Spring Orchards

I started a new embroidery kit a couple of weeks ago, it was meant to be my stitch anywhere project, i.e the one that’s in my handbag for stitching when I’m out of the house. However, it’s crept into becoming my go-to stitching at home too as I’m enjoying it.

It’s a kit I bought a couple of years ago in the embroidery shop in Grassington further up Wharfedale. If I visit a little shop like that I like to buy something to support them this caught my eye as it reminded me of the walks my friend and I have done up in the dales when the blossom trees have been in full bloom.

It’s needlepoint rather than cross-stitch so it’s stitched on canvas. It’s a bit smaller than I realised, though a better size for me really, the finished embroidery will be 11cm square. One thing that appealed was the use of different stitches to get the different textures, there’s french knots and long stitch as well as tent stitch.

I had to stitch the centre in tent-stitch first, then add the extra stitches before moving on to the border. I’m probably about half way through all the french knots, I’m making some of them a bit bigger than the instructions say, but they’re coming out more like the photo on the front. I don’t find it as easy to count tent stitch as opposed to cross-stitch, and fitting in the long stitch neatly is a whole new ballgame – the tent stitch coves the cross-over point of the canvas, whereas the long-stitch lies between the holes, so I just fudged a bit where needed.

I love the dry stone wall and the gate in particular, the gate is made to stand out by stitching over a long stitch, so it’s just raised a bit.

I’ve just started the outer border to give me a rest from all those french knots as well as the concentration working out where each one is meant to be!

By the way, the kit is by Derwentwater Designs, they are a company based in the Lakes, they have some lovely kits sold by a lot of independent shops, I couldn’t find a website specifically for them.

Linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, follow the link to see lots more sewing inspiration.

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A trio of Blocks

Each month I’m making three blocks to be mailed around the world for Foot Square Freestyle block swop party, I’m usually scraping in at the end of the month and June was no exception!

June was Monike’s turn and her colour scheme is indigo with accents in golden yellow and hot pink. I ordered a couple of fat quarters for the accent colours but I remembered in my stash I had a charm pack (5″ squares) in shades of indigo with a sort of Japanese (???) style print. I bought it from a Quilters destash page some time ago.

I flicked through my 365 quilt blocks book, I was limited to ones that were based on at least 9 squares, due to the 5″ squares of fabric, though accents could be any size. I felt the colour scheme lended itself to more modern blocks than I tend to do – taking part in this sort of project does make you sew out of your comfort zone – both colour and pattern-wise. This was my first one…

There was only two or occasionally three of each print, so I didn’t have enough to be too fussy about the direction of prints, though I did try and choose ones where it wouldn’t be too obvious, though I’ve only just realised that none of the squares match on the bottom right block, two were meant to but I think it possibly looks better for none matching than half!! . It looks more like a red/orange in the photo, but it is a lovely magenta really.

The second block just had an hourglass block in the middle in the accents, it was interesting trying to sort the charm squares out into lights and darks etc…

I realised a lot of the squares I now had left were quite linear in design, I graded them according to tone and found an ideal block pattern in my book…

This month we’re making blocks for Robin in shades of blue and yellow, so it could be a nice summery block. Do have a look over at the F2F website to see what everyone else has been making.

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In the Pink

I seem to be in pink mode at the moment!

I’ve a few projects on the go at the moment and one of them is a quilt for a friend, she’s going through difficult times at the moment so I thought I’d make her a quilt. I asked her what her favourite colours are and (to my surprise) she said red and pink. I decided to concentrate on the pink!

I’m not very keen on buying fabric on line, but needs must, I don’t find it easy to see if the colours work together. I had a look at the wool warehouse site and found you could pull the ones you liked onto a wish page and check how they worked before you bought, it did help. My starting point was the one with butterflies, this gave my the turquoise second colour as well as including several shades of pink. The ‘plains’ with the bubbles on is Lewis & Irene blueberry range, I’ve used it quite a bit recently. In this case I’ve decided they’re bubbles as she likes swimming, especially in the sea! I also realised when they arrived that the teal one with the blue flowers on has also got tiny octopi on it! The coral pink one I admit if I’d been in a shop choosing, I probably wouldn’t have included it, however it’s exactly the shade of some of the butterflies and also flowers on the pale blue one. In real life it doesn’t look quite so orangy, it’ll be fine!

I wanted a fairly quick block, I decided on a disappearing 16 block. The quilters amongst you have probably heard of the disappearing 9 and 4 blocks, this is made along the same lines. The block pattern is for sale on the UKQU site, it’s by Lyn Butler, she’s made it into a gorgeous Christmas mat with lights and darks from a charm pack.

Rather than light and dark, my fabrics worked better as pink or turquoise. I cut a couple of 5″ squares in each fabric and had a play arranging them. Once I was happy I stitched them into a block of 16. I used the chain piecing method which is where you don’t actually cut the threads between the blocks, you just stitch one row of pairs, then add a third square to each row and so on. It does make it easier and there’s no threads to snip!

Once it was all pressed it was time for the scary bit! I cut it either side of the diagonal line, turning the board rather than moving the block. The diagonal strips were then moved round one space and the block was re-stitched. After my first block I retrieved my Best Press spray from downstairs and sprayed each block liberally, all theses second seams are on the bias, so you do have to be careful not to stretch the fabric. The starch made a big difference.

If you decide to make this pattern and you want it a little bigger, one thing to bear in mind is the size of the first set of blocks. I thought about using 6″ squares so a set of 9 blocks would make a good sized throw without a border. I only decided against it as my fabric was 21″ wide, so 6″ blocks were a lot more wasteful than 5″ blocks. However, having made my 16 block up, it only just fitted on my A2 cutting board and my 24″ ruler was only just long enough. The bigger blocks would have caused problems.

Once the blocks were re-sewn, they measure 17.5″, I made nine altogether and decided on the final layout. With only nine blocks it didn’t take long to stitch them together. I concentrated on getting the square intersections matching rather than the diagonals, I decided they wuld be more obvious if they missed. Some of the diagonals are perfect, some not so!

I wanted it slightly bigger, I had just enough fabric to have a one inch border in the turquoise and a two inch border in pink, I had to use both shades of pink, so I made the corners darker.

I’m pleased with it so far, I’m just waiting for some backing fabric to arrive so I can finish it and post it off to my friend.

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As Busy as a Bee

Last week I decided to make a little present for my MIL, she always admired my bumble bee pincushions, but having stitched it three times already, I wasn’t sure I was ready to stitch it again just yet. I also realised it was also a lot smaller than many people realised – the bee is only about 2″ square!

Whilst I was having a bit of a sort out during lockdown, I found a lovely panel of a bumble bee in a furnishing weight fabric, together with a co-ordinating piece for the backing, isn’t it gorgeous! I bought it at a quilt shoe with the idea of making my mum a cushion,before I realised just how many cushions she had in her room at the time! It was perfect for my MIL.

I decided it needed some kind of simple trim such as piping, just to finish it. I found some thick piping cord in my stash and some smudgy dark drey/black quilting cotton. I cut some bias strips, covered the cord and stitched it round the front panel.

If I’m making cushions for myself, I often don’t put an opening in such as buttons or a zip, I just stitch it up and if it needs cleaning I unstitch it again. However as this was a gift I thought I ought to do it properly! I cut the backing piece in half so it would overlap, finnished the edges and then stitched the front and back together. I found some bee tape in my stash which worked really well for ties, I even managed to alternate the colour of bees across the three pairs of ties.

I had an 18″ cushion pad, so my bumble bee cushion was complete, ready for delivery in an afternoon…and she loves it 🙂

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Sheer Pink

It’s a couple of weeks or more since the Sewing Weekender event, this is usually a weekend away for about 100 people in Cambridge with lots of sewing, chatting and speakers. It sounds great fun but obviously sells out in a matter of minutes. This year one silver lining to the current situation is that the organisers made it on-line instead, so numbers were pretty much unlimited. It only cost around £15 and there were lots of speakers on youtube, a goodie bag of lots of discount codes and lots of camaraderie over the weekend, with zoom meetings of everyone sharing their makes. It was all good fun, though I didn’t get as much sewing done as I hoped! Lots of money was raised for charity too.

I decided to pluck up the courage and make a shirt from sheer fabric. It was on my to do list this year, I seem to have ended up with a few sheers in my stash – I keep falling for them on Dewsbury shopping sprees!

I decided to make this gorgeous burnt-out chiffon – at least I think that is what it’s called. It’s sheer, but it does have a little bit of body to it – it’s not as fluid as some I’ve sewn with. Isn’t it just gorgeous!

I chose a Style Arc pattern called the Artists Tunic. I bought it a couple of years ago with a sheer shirt in mind as it is pictured in a sheer fabric. It’s the first time I’ve used a Style Arc pattern. It is the last time I will be using a Style Arc pattern!! It is already in the bin!. When I first looked at the instructions I thought they were a bit minimalistic but the more I sewed, the worse they were! To give you an example for the dressmakers out there, it said stitch sleeve side seam, so I made a nice neat french seam. Next stage, stitch sleeve placket!! Now how are you meant to sew a full sleeve placket with limited access due to the side seam being stitched! I quickly gave that up as a bad job and just bound the edges of the slit instead. OK, having made lots of shirts over the years I should have twigged instead of just blindly following the instructions but I didn’t…

Having had my moan about the instructions, the actual shirt has come out OK!

Luckily when Bluprint had their free classes at the beginning of lockdown I watched one on sewing sheers and made lots of notes. I picked up lots of tips such as the size of needle, small stitch length, not doing a back-stitch at the beginning and using organza as an interfacing. I’ve decided when I next visit a fabric shop I’m going to buy some plain organza to have in my interfacings box, I ended up rummaging in my fancy textiles box, there was a silvery one and a slightly bronzy one which twinkles a bit but they did the trick.

I used french seams throughout except for the armhole which I just zig-zagged. I edge stitched round the collar and cuffs as well as the front button placket, it just helped to keep the edges crisp.

I finished it a week or so ago but I didn’t have any buttons, so the photo below is the buttonless one! I ordered some on line, they’re a ruby red shell button. I rather like the shell buttons as they’re very light weight. This evening I made the buttonholes as stitched the buttons on.

Have you ever noticed that even if you practise the buttonholes beforehand, the automatic buttonholer makes a beautiful buttonhole until the moment you relax, usually about three or four buttons in, before it throws a wobbly and jams half way through. This means that even if you start with something like the bottom one just to make sure it’s working OK, it always blobs on the most obvious one, like the bust buttonhole!! At least it’s covered up by the button!

I’m really pleased with my shirt, I just need to make a camisole for underneath and something to wear it with – I’ve a pattern for a Morticia (Adams) skirt which might just work.

Posted in Dressmaking, Serendipity | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Antique Quilt HQAL

I haven’t got very far with my antique quilt, but I have made a start. This is an unfinished quilt which my daughter found when clearing her grandmother’s house. It’s a tumbling blocks pattern and from what we can deduce from the backing papers, it’s from around 1880!

Having taken advice from a nearby museum which specialises in textiles, I am aiming to finish it but also make a record, such as a book, of what I have done and anything I’ve discovered. The main body of the quilt is about 85″ by 58″, there’s also several part-pieced strips, waiting to be added, so I can fairly easily make it a little wider.

I decided to remove the remaining papers before I stitched the pieces together. I realise this isn’t the usual way of doing English paper piecing, but having been stitched down for nearly 150 years, I think the crease will stay there. More importantly, many of the papers won’t survive the handling involved when I try to stitch it, some are just newspaper which is already starting to disintegrate. These papers are the only chance we have of working out who may have made it.

As you can imagine, I kept getting distracted trying to read the snippets from the papers…

Henry Charles Butler, of Downland House, Bramshott, in the county of Southampton, Esquire, hereby give notice that I will NOT be RESPONSIBLE for DEBT or DEBTS my wife, ELIZABETH ANNE BUTLER…CONTRACT without my written authority and permission. I further Give Notice that she has no authority in any way to use my credit”

Ooh dear!

Or how about this …

FOR LADIES ONLY; Things a married woman cannot help thinking;

That she was a very pretty girl at sixteen. That she had, or would have had, a great many good offers. That all her lady friends are five years older than they say they are. That she has a very fine mind. That if her husband had acted on her advice he would be a richer man today. That her mother-in-law is a very trying woman.

As I said, I got waylaid! However, I have found a couple of useful snippets, two dates, one of 1876 and one of 1880, and a piece of a document which mentioned Sheffield. This is important as it suggests which branch of the family made it. Several years ago I looked into their family tree for my daughter and I recall a branch lived in Sheffield at about that time.

It’s been interesting looking more closely at the quilt. The stitches are so tiny, I counted one section to be about 20 stitches to the inch! Many of the diamonds themselves are also pieced and some of the seam allowances are very narrow! Some of the pieces are stained, but as the adjoining ones aren’t, I can only presume either the fabric was already stained, or it was stained as a prepared diamond but used anyway. There’s a huge variety of fabric, some of it feels almost waterproof, as if it has some kind of coating on it. I even found a pin still in the fabric, I’m not sure what it’s made of as it looks black and not particularly rusty.

I’ve counted the spare blocks and I have enough for another two rows which would make it more of a square. I just need to find some vintage creamy white fabric which will blend in for one row of adjoining diamonds.

I love the complete mix of fabrics, especially the occasional pop of red, it’s a true scrappy quilt! Hopefully next time I share this quilt with you I’ll be stitching the blocks together.

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.

Kathy, Margaret, TracyDeb, Susan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, Gretchen, Kathi, Daisy, Connie, Monica and Sherrie

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Autumn Leaves

Yesterday I decided it was time to stitch another entry for a travelling sketchbook from my Embroiderers Guild. This is the last one in the current round. The book this time was on the theme of leaves. I had a perusal on Pinterest for a bit of inspiration, but nothing really caught my eye. I did see one which was like a little crazy patchwork sort of thing with a leaf in one quarter, so that was my starting point…

I started having a rummage in my textile box and found some Harris tweed squares in autumnal colours. I happened to spot a scrap from a chiffon shirt I’ve just made which had a dark red leaf in just the right size. A further rummage in my box and I found a scrap of chiffon/silky stuff in gorgeous autumn colours and some stuff which was part of an experimental dying session at an Embroiderers Guild workshop. I can’t remember what it started out as, but it was the right colour, gave a bit of texture and reminded me of skeleton leaves or rough bark. I cut a narrow strip for the centre and later some leaf shapes from a different colour batch. It was starting to take shape…

I used variegated DMC threads mainly. I used a simple running stitch to hold the main pieces in place with calico on the back for support. The centre strip is stitched on with a simple leaf design using fly stitch. In the bottom space I did a simple back-stitch outline of a leaf and then used what I think is called chevron stitch to fill it in, the back-stitch somehow gives a neater edge.

I wasn’t sure at first how to fill the long space to the left, I decided to do a chain stitch stem with spaces for thee leaves, initially planning to embroider the leaves. I then spotted the other piece of stuff I’d dyed which was a perfect colour for autumn leaves, they could be stitched on again with fly stitch.

My final bit of stitching was to add a silver running stitch round the red leaf to look like a frosted edge, it just helped to lift it.

I’m pretty happy with how this one came out, I think the different textures and colours give a good representation of autumn leaves.

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts on Sunday for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link for more stitching inspiration.

Posted in embroidery, Textile Books, The Travelling Sketchbook | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Pink Dragonflies

At the weekend I finally got round to having a photo taken in a dress I made a couple of weeks ago. It’s sort of a practise run for sewing with sheers as one of my challenges this year (2020 Vision) is to sew a sheer shirt. On one of my trips to Dewsbury to fabric shop I fell for a raspberry pink cotton lawn. It’s very fine, I think it’s called acid-etched cotton as the design is the sheer bit. I’ve fallen for this type of fabric three times now, all from Lucky Fashions in Dewsbury, probaby for around £5 a metre. I made a dress from a length in teal in 2018, I’ve worn it quite a few times…

This time I made the pink up, as you can see it’s very pink, what I would call raspberry pink and the pattern etched out is a multitude of dragonflies. These fabrics are not as sheer to wear as you would think, you can see the top area with my arm behind really isn’t that see through, though with a bit of light behind it’s a different matter! Having said that, I do need to make an underskirt of some kind to wear for a bit of modesty!

I decided to make a shirt waiter dress, a nice cool looking one for summer. I rifled through my patterns and decided on Vogue 9371, it’s part of the Vogue Easy Options and as shirt-waister dresses go, it is pretty simple.

It’s very loose fitting, there’s no darts to shape the back or front, and only side seams to stitch for the main body. I didn’t want to use a white interfacing, however thin, so instead I used some pink batik fabric I had in my stash which was the perfect colour, I just hand stitched it round the collar pieces and stitched as one, it worked really well.

I lengthened the skirt a bit, I do like my summer dresses pretty long. The cap sleeves were edged with bias binding and as it happened I had a perfect match of bias in my stash, I think it was some that someone passed on to me when clearing a house, it was meant to be!

I didn’t have any buttons to match but I did find just enough self cover buttons, not all exactly the same, but near enough. I made them with the batik behind again both to give a little strength and to stop the white plastic from showing through.

Please ignore the lockdown hair!!

It’s a pretty dress, I’m just not 100% sure about the pattern, I don’t feel it’s the most flattering, with all the gathering being created by the sash it’s not easy to get it to look neat. Maybe a proper belt would be better, or maybe I just need to wear it a bit, get used to it!

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

Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

I spent all day Saturday working on the front garden, I’d been feeling a bit down for a couple of days, just fed up of the whole situation at the moment, coupled with being tired from my return to work. Anyway after a day in the garden I felt so much better – and the front garden looked better too! I weeded my worries away!

This area in front of the house is actually quite big, at a rough estimate I’d say 10′ – 15′ deep and 30′ long – it’s L-shaped. I’ve got a few nice shrubs but it is overrun with marestail in particular. I’ve been trying to clear it and dig it over for the last few months, digging out as much marestail root as I can. I’m aiming to clear as much as I can and then put a double layer of membrane down and some mulch, anything that comes through (and it will, marestail grows through tarmac!!) will be weed-killered. I’ll plant a few more shrubs and roses, trying to make it lower maintenance. I’ve a friend who’s a gardener, she came round last week and she’s agreed to do a morning in my garden this week, I’m hoping this will be a monthly occurrence! Just a little help to help me get on top of the garden.

I’m also hoping we’ll be able to thrash out a plan as I feel I need a path down the middle of the bed, mainly for access, but it does also reduce the planting area! I’ve a handful of ‘precious’ shrubs such as the purple and the gold cotinus and the magnolia tree to work round. I love the gold cotinus in particular, it’s grown to a lovely shape and it’s one you don’t often see. Other shrubs such as the spirea are easily replaceable, so if it’s in the way of the path it’s not the end of the world.

Anyway on Saturday I dug up all the shallow rooted weeds such as buttercup, pulled up annual weeds and just pulled up marestail stems. It will grow straight back but I couldn’t see the weeds for the marestail!!! This area to the left is much heavier clay too, though it’s much easier to work after the rain we’ve had.

My friend and I had a good catch up in the back garden, she had a wander round and I had to laugh at her reaction to my hosta bed – ‘What on earth have you been feeding those with!!’ One of them in particular is like verging on thigh height! I admitted I hadn’t fed them anything, they just seem happy there!

My foxtail lillies are starting to flower, they look great next to the self-seeded foxgloves, lots of spires! This is in the Amber & Amethyst garden.

There’s also lots of foxgloves around the obelisk too, you can also just see the astrantia, I think it’s called Hadspens Blood, it’s a lovely deep ruby red colour. The starry eyingium is starting to ‘flower’ too, I only put this in last year and I can’t remember how big it will be, but the ‘stars’ look pretty impresive so far! I’m pleased with the rose too, it’s a ramber and this year I spent an afternon tying the stems down, twisting them round the obelisk as the horizontal stems flower much better. It’s certainly the best year so far with blooms all the way down.

Our weather at the moment is very mixed, cold and wet one day, warm and sunny the next, so the poor plants keep putting blooms out only for them to be bashed by wind and rain. This is a gorgeous peony which is doing it’s best!

My roses are just starting to flower – they’re quite late as I was very late pruning them. This one is down by the arch on the patio, it’s mingling nicely with the geraniums and the astrantias, I think this one is Gentle Hermione…

In the same bed is this huge geranium, I think it’s Anne Folkard, it has lovely magenta flowers, it’s just getting rather big and it seems to have spread to the bed above! I’m undecided what to do with this one as it is getting rather large, but I also know it’s the worst soil of the garden, so I’m just pleased it’s happy. I keeping planning to dig over this bed, add loads of compost and start again…maybe I’ll just spread the compost and let the worms take it down!

Overall, if you don’t look too close at the weeds, the garden is looking pretty good, there’ll be a bit more colour once the roses start to flower properly. If I can just get on top of the perennial weeds it is actually quite low maintenance, as from late spring to early autumn, the beds are so densely planted I struggle to get on them. I just need to beat those weeds!!

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Bethlehem SAL

Last year I went on a workshop at Fabbadashery in Halifax, they hold some pretty good embroidery classes there. This one was by Deborah Mullins, I had been on one of her earlier courses and made a bookmark from a strip of Palestinian style embroidery…

Deborah spent three months in Israel and Palestine when her husband was on a sabbatical there. She chose to learn all she could about the different styles of embroidery there. Each area had a distinct style originally and Bethlehem embroidery was considered the best. The next workshop I attended of Deborah’s was called Bethlehem Embroidery, she was keen to point out it is inspired by and not a true representation of Bethlehem embroidery, especially as it’s on handmade felt, rather than dress fabric.

It was a one day workshop and Deborah taught us the various aspects of the embroidery, there wasn’t time to finish it, so by the time I left it was looking like this…

I’d learnt the chevron stitch, couched the central spiral of copper wire and couched a decorative thread next to it. I’d just started couching spirals of wire round the next border…and there I stopped until last night!!

The copper spirals are quite fiddly to do as you have to estimate how much wire you need, fold the end loop and then form the spiral in your fingers before stitching it down. The tricky bit is the estimating! Some of mine are bigger than others, some more widely spaced…it’s organic!!!

I’m just stitching the last spiral, so it looks like this now…

I now have to decide how to proceed. Bethlehem embroidery is traditionally done with lots of continuous couching patterns – the bookmark above is made with one thread going up each side of the central wiggle, forming the flowers, hearts and loops. I might do a bit of couching to accentuate the spirals but then use other stitches around it. I haven’t decided which thread to use either, as the thread used so far is like a thick perle, I have very little like that so I have to decide whether to order some, or use a finer thread, or change to DMC stranded cotton. ..decisions! If you follow the link to Deborah’s website you will find several examples – here work is stunning!

This SAL is orgainised by Avis from Stitching by the Sea, we share our progress on a project every three weeks, please follow the links to see what every one else has been creating.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments