Monday, 31 January 2011

First big-ish quilt finished for 2011 - "Somewhere Beneath The Sea"

How satisfying is it to finish a quilt?

My Mendocino Quilt - finished, washed and hanging over my shower screen to dry.
(I'll get better pictures when it's dry and day light)

I'm not sure what came over me at the weekend. My Mendocino quilt went from three quarters of the blocks needed - made; to a fully finished, quilted and bound, useable quilt. Not bad considering I still don't feel on top form.
I have the urge to start singing, "Somewhere beneath the sea..." whenever I go near the quilt. I love the solid I chose for the binding and backing. I don't know the brand as I ordered from Strawberry Fayre a while back and that required sending them a couple of fabric swatches from their range and specifying quantities. The back is a lovely burnt orange colour and the binding a dark coffee/chocolate colour. I quilted two lines close together, even distances apart so it's not densely quilted. 

A warning though - I didn't pre-wash my solids - or any of the fabric. I had meant to at least pre-wash the solids. I was on such a roll at the weekend I skipped that in favour of finishing the quilt while I had my sewing mojo going at full force. I am always nervous about washing stuff I've made. I have visions of something horrible happening. Like the quilt batting shrinking 300%, not the 3% it says on the packet. Or the sewing dissolving in the wash (not sure that could happen, but I worry anyway!). I guess the worse fear it that the dye will run...cast smudges over everything. That maybe that Mendocino I bought on Etsy will turn out to be some cheap rip off that someone is hand printing in their shed with non colour fast dyes.  So I pulled my big girls pants on and threw the quilt in the machine on a delicate cycle and added a couple of colour catcher sheets (which I'd never used before.)  They came out like this:

I think the colour run is entirely from the solid backing. Which was comparable in cost with Kona solids and came from a reputable quilting supplier who sells as many solids as they do patterns and many of which could be Kona for all I know.  I am thinking as soon as I have chance I'm going to hand wash all my red fabrics. I don't have too many; I'm thinking they, if nothing else, need a pre wash.

I would love to work on some large quilts and think with a bit of planning I could go larger and still use my regular machine. Space to baste anything bigger would be my biggest problem. Quilting straight lines is a breeze with my walking foot - my best sewing tool buy of last year.  I am loving this starting and FINISHING a project feeling. I may have to start more projects just so I can finish them ;-)

Still not entered the giveaway for the little scrappy squares? Go here

Have a great week! xox

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunday Rambles...Mendocino - To turtle or not to turtle?

Some of you may remember reading this post way back in September, when I told you all about the disappearing nine patch quilt blocks I was making out of Mendocino with the idea of adding some applique turtles to it?  Well shortly after that post I had dental surgery - followed by a string of bugs and this quilt got put on the back burner. Part of my problem was having said I wanted to put some turtles on it, I was worried I'd mess it up some how or maybe just detract from whole Mendocino loveliness.  Corinnea told me about the beautiful quilt that her super talented daughter Jessica made featuring three embroidered and appliqued turtles.  Cute or what? In fact I want these turtles to just change colour swim off the baby quilt and go and live on my quilt top.

Anyway, for all of the reasons above this quilt has been stacked up in a neat pile and sort of forgotten about.  Until last night when I remembered the fabric diet deal I've made with myself.  Even though Angela's fabric diet only lasts 8 weeks and I've made it through half of it without succumbing to buying fabric. This is only part of the deal I've made with myself.  The other part is that when 8 weeks is up I can not go back to my old fabric buying ways. 

Maybe the cost of living is different in the US and fabric is still expensive for all of you stateside. But on the whole fabric is a whole lot more expensive in the UK than it is the US. In fact sometimes it's double the cost. I tend to buy fat quarters for this reason and usually just stuff that catches my eye. I occasionally buy a whole yard (metre if it's in the UK) of something if it's on sale, but not usually more, unless it's for specific project - like a solid I may need for sashing and backing.  The downside of this is I end up with a very eclectic stash that can be a nightmare to pull together to make a quilt. I've rarely got enough of any one fabric and you can bet if I need 8 fat quarters for a quilt top, I'll only have 3 or 4 that work together. So when I go back to buying fabric it's going to be with a lot more purpose. So I've decided:

1) I'm going to aim to buy bundles of ranges that I like enough to want to quilt with them.
2)If I don't buy a whole range I'm going to put together my own bundles that work together. 
3)The only random purchasing I'm going to do is for that fabric I really can't live without and will be versatile enough to use in several projects.
4)I'm also not going to be buying bundles with the intention of 'one day making a quilt with them'. If it's bought now, it's for use now - or very soon. With that in mind I am not going to do any fabric buying until some of my started projects are finished. Otherwise I'll end up with more fabric than I can ever use in my life time.
5)I'm going to make at least one little hand made gift for everyone I give a present to this year.  This will use up the smaller pieces of fabric and scraps rather than just fill another box with them.

So with point 4 very much in mind I dragged my Mendocino WIP out of it's neat pile last night and have finished piecing the the top. What I don't know is whether I should do the turtle thing or not. I'm kinda over this quilt already and would much rather be using it than have it sit about for months while I faff about with turtles, hexies and embroidery thread...and then have to go quilt and bind it.  So I'm thinking that I'll save the turtles for another time and another project when I'll have the time and inclination to do them justice!

strips of blocks laid out ready to piece

Mendocino disappearing nine patch - love how a simple design ends up looking so complicated.

Top finished and ironed!

Looking for the giveaway? You need to go here

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Springs that bit closer and a mug rug finish!

I've not felt that well the last couple of days. My niece has an ear infection - I wonder if I've been fighting the same thing off as I felt really dizzy on Thursday morning and one of my ears is definitely not right. I've felt too lethargic to get on with much in the creative department - much of anything really. A night owl by nature I've tended to feel a bit better as the day has worn on, only to feel rubbish again at getting up time.

I have however finished my mug rug for round 3 of the scrappy mug rug swap. I have embroidered a William Morris quote around the border. 

This is the back side of it. Which I think is pretty too.

I am busting to tell you all about the process and inspiration but as this is a secret swap I daren't give too much away.

Do you know what has really cheered me up today?  A couple of days ago I spotted these through the kitchen window. So today I braved the cold and took a couple of snaps. The first of the new season bulbs to come out. Such a cheery sight these cold grey days - I just know the crocus' and violets (one of my favourites) can't be far behind now!

If you're looking for the giveaway for some scrappy squares then you need to go here. Thanks to all the people that have entered so far - and "Hi" to my new followers *waves*.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Mathematically challenged and my first ever giveaway!

One of the biggest hardships I find with quilting - particularly the kind that requires geometrical designs is I am mathematically challenged. If I was tested I suspect they'd discover I have some kind of number dyslexia. It is probably linked to the fact that despite being a 'grown up', I still have to look at my hands and write in the air to work out my left from my right; and why I have never managed to fully learn my times tables.

Once undergoing various tests in hospital I was asking to count back from 200 whilst subtracting 10, then 9, then 8...I failed miserably. I told them not read too much into this because even when I was well, I struggled to hold numbers in my head. I wasn't happy with my grade in GCSE maths so resat it and managed to get a worse grade. It's kind of ironic given that I work in a heavily financed based job. But that's money. Some how that's different. I get to use a calculator. Nobody ever expected me to work out the VAT on inclusive amounts without a calculator.

It probably explains why I bought myself a sewing ruler that is way longer than my sewing mat. Or the amount of times I've lined up my fabric on my mat - started cutting then thought - hmmm these are smaller than I thought they'd be - only to realise I'd been cutting an inch smaller than I wanted. You have no idea the stress I get into when I see a block I want to make and then have to work out how big each piece needs to be with seam allowances in order to recreate it. I've put many sewing books back on the shelves because they start talking in a foreign mathematical language; when I just want to be told I need 4 pieces 4 x 3 and 2 7x8 etc and have that include seam allowances. It also means when I see a quilt I want to make I struggle to work out how much fabric it will require - especially if the design is complicated.  I admire those of you out there that work with maths in order to create pattern repeats of complicated design and measure.

For DQS I wanted to set some small and different sized blocks within a larger square and not have them line up. I started thinking about how I'd calculate the sashing areas horizontally, to create the back around the mini blocks and all was fine until I had to work out the bits vertically too; and then the order I'd need to sew everything to get it to have the look I wanted. I started drawing it out on squared paper and everything. But it started to make my head all swirl, I'm sure it's not meant to be this challenging.  So I'm working the way I work best - visually.  I've cut lengths of linen and am measuring them against the blocks and assembling them in an 'order'. This may horrify some of you. But it's working for me.

No maths is required for the little giveaway I promised. In fact nothing more challenging than popping a comment below. If you want to comment about how I can make sewing projects easier maths wise that would be helpful, but not essential.

What might you win? I have a whole stack of fabric squares roughly 2.5"ish  square that are ideal if you're making 1" hexies and seeing as it's this hexie quilt of mine that's got me back into blogging it seems an appropriate giveaway. In fact I was hoping to do it to celebrate finishing my hexie quilt, but that's back on hold while I sort out mug rugs and doll quilts ;-) Of course you may want to do something else entirely with the scraps, that's your choice.  I did count how many I'd got so far.  But since then I've not been very well and have been all dizzy and generally blurgh and I've forgotten how many there are. I will also be adding to the pile before it goes in the mail.  I reckon there will be over 100. Of course after what I said about my bad maths you are allowed to not believe me    ;-)

You don't have to become a follower to enter - although it will make me smile if you do. The giveaway is open to anyone, anywhere and will run until 12 pm 5 Feb 2011 (GMT). I'll use the ole random number generator to do it stuff.  Just please, please, please make sure there is a way I will be able to get hold of you if you win. Otherwise I'll have to draw another winner. *****GIVEAWAY CLOSED*****

Monday, 24 January 2011

Tireder than a tired thing in a shop full of tired things...

My other half got 1am on Sunday morning. His function over ran an hour longer than he expected so it was later than he'd hoped before he got on the road...then there were diversions due to roadworks and that added time onto the journey.  Sometimes we think joke, that there is a conspiracy against us and the powers that be sits up on a cloud thinking of new ways to test our relationship.  You know like the time he tried to drive down to Bournemouth to spend the day with us on holiday and got caught up in the traffic jams from hell and ended up having to turn round and abort the trip having spent hours in the car and used up almost a tank of fuel going nowhere. Or Christmas when he got flu and bronchitis and got trapped with his family at the other end of the country from me... I could go on. 

But the important thing is he got down. It was a very long day for him as he'd been up at work before 6am.  We went straight to bed and sat there unwrapping belated Christmas presents and trying not to fall asleep. He liked the brew kit I made him and the cushion.  We were both wrecked on Sunday so after a lie in we got up and went to an outdoor shop so he could get a coat with his Christmas money and we fitted lunch in on our way home at a grill place.  Then it was time for him to go. Not sure when I'll see him again.  Hopefully it won't be as long as last time.

As you can see I did well on the birthday present front (with promises of more to come!) ...

Yes, I even got fabric! in the form of some charm squares. Which is a doubly nice surprise as I'm on a fabric diet.  So am not  buying any fabric. So far I've done ok.  But there is so much out there that catches my eye. However, I've sort of made a deal with myself that even after the fabric diet I can't go fabric shopping unless I've used a fair proportion of my stash making stuff.  At the moment I can't get the lid on my fabric box and there are piles of other fabric that won't fit in it piled up elsewhere. This does not constitute not having enough fabric to play with. I need to get sewing or even when the diet deadline is up I can't buy more.

Can you spy that book "Inchies" in the photo? It's how to create inch sized works of art to use in little projects and try out different techniques.  I have a big box of fibres, felt and specialist materials like Angelina fibers that I need to use...or lose. So I am looking forward to experimenting with the ideas in this book.

Now I'm off for 40 winks.  When I'm more awake I'll tell you about a little giveaway I've put together.

Friday, 21 January 2011

I forgot to show you all the finished mini quilt I made for my niece. I just need to do a label and keep it well out of the way until her birthday in March.

I'm completely in the doll quilt zone at the moment.  I had a stack of positive responses for the crazy patch I did the other day and since then I've worked on 3 other ideas...

I thought the little girl in the centre piece was too cute not to focus on.

The stamp is there to show that these really are small. I think each square of fabric was around 1"  before I started sewing. I had to watch I didn't sew my fingers to it and there are a few wonky seams - I already have an idea about those.

This may not really fit in with everything else I've done and plan on doing. But it was kind of fun.  I've needed some fun lately due to the stress of trying to organise to do something for my birthday.  Lets just say my family are up for doing something with me of my choosing as long as it's exactly what they want to do, where they want to go and at the time they want to do it.  I started to feel that it would be easier to organise peace in the Middle East than do something I'd enjoy on my birthday and include my family. I took a step back and realised that I'd be spending my day doing stuff to suite everyone but me. And surely a girls birthday is the one time she can have a day that's about her and what she wants to do?  One thing I am looking forward to is seeing my other half. He's working Saturday then has a function he has to go to. He'll drive down to see me. It will be too late to go out, but he'll stay over and we'll go out on Sunday. I am looking forward to that very much.  I may not get much sewing done this weekend. But I have a little birthday giveaway planned!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

DQS dilemmas

I've started work on a potential idea for my partner in the DQS10.  I have a sketch. I have a list of things I've gleaned about my partner from the mass stalking I did.  I am busting to share. I'm desperate to tell you all why I'm doing what I'm doing. But that's not possible because what if my partner reads what I put? They'll know exactly where I'm coming from and the surprise will be ruined before the quilt is...well pieced let alone quilted. 

I started work on one idea - a part of it and the feedback has been really good. In fact so good I'm almost tempted to just do more and more of the same... only I seem to manage to put hexies in nearly every project I do and this year is all about trying different things. Revisiting old skills and learning new and the DQS10 seems an ideal time to push my ideas.

So today I started playing with a mini crazy patchwork block.  I trimmed as much away as I kept. I've done a lot of crazy patchwork in the past - but all pieced onto a foundation. I started off like that with some small fabric scraps but the stitches looked huge and detracted from the fabrics themselves - and not in a good ornamental way.  So I changed and pieced without a foundation.

This isn't finished. I need want to add some more embroidery and tidy up a couple of bits I'm not happy with and didn't notice until I took the snap.  I'm not sure how I feel about this. I want to use the idea I'm just not sure this is right. Maybe it's because I have felt really tired and headachey today?

The trouble is when I start to doubt one thing I start to doubt the whole thing.  Early days - lets see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Niece on a Tree Swing

Since I joined the fabric diet that Angela is having my whole mindset has changed.  I started thinking about why I bought fabric, what I wanted to do with it and how to get my money to work the best for me.  That inevitably means looking at what I have already and seeing what I can do with it.  I told you in another post about how I wanted to improve and master new skills. I had so much fun making the wonky star mug rug and already had another project in mind.

Cue - The Girl on a Tree Swing Tutorial  by the uber talented Aneela Hoey who blogs at Comfort Stitching and has created the design Sherbet Pips that everyone (including me) has been coveting.  

Now my regular sewing machine does not have any kind of foot to facilitate machine embroidery or free motion quilting and this is a skill I've wanted to get back to for so long.  I took textiles in my third year at school and really enjoyed playing around with machine embroidery (certainly more than Lisa Y, who having spent ages building up a nice textural piece of embroidery had managed to sew her school tie into the work!) but I've not attempted any since.  You may remember this post when a friend gave me a load of her stash and a nearly-new sewing machine because she was downsizing and hadn't ever really got into the whole creative thing.  Well my friend had been more interested in fibre art and textural work with machine embroidery so had bought a suitable foot for her machine.  Unfortunately the machine came without a manual and wasn't the same as mine and when I'd had a play with it I hadn't been able to get it to sew evenly - it was very jumpy and the needle kept jamming.  Anyway, last night I thought I'd go and see if I could get it working. I discovered the problem was the little arms that hold the hook race assembly in - they'd not been done up so it was loose and wobbling around. Fixed that and problem solved!  I had a quick practice on some scrap fabric then dived in with the tutorial. 
I thought if it turned out ok. I'd turn it into a mini quilt for my niece who has a birthday coming up in March. Her favourite colour (like me) is purple but my stash is woefully short of this colour - and not much in my scraps box either. So I opted for pink for the background.

It took a while to get used to the 'freeness' of using a machine this way (let alone a machine I'd never used before).  Even now I keep forgetting that you can move the fabric in all directions. When I started I kept stopping to change direction or I used the reverse lever to go backwards - when all I had to do was move the fabric duh!  I couldn't re size the template so gave up and drew my own following the pdf for parts.  I changed the girls hair because I thought it would be fun to put my niece on the swing and whilst she used to have a cute little bob like Aneela's girl, these days she has longer hair. 

I am not happy with the right hand swing line which does not come down nice and straight - but this is my first attempt at this kind or work so I think that can be forgiven. You'll also notice I sewing a piece of Liberty lawn over the Mendocino girl near the bottom right hand side. I never thought I'd want to cover up Mendocino, but it looked like a mermaid was coming in to drag the girl off the swing by her ankles and so I had to get rid of it. 

The finished picture was a bit small for a mini quilt so I've sashed it grey. I'm going to straight line quilt the grey sashing, bind and then - voila! A little quilt I hope my niece will like. I'm going to call it: Girl Niece on a Tree Swing


And...everything in this 'make' came from my scrap box or already used fabric. 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Swappsy 2011

This year I've applied for two swaps over on Flickr and wooo hoo I've been accepted to both. It's why I've been a bit quiet around here of late. I've been busy working on my mug rug for the scrappy mug rug swap round 3 and also lurking in the group and the DQS pool too. We've not been assigned partners in the latter yet. But we do have a funky new blog button to add to our side bars. See.

It's been designed by Amy and I think it's a pretty cool button because - well there is a doll holding a doll quilt. I know how appropriate! (took me a while to twig that *duh*.)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Saga of the Star Mug Rug

One of the reasons I signed up for the fabric diet that Angela is having, is I want to approach sewing differently in 2011 in the hope that I can improve and learn lots of new skills. Whilst patchwork was one of the first things I learnt to do sewing wise (way back at Primary School)and I have been sewing in one form or another ever since; a lot of the time I still feel like a beginner. There is so much I have to learn, let alone master. I am inspired by and learning so much from fellow bloggers and groups over on flickr. However, I realise that actually if I want to learn new things and improve I have to approach how I make differently. This mainly means having more focus and a desire to get on and try new things. I need to stop having airy fairy ideas about what I'd like to make or master and get on with it - setting myself goals and tasks. So 2011 is the year I am running my own self study course with me as the only student and I have been working on project 1. Which has been a wonky star mug rug, following this tutorial form Kerry Now as I'm not always very happy with my bindings - particularly of little items I also followed this tutorial also from Kerry. Yes, today Kerry has been my tutor! I really urge you to try the binding tutorial even if you think you know what you are doing. I use the same method for binding normally - only Kerry has added lots of really useful suggestions like the zig-zagging round the finished item before the binding is attached - which I've not bothered with before. Also the hand sewn mitre joining and tips about the benefits of lots of ironing.

This is going to be a male friends birthday later in the month. I'm going to add a mug and some hot choc and maybe cookies.
Ta Da

This is the reverse - see how neat it is?
Mind I'll confess something. The tutorials were great and easy to follow, but I had a bit of a bad day sewing wise. First off I had to ask my mum what eleven fourths of an inch were - yes seriously I was that stupid. It was only when I looked at the ruler in the tutorial picture I realised it was one and a quarter inches... Then I started to attach a plain blue binding and realised I'd started to sew it with the good side out. I unpicked it attached it the right way and noticed that my sewing machine was skipping stitches. I decided to clean the machine out and change the needle and while I was at it oil my machine - I can't remember the last time I did that - I know my bad. Anyway, then some how oversewing the whole thing to make up for the skipped stitched bits, I managed to sew the binding down so I couldn't turn it over. In the end I ripped it all out and started again with a patterned binding - all that messing about made it clear that the blue fabric was not the most robust cotton fabric in the world (it's now relegated to my practice fabric bag). Then when I was hand sewing the back I managed to push the end of the needle with the eye in it into my finger and almost bled all over the back.

Now if you've got any other ideas about tutorials or things I should try this year please let me know in the comments! and watch this space to see what else I get up to.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

A little distracted

The first week of the year has been busier than I anticipated. The only sewing I've been doing is towards finishing my hexie quilt. I have joined a couple of swaps over on flickr. Both could end up lotteries, depending on the number of people signing up, so I could be in two swaps or none. I've been hanging out with both groups looking for inspiration and am bursting with ideas so I think after my hexie quilt I'll be focusing on some 'small projects'. I had hoped to get started on a new project this week. Then I started a new book and got distracted.

This is the second book by R J Ellory I've read. Roger Ellory is another author I have met through book crossing; when he came to a meet up and gave a talk about his work and sign books. (A different dedication in every book!) The thing I like best about R J Ellory's books are the layers and the characters. He creates credible characters and makes you care about them - even if they are sometimes criminals. There is something compelling about his books which draw you in and make it hard for you to put them down. So if you haven't read any of his books and you like a good thriller why not check them out and see if they are for you?

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The End is Nigh and Some New Beginnings.

I've spent the day working on the binding for my hexie quilt. I've sewn the binding strips for the two longest edges and am working on one of the shorter ends. When this is finished I'll just have the label to do and maybe wash it - keeping my fingers crossed for no colour runs. Then Ta-da! One finished - entirely hand sewn - hexie charm quilt. If you fancy finishing your hexie quilt like mine Badskirt has a useful tutorial here

I've got lots of ideas about other projects for 2011. I think 2011 could be the best sewing and creative year ever. One of the things I'm really keen to work on is learning different techniques. I don't class myself as a beginner. Having said that there are things that still scare me a bit - like anything with circles and *that* paper piecing. Not English paper piecing which I can do in my sleep. I'm referring to that paper piecing done on a machine, in reverse and upside down (or that's how it looks to me) - and yes, I've read some very good tutorials; even watched step by step demonstrations on you tube and I can't quite get my head round it.

Ps. When my hexie quilt is finished I'm having that giveaway to celebrate.
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