Saturday, 25 November 2017

Braving public scrutiny

It is time to celebrate the swings and roundabouts of trying out something new again, welcome to November's New to Me link party!

If you have tried something for the first time this month, link up and share your experience with your fellow bloggers, who knows you might inspire them to try it out too! If things didn't quite go to plan then share that too, you could save a fellow blogger some angst :)

This month New to Me's are a bit thin on the ground but I have added a new tutorial to the blog here for the Scrappy Christmas Tree trim.

More daunting, I also entered my Camera Club's competition for the first time!

For reasons beyond my control I had to submit my entries the morning after the deadline so it was a rather hurried selection process. Getting the entries into the format needed though took more time than selecting them did!

These were the photos that I eventually submitted with some trepidation it has to be said :) Turns out I was right to be worried.

Although I did crop the Anchor photo before I sent it off, (the image above is the uncropped version) I clearly didn't crop it enough as the external judge added a huge arrow with question marks to the (to my mind!) tiny little bit of white that I had inadvertently left in the bottom left hand corner. That didn't bode well for the review of the other two photos but fortunately they fared slightly better. It was a very public learning experience :)
The judging seemed to be as much, and sometimes more, about the entrant's ability to manipulate a photo with software, which seemed a bit strange to me but who am I to know ??

So, you have seen my New to Me's now it is your turn. As ever the link will remain open until the end of the month, so if you are planning to turn your hand to handmade gifts for the first time then don't forget to link them up! Check out our lovely linkers too as a little bit of encouragement goes a long way when everything is new and daunting.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Scrappy Christmas Tree trim

For the Bernina "Sew Something Special" appeal I made this Scrappy Christmas Tree decoration and here is the tutorial if you would like to use up some of your scraps too.

To make your own Scrappy Christmas tree you will need the following :

  • 9 scraps of fabric increasing in size from 1.25" square to 5.25" square
  • Sew Easy Circle Template or a compass
  • Scraps of toy stuffing
  • Approx 50 seed beads or other embellishments
  • 18" thin cord/embroidery floss
  • Scrap of Christmas ribbon
  • 1" wooden thread spool
You will also need a large wool applique needle or similar and textile glue

Step 1


Using the Sew Easy Circle Template or a compass draw a circle on the wrong side of each of your fabric scraps and cut out using pinking shears if desired. The circles in the Template set range from 1" to 5" in diameter, increasing in 0.5"increments, so use the same measurements for your compass if using that instead.

Step 2

Machine or hand baste around the largest fabric circle approx 1/8" from the cut edge. Pull the thread up to gather the circle in on itself. Tie off the threads and pad the resulting yo-yo lightly with scraps of toy stuffing. Don't stuff the yo-yo too heavily, you only need a little to give the tree some body.

Repeat with the rest of the fabric circles. I didn't pad the smallest two yo-yo's as they didn't need it.

Step 3

Attach your beads/ embellishments to all of the stuffed yo-yo's except the smallest one.

Step 4

With the gathered side facing upwards, attach the largest and next largest yo-yo's to each other, stitching through the centre of the yo-yo's.

Continue stitching in this way until you only have the smallest two yo-yo's left.

Step 5

Turn the smallest yo-yo gathered side down and slip stitch it to the second smallest yo-yo, which will be gathered side up.

With the fine cord/embroidery floss stitch through all of the layers including these last 2 yo-yo's leaving a tail at the bottom of the layers. Stitch through the bead/ornament for the top of the tree (I used a small bell) and leaving a hanging loop stitch back through all of the layers again. Knot and tie off the excess cord at the bottom of the tree. Knot the cord behind the tree top ornament to secure.

Step 6

Spread the textile glue around the sides of the thread spool and wrap the ribbon scrap around smoothing the ribbon as you do.
Glue the cotton reel to the bottom of the yo-yo tree.

Bring out the mince pies and mulled wine and start decking these halls! 

Scrappy Trimmings

Welcome to the TGIFF link party, this week I have three scrappy finishes to share with you.

A few weeks ago in the newsletter for Bernina owners in the UK, Bernina's Christmas Tree campaign for Friends of the Elderly was announced. They asked Bernina stitchers to make a Christmas tree decoration that will be used to decorate trees in residential homes for the elderly around the country. The idea appealed to me so I started to think about what I could do.

Then I remembered a half-finished Cathedral window block that was hanging around my sewing room and dug that out to finish.

With the addition of a bead in the centre and a hanging loop I was sorted!

In the course of my rummaging I came across some felt hearts that had been cut out when I was first playing with the Sizzix cutter. Some hand stitching later and the serendipitous discovery of a robin button and I had this tree trim to add to the first.

By now I was on a roll, so I decided that I really ought to make a third tree trim from scratch this time.

My yo-yo Christmas tree bauble was a lot of fun to make and had the added benefit of using up all sorts of scraps of fabric and trim, I have put together a tutorial if you would like to make one too. It is straightforward enough that a child who was competent with a needle could easily put one together. (There is a bit of tugging with a needle involved in joining the layers of yo-yo's together so it is probably not suitable for a young child to try.)

You can find the tutorial here

So that is my finish for the TGIFF link party, now it is your turn to link up and share your finishes too. As ever, share the finish celebrations with your fellow bloggers by including the TGIFF blog button in your post and checking out other great finishes along the way.

If you would like to join LeanneAnja and I as TGIFF co-ordinators in 2018 we have room for one more! Contact any one of us to let us know if you are interested.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Happy Mail 2

Our postman has been the deliverer of lots of happy mail recently, and today's post is all about a very special parcel that arrived a while ago. I planned to blog about this earlier but I really wanted to take a photo outdoors and the weather has been terrible recently! Finally though we got a hint of sunshine so I rushed out with my camera and this amazing quilt.

Ages ago Leanne who blogs at Devoted Quilter and I decided to have a mini swap. We both agreed not to put ourselves under any time pressure for the swap so would send out the swap whenever we were ready. Well, it turns out Leanne was a lot more organised than I was :)

This beautiful quilt arrived on my doorstep all the way from Canada, isn't it gorgeous?

In the letter that accompanied the quilt, Leanne wrote that she wanted to create a quilt that reflected my love of travelling. The quilt is called " Four Corners"with the four different coloured corner units representing the Four Corners of the Globe, the centre circle representing home and the black sashing strips representing all the roads leading to new and exciting places. I have to say that I was absolutely blown away by the thought that Leanne put in to this quilt.

I couldn't wait to iron the quilt before taking a photo so the lumps and bumps you see in the photo above are due to the folds for postage. If you want to see some lovely photos of the quilt in its original home check out Leanne's post here

Leanne went on to tell me that there are actually Four Corners of the earth according to the Flat Earth Society and that she had visited one in Newfoundland this summer! So not only do I have a lovely new quilt to hang on my sewing room wall, but I also learned something new about the world to boot!

Not content with sending a lovely quilt Leanne added in two FMQ'ed Christmas ornaments similar to the ones I had admired in her earlier post. I think a sewing-themed Christmas tree might be on the cards this year :)

I have to confess that I have not finished my half of the swap but our kitchen has been ripped out back to the bare bricks so there is not much in the way of cooking or washing going on here at the moment I might just get a chance to hide away in my sewing room and get cracking on it!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Joined up!

Welcome to October's New to Me link party.

Time to celebrate the swings and roundabouts of tackling new techniques, visiting new places or just generally pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.

October has been a month for making new connections for me.

I have joined the local Camera Club and found all sorts of New to Me settings on my camera!

I have also joined a local sewing class to tackle a New to Me pattern.

 We visited Pollock House, a New to Me destination (with a lovely tearoom to boot!)

I took over as Treasurer of my local Embroiderers Guild branch at our recent AGM, and speaking of embroidery, thanks to the lovely Benta I got to (virtually) see my Walk in the Park embroidery hanging at the Knitting and Stitching Show!

It has been a busy month :)
Now it is your turn to share the highs and lows of trying something for the first time. As ever the link party will remain open until the end of the month, so if you need to be nudged to edge out of your comfort zone, consider yourself nudged :) Add the blog button to your New to Me post so that your fellow bloggers and readers can celebrate or commiserate with us.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Bag Lady

I joined a Bag Making class recently and then promptly went on holiday and missed the first two classes! This week I finally got a chance to meet my fellow Bag Ladies and start to catch up on what I had missed.

The class teacher had kindly sent me the pattern in advance so I was able to have all my pattern pieces cut beforehand.

We are making this Catch All Caddy, which will definitely come in useful both at home and when I travel to a class. I am forever forgetting some piece of vital equipment when I head off to a class but, hopefully, with this smart caddy to hand that will be a thing of the past :)

I wanted to use up fabric from my stash for the bag, but when I pulled my fabric choices I decided that the plain cotton that I had chosen for the piping and handles was purple when I really needed a deep red, so one order to Plush Addict later and I was all sorted. I discovered an even better match in my stash later, but only 1FQ so rather than order even more fabric I opted for going with what I have!

Rather than work on my own to catch up at the class, it made sense for me to work on the same part of the bag as the rest of the Bag Ladies and catch up at home between the classes.

This week we were constructing the padded handles for the caddy. The handles use ByAnnie's Soft and Stable, which I had never used before but I have to say I am a fan. It went through my sewing machine like a hot knife through butter even although it is quite thick, and even when it was doubled over for the centre of the handles.

Since the class I have been quilting the pieces for the sides of the caddy and the Soft and Stable has been a breeze to use there too.

Back to the sewing machine now for some more catching up before the next class :)

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Camera Challenges

A local Camera Club advertised their new sessions as being particularly suitable for beginners, so I thought that I ought to give it a go. I have had my fancy DSLR camera for a few years now but I know that it (and I!) could do so much more if I only knew how, and I was hoping that the sessions might go some way towards that.

The session two weeks ago was a quick run down on the lessons that the club had gone through last year, and was a welcome refresher for me on the basics of apertures, shutter speeds and ISO's. Not that is to say that I am now an expert on any of those things, but I did recognise most of the topics being discussed even if I don't always practise them :)

A recent visit to Pollock House after that session was a chance for me to make sure that I used a high aperture setting to keep all of the detail of this fine country house on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Then I switched to a low aperture setting to give these thistles in the grounds a blurred background.

Clearly the lesson on quick shutter speeds to freeze the motion of this insect on the flower didn't quite sink in :)

This week's lesson was all about "Exposure Bracketing" which might as well have been a foreign language to me. Apparently it means that the camera can be set to take the same photo at different exposure settings, which can then be combined to produce a composite shot. Who knew such a thing existed???

Although we practised some shots during the session I decided to have a go at home to see if I could remember what we had been told, and here are the results.

The bottom photo above is under-exposed by 1 stop, the middle over-exposed by 1 stop and the top photo is taken at the original setting. I am not quite sure what all that means but you can see for yourself the differences in the photos :)

The trainer recommended free software, for those of us who don't have Photoshop, where you can upload the images and they will be combined in something called HDR (High Dynamic Range ????) and result in a photo that has the definition in the shadows of the under-exposure and the clarity in the light of the over-exposure. Sadly you will have to take my word that this occured as the website, Fotor would allow me to upload and combine the photos but I couldn't save the resulting image without signing up and paying for the advanced version.

I couldn't initially think of when I might use this facility on the camera, but then I remembered the trouble that I had taking photos of the amazing painted monasteries in Romania recently. The detail beneath the eaves was lost in all of my photos so maybe if I had known about the Exposure Bracketing I might have ended up with photos that showed all of the wonderful frescoes, then again maybe not without paying who knows what for the software :)

Still at least I have used a setting on my camera that I never even knew existed, maybe now I need to do the same with all those fancy settings on my sewing machine :)

Friday, 13 October 2017

Happy Mail 1

It was my birthday at the end of the summer (what summer???) and as our boys and their wives/girlfriends all live many miles away from us birthday presents these days arrive in the post.

Whilst my family obviously know that I quilt, the room full of fabric is a bit of a giveaway (!) they don't often cater to that in their gift-giving. I suspect, in part, as it is probably quite hard to work out what might be appropriate/useful and what might not.

So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when this turned up on my birthday.

Two metres of Liberty fabric from our eldest son and his wife!!!

I have bought bits and pieces of Liberty fabric over the years but other than this Jewellery Roll and this Bias Applique cushion I have not been brave enough to cut into any of it. Clearly that will need to change as my son and his wife will undoubtedly expect to see that bundle transformed into something substantial sometime soon :)

Whilst I was happily stroking that gorgeous bundle of fabric Ruth at Charly & Ben's Crafty Corner was pondering on the nature of blogging and rewarding her loyal readers with a fabric giveaway. To my surprise a few weeks later I received an email from Ruth telling me that my name had been picked out of the (virtual) hat as the giveaway winner!

After we returned from holiday this lovely bundle arrived in the post. We are just in the process of remodelling our bedroom and it will be decorated in a palette of sage greens and stone with a hint of pink so these fabrics couldn't have been a better match if I had planned it myself. The bedroom has been stripped back to the bare boards so I have plenty of time to plan what to do :)

Aren't surprises in the post lovely to receive?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Escapes and exhibitions

Welcome to this month's New to Me Link party, your chance to celebrate any attempt you have made this month at trying something for the first time.

Applaud or commiserate with your fellow bloggers who have pushed themselves out of that cosy comfort zone during September. As ever the link party will remain open until the end of the month, so there is still time to give that new technique or pattern a go and join the party!

I have had fun this month trying out new techniques and visiting new places.

 First up two New to Me stitches for my submission to the Embroiderers Guild Page 17 exhibition, Drizzle Stitch at the top and Turkey Stitch below.
 Then a New to Me applique method using Freezer Paper and liquid starch, also for the Page 17 exhibition piece.

In September I have also managed to visit three New to Me countries, although only 2 of them are officially recognised as independant countries.

Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria (the unrecognised one!)

Side on view of Moldovito Painted Monastery in Bucovino region, Romania

and Romania!

As you can see it was a very interesting trip! As well as the amazing Painted Monasteries like the one above we visited a church in Romania that is described as being covered in stonework embroidery, it was glorious! Posts to follow on the trip soon :)

So, now it is your turn to share anything that you have tried for the first time this month, whether it was a brilliant success or abject failure! We have all been on both sides of those experiences so will be happy to applaud or sympathise with a fellow blogger whatever the result of your endeavours :)

Friday, 22 September 2017

A walk in the park!

Several months ago the Embroiderers Guild sent out a request for contributions to a forthcoming exhibition to be based around books. The exhibition would be called Page 17, although the solicited exhibits could be based upon anything to do with a book not just the 17th page. The exhibits would be on display at the Knitting and Stitching shows in Harrogate and London and, it was hoped, would also travel to other venues later in the year.

Existing works that might suit the theme were to be submitted by the end of April for consideration and a deadline of the end of August was set for exhibits created specifically for the exhibition. At the time I think this distinction created some confusion as I saw several comments on how little time there was to submit a piece. Undaunted I sent off an email to say that I was interested in submitting a new piece and then started thinking ... and thinking ... and thinking :)

You will not, I am sure, be surprised to know that I finally finished my piece for the exhibition the day before the submission deadline!

When our boys were little one of their favourite books was Lynley Dodd's Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, and now it is a favourite of our gorgeous grandson too. So, I decided to have some fun with the characters in the book for my embroidery. I knew that my drawing skills were not up to reproducing the characters exactly so decided to show bits of them as if they were being seen through holes in the fence.

Each of the dogs in the book has an accompanying description, so Muffin McLay is like a bundle of hay.

My Muffin McLay is a bit curly for hay but I think he is still recognisable! I used a New to Me stitch for Muffin, drizzle stitch, which is apparently Brazilian in origin. It was great fun to stitch and is definitely a great addition to my stitching repertoire.

I stitched all of the dogs, apart from Hairy Maclary, on to a cotton backing fabric then joined the sky and fence fabric together to place over the top before adding Hairy Maclary and the fence and tree detail.

I spent a while trying to work out how best to deal with the cut-outs for the embroidery and finally used another New to Me technique.

Spray starch sprayed into the aerosol lid

then painted on to the seam allowance of the circle cut-outs and ironed in place before being placed in front of the embroidered cotton. To my surprise it worked!

I wanted Hairy Maclary to stand proud of the rest of the embroidery so used wool on canvas and another New to Me stitch, Turkey Stitch, to create his fluffy self. (Apologies for the somewhat blurred photo I was running out of time when I took it!)

I was very pleased with how it all turned out and when the piece has finished travelling it will be another addition to the gallery on the gorgeous grandson's wall!

If you haven't read the books the characters are from the left;

  • Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum
  • Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay
  • Bitzer Maloney all skinny and bony
  • Bottomley Potts covered in spots
  • Hercules Morse as big as a horse
and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy :)

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