Wednesday, 30 November 2016

More small sewing

 Did I hit my 16 block target this week?

A resounding 'no'!

However, as I had both a broken down boiler (and thus an unscheduled boiler replacement) and a lovely weekend away, this isn't a total surprise!

This was the 6 1/2" block for the week.
 And four smaller blocks.  The bottom RHS one doesn't look at all right - I may need to revisit that and check that I wrote the measurements down correctly!
 These are the final four that I made.  I like the one on the RHS - but I'm still not sure how I managed to make a set of fabric strips and squares to make a second block!  I changed the colours on the half square triangles a little, so it's not identical, but I really don't know why I thought that I hadn't already made it!
Lastly, a postcard for Inge for my fabric postcard birthday swap.  Always fun to build up something fun for someone else!

Another busy week coming up, so I'd better start making some more blocks now to see how I get on with the 16 block target again!

Frosty weather here, and thoughts turning to early Christmas festivities.  Hope that you too are enjoying the season!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Blocking Along

 So, do you think that I managed to make my target 16 x 365 challenge blocks this week?

Count along and we'll see!

This is the first block that I had to make.  Of course, I hadn't realised that I'd have a 12" square 'special' on my list  - I was tempted to call that 16 blocks done - it's the right area for 16 blocks, after all, but I realised that it wouldn't help my block count / date target to do that, so I persevered!
 Four blocks here - so up to five in total.

Points missing, I'm afraid..... but not a bad crop overall.
 Another four (with a howling mistake on the ivy leaf - I might have to go back and fix that!).  So that's nine blocks.
 This little cutie - I can hardly wait to see this simple block made up in 2 1/2" strips.  I need to do the maths and see how big a block this would make.  It makes me smile.

Ten blocks so far..... keep counting!
 Ah.  Ok.  Stop counting!

So, no, I didn't make my target - I haven't even got 16 blocks cut out!  Oh well.  Fun to have a target but I'm not going to berate myself for not quite making it, but carry on playing with a smile on my face.
 One post card here - sheer fabric over printed houses. Start of a play of overlays.
Last (but not least!) a lovely fabric wristlet from my lovely friend Benta.  Thanks, Benta - its fab!

I'm off to see how I do with my block target this week.  Happy sewing, everyone!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Block Blast!

 I've made lots of blocks this week!  Three sets of nine (one of each set shown here) for the mystery quilt.  Very fast, as they were 1) the same for each set and 2) already cut out ready to be sewn.
 Those 27 blocks probably only took 90 minutes to sew together.

The 365 challenge blocks take a bit longer, as each is different to cut and sew.  I'm guessing that the fastest I could make them would be 90 minutes for four, unless they were incredibly simple ones!
 I've decided to try and make 16 blocks a week in an effort to catch up.  Of course, that's only getting ahead by 9 blocks a week.  I've calculated that if I can average 16 a week (even over Christmas / school holidays / anything else that comes along) I will finish making the last block in mid January 2017.

Not sure that is realistic, but I'll give it my best shot!
 This week I made 14 blocks.  I was pleased with the bottom RH one here, with the tiny pinwheel in the middle.
 These two are 6" square rather than the others which are the smaller 3" squares.
 I also added the final hand stitches into these trays, ready for Christmas.
 I'm thinking that this looks even more festive, but wonder if it trivialises the tray to a 'mere' bonbon receptacle.  If sent empty, it might also encourage alternative uses.

Something to ponder (and my DD's have offered to eat the choccies if I don't send them - kind girls!).
I was quite pleased how they turned out, though.

Right, back to the 365 blocks and some other sewing that I need to complete this week.

Happy sewing everyone!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

It's *That* time of the year.

 I've never been awfully keen on November - it always feels dark and windy and miserable.  When DH and I were both working (and child free!) we used to plan a holiday abroad in December so that we had something lovely to look forward to once we were through November.

I thought that I'd grown out of that.  But the news from American this morning and the cold wet weather we have here today has brought the November blues flooding back.  Not even my two lovely girls having an INSET day from school so being at home with me has stopped me from feeling grumpy.
 Of course, getting up at 4.00am this morning in order to try and will the US election result to go a different way may not be helping me at this point!

I decided to put the time to good use, and with the BBC World Service on the radio got to work on my 365 challenge blocks.  I'm working on August at the moment, so just three months behind (gulp!).
 I'm hoping to complete four blocks a day on four days of the week.....  first, though, I have to revist this one, where I seem to have sewn and lost some of the component parts since cutting them out!

Why is it always more frustrating to have to go back to something that is part done than it is to start afresh?  I should be full of joy that at least some of the parts are still on my paper plate where I thought I'd left them all!
 The other sewing that I've done this week was an act of necessity (actually, two acts of necessity now that I think about it - I had to mend a coat too!).

Our oven gloves, made by me some years ago (and almost as faded as they look in this photo!) were wearing a bit thin.

DH suffered quite a nasty burn, which made me focus on making some more.  We have been trying to buy the right shape and size for some time, but can't find anything that we like as much as this homemade pattern.
This time I've used two layers of InsulBright inside.  The fabric isn't as fancy, but so long as we don't burn ourselves we'll be happy with them!

The rain is easing up now, so I'll chase my girls into their waterproofs so we can go out for a damp autumn walk, with perhaps a hot chocolate at the end to lift our spirits.

Hope that you are dealing with life in the most positive way that you can too - and perhaps good crafty or sewn things come out of your time too.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Small things

 Half term holidays mean that not much sewing has been done here.

A couple of post cards..... both 6" x 4".
 I wasn't awfully pleased with this one - I want to retry a small scale disappearing nine patch with more defined colours - perhaps solids would be better!
 The other sewing I've done has been to get up to date with my quilt group's mystery quilt (from the Quilters Guild, I believe).

Lots of cutting and putting pieces into plastic bags to start off with.  A little construction - can you see that each block (I made nine of each) has one more piece than the last?  Three more types of block to make
I had to make myself a 'crib sheet' with a sample of each fabric so that I didn't get muddled about what I was cutting!

All fabrics from stash - I'm not sure whether I've got sufficient contrast or not, but it seems to be more or less OK so far.... With mystery quilts it's always a bit of a gamble, isn't it?

It will be fun to see what the other group members who are making it come up with for their fabric choices.

Hope that you are enjoying some sewing or crafting time too!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Addicted to Finishes!

I'm thrilled to share another finish!

These batik blocks had been hanging around for ages  - I made them so long ago that I can't even remember when!  Clearly leftovers from a Jelly Roll - I'm guessing from about 5 years ago - they must have been aging in my scrap drawer since then.

When I put them up on the design wall I could see why I hadn't got any further with making anything with them.  The blocks were just too 'mushy'.  Most of patches within them don't have sufficient contrast to show the piecing - grrr!

I thought that some sashing might help them.  Of course, I forgot (AGAIN!) that although I *think* that this fabric is mostly black, it doesn't 'read' as black!  I only have tiny scraps of this left now, so at least I won't be able to get it wrong another time.  Even so, it doesn't look too bad with these bright blocks - at least there is a colour contrast even if there is no tone contrast!

I bound it in orange print - nice and cheerful - and quilted it with orange thread too.  Having never been a big fan of orange before I've been enjoying it recently, since making the quilt including some for my SiL.

Great to have another finish.  This one is 36" square and will probably go to Project Linus.

Hope that you are enjoying some pre-Halloween sewing too!

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!

PS For those who are interested, the light box I have been given is a 'Vario' A4 light box - they also make an A3 size in a similar format.  Available from Amazon and I'm sure other places too!  NAYY

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!