Monday, 31 December 2012

Good Bye 2012

Over the last few days I have enjoyed reading everyones good bye's to 2012, which has been fun.

It has been wonderful to see the finished quilts, the goals completed and read the stories of so many amazing bloggers.

It has made me think about my year.... and I have had to think long and hard..

Finished June 2012

2012 was a year of change because:

  • I realised I can teach - I am good at it - and more the point I realised I can teach sewing!

  • I changed my whole business plan with the help of my fabulous business coach Gail Gibson and gorgeous friend Liz. With their support and encouragement I am not living my dream...

  • I stood up for my children and said no more. The change has made my boys lives happier and more secure.
After school club sewing group

In 2012 I learnt a lot about myself:

  • I learnt that although I feel like a burden to the people around me sometimes because I reply on them to listen to worries, I am not a burden. My friends love me and will drop everything to help me even when I have fallen in the road and broken 3 ribs in the rain...

  • I have learnt that it is OK to be a size 16, and I should stop hiding in clothes that are too baggy - I have curves and they are lovely!

  • I have learnt that I can do anything I set my mind to!

  • I have learnt that a tidy house doesn't equal happy children - hence the fact my house is a tip and my boys are happy!

I have started thinking about 2013 and what I would like to achieve, but I know whatever happens my boys and I will have an adventure and loads of fun!

I hope you have a very Happy New Year!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Trying some Little Stitches

I have never really tried embroidery, I have done bits and bobs when teaching children to sew, but I haven't actually had a go at a pattern.

When I saw Aneela Hoeys new book Little Stitches a few months ago I thought it would make a wonderful present from Santa - he is a very generous man you know!

The cover is gorgeous and the ideas and patterns are well laid out and oh so pretty!

Luckily because I had asked Santa for the book I knew I would need a couple of hoops and fabric is never a problem in my house I was able to have a go at on of the designs on Christmas Day whilst the boys played - bonus of no family nearby is ability to spend Christmas Day doing nothing!

I made the gorgeous girl in on the rain, with her umbrella, but I changed the colour of the jumper and skirt to match my room:

I really enjoyed sitting and stitching. It is so much more sociable than using a sewing machine, so I was able to stitch and chat to the boys at the same time - I find I can get away with a lot more crafting if I juggle those two skills!

I then made the panel into a cushion for my room using Aneela's fabric range for Moda, Sew Stitchy, a bundle of which arrived last Saturday!

I backed it with some Olive Green from my Kona solids stash and it now sits on my bed in pride of place!

The boys have now put in requests for blue versions for their room!

I can see a a few more of these patterns being made up in the very near future!

PS You can order Aneela's book from a fabulous local Indie bookshops like The Yellow Lighted Bookshop. I always buy my books from them!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Why make more?

On Sunday I popped into my friends house to drop off her Christmas presents and say Merry Christmas before they disappeared to family for the break.

I told her about the yummy fabrics that had arrived from Fabricworm and how lush they are. Then I said I have a couple of designs in my head and would she mind if I gifted her a quilt of one of those designs... I basically need to find homes for the designs in my head - we are kinda a bursting at home!

At this point she asked 'why keep making them if you have run out of space for them?'

Honestly, she did.... she actually suggested I stop making quilts.... my heart stopped for 30 seconds!

Once I had picked my chin off the floor and restarted my heart, I tried to explain that it simply isn't an option!

It got me to thinking though about life as a quilter....

How many projects do I have on the go at the moment?

Well, there is the hexagon quilt, the HST demonstration quilt, a little girls quilt, Tula Pink Scraps quilt and a hexagon patchwork top that needs finishing.....


How much fabric do I have?

That is a difficult question to answer and would mean looking through my teaching stash, my secret stash, my secret, secret stash and the scraps shelf... oh and the buckets of upholstery weight fabrics.... best not think about that too much... but a girl can never have to much....

The latest bundle from Floressence

How many quilting books do I own?

Again that is a tough question to answer, it could be close to 50... from my first book 17 years ago to the most recent color, block and quilt by Emily Cier.

Available from all good indie bookshops!

Do I need them all?  Yes.... they are a constant source of inspiration, bedtime reading and yumminess... I actually have a pile next to my bed that I constantly rotate....

Why make more???

I dream in quilts. Often I wake up with a new idea in my head, a new goal.

I dream about colours, shapes, designs... I think about colour and texture all the time.

Each quilt is an extension of my skills, it pushes my skill further and allows me to explore those ideas in my head.

I have tried to not make quilts, it makes my brain hurt and actually I feel sad. That is what happened with my handmade bag business. I loved making bags, but they took me away from making quilts and I got more and more unhappy... the minute I decided to swap and make quilts and teach everything rebalanced..

It is hard to explain to non-quilters, but it is like being an artist of any form. You have the need to create, an overwhelming desire to allow the ideas in your head flow into your medium, be it clay, fabric or paint..... You have to create otherwise it hurts...

Quilting is like that, you have to create otherwise it hurts, the ideas get stifled and everything gets squeezed in until you release the creativity and make a quilt...

So will I ever stop making quilts?

No. When I do my world will no longer make sense, and I will lose a huge part of who I am...

So to solve the shortage of space I need to gift them to the people I love, or sell them...... either way I will never have made enough quilts or bought enough fabric!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Boxing Day Quilt

It has become a tradition that I sit and sew a new quilt on Boxing day. The last 2 Christmases all of the boys have gone to visit their fathers for Boxing Day so I have a peaceful house to sew in. This year mini and midi aren't able to see their father so it was sewing with kids!

I mentioned before that maxi, being 10 years old, felt a fish tank quilt was too babyish and he had selected the fabulous Velocity collection by Jessica Hogarth for a new quilt - that was way back in the summer.

So yesterday I set up in the kitchen, sewing machine, cutting mat and iron...

The starting point for the design was this quilt in Quilting Modern by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen which has off centre blocks and curvy waves:

I had never sewn curves before, so whilst I was keen to give the design a try, the curves did kind of intimidate me! 
Luckily the book has a really good techniques section for each design, so I sat a read through it a few times and tried it on some scraps. Then I took the plunge!
It's not too hard, but it is fiddly and you do need to concentrate whilst cutting - que shouts of please leave mummy alone for 5 minutes!
I am pretty pleased with the curves, the first one is slightly dodgy though!
I decided to build the quilt as I went, so added a column at a time and then hung it up to think about the next one. No design wall in the house so a door had to do!
It grew really quickly and I love the bright colours of Tangerine and Glacier from Kona Solids, I got mine from Simply Solids.
The finished quilt has curves on the top and bottom - the top one is very wavy!

I am pretty pleased with my first attempt at curves.

I did discover a problem with edge on the left hand side, which isn't straight so will have to be sorted before I add a border.

Maxi hasn't been home so he hasn't seen it yet, I am hoping he will love it too!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Crafty Christmas Day!

Good morning!

I hope you have had the most amazing Christmas day!

In my house we have a very low key approach to Christmas. We have Christmas supper on on Christmas Eve - sausage and mash by candle light - and new PJ's that we stay in until after Boxing Day!

Christmas day is all about presents, playing and relaxing, including pizza for lunch!

My boys voted for pizza 3 years ago as they didn't want to stop playing for a traditional Christmas lunch. They can munch pizza, watch movies and play in peace. For them that makes Christmas perfect!

So I get to spend a couple of days wandering around the house in PJ's, drinking coffee and sewing!

With the boys all distracted by the new toys, I can grab my sewing machine and put together a new quilt top in peace - everyone gets the perfect Christmas!

This year Santa bought me 3 craft books:

I got Little Stitches by Aneela Hoey,  Simple Crochet by Sara Sinaguglia and color, block & quilt by Emily Cier (and the workbook too!).

All 3 have had me itching to try something out. The color, block & quilt book was recommended by Angela Walters, and she is right - it is a fantastic resource for colours and fantastic modern blocks! But getting out the sewing machine, cutting mat and rotary cutter isn't allowed on Christmas day, so experimenting with her blocks will have to wait until Boxing Day!

I love Simply Crochet. So many gorgeous designs and ideas, but no wool...

So that left me with Little Stitches! I have never tried embroidery before, it has been that appealing, but since meeting Aneela Hoey on Twitter I have been exploring the world of embroidery. It is amazing what you can create with some floss and a hoop!

Luckily I had bought a hoop last week on a whim, and I have hundreds of flosses from teaching. So I chose a design from the book and this is the result as I went to bed on Christmas day:

I changed the colours recommended so it will go with my room. I am thinking cushion cover as I have a bundle of Aneela Hoey's Sew Stitchy line just arrived from Fabric Worm....

Today I start maxi's quilt... I can' wait!

Have you managed anything crafty over the Christmas break?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Buying from the States

Yesterday was a tough day for me.

It was the 7th anniversary of my mum passing away.

Every year the anniversary has got easier to bear, but I miss her everyday and I know that will never go. I generally just try to get through the day. Her picture is on our side board with pictures of the boys and on the 22nd we add red flowers - her favourite colour.

She is a part of our lives everyday and the boys know that they are maths geniuses like her. They know that she is with them through their fantastic mathematical minds....

So I woke up yesterday dreading the day... it is so painful.... but actually it turned out ok...

Mini and I were walking into town when the postie stopped me and asked if I wanted a parcel from the States.... let me think about it...YES!

It was my bundles of fabric from Fabric Worm. When they announced 30% off everything in the sale section I knew there were some bundles I wanted so I went straight there and bought the 2 bundles.... very naughty I know, but I just needed them in my life!

I get asked all the time about buying fabric in the States, the postage charges and Customs, so I thought I would post my thoughts on the whole process..

Initially I had been reluctant to even think about getting fabric from across the Atlantic, I mean it's a long way, the postage seemed generally very expensive and what happens if the Tax man stops the package?

I have now ordered quite a lot, and signed up for a monthly club with Fat Quarter Shop, and I can honestly say it is worth it.


When I was looking around for advice I asked Katy from I'm a Ginger Monkey who does order a lot from various shops in North America. She suggested that 'loading the envelope' is the best way to go. So for the flat rate of $17.00 you can get around $100 worth of fabric in

This is what I have been doing. So if my Bloggers Bundle is coming and I have seen some other fabric from Fat Quarter Shop I like/need I get it sent the same envelope - cuts down on postage cost loads!

The fastest I have received a package has been 5 days - some British shops have taken longer than that.... the slowest has been 1.5 weeks for the bundle that arrived yesterday - again I have waited that long for fabric from UK sellers!


The range of fabrics you can get in the States is amazing, fabric ranges that just don't make it over the pond. Complete ranges of fabric that we just don't get.

Don't get me wrong I have my favourite UK shops that I will always support, but sometimes you just want to add to your stash with fabrics you can't get here....


The prices of fabric are generally cheaper and it seems to be the postage that puts most UK fabric addicts off. This is where 'loading the envelope' comes in. This latest bundle of fabric cost me £2.40 including postage for each fat quarter! They were on sale and there are 23 of them, but that is a pretty hard price to beat.

Even for none sale fabrics the prices are amazing!


This is people biggest fear I think.

The solution is buying in bulk.... The customs charge is around £17.00, which seems a lot, but take my bundle this week: 23 bundles means if it was charged each FQ would rise to £3.13, which is still an amazing price!

Not everything is stopped and you can tell it has been stopped because they generally seem to hold onto the post for 3/4 weeks.

I hope this helps!

If you are interested in buying from the States and don't know where to start check out I'm a Ginger Monkey on Saturdays. Katy does a fantastic round up of discounts, new ranges and fabulous fabric from lots of shops in the States.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Star

A couple of years ago a friend gave me a jelly roll of Christmas fabrics. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it so it went into the fabric stock... until now!

On Saturday my friends are having a Christmas party and we have to take a wall decoration to decorate the hall. I wanted to do something special and then be able to sure it at home, but not spend any money..

I dug out what remains of the jelly roll and then spotted a blog tutorial for a Christmas Lone Star by Better off Thread whilst I was blog surfing one morning - this blog is now on my favourite list!

The Scrappy Lone Star is perfect for using up jelly rolls because it uses 2.5" wide strips. Janice has created the tutorial for the Lone Star and made a modern quilt with the design.  I didn't want to make something so modern, in fact simpler the better as the party is so close!

I followed the well laid out instructions and pictures to create the sections of the stars:

I then chose the red spotty fabric for the border of the star points and a white background:

I used the quick method of assembling the quilt by sewing the patchwork right sides together with the backing and then turning out with the wadding. I then stitched all around the edge to secure it.

A while ago I started reading about using Perle 8 Cotton to hand quilt with and managed to find some Valdani thread on eBay. It is super soft and the colours are lush! 

I have echoed the star design in the quilting with the gorgeous red thread in my pack, which looks great against the red!

Hopefully my super fast Christmas Star will look ok at the party.... now to make some food....

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Tewkesbury Posse!

Last week I finished working with 2 groups, one in Gloucester and the other in Tewkesbury.

I have shown you the work of the Gloucester group, so I thought you might like to see the group in Tewkesbury this week.

There were 8 learners of different abilities. Some had loads of experience and were coming along for the social aspect of the group as well as to learn a new trick or 2, others had no experience of sewing what so ever!

I love a mixed group like that. They tend to work together and share ideas, a support network is set up in the class and everyone helps each other. They become a sewing community!

The 8 weeks of the course were broken down into 3 weeks learning the basic skills of how to set up a sewing machine and learning sewing terms whilst making a pin cushion, purse and button clutch. The following 5 weeks were more learner led. I started them on the task of making a patchwork cushion cover and they took their own journey to create something special for their home.

This journey resulted in amazing cushion covers. As their confidence grew they chose other things they would like to make independently, from bunting to Christmas stockings.

Here are some of the results of the 8 weeks we spent together!


As you can see the group have been working hard!
I am starting another group in Gloucester after Christmas and I can't wait to see what they make!

Monday, 17 December 2012

No Words...

Like many people on Friday, when the news broke about the shootings in Newtown, CT, I went and hugged my boys very close... to have dropped off your children at a place they should be safe and protected, a place where they have fun.... and to never see them again is every parents worst nightmare...

Words fail me...

Then there are the surviving children, who will carry that pain and sadness for the rest of their lives....

Will wonder why.....

As I have held mine close this morning, an idea struck me...

As quilters we know that our quilts give so much comfort to adults and children alike... is there a way I can do more than just hug my own children... Can I send a hug to a child in pain and confusion on the other side of the world?

I would like to make a lap quilt to send to a child from Newtown, I want to send a hug across the world and let them know I care..

How do I do this?

Are people already organising to do it?

How do I help?

A Special Delivery

If you have been following my blog over the last few weeks you will know that I have been working hard on a gorgous Tula Pink quilt for a very special friend.

I has been a long 8 weeks with lots of late night quilting!

We went to a family party at the recipients house this weekend and I needed to make sure the quilt was finished by then - I wasn't going to trust the post with this precious quilt!

Unfortunately my manic week of work and being a Scout leader had finally got me and I gave up attaching the binding in favour of sleep, so the quilt wasn't quite finished when I presented it to her on Saturday afternoon...

I have to admit I felt very nervous driving up. Her mum and I had selected the fabric and I had put the design together, so Lily didn't have any input into the quilt at all... it is an 18th birthday present, what if I had screwed it up?

Luckily she absolutely loved it! The huge smile and look of wonder in her eyes told me it was fine!

So we partied on Saturday night and I got up super early on Sunday (the monsters dragged me out of bed at 5.50am after going to bed at 1.30am!) to finish the quilt binding for her:

The best bit about finishing and gifting a quilt is seeing it being used! Lily has already had a snooze under it and as you can see it is already part of the household!
Lilys sisters have now booked their colours for their 18th birthday presents in 2014... 2 quilts for the gorgeous twins!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Coming to the end....

Yesterday I finished a course in Gloucester with a lovely bunch of ladies.  I have been working with them since the middle of August, first on adapting clothing and then on home textiles.

They have spent Tuesday mornings sewing together, learning new skills and making friendships.
They were a varied group - as all my groups are - of people on low incomes, people lacking self confidence and learning difficulties. They were such a lovely group!

5 women started as strangers and have left me with a whole raft of new skills, bundles of self confidence and friendships that have extended  to taking trips out together. For women who have all the issues above I would say that is a job well done!

Yesterday I got them to bring everything they had made on the home textiles course with me, and I thought you might like to see!

We made funky chickens, pin cushions, peg bags, cushion covers, door stops and patchwork placemats!

I am extremely proud of these ladies and everything they have achieved both in terms of sewing and their new found friendships.

And I will miss them on Tuesday mornings... it was hard to say good bye....

Today is another goodbye to a group in Tewkesbury that I have been working with for 8 weeks.....

Monday, 10 December 2012

Quilting a large quilt

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a quilt for a very dear friend. It has been a mammoth task as isn't finished yet!

It started as bundle of fat quarters from Tula Pink:

Which were matched with Kona cream and snowball shapes made:

Which grew to a design with squares:

Which came together quickly into a queen size quilt:


When it was completely finished I basted it on the living room floor with a little helps from a sleep walking friend!

For the last 5 weeks I have been quilting it whenever I can! I decided on a tight design of sun ray in the octagons and swirls in the cream - lots of work! I have been using So Fine thread from Superior as recommended by Angela Walters.
I thought I would share what I have learnt about quilting such a large quilt on a domestic machine:
  • It is best to break the quilt down into sections and concentrate on that one section before moving on to the next. This means I quilt the octagon in Thistle and then put in all the swirls around it, before I quilt the next octagon.
  • I adapted by free motion foot as suggested by Leah Day which has made quilting much easier - the foot no longer bounces around!
  • The reel of So fine suggests using a top stitch needle size 80/12. I have personally found that some quilting needles of the same size work the best. I guess they are pretty similar, but my lovely Ellie the Elna didn't like the top stitch needle at all.
  • When working on a section you have be conscious of the backing creasing, so I start a new section working out from the quilted area rather than working towards it!
Finally I learnt you need patience! This is not something that will happen overnight and I have grown very attached to this quilt. It will be hard to let it go!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Quilting for the Boys

My eldest son has reached the age of 10 1/2and seems very old! He has a fish tank quilt from when he was 4/5, which is no longer cool! (I did catch him snuggled under it the other day though!)

So it is clearly time to make him a new quilt - any old excuse to go fabric shopping!

Over the summer we hunted through the online shops I like and looked at all sorts of blogs for fabric inspiration. I love the new Parsons Gray range, like this bundle from Eclectic Maker, but he thought it was too old!

He was right, but I did get this sinking feeling that we were going to get stuck choosing fabric!

Then we saw the gorgeous range from designer Jessica Hogarth, Velocity. I first saw it at the Festival of Quilts on the fabulous Backstitch stall - I love Alice's shop! So I bought some from the range and bought it home for him to check out!

We had found a winner!

He loves the deep blues, oranges and shapes... so we bought a bundle with the entire collection from Alice and then last week I found the missing piece from the range at The Village Haberdashery:

We have decided to use a pattern in Quilting Modern by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen which has off centre blocks and curvy waves:

I discovered this week that 2 Kona Solids, Tangerine and Glacier, co-ordinate beautifully with the designs so more of those have been ordered from Simply Solids to break up the pattern.


So this is the project over the Christmas break.... I try to make a quilt every Christmas break and this year it is for my gorgeous big boy!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

My Week

This week has been a manic rush of extremes!

It stared with a lovely day Christmas shopping in my favourite city - Bath. It is beautiful and I feel so lucky to live so close... plus it has a fabulous quilt shop called Country Threads which is a treasure trove of fabric... yes I did have to pop in there!

The city was packed with tourists and people getting on with their Christmas shopping, but still really enjoyable!

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday was back to work, teaching in Gloucester and Tewkesbury... most of my groups finish next week so there was some alarming discussion about looking me in cupboards so I never leave.... I think it is a confirmation of my teaching skills....

On Wednesday evening I had a private lesson in my studio with a lovely friend. She had never used a sewing machine and wanted to make 3 stocking for her gorgeous kids. 4 hours later at midnight we emerged with 3 fabulous padded stockings. each individually made using Christmas and non Christmas fabric so each child has a stocking that reflects their personality!

This is where the stack of Kona fabrics from Simply Solids comes into it's own. We were able to match her fabrics with my solids and create the perfect colour combination!

Friday was a private lesson in the morning and then did some more quilting on what has become known as the Tula Pink quilt:

I have quilted just over half of it and it needs delivering next weekend... I see many late nights ahead!

Then on Friday night I had the most important Scouting commitment yet! You may have read the all about me section that explains.... well all about me! I became a helper with Scouts in January and now I about to be invested as a leader, and I run 2 sections: Beavers and Cubs. So effectively make  40+ kids run around 2 evenings a week... and I have a riot!

Last night it was the turning on of the lights in Tetbury. Prince Charles and Camilla came to do the honours - his country residence is 3 miles out of town! As a youth organisation in town we were asked to have a stall in town as he wanted to meet local residences and organisations. My Beavers, Cubs and I all baked cakes, set up a stall and waited in anticipation. We were fortunate to met Camilla who stopped at our stall and talked to the Scouts. Prince Charles was talking to other stall holders, but we did get within touching distance of him!

I have to say that it was really exciting and I am incredibly proud of my Scouts who were all polite, smiling and fabulous! As a group we sold all our cakes and made some money for the Scout Group, which will be put to good use!

Not a very fabric orientated blog post, back to normal service tomorrow!