Tuesday, 25 June 2013

My Social Side

I seem to be flaunting my social side at the moment!
Over the last few weeks I've joined a quilting bee AND a quilt-a-long.
I was thrilled to be invited to join the The Quilting Bee by Maria over at sew love to sew 
and of course said "Yes"
The Bee is made up of 6 of us

Maria @ sew love to sew
Fran @ PatchyRose 
Sarah @ Quilt Candy 
Glinda @ Glinda Quilts 

and we are making one strip each. The finished quilt will be 40" wide and we can choose to make five 8"blocks or eight 5" blocks or whatever else will fill that width.
This is my finished strip

It's a disappearing pinwheel block using a couple of Amy Butler Soul Blossoms prints that I had in my stash. 
It is refreshingly liberating to start a quilt that you have no pre-conceived ideas about, as to overall colour or what room it is intended for.

My second social venture is a Swoon Along! 
It is being organised by Sarah @ Fairy Face Designs
I watched Katy's Swoon along take the quilt blogging world by storm last year and regretted that I didn't join in then. This time I'm on the ball! It only started yesterday, so if you fancy playing along, follow the link and join us!

FairyFace Designs

Finally, I have some finishes to share with you.
If you are a regular follower, you will know I am stash busting my knitting yarn oddments this year by making baby items for  Greenfields Africa
I challenged myself way back in January to make 52 items (one for each week of the year) using only oddments from my stash (I'm including fabric stash too). well, we are half way through the year at the end of this week, so I should have 26 items. With the 2 fabric blankets I finished yesterday, along with a couple of knitted items from earlier in the month, I've made it - just!

These bring my year total exactly up to 26 items.

Phew! That bundle is quite big! By the time it gets to December this parcel will need a sizeable box indeed! But my otherwise not very useable stash will be zapped and a few more babies will be wrapped in something other than rags.
Right now, I'm off to choose the fabrics for my Swoon.
Have a good week! 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Big List of Organic Cotton Retailers

Finding a retailer of organic cotton can be a time consuming process. Even when you find one, they often only have limited stock. I have good news for you. I have spent many hours over the last few years (and I mean MANY!) looking for retailers who have a wide range to choose from, or who sell specialist items like organic sewing thread or organic cotton lace. I've compiled all this information along with important details such as which types of cotton they sell, whether they have a bricks and mortar shop as well as selling online, a word about their postage rates and other useful snippets (one even has a coffee shop !!) into one comprehensive list, which I'm sharing with you today.
I've also added the list to the side bar of the blog as a downloadable PDF and I shall update it regularly.
To which end, I need your feedback please! If you know of a good organic cotton retailer that I've not included please tell me! If you've used one and had a bad experience, I'd like to know that too. I'm sure even with all the research I've put that I've missed someone off the list !
So far, I have restricted the list to the UK and the US, but it doesn't have to stay that way. If you'd like me to include Australia or Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, just let me know and I'll do my best to add them.
Just before I get to the list, I'd like to add a word for UK peeps about buying online from the US.
If your experience differs to mine, please let me know.
If you look at US online retailers and do a currency conversion, you cannot help but think "Wow! Those prices are brilliant!", but then you go to the shipping page and see just how much it's going to cost for postage, and you try and do the maths and probably end up totally confused and dither as to whether it's worth it or not.
I always prefer to buy from the UK, not least because I want it right now and I'm watching for my postie from the minute I've pressed the "Add to Cart" button. But sometimes the design I want is just not available here in the UK or I want sufficient amount that it makes it worthwhile to buy from the US and then I'll put up with the wait. Most US retailers tell you how many yards will fit into a certain size of postage box. A flat rate envelope, for instance,  will fit between 7 and 10 yards of fabric and costs about $24 (about £15) in postage.

So here is the maths:
Average cost per yard in the US - $16.50 (£10.50)
If you buy 7 to 8 yards of fabric the postage works out at £2 per yard. £10.50 + £2 = £12.50 
(cheaper than buying in the UK)
If you buy 2 yards of fabric the postage works out at £7.50 per yard. £10.50 + £7.50 = £17.50
(more expensive than buying in the UK)
Following this process, if you buy 5 yards, it works out about the same as in the UK.

If you just want 1 or 2 yards of a fabric and it is not available in the UK, your best bet it to look for it on Etsy. You do need to shop carefully, as some sellers charge so much to send internationally, it just isn't worth it, but often it will cost you no more through Etsy than it would if you were buying it online in the UK

Now, finally, here is the list (also in the sidebar)

The Big List of Organic Fabric Retailers
A comprehensive list of organic cotton retailers in the United Kingdom and United States. This list is updated regularly. Please contact me (mackandmabelblog(at)gmail(dot)com) if you know of a shop that should be added or have some relevant feedback on one of them.

United Kingdom
The Eternal Maker                 www.eternalmaker.com + brick & mortar store
41 Terminus Rd, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8TX
The widest selection of organic cotton prints I have found. Reasonable postage. Super fast shipping
cotton prints         cotton solids        flannel

The Village Haberdashery      www.thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk + brick & mortar store
47 Mill Lane, London, NW6 1NB
Good selection of organic prints. Reasonable flat rate postage
cotton prints         cotton solids        canvas

Kitschy Coo                  www.kitschycoo.bigcartel.com
Brilliant selection of organic cotton jersey and interlock prints. Postage according to weight
jersey                  interlock

Organic Textile Company       www.organiccotton.biz
Extensive range of a wide variety of cotton types. Very friendly and helpful. Work directly with the manufacturer in India. Postage is calculated by weight and can be expensive, but caps at £9.95
cotton prints         cotton solids        jersey        flannel        fleece
voile           muslin         twill             calico                  denim                  corduroy colourgrown cotton   handloom cotton           crossweave                  velvet
toweling      toy stuffing          sewing thread

Ray-Stitch                              www.raystitch.co.uk  + brick & mortar store
99 Essex Rd, London, N1 2SJ
Small selection of a wide variety of cotton types. Have an in-store coffeeshop. Reasonable postage
cotton prints         cotton solids        jersey        flannel        fleece
voile           muslin         twill             calico                  denim                  canvas colourgrown cotton     handloom cotton           crossweave

Eclectic Maker                       www.eclecticmaker.co.uk
Small selection of organic prints. Reasonable postage (free over £60)
cotton prints

Saints & Pinners                     www.saintsandpinners.co.uk
Small selection only. No new products added recently
cotton prints         cotton solids        crossweave

M Is for Make                www.misformake.co.uk
Printed cottons only. Flat rate postage
cotton prints

Seamstar             www.seamstar.co.uk
Small selection of cotton prints. Reasonable postage
cotton prints

Backstitch           www.backstitch.co.uk
Small selection of cotton prints.  Flat rate postage postage
cotton prints

CelticFusionFabrics               www.celticfusionfabrics.com
Small selection of cotton prints.  Postage can be expensive for larger quantites
cotton prints

Greenfibres                                    www.greenfibres.com
Basic undyed organic cottons including heavy weight flannel and extra wide percale for sheeting.  Postage quite expensive, but free for orders over £80
flannel        percale       cotton solid          voile           sewing thread     

MacCullogh & Wallis              www.maccullogh-wallis.co.uk  + brick & mortar store
25-26 Dering St, London W1S 1AT
Small selection of organic cotton tape and webbing. Discount on large quantities. Postage is expensive

United States
Fabricworm                   www.fabricworm.com
Huge selection of cotton prints. Newest lines available. Regular sale days.
International buyers – read their shipping page so you know how many yards will fit into each size of postal box to get best value from your shipping costs.
cotton prints         cotton solids        canvas

Harts Fabric                           www.hartsfabric.com  + brick & mortar store
1620 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
Wonderful selection of a wide variety of organic cottons including prints, solids, good selection of jersey and small range of lace trim
cotton prints         cotton solids        flannel        jersey                  trimmings

Cedar House Fabrics             www.cedarhousefabrics.com   
An entire online shop devoted to organic fabrics!  Competitive shipping costs
cotton prints         cotton solids

Honey Be Good            www.honeybegood.com   
Another entire online shop devoted to organic fabrics!  An excellent range of solids, also some jelly rolls and a voile.  Check shipping page to get best value for money.
cotton prints         cotton solids        jelly rolls     voile

Pink Castle Fabrics                www.pinkcastlefabrics.com
Good selection of prints, plus a few solids.
cotton prints         cotton solids

Sew Fresh Fabrics                 www.etsy.com/shop/sewfreshfabrics
Good selection of prints. As this is an Etsy shop pricing is for calculated for individual units. Quite a good option if you only want a small amount.
cotton prints

Monday, 17 June 2013

An Amazings Crafting Class Giveaway

I love learning new techniques and new crafts, don't you?
Yes, of course you do, that's why you're reading this post!
Well today I have something very special for you - a free crafting class !!

Many of you have heard of, and doubtless used, Craftsy, a US based learning platform, but have you heard of The Amazings?
I certainly hadn't until a couple of weeks ago, and the more I learned about this enterprise, the more I felt strongly about what they are doing.
We all know that there has been a resurgence in crafting and there is a whole generation of young (and not so young) people  without crafting skills, who are very eager to learn. The Amazings works on the premise that it is the retired and retiring age range in this country who have these skills in abundance and they should be shared.
Amazings Co-Founder Adil Abrar says:

"There's nothing better than learning from someone who has a 
lifetime of experience, sharing shortcuts that you won't find in
most books or websites, and dropping in little stories that make 
the learning experience really special. We've worked hard to 
replicate that amazing-ness so people can experience it online, 
all over the world "

The Amazings are based in London and now have over 200 real life workshops run by the over 50s encompassing a wide range of crafts from Italian glass art to kiltmaking. But demand has far outstripped what they can provide, so they have now started to offer on-line classes.

I was privileged to be offered a couple of these classes and found them to be entertaining and informative. They have a relaxed approach and you feel very much as though you are just sitting in your lounge (which you probably are!!) with the teacher by your side. The style is conversational, with both the teacher and the student in the video and it is heartwarming and encouraging to hear the student asking exactly the same questions that are on the tip of your own tongue.
There are 8 online classes to date, with more coming very soon. You can choose plant pot mosaics......
 ....or silver clay jewellery making.
 Perhaps if you watched "The Great British Sewing Bee" a few weeks ago, upcycling a man's shirt into a summer dress would be more your thing.

As someone who is very conscious of what chemicals are in my food, my fabrics and also my beauty products I was totally inspired by Judith's Natural Beauty Products class and I'm now off to have a go at making my own face wash and lip balm!

Although I have done English Paper Piecing before, I still learned a few tips and tricks from Virginia's Heirloom Quilting class. She has a very down-to earth, waste-not-want-not style, using recycled fabrics. This is refreshing in a world where avid quilters can so easily get caught up in the rat race of always wanting the latest designer fabrics for their quilts. Recycling is, after all, exactly why the first quilters quilted in the first place!

The classes are economically priced, but thanks to Farzana at the Amazings,  I have a very special offer for you
You can get one of the 8 online classes from The Amazings for free by using this link
The only hard part is deciding which one to choose! Be sure to let me know which one you go for, as I enjoyed my freebies so much, I'm sure I shall soon be buying some more :)
Have fun!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Mariner's Compass Cushion

Sometimes, no matter how carefully you prepare, things just don't go the way you planned.
When the June theme for Le Challenge was announced, I decided upon an idea (the theme is Maritime) and ordered some fabric from the US. I had plenty of time, and was fully expecting it to be here when I returned from Toronto, but, alas, it wasn't! A few emails later and the company informed me that my parcel had, for some unknown reason, been returned to them. They promised to re-send it, but this, of course, meant I had to completely re-think my project for the challenge. (This was Tuesday, so I only had 3 days in which to make something!!) I spent a day and a half dithering, wondering what I could make in the time, and then suddenly it struck me - a Mariners Compass block! I have wanted to have a go at one of these for a long time, but I certainly couldn't make a quilt in a day and a half. I settled on a cushion, found a paper piecing template and used fabric from my stash.
Time was short. I had to stay focussed and concentrate. No time for mistakes!
So, I selected my fabrics....maybe not my first choice, but what I had on hand....

I colour coded on an extra template and kept it prominently displayed on my desk

I made a list of which colour each numbered segment was, and kept that on my desk too

By the end of Thursday night 3 segments were done, and by Friday lunchtime all 8 were complete

Yes, the seam ripper did come out a couple of times, but they were only small mistakes !
Joining the segments together was a little tricky. Just how was I to cope with all those seams coming together at the centre?

They don't sit as perfectly as I would have liked, but under the circumstances, it could have been a lot worse.
I decided I didn't have enough time to make a cushion front and quilt it, as I had originally planned, so I decided to appliqué the compass onto an existing cushion cover.
Hmmm, Was this going to work? I only had a 1/4" seam allowance on the compass, and a lot of seams to turn smoothly under. No time for errors.
I decided to follow a technique used by Sarah Fielke in her latest book "Hand Quilted with Love"

You cut a cardboard template the size of the finished piece and place it on the wrong side of the applique. You then wrap tin foil around them and iron, pressing the seam allowance smoothly under.

I do recommend using good quality tin foil. Mine was from the "value range" and had a tendency to tear as I was pressing the edges as hard as I could with the iron. But nonetheless, considering all those seams, I think I got a pretty smooth curve to my circle.

Sarah suggests using applique glue to secure your piece to the background whilst you hand sew in place, but I prefer not to use chemicals where possible, so it was good old fashioned pins for me.

The cushion was finished by 7 pm - just in time to sit in the evening sun and enjoy a little celebratory drink (In the middle of all this fast sewing my son and his girlfriend had phoned me from their holiday in Cornwall to tell me they had got engaged !!!)

Cheers !!

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