Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Perfecting the Colours

I don't know about you, but when the weather closes in and the nights get darker at 4pm, I feel drawn to my quilts, mugs of coffee reading and quilt design.

Autumn is my favourite season - the colours are vivid and the wind seems to blow the old out to make way for the new. The leaves are amazing colours, and as I drive all over teaching I get to see the landscape shifting in colour.

From the vibrant reds and yellows, to the gorgeous dark browns of the fields being churned - today the road was covered in mud, so the car has that rich brown colour - there is so much to see and process.

I have an urge to translate all of the colour richness into a quilt, but how do I achieve the colours with out creating a washed out, brown quilt?

One way I have discovered is this fantastic website called Design Seeds.

Designs Seeds is an amazing tool that breaks images down into colours. Each image has 5/6 colour shades next to it so you can see how the colours work together to create amazing images:

This is perfect to describe the colours that I see around me. This tool is fantastic for quilters to reflect the colours around us into fabric colour choices for a quilt. By matching the fabrics to these tones, I will know that the finished quilt has more chance of representing the world around me, than coming out a brown sludge!

My favourite this week has been:

I am not normally drawn to the these colours, but they are just gorgeous together!

So go check out Design Seeds, their images are gorgeous!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

First Trip Out!

Yesterday was the first time I had had the privilege of loading the new Janome machines into my car a lesson.

Only took two, because I was expecting a class of 4 and in the classes I teach the aim is to build peoples self esteem and confidence through sewing. Pairing the learners encourages them to make friends and build relationships with the person sat next to them.

I was slightly more nervous yesterday morning setting off with such gorgeous machines in the boot as the Janomes, but I am so glad I did.

My group yesterday are members of a well being centre for people with mental health issues. They come along the to day centre to take part in crafts, group meetings and one-to-one with their support worker.

As it was I had 3 lovely ladies attend, with 3 more learners to join us next week, and the machines were the perfect tool to build their confidence.

The Janome CXL301 has a needle drop, so the learners can be sure the needle will be in fabric when they take their foot off the peddle. Problems with co-ordination and the shakes, means the learners were concerned about the machine losing their place if they stopped suddenly. The needle drop facility stops that anxiety.

The choices of stitches were clear to read and easy to select. We didn't get onto stitch length and the more complicated stitches like buttonhole, but we did play with the basic stitches and all of the learners made choices about which ones they wanted to try.

The biggest bonus was the speed. The machine can be moved by the learner from fast to slow, and no matter how much pressure they put on the pedal it will only go slowly if that is how it is set. Perfect for people who have problems will foot tapping and sensitivity.

I am teaching the group for another 3 weeks and they are the most challenging I have worked with to date. They are great fun though and the machines were a real help in keeping the challenge of sewing to a minimum, making the learners feel confident.

Together we made square pin cushions to use during the course - a major achievement!

Today is one of the many reasons I love the work I do - to enable people to glow with pride after 2 hours with them is the best thing in the world!

Today I am off to my group in Gloucester with the machines. I have been teaching this group since the middle of August, so I will let you know their reaction to the new super, duper machines!

Monday, 29 October 2012


Yesterday was a day of tinkering... no sewing, just tinkering...

I wasn't feeling at my best, not been feeling great for 3 days, but in lone parent style the show must go on! (Even if it is at a slower pace and with a grimace!)

So after a wonderful day in Bath with my boys, Sunday was designated a pj day - read mummy just needs to curl up in bed day...

Maxi was at his dads for the weekend, so just midi and mini to sort out... midi went off the rugby with a friend as they were playing away in Stroud.... so just mini...

Mini is most beautiful and wonderful bundle of energy, but when you are feeling not so good that can be an today is the start of my 8 week teaching marathon..

5 days a week, 5 different classes in 5 different locations covering the whole of Gloucestershire.. and not all of the lesson plans or schemes of work were written when I woke yesterday morning.

So armed with cake, movies and a gentle reminder that mummy doesn't feel very well we survived the day... a SOW of work was written and 3 lesson plans completed... risk assessments carried out... just needs printing before I pack the car and set off this morning.

I also had a play with the blog. I am not convinced I like this dynamic look. There is some tweaking that needs doing and even then I may well switch back... what do you think? Was the tinkering worth it?

Feeling a bit redundant as I mananged no sewing or quilting. Sunday night turned into a I feel sorry for myself session! Plus this wonderful quilt needs so much work and I am desperate to get it to it's new owner!

Monday is a fresh start to a fabulous adventure with lots of lovely people, spreading the power of sewing!

(I will just be armed with flu tablets and coffee!!!!)

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Making a Simple Clutch

On my beginners sewing course I like to teach learners how to use each of the basic sewing feet they will get with a sewing machine. There is the basic presser foot, zipper foot and buttonhole.
This tutorial for the button hole foot will show you have to make a pretty clutch.

To begin you will need:
  • Outer fabric measuring 8.5" by 12.5"
  • Lining fabric measuring 8.5" by 12.5"
  • Iron-on interfacing measuring 8.5" by 12.5"
  • Sew in interfacing - heavy measuring 8.5" by 12.5"
  • A button of your choice

Attach the iron-on interfacing to the wrong side of the outer fabric and match with sew-in interfacing with the edges of the panel. Lay the lining right side down on top and match the edges, pin in place:

Start sewing from on of the pins on the shorter edge of the clutch. Seam allowance is 1/2". You will need to go all the way around, pivoting corners, but be sure to leave a gap in the shorter edge you started on.

 Trim the corners:

Pull the clutch right side out and iron flat:
You will need to sew the gap shut that we left open. Just stitch across the gap as close to the edge as you dare!

Do the same to the other short end. Next we need to measure and mark the button hole. Measure the button and add 1/4" for clearance!

On one of the short ends place your ruler and mark the middle of the side 1" from the edge. From the middle point draw half the distance of the button hole out either way. In my case the button is 1" so the hole needs to be 1 1/4" long, half of which is 5/8" - use the small divisions on the ruler of mark the distance:

Now put the buttonhole foot on your sewing machine. A lot of modern machines have automatic buttonholes, but not all. Use the machine to make the button holes on the markings - if you have never used your machine to do this practise on a scrap first. I always mark my button hole even with the automatic buttonhole feature so I know it is in the right place.
Using a seam ripper or sharp scissors to cut the button hole out:

Check that the button slips through easily:

Now we need to make the clutch up. Fold the clutch in 3, making sure the button hole is on the top:

Pin the sides in place and sew up the clutch:

Close the clutch and using a pencil mark the button position through the button hole. Sew the button in place and voila, a gorgeous clutch for carrying your threads, sewing or ladies essentials!

Quilters Fantasy List

I follow so many quilt bloggers, fabric designs and quilt shops on Twitter that my feed is full of glorious fabrics, ideas and inspiration. At the moment though it is cruelly taunting me with Quilt Market.

For those of you who don't know, it is a huge quilt festival in Houston. It is the biggest quilt festival in world and is on my bucket list to visit. It has been a long time ambition to go... but I would need to rob a bank first!

I do have a list of people I would like to meet there - kinda like fantasy football, but with quilters!

I am dying to meet Jennifer Paganelli. Her fabrics are so vibrant and full of life! They just pop out any quilt I have ever seen with them in. I bought her Girl's World book and my young sewers have made a few things out of it - Jennifer even sent over badges for them to have! The girls were chuffed!

I taught an adult class in dress making from the book and one of the little girls who got a new dress keeps telling me how much she loves wearing the dress. I don't actually have any Sis Boom fabric yet, but it is definitely on my list for the new year.

If I met her, I would like to thank Jennifer for her support, generosity and friendship on Twitter and Facebook.

I am pretty sure she thinks I am stalking her, but I would still like to meet Angela Walters in person. I have taken her Craftsy course, bought her book and chatted with her on Twitter - one very embarrassing series of tweets which I won't repeat here....

I had shied away from machine quilting for many years. Fear of the machine, too many failed attempts and anxiety all kept well away from doing it. Hand quilting was the way in my house! Until a short deadline to make a 3yo a quilt for his 4th birthday earlier this year! I took the plunge the quilt is simply gorgeous.

Angela has helped me to learn the technique to make my quilts gorgeous, and whilst there is a long way to go until they are perfect, without Angela I wouldn't be doing the intricate work I am currently doing!

I have a signed copy of Kaffe Fassetts autobiography from the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this year - it is in my must have bedside pile of craft books! I got all tongue tied when it finally came to seeing him - if you know me, you will know that doesn't happen very often!

I would like to thank him for the years of joy he has given me with his books, designs and fabric. How is life is an inspiration and how he has influenced the path my life has taken more than anyone else. His books were the first I bought 17 years ago when I started quilting and they are still my favourites to pull patterns ideas out of, or even just to leaf through for inspiration.

Of course I would need a strong coffee and a shove in the right direction before I could say these things to him!

The last person I would love to meet is Tula Pink. Her designs and fabrics are a new obsession to me! I did have a brief conversation with her at the Festival of Quilts, but that was before I had actually added any of designs to my stash.

I now have my Prince Charming quilt bee blocks on the design wall waiting to be put together and the Birds and Bees quilt being quilted. I love the intricate designs, the colours and they make me smile when I working with them. I would love to know where her ideas come from, how does she start the design process... can I buy her a mug of coffee?

I can't wait to see her new line in the shops... 

Okay so there are so many only quilting peeps I would love to meet, but these guys are my top 4.

Who would you like to meet and why?

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Simple Things

At the Festival of Quilts I managed to find the Mollie Makes stand.

I love this magazine.

It is my guilt free pleasure. I run a bath after the boys are in bed, lock the door (just to be sure) and read it cover to cover. The designers and ideas are so inspirational.

I am even that sad person who has not removed the free gift so I can keep it in pristine condition!

But it wasn't the Mollie Makes subscription that I wanted - I get it from my newsagent each month because it make him giggle every time I collect it! Spreading the joy like that is worth the extra cost!

It was the new magazine The Simple Things that I had seen on Twitter that I wanted to checked out and with a 3 issues for £1 offer, who wouldn't?

Today my last of the 3 issues arrived... so will I be continuing with the subscription?


From the very first issue I was impressed. The articles are interesting and diverse - I love My City, it is like a mini escape into someone elses life...

It is chock-a-block full of such lovely things to make and do.

It has the same feel as Mollie Makes, it has the same fantastic images, layout and texture, but if I am honest, it has more substance. As I said I love Mollie Makes, but I can read it in one bubble bath. The Simple Things just lasts and lasts!

Every time I open a copy I find something new. For me, it is like taking journey out of the everyday stress of work and 3 boys without leaving my own home. It is a journey I have come to look forward to A LOT!

So after a lovely morning out in Bath visiting the Fashion Museum, I am tucked away in my room with a mug of coffee just about to start my journey into The Simple Things and wondering where I will go....

Friday, 26 October 2012

Making changes!

The last few days have been quite exciting!

Through my lovely friend Abi at Sew You - she makes amazing bunting - I discovered I could hire Janome sewing machines for a small amount each month. She gave me the contact and suggested I get in touch with them.

Up until this point I have been teaching sewing on Brother machines that I had bought when I started teaching. As you can imagine, starting a new business meant money was tight so I bought affordable, beginners machines. They have worked really well. They are hard working machines, but I ended up with 4 different machine so each learner would need support in using the machine in front of them. Bit of a pain..

So when Abi suggested the hire scheme I thought I would apply and see if I could get 5 machines of the same spec for my classes to make teaching easier.

Luckily my classes all over the county and work for Adult Education qualified me to be part of the rental scheme! So today I am expecting delivery of 5 brand new Janome machines:

The CXL301 is a gorgeous machine with computerised settings, drop needle facility and a hos tof other scrummy features!

I will also be listed on the Janome website as a tutor, so people searching for private lessons will know that they have good quality machines to work on and, of course, fabulous teaching!

So very exciting!
Ps Despite some comments made by friends 17 sewing machines is not obsessive, it means I appreciate the beauty of sewing machines........ and I am sticking with that argument! 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The plan!

It is half term week here in Gloucestershire - and most of the UK - so that means kids at home and little teaching.

I only have 2 days teaching booked in this week. Yesterday on Gloucester was a complete shambles. I turned up with all my kit and the hall was being used as a dumping ground whilst another room in the building was being carpeted. I picked my way through the crap and managed to organise a small space to welcome new learners into, but there were kids running around, music from the painters blaring and just chaos... not my idea of a safe learning environment. So we completed paperwork, set ground rules and chatted about the course objectives.

The good thing about it was that my lovely ladies were relaxed and chatted. Turns out my course gives them a reason to get out of their nighties and do something. It will be a great course with lots of giggles!

So apart from that and a couple of private lesson tomorrow this week is quiet... until I think about the planning...

Next week I start 2 new courses.

Monday is in a drop in centre for people with mental health issues. I have met them and they are a lovely bunch, but it is going to be very different. It has taken some thought to devise projects that fit their ideas - which were numerous and exciting - into lessons that are safe for all concerned. No iron, no rotary cutters and no stress...

I think I have got there, just the SOW and lesson plans to write now!

Tuesday is Gloucester again with my lovely ladies and Wednesday is Tewkesbury with my group of mum who are funny and put up with my jokes! Thursday is private lessons here.

Friday is another new group.  Another day centre, but this time working with women recently released from prison. We are going to be making patchwork and using that process to build relationships and confidence. The planning for this one has a different direction again. These learners will be inconsistent in attendance and actually staying in the class. They also have a tendency to try and remove items... a sewing machine is visible under a coat, other smaller items will need to be monitored, especially rotary cutters... so it presents another challenge.

Add to this Cubs and Beaver Scouts and you get a heady mix of ages, challenges and fun!

Would I go back to the made Christmas rush and craft fairs of last year?

No.... absolutely not. My days are varied (the paperwork stinks!) and I am challenged everyday.... might need intravenous coffee though!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Secret Stash....

My studio is not only my personal workspace, it is also my teaching space for private lessons. I have an abundance of fat quarters, upholstery weight fabrics and other supplies for sewing classes I teach here and all around the county.

But on the top shelf I have a huge basket full of the fabrics that I have squirrelled away, safe from my lovely students who are occasionally given a peek into the delights I have hidden away.

There are prints from Sweet Water:

Some Flea Market:

And this gorgeous bundle from Backstitch:

There are metres of solids, mixed with bits and bobs of fabrics that I just don't want anyone else to use...

I do get my basket down and stroke the fabrics, plotting projects, but I still haven't quite got the designs fixed in my head. Until I do there is no point in cutting into this secret stash..

I would love to see other peoples secret stash of fabrics, what do you have hidden away?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Perfecting the Design...

Last week I finished a quilt top for a special birthday present.

It is gorgeous, but huge!

I have taken the Craftsy course by Angela Walters about Quilting Negative Spaces and she suggested breaking large quilts down into sections to quilt. To be honest I was a bit sceptical about that working - I mean if I quilt certain areas and then move on to another surely the layers will bunch up?

So I sat down with the gorgeous quilt and pondered a design... and I decided that the size of it does mean I have to work in sections, so what to do?

I had already decided to do a sun ray pattern in the octagons, a swirl in the middle and wavy lines radiating out, but the negative spaces had been a bit more of a mystery...

I tried a hoop design and turned over the quilt to discover a great big crease... plus the design just didn't look right in the space... seam ripper was found...

Then I tried a large single swirl... again it didn't look right and I got a crease....I hate that bloody seam ripper...

Finally I took a break and decided on a line design in one section and swirls in another... Now I am happy!

The Tula Pink design suits the sun ray design in lilac thread.
The corners of the octagon have lines rediating out.
Sun ray in progress on the next octagon.

I had drawn everything out, but when the ideas were actually transferred to the quilt, they looked wrong... so I am machine quilting the biggest quilt yet in sections, taking care to get it as perfect as I can...

I am late with my gift already, but I am hoping the work and effort I have put into it will make up for the lateness!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A Community

I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel isolated in the creative life I am creating.

I have a serious addiction to fabric and quilts - I can talk the hind legs off a donkey about both things! I create new patterns and designs in my sleep. I simply love everything fabric...

Whilst my lovely and fabulous friends listen and nod approval in the right places, they just don't get it.... my passion for quilting and creating patchwork is a slightly oddity - one that they love in me because they get given quilts that I have been experimenting with! But they just don't get it...

For me the blogs of the quilting community are as close as I get to 'talking' to other people with the same passion...that and Twitter!

Blogs that I follow - I have around 40 on my favourites list - are a link to other people who are just as potty about fabrics and quilts as I am. They are inspiring, informative and down right gorgeous...

They are my quilting bee!

The lovely quilters who write the blogs will probably never know that they provide a creative life line that allows me to explore ideas, learn new techniques and just feel part of a community....

There are a few I love: I'm a Ginger Monkey, Quilting is my Therapy and Stitched in Color to name 3, but I have found a couple more this week that could become firm favourites:

Live a Colorful Life is a fabulous mix of quilts, book reviews and life. It is bright a bold and I love that. The bi line 'selvaging my sanity... one stitch as a time' describes exactly how I feel!

Another fabulous blog, Handmade by Alissa is a blog all about modern quilting. There are some amazing photos of fabulous modern quilts. I love the clean lines and the negative spaces. Negative spaces are a new thing to me and I love them!

The last blog is by Angela Yosten. Again it is a mix of quilts, techniques and life. It is  full of gorgeous photos and I am a sucker for photos of quilts, fabric, cake.....

I hope you enjoy exploring the blogs... let me know if you have any I could check out!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Show me the orange!

Autumn/Fall is getting into it's stride in the UK, the leaves are changing colour, the wind is blowing (it actually does that all year!) and the nights are getting darker. Perfect for sewing and quilting!

Snuggling up under a quilt to work on my Hexy MF is a real treat!

At the moment I am working flat out on a quilt for a lovely friend - can't show it yet though! I managed to get the layers pinned together and start quilting last night, but it has a long way to go!

The dark nights have also got me looking around at blogs and online shops. I want to save the blog for tomorrow because I think Sunday morning is perfect for lazing in bed with a cuppa and reading other quilters adventures.

Whilst browsing through the online shops I have noticed I am drawn to a new colour - orange!

For me that is quite unusual... I am not traditional fabric girl, but the desire to fill my stash with gorgeous oranges is totally new!

So I thought I would share some of my favourites:

Lucys' Crab Shack from Fat Quarter Shop


I love Lucy's Crab Shack range and the orange palette is just gorgeous!

Small Chevrons from Pink Castle Fabrics

I am quite late getting on the Chevron band waggon but I am finding it hard to resist the temptation to own this one... combined with some circles:

Metro Living Circles from Pink Castle Fabrics
They are just yummy....
Ruta in Poppy from M is for Make
I love the closeness of the lines on this one.. the kinda haphazard way the pattern is put together!
Sketch from Backstitch
I saw the sketch range at Alice's stall at Festival Of Quilts and they are so funky! This Tangerine was so bright and beautiful!
Twist by Lu Summers

I have this gorgeous Twist in my Hexy MF project as the flower centres. It is stunning.

So.... I have gone a bit orange mad in my online wish list shopping.... and did you know they look really good with turquoise?

Friday, 19 October 2012

Getting all Scrappy!

I am having so much fun making the Snowball quilt top for my lovely friends birthday - not quite going to be able to deliver the quilt for her actual birthday, which I hope she will understand!

It is coming together so well and looks so pretty...

The only problems is the triangles you have to take out of the corners of the block. Tula Pink's designs are scrummy and every single piece of her fabulous fabric is precious... so I have been collecting the triangles in a bag.

I have been planning a new quilt in my sleep and taking inspiration from a quilt in the fabulous Sunday Morning Quilts book:

This book is solely responsible for me now refusing to throw out any fabric at all! I have stashing of colours slowly building to make gorgeous scrap quilts!

The quilt I am taking inspiration from is the Ticker Tape quilt:

No obviously scraps are all triangles, which means I can play around with designs. The idea that has stuck with me is a flying trail of triangles:

Please excuse the none ironed background fabric - I lay out between sewing classes yesterday!

It is a quilt as you go project - attaching the triangles to a quilt sandwich which will make a quick ish project! The question is the backing.... waiting for teaching and supplies invoices to be paid means I am slightly broke, so the backing needs to come out of my stash... I have found the like light brown that I thing goes with the greens and purples of the triangles..

What do you think? Have you ever backed a quilt in brown?