Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Going Loopy

Here I am playing catch up again, this time with tales of a yarntastic adventure.  So without further ado...

Back at the beginning of February, it was finally time to cash in on a Christmas gift bought for me by my beloved.  You may have noticed I am rather partial to all things crafty.  I can sew, I can quilt, I can crochet,  and all sorts of other things besides.  One glaring omission seemed to be the fact that I couldn't knit.  I've pondered for years whether I wanted to learn.  Did I really have time for yet another hobby?  But back in my Den languished numerous vintage magazines and patterns full of the most desirable knitted garments.  What's a girl to do but give it a go?

So one fine Saturday morning, off I set to Islington and that mecca of knitters, Loop, in Camden Passage.  I have visited the shop quite  few times before so the prospect of attending a beginners' knitting course here had me salivating.

One can't help but stop and ponder the delights in the window.  I pretty much fell in love with this knitted bird.  Maybe next Christmas?

I spotted a new creature designed by a textile artist I much admire and whose work you may well recognise,  Julie Arkell.  She also teaches workshops here, not everything is solely yarn related.

It was a treat to be let inside before the shop actually opened for business.  I headed downstairs which is where the workshops are held.  It's an inspiring place with lots of whacky and wonderful yarny creations on display and a large table for the seven of us to sit around.  A pair of needles and a ball of yarn awaited us.  Yikes!  Our teacher was to be an American young lady named Meghan Fernandes (she also publishes a knitting magazine which you may know of, called PomPom).  She was to prove an excellent teacher and the group being small, had enough time to give us individual attention.  I was the only person who actually had zero knitting experience.  Oh!  Everyone else had at least had a go and ranged from the novice to the too-good-to-be-on-a-beginners'-course. 

I was distracted by a rather yummy barkcloth cushion on the bench at the end of the table, accompanied by a fine ripple blanket.

I found it quite ok to understand the way one knits and purls.  It took me a little while to get used to how to pass the yarn through my fingers.

Over the space of two Saturdays (three hours each time), I also managed to cast on and off.  I did find it harder when I got home though.  I could still manage the stitches most of the time but what I have found really hard is knowing how to correct a mistake.  If you are a crocheter, you will know that if you go wrong, you simply take out your hook and unravel the yarn.  Easy peasy.  But with knitting?  Oh dear.  That seems a whole different ball game.  I couldn't bear for any element of my knitted thingy to go wrong and it was most frustrating not knowing how to put things right and be able to move on.  Aaaarrrgghh!

Luckily, above me there were two floors of yarntastic delights to soothe and inspire me.

I pondered what my first project might be.  I liked this scarf, at least I knew I could manage the crocheted edging!  Ultimately, I didn't feel confident enough to actually start a project and felt I needed more practise.  Although the shop is chock-full of the most gorgeous yarn, I also didn't think it was sensible to buy anything expensive and fancy to practise with.  It's not as if I am short of yarn at home!

It didn't stop me looking though.

Look at that divine rug!  I think it may be the work of Nathalie Lete?

Yarn, yarn, yarn.

I did buy a book to help me on my knitting quest but I must confess, that I have not attempted to knit for weeks.  Naughty.  One thing I am finding hard is that there are so many other things I can do which I am better at and so give me instant gratification.  I have been really busy with quilt commissions recently so that has been one thing keeping me away from the needles.  I've now finished this gorgeous large Liberty Tana Lawn quilt save for adding a name patch and will post it out this week.

I have been baking for the Sport Relief efforts at school.  I can  bake, oh yes indeedy.

I've been baking even more to entertain some friends.  We had a little afternoon tea together which was oh so nice.

And we are decorating yet again.  This time it's just a little teeny tiny room on the first floor, I call it the "throne room".  You probably get my drift.  Teeny it may be but it's still hard to get it done on top of everything else.  It has meant, however,  that I've tried another little crafty project for the first time.  One that has turned out rather well.  It's created a little flurry of excitement on Instagram, I think it's fair to say.

I've promised to post a little "how to" in the near future so when the room is finished, hopefully not too far off now, that's exactly what I will do.

Toodle pip for now. Xxx

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Getting Shirty

How have you all been, readers?  It's been busy, busy, busy here.  Lots going on at home and lots of quilt commissions to make.  Oooh goody.  The sunshine has made a welcome return, giving my Instagram pis a bit of a hazy glow.

In between the joyous task of making quilts for other lovely folk, I carved out a rewarding 36 hours or so for a little me-sewing-time.  I was seized by the urge to get to grips with my Liberty Tana Lawn stash.  Yummy.

I started by separating everything into bundles by colour.  I usually try to keep my fabric stash like this anyway but I guess even I must pull something out and shove it back in any old how now and then!

After a couple of hours with the ruler and rotary cutter, I had a lovely Liberty fabric buffet and it was time to refuel with a late breakfast.

I headed upstairs to my quilty den in search of a little hoarded treasure.

I found it.  I think you can guess what I had been stockpiling for a few years now.  No, I hadn't pinched all of Mr HenHouse's shirts.  Ok, I'd kept a few which had gone a little frayed round the collar or cuffs, and the rest had come from charity shops.  One thing about living in London, lots of nice work shirts discarded in good condition by city workers!

It took me quite a while to cut those 5" squares from the shirts.  Not quite so easy as cutting into a pristine fat quarter.  I also cut some vintage sheeting and some modern polka dot and striped cottons to arrive at my desired fabric buffet.

Before too long, I was sticking squares on my design wall and liking what I was seeing.

Time to spend a lovely afternoon piecing away on Jenny Janome. Piecing is pretty much my favourite thing so I was a happy lady. Many of the shirts, if they are good quality ones, are made from fine fabric very similar in feel and weight to the Tana Lawn. Some, and the vintage linens and modern cottons, were a little thicker.  It is true that patchworking together different weight fabrics is not as easy as quilting cotton.  Tana Lawn can be tricky to sew as it is thin and a little slippery.  I find it best to go down a needle size to a number 70 and use a smallish stitch size.  I had no problems.

In between, I had pleasure in despatching another pretty quilt to a cat-loving repeat customer in nearby Kent.

Time to head back upstairs once the piecing was competed, and get that quilt top basted.  It's not a thrilling job but made much easier working on a table rather than on the floor, and it's soon done whilst listening to the radio.

A finished quilt emerged, within two days of having started.

I'm really pleased with it, if I may say.  This colour scheme of soft blues, pinks and aquas is a favourite of mine.  I love the old, soft and faded look the used shirts and vintage cottons give.  I love the contrast of the prettier than pretty Liberty lawns and the utilitarian stripes and spots.  It goes without saying that the Tana Lawn and recycled fabrics feel deliciously soft and tactile.  Liberty Lawn quilts are always very lightweight, too.  Scrumptious.

I decided to treat myself to a Liberty Lawn backing and headed off to the very shop where I picked out my favourite print, Betsy, in a gorgeous china blue and pretty pink.  A polka dot pink poplin binding was the perfect finishing touch.  The Liberty Lawn backing is a bit of a nuisance to quilt, it does have a tendency to pucker, but it went well after the first main seams were in place.

Here it lives on my newly upholstered chair.  More on that and other generally chair-sy news soon.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Not So Wordy Wednesday

One of the very first blogs I ever read was Alicia's Paulson's wonderful Posie gets Cozy.  I'm pretty sure you will be a devoted follower too, and if not, where have you been?

Alicia has a set pattern for her blog posts; she loads a whole lot of delightful photos and then she talks to us about them in a narrative which follows underneath.  I seem to be blogging less and less these days, quite simply because time seems to fly by and before I know it, another week or even ten days has passed by.  It's not my intention to blog in this way all the time, but as I seem to be playing catch up and I have a real jumble of things to share with you, Alicia's method spoke to me and so today, here I am, giving it a try.

So, we are through half term already which seemed to see us fitting an awful lot into a short space of time.  We did head West later in the week, stopping in Alresford in Hampshire which is a favourite little town.  Some nice individual shops for me, the steam railway for the boys and a lovely cosy pub for lunch for us all.  The weather was quite kind whilst we were in Somerset. I took some crafty bits and bobs with me, mainly a tin full of narrow, teeny strips of yummy vintage fabric.  We made the obligatory trip to Bridders on the Saturday and we also fitted in a flea market.  I didn't feel like I found much this time, seems like there is a lack of stock around, not least because there are no car boot sales, I suppose.  Still, when I unpacked my haul, and needed to find a home for it, I had amassed quite a little treasure trove.  Lots of very inspiring stuff.

Now that the shower room is finished...  Excuse me just a minute, whoah, let's rewind there.  Did somebody say THE SHOWER ROOM IS FINISHED?  Well, after a final push we were frustrated to find we'd been sent the incorrect part for the shower screens so a wait ensued and Handyman Steve went home while the part winged its slow way from Cumbria (thank goodness for buying British, though).  To all intents and purposes, it is finished but I think I want to make something to dress the window, I even bought some fabric yesterday, so when that is done, we shall have a grand unveiling ceremony.  But there are a few snaps today just to keep you going.

I am enjoying having the house back to myself and have done a spot of baking here and there.  I always feel quite unsettled when there is someone here working and find it hard to stick to my little routine.  I tend to hide myself away in my Den, always a source of inspiration and pleasure, and following my energetic quilt listing session last week, I have been swept off my feet with orders and requests for custom work. I started a pretty pastel quilt for a cat lover, today.  This is to include the colours pink and green, which are my favourite, so I am being spoiled in making this quilt, really.  I am making it for a lovely lady who has commissioned me before and it always feels such a pleasure to have people return.

So, I fear it's time to leave my little space here for today and get back to that quilt (more like, I cannot wait!) and look forward to a slice of tea loaf later.  I have some of those pretty raggy fabric rosettes listed in my Etsy shop along with the iPad (other tablets are available) cover, so watch that space if you are feeling like a treat.

Thanks for reading.  Xxx