Thursday 31 January 2013

How To Get Your Children To Cook

Some of you seem amazed at what Emily (and Helen) can prepare in the kitchen when she turns her hands to it. My best piece of advise - start them at a very early age. And be prepared to clean up a mess, making it more important that it is fun rather than proficient. I think the photo below was taken the day we made pasta. Kids love that because if you make enough then they can treat the leftovers like playdough. That day they rolled out an extra long bit and put it on the floor, adding eyes and a tongue to make a snake. If you leave a pasta snake on the floor long enough it will dry there and need chiselling off. Ask me how I know.

The heart was necessary.
Emily needed a modesty screen.

Then one day, if you are lucky, they will make food like Emily did last night.

Thank you to everyone for all the lovely birthday wishes to Helen. She says thank you, as do I. And Emily says thank you for the chef comments.


Wednesday 30 January 2013

Quilting Free Zone

There's no sewing happening here today. That's because there are more important things happening.

The cake is made, encrusted with sweets as requested. Emily is in charge of making the meal for the birthday girl. She volunteered. Yesterday she made the Japanese dumplings. Today she is going to make sushi, Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, crab & cucumber salad, and chocolate truffles for desert. I shall be the sous chef.

Before I go off to do this I will show you the handy dandy new dumpling maker we bought. We are perfectly capable of making them by hand but things do go quicker with this gizmo.

A huge Happy Birthday to my Helen. Couldn't be prouder of her if I tried.


Tuesday 29 January 2013

Quilting Done

Singing the Blues is moving on to the binding stage. Woohoo!


Monday 28 January 2013

Small Accomplishments

Making things is sometimes the easy bit for me. Posting them to people seems to be much more difficult. Today I buckled down and spent the whole morning wrapping, sticking (stickers), writing (postcards), packaging and addressing. Then I went to the post office and upped their profit margin for January considerably. Remind me to post things as and when I make them in the future. I am sure it is less painful that way.

Then I did some quilting. I am so close to being finished. So very, very close.


Sunday 27 January 2013

Abducted by Aliens

Well, quite obviously I haven't been abducted by aliens because here I am writing a blog post. I was at a loss what to use as a title for today's post so opted for the completely absurd. Because it has been a busy old weekend and there isn't a lot to report round here. All the sewing stuff had to be put away as we had guests for Sunday dinner today. I even (sob!) hoovered and tidied.

What I can tell you is my orange thread has arrived so normal service can resume on the quilting front tomorrow and soon - I hope - Singing for the Blues will be another finish for 2013.

My creative eldest, Helen, made me a quilted basket to her own design, telling me it was to put all my things in when everything had to be put away (like today). Then I wouldn't be stomping around, cursing, when I couldn't find anything when I brought it all back out again. Okay, those are my words, not hers. Hers were ever so nice, along the lines of 'I made you something, Mummy, for you to keep your things in.' I interpreted much more meaning into it than might have been intended. The basket is lovely though, and so nice to see that she can make her own binding, finishing it by hand. My help was not asked for at any point in the creation of this. Bless, that does make me ever so happy.

Finally, I got some lovely post from a fabulous friend. She had a box and card bobbins sent to me so I could organise my embroidery threads. I used to use my embroidery threads quite often, until the girls got involved as well and all my threads seemed to turn into one big tangled heap. So now I have no excuse, as pretty soon I will have them in exemplary order. I just have to track them all down. Give a child a thread and she'll bugger off with the whole darn lot. And, as I discovered in one child's bedroom in my search, she will think that embroidery threads are ideal for crocheting with. Which may explain why they have been expressly forbidden to touch my perle cottons.


Thursday 24 January 2013

While I Wait for Orange Thread...

... I may have started some new projects. My deja vous epp tote bag is a first quarter FAL challenge. A new quote embroidery for a hoop is just purely for fun.


Wednesday 23 January 2013

Living, Learning, Sewing

Thank you so much to everyone who offered advice on how to improve my straight line, close quarters quilting - here on in to be known as elephant butt quilting.

Things I know now that I didn't know then. Stitch length - increase it. There is no set rule about length but it seems the preference is anywhere from 3.0 - 4.0. Always sew from the same edge. This decreases fabric drag. Adjust your tension and play a bit on a test piece before you have quilted a whole bunch, like I did. Always use a walking foot - about the only thing I was doing right.

I have increased my stitch length to 4.0 - which I would have never even considered two days ago. I tried various stitch lengths between, and I am happy with where I am at now. The results? It looks better, the quilt sews better, and I even think it feeds through the walking foot more smoothly than it did with those little 2.4 stitches I was using as I have never ever adjusted it before now. I think it deals with the drag you get at times better, but that might just be my imagination. What a difference!

The stitching from the same edge is equally liberating. I am not trying to say I have solved all my quilting problems in one go, as I will always be happily imperfect, but I have certainly improved things a huge amount I do believe.

I have also managed to tweak my tension correctly. I do wonder if using little stitches was part of the problem. I also know that if you have to rip out some stitches they come out much more easily if you had your tension incorrect. The rows of stitching I have decided to redo come out like a breeze. Probably not something I want to know about stitching I have in a quilt!

 And now I await more orange thread. Then I can finish it up with all my new found knowledge.

I will leave you with some photos taken in the waning hours of daylight today, while Emily attacked a local bump hill. It is always wonderful to watch your children have a good time, and to see that they are blessed with your own level of coordination and skill. Poor child!


Tuesday 22 January 2013

Going Around the Bend

Not really, just couldn't think of a different post title. The only bend I am going around is this one -

Please, no comments about tension,
drunken lines, and the like.
The imperfections shine out in this photo.

That is a photo of the back of Singing the Blues. I realised that I love the orange thread, but I don't have enough of it. So I searched and I searched online for the same shade actually available to buy. I found it, but it does mean that I cannot complete the quilting until the thread arrives.

So I am going to pick your brains as well as pick out a few threads. Yesterday I talked about wrinkles and those of you who know more than me let me in on a little secret. When doing straight line quilting to always start from the same edge. This went against everything I thought as I always tried to alternate thinking that would balance things out. Obviously I am wrong because I took out a row of particularly bad stitching and did it again having taken the advice.

Other's of you were like me and didn't know this secret either. So, I was wondering, for all of us who live somewhere we can't get to quilt classes, or have circumstances that prevent it - would you all who know all impart some of your wisdom for us, please?!

Start from the same edge. Okay, we got that. How about stitch length. I seldom play with it, but got to thinking that a longer stitch length might be a good thing. Would it be a good thing? If so, how long is the right long? What else? What else should we all know to get by on the basics for straight line quilting?

Please tell all.


Monday 21 January 2013

Cabin Fever

Day four of being snowbound. Food is running low and we are starting to look at each other with a hungry gleam in our eyes...

... Yeah, okay, there is a Coop just a short walk into the village and while it did run out of cabbages there is still food on the shelves there. The roads are pretty clear once you get off the side streets (UK councils do not see the reason to grit anything but main roads for those living away from these cost saving measures) and I could have got the girls to school today, only the schools were closed again.

I can deal with this. What I can not deal with is the television being on for more hours than any brain should ever suffer through. I may have mentioned that to the girls this morning in less than polite terms. I directed them to this Pinterest board (not mine but a great one if you have kids) and instructed them to pick a craft, any craft we had the supplies available for, and then to make something.

They settled on salt dough. Fine by me. They had to walk over to the shops for more salt, picked up one of their friends on the way, and have been giggling away on the kitchen floor ever since. Much better than telly!
If they get tired of the salt dough - some creations shown below - then they are thinking of making the mice in walnut shells as shown below - instructions for which can be found here.

While they giggle, and make things, and squash things repeatedly as far as I can tell, I have been sewing. I've started quilting Singing the Blues. I began by making lines with my ruler and a hera marker and then attempting straight line quilting with the walking foot on.

Doing lots of close together straight line quilting is a learning curve. One thing I have had to improve is the propensity to have the fabric pucker. I don't like puckers!

You can see the improvement between the two photos above. I will be pulling out some stitches I do believe, or this quilt will look more wrinkled than a geriatric elephant's bottom. We don't want that.


Sunday 20 January 2013

How Do You Plan Your Quilts?

Do you use patterns? Prefer to use one fabric line? Or do you mix and match fabrics? Do you sketch out your vision first? Or do you just dive right in like I do and hope for the best?

I 'see' quilts in my head. I plan them out there, and then I get on with cutting fabric - often with a hopeful wish that I've got it right. I worry that what I envision in my head won't be the same in reality. Sometimes I am disappointed.

Not today!

I've had Singing the Blues in my head for a while. When I first started cutting I thought I would surround all the plus signs with Kona white and just have them floating there. But when it came time for piecing I decided to anchor those plus signs to the edge a little bit. Just enough to give it some balance. And I am so happy with how it looks so far. I am also happy I replaced the lime green plus for a bright orange one.

That would be me with one trouser leg hanging out its welly.
Helen's wellies may I add.
She has finally caught up with me in shoe size.
And please note, it is still snowing.
While I sat and sewed these together I planned how I was going to quilt it. And in the early hours of the morning I suddenly knew what binding fabric I would use. It is not a big quilt (as you can see for yourself). Emily asked who it was for and I told her it was for me. Apparently this is a good thing as I am 'always giving everything I make away'. So says the child with two cushions, one pillow cover, and a quilt on her bed! I am thinking of hanging it up somewhere. Maybe in my fictional future sewing space.


Saturday 19 January 2013


I am very contented today. It's a good feeling.

* I slept until 8:30am. Very rare for me.

* I lay in bed reading for another hour or more. Bliss.

* The snow was still here, and I didn't have to go anywhere. Emily's dance class was cancelled. Phew!

* Hot chocolate - made by the girls. And foodie reading whilst drinking it.

* The lovely smell of a chicken roasting in the oven.

* Time to play with fabric, move bits around, contemplate, and move bits around some more.

* All the laundry and ironing is done for the weekend.

* Sewing time.

Yes, I am very contented today. You?


Friday 18 January 2013

An Executive Decision

We woke up to a white world this morning. Only it was the same white world as yesterday. Barely a flake fell during the night. So really the girls should have gone to school, but I made an executive decision that earned me major brownie points in their eyes. I decided not to take them.

Snow was forecast and I just knew that the schools would close. By not taking them in the first place I saved myself being called out by the school when the roads were less than nice, right?! Snow started but ever so lightly. I started feeling really guilty about the decision.

Then finally it started snowing properly. And by 10:30am the primary school was declaring that they would be shutting and half an hour later the secondary joined in the fun. Vindicated! Woohoo!

We do have proper snow hats,
she just chose to look more jolly.
So a snow day meant a sew day. Happy, happy me. I set to with a vengeance and I got another Stitch Tease block made. This time a 25" square block for Annabella. She asked for curves, and rich colours. I think I delivered, but again all I can show you is a heavily pixilated version. And a little bit of a tease for Annabella.

Finally, our postman came through the snow, the wind, the blizzard conditions a bit of snow and delivered my Moo stickers. Now all I have to do is keep the girls off them.

The stickers measure 7/8" and I do love them. I am rather fond of the close up of the hugs and kisses. I think it will be a nice way to seal a parcel.


Thursday 17 January 2013

Stitch Teasing

I am a member of Stitch Tease - And International Mystery Quilt Bee. What this means is that over a period of one year we are each making a strip or large block for each other but the recipient does not get to see their blocks until they receive their completed quilt top, scheduled for April.

I am very behind in my blocks but working on redeeming myself. I have now completed Hadley's strip block and I can't show you. Well, other than a heavily pixilated version - and some sneaky peeks for Hadley. She wanted a scrappy strip in blues, aquas, teals, greens, greys and oranges. With a few squares of white thrown in the mix so your eye had something to rest on. She may have mentioned Heather Ross fabrics in a less than subtle hint. I hope I have produced something to her liking, though I won't find out until it is too late.

Meanwhile we are enjoying a nice long cold snap by UK standards. It is neither hugely cold nor a long period by my reckoning (that's the Canadian in me sneaking out), and I am loving it. I only wish it had happened before Christmas. I would have loved that to get me in the mood. Everywhere outside is covered in a heavy frost and it is beautiful. The tress,  hedgerows, fields, everywhere. It makes me smile as I drive the girls to school. I've tried to photograph it but have failed to capture the true beauty.

It is supposed to start snowing again during the night. I am going to do a grocery shop before today's school run and then cross my fingers that the girls get a snow day tomorrow, and I get a sew day.


Wednesday 16 January 2013

Postcards From (Canadian) Abroad

Do you remember this time last year when we were all ordering Moo cards? I love my tiny Moo cards. And it was great fun exchanging them at the Retreat, or slipping one into a package when I sent it off.

Only I never have any note cards. Some of you have brilliant little blank cards that you hand write lovely messages in and it makes me feel like all of you are grown up. And I am not. So I decided to remedy the situation. I ordered me some postcards from Moo!

Now I can play at being a grown up and write nice little notes when I send out parcels too. Though I doubt my hand writing will be as neat.

I am particularly fond of the 'I Quilt So I Won't Kill' post card. I think it expresses my personality so well.

If anyone is tempted to order some for themselves then Moo allows you to download as many photos as you like. I chose six photos for sixty postcards. I could have downloaded sixty photos, but I am not that patient, and deciding which one to send each time would be so very, very hard. I just might have ordered some stickers too. They haven't arrived yet.

I will rudely add on that if you do get tempted to buy some and you follow this link it lets me get money off my next order for referring you. Far be it for me to not take advantage of the situation.


PS: Donna (Donna Quilts) you've gone no reply blogger which is why I can never reply to your comments. Sorry.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

A Quilter's Hug

It is a fact, unfortunately, that bad things can happen to good people. It sucks, but it is true. For me it is happening to someone who has known me longer than anyone else in the world other than my family. Really, she remembers the day my parents brought me home from the hospital. That is a long history to share.

She lives about 2,500 miles away. I can't be there. I can't make dinners, hold hands, bake cookies, provide transport. All I can do is offer a hug, in the only way a quilter can from a distance. Salt Air is for my friend. I am hoping that every time she uses it she will know that I am thinking of her. When words fail me maybe actions might make do.

There are things I wish were better about this quilt. I wanted it to to be perfect. But I am not going to talk about them at all. This quilt is not about that. It would have been nice if I could find somewhere to photograph it that didn't get strong shadows cast upon it though. A beautiful day for photos, and shadows. So this is my favourite photo. Only half of the quilt but no shadows. I can compromise!

Salt Air is the perfect fabric for my friend. She is an outdoors person who loves the ocean. I can never picture her living far from it. She is strong, and funny, and so very determined. Bad things can happen to good people, but they can overcome them. I truly believe that.

I quilted words all around the border. It is my message to my friend.

hope * joy * happiness * faith * harmony * unity
family * friends * love * laughter

Well, the words are there, though they were very hard to photograph. You'll just have to trust me on this one. The binding was scrappy  made up of all the leftover bits, and a couple strips of Kona Charcoal thrown in. I quilted the front with Aurifil 50 2021, and the back in a variegated dark golden yellow Aurifil 40. I just did a looping stipple all over the HSTs. It measures approximately 58" x 66".

This is my hug for my friend, a quilter's hug.


Monday 14 January 2013

Mother Nature Can Be Cruel

After waiting all weekend for snow, the girls awoke to a white world this morning. Not enough white to have school cancelled though. As Emily said, 'So not fair!' They squeezed some time outdoors in before the school run. It wasn't even really light yet!

There was a reprieve for one of them though. The snow continued to fall and the primary school caved in and closed. Emily got half a snow day, which she declared better than no snow day.

My North American friends need to try and not laugh here when they see how much snow got school cancelled. Things work different here. And we get so little snow that, quite frankly, I am happy for the extra playtime the school closing gave Em.

I just want to know why she is using my kitchen broom
to sweep the driveway.
While the snow fell I pinned and sewed. I got Salt Air basted. And as I have a very poor success rate keeping the backing flat while basting I tried something new this time. I pinned the bugger to the carpet, and it worked. I don't have a non-carpet floor big enough for basting so taping it down is  not an alternative. I was quite pleased that the pinning worked.

I then did a big loop-the-loop stipple all over the HSTs of the quilt, and some FMQ words around the border. Now all I have to do is trim, sew the binding on the front and hand sew the back of the binding down.

I may have my first quilt of 2013 finished tomorrow. Maybe.


Sunday 13 January 2013

If You Can't Beat Them...

... join them.

It is a stunningly beautiful day here, and as those have been few and far between for so long it would have been wrong not to have gone out and enjoyed it. We were too relaxed to venture out on an expedition. Instead we just went for a wander around our village. Explored some new nooks and crannies including some paths through the woods that we haven't tried before.

It is good to stop and look around and realise that we live in a beautiful place.

After spending years in this part of the country I never grow tired of the architecture. Maybe it is the Canadian in me just revelling in the age of some of the buildings. Or maybe I just know lovely buildings when I see them.

Taking the time to walk we get to see the finer details that are missed when in the car. Like that wee round window over the sundial. That is just so cool.

On our way back from the walk I finally got round to doing something I have intended to do for ages. There is a small library in the village which regularly has its books rotated from the county library system. The girls are proud owners of their own library cards. As voracious readers this was heaven for them. You should see how many books they came home with.

I think blue skies and library cards make up for no snow. That and eating candies at my computer. Sometimes you just have to do it.


Saturday 12 January 2013

Singing the Blues

No, I'm not in a mood or anything like that, despite the title of this post. Singing the Blues is what I am considering naming my next quilt. Because it is mostly blues. Bit obvious that really.

I laid out the fabric I have cut so far and had a look. It isn't going to be a very big quilt, but I do plan on lots of white around it. I am not going to have my blues going right to the edge. This is what I have so far.

I am already mulling over hand quilting ideas for this one, so it not being a big quilt might be a good thing. The layout above is just a trial one. I need the floor space back so I can baste Salt Air. Standing and looking at the layout creates constant change. I've already moved things round about a dozen times just to come to this arrangement. And the more I look the more my brain changes them. This will be one of those quilts that has more pondering time than piecing time put into it.

Unfortunately the weatherman was completely wrong and we only got enough snowflakes today to get the girls' (and my) hopes up. Therefore I could not ignore all responsibility and routine. Shame. Dance classes and grocery shopping does tend to eat into sewing time.

I do have a lovely stack of fabric to show you though. I never told you that I won something in the Sew Mama Sew giveaway day. I thought I would wait until you could see what my prize was. It's a good one, and the label on the stack says it very well indeed.

This gorgeous win of Stof Pure fabrics came from Erin - Billy Button Design. If you haven't visited her blog you should do. Erin is lovely, been part of the wonderful group that makes Mouthy Stitches such a success and makes fab things. What's not to like?


Friday 11 January 2013


... there will come a day when you come to see what I have been up to and you find me in a quivering heap in the corner. The latter part of 2012 was not exactly stellar. We got through it. Onwards and upwards, and all that stuff.

So imagine my face when I received not one, but two emails from the school today. One to inform parents that head lice have made a come back. Oh joy! Always a fun nightly ritual to see if any critters have landed in unwelcome territory. But to make it even more fun, the second email informed parents that ringworm had also been diagnosed in a pupil. Really? Really! No one, absolutely no one, warns you about this stuff when you decide to become a parent. I dearly hope that for once in their lives my children manage to avoid getting whatever is going round.

Meanwhile, I did housework today. Please try not to faint in shock. Even I have to give in eventually. As a reward I allowed myself to do a little fabric cutting.

Photo taken in artificial light.
Colours shown in no way relate to the actual colours of the fabrics.

Curious what I am up to? Maybe I will get it laid out this weekend and be able to show you. Maybe I will be outside playing in snow. We will find out if the weatherman is correct in the next 24 hours.


Thursday 10 January 2013

Bee-ing a Good Girl

Today I concentrated on catching up on a couple more bee commitments. Happily I can tick two more boxes.

First up was Hadley's massive 24" block for Brit Bee. As she used her Sissix to cut the HSTs there was no trimming required so this block was not nearly as much work as you might think. I love her choice of greys and blacks paired with pinks and oranges.

This was followed by two Quatrefoil blocks from the Modern Blocks quilting book. These were fun and easy as well, as I did most of it string piecing and they went together a treat. These are for Jennie - Clover and Violet - and she asked for a white background with bright fabrics. Definitely something you can find a bit of in my stash.

Next, I need to move on to my Stitch Tease blocks and work on these more. These are the blocks that we are not allowed to show until the final reveal in April. They are massive blocks, and many of them involve lots of inspirational thought and planning. Love a good challenge I do!