Toile-ing my Way Through a Hideous Heatwave

Now I’m not usually one to moan, but by heck have I been grouching and grumping around the place these past 2 weeks. Summer’s hit us here in Switzerland, and it’s hot. Really hot. Deeply, unpleasantly, airlessly hot. It’s been well into the 30s every day for 2 weeks now, with pretty much no breeze to speak of. It’s the kind of weather that is physically and mentally draining, where you only feel clean for about the 30 seconds after you get out of the shower, and it takes at least an hour to summon up the energy to make dinner, let alone eat it.

Yup – we’re in the middle of a heatwave. La canicule as they call it here. And – guess what – I really do not like the heat!

Last Monday, I finally persuaded RR to hook up our portable air conditioner for the summer, so I can now get some relief by sitting in a chair right in front of it, but as soon as I move the wall of heat hits me again. This means I’ve barely moved from the dining table for the past week…

But I’ve been keeping myself occupied, nonetheless. RR’s lovely cousin Miss L is getting married in September, so, of course, this means plenty of sewing to keep me busy over the summer. I’m not only making Miss L and Mr D a quilt as a wedding gift (of which more at a future date), I’m also planning to sew myself an outfit to wear on their big day.

And so, while the weather’s been all hot and bothersome outside, I’ve been narrowing down pattern and fabric options, and I’ve got it down to a shortlist of 2.

Option 1 is a classic and elegant Vogue pattern for a sleeveless sheath dress with a cute little peplum detail at the waist, and a separate belt to tie in the back (pattern number Vogue 1399)

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I was thinking to use this beautiful white and navy cotton print, which I bought from Harlequin Fabrics in Leamington Spa when I was back visiting Mum earlier in the year.

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It’s reasonably heavy weight, so I think it will give the dress a nice amount of structure, and it also has a little stretch to it, so it  should be comfortable to wear.

My second option is something altogether different – a Butterick Retro pattern for a 1950s style dress with a fitted bodice, flared, panelled skirt, and lovely detailing with turned back lapels, faux buttons on the bodice, and pointed turn-back cuffs on the sleeves  (pattern number Butterick 6018)

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For this option, I’ve kind of earmarked some beautiful Art Gallery fabric –Butterfly Bliss by Pat Bravo, and I think it would look super-cute if I made the collar and cuffs in a plain white lawn as a contrast to the main fabric.

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I’d originally bought this to make a dress for my niece, the lovely Miss B, but as she has yet to send me any of her measurements, I thought I’d appropriate it for me… Hee hee!

So – pattern and fabric choices narrowed down, I started work on a toile for each one. Sitting at the dining table. In front of the air conditioner!

Here they are on my sorry excuse for a dress form (it’s fine for holding my works in progress but no good at all for fitting; no matter how I adjust it, I just can’t get it right – it seems I have odd proportions! One day I’ll get a custom one made just for me, with all my lumps, bumps, and wobbly bits, but in the meantime, the one I have is better than nothing…)

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1st toile for V1399

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1st toile for B6018

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B6018 bodice

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B6018 collar

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B6018 cuffs

Now, both toiles need a little adjustment (the Vogue one more than the Butterick one) and that is (hopefully) going to happen tomorrow, when I trot off for my new sewing class. The weather’s also due to break tomorrow, so fingers crossed, I should soon be able to get sewing :-)

Here’s hoping, anyway!

A Cute Little Messenger Style Bag

It’s been an interesting few days, it has to be said.

Back last week, I had a nasty fall, like the decrepit old baggage I am, tearing some muscles my hip. Fortunately, X-rays showed it’s not broken, but apparently it’s likely to take a good month or two to get better. So not only am I not really at all mobile at present, relying on a wheelchair and a pair of crutches to get around, I haven’t been able to get much sewing done recently.

Well, until yesterday, that is. When for the first time in a while I had a real urge to sew.

But what to make? I didn’t fancy just doing some mindless piecing, but I didn’t want anything too complicated. I was looking for a little project to work on that wouldn’t take too long, didn’t require too much thought, and would provide me with instant gratification.

And I found it, thanks to the lovely Ms K, over at Easy Patchwork. A few days ago, she’d posted a picture on Instagram of the cutest little messenger bag she’d made, using a tutorial from mmmcrafts. Now, Mum’s been dropping some not-so-subtle hints recently about how useful such a bag would be for when she’s out walking her dogs, so I’d been on the lookout for a simple pattern to try my hand at.

And now, it seems, I’d found it! Perfect :-)

But before sewing a bag for Mum, I decided to make a practice one for me. I thought it would be very useful to have a bag I could wear slung across my body over the next couple of months, leaving my hands free for crutches etc, until my hip gets better.

Good idea, non?!

Now, I didn’t follow the pattern exactly as given in the tutorial. For a start, I only had a half metre of the outer fabric I wanted to use (a beautiful Echino butterfly print) – so I had to scale the bag pattern down to fit what I had available. It actually measures 9 1/2″ square, rather than the 12″ square of the original. And, as luck would have it, it’s turned out to be the perfect size for a dog-walking bag. Well, I think so, anyway ;-)

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As per the pattern, I added a cute back pocket to keep my phone in. Check out that pattern matching!

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But I also added a magnetic bag closure for security.

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And used some co-ordinating Echino stitched webbing I had leftover from another project for the strap.

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All in all, this little project was quite the success. Super easy to make, as well as to adapt. Pretty and practical, too. And quick to put together, thus providing that all-important instant gratification!

I’ll definitely be making one for Mum at some point, but in the meantime I think I’ll just sit back, relax, and enjoy making good use of the fruits of my labours.

Preparing For A Mahoosive Destash

Back in the day, when I first started sewing, the lovely ladies who were teaching me to quilt gave me some advice. “If you see some fabric you like and think you’ll use”, they said, “buy at least 3 yards. It’s rare you’ll ever need more than 3 yards of any one fabric in a quilt top, and it’s usually plenty for the backing of a lap size quilt.” And so from my early quilting days, I started buying largish lengths of fabric for my stash.

For the first couple of years as a quilter, my stash was relatively small. There were some great quilt stores near where we lived on Long Island, so I never really felt the need to ‘stock up’ or hoard. So, if I saw some fabric that I liked and had tentative plans for, I’d buy it. At least 3 yards of it. But I never made a habit of it.

Then RR was offered a job in Switzerland, and we got ready to move back to Europe. Where quilt shops are less plentiful, and quilting fabric is significantly more expensive. And so before we left the US, RR took me on a massive fabric-buying spree in Lancaster County, PA. I spent a small fortune stocking up, but figured that we’d save a fortune too, given the price of fabric in Switzerland.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind paying the going rate for fabric, and I would dearly love to support local quilting stores here. The problem is that there just isn’t enough choice, so to find what I want, I have to go online. And pay the resulting international delivery charges, as well as import duty and the not-insubstantial flat-rate ‘administrative fee’ charged by Swiss customs to merely process said package. So if I want to order a yard or two of fabric to complete a project, and am paying upwards of $25 for delivery, it makes sense to fill each and every flat-rate envelope I order to bursting with yummy fabric.

And so my stash kept on growing…

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And growing…

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And growing…

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To enormous proportions…

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To the point where it started to get overwhelming, and I had to start stashing in the spare room wardrobe, because I’d run out of room in my sewing room. It was all getting a bit out of control…

At the same time my tastes have changed. Pretty dramatically, actually. So although I still like the fabric I have, I no longer love all of it. And I’m never going be able to use it all. There’s. Just. Too. Much. Of. It.

That’s why I decided to have a massive clear-out. Get rid of the fabric that, realistically, I’m never going to use. Or which I bought too much of, have already used in another project, and no longer need. Or just don’t love enough any more to justify keeping.

And so I’ve spent the last month doing just that, working out what to keep and what it’s time to let go of. And I’ve been ruthless. I’ve cleared out well over half my stash. The pile of boxes to destash is now over 6 feet high…

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These boxes contain yards and yards of fabric, along with some kits I bought and never got round to making. Pre-cuts such as jelly rolls, fat quarter bundles, layer cakes and charm packs.

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Not to mention over 100 fat quarters…

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… and other sized cuts of fabric…

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 …and a whole bunch of 1930s fabrics too.

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All I have to do now is to work out how best to sell them! And for that, dear reader, I’m hoping for your help…

I was going to offer them to local quilty friends first, but after that I wasn’t sure. Where should I sell them? Online via my Etsy store? Or another way? I’ve seen destash sales and postings on Instagram, for example…

And then, how to sell them, as in what format? As yardage, or as bundles of fabrics that go well together? Or a bit of both? How do people like to buy fabric? How would you prefer to buy fabric?

Any thoughts and ideas extremely welcome!  And don’t forget to check back soon for more details of my mahoosive destash :-)

A whole new level of OCD…

Tomorrow I’m off to the latest Patchwork in the Peaks quilt retreat, organised by the lovely Ms E of Busy Needle Quilting (hooray!!!), so I’ve spent a good part of this week pulling together everything I need to take with me. Fabrics for the group project, WIPs I want to work on, a bunch of fat quarters for our regular game of Dice Swap and, of course, quilts for Show and Tell. It was while I was going through my finished tops to dig out something for Show and Tell that I got somewhat distracted by an old quilt top that I keep meaning to quilt. It’s my Flumpagon quilt, and I thought that maybe I should take it with me, to try and get some quilting done during the retreat. Sounds quite a reasonable idea, doesn’t it? DSC07952 So this morning I decided to get to work to piece the backing, so that I could pack it with everything else. Somehow, the backing fabric was in three pieces, two of which were around 46″ x width of fabric, and one of which was 18″ x width of fabric. Ok, ok, I thought, this is do-able, I’ll just have to cut it up a bit and piece it cleverly together. Then I got started. And this was when my latent OCD went into overdrive! The backing fabric is made of beautiful coloured diamonds, which remind me of a harlequin pattern. At first glance, it looks kind of random, but it’s not; and being me, I realised that I was going to have to do a fair bit of pattern matching if the quilt wasn’t going to bug me horribly every time I used it.

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 And so I got to work matching up the diamonds. I found the pattern repeat and chose one line of diamonds to work across, and I matched up and pinned the point of every single diamond along that line.

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Then, using an open toe foot, I slowly sewed along the pinned line, making sure to sew right through the intersection between the diamonds. This was repeated several times until I’d managed to cobble together a big enough backing piece from all the smaller cuts of fabric I had.

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All in all it took a good 4 hours to produce a quilt backing measuring approximately 55″ square. There was a fair bit of unpicking, as well as some Very Bad Language, but in the end, I have to say I’m very pleased with it.

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After all, can you see the joins??? A touch OCD? Maybe. But I’m currently suffused with that smug feeling of a job well done, so all in all I have to say I think it was worth it :-)

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.

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