Trying out something new

I enrolled in the wonderful 2015 free Craftsy Block of the Month quilt class this year and I am managing to keep up each month - just! I joined in the fun so that I could learn some new techniques, improve my piecing skills, and hopefully in the end to have made a beautiful quilt.

It's been challenging and the trusty unpicker has had a workout! My favourite thing to have tried out so far is foundation piecing. I've always been frightened to attempt it before, but went in head-first this time and I have discovered it is really easy and I just love the accuracy of the piecing!

This week I have arrived at the applique stage in the lessons. Over the years, I have tried many methods and mostly use the fusible webbing technique. However, I really like the appearance of needle-turn applique and have tried a number of different ways to get those curves smooth and those points sharp. folding the edge under as I go - a disaster, stitch basting, freezer paper, glue-stick, interfacing, all with various degrees of success.

A while back I bought some Wash-Away applique sheets, but hadn't got round to trying them out. They are printable, water-soluble, fusible and transparent:

Not having to do all that tracing was great - just printed straight onto the applique sheet:

I love the fact that they are fusible. It meant that the paper shape was well and truly stuck to the back of the fabric and so didn't move around when I was trying to shape the fabric over it. That was really helpful as the pieces in Jinny's pattern are very small:

 I like that I don't have to remove the paper as it will just wash out with warm water. The sheets are fairly expensive but I think it is a very useful method of preparation for needle-turn applique.

... and I'm happy to have tried out something different!

We seem to have had so many visitors lately and been out heaps more than usual, so I've been feeling I haven't had much time for sewing. I've picked up the silk ribbon again to work at night in front of the TV. It's a very rewarding craft as you get a lot done in a short time and it usually looks quite lovely.

My Handbag Heaven quilt has now been published in Handmade Vol 33 No 9 Bags issue:

The colours of the quilt are not my favourites, but it is Autumn here, so it was appropriate for this time of year. I keep picturing the quilt in soft pastels so I should get to and make a version in my favourite palette - only trouble is I intently dislike making the same thing twice!!! So oranges and browns it is for now:

Instead of dreaming about soft pastels, I should be applying myself to making some more Christmas projects that I have promised a magazine!


Quick Stitching takes over!

A very dear friend, whose husband is suffering from cancer, is again hosting an Australian Biggest Morning Tea which is one of Cancer Council Australia's major fundraising events. It is on next Thursday.

 With all the commissions I've been working on, the date has snuck up on me and I realised I hadn't made anything for them to sell as I usually do!

There's no time for any slow stitching, so quick stitching had to take over.

are so generous with patterns like the heart potholder

and the triangular pouch.

 Tissue covers that can be whipped up in super-quick time are another of my 'go to' fete ideas when I'm in a hurry. Thanks to Fiona for the free pattern:


Hopefully, people will buy up big!

Before I realised the BMTea was so close, I was slowly preparing a Christmas project and a bag to send off to a magazine. We had another lovely couple of slow days when some friends came to stay. We went to a fantastic orchestral concert together and it was so good to just allow the music to flow over one's soul. We have another slow day tomorrow when some more friends are coming to visit.  

The lesson learned is that stitching for the BMTea will have to go in my diary early next year so that I have time to make some slow stitching projects! I've already put it in my "Notes for 2016"!


Free Block of the Month Wall Quilt - Pattern 5

The weeks have rolled around again and it's time to give you Block 5 in the free Keys to Contentment wall quilt

Very simple and clear instructions from Scripture this month:
Keep your conscience clear.  

There's certainly no contentment if you have a bad conscience!

Once again, there's a little silver key sewn onto the block to remind us of another step on the path to contentment.

You can download the pattern here in my Craftsy store.

This last week a dear friend of mine came to visit, bringing with her a large bag of goodies. She has just moved house and decided to have a big clean up of all her craft gear.

Can you imagine the fun I had going through all the lovely things inside that bag? 

There were so many stranded threads that it took me nearly all day to sort them and wind them onto bobbins:

I know what I will be taking with me when next I go on holidays, or when I run out of hand-stitching projects at night:

It's years since I worked a traced embroidery project and I am so looking forward to working this beautiful tablecloth.  

When I wasn't revelling in all my lovely gifts, or preparing Block 5 for you, I managed to get another Christmas project completed. I have three more festive commissions so I won't know what season I am in by the time I am finished!

My clever husband reached the pinnacle of his career this week with the publication of his chapter in one of the prestigious Oxford University Press Handbooks.

It includes "Contributions from thirty of the foremost scholars in the field" ... and he's one of them! So very proud of him!  


Breaking out of the mould

Thank you to those who joined in the fun of my disappearing needle competition. I was glad to read that I'm not the only one who loses needles! Would you believe, I found 39 needles inside my pincushion! Congratulations to Cindy who was the closest guess:

I will guess 38 because I've had so many needles simply disappear over the years. They must go somewhere!
So, Cindy, choose your pattern from my pattern store and email me with your choice. [You are a "no reply blogger" so I am not able to contact you.]

I've been married to my wonderful husband for 49 years and we have lived in 7 different houses. In each I have loved making it our home and learned lots about interior decorating on the way. Curtains have always been 'my thing'.  They were far too expensive for us to buy or have made, so if I wanted the place to have the look I was after, I had to make them myself.

 My husband saw the swag and cascade style above in a magazine and said that is what he wanted in our lounge room. He believed I could make anything, so I had to prove that his trust in me wasn't misplaced!

Our second last home was a brand new Federation home which meant that fancy curtains throughout the house was in keeping with the style.

Fast track 4½ years and now we are in a sub-tropical modern home and curtains are only required in just a few rooms. The family room curtains that were in the house when we bought it, were disintegrating fast and the colour of the lounge room curtains never suited our decor, so it was time to make some new ones. 

Or was it?

Our family room windows are huge and require 10 metres of fabric, plus another 10 metres of lining. I could picture myself crawling around on the floor trying to measure and cut all that fabric, then having to pin and stitch hems, then having to pleat the top, then make the lining. It was time to break out of the mould!

For the first time ever, I decided to pay someone else to make them!!! 

and they even came and hung them for me!

They are not fancy like my previous ones, but elegant and suit the modern home. While other girls slaved away making my curtains, I was able to play in my sewing room, making things like this cute cushion: 

You can find the pattern in Handmade magazine, Vol 33 No 8.

 Did you guess what I made with all that guipure lace and beads that I showed you last week? - something I would never have thought of making for a bride, but what a practical idea to have a special coat hanger for the wedding dress ... and of course you can make it as pretty as you like:

I was very happy that my friend was delighted with it and I hope the bride will be too.

It is Mothers' Day here in Australia and I've had a lovely day either seeing or talking to members of our family. They are such a blessing to us. I'm sure you cherish yours too.


The Disappearing Threads, Needles and other things

My sewing lounge chair was very comfortable, a great recliner and it saw many projects stitched on it. However, it had one big failing. When I sat in it, of course it depressed the cushion, which meant that there were big gaps for things to fall down the sides into the innards of the chair.

And fall down they did! - scissors, pins, beads, pencils, but particularly threads! Those little thin bobbin squares were just the ideal size to disappear down my lounge chair. In the end, I left the stapled fabric underneath undone so that I could easily tip the chair up and extricate the latest thing to have slidden down.

Needless to say, I soon got sick of my threads disappearing, so when I saw a metal split hinged thread ring for sale, I immediately bought one as I figured it looked the next best thing since sliced bread - which it proved to be. All those threads on that ring just wouldn't slide down inside my lounge chair.

I loved my thread ring so much that I decided I could definitely do with a few more. The shop where I bought my first ring was no longer operating, so I did a search on Ebay and found them at a really good price and bought a packet of ten. So no more plastic bags full of threads, no more mixing up which threads went with which project and no more disappearing threads ... (and I've bought a new  lounge chair too!)

Then there were the disappearing needles. In spite of all the pretty pincushions I have made in the last ten years, I was still using the same old very ordinary one for everyday use. (Some times I get into the silly mode of thinking "This is too pretty to use on myself!") Well old faithful pincushion started wearing out at the seams so needed replacing. I like to use bran to fill my pincushions as I find it gives a good weight so that the pincushion doesn't fly off the arm of the lounge, and it keeps pins sharp. Now I didn't have any more bran in the cupboard, so I decided to reuse the bran out of the old pincushion. Of course I needed to check that there weren't any needles in the bran before I started to fill the new one 
and ...

OK - let's have some fun. 
Would you like to guess how many needles I found inside my pincushion? 
The prize for the closest guess will be one of my patterns of your choice. 
(If there are more than one correct answer, then I will draw the names out of the hat.) Leave your guess in a comment below and make sure I am able to contact you if you are a "No Reply blogger".
Competition closes midnight Saturday 9th May (Australian time).

I'm more sensible now with my pincushion and I don't put needles in it sitting out like a pin, but scoop them through the fabric so that they don't disappear inside!

Now onto other disappearing things. Did you notice I disappeared for a week or so? My husband and I were away on a birdwatching field trip with our local Birdwatchers' Club. We had a great time and saw lots of birds that we don't normally see and enjoyed the lovely company of our friends. Also spotted in a park in the little country town where we were based was this Koala:

Now that I'm back home, I've been disappearing into my sewing room and getting back on track with my projects. I finished this set of placemats for a friend:

 and had great delight in playing with this beautiful guipure for a wedding commission. (Show you more when its owner has seen it!)

Thankfully we didn't disappear on Friday when we had 7 inches of rain in 24 hours. Unfortunately, many people were less fortunate, there were many floods around Brisbane and five people lost their lives. Our main shopping centre looked like this:

Photo - Channel Nine News

We are thankful we and our families were spared to live another day.

I'm looking forward to seeing your guess on how many needles disappeared into my pincushion!