ScrapHappy November

Once again, it’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

And here it is, my latest scrappy project, currently imaginatively called Big Hexies (needs work, I know!). You may have seen the post earlier this month on my first batch of hexie flowers. Here’s the next lot!


This isn’t the final arrangement, by any means, just a layout to show what I’ve got finished since my last Big Hexies post.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps – no new fabrics. It can be a random or formal quilt block, a pillow or pincushion, a bag or hat, a collage or rag rug. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address shown on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. You don’t have to worry about a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at):

Usually has a scrappy post:

Gun at (in Swedish and English)

Titti at (in Swedish only)

Heléne at (in Swedish only)

Sometimes has a scrappy post:

Eva at (in Swedish only)

Sue at (in English only)

Nanette at (in English only)

Lynn at (in English only)

Norma at (in English only)

Lynda at: (in English only)

Birthe: (in Norwegian only)

Turid: (in English and Norwegian)

Cathy: (in English only)

Debbierose: (in English only)

Tracy: (in English only)

Jill: (in English only)

Claire: (in English only)

Susan: (in English only)

See you again, same time next month!

Making work for idle hands

I have been hobbling around like Lurch these last seven weeks.

It’s been getting progressively worse, to the point where a walking stick was distinctly helpful and I started to think of a hip replacement as something to be earnestly hoped for. Finally, the medical profession is taking a proper interest, and I discovered today that I have all sorts of alarming tests coming up. Nuclear medicine. MRIs. Do I really want radioactive isotopes inside me? What is all that magnetic resonance going to do to my natural magnetism (yeah, right). Due to the aforementioned hobbling, I haven’t been able to do much strenuous stuff, like unpacking more boxes. So, well, I’ve had to find something to do with my hands while I sit around on my bottom.

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The empty pouch and its contents

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Six fat quarters, or three fat quarters and a pile of finished hexie flowers

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About 6″ square and 2″ deep, neatly closed up with a magnetic snap

Apart from rabidly churning out boxfuls of EPP hexies from all the suitably sized scrap fabric lying around, I decided to at last do something about a travel sewing kit specifically for hexies. I’m going to need something to do while I hang around the hospital… Actually, both hospitals, the one here with the scanners, and the one down south where I’m having some scheduled surgery later this month.

This tutorial  has been waiting patiently for me to find time for it. I first saw it on Granny Maud’s Girl’s blog, and fell in love with her version. Being me, I was unable to resist fiddling around with it a bit, but I’d say the finished result is pretty close to the original. I’ve always loved the combination of big spots and floral, and here’s the perfect excuse!

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Teeny thread cutters….

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Two pincushions, needle book and embroidery kit. Time to stop for a bit…

If I do take it away with me, I’ll have to substitute something else for the scissors or they’ll be taken away at the airport. The snips in the middle are my favourites, but the round thingy has notches in the edge which reveal a tiny sliver of sharp blade. Useful for cutting off lengths of thread, not so great for snipping off the end of a thread you’ve been sewing with…

So, this is one more hand made pretty to add to my collection. I think I probably have enough, just for now..

A hazard to sitting

Screen shot 2014-06-28 at 4.49.19 PMWhen I emigrated to Australia 1o years ago, I left behind me the vast majority of my worldly possessions.

I reasoned that it would cost more to ship my furniture, bookshelves, fridge and washing machine than it would to buy new ones here, more suited to the climate and my living conditions. I was right, but it was a spartan beginning. I had 5 cubic metres of stuff. Most of it books, pictures, lamps, household linen, rugs, mirrors, china and glass; all the things that makes a place yours. I brought exactly two pieces of furniture, one easy chair and one Regency mahogany swivel top card table that had belonged to my mother and without which I wasn’t going anywhere. I’d done my homework on that table, eaten off that table, played games on that table. It was coming too.

The result was the Shopping Trip of All Time, when I finally moved into the house I bought the day after I arrived, and subsequently spent 6 weeks renovating. A bed, chests of drawers, tables, chairs, pots, pans. The whole kit and caboodle. But the best buy of the lot was my sofa. It’s handsome, comfortable, sturdy, elegant, has washable covers, and best of all, it came flat packed. Yes, my friends, it came from Ikea. Anyone turning up their nose and making disparaging remarks at this point may go and play quietly in the corner.  It has done sterling service, and continues to do so. But it tempts me to bad habits.

Screen shot 2014-06-28 at 4.49.57 PMWhich brings me to the title of this post. Bear with me, this really is going somewhere. I’m doing a lot of hand sewing at the moment. “No, really?” you cry. That will be quite enough sarcasm, thank you…. I have to change thread colour on a reasonably regular basis, and am surrounded by the tools of my activity: small scissors, papers, fabric, two reels of thread, needle threader, two needles, etc. On two separate occasions in the last week, I have lost a needle in the sofa, due mainly to my bad habit of parking them in the arm of the sofa whilst not in use. And I rediscovered them later. Painfully. In the part of me that does the sitting. Hence the title…

Screen shot 2014-06-28 at 4.50.10 PMI have a pincushion, but it it’s not very exciting. It’s also a bit barrel shaped and rolls about annoyingly. It was time for a more satisfactory solution. One of my many scrap boxes produced the materials, I took a break from embroidery, and suddenly the needles are coralled, my hinder end is safe and I can once again hurl myself into the depth of my lovely sofa with a peaceful mind.

Back to the embroidery hoop, then.

Meet Isfahan

The quilt formerly known as Car Quilt.

The second border has been appliqued on. I'm leaving it this size.

The second border has been appliquéd on.
I’m leaving it this size – my fingers have had enough!

It’s now 50 x 46″ and therefore large enough to qualify as a lap quilt for my father. At the age of 91, he’s reluctantly moving back to the UK to live with my brother. After 30 years in Spain, the climate is going to be a bit of a challenge, so this quilt will help to keep him warm, tucked around his legs as he reads or watches TV. Bright colours and modern prints are not really his thing, and he’s always loved the rich warm colours of Persian rugs, so this is his own personal Isfahani rug. Besides, it goes with my brother’s décor!

I’m backing it with dark blue fleece for extra warmth, which would make hand quilting exceptionally tricky. So it’s going to be either machine quilted, or it’ll be my first tied quilt.  I’m inclining towards tied, and am considering what colour to use for the floss ties. I’d do a tie in the centre of each of the beige ‘breather’ hexagons, so it’d end up being tied every 3 inches or so, which is plenty. I’m also having a poke around in my  scraps to see what colour I can use for binding. It really needs more dark blue, but I don’t have any left. What I do have is a fair bit of each of the featured fabrics, so it may end up with the scrappy binding of all time.

Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet) flower, just out and a tiny bit sorry for itself.

Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet) flower,
just out and a tiny bit sorry for itself.

The sun is out again today, although the wind is still strong and gusty.  I went out hopefully with my camera to try and capture some flowers.  The passion flowers have either not yet opened, or are on their way out, victims of rain, wind and grasshoppers. The Brugmansia flower is all the way out, but has been beaten against nearby leaves by the wind, and is looking a bit brown around the edges. Still pretty, though. I’m hoping it’ll survive long enough to get a bit more colour.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow I shall cut the fleece to size, pin the layers together and if time permits, start doing the ties.

It’s not Friday…

…but I have finishes to show.

Still pretty windy out there. I'm a bit happier with this now there's some pink and orange going on.

Still pretty grey, gloomy and windy out there. I’m a bit happier
with this now there’s some pink and orange going on.

Not quite as wishy washy as they looked in the previous post

Not quite as wishy washy as they
looked in the previous post

The back of Happiness, made from 100% stash and scraps.  I’m quite proud of not rushing out and buying a piece of bland generic wideback. Now to sandwich and pin, and then it becomes my evening hand work. Once I’ve decided how I’m hand quilting it, of course.

So far, it's 38 x 37" or thereabouts.  Still a way to go before it's a lap quilt.

So far, it’s 38 x 37″ or thereabouts.
Still a way to go before it’s a lap quilt.

The blue border on Car Quilt. Now I can start piecing the 4-patch border on the machine. My new day work. After that we’ll be back onto hand work, as I have to applique the blue border to the 4-patch border. I ran out of the dark blue fabric 2 hexagons before the end. After an extended rummage in my still unsorted scrap boxes, I located a piece which was the same dark blue, but without the overprint. I don’t think it shows, since you can’t really see the print anyway unless you get up close and personal.

The cyclone? Not interesting. It’s finally achieved cyclone intensity and has therefore been named Hadi. (I dunno, I’m assuming male, as the other one in the Gulf of Carpentaria has been named Gillian and they alternate between male and female these days). However, Hadi is a has-been and looks set to head back out into the Coral Sea where it can play with the big one brewing over the Solomon Islands. Certainly the wind has dropped drastically from about 70kmph last night to about 20kmph this morning. My banana tree is getting whipped to shreds, and the passionfruit vine is dangling off the fence. On the upside, the Brugmansia flower is hanging on, and I’ll be able to show you what it looks like in a couple of days if a) it develops properly and b) the grasshoppers leave it alone.

Right, off to start piecing the 4 patch border. Compulsive, moi?

Inching along…

Just a quick one.

Car Quilt blue borders: two sides done

Car Quilt blue borders: two sides done

Two edges of blue done on the Car Quilt. Two more to go, and I can start the next border.

Happiness: top half done except for outline sashing

Happiness: top half done except for outline sashing

Happiness: Strips for the bottom half - I just need to add the horizontal sashing and outline sash the whole lot

Happiness: Strips for the bottom half – I just need to add the
horizontal sashing and outline sash the whole lot

All the vertical sashing done on Happiness, and 4 more horizontal sashes to go. Then I have to do the outline sashing, and the top’s done. I’ve had a bit of a rummage in the Cupboard of All Colours, and there’s a complete absence of plan for the back. By which I mean, it’s going to be a hodge podge of scraps.

Once again, my sewing time got mostly eaten up. But I am inching forward!

Car Quilt progress

The central section is complete, hurray!

The completed centre. It's basically a medallion quilt, since the rest is all borders.

The completed centre.
It’s basically a medallion quilt,
since the rest is all borders.

It’s about 33″ x 36″, which is too small for anything useful. It’s basically one jelly roll plus a fat quarter or so of the beige neutral that goes in the centre and between each flower. The plan from here on is firstly to add a border of dark inky blue hexagons all round. Then, I’ll be making a pieced border out of the fat quarters I have of all the same fabrics. It’s going to be 3 strips vertical, three strips horizontal, alternating all the way round. Making it fit will be a tiny bit tricky because of course the central panel isn’t square. Look out for some underhand business tweaking widths and lengths… After that… well, I haven’t got that far yet. Let alone think about how I’ll be quilting it. That’s going to be tough, because the fabric is all quite heavy and a dense weave. Maybe – shock horror! – I’ll make it a tied quilt instead. Hmm. Definitely something to consider.

So, the next job is the whole bunch of dark blue hexies I have to make and then sew onto the edges of this panel. I’m blowed if I’m going to make a whole string and then sew that on: much too hard. I’ll add them one by one as I make them, which will be a maximum of three 1″ seams at a time.

(By the way, the hand quilting on the Tree of Life is roaring along well, you just can’t really see anything so there’s no point in posting until I have a landmark to celebrate – probably by the end of the week.)

Excuse me while I go and rip out all the basting and take the templates out. One of my favourite bits!

The Tree of Life part 15: it’s aliiiiive!!

No, Dr Frankenstein has not been tinkering with my quilt. 

Bird templates

Bird templates

But there is certainly a whole lot more going on suddenly. I’ve cut out and positioned the rest of the leaves. Sewing on to follow, o joy. I’ve made templates for all the birds, which was actually lots of fun. I’ve made sunflowers, which look a bit crude and simple right now, but are going to be embellished with satin stitch when I sew them down, which will hopefully take care of that issue. And I made three attempts at bunches of grapes. No go.Whatever I did, they looked like amorphous dark blobs, and had to be explained rather than explaining themselves.

Tree, fruit, flowers and leaves

Tree, fruit, flowers and leaves

So I’ve come up with a super-easy and if I may say so myself, rather brilliant alternative. I had some nice fabric featuring simplifed colourful pear halves on a dark brown background. They were in oranges, yellows and greens, and worked very well with the tree’s colour scheme. So I’ve made cut-outs of half a dozen of them, and I feel they work very well – better, in fact, than the grapes would have. And then, with the fruit, flowers and remaining leaves pinned on, I wanted to see how the birds would look, and I’m loving it!


Detail of fruit and birds

The paper templates are pinned on too. I think the birds need to be white. There’s so much else going on that I think they’d fail to stand out as they do if I made them a different colour. Any thoughts?

I was at work the last two days, which is why there hasn’t been the usual long blog about what I’ve done. But I was not idle. The Car Quilt is reaching the point where I’ve got to start considering borders, hurrah! What you see in the photo is going to be outlined with a row of dark blue hexies, and then the borders are going to be pieced strips of all the fabrics featured, perpendicular to each edge rather than parallel. This centre piece is currently 33″ x 36″ (80 x 90cm).

Car quilt progress

Car quilt progress

At least, that’s my thinking right now. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time!

The Husband is working this afternoon, and has a bit of a dash on to try and get home in time for weekly Saturday night dinner at the Dowager’s.  It’s been very hot and pretty humid today, so I’ve been glad to be inside, in the airconditioning.  I occasionally feel guilty about having it on and using so much power, but about 10 minutes after I turn it off, my conscience goes: “yes ok, whatever, put the damn thing back on!”. And I do. It’s currently 33C (91F), and humidity’s around 55%. If I could send some of this heat over to you guys currently freezing your bits off in the US, I’d do it in a flash. And in return, I’d like a short burst of that icy wind, please.

Tomorrow’s yard work in the morning till the heat gets insane, and then retreating indoors to my sewing machine. With luck, I’ll get all the leaves sewn down, and can make a start on the fruit and flowers. I hope you’ve all had a good week and are ready for whatever the weekend brings.

More tomorrow.

Lots done, little to show…

It’s been a busy day.

Many pre-Christmas tasks done, nothing much to show for it. Cleaning windows, sweeping the patio, putting handles on doors, getting the final groceries. That sort of fun stuff.  All things that need to be done but which don’t make particularly fascinating words or pictures!

One brag photo: the Car Quilt is now substantially larger.

The Car Quilt, growing fast. It must be all that stitching while I'm watching TV

The Car Quilt, growing fast. It must be all that stitching while I’m watching TV

I’ve been baking: mince pies, Christmas spiced cookies.  Tomorrow I have to tackle the ham, chicken, pork and beef. And make the chocolate mousse. And the sherry trifle.  Maybe I’ll have time to take some photos, or even do some sewing… yeah, right!

It’s getting excitingly close to Christmas now!

A little break…

I’m giving myself a night off from the Tree of Life quilt. Burnout threatens…

Well, it looks a bit Japanese, so I've chosen a suitable print

The fish looks a bit Japanese, so I’ve
chosen a suitable print

This print of Australian native flowers is just what I need here!

This print of Australian native flowers is just what I need here!

The fish fabrics are selected, and I need to have a think about how I’m going to use them. I can keep it simple, and make my life easy, or make it complicated, and make them gorgeous. Given the amount of work gorgeous will take, I think on the whole simple is going to win. But either way, I have to piece together some tricky shapes. I’ve reached the stage where I have to start doing really, really fiddly stuff, and I’ve been at work all day, and I’m a bit tired.

The Car Quilt so far

The Car Quilt so far

Flowers waiting to be added

Flowers waiting to be added

Finished hexies waiting to be assembled

Finished hexies waiting to be assembled

Fabric squares waiting to be sewn onto the papers

Fabric squares waiting to be sewn onto the papers

So to avoid the absolute certainty of stuffing up something complicated because I’m too tired to think clearly, and too clumsy to handle delicate pieces, I’m having a short break from the master work!  I’m going to relax, have a nice meal, have a drink, watch some TV, and, because the world has not yet come to an end, do some sewing… Of the Car Quilt hand sewn variety, which I can churn out without any direct intervention on the part of my brain.

It’s all hands and eyes. I can watch TV at the same time, have a conversation, answer the phone, and still those little hexagons keep coming, and still they magically turn into flowers at the end of the evening. I can ring the changes, too. I have some papers and squares of fabric. I have some hexagons already sewn to the papers. I have some flowers made up. So if one activity gets boring, I can move on to another. It’s soothing, satisfying, comforting, and above all, brainless! Just what I need tonight.

Now, where are those mince pies I made…?