Sunday, 20 July 2014

So, How hard can it be - Right??

Have you ever asked yourself that question?  You look at something beautiful and really, really simple.  Well, I say simple, what I mean is it looks simple, and as we all know, simple is easy, right?.  NO, NO, NO! simple is not easy, it is positively, impossibly, ridiculously difficult to produce something perfect when you are going for simple.  And I think perfect is the key word.

Let me explain,  I have just signed up for my first swap, it's a Pin Cushion Swap hosted by Bea, of :-   I've wanted to do some kind of swap for a while, but I'm not nearly experienced enough to get into a block swap, if it was just one block to send off, I'd probably be OK, but to produce 12 perfect blocks and do it every month? nah.  I honestly think that for someone who took up the quilting banner only 2 or 3 months ago, joining a quilt block swap is an impossible dream.  Can you imagine someone like me sending a block to say someone like Bea, or the Sew Mama Sew woman or God Forbid the Nana Company lady?  I'd have to stop sewing in mortification at how amateur my efforts would be.   There's a big wide ocean of difference between the work of a baby quilter and a professional one, and that ocean makes the new and naive look merely sloppy and childish.  But I can sew, so a pin cushion is something I could send to a stranger without dying of shame. 

So, anyway, back to the swap.  If you've taken part in one before, then you'll know the drill, I didn't.  We were each asked a series of questions about ourselves, the answers to which gave all of the swappers some information to go on when it came to making a pin cushion for each other, I just thought Bea was asking me for herself,so duh! my answers are going to be about as much use as a chocolate teapot to the others  My next offering is going to a lady who follows and would love to emulate the work of Jenny of Elephantz,  I had never heard of this lady and for anyone who would like to take a look you'll find her

Grab button for ELEFANTZ
Jenny of Elefantz Sew-a-long
This is another lady who makes the simple look just 
beautiful.  So, here I go flying over to the blog,to take a look at her 'stitchery' as she calls it, and I think to myself, I can do that!. 
Well I'm here to tell you No I can't.  I think I must be using a different thread which accounts for some of the differences, but I've discovered that it is a million miles from the sort of backstitching you do to sew up a split seam, or repair a hem quickly, to the sort of backstitching that requires perfectly regimented stitches in a perfect line all the time with no deviance.  If you are a single thread out, it shows, it is a full blown, mistake riddled, horror infested, NIGHTMARE.

It's a bit like the advice you get from experienced quilters, when you choose the backing for your first quilt don't choose a plain one, it will show every single mistake, where in a pattern you might be able to slip in the slightly off line row of quilting, or hide the fact that you had to go back over that bit,  on a plain background, the go-over is going to scream out of the pattern.`

It's great to see the work of other Quilters and Sewer's, and the different styles can get a bit mind-boggling, but the very diversity of what's on offer means there's got to be  a place for each for us to rest.  What I won't be doing though, is trying to emulate the perfection of a Jenny of Elephantz design any time soon,  as hard as I try, it seems that Simple is too hard for me!




"Keep It Simple S............?"

I hate acronym speak as much as the next person, but this one has been on my mind as I look into the world of patchwork and quilting outside of the half square triangle.  

There are a number of designers who do outstanding work and make it look so simple a 5 year old could do it, huh!  My investigations though have turned up some interesting things, so, whether you're a Keep it Simple Sweetie or a Keep it Simple Stupid person, you might find the following interesting.

Just because it is a very easy design, don't think you can pick up a piece of cotton fabric and start stitching,  you'll end up with a hot mess, ask me how I know?  how do you think!?  Embroidery floss, and I'm talking the 6 stranded floss that is hung up near the Cotton reels and Wool in most shops you'd visit, might be good for a lot of things, but not for all, and if you're a beginner like me, the first hurdle you're going to cross is using the right thread for the job.  The second, is that preparation is a big part of producing a beautiful piece.

You fabric MUST be reinforced, even for hand embroidery, you will get a hugely improved end result if you take the time to apply either stabiliser or interfacing to the cloth.  It becomes clearer why, when you look at the way some of the stitches are worked, you can't keep sticking a needle into the same place on the fabric, and pull thread through it every time without getting holes,  especially if you're using fine fabric, you can get away with it on Aida (Cross stitch fabric) but not on Kona.  Ask me how I know?  I'm too ashamed to show the results of the earlier trials, suffice to say, at least they show me how much I improved,.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

..Now Hands That Do Stitches....

...can feel soft as your face?

Years ago there used to be an advert on British TV for Fairy Washing Up Liquid, it went on for literally years and years, from the typical 50's housewife at the kitchen sink in her high heeled mules and her frilly apron,  to Nanette Newman and a cutie pie Leslie Ash, waiting  desperately for a 70's empty bottle so she could do a Blue Peter project.

 But "What in the name of Great Googly Moogly" has that got to do with sewing I hear you ask,  Well Dear Reader I'll explain!

Part of the Genius of any Ad Campaign is having something that in less than 30 seconds (maybe less than that) can sink into the sub-conscious and remind you forever of a certain brand or product, regardless of what it is.  It'll be the same in all countries,  but in the UK, you say to someone "Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere" they'll know the answer is "Martini",  What helps you "Work, Rest & Play"? A Mars a day! -   and for Fairy Liquid,  it lasts longer than other brands isn't what sticks in the brain it's .............

              "Now hands that do dishes can feel soft as your face, with mild green........                                            Fairy Liquid"

so soft and gentle there's no need to wear rubber gloves to do the washing up!

The reason this has been on my mind for the last wee while is this,

I've never had great looking nails and hands, going for manicures or doing it myself has been a really sporadic thing for me, fits and starts, still my hands have been Okay,  nothing particular to write home about, but nothing wrong with them.  Apart from the occasional accident in the kitchen, or a couple of paper cuts when I was at work, there was nothing to look at.

Fast forward to the end of March 2014  when I decide to try my hand at Patchwork & Quilting, however, and 2 months later my hands look like they've been shoved through a meat grinder!

I first noticed it when I tried to use a piece of satin as the centre square in a modern log cabin  block,  I cut a teeny piece but between cutting and the sewing machine - 4 steps - the satin got pulls and I couldn't work out why the scratches were there, then I realised that it was getting actually quite sore to push a needle through the fabric, even pinning got so it hurt.  Am I alone in this?  has anyone else got hard skin from Who knows where on their thumb? (normally it's on the soles of my feet).  I've got stab holes from pins and needles, and Yes I DO know that I'm clumsy, I've got no end of slices from the rotary cutter, regardless of how careful I am, and every so often I actually have to put a plaster over the cuts to protect the fabric from pulls and blood spots.  It's quite bizarre that a ladylike pursuit, like sewing, can make your hands look like you do hard manual labour with sharp weapons.

I mean when you think back to Georgian times - I'm talking Jane Austen and Mr D'arcy territory here, when Sewing was what the ladies did with their time, did they too have hands like navvies?  you think of it being all gentile and sweet don't you?

Well I'm here to tell you that the truth is, they had cuts, scabs,, split nails and cuticles, and they probably needed those gloves not as a fashion accessory, but to protect the hideous state of their hands from prying eyes.!!

I'm just off to find some plasters,  Sigh.  Talk to you later peeps.

Friday, 30 May 2014

So sew a star or two,

How hard can that be?


in my own inimitable style very, very, hard that is.  I do it all the time, want to run before I can walk, if I decide to revisit Crochet, I conveniently forget that a lot of Granny Squares over the years don't exactly set you up for that wispy, filmy cobweb style scarf you have your eye on.  

So knowing next to nothing about patchwork and quilting, I immediately want to dive into truly intricate stars and fantastical flowers, forget that you sometimes have trouble keeping a straight line when you're sewing.  

I really can be a dope.  I did think though that I ought to stick a few photo's up of exactly what I have been doing.

These are the star blocks for my first ever quilt,  when I decided to have a go at quilting I found the Craftsy on-line courses, this is the 2012 Block of the Month Quilt, that I started in 2014 but I'm not alone in that.  I like Amy Gibson's teaching style, and I'm proud of the blocks I've done so far, as I get nearer to the putting it all together stage though, I'm getting more and more nervous. 

I know I'll get there but I want to be producing Lone Star's with perfect Y junctions and Ninja Stars with perfect points,  not contenting myself with a 9 patch that I didn't have to unpick,  (chuckles to self)

Patience, something that I need, but I need it NOW. :) 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


Oooh Schnibbles!

 I just learned a new word, and I think it is a totally brilliant one.  I was looking for pin cushion inspiration, like you do and I saw a lovely little one that I thought I could manage, the site was and they called their designs Schnibble Tuffets, it's fairy tale cute isn't it?  Looking further I found this definition:

  • Schnibble: noun  A scrap of fabric; a leftover bit of cloth; a small piece.  The word has a German origin and is found primarily in German settlements in the Midwest. 
So it's a real word as a noun, a small leftover scrap and we all have loads of them, but it's become a word used in place of well, to tell the truth and shame the devil? - cursing in my house, burn myself with the iron? Oh Schnibbles!.  Sewing machine chews up my last bit of fabric? Oh Schnibbles.  It'll be interesting to hear what I come up with next time I get in the car, ^_^.

Now a tuffet is something I remember from a nursery rhyme, it's a sort of little pouffe, or stool, in story books it pretty much always looks like a toadstool under a tree, with a spider hovering just above it.

In Doodlehead's world though it means a little weeny block at the centre of a round of strips that finish 1/4" wide.  It's for people who enjoy working with the miniature but they are really sweet.  The photo's  thatI've copied from 
are their Schnibbles Tuffetts, 

 Schnibbles TuffetsSchnibbles pincushion

 aren't they cute? but Melissa when she gave me permission to share the photo's with you told me that she got them from Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. You'll find the leaflet here:- there are lots and lots of instructions for layer cake quilts, I haven't managed to find a 'Recipe' or instructions for these pin cushions but the Log Cabin one on the right should be easy enough to do, it looks as though it's quilted by stitching in the seams and I have to say I like the way it looks.  I might have a go at a quilted pin cushion next.  As for now ? I'm off to see if I can manage a whole block without a burn, cut or schnibble!

Have fun wherever you are, and whatever you are doing today.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Sew Let The Quilting Begin - In Baby Steps I Think.....

I am, how shall I put this?,  too scared to tackle the big quilt, and that's the truth.  Just getting the blocks sewn and good enough to put into the quilt has been mammoth, or is that just me?.  

I've managed to do a couple of small things, I think in the States they'd be known as 'Mug Rugs', for me they're smallish place mats for the Coffee Table, thing is, there are issues involved in the art of the Machine Quilt that don't become apparent until you go past a certain size.  It's not like sewing a seam, where it doesn't matter if it's 6" or 60", you'll always be sewing in a straight line, at 1/4" or 5/8" or (whatever your seam allowance is), and the only thing you need to do is keep as straight as you can.  Maybe, if your seam is 60" you might have some trouble balancing it behind the machine, if it slips off the table it could distort your line or your stitches may wobble a bit from being stretched, but with 2 pieces of material, it's not that big of a deal is it?

There are lots and lots of posts on-line from experienced quilters who are Gracious in their knowledge sharing, some of them, most of them really, have tutorials on everything from how to create the a) b) c) pin cushion to the  x) y) z) quilt block (insert your own search criteria here).  Problem is that some of them, I've discovered are little more than fishing hooks dropped into the water to bring you to their On-Line Store or Etsy Shop.  A 'Free' pattern link might also be out of date, so, again, be careful.

See, there ain't no such thing as a Free Lunch!

There's also a sort of assumption that you know what you're doing in some of the tutorials, like doing a translation from Italian of an Instruction Book, and assuming that you understand English.  Presumably because people who're looking at these instructions must have a basic working knowledge or they wouldn't have come looking for directions in the first place.

But what if you're an accident waiting to happen like me?

Sometimes a tutorial is needed that assumes you know nothing, NO THING about what you're about to attempt, the Noddy Guide to doing your first quilt.  There is loads of help with choosing the right tools, fabric, batting, thread etc., etc.,.  Many tutes on creating this or that block and there are oodles of free patterns for certain blocks.   There's talk about borders and bindings and safety pins.  But, I cannot find , or at least I should say, I cannot easily find, the next step.  Usually it says, start quilting???  HOW DO I DO IT? Should I begin in the middle?, if so, should I always begin in the middle?   When I get to the edge do I turn around and come back? or do I stop and go back to the middle again?   What do I do about the fact that the material is starting to move abroad in front of me in waves and ridges.  I've pulled up my bobbin thread - as instructed - but what the hell do I do with it now?

alas the lovely lines of quilting are covered as well as the messes, didn't think of that did I?

I know that there are lots of books and videos available on the art of free motion quilting, and even how to quilt a whole bed sized piece on a home sewing machine, but I've got all these problems and I'm just sewing in straight (ish) lines.  This is a cushion cover (pillow for our non-UK readers) with a centre panel and 5" borders, with mitred corners.  I'm hoping to hit all the snags I'll meet on my bigger project - the Craftsy Block of the Month 2012 , here on a smaller, easier to manage scale, so that I'm better prepared to meet the big one.  This rippling for instance didn't happen on the place mats, but there were no borders there.  The back was a bit of a mess from the starting and stopping though, with stray threads everywhere, so I put an additional backing on it which then hid the bits of quilting that were perfect lines. I'd managed to stitch the laced star outline perfectly, but then I had to do the rest and, DIS-ARSE-TER Dahlings.   So you see.  If there's a right way to do it, a wrong way to do it...Nobody does it like meeeee.

I will file updates to the Quilting Baby Steps and show you photo's of my progress, if there is any, for the minute the sun is shining and I'm off to peg out a load of washing, when the weather's this good, it's towels and bedding galore Chez Misadventurous.  Talk to you later Dear Reader.


Pins & NeedlesThe Metalwork Teacher OR How I learned the are of Applique

I learned how to knit at home, my Mum taught me when I was very, very small,  I can't actually remember a time when I couldn't knit, she used a rhyme  about a rabbit going round a tree, that was the wool going around the needles, and 'out pops he',the stitch being pulled through, that's is all I remember about the rhyme but my knitting enthusiasm goes in fits and starts.  I was taught to Crochet by my Aunty Kath, in a caravan in Cleethorpes, and the Granny Square blankets and the round and round blankets became known as Snuggle Rugs when my Niece and Nephew were born. 

I learned to sew though at school.  When we got to the 'big' school, Secondary school we spent the first term learning how to hem, and about stitches, running, cross, back etc.  I suppose we must have created some sort of sampler for the stitching but what I remember is the gingham triangle we were given to learn the art of hemming, the squares helped to keep you straight and even and when it was finished it was a headscarf.  There was a special room for the boys who did 'Manly' things in Metalwork, there was a kitchen for learning how to cook, but the needlework happened in a normal classroom and it was term 2 before we were introduced to the sewing machine.

Our teacher was a really lovely lady, Sister Agatha she was a member of the Sisters of Mercy, like all the  Nuns at our school, but they weren't all sweet by a long shot.  Anyway it involved learning how to read a pattern, how to do a tailor's tack, involved pinning everything then tacking everything (aha that's why we spent last term doing running stitches) before it got near the sewing machines.

Our next project was a peg bag, they really didn't want to let us loose on clothes too soon, and all the faffing was done, we had to share machines so when my turn came I sat down at the Singer, listened to what to do, started sewing and somehow, to this day I don't know how, I sewed straight through my thumbnail, I started shrieking but I couldn't get myself up because I was pinned, everyone started panicking, and I am bleeding everywhere, so the metalwork teacher was called, he released me from the machine but the needle was still in my thumb,now an ordinary classroom is not set up for this sort of thing but apparently in the deep mysterious depths of the metalwork lab, they expected injuries involving metal and cuts and stabs, so I'm pulled into the room where ALL the boys in our year are looking at me crying my eyes out, I was mortified.  After I was bandaged up and had the needle pulled out (more shrieking) I get back to find my lovely peg bag half sewn and spotted liberally in one corner with blood.  An AH-HA moment ensued when we had the bright idea to cover the affected area with felt flowers, I admit that sewing felt flowers onto a cotton peg bag is a long way from some of the fabulous applique work being done by the modern designers, and my goodness if I'd had some Wonder-Under it would've been the work of one lesson rather than weeks,lol. still, by the end of term, mine was the best peg bag by a country mile, and it did sterling service at our house for years and years,  it was a long time though before I felt confident going near a Sewing Machine, still by year two I was making Gypsy Skirts galore sitting on my bedroom floor.

It's a big change going from the very structured way I was taught to sew to the quilting world where even pinning is missed as much as possible, never mind     

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

"Rat's Nests" and Corner Chewing - Begone!

The "Rat's Nest"
You can use those small offcuts and trimmings of fabric tucked under the point of the start of the seam as Vanessa at Crafty Gemini advises, but that leaves you with a couple of issues, you can then cut the fabric away and leave yourself with a perfect point, there is a danger of cutting into the stitches themselves, and no matter how close you trim you have an extra layer of fabric under the thread which can become an issue depending on how your seams are layered.

Easier and more efficient is to use those trimmings of paper from your paper piecing blocks.  You are probably like me, in that you save the bigger bits and staple them together to use as scrap pads and memo pads, "waste not, want not".  Some of the trimmings are just too small to be useful though, these are the bits I save next to my machine,  When you have a sharp point that the machine will chew up, or just very fine fabric that causes those threads to bunch underneath, no matter how careful you are, it will happen, even the BIG names in the sewing  blogosphere have the problem.  Put one of those skinny bits of paper underneath though and it does the job beautifully.  The feed dogs have something to grab on to so the fabric feeds through smoothly, the threads are separated to they can't twist up, and when you are finished, you can simply tear the paper down the perforations made by the needle.  Go carefully if you have delicate, or sharply pointed starts to the seams, you don't want to ruin the stitching by distorting it, bend it backwards and forwards a few times to make the perforations easier to split.  If you have really fine fabric say Organza or Chiffon, hold on to the starting/ending threads while you pull apart the perforations,  Although that might seem like a lot of information therefore a lot of work, still, it is in all ways easier to use paper.  No more tangled threads or chewed up corners, and all with bits you would have thrown away anyway.

Monday, 12 May 2014

How the story begins....

Dear Reader.

I was drawn to the Noble and Ancient Art of Quilting by a picture I saw On-line,  I can't tell you now what it was or where the web page is that drew me in, but I was very soon immersed in photographs of some of the modern quilts that are quite frankly stunning works of art.  Maybe there was a lot of applique on some of them and maybe some of them were created on fancy schmancy machines that can embroider really compex designs, and are all these elements really patchwork?, but Boy oh Boy, even if those machines make you a cup of coffee while they do the work for you, they come up with things that are beautiful to behold.  Next thing I know, it's getting dark and I'd managed to while away HOURS, looking at screen after screen of stunning quilts.  And so it began......

Through all of my sewing enthusiasms, I'd never been interested in Patchwork, it seemed way, WAY, WAY too much work to me to be cutting up bits of fabric to precise measurements then folding them around bits of paper you'd also had to cut out.  I understood where it came from.  Some of the States in the USA have long, long, HARD Winters, and when they were first settled, back in the 1800's there was no in-home entertainment that you didn't make for yourself, so this was a way to fill the long, dark and cold nights with an activity that at the end created something functional for the home and if it's going to be functional there's no reason why it can't also be beautiful.  And anywhere you have a shared activity, lots of ladies beavering away by the light of their lamps, you will have a shared competitive spirit.  Can you imagine how much they looked forward to the days when there was a Fair, if they could drive 4 hours in a horse and buggy to show off their pies, they could also damned well show off their patchwork quilts.  I've always 'got' that, and the history of it calls to the romantic side of me, the way that some families have quilts that stretch back over generations.  The doing of it just never appealed to me.  I'm still a bit stunned that I've become so bloody obsessed with them,  my living room looks like a sweat shop for a sewing studio.  The only reason I've picked up the iron is to press open seams on my blocks, and I go to bed and pick and worry over why I'm unable to sew the perfect scant 1/4", and why my flying geese units aren't perfect rectangles no matter how closely I sew to the diagonal line, it's bizarre, and the only people who would understand this are the other ladies and gents out there who are also trying to learn. 

I want to say GOOD LUCK to you and May Your 1/4" be as scant as possible.

Because when you get it right, it feels EPIC!!!!!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The MisAdventures Begin......

 Let the MisAdventures Begin......

 Easter Saturday...


Today I started yet another set of blocks, I'm giving the Block of the Month a rest because the Modern Dresden is driving me up the wall.  I made my own template and I think I was lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that the Traditional Dresden and the Drunkard's Path blocks laid down perfectly, first time, no messing around.  This one? it's a total mess I've narrowed, unpicked, re-sewn, but still nothing!  Then I see in the questions section I'm not alone, and it seems that the template for the Modern is actually wrong, so I'm looking a buying yet another ruler-  Kerching- so, before I give in forever and use only half of the plate, I gave myself a little rest and decided to have a go at a paper pieced 'Spinning Star' or 'Laced Star' depending on where you look at it.  I know, I can hear what you're saying to yourself " a rest?"  "a break?"  "is she barmy?" lol, still as hard as it is, I managed to create something.  I'll post more and I''ll tart this site up a bit, just as soon as I learn how to do it.  I'm a bit intimidated by it all to tell the truth.

 I'm sending this photo to Kim at My Go Go Life, who is an awesome quilter, and a generous teacher, who has some GREAT tutorials on her site, and who runs a give-away each Saturday, so pop over to Sewjo Saturday and have a look at the fabulous work she does.

   SewJo Saturday

Wishing you and yours a Happy Easter Sunday.