‘simply retro’ granny squares

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I recently got back from my annual sewing retreat where I enjoyed some ‘me’ time with my patchwork buddies. As usual, we did nothing but eat, sleep and quilt – no kidding!  It was the best time ever!

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t have to stop to make meals, do the laundry, vacuum, dust, go to work and all that real life stuff. In a few short hours I managed to stitch together the blocks for an entire quilt top!

The pattern is from Camille Roskelley’s book ‘Simply Retro’. I fell in love with the classic, fresh, retro look of this quilt … a lovely modern take on the humble granny square. I love it! And the best part? It’s fat quarter friendly – you only need 12 fat quarters and a few metres of white to make the top!

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The simple do-able style of the giant 20″ blocks meant that the quilt grew pretty quickly too – hey, I like that!

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Now I’m not gonna lie, I’m not a big fan of machine quilting (I much prefer to hand quilt) but, let’s face it, hand quilting takes time and some days you just wanna get it done, right? So … I opted to have a go at ‘edge to edge’ quilting on the machine. I chose wavy lines rather than straight ones, hoping to add some movement to the quilt whilst at the same time keeping it modern.  What do you think? 

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I finished it all off nice and neat with some cute red and white check 🙂

binding

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on gate

So there you have it … a quilt finished in just under 3 weeks (certainly beats 12 years!).

Phew! I’m off for a lie down …

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Happy stitching!

Natalie xx

 

 

thank you!

Just a quick post to say a massive thank you for all your lovely comments about my ‘twelve-years-in-making-scrappy-quilt’ (I really need to think of a catchier title 🙂 )

I am blown away by the reaction that my wee quilt story has sparked (over 2000 shares on Facebook – what?!?) – my word! Thanks you guys!

♥ ♥ ♥

Well now, what do you do when you finish one quilt?   I’ll give you three guesses, but you’ll get it in one … You start another one, right? Yay!

I’ve always fancied making a two colour quilt and have settled on this colour combo.  I’m going to machine quilt it this time though, so it shouldn’t take me another 12 years before I’m done!

Red grey fabrics

♥ ♥ ♥
 Happy stitching!
Natalie x

 

that moment when …

… you finish a quilt and you can’t quite believe it’s actually done!

That very thing happened to me today.

I put the final stitch in a quilt that has been on the go for at least a dozen years. Yep, you read that right, 12 years! So long ago in fact that I can’t even remember how the blocks were constructed! How bad is that?! Mile a minute quilt 009

The funny part is, the technique for making the blocks was called ‘mile-a-minute’ … let’s think about that for a moment.  There are approximately 1,440 minutes in a day, 525,600 minutes in a year and it has taken me 12 years to complete the quilt , so by my reckoning this quilt should measure around 6,307,200 miles!! 🙂

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Mile a minute quilt 007

In my defense, it is entirely hand quilted except for the final border which I stitched on the machine.

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hand quilting

I learned a thing or two during the making of this quilt.

For instance, I have learned that my choice in fabrics has changed A LOT in the last 12 years, which isn’t that surprising really given the huge array of fresh modern fabrics around these days. I could spend all of my wages on fabric, seriously … if only I didn’t have to feed my family and pay the bills! Darn, there’s always a catch!

I also learned that ‘scrappy’ borders are stretchy little suckers and need careful handling otherwise your quilt WILL end up with somewhat wiggly edges.

I learned that if you leave a quilt-in-progress in a heap on the floor of your workroom, it is highly likely that your pet dog will use it to sleep on. The same pet dog may also piddle on it, causing you to have to dunk it in the bath tub (the quilt, not the dog).  And, because you used a water erasable marker … yep, you guessed it … all your quilt lines will disappear!

Ironically, if you then re-mark the quilt lines and store your unfinished quilt in a cupboard for years on end the marks won’t come out completely, no matter how many times you wash it (true story).

But you know, for all it’s imperfections, I have also learned to love this quilt.  It may not have my favourite colours in it; it may not be my favourite design and my stitching may not be as neat as I would like,  but we’ve spent quite a bit of time together already, this quilt and I,  and we have come to accept that neither one of us is perfect.

And I am OK with that.

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Mile a minute quilt 038Happy stitching everyone!

Natalie xx

 

love entwined … slow progress

I’m making very slow progress with my Love Entwined quilt …

The truth is, I found stitching the zig-zag border very tedious (there, I said it!) and that led me to abandon the quilt for a long time. Eventually, I did pick it up again and have been getting on with things a lot better now that the border is finished!

So, the first vase is now brimming over with berries and blooms and I  just need to embroider a few stamens to a couple of the flower centres.

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Now I’m working on the second vase of flowers …

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I apply tiny drops of Roxanne’s glue-baste-it to hold the pieces in place before stitching them down.

Roxanne glue-baste-it

This amazing applique glue dries in minutes, holds great and is 100% water soluble, with no harmful chemicals, dyes or waxes.  It also comes with a super fine syringe-like applicator which allows for controlled droplets of tiny beads of glue just where you need it! I find glueing so much better than pinning, since I don’t prick my fingers so much 🙂 That’s gotta be a good thing, right?  Cos who wants blood on their quilt?

berries

Fern

And, best of all, I get to combine embroidery and applique on this quilt too … *happy sigh*

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small purple flower

.. and it was so worth it to persevere with that pesky border, cos the end result is pretty cool! I love the whole 3D effect with the zig-zags 🙂 This is how the whole thing looks from a distance …

photo.

Whether or not I ever go ‘all the way’ with this quilt remains to be seen (the finished size is 90″ x 90″ – yikes!), but right now I’m not looking too far ahead. One piece at a time is enough for me …

Happy stitching!

Natalie x

 

 

one year ago today …

… I began my adventures in blogland with a very nervous first post from my sewing room.

To tell you the truth, I was not at all convinced that anyone would be the slightest bit interested in my ‘wee bits o’ nonsense’ (aka sewing projects).  But I was amazed how quickly I was made to feel welcome in the blogging community with lovely comments and words of encouragement.  Bloglanders are such a friendly bunch 🙂

Looking back over my blog I realize that I have created a colourful little journal of my life in stitches!  I didn’t think about that aspect of blogging when I started out, so it’s an unexpected and happy bonus!

Hexy flower side view

One year on and I would like to thank you all for reading my words, looking at my pictures, checking out my tutorials and for all your wonderful encouragement and amazingly generous comments! I can’t tell you how much you brighten my day by taking time out of your busy lives to share your thoughts with me!  It is particularly heart warming when someone tells me that they have been inspired by something they have seen on my blog! And I have to pinch myself when I see a Sewing Room Secrets project on Pinterest!  That still freaks me out every time! (in a good way!!)

I have picked out 12 of my favourite makes and posts from the past 12 months and hope you will humour me as I take a little trip down memory lane…

Little hexie needle caddy

Little hexie needle caddyIt’s a giveaway!

Etsy Collage

A treasury of applique

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Hexagons for Harriet

Harriet before applique

‘Lola’

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Zakka Style

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Zakka inspired gift set

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‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

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How to make a Suffolk Puff

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Time to just be me

My glasses case

Catching up …

Crafty Creatures

On white

Chocolate Tiffin Recipe

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Thank you for your company this past year … having you along for the journey has really been a blessing 

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*Edited: I will be taking a step back from blogging for a while, as I will not be able to devote as much time to it in the coming months, due to other demands in my life right now. I will still be ‘around’, working on my Love Entwined quilt and drafting several new patterns for my Etsy shop, but unfortunately blogging will have to take a back seat for now.  I will try to pop back from time to time with updates when I can, but for now I bid you all a fond farewell and happy stitching!  Love & hugs, Natalie xx

 

happiness is …

…a pot of tea, an open fire and some quiet stitching on a Sunday afternoon

LE centre4

I’m working on a new appliqué quilt called ‘Love Entwined’.  It is an historic appliqué quilt dating back to 1790, which has been interpreted and re-created by Esther Aliu (you can read more about it here). Esther is generously offering this magnificent quilt as a free BOM over on her blog, if you care to join in 🙂   Just hit the button in the sidebar and it will take you straight to Esther’s blog.

Original LE Black & White

Not much is known about the original, other than it is from the Georgian Era, England, heavily appliquéd and is described as a ‘fine marriage coverlet’.  It will be a real labour of love and will probably take me in the region of two years to complete!!

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It took me ages to get started … partly because I discovered it just before Christmas when I had a million and one other things to do, but mostly because I was nervous about the huge undertaking that this quilt represents.

I mean this is BIG! Not just in size (96″ x 96″), but also in the challenges that it poses.  It is an intense appliqué project and I have never attempted anything quite on this scale before. Yikes!

The first challenge was choosing the fabrics.  This is the part that, for me, takes forever as I keep changing my mind!  Laying out some fabrics on my work table helped a lot 🙂

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The second challenge was the Mariner’s compass block as I have never done one before. It took a couple of attempts, but I got there in the end …

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The appliqué pieces on this quilt are an awful lot smaller than they look, but I have been getting around it with a few carefully placed embroidery stitches 😉   

Now that I have finished the centre circle, I think I am over the worst.  Yeah right, who am I kidding?

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… one solitary little embroidered flower added, only nine more to go!

What new challenges have you set yourself for the New Year?

Happy stitching!

Natalie x

‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

Actually, it is likely to be somewhat more than a thousand stitches. I guess it would be several thousand, but as I didn’t count them whilst I was making this wholecloth quilt, I will never know the exact number of times the needle entered the soft peachy cotton fabric.

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I have always been fascinated when I have come across old quilts or coverlets in museums or books. I always find myself craning over the rope barriers in museums to take a closer look, to find out more about the maker.

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My mind sets off wondering how those women managed to create such beautiful, intricate and timeless treasures without the luxury of a fabric store with all its choice of fine cottons, without a ‘daylight’ bulb and without all the notions and mechanical aids of today’s modern world.  How different it was for those women of my past who didn’t have a fabric ‘stash’.  It is nothing short of miraculous how they did it  and I love how their strength and tenacity is preserved in the fibres of those beautiful hand made quilts.

These are some of the things that I pondered as I stitched ‘Morning Star’ and in my own way I felt connected to those women as my hands busied themselves with the rocking motion of the needle. I yearned to create something timeless as they had done, to create my own little piece to enchant the eye with intricate patterns.

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The journey began with a sketch on squared paper, doing my best to draw out a ‘scaled down’ version of the actual thing.

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I knew that if I could come up with a design for just one quarter of the quilt, then I could mirror and flip the pattern to create a whole quilt. I started with a design for the centre star; I practiced drawing feathers and gathered quilting templates from magazines and books.

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I ‘scaled up’ the design to a life size version and I transferred it on to fabric, mirroring and flipping the pattern until the whole top was marked out.

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I tried out several different thimbles, but the one that I found suited me best was a Clover leather thimble with a metal centre on the pad. By the time I had finished quilting ‘Morning Star’ I had worn a hole right through the metal on two thimbles and was on my third!

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Whilst the thimble protected my finger on top of the quilt, the finger on the underside took quite a battering and I was forced to stop on many an occasion when it would start to bleed from repeated stabbings.  I didn’t want to risk getting blood on the quilt!  Someone recommended that I use ‘udder cream’ on the afflicted finger which I found a highly amusing notion at the time, but I have to say it did help to sooth my chapped skin 🙂

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It delighted me to work simply with just the cloth and the frame. It was a real escape, simply to sit with the gentle rhythm of the needle as it gathered all those tiny stitches and lulled my racing thoughts.  I was able to lose myself in the doing of it and I loved it.

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Morning star 2

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I stitched ‘Morning Star’ back in 2005, so it is already a few years old and my hope is that I might get to hand it down to a grandchild at some point in the future and tell them the story behind the stitches.

I would like to tell them about those strong women who have gone before us, who stitched by candle light, making do with the materials that they had.  I would like to tell them about how every stitch in a quilt represents a moment in time in the life of it’s maker and I would like to explain to them that, although every tiny stitch stands alone, it is also part of the whole; connected to the rest.

Just like a family.

Natalie x

wedding fever, a swap and a new pattern

The Very Berry Handmade Textile ATC swap has come to an end and, a little over a week ago, I posted my wee card off to my swap partner with a little note. 

ATC envelope

The recipient is an American lady, so my little offering has flown all the way across the pond to New York! I do hope she likes it.

In the meantime, I have received this delicate blossom tree from Kathie who blogs over at Dipity-do-dah.  Those sweet little blossoms are really, really tiny and are not embroidered on, but cut from fabric!! Wow! Thank you Kathie – I love it!

ATC received May 2013

You can see a lot more amazing designs over on the flickr group – such a diverse mix of ideas and interpretations!  It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to the next Very Berry Handmade ATC swap later on in the year.

Alas, no sewing for me today I’m afraid.  Instead, I’m off out shopping for a wedding outfit – the wedding is next Saturday, so I’m cutting it fine, yikes!    (Note to self: don’t kid yourself that you will find wedding attire in John Lewis haberdashery department … resist going in there. … resist … 😉 ).

We will be having some house guests stay with us from my husband’s side of the family, so I can feel a bit of spring cleaning coming on and some cake baking too! It won’t all be cushion plumping and kettle polishing though – I will be making sure that I set aside a little sewing time before the wedding to do some hand quilting on my Mile-a-Minute scrappy quilt (which hasn’t been ‘mile-a-minute’ at all, by the way – but that’s a whole other story for another day :))

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MAM quilt4

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And finally, I am super excited (and a wee bit nervous?) to tell you that I will soon be launching a pattern shop from my facebook page.  It isn’t up and running yet and I am working hard behind the scenes to get my first pattern on there for sale as a PDF download.  I have lots of ideas for stitcheries, wall hangings, dolls and more!  Here is a sneaky peek at the first pattern that I hope will be available soon ….

When it rains detail

This will be one of a series of fun stitcheries featuring Harriet, a little girl who never ventures far without her Teddy.  Each stitchery will depict a day in Harriet’s life, or reveal a little bit about her character. I’ll reveal the message behind this little scene, once I’ve finished stitching it 🙂

Now, it’s time I hit the shops – that wedding outfit ain’t gonna buy itself!  Happy stitching folks!

Liebster Award

liebster

I have been nominated for a Liebster Award by the lovely Irina over at El Petit Taller.  Thank you Irina!

If you’ve never heard of this award before, it is for fledgling bloggers like myself and is a way for them to get to know others, get more followers and discover other blogs that they might like!

To accept the award there are a few rules to follow:

  • Each blogger should answer the questions the tagger has set for you.
  • Choose eleven new bloggers (with less than 200 followers) to pass the award on to and link them in your post.
  • Create eleven new questions for the chosen bloggers.
  • Comment on their page to tell them about the award.
  • Each blogger should post eleven random facts about themselves.
  • No Tag Backs!!!

These are the questions Irina has asked me:

1. what person do you most admire?  My Mum! I admire her for many reasons,  not least for her courage, her boundless energy and her capacity to always put others before herself.  She has taught me the value of family, friendship and love.

2. what’s on your bedside table right now? A reading lamp and a photograph of me and my son when he was about 4 years old (he is 19 now).

3. what’s your favorite cooking recipe?  I have a really sweet tooth, so my favourite recipe is for Mary Berry’s Lemon Drizzle Cake.  It’s super easy – plop everything into a bowl and mix! Never fails – yum!

4. is there a sewing book you would recommend? The first sewing book I ever referred to was ‘The Sampler Quilt Book’ by Lynne Edwards. It was the perfect introduction to patchwork and quilting! I also like Strips & Strings by Evelyn Sloppy.

5. what’s your favorite journey? Home. My favourite journey always leads me home.

I would like to nominate these lovely blogs for a Liebster Award:

And these are my questions for them:

  1. Sweet or savoury?
  2. A few really good friends or lots of acquaintances?
  3. City girl or country?
  4. Morning person or night owl?
  5. What is the most unusual thing you have ever eaten?
  6. What is your earliest memory?
  7. What is your favourite smell?
  8. What 3 words would you choose to describe yourself?
  9. What qualities do you most treasure in a friend?
  10. How did you choose a name for your blog?
  11. Is there such a thing as ‘enough’ fabric?

Now for some random facts about me:

  • I cannot walk in heels to save my life
  • As a teenager, I once fell asleep on a bus – standing up!!
  • I lived in Cyprus for 3 years from the ages of 3 to 6
  • I went to a total of 14 different schools when I was growing up
  • My favourite chocolate is Lindor by Lindt 
  • I love to bake
  • 24 years ago I had a holiday romance and I’m still married to him!
  • I am a self confessed fabric stroker
  • My favourite book is ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd
  • I love the sight of bluebells in the woods, so beautiful!
  • I have a miniature Yorkshire Terrier called Beebo

Beebo

Now all that’s left for me to do is to pop over to my chosen blogs and let them all know that I have nominated them for this wonderful award!  But before I do, I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of a quilt I made from the ‘Strips & Strings’ book I mentioned earlier.

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strips & Strings2

Happy stitching everyone!

quilters block

I’ve had a patchwork quilt top lying around for about four months just begging to be finished and quilted, but I’ve not managed to get beyond sewing all the blocks together. The reason for the halt in proceedings is one that has temporarily sabotaged many of the quilts I have made so far. I’m a ditherer, you see, when it comes to deciding on what to do about the borders. Is it just me or do you struggle with borders too?

I seem to get ‘quilters block’ and the quilt top languishes at the back of the cupboard like some forgotten relic.  Strangely, when I leave it alone for a wee while, an idea will often come out of the blue and, suddenly, I know exactly what to do and all is well again.

This ‘Turning Twenty’ quilt top was made at my monthly sewing group.  A quilting friend had used these colours in a lap quilt and I fell in love with them straight away! Aren’t they pretty?

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There were some scraps left over from cutting out the blocks, so I sewed them all together in one long strip

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and this is what the border looks like

Border on turning twenty quilt

Border on turning twenty quilt

I’m kind of excited about the backing I’ve chosen for this quilt.  Excited and nervous at the same time, actually.  Excited, because it is a sort of soft, minky type of material which I think will be deliciously cozy!! And nervous, because I have absolutely no experience of sewing with this type of fabric and it looks like it might be a little bit tricky to quilt!

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505 spray

Temporary fabric adhesive spray

I’m going to take the finished top and the backing along to my sewing group next week, when I’ll be trying out a temporary spray adhesive that my quilting friends have said works really well and means there is no need for basting. No basting? Sounds fab!

I love having such generous friends who share all their time saving tips!

Then, once the backing is on,  all that’s left to do is the quilting.  Yikes!

Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy stitching!