Monday, 30 November 2015

Rainbow Squared [a finish]

I love this finish!

I smile every time I look at it! It started off with no real plan when I was making Mia's cat quilt. I cut pieces from over 100 different fabrics, and whilst I had them on the cutting mat, I also cut a 2.5" square of each. Once done I laid them out to have a look, added the dark reds, browns and blacks and decided to sew them together exactly as they were.

I hand quilted the cross hatch - picking the colour thread was the hardest part: white was too stark, turquoise was tempting, but with some help from my Mother-in-law I picked a very pale pink.

The back of the cushion is a dark blue print from Simply Colour by V and Co. which I found reduced earlier this year.

I finished this last week and Mia and I have spent the weekend arguing over whether it is Mummy's cushion or Mia's cushion - she's gradually coming round to my way of thinking!

This is another finish from my Q4 Finish Along list!

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Mia's advent calendar [a {lovely} finish]

A little close to the wire, but Mia now has a finished advent calendar and with a day to spare! Chocolates will go in one per day so that naughty puppies cannot be tempted...

Last year when I made advent calendars for my niece and nephew I knew Mia had to have a special one for this year, and despite looking online for inspiration for a few months, nothing had jumped out. It was only when I saw the new design from Lilipopo Stitches back in October that I knew what I wanted to do.

The embroidery pattern is an instant download and her instructions are brilliant, especially for the less common stitches (she writes blog posts with lots of photos to guide you through these unusual stitches). I decided to use some speciality threads which I bought years ago, obviously with a project in mind because they all go together beautifully. These are DMC satin threads - the "new" marketing of rayon threads. Also included are a few metallic threads. My past experience of metallic threads has not been great, so I knew they would be used sparingly. But I was pleasantly surprised with the satins - shorter lengths and more care were required, but they sewed up really nicely and the sheen from them really makes this a special project. I used mostly two strands, and then single strands when I got to the finer parts of the Christmas tree. I love the fern stitch on the girls dress - this was a new stitch for me, and it gives some lovely texture.

The tree was quite the challenge and took much longer than I expected. This is where most of the new stitches came in. I love them all, though open Cretan stitch will take a little more practice to perfect. After the Christmas tree, the stool and cushions were very fast to finish off.

I needed my central embroidery panel to be a little larger than the original design - but only in height, not in width. I thought about adding Mia's name. But "Mia" doesn't take up much room, and she doesn't often get called by her full name "Amelia". We went through some Christmas carols and none were quite right (though it meant I was singing Christmas carols for a few days after). We moved from carols to songs and hit on "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" - how perfect for an advent calendar. I drew the lettering by hand, using a plate to get the curve I wanted. I stitched it up in one strand.

The relief of finishing the embroidery with a week left of November was tempered slightly when I realised how much I still had to do.... a few hours here and there and the "quilt" was finished, with just the pockets to do. And my goodness were they fiddly! But they are done and attached. I'm a little disappointed that a couple ended up wonky, even when they had been pinned on straight.

The facts: the finished advent calendar 24" x 18". Rather than bind it, I stitched right sides together and turned through. The quilting is minimal - just enough to hold the layers together each side of the purple inner border and right at the edge. The embroidery is in one or two strands of DMC satin threads, and is a design by Lilipopo with words added by me. The fabrics for the pockets are Pearl Bracelets, Art Gallery, Timeless Treasures, Carolyn Friedlander, Cotton and Steel, Violet Craft and Kona solids. I know they aren't by themselves "Christmassy colours" but I'm not keen on red and green! I stamped the numbers onto the pockets - you can just see it on the darker fabrics!

Overall I am chuffed to bits with this finish! And Mia seems to like it too - this is her cheekiest grin:

Happy first Sunday in Advent!
Christmas tree blocked in by furniture to reduce temptation
 The advent was my A Lovely Year of Finishes goal for November and on my Q4 Finish Along list.
2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

WIP Wednesday [advent approaching]

A couple of weeks ago I shared the embroidery I was doing for Mia's advent calendar. The embroidery is now finished....

I've added borders, but still have a way to go and advent is just around the corner.

Really bad indoor photos...
Will I make it?

And as I've finished the hand stitching on this project, I started a new one! This is the Collection Quilt from Carolyn Friedlander, and I'm getting it as a block of the month. So far so good, but I haven't done much!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Karen Lewis Textiles [a couple of finishes]

Have you come across the beautiful screen printed fabrics by Karen Lewis? I came across them last year on Instagram. Love them. Unfortunately, and quite understandably, the screen printing that Karen does, adds a premium to the fabric, and I can't really justify buying the panels she prints up. Sometimes she posts scrap packs and charm packs on Instagram and they are gone in seconds. Last year I was lucky enough to be quick and snag a scrap pack. I didn't have a plan for the fabrics, but just added them into scrappy projects I was making, including this baby bib for Mia.

I will add at this point, that the care instructions that come with the fabric recommend cool washes and no tumble drying. Unfortunately I live with two dogs, a small child and my husband, and anything that isn't wipe clean really needs to be machine washable and tumble dryable. Mia's bib inevitably got thrown in the washing and I was sad to see that the screen printing faded.  Sad, but not surprised, and I was aware I was abusing the fabric by washing it like this. But it made me cautious - there is no point using Karen's fabrics in anything in our house that will need to be washed. I have to say that I thought this knowledge would cure my desire to buy lots of her fabric. But it didn't. Back in March I was lucky again, and I snagged two, yes two, charm packs: one coloured and the other neutral.

Mini quilts go on the wall and do not need to be washed. Therefore my purchase was justified. It was the first thing I sewed in my new sewing space in the new house in April this year! But it took me until ear;ier this month to actually get round to quilting it.

At this point I will take a slight diversion... to another recent finish. At about the same time I was playing with the charm packs, news was trickling through that Karen would be bringing out a range of fabrics commercially with Robert Kaufman. The "screen printing" would be done using an industrial process. Maybe these would hold up better to my washing/drying habits. I messaged Karen. who quite rightly, advised against it. To be honest, most patchwork fabric probably doesn't include tumble drying on its care instructions.... But I continued to one does. At Harrogate in September, I picked up two fat quarters of the brand new Blueberry Park - black and bright pink! My plan: a dolls quilt for Mia, that I would wash and tumble 5-10 times before I let her have it. To see how it washed up.

Can you see a theme in the projects I like to make with Karen's fabrics? I quilted this up just befpre the charm pack quilt and made the biggest mess you can imagine. I confess I didn't really baste it, just went for it, because it was small. If I say that when I started quilting, the top was straight on the wadding and backing, maybe you'll understand... there was a bit of an undesirable twist. And as such a rather horrific amount of puckers on the back. I wasn't unpicking. It can stay awful and I simply won't show my mother. On the plus side, I planned to quilt the mini quilt in the same way. So I took the lessons learned: 1. don't use a cheap, shiny fabric to back the quilt; 2. Baste the quilt properly; 3. Echo quilt the whole top and then go back to do the more dense quilting.

I followed those lessons learned and here is my finished mini quilt, complete with pancake-flat back!

As always, I failed miserably to plan ahead with the binding, so I ordered some of Blueberry Park to finish it off in a lovely light grey with my favourite Allotment print. It took another couple of weeks to get round to sewing down the binding, but yesterday I finished it!

And the result of multiple washing on the Blueberry Park fabric? Disappointingly, but again not surprising. After two cycles I thought I see some deterioration compared to the non-washed scrap I still had. I did a third wash to be sure and the fade is noticeable enough to know that after 10 washes it will be obvious.

But don't worry - I still haven't been put off these gorgeous fabrics! I just know that I need to pick my projects carefully. There's no point in me buying a full fat quarter bundle and adding it into my stash to be mixed in with other fabrics for any project. But I need to be more considered.... plan ahead. Use just a little in projects that won't be washed, or will be washed very infrequently, under circumstances where I can be a little more careful - i.e. cool wash and no tumble. I'm pretty sure there'll be more Karen Lewis fabrics in my future, but perhaps not the double bed quilt I had pictured!

The mini quilt, made with charms, was on my Q4 Finish Along list which you can find here.
2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Sunday, 22 November 2015

How Mia stole my swap pressies....

When I received a beautiful parcel from New Zealand in July with my hand-pieced mini quilt swap goodies, Donna included a couple of Lecien fat quarters. After Mia had stolen the notebook I received, eaten the chocolate that was included and tried to wander off with MY zippy pouch, her eyes fell on the fabric. She likes fabric just like her mummy, so I decided to use them to make some things for her.

With a huge long list of things I wanted to make before our holiday, these fat quarters quickly rose to the top of the pile. Dolly needed a quilt. So Mia "helped" pick some coordinating solids. Despite pinning lots of more complex dolly-quilt ideas (on my new Pinterest board), I ended up with just straight forward squares but I ran out of time/inclination to get it finished before our holiday... that was back in August. It has lain on my sewing table since then but I was reminded of it this morning when Mia tried to tuck dolly in with her own, somewhat larger quilt. It took me literally 10 minutes to finish this quilt off. 10 minutes! Why on earth did I wait?

I'm a little worried that teddy will get jealous...
Although I made a right hash of fussy cutting, I still had enough left over to make a zippy pouch for her new colouring book and crayons. Perfect for the bright pink zip I discovered when unpacking! And I did get this finished for our holidays in August: it spent the week carrying colouring book and crayons.

Since our holiday it has been used to protect Daddy's tablet (how masculine), as a shopping bag for pretend food and just generally abused in the way only a toddler can! It was only when I pulled it out this morning to photograph it [finally] that I realised I had never sewn up the opening in the lining... now I've done that too!

My Dad made the cot for Mia when she started tucking dolly into cardboard boxes!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap [a finish]

I had been planning to post this once my partner received this parcel. According to tracking, it was delivered 10 days ago, and I haven't heard a word from my partner, so I'm assuming she has a good excuse and I'm sharing this anyway....

This is it. My last swap commitment. I am absolutely not signing up for anything more until Baby is here and we are settled into some kind of routine - so maybe 10 years time if I'm lucky (I haven't said what sort of routine). Even if I am very, very tempted.

My partner, gave me a really clear list of likes - designs and colours. This made it so easy for me to put together a quilt for her. The design is by Julianna @sewingunderrainbow and appeared in an old issue of Love Patchwork of Quilting. I knew way back when I first saw it that I wanted to make the quilt, so when I was cutting the fabrics for this swap quilt, I cut double, so hopefully in the not too distant future, I'll have a matching quilt/cushion cover. However, like childbirth, it will take a little time to forget the pain of all those curves!

The colours that she liked were also some of my favourites and as such I could use some of my absolute favourite fabrics: Architextures, Zen Chic, Art Gallery, Painters Canvas, Domino Dots, Doe, Cotton and Steel, Botanics... sadly I actually used up all I had of some of the fabrics so there'll be a few differences when I make my own version.

There was a lot of swearing when I was drawing round the templates and cutting out the pieces. And also when I was piecing all the curves. I used Leanne's brilliant no-pin tutorial (this quilt would not have happened if I'd been pinning every curve). When it came to pressing, a lot of steam was involved (and more swearing). To be honest, it's a miracle the final quilt lies flat!

A kept the quilting minimal - there's so much movement in the piecing, that I didn't want to lose that flow. I used my walking foot and echoed the seam lines between the colours, hopefully emphasizing the movement, rather than diminishing it. The binding is the white on white cross hatch from Carolyn Friedlander which I've also used for the very outer neutral corners of the piecing.

With all of that swearing, errors when drawing round templates and cutting out fabric, dodgy seam allowances and steam, this quilt has come out a little bigger than it should have mathematically - I hope my partner doesn't mind too much!

I've added a few extras to the quilt.... some fat quarters of Carolyn Friedlander's new fabric, Carkai; some Northumberland tea bags; and a local post card which I picked up on a recent trip to the Baltic Art Gallery in Newcastle.

And here is what I received.

Much as Mia would like to steal it, we found out yesterday that the chances are baby number 2 is a girl! She was being an awkward little monster, and flipped over halfway through the scan, so the medical checks couldn't be completed - we'll be back for another scan next week. I think this quilt will be put away carefully and saved for her arrival next April!

The pig quilt which Madeline sent as an extra has already been claimed by Mia!

For the rest of the year, when I do have the energy to sew, selfish sewing, and sewing for Mia and Deuteronomy will take priority. Yes Deuteronomy.....You know how people call their unborn babies by nicknames? Biscuit, or Sweetie, Peanut, Baby Bear etc.etc? Well Michael, in his quest to come up with highly unsuitable names for Mia, decided bump would be Corinthian (or Corinthina) when I was pregnant with her. Well this baby is Deuteronomy (Deuteronomina?) or Little Deut... I guess he thinks he's funny.

The quilt I sent was on my list of Finishes for Q4 of the Finish Along.
2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

WIP Wednesday [12 days]

That's how long I have left to get Mia's advent calendar finished... I've been working on it when I have energy, but my latest anti-nausea tablets which "may cause drowsiness" actually send me to sleep for 3.5 hours when I'm not planning to sleep at all... yep - 19 weeks and still sick!

Back to the sewing: I now have completed the central design and I'm working on the text at the top. It's slower going than I anticipated but I'm really happy with how it looks and I'm optimistic that once the embroidery is finished, it will come together quite fast.

The only other sewing I've done this week was revisiting a project I haven't touched since June: Moccasin Block of the Month. The reason I haven't touched it in so long was because I fluffed up the Dresden Plate, making it hugely too big for the 9" block size. I finally got round to re-printing the template and trying again. Success.

I'm now reinvigorated to complete this project, and I've started cutting triangles for the next block.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday today.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Camper Van Cushion [a finish]

About 18 months ago I made a cushion for some friends.  Early this year, they asked if they could have another one as a matching pair. Some may consider this to be a bit cheeky, but as far as I'm concerned it's the ultimate confirmation that they liked the first one, so I was only too happy to make a start on the cushion. Months ago I prepared all the applique pieces. And didn't get any further. This is where I was at the start of the quarter, when I added it to my Finish Along list.

One of the things holding me up, was my sewing machine. The blanket stitch on my Brother machine is a bit pants compared to the blanket stitch on my Husqvarna, and the Husqvarna needed servicing, cause it wasn't working. The timing was out. It took me until October to get the machine serviced and last week I finished off the applique!

I quilted this cushion differently to the first. Rather than doing the applique and then layering and quilting (avoiding the applique in the process - quite awkward), I quilted first and then appliqued. I also did the sky differently - radiating lines rather than straight lines. I like it better I think.

The pattern is a free one from Tula Pink and I used fabrics from my stash: Botanics, Kona, and Pearl Bracelets. The blue is from a large piece I inherited from my Gran and is the same fabric I used on the front and back of the first cushion. It measures about 17" square and everything is appliqued and quilted using Aurifil.

And, as I said, this is from my Q4 Finish Along list (which you can find here)

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

WIP Wednesday [It's beginning to look just a little bit like Christmas]

For the first time in a few years, I'm really quite excited about Christmas: I think as a child, Christmas is really exciting, but as you get older, some of the magic goes. Now with Mia at an age where she can enjoy Christmas and get involved, the magic is back. Last year I made advent calendars for my niece and nephew and this year I wanted to make one for Mia. But of course it has to be better!

I spent a long time on Pinterest (as I'm prone to do) and couldn't see much that I really liked, or that were special enough. I want this to be an heirloom that gets brought out every year and loved. Then I saw some sneak peaks of a new design from Lilipopo and knew I'd found what I was looking for. Just days after the pattern was released I was ready to start sewing.

I decided to risk rayon threads: I'd bought a handful a few years ago - obviously with a long-forgotten purpose in mind - and hadn't ever used them. I don't have a great relationship with speciality threads but these are remarkably friendly. I finished the girl quite quickly and loved the new stitch - fern stitch - on her dress

The tree has taken a little longer: it's a sampler of different stitches, including some totally new to me. Cross stitch, running stitch and back stitch are all familiar. Open Cretan Stitch was totally new to me and not thoroughly successful, but done. I loved the Jacobean Couching. I've done Herringbone before, but not often, and liked the look of filling the gaps with cross stitch or French knots.

I just have a pile of cushions to stitch which the girl is standing on, and then I've added some words top and bottom to get the embroidery panel the size I need to fit 24 pockets around it. And the Christmas tree needs a trunk and pot!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Dress [finish]

Back in June I had a momentary lapse in common sense and actually purchased some Art Gallery knits and a pattern for a dress for Mia. I don't quite know what came over it. Maybe it was a slow day at work. I even bought sewing machine needles for knit fabric. I took photos. I added this grand plan to my Finish Along list. And then I lost my bottle.

I can blame this loss of bottle on pregnancy. But the reality it, dressmaking scares me and knit fabrics scare me. And I don't know how to use/find the overlocking options on my Brother machine. And any other excuses I can think of, really. I put the dress on my Finish Along list for this quarter too, and suddenly, a couple of days ago, I just decided to go for it.

I had got as far as printing and cutting out the pattern back in the summer, but when I looked at it, and the measurements in the pattern, I decided to reprint and go up a size to 3T - Mia is only 20 months old, but I couldn't bare the idea of putting in all that work, and it not fitting her. In fact, I got as far as cutting out the pattern pieces from the fabrics with no problem.

The first steps were binding the neckline, quickly followed by binding the sleeves and the tops of the pockets. I confess I found this a bit fiddly. In hindsight, I needed to shift the needle position a couple of clunks to the right when I did the initial basting. It's not perfect, but I'm pretty pleased for a first attempt. I got to use the stretch stitch on my machine!

For the shoulder and side seams I got to use the overlocking function and the overlocking foot for the first time! And it worked.

And the best part: when I showed the finished dress to Mia she said it was "pretty" and we put it on her straight away: she twirled around, admired herself, smiled lots, refused to stand still for photos and din't like it when we had to take it off. It fits, but is a little on the large size, which is what I wanted: it's got plenty of room for her to grow into - she can wear it with a long-sleeved T-Shirt and tights in the winter, and as it is come next summer. Those pockets were quite a pain, but when she found she had pockets she got quite excited! So it was worth it.

I am one chuffed Mummy!

The fabrics are both Art Gallery Knits: Geometric Bliss for the dress and solid in Dark Ocean for the binding. I bought half a meter of each and that was plenty for the dress and I probably have enough of the navy left to make the binding for another two dresses. The pattern is The Play Day Dress by Heidi and Finn and I can highly recommend it - if I can make it, anyone can make it. I could even be tempted to contemplate making myself a dress. I'll go and lie down now until that feeling goes away!

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side