A Scruffy Little Bear

I thought maybe making this scruffy little bear could help me; having something to do and to think about would maybe help to get my sewing mojo back, and I could learn something new.

I’ve not really been in the mood for sewing lately certainly not quilting and yet I recently found a need to sew for the solace it brings. My Beloved and I are heartsore and bereft. The Boy has left home! On the day he was coming to collect all his belongings, I spent the morning packing up his things, trying not to cry. The hardest thing for me to swallow was he wanted his childhood teddies. He has moved out and come home again a couple of times, but I guess its really final when they take their childhood companions. He really has left home this time. I’m fairly sure there are toys of mine still tucked away at my Mother’s house which I still think of as “home” but I have my childhood teddy Bear.

Once the packing was done,  and while I waited for The Boy to arrive, I needed to find some calm. I settled down to listen to a podcast “ Bearly Begun, episode 4. ” (you can find it on Spotify or https://anchor.fm/bearlybegun/episodes )

If you are familiar with the BBC One TV program The Repair Shop you will know the two ladies who repair soft toys, not just bears, on that programme.  (If you don’t know The Repair Shop you are missing a delight, seriously it’s one of the best , I wouldn’t miss it, everything about it is wonderful, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are not in the UK, I think you can find it @netflix.

The Bear Ladies had a project to suggest to their listeners, a free pattern to make a little teddy bear called Scruffy Duffy, well that nearly set me off crying again… Scruffy is the name of The Boy’s bear, which I’d just packed up and said goodbye to, remembering the times I’d read bedtime stories to The Boy and his Scruffy bear. My Stepson and I had first bonded over making paper hats for his teddies from ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’ by Conn and Hal Iggulden, when he was 7 years old.

Scruffy little Bear in progress

I thought maybe making this scruffy little bear could help me; having something to do and to think about would maybe help to get my sewing mojo back, and I could learn something new. So I downloaded the pattern, ordered the bits and bobs required to put it together, found a piece of fabric from my stash, and began.

Scruffy Duffy belongs to The Teddy Bear Ladies, if you are interested in making one you can find the free pattern here, http://bearitinmind.com/ and images of bears which have been made from the pattern can be found on their Pinterest account https://www.pinterest.co.uk/teddybearladies/, there is also an instagram account https://www.instagram.com/theteddybearladies/ where you can follow The Teddy bear ladies.  Do watch them on The Repair Shop too.

So what did I learn while making this Scruffy Little Bear?

I learned that my hand sewing could do with more practice, that I’m not good at judging a half centimetre seam allowance by eye, but if you mark the seam allowance on your thumbnail, that works.

I learned that I’m not good at stuffing soft toys, but practice may make perfect, and a pencil helps.

I learned how to create a cotter pin joint; again practice may improve technique, thankfully I have some round nose pliers in my kitchen drawer.

I learned that mohair, despite being more expensive than free fabric from my stash, may have been a better choice, and the pile would likely cover a multitude of inaccurate stitching sins.

I learned that I have arthritis developing in my thumb joints, and that I need varifocal glasses.

Most importantly and with much reflection, I learned that you cannot keep your children close, they will leave home and you have to let them go with an open heart.  I just hope he will let us know where he is and what he is up to, that he will come and see us occasionally.  And if he does decide to join the Army as he says he will, perhaps he’ll need a foster home for his beloved childhood friends, Monty and Scruffy, I do hope so.

Potholder for Mum

So what does a kind and loving daughter do when her mother confides… she has lost her pot holder?

 So what does a kind and loving daughter do when her mother confides… she has lost her pot holder? She thinks maybe it got thrown out with some newspapers which had been sitting by the kitchen door ready for recycling.

Make her a new one of course.

It took me a while to come up with a plan, I didn’t have suitable heat resistant wadding, well who does? So I needed to use a fabric which would be substantial enough to be heat resistant. Denim perhaps?

Denim jeans £1 , such a bargain.
Charity shop denim

In my stash I had a pair of jeans bought for £1 in a charity shop, I’d been thinking about a floor covering made from denim, but that would need a LOT  of denim. Not sure what I might do with the legs, but I will come up with something, what about a gardening apron? Hmm, I’ll need to think about that.

For my pot holders I needed two pieces of denim about 8-9 inches square, and a pocket on each one would give me more heat resistance in the middle, or a handy way to help keep hold of the potholder. With a pair, they could be used like ovengloves.

Sorting through my fabrics I came across the left overs from another project, Miriam’s cushion (http://www.mycrosspatch.com/blog/2018/05/11/making-miriams-cushion/)   half square triangles. Just what I needed, I’d seen a block on instagram just a few days before and saved it, now that’s  what I could do with my HSTs. (https://www.instagram.com/p/CANjHUUnDnF/…)

The Potholder only needed a simple quilting design to hold the layers together . I made a pair, one is handy but two is better, they aren’t exactly a pair but I’m happy with them, and so is MUM.   

Maybe I could make myself a pair too, when lockdown is over, and my local charity shop reopens.

A simple Thing; an ironing board bringing Joy

A simple thing which brings a smile to every day tasks.

Finished article
something simple to give pleasure in use

William Morris (British textile designer, associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement.) said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Well I have a number of things in my house which while useful, do not bring me joy.

Simple things
the starting point

One such is my tabletop ironing board that I use for craft projects; I had been aware for a while that when ironing I could feel and sometimes see the wire base imprinting on the fabric. It needed a make over. So I took it apart and then realised I didn’t have the wadding I needed to repair it. Rats!   Being on lockdown due to Covid 19 there was no bobbing out to buy more. 

new wadding
a little pieceing needed

 Finding a couple of small pieces, which I thought would be suitable, I needed to piece it to fit the frame. A simple zigzag stitch keeps it together. I’d taken the cover off and so took the decision to wash it while I sorted the lining.

 The new wadding was stuck to the original wadding with spray glue to stop the two layers moving against each other. The two layers together gave a much more substantial padding, which I hope will improve the pressing of my craft projects.

ugly cover fabric
Grubby, faded, not giving me joy

Putting the old cover back on didn’t fill me with joy, its boring, white and still stained, and to make matters worse when trying to get it off I snapped the draw string which fits it to the ironing board. I thought I might use elastic to replace it but again due to Covid19 I had no elastic. Well I did but I had another far more important use for it, of which more later ( see blog post “worldwide pandemic” )

Trawling through my haberdashery stash I found a cone of black polyester ribbon about .5cm wide, normally I wouldn’t dream of using black ribbon as a drawstring on a white project but needs must. It threaded well with a bodkin and it did the job.

Mis-printed Libery lawn
even misprints have their uses.

Before putting it back on I used it as an approximate pattern for another cover. I’d seen on another blog somewhere, sometime, can’t remember when,  a new cover made with a gorgeous Liberty fabric.  I have some Liberty fabric, bought many years ago again can’t remember where or when but it’s mis-printed so over the space of several yards there are many different misprints, from almost perfect, to completely unrecognisable. Consequently I’ve never found a purpose for it. So I reckoned I could spare a half yard piece from one end.

A thing of beauty....
the finished article, a joy to use.

The result is another cover, over the original, and with a similar black poly ribbon drawstring. It fills me with joy. Such a simple change, no money spent, everything came from my stash. A pleasure to use, and I don’t have to hide it or stow it away when we have visitors. A simple thing which brings a smile to every day tasks.

Elderflower Vodka; how to make it

I encouraged some small creatures to depart, the ones who wouldn’t go got squashed.

Elderflower Vodka

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!

Elderflower Vodka

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.

Elderflower Vodka

So what else do I need? a Lemon, and a bottle of Vodka, 100g of sugar, and a glass jar.Elderflower Vodka

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.

Elderflower Vodka
Lemon Zest

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.

Elderflower vodka
a little sugar

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

Let’s twist again like we did last Summer

it’s never a good idea to use bias cut fabric , bias cut edge to bias cut edge if you can avoid it, but if you cut same size squares on straight grain, and
join then alternately bias cut edge to straight grain edge, you can produce a string of coloured squares to use as a border,

These two quilts are another mother and daughter effort, the first is mine using my favourite bright colours, with black. The second is my mother’s, rich colours which tone beautifully together.

Mulitcoloured Twister quilt

The block is known as Twister, it looks rather complicated, and whilst it does take some planning and a large workspace is helpful it is actually fairly simple to achieve.
First task is to cut out squares and put them together in a grid bearing in mind that each square will tessellate with its neighbouring squares in the finished article, so each square should be sufficiently different from its neighbour to give the definition you want.

Mum's twister quilt

Once you have a grid maybe 20 percent larger than the finished article you plan, you take your scissors to it cutting it up using a template guide. At first it may seem that there is a profligate waste of fabric as you do cut to waste. A large bias square is cut from the centre of each square, I set these aside to use in the border. As each new square is cut diagonally from the fabric with the intersection of the squares as the centre of the new squares you cut, you should then rotate the square 90 degrees and set it back next to its neighbour. You will find they begin to tessellate; now you see why you need to have a large workspace, because you need to set out the entire quilt top, each piece placed by its neighbour, to get the placing correct.

http://www.pinkchalkfabrics.com
http://www.pinkchalkfabrics.com

You will have a collection of little bias cut squares left over, now it’s never a good idea to use bias cut fabric , bias cut edge to bias cut edge if you can avoid it,because both edges will stretch. If you cut the same size squares on straight grain, and join them alternately bias cut edge to straight grain edge, you can produce a string of coloured squares to use as a border, it will still stretch a little if you are not careful, but at least there will be no waste. I cannot bear waste.

The first quilt I made in this pattern I can’t find a photo of, probably because it was photographed long before I discovered digital photography, in fact it may have been made before digital photography existed.( Do you know how old that makes me feel?) It was a cot quilt made for a friend at the birth of her daughter, and was in pretty pinks and blues and on a very small scale, hand quilted in circles.

Am I a lucky girl?

I have pulled a few fabrics from my stash and cut them into apple cores but together they lack a certain something………maybe….. as it’s a scrap quilt I should just throw it all in and let it all hang out, wherever the fabrics fall… if you see what I mean, and pardon my clichés.

Santa brought me a Sizzix Big Shot, I’d seen apple core quilts on Pinterest and coveted them, so when I discovered how the pieces were cut I coveted the Sizzix machine as well, but I couldn’t justify buying one just to have a go at making a quilt. My Dearest however thought it would make an excellent gift this Christmas. I am delighted with it and have already begun cutting apple cores from my stash.

The Sizzix Big Shot

If you are not familiar with this piece of equipment it’s a die cutter, basically a miniature mangle, which presses dies (a shape cutting blade) onto whatever you want to cut the shape in, paper, card or fabric, mostly used by card makers and other crafty people. I have already worked out that I can use it for appliqué, with bondaweb, and to make other paper crafts as yet not crystalised but bubbling away at the back of my head ( no doubt you’ll be the first to know when I get round to trying out my as yet vague ideas)
I always find myself wondering how other quilters manage to make such well balanced colour coordinated Scrap quilts, I generally find I struggle to have the right amount of sufficient variation of colour and pattern to make a balanced quilt; do you think maybe they cheat? Maybe they go out and buy new fabrics to achieve the look they want and then just call it a scrap quilt? Surely not!
I have pulled a few fabrics from my stash and cut them into apple cores but together they lack a certain something, I’m not sure what exactly and don’t want to cut any more till I know what it is that’s missing; the dreaded yellow perhaps, or maybe greater variation of darks and lights, at the moment what I have cut are mainly mid shades. I shall need to pull out a great many more fabrics from my stash and throw them in a pile I think, then pare it back, pulling out the ones that don’t work, till I have the right mix.

my first apple core quilt in the making

Having said that I think one of my weaknesses is a need to control, perhaps, as it’s a scrap quilt I should just throw it all in and let it all hang out, wherever the fabrics fall… if you see what I mean, and pardon my clichés.
The truth is I didn’t pull out of my stash the fabrics I love, I pulled out the fabrics I could spare, the unloved and languishing bits, so it’s no wonder they aren’t yet making an inspiring mix. I need inspiration, one or two well chosen fabrics to pull it all together, or white, or navy? Oh Help! What I really need is a few days of free time in my studio to let this quilt come together.

To finish those stockings

I hit another snag, the mark didn’t show at all on the green fabric. Work came to a full stop again. Till I worked out that if I put the gold thread on the bottom bobbin and marked the quilting out on the lining, I could achieve the result I wanted, problem solved.

which fabric?

I wanted to make a swing tag for each stocking. A gold initial on a swing tag to hang from each one. I’d originally planned to put the initial on the red material of the stocking but realised it would not work visually; the material is too busy and the initial would not be well defined, so I chose the green fabric.

Font: Hobo

I chose a simple font, this is Hobo, which is chunky and nicely shaped without any difficult to cut out narrow bits which would have made appliqué complicated. I enlarged the font in bold, and traced the initials onto bondaweb (if you are going to do this do it rough side up or print off a reversed initial, or your finished initial will be the wrong way round).

bondaweb on gold tissue

I ironed the bondaweb onto some gold tissue fabric, cut out, peeled off and ironed into the green fabric. If this swing tag was likely to be washed I’d consider some stitching round the edge to keep it in place but I don’t think it will be necessary.

quilting design

To quilt my stockings I was struggling to find a suitable quilting pattern, I’d initially thought of using a holly and berry pattern I already had but it wasn’t right, then looking at the green fabric I realised throughout all the co-ordinating fabrics there were 5 pointed stars. Coincidentally I’d just bought a set of star cookie cutters. I drew round the 5 star cutters onto cardboard, the points were a little rounded which I didn’t want, so I cut them out sharper. I used the smallest star along the top edge of the stocking, the middle size down the sides of the panels, and all 5 size stars on the foot of the stocking.
Next problem! I planned to use an air erasable pen to mark the shapes onto the stocking, but in the bright sunshine streaming into the room, the mark was disappearing before I could stitch the stars. I gave up, and found something else to do till it went dark.
Then moving on to the foot of the stocking, I hit another snag, the mark didn’t show at all on the green fabric. Work came to a full stop again. Till I worked out that if I put the gold thread on the bottom bobbin and marked the quilting out on the lining, I could achieve the result I wanted, problem solved.

Christmas cards

Sometimes I receive a Christmas card which I like too much to throw away on 12th night. this is one way to preserve them.

Sometimes I receive a Christmas card which I like too much to throw away on 12th night.
I tend to keep some maybe just in case no-one sends me a card next year! Perhaps when I’m old and friendless I’ll be able to put up cards that I have kept and still feel surrounded by the love of old friends, who are no longer around to send cards.
framed Christmas card

This card I loved so much I wanted to make something with it, so I decided to frame it, it will still get packed away with the Christmas decorations and come out every year but it will not get tatty or bent out of shape.

charity shop frames

I took charity shop frames,

sand your frame

sanded and spray painted them,

spray painted frame

used red wrapping paper to mount the card on.

framed card and decoration

Wanting to have something to hang alongside it and not being able to find another card of a similar type I bought a little felt tree decoration, from a budget store, it doesn’t entirely work , I’ll keep looking out for another paper cut card.

Craft for Christmas

I love the smell of clove oranges and always make some for Christmas, and put them by my chair so that I can enjoy the fragrance, heaven!

In the run up to Christmas, I always think I will have time to be creative and make gifts rather than buying them, Pinterest has a lot to answer for!
I also thought that I would have time to blog what I have made, then Christmas arrived, work went viral, home life was hectic and the cold virus crept up to bite me too. I didn’t finish the present wrapping till 22.20 on Christmas Eve, and the cards got posted on the last posting day. So let me tell you what I did manage to achieve.

Limoncello ready to be bottled and given
nearly ready

The Limoncello (see a still life with lemons) was filtered and bottled, I tried the coffee filters but it didn’t work very well, so I used a double layer of muslin in a sieve over a funnel, which worked much better. It made a litre and a half of Limoncello. The 500ml bottles were cordial bottles that I have put aside once empty specifically for the purpose. I kept one bottle for myself, gave one to my sister, and put the rest in a beautiful Victorian cut glass decanter I found at an antiques fair in the summer and gave it to my Mum.

There’s something very evocative of Christmas in the smell of spices, I love the smell of clove oranges and always make some for Christmas, and put them by my chair so that I can enjoy the fragrance, heaven! If you want them to last you should wrap them in paper and put them in a warm dry place till they have dried, and then they won’t go mouldy, but if you do they look desiccated and not nearly so pretty. I prefer my clove oranges to have a short but pretty lifespan.
all you need to make a clove orange
They are so easy to make, just take an orange, a cocktail stick, some ribbon and some cloves. I tie the ribbon on first giving me four quarters to fill, and allowing the cloves to be placed to keep the ribbon in place. Use a cocktail stick to make a hole to push the clove into, if you try to use the clove to make the hole you will find the bud of the clove will be crushed by your finger as you push it in, and it will fall off leaving just the stem behind.

making clove oranges for Christmas

They make nice little stocking gifts wrapped in cellophane, but you’d need to make them the night before they are given to be sure they are given in perfect condition.

a little bit of Christmas
smells wonderful, tastes better.

And so happy Christmas Mum.

Scrap comforter

One of my most used quilts, most washed and cuddly, the one that gets to sit on my knee when I’m ill is this one

One of my most used quilts, most washed and cuddly, the one that gets to sit on my knee when I’m ill is this one. It isn’t really a quilt as it has only two layers, the back being fleece. I based it on the Double Irish Chain, traditionally made in red and white. This one was made with my favourite hyacinth blue and a collection of my two inch scrap squares.

It is made up of two alternating blocks one block is made up of 25 two inch squares put together randomly apart from the centre square in each side which is the hyacinth blue fabric; the other block is a 4” square of the hyacinth fabric, surrounded by 4“ x 2” rectangles of hyacinth, topped and tailed with a random 2” scrap. When put together alternately the two blocks blend into squares and chains.


Sadly it has become rather faded over time, but still goes with us when we go camping and is a great comfort on chilly summer evenings. It sits on the back of the sofa in winter ready to go over a lap when a nod in the chair is needed, and even gets the occasional trip in the sports car if the roof is down and the weather less than perfect. I’m not precious about this one it’s just a comforter and a great comfort it has been, the epitome of what a quilt should be, bright and cheerful, soft and warm, always to hand when needed.

There in the middle is that fabric again, no show without Punch!

I think this was the last quilt I made which has a little of that old dress fabric in it.