Wednesday, 22 April 2015


 So lasagne and scallops may not be an ideal meal, but it entertained me that the photos I have to show you this week both have food names!

This 'lasagne' quilt was made by me a few weeks ago, as part of my scrap busting burst of energy.

I suppose that I should call it a coverlet rather than a quilt, as it is quilted straight onto fleece rather than having three layers.

It was fun and fast to sew, but I had hoped that the light and dark fabrics would distribute themselves more evenly across the whole piece.  I know that I could have ripped some stitches out and changed it, but I felt that that would be cheating, so left it more imperfect than perhaps I really like.
The scallops (not the edible kind at all!) are the ones from Esther's 'Heart It' quilt.  I've finally got around to starting the ironing / cutting / gluing process with the shapes that I'd got others to cut out for me.  I can only cut a few each day, though, as I'm still being careful with my wrist.

In the shoe box are the bowtie blocks from the quilt.  Not quite finished them yet, but nearly!  It's nice to be making progress on this quilt again.

Happy stitching, everyone!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Machine Pleasure

 I've really enjoyed being able to do a little machine sewing this week - time and my (slightly less rubbish than it was) wrist have allowed it!

These 'wiggly bags' (bags for looking after the 'central lines' put in for people receiving chemo therapy) were made for a friend.  Slightly different sizes until I hear which is the best size for him.
 I've also made some progress on Esther Aliu's 'heart it' pattern.  Here are the 'bow tie' blocks - some just as 2 1/2" squares, some partially constructed. 
 I'm hoping to complete all of these blocks this week.  I'm making good progress on the bow ties, but still have only sewn around one of the applique hearts..

Then it will be time to start working on the scallops which were cut out before the Easter Hols.  Lots more still to do!
Difficult to pick out the white on whites and creams in the photo - it's a bit easier in real life!  I've gone as scrappy as I can without buying any more fabrics.  I'm quite pleased with the range that I had for the blues / greys / creams, although it turns out that I didn't have as much 'white on white' as I thought.

I've also been entertaining myself by drawing up a list of projects to make / finish over the next few months.  There is a chance that my sewing room will be out of commission for a while so I'm planning on projects which won't rely on full access to my stash and rarely used tools, just in case they are in storage.

Of course, it turns out that I've now got five projects with only minimal cutting required for them, so I should have plenty to go at!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


Receiving real mail, you know, the sort that arrives through a letter box rather than into a virtual in-box, is always exciting.

This mail feels really special - my kit has arrived!

I've shown it against my cutting mat so you can get an idea of how small the pieces are.  What you can't see is the number of different blue batiks in each stack - or the little 'included in your pack' index which is on the underside.

Isn't it lovely that you are given a wooden stylus to help you run the little pieces under the machine foot?  I like the attention to detail.

Of course, what doesn't arrive through the mail is additional time!  As I am in the midst of the Easter Holidays this pack has been carefully reclosed and put to one side until I have more time available for sewing and concentrating.

Hope that you are finding some sewing or crafting time this spring!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

More than one way.....

I was always taught by my family that there was more than one way to look at something, more than one way to take action, more than one way to get to the end point that you wanted.  Over the years its stood me in good stead.

So this week I may not have done any sewing (except for emergency repairs on a school badge!), but I have ordered myself something that I've wanted for years!

It's a miniature 'storm at sea' quilt kit.  Pre-cut with lasers by the Flynn Quilt Frame Company.

It hasn't arrived yet, so I can't tell you about it properly, but just based on their customer service so far (which has been excellent!) I have a feeling that it's going to be great.

Of course, there may well be a lot of cursing in my head when I start making it - after all, aiming for accuracy with tiny pieces may not be my strong suit!

Still, I'm excited about the idea of having a mini quilt to make without needing to do any cutting - thus saving my dodgy wrist this task.

See, there are always different ways to do something that you want - my first quilt kit order!

Hope that you have a happy crafty Easter and are able to find ways to overcome any challenges that you have too!


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Cake and Cake

DD1 turned 12 this week - almost unbelievable!  She had a book themed party, so the cake had to be a book too, of course.  I was quite pleased with how this one turned out (and glad that I hadn't spent the £15 on an open book shaped cake tin - my old faithful rectangle tin and a bit of carving with a bread knife did the job!).
 I'm so pleased that she was thrilled with it.  Four days on and she still hasn't actually tasted it - turns out that she'd rather have crisps if she's being offered junk food!  Fair enough!
Of course, refusal of chocolate cake didn't mean that I was going to let up, so on her actual birthday she had a lemon cake.

She was equally thrilled, but, of course, hasn't actually eaten any of this one either!

I've managed to give quite a lot away, but I think that we'll have a cake section in the freezer for a while to come.

Naturally we couldn't have a party without an element of crafting.  The seven girls made fabric notebook covers (fun, as some of them hadn't used either a sewing machine or an iron before!).

After we'd stopped sewing we made 'no fastener' books from a single sheet of paper - one from A4 paper, one from 12" square paper - and got the stickers and pens out to decorate them. 

I think it's lovely that these young people are so keen to craft and create and chatter whilst they do so.  I hope that they are developing life long habits, but even if they aren't, I'm glad that they are enjoying the moments now!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Hearts and Yarns

I've been carrying on trying to work through my scraps.  I'm making 'Heart It' by Esther Aliu but hit a bit of a problem when my wrist became even more painful than it had previously been.

Its no fun when you are a quilter who can't hand sew, use scissors, use a rotary cutter or machine quilt - it's just very, very frustrating!

However, I've managed to subcontract the first round of scissor cutting to a local teenager, I've bought an ergonomic rotary cutter and I'm the proud owner of two different types of crafter's support gloves!
So, rather than setting up blocks for some gentle hand sewing, I'm going to be making machine applique blocks instead.

More than one way to skin a cat or indeed make a quilt!

My heart halves are glued onto Floriani fusible, the seam allowance glue sticked down, and then lined up on two pieces of background fabric.

You see it here with the centre of the heart sewn into the background, leaving me just the outside edge to sew down.  it will be a small zig zag stitch in grey, I've decided.

It's awfully tempting to make one or two of these heart halves double -sided, though, so that they could lift off the fabric like this one (but looking more finished, obviously!).

It would tie in nicely with the dimension that the 3D bowties will give to the other blocks..... certainly something to think about.

My only other crafty endeavour over the last couple of weeks was with some young crafting companions (My DD's and a neighbour).

We were all much struck by the idea of making yarn bomb 'cherries' (pairs of pom poms) and letting them 'fruit' in a local park on Twickenham riverside.

They made the pom poms (new pom pom maker gadgets making this SO MUCH FASTER than the old fashioned 'two cardboard circles' way) and we took them to the park.  We hung them up and almost immediately there were children trying to hit them with tennis racquets and a pair of old ladies talking about making pom poms when they were children.

We went back to take them down a fortnight later (pleased to say that cheap acrylic yarn worked splendidly, having thrown off all the weather that had happened).  There were still children interested in them (who were THRILLED when we gave them the pom poms as we took them down!).  It made us all feel good, that we'd achieved 'yarn bombing', that we hadn't left any to become litter, and that they made other people happy too!

Of course, if you saw them and were appalled during the two weeks that they were around I can only apologise.....but I'm really hoping that wouldn't actually apply to anyone.

Right.  Onwards and upwards.  I'd like to think that my wrist is starting to get a bit better - cross your fingers and send me a good wish, please!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

From Scraps to Riches


I'd planned a lovely post today - rich with photos of the piles of scraps that I've been hoarding in various different places and containers - and then showing how I'd managed to come close to constraining them.  However, my computer is at the menders (again) and I'm using one that doesn't appear to want to play nicely with Blogger, so photos will have to wait!

I can share the (unillustrated) news that I have LOTS of scraps!  So many that I've decided that this should be the year of the scrap project for me.  I really have to face up to sorting them out properly and using them or giving them away.  What isn't working well is being proud of being organised (I've got labelled plastic drawers, ergo I must be organised) whilst shutting my eyes to the other shoeboxes, piles and folders full of scraps that had accumulated whilst I wasn't concentrating!

I know that storage and use of scraps is a perennial quilting discussion.  I know that everyone has a theory about what would work best.  Organise by colour? organise by shape? Organise by theme? Organise by size?  Organise by destination project?  You may have a favourite, you may have a couple of favourites.  I think that I'm going to try and work through what I have now (mostly organised by size) and then think about changing (perhaps to organising by colour).  Of course, in the ideal world where my ship has come in, I will have someone on hand to organise and iron my scraps for me, and perhaps even to cut them into regular shapes!

So, have any of my scraps turned into riches between last week (me starting to tidy them) and this week (me starting to make a quilt)?  Yes!  Well, almost.  I have made a quilt top using some left over jelly roll strips (probably the easiest scraps to use!) with some larger pieces of background fabric left over from one of last year's quilts and then a second, smaller, quilt top using the left overs from the first quilt.

Not quite finished yet, as I need to raid the drawer for narrow pieces to make lovely scrappy bindings.

I'm also planning to make a scrappy version of this new pattern by Esther Aliu - Heart It.  I was hoping to prepare the pieces and hand sew it, but a couple of hours of hand quilting (nearly two weeks ago!) have shown me that I still can't manage much in the way of hand work, so this will have to become a machined piece too if I want to make progress on it.  I wish that I could find something to do with my hands in the evenings that didn't hurt at the moment - I feel bereft without a little hand sewing on the go!

Now, look away if you don't want to hear a little brag.  I was surprised to find an article by me in a magazine that's out now - not that I hadn't been invited to submit something via SST - my distance learning college, but that I'd dashed it off last summer and not given it another thought since!  The magazine is called 'Be Creative with Workbox' (issue 148).  I can't say that my article adds greatly to the sum of human knowledge but I'm still pleased to see it there.  I only regret that I didn't send a photo of the quilt that I was most proud of making during my course - a wall hanging based on 'radio' - a bit of an oversight!

Time to go an make bindings now!  Fingers crossed that next week I'll be back on my own computer with appropriate photos!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Mini Bunting Tutorial

 With the excitement of getting my own Round Robin returned to me last week, I missed out telling you about the last one that I'd made for someone else.

My row is the one in the middle of this bright seaside themed quilt.  I pieced sandcastles, added a fused bucket and spade and finished it with some mini bunting (which I pinned on rather than sewing on - too hard to quilt around otherwise!
 So pleased was I with the mini bunting that I thought I'd share my quick and easy method with you.

This will give you a string of mini bunting of a yard or so - simply increase the number of flags and the length of the ribbon to suit what you'd like.

Narrow ribbon - 1 yard
Scraps - 12 x 1"x3"
Heat'n'bond' (or similar) - 6" square or equivalent.

1)  Cut your fusible.  You want to end up with 12 pieces of 1" x 3".

 2) Iron them onto the wrong sides of your chosen scraps.  I chose cool colours - but feel free to go as wild as you like!
 3) Cut around the fusible / fabric and peel the backing paper off the rectangles.
 4) Fold the rectangles in half, right sides out (so fusible sides together) and just touch an iron to the open ends to keep them together. 
 5) You will end up with 12 fabric 'loops' with the fusible on the inside.
 6) Time to shape them now.  I did mine by eye, but if you prefer you can measure and mark up the 1/2" point on what was the open end.  You need to cut from that centre point on the 'open' end to the edge of the closed end of the fabric loop.
7) Now do the same again on the other side of the loop.  You end up with a lovely sharp triangle and two waste triangles to throw away.

Finish the rest in the same way.
 8) Lay the flags out in a way that pleases you.
 9) Thread the ribbon through each flag 'bead'.  I spaced mine at 1 1/2" apart.  When you have the spacing that you like iron them onto the ribbon.  That's the joy of the fusible - you have just finished the bunting!

Of course, if you are really keen you could add a line of stitching (along the ribbon, or along the ribbon and around each flag).
 10) All you need to do now is to choose how to display your bunting!  Not bad for 20 minutes play!
Here's mine decorating a window.  Where is yours going to hang?

I love this little bunting!  The good news is that I have LOTS of scraps (but that's a subject for a whole other post!) - I could make enough of this to decorate the entire house!  I'm not sure that the rest of the family would stand for it though.

Have fun and let me know if you make your own!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Round Robin Reveal!

 I was very excited to see my Round Robin after it had been away for five months.  This was my starter piece.  My theme was the Military Wives song, "Wherever My Heart", with white and turquoise as my colours.
 This strip was made by Jane, who used alphabet white on white fabric to show communication and blue squares to represent the military mail - blueies, after the blue airmail paper that used to be used.  Triangles show the questions and answers flowing around the world.

Marjolyn made this strip.  Interlocked squares for the families, Stars of Destiny, and Delectable Mountains for lifes ups and downs.
Nerida used the purple squares in this strip to show a travelling solider, always part of a family, but not always in the same place. 
 Karen has a friend who is in South London Military Wives choir - what a coincidence!  She represented her friend with a Southern Belle block, and used chevrons to denote her husband who had just been promoted.  The purple here represents their three children.
 Benta used a high shot of the choir members, where she says their heads seemed to tessellate - so I've got some of her fabulous hexies representing that.
 She was also kind enough to make me an extra (she is so lovely, always keen to go the extra mile - thanks Benta!) and has embroidered two lines from the song onto some of the turquoise fabric.

So there you have it!  I'm thrilled that people put so much thought into making the strips (and explaining their thoughts).  I feel very lucky to have had so many talented people working on my Round Robin.

*All* I've got to do now is to decide how best to put them together, and construct the quilt!

I shall let it all mature on my design wall for the moment, whilst I consider the final purpose of the quilt (sofa throw? bed quilt? wall hanging?) which will help to determine its shape, size and the quilting that it will receive.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Oodles of Doodles!

 Over the last week or two I've been producing some Zentangle type doodles on Artists 'Tiles' - a new size card to me, cut at 3 1/2" square - so that I could share the idea with my gal pals (still trying that phrase out for size - I like the intention but it seems a bit ugly, somehow) at 'Girls Night In' - my regular kitchen table crafting outlet.

I REALLY wish that I'd made them line up the goodies that they produced - we had everything from mermaids through penguins to hearts and initials - wonderful!

So I'll just have to share some of what I've produced instead.

This is clearly an homage to Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors - we watched the film with the girls at the weekend.
 This is an initial card.  I used different cards from Poundland - obviously I'd recommend that you actually opened up any cards that you bought that had text on the front, just in case there was text inside too.  I had a range of both 'thank you' and 'invitation' cards that had text inside them - so we needed to do an extra step and cover the writing inside with an additional piece of card or paper.
 This was what I was originally thinking of - a Valentines card (and now I feel very smug being finished early!).  I cut out the 'tangled' heart and mounted it on a black 'tile'.

I bought three Zentangle books (one of them a childrens' book - as much for me as for my DD's - I like simple, fun instructions).  They are well worth it as they give you step by step instructions and ideas on different ways to build up patterns. 
These were others that I'd been trying out different tangles on too. 

Without realising, I'd also picked the week when we have 'National Doodle Day' in the UK.  Turns out that it happens in support of Epilepsy Action - and this year is on Friday, 6th February.

The money that I received last night will be donated to this excellent cause.  Perhaps you will be inspired to doodle on Friday and send in a pound too?

Happy doodling - hope that you produce oodles too!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

More Snowball thoughts and someone else sews....

 After last week's tutorial, I thought that you might like to see another couple of ideas that I'd put together when I was thinking about the design.

This is the one that made me think of butterflies first of all - obviously you need fewer red triangles and the setting of them is less rigid.

I'd love to see this in summer fabrics, something pale yellow and floral perhaps to tie in with the butterflies, quilted to match.  Not that I have that sort of fabric in my stash, but its just how I see it in my head!
 This one, although I've shown it plain (which is how I tend to plan my quilts on the software, not necessarily sew them in real life!) it would work really well as a scrappy style quilt, using darker fabrics for the star points (the small squares of the snowballs) and a mix of neutrals for the block centres and the plain blocks.

 I haven't managed any sewing this week (but the scrapbooking is coming on well!) but my DD2 was inspired by the arrival of her Young Embroiderers Guild membership card to create a sewing kit 'roll'.
 I gave her a little helping hand with the measuring and design (and some of my duplicate embroidery flosses), but the fabric choices and the majority of the sewing was hers - even adding fabric binding to the clear plastic that became the pockets, which is something that even experienced sewists might baulk at!
Didn't she do a great job?  She has her mini sewing kit, needle book, membership card, floss and a pencil all in one handy roll.

I'm so happy that she enjoys sewing!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Butterfly Star Quilt - Tutorial

 To make this quilt, which finishes 42" wide and 66" high (so you won't have to piece the backing unless you want to!), you will need the following:

* 2 1/4 yards of your main fabric (shown as white for my plan)
* 1/4 yd red fabric
* 3/4 yd blue fabric
* 2 yards of your backing fabric
* fabric for binding (total edges = 216" - the amount of fabric required will vary depending on your favourite way to bind!)
* Wadding - approx. 44" x 68"

Please remember that if you choose a fabric that has a right way up (like I did) that you need to pay particular attention to this when you are making the snowballs!

 First of all cut 77 x 6 1/2" squares of your main fabric.

Put 38 of them to one side - this is a quick quilt to make, so these are finished and ready to add to your layout when you've made the snowball blocks.

Next cut 3" squares from your red and blue fabrics.  You need 128 blue squares and 28 red squares to make the snowballs as I show you.  You could just save fabric and use triangles, of course.
I then set mine out with the appropriate number of main fabric squares, just to keep things straight in my head.

To follow the pattern above, you will need to make:
* 1 snowball with four red corners
* 6 snowballs with red at the top right / bottom left and blue at the top left and bottom right
* 6 snowballs with blue at the top right / bottom left and red at the top left and bottom right
* 26 blocks with four blue corners.
 I'm showing you my way of making snowballs - as I like to have the resulting leftover half-square triangles to play with later. 

Lay four of your coloured squares on top of one main square.  Draw a line (or stitch it straight away if you are confident!) from corner to corner, and another line 1/2" further out from the first line.

These are your stitching lines.  Go ahead and stitch them all.
Now you can cut between the stitching lines, leaving you the snowball block and four HSTs.
 Continue making all 39 snowball blocks - remember to make sure that you have the colours going to the way that you want them to!

Then press all the blocks (and the HSTs if you want to use them soon!).
 Refer to the plan and layout the pieced and plain blocks.  I set mine out half a quilt at a time as that was the space that I had near my machine.

Chain piece the blocks together, making sure that you keep the pattern.
Complete until you have the finished quilt top - well done!  That was fast, wasn't it?

Now layer up with the backing / wadding, baste, and quilt.  All you need to do now is to bind the quilt and add a label.

This is a fun and fast quilt to make - perfect for a beginner or a time-short more experienced quilter.  It would be great to see some more variations of this, so if you do make one feel free to share your finish too!

Have fun!