Sunday 27 March 2011

It's MINE all MINE!

I know it's a very selfish title, but today I have been spoiled by my friend Judith.  I am so excited - LOOK!!!

She has made me a mug rug of my very own, and see how beautiful it is!!!!!!

Not only is it gorgeous and stitched so beautifully, but it's filled with so much thought and consideration of me that I'm so truly thrilled.  It's got foundation piecing which I'm a new fan of, it's purple and green which you will know I'm currently having a fling with and it has lovely little feminine touches in the crochet lace and daisy trimming.  I cannot say which a privilege it is to have a Judith original!  I just love it and yes, it's MINE ALL MINE!!!!!!

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Something New for Someone New

It's always such fun to gift new parents on the arrival of their new baby. So when I heard the news that a friend at church has just had a beautiful baby daughter and given her an amazing name, I wanted to add a little personalisation to a small baby welcome gift.

I started with some lovely fabrics from my (very small) stash, a zip and a plan for an embroidered cushion.

A little bit of Riley Blake and my favourite and only
Heather Bailey, Nicey Jane, print.

Cut patches laid out ready to stitch.

Once the patchwork was stitched together, I traced on my little personalisation design in some water soluble transfer pen, chose some gorgeous co-ordinating perle cottons and grabbed the embroidery hoop to get it all going.

I had planned on making the backing from the Nicey Jane Cherry Hop Dot fabric but then the post man brought me a little bundle of sale fabrics I'd ordered and this fat quarter stripe from Riley Blake.  I loved the contrast with the stripes and the colours were a perfect match.  (Plus it means I can stretch that Nicey Jane a little further another time!)

Isn't her name beautiful?
This little cushion was not without its issues - mainly ones of inexperience with my new machine - and there were moments when in spite of its simplicity I thought it would never come together.  But here it is, all ready for wrapping and gifting and hopefully adding a little blessing to this new family.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Purple Fest!

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm having a purple phase.  It's lasting a little longer than I thought it would but I just love the depth and power of the colours.  Secretly, I'm a little nervous that I'm sliding the way of Jenny Jospeh's poem Warning.  Perhaps I am just preparing those who know me for the time to come (read the poem). So, this weekend I indulged unapologetically in a sewing purple fest - bliss!

What brought all of this on?  The shabby state of my existing sofa cushions, and a couple of needlepoint, woollen cross-stitch ones which are very out of place in the lounge since the arrival of the purple and green quillow. It really is time to replace them with something fresh and so a creative spurt ensued.

Step one was unearthing my purple scraps.

To be honest, at this point I did feel a little overwhelmed with where to begin. How far would these scraps stretch? What designs would they work with? With some inspiration from cushion-love around blog world and a few doodles, tweaks and calculations, I set to work on the beginnings of three new cushions.

Cushion 1 will give a nod to two personal favourites - the rectangular cushion and paper-pieced hexagons.  So this was my starting point - three granny flowers.  I am very excited about this cushion which will be inspired by Ariel's beautiful creation.  I love how the traditional hexagons have been given a modern feel by appliqueing them on to a simply pieced cushion.  I am so excited about how mine will turn out, but the end result is on hold until I can buy a little more purple fabric to allow the piecing of the larger rectangular sections.  So for now, the hexies are as far as I've got.

Moving on to cushion 2, I decided on a cushion front with vertical purple bars of fabrics.  I wanted to keep some of the larger strips of fabric remnants in tact just to show off the gorgeous regal depth to the colours and the lovely patterns.

I cut a few strips from my larger scraps then topped and tailed them with deep violet solid.  There was much ordering and re-ordering of the bar strips to see which layout I preferred, but eventually I made up my mind, stitched them together and added more solid purple to each end.

As someone who hasn't mastered the art of free machine quilting, I am often disappointed that books and tutorials place such huge emphasis on this style of quilting.  One of my little wishes is to see more projects and quilts which are quilted in interesting ways the beginner can manage.  Often it makes a big difference to the overall effect of a project and it would be good to have a few more ideas for non-free-machining.  Anyway, off my hobby horse and back to the purple bars!  I didn't want to do much quilting on this cushion front.  I wanted the fabrics to speak for themselves but didn't want to just quilt in the ditch.  So I braved judging the quilting margins to stitch around the entire bar section in an outline style with lavender thread.  I am really delighted with the result - it's not rocket science to most of you, but I think it works well in this instance.  Due deference paid to inspiration of Bethany's cushion by Rags to Bags.

Finally, I tackled a modern mosaic style cushion front a la Oh Fransson's fab tutorial.  Elizabeth's instructions were spot on and this was a real pleasure to do, though admittedly not a speedy process for me.  I did wonder if it was ever going to get big enough as I kept adding pieces and sashing but it just kept drawing itself in in terms of measurements with all the many seams that were on the go.

the beginnings of order from chaos

coming together nicely

Elizabeth uses stipple quilting for a lovely effect on her cushion but not possessing that skill yet I unpacked the walking foot for my new machine and quilted along the middle of the sashing lines.  I am really impressed with myself because I think the effect really suits the mosaic style of the cushion front (not sure if you can see it on this photo), and of course I'm now in love with my walking foot!

Well, all of these lovelies need some extra bits and bobs to allow me to finish them up so I'm off now to order zips and backing fabrics!  It has been such fun this weekend and of course now I can't wait to get them backed and zipped and filled and on display in the lounge!  I'll let you have a peek when they're done.

Hope you too had a creative weekend!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Not An Early Birdie

Well, I'm lagging behind the Birdie Stitches BOM that's running over at Little Miss Shabby's blog, but here's my first block all embroidered with the cheery little birdie and what should be an unseasonal snowman - though we did actually have snow twice this week!

It was so much fun trying out the simple embroidery on this block and I'm delighted with the results.  This is going to be such a fun quilt to make.

Sunday 13 March 2011

SWOON Fabrics

Here are some pics of the Melissa Averinos Swoon fabric fqs graciously offered by Mandy of Simply Solids in her February giveaway - aren't they lovely?

12 gorgeous fat quarters!

Bold patterns and rich colours.

It's hard to describe the depth and richness of the colours - they're truly beautiful!
Every few minutes I change my mind about which one is my favourite.  If you fancy some for yourself pop on over to Mandy's store (she's the exclusive UK stockist of these) and spoil yourself.  Thanks again Mandy for the opportunity to win these lovely treasures!

Now I just have to come up with a cracking project to make use of these lovelies!

Saturday 12 March 2011

Hot Choco Block (aka Mug Rug)

So, my lovely son has been helping me trial a packet of Berol fabric pens for a bigger project I'm planning for later this year/early next.  In our usual waste-not-want-not vein we decided to make something from his practice efforts and, since he and I were both looking for a quick finish, we opted for a handy mug rug.  Except that we have christened this one a "Hot Choco Block" instead in honour of his favourite hot drink!

Design and fabric choices were up to Andrew and given that my stash of fabrics is mainly "girly"  he chose really well.  I love those blue Riley Blake circles (note to self - see if I can get hold of a little more this fabric).

My photos don't do justice to the personalisation of his design but I think it's great and love the eagerness with which we spent the morning working it out together. The alternate squares in the 9 patch start at the top left hand corner with "I like to..." and then each one thereafter has one of his hobbies "orienteer", "read", "explore" and "cycle".

Now off to make the Hot Chocolate to adorn it!

Friday 11 March 2011

Birdie Stitches BOM

I warned you at the end of January that my resistance to joining in with Little Miss Shabby's Birdie Stitches BOM was weakening!  Resisting no longer, I got my hands on the little bits of beauty that are Moda's Sunkissed charm packs and some white cotton and set to making up the blocks ready for the monthly embroidery additions.  Don't they look so girly and sweet?

The plan is to work out the embroidery on one of the blocks as a trial and just to be sure I can manage it. Then (if I don't get tempted to keep going) I'll pack everything away into a kit to take on summer hols this year to while away the peaceful moments when the boys hit the hills with their bikes! That's the kind of forward planning I like!

So that's it for now. Maybe I'll have an embroidered block to show you shortly but the rest will have to wait for a proper catch up later in the year.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Paper-Pieced Mug Rug

Learning to foundation piece on paper has been on my list of new things to try for a while now and last weekend I finally got around to having a go.

First effort paper-piecing after a few unpicking
and resizing fabric moments. Pity it is the wrong way round

In retrospect I could have chosen an easier pattern to start with but must admit to having been swayed towards this Union Flag block by the beautiful blocks made by the Ringo Pie Bee crew. They are just so talented, you have to check them out. If you fancy having a go yourself, there's a great paper-piecing template for a Union Flag at Four Twin Sisters.  Once I had my little practice block made up I liked it so much I didn't want to just stash it away in a drawer so I used Kerry's fab tutorial for single binding little things to make it up into a mug rug.

Adding binding a la Kerry's tutorial on the laptop screen!

Quilted and bound - not bad for a first effort, though
my hubby did point out that technically I didn't get the
placement of the wide stripes correct (he's a spotter).

Put to use as a mug rug.

I have some more practicing to do before I've quite got the hang of this patchwork technique, and think that perhaps I should go back a few steps and try some simpler patterns to become more familiar with the method. But I really enjoyed this piecing technique and my mind is racing with fun possibilities for future projects once a little more perfecting has taken place.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Sewing Tool Case

I have a lovely little sewing box that can travel with me to my classes each week but it's just a wee bit too small for my bigger tools - large scissors, rotary cutter and the make-up brush I keep to dust off the sewing machine. So, as I was making up the weekend/project bag, I stitched up a matching oversized zippered pencil case to hold them all.

I lost count of the number of times I tried to straighten out the seams of the patches, but there was stretch in the fabrics I just didn't seem able to counteract.  Irritating as it is, I have just accepted the slightly wonky back in favour of having a finished case on this occasion.  Besides it doesn't look too bad from the front and it's even big enough to fit my 6.5" square ruler.

All loaded up with essentials.
How lovely to have matching project accessories all made by me!

Tool case with matching project bag - not a great picture, sorry!

Friday 4 March 2011

Weekend/Project Bag

My bag is finished at last (didn't quite make it across the finish line at last night's class)!  Sadly, there's been no offer of a weekend away yet to make use of it, but I will keep hinting!

Looking pleased with myself for finally finishing!

Looks much prettier without me.

Tons of room inside and even a couple of wee pockets for my junk!

Thursday 3 March 2011

Reconstructive Surgery & Lessons Learned

Oh dear!  Now that I know how it should have been made, it really is time for some reconstructive surgery on my son's floor cushion.  Several years ago when I tried to reconvene my long-abandoned sewing skills I had a go at making my little boy a floor cushion.  Inspired by some boyish cross stitch designs (hurrah) and my friend's encouragement to use old clothing scraps, I made up a simple 9 patch block with the personalised cross stitch at the centre.  The patches were cut from old shirts worn by his dad and me and the denim pockets and log cabin border came from an old pair of jeans.  Being zip-fitting ignorant I opted for a "simpler" envelope backing to the cushion cover only to discover it wouldn't stay closed without the aid of buttons.  This meant I had to add button holes and while I didn't really do a good job, I was quite impressed I managed at all!

BEFORE "surgery" - doesn't look too bad from the front...

At the time we were all very pleased with my efforts, but time and experience have revealed the many flaws of this project and recently I decided that this much loved cushion was in need of a little TLC and reconstructive surgery if it's going to last much longer!

BEFORE - not so great from behind...

BEFORE - Oh dear - warts and all.  That really is sad!

Lessons learned: -
  • watch how you use fabrics of differing weights as heavier ones will pull at the seams of lighter ones (hence the interim star applique patches on the front to protect ripping seams)
  • stretchy fabrics should be outlawed!
  • adding wadding behind the patchwork adds structure and increases the durability of the patchwork (yep!  when I made this I didn't even know what wadding was, let alone think to use it!)
  • actually quilt the patchwork to stabilise and protect it better (without wadding I had nothing to quilt to)
  • zips are not as hard as they appear
  • mismatched buttons are not always cute/quirky (they can be, but mine weren't)
  • if you have a project you love and a little reconstruction would really help it survive longer, DO IT!

So two nights ago I set about doing what should have been done in the first place!  I know it's hard to tell from the photos but the difference is remarkable.  What's so great about this little venture is that it has reminded me just how much I have actually learned in the last year, and now the patchwork in the cushion is much more stable and much more likely to withstand being lain on, rolled over, dived upon and all the other things that might happen to it by a 9 year old boy with ants in his pants!

AFTER - cushion with a facelift and better botox (ie filler) job!

AFTER - zip neatly fitted to discreetly replace sagging envelope back -
wonder would discreet zipping help my sagging parts?!

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Can you tell what it is yet?

If all goes according to plan this will become my latest sewing accessory.  It's going to be a tool case (think giant zippered pencil case) for my large scissors, machine brush, rotary cutter and all the other long items that won't squeeze into my sewing box.  Hopefully it'll keep everything together and stop me having to rummage in the depths of a bag for them when I go to class each week.  I made it up from the remainders of the left-overs used to make the weekend/project bag.

I won't lie and say this is turning out exactly as I planned it.  Had a little measurement hiccup and mixed up my length and width, doubling the wrong one, and had to resolve it by adding side borders of corduroy.  There are also some dubious looking straight lines thanks to the stretch in the checked fabric, but I've decided to keep it anyway.  On the plus side, my new sewing machine has a quilt in the ditch foot which was amazing to keep my stitching right where it should be - I see this little foot getting loads of use in the future, didn't even know such a thing existed!
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