Saturday, 21 March 2015

Using up stash

I was thrilled to get my sewing machine back, fully repaired, on Thursday afternoon which meant that I was able to go to my Quilting Group this morning. I had a very productive few hours, sewing together the String quilt blocks I had all ready to go.  I am still a way from finishing the quilt top but I made a good start today. 
This made me think back to the String Quilts I have made in the past and how much stash went into their making. Reminiscing on all the different fabrics I had used over the years and how many quilts some of the same fabrics appeared in.
This is the first one I made, back in July 2010 which I called Rainbow Quilt:

Then came Rainbow Nation String Quilt, a 60th birthday gift to a New Zealand friend.

Handed over in Christchurch just four days before the big 22nd February 2011earthquake.

Then Cat from Auckland (, had a quilt drive for quilters to send comfort quilts which were handed out to earthquake victims. By then I was back in the UK and made this quilt which was sent over to Cat:

Christchurch Earthquake String Quilt:

Then came a quilt I made for a three year old boy, back in July 2013.
This time, an I Spy String Quilt:

Since then I have made several String Quilt blocks as contributions to charity projects, blocks which were included in this Group quilt, a gift for one of our members to celebrate her 70th birthday:

And several String blocks turned into cushions like this one:

So, I think you could say I am addicted to String blocks!
I have enjoyed looking back over some of my older quilts, remembering the different fabrics which I included - and finished up - in the process.

We all have pieces of fabric which seem to hang about in our stash and appear in quilt after quilt.  However, I have been pleased to notice that as the years have passed, some fabrics no longer appear so are DEFINITELY used up!

Perhaps the message of this post is: Make String quilts to "use it up"!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Busy sewing and baking

This is only my second post for March and it's already the 18th!

But I have been busy, sewing mainly and some baking and gardening too.

Most of the sewing I can't share just yet as they are gifts, three already en route via the mail system.

But I have been busy making string blocks for a quilt I want to make for a friend who is very ill.
I need to make this quickly but have already worked for two weeks to get this far:

100 individual string blocks, laid out into sets of four to make one large block. Then they are arranged into five rows of five large blocks. Here they are laid out on the floor in our Guest Room. Actually there is only enough room to lay out four rows, the fifth row was laid out on the bed!
As you can see I then pinned numbered labels to them and gathered them up ready to take to my Quilting Group today. I had over four hours of sewing time so I really thought I would make a good dent in the sewing of these blocks, and rows and even, with luck, get the top completed.

However, I was all out of luck because as soon as I sat down to sew I needed a new bobbin.  No problem, wound another, inserted it and nothing worked.  I tried a few times, found another bobbin, even changed the needle at the suggestion of the friend sitting beside me. NOTHING!
So, I packed everything up and drove 50 minutes to the repair man, the lovely Dave.  The machine is there, I have to check on Friday afternoon to see if he has been successful in repairing it and then, if so, I can collect it on Saturday morning.

I am keeping fingers and toes crossed that the machine is repairable as it was a second hand one I bought from Dave 10/11 years ago. It's only used for three months of the year when we are here in New Zealand but it has had a lot of use.  So, I am hoping all will be well.  On Sunday we fly to Sydney for a week so more time will be lost before I can finish my quilt top.  I have already decided to tie the quilt so that should make it quicker to finish but it's not what I had hoped.

So, please cross your fingers that the machine comes through for me!

We have been doing some more entertaining and I tried out a new (to me) biscuit recipe. I have a lovely recipe book called The Edmonds Classics Book. All Kiwis will be conversant with these recipes - I have a copy here and another back in the UK. Some great recipes, including this one:

I call them Walnut Brownies and they are delicious.  Went down well with visitors yesterday and another friend this afternoon.
So, no sewing as planned tomorrow but if the weather holds out, another gardening session beckons.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

There is no such thing as a mistake

A remark Bonnie Hunter made in her last Quilt Cam rang a few bells in my head.  She said that she wasn't too precious about points meeting and being perfect and would fudge if she could.  This is my way of thinking too - life is too short to agonise over perfect points and I am not concerned about the Quilt Police!

Many years ago I had the good fortune to attend a lecture by British quilter Dorothy Stapleton.  She has a wonderfully quirky style of quilting, some of them almost cartoons. She uses a lot of free motion machine writing on her quilts and makes scenes using small Log cabin blocks.  I bought her book called "Log Cabin Landscapes" and made the following wallhanging:

A French house set in a garden.
There are some great ideas in her books - I recommend them to you.
One of the things I remember Dorothy saying in her lecture was that "There is no such thing as a mistake - it's just a design opportunity".
I have never forgotten that sentence and have put it into practise so many times over the last few years.
If points don't meet ( for instance in pinwheels) cover "the mistake" with a button or an appliqued heart or flower or whatever fits in with the theme of the quilt.
Back in 1999 I made five single bed quilts for the 5 great nieces and nephews that I had then (lots more since!)
As I was quilting one of them I discovered my seam stitching had come apart in a couple of places. What to do?  The quilt contained various ladybird novelty prints so I fussy cut and fusible webbed a few ladybirds and dotted them around the quilt top, making sure two of them covered my poor seams. Then I hand blanket stitched them and my "mistakes" became attractive "design opportunities"!
The quilt has stood up to years of wear and tear and washing so the appliqued ladybirds did their job.
Another design opportunity came when I made a very colourful Log Cabin quilt for a friend's birthday.  Again, at the last moment I discovered a couple of shonky seams when I was hand quilting.  This time I appliqued hearts made from red fabrics and bound the whole quilt in the same red fabric.  Worked a treat and looked as though that had been my design from the very beginning.
Thinking about quilts I made years ago reminded me of a quilt I made back in June 2004. 
The Patchwork Group I have belonged to since 1997 had a challenge.  We  all made the same block in yellow and green fabrics of our choice (so long ago I can't remember how many blocks we made and swapped) but eventually we put them together with cream sashing.  I chose a cream background with gold Chinese looking writing.  A long time before text prints were invented.
I decided to add appliqued ivy leaves, creating the leaf templates by drawing round ivy leaves from my garden .  I also added large olive green buttons which came from my husband's aunt's sewing box.  She had died two years before so they were a reminder of her.
I called the quilt "Ties that Bind" which I felt was very apt at the time, as the quilt blocks bound together the members of the Patchwork Group along with memories of Aunty. Since then two of the ladies in my Patchwork Group have died, one quite recently, so the quilt is even more poignant.
Here it is:

And a close up of the hand quilting, ivy leaves and buttons:

Quilts are an amazing vehicle for memories and therefore very precious.

Friday, 6 February 2015

A sequel to the the egg yolks story

A very quick post to say that when I cracked the last of the six eggs, it was another double yolker!  So what are the odds on getting FOUR double yolked eggs from a box of SIX! Bet that never happens to me again.

Travelling to NZ at the moment so there is no sewing happening at all. I know some people take handwork to do on long plane journeys but I just don't fancy the hassle of needles going through Security at the airports. I watch films, read and, hopefully sleep.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

64 Cupcakes and 3 double-yolked eggs

My granddaughter's birthday party today - she will be 5 years old on Monday.  Where have the last five years gone?  Her Mummy's birthday is today and her Daddy's is on Monday too.

I offered to make the decorated cupcakes so I spent quite a while yesterday in the kitchen making several batches.  There will be 40 children coming to the party, so I needed at least 40 cupcakes.
As it's been quite a while since I made any I couldn't remember the quantity of mixture for 24 cakes, so the first batch only made 16.  Hence two more 24 sized batches and an odd total of 64 cupcakes!
No doubt the grownups will help to eat them up!

I really enjoyed having a mini production line going, decorating the cakes in batches as soon as they were cool enough.

I haven't seen a double-yolked egg for years and years but yesterday I saw three!!!!!
Second batch of cakes needed me to open a new box of 6 eggs. First one I cracked was a double-yolker, the second one I cracked was a double-yolker so I decided that I probably didn't need the three eggs I originally planned to use for this lot of mixture.

Third batch of mixture:  First 2 eggs used were normal, the third was another double-yolker!  I have one egg left from the box which has not yet been used.  Perhaps I should get everyone to bet on whether it is another double-yolked egg?

Anyway, I had a lovely crafty time decorating with pink or blue icing, 100s & 1000s, silver balls, jelly diamonds and mini sugar coated chocolate balls.  I am pleased with the result and hope The Birthday Family is when I take them to the hall later this morning.

Always pays to check your cupboard before you start baking.  I knew I had two partly used boxes of paper cake cases in the cupboard.  What I had forgotten was that one were fairy-cake size (which was what I wanted) and the other were muffin cases, far bigger than the other set of cases. 
Hey ho, what to do? I didn't have time to run to the shop as I had a hair appointment at midday.  So, I thought 'Just use them!" I put a similar amount of mixture into all the paper cases so they would hopefully bake evenly.  Then when the cakes were cool I carefully trimmed round the muffin cases, getting rid of the excess paper case. It worked well - I honestly don't think anyone would guess.  And I have cakes that look all the same size, important with small children, I think.  We certainly don't want any arguments over the cupcakes and any child thinking they got a smaller one than their neighbour! 

The question is, will my eagle eyed daughter spot what I have done?  That will be the real test!

Off to get ready for a busy day.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Using it up, reducing my stash

Whilst I was tidying up my sewing room I took the opportunity to sort out my stash.  Mostly fabrics for quilting but there is a little yarn too.

I discovered some yarn I had bought at a Charity shop last summer.  There were 6 balls: 2 cream, 2 dusky pink and 2 hot pink. Nice soft cotton DK, with bobbles in it. I loved the colours and had imagined making a lovely striped crochet baby blanket.  Of course when I tried to crochet I discovered that the yarn wouldn't work - the bobbles made it hard to do and you couldn't see the stitches.  So away it all went in a bag in my stash cupboard.  Until about ten days ago when I found the bag and decided to make a baby jumper.  I had a pattern for a plain jumper but realised I would not have enough of any one colour so invented a striped jumper with ribbed welt, cuffs and neck edge knitted in dusky pink.  I eyeballed where to make the striped bands, keeping a note of the rows knitted so front and back would match up and then did my best to make the sleeve striped band come in line with the front and back striped band.  Amazingly it worked out!

There are 3 buttons on the back raglan sleeve which were also from my stash:

I am very pleased with the result, especially that my striped bands worked out so well.  I am gifting the jumper to Helen for new baby Etta, a jumper she can keep for when Etta is a little older.

I have 2 complete balls left over.

And remnants of the others:

They are all now in a Ziplock bag and will be donated to a Charity Shop tomorrow.  I know I won't use them and perhaps someone else can.  This is a good way to use up stash - use what you can and then pass the rest on.

During my Sewing Room Springclean I re-organised my sets of blocks, some from Bees I had participated in a few years ago. I hope to make these into tops before the end of the year.

I went through my scraps, reorganised how I stored the larger scraps, cut some into strips and squares and threw some small bits away. At least I am now more aware of where everything is and what I really should be finishing.

On a different note. One of my Patchwork Group will be 100 years old next month. She is celebrating by having three "At Home" days when she has invited lots of family and friends to "pop in" for a drink and nibbles.  Unfortunately three of the group (including me) won't be able to attend so we called round last week.  I made a simple sponge cake and another friend made some Danish shortbread. We lit the candle on the cake and sang Happy Birthday.

Win enjoyed our visit. As there were only the four of us we were able to have a good conversation and Win told us quite a few stories from different parts of her very long life.  An amazing lady, still sewing and doing the smallest of stitches, all very even!

Friday, 16 January 2015

First Quilt finish for 2015

I have just finished hand sewing the binding on a baby quilt.
My first Quilt finish for 2015.

My daughter asked me to make a quilt for a friend who is expecting a baby in about a month's time.  The parents know it is a boy and my daughter loves Overall Bills so they had to be part of the design. DD hand blanket stitched a few of the blocks but the design, fabric choices etc were my ideas.  The parents lived in Australia for some years so as I had a small piece of Koala bear fabric I included that as the centre block.  My intention was to have Overall Bills walking in different directions throughout the quilt as if they were seeking the koalas.

Finding Koalas

The quilt is vibrant, much brighter colours than in my photograph.

I pieced the backing, using some of the fabrics used in the quilt front.

The pieced backing:
The Overall Bills were hand blanket stitched and I echo quilted with Perle cotton around each appliqued figure.  Otherwise the quilt was machine quilted.

I used two of the Pearl bracelet fabrics I won last year in a Giveaway - almost nothing of those two pieces are left!  Lots of small scraps were used to make the Overall Bills.  Everything in this quilt came from my stash......... nothing extra was bought at all.  Just how I like it!

Passing it on to my DD this weekend, so she has it ready for when baby puts in an appearance.