Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Baking not Sewing.

My creative energies, such as they are, have been directed at the kitchen over the last week instead of the craft room, as DD1 turned 8.  The most important things for any birthday celebration are cake and friends (DD1's words, not mine, and a strongly held tenet since she was 3) and despite not always finding the energy to do as much as I'd like to with the girls, making a birthday cake for them has been something that I've always managed.  I can't manage a professional finish, but I try to make up for it with love - sounds a bit like my quilts!

This was the one for the actual birthday - fairly simple.
DD's were impressed with the first outing of my edible glitter!

This year the party theme was 'jazzy jewellery' - as the main focus of the craft activity was making bag charms and necklaces  - so I made this jewellery box cake.  I also made a whole tree of dairy free cupcakes so that the party guest who can't eat the main cake could still join in.

All very nice, but as soon as I've recovered from the party (and finding somewhere for all the presents to live!) I'll be back sewing again.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Bloomin' Marvellous!

It's finished: it's quilted, bound, labelled and hung!  Meg's Garden (or Happy Flower Tree, as I've called mine) graces the space above our bed.  It's not ideal (I could either lose the bottom of the trunk from view, or hang it from above the picture rail, which means that it can never hang flat, of course - and I chose above the picture rail, on balance).  So we have 48" x 57" of  loveliness hanging in the bedroom.  or at least, I think that it's lovely, DH thinks that it has rather too much pink and yellow in, but has let me hang it up anyway, as he is sweet natured and long suffering.

So would I make another?  I don't think that I'd like to make another this large.  It did occur to me that although I've learnt a lot (primarily not to use linen mix on a wholecloth, and if making a large whole cloth to think about basting to show the original lines that you were working to rather than spray-away pen so that you've got a better idea of where to aim the rotary cutter to square it up in the finish) I'm happier making small pieces, and that I quite like to include some piecing as well as the fusible applique. 

I'd be happy to recommend Kellie's patterns, though, and her website so that you can try a smaller project with the same techniques to get a taste of them.

 You can see a little more on these close-up shots.  The linen mix colour is right in the photo above.

The photo to the right probably shows the printed fabrics as fairly close to true colours.
The shot to the left shows how the central circle was put together around a couple of key butterflies and large flowers.

I'm really pleased that I've made this, it will make me smile every time I see it.  It lacks the elegance of a pure mathematical solution, or the grace of a natural tree, but I love it.  I hope that you create things that make you smile too.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Antidote! A baby strippy quilt to make and a quilt-a-long.

The antidote to a large unpieced quilt that is very wobbly and difficult to work out how to square up, is, of course, a small pieced quilt that will lay flat, do what it's told and come up neat!  So once I'd blocked the flower garden quilt (I only needed to re-arrange the living room for 24 hours and crawl about with water sprayer and pins for a short time) I started this little baby quilt.  I've made full width strippy quilts before, but thought that this one, with just half-width strips would be a quick and easy make.

Want to make one too? Have you got an hour to spare?  if so you should be able to finish the machine sewing on this!

Baby Strippy Quilt

Cut four strips 3 1/2" x 20 1/2" from a novelty fabric.
Cut five strips 2 1/2" x 20 1/2" from a companion fabric (I like contrast, you might something less bold like a matching solid).

Sew them in alternate strips, and press towards the darker fabric.

Cut batting and backing approximately 24" x 22".  Baste (I spray baste) and quilt - I tend to use a fairly loose stipple so that the quilt stays drapeable.

Finally, cut approx 90" of binding and use to finish the quilt.  Adding the binding takes me as long as all the other steps put together, as I like to hand sew the reverse of the binding.  If you'd like a faster finish, then you can bag out (or 'birth') your quilt before the quilting stage and finish with top stitching instead.

A good result for an otherwise idle hour, and a great antidote to more troublesome quilts!

I'm going to sign up for this 'quilt-along' too  - called the Super Nova Quilt-Along on Freshly Pieced - I like the design, and feeling short of brain power, like the idea of piecing where someone else makes the decisions.  Are you going to join in too?

I think that I'll probably use these FQ's (thank you Nicky!) and this background picked up in a sale last year.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Could it be, could it be?

Could it be, could it be? could it be, could it be? could it possibly be Meg's Flower Garden?  Yes, yes, yes! (and not, in the words of the 'Joseph' song, Benjamin after all).

Shocking after all this time, but at last the lovely flower tree is back under the needle getting some more quilting.  Have I solved the 'bagginess' issues?, not really.  I've tried gathering small circles and quilting around them, I've tried using a pipe frame, I've tried using an embroidery hoop, I've tried every method suggested that didn't include me having to actually cut fabric.  What has been my final resolution?  After lots of trials and quite a lot of unpicking of those trials, the final answer has been to STOP TRYING TO MAKE SOMETHING HARDER THAN IT NEEDS TO BE and to give up the idea, held for some months, that I was going to produce beautiful quilting in this area between the tree and the flower border.  I've got for a much more pragmatic approach, and a 'macro stipple' rather than anything fancy.  As I went a long I just pulled fabric out of the way and tried to distribute it evenly over the surface area that I had, and, most importantly, not quilt in too many pleats.

What I've ended up with is a mountainous rather than flat surface, but this pales into insignificance when you realise that for the first time in about six months significant progress has been made!  No, the result won't be a perfect 'show quality' quilt (I've never produced one of those, perhaps something to aim for in later life) but I am working towards something that will hang on the wall, rather than sit in the UFO pile, which is a very good thing.

Other good things?  Well, I've finally been well enough to make it into school to help out with 'creative Friday' for the first time in a month, which means I've finally got to take a photo of the wall hanging I titivated (with the help of lots of children, of course).  It was nice to see it hanging up so that I could take photo of the whole thing, as I hadn't got anywhere large enough at home to spread it out flat - it's about 6' x 10' I should  think.

On a smaller scale I received a little piece of A3 loveliness through the post - an Angelika Monks original, made for the BQL skinny swap.  As you can just see from the photo, this hangs just to my left as I sit at my PC - and is right opposite the craft room door, so I see it every time I go up or down stairs too.  I am very pleased with it.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lots of happy stitching.

Working on small things - and getting some 'domestic' sewing done too.  This week I've replaced a zip in DB's jacket, added a few more patches to the worn out sofa cushions, and (less domestic) made a calico bonnet to embroider for the Roses from the Heart project.  No, there is no particular reason to make something and send it half-way around the world to honour a woman who was shipped to Australia as a convict in the 1800's, but there is no particular reason not to, either.  I've chosen a Mary Evans (my maiden name is Evans) - and I'm trying to find out a little more about her.  The bonnet will be embroidered with her name, the name of the ship that she travelled on, and some roses (or my best attempt) and perhaps some other patterns too.....but I haven't started that embroidery part yet.

On the quilting front I've completed my stay at home robin, round 9 (by adding ribbon flowers and sewing down some of the fused details) - the hand sewing done whilst chatting to my good friend Avril who came for a quilters play date.

I've also made my challenge piece for the next BQL challenge swap - 7 1/2" x 24".  Birds seemed to appear in lots of quilts that I'd seen over the last year or so - so using a quick and easy fusible method to make the birds bodies and adding machine embroidery for the details seemed like a fun tribute to them - and perfect for the size requirements this month.

The colours are truer in the 'long shot' below - the background is my favourite M&S 'Oxford Weave' blue work shirts, snaffled from DH.....

I've finished the February block from the latest Bunny Hill BOM.  I'm not sure that I'm going to last the course on this BOM - I really love the way that the instructions are given so clearly, and that it's an easy 'no think' project for me, but I'm not that into 'cutsy' squirrels......) 

I've spent a happy time with DD2, who has sewn around this cloth doll (a lovely set of four from Avril).  She is called Agnes and will be making her debut at 'Show and Tell' tomorrow, I understand.  DD1 would like to make a doll too, but is still (I think) a bit scared about how fast a sewing machine can go....  more straight line sewing is required first.
It's possible that the Year One class will resolve the hot debate about whether it's a kitten or an old fashioned bear that Agnes is clutching......

Happy stitching!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Go and see the work of Susan J. Adams!

Not just a lost week, but yet another spent blaming the bug for me feeling jaded, before I realised that I was horribly anaemic (again!).  I managed to avoid hospital and blood transfusions this time, but I really need to find some exciting iron rich vegetarian recipes before I get bored with the ones that I make regularly to uplift the iron capsules that I'm popping like candy!

So, still no 'real' activity, just a few ATC's - honestly, a fortnight to put these few bits together!

Still, I'm happy to say that ideas are once again flowing (although not yet translated into action) for the next BQL 'skinny swap' - this time 24" x 7 1/2" - and I've got more ideas than time, I fear!

And now it's time to get to the real subject of this post.  One of my oldest friends, the immensely talented Susan J Adams, currently has an exhibition on until the 19th March.  No, she isn't a quilter (shame!) but hugely talented in many areas of different media.  This exhibition, at Moma Wales (in Machynlleth, Powys) contains sculptures, paintings and prints all on the theme of 'There are Receivers in the Woods' - a visual exploration of the hearing of voices.  If you can't get to the exhibition you might want to order the free booklet 'they leak through me' for just the cost of the P&P.  I have no idea how you find enough head space to get together a coherent body of work as a mother of a small child, but she has managed - well done, SJA!

Hope that you are all managing beautiful creative endeavours this week!