Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

This is the time of year I love the best.  I love the golden autumn colours, the nights drawing in giving a reason to put on the fire and have a cup of tea with a nice slice of Barm Brack.

We have a type of fruitcake in Ireland that you can only get at Halloween and it's a light type of cake not like heavy Christmas cake.  My mum loves it smothered in butter.  I love it toasted!  If you are lucky you will find a ring in your slice and be married within the year and if unlucky you might find the stick or piece of cloth!

But apart from the brack, the fire and the Irish National drink (not Guinness but a cup of tea!) I also love all things Halloween.  Especially Halloween fabric and Halloween sewing!  I signed up this year for the Halloween sewing swap which involved making 3-4 handmade items, sending an item from home and some treats.

I had a blast using my Halloween fabric from RJR's Boo Crew and this year's new range Too Cute to Spook from Riley Blake. Isn't it totally gorgeous?

 This is what I made:

A trick or treat bag using 2 panels sashed with plain black fabric for the outside.

And the bright cute fabric for the inside so the treats will be easily found!  My swap partner has a little girl so this is for her!

In the photo below the other side of the bag can be seen and my favourite thing that I made of all the items:  a boo banner.   I used this Tutorial from Fabric Mill.  I've changed it a bit and made it 25% smaller and I'm so happy with how it turned out.  I'm still loving those dancing skeletons and have no more of this fabric left now! (Must resist the urge to go shopping!)

For my third item I made placemats based on this Tutorial from Fairy Face Designs.  This is a great tutorial for placemats.  It would be perfect for Christmas fabrics as well.

I really enjoyed sewing for this swap and I got the most lovely messages from my swap partner on email and Instagram.  Happy Halloween everybody, hope you all get lots of treats!

Linking up to
Thursday Threads

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Mini Quilt Finish


My second entry into Bloggers Quilt Festival over at Amy's Creative Side is this quilt for the Doll/Mini category.

It measures 22" square and is a variant on Lynnette Anderson's design "A Dog's Life".  This is 2 of the 4 blocks re-arranged a bit.  I'm calling it Four Seasons in One Day because that's the weather we are having at the moment! There is a gale warning in effect and I've been waiting all morning for the rain to stop to get some daylight photos.

 I had made the dog with the flowers as a stand alone some months ago.  It had been on my to finish list for Finish-A-Long 2013 but I never quite got to it and then Kirsty at Schnitzel & Boo announced a mini quilt swap and I knew this was the perfect opportunity to finish up Bella (that's what I've been calling the dog!)

I had the idea of doing a house with a tree for a cushion with the dog in front but this would have been too big so I dropped the house and kept the tree.  The fabric is Forever Spring by Nancy Halvorsen.  It has a bit of a spring feeling alright with the blue and summer with the flowers.  I suppose it being Autumn I added leaves in gold and brown and some falling leaves to balance it all out.  The binding is Bonnie & Camille's Vintage Modern for Moda.

I used fusible paper to applique the shapes and hand stitched all but the leaves with a blanket stitch. The leaves are straight stitched on the machine to give that raw edge look which I think works for autumn leaves.  

It took a while to do the tree.  I watched 2 vintage Doctor Who feature length episodes while sewing this down.  Watch are having Doctor Who specials every weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary this year, perfect TV for hand stitching!  

The mail date for the swap is in November but once I got going on this project I just had to finish!  I really like this and I hope my swap partner will too.  Fingers crossed she is a doggy person!

I'm still trying to get to grips with Free Motion Quilting so I tried wiggling and freehand for the tree. It's not perfect but I feel like I am getting better at it.  So I get to enjoy Bella in her autumn woodland setting for a week or two and then she is off on a trip across the Atlantic!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Favourite Bed Quilt


Woo hoo I am so excited to join in the fun over at Amy's Creative Side and link up 2 entries to this year's Autumn Bloggers Quilt Festival.  Last year blogless I looked on in admiration at all the beautiful quilts submitted.  This year I'm taking part and linking up my first quilt in the Favourite Bed Quilt group.  

Earlier this year Gordon's aunt Maura asked me if I would make her a quilt for a single bed.  I was thrilled to be asked and very quickly picked the pattern Bounce by Miss Rosie's Quilt company.  I love Carrie's designs and couldn't wait to get started.  
 I used 28 squares of a layer cake (Coquette by Chez Moi for Moda) and cut lots of squares!  I think there are over 700 pieces in this quilt. 
 I love the sugary colours all mixed up like this. To fit a single bed instead of making 6 rows x 6 columns I made 7 rows x 4 columns.
This is the biggest quilt I have made so far and just had enough room on the floor for basting!  It took a while and I watched the movie "The Life of Pi" while I was pinning away.  Charly helped by guarding the garden! 
I think my favourite part of this whole quilt is the pieced border.  It is such a lovely design.  I went to my local quilt shop here in Limerick to pick out backing fabric.  I  chose an orange fabric for backing and binding.   Maeve who owns the shop told me I had come on in leaps and bounds since I had last been in picking backing fabric.  I left her shop on cloud 9.  Praise from a lifelong quilter certainly makes you feel good!  
While I was waiting for Maura to collect Bounce I hung it over the bannisters on the landing.  The early morning sun comes in there from a tiny window and every sunny morning it would just glow.  It was hard parting with one but it has gone to family where it will be well loved!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Dedicated Quilter

This may be old news but I recently came across a survey conducted by Quilting in AmericaTM that was conducted in 2010.  The first study was in 1994 and there have been subsequent ones with the most recent that I could see being 2010. Surveys aren't always conclusive but I found the results of this one very interesting.

According to the survey, quilters in America spent $3.58 billion dollars a year, which is a lot of money!  There are 21.3 million quilters in the US over the age of 18 and 14% of households had at least 1 active quilter.   Here's the most interesting part for me, dedicated quilters (those whose households spend more than $600 a year on quilting goods) account for 6.2% of quilters and are responsible for 69% of the spend.  That's nearly $2.5 billion.  Wow!

So I asked myself how much do I spend?  Well I have a small stash, 6 shoe box plastic boxes of  Fat Quarters, a tub of backing fabric, 13 rolls of thread, 2 cutting mats, a 45 and a 60mm rotary cutter with spare blades, 6 rulers, 2 boxes of pins and safety pins for basting, 2 scisssors and unfortunately 3 seam rippers that I use a lot!

I bought my first charm pack for my very first quilt in December 2011 and since that date I have spent $3052 on quilt supplies, thats nearly $133 dollars a month. Yikes!  And my stash is not huge!

Ok,  I have made presents for people that otherwise I would have bought and spent money on and I did get paid for one quilt but that's still a fair bit of dosh.  So does that make me a dedicated quilter?

Well the report asked who the dedicated quilter is and came up with the following:
  • Female - Yup
  • 62 years old - not for a long while yet!
  • Well educated  (72% attended college)  - Yes
  • Affluent - ahmm nope!
  • Quilting for an average of 16 years - not yet either!
  • Has a dedicated sewing room (85%) - nope, sew at the kitchen table
  • On average has $8542 worth of quilting tools and supplies - definitely no to this one!
  • On average owns $3677 worth of fabric - not there yet thank God!
  • Owns an average of 2.7 sewing machines  - have 2! (Husqvarna Viking H600e and Lidl Lervia basic)
  • Bought an average of 4.4 quilting books in the past year - Yup (I bought Tula Pink "100 Modern Blocks", Sarah Fielke's "Handmade with Love", Lynnette Anderson "It's Quilting Cats & Dogs", Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr " Quilts Made Modern " and "Transparency Quilts" and Camille Roskelly's "Simply Retro")
  • Subscribe to or read 4.4 quilt magazines a month - nope (not every month!)
  • Averages 2 hour a week on quilting websites - yes
  • Averages 40 hours a week sewing - nope, I have a full time job and sew on some evenings and weekends
After going through this exercise I would consider myself an enthusiast in the beginner/intermediate category who has to use her fabric on hand before buying another single thing!  What do you think?  Interesting or a load of old cabbage? 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

WIP - Progress report

So I am still working on the Penny Sampler this week. I am about 2 weeks behind on this project now but getting to the end of precise piecing and onto paper piecing.  I've added little filler blocks and this centrepiece block.
One drawback about having the design wall batting suspended from the top and not fixed to the wall all the way down is Wilbur the Wrecker (aka the Happy Basset Hound) keeps wacking his tail off it and my lovely pieces rain down on the floor.  Of course these need to be inspected and I've had to rescue a few blocks from him over the weekend. 
I intend on hand embroidering the legs and tail of this bird and I really like this cute crossing block that will be beside Big bird on the quilt.
I have learned my lesson and pinned all my remaining blocks withint tail distance to the batting to Wilbur proof them!    My favourite of the little pieced blocks is the blue boxed one. It would be a really cool filler for a baby quilt with an applique block every second one.

It's getting easier to choose colours now that I can see the placement of the new ones against last weeks blocks.  Looking at it all up on the wall, I would like to put more orange in the bottom right, it's a bit top heavy in orange at the moment.

I really like the idea of this quilt.  Taking a theme (in this case Scandinavian inspired), having a few focal blocks and surrounds and having fun filling in the empty spaces with mini blocks.  It really is a pleasure to work on this and I see this type of quilt design inspiring a Christmas quilt.  It must be the time of year because I'm loving the wintery feeling of this one!

Linking up to
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sewing Machine review

Sew Mama Sew is having a sewing machine review link up. It involves reviewing your sewing machine, likes & dislikes and really would you recommend it to others. To me, this is a would you buy it again now that you have used it for a while question. I think if you would, then it is a great endorsement of a sewing machine. This is the question I have been asking myself, so here are my thoughts on the Husqvarna Viking H600E, entry level embroidery & quilting machine.
I bought my Viking from Coopers in the UK for £848 on a 4 easy payment scheme in May 2012. There was an offer on at the time and delivery was only £9.99. It's essentially the same as the Singer XL550. I did a bit of research and even had a must have and nice to have list, as all the buying guides tell you, but really I wasn't sure what I wanted.

When I saw the Viking brochure with the nice bright and fun projects showcased as well as the massive throat space, adjustable needle position, needle down and automatic thread cutter I decided this was the one for me. It's really good value for an entry level embroidery machine, a bit dear to be sewing home dec. items on and not too bad for a large throat space quilting machine so I went for it. I think the 4 payments swung it in the end.

I haven't used the embroidery function that much. I made cushions for a friend and used it to make a flag for Boston. In my head I had visions of adding fancy details to towels and T-shirts etc, making my own bags and really fancy quilting designs on large bed quilts, without having to learn to Free Motion Quilt, but the reality is I use it mostly for patchwork piecing! I am learning FMQ but it's not easy!

I do like my machine though I haven't named her - it's definitely a she! I really like the look of her. She's lovely and curvy and shiny white and bright in the kitchen where I sew. She is portable but a tad on the heavy side so I won't be bringing her to sewing nights or classes. I would have liked the embroidery unit to have come with a case and slot for the two hoops for storage. I have plans to make my own when I get some of my to do list items done!

My favourite features are the needle down and the automatic thread cutter. I know with a little thought and a simple turn of the wheel I would put the needle down but it's nice to have it automatically do it for you! There is an automatic needle threader which works 85% of the time and this is also nice, particularly when changing thread all the time for embroidery. One little gripe I have is the plastic plunger to activate the needle threader has a habit of falling off especially when sewing with speed. It's annoying having to keep putting it back on.

She does have a little difficulty with bulky seams but most of that is my fault using too light a needle. One thing that drove me mental initially though was the automatic stop when the needle is unthreaded. Sounds like a good thing to have. Well when paper piecing, one of the techniques is to pierce the pattern before sewing to weaken the paper and make it easier to pull away after having added the fabric. You really can't do this with the H600e. It will beep, beep, beep at you and stop after a few stitches. It drives me nuts! So now I have given up on pre-piercing. I sew with a small stitch and try to be careful when removing the paper. To be honest I probably should just use my Lervia €69.00 machine I bought in Lidl for this anyway.

If you are into only quilting then this machine is a bit of overkill really. If you like a bit of everything and are interested in the machine embroidery functions then this is a lovely machine. I hook it up to a small Asus netbook and send embroidery designs from the internet to her. I got these lovely dog themed patterns and put them on this Disappearing 9 Patch quilt (made with a layer cake of Puppy Park) to lift the solids particularly the brown and I love it.

Would I buy it again?  For the price I got it for - Yes!  Linking up to Sewing Machine Reviews at Sew Mama Sew!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

WIP Wednesday -Penny Sampler update

This was the view out the back garden today - miserable wet! It bucketed down last night.  With the grey dim light coming into the house the photos of my Penny Sampler blocks aren't the best.  I'm adding to my To Do List: set up indoor photo space for winter!

It might not look like much but I am making progress on my Penny Sampler blocks.  I managed to get the design wall to stay up for a start!  By the end of this week I hope to be only 1 week behind.

I like this block very much.  It's called Stacked Pines and is part of the precision piecing section of the course.

The next 4 blocks are cut out and ready for sewing.  I really like the Hourglass blocks in grey with a co-ordinating solid.  I think this would make a fabulous border for a medallion style quilt. 
I changed my mind about the colours for the snowflake block.  I had intended on making it in blue and orange but I've used these colours in some of the other blocks so much I'm going for grey to give that wintery feeling.  The print out of the quilt design we were given really helps with the colour choices but the design wall is where it is at.  I get it now .  It really helps to have someplace where you can test shapes and colour and leave it in view while you are working on it, walk away from it and come back another day.

Hoping to get these 4 blocks finished tonight. Linking up to

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, 14 October 2013


I came up with my to do list last Thursday and didn't get around to starting anything on it until yesterday!  In my defence my makeshift design wall fell down twice, we had Gordon's mum over for dinner (I sew at the kitchen table!) and last Friday was the Irish Patchwork Society mid-west branch meeting.

So despite a Sunday start to my weekend sewing I got a lot done!  And I feel the better for it.

I made a Snowflake for Queen Bee Erica whose October block was anything you want in 12.5" using red and green with cream/white background.  Fantastic idea!  Erica is hoping to make a Christmas sampler quilt.  This snowflake block is from the Penny Sampler Quilt course by Stitched in Color.  I just love it.  I'm making one in blue and orange for my quilt!

It's funny how one block on a project is like a milestone that has to be overcome and the rest comes easier.  For me it was this long hanging diamonds block in the penny sampler.  That's my collapsible design wall in the background!  Half way through this I was sorry I hadn't used different fabrics for each of the diamonds but I think I'll hand stitch a diamond echo in one diamond in each chain.  I think that will work!

Then I got going on my mini quilt for the Schnitzel & Boo quilt swap.  I decided I was going to use my "A Dog's Life" block 1 and add to it an autumn tree with falling leaves.  A tree like this has been in my head for ages so time to just get on with it.  This is a Lynette Anderson design.  I love her stuff!
At first I wasn't sure about the red yo-yo's added to the tree, I didn't make them flat enough and need to stitch closer to the edge to flatten them out.  I do like the colour though so will probably hang onto them in a flatter form.  So I pieced the background and fused the tree.  Now I have to blanket stitch around the tree and then fuse and sew the leaves.  This will be a sofa project watching the TV for the week!

I'm not sure how to finish it.  I originally thought a patchwork border but now I'm thinking no border at all, just navy binding.  Any suggestions would be most welcome!

The highlight of the weekend though was listening to Madeline Jordan from the Western Branch talk about her quilts, her love of knitting and sewing, and her family. Her quilts all had an inspiration and an idea that sparked them and her wonderful personality came through with each quilt story.  I could have listened her talk for an hour or two more than she did. 

She told us an idea for a quilt took her from her home in Westport to Cong in Co.Mayo to research a golden cross the High King had commissioned.  Madeline wanted to see the cross to find a way to use if for a quilt idea.  When she discovered the cross had been moved to the National Museum in Dublin it didn't stop her.  She took the train to the Capitol with two of her children, studied the cross, brought home a postcard for reference and made a quilt!  The level of detail and thought put into every piece is wonderful.

Here's a link to Western Branch blog where she gave a similar talk.  I can honestly say she was very inspiring and entertaining and if I can be half as productive as her I would be a very happy quilter!

Linking up to Design Wall Monday

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Finish-A-Long Quarter 4

So after a week of very little sewing and back to work after our few days at the beach, I decided, last night, to do a stock take of open projects, wish lists, swaps & Bee commitments and get myself a Quarter 4 to do list.

  •  Halloween Quilt:  I started this last year and completed the top.  I have wonderful backing fabric on hand and a bat stencil to quilt in the corners of the squares.  I really must get this thing basted and done for Halloween this year!
  •  A Dog's Life applique project:  OK this has been on my Q2 and Q3 list with no movement and I think it's because I wasn't sure what I wanted it for.  I love dogs and I love Lynette Anderson's designs but I certainly feel procrastination comes from a place of uncertainty and not knowing what I wanted this to be has put it way out on my list.  So now I have a plan!  

I am going to use panel #1 above and make part #3 which is a tree with applique leaves and have the doggy sit under the tree and surrounded by a simple patchwork border as a mini quilt for Schnitzel & Boo's mini- quilt swap!
Then I am going to finish panel #2 above and make a long lumbar cushion for the sofa.  And you never know, I might even try to learn how to sew a zip in with this one!

New Projects to the list
  •  My main project over the next quarter though is going to be the Penny Sampler.  This beautiful design by Stitched in Color involves Applique and precise piecing and though I am three weeks behind I really want to put some time into this one.Yesterday evening I made a makeshift design wall (I usually use the floor) out of a piece of wadding and two wooden pieces we use as a barrier to keep the dogs in the kitchen.  It's not quite big enough so everything is turned on it's side but will be perfect for choosing colours to go with the next set of blocks and being upfront and central will surely motivate me to get on with it!
  • As it's Christmas this quarter I have 2 Christmas projects I want to finish.  This lone star top for a lap quilt for my Aunt & Uncle was pieced last year and I didn't get it finished in time.
  •  My second Christmas project is something I want to make for myself - a table runner for the Kitchen.  It's a variation of the Star Crossing block I came up with and I think frosty blues and white would be lovely.  I have no fabric bought for this yet, it is only a computer design so a totally new item on the list.
  • And finally as I can never seem to have enough cushions for the sofa (Sorry Gordon!) I have the mini fussy cut squares I received in What the Bobbin's swap.  I'm making 4 more to make a cushion.

I'm trying to get my score up from 2/5 so this time around I put in more small projects as well as whole quilts.  So 7 projects this time.  Wish me luck!  Linking up to

she can quilt
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