Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011: First Quarter gone already

I saw a lovely post by Elizabeth over at Don't Call Me Betsy which got me thinking; she was looking back on her progress against her crafty goals for the first quarter. So I decided I'd jump on the bandwagon and do the same, and maybe get thinking about what I want to get done by the end of June.

Back at the start of the year, I was still too much in recovery from Christmas to write out any goals. But I did have quite a few actually - mostly short term focused. Here's a little summary:

1. To finish my Bliss Charm quilt. This was the first quilt I ever made, I started it over Christmas and completely fell in love with quilting while I worked on it.

2. To make more from my own designs and I definitely have done this with lovely quilts I made.

PictureBox quilt

I loved how they turned out, and even wrote up a tutorial for the PictureBox quilt, and at the weekend I got an email from Beverly who has made it - I'll post her version over the weekend. That totally made my day, as you can imagine!
Sophie's Dreams quilt
I also designed this handbag and must get working on more bags.

3. To take part in a Quiltalong....I had been reading about these all over, and was hoping one would come along that I felt experienced enough to take part in. Of course, like the proverbial bus, none came for ages and then 3 came at once. In recent weeks I joined up in the Lily's Quilt quiltalong. I'm loving doing the Dresden mini block, its so much fun!

Also, this week I decided that I'm going to take part in the Bottled Rainbows Quiltalong on a small scale. But sadly, I just couldn't commit to the Supernova quiltalong over at Freshly Pieced even though I'd love to do it - I just don't have the time.

4. To take part in the Amy Butler Style Stitches sewalongs over at My Crafty Crap and JemJam. I'm making pretty patchy progress with this one - the Cosmo bag (January) is half done, I didn't do the February bag (the big shopper) at all and I did one small Origami bag for March, although I'd like to do a few more. I'm looking forward to the next one for April, the chequebook cover, I badly need a pretty one.


 5.  To make a Charm Bracelets quilt using Kate Conklin's lovely pattern. I even have the Fandango charm pack. But I haven't even come close to starting it.

6.  To make the Alice quilt from Red Pepper Quilts - I just love this one and reckon I have enough scraps for it but again, no time (yet).

7. To take part for the first time in some Flickr swaps. I joined up for the Scrappy Pincushion one and loved taking part, in particular the lovely pinnie I received.  I'll definitely be looking forward to participating in more!

8.  To grow my blog and to take part more in the crafty blogging community - and I've really pleased I've done this. I'm really thrilled and flattered to have lots of new readers this year and I've made loads of new bloggy "friends" all over the world who have given me great advice and lots of inspiration. I love visiting their blogs every week to see what they're up to!

9.  To learn, learn, learn!! I'm new to quilting and this last 3 months has been a challenging and wonderful time for me as I learned new techniques, got to grips with quilting basics and browsed online resources, tutorials, patterns and blogs voraciously. I'm now completely addicted to and in love with the process and end result - roll on the rest of the year!!

I have lots of goals for the remainder of the year but think I will spend a little time thinking about them and maybe post them next week! In the meantime I'll be linking this up to Elizabeth's post and checking out everyone else's progress.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WIP Wedesday #7

I've spent a lot of the last week in the car! Visiting my parents, away at a work conference, its been all go here. I still found some sewing time however, so here is my little progress report for the week.

Completed this week:

Actually, its been a pretty good week, in terms of finishes. I sewed like a woman possessed on Thursday night to get gifts finished for my little niece for her birthday:



I also managed to get a few small scappy pincushions done - this one with my Its a Hoot scraps:


 And this one with some nice Amy Butler scraps I had in my stash, both for some friends:

I also finished this cute little mug rug, after being inspired by all the lovely tutorials for Mug Rug Madness over at the lovely blog Two More Seconds.


Its not dissimilar to the wonky stripes one I made a few weeks ago, but I kept the strips quite straight and wonked up the quilting after seeing Jeni's tutorial. I'm really pleased with how it turned out apart from my mitred corners which did not go well (I might pick them back and redo, or I might just leave them!). I've had this fabric in my stash for a while now and it works really nicely as the backing.


I have another identical set of strips pieced that I might cut back a little in size and make a complimentary smaller one. I'm thinking that these might work nicely as a Mother's Day present for one of the kids' nanas!

Work in Progress:

I have a lot of projects on the go at the moment. I'm still at fabric layout stage for my Its A Hoot quilt blocks. Nothing to show you yet there, its packed up at the moment but I'm hoping to do more work on it tonight and get piecing the blocks.

I have some baby girl patchwork pram blankets to get done for some friends who had babies in the last few weeks - hopefully will get to finish them this weekend.

I'm working (slowly) at my Dresden plate block for the Lily's Quilts quiltalong. I have the blades pieced and pressed.

I read Lynne's post on piecing the inner circle yesterday and want to do this later in the week. But I want to add an additional inner circle in the brown fabric (like this)

and am not sure how I'm going to do it. I could piece it. But I'm more inclined to applique it on using a nice small zigzag stitch. Much easier and less work. Will it work nicely though or just look weird against the rest of it? I'd love some opinions on this one as I'm really not sure what to do. If its not going to look good, I will (maybe not very enthusiastically) go ahead and piece it - I'll have to do a bit of tutorial searching as piecing circles is not something I've done at all. But I do want it to have a nice finish so I'd appreciate advice from all of you experienced quilters out there :-)

On Hold:

The curtains have gone back in the box to my dismay. Must, must get them moving again!

The Cosmo bag is on a little break, I intend picking it up in a week or 2 again.

Thinking about:

I can't get the Bottled Rainbows QAL out of my head this last two weeks. Really, I so want to do this one but I don't have a) the time or b) the fabric to do it, and I can't justify going buying another FQ bundle for it. Any ideas? Maybe I could size up the blocks and do a few single blocks as placemats / mug rugs in the colours that I do have in my stash? What do you think?

I'm linking this up to Work In Progress Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced, go check out the great projects linked up there, I love seeing what everyone is working on each week! I'm also linking it to Lily's Quilts Fresh Sewing Day:
Fresh Sewing Day @ Lily's Quilts

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Handmade gifts for big and small girls


My charming little niece turned one this weekend, a perfect excuse for a visit home to my parents & a fab afternoon in my sister's house celebrating with family! I've made quite a few little gifts for her in her first year as she's my goddaughter - so I wanted to continue the trend. But I've already made her 2 blankets and lots more so I didn't want to repeat anything I'd done before. I bought this lovely book last year and I've used it to make quite a few fleece monsters for my own kids.

So I took it out last week after entering the One Thing, One Week Challenge over at Amy's Creative Side and flicked through it for a little while and decided, with the help of the kids opinions, to make Dilly. I have gorgeous, high quality fleece that I use for my baby blankets and used this to make Dilly - and she's fabulously soft and will be lovely to hold. She's actually one of the simplest and fastest patterns to make in the book which was a bonus too as I had very little time last week with work demands.


I think she was a hit too with the little lady! I would definitely recommend this book - the patterns are very straightforward to make and very, very cute - plus, a little quirky, which I really like! My kids adore the monsters I've made for them - they bring them to bed every night and the fleece has held up very well.

I also made some bunting to decorate her room using some lovely fresh, colourful fabric:

As well as my niece's birthday presents, I had some little gifts I wanted to make for bigger girls - my own friends! So I ran up some pincushions in the last few weeks for them. After cutting all the strips and squares for my Its A Hoot quilt, I had lots of lovely scraps left over, many of them conveniently already in small strips. So I pulled out a small piece of coton batting and quilted the strips on as I went.

I just love the colour palette in these fabrics. I had some lovely bigger scraps left over and used one of them for the back:


 I also made this scrappy pincushion from some Amy Butler scraps I had. Like the first, its quilted onto a scrap of cotton batting in a very simple style, and the blue, orange, brown and cream colours work really nicely together.

 After our lovely weekend, we stopped off in Kildare Village outlet centre on the way back and I popped into the Cath Kidston outlet store and found this lovely sewing basket. I've been looking for a nice sewing box for a long time but so many of them are just hideously old-fashioned! I love the fabric print on this one and have already moved my sewing supplies from the horrible old functional "craft" box I had from a few years back to this pretty one - a perfect gift for me!!

p.s. - I just wish I had a garden like my mum's for taking photos in - I could have such wonderful backdrops!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WIP Wednesday # 6


Can you believe its almost April? I can't quite understand where the days are going. Its been super busy in my life this week, mostly in life outside this blog, with work being particularly demanding! It sort of feels like I haven't gotten a lot achieved, but actually I have.

In Progress:

Friday Night Sew In was a success here and I have made good progress on the Cosmo bag. I have the exterior pretty much totally completed and just need to do the lining and the button at this stage. I really like the colour combo too now that its made up (I wasn't sure I would when I cut them).

I also got started with picking my fabrics and cutting in the Lily's Quilts Quiltalong. I'm very happy now with the fabrics I chose, and the blue background came about purely by chance but I think it will work. That brown bundle of fabric in the middle is to see if an extra internal circle would work in the middle and I think it will. I need to start piecing it next.

After spending all last night working out measurements, I finally started a new quilt tonight with my It's a Hoot layer cake. This quilt is for my goddaughter; she will be making her First Communion in May and I thought that a keepsake throw quilt would be a nice gift and something she could take with her through her life. The Its a Hoot fabric is perfect for what I want. I'm doing a simple design, alternating 2 different blocks. One is a 5" square with 2 layers of borders; the other is a 4 patch square with borders. The finished blocks will be 9" each. I'll add white sashing of about 3" betweeen each of the squares to make them stand out.

Tonight I cut all my squares and border strips:

Then I made up a trial block of each. This is the first:


And this is the second:

I love how these turned out, and I love how the fabrics interact with each other. Tomorrow will be my favourite part, laying out the fabrics and figuring out how it will all go together!

That's my little report - I think its going to be a very quiet week this week as I'm visiting my parents at the weekend and away at a work conference early next week. So my apologies in advance! But hopefully after that I'll be picking it all up again!

I'll be linking up as always to WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lovely weekend


I know its still only Saturday night, but I'm having such a lovely weekend I thought I'd do an update! Even though it seemed like I was one of the few people in the country who had to work on Friday, it feels like an extra long weekend because of St Patrick's Day. Its been all about family and friends the last few days. We took the kids to a small parade on Thursday, and they absolutely loved it. When we were there, we met up with some friends and then brought the kids to see their grandparents when the parade was over where they were spoiled rotten, as always.  Today, we saw both my brothers, their other halves and my little nephew which was fab, as I hadn't seen them since Christmas. Its starting to feel like spring and the kids are loving being out and about in the fresh air. I took the picture above earlier today when we were out on a little walk. I love how the kids' energy is captured in it! They had so much fun. So, its all good here!

I also wanted to report on what I achieved in my Friday night sew in.

My plan for last night was to see how much I could get done on my Cosmo bag from Amy Butler's Style Stitches. Having cut the fabric for this in early January, I then managed to let it slip into my "stalled" list for a long time, mostly due to the fact that I couldn't face all the interfacing! But I rescued it from UFO land almost 2 weeks ago (when I needed something to take out my bad temper on and decided the interfacing was a perfect target!) and it was all ready to go last night:

The first part was the exterior. I love this Amy Butler Memento fabric and paired it with a lime green solid for the handles. This pattern is the first in the book and is rated as easy, but I have to say that I would have had difficulty with this pattern as a beginner. The band and handles require some sewing knowledge to get right - I used loads of pins on the curved seams (and I am not a pinner where I can avoid it!) and had to read the instructions a couple of times before I was sure what I was doing. An extra diagram or 2 would not have gone amiss here to be honest. But the effect is lovely. I used a lavender coloured thread and it contrasted nicely with the lime green handles for the top stitching.

I got both main sides done and made up the side pockets. By then it was getting late, and although I would have loved to get the exterior finished, I only managed to get the side panels attached to one main panel before I left it for the night. But I was really pleased with how much I got done and will definitely be up for the next Friday night sew in. It was lovely to think that in lots of places around the world, some of my bloggy "friends" were also sewing away happily! That feeling of connectedness was very strong.

Tonight I flew through the remaining exterior seams and ended up with the exterior finished:

Then it was on to auditioning fabric and starting cutting for my Dresden plate mini block which I'm doing for the Lilys Quilts Quiltalong. I did a bit of agonising over what fabric to use here. The pattern uses a layer cake and I have an Origins layer cake that I'm just itching to use. But because I'm only doing 1 mini block (due to time constraints), I didn't really want to break into the layer cake and use only part of it. Eek! So, off I went (to Himself's dismay) and pulled out my 2 big boxes where I store my fabric stash. 20 minutes later and there were fat quarters and half yards strewn all over the kitchen table while I chatted away to myself and tried out colour schemes and combinations. Eventually, this is what I came up with:

I still don't know what I'm going to use for my backing fabric and the circle centre! I have some fabric that might work, but there's not enough of it. Any ideas? I'm thinking a cream base with a small floral print or something similar. The leaves mix a heap of different fabric ranges from different designers and ranges so I'd like to keep mixing it up.

I'm pretty happy at this stage with this arrangement; I tried out lots of combinations of the leaves before settling on this one. All I need to do is head off with E tomorrow to shop for some backing fabric!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Style Stitches Origami Bag

Let me preface this post by asking: who hates putting zip in bags/purses? Seriously? How many of you are jumping up and down waving your arms (well, in your mind at least?) Yep. Me too!

I've had a bit of a dubious relationship with zippered bags for a long time. Zips in skirts, fine, no problem. I found a super easy tute on doing zips in skirts last year and never looked back. But zips in bags just freak me out. They never turn properly for me and they always look messy and untidy.

Now, I know the answer to this is practice, practice, practice. But that assumes some level of craft-fail and I'm not good at craft-fail, it totally discourages me and I HATE making something and then not being able to use it. That's why I do buttons in all the bags I make!

So it was with a little trepidation that I  approached the Origami Bag pattern in the Amy Butler Style Stitches book this evening. One thing about the patterns in this book is that they have a lot of written instructions and not very many pictures and diagrams. When it comes to sewing, I'm totally visual (mostly because I have very poor spatial sense, just ask Himself about my parking!) and I was interested to see how I found the pattern as a result. But, I have to say, the pattern was really well put together (as I would have expected!) and anywhere that I really needed a diagram, there was one, which was great.

After faffing about with fabric for a while trying to decide which to use, and chasing the kids back up the stairs more than a few times, I finally settled on these:

Alexander Henry's Willow Wren, Girl Friday Cosmo Cricket and Ta Dot in Berry by Michael Miller.

I found the pattern fairly straightforward to make, there were a few little tricky bits in it around the zip ends when sewing up the seams but nothing too challenging. And I even managed to sew my zip reasonably respectably! Its by no means perfect but its functional (a big step forward!) and looks ok-ish, it could be a bit tidier and less bulky, but I'm planning on making a few more of these so hopefully I'll have it perfect by the time I get to the last one :-)

I really like this Willow Wren fabric, its super cute, I have a half yard and will definitely be ordering more of it! And the Ta Dot lining gives is a great lift on the inside. This little bag is a good size for sewing notions, threads etc. I'm going to make a few of them for my sewing box in this size and the next size up. I also want to do one for my handsewing kit.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased. It was nice to follow a pattern for something like this and not improvise as I went along which is my normal approach. Even better, my bag turned out not a million miles away from the shape of the photo in the book. I'm going back to tackle the Cosmo bag later in the week - more about that later in the week!

I'll be linking this up to Fabric Tuesday on Quiltstory and other great blogs -> check out the links on my sidebar!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PictureBox Quilt pattern/tutorial

This isn't a tutorial in the strict sense of the word, but, finally, here is the pattern for my PictureBox quilt. I hope you enjoy making it! If you do, please link up to my new Flickr group for projects made from my tutorials/patterns. I'd love to see them!!!

A couple of small things:
- Please link up to follow me on the sidebar if you make a quilt from this pattern :-) I'd be so thrilled if you did.
- Also, as with most tutes and patterns, it's intended for your own personal use or for gifts but is not for commercial use. Please do not sell quilts made from this pattern.

Ok, so here goes. Please read pattern fully before starting! If you have any questions on any aspects of it, or it doesn't make sense, feel free to ask me any questions via the comments or by email I will answer any questions on the pattern in the comments section rather than back to you via email so that everyone can see the answers.This is the first quilt pattern I've written so please bear with me! And my apologies that I don't have better photos of various stages, I hadn't anticipated doing it as a pattern when I started making it. I also want to say a huge thanks to my friend Fi over at Patchwork Delights who did a sense check on it for me and had some great advice!

The finished quilt measures approx 60" long x 53" wide, slightly wider than cot bed size but not full twin bed size. It is a perfect size for using on a baby's cot bed and then layering over other covers when he/she moves to a twin bed.

Fabric Requirements:
  • 3 Fat Quarters of large scale prints for the feature panels
  • Fabric scraps for outside "frames" - variety of colours, shades & prints.
  • Assortment of fat quarters & large scraps for the small squares - you will need approx 5 FQs or equivalent.
  • 1 FQ small scale print/solid colour for framing feature panel
  • Approx 1 yd white cotton for sashing ( I used Kona Ivory)
  • 1/2 yard solid colour fabric for binding (I used a soft mid-blue shade)
  • Backing fabric
  • Cotton Batting - I used Warm & White cut off the roll, it was 60" x 64"
  • Cotton thread for piecing and quilting. I used Gutterman cotton thread, colour 5709 (white)
  • Rotary cutter, cutting mat and quilting ruler

Cutting List:

  • From each of the feature fabrics cut a large panel measuring 16" x 10.5". (UPDATED MEASUREMENT) Decide on where best on the FQ to cut to get the best focus for your panel.

  • From the FQ of small scale print/solid for framing cut 6 1.5" x 18" strips and 6 1.5" x 10.5" strips.

  • From the smaller scraps cut the following, varying fabrics, shades, colours and prints:
          18 pieces - 4.5" x 3.5" (A)
          18 pieces - 3.5" x 3.5" (B)
          12 pieces - 2.5" x 3.5" (C)
            6 pieces - 5.5" x 3.5" (D)
            6 pieces - 6" x 3.5" (E)

  • From the FQs/large scraps cut 36 5.5" squares (F) and 12 3.5" x 5.5" rectangles (G).
  • For the sashing, cut 8 strips 2" x 27.5" (H) , 6 strips 2.5" x 18.5" (I) and 12 strips 2" x 18.5" (J)

Layout and Piecing Instructions:

Use 1/4 inch seams throughout.

1."Frame" the 3 large feature panels as follows:
Attach the small print strips to each side of the large panels by placing right sides together and sewing with a quarter inch seam. Press seams open (or to one side if you prefer). Now take top and bottom strips and sew to the panel & side border piece and press seams open.

2. Decide on the layout of the large panels from top to bottom. Once you have decided how to order them start arranging your small scrap pieces to form the 2nd layer of border frame for each panel.

Each side border should consist of following pieces: [1 x A, 2 x B, 1 x C] and each top/bottom border should consist of following pieces: [2 x A, 1 x B, 1 x C, 1 x D, 1 x E].

How you lay out the scraps for the borders is up to you; I suggest that you move around the composition on each line so that each line does not have exactly the same layout, otherwise it may lack in movement. Consider light and dark shades, colours, pattern etc. and how the bottom and top borders interact with the border on the panel above/below them.

3. Layout the side columns using pieces F & G alongside the large framed panels, leaving gaps where your white sashing will be. Each panel should have 2 pieced columns on either side. Each pieced colum consists of 3 x F and 1x G. I alternated the order/layout in each one, the top and bottom piece in each column should be a square, but I alternated the layout of the 2 middle pieces in each column.

4. Move the fabric around and tweak the layout until you're happy! I find it very useful to take some pics of the layout on my phone/camera and look at them during the process, it gives me a good "big picture" perspective of how pieces interact with each other. I don't follow any particular "rules" (I don't even know if there are any!), I tend to trust my eye in relation to colour and layout.

5. Assemble the pieces ready for sewing in an order that makes sense to you and that you will find it easy to sew with. I ususally pin groups of fabrics for each strip from either top to bottom or left to right and stick a post-it on top of each "pile" numbering them. Taking a picture before starting this process may help you later if any parts get mixed up.

Start piecing! Remember to iron all pieces beforehand and press seams open/to the side after sewing each set of seams. I use a quarter inch foot to get an accurate quarter inch seam.

6. Start with the big panel scrap borders and sew your border strips together. Start with the side borders, piecing the scraps together in a line until done following the layout you decided on. Sew to the sides of the feature panel right sides together. Do the same with the top and bottom borders until your large panel blocks are finished. Set aside for the moment.

7. Piece each of the side columns. Set aside.

9. Sew sashing pieces I to either side of each feature panel block.

10. Sew sashing pieces J to each side of each of the outside columns. Then join the "inside" sashing piece to the outer side of the inner column to make a large column block.

11. Now join each of the large column blocks to the feature panel block sashing, matching up the correct sides.

This leaves you with 3 large horizontally laid out blocks running the width of the quilt top.

12. Take the 8 sashing pieces H and divide into pairs. These will form the horizontal sashing. Join each pair along one of the short edges using a half inch seam.

13. Take the first long sashing strip and sew to the top edge of the top horizontal block, placing the seam in the middle of the block. Do same with next 2 horizontal blocks, and sew final sashing strip to lower edge of bottom horizontal block.

14. Sew middle block to top block along top edge of sashing & bottom edge of pieced block. Follow suit with lower & middle blocks.

15. Trim any excess sashing fabric from edges. Your quilt top is now finished! You will need to press all seams very carefully and trim any stray threads from the raw edges on the wrong side so that they don't show through your white sashing fabric when you start to quilt.

Backing & Basting:

Piece your backing fabric, if you desire. Once it is ready, lay out on a clean floor and, using masking tape, tape to the floor around all the edges, pulling fabric taut but not stretching it. Next, lay your batting down over this and smooth out the surface to lie completely flat. Your batting and backing should be at least 2” wider than your quilt top on all sides. Finally, lay your pressed quilt on top of the batting and take great care to ensure that it is smoothed out.  You will need to crawl around the quilt to get this right, but it’s worth taking the time. You will then need to baste the quilt using your preferred method. I used curved safety pins for quilting; they are much easier to work with than regular straight ones. I start at the middle of the quilt and work outward in a circular fashion, smoothing out any last wrinkles etc as I go. I pin approx every 4-6 inches. Once you are done, remove the masking tape carefully and check that the back has remained smooth and wrinkle free. It is now ready to be quilted!


I quilted the PictureBox with wonky straight lines, but I think it would also look great free motion quilted. It would also look good quilted in wider straight lines.

If you want to do the wonky straight lines, I started by marking a line down the centre of the quilt using a quilt marking tool, or you could use masking tape as a guide. Use your walking foot to ensure even feed of fabric (mine is integrated in my Pfaff machine and works with most of my presser feet). I quilted down the centre line and then used the outside of the widest presser foot I had as a guide for the remaining lines, working out from the centre, and working up and down the quilt in alternate lines. I varied the width of the lines, moving the needle position to get maximum width and allowed the presser foot to vary the line and wobble in and out in places to give the wonky effect. If you're doing this, use the straight seams to ensure you're not going totally "off track" and even things up a little; wonky is good, completely crooked and out of line just looks shoddy. If you want to free motion quilt, you will need to attach the correct foot and lower your feed dogs.

When you are finished quilting, use your rotary cutter and quilting ruler to trim the excess backing and batting from your quilt, and check your lines are straight.


If you need detailed binding instructions check out these great, detailed tutorials: Oh, Fransson! or Jaybird Quilts

I use straight grain, double fold binding, but use whatever you prefer. This is how I do mine:

Measure around your quilt to get your total binding length needed and add on at least 10 inches for corners and to give you some spare. Cut enough strips from your binding fabrics to give you the total length, making provision for your seam allowances at the joins – 2.5” is a good width for binding, but you might want to go narrower or wider depending on your taste. Attach the strips to each other, right sides together using a quarter inch seam. I usually use a smaller stitch length here to strengthen the seam. Then fold the long strip in half, wrong side together, and iron the fold the whole length of the binding strip to give a nice sharp crease.

Return to your quilt, pin to your quilt top matching raw edges, making provision for mitred corners and join the ends carefully. Machine sew to the quilt using quarter inch seam. Fold over the binding and sew to back of quilt in whichever method you prefer. I love the look of a machine stitched binding but I know most people prefer it handstitched. Trim any stray threads.

The quilt is now done! Throw it in the washing machine, let it dry and enjoy its lovely crinkly texture.