Monday, 17 June 2019

Forty Winks

We have reached the end of the #Beothukstarqal, the link up opened on Saturday, on what would have been Sandra's Father's birthday. Cliff used to tell her the 15 June was the birthday of "A very important Canadian". I haven't yet linked up, though I did post an instagram photo on the day.

 I was hoping for a finish today and a photo opportunity tomorrow, but I went for 40 winks.

With my usual straight lined minimalist quilting this quilt would have been finished. The quilting has led me in a different direction. I have heard people say, the quilting leads them. Well, in case it has. As I have quilted each bit, I have found myself thinking, I'll just do this wee bit here, and then this wee bit. It has just evolved, but then that is my way through life. I know where I want to go, but am not sure how to get there, and it just bumbles along. Generally in life it has worked out, as it has in this quilt.

I outlined, or rather inlined just inside the four corner stars. I picked a neutral Aurifil quilting thread. The one with the orange casing, the 50/2. I'm not sure what that actually means, but it is the one used for machine quilting.

Next up, I outlined the centre popping star. I wanted to see how the star popped, to see where I was going. The centre of this star is four Liberty squares. I did some narrow straight lines, a foot width apart, either up and down or across and back depending on your point of view. This led me to follow the lines of the square on point that's around the central block. Five lines of quilting within this square. I liked how this intersected in the corners.

I decided the corner squares needed some extra non fussy fussiness. I started running straight lines from the two corner points, to the opposing two corner points. Then I did the same in the opposite direction. Again, I am happy now some of these lines intersect, some don't and some parts are quilting free.

I had already started quilting triangles within the outer triangles, but finished these off. And that was where I had got to at the weekend.

Sunday was Father's Day.  I had my lie and breakfast in bed as usual, which is a routine that suits me very well. I decided the best present for my husband, was for me to take myself off and sew, leaving him in the peace and quiet to re order his vinyl. So many ways to order it on the shelves ... by genre, by title, by artist, chronologically. I thought he would enjoy that.

I disappeared into my lair, my kingdom, which I share with the tools of the trade, my washing machine and tumble dryer. Originally I planned to put an armchair in here, but we put a wine rack in instead. The central square seemed to be leading me towards something more. I quilted 5 offset squares inside the offset square of Kona snow. This in turn led to another 5 lines of half triangle in the last white triangle of  the central square. I have almost completed 2 of the 4 repeats of these blocks. And this brings me to today.

Today we went to a viewing of an Art in the Garden exhibition at the local Culloden Hotel. It had been curated by a local art company, Gormleys Fine Arts. The art work in the garden was very interesting, some the usual sculptures of women, some whimsical, some fun.

Inside the exhibition continued, there were works and paintings by renowned artists, Dali, Picasso, Banksy, a great coup for Gormleys. We were lucky enough to escape the rain and then went for afternoon tea. Which was scrummy. If you look behind me, you can see a Banksy hanging on the wall. As they do, on the average wall.

 Strangely when we got home we were both exhausted! I settled down on the sofa to read for a bit, and promptly fell asleep. For a whole lot of hours! Goodness knows how I will sleep tonight. Anyhows, that was my sewing time today. The plan had been to finish the last two sections leading out from the centre, some zig zagging around the border, and sew the binding on. Tonight I was going to hand sew down the binding whilst watching an excellent programme on preventing plastic pollution. Tomorrow take the photos, blog and link up. Well, it will probably be too wet for photos tomorrow anyhow! Its just Mount Stewart is a great place for quilts in the wild.

You never know, I might have finish before the week's out and replace my link up. I will leave you with a shot of the back. I like how the quilting disappears in, and I have a little label in the corner all ready for me to embroider on. And the binding? A green spot I think. The baby bedroom, or nursery, as they are called today, is painted green.

I have really enjoyed this quiltalong, It has been fun, manageable in size, and time. Sandra's designs are always spot on as they say.

Helen  x
linking up with Sandra, mmmquilts
linking up with Beth, Cooking up quilts

Monday, 10 June 2019

I'm In A Good Place

I'm in a good place. The back of my sewing chair is generally the staging post for nearly completed quilts. My staging post needs an extension, the ironing board is currently swamped with nearly finishes. So, still no ironing service currently, I would have to find another holding space for the 4 nearly finished quilts. 4! This gives me enough blog post matter for ages, oh at least until the end of the summer.

So here, is one nearly finish ... my Beothuk Star qal,

known to me as the Coulter baby quilt. When last spotted, on my design wall, I was just at the stage of piecing the final squares together.

I was nearly tempted to go rogue, as I enjoyed this layout too!

 Since then I have completed all the blocks, sewn them together, bordered the quilt, basted and started the quilting. Boy, have I been working hard.

All four corner blocks are completed, and the centre star pops out strongly because I used 5 different Liberty  fabrics. When the star popped out, it was like, wow, look at this.

 I wasn't expecting that. This was partly because Sandra's clever pattern delayed the final gratification, and also because I used 5 Liberty different fabrics.

You may have picked up before, I am not keen on fabric borders. I thought I might just bind this. In this occasion the designer knows what she is doing. My solid white background keeps the quilt calm and quiet, lots of negative space. When I held the proposed binding against it , it was too busy without a border. It needs the quiet reflection the border gives.

I was able to baste the quilt out in the garden. That was a mammoth basting day. I basted the Kaffe quilt, mammoth beast that it is.

This was wee buns by comparison, and just slipped in at the end before tea.

This was when the stockpile started the quilt mountain on the ironing board.

I don't generally enjoy the quilting as much as the piecing. I am enjoying this however. The quilt is small enough to  manoeuvre and it is for my soon to be born grandchild. There is always an added pleasure in making something for your own grandchild. I never understood the power of the bond between grandmother and grandchild before I had my first grandchild. Well, I didn't have my grandchild, my daughter in law did, but you know what I mean.

Part of the enjoyment is also having the right tools for the job. I swept rather a lot of fluff out of my machine, and changed the needle. I know, I should do that every project. It is like checking knitting gauge, I don't. This however is a special quilt.  I am also using a little of my precious Aurifil stash. Aurifil make, to my mind, the best threads but I find them difficult to get locally. I kind of begrudge paying postage for thread. Postage should be for the big things in life. I know that doesn't make sense. The thread is an important part of the quilt. Every time I quilt with Aurifil, I really can see the difference. One day I will win an Aurifil competition, and be as happy as pig in clover.

From my vast stash of, oh at least 5 Aurifil threads I chose one which would definitely be from the Magnolia side of the paint chart. I am never that confident with my quilting, so I like my thread to blend in rather than stand out. So far I have stitched sort of in the ditch around each of the 4 corner stars.

Along the inner border half square triangles, I have followed the shape of the flying geese. I have three quilted triangles of decreasing sizes, interset to each other. And that is as far as I have got.

The final link up is Saturday 15 June, the date of Sandra's father's birthday. A very important Canadian as he used to tell her. A very important day indeed. If I was following my original quilting plan, this would be finished. Now I am getting into the swing of this quilting, I am going to take it a bit further. As well as quilting the centre star, I think I might add some quilting to the white background. I am on a roll. Better that I finish it properly then finish for the sake of it.

I knew it was time to stop quilting tonight when I did the equivalent of sewing your trouser leg to your sewing. Hate it when the backing slides down like this. Easy fixed in this occasion though.

Now, the rest of my quilt stack? Well, I wouldn't want to spoil all my stories in one go. But you know what? My design wall is empty. For the moment. More clever plans and clever tricks are afoot.

Helen x
joining in with Beth and Cooking Up Quilts

Monday, 3 June 2019

Overthinking It. Again.

My dad always told me I worried about things that nobody else would even think of. My sister would tell me I need a job. My friend would be sympathetic and agree it was a problem. The problem? Pandas.
Remember my Japanese kokka charm squares? You have to go way back to remember these. The first Christmas my son's girlfriend came to stay with us, this was my Christmas present. A year's subscription of a Japanese Kokka fabric charm club. Every month a little package of charm squares landed on my doormat from the Eternal Maker. I knew she was a keeper! Roll on a few years, they are not only married but have a toddler. And I still had my charm squares!

A while ago I decided to make them in to economy squares, ultimately measuring about 9 1/2". I even joined in qal by The Littlest Thistle for giant economy squares way back in 2017. Periodically these have been laid on the kitchen floor, like tiles and put away again.

Recently I thought these would make a fun I spy quilt for my grandson, either to take home or keep here. I have missed several self imposed deadlines, another is coming up. 

Last week, I trimmed the last of the blocks and sewed them into rows.

The joy of a design wall, it makes all this much easier. Then dumped them on the floor!

Tomorrow I hope to sew the rows together.

So far so good. Now to the backing, and this is my conundrum. I decided I should use a Japanese theme fabric for the backing, something attractive to a child. In my wisdom I decided on pandas. Yes, pandas. I was in a fabric shop with my long suffering daughter in law.

Why are you looking for panda fabric?
I would like a Japanese themed fabric for the backing.
There is a fabric with temples on it.
No. I want pandas.
There is a fabric with Japanese crane birds.
No. I want pandas.
Why do you want pandas? Cranes would be more  indicative of Japan.
I want pandas, I will wait.

I found the fabric on the t'internet, I asked uncle Google for panda fabric, and ordered 2 metres.
I woke up the next morning, very early, and it suddenly came to me.
Pandas come from China. Not Japan.
I checked my emails, maybe I could cancel the order. Great service. Between midnight Sunday night, and 8 am Monday morning, the fabric cutting elves had already completed my order. Quick work guys, specifically Adam.

And there lies my overthinking it. You see, I wanted to keep it Japanese, not cause offence to Japan or China by misappropriating their culture. I asked uncle Google to list animals indigenous to Japan, pandas weren't listed. The sensible head, ie my husband, says just use the panda material. You just decided to back the quilt with pandas.

The overthinking part now is fretting that I have made some dreadfully social gaff. And there in lies the nub. Although this is a little tongue in cheek, I doubt very much I will cause an international scandal. However, there has been a lot in podcasts and instagram recently about "disapprobation" of culture. My politically correct daughter has explained this to me. My concern is that my accidental disapprobation is actually the type of subliminal prejudice that can be the real problem. Substitute this with a different subject matter and it would be a much more serious thing. Or maybe I am over thinking it again.  In any case, sometimes it can be good to look at ourselves objectively and have a good think.

Fingers crossed I make this deadline anyhow! All this over thinking, makes me think it is time to go have a furtle on the internet. In the meantime I can link up my own furtle through my wips.

Helen x
linking up with Cooking Up Quilts
linking up with Tish and her UFO Busting
linking up with Archie and his Furtling

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Who Knew Tennyson Could Sew?

Sir Alfred Tennyson said, "in springtime a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love". What Tennnyson really meant was, In springtime a sewist's fancy turns to new projects. This is the only explanation why I could be blogging about making a drawstring bag.

instead of my Beothuk Star, aka Granny's Liberty Baby Quilt.

Instead of my Fireburst quilt, aka the 4th July quilt.

Or even this pile of stuff, which is really my Japanese kokka economy square quilt.

A month or two ago I made some 1 hr baskets for myself, my sister, my daughter and my niece from my stash of Alice In Wonderland fabric from the 2017 Rifle Range.

 We all loved them, and I promised to make my sister and myself some additional drawstring bags. She doesn't sew but she is a great knitter. And as we all know, a new knitting project requires a new project bag. My sister spends her weekends in her caravan at the beach. She can't let the family down by having her knitting in a tacky old carrier bag!

The two girls had liked the blue Alice fabric the best of all.

So, they got their baskets from that.

 There was a little bit of this left. A piece about 11" wide, and 10" long, narrowing to 9" wide and 10" long. The plan was always to bulk this out with another coordinate.

Fast forward today. I was at the doctor's and waiting, waiting in the waiting room, the rather appropriately named waiting room. They seem to have thrown out all their old magazines, and the tv was off, it got rather boring but probably lowers the blood pressure. I did what everybody does, flipped through my phone. Not the sports pages or celebrities for me, I swung by some sewing blogs. I saw Vera from Negligent Style was making some lovely pouch bags. This in turn led me to S.O.T.A.K handmade who has some great free tutorials.

Another hour on and we were eating our tea -  liver and onions and potatoes. There maybe some amongst you who would say to eat liver, you have to take your mind off it. Anyhow, one minute I was eating my liver and onions, and the next the chair was pushed back and I was in the sewing room. By the time my husband had cleared the table and gone to finish his glass of red wine in the garden, I had made a drawstring bag. I know, a glass of wine on a Tuesday night, a bit daring that.  I had joked that to eat liver you need a glass of chianti and some fava beans. Far too scary a film for me, but I did know that famous line. We didn't have any fava beans, but we did of course have a bottle of red wine.

I used the basis of the S.O.T.A.K. tutorial for this, slightly amending the measurements. I used a strip of 4" Alice and 3.5" Alice, with a strip of 4" blue and white zig zag in between. The red zig zag from the inner is the same fabric as the blue. I used the full 10" length of the blue scraps.

The casing for the drawstring is 2.5" folded in half and is, I think, a Tula Pink fabric. The key seems to be to make the casing shorter than the width of the bag width. That's where I have been going wrong all these years! Such a simple thing, but makes the sides so much neater.

The outer fabric is sandwiched, right sides together with the lining fabric. The casing is slotted in between with all the raw edges lined up. The short ends of the casing had already been turned in with a single hem to neaten them off.

Repeat with the other side. Then simply open out two pieces of fabric you have just sewn together  to the double length. Lay this on top of the other sewn piece, and sew these together.

Remember, yes, remember to leave a gag at the bottom of the lining fabrics to turn inside out. Very important that.

Then turn the bag inside out and there you go. The basis of a drawstring bag. Then add your ribbon.  I think I through all my ribbons out, or put them away very safe. I'm not really a ribbon sort of girl, and I never used them. Except on the rare occasion when you needed a piece of ribbon. In the waste not, want not mentality, I decided to use it up and use the selvedge from another piece of the fabric.

I cut it off and folded in the raw edge on one side and the actual selvedge edge on the other and ran a seam of running stitches down it. A safety pin to draw it through and there you go. I like the rough and ready look, so I knotted the ends. He who has the where withal suggested sewing the ends would be neater, but I like to live on the edge. It's how I rock and roll here. He also pointed out I have many drawstring bags, but this was a very nice addition.

By this stage, I had decided I rather like this wee bag. I particularly like the peek of the red lining.

So, sorry, sister. This ain't for you. I have no more of this fabric left, but I will make you a rather nice one with the tea cups from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

 Possibly even before the end of the caravan season! And I have the beginnings of a shawl which will just fit nicely in my new project bag.

I reckon this just fits the brief for the DrEAmi link up. Drop Everything And Make It. So, I will be linking up with those damn squirrels again.

Helen x
linking up with
linking up with

Monday, 20 May 2019

Three Old Men and A Beothuk Star

Today I feel I have achieved something. I have finished my blocks in time for the link up for the Beothuk Star QAL. So? Moaning Minnie here, I've had a sore throat and sore ears for two weeks now so life has been mostly lying around with little get up and go. But we have a finish! A finish of the first blocks anyway.

Sandra's instructions are very comprehensive. She has made many variations of this quilt amended the instructions accordingly. I read all the instructions, several times. Feeling rather cotton wool brained, I thought I would make the 4 main stars and then add on the additional blocks bit by bit.
Here's Sandra's own photo of her quilt.

 That was my plan, read the instructions and go off piste. Looking at fabrics, I realised in some cases, I wouldn't have much fabric to play games with, especially if it all went a bit wrong. As it does. Sometimes.

So I  decided to play ball. I would follow her instructions as laid out. After all, Sandra designed the quilt, she knows what she is doing. As I am using 4 different fabrics for my squares, I was to make the blocks using 2 of the fabrics. To help concentrate my mind, I laid the bits for all 4 fabric blocks on my design wall. I love to say that now. My design wall. I then picked two, and started sewing.

Sandra's instructions are well laid out and clear. Very quickly I had 3 blocks of the first colour using my lemon floral inner cornerstone fabric.

 Next up was a single block with the contrast of the centre star that literally pops.

 I changed my mind several times with this central contrast fabric.

 First up was the strong pink, but it was too similar I felt to the pink floral. Next up was the blue floral. It was a definite contender, but at the last minute it was ruled out. Too similar to the other blue floral. It is getting a little like Goldilocks here, too warm, too hot. The next was a complete non starter, too whishy washy. Last up was the white with the stronger flowers. I don't have very much of that though. With a fair wind, it should be ok. Just.

The second set of 4 blocks just flew off the machine. The main blue in this set is the blue floral I used for backing in my Granny's House Liberty Quilt.

So, that is my first 8 blocks made. A start made also on the next 8 blocks. They should fairly whizz by as a repeat of the first 8.

Today felt like a landmark day too for another reason. After two weeks in the house pretty much, we went out! My car battery was flat, my own battery was flat. My daughter's car needed a good run too. So ... we decided to go out separately and meet up at Glenarm Castle and Walled Garden, which most importantly has a tea room. All went well until I decided to take a short cut. Never a good idea. My friend had told me this was a handy short cut, cutting out the town of  Larne. Nothing happened, don't be worrying, its just I'm an urban driver worried about her battery going flat. I drove for miles on country roads, over hills and down hills, round twisty bends  and bendy twists. The countryside was beautiful, if I wasn't watching the road so much. Worst of all was the little hump backed bridge that could only take one car at a time. I smiled when I saw the 30 mile per hour sign, I was scarcely driving that anyway! Eventually I "reached my destination" about 3 or 4 minutes faster than my husband. He left after me, was driving my daughter's small car, I was in my super fast speedy Mercedes sports car! Short cut - I don't think so!

We had a lovely walk around the walled garden, most of the tulips were finished, but still lovely.

Luckily for us, the grounds around the Castle, which is still a private home, were open.

 A great lunch too and off home along the main coast road. It is twisty and turny too, and has a tunnel which only takes one car at a time, but it doesn't faze me at all. No tractors and a white line down the middle of the road! My type of driving. Our Coast Road is really beautiful and perfect driving today, bright but no strong sun and not too much traffic.

One thing I did observe today - (being housebound sharpens your observations). What is it with old men? Now I am married to an old man, I love him dearly, but other old men .... two old men next to us in the tea room, "posh English" braying, sorry  talking loudly about lobster omelettes , perhaps suitable for a vegetarian. Now, I have been in the London restaurant they were referring to, but seriously men, lobster omelette?

 The next old man was parked in a lay by at the side of the road. He was playing with his drone, directing it over the sea. Harmless enough. But ... as a wife and mother I just knew this is wishing for a disaster. A remote control drone going over the sea? Seriously? One lost drone coming up.

And the last old man? He was parked at the side of the coast road and was whacking what looked like 2 large salmon against the wall. I love Glenarm salmon, but surely it is kinder to whack the salmon with a something, a stick or something. I don't know ...

So, we came home, walked around our own rather smaller garden and I went to finish my blocks. My own old man made the tea - omelette with mushroom and smoked salmon, from Glenarm! And you know what? Every single egg of the 6 had a double yolk. Now is that a lucky thing or not?

Helen x
also linking up with Beth and Cooking Up  Quilts and her Main Crush Monday

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Its All About The Discipline

In Blogging terms where am I? I seem to have hit a maelstrom recently. It isn't that I haven't wanted to blog, indeed I often find myself at 2 am blogging in my head. In real terms, it has been hard to find the momentum to blog. We have been working hard in the garden, we have been out and about. I have been sewing too in the background, some of the time. Even so, I have a finished flimsy with apologies for the daytime UK bad light photos.

I blame my design wall. We have the design wall up. We, as in the royal we, are happy with it. Occasionally it falls down and that's when I can't be bothered. It is up with a Velcro type stuff. The Velcro which sticks to the design wall occasionally parts company. Generally though that is not the problem. The problem is discipline. I have always joked I am not disciplined enough to be a professional quilter (that and the question of talent). I leap from project to project, I "fart" about. I procrastinate. The design wall makes this all very difficult. It is hard to start a new project when the current one is haunting you on the wall. I go to lift my Liberty, and there it is, this big bed quilt taunting me, laughing at me. Well, two can play at this game. I shut the door and walk out. I was struggling with my Kaffe quilt for a while. In my head this quilt and I hadn't bonded. It hadn't even a name, except occasionally to be called the Kaffe Fokkit quilt! No reflection on Kaffe, just my state of mind.

Each time the blocks fell off the wall, they went up in a different order. I did take photos of the wip, but who was to say the new order was any better or worse than the last order? My husband takes a passing interest in my quilts. He complained every time he came in, it looked different than he remembered. Needless to say, he always liked the previous reincarnation better. This photo was when we still had the stunt tape acting for the Velcro stuff.

This quilt was keeping me awake at night. That's right. Third World problems. The Prime Minister dreams of Brexit, President Trump dreams of Mexico and his wall. I too dream of borders, but my borders were the quilting type. I hate joins in borders. Loath them with a vengeance. I didn't think I had enough fabric for a straight run of border. I had ordered 2 yds of my bigger second border, and I was sure it wasn't enough. I should have ordered 2.5 yds. Now, this had me tossing and turning. Should I join seams or order yet more fabric? Another 2.5 yds on top of all the rest? What's a girl to do?

So I did what every prevaricator does. I put the metaphorical project behind the clock on the mantelpiece. Except every time I went into the sewing room, there it was taunting me from the design wall. On a bad day, it was hanging off the design wall!

Yesterday I decided enough was enough. I want to make my Beothuk Star! I sewed the last of the rows together. Today I added the first narrow border of purple circles. It was ok. the lengths weren't long enough, I had just 1 yd of this. The border was narrow, the pattern is busy and when the strips were mitred to join them, it was ok. I can breathe without the use of a paper bag. I mitred the corners of the quilt also.

This afternoon, I had coffee with a friend who is also making the quilt. She had no problems with joined borders until I indoctrinated her! We chatted about it this way and that way, and I came home to try with the big challenge. The bigger border.

I removed the selvedge on both sides, and cut the fabric into 4 equal strips running the full length. Each should be just a smidgeon under 11" in width. Of course as any mother knows, it is impossible to keep all the children equal. Three are 11" and one is 10.5". I mitred two of the strips together, luckily  remembering it was a corner mitre, not a length mitre. As Baldrick would say, we are not at home to Mr Cockup. No spare fabric to be had. By some miracle of the fabric fairy, the length of the unmitred end finished just below the end of the quilt. On the face of it, this meant two empty squares in diagonally opposing corners. A non quilter will not have a clue what this means, but quilters know. Luckily, thanks to Fairy Fabric, the offcut triangles from the other two mitred corners just fitted in neatly. Yes, this means there are joins in my borders, but I can live with these. Who knows? It might even be a design feature.

So, this photo is a not great night time photo of my bed with a completed quilt! Only joking, I will wad and quilt it and bind it. I know the night time photo is awful, never mind showing it twice. Tomorrow I will try to get some better photos in the garden. The weather and light here is awful, grey and dull.

This is the best photo of all. An empty design wall. Now, should I start my new project or finish another. I can do both! Just because I can.

Helen x