Sunday, 25 June 2017

Letter from America

On Friday there was great excitement, when my husband says "there's post for you. A letter from America.". Nothing beats the excitement of post more than a letter from America. Remember the radio 4 programme on Sunday lunchtime with Alistair Cooke? That was a Sunday staple in our house. And then of course there is the well known anthem "letter from America " by the Proclaimers. Good stuff too.

Anyhow my letter from America turned out to be from Tish of Tish In Wonderland. It wasn't eaten by sea creatures mythical or otherwise as she had feared. And what was in this letter? Fabric of course, don't be silly. And so thanks to Tish, I have some Sunday Stash after all. (Read Tish's blogpost about her first hive crash and posting me this, its very humorous.)

Isn't this great? Isn't she great? And it is all from a shop called Helen's Hen Hut. I had joked when Tish and her sewing husband (how do you get one of those?) went shopping there that it was a brilliant name for a shop. Tish very kindly sent me some fabric from Helen's Hen Hut for my role as the Queen of Sheba this month.

Well, when Tish saw that I was the Queen of Sheba this month, (tons of cultural references in this blog post. Could I get a grant for creative writing do you think?) she decided to hive crash. A new experience for her. I am making a Quatrefoil block for this, and would you believe it? The colours I chose were remarkably similar to the colourway in  Tish's recent completed quilt, The Beast. I lucked out there. Tish made me two blocks for my quilt from The Beast fabric.

And here are Tish's two blocks along with my two tutorial blocks.

Cast your mind back to the #behemoth, aka the Coulter Wedding Quilt. As that mythical creature reached completion, Tish was working on its close kin, The Beast. Both were related in that they are both monstrously huge, but really rather cuddly when you get to know them. We joked at the time, what would happen if there was a show down between #behemoth and The Beast, and now there has been. And that quilt child is Quatrefoil. I really think I have seen too many Game of Thrones places recently and it is time to calm down! Much of it is filmed here, and it seems to be everywhere these days, with the new series coming on tv in July.

The Beast
Another stash addition I can sneak in here at the end is the yard of red and white spot I bought for binding the Jam Sandwiches and Red Lemonade quilts. I think it will work in really well with the red and white ziggy zaggy on the backing, bought in Philadelphia last year.
 They are as yet still unbound, but they are having their first outing this afternoon at the Family Picnic. So far I think there are about 18/19 of us. Speaking of which, the picnic is ready so time to go. As my husband made the picnic, I doubt very much there are white bread sandwiches and lemonade, I think it is smoked salmon in wholemeal, cheese, fruit and coffee. We will save the jam for the big end reveal.
Oh and I nearly forgot, my Cindy's last hurrah fabric arrived from Fluffy Sheep Quilting which closed down sadly last week. It would have been rude not to.

Helen x
linking up with Sunday Stash.
home now and here is me road testing the Red Jam and Lemonade Quilts, the unbound versions

Friday, 23 June 2017

Salad Days

It has been unseasonably warm here for the last month. June is the hottest month on record since 1976, the year I did my GCSEs, we had our English classes on the school lawn. It is a terrific month for having a picnic, time I finished my picnic rugs. We haven't actually had any picnics, but we might have, if my Jam Sandwiches and Red Lemonade quilts had been ready. But its too hot to sit in an airless room and baste and quilt. With foresight, I should have done these in the spring. Hold on, I was doing these in the spring. I may even have doing these last summer and sprinkled them over the lawn.

The state of play is that one is quilted and the other is half quilted.

Keep it simple is always my mantra with quilting. Wobbly straight line quilting, a sewing foot apart. I have quilted along the columns of red pluses.

One quilt the quilting lines go across the width. That's 3 rows of 5 pluses.

The second quilt the lines go vertically. That's 5 columns of 3 pluses.

I wonder which will be quicker to do?

The wadding, if you remember, is an Ikea polar fleece. My Pfaff seems to be coping with it ok. It's nice and dense, perfect for keeping the chill off delicate bottoms. One of the mantras of my childhood was, don't sit on that damp wall, you'll get piles. Now I won't. The thread is a variegated quilting thread bought in my lqs, I was afraid it was a bit orange for the red, but it is perfect. For binding I have to go with my favourite Rose and Hubble spot. If it is not raining en route either way to the hair dressers I shall hopefully get some today.

We have our annual family picnic on Sunday. My cousin and I organise the wider family, descendants from our grandparents, to meet up a Sunday near Midsummer. Bring your own food, turn up if you can. We never know how many will be there. At our peak we had 64 one year, plus dogs, this year it might be hubby and me! My cousin in crime is recovering from an operation, the aunt and uncle generation has greatly deteriorated or disappeared and then interest starts to wane. My own children are away. Some have caravans, holiday homes. Some probably only went because their now deceased parents insisted! Two sets of my aunts and uncles are unwell. Times change. But most importantly - will I have my picnic rugs finished?

My best friend doesn't know it, but she has a particularly photogenic picnic table. Perfect for a photo shoot and picnic? If she invites me for coffee I will bring the picnic. OK Liz? Jam Sandwiches and Red Lemonade ok?

Helen x
linking up with Finished Or Not Friday with Busy Mom Quilts

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Who Do I Blame For ....Sunday Stash?

Who do you blame for ....? is the title of a satirical local tv program, and very funny it is too. It hits the nail right on the head.

Who do I blame for 2 blog posts in the one day? Do I blame Cindy of Fluffy Sheep Quilting for having a closing down sale of her online shop? Or do I blame Yvonne of Quilting Jet Girl for hosting Molli Sparkles Sunday Stash? Or do I just take ownership of my own misdoings and they say in talk shows?

I wasn't buying any more fabric. We even agreed in a perfectly amicable marital conversation, that I probably had enough fabric. But .... my good friend Liz says her granny used to say, it wasn't you bought that you regretted but what you didn't buy. Mrs Brown was a very wise old lady. She knew what she was talking about.

I'll blame Mrs Brown.

I would have loved to have bought a lot more, but caution prevailed just after our big holiday. I did buy some more bright pink kona, a half metre. I am a pink lady at heart, or I am during the summer months. We all know what kona looks like, haven't bothered with a photo!

I also bought a skinny bolt. That's what is left on the bolt that is unsold. My daughter in law would love this Christmas folk art fabric. See, its a family essential.

Cindy was one of the first to encourage me in this obsession of mine. Late one Saturday night, before the obsession set in, I was flicking about the internet. As you do. I saw a blog post for the MQI, an online modern quilters group for those living in Ireland. They say you shouldn't use a keyboard late at night after a few vinos. I signed up. Next thing I knew I was in an online bee, with Cindy telling me I would love it and just to BREATHE. And BREATHE I did. Thank you Cindy and good luck with your future endeavours.

linking up with Yvonne, quilting jet girl, hosting molli sparkles sunday stash.

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day so it is rather appropriate that I waited until today to write this post. Being strictly honest, I meant to write it yesterday, but the day wasn't long enough. This morning it suddenly struck me, it was fait accompli. What better day to write my final post on the quilt made from my father's shirts than Father's Day?

Just for a quick recap. Sandra of decided to have a quilt a long using a design of her own, Freefall. It is of Canadian maple leaves fallen onto a bigger maple leaf, which itself is lying on a background of fallen maple leaves. This all came about at the time of Dad's death in March, and all of a sudden it clicked together. My father loved nature, and walking and particularly walking through forest parks. Now, I don't mean orienteering off the beaten track type of thing, though he did that too when he was younger, but in the evenings and Sunday afternoons, we all bundled into the car and went for a walk through a forest or up a mountain. Sometimes I must admit in my teenage years, I wasn't the most willing, but I treasure those days now.

Anyhow, my sister and I sorted out some of our favourite "dad's shirts". My father didn't buy new clothes often, he bought quality and expected it to last. This meant there were shirts there from ten or so years ago. As my teenage niece said today, isn't it nice he didn't buy lots of clothes so that some of those shirts really have good memories.

The really pale check with the white background is in a photo taken when my daughter and nieces were about 16 and 14 and 4 years old respectively.

The green shirt I used for the main background was a favourite of mine. One of my favourite photos of dad was sitting on his garden seat, wearing that green shirt and drinking coffee. I used to bring my finished (?) quilts down to photograph in his garden. He had a nice summer house where he used to listen to the cricket on the radio and there were tubs and planters on the decking balustrade.

It was quite cathartic making this quilt, as you can imagine. I am a pragmatic type of person, I like to be doing rather than feeling sorry for myself. I found making this quilt helped me to come to terms with things better and made me feel closer to dad. At times there was a pleasant whiff of his washing powder, and off the older shirts, at times, a not so pleasant whiff of cigarette smoke! (even after a long period of non smoking, the smell was still there. Goodness knows what it does to arteries and lungs then).

So, today is Father's Day and I am giving this quilt to my sister for her to use in her caravan. I am going to just leave it over the settee for her to find after I leave my niece home from her overnight stay. Better that way.

And don't worry about me, there is still plenty of shirt left for me to make something. Though not of the green shirt, we went right to the wire or the buttons with that one!

Linking up with Sandra and her Freefallqal linky party

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Knit Wits

Its a while since I posted a knitting post. I suppose its partly because knitting takes a while and I tend to leap about a lot when I am knitting. Not literally you understand, but rather that I knit a bit then move on to something else. This week my husband suggested I tidy my knitting table. Yes, I have an orange leather table with a space underneath for my knitting. Initially I was, like, how dare he, then I looked and thought, yes, it is rather a muddle.

Apart from all the coasters, pencils, tissues, and general messiness this is what I found.

One almost finished sock. Not a pair of socks but one sock. Been at this for ever.

One almost finished teddy bear. The knitting is finished, just the sewing up to do. The hard bit.

One baby cardigan.

Only the sleeves and button bands to do. This is the first time I have knitted from the top down. I have previously knitted in one piece as far as the armholes, but this is the first time for upside down knitting. Great. Just need to finish this. The right size needles for the arms are on the socks.

Summer days are made for knitting in the garden. I hopefully have something to show soon.

Helen x

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Bees and Drives

Over the last few weeks you will have been aware of the dreadful bomb at the concert in Manchester. Absolutely dreadful and so terrifying for all those involved, especially as in this case it was a concert mostly attended by children. After a few days there was a FB group set up to make quilts for those affected. The FB page is entitled Manchester Quilting Bee and the instagram page is @manchesterquiltingbee . They were looking for 5" hexagons stitched onto a 6 1/2" background piece of fabric. Easy. They were popped in the post last Friday.

Next up were my May blocks for Bee Blessed, a local quilting charity I try to make for. They  had asked for two blocks, name unknown. I have made these blocks before a couple of times, so no problems here either. In the post last Friday too.

And lastly my two blocks for Beeabee2017, for Sharon, who is on instagram as @sharonappleton. Sharon picked a spider block. I have made these before, so should have been straight forward, but its not like me to complicate things .... I used the cutting line for the sewing line, negating the seam allowance. This meant I had no point..... I know there is a point, no matter what the sceptic non sewists think. We had sewn that way in the Bubble bee. Once I twigged that, no problem. In no time at all, 9 spider sections were sewn.

I included a little cotton and steel spider fabric for Sharon too. I wasn't sure if it was white enough for her so left it up to her. That isn't actually a real spider on the fabric, but isn't it realistic?  Hoping she hasn't a spider phobia. I thought long and hard about this. Not about the spider phobia, but about the sharing. There are only 3 spiders per fq and they are a precious commodity. I also included a little  hand made yellow book, I thought Sharon could use it to record her quilt finishes. These were posted last Friday too.

Keep safe
Helen x

Friday, 2 June 2017

Bee A Bee 2017 and the Queen of Sheba

Well, its my turn again to be The Queen Of Sheba, sorry Queen Bee. It has come around very quickly but the nearer it got the harder it became to make my choice. Originally I was going to have everybody make me random Christmas blocks in red and white, but it felt rather uninspired. Then I went on a bus run, that's what you do when you are an early retiree, go on bus runs. It was a bus run to this National Trust property, Derramore House in Bessbrook, Co Armagh.

It was whilst there I saw the light. This light to be exact, or rather the light filtering through this window. I was spellbound.

I just loved the way the blue sky came through, but there was also a definite orange glow too. Was it the sun or the light reflecting off the outside walls? Whichever, it was lovely. This I decided would be my block for June. The quatrefoil block has been on instagram recently and there have been some lovely quilts. Anneliese suggested it would make a lovely baby quilt too.

 I typed up a pdf to circulate around us with all our instructions. For some reason known only to the internet explorer gods, I cant copy and paste this without it going all funny. Paragraphs and photographs all over the shop. Now, I presume you aren't actually interested in all the cutting dimensions and so on, so we will glide over this. If you are, click on this link where blossom heart quilts has a great tutorial for hives which I used for guidance.

I decided to go mostly with blue, with the alternative of a small scale children's print. Black or dark grey for the frame and a white background.

Sew the black bits round the orange bits, use red if you prefer.
Sew the little black bits to the slightly bigger white bits.
Sew an orange or red square to the top corner of a larger white rectangle.
Sew little white squares to the top corners of the blue rectangles.

Sew these a white and orange bit to a pillar bit, then to a blue bit, then another pillar and then a white and orange block.
Repeat the last step.
Sew a row with a blue bit going sideways, the orange centre then another blue bit.

Sew these rows together.

See? Who needs specific instructions?

This will be an interesting baby quilt but not too cute. And you can never have enough baby quilts.

Now, as for the Queen of Sheba. I have told this story before, apologies if you are yawning. I always wanted this played at my wedding. Come the preparations for the big day and our organist, Mrs W stamped her foot and said no, no, no. I tried over the weeks to persuade her but she was adamant. Apparently a bride in church is to be demure, humble and modest before God and her husband and the congregation. Seemingly to play the Queen of Sheba would make me too much the centre of attention. Who does she think she is ? The Queen of Sheba? Well, yes. Had she never heard of Bridezilla. The organist won, after all, she was the playing the organ. When I die I will have the March of the Queen Sheba at my funeral. For now, just take a moment or two and enjoy the music.

Helen x

Monday, 29 May 2017

The One Before The Last

No, I am not giving up blogging, but this is the penultimate blogpost about the #freefall quilt, or as I like to call it #dougiesshirts quilt. I have finished. Only a label left to do, and sure my sister knows I made it for her, does she need a label? Yes, it does, that's a whole project in itself.

The linkup for Sandra, mmmquilts, is on 15 June, and I want to keep the final photos for then. I finished tonight about 5 minutes ago, 8.55pm on Monday 29 May, but I will show you the photo from lunch time.

I used two threads for the quilting, a green aurifil thread, 4129, the green spool weight for the bobbin. The top thread is a YLI thread , a variegated brown and cream quilting thread which I used in the Coins quilt I made for my dad way back in September 2015. This seemed rather appropriate. Some of the binding fabric from this quilt will be used again here.

I decided to quilt the lapquilt in two different directions. The blue shadow leaf is quilted in a diagonal from the centre of the long tip to the edges of the blue leaf. The quilting is the width of the small squares, 1 1/2" apart. The green background has the quilting going from left to right, or top to bottom, whichever you prefer with lines that I am afraid don't look just so evenly spaced and straight.

So far so good. Except I might not be finished yet. I was toying with the idea doing a perle cotton outline around the blue shadow leaf. I'm going to try and see how it looks. Watch this space.

Helen x

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Dashing Away With The Smoothing Iron

The phrase "dashing away with the smoothing iron" has no relevance for me this week. No, it does not. I have no ironing. Not a hanky, not a thing. 

I do have a basting pile though. That's a great thing to say - I have a basting pile. I have three small quilts ready to baste, my Jam Sandwiches and Red Lemonade quilts x 2 and my Freefall qal lap quilt, aka #dougiesshirts . 

The fun thing about a basting pile is it sits on the chair my ironing pile usually takes up.
I can stack my basting pile this way:

I can stack my basting pile that way:

I can even stack my basting pile any way:

The thing about ironing is it is always there, hiding around the corner.

My Freefall qal quilt is basted with more Ikea polar fleece, dark green this time. I talked it over with my sister. This is to be a caravan quilt, we thought, like the picnic quilts, that the polyester fleece maybe better than the cotton wadding which may soak up any damp. The sister thought the dark fleece which make an interesting backing, rather than just wadding. So, all pinned now and ready to go.

A little fabric may have popped through my letterbox yesterday. A quilty friend Sarah, from my blog hop days,  was kind enough to send me a gift certificate for Simply Solids. And I had a lovely time picking my fabrics. I find I am mostly drawn to solids these days, so I picked a range of kona cottons.

 First up was a bundle of cool colours. My stash of blues was fairly depleted by the Wedding Quilt of last year. Fair enough, that's what it was bought for. I missed looking at and admiring that stash of blues. Between these and the blues bought at Easter in Purl Soho, this gives me a good base again.

Next up were the pinks, the warm colours. I have very few pinks. I ordered a cross section of pink konas from Simply Solids, added in a red, an orange and a yellow. If I add these to the pink yardage from Purl Soho at Easter, and the lilacs from The Village Haberdashery a few weeks ago, well, I am all set to go. I have the fledgling of an idea. I have been hankering for a while after the Postcards From Sweden quilt and the lovely Sarah herself  made an ombre hst quilt. Very very far in the future, but I am thinking along these lines. Like the best financial advisers say, it always pays to invest in the future.

Leaving you with this photo just to prove I'm in the pink these days.

Helen x

Saturday, 13 May 2017

I Can Join A Link Up, An Honest Link Up

Woo Hoo! I have a finished flimsy. I have finished making and piecing all the blocks for my Freefallqal linkup.  I can link up with a clear conscience, as of 7.15 pm last night all 20 leaf blocks were completed, and all 25 blocks were sewn together. No ironing has been done but a target has been met.

My dougiesshirts quilt very nearly reached crisis point. I nearly ran out of green background shirt fabric. The blue leaf background shirt fabric lasted so well, the other shirts could nearly be wearable with a stretch of imagination. Think sleeveless, tie waisted for a small woman.

The green shirt, well, it looked there weren't that many green squares really. Leave the hard three corner blocks to the end I thought. Duh. As my mum used to say, do the hardest homework first and get it out of the way, then coast home. And our mums were always right.

 Of course the green shirt is short sleeved, hence less fabric.  We sailed very close to the wind here. This is the sum total of remaining green fabric, two button bands and a collar and assorted snips! What didn't help was I was busy the green days, and instead of constructive width of shirt strips, I just hacked bits off and trimmed accordingly.

But we made it. One of the bottom green blocks, you can see how close it came to having to piece a bit in, but we made it.

And rather ironically, I have one block left! A green one. This will go creatively into the back or maybe into a scrappy quilt for myself.

Helen x
linking up with mmm.quilts Freefall qal. and Sandra
 yesterday was Friday and linking up with finish it up Friday and crazy mom quilts

Thursday, 11 May 2017

It's Warm Enough to Cast a Clout

Never cast a clout until May is out, but it is still scorchio here, but the weather is due to break tomorrow. Hoping that's not our summer over, as today I basted my two Jam Sandwiches and Red Lemonade picnic quilts. I was able to baste them on our garden table, which is a largish granite type affair, great to have plenty of room to walk around and the right height.

I decided to make two picnic blankets,

 his and her if you like, previously blogged about here. I felt that my days of climbing back off the ground are over, I am more likely to picnic at a civilised picnic table. Hence, I made two small quilts to cover those sometimes questionable bench seats in country parks. No more "blanket on the ground" for me.

 I also decided to go with IKEA polar fleece instead of wadding. I bought two, but luckily for me each blanket used exactly half a fleece, so I only used one. Now, I know these polar fleece don't recommend tumble drying but that will be ok. The backing fabric is a red and white zig zag I bought in a cheap, pile it high fabric shop in Philadelphia a year ago.

I have got a lot further on with my Dad's Shirts quilt, my Freefall quilt a long with Sandra has got so far a long, I have got to crisis point. Why wasn't dad's favourite green shirt, one of the background fabrics, a long sleeved shirt? Why didn't I cut it up in a structured way instead of hacking bits off it? I cut some of the lesser shirts in a structured way.

I know my photo is very pale, I had to lay it indoors to take the photo I am afraid, I didn't want to be running down the street after my leaves like a leaf blower. And lets face it, my dad tended to pastel coloured shirts.

I have a small whack left , a technical term, and I have the three top right corner bits to faff about with. I might break the habit of a lifetime here and read Sandra's excellent instructions and sew a mock up first. To date I have generally followed her picture rather than her excellent instructions. I drew a plan, a very rough plan and have given it a nod as I work.  I tend to be a very visual person. I see things! But that's a whole other story.

I have two squares to finish that use both blue and green background. And, dammit, one of my carefully cut 8.5" squares seems to measure 8" x 8.5". I might do some creative stitching here, like make a stitched label and pretend   make that part of the design.

It will all be ok on the day. It always is. It is nearly time to think about wadding and backing. An opening for the other IKEA fleece?

Sandra has another linky party going on. I am going to live dangerously and try and get a bit more done before I link up. Hopeful of tomorrow or Saturday. In the meantime I will leave you with another gratuitous photo of Sandra's very own quilt. Photo courtesy of mmm!quilts

Helen x