Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy day

Yesterday I had my first trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show in the RDS. I had an absolutely fabulous day, it really was all I expected and more!! I didn't get to go at the last minute last year so was really anxious that nothing would stop me this year!

I got there just after 11 and the first person I met in the car park was my sister in law and her sister! Complete and lucky coincidence! We wandered around for a little while until I took myself off to the sewing machine manufacturers displays. I looked at lots of machines and wound up very confused and not at all sure what way to progress. Luckily H arrived at that very moment and dragged me off for a sandwich and a sit down and we were soon ready to start again.

I couldn't believe how busy the exhibition was, there were people everywhere and I noticed a huge range of ages and interests in those attending. Some of the displays were just stunning, I was in awe looking at some of the quilting work in particular. Unfortunately I didn't leave myself enough time to look at some of the artistic exhibitions which I was a bit disappointed about but there was so much to see it was hard to do it all. I met some great Irish suppliers I didn't know about and got great recommendations and advice from them, as well as making some contacts. I picked up lots of lovely fabrics in colours I am a little shy on!

I also picked up a charm pack in the new Bliss line by Moda which I just adore:

I love the colours and patterns in this line:

I'm going to use it to make a quilted throw for our living room.

I picked up lots of little bits too, beads, brooch pins, and mini coloured pegs for noticeboards.

One of the highlights of the day was the workshop in customising your clothes run by A.Rubanesque. It was really fab, lots of brilliant ideas to jazz up clothes, lots of well kept secrets revealed! I was inspired to purchase some ribbons and beads to make a corsage for myself. Hopefully it will all be as easy as it looked yesterday!

But my most significant purchase of the day was my brand new, fab-a-roony, all bells and whistles new sewing machine. I'm SO excited about it and can't wait for it to be delivered next week. It's a Pfaff Expression 2.0 which I bought from the Pfaff exhibitor who was the Pfaff/Singer/Husqvarna centre in Waterford which is great for me from a servicing point of view compared to Dublin. It is a big investment but I am sure it will be worth it. I got a heap of add-ons too, including an extension table and a quilting foot. I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on it and trying it out.

The day finished in real style with a lovely relaxed dinner with a bunch of my best friends who I don't see nearly often enough since moving to Cork. We had a great girlie chat and catch up, the only pity being that not everyone was there.

All in all, fantastic!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More baby gifts....

I finished this cool baby comforter last night and I love it, I think its my favourite so far! Its so cheerful and colourful. The back is baby blue minky and the front is really soft apple green fleece.

The rocket is appliqued on, mainly in fleece with decorative red stitching and some fabric features from the Riley Blake "Wheels" collection which I think work really well.

Hopefully the lovely little baby boy I made it for will get lots of fun from it, with all the different ribbons and textures to enjoy. It measures approx 33 x 33 cm without the ribbons, so is a really nice size for a blankie.

I'm now working on some baby blankets with the lovely fabric I got from American Etsy stores this week. I've now just got too much choice and its hard to pick something to start with. For the boy's baby blanket I'm going with this lovely funky owl fabric backed with minky:

But I still can't decide on which fabric to use for the baby girl's blanket. I'll figure it out later on but now its time for a nice cup of tea!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Handbag heaven

Here's a little handbag that a friend asked me to make for her. I'm going to find it hard to let this one go!! I really love it I must say. Handbags are my thing, as anyone who knows me will attest and one of my favourite things about sewing and knitting is the ability to make my own for a fraction of the cost. I made one before Christmas last year that I got a tonne of compliments on, including probably my favourite one ever - "Is that an Orla Kiely bag?" (asked by 3 separate people no less!) So when S asked me to make one for her I was thrilled. I'm loving pleats at the moment and decided to try and work some into this bag. I took out my big box of fat quarters and spent a very enjoyable half an hour figuring out which ones to use. I had a lovely bundle of Freebird by Moda fabrics that I bought last month just because they were gorgeous. I adore the brown dotty one which reminds me of a dress worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and thought it would work great as a contrast lining. I had some difficulty deciding which coordinating one to put with it but finally settled with the floral because it was so fresh and to be honest, it just screamed "make me into a cute bag" to me.

The original fat quarter bag I made last year, I sewed using a great tutorial I found on Sew Mama, Sew. This time, I really wanted it to be my own. So I didn't look at any patterns purposely as I had a clear idea in my head of how I wanted it to look, with the dotty trim at the top, a pleated body and a medium length shoulder strap that would be comfortable to use.
First of all, I cut a long strip off both fat quarters for the handles and another strip for the trim at the top of the bag and then cut each remaining part of the fat quarters in half. I played around for quite a while trying different looks before finally pinning the box pleats on the floral, going for quite wide pleats. I sewed the trim strip to the top of all pieces and then did the side and bottom seams on the lining and the main fabric. I went for quite a wide handle, with the dotty fabric on the outside, and the floral on the inside for contrast.

I used fairly heavy iron-on interfacing on the fabric to give the bag some structure, and used a long strip of very stiff interfacing in the handle. Lastly I put in a magnetic snap button and, with right sides facing and taking care not to twist my handle, sewed the lining, outside and handles together, turned it right side out and finished the last couple of inches by hand. The main body of the bag measures about 9 inches high and 7 inches wide at the top / 9 inches wide at the bottom. Perfect for carrying wallet, keys and a few essentials. Voila!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Crafting Love/Hate List

My friend Lory had a great post last week on her blog The Mom Blogs about what she loves and hates about being a SAHM. It got me to thinking about what I loved about crafting, particularly when T commented last night about how happy I sounded singing to myself as I stitched. And I thought it might be fun to put them down. So here they are, in no particular order:

1. Sewing, knitting and crochet make me happy. They represent a little bit of magic in my world - I just relax when I've got a needle or hook in my hands, or when I'm in front of the sewing machine. No matter how awful my day in the office, no matter how tetchy the kids are at bedtime, once I pick up the yarn or the fabric a little part of my soul lights up and I am happy.

2.  Etsy. I could browse for hours. I spend a fortune getting lovely things delivered to my door. (My bank manager is not a fan.) I adore how I can see something beautiful and different on sale in California or Texas and it is in my hands within a week. I just love waiting for those parcels to arrive!

3.  Yarn. Scrummy, soft, vibrant yarn. And fabric - oh, the fabric! The colours, the textures. The snuggly softness of fleece and the cool elegance of cotton. I could list all my favourite collections but really, I'd be here all night and I'd bore you to tears. And it goes without saying. Obviously.

4.  Crafting books.  All those fabulous photos providing oodles of inspiration. I have a veritable library at this stage. Some I use all the time. Some I pore over but make very little from. Some are purveyors of knowledge on all things technical. Some are purely indulgent. But I love each and every one of them (almost) as much as my children.

5. Recycling. Since I started sewing, in particular, I find it hard to throw anything out. I cut buttons off everything. I have a stack of kids' jeans with various tears and holes in them just waiting for me to get an idea to use that denim. Its made me look at things in a whole different way.

6. Gift giving. I have had the most unexpected pleasure making things for other people. My kids. My husband. My niece and nephew. My friends. There's something really enjoyable about slipping a cuddly fleece monster into your little boy's bed when he's asleep at night and his delight when he wakes up in the morning to find it beside him. Or of seeing a baby all snuggled up in the blanket you stitched night after night on the sofa. Its amazing seeing people make use of something you've made for them.

I could go on and on but maybe I should provide a bit of balance?

Things I hate about crafting:

1. My sewing machine. I am counting the days till I can go shopping for a new one. It has served me well and it is one I bought when I started out sewing and did the job perfectly. But I am just doing too much sewing now for its capabilities and it doesn't have all the features I would like and it is protesting way too much for my liking.

2. It takes over your house. If you are not lucky enough to have a dedicated space, that is. I do most of my sewing at the kitchen table when the kids are in bed and knitting/crochet/hand sewing on the sofa in the living room. Or sometimes the sofa in the playroom. Or sometimes in bed. My house is invaded by crafting supplies. Is it just me? I have some shelving to store my stuff but even still, its not working. I found crafting books in the bottom of my ironing basket yesterday. Plus a few fat quarters that I had been looking for all week. Really, I need my own little room. A cosy little space with a table where I could leave my machine permanently set up. Enough shelves for everything. A little refuge from the madness of everyday life. But unless someone wants to buy me a winning lottery ticket I'll have to keep dreaming.

3.  Thread. I am a messy sewer. I cut off thread and throw it on the floor, to sweep up later. Except that before I sweep at the end of the evening, I have walked in and out of the kitchen 3 or 4 times and I have managed to pick up a gazillion threads (and tiny scraps of fabric and fleece) on the soles of my shoes or my socks and then I deposit it bit by bit all over the house. There is thread EVERYWHERE. Especially upstairs which is carpeted. T has threatened to make me vacuum the stairs myself if I don't tidy up better in the evenings! Solutions? Send them on a postcard please...

4. Asthma and allergies. I cannot work very much with "real" wool. My skin can't cope with the feel of lambswool in particular and my lungs dislike anything with wool content. Which is a crying shame, because I love wool. I adore the softer wool yarns and occasionally, when I'm feeling very rebellious and devil may care, I knit something up quickly in one. And then I cough and wheeze for a month afterwards :-(

5. Stabbing myself with needles. This happens much more frequently that I imagine it should. I even managed to stab myself with the blunt end of the needle one night (figure that one out!). My fingers are toughening up but its a slow process. And I can't abide thimbles.

6. Dropping stitches. Particularly if I'm doing a lace or cable pattern. And ripping the thing back. Two years ago I had to rip back the entire back of a cardigan (for myself.) Unsurprisingly, its still sitting in the bag. A UFO if you like. Will it ever be finished?? I keep saying next spring....

Ok, so that's my roundup of crafty likes and dislikes. Feel like sharing yours?

Butterfly cuteness

Another baby comforter finished tonight :-)

This is made with polar fleece, appliqued with some lovely Riley Blake summer song fabric. Ribbons are sewn into the edges to add some interest for baby and the back is hand embroidered with baby's name. I hope the recipient has some fun with it when she gets a little older!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


So, today being Saturday, and my lovely hubbie taking himself off to Limerick for the Munster match, I decided that a day doing housework would be highly overrated and took myself and my two monkeys off to town. I had a few things to pick up and reckoned that the promise of pizza and ice cream in Milanos (or "Bilamos" as E so endearingly calls it) would be enough to bribe the kids to behave. And it worked!! We went to Hickeys and picked up lots of cotton tape for bunting, more cute, shimmery ribbon, some thread, some wadding, and some more Bondaweb (having had a traumatic end-of-roll moment during the week). E stayed in the buggy for most of the time and D attempted to drill into every shelf he could find with the cheap plastic drill that came with a comic but there were no tears and only a few (quite effective!) threats on my part.We moved on to Vibes and Scribes (via a fair bit of running around on the streets and a breakaway attempt when they spotted a toy shop :-)) where I picked up some cute chunky yarn to make a winter hat and scarf for E, and some turquoise fabric with white polka dots. The yarn is 100% acrylic - I would have loved to pick up some wool/wool mix but I'm too afraid to after spending last winter at the doctors trying to sort out my asthma. Its a shame really, I love the really luxurious wool yarns but they irritate my lungs unbelievably :-( I also got a gadget for making bias binding (I'm sure it has a proper name but I can't think of it right now!) which I am looking forward to trying out.

I managed to keep today's shopping very practical after splurging on Etsy earlier this week. I'm currently expecting 3 packages from the USA - one of Minky and the other 2 of cotton prints. A mix of Anne Kelle for Robert Kaufman  (cupcakes, owls, hearts, butterflies, flowers), Riley Blake (kangaroos and owls) and Amy Schimler (cats and owls). I have lots of baby blankets to make and these will be perfect. I sense a recurring theme of owls - they are just so damn cute on the fabric!! So I made myself stay as far away as possible from the lovely Amy Butler fabric in Hickeys for fear my resolve would weaken. And I resolutely did not look at the o-so-gorgeous Sirdar Flirt yarn in Vibes and Scribes. I'll be counting down the days till Friday when I think the parcels will arrive.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Crafty adventures!

This year, for the first time ever, I am very excited to report that I will be going to the Knitting and Stitching Show (link here) on 28th October. Myself and my partner in all things crafty, the lovely H, will be hitting the RDS just as early as journey time from Cork and rush hour traffic in Dublin will allow. We are VERY excited. I mean VERY VERY excited. The fact of the matter is that we cannot wait. This may well be a somewhat sad state of affairs, but the thought of all that yarn and fabric and other crafty supplies in the one room together is almost too much to think about. Also the fact that we will (hopefully) get to see a lot of products first hand that normally we can only gaze at in longing over the internet. And, as all fabric and yarn addicts know, the joy of browsing beautiful fabrics and yarns is all in the touch. Looking at gorgeous colours and prints on my monitor just doesn't cut it; knitting and sewing are such tactile crafts. Its all in the feel of the fabric, the drape of the yarn, the springiness of the wool as it slides along the warm wooden needles and hooks, the velvety softness of the baby blankets. Colours too are important; nothing is ever quite how it looks on the screen despite the fact that many sellers get very very close, assisted by detailed and particular descriptions.

In Ireland, sewing, knitting and crochet seem to be really experiencing a massive revival and that's starting to be reflected in the improved supply of materials. Shops are stocking better ranges and more shops are opening all the time. But its very very hard to find the sort of range of fabrics I like at a price I like and I do an awful lot of shopping online for my supplies. So I am really looking forward to finding some beautiful additions to my yarn and fabric stashes. And, I am hoping, maybe a new sewing machine. I've been browsing around the various suppliers of late and I am now clear on one thing: a little knowledge leads to even more confusion! There are so many out there and I like to do quite a variety of things on my machine - from curtains to quilting to dressmaking. So finding something in my price range to cover all the bases is something of a challenge. But I'll keep looking *sigh*.

Convincing? No, I thought not!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Baby Buggy Blanket

So it's finally finished!!! My first attempt at a patchwork blanket worked out really well and I'm very happy with it. It's been a learning process and there's a few things I'd do differently to make it absolutely perfect but overall I think my idea worked out as I hoped.

It's made of 100% cotton backed with beautiful, soft minky.

The cotton and minky gives it a lovely weight.

It would make a lovely blanket for a baby girl for a buggy/car seat or in a crib, soft and snuggly on the inside and bright and cheery on the outside. It measures approx 100cm by 74cm. I could easily size up to cot size too.

I'm very excited that it's finally done and the whole process of designing it was really exciting!! One of the things I am loving most about my new venture is that it's challenging me to come up with ideas and there's great satisfaction in that. There's a world of difference between following a pattern and generating the idea yourself. It's the getting from idea to finished product that's most challenging for me, particularly as I am mostly self taught. But I really (really!!) love when it comes together as this did. All that's left now is to parcel it up and send off to my beautiful niece and god-daughter L to enjoy!!