Monday, 26 January 2015

Pictures in the Sand

One of the things I love most about recreating one of the childrens' drawings in fabric and stitch, often as a mini quilt, is that by doing so I'm giving it so much more longevity.

We do frequently keep and display paper based art work, but it's so much harder to preserve paper versions in good condition.

With a drawing in the sand, it's impossible to keep it and cherish it as I would like, even for a short time, never mind for ever.

There was something about this picture of a mermaid which Venetia drew in the sand the other week that I loved. And I also loved how proud she was of it.

I'd taken photographs, and it was easy to recreate in fabric with some machine embroidery.

The tide came in and washed away the original. Part of the inevitable and natural ebb and flow of the sea; drawings in the sand are only fleeting. But now as well as our memories of Venetia's mermaid and fun at the beach that day, we have tangible memories in both the photos and the mini quilt.

Just as pictures in the sand, our lives here are fleeting, in the grand scheme of things. And unfortunately, though without the predictability of tides, it is just as inevitable and natural that our time will come to an end. But memories remain.

My Mum passed away in the early hours of Thursday morning. She died peacefully in bed, here at home, with my Dad beside her. She had Parkinsons and her health has been very poor for several years. We've had a few scares with her over these years, and have feared she might not make it on more than one occasion. She was stronger than she appeared and managed to fight back on each occasion. This time it was pneumonia, possibly brought on by her problems swallowing. Despite our hopes that the antibiotics might work and she might beat the odds again, we were told early last week that she wasn't going to make it this time.

Over the last years my Mum has struggled, emotionally and mentally, to deal with the effects Parkinsons had on her physically. In many ways she hasn't been the Mum I remembered from when I was growing up. And sadly her grandchildren, our four and my brothers' two girls, will not really remember their Grandma very well from pre-Parkinsons days. But the Mum I will remember now is the Mum who read books with my brother and I. The Mum who cooked us delicious meals each night and looked after us when we were poorly. Whose kisses and cuddles made us feel better. I have such strong memories of going to the market with her every Saturday, and buying our fruit and veg and fresh fish for our tea. The Mum who worked hard to make long Summer caravanning holidays such wonderful experiences for us year after year - even though, with hindsight, I'm not so sure caravan holidays would have been her first choice personally! But she recognised that they were great for us and that was what mattered to her. The Mum who walked across beaches searching for tiny turret shells with me, who gave me my love of rock pooling, and drew pictures in the sand with me. The Mum who loved to sew, who made me so many of my clothes when I was little and who first introduced me to patchwork and quilts. She taught me to use a sewing machine and bought me my first sewing machine when I had left home.

These are the memories I want to hold on to now. And although Sam, Theo, Venetia and Maria don't remember any of these, they are the experiences that have shaped who I am now. They've turned me into the Mother I am for my four gorgeous children. Among other things a mother who loves to read with my children, who cooks (hopefully!) delicious meals every night, who loves to spend time on the beach with my children, and of course who sews with my children and encourages their creativity. So although, directly, these happy memories of my Mum will only last until the tide washes away my picture...

Indirectly she is still shaping my children every day, and they are benefitting from her time here, even though they didn't get to see the full beauty of her pre-Parkinsons picture. And, in turn, I know these memories I am creating now with my children, will shape the parents they become into the future.

And as for the more tangible memories? Obviously lots of photos.

I think I must have been about 11 here, Maria says my hair looks almost like a boys!

As well as many pictures my Mum painted.

But also quilts. Bringing us full circle with the very start of this post, one of the things I love about quilts is their longevity. I find something very comforting in the fact that the quilts I make will last way beyond my time here, hopefully they will last beyond my childrens' generation too. And I couldn't ask for a more beautiful, tangible memory of my Mum than this amazing quilt which she sewed for me, many of the fabrics coming from childhood clothes.

It has been hanging in my Mum and Dad's bedroom since they moved down to us. It has been much admired there by so many visitors over the past year. And there it stays, even though she is now gone; a beautiful memory to be cherished and handed down through the family.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

This Moment

Here's a link to Soulemama's moment, and here's mine, 2 teenagers in the house now, scary stuff...

{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Wool pennies

The last few days my Mum has been very poorly, and things have been a little quiet and slow around here, but still time consuming. Busy, but slow motion busy with the volume down low if that makes sense! A tiny bit of wool stitching here and there is all that's fitting in. But it's amazing how quickly a few of these squares can be finished and added to the mix.

After my post last week on these, and my quandary about whether or not to introduce the extra background colours, Yvonne, over at Quilting Jet Girl, very helpfully threw 'stripes' into the ideas pot. Which was not something that had occurred to me at all, I think I'm too much of a random kind of person! But after sewing a few of the other colours, I'm really liking the way they're working together in a more ordered way.

The simple stripes, or maybe switching them around a little, but still to a pattern.

I'm only planning on having these 3 rows deep for a scarf (although the bag idea is very tempting too, Emma and Penny, thank you!)

So permutations are slightly limited.

I have to say that I'm really loving these colours together and am also tempted to do something blanket sized, but I think I would have to go slightly bigger on the squares, which would maybe lose some of its charm.

Assuming I do stick with a scarf, I'm now wondering how I'm going to sew it together and what to back it with. Initially, I had planned on just laying the squares out on a backing piece and machine sewing them straight on to it, without overlapping them in any way, or sewing them together first. Mainly to avoid bulky wool seams on something quite small. And I hadn't decided between a soft denim for the backing, or maybe a flannel or a stiffish silk. But now, I think because I like them so much as they are, I'm apprehensive of getting it wrong and spoiling them.

Good thing I've still got plenty more of the hand sewing to do while I mull it over!


Sunday, 18 January 2015

This Moment

Here's a link to Soulemama's moment, and since I was already late again, I've sort of cheated in an extra way and gone for photos from today. We haven't had any snow at home yet, but there has been some quite close, on Exmoor, and since we found ourselves half way there today anyway, we went on a spontaneous search for the elusive white stuff. Not huge quantities, but enough for a few snowballs.

Yes, still the shorts! He never wears anything else, except for school when he has to.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Wool Stitching

My larger wool squares with wool pennies are coming on nicely, only a handful left to go before I have enough for a blanket. But, as much as I've been enjoying the hand sewing, I have been getting just slightly bored of nothing but blanket stitch. And Maria has been a little poorly the last few days (happily much better today), so I've had quite a bit of time cuddled up with her on the sofa, or playing a quiet game with her, and able to do some hand sewing at the same time. So, I decided to get some new wool squares and pennies on the go to let me mix up the stitching a little.

These ones are pretty small, 2 inches square(ish!). 

And I'm just doing whatever I fancy with the stitching. 

Don't worry, I'm not crazy enough to be planning on using these in any blanket sized project. I'm thinking they'll become a scarf, much more realistic! 

But even so, I think I might only be about a fifth of the way through with what I have here, so still a way to go.

I've got another, very slightly, lighter shade of grey wool that I had thought I might throw in the
mix for the squares, and possibly a greyish, herringbone pattern and maybe a dusky purple too. But now I have these all together, I'm not so sure I should vary the background tone. Any helpful thoughts?


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

'Lift the Flap' Log Cabin Quilt Block

Anyone who's been reading along since early Summer, might vaguely remember that I started a quilt then, in theory for Maria's birthday. In practice, I decided a couple of weeks before her birthday that there was no way I was going to get it finished in time; other priorities were more important and I consoled myself with the fact that it was baking hot and who needed a quilt right then anyway?! Christmas would be a much more suitable quilt gifting time - that's what I thought back then anyway.

Well, I did think about it before Christmas. I fished out the block I'd begun, which was sort of a picture of Maria.

And I really didn't like it anymore. Back in the Summer I'd had reservations about it, basically because it didn't look hugely like Maria! But I'd decided to ignore my reservations back then. But when I looked at it before Christmas, I couldn't ignore them. I really didn't want to use it. It's amazing how a bit of time can give you a whole new perspective on your work. Way back then, I'm sure I was influenced, at least slightly, by the amount of time and effort I'd already put into it. It's hard to completely abandon something that you've just toiled over. But now, I've forgotten all that effort and see it far more objectively - as not good enough.

So with that decision taken, I did consider other quilt ideas before Christmas. But I wasn't feeling amazingly inspired, and the making was already mounting up, so I decided not to put any more pressure on myself, and to put it off a bit longer. However, I really don't want to leave it until her birthday, otherwise I sense a vicious circle coming on, especially if the weather is hot again! So it's another make on my list of New Year sewing and crafting. And I've started, hurray!

I'm planning on still making the quilt from the same fabrics I'd pulled out in the Summer - lots of bright colours and whimsical prints. And I think I'm going to 'hide' quite a few 'pictures' in there, pictures that are particular to Maria in some way or another. I'm also opting for a quilt as you go approach.

So for my first block I made a rainbow snail for the 'picture'.

And decided to 'hide' it under a flap - just like in a 'lift the flap' book. I think patchwork lends itself very well to including flaps or pockets. and it's a lovely way to add extra interest for a young child. It's something I've done before (this quilt for example), and there are lots of different ways to incorporate them into quilts. But for this quilt I think I'll be largely using a log cabin style to add them. So I thought I'd show you how to go about it. As I said I'm going with a quilt as you go method, so I'm sewing all my pieces directly on to my batting fabric block (old wool blanket cut up, of course!), but the same principles could be applied to just piecing the front pieces together without the batting.

The first step is to sew a strip down the side, right sides together, and then iron it out, like this.

Continue around the bottom edge...

 And the remaining side...

Now to make the 'flap' itself. Measure 2 pieces of fabric to be a little larger than the picture you wish to cover, to allow for seams. I used the same fabric for my bottom piece as the fabric in the snail picture.

Then sew these two flap pieces together, right sides together, along 3 sides - leaving your top edge open. You can then turn the little 'bag' you've created right way out again, and you can just leave that top edge open and raw. Here it is.

And here you can see the lower fabric peeking out of that open top edge.

Now sew this 'flap' down along that top edge, just as you want it to look when finished.

And leaving it lying flat, cut and sew the last strip of your log cabin, just as you did with the others, as if it were an ordinary quilt block and ignoring the flap. So you have this now.

And you can lift up that flap to reveal the picture...

If you wanted, you could also add some kind of closure for the flap - like a button and button hole. I've decided not to do that at all.

Easy peasy! And then just carry on building up your block however you like. Here's mine, still needs a good trim and some more quilting, but it really doesn't look like there's anything hidden when it's lying flat.

Open it up though, and the block changes character completely.

What do you think? Is it a feature you'd include in a quilt some time? Rather than a picture you could maybe include details of the recipient - name and date of birth, or a little message to them perhaps.

I'm not imposing any deadline on myself for finishing this quilt, but it would be good to get it done while the weather is still cold. We'll see how it goes. And talking of cold weather - we're forecast heavy snowfalls tonight, yippee! But there seems to be some doubt as to whether it's going to settle at all. So far this evening we've had torrential rain, icy hail (very nearly, almost snow) and mighty lightning flashes, illuminating the night sky in amazing purple light. Fingers and toes crossed that we wake to a blanket of white tomorrow.


Friday, 9 January 2015

This Moment

Here's a link to Soulemama's moment, and I have quite a few photos again, but all from the same trip out, so I don't feel too guilty! Another walk with just Sam, this time to Woody Bay. If you spot the tiny Sam figure (centre left, in front of the large rock), who'd run on ahead as we got close to the beach, then you get an idea of scale.

Next time I'll have to get him to wear something bright orange instead!

We sat down by this pool for lunch, not too bad a picnic spot!

Behind us the waterfall powered down the cliffs on to the beach.

Next to us, it streamed down the beach, finding it's way to the sea.

Either side, the coastline stretched out, hiding other smaller bays. And although it was quite cold and windy, it was also reasonably bright, so across the sea we could clearly see Wales.

The pool itself was a beautiful green, still and tranquil.

We have happy memories of jumping into this pool and swimming alongside an amazing shoal of brilliant, blue fish in the Summer. It was a little on the cold side for that today, and for testing out the waterfall or even getting too close, but it was still very beautiful.

Even in the Summer we've found it a very quiet beach, for this trip we had the beach completely to ourselves.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Tablecloth Night Gown

The mention of nighties in my previous post has reminded me that there was one late, last minute extra nightie made shortly before Christmas, so a very quick rewind to 2014 again, because if I don't show you now I won't get round to it again.

Not the best photo ever, and a little creased - but it made a nice change not to be having to take secretive photos on hangers anymore.

This one started life as a very pink tablecloth in a charity shop. I used the same kind of design as for the doily dress, but to fit in with the dimensions of the table cloth, and to make the most of the pattern on it, I created a separate top piece.

Not quite finished here, but, if you're interested, hopefully the construction might make sense from this if you refer back to previous nightie posts.
Venetia was very happy with it and with her other nightie, as was Maria with hers. And while I'm on last year still, I'm happy to also report that they both loved their Frozen dresses. Very difficult to get any good pictures of these because they really would not stay still in them, but here's my best attempt...

Mid song of course!
So a final recap, there were 4 nighties and 1 dress all made completely from thrifted/recycled fabric, and 2 Frozen inspired dresses made almost completely from thrifted fabric, just a little bit of new for Maria's 'cloak'. Sheets, duvet cover, net curtains, and tablecloth all bought for very little money.

So before you go and splurge on new fabric in the sales, go and have a browse round your local charity shop first!

There's another Magpie Monday over at Me and My Shadow to link up with, as well as a Make, Thrift & Tell link party at Idle Needle.