Monday, 15 January 2018

January Plans...

January is always a tough month, but previous years make me extra aware to take some measures to keep my mood from dipping too low.  A funeral and the fall out from my granny's death are taking a toll too so I'm working extra hard to look for the positive. I found this photo at her house last week and I already had her heart locket. It's fragile with age, dented 'rolled gold' but inside is a tiny photo of her and I remember her wearing it all through my life. I wonder if it was an eighteenth or twenty-first birthday present and that's also why she had her photo taken.
I've a new daily ritual based on Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill.  The book follows a calendar year and each day is a fresh musical suggestion and a page of background to the composer, style, genre, piece. I heard her being interviewed in November and it sounded like such a great way to expand my musical knowledge, plus her writing style is easy to read and her choices are lively and original.  So far I've enjoyed each new piece, even if just to fit the music with day's writing. I listen as I eat my toast and tea first thing in the morning, before my usual email checking, and it is a delight, I cannot recommend it more highly for anyone who loves music.

I've planned a couple of sewing projects that need a small regular commitment. Firstly, I joined Sarah Fielke's Simple Folk BOM so I could concentrate on some hand appliqué alongside machine piecing and this kicks off with the first pattern PDFs at the end of January.  So far, I've loosely planned a basic colour scheme for the frame and surrounding pieces and the nine-patches and motifs will be bright and scrappy. 

The other project I've chosen came from a chat with Helen at the first South West Modern Quilt Guild meeting of the year. We were talking about Jessie Chorley and she mentioned the Friendship Quilt Kit and it really appealed to me. It's a small coverlet featuring embroidered panels and is personalised as desired by the maker. I wanted hand sewing based project to take to The Threadhouse retreat to stitch in the evening and I feel like celebrating the things I love in stitchy form so I am happily anticipating its arrival. I have clothing plans too but I'll save those for another post. Meanwhile, I'm self-medicating via large quantities of tea and coffee and toast and biscuits.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Spelling Bee Saturday: Upper Case K

Hi and welcome to Spelling Bee Saturday, I am this Saturday's guest blogger for the mega Fat Quarter Shop and Lori Holt sew-along and today I'm showing Uppercase K and Kristyne of Pretty by Hand has the lower case K

All the blocks come from Lori Holt's Spelling Bee Book which contains all the instructions you need to make 100 blocks- upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation/symbols and picture designs. All the blocks come in two sizes (6" and 12") for projects of all sizes and there are setting suggestions for making your own quilts.  The blocks are rotary cut and pieced, no foundation paper-piecing required and this block was a super fast make- mere minutes to cut and sew!

I am planning to make a small quilt with the picture blocks using the picture day quilt setting, so I used the K block to make a quick Quilty Zip Pouch using Lori's free tutorial to store the blocks I've made so far.  The fabrics are from my stash:

  • Cloud9 Fabrics, Mad Mend, Roger in Olive by Michelle Engel Bencsko
  • Cloud9 Fabrics, Foxglove, Evening Primrose in Orange by Aneela Hoey
  • Windham, Tiger Lily, small roses in cream by Heather Ross
  • Free Spirit, Aviary, Woodgrain by Joel Dewberry
  • Moda, Mama Said Sew, text print by Sweetwater

I'm mixing some Sew-Ichigo designs (lamp and radio) in with a selection of Lori's picture blocks like the apple block below- I have two more Spelling Bee picture blocks that will be revealed during my future stops during the sew along.

If you are following along and want to check other people's blocks, these are the Instagram hashtags:  #SpellingBeeSaturday and #fqsquiltalong
  • Links to all the Spelling Bee sew along blocks so far are here
  • My review of the Spelling Bee book is here where you'll also find links on where to buy the book.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Vintage Home BOM Quilt Along: Month 3

Welcome to month 3 of Jo Avery's Today's Quilter Vintage Home BOM Quilt Along! You can find the introductory QAL post on Jo's blog here and this month's patterns in issue 31 of Today's Quilter. As well as Jo leading the way, there are regular guest hosts, including me for this month and I've followed Jo's patterns to make five vintage jugs, four smaller 'Milk Jug' rectangular blocks and one large 'Tall Jug' square with an eight-pointed star at the centre.

All the blocks are machine sewn, no foundation paper piecing required. I made one of the smaller milk jug blocks to get a feel for the instructions and then I cut out the other three blocks and chain pieced. I needed to pay extra attention to keeping my pieces in order for the handle as it's easy to muddle the rectangles up, but it's a straightforward block and the jug can face either direction.  I did also get my final top and bottom rectangles the wrong way round in the first block below! A quick unpick and that will all be sorted.  I like the angular shape, it reminds me of vintage Portmeirion pottery, especially the Totem design which has similar lines to this block.

It's a great shape for showcasing a print as a large scrap will suffice; I used white Kona cotton for all the handles. My fabrics are all vintage and I especially enjoyed using the mandala style geometric prints that remind me of pyjamas!  For the Tall Jug block, I used two vintage fabrics: a kitchen motif print and an alphabet/apple print with coordinating Kona.  The background fabric is Kona Copen, a lovely deep sky blue. I used a no-waste method to make the flying geese for the star which is super quick and works best with a multi-directional print. Jo mentions tips for sewing the curved handle here, I used lots of pins and sewed slowly on my machine.

I do love kitchenalia and I have a variety of jugs picked up from car boot sales, charity shops and vintage stores over the years.  Here are a few of my favourites...
This is a little, almost mug shaped jug is Hungarian and from the Granit factory.

Both these jugs are British made and from the J & G Meakin Studio range which date from the 1960s. The red floral jug is from the Dahlia range and the blue flowers are the Topic design by Alan Rogers.  My daughter used to play with the smaller one in 'kitchen' games when she was little and I have dinner plates of the same design.

This is a mid-sized jug and is from the Lotte range by Turi Granstad Oliver produced by Figgjo Flint in Norway.  I have a few Turi designed bits of crockery, I love the illustration style and colour palette. This jug is a little worn at the edges but full of charm.

This beauty is a larger pitcher-style jug, designed by Kaj Franck for the Finnish pottery maker, Arabia.

I plan to mix my various jug blocks with some scrappy pieced blocks using vintage fabrics and make a small summer tablecloth for eating outside in the summer. I think it's the Kona Copen blue that makes me think of outdoor dining! The patterns for the two jug blocks can be found in this month's Today's Quilter magazine and you can see more blocks from the quilt along on the hashtag #TQVintageHomeQAL on Instagram.

Friday, 22 December 2017

End of Year

The last week has been a flurry of deadlines, both work and self-imposed, Christmas prepping and waiting for news.  My grandmother sadly died today, although in reality she was freed from the torment of dementia and Alzheimers which had ruled her life for the last two years and changed her from the person we knew before.  I lit a candle for her yesterday at our local cathedral as she kept on longer than anyone predicted. The cathedral has an extra calm atmosphere at this time of year which I appreciate as a non-believer, the feel of history walking on the ancient stone floor gives me a steady reassurance.  Granny lived to a grand age and I concentrate on the 90+ years when she lived independently, was great fun to chat to and gave me some very happy memories to think of now.  In the meantime, I'll keep sewing (slightly less frenetically), settle with my family, eat too much and play a lot of games. Wishing you a very happy end to the year, whether it's Christmas or other Winter celebrations. See you in 2018 x

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Gift Ideas: Sewing, quilting, Crochet, Knitting, Tapestry...

This is my last sponsor post for 2017 and I'm concentrating on last minute present ideas, either for someone else, or for you to send the link to someone looking for a gift for you! I'm looking at a range of textile/yarn crafts; my daughter is just getting interested in crochet and we're both partial to embroidery so you'll find suggestions for these as well as quilting and dressmaking and more. I love a kit at Christmas, a great way to keep yourself occupied either during social occasions whilst still joining in, or because you've got some time free.  Starting with..

Village Haberdashery.

  1. TOFT Crochet Amigurumi Kit: Emma the Bunny.  One of the best stalls I saw at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October was the TOFT stall.  They used suspended transparent umbrellas full of their gorgeous crochet animals to display their range of kits and I have never wanted to crochet more!  I'm encouraging my daughter at the moment and I'm hoping she might like one of these in her future! 100% British wool yarn, everything included in the kit
  2. Hannah Bass London Tapestry Kit. If you've been to a quilting show in the last couple of years, you may well have seen Hannah Bass' mao tapestries.  Annie has a great selection available, Dublin is exceptionally pretty and there are international destinations too. This item is only available online, not in the Village Hab bricks and mortar store.
  3. Stitch & Story Knit Kit: Fur Pompom Hat in Navy &Mint.  All you need to knit a classic pompom hat in moss stitch, 100 % Merino wool.
  1. Star Shaped Bag Kit; For girls/boys big and small.  I bought some of the gold cotton-backed lamé fabric that is included in this kit to make a sun cushion (as a day job prop) and it is gloriously gold! It is also recommended for young sewers with a little experience. Includes all materials and instructions. 
  2. Daisy Chain by Annabel Wrigley for Windham fabrics  Fat Quarter bundle. My favourite fabric collection of 2017.
  3. Seascape Collection by Sheen Norquay for Aurifil.  Beautiful sea themed colours in 50wt 200m thread spools, ten in total. 
Plush Addict
  1. Cashmerette Appleton Dress Pattern (sizes 12-28, cup size C/D-G/H).  Jenny has had an amazing year building her Cashmerette pattern range. This design combines comfort (jersey) with a very wearable style that you can dress up or down. Looking for a smaller dress and/or cup size, try this option from New Look patterns.
  2. Alison Glass Sun Prints 2017 Chasing Rainbows Kit, designed by Lynne Goldworthy. Includes all fabrics needed to make the quilt top and for binding.  Finished size 74" (190cm)- Square. You will need wadding and backing.
  3. Autumn Rain by Jilly P for Dashwood, 10 FQ Bundle.  Lovely fabric selection from one of the newly released Dashwood collections, also available as individual prints.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Constellations: Book Review

From time to time, I review books from Search Press.  With limited storage space in my little house, I only request quilting books that stand out as different from the usual blocks and quilts and Constellations by Amber and Jaime from Fancy Tiger USA craft emporium in Denver, Colorado definitely ticked that box. 

It's a beautifully produced book with photography by Holly DeGroot and published by Lucky Spool.  It is a slim volume at 80 pages but it covers exactly what you need with detailed patterns for twelve astrological blocks, 20" square as well as suggested projects for them. The imagery is restrained and consistent throughout, lots of grey and blues and the projects show a range of substrates- rayon, linen, lightweight denim, canvas for example.  The fabric choices for the tiny squares that form the stars in each constellation are interesting, especially when they feature a fussy cut star or cross fabric as in the Orion block below. I'm imagining something like an Alison Glass modern batik would work well, especially if the background fabric was a good colour match.  The finishing details include adding tassels, 'star' (cross) stitch quilt tying, and very basic embroidery (running and back stitch) which are all easily accomplished by a beginner sewer.

For me, the best part of the book is being able to make a minimalist style, personalised quilt or cushion for a recipient- baby, relation, friend- and there are detailed instructions on how to make a mix-and-match Astrological Quilt in five sizes, complete with diagrams for the panels and additional fabric strips.  The other projects do tend to focus on simple flat makes- tea towel, divination cloth, pillow/cushion. The tote is appealing with a waxed canvas base, hard plastic internal base insert, external pockets on the back and leather handles. The Hoshi Jacket looks interesting but I think it's something I'd rather make without the stars.  Full-size traceable pattern pieces are included on a folded sheet at the back of the book.

I choose to make a block for a cushion. I used some lightweight Robert Kaufman dark indigo denim (similar to this) left over from this dress and a mix of Kona Cotton in Grellow, and Manchester metallic in silver and bronze. The book suggests mixing different colours for the stars and only scraps are needed as the squares are very small.  I starched all my fabrics with non-aerosol spray as the metallics and denim are all prone to fray and I had to lower the iron temperature with the metallic fabrics.  Precision is the key in these blocks, they look deceptively simple but one mistake and the layout can be totally messed up. There are hints and tips included to help keep the strips and squares in order which I did follow but I confess I sewed this in more than one sewing session which interrupted my concentration and a seam ripper was used more times that I would like to admit!  In addition, I would recommend cutting the strips lengthways (parallel to the selvedge rather than cross grain) to reduce stretch and also sewing the vertical seams in alternating directions to avoid any bowing. There are constellation line diagrams in section three of the book and I marked this in chalk and hand stitched with 12wt Aurifil (colour 2132) and a random metallic thread I had in my supplies. The colour is better seen in the close-up photo above; winter grey days make dark colours hard to photograph accurately.

This is destined to be a cushion but as it's a Christmas gift I don't want to post a finished pic yet or even say what the constellation is for fear of spoiling the surprise for the recipient.  Constellations does appear at first glance to be a niche quilting book, but there are a lot of quilters and astrological enthusiasts out there and I would put money on their being a sizable considerable crossover between the two groups and as well as interest from fans of minimal decor too.  For me, it is a great book to turn to for a tasteful baby quilt or cushion gift and I know I'll be using it again.  
Thank you to Search Press for sending me a free copy to review, all opinions are as ever my own.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

November at Plush Addict, Eternal Maker and Village Haberdashery

It's time for my monthly visit to my long-term sponsors, Plush Addict, Eternal Maker and Village Haberdashery. It's a busy time with many of us getting supplies together for gift making and Christmas projects and then there's the Black Friday offers that are already starting to pop up in anticipation of 24th November.

Plush Addict, top row, left to right. Three quilting cotton fat quarter bundles:

  1. Riley Blake, Fossil Rim, fat quarter bundle of 19 fabrics. Fun print selection for dinosaur fans in grey/mustard colourway, each of the fabrics also available as yardage via the bundle link. 
  2.  Alison Glass for Andover, Chroma Cottons, fat quarter bundle of 27 prints.  Super saturated rainbow colour selection, each of the fabrics can also be found individually using the bundle link. 
  3. Dashwood Serengeti fat quarter bundle of 7 fabrics.  Big cats and African themed florals in a beautiful colour palette, love the colour contrasts in this colour selection.

Eternal Maker, second row, left to right. Three exquisite dressmaking/ sewing project fabrics:
  1. Teal Velvet. Cotton and 58" wide.  I already have this on order for a Christmas Cleo pinafore! It would also work very nicely for the Ivy Pinafore. Also available in sapphire blue and a rich burgundy.
  2. Ellen Baker for Kokka Fabrics, Block Tulip grey paint. Kokka linen blend, suitable for bags, cushions and more structural garments. 
  3. Nani Iro, Naomi Ito double gauze, Lei Nani in mid blue.  Perfect for making yourself, or someone else, dream pyjamas...
Village Haberdashery third row, left to right. Three quilting and dressmaking selections:
  1. Nut Cracker Act 1 fabrics. Perfect for Christmas with sparkly gold accents.  Find all the prints here.  
  2. Lady McElroy Cotton Lawn, Brush Strokes print. A great watercolour monotone print on 59" cotton lawn. 
  3. Shot Cotton fat quarter bundle. Soft, drapey, yarn dyed fabrics suitable for clothing and crafting, available in a large rainbow range of colours in yardage.