Looking back

This is what has been on my worktable at the Overseas Office this week –

sort of the same as last week, but a little further along!  Now finished since taking this photo and waiting to be pressed, final showing next week.  I’m not sure if my  sewjo has been fully restored yet but I’ve revisited (via old picture files) some still-unfinished projects that are patiently waiting their turn back at the Rural Office and given some consideration as to what it will take to finish them, whether there is any point in finishing them and all those sort of imponderables.  For instance, this quilt top, thrown together more than a decade ago for a Chris&Barbara workshop, it just needs quilting and binding –

I’d prefer to hand quilt this one, which is probably why it got put aside in the first place.  Hand quilting doesn’t have to be complex, close-spaced or complicated but even simple pared-back hand quilting isn’t done in a day.  I think I’ll plan to pick up several reels of quilting thread from the Rural Office and bring this top back to the Overseas Office later in the year.

Future online plans include a Tentmaker style applique class/presentation/lecture –

and an Antique Rose Star hand piecing class –

I might even get to the heady heights of offering a Whigs Defeat hand piecing class –

Time to get back to stitching!

Not quite Square One

Over on the Chris&Barbara blog this year we’ve had a long-running series of Scrappy Sunday posts covering all things scrappy – from squares to diamonds to hexagons to strips and lots of things inbetween.  The series is due to finish in December and my contribution seems to have arrived back at squares again.

Squares have featured strongly in my online class  this year and will doubtless show up in online classes next year.  And how useful are squares for quilted texture? –

A number of ideas are percolating and the stitching mojo has been seen in the distance – more next week!

Retreat in Spain

I have lots of stitching plans for the year ahead – much less travelling and teaching generally but with classes at my local quilt shop The Corner Patch in Eccleshall, also at The Bramble Patch.  A Corner Patch retreat in June, followed by a Grand South Western Tour in Devon and Cornwall.

For much of the year though I will be at our home in southern Spain and in May I will be hosting a small hand stitchers retreat there.  13th – 18th May with four days of hand stitching, kitted retreat projects, a visit to a renowned embroidery museum, good weather, good food, all in a private and comfortable domestic setting.  Just six places are available  ……   and bookings close on 21st March.


Email address for further info –  ourhomesinspain@gmail.com


An enjoyable (as always) trip to Denman College teaching “Essentials of Hand Quilting“.  Wonderful weather (maybe the last of the summer?) and great students made the whole thing as easy as it could be.  This class is always an interesting one to teach at Denman because there is the luxury of more than one day to cover the essentials plus some background.  I promised to post pictures of some of the work under way so here are just a few – DSCN4524     DSCN4519   DSCN4525   DSCN4526   DSCN4521   and on the final morning – September class I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of your completed class projects ladies!! Now that everything is put away from this trip I can perhaps make myself concentrate on working behind the scenes on my website and that stack of “for sale” quilts and samples.  Here’s a few close-ups from the sample section (mostly 12 – 16inch blocks) – sample 1   sample 2 sample 3   sample 4   sample 5

All of the “worked on black” samples have proved difficult to capture accurately – still working on this problem!  The black background really sets off the coloured perle threads but the depth and vibrancy is very elusive.    Onwards!!

Antique Rose Star – some tips

Just while I’m finishing up measuring and labelling quilts and samples I thought I would put together some thoughts on a completely different topic – Antique Rose Star.  I know several readers are about to start their own project and thought this might be helpful.

This stunning hexagonal block is one I first saw in a copy of Ladies Circle Patchwork Quilts magazine in the middle 80s (1980s that is).  Rather more recently it has been given a new global lease of life thanks to its inclusion in “Material Obsession 2”, a hugely popular book from the Australian quilt shop of the same name.  At Quilt Expo in Veldhoven I noticed that renowned Dutch quilter Petra Prins carried the template as part of her wonderful shop stock, so it was easy to acquire the wherewithal to begin.

As featured in the book, the block requires 5 fabrics plus a background.   I used 5 fabrics plus two backgrounds because I wanted a very busy, scrappy look, and chose shirting style reproduction fabrics for the backgrounds.  I also decided that I wanted to work within one style of fabrics – reproduction prints, and mostly one colour family – reds, browns and dark creams.

first Antique Rose block

After that, decisions progressed to each block being a different combination of fabrics with no two blocks being identical.  Fussycutting worked well for some of the centres and also some of the points, but was not a must.  For the most part, I just wanted to make scrappy looking blocks from fabrics I already had.  Health warning – there is a LOT of scope within this block for fussycutting if that is your delight…………  and the whole thing is hugely addictive, it is very difficult to stop!

Here’s how I tackled my Antique Rose Star project –

Each block has 72 pieces and divides down into 6s or 12s of each fabric choice.  The centres and points are 6 each, everything else is 12, and remember I used 2 backgrounds so there were 12 each of both backgrounds.  If you use one background per block you will need 24 pieces from that fabric.

I cut lots of pieces in sets of 6 and 12, marking around the template onto the WS of the fabric and cutting out on the marked lines.  This took time but was fitted into small gaps in the day rather than lengthy sessions.  Because I wanted to use up fabric and be economical, I marked around the template as tessellating shapes and cut with scissors which meant very little waste.

marking tessellating shapes

The size of the template does lend itself to use with jellyroll precut fabric and rotary cutting, in which case you could be cutting through 3 or 4 fabric layers at once –  it depends on your preferences and what suits.

All cut shapes went into one large ziplock bag – I probably began the first few blocks with shapes cut from at least a dozen fabrics and five background fabrics.  More of everything plus new fabric choices were added in as the project gathered momentum.

Every shape in the large ziplock bag then had a seam line marked on the WS on two adjacent sides (one long side, one short).

mark adjacent seam lines on 2 sides

You could easily skip this step if you prefer to mark your seam lines as required rather than in advance.  I must say I felt it was time well spent at this stage.

So, lots of shapes cut out and marked – time to start laying out blocks.  I laid out 3 blocks to begin with, sometimes using a pair of mirrors and just one triangular wedge of shapes to predict the final result.

mirror predictions

This was a project I knew I would be stitching “on the move” so it was important that it could be accommodated in the smallest of containers and that the stitching was as straightforward as possible.  I decided to gather each block up into its component sets of 3 shapes, put a few holding/tacking stitches through each set to keep them together, and then put all the 3s for each block into its own very small ziplock bag.

sets of 3 to make one block

One block = one very small bag of tacked shapes.  Add in a needle, small reel of thread, small chunk of beeswax and a thread cutter and its good to go.

You may be surprised at the speed at which a block can go together – each seam is short.  I made up my 3s like this:-

set of 3

ready for first seam

next step

stitch to pivot point

from pivot to end

First stitch one short seam then a pivoting seam to add in the third shape.

Completed sets of 3 went back into the bag, and you can probably finish the sequence for yourself………… sets of 3 come back out of the bag to be stitched into diamonds of 6.  These leave the bag to be made into larger triangular wedges by adding first one background 3 and then the next.   And of course, sets of 6 large triangular wedges have their own bag in which they await their final construction all neatly tacked together……….

After all that hectic piecing just a warning that one or two almost-forgotten quilts have been re-discovered during the ongoing Cupboard project – here’s a quick peek, more detail next time.

forgotten quilt

Further south

On from Nynehead Court to the delights of Exeter for two high temperature days with South West Quilters – most appropriate to be presenting the talk on Tentmaker applique and a class based on Tentmaker applique. ( As a quick aside, those of you who are Facebook people may know that there is a page for the Tentmakers (try The Tentmakers of Chareh El Khaimaya) which will give you the latest news and updates on their current situation. )  Before the talk I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing a finished project from a previous Tentmaker class


a very large Tentmaker piece, commissioned back in the 80s from one of the studios in Cairo

commissioned Tentmaker piece

commissioned work

and a super quilt based on the blocks in my Egyptian Treasure pattern book – (still available via www.barbarachainey.com)

the maker

quilt section

quilt section

I think everyone who teaches and/or designs will say the same – it’s a unique thrill to see finished work that is based on your ideas and patterns, and seeing these pieces was a real highlight of the day for me.

The class on Sunday was held in one of the most perfect village halls – exactly the right size for the number of students, with windows and doors open to the equally perfect weather.  Everyone was most industrious and soon had the design marked onto the background fabric ready to begin placing the bias tape and building up the lotus flowers point by point.

part of the class

bias in placeDSCN4142bias and points

stitching in placestitching in placepreview

setting out the work

There were some seriously covetable hand-dyed fabrics in the room – here’s just one set –

selection of hand dyes

Here’s a tiny section of one of my class samples –

section of sample

and a reference picture of the full-size, real thing covering a space on the street in Cairo. A timely reminder of the original scale of these amazing textiles –

Tentmaker hanging in Cairo

Thanks to all the organisers and volunteers who made the weekend such a success – hope it’s not too long before we meet again.

Summer sewing

Back home after three lovely summery days travelling and talking (I’ve always said this is a really difficult job but someone has to do it!).  First stop was at Nynehead Court near Wellington in Somerset, where the redoubtable Shirley from Stitcherydo meets with like-minded friends for stitching therapy.  As you can see, the surroundings are hugely attractive and everything was at it’s best for our informal class on the Whig’s Defeat block …

Nynehead Court


Nynehead Court, church




hard at work




layout 1layout 2


layout 3







back to work



comfy corner?

An extra treat (along with the strawberries, cream, and similar goodies) was a private showing of the estate church which contains some wonderful old glass and a Jacobean family memorial

recycled stained glass section


stained glass section



family memorial


English summer


Thanks to Shirley and friends for organising such a lovely day – I’m expecting to see pictures of several completed blocks before too long!

Class catch up

Still trying to keep up with the diary and not always succeeding. At the end of this week I’m doing a talk and class for South West Quilters – Quilt down the Nile and Tentmaker applique, plus an informal get together/class based on the Whigs Defeat block for Shirley of Stitcherydo blog fame. Before the inevitable packing begins here’s a selection of happy class and working hands shots taken during my recent trips to Busy Bees, The Bramble Patch, and the grand Stirling QGBI weekend retreat. I’m always intrigued by the many subtle differences in individual hands working towards that rock and roll quilting action – it’s a whole new skill set for most students.

















A little bit of inspiration spotted in a magazine ad. – definitely food for thought here


…. and yet another helpful gadget to improve stitching productivity (first spotted in the Stirling class and much coveted) has arrived.


Lightweight, rechargeable and compact size – what a winner! this will definitely be in my carryalong sewing for the rest of this year. The pics above perhaps are not too helpful – it’s a fold-up LED craft lamp, not as bright as my favourite Ottlite but much less weight and space.  And, in response to many requests already – this link should help you locate your very own! http://www.amazon.co.uk/RNIB-DH337-LED-portable-light/dp/B009NBYEAE.

Quilt round up from Denver

Way behind with intended regular posting so I’ll try and catch up a little with a second batch of pics from the Denver trip. I was in the mile-high city to teach a 3day class for machine quilting supremo Harriet Hargrave with the delight of staying at her home included for good measure. As you can imagine, there were some seriously good vintage quilts to enjoy as well as a side trip to the quilt museum in Golden where there was an exhibit of old and new quilts featuring machine stitch. The “new” was represented by a selection of work from Sue Nickels and Pat Holly. I think you will enjoy some of the following –







and from the exhibit –















I was rather taken with this porch as a potential stitching spot – shame the house was not for sale! (no, it’s not Harriet’s home).

So it’s back to domestic things for a few days and getting ready to travel to Scotland next week – more packing!