Wednesday, 15 March 2017

2017 Finish-A-Long ~ Meet the Global Host Team ~ Abigail

Lovely Abigail's turn this month...

Back in November I was surprised and delighted to open an email from Rhonda inviting me to become one of the global host of the 2017 Finish-A-Long. There are 13 of us in all and over the course of the year we'll be introducing ourselves. Nicky from Mrs Sew and Sow started off in January followed by Jess from Elven Garden Quilts in February and now in March it's my turn.

Hello, my name is Abigail and I blog here at cut&alter. I found the FAL late on in 2015 and couldn't believe how it motivated me to get things finished. I have always been a list maker and the FAL is no exception. My lists are somewhat larger then most people's, although I have certainly seen longer as well! I know that I will never get everything ticked off within the current Quarter but it does give me 1) accountability 2) a reason to tidy up and reorganise my studio each quarter to find those projects which have been languishing on shelves and at the bottom of boxes 3) it brings projects to the front of my mind and a lot of work goes on in my mind even before I get in the studio 4) if a project has been rolled over just one too many times I can then see that it's probably never going to get finished and I can pass it on (does that count as a finish?!!). Last quarter I had a particularly low completion rate and this one is shaping up to be the same but I have a few finishes and some projects are considerably further on!

A current quarter finish
I live in Stratford upon Avon with my husband, who is from New Zealand, our two daughters and a black and white cat. We have been back in the UK for just over 4 years and prior to that we lived in Otaki, New Zealand. We have been called gypsies before now due to our constant moving, and usually not within the same area. This is the longest time I have ever lived anywhere! (Can you keep a secret? Maybe, just maybe, my feet are itching again!) Some of the other places I have lived are: Nottingham, Leamington Spa, Sydney, Wellington, London, Waihi Beach, Cambridge, Tauranga, Rowington, Shirley, Waitarere Beach and Feilding. The whole idea of living here (the UK) or there (NZ) was the inspiration for this quilt. I was delighted when Should I Stay or Should I Go? was awarded Best Piecing in Show last November in Bristol!

Up until January this year I home educated the girls, which was brilliant. I always felt honoured to have as much time with them as I did and whilst it certainly was tiring and had its moments we had a lot of fun along the way. They have now started school, primary and secondary, and have settled in really well. We have a new rhythm in our lives which, for me, is taking some getting used to. I thought I would have all the time in the world, that I would have time to sew, quilt, go to the gym, make lovely healthy food ...... oh silly, silly me!! You don't actually get much done in the six hours between 9am and 3pm do you?!! One thing I have done is learn to do improv curves - I love them!!!!

I have been sewing since a child but, like a lot of women, I came back to sewing when my first child was born, although I had been making curtains for our houses every time we moved! Little children's clothes are such a pleasure to make - fitting is not important, they don't use much material and they are quick (although when sleep deprived they sometimes didn't seem to be that quick). I had made a puff patchwork quilt for my eldest soon after she was born and then made a simple square quilt from vintage Laura Ashley soft furnishing fabric from our various childhood houses. These two quilts are well loved and well worn!

It wasn't until 2010 that I 'learnt' to quilt. I took a 6 week night class in NZ and a passion was born. I joined my local quilt club and I listened to the other ladies of my group talking about all their WIPs. I was horrified! I vowed that I would never have projects sitting on my shelf - I would start and finish one before embarking on another. Oh how naive I was! Needless to say I have lots of projects on the go all of differing ages. Last year I finished my most long standing project - ANZAC Hearts, it was on my FAL2016 Quarter 2 list! This was a Bee quilt and I love it - luckily as much now as when I started it in 2010!

Back in 2015 I made the decision to purchase a longarm quilting machine and I totally love it!!! I bought a Handi Quilter Avante and it brings me a lot of joy. With the girls at home I did not have the time I would have liked for learning and practising but I am getting there. I have done a few customer quilts and hope to do more this coming year. Before then I have a backlog of my own tops that are waiting to be done. This was the first quilt I quilted on my machine ....

Wow - this has become a longer post than I thought. When I first sat down to write this I did wonder what I would write! So, here's a quick 10 9 other things about me to finish (I got stuck on No 10!):
1. I make quilts for Project Linus
2. I am a member of the Oxfordshire Modern Quilt Guild
3. I am left handed
4. At 25 I spent a week in Coober Pedy, having read about it as child of 12 - it was awesome!
5. I love salads
6. I have only ever spent one night in hospital and that was with my daughter when she was 3 and had to have her tonsils out
7. Both my children were born at home - one in NZ and one in UK
8. I will go to QuiltCon ..... one day!
9. I would love to go to Alaska

There you have it! Remember there's just a couple of weeks left for you to get your Quarter 1 list project finished. The link up opens on 26 March and will remain open until 01 April. Be sure to link up because there are amazing prizes to won (and I should know because I have won twice before!!) I look forward to seeing all the finished projects this quarter. x

Friday, 3 March 2017

Everything In Its Place Bag ✂

This is one of my very favourite things I have ever made. It was a not a quick make but it was definitely worth the time and thought put into it because it is so functional and since I sew everyday and am travelling a fair bit, it will get used a lot. If you are short on time, jump to the end to watch a little video tour of my bag.

I actually finished it a couple of weeks ago but am finally getting round to blogging about it, and in a way that's better since I've actually been using it - just yesterday I finished off a little extra addition, which is one of my favourite bits because I use a lot of thread! 

So on to the bag...

I made the Everything In Its Place Bag (also called A Place for Everything if you buy the pattern from By Annie). 
The pattern is part of a class called Sew Sturdy Travel Organisers by Annie Unrein on Craftsy. I bought the class specifically for this pattern but it also includes a Hanging Cosmetics Bag, which would be useful too - I might get round to doing that at some point!

Before I actually started I did have a good look at all the lovely versions on instagram, Lisa inspired me - she's made a few of them, and this blog post by Bloomin' Workshop was really helpful. I paid attention and made nearly all of the changes.

The Everything In Its Place Bag is a great bag for keeping all your sewing supplies (or whatever!), for travelling with and to take to classes. Mine is currently filled with English Paper Piecing supplies, along with my general sewing kit.

The bag is made up of two removable 'pages', which each have one side of vinyl pockets. The pattern includes a few different options/sizes of pockets but this combination worked best for me. It's worth looking at what you would want to put in the pockets before you make them to determine the best configuration! I used holographic glitter vinyl for the pockets, which is beautifully shimmery and cute. I also chose to bind the top of the vinyl pockets (a la Bloomin' Workshop) and leave the top of the zip as is because I like all the pink.

When you construct the pages, part of the stitching from the pockets can be seen on the reverse side. I didn't like seeing the lines of thread so (where I didn't add a mesh pocket on the back) I decided to appliqué some selvedges to cover them. I also added a little hand stitching because in for a penny...

I like having these messages in the bag, they make me smile!

My most used sewing make has been the Portfolio Sewing Case by Kerry Green, you can get the free tutorial here and see my version here. It was her design that inspired me to add this very useful spool holder. It means I have easy access to my most used threads and also keeps them secure when I'm sewing on the train or out and about.

This removable thread holder was made by creating a base with two 2 x 11.5" pieces of fabric, one 2 x 11.5" foam interfacing (Pellon SF101 / soft and stable). Fuse the interfacing to the back of one of the fabric pieces, place the other piece on top (right sides of the fabric together), sew using 1/4" around all the edges leaving a gap in one of the longer sides for turning. Turn though, press and either hand stitch the opening closed or top stitch on machine. 
Then stitch one (or two if you prefer) length of loop tape (approx 11") to the back of the base. You are stitching through all the layers but those stitches will mostly be covered on the right side by the spools.
For the straps holding the spools I used the same measurements and instructions as Kerry's tutorial for holding two spools and made a 1 x 4.5" strip for the single spool. I stitched across the longer one in the centre to attach it to the base, and the shorter one at one end, making sure to stitch over it a few times to secure. The spacing between the ends of the strips was 3.25" - so mark 3.25" between the stitch line to secure the strap and where the press stud will be. That was what worked for my spools of Aurifil. This might need to be adjusted for different spools.
Use tiny sew in press studs to finish - it's important to make sure they are small enough to pass through your spools! 

Another modification was the handles, I took note of Bloomin' Workshop's suggestion and after seeing raquelsews version, I decided to use 1" leather strips and brass rivets. I got both from Artisan Leather. I haven't used either before so it was pretty nerve wracking!! It's not perfect, not sure I was that forceful with the rivets, but I'm still happy with it.

I am thoroughly enjoying using this bag - I can take the inner page (which has the essentials and block I'm currently working on) out of the bag and fit it in my (still rather large) handbag if I don't want to carry the whole thing. Everything is in one place. When I'm at home it sits on the side table by the sofa. 

The tassel I made is the icing on the cake for me. I actually bought one to attach to the bag a while ago (before I even made it!!), then my youngest girl got hold of it and broke it into pieces. I made a new tassel, re sewed all the shells and beads together, made new pom poms and threw in a scissor charm and a sewing machine charm. It is even more me than the original one!

This bag makes me happy. It is me on a good day. It is my inner child. It is sparkly, pink, geeky, cute and original. It isn't perfect and yes I could have just bought a bag, and a much cheaper bag, but I very much doubt I would love it this much.

Pattern Class: 

Fabric used:
Main Outer - Brushstrokes by Holly DeGroot for Cloud 9 Fabrics
Inner pockets - Hexagon/spring/small by ivieclothcoSleepy Eyes, Blush Background by kimsaSquare Grid - Mint by kimsa and Black white and mint mask by pencilmein. All from Spoonflower (which now also ships from Germany!), printed on Kona cotton.
Binding - Essex Yarn Dyed Metallic in Black by Robert Kaufman
Mesh and Zips are ByAnnie from Sew Hot UK

linking up: finish it up friday at crazy mom quilts

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

2017 Finish-A-Long ~ Meet the Global Host Team ~ Jess

Each month we are going to be introducing the hosts of this years Finish-A-Long so you can get to know a bit more about us! This time it's wonderful Jess...

Hi, I'm Jess, otherwise known as Elven Garden Quilts. This is my second year as a FAL host, and although I'm not great at actually participating in the FAL (I have a pretty bad history of not finishing anything on my list!), it's great to be back to cheer you all along for a second year. I thought this was going to be a really hard post to write - but once I got started it was surprisingly easy. So I've inserted photos of some of my favorite quilts in amongst the text - feel free to skim the words if you'd rather just look at quilts ;o).

I'm a 36 year old mum of three not-so-small people - my eldest son (12 year old) started high school this year (grade 7), and I have a 9 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. Needless to say, moments of sewing have been few and far between over the last few months while they've had their summer holidays - but they went back to school last week, so there is some semblance of normality in our household again :o). I have an incredible partner too, who encourages me in all my quilty endeavours and listens patiently when I ramble on about my current projects. We also have two fur babies - Shadow and Pepper, our little quilt-cats, who spend at least 90% of their time asleep on various quilts and cushions around the house! I'll often go back to hand stitch binding and find my quilt has been invaded by cats ;o).

We live in Tasmania, Australia - that little island that sits off the southern coast of mainland Australia. It's a beautiful place to live - we don't have a huge population and we are surrounded by some of the most gorgeous wilderness in the world (in my humble opinion!). I grew up in a pretty arty/crafty family - my Dad studied ceramics at Art School and is an art teacher at a college, and my mum has always been involved with some sort of textile art. She made most of our clothes as kids, and is now obsessed with spinning and knitting all kinds of gorgeous yarn. So it's kinda unsurprising that I've grown up to be a maker.

Although I have a science degree (and work as a lab technician part time), I've always enjoyed making stuff. I started cross stitching when I was quite young, and continued that hobby right through to my university years. It wasn't until I had my youngest child that I decided to get a sewing machine - with the intention of making clothes and toys for my kids. I had fun doing this for a while, but then on a whim I bought a beginner's quilting magazine and that was the beginning of a true obsession. For me, quilting is the perfect marriage of maths and art - I love numbers and I love working with colour, so it's not surprising it has overtaken all of my spare time!

I started quilting around 5 or 6 years ago - and back when I started, my tiny sewing room overlooked the garden - so Elven Garden Quilts was born! After a few years, I outgrew that little room, so my 'studio' is now our garage - not the prettiest location, but I can be as messy as I want (and believe me, the term creative chaos fits me perfectly!) and close the door on it so no one else has to be subjected to it ;o).

I first started blogging for a few reasons. Mainly because I didn't actually know anyone who quilted and I didn't want to bore my family and friends to tears constantly talking about my quilts, and blogging was the perfect way to share what I was making. But it quickly became a way to connect with people all over the world who shared my passion. I'm ever in awe of how supportive and wonderful the online quilting community is, and my life would be very different if I hadn't started blogging. I am a self-taught quilter, thanks to the enormous generosity of so many people in sharing tutorials and ideas, and a love of trying to figure out how to make things work!

I loosely call myself a modern quilter - although I've made plenty of quilts that are far more traditional than modern! I think I'm probably best known for my love of free motion quilting - everything I piece is quilted to death on my domestic Bernina. About three years ago, I was actually invited to become a Bernina Ambassador here in Australia, which is an incredible honour :o). I have several free motion quilting tutorials available on my YouTube channel - and I plan on doing a lot more of these this year! I've been teaching patchwork and quilting classes on a weekly basis for the last three years (although I'm currently having a break, after burning out from a pretty hefty teaching load last year), which is something I absolutely love.

Last year was a big year for me as a quilter, both on a professional and personal level. I won several awards for my quilts at some of our national quilt shows (the Australian Modern Quilt Show and the Australian Machine Quilting Festival), and I taught a lot of classes - both patchwork and free motion quitling. On the personal side of things, I feel like I really grew as a quilter. Although I've always loved making quilts and been happy with the finished product, I've struggled to find my style. But in the last half of last year I feel like I started to find my voice, and started making quilts that are more 'me' than ever before. Although I've always used and loved my design wall, I now rely on it constantly as a tool to design my quilts. Aviatrix is one of the last quilts I made using someone else's pattern - and I think it will be the last for a fairly long time. I'm enjoying doing my own thing so much right now!

The last few quilts I've made (and my current work in progress) all started as a vague idea and a giant pile of fabric, and relied on my design wall to figure out what they would become. You can read all about the process I went through when making Scattered (shown below) herehere, here and here. And if you're attending QuiltCon this year, please go say hi to her - she was juried into the show which is enormously exciting!

I recently wrote about the process of making one of my recent finishes, Flow. Again this quilt started as a pile of fabric and a very vague idea (as in, I knew I wanted to use improv curves), but the design came together through trial and error.

Although I'm much better at starting and finishing projects than I used to be (which isn't to say I don't have any WIPs - there are lots of those!), I work best when don't feel like I *have* to work on a particular project. Which is probably why I make FAL lists and then largely ignore them... Having said that, I have several projects that have been ignored for far too long that I do want to finish this year, so next quarter you can expect me to fully participate and knock over some very long term WIPs!

Thanks for letting me introduce myself (and my quilts!), and I look forward to cheering you all on this year as you work through your FAL lists!

xx Jess