Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Happy baby quilt - Part two

Last week, I started a short series on how I made a happy baby quilt. I hope my musings help anyone wishing to venture in some quilting. You can read the first post here.

When I got home with my cute fabrics, I was both excited and scared; more excited than scared, to be fair, but still! I prepared my sewing room for the task in hand and refused to think of the mammoth (ok, not really, just to me) ahead. Why bother myself with all the unknowns, right? The best thing to do in these situations is to go for it. So I did.

Prepare the fabric
Rosie said I didn't need to wash any of the fabrics as I was buying it all together and they were all the same. I wish I had followed her advice... But I didn't. Too many years of washing every single little piece of fabric I use could only lead to a certain resistance to said advice. It was fine, of course, but the cut edges of my fabrics frayed a bit; it was mildly annoying and I could have spared myself from it. Oh well! I also washed the batting. You either wash it all or wash nothing, can't pick and choose with this one.
Then I ironed it all... Oh the pain!

Cutting the fabric
I needed 6" squares, with 1/2" seam allowance. Seven columns in eight rows of 6" squares. Thanks to my good quilting tools, this was easy to do. I just lay my fabric strips neatly onto my cutting mat, got my see-through ruler on top and went for it. It took a while and it required concentration, but it was easy as I was just cutting squares, and large squares. 

For my next quilt, with triangles, I may need a tip or two on the best way to cut them quickly and neatly. I may just need to call Rosie!

Sewing the quilt top
I had a diagram of how to distribute my squares so they were evenly spread, thanks to Rosie. I then colour-coded and animal-coded my diagram so I could see it at a glance. I really enjoyed doing it and REALLY think this was an amazing time saver throughout the process.

I organised my squares in rows. I'm not sure this is the best way to start, in comparison to doing the columns first, but there you go, I started with rows. A tip I've picked up along the way is to sew the squares in batches. How? I prepared all my squares in pairs (right sides together) and had them ready to go on the machine. Starting with the first pair, I kept sewing past the edge of the fabric for a little bit (I left about 2") and got the second pair onto the machine; I kept going until all the pairs were seen together. Then I cut the thread linking each pair and voila, I had all my first pairs ready to go.

Once I had all my squares into pairs, I joined them to make the first four squares of each row and repeated the method above. Eventually, I had all my squares in their respective place in a row. I pressed my seams all to one side, alternating sides with each row (ie row one has seams to the left, row two to the right, and so on). Time to attach the rows to each other.

Joining the rows required a little bit of patience to make sure the squares that would form the columns aligned the best way possible. Once down together, it also required me to let go of perfection and embrace the bigger picture! In the grand scheme of things, who will notice if two squares don't match exactly? Nobody!

Next week, I'll go through getting the quilt layers ready and adding the bias tape. And voilĂ , a quilt will be done!


You can read Part 1 of my Happy quilt series here.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Happy baby quilt - Part one

"A quilt is a labour of love."

Oh my, the amount of times I've heard this... And now, finally I know it to be true. So very true!

I've recently become a godmother to a baby girl and I wanted to give her something special. Something made by me, especially for her. Something that would be happy and telling of how much I love her already. A baby quilt was just the thing! 

This was my first ever quilt; I had done a little patchwork blanket before, but that was about it. I learned loads! It was mostly a fun journey, with a bit of head scratching with the binding, but nothing too overwhelming. My experience was made much smoother thanks to the loveliest, most knowledgeable fabric shop lady ever, Rosie of Village Fabrics (don't let the website put you off, that shop is quilting heaven!!).

In case you're interested in doing your first ever quilt, or you'd just like to know more about what I thought of it all, I'm writing a series on my process, from fabric selection to finished quilt. Here is part one.


I would strongly recommend going to a quilting fabric shop near you, if you possibly can. There may not be a Rosie there, but there will be someone a bit less lovely but hopefully just as friendly who can help you and advise you. I now think of myself as an experienced sewer but I don't need to reinvent the wheel; quilting is a different sewing game and experienced quilters can give you precious tips on how to tackle your project.

Rosie taught me to calculate how much fabric I'd need and how I could lay it out to keep it varied and fun. She helped me find the solid colours that best matched the animal fabrics I had chosen. She found the backing (I love that backing!!) and for that I am so very grateful to her. She told me what threads to get and how to use them. She also held my hand when I said "I really love these fabrics but they're not pastel like the other baby quilts I see... But I love these best!". "Your quilt will be just great!"; sometimes us novices need a bit of support like that. 

How did I choose the fabrics? Well, I wanted something with animals, that was mandatory. I wanted yellow as a unifying element and knew all along my binding would be yellow. I thought I'd find some baby fabrics, with a few animals in pastel-y colours; I didn't. Instead, I fell in love with these strong coloured oh so very happy animal prints and that was that. Once I had those, I needed to pick some solid fabrics to bring it all together; Rosie was essential in this and after a bit of trial and error, we nailed it! Originally, I wanted the backing to be yellow but once I saw those cute little owls I knew I had THE quilt for me.


I have a cutting mat, a see-through quilting ruler and a rotary cutter. I found them essential.

I also used my thread-picker quite a lot with the binding; it's the cheapest and best little thing I ever got!

I have a quilting foot for my sewing machine, which was excellent as all this quilt was done by machine. It's a bit too early in my quilting obsession to do it by hand... Maybe something for the future?

Copious supplies of tea, leafy red fruits. 

Good music or light comedies are also helpful to have in the background.

Next week, I'll go through the cutting and sewing. In the meantime, I'll be hanging out on Pinterest looking for inspiration for my next quilt! It will be with triangles, that's all I know for now :)

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Preparing for a half-marathon

Tomorrow, I will be running a half-marathon, my first but hopefully not my last. So far, my journey has been most enjoyable, possibly because this is something I really (really!) want to do. 

If you read this post, you know that I'm kinda new to running and I'm not a natural born runner. No matter how much effort and training I put into it, it's very unlikely I could ever do a sub 2:00 half-marathon. But I can do one, in whatever time it takes me. As Dad collected me from my 16K run last time I was over and asked me how it'd gone, I complained I was too slow. "You are doing it and that's all that matters", he said to me; you're so right, Dad, so right.

So, what's been making my training so enjoyable? In addition to the I-REALLY-want-this factor, there are a few little (BIG) things which make the pain seem like a short jolly to the park.

A running partner
Right now, I don't think I could do this without the best running partner ever - my friend Nicky. And maybe I could, maybe, but it wouldn't be the same. At all. He plans routes for us, making the long runs that bit more interesting; he checks up on me if we're not in the same place and I need to go out by myself; he pushes me and motivates me whenever I think I'm just gonna fall head straight to the pavement; he soothes my moods and ensures me the only thing that matters is doing it at my pace; and he paces me when I think I can do it all too fast to last. Sadly to you reading this, he's not available for loan, but if you can find such a friend who runs with you, consider yourself INCREDIBLY lucky!

A running programme
It's very useful to have a running programme, especially if you're new to running or lazy. You look at it and there it is, all you need to do, and when, to get that mileage under your belt; so simple and hassle free. We've been using this one and I really like it. We don't follow it religiously during the week days but have been pretty good with the long runs at weekends.

Good running gear
I have good running shoes, which I bought at Up & Running after a fitting session. I'm a firm believer in looking after my body, seeing that I only have this one!
I also have fairly decent running clothes, things I'm comfortable in and which dry quickly. Being that I am a girl, a very good bra is also a must!

Post-run massages
I have been fortunate enough to get my feet massaged after every single run. This is not only enjoyable but awesome for my recovery. Michael has been a star in making sure my feet are well looked after! And I have had two leg massages which were key to recover from the long runs.

A cheery crowd
Having supporting friends and family makes all the difference. To me it does, anyway.
For my first ever 16K run in Porto, Dad picked me up at the end so I could run to and by the beach; he brought dry clothes (yep, it rained throughout my run, what are the odds??) and bought my favourite bread (regueifa, here and here) on the way home. Dad also reinforced the idea I seem to forget on occasion - you are doing it and it is amazing you are! Warms my heart every time, that Dad thinks something I do is amazing; even when it's not, it kinda becomes amazing it because he thinks so.
Tomorrow, I have a few dedicated friends coming to support me. I will be forever grateful to them for making those 21K way more interesting and ensuring I don't forget to smile every so often along the way. And once again.... I'll have Nicky running it with me, every step of the way!

I have setup a Just Giving page for Cancer Research UK, if you're kind enough to sponsor this adventure for an excellent cause! Thank you!

Monday, 24 March 2014

::inspiring Mondays::

The sun was shining this morning and Michael and I had a long slow breakfast sipping coffee and chatting away. Such pleasure, usually reserved for the weekend, could only happen on a Monday... the week is just starting, we're bright and fresh, and filled with that sweet touch of promise that a new week brings.

We had a good weekend. We had long slow breakfasts, which are a mark of good weekends. We had gardening and curling up on the sofa under a blankie and a long run and cheese platter for Saturday dinner, with my favourite Portuguese wine (Planalto, if you're interested; available at Majestic Wine in the UK).

The #nomakeup selfie* above is to raise awareness for cancer. The initiative has already raised a fair bit of money, but the more the better when beating such a horrid disease is the end goal. Text BEAT to 70099 if you're in the UK and join the movement.

:: my friends. I cannot begin to explain how much better my life is to have such supportive and true friends.
:: crisp early spring mornings in our cute cottage.
:: my running buddy, Nicky.
:: our garden, ivy and all.
:: yellow roses. I so want yellow roses!

I hope you had a lovely sunny Monday, filled with good news. And yellow roses, if possible :)

*as my dear brother pointed out, I very rarely wear make up anyway, so I should add the disclaimer that this is a normal face day for me.

Monday, 17 March 2014

::inspiring Mondays::

(for Elke)

Last week, my dear friend Elke wrote to say she missed my inspiring Mondays. My heart was warm instantly, even before I realised how much I missed it too. That time in my week where I would focus on all the good in and around my life. That time of the week where time would stand still as I smiled at all the little things that made my life great, often seeing them for the first time. That time of the week where I would go against the trend and embrace the beginning of a new week with the same joy as the new year.

Life has been good around here. And life has been overwhelming and stressful too. As I struggled for time and found myself irritated and irritating, I also smiled and laughed more. Way more. As if I was just living more intensely... And I was. The good news are that things are settling now. The other good news is that my laughter is now lighter. The bad news is that I'm now obsessed with gardening and I know as much about it as most people know about quantum theory. Yep, not much at all!

:: good friends that remind you of the little things that make you happy.
:: having a garden and loving it. 
:: spring weather when it's still winter... Oh the joys of being a rebel!
:: fabric. I LOVE good fabric.
:: running. And having the best running buddy ever!

How was your start to the week? I hope filled with sunlight and smiles.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

choose :: February update

It's now mid-March and whilst I'm behind on my blogging, I'm not behind on my goals and goal setting.

In February, I became a godmother and love it. As I held that baby girl and kissed her sweet cheeks, life was good and time sat still for just a moment. For the first time ever, I wasn't scared of breaking the baby; it felt natural and easy and perfect!

I achieved all my goals for February and that makes me happy. I made a baby quilt which I'm proud of (more on that to come), as well as the most adorable and cutest baby tunic (much thanks to the fabric choice!). And I accepted the greyness; that really was key to making the most of February.

I find myself more and more thinking about my choices; the daily power of my choices and their consequences. Who I want to be in my choices. It's a good feeling and I like how it's helping me become a better person.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Joey goes to Barcelona

I love Barcelona. My second time in this wonderful city and I'm once again convinced I could live there. Happily. If not forever, almost forever.

As a Portuguese person living in the UK, visiting Barcelona in January means one thing and one thing only - an obsession with its AMAZING bright blue sky! I spent so much time looking up my neck hurts, but hey my soul is filled with happiness and light. Gotta agree that's a good trade-off!

The good thing about second visits is that you don't have to do the touristy things and instead you can get lost in the city. You can wander around; oh the joys of just wandering around under a bright blue sky. You can absorb the city's atmosphere, people's grumpiness and all and think it's endearing. You can fall upon a certain fabric shop (yep, it's Nunoya) which you can still remember how to reach and indulge in a small adorable purchase. You can people watch and appreciate the little things. You can be happy. And you're even happier if you can enjoy a fantastic hidrotub in your hotel room at the end of a long day of wandering.

I ate ever so well in Barcelona. Always. Everything is fresh and full of flavour. Tapas are a current favourite and I have a few recipes in my book to make us go back to Cataluyna without leaving the sofa; even if I would much rather leave my sofa and go there frequently. 

The trip wasn't all perfect. Sadly, I've realised my photography has really gone backwards. I mean, really! Whilst I still think I have my eye, I don't feel creative about it nor able to achieve what I have in my head when I do. So glad it's an aim for the year to go back to photography and let my camera capture what my eyes see.*

I saved the absolute best of this trip for last and will largely save most of it for myself. I met up with a very dear Portuguese friend and her adorable Cataluynian family. We went for one dinner and one lunch by ourselves, so much catching up to do, you know? It never ceases to amaze me how things work between good friends, that feeling you met up yesterday whilst you enjoy every minute you have with them now knowing how much you'll miss again when you leave. And as much as our time together as two was wonderful and precious, my absolute favourite was going for dinner at her home, her family of three and my family of two, and knowing life can be this good. Yep, it really can. 

*This is what explains the lack of variety of photos in this post.


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