Thursday, 28 September 2006

Busy, busy, busy

I seem to have been running around like a mad thing this last few days. The doggy quilt is coming on really well, I'm getting quite fond of it after all. Unfortunately I ran out of Steam a Seam and drove all the way down to Hansons only to find they didn't have any. I did query why and was told that they had to move things around due to new Health and Safety regulations and at the same time were 'rationalising' what they stocked. Apparently card making and scrapbooking stuff is very profitable at the moment and they needed to make room for displays of the wierd odds and ends that it uses. I'm sure it's great fun, my friend Ally is totally obsessed by it but it really peeves me when a fabric shop is stopping selling useful stuff for working with fabric in order to cater for the scrappy market which is already very well provided for in every craft shop.

Ah well, whinge over!!! I'm now going to have to order it off the internet and I'm wary of doing that because we were 'got' last month. Someone bought huge amounts of stuff in North America and Canada using our card. Thankfully the bank spotted it and immediately dealt with it but it does put you off on-line shopping.

I've spent most of the day trying to draw snakes. I want to make a play quilt for my nephew and neice for Christmas and I thought a Snakes and Ladders board would look pretty cool. So far I think it's going to work out well. My snakes are a bit odd but I'm sure a 2 and 5 year old aren't going to worry too much as long as they are brightly coloured.

It's now 9.30 and I get the joy of driving 3 hours to pick my husband up from the other side of London. His job is finishing too late for the last train and so I got 'volunteered' to come and get him. Yuck, back home sometime after 3 in the morning and up at 7 to get the kids to school. I think tomorrow will be a hibernating day after that.

Monday, 25 September 2006


Spent ages typing all about my day and the 'puter crashed and burned on upload and lost the lot. Grrrrr!!!

Long story short because I've got to be out of the house in 5 minutes... spent ages trying different ways of sewing round the edge. Finally, after lots of ripping, I settled on a nice blanket stitch for button holes or something.

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Freezer paper fun

I had a great day doing the applique on the doggy quilt. I invested in some freezer paper and Steam a Seam 2 and threw myself into it. It was so much fun. I was amazed, I've never really explored applique before except for machining some big hearts and flowers on to Emily's cot quilt and was quite nervous to begin with but very quickly I got totally engrossed and the time just flew by. I can see me doing more of this type of work in future.

I've now got to sew around the edges, I may change my mind about liking this technique by the time I've finished that. My machine sewing is definitely not the most accurate ever. Oh well, practice makes perfect and all that. I can now sew pretty much in a straight line which I couldn't when I started quilting.

Friday, 22 September 2006


The weather was awful today so I abandoned plans to take the dogs down to the beach and pottered at home instead. We ventured out at lunchtime because the sun came out but we'd only been walking for 5 minutes when it started pouring again and I got soaked.

I finished cutting the patches for the doggy quilt and I went through my scrap bag and cut up lots of strips and little squares. My hand is really aching now, it's been a long time since I did that much cutting in one go.

The squares are now sewn and I need to start thinking about the applique. It's not something I'm very comfortable with, I've only tried it once, so I'm stalling and plucking up courage.

Thursday, 21 September 2006


The dogs were posing so prettily that I couldn't resist taking pictures of them. From left to right Bracken, Teazle and Sophie. They are actually begging for peanut butter.

9 patches

Blogger seems to be cooperating today. This is a very small selection of the 9 patches. I can't find a way of keeping them all together and getting far enough away to take the picture.

I've since managed to get them all pressed, without burning myself this time which is a plus and they are all laid out on the bed. I keep moving them around trying to find the best combination but so far I'm not finding one I'm happy with. I suppose I shouldn't be worrying so much over a pile of buckshee squares.

I've been finding it hard to settle today. I had to go up to the school to see the Doctor about Y which I was a bit stressed about. I shouldn't have worried so much, she was someone we've seen before and was very helpful and reassuring. Yet again we went through all the tests for Aspergers Syndrome but she actually seemed to be listening and taking notes. The meeting lasted over 1 1/2 hours, which was amazing, and after spending time with him she seems to be agreeing that he isn't autistic. The doctor with her seemed to think that because his ADHD is so extreme it is making learning social skills very difficult. They still don't seem to have any idea how to help him but at least they're not just assuming autism the way the school have. Y was quite smiley and made eye contact with both doctors and once he'd stopped being shy, was quite animated and funny which helped show them the 'real' him. I'm quite hopeful about it all.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Back to the grind

Having taken nearly a week to recover from an extremely nasty bout of tonsilitis and the last couple of days computerless while my husband transfered everything onto the new laptop, I'm now up and running.

The camera seems to be fine as well. I took it out this morning and gave it a trial run. My photography skill are virtully nil but a couple came out quite nicely. This one of Teazle made me laugh.

I tried to take some pictures of the layout of the 9 patch blocks because I still can't decide how to arrange them. It's proving very difficult to get an overview of all of them. What I really need is a design wall but there isn't anyway where here with that kind of space. The picture is refusing to upload. I'll try again later.

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

More woes and a trip out

Following on from taking a tumble in the bathroom I managed to give myself a couple of very nasty burns with the squasher, otherwise known as an Elna press. First I touched the top of my hand against the plate when rearranging material and then turned around and pressed my elbow up against it. Despite running them for hours under cold water I still got some nice big blisters to show everyone. Unfortunately I've mananged to knock my elbow against everything and now instead of a nice neat blister I've got a huge supparating grossness. No fun at all.

To cheer me up MIL begged and pleaded with me to drive her to Sturminster Newton so she could have a wander round Hansons Fabric. Obviously I would have rather carried on sorting the huge pile of paperwork that hubby needs for his taxes but I was selfless and agreed to take her. I was actually very restrained and only bought things for immediate projects. A metre of fabric printed with very nice looking cabbages which will combine with a ton of fruit and veg themed squares to make something for my Dad and 3 quarters of black on white for a cute dog pattern that my friend bought for me in America. I don't 'DO' patterns or cute but it is very sweet. My boys are queueing up wanting it so I'm sure it will find a good home.

Sunday, 10 September 2006

Annoying accidents

I managed to slip getting out of the shower and sprained my back and ankle and cut my head hitting the radiator so I've been moping a bit. I've mostly been watching TV lying on the couch and feeling sorry for myself but I also finished the binding on Y's string quilt so I've not entirely been unproductive.

Sitting doesn't hurt as much as it did and I think i'll be up and around by tomorrow.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

I'm going to Disneyland

Yay, the Disneyland holiday is booked. In typical holiday firm style we phoned and provisionally booked the dates and were given a price. Sent off the Tesco Clubcard points for that amount. Got the holiday vouchers back and phoned to confirm the booking only to be told that the price had gone up by over £100 - new surcharges for Eurostar apparently. Refused to book at that price and went away to talk about it. Decided that we'd go ahead anyway, phoned back and got a different person who accepted our booking for the original price. Arrrrggggg!!!!! How do they get away with this kind of thing, and this is an apparently reputable firm.

I've about half finished the binding on the string quilt which Y has decided he wants to have. I suspected as much when I went into the front room tonight and found him tucked up in it watching TV. Mitered corners are looking neat and professional. By Jove I think she's got it!

I also finished piecing some 9 patches from a stack of pre-cut fossil fern squares that someone gave me. I need to lay them out now and decide on the layout. I might even have pictures by tomorrow. Phill has been fiddling with the camera and it seems to be working.


Finally managed to escape from the clutches of the internet and got some things done. I forced myself to do a bowl of washing up and cleaned out the fish tank before getting on with some sewing.

I tried a different way of pinning the various layers to the leaders which seemed easier but then I re-read all the instructions and yes, I had put it all on the wrong poles again. Took it all off and re-pinned it all. Something still seemed wrong, realised I'd now wound everything onto the poles the wrong way. Undid them and wound them to right way. Yay ready to start. Doodled all over the practice strip and everything looked great, moved over to the real quilt and off I went, doing kind of a wandering meander with little loops. After a little while the machine didn't feel quite right, sort of catching on something. Stopped and looked, I forgotten to put the presser foot down. Lots and lots of birds nest to rip out. You've got to laugh!

After that it seemed to go much better, I only forgot the presser foot twice more :( I think I need a big sign or something.

The string quilt is now squiggled all over in an amazingly short time. I can definitely see a difference in the first half compared to the second half and right towards the end I seemed to be getting into a rhythm with it. I do keep quilting myself into corners though, I need to be more aware of the limitations of my available space.

I whacked the border on straight away, if I don't do it immediatly then I get distracted by other things and it never happens. I'm having a go at mitred corners this time. I'd alway thought they were really difficult but MIL got me a copy of Machine Quilting Made Easy by Maurine Noble and as I was looking through it the section on bindings caught my eye. Certainly it wasn't at all as hard as I'd always assumed, silly me. I just need to get on and hand sew down the back.

We didn't get to finish E's quilt last night. Even though it was the first day back at school he had a ton of homework poor kid.

So far today I've walked the dogs... and that's it!!!!! Oh, and taken delivery of a huge pile of fresh veg from my Dad's allottment. Not exactly constructive. In my defence my husband has just got back from Germany and we've been chatting and planning the Disneyland Paris holiday.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Owls, otters and deers - oh my!

We had the most wonderful day at the Otter and Owl Centre. The rain held off and all the animals were very active. I think the only things we didn't see were the hedgehogs and the weasel. The asian otters ran around like mad things, wrestling and squeaking all the time. The boys were completely enchanted by everything but the polecats and field mice were particularly cute. For the first time we got a really close look at the lynx. He'd recently been fed and was still crunching away on the last bit of his chicken, right by the fence, when we got there. Y fell in love with a small, rather portly deer that came to say hello and stood for ages rubbing it's chin while it closed it's eyes in bliss and leaned against him. Poor kid, the deer must have weighed more than twice what he does but he was determined not to move. Unfortunately MIL donwloaded the photos but almost none of them have come out well enough to post. most are so blurred you can't tell what they were of.

All in all a nice end to the holidays. I've really enjoyed having them home this time, school seemed to come round way too fast. E was sad that we didn't get his quilt finished completely. My fault really becasue I've been playing with the frame. Hopefully for his first day back he won't get too much homework and we can do it tonight.

The evil hounds seemed pleased to get their routine back. The moment they spotted the school bags they started skipping round and were waiting at the door way before we were ready. Didn't see Jayne who we usually walk with so headed off on our own and had a nice hour wandering round the fields. Saw a few people we haven't seen since the holidays started which was nice.

Got back planning to get on and 'do stuff' but I'm having a hard job feeling motivated. The empty house feels weird. Both Phill and MIL are out and with no kids making noise it seems very quiet. The other problem is that I 'should' be doing the huge pile of washing up and what I actually want to do is get the string quilt on Gracie and have another play. I'm trying to make a deal with myself, one bowl of washing up and then one hour of playing but it's not working. The internet is also an evil distraction.

Monday, 4 September 2006

Last day of the summer holidays

It's hard to believe that the holidays have gone so quickly but the boys go back to school tomorrow. Typically all their sports kit seems to have disappeared. I know it was washed right at the start so it must be hiding somewhere. I must remember I need to move the pocket badge to the new blazer.

I'm on a promise to take them to the New Forest Owl and Otter Sanctuary today and then Pizza Hut for lunch. Is it really bad that I'd much prefer to stay home and play with the new frame?

Sunday, 3 September 2006

More Quilts Past

Wow, they're really coming out of the woodwork now. Ally has sent me this picture which is the first quilt I ever made. I'd almost forgotten what it looked like.

Quilts past

I was complaining to my brother that I'd not really taken many photos of my quilts so he's just sent me this picture of my neice's cot quilt. My Mum stole offcuts from the nursery curtains when she was turning them up, it's the check in the border and central heart, and I surprised them with a coordinated quilt. I was pleased with the way it turned out.

Tea break

Stopped for a cuppa and this 'Banksy targets Paris Hilton'
caught my eye. My hero!!!

So far I've sewn the leaders and loaded a practice piece. I'm not totally sure that it's loaded right but it's working at least. I'm having so much fun with it, I suck majorly but random loops and swirls are random loops and swirls even for the totally unartistic. So far the thread hasn't broken and the back looks OK, so far so good. My main problem is remembering to put the presser foot down. Fascinating birds nests on the back when you don't. Oh boy, that would be fun cutting out of the real thing.

Everyone has been and written their names on it. Hey, if a 10 year old can use it, it must be easy.

Building a quilt frame

Well, yesterday was spent starting to put the frame together. The instructions that came with it says 'Plan to spend a minimum of 2-4 hours in assembly'. Who are they kidding? At the end of that first 2 hours we'd just about got it out of the boxes! We've built a lot of MFI furniture in our time and are normally pretty handy at this kind of thing but the frame was a serious hassle. It's very fiddly and there are annoying little problems such as bolts that are 3 times longer than needed so you seem to be doing them up for ages. On the plus side the hundreds of nuts, bolts, knobs and washers are all in nicely marked up ziploc bags making it very easy to identify which ones you need.

By the end of yesterday we'd pretty much got the frame together after about 9 hours of work. To make matters worse after we'd finished I found a DVD tucked down the side of the packaging I was hauling outside. This turned out to feature a rather self-conscious American lady effortlessly putting together the frame so that you can see exactly how the parts go. Bugger!

So we headed for bed, somewhat weary but with the frame together, taking up an amazing amount of room I must say.

I was up bright and early, I think the dogs were a bit surprised and I'm going to spend some time making leaders to pin the quilt to the rollers. I think I'm then ready to put the machine on and start putting together my first practice piece.

I'm really quite excited. I think the kids are too, they've abandoned morning TV to come and see what I'm doing.

Saturday, 2 September 2006

Well the boxes arrived...

Well the Gracie duly arrived and my husband promptly left on a series of jobs, leaving me with a pile of unopened boxes and a dining room full of his junk.

I amused myself ordering fabric from eBay. Got some nice calico and batiks that no one else was bidding on and about 8 meters of some horrible red stuff that cost almost nothing and will probably do for some major practice sessions.

On the quilting line I made a scrappy string quilt, to use up some of the left-overs that were staging a bid for world domination, and helped my 12 year old to make his first quilt. If the camera ever works again I'll take some photos of it, he did a really nice job.

A nice family holiday in Cumbria then took precedence, as did the flu we all came down with but finally we were ready to tackle getting the dining room ready.

Persuading my husband to part with years of accumulated computer bits, electronic gubbinses and assorted 'stuff' proved surprisingly easy and several trips to the dump later the room was as clear as it would ever be. Time to start building.

What Dormouse did Next

As I'm in the UK, the search for a solution to hauling my quilts through the machine, was fairly easy.

There was no way we could afford a long-arm machine of any type; I didn't have a free table top so the Superquilter was out; I don't have a room long enough for the GMQ and an aluminium frame I saw at a quilt show (possibly the Handiquilter) was much too tall for me. I'm only just 5 feet!!

This left the Little Gracie II as the only possible candidate and one was duly ordered from The Cotton Patch. My Brother sewing machine had way too small a throat to really work and was dreadfully under-powered. I'd have liked one of those nice Nolting mini long-arm machines but no way could the budget stretch to that so, after trying a Pfaff Grand Quilter at Sandown Quilt Show, I settled for one of those. I must say it is a lovely machine and sews like a dream, I don't know how I managed without it.

The Next Phase

I started going to quilt shops and quilt shows and bought myself a sewing machine, a Brother Super Ace.

Over the next couple of years I made bed quilts for my 2 sons, a lap quilt for my MIL, a quillow for the friend who introduced me to quilting, a couple of fleece backed, flannel, snuggly things for me and hubby to cuddle under, on the sofa and a pair of cot quilts, one for a friend and one for my new niece. Well I had to really. :) I also played with a couple of wall hangings, neither of which worked particularly well and a sofa throw made from an extra curtain, to hide a horrible stain.

Gradually I learned about accurate cutting, seam allowances, pressing and starching and pinning and got to the point where I could look at my first quilts and see where I'd gone wrong. I really enjoyed the piecing but totally hated the quilting. I'd got very little room, a tiny desk and a small sewing machine. Hauling the bulky quilts through was hard enough just doing straight lines across. I couldn't imagine trying to do free motion quilting.

Then came the big challenge. My Mum and Dad's Ruby Wedding Anniversary was coming up and it was decided that a bed quilt would be a very nice gift. I picked a Roman Stripes pattern and set to, piecing the top. It was by far the biggest thing I ever done, even the top seemed unwieldy. When it came to quilting it I had such a hard time. My shoulders were on fire from hauling it through the machine and I think I did some lasting damage to my poor machine.

The quilt itself was beautiful, certainly the best thing I'd ever done but the pattern really needed some kind of quilted motif in the blank triangles. Sadly I couldn't afford to have it professionally quilted on a long arm machine so it's just got straight lines.

I really needed another solution if I was going to carry on with this hobby.

In the beginning

Having been a keen reader of other people's blogs, I thought I'd give witing my own a go.

Having been hopeless at anything to do with sewing all my life and not having an artistic bone in my body, 5 years ago I found myself attempting to make a cot quilt for my new nephew. I had been talked into this by a friend during a trip to Las Vegas. She had added quilting to her many and varied hobbies and we were to meet up with an internet friend of hers at a local shop. During this visit they somehow persuaded me to buy a panel of little pictures and some other fabrics to match. When I protested that I couldn't cut or sew straight to save my life, they bought me a copy of Jan Mullen's Cut Loose Quilts.

Back home my friend lent me her old sewing machine, bought for me a rotary cutter and cutting mat and gave me a crash course in not cutting off my fingers. Somehow it all got sewn together and I hand quilted round the figures, finishing it just in time for my nephew's first birthday.

I said 'never again' but I'd got so used to sewing in the evenings that I found I missed it and pretty soon started a small lap quilt for a friend who was going through a very rough time. That was it... I was hooked.