Archive for the ‘needle and thread’ Category

tartan week

tartandayDuncan’s memorised his Scots poem for Tartan Week at school and I’ve finished his bit of tartan to wear. Aside from a kilt, it’s a bit harder to put tartan on a boy – sashes and ribbons work really well with minimal effort for girls but I was struggling to come up with a plan this year for Duncan. We’ve decided to go with a homemade waistcoat this year using a pattern completely invented by Duncan and I and constructed initially out of brown paper for fit. Aside from a couple oopsies – don’t look too closely at one shoulder, I think this worked out pretty well. I didn’t bother with buttons because he wouldn’t do them up anyways and we went with a wee lapel to make it a bit different and give some texture to the front. It’s fully lined (in the same fabric) as it needed the weight and meant there was no need to bother with facings or bindings. I could trace the pattern if anyone wants – it’s rather forgiving since there’s no fastenings at all.



chicandsimplesewingTwo new projects that have me really loving my new sewing machine aren’t actually quilts, but shirts. The first, in a lovely Liberty lawn, is from Christine Haynes’ Chic and Simple Sewing. This was actually the first time in my life that I made a muslin (or in regular-speak, a practice shirt to check the fit) simply because I love the liberty lawn fabric far too much to cut into it without a lot of thought. The first draft was in left-over quilting cotton and is therefore far too smock-like. With the lawn it’s a lovely floaty shirt that I’m wearing regularly to work. (Pattern for the Back to School Shift dress shortened to low-hip).

scoutteeThe next shirt is a Scout Woven Tee from Grainline Studios. This is actually the muslin, made from left-over fabric from Fraser’s quilt (men’s shirting). It’s a 6, but I graded down to the size 4 under the armholes (I had to take in my French seams for a more flattering fit). I also added two inches in length to make sure there’s never a gap between it and my jeans – the pattern is on the short side for anyone with a long torso. But aside from the length which is easily adjusted, it’s a brilliant pattern and I love the bias used to finish the neckline. This version is a bit too boxy, although improved by the cardi I think, but I suspect that a version in the Liberty Lawn will have a more flattering drape.

I’ve also made a few more pairs of the Liberty knickers, similar to these (photo not supplied for obvious reasons). One pair was shipped off to Jen – I can take requests but only if your hip measurements are the same as mine. I love these, although now that I’ve put the word knickers on the site I’m waiting for the avalanche of soft-porn spam…

And my iron is broken – not able to produce steam. The lawn irons like a dream even without steam but the shirting is really struggling. I’ve a £50 gift certificate for John Lewis that was earmarked for more exciting things but a new iron it is… Any recommendations?

New Year with the Mosedales

theboyswithmarisca We spent the New Year with the Mosedales down in Yorkshire (I’ve heard them talk about moving “North” when they moved from Bedford to Shipley but it’s still almost 6 hours south of here). It was a brilliant special visit to give the kids a chance to play together – the boys love Marisca and she’s grown up so much since our last visit in July 2011. Tim’s lovely camera has once again snapped a fabulous picture of the kids and has posted links to the walk, ice cream playbarn and diner, and our fab New Year’s supper.

Tim was exceedingly brave and made mince pies with all three kids as soon as we walked in the door. They were lovely and well appreciated by the adults! (Bottom picture).

thomasquiltBut the really special thing was meeting Thomas, who at six weeks old was absolutely gorgeous. I probably stole him a bit too often to get a cuddle – especially from Tim who’s back at work now and probably missing having a good snuggle with his wee boy.


Thomas is lying on his new quilt here – whipped up from a lovely batch of organic cotton fabric that I found at M is for Make. Unlike some of the quilts I’ve made lately, the fabrics are from multiple designers – meaning the colours aren’t a perfect fit. I wish I did this more often as patchwork that’s too matchy-matchy defeats a bit of the magic. It’s hard to do this though without seeing the fabric in person and our local quilt store isn’t exactly carrying the ranges I’d prefer (but then I’m not the typical client so that’s reasonable). What I’d love to have is a local shop carrying liberty fabrics and organic goodness… but fortunately there’s the internet…

rugby and the pfaff select 4.0


Duncan’s first rugby tournament was today and the P1/P2 team did really well, finishing 3rd out of 8 in their pool. The highlight was getting a medal (of course) and having daddy as a coach. Fraser was a super brother too – hardly complaining about spending over five hours at the side of the pitch watching his brother. Cory’s out for a coach’s beer-and-curry night tonight – they’ve all earned it!


Modelling his rugby team sweatshirt, Fraser’s also wearing his new, just like Daddy’s, pj trousers. And I’m loving my new sewing machine, a Pfaff Select 4.0, that Cory bought me to replace the 30 year old hand-me-down from Cory’s mother that ran on the wrong power supply. I loved the old Pfaff though and wanted something similar to replace it. Most machines on the market are now computerised and honestly that just seems like something that’ll go wrong compared to the 30 year old mechanical machine I’ve happily been using for the past decade. The Pfaff was one of the highest end non-computerised machines we could find, which also meant it was reasonably priced. I wasn’t able to find a review before we picked it out though so I figured it could be useful to post a few comments about it now.

I’m not really a fan of 100s of stiches, embroidery options, alphabets etc so the limited stitches on the 4.0 suit me just fine. There is a dial to control stich width that allows fine adjustments though which I’m already finding handy. The main selling feature for me was the IDT feature – it feeds the fabric at the top as well as the bottom – which allows quilting straight lines without bunching up the back of your quilt. Since free-motion quilting and I have a dangerous history, this should hopefully make things a bit safer. I’m impressed with the tension control too – I’ve sewed various thickness of fabric and it’s adjusted brilliantly each time.

Surprisingly, there’s a couple features missing from this machine that my old Pfaff had, including a bobbin thread sensor which would light up when the bobbin was low. I do miss that feature – it let you know when a good time to stop would be, rather than running out mid-seam. But otherwise I can’t think of anything I’m missing and the machine feels responsive, powerful, and hasn’t mucked up the tension yet. It’s made me love sewing even more and there’s been lots of projects on the go – including stuffed toys, superhero capes, pjs for Cory, and even undies similar to the expensive libery print ones from Brora, at about a tenth of the £22 a pair price they charge. But for finished photo pics, a slightly blurry one of Fraser modelling his new pj bottoms will have to do. I’ve got seven more meters of Liberty Tana Lawn fabric to sew with though so I’m sure there’s a dress or at least a nice shirt in my future. Perhaps the Oolong dress from Colette patterns or a woven top from grainline studio….

for a niece

she of course deserves a quilt of her own. Not too pink, but definitely not for her older brothers…

Fraser’s Quilt

I thought about pretending this was a belated birthday present but actually the fabric was purchased in September with the thought that it would make a lovely Christmas present. Probably a bit cheeky to pretend it’s for his birthday then!

I have been feeling guilty that Duncan was given three baby quilts and a single bed sized one from various immediate family members (including me) and Fraser has just one quilt and one knitted blanket (which I spent hours and hours on so perhaps I shouldn’t feel so guilty). But Cory’s very sensitive to the second-brother, second-hand trap and I also want Fraser to have lovely things to carry through to adulthood. Becasue of the machine quilting I’m not sure this is heirloom quality but it’s lovely now and will hopefully make sure that he feels special. Plus the superstitious side of me likes the idea of my kids sleeping under quilts I’ve lovingly made them.


the details:
The fabric is actually shirting fabric from MacCulloch & Wallis. I struggled to find any checked prints to use for a boy quilt – I wanted it to avoid flowers and be more linear – and ended up finding exactly what I wanted in shirting. It was a bit difficult to work with as it has more of a sheen and frays much more easily (especially as it’s woven rather than a printed pattern) so I tried to handle the fabric as little as possible and assembled the quilt top in two sessions. Shirting fabric is also cheaper and slightly wider than quilt fabric – another plus. The back is a heavier fabric which I think the machine struggled with but will add extra warmth for Fraser who’s always on the cold side. I went with machine stippling rather than hand quilting to make sure the shirting wouldn’t fray and pull apart with the 1/4 inch seams – but it did break my heart a wee bit (and then almost my thumb….)

The blocks are each 13 3/4 inches square – which is what happens when I make up patterns to fit the size of the backing fabric and went together very quickly with a rotary cutter. I love the idea of carefully assembling blocks piece-by-treasured-piece but I like finishing projects a bit more. I was under a bit of a time limit too as we’re getting a new kitchen installed in a few weeks time and since it’ll involve taking down walls I’ll be without space to sew for at least a month. And I had to complete this within the year as the boys are already asking for bunk beds for their birthdays next year and this was only ever meant to be a cotbed sized quilt!

wavy lines can be tricky to sew


… but oh so lovely once finished.

A new baby with two big sisters needs to have a few very special things just for her. Hopefully this will be one of them, a playmat for now, a mini-blanket for summer picnics, and later a comfy spot for snuggling while watching TV. I love the way the colours turned out – but then green and duck egg blue are the colours of my living room so perhaps it’s not a surprise.  The wavy lines were based on a pattern by Denise Schmidt but done completely freehand – the thought of cutting out pattern pieces fills me with dread when I can just slice away creatively (and quickly). I loved the use of colour in Jane Brocket’s quilt book too but again her description of cutting out pieces and laying them all out individually sounds far too dull – and for me one of the joys of quilting is how pieces can be combined almost randomly for an overall effect that surpasses any calculated choice I could make.

Keep calm and make things…

monsterteeCombine a rainy day checking out the clothes in the Boden preview catalogue with a sewing room full of scraps – I’m guessing the total cost of our handmade monster tee is about £3.00, considerably cheaper than the Boden one! (It would have had eyes and a mouth but someone insisted on wearing it right away. Depending on how it washes, I might add some later.)

I find shopping for special boys clothes really challenging – there’s not the variety and scope like you have with girls clothes (I’m in love with all the gorgeous dresses – I’m saving a fortune with my boys!) and it’s hard to pay £10 for a tee that’s only marginally better than the £2 supermarket option. Maybe I’ve been going at it the wrong way though – a few special additions might turn their clothes into the scariest of monsters or dinosaurs. And in the age of “Austerity Britain” (the media’s comparison of the current recession with post-war rationing strikes me as a bit over the top) homemade is looking a lot more hip…

waiting for news

jenandsimonsbabyThe wait for a new baby can feel like a long time – we’re not a culture used to waiting indefinitely for anything, let alone our heart’s desire. When I was waiting for Fraser, the long two weeks between when the midwife said he’d be “in my arms in 48 hours” and his actual arrival two days overdue, I turned into a grumpy hermit. So I’ve lots of sympathy for others in this boat – including Jen who was told to expect an early arrival and is now two days overdue. Fingers crossed there’s an email on it’s way very soon…

But when her daughter arrives she’ll have her very own quilt to cuddle and sleep on. It’s the first real girly quilt I’ve ever made and although there’s a few things I’d change about it (let me know when she moves into a big bed Jen!), this is a special quilt for me. The fabric has been sitting in my stash for over five years, paired together after being favourite fabrics from two other well-loved quilts (for Bompa and our well-worn sofa throw) and I like the thought of Jen and Simon’s baby connected this way through something handmade with love.

bright spots and textured stripes

mariscasquilt In the past I’ve held the view that machine quilting was the dark side, but look at the loveliness of Marisca’s quilt – the puffy bubbles are much more prominent now that the quilt is finished and the stippling has completed the stripey fabric somehow.  I’m actually a fan due to the huge advantages (time, strength, the lovely texture) over handquilting.  Of course the ideal is the traditional heavily hand quilted surface, but then I’d be finishing quilts at the rate of 1 a year – not helpful when this is the fifth baby quilt (+ one for me) in the past six months.  Handquilting a quilt this size for stability (minimum amounts) would probably take over 4 hours while machine quilting took just under two. This much quilting by hand would take well over 40.  I need to rethink my views on machine quilting; since I already rely on the machine for the piecing, how precious should I be about the quilting part?