October 8, 2014

Still waiting

Exactly this. Every day. Baby missed her due date four days ago. I am vaguely aware of an Elton John song swimming around my head on repeat as I mumble I'm still standing... yeah, yeah, yeah. (That's exactly how the rest of every conversation goes too - yeah, the baby is still not here. Yeah, I'm sure everything is okay. Yeah, she will be here soon.)

Except, I'm not standing. I'm in bed, under the duvet, with a cup of coffee. Everything has slo-o-o-o-o-o-owed down considerably. Elton would understand.

I'll keep you posted ;)

October 3, 2014

Quick and easy baby blanket

Oh em gee.


This fabric is the most super-huggable, must-havable, soft-as-anything stuff. Here in the UK it's called dimple cuddle plush, but it seems that almost everywhere else it is called minky. Soft like mink? Not sure. But. Seriously. Once I felt it, I really wanted to replace all of my bedding with yards and yards of it. I wanted to wrap up in it like a giant fabric burrito and hide away from the world. If it was socially acceptable, I'd replace my entire wardrobe with cuddle plush dresses. Seriously.


Okay okay. So, I bought some. Just a wee bit -- a mere 75x100cm. It was destined to be a baby blanket. But, silly me, when buying it from Plush Addict online, I didn't notice that it was single sided. The back wasn't soft at all. I was gutted. My plans for the quickest and easiest baby blanket ever (fold over edges, stitch down and DONE) were foiled. I had to add a backing fabric. Still, it could be worse eh?


I cut the backing about two inches larger all round, got out my sewing machine's walking foot, and quilted the two layers together using really simple diagonal lines. I didn't measure - I just counted every ten dots and stitched a diagonal line down. It's really easy to get the lines nice and straight when the fabric has a consistent pattern. Then, I cut the lining down to an inch larger all round and folded each edge over in half, pressing as I went along.


Fold it over one more time and stitch down - and you're done. You have a perfectly bound-from-the-back baby blanket that's done in twenty minutes or less. Ta da! I feel very proud of myself. Like a minky-wrapped Cheshire Cat.


If, like me, you prefer a neatly folded mitred corner on your quilts, that's easy too. When you get to a corner, unfold the next side's edges and neatly fold the corner fabric back on itself to make a triangle corner, lining the edge of the fold up with the edge of the front fabric. You might need to look at the picture for that to make sense. 


Then fold the unfolded-side's binding in half, and back over the front as usual.

The cuddle plush fabric is in the tiffany blue colourway. I bought it partially because I love that soft aqua colour, and partially because of the name. I know, it's like judging a book by its cover. Shocking. The backing fabric I chose is navy blue scattered with white, burgundy, blue and pink flowers (from Stitch). If the cuddle plush wasn't so expensive, I'd make a guilt-free adult-sized version for my bed - can you imagine the softness in winter?!

September 26, 2014

Let them eat cake

Massive, massive thanks to my amazing friend Stephanie who organised our baby shower a few weeks ago. We were thoroughly spoilt. There were balloons and bunting, decorations and cakes, giant sandwiches and baby games, presents and laughter.


We invited friends and partners - daddy wanted to be involved too - and had an absolute blast. In fact, we carried on with the festivities long after everyone had left (this happens when you have a baby shower in a London pub eh). We also bumped into some friends on the way home and had a second impromptu party after the first. When life gives you lemons...


Look at that cake. I think you need a close-up.


Vanilla sponge with strawberries, cream and meringues, topped with burnt sugar. I was tempted not to share.


We played pin the dummy on the baby. I didn't win, but at least my friend Danielle - mum of two - showed us that it is possible to give baby a dummy while blindfolded and disoriented. There's hope for us newbies yet. 


We were presented with another cake to take home: vanilla sponge with cream and raspberry jam. Very fitting for a little baby girl with all of those ribbons and hearts and teeny tiny fondant baby booties. 


We guessed the presents. This one, daddy says, is a cricket bat. He is optimistic. 


It was in fact a GroEgg, which is a brilliant room thermometer nightlight whatsit that lights up according to the temperature of the room it's in. We've had it on since we received it (about two weeks ago) and have been constantly worried that our room is orange, "a little warm" for baby - averaging 22'C. Isn't this supposed to be England, the land of the cold and rainy?! 

Incidentally, it is exactly what he wanted and was as thrilled as he would have been if it was in fact a cricket bat. We also got an attachment that goes on top and turns the basic egg shape into a lazy sleeping owl that lights up. As you do. We also received selection of beautiful books, a handmade baby quilt for the car, lots of gorgeous teeny tiny clothes (how does a person fit into them?!) and some other baby essentials. Thank goodness we had the car with us - we had lots of things to take home!


Other party games involved sniffing nappies to determine the ingredients of popular baby food purees. Can you tell I'm very wary about this?


I don't know what was so funny, but it had something to do with tuna flavoured baby food. Gross. 


And my one contribution to the whole event: I made everyone a box of cupcakes to take home. Two chocolate and two vanilla cupcakes iced like hydrangeas and roses. I particularly loved the two-tone hydrangea piping which I blatantly copied from this blog post (at Glorious Treats). Yum. 

I'm so glad we decided to go ahead with this; we very nearly didn't do anything to celebrate! So now we have all the gadgets and goodies, and plenty of little baby hats and whatnots; we just need to add one baby. Tick tock! 

September 22, 2014

Boxy Pouch


Easiest. Box. Pouch. Ever.


I made these teeny box pouches a few weeks ago using this tutorial from experimentalk Easy peasy. I used up a few leftover pieces of fabric, quilted them directly onto some batting using the quilt-as-you-go method, and then added a bit of lining fabric afterwards that matched the size (about 8 inches by 12 inches each). 

The resultant pouch is quite small, but is ideal for all the bits and pieces that are jiggling about loose in the bottom of your bag. Each pouch here fits in a large wad of cotton wool pads and a tube of baby bum cream. You could make the boxed corners flatter and make a cellphone pouch, or a pencil case, or a coin purse...

No separate lining required? My kind of quick project! I overlocked the edges together, and zip zip zipped along the edges to make a boxy pouch about two inches tall. I also used fray-stoppa on the exposed overlocked edges on the inside to stop any unravelling, but really, you hardly even see the stitching and it saves about twenty minutes of fussing with a lining and turning inside out and pressing and whatnot so I'm rather pleased with that. 


A ribbon pull makes these easy to open and close. Also, ribbons. They're great. 


They're a very cheerful addition to my bag. I had initially thought I'd make up a whole lot of these with my fabric strip scraps from the cotton patch at the quilt festival, but these days I'm doing more sleeping-and-waiting-for-baby than sewing. Any day now...!

September 15, 2014

Advent Calendar - Finished!

I haven't disappeared, I promise. I started maternity leave, which means that much of my time these days involves no computers (fantastic) and lots of sleeping (equally good).

And occasionally, some sewing.


Yay, finished! Pockets pressed, stitched, backed and filled. We can now have Christmas in September. Tempting though it is, we'll put a hold on the turkey for now. Baby is due any day now and we've been more focused on hospital bags than twinkling lights.


I just happened to have some small chocolates - as you do. Perfect size for advent calendar pockets. And for midnight snacks.


The larger pockets fit in quite a bit - I'd imagine you could fill these pockets with small toys or lots of coins. 


The colours are really cheerful! I'm tempted to leave it up instead of folding it away for the festive season. There's just no space. Baby stuff takes up all the space! There are blankets, onesies, toys, gadgets and gizmos, muslin squares, talcum powders, and lots of pink things everywhere. 


This is the back - I really love those penguins. They remind me of how I feel these days. Waddle waddle. 


I can identify with that. Yawn. Impromptu mobile phone photo on the way out to lunch this weekend, as you do. 

August 19, 2014

Christmas in August

It's not as bad as Christmas in July. Really, it's almost September. Soon, there will be Christmas carols playing in all the stores, and decorations adorning the High Street.

I know. What is this crazy lady thinking?


It's not a rational thought. I'm counting down the days/weeks until Baby Arrives and suddenly there aren't very many left. While I still have 6 weeks to go, we've been told to be prepared for anything from 2 - 6 weeks. You know, just in case she comes early. There's not a lot of time left to prepare anything. We have a cot. We have a moses basket. She has clothes. We're fine. (And, repeat).

And then, in all the excitement of taking it slowly and trying to finish off work so I can go on maternity leave and well, there isn't really time for an afternoon nap, is there? I happened upon the new Makower advent panels for this year. You get one panel of pre-printed advent calendar, and one panel of pre-printed advent calendar pockets. You cut out the pockets and assemble on top of the calendar, and done! Family tradition, and a sewing win.


They're not as Chrismassy as they have been in the past, and I love the colours. Like, really love. Greens and reds and oranges and teals. 


And so, because I've been completely rational about the whole process, I bought two panels. One for our family, and one for my brother and sister in South Africa. Because really, there's loads of time to cut out individual pockets, press, top stitch, attach, add batting and press some more. 

And, really, a tiny two-month-old baby needs an advent panel for her first Christmas. 


I know. It's all a bit nuts. Still, it looks rather lovely once (partially) assembled. I'll show you once they're done. All the pockets have been cut, pressed, top stitched, and attached. That was the biggest job. Now, all I need to do is add backing, wadding, hanging loops and voila! we're ready for Christmas. Sort of. We just have to get through the baby bit first. 


This is the fabric (from Stitch) I chose to use for the backing - purely on the fact that I had to have those penguins. Aw. 

August 8, 2014

QAYG, and, on being pregnant.

Remember these? 

They became these:


Ta da! They're really bright and cheerful. The back is plain linen, so when it all gets a bit much, you can just turn them around. Ahem. There are still two more waiting to be assembled but that piping is a pain! I was so enthusiastic about it and now I'm at the point where I find myself regularly asking out loud, nobody will really notice if half the cushions don't have piping, will they? Why are you laughing at me? Slow and steady. I'll get there, eventually.

Sewing and craft progress has been s-l-o-w. I have been napping instead, or catching up on the Food Network channel. Did you also start watching The Great British Bake Off this week? Best. TV. Show. Ever.


We also finally got the Animal Alphabet quilt up on the wall, yay! We're not allowed to put hooks/nails in the walls, so we've used a very brilliant no-more-nails solution which involves something very sticky and a bit of balancing on one leg while pressing the sticky-whatsits against the wall. 

I supervised. 

Baby has been very spoilt these past few weeks.


This Grace rag dolly came all the way from Aunty Anne in South Africa! Here she is relaxing in the moses basket, in her Liberty frock - as you do. She made the long journey north accompanied by some very beautiful things. Not even here yet, and this baby is going to have expensive taste. 


This knitted cotton blanket is also from Aunty Anne, from Rabbit & Wood in Newlands, Cape Town. There's no place like home, there's no place like home. Aren't the little motifs fun? I like the ladybird best. 


Not to be outdone, this little elly-phant came all the way from Solvang, in the USA! A present from Aunty Andrea. I know, we're getting closer and closer - and suddenly it's all very real indeed. There are comforters and blankies and onesies and moses baskets, and sheets that need washing. 


This is what I look like these days (wait, before we go, take a photo! Yes, on the phone. I'm sending it to my mom. The conversation resulted in the first usable pic of pregnant tum.). My tummy is big and round, and sticks out in front me like a watermelon. I'm tired a lot. The nausea has more-or-less passed, although there are occasional reminders of the past seven months that make me very grateful for these days of food freedom. Baby is very active and especially likes to kick and punch when I'm trying to sleep at night. An acrobat, we speculate. Or a synchronised swimmer.

I've been banned from driving because the steering wheel doesn't turn very easily (I may be right up against it, but I'm not telling) so things have really slowed down here - which is great. Work seems to be very busy but that's going to be winding down in the next couple of weeks as well. Overall, my phrase for the past few weeks has been: "afternoon nap." It could also be "waddle." Or "knackered." Or "I really feel like strawberry frozen yoghurt, dear."

July 21, 2014

QAYG: a sneak peek

I know. Like I didn't have enough projects on the go.


I took a break from weaving threads in on my animal alphabet quilt. Next time, I'll get rid of the ends as I quilt. I've learnt that lesson the hard way after two hours of sewing in ends and counting! I'm almost done on the back, and still need to flip over to the front. Breathe.

I wanted something quick, fun and colourful. A zippy pouch? Maybe. I cut out some wadding and started piecing together strips of fabric, randomly choosing colours as I went.

Quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) sewing is great. You start off with one piece, and quilt it directly on to the wadding. Then, add a strip on one side, sewing it face down with a small seam allowance, and flipping it back to the right side. Quilt on top. Repeat. Grow a giant pile of quilted panels.


My little panels grew. And grew. I used up a lot of scrap strips of fabric I bought from the Quilt Festival last year, and added some blocks of my favourite fabrics.


Like these newsprint penguins (Nancy Wolff for Kokka). Some of them wear hats, some of them have bowties, some of them have briefcases. And that green. 


Also, my precious glitter elephants and camels (also Kokka). That camel has two humps. It makes me smile every time I look at this panel. There are apples, mandala flowers and glitter roses. Kitsch overload.

That's when I realised that these couldn't be zippy pouches. Oh no. They had to be cushion covers. And they had to live in our lounge, replacing our muted, purple cushions that currently adorn our cream-coloured chairs. I want to look at these bright colours and happy fabrics EVERY SINGLE DAY.


There are chickens, cows, penguins, bugs and butterflies. There are camels, elephants, swirls, dots and honeycomb patterns. All in tiny strips of fabric, in alternating colour tones. Yellows, reds, pinks, greens, blues, black and oranges. 

I'm not sure where this colour overload has come from, but it is fun and oh so happy


I'm going to make the back panels (unquilted) out of plain linen to calm things down a bit, and I made miles and miles of lilac binding which I'll use to make piping. Ambitiously. I had about a metre of the lilac fabric leftover from sewing a cot skirt - I'll share pictures soon, when I've cleared off all of the things stored on top of the cot and made it look a bit neater. 

Crafting seems to be going really slowly around here. I'm not sure whether it's the being-pregnant, the piling-up of work, or the London heatwave - or perhaps a combination of all of these? My goal for this week is to cut out the backing fabric for the cushions and assemble the piping. Small milestones seem so much more achievable. Hopefully, by this weekend, I'll have a finished cushion or three to share with you.

Incidentally, I've also started sewing a dress and - can you believe it - I bought some more fabric to make a second weekender bag. Small milestones eh?

July 10, 2014

Animal Alphabet Quilt, Again

I hadn't forgotten about the Animal Alphabet Quilt. I was just taking a little break while I finished up the Amy Butler Weekender Travel Bag. You know, to keep things interesting. Also, this quilt is a lot of work. Sometimes you just need to put it away for a bit.


I pieced the back using three animal fabrics - turquoise zebras, lime green cows and blue-green chickens. As you do. I laugh every time I see those chickens. Each one is decorated with a pattern (floral, gingham, dots) and there are flowers and teapots in between them.


The pattern calls for a spiral echo quilting fill which is a really tight quilting pattern. I was really reluctant to do it ... I've never quilted anything this big before, I've never attempted the spiral echo pattern before, and I rather liked the way the quilt looks with all the spaces between the animals. 

But. 

I decided to do what the pattern says. 

I got this far, I could take another risk.


It took ages. Ages. Casualties: one tea cup that got knocked off the table while quilting. Also, sore arms, maneuvering the quilt sandwich on a small table. I've now nicknamed my sewing machine the little engine that could. It just chugged along quite happily with only a few minor speed bumps (usually tension related). 


And then

I'd wolf-whistle at this quilt if you could hear it. 


I am so happy with the quilting. It's not perfect, but I love it. 


My absolute favourite part of the whole process? Trimming it down to the right size and getting rid of the messy excess. It actually looks like a quilt now, even though it isn't finished. 


Gratuitous close-up. I still need to weave in all the ends (there are lots, but not nearly as many as when doing the applique stage!), make the bias binding, make a hanging sleeve, attach the binding and lo! done. It might take a while, but that's okay. It looks like a quilt. I feel successful. 


Here are those chickens. Chuckle.