Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Back (for good?)

It's been a looong looong time since my last post! I've been meaning to write something for ages, but just never seemed to get around to it. Hopefully I will manage a bit better from now on!

I have been super busy with my quilting in the last year, and have actually entered a quilt into a competition! I entered a miniature quilt (must be less than 30cm on it's longest side) into the Festival of Quilts, which is at the start of August and I am very much looking forward to going and seeing my little quilty up on the wall :-D It will be a long, tiring couple of days for me, but I know I shall enjoy it tremendously! Muv and I have signed up for a workshop this year, so we shall be having an introduction to Hawaiian applique, which I have always wanted to have a go at!

I have made quite a lot of quilts since my last post, but I won't go into detail about them in this post, I will just show you some pictures of them!

These three quilts were made for Christmas 2014 and were only just finished in time! The third one was all paper pieced and took a lot longer to make than I expected it to!

This bargello quilt was made entirely in secret for Muv and Popsy. I worked on it every time they went away for the weekend and just finished it a couple of weeks ago. It was very good timing when I finished it as poor little Muv got shingles while away on their boat for 2 weeks, so they returned home about a week early! Luckily all I needed to do was finish the binding off when I got the message that they wouuld be home the next day, so I managed to get it all finished off and washed ready for their return. It definitely cheered Muv up after having to come home early!

I've been working on this little beauty since November. Every single seam is handsewn, which is why it has taken so long! I had intended this quilt to be for my bed, but after showing a picture of it on quilty forums I may have been convinced to enter it into a show...we'll see how well the quilting goes I think! I created the pattern myself using my trusty colouring pencils and many many sheets of hexagon graph paper!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Tardis Quilt - Secret Project revealed!

At last, I am revealing the Secret Project!

This is my best quilt so far, I am SO amazed by how awesome it looks!

I decided to make this when I found the gorgeous background fabric while browsing an online fabric shop. I saw it and instantly thought "Dr Who!" Then I remembered a very lovely friend who had previously asked if I could make a Tardis quilt. At the time I think I'd only made one or two quilts so my response was "No way! That's far too hard!"

I decided to get Googling and found just a few Tardis quilts. I used parts of most of them for inspiration, but mostly I made the pattern up myself. It was actually pretty simple once I had armed myself with graph paper and coloured pens! My first draft was all out of proportion and would've left me with a very oddly sized quilt! So I started again and the second draft ended up being the quilt that I made!

I was a bit worried about how to do the sign on the door of the Tardis, and the Police Box sign.

In the end I found printable fabric for the sign, and used a google image to print it out. This took a considerable amount of time, because I needed an inkjet printer and our main printer is a laser. I ended up using our old printer that hadn't been used for many years. Turns out, that's because it needed an XP computer, and all of ours are Windows 7! Took me a long while to work that out though! Eventually I decided to try Muv's work laptop, which had XP. The printer started up straight away! However, as it hadn't been used for so long all the ink had dried up! I found one of those kits to refill the cartridges and proceeded to squirt some ink in there. After I'd made a fine mess and covered myself in ink, I attempted to print again, and HUZZAH! It worked! I was really nervous that the ink would just come straight out of the fabric, but I followed the instructions to soak it in water and it didn't colour the water at all! Amazing!

The Police Box sign was made using black fabric and Dylon white fabric paint. I made a template using freezer paper and a Google image of the sign, which I resized using Publisher. I couldn't believe how awesome it looked!

Police Box sign and all my pieces cut out and labelled!

At this point I didn't have any of the blue fabrics, but was desperate to get on with it! I had ordered some fabrics online and was really excited when the parcel arrived. However, when I opened the parcel they were completely wrong! I was devastated! I ended up emailing the lovely people at Minerva Crafts and Fabrics with my dilemma, they were more than happy to help and even had a Dr Who fan on hand to ask for her opinion! They sent me a photo of the fabrics I had suggested, along with a different one that they thought would work a bit better! And it certainly did! The fabrics were totally perfect!

Amazingly the quilt took just a morning to piece! I guess the nice big pieces helped with that! The hardest part was the borders around the panels that are on the door, because I'd never attempted a mitred corner before, but they went pretty well!

One mitred corner done, 5 to go!

I decided to FMQ this one, and wanted to try and make a wood grain effect pattern for the Tardis. It went a lot better than expected with only a few problems along the way (I'm not going to point out my mistakes, as that way you won't notice them!) 

Close up of the "wood grain effect" quilting

I then started to do a large stipple on the background. This is where I ran into MAJOR problems! The thread was breaking every 30 seconds or so, which was the most frustrating thing I have ever experienced while quilting! I did everything I could think of to try and solve it. I cleaned the lint out of the machine, I changed my needles, I re-threaded hundreds of times, but nothing made any difference! In the end I decided to try the thread I'd used for the Tardis body, which worked perfectly! So I had to rip out everything I'd already done! Argh! It took 4 hours to do the original quilting, 12 hours to rip it out, and 1 hour to quilt the entire thing with the new thread!

The disaster quilting! See those MASSIVE skipped stitches? Bleugh!

The replacement, easy breezy quilting!

So the only thing left to do was bind the quilt. I got that done with no problems and then popped it into the wash to get rid of the 505 basting spray and to be sure that there were no problems. It's a good thing I did because the Police Box sign decided that it didn't want the fabric paint anymore and large sections of it flaked off! I was distraught! I could only think that I hadn't heat set the paint well enough, so I spent a loooong time with the iron after I repainted it. Luckily that seemed to do the trick and it survived the next washing intact!

How upsetting is that!?!?!

So, it was ready to gift to the lovely Fanny! I wanted it to be a complete surprise so arranged for him to come and visit. I set it up on the guest bed that he would be staying in (along with the matching pillowcases). We got a lovely video of him discovering it, but it's a bit sweary so I won't post it!!

Here it is with the matching pillowcases (with a crack in the universe as well!)

Hope you like it :-)

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Oh my, it's been a while!

I knew I hadn't posted for a while, but I had no idea it'd been this long! Terrible!

Anywho, I'm back now! And I certainly haven't been idle during these months!
The Secret Project has now been gifted so can be revealed! But that will be for another post. I'm hoping to do a tutorial for it, so that will take me a little while to prepare :-)
I tried my hand at English Paper Piecing, which was not something I had previously considered, because I'm not a huge fan of hand sewing...but my mind has officially been changed on that subject! 
I started the project around the start of June, because the lovely Jessie bought me the book "Hexa-go-go" for my birthday and I also got some free hexagon papers with Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine. I decided to go for the Grandmother's Flower Garden type hexagon project and I am amazed at how lovely it is (If I do say so myself!)

Due to medication changes I have been mostly bed bound and unable to concentrate on machine work, so this was the perfect project for me at this time. It has been my constant companion for 3 months, and it was completed 2 days ago (quilting and all!) It was washed yesterday morning and is still hanging out to dry, but I'm SO excited to snuggle under it :-D
Annoyingly, I discovered (as I was doing one of the last bits of quilting) that one hexagon (out of 1,150ish) had the white on white fabric the wrong way up! So it's more of a white under white now. It was my favourite of the 7 white on white fabrics that were used in this quilt, which made me a bit sad. But hey, we all have our flaws, and now my lovely quilty does too!
I had no idea how I was going to finish the edges of this quilt, and for a while was intending to chop off the edges to make them square. I already knew I wasn't going to use bias binding, no way I was going to deal with all those mitred corners!! In the end, thanks to some help from the Quilting Board, I followed a wonderful tutorial by the blogger BadSkirt. It leaves the lovely hexie edges intact, and no bias binding to deal with. It took a long time, but I'm so glad I made the effort!

I also managed to attend the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham. Muv and I decided to go for 2 day tickets so that we could do a couple of hours each day. I'm so glad we made that decision, the first day almost flattened me, so I doubled up my pain meds for the second day and it went a lot better! There were so many lovely quilts on display, and a huuuuuge amount of stalls! I got quite a few bits from the show. I found the perfect backing for my hexie quilt, the exact same bluey/purple batik that I had used on the front, but in extra wide! Awesome!
We found a lovely stall called Monkey Buttons, that had loads of beautiful bag patterns. We were hooked! I think we bought 5 patterns between us, and a couple of fabric packs to make the bags. I have made the "Kangaroo Bag" and I can't believe how professional it looks! It's not quite finished, but all I have to do is bind the inside seams, which shouldn't take too long! The fabric is so lovely as well, I believe it's linen, which had me a little concerned at first, but it was wonderful to work with and really suits the bag.

I also bought some templates for a storm at sea quilt, as that one has been on my bucket list for a while now! It's in the planning stages at the moment and I'm just amazed by the different looks that can be created by just making one little change. Awesome! I'm loving the design sheets available on the Paper Pieces website - so helpful!

I kept seeing the Sizzix Big Shot at the show, and was intrigued. I was able to see one being used and thought it looked pretty awesome! Muv's friend has lent me her machine that she uses for card making. I decided to buy an apple core die so that I could try it out. I didn't want any of the strips or just squares, because they seemed a bit boring! I can see how they would be useful in the future though! I was absolutely amazed at how quick it is to use! I cut out 108 apple cores in just 40 minutes! 

No way I could've done that by hand. Also, there was no pain at the end of it. I would've been in agony if I'd done it with a rotary cutter. The part that took the longest was working out the best way to fold the fabric to get the right cut, with the least amount of wastage. 

Now I'm trying to decide on the best layout for my apple cores, which is taking longer than I thought...or perhaps I'm just trying to put off my first attempt at curved piecing! Haha, I am looking forward to giving it a go though! I think my biggest obstacle is going to be pinning...I'm not a pinner, I'm a shove it through and hope kinda girl!

Remember my post about the Juki Exceed f400? Well...due to a very lovely Muv, I am now the proud owner of the Juki Exceed f600!!!! I call her Juki, she is just the most loveliest of beasts ever! It makes me a bit sad that I haven't been able to use her very much, due to the medication change, but I will get there! I feel we will bond over the apple cores :-)

Anyway, that was the condensed version of the last 3 months of my life, hope you enjoyed it :-)

Monday, 12 May 2014

All about ME

Today is ME awareness day so I thought it would be the perfect time to share my ME story.

I became ill at the age of 11, when I had a virus that was suspected Glandular Fever. I don't remember much about that time but I do know that I just never got better again. My mum and I would traipse back down to the doctors many times over the next few years trying to find an answer, but it was always in vain. I was asked several times "Why don't you want to go to school, are you being bullied?", to which I would always respond "No, I wish I could go to school, but I'm not well enough to". I was sent to see counsellors who would ask me why I was there and I wouldn't really know how to answer, because I saw no reason for me to be there. They then referred me to a group therapy for "troubled teens", that was even more of a waste of time - the people in that group had real mental health problems and I had no place being there. I knew I had something physically wrong with me even if noone would admit it! I believe my school attendance was around 50%, yet I managed to leave with 8 GCSEs under my belt. It was around the time that I took my GCSEs that I met a doctor who was willing to suggest that there actually was something wrong with me! 

So, at the age of 16, after 5 long years of having no idea what was wrong with me, I finally had an answer! CFS/ME. I was so pleased to have a name for what was wrong with me. I didn't realise at that point what a difficult diagnosis it is! I was given no medications to try and ease my symptoms, just told to go on the internet and look up "pacing".

So for years I just struggled on. I managed to go to Sixth Form College, although had many meetings with my personal tutor about my attendance, because it had dropped even lower than the 50% of High School. I scraped through with 3 A Levels and 1 AS Level. I had applied to go to University and had managed to get the grades I needed. I had intended to go to Uni after a year off, however, a problem with the name on my results caused me to be put into clearing as it looked like I only had one A Level. That led me to look at the places available on clearing where I saw a course that I really wanted to do - Criminology with Forensic Science (I was originally signed up for Criminology with Psychology). So I called them and managed to blag my way onto the course (I was supposed to have Science A Levels, but I just had GCSEs) and ended up going that year instead of the one after. That was a BIG mistake! I barely made it to any classes, and because I had changed my mind so late about when I was going, I hadn't applied in time for my student loan, so I had no money for the first 6 weeks! The stress of that, and having moved away from home and trying to look after myself on very little energy caused me to have quite a severe flare up and I spent pretty much all of my time in bed, but unable to sleep. I saw the doctor who gave me sleeping pills, which turned me into a zombie. After 8 weeks of not attending classes, I decided I needed to drop out, as there was no way I would be able to catch up on everything I had missed. 

I came back home and attempted to apply for benefits. I was told I was not ill enough to get Incapacity Benefit but I was too ill to get Jobseeker's Allowance...so I got nothing. I still can't really believe that this happened, and if it happened now, I would be sure to appeal this decision, but I was 18 years old and believed what the DWP told me! Luckily my parents looked after me until I was well enough to get a job. I started work in the Science Lab of the School my Dad worked at. They were aware of my condition and because I was helping them out until they got someone permanent, they allowed me to come in on my good days and stay home on my bad days. I managed 3 or 4 days a week most of the time. 

After that job came to an end I got myself a job at Sainsbury's, where I was contracted for 13 hours a week. That sounds like a very small amount, but I really struggled at first. I was working on the rotisserie chicken counter, so the job involved being on my feet for the whole shift, and lugging crates of chickens around the place. It took me a long time to be able to do those 13 hours without too much pain and suffering after each shift! Eventually, I worked my way up until I was working full time, by doing a lot of overtime shifts.

I also moved out to live with my boyfriend at the time. Then came a very stressful year, and as stress is a trigger for this illness, it all came tumbling down again. After the break up I moved back home with my parents and struggled to look after myself. After my previous experience with DWP I signed on for JSA rather than trying to get Incapacity Benefit, as I thought it wasn't worth the fight!

After about 6 months I finally got myself a job with an agency as a temp. I did the job for 6 months, full time and didn't take any holiday - my first big mistake! - and was then taken on as permanent staff. Almost as soon as I was made permanent, I went off sick, because I was completely burnt out. I managed to last 18 months, with various days off sick before I burnt out completely and had the biggest crash of my life.

I am still off sick, it has been nearly 2 years since I first went off sick with a migraine, with new symptoms arriving on a weekly or monthly basis. I have spent the last 2 years mostly in bed, in a lot of pain, with severe problems with concentration, memory and headaches. I fought to be referred to the local CFS/ME clinic, which I didn't know even existed until it was mentioned to my Dad when they thought he had ME as well. Eventually I was referred and had a course of CBT. This left me able to do a lot less than I could do before I was referred, because the first thing I was told to do was to reduce my activity completely. I have not managed to increase my activity from that point. After the CBT I saw the consultant for a whopping 7 minutes in which she asked me if I wanted to go back to work. I responded "That's my main aim". A few weeks after this I received a copy of a letter sent to my GP stating that I was ready to go back to work. I still have no idea how she came to the conclusion that a person who is unable to shower because of the amount of time spent standing up is able to go back to work! I sent a letter back and got no response. 

I then got an appointment through to see the "occupational therapist". I have never in my life met such a rude person. She was very negative towards me, and would make snippy comments about every question I answered. Even if I was doing something right, her response was negative: "That's not too bad!". In the first session she said to me "I think we need to work out why you won't make changes so you can get better, are you just enjoying throwing a sickie?" - I still can't believe that someone who is supposed to help you get better would say something like that! I saw her three times and cried during two of them. The last session made me snap, and I yelled at her...something I'm not proud of, but it did make me feel a lot better! We agreed that there was nothing the clinic could do for me as I needed to get my pain levels under control to be able to do any of the things they were recommending.

So back to the GP, and after 14 years of this illness, I have finally found a GP who is willing to try and get my symptoms under control! He has also suggested that pain I am suffering sounds a lot like Fibro, and having read up on it a bit, I think I agree with him! We have been trying since November to improve my symptoms using medications, and have not been very successful so far, as most medications cause some nasty side effects! I am currently taking Amitriptyline and Pregabalin to try and help with the pain. The problem is that they both cause sleepiness, so I feel a bit like a zombie at the moment. 

I am currently in the process of being assessed for Employment and Support Allowance. You are supposed to be assessed within 13 weeks of your initial claim...I applied in January 2013, and have just had my medical assessment on 7th May 2014. Apparently the decision could take weeks or it could take months. Judging by how they've dealt with my claim so far, I'm going with months! Also, judging by other ME sufferers experiences, I'm fully expecting to have to appeal the decision, which is stress that this body just doesn't need!

I have recently had to make the decision to get a mobility scooter at the age of 25 because without it, I just don't leave the house. Having the scooter means I can walk my dog again, something I have been unable to do for a while now, without causing another huge crash. Having the scooter also means I get to deal with the comments of judgmental people. I have no idea why they think they have a right to call me lazy, when I have never met them before, and they know nothing about me. Perhaps they think it's a really funny joke, but I just wish they would think for two seconds before they open their mouths. What 25 year old in their right mind would use a mobility scooter unless it was actually necessary!?!?! It takes me a lot of guts to get on that scooter and go out into the judgmental world, and I have to work myself up to be able to do it each time.

I am just so glad that I have found quilting, as it is a hobby that I can do in tiny bits, and end up with something lovely at the end! Some days, the thought of sewing is just too much, but I can sit with a notepad and create plans for future quilts.

So, there's a little insight into what life is like right now, and how it has led up to this point. 

If you want to donate to help fund the UK Rituximab Trial for CFS/ME sufferers the information is here:

Part of the #May12BlogBomb

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Secret Project is finished!

I have finally finished The Secret Project and I am SO pleased with it! There have been a LOT of problems with this one but now that it is finished it is amazing!

The unpicking ended up taking 12 hours in total! Ridiculous! It had taken me four hours to sew everything that I then unpicked. It took one hour to re-sew it (and do the other half that I hadn't previously done!) in the Gutterman thread! I think that shows just how annoying the YLI thread was to use! I'm sure it's a lovely thread really, but it just did not get on with my machine.

So I got it all trimmed down and then bound the edges and took some pretty photos (sorry, can't show them yet!) and then popped it in the wash. Took it out and discovered that the area I had used fabric paint on had peeled in places! I was so upset!

I waited for it to dry and then repainted the areas that had peeled. I think that the first time I did it I can't have heat set it properly, so I spent a good 15-20 minutes doing it this time (the bottle advised 1 - 2 minutes!). I left it overnight and then popped it in the wash this morning. I used the handwash cycle because I thought it would be a bit more gentle. Luckily it came out really nice with no peeled patches.

So the Secret Project is finally properly finished! Huzzah!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Soldiering on with the Secret Project

So the Quilt Inspector has been whisked off on holiday with my parents for a week and without his distracting ways I have been getting on with things in QuiltLand. 

After my frustration with the FMQing on the secret project I decided to try one more thing to fix the problems...changing the thread. I decided to use the navy blue Guterman all purpose thread that I'd already used successfully on the main body of this quilt. I figured if I had the same problems with this thread then I'd only have a little bit to rip out and I could just persevere with the YLI thread. The Guterman worked like a dream, absolutely no skipped stitches and no thread breakage. I used a full bobbin without ANY problems and then realised I would have to rip out all the YLI thread that I'd spent sooo long putting in.

I think it's the right decision, even though my hand is killing me from using the seam ripper today! I wasn't quite sure that the colour of the thread looked quite right on the fabric and I'm much happier with the navy blue, especially as the stitches are much more even and no hideous parts with skipped stitches.

I'm not finished ripping out the YLI thread but I do feel like I've made a good dent in it! And I can always do a quick stint with the navy blue thread when I get fed up of ripping out stitches! I think if it were any other quilt than this one I would have just soldiered on but this one really needs to be perfect!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

I'm in love!

I went to the local sewing machine dealer today and have totally fallen in love! Not with the salesman (although he was a very helpful chap) but with a lovely lovely sewing machine. It's the Juki Exceed Quilt and Pro and it is glorious!

It has everything I want in a machine plus some things I didn't know I want (until now!). The things I was looking for when I entered the shop were: a large throat space, needle up/down, speed limiter. I didn't realise that I wanted a knee lifter (super awesome attachment that when nudged by your knee will raise the presser foot), an automatic needle threader (I have one one the current machine - a Singer Talent 3321 - but never use it because it's awkward and to be honest takes longer for me than if I were to just thread it myself! The one on this machine is fabulous though!), the ability to cut the threads with a heel press on the foot pedal, automatic tension (he went from normal cotton thread, to a metallic thread, to an invisible thread and back to normal without changing the tension and each stitch was beautiful!), a big red light that tells you not to start sewing because the presser foot is raised (!!!) and a screen that shows you which presser foot you need for the stitch you have chosen.

It was truly a beautiful machine and had I had the money available I'm pretty sure I would have walked out with it! At least I now have a goal for me to save up for, as I was so unsure of what I wanted when I was just looking online as you can't really get a feel for the machine. Having seen it in action I am now certain that it is what I am looking for!