Wednesday, 13 September 2017

All about Quilting - on a USB!

So 2017 has been a busy year, with my trip to Nepal in April and a hugely successful stand at the 2017 Festival of Quilts. I have had 2 cover booklets with Quilt Now magazine, and now I am preparing to launch my own Quilting USB! I could not be more excited!

So what is this I hear you cry?

Well I have been working with THREADS inkjet printable fabrics for nearly a year now, and what fun we have been having. This amazing product allows you to print onto top quality fabrics from your home machine. It is simply amazing stuff, and it is available in 7different fabrics (4 silk options and 3 cotton options). For me, it has really been about the Cotton Poplin, and I was just desperate to make a quilt with it. So when THREADS approached me about making a USB introducing people to the joys of designing your own fabrics at home, I couldn't resist it!

And so here we are, after a couple of months of hard graft, waiting for the launch of the THREADS inkjet printable fabrics - Designer Series USB - Introduction to Quilting with Sarah Payne. I know it sounds a bit of a mouthful, but it is the first in the Designer Series, and I am the designer :) 

So this USB will be launching on Create an Craft this Saturday (16th September) at 2pm (times subject to change etc!) with a 1 hour show so I can show you what we have to offer you!

There will be many printable elements and how-to-videos including:

100 printable background designs (to create bespoke fabric with different colourways), hand-chosen and curated by me.
8 printable templates

  • 4 sizes of square and 4 sizes of right angle triangle shapes in which to create a multitude of quilt blocks

Step-by-step instructions of how to make quilting projects (lap quilts, table runners, cushions).
Printouts of sewing instructions for all 20 blocks as PDFs
20 different alternative quilt layouts for your blocks
A4 paper size and US letter size templates
Video tutorials (over 2 hours with me in your sewing room!):

  • How to print onto THREADS inkjet printable fabrics
  • Washing demo
  • How to put together blocks
  • ‘Quilt as you go’ technique
  • Layering and quilting – with different examples of quilting
  • Binding
  • Finishing a block as a cushion
  • How to make a table runner

So there is lots to watch, print out and to learn! This has been a real label of love, and I am hugely excited and cant wait to share it all with you. 
Here are some sneaky pics!

Vintage style rose cushion
Birds of Paradise quilt - using the flamingo, toucan and hummingbird fabrics
A selection of projects from the USB
All of these items have been created using just 2 shapes - squares and triangles in 4 different sizes. You can download them from the USB as templates, or use a rotary cutter and ruler to cut them. The fabrics are all printed from the 100 designs on the USB, and you can add personal photographs to your projects too (like I have with the Zoo cushion in the last image). So please tune in on Saturday and take a look!

You can find us on:
  • Sky 674
  • Freeview 23
  • Virgin 748
  • Freesat 813
  • Apple TV
  • Amazon Fire

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Reaching Poon Hill and heading down again!

Here is part two of my Nepalese adventure - now almost 2 months ago but still very present in my memory!

7th April - Poon Hill
So today we go up to the highest point of our trek. An early rise at 3.30am was planned - and partly executed until torrential rain sent us all back to bed for an hour. There was no point climbing up for sunrise if the sun wasn't planning to make an appearance! As it was, the gods smiled on us and the rain abated so off we trotted about 5am, with what seemed like an army of climbers, up the steep narrow path with nothing but our head torches to light our way. This seemed the hardest part so far, and I was devastated when about 15 minutes in Deborah was struggling to breath and decided to head down again. I was torn - should I descend with my friend and not make it to the top, or leave her in the capable hands of our guides and struggle upwards. When she threatened me with physical violence if I didn't make it to the top, my mind was made up. I would do it for both of us. So in the cold, dark, wet early morning I just put one foot in front of the other and tried not the think about what the altitude seemed to be doing to me. 3210m is high - especially for a Fenland Frog (as Damon our guide named us both!) Training for altitude is impossible when you live on the edge of the Fens and a speed bump is the highest point for miles around. But with the encouragement of Caroline and Mark, (otherwise forever know as " 1 More Hill Mark!) I kept going to the top. We made it just before 6am, and I have to say it was very emotional. Even more so when I said to one of my fellow trekkers that I was gutted for Deborah - and she said "don't be - Damon went back for her". I ran to the edge and there she was. My sidechick! We had made it. Just thinking It makes me cry even now, sitting at home in the warm with a nice cup of tea and access to flushing toilets!
So that might go some way to explaining the next couple of video clips. I just couldn't stop crying! But I made sure I took a bit of sewing with me! (I hope the links open up in YouTube as they are too big for my blog software!)

And here is the picture to prove we did it. I am so proud of all of us - including the 3 who didn't quite make it to the top. You were with us in this picture. Well Done Dream Challenges!

Then we started downwards again. We had 'peaked', though if I thought this was going to be easier I was completely wrong. We walked down 2000 m in 7 hrs, and I really wished I was dead. My feet were well and truly ruined, and I think I spent the last few hours of the ordeal quietly crying to myself. Irregular, steep, slippery, relentless steps for hours and hours are enough to dampen any humour. The hail didn't help!

One of the Sherpas actually held my hand for last 1/2 hour because I was physically done in - well and truly. My feet were shredded and my ankle was in pretty poor shape. The steps of Ghorepani are famous - or infamous - and we passed many who were going UP them. I am really not sure which way is worse!
Here he is - once I stopped crying!
Im not sure that smile reaches my eyes!
That night in the camp at Tirkedunga we improved our mood by adding gin, crisps and chocolate. We had certainly earned it!

A Nepalese Diet!

Dr Mark took a look at the offending ankle and diagnosed ligament damage (Tibialis Posterion Tendonitius with the lateral collateral ligament inflames) All I know is that it bloody hurt! But there is not much that can be done apart from compress, ice (or a bucket of cold water) and heaps of pain relief (which doesn't do much for the tummy!). Irena played mum and oversaw the Sherpas filling a big bucket with cold water - they found it hilarious! 

Limping constantly was given me a wonky gait and so the other foot is now a mass of blisters. Oh joy! I felt so rough that I decided to skip dinner and go straight to bed. The only problem with that was that our support staff were concerned about me, so kept checking on me every few minutes! This was very kind, but the bedroom door opens onto, well, the open, so it's chilly if you don't close it. And door handles are unknown - so you either bolt it from the inside (meaning Deborah can't get in) or you wedge it shut with a walking pole. This means every kindhearted visitor dislodges the pole when they check on you, and you have to get out of your warm snugly sleeping bag, walk across the cold concrete floor on feet that want to kill you, and wedge it closed again. Patience was really starting to wear thin.

8th April 
This is the day we walked out! There was a real sense of having achieved something monumental that day. We would be walking through the foot hills, at a much gentler altitude so the problems we may have had with breathing were gone. The weather was beautiful, the pace slower and the scenery stunning. We even had time to stop and paddle in the Bhurungdi River. I was very conscious of this being an ending of a very long journey that started back in 2016 when this was a germ of an idea, and I felt a little sad - though I was keen to be reminded of what a hot shower and a flushing toilet looked like! As we left Annapurna conservation area I knew that this was one of those adventures that changes you, and that this really was a dream challenge. Despite everything, I was walking out!

Walking out again!

So there you have it. The full tale of a (not quite so) fat bird climbing a mountain. But I didn't do it alone. Our guides and Sherpas were amazing - with Damon teasing us as Fenland Frogs, and Dawa keeping the juggernaut of our trek moving on. Caroline and Mark for their support (and to Mark for being a knight in shining armour and carrying my stuff as I had my snotty meltdown), for Jenny and Andy checking on me at every stop after they saw how hard I found it on the Malvern training trek. To Jenny and Ann for their conviction that I could do it, even when I wasn't sure I could. To Lin and Brigitte for putting up with my snoring (snoring is amplified at altitude and I think I made the earth move!). To Kathy for making me laugh so hard I nearly weed myself at the German Bakery! To Irena for bathing my poor ruined feet and generally being my mum - and her husband Iain for keeping us on track the day we thought we were lost. To all of those on the trek that made us laugh, or just kept each other going in some pretty rubbish moments. 
Most of all to Deborah - who's strength and good humour kept me going when I felt mine might desert me. Even before I went, when I had wobbles of apprehension, and personal stuff nearly got in the way, she never let me give up, and wouldn't accept that I couldn't do it. We did it Sidechick xxx!

We did it Sidechick!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Sampler exhibition in Cambridge

Having some time off on a Bank holiday weekend is a thing of pleasure.  So when I get one I like to make the most of it, especially when the weather promises to be good. Never one to miss out on a good exhibition I bundled Paul into my little Fiat with the promise of lunch and a beer and we headed south to Cambridge. My friend Patr had mentioned an exhibition of Samplers at the Fitzwilliam museum so I just had to check it out.

I have to say it was well worth the stress (and fee) of parking. There were over a hundred embroidered samplers from the museum's collection. There is a great selection from the 1600s onwards,  with interesting notes on styles, meaning and historical context.

Early samplers were worked in bands.
This whitework band sampler is dated 1663 and has the initials 'DB' embroidered on it. Who was DB I wonder?

Here is some of the needlelace cutwork on the sampler. There is a supply of magnifying glasses in the exhibition so you can really get up close to the detail. Samplers were usually worked by girls and young ladies. What skills!
By the 18th century, girls were encouraged to display their numeracy and literacy by including it in their designs.
 This one was dated 1802 and is worked by Mary Ann Crouzet as stated at the top of the piece. This is all done in cross stitch and includes a small amount of gold thread too. The work is exquisite.

I loved the pieces with motifs in it.
This was created by 15 year old Sarah Williamson in 1795. I would have been thrilled to have created something of such beauty at that age.
Not all the pieces were traditional wall hangings. There are a couple of bags included too.
This one is beautifully beaded and doesn't look 380 years old! 

Another stunning bag from the 17th century. 
A stunning pocket sampler from 1844 by Sarah Roberts.

Here are a few more pics.
Susanna Gellett in 1800.

Dorcas Haynes in 1720
M Quertier in 1799.
There was a very touching line in the notes on the wall. "For many a woman of the past, the sampler that she stitched in her youth is often the only record if her existance."  Very poignant. 

This is just a little taste of the wonders there are on display. If you get the chance, then pay it a visit before it finished in 2018.

Monday, 22 May 2017

A bit of retail therapy at the Malvern Quilt show

Well it has been a busy time since I got back from Nepal, with shows, magazine deadlines and a whistle-stop tour of Rome with my Dad. I got back on Friday, with a show on Saturday and Sunday was a day off (at last). So what did I do? I dragged a compliant Paul halfway across the country to a quilt show. Of course I did!

So a bit of retail therapy was the order of the day. I spend so much time creating samples for others that it is nice to simply get something gorgeous for me. Goodness knows when I will get around to making them - Paul was horrified when I went to about 4 different stands and said "yes, I have that but haven't made it yet!". I explained UFOs and PHDs and left it at that :)

So what did I buy?
Well my first stop is always to the stand of Kim Porter of Worn and Washed. I adore the feel of her pre-loved fabric, and she has moved into Liberty fabrics now too. So I treated myself to a Liberty cushion kit which will eventually make it's way into my Summerhouse. It's just gorgeous.

Then I brought a pattern by the phenomenal Maggie Davies - the queen of Applique! This is all hand appliqued and is another one for the holiday pile - or the 'soon to retire' pile. I love the delicate florals and the scrolls so it just had to find it's way into my basket!

Finally my love of Japanese fabrics forced to me get the "Takara" style patchwork and applique cushion kit from Euro Japan Links. Every time I see their stand one of their kits makes it into my shopping bag - and this one is just champion! I am going to hand quilt the finished cushion with the Sashiko thread once it is all sewn together. Sashiko is a decorative reinforment stitch from Japan that is simple but beautifully effective. If you haven't discovered it yet, take a look at the work of Susan Briscoe for inspiration.

So with my purchase clutched in my happy little hands I headed over to look at the quilts. The quilt entries were  beautiful, and well worth a browse through. A highlight was the quilt by my friend Moira Neal who just takes free motion embroidery to another level!

 It was tricky to get close to it with the throng of admirers gathered around it.

She won first prize, the fabric painting award AND won the overall championship too! Well done and well deserved!

This one was called "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and won a plethora of awards, including the rosette for Best Hand Appliqued quilt. Well Deserved I think. I didn't have a show guide so I am afraid I don't know who it was by, but I loved it! And the work that went into it is just mind boggling!
So a day looking at quilts - with a 4 1/2 hour round trip by car. Probably my favourite way to spend a Sunday!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

I quilt because it's cheaper than therapy!

2016 felt like it was a tough year around the world. The rise in hate, what looks like political chaos in places we previously thought were stable, the loss of so many innocent lives in Syria, and the deaths of many of our childhood heros has made it difficult to see the brighter side of life. I reminded myself that I am extremely lucky, and that my 2016 was professionally and personally a cracker, but no woman is an island, and some things hit me hard. The biggest sadness was the loss of a huge inspiration in my childhood!

Princess Leia may have been a gun toting girl in a sci-fi movie with mad hair and no bra, but to me she was a revelation. I was born at the beginning of the 70s, so the release of the first movie "A New Hope" passed me by at the time, but by the time the later movies came out with the "Empire Strikes back2 in 1980 and "Return of the Jedi" in 1983 I was old enough to understand the games we played in the school yard had a new bad ass girl in town. As a girl with brothers, early games with boys involved me needing to be rescued, and sitting quietly awaiting my freedom, or screaming/simpering for some knight/prince/cowboy to spring into view and save the day. After Leia, this was no longer the case. The princess didn't need saving - in fact, she saved the boys! Who can forget " Someone has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, fly boy" when Luke attempts a poorly planned rescue. No meek and mild, whimpering 'girl' there. She was the first bad ass chick who showed me that girls didn't need to wait to be saved, we could save ourselves quite well thank you! Since that first revelation, I have been a huge fan of Star Wars, and Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher, and so I was deeply concerned when I heard that she had suffered a heart attack on board a flight. I had just started listening to her audio book "The Princess Diarist", and if it were possible, I was even more in love with this woman than before. The woman was more than the princess - she dealt with so much in her life but remained brave, outspoken and positive throughout it all. So I kept my fingers firmly crossed. Surely a year that had already taken so many inspiring people couldn't take this feisty, strong woman too - we needed her 'hope' more than ever. But it did! And I cried! Like a baby!

So that day I did what I always do to deal with pain, I got my sewing out. This was a quilt that I started making for myself a couple of years ago because I was doing a TV show on Star Wars Day (May 4th) for Create and Craft US. I had finished the top, and showed it on air, but not got round to quilting it. So I started on the day we lost Carrie Fisher. I decided that I wanted to do more than stitch in the ditch, because I was quilting this for someone special. I was quilting it for Princess Leia, for Carrie Fisher, for the girl I was when I first discovered that girls could be strong, tough and brave, that they could be the hero, the general, the powerhouse, and that we could do anything we wanted to do! I wanted this to feel special.

So I put "A New Hope" on the DVD and I quilted, late into the night and through the next day. I used a melon template to mark the quilting lines and I used the knee lift on my machine to help manoeuvre the walking foot around the curves. It felt good. I was doing something practical and I think that helps sooth the soul. The death of Carrie's mother Debbie Reynolds the next day pinched my heart again as I finished this quilt.
Quilting with a melon shape

Now the Binding is on, and the quilt is finally completed. There is no secret that today is Star Wras day around the world, so this post seems perfect timing! (#HappyStarWarsDay)

Turned 9 patch Star Wars quilt
Here it is, and I feel sad, proud, and hopeful when I look at it. Star Wars may be a movie, and life isn't like the movies, but it is a tale of a small group of individuals changing the universe through Hope, Love and Bravery. This is a message we need more of, and she is still a shining light talking to that little girl in Shepton Mallet, who would learn she could be a bad ass too!

So next time anyone disrespects me, I'll stick out my chin and say "why you stuck-up half-witted scruffy-looking nerf-herder" . RIP Carrie Fisher - your legacy lives on!

Friday, 21 April 2017

All fired up on Snickers and Spam

I have returned and am getting back to normal after my Nepal adventure. Flushing toilets and a hot shower are still things that fill my heart with a simple joy - but I am sure that will dissipate soon enough :) I tried to post while I was in the Himalyas, but intermittent electricity supplies and very limited wi-fi often put paid to that. So I wrote many of my thoughts down on paper. So I have taken a moment to collate them into this post with a couple of snaps to go with it! Warning that this will be quite a long post, but there is plenty more to come!

Crikey that was hard! Sometimes we want to challenge ourselves and then ended up wondering if we have bitten off more than we can chew! This was definitely one of those times!
To get 49 people together from all walks of life and get them up in the Himalayas and back again in one piece is truly impressive. Our trek leader Damon was patient and organised, while Dr Mark was always on hand to keep us physically going. Some fared better than others, with Helen doing an impressive face plant, Deborah hurting her knee and my ankle causing me much grief with a damaged ligament. They had to make the tough decision to send Kar and Ray back on the second day of the trek and Kathy on the third day due to health issues. But everyone was looked after and we all survived! Dawa was our Himalayan head guide and he sorted every glitch out smoothly, from locating toilets to finding my kitty purse, still full of money. 
Dawa just sorting it out!
There were sore feet soothed with a delicious paddle in a lowland Himalayan stream.

These will heal but the memories of what we achieved will stay with us for a lifetime.  I was never sure that I could do this. Being a perpetual chubster since an early age, exercise was never really my thing. But after our family experience with cancer over the last 2 years I felt I had to do something; and this was it! So as you probably know, I trained and trained, losing nearly 3 stone in the process and so here I was, in the Himalayas ready to trek to over 10000 feet! And what a challenge this has proved to be!

4th April
First proper (full ) day of trekking - Starting at Syauli Bazaar after our first night in a tea house, equipped with a couple of showers (which we came to realise was a rarity) and a European toilet! We got up at 6 am for a breakfast of dry toast (no such thing as Nepalese margarine) and boiled eggs. We were introduced to the rest of the support team (Sherpas, porters and guides) and then we headed out about 7.30am.
Our fantastic support with Damon and Dawa - our trek leaders

Breakfast trek style

A gentle start!

Nervous! Me and Deborah are all togged up and ready to go. All the gear, no idea!
It was very hot from the first. 6hrs of a steep climb (rising 700m) in 30 degree heat was really tough. This was certainly no easy start! The views were incredible, and totally worth the pain! We arrived at Ghandruk about 1.30pm with the rest of the day free. This is the village famous for producing the famous Gurkha's and the British Army still recruits from here.
Hot and bothered on the outskirts of Ghandruk

We had a nice lunch at the tea house, and then headed out to explore the village. We quickly found the German Bakery and tried everything on the menu! Just bring us all the cakes and 7 spoons!
Lin, Rosemary, Irena, me, Deborah and Kathy - with Iain taking the pic as we devoured the cakes!

Ankle started playing up after lunch - but Deborah and Kath found a way to cool it when ice is not easy to get hold of. Thank you ladies :)

We had mo mos for dinner (a Nepalese delicacy) and I started the group on my quilt project (more details to follow another day!). It is surprising how many people think they cant sew :)

Every day we have to unpack our kit bags to get our bedding etc out for the night, then pack it all away for the porters to take before breakfast. We carry everything we may need during the day (sometimes up to 8kilos on our backs) because we don't see our kit bags until we arrive at the next night's accommodation. This takes longer than you would think, so we were back in our rooms by 9.30pm to get it sorted then off to bed!
My faithful kit bag!
5th April
Up at 6am again, and off to Tadipani. Another hot day - it is amazing how much water you sweat out in this heat (I didn't need a wee all day - which is fortunate given the lack of facilities :) !)
This morning was another tough climb - and 750m above where we were yesterday. I must admit today was a struggle. I started to feel dizzy at about 2500m with my hands tingling and my head buzzing. I was climbing alone, and so just crumbled where I stood. I did my best to tuck myself into the mountain and away from the edge, which dropped away in to the rhododendron forest. I ate a bar, drank water and cried a bit (well, like a toddler crys - all snot and sniffles) for about 10 mins until Deborah and Mark reached me and helped me get myself together. Mark took my ruck sack, and we continued upwards. It turned out that we were only metres from lunch! Just my luck! Note to self - eat more!!! This lunch was local bread, fried spam and snickers bars! So suitably recovered and full of calories, we headed off again for another 2hrs trekking to Tadipani.

Time for lunch - spam and snickers!
Once we reached Tadapani, there was a chance to rest, and I wandered off with Brian for a cuppa and in search of WiFi. we had no luck in the Wifi front, but the coffee was good and we were treated to the most intense hail storm I have ever seen! The weather is certainly changeable up here!
That's some hail!

Rainbow after the storm

No words needed!
Location board at TadaPani

what a view!

Cold and wet but still smiling... just!
It's amazing what a good night's slep can do. I would be even better if I could have a shower and use a sit down loo that flushes!
 We had a gorgeous dinner of Dal Bhat which is a local dish and I would happily eat 3 meals a day!
Dinner with Deborah

 6th April
Up at 5.30am (ouch) to start climbing at 6.30am. Today we are heading to Ghorepani, which will be our highest overnight point. Once we get there we will start the final ascent to Poon Hill!
Today was the toughest yet. I wonder when it is going to start getting easier - perhaps when we get back to Kathmandu???? We only went up 350m today rising to 3000m but it was all up and down, with soooo many steps! My ankle was really bad today so took it as easy as I could. Today the weather was colder and wetter as we got higher, so the wet weather gear went on and off a couple of times. the moments we stopped to do this were quite welcome! The rhododendron woods really are stunning, but shady and chilly.

The rain started in earnest about 2.30pm (as it has every day so far) and when we arrived in Ghorepani we were cold and wet (and I was a little tearful - again!). But the view was stunning, so I soon cheered up again!

Tonight we were supposed to climb up to Poon Hill for sunset but the weather was so bad that there really wasn't much point! So we had an early night while we prepared for a 3.30am wake up call in the morning!

Well I think that is enough for 1 post, so if you have made it this far thank you! I will post part 2 - the summit (lol) soon!
As you can see, this was a big deal for me and I would like to thank everyone who supported me, sponsored me, offered me advice and encouragement, and especially Deborah Moore who proved to be the best 'sidechick' a girl to ever wish for. You kept me sane (well almost) and walking upwards and , girl, we did it!

If you still wish to sponsor me, you can go to my Just Giving page to donate to Heartburn Cancer UK.