Saturday, 30 May 2009

I'm back.....

..........from 10 days away in North Cyprus. And I've missed you all lots!! Thank you so much for all the lovely comments on my first quilt that greeted me when I got back. They really cheered me up and helped me through my post holiday blues!

Since I've been back I've been catching up on all my favourite blogs and look what I found - my shoes! It was a bit of a surprise to find my pics on someone else's blog - I'd forgotten I'd emailed them over. Laura from Glue+Glitter has a fab feature on her blog where each week she gets a reader to show off their shoes and last week mine were featured! Check it out here if you are interested!

I've actually been back for a couple of days now but it has been a busy time - my brother has just got back from travelling round SE Asia for 6 months so there's lots of catching up to do and photos to admire (over 4000 pictures in fact!). With this in mind I promise not to bore you with lots of my holiday pics but I thought I'd just show you a pic of this little chap we met on the beach:

He was sooo cool and the way he walks is just brilliant. We think he is a chameleon (he had those eyes that rotate all the way round independently) but not totally sure. Anyway, they may be really common where you are but we enjoyed meeting him :o)

The only other pic I'll show you is this one - a photo of the abbey in the place where we stayed and an amazing view to look at whilst we had dinner!

I'm going to sign off now as I don't have much crafty news to share but don't worry I'll get back to work soon!

Dotty xx

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Finished Quilt (& all the things I learned making it)

In my previous post I mentioned I was making my FIRST EVER quilt from Amy Karol's book "Bend the Rules Sewing". I have finally finished it - hurrah.

Before I read about the lap quilt in the book (and a few articles in Sew Hip) I never thought making a quilt would be something I could do - they seemed to big and time consuming and intimidating. Surely only proper grown ups with fancy industrial machines made quilts? It took a few weeks to convince myself that this was something that I could actually make but once I took the plunge I really enjoyed it. There were a few dodgy moments along the way but I am really pleased with how it turned out.

My quilt is not perfect (don't look to closely at the straightness of the lines!) and I have no idea what I am going to use it for (a bit pink and small for my bed) but I am sooo proud of it! Every time I look at it I can't believe that I made it. I learnt absolutely loads making this and next time it will be even better.

Since I mentioned I was making a quilt a few people have said that they had been thinking about doing the same so I thought I would give you a list of things that I learnt and found useful along the way. This is a bit of a jumbled list and is in no way complete or "correct" but hopefully someone out there will find it useful. Some of the points are a bit simple and may be obvious (this is definitely a beginners list!) but I put them down because they are things I want to remember next time I make a quilt. Hopefully this will be helpful to someone:

1. Making a quilt (even a simple one) takes quite a long time. When you are used to making little softies and pin cushions that can be done in less than a day this is a bit of a shock! The sense of achievement you get when you complete something keeps me motivated so I split the project into stages - choosing material, cutting material, sewing quilt top, cutting the batting and quilt back and pinning together with the top, quilting, making binding strip and finally sewing the binding onto the quilt. Splitting it down like this made it feel a lot more manageable.

2. Of all the stages cutting the pieces for the quilt top seems to be the most important. If the edges of your pieces are wonky then your quilt won't be square. I marked pieces up with a 30 cm ruler and cut my pieces by hand. I will never do this again! It took forever and was really difficult to get a decent straight line. If I make another quilt I will be investing in a rotary cutter and a decent straight edge.

3. Everything in quilting is referred to in yards and inches. This is very confusing when you have spent your whole life thinking in metric! I wasn't completely sure what a yard was until I asked my mum a couple of weeks ago. It still doesn't come naturally to me. Each time I want to work it out I have to think in stages - a yard is three foot, a foot is 12 inches, that's about 30 cm which means a yard is around 90cm, so just under a metre! I'm getting used to it slowly!

4. Don't start too big. The quilt I made is just over a metre square - much smaller than most quilts. When I was planning my quilt I was quite tempted to go bigger to make one that would fit on my bed, for example. I am SO glad I didn't. Even a metre square feels quite large and unwieldy when you are used to dealing with smaller pieces of fabric. Do your sewing on as large a table as possible - this makes it easier to move the quilt around.

5. Those fabric markers with ink that disappears after a couple of days or after washing are really useful - well worth the investment and much easier to use than chalk.

6. Once you have cut and arranged your pieces in the order you want take a break and come back and look at it again with fresh eyes - you might see a better way of arranging the pieces once your stepped back for a bit. When you are definitely happy with the arrangement take a photo so that you can refer back to it when sewing it all together. This was suggested in the book and is a really useful piece of advice. Remember to refer back to the photo - I didn't at one point thinking that I was confident I could remember the order and had to spend a boring half an hour unpicking one of my pieces!

7. When you've finished the quilt top iron it but be gentle otherwise you may stretch the fabric. On the other hand, if everything is a bit wonky a little bit of stretching can help things look more even! The book I used didn't specify how the seams should be pressed but a 10 minutes spent in Borders having a flick through some of the quilting books revealed that the general consensus was to press the seams to the side rather than open.

8. Once you have got the batting sandwiched between the quilt top and bottom correctly then hold it all in place by putting safety pins all over it, starting from the middle and working out. This works much better than holding it together with pins and is much quicker than basting / tacking the layers together. I believe you can buy special quilting pins to do this but I found regular safety pins worked just fine.

9. Treat your machine to a new needle before you start quilting - this makes such a difference when you are sewing through three layers of fabric. Also, check how much thread is on your bobbin regularly - it is so frustrating when you are halfway through a quilting line and your thread runs out!

10. Take regular breaks - I found if I didn't do this I got a bit impatient and ended up rushing the quilting which left me with a few wonky lines! It seems I need some practice sewing in straight lines!

11. Making your own binding is much easier than it sounds and actually really fun. Now I know how to do it I am going to use it in lots of other projects. I used one of these tools but I think it is fairly easy to do without the tool.

12. If you aren't that confident about something, in my case the binding, then it is definitely worth searching the internet. I found a flickr group for the BTRS book which had some useful discussion topics about the quilt. I also used this tutorial to check my understanding of the binding was correct. I also found this tutorial (thanks to Polka Dot Daze for the link) which uses a slightly different method but looks really useful and shows how to make binding without the tool.

13. Try not to be a perfectionist! This is my biggest problem. I could have spent ages unpicking and redoing bits of my quilt but I would never have finished. This time I was very disciplined and tried not to give into my perfectionist tendencies. I probably should have redone a few of my quilting lines but since I knew this was a learning exercise for me I decided to leave them in as reminders for next time. It is the overall effect of the quilt that matters and any little flaws just make it look a little more handmade (that's what I keep telling myself anyway!).

14. The final step is to wash and dry your quilt to give it that used, crinkly look. I can't give you any tips on that since I haven't done that yet. I keep putting it off as I am scared of it all going wrong and ruining all my hard work! When I do wash it I will let you know how it goes.

Finally, here is a list of useful quilty links I found:

Jaypeg gives some useful tips on designing your own quilt in her blog over a series of posts in January (scroll down). I will definitely be using these when I design my own quilt.

The two binding tutorials mentioned above are here and here.

And loads of free quilt patterns here, here, here, here and here. Some of these are quite tricky looking! Personally I am planning to do this one next - I love the zig zag effect.

I hope that was useful. If you made it this far down this marathon post and have any thoughts / questions / compliments / comments / abuse then please let me know!

Dotty xx

PS. Just to let you know, I am off on holiday tomorrow (woohoo!!) so there won't be any blogging around here for 10 days or so. I'm a bit worried I will miss being crafty so I have supplies with me: Issues 1&2 of Sew Hip which I have finally managed to get hold of (only issue 3 to get now!), a subversive cross stitch kit and a sketch book. Hopefully I'll return rested and full of crafty inspiration. Missing you already...

Monday, 11 May 2009

Fab weekend :o)

This weekend was one of the best I've had in ages and it was full of crafty goodness. Most of the weekend was spent at a fab workshop in London playing with these:

Yummy mosaic tiles. I've wanted to learn how to mosaic for ages so my hopes were pretty high for the course. I wasn't disappointed. Our teacher, Jo, took us through the basics of nipping mosaic tiles into different shapes and how to fix them and then we were away. After drawing a brief sketch on a piece of mdf we started nipping tiles into shape and sticking them to our boards. First we were all quite nervous - gently nibbling at the tiles but after half an hour or so small pieces of glass and ceramic were flying everywhere as we descended into a nipping frenzy. I was in heaven - the tiles were all so pretty and shiny and I got to play with them.

The design I had in mind before I arrived was for some stylised modern poppies but it turns out that red is one of the rarer shades of tile and there were no enough variations to make my plan work. In contrast green and blue came in every shade you could imagine since most tiles are made for the swimming pools! As I worked I started to understand the shapes I could make and the properties of the different tiles and adapted my design accordingly.

These were the results at the end of the first day:

During the second day of the workshop I really started to get the hang of cutting and placing the tiles. I was able to shape the tiles more accurately and I place them closer together. This was great although it did have the unfortunate side effect that I wanted to redo all the parts I did on Saturday! I resisted the temptation to do this (knowing I would never finish if I did) and this was the result by mid afternoon yesterday:

The last part of the process was to grout the tiles. As the colours I used were all quite light I went for a light grey grout. Its amazing the different that grouting makes - it completely changes the design. This was the finished result:

I am really pleased with it. It looks nothing like my original plan but it is more professional looking than I ever expected. I can't say that it is what I would do if I had the chance again - I would do something in much brighter colours (I think mine is a little wishy!) with different patterns (I'd like to do something more geometric I think) - but that is what learning is all about. One of the other great things on the course was seeing what everyone else was doing and seeing how it developed. I'd really like to have another go now I have a better understanding of what can be done with the tiles, how the colours look and what the grouting does to the design.
In the middle of the mosaic-ing weekend I also found some time on Saturday night to make 20 cards for my mum whilst watching a recording of Kirstie's Homemade home (my quilt is never going to be as good as hers!). The cards are good luck cards for my mum to give to the other performers in the amateur show she is in (it has a Mexican theme!). I think they are quite effective for something so cheap and quick to make:

Just before I stumbled off to bed last night exhausted but happy something supremely exciting and momentous happened. At 20.41 exactly I made my FIRST EVER SALE in my folksy shop. I am so pleased. YAY!

This little fella is already winging his way to a new owner. I know I will miss him but I'm happy to share his love with someone else! Plus, there is plenty more where that came from...

Now off to art class....
Dotty xx

Friday, 8 May 2009

Fabric Stash!

At the request of the lovely Sandra at Pepperberry&Co here is a quick glimpse of the fabrics I bought on Wednesday whilst that pesky Clive the carrot was hijacking my blog!

This is also a sneak peak at the quilt I am making (I didn't take any before pictures as I was itching to get started!). This is my first ever quilt. I'll post some more pics of it when I'm finished - I've only done the top at the moment. Its based on a pattern in a fab book called "Bend the Rules Sewing" by Amy Karol (check out her fab blog Angry Chicken). The quilt is a bit too pink (I wanted to use turquoise but I couldn't find enough matching turquoise fabrics!) and I have no idea what I am going to do with it but I am already insanely proud of it - I never thought I'd be able to do something like this. Bit worried about the actual quilting and binding but we'll see what happens.

I've got this lovely Cath Kidston fabric to put on the back. I don't normally buy Cath Kidston as it is a bit expensive but I couldn't resist this!

And as if that wasn't enough look what arrived in the post this morning - yay!

I LOVE these fabrics and I have lots of plans for them. Unfortunately they were a bit soggy when they arrived - thanks Royal Mail!! They made it all the way from the US unharmed and then they got wet being delivered this morning!

There won't be much blogging going on round here this weekend as I'm going to a weekend mosaic workshop. I am very excited - I have always wanted to learn how to make a mosaic. We are supposed to bring a few ideas with us and I already have a notebook full! Hopefully I'll have lots of pics to show you and a lovely mosaic at the end!

Right - I'm off to paint the bathroom - woohoo! The fun never stops...

Dotty xx

PS. Sorry about the rubbish pics - stupid English weather is not giving me much good light at the mo!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A message from Clive the carrot

Yoo hoo! Hello? Anyone there?

That dotty one is too sleepy for blogging today. (She's had a hard day shopping for fabric to make her first ever quilt!) I thought I'd take advantage of the situation so I've snuck on to do a quick blog myself.

My name is Clive. I am a carrot. I can see very well in the dark but that doesn't make up for the fact that I'm a little lonely....the dotty one hasn't made me any friends to play with :o( She doesn't really know what to do with me and I wonder if she thinks I'm a bit pointless really.....

I do make her smile though. That dotty one loves a bit of silliness. I'm trying to convince her to make a whole comedy vegetable basket to keep me company. Do you think that would be a good idea? Here's hoping you can convince her....
On no - she's coming. Better go before she catches me!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

HELP! I'm turning into my parents!

Yesterday was a bank holiday Monday in the UK. Hurrah! An extra day off work - we simply must celebrate. So me and my parents decided to do what all British people are compelled to do on a bank holiday - we sat in a traffic jam bickering whilst it slowly stated to rain. This is an ancient British tradition and one that we will no doubt revive later in the month when there is another bank holiday Monday - woohoo!

We decided to go to Kent to a craft fair and a garden with a tulip show on. Fortunately Kent is amazingly beautiful and this was our view as we sat in traffic blaming each other for setting off so late:

Mmmm pretty :o)

The craft fair was HUGE. There were over 250 stalls and even my Dad found something to amuse himself with - the food tent and the wood turning displays. Me and my Mum had lots of fun looking round the EIGHT marquees of stalls but amazingly we didn't buy a thing. I thought we would come back with a boot full and I would have loads of pics to show you but no - not a jot! It wasn't that there weren't beautiful things to buy - there were - but they were so expensive! I tried on an amazing silver ring but when I asked the price it was over £200! That is not the sort of money I spend on impulse on myself - especially when I'm not working at the moment. A lot of the crafts were very traditional and so whilst clever and beautifully executed they weren't really to my taste. I was hoping to see the sort of things I see on etsy and folksy but it wasn't really that kind of thing at all. I think I'll stick to my favourite London haunts in future.

Undeterred we went on to the tulip show at Pashley Manor. Ironically the little shop there had more things that I wanted to buy than the whole craft fair! I took loads of pics of the amazing gardens and tulips. Here are a few:

You may notice that I seem to be drawn towards pink!

I so want to live in this house:

As I settled into bed at 9.45pm (!) I couldn't help but notice that I appear to have turned into my parents. Looking round gardens on a bank holiday Monday! What happened to drunken barbeques at friends houses? Staying up too late on Sunday and sleeping all day? Man I'm getting old.....

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Shameless plug....

I've bitten the bullet, taken the bull by the horns, jumped in the deep end similar phrases. I've opened up my own little shop on folksy. Yay - how exciting!

Its got these:

And these:

And these:

And these:
And these:

(For those of you who don't know, folksy is similar to etsy but is based in the UK and prices are in UK pounds.)
I opened the shop a couple of weeks ago but have now finally got round to stocking it properly. I'm really pleased because a few of people have added it to their favourite shops already. I think the first couple of sales must be the hardest because at that stage there is no feedback on you to reassure buyers.

If you'd like to take a look round then click here or on the folksy button on the right hand side. I'd love it if you would. No pressure to buy anything of course, but any feedback would be gratefully received. Any views on the pictures, descriptions and, in particular, the prices, would be very useful. I promise not to be offended! Its so hard to decide what to charge. I started off by looking at other peoples products to see what they charged but that confused me even more!

I've also been thinking about setting up an etsy shop but can't decide whether to or not. I think more people would see the products if I did but I'm not sure if its worth it with the current exchange rate. I think I'll see how things go on folksy - can't wait until I make a sale!!

Hope you are having all having a lovely bank holiday weekend. I'm off to some gardens and a craft fair tomorrow so hoping to come back brimming with inspiration :o)

Dotty xx
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