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 !

Friday, 1 February 2019

Cruelty to Grandmas

Is there a society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Grandmas by Wolves? If there isn't there should be. My children really didn't like the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Our Nana was a lovely and loving nana, they children had a close relationship with her, as did we. The boys got upset when I told them about Little Red Riding Hood going through the woods to find not Grandma in bed but THE BIG BAD WOLF! Even though I assured them Grandma was ok, she was just locked in the cupboard, they still weren't keen. True confessions here, one day when Nana had annoyed me over some slight, I told the story for my gratification regardless of their upset!

So why am I making a Little Riding Hood quilt? I liked the fabric. Not all children are maybe as sensitive about Grandmas and wolves as mine were. I am hoping my friend Irene isn't worried about the wolf when I give her this quilt for her daughter and granddaughter!

We are heading to a end with this one. The current state of affairs is that the quilt is quilted and bound. I just have the ends to sew in now, and then wash and tumble.

 I ran some straight lines along the main 9 squares, following the seam lines.

 I then stitched around the inner squares, again in straight lines.

 This followed up with some quilting around the trees, and that's that. I think I do prefer straight line quilting for children's quilts.

The backing fabric is a mish mash of little bits of left over front, and lots of red zig zag. The red zig zag is laid out in varying directions to add a bit of interest. I like to make a baby quilt with an interesting backing, handy if it gets something spilt and needs to be flipped over. My favourite bit is the wolf peeking out in the back.

Guess what? I bound it with some red spot. I bought some in a quilt shop last week, but I like it too much for binding. So, I went back to my usual pile it high shop, and bought some of the usual red and white for the binding. The finish here is so close, I can taste it. An hour or so, just burying the ends for a finish. I forgot to take a photo with the binding, but you have seen it before! The metre I am keeping is more of a red and white chambray. Could that make shorts do you think, or would it end up a bundle of wrinkles?

I took these photos in the garden during a skiff of snow. I love how the red and white of the quilt shines against the white dusting of snow, and the white of our dogwood tree.

Today we were in the market and our usual fruit and veg stall had the shiniest red apples I have ever seen. You would have thought somebody with an OCD in shiny apples had spent the morning polishing them. I lifted a couple and said, I am going to buy these bright shiny red apples for photographing my quilt. This resulted in a blank look. I misunderstood this blank look as disapproval for the purchase of red shiny apples.  Reluctantly I put it back. Then it dawned on me. Wrong fairy tale! It is Snow White who has a run in with shiny red apples. Anyhow, I forgot about the apples but wished I had bought them anyway. Maybe Little Red Riding Hood would like her quilt photographed with the three ripe figs I bought! Maybe I will make some buns or whatever it was Grandma didn't get to eat! We jokingly took a photo of our shopping today. Fruit, veg and bread from St George's Market, and then a trip to the wine merchant. Who would think a wine merchant would have a sale? Wonders will never cease.

The sun was shining and so we got a quick walk on the way home. It was good to be out of the house. Our winters are nothing like the winters in the USA or Canada, but it has been cold enough for me. So here are two photos of me. Or rather of my sweater. I had blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, but I wasn't wearing it in the photos. Maybe they were better photos.

Helen x

Monday, 28 January 2019

Everybody's Going To the Zoo

In actual fact, everybody isn't going to the Zoo in Belfast. The animals are leaving the Zoo. A rare red panda, one of 8 in Belfast Zoo escaped today. Apparently, so the keeper said in a blasé way, the two safety wires around the red panda enclosure suffered a power cut at the same time, and Amber just strolled out and left the zoo. The reporter remarked it was fortunate that Amber turned one direction and not the other, as her enclosure was next to the lions. Now, call me a bit of a worrier if you like, but power cuts? Blasé keepers? Lions? Should I be worried? I live within 2 miles of the zoo. Needless to say Amber turned up safe and sound in somebody's garden. Personally, although back in the day, we took the children to the zoo, I think the days of zoos are best in the past. And I am just slightly concerned about lions, yes LIONS AND POWERCUTS !

Anyhow, in the light of this, it seemed appropriate that I switch today's post from Little Red Riding Hood to the Animal Quilt for Felix I am making. It is nearly finished, but then it is a very simple quilt. 

I had been gifted two pieces measuring about 20 x 21". Really, two generous fat quarters by one of my bee mates back in Beeabee2017. I actually had set aside the coordinating green fabric aside to go with a project for my husband's sweater , when I saw how well it went with the animal fabrics. I am not sure where the green came from. It may actually have been gifted at the same time, but I have a feeling I bought it.

Anyhows, I cut everything into 5" squares, as far as it would go. My first layout was square. I like square quilts. Most people's quilts tend to be oblong though, so I re laid them out. I thought I was one green block short, so I decided to go with it, and make it 2 green blocks short. I improvised and will embroider some details on these.

The total size was a bit skimpy. Only about 26" in breadth.

So, off to the pile it high shop and I bought some orange/peach spot and some green spot for border and binding. I was going to border with the orange/peach and bind with the green. Of course, as soon as I got home I changed my mind. The peachy orange was just a bit too strong, a bit in your face. I am feeling rather smug here, I managed to mitre the corners. Now, they are not perfect, so don't go zooming in, but they aren't bad. The thing about mitred corners is, the first is tricky, but when you master it, you feel rather good. Until you get to the last one, and it becomes a fiend in itself.

I had enough of the peach spot I could have used for backing, but I decided to make a fun backing. I love improve sewing. I love making something out of nothing. I just kept cutting and sewing and adding. This is a wip photo.

I am acutally a bit further on here. I have finished quilting. Just straight up and down, side to side in the ditch sort of quilting. It works best for baby quilts I think. No photos as I wasn't expecting to post this! Photo update soon.

There's snow forecast here the next few days. We aren't geared up to snow here. We get a couple of inches of snow, and everybody rushes indoors and battens down the hatches. I am no exception, it is great in front of the fire. So, I am expecting a finish on this soon, half a dozen books read and maybe a couple of jumpers knitted!

Helen x

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Can A Post Write Itself?

Can a post write itself? It can, if it is a Finish A Long post. As always I can't believe it is this time again, the beginning of another quarter, never mind another year. And this post could almost write itself, probably not much change from this time last year!

So, lets meet the runners and riders.

First out of the box is a new runner, featured for the first time last week.

1 Little Riding Hood for Feet Claire.
Flimsy and backing completed, needs basting and quilted and bound.

Close behind this, so new, it has only been mentioned in rumour.
2 A project bag for my husband's sweater. The sweater I am going to knit him, when I get a pattern and yarn. But I will have a project bag, much to his amusement. Already partially pieced.

Another new runner, testing its feet for the first.
3 A baby quilt for Felix. This is a new quilt for a new baby. My friend's third grandchild, and I have made something for the other two. Can't break a habit.

This horse has been stamping at the bit for a while. He thinks he should be in the running but has never made it out of the paddock.
4 Economy square quilt. These were a series of charm squares sent to me over the course of a year. All Japanese and gifted by my daughter in law. I am nearly there with these.

And lastly the two nags. ~The two horses ready for retirement. (even I can't bring myself to say the kna****** yard, it sounds so cruel).
5 First up is the Liberty hexie quilt. What would a finish a long be without it?

6 Bringing up a close rear is the Kingfisher quilt, also a Liberty print. This is going quite well, there just isn't enough days in the week.

Oops, I nearly forgot, coming quickly up on the nearside, approaching the hedge is an evens bet.
7  Fireburst quilt. Just needs backing, basting, quilting, blah blah blah

And lastly a ringer, we all love an outsider.
8 My Timely Cardigan. I have actually started this. The original pattern went up to a size, well a not very big bust size. I never button my cardigans anyway. The pattern was then updated to incorporate
normal sizes (ha!) and I am going to rippit and start again. In a size for a normal sized woman.

 And a final final horse and rider. Bit of an outside chancer this.
9 The mustard cape poncho thing I have been making for ages, apparently it only takes 20 minutes.

And that's that. I am banking on the fact that you probably know as little about horses, and horse racing as I do. That is absolutely nothing. Just trying to vary the same old stuff for you.

Helen x
linking up with Finish A Long

Monday, 14 January 2019

What Big Eyes You Have Grandma

What big eyes you have Grandma. What big hands you have Grandma. What beautiful feet you have Grandma.

This wee quilt is for Feet Claire. Claire is she who "does my feet". She does my daughter's feet too, and we love to see Claire coming. Unfortunately for our feet, but lovely for her, she has a little girl now and has been off on maternity leave. Claire is also the daughter one of my scrapbooking friends so we definitely had to make her a quilt.

I had some of these blocks left from a few years ago. I took part in a swap and my swappee, Helen in Australia, asked for a mini quilt her daughters would like. Thankfully it went down so well, Aussie Helen hung it on the wall.

 I had 3 completed Little Red Riding Hood blocks left from memory, and 1 completed and 1 partial wolf block. I had run out of the red border fabric.

I decided the best thing was to get ripping. Where would we be without our stitch rippers? I took the borders from a Little Red and used them around the wolf block. I then used a contrasting red spot to border Red girl. It took a Little Red in the centre and two of her and the wolf to balance properly. It just didn't work right with the wolf in the centre. And why would it? Little Red Riding Hood is the heroine of the story. Who gives a whatever about the wolf?

And so these blocks sat for many months. The plan was to do a spider block square at 12 noon, 3 pm, 6 pm and 9 pm, so to speak. I couldn't work up any enthusiasm though. Just couldn't feel the love. Then I thought about pinwheels, still couldn't feel the love.

Last week I thought I really need to get this going. I had given Claire a baby present at the time, but I really wanted to make her a quilt. Then inspiration struck. Trees. A forest of trees. What more appropriate than that? After all the wood cutter comes to rescue, and a wood cutter needs a forest or at least some trees.

I really enjoyed making the forest. I threw caution and all sorts of measuring to the wind. I cut basic strips of white kona, 3" x 6" and of course the end result depended on the size of the tree fabric. To be honest, this depended on what size of fabric I had to use. I was really using the offcuts from the borders. Then I just built them up to size. Six trees in each block, two rows of three. No one tree above or below a similar tree. I really did enjoy this. It took me two afternoons and I was really happy.

I cut all my blocks to 12" square. When I sewed them together, I used the full width of the foot for seam allowance rather than the accustomed 1/4". There were so many joins in places, I thought this was more secure for a rough and tumble quilt. I can't believe I forgot to take a photo this afternoon of the sewn strips.

Today I pieced the backing. Again it changed as I went along. I had a really sweet fat quarter, a white with a tiny blue blue leaf. It just picked up the blue of the leaf tumbling from Little Red Riding Hood's blocks. I went "shopping" in the roof space and found some white glazed cotton with a blue English rose. Yuck! Far too sickly sweet I decided for Claire, who is not a flowery sort of girl. I remembered I had some off cuts from Jam Sandwiches and Red Lemonade backing from a year or so back. It was a white fabric with a broad red zig zag I bought in Philadelphia.

I had enough  for the backing in one piece, but I thought it was more fun to use the bits and pieces. I like pieced backs, and I think for children it has added interest. So, I used some "bits" and 15" from my yardage. I reckon I have about 20" left, enough to get going another day.

Whilst I was crawling about that roof space, I found some wadding. Just about enough to wad this quilt. Systems are go.  I am hoping to get basted and quilted this week, ready to hand over soon. In fact I am so enthused about sewing again, I am half way through my next project. A big project bag to house the hypothetical sweater I am knitting my husband.

As an aside, flicking through my instagram photos, I found I had used this fabric in a couple of bee blocks. The Little Red and wolf were in paper pieced economy blocks.


Wolf and  Little Red was in a block for a child's quilt of primary colours.

 I enjoyed making those blocks too at the time. This was way back in my first year in Stash Bee in 2015. A lifetime ago it seems! I included these photos as Little Red and her wolf, who actually seems to be Mr Fox, Mr Wolf's friend show up well in them.

Helen x
linking up with Beth and Cooking Up Quilts