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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!


  1. I'm worn out just reading all that ;o)

    As for the Made In Cherry background, well, I hate to say it, but I don't think a patterned background would be a very good idea, as the star really needs to be, if you will excuse the term, the star the show, and I think a patterned bg might detract from it a bit. Buggered if I can think of a colour offhand though, sorry!

  2. I love your Christmas quilt so far. I can't even bring myself to think of Christmas yet! I'd definitely choose the aqua dot. It just seems more wintry for a winter quilt.
    I'm also very jealous of that giant custard cream tin. It's rather amazing as are it's contents. You have good friends!

  3. I have missed seeing you post - sorry you have been so tired and not feeling 100% that can always be a pain in the butt! You have gotten a bit done anyhow it seems. So many lovely things and fabric - nice!

  4. I always relish reading your posts although very sorry that you've been tired and not feeling up to par. You've seemed to accomplish quite a bit in spite of it all! I think either a solid or a crisp white with very small dots would be a lovely background. And the treasures people send you are a testament to their friendship. That custard tin is a gem! Isn't Nicky quite the stamp maker?

  5. For someone who is tired you accomplish a lot!! I do hope you feel better soon though. For your background fabric I was going to suggest the Le crème dots by Riley Blake.
    But it seems very similar to what you've already chosen. Good luck choosing, I always find that the hardest bit.

  6. Sorry to hear about the frozen shoulder! My mum's had shoulder issues for years but physio and myo-facial massage every month has helped her a lot. Do take care of yourself!!

    As for the sewing... I'm leaning towards the green dot, which surprises me since I would normally go with aqua over just about anything but those fabrics are saying Green! to me. Good luck!

  7. So do you know why you are so tired? Stress? Doesn't sound like any fun. Good job on the fence

  8. Thank you for the lovely update, you have packed a lot into one post. I am with Katy, and would stick to a plain background. I am not sure I am seeing the colours that well, but if it is for Christmas you might want to consider a silver or gold - Robert Kaufman has some nice silk like cottons last Christmas that were shiny and easy to work with. I also like bright white or I keep wondering about an aqua or blue. Whatever you pick, it is going to be good. I find that I need a much higher chair for sewing, especially if the machine is not sunk into the table. Without that I get a back ache which is not terrible but very tiring. I hope your shoulder feels better and you get past the need for so much sleeping and generally feel better too.

  9. You've still managed to do a lot even if you are not up to par. Having a bad shoulder is horrid and makes life miserable, I hope it improves soon. As for the background fabric I think the dots are small enough for the star to shine out and I really like the green. Love the custard cream tin, fab!

  10. Poor you Helen! I can see how the exercises take up so much time.

    Your fence will be there when you are ready to tackle it - marvelous job so far but I think your body is telling you it has had enough for now.

    Carry on with a bit of sewing if you can. The made in cherry is a brilliant choice and will look marvelous whichever background you choose - leaning towards the aqua dot as I think it will look brighter, the green more subtle. Going against my usual choice there!

    The other choices of Christmas quilt were brilliant too of course and that was the problem!

    And looking forward to the Lynne's block quilt! And yes she is definitely to blame - thank goodness!

  11. Oh and I claim my ten points BTW! I see you Archie!

  12. Well Hun, you may say you don't do much but I disagree and what you do do is always beautiful. I've said this before but I still think Sam and Archie are related.... Sam washes our yoghurt pots out too, he use to rip them apart to get to the bottom, but we have stopped him doing that now .... I am sick of picking up tiny bits of plastic!! Take care xxxx

    PS I can see Archie in both your pictures

  13. A September "post" Yippee! See, I knew you could do it...but what a toughie you set us... Aqua or lime / lime or aqua...

    The fences are looking fab..well done you after a month of the greeblies...those physios are really smooth talking torture artists in disguise!
    Trust you to put up a chartered "programme" of exercises done/notdone. Does wielding a paintbrush/scrubber get counted?

    That biscuit tin photo was so good I thought it was a real huge biscuit... very disappointed to see it was a only a tin...not so disappointed to see it was full of goodies!
    Have a better month please....oh... and anything chartreuse gets my vote.

  14. I personally would go for a solid with your star quilt so the lovely fabrics you've chosen really get to sing. But that's just me! I can also spot Archie in both pics. He's certainly taking his job as supervisor seriously. As for low maintenance gardens do not believe people that say grass and pots are low maintenance. Grass needs cutting all through the summer and if it rains a lot it'll grow even faster meaning you'll be doing it all the more. I plant tubs up pretty much every year and it takes me at least a day to do it all and they need watering a lot. I normally manage to kill shrubs and other hardy plants in tubs due to neglect too. There are lots of lovely aggregates out there that you can use to fill in areas in bedding and either have one of two shrubs poking out or groups of tubs planted up with hard to kill plants. Grouping tubs makes them easier to water. Just make sure you get the landscaper to put weed proof membrane down first to stop the majority of weeds coming through.

    I really hope you get more energy soon. I find using the sewing machine exhausting sometimes too. I think getting the right type of chair and not forming bad habits (I often sit too far away - not moving my chair in when I have to keep getting up and down!)while you sew.

  15. Great post Helen! I score 10 points :) it sucks to be so exhausted. I hope things soon improve for you! Glad you could put your pet lip away ;) xx

  16. What a long post, I hope that isn't the reason you're so tired! I had an impinged shoulder last winter, too painful even to lift my arm far enough to hold the steering wheel in the car... Worth it to do the exercises from the physio though, and keep moving as much as you can bear, even gently helps, you definitely don't want it to get frozen!! I find using the sewing machine for a long time tiring for my shoulder and I'm now much more aware of my posture...

    As for the background, I would not go for solid, as that tends to grab the attention, and you'd want your star to shine, not the background. A small dot would be great with the fabrics you're using, personally I have a slight preference for the green...

    Take care of yourself and enjoy, the star is looking great!

  17. Sorry you've being extra tired of late, Helen. I'm sure that the hot summer has exasperated things for you. Painting a fence on hot days would be horrible, and I am surprised you got so much done! As for the Christmas quilt, it will be lovely. I lean toward the lime with the colours you are using, and I thought long and hard about that as my first instinct is always to aqua but I really do think lime would make your star pop. I hope the exercises free up your shoulder. I'm off to the physio for my hip in three days time so I will soon be joining you n complaining about exercises that have been set.

  18. I quite like the idea of dots.....but on the other hand a solid would look great too.
    If you used a dot I'd say go for something in the blue/ green side of things as the red tones in the star stand out more and I think it would pop more with blue/ green behind it. The U.K shop www.thread-bear has the moda essential dots range and they have some dots on white.
    Hope you feel better soon.

  19. Poor old you. Nothing worse than not having enough power in the batteries. I would def have given the fence a miss haha! ( oo and 10 point to me too). I am also a bit with katy on the background fabric. I love the ones with the aqua though so the aqau spots could well be the way to go. Good luck and cant wait to see the enxt bit

  20. Oh sweetie, I wish you wouldnt do things like paint fences. Not clever. Beautiful job and worth doing, but I hate to think of how tired it must make you. The star is going to be fabulous, and background I would pick a moda grunge, or a a kaffe shot. Solid but not quite. Do take care!!! x

  21. So glad that your hexies went to a good home. Love your Chrtustmas star.
    Sorry that you have been so exhausted, I really hope things pick up for you soon x

  22. Wow, you've done really well considering. I recently had an illness which left me feeling constantly tired and I managed hardly no sewing.

    I love your Christmas quilt. I think that I'd go for the aqua dot - it's low volume enough to not complete with the star but adds more interest than a solid would.

    I really need to know where Nicky got the tin from, I love custard creams and novelty tins - I've got to have it! Have you tried the giant custard creams at Costa? I'm slightly addicted;-)

    Oh, one last thing, (well if you insist on writing such a long post you've got to expect long replies!) Archie's stamp is just adorable x

  23. Lovely to catch up with you and Archie. I really hope you'll stop feeling so tired when the weather cools down. I wouldn't scrub a fence at all to be honest. I'd just brush off the worst of the moss and use use plenty of cuprinol but I'm wondering if you could try negotiating with the landscapers to finish it for you once they've cleared it? Your christmas star is coming on beautifully and I love the aqua dot option :)

  24. No wonder you're tired - watching Archie do all that pot cleaning is hard work! I would do a white on white spot fabric for the Christmas Star quilt - see if you can find an irregular or random patterned spot - it might look a bit like snow :)

  25. Helen,
    Your Christmas star is lovely, I vote for a very subtle patterned solid in aqua or a shade of green. Not sure what to call it but a tone on tone, where there is a pattern but it still looks solid. Archie looks so cute curled up on his cushion. Hope you start feeling better soon, your body needs the extra rest to heal your shoulder.

  26. Poor Helen life is pretty rough for you! :-( Don't do any more fencing, give yourself a rest. Then you can enjoy the little bit of sewing you are able to do. I love your Christmas Quilt. Jess and I think the aqua spot would be a great background for it. :-) Do take care of yourself. Xxx

  27. Fence painting is very tiring. I loved playing spot Archie and I claim my ten points. Your Christmas quilt would look good with either green or aqua. Though by now, you have probably already chosen one and finished the quilt. I was sorry to read about your shoulder, I find machine sewing more tiring and it makes my back ache.

  28. Fence painting is very tiring. I loved playing spot Archie and I claim my ten points. Your Christmas quilt would look good with either green or aqua. Though by now, you have probably already chosen one and finished the quilt. I was sorry to read about your shoulder, I find machine sewing more tiring and it makes my back ache.

  29. I am sorry you are so tired. I do hope you are not ill. Or pushing yourself further than your body wants to go?
    If you can afford it I say hire the people to do the moving of plants, and have them finish the fence too. They can get it done in record time. Then you can complete something else on your list. Not sure how much or how long you experience rain. We had rain last night and today. Haven't had rain since April. We live in Santa Cruz, CA. USA. I baked chocolate, chocolate chip shortbread cookies.
    Wishing you the best...Kgcg

  30. Love the star......Missing you, hope the physio is going well. Lots of love to Archie too. xx

  31. I love your xmas star quilt. hope you are feeling beter. hug Archie
    xo jan@sewandsowfarm

  32. aw! such cute doggie pics!
    I was interested to know you have an impingement. So did I and I had an op to sort it. It was a "sub acromial decompression" done by key hole surgery. It's the best thing I ever did and I did the exercises you showed as part of my rehab. All is completely well now. If you are offered the op, I would recommend it.

  33. I can't believe that it has taken me this long to realize that I've been missing you and your wonderful dog. I hope you are feeling some better now.

  34. Hope you're feeling better now and you and Archie are having a fun run up to Christmas :)

  35. Hi,

    i am SO happy to hear from you again. Has been a long time
    I've missed both you and Archie.

    How are you these days? Somewhat better?

    A very very happy and merry Christmas.

    I wish you and everyone around you a very good health and all the love in the world.

    Have an übercool Christmas!



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