Preparing for our Weekend Away

Our quilting retreat weekend at The Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton is at the end of this week, and we’ve been preparing the projects we want to work on.  Tracy has cut out all of her pieces ready for sewing (so organised) while I’ve been pulling together a collection of fabrics to make a start on a sampler quilt.  I have Barbara Brackman’s ‘Civil War Sampler’ on Kindle, but I decided there’s nothing like a hard copy for ease of use, so I bought the book as well.

Angie has taken a laid back approach to it all and had decided to wait until the weekend arrives to be inspired.  At our last sewing group she did narrow her choices down to just a few, but In the meantime she’s been having a big push to finish all her UFO’s.  She bought a fabulous ladder display unit to hang her quilts from, and I think that’s been part of her motivation to get going.

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I’ve taken out the Medallion quilt, President’s Pride, which I began while on our last retreat in November, to try to get that up and running again.  All it needs is the last border of 4½” shoo fly blocks sewn on all the way around and then it’s ready for batting and backing. I seem to have the attention span of a firefly at the moment with so many UFO’s at all stages of development it’s time I set my shoulder to the wheel too.

We’ve been having a bit of fun making some bags to hold our equipment.  One of them is from a pattern I found on Craftsy called the Bionic Gear Bag.  It’s as eccentric as it sounds, but it really is a clever thing with loads of zip pockets, a fold down ‘tray’ at the front and some nifty little accessories to go with it.  One of them is called a Dumpling Dish but it reminds me more of a Cornish pasty when it’s zipped up.

Not long to go now….  I can’t wait.  (Tracy’s had her suitcase packed and ready for days!)

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Summer Progress

While Angie’s been relaxing at her Welsh hideaway she’s been catching up on her hand sewing. She really is a wiz with English paper piecing and uses up all her offcuts making hexagons and such, so it’s economical too. I think it’s a great way to make the most out of every scrap of leftover fabric and the results are just beautiful.

Not to be outdone, Tracy has completed a pretty quilt top. It’s just two colour ways in shades of white and turquoise and looks really effective. I can’t wait to see her finished quilt.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy making lots of small work, like bookmarks, pouches and little baskets, which we hope to sell at upcoming fundraising events in aid of Cancer Care and MacMillan Nurses. This little project is ongoing so I’ll post more about it as we progress

I’ve finally finished the binding around my vanity sewing case. I’m not all that happy with the result as the top and bottom tend to bow inwards. Again, I think it’s all to do with the foam batting which seems to have a life of it’s own.

I’m in the process of making some fabric bins so I can conceal the piles of batting and interfacing I’ve amassed. I decided to use a different technique with the remainder of my foam stuff. I cut the batting half an inch smaller all round than the size of the fabric, so that when I brought the sides of the bin together I just had to stitch through only the fabric to secure them. To add strength and definition I rolled the seam allowance in on itself at each side and covered it with a binding. The bin still bows out a bit, but I think it kinda works.

Currently my waddings are jammed in plastic carrier bags and stuffed under the sideboard. It’s not a pretty sight. I intend to make some floppy lids to top off the bins later, but for now I’ve just covered my first one with a piece of fabric. I have to say it already looks much better, so I best crack on with a couple more.


…link to All is Vanity

My Travel Bag

Chastened by the fact that Tracy had completed her brilliant bag in record time, I decided I’d better hunker down and get on with making my own travel bag. The pattern I had was the Overnight Bag, an original design by Julie-Anne from White Cottage Country Crafts.

I love the overall size and shape of the bag but there were a couple of things I wanted to add. The first was some internal pockets, and the second was to give addional strength to where the handles fasten to the body of the bag as I’ve a tendency to stuff my travelling bags to the gunnels. To achieve this I decided to sew the handle strapping all the way down the outsides of the bag to the base seams so as to spread the load.  As an afterthought, I got hold of some plastic D rings and sewed them on with fabric tabs just below the zip on each side so I can attach a shoulder strap if I want to.

Overall, I’m pleased with the way it turned out. All I have to do now is apply some spray-on fabric protector and I’m good to go.

A Little Bit of History

I take in museums and places of interest all the time when I’m on holiday, but I never seem to get round to visiting the ones that are near my home.  I live in the Black Country, once the industrial heartland of England, whose grimy factories were built on the rich seams of iron ore and coal found beneath the earth in the 1800s. There are plenty of places here that celebrate the legacy of those times and that I’ve never been to. One of them is the Museum of Cannock Chase.

The museum mostly celebrates the lives of the coal miners and the mining industry. Our little sewing group found it fascinating although we didn’t visit because of the exhibits but because the venue was hosting the Cannock Chase Quilt & Embroidery Festival.

It was an enchanting little festival with a beautiful collection of quilts on display, all made by local enthusiasts. Considering it was the first time the festival was being held there were a surprising number of fabric and notions stalls too.

I purchased some needles from a stall run by John James Needles of Redditch and discovered that the company has been producing high quality needles of all types since the 1840s, and Redditch was once know as the ‘Needle Capital of the World.’ All made possible by the high quality steel being manufactured close by in the Black Country.  Small nuggets of history like that become kind of personal when they’re so close to home, don’t you think?

Angie and I succumbed to purchasing a few bits of fabric which we didn’t need but absolutely had to have. Tracy bought a complete handbag kit, ‘The Juberry Messenger Bag,’ designed by Julie Betts from the Juberry Fabrics stall. She got to work on it straight away and the end result is a fabulous looking bag that only took her a couple of evenings to complete. Which reminds me I’d better get on and make my travel bag soon. I bought the fabrics at Uttoxeter way back in April and haven’t even made a start yet.

All is Vanity

Angie and I attended a workshop at White Cottage Country Crafts a week or so back.  I do love our ‘away days’ where it’s all about the sewing and there are none of the usual interruptions you find at home.

It’s such a boost when you know there’s someone around to help you with the tricky bits and bolster your confidence when you’re not quite sure on how to go about something.

We can choose a new project or continue with one already started. This time we both chose the same new project – a vanity sewing case. It’s an original pattern by Louise who was also the person presiding over the workshop that day so we thought we’d made a wise choice.

The pattern itself was pretty straightforward and I loved the look of the finished item pictured on the front. We had problems sewing it together though, but this was down to either our choice of wadding or our inability to handle it properly.

We used a foam wadding which does give the vanity case a great shape, it stands up really well, but oh my did we find it hard to sew with. In places I was trying to go through four layers of the stuff plus fabric and lining, and my little machine was really complaining about it. Even though I used a fresh needle, I got skipped stitches galore and had to keep going back to re-stitch gaps – no fun. If I hadn’t had the use of Angie’s machine (the super duper one) to help me finish up I might have given up completely.

If anyone can tell me what machine adjustments are needed to effectively sew through several layers of foam wadding I’d be eternally grateful. Otherwise I think I’m going to avoid the stuff altogether in the future.

After all the hassle I didn’t have the energy to wrestle with machine sewing on the bindings, nor the confidence to think it would work, so I’m in the middle of hand sewing them on for now. That’s slow going too because there’s plenty more things I’d rather be sewing to distract me.

Angie was so unhappy with her finished case she’s relegated it to the back of an upstairs cupboard, never to see the light of day again and certainly not to be photographed! She’s currently working on a new and improved version. Needless to say, she’s not using the foam stuff either this time.

I’ll post pictures in the gallery when we’re finally done with them.

…link to Summer Progress