Blue and white upcycled shirt quilt

Blue and white is such a classic combination.  It is both fresh and calming with the relaxed feeling of a lazy summer’s day on the beach.

Summer day at the beach

I used blue and white as the starting point for a quilt that would be a gift for my brother.  He loves rummaging in charity shops so it seemed appropriate to use pre-loved shirts and create an upcycled quilt for him.

Trawling the local charity shops, I looked for men’s shirts in a variety of patterns.  Anything would do  – stripes, spots, checks, tone on tone designs – provided the fabric was 100% cotton and the colours were predominately blue and white.  I even found a few floral, James May shirt style patterns.  Best of all was the little boy’s demin blue shirt covered in dinosaur skeletons!  I mean, who doesn’t love a dinosaur?

Stack of blue and white shirts

Stack of blue and white shirts

 

I wanted to keep the design uncomplicated so as to show off the patterns of the shirt fabrics.   A straight forward nine patch block seemed just the ticket.  The shirts were cut into 4 1/2 inch squares and sewn randomly together.

Blue and white shirt blocks

Blue and white shirt blocks

 

Men need encouragement in their lives too, so I embroidered positive affirmations onto some of the plain fabrics and incorporated these into the quilt blocks.

Words to live by blocks

Affirmation blocks

 

White sashing, 2 inches finished width, was added to separate the blocks and to give it a fresh look.

Blue and white quilt

Blue and white quilt

 

A swirling design, called Hot Cocoa, was chosen for the long arm quilting.  It adds a great texture to the quilt.

Quilt detail showing quilting design

Quilt detail showing quilting design

 

And here is the finished quilt, complete with a dark navy binding to frame the quilt.

Quilt made from upcycled blue and white shirts

Quilt made from upcycled blue and white shirts

At 72 inches square it is a great size to use as a bedspread or to throw over the back of the sofa.  I love that it is a classic design with little personal touches that make it unique.

Have you made a quilt from upcycled clothes?  I’d love you to share a photo and if not, I’d encourage you to give it a go.  So much clothing ends up in landfill and it seems a crime to waste it when it can be re-purposed for a longer life.

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A great gift for that hard-to-buy-for person

I’m been wracking my brains thinking of Christmas gifts that might appeal to that hard-to-buy-for person, or the person who has everything, for the fussy person and the ones who just don’t know what they want (let’s face it, we all have at least one of these types on our lists).  The last thing you want to get them is something that they will stuff in a drawer, or worse, re-gift to you next year.  So my suggestion is this – cupcake toppers that you add to your own cakes!

Wait, hear me out.  Who could refuse some delicious cakes – perhaps they’re shop bought or you’ve made them yourself with some help from the kids – topped with luscious buttercream and some WOW cupcake toppers.  Your cupcakes will be beautiful to look at, yummy to eat AND no need to find space for extra stuff.  Plus they will be handmade which will make them just that little bit more special.

Here are some lovely designs for you to consider.  Teachers, dads and granddads would love cupcakes decorated with these cheery Santa and reindeer toppers.

Cupcake toppers - Santa, presents and Rudolf

Cupcake toppers – Santa, presents and Rudolf

Friends who like all the trimmings would delight in these cute pudding and robin toppers (just so you know, the pudding and robin are made from chocolate flavoured fondant for extra tastiness).

Cupcake toppers - Christmas pudding, trees and robin

Cupcake toppers – Christmas pudding, trees and robin

Or what about these adorable snowman and polar bear toppers?  They would certainly put a smile on someone’s face.

Cupcake toppers - snowman, snowflakes and polar bear

Cupcake toppers – snowman, snowflakes and polar bear

The ones I like best however are these ones, which will look like a little painting when presented in a cupcake box.  First up, a scottie dog playing in the snow with a snowman.  How cute is that?

Cupcake toppers - snowman and scottie dog

Cupcake toppers – snowman and scottie dog

Scottie dog again, this time posting a letter to Santa.  I hope Santa gets it in time.

Cupcake toppers - letter box and scottie dog

Cupcake toppers – letter box and scottie dog

And my favourite – bright lights welcoming you home on a dark, snowy evening.

Cupcake toppers - snow scene

Cupcake toppers – silent night

All these designs will be available at my table top stall at the Frost Fair in Thame (it’s on 1 December between 8pm and 10pm at the John Hampden School if you are in the area).   And if you’d like something custom-made to reflect the interests of a special someone, then do contact me.  I look forward to seeing you at the Frost Fair!

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Heart quilt – work in progress

I’ve been wanting to make a heart quilt for ages and finally decided to take the plunge.

The pretty aqua and pink floral fabric below is the one that I chose as the starting point for my quilt.  I then selected other fabrics in co-ordinating colours of pink, green, warm grey, aqua and bright navy.  Most fabrics were from stash however I did need to purchase a few more (as if I needed an excuse).

Fabric selection for heart block quilt

Fabric selection for heart block quilt

Here are the fabrics that I chose.   They look very light and pretty with a really summery feel (the dappled sunlight only adds to the effect).

All blocks were made using the heart tutorial by Cluck Cluck Sew.  I made the 10 inch block size and separated them with 2 inch (finished width) sashing.

Footprints on my heart

Footprints on my heart

This block is one of my favourites.   It has tiny footprints as part of the fabric design.  For me, it is a visual image of the old saying – “Some people come into our lives and leave.  Others leave footprints on our heart and we are never the same”.   I didn’t notice this when I selected the fabrics so this is one of those happy accidents – love those!

Heart quilt front

Heart quilt top

And here is the finished quilt top – finished size about 60 inches square.  Photographed on rather a dull, grey day however it still retains its prettiness.  If you look closely, you’ll see that I substituted one of the navy fabrics for another with more white in it which I think works much better.

Half square triangles

Half square triangles

When making the heart blocks, I also took the wise advice of Jeni Baker.  In her last newsletter, she recommends making half-square triangle blocks from the off-cuts as you make each block.  Initially I was going to save the cut off triangles in a plastic bag, knowing full-well that I would probably never get back to sewing them together.  Doing them as I went along means that I now have a stack of half-square triangle blocks ready for another project.  Win-win!

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Alice in Wonderland cupcakes

One of my favourite aspects of cake decorating is the opportunity to make cakes that surprise and delight the recipient.   I love the oohs and aahs, and broad smiles that happen when people open the box containing their bespoke cakes.

Last week my niece turned 21.  Hard to believe when it seems like only yesterday that she was learning her first words and doing little more than crawling, feeding or sleeping.

Now that she is grown up she didn’t want a traditional birthday cake.  Instead she requested vanilla cupcakes for her party.  And rather than candles, she asked for her cakes to be decorated with an Alice in Wonderland theme.  What a great idea!

Alice in Wonderland cakes

Alice in Wonderland cupcakes

Her selection of cakes included a cheshire cat with a cheesy grin, a white rabbit, a gold pocket watch, a caterpillar with jaunty antenna, magic mushrooms and an Alice dress.  I managed to get this quick photo before the cakes were whisked off to her party.   Don’t they make a cute collection?  My niece certainly thought so.  Birthday cakes befitting a beautiful young lady.

Milk churn patchwork quilt

What do you give someone when you want  something that says “you’re special”, something that says “thank you”, something that says “I love you”?  For me, the answer is usually always a handmade quilt (sometimes it is cake but that is another story).

Earlier this year, it was my privilege to make a custom order quilt for a couple who have a jersey cow stud.  When I showed my client a  fun quilt pattern featuring rows of milk churns (remember those?) we knew we’d found the perfect design.  I mean, dairy farmers and milk churns, what could be more appropriate?

Milk cow kitchen patchwork quilt

Milk churn patchwork quilt

The fabric collection is Milk Cow Kitchen by Mary Jane Butters for Moda.  Nostalgic, a bit kitsch, the collection features tiny jersey cows, vintage cars, kitchen utensils, milk bottle tops and my personal favourite, lots of moos!!.  There is even a recipe for strawberry jam.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt detail

Milk churn patchwork quilt detail

To make the quilt I used this free pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop.  I did change the pattern slightly by  adding an extra column of milk churns to make it wider and I changed how I added the sashing.  The milk churn lids were made as larger strips that are then cut down making it much quicker and easier to put together than it first looks.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt detail

Milk churn patchwork quilt detail

The finished quilt was professionally long-arm quilted with an overall pattern called Cloud Nine.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt backing

Milk churn patchwork quilt backing

And for the backing, I chose this green Lulu fabric from the Up Parasol range by Heather Bailey.  It is one that I wish I had been able to buy more of as it really is the most lovely light olive green.

The 100% cotton wadding in the quilt makes it irresistibly soft and warm and gives the quilt a beautiful drape.   At 70 inches by 64 inches, it is a very versatile size and perfect for a bed or a sofa.

Today I received the good news that Royal Mail and Australia Post did their bit and delivered the quilt safe and sound to its new home.  And I’m very pleased to say that it was a very welcome present that will be much loved for many years to come.  A special gift for a lovely couple.

Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

What do you do when it is cold and grey outside?  For me, I like to sew, particularly if I am making something that will be cosy and warm.  
 
Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Cat and mouse fabric

I had picked out these fabrics some time ago thinking that they would be perfect to make into a hot water bottle cover.  The gorgeous green is one from the Miss Kate collection by Bonnie and Camille (Moda) whilst the statement Cat and Mouse fabric is from Timeless Treasures.  

 

And here is the finished item, whipped up on the weekend.  A lovely hottie cover perfect for a friend who loves cats (obviously!) and who has two black and white cats of her own.  

 

Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Hot water bottle cover in Cat and Mouse fabric

As usual, I took the time to pattern match the design – mis-matched tails and paws would not sit right with me – and machine quilted the cover with an all-over diagonal pattern.
 
Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Hot water bottle cover in cat and mouse fabric

Kona solid in charcoal was used for the bias binding whilst the green fabric is the secret surprise (who doesn’t love those?) on the inside. And it is beautifully soft and warm, being made from 100% cotton.  

 

My friend loved her hottie cover and will use it every day.  It’s the perfect gift to warm the body and the heart. 

An extra special retirement

Another one to one class, this time teaching how to make cupcake toppers suitable for a retirement party.
 
The toppers were carefully designed to illustrate the various interests of the person leaving for greener pastures.  Let’s see if you can guess what this person will be doing post-retirement.  Here is your first clue.
Did you guess that the lady is proposing to join the Women’s Institute or WI?

Now, what about these ones?
Well done if you guessed that she enjoys walking and hiking in the countryside.  

Now for the next clues.  
Congratulations to everyone who guessed her favourite past times include drawing and painting.  Just one more to go.
This was an easy one showing that she enjoys regular trips to France.  

Together they make a lovely record of all the things she can most look forward to now she has given up the day job.
 

A special congratulations and a gold star must go to my student.  She is essentially a beginner and most of the decorations were made free hand.   She did a great job making them and managed really well with all the intricate details.  I particularly love her little walking boots and her pencils.  I bet her retiring friend did too.