Sunday, 31 July 2016

Jane Austen Family Album [a finish]

I'm so pleased to call this a finish! I've been planning this quilt for a while, ever since I found the perfect fabric for friends who had dropped subtle hints for a quilt (thoroughly unsubtely...). We see these friends normally once a year only, and by the time I realise that week is coming up, it's always too late to start the quilt. This year, I remembered earlier, but still thought it was a long shot to make an 86" x 100" quilt between March and July, especially when I was due to have a baby in the middle of that time! But if I didn't start it, there was no chance at all.

The subtle hint went along the lines of "big enough for our [large] bed" and "coastal colours". So I had free reign over pattern, so long as it was big. I came across a weekly block programme by Barbara Brackman called the Jane Austen Family Album quilt. I quite enjoy a Jane Austen read, though mostly, TV adaptation, and the background that came with each block was fascinating. I love the variety of a sampler quilt, and the blocks were 12" finished so created a large quilt quickly. Perfect!

The fabrics are Sweet Serenade by Basic Grey for Moda. It's not a "me" fabric range, but I really liked it (I've stashed three metres of one print for quilt backing!). It has blue, like the sea; the terracotta is reminiscent of the cliffs around where they live, and the music notation couldn't be more perfect!

I made one block in March. I made a second but got the maths wrong. I made all the rest of the blocks in June: a mega cutting marathon, followed by a mega piecing session - 1 hour per block. Bam. Done.

Sashing is my least favourite part. I did it row at a time - one row per nap. Then basting. I took over the church hall floor as the only space large enough. Three years ago, nearly to the week, I basted a quilt of a similar size in the same way and felt dreadful afterwards - exhausted. Two weeks later I got a positive pregnancy test. I assumed the one was related to the other. But this quilt left me feeling just as exhausted and I can assure you I am not pregnant. Turns out basting king size quilts is just simply exhausting.

Two days of fighting it through my mother-in-law's machine (both of mine are refusing to free motion quilt at the moment) and it was quilted. An all over stipple in Aurifil 40w cream. With numerous thread breakages. I wish I could free motion quilt on a machine that just works. I did the binding entirely by machine and it was finished!

I even labelled it - can you see?!

All through making this quilt, this was the picture I had in mind - with a little assistance from "willing volunteers" we even stopped it flying off into the sea!

This is a Finish Along finish and I can't wait to gift it! You can find my original FAL list here.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Quasar II [a finish]

With this finish I've already had more success in the third quarter finish along than I did in the previous quarter, and I am by no means finished! This finish was a beautifully quick and straightforward baby quilt.

Back in May, when Mum came to visit, I made my first Quasar Quilt for her to gift. Whilst I was at it, I cut all the fabric I needed to make a second. If you look back at the photos of the original Quasar quilt, you'll see that the only real difference is the colour placement.

Once I'd trimmed all those half-square-triangles, this quilt went together in just an hour or so. The quilting was also pretty quick: I just used my walking foot to echo the seam lines, making the light blue and orange pop against the dark blue background.

I picked a fabric from Cinderberry Stitches for the back - perfect for little boys!

This is such a quick quilt to make and I love the finish. I don't think this will be my final Quasar quilt: maybe a girly one next?

This is a Finish Along finish. My original list is here.

Monday, 25 July 2016

A Wordy Wednesday

Last Wednesday I had a day to myself: no children for a whole 12 hours. Just six days after Jessica was born, the lovely ladies at Simply Solids announced two workshops with Sarah Fielke: much as I would have loved to do both days, the reality was that with two small children, I could only push the generosity of my sleep-deprived husband so far! And the willingness of Linda - because let's be honest, it would be her looking after the girls, not Michael!

I did there-and-back in the day. It's a two-and-a-half hour journey by car (three and a bit if you get stuck on the M62), and those nearly-six hours spent in the car were totally worth it. The workshop took place in an old mill building by the canal. It will be absolutely lovely once fully renovated, but at the moment it looks like the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter! And the windows didn't open. My car read 28 degrees when I left mid-afternoon and I'm sure it was far hotter in the room.

But despite the long drive, and the sweltering heat, I had an absolute ball! Everyone was friendly and welcoming, Sarah was a great teacher and the technique we learned - improv lettering - was great fun.

Everyone started with an "a" and eventually built up to "e"s and "s"s. One person even braved "Q"! This was my effort - goodnight.

At the start of the day I had a plan: I love the phrase "Tell me a story, tuck me in tight, say a sweet prayer and kiss me goodnight". I thought this would look fantastic done in improv lettering on a lap/full size quilt. I still do. But I have reigned in ambition. The downside of this technique is the amount of wastage of background fabrics. I'm not saying I won't ever make this quilt, but perhaps not with my treasured low-volume fabrics. I think I would need to splurge on a bolt of Kona and accept the wastage. The reason I picked the work "goodnight" was that if I decided not to go for the whole quilt, this would make a good cushion by itself, or a mini quilt as part of a smaller saying. Having also made an "a" and an "e", I've decided to limit this to "goodnight sweetheart" as a mini quilt.

I think you'll see more progress on this project in the near future! And who knows - maybe that full size quilt will be made eventually. I'll add it to my bucket list! It felt so good to be something other than "Mum" for a day, but I made it back in time for bedtime cuddles! 

Monday, 18 July 2016

Two zippy finishes!

I made myself two new zippy pouches this weekend. And Mia is not allowed to steal them. For the first, I used a tutorial by Truly Myrtle to make a large boxy pouch. I made it bigger than the tutorial (using her excellent instructions for doing so) and it came out shoe-boxed size.

The fabric is Moda Sanibel by Gina Martin, which I found on sale and fell in love with. It makes me smile. I could only get 1/2m and planned a one-hour basket, but this was a perfect alternative. I'm using it to store my perle threads. The interior is a print from Architextures by Carolyn Friedlander, and I used it for the zip tab and the handle lining too.

The tutorial was excellent, and although I thought I had totally messed up the step which forms the seam at the ends of the zip, it worked out pretty well. If I made this again I would add a more structural interfacing - I only used wadding and it's pretty floppy.

My second zippy finish is a Finish Along finish - my first of the quarter (you can find my original list here)! I picked up a mini charm pack of Modern Backgrounds - Ink by Zen Chic in an Instagram destash and a zippy pouch was always the plan. I added in a few of the Modern Backgrounds - Paper that I have bought to make up two panels each 7x4 charms.

I'm really enjoying hand quilting at the moment (those perle threads are getting a lot of use). I picked out bright pink and marked up the panels with a hera marker, then quilted a cross hatch on both panels. 

Once completed I used Noodlehead's Open Wide Zippy Pouch tutorial for the zip. I haven't used this for large pouches before and it was amazing. After I boxed the corners and first turned the bag through, I was a little disappointed with the shape I had made - I felt I had boxed the corners too large. But when you open the pouch...! Wow! It's amazing what that zip does. It opens up almost like a one-hour basket! I love, love, love it. Especially with the bright pink fabric I used for the lining!

And a flash of bright pink for the zipper tab too, as I could only find a black zip. I can't wait to fill this with bits and pieces for a very special workshop I'm going to on Wednesday! More on that soon.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

This sewing community...

I don't normally get political on my blog, but just this once, please bear with me. 2016 is having a laugh. I was heartbroken to wake up on 24th June and find that the majority of people who voted on the day before had believed the campaign of intolerance, racism and hatred spouted by the Brexit camp. I then watched in disbelief as not only the prime minister went, but the leaders of the Brexit campaign were shown to be liars and quitters themselves. And in amongst it all, one of our most promising young MPs lost her life - the first visible victim of the politics of hatred we have seen recently. She left behind two small children. They are also victims. But the Leeds Modern Quilt Guild leapt into action, organising the donation of wonky cross blocks to make quilts for those two small children. Because when the world starts to fall apart around us, quilters quilt.

Unforunately it's not just our side of the Atlantic that seems to be having a crazy year. Politics aside (and we'll leave Trump for another day), the hatred and pain seems neverending. A few weeks back there was a shooting in an Orlando nightclub. 50 people killed because they were gay. The Orlando Modern Quilt Guild put out a call for quilt blocks and the within days my Instagram feed was full of rainbows and hearts! I've been making blocks with two local groups: the North East Modern Quilt Guild

And Hotch Patch quilting.

Both groups created enough blocks to send a quilt top each to Florida, where I was assured that the more than 15 long-armers in the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild would be able to finish these quilts off for us. The Guild's aim is to give a quilt to the family of every victim, every survivor, and the first responders.

The killing continues: it crosses communities. Whilst I understand the sentiment of #blacklivesmatter, surely #alllivesmatter . In a country as great as America, surely gun control should be a no-brainer.

The North East Modern Quilt Guild has also decided to make a charity quilt - because away from the headlines, people of all ages suffer every day: we've been making scrappy log cabins to make a quilt for a little girl stuck in hospital - I forget the name of the charity specifically. Here's my contribution.a

No matter how far apart geographically, no matter our race, sex, sexuality, political preference, nationality, quilting brings us all together, and in times of crisis, disaster and pain, we all come together to do what we can....quilt.

Since I started writing this post earlier in the week, 84 people were killed in Nice, there was an attempted coup in Turkey with more lives lost, and more shootings in America. I don't dare turn on the news anymore.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Getting stuff done

A few times recently I've been asked by people how I get stuff done with two young children to look after as well. Here are the culprits: Mia is nearly 2 1/2 and Jess is 12 weeks. It got me thinking - what do I do to get stuff done. Here are my thoughts...

First up, I want to get stuff done: that's a really important factor. It does take some effort to do 'stuff' after I've done middle of the night feeds, a ridiculous number of dirty nappies, and built a train track and a duplo tower, not to mention done the washing, cooked dinner and loaded the dishwasher. Sometimes the temptation to do nothing is huge. Sometimes it wins.

Once I've decided I want to do something, the next important factor is that I can. Even if I only have ten minutes overlap between a Jess nap and a Mia nap. And the key to that is that the sewing machine, and associated mess, is right there in the corner of the living room. This has downsides: what with my piles of mess and the children's toys everywhere, the living room almost never looks spotlessly tidy. But neither does the rest of the house if I'm honest, so it doesn't make much difference. Here it is in all it's glory:

And this was at the start of the day before we really started to make a mess!

In that small corner, I keep all of the projects I'm working on at the moment, which means they are close at hand for those ten minute slots. Some are in baskets on the shelves, some are in the boxes under the desk. Some are in that pile in the left hand corner of the desk. Some are scattered. The desk is not normally tidy. But surely it would easier to work on a tidy desk, I hear you say - if it were tidy I wouldn't spend the entire ten minutes looking for my rotary cutter. I totally agree. I just can't do it. Every so often it gets a tidy, I discover hidden wonders. Then I bury them again. Last weekend I did tidy - perhaps slightly embarrased by the above photo! Look - it won't last!

But there is some order in the chaos. Hidden.

Then it's all about being focussed in those ten minute slots. It's no use spending the entire ten minutes wondering what to work on. And that is a real danger. At the last count I had 74 projects in various degrees of progress. Yep. 74. Some are tiny. Some are huge. Some are barely more than a collection of fabric. Some are half-made. Some are nearly finished. Some are unloved. Some are long-term. Some are hidden in the cupboard upstairs. Some are on my Finish Along list. Lots aren't. But time spent cooking dinner, or loading the dishwasher, or folding washing, is time when I can be planning those next ten minutes. And that means that when I sit down, I know what project I'm reaching for and what the next step in that project is.

And breaking each project down into little steps also helps. I've got into the habit of cutting for lots of blocks one day, and then piecing lots of blocks another day. Do you like my new notice board where I keep the cut blocks ready for piecing. This does take organisation so I don't cut the same block twice, or where it matters, particularly in the #365 quilt, I'm cutting the right colours to get the balance of the finished quilt right. But all that said, I am embarrassed how often I find I haven't cut, for example, all of piece A for a block....duh!

And that is how I get stuff done. Some days I have to content myself to a few ten minute slots. Other days, whilst Mia is at the child minders, I'm lucky and Jess will nap for four hours straight. It doesn't happen often, but when it does! Bliss!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

WIP Wednesday [The Splendid Sampler]

Have you seen the Splendid Sampler? It launched in February: two blocks per week from a variety of designers using a variety of techniques. When I first heard about it and thought I might join in, my plan was to just make a few of the blocks I liked. Well it turns out that although I don't like all the blocks, I like an awful lot of them.

So far 43 blocks have been released and I've made 22: I'm hiding one cause I don't like it and there's one that will appear in a few sentences time!

Whilst I'm enjoying the variety of these blocks, there is a niggle of doubt that they won't work very well together in a finished quilt. That's the reason I'm making each block a single colour, in the hope that a rainbow layout in the final quilt will add much needed cohesiveness. I've just made up the above collage, and I'm optimistic.

There have been some straightforward rotary cut and foundation pieced blocks. I particularly loved these two blocks I sewed up today: Block 15 Family Affair, which was foundation pieced.

And block 23 Hand in Hand - the funky shaped triangles are folded and inserted into the seam.

I've loved the embroidered blocks, especially Nature's walk. This has to be the best piece of embroidery I've ever done, and as such there was no way I was letting people put their bums on it in a finished quilt. So I made it into a 6" mini quilt and I love looking at it while I sew.

I do like this one too: it was called Crocheted Thoughts, but I don't crochet, so I made a few alterations - just a mandala, no crochet hook!

I'm finding the applique blocks a challenge. Mostly I've done blanket stitch on raw-edge applique.

Whilst it works, it feels clunky (you can just about see it on the birds above). So on the latest block I tried needle-turn applique. I much prefer the finish. But I'm still struggling with the process. I don't think this is the last you'll hear on my applique journey, but for now, I have a cute little tomato pincushion! And I've just realised looking at the photo below, a bent pin. How very appropriate given the current contents of my pincushion!

I'm looking forward to making progress on a few of the hand-sewn blocks over the next few weeks.

I think this is a pretty good WIP for a Wednesday!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Scrap-tastic Tuesday [Bee-utiful]

I accidentally joined another quilt-along. I definitely have a problem! Let me explain.... it's the Bee-utiful quilt along host on the Moda Bakeshop blog. I can't remember where I saw the first block, but I know that by the time I did, the second block had already been released. The first block featured a cat. Mia loves cats.

The original project is 20 embroidered blocks set in a quilt. The theme is bees and there is a bee in each block. I'm not keen on bees, but cats...

I thought it would be a nice block to make for her, so I shrunk the design by 50% and stitched it up. Then I tried to decide what to do with it. Middle of the night bottles have their uses and I decided to add a scrappy border to make it up to a 6" block.

I've also stitched up a second block.

I'm not keen on all the blocks in this project, but I think I can find nine to stitch up and add a similar scrappy border. I sorted some scraps into colours at the weekend to help out with this project and I'll be prepping the rest for some holiday sewing.

Linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday!
Scraptastic Tuesday

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Finish Along Q3 [goals]

Last quarter was unsuccessful because I hadn't planned. When I wrote my list my mind was elsewhere and the list didn't include much that was achievable, and certainly didn't include much that inspired me over the last few months. As such, I didn't have many finishes to share. But I know how important the Finish Along is, not just for getting me to finish things, but also for getting me to be creative and find time to sew, which in turn keeps me sane in between the dirty nappies and bottles! So with that in mind I've planned this next quarter a lot more carefully! However, that doesn't mean that the list will be any shorter! So, in no particular order, here are the plans:

ABC Embroidery: This project is pushing my embroidery comfort zone with some new stitches and I'm thoroughly enjoying leaving the backstitch zone behind. It's rubbing off on other embroidery projects too which I'm finding quite exciting! I've done A-G and I need to start thinking about two important things: how to finish it off, and who will get the finished piece - Mia or Jess?

Baby Quilts: two years ago everyone had babies. And they're at it again: my list of baby quilts is growing. A few won't appear until my Q4 list, as we don't yet know what flavour the baby will be, but a few babies are either already here, or their parents are sharing the flavour. The first is for a friend who's just had her second little boy. Her first son's quilt was one of the first baby quilts I ever made. This quilt will be another Quasar quilt, but with the orange more prominent. I have a pile of HST all ready to join together

Second up is a baby quilt I should have made over a year ago. The problem is I started a quilt and didn't like it (see Inside Addition, below)... Her mum is now pregnant again, so I really need Big Sister's quilt finished sooner rather than later. I've bought the background fabric (if I can bear to part with it) and I need to shop my stash - better get cutting! But this will be more HSTs...

The third is a very special one: I'm returning to Tula Pink's City Sampler and selecting some of the blocks to make a smaller quilt. I've made the first few blocks this weekend - I love how quickly they go together! I don't have appropriate fussy cuts for this quilt, so I'm going to add a few embroidered leaves. Like I said, this one's a special one (no - I'm not pregnant again)!

Bigger quilts now: I'm making a sampler quilt for friends - we'll be seeing these friends at the start of August. That's my deadline. It's all pieced and quilted. I'm waiting for a large open space to trim it, and then I need to pick my binding!

Another quilt that is very close to a finish is the Moccasin BOM quilt. It just needs to be quilted and bound, and I have a plan.

Mia will be moving out of the nursery in the next few months and into her own room, with a big girl's bed. And that bed needs a quilt. I've started, and hoped to make more progress last quarter.

Aspen Glow: I know you've seen this a bajillion times before! Maybe maybe this will get finished soon. I tried to take a new photo of it, but even though some progress has been made, it's still just a load of bits of fabric in individual bags.

City Sampler Quilt: pulling out the book to make a baby quilt, made me wish I could have the full size version on my bed, so it's time I got the quilting finished.

Summer Sampler: This is one of my current block of the week projects with the final patterns released at the beginning of September. Maybe I can get it finished by the end of the quarter. I'd like to think it will at least be a finished quilt top by then!

Gravity Quilt: I think we're starting to get into the realms of the unlikely with this one... but I would love to at least make some progress on it.

I have a quilt I've been working on a for a while, or rather ignoring for a while. Here's a sneak peak! I picked this up again recently so you never know!

Remember my scrappy kitty, which I accidentally made? She'll be part of a mini quilt, and will brighten up the wall above the changing table, so I'd like to get this finished not long after the final patterns are released. I haven't decided how big this will be yet.

I'm going to add the My Small World quilt again, even though there is still a lot to do. I finished quilting the sky this week. I think this will hang in Mia's new big-girl room, so it would be nice to have it ready for her.

I should finish the Inside Addition quilt even though I don't like it.

And I have a new project I've barely started: for those in the UK with young children: Sarah and Duck....Sarah and Duck.... Sarah and Duck! But this one isn't for Mia!

I'm adding on the Joy Jelly Roll quilt: this is finished: quilted and bound. But the wool wadding shrunk so much that I need to unpick the quilting and start again. It's a depressing project so may not get done. Even if I could just get the unpicking done this quarter it would be something.

Next, a selection of smaller projects that I have no excuse not to finish - except maybe that one at the back - that's a quilt I started in a class with Jennie Rayment 18 months ago. I have some hand applique to do and then I need to decide how to quilt it.

Also in the photo are: two embroidered letters which need to be finished hoops - not much to do but I finished the embroidery a while ago and just hate making up the hoops, so here's my incentive; there's also a spare, and slightly too small block left over from the Jane Austen quilt. I'd like to add a few borders and make it into a cushion to match the quilt; a too-big Dresden from my Moccasin BOM which I want to finish as a cushion; there is a mini charm pack of Modern Backgrounds in ink - this will be a zippy pouch for me; and a mini charm pack of Joy. This will be a cushion to match the quilt...; and my favourite of the bunch is my induction quilt - that rainbowy one, bottom left.

Finally I had one of those "I-must-make-that-quilt" moments. I must make a pineapple quilt. And that led on to a water melon quilt and and a strawberry quilt. Obviously. I started cutting scraps!

And whilst I was looking for inspiration on Pinterest I accidentally fell upon some fruit embroideries - these will be another mini quilt. Just because. This sudden desire coincided with cutting the pieces for some more 365 blocks, and these fabrics landed together on my cutting mat. Don't they look great together: I may add in pink...

So that's the list  and I've definitely joined the #ridiculouslylongFALlist gang! Twenty-eight items - I'm close to my longest list ever! Are you joining in?