Sunday, 31 October 2010

Linus crazy!

I have been busy sewing, honestly, but this retirement business is fraught with people wanting to meet you for lunch, for coffee, for shopping etc. and I'm really enjoying saying 'yes!' This week though, I've had two requests for Linus quilts. One is for a 14 year old girl with cancer who loves textiles - got to get a quilt to her in double-quick time - and the other for five disabled children who are going into fostercare, all boys. Of course, I have very few Linus quilts at the moment, as I've just made a big delivery to the refuge, so am trying to make a some quilts up to suit. Here is the one for the 14 year old girl (who loves pink).

The fabric in the centre was 'left over from a project' and donated to Linus. How can so much coordinating fabric be left over? Well, it's a good job we're not all scrap quilters like me, as there would be no donated scraps to make charity quilts from!

Here is the completed top from the pattern in McCall's Quilting. It's nice and gutsy and will be good for a boy, I think. And finally, I have put together these scrappy blocks which were made at a recent Linus sewing afternoon.

This will make a great cot quilt. Can you see DH peeping through the border fabric on the last two quilts? This donated fabric isn't very good quality, and while it will be fine for these children's quilts, shows its faults when held in front of a window. Now I need to get layering and quilting!

Sunday, 24 October 2010


I recently had a big birthday, and my parents gave me some money, with a note, saying, 'Buy something you would like with this.' Now, I'm very grateful, but I am fortunate enough to have modest needs, and the income to indulge myself in most of the things I want. So, the money sat in the envelope until this week, when I have used it to treat myself to a new sewing machine!

Now I am retired, there seem to be so many opportunities to go places where I can take my machine and sew, and I was getting tired of packing up and unpacking my machine so decided the time (and the funds!) were ripe for the purchase of a small model to pick up and go with. I went to a lovely shop 'Sew Northampton' where there was plenty of advice, and no sniffing at my small budget. In the end I went for this Janome, because it has all the features of my big machine (needle down, top bobbin, thread cutter, speed control etc) and would allow me to use my darning, quarter inch and walking feet without having to buy more. So far, I'm delighted with it, and am planning to take it out for a test run this week!

Then two friends have given me presents this week too! Jane was shopping when she saw this fabulous calendar in a bargain book outlet. She bought one for herself, and one for me! Thank you so much, Jane. It was a lovely thought, which will give me pleasure for a whole year!

Then my friend Gill said she too had something for me. She had picked up this car sticker, and thought it was perfect for me. It certainly is, and I lost no time in fixing it in the back windscreen of my car! Got to spread the word!

The next present was given to me at the latest meeting of my quilt group, Piecemakers. This group was started by myself and four friends just ten years ago, in Novemebr 2000, and so this month we had a birthday party, where we invited lots of the former members. All the original members were given a present of a rose plant, and we had a lovely evening with refreshments and lots of chat.

It was a special evening, with people coming together to share their love of patchwork and quilting. I thank everyone for their support for the group over their years, and for enriching my life with their friendship. Here's to the next 10 years!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Material girl

I couldn't have made a trip to the USA without hoping to buy some fabric, and in that I was very successful! I asked the lady in the hotel in Portland whether she knew anywhere to buy fabric, and she directed us to an outlet called 'Mardens' which had bolts and bolts of fabric (along with everything from stationery to three piece suites!).

I managed to track down a Judie Rothermiel toile fabric, a nice Linus fabric with football boots on it and a fabric which said 'Quilters are Piecemakers' which, since my local quilt group is called Piecemakers, I couldn't resist!

I really wanted to find a proper quilt shop, and when we stopped for a coffee in Wilmington, I was delighted to find this one.

It was a real rabbit warren of a place, with rooms opening off rooms in a delightful way. I was tickled to see they sold rulers made by my home company 'Creative Grids', and gave their emblem of the Leicestershire fox a little stroke! I was determined to stay true to my resolution to buy what I needed rather than wanted, so while they had a tantalising selection of autumn prints, (and lots of other gorgeous stuff) I bypassed them. I finally ended up with a layer cake of reproduction fabrics, which I need for my challenge quilt.

The phot looks like I bought a whole stack, but I'm holding the packet up vertically!

Here are the fabrics, along with a fat quarter I bought from Shelburne. And to prove I really 'needed' them, I have already incorporated one of the designs in my latest challenge block.

This little beauty finishes at 8", which makes it quite fiddly. The worst of it is that I have another three to make! Better get back to the sewing machine!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Fabulous New England!

I have just returned from a ten day holiday (or vacation, as they say!) in New England. We flew into Boston and had a couple of nights there and then picked up a car to drive round the area, look at the leaves and anything else of interest, with the hopes of a few quilts and quilt shops too. We had a fabulous time! The weather was fairly kind to us (it only really rained for one day, and we had three whole days of glorious sunshine), the beds were clean, comfortable and soft, the natives were friendly and went out of their way to be helpful and I am now a convert to the charms of Sam Adams's ale!
The best colours were at the start of the holiday when the skies were grey and I didn't take any photos, but the leaves varied all the way from green, through yellow-green, yellow, ochre, orange, peach and crimson to burgundy! Apparently it's only in New England and Japan that the tree varieties and soil conditions are right for such an amazing display. If you've ever thought it was 'just leaves' I can tell you that the whole are is well worth a visit, especially in the autumn.
Here are some lovely trees in the Hancock Shaker Village showing yellow-orange and orange leaves.
This row goes all the way from green, yellow-green, ochre, orange to red.
Here is a typical vista in the Green Mountains.Here is DH standing on a covered bridge. They are also called 'kissing bridges' as the darkness and privacy afforded the chance for a little romance! They aren't covered for that reason, but to protect the road and structure from the weather, and also because the whole bridge became much more stable and secure. I hadn't realised what a big deal pumpkins are, and we saw them everywhere. Some were small and cute, and others monstrous - literally up to about three feet in height! This selection was outside a house in Deerfield. I don't know if they were for sale or just decoration. Most houses had some Halloween decorations out, usually chrysanthemums and pumpkins , with corn stalks, scarecrows, ghosts and skeletons as optional extras! Some of the decorations were very humorous, such as the scarecrow bending over, to reveal two pumpkins placed strategically peeping over the back of his trouser waistband! (We'd passed that one by before I had chance to snap it!)

Here's another glorious tree with red-orange leaves. Compare the red of these leaves with the next photo. This one is much redder - sorry about the telegraph pole!Now for the quilts. We went to Shelburne, which is a kind of collection of collections, and they had an exhibition of crazy quilts. This one was made by two sisters aged 11 and 14 for their 23 year old sister on her marriage. Her initials and the date are in the middle. The pieces were all edged with white fabric before being joined together. I couldn't really work out exactly how it had been made. The easy way would have been to applique the coloured scraps onto a white background, but that didn't seem to be how it was made at all.

This quilt is a more traditional example, with the craziness being tamed by being made into blocks.
Here a few blocks have been added, but still in usual crazy bright silks and black. The flag dates the quilt quite precisely by the number of stars. (Sorry, I can't remember how many there are!)This crazy quilt is unusual in that it has a plain centre. This has been embroidered with flowers, birds and butterflies. The crazy blocks have been added around the egde, and are creeping into the middle portion too!

This quilt is one of my favourites. It's a string star. It's so lively and jolly. But when you look closely, there's a mystery.

How have these blocks been made? I had thought the shapes making up the star (triangles and squares) would have been made from strings and then sewn together with white fabric. But looking closely, you can see that the strings go from the centre of the stars into the points with no apparent join. Yet the stars haven't been appliqued, and are definitely pieced. Any ideas?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Not much sewing

After managing to complete four tops last month, I have forsaken quilting for other things. But of course, I always manage to squeeze a little sewing in! I bought a copy of 'McCall's Quilting', and found a lovely pattern by Susan Guzman called 'Dutch Breeze'. Not only is it lovely and easy, but it's perfect for scraps - my kind of pattern! It's made from 1.5" strips and 2.5" strips. Just join them together, cut into 4.5" squares and sew together!

I've only had chance to make a few blocks, but this one will be such fun to do, and since the blocks are 8" finished, it will grow quickly. There are several other good scrap quilt patterns in the magasine, so check it out if you have the chance.
So what have I been doing which has kept me away from my sewing machine? I'm a member of a local drama group, and have volunteered to reorganise and be responsible for our store. We are lucky enough to have a space in an industrial unit which is given to us rent free by the owner, Michael Coates. Thanks, Michael, we're very grateful. The problem is, that people go in and out of it, and it had become a dumping ground which was in total chaos. The chances of finding the blow up hammer for next year's panto, or the soda syphon for Agatha Christie were negligible.

Here is a 'before' picture taken from the doorway. Bags and unlabelled boxes everywhere. The basket of plastic fruit (vital for panto) is obvious, but everything else could be anywhere.

Another view to dishearten anyone trying to locate something specific. (Just why is that cuddly angel fish lying on top of a camouflage net?)

So over the last few days, DS and I have been to IKEA, bought and erected some basic shelving units, and begun to try to empty carrier bags, bin bags and boxes, and start a simple categorisation system. Boxes have been labelled with 'Men's hats - uniform', 'Aprons - coloured', 'Waistcoats' and even 'Dame's underwear' (a large box!) and stored on shelves. Yesterday a group of people from the group came over and we completed the job.

This is now the view from the door, with all costumes hung on racks, and other items in boxes on shelving along the back wall. Here is a view of the props shelving, with the plastic fruit now safely boxed, and the blow-up hammer in the panto props box. What a transformation, and what's more, I'm determined to keep it like that!