Saturday, 31 May 2014

More decluttering and Gift Aid

I had a very successful morning last Thursday. Normally I am at my Patchwork Group meeting but had to give it a miss as my husband needed the car.

So I decided to use the unexpected time to complete the clearing out and decluttering of my wardrobes in our bedroom.  DH handed down all the things in the top cupboards before he left so I didn't have to struggle going up and down the set of steps to reach things down.  The bedroom floor was covered with a random mess of handbags, scarves, cloth bags, all sorts of precious memories such as the lacy hand knitted shawl I made for our son and the lacy hand knitted shawl my grandmother made for one of my nieces.  Even some vases!

So I had a thorough sort out. I was quite ruthless and my the end of the morning I had a large bag of rubbish for the bin and two carrier bags of things to take to the Charity Shop. Over the years I have found that a good rule to follow with decluttering is to immediately take bags of clutter to the Charity Shop.  That way there is no chance that you will have second thoughts and the decluttered items get out back into your cupboard. So, next day off they went to the local Hospice shop.

In the UK we have an excellent idea called Gift Aid. If you are a tax payer you can make arrangements with charities so they can claim an extra 20% on your items that they sell.  So if the Charity Shop sells £100 of your unwanted decluttered belongings they earn an extra £20 making a grand total of £120 for the good cause.  I have Gift Aid arrangements with three Charity Shops in my town. As I declutter I visit each one in turn, donating those particular things and giving the shop permission to use our Gift Aid arrangement.  I have no idea how much money the shops earn from my unwanted goods but the Hospice shop emails me a note ( I think every quarter) and tells me how much extra cash they have earned from my Gift Aid. I didn't think I had taken so many items into the shop in the past three months but last week I received an email which said they had gained an extra £13 from my donations.  This was a real surprise to me....... £130 for that good cause from a few no longer needed things!  I tried to think back. What had I taken into the shop? About 7 T-shirts which no longer suit me, a couple of paperbacks and perhaps a couple of pairs of shoes? It's so good to know that your decluttering means money for very well worthwhile causes. A great incentive for me to carry on gradually going through all my cupboards and drawers and getting rid of things I NO LONGER NEED!

I read a post on a decluttering website last week where the author stated that it is OK to give away/ pass on/ throw out things that you have been given but actually don't want or need.  This is actually quite a hard thing to do, especially if, like me, you were brought up in post war Britain where nothing was thrown away, everything was used and recycled.  However, since my recent campaign of having a major decluttering I have given several unwanted presents away.  I rarely use scented candles but had acquired a collection of fancy wrapped boxes of them. So I passed them on as Raffle prizes.  Out of my house but hopefully now being used and enjoyed by someone who likes to light scented candles in their house! And on Thursday I finally threw away a pot plant that has languished on my bay window for several years!  How crazy is that?  I never liked the plant, it was always straggly and looked messy but because it had been given to me I felt honor bound to keep it. I cannot even remember who gave it to me! But, hot on the heels of my major wardrobe decluttering success I took the bull by the horns and threw the dreary straggly plant into our green recycling bin.  Now it will be made into compost so nicer and better loved plants can be grown.

So, my Decluttering Tips are:

1.  Take small steps: one drawer or one section of a cupboard at a time. That way you will complete
     the task and feel successful.
2.  Give yourself permission to pass on unwanted gifts.
3.  Take the decluttered items to the Charity Shop straight away (or throw into the bin!) before you
      have time for second thoughts.
4.   Make sure you deal with mail the day it arrives: junk mail in the recycling bin, bills paid
      immediately, statements etc filed today. Otherwise you will end up with a heap of unsorted
      paperwork like me! That's another of my tasks!

Have a great Decluttering Sunday!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A very PINK Doll's quilt

We recently stayed with friends in Amsterdam and we met their delightful grandchildren again.  The little girl is now 3 years old and loves her dolls and soft toys, wrapping them up and taking them for walks in her doll's pushchair. 

As a little Thank you to Granny and Grandpa I decided to send some small gifts for the children, including a Doll's quilt for Eden-Rose. She loves PINK!  The day we saw her she was dressed head to toe in pink so of course I had to make the quilt very pink too!

Here it is, ready to pop into the parcel with a book for her and two books for her big brother:

I hand blanket stitched around the hearts and hand quilted with a silky variegated thread.  The inner border and backing are the same fabric, a very soft silky cotton which feels really lovely.

All the patches came from my 3.5" squares stash so the quilt top came together quite quickly. 
It saves so much time if you have squares already cut.  I keep 2", 2.5", 3" and 3.5" as I use all of these sizes regularly.  Whenever I finish a project I cut smaller leftovers and off cuts from the quilt sandwich into squares and strips for my Scraps Stash.

Here's a close up:

After I have shown it to my Patchwork group tomorrow it will be winging its way to Holland.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Donation quilts handed over

I love making small quilts, especially if scraps are involved. I enjoy making Premature baby quilts to donate to my local hospital which is dear to my heart.

I have been a presenter with Hospital Radio there for 17 years, over 11of those years  as Duty Producer.  I recently stood down from this role as I have had health problems for almost 3 years now but I will continue to produce and present some programmes.

As a retired Primary teacher, children and babies are of the utmost importance to me, so I love making quilts for the Premature babies.  Since the latter part of 2013 I have been making some Premature baby quilts, completing two more this year.  Our hospital prefers a size of 20" x 15" so now that I have completed six and I had a hospital appointment there too this afternoon, I decided to take them into the Unit today.

This is the 6th quilt I finished a few days ago:

This quilt was made from bright scraps left over from a bundle of fat eigths which had been given to me as a gift.
All six quilts are bright and made mostly from scraps.  Two feature Crumb squares turned into HSTs paired with a lime Kona solid  and two more have a rabbit novelty fabric and small HSTs made into small blocks and made into rows.
Each quilt has a variety of binding fabrics: some have the same binding for the whole quilt, some have a scrap binding effect using leftover bits of binding from my stash.
Backings are a mixture too: 
The 2 Crumb/lime HST quilts have a recycled sheet for the backing.
One has a recycled blue gingham shirt which came from one of my husband's shirts as the collar was  worn.
The other two backings were suitably sized pieces from my stash.
All of the quilts are hand quilted, some with Perle cottons, some with regular quilting thread.
Here they are:

The two on the Top Row were made this year, the Bottom Row were completed in 2013.

My next photo shows the backings:

The nurses were delighted with the quilts and I was thrilled to hand them over.  I hope they bring joy and happiness to some families.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Exciting post today

I love receiving post and today's was especially good!
Two items I had recently ordered both arrived on the same day:

First, a great Quilt Book by Bonnie K Hunter (Quiltville blog) which is called String Fling. The book was published in 2012 and is Bonnie's 4th book.  She has recently published another one.
I follow Bonnie's blog and as she is constantly touring teaching classes you get to see some great photos of the places she visits as well as the students and the great blocks and quilts they are making.

In a couple of recent posts my eye was drawn to two of her quilt designs: Tulip Fields and Pfeffernusse. Both were in the same book String Fling so I ordered it from Amazon.  Postal charges from the States are so high now but this was a reasonable way of getting the book to me.

Then I saw a bundle of 4 fat Quarters on Ebay:  4 coordinating pale pink fabrics, the main one having a Parisian theme.  I am short of pink fabrics in my stash and as I may be going to make a pink baby girl quilt for a neighbour I thought they would be good to add to the stash.. Good price too!

So, although one parcel was coming from The USA and the other from here in the UK they both popped through the letterbox this morning.

I have just skimmed through the book and it looks great.  All the 13 quilts are made from string and scrap fabrics, so just up my street. Now I have to decide which blocks to try first.

The Fat Quarters are going into my diminished stash of pink fabrics, ready for the baby quilt when I get confirmation from my neighbour.

Here's a photo:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Never too old to learn

I have been Quilting since 1997 and made so many quilts that I cannot even remember them all.
However, I was never a sewer until I started making Patchwork quilts. 

I hated the year of sewing we had to do at Grammar School: the teacher didn't have the patience to explain to a girl like me who didn't have a clue about sewing machines!

After I qualified as a Primary School teacher I attended an evening class for Dressmaking but again it didn't really thrill me. 

When I was in my mid 20s my mother-in-law gifted me her old machine when she replaced it with a Bernina and when our daughter started ballet and tap dancing I was forced to use the dreaded machine to make costumes for the various Dance Shows Caroline was in.  Oh dear, the ups and downs of those costumes!  I once had to make a proper net tutu on a fitted satin strappy bodice.  Lots of downs with that one but I got there in the end.  I'll let you into a secret.................... that tutu is still hanging in the Guest room wardrobe as I just cannot part with it ( too many hours of sewing went into that dress).

Fast forward to 1997 when I got bitten by the Patchwork and Quilting Bug.  I HAD to conquer my fear of sewing machines and I managed straight stitches OK..... nothing else, nothing fancy and certainly NO machine quilting!  I tried it once and nearly ruined a lovely baby quilt so it was back to hand quilting for ever as far as I was concerned.  I love hand quilting and like the effect it gives the quilts.

However last Sunday I decided to make an I Spy Playmat for a baby born a couple of days before.  Baby Caspian is part of our extended family and I know playmats are useful for babies to lie on and kick and have their "tummy time".  In addition it can double up as a Moses basket and crib quilt and even keep him warm and cosy in the car or when he is being cuddled.

In an afternoon I chose the patches and sewed them together into a top.  Next day on went the bright yellow spotty border and the following day I sandwiched it ready for quilting.  Then I heard a family member was going to visit the new baby on Saturday so, if I could finish the quilt in time he could deliver it by hand.  Much safer than trusting it to the postal system.  In order to meet this deadline I would have to machine quilt!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I bought a walking foot almost three years ago but had never been able to work out how to put it onto the machine - that sticky up pokey rod flummoxed me.  So I asked my good friend Ruth to show me how to out it on when our Patchwork Group met at my house on Thursday. She put it on (I hope I can remember how next time!) and after lunch I set to, sewing up and down either side of all the seam lines.  And I DID IT!  It's really good, I didn't stress about it and the finished grid is perfectly acceptable.  I am so thrilled with myself, you can't imagine!

So by Friday evening I had a completely finished, bound and labelled (my own hand embroidered label) quilt which was delivered to baby Caspian yesterday.

Which just goes to show YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN!

And here it is!

Can you see my first-ever machine quilting on the back?

This quilt came together so easily.  I enjoyed rummaging through my stash to find 49 different fabrics to use.  Many of them were novelty prints but I also incorporated some African fabrics I bought a few years ago and never found a suitable project where I could use them.  However I like the animal skin prints mixed up with the more traditional boy fabrics.
Another friend had bought the remains of a bolt of fabric half price in a sale and offered friends the chance to buy a metre from her.  The pale yellow and pale cream checked fabric had been in my stash for perhaps a year.  Do you know it was the exact size for my Playmat? 
The trimmings have been trimmed to a 2.5" strip and three 1.75" strips for Alison to use in her Soy Amado Project.
I am busy making some more blocks for Alison and also adding some strips for her to use as sashings and bindings. Alison joins up the strips to make her scrappy bindings and uses a variety of strips for  joining the QAYG blocks to make her delightful colourful quilts for the Children's Home in Mexico. She has now completed 19 quilts ....... check them out in her Soy Amado Group on Flickr.
So, from a very happy bunny, I wish you a lovely Sunday!