Monday, 23 April 2012

Winter Stitching List - the final report

FairyFace Designs

I haven't looked to see how I've done on my winter stitching list since I wrote my half term report but I'm desperately hoping I've made progress!  Let's face it, I could hardly have got least I hope I haven't!  I'm linking up with the lovely Sarah@Fairyface Designs so after you've read my report please go and see what other (more successful) people have done. 

1&2Add backs (cord?  Velvet?) to my knitted and crocheted squares to turn them into cushion   covers.

I haven't done this as I changed my mind about making them into cushions.  I'd also forgotten that I would be getting cushions from the Brit Pillow Fight and my swap with Nicky (as well as winning a cushion from Fiona!) so I don't really need any new cushions now.  (Which is a good job as I've used the fabric I bought to back the crochet square in my hexies!)

3.  Finish sorting my scraps. 


4.  Make my BQS Pillow Fight cushion for my secret partner (deadline = 21st November)

I made this cushion for Trudi

5.  Make a cushion for a friend (deadline = as close to 21st November as possible!)

Done!  I made this cushion for Nicky and I think hope she's forgiven me for taking so long to make it!

6.  Finish the Twelve Days of Christmas red work garland for my mam (deadline = Christmas day!)

I didn't do this as I got bored with it - my new deadline is Christmas 2012, I'd best get started!  I made the tree triplets instead.


My friend has given me permission to share the pattern for this so I'll sort out some sort of tutorial some time in November - if I forget please give me a nudge!

7 .  Start the blue and white snowball and nine patch quilt for Mam and Dad's spare bedroom

I haven't blogged about it recently but I've cut out the 1000+  2.5" squares I need for the top and sorted the squares for the nine patches into piles, ready for piecing.  I haven't got any further than that but I did say I only had to start so I'm counting this as done!

8.  Decide what size to make my Christmas quilt and firm up the design (embroidery or raw edge applique is the debate currently going on in my head!) PLUS create some (all?!) designs for the (multiple) embroidered panels.

I changed my mind about the quilt design (after I'd designed it!) and, thanks to Hadley's suggestion (and her wonderful rainbow star) I'm now making a Christmas Cherry Star with the fabrics below plus the fabrics I won from Dana.

I'm going to start piecing the quilt in July and I'm aiming to have it layered and tacked sometime in October/November so I can (hand) quilt it during Advent.  I'm calling this one done though as I've settled on a design and size (as big as I can make it with the fabrics I have!).

9.  Make some more hexies - maybe another four dozen, which will almost take me to the halfway point.  (Not all of them have to be pieced as I need some whole hexies to balance out the completely scrappy look!) 

I've definitely done this - I've now made (and blogged about) 101 pieced hexies and have a few more waiting to be pressed and photographed.  I'm not going to show you the photos of the 101 group photo as I think it deserves a post of its own but I'll show you a sneak peek of a close up...

I love it!! 

I've made some progress since the half term report.  Not a lot (anyone else hearing Paul Daniels?!) but at least I've made some.  If I was writing a real report I would probably say that 'Helen is making steady progress with her sewing but must continue to work hard if she is going to achieve her stitching goals'. 

I have made some other things in the meantime but I can't remember any of them!  I know I made an embroidered hoop (which took ages!) but apart from that my mind is blank (nothing unusual there!)

I'll be honest and say that I'm not sure I've done any more that I would have done without the list but it's nice to be able to tick things off!

Thank you for all your support and kind comments and suggestions about Archie's (expensive) medicine.  I'm going to speak to the vet in a couple of weeks to see if there's a cheaper alternative or if he will manage on a lower dose but, thanks to Nic, I've found it for sale at a smidge over £40 for 30 tablets which will make a difference.  I'm also (thanks to Sarah for the suggestion) going to contact the RSPCA and/or the PDSA to see if they can help with the costs.  He's not showing any sign of symptoms - if it wasn't for the blood test I wouldn't know there was anything wrong and he's still enjoying his walks (and his food).  I'm going to try and get some footage of him on a walk but (apart from today) the weather has been awful and I haven't fancied wrestling with a camera in the rain!!

It's been chilly here for the past few weeks and Archie has made sure he's nice and warm

Any chance you could switch on the heating?

I've finally started cutting the pieces for my Stained quilt - the Stained QAL is being run by Sarah@Narcoleptic in a cupboard.  The QAL has been going since February but I only started cutting fabrics yesterday!  I'm not making the same blocks as most other people as I wanted to make the quilt bigger.  Also, the quilt is for my mam and she picked out the blocks she liked the most from both of Sarah's stained quilts so I've mixed and matched and also added some blocks.  I'm making the quilt from the pieces leftover from making Mam and Dad's quilt so I needed to do quite a lot of planning to make sure I made the best use of the fabric I had.  I measured and sketched each piece of fabric, worked out the blocks I wanted to make and the pieces I would need for each and then drew up cutting plans for each of the eleven fabrics as well as drawing up tables telling me which pieces I needed for each block which also (hopefully) helped me make sure I had an even spread of fabric in each block/across the quilt.  It took ages but was fun to do (I think that's a combination of the maths geek and the teacher in me!) and it saves getting part way through the cutting and realising I've made a huge miscalculation!

Stained planning sheets

I'm going to concentrate on the cutting for the next few days so if I'm not in blog land much it's because I've chained myself to the rotary cutter!

I'll leave you with a few random facts to ponder while I continue on my cutting marathon, I'll hopefully be back (with 101 hexies!) in a week or so...

Random Fact  I currently look as though I have a suitcase under my left eye...I was getting ready to take Archie for a walk and he was very excited (he loves his walks!).  As I bent down to tie my shoe laces he hopped up and smacked the top of his (very hard) head into my cheek's a good look!!

Another Random Fact  For the past couple of years a pair of ducks have appeared on our street and the street round the corner.  We don't know where they come from as we live quite a way from a duck pond but there must be something that draws them over here.  They're such regular visitors that the people who own the two front gardens that the ducks like the most have started leaving a mixing bowl of water and some bread for them!  Occasionally they like to visit my front garden for a few minutes to search for insects before making their way round the corner and this morning I managed to get some photos of them. 

Our ducks!
Despite what you might expect Archie isn't that bothered by them.  I'm not saying he wouldn't welcome an opportunity to get to know them better but he's not about to make the first move!

Yet Another Random Fact  The skyline of Teesside changed forever yesterday when two cooling towers and a stack (which were built in the late 50s) were demolished.  There are short video clips of it here and here (in the second one you can see the recently relit Redcar blast furnace in the distance).

I'm off for a cup of tea and a biscuit - there's plenty in the pot if you fancy popping round!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Snowdrop walk

On a cold day towards the end of February I went on a snowdrop walk and workshop with my friend Beryl at Knot (where I regularly go for classes/workshops).  The town where she has her studio (and where I went to college) has the remains of a priory (dissolved in 1540 and partially demolished sometime between then and 1709).  The east gable was kept as a feature and it's very striking and instantly recognisable to people who know the area.

The remaining gable of Gisborough Priory
The grounds of the priory are owned by English Heritage so we weren't allowed to go past/through this hedge on the left - this was the best photo of the priory I could get but there are lots more here and there's a tour of it here if you're interested in seeing more.

Our walk centred on the Monks' Walk which is in the photo at the end of my last post and which was established by 1773.

Monks' Walk - a double avenue of lime trees
It's hard to tell in the photos but there are thousands of snowdrops in the centre of the diamond formed by the avenue and it was a beautiful sight.

The (adult) figure on the left gives some idea of scale...

The priory is in the background along with another adult to give a sense of scale

After wandering round for quite a while (I could have stayed longer but it was freezing!) we walked back across the car park to the Knot studio and (after a warming cup of tea) set to work sketching out ideas and playing with fabric.

I'm not much of an artist I can't draw a straight line with a ruler so I don't have any drawings to show, just a series of photos of my work in progress.  I'm afraid I didn't take any progress photos during the workshop (I was too busy having fun!) so the first one is after about four hours work.  We used a combination of paint, Bondaweb, fabrics and stitching to create the pictures on a calico base.  It's hard to tell from the photos but I also burnt back some of the organza using a heat gun and tore parts of the net to create more texture.

At the end of the workshop.

Adding more stitching.

Adding snowdrops.

Close up of the trees and background stitching.

Close up of the snowdrops.


I was aiming to create a sense of a drift of snowdrops that the eye could follow through the trees and wanted to give a sense of scale and make the trees very tall (hence no tree tops.  I also wanted them to appear slightly ghost-like, partly as a reference to the past and partly because I wanted a very delicate look to the picture.  (Get me, I'm at risk of sounding like I know what I'm talking about!)  I stretched the picture over a canvas block (using the staple gun brought back many memories of hours stood on a chair creating classroom displays!) and it'd now hanging in my parents' front room.  My mam has a 'thing' about snowdrops and she gave strict instructions about what she wanted (snowdrops on a canvas block where the picture went round the sides of the block!).  In fact she said that if the picture didn't have snowdrops on it she'd be sending me back for another go!!  I had a lot of fun making it and will definitely be making some other 'arty' fabric pictures in the future...once I've made some more quilts!

I know this post already has lots of photos but I wanted to share some of Archie and  Alfie that I took a few days ago.

What's that?  You want what?

Oh, you want a photo of my bandage, well why didn't you say so?!!

There's no way you're getting this bed, it's mine!

(The bed - really the cushion from an Ikea footstool! - is now wrapped in a towel as someone (naming no names but he's big and grey) ripped the other one whilst he was being a bit overenthusiastic with his bed scratching!)

Archie has had another blood test which is why he's got a lovely red bandage on his leg...and a bald patch!

Please stop pointing out my bald patch - it's not nice to laugh at the afflicted!

I've heard about male pattern baldness but this isn't what I was expecting!
The vet phoned with his test results and there's good and bad news...the good news is that his kidneys (which can be affected by the anti-inflammatory medication he's on) are fine.  The bad news is that one of his liver levels is too high and he has to start taking tablets to support his liver function.  (He's showing no symptoms at the moment so if it hadn't been for the blood test I wouldn't have known there was anything wrong - maybe that nasty husky did us a favour after all!)   The even worse news is that I went to pick up the tablets today and got a huge shock.  The vet hadn't mentioned how much they would be (and I was too shocked by the news to ask) but they're £53 for 30 tablets and he takes one a day.  £53 a month!  When she told me I felt sick...there's no way I can afford that every month so I'm hoping that next month the vet will say he can drop down to a tablet every other day.  Or suggest a cheaper alternative if he needs a daily dose.  Fingers crossed he doesn't need to take them every day for a long time but I suspect he might...I might have start making him earn his keep - any ideas?!!  He's very good at sleeping and eating so maybe he could be a bed tester or a biscuit sampler?!  Do they pay well?

That feels like a bit of a miserable finish to the post so here's another cute photo of Archie.  There's a pile of bath towels next to the wall in the front room as they're waiting to be cut into smaller 'dog' towels and he decided that he'd ignore the nice comfy quilt on the floor and make one of these into his bed...

What?!  It's surprisingly comfortable!!

I haven't taken the group hexy photo yet so I'm afraid you (and I!) will have to wait a bit longer to see them altogether but I'll hopefully get it done sometime next week - I can't wait to see how they all look!

Must go, it's my niece's Christening tomorrow and I'm being picked up before 9am so I need an early night!!  Hope you're having a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Hexy rescue

I've been absent from blogland for the past few weeks - it wasn't intentional but I got lost in hexyland and I've prepared and stitched a fair few hexies since I last blogged.  (I haven't finished all the preparing though as I ran out of energy partway through so I have a line of templates and little stacks of pieces along the mantelpiece - it's beginning to look like an art installation!)  I'm really enjoying seeing each hexy take shape but some of them have needed rescuing so I've been doing the equivalent of dangling out of a helicopter on the end of a rope to rescue a hexy stuck on a ledge, abseiling down cliffs to scoop up a distressed hexy, talking one off the edge of a bridge, etc.  A hexy in distress is really very demanding!  If you listen carefully enough you can hear them crying in the night because they're so ugly...(I think this is what's known as an over-active imagination!!)

I'll show you a couple of the rescued hexies in a moment but first I want to say thank you to a few people...

Thank you to the people who have emailed me over the past few weeks to check I was ok - it really means a lot to know that there are people in blogland who notice when I'm not around for a while and check up on me.  I've simply been too tired to spend much (or any!) time on the computer and have spent many afternoons reclined on the settee attempting to watch a film (I tend to lose concentration/interest relatively quickly so it's not often I see a film/programme all the way to the end) or stitching a bit of a hexy.  I've also been helping my parents get ready for a family party - every year all my dad's side of the family get together at my parents' house for a few hours on Easter Sunday afternoon/evening and there's always lots of baking and sandwich making to be done in the run up to the Easter weekend.  This year I think there were about 20 adults (my aunties and uncles and cousins) and 12 children (my cousins' children) - that's a lot of cups of tea and beakers of juice not to mention the sandwiches and cakes!  It's always lovely to catch up with people and it's great to see all the children playing happily together - hide and seek and running around is always popular!!  I'm shattered (again!) now though...

Thanks also to Cherie@I be's Cheraldine  for nominating me for a blog award - as I've mentioned before I won't be passing on the award (thanks for understanding, Cherie!) but I'm still honoured that you thought of me!  If you haven't visited Cherie's blog she makes some lovely things.  As well as making lovely things Cherie is learning to drive at the moment so please pop over, say hello and wish her luck for her next driving lesson!

Lastly I'd like to say thank you to a very generous and wonderful UK blogger who sent me the most wonderful care parcel after she realised that being too ill to work for several years meant a very small (minuscule!) fabric budget and sent fabrics that will be added to my Terrain charm packs as well as some machine needles and some lovely thread.

My care parcel

See what I mean about very generous?  I don't think I can ever thank her enough but I hope this (and my gushing emails!) can go some way towards letting her know how grateful I am.  I can't wait to get started on my Terrain quilt - just need to get these hexies sorted first!

Right, time for me to show you the hexy rehab...

First up was a mildly distressed hexy who was all over the place but didn't mind having her photo taken before being rescued...


'Someone' stitched the wrong edge...not that I'm naming names or anything but honestly, when you've made about 15 of the same style hexy you'd think you'd be hard pushed to make such a stupid mistake.  Not at all - it required absolutely no thought!  You'll be able to see rescued hexy a bit later when she's hanging out with her friends.

Next up was a rescue that was a little more tricky.  For some reason I'd decided that having 12 pieces of fabric meeting in the middle of a block was a good idea - it wasn't.  I soldiered on for a while as I'd managed with this hexy and another one of the same design but I think I got away with those because their centres are white and they're made from the same fabric whereas this hexy had six pink points and six grey points.  Want to see a horrible centre?!

Definitely a hexy in distress!

Here she is reclining on her temporary ironing board - a (clean!) tea towel on top of an old (summer 2003) Next directory (which is the most useful catalogue I've ever had - I used to lean on it when I was drawing round/cutting out/gluing letters for display boards and now I use it when I'm drawing round my hexy templates as it stops the fabric slipping, I'll have to find a replacement if it ever falls apart or gets lost!).  I had thought that I used this to press my hexies because I was too lazy to get the ironing board out but now, thanks to Lynne and her sewing tips, I now know that I'm resourceful and press my hexies this way because I get better results!

And now for her close up...

Sob!  Please rescue me!

This was after a lot of pressing, starching and even some stitching through the middle to try to pull it together and it's still far from marvellous.  I'd gone as far as removing the templates for the two '12 pieces meeting in the middle' hexies from the project box (swearing never to touch them again!) when I started to wonder if I could get away with putting a button over the centre and scattering a few over the rest of the quilt (so it didn't look like I was using a button to hide a nasty centre, even though that's exactly what I'd be doing!  More 'oh look, there's a button in the centre of that hexy, what a lovely touch'!).  Then a better idea popped up and waved at me and this is the result...

Ahh...that's better!  I could look at myself all day - thank you!

I love it!  In fact I love it so much I'm making another one (at least!) and I've added a hexy to the other '12 pieces meeting in the middle' hexy.  I'm not changing the two I've already made but I'm part way through making one with the altered templates and it's so much easier!

The final rescue was the rescue of the ugly and radioactive hexy but I'm saving that for another day!  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it so I stitched a replacement

I'm so much prettier than that other hexy!

And I've also stitched quite a few others so here's a parade of hexies

Miss Hexy In Distress is in the middle looking much more composed!

The stripy fabric in the middle of the bottom row was supposed to be used 
for a cushion back - guess I'm not doing that any more!!

And...(drum roll please!)...I've now made 101 pieced hexies - I'm half way there!  Yippee!!  I've been thinking quite a bit about how I'm going to sort out the arrangement of the hexies when I finish piecing the next 101 and how I'm going to join them.  More pondering is required but at the moment I think I may have to add sashing as some of the edges are going to be a right s*d to stitch as the seam allowances won't all next together.  (Some of the hexies sit better when they're swirled clockwise and others when they're swirled anti-clockwise but I can't guarantee that I'm going to be able to stitch a 'seams going clockwise' to a 'seams going anti-clockwise'.  Which means that I may potentially be dealing with eight or more seam allowances all meeting at one point and going the same way and I don't really fancy tackling that!)  Adding sashing will mean that I'll have to make replacement hexies for the two sets of 'three hexies make a big star' hexies that I've already made (they won't work with sashing) but I'm going to wait until I've stitched all the hexies before making a decision.  All thoughts and suggestions are welcome now though so please speak up!

As a reward for getting to the halfway point I'm going to arrange all my hexies so far and take a group photo and I've also surrendered to my inner maths geek and worked out how many pieces I've stitched so far.  I'll reveal all next time (well, next time I blog about the hexies!) but feel free to have a guess.  No prizes but if anyone manages to get it spot on I may rethink that!   (Not promising anything spectacular though!)

I think I've just got room for a couple of dog photos and a random fact or two...

Alfie has been to stay again and discovered just why Archie loves his bed in the conservatory so much.  The last time he tried it he couldn't work out what all the fuss was about but this time it was much better!

It could be a bit larger but works well as a tummy cushion...

Three minutes later...


Random fact  I can't abide the smell of hyacinths.  It knocks me sick and I'm not too good with the smell of daffodils either! 

Another Random Fact (Giles, this may cause you cake related distress so be prepared!) I still have (home-made) mince pies in my freezer, left over from Christmas - I keep forgetting about them!

Yet Another Random Fact  Yesterday I finally (after needing one for years and not being able to find one I liked) found a letter rack for my kitchen - it was on sale in WHSmith for about £3 and I love it!  I can't find it on their website but it's in the same range as this in tray.  I smile each time I see it and, even better, I've got rid of the pile of letters, vouchers, etc. that I need to keep to hand but that irritated me by making my worktop look untidy!

I'll try not to leave it so long before my next post - I'm not promising though!  I do have a draft post that just needs a little tidying before publishing so I'll either post that or I'll tell you about what I made after I walked round here and then attended a workshop based on the walk...

I could have stayed there all day - it's so peaceful!

See you soon (I hope!) and happy stitching until then!

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