The Pfaff QE 4.2 – Two Years On

When I look at my site stats, one thing always grabs my attention – the number of views of my post “Heaven or Hell? Thoughts on the Pfaff QE 4.2“.  It is by far and away the most “popular” post on my blog!  Even when I’m being lazy and not generating much new content, it’s the post that seems to attract clicks.  I’m going to guess that it’s because many, like me, found their shiny, expensive, new sewing machine to be a bit of a challenge to get used to.  Well, it does get better, I promise!

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It is a finicky machine, to be sure, but I’ll repeat here that choosing a quality needle (Schmetz seems to have become my weapon of choice, even if I do have to order them online) and good thread (I love YLI’s range of variegated quilting cottons because of the vibrant colours and I’ve also used and enjoyed Aurifil and Superior products) and making sure the needle is right for both the thread and the fabric is very important.  I stopped trying to use universal-type needles for anything a long time ago – in my experience, they just never give a nice result.  Usually I use a 70/10 microtex needle with YLI’s Soft Touch in Natural for piecing – this combination gives me nice, accurate seams and the light beige colour blends well with most other colours.

For quilting or embellishment, anything goes!  I switch to a heavier needle (usually a 90/14 quilting needle) to use with thicker quilting cottons or a metallic needle to quilt with metallic thread.  I’m not OCD about changing needles every 8 hours, but I do change them regularly and especially before and after really big projects.

Regular servicing is also a must for any sewing machine.  My Pfaff is now due for its second service, I just need to be able to steal the car for the (now rather longer and more tedious!) drive to Carmarthen to the shop I bought it from.  When I take it in I’ll be asking about the needle threader, which vexingly is no longer lining up with the needle eye.  It’s a small thing, and a feature I never thought much of before I had one, but I really miss it now!  At least I can thread my own needles if I have to.

Between services, I do my best to keep the bobbin area reasonably free of fluff.  While I was making mum’s wall hanging, I found that the Solvy shredded little bits all over the place during sewing (as a film, it is noticeably more brittle than most fabrics), so I made sure I cleaned them out of my machine frequently – I’m not sure what it’d do if it dissolved inside the Pfaff, but I am very sure I don’t want to find out!  At the same time, I managed to track down and evict an entire herd of dust bunnies that had wedged themselves into difficult niches and grown to monster size.  I had to use tweezers to grab them and hoick them out of their nests, just poking them with the little brush really wasn’t doing it.

Speaking of tweezers, recently I found myself performing a little “minor” surgery on my machine and it’s something worth checking.

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I was in the process of making this little HST quilt top for Project Linus – a super-speedy, fun little thing – except that it wasn’t speedy at all because I found that my needle was refusing to stay in the needle-holding assembly, no matter how many times I tried to re-seat it and tighten the screw.  It was deeply annoying.  While fiddling about with it and cursing, I noticed the small screw at the back of the needle holder and observed that the whole assembly was very loose and rattly.  It’s also part of the thread path (that silvery hook affair at the base), so it’s an important little bit of kit and it occurred to me that it really shouldn’t be as wobbly as it was.

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Without really thinking about it, I undid the screw and the whole needle holder fell apart into a bewilderment of very tiny bits of metal.  Whoops!  Luckily, I didn’t lose any of it into the guts of the bobbin area, and after careful examination of the little bits and application of the afore-mentioned tweezers and a set of very small socket screwdrivers (I have a Thing about socket screwdrivers), I managed to reassemble it again and make sure that the rear screw holding it all together was tightened properly.  To my vast relief, it would hold a needle again – PHEW!  And in fact, the Pfaff is now sewing noticeably better since my impromptu tinkering.  I definitely wouldn’t recommend randomly disassembling bits of your sewing machine without very good reason, but I would say that it’s worth checking that the needle-holder assembly isn’t really loose if your stitches are not looking as good as they might, given that it affects both the stability of your needle and the security of the thread path.  If it’s hard to get at the screw, try moving the needle as far as possible to the right, so that the shaft is not right in line with the IDT system.

Pfaffing with Feet!

My collection of feet for the Pfaff keeps growing – it’s like a mechanical centipede!

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I got these five (L-R: piping foot, couching foot, beading foot, cording foot and braid foot) as a set in a very good deal when I was wrestling with the piping on the Shimmering Weekender for my sister.  It was better than no piping foot, but I wasn’t convinced that it was up to the task of wrangling the sheer mass of fabric I was trying to feed through the machine.  (you have to disable the IDT system to use it, unfortunately)  So far, the only other foot I’ve used from this set has been the couching foot, and I’m keen to find an excuse to try the other three this year!  I already have some beaded trim – I need to find an unsuspecting project to put it on.

Given that I want to make a Weekender for myself at some point, I paid a visit to the Pfaff stand at the Festival of Quilts and asked for their advice after my difficulties with assembling my sister’s version.  They recommended the grand piping foot as a better alternative to the little plastic standard piping foot.

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As you can see, it’s a much heftier beast, and can be used with the IDT system.  Making myself a Weekender is something I really want to do this year – I will report my findings with this foot when I do!

The last foot I bought for my Pfaff last year is the 6D spring foot for machine embroidery and free-motion quilting:

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I have four variations on the theme of FMQ feet for the Pfaff, but this one has easily become my favourite.  I held off from buying one for a while because I wanted to be absolutely sure that it would work with the Quilt Expression 4.2, but the ladies on the Pfaff stand assured me that it would, and it’s a purchase I have not regretted.

So, that’s a bit of an update and a “where I’m at” with my brilliant, tricky sewing machine.  After the weekend, I’ll be sharing an overview of my UFO pile and what they need to become finished.  🙂

A Birthday Bunch of Flowers

And here it is!  The official First Project of 2017!  I made this for mum’s birthday at the beginning of January – a shot of spring in the middle of winter.

We already have a lot of cushions, so I decided to make a wall hanging this time, with a flower motif and a blue background.  After rootling through my scrap bin and pulling colours I liked, I decided to do tulips and daffodils.

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To make the background and the appliqued flower petals, I randomly pieced fabric together.  The blue background was trimmed to 15″ square and I cut petal shapes from the red and yellow scrap fabrics.

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I used my couching foot, matching thread and a specialty embroidery floss (metallic red or yellow rayon) to attach the petals to the blue background, which I had already sandwiched with wadding and a pretty butterfly print as the backing:

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The stems were also machine-couched, using a pretty variegated green thread and some left-over yarn from my crochet scarf – the colour variation is subtle but pretty.  🙂  The quilt was partially quilted when I appliqued the petals and stems, but after some pondering I decided that it needed more!  Using the same green thread that I’d used to couch the stems, I used FMQ to doodle leafy planty shapes along the bottom of the quilt, kind of like thready zen doodles:

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I’m not very good at feather shapes!  But otherwise, these turned out nicely and emboldened me for quilting the “sky”, which I did with light-blue variegated thread and loose swirls and echos around the flowers.  I decided not to worry about quilting over the stems and it’s not very obvious where I did.

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As is often the case, the quilting is much more obvious from the back:

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I’m glad I did it, it makes the piece look much more finished and I like the movement of the sky quilting.  Before I attached any embellishments, I trimmed the quilt, added corner pockets at the top to hold a dowel, and bound the quilt with a nice dark red print.

Obviously, by now you can see that something is missing – my flowers don’t have enough petals yet!  Here’s where my secret weapon comes in – soluble stabiliser, aka Solvy.  It’s something I have been fascinated by for a long time and I happened to buy a 10m roll of it a few months ago so that I could play with it.  This seemed like a good time to try it out and make my flowers a bit more 3D.

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I took scraps and snippets of specialty embroidery floss and little bits of ribbon and sandwiched them between two sheets of Solvy in an old plastic embroidery hoop (luckily, it just fitted under the Pfaff’s foot if I raised it to max height).

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Then I used FMQ to “draw” my petals and fill them in with stitching so that they would hold together and form useful structures.

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Initially I did little overlapping circles on the daffodil petals and trumpets, but when I got to the tulip petals I’d gained more confidence in my technique so I tried a more needle-painted look to resemble the markings on real tulip petals – I’m quite pleased with the effect!

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It is still possible to see the shimmer of the metallic or rayon threads in the petals after they have been cut out and soaked to dissolve the Solvy.  One problem I found was that this method is not a very efficient use of the Solvy – the size of the hoop put limits on how large I could make the petals without the sides of the hoop interfering with the mechanism of the sewing machine, so I used a different technique subsequently.

The final embellishment to make, following the theme of the backing fabric, was a butterfly.  This time, I used a scrap of blue-green organza as the bottom layer of my Solvy sarnie and filled it with snips of blue, green and silver metallic embroidery floss.  Then I stitched over the whole area of the embroidery hoop with overlapped circles and doodles with iridescent white metallic thread in the needle and variegated gold metallic thread in the bobbin (I kept the bobbin thread the same for all of the butterfly stitching – like many real butterflies, mine has a comparatively plain outer wing).  This was a much more efficient use of the Solvy – once the hoop was filled, I removed it from my sandwich and used a butterfly outline I found online to mark out the shape of two fore wings and two hind wings, all of which fitted nicely on my sewn area.  Using variegated dark blue quilting thread, I couched metallic blue embroidery floss around my wing shapes to give them a clean edge and also used the same thread and FMQ to stitch veins across the wings.

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Finally I added sequins and beads to amp the glam level up to 11, fashioned a little body from two glass beads and a silver headpin, and attached everything to the quilt by hand.  The daffodil trumpets were by far the most annoying part to attach – thank goodness I only needed to do four of them!

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It was a few days’ effort, and I am so pleased with how it came out given how experimental some of it was.  Importantly, mum seems to like it too.  The other reason that I am proud of it is that, other than one new embroidery floss skein (the yellow rayon), all the materials in this quilt came from my stash or my scraps bin.  2017 – the year of the scrap quilt?  Bring it!  ;D

Linking up with Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday, Free Motion Mavericks and Oh Scrap – all links in my sidebar.  🙂

A Bit of Bloggy Housekeeping and 2017 Goals

I’m terrible at resolutions, but with the arrival of 2017 I thought I ought to tidy up a bit around here.  I’ve sorted out and categorised my collection of blog links (for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s) and weeded out the ones that go nowhere (or that appear to be dead) and I’ve archived old and expired link-up buttons into their own page.  I may also try a different WordPress template at some point; this one is ok, but I’m not in love with it.

Goals for 2017

As mentioned, I don’t really do resolutions, but I think I might try goals.  A fixed target is easier to aim at than some nebulous promise to “do better this time, honest”.

So, one crafty goal this year is to publish a blog post at least once a month.  I was doing reasonably well last year, then it all went to pot during the second half.  The discipline of writing up each project as I work on or complete it is good for me and it’s nice to get external opinions where possible.  C’mon, serve me up some Truth Tea!  😉

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Another goal is to use my scrap bin to make at least six “scrap” projects.  I already have one completed to share soon, I’ll be following Molli Sparkles’ Honey Pot Bee and I just signed up for a mini quilt swap on Craftster, so hooray for that!  As a corollary to this, my stash bin really needs sorting – right now, if I want to find a particular colour or print the whole lot gets up-ended on the floor.  This is Nawt Ideal for a number of reasons.

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Goal three will be to finish at least three major (throw-sized or larger) WIP projects from previous years.  I’ll do a run-down of my fleet of UFOs soon, and I dearly want/need to cross some of them off my list.

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Goal four will be to develop at least two projects to a publishable form (e.g., magazine submission, a Craftsy project, a free pdf tutorial, whatever).  This is a pretty big goal and a new challenge for me, which is why I’ve set the bar fairly low.  But I’d like to share my patterns more widely and, if possible, get my hobby to pay for itself a little!  Hopefully having publishing as my main source of employment will help, but we’ll see!  😉

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I also want to consider stash management this year.  Last year I saw a lot of stash manifestos posted, although I didn’t join in the trend myself at the time.  However, I now have a fairly mature stash that I would be better off using rather than endlessly buying more fabric just because.  Even if it is sparkly/delicious/my favourite colour/etc.  But there need to be rules and I haven’t written them yet.  They’ll be Coming Soon(TM)!

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A side-effect of stash management will be stash organisation.  As well as tackling the scrap bin, I need to sift through my current collection of untouched yardage to see what I’ve got.  Then when I want to use something I’ll actually be able to lay hands on it!

I’m sure I will think of more goals as the year goes on, but these are some of the key ones that I really want to tackle.  Wish me luck and lots of sewing time!  😉

A (Belated) Look Back At 2016

Well.  That was an… interesting year.  I would prefer not to have another one like it any time soon, please.  But on the crafting front, I think it went better than expected for me.  I completed a big commission, did some experimenting, built a city out of fabric, and sent some hexagons ’round the twist (and some others around the world!).

I sewed for charity and for others, and even snuck in a project or two for myself.  I successfully participated in two sewing swaps – one for quilt blocks of my own paper-pieced design and one for EPP hexagons.

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There were some hiccups too – I still haven’t got back to my fairly terrible shot-cotton project to salvage it yet:

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It’s still quite possible that that lot will have a one-sided meeting with a seam ripper; I haven’t decided yet and I have other, more biddable projects calling for my attention.

So there was quite a diverse range of projects and techniques, really!  Bags, quilts, cushions, dressmaking, crochet, beads, machine quilting, hand quilting… I learned a lot from each of these projects and I’m looking forward to seeing what new things I learn in 2017!  I’m pretty sure it will involve dyeing – I treated myself to a Procion Dye starter kit that just arrived and I’m really looking forward to playing with it.  The main challenge with that will be creating dyed fabric that doesn’t look impossibly hippy-ish.  Nothing wrong with the hippy look, but it’s not really me.  😉  There’ll probably more embroidery too – I have a delightful box of hand-dyed House of Embroidery embroidery flosses that arrived on the 24th of December (Happy Christmas, me!) that I keep crooning lovingly over – they really are gorgeous.

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They’re a shameless indulgence, but I do have some projects in mind for them and I got them on offer thanks to Mary Corbet’s Needle n’ Thread.  There were several different options for buying smaller colour groups, but when I realised that I loved several sets too much to choose and that all the ones I liked would add up to a larger boxed set, I caved in!  There’s a really nice range of colours in this set, including loads of greens, my favourite colour.  🙂

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The on-going hexagon map project is still on-going and I have several other WIPs that I’d really like to take by the scruff and finish at last – most notably my sister’s wedding quilt (it’s basted, let’s see if I can get it done by their anniversary in June!), my long-neglected Marsala quilt (I have some great thread and ideas lined up for the quilting, just need to figure out getting the beggar basted), and my scrappy Irish Chain needs some love (and borders).  There’s a pile of other projects waiting for attention, too.  I’m sensing a not-too-distant-future post with a run-down and prognosis for all my major WIPs and goals for 2017.  I also already have a 2017 finish to share soon that was a test-bed for a technique I’ve wanted to try for some time, so I’m really looking forward to showing it off here too.  🙂

Hexagons With A Twist

In part 1 of n, I mentioned that I was getting quite into EPP.  Part of the reason for this is because I’ve had a project in mind for quite some time, but was unsure how feasible it would be.  The project would involve hexagons, but generated by a small program written by a good friend of mine, which can output .svg arrays of hexagons that range from perfectly regular to highly distorted according to the preference of the user.  To test the practicality of piecing the distorted hexagons, I selected a small sample (90 hexies) and, after some grooming of the shapes in Inkscape to avoid any concave angles, I printed out two versions – one on card to cut for templates and one on paper to use as a guide for later assembly.

To make life even more complicated, I decided that I wanted to piece my distorted hexies from recycled tie silk.  I have a large collection of silk ties that I have purchased from charity shops, washed and unpicked for use in patchwork.  They come in a marvellous array of colours, patterns and weaves!  Some are very thin, whereas others are are much more thickly woven.  To stabilise my silk and stop it behaving badly or shredding too much, I ironed my chosen colours to the lightest interfacing I could obtain locally.  I didn’t put too much thought into colour arrangement – just grabbed a hexie and a silk at random and put them together.

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The distorted hexies were a bit more fiddly than regular hexies, but my examples were quite small and I suspect the distortion factor was quite high for this sample.  If I repeated this project, I would make the hexies larger and a little less distorted.  They do look really cool, though!

Thanks to my “map” of the layout, the assembly of the finished hexies went quite smoothly:

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Once my hexies were complete and assembled, I had a band of distorted hexagons looking for a home, so I appliqued them to a square of grey Essex yarn-dyed linen that I had hunted down at the Festival of Quilts particularly for this project.  I really love this fabric, the weight and texture of it is lovely!  It does shred terribly easily, though – I used an edge-binding stitch on my square to stop it unravelling completely before I managed to finish the applique and quilting.

Once the applique was finished, I made up a quilt sandwich and hand-quilted the hexagon strip with wavy lines in blue perle silk and the linen with straight lines in grey perle cotton, then turned the finished top into a cushion:

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I really, really love how it turned out!  Originally it was intended as a birthday present for my friend who wrote the hexagon software (it seemed very apt to give him something generated from his code), but the piecing and hand-quilting took a bit longer than I expected so it ended up being a Christmas present for him instead – I managed to finish it just in time.  🙂

Despite the challenges of this piece, I really want to try it again, with some modifications, and also with more control over colour placement.  This may be a really good application for some of the beautiful Liberty prints I indulged in when I was at the Festival of Quilts!  😉

Linking up with Monday Making, Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday and Oh Scrap – all links in my sidebar.  🙂

Christmas Crafts

In part 3 of n, I’m sharing a couple of smaller things that I made for Christmas.  One was an experiment, the other was a gift for my sister.

Some time ago I’d seen a video tutorial for a honeycomb ornament made out of paper.  It looked quite straightforward and effective and I wondered whether I could make something similar in fabric.  With Christmas coming up, I decided it was worth a go!  I cut a number of circles from green fabric and lightweight wadding, then sewed pairs of fabric circles right sides together with one circle of wadding, leaving a gap for turning through.ornament_0601_4

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To reduce bulk, I carefully trimmed back the wadding and clipped the seams before I turned through and topstitched each padded disc:

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Once my discs were complete, I joined them in pairs by using my sewing machine’s couching foot and some metallic gold embroidery thread, leaving a tail at the bottom of each disc.

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Then the tricky part began!  Working out how to “stack” my discs to make a spherical shape that wasn’t too distorted was surprisingly tricky, and I pursued several unsuccessful options before I worked out how to arrange them best.  That done, I got out my seed bead collection and started stitching the disc edges together in an alternating arrangement to create the honeycomb effect:

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A ribbon for hanging and it’s complete!  Certainly an interesting challenge, and I have ideas now for how to do a somewhat easier version.  As an aside, I was really impressed by the gold embroidery thread – it put up with a lot of abuse while I was arranging the discs, but it didn’t shred and it still looks good.

The other smaller project I made was a little decorated wooden box for my sister to keep odds and ends of makeup in on her dressing table – something she’d asked for specifically.  I found a little pre-made wooden box for £1 in The Works that looked perfect for the job, plus it had little windows for pictures or photos – just right for a little photo of my niece to really personalise it.  🙂  When I got the box home, I used it as a template to cut card shapes of each side, then painted the inside of the box with black acrylic paint and varnished it.  While it was drying, I dug out some nice scraps of furnishing fabric I’d picked up recently and some lightweight wadding and covered the card shapes:

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I really like this fabric, there was just enough to cover the box and it’s the kind of thing my sister likes, too.  🙂  To attach the wadding and fabric to the card, I used glue dots – it’s the first time I’ve used them and I was very impressed, they stick really well!

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To zhuzh the panels up more, I again dug out my bead and sequin stash and decorated the edge of the hearts and sprinkled beads and sequins across the surfaces before hot-gluing the panels to the sides of the varnished wooden box:

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Couched gold braid finished off the edges and some black felt covered the bottom to give a nice finish.  Other than the wooden box, everything I used came from stash.  I’m choosing to see that as a good thing!  😀  My niece is really taken with it too (although I suspect that’s something to do with a 2yo’s self-admiration of a picture of herself!), so apparently I need to make something similar for her!  I might make myself one too, to have in my sewing room for pencils and pens (and my hera marker, if I ever figure out where it disappeared to).

Toddler Teepee

Welcome to part 2 of n!  In September last year my niece turned two, and my sister suggested that she’d really like a toddler tent or teepee to play in.  After doing a bit of research and establishing that my sister was quite sure that Nia really wanted a tent and that she was aware of how much space a toddler teepee would take up, I set to work.

After looking at a few examples online, I got some 60″ wide heavy calico and cut out an initial triangle for one side, then used it as a template to cut out the other sides – three full sides and one door side in total.  Once I had my basic pieces, I started the decoration phase, which proved to be the most time-consuming part.  I’d picked up some really lovely Tula Pink prints in the local fabric shop and used the fox one as a feature above the door:

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The fluffy ric-rack braid was a chance find when I stopped in Hereford to visit Doughty’s – I bought all they had left on the reel with this project in mind and it proved a perfect choice.

Sian had also mentioned that a window would be good, and I was quite taken with the notion.  I’d tracked down some clear PVC for a different project and still had plenty left over, so I cut out a circle and MacGyver’ed a porthole window on the side that was intended to be opposite the door:

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It ended up being a little wrinkled, but overall I was really pleased with it.  Next time, I’d use some stitch’n’tear stabliser to hold the circle in shape while inserting the PVC.  Also, fuzzy chenille ric-rack!  Covers a multitude of sins.  😉

The door was made with more of the foxy print:

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Bit of a miracle that the foxes lined up, that was completely by chance.  🙂  I couldn’t resist adding some mini “bunting” triangles in various teal prints, although I’d hesitate to make any that small again!  They were quite fiddly, but quite effective when complete.  On the other three sides, I used a floral Tula Pink print and some orange fabric to create “flower pots” with orange triangles and green ric-rack for the stems.

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A couple of tie-backs made with coordinating stripy fabric and some velcro and I could call it done:

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I do love a satisfied customer!  🙂

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….August?!

My last post was in August?!?!  Good grief.  Not good.  Not good at all.  Not that I have been slothful for the last four months, far from it, but I’ve been slothful about posting about my crafty activities.  My bad.  🙁  I’m going to do few catch-up posts to share what I’ve been up to craft-wise while I’ve been failing to blog, so this is part 1 of n, in which n is likely to be 4 or 5, given that some of my projects really do deserve posts of their own.  😉

To make a start, I’m still working on my hexagons project – as well as all the pretty hexies I received, I’m in the process of making a bunch of my own, it’s a great activity for unwinding in front of the TV of an evening.  Here are some of the hexies I received from my swap partners, plus bonus fabric in many cases:

Cute, no?  Once I’d churned through the bonus fabric (some people, bless them, also sent bonus templates!), I cut a whole mess of squares from my own stash to “use up” the spare templates I had printed and cut out.  I’ve got over 300 hexies finished now, and the number’s set to grow before I’m “done”.  🙂  I have a sneaking suspicion that I could end up with a squares/templates arms race if I’m not careful.  😛  But it’s safe to say that I’ve really been bitten by the EPP bug now, as I’ll demonstrate soon with a project I am really proud of.  😉

However, the big news for the summer in craft terms was the completion of my second commission project, Blue Diamonds.

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It was great to see it finished and in its new home.  🙂  I finished it while sitting on dogs in Dorset (all those points means a lot of hand sewing of binding), then delivered it in person en route back to Wales (with a side trip to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, one day is never quite enough for that show!).

The lady I made the quilt for does a lot of crafting herself and kindly gave me some bits of blue-and-white fabric for my stash that were already cut into (rather approximate) squares.  In the theme of “pass it on”, I decided to use the fabric she gave me, plus a little from my own stash, to make up a little quilt top to donate to a friend who works for Project Linus:

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In a brief departure from quilting, I was seduced by a beautiful, untouched skein of a merino/silk blend yarn that I saw in a local charity shop for the comparatively bargain price of £3 (I looked up the yarn later online – it’s usually about three times that!).  The colour scheme was blues and greens and the yarn itself felt lovely and luxurious.  I do like yarn, but as a non-knitter I don’t often buy it because the nice stuff is usually expensive for an amateur like me to mangle.  Most of my previous efforts with yarn have ended in tears and swearing.  However, one skein seemed not too intimidating and I can use a crochet hook a bit, so I took it home with me and googled free crochet scarf patterns.  Happily, I quickly stumbled across a pattern for yarn that broadly resembled mine in appearance and weight and was also pretty straightforward for a novice hooker, the broomstick lace infinity scarf.  Bonus points for being an infinity scarf (a big barrier for me wearing scarves is dealing with the ends) and for pretty much only needing one stitch.  I tracked down a suitable crochet hook, pressed a short length of wooden dowel into service as my “broomstick” and set to!

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A few evenings of patient hooking (and one of untangling the horrid mess I made because I forgot to ball the yarn before I started!), and I had myself a lovely new scarf for the winter.  I love it a lot, it’s really nice to wear.  I made my scarf a bit longer because my yarn seemed to be slightly finer than that used in the tutorial, and I think I should also have made it a little wider, too.  There’s still not quite half the skein left, so I am debating whether I can figure out how to attach it to make the scarf a few units wider.

So here’s a start, I’m off to hunt down supper and write up some more project posts to share.  🙂  Expect part 2 of n soon!

Meet My New Addiction

It’s official, I really like EPP!  Well, the initial “cover shapes in fabric” part, anyway – I haven’t quite got to the “join shapes together” part yet, but I can’t see why I won’t enjoy that bit too.  🙂

I’ve discovered how fun EPP is thanks to the craft swap I mentioned recently.  Having decided to sign up, I also decided that I would try and sew up as many hexagons as I could for my partners (with the exception of the one person who only wanted squares)… mission accomplished!  I took my little IKEA bags full of templates and fabric squares away with me while I dog-sat for my cousin, and managed to churn pleasingly briskly through all of them while I was away.

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Here they are all ready to sew!

And here they are all sewn up and ready to be put in the post:

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This person requested squares only, so I sent hers out before I went away.  Unfortunately, Royal Fail in their infinite wisdom decided to put her parcel through the office woodchipper and delivered a mangled, empty envelope, so I had to re-do hers when I got home (the picture above is of the replacements).

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Much annoy.  Very sulk.  😐  “Sincere apologies” my bum.  To make up for it, I did extra squares for her and while I was at it, I did extras for everyone else, too – after all, I already had the rotary cutter out and the scrap bin upended all over the floor!

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At 2″ on a side, these were the largest hexies requested (all the others are 1″ a side, and I requested 3/4″ ones).  This partner asked for a wide variety of fabrics to build up her collection.  This was by far the most fabric-consuming parcel, so in this case I decided to just add in the snippet of VW camper fabric – it’s cute and I think she might like it.

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Some people asked for multiples of 2 or more – this person wanted a good variety of prints as well.  I really hope she enjoys the red/gold square print, it’s one of my favourites!

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Guess what this person’s favourite colour is!  😀  I think she and I might be colour-twins, I love blue too and it was hard to pick out just a few blues for her!

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Yellows, purples, reds and aquas, as requested.  🙂

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Another person who requested a mixture of prints (her only criteria was “no pink!”) – there’s a few duplicates there but not many.

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Lastly, this person requested greys, aqua, cute critters and mushrooms – I thought I was going to fail on the last two but then I discovered I had that purple unicorn print, which featured both – yay!  The paper cranes were a great find while I was away and I think they count for both grey *and* cute critters.

Being new to EPP, it took me a little while to settle into a method I found most comfortable, effective and quick.  Because I cut my templates from card, I didn’t fancy trying to pin or stitch through that, so I opted for using paper clips to hold the fabric around the shape as I sewed:

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As I stitched each side, I moved the paperclips round the shape – this probably wasn’t strictly necessary except on the fussy-cut prints, but it did stop me losing paperclips down the side of the sofa!  I also learned that the ends of paperclips are quite sharp and will catch very easily in fabric and thread, so I couldn’t push them all the way onto the hexagon – this meant that they had a vexing habit of pinging off without warning unless I was fairly careful, but I still preferred this method overall.  It’s been great practice and I’ve really enjoyed learning how to do it, I’ll be trying some more challenging shapes soon too.

I’m still receiving hexagons from the other swap partners (three parcels have arrived so far), when I have them all then I’ll show them off in their own dedicated post and explain what I want to do with them all.  🙂

A Commission: Blue Diamonds

When I heard my cousin was getting married, I offered to make the happy couple a quilt as a wedding present, but they decided that it wasn’t something they were really looking for and declined the offer.  I’m completely fine with this – I would have welcomed the challenge of creating something to fit their minimalist, modern style but a quilt is such a big investment of materials and effort that I don’t really want to make one for someone who isn’t all that into the concept – certainly not a big bed-sized one!  However, my aunt happened to mention my offer to her mum, who announced that she would rather like to commission a quilt, please and thank you!

After a phone chat with her, I had a firm grasp of her desired colour scheme (royal blue, emerald green, aqua) and her general inspiration (a checked silk in that colour scheme from Malaysia), so I went away and doodled up a few possible options for layouts and took a whole mess of fabric photos so that she could have a look at what was available to me locally and pick out the ones that appealed to her.

She selected the diamonds as her preferred layout and several fabrics from Artisan Spirit’s Shimmer range, which I was super-happy about because I adore those prints!  A bunch of maths and a surprisingly lengthy amount of humming and hawing in the local quilt shop later, and I was all set to start making the quilt top.  Because the palette ended up being fairly constrained, I decided to make the design more regular rather than random:

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The colours are terribly approximate (that’s what you get when you don’t use EQ and you don’t have the time to import swatches into Inkscape), but you get the idea!  It took me a little while to gather the confidence to start cutting (I’m always more nervous about that when it’s on someone else’s tab), but thankfully my maths was on point and the construction went really swiftly once I got my teeth into it – it’s a repeated shape, after all.

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Thankfully, it was possible to do some strip- and chain-piecing, which made life a lot easier.  Because of the way I handled the sashing, I ended up needing to do partial seams on two sides, but some careful thought and measuring made it a pretty painless experience.  In fact, I found the hardest part to be assembling strips on a diagonal – it was difficult to keep track of where I was, especially when I was working from an image on my laptop screen!  Eventually, I did the sensible thing and printed out a layout that I could scribble on with impunity, and that made life a lot easier.

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It grew quickly!  To pin it, I took it to the village hall and sneakily borrowed an unused kitchen floor while the Wednesday Toddler group was using the main hall – I really am going to have to make something nice for the lady that runs that group, I’d never be able to pin really big quilts without her help!

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Like a numpty, I forgot to take my camera along when I did the pinning, so I didn’t get a pic of the whole thing when it was all spread out nicely – only a pic of half or it, which is all that would fit on my craft room floor!  While I was piecing, I cut whole diamonds for the set-in edges, and when the whole quilt was done I realised that I really liked the look of the points along the sides so I decided to keep them!  Initially I considered rounding them off to make scallop shapes, but was then persuaded that the diamond points were more in keeping with the rest of the quilt, so they stayed untouched.

I kept the initial quilting very simple, just running in the ditches along the sashing, with the idea that this would stabilise the layers nicely and allow more complex quilting if desired.  Once this “core quilting” was done, I decided to do a little extra straight-line quilting on the set-in triangles and diamonds around the edges to secure them where I wanted them to stay, then attached the binding.  I knew that I would be seeing my aunt’s mum at the wedding and decided to take the quilt along so that she could see it and tell me whether she wanted any more done to it.  To my delight, she was thrilled with it and didn’t feel that it needed any more quilting.  (Not that I would have minded the FMQ practice!)  I’ve since been busy burying all the thread ends (I think I’ve found them all now – I did my best to keep them in predictable places) and hand-finishing the binding, which is almost half-way done now.  I love the look of hand-finished binding, to my eyes it really completes a quilt (also, I kind of suck at machine binding, lol!).

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Thank goodness my other cousin and my brother-in-law are very tall chaps!  😀  The lady on the left is the recipient; I brought the quilt with me on dog-sitting duty so that I can finish off the binding and add a label, then I’ll deliver it to her on my way back to Wales.  🙂

I also really want to revisit some of the also-ran layouts I came up with, especially the one with the curves and the modified log cabins.  Possibly in different colourways, though!  😉