Crazy

I dread to think how many times I pieced and unpicked that border, and every time it was wonky.

scraps for crazy patchwork
30 years of scraps

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.

not scraps for crazy patchwork
rejected scraps

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.

geometry for crazy patchwork
always knew Geometry would come in one day

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.

making crazy mistakes
big mistake

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).

crazy machine embroidery
seen from the back

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.

7 crazy hexagons
I need seven!

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).

 crazy hexagons
always a fiddly task.

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.

7 crazy hexies
and now for my next trick

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.

making a crazy cushion
envelope back

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.

crazy cushion finished...ish
finished…ish

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.

Oh what a lovely pair of brassicas

from the scraps and a button I made another little cauliflower to fasten between them

Brassicas
cauliflower bra

And secondly I found a little white bra in a charity shop 30D: a bra made for a generous little lady. Its not one I’ll ever fit into, but perfect for the challenge. It only needed a few strips of green fabric gathered onto the cups, and softly tacked down here and there; hey presto, two little brassicas (cauliflowers). From the scraps and a button I made another little cauliflower to fasten between them.
Both bras were entered into the bra challenge for the Christmas meeting of my quilter’s group, and will be entered into our exhibition planned for 17th to 19th April 2015.

I know its silly. It’s just a bit of fun, but I really enjoyed coming up with these ideas for words containing the letters BRA, and interpreting them in fabric, and bras. I don’t know who won the challenge, not that it matters. It’s not about winning, its about taking up the challenge.

If you happen to be in the North west of England this April do please try and visit our exhibition, you’ll find us on the A6 at Bilsborrow just North of Preston; in Bilsborrow Village hall. All welcome, see you there.

A new technique; Broderie Suisse

Then I began something more ambitious …

Bargain: embroidery hoops
Bargain: embroidery hoops

I recently bought a collection of embroidery hoops, £2 for 5 at my local charity shop. I’m making a collection, not that I do embroidery you understand, the idea was to use them to showcase some of my beautiful fabrics, the ones I can’t bring myself to cut up, by using the hoops like picture frames and hanging them in groups on the wall of my studio.

showcasing favourite fabrics
showcasing favourite fabrics

See this one with a piece of patterned silk which my mother gave me.

everything I need
everything I need

I also had two pieces of red and white gingham, which had been languishing under the lamp table beside the sofa since Christmas, it had been used to wrap small gifts and being an avid recycler I could not bring myself to throw it away.

Then on Pinterest the other day I stumbled upon Broderie Suisse, (or chicken scratch) and thought….hmmm.

first attempt
first attempt

Embroidery silk… no problem, I have a large tin full under the bed… backing, because the gingham is a bit flimsy… no problem, I have some old sheet which will do… embroidery hoop… what size? I have plenty in varying sizes. Working from the photographs I found on Pinterest, because most of the tutorials are not in English, I made this little heart shaped embroidery.
Then I began something more ambitious …

lets try something on a bigger scale
lets try something on a bigger scale

When it is complete, I think I will make it into a cushion, perhaps a hop pillow, or a sleep herbs pillow, with herbs cut from my own garden, and dried.

Hurry up, Christmas is coming

so I put the fabric aside in a safe place till I was ready to begin….but where?

For months now I have been searching without success for a stash of fabric I had put aside to make a quilt for a friend for Christmas, I had planned to make it last year but ran out of time and energy, so put the fabric aside in a safe place till I was ready to begin….but where? I can’t find it anywhere, and I guess even if I did now, I would not have time to make even the simplest quilt. I even pulled out one of my UFO’s and considered finishing it for her but decided not, I love her dearly, she deserves her own quilt conceived and made specifically for her, in her colours. It doesn’t have to be now and it shouldn’t be rushed or ill conceived, besides I am still having ideas about it, so clearly it is not yet a done deal.

£2.99 Oxfam, Kendal
£2.99 Oxfam, Kendal

However I am making something for her, her own stocking. I found in a charity shop some weeks ago a printed panel for a Christmas stocking, and bought it for £2.99, I guess it would have been £5 to £10 pounds or more to buy in a quilt shop.
I cut the two sides apart and cut out the shapes with a centimetre seam allowance, it needs to be greater than a quarter inch because I will use the seam allowance turned in on itself to neaten the seam. I will sew it at 5/8ths and this will ensure no white will show at the edge.

press before you sew
press before you sew

I cut a lining from a plain white fabric I had to hand and a piece of wadding for each side, and sewed all three together along the top edge the front and the lining right sides together, with the wadding on the back.

not a wadding sandwich
not a wadding sandwich

 

 

Then the wadding was trimmed back as close to the seam as possible , and the printed panel flipped over so that the wadding is now in the middle. I neatly pinned the top edge then tacked it to ensure the lining did not roll out and show above the printed panel. I will top stitch when it has been tacked together to keep the top edge stable.

stabilise the top edge
stabilise the top edge

 

Having tacked all three layers together I am now in the process of quilting the layers together with a gold machine embroidery thread to add a little Christmas sparkle.

a little sparkle to be added
a little sparkle to be added

Another successful raid

the ugliest white skirt imaginable, which isn’t even in my size, ruffles in all the wrong places, an asymmetric hem, down at the back and up at the front.

More Plaid
More Plaid

Another trip to my local charity shop, I’m light very little cash but I have 2 weenie little plaid shirts (age3) 50p each, and a ladies plaid shirt in a pretty lavender and cool green which will pretty up my planned plaid quilt with some more feminine colours.

ugly white skirt
ugly white skirt

A beautiful Monsoon Blouse for £2, and the ugliest white skirt imaginable, which isn’t even in my size, ruffles in all the wrong places, all so badly gathered and stitched in place, and an asymmetric hem, which hung down at the back and rose up at the front, a real horror. £1.50
Why?  You may well ask, although the skirt looked rather sad it was made of fine cotton lawn, and was lined in the same fabric, and edged in the some nice quality Guipure lace.

The skirt was a supermarket brand, the materials were good but it was badly made, and badly designed. Who on earth wants a ruffle around the hips adding inches at the very place you want it to skim? And why stitch on and edge the ruffle in polyester thread which either was cream or has yellowed so making the whole skirt look grubby. The one thing you want from white clothing is the fresh look of pure white, grubby white will never be a good look.

The lace alone was worth it
The lace alone was worth it
Only the ruffles went in the bin
Only the ruffles went in the bin

So I bought it to cut up, and for £1.50 and a little work I got more than a yard of fine white cotton lawn, not suitable for patchwork, but perfect for foundation piecing, and linings where you don’t want what is underneath to show through; a white zip, a spare button, and 3 and a half yards of good white lace, which I’m sure I’ll find a use for. All I threw out was the ruffle.

Amish quilts
Amish quilts

Lastly a completed embroidery, of an Amish scene with quilts! All I need now is to find a suitable frame for it, and it can hang in my workroom, 50p and there was another canvas in the bag with crewel wool, I might give that to a friend who does embroideries, as I doubt whether I will ever find time to stitch it myself.

Bargain hunting in the Lake District

She’s rather rubbed and past her prime but I think she’s lovely in a faded kind of way and well worth £3 for such a venerable old lady.

We have lately enjoyed a little Holiday in The Lake District; myself, my Dearest and the 13 year old took a self catering break at Fallbarrow on the bank of Lake Windermere at Bowness.
After the recent heat wave I was trepidatious, the last 4 summers we have holidayed in the Lake District in August and the last 4 summers it has rained… and rained… and rained. Naturally I had very low expectations of this Holiday, so when the forecast was for rain, was I surprised? Not at all! Thankfully, it rained mostly through the night, we enjoyed our holiday in sunshine and warmth. Except for Wednesday; that day it rained … and rained… We made the mistake of walking into Bowness during a short  lull in the weather, by the time we returned we were soaked to the undergarments, rain ran through my hair off my head and down my neck, my new showerproof jacket proved showerproof does not cut it. In the Lakes you need serious wet weather gear, even in August.
One thing I did manage to do was a little retail therapy, you wouldn’t expect bargains in the Lake District, it can be a very expensive tourist trap if you don’t know where to shop, thankfully I do.wine glass
You do get a better class of Charity shop in the Lakes, clothing is often a good buy, many good labels not seen in your average charity shop, but being rather chubby at the moment, well a lot chubby actually, I’m trying to avoid admitting what size I am by not buying clothes. The new jacket was a “girl can’t help it “ moment. You should see the lining! A watermelon pink jacket with royal blue and watermelon satin lining, I just had to. (and it was in the sale)
So Thanks to the British Heart Foundation in Bowness I bought two lovely wine glasses, not very old, not crystal but only £2.50 for a pair, bargain. I like to have nice things, but I have a problem with Glassware, My Dearest is the dishwasher in our household, and is pathologically incapable of being careful with glassware, consequently glasses don’t last long in our house. I don’t think I have any without chips in the rims. I could just buy cheap and cheerful and not worry about it, but life’s too short to put up with cheap and ugly when you don’t have to. I’m always on the lookout for nice glasses and don’t mind buying odd ones, after all a set of 6 can very easily become a solitary one with my Beloved at the sink.

fine needlework for pennies
fine needlework for pennies

In Keswick the following Day Oxfam rendered two unused, hand embroidered pillowcases, with raised Stumpwork, too good to be used for sleeping on; I think I may cut them up to make something else out of, not sure what yet, but they are fine quality cotton, £2 each, you can’t buy polycotton supermarket basics for that price. I also bought two lovely handkerchiefs, yuk you may be thinking, but these are not for blowing one’s nose on, these are for ladies to delicately dab moist eyes with, one is of fine cotton with hand made Tatting applied to the edge, it is fairly basic tatted lace edging but pretty and cost me a £1. The other is even finer Victorian linen, with Whitework embroidery. It wasn’t priced, I happily paid 49p.

Simple things please Simple folks
Simple things please Simple folks

Next I bought two fat quarters of blue quilting fabric with snowflakes and sparkly bits for a £1 each, two cotton reels for 50p each and a beautiful Victorian doily with the most exquisite fine crochet lace for £2, It needs starch and a good press but it is really pretty. All were found at a Vintage fair we stumbled upon in Coniston, and then round the corner in the Post Office I found a bag of cotton reels being sold at 40p each; mostly Orange. As we have already established I don’t DO orange I bought the only green, and one orange still in it’s wrapper, and then regretted not buying them all, I’d run out of cash and the ATM was out too.

Venerable old lady
Venerable old lady

And finally from Age UK in Windermere, a plate, I’m not sure what kind of plate it is, probably from a mid Victorian fruit set; it is about 9” wide and hand painted, the little sprigs of flowers are transfer printed, but then hand coloured, the cobalt blue and the gilding is hand painted, there’s no maker’s mark. She’s rather rubbed and past her prime but I think she’s lovely in a faded kind of way and well worth £3 for such a venerable old lady. She will look lovely on the table piled with summer fruits.

The Button Jar

as a button jar mine was hardly a thing of beauty

 cut up and ready for use
cut up and ready for use

So, having cut up all my charity shop shirts I have a satisfactory pile of checked fabrics which make the beginnings of a potential new plaid quilt. I think I need some more greens and also some more deep saturated colours. I’m going to keep collecting till I have a mix I like, and then start cutting.

mostly shirt buttons
mostly shirt buttons

One secondary benefit of all those shirts is a healthy supply of shirt buttons to add to my button jar. Pictured are my shirt buttons and a selection of buttons which were orphaned and hanging about the house in drawers and on surfaces waiting to be re-homed.
1-IMG_4804
Being a practical person, when I come home from a shopping trip with a new garment I always cut off the little plastic bag with the spare buttons in and put them carefully aside in case I ever lose a button… but I’m also a great believer of that old adage “a stitch in time saves nine” or in this case “a stitch in time saves having to replace a button” so if I see a loose button I re-stitch it, consequently I rarely lose my buttons. Those many little plastic bags containing buttons remain long after the garment they came with has long since departed my wardrobe.

button jar
button jar

These buttons in bags have mostly gravitated to my button jar, but they do not have much to recommend aesthetically, in fact as a button jar mine was hardly a thing of beauty. Plastic has its place and I would not be without it, but it is not pleasing to the eye.

no more plastic bags
no more plastic bags

Taking as my guide William Morris, who said “Have nothing in your house which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” I want my button jar to be both useful and beautiful. I have ejected all the plastic and added the shirt buttons. It is only a small jar, and not very full but time will take care of that, grandma’s always have the most well stocked button collections and I have a few years to go yet before I will qualify, age wise. I wonder how many plaid shirt quilts I would have to make to fill the jar? But then if I use the buttons to tie the quilt I might end up buying buttons.

That's better.
That’s better.