Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Out and About

Well it has been a very busy year so far, and the ever patient Paul really deserved a holiday. So last week we took a trip to Colchester for a few days (neither of us had ever been to Essex before). It had nothing to do with the fact that there are 2 fabric shops in the high street (honest!).
It was a nice break, but it rained constantly and I kept finding my thoughts stray to my sewing room at home where I retreat when the weather gets a bit grim. Apparently that is not a correct attitude for a holiday :) At least I took a project with me and got some more of my Hand Embroidered Crazy Patchwork Panel done for a workshop that I will be teaching in September - so it's not all wasted :)
Colchester was nice, and a brief sunny moment was the perfect opportunity to visit the Beth Chatto Gardens which were stunning.
Now Paul wants a bigger pond :) I have suggested he better start digging!
The sun also shone on our visit to Constable Country - Flatford. A guided tour with a National Trust guide showed us all the scenes we are used to seeing in his paintings. This one is the Haywain!
So all in all it was a nice little break - interspersed with a visit to 3 fabric shops, a bead shop and a dolls house shop!
On Saturday I had my first craft stall at our Hampton WI summer fair, where I was selling some of my home made items. I was delighted with the response and some of my owls, elephants and cats have been adopted into new homes. Some of my bags went too so there is now a bit more space in my sewing room!

We got back just as summer arrived and on Sunday Paul, my Dad and a passing Sarah Trude were all put to work on the garden. I dug a new bed which I filled with sand and compost in a vain hope that my bedding plants will survive in solid clay, while Dad & Paul managed to get half of the new patio laid. They certainly worked hard!
It's going to look great when we have our engagement party this summer! Lets just hope for good weather :)
It was back to normal on Monday (my usual day off) with a Create & Craft show about needle felting followed by a workshop and talk at Hilton WI last night. 26 ladies made some lovely brooches and seemed to enjoy themselves despite the heat :)
So it may have only been a week, but I like to think that I pack a lot in :)
Better get back to my sewing....

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Faster isn't always better in craft-land

In this modern age, we are used to surrounding ourselves with technology allowing us to run our lives faster and more efficiently. We are constantly ‘connected’ and the growth of smart phones mean that more and more of us are unable to disconnect from our work lives, even when we get home or are on holiday. The same sense of urgency can be seen in crafting – with the use of rotary cutters and sewing machines to make quilting quicker, and knitting machines so that you can run up a jumper in an afternoon. But ‘fast’ is not necessarily ‘best’ in hobby-land!
At Bee Crafty I often to talking to people about how to get quick, more accurate, more efficient results, but over the past year I have really noticed a change in what people want to do. Many people do not want to charge around at 100 miles an hour in their downtime – they want a break from their busy lives. This has led to a growth in popularity of traditional hand crafts such as crochet and embroidery. This is going from strength to strength as an antidote to our busy lives.

More and more people want to experience the joy of working on something slowly, with precision, and as a project that you can take on holiday with you. Sewing machines don’t usually fit in hand luggage.
Hand work is proving so popular that I will be running 4 part Hand Embroidered Crazy Patchwork workshop starting in September and they are filling up fast! I am enjoying the slow lane as I start making up a sample for the workshop. Here is the first stage (work in progress!)  and I am finding it quite therapeutic.
It helps that we now have a new DMC stand in the shop, with so many yummy colours that I can't wait to try out!
So in a world where everything seems to be rushing along, where instant gratification and a ‘seen it, want it, going to have it!’ culture seems to be ever prevalent, it is a joy to see people stepping off the high speed tracks and taking time to enjoy small, delicate, precious works of art that they are creating with their own hands. If this sounds like you, just take a breath, make yourself a cuppa, and think about taking the slow lane to a beautiful crafted heirloom!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Weird week!

Sometimes they just turn out that way! Highs and lows in short succession, and this week has been like that. A high was finalising dates for me to teach Free Motion Quilting at a retreat in Spain in March - which is hugely exciting and I will share more details when I can. The low was the funeral today of our friend Barbara. She was the wife of Jim, who Paul and I worked with for years. Today was a lovely funeral (if there can be such a thing), with lots of old friends, tears and smiles.
It makes you look at the people around you and perhaps appreciate them a little more. Strangely enough, Jim & Barb came to my Nev's funeral 12 years ago, and here I was attending hers, organised by the same funeral director. So I understand that when these things happen, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel - but sometimes it is a really long tunnel! Having people to keep you company as you wander aimlessly down that metaphorical tunnel is hugely important and I really appreciate everyone who took that journey with me over a decade ago.
But here is a more cheerful topic - I am not a dress maker but I went on a tunic workshop recently and made it in cotton. This weekend I had another go in a softer cotton/silk blend and here is the result. I am dead chuffed and I have worn it twice without it falling apart! Yay!!

Monday, 28 April 2014

I am officially downloadable!

Since sharing many of my designs on create and craft I have started getting quite a few requests for the patterns.  So never one to disappoint if I can help it, I've started putting pen to paper.  And now the first one is available at our online shop!

Bee Crafty Etsy shop!
How very exciting.  And even more exciting when 2 patterns sold within 24 hours. I am just thrilled!

There are plenty more to come, I just need to find a couple more days in the week to get all the writing up done. People just don't realise how much time these things take - and time is something I am always short of! 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Free motion fun!

I love my job! It gives me a chance to share my passion with anyone who will listen!
My latest outlet has been with Create and Craft but not showing Simplicity products as usual. This time I have been able to share my love of free motion quilting. I have been working with the Husqvarna Viking Sewing Machine company with 2 of their great range of sewing machines and so far we have put together 3 shows on free motion quilting. It seems to have caused a stir and when I offered a free fact sheet after the first show I was swamped with over 200 email and Facebook requests for a copy. That lot took some answering! But it was amazing how many people out there want to have a go! Every time I book at workshop at Bee Crafty it fills up! The class in July is almost full already!
Here is some detail of one of my favourite pieces called "Play time". This was my 'relaxing' piece of work because I muck about on it when I just wanted to mess about! There was no plan, just fill it with as many feathers in bright colours as I could squeeze in. Now it is finished I feel a little bereft! I will have to find another piece to play with.
Doing these shows also makes you focus on production, because you need to have plenty of examples to show people. So I have started a little book of samples that can be flicked through on air (and will also be helpfully handed in as part of my level 2 City & Guilds!). Here are some more pics of the samples. These are loosely threaded together as a book using a button hole so that they can easily be taken apart and handed around the class.

I am particularly fond of the circle at the moment and seem to be using it everywhere! It's funny how you get a favourite!
This one is fun - where you stitch around the motif to make the centre shape stand out. It is really effective when sewn in a neutral colour because it is 'barely there' and you don't get to see it straight away. It can be quite subtle!
If you fancy a go, get yourself a free motion/embroidery/darning foot, drop your feed dogs and let your quilting diva loose!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Create & Craft Keeping me busy!

Create and Craft tv channel has really opened doors for me. It has forced my quilt production into overdrive to keep up with all the new shows and the new acrylics that I am sent - often at the very last minute. It can be a little stressful when you get 7 new rulers for the 4 day deal only 5 days before it starts! But I have never been one for needing a great deal of sleep, so I managed to get myself organised and come up with 3 new tops and 2 new blocks. It's amazing how possibly embarrassing yourself on national TV can polarize you to get some work done!

It is wonderful to get feedback from people who are enjoying watching a bit of sewing on the telly, and I am constantly surprised by the lovely emails and face to face comments I receive. It makes you go all warm ;-)

I thought that I would share a pic of one of the new items that I have been working on this week. I have a couple of new bits coming up soon, including this little cutie using the twinkle star ruler.
This was great fun to make, and the free motion quilting around the hearts looks really effective. Can't wait to see what it looks like on screen! It should be making it's first appearance this Sunday and Monday so I wont have long to wait!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Where does the time go...?

I can't believe that we are nearly in April already! Where does the time go? It flashes by so quickly and before I know it, it has been over 2 months since my last post! That is terrible lax - and despite my attempts to keep on top of things, it just keeps happening.

So here is a quick run down of what has been going on here. Well firstly - the lovely Paul and I have recently got engaged! After 10 years together we wanted to be sure before we made any sudden decisions... :)

Paul proposed on the Friday but without the ring it didn't seem quite right! I had to work on the Saturday so we took a trip to St Ives on the Sunday (via Duxford quilt show because you have to get your proprieties right!) where we found this gorgeous Victorian ruby ring. Then he got down on one knee and asked again - so who could resist! 
And then we had a glass of something special to celebrate. Now before you ask "when's the wedding?", all I can say is we won't be rushing into anything! it's taken 10 years to get engaged! After all - you want to be sure!!!!
The rest is to be shared later - I wouldn't want to tell you everything in a single post now would I? :)
I'll be back again soon...

Sunday, 12 January 2014

A few festive baubles and a Christmas kitty before it's over for another year!

I love making Christmas decorations... and this year I have really gone overboard! These have all been made by me this year, and I have had a great time doing it. So now that they are all bundled up for another year I thought I would share a couple of pics before we forget Christmas even happened! 
These little fellows are a development of my larger elephant cushions and sold well at the Kimbolton Christmas fair, in fact so well that I don't have a single one left for my own tree! I had better get sewing ready for next year!!
The next couple are  experiments with polystyrene shapes and some sequins. This Christmas pudding was first shown to me last year by a friend at my local WI, and I have been making them like crazy ever since.
 These heart shapes are just perfect for a more unusual Christmas decoration and I made a few more in different sizes to give as Christmas gifts for girl friends. These little sparklers could decorate a girl's room all year around!

 I love this Union Flag bauble - inspired by a picture sent to me by my Canadian friend Nancy. This one is not going anywhere!
This is Robbie - who featured in the Festive Makes Magazine this Chrimbo! Here he is in fabric...
And again in felt!
 A little fabric and ribbon number from last year!

It wouldn't be Christmas without a festive Maisy in her Santa hat!
And now it is all over for another year!

Friday, 27 December 2013

A Perfect Gift

Getting the perfect gift can be a tough challenge at the best of times,  but when the recipient is one of those people who buy what they want themselves, then it can be even tougher than usual.  Such a person is my brother!  He is a guy with a number of interests (some of which I don't have a clue about!) but if he wants a computer game, a movie or a graphic novel he will buy it himself.  There's no point in giving him tech because he already has it, and items for his yet to be decorated house just don't cut it.
Usually the place to visit is his amazon wish list, but this year I had a clue. I happened to mention recently that everyone in my family who wants a quilt already has one when he pulled me up short with "not everyone! ". So the challenge was set! 
My fabulous friend Pam gave me a wonderful bundle of fabric samples from a posh Italian shirt manufacturer a couple of years ago, and they have been waiting patiently in my stash for the perfect project. Now they seemed to fit the bill. My brother works in the city, so what could be better than a pin striped quilt! This fabric is very light and quite slippery so sewing it was sometimes like trying to staple cheese to a wall, but with some patience and a now empty can of spray starch I got there in the end!
Here's a picture taken in my kitchen because it was raining outside, so the light is a bit wonky - but you get the gist!
I spent ages trying to line up the pieced backing but it just wouldn't play ball... so eventually, in frustration, I just thought "sod it" and got on with the quilting. Imagine my surprise when I turned the finished quilt over and found that it lined up perfectly! I bet I couldn't do that again!!!! 
So here it is - 2 years in the making and now it is all wrapped up and ready to go! So next time I say that everyone in the family who wants a quilt already has one I expect to be greeted with appreciative silence! 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A festive bake... sort of!

I am not known for my baking, so you shouldn't be surprised that I didn't bake this little number.  But I am responsible for the decoration! I signed up for a 5 week class at a local shop in Yaxley called Cambridgeshire Sugar Supplies to decorate a Christmas cake. It was great fun, and I learnt a lot. As a complete newbie to this craft I was delighted that I was able to hire all the tools I needed and I could even buy the cake (which members of my family are eternally grateful for!). It was a definite selling point when I signed up as this was intended to be a one-off and so I didn't want to end up with lots of tools I might never use again.
And so after invest 2 hours every Monday evening for 5 weeks - ta-da!
I have to say that I am delighted with the result, and my Dad is really looking forward to tucking into it all on Boxing Day when the whole family gets together! 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

I love a happy cat...

This is a rare cat post the doesn't include a pic of one of my terrible trio. But they were the inspiration  for this little wall hanging for Create and craft and the 'fat cat' ruler.
This is so much fun to make and has so many possibilities - as well being super cute which always raise a smile!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Its amazing what a little bling can do!

You can never have too many sequins at Christmas,  and here's my newest decoration that I ran up during a rare moment of peace this week! I must admit that I love it and now have to make a few more!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Playing with circles

I love teaching. There is something so rewarding taking a idea, developing it into a design and then passing it on to others and seeing them run with it.
That is exactly what happened with my Zen Quilt. I needed to create a design that made good use of circles as I was supposed to demonstrating one of Simplicity's circle acrylics. I had also just bought a fat quarter bundle of Moda Christmas fabric that had a bit of a Japanese vibe about them, and so taking inspiration from those calming Zen Gardens, I came up with this!

A zen garden is a miniature representation of a landscape and nature which is an aid to meditation. The boulders represent mountains, and the ripples in the gravel present water flowing through the landscape. My circles represent the boulders and the quilting is the raked patterns in the gravel. I am very pleased with the results and they great on camera. It caused such a stir that I put it on in the shop as a workshop. And these ladies kept busy!

The different colours and fabrics created different moods and they are all looking fantastic! It proved so popular that I will be running the class again in 2014. It really is a hard life!!!!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Keeping busy

Being a crafter seems to be synonymous with being busy. Every one I speak to says that there are just not enough hours in the day to do all the things that they want to do. And I am one of the most guilty of that - the ideas that I have far outstrip the hours I have to complete them!
But somewhere I read that the more creativity you use, the more creativity you get so I will just keep on moving forward. 
My newest enterprise is a regular craft column in the Hunts  News and crier that features Bee Crafty. I wrote the first installment and Julie will be writing the second so keep an eye out for the odd crafty hint! What fun!

We are hoping that we will attract new people to crafting, and introduce them to the positive effects that creativity can have on our lives. This first installment is about the sociability of crafting, and how it brings people together.We all know how much fun it is to craft together and I hope that we will be able to spread this message a little further!

Friday, 1 November 2013

I love a good wedding ... ring

One of the great things about working with Create and Craft as a guest presenter is that I am 'forced' to play with products I wouldn't usually have the time or inclination to use. This often pushes me in directions I hadn't contemplated and often towards the more traditional end of the quilting spectrum.  The thing about traditional patterns as far as I am concerned is that the have been 'done' and that traditional meanings boring. I have definitely changed my mind recently, especially since I had to demonstrate a wedding ring template. I just love this traditional pattern and couldn't wait to get to grips with the very useful acrylic that Simplicity produce.
This first one is a table runner that I created to show the Double Wedding ring template using the fantastic Downton Abbey range of fabric from Makower. I loved this and using the right templates meant that it ran up quite quickly. (sorry about the quality of the photos, my design wall or the floor are not really in a great lighting positions!)

All of the shapes are cut from the basic template - with the centre having 4 curves, 4 melons (the little white leaf shapes) and the combination of lozenge shapes that make up the rings. I just love it as a table runner and it shows the fabric off a treat!
This next one is a variation called Pickle Dish and uses little triangles instead of the traditional lozenge shape of the one above. It still uses the rest of the elements used in the above Double Wedding Ring but is a bit more fun. I only did a small sample of this variation as it would be tempting but time consuming to make a full quilt for each acrylic they send me :) it would make a great table mat!

Diamond Jubilee - this is yet another variation on the double wedding ring which uses a diamond shape instead of the leaf shaped melon but still uses the 4 segmented shape.
 I am absolutely dying to use all three variations in a single quilt which I think would look stunning. I just need someone to add a few more days to the week...
What this has shown me is that I shouldn't turn my back on traditional patterns just because I feel that they are old fashioned and have nothing to offer me. Now I have had a go I am looking at the wedding ring in a whole new way! And I might have to take a look at some other traditional patterns with a new modern eye!!!!
 And just as a shameless plug - I will be teaching this at Bee Crafty on Saturday, 15 February 2014!

Monday, 21 October 2013

They always find the best spot!

Everyone who has a cat and quilts knows that the two are inextricably linked! As soon as I tidied away a few finished quilts, Jack found a new home.... and he looks extremely comfortable!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Always happy to help!

Many people will recognise this picture.  You get a pile of sewing done, turn around for 2 seconds, and find someone has moved in!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Shopping Sarah Style

It has been a while since my last confession (post) but I have been a very busy bee lately with lots of things I will share with you another day. Today's post is just a quick one because my feet are absolutely killing me and I can't wait to soak them in the bath.
The reason for the screaming toes is a long awaited trip to Alexander Palace for the Knitting and Stitching show.  After severe train related traumas we eventually made it there about lunchtime but there was still plenty of time to try to do purse related damage.  I had saved my fee from the festive makes magazine and it, along with some birthday money, was burning a hole in my pocket! And believe me I tried! Owning half a fabric shop puts a dampener on buying my usual buttons, ribbons and cloth purchases but I made a valiant effort with a couple of bead kits and two faboo kits from the Wonderful Kathleen Laurel Sage (to give her her full name!). She is such a lovely lady always with a word of encouragement and I can't wait to get started. 
However for now I am going to rest my tired feet and then admire my lovely purchases all over again! 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Will someone find me a few more days in the week....?

Oh my how I love to be busy! But with deadlines looming left, right and centre, I sometimes feel that a couple more days in the week would suit me a treat! I am sure I am not alone in having more projects on the go than I can possibly fit in!
We have been very busy in the shop since the move - with local and national press coverage of the reopening bring many more enthusiasts to our door, and I am working on more and more workshop ideas now that we have more space. My creative juices certainly seem to be flowing!
As well as that, I am now a regular guest presenter on Create & Craft with all the extra work that entails (with samples simply coming out of my ears). It is great fun - and not too nerve wracking as long as I concentrate only on the people in the room... and try to forget about the people watching. As soon as you think how many people might be staring back at you the tummy starts to go a bit wibbly!
Another bit of excitement on Saturday as my complimentary copy of Fabulous Festive Makes by P&Q arrived with my 2 Christmas projects published in it. Jack was very interested indeed!
It was so exciting to be asked to be involved - but it seems like ages since it was completed and sent off. I made a wall hanging - and we were all asked to create a Christmas decoration too - and my Robbie Robin made the cover! Uber-exciting! Here's a couple of snaps so you get the gist :)

Now I am sitting in a hot sewing room finishing yet another Christmas project to be included in the November issue of Patchwork & Quilting. One cannot possibly feel less Christmassy than I do right now but deadlines are deadlines. I can't share pictures of that one yet for obvious reasons but will when I can. There are further projects in the pipeline that need to be completed soon, and I will be happy to share about them too... soon...
And I am technically on holiday until Thursday, so if some one could give me a few extra days a week I would be eternally grateful!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

playing with roses!

I've had a great day today sharing one of my designs with some ladies keen to learn how to do foundation piecing with paper.  The pattern we used was 'a rose by any other name' and from a standing start they ALL  completed at least one block, with Jube making a start on a third! You go girl!
I am truly lucky to be able to share my passion with other people!

Sent from Samsung Galaxy S3