As you may have gathered from my last post, I have been mad-crazy-busy recently sewing up items for a Christmas Gift Fair. And now it’s all over I finally have time to relax and reflect on the experience.
In the end, I took part in two different Gift Fairs. The first one took place at the International Women’s Club of Lausanne, on a Monday morning between 9 and 12, and the second one was held at La Chatagnière, an international school near Geneva, on a Saturday between 11.30 and 4pm, where I shared a table with my lovely and extremely talented friend Chris of MalleyCat Designs.
To be honest, I didn’t have desperately high hopes of the first gift fair. I mean, a Monday morning in early December?! But as it happens it was jam-packed from start to finish, and I was so busy I didn’t have time to take a proper photo of my table, to look at anyone else’s stall or even to have a cup of tea. In the end, I sold more than I ever dreamed possible, including 3 quilts(!), had some fantastic feedback about my work, and, all in all, had an utterly wonderful time.
Not the best photos, but you get the idea!
As for the second fair, Chris and I were reasonably optimistic of making some sales; there were going to be plenty of vendors and it seemed like a large number of people were planning to attend. But despite us both having had such a successful sale the previous Monday, this one really didn’t go that well. It seemed that most people were coming to socialise and have a drink with friends rather than to make a purchase. As it turned out, I only just broke even on the day. The two fairs couldn’t have been more different!
Some of my products…
… and some of Chris’ products
A selection of quilts for sale
Well, you live and learn, as they say, and here is what I learnt.
First and foremost, I absolutely loved making everything – I got to try out new patterns and new ideas, and, more importantly, to get re-acquainted with my stash! There have been times over the last couple of months where the floor of my sewing room was nowhere to be seen as it was liberally strewn with fabric I’d pulled out of boxes and cupboards to try and find that perfect match. Lots of old favourites were rediscovered and plenty of scraps and leftover pieces of quilt backing were put to good use.
Secondly, I really enjoyed selling my stuff, and chatting to people. I think I will be tempted to do some more fairs next year, but I also think I will do some more research before committing to any.
And finally, there seemed to be enough interest in what I made for me to take the plunge and open up a little Etsy store to sell my creations. Like these, for example 🙂
My Etsy store is called Pusscat Handmade, and you can find more fabric loveliness at
Please do go and take a look, and let me know what you think!
In 2 weeks time, it’s Mum’s birthday. And I am making her a quilt. A long-awaited quilt, I might add. And it looks like this…
Now, Mum really wants a quilt. She started dropping subtle hints about 4 years ago, then over time the hints became increasingly pointed, until finally she got Mad Aunty Jean to call and casually mention Just How Much Mum Would Love A Quilt Made By Me.
But for one reason or another, I just kept on putting it off. I made her a lap quilt to use in her conservatory on chilly winter mornings, and she was over the moon with it. But I know that what she really, really wants is a bed quilt. And that project has been in the pipeline for quite some time…
Mum knows that a quilt will appear at some point. I think she’s secretly hoping it’ll be ready in time for Christmas (she thinks I’m making her a new knitting bag and knitting needle holder for her birthday). But as I shall be going back to the UK to see her for her birthday, I thought it would be a lovely surprise if I could finish it off and take it with me.
Nothing like piling the pressure on myself, eh?!
I kind of started work on it over the summer (well, I got as far as cutting the fabric out), but it wasn’t until quite recently that I actually started sewing. This involved piecing 42 blocks and 3 borders. Phew!
22 of these blocks in pink and red, and 6 in cream and red…
… and 14 blocks like this
Over the past few weeks I’ve been working flat out to try and get it finished, and – finally – I’m nearly there. The top is pieced, quilting designs have been marked, and it’s all ready to be basted and quilted. Now all I have to do is get my backside in gear and get started…
I think I’ll be right up to the wire with this one, so wish me luck!
Linking up with Lee over at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.
Have you ever had one of those projects? The kind you thought was going to be an absolute breeze? That you left till the last minute because you thought it’d take a day at most to piece? The one you never realised you could be so wrong about? That you ended up cursing out and wanting to rip apart with your bare hands in frustration? The project that, once finished, you took such deep satisfaction at managing to overcome all the issues that the Quilt Gods threw at you, that it actually seemed worth all the Very Bad Words that were uttered during its construction?
I have. And it will forever be known as The Quilt from Hell…
It all started out innocently enough, with some Very Good News. My lovely schoolfriend, Ms S, and her husband, Mr M, announced last year that they were expecting a baby boy. I was so happy for them, as I knew how much they’d been looking forward to becoming parents, and I immediately decided that the new arrival would need a quilt.
Now Ms S is an exceedingly talented lady. Not only is she pretty and kind and a complete brain-box, she is also extremely crafty. She creates, sews, crochets, bakes a mean chocolate muffin, and even has her own Etsy shop. I am in total awe of her! So the quilt needed to be super special. And when we were in the US back around Thanksgiving, I found just the thing, handily bundled together as a super-cute kit. The fabric range was Boy Crazy from Riley Blake Designs, and included cars and robots and space rockets, and lots of other things that little boys like to play with.
The pattern seemed deceptively easy. It consisted of 12 scrappy 16-patch blocks, set on point, alternated with plain white squares, and a couple of directional borders.
I know, sounds like a walk in the park, doesn’t it??! But one word in the last paragraph would come back to haunt me. And that word is ‘directional’… Given some of my previous experiences with directional fabric, you might think that warning bells would sound at this point, but no. All I thought was – oh how pretty, the little cars are all driving in the same direction!
I won’t be making that mistake again…
The first issue I encountered had nothing at all to do with directional fabric, though. It was an error in the pattern itself, which called for the white fabric to be cut into 8″ squares.
While I was cutting them, I remember thinking “Gosh, 8″ is a funny size for setting squares – wouldn’t it usually be either 7 1/2″ or 8 1/2″‘?” but I foolishly ignored the Inner Voice of Reason and continued cutting happily away.
It was only once I’d made the 16 patch blocks that I realised that – yes – the finished block size was indeed 8 1/2″ square. So my setting squares were too small. So I had to recut them. And I didn’t have quite enough fabric. A small annoyance, easily rectified with a visit to my stash to retrieve some Kona white.
So, then, so far so good. The main part of the top was duly pieced with the right sized setting blocks, and I even decided to jazz it up a bit by appliquéing Daniel’s name into the setting squares. This was all RR’s idea, and a jolly good one, too, I have to say 🙂
Then the directionality of fabric came into play.
Border 1 – little cars, all driving from the left of the quilt towards the right. The fabric supplied in the kit was cut both crosswise and lengthwise to make this possible. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough of it. There was just about sufficient to do the top and bottom border, but not enough for the sides. Lateral thinking was called for, and so one of the discarded 8″ setting squares was cut into 4 cornerstones. And it was still 1″ too short on each side…
After some Very Creative Pressing, Plenty of Pinning to ease the fabric of the quilt top, and Lots of Words Beginning with ‘F’, I managed to get the first border to just about fit.
It almost looks like it was planned that way, doesn’t it? If you can ignore the fabric puckering and rippling round the corners, that is…
Next up – border 2. And the same problem reared its ugly head. The border was once again directional, and once again there wasn’t enough fabric. Well, this time there was more than enough for the top and bottom borders but, unfortunately, not quite enough for the sides. So, to make it fit, I had to piece it, by cutting into the surplus from the top and bottom. Fortunately, there was just enough left over.
And yes, it really was only 2″ or so short, which made it all the more annoying…
Ok then, quilt top pieced, issues overcome. Now for the backing. A beautiful piece of large scale directional fabric.
Uh-oh! Did she just say directional? Sadly, yes… And therein lay the next issue. The print was oriented lengthwise across the fabric rather than crosswise. And there wasn’t enough fabric to piece it so that it ran in the right direction. Grrrrrr……
So out came the rotary cutter and I chopped up my 3 yards of fabric into smaller pieces, which I then proceeded to sew back together, to make a hodgepodge of a backing that just managed to fit.
Perhaps hodgepodge is a little harsh. Let’s call it improvisational, shall we???
After all that, the actual quilting was a piece of cake. I used white thread to echo quilt the appliquéd letters and the edge of the setting blocks. Then I quilted concentric squares in the 16 patch blocks, using a vivid orange colour to co-ordinate with all the bright colours in the prints.
Finally, I quilted parallel straight lines around both borders, again in orange.
To finish the quilt, I decided to use a bias binding, to make my stripes appear diagonal. I’d never done it before, but my friend Ms E has used it on her quilts and talked me through how to do it at the last Patchwork in the Peaks quilt retreat. I thought it looked beautiful and had been wanting to give it a try for ages. And anyway, I figured, what else could possibly go wrong???
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!
This is what could go wrong. I miscalculated and cut the square to create the bias strips too small. So there wasn’t enough binding, and I had to cut another square. And when I cut the strips from this one, I cut them the wrong way…
Some more creative cutting and piecing just about salvaged the situation (along with a stiff gin and tonic…). And the quilt was finally finished. Ta da!!!
It was delivered to the adorable little man himself last week, when I was back in the UK. Ms S and Mr M loved it, and Baby Daniel showed his appreciation by throwing up his milk on my jeans, then all over his Daddy’s jumper 🙂
Looking back, though, I have to say I’m rather proud of myself. Normally when things go wrong I would simply go and get some more fabric to put them right. But I’m on my 6 month Fabric Fast, so that wasn’t an option. I was forced to think creatively about how to get round the issues. And no, the quilt isn’t 100% perfect, there are seams where I’d prefer there to be no seams, and a slight puckering in the corners, amongst other things, but you know what? It was a labour of love, and I think that makes it more personal.
After all, there can’t be many babies out there who have the honour of owning The Quilt from Hell!
And by the way, people, apologies for the rotten quality of the photos – they were taken in our hotel room the morning I delivered the quilt, when I suddenly realised that I hadn’t quite got round to photographing it yet…
Just recently I’ve had a bit of a fetish for bags.
Not just the expensive, bought-in-Paris-on-the-Champs-Elysées-dahling kind of bags (though I have to admit that those are a major fetish too – just ask poor RR…) But recently, it’s also been for ones I have made with my own fair hands.
It all started back in October, at the Patchwork in the Peaks quilt retreat, when the lovely Katy of The Littlest Thistle taught us to make the Aeroplane Bag. My previous forays into bag making hadn’t been a roaring success. I’d somehow managed to cobble together a couple of tote bags in the past, but then I over-reached myself and decided to have a stab at Amy Butler’s Weekender Bag. Big mistake. Suffice to it wasn’t my finest hour, and some Very Bad Words were uttered many times over. After that, I decided bag making was not for me.
Then Katy came along and showed me that it could all be so different!
I’m not saying that No Bad Words were uttered during the process, or that I found it all plain sailing, but Katy was calm and unflappable and taught me loads. More importantly, she gave me the confidence to try bag making again.
Firstly, I made Mum a bag for Christmas. Aeroplane Mk II. With dogs on. She loved it!
Then, Katy brought out her own bag pattern – Whole Lotta Bag. It’s a roomy messenger style bag with loads of pockets that I thought would be ideal to take along on my frequent travels. She’s currently running a sew-along over on her blog, and I’m taking part. I’m even almost up to date…
Then last week I really went for it. Oh yeah, baby!
First of all, I used some scraps to make this itty bitty bag. It was inspired by a pattern in Jelly Roll Scraps – Twenty to Make by Carolyn Forster, which I’d picked up on my last trip to the UK – only, being me, I changed it up a little 🙂
The red and pinky scraps are from my Broken Herringbone quilt, and the black ones are left over from a quilt I made RR 3 or 4 years ago. The lining was a remnant from Dad’s quilt. This cute little bag measures 6″ x 7″, and I think it would be perfect for an evening out. And Mimi Bubba seems to think it makes a most agreeable pillow 🙂
Fired up by my success at making this, I decided to play around with my original Aeroplane Bag to change all the things that were really bugging me about it. Like the fact it was too floppy, the wonky topstitching, and the inexpertly-installed zip. I took the whole thing apart, added fusible fleece to stiffen the sides, and re-constructed it, paying lots of attention to the zip and the topstitching.
Et voilà! An Aeroplane Bag to be even more proud of!
Finally, I decided to tackle the Sugar Loaf Pouch from U-Handbag. I used the same fabric as I’d used for my Aeroplane Bag. And boy was it fiddly! But finally, after much fabric-wrestling, and liberal use of my machine’s walking foot, I ended up with this…
Still can’t quite work our how it ended up so small (it was meant to measure 6 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ x 3 1/3″ – it actually measures 3 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ x 2″… – presumably that’s why it was so damned fiddly!) – and somehow the zebra ended up on the bottom of the bag, but all in all, I’m really pleased with it.
So all in all, a bag-filled week, and best of all, I feel truly virtuous about my liberal use of scraps! Fabric Fast – bring it on, baby!!!
Linking up with WIP Wednesday – why not pop on over and take a look?