Birthday present to self featuring funky animals, and the snow’s been and gone

Two more autumn blocks finished – one a couple of weeks ago but I waited until I’d finished the next one before posting. These are blocks 39 and 40 (of the ones I’m keeping, I did more that haven’t made the grade), and I turned 39 yesterday so now have more blocks than years in my life – sometimes it feels like that’s exactly how long it’s taken to make them!

Prairie Cactus

I love the colour scheme on this one, when I saw how well the Moda Prairie Cactus went with the green autumn leaves one I had to make something that put them next to each other, and I could actually visualise a whole quilt made just of these blocks. I do realise that despite the autumn leaves on two of the fabrics it doesn’t actually look all the autumnal, but I went ahead and did it anyway. It’s slowly dawned on me that it’s not so much the patterns on a fabric that give it a certain theme, but the colours and how they’re put together. I can see it on professional ones I see online and on other people’s blogs, but haven’t got there myself yet.

This next one took ages to design! I really wanted to make one using this orange fabric with animals as the centre square, because I have the fabric and love the animals, but of the other blocks I’ve made with it only one has worked out ok because the colour is difficult to match to other fabrics; the others I’ve either taken apart or will include because they’re just about okay but I don’t love them. I think ‘autumn’ when I see the woodland animals, and like the spot-the-animal-in-the-quilt idea, but struggle to design blocks with it that look autumnal. I think the problem’s partly the shade of orange and partly the animals are bright white, whereas my palette’s more muted and has a lot of tan in it now. With the fabrics I have I think this is the best I could come up with, after about 10 variations were laid out and photographed. I finished it yesterday, hence the birthday present to self comment. Perhaps it would have been better with something plainer than the bright acorns and berries, but there you go…

fox and badger

I saw on a Moda blog a little YouTube clip of a lady who clips the fabric slightly at the back where there are bulky joins so I tentatively tried that here, but I think I didn’t  do it right because it hasn’t made much difference. Where the points of the triangles created by two adjoining flying geese on the outer edge meet the inner block there is always a lot of bulk, and at the outer corners where you’ve essentially got 6 pieces of fabric meeting at a point, and it is a problem. I’m nervous of snipping as I sew by hand so there are gaps between stitches for fraying to work its way through, whereas sewn by machine it shouldn’t be a problem; as the Moda blog said, it’s done when making garments (sorry I forget who posted, perhaps Carrie Nelson).

The snow of late last week (here at work):

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has all gone now. Saturday morning there was still a fair bit in my soon-to-be-former landlord’s garden, and this pheasant sat for ages on their bird table, looking bemused:

Pheasant

If we hadn’t been packing I would have gone out and taken photos, but my walk had to wait ’til the afternoon, by which time the thaw was well underway. By Sunday afternoon all the walks in these photos were deep in mud and sloshy meltwater, less attractive. (And yes, the wide photo was me trying to use the digital panorama setting, hence the dark streak down the middle where the clouds changed while I tried to line it up!)

Landscape

 

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Two more autumn blocks with fussy cutting, but also some unwelcome news

Since my last post things have all been ‘a bit much’. I’d designed two blocks in a weekend and worked slightly obsessively to finish the first one by the end of Wednesday, absolutely record progress for me as I was so keen to get on and have the blocks finished by this coming autumn. I wanted to make one using the new prairie cactus fabric that was my latest fabric crush, though it somehow turned out that the fabric I thought went best with it was the foxy / nature / woodland one, which I also like but the overall effect is a bit gloomy; maybe more woodland than autumn, though it does have the word ‘harvest’ on the fabric somewhere! (The curvature is down to my non-existent photography skills). The fabric the central star is made of is one I bought ages ago but hadn’t found the right combination of other fabrics to use it with until now.

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So it was all going quite well, then I started feeling ill with what turned out to be the ‘flu, all my muscles and joints aching so that moving around hurt for days and even sewing seemed too much effort! In retrospect I’m glad ‘flu was ‘all’ it was, because after days of this I started mulling over what it must be like to have M.E… I’m a glass half-empty kind of a person.

On the Friday the estate agent that manages the flat we rent phoned me just after lunch to say that our landlords want their flat back, so the estate agents would be delivering the letter next week to say we’ve two months to move out. This was bad news because moving costs a lot in the UK and estate agents have fees for everything. The rental market moves quickly and is very expensive where we live, so it would mean finding a property in an area we’d like and where I can get the train to work (something else that is eye-wateringly expensive) and my husband can drive to work in the opposite direction. We need to pay a deposit on a new place, with an overlap paying rent on the place we’re in til the end of March as per the contract while paying rent for the new place, estate agents fees for taking the property off the market and making a tenancy agreement, paying for the inventory on the new place, and this awful clause on our current place whereby you have to pay to have the curtains dry-cleaned and the carpets and oven professionally cleaned and provide receipts to prove it. And of course the costs of moving our furniture. These are massive outlays but so much worse when you’re not expecting it and it didn’t feature in your budget – the fabric I wouldn’t have bought in the January sales if I’d known! Anyway, with that on top of the ‘flu when I had to take time off work because all I could do was sleep through the day but wasn’t able to sleep at night for coughing, I couldn’t summon up the energy to do any patchwork and it went on hold. I lost my sense of taste for 5 days too! Almost wish it wasn’t back because then I wouldn’t be comfort-eating chocolate. I did finish the gold stitching on my cross stitch cushion cover, and did a bit of knitting.

The ‘flu is almost gone now, I just need to wake up each morning without a sore throat and stop coughing. We flat-hunted on Saturday and saw nothing nice, but out current estate agent phoned to say they wanted to give us first refusal on a flat in the village next to the one where we currently live, that they’d been given instructions for but hadn’t advertised yet. We were fortunate to be able to arrange to see it first thing on Tuesday morning (I’m making up the time I took off work) and though not ideal, in the light of what we knew from searching is available on our budget (i.e. nothing will tick all the boxes) we said we’d take it. We haven’t anything in writing from the estate agents yet so I hope nothing is wrong, but I know from last time they can be pretty slow. I know I’m feeling better because I’ve started sewing again! I just finished the second of these two blocks last night.

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The colours on the second one are almost identical to the last one I did with this pumpkin fabric, just the tan blenders are different. Writing that makes me realise I’d intended to do the corners in the green leafy fabric (like the light cream one here) but have done them in brown instead by mistake, not sure how that happened. Oh well, not changing it now. Before I felt unwell I’d fussy-cut the pumpkin fabric for the outside edge flying geese, and worked from there to choose colours for the rest of it. I’m not so keen on the element of the fabric that has  gold-coloured acorns on it, but never mind. I hope tonight to finish the back of the jumper I’ve been working on, and at the weekend to sew the back of the cushion cover on. I did cut the pieces for that last weekend, but couldn’t face setting up the sewing machine. Moving flat has motivated me to work on the jigsaw that’s been sitting on a jigsaw board under the sofa for the past year (or is it more?), which I’ve taken out only periodically because of not having enough light in the winter evenings and because of it being a really difficult one! I think I won’t get so much sewing done at weekends because I want to finish it, even on a jigsaw board with zip-up cover it’ll still come apart when moved around so finishing it would be better, and I think I’ll give it away afterwards because it was so hard I don’t think I’ll do it again, though I often do keep jigsaw puzzles to redo (yet something else I feel guilty about when it comes to me having ‘too much stuff’). Oh dear, my list of things I want to do before have to pack up everything keeps getting longer…

Two autumn blocks and two new fabrics

Phew, I’ve finished two more blocks for my autumn quilt. I really wanted to make one using one of the scenes from a pumpkins fabric that I’m using for fussy cutting so started with that at the centre.

Pumpkins

I love the oak leaf motif fabrics, and the sparkly orange has proved so much more useful than I thought; when I bought it I wasn’t sure I’d use it at all but in fact have gone back and bought two more fat quarters in case I run out. I chose the fabrics for this first block before Christmas but didn’t start sewing til the New Year, was making great progress on the middle square – or so I thought – then realised just as I got into bed one night that not only had I sewn green where orange should be, I’d sewn the pieces on upside down to how I’d planned! Unpicking and resewing set me back a day, so I only finished it last Monday.

I’m having New Year enthusiasm to crack on with this and would love to have all the blocks finished this autumn, so worked hard to finish the second one, having planned most of it at the weekend in what few hours of daylight there were available in this gloomy winter.

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It’s been lunchtimes as well as commuting time and evenings, and maybe I’ve been a bit too focused, but am glad they’re done. I’m pleased with the fabric used at the small squares at the corners of the middle square, it was pure fluke, purchased when I was getting some red fabric for another project I’m planning and just struck me as being nice, but then when I was struggling to get the right fabric for those corners I thought I’d try it and I think it works well. I want to make my next block using it for the background of the eight flying geese round the edges, not least because I’m getting concerned I’m using the same fabric in that position for all my recent blocks, as for these two (it’s from the Moda Thistle Farm range). It’s such a good shade for a background but I don’t want to have more of it than anything else – plus, I’ll run out. The bold patterned fabric with the chrysanthemums on a brown background was a gamble, but I think it works well here, though I think I’ll be using it very selectively.

I’ve also been getting on with my cross stitch cushion cover and am nearly there except I’m using gold thread for overstitching now and it takes forever. Also working on jumper in a Noro yarn, but there just aren’t enough hours in the non-working part of my day! Monday tomorrow, yuck….

 

 

Changing seasons

We went on holiday to the North Pennines a month ago, but it doesn’t feel so long ago; so much crafting has been going on since then! Before we left, I finished this autumn jumper, in Rowan British sheep breeds boucle:

jumper

It’s perhaps a size too big (the last two having been a size smaller than I would have liked it seems this time I over-compensated), but I like it.

I took projects with me on holiday that I can’t do on the train so don’t get much attention unless I’m on leave… an ‘extreme knitting’ rug, the quilt back and leaf shapes to do applique, and my cross stitch cushion cover. Also the pieces for the next autumn block, the wool to knit snowmen Christmas tree decorations, and even some pieces to make cathedral window Christmas tree ornaments. Good to have a choice! In the end, I focussed on the cross stitch, though mostly when on the long car journey, and the rug. Neither are finished, but are close, if I could have continued to focus on them when I got back.

Had some nice days when away…

And some less nice…

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… but it was great to be away.

When we got back, I did finish the autumn block:

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This reused the dark orange fabric in the centre that came from a block I’d dismantled, and used most of what’s left of a fabric I bought on ebay at the beginning of the project and which is best used for ‘fussy cutting’ because the motifs aren’t close together. It is an old fabric, thin and frays easily, so I’m a bit worried about how long it will last in the quilt. It’s quite hard to sew fabrics of different thicknesses together and I know this has ‘issues’! The tan coloured fabric is Moda and is very useful for autumn projects.

A last burst of colour in a London park a couple of weeks ago  (complete with dustbin, sorry!):

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Since then, I’ve been working on a Christmas present which I really need to have finished by this coming Friday, when I’m getting the train to stay with my family for a bit as sadly I won’t see them at Christmas, so if I have it finished in time I can take it with me rather than trusting it to the post. It uses the sewing machine so really I can only do it at weekends – evenings in an emergency but I’m tired when I get home from work and make mistakes – but these last few weekends have been busy, with my husband’s family visiting and other things, so it’s not gone as smoothly as I’d have liked. I should finish it by working on it these next few evenings, it’s just something I’ve never done before so I’m doing a lot of reading and re-reading of instructions!

Then these little fellows have kept me occupied… They had to be delivered to church yesterday, to be put with other items to be sold at the church Christmas Tree Festival next weekend. So early! I feel like Christmas is over with before Christmas Day is even in sight, it’s so confusing and the day itself a bit of an anti-climax, I guess that’s getting older but with no children of my own – sorry, that’s a bit depressing. I’ll have to get used to it, because that’s the way it’s going to be now, best make the most of it. My in-laws will come to us on Christmas Day so at least it’s not just the two of us. I’ll try not to stress out about the cooking, when people are older they have fixed likes and dislikes which take precedence and that makes me anxious, but I should calm down and try to get a sense of perspective, because it’s okay really. At least on home turf I can have a glass of wine with Christmas dinner, which they don’t do. Anyway, here are the finished snowmen, which took me an insane amount of time to finish, the earliest I went to bed each night last week was 11, past midnight some nights, and I get up for work at 5.50. Crazy little snowmen!

snowmen

 

 

 

Different fussy-cut pumpkins (and more sparkle)

I feel more inspired now that autumn is kicking in.

I was looking for ways to re-use the green and brown fabrics here that I’d rescued from blocks that hadn’t worked and I’d taken apart, so after much fiddling about with different options – as usual – I eventually came up with this one. The pumpkin fabric is from a piece I bought in the clearance section of a website and at first I’d discounted it because most of the motifs are too big for what I’m doing, but then I thought I could do as for the last block and ‘fussy-cut’ small pieces out of it. It does lead to wasted fabric, but worth it for this and not so bad when it’s on sale. Maybe the centre square could have been a different fabric, but a big block of something plain in the centre sometimes looks a bit too stark. I do realise my pattern now seems to be to use these plain pieces in shades of tan for the background of the flying geese and don’t want to do too many of them, but I think it’s okay for now.

pumpkins

I’ve  made slower progress on finishing this block because I’ve been working on a machine-stitched project at home. Top secret so pictures after Christmas! I’ve got as far as making the quilt sandwich and doing one line of quilting, but ran out of thread! It was just as well because that was Sunday and this coming Saturday morning we’re leaving for a week’s holiday so I wanted to spend Sunday afternoon (after my driving lesson) choosing colours for the next block so I can sew it while we’re away, and if I hadn’t run out of machine quilting thread I might not have stopped then I would be holiday-block-less.

I’ve also bought the backing piece for the quilt. It came yesterday so I washed it and it is still on the dryer as we speak – it’s rather large so drying it on my free-standing electric dryer is awkward, but we don’t use the tumble dryer due to expense and have nowhere outside to hang things (it’s raining anyway). My plan is to applique leaf shapes on it which will be made out of autumn fabrics. That way I can use some that I bought online but have turned out to not be the right shade, or were early mistakes. I think it should look good and removes difficulties of the seams of pieces making up the back not lining up with quilting lines, but it will take a long time and is not exactly something I can do on the train, so I thought I’d get a head start and alternate doing that at home with making up blocks on the daily commute. At least, that’s the plan!

I think this is block 33 and I’m looking at a 8×10 block quilt… so only 47 to go! I don’t know if I can get my head round that.

The estate agent through whom we rent our flat is coming to do a flat inspection while we’re both out at work tomorrow. I don’t like people looking around while we’re not there but there’s nothing I can do. I’ve been on a washing, ironing, and dusting spree because I don’t want to have laundry hanging around while she’s in there, so more ironing tonight, hoovering, tidying of the baskets of fabric and piles of paperwork (and hiding of candles! Not that our contract says we can’t have them but you never know)… by the time I’ve done all that, then on Thursday and Friday actually do some packing, I’ll be so whacked I’ll probably be too tired to make the most of being away. Hope not, because we’re going north and I’m looking forward to fresher airs and if it isn’t cloudy every day seeing some stars. Too much light pollution as well as air pollution down south.

Autumn block with fussy-cut fun pumpkins

I like the term ‘fussy cutting’ that I picked up from Peggy Cooper’s lovely blog (https://peggycooperquilts.com/) – it’s something I do occasionally but hadn’t thought about it having a name – now I know it I’m going to use it more! I’m not sure if using it as an adjective as in the title is the done thing, but I’m doing it anyway…

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The flying geese round the centre square use the very last of the special autumn leaves fabric I love so much: they’re recycled from a block I didn’t like and took apart, and I’m so happy I did because they’re used much better here. I’m not convinced about the use of colour in the central triangles at the edge (where two flying geese are sewn together), but the number of variations I tried in order to get this the best I could was ridiculous! In the end I had it all except the four small squares at the corner of the sort of block-within-a-block, so when I found a remnant of the fabric that I ended up using I was really pleased. It’s one I’ve tried to work into other blocks because I like it, but it’s only ended up in one. Part of the problem is that the background’s white and bright, and the other is that the motifs on it are quite widely spaced. Hence the fussy cutting, so I could get a tiny part of the edge of a sunflower in alongside the leaf and pumpkin in two squares. I would have liked more, but there just weren’t enough on the piece of fabric. I kicked myself for cutting squarely round the pumpkin used on the top right, because it would have looked better at an angle, but I used it anyway because it’s nice to have the two pumpkins with different patterns. That fabric is very thin, not easy to work with, and a couple of the corners of those squares came out stretched when I ironed them so they don’t look their best. I now realise I should have starched them… too late!

One problem with having spent so long choosing the fabrics for this one is that I only finished sewing it together on Sunday afternoon and didn’t have time to choose fabrics for the next one, so have no sewing to do on the train for my daily commute, I feel bereft!

Sparkly leafy new autumn block

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I’m pleased to have made this autumn block, as it uses my favourite fabric to best effect – albeit second (at least!) time lucky. I had 4 rectangles of it I’d never used and 4 that had been part of another block I’d taken apart, so I wanted to use them in the position in the photo along with less patterned fabrics so you can really see them. The only thing that really worked was to have a square of it in the centre, so I’m afraid I cannibalised another block to get to it. I wasn’t sorry to lose the one I took apart because making  it was a mistake really, too many very patterned fabrics and quite a bright green and a bright orange in the same block made it over-the-top. This is one of my favourites now, but re-sewing pieces that were already trimmed from having been in another block is difficult and I certainly wouldn’t choose to do it; better to have got it right the first time! To my surprise the sparkly orange fabric is going well in some blocks, perhaps because it’s a darker burnt orange, rather than some of the brighter ones I’ve bought in the past: it often isn’t easy to tell from photos online shops what things are going to look like in real life, and when I went to a fabric warehouse sale last weekend I couldn’t find a single one that would have gone well in this quilt, such a shame.

I went for a wander earlier and the trees are beginning to change colour:

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Lots of berries on this piece of hawthorn:

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I don’t know what this shrub in the area between fields is, but not only are the leaves very colourful, the flowers are extraordinarily bright… maybe if ever I have a garden I can find out what it is and plant one.