Monday, 30 December 2013

Catching up

I'm going to make this a photo-heavy post so you can see what I've been up to while I've been away.  I don't really want to go into why I've been away but I do want to say thank you for all the lovely emails, cards and presents you've sent (you know who you are!) and to send you all a hug for the friendship, love and support you've given me.  It's very much appreciated - I love this community of ours and am so thankful and grateful to be a very small part of it.  

I made a (very quick!) baby quilt:

Dinosaur quilt (front) - after washing
I channelled my inner Lynne and quilted a grid - I love it!

I've also made a bedding set for my niece's Christmas present (a pram).  Here's Panda trying out the blanket, mattress and pillow:

Panda is trying out the dolly bedding!

and here he is trying out the whole set!

Panda's trying out the whole dolly bedding set
He wasn't pleased when he realised I was serious about it not being for him.

I'm particularly fond of the dolly quilt (made with 'Rain' from the wonderful Simply Solids) - I don't like strip piecing so cut out and stitched all 441 squares (1" finished) individually.  Thank goodness for chain piecing, audio books and podcasts, particularly these!

Dolly quilt (before washing)
It measures 21" x 21".

I had a very long phone conversation with the always patient and generally brilliant Nicky about the best way to organise my Drunkard's Path blocks and we eventually came up with this arrangement:

The final layout

One block just didn't fit anywhere and so had to be changed. I removed the frame and used the four leftover units to make a new (brighter) block:

Altering a block

I stitched it together and now it looks like this:


It's now ready for quilting and I'm going to use Aurifil 50wt that I bought from the marvellous Fluffy Sheep Quilting - grey for the top and turquoise for the bottom.

I've started hand quilting my hexy quilt; I'm using Gutermann Sulky 30wt and it's beautiful to stitch with:

Starting the quilting

I started with a size 12 between needle (I get mine from here) but it didn't last long, I think it was all the seams.  I then moved up to a size 11 but that wasn't much better so tried a size 10 and that's working out really well.  This photo shows the difference between the needles and what happened with them while I was sewing (as well as my dreadful handwriting, sorry about that!):

Needle woes

I feel as though I've made good progress with the quilting (it's probably only 1/12th completed but I'm not thinking about that at the moment but enjoying the process) and I feel I've settled into a nice rhythm with the size and evenness of my stitches, not that you will be able to tell from this photo!

Quilting progress

I've (finally!) finished the Christmas red work garland for my mam (she liked it, thank goodness!)...


...and made her a robin wall hanging...

Robin wall hanging well as some tiny crocheted stars (also for my mam, she has some twigs in a jug that needed a festive touch) and I quite fancy making some in pastel colours for Easter, and maybe some hearts/blossom petals for the spring?  The pattern is from here and I used #10 crochet cotton (in ivory) to get them nice and small.  

Tiny crocheted stars

We had some beautiful skies during autumn:

Stunning autumn skies

Right, I think that's me all caught up (and you must surely be bog-eyed by now!) so I'll just show you what Archie's been doing while I've been doing all that making...

Yes, that is a pile of washing he's curled up on/in!  And for you eagle-eyed readers who noticed a small shaved patch on his side, it's from a nasty little JR who launched itself at Archie and left a few holes and scrapes - nothing serious, fortunately, and he healed very quickly.

Pay me some attention...and some more...and some more...keep going, I'll tell you when to stop.

Yes, that would be lots of lolling around and/or looking handsome (he usually manages to do both at once!).  I'm hoping to be back with my FAL Q1 list (Katy is taking over the reins this year) but as I'm heading into my usual post-Christmas crash I can't guarantee it and may end up linking up with a Flickr mosaic instead!

Thanks for popping in - I hope you all had a lovely Christmas; here's to a happy, healthy and peaceful 2014 for us all!

P.S.  I'm afraid I haven't replied to any of the comments left on my previous post and I'm not sure I ever will - I'll start afresh with this post!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Not much sewing to see...

...but I do need a bit of help!

Lily's Quilts

Once again I'm going to have to work some ATWD magic and make it look as though I've been productive this month!  I think I'll show you lots of photos to distract you from lack of substance sewing.  I've got to admit to being really, really tired at the moment.  To give you an idea of what really, really tired looks like I can tell you that in the last seven days I've spent six afternoons in bed, fast asleep for at least three hours each time.  And that's after at least ten hours sleep on a night so it's not as though I'm going short!  When I'm awake I'm not necessarily awake and doing - you're more likely to find me flitting from thing to thing, not really able to settle on one thing but not able to just sit on the settee and watch telly either ('too tired to do anything, too tired to rest' would be a good description).  If it wasn't for my need to publish my Fresh Sewing Day post on the first of the month I'd be in bed asleep by now, rather than trying to write something that's vaguely coherent.  A sensible person would write this post bit by bit through the month but it turns out that I'm not a sensible person - I might try to be one in September, wish me luck!

Right, that's enough of that, let's see what I've been up to!  Well, the first couple of things aren't at all sewing related so feel free to completely skip them and head for the photos with fabric in them.

I've decided that I'm officially over the halfway point when it comes to painting my fence.  Before you think 'I thought she said she was jiggered?  She can't be if she's painting a fence.', I started this on 4th June!  This is what I've done (warning: this is a really exciting mosaic, you may want to sit down before viewing)

Archie appears in two of these photos - ten points if you can spot him!
I'd like to point out that the end panel of the shed needed four coats of paint, which I had to apply with an angled brush, through the gaps in the fence!  Yes, it took a long time but it was worth it.  I think!  
Please ignore the rubbish, it's going to the tip, when I get round to it!

and at this point I hit a milestone: I'd painted all the fence that I'd scrubbed and it was then that I made a mistake.  A mistake of gigantic proportions.  I decided to have a break.  That was two weeks ago and I really need to get back to the scrubbing brush and bucket/paint brush and kettle but I just don't have the energy.  I've got this much left to do:

The upturned plant pot is there because that berberis is going in it, I just haven't got round to doing it!
At the end of September(ish) the landscaper is coming to clear the garden (which is why I'm lifting some plants and putting them in pots - some will be staying in pots and some will be going back in the ground once it's been sorted to make it 'low maintenance but not soulless or like the corner of a council car park', not that I'm fussy, or anything!  If anyone has any photos of gardens that fit that criteria please share, I need inspiration!) and to re-lay the patio and drive.  I can't decide whether to aim for all the fence scrubbed and painted before that (which means cutting down some shrubs and removing the climbers) or whether to wait until after it's been cleared and risk it raining for weeks on end.  I think it's going to be the latter!

The other thing that's been keeping me occupied (and tired) and that isn't sewing related is this:

Physio exercises - there are eleven of them, two are hiding on the reverse of the sheet!

For the past few months I've been struggling with my shoulder - it's been gradually getting worse for just over a year (it started as a foundation paper piecing-related injury when I was making these!) and had got to the point where any jolt or sudden movement was, well, agony and reaching above my head was nigh on impossible.  I can't really remember what the physio said (I was tired, big surprise!) but 'shoulder impingement' was definitely mentioned.  As was a 'very stiff shoulder'!  As a result I'm supposed to be doing these stretches three times a day, three to five repeats each time.  I'm currently managing three repeats each time and aiming for twice a day.  And managing once, most of the time!  The checklist is because the physio recommended I split them up through the day to make them less tiring and it was the only way I could think of to keep track of what I'd done and what I hadn't.  Oh, and to make me accountable so I had to force myself to do them because they don't half hurt!  I think it's going to be a while before it's better but already I can fold my arms and keep them that way for about three minutes and I can almost put my hand on my hip - progress!

After all that I think it's about time I got to the sewing, don't you?!  'Thank heavens for that!', I hear you cry but I did offer you the option of scrolling down!

I've finally started my Christmas quilt.  I say finally because I've changed my mind so many times about what I wanted to make that I think I made Nicky dizzy!  I think one week I changed my mind at least five times so I imagine she's thrilled that I've finally made a start...and stuck to it, even if it is an idea I've had at least four times!  A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Sarah Fielke's new book 'Hand Quilted With Love' (which is a terrific book, I'd really recommend it) and as soon as I saw the 'Made in Cherry' photo I realised that continuing to fight it was useless: this was the quilt I was going to make with my Christmas 'collection'.  Oh, that I'd come to that conclusion the first time I thought about it...about eighteen months ago!  (I'm planning to add to it so that it becomes a rectangular, rather than square, quilt because I like a quilt that covers me from shoulders to toes and if it's square then it becomes quite unwieldy - I like to aim for somewhere around 60" x 80".)  I already had dozens of 3.75" squares cut out because I thought I'd chosen a pattern - I'd made a test block and cut out all the prints and then I changed my mind!  Dithering is a terrible curse!  I spent a while laying out squares and then labelled them, made a map (naturally!) and started piecing.

Still playing
Sorry about the night-time photo!

And this is how far I've got:

One quadrant of the centre pieced and pressed.

More progress - needs pressing!
A second quadrant pieced but not pressed.

A bit more progress
A third quadrant in progress.

At the risk of being a whinger, I find machine piecing really, really tiring.  Well, not just machine piecing; using a sewing machine in general.  I think it's a combination of things - sitting on an upright chair with no arms (that may sound odd but it's something I find very tiring), the concentration required, the noise of the sewing machine (it's not horrifically noisy but I am sensitive to noise and often find it quite wearing) as well as the 'I'll just stitch one more seam' aspect of it.  I know I'm not the only person to find using a sewing machine tiring but I thought I'd explain it for those of you who don't - I sometimes feel as though I say 'I'm tired' a lot but don't really explain how that feels, why I'm tired or how it affects my daily life.

With this project I'm trying to do a little bit at a time - in one day I might just join five lots of two squares or even just pin two strips together but I'm hoping that at least this way I'll feel as though I'm making progress, my aim is to have it layered and ready for hand quilting by November(ish) so that I can watch Christmas films and quilt my Christmas quilt, won't that be lovely?!!  I don't want it to be too Christmassy, though, which is why there's plenty of non-Christmas fabric mixed in there - that way I'll be able to use it for more than a few weeks a year, maybe November through to the end of January?  Or will it have to go away with the decorations by Twelfth Night?!

Now, it's at this point that I need your help: I need to find a background fabric.  I think the choice of background fabric is important in any project but it feels particularly important for this quilt - looking at the quilts in the Made In Cherry Flickr group it feels as though the right background really makes the star shine and I definitely want mine to shine!  I've been thinking of using a dotty background - preferably a small coloured dot on a white background.  Maybe aqua dots?  Thanks to a giveaway link on The Sewing Directory (the giveaway is open until 10th September, get there before it closes!) I found two possibilities - an aqua dot and a green dot.  I'd really, really appreciate your opinions on what would work best as a background and if you could point me to a specific fabric then that would be marvellous - another thing I struggle with is online fabric shopping.  I get overwhelmed by the choice, I can't hold all the different options in my head, I dither over which is best and, after about five minutes, lose concentration and wander off.  It's marvellous for my credit card but not so marvellous for my stash!  Thank you, in advance, for your suggestions!

It's been another month of marvellous post.  Lots of you will have entered Yvonne and Reene's fabulous giveaway over at Nellie's Niceties and will have kept your fingers, toes and paws firmly crossed that your name was chosen.  And then got your pet lip out when it wasn't!  Well, Yvonne was kind enough to send me a parcel of loveliness:

From Yvonne
I have a plan for those Liberty was Hadley's idea and I think it's a good 'un!  The card was made by Yvonne and is gorgeous, I can see why Reene has a drawer full of cards she can't part with!

Thank you, Yvonne!  I hope you have as much fun with the hexies as I'm going to with this!  I sent Yvonne my EPP hexies - I started them when I didn't have any hand piecing prepared (I think I was still piecing hexies for my hexy quilt at that point) and I wasn't well enough to prepare any.  I thought it was a good idea at the time and quite enjoyed tacking the fabric to the paper but I'd forgotten that I really, really don't like EPP!  I use it when I make the little pin cushions using Japanese import fabrics because it's the best technique for that fabric/size of pieces but that's as far as it's ever going to go.  I know lots of you love EPP but I'm afraid I won't be joining you any time soon, other than for tiny pin cushions - hand piecing is my first love and, I hope, always will be!  I've still got half of the honey bun left as well as some co-ordinating fat eighths so I'll be able to start a new project, it might even be small hexies again!

This arrived from Nicky:

A new tin
A giant custard cream - I love it!

She knew that I'd had eye on one of these for a while and found one somewhere - I love it so much!  As if that wasn't enough, it was packed with goodies inside:

What was inside the tin

There are some of Nicky's custom charm packs and roll-ups as well as some of her goodies from FQR, including a spool of Aurifil floss that's hiding under that zip - she's such a lovely friend!

And it was accompanied by the cutest handmade card:

Hand stamped card
For more hand stamped goodness visit the Stamp It Up Swap pool - a swap that Nicky is running (I'm helping with the admin, it's a good way for me to be involved without swapping), there are already some wonderful stamps that have been made as well as lots and lots of inspiration mosaics!

I've saved the best bit for last, though:

An Archie stamp!  I have plenty of ideas of how to use this, I just need to find some energy and there'll be no stopping me!

Thank you, Nicky - I'm truly blessed to call you my friend xx

Nicky also did some shopping for me at the FQR market - I'm about to start a new hand piecing project (I know, I need another new project like I need another hole in the head but it's not my fault - I'm putting the blame fairly and squarely at Lynne's door!  She will insist on designing the most wonderful quilt blocks and then sharing them on Twitter and who am I to resist?  And I do have a marvellous new hand piecing tin to use...) and I needed a few more FQs of some specific Oakshott Impressions to add to the project pile so Nicky went with a shopping list!

Starting a new project
It was hard to narrow down which colours I wanted more of but I managed it in the end!

I'm just waiting for my chosen background to come back into stock at Simply Solids and then I'll be good to go (after I've washed the additional Oakshott FQs and the background.  And ironed it.  Sigh!) and you'll be able to see my first block.  No promises as to how quickly that's going to happen, though!

Archie has loved the sunny weather we've had this summer (I can't say I've been as much of a fan!) - he's spent every day in either the conservatory or the garden.  It's typical - I decide to get rid of the grass in my back garden because I can't keep on top of it and he's decided he likes lying on it!  I'll have to make him a 'lying in the back garden' quilt instead!  One thing that hasn't changed in all the years I've had him (twelve!) is that he likes to lick out any yoghurt pots, cheese wrappers, tuna tins, etc.  Although sometimes he acts as though he's the one doing me a favour, rather than the other way round:

Life's hard when you're nothing but a glorified pot washer.  It's a tough job but someone's got to do it.

Not another pot to wash?!

Phew, that was a tough one!  I need a break - maybe I should join a union and investigate my rights...

I'll see you next month (or maybe before?) - thanks for popping in!  As ever I'm linking up to Fresh Sewing Day at Lily's Quilts - why not do the same or hop over and see what everyone else has been up to?   You won't regret it!

Please don't forget to let me know your 'Christmas Cherry background fabric' opinions/links in your comment!  Thank you!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Making a little look like a lot

Lily's Quilts

I don't feel as though I've done much sewing in July - I've mainly been concentrating on painting my garden fence and shed and as a result I'm too tired to do much else!  I have managed to do a bit, though (when I haven't been napping or complaining about the heat) so I'm going to attempt, as my title says, to make a little look like a lot(tle) - as I do for most of my FSD posts!

I've managed a bit of machine piecing:

Blue and white quilt - July's progress
1. Blue and white progress, 2. Blue and white progress, 3. Blue and white progress, 4. Blue and white progress, 5. Blue and white progress, 6. Blue and white progress

None of these short rows (five blocks in each) have been stitched together yet, that's the next job!  I'm afraid I'm finding this quite a tedious quilt to piece - I've developed a pinning strategy that gives mainly good results (only two seams had to be unpicked and re-sewn through all of the block joining I've done this month) but it's a bit of a faff and feels quite slow.  Not as slow as unpicking multiple seams would be, I grant you, but slow nonetheless!

I signed up for the third quarter of the Finish-A-Long and linked up a Flickr photo.

I'm hoping to get the Christmas red work garland finished (Salley, I know you've been wondering where this was!), do something with my embellished felt square (my current idea is to decoupage the box in the photo (fabric?  paper?) and then stick the felt square on the lid.) and see how far I can get with (hand) quilting my hexy quilt.  (Just in case you're wondering, it's the final item that's the funny one!)

I've made some progress:

Christmas red work garland
I've finished stitching all the pictures!!  Could do with an iron first, though...

and now I'm working up the enthusiasm for cutting them all apart, adding backing and skinny binding and then cutting some bias binding for the 'string'.  Sigh.  This project feels interminable!

I've also decided how to quilt my hexy quilt.  I tested some quilting threads to see which I preferred:

Trying out quilting threads for my hexy quilt
Testing quilting threads - I pinned a bit of the white I used in the quilt to the corner of the quilt (on the spare wadding/backing, not actually over the corner of the quilt top!) and did a few stitches to see which I liked best.  Please excuse the uneven/wonky stitches - I was concentrating on 'stitchability' not consistency!

They all stitched nicely through the wadding (Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 bleached, from ASding) but all the heavier weights were just too heavy for the quilt so it was a tie between the Aurifil 28wt and the Gutermann Sulky (30wt).  I'm a good Yorkshire lass so I couldn't justify buying a reel of the Aurifil in white when I had a whole reel of the Sulky in the right colour that was waiting patiently to be used and looks just as nice (and stitches just as well).  Decision made!

I've even decided how I'm going to quilt it:

Another possible quilting design for hexy quilt
I love the patterns the lines make as they cross.

and once the weather cools down I'll get started (as long as I've finished painting the fence!) - my hoop, thimbles and needles are all ready and waiting!

I've also had some lovely post this month:


I also won a giveaway from Sarah Fielke (yes, that Sarah Fielke!  I have her new book and it's marvellous!  So marvellous that I'm a little afraid to pick it up again because the last time I did I couldn't sleep for quilts prancing around in my head!) - I got to choose a FQ of her fabric and while narrowing it down was hard I realised that I couldn't resist a lovely grey stripe!  It may not seem like the most exciting choice but I love it!  Thank you, Sarah!

Then I got two completely unexpected parcels:

A parcel from Sheila
Oh, I do wonderful lovely postcard!  Oh, I do love a bit of Liberty!

This is from Sheila@Bluepatch Quilter - she made me the most marvellous seaside postcard (oh, how I love it!  I can't begin to tell you how much I love it.  Wait, I think I just did...) and sent me a sample pack-type affair of Liberty lawn.  Yes, I fondled and admired them as I spread them out for the photo.  Yes, they're now neatly back in the wrapper.  No, I haven't decided what to make with them (yes, I have lots and lots of ideas!) but I'm very tempted to copy the marvellous Hadley and make something like this.  Or maybe a mini quilt?  A swatch quilt like Jo, perhaps?  Thank you, Sheila - you're naughty but I love you!

A parcel from Salley

And this lovely lot came all the way from Australia from my favourite 'I don't have a blog but I really, really should because I'm wonderfully kind, generous to a fault and very supportive, oh, and funny with it' friend, Salley.  That chocolate is the best chocolate I have ever tasted.  If you get the chance to try some, please do.  And then bring me back a bar - thanks!  I haven't tried the Vegemite yet but I'm going to - I'm interested to see if it's anything like Marmite (yum!) and will be spreading it on toast very, very soon.  The fabrics are by Kokka (Salley bought them in Barcelona) and those of you who know me well will know exactly what I've decided to make with them!  You'll have to be patient, though, because I haven't finished started yet!  The wooden spools each fit a skein of stranded cotton on them (how cute are they?!) and I'm currently holding interviews to see which skeins make it onto the reels and which stay on the cardboard bobbins.  Thank you, Salley, you're a wee treasure!  You're also very naughty (just like Sheila!) but I do love you!

Right, I think there's just time for a photo or two of Archie (and Alfie this month) before I completely bore you to tears.  Too late?  Oh well!

While the weather has been ridiculously hot Alfie has been coming here for the day so he wouldn't be left in a hot house.  He's not allowed in my garden without a lead on because he can get over the (approx. 5'6") fence - he's done it before and would do it again if he felt like it, so when I want the back door open I fully extend his lead and wrap it round a leg of the cupboard in the conservatory.  He can reach the water bowl, the first few feet of the front room as well as some of the garden but he can't quite get to the grass.  This was the best alternative he could find:

Well if I can't get to the grass...

This campanula is surprisingly comfy.  Must remember this for next time.

You didn't think I was going to miss out, did you?  He's right, it's quite comfy here!

It's a dog's life.

That's all, folks!  (Thank goodness, I hear you cry!)  As ever, I'm linking up with the marvellous Lynne and her Fresh Sewing Day.  Or at least I will be, once I've thought of a title for this post!  (Why is that so hard at times?!  'Lack of practise!', you cry.  Surely not?!)

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Rounding up quarter two

It's time to declare my finishes for quarter two of the Finish-A-Long - I feel a bit of a fraud writing a new blog post when I haven't replied to the comments from the previous one but instead of spending time on the computer (I'm also way behind with other emails and reading/commenting on blog posts) I've been spending a lot of time crawling around my front room floor, listening to/watching six episodes of 'Broadchurch' and a fair few of 'Party of Five' and tackling this:

I'd best get tacking...
Hexy quilt top, wadding and backing, ready to tack
and I'm pleased to say that late last night (with blisters on both index fingers!) I finished tacking my quilt and can now start to experiment with threads and choose which I want to use.  Oh, and I suppose I'd better give some thought to exactly how I'm going to quilt it - that very much depends on the threads I choose, though...

I'll reply to comments soon (honest!) but I need to post my FAL Q2 finishes so I can link up.

I had three things on my Q2 list (knowing full well that I didn't stand a hope in hell of finishing one of them - I've really no idea why I added it!), here's how I've got on:

1.  Make my first ever foundation pieced block into a block keeper/stitching book (using Cathi's examples as inspiration).  I managed to do this quite early on in the quarter.  FINISHED!  

I blogged about it here but here's a photo to prove it exists!

Block keeper - front

2.  Finish off the lovely cushion from Katy (I think this project is a veteran of the FAL list!).  I've just looked through Katy's FAL lists and as far as I can see this cushion has now been on three 'quarter' lists.  Well, no more because it's FINISHED!  It's not a cushion, though, it's a massive stitching/block book:

Block book - front

I decided that the first one I made was really useful but not quite big enough to hold all the pieces for one ET block on one page.  I think this will be big enough as the pages are just over 18" square.  You can see how much room there is for four 6.5" (unfinished) blocks so I think I'll just fit my next ET block on one page, once I've prepped it, that is!  Thank you, Katy, for giving it to me!

Block book - inside

The gorgeous chevron ribbon is from The Village Haberdashery.  I initially fell in love with the turquoise ribbon so Annie matched the Kona solid to it (I think it's 'cyan') but then I couldn't resist buying other colours.  I decided to use the orange for this (I used 1m in total because I decided two ribbons would be best for such a large book) and save the others for another time because there are more stitching books in my future, off that I'm sure!   You can see how it looks rolled up here.

3.  See how far I can get with a double bed-sized blue and white nine patch and snowball quilt.  

Well, it's nowhere near finished but I've gone from not having all the blocks made to this:

Progress on the nine patch/snowball quilt
1. Section B and the first two rows of section E, 2. Section C, 3. Two sections joined (A and D)
It may not look like much progress to the rest of you but just joining a section of ten blocks (like the middle photo) is all the machine piecing I can do on a good day so turning 255 blocks into a quilt top is always going to be a long-term project for me - definitely not something I can manage in a mere three months!  So it's a FAIL but I'm not disheartened, I just need to keep plodding - something I'm quite good at!

Thank you to Rhonda for setting up the Finish-A-Long, Leanne for running it this year (I think it's a lot of work!) and all the sponsors for this quarter.  There are some fabulous finishes this quarter, why not take a minute to visit a couple of them?

I still haven't decided which photo of Archie to have turned into 'wall art' - if you haven't voted please do, I need all the help I can get!

I'll leave you with a photo of the man dog himself watching the neighbours:

If I told you I loved you would that earn me another treat?
Please excuse the state of the garden - it's getting 'done' sometime this year so all I'm doing is chopping stuff down when the mood takes me and cutting the grass!

My neighbours are lovely: if Archie is in the back garden when they start a BBQ they cook a piece of chicken for him.  If he misses the start of the cooking but appears in time for the eating then they save some chicken from their meal and give him it.  If, like Friday, he misses tea altogether they give him a dog treat!  No wonder he loves them!

she can quilt
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