Friday, 27 April 2012

Playing and Floating!

Before we went on holiday I signed up for the Siblings Together charity appeal launched by Lynne at Lily's Quilts, but have only now got around to starting on the blocks. Knowing my limitations I did not sign up to making a complete quilt but, instead, committed to making blocks to go towards a quilt. Judith at needles and lemons volunteered to co-ordinate a quilt from simple log-cabin style blocks, and here are the first of my blocks to be ready for posting.

The batik fabrics are scraps from a quilt that I made for my youngest son to take to University, so are, I think, especially appropriate for this quilt and cause. I always enjoy seeing the camaraderie between my 3 boys when they get together, as they did over Easter, so hope that some of that will be passed on in the quilt blocks. For more information about the charity and the quilt appeal check here and in the Flickr group here

I am obviously in signing-up mode at the moment, as I have just signed up to take part in Sew Happy Geek's Play mini-quilt challenge! The challenge invites participants to make a mini-quilt based upon a playing card, and having never made a mini-quilt I thought that it was about time that I had a go. There are some great prizes on offer too, so if you are a keen bridge player or poker fiend, head on over to Sew Happy Geek to find out how to indulge your twin passions and maybe pick up a prize along the way!

I found these fabrics in my stash, so think I might use them in the challenge. That, I have to say is as far as I have got in the planning and the min quilt has to be submitted by May 21st, so I need to get a move on :)

This is a short post as I am heading out to have a Berry and Ginger spa treatment. I won a voucher for the spa at a Christmas Bazaar, but have only just got around to making the appointment. The voucher runs out on April 30th, so I have just made it. Apparently after the peel and fragrant oil massage I will be floating on my own personal, perfumed cloud. so in exactly the right frame of mind to tackle the outstanding blocks on the NY Beauty QAL!

Thursday, 26 April 2012


With football on the TV last night, I had a great opportunity to crack on with the second block for April in the Craftsy BOM, as my other half would be too occupied to expect any conversation! The instructions for the second English paper pieced block produce a sun-ray block with a "grass" border, but that wasn't going to work with my colours, so I adapted it slightly by taking out the grass border and increasing the rays.

As this class is all about learning new skills, I decided to have a go at machine applique for the blocks too. I have only done this once before with circles and they are definitely easier to do, no corners to worry about! Originally I had planned to put some hexagons between the rays, but it ended up looking very cluttered, so decided against it. It might have worked with very small hexagons, but I have my limits!

The project for this week of the Zakka-style SAL is a small portable sewing pouch with another pincushion. I don't really use pincushions much but made it anyway. I am sure it will come in handy on our next road trip. No zig-zags involved so a doddle compared to the tote project, although I did manage to attach the leather thong the wrong way round so the long end was on the inside! It was a good thing that I had overestimated the length needed.

The interior fabric was a FQ from the bundle for my teatime quilt that was a bit too "babyish" as the quilt is for my mum, but was ideal for this. The embroidery motif on the pincushion is from Aimee Ray's Doodle Stitching.

Next week's project is a pencil case, so should be fairly straightforward too, although some of the pieces seem very small!

Have been measuring and cutting away today, so will, hopefully have more progress to report soon.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Shopping, stitching and sighing!

I realised when looking at my photos that the only photos I have shared of the markets here were of the fish market. Now, whilst we like fish we do buy other things at the market, so this weekend on our weekly shopping trip and walk back through the Old Town I took some photos to give you an idea of the shopping opportunities in Riga!

Now that Spring has (finally) arrived many of the fruit and veg stallholders have moved outside, so the area around the Market pavilions is a riot of colour. Later in the summer small stalls will be set up with people offering produce from their gardens and allotments. Last year we particularly enjoyed the tiny wild strawberries for sale on these stalls, so we are looking forward to trying more of them this summer. The time for fur hats has, thankfully, passed so the ones you see are aimed at tourists, who were out in force this weekend, so the fur lady and her neighbours selling knitted socks and gloves and amber jewellery will have been happy. The handicraft ladies ply their wares all year round so must be a very hardy bunch!

Although it felt like I spent a lot of time sewing over the weekend I don't seem to have much to show for it. I did, however, get last week's project from the Zakka-style SAL completed.

I have been hoarding the fabric and ribbon for a while so it was nice to finally find a use for them. I didn't have the right stuffing so made do with leftover wadding, so it is a bit lumpier than I would have liked. At least, though, it is finished which is more than can be said for the first project in the book, the zig-zag style tote. Having spent what seems like all week on this tote I am still some way from finishing and the photo below shows you why!

When I joined the zig-zag panel to the plain side panels to make up the front of the tote I lost my points on the edges! I was tempted, as you can see, to ignore this and make up the bag anyway, but have decided that this is all character building so am steeling myself to start all over on the zig-zags. I have also discovered (thanks Kirsty QP) that I am not the only one to have trouble with this project, so I don't feel quite so bad :) Check out Finding Fifth's  blog if you are struggling too.

As it is nearly the end of the month I am trying to catch up on my BOM's before I get behind again, so spent again what seemed like many hours hand-piecing hexagons for the Craftsy BOM for April. One down, one to go, hope there is something good on TV this week so that I can get stuck into the second block.

I only realised as I was sewing the last one down that I had intended to have both of the half-hexagons with the blue side on the white background. At 11.00p.m it was definitely not going to be changed!

When we  were in Tallinn a few weeks ago I found a copy of the craft magazine Mollie Makes so naturally snapped it up. The magazine had a pattern for a Crochet Flower Brooch, which caught my eye as it seemed reasonably straightforward for a non-crocheter. However, despite several attempts I have to confess to coming unstuck.

I am hoping the crochet experts amongst you can explain what the following instruction means (or point me in the direction of a good tutorial) as I cannot get my head around it. The pattern says "With RS of the work facing, work in a spiral towards the centre of the base. Work into both loops of Round 4, then into the unused loops of rounds 3, 2 and then 1 of the spiral base, until you have reached the very centre." Sorry, I have no idea what this means!!

We are heading off on a trip next weekend so I was hoping to take the crochet along to do on the plane,  hopefully someone will be able to help me out.

Hope your weekend was more productive than mine.

Linking up to BOM's away here , Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday here and Manic Monday here

Friday, 20 April 2012

Cushions, scraps and zig-zags

Taking part in the Littlest Thistle's Foundation Paper Piecing for the Terrified (FPPFTT)has been great fun and a steep learning curve, but has also meant that I now have several paper-pieced orphan blocks. So, in a bid to find at least one of them a home I had backed and quilted the Circle of Geese block that we made in Week 4 with the intent that it would become a cushion to go with the quilt made for my son and daughter-in-law. So with no time like the present I set to this morning to add the back and finish at least one project this week!

Initially I had intended to bind the cushion with some of the leftover binding from the Sew Happy Sampler Quilt that all of the fabrics in the cushion came from, but I decided that it was "over-egging the pudding" and left it as is. I am going to use another of the FPPFTT orphan blocks that was also made from leftover fabric from the Sew Happy QAL for another cushion for my son and daughter-in-law, so might use the leftover binding on that instead.

Talking of cushions I discovered when I was working on the sunflower quilt in the previous post that I had had a Dresden plate sunflower left over from piecing the quilt top. As I have yet to make the yellow cushion for my set of rainbow cushions, there are no prizes for guessing where this sunflower will end up :)

I have even more cushion plans in the coming weeks as I have now received the wonderful Indigo fabrics that I ordered recently from the African Fabric shop The fabrics were even lovelier than I had expected.

Originally I was planning to cut and piece the fabrics but having seen them I am now not so sure that I want to cut them up. I have (somewhere!) a pattern and instructions for a machined Trapunto cushion and I am now thinking that that might be better, as you will get the benefit of the full design. Having never attempted Trapunto before, I might be biting off more than I can chew though! As ever, all advice gratefully received!

 This week I have also made a start on the first of the Zakka-style SAL projects, having missed the start I  am loath to fall too far behind. The first project is a tote bag with a zig-zag pattern made from quarter-square triangles on the front of the bag. One of the things that attracted me to Rashida Coleman-Hale's Zakka style books is her liberal use of linen as, unlike quilting cotton, linen is in plentiful supply in this part of the world. QST's are bad enough but QST's in linen that is a whole, different story! I have starched the linen squares and triangles to within an inch of their lives in an attempt to control them, but I am not sure that I am winning just yet.

It took me all afternoon yesterday to get this much done. Ripping out seams on small linen triangles is definitely no joke! The plan is to give the finished bag to my mum for her knitting when we are home next, but at this rate it will be Christmas before it is finished.

Hope you are all having a productive week.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sunflowers and Sewing

Just back from our Easter holiday in France, hence the silence on the blogging front for the last couple of weeks. We hoped to be heading off south for sunshine and some welcome warmth but, alas, that wasn't quite what we got! Still, besides the rain we did get to see our sons and daughter-in-law over the Easter weekend, which more than made up for the wet, miserable weather.

As they were all flying in to (and in two cases out of) Bordeaux, we took the opportunity to wander around what is, undoubtedly, one of my favourite cities. In recent years, there has been a big "clean-up" operation in the city, so the beautiful golden stonework of the Old City has been re-instated and you can see some of the results below. The clean-up operation on the Cathedral is still ongoing so the contrast between the cleaned up tower and the still to be cleaned main building is striking.

On a sunny day the city glows!

In amongst the trips to airports I did manage to fit in some sewing, although not the first projects of the Zakka-style SAL that I had planned! Over the last few years I have been patiently piecing together Dresden plate blocks in shades of yellow and gold for a Sunflower quilt. In the summer the SW of France is a blaze of golden yellow from the sunflower fields and it is lovely to see the rows upon rows of sunflower heads lifted to the sun, so my Dresden plates were to remind me of these when the sun is in short supply. The quilt top was pieced last Autumn, so this was my first chance to get the top backed and bound.

I had what I thought was sufficient wadding for this top but, unfortunately, turned out to be some several inches short when I laid the quilt out, so a trip to the nearest fabric shop was called for. The shop mainly retails fabrics for curtains and dressmaking so the only wadding that I could find was very puffy (high loft??) but wide enough to be used in one piece so ideal, or so I thought.

My small sewing machine had other ideas! The machine (and I) really struggled to cope with the backed quilt. The stitch length shortened as the speed increased, very frustrating, so the initial plan to outline machine quilt each sunflower was abandoned in favour of hand quilting. Much less frustrating to manage, but hard on the fingertips!

When I quilted the Circle of Geese cushion top that was basted with ordinary low-loft wadding there were no problems with the stitch length, so I can only assume that the puffiness of the wadding was the problem.

(See Megan's blog for the inspiration for this quilting)

Encouraged by the problem-free quilting on the cushion top and determined, however, to have the borders and sashing machine quilted I braced myself for another tussle with the machine. This time the main problem was that the top thread kept snapping! I was using King Tut thread for the quilting, which I had bought a while ago specifically for this quilt. I have never used this thread before but thought it was a reliable make. I ended up going out and buying some Gutterman all-purpose thread as the King Tut thread snapped so often that it was impossible to use. Has anyone else had any problems with this thread? I have bought the same make of thread to quilt my Almost Irish Chain quilt and I really don't want to start using it if I am going to have the same problems all over again!

After much muttered (bad!) language and several inadvertent tucks the quilting was eventually finished. It certainly doesn't bear any close scrutiny but it will definitely keep us warm at night when the temperature drops, which is what it is for.

I think if I was starting this quilt now I would probably choose a solid for the squares as it looks a bit too busy for me now, but given the hassle involved in getting it finished I can happily overlook that :) When I look at the quilt pattern that inspired it in Quilt magazine in 2007 it too is too busy for my tastes now, but as they say you live and learn!

As it is a Wednesday I can take pleasure in moving this quilt into the completed part of my WIP list and it is also my finished WIP for 12 WIP's in 2012, so another bonus to its' completion.


  • Reindeer Cushion
  • Shades of Green, Fleur Bleu, Checkered Heart and Orange cushions 
  • Orphan Block needle roll 
  • Pieced arc tea towel  
  • Yo-yo maker purse 
  • Padded hangers and tutorial

  • 3 blocks of In Color Order HST BOM (up-to-date) 
  • (Almost) Irish Chain quilt now basted 
  • Zakka-style SAL (2 projects behind schedule)
  • First border of teatime quilt completed, blocks calculated and fabric cut
  • 4 blocks of NY Beauty QAL completed (2 blocks behind schedule)
  • 6 blocks of Craftsy BOM completed (on schedule)


  • Indigo, yellow and violet rainbow cushions
  • Last block of Sampler quilt
  • Amy Butler bag 
  • Bag Making Bible Fashionista Bag 
  • Dragon Bag
  • Patchwork Block bag
  • Christmas mini quilts 

I am off to reply to the comments all the lovely readers have left on my blog whilst I have been away, so if you haven't received a reply now you know why (unless of course you are a no-reply blogger!) and then catch up on all that has been happening in crafty blogland

Linking up to Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday and Esther's  WOW

      Sunday, 1 April 2012

      Rockets and Round-ups

      Happy April Fool's Day, I hope it heralds Spring wherever you are. Although not yet Spring here the gardeners are out in the parks sprucing up the city, so it can't be far away.

      This week saw the last of Katy's FPPFTT lesson, and what a lesson it was! Our challenge this week was to master picture blocks, and in Katy's introduction to the block she tells us that she assumes we now understand the basics, like lining up odd shapes of fabric. Alas, I need to go to the back of the class as not only did the acute angles on a couple of the pieces do for me, so that blocks had to be re cut, but I also managed to piece the windows with the fabric the wrong way round!! Ripped paper foundations were only the beginning of my problems with these tiny windows :) So, here, anyway, is the rocket block in its less than perfect form!

      More practise undoubtedly needed! I would never have even managed this much 6 weeks ago, so I must thank Katy for her excellent tutorials, and point out that all mistakes are my own! Despite the obvious errors this piece is now framed and ready to be hung in a prominent place, (well maybe not that prominent!).  Thanks Katy.

      As it is a new month (already?) here is my round up of projects completed in March. I am delighted to see that if I get the latest NYB QAL completed later today, I will be completely up to date with all the various projects. This state of affairs will not last of course, so I will make the most of it whilst I can!

      My copy of Zakka style arrived in the post on Friday, just in time for the start of the Sew Along tomorrow, so I am really looking forward to cutting into my linen stash for some of the lovely projects in the book. The first project is a tote bag with a HST strip on the front, so the practise I have had with  In Color Order's HST BOM will come in handy!

      As I mentioned in a previous post, we spent a couple of days in Tallinn, Estonia this week. The Old Town of Tallinn is more compact than its counterpart in Riga, and, due to the cruise ships calling in everyday in the Summer months, can be very busy in the peak cruising season. So, this time of year is a nice time to visit, the snow has gone but the cruise ship tours have not started yet, so the city is still fairly quiet and easy to get around.

      Here is a quick taste of Tallinn

      The beautifully decorated staircase is the entrance to the Bank of Estonia Museum and even more beautiful in real life. The patterned tiles were at the entrance to offices and apartments on the edge of the Old Town, and would make a great quilt pattern, wouldn't they? I loved the old (I am assuming it was old!) umbrella being used as a flower holder on an Old Town door, compact umbrellas just don't have the same appeal!

      If you have young sons they will probably, like mine, enjoy the name of the Tower in the bottom row. It is called Kiek in de Kok, which means Peep into the Kitchen, but needless to say my sons were not interested in the translation!

      The ladies of the knitwear market in the second row are real stalwarts and man their stalls throughout the winter, despite the weather. That is real dedication!

      Linking up to Lily's Quilts Fresh Sewing Day and Small Blog Meet here ,Sew Modern Monday here
      and BOM's away here
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