I encouraged some small creatures to depart, the ones who wouldn’t go got squashed.
I had been planning to make elderflower Vodka for weeks, since I saw the first Elderflower umbels begin to flower. I bought Vodka and waited for a lovely summers day to go out and gather some elderflowers. In came the rain, and the gales, and cold weather, Brrr, not going out in this!
Yesterday I noticed that most of the elderflowers were already finished and decided today would have to be the day, or it was all over for another year, and no elderflower vodka. This morning it was sunny and still, a perfect day, and I only needed to walk a short way from my door to find a small elderflower bush with a shady side which was less advanced than I’d seen out and about yesterday. Ten or so Umbels picked and back to my suntrap back garden.
So what else do I need? a Lemon, and a bottle of Vodka, 100g of sugar, and a glass jar.
I gently removed the flower heads from the stems, Elderflowers aren’t toxic but the wood and stems are, I don’t think I would poison anyone if I’d left the stems on but you just never know. I de-stem the flowers over a plate so I can check for foreign bodies or small creatures, which can be encouraged away or squashed according to preference. I encouraged some small creatures to depart, the ones who wouldn’t go got squashed.
On top of the flowers went the zest of a lemon, and a 100 grams of sugar, and a 75cl bottle of Vodka, (it should have been a Ltr but I only had a 75cl bottle) So only 75 cls of Elderflower vodka this year.
On top of the flowers I put 3 layers of greaseproof paper and the lemon slices, this is to hold the flowers under the vodka to stop them going brown and colouring the vodka.
I found the recipe at wild at heart foods, thanks and credit where it’s due.
note to self… next time cut the paper to fit the jar, 3 or 4 layers slightly offset, each tucked down the side of the jar slightly will hold the flowers down better. Some of the lemon slices can go under the paper, all of them is too many. I have made elderflower liqueur before, see :- Elderflower liqueur
only to find I was a week too early. Curses! Well at least I now have time to stitch that binding on, and take it back next week.
We all deserve a little luck occasionally; this quilt was made from a little bit of mine.
I’m lucky enough to live near a company called Standfast and Barracks, they print fabric for Liberty and Designers Guild amongst others. They have a factory shop where these fabrics can be bought in small amounts for discounted prices. You won’t be surprised that I shop there often. They also have a facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/search/top/q=standfast%20%26%20barracks%20fabric%20factory%20shop ) and some time ago they ran a little competition to win some fabrics … guess who won?
I won… Four lovely pieces of Liberty Tana Lawn; now what to make?
I decided to make a disappearing nine patch, I had only used that block once before but I knew it would go together quite quickly, and I liked it, you don’t need a better reason, do you?
I fiddled around for a while trying to work out the placement of the fabrics and came to the conclusion that I needed more contrast, a different colour. I dug out my enormous stash of Liberty Tana lawn remnants from Standfast and Barracks, and found a blue which I thought would work.
Thinking about the balance of your fabrics in simple terms, the fabric you want to use the most of or to be the dominant fabric should go in the corners of the nine patch block .
The next fabric or fabrics should go on the four sides of the nine patch , you could use all one colour as I did or you could alternate two colours which would create a completely different look.
NB , if you use a fabric with a directional pattern, as I did the pattern should not be placed the same way up, but directed from the sides to the middle of the nine patch block, otherwise when you cut it up and try to put it together again, you’ll find the pattern going every which way. It won’t work.
Finally the fabric you have least of if you are using scraps, or you like least, or would dominate the quilt if used in greater amounts, goes in the centre of the nine patch block. The disappearing nine patch block has a balance of fabrics which is expressed by 4, 2, 2, 1 . The largest patch is 4 times bigger than the smallest and the middle sized patches are half of the larger, if you see what I mean?
Having put together the nine patch I cut it into 4 quarters and put it back together having turned two of the quarters 180 degrees. All the blue patches are aligned in the same direction. If two patches had the pattern aligned along the length, and the other two along the width, it would be visually distracting.
Nine nine patch blocks gave me a 30” quilt top and used up all of the flowered and the blue fabrics, to make it big enough for a lap quilt usually 40 -45 “ square, borders were needed. First I considered a darkish blue… too dark, then a bright watermelon pink… too bright. I thought it would dominate and make my pieced disappearing nine patch centre look dull.
I added a narrow green border to separate the pieced top from the outer border, using the green helped to balance the colour across the quilt and use the green up too. Finally I took my centre back to Standfast and Barracks, draped it over the rolls of fabric for sale in the shop. I found another blue that worked for the border. I also bought a piece of the flowered fabric big enough to back and bind the edge, leaving enough left over for the hanging sleeve too.
I planned to submit this to my quilt group’s exhibition; the third of my three items, and thinking it needed to be handed in in a few days time I was in a hurry to finish it. The last time I had used this disappearing nine patch block I used a circular quilting to balance the very square pattern, I began to mark out the circles, but my disappearing pen was dried up and useless, pencil was too laborious, I had to do something simple.
It’s stitched in the ditch, just outlining each quarter block, and the border follows the pattern of the disappearing nine patch block in a simplified form.
The binding was stitched onto the front, rolled over and tacked down over the stitch line on the back, almost ready but time was up. I drove out to the village where my Quilt group meet to hand it over, only to find I was a week too early.
Curses! Well at least I now have time to stitch that binding on, and take it back next week.
In case you are wondering I have a plan for the other two fabrics not used in this quilt, with the addition of that bright watermelon pink, I think I’ll make a disappearing four patch… watch this space.
It makes for a nice plump cushion, and was finished with a fortnight to go before it needs to be handed in. Result!
18 months ago I found 4 little hearts foundation pieced blocks in red fabrics. I had a fine idea that I could make them into a finished piece in time to submit them to my quilt group’s annual challenge. (See the original blog post here http://www.mycrosspatch.com/blog/2015/12/23/four-little-hearts
I found two plain fabrics and cut pieces to put the 4 little Hearts together to make a cushion front, but there was something not quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it so I put it aside to think about it before going any further.
As predicted I had to pack up all my belongings and move out of the lovely newly redecorated room in order to make way for the then 16 year old who I had to admit had outgrown the box room which was his bedroom. He was beginning his important sixth form years and would need a proper study space.
All my sewing materials had to be packed up and moved into what was the box room ( we now call it Harry Potter’s room, the cupboard over the stairs) so the little hearts were packed up and moved (buried). The challenge came and went without me submitting my piece. It was only when I realised our quilt group’s exhibition was due in a couple of months that I dug out my little hearts and some other half finished pieces in the hope I could produce something to show.
The first step was to work out what was wrong with it. I realised the colours didn’t work together; the dull pink at the sides was just too dull, so I took it apart and replaced the dull pink with the darker burgundy colour. Sorted!
I wanted to make an 18” cushion and would have had barely enough of the burgundy to achieve that. A 1” sashing of the cream calico, added a pretty frame to my 4 little hearts block and allowed me to achieve that 18+” square I needed for the cushion top.
I really wanted to complete this cushion completely from my stash, and no cheating. So the backing was a found item, from my stash, it’s quite an old piece, a remnant left over, I think, from a skirt or dress from the 1980s. Happily it has finally found its purpose. The zip came from another stash, a lucky find in a charity shop, a whole carrier bag full of zips, over a hundred zips for £5.
Finally when I had put the cushion together it measured just shy of 18.5’’ and the 18’’ cushion pad was a little loose in the cover, so a quarter inch top stitching round the edge gave a good finish to the edge, a little definition and pulled in the cushion size to just under 18”, it makes for a nice plump cushion, and was finished with a fortnight to go before it needs to be handed in. Result!
I love Pinterest, you just search for a pattern and up comes exactly what you need. In this case a Butterick pattern for Slippers from 1955.
Last summer my Dearest decided that our youngest at 16 was old enough to be left at home overnight, while we went off for a single night away in a hotel, (Hallelujia, freedom at last.) We booked a night in a lovely Hotel in the Lake District, The Inn on the Lake, Glenridding, at a bargain price. But then the problems began, fancy hotel… what to wear? What to pack? No suitable PJ’s , no decent luggage,I don’t want to arrive looking like the poor relations. Since I plan to make weekends away a regular occurrence in my life I decided a weekend bag was a definite need for me, and my dearest, thought a suit carrier was also required, this night away was looking less of a bargain.
Ebay supplied me with a beautifully supple red leather weekend bag, less than half the price of a new one, I was so pleased with it. I decided what would make it even better would be some matching shoe bags to keep my shoes separate from my clothes, and a pair of slippers too. And I was going to make them with as little money spent as possible.
A quick look through my stash yielded a number of suitable red fabrics for my shoe bags and slippers, deciding which one to use was easy I just draped them over the lovely leather weekend bag in the garden. The Liberty Tana lawn in the middle? Yes.
I love Pinterest, you just search for a pattern and up comes exactly what you need. In this case a Butterick pattern for Slippers from 1955. And Purlsoho.com for the shoe bags.
I rooted out those fancy evening shoes, the only decent heels I’ve got and cut the fabric to make two bags big enough to fit those shoes, my usual flats will fit if they do. Two simple bags, the tops turned down to make a tube for the drawstring , and ribbons for drawstrings.
And so to the slippers, I printed out the pattern, and put my foot on it, to check the size, it looked a bit big but better that than too small. I could always trim it back once I started putting the slippers together.
Cut 4 soles, 2 left two right, and 4 tops, which are the same shape left and right.
The wadding is a piece of curtain lining with a needle punch wadding on one side, to line winter curtains. To stiffen the slipper sole I used iron on Pelmet Vilene, it comes in a handy width, just a tad less than the width of my slippers.The only thing I bought was the red bias binding. The pieces were put together and quilted with random lines of stitching, I was up against it time wise, needed to finish them before I began to pack , so I wasn’t too picky about the quilting, it just needed to hold the layers together. I just needed slippers to go in the bag.
I managed to stitch one slipper together before I had bound the raw edges of the slipper top…Doh! Un-pick and start again Alison. My only struggle with the slippers was with the bias binding, it wasn’t quite wide enough to stitch on the top and then ease over onto the back and catch down with topstitching, I had to top stitch 2 or 3 times to ensure I caught it all the way round. I think I should have trimmed the sole back more accurately before easing the binding over the raw edge.
Here you see my slippers, made for pennies, finished on time, bags packed and ready to go on holiday.
Lately I’ve been thinking about trying to dye my own fabrics, but I wanted subtle shades, from natural dyes. I was drawn to the idea of solar dying but I was unsure if I wanted to invest time in a method which requires lengthy periods in the sunshine, a commodity not to be relied upon in the North of England, even in a good summer. I imagined a summer of hope followed by an autumn of disappointment as the solar dying technique failed to develop the results I hoped for. Nevertheless I fancied having a go at dyeing from natural materials.
I found a recipe for dyeing using dandelion heads, well they are plentiful enough at this time of year, so on a Sunday morning stroll with my sister I gathered a bag full of dandelion heads from the hedgerows near the local University. That afternoon I picked the petals from their heads and put them in a jar, added boiling water and letting them steep.
I was really hopeful that I would get a good clear yellow. The strands of bright yellow made me think of saffron and stained my fingers bright yellow, surely this was going to work.
Meanwhile I soaked some plain white cotton chintz (I just happened to have a whole bolt of it which had been hanging around in my studio for years) in warm water with a little Alum added, as a mordant ( to fix the dye).
The instructions were to strain off the steeping liquid, add the fabric and microwave, in 2 minute bursts.
I did as I was instructed, 2 minutes, stir… 2 minutes, stir… 2 minutes… ad infinitum it seemed, but there was no discernible change in colour, well, what I had is not even the palest lemon yellow, a complete fail in my estimation.
Undeterred I turned to an old favourite amongst natural dyes, Turmeric and white Vinegar. In a pan of boiling water I emptied half a jar of Turmeric, and a good glugg of white vinegar, and dropped on a metre of the same Chintz. The glorious yellow colour is what I had hoped for with only a fraction of the effort I’d already expended on the dandelions to no avail.
So what to do with the very disappointing length of dandelion yellow? I threw it down on the lawn, and while still hot and wet I sprinkled over it the rest of the jar of turmeric in the hope of achieving a two tone and speckled effect. My plan was to leave it out all night, hoping it wouldn’t rain, but not too concerned if it did, to see what the outcome would be.
I was quite pleased with the result, a subtle speckling of yellow on a pale lemony background. Next stop-Orange, onion skins are the best natural option, only one slight problem, my Dearest hates onions, so we never buy them. Anyone spare their onion skins please?
I copied the quilt pattern from a hand bill advert I found, it was a tiny but simple holly leaf with berries, which I had to scale up and transfer to cardboard, machine stitched with gold thread for a little Christmas sparkle.
Here’s another thing I found when searching through my Christmas fabric box, a placemat I made years ago, and the makings of another one. Which is great because I can show you how I made it without having to make another! If only I can remember how it went together.
The centre block, the Christmas wreath, is a “kind of” nine patch, made up of a centre strip 2 green squares 2.5 inches and a white rectangle 2.5″ by 3.5″. the corner squares are 3.5″. The red border is 2 inches, can’t think why. The chequerboard border is made up of 2.5 inch squares too.
The little square in square blocks I think must have been made up of the bits left over when I made the corner blocks.
I used the stitch and flip method, place a small square on the larger square at the corner, stitch diagonally corner to corner, then cut off all but the seam allowance, and flip over to create a new corner to the block, this block uses that method twice with two different size smaller squares on diagonally opposite corners. I took the opportunity to sew together the two bits I would cut off, simply because it’s easier to sew fiddly little bits while they are still attached to the larger piece.
I copied the holly leaf quilting pattern from a hand bill advert I found, it was a tiny but simple line drawing of a holly leaf with berries, which I had to scale up and transfer to cardboard,cereal box card. I drew round the pattern with a disapearing pen, and machine stitched with gold thread for a little Christmas sparkle. Finally the Christmas wreath block, which is supposed to be a holly wreath is embellished with little red buttons, they are too big to be berries, but smaller ones would have been difficult to source, and I would have needed very many of them to get the balance of colour right.
subsequently I’ve cut some more chequerboard squares and made another Christmas wreath placemat… well I’ve got the top done. The wadding backing and quilting will have to wait till I can get to a shop that sells wadding.
I’m also making something bigger, I’m not sure yet what it will look like, possibly a table runner to go the length of the table or maybe just something for the middle of the table to hide all the table mats, and protect my snowy white table cloths. Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath, it might be ready for next Christmas.
I just have to use these little squares, waste not want not. My first thought was to just put them together , on a red background, or maybe add some applique.
What do you do with your unfinished projects, I don’t remember making these scrappy hearts blocks, who knows how long they have a lain unloved in the bottom of a box? While searching for some star templates to finish another project I found another UFO (Un-finished Object) four little red hearts foundation pieced from scraps of red fabric on cream calico. Well what can I do with those? Looking at the fabrics I don’t think I have any left, I don’t recognise them at all, but no matter, I think I can finish them into a usable size by introducing another red fabric.
Co-incidentally, my quilting group’s annual challenge this year is “call it red“. I just have to use these little squares, waste not want not. My first thought was to just put them together as in the picture, on a red background.
Or… I could add some applique hearts in Calico on red, with red stitchery… perhaps some more foundation pieced hearts in different reds… perhaps… anyway I have till July to figure it out.
I love red and white quilts and I had been planning to begin a red and white quilt for Cecily’s challenge , a feathered star in white on a red background, but if I’m honest it’s not likely to happen, not unless I find an eighth day in the week, or am in the happy position of being able to retire before July. So I’m really pleased to have found these Hearts, I can get them made into something before July… surely.
I have recently redecorated and re-carpeted my Studio and am back in and free to sew again, but for one small problem, now the room is clean and warm and bright, a certain 15 year old who had denied any designs upon the space, now thinks his own room is way too small for him and perhaps my playroom will suit him better. In the summer when I have redecorated the living room, I will have to think about decamping to what is currently the dining room, so hopefully I can get my little red hearts quilt completed before then.
I’m always on the lookout for Haberdashery; buttons for instance, so I was really pleased to find this tin full of buttons some of them quite old, for £2 at a car boot fair.
Don’t you just love a bargain? I do, let me show you what I have found recently, more thrifty buys. A few months ago I came across a lady teaching paper making. I’ve always wanted to have a go at that so when she offered to sell me a kit I could not resist it. To make paper with pretty little organic inclusions in it you need organic matter, flower petals for instance.There were some in the kit, but I thought I could make some of my own from the flowers in my own garden. If you just collect petals they will dry up and discolour, they need to be pressed to preserve shape and colour. My dearest suggested I buy a flower press but I reckoned I could find one in a charity shop, and a few weeks later… presto £1 in my local charity shop. It even came with pressed flowers in it. I have a good collection of flower petals in the press waiting till I have time to get out that paper making kit, cold wet winter weekends are just around the corner.
I’m always on the lookout for Haberdashery; buttons for instance, so I was really pleased to find this tin full of buttons some of them quite old, for £2 at a car boot fair. I guess there must be easily £20 worth of old buttons which I can sell, and the tin is vintage, in really good condition it’s a 1960’s Quality street tin. A similar one on Etsy is selling for £4.99. Maybe I should open my own Etsy shop.
A few days later I found a plastic bag full of buttons also £2, some of which are also quite old, together with the ones in the tin there was enough to fill all of these jars. I might sell the old ones, the Victorian and Art Deco ones, and use the others for embellishments on patchwork or fabric pictures. I’m really pleased with my thrifty buys. It doesn’t take much to please me when it comes to craft materials, my thrift shop bargains.
no little beads clinging to every surface, my hands, my clothes… if you’ve ever had dealings with polystyrene beads you’ll know what I mean.
In the middle of developing an idea about making a beanbag support for my camera I visited my sister and whilst telling her all about it she showed me her new make. She had been to the wonderful factory shop we have locally which sells designer furnishing and dress weight fabrics, and bought a small amount of Ralph Lauren Home fabric. She had made cushions and a table cloth to spruce up her porch, to make it into somewhere she could sit when the sun is shining but not quite warmly enough to be outside. She had a small amount left which she gave to me, because it was just the size I needed for my project. I’m such a lucky sister.
So I made a beanbag, by turning the fabric into a tube and then stitching the end seams at 180 degrees to one another to create a little humbug shaped beanbag cushion, leaving a gap at one end for the filling.
I turned the beanbag right sides out, and made a paper funnel out of some scrap paper to fill the bag with.
The beanbag is filled with polystyrene beads, which I have recycled from an old beanbag seat that was bought for the 15 year old to sit on when he has a little lad, and which has lain forlorn and unused in my studio for longer than I care to admit (my excuse is I always knew it would come in handy one day). l could have used rice or beans but I wanted it to be as light as possible, because my camera kit is already heavy enough.
I scooped a glassful of beads from the old beanbag seat, then holding the funnel inside the bag with one hand it was really easy to pour the polystyrene beads into the bag, encountering very little problem with static cling. There were a few beads left in the bottom of the glass, probably because I didn’t dry it properly, but no little beads clinging to every surface, my hands, my clothes… if you’ve ever had dealings with polystyrene beads you’ll know what I mean.
It just needed a machine stitched closure, to make sure it won’t bleed little beads all over the place and it’s done.
and what’s the point of all this I hear you wondering? It’s my own take on beanbag camera kit. At the time I had just bought a telephoto lens for my camera, and at 300mm you can’t really hand hold without getting camera shake. I have a tripod but don’t really want to hump it about with me, it’s rather heavy and my hips and knees are getting arthritic so the weight is a problem. This light as air little cushion allows me to set up my camera on a wall or fence post and take pictures without camera shake… if there is a handy wall at the right height.
Subsequently I bought myself to a monopod but I still carry the beanbag, it weighs nothing at all and cost me nothing but a little time and ingenuity. My sister is also a keen photographer, I wonder if she might like one…and then my niece… but then I have an idea for a slight design adaptation… watch this space.
I dread to think how many times I pieced and unpicked that border, and every time it was wonky.
This year’s challenge from my Quilt group, was Crazy, put simply anything made from crazy patchwork, fill your boots. My plan was to collect silk ties to cut up, and I did buy a few from my favourite charity shop, but I soon realised that I would need a lot of ties, to have enough variety of colours and patterns, so back to the stash.
I found a bag of scraps, (well three actually), sorted it into three piles, blue and white Laura Ashley scraps dating back to 1977, (of which more later), a pile of pastels some Laura Ashley of the same vintage and some from the 80’s, and a reject pile the colours of which would not meet the criteria for my piece, brown orange, cream etc.
I wanted to work on small pieces which could be joined together in a larger piece, and had seen a number of crazy patchwork studies created as large hexagons, all I needed was a large hexie pattern. So out came the cereal packet, compass and ruler, not difficult, simply draw a circle, divide into 6 equal parts (60 degrees), and draw a line from radius to radius, where the circle intersects, to create a hexagon. The size of the hexagon was determined by the size of the cereal packet.
Initially I followed the advice in my only Crazy patchwork book, (big mistake, but excellent lessons) I cut and laid the pieces on a backing fabric cut from cotton calico (lesson one backing layer too thick). I overlaid the pieces by a eighth of an inch and then stitched them down with a fine zig-zag stitch using transparent filament, (mistake two, this is nasty scratchy stuff and leaves a ridge of stitching which then causes drag when using machine embroidery stitching on top).
Running out of time (72 hours and counting) I realised using differing coloured threads to embroider the patches would take time I didn’t have and possibly require threads I didn’t have, so I decided I could pull the whole thing together and achieve balance by using one colour for the embroidery throughout, white.
As I picked the embroidery stitches to decorate my scraps I made my next mistake (number three), I didn’t try out every stitch on scrap before I began, and there’s no unpicking it afterwards! Had I tried them out first I could have adjusted the length and width of stitch to get the optimum look of the embroidery stitch. I would have also realised that the thread I was using would not work well with some of the more open, spidery stitches leaving a barely visible embroidery, a bold thread would have worked better (mistake number four).
Now comes the fiddly bit, piecing the hexagons by machine, stitching into acute corners requires some skill, the trick is not to stitch right to the edge , leave yourself a quarter inch of wiggle room, it doesn’t matter if you leave a little hole at the corner, you will be embroidering over it anyway.
It’s at this time I discovered mistake number five, for some reason I can’t fathom I had only made 6 hexagons, and of course I needed 7, with only 48 hrs to go I didn’t have time to fiddle about with my previous method so I cut another hexagon in calico, grabbed some spray tack, sprayed liberally, cut up some scraps and dabbed them on in a haphazard way, forgot the filament zig-zag and completed with white embroidery. No mistakes and it turned out the best of the 7 hexies. Finally mistake number six , I then decided to piece the edge to create a square, all the blue sashing is made of part hexagons cut to fit around the edge, and pieced in. It would have been so much easier and quicker to applique to a straight piece of sashing. I dread to think how many times I pieced and unpicked that border, and every time it was wonky.
Consequently I ran out of time to finish it properly, I should have put a zip into the back but I didn’t have one, nor time to buy one so I made an envelope back, which I don’t like and will replace, I stitched the final edge seam with a big stitch so I can unpick it easily, and the pieced sash edge has not been embroidered where it joins the crazy patches, so when I unpick it I’ll add more embroidery.
At least I managed to produce a “finished” piece of work to submit for the challenge, it didn’t win a prize. That’s ok ,I wouldn’t have quibbled with the judges decision and loved the crazy bag made by Anne Thistlethwaite which won. Well done Anne.