Monday, 28 January 2013

Improv Curves feat. yet more bunting!

Curves class is amazing. I'm having a little trouble finding good sewing time during the week, but each week is better than the last and soon I'll feel totally organised! And class will be over - boo!

Last week was learning to sew improv curves. Of the three projects on offer I chose to do Rainbow Road! This is a quilted table runner. I don't really have a use for a table runner, but my mother said she'd like one for her coffee table. So I took the measurements (38" x 15.5"), got out my stash, and selected fabrics that matched her living room. These included some Flights of Fancy tonal in cream and coral, and some Liberty Lifestyle Bloomsbury Gardens!!! I really love my mother :) As well as some fabric I bought 8 years ago and two old pillow cases.

I was quite scared to begin with, and then progressively bolder followed by minor freak outs when I hadn't a clue where to go next! Then I realised, it's improv! There's not really a right answer, just the techniques Rachel had laid out to use. I ended up really liking the result, even if the colour scheme isn't one I'd choose first off by myself...

And back!
My first pieced back as well!

In the end, Mammy liked the coffee table runner so much she asked for a matching placemat for the dining table, which lives at the other end of the same room. I decided I could use my scraps to make it, and it was even more challenging. But I loved it! I can't wait to do some more improv piecing, and have even had a bit of a brainwave, which I'll ruminate on some more before trying to execute! Here's the placemat:

Slightly more chaotic!
I also made up two more strings of the scalloped bunting from the first week of the class.

All three together - surprisingly hard to get a semi-decent photo of them all...
I've been thinking I need a bit more of an organised approach to posting... But right now life is not at all organised. I'll have to mull it over, and in the meantime I shall try to link up to as many things as I can! For this post I want to link up to one of my favourite blogs weekly linky; Anything Goes at Stitch By Stitch! And to the Let's Get Acquainted linky at Plum and June :)

Here's on final picture, the table runner in its new home. I love seeing things used :)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

....the reason for a very happy few days!

A little over a week ago Hilary from lemon loves... left a comment on one of my blogs to let me know she wanted to pass the Liebster Award from her blog to mine. Colour me very shocked AND very smiley :)

The Liebster award is passed on from new or small blogs to ones they've found inspirational. Here's the information I've found on it by going to visit Hilary's website and then Gina's website who nominated Hilary!

"The Liebster Blog Award is an award given by bloggers to up and coming bloggers, most of whom have less than 200 followers (or have been blogging for less than 6 months). It is to show newer bloggers that they are appreciated, and to help spread the word about new blogs. It was created to promote appreciation and recognition among the blog world. Liebster translates to “dearest” (or favorite/best) in German. It is also known as the Love Blog Award."   

I'm still stunned that Hilary knew my blog! And then that she liked it enough to nominate me - there are so many crafty bloggers out there, this is such an amazing thing to pass on, and to have in existence at all.
So there are rules of sorts :) Hilary has given me, and the other blogs she nominated, 11 questions to answer about ourselves. And we also share 11 random pieces of information about ourselves! Here are my questions and then some random trivia:
1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I only realised this today, since Christmas I have been finding it really hard to get out of bed in the morning. But today I was back to my regular early(ish) rising, hopping out of bed to see the dog and let her out and feed her. What changed? I booked flights a couple of days ago to go and see Paul in DC. So, it turns out that he gets me out of bed in the morning...

2. Who do you admire?
I'm finding this the hardest to answer. I admire people who are very open about their emotions and problems, shortcomings, etc... I strive to be more accepting of those things in myself and more open about them too.

3. If I gave you £100 /$100 what would you spend it on?
Fabric - total no-brainer. Possibly Happy-Go-Lucky by Bonnie & Camille... Or a complete bundle of Sketch! Oh, but just had another thought - I could do a course in either digital photography and/or web design! Always looking to improve my blogging skills now ;)

4. Sausages or prawns?
Sausages, with mash and gravy!

5. What is the last thing you read?
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Though Ender's Shadow (Orson Scott Card), Cujo (Stephen King), and Migraine (Oliver Sacks) are all currently on the go!

6. What is the last thing you made?
I finished a table runner for Rachel @ Stitched in Color's Curves Class - it shall comprise part of my blog post for tomorrow!

Sneak peak!

7. What is your favourite childhood memory?
Long summer days spent running about the woods and the fields around our estate, with frequent tree climbing.

8. What makes you laugh out loud?
Stand-up comedy - particularly Irish comics, Dara O'Briain, Des Bishop, and Tommy Tiernan are just the tip of the iceberg!

9. If you had to choose a word to describe today – what would it be?
Recovery (first day proper sewing since before Christmas, getting over yesterday's migraine, and no appointments today - woop!).

10. Mountain top or beach?
Mountain top, no hesitation.

11. Why do you blog?
I was doing a pretty isolating job, leaving no time to get to quilting guilds, and learning all of my sewing and quilting skills from online blogs until the end of last summer. I then moved back to Ireland, and realised that I was giving away everything I was making as presents. I had no record and nothing to show if I ever did join a real-life guild! So I decided to record my journey and projects with a blog! It's also made me become more engaged with the online community, so instead of being a spectator I feel part of something wider.
Random Aoife Trivia:
- My name is Irish, and causes strife everywhere I go. I'm frequently mistaken for a man on online hotel bookings. It's pronounced Eefa, and no one gets it right first try - except for one security official in Boston's Logan Airport. That was seriously impressive. Her name was Ifeoma (Eefoma) and so she got it in one!
- I always tend towards being verbose. Gotta cut that down!
- I use way too many exclamation marks!
- I have a PhD in geology.
- It has not improved my knowledge of when to use commas. I throw them in everywhere!
- I have been learning to drive for 4 months.
- I believe honesty and manners are the two most important things in a person.
- When stressed I get efficient, Paul calls it rude, others might say I get even more blunt.
- As a teenager all I wanted as an adult was a fridge of my own.
- I have bought fabric since I was a teenager, but only very recently acquired the patience to sew it together.
- I'm considering stopping watching tv... but willing to be persuaded.

Now I have to nominate another 11 blogs and ask them 11 questions to help us get to know them better! I will provide links to their blogs, and hopefully, eventually their specific Liebster posts.
The blogs I nominate are:

They are all great blogs, which I really enjoy visiting regularly! Many of them I've chatted with on email and in comments sections, they are all helpful and considerate and pretty awesome... Go check them out :)
Here are my 11 questions:
1) If you could try out any craft other than stitch-y things, what would you do?
2) What's the reasoning behind your blog's title?
3) What was the first music album you bought?
4) What would be your dream job and how is that different to when you were a kid?
5) If you had time and money, where in the world would you choose to go visit?
6) Do you have a new sewing  technique you want to try out and learn this year?
7) What is your all time favourite movie?
8) If you could get rid of one chore from your life, what would it be?
9) What is the greatest source of creativity for you?
10) What are you most proud of in your life?
11) What thread-related project are you working on right now!?

Wow, those questions were harder to come up with than I expected. But also great, things I don't think about very often. And it's really really awesome to let the blogs I love know I love them!

I <3 Liebster!

PS Here are those rules, written out nice and concise:
1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2.  Answer the 11 questions given by the nominator.
3.  Create 11 new questions for those you nominate.
4.  Choose 11 new blogs (less than 200 followers or blogging for less than 6 months) and link to them in your post. (Will those I nominate please leave a comment on this post with a link to your Liebster post so I can learn more about you? Thank you!!)

Monday, 21 January 2013

What's next?

It turns out that despite not signing up to too many things over Christmas so I would be happily busy and not crazy busy this month and next, I am. Very busy. I haven't signed up to tonnes of sewing things, one class, one BOM, and one stash club. The second two run all year and I'll enter 2014 with two very lovely, almost finished quilts! And the class finishes before the end of February.

However, in the rest of life I signed up for a chair making course, doing my driving test slightly too soon, the local quilters group, and a pilates course. The driving is taking over. But in just over two weeks that will calm down, one way or the other! So all I have to do is cling on and I'll get through the crazy within a month. It's been hard to find any sewing time in the last week, which is the first week I've had even the sniff of a sewing chance since Christmas. Lots of organising is required, but I'm starting to crest the hill (I think). So what exactly, have I got going on?

Well, the class first. I took Rachel's, from Stitched in Color, Handstitched Class in the summer. I still haven't finished the class quilt, but am planning it, alongside one other handstitched project, to run throughout this year. Something for my evenings. I'll finish, but it might be this time next year when I complete! I loved the class though. Loved it. It pushed me, and it has made handstitching part of my regular quilting repertoire. Even just as quilt labels. So when she offered her Curves Class again I jumped at the chance. I checked online when I got home from a New Year's Eve party, and again at 6am, so I could make sure I got a place on the course! It worked - woop! The second week is just beginning, so I only have my one easy-peasy project to show from last week (so little sewing time - want to do ALL the projects!).

It really was easy-peasy!

As you might see from my side-bar, I've also signed up for the Lucky Stars Block of the Month run by Don't Call Me Betsy! The blocks will be foundation paper pieced. I have never ever done this before. This will make it interesting. I am behind on this, I feel. Though technically I have till February 1st to make the first two blocks (a practice block sent out in December, and the January block)... I am also seriously daunted by starting. I want a whole day where I don't have to run off and do anything else to sit down and work this one out. I am doing the 12.5" blocks - partly cos I want something lap-sized at the end and also cos I reckon biggest will be the least fiddly... We'll see :) I have gotten as far as choosing my fabrics for this BOM - check it out!

A charm pack of Salt Air by Cosmo Cricket and coordinating Moda Bella solids!!
The next bit of fabric-y loveliness comes courtesy of Justine at Simply Solids. She's running a monthly stash club, called the Sew Solids Crew Stash Club. December was purples and January dark greens. I wanted a plan, and then I needed good backing fabric to arrive from the fabric fairies! So I could carry out the x and + quilt of my dreams:

I just started cutting the fabrics today! I've already made mistakes, and need to cut some more, but I'm really excited about this quilt. I'll be making four blocks of one colour range each month. I get three fat quarters of varying shades of the colour every month. Here are December and January:

Backing fabric is the grey and cream versions of Dictionary Sewing Guide from the Mama Said Sew collection:

And even though I have to cut slightly more of each, I have leftovers! Enough for maybe another small, colourful quilt (crib-size, maybe....?)!

And, one more quilt in the works! My uncle discovered I make quilts and requested one that is exactly 5' by 7', warm, heavy, and won't slip off his bed. Thankfully, my mother was on hand to help me buy the fabrics. Nothing flowery or overly-patterned would do at all for this man! I foresee problems learning how to quilt through heavier than usual fabrics, and even piecing will be interesting. But the fabrics were definitely voted a success by all!

I have come up with a pattern to sew it all together with, keeping all the pieces as large as possible to reduce bulky seams - hopefully. Let me know what you think!

The light blue represents the patterned fabric. Each square is 12" x 12" finished.
And finally, you'll be delighted to hear, I wanted a handstitching project, easy to transport, and one I could bring to any quilting meetings I get to. I fell in love with the farmer's wife quilt when I saw it on Camille Roskelley's blog in September! Paul bought me the book, after much sending of pictures and talk about it. And I decided the charm packs I've been hoarding would be used up perfectly in this, along with some Kona Snow.

And here are the two blocks I've been working on since last week, one finished, one started...

Autumn Tints and Attic Windows!
Phew, that is actually a lot! I just realised while writing it out, because I kept forgetting which project I hadn't talked about yet.... But, to be fair (talking myself into this one), but 3 of these will take at least the rest of this year - I expect the Farmer's Wife to take a couple of months longer. So, maybe not too mental... Maybe :)

I'm linking up to the brand new (to me, only!) Let's Get Acquainted Monday Link-Up!!

Friday, 18 January 2013

My Very Favourite Finish...

( far, anyway!)

So, Paul loves colour. Big time. When I saw a jelly roll of Moda Marbles in Citrus last April I knew he would love anything made with those colours! They were like a bag of skittles. Hence, the name of the finished quilt - Paul's Rainbow Skittles Quilt...

When I started, I spent a long time coming up with different ways I could combine the marbles jelly roll with a white jelly roll and design a quilt top. I came up with all sorts of ideas, and along the way discovered that Paul likes geometric and predictable. No utterly random mixes or coloured lines that start to disintegrate or collapse away across the quilt! I had started putting the blocks together (on the computer) into what I referred to as St. Brigid's Crosses (but which probably has a proper block name, that I don't know).

I had even planned quilting around each coloured cross in matching thread, giving a rainbow of outline crosses on the quilt back!
Paul liked it. My parents saw swastikas. I mentioned it to Paul, he saw them too... Not good. And once you see them, they're hard to un-see! So I asked on Twitter, and the lovely Sarah Lawson replied to say she loved the layout and I should go for it! So tempted! But the swastika see-ers around me won in the end. Plus it gave me the opportunity to go in a brand new direction, with all of Paul's requirements in mind, and keep the new design a total secret. Sold!!

Bloggy people have been doing lots of things with chevrons, and invariably I adore them all. I decided a rainbow of zig-zags would look great, and having to line all those pieces up would be a great next challenge for me. In the start I hated pinning things, full on groan and grumble and sigh and strop (I'm 30 - can you tell?) hate. But then I took a dressmaking course and we pinned everything. It forced me through the hate, out the other side, into acceptance. Not love, but acceptance of the need for pinning. Zig-zags would test my resolve!

First I sewed every coloured strip to a white strip. Then I cut them all into squares - this was the most tedious part, by far!

The happy colours helped too!

Once you get through that, each time you sew something together you see the zig-zag forming, and it's lovely. Really satisfying.

Plus, and this will sound corny, but it was lovely to sit down and sew something that I knew Paul would bring back to the States without me and use. Handling it and working with it, taking time over every seam, was filling the quilt up with me (and probably also filling it up with my hair - it falls out all the time).

It was really hard to keep this a secret. I loved it so much. I have a lot of pictures. This was the quilt top in the midst of basting:

I had made a similar plan for quilting this top. Tracing each zig-zag in a matching thread so it would stand out on the white quilt back. I went around and collected all the thread colours I needed. I began with the hardest one, the red in the centre. I got three or four steps into zig-zag. It went horribly. Really horribly. I've never found it so hard to make a straight line straight. This is something I need to figure out.

But I didn't have time before Christmas and the wedding. I had to have it done so I could hide it away from Paul while he was visiting too! So I sat down for two hours with the seam ripper and pulled out my disastrous attempt. I have no pictures, but it is imprinted in my mind. And I decided that I'd try this hand-tying lark I've seen other people blog about and mention... I've a solid collection of embroidery thread colours. And so I set to work. I put a knot in at ever corner of ever zig-zag.

The finished back. Rainbow of threads - I'm guessing, though I don't know that I've left the threads too long? They washed ok though.

Paul had chosen the fabric for the binding himself. More rainbow :) I also made a label for the quilt, though I wanted it to be something special and unique. I was a bit bold, I did a google image search for robot love and traced one of my findings... I'm telling myself it's ok cos I'm not selling it on or profiting from it in anyway... Yeah, I guess. Intellectual property is a weird area. But an important one! I then embroidered over the top of the tracing, adding colour with the threads. I have since done a more comprehensive search, and after trawling through sites in Turkish and Spanish, Britta is the brilliant mind who conceived and drew Robot Love!! You totally need to check out her work :) And the robots are Leroy and Janice!

I love it! They're almost too cute.
Here's a picture of the finished bound quilt,

And here it is all wrapped up and ready to go home!

This is definitely my favourite finish so far. So I'm linking up to Richard and Tanya Quilts and Confessions of A Fabric Addict - because this is definitely my favourite whoop whoop!! And to TGIFF at the Celtic Thistle and to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts - cos why not, and I love this quilt so much I just want to share :)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Quilty Wedding Gifts

Paul and I got married on the 4th of January. Things have been nicely crazy since then, with a couple of days staying in Dublin and a few more visiting family in London! Not a whit of sewing has been done. Since Paul went back this morning, I'm distracting myself by getting caught up here. Sewing, and everything else I've put on the back-burner, gets looked at tomorrow! I feel overly due for a start of the New Year tidy and organise.

I decided way back (before we even got engaged properly) that I would make something quilty to give as gifts to my mother, Paul's mother, and his Nana. I came across this Fat Quarter Gang tutorial by John of Quilt Dad. Perfect! A bed runner (or as I took to calling it, a Foot Warmer...)! I never would have come up with that on it's own, or the idea of doing a gradient.

I struggled with finding a colour or colours to use. I wanted to make them all identical, to save time in the making and also prevent any rows about who got the prettiest! But I couldn't come up with a colour scheme that would satisfy all in their wide variety of tastes. So I started obsessively browsing online fabric shops (it helped that I was procrastinating like crazy over a report I had to write for my last job). Fabricworm came through for me this time with a bundle of Cameo by Amy Butler, in Warm.

Already sorted into a gradient! Woop!

I wanted to keep the whole thing a secret. Easier said than done, as I'm currently living with my parents. But I had ten days booked to visit Paul in DC and was really looking forward to getting back to my American sewing machine!

Rotary cutting on Election Night.
Finished panels for two of the three quilts.
I didn't finish. I did get all of the sashing done. But I didn't get to basting or quilting or binding, at all. So the tops came home with me, and I just had to accept that my mother was going to be in on the surprise! It was just as well in the end. The quilt tops were so long they barely stretched out in our flat in the States. At home we had to move the furniture out of half of the living room to lay out the backing and batting and tops!

Spray Basting!

I have to say that I'm not sure that I followed the instructions exactly. I knew my parents have a queen-size bed, and wanted to make sure there would be good drape on either side. My foot-warmers turned out at ~28" wide and ~90" long, I think. I bound them in white, and began by whipstitching them on. But in the end I ran out of time and the ability to sit down for long (hurt my back in early December) and so I just zig-zag stitched the binding on to save time and make them a little more sturdy. I would really really hate these, in particular, to fray or come loose.

I had an urge to quilt these in straight lines along the seams with a darker thread. So I bought this glorious looking spool in my local quilting shop,

Grades from dark to light blue throughout!

It was a mistake. But I learned. That thread is rayon. You absolutely should not try to quilt an all cotton quilt with anything other than cotton, really. And rayon breaks. It breaks all the time and really easily! I had gone too far with the first quilt to stop when the breaking started. But the cursing! Oh, the cursing! This is why my grandfather left the house when my mother sewed. I got there, finally. And swiftly switched to white cotton thread for the other two. It quilted like a dream. A dream, I tell you!

Finally, I added individual labels to the quilts, with the recipient's name and the date of our wedding.

I bought a fancy pale blue sheet to use as backing for them all. It feels really nice, everything washed well, but I wouldn't use it again. It frayed a LOT when I cut it. I really need to invest in pinking shears or a pinking blade.

The quilts went down really well at the wedding. And I loved being able to give something made with real feeling and love. I hope they get used often!

I'll show you Paul's wedding quilt soon!!!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

One of My Favourite Things!

I started off 2012 knowing I wanted to make a quilt for my about-to-be-born-any-week niece. I had no idea that I would end 2012 with a crafty blog and a serious, serious addiction to making quilts and other sewing related things. I never had the patience for it at any point before in my life, despite being a fabric hoarder for easily 15 years.

I've come to realise that aside from trying out funky looking stuff and wrapping my head around how to make a finished idea, the most important part of making to me is the giving and then knowing those quilts or toys are in use. Seriously. A lot of people treat the quilts as heirlooms and precious objects, which is lovely and flattering that they think so highly of what are really my learning curve.

But that all changed a few nights ago. Paul and I were seeing a couple of his mates for a tea and a chat, and his friend Richard turned to me and said that his daughter Freya was sleeping under the blanket I'd made her right now. I can't even describe how brilliant that was to hear, and just how lovely and complete it made the whole process feel! I'm still smiling. And so, that quilt is my Project of 2012.

It was the first time I'd followed a pattern (Fit For A Princess by I'm A Ginger Monkey on Sew Mama Sew), the first time I'd bought a fabric collection (Apple of My Eye by The Quilted Fish for Riley Blake), and the first time I didn't quilt by stitching in the ditch. It was really really hard to give that quilt away, but I did. And unknowingly, Richard made my whole year by telling me that it's in use.

Freya's Quilt
And nothing at all to do with sewing, well, just a little bit. I'm getting married to Paul on Friday. This Friday. I can't wait! He goes back to the States 9 days after that. That I could definitely put off. But I've made a couple of other really lovely things for the wedding as gifts, which are still top secret - obv. Here's a sneak peek at both:

This thread did not work out, at all! Turns out, I learned,
that you shouldn't quilt cotton quilts with rayon thread!

Excuse the funny angle, but I tied this quilt after putting
out a disc in my back which meant lots and lots
of standing and little or no sitting all over Christmas!

 I can't wait to show you these in full. I've loved making them, and I'm pretty sure the giving is going to be even better!

Happy New Year!!

PS I'm linking up to Lily's Quilts Small Blog Meet :)