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Liberty Rations

July 4, 2016

I have a small but perfectly formed collection of Liberty Tana Lawn.  If I could buy as much of it as I would like to, I would a) be bankrupt and b) not have enough room in the house to keep it all.

When it comes to buying Liberty lawn for my stash (as opposed to a commission or a planned product, when it's totally legal – yay!), the rule I make for myself is that I can buy it if I truly love it.  The way I know if I truly love it is that I can't get it out of my mind until I actually buy a piece of it.  It then also has to be either available at a great price, or I can only have a very small piece, and this can't happen more than four times a year.  I am very strict.

Amongst my collection, there are a few very precious pieces which, I admit, I love more than others.  Cutting into these pieces to make something is very difficult and doesn't happen very often.  But what fun is it for them if they hide away in their storage box and are never seen by other Liberty lovers?  So last week I decided it was time for one of my vintage favourites to have a little outing and metamorphose into a sewing case:

I feel quite sad that I don't know the name of this very pretty print.  I bought it years ago as part of a bundle from Sunflower Fabrics but have never seen any of it since.  I made it using my usual 'basic' case pattern with a slip pocket on the inside front:

And a scissor keep on the back:

When it came to the usual little hand stitched pocket embroidery detail, I felt that it deserved a little more bling so used a little gold metallic thread to echo the golden colour in the print:

I rooted through my button collection and settled on this metal Rowan button with a little heart detail, which felt perfect for it:

For the lining, I broke out another favourite fabric and used a little navy coloured Brussels Washer Linen by Robert Kaufman, interfaced for strength as it's quite an open weave, although beautifully soft.  

Of course, I couldn't just make one Liberty case, could I?  Two more of my favourite but less rarified prints also had a little outing alongside hearts and flowers.  This is Wild Flowers, with a painted wooden bunny button:

And June's Meadow in blue, although this isn't lawn, but the 'craft' cotton that feels very much like brushed cotton in quite a comforting way:

I do love this way of using my Liberty fabrics – they're centre stage and yet I don't have to use much of them – perfect! 😀

You can find all my sewing cases in my Etsy shop and I'm always happy to make a custom case to your particular preferences – bigger, more pockets, different pockets – whatever your heart desires…

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I’m just a needlewoman, with needles on her mind

May 12, 2016

I've been making sewing cases for several years now.  It started with simple needlebooks and I developed several designs from there.  In the beginning, they were a favourite way of celebrating a particular fabric – whether it was a fabric print I really liked, or a piece of English Paper Piecing I'd made:

There's something captivating about a sewing case to a needlewoman I think.  Let's face it, we know how to celebrate the aesthetic and tactile aspects of fabric, but we also like to have a good reason to use and enjoy it, not to mention a reason to cut into it!  We also seem to have a penchant for having specially made things connected to our needlework, many of which are made with fabric.  There's the undeniably practical aspect to having the right tool or accessory to 'do the job', but I think it also has an awful lot to do with being able to surround ourselves with lovely fabric things, whilst we create lots more fabric things – what could be better?!

As much as I've enjoyed creating sewing cases just for the pure enjoyment of it, I've found over the years that I've also been constantly striving towards creating pieces that are the 'right' answer to every needlewoman's needs.  I get a lot of pleasure from thinking that I might be making something that someone really needs – something that is their 'just so' – a certain size, a particular closure, a certain number and type of pockets – and that's before you even get to the fabric it's made with, or the embellishments that might be added, all of which are very personal choices.  The lovely thing is that I'll never create just the right case for every needlewoman as we're all so individual, but it really is fun trying.

Recently, I've been making some larger sewing cases with a range of features, starting with this understated linen one that I added a small flower applique to and quilted with gold thread:

And more recently this one, which was a commission for an Etsy client:

This brought together the design of the original large linen one above, and another of my smaller cases that features Liberty applique hearts:

My client loved the features of the large linen case, but it wasn't her style – she wanted something with a stronger look and loved the rich colours of a print from Bari J's Emmy Grace collection.  This also gave me an opportunity to play about with how I built the case with the zippers inside, which also introduced a little more colour to the inside of the case, by using more of the featured Bari J print to edge the zips:

It's really surprising how much you can get into this case – you can even slip a 5 inch embroidery frame into the slip pocket at the back:

For those who have a little more to carry around, I can also make co-ordinating zipped project bags to go with any of my sewing cases, which I think are perfect for travelling stitchers since you can organise your sharps into the safety of the case, and carry your actual projects and larger items in the bag:

From the time I made the first supersized case, I've been mulling over the idea of the traditional needlewoman's workbox and had almost seduced myself into the idea of making one, but I wasn't convinced that today's needlewoman really wanted that.  Well, no, not entirely – I think most would love a beautiful handbuilt work box with lots of matching pieces to go in it, but that's something that they may well want to make for themselves as a kind of right of stitching passage maybe?  What most sewers seem to want is something more portable than that, something that helps them to fit their stitching around their busy lives, as they carry their work around with them and snatch 10 minutes here and there to add a few stitches to their current project.  

And while that may well be the profile of the modern needlewoman, I don't think she's changed all that much at heart – she still wants to enjoy her tools and accroutrements – they still need to be pretty and individual, so that they can enhance her enjoyment while stitching. So, this is the direction I found myself heading in when I sat down to design my next generation sewing case, which is more of a mobile work box.  I've brought together my love of the purse frame and the sewing case to design the Needlewoman's Clutch and I've used two of my favourite sewing case fabric combos for first two I've made:

The first features Liberty's 'Hesketh' tana lawn and a zingy green Essex linen by Robert Kaufman, with a pretty silver coloured clasp frame, decorated with birds.  I purposely made the bag a little too large for the frame so that the sides would be super puffy and a bit like a Gladstone bag.  At this point, I'm still playing with the shapes and working out what I like best:

Next came a pairing of pretty mustard and pink Tilda cotton prints, with a slightly larger bronze colour frame and a more classically clutch shape:

Both have a zipped pocket inside, and both have co-ordinating stitching accessories – a small pincushion, a mini needlebook with traditional wool flannel pages, and a padded scissor case:

For practical reasons, I wanted to use an undyed wool flannel cloth for the mini needle books, which is a lovely thin, drapey and soft cloth.  This was what used to be used, before we all got into using wool felt and I think I prefer it really – although both have their advantages and disadvantages.  I was also really happy to find a use for the pewter colour Edelweiss hook fasteners I've had in my stash for a few years now – I knew there would be a perfect project to use them on!  It was also nice to break out some buttons from my collection to make the little pumpkin shaped pincushions.  And as if it's not enough fun to carry your needlework and tools along in a pretty clutch bag, there's also the added attraction of being able to remove the needlework tools and using the clutch on its own too!

It's really a bit of a relief to have got the idea for the Needlewoman's Clutch out of my head and into form – my unrealised ideas seem to become a maddening voice in my head until they can come into being.  And as it turns out, my timing in completing this newest design is pretty fortuitous because one of my sewing cases is mentioned in Cross Stitch Crazy magazine today – what a great way to celebrate my needlecase evolution!

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There once was an ugly duckling…

March 9, 2016

I've raved about the benefits of wet blocking knits before, but I've never seen such a transformation from ugly duckling to swan as this one after two days on the blocking wires.

This is a very lovely and super simple lace knit shawl designed by Janina Kallio, called Interlude.  It was a total breeze to knit and very quick – if you've never tried a lace knit before, I'd highly recommend it as a first timer's project.  The yarn I chose to use was a polwarth wool by Eden Cottage Yarns called 'Oakworth' (colourway is 'Steel), which they describe as "smooth and crisp" – very accurate, in my experience of it.  As anyone who follows my knit and crochet exploits knows, I'm a serious lux yarn lover, never far from a bit of super soft merino, cashmere or silk, and I wasn't sure about choosing a yarn like this for a knit shawl, but it really is perfect for a design that relies so heavily on the post knit process for it's finished look.  Smooth and crisp indeed 🙂

This is how the shawl looked straight off the needles:

Not terribly pretty…  I was promised in the pattern though that it would transform on blocking and that I needed to block it hard!

This was truly a project of firsts for me – my first Janina Kallio pattern, my first time using an Eden Cottage yarn (and indeed, a Polwarth wool) and my first time using Twig & Horn's Lanolin wool wash, which him indoors got for my birthday from Loop.  They currently seem to be out of the Lemongrass scented one that I have, which smells divine.  It did soften up the wool and was a delight to use – really silky.  After threading my Eden Cottage Interlude onto the blocking wires and leaving it in situ for a couple of days, it really did turn out to be something of a swan:

I've bought a range of different yarns from Eden Cottage Yarns to try out this year, all quite different.  Looking forward to trying out the next one – quite possibly with another Janina Kallio pattern, as I have a few more of those too 🙂

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Quilt Love

March 2, 2016

I do love making quilts.  I love the designing, the fabric selection, the planning, the cutting (okay, don't like that bit quite so much!), the sewing back together, the basting, quilting, squaring, binding, labelling and finishing, but most of all, I love the whole idea of making a quilt – especially when it's intended to commemorate something special.

The top of my latest quilt finish (Window on the Forest MKII) was made some time ago and had been languishing in my unfinished quilt drawer.  Then, a few weeks ago, the owner of my original Window on the Forest quilt asked me to make a quilt to mark the birth of her grand niece and she said this one would be perfect!  I was very happy to be asked and had spent the most enjoyable week finishing the quilt:

The feature panel central squares with the foxes, deer and bears were fussy cut in the same way as the original quilt, but I couldn't centralise all the animals because I didn't have enough of the fabric left to be able to waste any of it!  While I used some different prints from the Sarah Watts' Timber and Leaf collection for the quilt top and binding, I backed it with the same pretty floral print as the original quilt:

The original quilt was utility stitched with perle cottons, but I hand quilted this new version with quilting cotton, which will be more suited to a baby and more regular washing:

I also added a hand embroidered quilt label to memoralise the commission, why it was made, who for and who by.  To record everything in such a small space, my lettering stitches needed to be a bit too teeny to get them as perfect as I'd like to have got them, but it was at least legible.

There's something very special about a quilt with a particular purpose that will probably stay with a person, and in a family for a long time – I feel so honoured to have been a part of that:

You can read about my original Window on the Forest quilt here and here and here and finally, here – gosh I do go on 😀

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Mini Me

February 9, 2016

Well, we're already in February and this is my first post of 2016 – oops!  Having said that, I'd rather be a less frequent blogger than just blog twaddle when I've really not got much to say.

It does seem that I have a bit of a thing for minimising generally…  As well as minimising my number of blog posts, I tend to minimise my knitting designs too (tenuous link? Mmm, maybe!).  My latest minimised pattern is for my Versace Cowl, which I blogged about here.  I was sorting my yarn stash the other day, wondering what I felt like knitting next, when I came across my collection of Rowan Creative Focus Worsted yarn and there it was – the idea to do a new Versace Cowl in a mini me size 😀  This is the original:

And this was my inspiration Versace dress for the cowl design:

So dreamy, so pink and creamy and grey and sparkly.  Sigh…  

The Mini Me version of the cowl sticks pretty closely to my original design, with a few tweaks.  As well as changing the dimensions a bit (you can't go mini without getting a bit smaller after all!), I omitted the stripes between colour changes to simplify things.  I also minimised the silver thread and used a much finer silver and white lurex thread on the grey sections – still sparkly though:

Mini Me Versace is almost as long as the grown up version, but a little over half the width maybe.  I also kept the colour sections to about the same kind of ratios as the original:

I'm not sure I should admt to this, but because of the colour and the hairy nature of the yarn, I always think about pigs when I'm knitting the paler pink section of this cowl, so now think of this as piggy knitting – silly, but it makes me giggle 😀

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My Knitting Patterns? Just Like Buses

November 8, 2015

Seriously – they all come along at once! Yes, two knitting patterns in two weeks; I was so successful at getting myself moving with the capelet pattern last week that some of the motivation stuck with me up to this weekend.  I was also motivated by the amazing interest shown in last week's pattern for The Hug on Ravelry – as at right now, it's been favourited 513 times and downloaded by 1,081 people.  Gulp.  Amazeballs!  Of course it is free, so that always helps… 😉

Quite honestly, with today's pattern, I do feel like a bit of a fraud because all I've really done is turn a Purl Soho free scarf pattern into a cowl pattern and change the yarn.  I would love to be knitting with Purl Soho yarn but the shipping and customs costs to get it in the UK are prohibitive. I keep hoping that Love Knitting will one day become a stockist for them…  Meanwhile, my favourite Malabrigo Merino Worsted runs on as a fabulous sub!

So this week's pattern is for my quilted lattice cowl.  The one pictured below is the very first one I made that went to keep the lovely Emma of Hole House warm (she makes fabulous bags – do check out her work). This is the 'Simply Taupe' colourway; such a gorgeous shade and with the added benefit of being the same colour as Baileys, which gives me a nice warm feeling – when I think of it, and when I drink it 😀

As I've said before, I'm not great at getting my head down and writing patterns generally but, with this one, I put it off more because it felt like I might be stating the obvious.  This is because, if you have a bit of knitting experience, you really don't need my pattern – just use the original one on Purl Soho's fab site (where they frequently post fab free patterns), start with a provisional cast on, knit until it's somewhere between 55 and 57 inches long and graft the ends together.  However, over the last year or so, I've got my thick head around the fact that lots of less experienced knitters really like the confidence that a pattern to make a specific item gives them, so I decided that it is worthwhile to put it out there.

You can find and download the pattern for free right here on Ravelry.  You can also see the other colourways I've made on my Ravelry project page, but I thought I'd show them to you here too.  This one is knitted in the 'Pearl' shade and went to live with Kirsti in Washington:

This one is in the Prink Frost shade and is in my Etsy shop at the moment:

And this is currently on my needles and is a commission for Susannah.  The colour is Moss – not one I would have necessarily chosen myself because I usually prefer a semi solid to a solid colour, but I love it:

My next commission for this one is to knit it with Rowan Kidsilk Haze Eclipse in the beautiful blue 'Pisces' shade for the lovely cowl addicted Sara.  I made the scarf with this yarn last year in the silver shade and whilst I loved the scarf, it wasn't a lot of fun to knit – it took an age to do and this yarn is not great for knitting as the metallic thread in it separates out as you tension it through your fingers.  This doesn't happen at all when I crochet with it, which is strange…  Anyway, this was the beginnings of that scarf – how sparkly? 😀

When I first read the Purl Soho instructions for the lattice or trellis stitch, I will admit that I was a bit stumped at first, although I am a bit slow…  Because of this, I thought it would be worthwhile to put together a few photos to help anyone who, like me, doesn't immediately 'get' the written instructions – some of us are just more visual, aren't we?!

Judging by the comments on the Purl Soho scarf pattern page, you might not immediately see how to get those strands laying across the front of the work.  It really is as simple as it sounds – rather than having the yarn at the back of the work as you usually do when doing the knit stitch, you bring it to the front, before you start slipping the stitches and then take it back to the back before you knit the next stitch in the pattern, which fixes the strand in place at 6 stitch intervals, like this:

In the beginning, take your time on the rows where you add the strands to the work (rows 2 and 6) and make sure that you're adjusting the stitches and the strands sitting on the right hand needle so that the strands are at the same tension as the stitches in the Goldilocks fashion – not too tight, not too loose, but just right 🙂

Row 4 was the first time I felt a bit stumped, so these photos will walk you through the things that could be confusing.  So here we are, coming up to a stitch that we have to knit 'under' (in the pattern, abbreviated as k1uls):

So we slip our right needle under the strand / thread:

Push the right needle into the stitch as usual:

Then knit it and take it off the left needle as usual:

And carry on knitting:

The beginning and end of row 6 was also less than straitforward at first.  After you've made the purl at the beginning, keep the yarn to the front and slip the next 3 stitches before taking the yarn to the back of the work, ready to knit the next stitch:

Then when you get to the last 6 stitches, slip 3 with the yarn in front and keeping it there, purl the purl stitch:

This is how it looks after you've purled:

Next, how were you supposed to work those beginning and end strands you'd laid down in row 6 when you got to row 8?  The answer is: in exactly the same way as any other 'knit under' stitch, you just need to knit under the last knit stitch before the purl, like this:

So it looks like this:

I hope that this mini photo tutorial will be useful to someone and that anyone who decides to download the pattern has fun knitting it.  Feel free to comment or message me here, on Ravelry or on Facebook if you have any questions about the pattern or techniques 🙂

That might be it for knitting patterns for a little while, although I've still got plenty on my list to get finished off.  My next will hopefully be a full booklet for my Shaded English Rose Tweed cowl in several different versions, although that's not likely to be free since it is taking a lot of work to perfect! 😀

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Let me give you a Hug

October 31, 2015

It has taken far longer than I wanted or planned, but I have finally finished writing up the knitting pattern for this little capelet!

Really I don't know what it is about pattern writing – I enjoy writing, I love making the pieces that the pattern is for, and I get plenty of encouragement from lovely people who want to make the pieces up, but I just never seem to get my head down and do it 😮  Actually, I think it might be because I'm always so concerned about getting everything just right and when you make things, that's not always possible.  Although I have all my own patterns written down for myself to use, they're really all more recipes than actual patterns – I often tweak them or play with them to suit.  Putting it in writing feels like setting it in stone and, as written, it might not be just right for a particular person's particular project.  But there's a limit to how many tips and notes and suggestions you can add before you end up confusing the pattern.  You have to stop sometime and let it out into the world!

Anyway, it's written now and if anyone needs help or advice with it, they can email me or post a question here 😀  You can find and download the pattern for free on Ravelry here.  If you make one, I do hope you'll show me / let me know.  I've got plans to try the pattern out (or make an alternative version of it) using a more available yarn, so will share any successes with that in another version of the pattern, as and when it's done.

Happy knitting! 😀

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The holiday of two halves

October 11, 2015

We usually take at least a week off at this time of year – always Mark's birthday week and usually the week before or after too.  This year, it was just the birthday week and it was a week of two very distinct halves, as far as the weather was concerned.  Monday and Tuesday was all about rain and going nowhere.  Wednesday wasn't awfully different, but we'd had enough of being shut in and so took ourselves off to Anglesey Abbey for the day.

This wasn't our first visit there, but it was certainly the quietest!  Last time we visited was around the same time of year, but it was a lovely day and the place was absolutely mobbed with people.  Although it rained on the drive there and was chucking it down when we parked up, the weather broke just as we stepped into the grounds and stayed dry for the rest of our time there.  How lucky?!  The sky was grey and wet looking, but we enjoyed a lovely long walk around the huge gardens and park, where there's plenty to see.  One of my favourites is the cyclamen walk where the broad tree lined pathway is bordered by a carpet of pink and white cyclamens.  My photo is very poor quality, but you get the idea!

The formal gardens are much less my kind of thing, but they're very well planned out and there seems to be a statue around every corner:

Wall to wall dahlias are another big attraction – although these were past their best and a little off limits due to muddy lawns:

The white birches at Angelsey really are a bit of a cliche photographically speaking, but I couldn't resist anyway.  What I really love about these trees is their incredibly smooth and tactile bark – with trees like these, I'm completely sold on the concept of tree hugging:

My picture of the mill that lives in the grounds is particularly soggy, although the greenery is still so lush looking.  I'd love to go back when Autumn is firmly set in and on a day when the sky is blue!

The parkland is dotted with features like the Jubilee walk:

And was certainly getting into the Autumn spirit with piles of golden leaves everywhere:

It wasn't until we were back in the gardens and walking one of the many little pathways that take you from one formal garden area to another, that I actually stopped and looked at one of the large horse chestnut trees.  We'd been surrounded by them for hours but taking little notice of them really – it's not until you're up close that you think about the vast size of them.  I've tried this shot upwards with my camera phone a number of times, but it's never worked before – I really like this shot, the tree looks powerful and a little bit magical (I read Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree many times as a child)…

We had a bite of lunch and went for a look around the house.  I like that you go into this house by the side door and come out at the tradesmans' entrance around the back.  The original priory was built in the 12th century and was converted to a country house around 1600.  Its last owner occupier was Lord Fairhaven who lived a luxurious life there from the 1930s and left the house to the National Trust, who have kept the house as it was when he died.  This was our second look round and this time, with far fewer people, it was really nice.

Thursday was Mark's birthday and he must truly be righteous since the sun shone beautifully all day!  His number one favourite place to go is the seaside and as I quite like it too, that's where we went.  We headed up to the North Norfolk coast in the morning and straight to the Blakeney National Nature Reserve, famous for winter breeding grey seals.  When we arrived at the car park at Morston Quay, we were pleasantly surprised by how quiet it was and less pleasantly surprised by how muddy and unattractive the area appears at first sight!  Not to be put off by that, we headed off over the salt marshes and were rewarded by some lovely coastal views:

The seals are on the beach on the far horizon – we could just see them and we could certainly hear them singing.  The salt marshes are alive with birds as well and we found a nice sandy hillock to sit and eat lunch on.  The only way to see the seals close up is to go on a boat trip and as we walked back across the marshes to the quay area, we found hundreds of people queing up to do just that and the car park now completely rammed with cars and coaches.  Whilst I could see the attraction of going off to see the seals on a little boat with a handful of people, a super sized boat overflowing with people wasn't that attractive, so we gave that a miss.  The highlight of this visit was probably a schoolboy called Albion who we saw trailing some distance behind his group towards the boats.  Albion had quite clearly been shoved into his quilted jacket and swaddled with a winter scarf and hat set against his will – he certainly didn't have the look of an outdoorsy child and whined constantly as he dragged his feet in an exaggerated stompy walk for a short distance before throwing himself (with total commitment) to the floor and announcing that he was "just exhausted".  Excellent 😀

We had been toying with the idea of visiting Holkham Hall while we were in the area, but as we wouldn't have time that day to explore it thoroughly, we went to their beach instead.  £3.50 for the car park almost put us off, but I'm glad it didn't – what a beach!  The car park is really a couple of long verges either side of a long road with fields of grazing cattle on either side.  You then walk up into a pine forest which, it turns out, runs along the sides of the vast beach, which is something of a surprise as you come to it through the trees:

There were quite a lot of cars in the car park, but plenty of room for everyone on the beach, with masses to spare!

We had a lovely walk to the sea and wandered around the beach for a while before heading back home.  We'll definitely be going back there again next year to see the house and do the coastal walk.

I suppose that if you're going to have a holiday week of two halves, it is preferable to have the good half at the end 😀

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The Dark is Coming…

September 23, 2015

These days I don't usually do anything for Halloween, although I have a lot of fond memories of the season from my childhood.  I also enjoyed it in my teens and twenties as it was often a great night out.

Whilst surfing Pinterest the other week I noticed lots of Halloween pins beginning to appear in my feed and this must have got into my subconscious because when I spotted some spooky looking label fabric the next day, I decided I wanted to make something with a Halloween theme.  At first I thought I'd do a project bag but then I started remembering fun Halloween nights out and decided to make something I'd love to have had back then – a little wristlet clutch:

I used black Essex linen for the outside and of course it needed lots of hand stitched detail to make it special, like the top stitching, the hand applique and hand beading on the front and back.  I even invisibly hand stitched a super slim wristlet loop:

I even hand stitched the zipper of the inside pocket into place, which I think gave it a lovely flat and tidy finish – something that can be difficult to achieve on the machine.  The lining is made from a blood red and super soft Brussels Washer Linen:

Unzipping the pocket leads to a bit of spooky embroidery, which I based on Kate Beckinsale's vampire eyes from the Underworld movies.  This would be a great place to keep cash – anyone opening the pocket will be too scared to take anything 😀

After the fun of designing and making the clutch, I then had more fun making the shoot set up.  I do hope you recognise those 3 little spooks to the right – they can never be left out 😀

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Liberty Beach

August 13, 2015

Is there anything quite so nice as finally getting around to making something you've been plotting for months?  I'll answer that – no; there isn't 😀  I've been trying to find the time to make this little wall hanging since last summer.  I still have unfinished quilts in the unfinished quilt drawer (yes, there are enough to qualify them for their very own drawer), but I couldn't put this off any longer.

This is a little quilt of firsts for me too – my first novelty fabrics, my first batik fabrics, my first foundation pieced quilt, and the first time I've quilted with the sewing machine.  I'm not at all sure that I should even call this a quilt as it doesn't have any wadding, apart from the foundation fabrics and interfacing I added to the surrounding pieces  It really is more of a wall hanging, although the layout and templates came from my favourite quilting book: Little Book of Little Quilts by Katharine Guerrier:

I first bought this book many years ago but loaned it out to someone who never returned it (don't you hate that?  So rude).  But even though I didn't have it in my possession any longer, I'd poured over the sweet little quilts in there for so many hours that they'd stuck in my memory.  A couple of years ago, I finally found a second hand copy of the book to replace my original and since then, I've made several of the designs and have others on my making wish list.  I've made a few that are more or less straightforward copies of the designs like this cute picnic style quilt that's quilted with utility stitches using embroidery threads:

And my all time favourite from the cover:

Admittedly, this is amongst my unfinished quilts – although I've finished piecing the top, I'm yet back it and quilt it.  I made this one over several weeks in the summer last year and learned a lot about applique in the process.  I also learned alot about economy as I set myself the rule that I could only use fabric from my stash to make it.  I always thought that the farmer bunny panel would be my favourite before I actually made the piece, but my favourite turned out to be the wheelbarrow panel full of colourful yo-yo flowers, which I love – despite using a piece of slightly discoloured cabbage print fabric for the wheelbarrow because I just couldn't bear not to use it:

My next quilt that was kind of from the book was based on that first little green and red picnic quilt.  It occurred to me that the layout looked like a window in a wallpapered wall, and when I came across Sarah Watts' Timber & Leaf collection for Blend Fabrics, I made a new version of the picnic quilt that I called 'Window on the Forest' because I somewhat fancifully imagined that I was looking out of a window onto a forest full of fussy cut critters:

Soon after finishing this one, I pieced another top like it, but using one or two different fabrics from the collection and this is still languishing in the drawer of quilt shame, waiting for me to finish it up.  I did also make a mini version of this for a Mum to be in Alaska, for her new baby's nursery wall:

And I even made some scatter cushions for myself:

Anyway, getting back to 'Liberty Beach', last summer I decided that I'd make my own version of this little quilt from Katharine's book:

I adore the design but had something a bit different in mind for the fabrics.  I have a small but ever expanding stash of Liberty Tana Lawn and after pondering over it for some time, I started to imagine chic little beach huts featuring Liberty prints:

And boats with Liberty sails:

I then had a truffle around for fabrics to use for sky, sand and beach and discovered the marvellous world of novelty prints!  There wasn't a sea print that I particularly liked but I then found some splendid bright batiks and thought they'd be perfect!  This little collection of cuteness has been sat in a project bag ever since (the sharp eyed among you will notice that I only used one of the Very Berry Liberty prints in this stash – stash building rule 101 – buy a stack of fabrics you 'need' but use ones you already have – LOL!) along with a little bundle of mini checks to use for the boats:

I thoroughly enjoyed making the quilt and learning about foundation piecing, which I'd never tried before.  I know that most people like to use paper for foundation piecing these days, but I've always been drawn to a more traditional way of doing things, so I bought some batiste and used that instead, cutting it into little 4 inch squares:

I then got to work transferring the templates from the book onto tracing paper with a heat activated transfer pencil before ironing the designs onto the batiste squares.  A very funny thing I found with the heat activated pencil was that it transferred as clear as a bell on the first couple of squares, and then not so great on the next few.  After waiting ten minutes or so and trying the next one, it worked well again.  Isn't that odd?  The quality of the tracing was the same each time, as was the heat of the iron and the pressure I applied…  The lesson I took from this was that I shouldn't waste any more time trying to solve the puzzle and just do a couple at a time (I'd still love to know what the scientific explanation is though) 🙂

The most time consuming task came next, which was sorting through my fabrics (including my 'scraps' – that term does seem a bit mean – let's call them 'size challenged delights') and putting together combinations for each of the huts and boats.  Katharine's notes in the book tell you to make templates for the boats and huts and I'm usually very good at following directions, but I suspect I may be getting a bit too big for my sewing britches as I poo-pood her and didn't bother.  Wrong!  Although I'm sure you wouldn't need to make templates if you were a) experienced at foundation piecing or b) free and easy with your fabrics so that you cut larger pieces than you thought you needed, I failed on both these counts and really should have made the templates as I ended up having to unpick some pieces that were too small or the wrong shape and, horror of horrors, wasting at least 6 square inches of fabric – eek! 😮

I found that the hardest thing about foundation piecing was making yourself think about placement the wrong way around, because you're sewing on the reverse side.  Apart from the very first piece of fabric you place, you place each piece right side down, facing the right side of the last piece you added.  This is easy enough to remember in itself, but I struggled to place every piece at the right angle so that the fabric would cover the right area once stitched in place!  After having to unpick several incorrectly placed pieces, I soon got my head around it – pain is such an effective teacher.  I was slightly amazed at how reasonably tidy I managed to keep the working side, given that I'm certainly not the best, nor most controlled, machine stitcher.  I used a nice slim needle and my walking foot and forced my right foot to go slowly on the power peddle:

I also managed to place a couple of pieces out of order on my early blocks, simply because I wasn't paying enough attention, and kicked myself for that too, but I eventually managed to get all the foundation squares made:

The next job was to work out exactly how I wanted the layout to look and what the final size of the completed quilt should be, so that I could cut all the other pieces that would sit around the foundation pieced squares.  In the book, Katharine advised me to back all the extra fabrics with whatever fabric I used for the foundation squares, but I decided to use iron on lightweight interfacing instead and that worked fine.  I did consider adding a layer of wadding as well, but as this is intended to be a wall hanging, I thought it wouldn't add anything positive, even if it did go against my quilty instincts to leave it out.

In my first layout, I originally cut the bottom waves batik from the half metre I had in the most economic way:

But I immediately saw that it looked silly and wouldn't work, so I cut with the direction of the pattern that made most sense for the image and pieced two parts together to make it wide enough.  Once it was all together, I roughly squared it up:

Next, I cut my jaunty seafaring themed backing fabric to size and hand basted the two together in a grid:

I had a little machine quilting practise using some 'size challenged delights' before moving onto the real quilting.  I found that it was great fun just stitching in wavy lines with my walking foot.  I used a variegated sulky cotton thread, in every shade from pale aqua to deep purple that was perfect for the subject.

The binding was next and I did a final squaring up of the quilt before Clover wonder clipping it into place:

I usually use my 'binding tool' ruler to join the ends of my bindings, but I'd read about Lori Holt's super simple method of joining (that you can read about here) and decided to give that a go this time.  It really is genius – so simple and tidy.  I don't think I'd use this method on a quilt that was going to be used a lot and / or washed, but it is brilliantly simple for little quilts like this one.  Because there's very little weight to the quilt, and because I'd managed to get it nicely squared so that it would hang well, I decided to add simple triangular corner pockets for hanging with a dowel onto a picture hook. You can really see the variation of colour in the sulky thread I used for the quilting on the back too:

My final job was to make and add a quilt label that was in character with the quilt:

I printed the design and lettering onto white lawn and then added embroidery and applique to fancy it up.  This is my second printed quilt label and I'm still not that convinced by the method – hence embroidering over the lettering!  In fact, I think I may well remove the label I added to the last quilt I made and replace it with an embroidered one – I don't think the ink will last that long on these printed ones.  You could definitely accuse me of over fussiness here, but I hate the idea of something not lasting for as long as I intended while making it.

So that's another quilt ticked of the making wish list and popped into my shop.  Plus, it's given me an idea for another little project I want to make this week – more of which later! 🙂