I used to do a lot of swaps via Instagram and I loved them. I received some beautiful things in return and I learnt something new from each one I joined. Eventually, I reached a point where I wanted to focus on projects for me or gifts for friends and family and now I only seem to do one or maybe two swaps a year.
Early in January, as I lay in bed trawling Instagram on a Saturday morning, I came across the call out for a swap hosted by the Brimfield Awakening girls, Kim and Nisha. I’d seen some beautiful blocks popping up in my feed (as shown in the photo below) and had mentally added Brimfield to my ‘to do’ list, this seemed like an ideal opportunity to give their patterns a try.
I love getting the email with information about my partner; what they like and don’t like, in relation to the swap theme. I was lucky with my Brimfield partner to see they shared favourite fabric designers with me, that always makes things easier as I get to work with fabric that I love.
My ‘design process’ for swaps usually involves pulling out all my fabric, spreading it around any available surface and then walking away for a while. Eventually I hit on a fabric I definitely want to use and then I start to build around it, I don’t always tidy away my initial fabric bomb. When I finally get round to tidying up my sewing room, it’s a bit like peeling back wallpaper in an old house, revealing ever older fabric pulls the deeper down you dig.
After a few false starts I decided I wanted to use this Tula Pink All Stars Owl as the focal print. To make sure it stood out, I used some of Tula’s designer solid fabrics in colours that could be found in the print. I also love to fussy cut, I actually find it hard not to do some sort of intentional cut or positioning in most of my sewing.
I’ve done plenty of english paper piecing before, but the thing that was new to me with the Brimfield block was sewing curved pieces. As soon as I started to try and sew with my usually whip-stitch style I realised that it wasn’t going to work, the pieces didn’t sit well together and so my stitches were clumsy and very visible.
A different tactic was needed, enter the ‘flatback stitch’, demonstrated here by Karen from @KarentheDIYaddict. This method lets you hold the pieces flat in your hand as you stitch, catching only the fabric at the back of the pieces so giving a lovely, invisible finish from the front. It is perfect for curved piecing, give it a go if you haven’t tried it.
It can be tricky to stop the pieces from moving around when held like this, but you can stabilise them with washi or masking tape. You can also get these magnetic clips from SewTites, I managed to find a stockist in the UK and I love them, very useful. Just to clarify, that’s my opinion, I’m not connected to them in any way and haven’t been paid to promote them, I genuinely like them.
The block came together pretty quickly, the pieces are a good size so you do feel you’re progressing fast. I opted to have a centre piece in my block, but you can also choose to leave that empty and allow your background fabric to show through.
Next, you applique the block onto a background fabric. I left my papers in until I’d sewn all the way round, then removed them from the back, but you could probably carefully remove the papers first and pin securely. After that, baste and quilt as desired. I did a bit of hand quilting (not my forte) on the Brimfield block and then free-motion pebbles to give texture and (hopefully) enhance the centre of the block. I finished it with an echo line around the outside of the block and a free-motion swirl design across the background.
For binding I chose the same Tula Owl fabric, giving a flash of colour around the edge whilst also blending with the central block. I added some hanging loops, unsure of how my partner prefers to hand mini quilts, hopefully this will work for them.
So there’s the story of my #Brimfieldawakeningswap and how I learnt to embrace curved epp piecing with the flatback stitch. The finished mini quilt is currently winging its way to my mystery swap partner (well it’s not a mystery to me, but it is to them). I’ve been sharing photos of my progress so I don’t think I’ll be ruining any surprises here, should they happen to visit.
This is also my last finish for Q1 of the finish-a-long, just in time to link it up before the list closes. Thank you for reading, if you made it this far, do you do swaps too? Feel free to leave me a comment and tell me what your favourite swap has been.