Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A Birthday Present

It was my husband's birthday yesterday.  He works as a supervisor at a workshop for disabled adults.  They take birthdays seriously.  Apart from cards and scones with jam and cream at work, he got this wonderful spectacle case.  It was made by a young man called Paul, with a bit of help from Linda, a member of staff.  It fits into his shirt pocket nice and snugly, his glasses are well padded with the double layer of felt, and with the bright colours he now has little chance of mislaying his glasses.  Also, he loves fish.  This looks like a juicy fat salmon.  A perfect present - he is very attached to it already!

Welcome to Jodi, the latest follower - thank you for joining!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Free Motion Trees

I did a bit more free motion quilting today on the little wall hanging of Karol at the Window - a few shrubs and trees.  It looks quite intriguing at the moment with the dark blue sky and the bright white moon.  It's almost a shame I can't leave it as it is, but the sky needs to be filled in with quilting because otherwise it will billow out.  The moon is in fact a circular sticker I put there to find the best position for the sun.  Originally I was thinking of putting in a pinkish setting sun, but now I am getting used to the sticker, so perhaps I will do the moon instead.  Such an agonising decision.  I think I will mull over it for a few days.

Thank you to everyone who has posted comments about this project so far.  This is only the second project I have posted as I make it (the first was the tea cosy).  It is very encouraging to have you all cheering me on!

This post is being linked to Marelize's blog Stitch by Stitch for Anything Goes Quilt 'n Sew - lots of projects to be seen there!

Also linking up to Plum and June's blog for the Monday Link Up.

And Connie's blog Free Motion by the River for the Tuesday Link Up.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Pretty Picture for Sunday - Cornflower

Such a lovely shade of blue.

Welcome to the latest follower, Vlasta Drábková - thank you for joining!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Straight Stitch Machine Embroidery

The blanket stitch is done by hand, but the radiating lines in yellow and dark purple are done on the Singer 15K hand machine.  I have been having a few problems with the purple thread getting twisted around the take up lever, which can then make the thread twist itself around the needle.  If I don't spot it in time the thread snaps.  Very annoying.  The purple is cotton 50.  The yellow, however, which is from an ancient reel of Sylko cotton 40, is behaving itself perfectly.  I had a moan about this problem a little while ago. 

Anyway, I have just about finished this bit of stitched detail and am pleased with the result.  The colours are working well together.

This is all I am showing for now.  This is a detail of the doll quilt that I am making for Diane, my partner on the Doll Quilters' Monthly Swap.  It should be finished in a few days' time and ready to put in an envelope for a long flight to Minnesota.

This post is being linked to Barbara's blog Cat Patches for the July NewFO link up

Welcome to Letty P, the latest follower.  Thank you for joining!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Doll Quilt from Diane in Minnesota

This smashing little quilt arrived the other day from my July partner on the Doll Quilters' Monthly swap.  The theme was stars and stripes, but Diane knew that somehow I wasn't going to get hugely inspired by the theme.  Something to do with being English.  To me July 4th is just the day before my birthday.

Diane hit it just right with all these lovely little stars dancing around on a background the colour of the night sky.

Each star is different...  little florals...

... tiny cherries ...

... a few bold colours in among the pastels...

... and a red gingham print.

And so she didn't depart from the theme altogether, she also sent this little mug rug with stripes!

Thank you Diane!  I really must get a move on with the quilt for you...

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Quick Wave from Karol

Progress has slowed down a bit on the little wall hanging of Karol at the window.  It felt a bit odd sewing a snow scene in the middle of a heatwave, and it has been too hot for treadling.  Also, I have a secret project to be getting on with, a doll quilt for my partner in Minnesota, Diane.

So here is Karol's hand against the window.  I have done the bit which I was a bit worried I might mess up, the quilting in the tight spaces between his fingers.  The middle finger is a bit wobbly , and there is a crease across the hand, but so what I tell myself.  It's all an experiment.  However it turns out I'm sure my bro in law will be pleased.

This post is being linked to Lee's blog Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday - lots of interesting projects to look at there, and also to Sarah's blog Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Whoop Whoop Friday.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Doll Quilt - Indian Tree

This is the quilt I made in June for my partner in the Doll Quilters' Monthly swap.

The theme for the month was fantasy, and I was stuck for inspiration until I realised that this plate was propped up on the sideboard looking at me.

So I did a little tree.  The trunk and branches are made up of home made braid, and I showed the work in progress a little while ago, but didn't show more because I always keep the swap quilts under wraps until my partners receive them.

No two leaves are alike, each one is made from a different coloured scrap of Oakshott cotton fabric,

and a different coloured embroidery thread for the blanket stitch edging.

Each of the four little flowers is made from a different shell button, with little glass beads at the centre.

The outline quilting was done on the Singer 15K hand machine, and the free motion quilting on the Singer 15K treadle.  For the quilting in the central panel I did my usual meandering infill, and around the border I did a design based on the curly leaves I tried out in one of my practice pieces.

This was a really enjoyable project.  For ages I have been meaning to do a quilt based on pottery design, and the fantasy theme gave me the opportunity.  I really love Staffordshire pottery.  My mum grew up in The Potteries and from her I picked up the habit of turning over plates to check the maker's mark.  So for the sake of completeness, here is the underneath of the plate.  Hooray, made in Hanley.

This quilt is now with its new owner Merry in Minnesota.  So glad you like it Merry!

This post is linked with Janice's blog Better Off Thread for Sew Cute Tuesday - lots of interesting blogs to visit there!
And also with Leah Day's blog for Free Motion Friday.
And with Richard and Tanya Quilts for Link a Finish Friday.

Welcome to the latest follower, Mary Ellen Gedris.  Thank you for joining!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Pretty Picture for Sunday - Fan Vaulting at Bath Abbey

A beautiful ceiling, so light and airy.

Welcome to two new followers today, lwkoenig and Maartje Quilt - thank you for joining!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Karol at the Window - The Second Stage of Quilting

This is the latest stage in the wall hanging of Karol at the Window - the second layer of wadding needs to be quilted.  The quilt is now a proper sandwich, with a backing and wadding.  I have had to do a second line of quilting around the outline, again using the Singer 15K hand machine, with the hinged cording foot.  I always have the foot set to the right hand side of the needle.

Here is the hand with the second line of quilting finished.  I have used a dark colour that will not show up against the background.

The next stage was free motion quilting the background - just a simple infill of parallel(ish) lines to represent the snow outside.

I am going to use a few different coloured threads so the snow outside doesn't look too monotonous, which is a good excuse for a quick shopping trip this afternoon.  Anything to put off quilting the tiny little spaces between the fingers...

Linking up again to Leah Day's blog for Free Motion Friday - lots of other projects to see there!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Karol at the Window - Starting the Quilting

Once the outline was stitched on the background fabric I was able to do the first stage of the quilting.  I used polyester wadding and some very lightweight polyester cotton for the backing, and quilted over the stitched outline, adding a couple of lines of quilting for the detail on the cuff.  I used the Singer 15K hand machine with a standard hinged foot for this quilting.

Then I turned the work over and trimmed away the wadding and backing as close as possible to the stitching, and made sure all the tail ends of thread were pulled in between the layers before starting the next stage.

Next it was time for a bit of fun on the Singer 15K treadle doing the free motion quilting.  The idea of doing the wavy lines was to give the impression of a knitted jumper.

Perhaps it might have been easier to see what I was doing if I had worked from the back, but I'm not expert enough yet at free motion quilting to avoid getting little bobbles of thread occasionally on the back - a sure sign that my feet had been working faster than my hands.

The bobbles don't show on the right side, so I can live with them on the back.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Jam Session

This is where I have been spending hours over the last week or so, with my head stuck in the blackcurrant bushes.  It is a bumper crop this year, and one of the bushes has currants so big that the branches are weighed down to the ground.  

I am already running out of freezer space, so it was fortunate that I had enough jars in the house to make the first batch of jam.  Every batch of fruit has to be washed and have the stalks removed, then put in the freezer on the same day, otherwise it won't keep.  

Making jam in hot weather is pretty daunting, but I've done it.  I couldn't face the prospect of doing it all in one day, so I stewed the fruit on Monday, left it in the pan overnight, and added the sugar and finished the job off on Tuesday.

And here's the video.  I only kicked the tripod once. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Karol at the Window - Using a Stencil for the Outline

A bit of progress today on the miniature wall hanging of little Karol at the window.  Last night I made the stencil, in exactly the same way as I have made stencils for appliqué, only this time I used white paper for both the original tracing of the photograph and for the stencil itself.

Next I pinned the stencil to dark blue fabric.  I reversed the stencil because I am stitching it from the back.

The machine is threaded with a dark purple for the top thread because I wanted it to show up well against the white paper.  Here I am stitching along the cuff.

I left the fiddly bits, the little fingers, until last.

When finished, I pulled all the threads to the back of the work before removing the paper.

And here is the front of the work, Karol's hand outlined against the background.  This is the bobbin thread that is showing, a lighter purple than the top thread, which shows up fairly well against the background colour without being too obtrusive.  The idea is that this line of stitching is there as a guide for the next stage, a bit like doing faint pencil lines at the beginning of a drawing.

Welcome to Diane, the latest follower - thank you for joining!
Diane is my latest partner on the Doll Quilters Monthly swap and is posting a quilt to me any time now!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A Pretty Picture for Sunday - Grey Clouds

Taken at the beginning of June, when the rapeseed was in full flower and the skies were a bit more lively than they are now.  Yes, I'm getting a bit fed up with all this foreign weather.  Too blinking hot. I want to see clouds again.

Welcome to Jan Manley, the latest follower.  Thank you for joining!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Free Motion Quilting - Honeysuckle

Last month I tried out some leaf and flower shapes in free motion quilting, and rather liked one of the designs because it looked a bit like honeysuckle.  Today I decided to be brave and try to do a more realistic design. The first step was easy, just going and picking a sample flower from the front garden.

Because it has been so hot today, I didn't even start until the early evening because treadling is a bit energetic in this weather.  I was rather glad when the bobbin thread ran out so I could take a break.

Here is a detail of the panel so far - fat quarter size, and not yet filled.  I am doing one line of honeysuckle down the middle and filling in with plain leaves on either side.

The flowers are mainly in bud to make them simpler...

... but I think they are still recognisable as honeysuckle.

It has been a great pleasure working out this design.  I love working with plants, but over the past week this has meant getting scratched and stung by brambles and nettles.  Quilting honeysuckle was a welcome change.

This post is being linked to Leah Day's blog for Free Motion Friday - be sure to visit plenty of the blogs linked there to see what people are up to!  
Also linking up to Sarah's blog Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Whoop Whoop Fridays where there is some wonderful work to be seen.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Karol and the Hand - Work in Progress

This is as far as I have got with a new project, a pencil outline on greaseproof paper.  This is the fiddliest section of the outline that I am going to stitch, a little hand.  It is taken from my brother in law's favourite photograph, a picture of Karol, a little cousin in Poland looking out of the window at the snow.  He is silhouetted against the snowy scene outside.  Months ago my brother in law, Richard, asked if I could do a wall hanging based on the photograph.  I have finally figured what I am going to try - whether it works is a different matter.

I am going to make a stencil so I can transfer the design onto some plain dark blue cotton, then do free motion quilting around it.  If it works, more posts will follow.  If it's a complete failure, I'll own up, but it could take some time.

Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

How to Make Children's Clothes...

... the Modern Singer Way, by Mary Brooks Picken.

Hooray for birthdays and Ebay.

This edition dates from 1931 and is a companion volume to the book I already had, How to Make Dresses, the source of the ingenious technique for making rouleau straps.

The illustrations are absolutely delightful.  Because we are having blazing hot sunshine at the moment I was drawn to the page headed Sun Suits and Play Clothes.

This is a fascinating  book to read as it gives an insight into the clothes worn, fabrics available and techniques used - tiny hand sewn French seams and lace inserts on babies' dresses, cotton rompers for toddlers. and sensible dresses with matching bloomers for school.

The book is packed with no-nonsense advice.  I certainly knew who was in charge when I read "Sleazy materials lose their shape and take on premature shabbiness."  

If only I could get away with writing like that.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Cropping Whitecurrants

Last year it rained non-stop and I let the birds have the entire fruit crop on the allotment.  This summer (we didn't have one last year) is a different story.  At the moment it is scorching, with temperatures in the 80s, and I am getting in the fruit as it ripens.  The whitecurrant bush is the first one that is ready.

They are easy to pick from the bush, but it takes ages getting them off the stalks.  This batch of whitecurrants will be ready to go into the freezer later today.  

Whitecurrants are quite bitter, with lots of hard pips, but they make a lovely jam or jelly with the strained juice because they are high in pectin.  They are very handy to use with a fruit that is low in pectin, such as pears.

2012 was a nil jam year in my kitchen.  This year I am worried that the freezer will be full to bursting if I don't collect enough jars very soon.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Lots of Pretty Pictures This Sunday

Here are Will and Ed busking on a street corner in Bath ten days ago.  They asked me to take a picture of them, and they particularly wanted to be photographed with Advert Girl because they rather liked having her looking over their shoulders while they sang.

I am ridiculously pleased with this picture.  It was taken on Will's mobile phone.  For me mobile phones are a technological step too far and I am the only member of our family not to have one. Will had to show me which way round to hold it and what to press.  Looking at the screen was a waste of time because the sun was so bright I couldn't see anything on it, so this photo was taken by just aiming and pressing.  I took several just in case, because I was sure I was pressing too hard and giving it camera shake.  I'm not used to taking photos with gadgets not much bigger than a packet of fags.

Will and Ed are now making good progress on their walk northwards.  They are taking some wonderful photos on the way, which you can see in their Flickr gallery.  My particular favourites are of poppies in a field of rapeseed and of a pony and foal - completely gorgeous pictures.

Friday, 5 July 2013

A Doll Quilt on my Birthday - Brilliant Timing, Brittoni!

Here is my quilt from Brittoni, my partner for May on the Doll Quilters Monthly swap, which was specially delayed by the post office somewhere between New York State and England so that it should arrive today, my birthday!

A wonderful colourful teddy, with bright scrappy patches and machine embroidery in multicoloured thread.  He is so bright and cheerful.  Thank you Brittoni!

The sun is shining, I have had a nice pleasant amble around the shops in Bath, and I am going to have a nice lazy evening...

PS.  Thank you everyone for the birthday greetings!  xxx

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Making Elderflower Cordial

Because we seem to be having a summer this year I have been doing pleasant summery things - none of which I did last year because of all that rain.

This week I made elderflower cordial.  The elder tree in our back garden is laden with flowers and smells like heaven.  I took a large pan outside and spent a good half hour inspecting flowerheads for insects and building up a deep layer of flowers.  On top of the flowers went two sliced lemons and two oranges, and the whole lot steeped in water overnight.  The next day I drained off the liquid and sweetened it with melted honey.  The end result is not so sweet as cordials I have made before, and without adding citric acid it will not keep so long, but it has a lovely sharp tang.  It needs to be diluted to taste, but the flavour of this one makes me think I should be adding gin rather than water.

Before I made it I checked the recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book.  The instructions are a bit of a laugh... "Shake any insects off the elderflowers..."  as if there may conceivably be none, and the hundreds that are there can hang on in a strong wind, so a quick shake can't budge them. Anyway, if you are surrounded by elders, his elderflower cordial recipe is here if you want to try it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Free Motion Quilted Bedspread - On the Design Wall

It is time to make a concerted effort to try and finish this bedspread fairly soon, so I put it up on the design wall today.  In other words, I slung it over the settee.  I am putting narrower panels in darker shades around the edge, and I wanted to see how they look.  The strip at the top is a section of the border.  No doubt it will look far better once it is attached.

I am really pleased with how all these prints work together.  I am hoping that the darker shades in the border will contain the paler colours in the centre and contrast well with them.  

Does everybody start flagging when the finish is in sight, or is it just me?

This post is linked to Lee's blog Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday - lots of other projects for you to see there!
And also to Leah Day's blog for Free Motion Friday.


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