Rosehips block

For the next block of my autumn quilt, I wanted to make a block that showcased the fabric with the rosehips on a brown background. After the last few blocks I did with the bold autumn fabric flanked by less conspicuous ones, which I thought worked well, I thought I’d try it with another bold fabric alongside less in-your-face ones. In the end, to get colours that went well together, I included the fabric with a woodgrain background and naturalistic animals, but I hope it doesn’t detract from the rosehips too much. I’m afraid it is a bit bland, but I need some bland alongside the more, ahem, ‘interesting’, ones… I had trouble getting the points to line up, and had to redo a few of the flying geese; not sure why unless it’s because the cottons are different thicknesses, but it’s turned out okay in the end.

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I have, however, done the binding on both sleeves of the top I’m trying to sew. One per weekend! Doing one takes me a whole afternoon. Now I’ve got the remaining seam edgings to deal with, the button to work out, and the hem to do. I haven’t done edgings to date well at all, can’t manage the overstitching on my machine, so yesterday I spent a small fortune on a pair of pinking shears, which will have to be what I finish things off with, all this faffing about is not good!

Ages ago I bought a pack of cotton yarn at a knitting and stitching show in London and knitted myself a summer cardigan, then with the leftovers made a baby cardigan. I was going to send it to a school friend who had a baby but a) the baby was too old for it when I finished and b) the yarn’s a mix of colours and they came out badly spaced on a small garment and looked weird and I  didn’t think my schoolfriend would want it. It’s hung around for ages, I bought buttons for it then lost them, but then when I wanted a button for my top I bought a pack which it turned out were the right size, as well as colour, for the cardigan. My parents’ neighbours’ daughter, who’s a few years younger than me so we weren’t friends, but we grew up in next door houses as children in a friendly way, is having a baby in September so on Saturday I put on the buttons and posted it home to Mum so she can judge whether to ask if they’d like it. They don’t know if it’s to be a boy or a girl, but it’s a fairly gender-neutral colour(s). Also, the mum-to-be is an artist so may be okay with the interesting colours!

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Next weekend we’re going to Wiltshire for a few days. The county where Stonehenge is, but I doubt we’ll go there, it’ll be too busy. We’re staying near Malmesbury the first night, then near Salisbury for four nights. Both have mediaeval histories, which I’m keen on but as usual should read more about. I’m delighted to see (on Wikipedia, but I can check if it’s right!) that William of Malmesbury, the mediaeval chronicler, records that in 1010 the first ever attempt at human flights was made, when a monk called Ailmer tried to fly a hang glider off the tower at Malmesbury Abbey – made it 180 feet before crashing and breaking both legs, poor chap. All hail human endeavour, though!

Autumn block and first attempt at neck binding (unrelated!)

Something of a lowering sky when I went for a quick walk earlier this afternoon, but I saw some magnificent red kites, one swooping quite low over my head; my photos don’t do it justice.

I worked hard to finish a new autumn block this week, inspired by having a plan to use the same colours as last week’s, and by wanting to feel I’d achieved something by the end of the week if sewing the neck binding on my top didn’t work out! I’m pleased with the result:

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The more boldly patterned fabric is much thinner than the higher-quality Moda fabrics that make up the rest of the block, and I can feel how much better (for which read, easier) it would be to have fabrics all of the same quality. Unfortunately I haven’t had time this weekend to choose fabrics to put together for the next block, so will be deprived of sewing to do on the train. Might actually start reading a book, I used to read so much before I took up sewing! I’ve just finished Life of Pi and it took something like 4 months, oh dear. I listen to audiobooks all the time while sewing on the train, but don’t know if that counts the same way.

On Thursday night I tried to use the overlocking stitch for the first time. Not a resounding success, alas.

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I put the edge of the fabric up against the guide on the overlocking foot, but obviously sometimes it got too close and the edges have turned in. At least no one will see it. It went wrong near the bottom of the seam so I’m going to do that by hand.

I have spent so much of the last two weekends looking at YouTube videos! So much good advice, but people do things differently and I don’t always understand all instructions, so it’s still a lot of puzzling out what best to do. I confess that in my ignorance before I looked at these videos I thought the binding went on the outside! I now know that’s only if it’s to be a decorative feature, which in this case it most certainly is not. It took me in the end I think two and a half goes to do the binding round the neck of my top.

First time I used all these pins…

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It still didn’t work out, and I did misjudge it a few times and had to lift the needle to get a pin out then carefully put it back in the right place. The curve of the shoulder seam has  been the main problem. This was a wildly off-kilter part after my first go:

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Oops. I thought of just unpicking that section, then thought of the mess I make when I tie off an end of stitching mid-length and reneged. I thought I’d try to just add the correct stitching without unpicking this one… yes, I know, it didn’t work! So I unpicked the whole thing and tried again, this time, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, with basting. It still wasn’t neat like the woman in the video’s is neat, and I sewed over a few basting stitches and had fun picking them apart. But on the whole it was better.

Then as per instructions I trimmed it so the fabric was flush with the binding, and cut in little notches to help with the curve (thanks to having tried a little bit of needle-turn applique this idea wasn’t a novelty, so that was good), then turned  it inside the garment.

I saw on some blogs that some people do something called understitching, but I didn’t follow what exactly I was meant to do, and some people didn’t do it, so I decided as it seemed okay without it and my fabric’s not very stretchy (deliberately chosen for that reason) I would give it a skip. Then I basted the binding in place, by hand, then sewed it down with the machine. Again the problem with the shoulder, this time meaning I missed the binding for about 2 inches, but this time I did unpick from the  armhole edge to the offending part, and got the sewing machine needle in at the right spot and redid it. I stitched the thread ends in by hand, but don’t think it’s noticeable from the right side unless you’re looking really closely at the stitching, not if you’re just talking to me when I’m wearing it.

Having pressed in place, I think the binding’s  okay, a bit may gape in time but it’s fine for now (and for a first attempt) and for just me wearing it. A pity the two parts of the back are slightly misaligned, I really hadn’t realised until after the binding was done and I was going to take this photo. This whole thing has shown me – well, reinforced what I knew – that accuracy is so important, but also so difficult! I don’t think dressmaking is going to be my ‘thing’, I’ll make tops with the fabrics I’ve bought and I haven’t given up on making  pair of tartan pyjama bottoms in a nice thick or brushed cotton one day, but overall, I’ll stick with patchwork and knitting!

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Funky Owl revamped and a new block

In my re-evaluation of early blocks which I wish I’d done differently, I decided I could make this funky owl, which I wanted to keep, less cluttered.

The one on the left is the original, the one of the right after I  reworked it.

The bright orange round the centre square is a fabric I bought early on (I think because it had the word ‘autumn’ in the title on ebay!) and in the light of what I’ve done and fabrics I’ve found subsequently wish I’d never gone near – though it’s not as bad as the yellow version of the same pattern!

If I’d had enough of the brown fabric with orange leaves I might have made all the flying geese around the outside with that as the base fabric, but I didn’t and there’s none to be bought anywhere that I could see. After a lot of faffing about and laying different fabrics alongside each other, I eventually decided to take apart the centre flying geese and replace the orange with dark cream / beige. Happily, I had the fabric I bought at the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show but at the time didn’t know what I’d do with!

The main thing was to get rid of the busy patterns next to each other that create a diagonal of messiness at the wine-coloured corners. Although it might have been better to change the dark fabric in the centre flying geese, in the end I just remade those which had the multi-coloured  leafy fabric as the base and replaced it with the dark orange, which has a fairly plain pattern.

Not perfect, but better! It fits better with the other blocks.

It took a lot of fiddling with to get the pieces to fit, for some reason they didn’t want to very neatly, so I admit it’s better from a distance than close to.

The other block I took apart is this one, which I put on the reject pile:

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The red had to come out, but I thought the outside flying geese could be recycled, if I replace the camouflage-type triangles on the geese with the dark orange base with the same green as the alternate flying geese, so they created a more symmetrical pattern.

I took it apart and actually made the altered flying geese, convinced I could make something of them.

Here are various options I came up with:

None of them quite worked! The one in the biggest photo was, I think, the best, but having pale squares at the outermost corners sucked the whole thing in and made it look squashed, but putting the darkest fabric at the corners made the pale inside square too much of a contrast.

In the end, and after driving myself nearly made, all I kept of that original block was the bold autumn leaf fabric of alternate outer flying geese. It seemed to work with dark corners and middle and the rest paler. For the centre flying geese, I ended up  using another fabric I’d bought without purpose (though I’d bought it with three others with the same design theme and which it was intended to complement, so I must buy some more to replace it before it’s discontinued, as everything seems to be so quickly).

I think I’m pleased  with this, it showcases that fabric, which initially I loved (except for the purple), but it’s hard to get anything to go with it, and I realise now I should never have put anything with it except the plainest patterns.

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This weekend, apart from swimming, going to church, and having another bad driving lesson (sigh), we went to my in-laws on Saturday afternoon and my mother-in-law started making a top with me. I brought pattern and fabric, but of course didn’t get it right in both cases! It was very good of my m-in-law to help. By the end of the afternoon the heat in their tiny flat was such I was ready to keel over. We  got as far as cutting out the pattern pieces, my mother-in-law sewed the darts in the front then when I asked explained what she’d done, marked out the seams using tacking, and sewed back to front. Trying it on at that stage, unfortunately it doesn’t suit me at all and looks like a tent – not my finest fabric-choosing hour. Next session, m-in-l will have very kindly sewed on  one sleeve and will then use the other to show me what to do. There is then the notch-neck to do and we’ll take up the hem, as at present it is far too long.

Next weekend, however, husband has agreed to take me to a fabric sale at a warehouse 20 miles away.  A website that I occasionally use (I’m now trying to remember if I’ve ever actually bought from it) has a warehouse that opens Mon-Fri, no good for me as I work, but on special occasions opens at weekends. It’s opening for a sale this weekend to make way for autumn stock, so we’re going to investigate. I hope to get material for another top, which I’ll try to make myself using the same pattern but for the sleeveless version, and will choose a better fabric, which is  easier to do when you can see and touch the fabric instead of buying online. I’ll also look for possible patchwork bargains, and / or the cream fabric I used for that last block, and I fancy getting some thicker tartan / plaid / brushed cotton, but am not sure for what (other than some pj bottoms  if ever I make it that far) or whether they’ll have that in a sale of summer stock.

Something to look forward to to get me through the week!

Best do dishes now – 10 mins before Poldark starts!

 

Two cute harvest mice, and some decisions

Goodness, what a weekend, largely spent in eradicating moths, what joy. What a week, too, with the horrible heatwave particularly in the first two days, thank goodness it’s over.

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Here is the positive, however, the block I made last week to be a friend for the other harvest mouse with purple and brown; I rather like this one, and am glad that the cream fat quarter I bought on spec in Edinburgh turned out to be the best one in my stash to use. I like this Lewis and Irene fabric, with the two cute mice facing each other on the branch. Maybe not the easiest to match fabrics to outwith those designed to co-ordinate with it.

Here it is beside the other one, similar but different, which  is what I wanted.

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I laid out all the blocks, except those I’d already decided I won’t use (mostly those with red in them), but have taken out another few that I’m not sure whether or not I’ll use. These are the ones that are not going in:

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They make you go cross-eyed, apart from the one with the bird, which is too Christmassy but I would love to use in another project.

This is all of the rest to date, but the uncertain ones are all in a row next to the sofa:

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This is them without the uncertain ones:

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I’m not sure how clear the difference is in the photo, particularly as it’s over-exposed (still haven’t read the camera instruction booklet). These are the ones I don’t really like as they are, they’re either too bright or too busy, or both:

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I do like the majority of the bottom one, with the owls, but it includes three bold patterns which perversely blend into each other, and I really want the owls to stand out, so am going to redo it. Ideally I’d like to change the big triangles on the outside edges so that the brown with orange leaves are used for every triangle, replacing the multicoloured leaves; however, I’ve run out of that fabric. I’d also like to replace the bright orange centre triangles. This is the alternative I’ve come up with, after several hours of deliberation, though I know it’s not perfect:

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I’ve taken most of it apart, so am going to try tomorrow on the train to make two of the flying geese for the inner square – I know from experience it’s difficult to make flying geese when recycling old ones that have already been trimmed, so am not looking forward to it!

The other crafty thing I  did today was make jam. (The elderflower cordial of a few weeks ago was good, by the way, but it’s a bit sharp on the teeth, must be the citric acid. I make it in a really weak solution, but I must confess it’s nice in a gin and tonic!). I tried this jam a week and a half ago because I bought at random some apricots from the greengrocer’s, allegedly a bargain though I now know otherwise, then had to decide what to do with them. Found a recipe on BBC online for apricot, carrot, ginger and almond jam, with the promise it sounds weird but tastes good, and it happened to require the exact quantity of apricots I had, and I had enough carrots in the fridge, though as is always the case with anything that uses up ingredients, the other things I had to buy to complete the recipe cost more than the things I was using up. The end product tasted good but I’d overset it so you need a knife to get it out, so I wanted to try again but not leave it for so long. Part of the problem last time was that I used a sugar thermometer but the quantity I had was not much and spread over too large a surface area because I didn’t have the right type of pan, so I don’t know that the thermometer was far enough into the liquid. Anyway, I’ve tried again and hope it’s better, so can give the bigger jar to Mum because I think she’ll like it! I can make a cover using fabric and give it to her when I’m next visiting my family before Christmas, be like those House Beautiful magazines and look like I spend all my time crafting beautiful homemade gifts!Jam

Lastly, here’s two photos of honeysuckle I took on a quick pre-dinner walk today, I like to on a Sunday if I can, knowing I’ve nasty petrol-fumy London coming up tomorrow:

Block reconfigured

Quite a while ago I took a photo of all the blocks to date in the autumn quilt, and could see those that stood out for all the wrong reasons. This one stood out partly because of all the orange fabric round the edge, though it seemed like a good idea at the time because it made it simpler, but also because alternate the red and beige flying geese don’t work; the red stands out, the beige disappears, and it makes it all look wonky, which I didn’t realise from close-up but you see it from a distance. I really like the middle, and don’t want to lose the animals, so  decided to take it apart (gulp).

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I kept the middle as is, but gave it a new outside. (Yes, that took a lot of decision-making and mental energy, not my strong point). I finished with this:

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I would have used the same green that’s in the middle for the outside corners, but ran out.

Then I used the red flying geese, and came up with this:

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(Both photos are a bit overexposed). I wanted to be able to keep the animals, but I hope that here the orange isn’t so overpowering. I might have preferred to have brown on the outer corners, but orange triangles where the brown is now didn’t work because it replicated the orange on the inner part too much, so I just left it like this and quit fiddling. I did have to order more fabric to get the beige triangles at the middle of each outer edge, which involved getting a pack of pre-cuts and has landed me with a lot of other pre-cut squares in shades of brown which I’ll never use, but there you go.

I spent a goodly portion of yesterday tackling moths which are eating our carpet and were partly living under the box I keep fabric in, which was a bit depressing and involved moving a lot of furniture to get underneath, not the best on a hot day.

So I will have to find a  way of using the remaining fat quarters from the original block, but I think these two are better than the original. Phew, all this colour choice is exhausting! I’ve laid out most of another block, using purple-ish / brown-ish colours to give the last mouse block some company, so will do that before deciding on a new way to use the beige / orange flying geese from the first block shown here.

I have taken a photo of blocks to date, excluding some I think I won’t use, but shall contemplate that in another post. In the meantime, the forecast is for hot in London this week (maybe not by southern US standards, but by mine!), so I shall suffer on the underground on my way to and from work. This chap’s happy, though (taken last night from our living room window):

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Japanese folded patchwork box

I finished making the Japanese folded  patchwork box from the kit I bought at the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show. It’s 5 inches square which is actually bigger than I thought and holds all the reels of thread I have with room for more. The photos look a bit overexposed but it gives you the idea of the nice fabrics supplied with the kit. I like that it means  you can use a plain background to each square and showcase the lovely fabric on the inside of each square.

The kit gives instructions on a clever way to get a circle with a folded-under border, using a cardboard template, a circle of fabric that’s bigger than than the cardboard template, and making a running stitch between the two that you pull on to draw it up round the cardboard and use spray starch to iron it down. I though this must be the ideal way to make a circle for needle-turn applique too.

This weekend was very busy, I’m more tired at the end of it than I was at the beginning! Very pleased to get the talk I was giving on Friday over and done with, though. I think it went quite well and the people were nice, but I’m glad it’s done nonetheless. I do get myself wound up about these things, and there was a lot of preparation involved. Only as I was leaving did I think to take a couple of pictures. Here’s one, but I don’t actually know which part of the building it is, where we had tea I think.

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I did remember this weekend that I wanted to try to make elderflower cordial, I thought of it last year only after the elderflowers had  all died, but I did buy the citric acid needed (and used a little bit for a different flavoured cordial but with fruit you buy in the shops, so it’s not the same!). We picked some elderflowers today and following the recipe on the BBC website I’ve got them infusing in a mixture of sugar dissolved in boiling water (cooled), citric acid, and slices of orange and lemon. They’re to stay in there for 24 hours, then when I get in from work tomorrow the liquid’s to be strained through muslin and put into sterilised bottles.

Right-oh, bedtime!

Harvest mouse!

I realise with a shock that it’s been a month since I last posted a blog entry: crumbs. However, at last another autumn block, easing myself back into the saddle after some time away working on the Farmer’s Wife cushion. I have also, to my delight, finished a jumper I started some 20 months ago!

Mouse and brown

I’ve wanted to do another block with the harvest mouse fabric for a while, but find the purple difficult to deal with in the context of the quilt as a whole, and from that point of view it wasn’t a good fabric to choose despite its autumn theme. Putting it with the dark brown and cream autumn leaf fabrics has worked well, I hope, to tie it in more with the other blocks and help the purple-ish ones I’ve already made blend in better. At least, that’s the theory! The colours remind me of copper beech trees.

It’s been a busy month because I’ve been working hard on a talk I’m giving on Friday relating to my work, which has meant lots of reading in the hopes I’m not going to make any obvious mistakes and will be able to answer questions at the end, and choosing carefully what to talk about, to keep it down to the required 40 minutes. I’ve been working on it at work and at home, so will be very glad when Friday’s over!

I’m also on a mission now to finish lots of projects so I can clear some of the backlog lying around in the flat (and attracting moths and damp, great) and start new things! Could take years… But I’ve finished a jumper I started making in Sept. 2015, a complicated cable knit which I had some problems with but also left lying fallow for months on end while I worked on quilting projects, like the green and pink lap top for my aunt. So hip hip hooray for that!

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I’ve started on a new jumper using a self-striping yarn I bought either last year or more likely the year before, when the knitting and sewing shop in our village downsized and was selling off stock. I love the colours and that it’s cable-free, so am going great guns on it. For the next patchwork block I’m afraid I’ve taken apart one I did in the early days of the project but which isn’t working well in the quilt as a whole, so intend to keep the central square of the block but make a new outer part to it, and use the flying geese I’d made  for the original one with different fabrics in a different combination. It’s requiring more mental energy than I’ve had to spare in the last fortnight, so I hope I can resolve that this coming Sunday (Saturday being fully booked and looking like a write-off, crafts-wise).