Tuesday 29 December 2015

They know me so well!

From my sister, a book of little quilts to admire and perhaps emulate, from DD1, a piece of beautiful fabric, from DD2 a packet of bright buttons and from Benta a wonderful zippy pouch!

Thank you, everyone!  Wonderful sewing related gifts - just what I love best!
 And here are a couple of pillowcases that an elf slipped into the stockings this year, at DD1's particular request.
So rather than the cat being out of the bag, the unicorn and penguin are out of the stocking!

Hope that Santa brought you whatever it was you wished for too!

All good wishes, one and all, for a happy and healthy 2016!  See you next year!

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Applique all round!

 Always good when I can show someone else's sewing from within the household!

This is the start of an applique cushion cover that DD1 is making at school, but with some homework requirements over the holidays.

So that she could practice sewing round all those curves, I made a companion piece that could also be a cushion front if we wanted it to be.  These circles range from about 3 1/2" diameter to about 1".  I think that they'd be tough to sew around with a zig zag, but at the moment that's what DD1 is planning to do.  I may demonstrate some different ways of finishing them with stitching (like FMQ, which I think would be much easier on those tight curves!).

Of course, DD1 being how she is, we've dived straight in to stitching on her piece - although so far only zig zagging along the straight edges!  I'll just have to see what happens next!

My applique circles?  CD size, so a bit larger, and without bondaweb to stiffen them.  I have made a little progress since last week, but it's not going to be finished by Christmas as I'd expected.  Ten more circles to add before I can start on the quilting.  Too much other life getting in the way!  Still, I have made progress on it. 

Nothing more to say here before the festivities start in earnest, so HAPPY CHRISTMAS and BEST WISHES FOR A FABULOUS 2016!

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Small Sewing (and a gripe!)

 This week I've sewn more than I can show - isn't that always the way at Christmas?

As well as this little set of pouch / notebook cover and tissue holder for one of DD1's class mates, I made another 6 'wild women' brooches as teacher presents (and forgot to take a photo before wrapping them up and sending them off - doh!).

I've also been sewing secretly for the family - so no pics until after Christmas!  All good fun, but time consuming.  I'm ready to get stuck into a quilt again now!

My gripe?  Having ordered sprung scissors (yes, thank you for asking, I've found that they are much more comfortable than regular scissors for me) I was somewhat put out that the only way of getting the smaller scissors out of the protective wrapping was by cutting the orange grip loop.  Don't they have any idea who the audience for these scissors are?  It's a bit chicken and egg to say the least.  I'm lucky (DH happy to be my strong hands when I can't do something) but not everyone can rely on there being someone else around to help them.

Come on Fiskars, you can do better than that!

Right, back to festive cheeriness now!  I'm going to do a little work on this 'stand out from the crowd' quilt.  I just need to applique another 21 red circles onto this piece and then decide what borders to add, given that I don't have any more of this fabric available!

The yellow square is the 'stand out from the crowd' focus, of course.

Hope that you have some fun sewing lined up too!

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Quick-to-Make Bird Brooch Tutorial

 I have to admit that this is a variation on an idea that I saw in Quilting Arts Magazine last year - but sufficiently different that I feel that I can share it with you!

It's a continuation of a the photos of fabric playing that I've been doing recently - using a leftover 1/2 sheet of printable fabric that I had lying on top of my printer! (Top tip, if you project doesn't take up a whole page of printable fabric, just peel off the part that you've printed on and cut it off, leaving the backing paper complete, and you'll be able to run it through the printer again when you are ready with another idea).

1) Start off with a photo of a bird.  I turned mine into a grey tone photo, and added a coloured border to it, and printed them out at 2" x 3" or so.
 2)  Next add colour back in with Inktense pencils - I had fun inventing my own bird plumage.
 3) Lay the printed sheet onto a piece of felt.  It will only just be visible when you finish, so don't worry too much about the colour, but choose something that won't clash with the next border fabric you choose if possible.

4) Start adding colour and texture with machine stitching - or hand stitching if you prefer.
 5) Carry on building up your stitching.
 6) Keep going until you are happy with the effects!
 7) Now cut the picture apart.  I like the pinking rotary cutter for this as it makes them look like postage stamps.
 8) Lay the pictures onto another piece of backing fabric and cut out with an 1/8" border.  (I put each piece on the fabric with the bottom and left hand sides aligned with fabric edge, and then cut with an extra 1/4" along the top and right hand edges.  Then I can line the piece up in the centre to get the narrow border that I want).
 9) Now lay these pieces onto a piece of coordinating felt and cut the final 1/8" border.  You may choose between straight and wavy cutting on all these edges!
10) Using either a straight stitch or a tiny zig zag stitch, stitch through all the layers near the edge of the printed layer.  It makes an internal 'frame' and attaches all the layers together neatly.

11) Finally, hand sew a brooch back to the backing felt.

12) Admire your finished brooches (probably before wrapping them up as delightful presents for friends and family)!

You could make Christmas themed brooches with robins or reindeer, you can add beads and bling, you can ring the changes to suit what yourself.

Have fun with them!

If you have a few more minutes spare, you might like to make sock snowmen like me and a couple of my gal pals.
Tutorial here - very quick and easy, needing just one sock, three elastic bands, some rice and some felt scraps.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Fun Finish

 I finally finished this little strippy (well, stacked coins) quilt.

It's only 36" x 42" (so perfect for using a yard of backing fabric!).
 The quilting is in two parts.  I've quilted feathers down the two 'background' strips near the middle - which I've tried to show in more detail here.

The rest of the quilt is covered in a meander stitch.

I love how the quilting really adds to the texture.
Wish that I'd remembered to take a shot of the binding with both the back and the front of the quilt.  It's been in my stash for a while (I was about to say a few months, but it's probably over a year old) and was close enough to the green seeds in the both the background fabric on the front and the green in the different colourway I'd used of the same print (a Je Ne Sais Quoi filler) on the back.


Wednesday 25 November 2015

Developing a Technique

 I'm a member of a fabric postcard swap group - an offshoot of the well established BQL (British Quilters List) - and each year I take part in a birthday swap.  I get lovely cards on my birthday, and in return I make cards during the year for others in the swap.

Sometimes it's difficult to come up with a new idea, sometimes there is a technique that I want to explore and this is a good chance to do that.
 These are the cards that I've made this month, in the order that I made them, exploring adding stitching to a photo printed on fabric.

The pier for Avril I liked (you can't really see the silver thread that gave a little twinkle to it, trying to replicate the lights coming on at dusk, but it's there!).  I'm not happy with the clouds that I added, though (sorry Avril!).

I liked the sky better on this 'London Postcard' but it was hard to judge how many lines to add to the buildings
This winter scene was my final go at this - and again, the silver doesn't really show up in the photo, but I think that the technique worked well on this.

So, what have I learned?  That the starting photo needs to have a strong focus (and that it might be easier if the main focus is in the foreground), that layers of thread work well if the shades are similar, that the fabric photo and wadding need an additional support for the quilting (paper or interfacing work well) and that its lots of fun!

I've printed onto fabric before, and clearly, I've quilted before, but never combined the two quite like this.  I'd really recommend it as a light hearted and easy way to create something interesting!

I'm off to work on hand finishing the binding for my current little quilt.  Enjoy your crafting this week!

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Christmas Decoration Mini Tute

It may seem a little early to be thinking about decking the halls (or the Christmas tree) but my DDs - as part of their Guide Unit - are selling homemade Christmas decorations for charity this weekend, and I thought that I'd supplement their stock.

I started off with some 'cookie cutter' felt stars.  There are many ways of tackling these, but if you would like to make something similar, here is what I did.
 1) Put two pieces of craft felt together and go to town with your fancy decorative machine stitches.

2) Using a cookie cutter, draw your chosen shape(s) onto a piece of paper.  If you want to make things really quick for yourself at the 'pulling apart' stage use tissue paper or easy tear foundation paper.  I chose stars, but it could just have easily have been hearts or bauble shapes.
3) Put the paper onto the felt and stitch around the shapes that you have drawn.

 4) Remove the paper and cut around the stitched shapes just outside the line.

Finally, add a hanging ribbon (perhaps with a button to cover the stitching).  You're done!

I have used the stitched fabric that was left from between the stars to make other shapes for baubles and winged creatures.  These will have a stitched outline added before their ribbon.

Job done!  A quick and easy way to make some decorations.
I also made some Christmas trees - there are instructions for these all over the internet - but in essence I used a pinking edge rotary cutter to cut around an old CD to make green fabric circles.
Then I folded them in half, then 'zig-zaggy' before stitching them down, adding a tree trunk at the bottom.
I have to confess that I even add buttons by machine these days - setting it to satin stitch and being careful to adjust the width depending on the button.

If you make any decorations I hope that you have fun too!

Wednesday 11 November 2015

WIPs on Wednesday

 It's one of those weeks where I don't seem to have made much sewing progress - although I did make a cute robin button brooch under instruction at my quilting group on Monday.

I've been having a look at the WIPs that I have.  Despite a concerted effort to reduce their number earlier in the year, I find that I still have four on the go at the moment.

This one - stacked coins - is a top that I started putting together last week with those 1 1/2" strips that I had left over from the wild women making and some more charm squares.
 This is my mini Storm at Sea.  I dived in with gusto, got annoyed that my sewing wasn't as accurate as I'd like it to be, and have left it to languish beside the sewing machine.  I need to decided whether to unpick and start again (quite unlikely!) or press on and embrace the imperfect but achieve a finish (more my style!)
 This is the most mature of my projects - several years old -hexagon flowers from my late FiL's shirts.  The top three rows are sewn together, the two lower rows need to be sewn together with the spacer hexies from my DH's shirts.  Then I need to decide what I'm going to do with it next.  Possibly just apply it to a piece of fabric and quilt it as is, but I'm not sure.  Suggestions welcome!
 Lastly, this is my 'intended' WIP - if that makes sense.  My 'Farmers Wife' sampler, with the next couple of blocks partly made / pressed.  I'm still working through my scrap box to get pieces of fabric that are large enough for the pieces that I need.

I have, of course, a whole other project, which is to deal with the scraps that I haven't yet tackled.  I saved lots of things in case I used them in my Dear Jane, but they aren't necessarily large enough for the Farmer's Wife blocks.   I think that I need a cutting session to get them into some standard sizes to make them more easily usable - or something - as they are starting to look a bit out of control!
 This week in the UK we enjoyed  the 5th November Bonfire Night / Guy Fawkes Night / Firework Night.

When I stop to think about it, I'm not sure that celebrating either the terrorist attempt to blow up parliament or the burning of an effigy of the person trying to do it is that politically correct. Despite that, I wouldn't like to lose the chance for us to have a community wide day to let off fireworks either - although I'm not sure that the fact that we've been doing it for 410 years is really an excuse!
These photos are jointly titled 'November 6th' - very much the day after the sky sparkle of the night before.

We have our own firework 'show' in our garden.  I'm not sure that the pet hens appreciate it, but we have a great time enjoying DH setting off a multitude of rockets, fountains and other delights.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Its All About the Quilts!

 I haven't blogged since our quilt show - it was great!

This quilt by Marjolijn 'Old Dutch' won the visitors choice award.  My photo doesn't do it justice, but the piecing and quilting are lovely!
 My choice for the award (lovely though Old Dutch and many of the other quilts in the show were!) would have been Avril's 'Alice in Wonderland' quilt, which I think is truly wonderful!

The show went well, with lots of visitors (thank you!) and sales from the craft table, raffles and so on.  I hope that we raised a good amount for our charities.  Well organised by our wonderful committee - big thanks due to them for their hard work!
We also had a Project Linus stand there, manned for all three days by our tireless local rep, Jacquie.

About half the quilts that I make I pass over to Jacquie so that through Project Linus they can be passed on to people who need them.

She does a great job! Thanks Jacquie!

This was my stack of 13 quilts to pass over.  They were a mix of sizes, from single quilt down to  baby quilts.  Some where made with 'new' blocks, some with 'orphan' blocks - and some 'Angelika'd' (my name for using up left over blocks  and scraps at the end of a quilting project)

It feels really satisfying to know that they will go to people who need a little extra hug - love is sewn into all these quilts.
My only real sewing over the last couple of weeks has been this fabric postcard with a purple theme.

That, and helping another 15 or so girls make their own versions of wild women - I wish that I'd taken a group photo of them all!
DD2 has been working on a long term project - a quilt destined for Blue Peter, with a suggestion that if they don't need it, they might like to pass it on to Project Linus too.

I'm happy that she's working on this and hope that her big sister might do a bit more on it as well!

Happy sewing, everyone!

Wednesday 21 October 2015

I should have been more like Santa!

I'm pretty sure that when Santa had a list he checked it twice.  This is good advice.  If I'd followed this advice I wouldn't have some vague memories of making a list in early September which had a space for whether or not the quilts I am planning to show this weekend had a hanging sleeve on ..... clearly with the idea that if it didn't and needed one, I would address that in good time.

Oh no.  I didn't follow the advice.  As a result of this I have 10 quilts that are completely fine but one rogue quilt without a sleeve!  Cue a little late-in-the-day sewing in order to put one on.  My top 'cheats' tip?  If you sew the top seam from the front in the ditch along the binding, no one will notice it, and you'll have halved the hand sewing that you need to do.  Makes the job a lot faster for me!
I couldn't lay my hands on a matching strip of fabric, so sewed on something that will come off again after the weekend.

You'll be able to try and spot all 11 of these little lovelies if you can make it to the Richmond and Kew Quilters show which is on at The Landmark Centre in Teddington.  Hope to see you there!
 My other hand sewing at the moment is finishing the binding on this baby quilt.  It will probably be finished tonight.

The making of 'Wild Women' went well with DD2's friends last Friday, so I've made another 15 bodies ready for DD1's friends to come and complete this Friday.  Now I can decide what to make with the 1 1/2" x 5" strips that I have left from cutting these out from charm squares!

Fun and scraps - all good!


Wednesday 14 October 2015

Wild Women, Love Entwined and Coincidence!

 Last night some gal pals and I made Wild Women - inspired by the beautiful originals by ThreadAddict here.

Whilst ours don't match up to the care and skill employed on the originals, they do have their own charm, even if they look as though they've just rolled out of a night club at 3.00am on a Friday morning and are going to regret their hangovers in the morning!

 These are the ones that I've made so far this month, partly as little extras for the craft stall at the Richmond and Kew Quilters show (Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th October - hope to see you there!) and partly as trials to see if they are easy enough for my daughters and their friends to make their own versions.  The jury is still out on that!
 I also realised that although I'd shown you my Love Entwined quilt whilst it was being blocked, I hadn't shown you it on the wall.

It greets us as we enter the house now.  I've shown you how it is, hanging over the keyboard where DD2 practices every day.  I didn't want to show you that, though, just the lily flower on the plant to the right that really looks like the one on the quilt (from the bottom RH vase). Hard to pick out, but it's there in pale pink!
Here it is shown in all it's glory!  I wish that I was a better photographer - it does actually hang straight on the wall, not wonky!

My machine sewing this week has been to make replacement cafĂ© curtains for our bedroom.  Not the most exciting sewing to do, but I was able to use some lovely seed scattered 'Je ne sais quoi' fabric for it.  Nice to have a change from the ones that had been up for the last 20 years and which were starting to look a bit tatty!

Finally, the coincidence is that this is my 289th blog post and also the day when I've just put my 289th book into my Kindle folder of 'Plum's read this'.  Not enough to set the world alight, but I'll be looking around to see if there are any other 289 'things' today!

Hope that you are having a burst of autumnal creativity this week - or just some fun coincidences!