Friday, 30 January 2009


The household has recovered from the excesses of panto (partly the hectic crowds but mainly the after-show party!) and I've been furiously sewing to try and get the curves quilt finished for DD to take back to uni in Brighton this weekend. It's partly quilted, and I think I might be in with a chance.
I decided to enhance the shapes by just quilting about a quarter of an inch away from all the seams. So far, it's looking really good. I can't decide whether to stipple quilt the border or just quilt straight lines to frame it. I think DD will have to decide that.

(Here's a close up of the quilting. The wierd lime green lines are tacking thread!)

I was quite excited the other day to receive a squishy! It was from Loulee on the Isle of Man. She had promised to send me some orphan blocks which she wanted to donate to Projetc Linus. There were some lovely applique ones of birds and butterflies,

and some pretty log cabin and other blocks.
Thankyou very much Loulee, and watch out on my Linus blog for them appearing in a quilt!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Panto? Oh yes it is!

This week has been very hectic as I've been front of house manager for our local drama group's pantomime, 'Sinbad'. This involves organising a team of helpers to take tickets, show people to their seats, answer general questions, make sure people are safe and find two first-aiders for each show. Since we had audiences of about 300 for each performance (Thursday, Friday, Saturday matinee and evening) there had to be four people available, apart from the box office, which is quite a lot of people to find over four shows.

In case any foreign readers aren't too clear about panto, here's a user's guide.

Pantomime is a British Christmas tradition, a show which is suitable for the whole family. The stories are usually taken from a small list of possibilities, Snow White, Aladdin, Mother Goose, Dick Whittington, Cinderalla and Robin Hood being probably the most favourite.

The cast lists for each are pretty prescriptive. First there is the principal boy (the prince or hero figure) who is always played by a young lady. Here is Sinbad, beautifully played by Becky. The fishnet tights, short costume and boots are a staple of principal boys throughout the land.
The principal girl is actually played by a girl, and in our show, Princess Jasmine was the lovely (but feisty) Ailish, here relaxing between scenes.

Then there is the dame. This is usually the principal boy's mother, and always played by a man. Here is Fatima Sinbad, played by my favourite dame, Dicky. The dame is not at all effeminate, but just a man in a dress (and fake boobs) and Dicky pulls this off effortlessly!

Every panto has its villain. Here is the evil sorceror Nastase, played by Russ. He was so scarey, that four small children had to be taken home in the matinee as they were so frightened of him!
To balance the moral scales, we have the forces of good, represented by Floribunda, played by Anne-Marie. (In case you're wondering, good always triumphs over evil in the end!)
Pantos are full of comedy, usually the silly slapstick kind and there are usually several comic characters whose speciality is to make the audience laugh. the two Lauras are playing slave girls who are always vying with each other to get get a man. Despite their youth, they had great comic timing.

They eventually ended up with the two silly fools, Mustapha and Hassan (or Colin and Keith) as panto is great for pairing people up in matrimony. The last scene is always a wedding scene. I hope Keith manages to get the blue makeup out of his moustache before work on Monday!

The foil to the dame was Ali, played by the veteran of silly fools, Andrew, looking particularly dashing here in his naval outfit.

The princess's mother was played most regally be Becky B.

and the visir (with another painted moustache) by Richard.
A special feature of panto is the requirement for audience participation. The villain expects to be booed and hissed at every appearance, there are lots of opportunities to shout 'Oh yes he is' or 'Oh no he isn't' in response to the characters, and always a scene when there is a ghost or monster behind one of the characters which the audience have to spot, and warn the character by shouting 'He's behind you!' Towards the end of the show there is always a sing song, where the audience join in a song (the words are provided on a board) which turns into a competition between the two halves of the auditorium, always ending in a draw.
I'm not sure whether my explanations have made it clearer or just sound completely ridiculous. Trust me, if you get the chance to go to a panto, go, and you'll have a great time!

Friday, 23 January 2009


It's been a very busy time recently, what with one things and another (DD isn't well at the moment and is home from uni, I've had two quilting meetings recently, and am in the middle of panto -more of which later) but I managed to find time for a visit from Mary, who had 17 Project Linus quilts for me! She hadn't made them herself - they had ended up at hers by a circuitous route! - but brought a work-in-progress to show me, which was a strippy made from various orphan blocks. One of the blocks was a windmill, which she had made from charm squares and she generously gave me the instructions, and here it is.

It's a windmill, but the extra pieces on the sides make it knit up big, as it were. Here is what you do.
Choose 5 squares, one of which must be a contrast to the others, and the other four can be the same or different. Cut the contrast square into quarters and the other squares in half to make rectangles.

Sew the contrast squares onto the edges of four of the rectangles. If you've used different fabrics, use a rectangle from each.

Sew the remaining rectangles onto the side of each rectangle with a triangle corner. Make sure the triangles are all 'going the same way'!

Lay out the pieces so that you get a windmill in the centre and sew together.

You will have a little waste on each side, so trim to square it. the beauty of this method is that you can use any size squares you like. Mine were 5" charm squares and produced a block of 8 1/2" (8" finished). Have to get on and make some more!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Success and failure

You win some, and you lose some, generally. I have been putting my Dresden plates together to make a Linus quilt, and am quite pleased with the result. I wanted to put corner squares of pink, to link it all together, but didn't have enough. I had the bright idea of making a four-patch for each corner instead, which saves fabric and gives a similar effect. When it's been quilted I'll probably bind it with the yellow.

Then at our Flutterwheels meeting, I was inspired by Chris's gorgeous January wall-hanging. She had made it by following some instructions by Kandy Newton on the British Quilt List. Kandy has posted a challenge for the last few years, and this one is to make a perpetual calendar. I decided that for me, January was a dull, grey month, with some frost and silvery sparlke, and a bit of sitting by the fireside.

I have embellished it with beads and sequins to get a frosty look, although they aren't too evident in this photo. If anyone fancies a go, you have to join Yahoo Groups, and BQL, but the instructions are freely available. There are going to be different projects for each month's calendar page.

So far, so good. Then I tackled a charity bag which Nik has designed for our local Leukemia shop to sell. She gave out free kits and patterns at the last meeting of Rocheberie Quilters. Here is my finished bag.

Looks OK, until you look on the other side

which is inside out! This is what you get for leaving things to the last minute! Luckily DD has unpicked it for me, so it'll only take a few minutes to resew. Never mind - you can't be perfect all the time!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Getting on

Over the weekend, I have had the creative energy to get on with DD's seductive curves quilt. I had no pattern, so had to be in the mood to audition and cut and decide. I have constructed more than half of the strips, but haven't sewn them together yet, as I'm not sure I have enough fabric to make the top. I originally bought two more half yards of fabric which were rejected by DD as being too light, so might have to make a trip to the quilt shop and get more fabric (shame!) to replace that. I don't want the last few strips to look as if they were afterthoughts, which is why I'm waiting to sew them together until the last minute as I can switch them round.

Here is the work in progress laid out on our bed. What do you think? Seductive or not?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Fiddling about

I should really have been getting on with my curves quilt for DD (she could do with an extra cuddle just about now) but need a piece of time when I'm fresh and ready to measure accurately, be creative and make decisions, which hasn't materialised yet. the time I've had has been short, end-of-the-day time, which is better for mindless sewing than doing something important.
So, I've finished the top which Tina had donated to project Linus. She can't remember what the pattern was, and looking at it, no offence Tina, but I think you've made a mistake somewhere when you sewed the blocks together! No problems though, it makes an excellent Linus quilt.
Then I finally made up November's block for our challenge group, Flutterwheels. Last year's theme was stars, and the last block was Jennie Rayment's 'Star Flower'. Jennie is famous for her fabric manipulation, and very clear instructions, although that didn't make me less apprehensive about tackling this block.

The brief was to use analogous clours (colours next to each other on the colour wheel) and I chose red (in this case, pink) and red/purple. I still need to sew the ends of the petals down, but it's looking OK so far.

Then I had a bit of a rumage through my UFO box and found some Dresden plate kits I had made up for a demonstration table I did ages ago. The pieces were all cut out, so it seemed a shame not to make them up, while I was up for chain piecing.

This one lacks its centre, but is complete. These pointed rays are really easy to do.

First you cut your rays out.

Then you fold them in half, right sides together and iron a crease down the top couple of inches.

Then you sew along the top by machine. (This is where the chain-piecing comes in.) Clip the folded edge of the ray.Turn the ray right sides out, poking the point out well with a pencil or something which is not a scissor point or you'll make a hole, like I did!Now press! Join them together matching the sides of the rays, until you have made a circle. It depends on the size of the ray as to how many you need. (Mine were quite small and needed 24 rays for a circle.) Lay the plate onto a square of backing fabric and applique down by hand or machine. Applique a circle in the middle to hide all the mess in the centre. Easy! Now I just need to join up 72 more and I'm in business!

Sunday, 4 January 2009


Pink could have been included in my Unresolutions as it's not a colour I use a lot of. However, just at the moment I seem to be surrounded by it.
Firstly DH gave me a little black diary. For years I have resisted the opportunities to have a handbag diary, declaring that a work diary and a calendar are enough for me. Then last year I was seduced by a bargain diary in Paperchase (it was March and it was very cheap!) which quickly became very useful. So when DH offered me one of his little work diaries this year, I decided to accept. The only problem was, its sleek black cover would not be easy to find in the rubbish bin I call my handbag, so I made a quick cover for it with some batik fabric, Heat and Bond, sequins and tulle. It's very easy to find now!

I'm continuing to work on the curves quilt I started for DD. I had bought some charcoal batik to use as cornerstones, and began to join the strips into longer pieces.

I wasn't happy. The charcoal looked very clunky and spoiled the seductive feel I wanted to create.
Out with the seam ripper and some new cornerstones cut from existing curves. Much better!
Then yesterday I felt the need for some sewing, without the need for decisions. In the Project Linus box there was a layered quilt which had been made by Tina and tacked by Dorothy which just needed quilting and binding. Ideal for some mindless sewing, especially as the wadding was a bit thicker than I would usually use (it had been donated) and only needed some simple lines quilting on it. Needless to say,
it was shades of pink!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year!

First of all, let me wish all of you a happy and healthy new year, filled with things which make you happy!

Now let me explain why I'm up and blogging so early on New Year's day - I had a particularly virulent sickness bug at the end of the year, so was tucked up safely in bed last night with an alcohol-free tummy when others were out carousing. How smug I'll be with my clear head and chirpy demeanour when they all surface - although sad not to have celebrated with those I love. Never mind, I'll have a New Year's toast later even if they use orange juice!

It's the time for new year's resolutions, but since they never last, I've decided to copy an idea from Andrew Clover (who writes a weekly column in 'The Times') and give my Unresolutions: things I definitely WON'T be doing in 2009 - so much safer.

1. I won't be making a Sunbonnet Sue quilt. (Too cute for me)

2. I won't be making a collection of cat fabrics. (Sorry all you cat lovers, but they do nothing for me except make my nose run and eyes stream.)

3. I won't be buying a kit with all the fabric in it. (Where's the creativity and satisfaction in that?)

4. I won't be making my sewing room tidier by throwing away all my scraps. (They add that quirky, individual touch to my quilts, especially the lime green ones!)

5. I won't be making any Suffolk puffs. (Self-explanatory.)

6. I won't be hand quilting a bed quilt. (Look, I'm the master of patience? I just don't have the concentration span.)

7. In this time of recession, I could save money by not buying quilting magazines and books. (My copy of Roberta Horton's stripes book is on its way!)

8. Another money saving ploy would be to stop going to quilt groups. (How would I cope without the inspiration, friendships and support networks I've made there?)
9. I won't be stepping down as Project Linus co-ordinator (I love it!)

10. I definitely won't be stopping blogging! (see number 8 reason)

So, what are your Unresolutions for 2009? I bet, like me, you'll achieve every one! Although having said that, I do remember a site which had alternative Sunbonnet Sue blocks (Sunbonnet Sue does burlesque, Sunbonnet Sue robs a bank etc.) That might make a fun quilt!