Monday 14 December 2015

Time To Join The Christmas Party

We all do the Christmas decorating thing at different times, according to our own traditions. And for us here it is usually the second to last weekend before Christmas. Now this does tend to mean that Christmas tree choice has been severely depleted. On the other had, choosing is super easy because there are only a few to look at and it is easy to eliminate the ones that you don't want in your house and pick the one that you do. Less choice can be infinitely better and lead to far less arguments.

So, this being the second to last weekend before Christmas, our house finally looks appropriately decorated. In the process of making it thus I thought I would acknowledge some of the lovely people who have added to our festive cheer with the things they have made for us over the years. There are too many to list and I apologise to anyone who I failed to get a photo of your make, but here are some of the things that are making me smile.

And more.

And still more.

And lest you think I never keep anything I make, here are three Christmas makes that do live with us.

Then there are items that came before the days of blogging and IG. Russian matryoshka Santas that I bought in Alaska when I worked on the cruise ships. A mouse choir made by a co-worker in Toronto, and a little elf family bought at a craft show by my father.

It's quite obvious that for me there is no theme to Christmas. It is all about memories and the joy they bring. It is the same for the girls. I have been giving them ornaments since birth so that one day, when they have homes of their own they will already have a box of ornaments each, replete with memories and history.

In fact, they have so many now that very few other ornaments make it to the tree. And this is okay because that's all part of the constant evolving memories that make each family unique.

I wasn't feeling very festive until this weekend. But it's all happening now. Just need some cold weather - after the school runs are finished on Friday that is.


Sunday 13 December 2015

Going In Circles

Three weeks ago, Jenny - the editor of Love Patchwork & Quilting - asked if I had the time to do an emergency make for the new magazine under her umbrella, Today's Quilter. This is a magazine catering to the more traditional quilter. I figured I could put a few things aside and manage to make a quilt in four days.

Shortly thereafter a big pile of Amy Butler fabrics and coordinating solids showed up at my door.

The quilt wasn't made to my design so I didn't have to come up with and consequently draw up the instructions for a pattern. I just had to follow a pattern. Not used to that! Needless to say I made a few silly mistakes along the way. The joy of making to your own pattern is (a) you tend to know what your next step is in advance, and (b) you can pretend it was what you meant to do all along if you 'do things differently'.

Here is the quilt that I made.

The pattern is really different and the only thing that made me think I wasn't going to be able to achieve the rushed delivery was the fact that I needed to cut out 128 fabric circles and 64 wadding circles. That's a lot of circle cutting! Thankfully my man came to the rescue. Never underestimate the power of a technical type of guy with lots of boy toys in the garage. One sheet of 1/4" thick template plastic and a band saw later and he had cut me two circles in the desired sizes.

Let's just say he's my hero. There was no way I could have done this quilt quickly without a total loss of sanity without the ease of using these templates and a rotary blade at speed.

The quilt is made by making 64 sandwiches of print, wadding and solid - which are turned the right way out. (Too difficult to explain without photos so really if you like the pattern the best bit is to get the issue of the magazine.)

The circles are sewn together and the overlapping curved bits sewn down when you quilt it. I know it sounds weird and complicated but it isn't. The cutting is the worst bit. The quilt goes together really quickly, honestly. Way quicker than I could ever have imagined.

And you get these really cool contrasts of prints and vivid solids, front and back.

I would make this pattern again. Especially as I have the templates ready made now.


Monday 7 December 2015

Pure Girlie Making

Sometimes what is required/requested is a purely girl, pink pouch. And I have pinks so I don't have a problem doing this.

First I pieced some hexies into two small panels. Then I played with some matchstick quilting on some linen. Next I machine appliqu├ęd the hexies onto my linen panels. Finally, I turned these two small panels into a pouch.

At first I was a little annoyed myself that I didn't think about the placing of the hexies so that they got caught up in the boxing of the corners. But then I looked at it a little longer and decided that although it was unintended, I rather liked the way it looked. Good thing really, because I wasn't about to fix it in any way that would be an improvement.

Here's what the other side looks like.

But my absolute favourite bit of making this is the stitching on the linen. I really enjoyed doing it and think I need to make a pouch of just linen, stitched like this.

I used five different threads - three Aurifil 50w in pink, white and red. The same Aurifil colour pink but in 12w. And a Mettler gold metallic I had in my thread box. So now I am mentally going through my thread collection and thinking about different combinations. I have to finish up any obligations I have, and the usual Christmas shopping, baking, etc, but I will be returning to this idea.

Watch this space.


Saturday 5 December 2015

Strawberry Whine

That is not a typo in the title of this post. I meant whine, indeed I did.

The binding is on the red and white quilt. And, having ignored this quilt for so long, I am in love with it again.

It is the border that makes this quilt for me. I think it would be kind of boring without it. But that's just my opinion. As it is I was happy to find that I still have a lot of photos saved on how I constructed the blocks so maybe I can get a pattern written for it after all.

But, what was the problem that made me walk away from it for so long. Well, if you look up at the top row of blocks you will see a mark between the second and third block. If you look more closely it looks like this.

Yeah, pretty huh?! And that was what made me bury this almost finished quilt for the best part of a year.

Last Christmas we did some entertaining, as you do. Included in this was a number of younger children and although I had the quilt folded and tucked away under and at the back of my sewing desk (which is in the dining room) somehow a strawberry made its way onto the quilt top and it was sod's law that it had to land on a white bit.

The problem really began not with the dropping of the strawberry but the fact that I didn't discover it for over a month, and by that time it was a dried up discoloured lump only identifiable by the fact that I could still discern strawberry seeds on the outside of it. The stain was well and truly set by then and I dealt with it in my usual manner - ignored it. Walked away, sulked, maybe stomped a bit, and pretended it didn't exist.

Until the past few days. Yesterday I applied three different stain removers (not at the same time), and did two washes of the whole quilt - with copious amounts of colour catchers and stain/colour magnets. (By the way, what did we do before these things were invented?)

And now I have a quilt I can live with.

By no means perfect, and I am not done trying to get the remains of the stain out, but I can happily put this quilt out for Christmas and use it now. I may fold it so that the faded stain is hidden but I am sure that's understandable.

It really is more of a smudge now. Sunlight, other stain removers and time will do the rest of the job. Meanwhile, on the absolutely bright side, I love, love, love how the quilting looks all crinkled up. The contrast of the white swirls to the red straight lines. The swirls stand out so much more now and the quilt is all soft and huggable.

What's not to like about that? Though strawberry eating will be forbidden anywhere in the vicinity of this quilt. Just saying.


PS: This is the only quilt I have ever made that I had quilted by someone else and that someone is my friend Trudi, Brit Bee original member and long arm quilter extrodinaire. She can be found here.

Friday 4 December 2015

Boy Stuff

I pulled some fabric to make a pouch, for a boy.

I felt the navy and orange, and very simple design fulfilled the masculine vibe adequately.

But I wanted a little bit of uniqueness happening, so I got out the 12w Aurifil thread and did nine rows of stitching on it.

That's the wonderful thing about sewing, how nine simple rows of straight line stitching can completely change how something looks.

Plus, I managed to use a metal zipper without breaking the needle on my machine once. Now that is a small miracle.


Thursday 3 December 2015

Red and White

Over a year ago I made a quilt. Then it disappeared from social media, and my life, completely. Why? Because I hid it under a pile of other stuff because something had happened that annoyed the hell out of me and I chose the ignore it and you don't have to do anything about it trick.

Well, I pulled it out of hiding. And I went over to my house, cut and attached a binding. Then brought it over to the house sitting house so I had something to work on.

I'll tell the tale of what happened to it when I have it all finished. I'm over it now because in the scheme of things in life it isn't that big. Annoying, but not life changing.

The binding is half sewn down now. It's a big quilt. My finger is sore. But I persevere. When I made up my mind to finish it I really meant that I wanted it done as soon as possible. And used as the Christmas quilt it was meant to be.


Wednesday 2 December 2015

House Sitting

I have been house and child sitting since Sunday. I still have my own lot to feed and do the school run for. I'm just juggling and it's working fine. Thankfully the 'extra children' leave for their school at 0730 which allows me enough time to hop in my car and leg it three villages over and get my two.

Needless to say my two were most concerned about the important things. Like would I remember to sort out their advent calendars for them.

They might be surprised that I (despite having remembered to have the calendars ready for them to stuff full of chocolate) have a different set of priorities.

Like should I sew first, or swim first. If you're going to house sit then this is the way to do it. In case you are curious, I swam first. I cranked the tunes and hopped into the blissfully empty pool. I like the gym I go to but the pool is never, ever empty.


Thursday 26 November 2015

One Thing Leads To Another

I talked about cutting triangles from the leftover fabric from the quilt I just made. And cut I did, in fits and starts. They were just little equilateral triangles, finishing at 2" per side.

And I played with the layout. I know I like colour. No secret there, but I am a stranger to unadulterated pattern all together. The solids I used came with the fabric line and they really work for me, giving somewhere for the eye to focus. Plus their bright berry colours really lift this for me.

So I sewed them together, and quilted them with a dark maroon thread. I must confess, I'm not very good at straight line quilting and using a thread that stands out is a bit of nightmare for me. Please don't look closely. Then again I didn't use a pin in making this so while some of the points worked rather well, others were not so fortunate. I was in a happy to be imperfect mood making this.

Today I turned it into a cushion. This whole project is not in my comfort zone at all. It's so busy. But I love it! Go figure. Now I have to decide who to give it to for Christmas. I've got enough cushions myself. For now. And I don't have enough Christmas presents sorted yet so it's a no brainer to use it.


Tuesday 17 November 2015

The Waiting Game

The courier company had a five hour window to pick up the quilt today. Five hours! Though they were supposed to aim for 10am. Fat chance. Obviously they failed totally and arrived ten minutes after I had left the house. Which would be why they had been explicitly instructed by the magazine to arrive before 2pm.

So I was stuck in the house all day. You might think I would finally get some sewing done, of the Christmas present type making. Well, I was working on the right holiday but in the food medium instead.

I got the Christmas cake made, finally. Every year I think I will get it done in half term. Every year I fail. Next year maybe I will aim for before half term and see what happens. I also got the mincemeat made. And then chilli for dinner. And got a chocolate cake all measured out and ready to mix as soon as the oven was available again. It's himself's birthday tomorrow. Cake is required.

I tidied. Minimally. I folded and put away laundry. I was truly having a productive day. More than I can say for the courier company.

Whilst tidying I went to put away the fabric leftover from the quilt I just made. All the pieces were odd shapes and sizes, and there were a lot of little bits that begged to be cut up into something useful rather than me trying to sort them into tidy piles. So I started cutting.

Look at the state of my Go! Baby cutting mat. I ordered a new one a week ago. They shipped it today. Out of curiosity, why does it take a company a week to put an item into an envelope? Hope it gets here tomorrow so I can cut more efficiently. Lots of these odd shaped pieces of fabric to go. The aim is to have enough triangles to make a cushion cover.

Maybe it could become a Christmas gift for someone. Then I could start ticking off those boxes. Do you plan to make gifts every year and every year think you have lots of time to get it done, and then suddenly it is the middle of November and you are left wondering how on earth that happened? Every damn year I do this to myself. Don't even ask when I always think I will have Christmas cards written by!

Well, if nothing else at least I'm consistent. One day I might be organised but don't count on it any time soon.


Monday 16 November 2015

Under Pressure?

Wednesday afternoon I got contacted by the lovely Jenny of Love Patchwork & Quilting, and now Today's Quilter too. They had a bit of an emergency. Could I make a quilt please? To be shipped off in less than a week. To someone else's pattern.

They would provide the fabric. It would arrive Thursday. I was out all day Thursday and thank goodness for neighbours who can sign for packages.

Friday morning looked like this after the school run.

26 yards of fabric and a sugar hit. I finished the quilt at lunchtime today - 74" square. It will be picked up by courier tomorrow. And that is probably the fastest I have ever made a quilt. Plus I think I will be able to reveal it in a few short weeks. Yay! No big long wait.

In other news, I can reveal who I made my Schnitzel & Boo Mini Swap mini for.

Yes, seriously! Over 1,000 people in the swap and I get a quilting friend I have known for over four years and have been in bees with for most of that time. You might think this makes it easier but it doesn't. I felt the pressure so much more. Katy says she likes it and I can only presume she is telling the truth. No sign of my mini from whoever made for me yet though.

I sit and wait. And watch others receive their's. And mutter to myself 'Well, I'm not getting that one then, am I?!' over and over again.


Wednesday 11 November 2015

My Favourite Make Of 2015

We all have quilts that we fall in love with a bit more than others. And this here is most favourite that I have made this year. It just is.

It's in the latest issue of Love Patchwork & Quilting, and I have been aching to show you this one for what seems just about forever. It is made entirely with Robert Kauffman Essex Linens and is so tactile. I fell in love with linens just that bit more when I made this, and sort of want to make more quilts with them. Lots more.

I also am happy with my design because it sort of (maybe) looks like paper piecing but isn't. Obviously. Because we all know me and paper piecing are not best friends, or on a speaking basis half the time. This is made with HSTs and HRTs and is easy peasy to make. My kind of quilt!

I also used just about every shade of Aurifil I have in my stash for the quilting, trying to match the colours to each and every linen used in the stars. I matchstick quilted the stars and then stippled the background.

I love how LOQ photographed the mini with its white background and binding on the white wall. Makes it look cooler than anything I ever did to it. I kind of need a photographer on hand at home to make all my blog photos look like this.

I have to say that two years into receiving commissions from LPQ I am really enjoying the adventure. Until the day I got the first email from them it never occurred to me to try and get anything I designed into a quilting magazine. Now it seems to have opened up more avenues of creativity for me, and pushed me that little bit further in what I make and do. Just for that I thank them profusely.

If you live in the UK and are tempted to subscribe to the magazine they currently have a great offer on to try three issues for £3. If you follow this link you can find out more - special subscription offer.
The offer is good until December 8th.

And I'll have quilts in five of the issues next year. Just saying. (Okay, every issue is full of fantastic designs by truly inspirational quilters. I'm just happy to figuratively hang out with them on occasion.)


Tuesday 10 November 2015

Winter Photos

With the weather being crap (as nice as I can word it) and daylight  hours being limited, my photographs are taking a decided turn for the worse. Sorry, but things will improve - about April.

Meanwhile, I have been reminding myself that I know how to sew. I seem to have had a break from the machine. It wasn't intended but sometimes these things happen because, quite frankly, you needed it without realising it much.

I have sent off my Schnitzel & Boo Mini Quilt Swap parcel to my secret partner. As there are about 1,000 people in this swap and we were told our partner could be from anywhere within the group rather than one sub group it has been a little more difficult to keep track of the minis that I loved and hope maybe might be mine. In fact I kind of lost track of the fact that I would be getting one.

So, I sit and wait for the postie to deliver. And hope that my partner likes what she receives. I made a little extra for her. A wee pin cushion.

It would probably look better in natural light. In April then.


Friday 6 November 2015

Schnitzel & Boo

I finished my mini for the Schnitzel & Boo Mini Swap. I actually finished it before half term but we have already established that I disappeared for a while there.

So here it is, machine quilted with some hand stitching details.

Here's hoping my secret partner likes it. Now just to finish some little extras and I am ready to post.


Thursday 5 November 2015

A New Addiction

Social media is great. Follow lots of people and you are bound to get new ideas. This newest one cme from Jennifer at Ellison Lane. She was showing covered buttons turned into magnets on IG.

Yah, you know it. I was straight online ordering supplies. The next thing I knew it I was cutting fabric and making these.

Holy hell, these are fun to make. And totally addictive. I went diving into my fabric, fussy cutting.

The larger size I made are about 3/4 inch and the small ones 1/2 inch. I've ordered magnets to glue into the back. Needle minders and fridge magnets galore. Little extras for Christmas presents, or for swaps.

Next up was choosing all the HR fabrics that had fussy cuts of the right size.

I'm not the only one hooked either. Emily made a rainbow. (I think she would make more than that if I would give her free rein to do as she likes with these supplies.)

I ordered fifty of each size. I have now had to order more of the 3/4 inch ones (yes, I've made fifty already). And might just have added fifty 7/8 inch ones to the basket too. Forgot to order more magnets though. Excuse me, I have some more shopping to do.


Wednesday 4 November 2015

I'm Back

Apologies, half term happened. Family took over as it is known to do. We had a great time. My mum came down and we took the girls to London for a few days. The highlight of which would be going to see Miss Saigon. I had seen it years ago but the girls wanted to see it and I had no arguments. We ate, a lot, as we do. Chinatown was on the list of places to go as per normal.

Then we came home and the next morning we were off to Southampton to import their best friend from the Isle of Wight. This visit covered Halloween. The girls are on the cusp of growing out of trick or treating. I will miss it.

Helen and Chloe went as twins, and chose not to actually trick or treat, just to come out for the fun of it with the friends that we joined for the evening. Helen got to practice her make up skills.

Emily was still good with the whole thing. Yay!

And suddenly a week had passed. The girls were back in school yesterday. I'm back to routine today. Hopefully sewing will commence tomorrow.


Friday 23 October 2015

Issue 27

Issue 27 of Love Patchwork & Quilting came out and I have two projects in it. First up I made a Christmas tree skirt. I wanted to make one because we don't have one. LPQ wanted one, but not traditional. I was happy with that.

Happy colours with a touch of gold and silver in some of the fabrics. Some gold thread used in the quilting. For me the right balance of seasonal and modern.

The other projects wasn't a commission. It was something that popped into my mind one day. I had it pictured in my brain, working out how to make it, and couldn't get rid of the idea so I sat down and made it. Thankfully I took a few notes along the way. Because when I was done I was so chuffed with it that I sent photos to Jenny at LPQ and asked if she was interested in having it as a pattern. She was. Yay!

It's a giant needle book/pouch with the pouch being an integral part of the back cover. Then on the inside of the front cover I put in little pockets for pens/seam rippers/whatever fits. And I used some of my cherished Farmdale blossom fabric. Thank goodness my imaginings worked out. I would have hated to have wasted any of it on a big mistake.

And, I have to say, it is a really easy pattern to make. Seriously, it is.


Thursday 22 October 2015

Lucky Me

I'm almost finished my current commission and then I can start the next. Hopefully with time to make some Christmas presents on the side!

And look what I have to make the next commission with.

This is the whole range of L's Modern from Lecien Fabrics, with some white and some yarn dyed linen mix in black.

I am in heaven. This line is just perfect for me. Blenders in jewel tones running the gamut of the rainbow. Bliss, pure bliss. I just need to make sure I finish one project before I start the next.


Wednesday 21 October 2015

Small Things

Horribly sad things happen to wonderfully nice people and it is just so hard to wrap my head around the sorrow of it all sometimes. This happened with Nat, who I met at the Festival of Quilts several years ago, when her and her husband lost their beloved younger son recently. 

Her friend Lucy immediately stepped into the breach to do what quilters do - make a quilt for the family to bring them a little bit of comfort. Lucy asked for simple LV blocks made with nine 4.5" squares. Easy peasy and who wouldn't want to contribute in this small way?

Lucy now has enough blocks to make a quilt for the family and one for each set of grandparents too. I love this community we are a part of. Always so supportive.

Meanwhile, one of the lovely ladies on IG - @gotchacoveredquilting - was diagnosed with breast cancer. She asked if anyone would be willing to make a hexie flower for her so she had a hand project to work on through surgery and treatments. And she asked if people contributing could put their name and country in the centre so she would have a record of everyone who was a part of this quilt. Yet again a small and easy thing to do for someone.

Being able to contribute in these tiny ways makes me feel ever more part of this wonderful quilting world that we are a part of. If we can't give a little to others in life then why one earth are we here? 


Tuesday 20 October 2015

Playing Catch Up

Good God, time is moving faster than my brain these days. So many things going on and I'm not finding the time to come and tell you about them. So I shall endeavour to catch you up over the next couple of days.

Last week was particularly busy because we had Emily's German exchange student with us. She was a lovely girl but had very little English. Seeing as how our German is even worse there was a lot of silence, long uncomfortable silence. Unfortunately. And she brought nothing to entertain herself with. Nothing. Not even a book. I know, because I asked.

Oh well, we did our best and she certainly wasn't unpleasant, just very quiet.

During the week there was lots of taxiing back and forth as the day trips for the German students often returned at entirely different times to the school schedule. Add on top of that the fair was in town. Helen went all three days. Emily went twice. Our exchange guest once, as that was all that fit in her schedule.

Then on Saturday Emily and I took our guest to Birmingham for the day. We live about halfway between London and Birmingham. Obviously you are aware that we go to London as often as time and budget allow. We love London. The girls have both been to Birmingham on school a school trip when they were in Y8. I went once about a dozen years ago.

My apologies to all that is Birmingham. It was brilliant and you can tell by all the developments happening that it is only going to get better. I think we will return when the Christmas market is there. Planning it already.

The Selfridge's building is iconic. And the new New Street Station - which I got an abysmal photo of - is going to strike an equal architectural mark on the city.

Another new landmark is the Birmingham Library. It is known as the wedding cake, and you can see why.

Whilst there I found out it was the largest library in Europe. Having had a good look around I can well believe it. It is as striking on the inside as it is on the outside.

The space is so user friendly, with outside spaces as well as inside, including ping pong tables available for use. I like that.

We had lunch down by the canal where more regeneration has been happening. Really, for someone who has lived so close to this city for so long I was blissfully ignorant. No longer.

We did venture into Selfridges. And got sucked into the loveliness that is Cath Kidston because it turns out Emily rather likes her. And it also turns out there are some very covetable items out right now. Plus prints that are very Heather Ross in nature so therefore right up my street.

Sewing notions too! I fell in love. Not with the notions, but with this.

I had to have it. It was essential to my mental well being. It's a cookie jar, just in case you can't tell. It's no secret I like cookies. And I bake cookies. I needed this to put my cookies in. So I bought it.

Then we missed a train and had to wait another 50 minutes. So we went back to the mall. And there was a misunderstanding about the time to meet up again. We had to run for the train. I'm not renowned for my coordination. I went ass over tea kettle (or shall we say ass over cookie jar) in our mad dash. And we still missed the train. Seriously!

But I was okay, albeit with bruised knees and pride, and the cookie jar survived.

The same could not be said about my new mug though. Sigh.


PS: But someone's thoughtful and loving husband has ordered her a new replacement mug, because he can be lovely like that.