Friday, 11 May 2018

Belfast Bulletin - Hot off the presses

The Belfast Bulletin has had its official reveal. It went on a little trip last week to have its photo shoot, before it goes on its long trip for handover.

For those who are unaware, and how could you be? This has been a major part of my life, both in the real world and in the blogging world for quite a few months. My son is getting married. I can't say my second son, my sons are twins. To say second son would open up a whole new seam in the mine of family relationships. However, this son is the second son to marry, and of course the proud mama wants to make a wedding quilt. I suggested the Postcards from Sweden quilt but although they both loved it, they thought something, well, a little quieter. My son was always quiet plain colours, there wouldn't really be any great change now I suppose. Anyhow, I spotted a quilt design Sarah Goer made for Mary Ringer and thought this would be perfect, if made a little bigger. The design was approved and it was full steam ahead.

The name Belfast Bulletin came about as I like to name my quilts. I renamed Postcard from Sweden as Writing from Whitehead, a local seaside town which has a promenade of bright houses. I wanted to keep within the writing theme, so Belfast Bulletin was born. I actually thought Bulletin from Belfast, but my daughter thought it laid to much emphasis on the word "bullet". Fair enough. We do live in Belfast. (Apologies if you have read all this so many times before)

My new daughter in law is American. And like many Americans, her roots are in Ireland. Remarkably her roots are from a small town not more than 20 miles from where we live. We can join the motorway half a mile from our house, I can hear it as I type. Drive straight turning neither left nor right and you end up in Randalstown. Remarkable. So where better to take this quilt for its quilts in the wild photo shoot?
this photo made me think of our own dear queen, at a unveiling.
I now declare this quilt open! waves *  at the crowd.

The sun was shining when we left the house. The sun was shining when we returned home, but it was rather overcast in Randalstown, no reflection on the town or the folk who live there! The photos are rather darker than I hoped, but that's what happens when you photo quilts in the wild!

Randallstown is a town which really grew up around a castle, and the ancient family who lived there, Shane's Castle and the O'Neill family. The O'Neill's were one of the old clans of  Ireland. You can't move in N Ireland for O'Neills and the O'Neill family still live there.
The town was a mill town, there was a cotton mill there, I used to buy fabric remnants there when I used to quilt first. The mill closed down in the 1980s. Don't tell but I bought a pair of shorts for 50p there and I am still wear them. Can't be bad to that.!
From the viaduct there is a lovely outlook across the river towards the mill and the mill chimney. We took a few photos there. It got a bit surreal. We were taking photos of the quilt on the viaduct. On the river bed below we could see a man taking photos of us taking photos! It wasn't creepy just funny.
I would have like to walk down to the bridge and take photos there, but the pavement is rather narrow and there was a surprising amount of traffic for a Sunday afternoon.
When you look at this photo of the viaduct, you can see why we didn't drape the quilt over the top too much!

We then walked back along the viaduct towards Shane's Castle entrance, and tried to take some photos with the castle gates in the backdrop. There was a car parked there and the driver was watching us intently. Again not creepy, just funny.

Next up we found this fantastic roller, which is repurposed as public art from the old mill. It is just at the entrance to the town, opposite the castle. And guess what? The paint just matched the backing of our quilt! Serendipity or what. This was in a little grassed and gated off area. We headed in and started taking our photos. And guess what? We got an audience. A guy came through the gate. I thought he was going to offer to help, to hold the quilt, take the photo. But no. He stood alongside us watching us out of the corner of his eye then left as quietly as he had arrived. Again not creepy, just funny.

It was lovely taking photos in Randalstown, and being the talk of the town. I would have like to have headed towards the shore, Randallstown is on the shores of Lough Neagh, N Ireland's biggest inland water. That big grey cloud was getting nearer, and I had a feeling dinner might be ready. We went home and guess what, the sun was out.
I am pretty sure my daughter in law will like her quilt. She has been following the progress on instagram. I look forward to delivering it soon in person. And I feel a forthcoming blog post on both my wedding quilts. I will of course not have an actual favourite, I love them both equally. 
Helen x

Monday, 7 May 2018

The Message Is On The Back of the Postcard

The purpose of a postcard? To send a pretty picture of somewhere you are? To send a message on the back from somewhere you are? Or a combination of both? Remember those days when you felt forced to send postcards? To your parents, to your granny, to your friends, to work. Offence might be taken if you didn't. "What happened to my postcard?"  I was asked one more than one occasion. Once by work, they liked to put them up on the noticeboard, it became accepted I, my pen, my postcard and my stamp were never in the same place at the same time. The second time was by a dear relative (?) who never went anywhere herself, but liked to get the postcard, and also a present. Funny the things that come into your head when piecing a backing.

With all this in mind, I couldn't possibly put just anything on the back of my Postcard from Sweden quilt, aka, my Writing from Whitehead. It had to be a clear thought out message. I looked for quite a while for the perfect backing fabric. I spotted this on Craftsy and new it would be perfect. Even better it was on sale, though of course the shipping costs practically outweigh the savings. Never mind, it was exactly what I wanted. It is Tula Pink Arrowhead fabric.


The little egg timers remind me of penants, or flags that swing from the stringy things on the sides of boats. Those who are of the sailing and boating fraternity probably know the terminology. I have been to the Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth a couple of times and it reminded me of there. Ensigns - isn't that the word I am looking for? You know, you want to send Nelson a message, so you run a flag or two up the flag pole.

I bought enough fabric to back the quilt completely if I joined two widths. The more I looked at it I didn't wan to do that. Sometimes one fabric backing is right, but mostly I prefer pieced backing. If it is just any old stuff you hanging around, then yes, it looks make do and mend and a bit tight fisted. But the backing should be a thing of beauty in itself I believe, and this time I think I have nailed it.

I was about 7" short of the width. All the offcuts were gathered and waiting for use. So why not? I made a long strip of squares and rectangles, abour 4" or so wide, just random placement,. Next up I made a long narrow strip of mostly purple with other colours interspersed. Ironically this is the only fabric that isn't cotton, it is a poly cotton I think. I don't know how this snuck in. I had all my fabrics labelled and the purples were all present and correct. Just a spare I think. Anyhow, it works in the backing. Next up was another long strip of random colours again.

I love how this looks, I like to think it has some sort of semaphore code. It reminded me of Girl Guides, with my friend Liz. We were frantically waving flags across a field, trying desperately and failing to send semaphore messages. Rather like in Swallows and Amazon, by Arthur Ransom, incidentally a favourite book of ours. My father loved it, I loved and my sons, and also my niece.

I'm a bit short to hold all this up! I am going to rig some wire across my fence I have decided.
I am reusing the photo from the last posting , I think the fabrics are so cool together. Unfortunately   Felix the hare has had a mishap, a big gust of wind blew him over and broke off his ears. I am going to knit him a hat. As soon as I have time that is.               

The next week or two are particularly busy for us, not much sewing time lined up. I am hopeful though of basting and quilting by month end. If I do, I will put the flags out. Maybe even let you know by semaphore. And then it will be off to Whitehead for the photoshoot! A wee day out, to the vintage tea rooms, the steam train and the wool shop! What more could a girl want.
One last photo to share with you. When I was taking the garden photos, our magnolia stellate was throwing out the most glorious perfume. Spring has finally sprung.

Helen x
linking up with Beth and Cooking Up Quilts
linking up with Lorna Sew Fresh

Friday, 4 May 2018

Monet and Me

I like Art. Who doesn't? I love going around art galleries on holidays and viewing the famous artist of the cities we are in. Of course that means I am always skimming the surface of the art world, Malaga is Picasso, Vienna is Klimt and France is Monet. In fact everywhere is Monet. I have seen Monet exhibitions in Paris, New York and London. I was such a lightweight, I thought artists painted one painting. I knew they did lots of sketches and scribbles on the back of an envelope, but I was surprised to find they actually did lots of variations of the one painting. I mean, there are dozens of Monet's Waterlilies. Not just the really famous one, and there is a little known early version hanging in my spare bedroom. This is a little known version. At this stage in his life Monet was playing about with fabric paints and salt and machine embroidery.

Excuse the rather bad photo. The quilt holder upper has been unwell, and I didn't want to disturb him. So, I climbed on a chair, then climbed on my daughter's school desk to lift down the picture to photo. No, this did not end well. Apparently part of rest and recuperation does not include running down the hall on hearing a crash bang wallop. I survived, the chair survived, the desk mostly survived minus one shelf it didn't really need anyway.

And the reason for all this destruction? I wanted to take a photo. Well, yes. I was knitting and joining in with the Impressionist mystery knit a long shawl by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade.

Your colour choices could be inspired by your favourite impressionist painting. These were my first colour choices.  None of these were from stash, I went to a local yarn shop to buy them.

Then I pondered this and decided the green was too similar to my #what the fade shawl.

The fleck was very similar too. There was a real purple shimmer from this fleck though, so I thought I would go with the purple  tones. I had a mid purple bought from Sylvantiger yarns as part of the flower power fund for Marie Curie. I dithered as to whether or not the purples were too close in tone but went with them. I was glad I did, but more about that later.

It is only since knitting the shawl I noticed how the purple shades are all similar in the garden and they blend together ok!

The shawl was released over 4 clues, and clue 2 was well underway by the time I joined in.

 I knitted like a knitting frenzy and actually finished all 4 clues on schedule. It ended up with a mahoosive 584 stitches so there was a lot of knitting. There was however no brioche so it went fairly quickly.

I loved knitting this. I loved the loose knit of the 4 ply yarn on a double knitting needle. I loved the texture of the garter stitch and the leaf motif counterbalanced with the more delicate lace sections. I still felt the purples were too similar as I knitted, but now it is finished I am happy. I can actually see myself knitting this again. I fancy it in blues sometime.

The ends are all sewn in but I still have to block this. I wouldn't bother, except I think the edge border tension would be improved after blocking. Aren't I the proper knitter now! When it is blocked and dried I will post another photo.

And there was one last great thing about this shawl.  I entered it into the Flower Power Fund spring knit a long, and I won! I won a skein of Norah George sock yarn and a fantastic project bag by Sussexyorkie. Didn't I say last post I needed more project bags. I will let you see these when they arrive.

And last week, I won a skein of my choice from Ellie from crafthousemagic for knitting her valentine's socks. I must say, the gingerbread and green tea was lovely,  I must buy some.

Helen x

Monday, 30 April 2018

Between the White Rabbits and the Squirrels

The thing about crafting, and I use the word crafting rather than quilting, is that is a conundrum . No sooner have you finished something than up leaps a new challenge a new project. It is rather like the blue bloods who believe that when you marry the mistress, it creates a new job vacancy.

I have never been a mistress, except a mistress of my own disasters (destiny), nor am I likely at this stage to become a mistress. I do however have a brain that seems to be constantly ticking over. I had never heard of the phrase "squirrel moment" until Sandra explained it to me, but it sums it up rather well.

Last weekend my sister brought me a unexpected present. A vase, vase or vase. That's what she thought she brought me, but she really brought me a squirrel. Or to be more exact, a white rabbit.

What do you see when you look at this vase?

To be honest, my husband saw tat. My sister joked that he would hate it, he smiled or grimaced politely. I saw a rabbit, a white rabbit. You see, I have a little stash of Alice in Wonderland fabric I bought last year, in a squirrel moment of all its own.

The tower of teacups made me think of the Mad Hatter's tea party.

                                         oops, upside down, pretend it's down the rabbit hole
Just recently I have seen a few project bags made from this fabric. I kind of feel I need a break from quilt making for a few weeks, but project bags, now that's another thing. This is a very literary post, because now I am going to be all Charles Dickens on you. Mr Micawber had a big long quote about happiness being having enough money, unhappiness being not having enough money. To a crafter happiness is having a project bag for every project. I need more project bags. I don't like to have more projects than I have bags to keep them in. So ... I need more project bags. I also bought some of the coordinating blue spot at a later date. It would make a terrific lining.

My niece also loves Alice in Wonderland, which is lovely for a teenager still to feel that magic. My daughter loves Alice in Wonderland. There may be a few requests for bags here too. I was lucky enough to win a pattern by Jeni Baker of in Color Order for drawstring bags of various sizes from a draw Preeti of Sew Preeti Quilts had  for baby Axel. I will probably use this.

So is that my squirrel moment for April? Yes and no. It is but then another one crept in too. I just said I needed a breather after finishing the Belfast Bulletin. Next up to finish is my Writing from Whitehead. And all these project bags. And then I received an envelope, a lovely surprise. Sandra sent me some leftovers from her "plus playtime" quilt. She knows I love spotty fabric, and geometric fabric a close runner up.

And this coincides with Sandra's new qal  which just happens to use this very pattern and fabric. How can I resist?

 I had that very day been thinking I needed some new cushions for the garden. So, I am going to have a play with "plus playtime" and make not one quilt, but four cushions, or maybe 2 for the garden. For my writing corner. It will soon have as many soft furnishings as the house. That's what I like, our garden is just another room in the house, admittedly more pleasant when the sun shines.

Helen x
linking up with Sandra and her flippin' squirrels and mmquilts
linking up with Beth and her main crush Monday and Cooking Up Quilts

Friday, 27 April 2018

This Is My Ta Da Moment!

Ta Da!!

We have a proper finish!! The Belfast Bulletin is complete, finished, sorted.

Having finished all the quilting last week, I left it for a few days. It is always good to "be on a break". I think by the time the quilting is finished, you are a bit sick of looking at a quilt. Well, I always am. The quilting is my least favourite bit and it can be sore on the shoulders. At that stage, I am getting frustrated and just a little ratty. I always find it a good idea to walk away from the situation, take 5, smoke a cigarette. No .... I don't smoke, but a metaphorical cigarette. I fling the quilt over the back of a chair for a few days and just walk away.

A few days later, I fall in love all over again, and starting looking forward to sewing on the spotty binding. I always try to use spotty binding, or occasional striped. It is not that I am pretentious enough to think I have a trade mark stamp. Or that I am smug enough to pretend that I am not pretentious. It is just that I like spotty fabric. It is readily available, and always in stock the good old shop near my hairdressers. My spot of choice is good old Rose and Hubble and it's not too expensive. Most times I pass, I buy a metre of a colour, so there is always some to hand.

I chose navy for this quilt. I did buy the navy with the quilt in mind. Well, I wanted royal blue, but it was sold out. I think the navy is like a full stop, a statement binding. This is your quilt. Yes, it is blue for my son, green for my future daughter in law. And the binding is no nonsense navy. I machine stitch my binding on the front of the quilt, flip it over and hand stitch the back. That is my favourite part, honest. I get a lot of satisfaction from just sitting slip stitching the binding down.

This time it was a dark and gloomy day. I decided the best place to stitch was on top of the bed, whilst watching knitting podcasts. I got so caught up in the Grocery Girls, Skeindeer Knits and Stranded Dyeworks, that I did the whole quilt at one sitting. Or lying! It took just over two hours and my fingers were only a little punctured.

The official quilt holder upper is a little unwell, so this is me holding the quilt. I am not terrible tall. As you can tell!

These are just "my quilt is finished" photos. Like many Americans, my future daughter in law's family has Irish ancestry. Remarkably they hail from a small town only 20 miles or so from where we live! The very town where my daughter coincidentally bought her bridesmaid's dress. So ........... the plan is ............ take the quilt for a drive.  - take some photos of the quilt on the picturesque bridge without dropping said quilt in the river.  My daughter and I will be doing the photos, there will be no dramatic quilts dangling over bridges in the wild shots!. Just hoping it doesn't rain on Sunday.

Helen x
linking up with Finish It Up Friday, Crazy Mom Quilts
linking up with Finished Or Not Friday, Busy Hands Quilts
linking up with Let's Be Social, Sew Fresh Quilts

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Postcards On Parade

The end is nigh, we approach the final countdown. The linky party for the Postcard from Sweden qal hosted by Sandra mmmquilts is in its final hours. The Postcards from Sweden, from all over the world in fact are on parade. They really are fantastic. You would be very hard pushed to pick a favourite, and not just because they follow the same pattern. They are like my twins, the same but different. Some are the same colourway, some are different. Some follow the pattern, some like my Belfast Bulletin are different. Some have similar quilting, some are very different in their quilting. The common denominator is that they are all brilliant and inspiring.

I am so glad I made this quilt, my Writing from Whitehead. I have liked it and wanted to make it since its inception in 2014 when Kellie of jeliquilts designed it. I wanted to make it when Myra of busyhands had a quiltalong, but my hands were too busy at that time. In conversation with Sandra, we both still wanted to make this. And we did. And it has been fun. I can actually see myself making another of these at some stage.  If you fancy making this for yourself, the pattern is a free download on Craftsy.

So, am I finished? Am I what? No, of course I am not.

I laid the wadding on the kitchen bench late last night. I ironed and laid on top my backing my Tula Pink fabric . I smoothed out all the wrinkles. I could have given Mrs Tiggywinkle a run for her  money. And then I realised the awful thing. My backing is about 6" narrower than the flimsy. I quite possibly did realise this when I started this whole process, but somewhere along, I forgot this. I have a whole lot of offcuts in an Ikea plastic bag, rather than my scrap bag, so I assuredly did know this.

So .... I am not finished. In fact, I am actually no further on than I was in the last link up. I just didn't get a chance to sort this out. I am going to sew together the kona offcuts and make a ladder, like I did in the Belfast Bulletin and extend the backing width. There is enough length in my yardage to keep the fabric all the same, but I hate the join. I am always concerned, does my backside look good in this? The eternal conundrum of the middle aged woman.

I do however have a couple of rather nice photos to show you, taken in the garden today.

Felix the hare was keeping an eye on things, minding my knitting bag.
I knew I bought a new seat for a reason, somewhere else to drape things.
 And my photo of Whitehead again. One day, not in April, but possibly May, the two will be united. My quilt and Whitehead.

Thank you again Sandra for such a fun quilt a long, and all the hard work you put into this.
Helen x
linking up with Sandra mmmquilts
linking up with Myra of busy hands qults and finished or not Friday

Friday, 20 April 2018

Belfast Bulletin and the Cow Parade

Time for this Bulletin to reach its audience. We have a finish. We don't actually have a real finish, but then you know the mantra, "don't believe everything you read". We are pretending we have a finish.

The final Postcards from Sweden parade is this week. Check out all the other entries here. It is really interesting to see all the original Postcards, and all the interpretations, or translations I suppose, of Kellie's original Postcards from Sweden design. Kellie's photo of her finished quilt, not mine!!!

This all came about because, simply, Sandra of mmmquilts and myself decided we wanted to make this quilt. Sandra then suggested we made it a formal quilt a long, and has been kind enough to credit me. But you know, all I did was say, why don't we make this together? Sandra has done all the work, all the techy stuff.

I thought this would make a perfect wedding quilt for my son and his fiancée. They oohed and aahed and loved the photos I showed them of Kellie's quilt. Then asked if they could have something calmer, maybe in blues and greens.

I knew immediately where to go. Sarah Goer had designed a quieter blue ombre version for Mary. I showed them this and they loved it. This too became lost in translation. Sarah's original design was for a largish lap quilt. I tweaked it again, still trying to marry the Postcards and Sarah's quilts and this is what we ended up with.

Meet the Belfast Bulletin.

There a lot, a lot, of loose ends to sew in. A binding to make and machine stitch on, and hand stitch on the back. And a label to make. Very important to label your quilts. Unfortunately I never get around to the label. But I intend to. Really.

My photos were taken up at my local council offices. They have these cows that were part of a local art project. I actually think community art, or rather art in the community landscape is very important, but the monetary cost of these cows were rather controversial at the time.

The flat, non action  photos are in my garden at home. When I am finished, properly, I have somewhere very special in mind to take the photos.


In the meantime, go check out the linky. You won't be disappointed.

Helen x
linking up with Sandra mmmquilts parade