Monday, 29 August 2016

The Collection Quilt [Blocks 1 and 2]

Back when I first saw Carolyn Friedlander's Collection Quilt, I knew I wanted to make it. It took a while to arrive in the UK, but back in December, Simply Solids announced their block of the month programme for it: the pattern plus all the fabric you need. This was perfect for me - I simply couldn't justify the cost of the pattern and all the fabrics all at once, as some other shops were offering.

I signed up straight away. Received my first envelope and made the first block. The whole quilt is made with hand applique - not a technique I have a lot of experience with. The first block was straight lines. The instructions were to bast 1/4" from the edge of the fabric, then needle-turn to this basted line. I basted on the machine. Easy peasy. Except when I took the basting stitches out, there were a few holes in the fabric that didn't want to go away.

Then life got in the way, as life has a habit of doing. I'm going to blame pregnancy - it's a good excuse for a lot of things. So is having a small baby, I find! I continued to receive envelopes full of pretty fabrics, but it wasn't until April that I picked up block 2. It was during the first few weeks after Jess arrived in those few quiet hours while Michael was still on paternity leave. And it was a disaster. I decided to hand baste, rather than machine baste, and it turned out that I can't eyeball a 1/4" quite as well as I thought, so there wasn't enough fabric to turn in, and there was fraying, and there was quite a lot of swearing. I put it in a box and ignored it.

We've now received the last installment of the block of the month, and earlier in August I saw the first finished quilt. Jules is great hand-appliquer and so hadn't had any of the bother I had had and her quilt was stunning. I was reinspired. I got out the piece I had shoved in the box and did another section. This time I carefully measured the 1/4" and marked it with a frixion pen before basting. The other tip I picked up was to use a cocktail stick to turn the fabric under rather than the needle. These two things together made the world of difference! In just two weeks I have totally salvaged the mess I had made and I've completed block 2. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I need a bit of piece and quiet and then I'll prepare block 3 ready for some more slow sewing on the sofa! I know I haven't finished the applique yet, but I'm really looking forward to hand quilting this project too!

Friday, 26 August 2016

#100Days100Blocks [Blocks1-10]

I've sucessfully got through the first ten days of the #100days100blocks sew along over on Instagram. One of the lovely things about the book is that Tula gives you the opportunity to name the blocks yourself, so that the blocks tell your story. I named the blocks when I first made them to tell my story in 2013. Now in 2016, my story is a bit different, so I've changed the names in some places. So here's my 2016 story:

Block 1: Temptation

I'm always tempted with sew-alongs and blocks of the day/week/month....

Block 2: Ellie-Jo

This one is for my neice - she's just 11 months older than Mia and these girls are "best friends"! I love how these two blocks looks together. They will go into two different quilts, but I'm having to use every ounce of self control not to start a quilt just of this block - wouldn't it look amazing? OK - I gave in. I ordered more of the greys and I'm excited for this one!

Block 3: Rolling

Three weeks ago, on holiday, Jessica rolled over for the first time from her back to her tummy, and just last week, she got the hang of tummy to back. Not quite four months old yet! It's pretty scary how quickly she's growing up!

Block 4: Hebe and Lavender

When I first made this block in 2013 we'd just had our garden cleared and I was planning the plants I wanted: hebe and lavender were top of the list. We've moved house since then, and now have the ultimate low-maintenance garden (fake grass - it's marvellous). But I do have a couple of pots - with hebe and lavender! Still two of my favourites!

Block 5: Rio Olympics

I have loved watching the Olympics - didn't team GB do well. But the stand out of the two weeks was the America gymnasts' floor routines - mind-blowing!

Block 6: Heron Close

Our first home together up until last Easter when we moved into the home Michael grew up in.

Block 7: Bugger's Muddle

I struggled to think of a name for this block as nothing particularly noteworthy happened and my imagination was on holiday.... I happened to mention this to my husband and this was his suggestion of a block name. I quite like it.

Block 8: Melodeon and Whistles

Growing up, there was a lot of music in our family. Dad played the melodeon and I played whistle. It's been a while since I played and I am very rusty!

Block 9: Coproliters

Speaking of the celidh band... the first band Dad played in, until 2003, was called the Goose and Gridiron band. The second band, and the one I played in, was called Coproliters. Coprolite is fossilised dino poo and was mined in the area I grew up in as it had great properties as a fertiliser! The band has changed again since I left, and they now play as Abella.

Block 10: Princess Royal

Staying with my musical and traditional roots, Dad is a Morris Dancer. I spent a lot of evenings with these guys growing up, and they formed a guard of honour when Michael and I got married. Princess Royal is my favourite dance they perform. I still hum the tune from time to time!

This is like "ten things about me" each week! Sorry if it's boring but I'm enjoying it! If you have time, check out the #100days100blocks hashtag on Instagram - there are so many pretty blocks!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


2016 is the year of the block. Of the day, of the week, of the month - I'm not really fussed. That doesn't mean to say I'm up to date with any of them...

  • #365quilt challenge (daily): I'm 45 blocks behind
  • Splendid Sampler (bi-weekly): 24 blocks behind plus a few bonus blocks still to make
  • Zodiac BOM (monthly): 5 behind
  • Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt (weekly): God knows how many behind - I haven't touched this in quite a few months... 35-40 maybe?
  • Summer Sampler (weekly): 7 behind.
Can you see a pattern developing? But you know what - it's not stopping me starting something new. Unless you've been living under a rock or aren't on Instagram, you will have likely stumbled across the #100days100blocks hashtag. It's been organized by @gnomeangel, @ sunflowerquilting and @sweetlittlepretties and the idea is that each day for 100 days you sew and post the blocks from Tula Pink's City Sampler book. It starts tomorrow.

I've already made a quilt using these blocks (not eligible for this sew-along). I loved piecing these 6" blocks. That quilt is now half-quilted and once I get my machine's tension fixed, I'll be prioritising this one again. So rather than use this sew long to make another full-size bed quilt, I'll be using it to make three (yes, three) smaller quilts. Here are my plans:

The first quilt has changed a bit since it's inception: we are going to be getting a new nephew later this year and I was going to make a baby quilt for him using these blocks. However, his parents had other ideas - there will be an equilateral triangle quilt in my future. But I liked my original idea so much that I'm still going to make it. In fact I'm going to up-size it to a lap quilt with 54 blocks. Here's my fabric pull.

The colour palette is very much inspired by this quilt.

The second project is a promise I made 2 years ago when Michael's cousin got married. It's taken her this long to pick a project. I may have heavily suggested this! I'm going to make the "Skyline" quilt from the book, which uses 70 blocks, and I'm using grey, low volume, purple and bright green. Here's the fabric pull - I'm not sure about the shot cottons top right...

You may think that with 54 blocks in one quilt and 70 in another, I'd have all 100 blocks covered. But no. These projects are important enough that my least favourite blocks haven't made the cut.  So the final project is a catch-all of the remaining 16 blocks. It's still only a vague plan based around these fabrics I picked up at the weekend.

I will need to shop my stash to round out this palette, and if it's nice enough once I've finished, it will be a long-owed baby quilt. Chances are I will add in a few extra blocks here too. 

Ambitious much? Sewing ahead is permitted for this sew-along (just as well) so I've already got a tidy pile of blocks ready to share. If you haven't already taken a look at this sew-along, please do. There are some prizes up for grabs, but better still, these blocks are gorgeous and you'll have all the blocks you'll need for a fabulous quilt (or three) by the end of it! And the book has to be one of the most beautiful patchwork books I've ever bought. If I can keep up I'll share the blocks here every ten days... (history doesn't share my optimism!) Go on - check it out!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Yoda [a finish]

Last Christmas I confessed my absolute disinterest in Star Wars and shared the Darth Vader cushion I made for a young man who does not share that disinterest! That same young man turned seven a month ago. This time I picked Yoda.

The pattern is by Quiet Play and is available free on Craftsy. It's foundation pieced, and despite appearances, it's a straightforward block to make - it took just a few hours start to finish, including "help" from a certain small person: "Can I do the scissors, Mummy?" There are many advantages to having a scissor function on a machine. Your two-year-old learning what the button does is not one of them! But it involves her and interests her in sewing in a safe manner, so I try and let her when she asks. She set up her own sewing area yesterday complete with sewing machine, iron and fabric scraps!

The pattern doesn't include the eyes, but I felt I needed to add them - the black is machine raw-edge appliqued and the outline is hand embroidered. I did try and add more facial features but each time I tried, Yoda just turned into Shrek! Not the look I was going for. I gave it to his Mum on Tuesday (also a bit of a Star Wars fan) and she declared it perfect! I'll take that!

The finished block is 10" and I added borders to bring the size up to 14". I quilted it by stitching round the shae of Yoda. Those eye outlines are also through the wadding which adds some depth. I added a zipper back using my go to tutorial from Adrianne @Onthewindyside

There are definitely more Star Wars cushions in my future: I think R2D2 may be making an appearance at Christmas to go with Darth and Yoda, and my nephew saw the Yoda block yesterday and has also requested Darth Vader!

Induction Mini [a {scraptastic} finish]

Rewind 16 weeks. I was 41 weeks and 4 days pregnant. Too pregnant. Huge. Fed up. I was booked in for induction. Call the maternity ward at 1pm to check if you can go in at 2pm as planned. Lunch at Weatherspoons. Home and on the phone. "Sorry, we're really busy this afternoon and don't have room for you. Call back at 5pm". I think 'disappointed' best described my emotions.

So I had four hours to kill. I decided to pull down my scrap basket and do some mindless piecing. I cut little pieces 2"x 1" and pieced them into sets of three without much more thought than colours together. It was what I needed. By the time I called the maternity ward back at 5 I had a nice little pile of them.

The maternity ward told me to leave it half an hour then come in, but they couldn't guarantee I would be seen quickly. In the end my waters weren't broken until 5.30am the next morning. Jessica arrived just 11 hours later.

A few days later, the first sewing I did when I gt back home, was to piece those three-strip units into this mini quilt. I wasn't really sure what to do with it at that point: do I make more units and a bigger quilt. In the end I decided to leave it as it was as my Induction Mini - my memories of that day.

Over the last week, whilst on holiday, I've hand-quilted it, with a line of matching perle thread on each strip, and today I finished it with a very narrow black binding. It's just 10.5" x 7.5" but I'm really pleased with it. It's bright and happy and reminds me of the last moments of my pregnancy before Jessica arrived. One day I hope it will be hers, when she can understand its story, but until then, it's mine - all mine!

This project was on my Q3 Finish Along list.

And I'm also linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday.

Scraptastic Tuesday

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Sidmouth [2016]

It's that time of year again - we take a week out to enjoy some fabulous music and good company - all with very poor phone signal and practially no internet! This year was my 27th festival, Michael's 13th festival (I think), Mia's 3rd festival and Jessica's 1st festival! We spent a week at my parent's house first which was lovely and relaxing before the slightly less relaxing festival week.

We spent a few days in the garden with the paddling pool, we went to the zoo and we just stopped and relaxed and enjoyed spending time together as a family.

Walking like the elephants - trunks holding tails!

Sidmouth festival is slightly more manic - there are something like 60 events each day: concerts, workshops, sessions, children's events, dances... even the most energetic festival goer only gets to a small portion of the events and with two small children in tow we saw relatively few. But what we did see was fantastic: first up the concerts - John McCusker and his band, including Heidi Talbot and Kris Drever; Sharon Shannon and her band - the pianist was mind-blowing; Show of Hands, who played loads of their best songs from the last 25 years; Blazin' Fiddles playing pure Scottish music; Jez Lowe and Bob Fox who play music from the North-East; Le Vent du Nord - a four-piece Quebecois band; and Lynched who play raw Irish music. So many inspiring musicians, so much wonderful music.

Jess was a bit little to really appreciate things, but she smiled along to the music, enjoyed early morning walks with Mummy in the carrier (a bit too early for Mummy) and wriggled lots on the floor and in the gardens where the children's festival took place.
Jess slept through the concerts we took her too - she looks so cute in those ear protectors!
She finished up the week by rolling for the first time at 15 weeks old.

In my defense, this was pre-8am...
Mia really enjoyed the festival this year. She was old enough to go along to the action songs sessions and the messy craft sessions. It would seem she has quite the love of glitter - we are still trying to get it off of everything including ourselves. She walked and walked, and ran and ran. She ate ice-cream, paddled in the sea; played in the park; napped in her pushchair (albeit briefly); ate lots and lots and lots of cake (she will think that holidays just mean cake!); drank lots of cups of tea and enjoyed her first concerts. I also think she grew several inches from the start of the week to the end. It was just wonderful to watch her grow and develop and enjoy herself.

Mia and Daddy took Teddy to the Teddy Bears' Hospital session at the children's festival. He got bandaged up but thankfully felt better by bed time. Unfortunately he must have been contagious, because the next day, Giraffe had to go to have his nose bandaged, front leg put in a sling, and he needed lots of plasters!
There's no denying that a week at a folk festival with two girls under three years old is hard work. Thank god we weren't camping - we rent a house just yards from the main concert venue! We couldn't have managed without Linda's help - this year was her 5th festival, and with the support from my parents. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Jessica and her Grannies

Monday, 1 August 2016

July [in review]

Lots has happened this month! Notably I think I have blogged more. And that's down to planning: at the start of the month, I sat down and planned some blog posts, and in the most part I have stuck to that plan! I'll try it again for August and see if I can keep it up. So what was I actually sewing? Well, for starters, my monthly block count is 70! A total mix of projects!

Zippy pouches. Lots of zippy pouches. I shared two here: a boxy zippy for my perle threads, and an open wide pouch for taking stuff when I go out and sew.

Followed by a C&S black and white pouch for my black and white EPP project, and a blue and pink number for a travel play set for Mia. A bit of a thing for black, white, grey and bright pink going on.

I finished two quilts: a baby quilt - Quasar II

And a whopper - Jane Austen Family Album

I had a ball at a workshop with Sarah Fielke

I did a bit of charity stitching

And I made good progress on both the Splendid Sampler and the #365quiltchallenge project.

And in the last few days I've been doing some embroidery. These are designs by Kelly Fletcher.

I'm looking forward to lots more sewing in August - I've got so many ideas!