Monday, 17 November 2014

Bit Of An Updated Needed

Wow, it is ages since I last posted. I've just been so busy I haven't had chance to post individually so here's some of the things that have been keeping me busy:

Edward And The White Bear Quilting Retreat
It's not often I get a weekend away without the kids so I jumped at the chance to do not just that but to spend the whole weekend playing with fabric! There were 3 projects on offer and I knew I wouldn't have time to do all three and I didn't want to add too much to the UFO list so I decided I wouldn't do the Zig Zag quilt.

I started on the Friday with the cutting out for the other two projects so that I could then spend Saturday and Sunday relaxing with the sewing. I decided to start with the table runner and really liked the block (good job Sarah was on hand or I'd have sewn the last sections in the wrong places as it is so tempting to sew them where you last cut!).

Having got the three blocks sewn together I decided to leave the quilting until I was home and get to work on the bag, since I knew I'd probably need help with it. I have been wanting to make a bag for my mat and rules for ages so this was my first choice of the 3 projects. I didn't get it finished so it too has joined the UFO pile, fingers crossed I finish it at some point. After making the incredibly fiddly ties I am sure I won't let this hang around as a UFO for too long.

We also had a Kantha demo from Gilli Theokritoff and were given a kit so we could have a go. I'm not great at hand sewing and wasn't sure it would be my sort of thing really but the design (a bird) was really lovely so I made a start in front of the tv one evening when I was home. Well, it is so relaxing. It's not as fussy as a lot of stitchery/embroidery kits so felt more relaxing.

Starting out
Finished and Framed
Graduation Ceremony
I had a bit of a surprise back in August when my degree certificate from the OU arrived as my ceremony was booked for November. So it felt a little odd when I went to graduate on Friday roughly 3 months after getting it. The ceremony was really nice and the kids were permitted a day off school to come and watch.

And congratulations to everyone else that graduated that day too!

Felting Workshop
I taught a felting workshop this weekend at RiversMEET. A lovely way to spend Saturday afternoon, covering wet felting and needle felting. I think everyone had fun. I even managed to remember to take a picture at my workshop, so here are some of the sample wet felted pieces:

Fingers crossed it doesn't take me so long to make my next post.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Back From Holiday with a Finished Quilt!

It has been a really hectic month or two. I've been working full-time, planning/teaching workshops, had visitors, been on holiday, been to a quilt show and trying to fit in all the usual kid/house stuff too.

So, our holiday...what can I say?! It was just so lovely. We booked a week at Wildside Highland Lodges near Loch Ness to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary. I think it might be the first time we've ever stayed somewhere where we felt our accommodation lived up to the pictures on the website.

The lodges were lovely and clean. The kids loved the hot tub (and so did we!). We were really pleased with our visit. We had been a bit worried about it being so far to take to the kids but it wasn't a problem and we were slightly worried that there might not be enough for them to do but they loved it. Neither of them wanted to come home.

They enjoyed the walk to Falls of Foyers:

And they got 'Nessie' t-shirts when we went to Inverness:

Their favourite bit of the holiday was doing a RIB boat trip on Loch Ness.

We had no mobile signal in the lodges and WiFi wasn't available in the lodge we stayed in (we could get a signal at Reception and at the play park area) and it was quite nice to feel so remote! I managed to read a couple of books on my Kindle and start a third, as well as finish the binding on a quilt.

It's probably a good job I've finished something as I bought quite a lot at the Festival of Quilts - more to come on that soon!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Still here...and still sewing!

I've just realised it's quite a while since I did a blog post. I've been really busy the last few weeks. Being back at work full time has been really great. I'm really enjoying it and the kids are enjoying before & after school club. We're all settling in to the new routine well. Mondays and Thursdays are busy, with Erin going to activities in the evenings.

I've also gained another degree. I got the exam result for my second Level 3 module the other day quite unexpectedly (I thought they were due out a bit later than this) and that made me eligible to claim my BSc. My OU studies aren't totally finished as I can take another two modules to get the Honours part of the degree but I'm going to see how it goes - there isn't a lot of time with working full-time, the kids, teaching workshops, going to workshops, etc. but, being under the transitional fee arrangement, it's a lot cheaper to do it now than leave it until later.

With all that I hadn't had much time for sewing but I forced myself to baste the two quilt tops I finished in May's quilting class. I was then able to take the first one to Monday night sewing and get it quilted, the other I took to yesterday's quilting class and started the quilting. I finished the second one last night while Alan watched the football.

The granny square quilt above was quilted with diagonal lines in a green thread. This was made from a very badly cut jelly roll and is definitely far from my best work!

The other quilt is hopefully going to be a Xmas present for someone. I took some time to decide how to quilt it. I didn't want to do straight lines that went through the green triangles. Equally the diagonal lines created by the green triangles didn't work as the angles would have caused the lines to cross into other green triangles (does that make sense?!?). I also didn't really want the hassle of going around all the hexagons and lines with my walking foot as it's quite hard, slow work turning the quilt around lots and the blocks were a bit large for just quilting the edges of the blocks.

So, I decided it was time to get over my fear of the meander. It's one of those free motion quilting 'patterns' that looks so simple until you try to do it. It's basically a squiggly random line. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the problem is that I don't really think in a random way when I have to fill a quilt top with it. I start going along a side to make sure it's filled or I start going left to right so as to not leave any gaps. I have to really focus on not doing those. I think the end result was pretty good. I could definitely improve as my stitch length is a lot more uneven than I'd like but it has definitely got that random look to it.

Here's a close up of the quilting:

My next job is to make the binding for these two quilts and get them finished.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

FO: Zippered Pouch

I have some big news. Next week I'm going back to work. From Monday I'll be working in an office, full-time for the first time since mid 2006. So I'm now the proud owner of a normal sized handbag. That perhaps sounds a funny thing to mention but when the children were babies I carried around a huge, huge bag full of cloth nappies & wipes and bottles with my purse and keys and not much else (who wants to carry more than that?!?). Since the children potty trained I've been pretty minimal as I'm so used to not needing anything else.

I have a small basic zippered pouch that holds a few pens and similar that I made ages ago. It makes them easier to find in your bag. This time though I wanted something for a few bits of make-up so it needed to be lined. Most of the tutorials online are similar in the technique used with just a few subtle differences. I decided to follow this one by Flossie Teacakes. It has covered zip ends, which I liked the look of.

I picked out a zip first because I had a limited selection in the size needed. Isn't that always the way? The fabric was a Christmas present from Alan back in 2012 I think!

I struggled with the sewing around the outside (the final stage before turning through) as my machine doesn't really like sewing through bulk so it's not as neat as the one in the tutorial but it's good enough.

I lined the bag with the same fabric as the outside, not least because I was an idiot and cut two rectangles for the front and then realised the picture/text would be running the wrong way. I was so concerned with remembering to double check the picture/text before stitching to the zip that I totally forgot to do it when cutting out.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A Couple Of Finished Pieces

Well firstly, sorry for such a delay in posting. We had a really busy school holiday. It was Erin's birthday during the holidays and so we had a party for her at Ponderosa Centre. They have various options for parties and Erin chose the one that included a tour, a reptile talk and half an hour in the play barn as well as party food in the party room. We were really impressed with the party. Everyone got to feed the llamas and goats, there was the chance to hold a giant snail, rabbits & guinea pigs and during the reptile talk you could hold a snake and a bearded dragon.

Alan with the bearded dragon...
and a really bad picture of me holding the snake

After the party, everyone is able to stay in the centre for the rest of the day if they wish so it works out very good value for money (especially if you book a morning party as we did). Erin had a pony ride (Orla didn't want to!)

Her "I Love Ponies" fleece was very apt
We also spent a few days in the Lake District visiting family. We managed to go for a few walks too as the weather was lovely.

When we got back I was able to finish sewing the binding on my Star Trek quilt. So it joined the finished cushion on the sofa. I took the pictures outside as I thought it showed the colours a lot better.

I really love the back of it too.

That's not all I've finished though. There's a reason it took me so long to finish sewing the binding. I had to put it on hold because I've been redesigning my friend's website and the person who was updating the original site for her wanted to give it up fairly soon so I had to focus on that for a few days to get it to the point where it could go live. There's still work to be done on it (isn't there always with techie projects!) so I guess it's technically a WIP but one that is finished enough for me to ask you to take a look. If you're in/around Leeds/West Yorkshire (or if you want to travel there for yummy cake and crafty workshops) here's the link to RiversMEET Craft Cafe.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

WIP: Almost There!

I'm far more of a night owl than an early bird so when Alan had a night out on Friday it was a great opportunity for me to sit and sew. I'd added some applique to one section of the backing fabric for my Star Trek quilt at sewing class on the Monday night and needed to blanket stitch around it. I don't really enjoy this bit as it's one of those tasks that seems to take a long time but you don't really see any progress with the quilt. So Friday evening, I got the kids to bed and sat down and forced myself to get on with it.

I hadn't used the blanket stitch on my quilting machine before so I did a bit of testing on some scrap fabric first. It's ended up slightly wider than I'd have liked but the only way to go narrower was to reduce the stitch length and it seemed to pull the fabric regardless of the tension setting.

I decided that while I had my machine out I might as well piece the back. Another job I dislike. One of the big selling points of jelly rolls for me is that it saves me from having to cut across the full width of fabric. Where I have to cut big bits of fabric I usually get Alan to help hold the ruler with me so it doesn't move while I'm cutting. I didn't really want to put off finishing the back as I'd always prefer to leave a project ready for doing a nice part so I'm keen to pick it up again so I managed without his help.

I also managed to get the quilt basted after climbing up into the alcove at almost 1am to find some wadding. I must remember not to baste quilts at that time of night (morning!) again as I managed to stick wadding to my slipper.

Yesterday I had to wait in for a courier. As the kids were playing really nicely I thought I'd make a start on the quilting. The hardest part was choosing thread, particularly with the really bright and very different colours in the quilt top. I ended up just following my original instinct and chose a variegated Gutermann Sulky. Despite using Gutermann thread for all my piecing and dressmaking, it's not one I really consider for quilting. The Sulky thread was part of a pack I got for Xmas with some fat quarters and 3 reels of thread. I'll definitely consider it in future as it was really nice to work with and I was really pleased with the outcome.

I didn't want to do really heavy quilting and wanted to stick to straight line quilting. I chose a wadding that could be quilted up to 10" apart. My blocks were slightly under this so I was able to quilt next to each line of sashing. Then I quilted around each rectangular picture to frame the image. The cushion was fairly similar.

I then cut out two bits of fabric to make an envelope back for the cushion. I used a decorative stitch for one of the hems to give it a nice finish. I stayed up until 1am making the binding and sewing it onto the front of the quilt. Today I've started hand sewing it to the back.

I'm hoping to get it finished this evening and I might get out at some point to get a cushion pad. And that will be two items ticked off the list of UFO's.

Hopefully some finished object pictures one day this week.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Making & Baking

I bought this Star Trek fabric ages ago (June 2013 apparently!) from Stitch Me Lane Fabrics.

I was a little worried about cutting into it. There's some very obvious rectangles to cut but of course you have to allow for seam allowances in some way - cut along the lines and lose a little picture or cut 1/4" outside the lines and lose a number of rectangles. I pretty much opted for the first of those. When it came down to cutting some of the lines were slightly out of line or not quite with the grain of the fabric. Still I ended up with 20 rectangles (4 were slightly smaller).

That gave me the opportunity to make a cushion cover using the 4 slightly smaller ones.

It still needs a border I think
Leaving 16 rectangles to make quilt blocks from. For a while now I've been wanting to make some blocks with a contrast fabric offset in the block and so I decided to do this with the picture rectangles.

I knew I'd need to add some sashing to make it a bit bigger and another thing I've wanted to try is putting squares in. I had some leftover fabric and managed to fussy cut 4 pictures. That still left me with 5 squares to make. I decided to add character names to them with my sewing machine (which does lettering).

I thought settling on a final layout might be tricky due to the limited colours (and their similarity) as I didn't want it to look too regular, but it was actually pretty quick.

I got most of this sewn together at Saturday's class. I just have one more line of sewing to do (isn't it always the way?!). Then I need to hunt down the backing fabrics I bought for this quilt. I think I bought enough for borders and backing but it was a few months ago now so I'll need to double check.

Speaking of Saturday, it was a busy day. As well as quilting class and a friend's party in the evening, Erin had a party in the morning. Alan took her while I looked after Orla and we did some baking. We did some little buns and a bigger victoria sandwich cake.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

WIP Weds: More Art

Just a quick post from me today. I did some more painting/mixed media stuff yesterday morning, creating some backgrounds. I picked up some pictures from a craft shop on Saturday that I'm planning to use. I also want to get a few more bits - the canvasses I've done are really simple because I didn't want to spend money on tons of stuff if I didn't enjoy it.

I want to add more texture so these will probably wait until I've got some more supplies.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Birthday Goodies

I tend to be given money for birthdays so that I can choose what I like and it's also easier given we live quite a distance from family. This year I managed to pick up a bargain book at The Works. Dare To Be Square Quilting by Boo Davis was only £2.99 and I couldn't resist it for the lovely quilt patterns (robots, owls and skulls - what more could I want!). I had a look on Amazon when I got back and it was selling there for over £13.

We went to a craft fair at RiversMEET yesterday. As well as enjoying the pulled pork sandwiches and cake, I picked up 5 fat quarters of fabric.

A Few More Bits & Pieces

I've been a bit busy lately with an assignment due but I've managed to do a couple more blocks for the crochet block a month project.

Firstly, the January 12" filler square Frostbloom by Shan Sevcik. I really enjoyed making this pattern.

Sorry, I haven't sewn the ends in yet!
Secondly, the February main 12" square Centre Heart Square by Ginger Badger. I've actually made this square before with DK yarn and a smaller hook and really wasn't keen on the result as it didn't seem to lie flat. Part of me was dreading making this pattern again but I'm quite pleased with the outcome.

As you can see there's a little ripple and the edges bulge slightly but I will block this square before joining it to any others which should even it all out.

I also finished the canvas I was making for the living room.

I then thought about my robot quilt and decided to make a canvas based on the robot block I designed for it. This involved tracing the outline of the robot from the quilt and using similar colours.

Here's the original quilt block for comparison:

In order to make the canvas a bit more 'mixed media' style I added some words by stamping onto decorative papers. Orla went through a phase of playing robots and would say "I am a robot, I am coming to eat you" and I thought that would be perfect for the canvas.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

WIP: Playing With Paint

This week I've been having a play around with some mod podge, paper, decopatch papers and acrylic paints making mixed media canvas art.

It's been loosely based on this tutorial by Debbie Saenz but with less detail and using a few techniques from elsewhere on the web.

Luckily I had a bird template because I can't draw!

Progress so far:

I have used decopatch papers to cover a paper template of the bird. I copied the idea in the tutorial to use something on the papers for an eye (the flower in the top left). I have used just one paper for the wing section and will add the printed word at the end - I'll probably do some more colours round the edge of it to make it stand out.

I also worked on another canvas at the same time. This time without any of the papers, just paint. I mainly did this to experiment with it but quite liking the result.
Not entirely sure what I'm doing next with this one.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Great British Sewing Bee

Are you watching? I love this program and I'm always amazed at how quickly the contestants make the items. The other week, the episode was all about patterned fabric and I found it really interesting. I don't do a lot of dressmaking and had made a New Year's resolution to do a bit more this year rather than sticking to my quilting comfort zone. I've had some fabric for a while that I'd been planning on making a skirt from and decided yesterday to have a go. I had a style in mind but of course didn't have a suitable pattern. A quick search online and I found a site called Fashion-Era that explains how to draft a skirt pattern in really easy steps (that link takes you to the introduction, in case you want to try it yourself).

So I grabbed my tape measure and some squared pattern paper and started the process. Using squared pattern paper made the process easier as I could follow the pre-printed lines as much as possible (ok, I might have rounded my numbers a little to whole centimeters so that I could use the lines!). It was a fairly easy process with some guesswork involved when it came to marking the waist.

Despite having plenty of fabric, I decided to make a toile first to (a) make sure it fit and (b) practice because I'm so used to quilting I find it really strange using a larger seam allowance for dressmaking. I'm so glad I did because this is when I made my first mistake (through not reading the instructions properly). I forgot to add the seam allowance to the centre back. The front of the skirt is cut as one piece by placing the centre front on the fold but the back is cut as two pieces and therefore needs a seam allowance added to allow for the seam up the back of the skirt and the zip placement.

I carried on making the toile without as it was cut out and simply didn't bother with the back seam. It was only to check the fit so as long as the back pieces touched each other for the full length it would fit. As it happened it did fit fine so I started cutting out for the main skirt.

Following what was said on the sewing bee I decided to have flowers running down the centre front. This was easy to work out as the placement of them was pretty much straight with the grain of the fabric so I folded the fabric down the centre of a line of flowers. Cutting for the back was more difficult (and of course I had to add the seam allowance on). It turns out some of the flowers are different sizes which slowed down the matching up process (I think I must have triple checked this part). I again used the centre of a flower for the join point of the back seam. It got pushed out slightly when making but it's not bad for a first attempt.

My invisible zip could do with some work but I don't have the proper foot for this so I expect one of those might have made a lot of difference.


It just needs the waist and hem finished now. I didn't want to cut the waist part until I was sure the skirt part would fit - adjustments could have affected the length of the waist.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

WIP Weds: Jan 12" square and 6" square

I've finally got round to starting the 2014 BAMCAL (that's block a month crochet along, in case you're having difficulty working it out!).

January's main 12" block is the Free SmoothFox's Lemony Lime Citrus Square.

Now I have to admit mine is definitely not citrus colours as I have chosen vintage style colours so the finished block doesn't quite match the name but I really love it. This was a nice block to make, not difficult but interesting throughout.

See those fleece squares in the bottom of the picture? They are a rag quilt gone wrong. It is too bulky to go through my machine so they're currently covering my living room floor until I decide what I'm doing with them.

Each month there is also a 6" square. Originally I wasn't going to make these but I decided I might make some of them and make a cushion to match the blanket. This month it was Mary Ellen's Easy Daisy Granny Square.

The petals were different to any other petals I've made and it was interesting to see how they were formed as it wasn't what I was expecting. Again, it's a fairly simple block. The outer rounds follow a basic granny square pattern - I adjusted this slightly to add chains between the clusters as I find this works best for me and helped the block lie nice and flat.

This block also gave me the chance to try out the honey colour next to the blue I wasn't keen on and I think it works well so I'll stick with these colours.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

WIP Weds: Rag Quilt & Half Square Triangles

I had a large selection of fleece that I wanted to use up and decided that I'd make a rag quilt with it. This involved cutting LOTS of squares, in fact I spent most of yesterday doing it. This morning I layered them up ready for quilting a cross over them. They then get sewn together with the seam allowances to the front and then you snip into the seam allowance to give it a raggy look.

There are 90 'sandwiches' above to give a 9 x 10 layout. I decided to use some wadding between the layers to make it a bit thicker and warmer, so I had to cut 180 fleece squares and 90 wadding squares.

I also have another quilt in progress made from half square triangle blocks. There are 80 blocks and they all need trimmed but I couldn't face any more cutting!

So I spent the afternoon using up some bananas by baking a banana bread and some muffins (and a cake with the leftover mixture)

For a bit of fun after school, I got Orla to help decorate the muffins while her sister was at a club.

Oooh and my yarn arrived today but I'll show that in another post.