Friday, 31 May 2013

Beach Huts, May Round-up and an Introduction

After the last mammoth post, another three-parter, but this time a bit shorter, hopefully.

PART 1 - Beach Huts 

I have a "thing" about beach huts.  I just love them.  They remind me of childhood trips to the seaside, lazy, sunny days and holidays.  I've never actually been in a beach hut, but used to imagine a life whereby the family would de-camp to the beach and set up home for the day in one of the long row of brightly decorated little houses along the sea front.   There are many along the south coast of England, but the prices to buy one are astronomical and I'd never be able to justify the expense.  I can still dream, though.

So you can see that when "The Patchsmith" revealed her pattern for this darling, little mug rug, I just had to have it.  We had a day of sunshine last week (was that our summer?) and the sun made me think of the seaside and so I dropped everything and made this (as I couldn't actually go to the seaside - reason in Part 3).

A complete mess-up!  All my fault, not the pattern's.  It's only a small project, just 9" x 4 1/2 ", but I had quite  few problems with it.  I thought , because it was small, that it wouldn't take me long to make, but I was so, so wrong. This is applique and I've only ever done it once before, a little star on the front of a t-shirt for my grandaughter.  I had some Bondaweb tucked away, but the paper backing was separated from the fusible bit and so was very fiddly to trace and cut out the shapes.  I also didn't know which side to iron down first as it wasn't stuck to the paper, so had to keep cleaning the mess off of the soleplate of my iron.  I also put the bonding on the right side of that green stripy hut three times!    

When it came to sewing it around the edges I decided to use the blanket stitch on my machine.  I did practice on a scrap first to see where I needed the edge to be, but failed to practice going round corners.  I haven't quite mastered where to stop sewing, and at which part of the stitch, before I turn to get a neat corner.

I used a piece of cotton batting and backed it with a piece of blue cotton before hand quilting  around the huts, doors, roofs and flags.

And then we come to the binding.  What a disaster!  I wanted a red, stripy binding and I had a 10" square of red stripes from a "Marmalade" layer cake I am saving for my "Farmer's Wife" quilt that I am going to make. Unfortunately, in my haste, I cut the strips the wrong way, so instead of neat little vertical stripes I have horizontal stripes.  I didn't have enough fabric left to cut more binding so had to go with it.  I had a job to match the stripes when I joined the pieces, and also managed to get a join right close to a corner when I sewed it on. I hadn't left myself enough room to do a diagonal join for the finishing join and the straight join at the top of the quilt is horrible.

One good thing has come out of this though.  I shall actually use it!  If it was perfect I would be very hesitant about putting a cup of tea on it as I wouldn't want to get tea stains on it and ruin it, but because it is a   "second" I don't mind.  I will make another one "for best" now I know all the pitfalls, and will definitely not rush it next time.

PART 2 - May Round-Up

Not a lot of sewing has been going on during the month of May, the main reason for which will become clear in Part 3.  I've been spending time trying to sort out my sewing stuff as it seems to be taking over my downstairs living space.  I live on my own now and so don't always tidy away at the end of the day.  I'm also not very good at clearing away one project's mess before starting on a new one.  The accumulation of scraps  and bits and pieces make for a very disorganised workspace, and I've been trying to bring some semblance of order to it all.  I've decided to move my sewing upstairs to one of the bedrooms, which in itself has provided lots of problems, as I have lots of stuff to sort out there as well.  It's a job to know where to start.

Here's what I have finished this month. 
1.  The aforementioned Beach Huts mug rug.
2.  A dress for my granddaughter (blogged here)
3.  Five Star mini quilt (blogged here)
4.  Commissioned baby quilt. (blogged here)

PART 3 - An Introduction

Finally, here is the main reason for my lack of productiveness.

An eight-week old Golden Retriever pup called Molly!

Molly belongs to my daughter who lives five minutes away from me.  She has been wanting a Golden Retriever for a long time (she used to have one, but when she split from her partner she lost custody of the dog).  This puppy became available at the last minute as the prospective owners couldn't take her and so Catherine jumped at the chance and we went to get her that day (2 weeks ago).  The problem being is that my daughter is a full-time teacher, and puppies need looking after all day, so this is where I come in.

I go and fetch Molly first thing in the morning and bring her down to my house.  She plays in the garden and sleeps on her bed in the dining room.  I keep the patio doors open, and so far, there have been no puddles indoors.  Only problem is that it has been so cold for me, and I sit hunched over the computer with a blanket wrapped round me.  I have managed to slip out of the house when Molly has a nap, but I only like to leave her for an hour at the moment.  At first, I didn't like to make a sound when she fell asleep in case I disturbed her, but I'm getting more used to her now.  She races around my garden like a demon possessed, and then just flops and is asleep in an instance.  She is really very mischievous. See that blanket she is sitting on.  Well,  it was in the house, but Molly decided it needed to be outside.

 It was quite heavy for such a small pup, but she was determined.

Catherine comes by after work, eats her dinner with me and then goes home with Molly.  She has the "night  watch" which I'm really glad about. Molly's just had her second lot of injections so can go out in 2 weeks time.  We're both going to take her to Puppy School so that we both learn how to train her, and are consistent with our commands.  She's already coming when her name is called, and she sits on command.

Here she is now at 10 weeks old.

Next  month I want to get the final blocks done for my star sampler quilt so I can get it put together ready for hand quilting over the summer.  I also want to start on my Farmer's Wife" quilt, but I've been saying that all year.  I wonder if this little Miss will let me?

Friday, 17 May 2013

Five Star Finished, Giveaway Winnings, and a Trip to London.

This could turn out to be quite a lengthy post, so if you want to read it all I suggest that you make yourself a nice cup of tea (or your favourite beverage of choice), and pull up a comfy chair.  That's what I've done anyway, so here goes.
Part 1 is the finish, Part 2 is the winnings, and Part 3 (very long) is about the history of my love affair with London and my most  recent trip there.  Please don't feel you have to read it all.  I won't be offended if you skip most of it.  Honest.

Part 1.
I've finally finished this mini quilt.  I'm not very inventive when it comes to naming quilts so this one is just called "Five Star."

I saw the pattern on Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. and it's called Three Barns.  There must be a story behind that title, but I don't know what it is. It doesn't resemble a barn (or even three) in any shape or form, so I think my renaming of it is completely in order. 

I've re-sized the pattern to 20" square.  I do this by drawing it out to scale on squared paper first, then calculating units required, materials needed and  method of piecing.  I actually love doing all the maths and working out the best way to do things.  This quilt is made up of squares, rectangles and Flying Geese units.

I don't know what the patterned fabrics are as they were scraps that were given to me, but the dark grey is taken from a cotton shirt from the charity shop.  The backing is just plain off-white sheeting and the buttons are from my button box.

I hand quilted it using Gutermann Sulky in grey.  It is a viscose thread with a nice silky finish, but a devil to work with as it breaks so easily.  I don't think I will use it again.  I just did straight line quilting on this.  I love the way the pattern shows up on the plain back.

My stitches aren't all even and I haven't come through to the back on a number on stitches, but I find the hand stitching very relaxing to do of an evening when  I'm watching TV.

Part 2.

I had great fun taking part in the Giveaway Day organised by Sew, Mama, Sew!  Luckily, this 'day' lasted all week as there were so many blogs to visit. I couldn't possibly visit all of the blogs in one day, so I decided to give myself a limited amount of time each day to visit  
them.  I loved reading all the blog posts and spent quite a bit of time on some of them, going back over older posts as they were so interesting.  Quite a few have been added to my blog reading list now.  I was lucky enough to win one of the giveaways I applied for from El Petit Taller and in the post this morning I received a package containing these 2 half yards of deliciously bright fabrics by Me and My Sisters, perfect for a summery project.

When visiting the sites you have to leave a comment and for this one Irina asked what was your favourite city.  Mine is London and I visit as often as I can.  I only live 70 miles away so it's nice and close.  I prefer to go by train as it only takes just over the hour, and I don't have to worry about driving or parking or 'congestion charge'.    I went to London last Saturday with my daughter as she had bought us tickets to see a play, 'The Hothouse' by Harold Pinter.  Read on to Part 3 if you want to know more about this trip.

Part 3.
I'm giving you fair warning that this part is very wordy and, later, picture heavy, so here goes.

My love affair with London started way back in the fifties when I was a child.  My dad was born there, and about twice a year we would go and visit his mother who lived in Bethnal Green in the East End. The journey used to take for ever, nearly 3 hours,  as there were no motorways back then, and the old cars dad had only seemed to go at 30 mph tops..  I used to get terribly car sick so we were always stopping for me to throw up!  But I still loved going.  My Nanny was a sweet little old lady who had had a hard life but she had that indomitable spirit of a true Cockney, and I loved to visit and listen to her tales of times gone by.  We would often go for a walk to visit aunts and uncles, and take in a few sites on the way.   I remember walking to Petticoat Lane market, going down Brick Lane, eating at a Pie and Mash shop and being introduced to Jellied Eels.  Another highlight was being sent down the road to the corner shop to get a half pint of fresh milk for the cups of tea and being told to say "Rose sent me".  This seemed to be the code for not paying for anything, and being given a sweet out of one of the many large jars that lined the walls of the shop.  In later life I found out that what it really meant was "I've got my family visiting from 'posh' parts who don't like sterilised milk, and I'll pay you on Monday."  The visit would always end with a detour through central London to see the 'lights' of Picadilly Circus, and in December, the Christmas lights down Regent and Oxford Street.

On to the Swinging Sixties and my teenage years.  I discovered that I could get on a train in Winchester and be in the capital in an hour.  I used to save my wages (15/3d, about 77p today) from my Saturday job in Woolworth's so when school holidays came I would go up to 'the smoke' for the day, and roam around Carnaby Street, King's Road and Kensington, shopping in Biba's,  and Mary Quant's shop.  I still have a suede tasselled  waiscoat that I bought in those days.  I would also take in the fabric and haberdashery departments of Liberty's in Regent Street and all the big department stores in Oxford Street.  My school friends soon realised that I knew my way round London and so would ask me to take them, but this usually meant taking an unofficial day off school so I'll gloss over that part!

During the Seventies I was a young married mum and lived some of that time in Germany, but returning to England at the beginning of the Eighties I found the ideal opportunity to get reacquainted with the capital.  My husband was a voluntary athletic official and attended many events at Crystal Palace and other venues around London.  My two young daughters and I would travel in the car to his venue, and then, armed with my favourite book - "London for Free", hop on a bus or the Tube and seek out many museums, art galleries, monuments and other wonderful places of interest, all for the cost of the bus fare. We gradually worked our way through that book over the years, and I wish I still had it as there were such gems in there that I'm sure I would never have found.  Places like the Horniman Museum with it's cultural and natural history collections,  John Soames House in Lincoln's Inn where you can see Hogarth's Rake Progress, the Museum of Childhood in Bethnall Green with it's delightful collection of Doll's Houses, the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton with  it's wonderful displays of British interiors,the Hunterian Museum in Lincoln's Inn with it's gruesome medical specimens and surgical instruments, and many, many more.  Oh, I almost forgot, the London Sewing Machine Museum on Balham High Street, with it's hundred upon hundred of vintage and antique machines.
All for FREE!

We always arranged to meet up in Covent Garden around tea-time.  As this was an unpredictable time we needed something to keep us busy whilst we waited, and the street entertainment certainly did that, again for free.  On the way there we would stop at the booth in Leicester Square that sold last-minute theatre tickets and buy cheap tickets for an evening performance in one of the many theatres.  We didn't really care what we saw, but we saw some really great shows and plays.

Is it any wonder, with all this rich, cultural heritage that I dragged my girls around that one of them studied History at university, and the other studied Drama.  My youngest daughter now takes great delight in introducing the streets of London to her two youngsters, and my eldest daughter loves taking groups of her students on history visits to the capital.

And so, at last to my latest visit, and some PHOTOS!  I went with my eldest daughter, Catherine, on the train.  We alighted at Waterloo, and camera in hand, I warned her that I wanted to record our walk in photos.  She advised me not to try to take any whilst I was crossing the road, and to watch out for lamp posts (I once walked smack into one in Naples, broke my glasses and gave myself a black-eye!).  My first one I wanted to be of the marvellous entrance to the station, but it was covered in scaffolding and board so that was a no-no, but opposite it was a lovely site.  A long, unbroken row of Boris's Bikes, introduced by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, to help reduce pollution on the roads of London.  These racks are usually empty during the week, but as today was Saturday it provided my first photo opportunity.

I walked this way only a month or so ago, but I cant remember seeing this striking sculpture of Nelson Mandela.  I must have had my eyes closed.  Glad I saw it this time.

We made our way to the South Bank and stopped off at Wagamama's for an early lunch.  I had a most delicious curry of chicken and vegetables with sticky rice and a side order of endamame beans.

Going over Hungerford Bridge I spied this strange little island which seems to be the final resting place for dead skate boards.

Looking across to the Victoria Embankment is the mis-named Cleopatra's Needle, a pair to the one in New York's Central Park, flanked by two faux Egyptian sphynxes.  Mis-named because this obelisk has no connection with Cleopatra, and was already a thousand year's old when she was Queen of the Nile. The sphynxes were installed the wrong way round and so appear to be gazing up at the needle, instead of looking outwards and guarding it.  I used to think this was so very tall as a child, but now it is dwarfed by it's surroundings.


Through Charing Cross and a view of the Victorian cross that is a replacement of the original Eleanor Cross that previously stood nearby.  Charing Cross was one of 12 "Eleanor Crosses" erected by a disconsolate Edward I when his wife Queen Eleanor of Castile died in 1290. 

From Charing Cross we walked over to Trafalgar Square, but it was very difficult to get a photo of it because the Square is now used as a venue for open-air events.  Last time it was a Russian festival, and this time it was a basketball event.  There are hoardings all around the square and you can only enter in certain places, with burly guards guarding the  way.  The fountain is still accessible but you can't stand far enough away from it to get a good photo.  I took this photo of Nelson gazing out, through his good eye, at the ever changing skyline, with one lonely lion guarding him, from across the road.  Bring back the wide open space and the pigeons, please Boris.

We had a half hour to spare before we needed to go to the theatre so we took a walk down Whitehall.  coming towards us was a London bus, but not any old one.  This is one of the newly-renovated Routemaster buses that have have been re-introduced onto the roads of central London.  The original Routemasters, with the hop on/off back platform, driver's cab and ticket collector were all phased out and replaced with more modern driver controlled, front entrance buses, but good old Boris, together with London Transport and contributions from the British taxpayer has seen sense and re-introduced a few of these iconic symbols of London.  It was a lovely sight to see it back on the road.

We passed by Scotland Yard, centre for all police activity in the centre of London.

Passed this memorial honouring the role of women in World War Two.  It was unveiled by the Queen in 2005.

Look at all this security.  One of the Horseguards outside the Horseguards Museum.

Another form of security.

Armed police, iron gates, bollards, railings, all guarding this place

official residence and office of the Prime Minister.

Turned round and walked back up Whitehall passing this stall selling souvenirs

The theatre was at the top of Whitehall so we went in and had a drink before taking our seats (tea for me, a glass of something bubbly for Catherine).  The play was a black comedy, very funny, brilliantly written by Pinter (I can see why he got the Nobel Prize for Literature) and superbly acted.  A wonderful experience. Nothing to do with the play, but it rather amused me was the extremely squeaky doors in the Ladies cloakroom.  I think they were auditioning for the part of "Squeaking Door" in the next ghostly radio play.

After the play we made our way round Trafalgar Square to the National Portrait Gallery and spent a pleasant hour gazing at the famous people from Tudor times right up  to the present.  The recent one of Kate, Prince Williams's wife,  was getting a lot of attention.  I thought it looked like she had the Omen shining out of her.  My favourite was the one of Dame Judi Dench.  It is a full length one and she looks so serene, and beautiful.

Don't worry, this isn't my image . You can't take photos in the gallery, so this is a downloaded image.

By this time we were in need of a cup of tea again, so crossed to the other side of Trafalgar Square and went in the cafe in the crypt of St. Martin in the Fields.

 London is very grey at the moment and this splash of colour as we cut through Charing Cross station on our way back was very welcome.

Back over Hungerford Bridge and a view of the latest change to the London skyline.  That pointy building is nicknamed "The Shard".  It is now open and you can, for the princely sum of £25.00 go up to the viewing platform for a wondrous look across London.  I'm saving that experience for a sunny day.

Further along the bridge I took this shot of St. Paul's Cathedral.  Not it's best angle, and not in good light.  you can see how cloudy and grey it was.

This is where my camera battery gave out and I hadn't taken a spare one with me, so you can't see the oysters my daughter ate in the little food market by the Royal Festival Hall, or the scrumptious apple and cinnamon crepe that I had.  Never mind, I think you've seen enough.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings.  If you have made it right up until the ending here you jolly well deserve a medal.  What stamina you must have!  I'd love to know how many people survived this journey, so please leave me a comment if you have enjoyed it.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

My First Commission Finished

Well, we can't say we were not warned.
The weather men said that it was going to be blustery.
Oh boy were they right. But blustery is the understatement of the year. It is blowing a hoolie. Jolly windy and jolly cold. 
When I got the gas bill last week, after I picked myself up from the floor, I swore that I wasn't going to put the heating on until next winter.  I caved.  It's been on since 4pm.
Please, Mr Weatherman, can we have some pleasant weather now.  Sooner rather than later.  I've had enough of winter.  Three days of summer just wasn't enough!
At long last I've finished the baby quilt I was asked to make by a member of my reading group whose  granddaughter is having a baby next month.  

I used a half  of a Moda Scrap Bag which was made up of a line called Happy by Me and My Sister designs for Moda.  The scraps were 32" long strips cut down the lengthwise edge of the fabric.  By the time I had cut the selvedges off I had 2" strips.  
I've already made a baby quilt with the other half of this pack here.  I wanted to try a different pattern for this one so I thought a four trip rail fence would look good, but I didn't like it when I laid it out.  Fortunately, I was reading Bonnie Hunter's blog at that moment and saw a quilt that she was teaching at a class.  It started off with a four strip and then was cut on the diagonal to make two large triangles.  I then picked four random triangles and sewed them together to make the block.  It's called Strip Twist and is a free pattern.    

I've backed it with this piece of variegated fabric that I picked up in a charity shop for £1.50, and I used this for the other quilt, too.  Two quilt backs for £1.50!!!!  Amazing.  

I machine quilted it by stitching in the ditch around each block, and some straight lines on the border.

I had a fat quarter of this pink cotton in my small stash and so used that, machining it to the front and hand stitching it to the back.

It's funny, but I don't feel anything for this quilt.  I'm pleased with the way it's turned out, but I don't feel any attachment, or enthusiasm for it.  Everything else I've made has been for me, or a member of my family, or for one of my friends, but this is going to used by someone I don't know.  I'm getting paid for it, too, but that doesn't fill me with joy, either.  In fact, I think that the fact that I am being paid to make it has actually put me off it.  I like making things for others, but I like to gift them, and see the look of pleasure on their faces, and know that I've made someone happy.  I don't like this feeling about something I've made.  This could well be my first and only commission.  I'm going back to making things and keeping or gifting them.  I will get much more satisfaction from that.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown

I made this up on Wednesday evening for my five year old granddaughter.  She came over on Thursday after school and tried it on but I forgot to take any photos of it.  I went over to see her this afternoon, but no amount of bribery would get her to put it on for me so I could have a photo of her wearing it.  She can be really stroppy when she wants to be.  All I can say is that the colour really suits her as she is very blond and has lovely blue eyes.  This is really just the toile to see if the pattern is suitable for making up in a 'good' fabric'.  The neckline is a bit low for her and the bodice needs to be about 2 inches longer, but I can easily adjust the pattern for next time.  The fabric is something I picked up in a charity shop some time ago.  It's cotton but was only 34" wide from selvedge to selvedge, and it wasn't printed right up to the edges.   I had to cut 2" from each selvedge to get rid of the white strip. I think it might have been a test piece for some screen printing.   It was really cheap, though, so this dress can be used for play dates this summer.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

April Round-Up

April hasn't been a very productive month for me quilting wise.

The weather here has been changeable, with it being very cold, sunny highlights, but not enough of them, and lots of rain.  Typical English weather you might say, so I should be used to it, but April is expected to be gradually warming up to Spring and it hasn't felt like that at all.  Today, though, the sun is shining and the forecast is for temperatures about 14-15 degrees C.  Anyhow, I have been spending time in the garden tidying it up after the winter season and getting ready for some summer bedding to go in.  I usually put that in about now, but I'm holding off for at least another couple of weeks this year to let the ground warm up a bit.

There are no actual  finishes for April but I have started a baby quilt, and I just need to finish quilting the border and apply the binding for that to be finished.

I've finished hand quilting my Five Star mini-quilt so that just needs binding.

At my W.I. craft group we have started making an exploding sewing box.  This is slow progress as I only work on it on Thursday afternoons.

Yesterday I prepared the pattern so I can make my granddaughter some little dresses for the summer.  I'm going to cut out and sew this one up today, ready for trying on for size tomorrow when she comes over after school.

I've also been busy doing alterations and repairs.  I've taken up two charity shop skirts, two pairs of trousers have been tapered and taken up for me and two pairs likewise for my daughter, one of my daughter's dresses has had a modesty panel inserted in the bodice and one of her tops has had the facings sewn down so they don't keep popping out.  I hate doing alterations, I'd rather make something from scratch, but needs must in the present economic climate.

Next month should see all of these projects completed, along with several other little dresses.  I want to make the last couple of blocks for my combined BOM quilt and get that sashed and bordered ready for hand quilting and I want to make a bag with the pattern I won in a giveaway over at Loft Creations.  It is this Caity Did bag by the very talented Stephanie Dunphy, and I have some gorgeous Amy Butler Soul Blossoms that I want to make it up in.

Looks like being a busy month.

Linking up to Fresh Sewing Day and Small Blog Meet over at Lily's Quilts.