Friday, January 31, 2014

January Finishes - Put Your Scraps to Work 2014

It's hard to believe that this is the last day of January. It has flown by in the blink of an eye, full of work, kids activities and a little bit of sewing. Today is also the first month of the Put Your Scraps to Work 2014 challenge and I hope you'll join me in showing off your scrappy sewing this month.

My plan for the month included a scrappy fabric basket (check) and a scrappy cushion (sadly no check).

I made good progress sorting out my scrap basket - I'm not quite finished, but almost there.

And I made 2 sets of scrappy blocks.

First up, I made these two QAYG blocks for Alison as part of her appeal for quilts for street children in Mexico city:

I did a version of a log cabin block with strips of increasing size. I would have liked to do a few more, but had to accept that my time is limited and that contributing something was better than having great intentions and ending up contributing nothing. I really like these cheery, happy blocks. I quilted them in an expanding square type pattern - you can see it better on the back of the block. I hope Alison can use these, and they definitely made good use of my scraps!

The last of my makes for the month were my Bee Blocks for Ruth in the Modern Irish Bee. These blocks used teeny tiny 1" squares so they were a little bit tricky, but fantastic to use up those tiny pieces of fabric you can't bear to throw out. The Kona Ash sets of the little scrap blocks perfectly, I can't wait to see what this quilt turns out like.

My aim for February is to use these orphan blocks I found in my scrap basket, and turn them into something lovely!

 So, lets see what you've been up to and what lovely scrappy makes you have for this month! Please link back to me in your post, and go visit some of the other peeps linking up. You have a week to link up so get writing :-) Don't forget to add your pics to the Flickr group, and to tag them on Instagram using the #putyourscrapstowork2014 hashtag.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Great big scrappy fabric basket

The last 10 days have gone by in a bit of a blur. Returning to work is takes so much time to get used to the pace of a working day again, doing all the family stuff in the evenings and even having to travel for a couple of days for training. So crafting has been a bit hit and miss here in the last couple of weeks and I haven't gotten close to replying to emails unfortunately.

FairyFace Designs

But I did manage to get one of this month's scrappy projects finished for my Put Your Scraps to Work challenge .....a lovely fabric storage basket made out of scraps, for my scraps. Seeing as the scrap pile was completely out of control, I needed something new to put them in and decided to divide them up by colours - cool, warm and neutrals & multicoloured/novelty. As I said previously, I really want my scrappy projects to be practical as well as pretty so a basket was a great project to start with.

 I meant to post progress pics of this, but what with the travel and the kids and falling asleep on the sofa within an hour of sitting down in the evenings, I just didn't get to. So here's a recap - you'll have seen some of these pics before if you follow me on Instagram or FB.

I started off just piecing random scraps together. It is improv in terms of the method - no plan, I just put pieces together - but I didn't go completely crazy and wonky, I kept it reasonably squared off to fit with the shape of the basket. Some of my fave scraps went into these panels; I love the hedgehogs, and the tree, all the dots. The bear and the whales and owls. I really had fun making it.

I decided to try matchstick quilting. It's pretty haphazard, not a straight line in there (I believe the official word is "organic"). I really love how dense it is. And how it turned out. I used Aurifil medium turquoise 50wt thread. I'm normally very boring with my thread colour choice, sticking to neutrals, but decided to give this a whirl and I have to admit I absolutely love it. The turquoise pops off it and gives the quilting an extra nice feel.

I used Nova's great pattern to make these. I did think a bit before buying it, as fabric baskets are not the most complicated thing in the world to make, and I've made them before. But I love how all the measurements are done for various sizes, and there are lots of options there that there are additional measurements for too. Well worth the few euro for it when I keep using it over and over again.


 I made the 9" basket and I could probably go up a couple of inches as my Expedit bookcase would take a bigger basket, and I certainly don't have all my scraps in here yet. Aren't those little scraps there pretty? I love looking at this from different angles. I keep seeing favourite prints. See that tiny bit of blue and red paisley over the navy Saffron Craig print with the birds? That paisley is a Tanya Whelan and one of my all time faves. I sadly put the tiny last bit I had in there....and then someone was selling it in the IG destash on Sunday night and now I have 3/4 yard of it again...hooray.

I used a few large scraps for the lining. Honestly, apart from the green dinos, none of them are prints I really like a whole pile, but I wanted to use them as I suffer from quilter's disease (I cannot throw out perfectly useable, if ugly, fabric) and they won't really be seen as I'm anticpating that this basket will most likely fill as fast as I can empty it. 

I am very pleased with this. Love how it turned out. And love how useful it is.

How are your scrappy projects coming along? Are you making progress? Don't forget I'll be posting a linky on the last day of the month for you to show off your makes. I had a few questions about the degree of finished-ness required to link up. This is a very relaxed kind of scrap challenge.I just want people to have fun and use up their scraps in the process. So blocks, quilt tops etc are all fine to link up. It doesn't have to be totally 100% finished (although it probably works best if you are finished a "stage" rather than right in the middle of piecing something).

Can't wait to see what you've been making :-)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Put Your Scraps to Work 2014: Are you in?

FairyFace Designs

I floated this idea in my 2014 goals post last week, and got loads of people interested. So I'm officially kicking off a scrap-busting challenge for 2014. Yay!

This is a really simple challenge. Here's what you need to do: Make at least 1 project from your scraps each month. Post it on your blog, and add your post to the linky I will post here on the last day of each month. You need to link back to me some way, either using the button above or some other type of link. I know not everyone has a blog - there's also a Flickr group (you'll find it here) where you can post pictures of what you have made, and if you're on Instagram, the hashtag is #putyourscrapstowork2014, so be sure to use that. I will have some spot prizes over the year for people participating (not just on the blog - IG and Flickr peeps too).

I've started a Pinterest board where I have Pinned loads of ideas for what you could make with scraps. I'll keep adding to this as the year goes on. It's here. I didn't worry too much about the Pins being linked to tutorials - some of them are just eye candy/inspiration type Pins. I would really like to make this a communal board because I think it would be great to have one big board that loads of people Pin ideas to - everyone sees different things. But apparently I have quite a lot of Pinterest followers (who knew? I certainly didn't!!) which makes inviting people a bit more difficult so if you'd like to be part of the communal board, please email me (fairyfacedesigns at gmail dot com) with your Pinterest ID and I will (figure out how to) add you. that's kind of it on the detail front. My plan for my scraps is to, as much as possible, make practical stuff that I will use from them. I might make one or 2 decorative mini quilts, but mostly I want to make things that actually work in my house, have a practical value. Obviously, practical does not rule out pretty :-) My plan for this month is to make a cushion for the living room, and some fabric storage baskets (to organise the horrendously large bin of scraps). Actually, the very first task is to finish sorting the scraps. Next month...well, I'll think about that then. I'd love if we could get a good big group working on this together, so please, don't be shy, spread the word!!

So, you in? And whatcha making first?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ode to Triangles....part two

I promise, I will not be grumpy tonight about the triangles. Well, maybe only a teensy, tiny bit. I was encouraged and not a little bit comforted by all the comments I got on my last post; its good to know I'm not the only one who finds triangles a complete PITA.

I set about the piecing on Friday night. All those rows. It seemed to take a long, long time. Then I pressed them. And remembered the trimming...all those little dog ears that needed to be trimmed back. So I did that. I may have muttered a bit about it under my breath and then remembered my decision to embrace the process after the last post, so I stopped muttering and pasted a smile on my face.

Then it was time to piece the rows together, to assemble the quilt top. And I remembered what I really, really dislike about working with triangles. It's so blindingly obvious and in your face that I hadn't even thought about it, stupid as that may sound.

Matching the points.

I made a decision not to freak out about it. Unless they were absolutely apallingly off (half an inch or so out), I wasn't redoing them. That did give me a certain freedom, and I rattled through the assembling at a ferocious rate. Given how un-exacting I was being (I still was pinning, don't get me wrong, but I wasn't being over the top about it), they came out surprisingly well. I think I only had to rip back 2 points in the whole thing; pretty good going. But I'm not going to show you close ups. There's a lot of slightly cut off points in there, as well as slightly off matching. I doubt anyone will notice though once its done.


Then I pressed (and cursed my careless seam matching again when the seams weren't going the way I wanted them to). And then I shook it out, in all its glory and fell utterly and totally in love.


I'm sorry the pictures are not great - the weather here thinks it is in monsoon country apparently so there's no getting outside for nice light. But I think you can see how it works. I really was worried about those grey triangles grouped together, whether that would work or just look stupid. Possibly I should have made a big triangle out of the low volume ones but maybe that would then look too even and regular, I did want it to be random so as to draw the eye through the quilt. The low volume totally breaks up the look of the quilt - I did not want even rows, I wanted something with movement and depth and I think that I've achieved that. The brightness of the print fabrics is not jumping out of this picture, trust me when I say that the colours are absolutely vibrant and bright and beautiful in real life.

I love it. I really, really love it.

Now its time to start thinking about getting this baby finished for the birthday girl on Wednesday. (Not a hope, but sure I'll keep trying.)  I have some Michael Miller Zoology fabric in pink and grey for backing, but only a yard and a half, so I need to size it up a bit as this top measures about 72" x 48". I'm considering chopping up a pink flat sheet I have if I can't find enough fabric in my stash. And I need to think about quilting now. I can't face wrestling with my machine to do straight lines on the diagonal, its being very temperamental at the moment. I was thinking some sort of FMQ - maybe with loopy loops in the white triangles? Suggestions and inspiration most most welcome.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Triangles are really not as much fun......

As they look.


Don't get me wrong, I know they look lovely. They look amazing actually, in my opinion. I love them. And, in the end, they are worth the work.

But, O.M.G., are they a pain from a process perspective. (Warning: this may be a slightly grumpy post. Read at your peril)

If you haven't been on Instagram, the background is that this is a quilt for my little baby girl Rachel who turns 1 next week. I made her a pram quilt, but now she needs a proper cot/bed quilt. I wanted to make something eclectic and lovely, girlie but not too sweet; I wanted something with a little depth and interesting to look at - for me, as well as for her. It absolutely needed to incorporate my favourite prints for little girls. And it needs to be a decent size so it will grow with her. Easy peasy, right? It's *supposed* to be part of her birthday present, but next Wednesday is catching up on me very fast. Still, she won't notice if its a few days late.

This is where I started, lots and lots of triangles. Of course, being for the apple of my eye, I had to fussy cut most of them. This was VERY slow. Plus I always think triangles are wasteful of fabrics as opposed to more regular shapes.  (things that annoy me about triangles, no 1).

Next, I started to lay them out. I got about a quarter of the way on the playroom floor, until I was defeated by toys, glitter, Barbie hair spray, kneeling on tiny little lego pieces and lots more minor irritants.Not to mention serious lack of space in the post-Christmas full-of-my-kids-and-their-multiple-friends-all-day-long playroom.

So I neatly stacked all the rows I'd done, took it upstairs, unstacked them and laid them out (again) on my bed, and then spent a whole afternoon laying out the rest. It took a LONG time. It's not like laying out 12 or 24 blocks. Every. single. little. piece. needs to be laid out. And because I was incorporating low volume triangles in places to break up the look of it and draw the eye through, I needed to lay out all the white/low volume pieces too instead of just assuming they were all white background. (Things that annoy me about triangles no. 2: you need a huge space to lay it out because none of them are pieced. And they are fiddly to handle and work with. And, if you live in my house, there is no space where you can layout a quilt over a period of time. You have to get it done and back up off the surface as quickly as possible. Or people will have to sleep on the floor.). 

So, after laying it all out, I jumped up and down trying to get a couple of quick photos (hence the crap quality of the one above) and immediately started to stack it all back up and pin my rows together. Which left me with this:

It does look like a pretty little pile, doesn't it?  (See, I'm starting to come around now).

But then, I started piecing it. I forgot, until yesterday, how annoyingly easy it is to sew seams in the wrong direction on triangles. (Things that annoy me about triangles no 3). Firstly, I got distracted watching the Sherlock mini-episode on the iPad and matched the wrong seams the whole way through the first row:

Then, once I got piecing properly, as usual, I got mixed up on what way I should have the seams going on a number of rows so I know when I come to assembling them I will be cursing my own stupidity. (Things that annoy me about triangles no 4).

But. but..... Look how lovely those rows are looking. They're just so, well, so pretty. (Things I LOVE about triangles, no 1-100) I can't wait to get assembling.

So, there you go. I'm really hoping I might get the final 3 rows pieced tomorrow morning and then get the quilt top assembled by Sunday evening. I do hope it's going to look nice, even though you lay it all out, you never can tell until its all pieced.

Oh - and I promise not to moan about triangles any more ;-)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014.....the year of the stash (busting)

I'm feeling pretty excited about the new year. Usually I find January a bit miserable and dreary - all that depriving myself of food on yet another diet, and the dark mornings and evenings. But this year is different. My baby girl turns 1 next week and the amount of joy she has brought to our house is immeasurable. Maybe that's why I'm so hopeful and full of energy. I've had a year (mostly) at home and have been doing quite a bit of thinking. I've done quite a lot of sewing, but really, not a whole pile of blogging. And the one thing that has really, really suffered is my blog reading - and I feel I've slipped away from loads of my quilting friends, slowly but surely, in the past 18 months. I'm pretty sure that's because I'm not in touch with what you are all doing. And I feel my blog has been lacking in energy in that time too. But (if you're still reading!) I miss you guys! I promise I'll try to do better. I really feel the lack of blog reading in my quilty inspiration, as well as the chat and banter. I don't know what's going on out there! And I've realised that being part of the online quilting comunity is such a huge source of inspiration to me - seeing what other people are working on, getting caught up in quiltalongs etc - its such an essential part of my sewing energy.

So - here's what I want to do this year.

1. Be more energetic. In everything, home, work, family, hobbies. Push myself, but not in a bad way. And develop good eating and exercise habits now that Christmas excess is behind us. I was doing really well with this in the Autumn, before I ran into health issues, so I hope I can pick up where I left off.

2. Blog my progress. I realise I've slipped into blogging mainly finishes, with very few progress posts. Maybe that's why the blog is lacking energy. Is a parade of finishes a bit boring? (I think so!) Progress posts are my favourites, in lots of ways - I love getting opinions as the project unfolds, getting advice, posting the realities of the problems I'm encountering. Need to try harder here.

3. Sew more new projects rather than making the same pattern a couple of times. I did too much of this last year, but mainly by request. This year, I want to challenge myself technically, try something different.

4. Sew more small projects. (Especially a new set of cushion covers for our living room, considering all the current ones on the sofa are beyond hideous at this stage.) Small projects always keep me fresh, keep me interested. And they're great for trying something new technically (see point 3).

5. Sew projects from the books/patterns I bought in the last few years instead of buying more new patterns.

6. Really, really, REALLY work on my FMQ skills. Try new designs. I bought Angela Walters book last year, now I need to use it. I'm tired of doing the same FMQ stipple over and over again. Stop worrying about ruining good projects and go for it. And I need to figure out my machine's issues or get it serviced so I can straight line/cross hatch quilt again.

7. Write some more patterns and tutorials. Yes, they are a lot of work, but they are fun and challenging and so so worth it.

8. Lastly, use up my (gigantic) stash.That's it there. Except, today, it is even bigger and much less tidy. Stop buying fabric just because it's pretty and I "need to have it". Stop buying fabric full stop, except where I need background fabrics, or backing etc. And use my scrap bin. Empty it, preferrably. But even if I don't empty it, make a sizeable dent in it. This was my scrap bin last July. It's grown again since then.

 My name is Sarah and I have a fabric problem  just turned my scrap bin out on the floor to look for something and realised how huge it is (the fabric and the problem!)

Is anyone interested in doing this with me? How about a project a month from your scrap bins? Put those scraps to work. Would you join me, we could do it together. I could put a linky up on the last day of the month for people to post their projects. They can be big or small - whatever you want. Let me know if you're interested!