Sunday, 30 December 2012


HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all!

As you can imagine, I have been busy on family pursuits over the Christmas period, with the sewing machine and fabrics stowed away for the time being. And whilst I admit to withdrawal symptoms, it is good to have a complete break from it all. I have had my notebook and pencil at hand so that at least I can draw and record ideas that I might like to follow up.

For my final blog this year, I want to direct you to a super website by Bonnie Maccaffrey. She is often seen at the big quilting shows filming quilts or interviewing quilters about their techniques. This year she chose to celebrate our great achievement as a group called ‘The Dumbelles’. We entered a quilt called ‘The Quilters’ Games’ into the Festival of Quilts in August. Following on from the euphoria of the London Olympics 2012, we imagined a mature and hefty Sun Bonnet Sue taking part in sporting activities suitable for quilters. It won the group section and then it was selected as Best of Show. This link will tell you all about it.

Tap this into Google:

On the right hand side of the home page you will see ‘GO TO ALL VIDCASTS’.

Look for #76 in particular but do remember to enjoy the others as well.


I wish you the best of everything for 2013.




Sunday, 23 December 2012

BLOG 129

Our new great-niece, Grace Elizabeth arrived safely on December 20th. And after saying that I was smugly ahead of the game with the baby quilt in my last missive, I decided to complete it as a floor mat for Christmas for our Granddaughter Katie who is 3 ½ months old now.


                                        Katie’s quilt

 I drew small pictures on the plain squares and sewed them with a free motion method and a variegated thread.








And naturally I signed it (if not a little blurredly!). It is always important to sign and date your work. As a matter of pride, you should feel that your name ought to be attached to your creation and, in the fullness of time, you just never know where your quilts will end up.



The house is more or less dressed. We live in converted farm buildings, the upper barn, lower barn and the dairy to be precise. When the conversion was done before we bought it, planning laws dictated that the windows had to remain where they were in the original building. So we have a high window (no it doesn’t get clean … we can’t reach it!) in the lounge. This comes into its own for the exalted star of our Christmas … the turkey!


            Turkey and tree quilt



The tree is laden with decorations and underneath it stand our gifts. They don’t represent vast amounts of money, but they have been selected with a lot of thought (and a suggestions list!) For the last 3 years we have adhered to a £20-per-present-per-head request from our daughters, and we gladly try to do this. It takes the angst out of present buying and makes the occasion less commercial.


                     Christmas tree

It’s the lights that add the atmosphere lights …


                       Tree and lights

And all that remains is for me to wish you all a loving and peaceful Christmas.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

BLOG 128

Don’t you just love what we do as patch workers! You start off with a couple of fabrics and use a rotary cutter to cut accurate squares and rectangles. (The measurements in this instance are 3½” and 1½”.) It’s just a pile of shapes. 


                                              Cut shapes

And when these shapes are sewn together with an accurate ¼” seam, blocks are prepared.



Ironing plays an important role in preparing the blocks. The rule is to iron from light to dark.


And then you join the blocks together to make rows. With the seam allowances ironed in opposite directions, the seams butt up to produce a smooth join.

And before you know it, you’ve made a simple quilt! My niece is having a Christmas baby so I am smugly ahead of the game here.


…. And it’s that time of the year again. I have just been away to the Southern Lake District to visit my 97 year old mother, to deliver cards and presents and to collect a few as well. And because everyone else appears to have dressed their houses ready for Christmas, I reckon that it’s about time I got on with it too. I just love it all, from the Nativity, to the over-indulging, to the silly cracker jokes, right down to the last bauble. So we enter the spirit of it by stripping the house of its usual decorative stuff and replacing it with seasonal red and green. And this is how it starts …. With boxes and bags!    


                                      Boxes and bags
We have made some progress and here’s how it looks so far. The folded quilt on the cat’s rocking chair is an applique heart block in an attic window setting. It’s actually an advent calendar pocket quilt and will be used when the granddaughters get older.

                                    Dresser and rocker
Here’s the fireplace with cross stitch stockings and crazy patchwork Christmas trees.


The kitchen step is a good place to show off some soft toys that have been made for me as gifts.


                                         Kitchen steps
I have a treasured Christmas box which was made by special friends. They used to make bespoke boxes as gifts for people, for any occasion, and actually found time to make a Christmas one for me. I adore the detail of it and it usually stays out a lot longer than the rest of the decorations.


                        Christmas box


Even the sun room gets a cracker quilt, tree and cushions. Not much of a view from N Wales today though; normally, on a clear day, we can see landmarks beyond the Wirral, Runcorn and Liverpool.


                                            Sun room

Sunday, 9 December 2012

BLOG 127

I can only describe myself as a ‘blur’ as I rush towards Christmas each year because, as the time gets shorter, I usually decide that I want to make more of my gifts. I have had plenty of time to do this in the last couple of months but, no, I choose the 11th hour to make this decision. There is no logic to it and my sanity must be called into question! Perhaps it is a subconscious niggle that roots itself in my brain (the one functioning cell!) after my first foray to the shops. I don’t buy much on that first visit as it is more of a fact-finding mission. And the more I see of what the shops have decided that we are going to have for Christmas, the more I don’t want to buy what I see. Yes it’s convenient; yes there is a price range to suit all pockets; and yes everyone does it. But I would rather use my skills to make things for people who appreciate something different. Here are a couple of my ‘useful’ gifts, tissue boxes; the first already completed and the other needing some extra embellishment.


                              Completed box

Nearly completed box
I have decided to use the leaves printed on the fabric to decorate the box.



To do this, I apply a fusible web to the fabric and cut the leaves out roughly before sticking them onto a backing fabric.


                                  Rough cut leaves

In this instance, I am using 2 layers of backing fabric rather than a wadding layer and backing fabric for a less bulky effect. To stabilise the layers, I am going to do a line of free-motion stitches to define the edge of each leaf.

                                               Sewn edge

Question: Now, do I cut out the leaves first and then satin stitch the edges or satin stitch then cut?

Answer: The sample on the left was satin stitched before cutting and the one on the right was cut out first. These samples illustrate that to satin stitch first before cutting is the most successful outcome! It was near impossible to control the shape under the machine if it was cut our first …this is the benefit is sewing samples!


                                      Sample leaves

The leaves will be attached as shown below to complete the box. Now another dilemma: should I add some Vick, Lemsip and throat sweets and make it into a ‘Winter Survival Kit’ … or would a box of Belgian chocolates be more acceptable? There’s no choice really is there?! Chocolates it is then.

                                                In position

 More stitching has been added to the Cathedral wall hanging, matching thread colour with fabric.



The mortar in between the stones of the arches has been sewn with a stippling stitch. This stitch went over the edges of the stones so that I didn’t have to do a satin stitch around each shape.


                           Stippled edges
And having done that, I felt confident enough to trim and bind the edges, even though I still have some more decorative stitching to do. The beauty of working with Warm and Natural batting is that it rarely shifts during sewing and it grips the quilt top and backing as you work. Great stuff!



                        Wall hanging

Sunday, 2 December 2012

BLOG 126

Another week, another blog! You’d be amazed at the amount of discipline required to keep a blog up and running and I don’t know how the daily bloggers do it! I have always conceived this as a quilter’s blog so you won’t get any recipes or gardening tips from me; and only travel comments if they yield some interesting design ideas, as last week. I have now got into the habit of taking photos of everything I make, especially if it is patchwork related. This means that I have plenty to fall back on during lean sewing times. But that is not the case at this time of the year when I am generally making some of my Christmas presents. And as I don’t know if any of my present recipients are reading this blog, I can’t really show you what I have been doing in any detail until after Christmas.

However, I have made some progress on the Cathedral wall hanging and it’s all about the quilting process now. My first free-motion quilting lines are worked from the centre towards the edges to create stability. I usually treat myself to a new needle for a new project and try to match thread with fabric. I have sewn a stippling stitch around the form of Christ on the tree and around the trunk, and a straight stitch around the bubbles of colour which make up the tree.

                            Straight and stippled stitches

I have straight stitched around the roots of the tree.

                                                 Tree roots

And I have then sewn lines of straight stitching around the inner and outer border.



I am confident that these stabilising lines, along with the safety pins, will be sufficient to hold the layers together whilst I start to infill with more elaborate stitchery.
On the colour strands I have sewn a flying geese design.


                                      Flying geese

On the background I have sewn leaves and an atmospheric pattern


             Atmospheric background

And on the trunk I have added elaborate texture.


                                          Tree trunk
And to get us into the seasonal spirit, just how does a Christmas cactus know that it’s Christmas? It takes my breath away every year!


                                   Christmas cactus

And here’s the Christmas Robin (28” x 32”), already on the wall, reminding me of things to be done for the coming Yuletide. 


Seasonal robin

Sunday, 25 November 2012

BLOG 125

Back from Malta now and well refreshed after a lovely break from routine. In holidays past, I used to cram my case with hand projects I wanted to work on, in case I got bored. But not these days; I really do have a break and the only thing I take is a camera, sketch book and pencil to record things of interest in words and pictures.

And do I like Malta? Well, the Hilton hotel was fabulous but the weather was mixed, from torrential rain and impressive thunderstorms to bright sunshine. It is a while since we have had a package holiday usually preferring to book things on the internet ourselves. But this deal with Thomsons saw us seamlessly transferred from one place to another. We were met at the airport and then directed towards our personal driver who took us straight to the hotel and we saw or heard nothing more from Thomsons although we knew they were there if we needed help. Although Malta is an island in the Mediterranean, I would say it was more of a cerebral holiday than a beach holiday. This poor little island must have had a wretched and chaotic history because it was the focus of sustained attacks from every nation imaginable so this break was learning all about that history. We wandered around citadels and fortresses, viewed fortifications, war museums and churches in the High Baroque style. A hire car allowed us more freedom to explore farther afield so we feel we have done it justice and doubt that a return visit would be necessary. Here are some decorative images that I could use for inspiration … in another life perhaps!



                                    Inlaid marble


                                Decorative table runners
Now I am chomping at the bit to get sewing again and here’s the latest on the Cathedral wall hanging. I have been working on the base of the hanging and the roots of the tree. I wanted to create a feeling of depth so I redrafted the master pattern and prepared a stone step for the roots to travel along and down. Notice how I have used the dark sections of the stone fabric at the back of the step and the brighter sections at the front to reinforce the depth created by the angle of the stones.



I am pleased with the results so far and now I am auditioning fabrics round the edge for the border, asking myself whether I should take an easy option and just bind what I have created or add another border fabric, or go to town and create a stone archway? It’s getting quite big and I still have to quilt it so that’s another consideration! I have moved the doves to cluster them together more, to leave a breathing space at the top of the arch.


               Potential border


             Full length

I decided in the end that it needed a couple of borders and this is what I came up with before we left to go on holiday. Now comes the detailed stitching … that should be fun!


             Final border
This time of the year it has become traditional that I travel from cold climes to find warmth, a bit like the migration of the wildebeest! I’m referring to my workshop which is part of the garage and try as we may, we can’t settle on an efficient heating system. So the Horne table, sewing machine and threads have been moved into the corner of our bedroom. This is wonderful for me as I can see my day’s toil (toil? …I think not!) as soon as I open my eyes. This move also means that I am more likely to get on with the Cathedral wall hanging.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

BLOG 124

This coming week, I will be going away for a break to Malta. I have never been before so know little about the island apart from what I have gleaned from the internet. It’s the varied reactions of other people that have been interesting: … ‘I won’t say much about it and leave it for you to make up your own mind’ ….. ‘It’s an island that you either love or hate’ … ‘It’s either very green or not very green’ …. ‘Don’t they have fish and chip shops and red buses over there?’ When I post Blog 125 in 2 weeks’ time, I will have the benefit of experience!! Can’t wait!

Cathedral hanging continued
This week I have been working on the lines of colour that rise from the top of the tree. Each shape is traced onto the RS of freezer paper and cut out to size. I have boxes of ready-fused fabrics left over from previous projects so all I have to do is locate the correct shades from dark through medium to light.


                               Freezer paper shape

 I secure the freezer paper shapes under a sheet of baking parchment and use a hot iron to fuse the small scraps of colour on top, so that I get a run of colour. I make sure that the fused shapes overlap slightly so that they stick together. I have to fill in the whole freezer paper shape and make sure there is a good seam allowance at the edges where I start with the darkest shade or where an edge will be overlapped.


                    Fusing small shapes
Once I have created the colour run, I iron the freezer paper cut-out on top of the fabric (always working on baking parchment so it can be peeled off easily) so that I can cut away the excess fabric along the long edges.


                                   Ready for trimming

Each colour line is worked separately and then put back into the design.


                                        Coloured lines

In my mind I suppose I am thinking of the church as a tree, rooted in the fabric of the building. The tree offers protection and allows growth during life and then releases into an afterlife. The dove is a traditional symbol of the spirit so perhaps coloured doves could soar to the top of the hanging as in ‘free-spirited’. Here are some initial doodles for the doves; I particularly like the rising doves.


                                 Dove doodles

I am trialling the doves to see what they look like in situ.


         Good progress
I’ve mentioned before that I always work impulsively and spontaneously but never tidily and here is the proof if you should need it!!


                                      Work surface


                                     Floor surface
We have many visitors to the bird table but these are some of the more unusual ones. And this morning we found that a crow had managed to lift one of the feeders off its hook and transport it somehow to the other end of the paddock. It was then trying to find a way of liberating the nuts. Clever blighters! My sister and brother-in-law will be living in the house whilst we are away; they’ll sort out that crow!! And so to Malta.