Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Creative and Crafty

Hello readers!  How are you all this fine morn?  Quite surprisingly, I have woken up to see some lovely bright sunshine.  Most welcome.  It seems we're nearly through January already.  For me, it has passed in a flash and it hasn't been a bad January at all.  Roll on February though, let's get into Spring, shall we?  I'm pleased that all my favourite flowers are appearing in the shops.  Such divine colours and I do love the scent of the little narcissi.  These sorts of flowers are always cheap too, which is a bonus.

With the New Year, it's been a time for starting new projects.  You may recall from my last post that I had taken delivery of a large order of yummy yarn (Drops Karisma).  I have dived headfirst into that and opted for an African Flower motif, one I have been wanting to try for a while.  I looked at a few tutorials and finally wrote out my own and drew myself a little diagram, I find these far easier to work from as I go along.  You can find good tutorials at Yvestown and Heidi Bears should you fancy hooking up a few of your own.  I am joining as you go, slip stitching into the corners and around every third stitch along the edges.  One thing I loathed about my first granny blanket was all the joining at the end, so this method avoids that entirely.

I've continued with it here and there, including at Crafty Wednesday at Stag and Bow.It's going to take me a good while as there are so many other projects vying for my attention.

Talking of which, you may recall that last New Year, a craze swept through the quilting community known as the "Scrappy Trip Along".  I made two quilts in that design, one back in January and another just recently with my Christmas version, and this year, the chosen project has been the "economy block along" based on a tutorial at Rita's blog Red Pepper Quilts.  I resisted for a while but finally decided to hop on with this quilt along, too.  If you are on Instagram, you can search for "economyblockalong" and keep up with everyone's progress. So I have attacked the stash and been cutting like a crazy lady for although you can use any fabric to make this quilt, I decided to follow Rita's example and make an "I-Spy" style quilt.  This has a cute novelty fabric for the centre of each block, surrounded by various colourful prints.  I don't really buy a lot of novelty prints so I was concerned I wouldn't have enough but it was amazing how many I found in my stash once I started looking.

Rita's tutorial is based on a 5 1/2" block.  Kind folk on IG and on their blogs have come up with some different block sizes, going as big as 12" in some cases.  I decided to go for the middle ground and opted for an 8" finished block.  Here is a suggested cutting diagram below, but I like to make my blocks oversized and trim them so I opted for a 4.5" central square, two 4" squares for the first round and two 5.25" squares for the second round (the 4" and 5.25" squares cut diagonally in half).

It has been fun pulling out all the fabrics from my stash and coming up with interesting combinations.

I decided to have a little clean out inside my sewing machine when it seemed a little unhappy one day.  I do this regularly but am always surprised to see how much lint collects in there!  The machine always runs better afterwards.

Not content with having the economy blockalong on the go, I decided to start on another simple quilt.  For ages, I had been looking for a charm pack I had bought including fabrics from the range "Dream On".  I had mislaid it in my Den but I came across it a few weeks ago, tucked behind some teetering piles of fabric.  Surely not!  It' a gorgeous fabric range based on vintage sheeting of the 1960's and '70s.  I supplemented the charm pack with some gaily coloured basics and some actual vintage sheets from my stash.

As if that wasn't enough, once I'd completed that one, I started on another top, this time using my favourite shades of pink, green and a gorgeous lavender-blue.  Even the trimmings seemed pretty enough to snap for Instagram!

I cut 2.5" strips across the width of the fabric, joined them in groups of five, then cross cut them to give me some traditional rail fence blocks.  A simple and effective design that packs a punch in these delightful colours.  Here it is on the design wall before the blocks were joined together.

In the background, the "Dream On" top had come together beautifully and was ready for sandwiching.  Orange is a difficult colour to get right, I find, but is spot on in this range.

Well, that was a busy few days!  The reason I made those two quilt tops was because I wanted to road test some new machines.  It seems January is the month when I get itchy feet and start pondering whether the perfect sewing machine is out there.  I did my research on the net and set aside a whole day to go into the shop and thoroughly try out the three machines I was interested in.  I took the quilt tops and some other smaller projects.  I have learnt from experience that you really do need to try the machines with projects you would actually make at home.  It's no good trying out little test squares, because the performance of the machine is entirely different when you make full size quilts on them.

Excitingly, I  found a machine whose quilting performance blew me away.  Home came Jenny Janome and I am completely and utterly thrilled with her.  I've never had a machine produce such perfect results.  Everyone looks for different things in their perfect machine.  I can't tell you how great it feels to have found mine!  This is one machine I know I'm not going to grow out of for a good while.  Love!

Jenny Janome had no trouble finishing off the two quilt tops and they've now been hand bound and are awaiting their moment of "ta dah" glory.  Then they'll be offered for sale.

It's difficult to tear myself away from that fabulous machine though!  I've still the economy blockalong to finish, after all. Here it is on my makeshift design wall yesterday. I think I have fiddled a bit with the layout since then and I've joined half the blocks.

Now I have to tackle the ironing so I feel I have earned a little more time with Jenny Janome!


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Fresh : The Feedsack Frames Quilt

Hello readers. May I wish you all a very Happy New Year. I hope it is already looking up for you. I'm not a one for resolutions at New Year, myself. I'm just looking forward to starting a new quilt!  

This week, I've felt the need to treat myself.  New year, new materials, that's been my motto, so I've dug deep in my piggy bank.  I've nearly finished the scarf I've been making for Mr HH (it was meant to be for Christmas but I ran out of yarn), I've finished numerous cowls and posted one to my mum for her birthday today, and I am officially parking my Christmas blanket until next year.  So, I decided to allow myself a little yarny influx for a new project.  Happy days.

The reason I can start a new quilt is that I've just finished another.  Depending on how long you have been reading my blog and how good your memory is (and it will need to be quite good!) you may recall me starting this project. If you don't or you need a refresher, you can read about it here. I'm afraid to say, I think it was almost two years ago.  So for those of you who think I work really quickly, there you go!  With a trip to the cottage looming, I needed to decide what crafty project to take and  decided it was time to finally finish my "quilt on the go" quilt.  I dug out the sixteen blocks needed to make the quilt and found only two needed hand quilting.  I laid out the blocks whilst I had the advantage of the huge table in my quilting room and labelled them up, ready to sew them together once the hand quilting had been completed. 

 I had a little help, of the furry ginger kind, along the way. 

I set myself up a makeshift quilting den at the cottage and pottered away quite happily joining the blocks together.

I'm pleased to say I got the quilt put together and just needing the binding by the time we left the cottage on New Year's Day.  I auditioned a few bindings back in the Den and settled on a jaunty red number. 

This quilt has become quite well travelled.  I recently went over for a lovely crafternoon with my Instagram friend Erin and it seems a certain furry friend of hers rather took a liking to my quilt and my lap!  Certainly no complaints from me.  Isn't she gorgeous.

Back in front of the fire at home, it seems another kitty was not disinterested in this quilt, either.  It is always a pleasure to sit and hand stitch the binding at this time of year. It certainly keeps you warm as you sit underneath it, putting in those final teeny neat stitches round the edge.  I just don't understand people who spend hours lovingly putting a quilt together then machine stitch the binding down but each to their own.

I'm digressing a little here and showing you another bit of making, or rather "make do and mending" that has been going on.  On Sunday, it was time to take down the Christmas decorations and with that, put away the festive cushion covers and get my beloved flowery barkcloth ones back out.  Sadly, the beautiful fabric had sprung a few little tears.  Rather than make new covers, I decided these ones had a little more life in them so using lovely vintage fabrics from my stash, I set about patching them. I was aided by the fact that on Christmas Day, I had opened a gorgeous bundle of vintage fabrics gifted to me by Mr HenHouse.  Swoon.

Do you know, I think I love my cushions just as much with their patchwork plasters.  I'm almost hoping to have to add to them and I don't mind confessing that I may have added one or two entirely gratuitously.

Back to the matter in hand then.  There was clearly no likelihood that I was going to be able to treat my newly finished quilt to its ta-dah moment on the washing line outside, as has become customary.  In a rare sunny moment the other day, I seized the chance to take a few snaps indoors.  Charlie Boy was most bemused.

I got ambitious and perched on a kitchen stool to take another!  I quite like seeing it from this vantage point.

The fabrics for the front were a real mix taken from my stash.  However, I felt the fabrics had a feedsack influence, hence the name of the quilt.  They are all modern, reproduction fabrics, though.  I backed it with a cute Cath Kidston print.  I'm not sure if this is still available as I bought it half price in the sale a good while back.

There was only one problem with the new location for my snapping session.  It seems one furry friend still had to have his turn with the new quilt.

In fact, he has taken rather a shine to it.

Here's his sheepish (cat) face.

It was inevitable, really.  At least he's got good taste!  It seems this cosy quilt is a kitty magnet. 

I hope you have enjoyed my indoor quilty reveal.  I'm now inspired to think I can show you more of the quilts I have made over the Winter right now, rather than having to wait until Summer.  I have another two at least.  But for now, I'm going to start another. Xxx

P.S.  A little request, please.  I see a lot of my photographs taken from this blog appearing on Pinterest.  This is absolutely fine but please make sure that either the original link back to this blog remains with the image or that you mention in the description that HenHouse is the source of the image.  It is a little frustrating to see so many of my photos not properly credited and I have begun formally requesting Pinterest that they be removed.  I know the vast majority of you do respect my copyright for which I'm very grateful, so please make sure my images are properly credited. X