Sunday, January 24, 2016

Simplicity 1920 - a (much) repeated pattern for the win

A couple of years ago I muslined up a top from the Simplicity 1920 pattern. It was a disaster, mainly because of the w-i-d-e neckline that left me a wee bit frustrated when it came to making the top sit nicely on my shoulders. Without showing bra strap. Yeah, that.

However towards the end of last year I had a wedding to go to and little time to make a nice top, so I reached for Simplicity 1920 as it was the shape of top I was after. I added about an inch to the neckline, ignored the shoulder/sleeve vents, and made it in red silk.

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It was lovely. I still wear it each week, but making it without the sleeve vents was a massive mistake. I have narrow shoulders and, thanks to swimming every day, guns. I needed that space in my sleeve to allow movement (and gun-flexing).

I wanted to make it again, in linen this time for my long summer staycation.  So I made three.

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I made this one first out of a yellow hanky linen I'd purchased from Addicted to Fabric a couple of years ago. Its my favourite.

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Siobhan and I went to Addicted the day before New Years Eve - her to get buttons and my opinion, and me to pick up a white linen and another nice plain colour that would go with most of my summer skirts.   This olive green is such a gorgeous colour. I made this top on New Year's Eve and wore it out to the movies that night. It gets worn constantly.

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I'm not much of a white fabric fan, but heck - it goes with everything.

In the last week of my staycation I dedicated my sewing to work clothes. So I cracked open the Liberty stash. I'd never sewn with Liberty in my life. I was justifiably nervous.

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This is the "Kussman" print with Icelandic horses. I bought the fabric at Addicted ages ago. I really, really love this top. I've already worn it to work with a black-grey textured skirt and it's not often I get compliments on what I sew but there were compliments. Lots of them.

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And this is Liberty's "Wiltshire Berry" fabric. I bought it at Shinjuku's Okadaya in Tokyo. I always thought it would be perfect with a black skirt, so I made a black skirt too. The fabric is unbelievably pretty.

I'm not sick of this pattern yet at all. I've cut out another two tops for work in the last week, and I made up one during Canberra Sewing Crew social sewing yesterday. I almost finished another, but I made a massive mistake in overlocking the neckline because it was fraying badly, and then slicing into the neck with my overlocker blade. Such a rookie mistake - I was embarassed. So it's sitting in the naughty corner for now until I can work out how to fix it.

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Here's the version I made yesterday. I used a beautiful printed lawn from Tomato in Tokyo. It has toadstools and squirrels and owls and bunnies on it. I will never be too old to wear fabric with those things on them.

Since my red silk version, I've added between 1 and 1 1/2 inches to the neckline, both front and back. It seems to work for me. Weirdly the bust darts are in the right place for me, when normally they are too high. I actually have never followed the pattern instructions for this, so I don't know whether I'm supposed to make the bias for the neckline, or even if there is a bias. But I just use store bought bias binding. It works for me, and for this top.


I've added the line drawing for the pattern here to demonstrate the wide and low neckline. I'd also really like to make that jacket, but without all the shirring on the sleeve and back.

All up, it's a simple but really nice top, and very comfortable to wear. I take my time with making it - doing all the top stitching of the vents and arm holes, and it probably takes less than two hours, including cutting. It's a good, versatile pattern, and definitely a key article when it comes to building a basic wardrobe.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Unblogged: Hot Flush Diamonds

In undertaking the great sort-out of Spring-Summer 2015/16, I've discovered a few unblogged quilts , so I thought I might start a series called The Unblogged. Knowing me, I'll still be blogging the unblogged until 2017, but to show you how dedicated I am, here's the first Unblogged.

Hot Flush Diamonds

It's a monster and it was too big for the clothes line and too heavy for anyone to lift so I cleaned out my closet of skirt hangers and got the ladder out to hang the quilt on the tallest gutters of my house. Oh, and it's 36 degrees celcius outside and SCORCHING. You're welcome.

I started this quilt at a Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably workshop almost 5 years ago.  Good Lord. I finished it last summer, I think. I only say that because I really can't remember, but I do remember suffocating under this huge quilt last summer, so perhaps.

Hot Flush Diamonds

I didn't have much of a clue when I was putting this together. I followed the pattern for Cool Diamonds (from the book "Kaleidoscope of Quilts") to a tee, which meant the quilt size was much bigger than was practical. We have a low queen sized bed, and this quilt is really more a king sized or bedspread size. It's so long it hangs to the floor, and I can tuck my pillows underneath it. Not the most practical size, and also very heavy. So this quilt doesn't get used too often, but it really is very pretty to look at.

Hot Flush Diamonds

Raylee from Sunflower Quilting quilted it in an orange Rasant Thread and I really like it. I didn't want the quilting to blend in, and I wanted it to acknowledge the amount of orange that had crept into the quilt.

Hot Flush Diamonds

I backed it with Martha Negley bamboo print and some spare Kaffe from the binding fabric.

Hot Flush Diamonds

I called it Hot Flush Diamonds because in the book there is a Cool Diamonds pattern, and a Hot Diamonds pattern. I'm pretty sure they are identical except for the colours used. I started out with a cool green quilt but it was bland, so we added orange and suddenly it wasn't such a cool quilt anymore. There were definite temperature spikes in there. Hot Flush. Enough said.




Tuesday, January 5, 2016

We need to talk about Chester

Sharon from Two Bits Patches, the creator of the Chester Criswell Block of the Month that I started three years ago, has decided to start sending emails once a week to reinvigorate those of us (*cough* like me *cough*) who had fallen by the wayside. It was the gentle kick up the butt I needed. I mean, there's only so much needle turn appliqué a lady can do before she goes stark raving mad! No wonder I'm so slow (I'm intensely insane already).

Chester Criswell is a very traditional signature album quilt - originally made in turkey red and green back in 1852 in Pennsylvania. I'm a traditional kind of quilter, but I'm not one for the traditional colour palettes so I've been doing mine in bright modern fabrics, on a text (or course) low-ish value background.

I've had the nine blocks I thought I'd made so far up on the design wall the last few weeks (and then today I found a tenth!! Oh Reuben Stubbs - you always were trouble) so I thought I'd finally document them and put them up here on the blog for posterity and fact checking (this is how I found the tenth block, actually. He was on the blog a few weeks ago. I knew Reuben wasn't a figment of my imagination!)

1. Jane Wilson
1. Jane Wilson

2. Elizabeth Cowan
2. Elizabeth Cowan (done using a different technique with "wash out" stabiliser. I hated the technique, and it didn't wash out at all. I would love to do this one again one day.)

3. Priscilla and Joseph Turner
3. Priscilla and Joseph Turner (again, done with the dodgy technique described above before I realised the evil stuff wouldn't wash out (and hence why the grey fabric has gone crinkly)).

4. Nancy and James R Smith
4. Nancy and James R. Smith

5. James Carlile
5. James Carlile

6. Reuben Stubbs
6. Reuben Stubbs 

7. William and Harry Clendenon
7. William and Harry Clendenon

21. Mary Trayner
21. Mary Trayner (this is when I took the blocks back up after more than a year's break and decided to start working backwards. Didn't last long.)

23. Mary Watkins
23. Mary Watkins

25. Sarah Stubbs
25. Sarah Stubbs

It's a wet and cool day in Canberra today so I've spent this morning at the pool (naturally) and this afternoon avoiding the mess in the kitchen and prepping block 10 Rachel Dickie. Once I deal with the mess in the kitchen, it'll be leftovers for dinner, a nice gin and tonic, The Flash on DVD and Rachel and me.

Rachel Dickie in progress

I really love holidays!

Anyone interested in a tutorial on how I prepare my freezer paper appliqué? Or are you all down with that already?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy Handmade Christmas

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The spirit of Christmas didn't clobber me over the head until the week I finished work - the week before Christmas. I don't have many people to buy presents for - a few friends, and a small family. I refused to go overboard this year - in embracing my new aspiring-to-be-a-minimalist lifestyle, I don't see why anyone else wants plastic junk either. I certainly don't want to buy it.

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I wasn't anticipating making anything by hand for gifts. But I do like to sew for stress relief, and there was a pattern I'd been itching to try from Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts, so I got to cutting and sewing the night before my last day ... and then the next thing I knew I had six quilted coasters for a little Christmas gift for each of my workmates.

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I used a lot of my stash of independent screen printed fabrics - Ink and Spindle, Auntie Cookie, Publisher Textiles to name a few - and also cotton batting scraps that I'd been hoarding for a project just like this. I think they came up really nicely! I enjoyed sewing them a lot more than I thought I would - I would even get up early before swimming laps to quilt a couple, and then hop on my bike to the pool.

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I ended up making six different sets, and everyone who received a set (or a single) told me how nice they are. They didn't take long to make - once the fabric and batting was cut it took about an hour or so to sew up a set of 6. I still haven't made any for us at home - but I'm working on that.

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My nephews are ages 9, 5 and 3 and I really wanted to make them something useful. They get so spoiled at Christmas with toys from Santa and the grandparents that it made me think I'd be a little more comfortable if Aunty Michelle could make them something ... that wasn't Lego (don't worry - in case you think I was sucking the joy of Christmas for my sweet nephews, they got a little Lego too. Next year - probably not. Sorry kids.)

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I sewed the two older nephews a colour coordinated pencil roll each - again the pattern was from Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. Cutting all those little fabrics strips was a total pain in the arse. But sewing it together was a blast - I had a lot of fun constructing it. The fabric was all stash fabric, and even the grosgrain ribbon ties were from the big box of trims I had from my Blythe sewing days. The only thing I had to buy was the set of pencils.

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For the three-year-old I made a crayon roll. I loosely followed this tutorial from Skip to My Lou, however I adapted the measurements for a pack of 12 crayons, and constructed and quilted it like I did with the pencil rolls up above (one continuous line of quilting).

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My one mistake was not making the roll wider to allow for chunkier crayons. In the end I had allowed for 1 inch pockets, but really they needed to be closer to 1 1/4 inches. The crayons are a little bit too squeezy for my liking, but my sister-in-law reckons they'll be good for his fine motor skills, so what would I know?

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Apparently the gifts were well received and a great idea for the days that the boys have to join mum in the office. The nine-year-old is a little cartoonist in the making so I hope he enjoys using the roll.

Christmas 2012

This is a stock photo from 2012! For years now I have been making several batches of granola to give as gifts - head to the two dollar shop to get some nice jars and fill them up, add a bit of garden twine and a packing label listing what's in it, and it's the perfect edible Christmas gift! I used to make Christmas cakes, but granola is better for you, and the oven doesn't have to be on for as long to bake it.

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And finally, what's Christmas without a new Christmas frock? Well, no Christmas frock was made this year, sadly, but I did spend a little time on Christmas morning taking up the hem of my first ever Simplicity 2929 by 7 inches to wear at Christmas lunch at our friends'. It was a warm day so this voile dress was perfect, and those big roses make it feel very Christmassy indeed!

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Finally, I hope every here had a lovely Christmas Day, no matter how you spent it or who you spent it with. I really missed seeing my family this year but travel was out of the question so we made do, and friends came to the rescue, and thank heavens for Australia Post getting the presents to everyone on time!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Another quilt for Susan

This is the quilt that Julie and I made for our friend Susan for her birthday.

susan quilt 1

We made a scrappy quilt using the Cheyenne block - with newsprint fabric for the "low value" (really not that low value at all) because Susan's late dad was in the Canberra press gallery.

Susan quilt 2

I finished the top with 20 minutes to spare before her party in September. We gave her the quilt top, and then grabbed it back off her as we left. My back wasn't playing fair and I had planned to quilt it myself. Julie helped with the basting (thank heavens) and then finally I had a window of painfree-ness a couple of weeks ago where I could quilt it. Just 720 inches at a time before resting, but within a few days it was done. Julie sewed the binding on using the Ella Blue Basics place names fabric in white and black, and it was ready to give back to Susan. Only 3 months late, but better late that never.

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I quilted straight lines 1/2 inch from each seam to give a grid effect. It's quite a simple way of quilting, but anything other than straight lines would have ruined the different patterns that this block gives you in this quilt. I used Aurifil 50/2 weight in colour 1135 (yellow) and it turned out really well in a quilt that gives a bit of a yellow vibe (for a scrappy quilt). Also I'm on the whole "using what I have in the stash" bandwagon at the moment and I have a lot of this yellow Aurifil laying around. It's the perfect sunny colour for a very happy quilt.

susan quilt 4

We got pretty cheeky with the backing - I had a few metres of firemen fabric that I bought for a few dollars a metre at a quilt shop sale a few years ago. Again with the stash. We also used 100% cotton batting. I'm such a fan of cotton batting for home quilting - it sticks to the fabric so the pinning isn't as important, and it gives a really nice finish to the quilt after you wash it. I washed Susan's quilt before we gave it to her so it has an immediate snuggle factor.

susan quilt 3

It's not the first quilt I've made Susan, but the first I've made with another friend. It was a lot of fun getting together over a few weekends, sewing, trimming, sorting and joining. In the mad sorting out I've been doing over the last few months, I discovered another quilt I made to give to a friend over 2 years ago, but never quilted. I have a few more weeks of leave from work, and that's definitely on the list to finish.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

FINISHING - Report #2

Well it's been 21 days since my last report. So much has happened in that time, including a second borking of my back (a different part this time). I'm feeling so talented at this back business I just ... can't. Anyway, I'm feeling better every day, although some days have been less than impressive. But occassionally sewing does get done!

Also I've been reading this book by The Minimalists as part of my research into living my life more meaningfully, with less crap. And it's really good. Quotably good. I'm learning a lot about myself and the reasons why I feel so uncomfortable living in a cluttered home and life. So this finishing project has been a perfect "dip of my toe in the water" of minimalism.

Not too much to report on the actually finishing side of things this time - but I have progressed quite a few things too. The first UFO finished is that block from Chester Criswell that I thought I'd lost at the Sydney Quilt Show. I FOUND IT!

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And I finished it. Best appliqué of my life, done spectacularly well while sewing under the influence of serious painkillers. Sarah Stubbs is the name of this block. Tick!

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A friend and I had booked in do the Suitcase Rummage a couple of months ago. I was a bit touch and go in the days leading up to it as to whether I'd actually make it on the day, but in the end I even felt well enough to sew a few Sunnyboys that were hanging around cut out and ready to sew! We did the Suitcase Rummage, and I made a serious dent in the vintage Pyrex collection and a few other unused things in my house so all up a great day. Yay minimalism!

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I also made another project sack for a special request that was very overdue, and managed to work some more on the Final Bags Ever.* Labels? Tick. Batch sewing of handles and tabs? Tick, tick.

And while this wasn't on the UFO list, it was on the essential sewing list. I was attending a wedding - dress code "Elegant Garden Party" (best dress code ever, by the way) - and so I finished that red silk top I wrote about in the last post, and also cut up my old 2011 Christmas frock that was now too big for me, and made it into a skirt.

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(Killing myself laughing in this photo because my husband was photobombing while taking forever to walk into the living room (he's had hip surgery - I forgive him for being slower than a snail). Finally he ducked out of view and I could take this photo.)

Now for the "moving slowly, but at least I'm moving" UFOs.

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Mary Watkins (from Chester Criswell) is slowly but surely getting there. I reckon if Australia doesn't get bowled out before stumps tonight I might have it close to finished.

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The centre section of Anna Brereton is being sewn together! Hallelujah! Long, long way to go on this project, though. And that's OK.



And finally a quilt that a friend and I made for another friend's birthday ... in September. We basted it a couple of months ago, but wrestling a quilt through a sewing machine when you have a back injury is not my idea of smart, or fun. But this morning I started. Just straight lines. I sew 720 inches, and then I stop for a few hours to rest. I'm maybe a quarter done on this. By next update, God willing, it will be finished and back to my friend to bind it.

Hopefully my next update will be quicker than three weeks, and I'll have more to show that is actually finished. This year I've cut right back on the social events I normally get roped into doing leading up to Christmas - so as of 9 pm next Sunday (when my choir has sung its final note at our Christmas concert) it will be nothing but business-as-usual (gardening, housework, working, swimming, the usual friends stuff, and of course sewing in between).

*After more than 8 years making project bags for crocheters/knitters/crafters/storage hoarders, I've decided to finally (!), officially retire. The bags I have cut out are the last bags I will make. I hope to have them all in my online store in the next couple of weeks. I will write a pattern for the project sack, but not before the end of the year. If you want to keep updated on when the bags will go in the store, the best bet is my store's Facebook page.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

FINISHING - Report #1

Two weeks ago I reported that I was determined to finish things that were half-finished or mostly-finished or cut-out-but-not-quite-started.

Two weeks later I have very little to report. Not one to make excuses, I have however been gardening a lot since we got our new vegetable patches. I've started riding to work again in the last couple of weeks which just makes me exhausted and lazy by the time I get home. But riding! YAY! Also back injury rehabilitation takes a lot of spare time - like an hour a day of exercises. Probably gardening is not the best thing for rehabilitation but my physio hasn't complained about it yet!

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BUT I do have things to report, even if there are very few of them.

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This is Mary Trayner from the Chester Criswell Block of the Month I started a couple of years ago. I think I've made a total of 8 blocks now - and by "think" I mean that I seem to have lost one. I'm sure it's in the spare room somewhere...

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It gave me the opportunity to start the next block already prepared with freezer paper - Mary Watkins. She's a bit of fun, mainly because all I can see is the Batman symbol over Gotham City.

IMG_9365  IMG_9361  IMG_9358

I finished three bags for my online store - these were already made and just needed the lining attached and topstitched down. Should have made them much sooner than this - I've already sold two of them. I have more bags cut out and ready to sew up and I'll be making more tonight.

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Finally, I finished the skirt, which I am calling The Skirt of Multiple Inappopriate Patterns But I Don't Give a Hoot. The skirt was already made and the lining cut out. All I had to do was sew the lining up, attach it to the skirt, face it, hem both lining and skirt (the skirt all by hand) and add a hook and eye.  Phew! It actually took me longer than I expected but I was so relieved when it was done. Bonus points for really loving it too.

My finishing has to take a bit of a break for the next few days as I now have to make a top to wear with my new skirt (and it's urgent, because not only do I have very few clothes to wear to work, I need this top to wear to a wedding next weekend, along with a skirt I am refashioning from a too-big dress). Once they are both done though, I'll be free to garden to my heart's content finish more things. I must admit it's satisfying to finish UFOs - but it's also frustrating that I ever let it get this desperately bad. I'm on a bit of a minimalist research binge at the moment and I expect there will be some massive changes in this house over the summer.