Archive | November, 2011

Of ‘andles and Fings Wot ‘old the Candles

26 Nov

I  have been helping Daughter Number Two to move house. They say it is one of the most stressful things we do – moving house not helping other people to do same.  Mind you there can’t be much in it.

I started the week at The Cotton Patch in Birmingham trying to get to grips with my quilting frame.  I bought it years ago and have hardly used it. I have to say that the course was very useful. The Cotton patch has a dedicated studio for teaching and familiarising so that if you decide to buy a machine or a frame you can ‘try before you buy’ as they say. (In my case ‘have a go before you throw’).  It was a very small group, there were five of us but I think normally it would have been four.  This means that everybody can have a hands on experience. This is the only way to go if you really want to learn something practical. I managed to spend rather a lot extra because I saw the value of a stitch regulator. This is a device that regulates the length of stitch. Having already used the frame I found that this was one of the problems; keeping stitches the same length throughout. The normal method of working the sewing machine on the frame is by way of a handle connected to a lever that presses down on the presser foot. I always found this quite stiff and as too many years of sewing obsessively have affected the hand I use to operate the lever the idea of something to help was very attractive. When I receive it and use it I will report on what hopefully are its benefits. I can certainly recommend the course if you are in UK.

Back to the moving – We felt the first sense of forboding as the van came round the corner. It was going to be too small. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except monetarily, if they had said so at the beginning. However they swore they could get it all in and they were the experts so we believed them. At least we did until the axels were practically on the ground and then we questioned the wisdom of travelling 400 yards never mind 400 miles in that state. ( Daughter Number Two has a bit of a background in Health and Safety) The long and the short of it is that Daughter Number Two and I left The Big Cheese supervising (thank goodness for Sudoku) and set off to reach the unit that was going to absorb the overflow, before they closed. The need for the overflow had something to do with trying to get a quart into a pint pot. In this case the quart was a large three bedroomed house and the pint pot a small two bedroomed flat Thank goodness for cousins buying a new house and being able to look after the excess. They had to repack the van and use a second one. They blamed it on the solid construction of the furniture but I am not sure how that would have affected the quantity. Mind you I am not an expert so what would I know.

Having  paid extra to transport the  furniture and boxes we then had to make up quantities for the charity shop. Yes I know but when it all went into store it might have been going back into the same house eventually. The removal men talked fondly of the day when everyone will have a Kindle and two bookcases had to be purchased to take the books. Yes I know but the furniture being looked after by the cousin is bedroom furniture and if you saw the size of these ‘double’ bedrooms you would understand.

I stayed on a while to unpack boxes and take deliveries which is why I have been offline for a while. Being without the internet was not as bad as I thought but it did mean I came back to hundreds of emails, most of which I didn’t want.

On the plus side I found  a quilt in one of the boxes. It was part of the tradition we have of making something christmassy for whoever is hosting Christmas. This was from Christmas three years ago. It is another Millamac pattern.

What a lot of eyes.

The frog family photo. Notice big brother on the right making gesticulations over small Brother’s head.

Possums ( I always want to write  possa – must be the classical education) fixing the Christmas lights. See the ‘thumbs up’ from the foreman.

Peering into the manger.

Dressing the Tree. Where is the safety officer when you need him.

The Choir.

Kangaroos with Presents.

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Old Macdonald Had A Farm

14 Nov

You will be glad to know that my printer is printing and my hands are still clean. In fact I feel so uncomfortably clean that I decided I needed a wallow in the farmyard. I was looking through some old photographs and found some of a quilt I made for a raffle. It was when I still used polyfilament for quilting. I was never happy with it but it was almost invisible. It was also all I had and with no shops I used what I had. I do not use it now, I don’t like its shiny unnatural look. Being invisible it is also very easy to leave bits of it attched to the quilt. Not a good look.  I am aware I am not in the majority though so I will say no more.

The pattern is entitled ‘Little Maccas Farm’ and was a block of the month from Kookaburra Cottage some time ago. I just bought the patterns so the scrappy look is my interpretation using what I had.

It is great fun to make, the pieces are large for stitching and it can use up lots of odd fabrics.

As you can see the stitching is not wonderful. This was one of the first ones I did. I was teaching myself and it was a bit of a learning curve. It still went down ok though. They would have made lots of money except they ran out of raffle tickets. I have to confess I was a bit upset about that. I had spent hours and lots of money making it and nobody bothered to check they had enough raffle tickets. Still – water under the bridge.

I no longer use buttons for the eyes  as most of the quilts I make are meant to be used, not hang on the wall. However, in those days I followed patterns.

A bit of handstitching on the whiskers there. I don’t often do that any more either. I have perfected doing the stitching on the machine which makes it a bit sturdier. A least that is my excuse, if the truth were known it’s probably sheer laziness.

More handstitching.

I love the simple but effective shape of this chicken.

I finally used up that fruit fabric.

I think the dog is one of my favourites.

If you like the pattern I believe it is still available. Being an ex-BOM it is a little expensive but then it depends how much you want it.

Doing a bit of a house move this week so postings may be a bit intermittent. Don’t be put off by lack of new material  come back and hear how we went on. I am sure there will be a few amusing anecdotes. The most amusing may be how we fit the furniture from a large three bedroom house into a small two bedroom flat. The words ‘quart’ and ‘pint pot’ come to mind.

The Seas Were Made of Ink

5 Nov

I’ve given up on the printing. I finished yesterday with black fingers and a dirty desk. Something to do with breaking the habit of a lifetime , buying compatible cartridges and expecting them to behave like proper ones. Hey ho, that’s life. I have sent them back as instructed so if you’re in the pub/cafe and you see someone with inky fingers astound him/her by asking if he/she is a postman/woman. (Political correctness can play havoc with the typing fingers.)

Having finished my appliqué dragon quilt top – yes I know I still have to quilt it – I have embarked on an embroidered version. I was very impressed with the quality of the embroideries and so I have decided to make a quilt  and lots of accessories. I will keep you posted with the progress.

Here are the embroideries.  I am making a baby quilted mat  and, I thought a matching bag for all the katundu babies need on their travels. I am going with gold, mauve and purple as a cross section from the embroideries.

This is the fabric I will use for sashing.

I did one of these sets using Beatrix Potter characters and was pleased to find that some of my fabric collection matched the embroidery threads perfectly. Having matching  colours pulls it all together.

As with appliqué I started with the fabric a couple of inches bigger than I wanted it finished thus allowing the fabric area to shrink a little during embroidering.This is particularly likely to happen with an embroidery with a large amount of stitches per inch. There is nothing worse than doing a perfect embroidery and then finding the fabric is now too small or distorted and needs straightening up but there is not enough fabric.

Digitising is another thing I would like to do but meanwhile I just admire the beautifully competent embroideries that some  companies and individuals produce. It has also to be said that there are also some who are perhaps not so good. Most online sites supply free trial embroideries so that you can see the quality of their digitising. That way you at least get an idea of the standard.

Always use a reasonable thickness of stabiliser on the back. I was taught to use two pieces on top of each other, twisting one at rightangles to the other so that the grain goes in two directions. Makes it more stable I guess although I was told to do it by someone who knows so I do it. Experimentation is good for the soul but I work on the principle of ‘He who dares often comes a cropper’ so sometimes I go the tried and tested route.

As with applique I use a bobbin thread unless I am doing freestanding lace in which case I have been known to wind the same thread top and bottom. I am experimenting with coloured bobbin threads for applique and I have a feeling I might start to use those for FSL in time. However, with most embroideries I use white bobbin thread.

Everybody’s embroidery machine will be different so you need to read the manual and experiment. If you are using a machine that  also does other stitches you may need to drop the top tension  as in satin stitch appliqué described on my other blogs – this one  and this one . If it is a dedicated embroidery machine then you will probably know it’s habits. It may still need some adjustment though. Like people, just when you think you know them they do something totally unexpected an ruin your day.

Preferably try out the embroidery on something other than the piece you are planning to give as a present or enter into a competition.  That way, if it needs adjusting it can be done without spoiling anything important. Have you ever tried to unpick a digitised embroidery. I have and take it from me it is a pain. No point in having a nervous breakdown when a bit of patience would have prevented it.

The sashing is attached.

Next stage the borders. These are a bit easier as the fabric I used for the embroideries is thicker than the sashing so it wasn’t as easy to attach especially as I use an overlocker whuch is not as easy to control as a standard machine and once it has chopped off the seam edge your personal dictionary suddenly has more words than you realised so care is the order of the day. The borders, being the same as the sashing are easier to deal with.

The finished Top.

Now I just have to quilt it.