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.