This month it's my turn to host the 'Ho,ho,ho and on we sew' link up. Fiona, over at Celtic Thistle Stitches, kindly runs this monthly LinkUp to help us all to get organised for Christmas in good time.
And I hate to tell you all, but once we get past August it's just downhill all the way till December! If you need any more incentive to get going with a bit of Christmas crafting this month then there's also a giveaway prize up for grabs. This month the prize has been generously donated by Katie at Japan Crafts, and it's a kit for this lovely Hana Bag.
Everything to make this beautiful bag, whose name means 'flower' in Japanese, is included in the kit. Close the drawstring and the top of the bag looks like petals - these conceal a kimono-style pocket on either side of the bag. This fully lined bag is very easy to make and can be sewn by hand or whizzed up on the machine. RRP £10, available from www.japancrafts.co.uk
You have till the end of the month to link up your makes and be in with a chance of winning this lovely kit, you'll find the Link Up at the end of this post.
But first, back to my Christmas make for this month. I decided way back in January that one of my Christmas sewing priorities for this year would be around trying to make the Christmas dinner table a little bit more special and 'Christmassy'. Since then I haven't really moved forward much with this, so this month seemed like the perfect opportunity and I decided to make a Christmas table runner.
I'm afraid the inspiration for this might date me somewhat! I found this ancient pair of white jeans tucked away in the back of my wardrobe!
What can I say, I was a teenager in the 80's! Back then they were a Summer essential! But they haven't been worn for at least 2 decades, and it was about time they were chopped up for sewing purposes. Perfect since, after happily dabbling a little with genuine Cathedral Window Patchwork earlier in the year, I was keen to try a 'cheating' version with denim and compare the 2 methods.
I've seen lots of this style of patchwork peppered across Pinterest, more usually with blue denims in throws or cushions. But the construction is quite simple and it lends itself perfectly to a table runner.
You will need a stack of denim circles (or could be some other reasonably sturdy fabric, but the edges for these will be raw so bear that in mind when choosing),and the same number of squares of a contrasting fabric. For a table runner I decided I would also add some wadding to give it some extra weight, so the same number of squares again in whatever batting you have to hand, or I've just cut them from a scruffy, wool blanket. If you wanted to use this technique to make something a little lighter - perhaps a bag - then you could just leave out the wadding squares.
|I'm afraid I seem to have completely lost my making photos in the white/red, but I wanted to make another to gift in greys so at least it made me get started on that as well to take some more photos!|
My circles are 5 inches in diameter. I'd like to say this was carefully thought out, but it just so happened that I had a largeish yogurt pot to hand when I started this project and it looked about the right size for what I wanted! If you want to go with this sizing too then you could either scout around your kitchen for an appropriately sized lid/pot/bowl/plate or use a compass to draw a circle template. But you can basically create something to the dimensions you personally want. The squares need to fit within your circles, just reaching the edges.
My squares were just a fraction under 3.5 inches, but I found this technique quite forgiving when it comes to being amazingly accurate with cutting and positioning - always a positive for me! Your finished 'blocks' within your patchwork will be the size of your squares, so have a think about what you want your total finished size to be and some simple maths will tell you what measurements to use for the squares, and then it's fairly straightforward to draw a circle, with a compass, around this.
I wanted my table runner to be 3 circle/squares across, so I worked in 3's, starting out by pinning a square of the wadding and then a square of my fabric on to my denim circles, centering them as best I could. The fabric squares need to be right side up, but you pin it on to the wrong side of your denim. This felt quite unnatural to me and several times I had to repin as I realised I'd gone wrong.
|So the 'right' side of my denim is a much paler grey.|
With 3 ready I started to sew them together. Place 2 of the circles with their right sides together, so your contrasting fabric squares are visible and facing out. Match up the corners of your squares as best you can and then sew a straight line across the top of your square, from one side of the circle to the other. Then add a third circle/square in exactly the same way to one end to create a 'chain' of 3.
You can see you're sewing off a side of your circle, which is coming upwards into your patchwork in a 'flap' effect.
Once I had 2 rows of 3 I could sew these together in much the same way. I found it did help with accuracy to iron out my flaps before sewing the rows together, and some wonder clips were very handy too.
|Here you can see the paler, right side of the denim coming through in the flaps|
So again, right sides of the denim circles together, fabric squares on the outside, match up your squares and then sew straight across - but this time you're sewing across 3 all lined up.
|Here's the end of the seam.|
And then when you iron out all the flaps you've now created, this is what it looks like...
It's starting to take shape. I would recommend that you create a few more lines of 3 and add these in the same way before sewing down the flaps, just because it's quicker to do it that way rather than continually switching from one task to another. But for your first couple of rows you may not be able to resist sewing those flaps down straight away just to get a better idea of what it will ultimately look like! Just be sure to leave one side of 3 'open' to attach your next row, here I've just left all my edges open at this stage.
|Just those outer edge flaps, which I haven't yet ironed over and sewn down, showing the darker grey, wrong side of my denim. Once they are sewn down none of that darker, wrong side will be visible on the top.|
So keep on adding your rows until you have your desired length. To avoid too much bulk when sewing down those petal like flaps you can create your piece in several sections, and then when the flaps in each section are sewn down, join them together - just make sure you leave your edge flaps open for the joining.
Here's my finished red/white runner, they're really not the easiest, most inspiring things to photograph! But hopefully it will look lovely for Christmas dinner.
|As you sew down all those flaps you are creating all the quilting and binding required in one step, so you end up with a completely finished piece.|
And perfect with the mini stocking cutlery holders I made back in January.
As to how it compares with genuine Cathedral Windows? The genuine version is definitely much more time consuming, it eats much more fabric and it's maybe less adaptable to a variety of projects. But I would say it does create a more special, polished end result. Both ways were enjoyable to make and I can see myself doing more of both in the future.
Don't forget to link up your Christmas makes before the month end to have a chance to win the lovely bag kit from Japan Crafts.
And thanks again to all the generous sponsors of 'Ho, ho, ho' for providing such a wonderful variety of giveaways each month.