Friday, 30 May 2014

Knowing When to Throw In The Towel (or bag)

Months ago, my sister-in-law asked me to make a doll's nappy (diaper) bag for my 2½ year old niece. She hasn't been able to find one for her in Australia. I picked up fabric for it ages ago, but with lacking sewjo and nerves about re-sizing a bag pattern when I've only made one bag it's taken me too long to get around to starting.

Skipped stitches because my machine didn't like using a denim needle
when sewing denim...

This was the week, and up until the last hour of yesterday afternoon it was going swimmingly. I'm making Sew Sweetness' Velocity Girl bag. I've made it before, in fact I took it out for its photoshoot last Memorial Day! And when my sister-in-law saw it she told me that with a flap it and a little bigger it would look just like the expensive real-life diaper bags that were all the rage. So when she requested a doll version for Grace, I thought, well I'll just make a scaled down version of Velocity Girl, add a flap - how hard can it be!??

And the answer is not that hard, there's some maths and counting, but Sara's pattern is so well written that it actually makes putting it all together still really easy when you're taking your little added extras into account. A fact I'm now eternally grateful for, because I find bags really difficult to keep a hold of in my head. It's their 3D-ness. I can't quite grasp the why, until twenty steps later I'm like, 'OHHHHHHH, that's really frickin' clever!!'.

Fighting the Pins

Anyway, the balls up. I made all the various panels and pockets, and added piping (a first - yay!) and it went grand. Then, I started to assemble them, into a bag form. It was when I was adding the second outer wall that I realised I was using half the recommended seam allowance, cos I'd gotten kinda cocky with how well it was going. Part of me was like, well, it would be a pain to unpick and it's fine so far, so maybe we'll just go with it.

Offending Hole

But, no. I missed the underneath layer in three spots, and one was a whopper. I was so cross. Grumpy for well over an hour. That feeling of wanting to break a piece of china, or maybe kick a wall... Grrrr. But, a rant at Paul, a stomp around the supermarket, dinner, Dr Who, and a walk all improved my mood. As did, surprisingly, turning the offending item right side out. It needs to be unpicked, and sewn with the correct seam allowance. But it's shaping up to be really cute when done right, so it will be worth it.

Mollified by the Cute

But it won't be worth it today. Or for the next week. Too much frustration. It's time to metaphorically throw it at the wall. Wait for pay day, grab some Joann's vouchers, take Sara's instagram advice of yesterday and buy some Clover Wonder Clips. So that instead of bending my lovely quilting pins, and trying to figure why I can't push one through, only to discover I've created a small groove in my thumbnail, I can just clip and unclip, and not curse.

Let's Not Forget the Hole of Shame

Last night, after I'd ranted and stomped and walked it out, I had 45 minutes and so I continued the calm with a little bit of English paper piecing. I've been cutting one square from every scrap of the Farmer's Wife Quilt that's large enough, and I'm beginning to sew them together. There's no plan to the colours, and I'm finding the outcome very cottage-y cosy.

This post is getting unwieldy now, but one more picture and a couple of links. The Deep in the Heart of Texas Roadtrip QAL kicks off on Sunday, June 1st. Melissa has cutting directions and the quilt layout up on her blog as of yesterday. Today I got out the fabrics I've chosen for this quilt. I bought a lot of Lazy Day charm and mini-charm packs (one of my oldest friends is having a baby, and I panicked earlier in the year) which were going spare, but which I think on a navy background are going to make a lovely Texas. I've only bought a few extra half yards for the city blocks so far, but this morning I ordered a few more colours for variety. I'm excited to get going and will check in once a week with my progress, and links if you're following along :)

Have a good weekend y'all, x

(did you see what I did there!??!?)

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Exciting - Deep in the Heart of Texas Roadtrip QAL

Kicking off next week, and organised by the brilliant Melissa at My Fabric Relish and Cristina at Pretty Little Quilts the Deep in the Heart of Texas Roadtrip QAL is more than just its super cute button.


I couldn't believe when I they let me get involved as an honorary brand new Texan! Have you see the quilt yet??

Cristina made it, she was inspired by this quilt by Dana Michaelsen (who you can find on instagram @danahannah310 for further inspiration!).

The idea of the quilt along is that each stop is with a different blogger who will tell you about their local (or assigned) Texan town or city!  The what to sees, the what to eats, the where to find the fabrics!! And each blogger has designed a block to represent their town. Blocks slot into the above quilt in their rough geographic location and you use scraps, jelly rolls, charm packs, mini charms, whatever you've got! to fill in the rest of Texas!!

I love it! I'm super nervous and excited. I've been checking out the other bloggers and everyone is so different! I can't wait to see all the different blocks and all the interpretations we make on them. It's going to be so much fun.

But more than that - I can't wait to see what YOU come up with!!

The link to the Official QAL Page is in the button above, and it's at the top of my sidebar for the duration of the summer! This is all going to be quite relaxed, running from next week until the middle of August.

I wanted to show you pictures of the bits and bobs I'm prepping, but we're having thunderstorms galore this morning and the lighting is terrible - so I'll save it for little check-ins during the week. Also, this is getting long!

Oh, oh!!! I forgot! There are prizes and giveaways, and so many things that I can't quite believe how big these ladies have gone with this - it's so awesome. Lots of local Texas quilt shops getting in on the act, and each blogger is giving away some Aurifil - that's Aurifil at each and every stop on this roadtrip - I need a Holy Cow! emoticon.

Here are all the dates and stops, in case you feel the need for some further exploring!! I really hope I see some of you popping in and out along the way :)

June 2 - Dallas - Ashley at Urban Spools
June 5 - Tyler - Colleen guest blogger at Pretty Little Quilts
June 12 - Fort Worth - Lindsey and Jodie at Fort Worth Fabric Studio
June 16 - Amarillo - Aoife at thREDhead
June 19 - Lubbock - Jada (guest blogger) at My Fabric Relish
June 23 - El Paso - Jennie at Porch Swing Quilts
June 26 - Midland/Odessa - Donna at Donna's Lavender Nest
June 30 - Big Bend - Cristina at Pretty Little Quilts
July 7 - Houston - Teresa at Third Floor Quilts
July 10 - Beaumont - Taryn at Pixels to Patchwork
July 14 - Austin - Amanda at What the Bobbin
July 17 - College Station - Hilary at Young Texan Mama
July 21 - San Antonio - Ellyn at Ellyn's Place
July 24 - Hill Country - Lissa at Moda Fabrics
July 28 - Rio Grande Valley - Melissa at My Fabric Relish

Friday, 23 May 2014

A Slow Week

It's been a slow one, sewing wise, life wise. Met my new neurologist on Monday, have a change in medication, the navigation of the American health care system began, it's been confusing and surprising (in good ways, so far). The bad parts are all in the withdrawal and new side effects, sleep is being stolen from me among others, but hopefully this is the low point.

I was prepared Monday, left out some easy to piece blocks from an oft put down project, continued on them on Tuesday.

Laid out my progress, over a year so far, 14 blocks left, seeing it all out is encouraging, such lovely colours - all courtesy of Justine at Simply Solids and her Sew Solids Crew stash club last year.

Since Wednesday I've tried to push myself to get to what I really should be doing - but like any time that word, should, is involved it isn't happening. My brain is not up for altering patterns as I go, and my machine has decided that skipping stitches is so in vogue right now. I've walked away. Though I'm eyeing up a potential couple of hours of alone time on Sunday morning for a thorough machine clean and re-thread! I'm actually enthusiastic about that, another surprise.

Yesterday I gave up on the shoulds completely, and started cutting out the fabrics for my next set of Farmer's Wife blocks. It's slow, requires little brain power (apart from the ones that involve mirrored blocks - why, why!?!), and is filled with colour. I'm loving it.

Very much looking forward to this long weekend (magical words), hoping that I will enter next week more refreshed and more human-feeling. Hoping you all enjoy your weekends, wherever you happen to be!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Quilted Hot Water Bottle Cover - A Quick Tutorial

Last week I needed a quick finish, and to use some happy fabric. I found the perfect project in my skanky old hot water bottle cover, and a fat quarter that had come in a pot-luck buy this Spring.

Told you it was skanky, and old!

I traced the old cover onto the back of the fabric* and cut out the new front. The back is an envelope closure, so I made the fabric for the body of the bottle longer, and separated the shoulders and neck which would sit over the top forming the envelope.

*I would suggest you trace around your bottle or your old cover onto a piece of paper, and use that to make your pattern pieces before tracing onto the fabric. This would have saved me some trimming at later stages.

This gave me three pieces to baste and quilt.

I decided that straight diagonal lines in hot pink would add to the happiness of the fabric, and not distract. I marked these with my hera marker, about an inch apart, but I just used the width of my trusty metal ruler to space them.

Once quilted, I trimmed the batting and backing back to the top fabric, using my small rotary cutter. I love this guy, he's so useful for getting nice smooth curves.

Then it was time for binding. First up, the edges that will become the opening of the envelope closure at the back!

I used some store bought bias-cut binding that I've had languishing in various drawers for the last two years. The way I cut the back I had to allow for the beginning of the shoulder curves on the bottom piece. This made attaching the binding a little tricky, but as it was cut on the bias and with plenty of pins, it worked fine.

Now, I laid the front piece and the two back pieces over each other with wrong sides together. Fixing them until the lined up perfectly and then I put a couple of pins in the centre to keep them in place. I decided to stitch around the edge first, before adding the binding, which made binding so much easier!

Lots of pins allowed the bias binding to nicely wind its way around all the curves. I attached the binding to itself with a straight line, following this tutorial by Wasn't Quilt in a Day. It works beautifully, though ironing the crease in and the opening the seam was a little tricky, and an almost burned finger. If you've a small iron, this is the time to break it out!

I ironed the binding away from the side it's just been attached to. This made it much easier to fold it over to the front, where I top-stitched it down on the machine. I was surprised that my machine didn't complain more at this point, as in places it was sewing through three quilted layers, plus at least two layers of binding. I was very impressed with my little machine.

And, not much time later I had a new happy (slightly sugar high) hot water bottle! That's it with the bottle inside.

Confession time - I was kind of grumpy when I was doing this, and not inclined to take much time, so I quilted the pieces without using any pins or basting spray - hence the little wrinkles you can see. So don't do as I do - baste as you usually would!!

Finally, here's the envelope back in action!

I've found this opening really makes refilling the bottle easy.

I love seeing this guy peeping out under my locker now, he definitely was the quick cheery finish I've been needing :) If any of you ever do take any of this to help with making you a new cheery hot bottle cover I'd love to see it!

Aoife xx

Thursday, 8 May 2014

50 Farmer's Wife Blocks

It only took me a year and 4 months!


Still though, I'm actually glad that I can pick it up and put it down as I please. Some months there's too much else going on, or once you sit down in the evening you're struggling to stay awake.

Y-seams, ftw!

I have been averse to picking it up since the start of this year, and having had almost 5 months to ponder it, I think I know why. I've not been feeling the colours and fabrics in the last few blocks. I chose them in the middle of last summer, when I cut out pieces for a behemoth 20 blocks in one go. It turns out I'm a fickle fabric chooser!


So this time, I'll only be prepping the next five blocks. I'm also going to throw a withering glance over the fabrics that have managed to not get used 8 or 9 charm packs in.

Friendship Star

I also bought three new charm packs this Spring - Botanics, Daydream, and Mixed Bag - to reinvigorate the fabric choosing and colour palette.

I'm also quite sick of basket blocks - I haven't checked but I'm hoping there are no more!

Double blergh.

I noticed while laying out the blocks yesterday that I'm ending up with a lot of different sizes. This has to do with my inexperience in English paper piecing when starting out, and the laws of physics (4 sewn together pieces are going to be larger than a single piece cut to size - all that extra thread and fabric makes a difference!).

I need to add some darker blocks, dominated by pale ones right now.

However, I've come up with a cunning plan. I'll pop them into some generous sashing, alternating square and on-point, to make a humongous or a normal sized quilt depending on how long more I can keep the EPP going!

The obstinate mental part of me kind of wants to go all the way humongous - that's the same part that sees me almost halfway into what could be a 3 year quilt top, because I decided to do it by hand...

Obstinate and mental, that's me - why change now!? (that's totally logical thinking, right there!)

PS The sewing room/nook is an even bigger mess now, I opened the desk bits, realised I couldn't do it by myself, and won't have reinforcements until tomorrow night at the earliest! However, having run out of procrastination material, the organising will begin this evening - pinky swear!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Flowery Skeleton Phone Cover

I got up way too early today - 4am. Jetlag makes me hungry about every two hours, and not just hungry but 'holy shit, I'm starving!'. I've had the overwhelming urge to organise and catalogue and plan and clean since we got back yesterday. Yesterday I mostly felt lost in just how many things require attention, but clever (annoying at the time) Paul pointed out that I should just focus on one bit at a time. So today is laundry, and lists, and small bits of block designing thrown in to keep me happy - along with regular feedings.

I've been thinking about my lack of finishes so far this year, and then I realised that I have finished one very tiny little thing. I made a pocket for my new fancy phone - slightly less fancy since it planted itself face first onto concrete, but the scuffs are small and ignorable, and not on the screen - whew!


When we got here, and I set up the machine first, I realised I needed a small project, something quick, and happy. So I broke into a pile of skull fabrics I won from Made with Moxie last year - they're my favourite, and quite precious. Then I decided that playing with my FMQ/darning foot for the first time ever was also in order. I tried something akin to a spiralling fluffy cloud/chrysanthemum (the latter only if you squint, really). It worked, and was fun, though I need quilting gloves if I'm going to try it again.

Why quilt it once - when you can quilt it twice?

I decided the stitches got kind of huge in places, so I then did a diagonal cross-hatch in golden yellow - very Chanel (reaching!?). It's lined with some golden yellow voile from Anna-Maria Horner's Pastry Line from Little Folks. Another very favourite and much-guarded fabric.

This jovial fellow got some rather large stitches.

When I made this, I completely over-estimated the size of fabric I'd need. In the end though, it left me with this awkward off-cut, which is going to become a key-fob, once I track down the right doo-dah to attach to it!

Other side, with the happy lady!

I'm hoping for more finishes soon, but I'm taking a new tack of just doing what takes my fancy for a while - so who knows. I'll keep you all updated as I potter along. First up, however, is organising and building my new sewing space. It's in quite the mess right now!

There's a proto-design wall in the bottom-right corner!