Wednesday, 15 June 2011

I love Nancy Halvorsen

Nancy Halvorsen is the designer and creater behind Art to Heart.  I've made loads of things out of her books like my Frankeinstein's Monster.  I find her patterns really clear and whatever I've made always seems to turn out like it does in the book!!

So, a Sunday with two of my sewing friends was a great opportunity to try another pattern.  When we get together we like a project we can finish in the day (with time spare for talking and eating).  We chose the Easy Does It For.... series which contains variations on the same makes for the different seasons and selected the table runners. 

Debra made Spring:

Rachel went for Summer:

And I chose Autumn:

Friday, 3 June 2011

Getting excited now...

...I've got a great week planned.  Tomorrow I'm off to the theatre with my brother and littlest nephew which will be great fun.  And following that, we're off to Whitby.  I love the North Yorkshire coast and if this gorgeous weather continues it'll be perfect.

So today I've been doing lots of cleaning, washing and packing.  With a bit of baking thrown in so we don't go hungry while we're away!!  Cheese muffins and chocolate muffins - so that's savoury and sweet - what more do you need :-)

Hope you're enjoying the sunshine too.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Clothkits creation

I have finished and worn my new skirt from Clothkits.  For anyone unfamiliar with Clothkits, the company was originally formed in the late 1960s, produced kits in the 1970s and 80s and was revived a few years ago.  The clothing patterns are printed directly onto fabric, ready to be cut out and sewn up.

My mother made Clothkits clothing for us when we were small and I was delighted when I found they were making kits again.  The website is well worth a visit - including clothing for children, women and lots of other fun makes.

This kit came with everything needed to make the skirt - the design printed onto gorgeous purple cord, a contrasting green cotton for the lining, a zip and thread.

The kit was really easy to  put together and included very clear instructions.  I am delighted with how it turned out and love the little details like the motif on the waistband.

I wore my skirt for the first time with a green t-shirt and shoes and got lots of compliments at work.  Just a hint for anyone making a skirt - don't sew a pin into the lining!!  I only found it when I sat on it in a meeting!!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Let's go fly a kite...

A brilliant day at the Kite Festival at Harewood House in Leeds.  A little bit too blustery for perfect kite flying and the odd shower but that didn't spoil the fun.  I flew a kite which I haven't done for as long as I can remember - kindly lent to my by one of my nephews.  And I came home with a beautiful rainbow kite all of my own thanks to my gorgeous husband.

I'm worn out by now - we seem to have done loads!!  The day started with a large picnic - eaten in the car due to the rain.  We then went on to Hook a Duck, and bungee trampolining.  We saw the penguins and baby pheasants and huge birds of prey.  We even made Red Kite themed hats.  I did model mine but due to hysterical laughter from the rest of the family that photo is not for public consumption!!

As well as the kites, there was a teddy bear theme to the day so Snowy came along for the ride.  He enjoyed the kites but just likes to watch as his paws are too big to hold the string.

I've done some sewing this weekend as well.  A very enjoyable workshop with the very talented and lovely Stephanie Redfern.  I'll sort some photos and then post them too - although there's not much to see yet as I'm mid-design. 

Hope you've had a great weekend too.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Finished in a day

Occasionally I like a project which can be done in a day.  I share this feeling with two local sewing friends and every six weeks or so we have a day together where we sew, eat and chat (not necessarily in that order!).  Sometimes we work on an on-going project, but quite often we pick something which can be done in the day.

Last week we had a day making a Frankenstein's Monster pin-cushion and thread catcher bag from the excellent Sew Necessary by Nancy Halvorsen. 

Isn't he cute!!  I love working from the Art to Heart books.  The projects are gorgeous and, I think, unlike anything else I've seen.  The instructions are always really clear and easy to follow and the patterns are provided full size and ready to go.

The Frankenstein's monster head is stuffed two-thirds full with stuffing and then weighted with split peas at the bottom.  The thread catcher bag includes a small scissors holder at the back. 

The book also includes a bat scissor chatelaine and a witch scissor fob - so I think these will have to be next to complete the Halloween sewing set.  Yes, I know it's May but Halloween makes are too much fun to limit to the autumn.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Scrap Quilt Tutorial - Making Scrap Blocks

This is my first attempt at an on-line tutorial, so I'd really appreciate any feedback, hints or tips which would make it easier to understand / use.  Thanks!

The Scrap Quilt  
(for a picture of a finished quilt see here)
This quilt is great for using up any scraps, spare strips etc which you have collected.  The quilt can be worked a little bit at a time - depending on how many scraps you have.  If you only have enough for a couple of blocks, fine - do them, and then wait for more scraps (or raid a friend's scrap basket).  If you can do a whole quilt - great.

I sort my scraps by colour, but these blocks also look fantastic multi-coloured.  This tutorial is based on a finished block size of 6" but you can work to any size you like.

Before you start
I find it easier to have all my scraps ironed and sorted into small, medium and large before I start.  Anything from about 2" is fine. 

Step 1
Choose some small scraps to work with and sort into pairs.  I find working on about 6 to 10 blocks at a time is best for me.  This means I don't have to get up and down to the iron after every seam.  The pairs don't have to match exactly but should have one edge which is roughly the same length.

Step 2
Put the paired fabrics right sides together and sew down the matched side using a quarter inch seam.  You can 'string-piece' the pairs.  This means you don't cut your cotton after each pair - just leave a small 'string' and then feed the next pair through the machine.  The pieces will come out attached together and can then be snipped apart with small scissors.


Step 3
Carefully iron the seams to one side on each pair - making sure that the fabrics lie flat on the right side. 

You should now have several sewn pairs:

Step 4
Sew a third scrap to each pair.  Make sure you sew a straight seam each time - in the photo on the left I've used a strip which roughly matches one side of the pair.

In the photo below, the scrap I'm attaching has a straight edge which I'm using to line up the seam.  The piece underneath does not have a straight edge, but I'm ignoring this while I sew.

I can just trim the seam after I've sewn it.

Step 5
Keep working on each piece in this way - attach a scrap, trim the seam allowance and iron the seam to one side.  The main point is to make sure that when you attach a piece, any raw edge are enclosed underneath.

The blocks should grow roughly square, but if you find them growing too much in one direction, you can cut them in half and work on each piece separately.

 Keep going until your piece measures more than 7 inches both ways.  

Step 6
When your piece is large enough, use a six and a half inch square ruler to choose your block.  I like to place the ruler at an angle to get more interesting angles and shapes in the block.

If you don't have a square ruler, make yourself a template.  Cut a six and a half inch window into a larger piece of card and you can then use this to choose your block.  

Step 7
Cut out your block - I use a rotary cutter to cut my squares, but if you don't have one, then draw the edges with a pencil and cut with scissors.

Don't dispose of the offcuts - you can use this as the starter piece for your next scrappy block.

Make as many blocks as you need for your quilt!!

Friday, 6 May 2011

My favourite thing to do with scraps....

I love making these scrap quilts.  They are simple to make, use (virtually) any size scraps and are very effective.

I tend to sort my scraps by colour so the quilts end up predominantly one colour but these are equally effective in multi-coloured scraps.  I make my blocks 6" finished. 

This quilt will be sent off to Project Linus.  A fabulous organisation well worth reading about if you've never heard of them.

I'm going to have a go at making a photo tutorial on how to make these blocks.  Never tried a tutorial before so fingers crossed!!  I  hope to get it up over the weekend.

Monday, 2 May 2011

My favourite place in the whole world... the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  The 500 acre park is in West Yorkshire and is an amazing mix of nature and sculpture.  The landscape changes with the seasons and the exhibits are also changed so that there is always something new to discover.  The park includes four indoor galleries where you can learn more about the featured artists.   

I'm lucky enough to live just a few miles from this gorgeous place and am a regular visitor.  I never tire of walking the grounds and am so inspired by the artists' work on display.  A glorious bank holiday Monday was an opportunity not to be missed so we took a picnic and enjoyed a few hours in the sunshine admiring the new exhibition of work by the Spanish sculpter Jaume Plensa.

Much of the work displayed outside was in metal and formed in words or letters. 

These huge heads changed as you circled them and viewed them from different angles.

 I particularly liked this view from below with the brilliant blue sky seen through them.

There was then a huge seated figure.  Again, I love the brilliance of the sky against the silver-coloured metal.  

And the shadows cast by this were fantastic too.

And my favourite message from the exhibition:

Hope you're enjoying your day wherever you are.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Today's post is brought to you by the letter Q...

The first Q is for Quiche.  I don't often cook for two main reasons - one, I don't really enjoy it, and two, my husband does.  So that works for both of us.  However, I do like to bake, and quiche, to me, falls into the baking category.  I know that's not logical, but I can explain.  I like to bake because you mix up the ingredients, get it in the oven and then clean the kitchen.  So, by the time it's done, you have a neat kitchen and a yummy finished product to cooling on the side, sending beautiful smells around your house.  And you can do that with quiche.

This recipe is a new discovery for me from The Bean Book by Rose Elliot who is a wonderful vegetarian recipe author.  This one is a mushroom and chick pea quiche and it's very tasty.

The second Q is for Quilt.  The green quilt is done and I'm so pleased with how it's turned out - I love it!!  It's not for me though - it's for the daughter of a friend.  She opted for green fabric and I chose the pattern.  It's a basic square and triangle block which can go together in lots of ways, but I think this arrangement is very striking.

She's not seen it yet - so I can't wait to give it to her.

The quilting is quite simple - straight lines in the ditch and echoing the main lines in the patchwork.

And the third Q?  Queen of course! Or future Queen at any rate.  Hope you  enjoyed the Royal Wedding if you watched it.  I loved seeing all the fabulous dresses and hats.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thanks for the comments....

....on the UFOs. Glad to know I'm not the only one out there!! I love the expression 'crafting ADD' - I think that describes it perfectly.

Interesting to see this post from yesterday on the Crazy Mom Quilts blog. She is a fantastic quilter and seems to have just the same problem.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

So little time, so much unfinished...

Finishing is something I find really difficult. I am about the worst person I know in the whole world for UFOs (unfinished objects), except for, perhaps, my mother - but then I must get it from somewhere!! I have so many UFOs, of all shapes and sizes, in all stages of construction, just waiting for their time to come.

A UFO - one of the many!

Appliqued circles - not sure quite what it'll be when it's finished.....
.......if it ever gets finished

I don't know why I find finishing so difficult. When I think about it logically, it makes no sense at all. I love the feeling of finishing a quilt. Completing a quilt makes me so happy; when I've been watching it grow and develop and then it's done and on the bed looking gorgeous. Perhaps even more so, I love finishing quilts that I give to other people - watching their delight as they unfold a piece made just for them.

So why do I find getting to the end so hard? I think one of my problems is the lure of the new. There is always an exciting pattern or intriguing book or fabulous fabric which is begging to be used. And although I know it will still be there in a week or a month when I've finished the current project, I can't help myself. It's like there's not enough time to make everything I want to so I make a little bit of lots of things - and then end up with nothing!

Or it might be that I love the sociability of sewing. I adore attending workshops and classes to sew with like-minded people so I rarely say no if there's one on offer. Or a friend asks me to join her in a new project - and again, I just can't turn them down. So then there's another UFO joining the pile.

And then perfection is a problem that I think many of us identify with. We invest so much time and energy in our crafting that we want our finished items to be perfect. But how many of us are perfect?! So, if we declare something finished then we're accepting its imperfections, whereas while we're still working on something, it might yet be perfect.

So how about you then? Are you a one project at a time person, carefully finishing everything you start? If you are, perhaps you would share some tips on how to do this? Or are you like me? Are the UFOs taking over your life?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

As modelled by Florence... charity shop finds from yesterday. I had a lovely day out with my fabulous friend H. We had a very long lunch and then a thorough investigation of the charity shops in and around Warrington. H is the best person to go charity-shop shopping with as she has the most patience for sorting through rail after rail of so-so clothes to find the gems. And she makes me laugh at the same time.

So, I got a gorgeous light-weight top which will be perfect for my summer holiday.

And a barely worn M&S dress in a funky print.

Is it obvious that I love orange!?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

I'm on a roll....

...with the quilting. I've lots of half-done projects which are waiting to be quilted and yesterday's finished item has inspired me to keep going.

The next project under the needle is a quilt for the daughter of a very good friend. This will be the fifth quilt I've made for the family and I absolutely love sewing for them as they are so appreciative. That's all I need for my quilts - a good home where they are going to be loved and used. I make quilts to be enjoyed, not put away for best.

I'm having lots of fun with my new Janome Horizon too. It has so many fabulous features for quilting and so much space - it's a gorgeous machine to use and it's getting plenty of wear this bank holiday weekend!!

Friday, 22 April 2011


I'm so pleased. The more I've worked on this quilt, the more I've fallen in love with it. I adore the bright, sunshine colours and I'm delighted with how it's gone together.

The pattern is from the ever-useful Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott. It's a great book - I've made a number of quilts from it, as have friends, and they always turn out beautifully. The quilt is the Log Cabin Hidden Stars pattern.

The fabric is a Moda jelly roll. Can't remember which range it's from though I'm afraid.

I've had lots of fun quilting this one. I'm really enjoying quilting at the moment. I think (know!) it's one of those things which gets much better with practice. I'm taking my time more and really trying to include the quilting as a key part of the overall design. To start with I quilted round all the stars on the quilt. I've then done a large meandering pattern all over, with butterflies at random points to match the butterflies in some of the fabric.

So all it needs now is a label and then I'm done - just need to decide on a name for it.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

I know I'm lucky...

... that my husband is so supportive of all the craft work I do. I mean crafting takes up A LOT of space. I have an attic room full of stuff but it doesn't stay up there. I have taken over most of the dining room as I like using the bigger table to quilt. And so there are piles of work waiting to be finished in the dining room. Then, of course, it also spreads to the living room as I like to have hand sewing by the sofa for when I'm watching television.

It's not just the space (or lack of!) though that he's so understanding of. However often I vacuum, sewing always seems to leave bits of thread all over the carpet. And over the sofa. And all over clothes. And in the car. But he doesn't say a word (except when I'm in the supermarket with bits of thread all over me).

I love that he takes an interest in the work I do. He likes to have quilts, hangings and other craft items around the house (but no cushions!). He asks how I'm getting on with different pieces and makes thoughtful, considered comments.

I know all this makes me lucky - but I'm especially lucky. The boy knows how to layer a quilt!!

For the non-quilters - quilt layering is a two-person job. You can do it by yourself but it takes longer, is more difficult and I find I don't get as good a result. Especially with bigger pieces of work.

So I know I'm lucky.

How about you? Is your partner / family supportive of whatever craft you enjoy? Do they celebrate your achievements? Or complain about the mess? Do you show them what you make or wait to share with other craftily-minded friends?

Friday, 25 March 2011

The advantage of being without the machine... that it's encouraged me to do some finishing off bits. I enjoy hand sewing but I tend to put off the last bits on machined items - like buttons and poppers. So, as I was without the Janome, I took the opportunity to finish off a couple of items which I had done at Chaos summer school last year.

The first is a bag which just needed poppers on the sides and the handles finishing off. Not the best photos I'm afraid as I don't have any good background to hang it against, but hopefully you'll get the idea.

I thought the fabric was fun - it's a good size so I'll probably use it for storing projects. Or wear it out if I'm feeling brave!!

The second was a cute pencil case - again just needing buttons and poppers. I love this fabric too - I've got loads of the stuff ready for Halloween projects.

So that's 2 off the 17 on the priority pile!!

The UFOs are never-ending

I have never got to grips with UFOs in all the time I've been quilting. I think that I'm tackling them and then I have a sort out and find I've got more than ever. Last year was supposed to be the year the UFOs were sorted but that never quite happened, so this year I'm trying a different strategy.

Recently I've got together a box of nearly finished / needs to be finished stuff and I've moved it down into the dining room where I've currently got my sewing machine set up. The idea is, that if the stuff is there, waiting, that I'll just pick up a project and do a bit on it when I have a spare half hour or so. It's a kind of priority UFO pile - with the second division still in the craft room!

I thought this was going well. I have two large quilts that I have made good progress on. Although these came into the 'need to be finished' rather than nearly finished so although I've spent a lot of time on them, the UFO pile isn't going down. And then yesterday I had some time to quilt so I was hoping to really get on. But no, the universe obviously had other plans for me as my sewing machine started to skip stitches and make strange noises.

So - the Janome has gone for servicing, which to be fair it needed, but I was hoping to put it off a bit longer. Mainly because I didn't want to be without it. Should be ready on Saturday so two days without means I'll be getting on with the hand stitching in the priority UFO pile.

I also listed the priority UFO pile, just so I knew what I was facing - 17 items!!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Linus Quilts

At Quilt Time we have an annual Linus Day where members of the group work on a variety of gorgeous quilts for the fantastic Project Linus. I love this day - for the work we do on the day, but also for the fact that it encourages me to finish off some of the quilts I have at home which are suitable for children and young people.

I had started this blue stripe quilt last summer for a demonstration I was doing on scrap quilts. All the fabrics in the quilt were donated scraps. The piecing was really simple and quick and I had finished this last August. I had even sandwiched the quilt but never got round to the actual quilting. After sorting through some boxes in the attic at the beginning of last week I had unearthed it again and was inspired to finish it off for the Linus Day.

The finished size is 39" square. The quilting is a wide meander down the solid blue stripes and then a single wavy line down the pieced stripes.

Hopefully this will find a good home soon.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

'Cos I can't do one thing at a time.

Currently working on:
  • green quilt for HG
  • blue scraps
  • YQ projects
Just finished all the applique for the BeAttitudes quilt. Shopping next Sunday for borders etc.

Need to get on with the blocks for Linus day next week.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Scraps, scraps and more scraps

One of the main things I need to get on with is tackling the ever growing pile of scraps. I had, a while back, sorted them by colour and put them in a box by the door to the craft space. I think this was supposed to encourage me to work on them! I have, since Christmas, made a concerted effort to do a little bit on them each day. I started with the yellow bag and now have 42 squares (6 1/2 inch) ready to be sashed.

I probably should have photographed the 'before' so progress could be seen. The blue bag is next - and this currently looks a bit like this:

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

But before she sews...

...she needs to tidy!! I seem to have craft stuff absolutely everywhere at the moment. Lots of unfinished items, projects which need documenting and general mess. Last year's resolution was to half the UFOs. I lost track in the end but I did make good headway.

This year's resolution is to GET ON WITH IT. This relates to many different things and that's all I'm saying for now.