Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

The turning of the year makes me philosophical. Grateful for the old year and hopeful for the new. Our simple celebrations - Chinese take away and family games leave me time to ponder the passing year and make plans for the new one. I am reminded that seasons, days and years are gift. I want to use the days wisely and focus on what matters most. When musing on time and eternity, poets say it best so I'll end with a poem by Madeleine L'Engle:

"Let us view with joy and mirth
All the clocks upon the earth
Holding time with busy tocking
Ticking booming clanking clocking
Anxiously unraveling
Time's traveling
Through the stars and winds and tides
Who can tell where time abides?

Foolish clocks, all time was broken
When that first great Word was spoken.
Cease we now this silly fleeing
From earth's time, for time's a being
And adoring
Bows before him
Who upon the throne is seated.
Time, defeated, wins, is greeted.

Clocks know not time's loving wonder
Day above as night swings under,
Turning always to the Son
Times begun, is done, does run
Singing warningof the morning
Time, mass, space, a mystery
Of eternal trinity.

Time needs make no poor apology
For bursting forth from man's chronology
Laughs in glee as human hours
Dance before the heavenly powers.
Time's undone
Because the Son
Swiftly calls the coming light
That will end the far-spent night."

-Madeleine L'Engle, The Irrational Season, Chapter 1

Happy New Year!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

We wish you JOY at Christmas, some quiet moments amidst the chaos of the festivities and all that makes your heart sing. It's been a wonderful first few days of Christmas! We wait til Christmas Eve to start celebrating and then keep the twelve days so we have time to enjoy all that makes the season so special.
First of all we have snow and the children are so happy. And Kate is back from University and Uncle Jeremy from Rome. It's been lovely to catch up with each other.
We've had lots of games around the table.
And lovely meals. We have our Christmas dinner on the day after Christmas that the English call Boxing Day and the Christmas carol 'Good King Wenceslaus' calls 'the feast of Stephen'.
While some of us prepared the meal the others prepared a little show of carols and magic tricks and songs and poems. So the 'Feast of Stephen' was finished off in style!
Now that all the main events are accomplished, I'm looking forward to books and films by the fire and a couple lazy days while the kids play with their toys and we eat lovely left-overs. I must confess that I enjoy turkey sandwiches with lashings of cranberry and mayo just a little bit more than the big meal itself.

Friday, 18 December 2009

It's the Miracle Season!

She loved it!

I haven't had any trouble with my sewing machine for months. But yesterday something went wrong and took ages to sort. I really thought that I was going to have to go to school and tell Mrs Boomer that she couldn't retire yet because the quilt wasn't finished.
By 9:30 in the evening I had it running OK but I'd wasted most of my last day. So I changed the quilting pattern to a simple scallop around the leaves and started quilting. Mrs Boomer's party started at 2:00 today and I was still quilting but I finished by 2:10, ripped it off the frame and rushed to school just in time for the presentation. Everyone who helped applique the leaves was so pleased to see the completed quilt.

Mrs Boomer was really touched. When all the excitement is over and done the quilt will be there to remind her just how much we appreciate her. So many thanks to everyone who helped - it never would have been completed without you!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

It'll take a Miracle!

On Monday at 10:00pm the last leaf was appliqued to the block. On Tuesday morning all 144 blocks lay on the front room floor," just like a pile of leaves!" commented my husband. By Tuesday night there were 36 squares, each with 4 seasons making the circle. Mrs Boomer's been at our school for 36 years so we really did need a circle with 4 seasons for each year.

On Wednesday the blocks went from 36 to 4 and then to one. Then a strippy backing was pieced. So far today the backing and wadding were cut and all has been loaded on the quilt frame. It's just gone one o'clock. Will it get quilted and bound for the presentation tomorrow at 2:00? It'll take a miracle!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Leaf-ing Quilt

Thanks to everyone helping to applique the leaves for Kathy Boomer's leaving quilt.

You are appliqueing a leaf on a square and when we put 4 squares together we'll get this circle. I'm hoping to complete 36 circles, one for each of the years that Kathy has been the secretary at our school.

Thread your needle with the thread provided. It's a good colour match and will blend in with the leaf fabric. Make a knot and anchor your thread by making a couple of small stitches under the leaf where it won't show.

Now come up near and just catch the fold of the leaf fabric. Pull your thread through and come through the backing fabric just next to the leaf and a bit under and pull through. Your stitch should be hidden mostly under the leaf. The little bit that shows will blend in with the leaf fabric.

Click on the photos for a clearer view. I'll post some more tommorow. thanks again!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Cath Kidston lunch Bags

I loved Cath Kidston fabric even before I knew who she was. Back in 2003 there was this gorgeous pop paisley fabric selling in IKEA for £2.50 a meter. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have bought bolts of it! Even so I did by several meters and used it to make my first Project Linus quilt which was machine quilted on a table top frame. It was so pretty I made another so I could give it to my daughter and enjoy it around the house.

On Saturday I wanted to make something that I could finish in an hour. And the girls lunch bags were getting rather tatty - so I decided to use my precious Cath Kidston scraps and whip up a couple of lunch bags. I adaped the stlye of the old bags and re used the ties at the top. The girls were 'chuffed' (fun English slang word meaning really pleased!) Now I get a bit of Cath Kidston to brighten up my morning lunch making routine. My 17 year old son, commented that they were 'really sweet' and added that he'd rather just keep using his old bag. Vive la différence!

Thursday, 26 November 2009


On this day in 1989 my husband asked me to marry him, while I was in the basement doing laundry. Twenty one years and six children later, not to mention thousands of laundry loads, I'm still glad that I said yes.
Today on the 'other side of the pond' it's American Thanksgiving. I'm reminded to count my blessings and I think that perhaps happiness has little to do with getting what we want and everything to do with being grateful for what we have.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Deep AND Wide

One of the reasons that I love my JUKI TL-98P is that when they made the throat of the machine longer they made it taller too. Many of the other longer armed domestic machines on the market are only longer. Now long is good. I love having those 2 extra inches. In fact they seemed like miles more room when I first switched over. But once you put a sewing machine on a machine quilting frame the height of the arm really makes a difference.
It matters, as you can see in the photo because the first fabric bar is going under the arm of the machine. And as the quilting progresses the fabric rolls on to this bar and the roll gets bigger. That's where the height comes in handy. The JUKi TL98-P is 2 inches longer AND taller. The extra inches don't matter much when you're starting out. But they make a big difference as you come to the end.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Rosie's Fibonacci

Yea! I'm finally finished Rosie's fibonacci. Rosie and Emily share a room. I finished Emily's fibonacci last summer. Rosie's is quite similar, just a little more pink! One of the best parts of starting a quilting project is choosing the threads. I love getting all the threads out that might go and auditioning them against the fabric.

Here I'm using a no mark free-motion line design which I call the 'Ripple Stipple' I like using lots of different threads which end up looking like sunlight on water.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Full Circle: Helen Deighan's Coil Baskets

Last spring I came across a neat basket tutorial from V and Co. I'd been wanting to make something like it for years and was thrilled to find such easy to follow directions.Well, I did make one and I loved it but it took ages. I was hoping that there was a quicker way to do it. Later in the year I visited a gal who was 'dispersing' her quilting stash. She was so generous selling her fabrics and books for a song. Anyway, there was a book that showed some directions for stitching baskets together by machine. It looked promising. But other projects got in the way, as they do. Yesterday at the Knitting and Stitching Show, I came across a stand where the gal was demonstrating how to do it by machine. How cool is that! Anyway I started asking questions and Helen told me that she was the person who came up with the technique. Then I received my very own personal tutorial. Now I can't wait to get started. When I came home, I got out the book and guess who the author was? That's right, the very same Helen Deighan!

In the stripy purple basket base above, Helen is wrapping a strip of purple and white fabric around a special firm but flexible cording that she has made in specially China for these coil pots and baskets. She uses the little yellow bulldog chip to hold the fabric in place as she zigzags the layers together.

Here's the package. You can order this directly from Helen's website:

Another method was to cover the cording like piping. In the photo below, Helen is using hand dyed yarn to wrap the seam allowance around the cording. I just love how this looks like braided rag rugs.

In this photo, Helen is showing how to shape the sides of the pot by flipping it up with one hand as she zigzags. There are some more detailed 'hints' about this on Helen's website.

Finally, here's a gorgeous bag that Helen's created using hand dyed fabrics. I can't wait to have a go! Interested? Visit Helen's website for information, tips, gallery, books and workshops.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Knitting and Stitching Show

We just got back from the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate. If you're not from these parts, Harrogate is a small town in the north of England. And the Knitting and Stitching show is more geared to textile artists, beaders and papercrafters than quilters. It was a school trip arranged by the textile teacher and my two younger daughters and their friends came along. The girls had a great time and happily there were just enough fabric stands to empty my pockets. The exhibitions were great. Where else could you see a life size knitted fishing boat?

The girls enjoyed having their lunch in style in one of the boxes at the Theatre Royal! Quite the stunning venue. One of my favourite parts was the private tutorial from Helen Deighan. But I'll save that for tomorrow.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Texture Magic Teaser

Here's another of Bronwyn's Texture Magic teasers. Once more she's used a variety of fabrics, many hand dyed. Using a different colourway, Bronwyn is experimenting to see what happens when she uses different fabrics and stitches with the Texture Magic. Clicking the image will give you a good close up of the results. Texture artists would consider this a first step in the design process of a larger work. I think it's pretty neat in its own right. But it has served the purpose of generating lots of ideas for future undertakings.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Here's another of Bronwyn's practice pieces. In this experiment she's used 3 layers of organza on top and one on the back with the Texture Magic sandwiched in the middle. She's stitched a variety of coin sized circular shapes. The layers on top create a depth of color. You'll see this more clearly if you click on the image for a close up view. I'm going to experiment with this technique for Valentime's Day and do hearts.
Things about Texture Magic I've learned from this project:
1.) Layers work!
2.) The larger the negative space is the more pronounced the texture. Another way of saying this is that it's the unquilted or unstitched spaces that stand out. This is such a tactile piece - everyone who's seen it just has to touch it.
3.) Funky fabrics are fun! On my own, I never would have considered organza!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Textile Artist

Look what happens when you turn a textile artist loose with a packet of Texture Magic. Last week I gave my friend a packet of Texture Magic so she could have a play with it. Bronwyn is a fashion designer turned textile teacher. She spent a couple of happy hours on Sunday afternoon and here is one of the pieces she came up with.

Click on the image to get a good close up look. You'll see that Bronwyn used a variety of fabrics; hand dyed cottons and netting, silk, organza and velvet. She wanted to find out how the various fabrics would respond to the shrinking process. Bronwyn also wanted to see how different stitching played out in various patterns and sizes. Note that the fabrics weren't even pieced just laid on top and next to each other. The result is stunning! And this is just the first piece. We'll look at some of the others in the next post.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Fun Theory

I just loved this! Never underestimate joy. "In every job that must be done there is an element of fun..." When I was a kid we called this the Mary Poppins theory. It works. Do something fun today! If this takes too long to buffer, double click inside the box and it will take you to youtube. You'll see it bigger and quicker.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Inner Workings

This is how a sewing machine works. Wow! This moving image explains so much. It so clearly shows how the top and bobbin threads work together to make a stitch and how the wrong sort of top or bottom tension can make things go wrong. And why using the right needle and threads is so important. This image is a fantastic teaching tool for anyone working with sewing machines.

It's a Hoot!

My daughter Ellie and I found this neat owl bag when we were looking for some autumn craft ideas over the half term break. The brown owl bag comes from Ellen Baker at I've added a link on the side bar so you can visit her. You can see our version just below. But the bag has morphed into snugly cover for a hot water bottle.
Hot water bottle?? Well, hot water bottles are a big deal over here in cold damp England. A hot water bottle is one of life's simple pleasures. I don't think that I ever ever used one when I lived in Baltimore but everybody uses them here, even kids. Especially if they have a soft fleecy cover!
So here's what we did. First we rummaged around my bag of left over fleece. I love working with fleece because it is so soft and cuddly, it also keeps its shape and won't unravel. I just traced around the hot water bottle and cut the front out a bit larger. The back of the cover was pieced, with an overlap, just like the back of a cushion cover. Then we put right sides together and sewed all the way around. Hey presto one hot water bottle cover.
Now for the owl. Again, using a double layer of fleece, I cut an owl shape that would cover the front, put right sides together and sewed most of the way around, leaving a gap at the bottom so I could turn it inside out. I machine stitched the gap closed - it will get covered by the feathers. We traced and cut some circles for the eyes and a triangle for the beak out of other colours of fleece and top stitched them down on the machine with some pretty variegated thread.
For the feathers, I decided to raid my stash of designer fabrics. I cut a two inch strip along a selvedge edge and cut scalloped feathers. I then turned this wrong side up in an arc and machine stitched the selvedge edge to the fleece. This hides the stitching and gives the feathers a bit of loft when they flip over. I went on to add 3 more strips of feathers in the same way. Finally, we used the buttons for the center of the eyes to attach the owl to the hot water bottle cover. This was fun and fast and now everybody wants one.
This 'Spotted Owl' fabric from Alexander Henry's In the Kitchen collection is well worth a closer look. Now that everybody in our house wants their own owl cover - we'll be needing inspiration from this Parliament of owls. As ever, a picture is worth a thousand words so click on any of the images for a good close up shot.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Directionally Challenged

Well, I am. I think that perhaps its some sort of spatial dyslexia. I've always struggled with left and right. Something only made worse by spending the last 22 years in a country where they do most things the other way round. I also struggle with following written directions. I'm much better if I can actually see someone do it. Tutorials with photos on the web are fantastic for me. Anyway, because I struggle with directions I've gotten into the habit of learning by trial and error. I'm beginning with this disclaimer because I'm going to share the process of turning my pumpkin patch Texture Magic experiment into a trick or treat bag. And I wanted you to know that I'm just figuring it out as I go along.

I've begun with 2 fat quarters of orange batik backed with Texture Magic and free-motion machine quilted with a free flowing loops and pumpkin design. It looks really cool. But I want to turn it into something useful. So I've put them right sides together and sewed around 3 of the sides. Then I've done that trick in the bottom corners where you line up the seams to make a triangle and stitch a line across. Like this:

Then I did the same thing to the lining fabric, making it just a little bit smaller. I've added a strip of yellow fabric at the top to make an edging.

And here's how it turned out. Click on this final image for a great view of the bag. I had to wait til morning so the natural-light photo could bring out the color and the texture.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The day after

Some days are just too busy to blog. We had such fun carving pumpkins! Rosie carved this cool 'Cheshire' cat.

Peter went for the man pumpkin and used power tools! (and cookie cutters) We thought it was truly epic!

They turned out great!