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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!

Work in Progress

I’m usually quite disciplined about how much stuff I have on the go and getting things finished but right now projects seem to be running away with me and I’m starting to feel the need to get on and finish a couple of them.

First of all is Harry’s quilt. It’s nearly there and I must put the finishing touches to it before his mum brings him for his next visit. The quilt is not really late, despite the November birth date. Harry surprised us all by arriving in November instead of waiting until January.  He is doing brilliantly well and is extra special because of his eager debut. I hope I get to give him his quilt soon.

FMQ1
FMQ1

Next up are my learning blocks.  I’ve joined an online class with Leah Day to improve my Free Motion Quilting skills.

My attempts at FMQ have left me feeling less than satisfied. But the broken threads, bird’s nests backs and general lack of control have made me strangely more determined to succeed! I’ve been using Leah’s Free Motion Quilting Project and some excellent blogs – in particular Lori’s Inbox Jaunt to help me along and when I saw Leah’s course I decided that systematic, structured, step-by-step would be just the ticket. So this is ongoing for the rest of the year. The intention is that all the blocks will make up a quilt, hope so.

But ….I have a new Pfaff machine

and lo and behold after all those days of trying hard not to blame my tools I find that I could have blamed my machine a little bit at least. My LOVELY new Pfaff not only has a much longer space for work to fit through, it is infinitely more smooth and I can miraculously control the speed with the foot pedal or let the machine go it alone with the front button. What an absolute revelation! So onward to more projects …..

Number 3 project is the first of a new set of cushion covers. I bought some of Eloise Renouf’s ‘Bark and Branch’

range in the autumn for just this purpose but then I was sidetracked by the red and white Scandi style fabric in Aberdashery at Christmas and had to make the Christmas cushion covers. Now the first of the cushions is well underway

I have prepared the back and made buttonholes. The easiest buttonholes ever (much sewing machine love)!The first cover should be done tomorrow  then to decide just how many to make

IMG_0979Next up is this little ‘Snowball’ Block, which will have the little sailboat appliquéd into the centre sometime before February 7th ready for Dougie’s next visit.

it will be part of another cushion and the latest edition to the seaside themed bedroom.

Finally

Scrappy block centre
Scrappy block centre

When I was waiting to get my hands on some polyester wadding for the quilt I began thinking about the scrap strips I have begun to put together and made a scrappy block  with triangles of

Extra Wonky
Extra Wonky

anything  that came to hand and bordered it with white.  I love the irregular shapes and the bright crispness.

I have started adding the strips around the central block.

 

 

This is another project that will just run on until it’s done.

Circle of GeeseI’m not counting the three quilt tops waiting for the magic day when I think my FMQ is good enough or the ‘Circle of Geese’ block I made last week  now hanging in front of me as I sew and encouraging me to think of how to use it!

Then there are the projects going around in my head and of course the knitting in my knitting bag….

A friend phoned this week to talk about retiring from work, she is feeling a little nervous just as I did not so long ago. Now I wonder why!

Ellyll ar y sylf – Elf on the shelf

Ellyll The Elf has arrived. Late. He’s been a long time coming; a long time in the planning and a long time in the making. A long time in little pieces.

I do like him after all, I was a bit worried that his expression would reflect the one on my face for most of the time I was making him.

Not my favourite kind of knitting, all those bits, a disproportionate amount of stitching and fiddly stuffing with hidden pipe cleaners and a beany bum!

 

 

Just look at the muddle he once was!IMG_3566 The bit I did like was making his toes curl. His shoes reminded me of some I made for a friend back in college days. He made  a perfect larger than life-size elf.

He is the perfect size and proportion,  so many thanks to Phoenix Knits for the pattern (found on Ravelry).

IMG_3567I know he is very much appreciated so he was worth every minute but I don’t think I’ll be going into mass production any time soon. I know he’s been getting up to mischief already, last night he stole the chocolate!  I’m sure he’ll go on to give many years of Christmas fun.

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Who stole all the chocolate?

I wonder if he has an elf-name yet? Have fun my little elfin friend.

Fabulous Fabrics

IMG_0666 There are so many fabulous fabrics around these days, the temptation is huge and my stash just grows and grows. I don’t even need to go shopping to be tempted either, the internet brings them winging to my finger-tips and sends me off dreaming of future projects. Fabulous fabrics pop on to my Facebook page and some of my favourite crafting bloggers showcase their choices and then of course my idle non-crafting fingers seem to have a will of their own, surfing the internet just looking for them. I know I could try and ignore the fact that they are out there but sadly I can’t stand to think I’m missing out.

Fabric HQ posted a gorgeous range last week; ‘Winters Lane’ by Kate and Birdie Paper co. and I pinned it to my Pinterest Fabulous Fabrics board. It’s a quietly Christmassy range with my current favourite aqua and red combination.

Canterbury looking peaceful , but it was so busy.
Canterbury looking peaceful , but it was so busy.

On Tuesday me and Jeff took a trip to Canterbury. We hadn’t been for a long time and it was great to revisit and find it thriving. We did wonder if we had inadvertently crossed the channel and arrived in France listening to the chatter around us. Good to know that cross-channel day-tripping works both ways! We weren’t just out for a jolly jaunt though. We had  a proper purpose. When I retired amongst my very generous gifts was  a voucher from The  Stark Gallery in Lee Green. I didn’t use the voucher immediately and when I did come to use it the gallery had gone!

It has taken me a long time to get around to it but I finally emailed The Stark Gallery in Canterbury and Emma very kindly said that I could use my voucher there even though the business is an entirely new one. There were some great pictures exhibited, unfortunately many beyond my price range but I found prints I love by Sarah Ross-Thompson. I already have one with a Sandhurst background. It was a gift bought with my 60th birthday tokens from the staff! This is the print I chose, it’s called ‘Rock Face’ and very much puts me in mind of the cliffs of the South Kent coast.

Rock Face by Sarah Ross-Thompson
Rock Face by Sarah Ross-Thompson

Back to the fabric. I couldn’t resist a visit to The Sewing Shop which is close to the Cathedral gates on Sun Street. I left Jeff at Steamer Trading cook shop and battled my way through the clicking cameras. What a lovely shop and the owner was busy cutting strips of Christmas fabric, August being the prime time for crafters buying Christmas fabric of course! My greedy, kid-in-a-sweet-shop eyes danced around and quickly landed on … ‘Winters Lane’ and I was lost. The only decision to be made was which of the range I’d settle on. Here they are.

I’ve got a feeling that if I encounter them again I’ll being getting a couple more fat quarters, maybe the stone mistletoe or the Bella solid red mmm. IMG_0667                                                   Now I’m thinking about how they will grace our house at Christmas. But in the meantime they are going straight on to the top of my packed fabric bag because next week we are going. Finally. The move is on.

There will be so much to make!

 

 

Back …. but briefly!

It’s been such a long time since I blogged anything but then it’s been a while since I made anything at all. We went off on our shortened holiday to Spain. We had  a fabulous time and it was very relaxing, although there were times when it didn’t feel like it! It was a full and happy holiday.

The crossing on Brittany Ferries ‘Pont Aven’ was lovely especially as we woke on the second day to find the ship being escorted by a large pod of dolphins who stayed with us for most of the morning. Our first few days in Northern Spain were cold and wet but as we drove south on the fourth day the skies brightened and the temperature rose and we arrived in Aranjuez to the heat and madness of the town in the middle of fiesta.

Aranjuez is a familiar stop now but I love the drive through the town: I always think back to the first time we drove in, thinking that we must have taken a wrong turning, that we couldn’t possibly drive a caravan through the middle of the palace grounds! I’ve got to known that the intense inland heat will have me heading for the swimming pool as soon as we have finished setting up.

The Royal Palace Aranjuez
The Royal Palace Aranjuez

On we went to another favourite destination. I do love to visit new places and have often thought it unadventurous to return time after time to the same place. But we have plenty of reasons for revisiting Javea and it has taken a few drives, walks and cycles to discover that it is  a town of many parts.

Three very different parts in fact. There is the seaside resort area, the Arenal. I don’t think that I would like this part in high season but we are lucky enough to be able to avoid that now. At it’s best in the evening when you can catch the last of the sun as you eat at a beachside restaurant. Then there is the harbour end of town with plenty of waterside bars and restaurants and little local shops. I enjoy a cycle down to this area at any time of the day. Lastly and probably my favourite part of town is the old town with its typically Spanish winding lanes with traditional and modern bars and fab tapas and  the municipal market beside the church. There is still more to explore I know and we are sure to do that drawn back by friends and the opportunity to enjoy an excellent game of golf with them at La Sella or Ifach.

This visit was all the better as we were able to spend time with our lovely family. Our daughter Bethan, her husband Tony and little Dougie were spending 2 weeks not far away at a great villa with Tony’s family; his mum and dad, sister and her delightful happy two-year old, Josh. We were able to get together at the beach, for meals and at the villa and had really special times.

Well back to the real purpose of my crafting blog. We got back from Spain and I packed away all my sewing gear ready for the impending move ….. we are still here …. still waiting … move still impending.

I eventually unpacked some of my sewing stuff, enough to get ready for another event. Dougie’s baptism. Bethan had begun to plan for this as a small event for family and a few friends but the opportunity for a celebration couldn’t be missed and it became a huge event. The baptism itself was to be in St Mary’s, Yate,  Bethan’s school church where she and Tony were married five years ago. A party was planned for said family and friends in the school grounds and about a hundred of them turned up for the service, a barbecue and cava brought back from Spain. It took a little organising but was so worth it. It was a fabulous day, the sun shone, the service was lovely, the godparents (Laura and Lloyd, and Ady are just right), food made by us and friends with Jeff and Nick on barbecue duty was relaxed but yummy and Karen surpassed herself with a tower of beautifully blue-iced cupcakes.

I still haven’t got back to the making but I did do a little. Me and Bethan made bunting, I loved doing this and will make it for every possible event. I bought fabric from Aberdashery    to fit in with Bethan’s colour scheme and loved making it.

As always there was something to be learned with a first attempt. This time it was not to choose a fabric with a pattern with a top and bottom. One side of the bunting has upside down elephants! That’s how it had to be if I wasn’t going to waste half of my elephant fabric. It was just right for my red, or so I thought. I’ll know next time.

My other make before packing my gear again was a little pocket for Dougie’s Christening spoon. I wanted to get him a token traditional gift and I decided to combine that with a little of his Welsh heritage. I chose a little silver spoon from the Welsh gift shop Seld, it’s engraved with the words ‘hogyn bach’, little boy.

I decided it needed a little case of its own and chose some blue and white with a little paisley pattern and reverse colours. Here are some pictures.

I hummed and ahhed  about the edging but knew that making some bias binding would be  best (note to self; don’t start attaching bias at the corner ever again – you can’t get the curve, you can see one much squarer corner). The hand embroidered ‘Dougie’ is not the best, never been my strong point! But the  piece is individual and something small to keep and I hope that he will treasure it when he’s grown. When he is older I will tell him how hot it was when I was making it and how I couldn’t sleep because of the heat and how I sat in the garden at 7a.m. listening to the parakeets and hand stitching his name. This was the garden his mummy played in but a garden he will never know because the move will happen soon and he will grow up with his Nain and Pops living in Aberystwyth with a very different garden by the sea.

 

Finished Playmat

Well Dougie finally has his finished playmat and Bethan has a matching carry bag for when she needs it on the go.

I’m pleased with the overall look of the mat and it has a range of textures. The satin spiral feels lovely even though the spiral is far from perfect and the wavy sea is satisfyingly bumpy (I hope the journey across the Bay of Biscay tomorrow is a lot less so but I have a feeling that I’m out of luck there). The sheep are nice and wooly and it was lovely seeing Dougie reaching for them.

Having seen Dougie pulling up the leaf flap on the lizard block I think maybe I should have done a bit more on the interactive side.

All panic about the lizard block vanished once I began the block. It was actually fun drawing the shapes; deciding which fabric suited which lizard and even repeatedly zig-zagging around the cheese plant-like leaf. We had found the giant flower buttons while we were fabric hunting and they added a bit more colour too.

I forgot to put the squeaker in the car block and had to put a slit in the back and insert it, luckily I remembered before I put the backing on the matt. I also remembered the loops and they are useful for attaching toys – or books like in the picture.

The ripstop fabric is a perfect backing fabric for the mat. Makes it so much more versatile. It was hard to find suitable ripstop, we had seen some in Aberdashery but we weren’t in Aber. We searched the internet and found this great animal print in the Little Fabric Bazaar  . It’s a great place for fabrics and Stephanie is so efficient and helpful; just a couple of messages; a quick visit to Paypal and the fabric was with me in two days. Right now she has a fabulous selection of ripstops, I particularly like the birds and the plantation fabrics.

But the animals were perfect for this project. I used my handy micro-stitch to tack the backing to the top and used a bright green bias binding around the edge.

Inspiration for the carry bag came, as usual, lying in bed musing. We had pondered a system of carrying handles for a folded mat but everything just seemed so over-complicated. I had lots of fabric leftover and the idea of a bag popped into my head and it seemed the simplest solution.

An hour of sewing one morning had the bag sorted.

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The whole thing took me longer than I had anticipated (but then the bag is probably the only thing I ever made that didn’t) but it was a very satisfying project and I’ve learned loads and I do have a long list of do’s and dont’s!

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A new and challenging skill.

Last Friday I finally got around to one of my retirement promises to myself. I have a whole list of new skills that I would like to get under my belt and some of them are craft based. I’d been to visit Yarnia (it’s a great name for a wonderland of yarn) to buy wool and discovered that they ran courses there at the shop. Happily some of them are one day courses which suits my somewhat itinerate lifestyle at the moment.

I really liked the idea of the ‘Free Motion Quilting’ workshop with Kate Higgens. It fitted in with some ideas for projects that I’d had for a while. I had been thinking of hand quilting them but why not be ambitious?

By lunchtime on Friday I was thinking maybe I was a bit over-ambitious …..

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The other course members were very warm and friendly and the atmosphere was totally non-threatening. Kate proved to be a great teacher; skilful and positive and encouraging, she gave us lots of  examples and time to try them out. Tips and pointers were all very well paced and I felt very well supported in my jerky attempts.

And they were jerky! I seemed to have lost control of my right foot, which meant my machine was determined to race away at top speed while I wanted it to be as slow as possible so that I could guide the fabric smoothly. I had the wrong wadding and I couldn’t get the tension right; my stitches were abnormally small and any self respecting spider would have been ashamed of the way the sewing picked pathetically across the fabric.

Things improved a little when I decided to invest in some proper wadding and a little more when Kate suggested I tried a new, sharp needle – it hadn’t occurred to me that it would make such a difference! I did manage to stay on task most of the time and not be distracted by all the glorious yarn surrounding me and calling me to knit. Eventually there were  a few glimmers of hope as the day wore on and I occasionally produced a few stitches or even a whole sequence that looked vaguely presentable. I did make the decision to persevere and was determined to carry on at home.

Things have improved over the week; I’ve gained some semblance of control over my right foot and today a new and proper FMQ foot for my machine was delivered and that’s helped too. Finally today I feel that I can share some photos of my improving attempts and not be totally ashamed of them. I’m looking forward to continuing to improve and will spend some more time on becoming perfect (!) in the coming weeks.

Oh – and it’s back to Yarnia tomorrow armed with my ‘jelly roll’ and ‘charm pack’ for another new experience. I can’t wait!