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

A Patchwork Picnic

It isn’t though. It’s completely staged because I forgot to mention when I
wrote the tutorial for the one on the left that is was actually commissioned
for someone else. I don’t get to keep it. Yes, my new year’s resolution has
failed spectacularly to kick in, and I am still making for others with no
additions yet to our house. Still this one is a retirement gift for an
apparently wonderful NHS Healthcare worker (a Health Visitor) who seemingly
deserves things of much beauty and love. So. I’m spending time with it. Hanging
out. Like a crazy old quilt lady. I’ll may have to make me one too… 

I’m partly posting because I wanted a picture of the cushion when it was properly
filled – The cover is 19.5″ square and it looked too “floppy” last time, with a
20″ cushion pad. Now it has a 24″ pad and looks lovely! I think. I know,
everyone knows you should go bigger… And partly because I wanted to see it
alongside my Liberty dresden cushion, blogged here: https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/78267964842/liberty-dresden-pillow-love

My wee dog was most upset with this photo shoot. Usually a quilt on the
ground means happy hours of lazing about, snuggled next to mummy chewing a
stick, hopefully with the baby-dinosaur, which is clearly how he sees Kiddo,
engaged in some crafty activity and not charging about with various brightly
coloured missiles in his hands or leaping randomly off furniture. This time it
was a “I know it’s sunny but it’s way too cold for picnics” and everything
swept back in. He kept up this stance of protest next to a juicy pile of sticks
for some time before sloping back inside. Wee cutie. 

I know how he feels. Bring on summer. My ambition is to have a whole heap of
cushions ready for when it happens for real, hopefully very soon! Meanwhile, if
you fancy a go at either of them and need any guidance, the tutorial for the
one on the left is here:

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/114218367457/liberty-star-patchwork-pillow-cushion-tutorial

and link to someone else’s far-clever-than-mine tutorial on Dresden plate cushions is within: https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/78267964842/liberty-dresden-pillow-love

Meanwhile, here’s to dreams of summer laziness amidst quilty love. And
apparently some big chewable sticks.

Till the next time, Poppy xx

Pixelated Heart quilt for a New Year Wedding

My friend asked me if I would make a quilt for a lovely couple in their EIGHTIES who are getting a second chance at love. I guess those who are loveable may find love again no matter what their age…

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The Pattern is Pixelated Heart by the amazing Blue Elephant Stitches. I hope the happy couple love this sweet pattern as much as I do!

This is her quilt, made with low volume fabrics instead of white fabrics (I didn’t have the budget for that) – it is utterly stunning!image

You can find her blog and “how to” for this pattern here: http://blueelephantstitches.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/pixelated.html

She is SO talented, seriously you should look at her blog. And so generous – look how she breaks down this quilt for us to make it easier to sew as blocks rather than strips! And she invented the granny squares quilt, which is on my to do list. I love her work.

I had 2 rouenneries Deux charm packs – a beautiful collection from French General for Moda. I cannot get over how much I love French General fabrics, rich yet muted, classic but not old-fashioned, very very French.  I didn’t want to cut too much away from the charms but 5” charms were just going to make too big a quilt (again for budget). So I cut them to 4.5” – this quilt finishes at about 54” square.

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You can see the construction of mine best on this photo (top in progress). Obviously because I was using white fabric rather than low-volume fabrics as contrast, I didn’t need to sew the whole quilt as 4.5” squares, which saved time (another thing I didn’t have). It used 71 printed fabric squares and 40 white squares. I sashed it as above but then decided it needed a border, so I cut the sashing to 2.5” on the sides and 5” top and bottom… image

Then added a 2.5” red border from Rural Jardin which I had in stash. Definitely better.

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Stipple quilted – much as I like to experiment, there are reasons why classic quilting is classic, and I thought for a quilt like this I should go down that route. Had I used low-volume fabrics, straight line quilting would have worked, but I really think something as simple as this needs texture from the free-motion line, don’t you?

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Just LOOK at those scrumptious fabrics. It makes me want to go eat strawberry cream patisserie. New Year. Must. Resist.

What I really like about this is the size, the fabrics and colours, but mostly the fact that although it’s a heart, it’s not too cheesy – and when you fold it up or use it, it looks like a pretty patchwork quilt; it’s only when you spread it out and look from a distance that you see what it is. Perfect for a wedding gift for this loved-up pair apparently. Ahhhh.

Argghh, can’t seem to get this picture to orient the right way. Tilt your head to the right to see what it looks like draped over a box, and you’ll see what I mean about not knowing it’s a heart.

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Quilted with my favourite Quilter’s Dream Orient batting.

Things I don’t like about the quilt:

1. There is not quite enough white space aroung the heart. This was a budget / size thing for the backing and batting.

2. Budgetary concerns meant it has a plain white backing – it’s perfectly nice, but not as wonderful as it could have been and what the fabrics deserved.

3. It’s not for our house. Aye, there’s the rub. This quilt is designed and made for the happy couple but I don’t actually know the octogenerians in love, although I would like to. But the idea of a quilt in their new home signifying their love made me think about the pillowcases I’ve been meaning to make for my own son for ages. About how when I joked that a tiny baby quilt I was making was for him, he was actually disappointed that it wasn’t (even though it was tiny and completely unlike his tastes, I thought he would laugh!). It has shown me that I need to clear the decks and do selfish sewing for the next 6 months; make all those things for us that I need to, sew new buttons onto my coat etc. When you decide to sell a few things to fund your hobby, it seems that  hobby can inadvertantly grow legs, arms, and heat-seeking missiles and take over your life when it wasn’t supposed to. I guess everyone assumes you want to make a living from it eventually, so think they’re being helpful by recommending you etc – and whilst it’s SO flattering and lovely, you have to be careful. Particularly with deadlines when you’re well overdue making pillowcases with stars and trucks on. If you made a living from your hobby, it wouldn’t be a hobby would it? I definitely need to learn to say no for a while! Sometimes.

Oooh a random outburst. Must be New Year 😉

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And with that, may your 2015 be productive, happy and creative. May we all learn to say “no” once in a while.

’til the next time,

Poppy

xx

Rainbow Liberty quilted blanket

Do I have time to show you this even though it’s waaaaay after bedtime? Oh I think so.

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I made one of these for my niece-who-is-on-the-way-and-about-whom-I-am-beyond-excited, but hers is more pastel colours and handquilted and somehow I never got a decent photo of it (the light etc) before I gave it to my sister-in-law in anticipation and with all our love and wishes for a safe delivery! I thought I loved it until I made this – I think it’s the vibrant colours. It’s for my neighbour/friend’s new grandchild. 

It was very easy really and started out as a charm pack from this seller on etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ZuzusCrafts

I laid it out as random patchwork to get a look at it, and although I liked it a lot… –image

… I knew she wanted “the same as yours” – not that I could get exactly the same fabrics of course. These are all brighter, and the rainbow actually works better for it. It looks different as a random selection doesn’t it?

These are some of the beautiful fabrics:

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It came out at 27” square,

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and whereas once I thought that was too small to be of use, esp when it’s not recommended that babies sleep unsupervised under quilts, i now think it’s the perfect pram blanket, carseat blanket, snuggler blanket when you are holding them in the cold UK winter, baby mat, anywhere where the parent/responsible adult is there. A clean surface to lay your baby down in a pinch on the grass or even to change a nappy. Washable and pretty, what more can you ask?

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Well a whole heap more, because I batted this with quilter’s dream wool, which has a higher loft than most batting so is “puffier” – and whilst warm it is breathable like cotton, not like fleece etc where there is more risk of overheating. I also backed it in the softest lawn cotton and stippled it – I honestly cannot believe the softness when you do this with lawn cotton. It’s like snuggling a cloud. Lawn cotton is thin, so you have to be a bit more careful when sewing with it, but it is deceptively strong and feels like silk. I remember running my hands over my mother’s silk saris when I was little and feeling like it was as though there was magic in the touch of them – I’m not one to say “feels like silk” lightly.

This is the backing – not Liberty, but lawn cotton, and pretty:

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I really hope she likes it – the baby is due in January Ithink.

I told my husband that I wanted a big one of these for Christmas, and he casually said, “OK I’ll run you one up.” He should NOT tease me this way! I saw though that Moda’s Regent Street lawn collection has just been released – and I’m thinking this may be a way of getting the Liberty Lawn look and feel without the pricetag? Here it is, but I think there are more colours in it – hard to know what the whole collection looks like at the moment as it is so new, but from what I can see online there are some pretty prints here. I think I may treat myself in the new year.

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And with the scary thought that I have already leapfrogged us through Christmas and into 2015, I will love you and leave you, I am off to hopefully dream about pinkness and pretty blue flowers 🙂

‘Til the next time, Poppy xx

Liberty, birds and a whole lot of sewing…

Hello lovely folk of the aesthetically beautiful tastes! It’s been AGES – sorry about that. I’ve been a bit overcommitted of late. And I’m going to try for a short post today (! yeah… good luck with that, delusional self) and just show you this:

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Liberty scraps and natural linen zippered pouch, measures 6” x 4”. Actually it’s a linen cotton mix, but it’s darned near perfect, nice fine weave and a good weight.

I freemotion embroidered the branch and raw edge appliqued on the hummingbird with black thread, and actually really like the result, yay! It’s supposed to be a hummingbird, at least I copied the silhouette from a photo of a hummingbird, so let’s go with that even if my needle-drawing isn’t going to satisfy any twitchers on here… I’m hoping it will hold with just one stitching line – it’s so delicate that 2 lines would overpower the image I thought. I used steam-a-seam II to secure the applique first which is as much as I think I can do – so much stronger than wonder-under.

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A pretty polka dot lining – I got this from my local fabric shop and adore it! It’s a sage green, not as khaki as it looks on my computer… and at half the price of designer cotton, I love it even more. I always include a layer of batting for strength and structure too.

I made it for a craft fair – I know I say I never do them except for the annual village fair, but made an exception this year because it is in aid of a tiny rural village school where my son went to nursery when he was too freaked out to settle in our own bigger village nursery. I have talked before about what they meant to us as a family https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/91088996087/quilts-of-gratitude , and have committed to continuing to support them. So it’s been sewing chaos in the last 2 weeks (yes, I started late…).

Oh go on then, I’ve already failed at keeping this short!

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Some toiletry bags – large and small. The large are big enough to hold all my daily cosmetics, creams, deoderant, nail varnish, hair bands, eyelash curlers (I used to use them every day before becoming a mother… now they mostly sit there in a pretty washbag!) etc, the small are travel sized, or perfect for children.

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Pencilcase style bag organisers for lippy/ keys/ whatever – or just as pencilcases! This designs are more kid pencilcases, hold on I’ll see if I can find a more grown up picture:

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Very grown up! There are matching zip purses too amongst this lot:

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….er, actually there are not. But there will be. Probably.

And whilst we are doing a wee bit of the free-motion embroidery:

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The ubiquitous caravan and bunting cushion. Yes I know everyone in the world with a sewing machine who wants to try this technique starts with this scene – but hey, why not? It’s fun, cute and nice simple shapes. I made 3 in a different colours and a VW campervan too. I mostly used scraps except for that polka dot fabric again – see the pink too? Isn’t it lovely? Scrap busting is satisfying but man it takes TIME. Finding the right size, matching colours, ironing the wrinkles out because you have stored them badly… I really need to find a way of using scraps more efficiently because I’m bad at it. And you can imagine I make a lot of scrap…!

Well, I had no business writing to you, as I still have so much to do and so little time before Saturday and the Market! Still it’s nice to share some sewing goodness with like-minded folk. Hope your creative muse is inspiring you too – pre christmas sewing/ crafting/ browsing/ buying? Enjoy whatever you’re doing.

’till the next time, Poppy xx

Bartholomeow’s Reef Bermuda Baby Boy Quilt

Oh my gosh I love this quilt. There are really not that many options for baby boy quilt collections which will grow with a child, but by bingo, this one checks all the boxes. I have never said “by bingo” in all my days before now – it must be special.

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I adore simple patchwork quilts – but particularly for heirloom quilts. My sister-in-law’s friend saw the one I made for my nephew Rufus here :

https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/72250153872/boy-crazy-not-me-well-not-for-about-20-years

and apparently has been desperate throughout her pregnancy for one herself. I don’t know her as they live in Bermuda (!), but I can never refuse my gorgeous sis-in-law anything, and once the baby was born and duly named Matthew and not Rosie, I knew what collection I wanted to use. Especially in the sun – check out the colours even in the Scottish sun:

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My sister-in-law takes her quilts everywhere as a clean surface for the beach, grass or home for the kids and I guess her friend wanted to do the same. Now that she has received it, I can finally wax lyrical about this gorgeous collection.

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It is called Bartholomeow’s Reef by Tim & Beck for Moda, and features sweet but not too babyish little sea-life illustrations – waves, anchors, stars and a cute print with some characters on it – walruses and whales and such cuteness – all amongst bright geometric prints so that the overall effect will suit a 10 year old as much as a baby or toddler.

I backed it in this lovely monkey print by Dear Stella. It’s so sweet and the colours suit the front whilst giving an alternative theme on the reverse:

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They just look so much like my skinny active cheerful 4 year old boy! No mother of a small boy could look at this print and not grin with something akin to fondness. Watching my boy climb up the stair bannister, just because it’s there, leaves me in no doubt how related we are to our ape cousins!

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I used 100% cotton batting – Quilter’s Dream of course – with no scrims, binders or chemicals I just adore it and feel it’s the safest most natural choice for children. That or Dream Orient, but I didn’t think they needed the extra warmth in Bermuda!

So… the quilting. In the last few months, I was showing my friend how to free motion quilt and demonstrating some of the patterns she could use. At which point I realised that, despite my new year’s resolution, I had been putting off using a non-stipple on my quilts for fear of not doing a good enough job – but actually my quilting looked OK. So since then I have done a few. The first was the Jewel Box Quilt of a couple of posts back with loop-de-loop quilting here:

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 (https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/97092626787/jewel-box-quilt-in-tapestry-fabrics-from-2-charm)  – where the quilting really showed up because I used a wool batt which has a higher loft.

I decided to try a loop and star pattern for the Bartholomeow’s Reef quilt – I think this picture shows it best:

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It was fairly enjoyable to do – I had to concentrate harder than for stippling – whether that’s because I have done about 50 stippled quilts (when on earth did that happen?!)or because it’s more difficult, I don’t honestly know. And it took tons more thread – but it wasn’t as difficult as you would think. My problem was that once I had finished, I really struggled with the non-regularity of it compared to a stipple. I really worried that she wouldn’t like it. I had to literally show it to everyone that would look, who all said it looked great, suited a child’s quilt, and added another dimension to the quilt that I relaxed. I think I wasn’t used to looking at non-stippled quilts! We don’t get much free-motion quilting in the UK although straight-line quilted quilts are starting to take off here. Really it was when my boy saw it and pounced on all the quilted stars fascinated, folowing the lines with his wee finger to the next one that I really did relax! Now I’m so glad I did it – and the recipient loves it!

This is a quick paper sketch of how it’s done, quite straightforward, some loop-de-loops and then a 5-lined star followed by more loop de loops. Start with loop-de-loop of different sized loops:

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Do an extra long line:

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make another line as if you were going to do a triangle:

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but don’t close the triangle, continue the star like this:

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Finally return to the beginning and continue some loop de loops. FIll the page, I mean area of fabric, with more of the same putting stars at intervals.

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It pays to practice this one on paper I found, although I usually don’t have the patience for a lot of practice, I figure I can practice on the job! And again I did more practice on a couple of quilt sandwiches on the machine before doing it on my quilt as there is something which my brain found visio-spatially weird whilst doing the stars. I had to think less about it by the end of the quilt. It’s a sweet look for kids, but it definitely makes a statement I thought. The hubster said “well, it’s a very SUBTLE statement…” Which makes me think that only quilters really see all these details lit up in neon like the aisle lighting in an aeroplane…

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I bound the quilt in this lovely stripe from Pirates by Riley Blake, which I really love. The colours were perfect for this collection and you can’t really beat a stripey binding. I used the navy wave pattern to cut the letters, steam-a-seam 2 to attach and sewed round by hand to secure. You apparently don’t need to with steam-a-seam, but I would hate the letters to come off. The steam-a-seam prevents fraying though, or at least prevents a lots of fraying. I have seen the results of much washing and it does work 🙂

The delighted mum sent me a gorgeous picture of her baby son gurgling away looking very happy and handsome on his quilt, and much as I’m dying to show it to you, the programmer Hubster who has banned any photos of Kiddo on our blogs (he blogs about creative programming solutions, it’s all symbols and looks like a zillion lines of a massive expletive to me) – well he would have a FIT. But I can assure you that this quilt is in good hands.

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So perfectly little boy!

Now, whether I can stop myself making Kiddo a larger version of this quilt I’m not sure. Meanwhile, I’ll look at its rolled up-sunshiney, stripey bound picture and smile. Or maybe that’s because of the Liberty behind it. Ahhhhh, Liberty.

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Until the next time, lovely creative peeps, have a fun time whatever you’re up to,

Poppy xx

Wee Wednesday

Wee make day today!

I’ve been busy! 5 cute zip purses for my friend’s children and cousins:

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Fabrics: Tortoises by Dashwood Studios, tossed mini owls in pink by Timeless Treasures, Main Forla pink from Madhuri collection by The Quilted Fish for Riley Blake, Baby bunting in grey from Reunion by Sweetwater for Moda, Bottle caps in multi from Going Coastal by Emily Herrick.

These are great for little pockets or school bags; and in different fabrics, I love them for jeans on a girlie night out, perfect for a card and some cash without spoiling the line of your beautiful figure  – because all figures are beautiful except when they have a big bulge in the pocket…

In fact here are a couple that might be more suitable for grown ups:

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The news has been so tense and somewhat depressing in Scotland recently, that I decided to have a giveaway to my facebook friends – 4 people picked from anyone who posted something positive got one of these. It was actually really fun, and lovely to send them off today! If I ever launch a Cuckooblue Facebook page I’m definitely doing giveaways. They might make you out of pocket, but they do cheer your day immensely!

Toiletry bag and purse fabric is from Riley Blake’s Sidewalks, Blue Paisley from Delilah by Tanya Whelan. All lightly padded with pretty linings of course:

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I use stripes for lining the boys’ money pouches (they don’t have purses of course!), but they also make very smart exteriors:

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Harris Tweed Toiletry bag for my friend’s 40th. It is lined with a stiff natural canvas with such a tight weave that it is waterproof. Waterproof is important becasue Harris Tweed should really be dry-cleaned. It makes it lovely and sturdy:

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And finally, for my friend’s daughter’s 8th birthday:

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It only has some iron-on interfacing, and no hardware (buckles etc), which keeps it nice and light, perfect for the slip of a girl that she is. The tie top makes it great for adjusting as she grows too, and means she can use it cross-body or over her shoulder. I forgot to measure but it can only be about 10” across. In fact I also made one at the same time for another friend’s daughter’s 5th birthday who needs a wheelchair, and I thought she could tie it to her chair, or round her waist, whtever was easiest. This is actually that one as it has a magnetic snap for ease of access for a little one – the other has a zip closure.

I based it on this tutorial which I had used when I first started sewing bags and wasn’t designing my own, just because I still had the template from all those years ago – I made it smaller and pieced the straps to avoid cutting so much fabric, but it’s otherwise the same: 

http://tinyhappy.typepad.com/tiny_happy/2006/06/shoulder_bag_tu.html

Phew, there is more, but how many purses and washbags can you look at, pretty fabric or not? And I made a quilt for a little boy – which I LOVE… but will show you another day.

Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by! Hope your creative muse is inspiring you and that you’re having fun whatever you’re up to.

‘Till the next time,

Poppy xx