Friday, 30 December 2011

New Year round up

I've been whinging so much lately about my lack of productivity, so I thought I would do a wrap up of what I did achieve this year sewing wise.

I surprised myself going back over things and there are quilts I forgot.

I managed to do a dresden plate and feel I got a good handle on curved seams with the mini drunkards path. My FMQ came along in leaps and bounds and I am much more confident with it.

My biggest delight was quilting smaller blocks and learning how to join them into a bigger quilt. It makes the whole quilting progress so much easier.

I still have a load of unfinished tops but not quite as many as this time last year. I'll do another post of my outstanding craft projects.

As for New Years Eve, I am going to spend it tucked up indoors with my Mum and champers and a nice roast dinner (yes I can cook if I have to). There is a family party that we've been to a few times just behind the London Eye which gives a great view of the fireworks but it means driving and then the roads out again are closed until after 3am. As Mum is now 76 she feels getting home around 4am is too much and I'm happy as I don't have to stay up late and sober!

Enjoy whatever revels you have planned, see you next year with news of my giveaway.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Falling apart...

Seriously, something is wrong with me the last few weeks. I know I turned 42 last month but I didn't expect old age to hit my body quite so soon.

The week before Christmas I pulled a calf muscle just strolling along to the station which was agony. The same day I ended up with food poisoning and all that entails follow a day later by a monthly migraine!

All cleared up for Christmas day which was as grim as I expected but over for another year and then two days ago I woke up with a crick in my neck that had got so bad I can't move my head, not left or right, not up nor down! Try sleeping with that, it isn't fun I tell you. I ended up propped up sitting in a nest of pillows and cushions to get some rest last night!

Its all a bit ridiculous...

As for next Christmas, I'm determined to do something different and stuff what family may say. I want to take my Mum to a nice hotel for the few days so at least we can relax and get spoiled. I imagine it to me like something out of Miss Marple full of the grey rinse brigade with bingo and tiffin.

Has anyone done this? We are thinking somewhere like Eastbourne so we get the sea air. Any recommendations gratefully received!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Still mojo-less

I haven't got my quilting mojo back yet for some reason. Its been weeks and the only thing I've done on the sewing machine is two string blocks, then I ran out of steam again.

I have been doing some needlepoint though, I've discovered I don't need to feel so creative for that as I can just sit on my backside in front of the telly and stitch. I've been working on this kit and just have the borders to do so at least I can feel I've achieved something!

As well as the missing sewingin mojo, I'm also missing the Christmas spirit this year! Bah humbug. But, I'm off soon to meet a mate for lunch and see the new Sherlock Holmes film so a good gossip and mindless action will keep me occupied today!

I've also realised as a blogger not only am up coming up to my two year anniversary but I'm also getting close to 200 posts! So, in the new year I will be doing a giveaway, my first one! I'm not quite sure what it will be for yet, but have an idea.

And as for all the sew mama sew giveaways I looked at last week, did I win big? No, not a flaming one! Serves me right for being greedy. Ha ha.

Monday, 12 December 2011


Oh my Giddy Aunt! Have you seen how many giveaways are over at already.

I was all set to get back on the sewing horse today after a few stalled weeks and then I saw what was going on. I forsee a lot of wasted hours this week browsing through all the amazing bloggers giving stuff away.

People are so generous, I feel like such a greedy guts entering loads of them when I'm not giving away anything, but will it stop me? Hell no....

Friday, 9 December 2011

Favourites thing friday

Its Friday's linky party again and for more fav head over to our hostess Mrs P at

My fav this week is live theatre. I've been going fairly regularly since my Mum took me for my 16th Birthday to see Me and My Girl with Emma Thompson and Robert Lindsay. He was a much bigger star than her in those days (can we still remember Power to the People?)

I like pretty much all genres, Shakespeare, musicals, comedies, tragedies, old and modern. Good theatre, can make you happy, sad, laugh til your belly hurts and weep buckets, sometimes all in one play. The best actors can somehow create an electric charge in the place that is mesmerising and you can feel down your spine.

Over the last few years my visits are a lot more erratic. Because I am a freelance contractor, I can't plan very far in advance when I'm not working as I might get a contract too far away and waste the tickets but then also when I am working, I'm nearly always too far away.

I haven't worked now since August and probably won't until the Spring when I know there is a job for me so I finally got myself a bit organised and booked some tickets.

Over the last few weeks I've seen:

Two Irish plays, "The playboy of the western world" and "Juno and the Paycock". Despite my Irish heritage, somehow these were the first Irish plays I've seen. Each of them had one of the Cusack sisters starring in them which was a bit spooky. They are both from the 1920 era but the language wasn't any different to what you would hear in Irish country pubs today. I enjoyed them both, but Playboy was less serious and more fun.

A farce, One Man Two Govnors. This stars James Corden and he was very very good. I laughed a lot but there was a lot of slapstick in it which isn't for me. I was very much in the minority, but I don't find it funny when an character who is supposed to be 87 gets slapped around and pushed down the stairs and doors slammed in their face. I know there is a great deal of skill to it but I could have done without those parts.

A contemporary play, Jerusalem. This stars Mark Rylance. Now you may not know who he is as he doesn't do much film work, but he was the first artist director of The Globe when it opened and was there until a few years ago. The pundits have him down as the best actor of the age; I agree. I saw him at the Globe doing Richard II and it was amazing. Not long after I saw Kevin Spacey also played Richard II at The Old Vic and was nothing in comparison.

In Jerusalem he plays a monstrous, alcoholic drug dealer. A character than doesn't appear to have any redeeming features, yet by the end I felt sorry for him, but only because of the performance. Its a difficult play with a lot of swearing and long, but one that will stay in my memory for a long time.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Retreat time

I don't know if you have notice yet, but the Fat Quarterly crowd are having a retreat in London next May.

Woo hoo, nice and easy for me, I've already booked my tickets. And an added temptation for those of you who don't know this fair city, the venue is just down the road from the fantastic fabulous Victoria and Albert Museum which I maintain is the best in the world.

For more info check out the Fat Quarterly website at

See you there...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Finally some sewing mojo back

I haven't had much, but I did make this bag for my niece this weekend. She surprised me no end by saying she like Cath Kidson stuff. She is a teenage girl who is usually on the grungy end of fashion so I was really taken aback by it.

I found a fat quarter set in John Lewis so just went for it. It turned out around 12 x 16 inches which I think is a good size. I cut old jeans into 2.5 inch squares to make the main body and then straight stiched to help reinforce the seams as denim frays very easily.

I put some velcro in the outer pockets and made some inner pockets for the first time. It all turned out better than I expected. It probably isn't big or robust enough for school as they had to carry so much around all the time, but should be good enough for taking her ipad around. Assuming she like it, by Christmas she may have gone of the Cath Kidson anyway!

Sorry for the rubbish pics, but its been so dark today nothing I could do improved them...

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Still a bit blah!

I haven't really got my quilting mojo back yet.

What with family crap and having a birthday this week I've not been in a very creative mood. Birthdays are not good times for me as they bring up a lot of bad stuff so I sort of dread them as I don't seem able to ever truly shake myself out of it. As long as I make it past the day without feeling like I've had a total meltdown then it is a success.

I did get taken out by my Mum for a lovely lunch on the day, so it wasn't all bad!

I have started thinking about quilt designs in bed again, so I think my mojo is coming back.

I finished off two more cushions, both of these were made to use up spare thread. I really love bargello in stitching and it was one of the first designs I tackled when I started quilting as well. I didn't get great coverage of the canvas in the first one but I've always loved the second. I love how it makes your eyes go funny when you look at it too long!

I also framed an old cross stitch. This is the only one I've ever done on black canvas and it wasn't easy. On top of that there is a lot of metallic thread in there which is hard to use. But, I do love dragons, I always have so I'm glad he has finally got finished. I just need to decide where to hang him now, he is sitting in the fireplace at the moment while I decide. I couldn't get a pic without showing the flash reflected in the glass, but at least you can see what a cute face he has!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

More cushions

Before I start on the cushions, I just wanted to say thank you for all the lovely messages I got in response to my last post. I can't tell you how much they helped me.

I haven't been in a quilty mood, its been more a parked on my bum watching crappy telly mood and I've been doing some stitching that didn't require much thought or creative energy.

I have managed to finish off a few more cushions though.

This one is the first cushion sized needlework I ever finished, my Mum bought me the kit for my 17th birthday. 25 years later its finally finished!

This one was a few years later when  I was about 22. I was suffering from what I know now to be depression for the first time and took myself of alone to Brighton for a week in Feb to get away from it all. I took this kit with me and did most of it then. I remember watching the remaking of Cape Fear on video down there one evening and getting so scared I had to wait until morning to watch the end!

This pink and cream one dates back to that time as well I think, I have this in green and pink as well which I bought years later. It was only when I finished the second one that I realised I had done it before.

These next few were presents over the years.

And this last one was an improv piece to used up left over thread from kits I've made over the years. I've only just made the connection to my scrap quilts, clearly it is not just fabric that I hate throwing away as I've also saved the leftovers from stitching kits as well.

I just started in the middle and kept working outwards with a variety of different stitches and threads. I bordered it today with the same old curtain material I am using for the cushion backs to make it big enough, I'm really pleased with how it looks.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Toxic people

I wasn't sure about writing this post, it's been in my mind for a long time but events in the last few days have made me reconsider.

It get a bit heavy, so by all means, skip it if you want and normal crafting will be resumed soon.

I grew up with a lot of toxic people, very very close family. People who never take responsibility for their own actions.

Who always blame the past for the harm they do in the present.

Who expect people around them to give them love, support and money all the time but can't even give back basic good manners in return, never mind anything else.

Who are jealous of good things that happen to other people, even if they are working really hard to have this good thing happen.

Who tell so many lies its hard to believe anything they say.

Who are such bad parents that you can see the same damage being done to their kids as was done to them.

Over the years I've lost touch with most of these people and I don't regret it in the least. The only regret I have is that family isn't supposed to be like this and I wish I had experienced the "normal" ups and downs. I know it has affected me and I am responsible for how I have let it impact my life as an adult.

This weekend, I heard that one of the few of these toxics left in my life might have cancer. Some people who know us both with have all sorts of expectations on how I should react and respond to the news, but the truth is it left me with no real feelings whatsoever. Just the same as if you heard it about a passing acquaintance.

That might make me sound hard and heartless, but as far as this person is concerned I have nothing left to give. Even the story that we heard was contradictory and garbled, so I don't even know how much I believe. My main concern is for this persons child who is lovely.

My reaction to all the internal scars I have has been to try and be the opposite of the toxics all my life, but that isn't right either. What I am working on now is being truer to who I really am, and if that means being selfish at times, or not putting on a happy face to stop others feeling uncomfortable, so be it.

I am not going to pretend to care about this person just to meet others expectations and if they don't want to understand why I am like this than too bad!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Favourites thing friday

Once again the lovely Shay is hosting FTF over at

Today I'm going to continue the theme for the week with more old crafts items that I am digging out and displaying. This is a three-fold fav.

Firstly, I'm really enjoying re-discovering things I've made in the past that have been tucked away, out of sight and out of mind (in some cases for many years). They are bringing back a lot of memories but they are also having a big impact on my confidence. I have a problem that I've been working on with giving myself suitable credit for what I can achieve (not just with crafts but all walks of life). I look and these items and think, "shit, they are really good! I've got good skills that I could make them." I tend to underplay my skills for various reasons and this week, I'm not going to.

These little embroideries were all done at various points in the 90's. The oval ones spent a few years on the walls at my Mums before '94 but haven't seen the light of day since.

My second pleasure is that I am getting them on walls or into cushions on display so that I can enjoy them moving forward. I'm really pleased with myself for getting motivated enough to get this done.

Thirdly, dealing with turning the needlepoints into cushions. For some reason when I started needlepoint when I was 16 (a few years ago) I got it into my head that finishing them off into cushions would be really hard, so I left them, and left them, and left them...... until I am 41 (nearly 42). What a long time to have a fear for, especially as it has turned out to be so irrational. After finishing 7 off, I can now say hand on heart "this is easy". A part of me wants to kick myself for letting it be an issue for so long, but the bigger part is saying, it doesn't matter as long as I have cracked it now.

This one is the biggest I have and the kit for it was an 18th birthday pressie. I finished it within a year so its been in the cupboard for more than half my life!

This one is a style I really enjoy doing (in fact I have it in another colourway but not finished yet) as it has a nice variety of stitches.

I also like this one as I do enjoy Celtic style art and again it had a few different stitches.( not that clear as blogger has decided to turn the pics again).

So thats my favourite this week, finishing off things that have been left for years and enjoying the end results.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

More zips - I am finally cracking them!

Well, when I say cracking them, I mean in the loosest way possible. I have put two more into cushions today and for the second one (my fourth overall) there was no unpicking needed!!! None! None at all. Go me!

I won't bother showing the backs this time as they all look the same as they all use the dark brown old curtain fabric but below are the fronts.

These aren't that old either, I made both of these a few years ago, just before I got hooked on the quilting so they haven't had to wait too long for completion. And I've just noticed, would they both make great quilt patterns?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Zip ahoy!

I did it, I got another zip into a cushion back. It wasn't without its complications and a bit of unpicking was required, but it was a lot easier than the last one I tried and I felt a bit more in control of the experience.

I've dug out a few old needlepoints that have been waiting for a long time to be finished off so watch this space!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A procrastinator - Moi?

Now once or twice I might have mentioned my problem with procrastination, but you might not realise quite how bad it is.

Over the last few days I've tackled a few bits that have been outstanding for years. It was prompted by my little mini quilts that I made. I knew I wanted them on the wall, but thought it was highly likely they would end up stuck in a cupboard for years. I didn't know how to get them up on the wall as I didn't want to hammer nails. I trawled amazon and found 3m Command hanging strips. I wasn't sure if they would stick to the fabric and then to the wall, but to my surprise they did! And they seem to peel off the wall again without taking the paint off!

When I ordered these strips, I also went for a few frames. I have a load of things that need framing but they are so expensive in shops. The vendor I found on amazon seemed a lot more reasonable, also I had a load of gift vouchers thanks to my credit card spending so they were all free.

So I got busy. This picure I bought about nine years ago - its been waiting patiently to go up since them and although it isn't a perfect fit, I like it in the hall.

Then here, above the fireplace in the dining room a few more. The dark picture I bought I think about 10 years ago, the little flower was given to me by a friend  again at least 10 years who had bought it in France and then never did anything for years with it  and the Egyptian Papyrus was a gift from a friend of my Mum. Sadly she passed away, over 15 years ago! Its been in a plastic bag all this time!

Then I have some needleworks that I framed but never put up. Just to show how long thing can get out off with me, the dates on this are 1993 and 1994. Thats a long time between making them and displaying them!

I need to dig out some more of my old work and get them up on the walls finally, these little strips should work a treat.

I also had a bit of a fabric tidy up. I'm embarrassed to say, it has been creeping all over the house and I totally forgot what I had.

I still have a load in the dining/sewing room, but the rest all made it into these wire baskets (which were until recently full of old curtains that have now gone to charity). There are 6 drawers stuffed full of fat quarters and yardage like these.

And a small drawer with pre-cuts... but the 3 new jelly rolls that arrived as I was preparing this post won't fit... Oops!

On a complete tangent, has any UK readers noticed the Royal Mail deliveries getting odder lately? I have had deliveries the last two sundays! And my fabric arrived at 6.15pm today.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Its friday again

Head over to visit Shay and see others Favourite Things Friday at

Today, I went to see an exhibition at The British Museum curated by Grayson Perry with a lot of his own work and selected objects from the collection. It is titled The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman. You can read about it here

I wasn't sure what to expect of his work as all I really knew about him was that he is a tranvestive potter with a teddy bear. He gets quite a lot of press but what I've seen is about him, rather than his work.

As it happened, I thoroughly enjoyed it. His work really made me smile and I mean a proper genuine, fun happy smile, not a smirk or anything like that. Just pure enjoyment. And it wasn't all pots. The big cape embroidered with flying penises will stay with me for a long long time!

I managed to find this image on the web of a large statute of his teddy bear which I'm putting at the bottom of the post- those of a nervous disposition don't scroll to the end!

My only objection - dedicating it to craftsman - hello! Women here at the craft party as well! But I'll forgive him.....

So Grayson Perrys work has gone onto my favourites list, just for the sheer bloddy madness of a lot of it and the total humour he brings. No po faced artistic interpretation here as far as I can tell.

scroll down for the pic

grayson statue

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

This and that

I've been working on all sorts of things the last few days.

I started quilting the mystery quilt, I'm doing it in pieces and then will put them together at the end. I am doing quite heavy quilting, but it isn't really working out how I imagined. I thought with dense background quilting it would make the stars pop, but it may be the combination of fabric and wadding but the background is coming out really flat and the stars pop anyway because of the colour. I'm plowing on though as the thought of unpicking is horrific and its all good practice.

I was at Waterloo last week at the Old Vic to see a play and popped into the wool shop at The Cut, They have lots of loveliness to stroke and I ended up buying a few skeins. I got cracking with them straight away and turned them into these, my first crochet hats. All set for the winter now.

And another finish, I started working on this needlepoint in the summer when I was working away. Its a bit distorted at the moment as I didn't use a frame. I usually do, but as it was being dragged up and down the motorway to work on in hotels it wasn't practical. I finished it today and it is going to become a cushion. So that means I have to sew another dreaded zip! Will I get on with it straight away or let it hide in a corner for ages putting it off? No idea - at the moment the corner is looking likely.

The green hat got its first airing at the weekend when I went to enjoy the fireworks at Blackheath for Bonfire night. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love fireworks.

Apart from that and class, I seem to be most occupied by procrastinating over working on my accounts, I hate doing them but I can't put them off much longer... blah!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Favourite Things Friday

Once again it is time to join in with Mrs P over at for the favs fest.

Today, I have a few of things I wanted to mention. Firstly something I should have mentioned before, Followers. The number of followers I have has slowly been creeping up and I wanted to say thank you for wanted to read my rambling.

Second, the bloggers quilt festival over at Today is the last day to join in, but even if you don't want to enter, there are hundreds of fab quilts to explore. I'm slowly working my way through them, but there are so many I still may be doing it at Christmas. I have had some lovely comments on my entry and have tried to reply to them all. There have been one or two no-reply bloggers though so please, if you left a comment and think I am rude not to answer, then either I've made a mistake and I'm sorry, or you are set as no-reply.

The main thing I wanted to talk about though and something that is a real favourite of mine and something I usually do in work, most often when I'm deep in thought and working out a problem - is doodling.

Below is a scan of one of my notebooks that is fairly typical. You might spot on there early practice (and rubbish) feathers. It occured to me this years to combine my doodling with trying out FMQ patterns to learn how to work then and get used to how the patterns hang together.

Well this week, somehow I stumbled onto the fact that doodling is now an art form! And it seems big business. Its been rebranded and copywrited as Zentangle! For more info, the website is but basically they are teaching you how to doodle and naming all the patterns. Well I must admit, I was a bit astonished that anyone would pay for this, but each to their own. I'm not critizing you if you do, but I am in awe of the people behind it. Somehow I think they are making a shed load of money off this, so good luck to them.

However, I'm not paying to do something I already do, but it did make me realised how many of the patterns they use are already FMQ patterns or could be turned into them. So I gave it a go with a marker pen and card and came up with this, and yes, I did enjoy doing it although I didn't get the Zenlike reaction they propose in their blurb.

But if you want to kill a few minutes and relax, doodle away and if anyone moans about the time you are wasting, tell them you are practicing your free motion quilting - you are!

Monday, 31 October 2011

More minis and bits

I can now show you another mini quilt I made as a pay it forward gift. This one made its way across the Atlantic to Leanne in Canada

I am determined to tackle my fear of curved seams, especially as the quilts I love most are those with circles so I tried again with the drunkards path block. I had a complete different plan for this but I totally misread the instructions and basically had a brain fart so I ended up using all of the yellow solid as a background. It probably would be easier if I did bigger blocks as this little ones are very fiddly, but in the end they turned out ok and the seams nearly all match.

I hummed and hawwed a lot about how to quilt it, but in the end decided the straight lines and corners set off the curves nicely. It ended up about 15.5inch square.

Over the last few days I've gone back to some bits I had hanging around to turn them into minis as well as I enjoy making them so much.

This first one was my first attempt at handstitching hexies using leftovers from my tufted tweets top (which is still in the ufo pile). I never really had a plan for these so I satin stitched them onto the background with the quilt sandwich already in place. I practised a background FMQ stitch from Leah Days fab blog at As the hexies were looking extra big and puffy I didn't want to flatten them much so just freemotioned a flower design around them. Its clearer to see on the back. This little one is 11.5 inch square.

Then I turned to this one. I used a template to make the flower designed in the cream solids and tried to follow a marked line for the first time. It went a bit wonky, but still shows the design ok. Then I just made the rest up as I went along.

The centre was also a Leah Day design and it turned out really easy to do, well, a lot easier than it looks. Again, its most visible on the back. This turned out at 16.5 inch square.

I also made a few of these little baskets using this tutorial I tweaked it slightly by using heavy interfacing rather than wadding, but I'm pleased with them all the same. Sorry that the pic is so shockingly bad, but I couldn't get the lighting right on a miserable day.

Now I'm off to play with another orphan block I have hanging around to practise more FMQ.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Bloggers Quilt Festival

I missed the last bloggers quilt festival for some reason so am pleased to be taking part again this time around.

I had two quilts to choose between, but in the end went with Scraptastic. I love using my scrap pieces and try to do something with even the smallest pieces. I save all my little triangles, even the bits you get when joining binding strips together and it is surprising how quickly they built up. I didn't start out with a plan, but decided to start piecing them into the corners of a 3x4 inch white block and put them together like this.

After I built up a few blocks of 16 I started looking around at my other scraps and realised I had a lot of long strings from trimming backings that I wasn't really making a dent on so I thought I could border the white blocks with them. I still didn't have much of a plan and then I made a quilt where the blocks were quilted before being joined and I fell in love with the technique. It was so much easier to FMQ a little block than a full quilt so I had a play with one of the blocks and tried out feather for the first time. It didn't really matter if I messed it up, this was a scrap piece anyway. It came out better than I expected and I then did a loopy repeat around the border pieces.

I carried on with the blocks and it was a great way to practise the feathers, by the end I was feeling really comfortable with them. When it came to joining them all together I went with a white sashing which worked well I thought with the centres. Even the binding was made from scraps left over from other quilts.

So this is what my Scraptastic Quilt turned out like

And the back shows up the quilting really well.

For lots and lots of fabulous quilts check out the list at Amys blog.