Patterned Stairway

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Blog, Helen's Garden | 20 Comments

We had been living with horrible, dingy brown linoleum covered stairs for years in our home, so a few years ago we decided to rip out the lino & sand and sand and sand, and then paint our stairs white… white treads, white risers, white handrail. With already almost-white walls, it was a refreshing change that brightened the space immensely. My intention had always been to place a happy runner, much like this one, all the way up the centre to add some colour and personality. But with two young kids traipsing up and down those stairs every day, sometimes with pretty muddy feet, and the occasional cup of tea or glass of wine finding its way to them too, I thought better of it.

tamara kate - stairs before

And so we have lived with our white stairs, until a few weeks ago when Greg lamented the lack of colour and personality for the umpteenth time and my very talented big sister came to visit. She’s the kind of person that listens to a problem, proposes a solution, and sits down and tackles and completes it, all in the space of an evening or weekend (me? well, I apparently take about 3 years). First she said we should paint them, or paint a runner along them, or paint the risers, or wallpaper the risers, or… wait… you have fabric… let’s cover the risers with fabric! Easy as that.

Well, almost. We debated trying to cut perfect pieces to fit right to the corners (my stairs are a tad wonky) and adhere them with wallpaper paste, or cut rectangles of thin hardboard (Masonite) to fit, spray them with spray glue, wrap them with fabric (1″ to 2″ extra all the way around, turned smoothly to the back) and seal them with two coats of a water-based Varathane (makes them easy to wipe clean). We went with the second option. This way, when we tire of the colour and patterns, we can easily switch the fabric out for another batch.

We worked production style, with Greg cutting the wood to fit and Kari and me cutting and wrapping fabric. The Varathaning was done over two evenings so as to give them ample time to dry between coats. A generous strip of double-sided tape at each end secures them to the stair risers, and voila! Pretty, pretty stairs with whimsy and personality!

tamara kate - stairs with fabric risers

We chose a variety of patterns from the Dahlia colour way of Helen’s Garden and added Spot in Starfruit from Origami Oasis that matches perfectly.

tamara kate - stairs with fabric risers detail

Next project? Some artwork and photos for those blank walls. But my sister has gone home, so who knows how long that will take me.

Baby Quilt with a Super Soft Back

A sweet little girl has just been born into my husband’s family. The perfect occasion for a baby quilt, handmade with love, ready to keep this wee one all cuddled up.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt

I was told her room is fuchsia, lavender and pink with butterflies and hearts, so I designed this accordingly. The heart is made of a selection of my fabrics from Flight Patterns, Helen’s Garden and Quiet Time and the background is random lower volume fabrics with the odd bit of mine thrown in for little mini-bursts of colour. I like how the grey softens the very vibrant heart.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt detail

Once the top was complete I searched for a soft option for the back. I didn’t want the quilt to go unused because it wasn’t cuddly enough for a baby. And I also didn’t want to use anything with man-made fibres, so minky was out (not to mention the stories I’ve heard of it shedding all over one’s sewing machine while stitching it). The search for a natural and soft substrate was on. So I contacted Michael Miller Fabrics to see what options they had and I hit the jackpot. Organic cotton fleece or sherpa.

michael miller organic fleece & sherpa

They are both ultra soft and cuddly, so I played eenie-meenie-minie-mo & went with the fleece. The picture above shows a piece of each, sherpa on the left, fleece in the centre, with a piece of the fleece once washed (far right). It shrinks, so pre-wash is necessary, and it also fluffs it up, adding extra body, which is lovely.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt fleece back

I hand quilted diagonal lines throughout. I am determined… my next quilt will be my first machine quilted attempt, but for this one I opted for patient, caring stitches.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt fleece back2

A last finishing touch. All done, ready to fly across the ocean to France to welcome this little one into the family.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt embroidery

{ Happy Sewing } End-of-Year Teachers’ Gifts

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in { Happy Sewing }, Blog, Helen's Garden | No Comments

The end of the school year tends to creep up on me every time, usually without notice, till it whacks me in the head at the last moment. This year I was given a two-week warning. With one week to go, I thought it time to make some thoughtful gifts for those patient soles who take on the task of educating my kiddos (and so much more). I followed this great tutorial by Noodlehead and made a bunch of sweet pouches.

zippered pouch

If you are thinking of doing a number of these, be warned… The 1st, you will follow carefully, step by step, the 2nd, you will pay attention to the tutorial a tad, but you’ll start to feel you’ve got it, and just when you feel complete confidence with the 3rd and put the iPad away, yes, that’s when you’ll put the zipper in upside down and not realize until the very last step.

zippered pouchx3

I made the medium size with a semi-soft interfacing (not very technical, I know), but next time will use one with a bit more rigidity, or slightly sturdier fabrics, like a linen-cotton canvas perhaps.

I asked the kids to choose a few fabrics for each teacher, wanting them to have input and to tailor the gifts to their vision of the recipients (they are observant little people: “She always wears small prints” or “She likes darker colours”). I then added complementary or contrasting coloured zippers.

zippered pouch 2

I particularly love the detail of the little fabric tabs on the end of the zips.

zippered pouchx5

Here’s to a fun summer and to all those teachers’ well deserved breaks!

Twice in One Week!

Posted by on Apr 11, 2014 in Blog, Helen's Garden, Les Monsieurs | 2 Comments

Just had to take a micro moment of your time to toot my own horn, ’cause this surely doesn’t happen often.

Castle Blocks - Multi

While browsing the ever-influential Print & Pattern blog on Wednesday, I came across an image of one of my fabrics, Castle Blocks from Les Monsieurs, in a post about her “faves”. I thought “… well, that’s pretty cool!” and went about my business.

But then this afternoon, just a mere 2 days later, look what else was there

Enchanted - Plum

In a post with an intro that went like this: “… for our regular Friday eye candy (where we post designs just for the enjoyment of gazing at lovely patterns)”.

For any of you who aren’t familiar with her blog, Bowie Style (not her real name) writes one of the worlds most influential design blogs. The biggest names in design-savy manufacturers and retailers keep a close eye on her leads.

Well, thank you for ending my work week on a high note, Print & Pattern!

And thank you, dear readers for indulging me if you’ve made it to the end of this post! Have a great weekend!

Helen’s Garden Parterre Quilt

Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Blog, Helen's Garden, Quilts, Tutorials | 2 Comments

Oh my goodness, this post has been a long time coming.

helen's garden parterre quilt

I promise you, there is a story & a good reason for its delay, partially of my own doing, partially delivery company gremlins in the works. Long story short, this, my favourite quilt was lost, but now is found. Whew!

And so many of you have asked for a tutorial, so without further ado, this is where you will find it (you will find an instruction-download button if you scroll down the page). Enjoy!

{ Happy Sewing } … Thread Catchers

thread catcher

One of the challenges given at our last Quilt Guild meeting was to make a thread catcher. What’s a thread catcher, you ask? (I asked the same thing). It’s a small bowl for holding all those gazillions of cut threads we accumulate on our table (or floor) while sewing. It took me a moment to warm up to the idea, but once I got going … well, I have found my new favourite thing to make.

helen's garden fabric buckets x3

I designed these little fabric bowls or buckets with a folded top edge to be able to show off two co-ordinating fabrics, in one sweet little functional item. These three all use fabrics from my Helen’s Garden collection. If one adjusted the size, just imagine all the treasures one could keep or display in these lovely bowls.

knitting supplies

favourite plant

little friends

They can, of course, be used as a taller container without folding down the top edge. This really nicely shows off a favourite pattern, like Enchanted below.

helen's garden fabric bucket enchanted

In hopes that you are as excited about making these as I am, I have been working on a pattern for a myriad of sizes that will shortly be available here. Stay tuned …

{ Happy Sewing } … Hand Warmers

Searching for an idea for last minute teachers’ gifts, hostess gifts or stocking stuffers for a loved one?

tamara kate ... hand warmers

I was doing just that yesterday when I came upon this lovely post for scented sachets. Alas, I had no easy access to a bushel of lavender on a cold snowy day, but I had the idea of making them into hand warmers … exactly what one wants on such a day. In place of lavender buds, I filled mine with rice (I started with sushi rice, and am now onto basmati, as I have gone overboard with stacks of these pretty little packets.

A simple, quick, pretty gift idea that uses fabric scraps you have lying around your studio. A wonderful plus is that they can also be stuck in the freezer to be used as eye packs to refresh tired peepers. Should you feel the urge to whip up a few of your own, read on:

What I used:

– For each warmer you will need 2 pieces of 4″ x 4″ fabric. I chose a number of co-ordinating patterned fabrics from Flight Patterns and Helen’s Garden for the tops and more simple, yet colourful, fabrics for the backs (Parterre in all its colour options worked wonderfully)!

– ¼ cup rice.

– co-ordinazting thread for stitching together & for the little tuck in the centre of each warmer.

What I did:

As I made a gazillion of them, I did it production-style. A Match your fronts to backs, right sides together. With a ¼” seam allowance, sew along one edge and, without raising your machine’s presser foot, continue onto the next warmer, and the next until they all have one edge sewn. Clip all those extra chains of sewing between each & start again with another side, then another. You should now have 3 edges sewn shut on each warmer. B For the final edge, start sewing about 1″, then backstitch to secure your sewing. Raise the presser foot, skip about 1½”, lower foot and sew to the end (remember to backstitch both ends so your stitches don’t get pulled out when turning your warmer right side out).

hand warmers instructions

C Clip all your corners diagonally, being careful not to clip any stitching. Turn warmers right side out, using a pin to get the corners as sharp as possible.

Use a funnel to fill with rice. Using a slip stitch, close your opening, then make a knot right at the fabric surface, insert needle just beside the knot & exit about ½” further along. Gently pull your thread until the knot pops through to the inside of your warmer, thus nicely hiding it. Cut your thread where it exits from the fabric.

Last step is the stitched tuck in the centre. Measure or eyeball the centre of the square. Starting on the back side, insert needle with unknotted thread through to the front, leaving an end 3″ or 4″ long at the back. Make a stitch about 1/8″ long, and bring your thread through to the back. Repeat this stitch 3 or 4 times. Pull both ends of the thread taut, then make a double knot. Insert both loose ends into the warmer with a needle, coming out ½” away. Clip ends at fabric surface.

I even made a little instruction card to go with them that you can download to print here:

Hand Warmers Instruction Card

I chose to go with sets of 6 that co-ordinate well together. Place your instruction card at the bottom, stack 6 lovely warmers atop each other, tie with a pretty ribbon, and voila! Pretty present to go!

tamara kate ... hand warmers with ribbon

hand warmers happy holidays

Helen’s Garden Purses

Posted by on Dec 18, 2013 in { Happy Sewing }, Blog, Helen's Garden | No Comments

Helen’s Garden has started shipping to stores!!!

To provide an initial bit of sewing inspiration, I wanted to feature these gorgeous bags that Jennifer Ladd so creatively whipped up for me for my Quilt Market booth.

Helen’s Garden offers so many colour and pattern matching possibilities, that with just a few fat quarters of fabric, some stiff fabric interfacing, and some lovely wooden handles (a Google search brings up many possibilities), one could create a stylish gift.

With some careful cutting, patterns can almost seamlessly align as above. Or one could go all out featuring one eye-catching print like the Dahlia Medallion (I could not come to part with this one, so it is an early Christmas present to myself).

The interiors of Jennifer’s bags are as artfully done as the exteriors. She uses a contrasting fabric as lining, in this case Enchanted in cream, and even a little pocket in yet another fabric, Pollen.

If you are loving these pretty purses as much as I am, and are not quite so craftily inclined as to try creating one for yourself, Jennifer should soon have these and possibly others made of Helen’s Garden fabrics available in her Etsy shop.

My Quilt Market Booth

Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in Blog, Helen's Garden, Quiet Time, Quilt Market | 11 Comments

Welcome to my Quilt Market booth!

In comparison to my last booth at Quilt Market, this season’s was simpler, with a greater emphasis on the quilt. I have discovered the wisdom in some of the most rudimentary of quilters’ rules (measure ACCURATELY, press seams, obey the scant 1/4″ seam allowance, etc), and making quilts for this season was less stressful and more rewarding … I am learning.

Once again this time, I was presenting two fabric collections in one tiny space. The collections’ colours play off each other well and they met with a resoundingly positive response.

First up, I present you with Helen’s Garden:

Helen is my Mom. She keeps, and has always kept, a beautiful, inspiring garden. There is occasionally order within, but generally colour and scent abound. Her current garden includes a range of lovely blooms, as well as a forested area that wanders down to the ocean, wherein one can find berries, mushrooms, fiddleheads and other treasures. This collection is a little nod to what she has taught me.

I made some simple pillows that show off some of the collection’s prints in their two colour families. Spy some dragonflies? That’s Garden Dancers. And see those gorgeous bags, they were created by the very talented Jennifer Ladd. She makes the most lovely bags and purses and whipped up these with solid wood handles just for the show.

Here is another quilt I created, based on the traditional log cabin.

I completely lucked out this time to have my baby sister, Tanya join me for a few days. Here she is sporting a Schoolhouse Tunic  (by Sew Liberated) she made with my Pirouette fabric in coral. She had so many compliments on that tunic … she even had someone offer to buy it off her back! I am wearing a peasant-style dress of my own creation (sorry, no pattern yet available) in Enchanted in plum.

My other collection is for young girls … Quiet Time. It has two main prints, the Princess & the Pea (in lavender and robin’s egg) and the Quiet Time print of girls reading in trees.

Those two sweet small quilts you see were created by the wonderful Brooke Sellman of Silly Mama Quilts. Brooke was completely up for the challenge of making pieces to highlight the two focal prints. Stay tuned for a tutorial on each of these shortly.

The dress and short pyjamas came from my head, but I think these pj’s by Marie-Madeline Studio would be equally sweet in the Princess & the Pea fabric.

I made a modern Princess & the Pea bed out of queen-size bed pillows. The majority use Freckled in it’s many colour versions. I had grand ideas of doing a crocheted edge on each pillow, but after the third, I came to terms with the fact that a crochet hook is not my favourite tool, and opted for pompom fringe for the others. The top pillow is edged with a beaded trim I had purchased years ago, that I was happy to finally put to use. Oh, and the “pea” is a wooden ball covered with some Floating Blossoms.

I will be writing up tutorials for both of the Helen’s Garden quilts in the next while. They will be posted when the fabric becomes available in stores. December 15!

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!