Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Best of 2015

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Well here we are at the end of 2015. I think its been a good year!
I've picked my favourite makes for the year, both quilted and knitted.
The Hazel hedgehog quilt (bottom right) was one of my first finishes of the year, and was sent to Siblings Together to be one of many made by volunteers and  handed out to children in foster care at their summer camps.
The puppy dog quilt (middle left) was made for the friends of one of my sons.
Bottom left and middle are still works in progress - My La Passacaglia (bottom left) has stalled for the time being. It is hand pieced and I just can't see well enough in the artificial light of the winter to accurately continue with it.
The Farm Girl Vintage quilt is so near to being finished, but other things have to take priority right now.
I have done a lot of paper piecing this year and the rest of the collage shows my favourites. I love that I can make something very intricate and still have accurate piecing.

These are just a few of my knitted finishes of the year. The stocking was finished an hour before midnight on Christmas eve! That was cutting it fine!!
The bunny (top right) is a free pattern. Click on the Knitting Pattern tab at the top of the page to access it.
I have also made quite a few baby items.... more than are shown!
My eldest son and his wife are expecting their first child in a matter of days. At the time I was knitting though, it seemed like tempting fate to photograph and blog about them, so we will have to wait until I'm sent a photo of him wearing them!

So, what does 2016 hold in store, I wonder?
I probably have more plans in my head than I can possibly make, but then that's a good thing, right?

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy and creative 2016!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Back Home and Some Last Minute Christmas Makes

 I'm back home after almost a month away visiting my eldest son and daughter-in-law in Toronto.
They are expecting their first child at the end of January and have just bought a house in need of a lot of repair and love. So I flew over and spent my time ripping up carpets, scraping off layer after layer of wallpaper, removing mould and skimming crumbling walls. It still needs a lot of work, but at least it is clean, dust free and quite welcoming for the new addition to their family.

Of course I went armed with lots of handmade baby clothes, including these that I made from organic cotton jersey.

I also knitted them some Christmas stockings which gave a homely feel to their lounge even though off camera there are piles of boxes waiting to be unpacked.

We bought their first tree and decorated it with natural items like dried orange slices and made strings of fresh cranberries. I like the idea so much I'm going to do the same for my own tree!

So now I have just 10 days to organise Christmas back home, but that doesn't mean there can't be some hand crafting on the agenda.
The wreath at the top of this post will be unpacked and I shall knit some more of those little stockings for the tree. They are knit flat, just 14cm (5 1/2") tall and so quick to make ! I have a free pattern for them HERE

Sitting quietly make a few of these will be the perfect antidote to my current jet lag and the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparation!

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Advent Bunting Pockets

Are you beginning to think about your Christmas sewing projects yet?

About this time last year I designed a pattern for some mini Advent bunting for Justine and Lisa's Simply Solids blog and this year Justine asked if I could design a larger version.

Each of the pennants along the bunting is actually a pocket that you can fill with little treats to be opened one day at a time throughout Advent, just like a traditional Advent calendar.
The pockets close with a loop and button, so little hands can't go prying before the day!

Simply Solids have a fat quarter bundle for the Christmas fabrics available here and will be selling kits for the advent bunting at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show next weekend.

To make the bunting you need 6 fat quarters of Christmas print fabric, 6 fat quarters of solid fabric for the lining, 1.5 metres of ribbon for the loops, 24 buttons and 5 meters of tape.
This Christmas Dreams line by Dashwood Studios is the perfect fabric, I think!

Download the Free PDF pattern to get detailed instructions with photos and full size templates. The pattern is easy to sew and suitable for beginners. 
I used a machine zig zag stitch to sew the numbers on, and a Sewline glue pen to hold them in place whilst I sewed, but you could just as easily use a regular straight stitch or sew them on by hand.

If you are short of time, you could use adhesive felt numbers instead.

You can choose to place all the pennants in one long line or make 2 separate pieces.
I made 2 separate ones with numbers 1-12 in the first section and 13-24 in the second, but then ended up placing both together to get this shot!

They will make a lovely bright start to the Christmas festivities, so download your pattern and start our festive sewing today!

As always, if you're on Instagram, show me what you've made with the pattern using the hashtag #mackandmabelpattern I'd love to see your version!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Dog Gone Cute Quilt

Today is my day on the wonderful Dog Gone Cute Blog Hop hosted by Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts
Originally I was going to make an overnight bag for this little guy that I dog sit quite often.

  His name is Bruce and he is very at home at my house. His Mum & Dad are always forgetting his bowl or some other item when they return home from a visit though, so I thought it would be a good idea to make a bag to keep all his possessions in. 
However, my middle son recently visited friends who have a new beagle puppy and returned saying that they really did need a quilt or blanket for him. We knew the Dog Gone Cute blocks would be just perfect, so poor old Bruce is going to have to wait for his tote!

The pattern gives instructions for 2 sizes of block, with many, many variations of dog faces. I chose to make 4 of the larger blocks. I made two of Dog 1, one Dog 5 and  one Dog 7.
I added a 3 1/2" background strip to the top and bottom of each to make them square.


  I then added 2" finished grey sashing to the blocks and I found the most perfect backing fabric.


It's called Patch Bones as is by Makower UK.
I quilted wavy lines horizontally across the quilt using Aurifil 50/2 in shade 2600, and bound it with the same blue solid as I used for background of the top left hand block.
The pattern was a dream to follow. Lorna lays everything out in a clear and concise way. Her designs are all so adorable!

I think this little guy (his name is Bobby) is going to be very happy with his new quilt!

And here is Bruce proudly posing next to the quilt. He's going to be quite disappointed when he realises it's not for him!

Be sure to visit some of the other participants in the Blog Hop. The schedule is here:

Thursday, October 15
Anita of Daydreams of Quilts
Gina of Quilts and Cakes
Beth of Words & Stitches
Rachel of Quiltineering
Julie of Mack and Mable

Tuesday, October 20
Cathy of A Quilting Chick
Selina of Selina Quilts
Shauna of Shauna’s World
Gayle of Pedal Sew Lightly
Kathy of Kayak Quilting

Thursday, October 22
Sandy of Upstairs Hobby Room
Heide of Heide’s Quilty Hugs
Britt-Inger of Hill Valley Quilter
Judy of How ART You?
Louisa of Sewmotion

Monday, 5 October 2015

A Finished Instagram Swap

Do you take part in quilting or sewing swaps?
I did my first one earlier this year, have just finished a second, and I'm signed up to one more, which i need to send out at the beginning of November.
I'm not sure I shall do any more, at least for a while. I'm in two minds about them. I think their success depends very much on everyone fully participating. I've done mine through Instagram and I think if your partner doesn't really show inspiration boards in their feed or updates on their progress then your swap experience can be rather underwhelming.
I've decided the best way forward is to use them as a means to stretch my skills, rather than worry too much about whether I've made something my partner will love. 
I always imagine I'm going to get someone with the same level of enthusiasm as me, but if they don't post any sewing related photos, you really don't know what their taste is, so it's hard to come up with something you're certain that they will like! 

These are the items I made for my second swap.
I designed this mini in EQ7. I paper pieced it, and I must admit the mariner's star was a lot easier to construct than the diamond border.

I quilted it with lines about 1/4" apart echoing out from the centre. I love quitting minis. It's a good chance to practice something you might not have the time or inclination to do on a whole quilt.

I also had good fun making the quilt label. The flower centre is the same design as the centre of the mariner's star.
Note: the buttons aren't sewn on. They are just placed their temporarily to hide the name of the recipient. I don't want to spoil the surprise!

I then let doubts creep into my mind, and certainly didn't follow my own advice. Was this the sort of thing my partner would like? I wasn't sure. So I made a table topper for her too. I used one of the large designs in the Farm Girl Vintage book by Lori Holt.

This was a fairly quick make, especially as I did wavy line horizontal quilting from edge to edge. No threads to sew in!

And finally, I also included a dumpling pouch. There is a free pattern for these at Michelle Patterns
They are really easy to make. I used scraps and the "quilt as you go" method for this one. I'm pleased with the results.

So that's my swap package all complete. I do hope my partner likes what I've made her, and I did have fun making them! 

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Farmer's Wife 1930's Quilt Along

Good morning! I'm really excited to share the start of my journey on yet another quilt-along today.
The Farmers Wife 1930s quilt-along starts today and is organised by the wonderful  Kerry at VeryKerryBerry This girl is so organised!

We are following The Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt book by Laurie Aaron Hird. This is a different book to the original Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt book. The layout looks similar, and all the blocks have accompanying letters from the time, but all the blocks are new and the accompanying CD has paper piecing templates as well as regular piecing templates.
Many of the blocks are very intricate! So much so that I hesitated as to whether I would manage this without a great deal of unpicking and frustration. I don't like using regular templates when working blocks as intricate as these, but paper piecing is a much more successful method.

I have chosen to make my quilt entirely from Liberty lawn using a limited palette of blues and aqua.
This was quite a scary decision. I've never bought so much Liberty in one go!
It's important to me to have plenty of solids or near solids in my design. I'm not really a "throw it all in the mix" kind of girl.

Finding solid Liberty lawn was a little challenging. I could have taken a trip to the shop itself but whilst that would have been absolutely wonderful, I didn't trust myself to focus on the task in hand once I was in the store. I may well have returned home with a gorgeous but totally unplanned for selection!

In the end I bought all my fabric online from Alice Caroline

One of my chosen solids is on back order, so I'm having to use the aqua solid for now, but I'm sure all will work out in the end.

We are working through the book in order and Kerry posts about one block a week and a guest blogger about a second. If I want make all the blocks it will take about a year!
I am thinking about making a smaller number and just having a panel of blocks vertically offset with the rest of the quilt plain white tana lawn. 

This is most definitely going to be an heirloom quilt, but I do want it to be design led rather than ending up as something none of my kids actually want to put on their bed once I'm no longer around!
I will make the design decision once I have a few more blocks under my belt.

Paper piecing was so easy with the fine Libery lawn.

Block No. 1 Addie

Every block has an accompanying letter about life in the 1930s in the USA. The letter for this block written in October 1930 by a woman who has just moved to the country says 
"I have no modern conveniences, yet, as I had in town; still I am happier than I have ever been before."......."With my two babies to look after, six acres in the garden and corn to keep clean, water to carry 200 yards uphill and canning to do, I cannot find time to read the stories...."
Seriously! This woman puts me to shame! We don't know how lucky we are with all our technology today!

Block No. 2 Aimee
Aimee was a little more difficult to piece, but I like it much better than the first.
The letter accompanying this block is by a farm lady who is an avid book reader (she obviously has more time than the first one!). Her favourites include Little Women by Louisa Alcott and Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Aah! A lady after my own heart!

I shall be posting my blocks each week on Instagram. I figured if I'm going to spend a year making this quilt then I might as well record nature's changes in the garden and hedgerow as well. It will be good to look back and remember the seasons by the them.

Looking forward to sharing some more blocks with you soon!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Dog Gone Cute Sew Along and Blog Hop

Dog Gone Quilt by Sew Fresh Quilts

Tomorrow sees the start of the Dog Gone Cute Sew Along hosted by Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts

Each week from 1st September onwards Lorna will share instructions on her blog for piecing the various dogs.
In October the Blog Hop starts and you can follow a whole host of bloggers, including me! and see what we've made 
In November  a link party will be available for you to share your blog, Instagram or Flickr photos of what you've made and there will be some awesome prizes to be won too!

There are two block sizes: Small finishing at 9" x 6" and Large finishing at 18" x 12"
There are two sizes of quilts: Mini 30" x 30" and Maxi 60" x 60".

You can make a something as small as a pouch or a full quilt.

Of course if you want to work at your own pace, you can purchase the pattern HERE

I know exactly what I'm going to make for the Blog Hop. It is something for this little guy that I looked after for my son and daughter-in-law this weekend.

I do hope you'll join us. It's going to be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Farm Girl Vintage Quilt - Aiming for Accuracy

Today I'm talking a bit about my progress with the Farm Girl Vintage Quilt. The quilt is from this book by Lori Holt.

There is a quilt-along in progress which Lori hosts from her blog A Bee in my Bonnet
We are working systematically through the book making 2 blocks a week, either the 12" size or the 6" according to your preference. The Instagram hashtags are #farmgirlfridays and #farmgirlvintage.

I chose to join the quilt along and make the 6" blocks for one reason. I have until now been really bad at accuracy when working on a small scale like this! I wasn't sure at the start that it was my kind of quilt. I joined purely to improve my skills. It's worked and I just love the quilt now! A few years ago I started the Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt from the book by Laurie Aaron Hird. I made a few blocks, was disappointed by my lack of accuracy and they now sit languishing in a cupboard. I'm getting lots of practice at small scale at the moment. I'm also making the My Small World quilt by Jen Kingwell and I'm going to join the 1930s Farmers Wife QAL posted by VeryKerryBerry (and hopefully finish my original Farmers Wife quilt at the same time!)

Some of the pieces in these blocks are really small. And I mean REALLY SMALL! 
You cut plenty of 1" squares.

So what have I done to improve my accuracy? 
Here are a few of the things that have worked for me:

1. Starch your fabrics before you begin.
You need to starch everything. If some fabrics are starched and others are not you will get in a mess. 
Also make sure you starch before you cut. Some fabrics shrink a little when starched. I cut a strip of fabric 1/4" wider than I need for the largest piece in the block and starch it. Leave a while to impregnate and then press it dry. You will be using the fabrics in other blocks so I just store the unused starched pieces in a box ready to use later.
For now I use regular spray starch from the supermarket. I don't really like using aerosols and I'm not prepared to pay the price for Best Press so I've been experimenting with making my own from cornflour, but the recipe still needs a little work. 

2. Shorten the stitch length on your sewing machine slightly.
Just a little makes a big difference. The normal setting I use on my Bernina is 2.4. For 6" detailed blocks I reduce it to 2.0, for easier ones I just go down to 2.2.

3. Use leaders and enders
These are small scraps of fabric that you sew before you start sewing the block seam and then again when you've finished. It means you never start a seam with the two ends of the thread dangling free. You don't risk the possibility of the machine "chewing" the first couple of stitches, which in turn will distort the block.
I have a box of 1 1/2" scrap squares beside me and randomly sew 2 together at the start and whenever I would normally cut the thread. 

I remember the sewing room at school always had the machines ready threaded with a piece of muslin under each foot with a few stitches sewn. I always wondered why! Now my machine always has one too. The sewn pieces will eventually become a postage stamp quilt for charity.

4. Check you are sewing exactly 1/4" seam
I know this sounds obvious, but it needs to be EXACT. ALL the time.
I really struggled with this for a long time.
My 1/4" was precise enough for large scale blocks, but not for these (and the dreaded Farmers Wife Sampler!) The normal methods of placing marker tape on the machine bed etc. just didn't work well enough for me. In the end I drew the 1/4" line on the blocks with a pencil, until I could recognise exactly where it was. I only needed to do it for a few blocks. I trained myself not to look too much at the pencil line, but at the foot and it worked!

5. Press your seams open.
This is something I had started doing for a while on all my quilts and it really helps on these blocks, where there are a lot of intersecting seams.
I gently finger press whenever possible. Press is the key word. Don't rub your fingers back and forth. Once the block progresses and seams intersect I use a dry iron, minimally, saving a good press until the block is complete.

6. Pin mindfully
I used to pin too much. I used to pin through the seams to make them match up. I think those pins did as much harm as they did good. They often distorted the seam line.
If no seams need matching I no longer pin on seams as short as these.
Where seams need matching I use this approach. Push a pin vertically into the seams of the 2 layers, checking back and front that they are perfectly aligned. Hold that pin vertical from top to bottom.
Place a second pin to the left just outside the seam allowance, so it is going through just 2 layers (the fewer layers it goes through the less distortion). Place a third pin to the right, just outside the seam allowance.

Remove the upright pin before placing the seam under your machine.
Its also worth investing in some good quality pins that aren't too heavy for the job on hand.

7. Trim up as you go.
Lori tells you at every stage what size the finished segment should be. Measure as you go and trim off even the tiniest bit that might be wonky.

8. Unpick a puckered seam
Now, I might be the only idiot who, when noticing a little pucker used to say, "Oh it'll press out at the end"
Trust me, it won't! If there's a pucker halfway through, it'll still be there at the end, and there will probably be a lot more problems along the way! That's what the unpicker tool is for right?!

These few techniques have really improved the accuracy of my work. It's still not perfect but I'm happy with it.
I post photos regularly on Instagram (link at the top of the right hand side bar), and often have fun styling them according to the block title.
Here are a few of my favourites.

Peas and Carrots 
Pie Cherries
Autumn Star and Baby Chick

Chicken Foot and Canning Season

Butter Churn and Baking Day

I hope these tips help anyone who is also struggling with accuracy when working small scale.
I'm looking forward to showing you my progress on the My Small World quilt soon!

And now it's definitely time to put the kettle on!

Kettle's On!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

My Hand Pieced Mini Swap

A few months ago I joined a secret swap on Instagram. We had to make a mini quilt that was completely hand pieced.
I chose to make mine using English Paper Piecing.
I started with an idea that I drew on EQ7

I was hoping to make lots of different pieced hexagons and then appliqué them onto a background with gaps between them that I could do some big stitch quilting in. But after a little experimenting, I found that they were hard to appliqué, particularly if seams came right to the edges, so I reverted to joining the hexagons in the normal manner. I also restricted myself to two or three designs of hexagon to give it a little more unity.

It was fun working on a layout for these!

I got to do my big stitch quilting, too!

I procrastinated for a long time over the label, but once I hit upon the idea of an embroidered flower in the shape of hexagons, i enjoyed that too. I've had to cover up the name in the photo just incase my partner hasn't received it yet!!

I made her a few extras:

There's a Dumpling Pouch from a  Free Pattern, a needle case made mainly from scraps of Denise Schmidt fabric (her favourite designer) and a covered notebook. To make the notebook I backed some fabric scraps with Bondaweb, and then cut out the hexagons. I ironed them in place onto a tiny piece of linen and then worked a small blanket stitch around each to make sure they stayed in place. I finished it off with the wording and border and then used more Bondaweb to secure the design to the front of the notebook. 
It felt good to get all these posted off today. I hope she like what she receives!!


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