Saturday 30 June 2012

Dragon bags deconstructed and reconstructed

Although I managed to polish of most of my BOM's in the early part of this month, I somehow left my June project for 12 WIP's in 2012  until the last minute. So I have been sneaking in some sewing (and seam ripping) time in the last couple of days to try and get this in before June disappears.

Last year I wanted to make a special bag to have at my son's wedding, and when I saw u-handbag's Big 'n Beautiful Betty pattern I knew that this was it.  Finding the perfect fabric was not quite so easy, the bag had to match my purple outfit and I wanted the fabric to be extra-special. (I actually ended up with 3 outfits to choose from, all purple, but we'll not go into that now!) On a late night internet trawl I found an Alexander Henry fabric that fitted the bill perfectly, but as it was an old line it took some weeks to track down a large enough piece for my bag.

With the pattern and fabric I set to. I have made several purse frame bags from u-handbag kits and patterns so although this was by far the biggest frame purse I had attempted, I didn't think it would be any more difficult than the previous ones.

Well that frill along the top gave me all sorts of grief! I have always struggled a bit with the final stage of gluing the bag into the frame, but with a frill to complicate matters it took even longer, so that it was not finished in time :( As you can see, I did finish the bag, but after the first use I noticed that the frame and the bag were beginning to part company, so put the whole thing away resolving to sort it out sometime.

Well that time was this month, sorting out this bag was one of my 12 WIP's for 2012 and I hoped, the only one that I could feasibly finish in time for the looming end of June. So, I set to with scissors and brute strength to wrestle the bag from the remainder of the frame, no easy task given that the point of the glue is that it will withstand the very thing I was trying to do!

After a lot of tugging and pulling I managed to separate them both, where I discovered that my original gluing had been less than even, which was I suspect the reason that I had problems in the first place. So with the bag deconstructed I set about recycling the fabric to create another bag, using my favourite Kyoko Frilled Pouch pattern from u-handbag. Most of the fabric in the new bag was recycled from the old, except for the exterior bag base, which needed a small piece of the leftover fabric from the original bag.

Now that the bag is completed and (fingers crossed!) unlikely to fall apart, all I need is another wedding to go to :)

Unlike large parts of the UK, the weather here in Riga would be ideal for a wedding and there would be no shortage of flowers as these stalls at the Central Market show.

If we only had somewhere to put them we would be investing heavily in these hanging baskets and potted plants!

Another finish to tick off the list by the skin of my teeth! I shall definitely try not to leave it to the last minute next month.

Linking up to 12 WIP's in 2012 and Purse Palooza and Threading My Way features

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Door stops and Bargains

When our youngest son moved last September to a new (and draughty) flat for his last year in University, I made him a draught excluder for the back door to keep out the cold Edinburgh winds.

I also promised him a fabric door stop, and, indeed, set to on cutting up an old pair of jeans many months ago. Well, he graduated last week, so the door stop is no longer needed, but I got round to finishing it all the same!

The pattern and instructions came from an early issue of the Simply Homemade magazine. It is the first time I have attempted satin stitch outlining for applique and some of those tiny shapes like the wheels and side view mirrors were hard going!
The instructions say to fill the door stop with 1Kg of rice but I am not so sure about that, have you ever used rice as a stuffing, is it suitable? 1Kg of rice only fills up less than half of the door stop, so I have stuffed the rest with the innards of an old cushion to fill it out a bit more, but I am not convinced that this is the best way to fill this. All suggestions gratefully received!

I was pretty pleased with the piping as with the denim and piping there were several layers to get through in the last round of sewing. I was a bit nervous turning it out in case I had managed to miss anywhere, but thankfully it all seems to be fine!

As it is no longer needed as a door stop this will be my entry in to the Crafter's Apprentice Something Old Something New competition, whilst I think of somewhere to use it.

One of the joys of being back in the UK is the opportunity to visit fabric stores in person, so when I discovered that our local John Lewis store had a sale on, I knew which department I would be making a beeline for on my next trip into town. Joel Dewberry fabrics half-price - yes, please!

I have no idea what I will do with them but on a grey day they were too bright and cheerful to resist!

In another piece of good fortune I discovered today that Sarah of Silly Banana Sewing pulled my name out of the hat in her recent giveaway, so a charm pack of Make Life by Sweetwater for Moda is winging its way to me too! I have just discovered the joys of charm packs, so I am really looking forward to using it. Thanks Sarah!

Linking up to Sew Modern Monday, and Manic Monday

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Russian sights and Dorset buttons

The city of St Petersburg has been on our list of places to visit for many years and with it being so much closer since we have been in Riga, it seemed like an obvious place to go. Holding us back though was the need to send off our passports for anything up to 3 weeks, what if something happened at home and we needed to get back quickly? So when we discovered recently that a Russian ferry line were running visa-free cruises to St Petersburg from Tallinn, we hot-footed it to their offices to book up. The ship leaves Tallinn in the evening and arrives early morning in St Petersburg, leaving in the evening the same day so we would have a whole day to enjoy the delights of St Petersburg before heading on to Helsinki, the next port of call and getting another ferry back to Tallinn. It sounds like a lot of travelling for a day, but the trips to and fro from St Petersburg were both overnight sailings and the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn only takes a couple of hours, so it wasn't as much as it sounds. We found out later that we could have booked a 72-hour stay in St Petersburg, still visa-free, so would have done that had we known.

St Petersburg was all that we imagined it to be and more! We were lucky that the weather was glorious for the day of our visit, so the city was seen at its' best.

This is another view of the Church of the Spilled Blood, look at the colours in those towers, aren't they spectacular? On the day we visited the Church was not open to the public, and as it is just as fabulous inside as out, we have a ready-made reason to return!

These children were dancing outside of the Church and having a great time.

We went on a river cruise, which had a Russian commentary and as we don't speak Russian, we had plenty of time to enjoy the views and bask in the sunshine!

We were lucky enough to catch a military parade in front of the Hermitage too. We didn't have time either to take a tour of the Hermitage, but as the guide told us on our morning tour of the City that it would take 3 years to view all of the exhibits, we didn't feel so bad about not having the time! Another reason to return.

Don't they look smart? They sounded good too.

With overnight crossings both ways I had plenty of time to try out a kit that I had bought on my last trip to London. The kit was for Dorset buttons, which I think I had read about a long time ago but had never come across a kit for before.

They were surprisingly quick and simple to do, once I had got the hang of it. The large red ones are from the kit. The first one I made is the lower of the two, and then I went out and bought some more brass rings and thread to make the smaller ones. To make them you just wrap the ring in blanket stitches, turn the rim of the stitches to the inside then wrap the ring several times and stitch alternate spokes to create the centres. More instructions can be found here I used pearl cotton for the green and purple buttons, but you could use stranded cotton as well. They are an ideal project for travelling as they require very little in the way of equipment.

We are off to Edinburgh next for our youngest son's graduation, so I have been toying with the idea of English paper pieced hexagons for my Star of Africa Bee block, sounds like the perfect project for travelling!

Hope the weather in Edinburgh is as good as it was in St Petersburg :)

Monday 18 June 2012

Bee Blocks and Blocking

A couple of weeks ago I signed up for the Sunday Morning Quilts Bee, organised by Grammie Q. The blocks for the Bee are based upon a block in the book, Sunday Morning Quilts by Amanda Jean Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison. I had been eyeing up the book anyway, so was delighted to have a reason to buy it. Although the book was apparently in stock when I ordered it on the Book Depository website (Amazon were showing a 3 week delivery time!) and so, I should have received it before we left the UK to come back to Riga, naturally it didn't turn up until after we had left. Fortunately, our son was able to forward it on to me, so it finally arrived in Riga last week and I was, at last, able to start on my first ever Bee blocks. What a responsibility they are!

The blocks weren't difficult but I was conscious the entire time that the finished block would be subject to the scrutiny of someone who has probably been sewing longer than I have, and is so much more accurate than I am (even although the chosen block does not call for accuracy!). The colour for this month's blocks is yellow, and even that was a cause for anxiety - does yellow with multi-coloured dots count as yellow? As you can see I decided it didn't, but having looked at some of the blocks in the Flickr Group other Bees made a different decision. I am sure that once I have got a few blocks under my belt, I will be more relaxed about the whole thing, at least I hope so!

I have also joined the Star of Africa Bee, where we are producing blocks that represent our country or culture, even more scope for anxiety I suspect :) They are next on my to-do list.

Now that I have mastered (!) crochet flowers, I have been having a go at more of the projects in my "Cute and Easy crochet" book. I have made a start on the stripy cushion with my various shades of pink yarn and have just finished the front, although with all the yarn changes there are an awful lot of ends to be sewn in. In the meantime I tackled the purse project from the book, with a ball of variegated yarn that I had bought for no apparent purpose a while ago. I hope that I am not the only one who does that!

The crochet was mainly straightforward, although the flap front is more uneven than it should be and looks a much smoother curve in the book than mine turned out to be. The pouch was the perfect size for the variegation in the yarn, which was a pleasant surprise, and the actual crochet worked up very quickly.

I had the perfect fabric for the lining in a FQ that I won in Jenna's Sew Happy QAL, so was delighted to find such a good use for it. I have never blocked a piece of crochet before and was surprised to find that even although the book is aimed at beginners and gives comprehensive instructions on crochet stitches, there are no instructions on how to block a crochet piece. Given the nature of several of the projects in the book, cushions, bags, throws, etc., and the fact that the instructions for this project state that the crochet should be blocked, I would have expected some basic instruction at least. Fortunately a quick Internet search provided the necessary information. I get so annoyed when books and patterns for beginners assume a level of knowledge that I don't have!

The Let's Get Acquainted Blog Hop organised by Plum and June is really picking up a head of steam now, there have been some great projects already and some great advice for new (and not-so-new!) bloggers. This week's posts will be from 

Tuesday, June 19
    Jennifer from Sewlandia
    Nicole from Mama Love Quilts
Thursday, June 21
    Suzanne from SuzClaas
    Mina from Kindaquilty

Jennifer's Flower Quilt is lovely, Suzanne is hand stitching away like nobody's business and Nicole's EZ Dresden Table Runner is seriously gorgeous, I am really looking forward to seeing what they come up with for the Blog Hop! Mina is a fellow challengee (is that a word?) in the In the Bag Ugly Fabric challenge and I am so pleased to read that she is also still looking for inspiration, I am not alone!

Finally,  I will post more photos of our recent trip soon but just to show that patchwork patterns pop up everywhere, this is one of the roofs on the Church of the Spilled Blood in St Petersburg, I thought you might like it!

I am almost tempted to join in the Hexy MF QAL going on at I'm a Ginger Monkey!

Linking up to Manic Monday, Sew Modern Monday,

Monday 11 June 2012

Zakka in the pink

With wall to wall sport on the TV over the weekend to keep the husband occupied (think rugby, cricket and football!) it was the perfect opportunity for me to get cracking on some of the Zakka-style SAL projects I have been stockpiling recently.

First up was the organiser, which was the project for the week just gone. I wasn't too sure about this project at first, but as I had some nice, bright pink and white dotty linen/cotton blend that I had already earmarked for this, I decided to go with it. I am so glad that I did, as I really enjoyed putting this together, which is not to say that it all went perfectly but even the mishaps didn't put me off, so my faith in the Zakka-style book was restored.

The cutting instructions were a bit confusing I have to say, I didn't quite get the difference between inner panel and lining, even after several read throughs, and I lost track of the various cutting pieces for all of the different pockets. It wasn't helped by the fact that there were several errors in the instructions, I think 7 out of the 15 cutting instructions were incorrect, so even although I had marked the new measurements in the book, it doesn't exactly fill you with confidence that the rest are right, does it? In the end I managed to cut one of the pockets out wrongly, but, fortunately, too large rather than too small. I was also confused as to where each pocket would end up (I am easily confused as you can tell!) and would have changed the placement around if I had worked it out beforehand, but once the pieces were cut that dictated where half of the pockets would end up. That is not the pattern's fault to be fair, but rather a lack of vision on my part!

As the various branded types of interfacing are not readily available here, as with other projects I end up guessing and using what I think is the nearest equivalent from what I have to hand. So, I backed the exterior of the organiser with a fusible fleece, and re-inforced the centre with a flexible, firm interfacing, which meant that with all the pocket layers there were a lot of layers to sew by the end. My sewing machine coped manfully, thank goodness, which is more than can be said for me as I managed to sew the end of the zip into the binding! It was only when I was hand sewing the binding at the end that I realised what I had done, see what I mean about a lack of vision!

Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I was really pleased with the organiser and I am already thinking I might make some more to give as presents to my daughter-in-law and son's girlfriends. I will try to remember the next time, though, to keep the zip out of the way when sewing on the binding :)

In a rare burst of productivity I also tackled this week's Zakka-style SAL project, a tweed pouch. I don't know if it was a reaction to the unending sport but this was also a pink project. I had some lovely bright pink wool fabric that I had bought a while ago to make myself a Fashionista Bag from Lisa Lam's Bag-Making Bible book. Whilst I haven't gotten around to making the bag yet, although it is on my to-do list, I could at least make a pouch to fit in the bag in the meantime.

I changed the pattern slightly by using Lisa Lam's method to insert a top zip by adding tabs to the zipper ends, and chose to outline the appliqued hexagons in bright pink rather than the transparent thread recommended. I discovered when I went to unzip the pouch once it was finished that the lining on one side is a tad too close to the zip, so some tugging is required to get past the spot, a lesson learnt for the next time I use the zipper foot!

Just to round off the pinkness of this post, I have been getting more ambitious with the crochet and have purchased these lovely balls of yarn to make a crochet cushion cover.

I shall close this post now before you overdose on pink, normal service will be resumed shortly!

Linking up to Manic Monday , Sew Modern Monday Pieceful Life and Sew Darn Crafty

Friday 8 June 2012

From Antiques to Zakka

Having polished off the backlog in my BOM's this week was also a chance to cross off at least some of my outstanding projects in the Zakka-style SAL. In my enthusiasm I had visions of completing at least 3 of my outstanding projects but, alas, the pesky Itty Bitty magnets put a spanner in those works! Who would have thought that such tiny little things could be such trouble, and I was only attempting three of them not the full six that are in the book?

Wendy did warn me that whilst the piecing was fairly straightforward, if rather hard on the eyes, the real fun came with the last step to turn in and stitch closed the opening left for inserting the magnets, and so it proved. I can understand the desire to have nice, handmade things around you and it does lift the spirits to see patchwork every time I go to the fridge, but I am seriously doubting whether the trouble involved is worth the end result. My colourful peg fridge magnets are just as cheering and a lot less trouble. The problem lies with the tiny (to me at any rate) 1/8th" seam that is available to work with when trying to turn the last edge under, you are only talking about a few threads between you and a frayed edge - madness! I know that some quilters enjoy working on a miniature scale and produce the most breathtaking work, but having just attempted these magnets I am beginning to doubt their sanity :) Let's just say that I will not be attempting any miniature quilts anytime soon.

The trouble did not end when the seams were finally, if rather messily, tamed as despite having the same number of magnetic layers one of the magnets did not live up to its name and refused to stay put on the fridge door. I had, I thought, tested them all before sewing but I am now thinking that I might have put the sheets in the wrong way round on this one magnet, needless to say ripping out the seam to turn the magnet round was not even considered as an option! Instead, I attached another piece of the magnetic sheet to the back of the magnet and it now sticks beautifully.

Fortunately the second of my catch-up Zakka-style projects was much more enjoyable. When we were in Tallinn last week I bought some blue linen to make the Cloud Mug Rug from the book. I had already received the perfect umbrella fabric for the backing in Hilacha's Novelty and Solid's Layer Cake Swap. The mug rug project particularly appealed as it involved needle-turn applique, which was a new technique for me and also some hand and machine embroidery.

As it turned out I used hand embroidery for both the embroidered sections. The needle-turn applique was quite fiddly to do, but I am glad that I have had a chance to at least have a go at it. Indeed I found the whole applique and embroidery so relaxing to do that I have cut out linen squares for a whole set of mug rugs, which I am hoping to base on the weather symbols in a local newspaper. The third project I had planned, the organiser, I will hopefully get around to over the weekend.

I thought you might like to see another market from Latvia. Last weekend we visited a bi-annual Flea Market some distance outside Riga that one of my husband's colleagues had told him about. The stalls ranged from carefully laid-out antiques and paintings to rugs on the ground with a motley selection of household goods. I had wondered whilst we were walking to the venue why most of the other visitors seemed to be male, but wondered no longer when I saw the stalls below!

The variety of car and motorbike parts available in various states was fascinating to see, as was the strange assortment of purchases being carried out of the market. The men didn't have it all their own way though as these beauties were also for sale

It certainly made me appreciate the speed and power of my modern Singer machine if not the rather bland looks compared to these ornate machines :)

Linking up to TGIFF

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Blocks Away!

Well, I am on a roll now with my outstanding BOM's, so have been tackling the April, May and June blocks for In Color Order's HST BOM.

Tackling three different blocks at the same time didn't always go entirely to plan, as I ended up making too many of one combination of HST blocks and not enough of another! Still, that means now that not only am I up-to-date with the BOM, but actually ahead as I now have paired triangles already cut and sewn for July's block, now that makes a pleasant change.

I was wondering as I was making these blocks why I don't feel any real commitment to this BOM and I think it is because there is no (as far as I am aware) real community to this QAL. Reading Lynne's post today on setting up a virtual Quilting Bee it is clear that the friendships made in all of the online QAL's, Bees and SAL's are just as important, if not more important than the actual projects themselves and, somehow, for me at any rate this is missing in this BOM. Don't get me wrong I am enjoying the process of putting this quilt together, and looking forward to the final result, but it just feels like a part of the process is missing? Have you ever experienced anything similar?

Here are my 6 blocks to date anyhow

 Having fallen way behind on the Zakka-style SAL, it is next on my list of projects to crack on with this week. What a difference a week with no travelling makes! Thanks to Wendy I now have the magnetic sheet for the Itty-Bitty magnets, so have been reeling in horror at the size of those tiny pieces, when they say Itty-Bitty they really mean it!

As well as the magnetic sheet Wendy also sent me two lovely, handmade bag charms, and this one will, hopefully, be decorating one of the bags on my WIP list in the not-too distant future! The other one is already in use, hence no photo :)

All of the above means that I have made some progress this week on my WIP list, which is looking like this


  • 3 blocks of In Color Order HST BOM (back on schedule)
  • (Almost) Irish Chain quilt basted
  • 4 Zakka-style SAL projects completed (So many projects behind schedule!)
  • First border of teatime quilt completed, blocks calculated and fabric cut
  • 5 blocks of NY Beauty QAL completed and fabric cut for remaining 5 blocks
  • 12 blocks of Craftsy BOM completed (on schedule)  
  • Yellow rainbow cushion waiting to be appliqued  
  • Sunday Morning Quilts Sewing Bee - book in post
  • In the Bag Ugly Fabric challenge fabrics arrived, waiting for inspiration!


  • Indigo and violet rainbow cushions 
  • Star of Africa Sewing Bee
  • Last block of Sampler quilt
  • Amy Butler bag
  • Bag Making Bible Fashionista Bag
  • Dragon Bag
  • Christmas mini quilts 

Hope you are all having productive weeks too.

Linking up to  WIP Wednesday  and We Did it Wednesday .

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Ugly Fabric and Flowers

Regular readers will know that I have been trying to make a crochet flower without, it has to be said, a great deal of success. When I was in London recently, however,  I treated myself to a copy of "Cute and Easy Crochet" by Nicki Trench on the basis that it was aimed at beginners and included patterns for crochet flowers. The method used in the book was very different to the method I have been puzzling over in my previous attempts, and to my beginner crochet brain made more sense!  I have been eyeing up crochet projects as the ideal thing for long car journeys so with our recent trip to Tallinn under my belt I am pleased to announce that I have a crochet flower to share! You can relax now Wendy :)

I was very proud of my first crochet flower and of course, once I had started I didn't stop!

The small one is that size because I misread the instructions! Entirely my fault as the instructions were really clear and easy to follow (despite the evidence above!) and I am now enthused to try out more of the projects in the book. I have already hunted out some wool to start on a purse project, but have one question for the crocheters amongst you, how do you hold the yarn in your hand to maintain an even tension? The book instructs you to "Pick up the yarn with your little finger in the opposite hand to your hook, with your palm facing upwards. Turn your hand to face downwards, with the yarn on top of your index finger and under the other two fingers and wrapped tight around the little finger. Keeping your index finger only at a slight curve, hold your work just under the slip knot with the other hand." Well, despite several attempts I cannot do this with any comfort, so how do you hold the yarn?

A few weeks ago I signed up for the In the Bag - Ugly Fabric Challenge and my fabrics arrived today from my swap partner, Mary and I now see just how much of a challenge this is going to be!

The rules of the challenge are "to construct a quilt using 90% of the fabric in your “In The Bag”.
 You may add: Any percentage of fabric from your own stash & you may add 1 yard newly purchased piece of fabric. There is no min. or max. quilt size required. Fabric may be used on front, back & binding of quilt. Quilt size is determined by the amount of fabric you add to the 2 yards you will be sent in your “In The Bag”

So any suggestions as to what to do will be much appreciated.

Monday 4 June 2012

Craft Fairs and Craftsy Blocks

A weekend with no travelling and a new month with 2 new BOM's, easy to see where I would be at the weekend. Beforehand though, we had a quick trip to Tallinn to fit in, and to my delight there just happened to be a Craft Fair on in Tallinn Old Town whilst we were there. Time to pack husband off to work and go for a wander!

How about this for dedication to patchwork?

And doesn't that patchwork bag look great? Paper-pieced do you think?

Of the three Baltic Countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Estonia is the only one where patchwork and quilting is a recognisable feature of the handicraft culture. Large, tied quilts are sold in several craft shops in the Old Town, and pieced views of the architecture of the Old Town are made up into cushions and bags for sale. Despite this no-one can tell me where to buy wadding! I was very hopeful of the Textile factory I spotted on the way to Tallinn, but a quick stop there on the way home drew a blank. There must be a secret source somewhere, I will just have to keep looking!

Before settling down to watch the amazing but rain-soaked Diamond Jubilee river pageant there was just time to fit in a quick viewing of the May and June Craftsy BOM's. May's blocks were variations of the Log Cabin block and June's are based on HST's. I was surprised to find that the wonky 5-sided Log Cabin block took the most time to put together, and also to find that I enjoyed it the least. I had expected that a block where seam allowances were not crucial would be right up my alley, but actually I much preferred the more orderly Modern Frame Log Cabin block on the left.  I am obviously more orderly minded than I thought I was!

I had forgotten how good it was to get the BOM's out of the way early in the month, so I'm really pleased to have the Craftsy BOM's for June done and dusted already.

I think there are only 10 BOM's in this quilt as the last two months are dedicated to borders, binding and quilting so I am more than half-way there already, which is more than can be said for the HST BOM from In Color Order, but with no travelling this week, who knows I might even catch up on that one too :)

Don't forget to check out the great blogs this week in the Let's get acquainted Blog Hop organised by Beth at Plum and June. Kristy has posted today a great tutorial for her paper-pieced Red Herring block that was inspired by the gear pedal on her car! Now that is dedication (or something!) and Beth has a great Advice for New Bloggers guest post

June 5   
    Cinzia from Deux Petites Souris
    Kristy from Quiet Play

Linking up to Sew Modern Monday
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