A new year of stitchery and a few reflections…

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Well, here we are in 2016! The fairy lights have been packed away, the few baubles that we dared to display (given the cats’ destructive tendencies) have been wrapped up again and I’ve taken down my lovely Christmas wreathe. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Christmas brought a whole host of new sewing goodies and with the new year comes the firm resolution that this year will be the year of quilts…

Before I get into my plans, I thought that I’d just share some of the projects that I completed in the last few months of the year:

Log-cabin hexie cushion

This was the quilt-as-you-go log-cabin hexie cushion that was a gift for my brother’s girlfriend. As she is a musician and a fellow crafter, I thought that she would like the combination of musical notes and craft-related fabric! I found the pattern in a copy of Love Patchwork and Quilting (can’t quite remember which issue!) You’ll notice that this cushion has piping! Should you wish to read about the joys of trying to make piping (ahem!), then you can read about it in this post!

I also had a ‘commission’ from a particularly talented colleague at work who makes her own jewellery. This bunting adorned her stall at a Christmas Fair:

darshe bunting

Darshe jewellery

I was also quite excited to discover a new sewing shop in Leicester. Crafty Sew and So can be found in St Martin’s Square and is home to all sorts of fabric treasures. They also sell rather lovely little kits with ready-to-sew templates and are ideal for a fast sewing fix. I couldn’t resist this sweet little makeup bag:

Makeup bag - from Crafty Sew and Sew

At the end of November, I attended another workshop at Artworks in which the lovely Hillary taught us how to make a lined tote bag. By tote bag, I thought simple, lined shopping bag. How wrong I was! This was a ‘proper’ bag with zips!! I bought some bright fabric from the Clarke and Clarke range and I made this:

Bag - 1

Bag - 3

I managed to complete it in one day! I was pretty proud of myself!

So, some new sewing skills have clearly been acquired in 2015. But no quilts have been created. Since I intended to learn the art of quilting, I feel that this needs to be remedied in 2016. I wondered about setting myself a few goals re the number and type of quilts but then I thought that might be putting myself under a bit of pressure and this is meant to be my way of relaxing…

So instead, in the interest of acquiring skills, I will list just a few techniques that I would like to try in my quilting quest:

  • Creating blocks with triangles. I’ve read a lot of books but I don’t quite understand triangles. I must be missing something.
  • Make ‘orange-peel’ blocks.
  • Make more blocks using the free-form piecing method. It is extremely liberating. If all goes well, this might make a good quilt-top.
  • Develop my skills in applique.
  • Learn how to properly bind a quilt and make mitred corners.
  • Make blocks using the foundation paper-piecing technique.
  • Do more English paper piecing using different shapes.

That sounds achievable doesn’t it?!!! And there are a few special occasions taking place this year so, if all goes well, there may be a few special quilts!*.

Well, it’s getting late and it’s a ‘school night’ so I shall say Bonne Nuit for now.

Till next time!

April x

*If not, there’s always John Lewis…

 

 

 

Why I simply love sewing…..

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I happened to peruse a copy of Management Today (not a publication that I normally read) whilst waiting for an appointment the other day and I came across an article about the ‘internet of things’. Apparently, in the future, we can look forward to a more ‘connected’ lifestyle where objects such as our fridge will be online and will not only know when we’ve run out of milk but will contact the supermarket on our behalf to order more. We can also look forward to ‘wearable technology’ that will ‘helpfully’ let us know if we’re unfit and suggest ways for us to remedy it. Indeed, it has struck me just how reliant we are on the internet and how influential it has become in our lives. On my daily commute, I am always amazed at the number of people tapping away on their mobile phones and tablets. The sky in the morning can be quite lovely but its beauty seems to go unnoticed as our attention is claimed by the latest online quiz, trending article or (yes, I’m totally guilty of this one) another cute cat video…

And this brings me to the subject of today’s blog post. The wonderful thing about sewing is that you don’t need a tablet, mobile phone or 3G. All that you need is a little imagination, a needle, a bit of thread and a lovely piece of (low-tech) fabric. You don’t require any complicated technology to sew together EPP hexagons or to create beautiful hand-pieced blocks. And sometimes other people might become interested in your project and actually start a conversation, which is always quite pleasant!

Sewing picture

Photo from Flickr (via Creative Commons) – click here for link to image

Of course I am aware of the irony of my mini-diatribe against the internet when I am writing a blog that will subsequently be published via Facebook/Twitter etc! And there is no denying that the internet has brought many benefits to sewing enthusiasts. It has allowed the craft to increase in popularity and we can ‘connect’ with one another to share ideas, projects and to join virtual quiltalongs. Websites such as Craftsy provide us with a wealth of online tutorials and irresistible fabric offers.

Sewing

But when you just want to ‘escape’ it all for a little while, when you’ve had a trying day at work or you’re feeling worn down by life, then there is nothing more satisfying than contemplating your boxes of fabric in preparation for your next project, or the soothing rhythmic sound of your sewing-machine as you run a length of fabric through it. Your mind is entirely focused on the creation of something beautiful, perhaps a gift for your partner, a friend or a relative. It is focused on the joy that you know they will feel when you present them with your completed project, made especially for them, with love sewn into every stitch. And that, dear readers, is why I simply love to sew.

Happy crafting!

April

Scottish Stitchery….

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At the end of September I took a train ‘up north’ to attend the Stitch Gathering with my good friend (and keen quilter) Lynsey. This annual meeting of quilting and stitching enthusiasts is organised by Jo Avery of My Bearpaw. A few months before the event we were sent a piece of Kona cotton and asked to use it to create our ‘ticket’ by embellishing it with our favourite word. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage to find time during the day to take photos of all the amazing tickets but Jo has posted photos of all the wordy creations on her blog so you can have a look if you’re interested. I had planned an elaborate appliqued creation using the word ‘hope’ but, as ever, time ran away with me and I ended up doing a bit of panic stitching on the train to Edinburgh. I thought that I’d treat myself to a cheeky G&T as a reward but was most put out to discover that there would be no trolley service due to a fault with the trolley!

My other piece of ‘homework’ prior to the event was to make a name badge for Lynsey. Here is my (somewhat wonky) attempt:

Lynsey name badge - Stitch gathering

Here is Lynsey’s creation:

April Badge - Stitch gathering

Not the best quality photos I’m afraid as it’s been so dull lately…

Having never attended such a large stitching workshop, I was a little apprehensive but I really needn’t have worried as everyone was very friendly and we were even provided with cake to accompany the stitching! During the morning, I attended a class taught by Fiona Calvert of Poppy Makes, who showed us how to make a Nosegay block using EPP. I’ll be honest, I didn’t accomplish a great deal as there were a lot of fiddly bits to cut out and I was having such a nice time sewing and chatting away that I didn’t notice the time passing!

I finally finished the block last week!

Nosegay block - Stitch Gathering

During the afternoon I also spent a bit of time doing some hand embroidery and the last session of the day was taught by Julie Rutter of Forest Poppy. Julie showed us how to do a little bit of freeform piecing using scraps of fabric. I found it particularly liberating as you don’t really have to measure or cut the fabric accurately and it’s a much quicker way to sew! I made this freeform log-cabin block using scraps from Lynsey’s scrap bin and I have to say that I was quite pleased with it!

Log cabin - Stitch gathering

I certainly intend to make a few more blocks using this technique. The husband gave me a book for my birthday called Sunday Morning Quilts which also features quilts made with ‘fabrics’ that have been pieced together out of several scraps.

The day was thoroughly enjoyable and we were even given a goody bag with lots of lovely bits and pieces from sponsors. I really loved the beautiful Liberty hexies from Duck Egg Threads and have plans to use them in a few handmade Christmas presents. Yes, I mentioned the C-word!! It’s only about 5 weeks away!!

Don’t panic!!!

April 🙂

A little trip to the South of France…

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Well, here we are at the end of October. The nights are drawing in, it’s becoming noticeably colder and the husband is delighted that he can now light the log burner. But before getting into all of that, I’d like to take you back to the end of August. Imagine a gentle summer breeze, the cries of children playing in the sea, the feel of the warm sun on your face, the scent of freshly baked bread and pastries….and the insistent voice of a small English woman dragging her husband behind her in the search for a fabric shop. Yes, I’d like to tell you about our little trip to the south of France.

A distinctly un-summery British summer led the husband to beg that we go somewhere in search of a little warmth. As I’m not terribly keen on flying, I was delighted to discover that Eurostar had started running trains all the way from London St Pancras to Avignon and Marseille in the south of France. So, we boarded a train very early on a hazy Sunday morning in happy anticipation of warmer weather, quantities of French wine, freshly baked pastries….and (for me at least) the possibility of stocking up on beautiful French fabric!

The city of Marseille underwent a major facelift a few years ago when it was named the European capital of culture in 2013. It’s very different to Paris but I actually much preferred its friendlier vibe and, of course, its proximity to the sea made it particularly appealing! Here are a couple of (slightly arty!) photos:

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Marseille from Notre dame de la grande

We spent a great deal of time just wandering around the various quartiers. I particularly liked the rather bohemian district of Le panier, which is the oldest part of the city. It is now the city’s artistic quarter and you can find several artists’ studios and workshops:

Artwork in Le Panier Mirror tiles - Le Panier Mosaic - entrance to Le Panier Staircase - entrance to Le Panier Pretty window - Le Panier

It is also home to the narrowest streets that I’ve ever come across. I have absolutely no idea how the Marseille folk manage to navigate them but I’m guessing not always terribly well judging by the number of cars that we saw with severe scratches and bumps!

I did, of course, seek out a fabric shop and found one in the Rue de Rome where I just couldn’t resist purchasing a metre of this absolutely beautiful owl fabric:

Owl fabric

Did you know that the French word for owl is hibou (pronounced ee-boo)? It’s such a lovely word. It even sounds like an owl hooting (perhaps with a French accent…)

Towards the end of our week we took a little trip to the lovely city of Aix-en-Provence where we happened upon a lively little market:

Lavender bags - Aix market

Close up of Lavender bags

Sunflowers - Aix en Provence

And wouldn’t you know it! I found another fabric shop! The delightful Tissus la Victoire can be found nestling in the Place Richelme. It was a veritable treasure trove of colour. The typical Provencal fabrics, known for their vibrant designs and colours, are called Indiennes. I could have taken several metres home with me but I’m not certain who would have carried the suitcases….

Tissus La Victoire

Aix-en-Provence was apparently built over hot springs and every time we turned a corner, we came across a little fountain. I particularly liked a fountain that is affectionately known as Mossy. Can you guess why?

Mossy fountain

It isn’t quite as grand though as the stunning Fontaine de la Rotonde:

Fountain - Aix en Provence

If you haven’t taken a little trip to this part of France, I’d highly recommend it. Indeed, I do hope that we’ll be able to return at some point as there is so much that we would still like to see and, of course, I’m quite certain that there are many fabric shops that I still need to visit! Perhaps with a slightly larger suitcase…hmm…

A la prochaine fois 😉

A whole lot of lovely quilts….

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Today’s post will mainly comprise of photos from my recent trip to this year’s Festival of Quilts. As ever it was a veritable feast for the eyes and I spent a great deal of time perusing the competition quilts and the curated exhibitions.

Here are just a few of my favourites from the competition quilts:

Caravan and hexagon quilt

Butterfly quiltNautical

This quilt is called ‘Poem in Cloth’. The detail of the intricate stitching becomes clearer as you lean closer to the quilt. It is rather like analysing a poem!Poem in Cloth

I was particularly drawn to the mini-quilts:

Birds mini quilt

Every little thing gonna be alright mini quilt

Hug mini quilt

Who wouldn’t like a hug in a tiny quilt?!

There was a distinctly international theme to this year’s festival with a variety of exhibitions from countries such as Russia, Australia and Mexico. The quilts from Mexican artists were all themed around typical Mexican sayings and proverbs:

Mexican quilt

Little by little one can fill up a jar

Dirty laundry

Dirty laundry must be washed at home

A bird on the wire

There are birds on the wire

As the daughter of a musician I was also drawn to these little quilts, created around the theme of ‘Music’, by members of the European Quilt Association:

Musical quilts 1

Musical quilts- Germany

France music little quilts

I also had a long chat with the Chief Executive of the Quilters’ Guild and I was very sad to learn that the lovely Quilt Museum in York will be closing its doors very soon due to a lack of funding. Their last exhibition will take place in October so, if you haven’t yet found the time to visit, I would encourage you to make the journey. They have an extensive collection and I feel quite sad that, with such a revived interest in the art of quilting, this museum will have to close. If you are a fellow blogger on all things patchwork-related then please do post about this in your blog.

As the weather at the moment is distinctly Autumnal I shall leave today’s post with a picture of this woolly jumper quilt created by Textile Artist Gillian Travis.

Gillian Travis - Sweater quilt

I hope that, like me, you have been inspired by some of today’s photos so I’m off to do a little bit of embroidery and some EPP using templates purchased at the festival from Linapatchwork (one of my very few purchases!)

Happy crafting 🙂

Trying to make piping and other sewing woes….

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Let me give you a tip. When attempting to make bias-binding for the very first time, it is not advisable to wait until 9.30 in the evening after you have spent all day staring at figures, have eaten a large evening meal and are therefore just a teensy bit tired. Should you ignore my advice and attempt this anyway then it is highly likely that your fabric strips will be just that bit wonky, you will try numerous times to thread your sewing machine and you will bang your knee on your sewing desk. If you laugh in the face of adversity and continue on regardless then it is possible that you will discover, like I did, that you have sewn your strips together in opposite ways and therefore have to start all over again. Or perhaps that’s just me…

Why would I try to make my own bias-binding you may wonder? Apparently, when attempting to make piping for a cushion, you should cut all fabric strips on the bias to ensure a smooth finish. I therefore found this simple tutorial from By Hand London and decided that it couldn’t be that difficult. Sadly the sewing fairies were not present and, following my disastrous first attempt, I shoved the wonky bias strips out of sight so that I wouldn’t be reminded of my fabric failure….

I couldn’t hide from the piping conundrum forever, however, and I finally found a bit of energy today to have another go. During my second attempt, I discovered the following:

  • Making bias-binding is much easier on a Sunday when you’ve had a bit more sleep, the sun is shining and you may have also had a raspberry and mint martini at a summer market…
  • This is a zipper foot:

 Zipper foot

  • This is what it looks like when attached to my sewing-machine:

 Zipper foot attached to machine

  • You need to use your zipper foot and adjust the needle on your machine so that you can sew reasonably close to your piping. If, like me, you have never done this before then your manual has idiot-proof diagrams that make it a bit easier to understand:

Sewing piping cord 1 Sewing piping cord 2

A few tips for those who would like to attempt making piping:

  • When making bias-binding to use for piping-cord, it’s probably a good idea to cut out strips that have an approximate width of 1.5 inches. Binding that is only about an inch wide isn’t quite wide enough to comfortably fold around your cord and you’ll end up shouting at your sewing-machine when you don’t have enough fabric to sew the join together.
  • Pin your cord at each end and leave the pins in place after you’ve finished sewing your piping. If you don’t leave them in, the cord will come out. Cue more shouting and possibly a few choice words that I can’t include here.
  • Use small pins to fasten the fabric around the piping cord. Larger pins will make it more difficult to sew the fabric together and will result in more frustration of the sort mentioned above.
  • When sewing the piping, position your needle so it is a few millimetres from the cord. This will allow more accurate sewing when you put the piping into the cushion (this was a really useful tip from a fellow sewing enthusiast).
  • If all else fails, you can just buy bias-binding…

Here is a picture of my finished piping. It’s nowhere near perfect but I’m proud that I have achieved something:

Finished piping cord

The next challenge of course is to successfully attach it to the cushion.

I haven’t had a great deal of sewing time lately but I did manage to sew a few EPP diamonds whilst on the train one day:

EPP diamonds 1 EPP diamonds 2I may have also accidentally wandered into Fenwicks again one lunchtime and, I swear, this fabric just fell into my bag:

New fabric June 2015

 

See you again soon 🙂

 

An election, a poorly cat and a little bit of sewing….

I can’t have been the only one who looked at the 2015 election logo and thought that perhaps it would be a good design for a quilt block? No? Just me? My husband certainly regarded me a little oddly when I mentioned it. It is highly likely that the election results have been the topic of much discussion during this past week. I’m not going to add to the conversation here. Indeed, having read this blog post by the eminently sensible Florence of Flossie Teacakes, I am going to keep my opinions decidedly to myself.

All we can do now is to look forward and, in that vein, I have been having a think about my blog and future sewing projects. You’ll have noticed that I rarely post on this blog more than once a month. It’s sometimes difficult to fit in sewing and writing (anything decent at least) with a full-time job. However, I recently came across Jennypurr, which suggests practical ways of objectively analysing your blog and planning your content. I try to be terribly efficient at work and always plan my workload but, strangely, I hadn’t really applied this approach to my blog. I have therefore been trying to use some of the time that I spend commuting on the train (when I’m not half-asleep) thinking about my blog content and possible sewing projects for the next few months. I am hoping that a little bit of planning might mean that I may be able to publish a few more blog posts.

Before embarking on any new sewing projects (and, ahem, buying any more fabric) I thought I’d finish a couple of little projects that have been sitting in my sewing box for almost a year. I completed the appliqué picture that I started at a workshop last year:

Embroidered house 2

I also made a cushion out of the Dresden-plate patchwork block that I completed several months (or possibly more than a year) ago:

Dresden plate cushion 2

Dresden plate cushion

Both of these are made using fabrics from La Belle Fleur by French General.

A few weeks ago, our little cat Mirabelle ran into a car. I say ‘ran into’ as she was being chased by another rather amorous cat and she ran out on to our road at some speed just as our neighbour was pulling off. We think that she ran into their wheel as she certainly gave her head a very serious knock and managed to break her jaw. As you can imagine we were pretty distraught but, thankfully, she is recovering now and hopefully there won’t be any long-term effects from her little accident. As her jaw needs time to heal, we are currently feeding her via a tube, which means that we aren’t going out of the house very often. Part of me is a little frustrated as we’ve had to cancel most of our social plans. However, on a positive note, this has provided a little time for some extra sewing. I’ve also started another project which I’ll perhaps share in my next post.

I was recently delighted to discover that fellow blogger Laura, of the Make do and Mend blog, had moved into our street. It’s been lovely to have someone with whom I can discuss all things blog-related. I am also looking forward to some crafting sessions, which will of course be accompanied by plenty of tea and cake.

Well, the sun is shining here in the midlands so I think that I will say goodbye for now and pop out into the garden.

I do hope that you’re having a relaxing Saturday.

April

A little break in Northumberland….

During the Easter week, we travelled up to Northumberland for a much-needed holiday. I was very much looking forward to the rest but, what with it being The North, I assumed that it was likely to be a bit bleak and windy. Accordingly, I packed my jeans, warm jumpers, thick tights and boots. Well as you all the know the weather fairies smiled on the UK over Easter and, instead of huddling up against the cold, I found myself searching for an open chemist so that I could buy some sun-cream!

The landscape of Northumberland is truly beautiful and it is far less touristy than popular destinations such as the Lake District or Cornwall. Even though the schools were on holiday, the beaches were pretty deserted and we rarely saw any other cars on the road. Here are just a few photos from our little adventure:

Amble beach3

Beautiful beach at Amble

Amble beach2

Another picture of the beautiful beach at Amble!

Chesters fort

View from the Chesters Roman Fort, part of the fortifications for Hadrian’s Wall

Edlingham Castle

Edlingham Castle

Normal Church - Edlingham

Norman Church (11th Century) at Edlingham

River Coquet - Rothbury

View of the River Coquet – Rothbury

Viaduct - Edlingham

View of the viaduct from Edlingham Castle

We stayed in a lovely little cottage in Rothbury with a very beautiful garden. The owners live next door and we also met their two lovely doggies: Milo and Lola. I don’t think that my photos really reflect the beauty of the garden but you can at least appreciate how beautiful it was in the sunshine!

Pink flowers with Butterfly

Can you spot the butterfly?

Daffodils - Rothbury Watering can - Rothbury

Happily, we discovered a quilting shop called Stitchin’ Heaven in the little village of Longframlington (and I hadn’t even done any research prior to travelling up), so I spent a pleasant hour perusing the pretty fabrics and admiring the range of lovely quilts that were on display. Again, I don’t think that this is the best photo, but you get the idea:

Stitchin Heaven

I’m thinking that I might attempt to make the tree quilt that you can see in this picture. It is a pattern called Lilly Pilly from Don’t Look Now.

The ladies of Stitchin’ Heaven were extremely friendly and even recommended somewhere to have lunch. At the beginning of the day, we had formed a vague plan to travel to the beach, but we were happy to make a small detour to the little village of Felton where we enjoyed a delectable lunch at the Running Fox bakery before perusing Gallery 45. Despite living in our house for over two years now, our walls are still woefully empty of artwork. We were therefore delighted to discover the floral prints of Birgitta Lundmark. We only purchased one print on this occasion but are hoping to obtain a couple more in the near future! Once they are properly framed, I shall try to take a half-decent picture…

When the sun is shining in the UK, there is truly no other place that I would rather be. We returned from our little break feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. If you’ve never visited this lovely part of our little island then I would encourage you to consider it, if for no other reason than we had some of the yummiest ice-cream that we have ever tasted!

🙂

April

The simple joys of sunshine and sewing…

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Hello everyone. I do hope that you’ve been enjoying the glorious sunshine. It is amazing how a little bit of sun can improve your overall wellbeing. Indeed, my energy levels are much improved of late and I’ve been feeling quite creative. In the past couple of weeks, I have written a blog-post for another blog (which will hopefully appear on littlebigday.ie very soon) and I’ve also learned two new sewing techniques.

A few weeks ago I attended another sewing workshop run by Hilary Adams at Artworks: a crafting and arty shop that is quite near to our little house. During the workshop, Hilary taught us how to create stained-glass effect patchwork. It’s a technique that I had never tried before and, although I did find it a little bit fiddly, I was actually quite pleased with my finished picture.

Most of the other women in the workshop chose to create a Glasgow Rose. I, however, decided that it was highly unlikely that I would complete this design during the time given so I went for a much simpler tulip. This was my finished block:

Stained-glass Tulip

To create this effect, you first need to copy the design onto paper to create a template. Once copied, you use this to cut out your fabric then tack the pieces onto your backing-fabric. When you have sewn on all of your pieces, you then use bias-binding to create the effect of the lead borders. Bias-binding is particularly good for curves as it is sturdy enough to create the curve but flexible enough to allow you to create beautiful designs. If you are interested in attempting this technique, there are plenty of designs to be found online.

For some time now, I have been pondering over the intricacies of foundation paper-piecing. I mentioned this to Hilary but sadly the technique had already been covered in a previous class. On my return home however, I was extremely pleased to be greeted by the arrival of not one but two issues of Love Patchwork and Quilting (Issue 19 had been a little delayed). Rather fortuitously, Issue 20 was accompanied by a guide to Foundation piecing and also included the templates for these rather funky designs.

I wasn’t certain whether I would use the designs in a project. However, I thought that the star-block could be incorporated into a future make so I decided to use some of the leftover fabric from the workshop and have a go. I had a look at a Youtube tutorial by Karen Johnson of Connecting Threads. Foundation-piecing has always seemed a little bit tricky but I was determined to conquer my fears. I traced the template onto baking paper (which is surprisingly good for this sort of thing) then set about cutting out the bits of fabric. Naively, I thought that I could piece the whole block in a couple of hours. However, I quickly became confused between the front and back of the template and it took several evenings before I managed to complete it (definitely not one to attempt when you’re a bit tired after work!):

FPP star sunny day

I experienced a real feeling of satisfaction when I managed to complete this. The block of the month at the end of each issue of LPAQ often includes patterns for foundation-pieced blocks so I’m definitely going to have another go. I also quite like the idea of completing a quilt that’s been made with FPP blocks.

I’m back to commuting to work by train and I can’t help noticing just how much time we seem to spend tapping away on our mobile-phones. I’m just as guilty and often use the time to check personal emails, Facebook and Twitter. However, I’ve consciously tried to spend a little bit less time on my mobile this week. To keep my fingers busy with an alternative activity, I’ve been sewing little hexies instead. I even managed to find a bit of time to sit in the sunshine sewing on Wednesday afternoon:

Purple hexies

The town-hall square in Leicester is particularly lovely in the sunshine. Just before I finish today’s post, here is a picture of the lovely fountain. You could almost imagine that you were in a European city rather than the UK!

Fountain - Leicester

April x

On happiness….

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Hello readers. If you read my last post in November, then you’ll know that all has not been rosy in the land of Thimbles and Teapots. For months, I could barely function and I stopped sewing, baking, singing and writing; essentially all of the things that make me happy. It’s been extremely difficult but I think that I can finally say that, with the exception of a few ‘off’ days, there may now be a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Before I start, let me just include a picture of these beautiful flowers; a gift from my father-in-law:

DSC02062 (2)

I have just finished reading a book called The Happiness Project by an author called Gretchen Rubin. One day, Gretchen realised that she wasn’t entirely satisfied with her life. She wasn’t exactly unhappy, but there were aspects of herself and her relationship that she wanted to change. She set about doing this by creating a series of resolutions for each month over the course of a year. She blogged about her experiences and inspired others to start their own happiness projects. I thought that I would try to introduce a few resolutions into my own life too. According to Gretchen, resolutions differ from goals as they are ongoing small changes that you aim to introduce into your daily life. I particularly liked her resolution to sing every morning. I love singing. I used to sing all of the time. When I was younger, I took part in our school musical productions and I was in just about every choir possible. My parents encouraged me to play a musical instrument so I took up the flute but I just didn’t feel the same way about playing the flute as I did about singing. Since being ill, I haven’t felt like singing very much, even though it improves my mood and makes me feel happy. My favourite songs are those by the old-school artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. My husband thinks that I was born in the wrong era. He might well be right. I would love to wear one of those beautiful flowing dresses (one that has been shortened to fit a petite woman) and sing along with a swing-band.

My unfortunate sewing-machine had disappeared under a pile of house-junk (you know, the sort that accumulates when you don’t have time to do any proper filing or tidying) but I finally unearthed it just over a month ago and started trying to complete a few small projects. I was advised that mini-achievements would help to improve my poor, battered confidence. Whilst there is still a way to go, I believe that it might be working. I did feel happier whilst I was running fabric through my machine and it was a good distraction from the negative thoughts that sometimes circulate in my brain. My first project was this this little owl (the kit was a Christmas present from my sister-in-law):

Owl

I’ve still been receiving my Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine, which often comes with small patchwork projects that can be completed very quickly. I made this sweet little house for a friend:

Little house enhanced

The latest edition of Quilt Now was accompanied by a guide, written by Eva Larkin, to free-motion quilting:

Free-motion quilting 

Now that I have a darning foot for my machine, I can finally learn how to do this and, in the spirit of completing small, achievable tasks, I’ve undertaken to follow the steps provided in this guide. I have to say that it’s pretty tricky and, for a perfectionist such as myself, quite frustrating! So far, I have learned about setting the tension, sewing a spiral and have been practicing my ‘squiggles’ on paper:

DSC02065 (2)

If nothing else, I quite enjoyed using my coloured pencils again.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally felt well enough to bake a cake (my first bake in over four months) so I made my husband’s favourite, Nigella Lawson’s chocolate and Guinness cake. This cake is yummy but it’s a bit ‘high-faff’ as baking goes. You can’t just shove everything into your bowl and give it a good mix, you have to first melt the butter with the Guinness in a pan then gradually add the other ingredients (some of which need to be mixed in a separate bowl). By the time I’d put the cake in the oven, the kitchen and myself were covered in cake batter. The cake is covered with a layer of frothy icing (to represent the head of the Guinness) made from cream-cheese, icing-sugar and whipped cream. If ever there was a cake to make you happy then this is probably it. I think that my husband likes this cake even more than he likes Ms Lawson herself 🙂

Since it is now March, here is a picture of daffodils:

Daffodils 2 - Creative Commons

Photo taken from Flickr via Creative Commons. Taken by Ian Britton.

I’ll leave today’s post with a picture of my (admittedly somewhat grumpy) cat Marmalade having a rest on my quilt:Marmalade - for blog

Till next time,

April