Monday, 26 November 2012

Two wise birds


I am often asked how I find the ideas for my mug rugs.  Some just come to me and I make them straight away (Winter Birdhouse Mug Rug is one such pattern).  Others take hold a little more slowly and that is exactly what happened with my Two Owls Mug Rug.
 
I live in the Hampshire countryside in England and I drive home from work through a beautiful little village, called Southwick (pronounced Suth-ick).  One dusk at the beginning of summer I was on my way home - I had just passed the little thatched cottages on the corner of the village and was driving down towards Creech Woods when a large bird flew across my car and up into the bough of a tree a short way ahead. 
(picture courtesy of the Barn Owl Trust)
I slowed down and could make out the outline of a very large bird sat on a branch.  I wasn’t sure if it was an owl or an evejar but it seemed to be watching me make my way home.  That was the first encounter this year with an owl and it made an impression.  So much so that I searched the boughs at the edge of Creech Wood for the rest of the week.  I never saw the bird again. 
 
The next encounter came whilst I was in the Lake District this summer.  If you recall from my earlier blog about the Red Poppy cafe in Hawkshead you may remember that it also sold little trinkets.  It was here that I picked up a packet of paper handkerchiefs which were adorned with owls. 
These were for my daughter as she has asked me to buy some her some tissues.  Before I gave her the pack I took one out and placed it in my Zakka sew-along book with my little elephant book mark.  I didn’t think anything of it and don’t even know why I kept it – just because it looked pretty I guess.
The final encounter was in the supermarket three weeks ago doing my weekly shop.  I strolled down the greetings card aisle looking for a Thanksgiving Card (not a hope in England!).  A card caught my eye – two owls perched on a branch looking at one another. And then further along I spotted a little 2013 handbag diary decorated with owls. 
It was at that very moment that I remembered the owl tissue and then the bird on the bough of the tree.  I purchased the card and diary and knew instantly I would have to immortalise that dusk memory in a little mug rug. But where had I put the tissue with the owls on?  I searched high and low but couldn’t find it.  It wasn’t in the Zakka book with the elephant and it wasn’t in my idea’s folder.  The following day at work, my eyes were sore and I reached into my Brad Pitt attraction pouch (remember that?) and what should I find in amongst the breath mints and eye drops – yes, you guessed it – the little owl tissue.
So my latest pattern began as a brief encounter and resulted in a whimsical mug rug that is suitable for grown-ups and children alike.   I hope you like the end result as much as I do.
 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Across The Pond Sew Along - Week 2

I should entitle this post, week 2, 3 and 4 'coz I've finished the Anita Vacation bag.  I didn't mean to - it was just so easy.  The pattern looked quite long upon first glance but I soon realised that was due to the awesome tutorial style which in turn makes it a breeze to put together.  I sat down on Friday morning intending to cut out, do the base of the bag and the handles only.  Well, the cutting out took no time at all due to the clear instructions and the outside of the tote went together in minutes - including the pleat. 

I just kept on going and by lunch-time I was the proud owner of this beautiful tote bag - complete with inside zip pocket and inner divided pocket to take mobile phone, notepad and pens. 
I knew I was onto a winner with the handles - they were so easy to do yet look so professional.  Amy recommended a 'jeans' needle but I used an ordinary no. 12 machine needle - the one that was in my machine (I'm a lazy so-and-so).  It worked a treat.  Amy also recommended another two lines of stitching on the handles but I stuck with just three - the handles looked so good I was worried I might ruin them - can you believe that - me ruin something - NEVER (ahem!!).
This is only my third bag I've ever made and I think it is fair to say it is the only tote I will ever make again.  The simplicity of doing the bottom corners, the handles and the zip pocket made it so quick.  Even the side pleats matched up and I wasn't concentrating on those.  I took my bag out on Sunday, for coffee and cake, to celebrate and I received two comments on it in the coffee shop. 

So what can I say?  Across The Pond sew-along for the month of November - completed - in a morning.  I would like to say it was down to my incredible sewing skills ..... but I'd be lying.

I am devising the next pattern - a lovely placemat and napkin set.  The pattern will be ready for the 1st of December so you can make them in time for Christmas.  I am hoping it won't take anymore time to complete than Amy's wonderful pattern - but I can't guarantee it - I haven't made it yet.  This is just a little taster - it may end up in the placemat - it may not ..... as I say, I haven't made the pattern yet!
Sew can't stop and chat - got work to do.  

Friday, 16 November 2012

Strip Search

Sometimes I am not the brightest penny in the pot and it can take a little while for me to realise that something isn't quite right.  Such was my escapade this week it is a wonder I am not writing this behind bars.
What on earth has the Patchsmith been up to?  I hear you ask.  Well it started quite innocently with a quilt pattern - as most things do.  I patch and I applique and occasionally I undertake some English paper piecing but I had never attempted to paper piece a block where you sew onto paper.  Susie over at Susie's Sunroom is very good at paper piecing and I am mighty envious of her scarecrow.  With this in mind I set out this week to learn how to paper piece.  I had seen a star that was made up of strips of fabric that I liked instantly but unfortunately it was not in my favourites folder.  I remembered that I had saved it but I think I may have put it in the wrong folder.  Well rather than search through the endless folders and items on my computer I decided to do a google search - it would be quicker.
 
I selected Google images as I knew I would recognise the star instantly and I typed in 'strip star'.  Well you can only imagine what showed up on my computer screen.  I am looking and looking wondering why I have pictures of naked people, of boobies and bums and not a quilt block in sight.  I look back at my search box .... yes I had typed in the right thing 'strip star' yet not a patchwork anything (a few patches sure, on different bits and pieces, but nothing I could work with!!!).  Then the penny dropped (as we say here in England) and I roared with laughter.  What a klutz - and it had taken me several minutes to even realise.   
 
I was just about to clear the screen when an image caught my eye.  It was Brad Pitt - on the set of Troy - and he was naked - all except for a fig leaf covering his dignity.  Now have I told you that I have trigger finger - yes, 'tis true - it is a real medical term.  Sometimes my fingers click automatically, they lock, and I struggle to get them undone.  Well you will not believe it (neither will the judge I am sure) but just as I was about to clear the screen my fingers triggered onto the mouse and clicked onto the Brad Pitt picture.

Oh my!!  Yes, Brad was still wearing a fig leaf but I had the option to remove the fig leaf with one small, little click of the mouse.  Did I?  Didn't I?   Mmmmm, what do you think?  

Of course, I daren't say.  And I would love to share the links - you all know how very generous I am but unfortunately I don't think it is legal.  

As for my strip star - it is actually called a string star - but don't type that in Google images either - for stars wear strings - apparently.  If you do a 'strip' or 'string' search make sure you use the words 'patchwork block' somewhere on the search line.
I did make a block - it wasn't a string star block though that looks easier than the one I attempted.  I attempted the evening star (turorial here) I found it quite easy to sew the individual star points but putting it together was really tricky and fiddly and I didn't like it at all.  I couldn't match the points.  I haven't ruled out paper piecing - just not a strip star!!!

Ooh, gotta sign off now - the warden is on his way up - something about Prisoner No. 10 (of course!) stripping!   Sew until  later .......

Friday, 9 November 2012

Across the Pond Sew Along - Week 1

The Patchsmith has joined with Susie (Susies Sunroom) and Amy (Amy made That) to create a new sew-along group.  Amy and I met whilst undertaking the projects from the Zakka sew-along.  Sadly the sew-along ended in September as we had worked our way through the book of patterns.  However, all is not lost – the Across The Pond sew-along group is now live.  I will be posting throughout the month concerning my progress as I work through the patterns to each month.  So why not join me as I begin a new journey along the fun, fabric and friends trail.
Each month we will be working our way through a different pattern.  Some will be our own designs and some will be patterns created by others.  Some patterns will be free and some will be purchased.  There are so many awesome patterns around that it seems right to include a mixture.  For our inaugural month we are starting out with the Anita Vacation Tote.  This pattern, designed by Amy, is available to purchase here.  To call this pattern a tote doesn’t do it justice.  It is so much more than that.  Amy’s pattern is a tutorial style pattern which will take you through the stages of installing a zip, making strong handles and adding a snap fastener.  So let’s not sit around chatting – let’s get sewing.
Week 1 – Choosing Fabric.
The first section of this tutorial pattern gives pointers and hints for selecting fabrics for this project.  Amy has a knack for picking gorgeous fabrics for her projects. Her style is eclectic – from modern to floral, brights to pastels.  If you want to see what I mean then check out her Flickr group of projects.  I, on the other hand, have a modern country style which leans towards the checks, ginghams, small ditzy prints.  I love the modern ‘Bonnie-and-Camille’ fabrics and I do use them but there is always a little bit of gingham somewhere in my work. 

As this is the first project in our sew-along and it is Amy’s pattern (no pressure then!!!) I set out to the fabric shop with an open mind. 

My first fabric, a gorgeous cappuccino heart print (did I mention I love hearts?) was an easy pick – it jumped out at me literally as I was trying to get another fabric.  It was love at first sight and I have so much planned for this fabric that I am hoping there will be enough scraps for a mug rug (I am such a tease - J).  The fabric also contains blue, red and green so there was lots of scope for blenders.  I purchased half a yard. 
Already at this stage I am wondering if I am not just a little too country so next I chose a Moda bright contrast which is not at all country but just seemed to go (well to me it does).  I purchased a skinny quarter (a quarter of a yard across the width of fabric).   
My third fabric, another ½ yard is called Old Primrose Inn by Blackbird Designs for Moda.  This one is definitely my style – a small ditzy star shaped print. 
And finally I purchased a skinny quarter of a Japanese print produced by Junko Matsuda – flowers, flowers everywhere – just love it.
So there you have it – four fabrics. The two long skinny quarters are going to make up the handles, pleat and accent band and the two half yards will make up the exterior bottom and the pocket strip. I already have a 6" zip so I just need half yard for the lining, a magnetic snap and one-and-half yards of fusible fleece.

 

I have never used fusible fleece before – I have used medium weight fusible interfacing for the two bags that I have previously made and it has always worked pretty well. Yes, ‘tis true – I am a total bag novice – I have only made two bags EVER! I made a messenger bag during the Zakka sew-along and a button tote from Everyday Handmade.

         
Amy’s pattern states fusible fleece so that is what I am going to use – I love trying new things – growing and learning. Amy recommends Pellon 987F fusible fleece. An equivalent weight/loft is Vilene H630 fusible fleece or Vilene Low Loft Fleece. The Cotton Patch has a good chart showing the difference types of fusibles – check it out here.



So I’m off to pick up the final bits and bobs and will be making a start on the construction. If you are following along with me then I am hoping to complete the exterior and the handles this coming week. Why not post a comment and let me know how you are getting on. Plus, post pictures of your progress along the way in the Across The Pond Flickr group – we would love to hear from you. Trust me – there will be giggles and mishaps along the way – it is in my nature as you will know only too well if you were on the Zakka trail with me.


Sew until next Friday .......

 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Remembrance Day

Here is something you didn’t know about the Patchsmith – I have a hero for a son.  Yes, I know, all mothers say such things but I truly do.  You see my son is in the Armed Forces and has spent many years, at home and abroad, in war and in peace, in the bomb disposal unit – so you see it is true – I do have a hero for a son.
Whilst he is on duty I don’t listen to the news or the radio – I don’t want to hear about a soldier, sailor or pilot killed somewhere far from home because it makes my heart lurch.  Instead I focus on my everyday life and remember how lucky I am to have the freedom and lifestyle I have because of heroes across the world and across the generations.
So on Remembrance Day at 11.00 a.m. I will stop what I am doing and observe a minute’s silence and quietly give thanks for all the sons and husbands, wives and mothers, grandfathers and fathers that have risked their lives so that I can have the life I have today.

In Britain we have a Poppy Appeal – it commemorates all those who have been killed or injured in the line of duty.  How do we do this?  We buy a paper poppy from the soldier at the supermarket or the sailor outside the Post Office.  This year, and every year hereafter, the Patchsmith will support the Poppy Appeal through her Flower Patch Mug Rug.   Using this pattern I have created a poppy version which I will keep specifically for my morning tea on Remembrance Sunday.  And for every Flower Patch pattern sold throughout the month of November I will make a donation to the Poppy Appeal to support all our heroes wherever they may be.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

What is a Mug Rug

What is a mug rug?
This question may seem obvious if you live in the USA but here in England mug rugs are relatively unheard of.  Ask an English person what a mug rug is and they will most probably say it is a coaster.  Yet a mug rug differs fundamentally from a coaster.   A coaster seats a cup and nothing more whereas a mug rug usually accommodates a mug and a cake or cookies.  A mug rug is a mini quilt varying in size from 4” x 7” to as large as 12” x 8”.  As such a quilter can fit more detail onto a mug rug and have more fun creating them.

What are mug rugs used for?
I can hear you all shouting ‘MUGS’ at your computer screens – the answer seems obvious doesn’t it?  But mugs rugs can be used for many more things than just mugs and cookies.  They can be used to protect your table or furniture against plant pots, serving bowls, condiments and much more.  A pretty mug rug added to a dressing table is the perfect place for your perfume bottles or brush and comb set.  They can adorn coffee tables, desks and worktables.  They look good on the breakfast table holding the marmalade and honey pots or on the hall console table as the resting place for the car keys.  Children may like one on their bedside table to hold their supper drink.  Indeed, every room in the house can find a space for these functional little quilts.
Why make a mug rug?
Firstly – frugality.  A mug rug is a great way to use your scraps – and a quilter always has scraps!  Due to their size mug rugs use only small pieces of fabric.  For example the largest piece of fabric used on the Blackbirds mug rug (aside from the backing) measures only 6½” x 3½”.   Thus you can make a gift or decorative item for little or no cost.
This version of the Skinny Latte mug rug even uses the ends of fabric, the selvedges (selvages) which we normally throw away - you can't get more frugal than that.


Secondly – preparedness.  Every quilter loves to play with patterns and colours – a mug rug is the perfect thing to test out fabrics you are thinking of using in a larger item. 
Thirdly – skill building.  You can try new techniques without wasting too much fabric or time. The Tea and Cake mug rug allows you to practise your free-style quilting without any danger of ruining the mug rug. 
The Scottie Dog mug rug allows you to practise matching your seams but if they don’t match it will not ruin the look of the mug rug. 
The Pumpkin Patch mug rug introduces quick corner patchwork and the House and Home mug rug uses strip patchwork to create a patchwork block.  All of these items will not take very long to make thus giving you the perfect chance to practise these techniques.
 
Fourthly – gift giving.  Mug rugs make perfect gifts and, due to their size, you will not be imposing your style and tastes upon another person as you would with a larger handmade item.   The recipient will not feel burdened at all by the effort and time you have expended, although expect them to think you have spent far more time than you actually have.  You can roll a mug rug up into a mug and hey-presto – a unique and perfect gift.  Add a plant and you have a great mother’s day gift.  They are also light to send through the postal system either within your country or abroad. 

Fifthly – versatility.  Mug rugs are so versatile as they can be used for many things as mentioned at the beginning – why not brighten up the dinner table by placing the salt and sauce bottles on a mug rug.  You can add a border to a mug rug and turn it into a placemat.  As gifts they can serve as:

a ‘thank-you’ to a teacher, friend, nurse or workmate (Tea and Cake fits the bill),

a hostess gift (Heart Bouquet is perfect here),
a ‘new neighbour’ welcome gift (choose the House and Home mug rug),

a unique gift for a friend or relative who lives far away (how about ScottieDogs?),

a ‘thinking of you’ gift for somebody in hospital or a care home (the Blackbirds mug rug will be sure to brighten any bedside),

a baby shower gift (the Red Elephants mug rug works well here),

an impromptu gift for when you receive that unexpected Christmas present - I will make a couple of Christmas Tree mug rugs and a couple of Christmas Penguin mug rugs to keep under the tree, wrapped and ready for just such an occasion,
  
Birthday, Mother's Day, thank-you, congratulations - in fact, I don't think there is an occasion that isn't suited to the Flower Patch mug rug.
Although for Mother's Day, the Mum mug rug is a very good alternative.
Indeed – anybody, anywhere will be so impressed by your skill and effort that a mug rug is always a welcomed pressie.

Finally, a mug rug is a great way to create a unique and personal home that reflects your styles and tastes.  I like to bring the seasons into my home and therefore, I am creating  mug rugs to suit every occasion and every season.  I change them regularly and am always making new ones. 
The Thanksgiving Turkey mug rug will house the pickles on the buffet table this Christmas (a turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving). 
The Honey Bee mug rug is perfect on the breakfast table. I also like to have a home-made mug rug on my office desk – it reminds me of my love of sewing and makes home seem a little closer. 

So why not start using some of those fabric scraps today and create a gift for yourself or others with a Patchsmith mug rug pattern.  Whichever pattern you choose, the easy-to-follow colour diagrams and full-size appliqué sheets will ensure you create a little bit of fabric heaven that is unique to you.

Sew until next time  .....