Saturday 24 December 2011

Festive Wishes

In my family it was a tradition to make table decorations every Christmas, the essential ingredients being red and white carnations and any bits of greenery we could salvage from round about.  Sprogs One and Two made these yesterday, after a profitable and unusually bicker-free walk along the old railway path.

Happy Christmas and a big Thank You! to all the friendly and encouraging bloggers I've had the pleasure to encounter this year.

Friday 23 December 2011

Amy Butler Snowflakes, 2nd attempt

First thing this morning,  I had another go at the snowflakes.  This time I used button stitch round the edge instead of zigzag and, as Amy suggested, I left more of an allowance round the edge which I trimmed off afterwards.  These ones are much neater.  I also stuffed them, so didn't use a stabiliser as suggested by Katie, but I definitely would have acted on this otherwise as I'm sure this would have helped with the fraying. Thank you both for your advice!

Instead of hanging them on a cord, Sprog One thought we should turn them into a mobile, which we did using a couple of pieces of driftwood.  I just couldn't get a decent photo of the whole thing and the one I did get is slightly marred by the open bottle of wine (hic!) and attractive central heating boiler. It does look quite jolly and festive!

Thursday 22 December 2011

Advice please!

Kind people out there in the blogosphere, will someone give me some advice?!

I was looking at my fabric bits and pieces and found this remnant of Amy Butler Daisy Chain

It occurred to me that the motif is like a little snowflake (I'm really into snowflakes just now!)

So I had the idea to cut two of them out, and sew them together using a very small zigzag stitch.  I thought perhaps I could make several and hang them from some cord.

I think it's quite cute, but the stitching is a mess... It's irregular and the edges are whiskery.  Am I using the wrong stitch?  The wrong kind of foot?  Would it only be possible to do using a serger?  It was a bugger very difficult thing to sew round all the corners and I'd be so grateful for any suggestions.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Lined Drawstring Bags II

Having now had bags of practice (sorry!) I've actually managed to get another two finished today for my own children to put their Christmas present dolls' quilt sets in.

I was whizzing along feeling (over) confident until I realised that in one bag I had omitted to leave two gaps in the seams where the drawstrings should be inserted.  Luckily it did eventually occur to me that all I had to do was sew two lines round the bag as per the tutorial, with some extra backstitching as I crossed the side seams to secure them, and then very carefully cut through the seams at the point where the gaps should have been.

Again I can't recommend this tutorial highly enough - these bags are so satisfying to make and I'm already thinking about how my next ones could be embellished.

On a roll!

We were stuck in yesterday with colds and sniffles so Sprog One and I were casting about for something to do.  We made this little bag and then miraculously we found some left over fabric paint which I'd forgotten about - just enough to print this fern from the garden, using a rolling pin.  The photos don't really do justice to the effect which is very pretty as the fabric paint is faintly sparkly.  I would have waited for daylight to take the pictures, but I'm not anticipating there being any!

In a further spirit of endeavour, my husband and I  (how do you say that without sounding like the Queen?) also managed to take the back of our fan oven off last night and replace the element (it's only taken a month for us to get round to this).  I'm not sure why I'm blogging about it, except that doing it was part of the New Regime of Having a Go, and Getting On With Stuff, and since we appear to have succeeded I am feeling insufferably smug and also very happy because it does mean that bar further oven disasters I can now cook the Christmas turkey, which was a fairly major concern.  Weyhey!

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Drawstring bags

Despite a combination of lurgy and the usual lovely pre-Christmas madness it's been a much more productive week than anticipated.  We needed a couple of presents for a friend's daughters and as I've been itching to have a go at this tutorial from Jeni at In Color Order I made them some lined drawstring bags to fill with treats.

This is such a good tutorial and very easy to follow.  If you cut all the pieces carefully it becomes a straightforward assembly job, but even so there's something so very miraculous when you turn the whole thing right side out - "hey presto!" - a bag!  I can see that making these could become seriously addictive and I've just started on another two.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Aah, that's (a bit) better!

I finally managed to unpick the terrible attempt at ribbon binding and here is my rustic attempt at blanket stitching. It's more successful than the ribbon binding, anyway! My stitching got much neater as I got into my stride so I will have to try and decide which child is likely to be less observant and/or critical and give them the dud! So, I now have two quilts, two pillow cases, two sheets and two blankets, and I'm trying to decide whether to take on the challenge of making some little drawstring bags to put them all in.

I don't know how some crafting bloggers manage to be so productive. There's the general problem of finding time in between work, school drop-offs, school collections, housework (not that I do very much of that, admittedly) and cooking the dinner. Then there's the question of finding the space. Most stuff gets done on the end of my dining table which means it has to be got out and put away every time and I imagine that's the same for a lot of people.

I guess they have just learned to be amazingly well-organised, and can go at the job with a speed born of practice rather than desperation! Respect and awe...

Tuesday 13 December 2011


Isn't this really pretty?  I was very lucky and this brooch is my lovely prize from Sweet Myrtle's December Love giveaway - but you can buy them here.

Sorry about the attempt at arty photography but I really wanted to try and do it justice!

Friday 9 December 2011

The best laid schemes....

I wanted to make blankets to go with the little quilts I have been making and started the first yesterday.  I got some cosy red fleece, and some red satin ribbon and my plan was to give each blanket a lovely satin border.  Seemed simple.  Hah!   Fleece is very stretchy and satin ribbon is very slippery.  So as I tried to sew it the fleece stretched and the satin slipped with quite disastrous results:

As you can see, I'm halfway through unpicking it all.  Given time and practice I'm sure I would eventually pull this off but currently the revised plan is to blanket stitch round the edge instead.   

Don't you find it really encouraging when other people are upfront about their disasters?  It cheered me up to read about this and the wrinkles fessed up to here

On a more encouraging note, my Klona solids bundle arrived. So much loveliness - kind Betty. This was extra special and amazing to me because Betty had bought the bundle from Backstitch which happens to be run by my cousin Alice (she wasn't involved in the giveaway of course). My humble stash is much enhanced.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Ta Da!

Some of the photos people take to show off a new quilt are great - I always like the ones that include just the fingers and toes of the maker, and some, taken on a pebbly beach and so on, are just beautiful and a work of art in themselves.  I have to say though, that although Charlotte of Charlotte's Plot was so modest about her lovely photos in this post they are among my favourites - I don't just admire that quilt, I'd really like to be snuggled up in it!

I've just been taking some photos of my own because the dolls quilts didn't come apart in the wash,  and they crinkled nicely, so here's a "new quilt" picture:
My first quilt!

Not a very serious attempt to be artistic - and it's so cold here I definitely wasn't taking this one to the beach!

I'm so glad I started with dolls quilts - I've learned such a lot from it, though possibly not enough to tackle a big one next.  But before anything else I just have to finish off two little sets of pillowcase, sheet and blanket.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Wonky Quilts in Progress

I finished binding the dolls quilts last night.   There's a really good binding tutorial here at Crazy Mom Quilts and Red Pepper Quilts has some very useful extra tips here.

Since these are Christmas presents I'm fitting everything in in snatched secret moments (had to hurriedly sit on a quilt yesterday!),
and sometimes I just want to dive in...
so I probably didn't follow any of the tutorials I read nearly carefully enough....

But still, I'm quite pleased with them!

It remains to be seen whether they stand up to washing tonight and I'm curious to learn how much they crinkle.  I'll post the result.

Monday 5 December 2011


I've started binding the dolls quilts I've been making and it's highlighted the problems you get if you don't think things out carefully in advance but throw things together in a haphazard way.  The backings are in pink and yellow Tree Peony by Amy Butler from my stash (in this case more a very small pile of accumulated leftovers and impulse buys), and the first thing to note is that I was ignorant enough not to know to ask for a fat quarter when I ordered them, so these are skinny quarters joined down the middle.   Second problem was that when I came to think about binding and decided that something in red would be really dandy with the blue and white it eventually struck even me that this would look truly horrible against the Tree Peony. 

Incidentally, I really admire people who have a consistent sense of style - mine is a bit too open to influence, which means nothing in my house matches and sadly not even in the trendy way they call "eclectic".  It's hard to acknowledge the fact that the height of my aspiration in the early 1990s was to have a black watch tartan duvet cover and matching lampshade - a bit like an old crush, sometimes you look back and think oooh, how could you?!  As soon as I see a new fabric collection I like it more than anything else.  So that's the reason for using up the Amy Butler: sorry, Tree Peony, I still love you very much, but it's time to move on!

ugly join!

one of the neater bits of quilting!

My main problem has been trying to square up the quilts before binding them.  Since all the lines and angles in my piecing are off I just could not get it to look right, and began to fear that something like this would happen.

(From The Penguin Max (c) 1962 P L Giovannetti)

In the end I had to pick my best straight line, and square up everything else by it, and hopefully the sprogs won't mind.

Sunday 4 December 2011

I'm not the only one being creative around here!

Grasshopper biscuit, made without any help!

Friday 2 December 2011

Wonky Star Doll Quilts - Project 2

My Grandma taught me to do English paper piecing when I was a little girl, but I have never tried machine patchworking.  I love the sparkle of wonky stars and aspire to be able to make something like this lovely quilt by Canadian Abroad

but I thought I'd better start small! [Edited to add: this picture was borrowed with permission from Susan at Canadian Abroad.  It's a lovely quilt and it sometimes gets Pinned from this blog.  Please, please, if you pin this, include a direction to the original website!)

Anyway, having read this tutorial,  I'm now part-way through making two of these doll's quilts for the sprogs at Christmas.

I'm so proud.  They are full of imperfections, however.

I think everyone probably has to learn from their own mistakes, but in case it helps anyone, this is what I learned from mine:

If you are a novice rotary cutter user it pays to practice on scraps first and get the hang of the amount of pressure needed.  Also it took me a while to realise that mine was actually still locked.  Duh!

Clear a sensible working space before starting.  Just as I thought "I should really move that jug of celery out of the way" I knocked it over and had to whisk patchwork, sewing machine, table cloth, and all the other junk I let accumulate at the end of the dining table out of the way and mop up a large puddle.

Next time I would try starching my fabric before cutting it.  I used an old pillow case for the white and some old 60s/70s cotton dressmaking fabric scraps.  I found that some of them stretched as I cut them (the prints are non-directional so maybe the pieces were on the bias?)

The iron is your best friend.  I learned to press with it rather than use the usual shirt-ironing motion as that also distorted the pieces.

I should pay special attention when sewing up the seams.  As per the tutorial I ironed them to one side, and I pressed them so that the dark fabric was folded against itself so that it wouldn't show through the white.  Nevertheless, when sewing up seamed pieces I managed to push and catch some seams the wrong way.  I didn't pin, but next time I think I would pin at the seams both to align them better and to make sure they didn't flip over.

I should be careful that the tails of threads don't get caught in the seams or poke through to the right side of my work!    Now I understand why people use thread catchers (though I find my slob's method of dropping the trimmings on the laminate floor and sweeping them up later works fine!  I guess they're a pest on carpet though.)

I tried to square up as I went along but as you can see both blocks and sashing run off dreadfully in different directions!  I can only hope that practice helps.    It's quilted just off the edge of the star, and not very neatly in the ditch round the block using Warm and Natural batting.  Now I have to tackle the binding...

This is one of the intended recipients of the quilts, which are actually more rabbit and lamb quilts than dolls quilts. You can see why he needs new bedding.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Small Blog Meet Over at Lily's Posts

I'm joining the small blog meet over here at Lily's Quilts.  Maybe you'd like to go and check it out too.  Being a new blogger is a bit like being at a party where you don't know anyone and stand in the corner attempting to balance your wine glass and plate of sausage rolls while simultaneously trying to look friendly, approachable and like you might be interesting to know, and not at all weird.  If you are the person standing in the other corner please say hello.

Small Blog Meet

By the way, I had no idea what to do with a button either but there is a very helpful tutorial at Sew Many Ways.  I'm still not sure I've done the right thing with it though.

Doilie Snowflakes

This is my first completed bit of crafting as part of the no (well, less) faffing, more doing stuff regime.  I found a set of hand crocheted doilies on ebay last month and some more in my favourite charity shop.  I really love them - it's not just that they are beautiful, but you have to wonder about the person who made them, and the amazing skill they had.

I wouldn't ever use these for their intended purpose so it didn't seem too sacrilegious to preserve them by turning them into snowflakes. I can't remember where I first saw this idea, though if you google  you'll find them on Martha Stewart's website.  She uses fabric stiffener but I used a 50/50 mixture of white glue and water to soak them before squeezing them out and leaving them flat to dry on baking paper.  

I wish I was clever enough to crochet my own like these but for now I'm going to have to work on my photography skills, and clean my windows.

PS Just a quick note: there's an amazing giveaway over at Pings and Needles which ends midnight UK time today, Thursday.  I've been reading about the Acu Go! Baby and seeing what other bloggers have done with it.  It looks such fun.  The last thing I can remember winning is a box of biscuits in a school raffle, when I was probably about five years old, so I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed.


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