Friday, 27 February 2015

This Moment

Here's a link to Soulemama's moment, and here's mine...

{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . . 
I know it's supposed to be no words, and I was so nearly not going to cheat, but not sure whether you'll realise there's a cat snuggled up there with her unless I do!

Robin Quilt Progress

I've been finishing up some blocks for my Robin Quilt. I think these will be my final four, otherwise this quilt will be scarily big for quilting!

These first three were inspired by an old Christmas card I found (and now seem to have lost again!).

And this last one...

From a print I spotted on Pinterest a while back...

This last one is possibly the simplest of all my blocks, but it's one of my favourites. Sometimes simple can be very effective, and I find print designs often translate very well into applique or patchwork.

So, now I have 12 blocks, all different sizes...

At some point I expect I'll probably waste a couple of hours arranging and rearranging these, until I come back to something very similar to the above! And then it'll just be a matter of working out how to piece them together somehow. I'm feeling confident it will be done by next Christmas!

I'm linking up with 'Ho, ho, ho and on we sew' today, which this month is hosted by Pam over at Threading My Way. As well as lots of Pam's own lovely sewing and ideas within her blog, there's an amazing ongoing link up over there, with a huge number and range of sewing projects to browse through. Well worth a visit, and you might want to link up one of your own projects.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hanging Bat Mini Quilt

I have been back at the sewing machine, hurray! At the start of the New Year, when I thought about what I wanted to be making, one of my priorities was a few more mini quilts. I've been waiting to hang them all up together till I got to a point where I felt that I had a large enough, and well balanced enough, collection to work together. And I'd like to get to that point soon now!

I remember that I mentioned when I made my last mini quilt (a kite) that one of the things I liked about it was that it wasn't a standard square/oblong mini quilt shape. And this was something that I decided at the start of the New Year that I'd like to explore further, partly for fun and partly to try and give my Mini Quilt 'wall-to-be' more balance and variety. I decided I wanted to cover a few different design elements somewhere within my next few mini quilts - make one a bit taller and thinner, one with a radically different shape, one with some kind of 3D element and one upside down!

And I'm very happy I seem to have covered 3 of those bases with this bat! As soon as I got to the 'upside down' idea, the thought of a bat popped into my head. I love bats anyway, seeing them swooping around at dusk in the Summer is always a treat, especially when we're swimming in the river late, as we often do, and they sweep low over our heads catching juicy insects that gather together and buzz just above the water.

And their shape does, I think, lend itself quite well to patchwork. I started out drawing a basic shape, and then building up the patchwork to fit.

Did you know bats are the only flying mammal, and there are over 1000 different varieties? More than 250 species have been identified as endangered, vulnerable or "near threatened."

If I hadn't been keen to get back to some machine sewing I think I might have been tempted to paper piece the wings, but as it was I managed fine by machine.

Bulmer's fruit bat is the world's most endangered bat. It is only found in one cave in Papua New Guinea.There are only around 160 individuals left in this colony.

I drew my basic shape again on a scrap piece of wool...

A fungus that causes a disease called white-nose syndrome has devastated bats in North America.
And kept it small enough so my patchwork wings could just fold over at the edges...

Flying foxes (genus Pteropus) are the largest bats. Some species have wingspans of 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters).The smallest bat is the bumblebee bat, it grows to only about 1.25 inches long (3 cm) and weighs about 2 grams (0.07 ounces).

That's the end of my bat facts but I used some glue basting spray to fold those wings over!
Then laid it out on another, nice and coordinating piece of wool, with a green, cotton body piece as well...

Wool was great so it wouldn't fray around the edges.
Then sewed a tight zigzag all around the patchwork, including the body piece, cut it out with a very narrow, wool border and quilted it...

I added a little star applique in my patterned fabric to balance it out a bit too.
My plan was always to be able to hang my bat from his claws. I have no idea whether there might be lots better ideas out there on how to make hanging bat claws, but I decided to use craft wire...

I mummified them with a thin strip of fabric, using a little drop of glue here and there to secure it...

And then wrapped a thin strip of my green fabric around that, again using a drop of glue here and there and also a few stitches with this outer layer too. I also wanted bat 'arms' for the wings, and used a fluffy pipe cleaner for this (I did think about a pipe cleaner for the hanging claws, but wasn't sure it would have been quite firm and strong enough).

Because it was very fluffy and padded already I just skipped straight to covering it with my thin green strip, starting in the middle and winding out in both directions seemed to work well.

You can see here I've also made a top layer for the body - just very slightly larger than the original body section, and I zigzagged this cotton shape onto a piece of the wool and then cut it out with a very narrow border of wool again.

I sewed on my words (all my mini quilts have a quote or words of some sort on them) and quilted it - just to add a bit more strength and detail.

He has 2 button eyes sewn on too - and if you're wondering I did sew them on a little crooked on purpose, for added quirkiness!

At this point I decided my 'arms' needed fingers at the end of them - did you know bats have 4 fingers and a thumb?! (Researching that is what set me off on the bat facts generally!)

Fingers were sewn on by machine in a small zigzag stitch.
 Now I was ready to start putting it together. I just hand sewed the arms and the claws to the body.

I also hand sewed the ends of those arms to my fingers in the photo above.

Then padded the body area with some scraps of soft fleece.

And then hand stitched the outer body all the way round, poking a bit more stuffing in as I went round if I felt it needed it. And there he was done.

The pipe cleaner arms and wire claws are fully 'poseable' so he can hang in a more bat like, but less visually interesting manner, with his wings tucked up...

And then out pop the wings as he's about to fly off!

His toe claws are bent the other way here and could fit into the crack on this beam!

He hangs nicely from shelves, ledges etc, or from a thin wooden skewer as he was in some of the photos above!

So, now I just have to cover the tall and thin design in a mini quilt, which is kind of shrieking giraffe at me. But I might leave that a little longer and see if anything else comes to mind.


Friday, 20 February 2015

This Moment

I'm back to having moments again, here's a link to Soulemama's moment, and since we had a lovely walk through beautiful woods to a stunning beach this week, I typically have more than one photo - but then I do have a few weeks to make up!


We were very lucky with the weather, it was sunny and not bitingly cold at all. Maria was tempted into bare feet and a paddle...

But Theo, who is definitely more crazy, went further and had his first swim of the year...

He went in for a second time, so it can't have been too bad! Once dry and dressed, he did comment on how 'fresh' he felt, but happily it was also the first beach BBQ of the year, so plenty of opportunity to warm up well.

Happy Weekend to everyone,


Saturday, 14 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

We're not big on Valentine's Day in this house usually, but the girls were keen to celebrate it this year. So we made some chocolate playdough yesterday...

(Just by adding 2 tbsp of cocoa to our favourite playdough recipe:

2 cups water
2 tbsp veg oil
1 cup salt
2 tbsp cream of tartar - this is what makes it last a reasonable length of time if stored in an airtight tub/bag
2 cups plain flour
And any colouring, glitter, smells that you like

Combine everything but the flour in a saucepan and heat until warm, then remove from heat and add flour. Stir and knead until smooth. 

So we just added the cocoa with the flour, but I did leave some of the dough plain as well for white chocolate. It turned out really well, and I've now had gingerbread playdough recommended to me too - for making play gingerbread men with buttons for buttons!)

We had an empty chocolate box (or two!) carefully saved for the occasion, and Maria and I had lots of fun creating a very special box of chocolates for the boys...

Turns out making and playing with chocolate playdough is quite therapeutic too! They smelt delicious, and we were impressed with the appearance.

Who could resist!
They fooled Sam for long enough for him to try one, much to Maria's delight! Shame about the taste! Maria has now set up her own chocolate shop - with little cakes and eclairs as well.

And Venetia has been busy with some Valentine's Day sewing. I helped her with the cutting and she made a lovely, colourful heart garland for my Dad.

Along the same lines as our Star Garlands - the very talented Carole over at Fresh Off the Frame made some before Christmas with her grandchildren, here, but with hearts and cute extra shapes as well. After seeing this development across the ocean from us, Venetia was keen to create a heart garland. So the idea has spread and grown, thank you Carole!
They're now looking lovely on my Dad's banisters.

So Happy Valentine's Day to you all, hope it's treated you well, and any special Valentine's makes been happening with you too?


Thursday, 12 February 2015

Smile, open your eyes, love and go on

Thank you for all your kind comments and messages and thoughts, I really do appreciate them. I've been struggling as to what to write here now. I always try and keep this space positive and upbeat, which usually isn't tricky, I like to think that's the person I am most of the time. But these last few weeks have been quite tough, and I'm not at my most positive right now. I seem to be more in a place where all the little things that I would usually take in my stride, things like hunting for school shoes or squabbling children or teas that don't work, feel like mountains to climb. Plus we've had a horrible flu like bug go through the house, that seems to be of the lingering cough kind. And then to top it off one of our lovely cats died in the night. Just as with my Mum, we knew it was coming, but again just as with my Mum, that doesn't necessarily make it any easier. It's probably hard to have absolutely no regrets when a person dies, most likely there's something you'd wish you might have said or done differently, but I'm not sure it's ever quite that simple, people are complex creatures, we do the best we can do at that moment in time and regrets are usually something I manage reasonably well to avoid. But this morning I couldn't help but wish, repeatedly, that I'd taken the time to give our cat one more stroke, before going to bed last night. I know that seems stupid, especially given our wider picture at the moment, but cats aren't complex, and stopping by for a last stroke would have been very easy. Perhaps a psychologist would have a field day with this and suggest that I'm projecting all my suppressed, complex regrets about my Mum into a single, simple regret about my cat!

You see, this is what happens when I try and write, without knowing quite what to say!

OK, since I try and focus on the positives here, I will have a go at that now. And there are some positives:
  • All the children seem to be coping very well with the situation. I was worried about how each of them would deal with it in their own ways - Sam and Theo because they are that much older and more reflective, Venetia because, of all the children, she spent the most time with my parents and is very close to my Dad, and Maria because she reacted so badly to my Mum's illness in the Summer. With Maria, I think hopefully we may have bottomed out her worries before we got to this point, and quite possibly she was as much disturbed by the frequent trips to the hospital as anything else. Venetia is continuing to spend the most time with my Dad and is being extra, extra affectionate and loving. And the boys have been touchingly concerned about my loss and how I have felt, but that is beginning to wear off a little now and a return to more usual teenage boy avoidance of any excessive discussion of feelings is returning! Hugs in a respectable amount of moderation are happily still perfectly acceptable. And all the children are also being very mature about our poor cat too, and giving our one remaining cat lots of extra love, in case he's lonely (personally I think maybe he's relishing having the food bowl all to himself and just lapping up all this extra attention).
  • My Dad is very much in the right place to try and heal, and to move on as much as he can from this. He has obviously been the one to struggle the most with my Mum's death. It has been truly heartbreaking to see at times. We worked out that until the day after her death, my Dad had seen my Mum every day without fail for the past 58 years. He has always been totally devoted to her, and that's a hard habit to break. More than that, for the past 3 or 4 years his whole life has revolved solely around caring for her. His one purpose has suddenly gone, his daily timetable is now non existent and he has been lost. Whilst there is no quick fix here, my Dad does love being around the children, I know he takes a lot of comfort, as well as distraction, from time spent with them. My Dad is also a very positive person, and I know he will get through this.
  • I think children are generally very good at showing us that life goes on, and more than that, making us get on with it. Birthdays have been celebrated, cakes baked, birds fed, exams studied for, ballet lessons attended... 

Peanut butter based bird food is apparently quite tempting to little girls too!

  • I am very thankful that my Mum was at home with all of us in her final days, and that she was comfortable at the end. She always reacted very badly to hospitals, and I'm sure it would have been far more distressing for both my Mum and Dad had she gone into hospital.
  • The funeral was a very difficult occasion, but I feel that everyone said all the right things, all the things that would have mattered most to my Mum. For my Dad, I think it was just a case of getting him through it, and I'm not convinced he will remember much about it at all. But for the rest of the family there, I think maybe it did provide some comfort. I didn't know what to call this post, till I got to this point, but the 'Smile, open your eyes, love and go on' is the last line of the poem 'She is gone', which my two nieces read beautifully at the funeral. And, for my Dad, we have plans to create a special area to remember my Mum in the garden, just outside his kitchen window, with a bird bath, and snowdrops and a special bench. He doesn't need a special place to remember her, he will be remembering her all the time, but I think this is something that will give him some comfort.
Snowdrops, both real...

And a year long variety, from Cornish Crafty Made

  • So many friends have sent heartfelt cards, many speaking of how my Mum touched their lives for the better. And so many special, local friends have been incredibly supportive and caring. Thank you to any reading here.

So, there are very important positives, and it is still such early days for us all. So far I have been struggling to return to sewing or anything creative really. Chopping wood has been a better therapy, but at some point soon I will force myself to sit back down at my sewing machine, and when I do I'm sure it will help me.