Thursday 31 December 2015

As one year closes ...

... I realise that "hope" became much more resonant this year than I could ever have imagined when I stitched up this wallhanging last spring.

Since my Cutesy Tootsie was born in the summer I have had to learn to hope more than ever before.  She arrived in our lives unexpectedly with Down Syndrome, unable to feed, coping with two holes in her heart and unable to see because of congenital cataracts in both of her beautiful twinkly wee eyes, to name only a few of her medical issues.  Yes, 2015 has been the year that has broken my heart, the year when I have had to learn to sing hope's tune for my daughter even when the words evade me.

As a Christian family, our hope is founded in God, his goodness and his healing power and much of my hope is through prayer.  It has not been easy to hold on to hope every day, if I said it was I'd be lying, but I have amazing Christian friends who have upheld my hopes in prayer faithfully and lovingly even on the days when I couldn't.  For their prayers and for God's answers I am so very, very grateful.  So, am I telling you that everything is sorted out with Cutesy's health?  No, I'm not.  But we have now got a little girl who looks so much healthier and is so much stronger than the picture of her above just after her birth.

Cutesy Tootsie changes our world every day when her face brightens with smiles as wide as you could imagine.  Try as I might, I cannot catch them on camera.  She is too quick and too curious about the camera and the smiles go just as I click the button!  In her short time with us Cutesy has had two operations to remove the lenses from both her eyes and she now wears contact lenses but there remain concerns about the development of her vision. So I have to hold on to hope that God will hear our prayers and allow her to see further and further fields of focus each day.  She will also still need heart surgery this spring to close those holes but she has amazed her doctors by not needing to be hospitalised every few weeks as might be expected with her heart condition. So again, I am thankful and I hold on to hope and keep on singing that tune because 2016 may well be as testing as this year has been.

In the midst of all of this, stitching and social media have taken much more of a back seat that I would have liked but sometimes life dictates the priorities for a while.  I did manage to get a free sewing day earlier in December to make sure that Tootsie got a Christmas Stocking and a gift sack.  Couldn't have Santa struggling for where to leave pressies, could we?  I love those Scandi fabrics and it felt REALLY lovely to be stitching something again on the machine.

Of course, I would love 2016 to be a year of much more sewing than of late, but really it's not the hottest issue just now.  So, instead of rashly declaring that 2016 will be the year of clearing up my WIPs and UFOs, I am simply going to choose to stitch as takes my fancy this year.

So, if I settle down to baste and quilt this lovely

(possibly for Cutesy Tootsie's bedroom wall)

or make up all the remaining 6" blocks for this 

(think there are 30 of them to go)

or crochet all the hundreds of remaining hexagons for this throw

(I'm thinking not so likely, but maybe it will at least expand a little)

then that's grand.  

BUT if I just want to do something different then I'm ok with that too this year.  I want it to be a year of trying things out, fitting in a little bit of stitching around our crazy new "normal" weekly schedule of baby needs, work, family meals, laundry, hospital appointments and teenage taxiing.

So, I foresee I year of more starts than finishes and I am really looking forward to this one in particular! 

I will share my plans for these 30s style fabrics when I have made a wee start.

I hope to be a little more present on this blog space, and on Instagram too, because I miss it and the connection it provides to all of you lovely stitchy folks out there.  So, I hope you'll bear with me and pop in from time to time to see if I've managed to stitch something to share.

Now though I've gone on much longer than I intended so it's time to wish you all a very happy and hopeful New Year.  Have a good one!

Friday 2 October 2015

Stitch Gathering 2015

As promised I'm back to tell you all about my lovely weekend in Edinburgh for the Stitch Gathering 2015.

It was hard leaving this little sweetheart for the weekend.  She was probably more fine without me than I was without her, but Edinburgh had been booked for so long and was such a great surprise birthday present from my hubby at the end of last year that it would have been a shame not to have gone.

Saturday was all about just relaxing in the company of good friends.  That's Trudi and me above there in a great wee coffee shop where we had lunch with Di.  It would have been better if I'd managed to get a pic of Di too but I didn't manage to remember all weekend to get someone to snap all three of us together! Doh! Anyway, chatting and lunch and quite possibly a return to the same coffee shop later with more Stitch Gathering friends for very necessary tea and cake (chatting requires fuel, you know) were definitely the order of the day.  Then, in the evening we met up with Jo and lots of other Stitch Gatherers and had a great meal in Jamie's Italian on George Street - building up our reserves for Sunday's main event, of course.  The evening meal was a lovely way to meet some new faces in advance of the Stitch Gathering itself and we had many laughs amid the food and wine and chatter.   I am still not convinced that young waiter was actually Italian, mind you, but at least his accent was pretty good if he was putting it on!!

Sunday was about stitching - and yes, ok, also about friends and cake.  What's not to love about a day like that?

Jo and her team had everything running like clockwork which really helped us all make the most of the one day event.  After arriving, handing over our "word tickets" and receiving a crammed goody bag, it was time to get the show on the road and I headed off to a great EPP class with Fiona.

We cut and basted and stitched up little nosegay blocks -

though you can see I didn't quite get it finished. Too much chatting? or too long a queue for coffee break ? I know which I'm blaming ;-)

I may also have oohed and ached a bit over some of Fiona's gorgeous paper pieced Farmer's Wife 1930's Sampler blocks that she brought as EPP samples to show us.  Fighting hard to stop myself ordering the book and pretending I could possibly join in, but my ogs are turning and I would love to see more EPP blocks in my future.

During lunch I spent some time admiring the "word tickets" that we had all made to gain entry to the day's event.

They looked so fabulously colourful all pinned up together.

I'm quite sure they will make a brilliant quilt for wherever Jo decides the inspirational, fun words belong.

After lunch, Hikaru, the loveliest (and best prepared ever) tutor taught us how to make and assemble clamshell purses.  I should have had something in my photo for scale but this wee purse is just big enough to sit in the palm of my hand - so quite little really, though Hikaru tells us that it's very easy to just enlarge the templates and make one any size we like.  As you can see, this class was another "fail to finish" by me.  I was so nearly there when my thread snapped! Aw well, another one for the WIPs pile!

After a rejuvenating coffee, my last class of the afternoon was perfect in its simplicity.  Too much chat and cake (and possibly the catching up of the late night baby feeding) was really taking its toll by the second half of the afternoon, so Jo's sashiko class with its pre-prepared fabric and long running stitch was just the kind of easy task I needed.

It was good to hear Jo's thoughts and advice on approaching sashiko.  I really love the effect of the cream thread on the navy linen and am trying to plot ways of getting more sashiko in use around my house.  Of course, I would actually need some sewing time to achieve that!

Stitch Gathering was a really lovely day with a truly friendly bunch of stitchers. I had a fab weekend with some really lovely classes and I actually sewed, even if I didn't get it all finished!  I love how inspired I feel when I've spent time with other people who share and enjoy my hobby.  Yes, it's dangerous because I now have a hundred new stitching plans whirling around in my head and probably zero possibility of acting on any of them anytime soon, but hey, it's better to have those creative juices flowing than not, right?

Before I go, here's a peek at what was filling that goody bag -

Fat quarters from Coats, Dear Stella, Blend Fabrics, Michael Miller, Cloud9, Anbo and Lewis and Irene; gorgeous Liberty tana lawn hexies from Duck Egg Threads; Aurifil thread and embroidery floss; Coats Milward needles (I love Milward needles but can't always find them locally) and cotton thread; DMC embroidery floss; a sample sachet of Soak (bet it smells good); a pen from Frixion and finally a copy of Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine and some Nairns biscuits for when I get to put my feet up with a cuppa!

Oh, and I almost forgot, I won a beautiful Cori Dantini Christmas panel in the tombola.  Have a feeling Cutesy Tootsie might benefit from this one ;-)

If you haven't been to Stitch Gathering before I suggest you keep your eyes peeled for next year's tickets.  I had a great day with the loveliest people.  Thanks to all those who took time to chat and say hello, and thanks to Pam who very generously gave me a lift to the airport afterwards.  See, aren't stitchers just the kindest people?

Thank you, Hubs, for a fab weekend birthday treat and for taking good care of Cutesy Tootsie too.

A Quilt for Cutesy Tootsie

Last weekend I left this snuggly little bundle in the capable care of her daddy and met up with Di and Trudi in Edinburgh for the Stitch Gathering retreat day.  Before I tell you about that though (in another post soon) I have something gorgeous to share with you.

It seems that some love-filled scheming has been afoot since the arrival of my precious baby daughter earlier in the summer and some of my very dearest blogging and Instagramming friends have put their phenomenal skills together to make this adorable quilt for my Cutesy Tootsie.  Isn't it just so very beautiful?  And, so very pretty and girly (I am enjoying the pink indulgence after all the years of boy colours).

Di and Trudi did the honours of passing the quilt on to my little one via me on Saturday afternoon and as they told me all about this wonderful gift and how it had come together I admit that I shed some deep sobs that such a fantastic crew of lovely stitchers had made this specially for my tiny daughter.  I was rather overwhelmed y the loveliness of it all.

Archie the Wonder Dog's mum stitched up some blocks and co-ordinated the lot, receiving blocks from my friends at Bee Blessed - Judith (Just Jude), Marion, Lorraine, Ros, Ruth and Tina (Secret Ingredient Love), as well as from Catherine (Sew Wonderful Life), Nicky (Mrs Sew and Sow), Reene and Yvonne (Nellie's Niceties), Justine (Simply Solids) and Di and Trudi, of course.  Hope I haven't left anyone off the list - please shout if I have.

Di pieced the sweet flower, heart and butterfly blocks into a quilt top which was duly and magnificently Trudified with long arm quilting.  I hope you can see how amazing it is in these wee close ups.

Cutesy Tootsie is one very lucky little lady to be in receipt of such a kind and thought-filled gift.  I am looking forward to sharing the story of her quilt with her when she is a little older and telling her all about the wonderful, generous-spirited, kind-hearted women who created such a treasure for her.

I am not the first to say it, and know I won't be the last, but this sewing community is truly awesome!
Thank you so very much my lovely stitchy friends for creating this precious quilt for my precious girl.  Huge hugs and kisses from me!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Stitch Gathering Ticket

This wriggly little lady has been keeping me super busy but, hold on to your hats folks, there has been some stitching!

For the past couple of years I have been an onlooker as the lovely Jo at My Bearpaw has set the Stitch Gathering delegates the creative tasks of creating their own "ticket" to the event. But this year, thanks to hubby's very thoughtful birthday present, I don't have to just look on, I get to join in!  Seeing what plan Jo had up her sleeve for this year's ticket project has all been part of the unfolding anticipation of this year's event for me.  So, a few month's back I was quite excited to start thinking about my plans for this year's ticket for which Jo requested a favourite word - a word that's perhaps inspirational, fun or just one we love the sound of.

Honestly, it took me no time at all to decide on the word "giggle".  I love how it sounds and hope that it will be a really good word to include on Jo's final project which is to take all of the words and make them up into an inspirational quilt for a school or a hospice or some other such deserving place.

It took me a little more time to decide how to present my word.  Finally I settled on some embroidery, stitching the letters and the giggling emoticon all with chain stitch.  At points during the process I wasn't sure it was going to have the look I wanted but I'm glad I persevered and I hope it's a worthy addition to Jo's quilt and, of course, that it means I can gain entry to Stitch Gathering in a couple of weekends' time.

It has been lovely to pop in with something stitch to show you but don't be holding your breath for more stitching pics anytime soon! Just saying ;-)

Saturday 5 September 2015

Bee Blessed Continues!

With a newborn in the house there has been a stitching and blogging hiatus, but I interrupt the pause in normal proceedings to bring you good news of how you can link in with Bee Blessed again.  Yay!

I did promise that when the Bee Blessed team had their new comms operational I would let you know so that you can keep up to date with what they are doing and, hopefully, so that you will continue to make them blocks for their great donated quilts.

The good news is that there are now two ways to link in with what Bee Blessed is up to.  First of all you can find all the details and soon the block information on their brand new blog here.  If you are local to Belfast, Northern Ireland and fancy joining in with the Bee in person some dates for the autumn meetings have been listed already and there's a nice little introductory post to get the team up and running.  Please go and have a read.

As well as the blog, you can also now follow the Bee on Instagram too.  Those of you on IG should follow them on beeblessedquilts so that you won't miss the blocks being posted.

Bee Blessed will continue to meet and make quilts from donated blocks which will then be passed on to folks and families who really need a wee touch of love or thoughtfulness for something that's going on in their lives.  YOU can be a part of this amazing work by linking up with the team, following what they're up to and stitching up a block or two to send to them from time to time.  The nice thing about Bee Blessed is that, as well as contributing to quilts that really touch hearts, you get an opportunity to use up your scraps and to play at making blocks you might not otherwise try.  I'd really love it if you would show your support to the new Bee team by continuing to make blocks for them if you have done so in the past or by considering starting if you've never tried it before.  If you have any questions or want to know where to post your blocks to just email them at

Go on, give it a go and follow the blog or IG account or both now so that you don't miss their next block when the time comes!


Thursday 30 July 2015

Amazing Creation!

She's finally here!

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made"

See? God is a stitcher too!

This little lady is my Cutesy Tootsie. She entered our world earlier this month and has captured our hearts completely.  Oh, how we love her!

Saturday 11 July 2015

Quilt Now BOM - Issue 13

The Quilt Now magazine Mystery BOM has finally reached its final set of instructions in Issue 13 which has just landed with subscribers.  Having followed along with Reene's skill-building 4 weekly challenges, and mostly kept up to date, I have been very excited to see how she would finish the BOM quilt and she has not disappointed!

At this point, I have a small confession to make.  This issue of Quilt Now seems to have taken longer to be published than usual and I knew I would never get this top finished on my own if I waited for it to land on the doormat.  So, a few weeks ago I knew that there was a single day opportunity to get my sewing machine out and get to work for what was the last machine time pre-arrival of my now massive pregnancy bump.  I was so keen that this quilt top would not lie unfinished (at least in the piecing of the quilt top sense) for months and months that I decided to make a guess at how the final two side block panels were supposed to go together and then to add a final solid aqua border myself ahead of knowing what Reene's plans actually were.  In the pic above you can see what I decided in terms of the block layout for the two sides.  Reene's top and bottom block panels really helped me to understand and make a reasonable informed guess as to where I should position the final blocks and by Miss Marple deductions I made the right decisions!

So I sewed and sewed, happy as the flowers in May, knowing that I would actually achieve a quilt top  finish before child no 2 enters our lives.  Yay!

Ta-da, here is my finished Quilt Now Mystery BOM quilt top!!

I really, really love it!!!  It is by no means perfect.  Some of those skills were not my forte and are a bit lacking in precision and talent, but oh I am so glad I gave them all a go.  I think my favourite new-to-me technique was the needleturn appliqué (which I really want to do more of in the future) and I also loved trying out the no-waste method of making flying geese.

I may have said before that I found myself quite surprised to jump in with the Quilt Now magazine's Mystery BOM right from the start, mainly because that word "mystery" doesn't tend to do it for me normally.  Joining a Mystery BOM or QAL involves NOT knowing what you are making ahead of time and that's not usually something I want to commit to (control freak alert).  However, this was definitely the right one to throw my inhibitions away on.  It did what it said on the tin and introduced new skills to try across a small selection of blocks with each issue of the magazine, and you know, if I really hadn't enjoyed it I could have just stopped at some point.  But, the team at Quilt Now were right to trust Reene with their first ever BOM project and I say thanks to them and to Reene for the challenges and fun along the way.

Now I'm off to store this pretty flimsy away carefully until I have the time to baste and quilt it - maybe a touch of hand quilting this winter if I'm lucky!

Sunday 5 July 2015

Friendship Star Variation Tutorial

It's been very stitch quiet around these parts for the last number of weeks and I haven't had much to show you, but when I was doing some blog admin I did find this Friendship Star tutorial that I didn't get around to posting at the time I wrote it.  Thought I might share it with you now.

Making Di's birthday Friendship Star mini quilt reminded me how striking this simple little block can be, and I couldn't resist having a play for options in a larger quilt.  I just pulled some scraps and stitched this variation up.  I added little corner triangles with a view that if this was a scrappy quilt the colourful corners would add a little more interest when the blocks are repeated, and it would reduce the larger negative space created by the background fabric.

Thinking ahead,  I've decided that I might raid my scrap box over the course of the next year to make enough blocks for a quilt to contribute to Siblings Together 2016.  This year my contribution to Siblings Together was limited to some block contributions to the quilts donated by others but it would be nice to make one myself for such a good cause next year.  Don't expect to see speedy progress folks, but hopefully giving myself such a wide timeframe will help it become a reality for next summer's ST camps.

For my block I chose one bright print for the friendship star and two other prints for pairs of opposite corner triangles, as well as a solid white cotton as the background to my block.

Friendship Star Variation
12.5" sq unfinished

Fabric A (background)
Cut 2:  5" squares
Cut 4:  4.5" squares

Fabric B (print for star)
Cut 2:  5" squares
Cut 1:  4.5" square

Fabrics C & D (corner triangles)
Cut 2:  2.5" squares from each fabric

Use scant 0.25" seams throughout.

1.  First of all take both 5" white squares and all four 2.5" squares and draw a diagonal pencil line across the wrong side of the fabric.

2.  Make the HSTs for the star points:  Pair each 5" white square with a 5" square of fabric B and stitch a seam 0.25" on each side of the diagonal pencil line.  (You can just about see mine in the photo above.)

3.  Using your rotary cutter, cut along the pencil line to separate your HSTs.

4.  Press the HSTs with your seam allowance towards the print fabric.

5.  Now trim each HST to 4.5" square, taking care to line up the diagonal seam with the diagonal line on your ruler.  When all four are trimmed, set aside.

6.  Corner triangle units:  Pair each 4.5" white square right sides together with a 2.5" print square, making sure the diagonal pencil line you drew runs across the corner as shown in the photo above.

7.  Now stitch ALONG each pencil line to attach the print squares to the background.

8.  Trim away the outer corners 0.25" from your stitch line.

9.  Now open your corner and carefully press seam towards print fabric to regain a 4.5" square.

10.  Lay out all your 4.5" units in the correct order ready to sew together.

11.  Stitch the units into rows and then take the rows to your ironing board.

12.  Take the middle row first and press the seams towards the centre print fabric.  Then, press the top and bottom rows in the opposite direction.  This alternate pressing of seams will help you to nest your seams together nicely in the next step and will reduce some of the bulk at seams in your block.

13.  Placing rows 1 and 2 right sides together, butt the seams and pin in place to hold while you stitch the row together.  Repeat to join rows 2 and 3.

14.  Press the final two seams of the rows open to reduce the bulk in your block.

15.  Trim to 12.5" square and you're done!

Nice and easy!  I hope you find the tutorial useful, perhaps for your own quilt plans or Bee Blocks or maybe your own version of a Siblings Together 2016 quilt, who knows?!

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