Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Jessica's Advent Calendar [A Finish]

There is nothing quite like an impending deadline to get a project finished, and that was certainly the case with this finish. Advent starts on 1st December (in terms of advent calendars, anyway) and Jessica needed an advent calendar. It might have been better if I'd started it earlier... the first challenge was picking out a design. Like Mia's I wanted there to be a central embroidery, surrounded by the pockets, but I could not find an embroidery that fitted the bill. It wasn't until I changed my search to "Christmas Line Drawings" that an absolute gem popped up. It's a Christmas card design and it's perfect. Jessica loves standing on the sofa looking out of the window, and she loves dogs! I needed to make it bigger, so I added some words and then my mother-in-law had a brainwave - I could add the side of a Christmas tree and the final pocket could be a present under it! Perfect!

Challenge number 2 was picking a colour scheme. In the end I went with aquas, pinks, greens and greys, based on a focus fabric that didn't make it into the finished calendar! This colour scheme caused problem number three. I wanted to try a new-to-me technique where instead of solid embroidery, you use colouring pencils to add colour to background items - like the chair and the curtains. I couldn't believe how difficult it was to find a light aqua colouring pencil. My daughters have many packs of crayons...nothing. I ordered a single "aquamarine" pencil from Amazon... too dark. I ordered Stabilo pencils from Amazon that looked ever so promising in the picture... nothing. Time was pressing so in the end I used the dark colour I had and went over it with a lime green - I hadn't banked on colour blending on my first attempt. I'm quite pleased with the result, but I would have like to seat to have been more saturated - I'm very pleased with the curtains.

Not content with one new technique, I was up for a second. I wanted to completely fill the dog and the mouse with embroidery - not flat satin stitch, but long and short stitch that would shows the shape and replicate fur. I think I was holding my breath as I stitched up the dogs head, and when I was done, and held it up and had a good look, I was pretty pleased. The rest of the dog came together very quickly, followed by Mr. Mouse who was tricky because he was smaller. I loved the way the curtains changed as I added the stitching over the colour, and adding the window frames made the whole picture come to life. But the words... I seriously underestimated how long they would take to finish, and it was that section of the project that nearly sank it.

I finished the embroidery on the evening of 30th November, and was very, very glad I had already made the pockets at that point. It came together quite quickly as a quilt top, and I was left to just add the binding on 1st December before the girls came home for the day.

I can happily confirm that Jessica loves it. However, I think that may have more to do with the fact it contains chocolate that the fact that Mummy lovingly embroidered it.  I enjoy looking at the embroidery, and I'm sure she will in years to come as well!

I've added a photo of Mia's advent calendar below. I made a conscious decision not to refer back to Mia's as I was making Jessica's so that they would be different (as my girls are different). It's interesting to see how similar, yet slightly different they are. It wasn't until I hung them side by side that I realised Mia's has no binding! If you'd like to see more of Mia's advent calendar, you can find a blog post here from 2015 when I made it.

This is a finish from my Quarter 4 Finish Along List.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Tula Pink Butterfly Quilt

So looking back through my blog history, it would seem that I haven't mentioned this project here before, so let me explain. Ever since I saw this quilt, I've wanted to make it, but getting hold of the pattern in the UK seemed impossible. Earlier this year I won a $25 voucher to a Canadian fabric shop, and they had it in stock. They were able to do me a good deal on the postage and so it seemed like a very good use of my voucher. And then @Gnomeangel announced that it would be a quilt along starting in August and ending in December. I decided that this would be the perfect quilt for an Alison Glass rainbow so I started stock-piling fat quarters - such a pretty rainbow!

You can just about see the background print at the bottom there, too.

The quilt along started just before a number of other quilt alongs finished, and just a day before we went on our summer holiday. I worked really hard before the holidays getting a couple of quilts finished, and I came back with a lull in my enthusiasm, so inevitably I fell behind. But the quilt is made up of lots of smaller blocks, sampler style, and in the most part these are quite straightforward, like these dinky log cabins (these weren't even the smallest).

But with some curve blocks snuck in at the end...

I was determined to have a finished quilt by the deadline of 3rd December, and I finally got caught up in mid-November. I spent a couple of hours grovelling round the floor of the hall where we have our Monday sewing group, trying to work out the layout, get all the half square triangles in the right place, and add the right sized piece of background to the right section.

At this point I did doubt the blocks with the white/pale grey in them, but I was confidently reassured that they helped add to the look of fragility of the wing... Then came construction. None of the hated sashing, just lots and lots of sections, without either a design wall or a floor. I had two mammoth piecing sessions on a Saturday night and the following morning, and by lunchtime on 3rd December I had a finished quilt. I added additional 2.5" borders in the background fabric all the way around, so that I don't lose triangle points when I add the binding later. And then the two long borders top and bottom are from Alison's Diving Board range.

This quilt top is huge - here's the uncropped version with Mum and Dad doing the honours to give you an idea!

I've now packed it away until the new year. Whilst this was on my Q4 Finish Along list, there is not way that I will be able to get this quilted by the end of the year. I think I've just added the first thing to my Q1 list! I also still need to pick a backing fabric, though binding is already sorted!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

See-it-All Pouches [Two Finishes]

I'm back with another week of the #stitchedsewingorganizersSAL and this week it's the "See-it-All pouch". This is another of the patterns I was really drawn to in the book so I was quite excited. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and use this pouch as a gift for my Aunt-in-law. About a year ago (I think) I made myself a zippy pouch with the word "Always" embroidered on it, but with the A replaced with the sign of the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter. Comments were made at the time - very subtle comments - from various family members. So as it's her birthday, Aunty B gets a pouch!

I then read some of the tips on this pouch - the instructions have you make enough binding for two pouches! So I picked out some fabrics for me that would go with the black binding I was going to use for Aunty B's. Yep black binding. This was a mistake - it's a pain in the arse to make and use black bias binding...

I cut all the pieces for two pouches, I embroidered the black one. I made the flipping bias binding (more alchemy - continuous bias binding.....had me flummoxed for a bit). And then I set about making the pouches. I did Aunty B's first and it went quite well. I had to trim away some of the seam allowance to get the binding to go round and cover the stitch line, but it was a neat and tidy finish (don't look at the puckers in the binding as it goes round the corners).

Then I made mine. The zip was a different make. Chunkier. So my zip wasn't attached as close as it should be, so when I came to attach the other side, I had to trim, which meant the stitch line on the back didn't fall right, so it looks scruffy. The bias binding fought back. So again, the back looks untidy... In reality these are minor things and I have a perfectly functional pouch but if I were to do it again, which I probably won't, I would definitely use the same fabric for the binding and the back or at least fabrics where the same thread would blend with both - I did with Aunty B's and it looks so much tidier. And the chunkier zip wouldn't have been an issue if I'd used my zipper foot, which I never use, because I don't actually know where it is... we live and learn!

An "Always" zippy for Aunty Barbara was on my original Finish Along list, which you can find here, so that's another tick!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Boxy Pocket Pouch [A Finish]

I've been joining in with  Tuppence Ha'Penny's sew along making items from the Stitched Sewing Organizers book by Aneela Hoey. This week's project is the Boxy Pocket Pouch and is another of the projects on my original must-make list. However, I decided to complicate matters this time round and use cork fabric for the first time! And those cacti - it was always going to be that fabric for the pocket!

First up, my learnings on cork fabric. It's much thinner than I expected. But it's thicker than regular fabric - always a good plan when you known a project is going to involve turning things through and sewing through multiple layers. It doesn't seem to be as robust as regular fabric, so I was very careful not to be too rough when I turned this pouch through. It's not keen on the iron. I very carefully added some interfacing to it - it warped a tiny bit, but seems to have regained its previous appearance now. The heavier weight meant I probably didn't need that interfacing in the first place.... my overall impression is that it's nice, but not really, in my opinion, nice enough for the extra faff.

The pattern cannot be faulted. Again. I blindly followed the instructions (with a quilt pattern I can read instructions and get a sense of where I'm going, and even pick out steps where something isn't quite right. With bag making I am entirely blind). And after 2 hours of sewing (and an hour of preparing the fabric) I had a boxy pouch with some pretty great pockets! The technique for getting a neat finish on that cactus pocket is just amazing. I made life hard for myself at one point by missing out a step, but fudged my way through, and started ticking off the steps as I did them after that! My only issue with this pouch is that the lining seems a bit baggy - and that could be all about my seams allowances rather than anything else. One point gave me a lot of bother: there are zipper tabs at each end of the zip, and when made from cork and combined with all the other layers at that point, my machine was having none of it. It refused to sew through the layers. In the end I hand-turned it, and when it skipped the stitch I brought the needle down in the same place again and again until it caught. Not ideal, but in the end I had enough stitches for it to all hold together. If I were making it again, I would still add the tabs, as they are a nice finishing touch, but I would do them in the contrast fabric, not cork!

This was the point where I had boxed the corners and was ready to turn it through. My husband made sure to be in the room when I did that - he thought it would be funny and not go right. But the magic worked again and he was disappointed.

I love the look of this pouch - it would make a great gift as it looks really special - and it is very roomy, but I've found that the pouch doesn't open very wide and easily falls back to the closed position even with the zip open. I think this is a "great for carrying stuff and storing stuff" pouch but not a "great for working directly from" pouch. Nevermind - I've already found some excellent projects in the book that fall into that second category! And I still keep looking at this pouch in amazement that I actually made it!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Down the Rabbit Hole

It has been months since we talked about my Down the Rabbit Hole Quilt on this blog. There's a very good reason for that - I didn't touch it! This is a block of the month programme from Sarah Fielke and it combines templates, hand applique, bias applique, foundation piecing.... you name it, it has every technique going, and right from the start I knew it was going to be a huge challenge. I got through the first couple of months a little behind, but then in month three, we had to applique, by hand, the tiniest, fiddliest little leaves going... and that's where the wheels came off. I had 24 to add and the first one I did is still the best.

Over the summer I did work ahead a bit, but the next section - 40 tiny houses with paper pieced roofs didn't go quickly either... I knew that the next borders were heavy on the hand applique, so in September I made a decision: If this quilt was ever going to be finished, and I would like to finish it, then hand applique just wasn't the way forward. I switched tactics and committed to machine applique using fusible sticky-stuff and a machine blanket stitch - the fact that my Husqvarna does a very lovely machine blanket stitch definitely helped in this decision! However, I also decided that the leaves I had started appliquing by hand in the centre needed to be finished by hand. With a little help from a friend who took pity on me and stitched a couple, and the new found energy my decision had brought, I finished the applique. I also embroidered the very centre of the centre - I'd had the idea in my head for months but never got round to it.

And I can now confirm that the centre of my medallion, which should have been finished in April, is now finished!

And those little houses? Those are finished too, so hopefully I'll have more progress to share soon!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Fold Up [Sewing Folio [A Finish]

I'm back with another fabulous project from Aneela Hoey's book "Stitched Sewing Organizers". And this project is the reason I bought the book. It's also my first time using vinyl....

It took about an hour to cut and prepare the fabrics, interfacing and wadding. And then another 2 hours to stitch up - I love these quick finishes. This is the first of these projects from the book where I feel that I would like to make it again, and if I did so I would do a better job. I managed to get my interior the wrong way round, so it doesn't quite match the pattern and the pincushion is a bit scruffy I also did my topstitching in two different colours - I had a good reason when I did it, but I think it would have looked better all the same.

The outer fabric is a Dashwood one from a range called Club Tropicana and I just love that green. I also went back to my trademark pink lining on this project. And that vinyl? A breeze. I didn't even have to use the teflon foot, because whenever you sew the vinyl you're actually encasing it in fabric. Such a clever design! I'm really looking forward to using this make - it might just be perfect for one of my EPP projects!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Fabric Trays

I'm back with another make from the Stitched Sewing Organizers book by Aneela Hoey as part of the #stitchedsewingorganizerssal hosted by Tuppen Ha'Penny Quilts. And the more I use this book, the more I love it! Last week was another week I was going to skip: fabric trays. Not very inspiring at first glance, to be honest. Then I started seeing them pop up over on Instagram. On Saturday night, after a rather hrad 24 hours, and with the kids finally in bed, I decided that rather than the many projects I already had on the go, I was going to make these instead.

I cut into my new Comma fabric. I was lucky to get rather a large piece of the black asterisk (?) fabric as part of #getyourquiltywishesgranted3 along with quite a few fat quarters, so I felt I could spare a piece from my quilty plans (still early days...) to use for this project. I matched it up with a couple of prints from Mama Said Sew by Sweetwater. In an ideal world, it would have been nice to use these fabrics for all of it, but the large tray needed more than a fat quarter, and that was all I had. It's a good thing they play so nicely with Comma!

Literally an hour after starting, minimal machine sewing, some time with an iron and interfacing, and I was sitting on the sofa finishing these trays up by hand. And they are perfect for sofa sewing - everything is kept in one place, and everything is accessible. I predict these will become one of my organising staples! And I couldn't resist adding a matching pincushion as well....

The next few weeks of the sew along are for projects I'm desperate to have a go at, including the cover project - the reason I bought the book! So I will be back!