Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Back On Speaking Terms With My Brother

We hadn't spoken for a while. Well, you know how it is. Life gets in the way. There is always something urgent and then other things crop up which are even more urgent. Plans go awry and, before you know it, three months have disappeared!

That is exactly what happened with us. Everything had been fine between us, no sign of any problems but we had simply drifted apart.

On Tuesday all of that changed. We put aside any possible idea of a rift and it was as though we had never been apart. Business as usual. Everyone happy.

I sat with my lovely Brother sewing machine and made this litter of teddies... and a couple of bunnies hopped along and joined us, as well!

Another litter of teddies, plus
a couple of bunnies

These will be added to the others I have made, plus those made by Amy and Erica, and sent to Hand In Hand For Syria who will transport them to Syria for distribution to children in hospital there.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Festival of Quilts in Birmingham

If you're a grandmother prepare yourself for a lesson in how to suck eggs!

The Festival of Quilts is THE show to attend if you are a quilter! When you hear someone speak of the show it is usually in an awed whisper. Superlatives abound when anyone speaks of the show. It is quilting nirvana and it's on soon! As you can see above, it runs from Thursday 07 to Sunday 10 August at the NEC in Birmingham.

I have never been to the Festival of Quilts but, from what I hear, it is H-U-G-E. People talk of needing several days to see it all. Heady stuff, eh?

Well... I shall be going this year, thanks to:

Quilt Direct

Quilt Direct ran a giveaway and, yesterday, I received an email to say I had won two tickets for the Festival of Quilts! Woohoo! Although I would never call myself a quilter, I am excited about going to the show. I love to see the way that people use colour and I'm sure there will be plenty there to inspire me.

Thank you, Quilt Direct, for the tickets and I will try to find the way to your stand whilst I am there.

I'm also excited at the prospect of all the wonderful shopping opportunities. I am particularly on the look-out for hand-dyed threads. I really don't want to buy any fabric as my fabric stash is at the stage where it is beginning to overwhelm me. I need to do a pile of sewing to use some of it. I have several projects in mind but cannot start them yet as I desperately need to finish the final blanket for Siblings Together so that the three blankets from the knitting group and the three quilts I have made can all be posted to the charity in time for their summer camp. Elizabeth and Val have both crocheted the borders on their respective blankets, for which I am very grateful, and I am on the home stretch of the border on the third. Phew! This really isn't good weather for sitting with a blanket over your knees!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Lovely Sewing Shopping!

Clitheroe, Lancashire
On Tuesday, Elizabeth and I had a day out - our first for a while because of other commitments. We began the day by visiting Minerva Crafts in Darwen. You may well have heard of Minerva Crafts as they are quite prominent on the net.

Sewing notions
Minerva's physical shop was unlike what I was expecting. For a start, it was very tidy and organised. Having had a good look round their website a day or two earlier, I had envisaged a shop looking and feeling as though it was bursting at the seams. However, despite the wide selection of items for some crafts, there did not seem to be a huge range of crafts catered for, unlike online. The online shop offers clearance items and bargain packs but these were not in evidence when I was looking around. All in all, though, I would say it is worth visiting at least once.

My purchases (shown above) were all sewing notions: bodkins, crewel needles, leather thimble and, joy of joy, Truecut Grip Rings. I have been looking for the Truecut Grip Rings for the last year so that is a huge "thumbs up" for Minerva!

Upon leaving Minerva Crafts we decided to go to Clitheroe for a mooch around which began with a delicious lunch at The Emporium.

The Emporium
After lunch, with the heat building, we headed for the town centre. Our first port of call was Wool Craft in Moor Lane, a well-established yarn shop. We had a lovely chat with the lady behind the counter. I didn't buy anything as I am on a strict no-buying yarn diet but I think Elizabeth did come away with a little something - or three! Some gorgeous shades of sock yarn had called out to her!

Continuing up the road we called in at Pendle Stitches where there was a Knit and Natter group meeting. The shop had an interesting selection of yarn ranges and we had an enjoyable nose around although neither of us succumbed to temptation. 

As our parking time was limited we restricted ourselves to the craft-related shops so headed back down the road to Patches and Buttons. It was lovely to walk into the shop as it was so full of character: baskets of fabric, jars of buttons - a colourful sewing selection.

My haul of goodies!
Oh, look! I lost the battle to keep my purse firmly closed! I saw this lovely fabric with cement mixers, tractors and other interesting vehicles and knew that it would be ideal for a little project for my grandsons, that I had been turning over in my mind. I added the other patterned fabric, the orange solid and some navy ric rac for that and decided to buy these bright red, tartan buttons which only cost 30p each - well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn't it!

By now the temperature had risen even more so we decided to head back to Elizabeth's home where a bagful of variegated blue brushed double knitting yarn fell out of Elizabeth's hand into mine! (Its new home is in the boot of my car until I can find a tiny bit of space for it!)

Lovely parcel from Pocket & Pin
When I arrived home there was an interesting-looking pink bag awaiting me which the postman had delivered. Woohoo, I love receiving parcels! It contained these gorgeous goodies that I had bought from Pocket & Pin when she had a market night on Facebook at the weekend. How was that for prompt service. And the packaging was so delightful - it was beautifully wrapped in a sheet of pink tissue paper, lined with white tissue paper, with a pretty little Pocket & Pin sticker and some spotty washi tape to secure it. What a lovely way to end the day!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Things I Have Learnt About Patchwork and Quilting

"Tumbledown" - my log
cabin quilt
I have been asked for some hints for doing patchwork and quilting. Now, I do not profess to be any kind of expert but I am happy to pass on tips that I have picked up. If, while you are reading this you see something that you think can be improved upon, please do let me know in the comments. I certainly shan't be upset or offended. I think it's great to share knowledge with others and to learn from other people - it's part of what makes doing any type of craft so enjoyable.

So, here we go...

Quilter's Rulers, Rotary Cutter and
Self-healing Cutting Mat
Say hello to your new best friends: rulers, rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat. 

Accurate measuring and cutting of your fabric is absolutely essential. There is an old adage "Measure twice, cut once" and it really is excellent advice. It is very easy to make a mistake when measuring: it may be because you are in a rush to get the fabric cut, or someone interrupts you while you're measuring, or you misread the ruler or one of any number of reasons. Once you have cut the fabric there's no turning back so you'd better make sure it's right first time!

My two favourite rulers are both acrylic. The first is the 12.5 x 12.5 inch square from Creative Grids. What I love about it is that it is non-slip: the pale grey circles you can see on it in the picture above are areas of non-slippiness [that's probably not a proper word, by the way!] which make it so much easier to use as it stays in place during use. The second is my 24 inch x 6.5 inch ruler which my adorable Zio Mimi bought for me while I was in Australia last year. It is made by Sew Easy but other companies make similar ones. The 24 inch ruler is long enough to enable you to cut an entire width of fabric which has been folded in half.

You need a self-healing cutting mat - I find that the A3 size works well for me. 

You also need a good, sharp rotary cutter. When you use the rotary cutter ALWAYS cut away from you and replace the blade cover as soon as you have made your cut, to avoid accidents. Do not roll your cutter backwards and forwards on the cutting mat as it will damage the surface of the mat, even a self-healing one.

Selection of fabrics
When it comes to fabric, do not mix different fibres in the same piece of patchwork. Cottons and polycottons react differently when worked: if you use them together your patchwork will have a rumpled appearance.

Do not sew on the selvedge of your fabric. It is often woven to a different tension from the remainder of the fabric and will give unpredictable results.

Always work with the grain of your fabric, placing your templates at the correct angle in relation to the grain to take account of the way the fabric stretches in each direction, including on the bias.

Plan your design before you begin to cut your fabric - I find it useful to draw a plan of my design that I can follow as I piece it together.

The Sewing Machine
Use a new needle in your machine for your project. It is a good idea to get into the habit of changing your needle after around eight hours of sewing. If your needle is blunt it will affect the movement of your fabric through your machine.

In patchwork it is vital to use a consistent seam allowance. The seam allowance for patchwork is most usually a quarter of an inch (patchwork is worked in inches, not centimetres). It is a good idea to mark the quarter inch seam allowance on your sewing machine using sticky tape as an easy-reference guide while you sew.

Don't rush! Take your time pinning the fabric pieces together and stitching them. Accuracy is vital. If you rush when you stitch you are likely to be less accurate and have to make a lot of use of your stitch unpicker!

Pressing seams
[photo from]

Press the seams as you go. This makes it much easier to keep control of what you are doing and to check that everything is neat and accurate. The jury is still out on the direction in which seams should be pressed!


Relax. Keep your shoulders away from your ears! If you are tense it will be more difficult to control your work and, certainly, far less enjoyable.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Looking Like A Fool

A happy elephant

Today's prompt for the Summer Journal project was to consider the most important skill we have learnt. In common with several other participants, I have found this a difficult prompt to do. I have been thinking about it, on and off, all day.

Blue Moon rose - beautiful

I didn't want to cite something like reading or driving, I wanted something that was specifically about me - not unique, but something that I can identify or be identified with.  At long last, about an hour ago, it came to me! In fact it is something that may well be familiar to regular readers of this blog...

The most important, or maybe just one of the most important, skills I have learnt is not worrying about making a fool of myself.

My Beautiful Barney

I have made a fool of myself more times than I could possibly list here - and that's only the ones I am aware of! There are bound to be many, many occasions when I didn't realise what I had done. But it's OK, I don't mind. It doesn't matter. If I don't know something, I would rather ask a question to find out and learn, than pretend that I know and be caught  out in that deception. What a waste of time and effort that is! I have little or no respect for people who pretend to know about something of which they are ignorant. In my view, there can be a certain arrogance about taking that stance. I know it can also be the result of a lack of confidence and I think that very sad.

When I began this blog I decided to show some of my mistakes, as well as some of my achievements. I had read so many blog posts appearing to show the blogger being so 
skilled that everything turned out perfectly, that any confidence I may have had was draining away fast. This blog is about me and my crafting journey, and that journey includes lots of mistakes (or should that be 'design features'?) so why not include them?

Cricket - yawn...

It's not only in crafting that I can make myself look foolish - it happens with all sorts of things. For example, I was talking with one of the top bowlers in the England cricket team. He was talking about the jobs that various members of the Australian cricket team had (this was quite a few years ago!) and so I asked him what his job was. He said he was a cricketer. Oops! Cue Bossymamma looking foolish. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me to ask the question - if the Aussies had other jobs, then surely the England team also had?

I don't deliberately set out to look foolish, but if it happens, so be it. I worry about too much, anyway, so I'm not going to add foolishness to the list. That would just be foolish.

Mount Everest - one of my favourite places

(If you're wondering about what the pictures have to do with this post, the answer is 'nothing'. I included them to make the post look more interesting and because they are some of my favourite things!)

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Blankets, Crochet, Sewing, Blankets

Blanket in progress
Having to deal with my mother's home move completely screwed up my crafting plans for the summer. There are several projects that I had in the pipeline and, in my head, I had arranged a loose schedule for getting on with them. Oh well, the best laid plans of mice and men etc.

Some time ago I blogged about the Monday morning knitting group making blankets to be donated to Siblings Together along with some quilts that I was making. I have been putting the squares for the blankets together, usually in between doing other projects so as not to become too bored. Although I usually take something crafty to do when I visit my mother, it simply wasn't practical to take a pile of squares to stitch together. Consequently there was a hiatus in the sewing up process.

The first blanket stitched together
I had finished sewing the first blanket, in this photo, several weeks ago and was part of the way through the second before going to Kent. So, when I arrived home after all the travelling to and from Kent there was still quite a large pile of squares to be stitched onto the second blanket (shown in the top picture)! Time is marching on and the blankets need to be completed so that they are ready for the summer camps.

Details of Siblings Together
Summer Camps

Unfortunately the blankets will not be ready for the July camp, but I am beavering away like mad to try and get them finished in time for the camp in August. Elizabeth has very kindly agreed to crochet a border onto the first blanket so I shall deliver it to her shortly. I hope to have time to crochet the border on the second and third blankets. At least I have a layout for the squares in the third blanket so all I need to do is stitch then together!

 Layout for the third Siblings
Together blanket

With so much work still to be done on the blankets, almost everything else is taking a back seat at the moment! 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Someone Wrote This For Me!

I spend more time than I should on Facebook. Originally I joined so that I could keep in easy contact with my sons but things have moved on...

I now belong to several groups on Facebook, each of which produces many new notifications every day, so I end up logging in several times a day, for longer and longer periods.

Last night, as I was checking my newsfeed, I saw a post by my elder son, who said he had written limericks for several people the previous night, which they would find in their Inbox. Oh! There wasn't one in mine! 

He had also said if anyone else wanted a limerick they should leave a comment for him. So I left a very discreet (!?! I don't think so!) comment for him. Here's what he sent me:

There once was a seamstress named Dina, 
Who made things for people from Syria, 
Blankets and clothes, 
They were thankful for those,
And would say that if they ever seen her.

Hand in Hand for Syria