Tuesday 28 May 2024

Patchwork Curtains

For about two months now I've been working on some patchwork curtains for my craft room. I started sorting through piles of fabric in March and finally got the curtains finished and hung at the window yesterday.

When I began I had no idea just how time-consuming this project would be. Just choosing the fabrics took ages and then I had to iron it and cut all those squares. I was planning to end up with two panels of 96 squares (8 x 12) and I wanted a mixture of dark and light colours. To simplify things I decided to use the same fabrics in both panels so that meant cutting two 8" squares from 96 pieces of fabric. I managed to cut about eight pairs a day.

The next stage was to lay out one lot of 96 squares on the floor to work out a pleasing arrangement. To make this easier, you need to get as far away from the layout as you can (this involves steps and / or furniture climbing) and then either take a photo or look at it through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. That way, any unbalanced sections will jump out at you. After a bit of swapping the squares around, I ended up with this.

As you can see, Linnet was a great help. I pinned the squares into piles, one for each row of eight squares and got ready to start sewing.

As I was aiming for a stained glass effect, I didn't want any raw edges visible where the squares joined so I used a double seam called a Flat Fell Seam. This is the seam used on jeans - everyone wearing jeans, have a look at your legs and you'll see what I mean - and it worked well, even if it added hugely to the sewing time.

First you sew your two squares together with the wrong sides facing; I drew a line ¾" from the edge on the square I was adding and sewed along that. Then you press the seam flat and trim the seam allowance on the new square to about ¼". I just did this by eye. The next stage is to fold the first square's seam allowance so that it comes just short of your seam and press it, then fold it over again and press that. Now you go back to the machine and top stitch that fold down. It took me about an hour to join a row of eight squares and then add it to the row above so, again, I added one row a day.

As well as taking ages, these seams also use huge amounts of thread. I lost count of the number of times I had to change the bobbin on the machine but it was an awful lot. That was when this little machine came into its own.

This is a battery operated Hemline Bobbin Winder and it's absolutely brilliant. I'd always hankered after one of these - I do love a gadget - but told myself it probably wasn't necessary and wouldn't be any easier than winding the bobbins on the machine. Turns out I was wrong on both counts. It works like a dream, winds the bobbins more quickly and smoothly than my machine does and, of course, saves you having to stop in the middle of a seam to wind a new bobbin and then re-thread the machine.

This is what it looks like inside. You fold up the rod in the middle, attach the sticky out bit stored in the lid and pull up the spool holder. Then you follow the thread path on the machine (you might just be able to see it in that photo above) to attach the bobbin to the spool, press that blue button and it does the rest.

I didn't have to persuade the thread to fill the bobbin smoothly and it stops automatically when the bobbin is full. You can wind lots of bobbins in one sitting which saves even more time.

So ... I checked the length of the curtain after the tenth row and decided I only actually needed elven rows, not twelve - hurray! Once the first panel was done I pinned it over the curtain rail to see what it would look like.

Yes, definitely stained glass. Even the rather wishy washy colours showed up brighter than I'd expected. The visible squares between the seams are 6"².

The next problem was working out how to arrange the squares for the next panel. I tried a straight copy and then flipping the pattern horizontally but neither of those worked. In the end I flipped it vertically so that the individual rows were the same but the top row became the bottom, the second to top the second to bottom and so on.

This is just an image I generated on the computer to test the layout; Now I had to actually sew the second set of squares. By the time I'd done that, I had a huge pile of fabric trimmings ...

.. and it was time to work out how to finish the edges. The first problem was that the edges were wider on the left sides and the tops than on the right and bottom edges. As I was double folding the edges and top stitching them twice, this gave me very little to play with if I wanted to keep the visible squares the same size as all the rest. I just about managed with the side seams and then had the bright idea of turning the panels upside down so that the shorter bottom edge became the top (where it would be hidden by the curtain tape.

I was still sewing one seam per day but, by the time I'd added the second lot of curtain tape yesterday, I decided just to get on and finish them. Luckily, they both hung to the same depth (not always the case in this wonky house) so the hems were quite straightforward to sew. I then picked over both curtains for trapped and stray threads of which there were a lot before ironing the curtains and hanging them up.

It was a grey and gloomy day yesterday when I took this photo but, even so, those colours really glowed. I then flaffed around with some ribbon and brass rings to make a pair of simple tiebacks and I was done.

It's difficult to take photos that show how lovely these curtains are; they really brighten up the room and are a lovely splash of colour when I walk in the door. All that work was worthwhile.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Mum's Knitted Bags

My latest pattern is not actually mine at all but was one of my Mum's.

Mum could turn her hand to any number of different crafts but, in later years, she was pretty much a full time quilter. When all her quilts finally have a proper place to live, I'm looking forward to showing them all to you. Be warned, it might take a while.

She did have a phase of knitting bags though, some from patterns but mostly making them up as she went along. I've got a few of those too ...

That bright stripey one with the flowerpot buttons was one of her favourites. It was nice and big and she did like to carry lots of things with her when she was out and about. 

Do you see the little blue and gold one peeping out just below that bag? This is the one that I'm going to talk about today. Mum actually wrote down her notes for this one so I thought it would be nice to publish it as a pattern.

It's knitted in the round in a combination of garter stitch and stocking stitch and has a pleasing shape. Mum used one of these to hold her knitting tools and another one for one of her many appliqué projects. She would machine sew in the day and hand quilt in the evening while watching television but she also had little collections of apliqué blocks in progress complete with scissors and threads all over the place ... just in case. There was normally one in the glove box of the car ready for picnic sewing.

All of Mum's bags were lined ad she liked using bright fabrics for this. This one has a beautiful Batik lining.

So, over the last couple of weeks, I've been knitting some of these bags and playing around with the pattern a bit to get it ready to publish. I've tried not to change very much so that it's still her design but I did change the purl garter stitch to knit as most people find that easier (including me).

This is the first one I made. It's bigger than hers which were all knitted with DK weight yarn. I used James C Brett Chunky for this one which is more of an aran weight really and the finished bag is about 23 cm or 9" tall.

The button was from Mum's button box and I used some another of her Batik fabrics for the lining.

Then I thought I'd try out the pattern with different weights of yarn to give different sized bags. The medium size one is knitted with King Cole Bramble DK and the little one is thin sock yarn left over from my Basic Socks pattern.

These are quick to knit and don't use much yarn. I'm sure you could find a use for any one of them. The pattern, as normal, is free to download from my ravelry designer page. The link to the actual pattern is after the next photo. 

Ann's Pockets

Before I go, here's where Tolly has been while I've been writing this ...

... as high as he can get in this very high room. This time he managed to get up there without knocking anything down; last time he dislodged two knitted donkeys and an angel en route. He does love to climb. Yesterday I had to remove him from the outside sill of my bedroom window - it's two floors up! - given that he jumps at sudden noises, I didn't think that was the safest place for him to be.

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Beryl, Iris and Jasmine

No, I haven't suddenly acquired three new cats (although wouldn't they be great names for cats?) Those of you who can't resist a nice piece of charity shop china will know at once what I'm talking about. Beryl, Iris and Jasmine are the three colours of china produced by Woods for many decades from the 1940s onwards; it was particularly popular in the 1950s. Beryl is green, Iris is blue and Jasmine is yellow. 

Green Beryl was produced in the biggest numbers and was a staple of many village halls for years; it turns up regularly in charity shops and the like. The other two colours are a bit harder to find so I was especially pleased to find this little collection yesterday.

A small teapot and three cups and saucers, all in the pale blue Iris. I was particularly pleased with the teapot as, not only had I never even seen a Woods Ware teapot but it's my favourite 1 pint size. They also made a bigger 2 pint size but that would be a bit big for me on my own. I'm very taken with the way the circular lid slots into an oval hole so that you can twist it to lock it in place. Sounds odd I know; you'll just have to take my word for it.

Needless to say, I had my tea out of it yesterday afternoon and you'll be glad to hear that it's a good pourer. The other reason that I like to use old teapots is that modern ones don't have built in strainers. I think they expect you to use tea bags and I use leaf tea. You still need a strainer but that internal one holds back quite a lot.

Anyway, this find prompted me to fish out all the pieces I have to show you. Don't they look pretty all together?

I don't actually have that much of the green Beryl really. I do however have enough for a small tea table in all three colours now.

Or perhaps this ...

Some of this china is in regular use, including my two custard jugs (well that's what I use them for anyway) and the little milk jug.

My Mother-in-law had the green Beryl as her wedding china in the 1950s and she gave me my big jug - thank-you Janet. 

I have a few plates of various sizes too and one little pudding bowl. There are three bigger plates  but only one Iris tea plate. I'd like some more of that size.

I have yet to find a list of all the items Woods made in this range but I did find a very good blog post about it which you might like to read (it has very pretty pictures too). Beryl by Woods Ware: 1940s and 1950s British Utility China. Do any of you still enjoy using this pretty and practical china?

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Lately I've been ...

 ... sorting. Again, or should that be 'still'? The endless sort and re-decoration of the house continues. Having done the two rooms on the top floor, now it's the turn of the middle floor. These rooms are going to have a less specific purpose so it's a question of what will fit where and what we need to buy or move. 

The biggest of the two middle rooms will be a spare bedroom but with space for me to craft in too. To be fair, I'm factoring in space for me to craft in just about every room, with the possible exception of the bathroom. This room is also going to be the home of my Mum's quilts too which are currently piled up in bin bags. We're hoping to get a deep wardrobe with shelves to house them in a much more dignified way.

The smaller room is currently my sewing room and will stay as that. It's where I keep my modern sewing machine and all my haberdashery. 

I built this desk and the cubby holes many years ago but I'm now in the middle of making storage boxes that fit each of the holes so as to fit more into them. The fabric boxes on the bottom two rows hold all my sewing threads, sorted by colour. These used to be spilling out of baskets all over the place so it's nice to have them properly organised and stored. 

I decided to use some of the cubby holes at the top to hold things that were bulky but light. For these, I've made card boxes out of old sheets of mountboard that I used to use as backdrops for photography, stuck together with paper tape and covered with pretty coloured card. They're rough and ready but they do the job.

The card boxes may be quick to make but the same can't be said of the smaller boxes on the row below. These are rectangular knitted boxes with plastic canvas inserts and they take ages to make. They are, however, really useful for all the little bits and bobs. Like sewing needles for example ...

The darkest red box holds tapestry and cross stitch needles and betweens for hand quilting. I made the little patchwork bag for my Mum to hold her quilting needles and there are still over one hundred needles in it! All size 10 so, needless to say, I haven't considered using any other size.

Of course I'm still adding things to the two rooms we've already done. The big project at the moment is a pair of patchwork curtains for my craft room. These are going to be unlined and I'm sewing the squares together with French seams so that there won't be any visible raw edges. Just cutting out all the squares took weeks and then I had to lay out the first curtain's worth (96 squares) and work out an arrangement I liked.

I took photos to help with this as clumps of one colour show up better that way. As there were so many squares, this involved a certain amount of climbing ...

I did have two furry helpers though. Here's Linnet checking the final arrangement.

She's getting very brave about coming into that room now. It helps that, being so high up, it's a good place for watching birds - one of her many interests.

Do you know it takes an hour to sew one row of eight squares together and add it to the others? I'm adding one row a day and this first curtain currently has nine rows of eight squares. Here's what the first two rows looked like; from the right side ...

... and the wrong side. See? No raw edges.

When they're up against the window the light will shine through the coloured squares but those doubled seams will be darker, giving a sort of washed out stained glass effect. Well that's the plan anyway.

You wouldn't believe how much thread this is using. I think I'm on my fifth bobbin already. I've just ordered one of those battery operated bobbin winders as I find the threading on my machine fiddly to do. I decided that if there was going to be a time to buy one of these gadgets this was it.

What else have I been doing? Well, there's been quite a lot of knitting of course. I've knitted two sizes of baby hats, based on my Ten Stitch Hat pattern. The smallest one was particularly tricky.

I'll turn these into a pattern when I get round to it. I think the little one is about right for a young baby; the big one is more of a toddler size but who knows?

I've also knitted my daughter a pair of socks, mainly because I thought it was time I wrote up my basic sock pattern and I needed to take the step by step photos. This one I have managed to publish.

Frankie's Basic Socks

There's been quite a bit of cross stitch too. I've finished another ornament from the magazine that was in my Christmas stocking. This one is a Poinsettia Angel.

I'm still working on the Christmas sampler that I started years ago too. I decided that, if I only worked on it at Christmas, it will never get finished so, this year, I've kept it out.

The design is called Christmas Patchwork and it's from the Historical Sampler Company. I think I'm about half way through but it's solid stitching so even the smallest block takes quite a while.

While we were turning out a cupboard (yes, more sorting), I found my Granny's old needlepoint frame and decided it needed to be put to use. Working out how it went together was quite straightforward but then it took me a while to make some tension straps for the sides of the canvas.

This is when all that haberdashery sorting came into its own. I knew just where to find some dungaree clips and a roll of cotton tape to make straps that are easy to move when needed. I also had to make myself a new needle minder (of course I did). Self-cover buttons and extra strong magnets? No problem, already sorted.

I've set up the frame in my new bedroom. It's too nice a room just to sleep in. I can sit by the window and look out over the garden while I work and it stands against the wall in between sessions.

The canvas is a Primavera design called Shaker Village and I'm thoroughly enjoying 'colouring it in'. So far I've done a barn, a tree and a horse.

They also do a winter version of this design called Winter Village. Maybe when I finish this one I could do that one too?

In between all this craft and sorting (or at the same time if it's knitting), I'm always reading. I read a mixture of ebooks, real books and audiobooks, depending on what I'm doing. 

Do you remember me showing you my shelf of Abbey Girls books in my new bedroom? Well, I decided it was time to read through them in order. There are some I've never read and, although I don't have them all, I thought it would be nice to read them in order. I'm following the reading order recommended by the Elise J Oxenham Society rather than going by the date of publication. She re-visited the series later and filled in lots of gaps so this makes sense. 

I'm on the third of my books and am really enjoying them. My daughter has a few I don't have so I shall borrow those when I get to them and I'm hoping to find secondhand copies of the rest. There are half a dozen or so which are prohibitively expensive but, luckily, both the Oxenham Society and the publisher Girls Gone By issued paperback reprints of these. These are now out of print but you can get them secondhand.

I've only just found out that the Children's Press editions of three of the books (published in the 1960s) were heavily abridged, including my favourite The Abbey Girls in Town. I've just order myself an unabridged copy from one of my favourite Etsy shops tygertale. Isn't that exciting? One of my favourite books just got longer. 

Anyway, the other main thing I've been doing (with a lot of help) is gardening. I can only do a small amount at a time because of a) my chronic back condition and b) the Long Covid. In a way though, it's just as well the pain stops me as otherwise I'd be tempted to carry on which wouldn't do me any good at all. 

A few weeks ago my daughter helped me plant my latest purchase in the front garden.

One of three bundles of sticks / bare root roses that we've put in by the railings. One day they will be beautiful. My other roses (no, you can never have too many roses) are all full of buds and the first flower appeared about ten days ago.

This is  Kew Gardens, now a nice little shrub, although this one too was a mere bundle of sticks two years ago. There's hope for the others yet.

One more thing before I go. I've been fascinated to watch the progress of this year's Sheffield Peregrines who hatched the other week. I don't look too closely at feeding time - head of a pigeon anyone? - but seeing the chicks grow is amazing. Have a look.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Knitted Petal Pouches

After the sewn Petal Pouch pattern that I published earlier this week, here is a pattern for a knitted version.

I think these are easier to make than the sewn ones and, as you can see, they come in three sizes too. They are knitted flat in four simple garter stitch pieces and then sewn together. Drawstrings are threaded through a line of eyelets to close the pouches.

They hold more than you'd think they would. This smallest one only uses 20g of yarn all together and would make a good jewellery pouch to take with you on your travels.

Or maybe you need to pack some emergency yarn ...

Whatever you decide to use yours for, I hope you enjoy knitting them. Click on the link below to download the free pattern.

Petal Pouches

Wednesday 10 April 2024

More Sewing Patterns

 Two more free patterns for you today. Actually, I've just tidied this one up a bit.

Music Bag

I always hankered after one of those leather music bags with one handle and a metal bar as a child, not realising how expensive they were. So I settled for a carrier bag or just clutched my music in my sticky little hands. This sewn version is much cheaper, much prettier and would also work as a book bag.

The second pattern is my version of these little Petal Pouches. I made these to hold little Easter eggs but they would hold any number of little things. 

You can download either of these patterns, together with my tote bags by clicking on the link at the side, under 'My Free Sewing Patterns'. I think I might have managed to set the links so that they go to the actual pattern now but who knows? Blogger can be very, very confusing.

I've also worked out a knitted version of the Petal Pouch which is nearly ready to publish. This one comes in three different sizes.

I'll let you know when it's ready.