Sunday, 13 April 2014

BLOG 195


This week I have continued to make progress on items that I intend to display and sell at the Gresford show in June. Here is another teaching sample which I thought was too good to throw away. I had completed and joined 3 vertical lines in one sequence but for some reason, I had another 3 vertical lines in another sequence. This was probably the reason it was never finished.

                                   Tiles quilt

 It took longer than I intended to produce a reasonable sized quilt (49” x 52”) and here is the evidence of the sewing and undoing and re-sewing. I felt no conscience in throwing away what was left and was heartily glad to know that I don’t have to do any more of it!!                                                                                                                                     


I have quilted the rows ‘in the ditch’ with a walking foot and I used a free motion foot to do a wandering stem and leaf design using a variegated thread.  After it was bound, the last thing I had to do was to sign it.

                                Stem and leaves design


I have begun the last 2 flowers on my calendar quilt, a clematis and a rose. They need a bit more work on them before I remove the water soluble medium. Then I can concentrate on the individual quilt squares.

                                      Thread flowers

A company in the USA (The Creative Iron) laser cuts a selection of my silhouette patterns on ready-fused black fabric. I came across some during the clean out and this is a sample of a Jacobean strip that they decided not to run with. There is no need to sew the black fabric cut-outs as the heavy fusible prevents it from fraying.

                        Jacobean strip

                                    Decorative stitching

Most evenings now I am making myself do some squares on my ‘Stringing the Stars’ quilt. There is still much ground to cover but I will get there in the end!

                                      Stringing the stars

I have 3 potential gate quilts for Gresford, again these are workshop/book samples that just needed finishing. Here is the first which I have now quilted and bound and it is in need of a hanging sleeve.

                                         Garden gate

                                    Textural quilting

 ASIDE: I have spent my day today at a willow weaving workshop, making a hanging basket. It was my birthday treat from my daughters and their families and I have had a lovely time. I now have a cone shaped hanging basket and just need to fill it with plants so I can enjoy seeing them thrive through the summer.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

BLOG 194


It must be spring! At this time of the year, with the lengthening of the days and the warmth of the sunshine, I can’t resist having a good and thorough clear-out. It’s as though I am cleansing my environment after the gloom of the dark days of winter and de-cluttering my space and therefore my mind (bless that one little brain cell!) I have more or less accepted now that I am retired (after 8 years of doing less and less teaching!) and will not be getting back onto the teaching circuit again. To that end, I have thrown away 2 huge bin bags of paper patterns, workshop hand-outs, visual aids and magazine cuttings.  Instead of cramming stuff precariously into the nearest cupboard, I have bought more storage boxes, one for sheers, one for felting wool, another for fancy fabrics and yet another for silk and the workroom looks much tidier.

During this drastic sort out, I came across some ‘historic’ (done over 15 years ago!) pieces that were too good to chuck out because I had spent too much time on them already. So this week I decided to start to complete them in preparation for selling them at the Gresford show in June (unless I get a good offer before then!) The first is a Tiffany-inspired stained glass with Hollyhocks which I used to teach as a workshop many moons ago. This is how I had left it and you can see that it is worth completing. I just need to add the stems and the bias binding, sew on the bias binding, and quilt the picture and trim and bind it …. Not much to do then …!!


To construct the picture, I use a method where the design is drawn onto the WS of a piece of calico and the fabrics are pinned RS up onto the unmarked side. From the WS, I sew on the lines to trap the fabrics in place and then from the RS I trim away the excess fabric right up to the sewing line. This is how I added the stems.

                                    Pin onto the RS

 Sew from the WS to trap the fabric and turn back to the RS

                   Trim away the excess fabric up to the stitches

The bias binding comes ready prepared with a fusible backing and is a wonderful product to use.

                                              The product

If I am working on my lap, I use a tacking stitch to hold the bias binding in place before ironing it to stick it down. If I am in my workroom, with an iron handy, I iron all the pieces in place. It is fast and efficient and the pattern is defined in no time at all. The binding needs to be placed in sequence from background to foreground so I often have a couple of lengths on the go at any one time.

                                  Sequence for placement

                Fused binding

The binding needs to be sewn down and this can be done by hand or machine. I chose to machine sew on the edges of the binding with a straight stitch. I placed the picture onto batting and backing to give extra body during sewing and to quilt it at the same time. I add quilting texture to the background spaces prior to binding the edges. All I need to do now is to add detail and texture to the flowers and leaves and a hanging strip on the back and it is finished! Finishing this project has refreshed my interest in stained glass so keep looking into my blog to see  more of it sometime in the future.

                                      Stitched binding

               Bound edges

 ASIDE: I have inadvertently deleted the email I had from Suzette ‘one pin’ Smart with the picture of her winning embroidery at the NEC. If you google her name, you can now see her winning piece on her blog.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

BLOG 193

Well, have I had fun this week with my soldering iron? I should say so! Using it has opened a lot of doors for me in the way I approach and work my painterly style. I know I have come across the technique before because I still have my husband’s soldering iron stored amongst my supplies. (…. And he still hasn’t missed it yet!) The one I have now purchased is designed specifically for working with fabric by Margaret Beale. The point is very fine and it burns fabric like a knife cutting through butter. Following her technique, I cut out leaf shapes with the soldering iron for use on the poinsettia panel and placed them in situ. This was exactly the effect I wanted to achieve, where the colours seep away from the central flowers, much like a watercolour painting.

                                        Cut-out leaves

 The problem was that they were not attached to the fabric at all and sewing them in place would demand extreme precision. So I decided I would rather sew them in place first before cutting them out and I needed to think again. I came up with the idea of using ‘Stitch and Tear’ on the back of my background block, so I designed a spread of leaves to go around the edges of the poinsettia and then traced it onto the ’Stitch and Tear’. I pinned strips of sheer fabrics onto the RS and the ‘Stitch and Tear’ on the WS. I sewed from the WS where I could see the pattern lines and trapped the sheers with stitch on the RS. Then came the fun with the soldering iron! I burned away the excess fabric from around the edges of the stitches to remove them. The detail on the leaves will be done later as a quilting line. So far, so good.


I was then told about the work of Kathleen Laurel Sage (what a wonderful and unforgettable name!) and that led me into a wonderland of colour, stitch and expertise. Check out her website and blog at This was the way forward for me!

My first task was to have a go at her technique which isn’t explained anywhere on her website, (and quite rightly so,) because she sells her original patterns and makes her living from teaching the technique. But by reading through her blog, there was sufficient information that I could glean to enable me to try.  I just needed to use my drawing skills to draught a pattern first. Here is that first attempt. Just from having a go, I learned a lot about the sort of pattern I needed to draft, the way I needed to lay down my coloured sheers and how I needed to make the stitching lines complete and secure.

                                  First attempt

 Later that night, all fired up with enthusiasm, I sat with a piece of paper on my lap and tried to doodle a pattern suitable to go on the poinsettia panel. Here is the initial doodle.

                                          Holly doodle

As I doodle, I am continually thinking and trying to work out what I want to achieve and how to achieve it. And it was then that I decided to create a pattern that spread across one corner of the block so the paper was marked out and the designed positioned accordingly.

                                         Corner design

 ASIDE: It’s worth mentioning that while I have definitely been inspired by the work of Margaret Beale and Kathleen Laurel Sage, I don’t want to be them or replicate their lovely work. What I have done is learned from their methods and converted them to my own needs in terms of quilt making. That said, I will certainly be acknowledging their inspiration if this quilt is ever shown in public and it will be right and proper to do just that. Some people choose not to do this but it is a common courtesy to do so.

 Last week, I also completed two more thread flowers for the calendar quilt and there are two more to go. This week, I need to try the holly corner pattern on the poinsettia panel and, if it works, I will be designing a pattern for each month. I feel as though I am making progress a last!





Sunday, 23 March 2014

BLOG 192

I have started to think more positively about my calendar quilt and I have tried some different ideas. First I wondered how a dark fabric in the centre square would affect the look of the delicate colour-washed surface and embroidered flowers. I found it completely over-powering and rejected that idea very quickly.

                                 Dark centres?

 I chose a pastel sky fabric to go there instead and I liked that effect.

                                           Light centre

Then I wondered whether I could use sheer fabrics to create a shadow of the floral shapes thus giving a feeling of depth. Not sure about that one.

                                           Flower shadow

What if I tried sheer fabrics on two sides of the square to give the appearance of shadowing and therefore a feeling of depth? Again I found this quite harsh but at the moment the jury is out on that one.

                                        Square shadow

More pondering followed. I must say that I have always liked the effect of the sheer fabrics spilling out beyond the flower embroideries and how, when in position, they affect the colours of the batik fabrics underneath. So my next idea was to add more sheers to give the feeling of the brush strokes that you would find in the background of a watercolour painting. I liked that a lot but I am undecided how to proceed technique-wise. I need to think about this a bit more.

                                  Brush stroke effect

And then Jackie, a friend and fellow quilter (we are joint ‘mothers-in-law-elect’ too!), went to the Knitting and Stitching Show at the NEC and purchased a Margaret Beale soldering iron on my behalf …. And I got distracted once more! It is a marvellous tool and, after leaping straight in with a couple of samples, I decided that I had better read the book first and avail myself of all the knowledge, experience and expertise that the author has drawn on to the write the book. What do I know about this?  … Nothing! So I will read and learn.

                                      Soldering iron

BTW: I go to Suzette ‘one pin’ Smart’s house for machine embroidery and chat every fortnight and guess what? She has won something at the Knitting and Stitching Show at the NEC for a dimensional piece of embroidery featuring teacups. I will find an image of her entry for next week. Well done Suzette, thrilled for you! Google her and find her wordpress link.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

BLOG 191


What a week it has been! I can reduce mine to these words: sunshine, Center Parcs, Auntie Blod and oil pastels.

The sunshine was enjoyed country-wide and it really did lift the spirits, although my spirits rarely need lifting as I am a quilter and a naturally happy little soul! The garden has taken up much of my time as I need to get on top of it before the weeds take over. I love flowers and they are the basis of my activities with fabric so I garden for inspiration, it’s a means to an end.

Center Parcs in Cumbria was the destination of my daughter and family this week and we joined them for a couple of days. They are wonderful places for families and activities and the sunny weather made our visit special. We walked and skipped and played and even saw red squirrels.

Auntie Blod, a very favourite aunt and my mother’s only sister, died on Friday. She had been frail for some time so it was not entirely unexpected. She lived along the coast from us in N Wales in the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (and yes I can pronounce it!) and we will be attending her funeral next week.  

Oil pastels were used In the art class this week to great effect. We coloured in a picture using the pastels, blending colours and scratching designs into the surface. The whole picture was then covered with black (Quink) ink and here is the result. You may be able to pick out the scratched designs in the garden areas; these are designs I would use in free motion texturing on a quilt. I enjoyed this technique as it pandered to my love of colour and use of black; I feel a quilt coming on!!

                                              Pastels and ink

 I have completed two more flower embroideries, Nasturtiums and Fuchsias. For some reason I am really dragging my feet on this calendar quilt, unsure of what to do next and I am trying to understand why. I used to sew very intuitively when I had a limited amount of time to spend on a piece of work and always worked at my best under pressure. I can only assume that because I am not working at speed, I am thinking about each stage too deeply, desperate not to get it wrong (why I ask myself). I can easily find other things to distract me as an avoidance technique. But I must resolve where I am going with this quilt and soon. Perhaps I need to set myself a dead line and go for it; it has always worked for me in the past.




I have made more progress on this scrap quilt, and here is the construction of the star block.

Arrange the pieces for the star block beside your sewing machine. Place a constructed block alongside for cross-reference. (The strips of my centre and corner squares all go from SW to NE and this will be consistent throughout the quilt.)

                           The squares for the block

Join the smaller squares together in pairs as shown.

                                            Join in pairs

Make sure that there is a ¼” space beyond the tip of the point. This will be taken into the seam when joining he blocks together to give a sharp point. Join the pairs together to make the top and bottom rows and join the remaining pairs to either side of the larger centre square making sure that the joins are crisp and accurate.

                                       Accurate seams 1

                                    Accurate seams 2

 Join all the rows together to make the block.

                                      Row to row

I have joined some squares together to review progress and to see whether I like the results. This will spur me on to make the quilt as from now on it is sheer slog! Here’s the story so far. This will be going on in the background all the time and I intend to have it completed for the Gresford exhibition this year.

                                          A string of stars


Sunday, 9 March 2014

BLOG 190

Yesterday I attended a Regional Day in Frodsham, organised for Region 13 of the Quilters’ Guild (N Wales and NW). These events are always eagerly awaited, well attended and greatly enjoyed. We usually have 2 speakers, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with time in between to socialise with fellow quilters and to spend money with the traders. They are great days and at £8:00, it is definitely an excellent perk of being a Guild member. I was only there for the morning because of other commitments but I was well satisfied and very excited by the work of Yvonne Brown. She has a textile/embroidery background and these skills dovetail nicely into quilting. Yvonne loves to make textiles using a reverse applique technique, just like me, but whereas my work was cut with scissors and needle-turned by hand, Yvonne cuts her edges with a soldering iron! I was amazed at her results. You can Google her to see more of her work but here are some pieces I particularly enjoyed.

                                      Jacobean panel

                                             Medieval tiles


                                         Fleur de Lys

                                          Art Nouveau

                                          Stylised roses

The red horse was sent off this week to join the others that will appear as part of the challenge. Look out for the collection at the Grosvenor shows this year.

I  am just coming to the end of a 20 week art course which I have enjoyed immensely. I can’t believe that the tutor is now retiring from adult education to progress her own work. Here are a few of the projects I have tackled; I expect you too can see how they might be tranferable to fabric!


                    Inks and oil pastel rubbings on paper

                  Still life with torn magazines

            Abstract with masking fluid and inks

     Jackson Pollock style with acrylics and snooker balls on a tray