Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Mia's Big Girl Quilt [A Finish]

We have just had a fabulous weekend celebrating Mia's third birthday. Third! Where did those three years disappear to? She is a little star: She is constantly talking, and her speech is so good; she is constantly busy with something - she wears me out just watching her. She loves fabric and quilts and Mummy's sewing machine. She loves dolls houses and little dolls (God bless Happy Land) - we bought her a castle dolls house for her birthday.

She is also stubborn (don't know where she gets that from) and isn't keen on having her photo taken - so the one above is the most recent, nice one that I have! She refuses to potty train or give up her dummy. She also refuses to nap (except for when she's with the childminder - black magic, I tell you!). But every day with us, at some point, she will curl up on the sofa with a cushion and a quilt and "have a sleep" - during which time she watches TV and doesn't close her eyes. She picks which cushion and which quilt she would like. She has a couple of quilts that a specifically hers, but they are getting a little bit small for her now, so it was time she had a big-girl quilt. To be honest, I've been planning on finishing this for months - back when she moved into her big-girl's bed, then Christmas. But I've only just got there. I finished binding it on Tuesday.

And she seems to like it!

The pattern is from the Jelly Roll Sampler Quilt book by Pam and Nicky Lintott, and it's my absolute favourite thing to use a Jelly Roll for - I've made the same pattern 3 times now and I don't think it will be the last time! The fabric is (I think) Pam Kitty Picnic - I had a custom jelly roll cut by our local quilt shop. The backing was a bargain: two years after I bought the jelly roll, the fabrics that the shop had left were put on a very good sale. So I was able to buy enough for the backing - two different fabrics. I also picked up a different border fabric in the same sale. I quilted it with an all over stipple in a yellow variegated Aurifil 50w thread.

My husband isn't keen on the quilt - but then, he's not the target audience, is he! I also have to share with you the cake I made for her party on Sunday! It's one of those times when you create something you've seen on Pinterest and it actually turns out ok!

It used 7 packs of Smarties - the bags, not the tubes! And an awful lot of food colouring! The downside to this success, is that I have to equal it for Jess's birthday is a few month's time and better it next year. I fear I may have set the bar too high!

The quilt, not the cake, was a finish from my Finish Along list!

Monday, 27 February 2017

#1yearofstitches [Week 8]

We fell back in love this week. Partly because I changed my approach. Instead of adding more and move curved lines echoing the one's I'd done before, I bravely stitched into the virgin edges of the hoop. And I love how just one line of stitching can open up so many possibilities. Here she is at the end of week 8.

Monday, 20th February: Laced Arrow Head stitch (bottom right) in green and laced with pink (which it turns out just makes it look brown).

Tuesday, 21st February: Straights stitch in green around that swirl that I wasn't loving. It became blanket stitch as I emerged from the swirl, but this is the one piece of stitching from this week that I'm not happy with and I may go back and redo it.

Wednesday, 22nd February: Feathered chain stitch in blue (far right).

Thursday, 23rd February: Heart in blue using a variation on lazy daisy stitch. I didn't have much time on Thursday so I moved forward what I had planned to do on the 24th. This heart is for Mia who was three on Friday.

Friday, 24th February: A combination of yellow cross stitches and mustard/gold French knots to try and improve that section on the far left. I think it worked.

Saturday. 25th February: Two rows of green blanket stitch interlinking with each other (top centre, vertically). Love the look of this combination.

Sunday, 26th February: Twisted chain stitch in yellow (top right). After so long stitching chain stitch and carefully avoiding the twist, I struggled to find my rhythm with this stitch. Stitching the line wonky and having to unpick and do it all again gave me plenty of practice, however. And it's definitely a stitch I will be revisiting.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Modern Building Blocks [A Finish]

Just after Jessica was born, we learned that Michael's cousin was expecting her first baby. She was one of the cooperative ones - those who share the sex of their baby in advance, so allowing us quilters to plan and start work!

I decided to use the Moda Modern Building Blocks pattern for a baby quilt. It's a pattern I've been thinking about doing since I first saw it, and I just needed a good excuse really. However, it's not really a baby sized quilt. Easily solved: I shrunk every block by 50%. In the original quilt, the largest block is 36" and the smallest 6". In my version, the largest is 18" - which feels enormous as far as I'm concerned, and the smallest is 3" - which feels quite normal after working on the #365 quilt all last year. I have to confess, some of the maths made my brain hurt, but in every case, I got there. I have to admit, there was the odd 16th of an inch thrown in.

I joined in with a quilt along on Instagram for the most part, but fell off towards the end as Christmas stitching got into full swing. Baby was due early January, so I knew I had some lee-way - plus I've never had a baby quilt finished before the baby arrives except with my own daughters! I finally finished the final few blocks at the end of January.

It took another few weeks to get it quilted and bound. I decided that there was plenty of interest in the peicing, so the quilting needed to be quite straightforward. It's quilted in a 3" cross hatch in white Aurifil 50w thread. I bound it in white. I know that this is not necessarily a practical choice for a baby quilt. But I don't care. It looks so lovely and fresh,. For the moment.

I finished the quilt at 12.15pm and at 2.30pm we gifted it to Mum, Dad and baby Finn. We added in a couple of baby vests... with a bit of a theme!

I think this may be my first Finish Along finish for the quarter. You can find my original list here.

Monday, 20 February 2017

#1yearofstitches [Week 7]

This week was harder. I spent a lot of time staring at the hoop, not sure where to go next. And if I'm honest I'm not sold on some of the work I did. But I'm not going to unpic it. Not yet anywhere. I'm going to leave that section for a bit and work somewhere else until inspiration strikes!

Monday, 13th February: Stem stitch in orange on the left hand section

Tuesday, 14th February: A new stitch: Portuguese Stem Stitch. It's similar to regular stem stitch but you add a knot of sorts. I did two-thirds of this line before I realised I was doing it wrong and that's why it looked a little uneven. I decided not to unpick. I will definitely be revisiting this stitch!

Wednesday, 15th February: green chain stitch on the left.

Thursday, 16th February: dark red stem stitch to outline the area around the button hole wheel on the left.

Friday, 17th February: more Portuguese stem stitch, this time in blue. It's this particular addition that is currently bugging me.

Saturday, 18th February: I moved away from the dodgy blue today and added a line of dark blue chain stitch heading towards the bottom of the hoop.

Sunday, 19th February: More chain stitch, more blue. This time to fill in some more of the swirl in the bottom right, and extend out towards Saturday's line.

With Sunday's sewing I'm suddenly clear where I'm going, at least for the next few days. I'm excited to get back to it this evening! On Sunday I did my stitching earlier, as we were going out. Mia was still up and was watching me. She asked if it was for her bedroom wall. Turns out I should probably get back to the girls' hoops soon!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Michelin Man to Stick Man [A Plan]

It's time to take some action. Since I had my gall bladder removed last September and I've been able to eat normally again, I've been putting weight back on. Not good. I generally feel tired (I know - it probably has something to do with small children and working full time too) and I think my diet probably exacerbates that.

So I've bought myself one of those fit band things and (re)joined weightwatchers. I've followed Weight Watchers a few times over the years, and whilst I stick with it, it really does work for me. I was also quite pleased to see that I'm not the heaviest I've ever been!

Three things about this time are different: firstly, I feel mentally different - like I can do it. Hopefully that feeling lasts - I don't remember feeling quite so confident and determined last time. But who knows. I've suffered a sever case of baby brain since then! Secondly, I've started bullet journalling and I'm planning on using that to help: so far it just involves colouring in squares when I lose a pound, as I'm using the WW app to actually track my food. Thirdly....

Quilting! I quilted last time I tried, but this time I am linking a specific project to my weight loss. For every pound I lose, I will make up a hexagon block from Katja Marek's The New Hexagon Perpetual Calendar in fabrics from a lovely bundle of Blueberry Park fabrics in the warm colour way. If I hit my goal I will have a lovely lap quilt!

My first week I lost 3lb. And I'm seeing an issue... I'm nearly through week 2 and I have only stitched up one hexagon block! I really feel I deserve to lose weight again this week, so I'm going to have to get busy with the blocks to avoid a back log!

I'm hoping that by sharing here, and more regularly on Instagram, that the support of the quilting community will help me stick with it. So far, the support has been brilliant! You guys all need to keep me on the straight and narrow!

#jennieneedstolosethepadding #michelinmantostickman

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Snail Day

Time for a bit of a snaily update. Here are the snails we've made since I last shared:

 Literally the only photo of this snail where it isn't covered by a small hand. So it's a little fuzzy....

Two blocks this week as my neice was here and both her and Mia made a block: Mia picked the lime green and EJ picked the pink.

 The ponies wanted in on the action! The flower print is from Art Gallery.


This shell fabric is one of the first fabrics I ever bought and whilst I love it, I've always struggled to use it. Perfect for a shell!

Some weeks Mia helps and presses buttons on the sewing machine. Other weeks she just picks the fabric.

Monday, 13 February 2017

#1yearofstitches [Week 6}

Another week, more stitches, still in love with this project, though increasingly crippled by indecision at the moment!

Monday 6th February: yellow stem stitch to create the swirl bottom right

Tuesday 7th February:orange palestrina stitch to improve the swirl bottom right.

Wednesday 8th February: pink chain stitch - still trying to improve the swirl.

Thursday 9th February: round blanket stitch on the far left in aqua.

Friday 10th February: Laced Persian Star Stitch - the square-ish aqua/blue thing in the middle. I quite like it, but I need some practice.

Saturday 11th February: Gold stem stitch to surround the Persian star - with a little loop!

Sunday 12th February: Yellow chain stitch on the far left to start developing that area, as I can't decide how to continue in the centre.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

#365 Quilt Top

I have to admit that there were points in the last year when I never thought I would be writing this post. But here I am. Today I can share with you my finished #365 quilt top.

This is big: 98" x 98" (I guess - I forgot to measure it but I know each of the 96" strips I cut for that final border had to be extended by a couple of inches....). To get the photograph I lay it on our front lawn and hung out of the bedroom window! And that's really why it got finished last Sunday - I noted that not only was it sunny, but there was no wind at all, and therefore and outdoor shoot was possible. This is unheard of on the north-east coast.

There's so much I want to say about this quilt top, so bear with me... I had come across the project in November 2015 and dismissed it. I looked at it again in December and dismissed it again. The reason was the fabric requirements. I was totally put off by the requirement of a dark-dark, dark-medium, dark, medium-dark etc. I couldn't wrap my head round it. I don't know when I had the lightbulb moment, that actually all I needed were light blocks and dark blocks and the rest was up to me. And that rainbows are always good. And with that revelation, I started piecing it on 3rd January 2016. I stayed on track until the end of March. Before Jessica arrived I had a completed centre and first dark border. The dark block in this border are all 3".

And then, inevitably, I fell behind. That's what happens when you have a new-born. But Jessica was pretty good - she napped and slept in the evenings. Mia was still going to the child-minder so I actually had some sewing time after the first few months. When I got back to the project I was 84 blocks behind. I gradually chipped away at it. Unfortunately the blocks from mid April to early July were 6" blocks instead of the 3" we had been working on. And wow, were they a challenge. No churn dashes here. I would prepare a few blocks at once, then sew a few blocks and by September I was back up to date with the sew-along.

One of the things that kept me going during that time was the amazing ladies (and gent) on the UK based Facebook group that was set up for this. The encouragement and support I found there was amazing. Every success was cheered, every failure shared and halved. And on the days when the block was truly monstrous, we all consoled each other, then tackled it and shared tips. In short, we sewed together, we moaned together and we achieved together!

If you're thinking of joining in, I would definitely encourage it. If you start now, you're about 40 blocks behind. But those first few blocks are very straightforward. Kathy, who has put this project together, has done so really well, to introduce you to basic piecing step at a time - a new technique and then a week to really get your head around it before introducing the next new piecing technique. It's done entirely with rotary cutting - no foundation piecing, no templates and no hand-sewing (unless you really want to). Even if you are an experienced quilter, it's a great learning experience - and you appreciate those easier blocks in hindsight! Do it. Jump in and create a beautiful quilt.

Obviously this isn't a finished quilt yet. I have ordered some Tula Pink Free Fall in navy for the backing. I've been itching for a reason to use this. I had to order it from the States as I couldn't find it in stock anywhere in the UK, and I'm trying not to check the tracking number every half an hour! Once that arrives, I'll be able to pack up the quilt and it's backing in a (large) package and pay an extortionate amount of money to Royal Mail to deliver it to a lady in Cumbria who will be quilting it for me.

This will be the first time I've ever had one of my quilts professionally quilted. Normally I would never dream of it, as I really do enjoy the process of quilting, and I like owning the process from beginning to end. But this quilt is a bit different. I have already spent hours and hours on it and I love it. It's been a project that has been all about the piecing and it's important that the piecing shines in the finished quilt. When I was thinking about quilting it myself, I contemplated a large spiral or and all-over stipple. But the reality is that there are a lot seams, and a lot of seam allowance - some blocks are more seam allowance than block. And with my machines I think I would experience so many thread breakages and needles snapping, that I would quickly fall out of love with the quilt. And I don't want that. So this quilt will be quilted by someone else, so that I don't ever stop loving it!

We're hatching a plan to display a number of the finished 365 quilts created in the Facebook group at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham in the summer. I won't be able to be there, but I hope my finished quilt will be!

Watch this space for a finish in the next few months!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

#1yearofstitches [Week 5]

Still in love with this project... a big change this week was my hoop size. I started with a 6" hoop and realised I was filling it too fast, so I moved up to an 8" hoop this week. I can't go any bigger as that's the limit of the fabric I cut, but it's given me loads more room to play with

Monday, 30th January: Some moer Palestrina Stitch. This time I used a slightly paler green thread to further divide the space around the bullion knot wheel. It's hard to see the difference in green in the photo from the big Palestrina swirl I did last week.

Tuesday, 31st January: Dark purple backstitch, just to highlight the space near the centre. I had originally planned to fill the entire space with dark purple back stitch, but after going round once, I think that would be too heavy, so I need to rethink my plan for that area.

Wednesday, 1st February: Pale green backstitch infill. I used my new thread (see below) to infil a section around the bullion knot wheel. It looks a bit scruffy if I'm honest.

Thursday, 2nd February: A new swirl of lime green chain stitch!

Friday, 3rd February: I added blue blanket stitch to yesterday's chain stitch. I know "blue and green should not be seen" and all that, but I love them together.

Saturday, 4th February: I branched out with a new stitch: interlaced cable chain stitch. It's that rectangular area in green bottom left. I like how it turned out, though if I did it again, I would make the cable chain stitches smalled. But cable chain is something I'm going to try again.

Sunday, 5th February: a pink arc of palestrina stitch across the top of my hoop.

And the exciting news this week was some new reels of thread! This is half...

The two reels on the left were ordered as purples, but in real life they are very pinky which was a little disappointing. I may have to order some more...

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Splendid Sampler [recent additions]

It's time to show you some more Splendid Sampler blocks! These are the fourteen I've completed since the start of December.

Block #86: Unity Star

 Block #87 Shining Star
 Block 83: Minnesota Maze
Block 82: Under the Apple Tree
 Block #52: Coneflower
 Block 73: +Love
 Block #81: With Love From
 Block #77: Prism
Block #49: Summer's Gift

 Block #59: Circle of Friendship - this one might be my favourite!
Block #89: From Colorado to the Midwest

 Block #78: Jersey

 Block # 46: Twirl Time
Block #79: Spool of Inspirational Threads

Friday, 3 February 2017

The Farmer's Wife 1930s [recent progress]

As it turns out, I haven't shared any progress on my 1930s Farmer's Wife quilt since March last year. There are two reasons for this: firstly, for a while, I didn't touch it at all. And secondly, when I did gradually start making the blocks again, it was so occassional that I never had enought to put together a post. Also, I have been quite lazy... so it's time for a bit of an update.

I was inspired to pick this project up again with some of the blocks that inclined themselves towards EPP. Back in November this was what I fancied doing. Prudence was my first challenge:

Any other technique and she would have been a bit of a bitch, but with EPP she played quite nicely. A couple of weeks later I pieced Peony - Y-seams, partial seams and so, so many pieces.
Fast forward to mid-January and I made Carolina. Some pretty little angles just right for EPP.

Then I decided to try and keep up with the blocks from the start of the year, gradually going back and making the many I had missed. So Mary was foundation pieced.

And so was Mary Grey.

And then came the beautiful simplicity of Sarah.

Followed by Martha.

This quilt along is winding up now. The book includes 99 blocks and I've made 51, which, to be honest, is more than I thought I had. I'm hoping to make all 99 but it depends entirely on if I have enough fabric. Only time will tell!

I confess that I am less lazy about posting these things to Instagram, so if you want to see my block finishes in something close to real time, I'm @jenniesthreads and Id love to see you there.