Secret Garden Quilt

I’ve cracked on with the third block for my Secret Garden quilt, I became a bit more enthused when I realised there are only six blocks in this quilt, not the nine I was anticipating, so I’m half way through now! I can realistically hope to finish it this week!

These definitely look better when view from a far, rather than close up on a photo!

I found this one a little more tricky, I think mainly due to there being quite a lot of little fiddly bits like most of the left hand side!! The frothy purple flowers lower down are meant to be salvias, I think the pink frothy ones are achillea, the dark purple ones above are buddleia which will extend into the panel above.

These blocks aren’t lying quite as flat as I would like, despite regular pressing, they have a stabiliser behind to help support the fabric with the idea that as much as possible will be cut away before quilting, but these are that densely stitched there’s not going to be much trimmed.

Goldcrests are one of the smallest birds here in the UK, I think the only one smaller is it’s cousin the firecrest. I only found out recently that they are around here after I saw one in the garden, I think they’re so tiny they’re easy to miss, especially if they are darting through a tree.

If you fancy having a go at one of these lovely designs, just follow the link to Raggedy Ruff Designs, there’s a wide range, big and small projects, easy or more challenging like this one.

Posted in kits, Machine embroidery, Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Declutter Day 3 and 4

Well the decluttering of my sewing room is going fairly well, though it was a bit more difficult this time so it took a little longer.

Day 3 of Karen Brown’s Sewing Room declutter challenge was magazines. My first thought was that’s OK as I didn’t have any in my sewing room…,then I decided to be honest with myself and admit that there was a big pile in the spare bedroom!

I have quite a pile of Classic Inspiration and Australian Smocking magazines, many that I inherited from my mum. They are beautiful magazines, they’re a class way above the British embroidery or sewing ones, but some of them are like 20 years old.

I went through them all, with a pile that I wanted to keep, a pile for the bin as they were too damaged and a pile that is potentially saleable on facebook. I then had to go through and make sure all the pattern sheets were present….it took a while!

Next challenge was my bookshelf, this was harder as I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books. I have a bookshelf on the landing with all my craft books in, quilting ones, sewing ones and embroidery ones as well as general design and making stuff ones.

Well I was pretty good, there’s a pile to sell, a pile to charity shop, a small pile that will have to go in the bin as I know from experience that the charity shops are full of them, such as the Jo Verso cross-stitch books which were so popular in the ’80’s.

Well my bookshelves look a lot more sorted, I had a nice time being re-inspired by projects I still fancy doing and the magazines now fit on the book shelves too!

I’m following the daily prompts from Karen’s challenge, it was meant to be started on Jauuary 1st but I only heard about it the other day. If you fancy doing it too then it’s all on youtube. Tomorrows prompt is all about patterns..,.I have rather a lot of those!

Posted in Books, sewing room | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Secret Garden Quilt

As I have a couple of weeks recuperating from sinus surgery I decided I may as well be productive, I’m not one for sitting and watching day time TV. I decided to make a concerted effort on my Secret Garden quilt this is one I started last year, it’s a BOM by Raggedy Ruff Designs, I’d done the first panel and then stopped!

Whilst I was starting the decluttering of my sewing room I nosied in my ‘kit box’, which is full of kits waiting to be made, quilting ones, sewing ones and of course embroidery. I realised I have quite alot of Raggedy Ruff designs waiting to be made, three quilts, a stool, a lampshade, a clock…and a few others! I follow Andrea (the designer) on facebook, when she does another design she only makes so many kits up, once they’re gone it’s pattern only, so I tend to buy them, her designs are gorgeous. Here’s a few I’ve done before…

So I decided to start back on the Secret Garden quilt, I think I stopped because it is the fiddliest one I’ve done so far, it’s a very busy design. Although I’ve done quite a few of her designs, they still feel out of my comfort zone, so it doesn’t take much for me to prevaricate too much!!

I rashly thought if I could do a block a day I’d have the quilt finished…I’d forgotten about brain fog after general anaesthetics! The first block took nearer three days!

The first task is to make the background, I love the backgrounds that Andrea creates, full of little spots of interest without taking over the design. Andreas instructions are easy to understand but probably it’s fair to say more complex designs like these are aimed at someone who knows vaguely what they are doing with quilting.

Next, the design elements are traced onto freezer paper, these are ironed onto the chosen piece of fabric so they can be neatly cut out. batik fabric is a tighter weave than standard quilting cotton so it doesn’t fray as much. Once these are all in place I put a tiny blob of fabric glue under each one just to hold it in place before I stitch round. Andrea doesn’t use any glue, she just holds them in place, I’m not that brave!

Everything is stitched initially with a soft brown before all the embroidery starts. I used a metallic needle in my machine which I found works better than an embroidery needle as some of the threads are fairly thick and would shred in the needle. I also finally found a way of controlling Sylco thread! It’s been the bain of my life for a while as when ever I tried to use it it was so springy that it would ping off and then somehow wind it’s self tightly round the bobbin spool. I hoped it would be better with my new sewing machine as it’s an upright spool holder but it was still an issue…so I tried just having the spool loose in a box behind the machine, it works perfectly!

So this is what it looked like after the first round of stitching, as you can see my stitching is far from perfect but once it’s finished that doesn’t seem to matter, as my mum used to say from an artists perspective, your eye picks out the best line.

Now it needed all the embroidery, Andrea explains it all and as she says, just take a deep breath and go for it!

Underneath the block is the one I did ages ago which goes underneath this one on the final quilt.

I can see a few stalks that are dangling in mid air a bit but as I’ll have to do some connecting of the design once they’re stitched together, I’ll leave it for now and do it all at the end.

I’ve already got the next block cut out and ready to embroidery, so hopefully I’m on a roll now! If anyone fancies doing one of these quilts but feels a little daunted by it, Andrea mentioned the other day that she is filming herself making the next quilt (which looks gorgeous!) to make on-line tutorials, so it might be a good one to dip your toe into these wonderful designs.

Posted in Machine embroidery, Quilt-a-long, Quilting, Raggedy Ruff Designs | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Geraniums Galore

I do like geraniums, they’re undemanding plants that like my soil and shady spots, I’ve a few round the garden of differing sizes and colours. The magenta pink geranium in the photo below is geranium psilostemon. It got rather large and spread from the bottom level to the raised bed and up to the roses beyond! I’ve actually dug this bit out and moved it to the top of the garden where it can spread to it’s hearts content

Last year when as was stitching little embroideries for my garden book I used little designs from SookieSo which included a gate with flowers behind and a little single flower. I stitched them both with magenta flowers like the geranium.

When I found out I would be in hospital as a daycase last week I set too to make a page for my garden book from these two embroideries. I could then do crazy patchwork stitching whilst I waited for my turn.

It took quite a while to decide on fabrics and positions, I wanted it a bit lighter than the last one I did and more regular shapes too. The bright pink ditsy print is a scrap of Liberty fabric left from Helen’s Christmas present, The little butterfly was one I bought on line, the colours seemed to go well and added a bit of calm.The pink flower print looks a bit like geranium so I decided to fussy cut a square. It wasn’t easy working out size with it, in the end I cut a paper window the page size and used that. It’s all mounted om calico which gives a bit of stability and is useful for starting and finishing threads.

So this is what I started with…

I didn’t get much done in hospital in the end as I was second on the list, so not long to wait. However I’ve been stitching it on an evening since and last night I finished it.

I used fairly simple stitches, feather, lazy-daisy, whipped running stitch, fly and chain stitch and of course lots of French knots!

My initial plan was to leave the bottom left hand print just as it was with just the seam embroidery, however I got tempted into embroidering round the flowers and leaves. I was regretting it half way through as it did take longer than expected and I wasn’t sure the leaves were looking right. Now it’s finished I’m pleased I did it!

I’m particularly pleased with the border underneath the words, I haven’t decided if the lace needs something like buttons over the end but I tried some and nothing jumped out, it’s a fraction short. I might put it away for a while and then look at it with fresh eyes.

I had a count up and I’ve got eight pages completed, I’m half way round the summerhouse area, then I’ve just got the Amber and Amethyst garden to stitch, a map of the garden and a few little ones to crazy patchwork. I’m getting there!

Posted in embroidery, Garden, Stitching my Garden | Tagged , | 5 Comments

De-Cluttering my Sewing Room

I’m having a bit of a spring clean and sort out in my sewing room, it’s well overdue! I had an operation on my nose (polyps!) last week so I’m off work for a couple of weeks. As you can imagine I’ve been spending a bit of time in my sewing room! Today on facebook someone commented on the Sewing Room Declutter Challenge 2023, apparently it’s now an annual thing organised by Karen of Just Get it Done Quilts

It sounded like just what I need, here’s my sewing room…

…and that’s after taking three bags of rubbish out and sweeping the floor! I often joke that there’s a black hole in my sewing room as I put something down and 5 minutes later it’s disappeared. Hopefully decluttering will solve my black hole problem!

Karen has broken it down into 30 minute tasks every day for three weeks, so it’s not so daunting. I’m a month late as it started on 1st January but it’s all on You-tube so that’s not a problem.

Day 1’s challenge was firstly to take out all the rubbish, I’d got an overflowing bin and two carriers full of rags for a charity shop before I even started looking!

The second task was to clear the sewing space, even if stuff was just dumped elsewhere for the time being. This bit was surprisingly cathartic, as I cleared everything off, cleaned the work surface and then just replaced my things for the project I’m doing at the moment. It meant I instantly had a nice clean work area to spur me on and meant I could enjoy the afternoon sewing.

As I’ve got a fair bit of time at the moment I’ve gone straight on to day 2 this evening. Take out anything that shouldn’t be there, I’ve found six glasses cases so far! I’ve sorted out paperwork that should have been binned ages ago, put stuff away in a more logical place etc.

I’m intrigued to know what decluttering tasks she has for us over the next three weeks, watch this space!

Posted in sewing room | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Staying at Home HQAL

I feel I’m making steady progress with the hand quilting of my Staying Home quilt. This is a quilt I made back in 2020 with scraps left from my Coming Home quilt, hence the name! The embroidered blocks were all part of a free SAL by Hugs and Kisses in Australia, I then added the house blocks to make it quilt size.

Three weeks ago I was half way along the top row and just over half way through the quilt with thirteen out of twenty-five blocks quilted…

Well I’ve now finished the top row and I’ve started the fourth row. The dragonfly block in the top right-hand corner has been quilted along the stems and round the dragonfly too. I’m not doing a huge amount of quilting on the embroidered blocks as I don’t want to detract from the stitching, just enough to hold the quilt together really.

I’m now working on the fourth row, so I’ve done the block with the mini hexagons and the flower in the middle with just a circle round the inner ring. I’m currently working on the central house, I’ve stitched in the ditch round the house, I just need to add the windows.

I’m keeping up with quilting the hearts in the sashing as I go, so I’m not left with it all to do at the end, though now I’m organised with a template and a disappearing pen it’s actually quite a relaxing part of the quilting to do.

Once I’ve stitched the windows in the current block I’ll have just eight blocks to do, all of a sudden the end seems in sight, though a little way off yet. I’m enjoying hand-quilting this one so I’ll actually be quite sad to see it finished in a funny sort of way!

Hand Quilt Along Links

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyMargaretDebNanetteSharonKarrin, Daisy, Connie, and  Cathie 

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, so please follow the link to see more hand-stitched inspiration.

Posted in Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Upcycled Handbag

Having made myself a new purse last week I decided to make a new handbag too, mine was about four years old and looking decidedly shabby. I’ve been thinking of using the fabric from an old jacket for a while, so now was my chance!

The jacket is one I made about thirty years ago, I’ve even managed to find a photo of me wearing it! It’s very ’80’s and I now weigh about 3 stone more so there’s no way it’s going to be worn again but the wool was too nice to charity shop.

It’s a tweed made by Ankaret Cresswell, it was a little cottage weaver near Scarborough, I think I found it by chance. I remember it being pretty expensive for me and having just googled the name, they were tailors used by people such as Princess Anne.

I decided the back should give me enough for a handbag, using my usual pattern, the Mini Miranda bag by Lazy Girl Designs. I’ve made this pattern up several times now, it’s just the right size for me. Here’s photos of two of them…

I always forget with bag-making just how many pieces there are to cut out and how long it takes before you actually put it all together. There’s lining, interlining. fleece, as well as the actual fabric. I cut the back out of the jacket and it was just big enough for the two main body pieces if I cut them out as one rather than a seam down the centre of the front and back. I cut the tab out of the front after I’d made the bag up so I could pattern match the tab. The only change I made to the pattern was to add a mock flange from denim, I only remembered how I had done it by reading my last handbag post, the top edge is meant to be an extension of the lining like on the left hand photo, but I found this wears out first, so I added a narrow strip of denim to act as a binding. I used the same black denim for the base as it’s so much harder wearing than the wool. The outer fabric is meant to be quilted, I stitched down the central row and decided I didn’t want to do more, I felt it would detract from the fabric weave.

I used a cotton from my stash for the lining, I think it came from my mum’s stash, it’s a bit heavier than quilting cotton which worked well, it would have been better if I hadn’t read the instructions wrong and cut it out 1/2″ too narrow, hence the central strip which you can just see.

The lining has a row of pockets on each side, I always add a zipped pocket too where I keep my bus pass and staff ID, I also like a ribbon which my keys will be attached to – this not only saves rummaging round at the bottom of my handbag looking for my keys, it also means if I have my handbag I know I have my house key!

The handles are actually recycled from my old handbag, they look fine and I didn’t have a new pair in the right colour

After all the preparation work the final bit of stitching it all together didn’t take long at all. I took a lot of care cutting the tab out so it would match the pattern on the bag and I have to say I’m well chuffed with it…

I salvaged the designer label from my jacket, I was just going to stitch it on when I realised I’d forgotten to change my bottom thread when I stitched the tab on so I had two rows of black stitching on the lining. I stitched the label onto some plain cotton instead and then stitched the bigger label over the stitching, it almost covers it…

My new bag was ready to be filled and has been in daily use since. I just need to decide what to make from the tweed left over, maybe a card holder or a tissue holder!

Posted in Sewing | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Stitching my Garden SAL

The second big page for my garden book is finally come together, it’s a while from being finished but I’ve got into my stride with it now. When I first start a page like this the empty fabric does seem a bit daunting but once I get going it does seem easier. I also start to use more ‘artistic licence’ and not get so het up about which plant or shrub goes where, I’ve got photographs for that!

Three weeks ago I’d started to embroider some of the blobs into shrubs…

I’ve been working on the big bed by the tall fence, it’s mainly shrubs and climbers with a few perennials to fill gaps in. I’ve just looked back at my blog and realised how little my big border features but this is how it looked a couple of autumns ago…

…not an easy area to represent in embroidery!

I seem to have done a fair bit of unpicking this time but I’m happier with the result. After stitching lots of French knots on the purple blob for the cotinus I felt that the blanket stitch edging was just too hard and dominating. I unpicked it and used a lighter shade of variegated thread and feather stitch with fly stitch. I added a trunk and a couple of branches too.

The climbers on the back are wisteria and clematis, the wisteria is definately using artistic license as it was only planted a couple of years ago so this is how I hope it will look soon! On the right is the lilac tree with the pheasantberry underneath, that was another bit that was unpicked as I originally used a heavier thread for the reddish bracts but it just looked too heavy so I unpicked it and used a DMC thread instead.

Other plants so far include a red rose (Darcy Bussel) orange day lily, pink peony, red astrantia. pink rhododendron, box, pieris, philadelphus (just waiting for the white flowers) and daphne.

There’s still a gap that’s a bit too big to leave but I’ve just remembered a clematis in there which nicely meanders through the other shrubs, so that might just meander through the gaps!

As you can see I’ve just started on the bottom corner with a few chunky French knots and a bit of stem stitch for my pink roses….

This right hand bed shouldn’t be as complicated as it’s mainly roses, so just lots of big French knots.

This SAL is organised by Avis, we post our progress on our hand-stitched projects every three weeks, it certainly helps to keep me motivated and moving! Please follow the links to see what everyone else is stitching.


Posted in embroidery, Garden, Serendipity, Stitch-a-long, Stitching my Garden | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Terrific Trifold Wallet

I’ve been meaning to make myself a new wallet for ages now, my old one eventually stretched a little so the card pockets weren’t secure and a purse I made sometime ago is now so tatty and falling apart it’s an embarrassment! On Thursday I decided a new wallet was my project for the day,

I used the same pattern as last time, it’s called the Terrific Trifold Wallet, it’s in a book called A Bag for all Reasons by Lisa Lam. I wanted to use the lovely eucalyptus print left over from making Helen’s apron so I found some blue batiks that would go with it. I decided to use the print on the inside and batik’s on the outside, I think the light print would get grubby very quickly.

It always takes a while to cut out all the pieces for bag making and this wallet was no exception, I put all the pieces into a box so they didn’t get lost whilst I was stitching – I’m sure my sewing room has a black hole as things just disappear! I used woven fusible interfacing where needed and fusible pellon for the outside. The instructions called for Decovil which apparently gives the outer fabric a leather-like quality and durability. I used the Pellon instead as I happened to have some, pellon is like a very thick interfacing.

All the different sections of the wallet were made first, the coin purse and the card slots. These were then stitched on to the notes slot fabric and the edge bound with bias binding. I didn’t quite manage to catch all the bias down on the back with my first row of stitching so I used a decorative stitch as well which I think gives a nice finish too.

Frustratingly after carefully fussy-cutting the print for the two top card holders so they had a pretty sprig each, I stitched the pocket on the other way up and didn’t realise until I’d already attached the binding. They still look pretty though.

The hardest bit of the wallet was turning it right side out as the pellon interfacing is pretty bulky and firm. Edge stitching round it was then awkward as the main body of the purse was so much thicker than the very edge, I think in the end I used a zipper foot.

The pattern closes the purse with a popper, I haven’t got any poppers so I stitched an elastic into the tab and added a blue button.

As you can see my wallet is already in use, I think I need to make a new bag next!

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Last week at my WI meeting we had a pyrography workshop, it was lovely as everyone had a go including many who don’t consider themselves ‘crafty’ and everyone went home with a lovely piece they had made.

Pyrography is when you burn a design onto wood. It’s done with a special pen-like tool which has a wire tip, this heats up to something ridiculous like 1400’C. The tutor told us to try and do smooth lines, starting and finishing gently to avoid a spotty line…easier said than done! The size and depth of the burn depended on how long the heat was applied.

We were each given a wooden coaster and a sheet with lots of designs on, I was planning to make a sewing themed one but the designs were things like flowers, celtic crosses etc so I decided to do a bee. We traced the design onto the coaster and then started to etch the design.

I went round the basic shape first and then filled in the legs as dark as I felt I could make it. I etched the dark stripes next. We learnt that by using a lighter touch you could colour areas in so I just used short light lines for the bits that would be yellow.

I ummed and arred for a while trying to think of an apt short saying, then Sewing Bee came to mind, perfect! I wrote in on a piece of paper first and then traced it. It’s a little uneven but I’m pretty pleased with it. One of the lads at work said he would put some kind of sealant or varnish on it so it’ll be a bit more resistant to damp cups of tea!

We had time to make a second item, I decided on another coaster as we only had about half an hour left. I used a robin design this time. I tried to do a sort of feather pattern on his back and I love his beady little eye, that was just a single burn left on a bit longer. I was fairly pleased with the actual etching but I then decided to colour the red bit in. Somehow it doesn’t look right, I haven’t worked out how to improve it yet. I’m not sure if it needs to be bigger, or if the outline across makes it look more like a stripe. It doesn’t help that the paint ‘bled’u up the grain a bit.

I’m pretty pleased with my coasters and it was lovely to try another craft.

Posted in Crafts, Women's Institute, Workshops | Tagged , | 9 Comments