Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Suffolk Puffs

It has been a very wet day here today. Cold too, and we lit the fire this afternoon. I had to go out this morning, and never would have left the house if it wasn't necessary. There has been a lot of flooding around the city again. I haven't achieved a lot today. I did make the Suffolk Puff for the middle of my Dresden Plate. 

Firstly I cut a circle of fabric then folded in a small edge and tacked it down using doubled thread. 
Yes, my cutting mat is well worn. It is a family heirloom as it used to belong to Grandma, the legendary quilt maker. 

Once the edge is tacked down the thread is pulled tight to make the Puff. I thought this ended with a bit of a big hole in the middle. Maybe my tacking stitches were too small so there are too many wee gathers. 
It still looks sweet on the petals. 
I have to applique this onto the background fabric. I thought I would make a wee wall picture quilt, so I'll make a thin quilt sandwich and probably hand quilt it. I could use a spotty binding. 

Hopefully I can get more done tomorrow! 

Monday, April 28, 2014

A trip south

We went on an expedition south to Ashburton today on some family business. The rain was terrible, pelting down and making enormous puddles. Once we had attended to business we had lunch at the Speights Ale House, in the company of my gorgeous cousin Emily. Different Emily than horsey Emily, but also very horsey. Confusing. 

I think the very best thing about the day was seeing Emily's dearest, darling foal, who is half Gypsy Cob. He is absolutely stunning, and so different from Aria and Fergie (who are also divine, but leaner). I wanted to stay and cuddle him all day, but it was very soggy, so we had cups of tea, chocolate and gingernuts in the warmth, then headed home. 

Mr Mouse has been outside in the dark and has now come in, thank goodness. We worry about our furry cat child when he is adventuring. 
He looks rather grouchy. 
I was a bit tired after our big morning, so there really hasn't been any action in the craft department today. I did admire my almost finished Dresden Plate. 
I have to make a Suffolk Puff for the middle tomorrow. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dresden Plate

Today was not a particularly productive one. We went out for afternoon tea, so had to work around that. I did spend a wee bit of time in the workroom making decisions about ongoing projects, and finishing off the petals for this Dresden Plate, which is the project that came with Cath Kidston's Patch. There are several projects in the book that look like they would be fun hand-worked creations. 

The Dresden Plate block was originally designed during Victorian times, but became very popular in the 1920s and 1930s. It was named after the ornate china made in Dresden, but also appeared with different names, often flower related. My version has curved petals, but you can also make them with pointy tips, or just straight across creating a sort of circle. I have also seen them with each of the petals pieced (patchworked in different fabrics). 

I traced a template and cut my own freezer papers for each of the plate petals. The fabric is folded around the template and basted into place. I am working on joining them together now, just like I have been doing with the hexagons. Apart from the very clever freezer paper (which is used in the USA as a food wrap, and which can be ironed temporarily onto fabric to make excellent templates), my technique is entirely traditional. Modern patchworkers can purchase plastic templates for differing sizes of Dresden Plate blocks, and there are machine piecing techniques too. 

Hopefully I'll have my Dresden Plate done shortly. It's lovely to get some projects that have been lurking unfinished completed. I've got so many ideas for new things to try. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014


We had another beautiful sunny day today. It was hard to decide what to do first. I ended up working in the garden for quite a long time, pulling things out of the shady border, and trying to imagine what could look good there. It is very damp and shaded throughout the winter, but really dries out in summer. I have some small camellias, a michaelia and a rhodo, plus a plum and nectarine. I need lots more hellebores. Currently the Jacobs Ladder plants have self sown everywhere, so I am exercising my right to evict most of them. They really cling on and the soft stems and leaves tend to snap off at ground level, leaving vigorous root structures behind to regrow. They are not horribly invasive, just promiscuous. 

Johnny has been working on his latest masterpiece- a woodshed. He has done a fantastic job and now we can store plenty of wood for winter. Not sure what the next big project will be. I think he has definitely achieved something these holidays. 

I went out for another ride today, and we did really well again. Mrs Zanny is looking very furry. She was extremely reluctant to be a photographic model today, and this was the only photo I took of her smiling. My horsey friend came out and rode with me, which was fun, as always. She said Emily suggested get a stack of paper and put a piece under your bottom each time you canter. You've got to keep the paper there. Emily would be a very rich lady indeed if we used money, and she got to keep the flying $10 notes. My bottom was positively launched out of the saddle with each stride today. Zanny didn't seem to mind too much.  

My little hand-pieced hexagon project is expanding slowly. The fabrics are so pretty.
 I also finished off something that has been hanging around for several years this afternoon. It took me about 45 minutes, after all of that time it spent waiting for me to get onto it. Over complicating things in my head can really stand in the way of getting things done. I hand quilted the Philip Jacobs geranium fabric ages ago, and turned it into a cushion today.
 I love this fabric. It looks brighter in real life than it does on my screen.
I wonder what tomorrow's projects will be?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Hexagons- big and little

We have a very pretty post today, with some delicious fabrics, a practically perfect pussycat and something to really look forward to. Spring. We have had some lovely days, some rain and some overcast but warmish days over the last week. That's autumn for you. I planted some bulbs in my cutting garden - freesias, anemones plus some sweet pea seeds. I also put some anemones into pots (I bought a pack of 100, so had a few leftover from the rows in the cutting bed). 

Plump hyacinth bulbs were planted, and now I want some more. I planted two different blues, and my mind has now turned to pink and white ones. I didn't realise that the bulbs can irritate skin, and that explains why, after selecting two packs in the shop, then brushing my hair away from my neck, I got an intense itchy, burning patch of skin. Needless to say, I handled the bulbs with gloves on. 
 I purchased a pack of five mixed Iris Reticulata bulbs - gorgeous wee poppets! I originally planned to plant them in the garden, but thought I would be able to study them more closely in bloom if I planted them in a pot.

I'm having a mini obsession with hexagons currently. I am planning to use these bigger ones to make a quilt. No surprises there.
 Mr Mouse has not been quite so attentive, dedicating plenty of workroom time to napping, although he did get as close as he could to me.
 He looked so sweet fast asleep on a wee pile of scraps and felt.
 The hexagon fabrics are a mix of Lecien Sugar Flower, Pam Kitty by Lakehouse, and one or two other pieces from the rapidly shrinking stash. The round pink object they are sitting on is actually a cutting board that spins like a lazy Susan. I find it irritating to have to rotate myself around the fabric to avoid shifting it, and to cut safely away from myself with the rotary cutter. This is a crafty thing that allows you to spin the cutting surface around. It is only suited to smaller items, although these bigger hexagons are four inches, I think. I'm sure you can purchase much bigger ones, but this one didn't cost too much and is brilliant.
I had some excellent company. Goodnight Mister Tom is one of my favourite ever books, and the movie version is wonderful too. It does capture the feeling of the book, even if some elements had to be left out to create the screenplay.
 Here we've got the little hexagon family, which are to be entirely hand-pieced. I originally planned a cushion, but the fabrics look so joyous together that I think I won't be able to stop until I have a quilt that I can curl up under. I'm using the same fabrics as I have for the bigger hexagons, but have added some more colours in.
 I am using a very speedy technique. Well, speedy compared to paper piecing by basting each piece. I carefully cut the fabric using a plastic template, then iron them around my (shop bought) card hexagons, and use the sewline fabric glue stick to keep the wee foldovers in place. Then the fun bit begins, stitching each one to another, then another, then another... Once they are together it will be easy to remove the card hexagons and reuse them. Excellent! The scrap box is gorgeous too. I'll be making lots more little hexagons with these.
Maybe I should gets some really tiny hexagon cards and make teeny tiny ones.

I can't forget to mention Mrs Zanny, who was an exceptional steed today. We just gelled together beautifully today. I was a bit concerned that she might have thought it was a good idea to mess with me when I went to catch her like she did on Wednesday, but no, she seemed to be waiting for me, and happily gobbled up her carrots and came with me willingly.

We worked in the arena and had the most successful ride we have ever had when schooling. I really focused so hard on my position, and she was steady, sensible, and responsive the whole time. The big mirror is really helpful, although I do look very thick through the midriff when seated in the saddle. We even did some lovely cantering today and our transitions were superb.

 I think I'll have to have a lesson with Emily again soon. Right now I am concentrating as hard as I can on aligning my body correctly, and avoiding pushing my feet forward as I rise to the trot. When I push my heels down my feet come forward, which is guaranteed to make me look like a blobby amateur. Zanny looked stunning today. She has a delightful happy pony face when she's in a good mood. I am so proud of her. Maybe I should make her a hexagon quilt saddle blanket.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

On my knee tonight

Hand pieced hexagons. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Horses and Hexagons

I had another busy day and yes, I did fit in a ride. Mrs Zanny got a surprise when my horsey friend and I both arrived to catch the girls because Tara needed her feet trimmed. She decided to give us the run around, heading up the top end of the huge paddock, the trotting and cantering in circles around us. Naughty girl. I caught her once Tara was led out of the gate, and she acted all innocent, like she was a big hairy brown angel. 

Farrier day is busy, so there were lots of comings and goings in the yard. Zanny gets to hang out with the big, powerful sport horses. I find it all really fascinating. After the performance in the padddock I told Zanny we would be working in the arena. My horsey friend came out with her lovely boy, who is always a good companion for Mrs Zanny. We had a great time, and I worked really hard on trotting, balance, speed and steering. I was very happy with her. 

The foals were brought in for a trim with the farrier too, and they were good girls. They are cheeky, inquisitive creatures, and look sweet wearing little winter covers for the first time. I should have taken photos but I was filthy. I washed lots of mud off when I got home. 

I was trying to decide what project to tackle next, and have had hexagons in my mind for quite a while. I collected some Lecien fabrics together and sorted through them, trying to decide what worked best. I decided on a more co-ordinated group for a large hexagon pattern which has been updated a little with chevron sashing. The remainder, plus offcuts from the bigger project will be used to make chair cushions for the dining table. I want a real scrappy vintage look for those, but will still edit the fabrics to please me (no brown!). 

Photos today are Ipad ones, so not as sharp in the dim light of a cloudy day. 

I adore roses and spots. Perfection!
And suitable company for an hour of sorting and ironing:

Lovely, lovely, lovely! 

Chatting today, I found out that my lovely horsey friend is keen on the idea of making a quilt. I bet we'd get on just as well over a pile of fabrics as we do over our horses. I wonder what she likes? It amazes me how one thing can appeal to someone and be hideous to another. Yuck, brown. I loathe it unless worn by a tree or an animal. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wet again

Oh dear, another dreary day. I was pleased to be back in my workroom for some machine quilting. I decided that since I had been practising the stippling pattern, I would go with that for this project. I also considered following the pattern of the log cabin, but the irregular patchwork put me off a bit. 
 I use a free machine embroidery foot for this job. It is transparent plastic, so is invisible under the intense machine light (like magic!). The feed dogs are dropped - those are the cool little teeth that move the fabric along from underneath. I control the movement of the fabric with my hands, so no need to release the hounds. There is a wee switch on my machine to keep them caged. Some machines don't allow you to do that, but you can be cunning and cover them with some tape.
 Then off I went, meandering here and there, avoiding crossing my path. So much fun when it all goes well. My machine was on fire. Luckily not literally. Even the reverse side looks good!!!!
 I think my machine has seen me on the internet studying options for a replacement. We have had some challenges in our relationship of late.

Supervisor Mouse kept a close eye on proceedings too. Miss Dog was there, but she chose to avoid the camera, creating a confused black blur whenever I pointed it at her. She gets the most dopey embarrassed look in her eye, and then tries to upset Mousie. Note the large beanbag and the rather ugly plaid patterned cat house next to it. Mouse lives a life of utter luxury. Comfort is not always pretty.
 I got a bit of cabin fever at that point, and Johnny and I went out for a drive to do a couple of jobs. I persuaded him to pay a visit to Art of Sewing, which is on Division Street, Riccarton. I have not been there in many, many years, so wanted to take a look. It is a smallish shop absolutely jam packed with sewing and knitting/crochet goodies. They sell Janome and Elna machines, and have some at heavily reduced prices at the moment. They have a real mix of styles of quilting fabrics, something I find a bit off putting in a smaller space. It must be very hard for quilt shop owners to know what market to aim for. They've got so many ranges from batiks, a little Kaffe Fassett, earthy toned fabrics, New Zealand and other novelty prints, right through to the Lecien flower range I just adore.

When a shop has a really wide range of styles I think they need to be able to stock plenty in each range. Thimbles and Threads (Upper Hutt) and Cushlas (now in Mapua, but I see them at quilt fairs) have huge stocks of a wide range of styles. For example Cushlas had a brilliant range of 30s feedsack fabrics that I loved, but also lots of ranges that I would never want to work with. I guess more traditional patchworkers would find plenty to put together at Art of Sewing, but I would need to go elsewhere to put together enough fabrics for a project, I think. I was impressed with their haberdashery department, and could have hung around looking at the books for a while.

 The other quilting shops that I frequent all have their own niche, so I can decide where I'll go for a particular project based on what I know they stock. I guess you could call Art of Sewing quite a traditional sewing store. Stitch, at the top end of Colombo Street, is a much more modern quilting shop, with lots of bright colours and fresh looks. Make at Church Corner specialises in children's fabrics, but has some sweet Tilda fabrics and other things that young at heart grownups would love. They are a modern crafting shop too, and even have cake decorating supplies. Cottonfields, which I love to visit too, has lots of pretty things, and they have a wide range, tending towards the traditional. They also cater for the American style fabric crafter.

I have been thinking about where I want to go from here with my quilting style. For me, it is largely about the fabrics. I have been drawn towards the Kaffe Fassett Collective aesthetic- especially the work of Phillip Jacobs. I worked on this hand quilted panel a while ago, and pulled it out today to turn into a cushion. It is actually much brighter in real life than it looks on my screen. It is Kaffe Fassett's paperweights design. I ran out of steam hand quilting, so just finished stitching around the circles while I watched Breaking Dawn Part Two.
I dug out some denim to do the back of the cushion from the stash. It is just a simple envelope cover, and I stitched the leaf pattern to put my machine through its paces.
Wow, it behaved perfectly!
One plump cushion finished. Another work in progress extracted from the craft cupboard and finished. Very satisfying, and so easy. Maybe I should start doing some simple tutorials.
The trouble is that I'm really confused about what I really love. I seem to have clashing preferences. I do know what I definitely don't like. Maybe I need to explore this over the next couple of weeks. 

PS- It might be fine enough for a ride tomorrow morning. Yay! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Log cabin - of sorts!

Today dawned clear and gorgeous. I rode Zanny two days in a row, and gave her a break today. She isn't a spring chicken any more, after all! Last time I rode three days in a row she was lame on the third day, so I told her I hope to see her tomorrow instead. By then we'll have a freezing southerly wind with rain probably. I already filled the green bin, so you know what that means! Crafting!

First up, I had a wee practise on some free machine quilting, which is something that you need to keep working at. It can be a bit tricky, but I love it, especially on small projects. Bigger quilts are a trial to quilt on a home sewing machine, although it can be done. I've got one quilt top that I have been reluctant (scared) to finish because it is huge, and I really want to quilt it all over, rather than tie it. No such problems with these wee creations, which may be pot holders or trivets, although they would get very grubby and would be prettier just on display in the kitchen.

This one is quilted in a swirly pattern. It is a while since I free machine quilted, so there were some uneven stitches, and bubbles.

 If you look closely at the reverse there are lots of tension issues, knotty bits and uneven bits. Problem solving - I forgot to lower the feed dogs. That probably explains some of the knotting on the back. I also should have used a new needle. Quilting is hard on needles, and a nice sharp one is the best idea. Sadly I have run out of spare needles. Looks like I'll need a visit to a quilting shop soon. Oh dear. How unfortunate.
 So, ignoring the need to replace the needle, on I went. This one is sort of stippled, which is a wavy pattern that doesn't cross over. Very tricky to get your head around after doing the swirls above.
 Much more even with the stitching, and presentable on the back too.
 Once I had those whipped up, I was planning to add the binding, but nothing appealed from the stash. How can that be? I have all sorts of bits and pieces. In the process of hunting I found this bundle of fabrics from a former project and decided to have a go at a log cabin block. I've never made a log cabin block before, and thought the range of strip sizes and lengths, along with one small piece of the feature fabric, would be perfect.
 I ironed everything carefully, and cut some pieces into narrower strips. No measuring though.
 The traditional log cabin block uses strips of an even width. My block is the more modern uneven log cabin.
 Mr Mouse loves a warm ironing board, and supervised very closely. I had to avoid ironing or trimming the fur on his tail.
 I had a lovely pile of matching strips. It was a very good idea to keep the bundle of leftover fabrics together, all tied up with a ribbon.
 I started with the square of floral fabric and sewed on a strip, then trimmed.
 The iron was on throughout the process so that each seam could be carefully pressed. Most of the seams were pressed open.
 Lovely, we're off!
 Then I kept adding strips, moving around the central point, ironing each seam before sewing the next strip on. I am lucky to have a 1/4 inch quilting foot, which helps me to sew even seams. I usually sew seams like I've been knocking back the Midori and lemonade, so the special foot really helps.
 How much fun is this??!! I absolutely loved working on this.
 I couldn't resist taking it outside for a photo or two.
Here it goes all pieced.
 And the next step was to make a quilt sandwich (top, batting, backing), pin, and then machine quilt. Here it is, bristling with quilting pins.
I experimented with leaving the pins open on the trivet thingies, and, apart from one pin being launched into the wild blue yonder when I accidentally hit it with the sewing machine foot (never to be seen again!), it worked very well. I left all of the pins open on this block too. I always close them up on bigger quilts because being poked by pins as I machine quilt is guaranteed to make me wild. 

Next time you see this I'll be quilting it. I can't wait! I needed to help Johnny with some junk disposal outside, and then we went out with Miss Dog for a meander around the nature reserve and new subdivision, so haven't got onto it yet.

What a great day. I'm really keen to try some more challenging quilt projects, and to learn some new skills. I do love a simple quilt made up of squares, but there is a whole world of possibilities out there. Time to explore.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

 What a lovely Easter Sunday we have had! There are Easter Bunnies here and there.

 Last year I had an Easter tree display, but Mr Mouse took rather a paws-on interest in it, so I decided to pop my Easter goodies among my pretty china.

 Mr Mouse did have a go at "catching" my wee birds among the teacups, which was a little alarming.
 He is especially fond of this green one, and you can see the tooth marks on its face.
 Of course there was a bit of chocolate gifted and shared around here. We haven't had much chocolate lately, so it really is a treat. I love the manic chocolate button eyes on the bunny illustrations on my button egg box.
 Johnny's Easter Bunny was viciously attacked by our bunny hunting kitty cat.

 Oh no- the Easter Bunny is a goner!
 We've had a seriously large crop of what I now consider to be green Easter eggs. Take a look at this immense feijoa- over 250 grams in weight!!!
 Compared to a regular marshmallow egg it looks enormous. I should really eat it, but I can't stop admiring it. I didn't have the same trouble with the marshmallow egg. Mmmm- it was delicious!
 I just did a wee bit of sewing today, piecing some scrappy pieces to make some trivet things (I think), and to practise my machine quilting. Pretty fabrics are perfect for Easter Sunday.
I'll show you the quilting when I've got a bit more done. Let's just say I wasn't too pleased with the reverse side. Come on sewing machine! Don't give up on me now!

No such trouble with Mrs Zanny today. She is all fluffy now, and I had quite a bit of work to do to get rid of the mud in her coat. I discovered that I had missed a big clod of dirt stuck in her mane once I scrambled on board. We went to the arena to do some skills practise, as it was very quiet on the farm. We were getting on really well until a surprise sent her into a frenzy of horror. A pinto (skewbald) pony appeared through a hidden back gate to the stud farm next door, and Zanny got a horrible fright and panicked a bit. Luckily I did not, and managed to turn her towards the completely harmless looking pony so that she could have a good look. I guess a strange patchy thing appearing unexpectedly when you don't have good eyesight (she's blind in one eye), would be alarming, but she acted like she'd never seen a pinto before (I know in her 19 years she must have seen plenty). My darling drama queen.

I hope the Easter Bunny got to you before Mr Mouse got to him!