Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tis the Season...

Happy Christmas everyone! I hope you had a lovely day yesterday, ours could not have been nicer. This is our first Christmas as a family of 5 and having a baby in the house for the big day for the first time in 5 years was wonderful.

We are recovering from the excitement today so I thought I would share with you a little Flipagram video chronicling my crafting this year. I love looking at it - it's great to see what you've achieved in a year!

I'll be back to show you the lovely runner and Christmas decoration I got from Anneliese in our Modern Quilt Guild Ireland swap. And I need to think about what I want to do in 2014. While I made lots in 2013, a lot of it was very straightforward stuff. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd like to try and improve some of my skills next year and make a few projects for our house too.

In the meantime, I hope you have your feet up and are enjoying what it, for our family, always the laziest day of the year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winner, winner!

Thank you all for your entries to my SMS giveaway. I had 688 entries, pretty amazing!!

Without further ado, the winner chosen by was


As I had 688 entries, I had to go to the 3rd page, entries 401-600

And then go to entry 181, to give me entry no 581. This was:

Congratulations Jamie, I will be in touch!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas swapsies....

This last month, I have been Swap Mama for the MQG Ireland's Christmas swap.

My inspiration for this swap was sadly lacking the first few weeks of the swap window, what with the gallstones attacks and the surgery. But eventually, all the Christmassy spirit around started to make an impact on me, and my mind started turning over ideas. I went for a primarily hand pieced project as I couldn't tolerate much time at the machine. I had the idea of a little hexie Christmas wreath floating around in my head, but it took a while for the idea of a little tree in the centre to tie it together.

I had a little hexie factory going on beside me on the sofa last week. Basting and piecing hexies is a strangely soothing process and I really enjoyed it, even if I did eventually have to admit to myself that it was time for an eye test. Despite working as quickly as I could, it was slow going though.

 Swap posting opened on Monday, but on Monday evening I found myself at my machine, sewing desperately to piece the background blocks and secure the hexie wreaths.

Yesterday, I put the quilt top together. I had decided to use a penguin print for the central tree, as I knew my partner was partial to penguins.

Table runner 4

I also had a small scrap of a Christmas tree fabric left which was perfect for another tree as it contained all the colours I used in the hexies.

Table runner 6

With 2 lovely wintry aqua blue fabrics for the trees, I decided to stick with this theme and used another blue print for the 3rd tree.

Table runner 5

As you can see, I machine pieced the hexies to the blocks. This was partly driven by time constraints, but also to give it a slightly raised effect, and to make sure that they were really secure as runners get so many turns in the washing machine, I didn't want to risk the piecing coming away anywhere.

Table runner 2

I machine quilted 5 lines, 1/4" apart between the blocks and at either end. This dense little quilting block breaks up the runner blocks and I like how it contrasts against the hand quilting and the rest of the negative space which is unquilted. It was then time to embark on another West Wing marathon to get the hand quilting done. I outlined the trees in red perle cotton for contrast, and then outlined both sides of the hexies in a turquoise blue to tie in with the background fabrics for the trees. Honestly, the hand quilting took me most of yesterday afternoon and evening to finish. But it was totally worth it. The combination of the hexies, the hand quilting and the machine quilting gives it a nice, textural feel.

This morning, I bound it and all of a sudden, it was done! I used another aqua blue print for the binding and it gives the whole runner a really fresh, clean, wintry feel.

Table runner 1

I've been posting lots of pictures on Instagram as I worked my way through this project, and getting loads of likes and comments, which was great, as I was worried originally that this simple little design might not work. I can't draw, and didn't have time to mock up a design on EQ7 so I was very much working on instinct here. But happily, the simplicity of the blocks and the pops of pretty Christmas fabric against the frosty Kona white just seem to work together, and the instantaneous feedback from my Instagram buddies really helped boost my confidence about the design.

All that remained was to make a little Christmas tree decoration to go with it - a pieced heart backed in felt.

Heart decoration

And my package was ready to go!!

Swap package Christmas runner 

Today was the last posting day, and I got to the post office with literally 10 minutes to spare to catch the post - the closest I've ever come to missing a swap deadline! I haven't had a minute to catch up on who else has posted, and what is going on in the group so I must pop over there now and check everyone is doing ok!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Win a Rainbow Fabric bundle for Giveaway Day!!!!

Today is Sew Mama Sew giveaway day and I have a really lovely giveaway for you today :-)

If you're visiting my blog for the first time as part of this giveaway, welcome. I'm so happy to meet you! I'm Sarah, I'm a modern Irish quilter living in beautiful Cork in the south west of Ireland. I love making quilts and pretty things. I'm a super busy working mum, with 3 smallies and a lovely hubby to look after, in addition to my job and my quilting addiction. You can find out some more about me here and you can have a quick look at my gallery of lovely projects here. I hope that you will come back and visit me again when the giveaway is over :-) Because my life is so madly busy at the moment, I don't get to blog quite as often as I'd like. But I do post pictures of what I'm working on over on Instagram and on my Facebook page all the time, so do please come and chat with me on one of those places! You'll find the links for all the places I hang out online up on the top right of my sidebar.

I spent a little while thinking about what to give away today for the Sew, Mama, Sew! giveway day. And I thought it should be something I would love to win, if I was entering. So today's prize is a combination of my 2 favourite things - fabric and a quilt book.

First up, I have put together, from my own (rather overflowing at this stage) stash, a lovely bundle of fat eighths in a rainbow of colours. There are 2 FEs of each colour. The fabrics are all gorgeous, designer quilting cottons from designers like Aneela Hoey, Kate Spain, Vanesa Christenson, Lizzy House, Tanya Whelan etc.That's 2 whole yards of fabric!!

The second part of the prize is the lovely quilt book Modern Baby. 

This book is full of lovely patterns for baby quilts, including my one of my own patterns, Modern Shapes Sampler:

I'll keep the entries simple. I'm putting together my Christmas wish list, and of course, quilt books are on it. For your entry, tell me what your favourite quilt pattern/book is. Please ensure that you leave your email address in your comment unless you are absolutely 100% certain you have your Blogger profile set up to receive replies via email.

For a bonus entry, follow me over on Instagram (@sewfairyface) or Facebook ( and let me know you do.

I will ship internationally. This giveaway will close on the evening (Irish time) of December 13th. Winner will be drawn at random. If I cannot contact the winner, I will redraw.

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas swap sewing

I'm swap mama again for the MQG Ireland swap group, and we are in the middle of our Christmas swap. Swappers must make a table runner or table topper for their partner, as well as a little Christmas decoration.

I love taking part in swaps! This time around, having to go for surgery shortly after assigning swap partners was more than a little inconvenient, but being at home recovering has allowed me time to catch up a little, particularly as I decided to stick to hand piecing in the main for my design idea. Perfect for working on while sitting on the sofa taking it easy :-)

I played around with quite a few ideas before settling on the idea of a Christmas wreath made from hexies. And a little Christmas tree in the middle to finish it off :-) I really like how this is shaping up. I'm thinking 3 or 4 blocks side by side will look lovely.

After a bit of sewing this afternoon while rewatching The West Wing for the hundredth time, it's looking good so far. Next, it's back to basting the next lot of hexies for the 2nd wreath.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


It's hard to believe, for me, but I am actually finished my Swoon quilt. Yes, you read that right. Finished. It's done. And its FABULOUS! I know they say self praise is no praise, but, honestly, I am utterly in love with this quilt and so delighted with how it turned out. Cue lots of photos.

It seems an awful long time that I've been working on this quilt, and it is really. I started back in the back end of June with this bundle of fabric: 


I swapped around a few fabrics as I worked through it, and it began to take shape. One of the things I found with this as I made it was that pretty much every block became my "favourite" as I moved through them. I really love each of the colour combos and the fabrics - there is one block that I wasn't as keen on, but since finishing it, I've just fallen in love with that one too.

When it came to choose colour palette and fabrics, choices were dictated to a large extent by the fact that I was making it for my own bedroom, where the feature wallpaper is duck egg blue, and shades of aqua and teal feature in the curtains, lampshades etc to tie in with that colour. I used a number of different values and shades of aqua and teal - from the very light to very dark, and from a number of different fabric ranges such as Kate Spain's Fandango, Boho by Urban Chiks, Carina Gardner's Pinfeathers,  Joel Dewberry's Modern Meadow, Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley and Bonnie And Camille's Happy Go Lucky.  To balance the aquas, I used navy and yellow prints. I did consider adding grey as well, but ultimately decided against it.

I was nervous about limiting the colour palette to 3 colours - its not something I've done a whole pile in the past, and I wondered how it would work out. My primary concern was that it would be a bit flat, at the end, but I kept faith, despite my misgivings at times, and love the vibrancy of the colours and how they work together. No flatness to this quilt!

Some of the fabrics I have been hoarding for a very long time, waiting for a special project - like my Saffron Craig navy Birds fabric, or the Amy Butler Arabesque or the Lotta Jansdotter Echo.

You know that moment when you cut into them and wonder if you're doing the right thing? Because they're so lovely you can hardly bear to cut them? Do it. Because they're even nicer put together in a quilt :-)

This quilt is a monster, size wise, 80" x 80". I table basted it a few weeks ago, and I quilted it on my Pfaff, at home, after deliberating sending it to a long arm quilter for a while. I expected the quilting to be torturous (honestly) but it wasn't. It flowed really well, and I did it block by block, and I got it done in 2 days, doing short enough sittings at various times. The biggest problem I had was manipulating the weight of it which took a while to get used to.


I didn't do anything fancy in the quilting - I stuck to my regular FMQ stipple (I thought this was a bit boring, but was under time pressure and didn't want to try something new on such a big and special quilt). I'm delighted with how it turned out though, all lovely and crinkly.

The backing is a print that I can't remember the name of, that I bought about 2 years ago in a sale from Julie, which worked out super, super cheap (about $3-4 per yard). It was the perfect colour and print type for this. I didn't bother doing a pieced back, because, honestly, after all those massive 24" blocks, I couldn't face it. And I knew I'd never get it matched up basting it without giving myself a heart attack from stress. 

The binding is a navy dotty popline which I got specifically for this and I love how it frames the quilt.

All in all, I can't quite believe its done, finished, and on our bed. I couldn't be happier!

Have you made a Swoon? If not, I'd highly recommend it. Yes, it's a lot of work, but the pattern is really well written, the blocks are insanely addictive, and it makes a wonderful quilt. And woohoo! I love mine :-)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A little bit of stitchery....

My Instagram friends will know that I've been stitching up a storm in my embroidery hoop this last week. This was the perfect little project to work on while I was in hospital and at home recovering, as I could pick it up and work on it in very short little bursts when I felt up to it. And before I knew it, I was done. Here she is, Cherry on the Tree Swing :-)

I made this from Aneela Hoey's pattern. This is the first full embroidery project I've done in a few years, so I followed the colours and guide in the pattern, which was well written and easy to do. I had to reduce the pattern to 75% to get it to fit in my 8" hoop, it would work really nicely framed like a print too.

I also used an iron-on embroidery transfer pencil for the first time, which meant tracing over the reversed pattern and ironing the image onto the fabric. Honestly, I didn't much like this process. I ended up having to trace it twice to get the pencil clear enough to see, and wasted a good bit of fabric in my first few attempts with smudges etc. Plus, despite my best efforts, the pink of the pencil is showing through in a few places, although you need to be up close to see it. In future I think I'll return to tracing the image with my water-soluble pen which I am very comfortable using.

I used Aneela's tutorial on her blog to fill in Cherry's dress and hair with backstitch. My first time trying this technique - I'm pretty happy with the results. I wish that her facial expression/hair was a little more like the original but this was one of the problem areas in terms of pattern transfer, and I got it about as good as I could!

I really love the vibrant blue leaves, and the little cherries which were made using French knots. I experiemented with different sizes of knots, this not being a stitch I'd used before, and it worked pretty well in the pattern, giving differing sizes of cherries in different places which is perfect.


This morning, I glued the fabric to the hoop to finish it at the back and hung in on the wall over Rachel's cot - I'm delighted with this! I have some other hoops to do for her wall also - including one custom design which I can't wait to start. In the meantime, I'm hoping she will have fun looking at Cherry swinging happily on her tree.

P.S. Thank you everyone for your good wishes after my last post - I didn't get to reply to all the emails but the surgery went fine, I was a good bit sorer than I expected the first 24 hours as I had a reaction to something they used in the operation, but am very much on the mend now and taking it easy at home recovering.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WIP Wednesday

I'm playing more catchup today with stuff I've been working on in the last few weeks. If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen these pics already but I hope you won't mind having a little peek again! I hope you'll excuse that the photos aren't wonderful. November and December are so dark and dreary here, its practically impossible to get good photos when you are at work during daylight hours.

First up - my Made to Measure quilt. This one was on the back burner for a little while until I faced up to doing all those HSTs for the big 8th border. I finally got on with it a few weeks ago. Here's what the layout is looking like - ignore the quilt top full of creases please!


Once I had them laid out, I pieced those flying geese strips pretty quickly actually. I'm really happy with how they look - I used 4 different low volume prints as the background, and it worked exactly as I hoped. 

Now I just need to do the star blocks for the corners (more procrastination here, avoiding those teeny tiny HSTs for the little stars) and then one more border for which I have a Road 15 text print, and I'm actually done with the quilt top. This is another mammoth 80" x 80" quilt, so I'll try the table basting method again on this one and I've decided that I'm going to hand quilt this which has me excited and terrified in equal measure, and means it probably won't be done before next summer.

Speaking of mammoth quilts, Swoon is almost done. I sewed the binding on the front last night and plan to spend the next couple of evenings curled up on the sofa, handfinishing it on the back. Apart from the piecing, handstitching the binding to finish is my absolute favourite part of making a quilt. 

I see a lot of hand stitching in my future in the next couple of weeks. I'm having keyhole surgery for gallstones on Friday so I have lots of time to fill in the next couple of weeks recovering. I've been working on Aneela Hoey's Cherry on the Tree Swing embroidery pattern for the last couple of weeks, picking it up here and there in the evenings, and its not perfect but its coming along nicely. This hoop is for baby Rachel's room, along with a few other things I am making for her.


Beside Cherry on the Tree Swing, I also bought some lovely embroidery patterns from Lilipopo, including this gorgeous  Carol Singers one which I'm planning to start next week.

Image by Lili Popo
So that's my WIP Wednesday. Linking up to Freshly Pieced with lots of very talented ladies, and looking forward to seeing what everyone else has been up to.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Swooning again....

I decided this weekend it was time to get moving with my Swoon. I didn't want to make a mockery of the 2013 part of the #swoon2013 hashtag, and I knew if I didn't get it quilted in the next week, I would not get to it until well after Christmas.

The biggest issue stalling me in the last couple of months was basting. Swoon is 80" x 80" and I needed to move some furniture in my living room (my sofas) in order to have enough floor space to baste it. But moving furniture is easier said than done with the 2 big kids confined to the house in miserable November weather. So off I went to my friend Google to find out about table basting alternatives, having seen a link to a tutorial for board basting a few months ago.

I read quite a few, and decided to try this method, using clamps. I ran over to the hardware shop yesterday, but the clamps were more expensive than I anticipated and I was too cheap to buy more than four. Really, for this to work, I would need at least 8, probably 10. I think I'll do some searching online for cheaper options for next time, because I really liked this method. No crawling round the floor, and working in defined sections makes it feel quite quick, although realistically I'm not sure it really is any quicker than doing it on the floor. My knees and back definitely liked it better though.

I was pretty happy with the results - it wasn't absolutely perfect on the back, but its a huge quilt, my first time trying it, I only had 4 clamps and its for my own bed so a couple of minor puckers here and there are not going to bother me. I think a bit of practice would sort out those issues very quickly. This is a great option for me. I normally baste on the playroom floor which is not that fair on my kids and their constant in-and-out looking for toys, walking across my quilt sandwich drives me nuts. So I'll be using this method again for definite.

Once it was done, I moved on to quilting it today. I was nervous about this, it's by far the biggest quilt I've ever tackled on my machine.  I had considered sending it to a long arm quilter but decided against it for cost and other reasons in the end. It took a little while to get a flow going - getting used to the weight of it! It's seriously heavy with the batting in there. But, on the advice of my buddy Fiona (BetsyGreyCrafts) who quilted hers just before me, I did it block by block, and about half way through the first (humoungous) block, it just fell into place.

Of course, once I really was moving with it, I had to stop and give the kids baths and do bedtime. But I returned to it once all that was out of the way and in another hour and a half, I realised I had 6 of the 9 blocks quilted. No broken threads. No snarls. No needles snapping. One bobbin change. Pretty much perfect quilting - I couldn't quite believe how easily it had flowed.

So, one more column to do and then it's on to binding. Can't wait.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Scrappy Tiles Baby Quilt

Happy Friday everyone! It's been a while, but I do have a happy quilt finish to share with you today.

My mother-in-law asked me to make a quilt for her to give as a baby present back a few months ago. Last year, when I was pregnant, I spent some time working up a quilt design, but never got to make it. That design was for a big lap size quilt. So when she asked me to make it, I decided it was the perfect time to try out the pattern in a baby size. And here it is, my Scrappy Tiles baby quilt.

This quilt is constructed using a traditional block structure - 12" finished blocks in a 3 x 4 structure. But it's a little bit counter-intuitive when sewing the blocks together, as the white sashing is in the centre of the blocks, and the print tiles on the outsides. In order to match the colours in the tiles, it takes a bit of prep work, planning colour layout and fabric choices. Once that is done, it's super quick to put together.

Lately, I have moved away from primary colours for boys quilts and this is no exception. I really love the colours I used in this - the yellows and oranges balance the greys, greens and blues.  And the overall effect is a little bit soft and muted, which wasn't the original intention, but works really nicely I think. There is a lot of Lotta Jansdotter's Echo line in this quilt, as well as plenty of scraps.

I used the last of my IKEA hippos bolt of fabric for the back. Sadly these aren't available any more - such a pity, they make wonderful quilt backs.

My MIL wanted baby's name on the quilt, so I embroidered it in the bottom right corner as Sam is such a short little name. I think a longer name would probably have had to go on the back.

This quilt was pieced and quilted, as always, with Aurifil 50wt thread. I used pure white here, although I did consider my favourite silvery grey thread too. I originally planned to straight-line quilt this one, but I wasn't loving the effect after the first few lines, so I unpicked and decided to do a random stipple instead. I think it was the right decision. I know straight lines could work really well, but the softness of the stipple against the geometric shapes provides nice contrast. The binding is a grey, dotty poplin.

 The quilt measures 36" x 48" - perfect baby cot size.

I think that I will try and write up a tutorial for this pattern, if people are interested in it. I also want to do the original lap size quilt I planned with it - here is a mock-up of what I originally was working on. I think this would look great with solids and Kona Charcoal as the sashing:

That's a project for another day though, as I have 2 large quilts needing finishing, and the small matter of some keyhole surgery to get over in the next couple of weeks, but hopefully I will be all recovered by Christmas, and I will be happy to put 2013 behind me from a health perspective. In the meantime, I'm happy that Sam received his quilt last week and by all accounts, it was a big hit with mum and dad which is great.

Linking up with Finish It Up Friday over at Crazy Mom Quilts.