  It is a brilliant digital library which I find myself referring to for new patterns, or for guidance on sewing basics such as quilt binding which I seem to forget everytime!



I discovered the Parfait Cafe blog earlier this year and the amazingly intricate blocks she has designed.  Tutorials are promised but with a six month hiatus in posts, my searching brought me to an excellent tutorial by Sel of the Mad Quilters Disease blog to make the ‘Flower Blossom’ block aka the ‘Snowflake’.

My first snowflake was pretty in pink but in my haste I cut away too much fabric at the edges and didn’t leave a seam allowance – hence attempt number two which I turned into a quilted cushion.


More Placemats

I have also been carrying on with my placemat gift tradition which I started with a couple of weddings in the Spring.  I made my brother some coordinating green and blue quilted placemats to match the decor in his living/ dining room.  He seemed pretty pleased with them, although he hasn’t invited me round to dinner yet to try them out.



I have got slight addicted to paper piecing with hexagons following the workshop I attended with Tacha Bruecher (author of the book Hexa-Go-Go) at the Fat Quarterly Retreat in July.  I used my hexagon flowers from the Retreat itself to pimp my canvas tote bag and I have also been working on a mini quilt for a friend with a gorgeous baby boy. 


My latest sewing experiments

I have spent the last few months happily trying to improve my sewing and quilting skills.  I still feel very much like a beginning when it comes to choosing fabrics, or designing a project, and still find I make those silly errors which leave you unpicking things into the early hours of the morning.  Despite the small setbacks, I have been pleased with my latest creations which I thought I would share, alongside the tutorials which guided me through.

Quilted Placemats

Two couples of very good  friends of ours have recently got married and I wanted to give them both  something handmade which they would also hopefully find useful.  Placemats seemed like they might just do the trick and I used two different tutorials as a guide.

Color Blocks Placemats and Napkins (Elizabeth Hartman - Oh Fransson blog)

I found the four part tutorial for these mats on the Sew Mama Sew blog.  I love pretty much everything that Elizabeth Hartman makes (why can’t I coordinate colours as well as her?) and I find her tutorials and patterns very easy to follow.

Hexagon Paper-pieced Placemats (Tacha Bruecher – Hexa go-go ebook)

My second placemat project was inspired by one of my classes at the Fat Quarterly Retreat in London which I attended at the beginning of the month.  After an afternoon’s introduction to sewing hexagons I was pretty much hooked and spent the rest of the Jubilee Bank holidays furiously sewing together hexagons.  I also download an electronic copy of our Retreat teacher’s – Tacha Bruecher – new book ‘Hexa go-go’ from Google Play which includes a hand quilted placemat project.  Given my time constraints, I did some ad libbing and made two of the four with more conventional squares.  This was the first time I have done any form of hand quilting which I found particularly pleasing, adding a unique dimension to each mat.


Quilted Cushion Cover

I was also very keen to try the ‘mod-mosaic’ style of patchwork which Elizabeth Hartman features in a number of posts on her Oh Fransson blog.    I love the use of the white sashing to frame every scrap of fabric and particularly enjoyed the more improvisational style of piecing involved.   I followed the free tutorial on her blog for creating a Mod Mosaic floor cushion cover which I scaled down slight to fit my sewing chair.  I quilted my cover using random straight lines to complement the wonky-style of piecing. This project was completed over single weekend making it perfect for instant sewing gratification.


Appliqué Lampshade

Another sewing technique I have not previous experimented with is machine appliqué.  I bought the very useful ‘A practical guide to machine appliqué’ by Florence Knapp (flossieteacakes blog) to guide me through the first steps.  My chosen project is lampshade which I sell in my Etsy shop.  I appliquéd five flower heads onto a solid white background which I thing looks rather cute.  I particularly love the way the light comes through the holes made by the machine appliqué when the lamp is switched on.



The final two projects I have completed were both much needed bags to help store and carry things in more stylish fashion.  The first is a canvas tote bag using complementary exterior fabrics.  The second is a patchwork zipper pouch made using a Elizabeth Hartman pattern which is available to buy and download from her blog – Oh Fransson.



Fabric Goodness

Inspired by the blog In Color Order, and the author Jeni’s amazing ‘The Art of Choosing‘ series, I have spent the last month trying to build a basic fabric stash which will stand me in good stead for all of the quilting projects I have floating around in my head.  The incredible 18 tutorials teach you everything you need to know including ‘folding’ (this is my favourite!), ‘organising your stash by color’, ‘color basics’ and ‘harmonising color schemes’.

Using these brilliant tutorials as a starting point, I have been trying to systematically fill the colour gaps in my fabric collection, to create a stash which covers the whole spectrum.  I think I am now pretty much there. In fact, as the incriminating photo to the right demonstrates, I have already run out of room to house my growing collection.  Unfortunately for my bank account, what this process has also taught me,  is how many fabulous online fabric stores there are based in the UK for me to indulge my addiction.  I thought it might be helpful to other burgeoning seamstresses if I shared my favourites with you, in the hope that you will also find inspiration from their gloriously technicolour pages.

Fabulous Fabric Shops

Backstitch - This store is fast becoming a firm favourite.  All of my favourite designers are stocked together with some more unique ranges which aren’t available elsewhere.   There are numerous fabric bundles which have been very thoughtfully put together and the range of sewing patterns available is second to none!

Eternal Maker - The largest range of patterned fabrics I have found in the UK, including all of the key designer collections as well as many more unusual ones. There is a particularly good range of quirky Japanese prints.  The range of solids is also pretty extensive.  My favourite part of the store is the search by ‘fabric colour & style’ feature which allows you pick out different types of designs (geometric, spotty, plain, etc) as well as colours.

Fabric Rehab - This is very cute website which has a wonderfully quirky range of printed fabrics.  There are many smaller style prints which are perfect for stash building as well as ‘thrifty bits’ section which has some bargain basics.  The fabrics are also organised by theme as well as colour, and I particularly love the ‘Birds and Bees’ theme with the numerous owl prints!

M is for Make - Buying fabric from this online emporium has become almost habitual for me.  The website is beautifully simple with the fabrics as the main star.  I have benefited greatly from the recent addition of the ‘search by colour’ feature as I seek to build up my stash.  Delivery is amazingly quick and you can asked to be emailed when new collections arrive.

Raystitch - The oh so stylish Raystitch is the online presence of a very contemporary looking haberdashery, cafe and sewing school in Islington, London.  I haven’t managed to travel across town yet and pay a visit in person, partly through fear that I may just want to buy everything.  The designer bundles are ace and the new range of home dec fabrics is to die for.

Seamstar – The fun, colourful pages of Seamstar will always brighten your spirits.  They have a lovely collection of linens alongside the more mainstream prints.  There is also a good range of value solids.  My favourite feature is the ‘colour match’ service which allows you to complement your prints with matching solids, thread and zips!  You can also stock up on trimmings, thread and haberdashery essentials.  Another bonus is the discounts offered for large orders over £125, together with a loyalty discount after your 12th shop.

Saints and Pinners – I have particular affection for this shop as the place where it all started.  I discovered Cloud 9 prints when I was making a bag for my best friend’s 30th birthday and I haven’t looked back since.  They have some lovely tonal fabric packs, as well as a great range of high quality solids and spots.

The Village Haberdashery - A truly beautiful website, thoughtfully stocked and stylishly presented.  A brilliant range of pattern fabrics including key designer collections, which are ever increasing. I love the fabric stacks  and the ‘build your own’ stack feature is both brilliant and unique.  The range of Kona solids is also excellent for us aspiring modern quilters! There is also a haberdashery bursting with useful items for a range of sewing projects.

Hawthorne Threads - I did want to mention one other fabric store which is based in the US but being unable to find a range of fabric they don’t stock, I thought I would highlight it in case you are ever after a particular print.  Beware the dreaded custom charges though – they will add VAT!

Lined Drawstring Bag Tutorial

your Finished Drawstring Bag

I recently struck on the idea of sewing some drawstring bags to solve a somewhat unusual problem.  Having spent many a winter morning trying in vain to tell the difference between my black and navy blue tights in subdued light, I decided the only way to prevent the horror of arriving on the tube to notice a black skirt/ blue tights combo (yes, that has happened more than once), I needed a permanent separation solution.  A drawstring back seemed like the most simple solution and gave an excuse to wheel out the sewing machine once again.  After much trial and error, I have put together a simple tutorial which I hope will help solve a few more storage issues!  

These ones are for storing my tights!

Step 1

Begin by cutting out your fabrics.  You can pretty much make your bag any size you like.  Your outer and lining fabrics will be slightly different lengths.  In my example, the outer piece of fabric measures 11″ wide by 28″ long.  I have used one continuous length of fabric which will be folded in half – but if you have smaller scraps you wish to use you can equally use two outer pieces sewn together.  For the lining fabric, you will need to cut two separate pieces.  My lining fabric is the same width as the outer fabric  (11″ wide) but the two pieces are 12″ long (two inches shorter than the half length of your outer piece).


Cut out fabric pieces

Step 2

Assemble your three fabric panels as shown, right sides together, then sew using a 1/4″ seam.  Remember to backstitch you seams at either end.  Once you have finished sewing, cut off any loose threads and press the seams flat.

Pinned fabric pieces

Step 3

Fold the fabric in half,  right sides together, lining up the seams as shown.  Pin together, using the the pins to mark out a 4″ gap in the lining fabric which will be left open to allow the bag to be turned the right way out.  You will also need to leave a 3/4 gap which starts 11 1/4 inches from the top of the outer fabric.  Mark the gap using two pins as shown.

Pinning together your bag

3/4 gap


Sew the fabric panel together, starting at the lining end.  Backstitch at the beginning and end of each stitching run including at either side of the 3/4″ gap to strengthen the seams.  Use a 5/8 seam all the way round.  Cut the corners of your lining fabric on a diagonal and if you want to, you can trimthe seam allowance with pinking shears.  Do not trim the allowance at the bottom of the lining fabric as you will need to sew this closed in the next step.


Sewn with 3/4 gap



Making a Patchwork Lampshade

My patchwork lamp shade

I have recently started my own Etsy shop to sell my handmade lamp shades – SewMakeDo.  I am currently experimenting with different types of fabric designs to broaden my collection and add some unique twists. My most recent idea is to combine my love of sewing with lampshade making through the creation of a patchwork lamp shade.

My inspiration for the patchwork idea is a beautiful collection of fabric I recently purchased from Raystitch - Savannah by Sara Morgan for Moda.  The fabric bundle contains twelve different intricate designs in pink, purple and green soft pastel tones.  My idea was to use strips of the fabric to create a vertical block patchwork which wraps round the lamp shade.  I thought I would share the steps that I followed as inspiration for similar projects.  If you feel don’t ready to make your own lamp shade just yet – the ones I have created are available from my Etsy Shop.


26 – 10″ by 1.5″ by strips of your choice of fabric – I would recommend choosing patterns with a light background and a small print as these will look best when your lamp is switched on.

20cm Drum Lamp shade Kit – to make the lamp shade itself, if you are experimenting for the first time I would recommend purchasing one of these kits which includes all the materials and instructions for assembling the lampshade itself.



Step 1 – Cutting your fabric

My 12 different fabric strips

Always begin by ironing  your fabric to eliminate creases – this will make it much easier to cut neatly!

Then, ideally using a Rotary cutter, cut your selected  fabrics into 1.5″ wide strips by 10″ strips.  You will need 26 strips to cover your lampshade.

I would recommend laying out your fabric strips at this stage to create your patchwork design.  Once you are happy with your arrangement, collect your pieces together ready to sew.


Step 2 – Sewing the Patchwork Covering

This is the most time consuming stage of the process, but worth the effort to ensure a unique lampshade design.

Start by pinning your first two fabric strips together with the rightsides facing.  Sew the strips together with 1/4 seam allowance, making sure that you backstitch at either end. I used my quarter inch presser foot to ensure a neat and even edge – I would really recommend purchasing one of these presser foots if you are likely to be doing more patchwork in the future.  Repeat this process to create 13 fabric pairs.

Sewing the strips together

Once you have all of your pairs, you will need to press open the seam allowances.   Then continue assembling your patchwork covering by pinning and sewing together the pairs into larger blocks i.e blocks of four, then eight etc.  Make sure that you press the seam allowances as you join each block to ensure a neat finish.  I would also recommend that your completed patchwork, starts and finishes on the same fabric as this is where you lampshade will overlap and join together.

Pressing the seam allowances

Once all of the strips have been joined together, you should have a neatly pressed patchwork block which is 26″ in length.  I would recommend checking the length of the block at this stage to allow the for the addition of any extra strips as you will need a least 26″ to create your lampshade.


Step 3 – Assembling the Lampshade

Your lampshade kit contains the basic instructions for assembling you lampshade which can also be view here.

I also have a couple of extra tips which you may find helpful:

  • When positioning your fabric (step 3), check that you are happy with how the fabric will join once the lampshade has been rolled (allow for approx 1cm overlap in your assessment).
  • When cutting your fabric (step 8 ) allow for an extra 1cm of fabric beyond the lampshade backing to allow you to fold back the fabric at the end to allow for a neater finish – you will need to secure this folded back section with a strip of the double-sided tape.

Folded over edge

  • Be careful on step 7 to firmly press down the lampshade backing, particularly on each of the seam allowances to ensure a firm hold!
  • On step 9, you may need to fold the backing back and forth a couple of times before the plastic begins to snap – don’t be afraid to be quite firm.
  • Start rolling your lampshade from the opposite edge to where we have created the fabric overlap.  You should place your double-sided tape (as shown in step 12) on to of the folded over fabric.

Rolling the lamp shade

  • When you start to roll the edges (step 16), it works best if you place your hoops about 10cm from the edge and then roll in reverse to help secure your rings in place.
  • Roll you lampshade slowly, checking the edges on either side as you go to ensure that you lampshade ring is as close to the edge as possible.
  • If you find the lampshade edge rolling tool a little flimsy, an old credit or store card is a good alternative.

Rolling the edges

  • When you reach a lampshade spoke when rolling the edges, cut a short slit in the fabric to allow you to tuck the fabric underneath.

Cutting the edge at the spoke


Step 4 – Your Completed Lampshade

You should now have your completed unique patchwork lampshade…

My completed patchwork lamp shade

Light on!



Transport Inspired Designs

I have a confession.  I am the granddaughter of bonafide trainspotter.  My dear Grandad did like his trains (he even had a vinyl record of train noises) and my brother and I spent many a weekend in our youth visiting vintage steam railways with him.  I also think my Mum might like trains a little more than she would be willing admit!

Embarrassment aside, I think this has pre-disposed me to have an unusual appreciation of transport-related design. I have discovered that there are an amazing array of vintage and retro inspired collections out there, and I  wanted to share a few of my favourites with you.

The Transport for London shop is a guilty pleasure of mine.  Their Design Collection features a number of vintage and contemporary designs, nearly all of which I would very much like to own.  I confess I do already have the placemats from their New London Skyline Collection as well as the plates from the Silhouettes of London Collection by Snowden Flood which I have mentioned in a previous post. I have also just treated myself to a Mini Moderns ‘Hold Tight’ tea towel.

New London Skyline Collection

‘Hold Tight’ Mini Moderns Tea Towel










Other objects with a distinctly retro feel which have caught my eye include:

Trellick Tower Tea Towel by People Will Always Need Plates

London Bus Blind Mugs

Michelle Mason cushion 

I have been also very excited to discover you can know purchase your very own Underground sign or heritage rail sign, although I think you would have to be feeling quite flush to actually order one!

The London Transport Museum shop also sells a number of these objects, together with an incredible archive of Underground posters and artwork which chart the history of London’s growth throughout the 20th century.

Another source of transport-related artwork my Dad recently introduced me to is the Science and Society Picture Library which is the official print sales website of the Science Museum, National Railway Museum and the National Media Museum.   I bought my Mum a Peak District Railway poster for Christmas which shows one of her favourite spots – Monsal Head  - a now redundant railway viaduct which was on the route of the London, Midland, Scottish Railway.

I hope this short post has offered some inspiration to your inner transport geek – we are all one secretly, right?!

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