A change of tools

A friend of mine is holding a charity fundraiser morning tea in a couple of months and I suggested I could make a few small things that she could sell there.

Then I looked at the diary and realised we are going to be away a couple of weeks before the event. Then I looked again and remembered that around that same time, our grandsons like me to make some goods for their school Mothers' Day stall. 

Then I looked at all the deadlines for various projects over the next few months!  Put all of that together and I came to the realisation that I had better start now!

It called for a change of tools! Stitcheries and embroidery are SLOW work and I wanted to knock over a few quick projects, so that at least I would feel I was making progress. There was nothing for it but to exchange the needle for a crochet hook!  

A few hours here and there with hook and thread and now there are eight little pretties in my 'Fete' box.

The patterns above are from very old books, but the fan bookmark below is available from this site if you are interested.

Now the box is no longer empty, I feel more comfortable about tackling some slower projects and have already started on three mug rugs. I have plans for coat hangers, pincushions, coasters and tissue covers, so we'll see how many I can get done!  The crochet hook is not being put away yet as I can work on more items when we're in the car. 

It might not be the weather for a picnic in some parts of the world at the moment, but I will still show you my "Picnic in the Park" tablecloth and cutlery wrap:

I like the idea of a wrap to carry the cutlery - keeps it clean and together:

and looks good too: 

You can find the pattern in Patchwork & Stitching Vol 15 No 2:

It was lovely to catch up with some of our family last week when we went to see our grandson receive his Band Leader badge at the school assembly. Every minute is precious with family! Thankfully we have Skype for the more distant ones.

I hope you have a wonderful week.

Happy stitching.

Block of the Month Wall Quilt Pattern 2

This month our verse in the free "Shining Like the Dawn" Block off the Month wall quilt is 

Do not fret because of what evil people do.  Psalm 37:1

"Fret" isn't a word we use a lot these days, but it is such a descriptive term. Its origin was that of eating or gnawing away. We can be so agitated, vexed, annoyed, and hassled about something that it eats away at us! The answer of course is - no matter what, God is in control!

The pattern can be downloaded from here. I hope you enjoy stitching this little mini quilt.

I decided to make another banner for our Church.  This one is much smaller than the previous one and is for a different building.  I used the same gorgeous fabric and it looks quite good on the wall, but apart from that, it has a wonderful message. 

I'm not sure why some weeks just disappear down the plughole, but last week did just that. My "get-up-and-go" just got-up-and-went!  I do have two completed projects on my table however, so I suppose I shouldn't complain. They both were started recently and I managed to finish all the hand-stitching during the week.

Something else sitting on my table is my new toy. My old light box had really seen better days and was looking a bit dangerous, so I shouted myself this new Lightpad.  Highly recommended:

You don't see many bright projects coming out of my sewing room, but I was given a set of fat quarters with lots of bright colours a couple of years ago.  I've made good use of them in projects, but my least favourite side of the colour wheel - yellow/orange - was still taking up lots of space! Solution - make some bright placemats with a fruit theme:

You can find the pattern in Handmade Vol 32 No 4:

Last night we went with some friends to a Queensland Symphony Orchestra Concert. A meal together beforehand and absolutely superb music was a fabulous way to have an early wedding anniversary celebration ... and a late night!  Now I'm going to sit down and work on a stitchery that I am going to use in a cover for my Lightpad ... and probably will fall asleep!

Happy stitching!

The Real McCoy

I love doing stitcheries. This simpler form of embroidery which I started doing about 9 years ago has a lot going for it. It is easy to do, doesn't take too long, is tolerant of imperfection, doesn't use many fancy stitches and is ideal for achieving that whimsical look that expresses country, cottage and shabby styles. I designed a new stitchery yesterday and I'm really looking forward to bringing it to life with needle and thread.

But occasionally, I hanker for the real McCoy - the genuine article, REAL embroidery stitches, stitches that challenge, stitches that fill in and don't just outline, stitches that I learned as a child. SO, every so often, I sit down and do some real embroidery. Of course, the desire for that type of embroidery is even more prominent when you have gorgeous Kacoonda hand-dyed silk threads, ribbon and felt to play with.

Pixie Garden has stitches like split stitch, spider web rose, ribbon stitch, tailored buttonhole stitch, and twisted chain stitch - all slow stitches, but such fun to do.

If you have a hankering to work with silk ribbon, silk thread and some challenging stitches, then you can pick up a copy of  the current Embroidery & Cross Stitch magazine, Vol 21 No 7.

Will you indulge me and let me talk about one of those stitches - tailored or tailor's buttonhole stitch. I am on a bit of a campaign trying to educate the stitching community about this stitch. Even magazines constantly get it wrong!!!  
It is NOT blanket-stitch worked close together. Don't you believe it if you are told that!!!

The key difference with the tailored buttonhole stitch is that it has a knotted edge.  In the days when buttonholes were made by hand, the tailored buttonhole stitch was used to give extra durability to the edge of the buttonhole. It helped prevent fraying and made the stitched buttonhole less likely to unravel if the thread became worn and broken. Can you see the knotted edge sitting up on the pink flowers?:

Tailored button-hole stitch can be made in different ways and be worked in different directions to achieve the stitch, but basically the needle goes over two threads whereas in blanket stitch it only goes over the top of one. Blanket stitch is really a looped stitch, whereas buttonhole stitch is a knotted stitch. Most people work tailored buttonhole stitch from the outside in, whereas generally buttonhole stitch is worked from the inside to the outer edge.  See the needle over two threads:

 See this loop in the thread - that's where the knot is going to be formed:

and here are the knots:

 I learned all that at my mother's knee and I'm so happy to think that there are a number of influential embroiderers out there who are also trying to get the message across! http://www.nordicneedle.net/guides/stitchology/buttonhole-vs-blanket-stitch/ 

Try it out on your fusible web applique where you want the edge to stand out - it is such a lovely stitch to work!

Now, off my hobby horse, and back on the ground!  I finished hand-quilting this wall quilt - very happy with how it turned out: 

That meant I could start on something NEW - always a happy feeling.

The next block of the free Block of the Month "Shining Like the Dawn" wall quilt will be ready for you next week, so keep an eye open for it.

Happy stitching.

Managing Monofilament

I'm not a great lover of monofilament thread, but it seemed perfect for a project I wanted to quilt. As the fabrics I was using were dark, I purchased a brand new spool of good quality smoke thread.

I've used monofilament a few times before, so I had picked up a few tips along the way - use polyester thread in the bobbin and lower the needle tension by at least two.  I did a few sample test runs to get the tension just right and it all looked good.  HOWEVER, every time I started stitching on my quilt, the thread broke!  I tried four or five times. Each time I would think, this time we are OK, but after 4 or 5 inches, snap again. In the end, I put the thread away deciding it must have been in the shop for a long time and had become brittle. It was our Church banner I was working on, and I ended up quilting it with black cotton thread:

Last week, I was ready to quilt a wall-hanging with lots of ditch stitching and thought about that smoke monofilament again. It really was just the right thread for this project. Same process - a sample to get the tension correct. Same result - broken thread after just a few inches. Then I had an AHA moment!

I recently enrolled in one of the Craftsy free online classes called Piece, Patch, Quilt.  It is a really basic course but I thought that there is always something new one can learn. And I did!  I wasn't aware that thread is wound onto spools in different ways. Did you know that?  Threads are either cross-wound or stacked. Cross-wound thread, forming an X on the spool, winds off from the centre and is best if the spool lies horizontally, which is the way I always place my thread on my Bernina 440. However, stacked thread, running parallel around the spool, comes off the top and therefore the spool should sit vertically. 

I had a good look at that monofilament again. Sure enough, it is a stacked thread. Maybe that is why it didn't cope with being laid horizontally on the machine. It was worth a try changing it to an upright position ... hey presto! ... would you believe, I quilted the whole wall quilt with no breaking thread problems whatever!  (I forgot to take a photo, so here's something else pretty to look at:)

There are a couple of other things you can try with monofilament also. Sometimes a metallic needle works better than a standard one and if you are having a problem with the bobbin thread showing on the right side, and you have a front loader bobbin, you can try threading the cotton through the hole in the end of the bobbin case which gives it just a little added tension. I hope some of those hints help in your managing of monofilament.

I love summer, not only for the lovely warm temperatures, but for the wonderful variety of fruit that is available - stone fruit, melons, grapes, mangoes etc. I always wish the season would last the whole year. Well it sort of does in our household. I have been preserving for 40 odd years on and off, so have been at it again over the last month.  We now have enough fruit for our morning cereal to last the whole year - about 50 bottles!

One of the side effects of summer is that the grass grows extra quickly! Our back yard was looking as if it needed quite a bit of attention, so my husband mowed yesterday while I took care of the edges. One lone little green ant did not like the fact that I invaded his territory so now I have a huge, hot, itchy, bite on my knee. I seem to be allergic to their stings and have tried all sorts of 'cures' over the years. The Vick's Vaporub doesn't seem to have worked this time, though I guess I should be thankful it has kept the swelling to about 2 inches. It's also ignoring the 'Stop Itch' cream, so I guess it's time to try something else!

Some more of my silk ribbon embroidery has appeared in Stunning Country Craft Vol 25 No 1:

The Wishing Well drawer sachet uses lovely Kacoonda hand-dyed silk ribbon and silk threads. I love working with such beautiful products:

Just looking at those flowers makes me want to get going on another silk ribbon project! I have one ready to go so hopefully it will happen this week.

Happy stitching.