New Tricks

This is Taz, one of my three dogs.


He is old(ish) – he’ll be 11 this year – but it’s not him learning new tricks, it’s me but I’m much older than 11 and not as good looking in close-up.

If you remember, I have been taking part in a patchwork block swap called F2F  (organised by Kate and Sue) which involved twelve women from around the globe, making three patchwork blocks a month and sending them to one of the recipients in turn so that all twelve of us end up with 36 blocks, having made 3 for ourselves to turn into a quilt. ( You can read about it here if you are interested.)  Well, I was leisurely putting my blocks together and joined up for the next swap which starts in June when my name got drawn out of the hat first so I will be the first person to receive blocks – probably in around 7 weeks time.  So, that’s put a fire under me and I’m  now desperately trying to get the first quilt finished before the new blocks arrive.  I have learnt a lot from doing this swap and have started trying new things and challenging myself a bit so that the blocks I send to the other participants are not boringly safe or complete pants.

This time, there are only nine of us but that’s O.K. because we can either make a slightly smaller quilt or make more blocks for ourselves.  I have persuaded my Wednesday sewing friend Sandra to join the swap this time which will be a challenge as English is not her first language, she doesn’t blog and is a bit scared of the computer.  We usually find a project to sew together on Wednesdays and, lately, I’ve been running out of ideas.  Here’s our latest project.


Who wouldn’t want an owl as a tea cosy?  Cute aren’t they and will also be useful once I have stopped using mine as a mannequin head which is creeping out anyone who enters my sewing room.

Mannequin and Tea Cosy

The free pattern and tutorial is by Buzy Day here if you want to repel all visitors during sewing time as I try to do unless they are bearing a cup of tea.

Despite owl cuteness, I thought we might be better employed doing something more patchwork(y) now she’s got involved in the swap.  So, for a project last Wednesday afternoon I decided to try paper piecing and forced encouraged Sandra to join me.  Lordy!  What a revelation to the uninitiated.  Not having a light box, we were holding printed patterns and teensy bits of paper up against her windows and trying to join things up backwards and in reverse.  Lots of unpicking was done and I’m sure I saw her take a headache pill at the end of our session.  I continued at home and although I’m chuffed to bits with my first try at a paper pieced block it is not fit for eyes other than my own and so I will show you the half that is only a bit terrible and not the half that went completely to pot.

Half a Paper Pieced Block************************CENSORED*****************************

I think I might actually grow to like paper piecing so I made a light box out of an Ikea box frame and one of those little LED lights that you can stick up somewhere and press for ‘on’.  Basic, but it works and was free as I already had the two components lying around.

Homemade Light Box

I’ve also been trying out free motion quilting on my blocks as I’m ‘quilting as you go’ with this quilt – two new tricks for me in one there –  with varying degrees of success.  FMQ is a lone pursuit and requires you to concentrate like hell while apparently needing to be chilled out at the same time.  I think I’m relaxed then realise my shoulders are up around my ears with the tension.  One YouTube tutorial I watched was by a very sensible lady who suggested you might like to have a glass of wine by your side to help you relax.  A woman after my own heart but I’d be too scared to knock it over on to my fabric.  Maybe it would be better to have one before – and then maybe another one after.  I do need lots more practice but, to date, have been achieving some (very) free form designs which are just about acceptable although how anybody manages to do some of the more intricate FMQ designs I have no idea.  The whole bottle of wine by your side perhaps?

I am far too easily distracted – I blame it on being a Gemini – although I’m not really a believer in astrology it’s just that I can’t think of a better excuse.  For instance, once I had walked the dogs and fed the seemingly ever growing menagerie that lives in our house this morning, I had a whole day free and thought I’d get on with the quilting.  However!  I bought some fabric the other day I’m dying to turn into a sewing box and so I thought, ‘I’ll just get all the pieces cut out so they’ll be ready to put together in the future’ – a stage of the box making which is by no means quick – and ‘whoosh’ there went the rest of the morning.  Now, at lunchtime, instead of eating, I realised I hadn’t posted anything for ages so here I am telling you about what I should be doing instead of doing it.  Hey ho.  There’s always this afternoon.

Haberdashery Fabric by Makower

Fabric is Haberdashery Box by Makower

So, I’m learning FMQ, paper piecing and QAYG and, for my next trick I became a model for a day.

I am involved with a group that raises funds for our local dog and cat shelter and we decided to do something a little different.  We get lots of second hand clothes donated and, to be honest, they don’t look that inviting when hung up or laid out in piles like a jumble sale.  So, we decided that six of us would pick out something from the donations that suited us (or fitted us) and do a ‘fashion show’.  We hired a hall with a stage, some steps and somebody lent us a runner to use as a ‘catwalk’.  One of the organiser’s  partners is a D.J. so we could walk down the catwalk to music and we had a ‘presenter’ who read out descriptions of the outfits we had written ourselves – mostly in humorous fashion and we had clothes by designers such as ‘Terry Err from London’ , ‘Walter Spanielle from Yorkshire’  and ‘Beau de Collie from Paris’.  In other words, helped by a glass of champagne on arrival, everybody had a good laugh.  We modelled five outfits each and they were on sale afterward for 5 euros each.  All the remaining clothes were sold for whatever people chose to put in the donation box.

Fund Raising Amateur Fashion Show

We made a whopping 1400 euros for the Shelter which I can’t help but consider in terms of how many castrations that will pay for 😉

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  1. #1 by nanacathy2 on April 21, 2016 - 14:54

    Love all this post apart from the last line. Poor dogs, but I guess a good plan! Well done anyway.

    • #2 by tialys on April 21, 2016 - 19:30

      They are generally happier for it and make cleaner, healthier pets but, more importantly, can’t provide more shelter fodder.

  2. #3 by katechiconi on April 21, 2016 - 15:01

    The part of the paper piecing you have revealed looks perfect, so I can only take your word for the deterioration below the censorship line! I have to tell you that owl teacosy head on your dummy is totally freakish, and ought to do a wonderful job of keeping any but the most determined out… I am very pleased that you’re making progress with your QAYG work on the F2F quilt – how about a sneak preview or two? And as for FMQ, my personal belief is that you should do it in a spirit of absolute ignorance. Whenever I do all the right things, the results are inevitably shocking. One day, I’ll get there.

    • #4 by tialys on April 21, 2016 - 19:28

      I am waiting for the husband to arrive home tonight because it was he that worked out how much fabric I would need for the sashing and I can’t remember how he did it. I don’t want to start cutting the strips across the width and then find out he worked it out by having me cut them lengthwise. These sorts of things are what cause me to be flummoxed – heaven knows how you work out the ins and outs of your quilt designs. Once I’ve joined one row of six blocks with sashing, I’ll do an interim progress report.

      • #5 by katechiconi on April 22, 2016 - 00:26

        For future reference, and to reduce your dependency on Husbandrithmetic, I always work with the cross grain, using the width of fabric as a guide. Your strips need to be 2″ wide, your fabric width is probably anywhere between 40 and 42″ wide… Well, here’s not the place, but it’s not a hard calculation, and if you want me to draw/write something so you have something to refer to in the future, just say the word!

      • #6 by tialys on April 22, 2016 - 09:27

        Thanks Kate – he works from home on Fridays but I’ve told him I want his original calculations over the weekend sometime and, this time, I’ll take notice of what he’s doing. Otherwise I’ll be coming to you for help (yet again!!).
        I cut the turquoise squares for backing the last eight blocks and I completely stuffed it up so I need to go find another 35cm of fabric today in order to keep my intended colour blocking design on the back. Also, I think I’m going to make four new, very simple blocks, exactly the same, using the scraps from the four different coloured fabrics I’m using for the back, to make the four cornerstones. That’s my weekend sorted then.

      • #7 by katechiconi on April 22, 2016 - 10:38

        Always happy to help. I find the easiest thing is to draw it, add dimensions and then work out how many strips I need cut from the width. Email me if his calculations make sense only to him!

  3. #8 by sew2pro on April 21, 2016 - 16:00

    The dummy’s grown a head! I don’t know how you can stand it either; every time I put a mask or a hat or anything like that on my dummy, it suddenly becomes an unnerving presence in the room looming over everything.

    1400 Euros is an enormous amount of money to have been raised by six models: congratulations and give yourselves a round of applause, you lovely ladies. As for drinking while sewing, I too haven’t tried it for the reason you mention but maybe some non-stain Rosé in a mug might be safe enough. Good luck (looks like you have nothing to worry about except meeting your high standards which I’m sure you will.)

    • #9 by tialys on April 21, 2016 - 19:22

      Good idea – wine in a mug – then nobody could look askance 😉

  4. #10 by Heather Wadsworth on April 21, 2016 - 16:30

    Thank you I really enjoyed reading your blog. Just finished stripping wallpaper, i’d much rather be strip piecing! I think your work looks great.

    • #11 by tialys on April 21, 2016 - 19:21

      Hello Heather and thank you for dropping by. I would rather be doing lots of things than stripping wallpaper. Yuk! Especially if it’s the sort of stuff that’s hard to get off. Woodchip has had me in tears before now.

  5. #12 by claire93 on April 21, 2016 - 17:40

    oh lord your dummy looks so scarey!
    you, on the other hand look very elegant, modelling that lovely blue skirt & shirt.
    Well done to you all for raising so much cash for such a good cause.

    • #13 by tialys on April 21, 2016 - 19:19

      Thank you Claire. I have a vintage mannequin in my bedroom – she wears my silk scarves – and, at first, my husband found her unnerving but I think he’s used to her now. The owl head is a bit Twilight Zoneish though – I will get it on my teapot soon.

  6. #14 by on April 21, 2016 - 18:25

    A multi-topic compendium of a post! Paper piecing and fmq are akin toe purgatory for me, and I quite understand the reason for the “censored” photos – I’ve done a few blocks like that. Congratulations on the fashion show and on the highly successful profits.

    • #15 by tialys on April 21, 2016 - 19:17

      Thanks Viv – it was great to have fun and raise money for a good cause at the same time.
      I really should split my multi-topic compendium posts into separate ones so I could blog more often but then I’d never get my quilting done.

  7. #16 by themateriallady on April 21, 2016 - 19:43

    I agree with Marianna that you have raised a magnificent amount. Also, that owl is scary.
    Great post 😃

    • #17 by tialys on April 22, 2016 - 09:20

      I feel I have done the owl an injustice. It does look really sweet as a tea cosy – honestly!

  8. #18 by jendavismiller on April 22, 2016 - 01:52

    Although the owl-headed dummy is a bit unnerving, I love the square neckline on that dress. Oh look, another sewing box….can you guess what I’m thinking? 😉 And don’t you look fabulous sashaying in that pretty outfit with purple heels! Good amount of money for the pups, super results.

    • #19 by tialys on April 22, 2016 - 09:30

      That dress is one of my ‘misfits’. It’s far too big for me but the solution is simple which is why it is still on the mannequin as a reminder to finish it. The last thing to go in was the zip and you sort of pull the dress to fit and pin the back and then insert the zip which is what I did but obviously didn’t pull it in tight enough. I just need to take the zip out *shudder*, try it on again, re-insert the zip *another shudder* and there you go. A copy of a vintage 1940s style dress ready to wear. If only I didn’t hate messing with zips.

      • #20 by jendavismiller on April 22, 2016 - 19:21

        Well, I am certain you’ll get it done (and modeled) and it will be just right! But oh, messing with zips…..ugh.

    • #21 by tialys on April 22, 2016 - 09:32

      I just couldn’t resist that fabric. As soon as I saw it, it had ‘sewing box’ written all over it. The interior will be cream with tiny buttons scattered across it.

  9. #23 by Dartmoor Yarns on April 22, 2016 - 10:50

    Congratulations on raising 1400 euros. Mr Hicks says ‘ouch’. Love the owl head on the mannequin – I vote you keep it there. Well done on all the quilt learning – I find FMQ both soothing and scary at the same time.

    • #24 by tialys on April 23, 2016 - 09:52

      I’m more scared than soothed at the moment but I’m hoping to get it the other way round soon.

      • #25 by Dartmoor Yarns on April 24, 2016 - 10:28

        I’m sure the percentages will change quickly if you keep at it.

      • #26 by tialys on April 24, 2016 - 20:28


  10. #27 by Dartmoor Yarns on April 22, 2016 - 10:51

    Love the gorgeous pic of Taz 🙂

    • #28 by tialys on April 23, 2016 - 09:51

      Bless him – My Mother says all our dogs are ‘plain’ but love them all anyway.

      • #29 by Dartmoor Yarns on April 24, 2016 - 10:28

        They are so NOT plain. No dog is plain.

      • #30 by tialys on April 24, 2016 - 20:30

        My mother is the same with children 😦

      • #31 by Dartmoor Yarns on April 25, 2016 - 09:43


  11. #32 by sewchet on April 23, 2016 - 09:33

    That last line made me laugh out loud – what a great idea to do the fashion show! A massive “well done” on the amount raised, too. I love your sense of humour with the owl ‘head’ but am not surprised it’s giving some people a bit of a shock on first encounter! Wine IS a good idea when FMQ; just make sure it’s either white in case of spillage, or on a separate table. Relaxing shoulders is the hardest part and I still find mine are tense most of the time.

    • #33 by tialys on April 23, 2016 - 09:53

      Thanks Sheila. Good tips! White wine it is 😉

  12. #34 by Oh Sew Tempting on April 23, 2016 - 23:15

    I’m still giggling at the tea cosy on the dummy. I thought you had the owl on your head and then realised you had no arms LOL. Is there anything you can’t do? That’s what I’m now wondering. Your paper piecing is gorgeous.

    • #35 by tialys on April 24, 2016 - 20:31

      Well, the top part might be – I just need to get a matching pair 😉

  13. #36 by dezertsuz on April 29, 2016 - 05:25

    A fabulous idea, lots of fun, and wow! That’s a lot of money! I like your star. You have such a great sense of humor. I was giggling through much of your post. Yes, actually giggling! Your light box is very clever, but I think I need a mannequin head like yours. LOL First, of course, I need a mannequin.

    • #37 by tialys on April 29, 2016 - 11:09

      Everybody needs a mannequin in order to frighten themselves to death when they get up for a pee in the middle of the night after forgetting they positioned it somewhere on the way to the loo. An owl head makes it even more effective.

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