Seasonal work

Whew! What a scorcher!  And all that! Here in ‘central southern England’ (a geographical reference point often used by weather forecasters) we have been enjoying/suffering a run of hot, humid weather. Even so, there are a few indications that Summer is coming to a close and we are approaching a new season: Just a hint of Autumn colour on a few leaves at the tips of branches; the sound of Robins rehearsing their song; and the arrival of the ridiculous ‘Daddy-long-legs’ drifting through open windows and bumping into light bulbs!

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I found this leaf in my garden a couple of days ago – a little sign of Autumn on the way?

All of which makes me feel more in tune with the Autumnal hues of the fabrics I’m using in my current work in progress. It has been a bit hard to push through the piecing (hot weather and all) but I completed the 25 Ohio Stars earlier this week and yesterday, at a sewing day with friends, I pieced the 16 setting triangles and four corner triangles needed to complete the top🙂

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The first few blocks sewn together. The pile of star and nine patch blocks are all individually numbered in the hope I’ll put them together in the correct order! The small light coloured triangles of the setting triangles have their outer edges with the grain of the fabric.

This is the first time I’ve made pieced setting triangles. If I had followed the pattern instructions the little triangles running along the outside edges would have had biased edges. Experience tells me that having stretchy bias fabric along the edges of a quilt top is not good, with the likelihood that borders will not lie flat. So I improvised; the instructions were to make the little triangle pieces by cutting squares in half diagonally, instead I quartered slightly larger squares of fabric so the longer exposed edges of the triangles are the outside edges of the squares, running with the grain. Hopefully this will make adding the borders a little easier. Those borders are giving me food for thought, I guess they will be made from a medium to dark fabric but as yet I’m not sure of the colour…

Linking with Myra at Finished or not Friday.

Allison

Posted in Colour, Piecing tips, Works In Progress | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Burning the Olympic torch at both ends!

I am feeling a bit overtired this week: largely my own fault for trying to keep up with Olympic action. The time difference between Rio and the UK is only 4 hours but this has lead to some unscheduled late nights! And the tension some of the events create does not induce peaceful sleep. As a result I have found myself hopping about between activities in a rather incoherent echo of my son’s hopping around the tv sport channels!

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My slow-growing collection of Ohio Stars

After an enthusiastic start my current patchwork project has stalled. I made the nine patch blocks last week and I’m now ploughing my way through the creation of 25 Ohio Star blocks.  There is a rhythm to the making of these blocks: choosing of fabrics, cutting, stitching, cutting, pressing, stitching, cutting, pressing … I need to get back on the beat very soon!

Between getting agitated watching sport and losing my patchwork rhythm I have made progress in some areas and made a few discoveries I hope you might find useful too:

Blogging: Have you heard of or made use of flipboard? Bernie over at Needle and Foot has written a great post about the site titled, ‘How to increase traffic to your blog using Flipboard‘. Bernie’s careful explanation and step by step guide demystified flipboard for me. I’d come across the site when one of my blog posts unexpectedly received a huge number of views with nearly all the referrals coming from flipboard – I wondered if it was some sort of internet scam! Now I know different🙂

Craftsy: I have collected quite a few Craftsy classes over the past few years and made use of free patterns available on the site. Last week I responded to an e-mail  from Craftsy offering a discount on a new class. A few days later I tried to log onto my page and felt my stomach sink as, despite numerous attempts, I couldn’t find my classes! Panic set in but Dear Son calmly peeled himself away from the tv and tracked down information about a similar incident experienced by another Craftsy customer. I contacted the helpline and within hours received a reassuring personal e-mail explaining that clicking through to Craftsy on my second email address had caused the problem. Craftsy worked the magic at their end and I followed their instructions –  joy of joys my account has been restored, classes all intact🙂 I’ll be careful to always click to the site using the correct email account. Very impressed with Craftsy customer service🙂

Gardening wisdom: This has not been a great growing season for tomatoes, the cool dull weather through June delayed pollination. At the start of this week I was pleasantly surprised to see that a couple of the late-set tomatoes were actually ripening, but pleasure quickly turned to disappointment as I saw brown circles on the ends of each of the fruits. After a quick internet search I was able to identify ‘blossom end rot’.

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Not pretty – Blossom End Rot

The information provided on the Royal Horticultural Society website is really clear, explaining what causes the rot (lack of calcium) and how to reduce the risk of it occurring (frequent watering to ensure nutrients are always flowing to the extremities of the plant including the tips of the fruit). Hopefully the remaining trusses of tomatoes will stay healthy and ripen. From now on I’ll definitely be using the RHS website as my ‘go to’ gardening resource.

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Sweetcorn, runner beans and courgette plants with some nasturtiums for colour.

It’s not all woe on the gardening front though. I work one half of an allotment plot. It’s a wonderful retreat despite the fact that there is a public footpath running alongside the fence and immediately beyond that there is the delivery bay at the back of a large ASDA store. Amazingly, as I step through the allotment site gates all of that external noise and activity fades and my mind and senses are just filled with the immediate surroundings and the fun and effort of nurturing plants and crops.

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The latest bag of beans and a slightly over-sized courgette😀

On a different note: We have been transferring our files and software from our old, slow, computer to a newer, reconditioned model. This is a good move but ironically has slowed me down as I struggle to adapt to the unfamiliar layout on the screen. I’m also having a go at using Photoshop Elements rather than Microsoft Picture Manager. I need to get some sleep so all this newness becomes an exciting opportunity rather than a frustrating trial😉 But GB ladies are playing in the Olympic hockey final…

Allison

PS. Well, I stayed up to watch the hockey teams receive their medals and luckily did manage a bit of a Saturday morning lie-in before returning to this post and my sewing machine🙂

 

Posted in Blogging, Garden, On-Line Classes, Works In Progress | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Selling Craft: Time for change. And a new project…

Last week I was busy preparing items for my stall at a local village show. I had realistic expectations with regard to sales as I’ve been to the Show for the previous two years. The weather was sunny and warm, Mary and I were glad of the shade provided by our little gazebo.

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Part of my stall and Mary’s table of silver jewelery and charms.

My one and only sale came before the show actually opened – Mary bought one of my little quilted tidy baskets the colours of which matched the cloth on her table (extreme right on the above photo). *Sigh* Yes! that was the only purchase made at my stall. My quilts, table runners, baskets, bags and cushions received plenty of compliments and generated lots of conversations mostly along the lines of: ‘I’ve got a sewing machine at home, I’d love to have the time to do patchwork’, or ‘When I retire I’d love to learn how to do that’, or ‘You must have a lot of patience’ or ‘Did you make all of these?’ etc, etc.

‘Disappointed’ didn’t cover my feelings on Saturday evening, it was a deflating experience as I considered my failure to achieve my main objective – sell some of my handmade wares.I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself so much as having to regroup and find the energy to have a rethink. I reflected that I’d pushed the maxim ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ as far as I could with regard to having a craft stall at local fetes and fayres – working on presentation, widening the range of items and price brackets. Hum! That quote attributed to Einstein seemed to be fitting the bill now:

The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.

Time to look at pursuing other ways to raise funds through my patchwork and quilting. Following on from Saturday’s experience and last week’s discussion re. patchwork & quilting reaching the peak of popularity, I conclude raised awareness of the craft and it’s accessibility have contributed to many people with a handicraft bent believing they can give it a go. I know it’s far from a revolutionary thought but I’ve realised that I need to pursue designing, pattern creating and teaching rather than just making items that I hope people will buy. Of course, there is already masses of competition in these areas but maybe I’ll be able to cut a little niche locally? I’ve always been a bit reluctant to take on commission work too but perhaps I need to get over myself and enjoy the interesting challenges working to someone elses tastes can bring?

Talking of taking commissions, I have this week begun in earnest an order I accepted back in late June from a customer in the pop up craft shop in town. This is not too much of a challenge to my tastes as I’m making traditional blocks using my favourite Autumnal palette. I’m basing this quilt on a much bigger one made by Marianne Bennett, featured in Lynne Edwards’ book, ‘Stash-Buster Quilts’.  And I’ve already learned a new technique :-): Making a pair of nine-patch blocks by starting with two large squares of fabric, then sewing and cutting to produce the nine-patch – very clever😉. If you don’t have access to the book try this picture tutorial or this super quick video tutorial.

I get the impression from her books that Lynn Edwards is a precision queen and the first pair of blocks I made were a little too small – I’ve got used to the wiggle room provided by cutting HSTs just an 1/8th too big and then trimming. I managed to tease out the blocks by using my hot iron and, cue gasps of horror, a bit of steam! I know! I wouldn’t use steam on bias edges but all the seams on these grain-cut blocks were sewn before I applied the steam. The blocks obliged and came within reach of the prescribed 9½ inches.  The subsequent blocks I’ve made with more care and so far so good.

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I am very grateful for my 12½” square ruler: so useful for squaring-up and trimming blocks as well as cutting fabric.Once the nine patch blocks are made I’ll turn my attention to the Ohio Star blocks. I’ll add a little extra to the size recommended in the cutting instructions to ensure I do have some wiggle room when trimming the completed quarter square triangles.

The nights are starting to get longer here in the Northern Hemisphere so it’s not so difficult to wake up in time for a sunrise. This was the view from my sewing room window on Monday morning.

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This view brought to mind Lamentations 3 v22-23 and the chorus of a hymn we sang on Sunday morning:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
Your mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning,
new every morning:
great is your faithfulness, O Lord,
great is your faithfulness!

I’ve taken fresh encouragement from being reminded that I named this blog and my patchwork and quilting ventures after those Bible verses. They tell us of God’s faithful love and promise that with the dawning of each new day we can experience afresh the assurance of His unfailing mercies.

I’ll be linking for the first time with Myra at Busy Hands Quilts for Finished Or Not Friday.

Finished or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts

Allison

Do take a look at my ‘Pins of the Week’ board on Pinterest – I add new pictures and links from the internet through the week and refresh it every Tuesday evening🙂

 

 

 

Posted in Awe and Wonder, Learn, P&Q Books, Piecing tips, Rulers, Selling craft, Works In Progress | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

A thoughtful week in the quilt blogging world ends in smiles

Patchwork and quilting requires deep concentration at times, at others, while hands are busy working, there is opportunity for the mind to run on to other matters. These matters can range from the close at hand such as ‘how on earth am I going to quilt this?’ to reflecting on national or global politics.

IMG_1801This week I’ve been making little quilted tidy baskets ready for my stall at the Oakley Village Show  -‘mass production’ techniques gave me opportunity for reflection. I’ve also completed a table runner that exercised the ‘how am I to quilt this?’ part of my brain. I feel like a real quilty blogger now as I have to say, ‘At this point I can only show a sneak peak of the back of the runner as it may become the subject of a class’!

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My reflective moments have centred on the future of patchwork and quilting, prompted by recent posts fromm Melanie of Catbird Studios, Rachel of Stitched in Color and her link to an article at Generation Q magazine. Not being a great thinker (I have a below average sense of curiosity and never did have the brain power to attempt a university level education) my train of thought mainly involved relating what I understood from these posts along side my personal experience.

Is patchwork and quilting seeing a decline? There are some indications that there is a downturn in the revenue to be had from this craft. Mel writes eloquently about the closing of magazines and Christa has detected a reduction in the number and productivity of quilty bloggers. I discovered this era of patchwork and quilting when it was on the crest of the wave and have really benefited from that momentum: with well established local quilt groups full to capacity and new groups forming; existing fabric shops expanding and enterprising people finding enough demand to open new specialist quilt shops; a whole range of new publications on the magazine racks and book shelves; and the scheduling of more quilt shows up and down the country.

Out of this time of plenty have come many good things, not least the precious friendships that have flourished first through the sharing of a common passion but, over time, through the sharing of the highs and lows of life.I agree with Melanie that the patchwork and quilting world is now entering a time of consolidation. While the passion for the craft may be undimmed the desire to buy more magazines, books, notions and, dare I say it, even more fabric is not so insistent. As the momentum slows there is more need for quality rather than quantity in all areas of the patchwork and quilting world and this inevitably means that some businesses will no longer be able to turn a profit. I also think it is beholden on individuals like myself who have gained so much from the surge of popularity in our new found craft to be prepared to contribute more fully to the patchwork and quilting world. I don’t primarily mean financially, although the May is for Makers campaign was a wake up call re. the need to remunerate pattern designers appropriately for their skills rather than constantly using free patterns. By ‘contribute more’ I have in mind actively participating in local groups, taking part in workshops, sharing skills with those new to the craft, commenting on each others blogs, and submitting quilts to shows – whoa! Did I just write that last ‘for instance’?

Yep! Submitting quilts to shows! Wow! That was the most unexpected outcome of considering the possible decline in popularity of patchwork and quilting! So, rewind… That thought arose from recollecting conversations across the tables at last weeks sewing day with friends. One lady in our group announced that she would be making a quilt for a public show next year.  We had all attended shows this year,  Quilts UK Malvern or The National Quilt championships Sandown, and concluded there were fewer retail exhibitors, attendances were down and, sadly, the number of quilts on show had dropped significantly and that those on show seemed to be less well exhibited than in previous years. Hum! I came home and looked up the 2017 quilt show websites. Serendipity – Quilts UK Malvern open class is titled ‘Gardener’s World’ and wouldn’t you know it there was already in my little book of squared paper an embryo design for a quilt based on the plan of a formal garden! This is way out of my experience but hey! if we don’t take part, it won’t happen right?  Melanie’s correct in saying that the actions of individuals won’t make a difference to the ‘ebb and flow’ of the popularity that crafts go through but collectively I hope we can maintain a presence that ensures we can continue to source materials and like-minded people through actively participating in the patchwork and quilting world.

It’s not all been thinking and reflecting there have been plenty of smiles this week too:

  1. More flowers in the garden🙂

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    Cosmos

  2.  Laura Trott, Olympic Cycling Champion, giggling her way through an interview🙂

3. A day out with friends🙂IMG_1787

4. Preparing home grown produce for a meal🙂IMG_1780

5. Reading ‘The Duchess’, a biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman.

Linking with Amanda for Five Things Friday. Enjoy the weekend🙂

Allison

Posted in Blogging, Garden, Quilt Exhibitions | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

More good things…

Yesterday I shared a little of what we saw on our holiday in Derbyshire and said ‘lots of good things had been happening’. I will now share a few more of the good things in this ‘my week in a nutshell’ post. On holiday I sort of, almost, kept up with blog reading and through the 2016 New Quilt Bloggers Blog Hop I discovered a Friday link up – ‘Five Things Friday’ hosted by Amanda at Gypsy Moon Quilt Co. So, here are just five of the things that have made me smile in the past week:

  1. Returning home from holiday to discover some fresh flowers in our garden🙂
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Sweetpeas, delicate sweet smelling blooms

2. Revisiting the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park in London for the Anniversary Games🙂

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The Olympic Stadium sitting pretty in the midst of flower beds and play parks that have replaced the wide open walkways that were needed to accommodate the 2012 crowds.

3. Wandering through the Olympic Park in the company of my lovely family🙂

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Family under the Olympic Rings, roof of the Velodrome in the background

4. Watching an afternoon of athletics in the Olympic stadium with a crowd of 30,000 and seeing Mo Farah winning the 5000m in a 2016 World Lead time. ‘Go Team GB! Bring it on Rio! Whoop! Whoop!’🙂

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The big screen in the stadium showing Mo Farah after the race.

5. Spending an inspiring day with a group of ladies from Roundabout Quilters. Christine Porter led a workshop, ‘Flying Around in Circles’ and I learned how to use Bondaweb to produce these wonderful circles🙂

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My completed quilt top.

More than enough to make me smile! I hope you will take a few moments to look up the Five Things Friday link up, see what has been inducing smiles around the quilty world and maybe add some of your own🙂

Allison

Posted in Family, Garden, Learn, Local Quilt Groups, Modern quilts, QE II Olympic Park, Works In Progress | Tagged , , | 4 Comments