Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quilts make great Christmas presents.................

............. for nieces and nephews

Nigel's sister has a boy and two girls who we always buy for each Christmas

This year with only me earning and a general belt-tightening operation in place I decided that using up what I had in my stash already to make them each a quilt would keep me busy, taking my mind off the various issues that have troubled our family this year, and make cost-neutral gifts for them

The boy will be 13 in May and I did wonder if tractor fabric might be a bit childish for him but his paternal granddad passed away a couple of years ago and tractors are something they enjoyed sharing so maybe it's not as 'young' as it might have originally seemed

For utility type quilts I generally revert to a large meander pattern for the quilting - quick, simple and does the job

But I decided to work this tractor quilt in a water ripple type pattern just for a change - it was fun to do and I like the effect

The older girl is 9 - the blue and lilac scrappy blocks, which were just the product of a 'use up scraps while doing some mindless stitching' session, have been set into white to give a smart and fairly sophisticated design

The younger girl is 8 so the multi-coloured triangle blocks are a fun addition to her bedroom

Their mum told Nigel this morning that they all loved their quilts when their grandparents delivered them for us yesterday

Everybody happy - result!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I really love ..................

............... complex quilts

Those made with lots of little pieces,

those with stunning applique,

medallion style quilts that give something different with each round you add

but sometimes you just need some speedy almost instant gratification

Big blocks very quickly turn into fast quilts

Here all the pieces laid out - strips 2.5 inches wide

will turn into blocks like this that measure 14 inches finished

With decent sized sashing you only need 12 of these for a double bed sized quilt

Which is just as well as Sarah's old room is in need of just such a thing to turn it into a cosy guest room to welcome her and other visitors

Finally - how cute is this pot - my dear work colleague gave me it for Christmas - it came with 4 useful reels of thread in - just the right size for keeping my scissors and rotary cutters to hand

Sunday, December 15, 2013

There's been a definite emphasis..................

............... on the masculine side of things at the sewing machine this week

lots of dinosaurs on the one hand
or maybe you prefer a tractor or two
Lots of secret mission stitching for Christmas so I can't say too much more
Suffice to say I've spent a lovely afternoon with my mum pinning several quilt sandwiches.  She has access to a large table in the communal area of the complex that my parents live in and where I can do this without having to kneel on the floor
Lovely to spend time just chatting to her while I ironed and then pinned away and her extra pair of hands made laying out the layers so much easier
Lots of machine quilting to get on with now so I can get them finished ready for Christmas

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's a long time ..................

since I've done any embroidery
But when I pulled out the name of a colleague with a three year old daughter from the Secret Santa hat I thought a Christmas wallhanging with a Father Christmas on it would be just the ticket
I've been off work for virtually all this week with a grotty flu type bug - I went back in on Thursday morning and only lasted til lunchtime - yeuch!!!  Hopefully being off again today combined with the weekend will help me knock this on the head and be fit to go back in on Monday for the last week of term as I have a stack of work to get done before we break up for the Christmas break next Friday
So a little gentle stitching in between napping is really all I've been fit for this week
A little red button and some tiny black seed beads give the finishing touches
And here we are - the finished article 
Ho Ho Ho!!!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

And a reveal.................

....... now it's been handed over

The close up shot I showed you in the last post is part of a cot quilt for a colleague at work who is expecting a little boy on 16th January
Unbeknown to me she has selected a boat/seaside theme for the nursery.  How fortuitous that the fabric I chose for her quilt has little boats and all things seasidey on it.  I bought the fabric from the market in Den Bosche in the Netherlands whilst on holiday this summer.  It struck me that, while I have plenty of girly and neutral baby fabrics in my stash I didn't have much in the way of boyish fabrics.  There was lots of choice on the stalls in this lovely Dutch market so I bought several different half meter lengths to bolster my stash.  If you look at the 'non-triangle' blocks in the photo above you should just make out the little boats - so sweet - and quite different to the fabrics available here in the UK.  I took the colours from this fabric - pale blue, dark blue, white, red and grey - to work the design
As you can see from the finished article a 4" stack, cut and stitch triangle block made in the various colours and placed in a specific pattern give the final product.  Reasonably quick to put together and very effective.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Some stitching to show .........................

........................ and a very proud mummy moment
I've been rather busy on the sewing front
For now, I'm giving you sneak previews rather than the whole picture as these are presents and haven't been given to the recipients yet
A baby quilt for some friends and their little boy - didn't know the flavour when I designed it, hence the neutral colours
A baby quilt for a colleagues little boy who is due in January - based the design and colour choices on the lovely boat design fabric I picked up in Holland on holiday in the summer
And a Christmas present for my niece - who is most definitely a PINK girl - this was to be a birthday present for her in June but events got in the way - better late than never.  Construction on a dinosaur based version for her brother is currently in progress
Last but not least - after passing her Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Physiotherapy with a First in the summer finally Sarah's graduation came round.  On a day when the weather threw absolutely everything at us, at least the sun came out as we prepared to go into St Albans Abbey for the ceremony

Very, very proud Mummy and Daddy moment

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Another finish .................

.................. but not all my work
I have a dear friend who also quilts - we met around 10 years ago as she was Louise's class teacher.  Somehow one day Louise let slip that I quilted.  She was a total beginner at that time and shyly approached me one day to ask for help when she was stuck.  Our friendship grew from there and her two young boys both have one of my quilts which I gave them when they were born.
She has had several health issues and with two young children and a part time teaching job has plenty on her hands which leaves little time for quilting.
Earlier in the summer she told me about a project she'd been working on for some time.  Her sister in law had asked for a quilt and had selected the fabric.  Leigh had made up all the blocks and assembled them into a quilt top - the fabric choices weren't hers and she found working with someone else's choice quite a challenge at times.  In sheer desperation of ever getting the project finished she tentatively asked me if I could possibly machine quilt it for her.
I happily agreed and we met up at the seaside for the afternoon half way between our homes so she could hand it over.
This is the end result
I have to say the fabric selection wouldn't have been my choice either and it felt very odd working on someone else's project. 
However complete it I did with a large all over meander in a lovely old gold coloured rayon thread which really shines.  I then carried blithely on and using the only piece of spare fabric large enough for the job I went right ahead and bound it too.  It was only after I'd completed the binding I did wonder if I'd been a bit presumptuous doing that part as she might have wanted to do the binding herself.  But thankfully she was just jolly glad to get it back completed to be able to give it to her sister in law albeit probably a couple of years too late for the intended special birthday.  Everyone happy all round.

Unlike a lot of you who quilt commercially, I don't usually quilt other people's work.  Does anyone else find it difficult to work on something in fabric they either wouldn't have chosen or they're not fond of I wonder?

Other than this I've been doing a lot of hand stitching hexagons - I know I've shown you this before but it is getting larger by the day.  I think I've got it about to the width I'd like so once I've finished the right hand row down I shall square if off to match the other side and then work on getting it to the desired length.
I've so enjoyed working on these tiny (1inch point to point) hexagons in this lovely Liberty Tana Lawn that I will be sad to complete this.  It is well travelled having accompanied me on at least two holidays to the Netherlands for starters.  I still have lots of the different florals left so I'm planning it's sister quilt to follow on but have bought yardage of plain lawn to act as contrast on my next project in black.  Now to look out a different layout but I'm being very strong and not letting myself get side tracked by that until this one is done and finished so it will be a wee while before that black fabric comes out of the package.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

It's been a busy old summer......................................

and I can't believe how long it is since I posted
A bit of stitching going on in and amongst work and family things

a baby quilt for some friends and their new daughter is an old one I finished up for her

Then my cousin had her little girl Poppy -  she received two quilts, why give one when you can give two

a big one which will eventually sit on a single bed if she wants

and a smaller one which she's already using as a floor mat
Other than stitching we've had a busy summer.......
My parents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary and as Dad's condition means he probably won't realise what's happening if he lives to their 60th we decided to get some family together and take them on a trip on a horse drawn barge along a local canal.  This is my sister and I enjoying a good old laugh about something
And the very same weekend, told you it was busy,  Louise had her school prom - here she is with Harry her prom date
All three kids have made us very proud, even more so than usual, this summer.  Nick received his AS results and gained an A in Economics and a B in Law - considering how ill he was at the start of the year these are nothing short of miraculous.  We're not counting our chickens but he does seem much more stable now and the health professionals are delighted with his progress, long may it continue. 
Louise received her GCSE results only this week and gained 3 As, 5 Bs a C and an E.  Considering the knock on effect of everything with Nick she has coped so well and these are a real credit to her - one of the As was in Art so all that late night stitching was obviously worth it.  September will see her joining her brother at the local sixth form college to study A levels in English Literature, Government and Politics, Law and Geography.
Sarah completed her university course and attained a First Class Honours degree in Physiotherapy.  We heard at the end of last week that, in an incredibly competitive job market she has taken up the offer of a permanent job as a Band 5 Physiotherapist at Basildon and Thurrock NHS Trust in Essex not too far from where she studied at uni.  This was the first and only interview she attended.
Nigel has been on his travels again with work and spent a fortnight in the Far East visiting Tokyo and Shanghai

And he and I took the two younger ones on holiday to the Netherlands - here we are standing on the spot where the Dutch, Belgian and German borders meet

Finally last weekend Sarah and I met up for the weekend in London where she treated me to tickets to see Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre as a belated birthday present - the show was superb and we had such a lovely weekend together, just the two of us.  Here she is at the Rainforest CafĂ© where we enjoyed Sunday lunch - all the other babies were under the age of ten and considerably younger than mine who turned 21 in July but I know we had just as much fun as the little ones

Friday, February 01, 2013

And now it must be............

..................... time for some borders

This is the jewel box centre of my wall quilt hot off the press or should that read sewing machine

The whole thing measures 18.5" square unfinished

I'm thinking a half inch skinny border in turquoise and then an outer thicker cream border say about 2.5 to 3" wide just ripe for some toning applique

But it will have some competition this weekend

The 6Nations Rugby Internationals start tomorrow so I may be a 
little distracted ..............

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Surely it must be .........

.................... almost time for bed now

It's about 11pm on a Thursday night here in Taunton, I returned home from my Choir practice about an hour ago.  Nigel is away overnight for work and the two youngest have been left to fend for themselves.  Unbeknown to me Louise's GCSE Art project needs to be handed in tomorrow

Most worrying is that as I walked in the door she is still sitting free machine embroidering at the sewing machine

These are samples she needs to complete and then I think embellish with beads and couching before they go into the project book to be handed in tomorrow morning

This is the final piece - a tree design based on a trunk drawn around her hand - I'm guessing this also needs to be handed in tomorrow morning - who knows if it is actually complete or needs further work

This is the 'Last Minute Lulu' with her 'practice Prom Hair Up-do' (just a mess about at home the other evening - we haven't ventured into the hairdressers to open discussions quite yet) ........

from the front........

and from the back.............

At this rate she may still be working to complete this art project by the time of her prom in July!!!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

In the words of Monty Python ...............

......................... And now for something completely different

My brother is nine years younger than me and hence his two children are much younger than mine 

When they called in to see my parents over the Christmas period we had a little time to catch up with my nephew Spencer who is almost six and my niece Darcy who will be three soon

Although Spencer has been the recipient of a couple of my quilts - his Christening quilt 'Spencer's Stars' and his I-Spy quilt - I realised I'd never got round to making Darcy one of her own

She takes after me for her striking red hair but this doesn't stop her loving, and I mean LOVING, to almost exclusivity, the colour PINK.  When she started pre-school last autumn her mother's biggest worry was how to persuade her to wear the lovely smart uniform which is grey and bright blue - I'm just glad I didn't have the task, I thought my three were strong-willed but she beats them all combined hands down - Mum eventually managed but we do have to have PINK hair accessories each day just to make a point

So the obvious choice for a quilt for Darcy just had to be PINK!!!

I was in the mood for something quick and easy - always a girl who loves instant gratification

So big blocks were the order of the day 

I had picked up some 'Cath Kidstonesque' type fabric from IKEA when passing a little while ago - the roses are large enough to hold their own in an 8" centre square.  The toning fabric I bought with it in pink with red dots was just the ticket for the outer churn dash design against a white background and with 16" blocks you only need a few to make something quickly of a decent size.  I then fussy cut some roses for the cornerstones and white sashing, the same as I used in the blocks, gives them the floating impression

Now all I need to finish the top is an outer white border and we're away

Just the job for a little girl who LOVES PINK!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's been a little bit...............

........................ wintry around here

Last Friday we had the snow the Met Office warned us about.

My boss rang me early to tell me he'd decided to close the school for the day as although the children, who virtually all live within easy walking distance of the school, could get there relatively easily, he was concerned for the staff who drive in from further away.

Nick's college lessons were cancelled so he went off sledging with his friends

But Louise's school was open - much to her disappointment and my dismay as it meant I had to get the car out onto the slithery roads to get her there

Our usual morning routine means I drive her part of the way across town to a certain point.  From there she can walk safely and comfortably to school in plenty of time for registration at 8.40 but I can also make my way back across town to my own school in time for an  8.30 start.  This means taking a journey through the rat runs and back streets.  Because the streets were pretty snow-ridden I took her along the main roads right to the school door as that gave me a safe area to turn and retrace my steps

I then enjoyed a quiet day at home stitching in the warm

Yesterday evening the Met Office had promised us sleet

By the time I was collecting Nick from college at 4.30 the sleet had had an identity crisis and was coming down as very wet snow which was settling rapidly

An evening of hand stitching on the sofa whilst occasionally glancing out of the window and we had a good 2 to 3 inches of wet snow which hadn't changed by the time the alarm went off this morning

Louise had a History GCSE exam this morning so had to go into school for that even if the rest of the school had been closed

My Headteacher then phoned me to tell me he had managed to get to school and he was going to try and open which meant I had to try and get there somehow

Although the snow was wetter than Friday's offering the roads were pretty treacherous and I also had great reservations about parking my car in the cul-de-sac which houses my school in case someone else slid into it while dropping their little darlings at school

So Nigel volunteered to drop Louise off at school in plenty of time for her exam and then offload me at the end of the little road that leads to our school before heading off to his office about 20 miles away

All in all it meant I got to school on time without having any scary driving moments

We gave all our parents the opportunity to decide whether to bring their children to school or not and we had about two thirds of them in - some parents made a huge effort bringing them in from a distance others who lived on the same street decided to keep them at home to play in the snow - interesting!

Our new Head is a lovely guy with a great understanding of kids and putting the fun into education - he gave the teachers carte blanche to take all their charges out into the snow as and when they saw fit.  As a result we had a wonderful crop of snowmen on the school field and lots of squealy happy little people.  Then to make the day extra special he nipped up to the local shop and bought enough hot chocolate powder for them to all have a warming cheery cup when they came back inside to dry out and warm up.  Inspired!  I think those kids who had been kept at home missed out somehow

Although everything feels much lighter here with the reflection of the snow I do think the monochrome surroundings give off a very strange light.  A little bit of cheer from my first daffodil purchase of the year goes a long way to brightening up the snowy view through the window

I haven't done much machine stitching this week so far but I did resurrect a handwork project - Liberty Tana Lawn Hexagons (scroll down a little on he link to find what these diamonds will join onto) - slow and steady gets you there eventually

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I'm afraid I have.........

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

Over the years I have made many quilts for so many different people but I have very few in my house

In my living room I have a section of bare wall in the corner

I also have a surplus curtain pole from when we lived in France which is way too short for any of the windows in this house

So I've decided to get my lovely husband to position the pole on the wall in this corner 

I will then make a wall quilt to hang there so I can enjoy one of my own quilts in the living room - something about 36 - 40 inches wide should do the trick

Who knows I might take a leaf from Jeanne's book and eventually have a succession of different quilts to swap around when I get bored

The space is limited so, if I want to make something with repeating blocks, whatever I make to put up there will have to be on a small block scale

Therefore as my attention was drifting from the brown and sand number inspired by Kate I pulled out some creams to go with the sand and started off making some 4 patches in sand and cream - these finish at 1.5" square so the little sections are three quarters of an inch across - quite tiny for me and definitely testing my precision piecing - I find it easier to make two strips and stitch them together first, then I cut them to size once pressed - told you my piecing isn't that accurate - once I'd built up the first quantity of them I use this as my leader/ender a la Bonnie in between stitching everything else together to build up the blocks

I have long been a fan of the Jewel Box pattern - I'm pretty sure it was Nancy who bewitched me with some of hers originally

So to join those dinky little 4 patches I've been making some turquoise and cream HSTs measuring 1.5" across

I've tried to make it scrappy but within a limited colour palette


Here are the first four blocks joined together - it never fails to delight me when the triangles come together to make the diamond, the four different fabrics always give it a three dimensional feel - this little ensemble measures 12.5" square so you can see the scale I'm working on - but as the finished article isn't that large then I hope to complete it before I get bored with it and it's just the project to keep me busy whilst ignoring this horrid wintry weather

Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's okay................

................ I'm not that speedy

This isn't another finish for 2013

It's one of last year's baby quilts from the two I made for colleagues

You know how it is when you're in a hurry

Up against a deadline, you put in that final stitch late at night and heave a sigh of relief

Then whip some wrapping paper round it and the job's done......

........ but without taking a photo first

Thankfully my colleague Lucy agreed to take a photo and send it to me

So I have evidence of the finished article to show to you - the design is taken from another of Kate's quilts - she always comes up with lovely ideas - this one was fun and quick to sew

Still stitching the brown and sand blocks but have also started another project in colours to match the table runner - lots of little 4 patches and HSTs to show you next time

Monday, January 14, 2013

So here's the first.........

.................... finish of 2013

I've often admired other peoples work when they've combined patchwork cottons and linen

So when I found a pair of  charity shop beige linen trousers I thought I'd have a bit of a play

My 'new to me' ebay bought coffee table was crying out for a new table runner

I'd seen a lovely quilt somewhere on the net using rectangles along the border and I thought the design would look just great in turquoises against the beige linen


Once I'd pieced the top I thought I'd really like to do some of the modern trendy parallel line quilting I keep seeing on a lot of these linen/cotton pieces.

But then I chickened out and went for allover swirls instead with a turquoise border to finish the job 

A perfect opportunity to bring out the two pieces of 'Leeds Ware' pierced cream pottery I picked up in a charity shop in Leek, Staffordshire last summer on holiday

And here we are the finished object in situ

Mind you I can't say I really enjoyed stitching the linen - it might be a while before I bother with that again

So onto another new project for 2013 - a little brown and sand take on something Kate's been working on lately

Watch this space .............................