A Handbag?

I’ve never made a bag before, and to be honest I’m not quite sure what pricked me to try it now. All I can tell you is, I bought this Lazy Girl pattern at the Uttoxeter Quilt Show, came home, and immediately started pulling out fabrics and muttering about contrasts. And the result was this:

For a first attempt at a bag, I’m really quite proud of it. The main (outer) fabrics were a present from my sister (who, by the way, is generally fabulous and blogs here and here), the lining fabric was from stash and the dark blues (for the inner and outer pockets) were part of my Uttoxeter goodies haul.

As bags go, it’s not really my style – I’m not a floral girl AT ALL – but I used it with great joy when we went to the beach at Easter* and it was just right for book, sunblock, water bottle & various children’s bits & bobs. It was really easy to make, so chances are I’ll make a few more of these in different fabrics. I’m thinking maybe Christmas presents!

* I know. The beach, at Easter, in the UK. Who’d have thought?

Baby taggie

Just a little one, this – to keep the blog moving. My line manager at work had a baby recently – well, his wife did. Credit where credit’s due. By way of a small gift for the new baby I made this – a taggie crinkle toy, kind of made up by me but with a little help from various online sources.

(Apologies about the poor picture – my BlackBerry is mucking about, so this is the best I can do right now. I keep hinting* that I’d like a digital camera for birthday/Christmas/whatever, but no one has taken the bait yet.)

The taggie is backed with cotton flannel (an old cot sheet), topped with a jungle fabric left over from monkey blanket, decorated with scraps of woven ribbon and filled with a scrap of cotton batting and a square of crinkly wrapper from a baby wipes packet. It crinkles beautifully, and should cope with washing, drying, chewing, dropping and whatever else befalls it.

Welcome, baby Isaac. :)

*Telling people, loudly and repeatedly.

Union Flag cushion – by special request!

A while ago I was browsing through the April 2011 issue of Popular Patchwork and Tom happened to be walking past just as I was looking at a project page, featuring¬† a Union Flag cushion in red rose fabrics. He stopped, peered at the pictures and said, “I’d quite like one of those.”

I was a little take aback by this – he’s not particularly patriotic, nor is he into roses – but it turned out the design reminded him of his Mod days. Keen to take advantage of this sudden rush of retro nostalgia I turned him loose on my stash to pick some fabrics, and the result was this:

He debated choices of greens, blacks/whites and even some brown/khaki fabrics, but eventually settled on a pretty traditional trio of black, white and red. We were a bit surprised that the dark background (which is actually black with gold glittery bits in it) now looks blue in the design – maybe it’s that we’re expecting it to be blue so that’s what we see. In any case, I’m rather chuffed with it – foundation pieced over muslin, backed in plain black sateen and finished with a feather cushion pad bought specially.

It’s now in pride of place on our black leather sofa* – by which I mean, the cats sleep on it and the children use it as the flag at the top of their huge and elaborate cushion-forts. And Tom’s happy, which is all I was hoping for.

*This sounds terribly posh. It’s not. We “acquired” it when an old company Tom used to work for was emptying their offices – it somehow found its way into the back of my car when he was clearing his desk, and no one ever asked for it back. Honest, guv.

Back in the Lotto

So – er – a year, almost to the day, since my last post here. That’s not good, is it? Really not good.

However, it’s kind of fitting, given my last post about the cherry chocolate quilt, that this post should also be about the Block Lotto. I’ve neglected it terribly recently – I think the last time I took part was July last year – but I knocked together two* 9 inch Pineapple Blossom blocks today, and I’m happy to be able to play along with the Lotto again.

Here are the blocks, made entirely from stash. Quite proud of them… Although I hope the grey (as per the instructions) is grey enough. It’s a glorious batik fabric which I LOVE, but there has been some debate here over whether it’s grey or purple. Personally, I think it’s both. A bit.

Also, while I was choosing a gold fabric, Tom was looking on. After a few minutes he said, musingly, “Why don’t you use some from those old gold curtains we used to have?” I looked at him, aghast. “What,” I said, “you mean the ones that have been up in our living room FOR THE LAST SEVEN YEARS?”

Sigh.

I’m hoping Sophie will be able to link this post to the Block Lotto blog for me – I’ve been absent so long I’ve dropped off the list of contributors. Bad.

*I actually made three, but I’m keeping one. So there.

Cherry Chocolates

In the spirit of proving that I haven’t been completely idle since January, here’s a photo of a quilt top I finished about a month ago.

Here it’s spread out on the floor in our spare room, half-way through being basted (the white stuff sticking out along all the edges is wadding). It’s constructed of 6″ framed pinwheel blocks in pinks and browns, set with plain cream squares. I love this top, for many reasons.

  1. It’s the first full-size quilt top I’ve ever completed. I hand-piece by choice, although I can and have machine-pieced small projects, so making a big top like this one takes ages. It’s slightly bigger than a UK single – I extended the width by adding the extra borders, so it would fit my daughter’s bed. Because…
  2. …this quilt is for my daughter. She has helped with the design, choosing the fabric for the background, the borders (Amy Butler’s Imperial Fans) and the backing (actually the same Amy Butler fabric), and she’s desperate for me to finish it. Which is good, because I know she’ll adore it when it’s done, and because it keeps me focused.
  3. Likewise, it’s the first large quilting project I’ve undertaken, and I’m learning all sorts of stuff. For example – hand-quilting ITD is tough on the fingers, and you don’t half get hot hand-quilting a large piece in a heatwave.
  4. Finally, but by no means the least of my reasons for loving this top, is that I won it. I try to take part in the Block Lotto every month, and I won the pinwheel blocks in August 2008 – I blogged about it ages ago. It took me months to decide what to do with them, and then I plodded through getting them all sewn together, and now I love the fact that this top was constructed by women (and they were all women) from all over the world. I received blocks from the UK, Europe, the US and Australia, and they’re all in there.

So – progress, as promised. I have been working on other things too; I knitted a monkey (no, really) and have done bits and pieces on other projects, but this is the biggest thing I have to show for the last four months. I’ll try not to leave it another four months before the next update…

Spring Bingo!

Ok, so life’s a bee-atch and won’t leave me alone. Since my last post in January I’ve been working (teaching at school and editing at home) like a mad person, like someone who’s the sole breadwinner for a family of five. Oh, er, hang on … I am effectively the sole breadwinner for a family of five, since T’s job situation has signally failed to improve, and has indeed deteriorated in the last few weeks. Why is it so hard for him to find a job he wants to do? It shouldn’t be this hard, it really shouldn’t…

All of which has meant that days are spent in the classroom, slogging for my just-above-minimum-wage pittance, and most evenings and weekends are spent editing, writing, dealing with clients and trying desperately not to lose myself in among the other stuff. Part of that not-losing-myself is carving out a few minutes every day for sewing, which I have done a fair bit of, but no photos I’m afraid – I’ll rectify that when I get a minute. Ha.

However, I didn’t come here to moan. I came here to let you know about the Spring Fever Bingo competition I’ve just joined. I normally don’t get into this sort of thing, but I couldn’t resist this one (which I picked up on Miri’s blog, Milk and Honey Quilts). It’s being run by the folk at the In Stitches blog, and the prize is awesome. Couldn’t pass it up…

So go take a look – you’ll need to sign up fast, because the game starts tomorrow, but it looks like fun. And I promise I’ll try to post some pictures of recent sewing activities, and update here a bit more often… X

Lack of posts does not imply lack of sewing…

…far from it. What it does imply, of course, is lack of time to blog. Christmas and the weeks leading up to it were a busy, stressful and (let me say it again) busy time – and I’d like to say things have calmed down a bit now that we’re into January, but they really haven’t. Even now I should be doing about four other things (housework, laundry, tax return, editing a book which is not overdue yet but will be very soon) but instead I’ve decided to spend some time here while I watch the snow fall outside.*

So my sewing efforts over the lead-up to Dec 25th were at least partly focused on gifts. Since Tom’s second redundancy of 2009 in October** we’ve had to tighten our belts even further (and we’d only just started letting them out again after he found a job in July after six months out of work), so I made batches of chutneys and jams to give as gifts. For the stitchers among my friends and family (most of whom I’ve infected with the bug myself – hooray!) I also made pincushions out of 6″ log cabin blocks left over from the September BQL monthly challenge piece (see last post), bought some rather splendid dressmakers’ pins with coloured heads to go with them, and wrapped them in Christmassy fat quarters instead of paper. Wish I’d taken pictures of them all wrapped up – they looked beautiful, and were very well received – but instead here they are pre-wrapping. (The one at the front is turned around to show the fabric I used to back them all.)

I also managed to push through and finish the BQL challenge pieces for October, November and December – not without a lot of effort and a certain amount of complaining, but I did it, and the satisfaction of finishing the final piece was colossal. I learnt an enormous amount during the year, and have grown hugely in confidence – I now feel like I could at least have a stab at pretty much anything, although I have still to try FMQ. A goal for this year, maybe… Here are picture of the three pieces you haven’t seen.

October piece, unbound – it’s now finished. 3D windmills on autumnal backgrounds – the quilting was fiddly on this one, I did a sort of hand-quilted stipple to represent blowing winds, but wished I’d never started it after about a week. However, it looked great once it was finished.

November piece – an applique drunkard’s path design, worked in my current favourite purple/green batik (see the August piece as well) with lilac raw silk as a background. Simple ITD and outline quilting. I like this one a lot.

December piece – a simple raw-edge applique mosiac using scraps of Christmassy (well, mainly red/green) fabric on a cream raw silk background. The children thought it looked like an Advent calendar, which I thought was quite apt.

The twelve quiltlets are now all on display around the house in groups of three – there’s a perfect wall to display them all together, so they’ll probably all end up there soon.

I also finished Caitlin’s monkey blanket, amid a great chorus of complaints that Monkey was getting cold and ill because he had no bed to sleep in. I pointed out that he always sleeps in her bed, but this argument was dismissed with the contempt it deserved, and the pressure was on to finish his new bed before he died of hypothermia. And the finished article looks like this.

An art nouveau willow tree design which Caitlin chose herself, backed and lined with a jungle-print fabric and quilted with wavy lines on the tree and small clouds on the sky. There’s also a picture of Monkey himself quilted into the top of the tree.

Caitlin was delighted with it, and Monkey professes himself very happy that he no longer gets cold at night. Here he is in his new bed. I think you’ll agree, he looks very comfortable.

I also made a couple of polka dot blocks for the Block Lotto in December – now sent off to Rho in the US – and made costumes for various school plays and other events – told you it was a busy time. But now we’re into January, and I’ve made the perennial quilter’s resolution to try and finish a few UFOs before I start anything new. Being a compulsive listmaker I’ve made a list of stuff that needs tackling and am trying to do bits and pieces on all of them; not sure this is the best strategy, to be honest, but at least I won’t get bored… As soon as there’s worthwhile progress I’ll post again here, but in the meantime – happy new year, keep warm, and keep safe.

* Photos in this post were mostly taken on my mobile phone – for which I apologise, but our family digital camera hid for about six weeks during the run-up to Christmas, and was only discovered under a big pile of stuff while we were packing to go away for Christmas week. I have to say I sympathise – if I could have hidden for the month of December I probably would have done, too.

**PLEASEOHPLEASEOHPLEASE let him find something else soon…

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