Thursday, 30 October 2014

Baltimore Album

It's nearly Halloween and my youngest wants us to recreate this in our front yard.

So, I'll be busy carving pumpkins, whilst I wait for my book on Baltimore Album quilts to arrive.

I lurve Baltimore Album quilts and I'd love to sew one. As I love hand sewing and doing applique, I figure this will be a labour of love. I've bought some size 9 sharps needles and tested them out. They're fine enough to sew with and easy to thread, without leaving holes behind in the fabric. I've got a beautiful mixed blue jelly roll, because I want to do a Baltimore Album in blue and white, similar to this one below:

...and I've bought some special thread. 60 weight, so it's really fine and 3 ply so it's strong. Again, I've tested it and you really can't see those invisible stitches.

I'm hoping to try to design some of the blocks. The ones I've come up with so far are just nice designs, using hearts, vines, leaves and circles, but I've read that each 'album' is meant to signify something, so if I wanted to do, say, a Hayling Album quilt, I could use boats, or maybe oysters because of the old oyster beds, or maybe a house to represent the old brick-making industry.

I can't wait to get started as there's nothing I like more than to sit in front of the TV and sew by hand.

In other news, I went to my monthly sewing group at Island Piecemakers. We had a sewing evening and we all sewed a quilt kit from Jan Holeman. Jan uses pleats and folds in the fabric to create texture in her landscapes and this was my attempt.

I'm not 100% pleased with it, but as it was my first go with a new technique, I can't complain that much!

So, have you ever worked on a Baltimore album quilt? What are your thoughts on hand-sewing?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sewing Room Spider

It's Autumn here in the UK, so it's spider season. Wherever you look, there's a spider. They're on my car, IN my car, all over the house, in the garden, spanning pathways, in the house, in places you don't expect!

But there was one place that I thought was safe, but I was wrong.

My sewing room!

This is my sewing room spider.

He's rather large and he appeared one evening as I was using the window as a light box. Imagine my squeals when I noticed he was there (I have real bad arachnophobia) I mean, look at the size of his fangs!

And he is common garden spider. But apparently, according to the helpful BBC news website, the South of England is being invaded by tube spiders and false widows. False widows look like black widows and can give you a nasty bite, but tube spiders hurt. People have lost hands to a tube spider bite. They're much bigger and much more scary.

I haven't seen a tube spider yet, though there are false widows living in our garden shed (a place I never go!)

Thankfully, there's nothing else in my sewing room. But I do have to put up with the eight-legged one staring at me like I'm lunch each time I use the window.

So what about anyone else? Do you have a visitor in your sewing room?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Great British Sewing Bee (Part 3)

Episode 3 was a bit of a letdown. Regarding celebrities whom I'd never heard of before. Well, two of them anyway.

Our host for the evening was Anita Rani (???) the two celebs I DID know were Timmy Matley, (lead singer of The Overtones) and Helen Lederer (comedienne) the other 'celebrities' were Gemma Cairney (Radio 1 DJ ???) and Kathryn Flett (apparently some sort of critic???)

The first challenge was to make a man's tee shirt. Timmy and Kathryn did quite well, Helen had a good attempt, whereas Gemma's was a little sad looking. She made a much better headscarf which she wrapped her own hair in half way through.

The second challenge was to take a prom dress and make it into an outfit for someone else. Gemma did nothing to the dress. All she did was find some African print fabric she liked in the haberdashery and wrapped it over the top (for 2 hours?) Helen added some pink netting over the navy blue skirt and cut into it and made some attempt at changing the dress below. Kathryn made a gusset in her dress skirt and attempted some strange bunny outfit short pants combo and Timmy added a swathe of fabric to the bodice of his dress and won the second challenge too!

For the final challenge, they had to make an outfit from their childhood. Gemma told us she'd once worn this dodgy hat as a child, so inspired by that she was going to make a cape. Kathryn also made a cape that was inspired by red riding hood. Helen made a delicate little girls party dress that was very pretty and Timmy made the Michael Jackson Thriller jacket out of pleather.

Once again, Timmy's outfit was judged the best and he won the show.

It's been an interesting show with celebrities and right at the start of episode 3 as they introduced us to Anita Rani, we got a sweeping shot of the area where the sewers do their stuff. The carpet was in a shocking state. Lumps and bumps in it all over the place as if it had only been rolled into position and not stuck down. I'm amazed health and safety didn't have a field day with that!

I love the Great British Sewing Bee. Can't wait for it to come back to our screens. And, as ever, I yearn for the day when they will make something else apart from clothes.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Great BritishSewing Bee (Part Two)

The second episode was last night. Sara Cox, DJ, was presenting and the guests were Pam Ferris (Call The Midwife), Gaby Roslin (lottery show presenter apparently), Louie Spence (Pineapple Dance Studio Owner) and Mark Watson (comedian).

For the first challenge, they had to make some pyjama bottoms with a drawstring waist. The design was chosen as it only had two pieces of fabric, so was considered easy for the celebrities, none of whom had sewed before, with the exception of Pam who mentioned she'd done it 40 years ago, but she'd not seen her sewing machine since.

Well it became very obvious that sewers, like elephants, don't forget! Pam was amazing! She made a gorgeous pair of pyjamas using a child's dinosaur print. Louie, despite his frantic, over-the-top I-will-react-to-every-innuendo-i-can approach, made a very neat and sedate (for him) pair of navy pyjamas. Gaby went for a silver glitter ball effect fabric for her PJs and Mark? Well....Mark used a red fabric and was the only one who couldn't put these two bits of fabric together despite the two hour time limit. The PJs he presented wee very sad to behold, but at least he tried and Patrick and May, the judges, were very sympathetic and kind, suggesting he was using a Vivienne Westwood approach.

For the second task, they had to make over a child's onesie into an animal outfit. They all set about this task with huge enthusiasm, though Louie list it half way through and his ladybird outfit suddenly got hacked into and he decided to make it into a leotard instead.

Mark went for a zebra fish, but decided that sewing wasn't his thing, so he wrote a poem instead! Gaby made some weird reptile/dragon cross over with pretty eyelashes and Pam excelled herself yet again with a rooster outfit.

For the final challenge, they were asked to make a skirt that conveyed something personal from childhood.

Gaby made over an old tablecloth and appliquer bits onto it to celebrate her favourite story of Alice In Wonderland. Mark made a nude look skirt with a pair of red spotted pants on top aka Superman, being influenced by his favourite story of the Emperors New Clothes. Louie made a ra-ra skirt, simply because he'd always wanted one and Pam? Pam excelled yet again with a gorgeous skirt that the silhouette of the London skyline on it, from Peter Pan.

Pam won, obviously and I would love to see anything more that she makes. If she hadn't become an actress, I wonder if she would have become anything special in the design world? She was amazing. Amazing actress, amazing sewist, amazing lady.

Great second episode!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee

Here in the UK, we have a programme on BBC One, called The Great British Sewing Bee. It's presented by Claudia Winkleman and two specialists, a May Martin from the Women's Institute and a Savile Row tailor called Patrick Grant.

Sewers compete each week to sew three items. The first item is a piece of clothing selected by May and Patrick, say, a woman's blouse. They then have to choose a fabric from a vast selection and choose from the haberdashery as to how they might want to add to the pattern.

The second challenge is the sewers are given an item of clothing, like a mans shirt and they then have to change it to something, like a child's outfit.

The third challenge is usually the longest, about five hours, and they have to create a dress for evening, or a suit, or something that needs a lot of work!

The series of sewing bee hits us once a year and even though they don't cover quilts or patchwork, they just stick to clothes, it's a really lovely show.

We also have Children in Need in the UK, who's mascot is Pudsey Bear. Children in Need is a charity event held each year on television where they raise money for children.

These two programmes have been combined this year and there are three special programmes of Sewing Bee this week. The first was on last night.

The celebrity sewers were Edith Bowman, a DJ, Wendi Petersen, a soap actress, Dave Myers, a celebrity chef, and Dr Dawn Harper, a TV doctor. I really hoped that they wouldn't mess about and they would try their hardest and they did! All items made in the celebrity Sewing Bee are to be auctioned off, so everyone tried very hard.

I was very impressed by their efforts. Dawn definitely won the first round, I thought Dave ought to have won the second round and I really hoped Wendi or Dawn would win the third with their stunning retro dresses!

Wendi won with a 1950's inspired dark green dress and she was thrilled. It was good to hear the celebrities enjoyed their times behind the sewing machines, something they'd never done before.

The next two programmes are on Thursday and Friday, so I hope to report back on those too!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Working on a Custom Order

Hello everyone! I've been busy working on a custom order for one of these.

It was designed by Janine of Rainbow Hare and is a fabulous little pattern I picked up from Etsy now, before anyone tells me off, the pattern maker has given anyone who has bought the pattern, permission to make and sell to order, as long as we attribute the designer. Which I have, and do.

It's a lovely little pattern. The pages and pages of instructions scared me the first time I made it, but now I can put it together, in order, without having to refer to the instructions except to check measurements, of course.

I was selling this item for £45, but I've had to increase my price. I'll tell you why.

£45 was a figure that I plucked out of the air. It seemed a good deal and I didn't want people to be put off buying the item, just because it was too expensive. But since making it a few times, I've come to realise, I've been selling myself short.

So, I looked at fabric costs, wadding costs, threads, felt, needles, having to buy new pinking shears for the bunting, the HOURS of quilting, the HOURS of handsewing all the windows and doors. The machine piecing, the finishing touches, not to mention the cost of electricity. 

If I paid myself minimum wage just for the hours it took to put this together (not the fabric or wadding costs), then it would come to more than £45. 

So, now on my Etsy shop, the caravan cover is priced at £70 plus P&P. This is still way under what it should be, but I don't want to price myself out of the market. Hopefully, I will still get orders and I can continue to keep making this lovely cover.

So what about you? Have you ever undersold one of your items? Have you had to significantly increase the price? 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Love Quilts UK (Part 2)

So, I mentioned in my video log a couple of posts back, that I was going to be working on a charity quilt for Love Quilts UK.

I'm nearly done! I've just got to handsew the binding, which I live to do, as islets me switch on my quilting podcasts and listen to those as I sew.

I had a few problems with the quilt as I was putting it together. I used 3" strips in between blocks and 3" squares in a darker pink where all the strips met. That worked fine and I expected it to. If you cut accurately, these things should go together without a problem.

My problem came when I had to do the outer border in princess fabric. I needed two long strips and the two shorter strips for top and bottom. Only when I measured the fabric, it was too short and too narrow to cut them all in a single piece! So I had to put two pieces together. But due to the nature of the fabric pattern, it's wide spacing, to allow the pattern to flow, I had to do a lot of pasting and cutting, so much so, when it came to the last piece, I didn't have enough fabric for the "flow".

Hate it when that happens. There was no more of the princess fabric, so I had to use pieces that wouldn't match up with the pattern. I did the best I could and the quilt still looks great, I'm just annoyed that I know there's a fault in it.

I know Emily won't notice (the little girl for whom the quilt is being made) but I'LL know it's there!

Then I had to make the quilt sandwich, which I spray basted for the first time and that worked well, but I really dislike the wadding that they use. It's lumpy and bumpy and you can't always get a flat quilt, like you would if you used Heirloom wadding, but hey, ho, it's a charity and so i can understand why they'd rather not spend precious money on expensive wadding.

So there we go. It's nearly done. Pretty in Pink. I hope Emily loves it and that it brings her comfort, wherever she may go.

Monday, 6 October 2014

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

Typical UK weather here today. Gale force winds whipping round the house, battering the trees and torrential rain hammering down.

Welcome Autumn.

A friend of mine said it was good sewing weather. What do you think? Are you a fair-weather sewer? Preferring to sit out in the garden doing a spot of hand-sewing? Or do you like to be tucked up warm inside with your machine and getting on with projects whilst the weather is atrocious?

I'm a bit of both I have to say. All weather is sewing weather!

I've been busy this weekend doing the quilt top for my Love Quilts UK quilt for the beautiful Emily. I've pieced all the squares together and added sashing. It was only when it was put together did I realise the border fabric would have to be made up of pieces sewn together to make the long strip, then because of the wide pattern on it, I had to be really selective over which strips I cut, so that the pattern matched and flowed. Never had that problem before. Now I've just waiting for my batting to arrive, so I can make the quilt sandwich.

The last two quilts I've put together, I've used 505 basting spray instead of pins and I may be late to the party, but the spray is brilliant! So quick and easy to do. I didn't mind pinning, but it usually got me all sweaty and bothered as I had to keep crawling over the floor to do it properly.

505 may be expensive (at £6.99 per 250ml) but it's worth every penny.

I've also been busy hand-sewing some hexies whilst I sit in the car waiting for my kids to come out of school and so that's steadily growing. It's about as big as the front car seat, so far, so I'm happy with that little project. Everyone at school is used to seeing me sitting there sewing and I usually get left undisturbed which is good!

And nearly a thousand views of my blog! Thank you so much everyone!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


For the first time in a year of quilting of sewing, I did something yesterday that I never thought I'd do.

I snapped the needle in my sewing machine.

It was all my fault! Instead of having the multipurpose foot on my machine that it arrived with, I'd got on my quarter inch foot. Then stupidly decided to do a blanket stitch without thinking.


So then I had to go in search of the needle packs I knew the machine had when I bought it. Where had I put them? The tub where I store my fabrics? Hmm, so I dug everything out, prompting a sort out of my stash, only to discover the needles weren't in there.

Hmm. Where oh where...ah, yes, in the small storage compartment. Of course. Only to discover that I had five different packs and had no ideas of what a standard needle was.

I worked it out through a process of elimination, but it's made me realise how sadly lacking my needle knowledge is.

I am determined to enlighten myself. Anyone know an easy way?