Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - summing up

This last year has been so busy that I have had little time for crafting, or so it has seemed. But looking through my photos I have a few things to show for the hoursIve spent by the sewing machine or in front of the TV after all. Not my best year, if quantity is anything to go by, but quite a few fiddly bits and pieces, and at least six large quilts, so I think I'll pat myself on the back and say "well done" after all. Mind you, they aren't all finished, but I have a plan... One must have something to strive for in the new year after all ;-) And I will have more spare time (I think...) and lots of ideas, so once I get my sewing space sorted out (again) I'll start on a new project or two... But not until next year!
Thank you all so much for keeping me company in 2008, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


My little village created a flurry of interest the other day. I have had these sweet little houses for more than a decade, and they were given to me by a friend over a period of several years, so I wouldn't know where to get them today. I thought I might try to find out though, and after a bit of Googling, I realized that I might have mislead you... - they are possibly not Latvian after all, but Lithuanian. At least the only ones I came across were. Mind you, the ones that I found were much more elaborate than my rustic little ones, so who knows? Anyway, if you can't live without them ;-) try a search for "Lithuanian candle houses" and you should get several hits.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Quilting through Christmas

A couple of lovely days with family and feasts are over, and still more to come, but there are some quiet mornings for the rest of the week left, and with all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations over, it's time to settle down to some serious quilting! I've started working on my Sunflower Quilt again after struggling for quite a while with different quilting options. One is as good as the other Isuppose, so this morning I just threw myself into the job with abandon. The only problem seems to be that with the amount of stipple quilting I started out with, I'll need a trip to the quilt shop on Monday. Well, that's an excuse I can use, anyway...Not that shopping sprees are needed. Just look at these goodies that arrived just before Christmas (a gift to me from me!). I just couldn't resist the lure of the new Beatles fabrics that eQuilter had to draw my attention too, and judging from some of my other purchases (of, course I had to get more (!) I had a bit of a psychedelic vibe going on there. Now what will this become? I'll have to think about that for a while, but a bag wouldn't be such a bad idea, would it?
Did I mention my new open toe quilting foot, by the way? I have made do with the darning foot that came with the machine until now, having seen the two described as interchangeable. But I was given a gift certificate at the quilt shop for my birthday, and used it to buy the quilting foot, and I must say I could kick myself for not realizing earlier that I needed one - it just makes the job so much easier when you actually see where you are going...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Decorations of red...

Decorations are popping up everywhere. My little Latvian village suddenly has inhabitants...

... and little gnomes have started to peep out among my blue and white china.
Snowmen have taken up recidence...
... and the angels have flown in too.
In short there is a lot of work going on - enough to make anyone tired...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A week to go

No panic about that unfinished stocking - that's going to be my holiday project - something to work on in the days after the presents have been distributed and the big dinner has been consumed. I have a whole fortnight off from work this year, and I'm looking forward to some serious relaxation. Time to light a fire and some candles and curl up under a quilt with my embroidery and a good movie or five... I think I might have convinced my family that DVDs are a good idea for presents for me this year. If the hints haven't been picked up on, I still have a whole box of Sex and the City and several films that I wont mind seeing again, so there should be plenty of quality stitching time.
The presents are ready, and it's time to settle down from all the pre-holiday stress to enjoy some baking sessions and invite friends around for tea and cookies. Previous Christmases have been so full of stress that I have felt completely frazzled by Christmas Eve, so the last couple of years I have made an effort to slow down and enjoy the preparations.

So what if everything isn't perfect - the most important thing should be to spend time with your loved ones and take a step back and enjoy, don't you agree?
The gingerbread cookies are delicious and I have several boxes full, so I'm ready. Let's put the kettle on, shall we?

Monday, December 15, 2008

No stocking to hang...

Now that all the home-made presents were done, I felt it was time to start pulling out my Christmas UFOs - the ones I'm making for myself. When I was growing up we didn't have the tradition of hanging up stockings for Santa to fill on the night before Christmas, so I might have felt a bit deprived... I made sure that all my nieces and nephews got their own quilted stockings for their first Christmases, so they have all grown up with the tradition. But when I came across this pattern in Stitcher's World some years back, I decided that it was time that I too got my own Christmas stocking. It is going to be just gorgeous, made with half cross stitch in wool, cotton, perle and rayon threads and some wonderful fluffy yarn called Whisper for the polar bears.
As it is with these things, I spent some time gathering supplies, and got into the actual stitching a few Christmases ago. But once the holidays were over, it got put away until the next Christmas when I stitched some more. I remembered it yesterday and brought it out of hiding, suddenly feeling inspired.Funny, I thought I had done so much more, but there you are, that's it so far. Oh well, no stocking for me this Christmas I suppose...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cupcake anyone?

I made it! All the cupcake pincushions are done, and three of them are wrapped and given away already. Some late night hand stitching yesterday, and I was officially ready with all the handmade gifts for Christmas. These are as I mentioned earlier from a Sandi Henderson/Portabellopixie-pattern, the low calorie version - about 4 " across. There is also a high calorie version, 6 " across.

I have used felt for the chocolate cake part sticking outh beneath the ruffle and they are firmly filled with sand in the bottom and wool in the top, making them quite heavy and stable, so they should rest well on the table when in use. And yes, I have only wrapped three of them! Being such a crafty person (crafty in this case meaning cunning, sly...) that I made four so I get to keep one for myself! Mine is the one with the turquise ruffle (of course), and it is now resting happily next to my sewing machine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Xmas pressies, check!

I'm getting there... After last week's setback, I have made some progress this week - a couple of hours at the bookshop and most of the pressies are taken care of. I'm the sensible auntie who prefers to buy books for the young ones rather than plastic toys and gadgets that fall apart as soon as you start fiddling with them. My gifts are maybe not the most exciting gifts to open on the actual day, but hopefully they'll give hours of pleasure through the rest of the holidays. I'm trying to find interesting books for each and everyone, hoping to instill some of the pleasure reading has always given me in their young minds. And books are quite easy to wrap up as well ;-) I'm settling down with some rolls of paper, tape and ribbons and a good film now.
Tonight I'm adding the final stitches in the last homemade gifts: some pincushions from this pattern. I really love Sandi's patterns - they are so pretty, and full of colour photos to explain each step beautifully. Have a look at the tutorials on her blog and you will see what I mean!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thank heaven for blogger girls

Since I started reading blogs and writing my own I feel I have been given so much in terms of inspiration. Little did I know a few years ago that there were so many people out there with the same "weird" crafting urges that I have and nobody else around me seem to understand.
And there is so much generosity out there! People sharing freely of their ideas and inspiration, spurring the rest of us on to start new projects and bring so much joy.
And I had no idea that this blogging thing would lead to so many new books on my shelves. In fact, quite a few of the novels I have bought over the last couple of years have been bought on a blogger's recommendation. And now, some of the bloggers I have followed since the beginning have released books of their own, chock-full of inspiration!
I have mentioned Jane Brocket's (of Yarnstorm fame) and Kristin Nicholas' books earlier, and look what the latest shipment from Amazon contained: Anna Maria Horner, Alicia Paulson and Vicki Haninger have all entered my home! Three wonderful books full of inspiration and beautiful pictures; Well done all of you! - I certainly know what I will be savouring once I settle in for the holidays this Christmas!

But there is still so much to do before the holidays! I have finished the journal covers, but that's all. I have been ill this last week - and you don't really feel like decorating or buying presents when you spend most of your time heaving over a bucket ... I'm much better now though, so tomorrow it's time to start the preparations - I have cookies to bake, presents to buy, wrap and send, christmas cards to write and Santas to bring down from the attic... I had better get some rest first!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Denim tucks

Still playing with this thing. A spiral flower of frayed fabric, some random tucks to even out the hills and valleys made by the previous ones...

...and some woven fabric strips attached with French knots. I'm working on this from time to time, when I only feel like cuddling up under a quilt on the sofa, listening to winter storms raging outside.

But don't worry - I am working on the journal covers too - I need to get some more quilting thread tomorrow!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Journal cover tutorial

I have been having fun working on these journal covers now, and have found easier ways of doing things along the way. As I took photos and wrote everything down for my own benefit, I realized I had the makings of a tutorial here, so here goes - hope you find it useful!

You need:
Three different fabrics (A B and C)
Journal is 7 ½ x 8 ½ ”
Cut two pieces 9 ½” x 21” outside (A) and inside (B)
Batting 9 ½ x 16 ½”
1 zipper 8 ½ - 10”
2 pieces (A) 2 ½ x 2 ½ ”
Pocket for book (C/A) 18 ½ x 6"
Side pocket (A )9 ½ x 9 ½"
Flap (C) 9 x 6"
Lining for pencil case 2 pieces (B) 9 ½ “ x 4 “
Tie 2” x 44” (full width of fabric) (C)
Interfacing 3 pieces, 9 ½” x 6, 4 ½” and 3” respectively.

This is a great method for lengthening a zipper that is too short for your cover. Just remember that your zipper has to be long enough to get the pencils in and out. Fold the two lengthening pieces in half, right side facing, and stitch a seam ¼” from one edge, forming two small tubes. Press seams open. Slip one piece over the end of your zipper with the opened seam on the underside of the zipper and so that it alignes with the metallic part of the zipper, this is to make sure that you don't stitch through the metal. Stitch a seam across ¼ ” from edge of tube and turn tube inside out. Repeat on other end of zipper. Press. You should now have a zipper piece long enough for the edge of your cover.
Place the short end of your cover fabric right side along the right hand edge of the zipper, place a lining piece on the other side, so the edge of the zipper is sandwiched between the fabrics and stitch a seam about ¼” from the edge, using the zipper foot on your machine. Do the same with the inside fabric and the other lining piece on the other side of the zipper. Fold right side out and press. Cut of the excess on the lengthening pieces of the zipper.
You should now have a long narrow piece of fabric with a zipper in the middle and the two flaps that will become the lining for your pocket underneath.
Open the zipper and fold inside out along the zipper and align your front and back pieces along the opposite short end and the long sides, while aligning the two lining pieces in the same way on the other side of the zipper.

Fold the piece at the end of the zipper in half, edges toward the lining (the picture above was taken when I made the first one, without lining, but it shows the folding better). Place your batting on top starting from the opposite side of where the zipper is and pin in place. This should leave about 4 ½ “ on the zipper side without batting. This will be the pencil case.

Stitch all the way around leaving a 2-3” opening at the bottom of the lining. To get nice sharp corners, take one or two stitches on the diagonal at each corner.

Snip off corners outside seam allowance, taking care not to cut into the seam, and cut at a slanted edge from the corner and along the sides to remove some bulk before turning. Turn the piece inside out through the bottom of the lining and the open zipper, push the corners out with a knitting needle, chopstick or similar and press. Pull the lining outside the zipper so you don’t catch it in the next seam.
Stitch a seam across the piece just where the batting ends, and quilt the rest as desired, taking care not to stitch past the seam (like I did on my first one...).
Fold the raw edges of the pocket lining inside and stitch a narrow seam to close it before tucking the lining into the pencil
Make the ribbon tie: Fold strip in half right sides out and press. Open, and fold one long edge towards middle fold and press. Do the same for the other side.
Turn the short edges in and topstitch around the ribbon to close. Place to one side for now.
Iron interfacing on one half of each pocket and on one half of the flap. Fold the two pocket pieces in half, right sides together and stitch around, leaving an opening on one long edge for turning. Snip corners and turn inside out. Press flat and topstitch along one long edge, closing the opening at the same time.

Place your quilted cover on the table, lining side up and zipper to the right. Place the small pocket on the left matching it to the edges of the cover, topstitched edge on the right. Pin in place.
Place the large pocket about 8 ½ ” from the left edge (there should be about 1" between the opposite edge and the seam marking the bottom of the pencil case) and pin in place, topstitched side on the left. Put a pin approximately half way down, just outside and in the same direction as the right hand edge and flip the piece over. Place your ribbon tie across the middle and pin on both sides of the marking pin. The left end should be about 4 “ longer than the right. Flip piece over again and remove the marking pin. Stitch a seam along the right hand side of this pocket, catching the ribbon in the seam, but take care to keep it out of the way so you don’t stitch into it in more places than one!

Now topstitch along the edge of your cover from the bottom of the pencil case on one side to the bottom on the other side, stitching the pockets down at the same time. Remember to keep the ribbon out of the way!
Now for the flap: Fold in half like you did with the pockets, but place a mark about ¾ ” in from each side on the fold and ¼ “ in from the sides on the opposite end and mark lines between these points. Stitch on these lines, and trim excess material, leaving about a ¼”. Snip corners as before and turn inside out. Press, turning the raw edges of the opening in at the same time. Topstitch along short sides and on the narrowest of the long edges.
Place flap with long edge towards the side pocket, about ½” away and stitch a seam through all layers along the long edge of the flap. Fold flap over the pocket and press. I found that the flap was sturdy enough to keep in place, but you could add a snap or a button and buttonhole if you like.
Place your journal inside, sliding back cover into the big pocket.
Fold left side over journal.
Fold right side, with pencil case over (the zipper pull will be at the top - as I mentioned, I made a mistake on my first one...)
Fill your pencil case with pencils or crayons, wrap ribbon around, tie and you are done! I have chosen to make mine with just one fabric on the cover, but there are of course endless ways of decorating your cover: patchwork, applique, collage, it's all up to you!
So there you are - ready to write your Christmas list! I hope somebody wants to give this a go - please let me know if you have any problems with it, and I'd love to see what you make!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marie Claire has done it again!

After Vicky's glowing review the other day, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of the latest issue of Marie Claire Idées, and lo and behold - here it is! And it is chock-full of inspiration! I was a bit disappointed with the autumn issue, so my expectations weren't as high as before. But after seeing Vicky's photos I knew I was in for a treat, and I was. Apart from the lovely things she presented there are lots more: This lovely teddy made from different scraps of fabric, for one. There's lots of teddy-stuff to make, but I fell for this jolly face - teddies are usually bit sad or wistful looking, and that is part of their charm, but it was fun to see a smiling one for once.

A Christmas wreath wrapped in white fabric and adorned with yo-yos, some of them stuffed and some flat looks really nice.
And what about this quilt? I love the combination of old photos transferred to fabric and appliqued skiers in wintry hues with just a scattering of red.
And all this gardening inspiration - knitted radishes, fabric strawberries and a sweet little produce quilt which reminds me of a pepper quilt I made once for a friend's 30th birthday - I should get a picture of that one!
And I absolutely adore these pins. I believe their heads are made of polymer clay - maybe something to make for my friends for Christmas? It's a pity I have let my schoolgirl French slip away - who knew I'd need it to read Marie Claire...
Still, I get the gist of the articles, and what I don't understand I make up, so I will probably end up with something entirely different, but that's half the fun, though - isn't it?