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:

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

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

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

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.

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!

You're not going to make me move, are you?  I'm 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 back downstairs now, if you don't mind.

I know this thing opens but I just don't seem to be able to get it to work

*sigh* Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease may I come down?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Scraptastic Tuesday: Log Cabin Blocks

On the second Tuesday of each month, Nicky and Leanne are hosting a scrappy linky party, entitled 'Scraptastic Tuesday'.  You can link up a blog post or Flickr photo (and possibly an Instagram photo but as I'm not on IG I'll leave that to the rest of you to work out!) about a scrappy project or scrap sorting system and you'll have a chance to win a prize from one of their sponsors.  Why not join in?  They've done something clever (I think it might be magic) with the linky party and you can link up to the same party from either of their blogs.  This month you have two weeks to add your link.

We're approaching the end of the current year with Bee A Brit Stingy (the second year of the bee and my first year as a proper bee) and our penultimate Queen Bee is Catherine, who chose scrappy blog cabin blocks as her block.  She asked for the blocks to be the classic dark and light log cabin blocks; two of the blocks needed to have a dark side made from bright and cheerful strips and the other block(s) needed to have a 'proper' dark (but not sludgy) side.

I had a lovely time in my sewing room yesterday afternoon and in just under two hours managed to make four blocks, all from fabric in my scrap boxes.

Log cabin blocks 'bright and cheerful'
Two 'bright and cheerful' blocks

Log cabin blocks 'dark and brooding'
Two 'dark and brooding' blocks

My blocks are a smidge larger than they should be (7.625" unfinished, rather than 7.5") but I've left them that size and Catherine can trim 1/16" off each side if necessary!

Before the light completely disappeared yesterday, I managed to take a quick photo of all the blocks on my ironing board (complete with new cover - one I've had in the cupboard for over a year while I eked out the old one for as long as possible!) so that Catherine could see them:

Blocks for Catherine - Bee A Brit Stingy October 2014

I made sure to include some space fabric I had in my box as Catherine is interested in astronomy and had fun choosing other fabrics to go in the mix, like the gold ladybirds (which, for some reason, feel like lucky ladybirds) and the cherry lips.  There's something very satisfying about making something completely from scraps, isn't there?  Almost like you've made it for nothing!  I'm going to be Queen Bee in November and have a scrappy block planned.  I really need to get moving and make my sample blocks and sort out a (very, very simple) tutorial.

I've also started work on an item on my FAL list and have spent several hours measuring, cutting and tacking fabric to pieces of paper before squashing my intense dislike of EPP (I know plenty of you love it but I don't!  It's handy for this heavy Japanese import fabric, though, as it's prone to fraying and is hard to hand piece because it's so thin.  It's bloomin' hard work, though!) and getting down to work on a new pin cushion:

A start (and a penguin)
Mr Penguin, off to work (I like to think he's the penguin who founded the book publishing house and he's off for a hard day of reading at the office.

Adding the 'walls' of the pin cushion
Adding the walls (i.e. sides) of the pin cushion

A partly complete pin cushion makes an excellent temporary storage basket!
Nearly all the walls added and it now makes a lovely (temporary) storage basket!  Apologies for the night time photo!

I'm now just about to attach the bottom and then I can turn it through and get stuffing (which always takes far longer and far, far more stuffing than you ever imagine) and then a bit more hand stitching and it'll be finished!  I'm not sure that fabric which is as expensive as this can ever be regarded as 'scraps' but most of my pieces are the size of a charm square or smaller (with a few exceptions where I have a FQ or a 5" strip) so, technically, this pin cushion is made from scraps.  (Handy, given that it's Scraptastic Tuesday!)

Archie went to the vet yesterday for a checkup and she was thrilled with his progress.  He's now off the steroids and is on a doggy anti-inflammatory, which will hopefully see the end of the side effects of the steroids (weeing for England and constantly whinging for food).  He's also going to start taking glucosamine, once I find the right dose.  The vet said to go to Holland and Barrett and ask for 'glucosamine for a 14kg dog' but when my mam went today the assistant gave her a bottle and said 'these are the strongest we sell'.  I don't know about you but it doesn't seem right to give a medium-sized dog the same dose as a fully grown human so I need to check that the dose is right before I open the bottle.  I suspect I'll be going back to the shop on Friday for a refund...  Once Archie is happy on the anti-inflammatory and glucosamine, I can start to increase his walk by five minutes a week (still on the lead and still a slow walk/stroll but at least it's a walk) and see how he copes.  I've even dismantled the cage this afternoon and Archie wasn't too sure he was happy to see it go:

Where are you taking that?  I was becoming quite fond of it!

On Sunday, Archie enjoyed what could prove to be the last of the sunshine this year:

I love my bed!!


Now Archie isn't allowed to ascend (or descend) the stairs (and needs lifting in and out of the house), I have a stair gate at the top and bottom of the stairs.  I was a bit concerned (rightly so, as it turns out) that he would try to 'paw' open the gate at the bottom of the stairs so he could join me upstairs, so I did what any self-respecting quilter would do:

What does a quilter put on a stair gate?
Quilt made from a Moda scrap bag and scraps of assorted white-on-white fabric - there's seems to be a theme to this blog post!
It presents a more solid barrier and Archie hasn't once tried to paw open the quilt!

Finally, I received a lovely surprise in the post today:

Isn't this little quilt gorgeous?

Catherine listed this little quilt in her Q4 FAL post and has sent it to me for my sewing room wall!  It has a little hanging loop on the back which is a great way to hang little quilts (and one I'll be remembering!).  Thank you, Catherine, you're a treasure!

Thanks for popping in - don't forget to link up to Scraptastic Tuesday and then have a nosy at what everyone else is doing with their scraps!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

FAL Q4: The Proposal

Finish Along 2014

I think I may have been visited by madness when compiling this list.  For the last couple of months I've been adding projects as I thought about/remembered them and all of a sudden I seem to have the most enormous list of things I'd like to get finished.  Fortunately, my natural realism has reasserted itself and I know I'm not going to get all of these finished in three months (or even half of them in double the time!) but I'm going to give it a good go!

Pin cushion plans
Pin cushion
I'm in need of a new pin cushion and am going to make a larger version of the small EPP Japanese pin cushions I've made in the past.  This would be a good evening project, I just need to bury my complete dislike of EPP for a fortnight or so!!

Dresden little quilt
Dresden little quilt
This gorgeous fabric is going to become a Dresden plate which will then be turned into a little quilt for my sewing room wall - I think I'm going to add some embroidery around the edge (and possibly in the centre), if I can decide on the colours of thread and background!

Christmas tree decorations
Tree decorations
A friend gave me this kit for Christmas last year and I'd like to hang the decorations on the tree this year.  If I just do a few minutes at a time then the skin on my hands will hopefully cope with the wool felt and I'll get them made!

Mr Fancy Pants Pouch
Mr Fancy Pants Pouch
When I entered Katy's giveaway (in March this year), I promised that I would take Mr Fancy Pants Pouch on a trip to Whitby for an ice cream and a stagger up the 199 steps (followed by a very, very, very long rest at the top.  And a cake.); I need to get him made so I can keep my promise.

Felt picture
Felt embroidery
This felt embroidery has been on my FAL list before and I didn't do anything with it.  I've now decided to put it in this frame, embroidered (possibly) onto some sort of background (possibly a solid the same shade as that plummy-pink felt?).  Once I decide what I'm doing and find the right background, this could be quite a rapid finish!  (Famous last words...)

Blueberry Park pouch
Blueberry Park pouch
I won this gorgeous pencil case in Jan's giveaway (in September 2013) and I really need to make it, rather than admiring Karen's packaging and printed fabric!

Hand quilted panel
Hand quilted panel - this desperately needs a press!
This is the first thing I quilted when I was learning to quilt with a hoop and two thimbles (before this I used neither but the pain got too much and it was either learn a new way of hand quilting or give up!) and is going to become a cushion, possibly with pale pink binding.

ET test block
ET block - Something else which is also desperate for a press!
I made this test block before I committed to making a whole quilt of these wonderful ET block (designed by Lynne, pattern here) and then put it aside once the excitement of the 'real' project took over.  This is going to become a little quilt for my sewing room wall.

Nicky kindly sent me the hardware to make my own clock and I thought these 10" squares would make lovely feature fabrics in a clock block.  I have a block in mind (this hexy), I just need to scale it up and decide on fabric placement.

Sewing machine print
Sewing machine print
I'm the proud owner of a sewing machine print by Emily and I want to turn it into a little quilt for my sewing room wall (yes, I think this is the quarter of the little quilt!).  I'm pondering adding some embroidery but I'm worried that might spoil it!

Aqua and grey cushion - the colour is dreadful in this photo, sorry!  There's a much better photo here 
This is a rollover from last quarter and has moved on, but only a little!  It's going to be a cushion...eventually!

Cushion cover kit
Seamstar cushion kit
I won this fabulous cushion cover kit from Seamstar when Kerry had a giveaway (in May this year) and now is the time to make it, I hope!!

Draught excluder
Draught excluder
A few years ago (three?  Four?) I bought this stunningly ugly draught excluder (the colour is far, far worse in real life!) with the intention of covering it before I used it.  I've finally decided that denim would be the best fabric to use (my first choice was cord but that would be a nightmare with Archie's hair!) and I'm hoping that it won't take long to make.  I helped Mam cover hers and it took about half an hour so if I factor in a little more time (to dismantle a jeans' leg) then an hour or so should see it finished.  Provided I don't add any embellishment, that is!

I seem to have started something new...
Bargello canvaswork
I started this canvaswork last week and have become more than slightly obsessed with it.  It's going to be a purse and could be finished in a relatively short amount of time, once I've decided on a zip colour!

Christmas Cherry progress
Christmas Cherry
Another rollover!  I stand a snowball in Hell's chance of finishing this before the quarter is up but I'm adding it to the (massive) list anyway.  You never know, if we have a really cold winter then I may spend lots of time under this, hand quilting and watching Christmas films, while trying not to turn the heating on too often!!

Now do you see what I meant about being touched with madness?!  I wonder if I can just link up the same list for the five quarters..?

While I was taking photos of all these proposals, Archie managed to finally make it upstairs and into my sewing room (I worked out a way to prop the stair gate open without it falling off the wall (it's now fixed, I hope!) and carried him up and then back down when I was finished - I have another gate at the top to stop him coming back down) and he immediately made himself at home:

Back where I belong, under the sewing table. (The whinging paid off!)

Finally but most importantly, are you the lovely someone who bought me a surprise copy of 'Little Quilts' by Sarah Fielke and Amy Lobsiger?  It arrived this week and I have no idea who it's from but I'd like to say thank you.  You don't need to identify yourself if you don't want to (either here or by email!) but I wanted to let you know how thoughtful it was and what a brilliant book it is!  In fact, I can see me being tempted to make several of the little quilts in the book rather than the little quilts on this list (don't tell Katy, she might tell me off.  Don't tell Nicky, either, she'll definitely tell me off!!).  Thank you, friend, you're a proper treasure!!

I hope you're all having a good weekend.  I must go, I've got a ridiculous FAL list to tackle!  Thanks for popping in!

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