Saturday, 31 July 2010

Sashiko Journal Quilt

This piece of sashiko is going to be the "Japan" part of my 2010 holiday set of journal quilts.  I've done "Singapore" and "North Island, New Zealand" which you can see in progress by clicking on those two places.  The project will also include the miniature "Storm at Sea" quilt that I started at the Timaru Quilters' Gathering.
I stitched this using Susan Fletcher's method of applying the design with vilene on the back of the work, as we did with her "Dragonfly Over Diamond Waves" tutorial.
The journal quilt is very much in the style of Sylvia Pippen, with the flowers appliqued onto the panel after fussy-cutting them from some Japanese fabric.
I wanted to use flowers to represent the wonderful plants and colour we enjoyed in Tokyo (even though we missed the cherry blossom).  Here is a picture of the azaleas in bloom at the Nezu shrine.

Delicious Summer Basil and Courgette Soup

I just thought I'd share this delicious recipe, great for a summer lunch, a picnic or a starter.
I imagine a lot of us have courgettes (zucchini) coming out of our ears at this time of year and it seems to have been a particularly prolific harvest this summer.
This soup can be served hot or cold.  If you're serving it cold and not watching your waistline a swirl of cream on top is delicious!
It can also be made substituting the basil for mint (or any other herb you like I imagine). 


2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped *
1kg courgettes, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 - 1.3l good vegetable stock (Marigold vegetable bouillon is good)
4 - 5 sprigs of fresh basil
4 tbsp single cream *

* optional ingredients, I didn't use the onion as Al is allergic and see above regarding the cream!

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion (if using) and cook gently for about 2-3 minutes until softened.  
  2. Add the courgettes and dried basil. Cover and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the courgettes are softened but not coloured.
  3. Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Add the fresh basil to the pan, cover the pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the courgettes are very tender.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for a few minutes.  Process the mixture in small batches in a liquidiser or food processor until smooth. Pour into a bowls and serve immediately, decorated with a basil leaf and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Alternatively, leave to cool, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours (or overnight).  To serve, taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve in chilled soup plates with a spoonful of cream drizzled in the middle. 

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Fabric Postcards and Beautiful Jewels

Today I finished the fabric postcards I was doing for the Global Piecers swap.  I've never done fabric postcards before and there is good news and bad news!  I've enjoyed making the cards and am pleased with my designs.  I made them to represent me, with some sashiko stitching I'd done, Japanese fabrics, buttons and lace. 
I'm not so pleased with the finish of the cards.  I used a zigzag stitch for the edging and have a lot of threads and frayed bits sticking through.  I have also discovered that the stitches perforated the postcards that I used for the backing and that they will therefore easily tear away from the fabric.  I think I should have used a fabric backing and maybe painted it with PVA to seal it and make it rigid. 
Never mind, the postcards are made with love and I hope the recipients like them (assuming the cards survive the postal system).
While I was feeling creative I made a necklace.

Look SHARON....

Sharon at Indigo Threads made the beautiful ceramic pendant and sent it to me and I added the beads and bow.  I hope you think it looks good Sharon, I am delighted with it.  The beads are moss agate and something else I can't remember the name of that I bought in Florida and have been sitting and waiting for the ideal project.  The other pendant (bottom row, second from the right on Sharon's blog) will be more simple, I am intending to hang it on a dark blue, velvet ribbon.  I'll post a picture when I've got the right ribbon.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Yanaka - Shogun Clocks and the Cemetery

My Visit to Japan - 7

While I was in Tokyo earlier this year I walked through the Yanaka Cemetery.  I was heading for Ueno and then onwards for Fabric Town but the journey became a delightful destination in its own right.
This wasn't a morbid fascination with the dead but rather a glimpse of old Edo and Buddhist traditions.  It was a scenic walk with wonderful trees, flowers and wildlife.
A sudden crashing in the trees saw an enormous raven (or crow, I'm not sure) picking up a polysytrene tray of leftover food and taking it to the top of a nearby tree where it proceeded to feast on a free takeaway breakfast.  People are going to wonder how the tray got into the top of the tree.
Although there were several guided tours taking place in the cemetery it still retained a tranquil atmosphere and a reverent calm and between the trees it was possible to enjoy the cool shadows as the day's heat built up in the city.
Yanaka is one of Tokyo's oldest cemeteries and has approximately 7,000 tombs, including those of very important families and shoguns, and its own police station.  The last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, also known as Keiki, is buried there.  The central path is bordered with cherry trees which would be a fantastic sight when they are in blossom in April - I was too late sadly.  The graves have markers, Sotoba 卒塔婆 ,  pronounced stupa, which are erected shortly after the funeral and show the person's new, posthumous name.  These may be added to on anniversaries or at certain memorial services.  They appear to remain in place at the tomb and look (sorry for my irreverence) like giant wooden lollysticks but with beautiful calligraphy.
In the vicinity of the Yanaka Cemetery is the Tenno-ji Buddhist temple and a few shops selling Buddhist religious objects and the amazing Daimyo Clock Museum.  Here Al and I felt remarkably brave.  It was on our first venturing from our ryokan that we visited this small but fascinating museum.  It appeared to be within a private house, reached through the owner's garden and with no signage!  At the door was a rack of slippers and we gathered, from watching other visitors, that we needed to change from our outdoor shoes and into a pair of slippers.  We would have learned a lot more if we could read Japanese but Al knows enough about old clocks to be spellbound with the display of clocks from the 17th century onwards.
Clock museum shows passage of time | The Japan Times Online

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Don't Forget A Hanky

There is a very interesting post on Ojisanjake's blog
"More Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan"
a fabric installation made of 53, 000 handkerchiefs.  I love the textures created by the folding and knotting.

Don't Forget A Hanky

There is a very interesting post on Ojisanjake's blog
"More Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan"
a fabric installation made of 53, 000 handkerchiefs.  I love the textures created by the folding and knotting.

Friday Night Sew-In: Saturday Morning Report, July

I had quite a varied Friday Night Sew-In last night, flitting about and doing lots of different stitch-related things. 
Firstly I finished this sashiko project which you can read more about at Sashiko Started It.  It's an online tutorial from Susan Fletcher at Sashiko Stitchers and has been great fun.
I then put my needle down and spent an hour or sew catching up with all your wonderful quilty blogs.  I love reading what you are all doing, both quilt-wise and in other areas of your lives.  I find such inspiration and support from fellow bloggers.
Back to the fabric and I worked on my 'Blush' wavy four-patch for a while and then made three fabric postcards.  There will be photos soon.
I was very good on the nice things to eat front.  As it's so warm and summery here I resisted the chocolately things and snacked on a bowl of gorgeous dark red cherries from Kent, delicious.
This morning I discovered I am a winner in Abbey Lane Quilts' gorgeous giveaway so I'm doing a happy floral dance.
Thanks Heidi and Bobbi for hosting another great FNSI.  Looking forward to seeing what you all got up to.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Sashiko Online Tutorial - Finished

After a couple of days off I finished my sashiko dragonfly at the beginning of this evening's Friday Night Sew-In and so here is a picture of it.  I stitched the dragonfly following Susan's instructions and then added the beads.  I decided against variegated thread for the dragonfly (although I did buy some) and used the short bugle beads.  There are loads of 'mistakes' but I am pleased with my "dragonfly over diamond waves" and would like to thank Susan Fletcher at Sashiko Stitchers for this great tutorial and to all of you for stitching along with me, it's been fun.
When you have finished your own dragonfly please comment with a link to a photo of it on your blog or email me a photo, I'd love to see a weyr of dragonflies.  You will have read in Susan's final newsletter on this tutorial that she is planning a new sashiko tutorial in the autumn.  I'm going to save my piece in the hope of creating a sashiko "sampler", what will you do with yours?
Please take a look at Susan Briscoe's comments on my previous post, she has given us lots of additional tips, particularly for getting the meeting points correct, thank you Susan.  Susan's own work is superb, have a look at her website and her blog, Sashiko and other Stitching.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Sashiko Online Tutorial 3

My 'diamond waves' are coming along quite nicely and I'm feeling really relaxed while I stitch.  If I want to get stressed I could worry that my junctions are not consistent.  Sometimes I have a T-junction and sometimes there's a space.  All in all I'm quite happy though and while I was stitching (is there such a word as "sashikoing" I wonder )and my mind was wandering, I started to think about beads.  Susan has mentioned that we might add beads...
So here are some I am considering:
Not the best photo but it is good enough to see how a scattering of seaspray beading would look above the diamond waves.  The crystals are sadly too large as I love the way they reflect the light.  At the moment I'm thinking I'll either use the clear glass, silver lined beads (top right) or the square glass irridescent beads (bottom centre).  What do you think?
I am also wondering whether I would like to stitch my dragonfly in a variegated thread.  I'm using DMC no.8 coton perle in white for the waves.  I prefer this to the "proper" sashiko cotton from Olympus as I like the sheen it has and I also find it sews more smoothly.  Maybe a variegated dragonfly would be over egging this lovely design...
The most important thing I have learned with today's sashikoing is to leave those little loops of extra thread when I change stitching direction, it is amazing how quickly they get taken up as I smooth my work out.  Without those loops my waves would be all puckered up.

Warning - Man in Quilt Shop

Yesterday was a wonderful day with scrumptious Sam and today is a momentous day for today my beloved Alan made his first purchase in a quilt shop.  Admittedly it wasn't exactly a fabric or a thread but I do believe it might be the start of something all the same.  Here he is at Wendy's lovely new craft shop in Friskney Eaudyke (isn't that an evocative place name?)
Wendy has not got her website complete yet (she's working on her C&G) but her shop is a treasure trove of crafty goodies, not just quilting related.  Well worth a visit if you're in the area and do keep an eye on her website if you're not local.  I'm looking forward to when she launches her full programme of workshops at Camelot Crafts, in fact I've already asked if I can move in!
Oh yes, what did Al buy?  Well, it's the strange-looking thing on his face - no, not the beard.  He bought a pair of Daylight's clip-on magnifying lenses to help him enjoy his antique pocket watches in close-up detail and he was daylighted (ha ha) with them.

Sashiko Online Tutorial 2

How are you all getting on?  I think Susan's tutorials are very detailed, the photos are so useful and I'm really enjoying the extra information about the history of sashiko that she's giving us.  In the third tutorial Susan discusses thimbles so, just for fun, I've added a little poll to the right hand bar of my blog.

I've stitched my border:

the back,

with that little extra loop left on the corner to prevent puckering - a really good tip, after stitching carefully to make the corners right the last thing we want is for it to be pulled out of alignment.

The front,
and I have to admit to finding it difficult to work from the back.  I kept forgetting the small stitch should be on the back (front, where I was working) and the large on the front (back, where I couldn't see).  I'm starting to get used to it though and certainly finding the support of the interfacing very helpful.  My stitch lengths vary but I'm hanging on to Sue's comment that
We've got all weekend to stitch the diagonal lines on the 'dragonfly over diamond waves' design and by the time we get the next tutorial and start on the dragonfly I think I'll be very happy with my stitching - practice makes perfect after all.  Have a lovely weekend and I'm looking forward to hearing from you all.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Wonderful Day

I have had such a wonderful day today. 

My daughter and grandson came over and we all went to the beach. 
It was wild and windy but warm and we had a lovely walk. 
The sea lavender was blooming, making a purple haze across the marshes
and Sara spotted some samphire growing, hooray, it's that time of the year. 
We didn't gather it there but bought some on the way home and had it for a delicious meal.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Sashiko Online Tutorial 1

I didn't order the whole "Dragon Over Diamond Waves" kit from Susan as I have most of the equipment for the project already.  Then, when I read the email that came yesterday with the first part of the tutorial I realised that I didn't have the pattern!  I contacted Susan by email who quickly added a download option to her website and within a short while I had a .pdf winging its little way through cyberspace and into my laptop!  Clever eh?
This is already proving to be an interesting tutorial as Susan instructed us to trace the pattern onto interfacing and then iron it to the back of our sashiko fabric.  Previously I have marked the fabric directly with a white pen.  For this method  I used a permanent black marker - the kind I use for writing quilt labels (or used to use for writing names in my children's school kit, although things still vanished into the bottomless pit that is either the lost property box or their bedrooms).  By using a permanent ink I'm hoping it won't rub off on the white thread and make a mess of my sashiko.
My dragonfly seems to be the opposite way around to the illustration on the tutorial email, not that it really matters but I keep reading through and don't think I've gone wrong already.  I'm waiting now for tutorial two and itching to get stitching!

Happy 6th Birthday DGS

Monday, 12 July 2010

2010 City Quilts Blog Tour

From SewCalGirl is news of this great blog tour:

C&T Publishing is pleased to announce the 2010 City Quilts Blog Tour! Beginning July 12th and running through July 23rd.  The tour will include lots of giveaways, including 12 chances to win a copy of City Quilts, a fat quarter bundle of Kona Cotton Solids, and many other surprises.  Here are the blogs that are part of this tour:
July 12th - Cheryl Arkison
July 13th - Amy Lobsiger
July 14th - Stefanie Roman
July 15th - Pat Sloan
July 16th - Spool
July 17th - Robert Kaufman
July 18th - Fat Quarterly
July 19th - Emily Cier
July 20th - Sewer Sewist
July 21st - Jaybird
July 22nd - Vickie Eapen
July 23rd - Jessica Levitt

I signed up for a PIF (Pay It Forward) earlier this year and recently sent one parcel off.  Pop over to Emily's blog to see what she thought of what I made for her, she's got a great set of photos!

At Last...

it's raining!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A Beautiful Summer's Day for a Birthday Party

A 6th birthday party at the weekend and everyone had a great time and got very wet!  The only rules were, "Keep the water away from the adults", and, more importantly, "Keep the water away from the barbeque!"
Who says girls don't play with guns?!
Determined to get an apple from the bucket of water (I'm not sure how that bucket stayed intact with all the water that was being thrown about).
I said he'd look exactly like this when he has his 16th party, except he'll be groaning, "I'm never going to drink beer again, ever".
Little Izzie thought it was safe to throw water while her target had his head in a bucket!
And after all that water play they ended the party in the pool!  Just as well we haven't got a hosepipe ban here (yet).
It was so lovely to be able to enjoy our lovely summer weather, long may it last.

Sashiko Online Tutorial

Have you got all your materials together for Sue's sashiko online class?  This is what we need and the class starts on Wednesday.  The step by step tutorial comes in a course of emails.
So far Teresa,   Patchwork Rose,  and  Jenni  will be sashiko-ing along with Sue and me (and lots of other people signed up to the Sashiko Stitcher Newsletter).  It's not too late to sign up here with us or with Sue.  Read here for all the information.

the materials list:

-22 x 16 inch piece of 100% cotton, navy or indigo blue
-12 x 18 inches white lightweight fusible interfacing
-#5 perle cotton thread or sashiko thread 
-sashiko needle
-thimble (optional)
-seed beads and bead needle (optional)
-scissors, iron, ruler and a dark color fine tip permanent fabric marking pen

As well as the tutorial Sue promises some history and tidbits too, should be fun.  See you on Wednesday. 

Friday, 9 July 2010

Fabric Postcards

This is what's sitting on my sewing table at the moment waiting to be made into fabric postcards.  I've never done them before but there are lots of tutorials on blogs that have given me ideas.  Some of my favourites are:
Red Shoe Ramblings'
and Needledmom's
The postcards are for the current Global Piecers swap so they'll be going to Scotland, South Dakota USA, Australia and New Zealand.

V&A Images

This lovely image of a woman showing fabric samples is available from the V&A isn't she lovely?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Thread Stash Report

Sew, Mama, Sew! is asking about our thread stashes plus there's a chance to win some great thread. 
I was surprised to see how much thread I have (although most of the DMC is left over from my cross stitching days so probably shouldn't count)

Here goes:

  • How did you select colours for your personal thread collection?
I always buy threads specifically for a project, rarely enough and then have to go and buy more.  I also buy thread I take a fancy to, these are usually those gorgeous variegated threads and also those textured natural threads that are hand-dyed.  I don't use these, just gaze at them from time to time.  I also make sure I have a good selection of neutrals which I buy in larger spools if possible.
  • Do you always match the colour perfectly to your project?
What do you mean by match?  I always buy a thread to use with a project but it might be a contrast.  I would usually piece in a matching thread but don't get stressed if it isn't an exact match.  I find a grey thread suits all sorts of colours and also use a lot of cream.
  • Do you ever use contrasting thread?
Yep, see above.
  • Do you use the same colour in the bobbin as the upper thread?
Usually unless I am quilting and the fabric on the back is a very different colour from the front and the contrast wouldn't work well.
  • What if a fabric has big areas of very different colours?
Grey or cream is good.  I'd try to match the colour tone rather than the actual colours.  I did once have to hand sew some variegated bias tape, switching sewing thread colour every six inches or so, what a nightmare, never again!
  • Do you have any tips or suggestions about choosing thread?
I have only recently come to appreciate the importance of the thread to a project.  My suggestion would be to try out various makes and find one you enjoy using and which works well for you.  Be prepared to pay well for good quality thread, cheap thread is a false economy and an insult to your fabric, design and time. 
  • Can you show us a picture(s) of your thread collection?

  • Do you ever buy thread because you fall in love with the colour (without a particular project in mind)?
Absolutely and I have chosen thread before fabric for a project too.
  • Do you “invest” in thread?
Yes, cheap thread is a false economy (see above).  I have recently discovered Aurifil threads.  They are smooth, lint-free and tangle-free for both machine and hand sewing and I adore them.  They're expensive but well worth it in my opinion.  Fantastic range of colours too.
  • What types of thread do you have? (elastic, quilting, all-purpose, wool, etc.)
Cottons of varying weights, metallic threads, variegated quilting threads, that transparent thread that I thought I should have but don't know what to do with, extra-strong "button" thread, some threads, such as polyesters, that I wouldn't buy now but will probably use up for tacking etc.,
embroidery silks, coton perle, sashiko cottons.... 
I also have some reels of thread that were my grandmother's, I wouldn't ever get rid of them but I'll probably never use them either.  Do you like the box?  I made that ;)
Thanks Sew,Mama,Sew!, looking at my threads has been fun.  Follow the link to see what others have in their thread stashes.

Wavy Four Patch Tutorial

At Magie Relph's workshop on 4th June we looked at various types of wiggly blocks that she had created in addition to the nine-patch we were to be working on.  Here are some of Magie's wavy four-patches:
In these first blocks a scrappy look has been created by using a plain fabric and a variety of contrasting fabrics.
In this example Magie has used a contrast in colour to show off the design, and has also made her cuts diagonally to create an extra tiddly version of Drunkard's Path.
In this block, my favourite, Magie has used only one contrasting fabric to three pieces of the plain fabric and arranged the patches to create a variation on a pinwheel.
Finally here's Magie's totally wayward 25-patch showing a contrast of both colour and fabric design.  The possibilities are endless and such fun.
Several people have kindly asked me to share a wavy-patch tutorial and so, all credit to Magie Relph of course, here comes my third tutorial (the first was on wavy seams which might be helpful with this project and the second was my Christmas decoration tutorial ).


Firstly we need to get our fabrics together so here are a few guidelines, whether you're buying new or raiding your stash.

Fabric Choices
It is really important to choose fabrics that contrast well.
You could have a colour contrast, like my red batik and Japanese print nine-patch version,
or a design contrast - maybe a plain and a stripe for example.  What you don't want is two similar fabrics, two spriggy, floral prints will absorb the wavy edges of the fabric pieces and just look like a wild cottage garden - very nice but not what we're trying to achieve here!

You then need to decide on the balance of fabrics.
Your four patch can be made up of two fabrics in a 2+2 design or in a 1+3 design, like the blue batik example above or your could have a plain fabric and a variety of contrasting fabrics to create a "scrappy" look, like the first sample above.
You could draw some squares and have fun with the colouring pencils
or, my preferred "design method" is to rip some pages out of a colour supplement or magazine and use them as "fabric" to try out some ideas.

I thought it would be a lovely idea to use a charm pack to create an interesting, but simple, four-patch design and that it would show off the fabrics beautifully and, as fortune would have it, I happened to have a £10 loyalty voucher for my LQS, Sew Creative at Wroxham Barns.  I wanted something a little different (for me) and chose a charm pack in Moda's Blush design by Basic Grey, all gorgeous soft pinks and turquoises with some lovely brown and rust accents.  I also bought some Boutique by Chez Moi for Moda to go with it.

  • I have decided to try a 1+3 design which means I will need one 5" square from the charm pack plus three 5" squares cut from my contrasting fabric, in my case the Boutique.
  • If you go for 2+2 you will need two 5" squares of each fabric to start with.
  • If you are going for scrappy you will need two plain 5" squares and two patterned 5" squares.
By the way, the 5" squares do not have to be accurately cut, squarish and approximately 5" is fine - have a few days away from the ruler, it's very liberating.

  • A cutting board 
  • A very sharp rotary cutter - you need to have a new blade to ensure the fabric cuts smoothly, especially for the second cut when you go through a stitched seam.

I hope I'm making myself clear.  Let's get started, a picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Stack your four approximately 5" squares all right side up.
  •  Use a sharp rotary cutter to cut through all four layers in a gentle curve from top to bottom.   This cut should be approximately across the middle of the squares.
    • Pair your half squares, matching the curves. 
    • Sew each pair together, right sides together, gently matching the curve as you go. A seam a little less than 1/4" works best.  I don't find it necessary to use pins on short seams like these but try not to pull the fabric, go one stitch at a time if necessary to match the curve perfectly.  I match the beginning of the seam and then hold the fabric with one piece in each hand, between my thumb and index finger to match it as I sew.  With a little practising this works well.
    • Press the seam to the side it wants to go.  If one fabric is much lighter and you need to press to the darker side, a little steam is helpful. 
    • Pile your four new pieces right sides up and matching the seams and then cut them in half again, with a similar gentle curve to last time, approximately in the middle of the square. 
    • You then lay out your new pieces and match the curves again.  Stitching the curved seams as before (and not worrying about matching the joins, they won't match anyway).  The more observant among you will notice the threads, stitch holes and folds on these pieces.  I paired them incorrectly, stitched them beautifully, pressed them...and then when I came to take the photo realised I'd got it wrong, oops!

    • Then make sure you layout is as you want it and stitch the blocks together first in pairs and then into four.  You will need to fit them together comfortably but be aware that they won't match up as some curved seams take up more fabric than others.  It will all come out in the end ;)
     So here is one finished Wavy Four Patch block, isn't it cute?

    I'm going to do all the blocks in this arrangement and then join them together without sashing, I'll post a picture when it's done and in the meantime I hope you'll try this fun way of piecing and have a break from your ruler.