Saturday 27 June 2009

lovely lemonade

What a nice surprise to be given the Lemonade Award by lovely Dee Beale. If you haven't seen her work Dee makes the most wonderful graphic gocco prints. Her printing technique leaves me in awe!

I was also lucky enough to be given the Lovely Blog Award by newearthsoaps a fellow Dust member who sells her soaps on Etsy. Thanks Karen, and all the other Dusters who have made me feel so welcome.

I'm always discovering new blogs which I can't live without. I'm a blog addict! And though I subscribe to some of the big design blogs I find its the small personal blogs that I really enjoy and look out for. Here are some of my favourites, old and new. Its nice to have an excuse to share them.

Red Pepper Quilts
Rita makes the most beautiful quilts, her colour choices and meticulous sewing really helped inspire me to start my own. On top of that, Rita is also the loveliest person, quick and generous with advice. I think I read her blog from top to bottom while making my first quilt.

Nicole's blog Gardenmama is a new find for me. I was immediately drawn to her beautiful vintage finds, and her wonderful photography. She's also a lovely person, and that shines through her blog.

Four Leaves

Julie's blog is such a peaceful, thoughtful place which celebrates the poetry of everyday. She captures the magical moments and images of domestic life.

Mizu Designs

One of my early Etsy purchases was a dragonfly card from Mizu. A very thoughtful artist, I love to see her posts about her process, which involves Japanese woodcutting.


Laura's lovely blog is another must read for me. She is always busy making wonderful pieces from her colourful felt or whipping up some other crafty masterpiece with her great eye for design.


Fi's blog is a very new one to me, I discovered it recently when she bought some Ruby and Gold slippers :-) Such a lovely colourful world full of beautiful clever things. I always like visiting. She's had some wonderful and well deserved press recently.

and being greedy I'm going to post just one more!

Colour and Sound
It was Anna's beautiful quilt which really inspired me and made me finally decide to take the quilting plunge. I love her simple collages with their perfect balance and subtlety.

Thanks all these bloggers for the daily inspiration you give. Please feel welcome to take one or both award and pass them on, or not :-)

The 'rules' for Lemonade awardees (which are very similar to the Lovely award) are:
- Nominate 5 to 10 blogs you feel show great attitude and gratitude.
- Comment on the blog that awarded you.
- Copy the award and save to your computer, and then upload it to your blog.
- Link to your nominees within your blog post.
- Comment on their blogs to let them know they've received the award.
- Link back to the person who gave you the award to show your appreciation.

Friday 26 June 2009

finished quilt

Day four of kids home with a nasty flu and fevers today. Day four of temperatures and medicine, stroked foreheads and midnight vigils. We are nearly through it though and its nice to see them getting better. Its given me a chance to finish off the binding of my quilt and handsew it while I play modified monopoly (courtesy a certain grandmother who likes the occasional Happy Meal!).

Its really satisfying to have this quilt finished and ready to use. I popped it in the wash last night and hung it inside to dry overnight. Now I am just admiring it, folding it this way and the next, and wondering what I will change in the next one. For a start I did four separate sides for the binding, and I can see next time I might try to do a continuous strip, to improve the corners.

Best of all I understand all the processes involved now and the next quilt won't be such a scary undertaking. And that's good because I have a lot of small people angling for their own quilts now.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

winter knitting

At a party recently I admired a friend's scarf. It was a simple cotton scarf with a really interesting pattern. She told me it was a gift from our friend Jane who by luck was standing two feet away.
Jane lent me the Jo Sharp pattern book it was in but for anyone who wants to make one I've since found the same design on Ravelry free to download from Frazzled Knits here. It is basically an old knit/lace stitch called seafoam or dropped stitch.

Being a very basic knitter it took me a whole day to decode the pattern (literally) but I finally twigged (thank you ravelry forum!). To save you the time if you are as green a knitter as me here's how you do it - where it says YO (yarn over) pull the thread to the front (between the needles) before the knit stitch. For YO twice you wrap it round the needle and back through to the front, and go twice round the needle for YO 3 times (email me if this is still confusing).
On the next row you drop these extra loops and that's what gives you the neat effect.

This was the first wool that came to hand from my stash, but I think the neutral colour will go well with a range of outfits. I did really like the cotton version too. Something about the smoothness of the cotton gave it a wonderful defined look. Hers was only half width too so it would be a great summer scarf. I might have to try that next. It is quick to knit and once you get the rhythm you don't need to keep looking at the pattern.
p.s. forgive the 'fashion' shot. I will be much more appreciative of other people's attempts to photograph themselves in future. This is the best of a bad bunch taken in the bathroom mirror but I did want to show how it looks on!

Friday 19 June 2009

learn to sew - pincushion

Shedding pins all over the house while making my quilt I realised I really needed a pincushion. I'd seen this tutorial a fair while ago and luckily filed it away in my overloaded brain. Such a simple but pretty design.
And it uses all my recently acquired patchworking skills! It's from the lovely Leah at Hyena in Petticoats. It's on her old blog paper.string.cloth.

It took me hardly any time to whip up and I used offcuts from my linen tea towels which are the perfect fabric, strong and finely woven. I think they go beautifully with this natural linen I bought at Remnants Warehouse.

To finish it I got to go through my button jar and choose two worthy buttons. That was fun, here are some of the contenders.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

moving up in the world

I haven't got any power upstairs in my 'studio' space yet (mostly because I can't decide which light fittings to have!) but we've finished all the painting and moved most things up there. It's so great to have everything in one place - though I still do a lot of to-ing and fro-ing! (Good excercise I say to myself the fourth time I climb the stairs).
I'm still trying to work out how to use the space, there isn't a lot of head room except in the centre so while I thought I'd have everything around the sides I will need to have some in middle so I don't bump my head. I've been trying different layouts.
I've also been doing all my sewing up there and its really great to be able to leave my sewing machine out and come back to it. A great luxury.
There's something very calming about the space, I can't put my finger on it exactly but I immediately feel very peaceful when I go up there. I feel my shoulders relax.
I promised pictures when it was finished, but until its organised a bit more this sneak peek will have to do! Honestly, you don't want to see the mess, and it's not really ready till I get those lights :-)

Tuesday 16 June 2009

quilting progress

On the weekend I cleared the sitting room floor rug and laid out my quilt sandwich. Backing, batting and quilt top. Using advice gleaned from many sources I first laid out and cut my batting. I then smoothed the ironed quilt top over it and rolled the whole thing up. Then I laid out the joined, washed and ironed backing. Again I smoothed this out without stretching it and secured the edges with masking tape. I rolled the batting and quilt back over this and carefully pinned it from the centre out.

I take back everything I said about the expensive quilt pins :-) I love them and they made it easy to join my three layers. As you can see I pinned each white square. When I turned the sandwich at the end it looked pretty neat.

I've started sewing the horizontal quilting lines, using my walking foot and (fingers crossed) things are looking good. I love the way it has suddenly transformed into a quilt.

Next step is finishing the vertical quilting. I've had some hiccups on a couple of seams with puckering so I'm going to unpick and try again. And then I need to think about a border...

Sunday 14 June 2009

apricot pastries

I think I mentioned that I had a second batch of brioche dough in the fridge. Here's what I made. Recipe here. They were lovely.
I won't be making them again though. The pastry cream was a lot of work and then some of the {fussy} people round here decided they don't like apricots. Harrumph!
Still, it did mean more for me and J. Next time I think maybe something with cooked apples and brown sugar might be nice... mmm.

Thursday 11 June 2009

the next step

I was really touched by all the wonderful comments and advice I got on my last post. It was wonderful to have all that experience to draw on. And as you can see I took all the advice offered! From Spotlight I bought this lovely organic cotton batting, Gautermann quilting thread, some special quilting pins (which must be made of gold judging by the price!) and just for good measure some quilt basting spray (hell it was only $15).

I also got some green flannel which was on special. Again the photos don't do it justice. It's a wonderful yellowy green. Of course I forgot to take any samples fabrics with me and the range was quite limited, but I like the pastel of this which I think will complement the white. I was relieved when I got it home that it is a good match for the shades of green in the quilt. It's not wide enough so I'll have to join some pieces.

Later I went back to the sewing machine shop and bought a walking foot as Rita of Red Pepper Quilts suggested. I'd already bought a free motion quilting foot so this afternoon I could experiment with both straight and free motion quilting.

I'm not sure I have the confidence or nerve for a large area of free quilting yet. I can see how you'd get the hang of it but it felt a little out of control to me, like a race against the clock! And it doesn't feel like you're actually sewing.

I love the quilting effect. So thank you all again for your help. You've helped me get past my mental block and I feel much more prepared and excited about the next stage.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

quilt pieced

I'm really pleased with my quilt so far. The squares all went together really well with none of the major mistakes I was anticipating. I think this was courtesy of the special foot I bought which makes such neat, even seams. Everything lined up pretty well and I managed to press the seams so they sat happily together. In a few blocks I sewed the fours in the wrong orientation and ending up with vertical rather than horizontal seams if you know what I mean, but these were quick to unpick. The colours are a bit off in these photos, the winter light seems to be making everything greener but you get the idea.

I'm a bit daunted by the next step. I keep rereading the instructions and looking on the internet, stalling! I'm going to add a plain white border all around first and I'd like to buy a plain flannel sheet (blue or green?) to make the backing. I'm off to Spotlight (local fabric chain) to buy some batting too.
Then I will attempt to tack them all together. I think the thing I'm really scared about is the quilting. Lucky I've got that super unpicker! I do have my quilting foot to practice with but I think I might need to stick to straight line quilting. Does anyone know if I can do that with a normal foot? All advice welcome!

Monday 8 June 2009

fruit scrolls

I have to show you these scrolls that I made with my Artisan dough. I chickened out on the ultra rich caramel scroll recipe I linked to. It just seemed like such a lot of butter and sugar and I felt like all I'd done this long weekend was eat!
So today I got some of my brioche dough out (quarter of the master dough quantity) and pulled it into a ball. I let this sit while I mixed some dried fruit mix, brown sugar and melted butter. Enough to cover the rolled out mix which was 40cm x 30cm approx.

I then rolled it up and cut it into eight which fitted perfectly in my greased springform cake tin. This was left an hour to rise and then baked for 30 minutes only at 180CÂș. They seemed a bit dry when I got them out so I mixed an icing sugar and water mix and poured it over. This disappeared into the scrolls but you could taste it later. Oh and turns out they weren't dry at all.
I loved these scrolls. You can taste the briochiness! I bored everyone again by saying, 'Isn't this good? Isn't this yummy?' The kids are well trained and just agree but J starts to roll his eyes about the eighth time. And then he agrees :-)

Sunday 7 June 2009

no knead bread

Last week I really spoilt myself and bought a French cast iron casserole dish. I've never had one of these beautiful things and I've been wanting one for a while. One of the recipes I wanted to try with it was this one, all over the internet a while ago, the New York Times recipe for No Knead bread. It takes a while, mostly resting and then you cook it in a covered pot. Mixed last night and then rested today, we got to cook it this afternoon and it was worth the wait :-)

I'm also really interested in the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes which uses similar principles of slow rising and no knead. I've made up a batch of their Brioche mix to try caramel scrolls tomorrow. They have their master recipes on their blog so you can experiment with them before you buy the book.

The idea is you keep a master batch of dough in the fridge and break a piece off each day to bake. The long gestation adds flavour. Different techniques and additions give you an amazing range of breads. And there's no kneading, its mixed in the container and left to do its thing.

(I also finished joining all my squares yesterday for my quilt. Very overcast and I didn't get a good photo but I'll post it tomorrow! I just love it, can't stop looking at it! Now I have to work out how to do the next bit!)

Thursday 4 June 2009


A lovely parcel full of these little gems arrived yesterday (and another on its way, I might have got a little carried away!) These fabrics come from Fabric Shack. Great prices and what great service, I ordered them last Thursday and they were here by yesterday! They are mostly small cuts, 1/4 yards for quilting.

Some of these will go perfectly with the squares I've already cut and I'm hoping to cut some more today and fit them into the design. I found Fabric Shack via the inspiring and beautiful Red Pepper Quilts blog. I just love her quilts, the colours and the layouts.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

learn to sew - quilt 1

A little progress over the weekend. I cut a lot more blocks with the rotary cutter following the instructions in my book* which show how to cut with the grain and square up accurately when cutting on the fold. I got better and more confident as I went along.

This quilt is just a very simple design of large squares. I didn't want to be too ambitious. I chose some fabrics from my stash that went well together, blues and acid greens, yellow and a touch of pink. Choices include new fabrics, my Spoonflower swatches, gingham, handprinted and vintage material. The white is a quilting cotton from Remnants Warehouse.

All the material was prewashed and pressed. I found the best results with my rotary cutter when I pushed down (not forward) and went back and forward each few inches. You can hear when its cutting. The few times I didn't cut all the way through were very annoying and usually happened in the first inch or two, it's very hard to go back and cut accurately once you've moved the ruler. I cut strips and then cut them into blocks. If I tried to bring the rotary cutter back down the ruler I found I usually swerved off and ruined the cut edge for the next strip. So I stopped doing that! The 24" quilting ruler was invaluable, it held the material in place and made it easy to square things.

I'm making my blocks 5 1/2" so that the finished size is 5 inches - because as I found out to my initial concern quilting seams are always meant to be 1/4"!! Luckily I read somewhere else about a special quilting foot that has exactly a quarter inch edge to it to make it easier to sew these seams accurately. I tracked one down easily for my ancient Janome (and in a rush of blood to the head bought a free motion quilting foot for playing with later) and its great.

I have sewn together all the coloured blocks to a white square saving time by chain stitching (not cutting threads between) and yesterday pressed all the seams to the printed side. That way when I turn one and sew them into four square blocks the seams will be opposite each other, in theory :-)

* The book is called The Magic of Quiltmaking, A Beginner's Guide by Margaret Rolfe and Jenny Bowker published by That Patchwork Place imprint of Martingale and Company. ISBN 1-56477-502-X (follow the link to buy it).