Monday, 23 May 2016

Ballet Teacher Gifts

I'm under pressure from one of my friends - who apparently has nothing good to read on the toilet anymore -to get back to writing here! So this is for you, I'm staying up late to try and make it happen!

For the past 6 years we've been going to a wonderful, local ballet class. First with Venetia and then Maria too (sadly I could never persuade the boys to give it a go!). The 2 teachers there were lovely; relaxed, warm and very inclusive. They were all about the children enjoying their dance and being creative, but they still made lots of progress. Both my girls were involved in several amazing shows, these were experiences I'm sure they'll always remember and it did lots for their confidence. But sadly this weekend saw the final performance from our ballet school. One teacher is retiring and moving away to be closer to her family, and the other is soon to have a baby .

Of course we had to make presents. Venetia has been crocheting away for the past couple of months now here and there, and the big day looming gave her the final push to finish a baby blanket.

It did look amazing to me, still struggling to make any progress at all with crocheting, and Venetia was very proud of it.

For our other wonderful teacher, I made a cushion with a dancer machine embroidered/appliqued on to it.

Her skirt was made from tiny Liberty scraps patchworked together.

The final show was very special, but also emotional. After only 6 years I felt we were part of the family, but there were girls who have been dancing there for 15 years, Mums who started ballet there years ago and now have little ones of their own dancing there. We are very grateful that we had 6 years, and that they gave both Venetia and Maria a love of dance, but we're sad it's over. I think I will remember this last performance, more than any other, not just because of the occasion, but also because I really loved the performance in isolation. Particularly the last section in which they danced to excerpts of quite a contemporary ballet - 'Still Life at the Penguin Cafe'. It's not one I'd ever heard of before, but I've come to love the music after listening to it during weeks of rehearsals! And the inspiration behind the ballet was to highlight the plight of endangered species on our planet, and in particular our lack of action as humans to prevent extinctions. Sadly a theme just as relevant to our world now as 25 or so years ago when it was first created. Seeing it performed by our children felt very powerful. If you're interested you can see a clip from the ballet (not our version from the weekend!) here on You Tube.

And I have got a few more bits and pieces to catch up on here, so I will try to get back to a more regular pattern round here, or at least a brief flurry of posts!


Saturday, 30 April 2016

Bags, bags, bags!

I'm still in catch up mode round here, it's really not sewing and blogging season, it's gardening season! But just time to squeeze a quick post in....

After finishing my Cathedral Windows Tote Bag, I was in the mood for more bags, and decided they'd also make good Christmas presents - yes, it's Ho, ho, ho time of the month again, the perfect way to get yourself organised for Christmas well in advance!

So here are another three:

First up, this one was a thrifted embroidered cushion cover originally. But it was one of those covers which is just slip stitched closed on one side, so if you want to wash it you have to unpick it then sew it up again when it's clean. Those kind of cushions are never a good idea in my house, they basically would never get washed! But it was very easy to convert it into a quick, lined tote bag - in just the same kid of way as my Cathedral Windows tote.

Then a patchwork snail bag in just the same way, it had been way too long since I'd made any snails...

More earthy colours this time rather than my regular rainbow snails

And lastly this bright, cheery one.

This one is looking slightly creased because it's actually a fold away one and it's spent the past few weeks folded up into a small bundle. I loosely followed instructions here, but the main part of my bag came from a table cloth which already had beautifully neat seams so my version was a little simpler, and I decided to box the corners on the bottom of mine too.

Here it is all folded up, perfect to tuck away in a handbag.

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Celtic Thistle Stitches - for Ho, Ho, Ho. Happy Weekend to you all, extra happy in the UK since it's a longer, Bank Holiday Weekend, hurray!


Friday, 22 April 2016

Spring Flower Patchwork Cushion

This is actually last week's finish, but I've just had too much going on - good and bad! - to get round to posting!

You last saw this project as a scattering of hand sewn wool squares in progress early in the New Year here.

They look so much more vibrant now in bright Spring sunshine.
But these squares really grew from a comment by Yvonne - Quilting Jetgirl - way back in the Autumn here. My post had been a short one about inspiration for colour schemes for cushions. And Yvonne's suggestion for her colour scheme had been:
'Lots of shades of green with tiny pops of bright orange, yellow, and purple for a field of spring flowers. :)'
I really liked that idea and this is my take on it - thanks Yvonne, and hope it says 'field of Spring flowers' to you!

And as a finish it's perfect timing since we are happily into Spring round here and have a good smattering of flowers about and definitely loads of green everywhere.

As with the scarf I made along these lines, I simply machine sewed the squares directly on to a background fabric. I found an amazing remnant of corduroy in just the perfect shade of green in a charity shop a couple of weeks ago, which pushed me into finishing up this project.

And finishing it has now made me wonder about what three more cushions might look like - inspired by the other three seasons. So what would your four seasons cushions look like?

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts again and hoping you all have a special weekend.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Patchwork Feathers and the start of a new quilt

This week I have a teeny, tiny finish, and a teeny, tiny start.

The start is the beginnings of a new quilt. This is a quilt that has been queued up to be made for well over a year now, and I've been struggling to come up with a plan which felt good. I think a lot of the problem is that the only thing I have to go on with this quilt is that it has to go with a particular wall of wallpaper, and unfortunately, don't tell anyone, but I really don't like the wallpaper. That's felt like quite a tricky hurdle to get over for me. I finally came up with something that 'interested' me a couple of weeks ago, and to be honest, I'm really not sure it's going to be a success, but I decided this week I just need to make a start and see how it goes.

So 2 blocks done, and I'm still really not sure it's going to be a success! But I'll persevere a little longer.

Perhaps I might need to try and engineer a change of wallpaper instead though!

Anyway, for a bit of cheering up, light relief, I made some patchwork feathers for my tiny finish. I have long fancied making some patchwork feathers, but I've never come up with a 'reason' to make them. Well, this week, just wanting to make some felt a good enough reason.

And here is one which has already now found a purpose, predictably on a hair band!

The others may end up on hair bobbles or clips too, I haven't decided yet. But they were all fun to make.


Friday, 1 April 2016

Cathedral Windows Tote Bag

After my last experiment with Cathedral Windows patchwork, which was a bit of a disaster from a colour perspective, I really wanted to give it another go with a more muted colour palette. And I sewed up a block in a very neutral off white with some blue and yellow prints pretty much straight away. I liked it, but didn't love it. And my centres were pretty good but not completely perfect. I really wanted to add buttons to it, but I had started it thinking it would become a cushion, and I'm not mad keen on buttons on cushions. So it's just been sitting there for the last couple of months while I dithered.

This week I bit the bullet and added buttons. And happily, all of a sudden, I did love it.

I really should have taken some before buttons photos too, you'll just have to take my word for it that it looks much better with them!

But then it was a matter of what to do with it now it was no longer going to be a cushion. After some thought I decided on a simple bag. A couple of oblongs of fabric folded over for the outer bag and the lining, and some extra fabric for handles.

The construction is very much along the same principles as the baskets I've recently made. And I'm sure there are lots of tutorials out there already for bags of this kind (one here that's very similar for instance), so I won't go through every step.

But obviously the first step was to sew the patchwork block on to the front of my outer fabric. A cathedral window block is kind of all neat and complete in itself, the process creates a ready quilted piece with no raw edges. It seemed to me that this was crying out to be used as a large front pocket, rather than purely as a decorative panel. So I just sewed 3 sides down, leaving it open at the top.

Then I carried on with the normal bag construction. The patchwork pocket was a little heavier than the rest of the fabric so the pocket gaped open, but that was easily fixed with a popper.

And in a very short space of time I had me a bag.

It felt a tiny bit wrong to be using quite a time consuming piece of patchwork in a very basic bag, which most likely will be used for grocery shopping. 

But then I reasoned why not have a more special bag to brighten up the chore of shopping? And I think this one will become a present, and spending time on homemade presents never feels wrong, so I'm not worrying about it any more!

Linking up with Finish it up Friday again, and wishing you all a happy weekend,


Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Crochet Lessons in Perserverance

I'm being taught a lesson in perserverance by Venetia at the moment. For a long time I've liked the idea of being able to crochet, I love brightly coloured crocheted blankets and accessories, I've even tried a couple of times to learn how to crochet, but I've never quite got to grips with it.

A couple of weeks ago Venetia decided that she would like to learn how to crochet. She found a few tutorials on YouTube and sat in front of them working out how to do it with her hook and wool. After a couple of hours practising she came to me frustrated with her progress, her stitches still coming slowly and unevenly. I praised what she'd managed so far and told her that with almost any new skill lots of practice is required before the skill is even close to being mastered. And I gave her lots of positive encouragement to carry on practising, telling her I was sure she'd start seeing big improvements if she did keep trying. Off she went again and she kept at it, here and there over the next few days. And gradually she did find a rhythm with it, her stitches started to look really good and she became much more confident and speedy with it. Once she'd got the hang of her basic chain stitch, she branched out a bit. With every new variation she tried she struggled for a while initially, but she's kept going and is doing brilliantly with it.

Here are her first completed attempts at Granny Squares:

And then she worked out how to change colour:

In one of her squares she used quite fluffy, thick wool (very technical term!) and ended up with a larger square which didn't match, so she's decided to keep going round on this particular one:

She's really excited because two of her teachers (one at school and one at ballet) are pregnant, and she's thinking a crocheted baby blanket for each would be very doable. So her plan is to make one with lots of the small squares, and to keep building up her larger square for the other one until it's baby blanket size.

Her enthusiasm and success encouraged me to give it another try too. I've spent a good few hours over this last week hooking together a chain, then pulling it apart and trying again and again. I'm not even beyond getting passably even stitches in a single line, never mind building it up further. And my hands and fingers feel awkward and clumsy still in my efforts. It feels exactly like my previous attempts when I gave it up in frustration, deciding crochet obviously just wasn't my craft. And right now I would love to give it up again. But there's one difference this time around. This time around I have Venetia smiling kindly at me (as her hook flashes away seemingly effortlessly!), and telling me that it just takes a bit more practice, and that if I keep going I'll definitely get the hang of it! Grrrrrrrrr!


Monday, 28 March 2016

Vintage Yoyo Hair Band

I recently bought a bag of silk and chiffon scraps in a Charity Shop. They were crying out to be used to create another hair band to add to the planned Christmas present hamper of hair accessories. I'm not sure whether the scraps are old or not, but they have that kind of look and feel to them, and to complement this I thought 'yoyos' with some vintage buttons would work well.

I did persuade Maria to model it for me, but she wasn't overly enthusiastic at being photographed so not the happiest face ever! 

And I got a second hanging fabric basket finished for the storage side of the present. (Find the first one, with links to tutorials, back here.)

If you look closely, you'll see where I had a slight accident on it with my rotary cutter! Maybe I need to make another butterfly to hide it a bit better!

I added an extra layer of wadding to this one and it keeps its structure just well enough, even when hanging, to avoid the front pleat I had to add to the first one.

I know it's Easter, but it's also 'Ho, ho, ho and on we sew' time of the month, so I'm linking up again, over at Pesky Life this month. The year is whizzing by so fast, you'll soon be wishing you'd got your Christmas crafting already started!

Hope you've had a wonderful Easter weekend too though,