Wednesday, 30 January 2013


WIP Wednesday has been sabotaged today – it seems Mr Skilly got a bit carried away with data downloads last week, crippling our internet and preventing me from publishing photos on my blog.

The WIPS have been progressing though. I have completed Maddy’s quilt top, quilted the charm square baby quilt, and have only about 10cm to go on Maddy’s knitted rainbow top, which I ended up going with my own design. Just a bit of binding, a bit of quilting and a bit more knitting until I have three completed FO’s.

I am going to be gentle on myself for the next week or so. My baby started kindy this week – so proud of how she just slotted in perfectly and I am itching to share her first day at kindy photo. She was oh so tired at the end of the day, but loved every minute. My new routine of two hour treks home from work going via childcare and school, picking up two very tired little kidlets will begin on Monday, as my boy starts at his new school full time (just a one-on-one morning session, and two short afternoons with only half the class this week). I am positive that the sacrifices we are making to get him there are going to be worth it– his new teacher sounds very switched on and autism aware, committed to helping him succeed not only this year, but to set him up well for every other year, when he returns to mainstream school. I am just glad I have a new coffee machine to get me through the early mornings and long days!

I am guessing the slow cooker (and Mr Skilly who follows my orders… I mean, instructions and turns it on before he leaves for work) will be my best friend, leaving me more time to help the kidlets with the transition home, and to settle them into quiet activities for the last part of the day. The driving gets me pretty exhausted at the best of times, but add two tetchy, tired children to the mix and there is likely to be tears and screaming (hopefully not from me!). I will be feeling ready for bed the moment I turn out their lights. So, if I can muster the energy, I hope to get the following done over the next week:

• Bind and label the baby quilt
• February’s Lucky Star block (and coordinating crumb block – more on those next week!)
• Knit some more on Maddy’s rainbow top

Gently does it…

Anything extra is a bonus!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

I just had to!

Riley Blake fabrics are my all time favourite. I just about fall in love with every one of their designs, the instant they come out. I think they are consistently one of the best designers for boy fabric, which is what brought them to my attention originally, when I began sewing for my little lad.

Well, last August Riley Blake came out with a new range that called to me extra loudly. "Pieces of Hope" is a line that was designed to support autism awareness, understanding and research, with part proceeds going to Autism Speaks. The fabric features puzzle pieces, an image often used to represent autism research, as it depicts the pieces of the puzzle that help us see the bigger picture of what autism is.

I especially love the fabric that displays positive words surrounding autism. As a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder, sometimes it is the little things that give us hope. These words remind me of those magical moments when the autism slides away for a special moment and lets the beautiful boy inside shine though. Sometimes the challenges that autism poses can be exhausting, and hope seems a long way off. These fabrics remind me that he has just as much potential as anyone else, it just takes a little more work to reach sometimes.

When I first saw these fabrics, I knew I had to get my hands on some. I was thinking I would make some cushions for Austin's sensory corner at school, as it was rather empty, and he preferred to hide under tables or run away to the playground when things got tough, than use his sensory corner. So I thought some bright, colourful, positive cushions would make a great addition.

Then we were told about, and accepted for a new Autism Intervention Program where he will attend this year. The basic idea is that the sensory problems are removed so that he can learn the skills he needs to cope in a normal classroom, without all of the issues that we experienced last year. The unit will follow the Ziggurat model, which has proven success with dealing with high functioning autism in the US.

We are a little excited, apprehensive, anxious, hopeful and a whole bunch of other things in between, about having this opportunity this year. I saw this fabric on sale at the fat quarter shop and was afraid that if I didn't act soon, I could miss out. So, for a moment I closed my eyes to the stash increase, and bought the FQ pack and some yardage while I could! I figure with my track record, it's never too early in the year to be thinking about end of year gifts, and I think that if this program does anything at all to make learning easier for our beautiful boy, then they will deserve something special. Even if it doesn't, a snuggly, colourful quilt for the junior primary AIP unit will be loved by the children that attend there after Austin has returned to his home school. They can use it in their sensory breakout room, or even for sitting on as a class for outdoor learning since the class size is so small (for sensory overload reasons).  THis term will begin with just 4 students, and a maximum of 8 allowed in the class.

I just know I am going to love working with these gorgeous, happy fabrics, and think there may even be enough to make a second quilt for us to keep here. Austin has become a very prolific reader these school holidays, chewing through (not literally as Austin thought I meant when he first heard me say it!) three Enid Blyton novels, and starting on a fourth. I would love to set up a quiet reading corner, and a quilt or some cushions using "Pieces of Hope" would be perfect for snuggling up to while he reads.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

WIP Wednesday #3

I have been very focused this week, working soley on Madelyn's big bed quilt.  Considering I can only find an hour a day to sew during the week, I am proud of myself for sticking with it, and reaching that 74 block target!  When I pulled it out of the cupboard a few weeks ago there were 20 blocks, already joined into rows to make a cot quilt. The prospect of making enough to turn it into a single bed quilt was daunting since I haven't done anything this big since Austin's big bed quilt (which now could do with updating!),
I had to unpick the previously joined rows, to spread some of the old fabrics around the quilt.  Some of the blocks were made from scraps, with 2-3 blocks having the same fabric, all concentrated in the bits I had already pieced together.  I thought I could get away with unpicking only a few to spread, but I didn't like my sequence of colours as I had the cream square followed by a white square and the reds and browns together.  I don't do random very well!  As it was I spent an hour or so agonising over the placement of the blocks.  I then had to lock the kids out of the lounge room since Sunday night, so that I could keep my blocks where I wanted them.
The photo above shows how I managed to not go crazy keeping my blocks in the right places and orientation while I sewed.  I bought these little sticky dots so that Madelyn's birthday party gurests could make ladybug hats.  They didn't have bl;ack, so I bought white, and gave the kids some textas to colour them whatever colour they liked - some even had rainbow spots!  I had stacks left, so left the box on the kids' craft table.  Then suddenly I had an epihany!  I wrote the row number and the block number (eg R3/2) on each dot, and knew that when I stitched the blocks together the letters all had to be in the same orientation.  It worked wonders!  Although I did still have to become good friends with the unpicker for the odd one that refused to line up with the seams on the adjacent block.

Not long to go now.  I was hoping to get the borders on tonight but I had to stop, blog and sleep!  All the blocks are joined though (thank goodness - it wasn't the kids, but Lewis, my English Mastiff that sprawled across the quilt and messed a few up).  Tomorrow,  I can stitch on the double border of the perfect "almost solid" shade to match the blocks.  Yep - that stash count went up again...  Border fabric will do that to you!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Uh oh...

My stash busting really isn't going that well - 89 FQ up already! I really need a finish to save me soon.  Luckily every fabric I have purchased this year is to finish a WIP (or in the case of the BOM fabrics, to start a quilt that I plan to complete this year), so the news isn't all bad since my goal is simply to be at a negative by the end of the year.  It is a bit scary though, seeing it is only January, and a bit of a shock since I have never really tracked my fabric purchases before.

This little bundle arrived from yesterday, and because it includes 108" backing fabric, it really made my stash count soar (just as the Blockapalooza backing did when I went to Tricia's Discount Fabrics).  The good news is, I now have no excuses to not finish Madelyn's quilt!  And the race is on between my hubby and me - will he finish building and painting her bed first, or will I finish the quilt? Seeing as he still hasn't built the trundle drawer for Austy's bed, I might be the one to back!  48 blocks down 26 to go... and another trip to Tricia's for the solid border fabric.

More happy mail came today - the last of the border fabric for my Central Park Blockapalooza quilt, some greys for my Lucky Star BOM and the new Ottobre mag - with some very cute outfits for the kids!

I did finish this little set for Maddy and her Australian Girl "Emily" doll, but that only used up an amount of fabric equivalent to 3 FQs.  Still not going in the right direction. I think I need a quilt finish to make a big dent.

I made this little cotton knit top for Emily at Christmas too, so since it was last year's efforts (just) the top is my Flashback Friday project for today.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

WIP Wednesday #2

Other than my two Lucky Star blocks, I don't think I have really done much this week (I knew this would happen when I started WIP Wednesday last week, but didn't think it would happen quite so soon!)  So this week, I have only a teeny bit to show you.

I have added a few more blocks to Madelyn's quilt block pile, and have done some layout planning and calculations to turn this Schnibbles pattern ("Four Corners") into a single bed size.

It turns out my 20 blocks need to grow into 74! Luckily they are fairly simple blocks, and I can easily do 4 at a time in less than half an hour if they are all cut out. I have been reluctant to cut and sew too many though as I have some new fabrics on the way to help me grow this quilt, and I want to make sure the new fabrics end up in more than just a couple of blocks. One of them was used by Emma How (LINK) when she pieced together and quilted Madelyn's baby quilt "Joy of Friendship", which goes beautifully with Maddy's feature wall and I thought it would make the quilt a bit more special to include some. The prints are quite a mash-up of styles, so hopefully this slightly larger print doesn't look a bit strange amongst the more delicate florals. If it does, I will simply use it on the back somewhere. I love this fabric too much not to use it. The quilt is a little faded, from lots of use and an equal amount of love!


We have also had a baby girl born into the extended family recently - a sweet little bundle born to hubby's cousin's wife, named Indiana Niamh.  I knew my WIP cupboard would come in handy, for in it lay two unfinished quilts, originally made for our friends' twins, now 2 years old!  The twins received hand knitted vests in colours to match their quilts but the quilts never made it to completion.  Our friends were blessed with a boy and a girl, so in the WIP cupboard was a baby quilt for either sex.  Had Indiana been a boy, all I would have to do would be to tie off some thread ends, and finish stitching the binding down (really - that's all that the boy quilt needs, yet it has sat in the cupboard untouched for so long!). The baby girl quilt is a simple Japanese coin style, with only the top made, so I have now pressed, and basted ready to quilt. I am trying to decide whether I am brave enough to FMQ or whether I stick to a simple no-fail straight line pattern.


I still have 150g of the apricot coloured Rowan Cashsoft that I used to make the vest for the little girl twin, so perhaps Indiana will get a little matching knitted dress as well.  I am thinking of doing another little Darwinia like I made for my gorgeous niece, Katherine.  I love this pattern - it always knits up looking adorable!

However, I must finish this quilt first - my stash count is starting to look a little scary with no "Out"s to speak of and more fabric on the way...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Lucky Stars BOM

It's my birthday, so I get to sew!  Which means I have completed both the practice block, and the January block for the Lucky Star Block of the Month.
I wasn't going to do the practice block as I didn't like the look of it in the pattern tutorial and flickr uploads.  However having done it in my fabric choices, I actually like it more than the January block!  I wasn't looking forward to matching the seams in that beach ball centre, but it wasn't too bad after all. 
Still trying to work out when is the best time to remove the papers - when the whole block is complete, or just the block segments, but I am glad I have switched to using proper paper.  I now have Carol Doaks sheets to work with after always having simply used printer paper before.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Flashback Friday #1

I have a bit of an unblogged project backlog - some things found their way onto facebook but others were never shared, so I thought I might use Fridays to flashback to projects that have not had their 5 minutes of fame.

I always wanted a little girl, so I could knit her a little layette like I made for my first niece, back in 2001. In fact it was for this reason that I opted to find out what we were having second time around. But because we were keeping it secret, and because there was a little voice in my head telling me that sometimes little girls turn out to be little boys, all I managed to knit while I was pregnant with Madelyn was unisex: a little aqua raglan cardy, and a sweet little cream lace matinee set (hat, booties and jacket) which she wore over a pink hand sewn dress. I was a bit scared to commit the time it takes to knit a little dress and have her turn out to be a little boy! A bit ironic that now I have finally gotten around to knit her a dress she's wearing a size 6, and that newborn dress would have taken far less time! Admittedly I have used 8 ply (and 10 ply for the second one) which is a bit faster than what it would have been to knit a seamed, lace, 4ply dress from one of my antique pattern books as I was planning for her as a baby, but there is a heck of a lot more knitting in this size!
I am forgetting - I did make her a dress from 4 ply when she was about 10 months old, but of course she grew out of it as soon as I finished it, so it always looked like more of a top than a dress and didn't last long. But now she has two dresses from my pre-Christmas knitting adventures that she can wear next autumn and winter. 

She has worn thisTeacher's Pet a few times already, as it is great for sunny days in the early 20's (Celsius) which we were blessed with in November. After finishing this one, I was on a roll, so signed up to test knit another dress!

This Primrose dress is a little big so she can get a bit more wear out of it with leggings and long sleeves next winter.  The oversize was a bit due to my poor measurements, and a bit due to the wool growing when I blocked it. Not so great as I was test knitting and was unable to help much with sizing, but I am happy because my little princess just keeps on growing!  She is already topping Austy's 5 year old mark on our growth chart and she only just turned 4!  It won't be long before she catches up...

Both dresses were designed by Julia Stanfield.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

WIP Wednesday #1

Another thing I aim to do this year is to keep up with this blog a lot more than I have the in the past couple of years.  The idea of WIP Wednesday is certainly not new, but I have never played along, mainly because I felt it too difficult to do when I am working during the week.  You see I hate my photos from late at night, which is usually the only chance I get midweek.  But that perfectionism is crippling me, and driving me away from blogging, and I do want to blog! I enjoy looking back over past entries, and have been disappointed that I haven't documented recent times.  So if you can put up with average flash photography, then I will try to ignore it too, and post every Wednesday about something I am working on.  
My other problem with WIP Wednesdays is that I often don't have much to show for the week especially when life gets busy, but hey, if I don't have much, I will pull something out of hiding, and it might give me that push to do a bit more work on it.  I can do this!  To keep me accountable, I am joining the WIP Wednesday linky party over at FreshlyPieced.

This week I was hoping to show you a sparkly rainbow knit in progress, using my much loved Wooltopia Sparkle DK from last year's Every Little Girl's Dream Rainbow Gradient Club.  Unfortunately though, It isn't behaving for me.  First I tried to turn it into a Tropical Fish Skirt (by Elena Nodel), that I know Miss M would absolutely LOVE, but I got to the third of the way mark, and found I had already used half of the 200g of yarn!  So I checked the yardage only to find I had highlighted the wrong size for the yardage on my pattern in my haste to cast on!  I love using my iPad to highlight patterns, and mark where I am up to, but it looks like I didn't check, and check again before I cast on.
Too sad to rip it all out straight away, I decided to knit from the other end of the ball.  I put a feeler out on Ravelry to hear some suggestions for what WOULD work for a size 6 little girl (yes, Miss just-turned-4 is definitely well into size 6!) with a graidient, Georgie Hallam's Milo came up, but that's how I used my last gradient, so I wanted to try something different.  It needed to be relatively sleeveless for a top to get the gradient to work, and someone suggested a very new and pretty pattern, that would be such a sweet little summer tank.  It is called Nina, by Rachel Evans, which also has two dress options included in the pattern.
Unfortunately, that pattern splits after the sleeve cast off, so the fronts and back are worked separately for a little bit.  I thought I might get away with it, but it seems that the gradient has decided to start to change just as IU began to work the separate right front.  So by the time I have done the back, it will be on the purple when I get to the left front.  The yarn is too gorgeous to snip for working separate bits, and while it might not look too bad if I put the right front over the left instead of the other way, it won't do the gradient justice.  So we are back to square 1 - pattern selection!  But before I go hunting, let me show you the beautiful sparkles!
I am now thinking something a little plainer - like the Cyclades vest (by Elena Nodel) - might be a better option. I couls also knit a cowl or something for me, but I got a cute little matching rainbow hairclip with the yarn, so I would love to see the yarn and clip in an outfit together some time soon.  But it has put me off knitting for a bit with all this ripping back.  Good thing I have the January Lucky Stars BOM to take my mind off it in the meantime!

I spent ages playing around with colours last night, and finally decided to just jump in and go with it.  I wasn't sure about the orage, but it isn't as bright as what this picture shows,so we'll see how it goes.  I can always switch it out with green, or red in some of the other blocks and give them all a try.  My main colours are the blue, turquoise, pale grey and white.  I want this to be a spare quilt for when we have visitors, and possibly used in the boy's room on his trundle, so I wanted to use lots of blue and keep it fairly unisex.  So far I have only managed half of the block.  But I have been working on Maddy's quilt, and my Blockapalooza quilt as I mentioned in my last post, so there has been a lot of sewing going on this week.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A challenge for 2013

2012 was over in a flash, so it is time to start thinking about what I want to acheive in 2013.  I know that life is hectic when I am busy juggling a full time job, a preschooler, and a school child who is a little bit high maintenance, so I am not going to be aiming too high this year, but I do want to keep making time for my crafty pursuits.  So my main goals for this year is to get some long term WIPs out of the cupboard and turn them into finished items I can actually use, or give away, and in doing so, I want to bring my stash level right down to what it used to be pre-kids.
I was never one to buy fabric just because I liked it, but had to have a project in mind when I bought it.  However with a little bit of influence from online quilty friends, and also recognising the need to have fabric on hand when I don't often get much chance to go shopping sans kids, has meant my stash has built to a level where I can easily find something to work with when inspiration grabs late at night when DH is at work and the kidlets are dozing.  Now that is a good thing... But, I am starting to find that a lot of my stash is not really my taste now, and getting increasingly harder to use.  So I need to clear some of it out and make some room in my cupboards, which should hopefully also allow my fabrics to be better organised and brought out of Madelyn's room into a new shelf in my sewing corner this year.
AJ is running a "Sew Your Stash Thin" challenge over at her blog this year, and I am right there!  The idea being that more fabric turns into completed projects than lands in storage.  Now I did think I was starting off well, as I have pulled out and made good progress on not 1, but 2 quilts (that have been half made for 2 years) already this year.
Madelyn's cot quilt, now needs to be a single bed quilt so I have had to more than double the blocks I had already joined into strips to make the quilt top. (now up to 40 blocks fromwhere it was when I pulled it out and photographed it!)  This has meant a couple of new fabrics needed to be purchased to extend what I had - glad it was a scrappy style, as it was easy to expand at this stage!  So that meant 5 FQ worth in and some more on the way (backing and border fabrics).  But that's okay, as long as it gets finished this year, and with hubby up in the shed building a new bed for her as I type, hopefully it won't be too far away.
In my search for Maddy's quilt, I also came across my Blogger's Blockapalooza Quilt from 2010. This was run as a BOM type quilt with a new block design released each few weeks from February.  I was doing well, with this destined to be MY first ever quilt - something to snuggle with on the lounge through the winter while I knit.  I had 10 out of 16 blocks completed,  and had managed to do them all in the week that they were released, but then I lost momentum... and completely stopped!  I didn't like how the blocks were coming out.  Too busy, and not really working together.  Each block on its own looked good, but a bit too crazy all together. 

I checked through Flickr and saw some stunning quilts being made with equally (if not more) busy blocks, so thought to myself I should just get it out and finish it, and who knows, it might grow on me.  It's a shame because I love the fabrics, I just think they would have worked much better used in a different pattern.  I have learned my lesson though.  I pushed myself to try something new - a mystery quilt - and now I am certain the planner and control freak in me doesn't like them! So I won't be doing that again.

Anyway, I have now finished all 16 blocks and in the hunt for borders and backings, I was sent to Tricia's Discount Fabrics in Melrose Park.  Now the quilt shops around me have dwindled from 3 closeby, to 1, which is only open for a couple of hours on a Saturday, when I am meant to be at swimnming with Austin.  And with a full work week there is no chance of getting there on a weekday. So to come across a quilt store open on a Sunday is like magic.  And then I walked in... I thought I died and went to heaven.  I described it to hubby as having more fabric than I had ever seen in a quilt store.  He responded "Even in America?" Okay, he got me there, I still have my very favourite store stuck in my memory from my Michigan work trips but Tricia's definitely comes close.  Unfortunately this shopping trip set me back a little with my stash count, but a large part of the purchase was backing for the Blockapalooza quilt, and the rest was fabric for a new BOM I have signed up for this year (more on that once I make my first block).  So as long as I use it all this year I am safe!

You can check my stash count in my side bar as the year progresses.  Not looking too good right now but will hopefully make a dramatic improvement very soon!