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Moving on up

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Hello! It’s a bit dusty round here, with a few cobwebs – hang on whilst I have a chean up. Right, that’s better, let’s get on.

So I’m still here (I seem to be saying that a lot lately…) but I’ve not been doing much in the way of crafty stuff and the urge to write seems to have left me. I have been getting on with other stuff though, which is doing me good – I think I got myself into a rut of knitting and sewing, which was good in some ways, but I needed to jolt myself back into achieving other things as well.

So I’ve been gardening, which is going quite well, the garden is looking better than it has for years, waking up my ebay bookshop, and reading more than I had been doing. I’ve also treated myself to a new camera – my old Panasonic had dust in the lens, and it was annoying me, so I decided to make the jump up to a DSLR and bought a Nikon D3200. I’ve been pointing it at things and pressing the button for a few months, with impressive results, but I did feel that I perhaps wasn’t getting the most out of it…! I did buy a book, but I only read the first few pages and now I can’t even find it. Oops.

So when I passed a temporary photography exhibition near my work with amazing photos of the local landscape in the window I stood and stared for a while,  but nearly chickened out of going in as there wasn’t anyone else in, but then I saw a leaflet saying that he also did courses, so I went in and had a chat to the photographer, Chris Ceaser (do have a look at his website, there are some fantastic shots on there).

I had a birthday coming up, so my parents offered to pay for a one day course, and last Saturday I spent the day with him and one other chap in the Yorkshire Dales around Hawes, learning about composition and how to set up the camera for best results, as well as using filters to balance the sky and land.

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We started off at this interesting barn just outside Hawes, with a winding river behind it. Click on photos to enlarge if you want to.

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Then we moved onto West Burton falls, which I think was my favourite location of the day.

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I loved the effect that a long exposure had on the water.

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Next up was a barn in a field of buttercups (they were everywhere, it was very cheerful).

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Playing with composition was interesting, and using a tripod made it easier to think about it instead of just pointing and pressing the button which has been my technique until now.

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Next we drove over the Buttertubs pass into Swaledale, land of sheep and field barns (you may remember a trip I made up there a couple of years ago). I photographed this barn then too.

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Our final stop was Gunnerside, which I haven’t visited before but is a classic valley bottom with barns and stone walls.

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I’ve intrigued to know who built this wall and why they put a kink in it!

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We were waiting for the sunset, but despite it being a glorious day from a having a day out point of view, the lack of clouds wasn’t brilliant for photography, especially at sunset, there were no spectacular pink skies, it just went dark.

We ended up with fish and chips on a bench in Hawes at 9pm at night which finished the day off perfectly, and got home just after 11pm – the latest I’ve been out for ages (how sad is that!)

Overall I had a great day, Chris was great company and very patient, and I really felt like I’d learnt something. The eight hours we were taking photos went in a flash, I kept being amazed at how late it was. I’ve ordered a tripod of my own now, hopefully it’ll be here later today so I might have a trip out tomorrow. Just hope I don’t feel too silly setting it up on my own – it was fine when there were a few of us – but I don’t really have anyone to go out with, so I’ll just have to get on with it!

And one last thing to mention – Chris is taking over the shop in York where he had his temporary exhibition on a permanent basis for his gallery, do if you’re visiting York this summer do pop in, it’s on Micklegate at the end towards the bar, next to the Post Office. He’s hoping to be open in a couple of weeks. He has lots of stunning framed photos and also sells mounted prints and cards.

Right, that’s enough for now. Maybe I’ll summon up the energy for a crafty round up next, but don’t hold your breath, I might be too busy gardening!

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Little squares quilt

You may (or may not!) remember a post I made a few weeks ago, about a cushion I’d made using a new-to-me method of piecing small squares accurately, using iron-on facing – the tutorial I used can be found here. The tutorial talks of facing with a 2” grid marked on it, and I eventually managed to track some down in the UK, which wasn’t easy, as not many places stock it, and then had a play with it.

I found five fat quarters from the same range in my stash, and cut them into lots of 2” squares, then started making layouts of 7 x 7 squares (that being the width of my ironing board, so easy to do…!)

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I completely failed at taking any sort of progress shots, this is the only one I managed, of the first square. This time I didn’t trim the seams and iron them flat, I simply pressed them to one side, then sewed the seams in the other direction, so there’s only twelve seams per block. You can see the lines of the seams a bit, but that would be eased by making the squares ever so slightly less than 2”, as in places they overlap, which adds bulk to the fold of the seam. I’ll try and remember for next time!

So I made nine blocks, then found an old duvet cover and cut strips of it to make sashing and binding, before backing it with calico for cheapness sake – this was really only me seeing how the blocks behaved in a quilt. With hindsight I’d have been better off using quilting fabric for the sashing, the duvet cover is pure cotton, but it had been washed quite a few times, so it’s lovely and soft, and contrasts rather too much with the stiffer blocks. But it’s not bad, I’d use this method again for quickness and accuracy.

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And this is the finished thing. You can see the sashing rippling slightly.

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I decided to put it over the end of my bed, to try and keep the cat hairs contained.

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Mollie loves it.

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Minnie had a go at lying on it, but really prefers to find the one bit of my bed it isn’t covering, so she can make it nice and hairy. Little minx.

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I just stitched along the seams of the sashing to quilt it. I machined sewed the binding on, from the front, which was only partially successful – I managed to miss the edge in a few places. I think that technique may need refining!

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It’s funny, but the patterns in the blocks show up much better on photos than they do in real life.

I’d used most of the 2” squares I’d cut, but there were a few left over, as well as a few that weren’t quite 2”, and I remembered another tutorial I’d found on Pinterest, to make a cover for a notebook. I again ironed the squares onto facing, in strips this time, and sewed the seams, then inserted them between pieces of calico, added some stiff facing, and ended up with this.

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Which makes a very ordinary A4 hardbacked notebook look much nicer.

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This is the back – you can see the dark blue boards slightly at the edge, which is a shame, but again it’s worse on the photo.

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It has pockets to hold it on.

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And there’s top stitching next to the pieced strip.

So there you go – it’s amazing what you can make with five fat quarters, an old duvet cover, facing, and some calico!

Little Houses

Once again, I’m all behind with my blog, but I have been busy – my finger seems to be better, after two whole weeks with no knitting at all (that was hard!) so I’ve started knitting again a bit, but I took the opportunity to do some sewing whilst I couldn’t knit, and now I can’t seem to stop making quilts…

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This was the jelly roll which first started me on the slippery slope of quilting – I saw it and a Monkey Buttons pattern, and just couldn’t resist having a go.

 

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The pattern’s called The House That Jack Built, and consists of three different house blocks. I decided to do all the roofs in red and green, and mix up the colours for the houses. But at that point I hadn’t leant the tricks to make piecing quicker, and it took me ages to do six blocks, at which point I put it all in a bag and left it there.

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I also wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the quilt once I’d done it, but last weekend I remembered about it and decided to just crack on with it regardless. It only took me a couple of evenings to do the rest of the houses, and I laid them out to make sure I’d got a reasonable mix of colours, before thinking about what to use for the sashing and borders. But the more I looked at the houses laid out on the floor, the more I liked them like that, and the panel was the perfect size for a wall-hanging on my stairs, so I just sewed them together as they were.

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Because it was for the wall, I didn’t do much in the way of quilting, just four horizontal stitch-in-the-ditch lines between the rows of houses. I used calico for the backing and the binding – it’s a very narrow binding, just 1/4”, as otherwise I’d have cut off the corners of the roofs.

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To hang it I stitched half square triangles into the corners when I sewed the binding on, and a loop in the middle – that’s just held down with a safety pin, it seemed easier than sewing it into place. I’ve just used a garden cane and a couple of nails to hang it.

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And this is how it looks in place -

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And the view from the front door – I’m really pleased with the way it fills the space there.

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The houses remind me of those seaside towns you get on the Yorkshire coast, where all the houses seem to be on top of each other.

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Like these houses in Whitby.

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I see the quilt every time I go up or downstairs, and it makes me smile. That’s a result, I think.

Another day, another cushion

A couple of days ago, I remembered about Pinterest – I set up an account on there ages ago, and made some boards and did some pinning, then forgot about it, largely because I bought an ipad and couldn’t find an easy way to pin from Safari, and because their app didn’t seem to do what I wanted it to.

But something inspired me to open the app again, and it’s lots better now. I also did some googling, and found how to add a ‘pin it’ button to my ipad bookmark bar, so I can pin things I find as I wander round the internet. I’ve gone a bit bonkers, pinning and repinning lots of things – apologies to anyone who follows me and is overwhelmed, it’ll calm down soon! I’m Minniemoll over there too, if anyone who doesn’t follow me wants to. Oh, and feel free to pin things from my blog if you want to – I know some people don’t like it, but I’m happy to be pinned!

Anyway, one of the things I found and pinned was a link to this tutorial, for an easy way to piece small squares of fabric, and yesterday afternoon I couldn’t resist sitting down and having a go. I found some scraps of the fabric I used to make flowers in the summer, and cut out 25 2” squares, five in each design. Then I cut a 10” square piece of fusible interfacing, and arranged the squares on it.

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I ironed them on, then did the first row of seams, just folding the fabric right sides together at every join.

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I trimmed the very edge of each seam – I started using a rotary cutter to just cut off a bit, which worked well for the edge seams, but not so much in the middle, where there was too much bulk under the ruler to hold it straight, so I used a pair of very pointy scissors instead.

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And ironed the seams flat. I know you usually press them to one side for quilting, but I think that would make too much bulk, with the interfacing as well.

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I then repeated the process with the other set of seams, and hey presto! A set of perfectly lined up squares with very little effort – just eight seams and a bit of ironing.

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Of course I then had to think of something to do with such a pretty thing, and a bit of digging found some offcuts of plain white fabric, so I gave it a border, attached some wadding, and quilted the border, to make the front of a cushion.

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Apologies for the photos above, by the way – I was snapping them on my phone, and it was a bit dark and murky yesterday.

I thought I had enough plain white to make a back for the cushion, but I didn’t, so I did a similar thing, but with a single piece for the centre. Then I sewed the two halves together, leaving a gap on one side, inserted the inner, and hand sewed it closed – I thought about putting in a zip, but I couldn’t be bothered.

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And this is the finished thing.

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You can see the quilting on this one – I used the darning foot for my machine, lowered the feed dogs, and swirled away. It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, and it frames the lovely panel nicely. The centre panel is 7.5” square, and the cushion is about 15” square.

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I’m still sewing, largely because I’ve done something to the bottom joint of the first finger on the left hand, which is making it hard to knit (I can use the second finger, but it’s not as easy, so I’m not knitting nearly as much as usual). I’m hoping it’s not RSI, and that I’ve just injured it somehow, but I’m starting to think that it might be :(

But at least with all my new fabric I have plenty to sew! I may have just slipped back into the shop and bought a bit more on Wednesday. Just possibly. Oops.

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There’s four more pieces of William Morris, a piece with gorgeous velvet flowers, and a couple of floral pieces. All for £38. There’s over a metre of each, and some have more than that.

But yesterday’s project involved some of the stuff I bought the week before, two similar Morris floral prints, on a linen-y type base fabric.

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I’ve had four of these Ikea cushions on my living room sofas for years now, and whilst I still like them, the embroidery was getting a bit tired and snagged, and I thought that a change would be good.

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So now they look like this. I also covered a little cushion that was hanging about, with a hole in its cover.

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They’re very simple covers, just a long strip of fabric round the length of the cushion. I used wonderweb to hem the folded edges, for ease and so that there were no visible stitching lines, then put buttonholes in one end, sewed them into and envelope, and sewed the buttons on. Nineteen buttonholes and nineteen buttons – it did get a little tedious, but it was worth it!

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They’ve brightened the living room up nicely :) Now what can I find to sew today?

William Morris quilt

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Last Wednesday I was on a lunchtime wander round York, when I passed a curtain shop with a small sign saying they had roll ends from £3 per metre, and bags of scraps from £5. I couldn’t resist a look, and was amazed to find that the bags of scraps were enormous bags of big pieces of lovely fabrics, much bigger than I was expecting. I did go a little bit crazy, ending up with two big bags of ‘scraps’, for £10 each, and £50 worth of roll ends. I had to leave them there as I couldn’t manage it all on my bike, and hold my impatience until I could go in in the car on Saturday. But it was worth the wait! I was like a child at Christmas as I unpacked it all :)

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This is the two bags of scraps – all William Morris Sanderson prints, mostly full widths of fabric, and varying between about 20cm and half a metre. There are multiple pieces of some of the fabrics too. I’m very pleased with this lot!

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And this is the bigger pieces, more Morris, and a few pieces of more contemporary designs.

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This is my very favourite piece, it’s a half width, but it has the full repeat of this beautiful tree on it, which is about 60x80cm. My first thought was to frame it, and I’m still thinking along those lines, but now I’m thinking it’d be nice to embellish it first by sewing over some areas with embroidery thread. So that might be a project for the future.

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But my first project was to make a quilt, to keep on the sofa for chilly evenings. I’d come across this old wool blanket a few weeks ago, and was thinking of upcycling it, so this seemed like the perfect chance, especially with the heavier upholstery fabrics. I reluctantly discarded some of the coarser weave ones, thinking they’d probably fray too much, and decided on six floral prints, with a leafy one for the background and backing – that was one of the ones I’d bought a roll end of, and there was more of it in one of the bags.

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I did some sums, and decided that for the size of my blanket, I needed 6” squares with 1.5” sashing in between.

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So I spent an evening cutting out squares, doing a bit of fussy cutting to centre the bigger designs.

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Then worked out a layout that looked random but does in fact have a pattern to it – the first six rows have one of each fabric in every row and column (think sudoku!) and the last row is a repeat of the first one.

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I took these photos on my ipad, and it was very handy when it came to checking the layout as I sewed the pieces together – new technology helping an old craft!

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I sewed all the smaller sashing pieces in first, then inserted the long horizontal strips, before adding borders.

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I didn’t want to quilt this, due to the thickness of the blanket in the middle, so I’ve tied it, one tie in the centre of each cross of the sashing. I hope it holds!

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I did sew the binding on by machine, using my walking foot, but as I suspected my machine really didn’t like it – it kept skipping stitches, leaving very long stitches, and generally misbehaving. But I got there eventually, and then spent an evening handsewing the binding down on the back.

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And this is the finished thing! It’s lovely and warm, and a good size for the sofa (about 45” x 51” – the blanket was a single bed size, but I think it had shrunk when I washed it years ago).

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Happy Christmas!

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I’ve been a rubbish blogger lately, I know. My new year resolution is to do better. But I have been making things, and to prove it, here’s the Christmas wreath I started a while ago.

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I’m incredibly pleased with it! And with the rattan circle I picked up from Hobbycraft (we now have one in York!) instead of the polystyrene circle I was thinking of.

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Before I glued the centre buttons in place, I threaded a length of florists’ wire through the shank, then bent it in half, and just pushed it into the wreath. The flowers are a bit liable to fall off if roughly handled, but it’s safely on the wall (I’m not risking it on the front door!) so they’re not going anywhere. I just need to find a suitable sized box to store it in.

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There are 25 flowers in total, with between five and ten petals each, so including the centres that’s over 200 circles of fabric I cut out. All by hand. I think I’m circled out for the time being! But I can see that a less Christmassy one would be pretty too, perhaps on a heart shaped base if I can find one.

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And that’s it from me for tonight. Have a lovely Christmas, may your stockings be full of wonderful crafty things (and if they aren’t, well, that’s the perfect excuse to treat yourself…!)

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