Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 [reflections]

So it's that time of year again to look back over the previous 12 months and proclaim it good! My year has been somewhat mixed, I feel...

We spent 11 months of the year moving house.... from the day we started clearing out and packing on 3rd January to when we finally completed on the house on 3rd December! We swapped houses with Michael's Mum, Linda, and while this meant we avoided estate agents, we couldn't avoid the packing, the unpacking, or the solicitors. I always thought that no matter what my children decide to do when they are adults, I would be proud. But I think I'm changing my mind. My recent dealings with solicitors have not been successful, so here's hoping they don't pick that career path! We physically moved on 4th April - Easter Saturday, and both of us then proceeded to do a lot of work on the houses we moved into. Our builder came in on 7th April, and the final new carpet was laid on 5th November. I know I've said it before, but never again! But we do now have a beautiful house - big enough for us to grow into, entertain the family, and live very comfortably. It's full of the memories of Michael's child hood, but we've put our own stamp on it and it feels so right to be living here now.

The day that the living room carpet was laid was also the same
day that Mia walked by herself with no encouragement at all!
The other thing that has dominated my year has been my pregnancy. I can't wait to welcome our new baby girl in April next year, and I had a bit of a turning point mid-December, where I stopped feeling quite so ill and just started feeling pregnant! An improvement of sorts! Mia is a bit little to fully understand what is happening, but she has her own "baby" and will tell anyone who asks "what's in Mummy's tummy?" that it's "cake"!

In between 11 months of moving and 6 months of feeling ill, we've had some fantastic family holidays: a week in my favourite place in the world - Tenby in South West Wales, and a week in Sidmouth for the Folk Festival.

And you know what, I've been doing a little sewing as well! Though I haven't been anywhere as prolific as last year! Working full time on top of everything will have that effect! Here are the stand out sewing moments and themes of my year:

The only large (read: bigger than a baby quilt) that I finished this year, was my oldest WIP, this sampler quilt. But I finished it way back in January, so it really feels as though there have been no big finishes this year: something I hope to change in 2016.

But 2015 was the year of the swap for me: I took part in 10 swaps in all: here's what I sent.

Modern Fabric Postcard Swap; Easy Swap UK zippy; UK Mini Swap; Cotton and Steel Swap (angel); Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap (round 3); Thimbleblossoms Mini Quilt Swap; Hand Pieced Mini Quilt Swap; Harry Potter Mini Quilt Swap; Whimsical Woodland Mug Rug Swap; Cotton and Steel Mini Quilt Swap; Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap (round 4)
And what I received: there's a slight discrepancy between then two mosaics: I also made an angel mini for the Cotton and Steel Mini Quilt swap, and I never received anything in the Harry Potter swap and the Swap Mama stopped communicating.... I also sent three modern fabric postcards and only received two. Despite these disappointments, I still really enjoyed participating in the swaps this year. Next year will definitely be quieter - I'm not currently signed up for anything and it needs to stay that way for a good while!

Hand sewing has been a feature of the year: for starters, why begin one long-term EPP project, when you can begin 2? I decided to take the plunge and make a La Passacaglia quilt in the spring: I'm picking anything and everything from my stash and looking forward to seeing where this adventure takes me over the next few year.

At about the same time as I started this project, I stumbled across the New Hexagon Millefiore quilt. And because I couldn't chose between the two projects, I started that too! To make it specifically different from the La Pass, I'm limiting myself to aquas and low volume fabrics for this quilt.

And then there have been the mini quilts and cushions for me...and some for Mia!

Rainbow Squared cushion, Jingle Bells cushion; Camper Van cushion; Woodland log cabin cushion; Lucky Stars mini; Darth Vader cushion; Karen Lewis Mini; April Showers mini mini; Wildflowers Mini; Mia's advent calendar; Marsala Clams; Patchwork City mini
And the baby quilts....

Trellis; Pink Plusses; Mia's Cat Quilt; Power of Nine Baby Quilt; Whales quilt

And even some clothes: a hat for me and a dress for Mia!

And the nursery hoops....

I started and made differing amounts of progress on a few other quilts as well. I'll have a separate post on those: I have plans to finish some things next year!

Hand-made Christmas [Wreath]

I had really hoped to get this embroidery finished in time for Christmas, but some last-minute Christmas present making screwed that plan! It is now 10.30pm on New Years Eve and I can at least call it a finish for 2015!

The design is by Rosalie Quinlan and was a kit with pre-printed hanky linen and Cosmo embroidery threads - I just added some interfacing and the embroidery hoop. It was interesting to try out Cosmo embroidery floss for the first time. I've heard a lot about them, but in all honesty I can't say they were much different to DMC or Anchor threads. Which is a good thing! Because Cosmo threads don't seem to be available in the UK, while DMC and Anchor are!

We'll be packing away the Christmas decorations in the next couple of days, so sadly I won't get to enjoy this hoop for another 11 months.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Hand-made Christmas [Dumbledore]

I struggle every year with what to get my sister-in-law. She's a pain. And I don't care if she reads this, because she knows! Normally we resort to cash or vouchers, which is pretty boring. Last year I tarted up the voucher with a little Two-in-One Zippy pouch. But I can't do that every year.

You may remember back in the summer, I signed up for the doomed Harry Potter Mini Quilt Swap on Instagram. Steph follows me on Instagram and expressed interest... expressing interest out loud is as enthusiastic as she tends to get. A few months later and we were talking Harry Potter again, and I learned that a Dumbledore quote is one of her favourites and she wouldn't mind having me make her something. This is the equivalent of anyone else standing on the roof and begging for me to make it. Really.

Unfortunately I then forgot this conversation until the Saturday before Christmas. But being a last-minute merchant, I took the opportunity of a Saturday afternoon nap to draft out a pattern. You can find some of the inspiration on my Harry Potter Pinterest board!

And on Christmas Eve at about 10pm I finished it!

Disappointingly, this last minute embroidery meant that the Christmas wreath embroidery wasn't finished before Christmas. I'm not going to put it away again just yet, as we're still feeling festive, and I may get a little more done. I really don't have much more to go!

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Hand-made Christmas [Darth Vader]

I don't like Star Wars. There. I said it. When my husband and I were dating at Uni I was dragged to a midnight showing of whichever film it was that came out in 2003 or 2004, maybe 2005.... I don't get the hype. I have no intention of going to see it at the cinema.  But I know a six year old, who absolutely loves Star Wars and loves Lego. So thanks to Kristy @ Quiet Play, his Christmas present was a very easy decision.

Of course, it's impossible to be totally ignorant of Star Wars... I mean I know who Darth Vader is. So I picked the foundation pieced pattern of Darth Vader. Printed it out. Decided it wasn't the most complex pattern I'd ever seen, and then procrastinated. Why is it that even the easiest pattern becomes harder, the closer to the deadline you get?

I tackled it head on yesterday morning. Mia played nicely all morning and by lunch time, Darth was fully pieced. By the end of the afternoon I had a finished cushion! Miracles do happen and all you have to do is get on with it and stop procastinating. I couldn't believe how easily I got this pieced. I prepare quite carefully when I'm foundation piecing: I trace the pattern onto freezer paper first: all the pieces, marking the corners and intersections freehand, then joining the dots with a ruler. I score the seam lines with the back side of my very smart seam ripper (a recent hand-made gift from a relative - isn't it gorgeous?)

I roughly work out how big a square/rectangular/rotary-cutable piece of fabric I need for each piece, I'm generous at this point. Part of me wants to be really stingy and reduce wastage, but the reality is that the whole experience will be much more enjoyable with wiggle room. I then cut all of the fabric for the whole project in one go - this is more time efficient because often I can cut a strip off a fat quart and then sub cut it, rather than cutting each piece individually. And then I match up the paper with the fabric, piling the fabric pieces in the order in which I will need them. And then I simply whizz through the piecing. The tutorial I learned freezer paper foundation piecing from now seems to be a bad link so I can't share, but this was shared recently, and it's pretty close to my process except for the template preparation. This method revolutionised how I foundation piece! And the best bit is, you don't have to tear out the paper at the end.

Back to the cushion: I did some very basic outline quilting, just to hold the layers together, then did another back with a concealed zipper closure! Two in three days! For those of you who haven't read my previous post, this is the tutorial I used! I still don't understand how it works, but it does and it's amazing!

The fabrics are four different Kona solids: black, grey, red and blue, and Pearl Bracelets black on black (do you know how hard it is to find three shades of black?) The backing is more of the red, and I had a red zipper as well. If there's anything harder than finding three shades of black, then it's photographing three shades of black! This is perhaps the best photo of the colours, except the blue.

I'm still not done...

Monday, 21 December 2015

Hand-made Christmas [Jingle Bells Cushion]

My husband and I had a cushion discussion this last week. It went like this:

Michael: "Do you think we could get rid of some of the mankier cushions?"
Me: "Which ones do you consider 'manky'?"
Michael: [stupidly taking the bait] "well, the red one... and the star one."
Me: "The red one is one of my favourites. But you can have the star one."

A fifty percent success rate. Not bad for a man. I conceded that there were a further two cushion that had actually been made for Mia and could be moved to her bedroom. Each morning, Mia decides which of the dolls and stuffed toys that are upstairs need to come downstairs and are favoured for the day. Today she decided to bring downstairs Poppy the dolly, teddy, doggy, Lily the cat, and one of the cushions I took up yesterday! I have an accomplice!

Anyway, cushions make a good present, so I decided to make a cushion for our child minder and her family. I had this pattern in mind when I was planning the cushion, but I didn't refer back to it. Which is why mine is a little different. I was also working to the dimensions of easy-to-buy cushion pads, which turn out to be 20" x 12".

The fabric I used is Aspen Frost by Basic Grey - it came out a few years ago, I bought a charm pack, cut it into quarters and had great hexagon plans. That never happened because I got pregnant instead. They've sat in a bag in a box in a cupboard until I remembered the fabric when planning this cushion. I added in Painter's Canvas in cream for the neutral strips. 

Our childminder has been busy teaching Mia Jingle Bells, so that seemed appropriate for the embroidery. I marked the words free hand with a Frixion pen (I know some people won't touch them, but I think, so long as they are used with caution and awareness of their drawbacks, they can be a very useful tool), then embroidered through the wadding and the top using a red perle cotton. I then used white perle cotton to quilt just inside the seam lines on the neutral strips to make the patchwork stand out a bit.

But the real achievement of this cushion is the back. I'm an envelope back kind of girl. It's what I've always done. Sometimes I've added buttons. Though most of those now need to be re-sewn on! This time, for whatever reason, I decided to try a concealed zip closure. I followed this tutorial by Adrianne @ On the Windy Side, and it's witchcraft! I have no idea how it works, but it does! It's easy and it looks smart too. I might be a convert!

So here are the details: fabric is Aspen Frost by Basic Grey, and the backing is a Lecien christmassy texty print in red. Embroidery and quilting are both with perle thread and I finished it with a bright red zip. It finishes at 12" x 20". Mia would like one for us as well! Luckily for Michael I think I have enough fabric left over!

I still have a couple of Christmas gifts to make, so watch this space!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Hand-made Christmas [pairs cards]

It's the time of year for snatched moments at the sewing machine, desperately sewing together last minute Christmas presents.... and today I finished one of those presents. At the start of December, with loads of time left before Christmas, I started making some pairs cards for Mia: I fussy cut from my fairly small stash of novelty fabrics: two of each print to make a total of 24 "cards". And very quickly I added the white borders.

And then I procrastinated. Eventually I picked a backing fabric, and procrastinated a little more. Because I knew that once I had completed the next step I would have 24 cards to turn through and make neat. Not my favourite task. Especially when I am extremely good at leaving a turning gap that isn't quite big enough for the job to be easy.

It was our patchwork club's final get together before Christmas last Monday and I decided that this awful task would be made slightly less painful with some company. It took me over an hour and a half to turn them all through. Possibly as long as the rest of the construction put together! But it is done.

The cards needed some thing to keep them together, so this morning I made the zippy pouch. The grand theory is that 24 cards is a great number to start off with, but with plenty of the backing fabric, if I get some more good novelty prints, I can gradually add to that number, which will keep the game interesting as Mia grows. If she likes it at all, that is.

I had a fair few questions on Instagram when I posted this earlier about the details, so here they are:

  1. I cut the novelty fabrics at 2.5" x 2.5"
  2. I cut white strips at 1" wide, so per card: 2@ 1" x 2.5" and 2 @ 1" x 3.5"
  3. I didn't use interfacing. Before I placed them RST and sewed my seams, I added a scrap of wadding cut 1/2" smaller than the card: I glued this to the backing fabric to keep it in place.
  4. Reverse stitch at the start and end of your seams and leave enough space to turn through comfortably! Ask me how I know!
  5. Trim the corners before turning through, line up the opening and press before top-stitching about 1/8th inch from the edge to close the gap.
The zippy I made is the same as all the zippies I make: the pieces are cut 11.5" x 8.5" and then I use the zipper tab tutorial here and box the corners at 1.5".

I'm pretty certain I didn't come up with this idea on my own - there's likely some pins on my Kiddy Sewing board on Pinterest that come pretty close, but I wasn't specifically referring to any when I made this gift.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Rainbow Cushion [a {lovely} finish]

This could be something of a record: normally my finish post for my goal in A Lovely Year of Finishes is as near to the end of the month as I can get it whilst still being eligible for the link up. Not this month! Oh no! We're not even half way through December, and the cushion is finished! Urged on by the fact it needs to be posted and the last posting date for 2nd class mail is this coming Friday - even so, it's still only Tuesday!

I started this cushion many, many months ago, pieced two sections and abandoned it. Christmas seemed as good a time as any to get it finished and gifted. So last week, when I had a few hours of energy, I finished the piecing. Present Jennie needs to thank past Jennie for cutting generous pieces way back when, because it made the foundation piecing so much easier!

I took a couple of days to do some chunky hand quilting in white perle cotton, and I added the back yesterday morning. It was delivered to the post office by the end of the day and is winging its way south!

The fabrics are some of my favourites (aren't they all): Pearl Bracelets, Cotton and Steel, Mama Said Sew, Domino Dots, Alison Glass, and Carolyn Friedlander; and the pattern is by @FromBlankPages. This photo from before quilting, shows the fabrics much better.

This was my ALYoF goal for December - you can find the goal post here.

And it was on my Finish Along list for Q4, which you can find here.
2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

WIP Wednesday [Christmas Wreath]

Last week I was looking for a black and white jelly roll that I know I have somewhere and I've seen recently.... needless to say I couldn't find it. But whilst hunting through the yet-to-be-unpacked boxes (why is it that 9 months after moving, it's my sewing stuff that hasn't been completely unpacked?) I found an embroidery kit.

It's a Rosalie Quinlan design that I bought at least two years ago (I think) and it hit the spot. Just the night before I'd been sat in front of the TV itching to do some embroidery, but Mia's advent calendar was finished and I didn't fancy working with the huge frame which my other long-term embroidery project is on.... This packet included the design pre-printed onto linen, and the thread. All I had to do was add the interfacing, and start sewing!

Add to those advantages the following: no colour changes - it's all stitched in two strands of Cosmo embroidery thread; no complex stitches - much as I enjoyed the challenges of Mia's advent calendar, the fact that this uses only backstitch, cross stitch, the odd French knot and a tiny amount of satin stitch was a huge plus. And then the miracle that I found a festive embroidery design at the start of December and it had to be done.

I've been working on it most nights since last Wednesday and I'm over halfway done - this is the latest photo I have.

I love it - it's so relaxing and exactly what I needed! This will definitely be finished for Christmas 2015! Linking up with WIP Wednesday!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Lovely Year of Finishes [December Goal]

My goal for December will be a cushion which I would love to gift this Christmas. That makes it a pretty good goal fr this time of year.

I picked a foundation pieced design, but with nice lare pieces. I've pieced two sections, I've cut all the fabric. A few hours sat at the machine, and this should be pieced. Not quite sure on the quilting yet though. Maybe hand quilting in chunky perle... This needs to go in the post, so really needs to be done in the next week or so, rather than by the end of December!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

WIP Wednesday [hanging hoops]

I'm still working on these nursery hoops for Mia and I've got a few more finished since I last shared... in March! And I've got them on the wall.

Brolly girl: this is a pattern by Tartan Kiwi and I just love it. I reduced it to 70% and used up every last piece of the light blue fabric to make it big enough to fit in the hoop!

 I made a second one for me which turned out to be a mini mini mini quilt and now hangs on my quilt wall.

The umbrella theme continued with a small Forever Friends cross stitch - I complete this years ago (maybe 7 or 8 years) and it has sat in a box with other unloved cross stitch all this time. I finally mounted it in a hoop and it fits right in!

The next two were very hard work - honest. Isn't this Art Gallery print pretty? And it fits perfectly inside the hoop. I added interfacing to give it a bid more body and that was it!

And this uses some Heather Ross fabric which @sleepinsarah sent me - I believe Moo has a matching canvas!

I finally finished Mia's French knot nightmare. Thank goodness she has a short name (and that I didn't decide to use her full name, Amelia, for this hoop!).

I found this next design on Pinterest - I have a whole board full of inspiration - so much that it's hard deciding what to make next!

This hoop was also inspired by a Pin. It's one of my favourites! I used every single green button I own except 2 small ones... I totally underestimated my button stash and some re-stashing is now required!

And this final hoop was inspired by a charm square that came in a scrap pack from @pennydog. Mia will pick up a building block and turn to us and say "Say Cheese!" and pretend to take a picture.

And in case you're interested, this is what I'm using to hang the hoops and avoid multiple holes in the wall! They stick and can then be removed leaving no residue and not damaging the wall. That's the theory - I've never taken them down. But we use the same make of hook to hold up big pictures on our walls and have never had a problem. These specific hooks are designed to hold Christmas lights.

The plan is to continue making these hoops to mark occasions or simply when I find inspiration. When Mia moves out of the nursery to make way for number 2, she'll take with her the hoops that are specifically hers. I'll then make more hoops for both girls. This will be a work in progress for many years to come, I hope.

You can see my previous posts about Nursery Hoops here. And the only hoops not mentioned are the first Lilipopo girl I stitched, which you can read about here briefly, and the hot air balloon hoop which I received in a swap 3 year ago - read more here. Today I'm linking up with WIP Wednesday

November [in review]

I am going to declare that November was a successful sewing month. I count 8 finishes looking back through my blog posts! It's been a while since I had a month like that! A swap, two cushions, three mini quilts, an advent calendar and a dress!

Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap

Camper Van cushion

Rainbow cushion

Two Karen Lewis quilts and a dolly quilt

Mia's new dress

And an advent calendar.

And I made progress on a few other projects so maybe there will be some more finishes next month....Michael and I spent a rather wet weekend in the Lake District.

And we discovered that baby #2 is going to be pink! I also did loads of baking in November: there are two Christmas cakes, made using my Grandmother's recipe, which are waiting for their next feed of brandy before marzipan and icing; I tried a new banana chocolate cake recipe which seems to have been a hit, and I made cakes for me and my sister-in-law too! Hopefully this week I'll get round to making some mince pies! 'Tis the season!