Classes with Helen Butcher
Helen can’t remember a time when she wasn’t making something. As a young child her greatest joy was the ‘useful box’ which lived in the cupboard under the stairs and was the repository for empty egg boxes, cereal packets and yogurt pots. All fantastic stuff to feed a creative mind.
When Helen was seven her Grandmother taught her to sew and opened her mind to a whole new avenue of creative expression. Helen designed and made her first full size cross-stitch sampler before she was nine, and made various garments for dolls and bears and eventually herself, creating patterns by the simple method of lying on the floor and drawing round herself, much to the amusement of her Mother & Grandmother – both accomplished dressmakers.
Helen worked in graphics, and then advertising, for ten years. Then, she and her partner had the opportunity to quit the London rat-race and move to Yorkshire to run the family’s marina business. During this time, Helen taught herself patchwork, quilting, beading, origami, marquetry, doll making and canvas work. She discovered that, not only does she love crafting and the challenge of learning something new, she also had a hitherto undiscovered competitive streak deep inside which prompted her to hone these new skills to the point where she regularly won awards in the handicrafts section of shows.
Fifteen years later, Helen decided to combine her experience of running a business with her enduring passion for crafting to start LITTLE PATCH POCKETS. Helen creates patchwork designs and writes patterns so you can make your own unique, lovely things. She also offers kits, classes and workshops where she teaches her designs.
Helen loves using three dimensional illusions in her work. According to Helen, “I love to create an illusion of three dimensions and many of my designs are based on this concept. I do occasionally use curved lines, but since my mind seems to work in straight lines I find lots of inspiration in architecture, engineering and even mathematical concepts. I like accurate piecing and often create my own foundation paper pieced blocks in order to achieve the precision I enjoy.”
Helen is an avid follower of the Modern Quilt Movement as well as a great believer that quilts are for using: “for your three-year-old to drag down the garden, for the dog to sleep on and to go in the washing machine.”
Helen’s Top Tips:
- Colour choice is key to 3D work. Always select three shades of the same colour, or light, medium and dark tones of the same colour.
- Auditioning fabrics is one of the most useful skills any patchwork artist can develop. A quilt needs contrast of tone, however subtle, to accentuate the design.
- Never use a fabric with a low thread count or a loose weave, however good the colour. Thinner fabrics do not handle well, will fray quickly and will not wear well in the finished quilt. It is worth investing in good fabrics.
- Many of the fabrics at the cheaper end of the market cover up this deficiency with excessive amounts of surface ink and stiffening treatments – the secret is to turn to the back and check.
- Always look for a fabric that is likely to shrink only minimally. Some shrinkage is to be expected, especially when combining fabrics from different manufacturers. Look on this as part of the charm of a washed quilt. However, cheap fabric with an open, loose weave will shrink hugely when washed, ruining your work.
Cubitz with Helen Butcher
In these two quilts Helen has used Oakshott fabrics to great effect to create the 3D illusion. So, you need to think about the tonal and colour value of your fabrics against each other.
Helen shares with us how to strip piece when creating the section of the hexagon. And rather than get involv...
Rattle Modern Quilt with Helen Butcher
Helen has used a delightful range of Oakshott fabrics they called 'Fruit Salad Selection' to create this very striking quilt. But the pattern is so adaptable that you could also make tablemats.
Since it is a modern improve quilt, you don't have to worry about seam allowance, so great for begin...
Kittenopolis with Helen Butcher
This is a very easy improve block that Helen shares with us. She starts with two x 9" squares, but larger would work too, and then just slices through!
As you sew the pieces together, so you will end up with wonky edges. At the end you just trim up to create a perfect square.
The smaller qu...
Meet Helen Howes and Helen Butcher
This modern quilt made of very modern cats, was a joint effort that the two Helen's hoped would cheer up their dear friend Kate during her chemotherapy. They organised the making of the blocks, and they had enough to make this lovely double size.
Kate Percival, one of our delightful quilting f...
Meet Helen Butcher
3D illusion quilts are not as difficult as they may look. However, you do have to select your fabrics carefully so that you can create that illusion. Light, medium and dark is what’s necessary, and remember to audition the fabrics, as they may change their category depending upon their neighbo...
Square Dance Bag with Helen Butcher
This is another simple, modern cut and slash design from Helen, utilising squares as a starting off point. These can be any size you like. Pre-cut layer cakes would work of course, although Helen has chosen to work with Longshotts from Oakshott Fabrics.
You get to make three blocks at the same ti...