Sunday, 31 October 2010

Focus on.....

Focus On...Simply Solids

Simply Solids differs from the majority of online fabric stores as their range does not focus on the designers prints you can buy from many stores but instead concentrates on the solids – hence the name!

Their speciality is the Kona Cotton Solids in a large range of colours, perfect for quilting. Plus if they don’t have the colour you are looking for just get in touch and they will get it for you. Priced at just £3.50 per half metre they are also more cost effective than the patterned fabrics. What’s more you can even buy Kona Rollups with a whole palette of colours as pictured above.

They also stock a range of the Moda pre-cut fabrics including jelly rolls scrap bags, fat quarter bundles and layer cakes. They do stock some designer fabrics including collections by Patty Young, Laura Gunn, Laurie Wisbrun and Jessica Levitt. You can buy these fabrics by the half metre or in fat quarter bundles.

What’s more if you spend over £15 on the site the postage is free!

To visit Simply Solids please click on this link:

Thursday, 28 October 2010

R is for Refashioning

R is for refashioning!

Refashioning is, basically giving a new form to something . Refashioning of clothes has benefited from a resurgence of popularity in recent years because of peoples wants and needs to save money, become more sustainable, and also by people who are getting tired of the throw-away fashion culture that has grown so huge. Instead of throwing out that dress that is stuck in the back of your wardrobe, you could make a new skirt that you love with an hour or so and your trusty sewing machine or maybe you have a boring black top that you are fed up of wearing. By adding buttons or a collar or any number of other decorations, that boring top could become a fave wear. The possibilities are endless and sitting here, writing this blog-post, my brain is in overdrive with all of the amazing things that I could do, should I ever find that illusive extra hour or so in the day ;)

There is a huge on line community of people refashioning on the Internet. A few years ago, fed up with my current wardrobe and in my habitually skint state of finances, I stumbled across Wardrobe Refashion, a wonderful blog by Nichola Prested in Australia who had decided that she was going to stop buying new clothes and refashion her current wardrobe and was urging people to join in with her and to sign-up for a given period of time. I signed up and started searching through my wardrobe for my first project.

Here are a few of my fav refashioning projects that I have found...

Mens trousers-skirt. (see below) I have a pair of trousers....maybe accidently, my husbands expensive suit trousers that I accidentally shrunk and felted in the wash that would look fab as a winter skirt ;)

Image from

How about jumping on the pillow-case dress bandwagon and making cute dresses for your little people out of old pillow-cases? Add a long-sleeved t now it is getting a bit cold.

I love this skirt, made from an ill-fitting dress.

This post was written by Nicsknots A little haven for people who love bags and want to organise their (knitting) world, one pretty thing at a time.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Search Press Competition

Search Press Competition

Search Press have kindly agreed to give away 5 copies of their latest sewing book – Stylish Sewing – in this week’s competition.

Stylish Sewing by Laura Wilhelm contains 35 stylish feminine contemporary patterns for the home accessories, toys, bags ad clothes. You can view full details here on the Search Press website.

To enter please answer the following question:

What sewing or craft topic would you like to see a book about?

You can either send your response through our competition entry form, or you can comment on our Facebook, Twitter or blog pages. Please be specific, if it is a subject that has been covered many times before what twist on it would you like to see? For example instead of just saying ‘candle making’ say Christmas candles, scented candles etc.

Terms & conditions

Employees of The Sewing Directory or Search Press and their family members are not permitted to enter. Only 1 entry allowed per person. Winners will be determined using a random number generator. If you enter on Facebook/Twitter/blogger you need to send your address through within 2 weeks of the draw being done or another winner will be drawn. All entries to be received by 6pm on 2nd November 2010. Prizes can only be shipped within the UK and Ireland but any prizes shipped to Ireland will be subject to a £3.99 postage charge payable before shipping.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Focus on.....

Focus on....The Cotton Spool

The Cotton Spool is an online fabric store stocking a range of imported fabrics that you can’t always find on the high street. A bold, colourful mix of high-quality fabrics from Japanese design houses Kokka and Echino. Organic prints from German company Westfalenstoffe, funky patterns from Michael Miller and liberty-esque prints from Fabric Freedom.

Rather than having the fabric sorted by designer like many stores, theirs are sorted by design theme, including floral, geometric and cute creatures. So if you have a particular design in mind, you don’t have to search through all the designers until you find it.

As well as fabrics they also stock ribbons, trims, felt and bag handles so you can buy everything you need to make bags out of their fabrics. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, why not customise an old item of clothing with some ric rac for a vintage look.

To check out their store please visit

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Q is for Quilting

Q is for Quilting

Practical Quilting Basics

The Quilt Sandwich
The quilt top, batting and backing are the three layers that make up a quilt sandwich. The top is your decorative layer that is often patchwork pieced and embellished; the batting is the wadding that gives the warmth, loft and weight to the quilt; and the backing is usually a largely plain and un-adorned piece of fabric. These three pieces are then ‘quilted’: stitched or tied through all three layers to create one work.

The Top
Most of us imagine a patchwork top when we think of a traditional quilt, and for many people making the top is the highlight of the process and where the majority of the creativity is displayed. A patchwork top is traditionally worked in ‘blocks’ which are then in turn pieced together. There are countless blocks from the simplest ‘nine-patch’ to the most intricate of designs.
All sorts of fabric can used to make a patchwork top, but most popularly printed quilting cottons are used. The weight is a comfortable weight to patchwork, and the prints are designed to work well as small pieces.

The Batting
The batting is the filling in the sandwich. There are all sorts of materials that batting can be made of, but most popularly are wool, cotton, and more recently, bamboo. The batting will determine whether a quilt is light or heavy, lofty or dense, thin or thick.
You need to buy batting that is at least 4 inches larger in all directions than your quilt top, and you need to also note the minimum quilting distance of your batting so that it suits your planned quilting pattern.

Before quilting your sandwich needs to be constructed and basted. Basting secures the three layers of your quilt temporarily and minimises movement whilst you are actually quilting. You can either pin-baste or thread-baste, although I’m sure everyone has their favourite method, personally I would recommend putting the extra effort in to thread baste. Although more time consuming than pin-basting, once completed, thread-basting makes for a faster and easier quilting process.

A quilt is not a quilt until you have stitched your three layers together. There are a number of different ways you can do this. You can tie a quilt, quilt by hand or quilt using a machine. You can even send your quilt away to be long-arm quilted.
You can stitch in straight lines, along the lines of your patchwork, follow an intricate pattern, or quilt in a random fashion. You can stitch evenly or unevenly, close together or far apart… the possibilities are endless!
The quilting of your sandwich can really enhance your top beautifully, so take some time to look at other pieces to work out what sort of effect you want to create.
Once quilted, your piece can be bound along the raw edges.

Quilting inspiration

At first glance, quilting seems like such an innocent craft, but once you start looking the possibilities will blow your mind! Quilting horizons are long and uninterrupted, and thinking about fabric and stitches as your medium for expressing yourself will make you look at your next quilt as one great big canvas.
Huge inspiration can be drawn from books, blogs and exhibitions, so get to your local library, go to that exhibition and dust off that sewing machine!
Go forth and quilt!

Recommended online resources

Elizabeth Hartman at Oh Fransson!
Fat Quarterly tutorials page
Quilting Assistant
World Wide Quilting Page
E Quilt Blocks

Recommended books

For reference:
The Complete Book of Patchwork, Quilting and Applique by Linda Seward
Compendium of Quiltmaking Techniques by Susan Briscoe

For projects:
Last-minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
Material Obsession: Contemporary Quilt Designs by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke

For inspiration:
Quilts 1700 - 2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories by Sue Prichard
Art Quilts: A Celebration – 400 Stunning Contemporary Designs by Robert Shaw

Related Backstitch articles:
Follow-the-lines baby quilt

Q is for Quilting was brought to you by Alice from Backstitch– visit at Backstitch is an online shop selling beautiful fabrics and patterns. Also, keep an eye on their Articles section on the website for reviews and inspiration.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Fiskars Competition

Fiskars Competition

Fiskars are kindly providing a pair of dressmaking shears (right handed worth £29.99) as a prize along with a pair of general purpose left handed scissors. So 1 prize for a left hander, and one prize for a right hander.

Fiskars are the leading brand in sewing scissors and can be purchased from John Lewis, Hobbycraft, The Range, Dunelm Mill and independent sewing and craft stores.

In order to enter please answer the question below:

What piece of sewing equipment could you not live without and why?
You can send us your entry using our entry form or by commenting on Facebook, Twitter or here on our blog. Don't forget to tell us whether you are left or right handed.

Terms & conditions
Employees of The Sewing Directory or Fiskars and their family members are not permitted to enter. Only 1 entry allowed per person. Winners will be determined using a random number generator. If you enter on Facebook/Twitter/blogger you need to send your address through within 2 weeks of the draw ending or another winner will be drawn. All entries must be received by 6pm on26/10/2010. Prizes can only be shipped within the UK and Ireland.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Focus on.....

Focus On....Seams So Easy

Seams So Easy offer sewing classes for adults, children and teens. They teach in small groups or to individuals to offer a better learning experience.

Subjects covered in their adult classes include learn to sew, sewing a skirt, terrific tunics and embellishments.

For teenagers and children the they offer 6 x 6 week courses roughly spanning a year, which start with the basics and finish with the kids being able to cut a sew off a simple commercial pattern. Each 6 week course adds to existing knowledge and everyone does a couple of projects from dolls and cushions to more practical bags etc. The course also covers basics of beading and embellishment techniques as well as dyeing giving the participants a great foundation for future sewing.

They also make and sell items made with recycled fabrics through their Etsy and Folksy shop. You can find out more about Seams So Easy by visiting their site:  

Friday, 15 October 2010

P is for Patchwork

P is for Patchwork

Patchwork is a process of sewing pieces of fabric together by hand or machine to create a larger piece of cloth.

Initially, patchwork was used for reasons of economy, and because patchwork quilts were made from recycled fabrics that were already worn out, few early examples survive. However, it was really in the USA that patchwork became textile art. Blocks were typically used to construct patchwork quilts as they are more portable and can be easily stored until enough have been made for the entire project. Originally, there was no attempt at creating a pattern in patchwork, but as the decorative aspect was realised, geometric shapes were organised into patterns. Common shapes in patchwork are hexagons, squares, triangles and diamonds.

Patchwork can be assembled using a sewing machine, or by hand using a technique known as "paper piecing". This is where fabric is wrapped around pieces of paper to help it keep its shape, making it easier to handle and join together.

In any patchwork that uses geometric shapes, first make templates to ensure all the patches are exactly the same. Use separate templates for paper and fabric.

Press all the creases out of the fabrics you plan to use and lay on a flat surface. Using the fabric template, cut out as many fabric patches as you will need for your patchwork pattern. Using the paper template which should allow for about a 1/4 inch seam allowance on the fabric, cut out an equal number of paper patches. Pin each paper patch into the centre of the wrong side of the fabric patch, then fold the fabric edges over and secure with basting stitches.
Even if you have already decided on a pattern, it's a good idea to lay out the patches before joining them together just to ensure you have as many as you will need.

To join, place two patches face to face and stitch over the top of the fold using a whipstitch.

When all the patches are joined, remove the basting stitches and the paper and construct the rest of the quilt as normal.

To assemble patchwork using a machine, use a template to cut out the fabric patches or use a quilter's ruler and a rotary cutter to cut several from a strip. There is no need to wrap the fabric around pieces of paper, as the patchwork can be joined in smaller sections that are then joined to each other to make the whole.

Patchwork is not confined to quilting although that is where it is most prevalent. Cushions, tablecloths, clothing and children's toys can all be made using patchwork.

About me: I am Kenyan and have lived in Scotland for the past seven years. I have a keen interest in all forms of stitched textiles, particularly quilting and patchwork, and mydesigns are heavily influenced by my heritage. To find out more about me, please visit my blog (, where you can find day-to-day accounts of ongoing projects, or my website ( to see some finished work.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Seamstar Competition

Seamstar Competition

Seamstar are a site which provides funky cutting edge textiles, patterns and ribbons. We thought being as we give away a lot of fabrics we would do something different this time and have teamed up with Seamstar to give 7 lucky winners £5 of their favourite ribbon.

With prices starting from as low as just 25p per metre you could win up to 20 metres of ribbon, think of all you could do with that! Alternatively you could opt for one of their great ribbon bundles here.

If you are spoilt for choice, which we know is very likely, you can choose 2 different types of ribbon just make sure you tell us the type and colour you want and the design if it is patterned.

To enter please tell us:

What is your favourite ribbon from the Seamstar site?

You can answer in 7 different places, and we will be picking 1 winner from each, if you want to enter in all 7 you can but you need to be a fan/follower to be entered on Facebook/Twitter.

You can enter on The Sewing Directory’s Facebook, Twitter or  here on our Blog or using our entry form

You can also enter on Seamstar’s Facebook, Twitter or blog.

Terms & conditions

Employees of The Sewing Directory or Seamstar and their family members are not permitted to enter. Only 1 entry allowed in each location (7 total entries) and only 1 prize can be won per person. Winners will be determined using a random number generator. If you enter on Facebook/Twitter/blogger you need to send your address through within 2 weeks of the draw being done or another winner will be drawn. All entries to be received by 6pm on 19/10/2010. Prizes can only be shipped within Europe.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Focus on.....

Focus On.....Sue Munday

Sue Munday is a talented textile artist who offers machine embroidered bags and accessories, undertakes commissions and offers tuition too.

Sue has undertaken commissions for Janome and was recently interviewed by Kirstie Allsopp on the Janome website. You can read the interview here.

Sue offers courses in computerized sewing, embellishing, mixed media, machine embroidery and machine thread painting amongst other subjects.

For more information please visit Sue’s website:

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

O is for Old sewing machines

O is for Old Sewing Machines

The love for old and vintage in the sewing world is not exclusive to fabrics, colours schemes and retro designs; it also has spread out to sewing machines and patterns (by this I mean real patterns printed decades ago). I am sure this is not news for many of you, we all have seen markets (both traditional and internet based) selling these goodies that have been for years hidden away in a loft , but now see the light of day again in a new century and go to a new home.

Old sewing machines are, in my opinion, simply beautiful and also they are “properly made”, with no disrespect to their contemporary modern sisters, the engineer that gives maintenance to my sewing machines says “old is gold”. I am not going to go technical here because I have no clue of how they were/are built or which one is better, I just know that old sewing machines were built to last, you only have to try and pick one up to know that plastic was not the material of choice 30 years ago! metal is pretty heavy. I wonder how many grandchildren will be asking their grandmothers if they can have their old white plastic Toyota, Brother, or Janome in 40 years time.

When it comes to the actual look of the machines very few will admit that the new modern machines are prettier that then old one, some of the machines from the early 1900’s can genuinely be called works of art. I will not go on about it because it only takes a quick search under ‘antique sewing machines’ on any search engine to see the great variety of styles and colours, black and gold was virtually standard for the early manual machines (often then embellished with beautiful patterns and gold stenciling); green, blue, grey, red, white, etc for electrical machines that were built from the 40’s onwards.
What is important to be sure of when buying an old machine is that you understand what you are buying. There is big demand for old sewing machines, and good ones when you find them are not cheap and not all of them have been cared for by their previous owners. Be mindful that whilst you might think that you are buying something built with the precise engineering of a space rocket and the strength of a bulldozer, it might in fact be just the shell. Often when the original motors (the heart of a good machine) are damaged beyond repair they are replaced with a cheap, poor quality motor built yesterday. There are plenty of website sites and blogs which give good advice on what to look for when buying a old sewing machine, my only advice is to try to get a warranty (if buying from a dealer) or ask someone that knows a bit about sewing machines to guide you in your purchase. Do remember though, there is no need to rush in to a purchase, because once you have found the old machine you have been looking for, with a bit of regular TLC it will be with you for a very long time!

This post was written by Lizzet Belcher of The Fabric Loft, the online store for contemporary quilting fabrics.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Coats Crafts Giveaway

This week Coats Crafts, the Uk’s largest needlecraft suppliers, have kindly donated another amazing box set of 56 x 100m threads in every colour you could need. In order to win this wonderful prize we want you to answer the following question:

What would you like to see in the How To Guides on the Coats Crafts website?

You can view the current how to guides on the Coats Crafts website here: What do you think is missing? What would you like to see on there?

You can give your answer using the entry form here or let us know on our Facebook or Twitter pages or on our blog.

Terms and Conditions

Friends/family/employees of The Sewing Directory and Coats Crafts are excluded. Only 1 entry allowed per person but you can make more than one suggestion in your entry. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator. Anyone who enters through Facebook, Twitter or our blog must send their address through within 2 weeks or another winner will be drawn. Prizes will only be posted within the UK. All entries must be received by 6pm on Tuesday 12th October 2010.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Focus on.....

Focus on....Material Pleasures

Material Pleasures is an online quilting store that offers quality 100% cotton quilting fabrics. They also stock the notions, tools and patterns you need to make your quilt.

They offer a great range of quilting kits, some with the pieces pre-cut for you all ready to sew. They also offer a great kit for beginners which include fabrics, wadding, needles, templates and a guide to patchwork and quilting starting from just £25.

Material Pleasures also run quilting workshops covering topics such as quilting methods, foundation piecing, celtic appliqué and binding. For full details of their workshops or to look through their online shop please visit
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