The Pink Button Tree

The Pink Button Tree: July 2014

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Getting some inspiration...patchwork and quilt ideas

The fabric has been bought and now it's time to decide on the quilt design. I'm not quite sure what I am going make just yet, all I know is that I want to make quilt for our bed. It is going to be a big project and it certainly won't be a quilt project that I can make in a weekend! I want the project to be challenging and to try out some new patchwork and piecing techniques.

I've been busy book marking lovely quilts in my favourite quilt magazine Love Patchwork & Quilting. I've bought this gorgeous magazine from issue one and we are now at issue eleven. If you haven't already taken a look I'd highly recommend buying a copy! Love Patchwork & Quilting has a fantastic fresh design, includes modern quilt designs and inspiring projects. I love the fabric range and colour palettes the magazine uses and adore the round up of new fabrics in the industry. Each time I read it I get so excited and want to make something. I've been getting lots of inspiration from the magazine about how I could make my quilt and I am slowly working out ideas of what to do. I think I have about 6 quilts so far that I want to make so I will have to start narrowing down the options!

As I mentioned in my post about buying pre-cuts I have a real love of Camille Roskelley and her gorgeous colour palette and fabric design. I regularly read her lovely blog Simplify and I have both of her books. I really enjoy seeing how many different designs that you can achieve with pre-cuts. I'm slowly working my way through Camille's Craftsy course too and starting to get ideas and learning new techniques of speedy piecing.

I want to create a quilt that shows off the gorgeous fabric but also something that is a little different and designed by me. I'm torn as I would love to have a quilt with a consistent design but I don't want to get bored, I really want to learn new piecing skills so I think it may involve something a little different.

What better way to learn lots of skills than to create a sampler quilt! There are lots of traditional sampler quilts out there but I want something that I could create that I'd be really proud of and that I could gradually make over a number of months. A few years ago the Farmer's Wife Quilt was a huge trend in the quilt making blogosphere and I am seriously considering making my own. The book looks so old fashioned as the sampler squares use the dark and muddy fabrics that I'm really not keen on. Many quilters including Camille Roskelley have taken on the challenge and created a Farmer's Wife Quilt using bright modern and fresh fabrics to give the patterns a new lease of life. There are 111 different quilt blocks you can make measuring 6.5 by 6.5 inches for each complete block. The problem is that the individual shapes in the book are not given with dimensions, you have to print off the shapes and draw round them. I'm not sure it's what I want to do but I may do a bit of a trial to see if I have the patience. I know I'll learn a lot as there are some really complicated and fiddly designs!

Then there's Tula Pink, a fab personality in the quilt making world who has fabric lines, books and quilt designs under her belt. I bought her book 100 Modern Quilt Blocks this year and I love it. There are measurements of each block and shape used as well as ideas of assembling the quilt at the end. The book is really appealing as Tula uses lovely bright fabrics and makes it feel achievable, rather than a dark art of the Farmer's Wife Quilt book. The squares in her book also assemble to 6.5 by 6.5 inches and look really fresh and modern.

There are so many ideas that I'm working through at the moment. I've got some limits in terms of the fabric pre-cuts I have bought but there are plenty of options to make gorgeous designs with these. At the moment I'm thinking about going for a combination of my favourite blocks from each of the sampler quilt books and plan to make a few trial blocks to see what I like.

Watch this space to see how I get on!

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Thursday, 24 July 2014

July in our courtyard garden

Our courtyard is really coming alive this summer with lots of pops of colour. I'm loving spending time tending to the plants, watering them and watching them grow everyday. Coming home after a busy day at work and pottering in the garden is one of my favourite things at the moment.

I've grown quite a few things this year from seed including radishes, lettuce, rocket, chillies, courgettes, potatoes, marigolds and carrots. Here's how our courtyard garden is looking during July.

The plants are sunning themselves in our sunny corner of our courtyard, this is where most of our plants grow really well. Our metal bench is temporarily being used as a pot stand to elevate the plants off the ground to get more light and out of reach of any snails or slugs.

I've got three courgette plants and all are grown from seed and are starting to flower. I can't wait to see if we get courgettes this summer. If you look closely you can see one growing already!

The chillies I grew from seed are taking shape.

My strawberry plants are starting to grow a few small fruits. I'll have to keep an eye on these in case the birds get a bit peckish!

The rocket is ready to eat.

The carrots are growing and I really hope there is something in the soil below all the greenery!

I harvested the potatoes a few weeks ago and I squealed with delight seeing that I had managed to grow so many this year...

I was convinced I'd have a really tiny crop of potatoes as I hadn't fed them as much as I should have and I neglected them a little too. The plants got so big they start falling over with the weight of the plant and went really floppy. I wasn't expecting many potatoes to have grown so before starting to dig them up I poured a cup of tea in preparation of a short lived harvesting session...instead these little beauties came out of our containers. We ate these all pretty quickly during the savouring the taste of home grown potatoes with home grown chives and mint.

The mint has finally taken off and smells amazing.

Our blueberry bush is trying to grow fruit.

I perked up our window boxes with some pink and white geraniums, they make me smile each time I open our blinds. The heat and sunshine got to them this week.

The tomato plants are finally flowering and growing fruit. I'm hoping for a good harvest this year so I can add a few to my salad each day.

These geraniums have been growing for a few years now and have delivered some gorgeous bright red and pink blooms. I love how they contrast with the blue pot. I have a little bit of an obsession with blue glazed pots...

I grew marigolds from seed this year and I can't tell you how excited I am by seeing each plant flower one by one. I have a few containers of these flowers and I am so happy with how they are growing.

The pops of colour are making me smile.

My fuchsias are flowering like crazy and I'm loving watching each flower open and elegantly display its stamens and display such pretty colours.

Our courtyard seems to be loving the warm and sunny weather we are having this year. I think that it is the best our garden has ever looked! I love getting outside and escaping into our little space. Are you doing any gardening at the moment? How is your space looking?


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Life at the moment

Over the past few weeks I've been...

Smiling...from ear to ear that I've grown these marigolds from seed.

Enjoying...quality time with my family and with Mr C. 

Loving...the city we live in. Bristol comes alive in the summer with festival upon festival, this weekend it was the Harbour Festival. Mr C and I took a ride on this big wheel enjoying the views over our city and watching the sun go down. a number of inspiring podcasts by Elise Blaha Cripe. Check out Elise Gets Crafty, I've been listening to this for a few months now and love it! new house plant, a little fern.

Watching...the last three episodes of How I Met Your Mother back to back and having a little blub! It reminded me of when Friends finished all those years ago. The end of an era.

Making...a few crochet squares after a busy day at work and remembering how much I love having hooky time.

Relaxing...on a deckchair in our courtyard garden and enjoying an elderflower gin and tonic after a busy week.

Eating...a yummy tapas lunch at No Man's Grace to celebrate a friend's birthday.

Wrapping...packing and sending a special parcel of bon voyage goodies to a great friend and wishing her lots of luck, positivity and bravery for their year ahead working in gorgeous Sydney, Australia. 

Researching...designs and patterns for my new quilt

Counting...down to our summer holiday with friends!


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Pre-cuts - Time to make a new quilt

One of my favourite things to do when I start a new sewing project is finding the fabric I want to use. I love searching for new fabrics, selecting my favourite prints I find, matching colour palettes and gradually adding to a collection for a project like I did with this two-sided patchwork cushion cover. The problem that I find with the process of finding and selecting the fabrics is that it can take a really long time. I think I sometimes make it harder for myself to start a project as I've not really mastered matching print size and colour palettes just yet and so I just sit and collect fabric, waiting until I think I have enough to make a project. I want to start making the sewing process and making projects a little more speedy, simplify it and get back on my sewing machine and get stitching.

I want to start making a proper quilt for our home and hope to create something I want to keep, display and be proud of in years to come. I've made a few patchwork quilts over the past few years but I have made them for friends' babies and so gave them away and didn't get to spend much time with the finished project. I'm planning to make a quilt for a king sized bed. I know it will be a daunting task and will be the biggest quilt I will have created to date. It will be a project that will require some real thought and discipline when I come to creating it. To help me in the process of making this quilt I've decided to cheat a little, instead of spending months and months searching for fabrics that match I have decided to get some help from the experts! I want to simplify the making process and start a project that allows me to have more time spent on my sewing machine and making, and less time online searching for I've decided to buy into the world of fabric pre-cuts!

Pre-cut fabrics are cut to a defined size and tend to come in a pack containing each pattern from a fabric range. All the fabrics in a range are designed to complement each other and can be used to create lovely projects with a consistent colour palette or theme. Pre-cuts come in a range of sizes with great names such as jelly rolls, charm squares, layer cakes and fat quarters, which are what I tend to normally use. I love the names these fabric cuts have been given, I'm not sure how they link to their pre-defined sizes, but it makes it sound so much fun rather than what they could be called, fabric strips or squares!

For a few years now I've been (unhealthily!) lusting after fabric by Bonnie and Camille for Moda and over the past two weeks have finally made the decision to take the plunge and buy the Happy-Go-Lucky fabric range with 40 different prints. It's gorgeous, bright, happy coloured fabric with a wide variety of prints and patterns that all look so lovely together.

I decided to buy a jelly roll, a roll of fabric strips that measure 2.5 inches by the width of fabric, two charm packs made up of 5.5 inch squares of fabric, and one mini charm pack, made up of 2.5 inch squares. I know that making a big king size quilt is going to cost me quite a bit of money and I will be investing lots of time making it. I knew that I had to make sure that I was going to love the fabric that I would be using and I really do!

I could spend my days flicking through the fabric range and arranging the charm squares in different combinations...I love it! I may need to buy a few more packs of pre-cuts but also some larger pieces of some of the prints for the back of the quilt. But at the moment I'm waiting to decide what type of quilt I'm going to make. I hope to build the courage over the next few weeks to the maths to work out how much more fabric I need. Eek! Maths is one of my huge weaknesses I can do maths well but on so many occasions my mind goes completely blank, I get in a muddle and flustered and then struggle to calculate what I need. I think that by making a quilt where I'm going to make something different I will grow my skills and gain more confidence calculating fabric needed. I'm hoping to demystify the maths process as I make my quilt because it scares me and I'm sure it scares most beginner quilt makers too! I'm hoping that pre-cuts will help the process at little.

If you want to see where I saw this fabric and where got inspired, take a look at Camille Roskelley's blog, Simplify. This blog was one of the few that really inspired me to start patchwork, opened my eyes up to beautiful fabrics, pre-cuts and the idea of a sampler quilt and modern patchwork and quilting. I love the gorgeous colour palette Camille uses, she has a real eye for colour and she expertly combines lots of different fabrics she has created to make fresh modern quilts that make me want to jump for joy and create one myself. I'm a super huge fan of hers and would love to have a quilt making lesson with her! I own her two books Simplify and Simply Retro and also have bought her Pre-cuts Piecing Made Simple course on Craftsy, and now own some of the pre-cuts in her gorgeous fabric range! Bonnie and Camille have another fabric range out later on this year which I really love called Miss Kate, which I will buy, hopefully it will make it into shops over here or I will really have to save up and get it shipped from the US! I want to combine the Happy-Go-Lucky fabric range and Miss Kate to make my next quilt and perhaps pick up a few fat quarters from the April Showers fabric range and some from Scrumptious too if I can find them. The range of fabrics use the same range of colours that I really love.

Buying pre-cut fabric is a big change for me, I normally buy fat quarters or half metres of fabric with the safety of knowing that I've got plenty of my favourite prints to use across multiple projects and for whatever shape and size I want. I'm excited to start using pre-cuts as I hope that it will speed up the making process for me and enable me to do less cutting than normal. Now that the fabric decisions have been made I'd better start making some decisions about the style of quilt I'm going to make. I'll let you know how I get on trying to navigate the world of patterns and quilt options using pre-cuts!

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Monday, 7 July 2014

Community Farmer Day

Do you sometimes feel that life seems to fly by? For me that's just what is happening at the moment. I've had a number of very busy weeks at work and I am gradually getting used to dealing with the new demands and volumes of work in my job, whilst trying to have a bit of a work life has been a little tricky but I'm slowly making it I'm posting something today that I wanted to write a while ago but I haven't had the chance...

A few weeks ago I decided to take a day away from my normal weekend routine to do something completely different. I got involved in something fantastic that cleared my head, made me feel great, enabled me to spend a day outside in the fresh air and made me feel really energised at the end of it. I decided I wanted to give my time to something that I felt passionate about...I decided to become a volunteer for a day at The Community Farm.

The Community Farm in Chew Magna was set up in 2011 as an organic farm to grow yummy vegetables for organic vegetable boxes. The Community Farm "aim to reconnect people with the land where their food is grown" of the things letting them fulfil this are Community Farmer Days that the farm run, alongside many other community initiatives.

I have been wanting to do something different with my time and have been thinking about volunteering for a while. When I think back to what being a volunteer meant when I was younger, it was being made to go (or feel you have to go!) every week. However this was totally different, the volunteering at The Community Farm suited me perfectly, you can just sign up when you want to go using a list of dates on the website, there is no commitment to go each week which suits my lifestyle perfectly. After seeing a few email newsletters from the farm about what was going on that month I decided to sign up. Each time I read about the volunteering on the newsletter I had a gut reaction and really wanted to have a go, so I signed up with one of my best friends and the gut reaction paid off...we had a fantastic day.

On Saturday 21st June my friend Kate and I headed off to Chew Magna, a beautiful part of the country just 25 minutes away from Bristol. We signed up to spend a day volunteering prepared to get stuck into whatever the farm needed us to do that day. We did well to pick a day with good weather, it was a really warm and sunny! Armed with sun cream, lots of water, hats, bags of enthusiasm and big smiles we began our Community Farmer Day experience...

We started the day with a steaming cup of tea, some freshly picked strawberries and got ourselves settled in the yurt for a briefing about the day with Ian, the Volunteer Coordinator. The room was buzzing with people itching to get started. As a group we had three tasks that the farm were keen to get our help with while we were there. The tasks involved weeding around the leeks and lettuce in one of the fields, planting courgettes and creating a row of bean poles. There were about 18 of us who were ready to get stuck in, there were a mix of newbies like Kate and I, and others who had been before.

Kate and I decided to take the first part of the day weeding around the lettuces, we worked in our pair moving down each row and managed to complete the weeding on two rows of lettuces in the field in the felt like a huge achievement. The sun was beating down and it was hard work but it felt very therapeutic getting rid of the weeds and watching our progress as we worked up and down the field!

About 12.30pm we stopped for a lunch break and tucked into some freshly picked salad leaves, tomatoes and strawberries from the farm to top up our packed lunches. Everything was so yummy and freshly picked that morning.

After lunch we were given a tour of the farm and saw a range of plants, vegetables and fruit that the farm were growing. We saw all areas where the farm grow things and we learnt about how the farm is run and how the local communities get involved. The farm is set next to the Chew Valley Lake and has some amazing views, it must be a great place to work!

We saw how the farm grows crops under cover as well as in the 22 acres of fields. A range of crops including cucumbers, tomatoes, chillies, herbs were being grown undercover, and courgettes, potatoes, leeks, lettuce and strawberries were being grown outside.

After our farm tour we came together as one team to create a row of bean poles. A pile of bamboo poles and twine came together after a hour or so, filling the length of the field. We all were given task to get the job done, whether it was pushing the bean poles into the ground or tying the tops of the poles to the guideline wire. We all worked hard as a team and had some time left at the end to plant the beans!

I planted these beauties...

Hopefully by now the beans will have germinated and will be growing, and making a bit of progress up the poles.

It was a day I will always remember. Ian kept us motivated all day with his enthusiasm and we spent the day with a lovely set of volunteers that I'm sure I will get to meet again sometime soon. The day felt that we were given real responsibility to help out at tasks that would make a difference and helped the farm function that week. The experience definitely gave us the opportunity to reconnect with the land and see how things are grown.

Late afternoon arrived and we headed home feeling super pleased with ourselves. We felt a real sense of achievement that we had managed to complete the tasks that we had been asked to get involved in during the day. I loved the day as it enabled me to combine the chance to do something for the local community, to learn some new skills and see how organic vegetables are grown on a large scale.

I went away buzzing with enthusiasm and had a spring in my step that stayed with me all weekend. I've found voluntary work I love and something that I'm definitely going to sign up for again in a few months time. I'm really looking forward to going back.

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