Monday 30 January 2012

Cozy clocks and re-purposed shirts

We had a beautiful, sunny, but cold weekend here in Riga so took the opportunity to have a wander around the Old Town centre. I couldn't resist taking a photo of this clock to share with you, obviously the temperature is colder than I thought if the clocks need to have covers.

Laima is a chocolate factory here in Latvia and the Laima clock is a well-known meeting place in the centre of the Old Town. I can't imagine how long it must have taken to produce a knitted cover for the clock and would love to have been around when the clock was being dressed. Knitting is not my forte, unfortunately, despite my mother being an excellent knitter. I have bursts of enthusiasm and buy lovely wool and fancy needles but always end up adding to the basket of UFO's as the finishing off throws me every time. Perhaps I should sign up to a Knitting WIP challenge, but then again maybe not!

My favourite part of the whole knitted outfit was the scarf, how sweet for the clock to have its own scarf! I shall have to try and keep a lookout for when the knitted outfit comes off, as that must mean that the winter is officially over :)

Whilst waiting impatiently for the next blocks of the Sew Happy QAL and the HST BOM due this week I decided to work on another cushion in one of the colours of the rainbow. Having decided that blue would be the colour, I rummaged around in my scrapbag and came up with enough fabric pieces to have a go at a cushion pattern I had seen in the May 2009 issue of British Patchwork and Quilting. (I knew it was worth keeping that magazine!)

The cushion pattern is called Fleur Audrey and is also available online here so I have called my version Fleur Bleu. The cushion front and back are both cut from a discarded business shirt of my husband's, which was the perfect shade of pale blue for the background. He disputes that it was discarded but it truly was! He will be "losing" more shirts in the future as I received, for Christmas, a copy of Juliet Bawden's book "The shirt off his back", which is full of great ideas for re-purposing men's shirts. I was already putting shirts in the laundry and thinking "that would make a great bag lining" so the possibilities have increased with ownership of Juliet's book :)

Finally, if the forthcoming London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee are putting you in the mood for all things British, check out Sam's blog "Cup of tea and a Slice of cake aka UKMUMINUSA, where she is hosting a giveaway for her Union Jack pincushions. Details of the giveaway can be found here

Friday 27 January 2012

Fireflies block Sew Happy QAL

Halfway through the blocks for the Sew Happy QAL and I am still in there! When I signed up for this I worried that I would not be able to keep up, but so far, fingers firmly crossed, it hasn't been a problem.

This block looked quite daunting when I first saw it, but with my new best friend, the starch spray, it came together much more easily than I had thought. Thanks Sew Happy Geek for the tip!

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Dipping into DWR blocks

Having recognised that a Double Wedding Ring quilt is way beyond my abilities at the moment, and salved my conscience by signing up for the Sew Happy QAL to make a quilt for my son and daughter-in-law, I thought I could at least take a tiny, baby step on the journey towards a DWR quilt. One of my birthday presents last year was a copy of I (heart) Patchwork by Rashida Coleman-Hale, which has instructions for a linen teatowel with appliqued DWR-like patchwork arc, so what could be more perfect for a tiny, baby step?

Whilst living in the Baltic States means that quilting cotton is not easily available, the same cannot be said for linen, there is lots of beautiful linen here and I am happily building up a sizeable stash whilst I can! A recent trip to Vilnius, Lithuania, for example, yielded these lovely linens.

So with a delve into my "scrap bag" I was able to come up with enough small scraps to make two arcs for my teatowel, as opposed to the one given in the instructions. Initially I thought that the finished arc didn't look quite as curved as the example in the book, but by the time I had hand-appliqued them to the teatowel there was a definite curve there I am pleased to say. I hadn't intended to hand-applique but for some reason the tension on my sewing machine went completely to pot, and neither rethreading nor adjusting the tension made any difference, so hand-applique it was. Actually I think it looks better that way, but I hope it holds up to the rough treatment I usually mete out to my teatowels! If you have any suggestions as to what else I might try to sort out the tension problem they would be much appreciated.

This is actually the third project I have made from I (heart) Patchwork, which makes the book a winner for me. I have lost count of the number of books I have bought or been gifted that I have discovered have only one project in that interests me enough to attempt. The previous projects were an apron for my daughter-in-law to go with the pastry course she wanted for her birthday and a cute little pincushion holder for myself.

The dish is a paint tray and cost less than £1 in a local craft supplies shop and as the rest was from scraps of stuffing and fabric it was a very economical make.

I find it difficult to resist new sewing/craft books when I see them, but they don't all live up to their promise and turn out to be expensive patterns if I only make one thing from them. Which books are well-thumbed in your collection and which have gathered dust after your initial look through?

Monday 23 January 2012

Buttons, Baubles and HST's

I have been wanting to try making buttons for ages, but have only just got round to making them with polymer clay, and what fun it was. Before Christmas I had a go at making Christmas pudding and Candy Cane earrings from clay for the craft stall at our charity Christmas Bazaar and was really pleased with how they turned out.

So when I found the right glaze and a texture mat in a local shop I was really keen to have a go at some buttons for my cushions, and I finally found the time this weekend. One of the great things about using the clay was that when it didn't quite go to plan I just gathered it all up and rolled it out again, which certainly beat unpicking stitches :) Making the buttons was really straightforward, after you have kneaded the clay for a couple of minutes to get it pliable, you roll it out stamp it, punch holes with a needle and bake it. Once baked I highlighted the stamped pattern with silver paint on some of the buttons and left others without any additional highlighting and then glazed them and left them to dry. I could have sanded them before painting and glazing them but didn't have any sandpaper so didn't, but I think I would in future as it probably gives a more professional finish.

Apart from the texture mat and an acrylic rolling pin the only other equipment I used to shape the buttons was an icing nozzle to cut out the round shapes and a darning needle to punch the buttonholes, so not much of an outlay! I am delighted with my buttons and can't wait to have another go at making them. The red ones I used to finish off the back of my reindeer cushion (the first of my 12 WIP's in 2012 to be finished!!!) and I will use the green ones on the back of my Shades of Green cushion (hopefully, the second of my 12 in 2012 WIP's!).

As we had more snow over the weekend there wasn't much incentive to go outside, so as well as playing with clay I also got the opportunity to tackle my first block for the HST BOM by In Color Order. I was delighted to be able to source all the fabrics needed from my stash, so no need to brave the elements for supplies. As I have no idea where we will be when the quilt is finished at the end of the year, this one is purely for pleasure.

I do like the pace of a BOM, as having made this block everything has been put back into the cupboard until the next block is revealed. I suspect though as holidays and life intervenes later in the year the schedule might not seem quite so relaxing! If you have completed a BOM quilt before you can let me know what to expect :)

Thursday 19 January 2012

12 WIP's in 2012

Just came across AJ's blog with her 12 WIP's for 2012, what an excellent idea and just up my street at the moment, so I am signing in! We will, hopefully, be moving back home sometime this year so this is a great incentive to get things finished before the move. The WIP's are in two parts, six should be projects that have already been started and put aside (abandoned!) and six should be projects that I have the materials for but have never started and I have lots of these! To take part I need to send AJ a fat quarter of fabric and at the end of the year she will have a draw and the winner will get the donated fabrics, which is quite neat.

By typing these projects I am committing myself to finishing them, so here goes -  the first 6 of my WIP's are to:

  • Back, quilt and bind the sunflowers quilt I have been working on for a couple of years. The quilt is pieced but hasn't got any further
  • Back, quilt and bind the Irish Chain quilt I started last winter. Again the quilt is pieced but I mucked up the measurements so it didn't work as an Irish Chain and was consigned to the cupboard
  • Make the final block for the Quilt As You Go sampler quilt I started a few years ago at my first ever patchwork and quilting class. The block is meant for the centre of the quilt and is a folded star block but I have lost the instructions on how to finish it, so it has been gathering dust for ages. It can't be that difficult to find instructions on how to finish it off, can it?
These are the three big WIP's hanging over me, the next three are less daunting but that hasn't stopped me putting off finishing them!

  • To make buttons and buttonhole loops for my winter cushion to finish off the back. I cut the envelope backing a bit neat on this cushion so it really needs a button closure to stop it from gaping and I have seen instructions on how to make your own buttons with modelling clay, so that is what I plan to do

Reindeer Cushion
  • To finish the Shades of Green cushion I have hand pieced and quilted but not backed and, hopefully, I will have learned my lesson from the cushion above and will cut the back to the correct size this time!
  • To either finish (again) or recycle the material from the Dragon Bag I made to carry at my son's wedding. I did finish the bag before the wedding but never got to use it as the first time I carried it with belongings inside the bag came away from the frame! I have made several other bags with glued-on frames and it had never happened before, but none were as big as this bag so that might have been part of the problem.

Big Betty Bag pattern from

That is a daunting list, but maybe if I start off slowly and work up, who knows, by the end of the year I could finally have some quilts on beds and space in cupboards! Fingers crossed.

The second half of the challenge is maybe not so daunting, although time will no doubt tell whether I am being overly optimistic again. My list for this only has two largish quilts in it, so is hopefully eminently doable even with the challenges I have set myself in the first half. So here is my list:

  • To complete the quilt for my son and daughter-in-law that I have signed up for with Sew Happy Geek's QAL
  • To complete the quilt I have signed up for at In Color Order's HST BOM
  • To finally make the Days to Santa Countdown from Nancy Halverson's 12 Days of Christmas booklet. I have had the fabric for this for a couple of years now and promise myself every year that I will start it in time to have it completed for December 1st, and every year the time passes and I have missed the opportunity to get it done in time again!
  • To sew for myself, or possibly my daughter-in-law or son's girlfriend, one of the bags from Amy Butler's Style Stitches, the book will turn out to be an expensive indulgence if I don't make at least one handbag from it
  • To make for myself a fashionista bag from Lisa Lam's Bag Making Bible, I have made two of them already both for my daughter-in-law, but despite buying some lovely pink wool fabric in Tallinn especially for this bag and having all the hardware needed it hasn't even been started
  • The final WIP for this challenge is another bag, a patchwork bag I bought the pattern and fabric for on a quick stop in the Scottish borders whilst we were taking our youngest son to University. The purchase was probably as much about being able to have my pick of quilting fabric and notions as about the pattern, as quilting cottons are not popular here in Latvia, so I am like a child in a sweet shop when I get in a quilt shop in the UK :)
I think that is probably enough to be going on with for now. Coming up with the list itself was an interesting exercise though as it did concentrate my mind on what was achievable and, in some cases, how little I actually had to do to finally finish something. No doubt I will be diverted in the coming months but having this in black and white will make sure I get back on track, at least that is the plan.

Let me know what your plans are for the coming year, so that I don't feel so bad about having so many unfinished projects cluttering up my cupboards!

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Work in progress - some faster than others!

Halfway through the month is a good time to reflect on my progress, especially in January when by now apparently most resolutions have been broken. Well my resolutions this year were to

  • join a Quiltalong
  • start Blogging
  • make 12 cushions using 12 different techniques 
  • and take part in a sewing swap 
Well I can tick the first two as I am taking part in the Sew Happy QAL and this post is evidence of the second.

For the third I have pieced and quilted this shades of green cushion, but have to admit that it was all done before Christmas and has been sitting waiting for more attention since then. However, I have also bought some green linen fabric that I think will be ideal for a cushion back so will plan to have that done for the end of the month! When I started putting these greens together from my scrap bag I had the idea that I could work my way through the colours of the rainbow for the cushions, which won't take up 12 months I know, but at least gives me a start.

As for the 4th resolution to take part in a sewing swap that is still on the agenda but I have a whole year yet to complete that one so that isn't broken yet!

As well as joining up to the Sew Happy QAL I have also decided to tackle In Color Order's HST BOM quilt, I am nothing if not keen, so a happy hour was spent yesterday wading through my fabric stash to put together some fabrics for the first star. This task would have been a lot easier if my fabrics were in any sort of order but unfortunately they are not, one of these days .... (maybe that should have been one of my resolutions!)

As well as patchwork I have also recently rediscovered my passion for cross stitching, not least due to the birthday present from my son of a copy of "Made in France, cross stitch and embroidery in red, white and blue by Agnes Delage-Calvet. The motifs are lovely and as they are in one colour, very easy to do whilst watching/listening to TV in the evenings. I have already finished one towel in red with her Russian Doll pattern, a teatowel in blue with the teapot pattern, a small purse in red with a wildflower pattern and I am halfway through another towel using four fish charts, and there are plenty more charts that I would like to do!

I think these are not bad beginnings for the year, so hopefully will bode well for the rest of 2012.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Templates and Trials

Just finished the fifth block in the Sew Happy Quiltalong. According to Jenna it was designated for slightly advanced beginners, which certainly means I am a beginner and far from advanced!

I had a bit of bother with the templates as I couldn't get my head round "sticking" the templates to the fabric and kept shaving slivers off of the template every time I cut! Jenna does talk about using a Lazy Angle ruler and I suspect that if I had had one of these I wouldn't have had so much trouble. Still the end result is not a disaster and with only one block this week I have time (if maybe not enough fabric) to make another if I decide it will turn out better.

Another project - BOM quilt?

Just came across the Half-Square Triangle (HST) Block of the Month (BOM) quilt a long by In Color Order and will be rushing to my burgeoning stash. At one block a month I think I should be able to keep up, and as I need all the practice I can get by the end of the year I should have cracked cutting and piecing triangles with any luck.

This timescale also gives me plenty of time to find a good source for decent quality wadding/batting, which is something I have struggled to find here in the past. It is also, unfortunately, extremely expensive to have sent so my usual strategy of internet shopping is not the answer. If anyone has details of a supplier of good quality wadding/batting in the Baltics I would be delighted to hear from them!

Sunday 15 January 2012

Quilts and Promises

I promised my son and his new wife a quilt for their wedding. In actual fact, I promised them a Double Wedding Ring quilt, how ambitious/over-optimistic was that?

Well they were married in February last year and the Double Wedding Ring templates are still firmly in their packaging! Having only ever made 2 bed-size and 2 lap quilts before what on earth made me think that I could make a Double Wedding Ring quilt in 6 months?? Blind optimism or staggering naivety, you tell me. As the 2 bed size quilts already made have gone to his brothers , the son recipient of the Double Wedding Ring quilt has not been slow to remind me of my rash promise when the opportunity arises. So in an attempt to regain some credibility with aforementioned son I have signed up for Sew Happy Geek's quilt along. Not quite a DWR quilt I know but a quilt nevertheless and one that involves the very scary technique of paper-piecing (!) so not without its challenges.

Two weeks and 4 blocks into the QAL and I am thoroughly enjoying myself thanks Sew Happy Geek!
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