Across the Pond

I am just back from a wonderful week in Canada visiting two fabulous friends.  Naturally I took a few handmade gifts with me…

Firstly for Rachael and her daughter Amelie these Noodle head zip pouches – which I’ve made a few of in the past. They got filled with goodies from England (they moved to Canada 6 years ago). I couldn’t quite fit in the giant jar of Marmite I took for them.

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Next I went to stay with my Canadian friend Ellen. We’ve known each other for nearly 20 years. As its been 10 years since my last visit, I decided her 40th birthday was enough of an excuse for another trip.

For her birthday I made a paper pieced table runner. The inspiration for which came from a blog called Wombat Quilts. I love Cath’s quilts and she has tons of free patterns. I was quite glad I didn’t attempt a whole quilt – paper piecing is hard work.

Here are some photos I took before I left and one of it in situ on Ellen’s coffee table. Her husband Marc was very helpful and sent me photos of the living room and measurement of the coffee table. As you can see it fits and it looks great.

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Lastly I made some more zip pouches for  Ellen’s children Cohen and Ingrid, filled with some classic British sweets.

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It was a fabulous trip and I had so much fun with my lovely friends, I was spoilt rotten with lovely food, wine, coffee and trips out to do things and visit people – and it snowed!!!

It wouldn’t have been possible with out my husband at home holding the fort during half term, (whilst juggling work!) and my mum for helping out as well.

It’s good to get away and remember who you are and who you were before you became a wife and mother. Going away always gives me a fresh perspective on life and a new appreciation of home and family. I have remembered how boring it is to travel a long way on your own – give me some squabbling children any day!

Rachael and I. Ellen and I.

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All Change

There is something about the post- Christmas lull (after sitting in my backside eating for a couple of days ) and the prospect of the new year, that makes me what to have a clear out.

I’ve been mulling over changing my sewing space around for a while. I moved into the 3rd bedroom about a year ago. I thought having a designated sewing room would be wonderful but it’s not been all I’d hoped. Not enough room to cut on a table – so that usually happens on the floor, then I trip over the cutting mat going between my machine and the ironing board ! Also being upstairs has meant I’m reluctant to go up there in the evenings when my husband is downstairs. We do sometimes like to spend time together!

So I’ve made use of this lovely cupboard which used to be in my granny’s kitchen and until today housed all the kids craft stuff. The craft dept isn’t what it used to be now they are older. So no, i don’t really need an extensive stock of play doh anymore. Sad but true.

It was chaos for a few hours but it’s all swapped over now and we have a office/homework desk upstairs and I have a sewing space in the dining room. We threw lots of stuff out. I even have a pile of fabric to go (back) to the charity shop.

I’ll stop rambling and show you some photos.

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Before……

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During….

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the fun bit….

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almost there……

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ta da….

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Quilting and Me

I’ve been recently pondering why I am a slightly reluctant quilter. Every day I see beautiful things created by my friends of the online sewing community and I wonder how they manage to be so productive – many of them also busy working mums.

One my sticking points is the location of my sewing space – which I’m hoping to work out a solution to over Christmas (watch this space!). The other is that I really hate cutting – big pile of fabric, mat and rotary cutter type scenario agggh!

Far too much accuracy needed and if I switch off, I end up taking off an inch too much or slicing it wonky. Hate it! I’ve had a bit pile of vintage FQ’s sitting waiting to be cut for the last 3 months – I imagine there is probably a layer of dust on them by now!

I guess I’m starting to learn bout what kind of sewist I am. What I most enjoy is digging through my scraps and improvising, sewing together strips or doing a bit of a scrappy block. 20131220-120040.jpgVery nice but not very do-able for a big project.

The other day this popped up in my blog feed. Not only did I fall in love with its beauty but I had one of those light-bulb moments. This quilt is made using a technique called foundation piecing or paper piecing. It’s too complicated to explain here but Kerry has a fantastic blog post about it here.
My lovely local sewing friends showed me how to do this when we met up for a bit of festive making last month – and I made these

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So with my new found skill I thought I’d tackle a quilt block myself.

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And another…

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What I really like about it is you don’t have to spend hours at the cutting mat before you can get started, you cut as you go. Although you do have to be accurate in some ways – it’s not a precise fabric cutting exercise. Hallelujah!

I may have found my niche!

I’ve decided to go with a grey/pink grey/aqua theme using solids and print…I have an order of solids on the way, hopefully in time to do a bit of post-Christmas sewing.

Have a great Christmas!

Sewing for a Cause

Lately my sewing has involved lots of charity related projects. Dress a Girl Around the World back in June, where we made lots of dresses which went off to Malawi. A couple of weeks ago I attended the Sewing Directory meet up in Exeter, where we appliqued bags for charity. Here’s my decorated bag.

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Last week I met up with my sewing buddies Susy, Mary and Emily and we set about making some quit tops for Project Linus. We are meeting up again in a few weeks to baste and quit them.

The final little project I’ve been involved with is Siblings Together. At the Fat Quarterly Retreat in London back in July I saw loads of beautiful quilts being handed over to this project. While I didn’t feel able to commit to a whole quilt; Mary told me that Sarah was organising a quilt block drive. I said I ‘d make 4 blocks and here they are

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Now, you will notice there are 5, that’s because the first one was about half an inch too small. After a hissy fit and vowing never to sew again (dramatic I know), I pulled myself together sorted out my seam allowances and made the rest. I went a bit off piste with my cutting on 3 of them and forgot the middles were supposed to be solid. I hope Sarah won’t be cursing me too much. It’s been great to be able to contribute in a small way to some of these wonderful charities. Not forgetting its also a good excuse to meet up and eat cake too!

Moneybags

Last sunday I got to go to the amazing Festival of Quilts in Birmingham with the lovely Mary, Emily and Susy (thanks again driver Emily!) we had a really fun day, though I’m quite ashamed to say that we didn’t actually start looking round the quilt exhibition until an hour before the end if the show (oooops). The quilts were amazing!

So, yes, we shopped and chatted and chatted and shopped. Mary was has an invaluable eye for a bargain.

During all this shopping I noticed Mary and Emily pulling out rather nice wallets from their (equally nice) bags. Mary had only just whipped hers up the night before. Then I spotted a piece of laminate in the sale box at The Eternal maker stand – a plan was hatched!

This was my first time sewing with laminate. It’s not as tricky as expected but you have to remember; you can’t pin it or iron it and if you make a mistake those needle holes are there for good.

My bit of laminate was only just big enough. It was a fiddly ‘mofo’ to make (no idea how Mary did hers in an evening!) and oh my sewing would go so much more smoothly if I read in instructions properly! Why does sewing seem to take me back to my school reports!?

I’m very pleased with the finished results. I did have visions of a mangled mess at some points. Here’s the link to the tutorial if you fancy giving it a go (not that I’ve really sold it!)

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My Space

Today, a little tour round my sewing corner.

20130814-110723.jpgThis used to be my husbands office and is still my office and our spare room (and general dumping ground!). Last summer my husband who works from home, had a posh shed/office built in the garden. So without delay I moved my machine onto the empty desk. I have slowly filled the shelves with fabric (not difficult).

20130814-110833.jpg Vintage fabrics and sheets, quilting cottons below (with a slight lean to the left!)

Although having a dedicated sewing space might seem like the holy grail, my space has its pros and cons.

Of course it is wonderful not to have to clear everything off the dining room table for each meal or have all my fabric stacked in plastic boxes on the floor. The cons are that it’s a small room. Add in ironing board and cutting mat in the floor and I’m pretty squashed.

As it is upstairs, it means I have to take myself away from the family if I want to sew. Don’t get me wrong, escaping from the melee is often needed but there is something nice about sewing in one room while the rest of the family are just next door and not abandoning your husband to watch tv in his own in the evening.

Do you have a dedicated sewing space.? How does it work for you?

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….and breathe!

I am very happy to say I have finished (conquered) my seaside quilt top.

Phew, that was tough!

I’ve been reflecting lots on this.  what went wrong? and when did it go wrong?  Merrily sewing rows of blocks together started off fine, then they started not lining up – then REALLY not lining up. So I stopped and realised I had some huge discrepancies in size. Different size squares are never going to sit together in a nice neat grid.

I did some unpicking and re-sewing, which then lead to more problems. Re-size one block then you have to do it to the next one too – and on and on.

My frustration growing by the hour. I unpicked and re-sewed one row three times I think trying to get it right (these are long rows – think double bed). As I went a long I eventually worked out the best way to rectify the problem and by the last two rows I had it sussed.

So what have I learnt? (said in tone of disgruntled child)…..

  • Check before you pin, then check before you sew, then check again just before it goes under the needle!
  • I assumed (naively) that all my cutting and sewing would result in perfect 8.5 x 8.5″ blocks and didn’t think to measure them.
  • I could possibly blame my tools – is my 1/4″ sewing foot actually 1/4″?
  • My cutting could do with being more accurate!

I am also very happy to say that my backing fabric is the right size – another phew! I worked out and ordered what I thought would be enough before I started the quilt. I had everything crossed that this would still be the case – and it was!

Instead of a photo, imagine me with a big smile!

Now I’m off for a run to burn off all my nervous energy.

Summer is Here!

I lay in bed last night having a panic that its only 7 weeks until the kids summer holidays begin and we go camping. That’s when I wanted to have my seaside quilt finished!

I started this project at Christmas and got all the cutting and alot of the sewing done before we went to New Zealand. Then I got happily distracted with making the baby quilt.

So, 7 weeks sounds like a long time but it’s really not with the busyness of the summer term and the fact that my binding fabric is still winging its way from the U.S.

So today with only an hour until school pick up I got on with finishing the last few blocks. Then while the kids stared brainlessly at CBBC I had a very peaceful time out in the sunshine ‘auditioning’ all the blocks on the lawn.
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After much pondering and rearranging I pinned them onto a sheet.
Here it is attached to the office window blind so I can ponder it a bit more. It’s a bit of a monster! I have no idea how I will quit such a giant with my tiny little machine.

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Zippy Pouches

This week I got together with my friends for (what is becoming) our regular sewing day.

This time we decided to have a go at zips. With my zip knowledge still in its infancy and Steph and Julia having never done them, we decided to go for something simple. I found this great little tutorial for Ear Bud Pouches.

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As you can see from my photo below, the main challenge was not attaching the zips but sewing in a circle! (If anyone has any tips for this I’d be grateful). My second attempt on the right was marginally neater than the first. I drew around a cup so I had a line to follow but I still have a way to go before it even looks passable!

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We were also a bit baffled as to why our first attempts at the pouches had turned out so small. Then after further investigation of some photos online we realised we’d sewn our fabric too close to the zip teeth. Such a small thing but it made such a difference to the size and shape!

I will keep trying at these and hope my children can find some use for the funny shaped ones in the meantime!

Vintage Fabric Love!

A while ago I mentioned I was taking part in a vintage fabric swap organised by my friend Mary. A after giving Mary about 62 fat quarters of fabric, today I collected my swaps. What a fantastic selection! The other swappers were from as far afield as USA, Switzerland and Ireland. It’s so nice to have such a unique collection. Thank you one all all (especially Mary!)

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