Crumbs, my last post was a long time ago.  I blame a couple of big projects and a busy summer (not all work though there was rather a lot of play too). I started the two big projects during a glorious week at home in the Spring but didn’t finish them until last month and didn’t get around to photographing them until last weekend.  Where does the time fly to?  The two projects were very different, one was a quilt and the other was a Lady Grey coat.  The idea was that the simple stitching of the quilt would balance out the technical difficulty of the coat and I am glad that I could bounce between the two projects.  It did slow down the construction of the quilt though and I feel a wee bit bad about that as it was a present (ah well, I think they forgive me).

Two of my favourite people were wed earlier this year and I was honoured to be a bridesmaid.  The wedding weekend was a fusion of Hindu and Scottish colour and energy, and it was lots of fun.  With that in mind I designed a colourful quilt for them (because all newly-weds should have something to snuggle under).  The patterned fabric is from two collections designed by Anna Maria Horner, mixed with a variety of plains.  I think I spent about two days moving around the squares before I was happy with the balance but that was fun and challenging, and the patchwork was quick and simple.  The backing was soft and cosy quilter’s flannel that I machine dyed with Dylon.  The quilting was also simple, just 1/4″ off-set squares.

R helped me take the pictures but the wind made the process rather tricky (and silly).  I thoroughly enjoyed making this quilt and I love the way the colour combinations have turned out.  I have to admit that I didn’t want to give away the quilt but N&D are special so I was good (and anyway, I have my next quilt all planned out and that one’s for R and me).

I’m not sure if it was my dedication to work or sewing that kept me in the lab for 13 hours yesterday.  I became obsessed with processing some data and really wanted to get the numbers crunched before I went home so that I didn’t have it nagging at me today, on my very precious day off.  I plan to spend today surrounded by fabric, in one way or other.

Hobbies are important.  I didn’t understand that when I was working towards my PhD but I now know I would have been a lot healthier and happier if I had, and the title of this little place reminds me of that every day.  My mum and sister and I are becoming very good at encouraging each other’s hobbies; it helps that many of our hobbies are crafty in one way or another.  So, when I asked my mum what she’d like from me for Christmas* she suggested a roll for her new paint brushes.

I loved choosing the fabrics for this project (ok, putting fabric combinations together is probably my favourite part of sewing).  I wanted the roll to have both a paintbox and painted feel to it so I chose to use some  Moda Peas and Carrots ovals and mixed that with some hand dyed Bonsai from Ink & Spindle.

I couldn’t resist adding some paint splodges using appliqué.

*Yes, I’m sorry, it is rather pathetic to be posting about Christmas presents at the end of February but I did mention at the start that days off (including weekends) are very precious and far between at the mo.  Also, I didn’t have time to take any pictures before the brush roll was wrapped up in snowflakes so I had to wait for a dash up north to get some.

Last November I ran away from the Big Smoke into the Scottish fresh air for a weekend with my Dad, step-mum and their dog, Domino.

Scotland Nov09

It was very wet (my walking boots very nearly let my feet get soggy) but there were patches of blue sky, and with good company, good food and good wine I was very happy.

The tricky light and fast flowing water gave a perfect opportunity for me to absorb as much of my Dad’s photography knowledge as I could.  He’s encouraging me to use more of the functions of my beautiful SLR and stop lazily using it as a point and click.

Wet Scotland Nov09

The cottage we stayed in had black sofas that were perfect for keeping Domino’s secret when she naughtily jump up on them.  At home, Domino isn’t allowed on the sofa because black dog hair and a cream couch just don’t make tidy playfellows.   However, it quickly became obvious that my Dad and Domino both enjoyed cuddling on the sofa (rather than the hard floor).  In a fit of familial love and Christmas cheer I offered to make a quilt that they could put on the sofa at home to protect it from doggy cuddles.

I decided to adapt the Little Bits quilt from Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts to two blocks of little bits and large diagonal quilting.  I couldn’t face sewing with black fabric but I guessed that a deep chocolate brown would hide the dog hairs just as well and be more attractive.  I like the way the blue little bits dance out of the chocolate and are interesting without being too fussy.

It was tight finishing the quilt for Christmas and I finished the last of the hand-sewn bias binding on Boxing day.  In the rush I knew I wouldn’t be able to sign the quilt using embroidery so I pulled out my printer fabric and digitally signed the quilt in brown and blue.

As part of my experimenting with wadding I used a recycled plastic bottle polyester wadding for this quilt.  It was much easier to work with than then the bamboo wadding I used for my nephew’s robot quilt.

I saw the quilt in use this weekend and it was lovely seeing Domino and Alison curled up on it together.

I bought a meter of beautiful turquoise wool twill fabric at the Festival of Quilts two years ago, from the Fabrics Galore stand.  I must have bought it in a fit of bravado and confidence.  Once it was tucked into my stash, working with it terrified me.  I was convinced it would be a nightmare to cut, or that it would unravel before I could could stitch the pieces together.

One of my resolutions for the new year is to work my way through my stash, because it is rather taking over my sewing room.  I’m not going to stop buying fabric for specific projects, that would be crazy, but I’m going to try to use the fabric I already have where possible.  Except for the bits that I can’t bear to cut into. Er, oh dear.

Anyway, so I decided to use the twill to make a skirt using instructions from the Design-It-Yourself, Clothes book by Cal Patch to draft the pattern.  My mum bought me the book for Christmas and I was itching to try it.

blue twill skirt with red buttons

Crumbs, it is not a book for beginners.  That isn’t a criticism, just a warning. I learnt so much making this skirt. It’s a skirt of many firsts.  This was the first time that I’d worked with a fairly loose weave fabric, the first time I’ve drafted a pattern with darts (and it nearly fits my tummy perfectly so I am definitely a dart convert), my first patch pockets, flat-felled seams and fringe hem (although that last idea came from Sew What Skirts). It wasn’t easy to make and there was quite a lot of swearing but I love the red buttons and stitching against the turquoise and black.  The waist is little lower than I usually prefer but I can adjust the pattern if I make another someday.

The twill was pretty scary to work with but I’m very glad I turned it into a skirt. You never know, before this year is out I may find the courage to make one of the trouser patterns from the book.

Oh crumbs, I am so far behind with my posts.  Like always, the run up to Christmas was a blur of activity and much crafting. I don’t have pictures of everything I made but I will work my way through posting about those that I do.

In November (yes, I’m that far behind) I made a wrap skirt using the directions from Sew What Skirts.  I like using this book and I think this is the third skirt I’ve made using it (there was also one failed attempt but let’s ignore that).  The instructions are clear and I usually find the ratios work well for me.

grey wrap skirt

For fabric I used grey wool suiting (so I think it will have to be dry cleaned only) with a light grey cotton belt/facing. I was apprehensive about using suiting fabric but it was a tight weave and was not difficult to sew.  I love this skirt.  It is so versatile and flattering and I love the way it moves.  I have a habit of standing feet together, twirling it from side to side.

Today I treated myself to the new Jasper Fforde book “Shades of Grey” and I can’t wait to start reading it.  It’s a book about a society where visual colour dominates, and erm, lost spoons. I’m a big fan of the Thursday Next series so I hope this new series is going to be fun.

We moved house a couple of months ago and since then I’ve been slowly finding homes for all our stuff.  The living room is wonderfully spacious and bright (lots of room for spreading out fabric). Unlike our old place the living room can cope with chunky furniture storage space in the kitchen and living room were extremely limited.

So, I bought a second hand dresser from a local charity shop as extra storage and a focal point for the room.  The dresser is solid and sturdy but it was pretty beaten up when I bought it and the dark veneer didn’t fit with the bright room.  It  needed some tlc.

dresser before

So when R went a way for a week’s business trip I set to work sanding it, filling in the gaps and chips, coating it in primer and then paint.  I worked hard and was determined to have it finished by the time he came home.  The main sticking point I had was finding the right colour of paint.  I trundled half-way around London to fine the right shade.

dresser after

I almost made my deadline but in the end R came home whilst I was giving the dresser it’s third (and final) coat of paint.  We swapped out the brass handles it came with for grey ones (although I did have to do a little bit of fiddly magic to get the new handles to fit and if you look really closely they are a bit wonky, oops).  I chose options that were as environmentally friendly as possible but as it required a pretty tough paint to survive our day to day lives, the paint isn’t as green as I would have liked.

I love it.  The red brightens and warms up the room.

I think it’s going to take me sometime to work out how to adapt patterns before I construct a garment.  At the moment I still slavishly follow the pattern, reach the end and then have to figure out how to tweak it to make it fit.  This dress is a perfect example.

blue cord dress b

It gaped in various places and I didn’t enjoy wearing it.  Then I took it home to Yorkshire with me to get some advice from my mum and my granny. We spent a fun morning pulling and prodding and poking me/my dress, deciding where I could add in extra darts/tucks etc. It was great having three generations together, talking about sewing and I learnt a lot from both my mum and my granny that day.  I went back down south with a plan and tweaked the dress so that now it fits better and I enjoy wearing it.  It’s comfy, warm and gives a pleasing silhouette.

I didn’t know it at the time but that day is very special to me now. It was the last time I saw my granny.  She was a wonderfully independent and interested woman.  I know that she was proud that my sister and I enjoy crafts.   Her quilts were my introduction to patchwork and I owe some of my love of fabric to her.  I think it amused her that I enjoy embroidery.  When I was 8 and declared that I wanted to learn to play the harp she was a key instigator in obtaining lessons for me.  When I was in high school she joked that she followed my school terms and holidays by the colour of my hair.  Not that I remember her complaining when I visited her with pink or black or red hair.  However, when my mum remarried she did request that my sister and I didn’t turn up in our Doc Martin boots.  I think I wore platforms instead.  I miss granny.

Recently a very good friend of mine completed her PhD.  Congratulations again Susie.  Unfortunately I was away at a conference when she had her viva and subsequent celebrations; I felt awful but nothing could be done about it.  To make amends I made her a needle roll for her circular knitting needles and had it included in the present giving from the lab (much to the confusion of everyone apparently).

Susie's needle roll

I don’t knit and so I didn’t know what the dimensions of the needle roll should be or what additions would be useful. I tried hunting for a tutorial but came up blank so I asked my sister for her advice.  Kt suggested that I include a small pair of scissors, a couple of large safety pins to hold stitch markers and a patch of felt for a few pins and sewing needles.

Susie's needles rolled up

I placed some batting between the front and back pieces (figuring it would be awful if the needles poked through) and had a go at quilting with straight lines, vertically and horizontally about an inch apart.  As expected the quilting was a wee bit tricky to get straight but it was good practise.  Susie has assured me that it is already full of needles so I hope she is finding it useful.

I started learning to sew partly to make clothes for myself and partly because I loved the idea of making patchwork quilts.  For some reason, that has never been clear in my muddled head, I always feared that quilt making was harder than dress making.  So even though I have been to the Festival of Quilts three years running, making a quilt has been something that I have been building up to slowly.

Wynn's quilta

Over a year ago, whilst my sister was still pregnant, I offered to make the baby a quilt for his first birthday.  Almost exactly a year ago, after much fretting, I took the bull by the horns and bought a kit for a very cute robot quilt by the Eternal Maker.  Then over the last year I have gathered momentum (and skills) towards making the quilt.  In the meantime however I couldn’t help buying cute robot and space fabrics that I stumbled upon.

I have now realised that it is my love of fabrics that dictates what I sew and not that my sewing projects lead me to buy fabrics.  My ever increasing fabric stash should have given me a hint about this, but ho-hum, never mind.  As the date of my nephew’s birthday got closer I took out the quilt kit and the fabrics that I had added to it and realised that the original design couldn’t cope with my additions.

Wynn's quiltb

Happily my projects over the last year have increased my confidence about design and use of colour combinations, and the quilt kit gave me a great springboard.  It took me a couple of evenings to work through the maths of the design, scribbling my plans in coloured pencils.  Once the blocks were finished it took another few evenings rearranging the blocks on the living room floor (thank goodness I didn’t attempt his in my old, tiny flat).  At first I worried that the green and the red in the blocks clashed too much with the blues. But I decided that as the red and green were echoed in the central squares of the blocks, the clashes made the quilt more interesting.

I used a 100% bamboo wadding (which shed something awful and so was a bit of a pain to work with) and I used star shapes to quilt.  I worry that I didn’t quilt it enough but only time will tell.  Unfortunately I don’t have a good picture showing the whole quilt but this will have to do for now.

Wynn's quiltc

To sign the quilt I decided to play with waste canvas and cross-stitch (which was fun but did send me a little cross-eyed for an evening or two).

Waste canvas and cross-stitch

And for the signature I wrote

Wynn's quilt signature

Can’t get much more special than that I think.  Before I’d added my nephew’s name I think R thought he had a chance in persuading me to let him keep the quilt.  He is now, therefore, pestering me to make a quilt for our sofa.

All in all this quilt was a joy to make and I have a least two more designs bubbling away in my head.

I have to admit that I have yarn envy.  I drool over yarn and yearn to use it, somehow. But I can’t knit.  I’ve tried and I don’t get any enjoyment out it.  Then way back at the I Knit London Stitch n Bitch in 2007, I planned a needlepoint cushion project.  I bought a skein from Oxford Kitchen Yarns, found a fairly traditional pattern and set to work, albeit slowly.

I have to be in the right frame of mind for needlepoint.  I find it somewhat brainless (once the pattern has been designed) but it’s perfect for keeping my hands busy whilst watching tv (especially cycling).  I completed this panel whilst watching the cycling coverage of the Beijing Olympics.

Anyway, then it took me a wee while to find the right fabric to make the cushion.  In the end I chose some purple moleskin, hoping that it would be both durable and soft. The moleskin turned out to be lovely to work with and so very soft. The cushion is great to snuggle into.

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