Cutting Fabric for Patchwork

When I made my first quilt as a present for a friend’s baby, I cut all the pieces out by drawing around a cardboard template and cutting with scissors. I cut 36 squares from each of the three fabrics I used making the patchwork making a total of 108 squares. There is only so many individual squares a girl can cut out with one pair of scissors so I folded the fabric into thirds and cut three at a time. This method did have the advantage thar I could adjust the placement of the template to give more pices with full birds on them but the movement of the fabric meant that not all of the squares cut at the same time had the pattern in line with cuts. I did manage to find a way around the problem which you can read about here.

When I embarked on the second quilt, I wanted to cut more accurately to make the sewing part of the project a bit more enjoyable. There are a lot of interesting posts about the best way to cut out fabric on the internet and most of these suggest that a rotary cutter and cutting mat pairing is the best way for accuracy. With that in mind, I decided to splash out on a few more sewing goodies. It has been an expensive couple of months so I shopped around online and manage to find an A3 cutting mat and rotary cutter for about £8 on ebay. The cutter in particular looks as though it is not quite as sturdy as the one that most bloggers use but as an experiment, it is a cost effective tool for trying out cutting fabric this way. I also bought an 18″ ruler to use as a cutting guide.


If you look at the spots along the raw edge of the pruchased fabric you can see that the print is not aligned with the raw edge.


In order to cut nice neat square that line up with the print, the first thing to do is quare off the fabric edge:


Next, using the newly cut edge as a starting point, measure the width you want and mark it.


The fabric can be folded at this point so it all fits on the mat and then cut. The markings on the mat help to ensure the cutting guide is straight.

If you are cutting a lot of strips, it is worth squaring it off again after a few cuts in case it goes off grain.

Overall, the cutting out took about a quarter of the time that cutting the squares for the first quilt did. Additionally, sewing the suares together was a lot quicker and easier becauseall I had to do was match up the raw edges and use the quarter inch foot to guide the seam. So, without pinning and using the presser foor to guide the seams, I was able to assemble the quilt with almost all of the corners matching up.



Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Biscotti

A slightly (but hopefully not too) late post for yesterday. This weekend I had my first attempt at biscotti. I love these little coffee accompaniments. The sweet nuttiness goes so well with the bitter dark taste of freshly brewed black coffee. Plus, on saturday kitchen this week, James Martin made biscotti which means that this weekend, I must make biscotti.

As a first attempt at biscotti, I wanted to keep it simple and add only a couple of additional ingredients. I scouted around the internet and the classic combination of chocolate and hazelnut caught my eye (and taste buds). These beauties here look especially fantastic. Oh and these. There are so many fantastic recipes it’s hard to choose. However, getting my sensible hat on, I decided not to put cocoa into the biscuit mix. It may sound ridiculous but I sometime find it hard to judge the “golden brown” stage of unfamiliar recipes that have cocoa in them.

So……here we have Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Biscotti


2 eggs

100 g caster sugar

250 g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

25 g hazelnuts

50 g dark chocolate

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1. Whisk together the sugar and the eggs until light and fluffy. (I would definitely recommend an electric whisk for this. Normally I use a low-tech balloon whisk but this defeated me)

2. Sift the flow and bicarbonate of soda into a separate bowl. Roughly chop the hazelnuts and chocolate and add them to the flour

3. Add the vanilla essence to the eggs and then fold in the dry ingredients a little at a time. (I also added some pistachio essence at this point because I can’t get enough of that flavour at the moment)

4. Once your ingredients are combined into a dough, turn the dough onto a floured surface. Shape into a sausage about 35-30cm long and then press until it is around 2-3 cm high.

5. Bake at 180 degrees C for 30 mins until golden brown the remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 140 degrees C

6. Slice the sausage into 1.5 cm slices and lay these out on a baking tray cut side up and return to the oven for 20 mins


NOTE The biscotti pictured here had only half the amount of chocolate in the recipe but I increased the suggested quantity because they could do with a boost

Quilt Number 2 – Fabric Selection

Following the success of my first quilt and how pleased the parents were with the homemade gift, I have decided to make another one for some friends expecting their first child in September. This time, I managed to rope Mr Elbi into coming to Fabricland with me so that he had a bit of input into the gift. Despite much complaining, I choose to believe that he enjoyed it although he said that I somewhat ignored his opinion.

I liked the size of the finished first quilt so I decided to go with a similar quantity of fabric – 3 quarter meter pieces for the patchwork design and a meter for the backing (all 45″ wide cottons from Fabricland). As usual there was a substantial array of prints to choose from and despite some questionable suggestions from my other half who at times definately seems to be colour blind, we managed to reach a consensus with a green/blue colour palette.


The cream “French Hen” print fabric is the same design as one of the fabrics that I chose for the first quilt in a different colourwork. I like the fact that these prints have a variety of colours that can be picked out with the accompanying fabrics to make the birds pop in the overall finished design. I also chose the blue “Astoria” print which is a different colourwork of the same pattern as in the first quilt chosen to match the blue in the French Hen print.


The third fabric is green “Tree Owls” print which again matches the “French Hen” print. The left hand photo is unfortunately a bit washed out due an unanticipated burst of sunshine. I didn’t notice this until after I cut the fabric and I wanted to show how sweet this print is when whole. I love to googly eyes and the variety of colours in this fabric – perfect for a baby/small child.

Although this is a present for a baby boy, there is something lacking in this fabric selection to make the colours more balanced. Therefore, I chose a solid red to make a border and pick out the reds in the bird print fabrics. Mr Elbi was also fairly insistent on the inclusion of a more stereotypically masculine motif so I gave him free range for the backing fabric and he chose this “Aeroplanes” print.

I have made some changes to my methods for this quilt from the first one which I will discuss further in the next post.

Exciting Delivery

I got  a very exciting parcel today. A parcel from TrixieLixie containing the two Sewaholic patterns I ordered.

Sewaholic Patterns

Sadly I didn’t manage to get to the post before Mr Elbi who was bewildered by the arrival of new patterns when there “are already sooooo many.” Bless him that he thinks that my pattern collection which has not yet reached double figures is extensive. He will learn with time.

These are the first patterns that I have bought from Sewaholic or indeed any “indie” designer and I will perhaps share my thoughts on that in a later post. However, I decided I needed some summer dresses to take on holiday with me and I just loved the relaxed drape of the Saltspring. I also loved the versatility of the Cambie pattern which keeps popping up in the blogosphere in endless new guises. I can’t wait to get sewing and see how these turn out. Now to fabricland so I can buy some fabric 🙂

(Smoked Mackerel) Fishcakes

Mr Elbi and I are daily shoppers. In my short (20 min) walk home from work I pass no fewer than four supermarkets and there are another six or seven in reach with a five minute diversion. Therefore, we rarely shop for a whole week at time and usually decided what we are going to eat while in the supermarket. However, there are days when shopping loses its appeal and a good stock cupboard/leftovers recipe is very useful.


In the case of today’s evening meal, we had some leftover smoked mackerel and potatoes from meals earlier in the week. This is a great idea for using up leftover fish and/or potatoes and can be done with any fish you have to hand. The advantage of using smoked mackerel is that is affordable, strong flavoured so a little goes a long way and it is an oily fish which means that it is very healthy. These are a great way to introduce fish into a diet even when cooking for people who don’t normally enjoy fish e.g. kids or stubborn boyfriends.

INGREDIENTS (makes 6 patties which seerves 3 for a main course)

400g cold mashed potato

140g smoked mackerel – flaked

4 spring onions – finely sliced

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp grated root ginger

small bunch of fresh coriander chopped

juice of half a lime

1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

salt and pepper

sunflower oil for frying

1. Ensure that the potato is cold and not to lumpy. I usually like my mash lumpy but not for fishcakes.

2. Combine the fish and onions and then mix together incorporating the ginger, coriander, lime juice and chilli flakes if you are using them.20140702_161721

3. Stir the dijon mustard through the mash and season to taste with salt and pepper

4. Combine the fish mixture with the potato and stir well.


The advantage of using smoked mackerel is that eveything is cooked at this pont and can be tasted to make sure that the flavours are balanced. There are a lot of strong flavours in these fishcakes and sometimes they need to be adjusted. In this batch I added a little more lime juice at this stage.

5. Shape the mixture into 6 patties

6. Heat 1 tbsp sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium/high heat and fry the patties for 4 minutes on each side.

Serve with veggies and salad depending on your appetite. Like everything else in our house, these are served with chilli sauce and in the case of this particular meal, sweet chilli sauce is the preferred option.


OPTIONAL: If you prefer your fishcakes with breadcrumbs, you can dip each patty into egg and then breadcrumbs before frying. I personally prefer them without and this has the added advantage of keeping them gluten free.

Quilting my very first quilt…..cont. from yesterday

In order to make a quilted blanket from my patchwork layer, I made a sandwich with the patchwork top layer, a layer of wadding and then the backing fabric which for this quilt was a neutral floral print. I was unsure what weight of wadding to use for this blanket but in the end I went with the medium wadding which was 4oz. The result was a thick spongy quilt which will make a good blanket for a baby to play on but may be too warm to get much use as a cover. In fact when I was finishing all the threads for this quilt, my legs were getting very warm.


My plan was to use my sewing machine to do the quilting and follow the lines of the patchwork squares to dreate a checkerboard quilting pattern. I will admit that I was very unsure about what I was doing for this part of the project. I read a few bits and pieces online and having recently purchase a new sewing machine complete with quilters pack, I knew that the pieces I needed to use were all in that box. In fact, this project was in no small part driven by the fact that I wanted to play with the cotents of the quilters pack.


I attached the walking foot to my machine and added the extension table. and then started sewing. I began with a line going across the quilt (it was a few inches shorter) somewhere near the middle. The three layers were held together by small dressmaking pins which with hindsight were insuuficient for the task. They kept working their way out and pinging onto the floor where they lay in wait for an unsuspecting de-shoed foot. If there are any secrets to doing this kind of machine quilting, I would love to know them. The final result that I obtained is picture below but that was after endless rounds of unpicking and resewing. I could not get these to be reliably straight. This did improve with time and in the end, with an increased stitch length I was able to get some good results.


Tip If you are going for a similar quilting pattern to the one that I have used here, keep all the layers of the fabric as taut as possible while you are sewing all of the parallel lines. If you don’t do that, when you come to doing the second set of lines, you will be creating small puckers/pleats at each layer of stitching where there is too much of the backing fabric because it has been allowed to puff out.

For this quilt, I decided not to use bias binding around the edge like so many of the quilts that I have seen online. I wanted a wider border so I made the piece of backing fabric much larger than the top and the wadding with the wadding a bit larger than the patchwork piece. Once all the wuilting was finished, I trimmed the wadding to size such that it extended 8 cm past the edge square minus seam allowance. I then folded the backing fabric over to cover the additional wadding and trimmed it so it had a 5/8″ seam allowance. I then pressed under 1/2″ and topstitched all the way arounf the border going through all the layers of the sandwich. The aspect of this wuilt that I am most unhappy with is the corners of the border. They are nowhere near as neat as I would have liked them to be. I did my best with them but the problem was that the quilting gathers in the backing fabric so that when you extend into an unquilted region, the grain lines are no longer anywhere near parallel with the patchwork squares. This makes a crisp mitred corner extremely difficult to acheive.


Overall, I am really happy with the final result of this project and it was very gratefully recieved. I am looking forward to making the next one 🙂


My Very First Quit…….top layer

Phew……making that quilt was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have a lot to write about this project so I have separated it into two posts. This is the quilt I started way back in February. In my head it seemed so straightforward and I was looking forward to an easy sewing project. It started off that way. The first thing I did was to cut out all my squares for the patchwork front of the quilt. I wanted all my squares to be 8cm x 8cm in the finished design so leaving 1/4 inch seam allowance around the edge, I cut each square out to a size of 92mm x 92mm. This was the perfect size as I had bought a quarter metre of each fabric and therefore could get three squares across the width of the fabric I had bought…..just.

Cutting these out was not as easy as I thought it would be. Using scissors I couldn’t cut through more than 3 layers of fabric at a time. Any more than this and the fabric moved around A LOT. So, I used a cardboard template and drew round it with a washable pen onto the fabric folding it so that I could cut 3 out at a timeThis meant a lot of drawing round the template then cutting then drawing then cutting then drawing then cutting……….you get the idea. With hindsight, I could have made a paper pattern with a grid marked out on it and then I could have pinned it to the fabric and cut without all the drawing. It took ages and hurt my hands but I was glad when it was done.


Original Lay Out
Original Lay Out

Next, I laid out my design and played with it until I was happy. I started in the centre and worked my way out radially. I didn’t have a plan and the beginning and in the end I didn’t quite have enough of anything to make it completely symmetrical unless I put three turquoise squares next to each other at either end. It doesn’t look great so I moved a few things around to make it less symmetrical but at least it doesn’t have three of any pattern together.

With the design in hand I gathered the squares in rows and ironed them before sewing them together in rows so that I had 11 strips of what looked like very decorative toilet paper….  In order to minimise the bulk at the points where 4 squares meet, the seamm allowances on the even numbered rows were pressed in the opposite direction to the odd-numbered rows before they were sewn together in order to give the top half of my quilt. This looked so much better than when the squares were just laid out next to each other.



The problem with the way I cut out the squares became apparent when it came to sewing the pieces together. With two very geometric prints, the seams needed to align with the pattern so that my elephants didn’t look like they were marching along under the influence. wpid-20140702_101137.jpgThis meant a new cardboard pattern to draw around on each and every square so that the patterns were as straight as possible on the final patchwork and a lot of careful pinning to make sure each seam was where I wanted it even though the edges of the seam allowance didn’t match up.


It is difficult to tell from the picture above but the cardboard isn’t square on the piece of fabric. The extended process was irritating but made the completion of sewing the pieces together all the more satisfying.

20140219_095302The finished patchwork draped over my sewing machine

More on the quilting of this later….