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 café 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!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Cheerful Disappearing Sashed 9 Patch!

I've been meaning to make this block for a few weeks now, since I saw a video of how to make it by the Missouri Star Quilt Company.  You will probably want to watch their video, but I'm going to set out the steps for how to make it here, just in case I want to remind myself of it again without video!

1) Set out your fabrics (mine are 5" charm squares and 2 1/2" strips of sashing.  Bear in mind the five charms that make the cross shape will be chopped up, so if you want to retain a particular motif whole make sure that it goes into one of the corner squares.
 2) Sew together.  You can see why it's called 9 patch window pane too, can't you?
3) Cut into quarters.
 4) Decide on your layout.  This is a great one that doesn't rely on seams matching up (!).
5) This is the layout that I chose this time around.

Sew the quarters together.

Obviously, you might want to make a quilt with more blocks than this, but as I was making just one to see what it was like, I turned it into a  baby quilt with a couple of borders.
 You can see it (well, the quilt top - I haven't backed, basted and quilted it yet) here on my design wall. 

The block itself comes out as 17" square (I think!).  I added three borders (white, batik with cornerstones, white) each cut 2 1/2" wide, so I have a finished baby quilt of about 29" square.

It's really cheerful!  It makes me happy to be sewing!
I also added a fusible design to a t-shirt that was too plain.

I used the shapes from pilofabrics raw edge applique tutorial, added fusible and fabric, and then outline stitched them.  A fast and easy way to add a little decoration!
 Finally, I hung up my Dear Jane.  Of course, as it's on a turn in the stairs it can't be snapped without the banisters in the picture too, but it too makes me feel cheerful every time that I see it!

This is the view that I usually have of it, looking up at it.
This is how it looks from above.  The other part of it, the little bit, won't be hung above the window until it's had an outing to my group's quilt show later this month - I think that it's a task that DH and I will only want to do once!

Hope that you can find things to make you cheerful too!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Lazy labels, Blocking Quilts and more.

So many things to do, and lots of quilts that needed labels.  I wish that I'd labelled them as I was going along, of course!  I decided to do a 'quick and dirty' solution:  printing the information onto pre-treated fabric, iron to fix it, iron it onto fusible and then cut the labels and iron them onto the quilts.

Of course, I know that the quilts that will be washed need to have some stitching around the labels too, but it was a great way to add the information I wanted onto these quilts.

 I also decided to take the plunge and wash my Love Entwined quilt with synthrapol (to get rid of the dye runs) and block it to help it lie flat against the wall when it was hung.

I took advice (thanks Avril!) and set it out like so:

1) lay down a plastic sheet.

 2) lay down a sheet (or in my case duvet cover), smoothing out any wrinkles.
 3) lay out the dampened quilt on top.  Gently pull into shape.  I used a large square ruler to check the corners and a meter rule to measure the sides.
 4) Using a long straight edge (I used my meter rule again) pin the quilt out keeping the edges as straight as possible.

 5) Allow it to dry undisturbed!  It should lay flat, a bit like damp stretching a piece of embroidery!
 One of my 'things to do' was celebrate my birthday.  Not the planned trip to the cinema to see the Bill Bryson film, Walk in the Woods, but a trip to see the author himself at the Kew literary festival!  Big thanks to my lovely SIL and niece who gave up their tickets so that DH and I could go.

Wonderfully entertaining talk and a wonderful surprise to be able to go!
Back home to my quilting and after finishing the binding on the large part of my Dear Jane quilt I decided that it needed blocking too.

This time I wasn't brave enough to put it into the washing machine (I know that some of the seam allowances from the blocks made years ago are too narrow!) so it had to make do with a heavy spritz of water before being pinned.

I'm pleased with how its looking and should be able to show you a picture of it hung up next week!  A milestone indeed!

I hope that your week has been as much fun as mine!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Show stopper!

Don't you think that's an amazing cake?

My lovely DH took a secret day off work, borrowed his sister's kitchen, and spent the day baking and decorating his first ever cakes (one chocolate, one lemon) to make the thread spool, complete with lemon buttercream icing, and strawberry lace thread, as well as the quilt, scissors and needle.

A real show stopper (fans of The Great British Bakeoff will be familiar with the term!).

Isn't it wonderful?  I was very touched by the whole effort that had gone into the secret making of this, ready for my birthday.

I realise that I should really be taking photos of the wonderful fabric post cards, hand made cards and sewing themed cards that I received - and the lovely hand sewn presents that I had from Benta - but perhaps that's something for another day.

After all, now I've got cake to eat.......!!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Hurrah for Sewing!

At last!  Some proper sewing on a new project!  It seems ages since I've started a new quilt (in fact it is nearly two months, which is quite a long time for me!).

After wondering about various book based projects, I finally decided to start a 'Farmers Wife' quilt.  These are the first four blocks that I've made - not picking a colour scheme, just picking fabrics out of the scrap box that were the right sizes and shapes!  I'm thinking that I'm going to make 50 blocks and sash them as the book suggests, to make a lap quilt.

I bought the book 'blind' (online).  I was surprised that between the book and the CD that there weren't any full size skeletons of the blocks.
 I'd got so used to the way that I'd made my Dear Jane blocks that I hadn't really considered that this might not be possible in the next book that I chose - what a lack of imagination I have!

Still, as I am lucky enough to own Quilt Pro software, I've been re-creating the blocks, making a note of the rotary cut block sizes (or when appropriate printing out the blocks for foundation piecing) and getting on with making them quite happily.

It feels good to have started a new project - even if the blocks feel large (6 1/2" square - a full 2" bigger each way than the Dear Jane blocks!).

My other project this week has been to use sheer fabrics to make fabric postcards.

To be honest, I'm a bit disappointed with myself.  These use a technique that I saw Kim Tittichai demonstrating.  You bond misty fuse or bond-a-web to sheers, stamp images on them, then cut them out with a soldering iron before applying them to a base fabric.

Mine just look a bit......I'm not sure, not exciting enough!  I think that using a patterned background might have helped (adding the Inktense pencil 'clouds' was a good improvement to these cards), but I think that really, I should have tried pushing myself a bit to try something with more textural and visual interest!

This is a good technique - and leaves you with lovely fabric 'stickers' - but I'm not sure that I really exploited the sheer element of the fabrics.  I need to try something else with organzas when I've got a bit more energy to put into it!

On the plus side, I've got lots of 'stickers' left over, I've tried a new technique that might suit other projects better and I've re-learned how easy it is to cut sheers with a soldering iron!  Good learning outcomes!

Hope that you are learning more about your crafts this week too!