Sunday, 29 March 2015

BLOG 241

BLOG 241 Sunday March 29th

This week, I have continued to work on the colourful wall hangings, ‘Horse-in-a-wall’ and ‘Dolphin-in-a-wall’. The dolphins went together much quicker because I had established my working format with the horse quilt. The next one I make (ever optimistic!) will be super-efficient because I now know what I am doing, where I am going with it and what I am trying to achieve; it helps enormously! Here are the dolphins shapes on the master pattern.

                                        Dolphins on master pattern

Here are the dolphins within the completed pebble wall. The image on this quilt is a subtler.

                                                               Pebble wall

 I tried to design a decorative topping for the wall, to resemble waves but decided I didn’t like it. In the end I opted for thin, horizontal pebbles like the ones you often see on walls surrounding some seaside properties.

                                                  Decorative topping

 As I was pinning the completed quilt top onto the batting, I certainly didn’t know at that stage how I was going to proceed but I was thinking hard (that’s where the work is done). My first job after pinning was to sew round the outside edge with a long straight stitch to stabilise the 2 layers.  (I prefer to quilt straight onto the batting so I don’t have to worry about what the back of the quilt looks like, and, these days, I mainly choose to do a turn-through method of adding the quilt back after quilting.)

Generally, the quilting process serves two purposes: to hold the quilt layers together and to be decorative. With my method of working with fused fabrics, the quilting stitches also need to secure my pieces to the background as there are no applique stitches around the edges of the shapes. With all this in mind, I decided that I wanted the colours of the dolphin fabric to be blended with stitch but I wanted to stones to stand on their own with clean cut edges. I started to sew wavy quilting lines over the surface of the dolphins, using threads that reflected the colours of the fabrics, changing the colours often.

                                                      Wavy quilting lines

                                                             Detail 1

                                                                       Detail 2

As I was sewing these repetitive lines, I was thinking long and hard about the stones. And then I had the bright (crazy!) idea that I would quilt each stone separately with a different decorative pattern. I didn’t want the quilting to stand out which meant matching thread with fabric, but I wanted it to be interesting for viewers who came to examine the quilt closely. I also wanted it to be interesting for me to sew!!!

                                                       Quilted stones

The extent of the quilting is best seen on the batting, from the back on the quilt. Here it is before tidying up (and yes I did repeat some quilting patterns!).

                                                        Extensive quilting


 Here it is completed and I am satisfied that I have achieved what I have set out to do. All that I needed to do was to ‘switch on’ the dolphins by sewing the eyes.

                                                           Switching on

                                                 The eyes

Sunday, 22 March 2015

BLOG 240

BLOG 240 Sunday March 22nd 2015

I have continued to work under pressure, building on last week’s flying start with the ‘Horse-in-a-wall’ quilt. At this stage, the horse is ironed on but the stones are just pinned roughly onto the dark background where they tend to curl, hence the exaggerated spaces between some of the shapes.

                                                          Building a wall

                                                               Pinned stones

 I decided to do a decorative edge along the top of the wall to add extra interest and to make it resemble the walls I habitually see in my native Cumbria.

                                                  Decorative top

 The pieces are now fused onto the background awaiting the next stage. I am very happy with the look of this piece of work, so much so that I couldn’t resist going on to start the ‘Dolphin-in-a-wall’ hanging. I drafted the pattern free-hand from the tiny doodle in my sketch book but the result was too small. As I couldn’t face redrafting it, I had it enlarged locally on a photocopier and here is the Master pattern, all taped together from about 8 different pages.

                                                              Master pattern

I chose colourful fabrics again, this time mainly jades and blues with some pinks/mauves. I have to say that this is my favourite section of the colour wheel so I couldn’t be happier working with these fabrics! Instead of tracing a working pattern this time, I traced from the Master pattern straight onto 36” wide Bondaweb (the wall hangings in this series will all measure 36” x 36” so the size of the fusible is ideal). The shapes just need to be cut out as I go and used on the fabrics to make the appliques. I forgot to trace on the WS of the pattern so my dolphins will be reversed!

                                                           Work station

Technique-wise, I number and roughly cut out the shapes as I need them and iron them onto the fabric, choosing the area of colour I want to use. Then I cut them out on the drawn line to the exact size and pin them onto the Master pattern.

                                                           Getting started


                                                                 Fish 1

As I will be able to sell pieces of work in the gallery, I have also started to make some small wall hangings. I am making these with kunin felt (the correct felt for the process so I am told!) which should be totally burnable with soldering iron and heat gun. Here are the synthetic backgrounds covered with sheers and waiting to be stitch with cotton thread. I will spend the day at embroidery tomorrow making progress on these.

                                              Kunin felt with sheers

And, just in case you have forgotten, this is what I am trying to achieve (mounted on a blue background).  So there’s a busy week ahead for me but I like having a focus for my skills and this very immediate way of working suits me fine.

                                   Stitched and soldered



Sunday, 15 March 2015

BLOG 239

BLOG 239 Sunday March 15th 2015

What a difference a week makes. Last week I was pushing ahead with my calendar quilt feeling exceptionally focused and making good steady progress. I was also trying to off-load a quilt (that I did just to find out how a pattern works) that I didn’t want to make any more because it was distracting me from things that I really wanted to make. And now I am working at full throttle on an exhibition quilt (quilts if it goes according to plan). I have been invited to mount another exhibition of my work at the Ucheldre centre in Holyhead to coincide with an exhibition of work by the resident quilters. I have exhibited there twice before and when asked this time, I turned down the opportunity because I doubted that I would be able to fill the gallery space without repeating quilts. With some persuasion and a desire not to disappoint the teacher whom I know well, I have agreed to do it. I am going to include our group quilts which will help to fill walls and then I decided to try an idea from my sketch book to potentially bulk out my exhibits.
When I was travelling around America last year, I was doing my usual doodling in my sketch book. My school files used to be covered with similar fractured images because I used to do them as I was listening/day dreaming. These images are very personal to me and part of who I am so it seems like a good idea to try and utilise them as a design idea. Whether it will work or not remains to be seen! Here are the simple sketches, with the initial idea of the images being part of a wall.





 I drafted the horse pattern to size as a Master pattern.

                                                     Master pattern

 I have a box full of fusible off-cuts and these proved ideal for tracing the pattern pieces from the WS of the master pattern.


 I placed some baking parchment over the pattern so I could pin the fabric shapes accurately in place.


I set up my ironing surface and found some colourful fabric. I have always wanted to work an image in bright colours but have somehow lacked the confidence, being a realist at heart. But ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ and ‘he who dares, wins’ as the sayings go. So let’s give it a whirl.

                                                  Ironing station

                                                          First shapes

                                                          More shapes

 And, as I am enjoying the start of this project, I realise that I should have traced the pattern again onto the baking parchment so that I always have access to the master pattern!! Put this fundamental error down to my enthusiasm for getting started!

                                                Parchment pattern

                                                     More progress

                                                    So far so good

 I like the look of this a lot! And you won’t believe how happy I am working with vibrant colour. And it is only by seeing it through the camera lens and eventually on this screen that I can see how it is working and I can fine-tune the colour choices. This exhibition might just have been the push I needed to be creative again and, as I have said many times before, I am always better working under pressure!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

BLOG 238

BLOG 238 Sunday March 8th 2015


It is amazing where the time goes isn’t it? One minute you are waking up on a Monday morning and arranging to go to a morning viewing of ‘The Second Best Marigold Hotel’ with a chum and the next minute it’s weekend again. We often arrange to do things on a Monday morning just because we can and because it reminds us that we are happily retired! The film incidentally was very good, age-appropriate and heart-warming which is hardly surprising with the calibre of the actors involved. I do object though to the volume that is set for these largely pensioner-attended showings; it’s loud enough to make your ears bleed! And casting my eyes around the heads of the scant audience, there is another meaning to fifty shades of grey.

Between times, I have been getting on with things that ought to be got on with! The calendar quilt desperately needs to be behind me now but there is a long way to go yet. All the floral centres have been ‘thread painted’ and 9 blocks are now waiting to have their elaborate corner decorations designed, that’s what takes the time and holds me up. I did manage to do the sheer applique onto the June block this week. The thread painted nasturtiums won’t be sewn on until the 3 layers are together.

                                                            June block

Here it is in situ alongside the ready quilted September block. I love the way the colours seep from one block into another.

                       June and September

The March block has also been started. The first thing I have to do is to extend the thread flowers using sheers to give a ghosting effect. The corner decoration is almost designed.

                                            March block

 And then it was back to the disappearing 4-patch blocks which have been lying about. As a reminder, this is how it is constructed. Four 6 ½” blocks (2 lights and 2 darks) are joined to make a 4-patch. Using a ruler and rotary cutter, cut a line across the block, 1” away from the centre seam in all 4 directions.

                                             Cut around the centre seam

 Rotate the centre 4-patch square 90 degrees.

                                             Rotate the centre square

 Swop the squares on the right side.

                                             Right side swop

Swop the squares on the left side.

                                                  Left side swop

And here is the conveyor belt of blocks beside the sewing machine, ready to be sewn.

                                               Blocks for sewing

 Here is the quilt as far as I want to take it. I was curious about the mechanics of construction and after I had had a go, I realised that I didn’t want to make a full sized quilt. This 4 by 4 block sample is made from batiks and it measures 46” x 46”. It can be bordered and used for a lap quilt or a play mat or more blocks can be added to increase the size. If any of my signed-in followers wants to buy this quilt top as it stands for £25:00 plus postage, email me

                                                             4 by 4 blocks

Sunday, 1 March 2015

BLOG 237

BLOG 237 Sunday March 1st 2015

Hapus Dewi Sant.

And now for something completely different, as the saying goes. Question: What do you do with a drawer full of large print fabrics when you need a rag rug for your utility room?  Answer: You make one! These fabrics have been left over from my garden gate years when I used to construct large scale gardens which required big floral prints. I don’t want to work on large pieces now so I thought I would shift some of this fabric in a different way. I also need a hand project for the times when I go to various local craft groups. In my life before quilt making, I used to crochet lampshades using balls of dishcloth cotton; here is the only one I have now and that must be all of 30 years old!

                              Crocheted lampshade

So it was to crochet that I turned to make use of the fabrics. I hadn’t used a crochet hook for years but it all came back very easily. Here are the first 4 squares.

                                                             4 squares

And here are the fabrics they came from. The busy fabrics produce a lovely effect and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the right or wrong side is visible, that just adds interest.

                                                           Fabric 1

                                                                  Fabric 2

                                                               Fabric 3

                                                              Fabric 4

I wanted to cut the fabric as efficiently as possible with a rotary cutter and ruler so I removed both of the selvedges first and folded the fabric, placing it on my cutting board with both the trimmed selvedge to my left and the fold of the fabric to the right. (I produced 1 square from an 11” length x 42”wide fabric strip.)

I cut ½” strips across the fabric from right to left, going across the folded edge on the right side but stopping 1” short of the trimmed edges on the left side.

                                                     Across the fold

                                                          Stopping short

I separated the layers (this is important) and started to release the individual strips of fabric cutting the edge where necessary.

                                                         Separated strips

 I rolled up the fabric in a ball for convenience so it is ready to crochet using an 8mm hook.

                                                            Ball of fabric

 In advance, I am already thinking of how to join the squares together. As I have drawers of black off-cuts, again from the wrought iron years, it seemed like a good idea to use that fabric.

                                                            Crocheted seam

                                                          Reverse seam

 NOT a good idea! I think the best solution would be to use any left-over strips from the squares to join them together more subtly……..

………..And then I went into a local charity shop and bought this one for £4:00! I will persevere with the crocheted one now that I have started it, and I can swop it over with this one when it needs laundering.

                                                     Charity shop rug