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

Saturday, 21 July 2018

My Quest for Self Improvement

Never too old to learn, is a good motto for life I think. And so my journey of self education into the world of fmq, free machine quilting, continues. I was so pleased with the loopy loops I fmq on the Sandra's Scraps, or Plus Playtime quilt, I finished the loops on the blue background cross.

 A day or two ago, I headed back into my lair to loop the loop in the cream background.

As I headed across the room, I made the mistake of turning my head. My eyes settled on the Quatrefoil quilt, and the guilt kicked in.
 Started before my grandson was born, this kind of needs to be gotten on with. He has a cot quilt,
 and a visiting granny quilt in Liberty, pattern from Purl Soho. 
 You know, every baby needs lots of quilts. He has a lovely quilt his mum made, plus some gorgeous knit and crochet blankets. But wahey, everybody needs quilty cuddles. We went to visit him last week, no finished quilt. We are having a family celebration soon, I predict no finished quilt. It will be Baby C's 1st birthday soon. I wouldn't place money on this being finished then either. And so, I sighed, shuffled the pluses to the back of the chair and picked up the What's Out The Window quilt. (just named that this second, not bad?)
I had been unsure what to do in the white backgrounds. I obviously didn't want to use a dark thread in the white, but I didn't want a light thread making a mess of the lovely space backing fabric. My words, not those of an independent member of the quilt police. Anyhow, I had to bite the bullet, so I started doing tiny loops in sort of rows, backwards and forwards across the white areas.

I kept going, not stopping to look until I had completed two full blocks.

Then I tenuously allowed myself to flip over to the dark side.
I love it! It looks like other people's quilting! It looks the way quilting should. Hard to explain, but it just looks right. I am singing from the rooftops. Life long learning is wonderful. Never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. You can teach your granny to suck eggs. All those old trite sayings and plenty more.
The irony is, I now am even further away from a finish than I ever was. The original quilting done two weeks ago in my first effort of fmq? It is all coming out. Every single stitch. Or most of it. My grandson deserves better than this. I need more quilting threads. I need more time.
This coming week is, hopefully, the week of our family celebration and a party to celebrate my son and daughter in law's recent wedding. There will be a frenzy of cleaning and baking towards the start of the week, then a frenzy of flower arranging towards the end. If the Queen wants to come to visit, my garden will never look so nice, my house will never be so tidy, and my cake tin is full. I put the marzipan on my Delia Smith celebration cake today. The smell of Drambuie would knock you out. If it doesn't taste great, everybody will be too knocked out to notice!  Tomorrow is icing day. I will have to clean the kitchen after!
By deciding to up my fmq game, not only is this quilt running behind schedule, but Sandra's Scraps will not be draping the garden furniture this coming week. The one thing about my previous quilting style was, it was less labour intensive. I am sure I will find a few other quilts to put out in the garden in the meantime.
Helen x

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Quilting Planning Party 2018

My last reflective post for another few months, thank goodness I hear you cry.
This time it is Yvonne's 2018 Quilting Planning Party. Her button is in my side bar. This is different to finish a long, it is more ethereal, more what would YOU really like to do?

  I have linked back here to all the goals I laid out. I am not going to list them all, but I am pretty pleased. I have finished the main goals I laid out, collaborated on a quilting project, Sandra and the Postcard from Sweden. Made a wedding quilt, the Belfast Bulletin. Strengthened quilting friendships, or I think I have. I have even won a few things which helps to subsidise this hobby. This is just a matter of luck of the draw, no skill involved.

And what to set out for the next six months?
Not to join any bees. Easy, it is mid year now, and I have held out all year. Except to help out in any outstanding quilts for Beeabee2017. I have however accumulated 3 bee brooches and a bee stamp. Here's a photo of one of them. You actually might struggle to see the brooch on this bee happy yarn  by Lay Family yarn. I am trying hard to be real bee friendly too.

Not to jump on any more roundabouts, at least until I have finished up some things. This is harder, as soon as I hear the music, I am running after the band. May or may not follow up on this. As a young girl, you won't know this, I wanted to play the saxophone. I loved Acker Bilk and his jazz band, in particular saxophone bits. My uncle had one, I couldn't even get a peep out of it! My sister on the other hand played the tuba. She practised and the dog joined in. We never knew if it was pleasure or pain with the dog!

Make all my Christmas presents this year, and delight everybody with my whimsy, still and originality. Well .... we will see! I know I want to make wee braw bags this year for those nearest and dearest to me. But I want to do many things. What I don't want to do is ...... well, I loved my late mother in law very much. We were great friends and so kind. She made me a dress I wanted. And then knit me a cardigan I liked. The only problem was she loved her other daughter in law too, and made her exactly the same. We looked like fraternal twins but 12 years age difference! Not the look I was aiming for in my late teens early twenties. She loved it when we accidentally wore them at the same time. Me less so. I would like to make something for my daughter and two daughters in law. Wee braw bags should be ok. Last year it was 1 hour baskets.

Just one more thing. I have taken to buying clothes making patterns. I like to look at them. I even bought one last week for a dress. A dress! Me! I know ... I could make the girlies matching dresses for Christmas! That's a plan! I shall perhaps make a pair of shorts for my summer holiday.

And that is about it. No more, no less. Just carry on having the fun, and when the fun stops, stop. As they say in the tv adverts.

Helen x
linking up with Yvonne and the Quilting Planning Party 2018

Friday, 13 July 2018

Finish A Long Qtr 3 Proposed Finishes

Time for a bit more navel gazing, gosh, I hate that phrase. Anyway, time to link up all my dirty washing, all my unfinished works in process. Here we go in no particular order:

1 Quatrefoil quilt
for my grandson, a beeabee2017 quilt. Half quilted and binding already sewn on.
Finish quilting and hand stitch down binding. Should have been finished for this weekend. A likely finish.

2 Playtime Plus quilt, aka Sandra's Scraps

Partially quilted. Blogged about this week, should have been finished by link up of this week. A likely finish.

3 Economy Square Quilt
Economy square quilt, it does what it says on the tin. Made from a year long subscription to a Japanese fabric charm club bought by my daughter in law. Just (!) needs blocks sewn together, basted, quilted. Liklihood of a finish? Highly unlikely!
4 Liberty Hexie Quilt
I have been at this for as long as I have been quilting in this recent reincarnation. I want to finish this, yet I never want to finish this. You see I love it so much. Most of the two ring hexie circles are sewn together. A finish? Maybe, maybe not.
5 Kingfisher Stitch A Long Epp
This is a newbie making an appearance for its first time. In fact it is more of new project than an unfinished project. A real wip. Liberty epp, sewn onto diamonds. What's not to love? How far am I? half of the hexies done, no diamonds cut out.
6  Beekeeper Cardigan
On to the knitting now. My beekeeper cardigan, a 4 day knit a long, which is taking me rather longer. About 10 days so far, but that's ok, I am enjoying it. Love it, love it, love it. Likelihood of finish? I would bet money on this on.

7 Timely Cardigan
I love this. I was knitting this until the Beekeeper cardigan came along. Now there is a bit of a thing. I was knitting a size slightly too small and hoping for the best. Now the pattern has been updated with larger (?) sizes. Should I keep going or rip and start again? Likelihood of a finish? Possibly. Possibly not. Trust me I have started this, but I don't have any photos.

8. My Luna Sky Wrap
Should have made this ages ago. Apparently it only takes 20 minutes.
So, that's it. Not all my projects by any means, but the ones that come to mind. What would life be without a project? Somebody famous must have said that somewhere sometime.
Helen x

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Playing with the Adults

You probably remember the plus playtime quilt a long.

 I kept thinking of playtime with extras, playing with the adults. This was a qal based on a quilt Sandra of mmmquilts designed for the Modern By The Yard ezine.

I decided to do mine with spots. I love spotty fabrics. And just by chance, Sandra had sent me some of her scraps. I love other people's scraps. These were scraps left over from this very magazine cover quilt. And some of the fabrics had spots! It was serendipity.


I started off working from top left using Sandra's scraps along with some white kona. Then for my background plus I used blue kona left from the two wedding quilts, the behemoth and the Belfast bulletin. I actually used two blues, believe it or not, this was intentional. When I had used up Sandra's scraps, I turned to my own mostly spotty fabrics.

At one stage, I felt the balance was wrong, two small pluses next to each other jarred with each other and spoiled the whole balance of the thing.

Sandra to the rescue again. She sent me just enough fabric for 2 pluses, I chose which one I wanted to use, and the unpicking began. The difference in the balance of the  quilt was incredible. It was just how I envisioned it.


Next we moved along to the backing. Now, this was a conundrum. I have finally worked out how to change the sewing foot on my machine to the free machine quilting foot. Now, I can do more than just straight line quilting. And this made the problem.

My head told me to use a neutral fabric so the quilting wouldn't show up too much on the backing, if it was all a bit skew wiff.

My heart told me to use something bright and spotty.

This pink spot as opposed to the offcuts of pale blue and yellow check given to me many years ago was undoubtedly my favourite.

Eventually I went with the strips of check. Following along the ethos that this had turned into an other people's scraps quilt, I had to use the neutral checks.

  I have had them for ages, my friend Val gave them to me when she stopped sewing. Luckily I got another sunny day for basting in the garden. So much easier on the back, and when I get fed up, I sit and read for a while then start again.

And so I started quilting. Along each of the segments of the large blue plus, I looped a strip of loopy loops. And then I sort of looped more loopy loops in between. And that is as far as I have got. I even went and bought quilting thread for this. I found ordinary sewing thread didn't cut the mustard. And that was as far as I have got.

As it turns out, so far I am happy with the quilting on the reverse, but I am glad I am going the scrappy route after all. I hereby rename this quilt Sandra's Scraps.

We are expecting visitors from overseas soon. Like all good hosts, I am in a frenzy of cleaning. No I am not, I am mainly shifting stuff from one room to another room. And weeding. And cleaning windows. And scrapbooking. Very important the scrapbooking. I have been scrapbooking my son and new daughter in law's recent wedding. I have scrapbooked so much my shoulders are positively aching. All so the visitors can say, what a wonderful mother in law you are, what a wonderful scrapbook!

This weekend my other daughter in law is graduating and we are spending time being granny and granda. Great fun. So, there will be no more added quilting in the horizon for this week.

So, take it as you find it.

 Once again I am linking up in the final parade with a nearly finish rather than a finish.

That's ok. I will enjoy it all the more when it is finished. My husband did ask his usual, What is this? Where is this for? Followed up by, It is very bright. I think that means he likes it. Always a good sign.

And by not finishing it, I can link it up in my Finish A Long for the next quarter! Always a silver lining!

Helen x
linking up with Sandra mmmquilts
linking up with Lorna sew fresh quilts