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!

Cushion covers

After two weekends of minimal productivity on the cushion-making front, they are done at last!

I have a throw and two cushions, the last bought on the trip to Washington, on the sofa already, and though these cushions don’t go with them brilliantly, I think they’re okay. It’s a rented flat and one day I’ll have my own decor and they’ll fit with something in that, I hope.

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The buttonholes are going to take more than a little perfecting, but I like to think they’ve improved with practice…

I followed the instructions given by Tasha on her blog ‘By Gum, By Golly’ (http://bygumbygolly.com/2013/09/buttonholes-by-hand-vintage-sewing/), which I found just through searching for something like ‘how to make buttonholes’ – great tagging! And it’s a great website, makes me wish I could use my sewing machine well enough to make clothes rather than just struggling with straight lines. Her piece on making a pair of jeans is  amazing, I can’t even think what being able to do something like that must be like.

Anyhow, buttonhole practice –

As you can see, I didn’t manage to position the slit evenly between the top and bottom lines of stitching, with the result (not shown here) that there wasn’t room to do the bottom row. Anyway, I got the general idea, and it took so long to do that one that I thought I’d just have to use the cushion covers as the training ground – after all, they’re for our home and not a gift for someone else, so it doesn’t matter as much (though I like to make them the best I can, it’s a sort of affliction).

These are the last two, not even alas but not too bad, and better than the second of the finished buttonholes (on cushion no 1) which is really gappy at the edge so the gimp thread shows through.

Ideally I’d have used gimp thread that was the same colour as the overstitching thread, but it was the nearest I could get on ebay without spending a lot more. I’d never heard of gimp before I read the blog post, so looked it up online in case it means something different in UK to US, and to see where I could buy it. Turns out it does have another meaning, though that may not be a UK/US thing but the same in both countries, but which comes higher up in the search results, and which I don’t want to buy… I shall certainly tell the police that if they come calling.

The last two weekends have been a non-starter for getting anything done, due to other commitments (e.g. spending most of the day with parents-in-law last Sunday then the evening preparing for something work-related for Monday) so I was relieved to have finished cushion cover no 2 this weekend; I like to think I would have managed it even if a stinking cold hadn’t forced me to stay indoors all weekend, even cancelling my driving lesson, but I’m sure it has helped. Don’t like to think that that’s what it takes!

I’m pleased with the finished results, far from perfect as ever, but I’m pleased to have proved to myself I can get two x 14 inch cushion covers from a bundle of 4 fat quarters (and reduced price in a sale at that!).

Here are some photos before the padding was inserted:

And these are the finished items:

 

To try and psych myself back into the autumn quilt – the ‘first patchwork quilt’ of this blog’s title, still unfinished – I took a photo of all the blocks completed, laid out together. Depressing! It’s all so orange, which was not the idea… All I can think is that I have to make more blocks, without orange in them, to try to even it out. And again consider whether to use sashing. It’s difficult to have any enthusiasm for it and to keep (or restart) momentum when I can’t envisage an end result I’ll like. Stupidly, I knew this would be how it would turn out but I kept going anyway, because I liked making the individual blocks so much – well, you reap what you sew…

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Finally, and this has nothing whatever to do with patchwork, but sharing makes me feel better, I joined a new ball of yarn into the jumper sleeve I’m knitting, only to find about a a foot or two in that the yarn was about to break, so I cut out the broken part and rejoined it, which, incidentally, I’ve done with balls of this yarn before. After this happened three times in succession I pulled out all the little sections and joins, and proceeded to check the rest of the ball. After these many sections of yarns, I gave up and found another ball – what a swizz!

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Rowan yarns should be ashamed, that is a bad batch. I only hope I’ve enough wool to finish the garment; it’s taken me nigh-on 18 months so far, so fingers crossed.

Finally finally, my husband’s made a model tree to accompany / set off something else he’s made. I’m impressed, so thought I’d share:

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Cushion covers (almost ready to assemble)

For ages now I’ve thought it would be nice to make two matching cushion covers to replace charity shop ones my husband brought with him when we got married, which neither of us are particularly keen on, they just ‘do’, and now the zips are broken. So when I went to the sewing shop in our village on the first Tuesday in January, to investigate their sale fabric, and saw a co-ordinating pack of 4 fat quarters which I really liked, I knew what I could do with them – if they contained enough fabric. So there was a double challenge of making them, and seeing if I could stretch the fabric far enough. I’d always like the idea of patchwork being an economical, thrifty, thing, but the reality has proved different! Still, this bundle was reduced from £12.50 to £8.50, and I reckoned that if I could get two cushion covers out of it I would be doing quite well (always hoping that I had enough calico backing and wadding in stock). It was also a pleasure to be able to visit the sewing shop, as since they downsized and do most of their sales online they’re only open on weekdays and I’m not usually at home on weekdays, so it’s a rare thing to be able to visit.

The four co-ordinating fabrics are a sort of sage green, perhaps a little paler, in plain, a stripe, a gingham, and quite a loud check. I like that the colours and patterns are quite neutral but without being dull. I toyed with the idea of throwing in some burgundy squares, as both have blue undertones, but decided against it and am now glad of that. I think the loud check is enough of a contrast to the other three patterns. Here are a few options I toyed with:

While throwing around ideas when out walking I thought I’d like to put in some rectangles, rather than just squares, but did lay out some with just squares to see what it looked like before going back to plan A. As usual, deciding what to put where was my greatest challenge! But I was careful to cut strips from the fat quarters so that there were long pieces left from which to cut the pieces for the borders. These are the two designs I ended up with:imgp0153

I think I actually finished these the weekend after I bought the fabric, which is a record. Something else I wanted to do was go straight from buying the fabric to making something with it, I too often plan and buy but then due to having other things to finish it sits in the basket and somehow never looks as nice when you go back to it.

Flushed with the near-success of making mitred corners on the Christmas cushion, I went for them again for the borders for these. As part of making the cushions a pair-but-different I went for both having two plain sides and two patterned, but the patterned different on each. It is amazing the difference the border makes to a piece of patchwork!

I think it was only at this point that I realised the bottom row of each one is the same! Never mind, I doubt they’ll end up sitting the same way up on the sofa, and you’d have to really be staring at them (and care enough) to notice that. I think the borders took me the whole of the next weekend. Then the weekend just gone I quilted one front and made the backs for both. Although I did unpick a couple of bits of quilting I felt weren’t neat enough and redid them after work the last few evenings! I should have said, making the quilt tops also required a fair bit of unpicking and redoing, occasionally due to sewing machine hiccups (aka my ineptitude), but more often because I like the lines of the pattern on the fabric to look lined up, which of course hasn’t always happened.

Having quilted the front using the machine – without the quilting foot but it seems not to have made a difference because the pieces are quite small, only 15 inches square – I rather wish I had done it by hand, because the heavy stitching, even though I used longer stitches, disguises the rectangles and makes them look like squares, whereas ‘stitching the ditch’ by hand like I did with the Christmas cushion would have made the stitching more discreet.

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In the picture below are the back pieces, each one 15 x 10 inches to give a decent overlap for an envelope-style closure. The one at the bottom right looks like the last strip is too short, but in fact the top two are too wide, I’m not sure how I managed that but it doesn’t matter because they’ll be taken into the seam when I sew fronts and back together. I was going to trim them down but it would have cut through the stitches.

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I had fun using what was left over from the fronts to piece together the pieces for the back. I did measure them and cut pieces of paper to size to try and piece them together in lunch breaks, but though that reassured me I had enough fabric, even taking seams into account, in the end it was to little avail because I’d measured the pieces before trimming them down so some of them turned out to be inaccurate so in the end I just trimmed them to the nearest quarter inch, and laid them out on the carpet, cutting a couple of larger pieces in  half lengthwise so there was a fairly even distribution of patterns between the pieces, and trimming others down because the two put side by side came to more than 15 inches. They’ll look different again when laid out to overlap, and I know visually I’ll loose some bits I quite like, but it can’t be helped.

I’ve decided I’d like to try to make buttonholes and have two buttons on the back of each of these, but I know that’s difficult – hence why they still have envelope openings in case the button fastening isn’t to be! I’ve seen online instructions on a website to do with vintage clothes, bought one of the types of thread required and sent off for the buttons and top stitching thread. They may not come in time for the weekend, but I will in any case quilt the other front and practise the buttonholes on pieces of scrap fabric. If I get them working reasonably okay, I’ll have to carefully position the backs and take the scalpel to them for incisions for the buttonholes – sharp intake of breath required for that one, I think!

Frosty photos

(Nothing to do with crafting!)

Frosty morning today, as well as misty, so I got out about 9.30 and took some pictures. It was melting by the time I got back; sometimes standing still in the woods I was surrounded by crackling noises and dripping as it thawed. I was glad I got out when I did, yesterday I didn’t get out til 2.30 and the best was gone by then. It’s nicer outside than in, though, now I’m sitting in two tops and a jumper and still have cold hands I’ve cracked and put on the heating!