Sunday, 27 February 2011


I never really know what I am going to write about until I actually sit at the computer and start to look at the keyboard. Today is no exception so let’s see what bubbles up to the surface!

I have given myself until the end of February to complete the appliqué on the Jacobean panels and I am on course to do just that. I had intended to enter it into Quilts UK in May, the first of our annual UK competitions. As there is still so much decorative stitching, quilting and finishing to do, I have decided to bide my time and enjoy the sewing journey. What’s the point of rushing and putting myself under a lot of pressure? I have spent a quilting career of manically sewing and writing to deadlines, and now the time has arrived to chill. I can’t believe how good that makes me feel!

Much of my quilting time this week has been devoted to making a project for a magazine article. My new book, Dual Image Appliqué, needs to be promoted. A good way to do this is to send a copy to each of the magazines for review. I usually go one extra step and design an exclusive pattern for a project to accompany the review. This project draws attention to the book and introduces the basic method therein and those interested in developing the method just may purchase the book (fingers crossed!)

Here is the pair of cushions soon to be featured in Patchwork and Quilting magazine.

Patchwork and Quilting project

The technique is simple and the step-by-step method is logical. For these cushions I have used plain squares for the fusing, cutting and sewing and the results are sharp and dramatic. This pattern is a variation of a similar block used in my book and you only have to see what exciting results can be produced with the same method when the starting square is made up of 4 triangles.

Quilt blocks using a constructed square

I loved it so much that I went onto make a full sized quilt. Willow did the snuggle test and approved! I have to say that the palette used for this quilt is one of my favourites. I have always loved strong colour and have learned over the years as a homeowner, that if your walls are soft and neutral, you can use vivid quilts to create interest.

Snuggle test by Willow

Sunday, 20 February 2011


We have just had one of our Sunday family meals and it is so lovely getting everyone together round the kitchen table. However immediate texting and emailing is, there is no substitute for cosy face-to-face chats over food. I am happy to spend all morning preparing a special meal for us all so that we can catch up with workdays and holidays, local news and views, weekly happenings and shared reminiscences. Family is so important.

I mentioned Quiltfest at Llangollen in my last Blog. This is relatively local to me and I usually help with the stewarding. Occasionally though I am invited to display my work, or fill in a gap in one of the displays. This year I exhibited with a group called the ‘Roll-ons’. This group was inadvertently formed at the Festival of Quilts, 2010, where there were many jellyroll quilts. So many, in fact, that we started to get weary of them. Eight of us pledged to make an alternative quilt ‘Beyond the Jellyroll’ and here it is.

From left to right, we have Forward Roll, Spring Roll, Electoral Roll, Fig Roll, Bog Roll, Swiss Roll, Sausage Roll and Jewellery Roll.

Beyond the Jellyroll

I am hand quilting the Kansas Troubles throw and enjoying the hands-on process. It is a while since I have quilted by hand and I had forgotten how relaxing and satisfying it can be. The block is very angular so I decided to ignore that and quilt concentric circles in each block. This has the effect of unifying the complete quilt without losing the precision and drama of the sharp points. I work in a 14” hoop and use a thimble and a rocking motion.

Kansas Troubles: quilting

Whilst trying to hand quilt, there is usually too much interest from our rescue cat, Pussy Willow (or Wussy Pillow as we like to call her!). I have a theory that wadding (batting) is magnetic to cats! Whether it is in a bag, on the floor, in a cupboard or sandwiched between the fabrics of a quilt, the cat always seem to find it. This is her special chair in the kitchen, with wadding on the seat and a quilt as a backdrop.

Willow’s chair

Willow was removed by the RSPCA from a cat breeder in the Lake District, along with several others. Totally neglected, she was in an awful state when we first brought her home. But with time, care and attention she has become one of the loveliest cats we have had.

The tedious and repetitive sewing on the Jacobean panels continues. The edges of each black shape have to be sewn with a zigzag stitch to prevent them from fraying. It’s hard sometimes to keep the impetus and enthusiasm going!

Jacobean panel

Jacobean panel: detail

Sunday, 13 February 2011


Today Roger and I have been for a walk in the grounds of Chirk Castle, a property owned by the National Trust. It was the weekend of the annual snowdrop walk, and after the high winds and lashing gales at the beginning of the week, it was just lovely to be outside in the gentle sunshine and calming countryside today.

Roger Mortimer, Justice of North Wales for Edward 1 built the castle over 700 years ago, as a fortress. The castle is impressive, and the grounds extensive, accessed by topiary lined pathways. Snowdrops, commonly regarded as the harbingers of spring, are everywhere and here, a carpet of them surrounds me.

Snowdrops at Chirk castle

Chirk Castle has some magnificent wrought iron gates which are dated 1719 and bear the coat-of-arms of the Myddelton family. They were made by the Davies Brothers, Robert and John of Croesfoel Forge, near Bersham, Wrexham and were erected between 1719 and 1721.

The coat-of-arms of the Myddelton family is the crowning point of the overthrow of the gates. This incorporates the red “bloody” hand of the Myddelton family, a feature that has been the source of many myths and legends. One story tells of a dispute over inheritance of the castle many years ago between two youths of the family. To settle the dispute, the two youths agreed to run a race, the winner being the first to touch the Castle gates. Legend has it that the first youth to reach out to the gate at the finishing line was deprived of victory by a supporter of his adversary. The supporter drew his sword and cut off the youth’s outstretched hand: thus the “bloody” hand.
A further legend tells of a battle led by one of the early Myddeltons, dressed in a white tunic, during which he was badly injured. He placed his blood-covered hand on his tunic and left the imprint of the bloody hand, which then became his heraldic symbol.

Chirk Castle Gates

Chirk Castle Gates detail

I have been stewarding at Quiltfest in Llangollen this week. The featured quilter this year is Deanne Hartwell-Jones who does all her sewing by hand. Amazingly, she doesn’t own a sewing machine and everything, from patchwork to appliqué to quilting to binding, is done by hand. She constructs all her patchwork with minute precision, using the English paper piecing method. I think I would lose the will to live, working over papers but it suits Deanne and here are some of her quilts.

Quilt to commemorate the Queens Golden Jubilee

Quilt made from fabrics used in the Welsh National costume

Quilt influenced by Snowdonia

Sunday, 6 February 2011


The weather has been really awful this week, with lashing rain and howling gales. But do I care? Not one bit because it gives me the excuse to stay indoors to sew!! I have concentrated my time and efforts this week on the construction and sewing of the quilt that I wanted to make as a throw for the settee (see selection of fabrics in Blog 37). I love the colour palette I have chosen and I just knew that once I had selected my fabrics, I wouldn’t be able to resist making a start. I have chosen a traditional patchwork block called ‘Kansas troubles’.

Kansas Troubles block

It is not too complex but does demand careful preparation, accurate cutting and precise sewing. The finished block size is 8” and I want to do 5 rows of 5, with added borders. Where possible, I opt for quick construction methods and here’s an example.

How to produce 8 half square triangles (2 ½”) from 2 large squares:

Cut out two 6 ½” squares from a light and a dark fabric.

On the light fabric, draw the vertical and horizontal centre lines to define 4 squares.

Divide each square across the middle with a diagonal line as shown.

Place the fabrics RS together, with the marked side uppermost.

Sew an accurate ¼” seam on both sides of each diagonal line and press.

Half square triangle preparation

On a cutting board, use a rotary cutter and ruler to cut on all the marked lines to divide the square into 8 pieces. Each piece is made up of a light and dark triangle, joined by a seam.


On the ironing board, pile the triangles with the dark fabric on top.

Lift the point of the dark fabric to reveal the light triangle and press into a square. (Doing it this way irons both the seams in the same direction, from light to dark.)

On the cutting board, trim the squares to an accurate 2 ½”.


The large squares are cut at 8 7/8” and the small squares at 4 7/8”. They are then cut on the diagonal to give 2 large and 2 small triangles.

Large and small triangles

Some smaller dark triangles are needed to complete the block. Cut some 2 7/8” squares and divide on the diagonal. The 2 ½” corner squares are cut from the light fabric.

Corner blocks

Here’s my completed quilt top, safety-pinned onto the batting and backing layers ready for quilting. Love it!

Kansas Trouble quilt 50” x 50”

This coming week I am stewarding in Llangollen at Quiltfest, an annual event organised by Val Shields, who also heads our Gresford sewing group. All the members are expected to give time for stewarding so I am in Plas Newydd on Monday all day and the museum on Wednesday. This is going to give me time to hand quilt my work; I can’t wait to start!