Tuesday, 28 February 2017

En Provence top completed, OMG achieved!

As you may have noticed I didn't do much (anything) on En Provence last week, even though it is my February OMG.  Somehow I just couldn't settle to a long session on that single large quilt, hence the various scrap blocks made as procrastination projects. On Sunday afternoon, with only two more whole days of February left, I finally laid all the rows out and pressed the seams in the desired directions ready to assemble the centre and managed to reach that goal before needing to cook dinner.

Monday's task was making and attaching the borders.  Once I am happy with the layout of the blocks I pin little numbered Post-It notes to help me keep track, this is why:

Numbered "flags" help keep my pieces in the correct order
Note, like with Macavity, there is no sign of the perpetrator.....

I know to expect the "help" and try to keep him out of the area and with careful pinning, sewing and pressing eventually I reached this stage:

My En Provence quilt top is complete and I have achieved my February One Monthly Goal (OMG)!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Rainbow crumbs

I have a confession to make, I can't throw away a piece of fabric that I just might be able to use however small it happens to be. This is my bin, see how small the trimmings have to be to make it into there?

Essentially if it is larger than 3/4" square I keep it. Occasionally pieces larger than that go into the bin, but sometimes they creep back out!  I keep my binding offcuts separated by width and strings (random/varying width long pieces) live in their own shoe box.  I also cut down leftovers into regular sized squares, particularly 2.5" squares. The other tiny bits end up classed as crumbs.  For last year's RSC I started making crumb blocks that I squared up to 4.5", but when my quilting mojo went walk about those few blocks just languished in a little box with some scraps and crumbs sorted by colour.  This week I revisited that box and added to it with 8 purple (January) blocks and 8 turquoise (February) blocks.

Now I have TWO rainbow scrap projects on the go.  It was easy to find the crumbs for these new blocks as I had already sorted out my scraps by colour to make the Dresden plates.  I have also pre-sorted more of my scraps into ziplock bags ready for future months.  Only another week and we find out what the colour is for March, I really don't want to wait! For even more great scrap ideas check out the Oh Scrap! link up.

Weatherwise this last week has been unseasonably warm with a record high today!  Our outdoor Christmas lights are now down (they have been off for a bit) and I did a little preparation in the raised bed ready for planting out later in the year.  There are still leaves to rake, so that has gone onto the list for the weekend. Last week we had lots of wind and rain so I have also picked up the small branches from the garden and set them out to be collected by the township. Many of the verges in our subdivision now have piles of sticks waiting for pick up looking like giant twiggy nests.  We have a few brave crocuses already in bloom and I belatedly planted a bag of grape hyacinth bulbs that had been forgotten, oops!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Midweek update: part 2

This really is today's blog post.

Over the weekend I assembled all the rows for En Provence, trimmed all the four patches for the borders and then decided that I had done enough and needed a couple of day's break from it.

The whole centre, all rows sewn together.

However on Sunday evening I was itching to make something so I looked in my scrap box and as well as sorting out some scraps into colour piles for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge I also found a little baggie of bonus HSTs from trimming corners way back in the mists of time.

I wonder exactly what is in here...
...all of these!

I looked at them, counted them and pondered. Then I saw this off to one side...

...a pincushion made from little leftover pieces.

After a little pressing, trimming, sewing and quilting I now have some pinwheel pincushions in progress that will go into my etsy shop when I restock and reopen it in the next month or so.  As I have plenty more of these HSTs there will be more pincushions to come...

The top two need filling with crushed walnut shells
The bottom two need quilting and backing.

Before I can even reopen my etsy shop are things I need to sort out since moving countries, not least of which is waiting for the magic piece of paper which makes it legal for me to work over here. I have enjoyed the break from paid employment outside the home, but now I am nearly able to work I am finding myself ready to go out and do something. What I don't yet know, but this is a busy town with many opportunities, all I have to do is discover the right one for me!

Today I am linking up with Oh Scrap!

Midweek update: part 1

I started writing this at the end of last week but got sidetracked, so firstly here is Friday's post:
Design Floor Friday

Some quilters have a design wall - a vertical cloth surface, often made of flannel, that quilt blocks can cling to or be pinned to, and there is a weekly blog link to Design Wall Monday to talk about what you have on that "wall". I have the flannel, but it has not yet been deployed in our new home so I am still working with the "design floor".  One problem with the design floor is that it can't be left in place as it is in our family lounge so I usually clear my WIP away and replace the coffee table before everyone else needs to use the room later in the day, another is that the cat loves to come in and rearrange the pieces, a bonus is that it makes me sweep and vacuum that room before I put all those hours of work down on the (past its best) parquet flooring. Both a nuisance and a bonus is that the DF is on the main floor and I sew in the basement, this means I have to remember how the blocks were arranged (my phone camera is a big help here) but I do get some, much needed, exercise going up and down the stairs.

The first 3 blocks of En Provence
My "helper"
Progress by the end of Friday
I treated myself to two new quilting books last week and they arrived on Thursday.

The one on the left turned up on a blog post I found when searching for ideas for the future setting of my Dresden plates, the other caught my eye as I wanted to qualify for Amazon's free shipping because two books are definitely better than just one and I love trying to use up all my little scraps, after all even those corner triangles we trim off were bought and paid for :)

Monday, 13 February 2017

Weekend progress

By the end of Saturday I had all my En Provence units sewn, though not all pressed and trimmed to exact size.  On Sunday I pressed all the four patch units and finished spinning the seams to make assembly of the quilt top easier.  I did a quick calculation and the quilt top as designed will have 2868 pieces of fabric in it! Wow! Next I need to trim all these to 3.5" square then I can start putting it together.

All the units for En Provence

For a bit of light relief I organised my small scraps into bags of the same colour, this will help with the rainbow scrap challenge during the coming months, and also made 3 turquoise Dresden plates to meet the February colour choice of teal/aqua/turquoise.  All the "petals" came out of the scrap bag, no yardage was harmed in making these so I can also link to Oh Scrap! :)

The weather turned almost warm on Saturday with temperatures of over 50F (over 10C) and as the daylight faded there was much less snow on the ground than we awoke to. My tender herbs got moved out of the garage to get some light and, possibly, some rain, but I expect to need to move them back inside during the week as more cold air, and possibly snow, comes our way.

At the moment I am holding off starting any new knitting projects, though I can hear the siren song of various balls of yarn, as I have at least 4 projects that need to be finished. Of the four things one of them only needs seams and a neckband, the others need a little more, but they are all at least 80% done so I must finish at least one of them before casting on again.  I also have a barely started scarf, but as that is for me there is no great rush to carry on with that at the moment, it will probably become my in-car project when we are driving to places in the better weather.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Cold weather, warm hands

With the snow and below freezing temperatures reappearing mid-week and giving me great light to work in I have managed a couple of knitting finishes this week - a baby blanket for a friend of a friend and some cosy fingerless mittens.

The blanket was a rescue mission as the friend who was making it fell up some steps and broke her hand a week before Christmas and still can't knit, meanwhile the baby it is for keep on growing (as they do), so I just carried on with it until the yarn was used up. Easy knitting for watching TV and taking to my craft group.

The mittens are from this Really Clear pattern and I took a class at Stitch Your Art Out to help me with the techniques for knitting on lots of double-pointed needles. It is actually only a set of 5 (or 4 if you prefer) but feels like 20 when you first start! Now I shall have warm hands as I sit at my PC in our basement.

First mitt completed
Second mitt in progress

My sewing machine has not been totally ignored. I made 3 Dresden plates in varied purples for the January's Rainbow Scrap Challenge and have made progress on my remaining sub-units for my En Provence quilt.

I hope to get those final sub-units finished over the weekend, then I can get onto assembling the blocks.  The purple petals came from leftover fabric from En Provence.

Monday, 6 February 2017

New year, new effort to keep up with the blog

Well, my blogging efforts in 2016 came to a dead end when my rhythm was broken by travel and other things. I also went through a fallow patch in my crafting.  Attempting to grow things in our tree covered shady garden took over my creative efforts over the summer months but my drive picked up towards the end of the year and I started making stuff again, which has inspired me to put my fingers back on the keyboard ("pen to paper" just doesn't work) and bring my blog back to life.

Here are some of the things I made and grew last year. We also took a trip to New Mexico in November and enjoyed the sunshine and wide open spaces.

So far this year I have been working on Bonnie Hunter's En Provence mystery quilt and my OMG (one monthly goal) for February is to turn this collection of pieces of fabric and sub-units into a quilt top/flimsy. I have at least done ALL the cutting (but not all the pressing and trimming....)

I also want to take part in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge and my plan is to make dresden plate blocks in the various colours.

Update: I had these done by Tuesday evening:

So that is the purple done for January, next aqua/teal/turquoise for February....

Playing in the garden

In February 2016 we purchased the house that we had been renting since August 2014.  This gave me more options in the 0.3 acre garden, though I am holding back on big stuff until we have had some of the trees felled. Currently our back garden/yard is almost unimproved woodland and the front isn't much better. The soil is poor as the goodness from the leaves has been lost each year because in the fall all the leaves had been raked to the kerb (curb), to be vacuumed up by the township and taken away for composting.  The best light is for growing anything other than mature broadleaf trees is in the 10 feet nearest the road, of which 3 feet is concrete footpath (UK: pavement, US: sidewalk).

2014: Lots of trees! The piles of greenery
are from removing an evergreen
that blocked all light into the sitting room.
2016: My refuge from the mosquitoes

Spring/summer of 2015, while we were still renting, saw us try out straw bale gardening, with mixed success. I ended up being back in the UK for the whole of May, June and July so my husband and sons took on the learning curve and that is when we discovered just how little growing light reached most of the front garden.  The straw bales were also used for growing in 2016, but will be composted this year once they are no longer frozen solid.

Heirloom tomatoes in straw bales
Chillies & tomatoes ready for drying

In autumn 2015 I planted some spring bulbs (daffodils and crocus) in the verge which gave a good show last spring and I am hoping they will repeat and improve this year.

Last summer I added three 3' x 6' raised beds in which I planted herbs, vegetables and fruits and we also had an outdoor hydroponics system for tomatoes and basil (Genovese and Thai).

Fruit & veg raised beds after transplanting
Herb bed after transplanting
Hydroponics system a couple of weeks after transplanting

One basil harvest! There were several
Huge basil leaves

As a novelty I grew a loofah, and although it set fruit they didn't ripen before the cold weather arrived. I shall try again this year.

Friday, 3 February 2017

What I finished in the rest of 2016

So what did I finish while I wasn't blogging in 2016? In no particular order.

In October the pink elephants quilt was completed and sent over to the UK.

Free motion quilted on my home sewing machine
Quilting detail - easier to see on the flannel backing
The whole quilt - in the end it measured 54" x 74"

In August I finished a sweater for my younger son that he took with him on his trip to the UK and Switzerland. I sewed up the last seams on our way to the airport in July and then made him model it in temperatures of over 30°C/90°F! Also some flannel PJ pants for my elder son.

Another knitting project completed was my fair-isle hat (for me!) started in April at the Stitch Your Art Out retreat, finished later in the year. The pattern is a Really Clear design and it was much more straightforward than it looks as it was all made "in the round", so all knitting with no purling after the initial ribbed edge. I have worn this a lot during the chilly weather as it fits so easily in my handbag.

October saw another quilt finished, the Frugal Block quilt I had been working on back in January was quilted bound and labelled for its recipient, who will get it soon.

More "help" from Smokey
All done! 64" x 84"
Quilting detail

The last October finish was a set of Halloween place mats and table runner for some friends that got married that weekend.  I found them as I unpacked and quilted them in glow in the dark thread, the table runner design uses three disappearing 9 patch blocks made from a Moda charm pack, with some of the rest of the charms used as the borders for the place mats.

December saw three cushion covers finished based on a Moda bakeshop project, one was a gift and the other two stayed home with us.

I think that was all the finishes for the year! In the end it was quite productive.