Friday, January 25, 2013

My Favorite Souvenir

I ended up with the best souvenir from our trip to London.

There is a department store in London called Liberty. They have been around forever (like most of the old department stores in London) and they have a signature line of fabrics. I only know of one store where I can buy the fabric here (Purl Soho) and it is crazy expensive. Of course I love all of the Liberty prints and the fabric is a dream to work with when sewing and quilting.

The Liberty store in London is in a fantastic old building with lots of dark wood and grand staircases. There is an entire floor for products made from the Liberty of London fabric and then bolts and bolts and bolts of the fabric. As it turns out the prices were only marginally better compared to Purl but the selection was incredible; I was in Liberty of London fabric heaven. It was almost too much, I just wandered through the aisles trying to decide what to buy and what I could make with the fabric. I settled on three packages of mixed selvage bundles. Each piece of fabric was the standard width but they were varying heights. I knew I was going to make at least two quilts from the bundles and I wanted one to be more turquoise/brown and the other to be blue/purple.

As a side note buying the fabric ended up being a huge hassle. In London they have microchips in their credit cards and everything is on the 'chip and pin' system. This is supposed to help cut down on fraudulent credit card charges. None of our cards had the chips in them - the first problem and the cashier seemed to be the second problem. It took him at least 30 minutes to get the approvals to the charge the card.

Once I had my precious fabric bundles home I opened each one and picked the strips I wanted to use in each quilt. Each quilt really has a mix from all three bundles and I have enough pieces left over to make a very small baby quilt - it's on the to do list with about 10 other fabulous projects!

Below, Roxy is helping me sort out the strips I planned to use in my quilt. This was going to be the first quilt I made for myself and I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. I ended up laying the strips on the back of our couch and during the day I would move them around to see how different combinations worked or didn't work. My quilt starts in blues and then goes to purple and ends up with pink prints.

After the top was sewn I had some fun. I took my quilt top to the Purl Soho store to select the border, backing, and binding fabric. The border makes it larger than a lap quilt - it is the perfect size to wrap up in on a cold day. The staff at Purl is always so helpful and they also have a love of Liberty fabric. They were all just gushing at my quilt top when I pulled it out of my bag. And then I got to tell them the story of how I bought the fabric at the Liberty store in London and how my trip to London was a big surprise, it was great reliving the trip. Pretty much everyone in the store, including customers, came over to look at my quilt top and ask about it. One woman thought it was just one piece of fabric, she was amazed how I pieced all of the strips together. It made me feel really good about my project.

I wanted to use a denim fabric for the binding, but apparently it has issues with the color bleeding when washed and the Purl staff would not let me use that for a quilt made of all Liberty fabric. I ended up with a purple quilter's linen that I just love for the binding.

Luckily for me, Purl had a rare sale and I was able to get Liberty of London fabric for the backing as well. I chose two prints and the back is four offset rectangles.

Again, Roxy was instrumental in helping me figure out how to put the backing together.

She also did product testing to make sure the fabric was acceptable for sleeping and also flattering for her fur.

My finished quilt top - the strips all sewn together and finished off with a wide border. The border is a Liberty floral print with purples and blues, it ties all of the colors together. Quite often Liberty hides images in the print - one of my strips has little scissors in it and the border has little tiny stars.

And finally, the finished quilt. It turned out exactly as I wanted and it makes me smile every time I see it. I love looking at all of the different fabrics as they change from one print to another.

Th finished product has been extensively cat tested and approved. It is lightweight but still warm and the fabric is really soft to the touch. Once it was washed the fabric puckered up from the quilt stitches and it has the perfect worn in feel.

This photo shows all of the different fabulous Liberty prints I used in this quilt.

And finally, Roxy showing off all of the hard work she contributed to this quilt.

Every quilt has a story and every quilt is made with love - this one is no exception. It came out of an amazing surprise trip to London, it is made out of my favorite fabric, and every time I see it makes me happy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

London Calling

So I actually started writing more about our London trip but clearly never finished. I can't believe that was over 6 months ago.

Here is that post that has been waiting to be finished...

With the start of the Olympics I am once again wishing I was back in London.

I completely adored the city and we had a great visit way back in May. It really does seem like forever ago!

I covered our first day of the trip but didn't get much further in the blog, day 2 was even better than day 1. It was Monday morning and first order of business was visiting Tower of London before it was too crowded. We arrived about an hour after it opened and the lines weren't too bad. I think we just happened to be in London at a really good time. The weather was fantastic and it wasn't crowded yet. If we had been there for the actual Jubilee celebration it would have been a completely different visit as June was the rainiest June on record in London.

The Tower of London is a group of buildings, not just one tower as it is named and it is really impressive. (As a side note I have been reading about the Tudors, specifically King Henry VIII, and wow - a lot of bad stuff happened here!)

It's the Tower Bridge in the background. Look at all of the sunshine - just think the next week it was pouring rain. Our timing was perfect.

The Gherkin Building in the background - a perfect mix of old  and new architecture in London.

The Crown Jewels are incredible. They have them in big cases with short moving sidewalks on either side. You can go back and ride the sidewalk as often as you wish, but you have to keep moving as you are viewing the collection.

Yes, we saw him move! But I'm pretty sure he never smiled.

There are seven ravens that live at the Tower. They are believed to protect the Crown and the Tower and there is a superstition this if the ravens fly away the Crown will fall and Britain with it. While I did get a photo of a Tower raven, I did not get a picture of the fox!

 (Did I tell you about the fox already - either way, I'm writing about it now.) We were sitting on a bench on the grounds of the Tower and all of a sudden a fox jumped a hedge and went running down a crowded path. I thought it was part of a show, similar to the people that were walking around in period dress - I was incorrect. A little bit later we walked in to a dark guard tower on the ground floor of the wall that surrounds the Tower. The room had an earthen floor and only natural light from small windows. It was dark and cool and quiet. As I was looking around the circular room I noticed a pair of eyes looking at us from one of the window alcoves - it was the fox! I didn't want to scare him so we very quietly left the room - no photos. As we were leaving another couple was entering, we told them to be careful and pointed out the fox. They stayed in there and in no time the fox came running out of the room and ducked in to another hiding spot. Apparently there are wild foxes that run about the city. We actually saw one more very close to our hotel on a different night (unless the same one was following us....)

The Tower Bridge - no Olympic rings yet (or David Beckham in a boat).

The Mall (pictured below) was decorated for the Diamond Jubilee - flags from the Admiralty Arch (pictured above) all the way down to Buckingham Palace.

Fortnum and Mason (pictured below) is fancy pants department store that has been in business since 1707. Their collection of tea cups and tea strainers and tea was staggering. The building was decorated in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and they had lots of products that matched inside - for your own celebration. I managed to resist their wares - it wasn't easy!

On our second day in London we walked and walked and walked. It is an easy walking town and the weather was great but by the end of the trip my feet were tired!