Monday, 31 December 2007

Feathered star

Christmas was good, but busy. Lots of visitors to our open house on Christmas Eve, then parents and children staying over the holiday. My DH's grandma used to say, 'God speed the parting guest' and I know what she meant! It's lovely to have a houseful, but also nice to get back to normal.
Once DS had gone back to London, I was able to get my sewing room back. I celebrated by making a feathered star. It's a Martha McClosky pattern I picked up from the Home and Garden Television site. I know it's really only pictures of the demonstration, but the instructions were a bit tricky to follow, especially when it came to assembling the block. 'Stitch each row together and complete' wasn't really enough for me - maybe I should have bought the book! Anyway, I'm pleased with the result, although I still have to work out whether I want to make more to start another quilt, or whether the journey was sufficient.
Hope everyone has a good time today, and has a happy, healthy and productive 2008!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Pre-Christmas present

DD was busy in her bedroom with the door closed for most of yesterday. Best to knock before going in at this time of year! About 11 pm she emerged with a big grin on her face, and said she had a pre-Christmas present for me.

It's a felt mince pie! Isn't it gorgeous? Unfortunately, she tells me you can't eat it, but that means it'll be available to enhance our Christmas table for years to come!
Merry Christmas to all, and a happy, healthy new year.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Postal goodies

Although we in England have quite a few good quilt shops, we don't always get the range of fabrics which our friends over The Pond enjoy. I am a fan of Michael Miller fabrics, and they are not easy to get hold of. My Dysfunctional Family fabric was bought over here, but the shop owner told me that it nearly didn't make it onto the shelves, as her wholesaler had assumed it had come over by mistake, and nearly sent it back! Luckily she was on the ball, and had chased the order just in time, to be told, 'It's so wierd, I couldn't imagine anyone wanted it!' I know many people buy hard-to-find fabrics on the net, but I've previously fought shy of it, being concerned about tax and postage costs.
However, my friend Chris has recently alerted me to a wonderful place to buy fabrics, where the range of fabrics and service is excellent, and the postage costs minimal. It's They have an extensive selction of fabrics for about $8 a yard, and with the weak dollar that means about £4 a yard! I am particulary interested in Victorian reproduction fabrics (another group of designs which don't seem to make over here) so bought 5 yards of fabric, which with postage, cost me only £25.64 and arrived after only 11 days from my order! I could have bought another yard of fabric for the same postage cost of $11, but didn't want to strain the credit card bill too much at this time of year!

Here are my goodies, all reproduction fabrics to add to my stash. Carly at Webfabrics sent me a little extra, a piece of sunflower fabric with a lovely little gift tag saying 'Happy Sewing'. The tag was made from fabric Heat and Bonded on to card - now there's an idea!

Of course, I couldn't resist something to add to my novelty fabrics collection. Here is 'Daily Grind'.If you look at Webfabrics' site, be aware that fabric is by the yard (not metre) and priced in half yards or sometimes fat quarters. If you're a cheapskate like me, scroll down to the weekly specials, where fabric is even cheaper! Happy surfing!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Bellydance Superstars, be very afraid.

This week I have danced (and drummed) in two local haflas. (A hafla is a performance party - think of a cabaret evening with bring your own picnic, and you'll get the idea.) These haflas were in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care and raised £1033.94 for this very worthy cause, as well as giving lots of people a great evening out, dancing, eating, drinking, and then joining in the arabic disco at the end of the evening.

I made sure I was on the second row, behind Tracey, so that I could follow her if my mind went blank or I fell over my own feet, but didn't realise that I was standing in a black spot, which has made the photos difficult to see. Never mind. At least you can't really see the look of blind panic on my face! I tried to smile, but when you're doing your best to co-ordinate hands, arms, chest, hips and feet, and keep in time with the music, your facial muscles are the least of your concerns.

People always think that you have to show lots of flesh if you're doing belly dancing. I suppose if you want to make a career of it, it attracts the crowds, but at hobby level, anything goes. You can see here that people are wearing a variety of different costumes, with various amounts of flesh on show. The one thing they have in common is the wearing of a coin belt - shaking your hips is so satisfying when they jingle!

We were all supposed to be doing the same choreography, but this photo looks as if it's a bit of an improv session. I think we've just turned right round, and some people are quicker into position than others.

Belly dancing is great fun, and I would recommend it to anyone, whatever shape, size or age. It's done to music, is great exercise, like quilting it's effectively a ladies-only hobby, with all the benefits that being in a sisterhood brings, and gives you an opportunity to dress sparkly and jingly and reveal your inner goddess! It's also a fantastic conversational gambit which you can use to great effect at parties - it ensures people always remember you!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Christmas present

The last of the cards have gone off in the post - including the one for DS, which DH took to London to give him when they met for lunch yesterday, and then brought back home again! The only ones left now are the local ones, which will be hand delivered.
I have also made inroads into the Christmas presents. The ones to my nieces and nephews have also been posted, and today I finished the only hand-made present I will be giving this year, a bag for a friend at work.

When I was a girl, everyone had a cloth shopping bag for carrying purchases home in. Nowadays, plastic carrier bags are most often used, although there is a movement to go back to reusing bags, and many supermarkets give incentives to people who bring, and use, their own bags. Hopefully my friend will be able to use this when she does her weekly shop. Not only will she have her green credentials on display, but the sophisticated Michael Miller fabric will count for extra Brownie Points, surely!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Another Christmas card (and hanging)

I have made one more Christmas card, this time for my DS. I have used a house block I made up with pictures of him and his house mates in the windows - well, one of them is him (the male one) and the three young ladies he shares with will have to fight over who is the angel, who is singing and who has a very fetching hat! I originally made a wreath on the front door with leaf shaped sequins, but eventually decided that French knots were the preferred option. At least it's the kind of thing which could be displayed all winter. Hope he likes it.

I seem to have gone a bit house-crazy (what would Freud have to say about that?) and houses are my theme for the Winter Class I took with Tonya. We had to start by thinking what Christmas meant to us, and to me, the feeling of togetherness and bonhomie when friends (old and new) and family get together is the best part of the celebrations. So I decided to make houses, with all kinds of people (and creatures!) peeping out of the windows, and a space underneath for all the people who visit us over Christmas to sign their names. That way, it will be a real record of the best part of Christmas for me. I made the letters using Tonya's clever improvisational method, and changed the saying to 'people' rather than 'men' as we have a feminist in the house, (my DD). I really have more hand quilting to do, but need to hang this up on the dining room wall ready for people to sign.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Christmas cards

I'm not really a card-maker, but for special occasions and special people it can be fun. I usually make something for close family at Christmas, and this year I decided to make some for my parents and mother-in-law using soluble film.

First I rummaged in my waste bin and found a few scraps of green fabric (and I mean scraps!) adding a few bits of ribbon and some scraps of shiny green fabric from my special box. Then I cut them up into tiny pieces using my ruler and rotary cutter - think of chopping herbs, it's that kind of exercise.
Then I arranged the scraps in a rough wreath shape on a piece of soluble film, topped it with another piece and transferred it carefully into an embroidery hoop. (In fact, I had to do this several times, as I kept tipping it slightly, so that all the little bits kept sliding together in a pile!)

Next I used my darning foot to machine all over the bits of fabric randomly. I tried to make a holly pattern, but soon gave up as it was impossible. Obviously I ket going round in a circle, and left the middle free.
When I was satisfied that I had sewn most of the bits together, I took the whole thing out of the frame, immersed it in warm water for a few minutes to disolve the film and left the resultant wreath to dry. It looked a bit dodgy at this stage, but I gave it a little trim here and there with some sharp scissors to help the shape look a bit better. Then I made another one!
Then comes the fun bit. In front of the tele, I sewed on some tiny red beads, to represent holly berries, some stars to represent...... well, stars, and a little red ribbon bow. I stuck them onto blank cards and have to admit, they look pretty good.
Here's a close-up where you can see the decorations a bit better. Actually, now I think of it, I'm sure my sister-in-law would like one too. Here's to another rummage in the bin!

Saturday, 1 December 2007


I'm very keen on recycling as much as I can. Over here in Leicestershire we have a green bin to collect garden rubbish and grey cardboard, a brown one for food waste (a new idea, even collecting cooked food, bones, meat etc) and a black one for other rubbish. I have a box of my own next to the bins to put plastic bottles in, and I take those to a facility at the supermarket. I regularly take things to (and buy things from) the local charity shop, even saving all my off-cuts of fabric - even the little tiny ones - to take for them to get money for as rags. I have fabric bags for my shopping and even save the plastic bags you get on the weekend papers and put Project Linus kits into those.

So when I saw on Tonya's blog that she made reusable fabric gift bags, I was motivated to have a go. First I tipped out all the off-cuts of wadding I had saved 'just in case' and found some which could be sewn together.

I chose the fabric for outer and lining, cut it to shape, zigzagged a couple of pieces of wadding to the required size and then made the bag. Tonya gives detailed instructions, but basically I layered the fabrics right sides together with the wadding on top, sewed all round the edge, leaving a gap to turn through, turned right sides out, folded the bag into shape and sewed up the sides of the bag and along the flap to top stitch.

Here are the first two I made. They're about 10 inches square. Tonya suggested using Velcro to close them, but I just put on ribbon ties - my children are in their twenties and not likely to get try to peep before the day.

Then I made two more using pieces of Christmas fabric which have been lurking in my Christmas box for years, one a Debbie Mumm and the other a horrible cheap piece I picked up somewhere or other. Another plus on the recycling front! I put little ribbon loops on these and sewed buttons on for closing. Seems to work well enough.

I have no idea what I will be putting in these bags, but as long as it fits in, the gift doesn't have to be the exact same shape. At least it will slightly reduce the mountain of wrapping paper which is cleared up every Christmas morning, and has had the welcome effect of reducing my stash too! Let me just go and see what other pieces of Christmas fabric are still lurking....