Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's beginning to feel a bit like...........

............ Christmas

Well there is less than two weeks to go

We do finish school at the end of this week - well Louise and I do, Nick goes on 'til next Tuesday but he did have two weeks for his October half term.

Sarah will be home from university a week tomorrow

The tree and the decorations are all up

And I've been working on secret squirrel stuff I can't show you just yet

However the one thing (or rather two things) I can show you are a couple of Christmas stockings that a colleague commissioned for her two little boys aged 18 months and almost 3 years

Of course the real puzzle is how will Father Missmuss (Luke's words not mine) fill them without those bells waking up their owners?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not much blogging..................

............... but plenty of sewing and also a bit of joinery construction but in this case not by me

You caught a glimpse of some celtic knotwork I've been working on a post or two ago - using a bright orange bias on a dark blue background

In order to do this type of work this I have to mark the initial pattern onto the background fabric which is all fine and dandy if I'm using a light coloured fabric - I just tape it to the window and use the daylight as a light box for tracing the pattern.

However this isn't quite so easy on a dark background - you need a very sunny day - something we're not always blessed with in this part of the world

So I thought I'd improvise and use a glass topped coffee table with an old lamp underneath it

This worked okay for the first of the four sections but was nowhere near ideal - I just couldn't seem to get the lamp in the right place to get a clear image through the dark fabric so it took a fair bit of faffing about to just trace the one and rather put me off doing the other three

I was chatting to my wonderful handy husband about it later in the day. He looked thoughtful and wandered off out into the garage for a while

He returned with a set of spotlights we'd bought at very little cost a while ago thinking they might come in handy for an unspecified future project - we have a garage full of this sort of 'it'll come in handy sometime' stuff

I agreed that they'd be ideal mounted in a board that I could put under the glass table

So off he went back to the garage and a wee while later after lots of sawing and banging .........

Voila!!! My wonderful new light box. It shines so brightly we have to make sure the curtains are closed or we might have incoming aircraft landing on the roof.

It should make very short work of tracing the other three motifs on that deep blue fabric.............

and I can feel an idea for a design on a black background germinating in the back of my mind

On another note is it only me or do other quilters procrastinate when it comes to adding borders to their work?

I really dislike this job and often work will sit in the cupboard stalling while waiting for this especially on big quilts. I hate manhandling and cutting large lengths of fabric

However the other day I took myself firmly by the hand and made myself do some border cutting and adding

This little cot quilt already had two of the sides added and was only waiting for me to make two more to finish it off - I've no idea whatever there was to stall on for so long - now it's in the completed tops pile ready for sandwiching

This batik jewel box was a much bigger fish to fry and I find cutting and adding the long and wide borders to this size of quilt a real pain and very easy to procrastinate about - but it's done now and is sitting waiting for inspiration to strike with an applique design to finish it off

Of course having cleared these borders from the 'to-do' list it seems only right that I should create something else that will need borders

and these scrappy 'log cabin/courthouse steps' style blocks are going together a treat - I've made more progress since I took this photo and the centre is completed at 4 by 6 x 8" blocks with 3" sashing giving a nice single sized quilt once I only..............

...................... add on those dratted borders of course!!!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Now I know my A B C...............

............... won't you come and play with me?

with the words of the childhood song echoing round my head having seen this around on a blog or two so thought I'd share

A Age: 51 years young - can't quite get my head around being over 50 - all of the tv adverts that show insurance products and holidays for the over 50s can't possibly mean me

B Bed Size: Super King Size - we have a 6ft bed made up of two single beds 'zip and linked' together - a bit of a mare to get bedding for but lots of room for us and the kids to pile in on a weekend morning - well we did when they were little anyway

C Chores you hate: Anything that takes me away from quilting time really

D Dogs: None since my parents had them when I was a child much to the disgust of the kids

E Essential start to your day: A cup of weak black tea made by my lovely man and cooled to perfection on the kitchen side ready for me when I come downstairs - what a hero!

F Favourite Colour: That stunning peacock blue/teal green rich jewel shade - sets off my auburn hair a treat

G Gold or Silver: No preference I like them both and will happily accept either

H Height: 5 ft 3.5ins and with the way my youngest is shooting up at the moment it won't be long before I have the dubious honour of being the shrimp of the house

I Interests: Patchwork and Quilting, Travel (particularly to new places) - any way to combine the two is even nicer

J Job Title: Finance Officer for a local primary school - the hours and (unpaid) holidays fit in well with the kids - once the two youngest head off to university in a few short years I will probably have to go back to something full time just for us to be able to afford to keep them there - sighhhhhhhh

K Kids: Three beautiful, wonderful kids that I am so lucky to be able to have given birth to - Sarah 19, a rugby playing trainee physiotherapist at uni near London, Nick almost 16, a football crazy mathematician who is Head Boy of his school and Louise 14, my arty, eloquent, violin toting blonde bombshell who is almost as tall as me

L Live: in Taunton, Somerset in the sunny south west of England, a very long way from the beloved Yorkshire Dales of my youth - but home is with your family and it's a beautiful part of the world down here

M Mother's Name: Monica and I love her to bits - having her and Dad living close by is a pleasure and a privilege

N Nickname: With my red hair it was always something associated with that when I was younger - now I tend to get Mrs B or Mrs Bebbs

O Overnight Hospital Stays: A few too many, cartilage in left knee, wisdom teeth, appendix, sterilisation, sterilisation reversal, three caesarean sections (the last with a second sterilisation), pancreatitis fortunately cured by a gall bladder removal, and finally a night in with my youngest when she managed to swallow a magnet!!! - thank heavens for the NHS, warts and all

P Pet Peeves: Slyness particularly in children - can't you tell I work in a school

Q Quotes from Films: I can't think of a single one - I obviously either don't pay attention or I have a shocking memory - probably both

R Right or Left Handed: Most definitely right - I'm totally useless with my left

S Siblings: As the eldest of three I have a sister 3.5 years younger and a brother 9 years my junior

T Time You Wake Up: Whenever the alarm wakes me or if left to sleep probably about 8.30am

U Underwear: Yes of course!

V Vegetables You Hate: Peppers (Capsicums) - in any shape or form, cooked or raw, even the smell makes me heave

W What Makes You Run Late: Usually the kids

X X-rays You've Had: Copious quantities - see 'O' and draw your own conclusions

Y Yummy Food That You Make: I do a mean Cinnamon and Whisky Cake and can turn my hand to most other fare, hence my generous waistline

Z Zoo Animals: Conservation purposes only please

So there you have it - an alphabetical snapshot of me - quilting content will be resumed shortly

Monday, September 26, 2011

I've been getting..................

........ somewhat tied up in knots this week

It must be easily seven or eight years ago we spent a week's holiday staying in a holiday cottage in Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales. As I hale from that neck of the woods we took the opportunity to visit and catch up with old friends

One of my friends hinted that she would love one of my quilts and when asked what her preferred colour scheme would be she said how much she loves coastal colours; sands, creams and blues

In my usual fashion, on our return home I delved into my stash and started work on one of my medallion quilts - you know the theme, start in the middle with no particular plan and just keep adding what you fancy round the outside

At that time I'd never done a dresden plate - so that was my starting point with a big hand appliqued butterfly to match

Then a few hand appliqued flowers
And some delectable mountains with grandmother's fans in the corners as I'd not had a go at these either. Which left me with some blank sand areas between the blue and white hearts in the corners of the previous round Which is where the knot tying came in with a little celtic knotwork - I haven't done any of this in a while so I thought why not?

Working on this over the past week made me remember why I enjoyed it so much; from the design drafting through the interweaving of the bias tubing to the leisurely hand stitching along each edge
Here we are so far - it still needs probably a couple more rounds to make it up to the size of a useable bed sized quilt - but for now it's neatly back in the cupboard in its correct place until inspiration strikes me for the next stage. It's a good job the friend has never been told I'm working on it - she would probably have given up hope of ever catching sight of it
Other than a bit of mindless string piecing some scraps together because I had the desire to stitch something simple on the machine I've stayed in the same knotty mode

A certain blogging friend entrusted me with a quilt top she had worked on so I could add some knotwork - well Kate, your wait may be soon over - it's underway

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I have come to the conclusion that I have........

................the attention span of a butterfly

A couple of years ago - or maybe more - I set the ladies in my Monday morning quilting group a challenge.

We were all to make an 'Ostrich Quilt' - in essence a bit like a Round Robin but flightless, ie it stays at home with you and you only work on your own

I have a history of enjoying making medallion style quilts with a centre and lots of rounds working out from the middle - I love the style but they do have one drawback.....

they tend to grow to gargantuan proportions.

So this time I took the conscious decision to work through the stages of my own Ostrich in a row style fashion

Each time I set a criteria for a stage I would make a row to add to the bottom of my quilt - that way it would stay at a set width and hopefully not get too big

The stages I set were: Stars, Circles, Squares/Nine Patch, Biased Tubing Applique, Flowers, Opposites and finally Triangles. I deliberately made the criteria fairly general and vague so people could work it to their strengths or challenge their weaknesses if they wished.

As you can see from the photo here I managed to get the first six rows done and stitched together with separating strips between them and then I lost impetus

Hence this WIP has been buried in the detritus of my sewing room waiting for its final Triangle row - I ran out of steam and couldn't think what to do at the time so it languished unloved until I resurrected it during The Grand Sewing Room Clearup

I looked at it a few times and then decided that flying geese are triangles so I would use four in each 6" block as my way of interpreting the criteria

Here's the first of the seven required blocks

I have to admit that I completed the row and added it. I then put on the final sand coloured bar below it and finished off the heart and leaf applique on each bar. Finally I added sand side bars ready to add borders to complete the top

And that's where my butterfly attention span stalled so I parcelled it up back into its labelled bag and returned it to the cupboard - before remembering to take a picture!

When it eventually comes out to play sometime in the future I shall take a picture to show you

So what did the butterfly attention span rest on next?

A very old UFO which has to be more than 6 years old as I can only remember working on it at our previous house in Gloucester and we moved to this house 6 years ago last Friday

I've never shown this on my blog before - its a medallion style quilt in mid blue, sand and cream

But here's a little taster of the area I'm working on at present - lots of bias tubing to form some celtic knotwork.

I haven't done any of this for a long while but I now remember how much I love it - look out Kate - you never know there may be some progress on that quilt top of yours I have yet

Friday, September 16, 2011

Feeling rather...................

............ like this

My sewing isn't suffering, I'm still stitching up a storm

Working my way through different ufos and being sufficiently disciplined to put them back in their correct home when I get bored with them


I must admit to missing Sarah

We took her back to her uni house about five and a half weeks ago and she's just finished a tough five week placement staying over an hour from there in Chelmsford in Essex

As it was far too far to travel on public transport daily she managed to find lodgings with a lovely young couple who are friends of a rugby friend

They have been so kind to her, feeding her dinner most days, giving her lifts to a part-time job at weekends as they don't live on an easy bus route and generally giving her a home from home which is far preferable to a B&B or a budget hotel

But as she's not had anyone she knows well nearby for the duration of her placement we'd fallen into a routine of me ringing her early evening each working day so she could download her thoughts and emotions from her day

Obviously this wasn't anything like as good as having her at home to chat to face to face but it didn't make a bad second

Today Nigel called in on his way back from a business trip and collected her and took her back to her uni house and her uni mates

Those phone calls will be far less frequent in occurence and lengthy in content

This is all in the natural order of things as she continues her studies and makes a life for herself and I really wouldn't have it any other way

But I can't help feeling a bit like that soggy old balloon - deflated

However just to lighten the mood I'll leave you with a picture taken in Antwerp where the whole family stayed for a couple of nights on our way back from a week in Holland this summer
It rather sums her up :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sometimes you have to...........

......... admit when it's time to stop working on something and come back afresh

When I looked at Sarah's DofE quilt I realised that there were two blocks with only three of the four fabrics included so I decided to add a little applique to bring in that elusive fourth fabric

With this in mind I remembered that one of the blocks had originally been destined to be a honeybee block and Sarah's reluctance to learn hand applique was the stumbling block preventing completion at the time
Well to an old applique addict like me the addition of the four bees was a five minute (okay half an hour) job

This left the final block................
and what could be sweeter to break up that centre yellow diamond than the 'Mary Quant' style flower I'd used on Quilts 4 Leukaemia blocks previously sent to Clare

I then proceeded to the borders.........
and the narrow green one went on quietly.

But my enthusiasm waned with the outer flowery pink border and the work sat on the cutting table for several days

My attention wandered and I sneaked back into my neat and tidy, labelled to within an inch of its life cupboard where my gaze settled on........

an assortment of fabric I'd selected for a baby quilt for a dear friend who is due to have a caesarean in a couple of weeks

That was it - the DofE quilt had been usurped

Usually I would leave it and all its accompanying fabrics out, shove it to the corner of my sewing area and make a start on the new project - as you can imagine several projects later the detritus mountain will have reformed

But you would have been very proud of me. I packed the DofE quilt and its assorted fabrics back up into its labelled bag and returned it to the correct labelled ufo box in the cupboard.

That's my new philosophy, if it isn't the current project put it back in its correct home - it will eventually surface again as the favourite of the moment to be worked on at another time

So I changed allegiance to the baby quilt and settled for nice and simple friendship stars at 9" finished

Some toning 3"spotty sashing and striped cornerstones to pick out the green of the crocodiles

and voila! The top is complete!!! Sadly I don't have enough of the block centre animal fabric to do an outer border so I think I shall leave it at this - it's 39" square and probably just a nice size for a baby so borderless it shall be

Mind you it wasn't without the odd hiccup - last night, after an extremely emotional day including a family funeral and a lengthy drive there and back, when stitching all the blocks together I managed to transpose the two left hand blocks on the middle row - obviously time to admit defeat and head off to bed.

A good night's sleep left me refreshed, and delighted by the England win in their initial Rugby World Cup game, to do a bit of unpicking and restitch the blocks in their correct places this morning

......... and now the top is back in the cupboard with all my other completed tops in their neatly labelled box as I'm not quite in the mood for sandwiching yet so I'm hunting another ufo to come out and play with me for a while

Friday, September 02, 2011

Isn't it amazing.................

........... how having a neat, tidy, well organised and labelled to within an inch of its life sewing area can revitalise the old creative juices

After rediscovering them in amongst the melee I pulled out the blocks that Sarah made some years ago for her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award

It's one of my personal idiosyncracies but I struggle with sampler blocks where some of the edge of the block is of the same fabric as the sashings - I just don't like blocks to melt into sashings

So the nine different blocks gained a 3/4" border of the green fabric just to rationalise them all

Then I decided maybe sawtooth stars round the cornerstones would be just the ticket - not done these before but how hard can it be?

2.5" sashings need 1.5" squares to take off the corners right?

So lots of stitching, cutting and pressing later - still not comfortable with triangles and I know some of you quilters out there will quite rightly think what a wuss I am for that :)

Each sashing has little yellow corners at each end There we go - stars on the cornerstones

And here's the top so far - a 3/4" or 1" border in green to follow and then a flowered wider border for the finish - I hadn't realised until I downloaded this just how dappled the light is out in the garden today

Can't, for the life of me, think why these blocks have been hanging around for so long...........

.......... unless it's because they, and the accompanying fabric, have been awol in a room full of detritus all this time of course

(By the way Blogger is driving me crazy putting in all these carriage returns when I've taken them all out - apologies for anyone reading this having to scroll down repeatedly to get to the next bit of my spiel - anyone with any hints how to avoid this please let me know)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Now where did the past five months go?

I just can't believe it is over five months since I last posted

I haven't been totally idle in that time

I've done precious little machine sewing - the twins' baby quilts are still to be quilted (and the babes arrived ages ago)

But I have been industrious with a trusty needle and thread

A friend of a friend promised me an assortment of Liberty Tana Lawn fabrics when we were away together on a weekend in Budapest almost six years ago

It transpires she used to work for them in the dim and distant past and had bought loads of their remnants for little money

I thought she'd forgotten all about it as they never materialised

However we were at a party for a mutual friend back in May and from the boot of her car she produced two bin liners of crammed full of the promised fabric

What treasure!!!

So I have been very busy since then playing with little teeny hexagons

They measure 1" from point to point

The cerise fabric was the only solid in the bags so I used it for the diamond centres and found some lovely ivory on line to use for the background (that was my birthday money well and truly spent!)

Here is the progress so far - Louise is 5'2" and is stretching to hold it fully extended so that gives you an idea of scale

I must credit Libby for the design layout as I pinched the idea from her blog but can't find the relevant post to show you her picture

Another reason for little non-hexagon production was the state of my sewing room - it was so messy I couldn't bear to sew in there so the alternative was handwork elsewhere in the house - hence the hexagons

I am naturally a messy worker and tend to push the clutter to the sides of the work surface and create in the little oasis of calm centred round the sewing machine

Unfortunately two or three years of detritus were doing a great job of overwhelming the oasis - I know it has been that long because Nigel has been nagging me to clear it each school holiday for easily that length of time and I've always been 'getting around to it'

We're currently hamster-sitting for 'Tiger-Lily' who belongs to a friend - thank goodness she didn't escape - if she'd ventured into the sewing room who knows when we'd have found her again!

So the onslaught to clear the mess started with Nigel rummaging through and putting away the countless bobbins of thread that were intermingled - how ever did I think I had no blue thread - I now have a small drawer full. I guess he thought if he made a start it would encourage me to continue - he knows me so well it was just the catalyst I needed

This was enough to spur me on and it took me a full three days to methodically go through everything and put it into its relevant home - none of this 'shove it into a container full on indiscriminate contents and stuff it away out of sight' Every one of those containers, and there were many, many of them were gone through and all contents distilled into their correct locations

These are the before photos - and this was after Nigel's initial trawl through

And - proud quilter moment - here are the afters

I've even prepared a basket of 2 1/2" squares to use as 'Bonnie' style 'Leaders and Enders' to keep the production line flowing (the picture was taken in very poor light so apologies for the yellowing)

My UFOs are all bagged, labelled and placed in labelled containers so now I know where everything is and can choose to work on whichever takes my fancy

From the UFO's stored neatly away the set of blocks Sarah made for her Duke of Edinburgh Award have shouted loudest to me from their tidy home in the cupboard so that's what I'm working on at present

Along with those teeny hexagons of course

And yesterday Louise and I spent a little crafty time together making a birthday present for her friend - amazing what you can make with a little leftover curtaining, some wadding, some heavy duty string and a few pearl buttons

Monday, March 21, 2011

My blog may have been quiet...........

............... but the sewing machine certainly hasn't

So much so I've worn it out - or at least rendered it unuseable and had to resort to my back up machine perched on the end of the dining room table. Fortunately my extension table and machine feet fit both machines - however my replacement doesn't have the luxury of 'needle down' mode and boy am I missing that :(

I've been very busy piecing which as many of you may know is most unusual for me

I'm generally much more comfortable with hand applique

There's been precious little of that going on - just a few blocks using the same motif I used for Clare's Q4L blocks - I intend to alternate them with bright batik blocks with the flowers in the deep purple

Another set of twins are on the way - the couple who introduced Nigel and I await twin grandsons in June so as I've always loved Bonnie's Star Struck pattern I decided to make complimentary quilts with red and green accents
Funny how thay can look so different using the same basic fabrics

Unusually for me I've yet to become bored with this pattern so I thought I'd give it a go with pinks and turquoises with white and stripy black accents - young and funky!
Louise's green and cream top is completed and ready for sandwiching

I had thought about a little applique around the border and then decided that it's absolutely fine as it is so, once quilted, a green binding will be just the ticket to finish the job

A batik jewel box was sitting almost done for a while in my sewing room and the last few blocks completed this centre which is now waiting for deep beige borders - this one probably will get the applique treatment once those borders are on - my quilt holder needs to grow a little and this caused much hilarity during the photo session :)

And finally a purple and pale grey wip has gained a few more blocks - unsure how big this will become - depends on how far the fabric lasts but as it's fiddly I keep adding a bit as I feel like it so it may be a while before it gets to full size
Last but not least my ALQS5 quilt arrived safe and sound and has already been claimed by Louise who fell in love with it on sight - there has to be some reward for all that stretching
Off work today and housebound as my car is in for its annual MOT and service so in between surfing and blogging I'm adding more to the pink and turquoise quilt - back to the machine it is then :)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Something finished.............

but don't get excited it's only a small piece

Kate North has been hosting round 5 of her 'Another Little Quilt Swap

The remit was a quilt the size of a piece of photocopy paper, A4 or the equivalent

No other specifications except it had to be ready and photos sent to her by 31st January

You could sign up without totally committing yourself - just an expression of intent and if you didn't finish your quilt no worries

This suited me - a year or two ago I used to make lots of things for swaps and manage completions by deadlines with very little trouble

Then I bit off more than I could chew and the stress of completing things on time switched me off the entire process

This time I had a get-out clause - no finish, no entry - simple!

And with this I managed to finish my piece


A hand appliqued little quilt all in batiks

It's all machine quilted in corresponding colours to within an inch of its life
Finishes are always a nice kind of feeling aren't they? :o)
Now onto something different...........
Blocks for Claire for her Quilts 4 Leukaemia quilts - I've long promised a supply of these - now is the time for action and once I've finished them all they'll be winging their way to France - (Sorry Claire, I know I've been promising these for ages but I'm on the case now - honest!)
Back to the sewing machine then..................