All posts by Val Jones-Hughes

Be my Valentine

Another Year, Another Valentine

It was that time of year again. The eve of Saint Valentines day. Time to shut the door of my workroom   and rummage through the bits and bobs. Especially the red bits and bobs.

I’m usually drawn to hearts and this year was no exception. I love using buttons  and the button box (who am I kidding, I do mean button boxes, jars, the odd drawer, oh – and an old leather collar box) is often the first place I turn to.

This year I started by making a stuffed white cotton heart then, from the above mentioned collection I chose a whole variety of white buttons. The only thing they had in common was that they all had four holes so that I could make the  KISSES.        Then at some point I decided it needed one red button. I attached it to the card with yet another button.

There was an unexpected design fault this year! The card was just a little bit unbalanced. It collapsed on to its front no matter how I tried to stand it up. No time to make an improved version though, as usual it was a last-minute make.

Here are a couple of  previous years’ makes.

Christmas Sewing 2016 Two

Countdown to Christmas

Kits have never really been a choice for my sewing projects. I suppose somewhere deep in my psyche using a kit is ‘cheating’. I certainly have always gone through the agony and ecstasy that is the whole process of design, make, review.

Until November 2015 that is. The West of England Quilting and Textile Show was held in the University of the West of England; the University where my daughter studied and now lives a stones throw away from. It would have been rude to ignore it!

There were some fabulous quilts on show

and the stalls were just too tempting by far! Shows like this can make a serious dent in my bank account.

                                                     I bought some kits.

First up were the  Advent Calendars. We had been thinking about them. Thinking about them; looking at them on Pinterest; imagining how they would fit into our Christmas decor and just how we wanted them to be used. There certainly were plenty of kits on offer at the show and after walking around looking, eating lunch, discussing the pros and cons we decided that we would indeed go with the kit option. One for each of the three little ones in the family.

We chose two panel calendars with pockets, a decorated tree and a Christmas village scene. The third one would be a set of 24 Scandi style mini Christmas stockings. All of the kits we chose were from Makower, they have a huge choice.

We knew that the calendars would have to wait for Christmas 2016 to make their debut, there were other projects in the pipeline for 2015.

Christmas came and went 2016 just whizzed by and suddenly I had a very small window of time slotted in between returning from Spain at the beginning of November and the long-awaited and hugely anticipated trip to New York on November 22nd.

I’d made a promise so the pressure was on. The cutting began, the little pockets were soon made up and sewn on to the background, the sandwich was made up and backed with Christmas fabric from Aberdashery.  Oh, and there were loops to add along the top edge to hang the calendars on a length of dowel.

I decided a little bit of quilting was needed and just outlined some of the shapes on the panels. The final job was to add a little bit of Christmas sparkle.This came in the form of Pinflair Glitter Wands in gold, red and green. They are available in good craft shops or from numerous online outlets.

Once the panel advent calendars were complete it was on to the Christmas stockings. These were really simple. cut them out, sew them together, snip the curves, turn and press,  make a loop for hanging from red ribbon and sew that into a top seam. Done!

I chose a red satin cord to hang the Advent stockings.

All that remained was to pass on the two panel calendars to my daughter and the stockings to my son  … and just for this year I added the gifts to put inside. I like to think of them becoming part of the Christmas tradition and excitement in both houses as the children grow.

All in all I was fairly impressed by these kits they are quick and easy, there were printed instructions on the panels and I have since found there a You Tube videos if you should need them. And I still felt a creative buzz making them.

I was also taken by some of the small quilt kits at the show and I came away with two of those as well. I’ve just started on one of them so watch this space!

 

Unrealistically Optimistic Quilter

Christmas Sewing 2016

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I’m not going to call this a New Year resolution, for one thing it’s much too late for that. But I am determined that this year it will be back to keeping up with the blog. So I’m going to start with my Christmas 2016, or maybe that should be 2015, sewing.

I started these star placemats before Christmas 2015 and we did use the first six of them then. But when I first embarked on the project I was determined, ambitiously perhaps, that we would have enough to use if all the immediate family were here. I decided that twelve was the ideal number. Ten placemats and two extra, perfect.

I was going to complete the whole set in January but as always priorities changed. Christmas 2016 was a long way in the future!

Back to November 2015! Foundation piecing was, and still is, a challenge. It’s still very much a case of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway!’ I had seen a variety of the foundation pieced stars made up and loved the Christmas Makower Scandi fabric that year and my vision was for a perfectly Scandi set of table mats. Red and white Christmas star perfection!

Puzzling endlessly over piecing orientation  and overworking my seam ripper was by no means part of the perfect vision. My project planning is nothing if not aspirational! The header for my ‘Quilt Inspiration’ Pinterest board is after all ‘Unrealistically Optimistic Quilter’!  Having a good run at making up the stars would leave me feeling I was really getting to grips with the piecing – then a gap in working would have me back to staring blankly at the pattern, the orientation of the fabric and the scribblings I had made over the original copy.

There were a lot (really) of points to get right. To say some are better than others would be an understatement. Now I really do have a sense of achievement having finished. Okay I know they’re not perfect, I know that the number of mismatched seams far outnumbers those that line up just right but I am more than happy with the overall look of them on the table and they certainly shout ‘Christmas’ loud and clear.

I quilted along all the individual points of the stars, you can see that clearly on the reverse. That was a very calm and soothing conclusion to each star and very satisfying. Then I completed each one with binding in red and white Christmas fabric.

Not all of it in the same range unfortunately but I actually like the fact that they are the same but different! January 2017 has seen them finished and I hope that they will grace the Christmas kitchen table for many years to come.

 

Nappy Stack

IMG_0070_2With just a week’s notice my son invited me to go to his partner’s baby shower.  The second thought to cross my mind (the first,  ‘Ooh, lovely’) was to wish I hadn’t rushed to give them the Retro Orchard Puff Quilt!IMG_0037

 

 

 

But it was only a fleeting thought and based only on the time remaining to complete a gift to give on the day.  I had a few ideas, one of them being the Nappy Stack I’d seen on Pinterest. So I set about searching. I found lots of lovely possible gifts but no sign of the very one I wanted.

It took just a little while for the light to dawn and for me to realise the language barrier issue! For Nappy Stack read Diaper Stack.  Of course! As soon as I re-worded my search there it was.                                And,1827-Diaper_Stacker-1 hey presto one click and I was on the Sew 4 Home site.  You can sign up for a weekly email from Sew 4 Home and I remembered that was where I actually first saw this. There are some great projects on the site and you can pin direct from the email link so it’s easy to keep the projects you like the look of.

This one caught my eye initially because grey and yellow are the nursery colours. As it happens I’ve been stashing away a little collection of yellows and greys ready for a quilt. I chose some Michael Miller ‘Here Kitty Cat’ fabric and some Riley Blake grey and white chevrons. I also think it’a a pretty nifty idea and much nicer than just having packs of nappies hanging around the nursery. I’m a sucker for idiosyncratic storage.

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So, here is all the fabric cut and ready to sew.  The instructions on the Sew 4 Home tutorial are really clear and every step is accompanied by a clear photograph. Excellent! They also add links to  technique tutorials like sewing curves and making piping. Useful if you come across things you haven’t done before.

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Opening for the hanger hook.

Basically the stack is made in two parts: the top hanger cover and the bottom sack. There are some fiddly bits, like the opening for the hanger hook in the top section, and of course, that piping.

The binding might have been a bit of a fiddle too but for my recently purchased Estone biased binding makers. imagesThis was the first chance I’d had to have a go with one of these and although the pattern didn’t call for bias it was magic for folding the binding evenly. Cheap as chips at £4.20 for a set of 4 sizes! You push your binding strip through and press it as it comes out folded at the other                   end. No more burned fingers!IMG_0064_2Here’s the main body part with the binding sewn on and the pockets in place.IMG_0066_2And here’s the top part with the hanger inside.IMG_0068_2And here’s the nappy stack complete with nappies, wipes and creams in the pockets.

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Wooden hangers from ‘Hangerworld’!

Oh! Just one other thing. You will need a child’s, preferably wooden, coathanger. I didn’t have any so it was a case of thank goodness for Amazon and next day delivery, we have a handy family subscription to Prime. Living out in the sticks brings shopping challenges so it’s worth having.  Who would ever have imagined there is somewhere called ‘Hangerworld?

Nonnie had organised a lovely baby shower for her sister.  And there was an amazing cake made by her sister-in -law.  It made me giggle.IMG_0071

Here is the link to the tutorial on Sew 4 Home. I know now exactly where to find it. I’m going to need it, I’ve already started a second one at the request of my daughter.

Update

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Here is the second Nappy Stack. Made with two fabrics from the lovely Nature Trail collection by Bethan Janine for

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Dashwood Studios. They consistently come up with fabrics I adore, in colours that just make my mouth water.

 

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And a pic of the binding in the making. Next time I do it I’ll add a decent sequence.

Please leave a comment, it’s good to know there’s someone out there!

Upcycling

Have you ever completely ruined a perfectly good woollen jumper? I’ve done it once or twice! When Jeff first retired and took over the laundry he did. I remember one of my jumpers and one of his. I wish I’d kept them.IMG_0043Here’s my latest shrinker. This time it was deliberate! You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to really shrink something when you’re trying. Easy-peasy when you are doing the laundry in a hurry and in goes your woolly  then you take it out and aargh, dolly sized!

Reading about felting I found that the garment should be at least 80% wool. When I decided this cardie was past it’s best I checked it out and it was 70% wool.  Mmm? I gave it a go anyway and it actually felted up really well with a hot wash in the machine. Apparently you can improve the felting by taking it out and putting it in cold water and then back into a hot wash. The temperature changes enhance the process.

I cut it up like this

And sewed it together like this

I found the felt really easy to manipulate when I was sewing the strip to the circle, being used to working with cotton which is quite unforgiving.  To get the rib and collar to the right shape I pinned it first and cut it when it was in place to get the tapering right and to place the buttonholes. I thought the fabric was quite thick but the lovely Pfaff managed perfectly.

I turned the brim out and pressed it into shape then sewed the original buttons on with a little bit of contrast. And there was my new hat.

I was meant to be quilting my juicy jelly quilt this afternoon, this was  a bit of a spur of the moment whim. It was great fun.  Now am I going to wear it or use it for storage?

Retro Orchard Puff Quilt

IMG_0036The first ever Puff quilt I made was for my own first baby well over

How home photography has changed in the digital age!
How home photography has changed in the digital age!

30 years ago. We had a crib that had been in the family for many years and I wanted to update it. I have no idea now where the original idea came from but I obviously liked the look of it. I still do. The quilt was used for both of my children and for my nephew and niece when they took up the family crib.

Then when my daughter was expecting her first baby a puff quilt was the first thing she asked me to make and we chose fabrics to match the colours of his nursery. It was one of the first things I made on my return to sewing. Very fitting I think!

Dougie's Puff Quilt
Dougie’s Puff Quilt

Well now that my son and his partner are expecting their first baby, our third grandchild, I thought I would make this a bit of a tradition. I’m sure I can rely on my daughter to carry it on!                                      This time we know we’re waiting for a little girl and I chose a favourite fabric from my stash.  I’m often inspired designs from Dashwood Studios and like all ‘fabricologists’  I  just occasionally, sometimes buy fabric and wait for the right project. That was the case with Retro Orchard by Wendy Kendall, it was a 2014  collection so I’ve had it a while.IMG_5457IMG_5453

I added a hot pink pin spot for my backing fabric to the collection..

There are so many great tutorials on Pinterest, (here’s a link) I’m not going to add to them, but I’ll just share the general process.

I’m in the habit of keeping a (very scrappy) journal of my makes so it was easy to decide on the size. 8 x 12 puffs, with each puff being cut to 3.5 inches. IMG_5459I used an old white cotton sheet for the back of the puffs, making each backing square 0.5 inch smaller than the tops. I am still cutting my way through sheets inherited from my mum and mum-in-law, it will be the end of an era when I’ve used them all up, maybe some of mine will be ready for recycling by the time they are. Never throw away a cotton sheet.

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So I started my 96 puffs, sewing by day and stuffing and pinning watching TV in the evenings. Some was done in Mel’s sewing class and some at home.

The pile grew quickly and soon I had a bag-full waiting to have their fourth side sewn and be joined together. I had to keep reminding myself to make the seam less than a quarter-inch.

IMG_2239I decided the design should have the four prints running in diagonal lines and began sewing the puffs together in four squares using a quarter-inch seam. This should have meant that the original seams wouldn’t show but the puffiness makes it difficult and many a seam had to be re-done and I had a few broken fingernails – don’t ask!

IMG_2245Pretty soon there were 12 rows and 8 columns all sewn together and then there was a bit more tidying up of seams before cutting the backing and making the binding. For my last puff quilt I wrapped the backing round to self bind but this time I decided on a separate binding. I used the recently learned method of turning the corner. IMG_0038

Now this is worth a tutorial so next time I do it I’ll make one. It’s a method that makes a lovely neat mitre easily!

 

I wanted to secure the puffs to the backing but I’ve never found a IMG_0039way to keep the joined puffs perfectly square so stitching the ditch would be a hideous messy, lumpy, bumpy  business so I hand sewed them together by just catching through the layers in between alternating puffs and making little four -petaled daisy shapes.IMG_0037It’s a great size for a crib, pram or pushchair and is comfy enough for a newborn to lie on for floor time. Here’s a very new Dougie on his.IMG_0157

IMG_0042I could think of uses for it rolled too.IMG_0040

It’s an easy make, comfy and cosy, and could be any size.  I hope I get the opportunity to make more!

Heidi’s Quilt

IMG_5422I’ve been missing from here for such a long time. Nothing blogged since the spring and we’re almost into a new year! It isn’t that I haven’t been busy making, more that I’ve been even more busy with other things.

Since my last blog I spent two months in Spain and survived the annual walking holiday with my sister – this year in the wonderful north Lake District. I’ve added new beds to the garden and visited gardens up and down the land. But most of the ‘busy’ was being in Bristol in the first few weeks after our lovely new granddaughter  was born. We felt so blessed to be able to spend so much time with our family at such a special time and we were more than willing to make ourselves useful helping. And of course totally smitten by our latest little addition.

I have been making, but just not blogging. Most of the makes were little ones, squeezed in-between travels and the intention to record them just never became a reality.

Just as we arrived back in the country in November I lost my mum which stopped me in my tracks for a while and nothing much happened around here, I found myself spending a good deal of time with family, quite rightly. But I had promised Heidi a quilt and I had begun back in the summer and I found it a solace to return to finishing it.

Bethan had decided IMG_1950on a fab, subtle colour scheme and we set about finding fabrics in grey, coral and mint. Nothing could have filled the brief better than Bonnie Christine’s ‘Hello Bear’ for Art Gallery Fabrics.  The bears are gorgeous! I love the quality of AGF cottons, they are just lovely to work with and appear to go on looking like new for many years. The range is a large one and we narrowed it down to eight designs with the addition of a solid grey.

imagesNext was the search for a pattern. I’d bought Allison Harris’ ‘Growing Up Modern’ some time before and liked the look of a number of the quilts. We settled on ‘Sparkle’. We loved the design and the  classic hourglass blocks suited our fabric choices.                                                       Allison’s directions are spot on and the book starts with  some really good tips for novice and experienced quilters alike.

Cutting and peicing the top went along quite speedily, there were opportunities for chain piecing the half square triangles, which helped move things along nicely.

The clear instructions and accurate measurements meant that the top was soon done.IMG_1957

And then I added a border in the peachy coloured ‘follow me’.

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So, top done but no plan for the quilt back so there was an opportunity for a little diversion. We were having a little nursery chair reupholstered and it seemed to calling out for a cushion! Enter a template for a huge dresden plate borrowed from my sewing class.

Now, I have made a dresden plate block before but it was small and not brilliantly executed. However, as usual, once a plan has entered my head I have to make it come to fruition. So pleased I did. I love the cushion!

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Randomly ordered piecing for the dresden plate.

 

 

 

 


On both sides

 

 

Next to add the centre and a backing. my favourite for cushions is a lightweight cotton domette. Not too thick or heavy, just enough to give a little bit of substance to a cushion.

IMG_1990I used one of my favourite stitches, a running cross stitch, to quilt the fabrics.

A little bit of piping around the cushion top was all that was needed to finish it off.

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The colours  are perfect against the silver grey of the chair, just what we wanted.

 

Back to the quilt back. I decided I had enough of the fabric left to make square patches and enough of the ‘follow me’ for a border. Simple.  I just about got it done before we headed of on our travels so I had to leave putting the quilt together until our return.

I free motion quilted with a simple loopy line, or rather two simple loopy lines. One in mint and one in coral.IMG_5426

And made a labelIMG_5423

So Heidi’s quilt was finished before Christmas and very nearly coincided with her moving into her big cot in her own room.IMG_5420IMG_5428

Unfortunately I don’t think that the photographs of the finished quilt do the colours justice. It was grey and raining here what felt like every day throughout November and December and the photographs had to be take indoors in poor light. I didn’t do a great job. Maybe I can add a few more when the I’m in Bristol in the sunshine    –   In the meantime I’ve begun the planning for my next baby quilt.   A Nains’ life is a busy life – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

Pedal Pushers Beach Bag

From Capel Bangor to Aguadulce

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We didn’t spend a lot of time on the beach on our most recent trip to Spain and we didn’t ride our bikes down to the sea as often as usual either, but I did carry everything I needed to the beach in Aguadulce in the bag that I made  in Mel’s class in Capel Bangor.

Back in Capel Bangor in pale and watery March it looked almost too shockingly bright but on a sunny Spanish beach it wasn’t a bit out of place.

Well, the connection is not about cycling at all but the lovely Moda ‘Pedal Pushers’ fabric designed  by the mother and daughters Jung that caught my eye in the days before we started making Mel’s brilliantly designed, multi-pocketed bag.

Here’s the whole 1950’s inspired ‘Pedal Pushers’ range:product-collageIt was, of course, the red and aqua end of the range that caught my attention. A combination that always draws my eye.

The mini-patch, quilted back pocket shows all of my selection with raspberry ‘Wicker’ and sky ‘Floral Crest’ as my main fabrics.

I had a real sense of satisfaction putting the bag together, putting a range of skills to use, getting the inner and outer pockets in place and finding that everything fitted perfectly – thanks to Mel’s clear instructions and direction of course. Left to my own devices it probably would have been assembled and reassembled numerous times!

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And as always our group worked happily and supportively; having lots of fun and, on occasion, really getting down to some serious work!

 

And when it came to going downIMG_1905 2 to the beach in sunny Almeria with all the necessary paraphernalia my bag was light and easy to carry and not just a brightly coloured beach bag but a practical, organised super-bag. Oh! And the soft padding meant it also served as a soft place to lay my head!

I think my beach dress just serves to prove a point about my current colour preferences!

And just look at all these pockets -perfect!

Thanks Mel!

Time for UfOs

UfO Number 1

Aboriginal Dots

IMG_1851It’s only just over a year since I began this sampler quilt. Quite a short time in the long line of UfOs waiting in line in my workroom really!

It was the first thing I made when I was over the moon at finding Mel’s class. It was the first thing I made after I discovered the joy and the temptation that is the wonderful Calico Kate shop in Lampeter.                              Lampeter or Llanbedr Pont Steffan, or  locally known as Llambed, this quiet Mid-Wales town is the smallest university town in the UK but more importantly for quilters it is the home of Jen Jones’  Welsh Quilt Centre (find them here on Facebook)

Unknownand the most amazing collection of fabrics ranged across twelve mouthwatering rooms at Calico Kate.

 

This little sampler quilt was also my introduction to the mysteries of foundation piecing. At the time I hadn’t a clue about this particular wonder of patchwork and as I began to find out I realised it may be quite a challenge. It is!  A challenge that I’ve loved and will continue to develop. Thanks Mel!

The Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter has hosted the talented and inspirational Kaffe Fassett as a speaker and tutor on more than one occasion. I was totally blown away by the colours of the Kaffe Fassett Comes to Wales Exhibition when I visited. He has been a knitting and weaving hero for me over the years and now here I was quilting only to discover his amazing quilts.IMG_0773

IMG_0774So it’s only fitting, of course, that Calico Kate stocks a good range of Kaffe Fassett fabrics and since then I have used a few. But for this project the focus was on the piecing so when I chose I went for a limited range from the Aboriginal Dots collection. Like all of his fabrics it comes in many hues but the ocean, teal and silver appealed to me on the day;  I added some of the shot cottons from his range and a fat quarter given to me by Mel.

We made a block each week and I think the only one that wasn’t new to me was the nine patch. I learnt a lot about points and pinwheels  and about half square triangles –  including that they are known as HSTs and are the basis of many more complex blocks.IMG_0807

 I made my first log cabin blocks; a large one and four minis that became the four quarters of a larger one.                                                             I can’t imagine ever tiring of making a new block for the first time, it can be frustrating, baffling, exasperating and totally troublesome but it makes me happy and if I’m not satisfied with the outcome I’m compelled to make another!1460154_10151992301369098_1348956163_nWhen all the blocks were pieced and the top complete I sandwiched the wadding and the back and even began quilting by ‘stitching the ditch’ and trying out some free motion on the sashing but then I was distracted by the quilt I was making for my sister’s 50th birthday (see the post here). More to the point I wasn’t happy with the stitches wandering  in and out of the ditch and so it slipped down the priorities until one day I began unpicking. Somehow over time I got better at staying in the ditch and eventually the next stage was complete.IMG_1853

 

Stitching in the ditch – a few wobbles but nearly there!

 

 

This week in a pre-holiday rush it suddenly became imperative that I finished at least one UfO before leaving and this was it.

I trimmed the edges, made a random binding strip from the scraps and hey presto, finished! IMG_1852IMG_1854Hooray!

Peg Bags

Exactly a year ago last week, February half term, me and my sister and our sisters-in-law  met up for a girls day out in the lovely little seaside town of Aberdovey.

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We drank coffee and talked; we

walked along the sea front and talked; we ate lunch in one of the pubs along the sea front …

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and talked and browsed every one of the little shops and talked!

In one shop we talked about peg bags, well the conversation had to have a few mmmm…..  exciting topics, didn’t it?  There were some pretty ones there and my sister-in-law commented that she needed a new peg bag. Well you can probably imagine the outcome. I, of course, said ‘Don’t buy one, I’ll make one’.  Sister-in-law  2 says ‘I’d like one too.’ Not a problem. Well, such an easy thing to make! I knew I’d be making at least 3. And thinking about it I needed one as well. Make that two, our caravan peg bag has seen better days.

But even I didn’t think it would take me a year! I thought about it. I thought about it a lot. I planned and I looked at them on Pinterest, I even made a dedicated peg bag board!                                                                   From my Pinterest board (click through to take a look at them all):

I love the vintage shoulder bag one from Marmalade Rose blogspot; the washing line appliqué from ‘Aiming for swan like’  really appealed to me and the button hanging idea from ‘Love me sew’ got me thinking about alternatives to coat hangers. The Cath Kidston bird house was one of the commercial ones I thought was fun.

I was very dedicated to the idea of making them; I sourced the right sized hangers but never quite got around to ordering them; I became extraordinarily interested in examining them whenever I saw one in a shop and I contemplated how I wanted them to hang.

Well I’m pleased to say that the planning was worth it and at last I have a design that I really like and that is easy to make and that has a hanging system that I’m really pleased with. The trigger hook means that the bag doesn’t come off the washing line no matter how hard the wind blows, and it can blow here on the West Wales coast!

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I bought two different types of hooks, the round ended ones are the best.

The Prototype: Making the front.                                                                                     The opening is just the right size and in just the right place.

I bought a broom handle and found trigger hooks in the farmers stores, there were no eyelets there so I turned to trusty Charlie’s Stores.IMG_1762 I did get Jeff to cut the broom handle into sections for ease and speed and when the sewing was done to help screw the eyelets in. The compressed wooden broom handles are extraordinarily tough!

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Here is the first finished  peg bag.

 

 

The only adjustment to the design was to shave a quarter of an inch off the dowel. I’ve made all the bags I’d planned and they have been quick and easy.

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If you are in need of a new peg bag and  would like to make this one I’ve added a tutorial here.

 

 

Annali Inspiration

IMG_4956Among my Christmas presents this year was  a treasure chest from one of my lovely friends. Inside were lots of yummy foody things. All locally produced. There were speciality mustards and marmalade, a raspberry couli and a strawberry and  kirsch jam produced just at the top of our road and we’d  never tried it! There were holly leaf  Sarah Bunton Chocolates made just by the narrow gauge train station at Devil’s Bridge. We often take visitors up there so I’ll definitely be calling at the shop in future. There was a lovely little pot, and (how well my friend knows me) a fat quarter of Annali teal floral. 

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Now as it happens I have had  some of this lovely Dashwood Studio range by Stephanie  Thannhauser  in my stash for some time. This new FQ was just the inspiration I needed to get busy with it.

 

I also wanted to try a Lynne Goldsworthy design I’d spotted in ‘Love Patchwork and Quilting’ magazine (issue 16) and this fabric seemed just the thing.  I needed a bit more than I had for my plan to make a bed runner and cushion covers  and turning to my stash again I found some pieces of Eloise Renouf  ‘Bark and Branch’ left from a previous project and I chose one for the sashing and one to add to the piecing for the runner. I’d think about the cushions later.

Bark and Branch

So Honeycomb Hexies’ it was to be then (find the template here). Let the cutting begin.

The design for Honeycomb Hexies looks quite complex but Lynne’s instructions combined with the diagrams and illustrations were great and there wasn’t too much work for the seam ripper. I did get carried away on my first row and was merrily adding hexies as if I was making a full size quilt, but I think that shows that the design was simpler than it looks.

The half-hexagon, sashing and triangles were pieced in rows, then mirrored by a second row. Once the rows were pieced they were sewn together  in pairs and then the whole top put together. It was a really pleasing process and I loved seeing the pattern emerging.

Here is the runner pinned ready for quilting.IMG_1719

When it came to the cushion covers I decided on one central hexagon with a border in a grey multi and the sashing fabric. IMG_1733

Because this was more of  a feature block I tried matching the join in the two halves. It’s not a bad job but it was fiddly so two matches was enough thanks!

I found the multi-grey in the sale in Aberdashery, I used another for the cushion backs.

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IMG_4959The quilting needed to be simple, I’m still practicing but I think it’s getting a bit more even overall. Here’s the reverse, simply because it shows up better.

There are so many great designers and quilters out there. Suffolk-Garden--1024x717Dashwood  Studio have some great fabric designers on their books, I’ve recently bought FQs of another great range, ‘Suffolk Garden’ by Brie Harrison. So exciting. They’ll definitely bring the garden into the house.

I find myself following some terrific blogs from designers who generously share their work.  Lynne Goldsworthy is one of these. Find her at Lily’s Quilts  where she has posted lots of tutorials, among them another great hexie quilt, ‘Hexagon Park’. I’ll certainly be following her fabulous blog as well as looking forward to her contributions in LPQ. So much to look forward to!

Tee Time

AberystwythGC3I do love our golf course, it’s a  great course and the views are stunning. I really am still determined to get to grips with this challenging, frustrating and totally stimulating game but at this time of year with the north wind blowing straight off Cardigan Bay sewing is definitely my preferred option.

Jeff, on the other hand only needs a gap in the clouds and a slight lull in the wind and he heads off kitted out in thermals and with waterproofs at the ready.

And now with IMG_1725the latest little creation from my sewing machine.

Jeff had the idea  for a micro fibre ball cleaner but I knew there would be some golf themed fabric out there. There is!

Our first attempt was a pocket with a sealed end, but one muddy outing on the course highlighted  a fault. The pocket quickly became a pocketful of mud! Type 2 is open ended and it works perfectly well.

Easy to make just a tube of micro fibre inside a tube of golf-themed cotton (so far I have two designs) with tidily bound ends.

Quick to make with micro fibre fluff being the only problem, it was everywhere; all over my clothes and my sewing table and under the plate on my machine needed careful brushing.

But on the course it’s great, fits in your pocket and is much easier than the traditional towel hanging from the bag and getting in the way.

That’s my Clover mini iron in the first pic. A thoughtful present from my son (prompted, I’m sure my my equally thoughtful, quilting, daughter. I love it and recommend its time-saving simplicity.

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Or so I’m told….. I’m sure I’ll get to try it out soon.

 

Scandi Christmas Table Runner

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Enough doodling and gardening. I was itching to get back to some serious sewing. The perfect project for getting back in the groove was the promise of  a festive table runner that I’d made my sister back in the summer. With Christmas creeping up it was time to get going.

Christmas fabric spotting begins IMG_1623in the summer so my sister was wise to mention it back then.                        I spotted this on one of my regular drop-ins at Aberdashery well before our departure for our travels in September. Scandi is such a trend at the moment and the Makower Christmas collection really appealed to me, I love reindeer right now. I chose my reds and greens and liked the idea of adding in a couple of the neutrals from the range.

I had the seeds of a plan in mind, it involved irregular strips across the width of the runner. I was slightly undecided about having white sashing between each coloured stripe but of course I decided for. I love the crisp, clean, modern look that it gives.

Once decided all that was left to do was get on with sewing strips together, as they were to be random there was very little planning to do and I just chose whichever fabric I thought should come next.

I’d also chosen a red and a very dark green solid to make it a little less busy. Joining the random strips was quick and easy and then all that remained to be done to the front was to trim the sides.IMG_1642

The back was to be plain red. Briefly. I started to think it needed something more so I sewed together some two and a half inch wide strips and cut them into two and a half inch strips then cut the red backing to create a patterned reverse. IMG_1637IMG_1644

I decided on a horizontal strip l strip at each end. Once I had put it all together it made the runner pretty much reversible.

I used cotton domette as wadding. I find it a good weight for table runners, mats and such like. Not too bulky or puffy.

My quilting plan was to have strings of stars and after a bit of doodling decided on this design . The stars are irregular in six, shape and spacing. Simple.IMG_4862      Lastly I gave the runner a solid red binding and it was ready to join my sister’s Christmas scheme, she has some lovely decorations. I hope it comes to to scratch!

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Round and round the garden.

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This post has been a long, long time in the making and there were times I doubted my wisdom in starting;  project ‘slate circle’ has taken a good deal of energy of every description. I’ve thought and re-thought it so many times. I’ve stared at it through the kitchen window with my problem solving hat on. I’ve lain awake at night visualising the necessary steps. I’ve searched local building outlets for just the right resource. I realise now that I began in June and finished in December! I know I’ve done a lot in between but it’s been on my mind in one way or another for over half of the year!

This latest garden project has been by far the biggest, probably the most ambitious garden project I’ve ever taken on. Back at the beginning of June I began the search for just the right circle. I found it on the internet after a lot of searching and speaking to sellers about the quality of the slate. I was pleased with my eventual choice it really does match up with Dai’s dry stone wall. I was even more pleased with the delivery guy who was really helpful.

ground I’d already got the plants for the surrounding bed, many of them gifts from  two of my friends from a great nursery we found during their visit. I think that Gwynfor Nursery in Pontgarreg will become a much frequented nursery over time. Such an an amazing selection of plants grown by lovely, helpful people. With the coming months in mind I needed to get planting so I marked out my circle and started to dig and plant the bed.

stonesAs ever It was hard going digging  out at least a proportion of the larger stones. The bed was a large one so this stage took a long time. I seemed to be digging and planting for a long time.

Digging on the slope didn’t help much and there were some very hot days (not ideal for planting but since I wasn’t going to be here in the autumn I had to take my chances) and I drank gallons I  even had to buy a suitably  floppy gardening sun hat! It did help.  My fork constantly jammed  against stones that I now know are going to be a constant in the gardening here, the quarrying label remains! When I eventually got down to the bottom digging became just impossible! I had discovered the reason for the wet-weather saturation! IMG_1427The rock bed we had found under parts of the patio ran this way. I explored and realised just how extensive this rock is!                      I didn’t really need a lot of encouragement to keep the new rock ‘feature’ and I began using some of the stones I’ve dug up to make my own little dry stone wall around the back of the rock base. There were plenty of them!

Now came the really hard part of the project – levelling the area for the actual slates. I had seriously underestimated the angle of the slope, there was at least a foot difference between the back and the front of the area to be levelled. I could have dug into the slope but I had, probably unwisely,  set my heart on how I wanted it to look. I knew I didn’t want the retaining wall behind the circle and I knew I wanted the circle level with the higher level. So I stuck in there and got on with it.

I used the large stones that were found when we were digging out the patio to give the slope some stability and then built up a retaining wall of blocks and layered  the turf I’d taken off the area to raise the front of the circle. I tamped it down and generally jumped up and down and danced on it. Anything to make sure it was firm. I filled little gaps with soil and sand and some of the shale I was digging out from a border I was making along the back of the dry stone wall. Actually I lost count of how many times I built up the blocks and then pulled them out again! Staring at it through the kitchen window every time I sat at the table made me realise I had to keep working at it until I was satisfied, madness lay in a future of catching sight of anything less than satisfying day after day. Frustration set in more than once, had I bitten off more than I could chew? Would the whole thing slide down the garden in a stony, muddy mess?IMG_4653It was hard labour!IMG_4883 Although I would have liked see it finished (or more like put an end to my agony) before going off to Spain for seven weeks early in September, in reality it couldn’t have been better planned. It gave the base time to settle, it got  soaked and dried numerous times and it felt a lot pretty solid underfoot by the time we got back at the beginning of November.

So now it was time to start laying the slate. I was excited and nervous, I procrastinated over getting started. What if it didn’t fit; what if a bit was missing; what if there was a broken piece or worse still, what if I broke a piece? And, of course, what if after all the work, my base still wasn’t right and the much dreaded avalanche actually happened!

But I was determined and with the help of some fine grit and sand and a lot of patience the slates were laid.  And by the time I laid the last couple of pieces there was ice in the garden.

I know it isn’t as level as a professional job and I’m waiting for some better weather to make adjustments to two sections. I know that a professional could have knocked it out in a week, but it’s all my own work and all in all I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.   And I don’t think it’s going anywhere.                                                                                                                          And I’m especially looking forward to seeing how the planting comes along next year.

Lazy Beach Days

FootprintOur seven weeks in the Spanish sunshine seem distant now that winter has really arrived, but I haven’t blogged a thing in ages and wanted to fill in at least some of the gaps.

Spain was fabulous, we travelled down to Javea on the Costa Blanca. It’s become very familiar to us over the years and although I used to think it so boring to return to the same place year on year I kind of like the familiarity these days. Despite it’s  ex-pat reputation  Javea  has a great deal to offer and you are left in no doubt as to why the whole area  has become a destination for so many Northern Europeans .  There’s the seaside area, the Arenal (lots of English voices here), with a sandy beach and a busy promenade. A great place for young families and lively in the evenings. The port area; older,  quieter and more Spanish with a fresh fish market when the fishing boats come in. We love to cycle down here in the morningIMG_0457 for a coffee overlooking the sea. And lastly the old town, which is very much a typical Spanish town with a wonderful daily market in the traditional market hall and a colourful weekly market, shops that stick to the traditional timetable and a maze of narrow lanes to wander. All three areas have great restaurants and bars, traditional and modern.  Much very pleasant time is whiled away eating, drinking coffee or wine and just watching the world go by.

We played plenty of golf on some of the fabulous courses of the Costa Blanca, mostly with our good friends who make our trip to Javea a must.

We enjoyed our beach time too, but when I wasn’t  reading copiously (until I lost my kindle on the beach!) or taking the occasional dip before a wander up to the chiringuito that I found myself thinking about crafting or the garden. I played around with stones and and found myself doodling on the lovely pale,  smooth pebbles of the  port beach. I ended up with quite a collection, some of which were left with our campsite neighbours and others which made it home and are now scattered amongst the Welsh slate and granite in the garden.

Jeff the chef joined in the stone fun too. His creations were numerous towers, like these ones on the picturesque beach  at Portichol – if you ever find yourself here wander up to the beach restaurant, La Barraca. You’ll step back in time at this rustic building built into the cliff where you round the corner of the bay. Just look for ‘bar’ painted on the rock face!

Beautiful mediterranean blue and white.

We did manage a little IMG_4823bit of culture  too and visited the ancient and historical city of Salamanca with it’s amazing medieval and gothic cathedrals and stunning old university buildings.

We had a great campsite here, part of a hotel complex  and just a cycle ride away from the city centre.

P1000265Another stop-over on our homeward journey was in the Northern Rioja town of Haro. Here we indulged ourselves in a tour of the Muga bodega. A really interesting tour with a real insight into the making of one of my favourite beverages. Bringing back a couple of Christmas treats from here was an absolute must!

Well back home and let the crafting begin. After restoring the garden to order and getting back to my somewhat ambitious  unfinished garden project of course. I might just have to make that my next post!