May 20, 2013
Just before I arrive at Denman college to teach Essentials of Hand Quilting I thought I’d show you the embarrassingly small amount of quilting that’s been achieved during the last four days at the quilt show. I’ve talked to a lot of people during this time and answered a lot of questions but I have to say that the standard of my stitching has suffered. This is inevitable given all the distractions but it has made me realise that time is marching on ..! This negative pickiness is exactly what I will be tackling in the next two days in class – we are all hyper-critical of our work, usually on a stitch by stitch basis, and it doesn’t help or improve anything. So here are some uncomfortably close pics of my demo piece as it developed during the show – crooked stitches included.
There’s no firm plan for the end result of this design, I’m just going to let it dictate it’s own terms. Probably lots of texture, closely spaced lines, fine yarn cording the double lines which will disguise some of the crooked stitches. The original motif was taken from a furnishing fabric, sketched out by Lee Cleland and used as a handout when we presented a lecture on quilting inspiration a few years ago. Never throw anything away!!
April 13, 2013
It was probably 30 years ago when I was given this unassuming sturdy cardboard box -
because I might, as someone who taught patchwork and quilting, be interested in the contents. Four charred pieces of wood and a small carding brush were also passed on to me. The wood was damaged well beyond it’s original use as the component parts of a small embroidery/quilting slate frame, the small carding brush still usable.
Inside the box? Well, it’s a fascinating glimpse into a little bit of quilting circa late 1940s – carefully saved embroidery transfers, quilting transfers, home made templates and handwritten instructions for quilting which are well worth reading
Even a card label (apparently from a paraffin heater) had been kept to use as a circle template – thrift prevailed!
And looking through this box again has started me wondering if it would ever be possible to distil ” a quilting life” down to just one box of patterns and templates….? These days we have so much of everything readily available, or just a few clicks away – it’s an interesting comparison don’t you think?
January 18, 2013
There’s much to get to grips with this year and January, it seems, is already half over. So we’ve probably been issued with another speedy year and it will be winter again before you know it! Frances over at Quilting Owl is determined to find the Fun in her quilting activities this year and Shirley of Stitcherydo renown is committed to just Try things – they’re both highly creative and productive ladies already, it will be interesting to see how their resolve works out. Maybe I should just Try to have Fun?
I’m resisting the urge to start with picturesque snow scenes – it’s all very well if you actually don’t mind the stuff, but it’s not for me – too cold, and too much hard work shovelling, clearing, and cleaning. But snow does have some advantages, and the main one I think is the improved light from all that reflected whiteness. So, with a six inch depth of reflected whiteness outside, today might just be the day that I settle down and start quilting on a couple of samples (breathe easy, Volunteers). Both are my favourite Oakshott fabrics, pieced without attention to having all the border strips run in the same direction, which gives a slightly offbeat effect I rather like. As you can see below I’m probably going to use King Tut thread so that the stitching will show well on the pale clay colour, and the designs are already marked on. One design has all the lines marked, the other has just the main outlines and I will fill in “by eye” in the time honoured and traditional manner. There is also a piece of Oakshott pink silk which is putting its hand up to be used soon, so I need to get going.
The Antique Rose Star project is coming along quite well, and I’ve pieced 7 sets of half blocks that just need the final seam to finish. Laid out on the floor it looks like this
I’m storing the half-blocks wrapped in a linen serviette which was one of a dozen hemmed and embroidered by my mother before she was married, and it’s proved a very practical solution to keeping them together.
There seem to be lots more pieces cut and stowed away in the Secret Drawer so it doesn’t look as if this will be stopping at just 7 blocks. The block really does go together very quickly, being all short seams, and there’s a satisfactory amount of fabric deliberation too, so it’s a winner all round! I shall probably include several little bags from this project to take with me next week – a visit to Minneapolis (and doubtless more snow) is scheduled, which means time with my friend Pat Cox and her quilt collection. It’s such a hard life sometimes…
One of several finishes that didn’t happen last year was this setting of 3 vintage black & white blocks. It just needs quilting and binding, so I’ve considered a number of different quilting “looks” and had a think about what to stitch in the border. I still like doodling direct onto the top with a chalkwheel, or ripping up bits of paper – as you can see -
Maybe this year I can summon up the courage to bring some more black & white vintage blocks out of their hiding place and make a couple of small tops or runners? I had almost forgotten how striking some of these blocks are -
A slightly different take on the black & white theme – this will be the first year without any black & white presence, canine or feline, in the house. Losing the prim and proper Smiffy just before Christmas we are now reduced to “ginger only” and a whole new order.
Over the Christmas break I did find a bargain at a local antiques fair. It’s not black & white, but some of the fabrics are very droolworthy (if that isn’t already a word then it is now) and I’ll just give you a peek at a few -
More pics of the bargain next time – quilting calls. Warmest New Year wishes to all followers, readers and visitors, I really appreciate your company!
November 14, 2012
we could cancel winter please? It hasn’t even started yet, lots of autumn colours still to enjoy, but coming home from Houston (blue skies, sun, mid 70s) to grey skies, fog and cold doesn’t guarantee the best of spirits. Here in deepest middle England everyone in our tiny village is working through the same list – garden tidying, ordering logs and fuel, plumbing and heating checked, chimneys swept, supplies of all sorts of things ordered, collected and stored, cupboards emptied, cleaned and re-filled, curtains and carpets cleaned. Getting ready for winter is serious stuff around here. All of this activity is based on experience as we seem to have more than our fair share of unexplained, and often lengthy, power outages, we have had flooding, we are in a frost pocket and have plenty of icy lanes to contend with, we have been snowed in for several days at a time – well, you get the picture. And you can probably guess that I don’t care for winter much, being more of a sun and desert person at heart. But, this year winter might be a little more positive – there is that recently-filled drawer and my Secret Stitching projects to help me through. So far, The Drawer has been a huge success. It has been opened and shut on a daily basis and stitching has been done and returned. It doesn’t look much different to your last view of it
but those Antique Rose Star blocks in there are coming along quite well. My original plan was to cut and piece 7 blocks but they are such fun to do that now I’ve extended my ambition to at least double that number. So I’ll just keep marking and cutting my way through fabric for a while longer. Here’s the first 3 blocks laid out with stitching to finish -
The Houston trip was shorter than usual and a very busy whirl, but everything went well. The travel was easy (no superstorm problems for me thank goodness) the company was good, lots of friends to catch up with, lots of ideas and opportunities to think about, lots of quilts to look at. Quilting heaven!
Here’s just one quilt from the many hundreds on display at International Quilt Festival this year. As you will see, it’s a group quilt, cleverly done and a favourite subject of mine -
Other than the general pre-winter jobs I’ve already mentioned, there has been plenty to do – lots of planning and diary work for 2013, finishing the series of evening and Saturday classes that I do as one half of Chris&Barbara (we’re even on Facebook now so feel free to hop over and hit the Like button) and a couple of days at a lovely local quilt and craft show. Preparation for the local group’s December meeting also needs to be done – there’s fabric to cut,
- bags to fill, food to plan, newsletter copy written etc. Plus chunks of time have been devoted to an important new acquisition
- so the guitar situation here is now electric and acoustic. And yes, I do have quality instruments well ahead of my abilities but it’s a lot of fun all the same. I’ve even been invited to the Saturday jam sessions at the local guitar/music shop, but I think that has more to do with the guitar itself and their envy!
September 27, 2012
Having spent a lot of time wishing I could, and being envious (see my last post) I’ve decided to try and get active and get going with some of the many projects and “should-do’s” that are on the list. Not a huge amount of success to report so far, but I may have found a way to help myself be more productive, particularly with regard to hand stitching. I’m very lucky to have my own dedicated space at the far end of the house for my books, desk, office things, sewing machine, fabric stash, guitar etc – on a good day I’ve even referred to it as a studio!
But, it’s perhaps not the best setup for hand sewing. Well, I could sit up here, but with winter in prospect it would be really good if I could find a comfortable spot to roost downstairs. In the 20 years we’ve been in this house I’ve never really established a handstitching spot – how did that happen? However, all that may be about to change! A couple of days ago I looked at the kitchen dresser
and realised that one of the drawers contained only junk that could be quickly
got rid of cleaned out and then – lo and behold! a whole deep drawer to myself, downstairs, near the fire, a good enough light over my left shoulder and a chair nearby to move quickly and easily into position when required. So there will be no evidence – everything can be shoved carefully put back into the drawer, the chair moved back and my precious sewing time will remain securely shut away. All at once, the prospect of hours and hours of stitching seems almost real, made up of little bits of time stolen throughout the day. Several of you will understand the fun I had sorting out a second complete sewing kit, plus bag to contain same, and making sure all the projects were complete in their own bag, plus the battery Ottlite, quilting snap-frame and anything else I thought might come in useful.
Before this wonderful revelation of a new stitching space I had a great trip down to Newport S Wales to teach Tentmaker applique to Gwent Quilters. Good weather, easy travelling and enthusiastic quilters made it all very pleasant and a good time was had by all -
I couldn’t resist breaking my journey down to Newport with a stop at Oakshott Fabrics near Cheltenham – now this really is eye candy for a weary traveller!
And who could resist these totally yummy silks ? – they just had to come home with me
Somewhere lurking in one of these sketchbooks (and why have I got so many?)
there may be a plan for for some of these silks. And that would be another project to put in the new drawer!
September 20, 2012
How often do you catch yourself saying this? I confess that I do it all the time, particularly when it comes to quilting and design. We are so lucky to have so many opportunities to see the work of other quilters and designers – shows, magazines, books, internet, YouTube etc – but sometimes the viewing and admiring can make you envious (or even despondent!). Instead of getting envious (or despondent) on my own I thought I might, from time to time, post a few pictures and links to quilters whose work I admire so we could perhaps share the envy and wishing we could!
Why not start at the point where I had the idea? – in front of Borderline Quilter’s (aka Kay Bell) quilts at this year’s Festival of Quilts (Click through to Kay’s blog here to see lots more of her lovely work – and maybe leave her a comment too.) Late update: Kay has won Best in Show, Judges Choice and a whole fistful of ribbons at the Scottish Quilt Championships this week – very well-deserved!
I’ve wished I could quilt and design like Kay for a couple of years now – she has a particular gift for space and proportion in her custom designs which have a satisfyingly classic appeal. Her feathers are graceful and really “flow” well. And her machine quilting is pretty good too!
Also hanging at the NEC show this year was one of Andrea Stracke’s beautiful handquilted wholecloths – Andrea’s work is awesome in the true sense of the word. Like Kay she quilts her own designs and the excellence of all aspects of her stitching is completely inspiring. I had seen one of Andrea’s quilts at the Open European Quilt Championships earlier in the year. On that occasion her quilt was hanging in one of the darker areas of the large hall so it was difficult to get a picture that did it justice. Here’s a detail -
And I know I wasn’t the only one battling to get a good picture of Andrea’s quilt at the NEC – the overhead sodium lighting turned the colour of the quilt from a soft lime green to a moderate yellow. This was the best I could do -
Andrea’s work is packed with interesting design detail – she has certainly made her mark with her traditional style quilts. Lots more on her website too ….
My major “I wish I could” for this week is to find some more time for stitching – there has to be a secret to this that I don’t know about. Perhaps it’s too much blog reading or just the start of autumn, but I’m certainly not managing to connect needle to fabric in a meaningful way. Not helped by a slight sidetrack into the murky world of quilting ufo’s (WIPs, PhDs and other stuff you never finished first time around). Buried about halfway down my ufo stack is a set of about 40 handpieced Sawtooth Star blocks. These were begun about five years ago as an aimless project, no deadline, just make cut up fabric and make blocks. And so I did, and it was great – begun with fat quarters from “The Carriage House Collection” by WindhamFabrics, and others added to when they ran out.
An excellent carry-along project and much-used as demo pieces for various classes. Then the day dawned when I’d had enough, knew that a reasonable size quilt could be made with them, and promptly put them away for when I had the time. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Two days ago I was enthusing about the Antique Rose project I’ve just started -
and we got onto the topic of handpiecing, how it’s become SO popular again, how easy and portable it is etc etc. So I fetched out my various hand piecing projects that are waiting for the next stage, including the Sawtooth Stars, some Dresden Fans, the Whigs Defeat blocks … and then everything suddenly became clear. Put the Sawtooth Stars together with the first Whigs Defeat block, use plain muslin for spacers and narrow borders and it will be much better than working with them separately. Here’s the rough floor layout – what do you think?
We thought it looked quite good at the start when we were shuffling blocks around on the table, so this might be a possibility -
At the weekend I’m teaching a Tentmaker applique class, so not much time to pursue this right now. Maybe next week ….
September 14, 2012
Two lovely days at Ardington School of Craft in Oxfordshire – the School has only been open since April this year but looks to be well on the way to a very successful venture. It really is a school too – formerly the village school, resplendent with the original panelling and partitions and other vintage details.
Essentials of Handquilting was the class I was teaching, and the fabulous natural light made it really easy both for the quilting itself and also inspecting the samples and old quilts I had taken along.
We all made the most of the good weather and our surroundings during lunch breaks -
It was a particular treat for me to be in this part of Oxfordshire – my grandfather’s family actually lived and worked on the Lockinge estate which surrounds Ardington and probably even went to this school, Very much a case of following in family footsteps!
Next week I’ll be teaching Essentials of Hand Quilting II at Threads & Patches near Milton Keynes and then over to Gwent Quilters in south Wales for a day of Tentmaker Applique – more packing to do!
August 28, 2012
Earlier resolutions of more frequent posting have taken a serious hit since June – who knows what happened, maybe there was just too much excitement going around. Resolutions of more frequent posting have been reinstated and and reaffirmed so it’s onwards from this point. Here’s a quick run-through, mostly in pictures, of what has been going on -
Late June, early July – visits to Mead Quilters and Lutterworth Quilters to talk about The Tentmakers of Cairo and teach a workshop on needleturn applique based on Tentmaker style -
A little nearer home and a day visit to Little Moreton Hall, one of the most highly-decorated black and white houses in the NorthWest of England. Lots to enjoy – many different glazing patterns, woodcarving and so forth -
Mid July and a mini-holiday down in Exeter at a private quilting retreat. This was a chance to meet up and catch up with my good friend Pat Cox and renew acquaintance with the group of quilters who gather around Pat in Exeter each year. It was standard summer weather when I arrived -
but gradually improved. But with good company, good food and quilting does the weather really matter? Thanks to Barbara Jansen and Jeannie Stetson for all they do to make this retreat such a terrific experience.
End of July, a belated holiday in Southern Spain and a chance to forget about grey and cold and wet – blue skies, sunshine and trips to one or two of my favourite spots for tile and door-hunting (Tarifa and Tangier).
I find that quilting and blogging friends are seldom far from one’s thoughts on holiday – here are a couple of camels for Debbie Wendt, a great tiled doorstep for everyone who does English paper piecing, a perfect (but not pink) pillar for Shirley and a couple of excellent doors and doorways for Lee -
Back from Spain and almost straight into Festival of Quilts – just a couple of days to finish gathering things together for my space in the Quilting in Action section. This is what one tiny section of Festival looked like just before opening – as you can see, its very orange!
The orange at Festival is not always easy to deal with – if it’s not carpet on the floor, then it’s sodium lighting way up high which can play havoc with cameras and colours. I was still getting to grips with a new camera and had a few frustrations along the way – Andrea Stracke’s fabulous quilt “Peridot” was the most delicious soft lime green but came out looking like this
There’s an “effects” option on the new camera, right up close by the shutter button. It’s really easy to switch to this without realising what’s happened – which explains why the pictures of some of the Volunteer team are a trifle blurred (and I’m sticking to that excuse) -
Sadly, the pictures I took of the Volunteer Team’s work are too blurred to post* – apologies, but what if we did it again with different designs for next year, by which time I might have mastered the camera?
* the same fate overtook most of the other pictures I took at Festival – much muttering and cursing!
So, here we are almost at the start of September. Lots of entries in the diary, and lots to do – plus more frequent posting… time to go and get started.
May 29, 2012
Well it may not have been merry all of the time, but May has certainly been an action-packed month – starting with the great trip to the Open European Quilt Championships as described in my last post, continuing with 4 days of quilting fun and friends at Quilts UK, Malvern, various one-day classes and Chris&Barbara work and then last, but by no means least, the safe arrival of The Grandson (weighing in at 9lbs 9oz, mother and son doing fine). Quite a rollercoaster!
Just before Quilts UK the postman delivered a most interesting parcel full of good things from my Aussie pal Lee Cleland. Lee and I are working on a constantly-changing number of collaborative and individual quilting and writing projects (last count was around 9) and I have fallen behind in my timetable – but things have been really moving along Down Under. One of the projects we planned last year involved Lee interpreting some of my new designs using Oakshott fabrics from one of their Charm packs. In the parcel were the results – here’s a quick glimpse -
Lee only had my tiny little start-up scribbles to work with and it was really interesting to see how close they all came to my final versions which are in the new pattern book “Top Twenty”. (Shameless plug, the pattern book is now available for purchase on my website ) And, of course some of these were developed into patterns that the amazing Volunteer Team worked on at the end of last year -
It was great to have a chance to show some of both sets of samples at Quilts UK and I’m planning on doing something similar for my space at Festival of Quilts in August, so thanks again to Lee and the Volunteer Team for their excellent work.
Sometimes it feels like the only time I sit down and make time to quilt is when I’m demonstrating at shows – ok, it isn’t really the only time I quilt, but it’s certainly less often than I should. A couple of years ago at Festival of Quilts I started on this silk piece and got a whole motif stitched while doing a lot of talking -
- this was just one motif from the Hearts & Ribbons pattern book that was new for that show. Great plans to finish the sample off into something quite delicious – but, as is so often the case, no further action. Rescued from the back of The Cupboard, this was a good piece to demonstrate on at the Malvern show and, who knows? – maybe it will be much further along by the time August and Festival of Quilts come around…. there is some progress
and a quick close-up
Intriguing how much difference even light marking can make to the stitching – you can see here the main lines appear darker/yellower than the second or double line around the outside. It’s the same thread both times, but the second line is stitched “by eye” (also known as guesswork) rather than over markings.
In rummaging through The Cupboard I came across a silk sample I stitched in the early 1990s – or was it late 1980s? anyway, it’s a long time ago. This was a sample for one of my first set of quilting designs and you can see how much things have changed and moved on – look at the feather loops and notice how they are opposite each other and quite chunky and squat compared to the more elongated loops we like today.
As well as a lovely day at Cupcake Cottons in Burford teaching Essentials of Hand Quilting I had a very sunny day with Brockhampton Quilters, teaching them not to be Defeated by Whigs. Foolishly last year I had shown them my sample block of Whigs Defeat – Fine, they said, come back and show us how its done! And, as you can see, they all got a great start on those pieced arcs …
A quick reminder of what a completed Whigs Defeat block might look like -
At one point during the day I think I heard myself saying something REALLY silly like “Oh wouldn’t it be great to do a Jubilee version in red, white and blue?” – !! Wonder if anyone heard me – or should I just mark out some pieces and get going …
Next class is at that favourite haunt of mine The Bramble Patch – and as that is scheduled for tomorrow I’d better get going on the all-important task of packing everything into the car.
April 7, 2012
Back to Denman College again this week for a reunion class that was open to students who had already
suffered survived any of my Denman classes over the past five years. Being Easter week and school holidays many would-be attendees were on family duty, but six hardy souls produced a very happy class atmosphere with much mirth and merriment and plenty of stitching. I had promised an “exclusive design” for the reunion and this proved quite a hit – we’ve planned a whole series from the design, using redwork, applique, shadow quilting, as well as the more traditional cording and stuffing that was the original intention. And, being a reunion class, there was no need or expectation of sticking to a fixed agenda – so we had a good time looking at a few vintage quilts as well as trying some simple design work with papercutting, and looking at traditional patterns and motifs. We’re hoping that it might be possible to arrange another reunion class next year – or maybe I’ll just organise one myself somewhere!!
Have a look at some of the work in progress – I promised that some of these images would probably show up again in a Powerpoint presentation for the classes I’m teaching at the Open European Quilt Championships next month, so this is almost (but not quite) a trial run …
Where there’s quilting there’s often inspiration and other lovely things to look at – jackets, pincushions etc ..