Tuesday, 19 March 2019

First Make Your Project Bag

"First make your project bag." This is the first rule of thumb for anybody starting a new knitting project. Knitting has been upgraded. I spend ages picking my yarn, often hand dyed, even on one occasion yarn from a half a dozen sheep on one farm in Oxfordshire. Much time is spent on Ravelry, looking at patterns and designer. Stalking other knitters' instagram accounts. Why then would you put your project in a supermarket plastic bag? Moi, no. Never.

Also, you can kid yourself you are getting underway with the knitting whilst it is "resting" in a knitting queue. Especially when said knitting is for one's husband.

Back track about a year, and I was lucky enough to be gifted some 8" squares by Michelle, Creative Blonde @creativeblonde on instagram. Michelle is an ambassador for Island Batik, and was doing her ambassadoring. I wasn't quite sure at first what to do with them. There is a very nice sub pattern in some of these batiks. Trees and birds. I am very fond of trees and birds. It seemed a shame to cut them up. By coincidence, my husband, who doesn't always express an opinion, has often said he likes batik quilts. So, I wanted to make something for him that didn't involve cutting the squares. It went into my pending drawer whilst I thought about it.

This year he asked me would I knit him a jumper. He asked last year too, but it is good to make him wait! Deferred gratification. When I asked what sort of jumper, he replied a jumper like I knit him some 35 years ago. I don't imagine he meant that exact jumper. But it started me thinking. And the first thing we needed was a project bag to store his jumper in, ready for when I bought the yarn!

I sewed the squares together in a simple format of two rectangles, comprising three squares across, two down. To these I added a band of dark blue Essex linen at the bottom. I had some grellow spotty stuff which was perfect for a top band of about 8".

 I then sewed a similar pillow case for a lining. I used lemon kona for the main body,  and a sort of creamy yellow circle fabric from eons ago for the bottom band. (the creamy yellow was the backing for a baby quilt for a cousin's baby. The baby is now 14).

Now, don't be silly. You know you don't come to me for a tutorial. I sewed the top raw edge of the grellow on the outer pillowcase to the top of the lemon kona on the inside and turned it right side outl Of course I remembered to leave a gap for turning in the inside bag. Then I  sort of unpicked an inch stitches half way up the seam on the grellow on both pillow case things. This was about half way up the 4" piece of grellow. When it was ironed these stayed put.

Feeling rather pleased with myself, I got adventurous. I sewed a channel around from side opening in the grellow to the other side opening. This made a channel for the two strings, which I made from yellow kona. I took a 2 1/2" strip and folded and ironed both long raw edges towards the centre. I then folded this in half lenthways, and ran a seam down to secure. Did this again for the second string. The length? I just used what I had.

And that was my bag. Or rather my husband's project bag. Project Scots Fishing  Fleet Guernsey. I had decided to see if I could find the same pattern again.

I remembered it was in a Traditional Knitting book I had way back in the early 1980s. I had a look on line and was able to buy a second hand copy of the same book. Before this all sounds like a happy ever story, buyer beware. I have the book. It may even be my own book donated to the charity shop. But ... the book smells fusty. To be polite, it stinks. I am very sensitive to smells, and a month on the book still stinks. I think I will be knitting from a photocopy!

Now all I needed was the yarn. Blue was the request. We looked online and found a Jamison and Smith Shetland yarn which was perfect for the Scots Fishing Fleet Guernsey, mark 2. I ordered up the Prussian blue colourway and waited for delivery. When it arrived, he says, here's more wool for you. That's for your jumper, says I, rather smugly. Rather a small parcel says he. It did look rather a compact and bijou parcel for the huge quantity of yarn needed. The parcel sat for a few days, then I opened it with a heavy heart. It was as I thought. I had mistaken the 25g balls for 50g balls. I ordered 15 balls, it should have been 30.

 That was why it seemed rather reasonable pricewise! I didn't want to admit to my mistake, my sister laughingly reordered the remaining 15 balls for me. We were also going away, and didn't want the parcel sitting on the doorstep, or put in the rubbish bin, as a recent delivery man did. (go figure, cosmetics covered in fire ash. Lovely) I still have to collect my 15 balls from my sister. No rush, it will be a while until I get to that stage.

So, now we have a lovely project bag.

We have a rather smelly pattern. We have the yarn. Now I just need the time to knit the flipping jumper. I must look out a photo of him wearing the Scots Fishing Fleet Guernsey mark 1. There is a photo of him with a rather short lived, unfortunate ginger beard in his cream sweater. Looking like a folk singer!

And what do I love most about the project bag? The square with the trees and with the bird are intact. And still my favourites.

 Happy sewing.
Helen x

linking with Beth of Cooking Up Quilts

Friday, 8 March 2019

A Weekend With The Master

This year I grew up and joined my local Guild. I have enjoyed it very much, I should have joined before. Well, I couldn't when I was working, I worked Saturdays, but I should have joined as soon as I finished work. Everybody has been very friendly, and I come away each time enthused. This year is their 40th anniversary, with many of the original members still attending. I realise these women have so much they can teach me.

 To celebrate their anniversary, they arranged a weekend of  Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably.
Kaffe and Brandon work on the principle that there can never be enough. Less is never more in the colour stakes anyway. Recently I have been more drawn to plainer, solid quilts, not necessarily quieter but quilts that are more restrained. Yet, I still have a secret hankering to the madness that is the Kaffe Fassett Studio designs. Huge cabbages and roses in loud, loud colours. Coupled with lilies in even louder colours. It is good to push the boundaries too.

I went to a Kaffe Fassett lecture, way back in the dark days of 1980. To be frank, the loud cabbages seemed, well, bonkers, but they really drew me. Then it was really the knitting that attracted me. Big oversize cardigans with so many colours and so much going on. So, I was intrigued and my friend Alison and I signed up for the lecture on Saturday and the workshop on the Sunday. First up was the Guild meeting on the Saturday morning. The archivist at the Ulster Folk Museum brought 13 quilts, a baker's dozen, to show us.  Quilts in N Ireland weren't made with a wadding, just the top and backing. I can imagine the itching through the backing.

Saturday night was a lecture in the Ulster Museum (a different Museum to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, we were being very cultural!) Both Kaffe and Brandon were very humourous, the presentation was great, with lots of cabbages and roses. It was fun to see all those old knits again too.

Sunday, my friend and I were at the venue early, the list of fabric requirements was rather onorous, and we had decided to pool resources and wanted two tables together. Of course, we actually had more fabric than we realised. And of course, a lot of our fabric wasn't what we actually wanted when we started! This is all yardage that I realised I wasn't going to use. Ho hum!

 That's always the way. Everybody was very friendly and a bit of swapping went on too. What goes around comes around.

We also used our design walls for the first time. By the end of the day, we mostly had the bones of a snowball quilt.

Of course none of the cornerstone fabrics I had brought were suitable for my snowballs.

 I ordered some more fabric which came today to add to the half dozen purple and black spots cornerstone fabrics I had.

 I will take the striped squares out, they are totally wrong and hopefully it will pull together better. I can't say I love it yet. Do you love it Helen? No, not yet. But I will do shortly. I loved some of the others quilts better, they were more pastel, more bright, more together. It is like the looking at other people's dinners in the restaurant! My quilt is on the left in our quilting corner, which comes up very dark in the photos.

I don't generally like quilt borders. But ... I think on this occasion I will go with the borders. I have ordered a busy purple small print for a narrow first border.

 And then a louder, stronger large print border for the second 6" border.

 My son very kindly "offered" to be my fabric mule. There will be a parcel of fabric waiting for me when I go to visit him later in the year. Fabric is oh so much cheaper in the USA. I do try to support my local shops, but sometimes, it is hard with such a big project. Fabric that is $12 or $13 is generally about the sterling equivalent of $19 or so in the UK.  Generally, with a solid or semi solid flimsy I like a pieced back. On this occasion, with such a busy flimsy, I made the rare decision to buy the coordinating backing.

 A really busy fabric too, but it somehow works.

Kaffe went around all the quilts and critiqued them. Alison and I were second and third from then end. Here is the man himself at the quilt before mine.  It was like being back in school. He was very kind, he said mine was very interesting. I had varying colour stories going on, but they were all going to pull together. I hope they do! I am hoping he means I was pushing the boundaries instead of going for the obvious ...

As you know, I like to leave you with something funny or light. Way back in 1980 or whenever, the five of us girls went to the Drumkeen Hotel in Lisburn to hear Kaffe and his groundbreaking knitwear. We got the bus, not the city bus service, but the rural blue bus. The talk went on longer than we thought. How much could one man say about knitting? We went out for the bus, and waited, and waited. A helpful local shouted out his car window, no point in youse  girls waitin' fer the blue bus, youse'll be waitin' til the mornin'! So we walked, back to Belfast. Not sure how far, but glad we weren't wearing high heels anyway! I was always a yarn hoarder, my then boyfriend, now husband, could never understand why I had bags and bags of wool about my room. Why I couldn't buy for one project, Finish it. Buy for the next project. He suggested that if I knitted all my wool down to one bin bag, he would buy a Kaffe Fassett knitting kit, far beyond the expenditure of my student dreams. I was reminded of that on Sunday, and you know what? I still have more than one bin bag of yarn, though nowadays I would never dream of putting my precious yarn in a bin bag!

Happy sewing or knitting or whatever floats your boat.

Helen x

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Having a Furtle

Lots of people are having a furtle. Yes, I was as bemused as you are. It sounded, to me, the sort of thing your mother warned you against. Apparently, a furtle is a northern English expression of having a bit of a look. We would say in N Ireland, having a hoke. Before this all gets to complicated, here's a quick explanation. A fair number of people have stopped blogging with the advent of instagram and the lovely Helen of Archie The Wonderdog blog, missed this. Helen decided to have a once a month link up, a progress report and called it Mini Archie's Furtle Around the Blogosphere. Mini Archie is a mini representation of Helen's one time dog Archie. Mini Archie lives a great life, fighting off pirates and eating tuna and teacakes!


So here's my link up, once again, not great photos. Roll on the spring! I have finished my baby quilt for Felix. The zoo print fabric quilt, or in some of these photos, the jungle fabric quilt.

 In any case, it is Felix's Day Out quilt.

I think Felix's Day Out quilt is a better name. Remember I told you our local zoo had an escaped red panda? Well, a week later it had two escaped chimpanzees. They didn't actually make it out of the zoo itself, just their enclosure. Very enterprising. There had been a storm. They used a blown down branch to make a ladder out of their enclosure! In fact so clever, I wonder at  there being the need to keep these animals in a zoo at all. They are certainly more clever and enterprising than some of our local politicians! If you google it, you can see phone coverage of the daring escape!

Our local library had a jungle display in the children's corner. I snuck in and got a couple of photos, I have friends in high places!

The quilt is a small one, it measures approximately 33" by 23". Pram size I reckon. It was mostly from stash,  stash that was gifted to me, including the backing.

I bought the fabric for the borders and binding. It has been washed and tumbled and just needs the name and date added in cotton perle. And that's another hand over. I must admit it feels good not only to gift some hand made presents, but to have some finishes!

Helen x
linking up with Archie the Wonderdog

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Squirrel Who Got Stung By A Bee

I say, I say, I say, have you heard the one about the squirrel who got stung by the bee?
He stopped chasing things like a squirrel and actually did something!

All joking apart, have you heard of the Great British Bake Off? A baking program now, I believe, shown around the world. Ten amateur bakers compete to be the Star Baker every week, losing one contestant every week. Well, the Great British Sewing Bee is just like this, only with sewing instead of cakes.

buzzy mama and daughter bee crocheted for me by my daughter's friend

A few years ago, when my daughter was in England for work, we set ourselves some fun. We both watched the program live, chatting on whatsapp. Every week, I made my version of the Star Bake. It was great fun, and for a year or two afterwards we kept up with the Star Bake, much to my dad's delight.

The Sewing Bee has never reached those dizzying heights but we do the same with it. Only thing is, it is approaching week 3. Week 1 my daughter had a really heavy cold, and this week I have had some sort of bug. Let us say, the bathroom and I were not unacquainted and I am now rather hoarse! Never mind, we will watch on catch up and normal service will be resumed.

But I prevaricate. I thought it would be fun to sew a long. Now, I am not a great dressmaker, but I will enter into the spirit of it. I thought I would sew something. Hence the squirrel. ~ About a year ago, I chased a squirrel and bought a pattern for a Coolcrafting Skye Tweed Wrap.

I bought nearly a kit. I bought the instructions, the felted wool fabric and the beautiful coconut buttons. I then couldn't wait to buy the perfect Liberty fabric for the lining. Oh, I couldn't wait until the next trip to London, and was so excited to get this. And then the squirrel went into hibernation or something.

We have a bit of a problem with squirrels in the UK. We had lovely native red squirrels then "somebody" thought it would be a good idea to bring some visiting larger grey squirrel cousins from the USA. The problem is they didn't get on. The grey squirrels being bigger and more shouty won out and the reds more or less disappeared. Recently the reds are starting to come back, with a lot of love and care. I think my squirrel was a red who went into hiding for a while! And then came the Sewing Bee who stung him on the tail and got him going again.

Anyhow, this red squirrel thought it was time to going again with this 20 minutes project. I laid it out like so, and stitched.

I pinned on the buttons, no button holes were necessary. I sewed on said buttons.

I hung said Wrap on a hanger, took a photo and that was that! It was a wrap!

I have worn it, but no photo as yet I am afraid, apart from this awful selfie. I just don't seem to have the knack!
I wore it into my local café where it was much admired. My local café owner is very creative, Therese of Linen and Latte, her instagram posts are lovely. @linenandlatte Therese is a very talented needlewoman herself, and carries a range of "sewing accoutrements" in her café. Which is where I bought the pattern for my next experiment. A pair of shorts. Watch this space. Or rather, don't hold your breath!
I nearly forgot to tell you how long it took me, my 20 min Skye Tweed Wrap. Well, it took me 40 mins including a cup of coffee, watching the rugby on tv and getting the dinner on! So that's a wrap. Here's a lovely picture of my late parents in law. My mother in law is wearing a coat, dress and hat ensemble that she made herself, back in the 1960s. One thing I do know is, she will have spent more than 40 minutes on that!
Helen x

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Feeling A Bit Frugal

Some of my friends think I am a bit of a spend thrift. They laugh when I say I think I am actually quite frugal. Yes, I can spend a ridiculous amount on a handbag, I like "good clothes", I like French perfume and good quality skin care products. But ... within that, I use my handbags every day. I wear my clothes until they fall apart. I have one bottle of perfume, use it until it is done, then buy another one. And you only get one skin so look after it. Not strictly true, your skin is constantly renewing, but you know what I mean. So, you see, I am quite frugal within myself. Buy good quality, use it up, use it out and repair it, repurpose it or recycle it.

So, it is inevitable that I have always felt drawn to the economy square. I am sorry for the dreadful photo. It looks worse than I thought, taken with my iPhone.

I have never checked, but I presume it so named as it doesn't waste much fabric in its construction. No corners cut off, simply triangles cut diagonally and attached to a square. Without repeating and boring you, these squares are made from a charm club my daughter in law subscribed me to. I knew she was a keeper!

The 5" Japanese kokka squares have had 4 triangles cut on the diagonal from two 5" squares from a contrast patterned fabric. These in turn have are trimmed to 7 1/2" squares. In turn 4  more triangles cut diagonally from two 6 1/2" squares. When I look at the measurement guidelines online, my measurements are slightly generous, allowing for trimming. Maybe my fellow scrap booker friends are right - I am somewhat extravagant!

So my current state of play is I made all these extra blocks. This allows me to make a total layout like the photo above. This is only a rough layout, I need to play around with the placement. Time to get the sore knees! When I get my design wall, crawling about the floor will become a thing of the past?

The eagle eyed amongst you, may notice the piano keys block hasn't made the final cut. I have one block too many. As it turned out the piano key charm square is a rogue block. It was only after I made it up, I realised in its charm square form, it is 1/2" bigger than the rest.

At the minute the quilt is following the oblong, top to bottom format. It is very tempting to make it oblong from left to right, across the width. I think that is better for snuggles with mum or dad, or even granny. Yet the accustomed layout is top to bottom. We will see. There are 30 blocks altogether.

So, I have to trim all these blocks, play with layout and sew them together. The bottom right corner one is rather dark compared to the rest, but I LIKE that one. A couple of Japanese fabrics from stash sneaked in to make up the number, maybe I will have to exchange that one for another.  Next up after that is the backing. I haven't got any suitable backing as yet. I quite fancy a children's print for the back. Something busy. A Japanese fabric would, I thnk,  be too expensive for the backing, (see, frugal again) but perhaps something sort of similar. I will know when I see it, if I can find it. Hopefully. Maybe.

Helen x
linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

I have the unusual occurrence of having more things to blog about than I  have written blog posts.

My small laptop has lost its internet connection, again.  My laptop won't connect, I have tried everything in my small computer knowledge. Basically undo the last update and turn the wi fi on and off again! This really is a first world problem isn't it? In fact not even a first world problem but a millenial problem. My grandparents would never have had this problem. I contradict myself, any millenials I know, would tweek something, problem solved. Now where do I find somebody to do that? So. I am typing this on the "big computer" and then adding the photos to the draft on my phone. I don't think my quilting photos scattered here there and everywhere in the files of the big computer would go down well. And my phone, it is permanently full and I am convinced the volume isn't working right. Or maybe that is my ears. But you are not here to listen to my technological woes. I have a finish! I have quilts!

First up  is my Little Red Riding Hood quilt for Feet Claire. Claire if you remember is my podiatrist, and also the daughter of one of my Scrapbooking chums. Claire recently had her first baby and I felt a strong need to make her a quilt.

I had some Little Red Riding Hood fabric left from a swap I took part in a few years ago. It was a Schnitzel and Boo Swap blogged about in February 2015. My small quilt went winging to off to Sydney, and currently hangs in a home office, and is loved by the little girls in the house.

Next up I made some blocks for a bee I was in at the time. This was to be a story quilt, each block told a story and had a colour theme. I thought that was a lovely idea.

There was still some fabric left, I thought perfect for this little one. I didn't have enough of the original red to surround all the blocks, so the central block has a different red. Works quite well doesn't it? This Little Red Riding Hood seems to be mostly picking apples to take to her grandmother. Well, I suppose they can hardly have the Wolf chasing the girl, or the girl hitting the Wolf with her basket. Actually, in these days of the Me Too movement, that's not a bad idea. Fabric with Little Red Riding Hood hitting the Big Bad Wolf (or Woooluf) with her basket!

Next up were the filler squares. The planning of these took ages. I was going to make pinwheel blocks or spider web blocks. I wasn't feeling the love. Eight months passed by and I still wasn't feeling the love. I started thinking about the story, and it hit me. Trees! A wood of trees that Little Red Riding Hood passed through going to visit her grandmother. Now it became a real story quilt. I passed a very pleasant couple of afternoons making impromptu trees. A whole forest of them. I just used the off cuts from the central squares and made them up to size. A sort of sew, flip and add a bit more to make up the size. I love the spontaneity of the trees, the randomness of them.

I had enough of the red zig zag for the backing, but I thought it would be more fun to make a pieced backing. I used the off cuts from my Strawberry Jam and Red Lemonade picnic quilts and added in the rest of the bits and pieces.

Quilting was simple. The fabric pictures are so delicate, I couldn't use heavy quilting to drown them out. So simple straight line quilting it is, with some added definition around the trees. It works well on the front, if I was to do this again, I think I would try a top white thread and a bottom red thread  I bound it with a red and white spot. My tried and tested Rose and Hubble spot.

The quilt dimensions? About 34" square after a wash and tumble. It is now beautifully crinkly.  I do like a square quilt for a small child. In my experience, they like to tuck it in around them, and it is not so long that they will trip over it. All being well, it will be handed over tomorrow night. Another ticked off my Finish A Long list!

Helen x

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Post Christmas Austerity

There is always a period of post Christmas austerity. The time for that is generally January, I got me the January Blues I suppose is where that comes from. At the minute I am concentrating on my Economy Square quilt, less to do with frugality, and more about trying to finish things up. Spring Cleaning in the sewing department I suppose. How do you think Mrs Hinch would tackle that? For those who don't know, Mrs Hinch is a british you tube sensation. Apparently she enjoys cleaning, buying cleaning products. Names all her cleaning products and dusters etc and records herself cleaning. And has a huge following which has in turn made her very wealthy! Go figure! I am afraid that generation has passed me buy!

Back to my metaphorical spring cleaning. I like to try in the New Year to finish up some projects. Give myself some head space before I jump into new things. It is the guilt thing. All that fabric going to waste, just sitting there. I am going to a Kaffe Fassett workshop in March in my local guild. It is using an obscene amount of fabric, so I need to balance the scales a little. Use a bit up before I bring in the new. I need not add, I will not be participating in the obscenity of riches in the Kaffe department. I have my collection of fat quarters, neatly filling a fabric 1 hr basket. My friend has similar, and we will bluff the rest. How much fabric can it take to fussy cut one quilt? Anyhow, I digress. Back to my Economy Squares.

A number of years ago, my daughter in law, then my son's girl friend knew the way to my heart. For that Christmas she subscribed me to a charm club in Japanese kokka fabric. For a full calendar year, every month a little  pack of charm squares dropped through the letterbox. It was quite exciting to see which fabrics were coming. I sat on these for a while, as you do. I enjoyed looking at them for a whole year or so, then I decided to make some economy squares.

I thought economy squares would show the differing squares off to their best advantage. I surrounded each square with a patterned fabric which complemented rather than contrasted the square. This was then surrounded with another complimentary plain kona cotton. I made quite a few. Then I stopped. Periodically they came out and went on to my Finish A Long list. In fact, they are on the current list. That was as far as it went.

I was having a hoke, as we say here, and came across them again. I was thinking they would be a great I spy or Tell Me A Story quilt for the my grandson. The son of the daughter in law who bought me these. And this comes full circle.

 I finished another 5 squares yesterday, and laid them all out to have a look.

I have another 4 blocks designated to fall into place

. I will need a couple more, there are still some remaining squares of flowers etc. It will all fall into place. Last Christmas I cherry picked some of the squares to make some fabric blocks for my grandson. I put a rattle thing in them and they have given him a lot of fun. If I get my act together, and finish this whilst he is still of an age to play with the blocks, it will all come together nicely. He still stacks the two blocks and knocks them over. No doubt he will soon be kicking them around the room like a football.

Since drafting this blog post I have cut and started to stitch the remainder of the blocks . My computer is playing that game of "silly b*ggers" so this blog post is quitting when it's ahead !