Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Review Part 1 [Family]

My reviews of the year are getting longer... I've split this years into 3! So part one is all about family. Whilst 2016 has been dubbed the year of the celebrity death, and has been the year of some pretty dubious political decisions on both sides of the Atlantic, in our little bubble, 2016 was a good year.

Mia turned two in February, and in April, Jessica joined the family after a very, very long nine months!

Most of the rest of this post is just photos of the girls!

Mia's Second Birthday Party

Showing off her new jumper from Gran

Loving her new room

Mia and her cousin, Ellie-Jo - these girls are going to run rings round us as they grow up!

Christmas morning

Mia is nearly 3 now: she doesn't stop talking, she's very bright and her imaginative play is fabulous. Just watching her being busy is enough to wear me out! She moved into her new bedroom and big-girl bed in October and is turning into a little girl, rather than a toddler. Sometimes I forget she's still only 2!

Jessica is 8 months old. She is crawling, and loves to stand up and walk with support. While Mia didn't walk until she was 14 months old, I think Jessica will be much quicker. Jessica has also found her voice and joins in all our conversations. Her sleeping is pretty good, despite having had a cold for the last 6 weeks, and she loves her food. She is definitely not our baby any more, but an independent, beautiful little person in her own right.

2017 will see me start a new, full-time job, for the first time since having Mia. This will mean less time with the girls for me, which is sad, but I'm looking forward to new challenges. Speaking of challenges, we have potty training to look forward to, and the end of the dummy! Mia will also start nursery later in the year - something she's already looking forward to.

Quilty coverage will resume soon with my revew of the year parts 2 and 3!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Christmas Tree Ornaments

I mentioned in my last post about including a new Christmas tree ornament for both the girls in their Christmas Eve box. Back in 2014, I made a "First Christmas" ornament for Mia. I wanted to make one for Jess, and for my new nephew, Henry, this year. And of course, Mia would need one too.

I started off with an idea in my head of snowflakes embroidered on felt and made into baubles. Having unsuccessfully hunted for snowflake designs on Pinterest (ones I liked anyway), I designed my own. I think it was the first time I had used a protractor since I was at school! I designed four snowflakes with an idea of a cushion - I can't share the cushion. It isn't finished yet!

The first ornament I made was for Henry, my nephew.

We met him for the first time at the start of December when we celebrated Christmas with my brother and sister-in-law.

I also used the snowflakes patterns to make Jessica's ornament. It's made up slightly differently to Henry's. I'm not sure which I prefer.

I had a rummage in my sewing supplies and found some hand-dyed felt and seed beads which I've had in my stash for years and years. So Jessica's bauble is backed in a marbled blue hand-dyed felt and I added seed beads to the front which really catch the light as it hangs on the tree.

Having prepared snowflakes for everyone I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a picture from @cathyeliot - she had shared an absolutely beautiful Christmas tree ornament. I messaged her and asked if it was available as a pattern. It wasn't, but she was so kind and sent me the pattern that evening. If you have a moment, please go an check out her stunning embroidery on Instagram!

I made up this ornament for Mia.

Again I used the handy-dyed felt to back it and added seed beads to the front. I think this was my favourite ornament of the year!

And then, this final Christmas tree ornament was for Alison, who is our fabulous childminder.

I really, really enjoyed doing this embroidery on felt. Because you can't see through felt to trace a pattern, and as I yet I haven't found anything that reliably marks felt without damaging the surface, I use a product called Golden Threads paper. I originally bought it for foundation piecing, but moved over to freezer paper for that a few years ago, so I have a huge roll of the paper left over. I trace the design onto it - it's very thin, like tissue paper, then tack it onto the front of the felt. I embroidered the main elements through the paper, thn removed the paper. I added the beads and lazy daisy stitches after I'd removed the paper. I used Finca #16 perle thread for all the embroidery and the beads are from Mill Hill. Each ornament is filled with just a little bit of toy stuffing and finished round the edge with blanket stitch.

Santa Sacks [two finishes]

I'm a bit behind on sharing some of my recent finishes so beaer with me for a flurry of blog posts over the next few days!

We started a new tradition last Christmas of a Christmas Eve box. Except that last year I left it to the last minute and it was all rather rushed. The part I was most disappointed by in that rush was Mia's stocking - it was a poor quality shop bought one. But she's little and didn't notice and it was full of presents and she had a lovely morning. But I knew that with another baby on the way, Christmas 2016 would involve hand made stockings.

So I've been looking at stocking patterns online for months, but nothing really fitted the bill. I just didn't fall in love with anything I saw. Whilst I grew up with stockings, my husband's family tradition was pillow cases, so I started to think about that as an alternative. And then I saw some drawstring bags and knew I had found my solution.

I used Jeni Baker's drawstring bag tutorial, but upsized it. The bag front and back were 17" x 21" before I boxed the bottom of the bag. To keep it festive, I appliqued a stocking (using some helpful clipart) and the girls' names onto the front of the bags. I learned from the mistake my parents made, and didn't make the bags too big - we Santa easily filled them!

The print that I started with is from Makower - I liked it as it was colourful and modern and not too traditional - I'm not keen on red and green everything at Christmas. I added in coordinating solids in pink, orange, light blue and navy. These bags went together so easily. My one mistake was that I bought the cord before I read the instructions and it was a bit tight. For next year, I'll buy some longer.

Into the Christmas Eve box, along with the stockings, we put some new Christmassy pyjamas for both girls, some Christmassy cups for their juice on Christmas eve, some colouring and activity books and crayons, an age-appropriate nativity book, "The Night Before Christmas" book, the DVDs of "The Snowman" and "The Snowman and the Snow Dog", and a new Christmas Tree ornament each. Just a few things to make Christmas eve magical, and keep Mia entertained for a few hours. I was kept entertained on Christmas eve in the kitchen! This was a new-to-me chocolate cake recipe - I upsized it to work in the cake tins I already had, and changed the decoration (I had to transport it on Christmas day).

It tasted delicious!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Tree Skirt [A Finish]

Early November I decided I wanted to make a Christmas Tree Skirt. I did what any sensible person does and spent a few hours on Pinterest looking for inspiration. But I couldn't see anything that really  grabbed me. Then the latest issue of Quilt Now arrived through the letterbox and there was a beautiful Christmas Tree skirt by @heartofcharnwood. Perfect. Except it was English paper pieced. And it was mid November...

Ever ambitious, I started. I found most of the shapes I needed in my stash of pre-cut papers, I made a few of the more unusual pieces, and I ordered some others. Then there was fabric. I pulled out my entire stash of Christmas fabric and hated every combination I put together. So I grabbed some fabrics I'd had out for other projects and found something considerably less traditionally Christmassy but more me.

The EPP shapes in the design were quite large and it grew so quickly. I've had the luxury of a few days recently without the girls and I spent most of one of those days taking the Christmas Tree skirt from EPP to skirt. Angela's instructions were so good. I made a few small adjustments - ribbons to tie the skirt together rather than velcro fastening. And I added some hand quilting.

I wasn't until I put it on the tree, that I realised how unfinished our tree looked before hand.

This was one of those things that I started on a whim and then it took over until it was finished. It's also one of my favourite recent finishes!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

365 Quilt Challenge [the next milestone]

If you had told me back in January, that I would have be nearly up to date with this project come December, I think I might have laughed at you! Despite everything that has happened in my life this year, I am just a few day's blocks behind at the moment and will easily catch them up in the coming days.

But today I can share the next milestone in this quilt: the next round of borders, a dark one made up of mostly 3" blocks, with a sprinkle of 6"ers is now finished. It's not attached yet, due to the nature of the corner blocks, but laid out you can see the effect.

Not only am I surprised that I am up to date, I'm also surprised that the colour vision I had in my head back in January is now looking so good.

Speaking of the corner blocks, when I took this photo on Monday, I had only completed three of them - and they were three of the most complicated blocks I have ever made: there wasn't anything particularly difficult - the techniques used have been practiced and perfected throughout the year, but each block had so many pieces and so many steps and so many different techniques - they were a real workout. And then I made the fourth block. It made the other three seem easy.

I like it, but I won't be making it again! Here are all four monster blocks.

I can't wait to share a finished quilt top with you in a few weeks time!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Henry's Quilt [A Finish]

A finished baby quilt to share with you today. This one is rather special as it is for my new nephew. The design and colours were picked out by his mother, my sister-in-law and I strongly resisted the urge to add orange...

The equilateral triangles were cut from 5.5" strips and I needed 192 of them to make the complete quilt, which measures 41" x 57". The edges were made using full triangles and then trimmed after quilting.

I quilted simply by echoing each seam line a quarter inch on both sides. The backing is Ikea Nummer - appropriate as the baby is half-Swedish, don't you think!

I have to confess that this isn't one of my favourite quilts. It feels like it's lacking something to make it pop - orange might have been the answer. But I was limited by the specifications I had been given, and my mother. But then, it's not really about whether I like it - I hope that my nephew will love it for many years to come - and maybe once he's older I can make him the bright and colourful one I had planned.

This is nevertheless, a finish from my Finish Along list

2016 FAL

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

November [review]

Well that month flew by, didn't it? I got loads of sewing done - not just blocks, but actual, real-life finishes!

The #100days100blocks ended on 24th November and I have 178 blocks now waiting to be sashed. God bless black Friday - I managed to get the fabric for sashing at a reasonable price! It's a shame that I hate this next step, and the idea of sashing three quilts does not fill me with joy. I think I will put this off until the new year! I've also been working on my Splendid Sampler blocks (see my last post), and the #365quiltchallenge blocks - the  next border is just about ready to share! I completed my first two Farmers Wife blocks in a few months too. I've made good progress on the Modern Building Blocks QAL - lots of little blocks left to go on this one - this is the top half of that quilt

But the finishes!

So from the top: my Bee-utiful Mini quilt; Hugo's quilt; Goodnight Improv quilt; Jane Austen cushion; Orla's quilt; ugly Christmas jumper pincushion; Inside Addition quilt

And I finished the log cabin quilt. I love this photo taken at the beach!

I joined in with a quilt along to make the Get Cozy mini - I made a slight alteration, and I've ordered some more fabric to make this into a toddler quilt.

December will be different again - lots of Christmassy preparations and I go back to work after my maternity leave! We'll see what the final month of 2016 brings with it!

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Splendid Sampler [Half Way]

My Splendid Sampler project has been a little left out of things recently amongst the glut of finishes. But last week I finally pieced the three blocks that I cut ages ago, and then I kept going, with a couple of the earlier blocks which I had been avoiding for no particular reason. I realised two things: it's been a while since I shared an update here, and I had finished 49 blocks - not only is that nearly half way, but it aso means I can lay them out in a pretty 7x7 grid for a photo of progress so far.

As you can see, I miscounted. And it tuns out I have 51 blocks, so not quite the even grid I had planned!

And here are some of the blocks closer up.

 #36 Inchy Hexagon Club
 #31 Blossoming

#64 Rising Star
 #60 Hearts and Flowers

 #63 The Icing on the Cake
Bonus Block: Summer Flip Floppin'
 #28 Stitching Fashion
 #29 Scrappy Happy Heart; #61 Traveller; #66 Happy Thoughts
 #50 Flights of Fancy

#53 Whirling in Circles; #62 Hen and Chicks; #65 Stripe and Flowers

#26 Dreaming of Dresdens

#67 Bobbin Chase
#24 Inspector Sidekick
#48 Whim

As you can see, I've finished quite a few as part of #saturdaynightcraftalong - it's a few hours of uninterrupted sewing, perfect for blocks that take a little more concentration!