Friday 31 August 2012

Horse Shoes and Hand Grenades

We all know that close does not count except with horse shoes and hand grenades. So when I say I completed my bee blocks for August in August, I did, almost. Close is not good enough!

Worse yet, I didn't finish them because of my own numptiness. I had to send to my August mama and ask for more fabric in one of the bees because I didn't check what the iron was set on and (whisper) I scorched a piece of the fabric. I feel so stupid! Either way you look at, I failed. Sob!

So there you have it, two sets of bee blocks - almost. We have retro flowers for Katy, Miss August in the Brit Bee Round Two.

 And granny squares for Leanne in the Modern Stitching Bee.

I shall slink off into my corner now.


Thursday 30 August 2012

School Supplies

Done it. Two pencil cases delivered to the recipients. Tick that box! And put away all scraps of the denim before my machine really spits its dummy out. I think the bent needle was the shot across the bows and its less than subtle way of telling me it has had enough. On the bright side, if you are ever looking for men's jeans - these M&S ones seem really well made and the denim is very thick!

First up, Emily's pencil case. She wanted a flower too. And for me to use the denim. I used some It's a Hoot and my last red zipper. The pencil case is very simple for a simple reason. She doesn't actually need it. For those who don't live in the UK it sometimes comes as a surprise that children in schools here, especially primary schools, do not have to bring in their own supplies.

All pencils, work books, rulers, paper - pretty well everything but the uniforms - is supplied by the school. So much so, that when Emily asked if she could bring in a particular pen she liked last year to use in class she was told no. It seems that the perceived wisdom was that her having her own pen might generate pen envy and suddenly all the Y5s would want to bring in their own as well. This pouch won't exactly be filled with pens and pencils, but I am sure it will come in handy anyway.

Helen's pouch is bigger and slightly more elaborate. She wanted it to match the book bag I made her yesterday. I wanted it to have a special pocket for her geometry set. In the false hope that this would prevent her from losing mislaying it. Only time will tell if the pocket does its job. Her pouch is lined with the same fabric as the book bag. It is a quilting cotton that I have a heap of. I think I entrusted himself to pick some backing fabric up for me once when we live on the IoW. I know! What was I thinking?!

The fabric is neither to my taste particularly, nor as soft as most quilting cottons despite being from Moda. Tell me, are backing fabrics sometimes made more robust? Anyway, it hangs about in the bottom of a storage box and comes in handy for projects like book bags and little else.

Finally, I got some happy post today. I won a prize from Alison at Little Island Quilting a little while back. I now have a fantastic supply of threads and some great Egyptian white cotton fabric. All from Empress Mills, right here in the UK. So a big thank you to Empress Mills and to Alison for this fabulous haul. Cotton threads, polyester threads and invisible threads. Brilliant! I've never tried invisible threads. That might require a bit of experimenting on my part. Always good fun.

Right, I have bits of black denim to pick up from all over the dining room. That stuff gets everywhere. I also have a poorly child. Not complaining, just stating the facts. In the scheme of things Emily has got the timing just right. After any exciting summer stuff has happened, and before school starts.


Wednesday 29 August 2012

Deja Vu

It was about this time last year that I was busily deconstructing jeans bought from the charity shop and turning them into book bags for the girls. I was really pleased with the results, and so were the girls. Those bags got used, a lot!

But it seems that one of those bags is going into retirement as Helen deemed that a new school meant a new school bag would be needed. Funnily enough, me sewing during the summer holidays is okay if I am making something for one of them!

Yesterday we were out for a good portion of the day. Part of that time was spent in town. While there we raided the charity shop for another pair of jeans. This time we scored a pair of men's black jeans for £5.99. These work rather well with the school colours which are black and red. I sliced and diced those jeans, and, with a distinct sense of deja vu, they went from clothing to bag.

I did my best trying to photograph it to show it off, but the rain was tipping down and there was a distinct lack of places to get enough light as well as a half decent photo. On the bright side, Helen is pleased as punch with it and that's what it is all about.

I used some of the tricks I used last year in the construction. The waistband became the shoulder strap. I didn't use a pattern (just in case anyone was wondering) and made it up as I went along. This time there were pockets incorporated. A deep and wider one on the front, under the flap for snacks, etc. And on the inside I put a panel of the jeans with the back pocket still attached so that pocket can be used in the bad. I also used one of the tricks I picked up online in using a hair bobble as the button hole. Works a treat that!

Finally, to add a little colour to the front flap, I machine appliquéd a flower on.

Now, I still have two pencil cases to make, but we are about to go out for the rest of the day, so that will have to wait. I have one week from today to finish their 'commissions'. Then I can go back to doing stuff on my list of things to do. Woohoo!


Monday 27 August 2012

Finally a Finish

It is a holiday in England today. Therefore, hand in hand, the weather has been horrible all day. I am not complaining though. Because I did nothing today but concentrate on finishing my hexie cushion and am happy to say I did. Woohoo!

I love the many variations of what you can do with something as simple as these shapes -

There is something infinitely relaxing about sitting there quietly, needle in hand, stitching them together. Not that I am making a declaration to suddenly produce a whole quilt with epp hexies. But I would definitely think that they are in my life for good now.

Now, the big reveal (thank you for your patience).

I sat down amd worked out what to do with the back this morning, with some helpful suggestions received from some of you. I went with what was probably the easiest option. I pieced some fabrics in a rainbow strip to augment my sadly depleted Kona Charcoal supply. I did not go for a hidden zip, and probably should have.

I placed the zip down the middle of the rainbow fabrics and, despite several attempts, failed to get the fabrics to match up their seams on either side of the zip. Deciding that perfection was highly overrated and that it was the back of the cushion after all, I went with the final attempt and am reasonably happy with it.

A little hand stitching made it slightly less boring. And took the eye away from the mismatched seams. Well, that was my cunning plan at least.

I like the details I managed to get into this cushion. Favourite fabric scraps. Little bits of embroidery. Hand stitching. My beloved perle cotton used in abundance.

And that is it. Finally, a project finished this summer. What a relief. I thought it was going to be a total washout just like the weather!

I am going to link this post up with a.squared.w who is featuring a Festival of Hexagons. If you have popped over from over there, then thank you for visiting. If not, you should head on over because there is some pretty amazing hexagon inspiration over there.

Festival of Hexies


Sunday 26 August 2012

Imitating a Sloth

Imitation may or may not be the sincerest form of flattery, but I have been doing one heck of a good job making like a sloth here. I have moved at record slow speed from one task to another, managing to keep the family fed, invite friends over for them, and little else.

I contemplate doing things, but taking the action from mind to productivity seems to be quite a problem. So please bare with me, there are only ten more days until school - and therefore routine - returns to our lives.

Despite that dire warning, I do have something to show you, which is the finished hexie cushion top.

This is different from anything I have done before. All that EPP, for one - then appliquéing it on the background fabric. The embroidery as quilting thing. I think it is even my first proper rainbow project.

I didn't plan the embroidered flowers. Just stitched them freehand in whatever style I wanted. I like some better than others (the yellow one and the wee little green ones are currently my favourites) but over all I think it makes for an interesting effect.

The little stitched 'ties' in the hexies took me way longer to do than I expected. I changed the colour of the thread as I worked my way round, to keep with the rainbow theme. It might have been time consuming but I like the effect of these too. It is fun when a project takes us out of our comfort zone and shakes up the sewing routine some.

Now, what one earth will I do for the backing?!

Thank you for all the comments about our plans to go ice skating. I have been on a  computer hiatus for the past few days but will get to the emails eventually. It was a great day out. The girls all had fun, and ate themselves into a stupor in Pizza Express afterwards. Emily also made a new friend. His name was Sebastian. He was instrumental in making the skating such a success for her. Without him I think she would still have been clinging to the boards two hours in.


Friday 24 August 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

You may, or may not, have noticed there was a distinct lack of cake in any of the photos taken on Emily's birthday. That was because she wanted to have her birthday cake today, because we are going ice skating and for pizza with two of her best friends. We will return here afterwards for cake.

On her actual birthday Emily blew out a candle, twice. One when it was stuck in one of the Japanese gyoza dumplings we had made. And again when it was stuck in a chocolate cupcake that Helen had made for her.

So today we made cake. And decorated cake. It has received the Emily seal of approval, thank goodness.

Emily has a penchant for those little sugar craft figures you can buy. She has been having them on her cakes since she was about three and shows no sign of growing out of them. This year she chose circus characters.

So today I will be accumulating bruises as various body parts connect with the ice. Canadian I may be but there has not been much ice skating going on in my life over the past few years. Cake will be devoured, and Emily will give out various little party favours she has made, including these Fimo phone fobs/zipper pulls that she has created - having learned so many wonderful tricks on how to do this from the amazing Shannon.

Today will be a good day, I do believe.


Wednesday 22 August 2012

Quilting - But Not as We Know It

I like when ideas fall into my head without thought or endless pondering. How I planned to quilt the hexie cushion cover came to me yesterday. It might not suit all, but I do feel it will suit the recipient - and it will hold the layers together which it is all about after all.

I think I will let the stitching do the talking for me. Easiest way.

I embroidered flowers, or parts of flowers, all around the charcoal border. I just went free hand and stitched what I wanted, only staying within the rainbow colour scheme.

For the hexagon part of the cushion I did one flower, on the really dark purple hexagon. The rest I am 'tying' down with three simple stitches, at the corners where three hexagons meet. I have a lot more of these to do still.

Besides being happy with this 'quilting', I am feeling really virtuous because I cleaned my oven today. That does not happen often. Thankless task. I cook. A lot. It just gets dirty again really quickly. But this time I have an ace up my sleeve. I purchased one of those Teflon coated oven liners. Next time round I should just be able to pull that thing out, clean it and shove it back in. Job done! Yes, I am more than capable of ignoring the racks and telling myself if the bottom is clean then all of it is clean. Really, perfection is highly overrated.


Tuesday 21 August 2012

Grabbing the Opportunity

This morning was filled with playing at United Nations Peace Keeper. I'd like to say it was fun but, you know, it was mostly laying down some hard truths, telling them to suck it up and get on with it. Maybe if the real UN did this the results would be different. Who knows? Not sure if it made much of a difference here. One child growing up and having a big change in circumstances (secondary school) and the other not seems to cause a certain amount of friction. They have never spent a summer like this before.

But it is what it is. I called in the cavalry this afternoon. Emily's best friend was home from holidays and she was the balm to frayed nerves that all of us needed.

It also allowed me a brief respite to cut and sew a border for my hexie cushion. I trawled through the stash and cut lots of 2" square scraps to follow the hexie rainbow around the edge. The original intention was for the rest of the cushion to be Kona charcoal but I failed to take into consideration that I only had a 15" strip in my possession. So I worked around it.

And I am happy enough with the outcome. Wonder if the eventual recipient is too?

I've worked out what to do for the back - think simple! - and need to get on with that. Then I will finally be able to tick a box of something finally completed. I need a finish. I entered the summer with some weird notion that I was going to get lots done. Ha! Serves me right for thinking that my days would be spent sitting at the machine, dining room doors wide open and listening to the bucolic sounds of my children at play.

Well, at least Sprinkles and Slush provide a neutral meeting ground for the two of them. The rodents have a purpose. Woohoo!

Susan x

Monday 20 August 2012


... Sprinkles and Slush.

Emily thought it most important that you got to know the latest members of our family. So she organised a photo shoot that she would like to share with you. She was also instrumental in making the mosaic so that you got a good feel the girls' new friends.

Sprinkles (Helen's) and Slush (Emily's) gerbils are now firmly ensconced in our home. I have nothing to do with them, other than cage transport when it involves stairs. The girls are responsible. I don't even feed them, the girls do in the morning. As they have only been here for two days I of course remain confident that there will be no change in this routine! Other than the water bottle leaking continuously the first night and trying to turn these nocturnal creatures into aquatic ones instead, there have been no problems. I have warned though, at no times do I ever, ever want to hear, 'But I don't know where there went!!!'

Humour me here, as I am trying very hard to be a tolerant mother and to keep my low level rantings about rodents to a mutter out of the girls' hearing. Tolerance I can do. Happy, happy aren't they sweet little things I most certainly cannot do.

And on to things that do make me happy. Fabric!! Oh, I just felt my mood lift with the very act of typing the word. I practised restraint on Saturday at the Festival of Quilts due to fund availability. The urge to just slap my card down repeatedly and buy every last thing that I wanted was incredibly hard to resist, but resist I did. here is what I got -

From the Eternal Maker we have -

I was quite surprised that faced with an assortment of wonderful coloured fabrics from the Pez line it was the grey that I was drawn to. The elephants are destined for a charm swap but I won't say which one (she says, humming innocently) because we are not supposed to have bought our fabric yet. The measuring tape fabric is just irresistible. I shall hoard it to use judiciously in pouches and the like.

From Backstitch we have -

Stash building colour. I need more good reds and purples. I have tons of blues and greens. Um, no self control here.

From Doughty's we have -

More stash builders. Doughty's are good for this as four out of five of these FQs only cost £1.75 each. I needed more oranges and the purple. Oh and the darker blue as most of mine are aqua. We are going to ignore the fact that I bought that one on the far end. (But it is a pretty shade and it didn't cost much.)

And from Pin It and Stitch I bought -

I would have loved to have bought so much more of Aneela's Cherry Christmas line but just having a FQ makes me rather happy. The other FQs are all stash builders, and in particular I am in love with the grey flowers. The ladies who run Pin It and Stitch - Natalie and Tracey - were brilliant, really friendly and lovely to talk to. They have the same taste in fabric as me so, quite frankly, I could have happily bought up their entire stock given half a chance. They also live on the Coventry side of Birmingham and are looking at organising some get togethers of like minded quilters. If you are anywhere within the area and would like to be on their contact list let them or me know. I rather like the idea of going on over and having a browse through their stock over cake, a cuppa and chat.

If that little haul is not enough, the fabulous Laura Jane gave me a bag of scraps and some Aurifil thread when I saw her. She gave me loads of Madrona Road scraps and, as I was already lusting after half the fabrics in the line, having these bits in person just makes me that more close to total addiction. They are amazing! Emily rather liked them herself. Thank you, Laura!!

Finally, I used my amazing tote bag from Nicky to haul my newly acquired stash items around for the day. I was so happy Nicky was with me because she got to hear every compliment I received for it that day and see what a covetable item it is. People drooled over it - literally.


Sunday 19 August 2012

Double Digits

My baby is ten. Not sure how that happened, but she is - and I am so proud of her.

I have had more fun going through the photos today, and getting all nostalgic. Sticking to ones taken on, or her birthdays, or involving birthday events was hard. So I will leave you with some of my favourite happy photos too.

Here's hoping Emily's next 10 years are as good as the first ten. Happy Birthday Emily!


Saturday 18 August 2012

Festival of Quilts 2012

It's late. I'm tired. But it doesn't matter. I had a brilliant day at the Festival of Quilts with Nicky. I arrived soon after opening, and there wasn't much left to the end of the day when I departed. Saw loads of friends. Incredible quilts. Lovely, lovely fabric. Can a day get much better than that?

Due to so much talking being accomplished during the day I am going to keep this post to a minimum of words for me. I shall show some photos and then collapse in a heap on this very warm summer's night.

Sorry, but some of the photos are less than perfect as I had to rely on my phone because I am such a numpty (a fact that has firmly been established over the past year). I put my camera on to charge last night but failed to turn the socket on at the wall so the first photo I went to take at the show my camera started flashing the low battery icon at me.

The people - (clockwise from top left) - Laura Jane, Nicky, Lucy, Nat, Trudi, Tula and Katy. Laura Jane introduced us to Tula because LJ knows all the cool people and Tula was cool, and lovely. Katy was loving her Sissix shirt. Seems they might be the in thing to wear at the retreat next summer. I also saw Deborah there and forgot to take a photo. I have been chatting to her online almost since the time I started blogging and last year she had my most favourite quilt in the show. I talked about it at the end of this post here.

The quilts - first up two of the quilts that Trudi had in the show and one that Hadley had on the Cotton Patch stand that she made using her Sissix. All three quilts were gorgeous!

Obviously there was a huge number of other quilts on show and I would be hard pressed to get photos of all the ones I loved so I have several mosaics showing some of my favourites or ones that just impressed me by the sheer skill involved in making them, whether they were in a style I prefer or not.

There were the miniatures. All of the quilts pictured below were teeny tiny. Some as small as about 6" square. Nicky and I reckon the one with the hexies used hexies that were no bigger than 1/4" each side. The detail in these quilts was astounding, and the patience it must have taken to make them beyond anything I possess.

The colour in some of the quilts bowled me over too. Fabulous! In particular I loved the one on the top left which was Hong Kong Reflections.

I also have a love of pictorial quilts and there were lots to catch my eye. I love the stone barn one!

One booth - I have no recollection of which one - had a divider curtain made out of wee little log cabin block cushions. It was like nothing I have ever seen before.

And I am always a sucker for seaside scenes so this quilt really appealed to me.

I am sure there is way more to show and tell, but that's all you are getting from me tonight. Nicky, Lucy and all the others are bound to have brilliant posts featuring better photos, and important details. My brain has crashed and burned and I think this is the best I can do.

Oh, I forgot to mention I bought some fabric. But it is almost 10:30pm and the you will have to wait until tomorrow so I can take some half decent photos. I am sure the suspense will have you up all night.


PS: And for those of you who want a good laugh. We got two new residents in this house today - of the rodent kind. I must introduce you to Slush and Sprinkles the gerbils real soon. When I can bring myself to get close enough to them to take a photo or two. Teach me to leave the decision to himself and then depart the house for the day!