Friday, 21 January 2011

Using Yellow Offcuts

I have spent a lot of time this week making Churn Dash blocks.  The problem with this pattern, especially using the Cut Loose Quilts method, is that you are left with a lot of small pieces of the fabrics used for the Churn Dash pattern.  In fact, I nearly decided not to use this design for this reason.

Here are the first few blocks laid out.  I have now made nearly forty (I am aiming for at least sixty as I have not finally decided on the size of the quilt and I probably need a few spare ones).  There is now more variety in the backgrounds as I have a wide variety of blue and green fabrics for these.

I thought hard about what to do with the leftover yellow strips.  Then I realised that I could make 'fabric' out of them.  I need something that I can hand stitch, to take on holidays for one thing and for sitting in front of the television.  I used to be a keen hand quilter in the evenings but over the last few years this activity seems to have passed me by.  Here is a piece that I made a couple of years ago.

This was made from very lightweight fabrics; mostly cheesecloth, scrim etc. that I had dyed and pieces of polyester voile.  I mounted them  directly onto wadding and a cotton backing.  It was good and flexible but in places you can see the wadding (top centre of photo).  I stitched it with variegated threads.  It took forever!  I have never done anything with it and told myself at the time that it was a sample.  I loved the rippled effect of the rows of stitching.

My yellow pieces are much heavier than this.  In fact I may have overdone it as the fabric has a calico base, then wadding and then a patterned cotton backing and is of course cotton.  On top of it all is a layer of net.

 However, I am aiming to make bags from them so this means they will be relatively sturdy.
 I am using Fine Mercerised Cotton from Stef Francis.  This is variegated and  I already have a vast collection of different colours. I have decide to change colours from time to time to give more detailand am using some red/pinks in the piece that has red in some of the fabrics.  As the second piece does not have any red in the fabrics I think I shall introduce purple as being the complement of the yellow.

My plan is to donate these bags to the Quilters Guild fund-raiser at the Festival of Quilts.  Every year there is a fund-raiser organised by one of the specialist groups.  Two years ago Contemporary Quilt did Journal Quilts.  This year the theme is 'Put 'Em Ins' which means any kind of container.  I have already unearthed one or two unfinished or unloved things that are suitable and having a goal for this project will be good.  For more details go to and click on 'Specialist Groups'.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

New studio bench - at last!

It must be three years since we had the garage converted into a combined studio/utility room.  It has always been an untidy mess because I could not decide what I wanted in the way of furniture and storage facilities.  The space is not huge and as we have almost no storage space for the things you would normally put in an attic or cellar, there are also a lot of general household bits and pieces that live here.  Finally, I was allowed this studio on the understanding that John could have one corner of it for his DIY.  That's the back left hand corner in this photo and, as you can see, it still needs further tidying up.

The black shelves from B and Q hold general household things although the set on the right are 'mine'!  I already had several large underbed storage containers which had to go under the bench.  They contain all my wadding, large pieces of fabric, the remains of my 'wedding dress shop' remnants box etc.

I keep most of my sewing supplies in my bedroom/dry studio in the house.  This studio is where I do 'wet' work as they say.  The wall shelves are new and will be a great help for smaller bits and pieces.

At the utility room end I have two sinks which is wonderful.  It is so good not having to walk from one room to another with pots of dye, dirty Thermofax screens etc.  The lights are two daylight fluourescent strips.  The ceiling is very low but there is nothing I can do about that.   The wall to the right of the picture is the former garage door and is mainly glass: the door and two windows, so the light situation isn't bad.

The table is our old kitchen table and the yellow thing behind the dryer is my printing board which is MDF covered with an old blanket.  When it is in use I cover it with a drop cloth made from a genuine WWII Utility sheet that belonged to John's grandmother.  When it is suitably covered in leftover marks it will make some good recycled items.  John built the new bench from MDF with metal supports screwed to the wall and bannister rails from B and Q holding up the front.  Many years ago he built us a kitchen on this design (but without bannister rails) so he used the same principles here.  I think he rather enjoyed the whole process once I had decided what I wanted as  he has spent the last couple of days wondering what else he could build!

While he has been doing this, I have started on the wedding present quilt.  That's some of the blocks lying on the table.  It needs a lot.  I have made twenty but I know I will need at least fifty.  I have two unfinished from yesterday so I am going back to this work now.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Zelah's quilt is finished!

I think this is a good start to the New Year.  I have finished Zelah's quilt!

In the end I decided not to do any hand quilting in the plainer blocks so I just hope it holds together given that I did most of the quilting with invisible thread.  I used a Borders Made Easy border pattern.  These are designed for machine quilting.  You simply lay the printed piece of paper which has sticky on the edges, on to the fabric and stitch.  Brilliant!  The whole thing only took a couple of hours.

I then pieced the binding in several colours taken from the Fossil Ferns fabric I had used for the border.     This tied everything together.  Now I just need to embroider my initials and the date.  I'm tempted to put 2010 since 99 per cent of it was made then.  Although Zelah could do with the quilt in this terribly cold winter she will have to wait until either her grandparents go to visit her from here or she comes down on holiday.  I am not prepared to post it because, although I have never lost anything yet, you do hear awful stories about quilts getting lost in the post.  Scrap quilts full of fabric with 'stories' behind them cannot really be insured

Monday, 3 January 2011

Christmas trees

Happy New Year everyone!  On the ninth day of Christmas I have been looking at our Christmas tree and its ornaments.  In 2009 we did not dare have a tree because two of our cats were still kittens and this year we thought quite carefully about what they might and might not attack.  Actually it has been fine and only a couple of ornaments have been removed by paws.

First we realised that if we put the tree in the conservatory we could shut the cats out if necessary although we their access to the garden it through it.  So in the end we shut the doors to the sitting room as it got dark (and cold) but haven't pulled the curtains so we can still see it with its lights on.

Then we decided that there should not be any fine dangling bits.  The tree is a bit smaller than those we have had in the past.  This was partly because of the height of the conservatory roof and partly because we only have small cars to bring it home from the garden centre.

Like most people we have accumulated lots of ornaments over the years.  We have close friends who lived for many years in Luxembourg but used to come to Cornwall for Christmas and frequently brought us lovely examples of German and Luxembourgish ornaments.

We have two of these made from  glass with hand-painted wild flowers.  Also a German glass ball from a company that produces them annually.

And some made from nuts and seeds:

Then a long time ago I decided that Christmas tree ornaments are easily transported souvenirs.  We had one Christmas in New Zealand

where the pukeko bird is a frequent symbol.  This is made of paua shell (abalone).  We spent New Year that year in Sydney where I found this in the Opera House souvenir shop.

I learnt that there are Americans who are serious collectors of Christmas ornaments so we have one or two I picked up on stopovers in Los Angeles.  But the biggest Christmas industry I have found was in Salzburg.  Despite it being mid-summer there were shops full of Christmas decorations and Easter eggs.

I bought two wooden ornaments, one with a train on it because I was on a train-based holiday in the Tyrol.

The colour is actually quite yellow but the camera and Photoshop Elements could not deal with it.

One of my sisters lived in Moscow for three years in the nineties.  When I visited her we had a wonderful morning at a huge open-air market on the site of the Olympic village.  There were amazing collections of arts and crafts from all the former Soviet republics and it was extremely difficult deciding what to buy.  In the end I spent most of my money on a huge book but I also got two tiny dolls: Saint Nicholas

and a peasant girl.

I also took a lot of photographs of carpets and quilts which I must scan (this was in the days before digital photography).

This is just a selection of our ornaments.  There are also English ones and some whose origins I have forgotten.  Of course we have to have a cat

Having not had them out of the box last Christmas it has been good seeing them all again.