Wednesday, 19 October 2016

New Gadget!

 My ever lovely, ever thoughtful big sister was clearly paying attention last month when I was rigging up  a 'light box' with a sewing machine extender table and some camping lights.

For my birthday I received the most stylish light box that I've ever seen!

Thin like a computer tablet, but with a surface that you can draw on and a control for how bright the light is.
 I had seen some rather lovely miniature Baltimore style applique (one of the traditional suitcase collection quilts on loan from the Quilters Guild that I saw through Richmond and Kew Quilters) so I thought that I'd trace some positioning squares with wash away pen and then work on making the applique pieces for them.

Turns out that the ones that I was most attracted to were ones that could be turned into simple stitcheries..... so that's what I've done instead!

Such a great product - it even comes with a bag to store it in, so you don't have to crush it in a stack of stuff, but can easily hang it within easy reach - genius!  I'm really pleased with it!
My other sewing related task this week was to pull out this stack of fabrics for a mystery quilt that I'm planning to make with RKQ too.

Next I need to cut them up, following the first step of the mystery.

Happy sewing, everyone!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes

Another WIP which has been on going for a few months is finally complete!

Thanks for DD2 (for only needing one shoe liner to make her shoes fit perfectly) and to Debbie for the fabulous green and gold fabric (the photos don't do the colour justice - it's a lovely dark emerald) for helping to make this happen.

Quilt ideas come from the strangest places!
 I used the liner to make a matching stencil out of freezer paper.  Then I used Markel paint stick and rubbing plates to make the other shoe shapes.

Stitching the shoe liner on, then stitching around the edges of the stencilled shapes followed (once the paint stick had cured and stopped smelling!).

Then came lots of kantha style stitching.  Fun to decide which lines to echo and when to make breaks in the stitching.
 I bought some lovely variegated Sashiko thread from The Cotton Patch in the summer. This project shows it beautifully!

And why 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes'?  I don't know!  I've always loved the song, and I think that the idea of having decorated sole 'prints' like these made me think of it again.

Fun, and I need to get on and find a place for this to hang.

Not much machine work to show this week - but I have started back on the 365 challenge.  I'm running something over 2 months behind at the moment, so plenty to do if I'm to catch up by the end of the year!  I'm not making any promises, even to myself about this particular project!

Happy October sewing, everyone!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Tutorial: Fabric Key Tray

 You know how it is.  You need a quick make because you want to give something that you've made, but you are meeting your friend in half an hour so you are up against it time-wise.

Never fear!  You can make a great key keeper / bon bon tray and still have time for a quick brush of your hair and a slick of lip stick before you meet them!
 All you need is 4 charm squares (5" squares) and a 6 1/2" square of wadding.

1. Sew the charm squares into a four patch.  I quite like making this with two pairs placed diagonally, but I've made it with four separate fabrics too.

2. When you've sewn and pressed your 4 patch, place the wadding on it with the points of the wadding on the seams of the 4 patch.

Secure it with a little fusible spray or a couple of tacking stitches.
 3. Fold the 4 patch in half, right sides together along one of the long seams.

Sew along both short ends with a 1/4" seam.
 Here it is with the seams showing.
4. Open out the 'pouch' shape so that it resembles a square. 

Match the short seams in the middle and sew the long seam, leaving a gap in the middle of one of the patches (does that make sense?  It's best that it isn't at one end of the seam and I prefer it not to go over where the other seams meet up).

5. Turn through and poke the corners into nice sharp 90 degree shapes.

You should have a padded 'hourglass' block.

6. Ladder stitch the opening closed using matching thread to try and keep it invisible.
7. Measure 1" in from each corner and mark both on the edges and where the lines match on the diagonal seam (with a disappearing pen).
8. Quilt as desired - I like to run a line of stitching near the edge of the block and to join up the dots that you've made.  This second square is the outer limit of the base of the key keeper.  I kept within this line and added some squiggly quilting.

Machine or hand quilting?  It's entirely up to you.  Machine quilting is quicker if you are short of time.....
9. Using a doubled thread that matches your fabric, catch together those marks that you made on the outer edges of the block.

Sew them together tightly and they should form neat corners.
10. When you have completed all four corners you have finished your gift!  Of course, you could always gift one to yourself as well as making them for friends!
Hand quilting? machine quilting? A mixture?  One of each shown here.

Of course, if you don't want to use your sewing machine these are easy to make by hand.  No more than 90 minutes from start to finish, unless you go mad with the quilting!

Many thanks to Lis from Piece'n'Peace for the original idea for how to make the block.

I hope that you enjoy making these little trays - plenty of time to get started and to make a pile before Christmas comes along!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Two More Finishes and some CFS / Bad Science News

 Two more finishes?  I know!  It feels really good!

This quilt in particular has been on the go for a long time.  My DiL died in 2009 and I've been using his shirts ever since - the primary objective of making quilts for his 4 grandchildren was met quite quickly, but other quilts have been ticking along more slowly.  This quilt is the very last one - the one for my DH.  I used all the scraps that I had leftover to make the hexagons - but it's taken me years to get the individual flowers sewn together!

This summer I finished sewing them together and appliqued them onto a grey spot background.  Last week I quilted and bound the quilt.  Finished and given to my DH!

Approximately 60" x 40"
This little quilt has also been on the back burner for a while.  The top was finished last November, I think..... so it was good to get it quilted and bound this week too.

36" square it was a 'use it up' project using scraps from various sources.  It has a few fragments of a nursery fabric including a teddy bear head, so it's been called 'Square Bears'.  It will be off to Linus at some point.

I'm also pleased to say that the variegated Shasiko thread that I'd run out of has been ordered and arrived, so I'll be back to hand sewing the project that needed it soon too.

Now, onto the bad science news that I mentioned in the title of this blog post.

You may know, if you read this blog, that I suffer from ME / CFS.  Earlier this month data from a landmark study in 2011 was released to the public.  This was the study that had been telling the world that people with ME / CFS could improve their chances of recovery if they undertook 'graded exercise' - doing a little more exercise each day.  This didn't chime with my experience, where days might be good or bad, and trying to do 'more' on a bad day could send me into a horrible relapse where I would struggle to get out of bed.  I spent three years almost housebound, and although I'm not as bad as that now (thank you, pregnancies and cranial osteopathy!), it's only by carefully preserving energy for planned things (like my children coming home from school, or seeing friends for an evening once every two months) that I get through my days with reasonable grace.  I still miss out on lots of things that I've love to do and can't.  If there was a cure I'd be first in line for it!Sometimes it makes me sad and sometimes it makes me cross but I don't generally whine about it as I'd rather use the energy for something positive. 

HOWEVER it has now been shown that this study was bad science and that the results aren't at all reliable.  Why is this important?  Why is this important to me?  Because the original study was widely picked up in the 'popular press' and I suspect that the new interpretation of the data won't be.  Please, if you've read this far, read this article about it

Bad Science misled millions with CFS.

Then think about sharing it with your friends too.  I'm only one person with CFS/ME but there are lots of us around - and we'd all love you to understand a bit more about our very variable condition.

Off my soap box now, and planning to do a little calm hand sewing.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Another finish!

 In all honesty, it feels like another three finishes!

I made cushions with the leftover 2 1/2" squares - mini quilts, really, with envelope backs.  One was 26" and one was 24".

I started with this one - and the pattern is quite regular.  I worked through the pizza boxes and built up the pattern from the centre, matching colours where I could.
 The second one is more fluid - starting with the idea of interlocking colour 'boxes' and then making it up to a square in the best way that I could.  There are just a very few squares left - not enough for even one more row on the cushion - so I think that they complete the gift nicely.
 Here they are filled with cushion inners from that lovely online auction site.....
 This is the full sized finish, though.  80" square it is the quilt for my SiL and her family, called 'Paris Square Dance'.

I wish that I'd got the colours to be a bit more true to life - it's brighter than it looks here!
 Quilted in orange thread rather than my usual grey, the quilting stands out beautifully on the back.
 An indoor 'draped' shot - still not showing how bright it is!

Anyway, you can see that it is a quick to make design - alternate quarter square blocks and plain blocks give this pattern with lots of movement in it.
I used my IKEA fabric for the back - nice and wide - with a stripe of the orange border print running through it.

I like the effect - it's made it a reversible quilt!

It's been a few months since the last quilt finishes that I've had, apart from last weeks map quilt.  I think that the 365 challenge has eaten up more of my time and sewing thoughts than I'd realised this year.

Still, if I want to complete the challenge I need to do some serious catching up now - I'm almost exactly two months behind at the moment.  Not exactly a coincidence that the last block I made was on the day that the school holidays started!  Time to start cutting and sewing little blocks again!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

World Quilt or Quilt the World!

Quilting the world - my journey!

It started when my SiL asked if I would undertake a commission.  Of course, I don't / won't - unless they sound fun, are for no money and I get the final say on how it obviously this project was a 'yes'!

She and one of my nieces bought these lovely fabrics for my eldest niece and showed me a couple of world map quilts on line.  The quilt is a birthday gift from them (and her dad!) to her.

Aren't the fabrics great?  Lovely and bright which is what I like!
 I chose to use the Shwin and Shwin free map pattern from here.  Lovely web site with some fun patterns that they share.  This one prints out over 40 or so A4 pages which you then stick together.  That took up most of the kitchen table!

It was straightforward to trace onto the fusible - once I'd redrawn the map through the paper so that I had a reversed map to copy!  Perhaps I should check my printer settings to see if I can reverse things at source!
 Then it was time to slice up the fabric (this batik star didn't make the end quilt, but I did play with it in my piecing at one point).  Clean pizza boxes were great for keeping colours separate.  This was 'Africa' with a little of Asia.  I cut the fabrics into 2 1/2" squares.
 I'd decided to try and make each continent a different colour.  Each set of patches were set out in an 'efficient as possible' layout and then sewn together.
 Then the traced shapes were placed on the patchwork and fused.

Cutting out followed - hard work through the patchwork seams!

Then the map was traced onto the blue background fabric so that the continents could be placed into the right places.  This blue fabric was quite opaque, so I had to use a light table (mine consists of two LED camping lamps under my sewing machine extension table -  Heath Robinson but workable).
 Once the land was in place it was time to back and baste the quilt.  It's about 60" x 38".
 Next, time to dive into the quilting.  As you know, I did have a tiny crisis of confidence between quilting the land and quilting the seas.
 All was well once it was evenly quilted.
 This was the quilting design that I chose.  I'm better at it than I used to be!  Overall I spent about 16 hours on just the quilting.  It felt like a lot for a piece this size, but it is all quite dense.

Ta-da!  This is the finished quilt.  Bound in some of the left over fabrics in 9" strips for a cheerful finish.
I'm pleased with it.  Hope that the commissioning family like it too!

Time to spare to finish these string blocks for charity quilts at my quilting group too.

Now I need to use the rest of the 2 1/2" squares - watch this space!

So are you inspired to make your own world quilt?  Mark on the countries you've visited with buttons?  Applique symbols to represent the world and your family?  Do share if you undertake your own version of a world map quilt - whilst I sit and work out how to to quilt the rest of the world!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

In Love Again!

 Remember that ugly baggy bit of quilt I showed you last week?  Well, I jumped in, feet first,
and started quilting the oceans - and it's made all the difference!  I'm totally in love with it again!

The quilt is no longer baggy and saggy.  It took me about 16 hours in total to quilt this top (which is roughly 60" x 40").

Swirls on the ocean and 'graffiti quilting' on the land masses.

I can't promise that it will lay flat, but I'll have done my best!

Binding, hanging sleeves and label still to do - but I'm making good progress on it!

Friday, 2 September 2016

Deja Vu

 Do you remember a few years ago I made a 'flower tree' with lots of fused flowers?  And that after I'd sewn around the edge of each fused flower I ended up with baggy areas in between that I really struggled to quilt (in fact it took me months and months of just trying to work out what to do and to pluck up the courage to actually do it)?

Deja vu with the fused world map that I'm working on - but this time I don't have months and months - it needs to be finished SOON!
 I need to quilt the ocean over the weekend, then quilt The Americas....and fall back in love with the project, I hope!  It was all going so well until this point!

Turning to projects that I am still in love with (!)  I've made great strides (pun intended) with this little wall quilt.
 I'm happy with how the stitching is going, but I need to finish the lower RHS and then decide on my stitching direction on the top section.
 I also made good progress on this hexie quilt - big stipple quilted and the binding machine sewing to the front.

I need to hand stitch the back of the binding down now, but not until after I've completed the world map quilt and perhaps the QST quilt which I have decided will be quilted with orange thread, rather than my usual grey!

Lots to keep me occupied when the DD's go back to school next week!

I hope to show you a progress post on the world map right from the beginning next time I blog.  Cross your fingers that I'm able to quilt the baggy problems out of it in the meantime!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

More Summer Sewing

 The joy of a little bit of retail therapy this week - I was close enough to The Cotton Patch to actually visit in person, rather than by mail order like I usually do.  It made a nice change and I came across these variegated shasiko threads that I didn't know existed!  Lovely colours!

I also topped up my thread stash and treated myself to a charm pack. The 'utility' purchase is of heat 'n' bond lite - the fusible that I have most experience of, ready for a world map project.  All exciting stuff!

 Away from my sewing machine for a week, I've been able to make progress on this little wall quilt.

I was happy with the left hand side, lines of sewing up and down.  It took me a while to decide what to do on the right hand side and what I'd be doing.  I knew that I didn't want to do just either straight up and down or straight left to right.  Perhaps I'll be able to show you a bit more progress on it next week!
This shot shows a little more of the gorgeousness of the thread that I've been using.

Now, of course, on the right hand side I'm using my new variegated shasiko thread!

Hope that you are having fun stitching too!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Summer Silliness!

 So here is my project using those QST's I talked about - all laid out on my 'design bed' - no design wall on holiday, but when you are sewing at the dressing table there is likely to be handy bed, isn't there?
 Here it is all sewn together - an off centre design in the modern style. 

I'm going to make it a bit less modern, though, as I've decided that it needs a couple of borders to bring the size up a little.  Planning a soft grey followed by an orange, so it should be nice and zingy.  Then I'll need to make time to turn it from a flimsy into an actual quilt!
I've got so many projects flying around my head at the moment, and so many WIPs that I want to make more progress on, but in the real world (as opposed to my parallel sewing world!) I haven't had much time this week.

I did have time to have a play date with Benta, though.  I made this pin cushion (about 3" square) in the same time that the prolific Benta made three!  See them (and more!) on her blog here!

She also gave me one of her selvedge pouches - aren't I the lucky one!  It's a very cool bit of sewing!

Happy summer sewing, everyone!