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!