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. 

http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/calendar/whatson/sampled-lives-samplers-fitzwilliam-museum







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!
Sidechick!!!

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



Sunday, 9 April 2017

Adventure Nepal style!

I am really not sure when I will be able to post these entries but I will keep an eye out for WiFi wherever it may lurk and take full advantage.
Last night (Sunday 2nd April) about 5.30pm local time, we finally arrived at our hotel in Kathmandu, after leaving Peterborough at 1pm on Saturday. Crikey it was a long way, but not only have we travelled to another continent, it feels like we have travelled to a different time! Kathmandu is chaotic, full of cars and choking pollution, every second building is a time capsule with exquisite carvings and fantastic temples. The damage caused by the earthquake in 2015 is very visible but work is taking place to rebuild. Our hotel looked like a bombsite from the road, but once you pulled through the entrance it was stunning. The room were lovely and we enjoyed what might our last decent bathroom for a while.  Last night we visited the beautiful Stuppa temple and mixed with locals, monks and wild dogs amongst the clouds of dust and incense. It is exactly as I expected it to be, and I loved it.
The roads are busy and the pavements are a mix of potholes and rubble so one must pick their steps carefully. At least no one appears to be trying to run you down, you just have to commit as you step out into the road and 'apparently ' the cars will stop. Not sure I am that brave yet!
This morning was an early start with a 4.30am alarm call as we are taking a scenic flight around Everest.  Well it has to be done! Our flight was delayed which meant a couple of hours watching the world go by at Kathmandu airport. That is an adventure in itself. This was then followed by an interminable time sitting on a stationary plane on the runway as we waited for a takeoff slot. Some of us has been told by the guide to leave our rucksacks with the porters outside to save carrying them as we would be leaving that way to get our tickets to fly onwards afterwards. That was a fine idea until we realised our water and books were in there. Plus we were now going to miss our connecting flight to Pokara which would add further complications to an already stressful morning. Would they even manage to fit 22 extra people on a later flight? What would that do to the planned hike for today? Would a leisurely start have to make way for a forched march to catch up with the rest of the crew? I  was still very nervous about my fitness levels for the trek so this wasnt helping. Needless to say, I was not feeling particularly happy with Buddha Air.
However, as is the way of things, we were eventually airborn. And it was certainly worth it. The views were stunning! Below is a picture I took of Everest out of a rather smeared plane window. They also let us up to the cockpit for a better view!  Later we discovered the reason for our flight delay; a leopard on the runway! (He was eventually captured and relocated. ) At least it beats leaves on the line!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Sewing Machine Needles - What a conundrum!

Whenever I do sewing machine shows on Create and Craft, I come home to a slew of queries about certain aspects, like "what is BobbinFill" or "what feet can I get for my new machine", so I find the best thing to do is write a blog post! This week's big question was about sewing machine needles, and what the numbers and colours mean! Once you have taken the needle out of the packet, how do you know what type it is, or what it is for? Where the clue is in the colours on the needle!

The first thing that you may notice on a sewing machine needle is that there are coloured bands on the needle shank. This means that once you have removed the needle from the packet you will still know what it's for!
The top band represents the needle type:
Needle Band
  • Universal (All purpose for wovens & knits) - No colour
  • Embroidery needle (embroidery threads) - Red
  • Quilting Needle (multiple layers of fabric) - Green
  • Microfibre Needle (Woven Fibres)- Purple
  • Stretch Needle (Elastic Fabrics) - Yellow
  • Ballpoint (Knitted fabrics) - Orange
  • Jeans Needle (Denim) - Blue
  • Leather Needle (for leather and vinyl fabrics) - Brown
  • Topstitching (Exposed Stitching) - Light Green
  • Metallic Needle (metallic thread) - Pink
Some specialist needles don't have colours on them because there is no need - you can tell what they are by looking i.e twin needles, winged (hemstitch) needles or twin eyed needles. 
 
The lower band shows the needle size:
  • Size 60/8: Light green
  • Size 65/9: White
  • Size 70/10: Green
  • Size 75/11: Pink
  • Size 80/12: Orange
  • Size 90/14: Blue
  • Size 100/16: Purple
  • Size 110/18: Yellow
  • Size 120/19: Brown
  • Size 125/20: Black
  • Size 130/21: Red
Not all needles are available in all sizes. So what do the sizes mean?The Metric system for sizing needles runs from 60 -110, while the American system is number 8 to 18. Most makes show both numbers, and the smaller the number the finer the needle. The larger the number, the thicker the needle will be.

There is a very useful guide available from Schmetz  here with more details about needles, and it's a very interesting read. Generally any needle should fit any machine. They have a flat back on the shank (the top part of the needle) so that it will only slot into your machine one way. You can't fit it backwards unless you REALLY try! (Don't do that!!!!)

So I hope that answers some of your questions about sewing machine needles!


Brother Sewing Machine Feet

This is my first post of 2017, so I thought that along with my good wishes, I would post some useful. So I thought I would answer one of the many questions I have been asked recently, where do I get all of those extra Brother Feet?

I am delighted that so many of you have tuned in recently to my shows launching the Brother FS210  sewing machine on Create and Craft and Ideal World. This machine has proved hugely popular, and many of you who already have the Brother FS130QC are asking whether you can get the additional feet offered with the FS210 to use on your existing machine.Well the answer is Yes you can! Please note, most feet are generic, but not all! Check the machine listing to be sure.

These feet are available directly from Brother, or other Brother stockists - just check out the codes.

Adjustable Binder Foot F071
This foot has clear plastic bias tape guide for attaching various width bias tape from 3/16” (5 mm) to 3/4” (20 mm).It helps you add binding quickly and accurately because it holds both sides of the binding in place as you sew. This cannot be used for binding quilts as the wadding is too thick to pass through the foot, but it is great for binding dresses!
Image result for brother F071
Adjustable Binder Foot F071

Gathering Foot F012N
This one gathers more fabric the longer the stitch, and the finer the fabric. Thick fabrics don't like to gather much unless you add the second fabric through the top slot at the same time. You will find tutorials on YouTube about how to use these feet.
Brother Gathering Foot (F012N)
Gathering Foot F012N
 Pintuck Foot F069
This is used to create fabulous heirloom sewing corded and non-corded pin tucks on blouses, shirts and many home decorating projects. When used with a twin needle, it creates perfectly parallel pin tucks. Great fun and very professional looking results.
5 Groove Pintuck Foot, Brother #SA194
Pin Tuck Foot F069


Straight Stitch Foot F042N
This foot is used for straight stitching on lightweight or fine fabrics. The single needle hole prevents fabrics getting pulled in the feed dogs.
Brother Straight Stitch Foot (7mm) (F042N)
Straight Stitch Foot F042N

Adjustable Zipper and Piping Foot  F036N
This foots allows greater flexibility of positioning the foot against a zip or piping than a traditional zipper foot. A very useful addition to your sewing tool kit.

Brother Zipper And Piping Foot (F036N)
Adjustable Zipper & Piping Foot F036N


Non Stick Foot F007N
I love this foot - it helps you stitch 'sticky' fabric like oil cloth, vinyl and leather because it runs smoothly over the surface of the fabric. It glides over difficult fabric surfaces with ease, while improving stitch quality in many problem fabrics. Some fabrics may get stuck under metal feet causing problems with a normal sewing foot resulting in poor stitch quality. It is perfect for hemming plastic tablecloths!

Image result for brother f007n
Non Stick Foot F007N


For more info on using these feet, there are plenty of tutorials on line - just google it :)

Also, if you have Brother quilting feet that came with your FS130QC, like the embroidery foot, the 1/4 inch foot and the walking foot, you can use them on your FS210 too!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Week 1 of #1YearOfStitches Completed

This year I decided that I wanted to make a new years resolution to do some 'personal' creating. So with this in mind I have decided to take part in #1yearinstitches.  This is a challenge that involves stitching something every day in 2017, posting it daily on Instagram (with the tag #1yearofstitches), and then posting about it once a week on your blog. I heard about it here on Instagram and here on Facebook!

So I've decided to post on Sundays. I have also added a couple of additional rules. 1 - no unpicking! I can go back later and stitch over the top but I can't undo it. 2 - no planning. I'm not sketching any guidelines, just stitching away and seeing where it takes me. 3 - I am trekking in the Himalayas in April for charity and as I have to carry everything, taking a hoop isn't possible.  So to keep up with the challenge I am going to take small scraps of fabric to stitch on, and then applique them into the hoop when I get back. 4 - materials.  I will use anything that comes to hand, fabric, lace, ribbon, buttons etc, anything as long as it is hand stitched in place. 

I started off with some floral designs, just to get some stitches down. The hardest thing to do is often to get started!
Day 2 - some florals
Some lazy daisy flowers, my favourite #colonialknot (a variation on a french knot), #blanket stitch and some seed stitches.

I feel the need for polka dots! Why not?
Satin stitched polka dots

It has been a busy week with sample requirements building through the week, but I managed to get a bit done every day. The most personal element was stitched on January 7th. I spent all day making bags on my sewing machine so it was nice to finish the day with a bit of slow stitching! That was the day that they laid my childhood heroine Carrie Fisher to rest, and it made me sad. So I added a sprig of rosemary created in #bullionstitch. Rosemary represents remembrance and so it felt right to add it to my #1yearinstitches.
Rosemary for Remembrance
 I am really looking forward to seeing how this develops through the year!
End of week 1