Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Seductive curves

First an explanation why I haven't been blogging, or more important, looking at anyone else's blog for the last week. The computer decided that it didn't want to find the server! It was very frustrating, because the wireless connection was fine, but we had no joy connecting to the internet at all. Luckily our friend Richard is a computer whiz (apart from being an acting pro and all-round great bloke) and he came round yesterday and sorted the problem out. Thanks Richard!

Now don't worry; the curves in the blog title don't involve me stripping off at all. They're fabric curves in sumptuous colours destined for a quilt for DD. I'd hoped to have it ready for Father Christmas to bring on Thursday, but it's not going to happen.

Here are some of the strips ready to be played with and made into a top. It's quite an easy technique, where you place two strips on top of each other, and then just push the rotary cutter up the middle to make a curve, and then join the fabrics together. Well, it's easy if you don't drop the fabrics and forget how they go together. If that happens you end up with something like this,

and have to get your seam ripper out!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Deck the halls

This quiz was on Lisa-Jo's blog and I am addicted to these quizes, and just had to have a go. (It's slightly American in parts, so I've taken the liberty of Anglicising it.)

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
If I have to choose, it'll be hot chocolate, although I'm not a fan of either.
Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree?
Despite the fact that our children are 25 and 27, all the presents stay out of sight until DH goes to midnight mass with his mother, then all the presents come 'magically' under the tree, ready wrapped and carried down by whoever is around before I go to bed!
Coloured lights on the tree or white?
White lights are the best. I especially like them outside on trees - they look like stars.
When do you put your decorations up?
A couple of weeks before Christmas - they lose their impact if they're around too long.
What is your favourite Christmas dish (excluding dessert)?
Turkey sandwiches with a bit of sage and onion stuffing.
Favourite Christmas memory as a child.
My father was a policeman, and every year there was The Police Party, which was held in the police station itself. Not only was it great going into the inner rooms at the police station, having food and presents from Father Christmas etc, but as we got older, we were allowed to stay on into the evening, when there was dancing, snooker and then sandwiches, crisps, pickled onions and red cabbage and black pudding! (Not that I ever ate any of the latter, but it was ever-present.)
When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I suppose at some point I stopped believing, but I have now seen the error of my ways and am a passionate Father Christmas supporter!
Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Absolutely not. How is it possible when Father Christmas doesn't even bring them till Christmas Day!!
How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
DH has this fantasy (born of too many magazine articles) of a sophisticated tree dressed in green and gold, or purple and black or whatever. Poor man. We decorate the teee every year with all the stuff we have - I like to call it 'Christmas Down the Years'!
Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love the look of it, but since I had a little winter sliding accident in my car a few years ago, I'm not a fan of driving in it.
Can you ice skate?
No. I went to an ice rink a couple of times as a teenager, but that's it.
Do you remember your favourite gift?
Not sure about favourite, but I can distinctly remember getting a (working) toy sewing machine when I was about 9!
What's the most important thing about Christmas for you?
The bonhommie it generates.
What is your favorite Christmas dessert?
A cranberry and walnut loaf which I found as a recipe on the back of a pack of Ocean Spray Cranberries.
What is your favorite tradition?
Everyone getting up on Christmas morning and opening the presents together.
Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving?
Both really.
What is your favorite Christmas Song?
''When Santa got stuck up the chimney" as sung by an enthusiastic 5 year old.
Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yuk. Both in reality and as a Christmas emblem.
Ever recycled a Christmas present?
Not yet!
What are your answers?

Eye candy

I've been busy with Christmas (cards, wrapping, decorating and cooking) and not had much chance to sew since I finished 'Just call me Bubbles!', but I have had a bit of eye candy to distract me. My good friend Jackie has not only managed to buy a copy of Gwen Marston's 'Liberated Quiltmaking' at a reasonable price, but has lent it to me! What a generous friend you are, Jackie!

I have looked on Amazon to see if I could get a copy too, but at the moment, it's £73 for the cheapest on the British site and £40 on the US site. Neither price is very appealing. Mind you, it's a very influential book, and her ideas have filtered gradually into the mainsteam over the years. Looking at the book made me remember a small quilt I made a while back (no label - sorry!) from a pattern in either 'Quiltmaker' or 'Quilter's Newsletter'.

It's Gwen's Variable stars with a lovely sawtooth edge in my favourite colour! Now back to the mince pies!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

All quilted out!

Hooray! I've finished quilting the 'Turning Twenty' quilt! I made it, in no small part, thanks to the encouragement I got from fellow bloggers. Thanks for telling me how close I was to the end - it was actually true. The last quarter was the smallest - I know you mathematicians out there will say that all quarters are exactly the same - but in this case I'd done an extra circle or two on the ends of rows, which certainly made a difference to the final section.

Here it is, amidst the clutter in my bedroom.
I read an article in the paper recently which said that a scientific study had proved that people look more attractive after you have had a couple of alcoholic drinks! But it went on to warn that after several drinks, the effect increased, so if you overdo it, you might wake up in the morning next to Bubbles DeVere, who is a very ugly character in 'Little Britain'! So, I have decided to call this quilt 'Just call me Bubbles, darling' in honour of the character and the quilting motif. If the writers of the series find out, do you think they will be pleased?!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Quilting, quilting, quilting

I have been quilting my 'Turning Twenty' quilt, and I must say, I'm pretty fed up with it! I don't have much patience at the best of times, but this quilt is taking me longer to quilt than it took to make up! I suppose it's my own fault for chosing such an intensive pattern. I didn't want to quilt it along the sides of the patches (too boring and too difficult, with all that turning) so opted for a bubbles design.

I must say, I'm pleased with the overall effect of the circles on the geometric pattern of the quilt, I just wish there wasn't so much of it!

My friend Jackie came for a coffee and chat and asked how I manged to quilt a double quilt like this. I started this one in the middle, as that's the most difficult place to reach, and quilted a line of bubbles along to the edge. Then I moved down a row and quilted more bubbles underneath the first row, till I got to the middle again.
Here is an illustration (and my camera lead!) to show what I mean. Then I continued to fill in that quarter of the quilt with bubbles. The bulk of the quilt gets easier and easier to handle, the longer you go on. Keep going till that quarter is completed.

Then I turned the quilt a quarter turn and quilted the next quarter (again from the middle) so that half was done. Then obviously, finish the next two quarters in the same way.

I've nearly done threequarters, so feel as if I'm on the homeward stretch.

All I need now is to run out of thread!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Christmas II

The 'card' I made for DD was much appreciated, but involved too much work to be made for many other people. I was inspired by Wanda's clever use of strips to make book covers, bags, quilts etc. and decided this was a great idea to make a Christmas card or two!

I used white and pale blue strips, and Heat and Bonded them onto a piece of pelmet Vilene. I then added the trees (just free machined round the edge) and the sequin stars, before adding a plain piece of fabric onto the back. Then I zigzagged round the edge to finish. esay, quick and, though I say so myself, effective. I'll write on the back but don't have the guts to just put them in the post - they'll have to go in an envelope first!

Talking of post, I received a surprise package from Karol-Ann.
It was a fabulous collection of strings! Why are other people's fabrics so much more delectable than your own? Many thanks for these, Karol-Ann. I can't wait to use them!

Saturday, 29 November 2008


Christmas is coming rather quickly. I always like to make some fabric Christmas cards, and this is the first one. It's for DD and her house mates, and it's a design from 'A Christmas Story' by Anni Downs. The idea is that they can have a bit of fun, swapping name tags from Nice to Naughty as the mood takes them.

I don't know whether they will just stand it up or hang it, but I put fabric corners on the back so they could put a stick or something in it if they want.

I've never tried this before, but they were so easy, I'll definitely be using them again.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Quilt as you go

I'd always intended to try quilt-as-you-go sometime, but so far not got round to it. I was recently given some fabric by a friend of my mum's, and in the bag were some hand-made blocks, several of which had already been quilted. There were nine of them, in co-ordinating colours, and it seemed a shame not to use them for a quilt.

Of course, they were all different sizes (ranging from 11" to 12 1/2") and had been backed with quite poor quality calico. First of all, I cut them all to 11 1/2", except for the smallest one (the one in the middle) which I gave a narrow turquoise border to bring it up to size. Then I gave the ones which had been layered up a new backing, and some machine quilting, and layered and machine quilted the ones which needed it. Then I looked up the instructions for quilt-as-you-go. It semed quite straightforward.

And, hey presto, it is straightforward! Navy sashing, and a bit of slip stitching on the back, and I'm ready to join the rows. Not looking forward to using this method for the borders though. I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


I have been a lucky girl just recently. DH has just returned from a business trip to Tokyo. He doesn't have the time or inclination to bring gifts back from his trips (he goes away quite a bit) but this time, he brought me something which I really appreciated.

Three copies of Japanese quilt magazines, and including a free calendar! The 'Quilts Japan' has lots of Christmas ideas in it, and a feature on England! It includes Lucy Boston's home and quilts, the new Quilt Museum in York and an article on 'The Festival of Quilts'! Unfortunately I don't read Japanese, but the pictures are fabulous, and the patterns are all done by diagram. The fabrics used in the magazines are quite interesting too. They seem to be either taupe (lots and lots of it!) or really unusual fabrics, with big motifs, writing and bright colours. Just up my street!
Then at Rochberie Schoolhouse Quilters yesterday, everyone who was there was given the free gift of a jelly roll as an early Christmas present! There was a choice of brights or autumnal tones, and I chose the brights!

Anyone know where there are some free patterns for jelly rolls?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Minibeasts nailed!

Don't worry! I haven't nailed them literally, just metaphorically! The quilt is finished!

Here it is in all its glory! Many thanks to all who gave me advice on this one - you were all right. I ended up using wadding with a fairly high loft, which helped 'absorb' the puckers and they all quilted out. The finished quilt is pretty flat - well, flat enough to be a snuggly Linus quilt.
Now all it needs is its label and it's good to go!

Friday, 14 November 2008

The 'ayes' have it!

In my last post, I asked whether I should unpick the letters on my 'Learning at Work Day' quilt or just hope the puckers would quilt out. Well, everyone I heard from or spoke to said they thought they would quilt out. Tonya gave excellent advice (as usual) to say that if it was going to need to be flat (ie. in a wall hanging) then it would be best to unpick them (would be best to unpick the whole thing, actually!), but as it was going to be a child's quilt, the more snuggle, the better! Thanks for that Tonya and everyone else who was so encouraging about the quilt.

Actaully, I have a confession. Despite all this good advice, some of the letters were so awful that I unpicked the worst couple, recut and reapplied them. I found that if I starched them and the backing, it made the whole thing much more stable. Mind you, unpicking satin stitch isn't something I wanted to do more of, and I'm sure the finished product will be appreciated by both creators and recipient!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Zigzag heaven or hell?

I have been sewing the minibeasts onto the Learning at Work Day quilt, and it hasn't been all plain sailing. I'm more of a needleturn girl myself, but didn't feel that I wanted to needleturn minibeasts of others' making for a Linus quilt!

On the plus side, it has been a quick and easy way to fix the beasts to the background.

It's also been a good opportunity for fun with all the variegated threads I have succumbed to buying, and then never used.

On the minus side, the fabrics have frayed a bit, and there are lots of threads to cut off (although they make the legs of some beasts look authentically hairy!).

But the biggest problem has been thread tension. The fabric I used for the sky wasn't particularly good quality - it was the biggest piece of blue I could find at the time, and I wish I had sewed some better quality pieces together instead. Even though I used Vilene at the back to stabilise it, the letters in particular are quite puckered. I reduced my thread tension and increased my stictch length for the rest of the applique, which has made it much better.

You can see the problem here, although it looks better in this picture than it looks in actuality.

The question is, do I unpick the letters and resew them, or just keep my fingers crossed that it will 'quilt out'? Your opinion please.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Group quilt

I was quite nervous about how many people would be able to come to the 'Learning at Work' workshop yesterday, and how they would get on, but I didn't need to have worried, as it all went off very well. About a dozen people came altogether, popping in and out as their work schedule allowed and although they were mainly non-sewers, they quickly set to work, and have produced a fantastic quilt!

I decided the theme would be Minibeasts, as this is a science topic taught in schools. I prepared the background and selected fabrics of all colours from my stash. I devised instructions for 4 different groups, and make sure there were at least 2 people in any group at one time.
The groups were 1. Letters.

Chris and Louise needed the security of outlining the letters before they cut, and they remembered to reverse them!

2. Flying minibeasts (butterflies, bees, wasps etc). Sarah is finishing her lunch, while Sue (who could only stay for 20 minutes but made 3 fantastic figures - one of which looked rather like a flying chicken, but who cares!) is busy cutting a body for her butterfly.

3. Crawling minibeasts (snails, ladybirds, spiders). Jo made the most beautiful snail with a carefully cut spiral shell while her partner concentrated on a big, fat, purple slug!

4. Leaves and stems. Dilys and Jane had different viewpoints - Dilys is a traditionalist, who liked her wood brown and leaves green (mainly) while Jane happily cut into multi-coloured Kaffe Fasset fabric to make her plants. It's all good!

This is an example of a multi-disciplinary consultation meeting, as important minibeast placement decisions are made!

The workshop was fun, and since it took place over lunchtime, made very little difference to peoples work output that day. It allowed people to relax, do somehting different and meet people from other offices who they might not have had the opportunity to speak to before. Now all I have to do is sew the pieces down. Zigzag heaven!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Learning at work day group quilt

It's 'Learning at Work Month' at the moment and guess who's volunteered to run a workshop tomorrow? I was recently inspired by Roberta Horton's book 'Scrap Quilts', where (among other things inspirational) she shows photos of group quilts which she facilitated, one of which was made by the passengers on a tour bus! If they can make a quilt, I'm sure my work colleagues can!
Since we're an educational establishment, I've chosen the theme of 'minibeasts' - that's bugs to all you on the other side of the pond! I've made the background already.

It's supposed to be the sky, the grass and the soil, so the different types of minibeasts, flying, crawling or burrowing can have their place.

I have lots of fabric scraps ready to go, in every colour I can imagine might be needed.

Iron and ironing board, scissors, pins and of course a bag to put the waste scraps in for recycling are ready too. I have only to add my camera, some scrap paper (in case anyone needs to make a pattern), and the instructions for each group, and we're good to go!

Incidentally, congratulations to my American readers on having chosen a new president so wisely! I'm sure Barack Obama is the right man for the job and I look forward to great things from him.

Saturday, 1 November 2008


I've had a busy time this week - it's half term so I've been off work, which would theoretically mean more sewing time. But, after a hectic few months DH and I decided to go away for a short break. We visited DD in Brighton, which is a very lively and fun place to visit even when it's raining (as it was!) , and then took the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe to be rained on in France! Never mind, we had a good time, sheltering in Rouen Cathedral, sitting sipping cafe cremes in little cafes and taking advantage of a break in the clouds to walk along the beach at Deauville - a very sophisticated resort! And no holiday in France is complete without a visit to the hypermarket to stock up with French wines for Christmas entertaining. We definitely clanked back over the channel!

Now I still have a day or two before I get back to work, I decided to try Karol-Ann's excellent suggestion of dyeing some donated curtain lining to make some kits up for jars quilts. DD recently dyed a charity shop dress black in my machine, and not only did the dress come out black, but my subsequent washing didn't!

Here is the cream-coloured lining fabric, waiting to go in the machine.
Here is the dye packet - it promises 'velvet black'.

Here is the dry, dyed fabric. It is darker than it looks in this photo, a very dark charcoal, but not quite black. I suppose it was my fault as the instructions said the pack would dye 600 grammes of fabric, and I put in just a little more. Never mind. It'll be fine for jars quilts, and so long as I keep some back for borders etc. nobody will notice.
Especially when the jars are full of things like these which I picked up recently!

Local people, look out for the kits in my Project Linus box!

Friday, 24 October 2008


I knew I couldn't resist making a few Morsbags. I'm a passionate anti-plasticbagger, and always take my own bags for the weekly shop, so this is a natural extension. There are three good reasons for making a Morsbag.
1. You're helping the environment and wildlife by ensuring that there are fewer plastic carrier bags to dispose of.
2. You can use up fabric which has been hanging around for a long while.
3. They make up so quickly, that it's an easy way to feel virtuous!
NB On the website, she says they take about 20 minutes, well she must have a very speedy sewing machine, is all I can say! I made these in about 30 minutes, which isn't bad at all.

This one is actually the wrong way round (it should be deeper, not wider) but was a way of using up this lovely Alaskan fabric which I haven't been able to cut into.

This one uses up most of some frog fabric which DD dyed pink, and then didn't like.

This one is from an old Clothkits skirt (anyone out there remember Clothkits?) which I cut up for the fabric.And this one is some fabric which was such a bargain, I couldn't resist buying lots of it, and still have most of it left!

I'm going to take them down to Brighton when we go next week to visit DD and give them to her housemates - I'm not quite up to the guerrilla bagging yet!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

One fnished and 1002 to go!

Well, I'm exaggerating slightly on the numbers of quilts I have yet to finish, but it certainly feels like a lot!

I have actually finished my jars quilt for Project Linus. Most of the jars were donated by Karol-Ann, but I made a few more myself to bulk the numbers up. I have been rooting round in my stash for other fabrics with designs which would be suitable to keep in jars, so I can make some kits up for Linus. It's not so easy to find suitable motifs.

My Turning 20 quilt is now a top, and I have the backing and wadding all ready to turn this top into a quilt - all I need is the time! (I decided to extend it at the sides slightly to make it a bit wider. I just put multicoloured strips together. I didn't want a border the whole way round, as I felt it was long enough already!)

Other UFOs are waiting in the wings - such as this Mile a Minute for a colleague's son. He's a football fan and supports Coventry, who are called the Sky Blues, so it had to be bordered with pale blue!

I still haven't got the Old Quilt finished. I think it's the size which is making me reluctant to tackle it, plus the boring quilting motifs. I prefer to do something a bit more exciting than hourglasses!

I'm also making another baby quilt for a little one due to appear in November! I must get this bordered and finished if I'm to be in time for its arrival.

And of course, there are always extra bits and pieces on hand. Some lovely ballerina fabric was donated to Linus, but there wasn't enough of it to do anything with. I fussy cut the ballerinas out, and have started to make them into Mile a Minute blocks. Seemed like a good idea at the time!

And to add to all this, I've just downloaded the pattern for morsbags, to start my life as a guerilla! So much fabric, so little time!

Friday, 10 October 2008

A present and a bargain

No time for sewing over the last couple of days as I've been working, then over to see my parents and taken them to see DS in Leeds. While I was at work I checked my pigeon hole and was intrigued to see a magazine in there. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was not only a quilting magazine, but one I had never heard of before!

It's 'Irish Quilt and Craft Magazine'. Apparently, one of my work colleagues's sister is a big friend of Gaye Grant, the editor of this publication. Gaye gave her friend a copy of the magazine, and strange as this may seem, the friend is not a quilter! Difficult to believe, I know! So the friend really had only moderate interest in the mag, at which the sister said she knew someone who would appreciate it, and that someone was me! You're absolutely right, Anne, I love it! One really interesting feature is a Shop Hop Map of Ireland, with quilt shops marked on it. Ideal for anyone planning a holiday in the Emerald Isle.

Near my parents' house, in the village of Tibshelf, is a fabric shop which has lots of bargains. They're mostly of the polycotton or synthetic variety, but while I was visiting the old folks, I had a rummage there. I ended up buying ribbon, just £1's worth. Here it is.

The ribbon is in big bins, sorted by colour, and you get a carrier bag and a pair of scissors, pull a piece of ribbon out of a bin, and cut it off when you have enough! I couldn't resist getting all this, and was delighted at the price. What am I going to do with it? Not sure yet, but to start with, I'm going to stroke it and sort it into piles - that's enough to be going on with, isn't it?!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Three hours of Turning 20

DD's room has now got white paintwork, instead of the dingy cream doors and skirting boards which had discoloured over the years! They'll look even better when I've managed to put a white gloss coaton top. That's a job for another day, though.
This evening, I spent another hour on my Turning 20 quilt. Here are the completed blocks,

and the components waiting to be joined.
I'm quite pleased with it, although I hadn't realised there was quite so much turquoise in it. I will quilt it with a darkish blue, which will tone it down a bit.