Monday, 30 July 2012

A Quilt for Sophia

Some of you may remember me starting to knit a baby cardigan back in February (see here) The project was prompted by one of my best friends announcing her second pregnancy. The cardigan is, surprise surprise still incomplete and the news at the end of June that the baby born to my friend is a gorgeous little girl didn't give me the required impetus to complete the job.

I wanted to make something really special for Sophia and had also started a new crochet blanket, but when I learned that I was going to meet Sophia sooner rather than later (the family live a few hours away from us) I knew that the crochet blanket wouldn't be ready in time.

After toying with the notion of sewing up a little dress, I shelved that idea for the future and decided to make a quilt. I have made quilts for babies in the past, but not 'properly', with bound edges.

After tackling those on the teddy bear sleeping bags I thought I could probably manage to reproduce the effect on a larger quilt.

I decided to make the quilt with a a selection of the lovely Aneela Hoey prints I have been stashing and had also used on teddy sleeping bags.

I didn't want to attempt anything too complicated patchwork-wise and spent some time doodling a few simple designs on paper before designing a layout I though would work well. I then had to work out a cutting diagram so that I would know which pieces to sew together in which order. I also devised a list of the various cuts needed.

The sewing itself was done in a bit of a frenzy over the weekend so I didn't really take any pictures during the process, I was just really enjoying the sewing. The piecing came together relatively simply, not much swearing required and then I chose to quilt using the 'stitch in the ditch' method, which is where you simply sew through all three layers (quilt top, batting/wadding and quilt back) following the lines of the patchwork.

In an ideal world, the quilt would be more quilted but I was worried about ruining what I had already done. I believe it is possible to send quilts off to clever people with specialised machines to achieve a traditional quilted finish so I might think about that for another time.

When I bound the sleeping bags, I cheated by using bought bias tape. I really wanted to use a contrasting edge on this quilt and did make my own binding, which I'm really pleased with. The only thing I wish I'd had more time for was the actual sewing of the binding itself. Ideally, it should have been hand stitched at the back but I knew that it would take me hours and I just didn't have the time.

(Also, while camping last week I managed to cut the end of my right index finger on some glass and it's still pretty sore so hand sewing would have been painful in more ways than one!)

The back of the quilt isn't the prettiest, but it is my first and I know it will stand up to lots of washing. I think machine-binding would get neater with practise.

Well, this morning I got to meet Sophia, now four weeks and two days old. She is very beautiful and was good enough to let me get some pictures of her on the quilt, so here she is.

While I am sewing, I do like to listen to music and often get fixated on a particular album. In my younger years (!) I think I was the wrong age to appreciate Kate Bush, but I have made a recent discovery of her and it was the album Hounds of Love that I had on repeat while making the quilt. For this reason, Sophia's quilt will actually be remembered by me as the 'Kate Bush Quilt'.

This week the house is a bit upside-down as we are doing more renovating and decorating, so the beautiful dining-cum-sewing room is out of action and there won't be many makes happening for a while, just my usual knitting and crochet but I'll keep you informed of any finished makes!

We're also hoping to do some more of this

And some more of this

But we'll see what the weather decides.
Thanks for reading,

Beth x

Friday, 20 July 2012

My Hitchhiker Hitched a Ride

You might recall me starting a knitted scarf at the end of May, from the Hitchhiker pattern; you can read the post here). Over the course of June, alongside crocheting the ripple blanket, I happily knitted away on the Hitchhiker. The pattern is very simple, perfect for me as it requires little or no concentration. 

At the end of the month, just after I completed the ripple, my Hitchhiker was also finished. No sooner was it off the needles, I was wearing it almost constantly. I am something of a scarf junkie, never really feeling comfortable without something to keep my neck warm. A kind of adult comfort blanket, if you will.

I was waiting for a nice day to take some pictures of my beloved creation, but unfortunately, that day never came because the weather was so awful. It was however perfect weather for a wool scarf and I wore it daily.

Alas, one Friday night I wore it on a night out and consumed one too many Babychams. I became warm, put the scarf on my chair and then when I staggered walked home later, it got forgotten. When I realised that it was missing in the morning I made lots of strangled 'Noooooo' noises ( and a few swear words may have escaped my mouth) and did some frantic scurrying around trying to find it.

Two return visits to the local hostelery in question failed to yield my precious possession and even the power of Twitter was unable to help me; I have declared my scarf lost. Last night when telling the girls about SnB about it, I recounted the tale of when my car was stolen with my son's buggy inside it which had a rather funky liner that I looked for everwhere for ages afterwards. While telling the story I realised that losing the scarf was actually more annoying than losing my car, what does that say about me?!

My car was found, and although it looked like this, at least I knew what had happened to it, and got some compensation (three teenagers took it and were chased by the police before crashing, unfortunately they were un-injured and eventually not prosecuted either, grrr). Sadly, I may never know what happened to my Hitchhiker. I can only hope that some lucky (or un-scrupulous) person is enjoying wearing it as much as I did, and it is not currently residing at the local tip.

Anyways, I have done my mourning, and yesterday I began Hitchhiker #2. This time I am using Arucania Ranco, which is not quite as nice as the hand-dyed yarn I bought from Bex and used last time, but is a passable substitute. To avoid the horrors of the four hour skein to ball nightmare I had last time, I enlisted some help to transform this one (thank you Teresa!). I also happened to have a perfectly co-ordinating project bag which was unsold from Larmer Tree to keep all my bits in.

This time, I will try not to eat Malteasers and watch tv while knitting, to avoid the mistakes I made last time. I have also devised a better way of keeping track of the row I am on, in the form of a little flip-chart (the green card you can see in the picture).It did annoy me that tooth 10 wasn't pointed on my original version, and the first 20 teeth are the most visible the way I wore it so this new scarf will hopefully be a vision of perfection.

Wonky Tooth 10

Perfection! (so far)

Whilst browsing in Michelle's shop (Carly's Crafts) yesterday, I also found a reasonably priced sock yarn which I will use to attempt my first lace pattern, also a shawl. I just have to wait for some more needles and need to make some stitch markers.

If you are a member of Ravelry, you should be able to find the pattern here. If not, if you enjoy knitting or crochet you should join. It's free and is a fantastic resource for patterns (lots free), advice and inspiration.

Today is the last day of school for my children and I am really looking forward to a good long break with them. We have got a few things lined up to keep us busy, but mostly we will just be enjoying the change of routine and the chance to have some little adventures.

I hope you all enjoy your summers. Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you soon,

Beth x

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Larmer Tree July 2012

I promised you all that I would take loads of pictures and report back about my time at the festival but I may have sort of forgotten to get my camera out quite as much as I should have. Our old friend the British weather decided to get in on the festival action by providing several prolonged heavy downpours which made the event harder work than our long-lost friend Mr Sunshine would have done.

This was my stall all laid out on the Wednesday, before being opened to customers. I went with pretty much the same layout I had used in the last few fairs I did, but having seen some of the other stalls, I think I will make some changes in the future.

Below you can see my stall in the evening. I was lent a lamp, which did make a big difference. I had not thought I would need any extra lighting as the marquee was lit, but I see now that individual stall lighting can be really effective and next time I would definitely dig out the fairy lights.

In the picture below you can see some of the other stalls. The jewellery stall in the right of the picture was to my left. It belonged to the fabulous Annette, who became my festival heroine. Annette is a Larmer Tree veteran and was full of good advice and information, not just about Larmer Tree but about running a craft business and life in general.

Annette's jewellery is made from handmade glass and is just so colourful and gorgeous that I couldn't resist spending some of my profits on a few pieces.

I even got to design my own necklace, which wasn't as easy as you might think. It took quite a while to choose which colours to include, in which size, and in which order, but I love the finished piece. Please go and have a look at Annette's website, Wild Scarlet. You won't be disappointed.

The festival itself is held in a really beautiful setting in the Dorset countryside and the organisers did a fantastic job of getting us all on site and into place. We got to camp directly behind the marquee and even had access to showers! Unfortunately for us, we had decided against taking our own marquee-like family tent as it is really huge and we were concerned about it getting ruined. We opted to take our old, much smaller tent, which turned out to be a mistake as it proved no match for the torrential rain we had over the first few days and leaked like a sieve.

Double rainbow!

Mr Magpie was understandably less than keen to spend his holiday sitting in a muddy puddle so we made the decision to return home for the night and ended up commuting to the festival daily for the duration.

Initially the rain helped to drive people into the marquee for shelter and was quite good for business; Thursday was my second best day sales-wise. However, it soon worked against us as the lush green fields we arrived to turned into a brown swamp during the first 48 hours.

To reach the Artist's Quarter you first had to cross a sea of mud, and many people chose not to do so. I don't really blame them. Indeed, I was so reluctant to cross myself that I made only a few trips into the rest of the festival and failed to see a single band or comedian all weekend, which had not been the plan at all.

Would you?

Talking to the other traders, most of whom had been to Larmer Tree before, it seemed as though business was slower for most people this year. I know that this was the first year that tickets for the festival were still available as the gates opened, and from chatting to the visitors, many were planning on leaving early because of the mud.

I didn't sell as much as I'd hoped to, but I was happy with my takings all things considered and would definitely be up for a return visit next year if invited. The kinds of things that sold well at Larmer Tree were different to my usual best-sellers and I think I'd have a better idea of what to take next time and what changes to make to the stall.

Interestingly, although I displayed my fruit pincushions with a couple of decorative pins in, I didn't label them as such. I priced each item individually instead of my usual 'Fruit Pincushions £5' sign. Last time I did a fair I sold a dozen of them; this time only about five over the five days! It does seem that you really do have to spell things out for your customers!

All in all, I found the festival experience much more satisfying than selling at craft fairs. I have been on a steep learning curve and this experience taught me loads, as well as introducing me to lots of really lovely people.

For now, I am going to enjoy the last week before the children break up. I have got a few little sewing treats planned just for myself, as well as a bit more knitting and crochet. I can now resume Granny-Striping, yay!

If you were at the festival, I hope you managed to enjoy it and would love to hear from you with any thoughts you have on my stall.

Thanks for stopping by,

Beth x