Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Gifts for my new granddaughter

Gifts for my new granddaughter

Since I last posted, I've been continuing with embroidery. I made a number of things for my then grandchild-to-be. My granddaughter Laleona was born 7 weeks ago to my youngest daughter; her first child. It looked like it was going to be an elective caesarean section and the date was pencilled in but then the staff decided she could have a natural birth. This nearly didn't happen and she had to be induced. She spent extra time in hospital because of possible infection. Anyway all's well that ends well. Laleona was 3.45kg  (about 7lb 10oz) at 38 weeks. I spent a few days in London from the day Laleona was born but didn’t pass on my makes at that time (they weren't finished - after all a baby wasn't going to need a playmat!). The baby had a bit of a rocky start over the first couple of weeks and was readmitted to hospital but is doing well now. Helen's husband had 4 weeks paternity leave so I didn’t want to intrude - they needed to find their way as a new family and I wanted to allow the two new parents to settle into their new norm . I planned to return at the end of A’s paternity leave but my embroidery retreat timing meant that I couldn’t go until a few days later by which time Helen was becoming more confident. This time I saw Laleona’s eyes open which was lovely. 
Laleona's birth day

I thought it reasonable to share some of the items (I didn't take photos of all of them) now that they have been passed on. I don’t have decent photos though - I thought I’d get some in use by the baby but that hasn’t worked out so far! She hasn’t started tolerating a bath until very recently - and still doesn’t enjoy it. I hope to get better photos next time I visit in mid March.

Day 3

I made a few bits and pieces before the baby was born. We didn't know whether she was a boy or girl until she was born so nothing gender specific. In any case, my daughter isn't keen that everything should be pink now. Once I knew it was a girl, I slipped in a pinkish bib

The theme given to me was jungle/safari. The parents-to-be didn’t want to know the sex of the baby (because of A’s family history they were fully expecting a boy) so a little girl was a delightful surprise for them. Laleona means 'the lioness'. I stitched a couple of nice lions, as part of the jungle theme, onto things - but they were definitely male lions. I had to search rather far and wide for a lioness pattern once I knew the sex and the name.

I made more bibs (no point in showing them - just dribble bibs made on my sewing machine) and embroidered a couple of hooded towels. These I posted to Helen as they could be of some use. I had intended to make the hooded towels from scratch but found it difficult to source the towelling so when I saw plain hooded towels in Asda I bought them. I had never embroidered onto towelling before but followed decent instructions. The hardest bit was keeping the bits I didn’t want embroidered out of the way while keeping the design straight. They look rather nice but the disadvantage of using a purchased towel is that the back of the embroidery is visible inside, rather than being covered by a layer of towelling as they would have been if made from scratch. As the design is an applique design of a little lioness rather than a stitched out design, I hope it won’t be too scratchy against her head. There are two and both were finished (this photo is just after construction) but I can't find a photo.

This is Laleona in the other towel after her bath - a WhatsApp photo
My main project was a jungle theme quilt which became a play mat and a couple of play cubes. I hope they will come into their own when Laleona is a little older! I have other things planned but not quite yet.

The play mat and first play cube photographed just before I packed them into car; the second cube was added en route after I made it at the embroidery retreat

Showing the backing fabric

I had originally planned to make a cot quilt but on learning that such things are not ‘allowed’ - and I didn’t want to make one for show rather than being used - Helen and I decided that a play mat was appropriate.

I made up blocks which I sewed together with strips of fabric between and around. I mainly used Designs by JuJu safari animals - all but two blocks (the tree frog and the palm tree), where I used designs from Lynnie Pinnie.  Most of the designs were applique. The designs were placed onto a 7” block, which I made up to my own requirements in my software, with fabric, batting and stabiliser and I also used my software to stipple around the animal. The tree is not an applique design - the design was embroidered onto fabric backed with crinkle fabric so it rustles when touched. I cut the stabiliser out of the seam allowances but otherwise left in it place - it’s polymesh which is light and flexible. For the joining squares, I had just enough tree fabric left from an earlier project but decided it was what I wanted to use for the backing  - I was fortunate that the local quilting shop where I bought it had just enough left for my needs. I decided that as the mat was going on the floor an extra layer of padding was in order. I wanted to add a teether and a couple of joining rings so decided to add the backing fabric (and extra batting) right sides together and bag out, with the ribbons and teether  in place. I didn’t think I could make it work as I imagined with a binding. I was happy with the result - I then quilted the layers together by stitching in the ditch between some but not all of the blocks and between the blocks and the edge border.  I didn't edgestitch as I didn't like the look. Yes. I was happy with the finished result. I do have a photo of Laleona lying on the mat - sent via Whatsapp so I’m not sure how it will come out. There are a few others.

I bought the teethers, crinkle fabric etc from Tactile Treasures. I also got some mirror - originally I was going to have the mirror as a separate detachable item (might still do) but in the first instance decided to sew up a play cube with the mirror in one face. I used play cube instructions and embroidery fires from In The and the 6” cube and ribbons from Tactile Treasures. I initially had problems stitching the mirror - my machine did not like it at all.

I found out that I was stitching with a sticky protective backing and a front film covering in place! No wonder my machine rebelled! I had only bought a small piece so decided to order more - and was delighted to receive a bit extra ‘for practice’ from Dawn, who had been very helpful with her responses and suggestions. The designs were all reverse applique, which I hadn’t tried before - but they went well. I used the animal files except for the mirror where I used the circle. I was pleased with the result.

So much so, that when I was on an embroidery retreat at the beginning of February, I decided to make the 5” play cube, too. Again, I used the same files and instructions, this time deciding on the numbers 1, 2 and 3 and three shapes.  I was able to stitch up each block relatively quickly with the practice I was getting. I had taken fabrics for this project to the retreat, but changed my mind when I got there and bought a set of coordinating fat quarters instead - I  think these worked well.  The inside of the reverse applique was a cream on cream design. This time, with pressure of time, I forgot to add ribbons, teethers etc so it is just a plain block.

I went back to sewing bee last week, so there might yet be some dressmaking coming up!! I feel my sewjo returning, slowly but surely. So far I’ve just been finishing some items, repairing some others, making some alterations etc.  While I was clearing my room, I found an unfinished child's waterproof jacket in pink, from a previous class to teach stitching waterproof fabrics. I believe it's for age two. I plan to finish it, with Rory's help - and I have quite a while in which to do it before Laleona needs it! 

I'm still enjoying machine embroidery though - no fitting issues and it can be done in small chunks of time. 

Monday, 2 March 2020

Embroidery retreat weekend

In early February, I spent an enjoyable weekend at a machine embroidery retreat in a Holiday Inn near Rotherham. It started lunchtime Friday and was due to go on to 4.30 pm Sunday. It was run by a group of 3 ladies, who have set up UK Machine Embroidery Group, two of whom I'd met before at a much smaller event. There were 50+ ladies plus the organisers and tutors. Fab. Full board. Loads of machine embroidery advice.

First issue was packing the car. What a lot of stuff!!  My youngest daughter had a baby in January and had it not been for this event, I would have travelled to her at the end of her husband's 4 week paternity leave - so I decided to go from the retreat south to her instead of north to home. This meant I had a lot of extra stuff in the car. Originally I had planned to car share - just as well that plan had changed!! I had been worried about travelling by car as the weather could have been snowy, icy but it was okay at that point (not so later in the weekend with the full scale Storm Ciara which caused massive flooding in the area)

The ladies were all pleasant and we had lovely chats. Those who knew more helped those who knew less. People were coming from quite far afield - Northern Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man as well as a pretty robust local contingent. The retreat sold out within 2 hours of being mentioned.

Brother, Woodseats Sewing Machines and Rags to Stitches were there the whole weekend. I had contacted Jayne at Rags to Stitches in advance about fabric choices for the main project for the weekend and she laid out some suggestions which I picked up that afternoon. I changed my mind about fabric choices for my personal project, a play cube, and bought some additional fat quarters for that. Tim of Woodseats also brought the items I had requested the day before. He, his daughter and his new son in law (they were just married the week before) all spent the bulk of the weekend there. It's very much a family business. Tim was there to sort machine issues, upgrade software if necessary etc and so much more. He offers a fabulous service and he gained a few new fans. He also loaned machines to those who needed them.

As people were arriving at different times, the first afternoon was free to do our own projects, ask advice etc - and get machines and laptops PAT tested if necessary. What with chatting, I didn't quite get my project completed but managed it later in the weekend. I considered several ideas for my personal project but needed to keep it doable in an afternoon. I decided on a 5" play cube. So I needed to make 6 panels,  stitch them together except for the last one,  insert cube and hand stitch last block closed. Using the new coordinating fat quarters I bought, together with three additional tone on tone fabric I'd brought, I managed to stitch 4 blocks of the 6 blocks  on Friday and 2 on Saturday. I will be posting about this separately.

Tricia Hudson offered classes at various levels for PED, the Brother software. I discovered I had entered at too basic a level and could do more than I thought. Nevertheless, there are always things you pick up. We made a key ring with our name on it. There was a more advanced class but no spaces on it.

One of the Brother tutors offered classes on the Scan n Cut machine and that was very helpful as I haven't used one although I have one. As it is older, I thought it might need updated but apparently not as that machine is still current (update - I did manage to update the software to the latest version when I returned home). We were able to complete a little project of a raw edge appliqué elephant. Cute. I haven't made it up yet.  Tricia then did an extra class looking at the linkage between the PED software, the Scan n Cut machine and the embroidery machine - this was invaluable. I feel more confident to use this.

Melanie, the main Brother rep, was stitching and demonstrating as well as addressing questions. I think she was responsible for a run on the faux leather Jayne was selling! She was stitching some of the inbuilt large quilting designs onto various fabrics including the most gorgeous mustard-yellow faux leather.  Mustard or yellow is not usually appealing to me but this was lovely.

We were given a USB stick with various projects to tackle as we pleased and fit in around the organised events. ITH purse, free standing lace and a few others as well as the materials to make these. The only materials we needed to provide were for our own projects and for the edge to edge quilting project planned for Sunday. I didn't get that finished as two of my groups were fitted in on the Sunday. Never mind, I can complete it at home. I did the Sweet Pea design using the supplied felt and lining material. I didn't have soluble stabilizer with me and ended up using what I had but this wasn’t soluble.  It didn't work.  It was an easy design which I did because I had some time to spare but it would be better in different colours of felt or even the vinyl I bought.  The red bled too much into the white even dry. So I didn't add the popper. I don’t like it well enough to redo with nicer materials even though it is a very quick project. The appliqued hearts are raw edge and that doesn’t really appeal to me.

There was a gorgeous free standing lace butterfly which I decided to make.  It took over an hour of stitching (one colour only) but it was certainly worth it. While that was stitching,  I went to my car and got my sewing machine to stitch together the cube blocks. Some people have machines that are combined embroidery and sewing but mine isn't. I was glad I put my machine in - I had thought one was going to be available but that wasn't the case. I was hurrying a bit and forgot to add ribbons or teethers etc but no matter. I hand stitched the last block closed on Sunday evening while sitting chatting. When the butterfly came off the machine, all the jump stitches needed trimmed as the machine had this feature turned off for this design and then the stabilizer dissolved away. It’s nice - but I’m not sure what I’ll do with it! 

We all started the edge to edge table mats from Amelie Scott on Sunday but this was a much shortened day for me as I had two workshops. I felt I started off on the wrong foot as I wasn't there at the start for the explanation as I was at a workshop. Others gave me the necessary advice.  We had to stitch 4 sprays of blossom onto fabric that we had marked out (marking out was trickier than it sounds!). Two designs right side up and 2 designs the other way. I followed one of the other participant’s method and floated the fabric,  using a basting box to secure.  I didn't have the right colours of thread but was able to borrow. Then I thought I'd need to finish the four as I might not have the right colours at home (different brand). Festina lente! The first two designs went fine. The 3rd design was fine too until I realised I hadn't turned it around by 180 degrees. I decided to continue anyway (the alternative was just too time consuming and who said they had to be that way anyway) and do the same with the 4th too. I was really hurrying by now and made a mistake in the colours with the 4th (that is it's not the colours I wanted - clearly they could be anything you wanted) and I don't think the placement is as good. With numbers 3 and 4, I had problems stitching the basting box and was getting a bit agitated as people were starting to pack up and leave (this about 3pm) although I had thought we had until 4.30; the weather was atrocious and I can only assume that some people wanted to leave early. I finished stitching the 4 designs but couldn't go any further. Hopefully I'll be able to follow the printed instructions we were given. I bought new fabric at the retreat for this but wish I had used what I already had. Some commented that the method was very fabric hungry.  Since then, I’ve completed the edge to edge quilting and have 4 separate mats . I’ve cut the fabric for binding them but won’t do that until later this week. I need to remove the markings, which could be a bit tricky.

I've met several new friends.

Storm Ciara created havoc that weekend and a fairly large group of us spent an extra night at the hotel. The next day I was able to drive to London to visit my new granddaughter and deliver the pieces I had made for her and the extra bits and pieces requested (that’s why my car was so full - not just embroidery and sewing machines but also baby gifts, 2 heaters, a toaster…). I’ll say more about the visit later.

I’m delighted that the retreat is being repeated in September - bigger and hopefully better too. I’ve signed up. I’ve decided not to sign up to the quilting block of the month even though I do love the quilt design - I’m just not a quilter and it’s a huge undertaking and expensive when the cost of the patterns and the fabric is taken into account. I might change my mind later.  I enjoyed making the play mat but have not enjoyed making the table mats.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve fallen behind with the course I’m doing. My mother was ill, on palliative care for a few weeks now and died in mid September; her illness was much more prolonged and she was ready to welcome death. I’m not sad that she has died - I am glad for her sake. Yes, of course I miss her - more than I thought even. I’m glad that I was able to spend quite a bit of time with her over these last few weeks and I was with her when she died. We've had the funeral where I wore navy (trousers and jacket) as my black ‘funeral clothes’ don’t fit and I have never got around to actually making or buying any. I don’t think you need to wear black but my mother was 91 and those attending the funeral somewhat traditional. My mother ‘would have been pleased’ with the way the funeral went.

We’ve cleared her flat - she has lived for about a year in rented sheltered accommodation. This should have meant that there was a lot less stuff to go through - after all we’ve moved her three times in the last 3 and a half years but there was still so much. We already have a lot of her possessions here. There just wasn’t room where she was. I’ve had to bring the paperwork home with me as I couldn’t deal with it there and we had a very limited time in any case to move out. Those of you who have been through this will know how difficult this process is. It brings back memories apparently forgotten. There are lots of photographs from the past of course. My mother was very attached to a few pieces - paintings and ornaments and I really don’t know what to do with the ones that others don’t take. I have chosen two little ornaments that were around literally all my life and will remind me so much of her. Such a lot went to charity shops as did her furniture as sadly no-one wanted that and we couldn’t take it.

My mother was very supportive of my sewing. Quite surprised of course as I had shown no inclination whatsoever in that direction when I was younger. At school I took science which precluded domestic science. She loved the stripey bag I made earlier in the summer and I gave her that - and had instructions to make her one in navy for Christmas. I was looking forward to doing that as it was nice to think she would have something she wanted. She was too frail to manage the weight of a leather bag, so the fabric one would have been perfect. She was always a bit difficult to buy for as there was nothing she needed, she said. I never really understood that until the last few years when my children ask what I’d like ….

I had a bit of a break just before the funeral  and David and I went to a 40s weekend at Tanfield Railway. This was actually one of his photography course outings. Last year, I broke my foot just before we were due to go to the Pickering 40s weekend  so David went alone and suggested we go this year in costume. That’s not going to happen as there just isn’t time. Next year we will go to Pickering and possibly make it a family event. Yes, and dress up.
The Tanfield event however, was different and didn’t involve the public in dressing up, it seemed. There were a number of retail areas selling 40s memorabilia. There was a set of embroidered back brushes that I remember my Mum having, though I don't recall her ever using them. They must have been discarded during one of her house moves  (she moved 3 times in the last 3 years). There are other things we didn’t find that I felt should have been around. Nothing I can do though. She has an expensive diamond ring and a paste equivalent - and I can’t tell the difference!!

I really don’t have much sew-jo at all, not surprisingly. I have a lot of things to catch up with myself that had to be put aside over the last few weeks. Once those and my mother’s paperwork has been completed, things will gradually get back to a new normal.

My youngest daughter is pregnant, due January. I made a bib to fit in with her jungle/safari theme - a bib with a cute little lion.

This is from Kreative Kiwi; next is a monkey

She doesn't want to know whether it’s a boy or a girl. I have a few embroidery makes planned. These will be things like bibs, playmats etc. Nothing gender specific. An interesting (to me at least!) tale here. I wasn’t keen on my oldest daughter being swamped with ‘girl toys’ and encouraged Duplo and other more gender neutral items. She went to a childminder who looked after another little boy and who had teenage sons still at home. She also had two older daughters - still at home but no longer playing with toys. The childminder agreed to look after a little girl after school and got out some ‘girl toys’ - and my daughter absolutely loved them!! 

The embroidery course is practice for making what was going to be a baby quilt - except baby quilts aren’t ‘allowed’ so I think this will be a playmat. I haven’t started yet, though.

Since I wrote that last bit, I have caught up a bit with my embroidery course.

On Sunday, I completed the braided table runner. It took a long time to make. I really like it and am pleased with it. I had actually ‘finished’ it a couple of weeks back but was not happy with it due to the borders being roped and with excess fabric. I looked for a work around solution but there was nothing else to do but bite the bullet and dismantle and shorten the borders.. At least this allowed me to insert an extra layer of thermal batting to make it more useful. I still used my little sewing machine but this time used a walking foot which helped. I have learned a few lessons and the next one will be better - or different at least.
This is pretty big as done in a 150 x 150 hoop
From Sweet Pea ith machine embroidery course

On Saturday, I completed the next lesson in the course which was for a baby bib with a jaguar and a snake. I had no major problems but again noted a few things for the next time. It took a long time to make and when you look at the cost of bibs in the shops, it’s not really worth doing bibs at all! However, this kills two birds with one stone - it teaches me some techniques AND I hopefully have someone to wear it in January. Of course, it also fits in with her nursery theme.

It's a rather cute looking harmless jaguar isn't it?
From Sweet Pea ith machine embroidery course
I still don’t feel like garment sewing though I have done a few more alterations. I’m only two lessons behind with the embroidery course now (they come every two weeks) so will get on with the next one later in the week. I’m not at all keen on the most recent lesson (an articulated ballerina)  but I suppose there will be a fair bit to learn! Even since I wrote that last night, we’ve had another lesson so I’m actually three behind again! I like the most recent, a table centrepiece.

I've missed being involved with social media to any great extent but hope to get that sorted soon.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Flip and Fold Cushion

I’m really quite excited! I finished the Flip and Fold cushion from Lesson #4 of the Sweet Pea ITH Course, and I love it. This rather surprised me as I don’t have anything else of this nature in my home. Why not, though? I’ve always admired quilts.

The finished cushion. The borders of the cushion match the reverse side
The instructions and pattern came in 3 sizes. I chose to make the smallest size (4 x 4 hoop - 100mm x 100mm). I had a very straightforward reason for choosing this size. I bought a jelly roll of fabric with colours and patterns that go together - that someone else, not me, has chosen -  for practicing. I was able to use pieces of the jelly roll fabric for my block pieces. I had to check that first as the centre piece for each block was wider but the 2.5 inches of the strip was just fine.

The jelly roll was from the Moda Vive la France range. This range was recommended to me by the quilting shop I visited. I realised that I wouldn't be able to use the strips for the borders on the cushion, or the back. I purchased some yardage from the same range; the colours were of course ideal but I decided against the two fabrics I bought as one had stripes - any wobble in my sewing would be very obvious - in fact, ditto with the other, which was a plaid.

The whole process was very enjoyable and helpful to me working towards making a quilt. Once again Martyn Smith proved an excellent instructor.

Back of the finished cushion - matches borders
First of all, the stabilizer recommendation was perfect. I used no show mesh stabilizer which is strong but not bulky or stiff in a quilt - I’ve bought some more so that I have it in hand when I start the quilt proper. I say quilt proper, but any proper quilters would probably throw up their hands in horror!  I’m intending what I believe is called ‘Quilt As You Go’ - very similar to what I did for this cushion as each block is made separately then stitched together with or without a border between it and its neighbour. 

I made each of the 9 blocks as per instructions. Each block has 5 pieces of fabric, batting and stabilizer. After the five pieces are attached and sewn down, the embroidery machine then goes on to create the quilting pattern over the pieces. Just think how long this would have taken by hand!!  

I know that I could have made a nicer pattern with my pieces, but I really didn’t see it at the start. I realise that really the design you want would have to be drawn out, coloured, in advance. I might do that for the next lesson which is for a table runner.

I used bamboo batting as that is what I had. I bought this a while back from the fabric sale run by the widower of a prolific and I understand excellent quilter. I also bought some fabrics there and used one of them for the borders and backing to the cushion. The pattern of this fabric doesn’t perfectly fit in, but I find it pleasing.

I had no problems creating the blocks. Each block was finished quite quickly. I did find that my scissors were not quite as good as I’d thought - trimming was trickier than it should have been. After the blocks were created, they were trimmed all the way around, using ruler and rotary cutter,  to leave a half inch seam allowance. The blocks were then joined together using the sewing machine. This I found quite tricky as there were several matching points and for a couple of the blocks, I had to redo more than once. Join 3 rows of 3 then join the rows together, then put on the binding. The only issue is my sewing! I thought they looked great afterwards.

I found that even at this stage, I had a bit to redo but that didn’t take me long. The cushion was of course supposed to be square with all blocks the same size. Thankfully, no-one is going to be measuring my blocks - and if they try to, I won’t invite them back to my home!

Then the backing is attached, wrong side to wrong side, a gap left, and the whole thing pulled through. No problems. I decided against inserting a zip and followed the tutorial exactly. However, Martyn stuffed his cushion with loose filling and I wanted to use a cushion insert. After letting my ‘fingers do the walking’, I was able to buy the perfect size of feather cushion insert from a local shop.

I struggled a bit to get the insert in and realised I should have left a bigger hole. Or zipped the whole of one side. However, I got it in and I think that it's the right size. This will be a decorative cushion, so I was happy just to slip stitch closed.


Yes - there is glorious sun today

I took these photos today as I wanted to post the blog I've had in draft. There are no constructional photos.

Verdict - I loved the process and will certainly repeat this. In fact I want an almost identical twin. This will have to wait because:

Lesson #5 is out today. I've watched the instructional video. I don't have the necessary solids which I believe would be better for the design, but hopefully will get on to it later in the week

Lessons learned      Flip and fold technique; okay I’m sure there is more to learn
For the future  - draw out pattern wanted.
Trying new things might lead to gems but don’t spread too thinly!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

An ITH Machine embroidery course (online) and a bag

I’ve been busy with a lot of non-sewing-related items and haven’t felt it appropriate to post about them. I'm continuing to attend a summer class on using Lightroom and hope that when the photography club re-convenes in September I will be able to participate more fully. There has been some sewing too, though, though more machine embroidery than sewing.  

Small scissor case. Free pattern on signing up to newsletter.

My sewing includes repairs and alterations to several garments to make them wearable. I’ve lost a bit of weight (not enough) and my trousers in particular are all too big so I’ve done what I can to make them fit. Hopefully they’ll get too big again! I still find it amazing that trousers appear to get longer as I slim! Even at 5'11", I'm having to take up trouser legs or risk tripping on them or getting wet legs from the wicking. Sadly, a lot of things I had in storage don’t quite yet fit again. I see that  August is a time for alterations - I’m sure I have many more to do so I might post about those on IG.

I haven’t finished the garments I was making - I planned to use my coverstitch machine for bands. I need an uninterrupted period to get to grips with the machine. Now is not the time. One of the tops I had finished definitely needs altered as I don’t like the neckband - hubby says he thinks it’s fine.

I started an In the Hoop (ITH) embroidery course online from Sweet Pea in Australia. There will be 12 lessons at fortnightly intervals. Each lesson has the appropriate pattern to download plus written and video instructions. I really like the videos. It’s amazing how much useful and interesting information is given off the cuff.

I’ve completed the first three lessons and think I’m learning a lot. The first lesson was an appliqued coaster, the second a luggage tag  (there were 3 different designs but I only did one; I will have to get around to the other two as they are all cute) and the third a purse, which I finished last week (I confess I completed the other two just in time for the third lesson to come out! Still, you can go at your own pce so that's fine)

#1 Here is my coaster:

I could have made it much more colourful but decided to go subtle and not change the thread colours as I just wanted to learn the techniques. I realise I’m not very good at putting colour schemes together.

It doesn't look square because of the way the photo was taken - it is square!
The coaster is sewn right sides together (on the embroidery machine - it’s much more accurate than I am!) turned through a gap and the gap slip stitched closed.

#2 Here is my sun luggage label:

The label is done with back and front wrong sides together and is finished with satin stitch around the edges. I had done this before with black thread and black in the bobbin - my bobbins are either black or white. This time I had to wind the bobbin with the embroidery thread so each side would match.

In addition to the sun design there were another couple of seaside themed designs which I’d do if I had a holiday coming up.

I had lost my embroidery supplies, needles and so on and used a different needle which I thought would be okay - but I don’t think it worked; I’m putting the irregularities down to that. Fortunately, I did find the correct needles for the 3rd project.

#3 Here is my purse:

I really like it. There were 4 sizes and I did the 150x150 one. I didn’t realise until now that the 150x150 hoop is smaller than the 6x6 hoop - they need a different pattern to fit properly. You live and learn! I might have wondered why there was both a 6x6 and a 150x150 design but someone else pointed this out on the useful FB group.

The purse is fully lined. It was done in the hoop other than the strap (on the sewing machine) and closing the internal lining with slip stitch (by hand). I was so glad of the helpful video as the purse had to be turned through in two stages.

I didn’t have small D rings or clasps etc so just used what I had.

I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve done so far. One project every two weeks (with no fitting involved - yay!) is fine for me. There are a couple of projects I’m particularly looking forward to.

#4 coming up!

Next week is a ‘flip and turn’ cushion - this will be the closest I’ve ever  been to real patchwork or quilting. Looking through the materials required for the lessons, I will need to order a few things. I’ll try local first and if that doesn’t work, I’ll go online. I do need some pieces of quilting fabric that go together. I’m not so good at matching or putting patterns together. I also need some decent soluble stabiliser and some tear away stabiliser plus smaller D rings and clip loops (sorry I forget what they’re called).

I have found the patterns produced by Sweet Pea to be excellent and the satin covering stitches actually cover what they're supposed to. The designs are pricier than many others found on the internet but I'm prepared to pay for quality and support. I haven't completely given up ideas of digitising my own designs, as I did with the Celtic design for the pocket of David's jeans, but that's not on the cards for the time being. I did try to digitise one of my flower photos - what a disaster!

Why now?

So why now? David gave me the embroidery machine for my birthday last year or was it the year before hoping I’d get some fun from it. I’m beginning to now that I realise my limitations - I started too advanced for me. I didn’t really previously see myself as someone who used lots of handmade items, bags and so on though I love textiles embroidery and quilting - to look at, I mean, never having attempted it myself. I enjoyed the few items I made at Christmas past (with the possible exception of the one that did not have an accurately rendered pattern - though even that was fun in its way) which are on my blog if you want to look at them.

Also, my youngest daughter is expecting, due January 2020 and I’d really like to make some things for the baby - a baby quilt, a bib etc. She’s keen for that too. She and her husband don’t want to know the baby's gender. 

One of the lessons on the course is for a stuffed toy and another is for a jungle themed bib. Jungle/Africa is the theme she wants to go with so it couldn’t be more perfect. Sure, I’ve got quite a way to go before I can try a quilt/wall hanging/floor mat - apparently babies shouldn’t use a quilt as a piece of bedding. I’ve found somewhere I can go for an individual lesson, participate in a quilting bee (don’t know if that’s what they’re called) with help if needed and go to specific workshops. This is doable! I have quite a while in which to do it, too. 

The Sweet Pea website has a free design for two sizes of scissor cases. I have been meaning to make some cases for my scissors so this seemed ideal to give me a bit of extra practice and be useful at the same time. I decided to start with the small case. I think this was pretty successful. The only problem is not being able to adjust the size for different scissors. I’ll have a go at the larger case next.

Gemma Bag - a cross-body bag

When I went to post about the course, I realised that I had never posted about the bag I tested - so here is the post, written a while back and just waiting for decent photos - there still aren't decent photos as I gave the bag away before I had the chance to take more. My bag has already appeared on Linda's IG and FB pages so I hadn't felt any great need to post my own. The other testers made some gorgeous bags - go have a look.

I’m not normally a bag maker though I have admired from a distance. One of the other sewers at my Thursday sewing bee is a bag maker and makes some terrific items. She uses beautiful fabrics but I’m not keen on unicorns, floral skulls etc, which are very popular with others. I love handbags and have many of them, but they tend to be on the boring side when compared to the beautiful handcrafted ones - mine are often leather and often a plain colour.

When I saw a call for testers for the Gemma bag, I put my name forward, identifying myself as a novice. Linda of Lanyos Handmade and Nice Dress Thanks I Made It wanted all levels to test the bag.

I had admired her original bag when I saw it on her social media. It was made with plain and patterned cork. I thought it looked very classy and was one I could use. I was pleased when I was chosen to test the bag.

I had most of the things I needed. I found it difficult to get cork at a reasonable price and couldn’t find a similar patterned cork, but Linda suggested that as a beginner I’d be better with a test bag made from cotton. I identified the UK equivalent of the recommended interfacing for the cotton lining. I had most of the hardware though it turned out that I didn’t have the correct slider. I did have D rings, magnetic closures etc and purchased zippers of the required length. I have LOTS of zips now!

I’m going to skip over some of the problems I had with printing the pattern and making up the bag since these issues have been resolved, I was using the Beta ie tester version! Briefly, the issue was that the pattern wasn’t originally optimised for printing on A4 and this led to some size problems. Many bag patterns simply give sizes that need to be drawn and cut out so this was really no biggy - except that I did draw out the lining, which eventually proved to be too big for the outside. I was able to resolve this. Obviously, the bag will be much easier to make when all the sizes are optimised.

My cork (one plain sheet and one slightly patterned but not the gorgeous floral Linda used) arrived earlier than I had anticipated but I decided to use cotton for my bag, anyway. I used cotton that I had in my ‘collection’ (aka stash!) I didn’t want multiple patterns so decided to go with stripes two ways on the outside and polka dots for the lining. I didn’t like the interfacing  I used for the cotton .The original bag is cork on the outside - Linda’s later recommendation for interfacing a cotton exterior would have been much better than what I used but I had already made it up. Never mind - this was effectively a toile!

I had no problems following the instructions. I used quilter’s double-sided tape to place the zippers - my first use but certainly not my last! I was rather pleased with my letterbox zip on the inside. I have practiced these in the past (jetted pockets etc) and know that it is important to cut right up to the corner. I originally went for curved corners on the lining but decided to box the corners on the outside. I have done that previously and don’t find it difficult (though you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise considering how long I have been putting off the boxed cushion cover for my goose box!). Sadly, I realised that I failed to match my stripes across gusset and bag!

I found that the slider I had wasn’t the right kind so omitted that altogether.

I rather like the finished bag though the fabric makes it very casual in my view and the colours are very summery. Great for use with a summer dress - not the wintery clothes I was wearing when I took the photos! 

Our weather has been all over the shop. Today David and I were supposed to be on a photoshoot on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) but it was cancelled because of inclement weather. I was glad, as my mouth is still painful following dental surgery and gum graft last week and I didn’t fancy getting soaked.

Now that I have the finalised pattern, I might make another in the cork I have bought. I’d really like to make a leather bag with all the pieces of leather I have but I wonder if that’s too thick for my machines.

I feel, though, that I am facing too many learning curves at the moment so bag making will take a step backwards. I have a new camera, more complex than my previous one, have newly purchased Lightroom and Photoshop and need to move forward with my coverstitch machine. I’m attending a summer school on the use of flash photography (well, they call them speedlights or speedlites) and in a couple of weeks will be able to really tackle my photo editing software when the summer school moves onto that.

Gifts for my new granddaughter

Gifts for my new granddaughter Since I last posted, I've been continuing with embroidery. I made a number of things for my then gr...