Thank you so much to those who took the time to fill in the survey. It is much appreciated and Lena is thinking about posting the results so those who are interested can take a look.
In craft news, I am still working slowly on the secret present project which is turning out to be much trickier than I originally thought. Paul and Lara – if you are reading this and want to keep this a surprise, please stop reading now. Here’s a little picture for you both to look at instead: click!

The present is a small baby quilt for Alice’s little brother or sister who will be arriving some time this month. I got the idea and the general direction from Caroline Zoob’s book Childhood Treasures: Handmade Gifts for Babies and Children. This is a book I borrowed from the library and after my initial hesitation about it (thinking it wasn’t quite my style), it has turned out to be a really great source of inspiration combined with tips and tricks. I have just ordered it from amazon to have permanently sitting on my shelf as I have referred to it so much in the past six weeks. Anyway… the patchworking of the quilt went very well. I did it all on the machine and made a very simple checkerboard pattern. It only took me an afternoon to get it all together. The small amount of patchwork I have done before has been done by hand has taken forever. Little did I realise that this was the very easy bit.

On this quilt I decided that I would teach myself how to machine appliqué which was probably a mistake – I really should have taught myself how to machine appliqué on some scraps or something not terribly important like a hanky or a pillowslip, but as is my want I leapt in feet first and started attaching shapes of various kinds to the actual quilt. The idea is to decorate the quilt in various animals and objects that will probably make up some of the baby’s first words (words like bird, cup, duck etc).

** Side note: have a look at the “Talking Quilts” exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum – interesting stuff along a similar idea. I particularly like the “Teaching Quilt” by Elizabeth Hamilton. Imagine the work in that!**

I used some very cool iron on adhesive stuff which made my little shapes stick fast to the fabric but then the machine stitching around each shape left a lot to be desired. Some worked out ok like the heart at the centre of the quilt:

But other shapes like the moon:

look pretty (really) awful. The key seems to be to keep the machine moving at an even speed and try not to deviate too much from a smooth and consistent line. Easier said than done. It was then my idea to go back and embroider some details in (below) and add new shapes in some of the empty squares as well as words and messages for the small new child to read and discover as it gets older. This is going to be the time consuming bit and might be limited by the arrival of the recipient.