Friday, September 12, 2014

Hauling my sewing mojo back from the brink

So. It's been a while. (A long while.)

That sewing mojo (what's that I hear you ask) appears to have deserted me. Well, ok, maybe not quite so dramatic as that, because that other thing (REAL LIFE) has been interfering, but still. It's been a month since I blogged (bad Sarah).  The summary is like this: family wedding in Poland in late August, meaning that mid August taken over by school prep, then travelling to Warsaw and eastern Poland for my baby brother's wedding (wonderful and so much fun, and totally different from an Irish wedding!) then returning home and straight into back-to-schoool and after-school activities (music, tin whistle, cello, Irish Dancing, hurling, athletics...yes, you get the idea) plus work, baby stuff, blah blah blah. Oh yeah, and as usual back to school = children bringing home bugs and infecting the rest of us (i.e. me and miss Rachel with their sore throat/runny nose etc) To summarise: its been busy. (understatement of the year)


Instagram Mini Quilt Inspiration Mosaic

I signed up for the Instagram mini quilt swap. I'm pretty excited by this. I got my partner details and saw her inspiration mosaic and its right up my street. But somehow, between sorting out the kids, and getting back on top of my workload and getting up in the middle of the night with the poor congested baba, and taking every over-the-counter medication known to mankind to cure my own sore throat/flu, I managed to forget to sort out my own inspiration mosaic. So here it is.

It appears that my latest "thing" is low volume + rainbow. Who knew? Funnily enough, making myself do this mosaic turned into a "Good. Thing." I was happily liking photos on Flick and found myself wanting to, you know, sew. More than once. Possibily I might break out the rotary cutter tomorrow (and, hold the headlines, I might even do it before all the housework is done!!) Result. The sewing mojo is finding its way back.

 Anyways, I love the look of these and if my partner is anywhere close to any of these I will be a happy bunny.  But if anyone wants to volunteer to, you know, drive my kids to after school activities, or turn up at my desk and pretend to be me for a week or so, that would be awesome. No takers? Really? And I thought you all loved me so much....

Monday, August 11, 2014

The best part of swaps

I know I've written about this before, but there is something strange about taking part in swaps. You spend all of the swap window fretting about your partner, trying to second guess them, pushing yourself to impress them, working to someone else's taste. (It's fabulous, its why I love swaps. I just adore how it pushes you outside your comfort zone.) Then you send off your package and all of a sudden, it really hits you that you will be getting a package too. I know that you've been commenting on the photos all along, but its kind of abstract, in a way.

So when my hubbie rang me today at work to say there was a package for me, I spent the whole day in anticipation and of course, I ripped it open as soon as I got in the door. (yes, before picking up Miss R, or saying hello to my other kids or hubbie. Bad mammy moment). I was not disappointed.

I received this beautiful Big Stitch Swap package from Helen. She knew I just adore Lilipopo girls, and she made one just for me. I was so delighted when I opened it because you know how it is, you always make lovely things for everyone else and never keep the stuff you really love for yourself. This way, I get to have my own. I love how sweet she is! She is on the front of a lovely iPad mini sleeve, with Liberty lawn and linen. This is my idea of perfection. It is so beautifully stitched and finished. I stitched one myself for this swap, and I will certainly say that the patterns are straightforward, but deceptively so - it is very difficult to get the character of those girls right. I love how this girl finished up, she is gorgeous.

 On the back, there is some lovely piecing with more Liberty and linen, and some hand quilting. I just love it all.

Helen also send me a lovely package of scraps, you can see them in the top photo. Thank you Helen, I absolutely love it and its made my day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Big Stitch Swap Package (gone in the post)

Today, I put my Big Stitch Swap package in the post. I hope my partner will like it.

I used a LiliPopo embroidery pattern on the front. I enlarged it a little so I could have a bigger finished pouch, suitable for hand sewing or knitting projects. This girl is very sweet, and though the pattern was straightforward, it took a little bit of work to get the look I wanted for her. I tried to make her sweet but a little quirky.

I was trying to figure out how to set her in a background, and I wanted something to give it a tiny bit of an edge, so as not to be too super sweet. From somewhere, I had the image of her standing on a rocky, pebbly beach. Happily, Trudi's class at the FQ Retreat covered pebble quilting, and despite my previous pre-FQR attempts at the technique leaving me ready to cry, after practising a little, I felt up to tackling it on this. It took quite a while, and a surprising amount of thread, but I was really pleased with how it turned out. The texture of the thread against the Essex linen is just so lovely, it feels great.

For the back, I spent quite a while thinking through various blocks before I landed on this one. I wanted something I could add handquilting detail to, something with clean lines and that would be striking against the linen. I was inspired by Camille Roskelley's Puddle Jumping pattern, but I drew this block out on Touchdraw so I could customise it to the size I wanted myself.

My colour palette was inspired by something I saw my partner say, and when I went digging around, I was delighted to find a scrap of Nordika that was perfect for fussy cutting for the centre.

I did dither about the hand quilting on this, initially when I finished it I thought it was a bit boxy looking where the corners of the blocks crossed over, it didn't look quite as I imagined. But when I came back to it the next day, I was happy, and I got a lot of positive feedback on IG and FB about it, so I relaxed a little :-)

I added a hot pink zipper for a pop of colour and I used a Vintage Happy print for the lining. I bought this print a good while ago, specifically for use as lining,and I love how it works. I did a divider pocket about half way down. The pouch measures just under 12" x 12", so it's a good size.

So my pouch was all done, and I just needed to pull out some scraps to include to finish off my package. It's gone in today's post and I really, really hope that my partner likes it.

If you like hand stitching, or embroidery, or just want to see what loveliness can be created with a simple needle and thread, pop over to the Flickr group and have a look as some of the gorgeous finished projects. Maybe we will see you in Round 2?

Friday, August 1, 2014

A quilt for a special boy

I posted off this special quilt during the week.

A friend of mine has a little boy, a toddler, who is very sick and will be spending a lot of time in hospital in the next few months. I don't really want to go into any details, for privacy reasons, but as with so many other quilters, I felt compelled to make a quilt when I heard the situation. If you're a quilter too, you'll understand why. Comfort. Wrapping the recipient up (literally) in all the good wishes and positive thoughts that you want to express but don't quite know how. I wanted to do something concrete that might help, if even just a tiny bit.

I mulled over what type of pattern to make but it didn't take me long to make a decision. Elizabeth's Sliced Coins pattern has been on my list of "must makes" for quite a few years now, its one of the first quiltalongs I observed when I started reading quilting blogs, and I loved the quilts made in the quiltalong. Plus, it's easy and straightforward to make, but has a big impact, and I wanted a pattern which allowed the fabrics to shine, because my plan was to gather every novelty boy's fabric I could get  my hands on for this quilt. I wanted it to be something that he could sit and look at and explore. Something interesting and fun.

I have a (pretty depleted compared to a few years ago) stash of boys fabric myself, but not enough for what I wanted, and I knew I needed small enough quantities for the coins. So I asked some of the lovely ladies in the Modern Irish quilters group if they would mind swapping or selling me small quantities of any nice boys fabrics they had. Of course, they all came up trumps and put oceans of fabric in the post to me and refused to take anything in return. This gave me an absolutely fabulous selection of fabrics to work with. I really love the variety, the colour and the prints. There are cars, trucks, buses, diggers, planes, animals, birds, insects - everything you could possibly imagine that little boys are fascinated by. Thank you so much ladies, you know who you are and I couldn't have made this without your help.

I quilted it in a stipple but with lots of loopy loops and was happy enough with how it worked. There is lots and lots of white sashing which  Nicky suggested was perfect for driving dinky cars up and down and across, and I agree, it would work great as a playmat too.

For the back, I used some leftover coins to make another strip for the centre, then I used a couple of bright and happy Ikea prints to make up the rest.  As you know, I don't often piece a quilt back but it was worth the effort and I like how bright and happy it turned out. There is plenty of interest on the back as well as the front.

The binding was some blue poplin with little hearts. Perfect. I machine bound this, as I had a lot of other hand stitching to complete and I tried a different method than I have previously used which I liked, but would like to refine my technique on a little more.

I forgot to measure the finished quilt but I followed the pattern pretty closely and I know the finished size there was 54" x 57" so I assume its similar. It's a lovely generous quilt size for a toddler, equally perfect for bed at night as for snuggling on the sofa by day.

I hope that this quilt might provide some entertainment or comfort for my friend's little boy over the next few months, and that he gets lots of use out of it. Please God his treatment will go well.

This is my first finish from my FAL Q3 list also. Hopefully not my last.

Finish Along 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Embroidery stitches

Next week is our posting window for the Big Stitch Swap. I was a little late getting started due to the FQ retreat but I got moving this week and am well on my way to getting it done.

So far, I've embroidered this lovely Lilipopo girl on some scrummy grey Essex linen. She is going to turn into the front of a pouch but I have to finish the flowers and then I have some surrounding detail to add. Then I need to figure out what I am doing on the back. I have a number of plans, I just need to pick one.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Still Recovering (FQ Retreat report!)

It is a whole week since I got back from London, and I'm only getting to put my thoughts in order now! I had such a fantastic weekend. But since I got back its been go, go, go and I haven't had a minute.

Ok -so, I'm going to try to try very hard to give you the short version. But I'm warning you now, there is a lot in this post. I failed miserably in being short.

First up, preparations. I was, to be very honest, a bit blasé about the whole preparation issue. I got the supply list well ahead, and I glanced at it without really giving it any thought. I signed up for the nametag and sample swaps on the Flickr group. Then, a few days before I went I thought I should probably get my stuff together and realised I had a LOT more to do than I had thought. I also TOTALLY underestimated the effect of all the fabric and stuff would have on my carry on case space. Happily, due to the extremely hot weather, a couple of lightweight summer dresses were all I needed to bring with me, clothes wise, and I decided one pair of sandals would work just fine. Of course, I totally overpacked on the fabric front but that was ok.

So I got gathering my fabric and supplies:

And I got making on my swap items for the sample swap.

I had found Cindy when I got off the Tube from my friends' house, which left me a little more confident about meeting everyone else. I think almost the very first person I laid eyes on when I went into the hall in Baden Powell House was Hadley - and it was like meeting an old friend, which is exactly what it was, despite the fact we'd never met. Straight away she handed over some goodies - what better start to the day! I had won her blogiversary giveaway earlier that week, so my winnings were included. She also had put together a little pack of essential pins, needles etc to save me the trouble of bringing it all over with me. I was delighted.

I recognised lots of people and got chatting straight away. Really, I couldn't have asked for a better start, it was so lovely to meet people like Trudi and Nicky and Di who I had been chatting with for years.

We quickly went off to our first class, which, for me, was foundation paper piecing with Tacha. I find it really difficult and counter intuitive and was looking forward to getting to grips with it. I have to say, for me, this class was one of the highlights of the whole weekend. Tacha was a great (very patient) teacher, and there was no one that I felt I knew really, really well in the class. That was probably the best thing that could have happened, for me. I got chatting to a lot of people, some who I knew a little, some who I didn't know at all. We had so much fun. At one point, I was laughing so hard (at my own ineptitude) that I was crying. And I actually got something achieved - a little post box. Look at that heart. Have you any idea of how many teeny tiny bits of fabric make that up? That
was the bit that made me cry giggle uncontrollably.

I came away from the class in awe of Joanne's paper piecing skills and I felt I had found some new friends too. Not to mention, also feeling a bit more confident about tackling the other pattern pieces to finish the Mail Organiser.

That evening I went for a lovely dinner with a host of friends, almost every one of who I met for the first time that day. It was just fantastic to finally be able to sit and talk with them face to face, over a glass of wine.

Saturday morning started bright and early. My first class was with Trudi in Free Motion Quilting. Now, I would be lying if I didn't admit that this class was "the one" for me in this retreat. It was the one I was most anxious to do and the one I looked forward to for weeks beforehand. And it absolutely, 100%, delivered on my expectations. It was, quite simply, awesome. Trudi is a fantastic teacher. I came away invigorated and inspired and feeling like I could actually do some of the stuff I've been admiring on blogs for years. We started off practising, getting the feel of our machines, figuring out different threads. It was doodling, on fabric. Fun, lots of fun. My favourite bit is that daisy.

But in a couple of short hours I was able to do this - not perfect, by any means, but getting there:

Not bad, right? I'm loving that Aurifil 28wt yellow thread. Such lovely definition. Shamefully, I haven't managed any more practice since I came home, but its high on my list.

After lunch I had a FMQ design class, again with Trudi, which was equally good and involved lots and lots of doodling. Then I had a quilt maths class with Lynne. Really, it was late in the day and I never was very good at maths. I found myself transported back about 25 years and giggling far too much at the back of the class with Joanne - that's me at the back. Apparently my report reads "must try harder".

Saturday evening was a whole pile of fun. It started with the swaps. I had signed up for the sample swap, and made the little mug rugs in the picture above. I ended up in a group with Hadley, Cara and Bettina and I got a lavender pouch, a fab zippy pouch and one of Hadley's gorgeous bags. This was a little ironic, because the week before, I won Hadley's blogiversary giveaway and won another of these bags. I just knew we would end up in the same group, no way was that not going to happen. But I didn't have any issue because the bags are just gorgeous and also, I live in a house where my bags are appropriated as fast as I acquire them by my 6 year old daughter. So she was very impressed that I came home with 2, so she could have one, and better still, it was the same as mine! Thank you Hadley, I've been using mine since I came home and love it.

After the swap, I finally had one of my quilty dreams come true. Cindy had brought her Fluffy Sheep Quilting shop with her for the quilt market and I had begged volunteered to help her out. So I played with all her fabric we set up her stall in a very pleasing-to-the-eyes arrangement and then we joined lots of other peeps on the terrace to grab a bit to eat. I had a lovely chat with Karen and Nicky :-) Then I pretended it was my fabric shop I helped Cindy at her stall at the quilt market.Possibly I was not a great assistant, as I appropriated some of the fabric for myself instead of selling it. Those top 3 FQs on the left were hers. I also abandoned her and went shopping at some of the other shops too. I got a charm pack from Karen (Blueberry Park) and I picked up some lovely FQs at the Village Haberdashery. You can also see some bag buttons in my picture there. More of that later. Really, I was pretty impressed with myself. I think this is a remarkably restrained fabric shopping expedition.

After the quilt market, there was a fun quiz, and a raffle. I sat beside Jen Kingwell at the quiz and bent her ear about things I have been thinking about had a really interesting conversation with her. In the raffle, I was really lucky, I won a scrap pack of Art Gallery fabrics. I thought that was a bit serendipitous. I had had at least 3 conversations with Cindy's customers earlier that evening about how much I loved Art Gallery fabrics, how beautifully soft they were to work with, how much I loved the quality. So I thought maybe it was karma :-) When I got the pack, I didn't think too much about it. Then I got home and opened it out and realised what a jackpot I hit. Aren't these gorgeous? What a fab scrap pack!

There as other stuff too - Siblings Together quilts, other swaps etc. The quilts for Siblings Together were fab and I found myself wondering if we could try do do something similar here in Ireland despite the small numbers of people involved. Saturday evening ran pretty late. I found myself on the Tube back to Isleworth between 11 and midnight and was surpised at how there was standing room only at that time, and how civilised it was. But at that stage I was flagging a little and found myself late for Lynne's Touchdraw class the next morning. I eventually caught up with everyone else, and was really happy with this class. So many possibilities!

My last class on Sunday morning was with the very lovely Jen Kingwell, in Hand Quilting. Now, you know I love hand quilting. Its my go-to technique to give a project a little something special. And its not too long since I finished hand quilting my Made to Measure quilt. But my technique is very much self-taught, and I have encountered a number of nerve issues in my neck from poor technique.
So it was really lovely to listen to Jen and have the opportunity to ask some questions. I definitely have a few ideas for how I might adjust and improve my technique and felt really inspired coming away after looking at her beautiful work. She gave us a lovely little finger pin cushion to take away. I really thought she was an inspiring person, and after seeing her quilts in real life, making one of her patterns is on my bucket list for definite.

When the class ended, that was it. Time to say a sad goodbye. Of course, the fire alarm went off in the middle of the farewell, and we ended up out on the street, but it was a kind of fitting end to be all gathered together like that on a little strip of path in central London! We came away with a bag full of goodies. FQs, thread, charm packs, mini charm packs. Lovely stuff.

Two picture, because some of my stuff got mixed up with Cindys. When it was all over, I wandered around Kensington, picked up some gifts for the kids, then went back to my friends who I stayed with and had some lunch and more catching up. Then it was off to the airport and back to Cork where I found my my kids pretty much standing at the door waiting for me at 10.30pm that night.

My verdict? FQ Retreat 2014 was fantastic. It was not as crowded as I anticipated and I got to speak to or get to know so many people. I met old friends and made new friends. Yes, it was expensive. After stalking the flights on Ryanair and Aer Lingus for 2-3 months, I got a really great deal on my flights, but between ticket price, travel, spending money etc it still worked out at a big cost. I am very lucky to have friends living in London, and they kindly put me up for the weekend, despite having a very new baby (yes, having a little cuddle was a definite highlight, as was spending some lovely time chatting with them.) But with 3 kids and family holidays to pay for, spending in excess of €500 on a weekend for myself is a big indulgence when money is tight. But, oh so worth it!

It was worth it in lots of ways. The classes were great. Really great. I learned loads and loads. Plenty of new techniques, and plenty of improvements on my current techniques. I've been sewing for 6 years now and sometimes I am shocked by the things I don't know. The social aspect was fantastic. A lot of work went into making sure no one was left out, people had someone to meet up with etc. I was lucky not to need that because I had a lot of people I knew, but I thought it was great. Before I went, I was totally focused on completing that circle with my online friends and meeting them for real. I wasn't there 24 hours before I realised that one of the biggest things I would take away with me was the new friends I made. But, most important of all was the inspiration I came away with. It was so interesting looking at what other people were doing. People wore their own handmade dresses (it was entirely not obvious they were made at home, they looked so professional and beautifully finished. Sometimes, it was only when I recognised a fabric print I realised that the dress was handmade). People travelled handmade. There were beautiful bags, pouches etc. Oh my goodness, the bags! I came home filled with bag-making fervour. You need to watch this space. I can't wait to get started on that. I've been saving, pinning and printing bag patterns all week. My head is spinning with ideas. I came home feeling totally inspired on the sewing front. I know I haven't posted all week, but I've been sewing. I've finished a quilt (more tomorrow), got well started onto a 2nd, and am half way through my Big Stitch Swap item. I've made a trip to the local fabric store for interfacing (can't make bags without interfacing). I'm ready to sew.

This was my first retreat. The first year I was in the middle of a very difficult pregnancy, last year, my baby was too small to go off and leave for 3 days. So I have nothing to compare to. But I have this to say. FQ retreat 2014 was ah-MAZ-ing.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I WILL conquer this list: FAL Q3

Right. Q2 was a washout in every possible way - 2 finishes, minimal sewing and very little blog reading (I need my quilty inspiration more than ever right now.)

Finish Along 2014

Q3 WILL be different. I will finish this list so let's keep it nice and tight.

1. Finish Kieran's quilt. I haven't blogged this but I am 2/3 done with making a quilt for my friend at work's little 2year old who is very sick and will be spending a lot of time in hospital in the coming months. Need to get this finished and sent to him ASAP.

2. Cheerio Quilt for Miss E. The big girl needs a new bed quilt so I'm making this one for her.

3. Hexie heaven - turn the hexies into a bag panel (sidekick tote most likely. Although the super tote could sneak in there)

4. Tumbling blocks quilt. Finish it. (Yes it's been on the list for 3 years now. About time to kick it off this list.)

5. Spiderweb quilt - I need a couple more blocks to arrive for this quilt, and I need to make a few more myself to bring it up a little bit size wise.

6. Finish the Little Pearl dress for miss R. It just needs the buttonholes and the front ruffle. Easy, right?

7. Finish miss R's cardi.

That's it. Let's get finishing. Linking up to lovely Katy.