Monday 27 February 2012

Bribery and corruption

So my first proper project on my new sewing machine involved a little bribery. I promised our son some curtains for underneath his bed but have been too busy to make them if I am honest. However with a return to swimming lessons for him, these curtains became part of a long list of bribes to get him into the water, having refused point blank the last time I tried. It was a bit of a risk, curtains are not that exciting and I do find him rather hard to bribe.

Still, it was a bit of simple hemming and a chance to get stuck into figuring out this baby. See how she has a heavenly glow about her?

I normally shy away from user manuals, but I felt I owed it to myself to read this one, and it was surprisingly straight forward and simple. The machine is not that complicated, even though compared to my old one it looks like something from the future.

I had been telling myself for years that my basic machine was all I needed, thinking that a more complex one would be wasted on me. But it's the simple functions on the machine that have been a revelation; a button to cut the threads, a see-through bobbin cover so that I know when I am going to run out. Seam allowance guide lines that are metric and imperial and are even marked on the bobbin cover.

And it's so quiet, you can hold a conversation whilst sewing and not have to shout. I spend most of the day shouting at the kids, so this is a nice break for me. I also love that it has a sliding speed control which means that however hard you press the pedal, there is one maximum speed, but you can ease off to sew slowly. It's a bit like cruise control. My old machine used to go fast or even faster meaning that it could suddenly fly off at high speed if I pressed the pedal too hard. For example during a lapse of concentration while trying to shoo off a dog who was chewing on the power lead. I think the slow speed will be great when sewing with the kids - this used to be a bit of a white knuckle ride.

I love this Cityscape fabric by Echino, note how jarring it is that the pattern does not match at the join. That minor detail didn't even cross my mind. It is held on by tabs secured by velcro. This linen mix is the perfect weight and hangs really well. It has lead to a number of discussions about when I will take him to see Big Ben.

The best thing about these curtains is that they hide all manner of clutter behind them.

And even though when I picked him up from school before the lesson, he mouthed the words 'I don't like swimming' through the window at me. My beautiful boy did enter the water and swam with a smile on his face. He never fails to surprise me. And he loved the curtains, which I put up while he was at school in anticipation of that surprise. He didn't even comment on that badly matched join.

My machine comes with several different clever feet and all manner of different stitches and patterns. I need to try something a little more complex next, it really should be something to wear. Anyone else sewing for Spring?

Friday 24 February 2012

New fabric in this week...

New in this week and with perfect timing if you are thinking about sewing for spring or summer, Sunshine linen by Dena Designs. I think this fabric would make a perfect dress, maybe a Crepe or a Peony.

Also, with several more prints to come from the 'Get Together' collection by David Walker there is this super cute birds print.

There are also some lovely retro prints (with more to come) from the To Market to Market collection by Marie Perkins from the Print and Pattern blog.
And the very springlike Modern Whimsy by Laurie Wisbrun, I think the rabbit print is perfect for Easter sewing.
I have a lot of collections coming soon to M is for make, you can find them here. One that is imminent though is Curious Nature by Parson Gray. The man behind this fabric is David Butler (husband of Amy Butler) these earthy neutral prints are really gorgeous.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Love triangle

I have always been obsessed by pattern, geometrical shapes, doodling such things when on the phone. At the moment, I am absorbed by triangles and what I can make from them, a quilt, a pillow, another quilt.

Should I make the triangles in a regular pattern or just throw them in and see what happens?

Everywhere I look, there are triangles, clearly they are hot right now.

I probably won't be able to get away with filling the kids rooms with them (checked - and it's a definite no).

But I can subtly infiltrate other corners of the house with triangles, the rest of the family would never see them coming.

But what about colour? I have been obsessing about that too, more to follow. I can't decide whether to be patient and wait for fabric that I know will arrive soon, or just get stuck in.

See - both random and all mixed up, these triangles look amazing in a quilt.

Or, I could use tiny triangles to create a massive triangle.

Katy very kindly sent me some thangles, I have to admit I was a bit mystified having read the instructions they come with, but after watching this video - I realise they are genius.

This sneak of some upcoming fabric by Cloud 9 fabrics sealed it for me, look at all the different shapes the triangles create. Surely they are the perfect shape.

And oh look, further geometry, this little beauty means I have no excuse not to get sewing. She is so clever, I may even be able to read a book while she gets busy with the Thangles. She arrived on Valentines day, sigh, more to follow on my new true love.

Friday 10 February 2012

The tale of the electrifying quilt

A tale of good and evil

The relevance of this title and the above chocolate beast will become apparent. 

So, hot on the heels of my first quilt, I went straight onto planning my next. This included speculating about colour schemes on Twitter. The lovely Florence politely inquired about the progress of my original quilt, you know, this one from LAST FEBRUARY. You see, that quilt has been in the back of my mid for some time. I lost some vital pieces for a while, giving me the perfect excuse to down tools. But when I found them and then realised the batting left over from the last quilt was the perfect size for this one, there was no excuse. (It is worth mentioning that I have a last couple of copies of this quilt pattern here).

I had thought I would make a few more blocks, but even at cot size, it was perfect for a single bed and it seemed a waste to make it bigger only to have to fold it up. I had a fair bit of trepidation about sewing all the blocks together, I think I managed to stretch the voile whilst sewing the curved pieces, it wasn't the ideal fabric to use, but I love it so, I just had too. The blocks were quite irregular, but after a bit of trimming I was surprised that they all fitted together OK.

good cat

Lying it on the floor ready to layer together made it a magnet for the animals, again. I appreciate my posts have been a bit puppy heavy lately. She still has novelty value and it's quite hard to do anything without her appearing an inch from my nose or feet. This strikes me as a s good time to explain why the quilt is electrifying.

bad puppy

I sew at our kitchen table, carefully packing everything away when I finish, it's a bit of a faff, but anything to avoid the kids knocking over a pot of pins of finding the dog eating my scissors. However whilst sewing the quilt, I looked down for the dog who is usually sleeping and inch from my toes, to see her chewing the power cable of my sewing machine. I won't share with you the bad words I said to that dog (my husband has since suggested I could write a whole blog post dedicated to my imaginative and often derisory names for the dog, but I think I know it would offend.) Thankfully she was fine, however the power cord is broken through and I'm not convinced it is safe. So I am left searching for an expensive replacement pedal for what was a cheap sewing machine when I bought it over 10 years ago. Maybe this is a good excuse to upgrade?

Anyway, rant over. Here is the finished quilt, my favourite bit is the shape made by the red and blue pieces, it really stands out making me realise that I must think harder about contrast in my next quilt.

this is the bit I like

My least favourite part is the quilting, even though I prefer minimal quilting, it's such a tedious part of the whole process. I only sewed around the circles of the flowers, that was enough. One part I really like though is hand stitching the binding, hiding away the rough edges and framing all that work. It's so very satisfying. I used a strip of this Anna Maria Horner fabric, as I wanted something quite, but not completely, plain. I love that if you look closely, you can see the cross-stitch pattern which varies along the length, perhaps I should have embroidered a bit of it. Next time.

This quilt was always intended for my daughter and as she recognises the fabric, I had it carefully folded when doing the hand-stitching so that she couldn't see it. When sat side by side on the sofa, she spotted the fabric and said 'I recognise that fabric, what are you making?" my vague white lie prompted that expression on her face I saw rather a lot of around Father Christmas time. One of not quite believing what her old mum was saying. I didn't manage to finish it before she went to bed, but was just sewing the last few stitches as she shouted down for a hot water bottle. I promised her something else that would keep her warm and unfurled it on her bed. The response was rather overwhelming (I don't really expect a 7 year old to find a quilt that exciting, even if it has taken a year to make and nearly killed off the dog in the process).

an army of pink toys, be afraid

Here it is on her bed, along with her impressive army of cuddly toys, this isn't even all of them - do all kids have this many? I think her little brother may be forming an equally well manned army of toys in the room next door. They all have hilarious, confusing and constantly changing names.

So, some valuable lessons learnt here. Don't take too long to finish a project, or you may never. Listen to the wise words of your friends, and puppies are evil destroyers of random expensive household objects fluffy.

Monday 6 February 2012

A perfect storm?

Last year, I laid out my rules for snow club. After this, there was must discussion about snow days and the perfect timing for snow fall versus work/school/life in general. The consensus was that it would be to have an overnight snowfall on the weekend and then a rapid thaw so life went back to normal on Monday morning.

On Saturday night after much obsessive checking of the weather forecast, we had that snow. Ok, when I opened the curtains on Sunday morning ready to be confronted by a snowy winter wonderland, it wasn't quite as much as I'd hoped for, but it was there. Snow; on the weekend - the perfect storm.

Last year we bought some sledges long after the snow had gone (as they were all sold out when there was a hint of snow). And finally we got to use them on the local school sports grounds where there is this great hill. This is the top.

I haven't managed to capture it below, but at the bottom is a bit pile of slushy mud-snow. After being deposited in it, my daughter went home for an early bath leaving me and the boy to enjoy the more gradual hills without a slushy mess to land in.

We spent a lovely and exhausting hour trudging up and sliding back down (him) running down (me) the snowy slopes.

Back home, I think I may have finally found the perfect backdrop to photograph the dog, she camouflages into the background in all my other photos.

I love the way her ears fly out at the sides when she runs. Like a jet, or something equally fast, I bet it happens to cheetahs too.