Quilting interlude

August 23, 2013

It must be the summer silly season – I’m trying to get “for sale” quilts and samples photographed and measured (almost at the bottom of the stack now) and, at the same time, fending off the urge to clear shelves, wardrobes, empty out drawers and launder curtains, cushions and rugs. Amidst all this I managed to lose my phone, which proved more traumatic (and expensive) than I could have imagined. So now I ‘m planning a couple of days featuring none of the above, just finishing up an Oakshott strippy sample begun two years ago (or was it three?) The fabrics are from their first Jet range, and the intention was to illustrate strippy style using simple cable variations from a single template. Interesting to try and photograph and do justice to the richness of colour, as you can see from the following -




I had fun using my favourite Penultimate app to work out where I was going to start adding extra lines of quilting

- I hope to work on these lines today while the washing machine chugs away in the background and I await delivery of the new phone. I’ve also used the same app to make some on-the-spot, rough diagrams of one of the quilts in The Cupboard -



And a little eye candy from Festival of Quilts – terrific choice of thread and great stitching – well done Kath!



The annual jamboree of Festival of Quilts is almost upon us!  As in previous years I’ll be in the Quilting in Action area of the show and looking forward to four days of general quilt excitement.  It’s always hard to know what to take and what to show so this year I’ve decided to focus on the (almost) new Little Treasures pattern books -

pattern books

and I’m going to display some of my stitched pattern samples from previous years and hope to sell them -



If I can get sufficiently organised I’ll take a couple of vintage quilts to sell too.  It’s time to clear some space in The Cupboard and also on the sample shelf!  After Festival, I’ll probably list some quilts for sale here so, if vintage is your thing, be sure to check back.  One of the quilts on the “to go” list is this one, which you may remember from earlier posts this year -

Tumbling Blocks quilt

and this is another -

30s stars

30s stars

One or two of these also -

quilts - assorted

Off to finish up the current sample before it’s time to pack and return to middle England.  Happy quilting!

Small progress on a number of fronts, and lots of ideas gained from sitting, reading blogs and daydreaming. First, the progress – all the main design lines are now quilted on this sample -


Now I need to decide on the centre texture, which will probably be a 1/2inch grid. As you can see from this detail the double lines are differently spaced on the inside and outside of the design -

One of the reasons for this difference was dictated by the design itself. Initially I had planned on a generous 1/4 inch spacing for both lines, and went ahead and marked reference spots, joined them up and got started. After just one quarter was done, the outer line was just too far away and was distracting, so out it came to be replaced by something a little closer.

Similar concerns over spacing, but this time between stitches, not stitched lines, with this little sample from one of my new Egyptian stencils.

Just running stitch through one layer of cloth, a long needle and Tudor Twist hand-dyed rayon thread and finished in a couple of hours – almost instant gratification! You may be able to see that I decided to omit some lines from the full design – just because I could!

Two more Antique Rose star blocks are complete, a third block only needs 5 seams to finish it. No pictures this time because you’re probably more than familiar by now with what the block looks like, but instead here’s what I can see every time I look up from my stitching -


A lot of food for thought and inspiration on all sorts of things this week from selected blogreading. Still haven’t got totally to grips with the WordPress app for the magic gadget, so no text links here but you’ll find them on the sidebar over on the right – Tim Latimer, Feathered Fibers, I Sew Quilts, The Quilt Rat, Feather on a Wire. You’ll find inspiration for gardens, quilts, studio setups, quilting, design and much more from all of them, do hop over and take a look if you’re not already famiiar with them.

And one or two interesting lines spotted while strolling around -





Back to stitching and daydreaming!

Stitching and stencils

July 15, 2013

Adrift in the warmth and haze of a real English summer, it’s almost time to head out for our holidays.  This, as you will understand, calls for much planning and gathering of suitable projects to take along so that maximum use is made of the time.  So far I can only count 5 project bags, but maybe a few more will get added in before departure – or maybe I’ll just take more drawing stuff, and there’s always that neat little notebook app (Penultimate) if everything else fails…..  One of the bags contains the last 3 blocks (I think) for the Antique Rose Star project which should finish at a mere 23 blocks if I can bring myself to stop making them -

Antique Rose Star blocks

I can’t decide whether to take any hand quilting projects this time, or limit myself to just piecing.  There are three designs that are almost finished, this is the most recent, which you saw as lines and mirrors in an earlier post -

quilting detail

almost finished

and the two earlier ones that need a few more stitches -

design 1

design 2

A really good pre-holiday boost came with the arrival of a sample set of  new stencils of my designs from Quilting Creations – these will be great to refer to in the Tentmaker Applique class and will hopefully meet some of the many requests for this style of design in stencil format.

stencil sample

stencil sample


stencil sample

The stencils have been developed from my Egyptian Treasure pattern book, and should make marking for a quilt like this an absolute breeze

quilt detail

Which gives me an idea of something to put in even more project bags for the holiday – maybe a little applique, or some shadow quilting too?!

Quilting up close

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!!

An interesting box

April 13, 2013

It was probably 30 years ago when I was given this unassuming sturdy cardboard box -

the 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

the instructions

instructions page two

box contents

corner of transfer sheet

Briggs transfer

card templates

Deighton's quilting pattern

transfer detail

home made paper template

second paper pattern

card templates

card templates

card template

circular card label

Even a card label (apparently from a paraffin heater) had been kept to use as a circle template – thrift prevailed!

Italian quilting transfers

card templates

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?

A vintage start

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.

preparing samples

Oakshott silk and cotton

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

Antique Rose Star blocks

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.

initial detail

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 -

chalk doodling

pencil & paper doodling

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 -

Road to California vintage block

Bear Paw vintage block

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 -

fabric detail

fabric detail

fabric detail

More pics of the bargain next time – quilting calls.  Warmest New Year wishes to all followers, readers and visitors, I really appreciate your company!

I wonder if

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!

Happy stitching!

Stealing time

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!

I wish I could ….

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 ….


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 226 other followers

%d bloggers like this: