A brief blast of summer colours

In the spirit of finishing work in progress before starting anything new I’ve managed my first quilt finish of the year. I started this last summer, which is a little embarassing considering the time lag, but as last year’s crop of newborns required cot quilts I finished those first. This year’s crop are just going to have to wait until I finish a few things as I realised that although this is my eigth quilt, I’ve haven’t made anything for myself yet. So here we are with a simple coin quilt made with one and a half charm packs of Lila Tueller’s Santorini range and some sashing in Bella Solids…ah taupe/latte/greige – I didn’t catch the name of the sashing. The quilting is my first attempt at ‘organic straight line quilting’ which is apparently modern quilting parlance for ‘wonky and what of it?’ The backing is Wisteria from the same range and the binding is Olives also from Santorini. I love this line, in fact in the course of the stash sort-out it turns out I like Lila Tueller’s designs a lot. You may well be seeing rather more of them as the year goes on. It’s cleared some space in one of the baskets of stuff, but I still have plenty left over, do you think a matching pillow or two would be too much?
 

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Finally got round to taking pictures of the tea-dipped fabric in some better light. I’m really happy with how this experiment turned out, it’s much more in keeping now with the rest of our stuff. It only took half an hour to turn it into this large and comfy ‘flange’ pillow. Doesn’t ‘flange’ pillow sound vaguely medical? The term comes from a pattern in an american sewing book, I think I prefer our rather more stately ‘Oxford’ pillow instead. Whatever you care to call it, it’s been well-received. In fact it took some persuading to prise it out from under Barbary Boy’s behind to iron and snap pictures of. It was really worth the tinkering with the fabric, I won’t be so quick to the ‘nah, chuck’ option again.

Thanks for reading,
Helenx

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Hanging on in there

Morning! I am still here, honestly. One of the challenges I set myself for the year was to try and blog twice a week. It’s proving to be tricky. Not that I couldn’t ramble on twice a week, I could easily give you a daily wittering with weekend matinee if it were required; no it’s getting nice piccies sorted in this dreary winter light that’s the problem. I realise when I’m reading a blog that I always go back to ones with the best photos. If anyone has any tips for taking good snaps in dull grey weather I’d love to hear them. So I apologise for the muddy/indoor light on most of my pictures, I am trying!

This week is all about work in progress (WIPS).
 

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Marmalade first, one batch down, at least one more to go. That gooey pale orange stuff in the photo is pectin, a substance released by the pith and seeds of the oranges as they’re boiled. I’ve heard lots of would-be marmalade makers ask whether they need to buy jam sugar to help their marmalade set. Don’t do it! Jam sugar is normal granulated sugar with added pectin to help achieve a good set without having to boil your preserve indefinitely. The pectin released by the oranges themselves should be more than sufficient to achieve a good set for your marmalade, if you go down the jam sugar route you may end up having to slice the finished preserve.
 

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Next up; working my way through the ah, lesser highlights of the fabric stash. I bought this remnant for about £1 in a sale last year. I thought at the time it was a bit chintzy for my tastes, but I was sure I could turn it into something pretty for Miss Marmoset. The colours on this photo aren’t really true (*shakes fist at January light again*), but it says something about its chintziness that Miss Marmoset didn’t like it either. Rather than give up on it I decided to have a go at aging it a little. Hence the mop bucket full of tea. Usually when Miss Marmoset is putting us through one her ‘you snooze, you lose’ weeks I’d be tempted to give it a slug of semi-skim and dive right in. This time however, I put the fabric in, stirred it around, allowed it to cool and…well I’m rather charmed with the results. I think I’ll wait until they’re cushion covers and can be better photographed to show the success of the experiment.
 

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Lastly I have finally got to pinning out this coin quilt and quilting has commenced. One day we’ll live in a house that doesn’t require me to pin out quilts on a carpeted floor, unpick quilt from carpet, then pin out again. Sore fingers now, but I think it’ll be worth it.

End of January is in sight woo!

Thanks for reading,
Helenx

 

Can you feel it?

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Not sure I can yet. I started this quilt top at the end of last year, yes right when I’d decided to down tools and take a quilting break, I missed it and started running this quilt together. I’m wishing I’d made myself wait though now as I’m just not, ‘feeling’ this quilt. It’s made out of an American Jane ‘Recess’ layer cake and run up in a disappearing nine patch pattern. I love American Jane, I love disappearing nine patches, what could possibly go wrong? Technically I suppose nothing really has gone wrong, but I don’t know, I wish I’d waited and thought of something different for this. Its intended purpose is to be a living room quilt, for sofa snuggling purposes, possibly occasional picnic blanket duty, I think it will do those jobs fine. Last night saw me arranging blocks on the living room floor and hopping on and off the sofa with the camera hoping each time I’d see an arrangement that was in my head sometime in early December. Actually when I consider the amount of virus and snot that was in my head in early December, it may account for the bleh, blah way this quilt is shaping up. Anyway my plan is to hand quilt it with some of these…
 

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aah yes, thread. Rapidly shaping up to be the dry-roasted peanuts of this whole fabric diet thing.

Thanks for reading,
Helenx

 

Breaks in the grey

I used to hate January – with a passion. The grey days, long nights, lack of funds etc etc. It always seems like such a long month with nothing to look forward to. So a few years ago I started putting together a couple of little rituals that make January that bit more bearable. Even a little bit joyous, because sometimes the littlest joys are the best ones.

1) The first peep of snowdrops makes me so happy. I love them, so small, so gorgeous, so tough they generate their own heat to flower, which I find so admirable. I plant more every year, there will never be enough snowdrops for me in any garden.

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2) Marmalade, can’t tell you how much I love to make marmalade. It started about eight years ago, when I was editing a reprint of a jams and preserves book. The recipes got me hooked and I had to have a go. The results were…edible…to those who love me, but not brilliant. Things have improved over the years. The Sevilles in the bowl are just enough to form the first batch of marmalade which I’ll be boiling up tomorrow. That first year I sliced the skins up by hand, the juice found every single cut and hang nail on my hands and I’ve never done it since. I always pulse the skins up in a food processor, purists may recoil with horror but I like the uneven texture it gives the finished marmalade. A bowl of oranges, a couple of lemons and granulated sugar makes breakfast a happy meal.

Small joys, just enough to break up the grey keep me quietly smiling and looking forward to spring.

Thanks for reading.
Helenx

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The big fabric diet

I think I may have mentioned the New Year diet I’m attempting this year. It’s not about food, in fact that may be the one thing to be grateful to an autumn of non-stop lurgies, I got to Christmas in need of replacing a few pounds. It’s about fabric. Clearly.

I seem to have spent the last few years in denial about my fabric stash. ‘I don’t have a big fabric stash’ I’d say breezily, ‘it’s all neatly contained’. It was only when I needed to find something over the Christmas period and had to rummage for it that I realised just how big my fabric stash had become, not to mention how unconnected, uncoordinated and all over the place it is too. So it turns out that I do in fact have a pretty sizeable stash, and an extraordinarily accommodating if not very big chest of drawers housing it all (oh alright, and the two laundry baskets, and the scrap bag downstairs). So a sort-out was required, I set to the chest with vigour and couldn’t believe how much stuff was in there. In fact by the time I’d turned out drawer number two I was starting to wonder if I’d find a portal to Narnia in number three. Some of the fabric that turned up was like greeting long-lost friends, some of it like bumping into old boyfriends (‘whatever did I see in you’?!). All of it however, can be put to use. I’m on a fabric diet, as of now (now I’ve bought a couple of bits from the sales that is).

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So here are my aims and caveats:

1) This year I will finish off my WIPS first before starting anything else.

2) I will make scrap quilts and get properly stuck into reducing the stash. Like this lovely brick pattern quilt in my new diary,

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 or this gorgeous pieced border quilt.

3) The only new fabric I’m allowed to buy will be for quilt backs and bindings.

4) I will stop being chicken about fabric combinations and start experimenting a bit more, putting together fabrics from different ranges. Had no idea I had this amount of purple or mint, don’t they go well together?

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5) Hopefully by this time next year, I will have reduced the stash by enough to need to do some shopping.

So I can’t pretend this is going to be easy, particularly at sale time, so I’ve joined a flickr group of like-minded individuals, who all want to trim their fabric and yarn stashes for a bit of support.

I think this is going to be fun *dashes off to bury credit card in the garden*.

Hope all your resolutions are going well.

Thanks for reading,
Helenx

 

The patter of tiny little feet…

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Not me, NOT ME, I should make clear for anyone who actually knows me and might be considering the amount of boozage I merrily knocked back over Christmas. The most wonderful gift arrived for our entire family on Boxing Day: one perfect little niece, Milly Jane. We haven’t been up to the Midlands as yet to meet her, but are hoping to very soon. What could be better than a sweet littley to cuddle and coo over? Especially a littley that has the excellent sense to avoid gatecrashing her Auntie’s birthday by a whole day?! Congratulations to David and Julie a gorgeous addition to the family, can’t wait to give her a huggle*!

I hope she enjoys the little package that’s headed her way. I’ve never succesfully made the bootees before, they were a bit fiddly and a reminder that I’m a happy quilter, not garment maker!

Naturally a pretty girlie quilt is being plotted already…!

Thanks for reading,
Helenx

*copyright Miss Marmoset 2009.

Welcome welcome 2011

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Aaaaaand we’re back in the room. Very late Happy New Year to one and all. I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

We had a magical time this Christmas. The monkeys are of an age where they really, really believe in Father Christmas. They’re also blessedly too young to be asking for hugely expensive pressies. They were enchanted with their zoo animals and skateboard (Barbary Boy), Jessie the Cowgirl and Bullseye and doctor’s set (Miss Marmoset). Their excitement was infectious I think it might’ve been the first Christmas in a very long time where I couldn’t sleep for excitement too!

Despite claiming to be exhausted and fed up of everything a mere matter of weeks ago, I’m having my traditional burst of January energy. It involves major changes to lifestyle and a diet. Pretty much like everyone else really except that I don’t want to lose any weight and don’t drink very much or smoke at all.

The lifestyle changes revolve around cleaning – yes this welcome to the New Year post is about housework and an early contender for ‘dullest blog post of 2011’. The picture below is my cupboard of cleaning stuff, note the baffling amount of bottles and sprays there, not to mention the bowing shelf. There’s is too much unnecessary gunk in there and when I cleaned it out the other day (absolutley NO WAY would I have let the world see it pre-clean) I was amazed by how much toxic crap was under my sink. Three different carpet cleaners, oven cleaner, bleach, mould and mildew remover (thanks to damp in back wall), three different washing powders, fabric conditioner, kitchen spray, bathroom spray, furniture polish. It went on and on. Prompted by reading about connections between household cleaning and allergies plus having two asthmatics and a hayfever sufferer in the family, I’ve decided to run down my chemical stocks and start cleaning with Bicarb, White Vinegar, lemon, salt and a couple of essential oils. I’ve been trialling this approach in our bathroom for the last few weeks; ever since the day Barbary Boy got busy with the Cif, and been impressed with how well it works. If I can save some cash, free up some space and tread a little lighter on the planet it’s worth a go. These three books have been brilliant inspiration to make some necessary changes, Housework Blues, Natural Stain Remover and Green Cleaning. I’m a rubbish housekeeper and I promise not to write about cleaning again but I’d love to get a grip of the housework this year.

What New Year Resolutions have you made?

Thanks for reading.
Helenx