#tbt – Valletta, Malta

Over two years ago, just before we left France to return to Australia, we took a week-long holiday to Malta.

We had an incredible time and I took soooo many photographs, which explains why these were hiding out on my hard drive.

We spent this day in Valletta (the capital), and here’s what went on:

First stop – the Palace State Rooms. When the Knights of St John took control of Malta in the late 1500s they built a new capital at Valletta and this palace for the Order’s Grand Master.

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The Knights of St John (retitled the Knights of Malta) reigned over the island for over 200 years until an upstart by the name of Napoleon arrived in 1798.

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French rule didn’t sit well with the Maltese so they rebelled about two years after that and soon after became a part of the British Empire.

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I love history as much as I love a good chandelier, and Malta has tons:

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The Palace Armoury is located in the area that housed the stables back in the Grand Masters’ time.

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The Great Siege of Malta (where the Knights of Malta and the Maltese resisted the Ottoman Empire’s invasion) was in 1565 and there are plenty of examples of armour from this time period.

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I had to put both these helmets in because, honestly, how on earth could you see, hear and communicate wearing these? What a nightmare.

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How about some fancy gold inlaid armour?

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There were examples of other weaponry as well. Check out this folding gun – both the stock and barrel folded so it could fit into a coat’s inner pocket.

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How about this sword-gun? You can see the barrel running along the side of the blade and a trigger mechanism is housed in the sword hilt. For those days when you just can’t decide…

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Here’s all the paraphernalia needed to operate a flintlock musket. They must have had to carry it all around in those cute bags you see at the back there. The Maltese were metrosexual before their time.

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Here are the drills to fire the bloody thing. Seriously, who could be bothered? Much quicker to just run them through with your sword-gun.

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After the Armoury, we had a brief stroll around some of Valletta’s streets and squares:

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Then we took a guided boat tour around the peninsula that Valletta is built on.

This little guy was only 16 months old then and his thumb-sucking brother (I’d forgotten about that) had just turned 3.

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After our guided tour we jumped on the ferry to get back to our apartment in Vittoriosa.

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A magical day. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Malta, there’s still so much I’d like to see.

To see more on Malta and it’s amazing history and architecture, check out my previous posts: An intro to Malta, Malta’s ancient history and Mdina, the walled city.

 

A few things…

Hello Everyone – ready for the weekend? Yay! Before I veg out in front of a movie here are a few announcements:

1. Don’t forget to vote in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival. There are so many inspiring quilts there that you may find it a little hard, but do your best! I’m entered in the Original Design category and will have my fingers crossed.

2. Handmade Holidays is on again over at Sew Mama Sew. Each day in November a different blogger curates a collection of gifts you can make, for a different type of recipient. I’ll be there one of the days – I put together my favourite ideas for holiday gifts for teachers.

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3. Elizabeth Olwen has a beautiful Look Book out for her new line Wildwood. See if you can spot my quilt in there.

4. Finally, a few shots from Halloween. Our local street of shops put on a little event for the kids. We all had a good time playing Throw the Brain in the Acid and collecting sweet treats. Hope yours was fun too!

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Diamonds in the Deep Blue

This post is a recap of my Diamonds in the Deep quilt (pattern is in my Pattern Shop, see menu above) as an entry in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival. It’s been both brilliant and painful to watch all the amazing Houston Quilt Market photos roll in – brilliant because there are so many talented quilters out there and painful because I live on the other side of the world and can’t attend! It’s hard to watch everyone having fun without you!

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Thank goodness for Amy at Amy’s Creative Side for putting together the Blogger’s Quilt Festival, so all of us sad sacks who can’t attend can at least enjoy each others’ sewing efforts.

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This quilt is my own design, so I’m entering it in the Original Designs category. Entries close on Halloween (phew, just made it) and voting will be from 1-7 Nov with the winner of each category announced 8 Nov.

More than the opportunity to win a prize, Amy’s Festival is just a great way to see what everyone’s been up to in the past 6 months.

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There’s not a huge amount of story behind the design of this quilt. Those that know me know how I love a good colour gradation in a quilt. Normally I achieve this by taking identical blocks and changing the colours it is made from. This time, I have kept the colours static and changed the blocks themselves. There are four different log cabin variations used to make the colour morph from predominantly dark to light.

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I previously made a scrappier version of this quilt but I had always planned to make it in just two colours. I really love red and white quilts (Did you see the red and white display at Market? Sob.) but I’m a blue girl at heart so it was always going to be navy. This is probably the most grown up quilt I own!

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Pattern: Diamonds in the Deep (my own)

Size: 52″ x 78″

Fabrics: Kona Snow and Kona Celestial

Quilting: By the wonderful QuiltJane

A shout-out to Fizzle

A bit of a behind-the-scenes of my blogging follows – if you’re only here for the sewing then you might want to skip this post.

However, if you’d like to start a blog or have ever contemplated starting your own little (or behemoth) craft business online (or already have one) then hopefully you’ll find this post helpful.

About three years ago, after I’d been blogging for a few years, I wondered if I should try and earn a little money to support my fabric habit, or at least cover my blogging costs.  Looking around the interwebs I found a ridiculous amount of information on online marketing and many, many examples of how I did NOT want to make money. I eventually stumbled upon a blog called ThinkTraffic (now called The Sparkline), which offered fun and non-sleazy advice on blogging and selling products/services online.

One day Corbett, the fella running ThinkTraffic, told his audience about a brand new membership site he was starting called Fizzle.

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The idea really appealed to me because I loved the idea of one place, one community, which could give me all the answers I needed. I’d had enough of hunting around for information on blogging and then having to gauge if there was some sort of agenda attached to it (were they just saying this to sell me something?) I actually liked the idea of having to pay to be part of such a community – the membership fee kept out the tire-kickers and trolls and meant the members were pretty serious about getting results. The membership fee also meant I knew how Corbett, Caleb and Chase (Fizzle co-founders) were getting paid and that they would be compelled to keep coming up with more good stuff.

So, when the virtual doors of Fizzle swooshed open for the first time two years ago, I took up a membership (back then it was still in beta-testing) and have been paying my thirty-odd dollars a month (exchange rate dependant) ever since.

Although I’ve been a very happy Fizzle member for a long time, I’ve never felt comfortable mentioning it here because I didn’t want to appear to be taking advantage of our relationship with Fizzle’s affiliate program (I’d receive a small percentage cut on my membership fee for any referrals).

But Fizzle are now offering a one-month trial membership for $1 and I think it’d be pretty crappy of me not to let you know. For one month you can poke around all their great resources and see if it’s right for you. Don’t worry – I don’t get anything from that, I would only get a reduced fee if you decided you love the site and want to sign up for another month (it’s a month-by-month thing, you can bow out whenever you like). If you do decide you love Fizzle as much as I do and continue on, please accept my thanks for contributing towards keeping this blog running.

So just what’s inside this Fizzle site? There’s tons of goodies and I can’t really do it justice here but here’s what I love the most:

  1. Video courses on just about any topic you can think of pertaining to blogging and online business: Start a blog that matters, Choosing a topic, Connect with anyone, Intro to website traffic, Defining your audience, Essentials of Website design for online business, Google Analytics; I’ve also made good use of the WordPress Tutorials and Build your email list course. They’ll even teach you how to podcast or how to shoot and edit videos. Like Craftsy, you watch these videos whenever you want and new courses are introduced each month or so.
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  2. The forum. It’s full of people (other Fizzle members) who have been there, done that and are happy to help you do the same. People from all different countries and business backgrounds (craft, online marketing, music, fitness, anything you can sell online). The forum was where I found the Fizzler who designed my logo and how I found the guy who drew my caricature for my About Page. Any questions you have about your own blog/business – post it in the forums and you’ll get great input from a huge variety of viewpoints.Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 4.08.58 pm
  3. Interview videos. Hour long individual interviews with a bunch of successful online entrepreneurs. People such as Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Dana and John Shultz of Minimalist Baker, Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months. The interviews are all inspiring and really interesting.
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  4. The community. The forum is a big part of this, but it stretches beyond that. There are regular webinars/podcasts where you can ask questions, there are mastermind groups where you can find a bunch of like-minded people who’ll help you and keep you motivated towards achieving your goals, there are regular emails celebrating the successes of Fizzle members. All of this takes time and care from the Fizzle founders, and has yielded a fun little community that you can participate in as much or as little as you like. I dive in and out as my real-life commitments dictate, there’s no pressure to do otherwise (unless you want people to hold you to something).
  5. It’s FUN. The guys are funny and irreverent as well as being knowledgeable and great teachers. There are in-jokes and outtakes and the occasional pineapple.

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So that’s it. I’d definitely recommend checking out Fizzle if you’re:

  • thinking about starting a blog
  • wanting to improve your blog, or
  • considering an online business in some form.

For a dollar it’s a really low-risk way of seeing if Fizzle would be as useful for you as it is for me. If you have any questions, just ask them below (or email me).

I really hope it is – I’d love to see more crafters inside Fizzle!

Halloween Drawstring Treat Bag Tutorial

It’s true that Halloween isn’t that big a deal here in Australia. If anything, it’s probably been embraced more by Aussie adults than the kids – you’re much more likely to see Halloween used as an excuse for a party than see kids out Trick or Treating.

Regardless, that won’t stop me sewing something up for the occasion! These little fabric drawstring bags are small and sweet (approx 3.5 x 5.5″ finished) and the perfect size for a little Halloween gift (maybe for a teacher or a special friend) when you don’t want to go too over-the-top with the amount of sugar you’re gifting.

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You’ll need 2 x 9″ squares of fabric and 2 x 25″ lengths of ribbon to make a bag (ribbon width 3/8″ is perfect, but most will work – just don’t go too thick as it makes it hard to fully draw in the bag top).

I chose 9″ squares to maximise using a fat quarter. Two contrasting fat quarters will give you four bags.

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Sew your 2 x 9″ squares together, right sides facing each other. Use a quarter inch seam and leave a 2″ gap in the perimeter, 1″ from one of the corners:

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Turn inside out through the gap and press – make sure you press the gap edges in so they match the seam line.

Decide which colour you’d like to see on the bag body vs flaps and and place your square with the bag body colour up. Then fold opposite corners of the square over 3.5″ to reveal your flap colour.

Hint: fold the corner that has your turning gap in it, so you don’t have to worry about sewing it shut.

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We need to sew a housing for the drawstring/ribbon – I used a half inch gap for this. If you have chosen a very thick ribbon you might need to increase this. Mark your line and sew it down, remembering to backstitch at the start and end of the line for strength. (I used water soluble marker to mark my lines, which I wiped off at the end.)

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Fold the entire piece in half along the remaining diagonal line. Both folded corners should meet with the flaps facing out.

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Fold the bottom points in together and cross them over a tad.

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Finger press the fold line so that when you open it up again you can mark a line along that crease.

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Sew down both lines, again backstitching at the start and end of the seam.

Invert these triangles so that they wrap around the outside of the bag, revealing the flap colour fabric (a bit like an origami fold out). The points of these triangles will meet in the middle of the bottom of the bag.

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Use a few hand-sewn stitches to secure the two points of the triangles together (just to each other, no need to sew it to the bottom of the bag).

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Turn the whole bag inside out so we can box the bottom corners. Ensure the corners of the triangle flaps you just created are nestled in nicely to the corners of the bag body.

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Flatten one of the corners at the bottom of the bag as seen below – you want the side seam of the bag to be running straight down the centre of the triangle point you form.

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Mark a line 3/4″ from the top point of the triangle. ( I used the 45 degree lines on my cutting mat – when your triangle top fits in there it’s easy to mark the triangle base so that it’s square.

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Sew along the line (it will be thick sewing given you have the bag and the flaps to sew through). Then do the same for the other corner.

Turn your bag right-way-out again – it’s almost finished.

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Take a length of ribbon and thread one end through each ribbon housing. Tie the two ribbon ends together.

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Take the other length of ribbon and do the same, just from the opposite housing opening.

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There you have a cute little bag ready for a handful of treats (or any other small gift like a severed tongue or a tarantula).

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Linking up with Sew Can She’s Show Off Saturday. Happy sewing and happy weekend!

Beautiful Brisbane

If you follow along on Instagram you’ll already know last weekend we had an overnight in the city, without children. We went to a beer festival, then a meal, then a ferry trip back to a hotel. In the morning we slept in, had a big, fatty cooked breakfast, then second breakfast and then an early lunch. We rolled home feeling pretty darn happy with ourselves.

My head couldn’t understand how we’d had 6 years of that before kids came along, it seems like another lifetime.

Brisbane put on a wonderful show:

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Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, whatever you’re up to!

Navy Diamonds in the Deep

Nothing like a finish on a Friday, right? I’ll admit this has been finished for a while, I just dragged the chain on taking some photographs. Luckily my resident tall person helped me out so that I can show you my lap-sized Diamonds in the Deep quilt.

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I am very drawn to two-colour quilts and wanted to try this pattern in blue – I chose Kona’s Celestial and Snow. This quilt actually gave me the quilt pattern name – to me the diamond centres of the block looked like they were bubbling up from the deep water to the sea foam on top. (Imagine the photo above upside down. Here, I’ll do it for you:)

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This quilt marks the first time I engaged the services of a long arm quilter. I am extremely fortunate to have the lovely Quilt Jane living 20 minutes drive from me! She tested a few different patterns before settling on a swirl that works very well with the water theme of the quilt.

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All-over quilting will add a new dimension to this quilt as it will always show quite clearly at one of the ends – there’s really no way to find a thread that will blend into both fabric colours. I love the effect and thank Jane for her wonderful contribution to this quilt.

DiamondsintheDeepNavy3The pale thread blends right in at the light end

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So, any finishes for the rest of you? Maybe one planned for the weekend? Whatever you get up to, I hope you have a wonderful time (and hopefully a little sewing, too!)

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Linking up with TGIFF and Finish it Up Fridays.

Wildwood Challenge: Crib Quilt

Almost two months ago I was lucky enough to be asked by Sew Mama Sew if I’d like to contribute a project for Cloud 9 Fabrics’ soon-to-be-released fabric line, Wildwood.

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I said yes please, emailed them an idea and was very excited when I found the project had been accepted to participate in the Wildwood Challenge.

The fabric arrived in August and it had the same beautiful, crisp hand I’ve come to expect from Cloud 9 fabrics. The colours are very on trend – love the navy and coral.

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So, what did I make? A quilt of course! I wanted to keep it simple and show off every single print from the line. I also liked the idea of being able to use a fat quarter bundle.

I do love my colour gradations, and that’s what I’ve attempted here.

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I quilted it with parallel diagonal lines, using my walking foot edge as a guide. Initially I was going to quilt the whole thing in a neutral beige colour, but when I found I had spools of navy and coral that matched exactly I thought I should incorporate these, too (which I did randomly).

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I used a scrappy binding, taking the time to match the binding fabric to the fabric at the quilt’s edge (not exactly as I didn’t want overlapping seams, but close enough). I really like the effect.

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If you would like to make a Wildwood crib quilt (50″ x 60″) of your own, then this is how to do it:

Step 1: Buy a fat quarter of each of the 12 fabrics in the line.

Step 2: Cut 10 x 5.5″ squares from each fat quarter, like this:

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(Reserve the rectangular off cut – you can cut your scrappy binding strips from it; 3 strips of 2.25″ x 11″.)

UPDATE TO CUTTING INSTRUCTIONS: A couple of people have noted that their FQs don’t quite make the 22″ x 18″ size needed for the above cutting method. Please measure your FQs before cutting and if they come up short you have two choices:

a. Reduce all the squares to 5.25″ – then they will fit into the fabric you have available. (This will reduce the final size of the quilt to 47.5″ x 57″ which is still a generous baby quilt size).

b. Cut 3 x  5.5″ squares from each row (not 4 as shown above) and then piece your final square from what you have left over. I know purists will shudder at this – but you’re already chopping fabric apart just to sew it straight back together, so it’s not a stretch to piece the 10th square!

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Step 3: Take your 120 x 5.5″ squares and arrange them in this order:

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1.Climbing Vine Khaki        2.Pretty Posies Coral        3.Forest Floor Khaki

 4.Full Bloom Coral             5.Wildflower Crimson         6.Deco Petal Navy

7.Midnight Flora Navy        8.Climbing Vine Navy           9.Full Bloom Indigo

          10.Forest Floor Ivory       11.Pretty Posies Turquoise     12.Deco Petal Turquoise

Where you have squares of the same fabric next to each other, turn one of them such that the pattern is not running the same direction across both squares:

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Step 4: Sew your squares into rows, and then sew your rows together. Make a backing then baste, quilt, bind and enjoy!

Confession time: I didn’t use a fat quarter bundle. As often happens when I make plans, I wasn’t able to get a fat quarter cut of each fabric – I had to take a one-third yard cut instead (I know, terrible, right?). This gave me some left over fabric which I used to piece part of a backing:

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The rest of the backing was pieced with Kona Raffia yardage.

I have no pattern to share for the backing. Frankly, it was a major pain in the posterior to piece and I won’t be doing it again. It took a lot longer than the quilt top to make and about half way through I cursed myself and wished I’d used a whole cloth instead! Oh well, this is how we learn, right?

The one thing I will say is that all those diagonal seam lines were handy for staying on track when I was quilting.

There you have it – a Wildwood Crib Quilt, fit for any young bub!

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Thank you so much to Sew Mama Sew for the Challenge, Cloud 9 for the fabric and Elizabeth Olwen for designing such loveliness.

You can see what the other Wildwood Challengers get up to by checking out their links below:

Carolina Carero from Love, Lola

Elizabeth Singler from Mamma Can Do It

Jennifer Waaraniemi from lea & lars

Heidi Staples from Fabric Mutt

Ren Murphy from The Inspired Wren

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Around the World Blog Hop

The lovely and very talented Kim of Leland Ave Studios tapped me on the shoulder for the Around the World Blog Hop, so here I am (a little late, sorry Kim).

If you haven’t visited Kim yet you really should. She has a real flair for colour combinations and giving traditional patterns a modern makeover. Not to mention she sews a mean queen sized quilt!

So to get to the questions:

What am I working on?

At the moment I am working on the backing for my Red Letter Day twin sized quilt.

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I’ve got another quilt pattern on the boil (which doesn’t involve a single log cabin).

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I’ve had the Collette Myrtle pattern and required knit fabric sitting on my stash pile for a good month. I’m scared of this project and it knows.

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Then there’s my queen sized quilt top that probably needs only an hour of work to finish it, but do you think I can decide what it is it actually needs? No.

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How does my work differ from those also in my genre?

Hmmm. Can I be honest and say I dunno? And even more honest and say I don’t really care? I pretty much sew for myself (i.e. whatever makes me happy) and try not to compare myself to others as it can be a real joy dampener. I certainly don’t feel pressure to make sure my work differs from others’. I have made other peoples’ patterns and have devised some of my own – both processes have been equally good fun.  This might be an easier question for anyone but me to answer!

Why do I create what I do?

I just really enjoy making things, all sorts of things, but at the moment quilty things. I find sewing both invigorating (designing, colour planning, pattern drafting) and calming (the actual piecing/quilting/binding). I also love that the result is useful on a practical level and giftable. One of the happy fringe benefits of sharing things online (as I have no real life friends who quilt) has been finding such a wonderful bunch of like-minded creators. So the creating part has extended into making tutorials and patterns that help others (just as others have helped me), which makes me feel good.

How does my creative process work?

Like everyone else, I’m time-strapped (young family, part-time job, a house that refuses to stay clean) so I am very selective with how I spend my spare time. Before I start anything I have to feel the red-hot fire for it, or I won’t bother. You know that feeling when you see someone’s pattern, or get an idea of your own, and it’s all you can think about? I wait for that feeling before I start a new quilt or commit myself to working up a design.

Now we get to the part where I nominate another blogger to carry on the Blog Hop. If you haven’t already heard of Cat&Vee you’ll want to pop over to their store and see their lovely fabric panels (see a collection below) and then over to their blog to keep up to date with all the goss.

I had the pleasure of meeting Cat at the Camille Roskelley sewing class I attended in June and we’ve caught up for coffee since. She’s a very lovely and very talented lady, but we’d expect no less from a quilter ;)

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New Web Design

Hello and happy weekend!

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Just popping in to say that my new site is up and working – feel free to drop in! I feel very grown up now I actually have an About page.

Some things are still a work in progress (my photos all needed resizing, which is a pain and something I’ll have to work on bit by bit) but the majority of it is bright, happy and very functional – everything I was looking for.

It’s going to be a busy week on the blog. I have a blog hop post coming up, then a tutorial with Sew Mama Sew to direct you to and finally a sneaky project I worked on with a yet-to-be-released fabric line from Cloud 9 Fabrics. Happy Days!

Enjoy your weekend and happy sewing!