the chicken or the egg (what I received).

At the end of March I showed you what I had sent to Michèle for an Easter exchange the title of which was “the chicken or the egg?”.  I can now show what I received . . . from one of the few male cross stitchers out there.  Real-life name, Thierry, forum pseudo: The Old Druid.

from thierry

A metal tray and a keyring, souvenirs from Paris;  a box of Dardenne chocolates and a gorgeous, cross stitched, Fabergé egg.

from thierry 02

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the chicken or the egg?

This is the title of an exchange which was proposed on a French cross stitch forum, where I’ve been a member for quite a few years now.  “The chicken or the egg?”.

Even though I don’t celebrate Easter, I quickly signed up because you know me:  crazy hen lady, with my lovely laying hens who keep me amused what with scooping up poop, collecting eggs and chatting to the gals every day.   I couldn’t not join in this exchange, now could I?

The “rules” were simple: to send a hand-made gift, with a chicken or egg theme, and to add some choccies to the parcel.  Originally, I was going to cross stitch a design, and make a little egg cosy.  But then I got to wondering: do people really use egg cosies these days?  I mean they’re pretty, and decorative, but they’re not really something we use.  At least, I don’t.  I usually soft boil my eggs and eat them while they’re still piping hot.

So . . . a change of plan . . . and a rummage through my crafting stash followed, during which I unearthed the following.

easter bag

Perfect!  A “chicken and egg” fabric . . . but not very big.  Little brain then started thinking “patchwork”.  As any patchworker knows, the ideal solution for making a small piece of fabric go further is to chop it up and sew it back together again.  But still, I couldn’t think of something useful to make.  And for some reason my brain was set on “useful” not “decorative”.

easter bag 02

First things first, I decided to slice up my fabric, and make bands (sacrificing the wording “Springtime”) and doing my best to pattern match.  Not perfect – it worked on a blue chicken but the egg was off somewhat.  And then I knew what to make!

easter bag with pouch

A cotton tote bag, and matching cotton pouch.  I’ve made several of these bags now, so I can literally do it without having to think too much.  On this one I overlocked the seams of the band, and top-stitched so make sure it doesn’t fall to pieces.  For the bag assembly, I used French seams, including when boxing off the bottom corners.    This gift was sent to Michèle, who will be moving (permanently) to live in Spain.  When I think of Spain, I think of outdoor fresh fruit & veggie markets and I hope this bag will come in very useful when Michèle is out doing her shopping.  I also thought it appropriate that colours are blue, white and red: the same as the French “tricolore” flag.

easter exchange

So there you have it.  One practical tote bag neatly folded away in its matching pouch, a little crocheted amigurumi chick (just for fun) some choccies, and a card.

“such fun!”–happy dancing

F2F2 finished 01

One of my favourite quotes (for all you Miranda fans) . . . and photos of “such fun!”, made with blocks from the F2F2 swap, organised by Kate

Those who follow my blog will remember this adventure began in June last year, when I joined a block swap, and spent 9 months, making and posting blocks to other ladies in their chosen colourways.  Until it was my turn, in February.  My colour inspiration was

Claire

And I think you’ll agree that the finished quilt as just as bright and colourful as these Rainbow Lorikeets.  A big thank you to Kate, the organiser.  But also to Lynn, Sandra, Sue, Susan, Moira, Gun, Esther who were the other official members of the swap.  And a thank you to Avis, who made and sent 3 blocks for my birthday, so I would have a total of 30 blocks for this patchwork.

It’s big.  It’s the biggest I’ve ever made.  Finishing up at 87” x 73” (that’s 220cm x 185cm).

F2F2 finished 02

F2F2 finished 03

I added 1” orange sashing to each block before quilting and did the assembly using the QAYG (quilt as you go) method.  Using a splodgy/dotty print fabric on the back and repeating the orange bands.   Each block was quilted differently, by machine, and each block has the name of the maker embroidered on it, very discreetly, in orange thread.  That way, in the years to come, I’ll remember exactly who made what.

F2F2 finished 04

So there you have it!  The swap was a wonderful learning experience, helped boost my confidence and really was “such fun!”.

F2F final assembly continues

F2F top half

More photos to share with you, of how my F2F2 quilt is coming together.  Followers will remember that this quilt is a collective work of art, with blocks made by myself and 9 other patchworkers.  As I join blocks, with some lovely orange sashing, each and every block seems to look very much at home.

The top half is all joined now.  And the bottom half is underway.

F2F bottom half

I won’t show you any more “in progress” photos . . . the next time you see this beauty, it will be a complete quilt, with binding and all.

vitamins galore, sashing and quilting

It’s that time of year again . . . when we can go with our little basket into the veggie patch, and bring back fresh home-grown produce for dinner!

veggie & fruit

Here are some of the home-grown ingredients for dinner the other night.  Courgettes roughly chopped up and pois gourmands  which my husband stir fried with chicken in miso.  Plus some freshly chopped chives to sprinkle on top of the tofu.  Followed by a mix of strawberries and raspberries, which we enjoyed with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream.  Yummy.

I am very lucky that my husband loves cooking, and he’s an excellent chef.   Now that he’s retired, he is taking over more and more of the cooking, although I do help with preparation.  This leaves me with more time to do what I love . . . crafting.

F2F2 blocks sashed

And recent days have seen me busy upstairs in my sewing room, quilting.  All I will show you for now is this.  To say, I’ve finally finished quilting all thirty blocks of my F2F2 quilt and am ready to move on to the QAYG part.

I was umming and ahhing over whether to use white strips or more of the solid orange . . . I’m going to keep things really bright, and QAYG strips will be in orange both front and back.

And speaking of bright . . . lookee here

cactus

One of our cactus plants has flowered!  This is the first year it’s ever had flowers, and there are so many of them!  Cactus is obviously telling us that it really likes its place in the veranda.

F2F2 blocks – quilting has begun!

Some rather exciting news to share with you . . . orange sashing has been added to all 30 blocks, and now quilting has actually begun!  Yay!  I’m rather amazed myself, at how motivated I am to get these blocks all assembled and made into a huge quilt.

But motivated I am!  Also somewhat scared . . . because the quilting stage is where things can go wrong.  I’m more of a piecer, where patchwork goes.  Not a very proficient quilter, and this project is even more scarey because I’m quilting so many gorgeous blocks made by other ladies.

quilting 6 down

For the moment, I have done six of the thirty.  Here they are (three from Lynn and three from Kate).  They’ve each got a little label pinned on to remind me of where they belong in my layout.  I’m quilting in orange thread and keeping things very simple.  A fair amount of echo quilting going on.  Some in the ditch.  And a very relaxed “let’s see what happens here” design.

quilting 6 down 01

Don’t know if you can see, but I’ve got a sort of “maze/labyrinth” thing going on on a couple, which seems to be working quite well.  Basically, each block will be quilted differently, depending on what the block pattern inspires, and within my limitations. 

In case you’re wondering – I cut wadding & backing fabric slightly bigger, and only trimmed once I’d quilted each block.  I’m using the QAYG method, so the plan is to quilt all 30, make sure they all measure the same, and then assemble with thin strips. 

F2F2–assembly has begun

Title says it all.  And photos to prove it.

IMGP2924

I haven’t decided on block layout yet, but I have decided on fabrics.  That splodgy one on the right, will be my backing fabric.  It contains a little pink, which wasn’t one of my chosen colours, but also has 2 shades of blue, bright green and orange on white.  I thought it would be rather fun for the reverse of my quilt.

For the time being, I’m sashing all blocks with orange.  I was going to sash in white, but then there was a mix-up with my recent fabric order (was sent white linen instead of white cotton).  I could have waited to get that sorted out, but laid blocks on the orange and decided I rather liked the effect.

IMGP2926

Here are a selection of blocks already sashed.  One from each of the participants, plus one from Avis.  I think the orange sets blocks off nicely.  So . . . more orange sashing to do, before I get to the next stage (which I dread) of quilting.