Falling in love with crochet

Back in November I went to a preliminary meeting for a proposed new local WI. (Much to the amusement of my friends and family who – like most people – still think of it as an institution for the older lady, shall we say.) The turn-out was huge and the WI was formed. I missed the launch meeting last month due to having just had a baby and subsequently failed to send in my membership form in time, so I’m currently on the waiting list to join. Bear with me, there is a point to this story … On the Facebook page for the afore-mentioned newly-formed WI, someone shared an appeal from Makey Mamas – a Bristol-based set-up offering creative workshops for pregnant ladies and mums of new babies. This appeal was for crochet hearts, with each individual heart being given to a mum spending mother’s day in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with their baby. The same campaign, initiated by BLISS (a UK charity providing care and support for sick and premature babies), was run by Makey Mamas last year with the hope of covering Bristol hospital, but they were so overwhelmed by the response, they ended up distributing hearts to NICUs throughout the South-West of England. Anyway, I saw this appeal, and having recently had a baby myself, I thought I’d have a go.

A video tutorial was provided on the Makey Mamas Facebook page. Not being much of a crocheter, my first attempts were somewhat ‘wonky’.DSC_0212

I persevered, and getting fed up of watching the video tutorial again and again, I found the pattern and wrote it down in my ‘Book of Great Ideas’.

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And, voila! Twenty crochet hearts have today begun their journey to Makey Mamas, to hopefully cheer up some mums who may be experiencing a difficult Mother’s Day.

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These were so easy and addictive to make. They take no time at all. I had grand plans of making a Valentines Day garland, but that’ll have to wait til next year now. Instead, I have a baby cardigan to finish knitting and I’ve also dusted off my neglected sewing machine for a bunting commission.

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As an end note, I just have to share this beautiful quilt which a friend made for my baby girl. As someone who loves to give handmade gifts, there’s nothing better than receiving one. I love the colours of it!

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Tickled pink – little girl’s memory quilt completed

I’m baaaaaaaack! Hanging my head in shame for taking so long to complete my second memory quilt. But it’s done now and that’s what matters. Late for Christmas, but sneaking in ahead of time for the recipient’s 3rd birthday, which is on Saturday.

My little helper looks very pleased with the finished result.

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As with my last quilt (which now belongs to the younger brother of the birthday girl), I quilted some stars on some of the plainer squares, to keep the quilt top and wadding together.

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I found this quilt much more enjoyable to work with, I think it’s the girly colours and details like the bows and buttons. I’m especially pleased I managed to salvage the little teddy that can sit on or in the pocket of the white corduroy. I can’t wait to see some photos of the birthday girl and her quilt. She was very jealous when her little brother got his, which was in October. So hopefully she’ll be pleased she’s got one now too.

This quilt, as the other, was commissioned by a friend. I’ve given her mates/never-done-this-before-so-it’s-a-learning-curve rates. Assuming that I’d speed up a bit on this second quilt, I decided to keep track of the hours I spent on it, in order to work out whether, going forward, memory quilts are ‘worth’ doing. The scores on the doors are interesting reading. For me, anyway. So I thought I’d share.

  • Cutting interfacing/cutting squares out of baby clothes/ironing on interfacing: 7.5 hours
  • Piecing: 4 hours
  • Sewing: 8 hours
  • Quilting: 45 mins
  • Trimming: 1.5 hours
  • Handsewing: 30 mins

Almost 23 hours in total, and that’s probably on the conservative side, I can’t imagine I logged all my hours. Once I had deducted the cost of the materials (interfacing, wadding, backing) from my fee, my hourly rate worked out at a pitiful £3 p/h! BUT, as my husband said, I do enjoy doing it, so it’s nice to earn a little from doing something I enjoy. I started this quilt at the beginning of November, so it’s taken me just over 2 months to do 23 hours work on it! Depressing thought.

As my timings show, the cutting up of the baby clothes takes almost as long as the sewing together of them. Despite this being a quilt, the quilting itself is minimal so takes little time. I’m hopeful but also doubtful that I’ll speed up on piecing. It’s quite fun moving all the squares around trying different colour combinations, like a big jigsaw puzzle.

Having learnt many lessons from my first memory quilt, did I improve this time? I think so. I started off much more organised with this quilt, cutting out all my interfacing first so that once I’d cut the squares from the baby clothes, I could iron the interfacing straight on. I also used fewer smaller squares than my first quilt, as the smaller squares are more fiddly and therefore more time-consuming to sew together. However, I still had to increase the number of smaller squares as they do add interest and are good to create patterns from. Most of the baby clothes I was given were newborn so it was hard to get big squares out of them too. I washed my backing fabric before cutting and attaching it this time (well the first batch, I may have forgotten to wash the second batch, but it worked out fine – phew …). My stitching in the ditch and slipstitch both still have room for improvement but are a lot better on this quilt.

Things to remember for my next (?!) quilt:

  • Use a denim needle when working with thicker fabrics. I must’ve broken at least 3 needles on this quilt.
  • Wash the backing fabric first.
  • Stop and THINK before cutting up the backing fabric for the borders and backing. I ended up having to order a second lot of backing fabric when I cut the borders out first, which, because of the way I’d cut them, meant I hadn’t enough fabric left for the backing. The end result being that I didn’t have the quilt ready in time for Christmas.
  • Try a stitch-in-the-ditch quilting foot – I think this may help me a lot.

The sewing machine has been packed away and I’m off to read a book before bed. Next up, I want to do a belated review of what I made last year. Then, I’m itching to get knitting again. But, I still have many unfinished projects to complete before I can start anything new. Not that that’s stopped me before! I’ve got to live up to my name, after all.

‘Twas the night before Christmas Eve …

… and I was feverishly working away on my latest memory quilt, desperately hoping to complete it on Christmas Eve just in time for the big day. Thanks to the denim squares, I’d encountered a few of these and was down to my last needle.

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All was going well, the quilt top was sewn, the borders were on so I called it a night. Just as I was dozing off, I had one of those moments of sheer horror when I realised I’d made a major error. I’d cut the borders from the backing fabric before cutting the backing section out. Which meant I didn’t have enough backing fabric left to create a single piece for the backing. Sad, sad face.

On the plus side, it meant that I had Christmas Eve free to relax run around like a mad thing getting ready for Christmas Day.

So, why this post? Well I was waiting to do the big reveal of the finished quilt. But that’s a way off yet. Instead, I want to introduce you to the latest addition to our family.

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Tonight is the first chance I’ve had to play with it. I’d asked for it, but my kind cruel husband left me hanging til late afternoon to give it to me, via a treasure hunt with clues. I may have been getting a bit grumpy by then that Father Christmas hadn’t delivered on the one item on my list.

I’m hoping to baste the quilt top to the wadding tomorrow, before quilting star shapes on a few of the squares. I’m not going to give a sneak preview. You’ll have to wait til it’s finished! Mr Postman, please deliver my next lot of backing fabric soon!

Bits and piecing

I’ve had a tired little man this week. Which means long naps for him and a spurt on the memory quilt for me.

Since my last post, I’ve spent several hours piecing the quilt top.

My aim was to have fewer smaller squares than my last memory quilt. Mainly because they are such a pain to join together – matching seams. This was my starting point of piecing.

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It wasn’t as symmetrical as I’d like. Having shown it to the friend that commissioned it, she said (with trepidation) she liked the smaller squares. I was inclined to agree. So I set about finding a way to incorporate more smaller squares, but without as many in my last quilt for her. Which looked like this:

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First, I played around with colour combinations of smaller squares.

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Then I dug out a notebook and sketched some ideas. My favoured one being this:

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Then it was time to try it with my squares. First the smaller squares:

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Then incorporating these blocks into the rest of the quilt:

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Not bad for a day’s nap times.

Meanwhile, I’m also ticking along with my cross stitch. There are some perks to being back at work part time:
1) lots of chatting with other adults
2) getting an hour’s lunch break – being able to shop on my own, or go to the pub and craft over a Coke and crisps with ThePolkaDotGiraffe
3) reading the Metro/my book/doing some cross stitch on the train
4) earning some money (albeit not a lot)

This afternoon, whilst catching up with last night’s Strictly while little man napped and my husband played hockey, I cross stitched.

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Little man was still asleep, so I dusted off my sewing machine, changed the walking foot back to my 1/4″ foot, threaded it and began sewing the squares of my quilt.

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I’ve done the washing up, emptied the washing machine, put the bins out, written this blog post. And he’s still asleep! 3 hours and counting.

I’m going to set myself a challenge and see if I can get the quilt top sewn by the end of next week. Here goes!

Time for a bath

The first ever bath, in fact. Not for me – I love a bath – but for my weary, slightly grubby, cutting mat.

Since I started cutting the squares for memory quilt no.2, I’ve been finding it really hard work to cut the fabric. I wasn’t sure if this was due to a blunt rotary cutter blade or to my mat being a bit mucky and clogged up, or both. I’d ordered a new blade for my rotary cutter, but as I was due to be using my mat to cut up some wedding invitations, I thought I’d give it a clean too.

Good old Google came up trumps with this tutorial which advised giving it a bath in white vinegar and washing up liquid. So that’s what I did.

This was a good product test between own brand and branded washing up liquid. The tutorial said to work up a good lather. Happy Shopper washing up liquid failed to work up the required bubbles.

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Fairy Liquid did the trick.

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The instructions said to use a mushroom brush to work up a lather on the mat. A mushroom brush?! I have a lot of culinary implements, but I don’t own one of those. I tried a pastry brush. No lather. My son’s old toothbrush. Nope. A nail brush. Success!

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Next up, it said to let the mat air dry or dry it with a towel. Given that I don’t have any patience, I opted for the latter. Egyptian cotton no less. I know how to show my cutting mat a good time.

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Time for the all important before and after pictures.

Before:

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After:

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Can’t see much difference? Neither could I. It was a bit less fluffy though.

And I’m pleased to say that, when it came to cutting out the inners for the wedding invitations I’m helping my sister in law with, my scalpel ran through the paper like a dream.

The next night, I glued ribbons onto the front of all the invitations.

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And then I could get back to my latest memory quilt. The new blade for my rotary cutter has made such a difference. Today, I spent an hour cutting out squares and reached a grand total of 56 6×6 squares and 42 3×3 squares. I thought I’d stop there, lay them out and in order to decide which leftover fabric to cut up to fill in the gaps.

My maths failed me again, and, somewhere along the way, I thought the quilt would be made up of 70 6×6 squares. When, in fact, I needed only 60. So I’ve ended up with enough. However, having laid them out, I’m going to cut out a few more as I’m trying to get rid of the plain squares.

Here’s a sneak preview of my starting point.

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It’ll probably look quite different once I’ve finished swapping squares around. But I’m pleased to be at this stage already.

Onto the next one

Well, not much craft got done last week. I don’t know where my evenings go. I was reading a post by Craft Schmaft yesterday about how to find sewing time. Will have to try employing some of these strategies.

Anyway, I did – briefly – pick up my cross stitch on Thursday when I went to a Craft Cafe! I only found out about it on the morning via Facebook. It’s only been running for a month or so and is hosted every other Thursday evening at a local cupcake shop. You can bring your own craft or try something that’s been supplied. Last week it was card making. The Facebook page is here. I brought my Mum along with me for company; she did a bit of patchwork (by hand) while I cross stitched. And when our eyes were tired, we treated ourselves to one of the delicious cupcakes on offer. Cake and craft – a perfect combination!

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While my little man had a nap this afternoon, I got started on memory quilt number 2. This one is a girly one so I’ve been looking forward to getting started on it. I’m being much more methodical and organised this time round. Well hoping to be. So I started by cutting out all my squares of interfacing first. As before, this quilt will be made up of 70 6×6″ squares. But as I’ll use some smaller 3×3 squares to make up some of those 70 squares, I ended up cutting out 56 big squares and 24 small squares.
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I’ve cut the interfacing squares bigger than I need them. I’ve cut 7×7″ big squares and 4×4″ small squares. This is one of the lessons I learnt from the last quilt. Sometimes, when I’d cut the interfacing exactly to size, it didn’t quite match up when I ironed it onto the baby clothes and cut it out. So, when sewing the squares together, some of the seams stretched where the interfacing didn’t go quite to the edge. Not what you want.

The first item of clothing I picked out was a very recent addition to the pile of memory clothes. It must have been very recently outgrown by this little girl as it’s massive – compared to her newborn clothes, that is. I cut 3 big squares and 4 little squares out of it. I wanted to retain the ruffling detail, which actually hides a zip. Tough work on the rotary cutter. I’ve ordered a new blade as it was even struggling to cut through the interfacing. It has taken a battering recently. It’s even been through my fingertip 😉

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I could get plenty more squares out of this babygro, but have left it at this for the time being. My ‘client’ doesn’t like too much repetition.

The completed memory quilt and the many lessons learnt from it

Still on the high you get from a finished project – woohoo!

Picking up from my last post, this is how I got to my finished quilt.

I decided to just quilt the top of my quilt, and not the backing. So Friday morning, as soon as my little man was napping, the sewing machine was out. I ‘stitched in the ditch’ round the edge of the border, where it bordered the patchwork. I need much more practice stitching in the ditch. I’m still very much straddling it at times.

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And then I quilted star shapes on to the plain squares.

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Squared up the quilt top and wadding.

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Saturday morning, another nap time. I pinned on the backing. Then hubby took little man out for a walk so I could finish off.

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Sewed a 1/4 in seam round the edge, leaving about 12″ open at the bottom for turning out.

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Cut the corners and turned out, hoping for the best.

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Then all that was left to do was to close the opening with a slip stitch. Not easy for me as I’m ridiculously bad at slip stitch. Ideal opportunity to catch up on the Children in Need Sewing Bee.

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Then it was into the washing machine on a hand wash setting followed by a gentle spin. Little man was asleep again at this point, so I rewarded myself by sitting in the sun and reading my book.

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Once the spin cycle was done, it got an airing on the washing line, then was left to dry inside overnight. Some repair work was going to be necessary the following morning …

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One of the seams had come apart ever so slightly and my rubbish slip-stitching looked awful, so that had to be done again. On the plus side, I got to catch up on more tv, watching Strictly from the night before. I was determined to have it finished Sunday morning, ready to hand over on Sunday afternoon. Mission accomplished. I even had time to get out our posh camera to take some photos of it.

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And here is the blanket, being enjoyed later that afternoon.

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Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

While I’m enjoying the comedown from finishing this memory quilt, I’m also getting itchy fingers to get onto the next one. Even better, it’s a girly one for the big sister of this little boy. I find girls clothes so much nicer. I’ve also had some orders come in off the back of this one so my (imaginary) order book now contains three more quilts/blankets, a Christmas stocking (made from last year’s Christmas outfit), matching cushions for my first two memory quilts, a memory bear and, finally, a teepee! Think I could be quite busy over the coming months!

Anyway, to wrap up, here’s what I learnt from doing my first memory quilt:

  • cutting up the baby clothes takes a lot longer than I anticipated, especially once you factor in adding the interfacing
  • it’s better to have lots of bigger squares, as lots of smaller squares looks too busy
  • backing fabric is expensive!
  • so is wadding
  • ALWAYS to check the colour-fastness of unwashed fabric before sewing with it
  • I need to improve my stitching in the ditch
  • I need to seriously improve my slip stitching

I’m hoping the next one will be a lot quicker, now that I know what I’m doing. In theory.