Sunday, 22 February 2015

Catching up: Incoming!

It's been a while since I blogged - I foolishly thought that I would get back here before Christmas but was suddenly very (ridiculously!) busy making unexpected Christmas presents (more about that in my next post) and then January and February have been full of feeling horrid, spending afternoon after afternoon in bed and trying to claw back some energy.  (For those of you who don't know, I have M.E. which means, among other things, that I 'spend' my (limited) energy quickly (even on 'little' things like brushing my teeth) and it takes me a long time to recover from exertion (mental or physical), leaving me feeling like death warmed over.  It tends, for me, to be particularly bad after Christmas as all the present buying and wrapping, little bits of socialising, etc., leave me exhausted and I don't usually 'bounce back' until around Easter) which means that I don't tend to have any energy left for blog writing, even though I've really missed it and you!)

In order to try to be here more frequently (and it would be hard to be here less frequently and still say that I have a blog!), I'm trying a new, for me, way of writing my blog posts: I'm uploading photos to Flickr on a regular basis and writing titles, tags and descriptions as I go. Then, as well as filing them into my usual albums, I'm putting them in a 'pending' album so that when I'm up to writing a blog post, the photos are ready and waiting.  A few days ago I copied and pasted all the codes into a draft post so that now I'm able to write a few sentences (or a whole post), I can get straight on with that rather than faffing with adding photos and getting them centred, etc.  It remains to be seen whether it's any better than my usual 'do it all at once and then be too exhausted to do anything else for a week or so', but I think it's worth a go!

As I'm so far behind with my blog, I thought I'd do three posts to catch up - one (this one) for lovely things I've received in the past couple of months, one for the things I've made (yes, there have been some!) which were for other people, and one for the rest of it.  Then my hope is that, with my new regime (gosh, doesn't that sound organised?!), I can manage to blog more frequently (yes, I said that before.  More than once.) and then maybe I won't have to keep doing catch up/extra long posts.  Let's just park that there and come back to it in six months, shall we?  You have my permission to assess my progress on this target in kind!

Right *claps hands* Let's get cracking, shall we?

In December, I was lucky enough to win a prize in the Scraptastic Tuesday link up (you can see what I linked up in my next post!) with Nicky and Leanne and I won these lovely mini charm packs from Justine and Lisa at Simply Solids:

Scraptastic Tuesday prize!
Cushion?  Baby quilt?  Who knows but I'm going to have fun deciding!

Also in December, this wonderful book arrived, which I won from Jacquie Gering, who has a wonderful log cabin-based quilt in it:

Look what's just arrived!
Far too long has been spent flicking through this and thinking of new quilts to make!

December was a good month for lovely things arriving at my house as my brilliant penguin cushion arrived from Joanne.  I had been eyeing up the Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays book ever since I first saw Joanne's polar bear and penguin cushions but had never got round to buying it.  Then, in a stroke of luck, I won Joanne's giveaway and the prize was my choice of cushion based on Joanne's past cushion makes.  Of course, I picked a penguin or polar bear cushion but couldn't decide which so left the decision to Joanne.  I was thrilled when this chap appeared at my door:

He's here!!!
He looks a little puzzled in this photo (I think it was the rapid journey north!) but he soon settled in!

He (and he's definitely a he) still needs a name, though.  I was going to call him Percy but then remembered that Joanne had a penguin called Percy.  Then I chose Pete, before realising that Joanne also had a Pete the Penguin.  That left me stumped and I haven't managed to think of another name for him - if you have any ideas, please shout!

A month or so later, this fabulous cushion arrived from Sarah, again it was a prize in a giveaway (I seem to be going through a lucky patch at the moment, long may it continue!!):

Cushion from Sarah!
Made from Happy Go-Lucky, the first half of which  aptly describes how I feel when I look at this cushion!

My settee of friends just keeps getting better and better!!  (Ignore the brown box behind the settee, it's the mirror my mam got me for Christmas, which needs putting up!  I really need to learn how to use a drill and which rawlplugs to use where!)

My settee of friends!
Clockwise, starting at the back: Joanne, Yvonne, Leanne, Trudi and Karen, Sarah.

Also arriving through my letterbox was a parcel from Trudi (yes, another giveaway!), containing an Aurifil 'Gleeful' thread collection and some fat quarters of Priory Square by Katy Jones and I can confirm that it's even better in real life than it is in photos, which takes some doing!  What you never get from photos is a feel for the beautiful quality of  fabric from Art Gallery Fabrics, which well deserve their tag line of 'Feel the difference' - you really can!  (Take a tip from me: if you have no intention of buying fabric when you pop into a quilt shop for thread or whatever, then never, ever pick up a fat quarter of AGF as you won't be able to put it down.  Several fabrics have followed me home because I failed to take my own advice.)

Aurifil thread collection (Gleeful by Caroline Hulse) and AGF Priory Square (by Katy Jones)
Once I've stopped admiring this fabric I may be able to put it in the wash and then make a decision about what to make.  Until then, I'm having fun looking at it!

Then, to round off my winning streak, I won a voucher for Fat Quarter Shop in the Q4 link up of the Finish-Along with Katy.  (The Finish-Along changes host each year and can now be found at Adrianne's blog.)

I had fun spending my voucher, especially once I found the Art Gallery section of the shop!  I decided that I would get fabrics that I liked, rather than fabrics for a specific project (which is my usual method of shopping but I already have my next (for me) project lined up and don't dare think about starting another yet!) and I also decided that I would get fabrics for me, rather than for the quilt I need to make for my youngest niece, which could be the only new project I start this year!  The top three fabrics on the left-hand side are Mam's (she's planning to make her first quilt this year and needed some extras to fill out a layer cake) but the rest are mine!  I also got a charm pack of the Kona summer 2013 colours as I have a gap in my colour card - I'm going to chop 1" squares off each colour and add them to the card...I just need to get round to it!

Fat Quarter Shop/Finish Along winnings!

Last year I had some felt Christmas decorations on my FAL list but I couldn't make them as a few seconds pinning on a pattern piece left my hands red and itchy (I'm allergic to wool!) so I passed the kit to a friend's daughter.  She had enough felt left to make me a tree, which I got slightly too late to put on my Christmas tree so it will make its debut in December!

Felt decoration

I also received a couple of Christmas presents from friends:

Some lovely blue and white fabric from Salley (I'm under orders not to start embroidering the houses!!):

Fabric from Salley
I think these will become a drawstring bag.

And a fabulous book from Nicky (there was also one of her fabulous toadstools but this seems to have escaped the camera!):

book from Nicky

Finally (yes, I've reached the end of all the things I've received in the past couple of months!), I took part in Cindy's rainbow charm square swap and, just after Christmas, she sent out the charm packs - we each sent a yard each of two fabrics of the same colour (or some people did - I ordered mine (yellow) from Cindy's shop and Cindy did the cutting for me!) so we have two charms of each fabric for a total of 56 fabrics and 112 charms.  (I think that's right, someone correct me if I'm wrong!)

FSQ charm swap 2014
Some of these will go in my ET blocks and the rest will make their way into other projects - once I allow myself to start something new that's not on my FAL list

Archie didn't have the best start to 2015 (he was absolutely fine at 10am but by midday on New Year's Day his back had flared up again and he was back on strict cage rest) but he's starting to feel better and is even allowed a very, very short walk a few times a week (he gets chauffeured there and back so that maximum sniffing is catered for!) and has even managed to sneak into the conservatory for some sun and to check on his favourite wall:

Please release me, let me go...
Please release me, let me go....

Ah, my favourite's good to be back!
Ah, my favourite wall; it's good to be back!

Just a bit further and that patch of sun will be on me!
Just a bit further and that patch of sun will be on me!

Finally I have the sun on my back!
See?  I told you it would be!  (Only just, mind!)

Well, that's me done for now - let's see if my new blogging regime helps me come back sooner rather than later!

Thanks for popping in and thank you to all you wonderful friends who have sent me lovely things - I'm so lucky to know such fabulous people!

Monday, 1 December 2014

An unexpected break in transmission

Fresh Sewing Day

Oh, it's nice to be back online!  For over a fortnight I had no internet access at home (so could only check for vital emails, etc. when I went to see my mam and her laptop mouse pad is a little erm, temperamental, shall we say?  It likes to suddenly scurry over to one side and refuse to move, or sprint around the screen while you try to get it back under control, etc.  Not the most relaxing experience!) and I missed all my lovely quilting friends.  I haven't yet managed to get completely back in the swing of being online again and, quite frankly, I'm going to try to keep it that way as I feel as though I've got lots of sewing done while I wasn't able to read about what other people were sewing...

First, though, I need to say a long overdue thank you to a couple of quilty friends for prizes received:

I won a gorgeous cushion from Leanne (which happens to be made from the same pattern as my very first wall hanging/small quilt) and it's made itself quite at home with cushions from other friends (none of the cushions on my settees are made by me as I've been able to put them away and just use cushions from friends; how lucky am I?):

A settee full of friends
Cushions from (L to R) Trudi (screen printed byKaren), Leanne and Yvonne
Isn't it fabulous?   Thank you, Leanne.  In fact, aren't they all fabulous?!  My mam keeps trying to smuggle one out (no particular one, they take it in turns!) but I'm on to her now so she stands no chance!

I was also lucky enough to win an Etsy voucher from Kelli.  It took me quite a while to decide what to buy but in the end I decided to treat myself (or rather, have Kellie treat me!) to a pair of new embroidery scissors which I thought would be really useful when cutting small pieces of fabric (for hand piecing and appliqué, etc.) as one of the blades is serrated, which helps it to grip small or slippy fabrics and ribbons.  I've got to say that they cut beautifully and I think they'll come in really handy.  Thank you, Kelli!

New scissors
Despite the implication on the packaging, they don't cut with a pinked edge.  Unless I need a more powerful magnifying glass, that is!

They've been added to my 'collection' of scissors, which is growing nicely!  (Not pictured are my paper cutting scissors (I seem to have three pairs of those!) and my wadding cutting scissors.)

My scissor 'collection'
I have a pair of scissors in each hand piecing/quilting project tin as well as a pair on my sewing table and in my knitting/crochet bags.  I like to have a choice, as you can see!

I have a feeling that I've forgotten something, please shout if I owe you a thank you!  (And, obviously, my apologies for having forgotten!)

Speaking of lovely things from friends, November was my month to receive blocks in Bee A Brit Stingy and so far these lovely examples have arrived from Emily, Collette, Janet and Sheila:

Bee blocks are rolling in!

Thank you, bees!  I'm looking forward to the rest arriving so I can start playing with the layout, etc!

While I was cast adrift from the online quilting community, I managed to finish my Christmas Cherry quilt top (based on the Made In Cherry pattern by Sarah Fielke).  It's turned out a little larger than I intended (does anyone else manage to accidentally make big quilts or is it just me?  Surely not!) but I love it!  I don't have a photo of just the quilt top (the weather hasn't been conducive to outside photos as the ground hasn't been dry for about four weeks) so I just have this one of it laid out ready for tacking (the backing is a brushed cotton sheet which I dyed):

Christmas Cherry quilt layers, about to be tacked
I couldn't manage to get it all in the photo - I was already stood on the coffee table and couldn't get any higher/further back!

I've started hand quilting it with perle 12 in dark grey (Anchor 400).  It's not the easiest quilt to hand quilt as the combination of Warm and White wadding and a brushed cotton backing make it a little on the tough side but I'm enjoying it and, as I'm in no rush, I'm quite happy to reduce my quilting speed in order to get even stitches.

Hand quilting - the start!
Not quite all of that 'wiggle' has been quilted but it's been marked with a hera marker so shows up in the photo

Hand quilting - detail
I'm fairly happy with the evenness of the stitches, even though I'm having to stab stitch through the seam allowances as I'm finding it next to impossible to get a small enough stitch if I attempt to rock through them.

Hand quilting - the back
And this is how the stitches appear on the back - they're not the same size as the stitches on the front but I don't mind!

While I was machine piecing Christmas Cherry (a daytime task), I managed to get rather a lot of hand quilting (an anytime task!) done on my hexy quilt (I watched a lot of telly - the whole of the most recent series of Downton Abbey, among other things) and I've even managed to get a photo which shows the resulting texture:

Hexy quilting progress
The combination of a dull day and a horizontal quilt seems to have resulted in a good photo of the quilting texture - I'll have to remember that!

You may be just able to make out the section that is left to quilt, in the top left hand corner.  If not, here it is:

Hexy quilting progress - still to do
I think there are twelve lines left to go and then I can start marking the other (final) direction which is the remaining diagonal which doesn't go through the centre of the hexagons (I decided to avoid those because of the ridiculous number of seams at the centre of some of them!).

Some of you asked for photos showing my quilting so here's one (and there are others in my Flickr album) but my camera doesn't do 'up close and personal' so you can still only really see the texture rather than the stitches themselves.  Sorry about that!

Hexy quilting 3

I've also finished something on my Q4 FAL list but I'm afraid the photos are as rubbish as the light/weather:
Blueberry Park Pencil case
Note the lack of sky in the photo - that's because the fret had rolled in and was refusing to roll back out again!

This lovely pencil case was a kit by Karen (who has changed her name from Blueberry Park and is now 'Karen Lewis Textiles') and features her wonderful (hand drawn) screen printed fabrics.  I was very impressed by the way the design lined up on either side of the zip but that's entirely down to Karen's printing skills and nothing at all to do with me (it didn't occur to me to check it until the case was finished).

Blueberry Park Pencil case

I love the little tab on one end, it gives it a lovely finish.  The lining is a gorgeous (plain) lilac and works beautifully with the bright pink outside and navy zip.

Archie has been honing his camouflage skills:

Practising my camouflage - what do you mean you can still see me?
What do you mean you can still see me?
as well as assessing my quilt design:

What are you doing up there?
What on earth are you doing up there?
critiquing my colour choices:

Are you sure about that turquoise square?
Are you sure about that putting that turquoise square there?
and assessing my tacking skills and speed (or lack thereof):

You do realise that if you'd chosen to machine quilt this you could have used safety pins and you'd be finished by now, don't you?
You realise that if you'd chosen to machine quilt then you could have used safety pins rather than tacking thread and you'd be done by now?

By taking up all the available floor space, I gave Archie the opportunity to practise his tiptoeing skills.

I know to tiptoe round the edge
Yes, I know I have to tiptoe round the edge, I'm not daft!
He did that without any encouragement/commands; he just knows that fabric laid on the floor is not to be walked upon without a specific invitation!  (Unless it's bedding, in which case he seems to think it's fair game.)

I'm going to try to blog again before Christmas (I'll be back with two finishes, only one of which is mine!) but just in case I don't I'll wish you..., I'm afraid I can't bring myself to say it so far in advance so I guess I'll have to come back before then!

Bye for now and thanks for popping in!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

An October finish!

Fresh Sewing Day

Anyone who has seen my ridiculous FAL list for this quarter will agree that if I'm going to get anywhere with it then I need to get a bloomin' move on!  To that end, I've stuck a copy of my list on my sewing room wall (it'll go on my new magnet board, just as soon as I sort out some magnets.  And fix the board to the wall...) so that I can keep myself on track.  So far, so good and I've managed to tick three things off the list.  I'm going to blog about them separately (to make it easier to link up in January) and today is the turn of my first finish, Mr Penguin:

Mr Penguin

Mr Penguin is a large (for me!) pin cushion made from a selection of Japanese import fabric and some linen (I think it's this stuff but I'm not sure as it was a present from the fabric fairy).  I really don't like EPP but, in my opinion, it's the best technique for hand stitching these prone-to-fraying fabrics so I swallowed my intense dislike and got on with it.  (I don't know how people do lots of EPP, it's so hard on your hands and wrists!!)  Although I don't like the technique, I do like seeing the pin cushion coming together, it's quite satisfying!

Mr Penguin (who I like to think was the founding penguin of Penguin Books), is accompanied by some miniature friends:

More of Mr Penguin's friends

And a not-so-miniature surprise elephant on his bottom underneath:

A surprise elephant on the bottom!

Mr Penguin (and friends) sailed across the ocean (although, given how quickly he arrived, I think he may have cheated and flown at least part of the way) and is now living in his new home with the gorgeous (and funny) Salley.

To give you a better idea of his size, here's Mr Penguin with an unpicker (although he looks like he could be off to battle with his bayonet!):

Mr Penguin with an unpicker for scale

The other thing I've managed this month is to make and attach a scrappy border to my Christmas Cherry quilt:

Christmas Cherry with borders

The original pattern (Made In Cherry by Sarah Fielke) is for a square quilt but I prefer rectangular quilts so I've decided to add some star blocks to the top and bottom of the quilt.  I wanted some separation between the giant star and the smaller stars and a scrappy squares border seemed like the best option.  I've just started piecing the small stars (no photo, sorry) so I hope I'm going to be able to layer and tack the quilt by the end of the month, ready to start hand quilting while watching Christmas films in December.   At 78" x 78" (the squares finish at 3.25") it's already a bit big for my preferred 'taking a photo' fence, so goodness knows how I'm going to take a photo of the finished top.  Suggestions on a postcard...

A few days ago, I stripped my bed in the morning and when I went up to remake it that evening, I found that a certain someone (who had been carried up there because he made it plain he wanted to go up!) had made himself comfy among my quilt and pillows:

I hasten to add that I hadn't left them in a heap like that, Archie had rearranged them to his liking!

I'm really comfy here...
You're not going to make me move, are you?  I'm really comfy...

Really, really comfy...
And look how cute I am, almost matching my bed your bedding...

Needless to say, he got short shrift and soon found himself looking for a different place to sleep!

Thanks for popping in, I'm off to do a spot of hand quilting (on the hexy quilt) while I watch Strictly!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Bloggers' Quilt Festival Autumn 2014

Thanks for popping in to see my entry in the Bloggers' Quilt Festival.  I haven't managed many finished quilts since the last festival (no surprise there!) and didn't think I'd be entering this time round, but Nicky reminded me about the mini category and so here I am!

City Walk

I made this little quilt, 'City Walk' (naming quilts isn't something I usually do but I felt that participating in a blog hop and designing a pattern for Oakshott warranted a quilt name!) in July when I was part of an Oakshott blog hop and is designed around the traditional 'walking triangles' block.  I wrote a rather ridiculously long tutorial for it as part of the blog hop and you can find that here, should you wish to make your own version.

The quilt is made from a F8 bundle (plus a piece of wadding and a piece of fusible fleece) and I decided that I wanted to make something useful as well as decorative so this little quilt also doubles as a block roll (to keep pieces in the right place as you're piecing, going back and forth to the ironing board or taking your sewing to a friend's house) and will hang on the wall when not in use.

The quilt top is hand pieced (I draw round freezer paper templates to give me a sewing line, remove the templates, cut them out with an estimated quarter inch seam allowance and then hand piece using a running back stitch along the marked lines) and machine quilted (in the ditch).  It is finished with a traditional knife-edge finish (rather than binding), which gives a nice sharp edge to a quilt.

City Walk

The quilt is 20" square, so just sneaks into the mini category.  It has 224 pieces in the top (each block, consisting of four walking triangles, finishes at 6" square), including the borders and cornerstones and I must admit that I'm quite rather pleased with how it turned out!

As I mentioned, it's also a block roll and here it is keeping some pieces from a current project safe (I have a habit of forgetting which particular square goes where and sewing something different from my plan which usually then needs unpicking):

City Walk - a block roll-cum-little quilt

And here it is rolled up (with the pieces inside but you'll have to trust me on that!) and secured with the tie which is attached to the top edge (you can just see it folded over to the front in the photo above):

City Walk - a block roll-cum-little quilt

City Walk
Quilt stats:

Finished size: 20" x 20"
Pattern: based on a traditional 'Walking Triangles' block
Piecing: by hand, using freezer paper templates and a running back stitch
Piecing thread: Aurifil 50wt 2600 (dove grey)
Quilting: by machine, in the ditch
Quilting thread: Aurifil 50wt 2310 (light beige)

Thank you for taking the time to read this post (or just look at the photos!), I'm off to see what everyone else has been up to!

P.S.  This may be my entry to the festival but it wouldn't be a blog post without some photos of Archie, would it?!!

As regular readers will know, Archie has recently had a flare up of a back injury/arthritis and so is no longer allowed to climb stairs or steps.  As I can't close off my stairs, I've had to get a couple of stair gates fitted (I have a lovely brother!) and if I'm spending time upstairs on an afternoon (either sewing or sleeping) then I carry him up.  He's fine sleeping downstairs overnight but if I go upstairs during the day he starts to fret.  Carrying him up means he's happy (and asleep!) which makes me happy and also means I can concentrate on sewing without having to hang over the banister every few minutes to reassure him I'm still there!  Of course, what goes up must come down...

I'd like to come downstairs now...
I'd like to come back downstairs now, if you don't mind.

Please let me through!
I know this thing opens but I just don't seem to be able to get it to work

*sigh*  Will I ever get through?
*sigh* Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease may I come down?

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