Baby Girls and Hello Luscious

… are the perfect combination. At least when it comes to quilts.

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See? Clearly I have no need to further extoll the virtues of the Hello Luscious collection by Basic Grey for Moda, but apparently I’m going to. I LOVE it. If it had a scent it would smell of jasmine, freshly cooking doughnuts, baked peaches in brown sugar and syrup and vanilla ice cream. Outside on a warm summers day with the smell of cut grass faintly in the background. And a Pimms for the grown-ups. Hmmm. Seems I’m getting distracted daydreaming about the Scottish summer (it’s June! I need a shaman to come and do a sun dance. we have plenty rain this year), so will move on.

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It’s such an old collection now that’s it’s super-hard to find. If you have any girls in your life and you find some, even one charm pack, snap it up because said daughter will always love it. I stashed a few charm packs, despite having no daughter – I used 2 for this quilt.

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Pretty colours and patterns huh? Not too babyish and will grow with a girl until – well probably forever. Definitely late teens. I did take out some of the greens and replace them with white squares (cut from stash). I’m not a huge green fan and although I like it in this collection, I felt the balance was slightly off for my tastes. And I feel the colours are so rich and well, luscious, together that they somehow can seem a bit “muddy” when all together – hence replacing the greens with some white. It definitely made the rest of the colours “pop”.

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But after I made the quilt top I thought I had added a few too many white squares. 3 or 4 too many. I was on a deadline and really didn’t want to unpick. So I did a little applique heart using a lovely fabric from Cori Dantini for Blend fabric – cori_dantini_good_company_scalloped_in_pink So pretty… I have a quilt in the making in  Cori Dantini fabrics, the colours remind me of a pack of refreshers, remember those sweets anyone?

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And somehow that heart draws your attention to it and away from the slight white square imbalance. Or I tell myself that! I really like it, and it felt like a little special gift to the wee girl. A little hand stitchery in a variegated pink perle 8 cotton finished it off.

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You can see the quilting on a few of these pictures; I did loop de loop quilting which I love on child quilts; actually I am beginning to love it on all quilts. Somehow the swirls and loops look fun and elegant at the same time. And it is a fun design to do – like when you are a kid, painting with bold flourish! Stippling is a much more restrained process; at least it is when you are trying to make it even and attractive.

Backing is a Tanya Whelan print from Sugar Hill which actually goes really well with the collection, although I was unsure when it was first picked out. This quilt was commissioned by my neighbour for her very precious first granddaughter – a neighbour whom I adore so much that I was willing to relinquish a bit of my precious Hello Luscious stash – and her really lovely daughter and son in law. The baby girl (who is a cutie) is called Rose, so we were keen to have roses on the back; Suzanne chose this from my stash. And her name on the front of course – again in the Cori Dantini print above.

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Her parents gave this to her at a little party they held for introducing the baby (the baby’s family lives in Norway), and it was so great to see how much they loved it! Incidentally I took a little present I made for her room – a quilted cushion made with a California girl charm pack (fig tree quilts for Moda) and Summer Ride by Sarah Jane on the back (I just love this print with a passion!), which also turned out very sweet.

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I was kind of sorry to see this quilt go, despite having no real use for it in my house, but I’m really glad it’s gone to such a good home where I know it will be used and loved by a darling family. Batting is Quilters Dream Orient, size approximately 46″ x 52″.

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I think I am feeling the need for making some quilts for our household now! So much letting go. Of quilts. Yes, I think I am a batty catless cat lady who needs to get a grip 😉

Night night lovely creative folk; hope your treasure making is going well.

Till the next time, Poppy xxx

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Why do medical syringe pump bags have to be so … ugly?

Well, they are ugly. When I worked at a hospice, working with especially with female patients, young and old, I used to think it all the time. Some people have to have a continuous infusion of either painkiller or anti-sickness medication or somesuch in order to stay comfortable. Whilst it’s one thing when people are in bed and sleeping, many many people walk around with this, live with it as a permanent fixture in their lives. And yet, the bags they are given for them are practical but ugly dark blue canvas small bags with straps and stuff, wires sticking out, and go round their necks (which can be painful), the overall effect screaming “I am extremely medical and weird, please look at me with that uncomfortable mixture of sympathy and fear”. Or are a bumbag. A BUMBAG I tell you! Chav circa 1987. Women are not impressed, particularly those who are trying hard to make an effort to look nice, and they used to complain often or really fight against having a drug which will make them feel better – because it’s so visible. So when I got asked to make this:

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… I jumped at the chance.

The lady, whose lovely daughter commissioned the bag as a present, has to have a syringe pump dispensing chemotherapy for a week every few weeks. Not only does this remind her of her illness, but she feels it draws attention to her illness from other people. She’s a smart, trim lady who likes to look nice, and HATED the bumbag she was given – not only was it ugly and something she would never wear, it was very uncomfortable for her. She asked for a cross-body, lightweight bag which could comfortably fit her pump in the base, have a gap at the top for the wires to come out – and most of all would look like a bag she had chosen to wear! Look at the the typical bag I’m used to seeing on patients, compared to a custom one:

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So we set to work looking at colours and fabrics. It’s always harder when I can’t see someone, to get a measure of their tastes. She must be about my mother’s age (this was all done over the phone so I had thought maybe classic floral? Some lovely gentle colours…? Wrong, wrong. She wanted bright. Loves cerise pink. Loves bold patterns. I sent some pictures of fabrics based on that, and she chose this – Michael Miller’s Flock in navy. Lovely. My own cosmetics bag is made from this – not sure I would have chosen a bag for myself in it, but everyone’s tastes are different and valid! And once I made it I had several friends telling me they would buy it if she didn’t want it, so she has good taste 🙂

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It’s interfaced but soft and lightweight as requested; because I wasn’t sure of her size I made the strap adjustable; anyway the hardwear always gives a bag a more professional look. I didn’t put any kind of grid in the bottom as I wanted to make it washable (it’s going to be in the hospital a fair bit) – the pump is a sausage-shape with a diameter of 3″ so I made the base 3″ deep. Fingers crossed it fits ok! It’s about 10″ wide by 8-9″ tall… I think! I really should have measured it… enough room for a purse, lipstick etc. Zip closure with enough gap to let out the wires. And long cross-body adjustable strap so it looks like a real bag – that has got to be good for a woman, right?

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I had meant to line it with this, love and Joy by Dena Fishbein, as she likes cerise pink: 10699216_10203944494404633_720094229_n

And honestly can’t remember why I didn’t (it was a few months ago). Perhaps it was a cost thing because I wanted to keep the price down and this fabric is full price. From the pictures I went with this instead, Medallions from the Quilted Fish from Madhuri collection by Riley Blake, which I got in a sale:

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Anyway, apparently she loves it, which makes me very happy; I really wish her all the best; she’s going through a tough time. Hopefully when her treatment is over she will be able to give it to her granddaughter or something. It’s kind of hard to do commissions like this; I don’t take on that many commissions really as it’s a hobby, but for something like this obviously you want to help. But you also want to do it for free. You can’t always afford to use fabrics and time to do things for charity but you sometimes feel you want to. In this case, she would have been offended; I don’t think she would have liked to think of herself as charity, and had she been a personal friend (rather than mother of an old school friend) it would have been different, a gift.

This “sewing pays for itself” malarkey can be a bit fraught; I know I under-price, I know I shouldn’t. I find it hard to value my own work, even though I know it’s excellent quality and a lot of time and thought goes into it. I’m getting better at it. I would definitely try not to undercut folk if I was on Etsy or Folksy – I buy on Etsy loads, wonderful place, never had an issue with service ever, and it’s not fair to expect someone to create something beautiful and not get paid for their time, and when you undercut people by not getting paid, you create an expectation, whereas especially in the UK, fabric and supplies are very expensive! It has made me think I might make some (cheaper) syringe driver bags for the hospice or chemo pump bags for the hospital here as a charity thing though; stories like this are sobering, and make you remember how much people are going through in their lives. Perhaps if I can help a tiny bit, I don’t mean medically, but by making them feel less of a “patient” and more of a “person” again, perhaps these small thing all help.

Anyway, perhaps a bit sobering for a Friday night! Hope you make the most of your today, stories like this make me more determined to do that! Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Minute Monday

A minute to read this – or minute as in teeny weeny makes, either way – here we are:

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A Harris Tweed coin purse, requested by a friend of mine, who didn’t want it big enough for cards, just a nice pocket size. Lined with a bright blue cotton which matches that thin vertical stripe left of centre – turned out very sweet!

And then some monogrammed drawstring washbags for our friends’ four children as they are all off in a big caravan for 6 weeks around Europe. They are Aussies and naturally adventurous (they’d have to be – 4 little kids!?! I feel I need to psyche up and the have cavalry on speed dial  when I take 4 kids to the park…). It made me smile that they wanted some personalised prettiness for their journey.

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The kids got to choose their own fabrics from my stash. I am always amazed at the choices children make. Emily is only 6 and chose this lovely retro Tanya Whelan print called lulu Rose from her Delilah collection (Freespirit fabrics). Size 9”x10” approx.

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Angus is 4 and liked this bunting print above from Reunion by Sweetwater for Moda. I like it too – it’ll grow with him better than the cars I thought he might have liked.

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That picture is one lying flat. You can see the channel I made for threading the cord through. I used a spring-loaded cord lock (like you get on rucksacks) rather than a traditional drawstring – I think it makes them look more substantial and the opening stays shut better.

My friend wanted them to have a waterproof lining, so I lined them in a white PUL – “polyurethane laminate” – which is a polyester knit  laminated on one side to make it waterproof. It is slightly stretchy so you have to be a bit careful sewing it. I would have liked to use my walking foot, but needed to use a teflon foot because of the shiny side.  The sewing then went OK – except I had to turn the tension dial WAY down. Then all was good! Although my friend said to just use a bit of cut up shower curtain (!!!), I am obviously far more safety aware than that – this PUL contains no lead, phlalates or BPAs so are suitable for products intended for children under 12. It also inhibits the growth of fungi, which is good for this purpose, especially because these kids will be throwing their toothbrush in there with their wee shampoos and soap apparently. It can be washed at 60 degrees, so all good. I would like to try “procare” at some point too – a foodsafe medical grade fabric with similar (but even better!) properties to PUL – and less stretch…

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I know a bad picture, but I had to give them up in a hurry. This is the four together. Charlotte’s washbag is Paula Prass’ “Par Avion” from the Flight of Fancy collection for Michael Miller, an old print, but rather lovely. I never have managed to use up the bit I have somehow. I was glad she chose it. Isla’ chose princess castles from Happy Ever After for Riley Blake. Apparently they were all very pleased with their finished bags – phew! You get no sparing of feelings from unsatisfied children…

I used steam-a-seam2 to make the monogramme appliques, and a well-washed, almost felted dark grey jersey I had lying around. Steam-a-seam 2 is the best I’ve found for reducing fray on letters. I hand- stitched them on to be sure they won’t fall off. Fingers crossed they still look good after a few washes. It’s OK though, the family are heading back to Australia in a couple of months, so I won’t know if the monograms fall apart 😉 It’d be a bit embarrassing if it happened before they lleft though… (I’m sure it’ll all be fine really!)

Ok, maybe forget I even attempted a “quick minute” Monday. in my dreams. Speaking of which… Night night all, hope summer is treating you all well and the creative juices are flowing freely! Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Elephants, peacocks and splashes of colour

A while ago I made a baby quilt which a neighbour of mine snapped up for her little baby grandson; on the back is the most glorious print from a designer called Violet Craft, who designs for MIchael Miller fabrics. My neighbour has a daughter in her twenties, and was smitten by the print from the moment she saw it, and asked if I would make a wholecloth quilt from it for her daughter. Her daughter seemingly just adores elephants and my neighbour is convinced she is going to be absolutely thrilled with this print.

And here it is:

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Isn’t it the most beautiful fabric? It’s called Parade Day in Grey from the collection “peacock Lane” by Violet Craft for Michael Miller fabrics.  It reminds me of celebrations, of fireworks. Of hot, dark nights in far-off lands. Of adventure, of the world being a wondrous place full of mysteries and laughter. My only regret is that I didn’t notice this collection until it was almost out of print, and this is the only fabric I got. I love the collection as a whole and its bright sorbet colours remind me of the summer days we rarely get in scotland!

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So I wasn’t sure about this brief; firstly a wholecloth quilt the top made from one piece of fabric) seems… well, cheating, doesn’t it? Although you can’t slice into this incredible scene either, so it’s not like I had any other solutions! Secondly, Catriona is in her 20s, and I was worried it would be too childish for her. Apparently she has a charcoal grey sofa and this will go well whilst providing the colour the room might need, so my neighbour was unconcerned, but I wasn’t. Still I made it, and you know what? I love it. I really do.

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It’s about 55” x 55”. In order to make it wide enough, I used 5.5” sashing of Kona charcoal, with a 3 inch border along the top. The charcoal was a good match to the background dark grey, which although nearly black it has little white lines on it, which adds a kind of “drawing” feel to it, and gives the print texture and movement, so dark grey was perfect.

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In order to reconcile myself with giving this to a grown woman, I decided on a more grown up but still fun backing. I love this numbers in words 100% cotton print from IKEA. The words are in deep grey, which is perfect, and it works reallly well with the front. It’s a grey day in Scotland today with no bright red elephants and trees bursting with colour to cheer it up here, so apologies for the dark pictures!

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Catriona lives in norway, so I wanted to make this as warm as possible. I almost went with wool batting, but the potential difficulty in washing it put me off. Cotton is the coolest, and I try not to quilt in polyester in case it might end up over a sleeping child. I tried for the first time Quilter’s Dream Orient – a blend of silk, tencel (eucalyptus!) bamboo and cotton, which supposedly combines the best of these natural fibres and although not as warm as wool, it supposedly isn’t far off. I really liked it, easy to quilt, no issues, nice drape and softness afterwards, machine washable. Apparently it won’t shrink, so maybe go with cotton if you want the antique crinkly effect after washing.

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The biggest issue I had and I’ve still not resolved in my mind is the quilting thread. I went with white as you can see, and it’s not too dense a stipple (although I seem to be out of practice!) to avoid breaking up the design too much. White works for the fabric itself which does have those little white lines on it anyway, but of course it doesn’t really work for the solid grey borders, where it all shows up, quilting mistakes and all. I didn’t really want to muddy the bright colours of the print by using grey thread, which would also have changed the back. The only thing I could have done was use a variegated coloured thread, although I was worried about making a mess of stringy colour all over the front. So in the end, white it is. Now the quilt is finished, I think it looks good as a whole, but I’m still trying to work out if I should have quilted it differently!

I am very happy with the binding though – this is a stripe I got from my local fabric shop, “Fabrication” in Haddington. I am pretty sure it’s from the Makower company from a collection called “space” – rockets and aliens for little boys. Laura, the lovely owner, had this on end-of-bolt offer, and I took all she had – it’s such a versatile print – stripe, boyish enough for boys, multicoloured enough to match most projects and despite that, not too “primary colour” to be used for adult projects. Perfect. And stripy bindings – well. Yummy. Calorie-free yummy.

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Finally, a label with mum + dad’s choice of message, and it’s off to its new owner for Christmas! 

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Hurrah. I hope she likes it. And hope your Christmas shopping, baking, sewing, crafting, playing or denial is all going swimmingly!

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Kindle Cases – waterbottles do your worst!

I’ve been doing more sewing for friends, despite my craving to sew up some quilts again! I have a few more comissions to finish and then I am going to quilt to my heart’s content! But first, this is a water-resistant Kindle Case my dear friend asked me to make for his friend.

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He chose Geranium in Sky by MoMo for Moda as the fabric, having seen it featured heavily on this blog! It is so rare now and out of print, but was a real find for me – and has been incredibly useful, not to mention popular!

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I designed these really for the standard kindle e-reader, but will fit others except Kindles 2, 3 and Fires. Mainly because I have a standard kindle myself, seen posing above – useful to test the fit! Thankfully that’s what most others seem to have. I have also designed a Google Nexus 7 case – because we have one. No prizes for guessing why I haven’t yet made an iPad case… sadly…!

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I lined this case with a felted black wool and interfaced with light padding to protect against scratches. I sewed in some waterproof fabric as an interlining. And a little label telling her who it’s from (care instructions on the back), and I’m ready to post it to her 🙂

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The waterproofing is my favourite bit about my own kindle case, and the main reason I made mine in the first place. I LOVE my kindle. I like the way it feels, the way it reads. OK, so it doesn’t smell of book, and won’t replace books – I have regretted getting a few reference books on kindle that really are meant for idly thumbing through with a coffee and belong on a shelf. But it’s perfect (and instant) for novels.

Anyway. I don’t really want mine covered in a cumbersome book cover thing which makes it heavy and bulky, it’s perfect and neat to read as it is. I don’t really want the extra weight of a leather-bound beautiful cover with built in light in my handbag. But I do want it not to get scratched and mostly NOT TO GET WET. And OMG, there are so many things in my bag which could burst or goo over my kindle – water bottle/cup, blowing bubbles. weird toys, food. And in my imaginary dream life, I don’t want it getting splashed by the pool when I dive effortlessly in looking thin and aspirational whilst relaxing in a sunny land. Anyway, so I made mine, and love it. So I made some more 🙂

This is mine:

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It’s in Ginseng Orchid in Celery by Joel Dewberry, a home dec fabric I ordered from the states years ago because I adore it (and still do) but have really not used it much. It is so beautiful in the flesh, but although it’s a gorgeous shade of green (and I’m not a big “green” fan), I realised I didn’t want a bag in it (it’s green – it doesn’t go with anything I wear!), the pattern is just a bit big for a purse… But it’s lovely on my kindle case. My case is slightly slimmer than my updated pattern because I didn’t need to factor in any extra room for the other kindle versions. I probably prefer it when they are side by side, but you wouldn’t know the difference if you didn’t see them together, and it’s always good to have wiggle room. Particularly if you really have to wash it – even at a cool 30 degree wash it might shrink a little. Better to handwash or spot-wash…

I have a few left over from the fair which I might list for sale. They are slightly “softer” in that the interfacing is less heavy than the ones above, but they are padded with cotton batting, interlined with waterproof fabric and lined with a soft jersey fabric, so should keep kindles nice and safe from everyday scratches! Here’s one I made earlier, as they say:

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Isn’t it sweet? I love that woodpecker amongst those beautiful birch trees (Michael Miller). There is one on the back too.

Well, it’s past bedtime (isn’t it always?!), so I’ll say night night and see you next time.

Poppy xx

ps you can email me at poppy@cuckooblue.co.uk

or visit my flickrstream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/

Parting is such sweet sorrow

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… and sorrow is was. My boss, colleague and good friend with whom I’ve worked for 10 years, is leaving Edinburgh and moving his family to Durham, where his lovely, talented wife has found a job which is perfect for her. The problem with being two married doctors (which they are) is that when you specialise and reach consultant stage, it can be difficult to find two jobs in the same city – obviously there are limited consultant jobs in each speciality in each city. So with sadness, I said farewell to a man who has nutured and encouraged me professionally, and has been gracious enough to also listen to my views, opinions and learn from me too – what a rare and beautiful thing that is for an employee, particularly for us doctors – the medical profession can still have those vestiges of the male-dominated profession it once was, and upon whose principles it was founded. But this guy is special enough to see past it all, and all my medical skills and achievements have been because he enabled me to believe in myself and brought out the best in me. Still wanted to slap him sometimes!

Anyway, enough of the sorrw and on with the sweet. This is a sewing blog after all! It was hard to think of a suitable gift. I had thought a large sofa quilt, but I don’t really know what their new house will be like, or how they will choose to dress it – I would hate for the expense and amount of work involved in making a quilt to go to waste.

So I settled on a family set of washbags/ toiletries bags, trying to second guess all their tastes, but keeping them fairly neutral, so that even if they don’t love them they should still find them useful…

Firstly David, the man himself:

(These are all cotton fabrics, structured with polyester batting, lined with white cotton canvas)

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Coastal “painted planks” from Makower.

Next for his wife:

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I love this fabric from Tanya Whelan – Blue Paisley from the Delilah collection for Free Spirit fabrics. I bought it for myself, but decided to part with some as they are such a special family to us! I was keen that their bags in particular coordinated together. Then decided to try and do so for the family!

The two girls – one is 18-ish, the other is about 21 or so. Both girls are very nice, clever and pretty, albeit with two different personalities (quite how it should be!) – they will go far!

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Fabric is Freebird Geranium in Sky by MoMo for Moda, yes I know I love it lots!

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I’ve had this piece of fabric for about 5 years, having made a bag with some of it. I really love it – it is a large scale print, so sadly you can’t see the whole print on a washbag, and I forgot to photograph the reverse! It’s Par Avion from the Flights of Fancy collection by Paula Prass for Michael Miller. I bought more of the brighter “spring” colourway, but have struggled to use that one somehow, whereas this one, ordered as an afterthought is more versaltile. Funny how that happens.

And finally for David’s son, who is 10. Not yet a teenager, but will be soon – how hard a brief is that? Anyway, I chose this fabric:

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It’s “Bottlecaps in Multi” from the Going Coastal collection by Emily Herrick for Michael Miller. I struggled to find this in the UK, and when I did it was on offer (YAY!!) but there wasn’t much of it (boo). Anyway, My husband has chosen a washbag for himself after his last one fell apart (not one of mine, to be fair he’s had it years) in this – I love it when he asks me to make him something. I hope the kid likes it. He’s a gorgeous, well mannered boy, I wish it was easier to make fabric things that a boy would actually like!

And the family photo, smile everyone:

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I wish this lovely family all the very best for the new chapter in their lives and all their exciting adventures!

Meanwhile, I have acquired a piece of this beautiful Harris tweed in a pink check as my friend would like a bag made in it.

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There may be enough left over for a toiletry bag – I think it would be beautiful, and make a lovely gift! Having held the fabric in my hands I can see why it has its own act of parliament governing the right for the fabric to “wear the orb”, a particular label, which is the mark of Harris Tweed. Apparently it must be

“Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.”

It’s also very expensive. It’s like the champagne of cloth 🙂 I’m looking forward to working with it.

Till the next time,

Poppy xxx

ps you can email me at poppy@cuckooblue.co.uk

or visit my flickrstream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/