Wednesday, 31 March 2010

More Newness! Introducing BubbleWrap for Boys!

Hummm, BubbleWrap for boys, someone should really invent it, there's a great idea in there somewhere as I look at my scruffy little sons scuffed knees and scabby elbows.............But anyway, if lifes bumps and knocks get too much for your little bruiser why not make them a BubbleWrap quilt to wrap up in?

You might remember this pile of fabrics way back when. Well here is my NEW quilt kit for Make Do & Mend Quilts. It's designed to be really straightforward to make, it's one of the quickest to throw together so totally trouble free if you're a nervous novice, but it's suitably big-boyish for the boldest of little boys. I hope you like it, it's on etsy and folksy now.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

AlphaDots Quilt is Sew Hip!

Ohh it's so exciting, one of my quilts is in a magazine.

This morning the postman nearly had his hand unceremoniously ripped off as I grabbed my copy of Sew Hip! in the mail and ran! And there it was, my little AlphaDots Quilt on page 26 of the May 2010 issue, looking all sunny and springlike blowing in the wind by the candy coloured beach huts at the seaside one lovely sunny day back in February! I've written the pattern for the magazine so if you would like to make one yourself get a copy!So if you'd like to, go buy a copy and make the pattern, its a great stash buster, or you can buy a full kit, available at or on etsy and folksy. In Sew Hip for May there are also some great articles on textile designers Sprout Design ( I love their fabrics!) and a review of a show of Henry Moores mid century textiles is really worth a look too. Enjoy!

Friday, 26 March 2010

The Rough and the Smooth

This is a post about how sometimes it's really hard to make what's in your head. You see I worry that sometimes when you read a blog it can seem like it's all so effortless to churn out lovely quilts. I often get a fit of the insecurities watching other peoples wonderful creations. So I wanted to share with you a project that just isn't working out. Because, well it's important to not just blog your successes isn't it? We're all human after all!

So here we go.

hummm. Fabric I love ( Jessica Levitt Timber), an all time favourite pattern ( Dresden Plate). So why is this not working for me?

I started out thinking I wanted to go a bit art deco. I had in mind one of those fan art deco mirrors, d'you know the sort? So armed with my new dresden plate template ruler off i went boldly forth. hummm. I didn't like it.

So I thought, well make a dresden plate. I had seen dresden quarters done beautifully on different colour backgrounds, so I thought i'd have a go at that. hummm still not happy.

Sometimes you just have to walk away. Clear the old head. Work in daylight ( MAKES such a difference!). And come back another day. I know that there is a fantastic quilt in here somewhere, maybe next week i'll be able to winkle it out!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

HubbaBubba Quilt

I have been playing. Just playing. Not planning and drafting, or measuring or agonising. Playing.

I have been reading Gwen Marstons fantastic book Liberated Quiltmaking II. In a section called 'Quiltmaking as Play' she says "See this as 'playtime at the sewing machine.....I think your chances for doing something innovative improve when you just plunge ahead. Just start making something. Life is short. Do your own work, have a good time, and be nice to everybody...including yourself"

I love Gwen, I want to go around to her house on Beaver Island and have a nice big cup of tea and chat quilts. She sounds so lovely, don't you think?! Anyway, I have been doing quite a lot of slightly stressy sewing recently, you know the sort, for a deadline, worried about how it will be received, fun but not LOADS of fun, yeah? Well yesterday I walked into my sewing room, turned over the piece of paper with the list of Things To Do on it and just started messing about with colours from the stash.

I have a new toy, a corner to corner curve ruler, so i just started cutting into some fabrics just to have a go with it, well an hour later I am back in the room and look at these beauties. I am totally in love with this colour combo, it's so bubblegum, not at all my usual pink, but i seem to have loads in the stash, humm.

Anyway, turns out Gwennie is right, Quiltmaking as Play is fun and you make fab stuff you might have otherwise overlooked. Have a go!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Hope Valley Baskets

Happy Quilting Day everyone! I have been showing the day the respect it deserves by getting some sewing done. You may remember Hope Valley Baskets when I started piecing it back at the start of the year? It has been a bit on the back burner as I have been working hard for the last month on the new Make Do & Mend Baby Quilt Kits ready to be unveiled on 1st April.

Inspired by my week looking at the quilts at the V&A exhibition, I found myself wanting to go back to something quite traditional. I love how this quilt is working out. As soon as I saw the Denyse Schmidt Hope Valley prints I knew I wanted to make something in keeping with the period, and settled upon the baskets pattern from Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!!. In the pattern the baskets are set on a white background, but somehow it looked too harsh. When I paired them with the grey it finally made colour sense to me. The quilt in the book has no border, but I loved the little jewel like scraps in the pile so I thought I would add just a sprinkling of colour by piecing an irregular border. The only problem is that I love this combo so much I'm not ready to let it go and am just starting to piece new blocks for the back! So much for getting something finished!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Learn To Make a Quilt

Gosh, quilts are everywhere in the media this week thanks to the V&A Quilts 1700-2010 exhibition. It's one of the V&A's most prebooked exhibitions according to the London Evening Standard last night - go quilters!

I loved quilts even before I had ever made one. I loved the idea of them, a labour of love, the skill and patience, a personal history through little pieces of fabric.

But it's really daunting the thought of making one before you start isn't it? Quilt shops are few and far between here in the UK, and not always ever so modern if you like that kind of look. Books are great, but not always aimed at the TOTAL ABSOLUTE beginner I was!
If you go to the V&A and get inspired, or if you have always wanted to make a quilt but never quite reached the tipping point of actually DOING it - now is the time!

Book a class, buy a book, buy a kit, have a go. Despite the reams of quite bossy quilty do's and don'ts that lots of books are packed with, you really can't go wrong making a quilt, just have a go!

I started designing Make Do & Mend Quilt Kits because so many people said to me that they would love to make a quilt but had no idea where to start. If you can buy a tapestry kit, or a pin cushion kit, or every other sort of kit, why can't you get a quilt in a box? A totally low commitment way to test out if you'd like it. Most people who make one of my kits go on to make and design their own quilts and I'm proud to say that they usually jump in with both feet and have the confidence to go on and make whatever is in their heads. I love that.

People - go and make a quilt - you'll love it! xx

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Quilts 1700-2010 at The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to the V&A Quilts 1700-2010 Exhibition press preview. Now obviously I bit their hands off as this constitutes just about my perfect day. Up to London on the train, a bit of window shopping, a bought sandwich ( oh the joys of bought sandwiches when you are a mum who makes packed lunches every day!), then an afternoon silently (breath, ahh and relax), perusing quilts in beautiful surroundings.

Where to start. The V+A exhibition, as described by the curator Sue Prichard, is not designed as a comprehensive catalogue of British quilt making, or a purely aesthetic celebration of an art form. It is a social history of Britain, with the quilt as the porthole to the past. As such the exhibition covers a lot of thought provoking ground. From the beauty and sheer creativity of quilts from the 1700's, made as status pieces, to the touching humility of some of the very practical coverings made out of necessity in economically ravaged parts of the country during the seismic economic and social upheavals of communities during Britain's industrial revolution. The exhibition also takes a sometimes uncomfortable look at what domestic arts really mean. Are they paths to freedom for women looking for an outlet for creativity within the strictures of motherhood and housewifery, or are they something much less joyful, an economic necessity for starving mining families, exploitation of women aboard convict ships on their way to Australia? 24 hours later and my mind is still whirling, surely the sign of a great exhibition.

The V+A kindly allowed us to photograph the quilts, but many are low lit under conservation grade lighting so some of the shots are a bit murky, or under glass so the flash bounces back. I'm afraid you will just have to go and see for yourselves(!), or if you can't make it there I can highly recommend the book of the exhibition available from the V+A Bookshop.

These are my highlights, where I have a picture I've added it, I'll also annotate the book pages in case you have a copy when you read this!
1. Creativity and Innovation

From the George III Coverlet 1803

I was amazed by how many new blocks and applique shapes were to be found. We are very used as quilters of the generation of '1,000 quilt blocks' style books of feeling like we've seen every variation of block, more or less. The British quilts from the 1700 and 1800's showed amazing innovation in their use of shapes, and so many circles and curves, I drew pages of new curvy blocks, all so fresh and new it's amazing to think some are 300 years old.

(these two pictures from a quilt dated 1797, the colour was much more pastel in real life, it was my favourite thing there)
(Also see the Bed Hangings c. 1730 (page 164) with their curved piecing, it reminded me of the Denyse Schmidt pattern Hills and Hollers. See the Bed cover 1690-1750 (p172)possibly from Exeter, those circular blocks could have been designed last year they look so fresh and of the moment to today's tastes.

2. Stating Britain's contribution to the Quilting Narrative.
George III reviews the troops ( but look at the pattern on the green fabric - It could be contemporary, It's very Jessica Levit Timber style isn't it?)

As a British quilter I really enjoyed the celebration of the history of our tradition here. I love the history and narrative of the US Quilt tradition, but for the first time through this exhibition I could actually feel our contribution to the worldwide narrative of quilt history.
Quilt from 1860, in Cardigan in Wales made in wool flannel

From Welsh Immigrants moving to Pennsylvania and the obvious parallels in style between quilts being produced in the valleys of Wales in the 1870's and the Amish style seen in the US at the same time, to the influence of Indian style and fabrics evident in so many of the quilts with their rich colours and paisleys and chinz.
(Also see the cot cover by Priscilla Redding c.1690 from Deal in Kent ( page 165) - it 's positively Amish in it's use of colour)

3. Quilts and Women

I found myself wondering, can you be a feminist quilter as I wandered, looking at pictures of careworn women itinerant quilters in Northumberland, earning a pittance to support their destitute mining families. Looking at a quilt made by women being sent to Van Diemans Land, but sold by their male jailers. As women today we chose to make quilts as a (self indulgent?) luxury buying new fabric lines like fashions, making a quilt in a weekend. Do we disrespect the history of women in the past who made quilts because of poverty and hardship?
Caren Garfens Quilt 'How many times do I have to repeat myself?' is both aesthetically beautiful, but also very thought provoking. It features pictures of all of the modern household appliances women are still slaves to. Yet her message is more complicated, suggesting that women also embrace the domestic and can feel like the modern world has stolen domesticity from women, making it no longer acceptable to prefer the domestic realm? Or has feminism delivered us the ultimate goal - choice?

This part of the exhibition also features some amazing quilt patches made by men serving life at HMP Wandsworth. They speak of the freedom of creativity, of going outside of yourself in creating something of beauty that has longeviety, like a quilt.
I found this whole area fascinating and very thought provoking, it is not always comfortable viewing, certainly not the comfy cosy emotional territory of your average quilt show.
I found myself concluding that in all of the stories these quilts tell, from women with money and time to indulge in magnificent show quilts, to prisioners stitching in a cell; what is common to all of the quilts i saw is that they are all made with pride, and in pride there is also joy whatever the hard circumstances they spring from. Isn't sewing and making about just this - a certain sort of joy that being creative brings, whether as a hobby or an economic neccessity? Quilts 1700-2010 is a joyful celebration of British Quilts and the women and men who have found some peace and quiet making them. amen to that.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

How Many More Sleeps?

I'm quite childishly excited! Tomorrow I am going to the V+A preview of the much anticipated Quilts 1700-2010 exhibition. This morning the postman bought me my pre order of the book to accompany the exhibition, I'm very sorry but I really have to go and read it now!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Shhh - she says she wants to make a quilt!

Mothers day is always lovely, but this year I really did get just what I had always wanted.....

My biggest Small Person (aged 6) announced she wanted to make a quilt. Of course I was all nonchalant, not the pushy parent at all (as if! I squealed with joy and then bustled her into my sewing room - you are MINE now! ha ha ha ha ( bond villain laugh!))

She chose all of the fabrics out of the scrap bin, my heart was bursting as she sat trying out fabrics, making changes. Shyly she showed me her final pile, we talked about bright colours making light colours stand out more when they are side by side, we talked about pinky pinks and bluey pinks, it was special.

I cut the squares out with the rotary cutter and she has been painstakingly hand stitching them together after much deliberation of the placement, I daren't move them ( hence the Sylvanian family caravan in shot!).
I think I have Mary Ingals from Little House on the Prairie to thank for this. She is often described as 'sewing nine patch blocks'. I love those books, my big Small has been reading them on a loop for two years now, we never tire of them.

She is having me photograph each stage and she is writing a book for her friends about how to make a quilt. Isn't that fab! If quilting is a journey, just think how far along it you can get if you start at 6? I'd better up my game or she'll be overtaking me in no time. But I guess accepting that is what being a mother of daughters is all about?

Friday, 12 March 2010

Interplanetary, most extraordinary....

The Little Robots quilt got some satellites, I'm rather pleased with them actually, it's all basted up and ready to hand quilt over the weekend. What do you think? The back is pieced with a strip of the stripy colours on the front and Kona solid, I think it's Olive. I want to get it finished so I can take it next week when I go and visit the new Little Man. Very busy this week with Make Do & Mend work. I have a secret I've been keeping for a month or so now, but can blog about it next week. Better go before I tell, I'm a useless secret keeper, see you next week...!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Little Robots

A lovely friend had her baby at the weekend, a little boy. I had promised to make her a quilt for him, but as she didn't know what flavour she was having ( he was no 4 and she has some of each so lovely to have a surprise!), I was a bit caught out on ideas.

She had picked out this Kokka Robots fabric before as something she liked. I was suddenly seized by the urge for bright bold stripes on this grey day. I just love the feeling of putting together a complete stash quilt, just pulling colours into a big jumbly pile on the bench before inspiration starts to make itself clear. I'll applique the spots this evening at MakeClub. I'm excited about quilting it, I think it's going to be fab. Got to run, school run in the biting cold beckons!

Monday, 8 March 2010

New Toys

The less said about last week the better, lets just say in the battle of Us v's the SickBug, the sickbug won hands down!
There was a lot of nesting under quilts.......

Just a little bit of sewing.........

But lots of ideas buzzing about whilst checking out my new quilty toys........

18 degree wedge ruler and circle-in-a-square ruler from creative grids

Linen samples from Ada and Ina

Block Tool for rotary cut blocks

Liberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston

Where to start???!!

p.s I also managed to work out at last how to add extra pages to this blog ( so easy when you know how) so you can now see all of the quilts I have made in this three year long quilting adventure.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

In,Out, Shake It All About

Oh the joy of family life. I have three lovely kids. They are a source of constant joy to me, i don't like to moan but etc etc ( fill in the rest!). But today I have one who has just (rather dramatically) lost her front tooth, one who is (rather dramatically) teething her baby teeth, then to top it all, Boy-in-the-middle spent the night throwing up with his second sickness bug in a month. Now any one of these things on their own would pass without comment in the rich tapestry of family life, but three together, in the same night, now that adds up to very little sleep indeed. yuk.

I am comforting myself with mindless repetitive piecework preparing applique shapes. It's remarkably soothing to the tired mind: trace, iron, trim, stick, repeat....................yawn.

p.s I thought I'd show you my very lovely sewing purse. After extensive research to find the perfect storage for portable sewing kit I can confidently say this is it. It's just big enough ( needle book, pins, thimble ( leather and metal x2), scissors, thread conditioner,thread) sturdy enough ( lovely baby cord), and always makes me smile (I do love a goose!), you can buy them from Isla B Baby here as well as lots of other delicious things at the More Than a Mama Fayre in Berkhampsted, Hertfordshire,UK on Friday 26th March.