Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Ending The Year On A New Start

There is a theory that I should unclutter my life, and my WIP pile and go into 2014 free from these many things demanding finishing. But I decided instead to show you that I have started another project. A little hand sewing that I have fit around the visitors and the visiting, based on this pattern that I dreamed up.

First there was an enjoyable fabric pull and some cutting of hexie papers, and then some basting - the old fashioned way, with needle and thread.

And then I have been slowly making progress stitching some of them together.

I'm trying to stick to low volume fabrics with a white or cream background for the most part. I am really enjoying the variety that I have in my stash, largely in thanks to some swaps I participated in.

Obviously there is a long way to go with this project, but I do think I have made a good start.

Meanwhile, may I wish everyone a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2014. I'm starting the year by disappearing for a few days. So here I am, with my marvellous new computer and I have barely touched it since Christmas Day. I've barely been online at all, too busy socialising, enjoying life and generally making the most of the holidays. Hope you have been too.


Monday, 30 December 2013

Deja Vous?

You might recall that I still had one Christmas make to finish before Christmas. Luckily for me it didn't need to be hand delivered until December 28th, which enabled me to finish it on time. I reprised a hoop I made before. Because the recipient has the same sense of humour as me.

I used two strands of floss to stitch this and was really pleased with my stitching. I used stem stitch for all the lettering and getting those corners smooth meant a lot of very small stitches. Weirdly, I enjoy stuff like this.

I would also like to show you this lovely Christmas make I received from my Instagram buddy - dlynnb - in a little exchange we did just between the two of us.

The cross stitch is beautiful and I love the way she put a little seed bead where each of us lives. Thank you so much, Dinah.

If anyone ever asks you what benefits social media brings to your life you can tell them from me that it allows you to meet people that you would probably never meet otherwise, forge friendships, get inspiration, support and laughter - all this from the often maligned social media. I for one like it!


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Secret Santa Fun

Brit Bee did its annual Secret Santa Swap again this year. It is hard to believe that this is the third time we have done a Christmas swap. You all know that I consider this group of women a great blessing in my life and the chance to make a secret gift for one of them cannot be passed up. We agreed that cushions would be the make this time around, and each person could specify if they wanted a Christmas cushion or a more general year round one.

This year I was a little sneaky though. Because the name I got assigned was Laura Jane. Laura gave the option of her Secret Santa making her a holiday cushion or not. Add this to the fact that she had just moved house and we had a small gathering there recently at which I presented her with a house warming gift of a new cushion (the teal and lime green one I made) it seemed only right that the second cushion would be a Christmas one.

When we were all at her house I was working on the snowflake cushion and showed everyone photos of the Noel cushion too. I asked them which they would choose if it was being made for them. Laura chose the snowflake cushion so I merrily continued to stitch it right in front of her, with her totally unaware that it was going to be for her. Job done!

Meanwhile, over in Belfast, Judith was secretly stitching a Christmas cushion for me. I had opted for this choice because I like the idea of some time in the not too distant future being able to totally make over the sofa come Christmas time with seasonal cushions and quilts.

Here is the totally wonderful cushion Judith made, double sided at that!

This cushion is just so big and puffy and totally Christmasy that you can't help but love it. The bauble designs are genius. Judith did a perfect hidden zip in the bottom, and she sent me some great Christmas FQs.

If I lived in Northern Ireland I would so be taking some of her sewing courses, especially the hidden zip one! So, Judith, my wonderful friend, thank you so much for getting it absolutely perfect for me.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas

It's been a happy mad house of wrapping, and baking, and cooking, and singing (not in tune, but happily) here in the middle of England. I would love to show you all the madness but time is short and family comes first, so I just stopped by to say...

A very Merry Christmas to you, one and all. Hope you have a lovely time over the holidays and that 2014 is full of happiness for you. I'll be back when everything quietens down again.


Sunday, 22 December 2013

Spicing It Up

The day of the gingerbread arrived in our house. Or should I say the two days? Because yesterday was the dough making and baking bit. I mixed the dough in the morning and let it rest for a few hours in the fridge, and then in the afternoon we rolled and cut dough with much enthusiasm. Including using our new Ikea cutters for a flat pack gingerbread house and 3D cookies.

Today it was all about the royal icing and the sprinkles. If only it had snowed too the day would have been perfect.

The house went together really well, even having Santa going down the chimney, and we had fun getting creative. My favourite cookie that I did is the gingerbread man you see below. I'm still trying to think of a good story of why he has that look on his face.

And the cookie that looks most like a Muppet is this teeny tiny angel.

Serious, how cute is that?!!


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Two Sisters

Two sisters, but not my two. One loves purple, and the other loves pink. Close in age. Still at that age where the same, yet different, presents work well.

Two cushions. One purple, and the other pink. With green and blue added in so they weren't too over the top.

I pieced them last night, and did the perle cotton hand quilting on the purple one before I tottered off to bed. This morning I did the rest of the hand quilting and turned them into cushions. Some of the green corduroy on the back of the purple star and blue coduroy on the back of the pink one.

And now only one more present to make before Christmas. I've barely been on line for weeks it seems. My blog reading has gone to pot. Email replying is abysmal. But the light is at the end of the tunnel. And right beside the light is a lovely glass of red wine and a box of chooclate. I'm sure of it.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Let It Snow!

I could have kept stitching on my Let It Snow cushion. Not sure when I would have decided enough was enough. But I had the decision made for me as I ran out of the particular colour of perle cotton I was using. Typically I hadn't got around to ordering more so I looked at the cushion and thought, 'That looks good enough to me.'

I love this new to me way of stitching. Totally easy to do and gives such an awesome effect. I will definitely do it again.

I used an aqua perle cotton 8 for all the stitching. Seed stitches were used for the snowflake and backstitch for the letters. I stitched on Stof white linen and I backed with some soft blue needlepoint corduroy. I put in a white zip, and made zero attempt to hide it, instead making it a feature on the back. (Yeah, feature. I'll keep telling my lazy arse that.)

With this cushion finished I only have three more items to make for Christmas. The next ones are easier, assuming my brain stays relatively intact. Then it will be baking, and eating, and hanging out with family. And my much anticipated new computer I hope!


Monday, 16 December 2013

Thinking On My Feet Here

Tomorrow is 'Wear Your Christmas Jumper to School Day' for the girls. Really? And what if they don't have a Christmas jumper? What if their mother went and looked at Christmas jumpers in the shops today, saw the prices and thought 'No, freaking way!'

Then their mother has to get inventive. So I, mother to the girls with no Christmas jumpers, did what I had to do. Out came the felt, the scissors, a t-shirt, spray baste and a needle & thread.

Christmas jumper sorted for one child. The other child found something seasonal(ish) without any garish reindeer on it. Fair enough.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


Sunday, 15 December 2013

And The Winner Is...

... With a slight delay I am happy to announce I have a winner for the two quilt patterns from the SMS giveaway. Since the temporary computer I am using doesn't seem to possess something as modern as a screen grab button I have resorted to taking a photo of the computer screen with my phone to show you my Mr RNG selection.

Number 14 would be MB from MI, and I have sent an email to you already, and shall get the patterns in the post soon after hearing back from you.

A huge thank you to everyone that entered to win. Thank you for stopping by and participating in the fun that is the SMS Giveaway Day.

Meanwhile, Christmas creeps ever closer. We got our tree this weekend. I found a gentleman with a small holding on the other side of our village who was selling Christmas trees. He only cut or dug up the ones people picked, which we really liked. So we spent an hour there will the girls argued the relative merits of different trees. All good fun. Today, the decorations have been going up.

This year's tree is dedicated to a decade of handmade Christmas tree ornaments by the girls, starting with the ones they made in playgroup way back when.

They still remember each and every one and go looking for them in the boxes. They are an essential part of our Christmas tree. So, long live every toilet tube, old CD, glitter paint covered one of them.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

If I Only Had A Brain

You know those days where you are aware that you probably shouldn't sew, but things need finishing so you do it anyway? I was having one of those days today. Suffice to say me and my brain were not communicating and I blame it on the painkillers I am taking (don't ask, long story and nothing to worry about). Whatever my excuse, my face must have been a priceless sight when I realised that I had sewn the envelope cushion back to the wrong side of the front. But to add insult to injury I had trimmed the corners and zigzagged all the edges too.

It took much longer to do a simple job than it should have. Good thing I left the complicated sewing for later!

The Christmas cushion was done, eventually. And despite my irritation with myself, I love it! I have never contemplated making Christmas quilts and cushions for our house before, and now if I pull my finger out I might get the quilt to go with this finished in time too.

I used DMC red perle No8 for the hand stitching, and quilted the pieced squares simply with a row of stitching either side of every seam. The back is just a plain envelope enclosure. And I even had the correct sized insert ready and waiting. Yay! So, it may have taken me three times longer to finish it than it should have, but it is done and brightening up our ugly sofa already.

When I was busy thumping my head upon our table repeatedly after I realised my stupid sewing mistake the post arrived. Well timed on the part of the postman as I received this lovely needle book from the gorgeous Lynz which managed to help me shake my 'I don't want to play anymore' mood and get on with the ripping out of stitches. Wouldn't this have cheered you up too?

It's beautifully made and those pin toppers are priceless. Thank you Lynz!


Monday, 9 December 2013

SMS Giveaway Day Is Back!

It's that favourite time of year, when hundred's of quilting and sewing bloggers offer up prizes on their blogs. This time around I am a little disappointed in myself because I failed to get something handmade finished to offer up. But I didn't want to let the ocassion pass without participating, so this time I have two quilt patterns available to one winner.

The rules, as per normal, are simple. Please leave one comment. That's it. If you are a no reply blogger I will re-draw. If you aren't sure if you are a no reply blogger then leave your email address in the comment just in case. (Hint - if you regularly comment on blogs but never, ever get a reply then there is a good chance that you are a no reply blogger.)

The giveaway will close on Friday December 13th at 5pm PST, which is in the middle of the night here in the UK. Therefore I will do the draw as soon as I wake up Saturday morning and email the winner.

Hope you are enjoying the SMS Giveaway Day.

*** This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Stitch By Stitch

A progress report on my Snowflake stitching. I was totally inspired by a link that Leanne sent me. I am filling in the negative space with lots and lots of little seed stitches. I like love the effect.

So, if you will excuse me, I have quite a few more stitches to do.


Saturday, 7 December 2013

A Brit Bee (mini) Social

Today was a day of laughter, and chatter, and sewing, and giving. It was a good great day. I met up with some of my Brit Bee chums at Laura Jane's new house in Leicester. Since she moved in a short while ago I took a small house warming gift.

Thankfully it fit right in with her decor.

There was a much more important gift given though. Ceri added Harriet to the Brit Bee Junior Club this summer and we grouped together to make Harriet a quilt. Ceri kindly did the honours of opening the present for her. Harriet did a fine job of modeling it and looking well pleased.

The other participants in theday - besides myself, Harriet and Ceri - were Lauara Jane (obviously), Ange, Trudi and Di

 Always lovely to see them, and the only thing missing were all the other Brit Bee ladies. They were missed.


Friday, 6 December 2013

Cookie Cutter Sewing

54 2.5" squares were cut last night. It didn't take long to piece them together, and sew a 6.5" wide strip of linen into the mix. Then out came the water soluble pen and the cookie cutters. They make excellent templates.

The key element in this design is the water soluble pen, as I never, ever stitch where I write on letters. I always think I know better once the needle is being pulled through fabric. This particular cushion cover-to-be will need a good old soak in water to get all the pen markings out!

I'll do that right after I finish machine quilting the squares. One step closer to having all the Christmas presents made. Monday is the deadline for posting to Canada. Eeeek!


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Doe A Deer...

... a female deer. Just curious if I can get that song stuck in anyone's head today.

No? How about Frosty the Snowman?

Slowly but surely I am making progress here.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Rhythm To My Day

A fabric pull, press, cut, mark, pin, chain piece, trim, press, layout, piece, rip out stitches (inevitably)...


... then I was done.

Time for the school run.


Monday, 2 December 2013

What I'm Doing Down On The Tree Farm

I told you I had an idea of what to add to the Christmas Tree Farm to make it more... well, just more Christmasy I guess.

Since I have been on an embroidery kick it was embroidery that came to mind. Here's what I have accomplished so far, the one on the right not being finished yet obviously. And please excuse the wrinkles. I chose not to press them out for the photo shoot as I would be putting the right back in soon after. I am not using a hoop for this project so everything gets scrunched.

Further embroideries are planned. Here's what two of them will be.

The Aneela Hoey fans out there will notice that three out of four of these embroideries are her designs. It seemed appropriate as she designed the Cherry Christmas fabric line as well. The Christmas Trees For Sale I drew on there myself, which explains the total wonkiness. But those sorts of signs are always wonky, as are the trees leaning around it. Just saying!

I've got a couple more to add on and when they are all done I will be back to show you. Meanwhile, despite all efforts to the contrary, it's December and I am woefully unprepared. Again!


Friday, 29 November 2013

Planning Ahead?

Is it planning ahead when you doodle on paper and think of new ideas. Or is it avoiding cleaning the loos? You tell me.

Anyway, whatever it was, I printed off some hexagon graph paper and grabbed the nearest colouring pencil and doodled. Over the Christmas holidays the sewing machine will go away and stay away for at least a week. Family and friends will be around. Piles of fabric placed willy nilly about the sewing dining room will not be happening.

With this in mind I thought it best that I start thinking about what sort of hand project I would like to start. As I am notoriously good at starting English paper piecing projects but not finishing them I thought it would be really nice to plan a huge epp project. A quilt size one. Silly not to.

Apologies for the fact that the nearest colouring pencil was gold.

I'm thinking an LV background and an undecided (but obviously strong) colour for the pattern. I am also thinking I favour a version of the pattern I've doodled on the right. Maybe there is a little more colouring time required while I tweak my idea. What do you think?

Meanwhile, my other constructive activity for today was to do a little bit of shopping. I have had to resist - out of the fact that I spent my money in London last weekend - most of the Black Friday sales. (Sob!) There are some good ones out there. But I did succumb to one, the 20% off of everything in the shop at Fluffy Sheep Quilting. Just use the code BlackSheep when you checkout. Cindy has the best Aurifil prices and with an additional 20% off I had to stock up. There may have been a number of other items that inadvertantly slipped into my basket while I was there. I've only got so much willpower after all. And they were really pretty fabrics!



Thursday, 28 November 2013

Psychadelic Bird

Last night I sat and finished off my bird embroidery. When I first saw this pattern I wasn't sure that it appealed to me at all, but now with all the colours thrown in randomly (sort of the same way I quilt) I love it.

I used a smaller hoop to do the embroidery, and now need to go purchase a slightly larger hoop for finishing it off. Moving the small hoop around kind of bashed the hell out of my French knots but they still look okay(ish) if you don't look too close.

As said in an earlier post, I picked up this pattern at the FQ Retreat in the summer time. It did not come with a stitch guide so I just randomly chose stitches as I went along. I used French knots, backstitch, chain stitch, split stitch, stem stitch, lazy daisy, satin stitch and who knows what else. Mostly I used floss, but there are a couple of bits of Perle thrown in when I wanted a different colour. The majority of the time I used two strands, though I did do some single strand chain stitching, and all the French knots were single strand to keep them small.

I do find embroidery surprisingly relaxing and quick to do. I will have to have a poke around and see what else I can find in the way of patterns just hanging about waiting for me to pick them up.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013


One of the benefits of having a million and one projects on the go is you never have to do the same thing two days in a row. You do, eventually, have to start finishing things though. Today was the day that my bunny embroidery needed to be turned into something useful.

One cushion, done. I used white linen for the borders and the backing. Wanted to keep it simple as the bunny is the star of the show. I debated about closures as I didn't have any long zips left, and my supply of aqua blue ones would have been entirely inappropriate for this project. As I debated internally, my eyes fell upon the ribbon I bought for the lavender bags and I instantly knew it was perfect for this.

I was also pleased with how my mitred corners came out in the white linen. It just seemed the right thing to do as there was not going to be any heavy stitching to hide seams, etc. All I did was top stitch around the white piecing.

The hardest bit was getting half decent photos. Everywhere is too damp and nasty to put something this pretty down on it, or lean it against. The trampoline surface was the only available thing that didn't make me cringe. Then there was the sun, welcome most of the time, but the shadows it cast when it was out were phenomenal. Though it did make the embroidery glow.

Yet another project I wish was on the FAL list. Surely someone somewhere has thought of a way of fudging that list by now!


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Different Kind of Sewing?

I rediscovered my sewing machine today. It seems like ages since I sewed with it. Hand stitching has predominated around here. But I am determined to have my Christmas quilt finished in time for the holidays so I planted more trees at my Christmas Tree Farm.

And while I stitched I decicded on what I should do once all these triangles are together. Sashing? Borders? Or something completely different? You'll find out soon enough.


Monday, 25 November 2013

Starting To Feel Like Christmas To Me

It's starting to feel like Christmas not because there is only one month to go, but because I spent my weekend being carefree and fun, and filling myself with that Christmas feeling in London. I went down to the city for a couple of nights with my mum and we crammed in as much as we possibly could. We stayed out in the Docklands, a place neither of us had ever been but which is far more accessible than thought, and I would happily return.

Once we had checked in we hopped on the river bus to return to the city centre as it was a beautiful day and a great way to see London from a different perspective. From there we wandered about leisurely, checking out the Christmas decorations.

I particularly loved that Eros in Piccadilly Circus was turned into a snow globe. And preferred Oxford Street's glittering globes to Regent Street's more commercial lighting.

Then we inadvertantly stumbled upon Liberty's Christmas shop. How did that happen? Bliss!

Saturday morning we headed off to check out various department store windows. My favourites were Hamley's (left), Harrod's (middle), and Fortnum & Mason (left).

We squeezed in some good food, surprise surprise, and some nice coffee breaks too (though I am more of a hot chocolate girl). And we went to see Dirty Dancing. OMG! It's been a long time since I've seen a man move his hips like that! (Enough said!)

Fortnum & Mason get the prize for the oddest stocking stuffers.

Yes, if you look closely, scorpians are included in two of those.

But Fortnum & Mason also had the nicest of Christmas-y things too. I succumbed to the musical biscuit tin, because doesn't everyone need a Christmas tin that plays Christmas music?

All too soon I had to return home, but we did our best to fill every minute that we were there, and it really did get me in the proper holiday spirit. Hope you all had fabulous weekends too.