Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Shopping Trip & Crafty Presents

In the run up to Christmas, the Fabric Guild did a series of open days. It's down in Leicester so almost 2 hours away. For that reason alone, I wouldn't go to buy the odd piece of backing fabric or a couple of fat quarters but as a place to stock up for the year ahead...well, that is where it's worth a visit. Lifetime membership is £5 and the shop itself is like a warehouse. There's a section with fabric on the bolt starting at just £2 a yard, a section full of boxes of fat quarters, a table or two full of books, a section for all the printed panels, a wall full of buttons and so on.

I went with a plan. A definite plan. A plan to buy some wadding and some backing fabric for the quilt I'm making and perhaps some more bargain backing fabric. The husband may have raised an eyebrow and said "Okay" in that tone that says "I know you are going to come home with a truck load of fabric". He may have been right!

But look, I was pretty good. I did buy some wadding and another new cutting mat.

And I did get some cheap lengths of fabric

I love those pumpkin faces!
But I got very distracted by Fat Quarters

And charm packs and remnants

And who could resist the £3 Christmas panels

This may be converted to cushions
Or this bargain £2 panel

And of course I never miss an opportunity to add to the button jar or ribbon tin

That big bag at the back is a £5 for 50 items grab bag!
It was definitely worth the trip but I did forget to buy black wadding. I ended up ordering that from Cotton Patch and also getting some black thread and bottomline from Barnyarns ready for my next project. Hopefully you'll be able to see that in progress mid-January.

If all that wasn't enough to fill my craft drawers to bursting, look at the lovely crafty presents I got for Christmas.

There's a set of 3 tins from Ikea so that I can reorganise my sewing bits. An owl quilting die for my big shot and 3 reels of ribbon on top of those. Next to it is a stack of fat quarters all chosen by the kids (actually I think one or two are long quarters), on top of that is a set of 4 fat quarters and 3 reels of thread from Alan and in front is a couple of fat quarters and a mini charm pack from my parents. The washi tape and sewing needles are stocking fillers I bought myself! Alan also bought me the embroidery threads at the front and the pot at the back, which os from M&S and is made to look like a  reel of thread for storing thread in (along with 4 reels). The buttons were chosen by the kids too. The odd looking contraption next to the buttons was from my in-laws. It's a bobbin storage tower that I've been coveting for a while as my bobbins are usually bouncing around in my sewing box making a big mess of tangled thread. I'm planning on putting them all neatly in the tower with one layer dedicated to Bottomline thread so it doesn't get muddled up.

Did you get lots of lovely crafty presents for Christmas?

Saturday, 28 December 2013

I'm really behind with my blogging!

I've just realised that with December being sooooo busy getting everything ready for Christmas, I hadn't done any blogging. First up I looked back at my previous posts and I don't think I shared the picture of Orla's finished quilt:

Both the children liked their quilts and they made me thank you cards when they played in the Ikea creche yesterday!

As I've mentioned (many times) I go to a sewing class on a Monday evening and we've had a bit of a regular fuddle sometime just before Christmas. Last year it was done as a big group fuddle with people from the other sewing classes and the same thing happened this year. There were soooo many people, as the number of classes has grown. For those of you reading who haven't heard of a fuddle, it's basically a little gathering where everyone brings some food or drink to share. We also do a version of Secret Santa where everyone brings a wrapped present worth about £5 and puts it in a sack. everyone then gets to choose a present from the sack. It's a nice way of doing things as it ensures everyone that attends gets a gift and, although you're not buying for someone specific, it's not too difficult to choose items as everyone likes crafty or homemade things. I was really pleased to open the following gift, which was pretty much perfect for me - a quilting magazine (with free pins) and pin cushion

At the December quilting class I knew I couldn't take my Christmas quilt top as I didn't have any wadding wide enough, so I took a pre-printed Christmas panel instead. I cut it into 5 wall hangings (1 large and 4 small) and basted them before the class. I spent the class quilting them. My plan had given me a full child free week to do the binding but Erin decided to share her bug with me and I didn't have the energy to do them. So I spent the last couple of days before Christmas frantically sewing to get these done, along with 2 mats that also needed binding.

 At the point above, one finished, the rest awaiting binding being hand sewn to the back I didn't think they'd ever be finished. I even roped Alan in to help!

Check out my advent calendars in the background :-)
They were eventually finished on Christmas Eve, the picture is terrible because it was hanging on the staircase and there's just no way to get a good picture.

I've quilted the outlines of the hills & road and around the houses, then done some free motion quilting in the sky.

I'll post again soon with news of quilt-y shopping and presents!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

FO: Neat Ripple Blanket

For a while now I've been wanting to make another Attic24 Neat Ripple blanket (click the link to go to Lucy's pattern). I haven't really had the time to make one. Then my Mum phoned the other week and mentioned that an Aunty is hoping I've made her a blanket for Xmas.

So, what do you do when you find out that someone wants a handmade blanket that you would usually make over at least a month and you know the presents for them are being collected in less than 2 weeks???? Well if you're as crazy as me, you start making one with the intention of posting it up sometimes before the last posting date in December. Then you start crocheting like crazy and finish it in 10 days.

I have to admit I haven't enjoyed making it as much as I usually would because I've been working it up so quickly. I also had to use the yarn I already had and I'd maybe have chosen fewer colours if I'd been ordering yarn for the project. I decided to do interlocking colours.

This is the ripple blanket withe the first couple of border rounds on. I had to slightly fudge the first round to create a straight edge and went around again in the pink as I thought it gave a neater finish in the corners.

I then added a pale blue, deep pink and finally a green round in the style of Lucy's border here.

Friday, 15 November 2013

WIP: Xmas Quilt

It's amazing how much you can get done when the kids are both at school full time and the next OU module hasn't started. I'd promised myself that I wouldn't just fill up this time with more work and it's really nice to be able to sit and relax and do a bit of sewing when I feel like it.

I finished sewing the 16 blocks for my Xmas quilt yesterday. In the evening, Alan helped me lay the blocks out. I'd put coloured pins in some so they wouldn't get mixed up; when I felt one needed to be moved it had to be swapped with a block with the same colour pin. Eventually I was happy with the layout and I've spent this morning putting it together.

Here it is hanging on the line as I think it shows the colours off better and luckily today the weather is nice & bright. It still needs a border added and I'm sure it won't be quilted before Xmas!!! My next module starts on Tuesday so the amount of sewing will drop off a little then. I just wanted to make sure the top was together as the blocks are very similar and the longer they are separate, the more chance of them getting muddled.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

WIP Weds: Another Quilt

So I headed off to quilting class on Saturday afternoon looking a little bit like I was going on holiday for a month. We're having a couple of sessions for Christmas projects and I hadn't decided what to make. I thought the easiest thing to do was take pretty much all my Xmas fabric, some wadding, some plain fabric, some thread in winter colours along with my machine, cutting mat, rulers and sewing stuff. I also had to take the finished robot quilt so everyone could have a look at it. If you're familiar with the big blue bags from Ikea, I had one of those full to bursting plus my machine!

The plan really was to look through Sarah's quilting books and see if there was a block I liked that I could make into a Xmas cushion (or two) but of course I decided the best thing to do was start a Xmas jelly roll quilt. I'm hoping to have the top done before this Xmas but I'm definitely not planning to have the quilting done by then; I'm not quite that crazy!

I spent the whole session cutting so most of the stuff I'd carried could have been left at home. After the session I finished the last of the cutting (loads of white squares) at home. I decided to take the project along to Monday night's sewing class as it was all packed up ready.

The quilt is made up from 16 blocks. Initially the blocks all follow a simple log cabin pattern with half the block from light fabrics and the other half from dark ones. I pretty much completed these at Monday night's class, with just the final few strips to add at home. The final round of each block varies based on its position in the quilt, to create stars between the blocks. Check out Rachel's quilt here for the finished look. This means there are 4 different blocks in the quilt. The quickest to make are the corner blocks (there are fewer triangles to sew) and I got these done yesterday.

Corner blocks
Today I made the 4 central blocks. These take the longest as they have the star sections in every corner.

Central blocks
I have 8 more blocks to finish before deciding on a layout. It all requires a bit of careful checking and double checking that the triangles are forming in the right direction, as well as careful labelling of the completed blocks.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

More Quilting & A Treat For Me

Having finally finished the robot quilt on Thursday evening, I decided on Friday to make a start on Orla's Xmas present quilt. It's made from an Aneela Hoey (Moda) "Walk In The Woods" charm pack and two other charm packs I've picked up at various quilt shows. This quilt has turned into quite a bargain. I bought the Moda charm pack at a bargain price at a quilt show, the two other charm packs were also really cheap. Backing fabric came from The Skep's January sale (which is amazing btw) and I think I paid about £2-3 a metre (it would be something like that as I didn't pay more than £4 a metre for anything), the wadding was free as the shop I ordered it from cut it incorrectly and they sent me a replacement and let me keep this bit.

It was also really quick to make. I laid all the squares out in the living room to decide on a layout and then stitched it all together before hiding it and picking the kids up from school. I basted it and quilted it once they were in bed. I got the idea for the quilting from Rachel's Walk In The Woods quilt, which you can see here on Sarah's blog.

Just the binding left to do.

Back to the robot quilt for a moment. It is now hanging on our bedroom wall after the most difficult quilt hanging in history; what is usually a case of banging 2 nails in a wall involved a husband, a drill, BIG screws and a bit of polyfilla!

I couldn't resist treating myself to this coaster, made by the lovely Annie at Heavenly Anarchist. It's a glass coaster with copper cogs in. The process of heating the glass causes a reaction in the copper creating beautiful colours.

This will be going on my bedside table as I think it goes really well with the robot theme.

Annie has lots of lovely items in her shop. The coasters would make lovely Xmas presents but she also has jewellery and gorgeous tealight holders. Please take a look!

Friday, 8 November 2013

FO Friday: Robot Quilt

I had to search back on my blog to find when I started this quilt as I couldn't remember the exact details of which month I actually started working on it. Turns out I started it right back in January! I know that when I started it I said to myself that I wouldn't put a deadline on it. I wanted it to be a fun, relaxing and enjoyable project and I didn't want to feel I had to work on it because some date was looming. I've stuck to that with the exception of this week, where I had got so close to finishing it I felt I had to get it done in time for tomorrow's class so that people can see it. I spent Thursday morning making binding and the hanging sleeve. After a phonecall I went to sew them on, repeating in my head "Make sure you sew the hanging sleeve to the TOP of the quilt". I took great care to do that....and consequently went on autopilot with the binding, sewing it to the wrong side by mistake. Luckily I noticed after the first long side but it still took a while to unpick.

Binding & hanging sleeve match the backing fabric

I started hand sewing the binding to the back before the school run, managed a little between that and having to start cooking food and then some more while Erin was at Rainbows. At that point I started to panic I was running out of thread so Alan headed over to Hobbycraft for some more after picking Erin up. Turned out I didn't need it (only just mind, there was practically nothing left on the reel) and I finished the quilt at about half ten.

I really like the brightness of the blue binding. Unfortunately the picture above doesn't really show off the quilting but I'm really pleased with it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

FO: Xmas present & WIP: Robot Quilt

What can I say, the kids are back at school so I'm being more productive. On Monday I spent the day drinking tea and crocheting. We'd had a fireworks party on Sunday and kept the Halloween decorations up for that so it was easier to crochet rather than have to clear all the table decorations up in order to sew (table confetti was involved!!!). Still it gave me the opportunity to finish my Aunty's Xmas present. I started by crocheting a bunch of leaves, then trying out some new flower patterns (I adapted some from a number of patterns and others I just followed the original pattern) and finally finding the enthusiasm to sew them on.

In the evening I found time to stuff the sewn bird and hang it in the wreath as well as add ribbon so the wreath can be hung.

I apologise for the terrible picture. It was a dark evening so the colours haven't come out very well.

On Tuesday I finally got round to clearing up the Halloween decorations so the table was clear. This allowed me to continue quilting the border. I have to admit it really dragged on. I put some soup on to warm up while I was doing it and it was about ready when I had 10" to go so I carried on and finished it so I could relax over lunch! I then went back to it and trimmed it ready for binding. I'll be adding a hanging sleeve too as I'm planning to hang it in our bedroom.

The borders were quilted with this random design featuring lots of triangle shapes. It was hard work because it involved a lot of concentration, thinking about what to do next and trying to keep it random in a fairly small space (borders are 3" wide iirc).

Ready for binding!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Half Term & Halloween

What with the revision I'd been doing and the robot quilt I just didn't have time to do any sewing for Halloween. Still I consider it an achievement that I have stuck to my promise of doing the free motion quilting on my robot quilt before starting a new quilting project. I just have half the border to do now, which I'm planning to do on Monday when the kids are back at school.

This half term I've taught a half day Felted Beads and Bracelets workshop, which was lots of fun. We did some wet felted swirly beads, some round beads and basic bracelets followed by some needle felted shapes, which people were able to embellish as they wished. Then it was a quick loading up of the car for a trip to the in-laws.

We had a big party on the Sunday, for which I contributed a Mixed Berry Lime Drizzle Cake. I used the Raspberry & Blueberry Lime Drizzle recipe here. I had bought limes as I was sure I had a lime cupcake recipe but when I looked it up in my recipe book I found it also had coconut in and I didn't have any. A google search combined with checking the cupboards for ingredients and I found I could make this with some frozen fruit I had in the freezer.

It came out lovely and flat on the top!

On Monday we were planning to go into London but the problems with the trains due to the weather would have made it difficult so instead we went bowling. I have no idea how I managed to win, not least because I spent half the game with the kids picking my bowling balls for me (including "too heavy for me to throw" balls and "very light but can't fit my fingers in the holes" balls). We also got the chance to do some child-free shopping, which for me means peaceful browsing of fabric. I was very restrained though, picking up just 1m of Xmas fabric from a remnants section at half price.

We came home on Tuesday but Alan had also booked the Wednesday off work so that we could go pumpkin picking at Farmer Copleys. Unfortunately the tractor wasn't running due to the ground; it was getting stuck. It didn't deter the kids though and off they went in search of perfect pumpkins. For both kids this generally meant the cleanest pumpkin they could find as they "don't like muddy ones". Orla wanted to find "a nice tiny one".

Plenty of pumpkins to choose from!
They eventually made a decision.

And this year we decided to carve them on site. Last year we wanted them to last a bit longer but this year we weren't bothered about that.

I managed to cut my finger doing this. I think it was due to using the cheapy kits that need a bit more pressure than a normal knife and I didn't notice I was doing it so I now have a sore finger which is making it hard to sew anything!

A bit of help from Daddy


On Halloween itself we made some cakes and iced some biscuits for the Trick or Treaters. We had a really nice fun day. The kids watched Casper and we went Trick or Treating when Alan had got home from work. There seemed to be more houses decorated this year and we definitely had more people calling round.

Halloween cakes
Some of the iced biscuits
All ready for the Trick or Treaters

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

More Free Motion Quilting

I keep sitting down and doing an hour or two on the robot quilt, yet every time I look at it I still don't seem to pass the halfway mark! I am slowly ticking off the blocks though.

First to show you is the log cabin block. I decided to do an all over pattern on this. I'm not hugely keen on all over patterns but the 'circuit board' inspired pattern does fit in with the robot theme.

I also finished the bubbles on this block having decided to keep them to the blue/grey fabric only so that the orange really pops out.

The orange sections of the orange peel block didn't take long to finish.

I really struggled to decide on how to quilt the following block. I wanted the purple to stand out. In the end I used a meander with loops on the blue (loops to tie in with the dots on the fabric) and then decided the orange needed something too so tried out a small meander.

I was glad the small meander looked ok. I find the meander quite hard to do because the idea is to make it look random and I tend to find I end up following a line by accident. I also used it on the flying geese blocks as the area to be quilted was so small, it was an obvious option!

The quilting in the background of this star block was meant to look like sky. I had seen a slightly more sky-like pattern but I wasn't confident to use it in the limited space available on this block. Since taking the picture I've also used a small meander on the purple star so that's another block ticked off.

The above picture also gives you a view of the quilting I'm doing in the sashing. I started working on this just to break it up a little as I knew it would get a bit monotonous doing it all in one chunk at the end.

Also in that picture you can see I've used the bubbles again in the block above (can you tell I love the bubbles! Do you have a favourite free motion pattern?)

 I've still to decide what pattern to use on the pink.

After a lot of google image searches for free motion patterns I was inspired by this Lollipop Flower pattern on The Free Motion Quilting Project blog. I adapted it a little to make it more alien/robot like. I also didn't feel confident making a lovely neat circle in the centre so did my best and filled it with bubbles to hide the imperfections.

Close up of the lollipops
...and close up of the 'needs practice' circle
The next block I did was one I have been terrified of starting ever since I loved the idea Sarah gave me for quilting it. The one design I really, really struggled with was wiggly squares and she suggested wiggly squares and triangles for this block. Eventually I couldn't put it off any longer. Luckily it was far easier on an actual quilt block. I think because there is a very obvious square to start with, you don't have to worry too much about thinking about size (mine were all over the place size-wise when I practiced on some plain squares)

Close up of the squares
I was hoping to show you my finished robot block. I have always known I wanted to do a meander with stars on. Unfortunately I am now unpicking it. It took me less than 10 minutes to sew it and it's taken me an hour to unpick half of it. There wasn't anything wrong with the actual sewing but I didn't like the thread colour. It was too similar to the purple fabric so the stars didn't show up and I felt it was a bit wasted. I absolutely hate unpicking and had it been any other block I'd probably have left it but I just knew I couldn't leave it on the main block of the quilt. I'd have never been happy with it.

So I think that leaves me with two half blocks , a little over half the sashing and the borders to quilt.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Barnyarns - More Thread

One thing I can say about ordering thread is that it has all arrived quickly. Both orders were placed on Thursday, the Mettler threads arrived on Monday. My Barnyarns order arrived on Saturday but we were out at the time so it had a little detour via the sorting office.

I decided to order more of the King Tut thread that I really like. The orange is for the robot quilt and I bought two other colours as there's a discount for buying three. I chose the colours based on the plans I have for my next few makes.

Isacord and King Tut thread
As you can see I also bought some Isacord thread. This is one of the threads I tried out in classes that my machine seemed to really like. It's also a cheaper thread than the King Tut. I didn't choose the colours, Barnyarns have a selection of Try Me Specials where you can order a limited number to try out a thread at lower cost but it's pot luck what colours you get (they do say if you order more than one then you won't get any the same).

Now I have to be honest, although I thought this was a fantastic idea I did wonder if I would end up with 5 awful colours (You know, the ones nobody has bought and they'd struggle to give away) so I was really, really amazed to find I received fantastic colours for all my threads.

Yes, despite my worries I also ordered trials of Masterpiece and Nature Colours. Again I'd had a little trial of these in class and my machine seemed to like them.

Masterpiece thread
Nature Colours
I'm really pleased with the selection. There isn't one I dislike and I think all of them are very useable colours.

I also picked up a Try Me Special of Bobbinfil.

I'm currently using Superior Threads Bottomline and find it's really made a difference to my quilting so I'll see what this one is like too.