Tuesday, 20 August 2013

It's been a busy week

One of the reasons I was planning on missing the Festival Of Quilts this year was because we were due to go away last week and I thought it would be too hectic. After making the trip to Birmingham on the Saturday I still had an assignment to work on before going to visit family on the Monday. As it happened I didn't get it finished so we ended up taking the computer to the Lake District! To be fair, I had carefully planned my studying to fit in around going away and then someone pointed out to the course team that Unit 12 wasn't due to be read until after the assignment yet one of the questions related to Unit 12. Apparently there had been a mix up with the study calendar. My careful planning went out of the window in order to fit in another full unit of study (we usually get about 2 weeks per unit). Luckily I finished and submitted the assignment on the Monday evening.

After a few days visiting family, Erin came down with chickenpox just before we were due to make the journey into Scotland for a family wedding. She was able to stay with my parents while Alan, Orla and I attended said wedding.

Excuse the mess around us in the picture, it was a bit of a rush to get Orla ready in someone else's room (ours wasn't ready) and our stuff was just dumped.

On the way back we stayed with my parents for another night before traveling back yesterday. Today has mainly been spent finishing off the unpacking and doing laundry.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Festival Of Quilts 2013

I know I said I wasn't going to the Festival Of Quilts this year but when the time came I couldn't resist. So on the Saturday we all went down to the NEC in Birmingham for the day - yes, even Alan & the kids came along! We started by having a look around the quilts. I'd given the kids a little 'treasure hunt' of things to look for like circle, hexagon, frog, flower and they ticked them off when they saw a quilt with them in. When they were a little tired/bored of looking at the quilts we went and got a drink and had a bit of cake. Then I took them to look at the children's quilts, which they really liked. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the quilts because I was too busy moving my kids around and making sure they weren't touching! I also had the husband to look after. He was most surprised to see "quite an old quilt in the children's section" (quilt number 2006) until I pointed out he "might be more impressed by the time traveling quilt, number 2076" ;-) .

We also let the kids play on the Quilter's Guild tombola and I had to have a go myself. I can't resist a tombola!!!

The above picture shows our prizes. Mine is the one at the back. I'm not sure which book belongs to which child because they keep swapping!

Then the shopping started. Alan and the kids had lunch (who needs lunch when you can be buying fabric?!?) and then took them to see the planes at the airport until I was ready to leave.

I'm always surprised at the stalls I'm attracted to at quilt shows. I don't really have a particular style of fabric that I stick to. I like modern fabrics but also traditional ones. I like a wide variety of colours and prints. I like bold colours AND pastels. There are well known online shops whose stalls I barely glance at when I'm at the festival yet other stalls I always buy from yet I never visit their website in between shows.

One of the stalls I always end up buying something from is Creative Quilting, where I bought a couple of packs of 5" squares. The other stall I love is Quilter's Trading Post and this year I purchased a couple of bag patterns and some fabric. I bought the Cotillion Bag Pattern because I love the Regency/Jane Austen panels and the bag pattern comes with one panel to use for the pocket. They also do some lovely cushion kits but I thought a bag would be more useful. I couldn't resist buying a mini charm pack (2.5" squares) and a fat quarter of Wildflower Wood by Lynette Anderson. I'm currently thinking of making a cushion from this.

I also bought some bargains from Patchwork Cabin. This is a lovely little shop in Great Bookham, Surrey and I've visited it when we've been staying with the in-laws as it's not too far to go. I managed to pick up a 4m piece of fabric which I will probably use for backing for a few things. It goes quite well with the Wildflower Wood fabrics I bought so might use it to back whatever I make from that. I also bought a scrap pack and a pack of 2.5" strips (iirc it has 20 strips so basically it's half a jelly roll).

I have to admit that at quilt shows I'm massively drawn to precuts. Perhaps it's partly because it requires more consideration to choose 3 or 4 meters at £12-ish per meter from the HUGE selection available than to buy lots of little packs at £2-£5. It's not just that though and I can't resist little packs of fabric folded up like stars, which is how I came to buy some fabric from Cross-Patch for the first time. You can see them in the picture below of all my purchases. It's the butterfly fabric and the one with irons on - I also picked up a pack of small strips of these Washday Fabrics just because I thought the designs were cute and would look good in a kitchen.

I think these lovely little packs would make fantastic stocking fillers along with the usual charm pack type things (Alan, if you're reading this, take note!!!).

You can probably see I picked up a reel of The Bottom Line thread too. I should probably have spent less on fabric and more on essentials like rotary blades or a new cutting mat.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Unexpected Baking & Crafting

One of the great things about where we live is that there's quite a lot of free (or very cheap) places to take the children in the holidays. With Orla coming down with chickenpox it means we've had to abandon our holiday 'bucket list' for a while. We've been doing a bit of crafting at home. The kids made some tissue paper pictures from some kits I bought them a while ago from Wilkinsons.

To be honest given the cheap price (I think I paid about £1 or £1.50 ish) I wasn't expecting much but they were fantastic. The kits contained some precut card shapes and the front peels off in sections to reveal a sticky side. There's then a few packs of precut tissue paper that the kids can crumple up and press on.

Erin's set contained a fish and a car:

Orla's set contained a flower and a butterfly:

As you can probably tell, despite the chickenpox she's her normal happy little self and was very happy sticking. All 4 pictures are now decorating out patio doors! I love displaying the pictures the children make but I have to admit the school go a bit overboard on sending home any bit of paper your child has so much as touched with a pen, so I tend to keep the best bits and the rest is carefully disposed of when they're in bed.

Last week we ordered our food shopping online. We used to do this regularly but now only do it if we've got a busy weekend or we've been away and it's more convenient. When ordering I added in some gooseberries since they was in a 2 for £x type promotion with something I was buying anyway and I thought I could make a gooseberry pie. Unfortunately when Alan took the delivery in they'd been substituted. Now admittedly I got more expensive gooseberries for the original price BUT it was a smaller pack size. Not enough to make my pie. A bit of a google search for gooseberry recipes and I stumbled on Nigel Slater's Gooseberry Crumble Cake. What could be better than crumble AND cake in one?!?!?!

It was fairly simple to make but did take much longer in the oven than the recipe suggested, perhaps mostly because I was using a slightly smaller tin (and therefore making the mixture a bit deeper). I often find my oven takes a little longer than suggested. Still, 1 hours and 55 minutes later, I had this:

Gooseberry Crumble Cake
I must admit that at this point the smell was amazing and I was quite tempted to just start eating!

Luckily for Alan, because I think I might have eaten it all, I managed to wait until after he got home from work.

The gooseberries were lovely
It tasted great.

It's basically made by making a spongey base with ground almonds in, flattening that in a tin, covering that layer with goosberries, then pouring crumble over the top before sticking it in the oven. When making it again I'd probably make the crumble topping by hand and do it before mixing the cake. I followed the recipe, making the cake mix first and then I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to leave it while I made the crumble by hand, so I quickly whizzed it in the processor but I don't think it made it as nice as doing by hand.

Monday, 5 August 2013

More Robot Quilt News

It was the August quilting class on Saturday, a week earlier than normal due to the Festival Of Quilts. Unfortunately I won't be able to go this year but I'm hoping to get along to the Great Northern Quilt Show in Harrogate at the end of the month. I've not had much time in the last month to work on the quilt but Friday evening I felt I should make some progress before the class. The plan was to cut my scraps and sew sections for the next round of the border. Of course it didn't seem much more work to join the sections and sew them to the quilt, because I needed to know I'd made enough! Then it wasn't much more work to add the final border round so just after midnight I had this:

Robot sampler quilt top finished
I used random sizes and placement of the leftover scraps for the border. I didn't particularly enjoy making that bit. I realised once the 4 big strips were made that I should have thought more about what they would be next to on the quilt and had to turn one around.

At the quilting class I practiced some more free motion quilting as my plan is to do a lot of quilting on this one and I really need the practice!!! 

Yesterday I got some time to continue working on the quilt as the youngest child has chicken pox so we're stuck in the house. I didn't have enough of the sashing/border fabric for the back so I decided to use a blue fabric with dots on that I thought went well with the robot theme. Of course being a standard width fabric it was going to have to be pieced for the backing as it wasn't quite wide enough. Now I must confess that I have a slight hatred for piecing the backs of quilts if it's being done in one fabric. So I picked up my remaining scraps and cut some strips. I then cut those up into various lengths, I didn't even measure some. I sewed together enough to put 2 lines in the back.

At this point I had to stop working on it because I needed to buy some wadding. After much pondering over the different options and doing some sums to see what size offers the best value* I have ordered a cotton & bamboo blend. My first quilt was made with 100% bamboo wadding (the particular brand I bought has now been discontinued) and I loved it, so I'm interested to see how this blend compares.

 *A little note about the value aspect. The price is often given as a price per metre for a particular width OR as a price for a particular pack size. When trying to work out which is better value I always consider how much I need for the quilt I'm buying it for AND what size the leftover pieces will be. For example it may be that buying a larger width allows me to get a second quilt out of it but the smaller width would only give me small craft-sized pieces. Sometimes a pack has a width that is perfect for my needs where as the stuff sold by the metre would have a small width of wastage.