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…

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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.

Stripey jumper, two new autumn blocks, and a trip to Wiltshire

I finished the jumper made from a self-striping Noro yarn (a silk mix) that I’ve been working on quite fast because I wanted to wear it when the weather cools down, but to be honest am disappointed. The colours are still lovely but I wish I’d made it a size bigger, and all is not well with the neck. I’ve included a photo from the pattern book to show what it should look like, but in reality it’s far too high and I don’t know what I did wrong; I followed the instructions!

Patchwork-wise, I’ve finished another two autumn blocks, and am pleased with the colour combinations on both. I thought the mouse one might be too ‘avocado and aubergine’, but actually it’s fine. On the other one, I wanted to showcase the rosehip fabric, following on from previous blocks when a more heavily patterned fabric stood out against plainer ones, giving a better effect. In the end some of the other fabrics are reasonably heavily patterned, but it’s still okay. The orange fabric is new and the best I could get to be close to the orange in earlier blocks that was more rusty than bright, despite being covered in gold sparkles!

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When I finished it I laid out all the blocks I’ll definitely use, and as a whole the quilt is looking much better, though sadly weeding out the unsatisfactory ones leaves only 30 blocks! Sorry the photo’s dark (though it’s really bright sunshine outside) and of course as I’m standing on a chair with the camera stretched out up and in front of me, at a bad angle.

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Of the eleven discarded blocks left, I can see how two can be taken apart and some colours changed to make them usable, two won’t be used at all, and of the remaining seven I’ll take some apart and hopefully use some component parts in new blocks, and may keep one or two as they are. It’s a pain, particularly as the awful truth is there are some fabrics I should just never have  bought or used, which is a waste of money as well as time and energy, but there’s no point crying over spilt milk – I can be  more sanguine now I’m happier with the overall project!

We went to Wiltshire on Sunday and stayed for 5 nights, one night in a B&B near Malmesbury and 4 in a self-catering cottage near Salisbury. It’s a county I’d never visited, and am so pleased I went. I wanted to visit some of the sites associated with people I studied in Medieval History, so was really pleased to see Malmesbury Abbey, which was built on the site of an ancient holy place, and Old Sarum, the site of a now-ruined cathedral and castle, as well as Salisbury Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century when the cathedral at Old Sarum was abandoned. But there was so much ancient history, too. You felt it all around you because although Stonehenge is the famous stone circle and we decided not to visit because it is such a tourist hub and so cordoned-off that there might not be much pleasure to be had, there are actually lots of other, ‘smaller’ stone circles too, as well as the white horses etched out of the hillsides which you can see just driving along. We visited the stone circle that runs through the village of Avebury, and although there are only 30-odd of the original c. 150 stones standing, the scale of them is amazing. They reckon the stones were put there in 2600 B.C.! My photos don’t do it justice, but you can see the scale from the ones next to houses and people.

 

Photos of parts of Malmesbury Abbey:

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Stunning gardens at Stourhead, designed in the 18th century (having first diverted a river and dammed some medieval fish ponds, of course!), complete with grottoes and follies. Now owned by the National Trust. Must look fantastic in the autumn!

 

Lastly, Salisbury Cathedral – great place to see stunning embroidery! I somehow managed to omit taking a photo of the central aisle down the length of the nave, which was very long. There is an incredible font in the centre, commissioned in 2008, with constantly flowing water. The Chapter house dates to 1260 and has an amazing frieze running round it, above the benches were Chapter members sit, carved in stone and showing biblical scenes.

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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!

Farmer’s wife 9-block cushion and visit to the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show

This week I’m visiting my family in sunny Northumberland (it actually is at the moment, too). Left hubby at home because he’s allergic to the large hairy mutt, and as a side issue is also at work.

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Large hairy mutt contemplating mischief

I got the train and Mum and Dad picked me up from the station late on Thursday night, then had Friday to wind down, and on Saturday Mum and I got the train to Edinburgh. I actually spent all of Friday until about 6 p.m. working hard on quilting the Farmer’s Wife cushion cover I sewed for my brother (who was out at work on Friday). By dint of staying up late in the week leading up to coming home, and taking the project to work so I could do some at lunch times, I’d done the quilting along the sashes and then around the shapes on four of the five blocks, and sewed the top and bottom edges of the back onto the front before I set off for my parents’. The last bit was because I have the sewing machine set up in my flat and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use Mum’s machine and didn’t fancy sewing the whole thing together by hand. Friday evening we first tried to get Mum’s old sewing machine to work, then we gave up and after dinner I stayed up til midnight sewing the back of the cushion on by hand. There is a theme here akin to the Christmas cushion cover and my aunt’s quilt – I need to organise my time better!

Here is the end result (complete with squint central square!). I don’t the off-white is so bright in real life, the flash / sun makes it look over-exposed. I’m glad I spent time doing the extra detailing on the back.

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The photo below was taken late on Friday night, when the dim lighting showed up how quilting round the shapes gives them more depth in certain lights. On the other hand, I would like to do free motion quilting in a fancy design all over it, but alas I don’t yet have those skills!

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Saturday was fun! We got there early (the trains were only at 8.33 or 10.20 and then we had to get from the train station to the bus station and get the shuttle bus out to where it was being held, which was a half-hour ride, so definitely worth getting the early train). We had a good look at all the stands, and the displays of knitting and quilting. Also some textile art for sale to people who can afford original artwork, but the detail in some of them was incredible so an art collector would be spending their money well. It wasn’t as busy as the one I’ve been to in London, which was a good thing, but still busy enough that there were some stalls where you had to negotiate your way to try and see what was for sale. There weren’t as many fabric stalls as I’d have liked, but then I’d already decided not to buy much as I’ve got a substantial stash at home and I now know that these shows aren’t really the place for bargains, more to see what’s out there (and even then, many online stores have more extensive ranges). Japanese fabric seems to be on the up, and there was a stall selling good quality Japanese fabric. Felting also seems to be popular and there were some fantastic creations on show.

I bought a kit to make a box from Japanese folded patchwork, which I’ve started because I didn’t have time to cut pieces for an autumn quilt block to bring with me, so it’s good to have a project to do here (though I do have knitting which I brought with me). The company’s called Euro Japan Links Ltd. It’s a 5-inch box with no lid, made from 5 squares. As well as the instructions, they give you the dark red fabric which is the backing to each square in this kit, wadding, and 7 squares from which you choose 5, which is good, and I bought two more fat quarters from their stall that I thought I might use in the box, or if not will use another time because they’re navy and cream so useful colours. Whether I’ll make the box successfully is another matter!

IMGP0652I also got a lovely little embroidery kit, which will be a new endeavour for me because I don’t do embroidery, just cross stitch, which I don’t think counts, but the autumn picture’s gorgeous so I hope to do it well. I got a few fat quarters, from a stall selling 4 for £10, mainly because I liked the dark blue but then spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding on another three to blend. In the end I found two to blend and got a random third that I think will match with a red and white check I have back in the flat.

Oh, and Mum kindly bought me a new pair of sharp little scissors because my current ones are quite blunt (and weren’t even fabric scissors to start with)!

Not loads but that’s good because I have to carry them back on the train, and have plenty projects to be getting on with and don’t really need anything else. But it was a good day out. Mum got a kit for knitting a teddy bear made from knitted patches which she’s started already, so I’m looking forward to seeing the end result of that one day! So long as the dog doesn’t get his paws on it, of course…

A tricky Farmer’s Wife block (7 of 9)

This one took a lot of lining up! It’s similar to the first block I did, but the component parts are orientated differently and there is a cross in the middle. I thought about reversing the colours, but decided against it. I drew around the templates onto the back of the fabric, rather than using paper piecing as I tried in the first block, and found that easier but still time-consuming. For all I’d wanted to finish it by the end of the weekend, I didn’t quite manage it.

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On Friday night I laid out the six blocks I’d finished at that point onto various backgrounds to emulate the sashing I’ll do: first the plain burgundy I’d visualised, but it looked gloomy and the pattern burgundy fabric vanished into it. A few patterned ones followed, but in the end the plain blue was definitely best.

Having sewed the two sets of chevrons together, with the two horizontal arms of the cross, I then had to sew the two completed parts onto the vertical part of the cross. Below is my first attempt, which didn’t turn out as I hoped. One side took a few shots to get the points done accurately, but only when I’d ironed it did I see that the two horizontal parts of the cross didn’t line up with each other. I wanted to make this the central block, so didn’t want to leave it as it was.

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In order to line them up, I made pencil marks at the relevant spots on the back of the vertical part of the cross. It was easier said than done, but the end result is better than the first attempt.

I’ve a feeling the points at the edge of the finished block might not line up with the sashing too well, but there isn’t much I can do about it. When I’ve finished the last two blocks and made the final decision on block placement, I’ll start the sashing and then we’ll see.

Two new autumn blocks

Trying to get back into the groove with my autumn quilt, I’m pleased to have finished two new blocks. The first I started in November before my ‘much less orange’ rule (downgraded from ‘no orange’ on realising it’s virtually impossible with autumn fabrics) but it got put to one side while I finished Christmas projects. The second comes after reviewing the whole quilt.

I put in an earlier post that I’d laid out everything so far and photographed it, and decided there was too much orange. I put it on my screensaver on my work computer and occasionally stared at it and picked out a couple of blocks that the quilt would be improved by not having. On a slightly depressing weekend, because it involved thinking and no productivity, I took these out, pinned together some of the best ones, and hung them from the wardrobe so I could stare at it and decide what blocks would improve it.

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Of the ones not included, some may go back in, but others I want to take apart and see if I can do anything with the pieces. Quite disappointing, but it’s called learning the hard way!