Thursday, 20 September 2018

Time to Light Those Fires

Well hello there, it's been a while. A week or so anyhow. Like the White Rabbit, I have had no time for anything. Well, no time for blogging. It has been a funny couple of weeks, 4 funerals within as many weeks, a long goodbye to an old friend who is emigrating down under, and 3 trips away within a month. Busy indeed. Now we enter a period of quiet, and hopefully some catch up time.

Speaking of catch up, I did swear no sew a longs this year, far too much going on. And, then like all people true to their word, I joined a sew a  long, and just as promptly fell behind. Tish's sew a  long
is, she persuaded me, easy only one block a month and finish at year end. So why then was I three blocks behind within three months?

Apart from Tish being a lovely person, I had to join in because it is a Fireburst Mystery Quilt. It's a mystery, that's the point, but I assume it is sort of fireworks, or even bursts of fire. Around about this time, I was thinking I might make a 4th July thingy for myself. As we are forging close family links with the USA, it would be nice to decorate for 4th July, Thanksgiving etc. Not a full stars and stripes flag hanging out in the garden, you understand. Heaven knows we have enough problems in N Ireland over flags without me muddying the waters even more. But - a little nod to our American Cousins as James Bond would say. By chance I even had the perfect fabric, gifted to me a few eons ago.

So, we have the piecing for July. A small flock of geese and assorted other shapes. So far so good.

Next up is August. A little more complicated but still within my realms of capabilities. Curious as to how this quilt will evolve.

And now we have September. Tish said this would take a little longer. And it did. Two whole afternoons.


 Firstly this naughty patchwork elf who lives in our house has made some of my geese go the wrong way round. The background fabric and the navy flag fabric have switched positions in the bag. Have I done it again? Muddled my foreground and background? Or simply just not made enough geese? I could go back to the original instructions and check this out. Or I could simply make some more. This is where the extra scrappy fabrics came in handy.

 The pale background with red and blue stars has come in to play. I am hoping that when the blocks all go together, this will be ok. Hard to tell when it is a mystery quilt! I am trying to ensure that the scrappy components are at least the same in each block. Time will tell!

Helen x

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

I Blame It On Copernicus

I blame Copernicus. Nicholas Copernicus to be exact. Nicolaus Copernicus. The Polish astronomer who discovered or decided that the earth moves around the sun. I actually thought it was Galileo. I am not sure what he discovered, but he came first to mind.

I have slowly been chipping away at my Kingfisher Stitchalong.

 I am so far behind with this, it isn't really a stitchalong any more. I never intended finishing at the same time as others. Like many people I sew less in the summer than in the cooler months. I am happy enough to be in team tortoise for this. I did think I was plodding along quite happy. Lining my hexie flowers up on the diamond background.

But, I think, the earth has changed its axis, or altered its journey around the sun. It must have. What other explanation could there be for the hexies not being properly centered? They have all gone a bit skew wiff. I  blame Copernicus, I think his mathematical calculations were slightly off. It couldn't possibly be me. Look - they are all listing rather to the left.

I am not overly a perfectionist. I belong to the blind man galloping past on a horse school of perfectionism. I don't beat myself up about flaws, I think they are quirks, they add to the personality of  a quilt or whatever. Up to a point! As I have been stitching, they have obviously all shifted a few millimetres to the left. Before I went on holidays last week, I thought 5 of them were off centre. Too off centre for even me to live with. A little off is acceptable, so much movement as to trigger a vertigo attack is not.

As always, I took my hexies on holidays with me,  last week to Croatia. The sunshine  and the sun cream weren't  conducive to slip stitching with a teeny tiny size 7 quilting needle, so not too many came home completed, although I did knit a pair of socks.  Today I got them all out again. Strangely 2 of my original 5 now are ok. I must be listing to the left slightly as well!

I have another half dozen or so completed. Not as many as I thought I had.

To make the photo look as if there was any progress at all, I included the pinned diamonds. This time they are pinned to within an inch of their lives! I like how this is coming together.

There don't appear to be any more, even when I turn it sideways, as it progresses Copernicus style.
Unfortunately the pile of hexies waiting to be pinned is rather small too. Great things will happen. The earth wasn't built in a day, even if it revolves around the sun in a day.

They looked many more when I had them taped to my table in the garden!

One last thing, have you checked out the Meet and Greet with Benita? LOTS of blogs to check out, some I am friends with and some that are new to me.
Also a great prize draw. Check it out. You have time before the earth completes its journey around the sun.

Helen x
linking with Beth Cooking Up Quilts
linking with Lorna Sew Fresh Quilts

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Helen Meets Benita

Who? Where? What? The three crucial questions we learn to ask. Well, here goes. Benita of  is organising a quilter's meet up and kindly invited me to take part. This link takes you through to Benita's blog "here"

The linky party runs through September and there are lots of prizes. Click on the links below or "here"  to see.

 So, here goes.  My blog is . Midget gem? My boyfriend (now husband) used to say I was his wee midget gem, a small chewy sweet!  I am rather less of a midget gem after all these years, but the thought is nice! You can also find me on instagram as @helenmidgetgem

I'm Helen, a mum, a wife and most recently, a granny, which is best of all. And perhaps most importantly, I am myself.

I live in the UK. I imagine most of the bloggers linked here live in N America, but there is also a body of dedicated quilters here in the UK. Specifically I live in Northern Ireland, the top right hand part of Ireland. The bit nobody knows!

I am a quilter. I am also a knitter, a reader, a gardener and just enjoying life. I am an early retiree the last two years. Since retiring, it's true, you wonder how you ever had time to work. My husband thinks I spend a lot of time sewing, it's actually less than I thought I would. The days just fly by.

Now - what do I like about sewing?  I love the community of sewing and blogging. I love the "not in real life friends" I have made through blogging. I love sew a longs, knit a longs (through Ravelry), the community aspect. It has improved my sewing skill no end.

My Postcards From Sweden, (free pattern on craftsy by jelliquilts),  called by me My Writings From Whitehead, part of online sew a long.

What do I sew? I primarily like bright modern quilts, mostly solids or architectural prints.
Rather contrarily I also have a passion for Liberty fabrics. Many people think this is the antithesis to bright and modern, but really, it isn't. It all depends on how you use them. Liberty is as bright and modern
and still leading the pack. Love it or hate it.

The Liberty Quilt I made for my grandson, a free pattern from Purl Soho.

And my favourite quilt? They have to be the two wedding quilts I made for my sons and their wives. The first I sort of designed as I went along, all in kona cottons. It ended up so big, we called it the Behemoth.

The quilt for my second son to marry, was based on a ombre hst quilt designed by Sarah Geoer. We called it the Belfast Bulletin, as I made it at the same time as the Postcard from Sweden.

Why do I blog? Well, you certainly don't come to me for tutorials, or how to. I  hope my love and passion for my "hobbies" comes across and you have a bit of fun reading my blogs. I certainly enjoy writing them. And that's it. And along with my quilting, I throw in a bit of my travels, thoughts on life, whatever is happening at the time.

So, come check me out. If you would like to. And thank you Benita for inviting me.

Helen x

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Sorry Not Sorry

I know this is primarily a quilting blog, but it does say in my manifesto that I like to blog about me, that's quilting, knitting, reading, wine drinking. This is a quick update on my knitting. If you aren't interested, just float on by. Even have a quick scroll down, you might feel inspired to dig out those ancient plastic needles.

I have finished two recent knits, one this week and one I finally got to wear this week as the weather cooled. Taking these in chronological order.

First up my Comfort Fade Cardi. I know I have blogged about this before, but as I said, the weather has been too warm to wear it. Not that I am complaining! It has taken a downturn this week, normal N Ireland weather has resumed, rainy with a bit of rain behind that overcast cloud. Never leave home without a brolly! We were in Fermanagh, a county to the west of the province, on Monday, and I got the opportunity to wear my Comfort Fade Cardi. It's a bit like Where's Wally? in this photo at Castle Archdale. Ireland is known for its 40 shades of green after all!

 As warm as a jacket but more summery, if a wool cardigan can be summery. The yarn is 100% merino and ever so soft. The yarn was dyed locally by Giddy Aunt Yarns. Giddy Aunt Claire had dyed this yarn especially for this cardigan for herself, and very generously dyed some extra for me. That why I knew the colours would blend in together! The cardigan is a design by Andrea Mowry and is a paid for pattern on Ravelry. Knitted on a circular needle from the top down. And I love it.

We had a fun day in Fermanagh. I love the pre Christian, that's right pre Christian, burial stones that are scattered around there. Amazing they are so old and amazing they have survived so long.

 We use an old guidebook to N Ireland my husband bought when we were dating. It is always on our days out.

Next up is my Beekeeper Cardigan, a 4 day knit a long designed by Marie Greene, Olive Knits. Again a paid for pattern on Ravelry. It took me about 5 weeks, not difficult just I was
busy. I love this so much. The pattern is a four row pattern and the twisting yarn looks like little bees.

 The yarn is from Lay Family Yarn and again is 100% merino. Again, I was very lucky and Kelly dyed the double knitting yarn especially for me in her bee happy colour way. I love this so much. Yesterday my daughter and I gave it a formal outing and photo shoot in Belfast's Botanical Gardens.


We have a Victorian glasshouse and Ravine house. Always a family favourite to visit and have a poke with sauce, a colloquialism for ice cream cone.

 My friend sent me this photo of the bee hive at Rowallane, a local National Trust property. A little bit smug, but I have to get my photo taken there!

Lastly, a pair of socks for my daughter. This is again Lay Family Yarn in the Button Jar colourway and coordinating mini skein. This was a collaboration with the yarn and a matching project bag from Craft House Magic. My daughter loves her new socks, just has to wait now for the colder evenings.

If you are still with me, thanks for holding in there! And back to sewing next time!

Helen x

Monday, 20 August 2018

Don't Tell Houston We Have A Problem

I have an almost finish!

But first I will tell you a story.

In my first post graduation job, I worked for a USA multinational. It was an engineering company with its fingers in many, many pies. We were a tiny outpost of this huge corporation. Our head office was in Houston, Houston's head office was, I believe, in Cleveland. In work, we had one mantra, "don't tell Houston". "Don't tell Houston we have a problem". Last week, I had a problem and this leapt back into my mind after so many years, if we don't tell Houston we have a problem, then we don't have a problem. My problem? I lost the shaft that connects my Pfaff sewing machine to my foot. I also lost the foot but that is beside the point.

It has taken me two years to take this shaft and foot off and replace it with my free machine foot. I was so nervous of losing it, I wisely decided not to put it in the tin box for my sewing machine accessories. After all, it may get muddled with the others and I won't know which bit is which. And so, I put it in a very, very safe place. Roll on visa worries etc etc and this very safe place disappeared from human memory. I have lots of safe places to keep things, a whole load of them. All very safe and very obvious to me at the time. So .... I looked in
the two top drawers of my crafting dresser
all the little useful tins in the two top drawers of my crafting dresser
the little drawer attached to the sewing machine (don't be silly, I knew that was a red herring)
the tin my quilting pins are in, several times
the tin my bobbins are in
my posh jewellery box
my second jewellery box
my junk jewellery box
my scrapbooking bits and pieces box
my bedside cabinet, all the drawers several times
all three workboxes (don't be silly, they wouldn't be there)
the three drawers snaffled in my daughter's old bedroom for my knitting needles and sewing threads

It wasn't in any of these places. Of course it wasn't.
My husband offered to help me look and organise in one fell swoop, but told me I wouldn't like it! An old work colleague told me to pray St Antony, patron saint of lost causes once when I lost my purse. I thought St Antony had more important concerns than my purse hidden whilst on holiday, but not only did my purse turn up, but an unexpected £60 in it!
 I was just contemplating whether to take my husband up on his offer, or bother St Antony again, when I went for one last look. Bearing in mind, I had been searching for a week, I had not great faith. And you know what? My "safe place" turned out to be my quilting pin box all along. I couldn't see the wood for the trees! I am sure there is a life lesson in here somewhere. Don't tidy up I think is the lesson learned!

Anyhow, this all meant I was at last able to make the binding for my Plus Playtime quilt, aka Sandra's Scraps, and attach it. I was overjoyed. It is funny how, the whole visa/wedding party thing you soldier on smiling through, and a missing sewing foot reduces me to tears of frustration.

The binding is very scrappy. I was determined I was going to use every scrap of Sandra's scraps, and I did. It means at times, the binding is a little bulky here and there, but no matter. I love how it looks like a swiss roll when it is coiled.

By this photo on Sunday afternoon, the binding is half on.

2 photos,  24 hours apart. Can you play spot the difference?

 After another marathon sewing session last night the binding is all sewn down. This just leaves the ends to be sewn in, for some reason I find myself singing that old harvest hymn, Bringing In The Sheaves when sewing in the ends.  No idea why but it happens every time!

A quick wash and tumble and this can join my pile of finished lap quilts. I think this may be my new favourite, I will have to think of somewhere fun for the finish photos.

Helen x

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

If You Can Keep Your Head and Party On

Ooops, my last blog post was 24 July. Not an intentional holiday from blogging, just the way life has panned out. The last few weeks, indeed the whole summer has been very busy. We had my daughter in law's graduation in England, she is now a Master of all sorts of clever projects. And she is a girl who loves her projects, crafty or otherwise. Next up we had our at home celebration of my son and new daughter in law's wedding. When I say at home, we had the celebration in our local castle, not our home, but our home country. The following weekend was the first birthday celebration of our grandson, our favourite grandson, our only grandchild, this was in England. So, lots of running about and celebrating and getting exhausted. I did go to blog, but I had nothing to blog about!

So .... Where am I? I have moved along with my Plus Playtime quilt, or my Sandra's Scraps quilt. I have been free machine - ing when I get a chance.

I have most of the pluses all completed. The background blue plus, the shadow plus was my first foray in fmq. Sort of loopy loops coming off from bigger loopy loops. Happy enough with that.

Next up were the smaller pluses. I decided to quilt backwards and forwards loops, sort of a hang back to my straight line quilting I suppose but more unstructured. I have tried to match the pluses as much as I can with my meagre supply of quilting threads, and have bought a few more.  This morning I bought some black and some navy. I was looking for a plummy pink but it proved impossible to get locally. I have bought some that is more of a wine colour and am hoping for the best. So that leaves three or maybe four small pluses to finish.

I moved on then to the off white background. I wanted to do sort of half moon, slices of melon shapes. It is sort of how I wanted it. I wanted the quilting to be fairly loose, not to intense, so instead of breaking up into small sections, I tried to sweep across the whole background. And am I happy? Am I ever happy? I like how it is in the smaller sections of the background. In the bigger sections I think it is a bit too loose, too sweeping. I could try and infill the looser parts, they are quite crinkly, but I will probably leave it be. Don't overegg the pudding so to speak. This fmq is a learning curve, no pun intended here.

This just leaves the binding, after of course, I finish the remaining pluses. No prizes for guessing the binding will be spotty, and scrappy. I can't wait for this bit. I really feel it will just set the quilt off. Hand sewing the binding down is actually my favourite bit. Not because it is the end, well, just not that, but because I find it so relaxing. I try to do this on a Saturday night, with a glass of wine, and the tv on. Living the high life!

 Now all the "family" commitments are finished, including an unexpected funeral, I am hoping my sewing mojo will return. It always disappears slightly in the summer. It is only right that when the good weather is here, it is spent out in the garden, in the gardens of stately homes, in the beach, wherever, and not in front of a sewing machine. It has been a fun summer.

 Even the unexpectedness of the Castle post Wedding Celebration was fun. Unfortunately our son, the groom, was unable to attend! His travel documents are somewhere in the black hole that administrative governmental documents occasionally fall into. Thus - we had the unusual situation of a post wedding party with no groom! As the bride's father said, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade! We had a life size cardboard model of a former Chelsea football  manager in our loft, as you do. A bit of printing and cutting and he turned into a cardboard groom. Rather like Flat Stanley in the children's novels. Well, Flat Groom had a ball, he danced with everybody, kept his speech rather brief and didn't get too drunk. The perfect groom! And all our American and English guests, and not forgetting our local family and friends, seemed to enjoy themselves. With that I will leave you with this thought, when it all seems disastrous, just party on. I am sure Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about that sometime!

"If you can meet Triumph with Disaster,
and treat those two imposters just the same .."

Helen x
linking with Beth, Main Crush Monday, Cooking Up Quilts
linking with Lorna, Lets Bee Social, Sew Fresh Quilts

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

I Write The Book

My bookish friend, Liz, and I have had fun today, well, what passes for fun for us. We both like to read, both studied literature. Summertime however finds us both reading, well, the type of books a hamster could write running around its wheel. Books that follow a pattern, we joke that we will write one between us, and we could, I know we could. We don't like the "beach read", the "summer sizzler", too much sand, too much sand in awkward places. We like the sort of book that's set in the Cotswolds or Scottish Islands or South Cornwall. The woman has been disappointed in life or love or career and lives generally in London. She is, delete as appropriate, a knitter/never knit, a reader/never read, a baker/never baked a cup cake in her life. She leaves said life in the big city to head to a remote village, always a village, by the sea, in the country, on the island. She lives next door to a grumpy old woman and there is a rugged, handsome man living nearby also, usually driving a jeep. I can't tell you what happens, I wouldn't want to jeopardise our book deal! But ... generally involves her setting up a book shop/cake shop/ tea shop/ wool shop which becomes integral to the community. Ooops, just given it away. Anyway, we had fun, via whats app, making up new book titles.
Jane Eyre becomes Jane Ecclescake
The 39 Steps becomes the The 39 Scones
Wuthering Heights becomes Withering Biscuits
You get the picture, little amuses the innocent, or those with little to do. Liz's mother would have given us a cupboard to clean out! I am grateful for this fun which lasts over the years.

What has this got to do with a sewing blog? Very little, except my summer sewing this week has rather been like my summer reading. Plenty of it but rather inconsequential.

I have continued on with the quilting on my What's Out The Window?, the quatrefoil quilt. I completed another the white in another block and a half. I have definitely run out of white quilting thread. At the start of next week I will hopefully get some more, and some black for the black areas. I am nearly two thirds through the white quilting.

 I have the binding machined on and would love to slip stitch over the back.

 That is my favourite bit, the slip stitching. It seems a bit decadent though to go ahead, a bit like taking from the bottom of layer of chocolates before the top layer is finished.

Next up I quilted a bit of the Sandra's Scraps, the Plus Playtime quilt. I have finished all the blue shadow plus. Can't do the white background, for obvious reasons, no thread. I had a hunt and discovered I had some quilting threads which matched the pluses. More loops, but loose loops this time. Sort of restrained uptight swirls. Straight up and down with a curve at the top.

 Maybe I should have crossed some of them over, don't want to use up all my creative ideas in one quilt!

I even like the back, must be doing something right!

Next up I made a few more hexies for Kingfisher Stitch Along, hexies on a background made up of diamonds. Now .... as you may know I am not great at mathematical things. My dad was an accountant, my sons are scientists, obviously the genes skipped a generation. I followed all the directions to cut out my diamond, lining up my ruler and cutting at 60%. Needless to say, I ended up with a sort of trapezoid. My other half unhelpfully suggested that diamonds have 4 mirrored quarters. Yes, I know they do. That's not helping. In the end I drew around a smaller quilting diamond I had and then added 1/2" on to each side and cut it out of card.

 Every time I cut one, this card template gets a trim. I will have to bear that in mind. I have hand appliqued my first epp hexie to the first diamond. It was a beautifully restful thing to do. I will enjoy these.

My daughter was in London last weekend, and brought me home a little parcel of Liberty fat quarters. This will eke out my stash. The stitch a long uses 46 hexies, I was going to go with 23 x 2. Then I found a bit more fabric (...) . Now I am going to go as far as I can with what I have, repeat some, and make a smaller quilt. I think the quilt a long finishes the end of July, for those who have kept up. I joined in late. Interestingly, when you do a quilt a long with blog link ups, you "get to know" other sewists. This has been an instagram link up, and it seems much more impersonal, though there have been some lovely hexies.

Knit wise, I am on sleeve island in knitting my Beekeeper Cardigan. The knit a long finished a week ago,  I am just plodding along. It is a lovely knit, but the summer is so warm, I wouldn't be wearing it anyway. Not a great photo I am afraid, but we go with what we have.

The preparations for the visitors still continue. I have had my hair cut and coloured, my finger and toe nails painted peachy pink, my beard trimmed, and my eyebrows resemble two slugs. Why then do I look in the mirror and see Grayson Perry's alter ego Claire. Google her and see if I am right.
I baked a Victoria Sponge today, it sunk rather, my fairy cakes and more elfin then fairy, and my biscuits should crumble in the mouth rather than when coming off the baking tray. Apart from that I am wonderful! Domestic Goddess I am not. I am away now to have a chat with my courgettes, about the need to produce more fruit. I will tell them about  a handy tip I learned in a knitting group last summer. That's why we need the bees, and not the blasted slugs which have decimated my sunflowers. My daughter genuinely thought slugs were called b**t**ds when she was a little girl. And it's still only Tuesday.

Helen x
linking up with Beth and Cooking Up Quilts, Main Crush Monday and her fab new web site