Monday, 30 September 2013

Thread - A New Addiction

I really never thought I'd be interested in buying thread. I've always tended to buy thread in store so that I can check the colour against my fabric. Similarly, I tend to stick to certain brands as I know that they'll be good quality. I knew if I wanted to use lots of free motion quilting on my robot quilt I'd need to expand my thread selection.

In the classes we were able to try out numerous threads on sample pieces. This helped me find out what I liked and, perhaps more importantly, what my machine liked. I then heard about the Cotton Cocktails pop up shop in August and saw there would be King Tut thread, this had been my favourite from the ones I tried. I had a nice (child free) morning out there and picked up a few reels of thread to get my robot quilt started. I'd taken my quilt top along to help me choose the thread. In case anyone is interested, I believe there is another pop-up shop planned for the 2nd November.

For me, the hardest thing about buying thread is that it seems expensive. I guess it's easy to compare it to what fabric you could buy with the money. However since I started quilting my robot quilt, I have realised that the thread really makes the quilt.

I needed some orange thread for the quilt and ended up adding lots more thread to my shopping. I have quite a bit on the way from Barnyarns (more on that when they arrive). I also bought some nice little sets from Mettler. A couple of years ago I was given a free reel of thread from them at a quilt show and I've never got round to using it (mainly because of the colour). I ended up letting my husband use it when he had a go at free motion quilting and actually it was really quite nice to work with.

I couldn't really resist the Summer and Winter bundles, which are stunning to look at. I would have had to pay postage for these as I was just under the amount that free postage kicks in at so I added a couple of reels of their quilting cotton to try. I chose some fairly neutral browns as I have a number of autumn fabrics.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

More Quilt Shows

One of the downsides of the kids going back to school is that they inevitably bring a nice new set of germs home and this time has been no exception. I have been full of cold/flu all week. I've not been able to concentrate on much so decided against going to Saturday's tutorial as I still wasn't feeling great that morning.

I did manage to go to a Quilt Show by Totley Brook Quilters in Sheffield. There were a number of quilts on display, a stall selling fabric and magazines (I bought a Xmas panel), the obligatory cake stall (we all had a piece of cake!) and a couple of workshops. Both the kids wanted to have a go at a workshop. Erin chose to make a cupcake pin cushion and Orla wanted to do a face on a square for a Project Linus quilt. In hindsight I maybe should have insisted Orla made a pin cushion too because she wasn't too happy that Erin got something to take home and she didn't.

Erin with her cupcake pincushion

Orla's smiley face square
They had a bit of help from Alan and me but I think they both did really well! I should perhaps have read the instructions before ploughing ahead helping Erin as I helped her do all the decorative stitching on the "icing" before realising that was how you joined it to the layer below. We added a bit more decoration to join it!

After that it was still early enough to head to Bolsterstone for their quilt show. I was really surprised at how much there was and it was free entry, which was a bonus! There were lots of quilts and a few stalls, a raffle, a tombola and more cake. The kids won a couple of things on the tombola (cue bickering in the car over who gets to hold the handcream) and Alan took the hint that adding to my fabric and thread stash would be a good way to start shopping for my Xmas presents ;-)

Friday, 20 September 2013

Advent Calendar

I showed my first finished advent calendar the other day

but I realised afterwards that I should probably have shown it with the gifts on as it's not very obvious from the picture above how it works. Basically there's 4 rows of ribbon and vertical lines of stitching divide it into 6 sections. That gives 24 areas and I'm pegging a money envelope in each one.

New Books

I've just been reading my friend Sarah's latest blog post where she mentioned quilting books. It turned out to be perfect timing as the postman delivered my latest book this morning. There has recently been an offer from Topcahback (referral link there!) and Amazon which offered £5 cashback on the purchase of a book. I've had a couple of books on my wish list around the £5 mark so I thought why not treat myself.

Stitch It For Spring by Lynette Anderson was £5.75. I had a difficult time choosing between this one and the Christmas version but settled for this as the Xmas fabric I have isn't really the same style as that used in the book. I'm not sure how many of the projects I'll make as most involve a lot of hand stitching and I don't often get time. I hope that I'll be able to find a bit more time now both children are at school but even if I don't, the books are just lovely to look at.

The other book I've recently acquired is Mug Rugs by Christa Rolf. If you haven't heard of a Mug Rug, it's basically a little mat for your mug that is a bit bigger than a normal coaster. It generally has enough room for your mug and a couple of biscuits.

I really loved this "Sew Time" pattern

And the "Christmas Landscape" pattern

One of the great things about this little book is that it has a design for everyone. There are modern and traditional designs, something for children, something for men and personalised ones. I can see me making a few of these with leftovers.

The Mug Rugs book was a wedding anniversary present from Alan. It was very much a surprise, not least because we celebrated the occasion about 3 weeks late with a child-free afternoon tea (That's why it was late as we had to wait until the kids were back at school!).

As you can probably tell, it was worth the wait!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Making Progress

Two days ago I had my first child-free Monday in six and a half years! My youngest is in Reception and has had two weeks of "settling in sessions" and is now in full-time. I'll admit that I always find the first couple of weeks back after the long summer holidays a little odd. The day feels a bit rushed and I know I watch the clock quite a lot. Yet actually it's quite a lot of free-time. Allowing for the walk to & from school I basically get 6 hours free. I've been working on a bit of sewing as it helps me to relax into the time I have. Soon though it'll be put to one side so I can focus on revision for my October exam.

I've finally taken the plunge and started free motion quilting on my robot quilt top. I did the straight lines around each block at home with the walking foot so that I was ready to start at this month's quilting class. It was really quite scary to start, there's always that slight worry that I might ruin this lovely top I've made. After sitting relaxing, breathing and generally trying to decide to press the foot pedal for about 5 minutes I started with the grass in the robot block. I figured it's meant to look like grass - wiggly lines, doesn't matter if they cross, or go a bit high or low - so would be the easiest one to practice with!

I discovered it's a little easier to do on a proper quilt top than on little sample pieces of plain cotton because the areas are better defined. There's less need to think about where you are going because you know how you want it to look.

Next I tackled some bricks

Again, this was much easier on the actual quilt than when I tried a sample. It was easier to decide on the sizing and keep it fairly similar because you could see what area you were trying to fill.

Finally I started filling around the pink 'orange peel' block, which I think of as more like a flower than orange peel!

I finished off the green at home and moved onto the pale blue with this block

It's hard to see all the quilting I've done on this one - there's lines on the green and perpendicular lines on the grey/blue rectangles and diagonal lines on the grey/blue triangles. My diagonal lines need work!

I then went on to try some circles/bubbles. These were a little trickier as you do have to think more about where to move next to fill the area. I also found it was hard to see where I'd been; a combination of the thread being similar to the fabric and my foot blocking my view somewhat. I don't have the best foot for this work - it's a clear plastic (free motion) one but I find it impossible to see through it and it's a closed toe one so a pain with the threads. I'm hoping to get an open toe metal foot at some point.

You can maybe see that when I started out I went over my lines a couple of times as I was trying to work out where I needed to go but later on I had got the hang of it a bit more so didn't need to go over bits as much.

I've also managed to do some work on the advent calendars. I took them to sewing class to work on doing the (machine) blanket stitch around the letters and finished that off yesterday at home. Today I finished the first one by adding the ribbon, sewing lines down to attach the ribbon and divide into 24 sections and add hanging loops. I decided I would do them by stitching the back to the front and turning through rather than quilting and binding, mainly because they're not huge and I couldn't decide what fabric to use for binding!

1 down, 3 to go!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Quick Robot Update

It's almost time for my monthly quilting class and I still hadn't made much progress from my to-do list so last night I added another strip in the backing. Remember I wasn't sure if it was quite wide enough? Well, my worrying got the better of me and I added in a strip from the sashing fabric just to give me a bit more leeway. I'm glad I did because there still wasn't much extra at the sides and I rather like the sashing strip in the backing. I then figured I might as well baste it while Alan was around to help me and the kids were in bed out of the way. I managed to spray my socks with 505 spray (a temporary adhesive, for those that don't know what it is) so my feet kept sticking to the floor!

My youngest has half a day at school today so I dashed back from dropping her off to start sewing around each block to make sure I'm ready to start some free motion quilting in the class on Saturday.

I was a little big naughty and left all my ends to sew in afterwards, hopefully I'll get that done tomorrow. Here's the updated pics:

I've also made a start on the advent calendars:

Monday, 2 September 2013

Great Northern Quilt Show - The Shopping

It's a little less overwhelming at the Harrogate show compared with the Festival Of Quilts. There's still some of the big sellers there and a few smaller ones too. Even the stalls that were at the Festival Of Quilts remain interesting and I often spot things I didn't see, perhaps because it's not quite as crowded.

Again, lots of fabric caught my eye and it was difficult to decide what to buy as I could have spent a fortune there. I bought some embroidery threads almost as soon as I got there. I had a good look round before committing to anything else. I looked for some fabric for binding my robot quilt and came close to buying some but I wasn't totally convinced. I think I'll leave it until I've done some/lots of the quilting as I'll have a better idea of the finished look then.

I was so tempted by lots of the Christmas fabric. I have quite a lot already so managed to stick to just one fat quarter, along with a Halloween spider web FQ.

As in previous years I was drawn to the Images Of Egypt stall. There's a wonderful mix of solids and spotty fabrics that are great for stash building. If you look closely, the packs do vary slightly and I managed to get a lovely pack of FQs in solid colours. I also went for a roll of 3" x 40" strips of hand dyed fabrics.

As you can see I also bought some Christmas ribbon for the advent calendars I plan on making and I was very good and bought some rotary cutter blades. Normally I only buy the Olfa branded ones but the Barnyarns blades were such a bargain (£3.65 for 2 iirc) that I thought I'd take a chance on them. If they're not very good I haven't lost much and if they're fab, I've found a real bargain.

I also saw a lovely Halloween wall hanging at the Quilter's Quarters' stall. It was even better when I asked the price and was told that the other Halloween wall hanging was from the same panel. I snapped one up.

They had added some borders to the middle section to make one hanging and then used the eight little pictures in two rows of 4 to make another. I think I'll change it slightly by using the eight pictures to make a couple of long (vertical) wall hangings.

Great Northern Quilt Show - The Quilts (2)

This follows on from yesterday's post. I didn't want it to get too long so thought I'd split it over two posts. I took photographs of the following quilts purely because of their quilting. If you've been following my blog you'll know that I have been practicing my free motion quilting and am planning on using it for my robot quilt. I've been paying close attention to the quilting at quilt shows for this reason.

Amethyst Arcs by Rosemary Archer caught my eye for the lovely arcs surrounding some of the stars.

Greek Fossils by Ferret also caught my eye. This time it was because it was made up of feathers and I really struggled with quilting feathers. They are far more tricky to 'draw' than they look!

Dragon 1 by Ferret was one of those quilts that was basically a stunning piece of art. From what I could tell it was a dragon drawn using different colour threads for the quilting. I loved how the quilting gave the right texture for a dragon too.

A close up of the quilting

The colours of Prometheus by Ferret were lovely. I love purples and pinks.

And the one I've saved for last is Nebula by Christine Marriage. I love the teal and brown colours, in fact I remember buying a charm pack in similar colours that I haven't used yet. I also love big areas of white in heavily quilted quilts. I loved how I was drawn to the spiral in the centre (sorry it doesn't show up as well on the photo).

But the thing I loved most about this quilt was the sheer variety of quilting. Using lots of different patterns is something I'm hoping to do on my robot quilt. Of course I don't expect mine to look anything near as good as this one!

Coming up in the next post I'll reveal my purchases.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Great Northern Quilt Show - The Quilts (1)

On Saturday I went to the Great Northern Quilt Show in Harrogate. It's probably my favourite quilt show as I think it's just the right sort of size. One of the main selling points for me is the way they organise the stalls and the display quilts. I find at the Festival Of Quilts you walk through the entrance/exit and are faced with row upon row of display quilts and hoards of people trying to get in/out and it can be difficult to really spend time looking at them because of the crowds. At the Great Northern Quilt Show, they are all at one end of the hall so it's much less busy.

I took some pictures of my favourites and thought I'd share them. I have tried to get details of the makes but apologies if I've got anything wrong. Some of the photos of the details weren't as clear as I'd hoped.

The first one that really caught my eye was this Spiderman quilt by Marion McFarland. This stood out because Orla will point out Spiderman and Batman whenever she sees them!

Amina's Alphabet Quilt by Jenny Kittos caught my eye because of the minion.

I loved the Baltimore Hearts and Flowers quilt by Sue Davies

Of course having an Orla, I had to take a photo of Orla's Quilt by Valerie Arthur.

I find at quilt shows that I'm always drawn to the traditional quilts. However I noticed on Saturday that I'm also drawn to the geometric quilts too. It must be because I'm a mathematician!

Mardi Gras by Sue Davies was just stunning both in design and colour.

I had to take a picture of Shades of Autumn by Lilian Harris for the quilting. It's a quilt made from log cabin blocks but quilted with circles. The photo doesn't do it justice but the quilting really made this quilt!

Heart and Home by Margaret Watson (quilted by Emma Galbraith) was one of those quilts that I'd love to hang on my wall to make my home feel cosy.

Another geometric one I was drawn to was Following Star by Fiona Macaulay Davies

Midnight Splendour by Lilian Harris caught my eye because of its lovely borders. It's a 3D quilt but the picture doesn't show this very well.

I'm going to do the others in their own post as it's more about the quilting.

Countdown To Christmas

It's September, it must be time to start talking about Xmas projects. I love Xmas and can remember waking my parents up at 5am with the excitement! Luckily, as excited as they are, my children haven't yet woken us that early. Hopefully this won't be the year they start.

Ever since I started sewing/crafting, which is relatively recently (about 6 years ago), I've wanted to make lots of homemade Xmas decorations and presents. Along with a gift for my aunty (obviously can't reveal that just yet) I'm making quilts for both my girls. Erin's is already finished but Orla's isn't started yet. I have a break from studying after my October exam so it is scheduled in for then. I'll be doing a simple design like Erin's as I think it's fair to keep them about the same so it shouldn't take long to make.

I try to add something every year that gets brought out every year. In previous years I've made snowflake tree decorations and stockings. This year is no exception. I will be making advent calendars for each of us this year. I have been inspired by many different designs on Pintrest and similar sites. The main issue I have with the ones I've seen is the lack of space to display four similar calendars. However I'm planning on making 4 quilted rectangles that will have each person's name at the top and 4 strands of ribbon across. We have a section of wall in the living room that would be perfect for them. From the ribbon I'll be pegging some money envelopes with the gifts in.

I've spent the evening making the envelopes and filling them.

These were simple money envelopes from Wilkinsons at £1 per 50 envelopes. I already owned some alphabet stamps and ink pads. Initially I looked for some number stamps but decided to just use the alphabet ones and I'm pleased I did.

I wasn't fussy about being straight with the letters or anything and I'm pleased with the look of the finished envelopes.

The envelopes for the children have been filled with party bag type items - bouncy balls, bubbles, mini colouring pencils, etc. Mine will have some perfume samples in along with some embroidery threads. I can't reveal what Alan's have inside in case he reads this!