Fast forward…

… to July, and any day now I’ll be a Grandma! A little quilt has duly been produced:

A little quilt for a little chap…

I even got to use some of my tie-dyed fabric on the back. All the fabric is reclaimed, rightly or wrongly.

Stars for a little star…

They have a night-sky theme going on in the nursery so the shapes & colours were chosen to fit in with that; they look darker in the pictures than they actually are, thanks to the seemingly never-ending gloom in June. It’s not meant to be an heirloom but a totally practical, wash & wear everyday item. There are a few touches that I hope will please the little man; some chenilled seams to intrigue little fingers, and it’s bound with satin ribbon, remembering how much his father loved labels and other smooth textiles as a baby & small child. That and some of the thread – I ran out! – are the only things bought new.

In the meantime, our house has filled up with stuff again; we had a massive last-minute panic to empty my mother’s bungalow. It had sold previously, but the chain collapsed at the last minute and the sale fell through. The estate agents marketing it asked us to leave her stuff there, as it’s easier to sell a home that looks lived in. But as the Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday tottered towards its end, we suddenly got a really good offer for it, provided the sale could go through within a week. Legally it was entirely possible; the new buyer didn’t need a mortgage and the paperwork was all ready to roll, but it was still full of a lifetime’s possessions; you can’t fit that much into her room at the care home, lovely though it is! So some of those possessions have ended up here with us; some will be sold, a few bits used (proper glass lemon squeezies! Oh yes!) but others I will have to make space for until various offspring have homes of their own to house them in. And yes, the lawyers pulled it off and the sale went through a day early.

The weird weather has left me with another space problem; things that should have come out by now over at the allotment are still in the ground, only just starting to go over. So I have several sets of plants ready to go into the ground, but no ground to put them in! And my “first early” potatoes & my maincrops are clearly all going to be ready at the same time. Needless to say, the weeds have galloped away; one minute they were tiny, hardly worth hoeing off, then it rained for weeks and now they are thigh-high. Some serious work called for over there! But some actual potential crops are thriving; I planted Greek Gigantes beans for the first time, and despite the deluge they seem very happy & are racing up their wigwam.

I’m sure there was something serious I wanted to witter on about, but I’ve entirely forgotten what it was, thanks to finding most of a treasure at the recycling warehouse earlier this week. A 1979 Rappard Wee Peggy spinning wheel, originally from New Zealand, but alas, she’s missing her flyer, whorl & bobbins. So that will be a Quest for me over the next few months; I either need to track some “orphan” parts down, or find something that can substitute for them. Without them, sadly she’s just expensive firewood; with them, she’s a beautiful and genuinely useful tool.

Most of a Rappard Wee Peggy…

So now I’m wondering how to gently tell the house clearance people that sometimes, bizarre-looking bits of wood & metal with odd protrusions, often stashed in baskets of brittle, age-old, moth-eaten fluff, are actually vital parts of something. And remembering the lady who found one merrily chucking parts of a loom into a skip, because he couldn’t work out how this “bookcase” fitted together…

Lockdown stashbuster 3…

Whilst sorting out the blue/green strips for Stashbuster 2, I realised I had a lot of smallish rectangles (or thereabouts) in the scrap drawer. So my plan for Stashbuster 3 was to use some of those up gainfully, trying out a different technique. So this time it was foundation-pieced onto some random lightweight cotton; I took the rectangles and placed them randomly on the foundation cotton, then swapped them round until I’d a) achieved coverage of the foundation piece, and b) something vaguely pleasing to the eye, provided that eye happens to like chaotic brightness.

Hmm… there are still a lot of holes!

Then I pinned the pieces into position, rolled it up & took it through to my big computerised (secondhand) Pfaff, and zig-zagged the pieces into position. Needless to say, a fair few had fallen off by the time I got to them, and I managed to stab myself with the pins umpteen times. I wonder if a dab of PVA in the centre of each scrap would have worked better?

Scraps zig-zagged on…

If I weren’t just stashbusting, I might have used some of the Pfaff’s enormous range of stitches and some interesting thread. However, in the cause of using stuff up whilst I actually have some time available, I just went for fast & furious. After cutting & sticking on some wadding & backing (which also did duty as the binding, folded over, ironed & stitched down) with that miraculous 505 spray, I transferred operations to my REAL sewing machine, the 1909 Jones treadle.

If I could only keep one machine, it’d be this one. Never skips a stitch or sulks.

It took a lot longer to quilt this one; it’s much more closely quilted. I chose to more-or-less echo the shapes of the rectangles and their overlaps. So if quilts got names, I’d call it “Corners” as I turned an awful lot of those! But the joy of working on an old-fashioned treadle is total control; it never runs away with you. Anyway, by this morning I was very nearly there…

Hours & hours of turning corners later…

All done by lunchtime! And has been washed, dried & stashed away with Stashbusters I & 2, waiting for small owners, should those days ever arrive! Mind you, I’m not saying they have to be human owners…

The finished article.

Stashbuster 4 will be somewhat of a change of direction… but there are a couple of large alteration projects to shift first, to make more room in the “Sewing studio” aka the spare bedroom. So I’ll allow myself at least a week to get this one done & dusted.

Why wouldn’t you…?

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It was crumpled up inside a plastic bin-liner at the market on Saturday, but something about it caught my eye… on closer inspection, it was part of a quilt. And looking closer still, probably part of a painstakingly hand-made quilt; the only machine-stitches I’ve been able to find were those joining the backing piece. It cost me part of £3, along with a number of other items.

At some point, someone has hacked a fair bit of it off, hopefully to do something intelligent with; I think it was probably king-size to start with and is now about 4′ x 6′; the pattern has been interrupted both lengthways and widthways. They’d left one edge with the original binding, zig-zagged roughly down another, but left the last two raw. An interrupted project, from an unwanted gift, maybe? At first I thought it was probably one of the lovely Marks & Spencers’ Indian-made quilts, but when I realised that the piecing was all hand-stitched as well as the quilting,  I decided that hand-made was more likely.

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Anyway, to cut a long story short, I knew I’d have some suitable plain fabric to make a quick American-style binding with, in a not-unsympathetic colour. So I bought it, and told the stallholder (whose wife knows her quilts & exactly what they might earn them) what I was planning to do with it. As I walked away I couldn’t help overhearing,  sotto-voce, “But why would you…?”

Why wouldn’t I?! If I were making a quilt (well, I usually am!) it wouldn’t be my first choice of colours or styles. Far too much like hard work! But the colours fit into my draughty little living room like a hand into a glove. Binding’s not hard, and doesn’t take long; it was done by Sunday evening, sitting outside in the sunshine, fitted around other everyday tasks. And I absolutely respect the work and the skill that’s gone into this one, even if it’s just a remnant of what it once was.

I love being surrounded by, and using, lovely things that have been made with skill, care and love, which have often survived the tests of time. And I love “rescuing” things that others consider beyond consideration. Sometimes I use them in “upcycling” projects, sometimes I sell them on, but sometimes they just make themselves at home here…

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Rescued from an old, stained linen petticoat…

 

Something old, something new…

Recently a friend asked me whether I could make her a cot quilt for a baby girl. I’m no expert, but have made a few quilts now, and she’s just beginning to learn and didn’t feel confident enough yet to make one for a present. She didn’t need to twist my arm, although I have lots of other calls on my time just now; quilting is always a pleasure and a welcome retreat from the stresses & strains of everyday life. She wanted me to use new materials, and I happened to need to take a trip down west, so off I trotted to the lovely Becca’s Fabric Larder and ran riot with her budget. I need to point out here that making a quilt with new fabric of decent quality isn’t a cheap exercise; you can find fabric much cheaper, but will it stand up to the regular washing an item in constant use will get without shrinking or shredding? I actually prefer to use old, pre-used fabric, which is pre-shrunk and often of much higher quality than anything I can afford to use that’s available now. However, I do go to local quilt group stash-sales, and sometimes pick up bits other people haven’t used at affordable prices, and two of these fitted in with the other fabrics rather well, so they got used too.

Anyway, having over the last few years invested in some good-quality secondhand tools, after much patient watching, stalking & last-minute-bidding on Ebay, I was able to cut, piece, back, quilt & bind a 3′ x 4′ raggy quilt in a little over 4 days, alongside general family & business activities. Becca didn’t have the batting I wanted, but I was lucky enough to find a king-size portion online that someone else hadn’t used & was selling for less then half the price of buying new, including postage; it’ll do 4 cot quilts and a few bags too. And when it came to the binding, I wasn’t able to find anything ready-made that went with the fabrics I’d used. But at the market on Saturday, I was offered a deal I couldn’t refuse, by one of the house-clearance firms; three boxes, one containing filthy vintage handbags, one containing vintage clothes, and one of fabric scraps, for £10.

There are 15 high-quality leather handbags in the first box, including a Prada bag. Well worth cleaning up; they’ll earn that £10 back, and a fair bit more! Enough decent clothes in the second to keep me from clearing the clothes rails in my shed for a while, and in the third, some excellent fabric, including a length of pristine pure wool tweed, worth over £10 on its own. But what clinched the deal was spotting some dusky pink glazed cotton, just exactly the right colour to bind the quilt, easily enough to make a number of bias cuts. Imagine my surprise on getting it home and finding that there were two generous pieces, already cut on the diagonal – and two more blue pieces, cut just the same – they’d clearly come from a quilter’s stash! So I gathered my courage and cut my own binding; to my surprise it wasn’t hard, and I won’t be scared to do it next time. Anyway – quilt finished, washed, tumble-dried to fluff up the raggy bits, and handed over.

Raggy cot quilt
Raggy cot quilt

 

But there were bits left over… another friend had recently asked me to find her a knitting needle roll, and as she’s been kind enough to give us 3 beautiful budgies over the years, I thought I’d like to make her one to say thank-you. So the little left-over bits got themselves made up into this one:

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Knitting needle roll pieced from small scraps

And then I realised that the friend who’d asked me to make the quilt had a birthday, the very day that I was handing the quilt to her! And she’s rather fond of yarncrafts too, so the bigger leftovers, along with a few other scraps, were whisked up into this one:

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Big scrappy needle roll, with space for scissors, patterns etc.

So, I may have had to spend some money on all this (although it wasn’t actually my money anyway) but I have to say I’ve had so much fun with a  few bits of fabric that in my mind, at least, it was money well-spent!

 

 

 

 

Ideas, ideas…

I’ve spent several happy hours hacking up 99p charity shop shirts over the last few weeks, with another quilt in mind, and will be posting a tutorial soon on how to cut up & re-use a shirt with least possible waste, along with some ideas for the “what-on-Earth-can-I-do-with-this?” bits. But some of the last batch were made from such pretty fabrics that one or two other ideas started to creep into my mind. However I’ll need all the shirts I’ve currently got, and more, to complete the current quilt top, so I went looking for more, but sadly it seems that the gods of charity shopping are not currently viewing this project with favour – there were no 99p rails out anywhere and precious few shirts under £3.99. So I started looking at other potential sources of inexpensive fabric. Not that there are many left now, sadly…

Anyway, most shops still seem to let unmatched pillowcases go for 50p, provided they put them out at all – oddments like that don’t fit with the High Street ethos, really – and some of them, usually the older ones, are made from fairly decent & attractive fabric, even if many are terylene/cotton mixes. So I dismembered a couple to see what I’d got. They are usually cut from one wide strip of sheeting fabric, selvedge to selvedge, overlocked along both long sides. If you’ve ever tried to unpick a 4-thread overlock, you’ll know it takes hours and there isn’t much fabric under there anyway, unlike a stitched seam. So I just cut the seams off, very close to the stitching, and ironed them flat. Then I kind of got to wondering whether there might be enough fabric there to make little pinafores… and the answer is, that provided you don’t mind about matching the pattern, or need them to flare out much, then yes, there is. This is my first effort, yet to be tried out on a real child; I suspect I haven’t made the armhole deep enough but that’s easily rectified next time around. In theory it’ll fit a 3-4 year old, but whether one would be seen dead in it remains to be seen! I will report back once I’ve pressganged a passing child, and if it’s a moderate success, I’ll post a tutorial as I make up the next one! And if that’s of much interest to anyone, I might just make up a few in kit form, and see if anyone would actually buy them…

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Catching up…

Sometimes you just need a few quiet days to catch up with stuff… it’s amazing how much chaos can vanish, given a few hours to tackle your UFOs. A UFO, for those of you who are more organised than I can pretend to be, is an UnFinished Object. At any given time I will have several hanging around, waiting for an unbroken run of time & inspiration to get them done & off my back. One of these has now been done and another is well underway, and would have been finished last night if my treadle belt hadn’t broken just as darkness fell.

A minor UFO!

This quilt came to me in two pieces; I found it in a local charity shop (henceforth referred to as CSs) just after I’d promised a young friend a quilt for their birthday. It’s a commercially-made one, although it’s hand-pieced, probably in India, and had been cut in half & hemmed to make two small singles, probably for two small boys. The two halves were being sold for dog blankets at £2.50 each… just so happened that I was cutting up a pile of blue 99p CS shirts to make patchwork pieces, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to “cheat” and try to join it back up again; couldn’t help thinking it would be rather wasted on your average pooch. I doubt I could have done it invisibly and actually I didn’t even want to try; every quilt tells a story, as they say, and being divided & joined back up again is part of this quilt’s tale. It lies flatter than it looks on the washing line!

The other project that’s awaiting some concentration-time is the blind for DS2’s window, which is half-finished, but I hope to have done by the end of today. This time I did buy the main fabric new & complete, to fit in with his colour scheme, but everything else is reclaimed, and much of it from the same old blind that I made DS3’s one from. Leftover fabric will be made into cushions; I found two brand-new cushion pads at the Tip a couple of weeks ago, still with their price tags on.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to try to dispose of more stuff than I bring back; a large load went off with the jumble collectors yesterday, and a boot-load of genuine rubbish went off to the Tip. And I only brought one small item back; a little vintage wind-up travel alarm clock. If it doesn’t work properly, I’ll cannibalise it for steampunk-style jewellery, but so far, it does, and very well too, so I might just have to sell it on as is…

And editing to add: treadle belt changed, blind finished & hung, and one cushion completed. The other may take some time; the front will be the same, but the back will have to be painstakingly pieced out of about 8 tiny leftover scraps…

A major UFO – adding a touch of warmth to a very masculine icebox-bedroom!

Startled but rather pleased…

A few weeks back I picked up a big, heavy bag of what I assumed were vintage curtains as part of a job-lot that I paid £10 for. I have since revamped & sold on the main item from the job lot at a profit; not a magnificent one when you consider the time & expertise that I put into it, but still worthwhile. So anything else I can either sell on, or use myself, from that job lot, is pure gain.

I’d bunged the bag of fabric into the porch whilst I finished updating DS3’s bedroom. Vintage curtains do sell on my stall, albeit not for very much; ’tis all grist to the mill, though, as my mother would say. I used to take the header tapes off them & sell them on as lengths of fabric, but so many people told me that they were going to make it into curtains (again) that I decided it was easier just to leave them be & let the buyers cut them up if they want to. Anyway, yesterday I hauled the bag out to investigate further…

You could have knocked me down with a feather; it contained two large pairs of very-acceptable cream & terracotta cabbage-rose Laura Ashley linen/cotton curtains, complete with tie-backs & pelmets. They show no signs of ever having been used as the fabric is still crisp & there are no fingermarks, dust or fading; there are a few plastic track hooks, but I suspect that they’re far too heavy to hang from a plastic track in daily use; the big pair are well over 3m wide each at the hems & both pairs are 230cm long. So possibly they came from a show-house & weren’t liked, or someone tried to hang them from a track that wasn’t strong enough & they were swiftly replaced by something lighter? It’s not a current pattern, but the closest I could find on their website (Baroque Raspberry) in the larger size, lined, with tie-backs, would cost £990 a pair!

It just so happened that I had recently bought fabric to make new living room curtains; I made some about 8 years ago & decided I hated the pattern about 7½ years ago, so it was high time to replace them. But I wasn’t totally sure about the new fabric, although I’d paid £9.90 a metre for it; the night before last I actually dreamt I had made it (with some other scraps) into some curtains & blinds for the kitchen, which completely changed the look & feel of the kitchen in a positive way, making it feel much less of a left-behind 80s “farmhouse” style & more of a deliberately-retro country kitchen. So that fabric isn’t going to go to waste, because the Laura Ashley curtains are perfect for the living room windows & the conservatory doors; it would be very hard to find anything to suit the space better. I have a feeling there’s enough there to do the front door, as well, if I halve the big ones widthways; they’d cover both gaps more than comfortably. As our ceilings are quite low for an old house, the pelmets would be de trop so they’ll be deconstructed & turned into cushion covers, which will take a bit of jiggery-pokery or possibly patchworking skills. The only money I’m going to have to spend is on acquiring some new curtain rings, which isn’t going to break the bank. Needless to say, I will check that my favourite suppliers down at the Tip don’t have any first!

So although I’m trying to be very strict with myself about bringing unnecessary items into the house, sometimes, just sometimes, my magpie instincts do work in our favour.

Edited to add: needless to say my favourite suppliers did indeed have exactly what I needed, and one of the big curtains has now been split into two, shortened slightly and is gracing the conservatory doors. Pic duly added; door & frame yet to be painted. Total expenditure now £3, £1 for two curtain poles complete with rings & £2 for some metal hooks on the market this morning.

At last…

I’ve finally thought of a way of using cuffs! On my rare days off, I haunt the charity shops of Dorset, raiding the “Reduced” rails for cotton shirts & pyjamas to turn into patchwork fabric. You can get some very decent fabric, in reasonable quantities, for £1 that way. I’ve worked out a way of slicing them up so that you get the maximum quantity of usable fabric, plus a quantity of “seam yarn” for rag rugs etc., from each garment, depending on how it’s constructed. But I’ve always struggled with how to use the collar & cuffs & generally ended up popping them into my scraps-I-really-can’t-do-anything-with bag. This goes off to a charity shop, where they get paid for rags by weight; every little counts!

But today I cracked it; I found a nice “Next” pink striped needlecord shirt for £1 on Monday, that you’d have to have an incredibly slender & well-sculpted figure to wear. I could see straight away that it’d make several stunning fabric hearts, or possibly needlecases; maybe some of each. As I was cutting it up today, the cuffs fell together onto the tabletop in such a way as to remind me I’d lost my glasses case recently, and suddenly I could see how I could make them into one, very quickly & easily. And 20 minutes later, my glasses had a new home! It even has a useful little pocket on the back, too, that I’m going to make a tiny matching mending kit for. Will post a “how-to” sometime after weekend!

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I promised…

…that the next one would be made entirely with recycled materials. And here it is! Old seersucker tablecoths, and a couple of shirts, to be precise. All gleaned from charity shops or the Tip; the batting is a fleece baby blanket that someone had no further use for, although it was as good as new & could easily have been donated to a charity shop. But it wasn’t…  The thread (two colours only) was rescued from old sewing machines or sewing boxes & was still strong, the backing & self-binding was a length of calico that used to line our kitchen curtains and the ribbon came from a whole roll that turned up in a Freecycled sewing box.  It’s a cot-size “strippy-raggy” quilt, for want of a precise description! Fun & very quick to make, but also very textural & soft from a baby’s point of view.

I had fun with the machine quilting, as you can see, and tried out lots of different “patterns”. Some were much easier than others. Bear in mind that my 1909 Jones Medium treadle is extremely easy to use, but only goes forwards and doesn’t automatically adjust stitch lengths or automatically do anything at all except look cheerful!

All in all I’m rather pleased with it & may have to make several more – if only because I now have a big bag of seersucker strips in a wide variety of colours!

Recycled resources?

Strippy quilt front

Here’s a conundrum – is this cheating, or not?

I’ve always felt that quilts should be made from scraps, offcuts or fabric that’s otherwise unwanted; going out & buying fabric to make a quilt seems to make a mockery of the spirit of the artform. My head knows that quilts made from fresh fabric will last longer, that there’s no shortage of it, and that by buying in your fabrics, you’ll get exactly what you want, or near enough. But still… as practical recycling goes, a patchwork quilt made from recycled & reclaimed fabrics is one of the ultimate achievements, as well as being a lovely warm thing to enhance your home or wrap around yourself on a cold winter’s day. So my heart thinks all patchwork quilts should be masterpieces of the recycler’s art. This conviction of mine is probably why I have several bags full of partially-made quilt tops that have somehow ground to a halt or hit a metaphorical buffer one way or another, whilst I wait for the right fabric to turn up. Sadly, at least one intended recipient has actually passed away whilst their quilt has remained unfinished… it’s a good job she never knew I meant to  make her one.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, just before Christmas I was lucky enough to sell some items I had only just realised were surplus to requirements. I’d also spotted what looked like a very quick & easily-achieveable method of piecing a quilt top whilst idly following links from one crafting blog to another. Having some spare funds kicking around in my PayPal account, I took the plunge on New Year’s Eve & bought myself a “stripper” or “jelly roll” which arrived very quickly. I sat down with it at 9 pm on Tuesday evening; by the same time on Wednesday I had a completed “strippy” quilt top as well as having done all the normal household tasks for the day. And by Friday evening it was machine-quilted, bound & finished! It’s not a grand job but it’s functional & quite pretty & I’m pleased with it. I’m also ready to get out my cutter & start cutting strips from  my mountain of reclaimed fabric; this method is fast & very, very do-able. I love looking at art quilts & fantastically complex pieces of patchwork, but I know I haven’t really got the patience – or, in fact, the spare time – to tackle a project that’s going to take hours of calculations, months of work, & completely accurate piecing and stitching. But fast & furious is immensely managable…

So – my justification is that by buying this fabric, I’ve broken through a barrier & realised that making useful quilts doesn’t have to take months., if not years. And I do feel that in a sense, it was at least done with recycled cash, since the funds came from the sale of other craft items. If I can ever find the blog again, I’ll post a link to how it’s done so that anyone else who’s always meant to “have a go” can do so; if I can’t (and I’ve been looking for it all week) I’ll post a “how-to” as another page.  And the next quilt will be made with recycled fabric…

Strippy quilt - back view