Monday, 23 November 2015

My Antique Quilt

On my recent visit to Houston for the quilt festival, I happened by a stall called Mulberrry Lane Quilts covered in a stunning array of antique quilts.
I couldn't resist pausing, and underneath a pile of gorgeous quilts I found my new favourite thing - my now named 'Houston Scrappy Quilt'! It was love at first sight - and I really couldn't resist!

Very little is known about my new acquisition! It was delivered in a battered suitcase by a man to Mulberry Lane Quilts at a show in a sorry state. He thought it was made by his great Aunt - but didnt know any more. Carol - the antique quilt guru - thinks the fabrics used date it to about 1920 with some being older than that. This suggests that much of the fabric was preworn.

Those lovely guys at Mulberry Quilts worked their magic on what sounded like a stinky, grubby  bundle with their special cleaning and preserving process, and brought forth this gorgeous crisp clean quilt that looks almost brand new. It shows its age in some places, with some wear to the binding, and one of the fabrics in particular has not fared too well. But then I don't expect that I will be looking so so wrinkle free once I am nearly 100 years old!
 A bit of binding damage - though this appears to be single layer binding rather than the double we often use so it will alway be subject to more wear and tear.

Slight damage on some of the blocks - but this just makes me love it even more!

This is completely hand made - and the stitches are so delicate. It is all hand pieced and hand quilted - and when I look at the quality of these stitches I get a little catch in my throat. Thinking of the time and care that went into these stitches all those years ago - and now they have made their way into my home. It is a shame that this unknown person put all that care into this piece of work but never signed it. Did they think that this was 'just' a quilt, that it wasn't important? They probably never imagined that it would last long after they were gone, or that it would travel half way around the world. Though to be fair, if it were signed and dated I probably couldnt have afforded it.

 The block design is so simple, and yet so delicious!

Detail of the hand quilting in the sashing. It is very faint because it is white thread on white fabric but it is so neat!!!!

I have plans for this quilt - I want to make a replica in modern fabrics and you will probably see it on a future Create and Craft show! Who knows what the next stage of this amazing quilt will hold!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Keeping Busy and Out of Trouble!

I feel really guilty that I have missed posting in September and October completely! Where does the time go?

Well it has been busy! The biggest thing since my last post was my trip to Houston, Texas for Quilt Market followed by The International Quilt Show. My what a feast!

So that was almost 10 days of quilty loveliness.

I hope to share a few pictures as the weeks go by. But here is a little taste of Houston!

Between the two shows I had a day to myself - and so I took a cab across town to NASA Johnson Space Centre. For a science geek like me it was AWESOME! This is the obligatory space shuttle selfie - and Yes, that's really really big!!!!

Of course I balanced it out with a trip to HobbyLobby on the way back for a bit of a fabric fix!

I see 2 new dresses in my future!

I was very lucky with the weather that day because it was the only time I really saw the sun. A hurricane on my first weekend and tornadoes on my second meant that my game attempts at keeping dry with a brolly nearly resulted in a comedy 'Mary Poppins moment' so I just put up with the frizzy hair and soggy clothing and got on with it!

But the quilts more than made up for it. There were stunning things to look at as far as the eye could see! This one was one of my favourites. It is called Bouquet of Hearts by Dora Tovar Pachnowski from Lack Jackson, Texas. It is hand appliqued and all the parts  are made up of heart motifs. I loved it! The picture really doesn't do it justice.

Here is a closer picture showing a bit more detail - including the lovely free motion feathers in the blue border. Stunning!
Another quilt I loved was this quilt called Landstriche - Swaths of Land by Brigitte Morgenroth from Kassel in Germany. The clever use of colours takes the humble log cabin to new heights! How very clever.

I will keep sharing more pictures that I took during my trip - and hopefully you will enjoy looking at them as much as I did! 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Events just keep coming!

Once I sold the shop I really wasn't sure whether work was going to flow to my door, or form a small puddle at the end of the garden. As it turned out, it came gushing forth in a way that was both exciting and terrifying . It is gratifying to know that all those hours sewing and working silly hours was going to pay off. Now I finally get to live my dream - teach all over the place!

So the first big event I have attended this year was the Festival of Quilts where I was demonstrating a fantastic new range of fabric cutting dies created by the amazing papercrafting company Tattered Lace. This new range of Linen & Lace deep dish dies are certainly making an impact, and I have had a brilliant time introducing them to quilters at the NEC. I hope to be able to show more of you at the WI Centenary Fair in Harrogate in September and through shows on Create & Craft.

I will also be paying a return visit to Harrogate in October when I am thrilled to be invited to teach workshops for the Great Create show. This is the Fully Kitted English Paper Piecing Pincushion I will be teaching on Friday 2nd October at 11.30am - 1pm & 1.30pm til 3pm. So if you fancy giving EPP a try without the hassle, then book a place and enjoy a bit of light sewing!

I will also be teaching my Vintage Button Brooch workshop at 9.30am - 11.00am on the same day - so there will be much dashing around between sessions. Again the class is fully kitted, so you don't need to worry about bringing anything with you - except your creativity!

I also have a few more classes coming up at Bee Crafty - with my simple Machine Embroidered bag class on Saturday 22nd August.

You could also join me on this fun Freeform Class on Friday 16th October where you will learn design techniques to help you create your own free form quilt designs.

So as you can see there is plenty there to keep me busy :)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

English Paper Piecing Tutorial

I have really got into hand sewing in general over the past few years, and now I am totally in love with English Paper piecing.

A traditional type of quilting that is certainly making a come back - EPP is often a starting point for new stitchers because it is simple and extremely portable. A pile of hexagons or diamonds stuffed in a plastic folder take up no space at all in a travel bag - and is my holiday project of choice! In fact - it makes me a far more sociable stitcher even at home because I can stitch in front of the TV instead of tucked away in my sewing room.

This is a tutorial to make a small block which you can then turn into a pin cushion. You can omit the last stage and simply applique it onto a background and use it as a block!

It is a fabulous way of using up all those scraps - and this little lot is all made with left over Tilda bits and pieces. Why waste a single inch???

  • 19 paper hexagons
  • 6 inch square of fabric for pin cushion backing
  • Scraps of coordinating fabric (4 x 5 inch squares from Spring Lake Tilda Charm pack were used for this sample)
  • Handful of stuffing
  • Threads – contrasting for basting and a matching thread for sewing together
  • Needle
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Paperclip

Make the hexagons

You can buy precut paper pieces or cut your own from recycled paper. Cut your fabric pieces at least ¼ inch larger on all sides than the paper piece. This extra fabric will be folded over the paper pieces to make a hexagon exactly the same size (see Fig 1).

 Next, baste your fabric around the paper. Use a paperclip to keep the first fold in place and then gently fold the fabric edge over the paper template. (fig 2)

Tie a big knot in the end of a contrasting thread (so you can easily see to remove it later) and place a stitch on the fold. Keep the thread taut as you stitch the corners – you want to keep the fabric tight to the template. (See fig 3). You can buy fabric glue sticks that remove the need for stitching but I don't really have any experience of these.

 Continue folding and stitching all the way around your hexagon until all the sides are secured. Fig 4

  Baste 19 hexagons in total and lay them out as shown in figure 5

 Now you are ready to begin sewing the shapes together. Take two hexagons and put them right sides together. Then, using a small whip-stitch in a matching thread, sew the pieces together. Be careful to just catch the very edge of each fabric piece with your needle. You don’t want to sew through the paper templates.

Continue sewing all the hexagons together, one seam at a time. The stitches should not be visible from the front (fig 7).

 Once you have sewn all the hexagons together, press the blocks to set them in place. Carefully remove the basting stitches and take out the papers to use again. 

Pin Cushion

To turn your block into a pin cushion, place the block and the backing fabric right sides together. Do not trim the backing fabric yet. Sew all the way round the block (a sewing machine will stitch a good strong seam).  The trim the backing to be slightly larger than the hexagon block (fig 8).
Cut a small hole in the centre of the backing fabric and turn the whole thing through the hole. Poke out the corners and press again. Stuff, and stitch the hole up. Now add pins!

EPP as blocks

These are all hexagon and 60 degree diamond templates appliqued onto a backing fabric so that they can be used on a variety of different projects. They would make stunning quilt blocks or bordered to make larger cushions.

Start now and you will have a fine stash of them to give away for Christmas presents - all made with the little bits we would normally throw away!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Quilters Tape - what do I need it for?

There are lots of products on the market set out to trap us unwary quilters into parting with our hard earned cash, only to sit in our sewing box for ever! After a while we get a little savy and begin to ask the question - What do I need it for? Quilters tape is one of those items! So you may ask, why do I need 1/4 wide masking tape? As a question I am often asked - I thought I would just tell you one reason why I use it!

I find it perfect for marking out quilting lines when I don't have a marker handy, or I am afraid to mark the fabric. Here I have used it to make a 1/2 inch 'echo' line around the inside of the block (where you echo an existing line - in this case, the seam). I have also marked a diagonal line from one side of the square to the other. While I am confident to 'eyeball' 1/2 inch from a seam, a large diagonal space can be tricky - so I take no chances.

This is low tack tape so it wont distort your fabric when you remove it. You can even sew over it a little bit and it still safely puts away (though don't get too carried away :) )

This is what it looks like once the tape is removed. So easy and so effective!

So next time someone asks you what you can do with quilters tape - you have at least 1 answer :)

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

What's in a Wadding?

Increasingly, people are asking me about wadding! It is an integral part of quilting - and can really affect the resulting quilt.

As it happens I am presenting a show on wadding/batting for the US Create & Craft channel - so I thought I would share my thoughts. By the way - what we call wadding is known as batting across the pond - the two terms are interchangeable!

Question - what do the different methods of processing mean?

Needle Punching

  • This is where fibres are needle punched or dry felted together to create uniform layers that are strongly fused and creates a soft drape.
  • The more the fibres are punched together, the denser the resulting wadding.
  • Needle punched wadding requires very close quilting - often with stitching no further than about 4 inches apart.
  • The needle punched fibres are easy to glide a needle through ad so is perfect for the hand quilting enthusiast.

Needle Punching with Scrim

  • Scrim is a lightweight sheet of stabiliser that is needle punched into the wadding as it is formed.
  • It adds strength and durability, and supports the final item when it is washed after completion. 
  • This stability also allows for quilting much further apart, allowing stitching lines 8 - 10 inches apart. 

Thermal Bonding

  • Thermal bonding is used for fibres like polyester or wool. Needle punching for these fibres can cause fibre migration (or bearding) where the finished wadding has a 'fuzz' and can easily show through the resulting quilt.
  • Thermal bonding is where a small amount of 'low melt' polyester is mixed in with the wadding fibres and then passed through a warm oven to melt them together.
  • Thermally bonded polyester has a higher loft (height) and is very light weight and 'poofy'! This can add real dimension to the quilting and adds real definition.
  • Thermal bonding in high loft wadding often requires a stitched area of 4".

Question - Should I pre-shrink?

  • Some wadding will shrink depending on the fibre content - and this is usually noted on the packaging so make sure you keep a note once you have removed it from the packaging.
  • 100% cotton & cotton blends tend to shrink the most. This can be used to create the 'antique' look that many quilters desire by washing AFTER the quilt has been completed.
  • If you do not want to achieve this affect, you should pre-shrink.To pre-shrink your wadding, submerge in warm water (not hot) and soak for 20 minutes. Gently squeeze out excess water by rolling it in a dry towel. Be careful as wet wadding is very fragile. To dry your wadding, lay it flat or put in a warm dryer for a short time. 

Question - What are the different varieties of wadding and when are they best used?


Polyester has many advantages for the quilter:
  • It is lightweight and durable - it will spring back into shape no matter how many times it is washed.
  • Washable by hand or by machine.
  • It is good for those with allergies because there are no allergens in it.
  • Inexpensive and available in a wide range of lofts & thicknesses.
  • Higher loft wadding are great for showing quilt stitch definition.
  • Bags and items of haberdashery that are used often.
  • All items that require frequent washing.
  • Good thermal properties so great for cold weather quilts!
  • Children's play mats - though not recommended for babies (you should only use 100% cotton for baby quilts)

100% Cotton

This is a firm favourite with quilters who like the antique/heirloom look and the pleasure of working with pure cotton. It has been used since the earliest days of quilting and is still hugely popular today.
  • It is soft and can be quilted with a lot of detail. 
  • Washable by hand or machine (on a cool wash).
  • Great for hand quilting.
  • Cotton wont melt if you put a hot pan on it, so is great for table runners, place mats etc.
  • Thin and low loft
  • Breathable
  • Ideal for giving your quilt that heirloom look, as it shrinks (about 3%-5%) and wrinkles the first time you wash it.
Perfect for:
  • Heirloom quilts.
  • Summer quilts as it is light and breathable.
  • Competition quilts

Cotton/polyester blend

This is the best of both worlds!
  • The light low loft feel and breathability of cotton with the durability and safe washing of polyester.
  • Popular blends are 80% cotton/20% polyester and 60%cotton/40% polyester.
  • A blended material is a good choice for quilters who are unsure which batting is the best for their quilts. Cotton and polyester blend batting is typically less expensive than pure cotton but pricier than completely polyester products.
  • Just about anything!


  • Wool is the warmest of the waddings on the market and is the best choice for quilts which are used in damp and cool climates as they are able to absorb moisture.
  • It is too warm for Spring and Summer use.
  • Wool is popular with both hand and machine quilters.
  • It is lightweight and retains it's loft though out the life of the quilt - making it popular with art quilters.
  • It can attract moths if not stored correctly.
  • It can be tricky to wash - and should NEVER be tumble dried!
  • It is a pricey option!

There are other waddings available on the market - including bamboo and silk. Eventually, the choice of wadding is personal. It can be based on how you plan to use the finished quilt, how you want to quilt it, what look you want it to have or how much money you can afford to spend.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Change is Good... I think!

Sometimes change is looking into a big scary abyss with no idea where we are heading. Sometimes it is a leap of faith where you screw up your eyes, your courage, and then simply jump. Other times it is a more considered decision when you know that it is time to move on to pastures new.

My journey into change is the third one! I have loved the 4 years I have spent with Julie building up Bee Crafty from nothing into a thriving business that brings a lot to the community. Julie is going to continue with the same ethos that has made Bee Crafty so popular, but it is time for me to leap!

For me there are new challenges on the horizon. I will continue to teach my workshops at Bee Crafty, as well as being freed up to teach anywhere else where people want me :) My shows on Create & Craft continue to grow in popularity, and I am now a regular on the US channel, and a demonstrator for Jo Ann Craft & Fabric and Craft stores in the US. It also gives me time to work on my book as well as take a sneaky trip to the US to teach if the need arises (Paul has kindly offered to carry my luggage!) So staff rotas and VAT returns will no longer be on my list - new quilt designs and teaching will be!

Fingers crossed that this change will be one of the best!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Star Wars Day

If you are on FaceBook or just about anywhere, it can't have passed your attention that Monday was Stars Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you). As a dyed in the wool sci - fi fan, I was thrilled at the plethora of TV shows and articles about one of my favourite genres - but I was even more pleased that my first foray into the world of Jo Ann Fabric & Craft stores as their newest demonstrator on Create & Craft in the US was based around my two favourite things - fabric & science fiction. A whole show based around Star Wars Fabric!!!!! I was a happy bunny/Ewok!

I even got my very own Star Wars Style opener! I really rather like the title of Galactic Overlord :)

 The set dressers went all out with the theme! Only a couple of the figures were mine - there rest belong to the crew. I think they were as excited as I was :)
I made a mistake - I claimed the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel run in 6 parsecs - when in fact it was 12! But things always seemed faster when you were younger, and I don't think Hans Solo would mind :)
Don't worry - there are pictures of fabric etc at the end. 
So with all these lovely fabrics to play with, I couldn't resist running up a couple of 'samples' for myself - all in the name of research of course! The tote bag is just the right size to carry my long ruler, and the front pockets are perfect for a rotary cutter and scissors!
I also made a little zipped bag and a storage basket for good measure. One really should try these products out!!!!!!
I have had some requests for tutorials for these, because there wasn't time on the show - so over the next few weeks I will try to find a little time to sit down and write something!

Here is my existing Star Wars stash (nearly enough for a quilt... for ME!) - which will now find a new home in the flannel black & white Star Wars box I made. It's like I planned it! 

Monday, 27 April 2015

Fun with colours

In December our City & Guilds level 2 group got together for a messy weekend. Basically we played about with dyes for two days and a great deal of fun was had by all.

It's taken some time but I've managed to get all of my samples into my book, so I thought I'd share a few pictures.

The page on the left is using transfer paints onto paper using items like keys and doillies as a resist.
The pieces on the right are using silk paints and experimenting with gutta, wax as a resist and a bit of salt to move the paint around!
Left - playing with bleach. Right - transfer paper 
Right - discharge paste 
Left - tray dying. Right - batik dying with wax. 
Tray & bag dying. Lots if fun. 

It was huge fun and I cant wait to get started sewing with it :) 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Twisted 4 patch tutorial

I love to share simple patterns that make beginners look really good! So quilt designs that look tricky but that are really simple to make fit the bill perfectly.
Here is one that is fast, fun and will make everyone who sees it go "wow, did you make this?"
It a variation on the twisted 9 patch and so I have called it the twisted 4 patch. It is a great pattern to use for fabrics with bold designs because the patches can be left quite large to show them off.

Like the 9 patch, it works for any size pieces as long as they are all the same size and they are all square. This sample uses 8 1/2 inch squares because you can easily get 4 of them out of a fat 1/4. 

Step 1
For each block cut 4 squares measuring 8 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches. Press the seams in opposite directions so you can lock the seams together at the intersection. Sew them into a 4 patch and press.

Step 2
Now you need to cut apart your blocks again! Measure 2 inches from the centre line and cut from top to bottom.

Rotate the blocks and repeat until you have cut the 4 squares into 9 blocks. Now you should have something that looks like this!
Step 3 - Rotate!  Now the fun part starts. When making multiple blocks I like to make sure that I rotate each block in exactly the same way to ensure continuity of design.
  • Centre block - rotate by 180 degress.
  • Swap the top and bottom rectangles over.
  • Swap the left and right rectangles over.
  • Leave the large squares in place
You now have a new 9 patch layout that looks like the image below.

Sew the rows together, and then the 3 strips together.
Now you have a new block! Great fun and simple to make.


To make a small quilt top (30 inches square) you will make 4 of these with 4 fat quarters.  It's great fun and so simple.  I hope you have fun and if you make it please Facebook me pictures.