Sunday 28 April 2013

Turquoise Reindeer

I am going to make a couple of assumptions about you all today.  Firstly, as you are reading this blog I predict that you might just put needle and thread together now-and-again.  Am I right?  I also predict that sometimes you sew in your pyjamas – right?  And some mornings when you wake early, you don’t want to put the sewing machine on for fear of waking the family so you grab a piece of hand sewing – correct again eh?  Well welcome to my world.  And it is an odd world at times (as many of you will already know)! 
One day a couple of weeks ago I had been working on a reindeer design that had been in my sketchbook since before last Christmas.  
The sewing went well – two designs were made up – one Scandinavian in style and one with Christmas binding.  As far as I was concerned I went to bed with the task in hand completed and a job well done.  And that is where I should’ve left it .... but did I?   Did I heck-as-like?
The following morning at 3.45 a.m. I woke with turquoise reindeer running round my head – the noise was deafening and I had no alternative but to get up and find a way to let them out to play without waking the family.  So I set out with needle and thread and hand-appliqued another reindeer mug rug.  What I should point out here is that it was dark – very dark and my daylight lamp was downstairs in the lounge.  Had I attempted to move it I would’ve woken the family for sure so I used the light above my bed (the same light that fills up the fluorescent stars on my bedroom ceiling – ‘tis a very odd world indeed!!) 
So here is another assumption I will make about you – that you have sewn something by hand – close-up work – feeling pretty pleased with yourself because it all looks so lovely.  You then put the completed item down and go and make a cup-of-tea.  When you return you no longer see two lovely turquoise reindeer – instead you see two psychedelic reindeer, wearing what appears to be a dress and all you can think of is ‘ABBA’ (the pop-group).  Why ABBA?  I have no idea – sometimes even I do not understand the world inside my head!

Daughter sees mug rug and says, “Strewth, either you were on drugs when making that or you have a serious problem”. 
Son says, “Cool mug rugs - I like the turquoise one the best”.  
Welcome to my world son – welcome to my world.

p.s. From his facial expression, the reindeer on the right doesn’t seem too happy to be wearing a psychedelic dress but Rudolph seems very pleased indeed!!!

p.p.s.  If you are wondering why Christmas mug rugs in the middle of April?  The answer lies with Amy of Amy Made That.

Monday 22 April 2013

Flower Vases and Sew Alongs

Patchsmith pattern featured in April 2013 Online Quilt Magazine
I had my first magazine article published this month in the Online Quilt Magazine.  I included this lovely Three Vases Mug Rug pattern alongside my 'What is a Mug Rug' article.  The magazine details a very pretty version of Three Vases which uses Tapestry fabrics (shown above).  

However, I also made this country version from a rectangle of linen together with odds-and-ends from my scrap box.  I seem to return to red and green, gingham and checks, time-and-time again and I never seem to tire of them.

I am looking forward to using some of my favourite country fabrics in the Zakka 2.0 sew along.  The postie has finally delivered my book so I am all ready.  Last year's Zakka sew along was so much fun and I have missed it.  Zakka 2.0 looks to include plenty of patterns and projects to keep us busy - many of which will make nice Christmas presents. 
Zakka Sew Along 2012
I am already planning on adding a modern-country twist to some of the projects.  So why not join in – it doesn’t start until June so you have plenty of time. 

Can't wait until then?  Then how about the Sew Can She Crazy Quilt Block sew along – which looks so much fun.  Included is a great little tutorial on making a crazy block by the Sewing Loft - you quilt it as you go along - what a good idea. 
This is a very relaxed sew along running from 20th April through to 18th May so no pressure - plus there are some great prizes for the finished projects. I don't know about you but I am drowning in fabric scraps ranging in size from 1” square to 4” square plus pieces of left-over binding strips and I have a great little project in mind.  

Of course, if these two are not to your liking you could always whip up a journal cover in this month's Across the Pond Sew Along - now that really is one very, very relaxed group!

Sew until next time ........

Monday 15 April 2013

Kings, beach huts and poetry

The Union Jack Block is available via my Etsy store.

I recently spent the weekend in Brighton visiting the seaside palace of King George IV (Royal Pavillion).  I stopped overnight and was lucky enough to have a sea view from my hotel window.
Early the following day as I sat by my window looking out on a cold, grey April morning, I saw a group of hardy swimmers taking to the water. 

 “I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought...”
The sea must’ve been very cold because when they came out of the water their bodies glowed bright red from the cold.  They walked quickly up the pebbled beach towards a beach hut where they had left their clothes and towels.  Instantly I was transported back to sunny, childhood days when friends would make afternoon tea on a primus stove which they kept in their beach hut (along with teapot and crockery). 

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude...

Not so much a couch as a sewing table........  When I returned home I didn’t think much more about it and got back to a sewing project I was working on.  But something was pulling me.  My sewing proceeded as expected but in my mind’s eye I kept returning to Brighton.  So one evening I let my mind sketch. 
That same evening I transferred my sketch to the Word program on my computer and created a draft pattern.  The next morning I still couldn’t concentrate and so I gave in to creation and two hours later, this is the result:

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."

Or in my case –      
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
As fabric captures childhood thrills.
(Okay, so I am not Wordsworth ..... but you get the point!)

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Giving and Receiving

The Early Bird Mug Rug is suitable for any occasion

My mother always told me "it is as lovely to give as it is to receive" and whilst I had an inkling of what she meant it wasn't until I started to give home-made pressies that I truly understood.  After all, it is the giver who gets the pleasure of choosing the fabrics, picking the threads and whirring the sewing machine to create something tangible out of little more than scraps of fabric and a little imagination.  
(A gift for a dear friend)
This Easter I recycled a project from last year's Zakka sew-along to create a much wished-for gift for my daughter.  Out with the "Plants vs Zombies" bottle holder ..... 
......... and in with a pair of "Plants vs Zombies" coasters.  (Just in case you don't know "Plants and Zombies" is a fun computer game - no guns or soldiers just peas and plants!!)
To say my daughter was happy with this transformation would be an understatement – you would think I had given her diamonds.  A gift well received is enjoyable for both the giver and the receiver.
And then, just two days later, the enjoyment switched from me being the giver to me being on the receiving end when the postman brought me my own little gift package all the way from the Czech Republic.  Vexa from Halabala Style had made me a safe new home for my latest 'on-the-go' sewing project.   
Vexa had created a house pouch that was so perfect for the Patchsmith that I knew she had taken so much time and trouble to perfect this wonderful little treat - the red check, the gingham lining and adorable fussy cut ‘country’ quilt hanging on the washing line - even the pegs are heart shaped (and look at the middle of the windows). 
And if that wasn't enough - inside my new home were squares of check fabric.  The pleasure of receiving a package in the post is always delightful but to open it to find a unique and “Patchsmith Perfect” gift, handmade with loving kindness is truly wonderful. 
My mother was right - giving and receiving are both so much FUN.   If you get the chance to be either a giver or a receiver this week I wholeheartedly advise you to go for it.  Maybe you could put together a little gift for somebody you know or perhaps you are eagerly awaiting a package in the post. 
And don't forget, you can always make yourself your own little treat.  Or better still get the postman to bring you a pressie - perhaps the recently released Zakka book Patchwork Please - ready for the Zakka 2.0 sew along which starts in June. 

Sew until next time...... 

Monday 1 April 2013

Cover up for the Across The Pond Sew Along

There are many things I like about our sew-along group – for instance I like that we make just one project a month which gives me plenty of time to create the make-of-the-month.  And with three of us taking it in turns to organise each month’s activities you can be assured that there is a variation of projects and styles.   This month it is the turn of Susie from Susie’s Sunroom.   Susie is brilliant at routing out a project that is suitable for all skill levels and all tastes.  It was Susie that chose the bird pin cushion as the New Year make and for the month of April Susie has turned her attention to journal covers.   

Susie has highlighted three FREE journal patterns having tested two of them (I love that little birdhouse - did I mention Susie is also the paper-piecing expert of the group?) 
First pattern under the spotlight is the journal cover from Rachel at Stitched in Color. 
Rachel shows how to turn an unlined patchwork panel into a journal cover for a composition book.  For those of us on this side of the pond a composition book measures 7.5” (wide) x 9.75” (length) - you will struggle to find one on the High Street although Amazon do sell them online.   Susie used this pattern for the bottom of the two journals above.  I also used this pattern but more on that in a minute.

Next up is Urban Threads and again Susie gave this one a go so check out her blog if you fancy this pattern.  
Finally there is the Moda Bakeshop journal cover tutorial by Roslyn Mirrington of Bloom.  This recipe is for an A5 book (6.25” x 8.25”) - a size that is readily available in the UK.   The Moda pattern has a lining and uses a quilt-as-you-go method. 
Click here for the PDF version - this pattern looks a little more involved as it is lined but I really like the look of it and was going to try this one next ..... that was before Amy added several additional patterns.  So before you decide which to make pop over to Amy Made That where Amy has been busy searching the four corners of hyperspace to come up with five more patterns for us to choose from (four free patterns and one for purchase).  

Whilst I think the A5 Moda journal cover will make a good gift and I am ready to spend a few pennies on the Gingercake Notebook Slipcover that Amy found, I think I should test an idea before I make gifts.  So I set about creating a journal cover using the Stitched in Colour tutorial to fit my A4 notebook.  I always use an A4 journal (8½” x 12”) for my pattern ideas, sketches and jottings and sometimes my journal has a ringed spine. Adapting the pattern was very simple – instead of creating a patched rectangle measuring 29.5” x 12” I made it slightly bigger at 30” x 14”.

Initially I made a journal cover with an applique panel on the front.  Here is the panel I created before stitching the journal cover together.  
I thought it looked good and was confident my journal cover would look lovely.  However, once put together I found that it looked ‘bitty’ – the fabric at the sides of the applique panel are just one fabric too many and would’ve looked better in dark red and the dark red strip at the bottom was wonky.  Also, my dark purple journal was showing through the light coloured fabric at the top. 
There was no getting away from it – it just didn’t work.  In my defence I had put it together at the end of a rather bad day at work – so I shouldn’t have been surprised. 
Onto version 2 ........ Instead of redoing the first journal cover I decided to adopt a totally new look (and this was before I knew Susie had used stripes!!!).  Firstly I decided to go for one colourway – to keep some cohesion – and I chose pink as my colour of choice.  This time I made the 30” x 14” unit by stitching ten 30” x 1½” strips together before adding two final strips measuring 30” x 2¼” – one to the top and one to the bottom.  (I chose larger strips at the top and bottom so that seams did not fall on the edges of the journal.) 
My patchwork cover hides a dark purple hardback notebook and although unlined the purple journal does not show through this time.  If you are using light-coloured fabrics then you will want to line it or choose a journal with a light coloured cover.
Overall I enjoyed this project.  I like that I can take the cover off the notebook when it is full and use it on my next notebook.  I think the A4 size is a little big for a gift – but the A5 size would be perfect.  Susie added a bookmark which is a neat idea and already included in the Moda bake which I will try next.  However, if you make up the Moda recipe before me please add to the discussion group and let me know how you got on.  Also if you know of another journal pattern that let us know in the Flickr discussion thread.    Lastly don’t forget to post your completed journal covers to the Flickr group – we’re a nosey lot and like to see what everybody else is doing.

Sew until next time ......