Monday, 30 December 2013

Looking Back on 2013

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. It flew by way too fast in this household. Time was spent with family and friends, catching up, laughing, enjoying good food and as we were very fortunate with the weather, we enjoyed some good walks too.
At this time we inevitably think back over the last year and look forward to what the next one might have in store.
Once the family festivities were over I spent a cosy afternoon looking back over my blog to see what I had achieved this year.

I made 6 quilts. I'm counting the Swoon (bottom left) even though technically it's still a working progress. It will get it's backing very, very soon!

I made 2 tops for myself. I want to make a lot more of my own clothes next year.

My niece was delighted with the baby bibs and blanket. The bunting and stocking wreath have adorned the house over the last couple of weeks. The circle of flying geese table mat is in constant use, as is the mariner's compass cushion, and the little bird pin cushion sits in my sewing room, keeping an eye on all  the activity.

My challenge to myself to make 52 items for  Greenfields Africa  in 52 weeks was completed ahead of schedule in early December. Not all of them got photographed and I kept adding last minute items to the box, so I'm not sure of the exact statistics, but there were over 52 items and they included blankets, quilts, cardigans, hats and booties and also some shorts and dresses for the older children. 

Looking at the pictures all displayed neatly together, I'm proud of my achievement, but my memories are a little rose tinted. It was an enormous undertaking, and I would have enjoyed the process a lot more  if I hadn't set the bar so high. I shall of course make more items for this wonderful charity next year, but without any pressure. Next year it doesn't matter whether I manage to make 2 or 20 items, it is going to be enjoying it that counts.

And finally, I designed 7 new knitting patterns last year. To be honest, most of the work was done in 2012, but they were finished early in 2103, so that's what counts, right?
I was pleased to be able to include this collage because, in my head, it seemed ages since I'd finished a new knitting design other than the little Christmas stockings.
These three little girls have grown enormously over the last year, but I know the eldest one (top left) is still wearing her hat.

So that was it for 2013 !
I've been thinking for a while that my blog was veering more towards the quilting than the knitting, but I think it may just be that it's easier to show the progress of a quilt than a knitted item. In output the knitting won !

I shall be back in a few days with some thoughts on what I hope to make in 2014.
Have a Happy New Year, everyone !
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Sunday, 15 December 2013


A precious gift set for a precious baby!
I managed to get these finished in good time, after all. The set comprises a swaddling blanket:

A burp cloth:

A traditional bib:

and a bandana style bib:

These are made entirely from organic cotton with organic flannel on the reverse of the blanket and an organic cotton/bamboo blend on the back of the bibs and burp cloth.

I blogged about the making of the traditional bib here.
I chose the word precious for a very special reason. This set is a Christmas gift for my niece, who is expecting her first baby in February. It's the first baby in the family and we're all very excited. At her second scan, however, it was found that this little one is not growing how we would have hoped. The simplest way to describe it is to say that her heart has developed back to front. From the moment  she is born, she will have to stay a very, very long time in hospital whilst they operate to try to put her heart to rights. She will need many operations as she grows.
I pondered for a long time, trying to decide what would be an apt gift for this very precious little girl.
Hospitals are wonderful places that perform life saving miracles for many, but for a new mum, they are not home. The more things of her own that this little one can be wrapped in during her long stay in hospital, the more comfortable and comforted my niece and her husband will feel. There will be chemicals a-plenty surrounding this little baby, most of them life saving, but the fewer there are in the cloth in contact with her skin, the better in my opinion.
So, hopefully with this little set, they will be able to swaddle her, cuddle her, nestle and feed her, knowing there is some nice organic goodness, right close by. I'm sure they'll need no reminding just how precious she is, but it's embroidered there, right on her bib, just to take care of any low moments that come along in the difficult weeks and months ahead.

I can't wait to see their faces when they open this on Boxing Day. I'm already planning a great many more items, but I'll gift them one at a time, as and when they're needed. (after all, it's a good excuse to buy more organic cotton!!)

As luck would have it, the topic for this month's challenge over at le-challenge is "precious", so I'm definitely linking up today!!

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Saturday, 14 December 2013

We Have Winners!

Well, taking part in Giveaway Day on the Sew Mama Sew blog was so much fun!
I loved reading all the comments, and seeing which quilt pattern you all would like to win.
Marcie's maze was easily my reader's favourite

Sadly though, there can only be 2 winners, and earlier today I used Mr Random to pick out 2 numbers. They were 117 and 71.
The 2 winners are jmniffer who chose Mandeville Place
and  Jill Rockefeller who asked for Marcie's Maze.

Congratulations to you both! I have emailed your patterns to you.

I can't wait for the next giveaway on Sew Mama Sew This blogging lark is a whole lot of fun!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Gift Set for a Precious Baby

I have been busy cutting into my stash of organic cotton. Oh happy me !! I'm making Christmas gifts for my niece who is expecting her first child at the beginning of February. First up is the receiving blanket, which I have finished.
It's 27"x35' and has two layers - The top is part of the organic Safari Soiree range by Birch Fabrics. That fluorescent looking red is really a coral colour. It was such a dark day when I took this photo I had to do some serious adjusting, which has distorted the colours somewhat!
The base is also organic. It's brushed cotton, which will be lovely and soft and cosy and warm against a newborn's skin.

We know the baby is going to be a girl, but my niece does't want a pink overload, so I thought these giraffes were perfect. I have a bit of a thing for giraffes anyway, and the heart shaped trees are so cute, I couldn't resist choosing this fabric.

I shall be making some burp cloths to match, and I'm part way through making a bib. The top half of the bib is solid white organic cotton and the bottom will be the giraffe fabric.
I typed the word "precious" into a Word document, printed it off and then traced it onto the fabric using a water erasable pen.
I'm embroidering it with a simple back stitch using a coral pink thread.

If I did this again, I would work the embroidery before I cut out the neck shaping of the bib. I had to be very, very careful not to distort the fabric as I secured it in the embroidery hoop.

I've deliberately cut the strip of fabric for the bottom so that I can make the seam line along the top of the green bunting, and if it works like I want it to, and I don't mess it up (!!), the grey heart tree will be in the centre of the bib. 
That's the plan, anyway.

The embroidery is done, so hopefully this will be finished in the next couple of days. It is my entry for Le Challenge  - a monthly challenge which accepts any kind of handcrafted items. This month's theme is "Precious" and the challenge date is the 15th. The items do have to be finished ones to count though, so I'd better get a wriggle on !!

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Monday, 9 December 2013

Giveaway Day

Mandeville Place Quilt Pattern

Today is Giveaway Day over at Sew Mama Sew (well actually, it lasts all week!) and so I'm getting into the Christmas spirit by offering a Mack and Mabel quilt pattern to two lucky winners.
These are PDF patterns that will be emailed to you, so anyone can enter, regardless of where you live.
The easiest way to see what I have on offer is to scroll through them on the Craftsy widget on right hand side of this blog.
Some, like  Mandeville Place photographed above are a little challenging, others like Marcie's Maze and Picnic in the Park are very easy.

Marcie's Maze Quilt Pattern

Picnic in the Park Quilt Pattern
If you are one of my knitting loving followers, rather than a quilter, you can still enter the giveaway - just tell me which knitting pattern you would like. Again - look at the widgets in the sidebar to choose your favourite.
The giveaway is open all week until midnight GMT on Friday 13th December (It will be lucky for some!!)

It is very easy to enter. You don't even have to be a follower, but of course I would love it if you do decide to follow! Just leave a comment below letting me know which pattern you would choose. If you are a no-reply blogger, make sure you leave an email address.
I will contact the 2 lucky winners on Saturday morning.
Once you've entered mine, I suggest you hop on over to Sew Mama Sew  and enter a few more. There are some amazing goodies on offer and it's a great way to find some new blogs.

Wishing you all the luck in the world!

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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Birthday Weekend in Cambridge

I think I said in my last post that I was going away for the weekend. What I didn't say was that it was in celebration of my birthday…….my 60th birthday! Oh my, that has taken a lot of getting used to!
Two of my sons and my soon to be daughter-in-law accompanied me.
We set the tone right away as we arrived at lunchtime and promptly went to Wagamamas for lunch.
The rest of Saturday was spent wandering around the city with plenty of stops for refreshments.

 On Sunday we headed to the river and took out a punt

It wasn't nearly as cold as we had expected and the views were wonderful.

I can hardly believe this was England on 1st December!
We didn't even get cold, although that didn't stop us getting mulled cider afterwards!
In the afternoon we headed to Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property about a 15 minute drive out of Cambridge. We had tickets to see the Winter Lights event in the evening, but wanted to see the gardens in the daylight too.

They were as glorious as everyone had told me they would be. 
In the evening we returned, and were delighted to see that they had been transformed into this:

As fellow blogger Maria said when she spotted my photos on Instagram - there must surely be some quilty inspiration there!

So, I'm back home now, and pondering life at the grand old age of 60. The last 10 years have tested my strength of character, but I think I've come through them stronger and even more in awe of just how wonderful human nature can be.
Almost 10 years ago, when we both just 50, I lost my husband, my soul mate, to acute leukaemia, and you know what? I've survived! In those intervening years I have put my three boys through university and seen them grow into wonderful young men.
One is married and lives in Toronto, Canada and another will marry next year. We are a very close family, and we have always been there for one another whenever needed. They may now be grown up and responsible adults, but they never lose their sense of fun - especially when they are together!!
I am very fortunate indeed!

As well as looking back, I have also been thinking what might in store for the next few years.
I hope to design many more patterns, both quilts and knitting.
I want to make a lot more of my own clothes.
Maybe, just maybe, there might be some grandchildren to sew and knit for?
I also hope to keep growing much more of my own food and reducing the amount of chemicals generally in my home - I'm thinking about starting a second blog about trying to live organically and sustainably. It would be a good place to keep all my healthy recipes too.
And in the short term ? - Well, Yikes! It's December! So many gifts I want to make, so little time. It's going to be busy few weeks, but I have some wonderful memories of a great weekend to speed me on my way, so I'm off to do some sewing!!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Some Serendipitous Scrappiness

I have been sewing scrappy blocks again. Here are four I've made over the past few days. I've actually made quite a few more, but not had the chance to photograph them all yet.
It's such a lovely feeling. Just grab the bag of scraps, pull a bit out, sew, trim, grab some more and repeat.
There is only one rule with these blocks - and that is that there are no rules! - any colour, any shape, it all goes in.
And you know what? Sometimes I look at what I'm adding and I think Yuk!, but then I look again and it surprises me! I certainly have my favourites in the bunch, but there is nothing I hate, and I love that I just don't know how the block is going to end up when I'm starting out. I think I love the odd shapes the best. Some of those pieces are really tiny, and I did think, "What on earth are you doing here? You're using almost as much thread to sew these pieces together as is in them in the first place!", but I love how they've turned out.
You may be wondering where I'm going with all these blocks.
Well, alongside the blocks, I've also been making strips from all the odd 2 1/2" wide scraps (of which I have a lot, as I love using jelly rolls). These strips are 72" long, which will be the length of the quilt.

 I shall place them between the columns of scrappy blocks and have sashing around everything - a bit like this. I'm not sure the sashing will be grey - it's just what I had to hand for photographic purposes, but I do quite like the grey.

I hope everyone has a productive crafting weekend (or a fun filled Thanksgiving if you're in the US).
I am being treated to an exciting weekend away, which I will tell you more about in my next post - Let's just hope the weather stays dry!!

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Finished !

I got the binding on my quilt this week, so it is finished - Yay!
I think it will probably be my last quilt finish for 2013. I do have a charity quilt on my Making Christmas "to do" list, but I'm not sure I'll get it finished in time.
I like the fact that this quilt has some nice big prints which are showcased well with this design. I machine quilt my binding to the front and then hand sew it to the back. I know it takes longer, but I do enjoy the hand sewing. It's a nice therapeutic end to a project when you can take your time and admire the quilt, reliving the process in your mind.

I'm pleased I went with the solid navy choice for the binding . It goes well with the back too - which is actually a virtually unused (almost vintage) sheet.
I loved using my flatbed table for the first time for the quilting, so I'll be really brave and show you!

So now this one is finished, it's time to get back to the Christmas making - some decorations, a tree skirt, the charity quilt and some special gifts for the soon - to - be parents of a very precious baby girl. 
I did have a pair of knitted socks on my Christmas to do list too, but realistically, I don't think they'll get done. Maybe they'll be my project for the week between Christmas and New Year.


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