Monday, 18 May 2015

Change is Good... I think!

Sometimes change is looking into a big scary abyss with no idea where we are heading. Sometimes it is a leap of faith where you screw up your eyes, your courage, and then simply jump. Other times it is a more considered decision when you know that it is time to move on to pastures new.

My journey into change is the third one! I have loved the 4 years I have spent with Julie building up Bee Crafty from nothing into a thriving business that brings a lot to the community. Julie is going to continue with the same ethos that has made Bee Crafty so popular, but it is time for me to leap!

For me there are new challenges on the horizon. I will continue to teach my workshops at Bee Crafty, as well as being freed up to teach anywhere else where people want me :) My shows on Create & Craft continue to grow in popularity, and I am now a regular on the US channel, and a demonstrator for Jo Ann Craft & Fabric and Craft stores in the US. It also gives me time to work on my book as well as take a sneaky trip to the US to teach if the need arises (Paul has kindly offered to carry my luggage!) So staff rotas and VAT returns will no longer be on my list - new quilt designs and teaching will be!

Fingers crossed that this change will be one of the best!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Star Wars Day

If you are on FaceBook or just about anywhere, it can't have passed your attention that Monday was Stars Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you). As a dyed in the wool sci - fi fan, I was thrilled at the plethora of TV shows and articles about one of my favourite genres - but I was even more pleased that my first foray into the world of Jo Ann Fabric & Craft stores as their newest demonstrator on Create & Craft in the US was based around my two favourite things - fabric & science fiction. A whole show based around Star Wars Fabric!!!!! I was a happy bunny/Ewok!

I even got my very own Star Wars Style opener! I really rather like the title of Galactic Overlord :)

 The set dressers went all out with the theme! Only a couple of the figures were mine - there rest belong to the crew. I think they were as excited as I was :)
I made a mistake - I claimed the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel run in 6 parsecs - when in fact it was 12! But things always seemed faster when you were younger, and I don't think Hans Solo would mind :)
Don't worry - there are pictures of fabric etc at the end. 
So with all these lovely fabrics to play with, I couldn't resist running up a couple of 'samples' for myself - all in the name of research of course! The tote bag is just the right size to carry my long ruler, and the front pockets are perfect for a rotary cutter and scissors!
I also made a little zipped bag and a storage basket for good measure. One really should try these products out!!!!!!
I have had some requests for tutorials for these, because there wasn't time on the show - so over the next few weeks I will try to find a little time to sit down and write something!

Here is my existing Star Wars stash (nearly enough for a quilt... for ME!) - which will now find a new home in the flannel black & white Star Wars box I made. It's like I planned it! 

Monday, 27 April 2015

Fun with colours

In December our City & Guilds level 2 group got together for a messy weekend. Basically we played about with dyes for two days and a great deal of fun was had by all.

It's taken some time but I've managed to get all of my samples into my book, so I thought I'd share a few pictures.

The page on the left is using transfer paints onto paper using items like keys and doillies as a resist.
The pieces on the right are using silk paints and experimenting with gutta, wax as a resist and a bit of salt to move the paint around!
Left - playing with bleach. Right - transfer paper 
Right - discharge paste 
Left - tray dying. Right - batik dying with wax. 
Tray & bag dying. Lots if fun. 

It was huge fun and I cant wait to get started sewing with it :) 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Twisted 4 patch tutorial

I love to share simple patterns that make beginners look really good! So quilt designs that look tricky but that are really simple to make fit the bill perfectly.
Here is one that is fast, fun and will make everyone who sees it go "wow, did you make this?"
It a variation on the twisted 9 patch and so I have called it the twisted 4 patch. It is a great pattern to use for fabrics with bold designs because the patches can be left quite large to show them off.

Like the 9 patch, it works for any size pieces as long as they are all the same size and they are all square. This sample uses 8 1/2 inch squares because you can easily get 4 of them out of a fat 1/4. 

Step 1
For each block cut 4 squares measuring 8 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches. Press the seams in opposite directions so you can lock the seams together at the intersection. Sew them into a 4 patch and press.

Step 2
Now you need to cut apart your blocks again! Measure 2 inches from the centre line and cut from top to bottom.

Rotate the blocks and repeat until you have cut the 4 squares into 9 blocks. Now you should have something that looks like this!
Step 3 - Rotate!  Now the fun part starts. When making multiple blocks I like to make sure that I rotate each block in exactly the same way to ensure continuity of design.
  • Centre block - rotate by 180 degress.
  • Swap the top and bottom rectangles over.
  • Swap the left and right rectangles over.
  • Leave the large squares in place
You now have a new 9 patch layout that looks like the image below.

Sew the rows together, and then the 3 strips together.
Now you have a new block! Great fun and simple to make.


To make a small quilt top (30 inches square) you will make 4 of these with 4 fat quarters.  It's great fun and so simple.  I hope you have fun and if you make it please Facebook me pictures. 

Quilt update

Just a quick post because I have a very busy week in front of me with 10 shows on Create & Craft, 2 days teaching and a day running the shop. So no time to get bored - which is just the way I like it :)

2 of these shows are for our new kits designed by myself as Bee Crafty Designs and part of the Sew Easy range.

So here are a couple of pictures of our 4 kits (2 cushions and 2 quilt kits) and I can't wait to show them :)

The shows are on Tuesday at 11am & 3pm. Each kit contains full instructions and fabrics to make each design. For the quilts you get all the fabric you need to make the quilt front and the binding, and for the cushions you just need thread and a cushion pad!
I can't wait to share them with you - and I hope you enjoy the shows!

Channel details:
Freeview 36
Virgin 748
Freesat 813
Sky 674

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Exciting kits

Where does the time go? It;'s already mid February and some of my bulbs are making a valiant effort to reach the light and when I left the shop on Saturday at 5.50pm it was still light. So spring must definitely be on the way!

As usual, it's been busy here at Payne towers, with filming for Create & Craft in the US, as well as continuing to demonstrate here in the UK. Yesterday we had a little change of scene with a visit to the Craft Hobby & Stitch show at the NEC. This is a trade show and so we get to study up on new trends and products, and we have some lovely stuff coming to the shop as a result! (no spoilers!!!). But there was one stand that we were particularly keen to visit - the Groves & Banks stand. These guys are just about the largest distributor of notions in the country and it's where we source all our pins, needles, scissors and generally quilting ephemera. Well, we were delighted to be approached at the end of last year to visit them at their head office for a chat. Well, Julie and I have never been known to turn down the chance for a chat about quilting - especially if there is tea and biscuits involved! So we dutifully headed off without much of an idea why we were going! So imagine our delight when they said that they wanted to work with us on a range of quilting kits! They had seen the kits that we produced on our one off Bee Crafty show on Create & Craft, and they would like to make and distribute them to shops around the UK. Hang on a cotton pickin minute.... you want to do what????

Well to cut a long story short - the new kits were launched at the NEC this weekend. 2 beginners quilt kits and 2 cushion designs (both available in pink and blue). Oh my, excited is not the word!!!! I couldn't resist taking a picture!

I'm afraid the light isnt brilliant, but you get the idea :)

So these are part of the Sew Easy quilting range and are printed with Bee Crafty Designs - Designed by Sarah Payne on the packaging. Just too exciting! There are plans for more, with Julie & I coming up with more designs to add to the range. But this is our first born, and so feels extra special!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Dear Jane

Some times you wonder what you have started! In my case, I have been doing shows with the Dear Jane Quilt book and every time I look at it I think "one day...." well now that day has arrived, and it's all my own fault!

With the regular Saturday sampler class at Bee Crafty coming to an end I thought what a great excuse to make the quilt it would be if I taught it. Not the whole 225 patterns, but a simplified version. Now I am addicted! 60 blocks in and I struggle to work on anything else because I just want to get going.
I have posted some of my progress on my Facebook page and lots of people seem fascinated with this particular quilt.  It has to be my most popular posting so far!

So I thought I would post my progress here and answer some of the more common questions.

After I have taught the blocks in my workshop I will post my instructions here as well so it would be worth checking back.

So here is the first Q&A session.
Q. How big are the blocks?
A. Trim your blocks to to 5 inches, the block will eventually be 4 1/2 inches square and you need to have a1/4 inch seam allowance all the way round.

Q. Do the templates in the Dear Jane book include seam allowances?
A. No. They are drafted from the finished 4 1/2 inch block.

Q. How do I add the seam allowance?
A. For some blocks, it is just a matter of adding 1/4 inch to the outside edges. For other techniques like foundation piecing you need to add a seam allowance to each section, and for piecing it needs to be added to each piece. I will cover this when I get to those sections.

Q. I have bought the book but don't know where to start. Can you help?
A. I know it can be daunting but don't worry. The best place to start is with a couple of the 9 patch blocks:
A -6 Uncle Homer
M- 10 Made Simple
M 12 - Hop Scotch
J 6 Granny Weaver
J7 Chicken tracks.
 These use squares, and some of the smaller squares can be made up as strips and cut shorter.
Then if you like applique you can try these melon shaped variations - I stitched mine by hand
A7, E1 & E2

Q. Where will I find the instructions that aren't in the book?
A. The quilt is so big that all the instructions wouldn't fit in one book! You can find more information on or just keep coming back here!

This is the original and world famous Dear Jane quilt, hand pieced and completed by Jane A Stickle in 1863.

These are some of my finished blocks on my design wall. I have just completed block number 62! So still a couple more to go!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A few quilts

I thought I would take the opportunity to post a few pictures of some of the quilts I have made over the last year. As you may know I have been appearing on Create & Craft TV channel as a guest quilt demonstrator since last august, and I have now done over 100 hours of live tv. This has necessitated the creation of quite a few quilts!

The following quilts have all been created using EZ Acrylic rulers from Simplicity and I have enjoyed them all. Sometimes it has been a bit stressful with just a couple of days notice - these people don't seem to appreciate that I have a full time job :) however, I am happy with all of them!

Dresden Plate
This one was the perfect opportunity to use some of my much loved Japanese style fabric. I love it!

Easy Angle Acrylic
This ruler takes the maths out of half square triangles, and I  used it to create My Half Square Triangle Sampler - all 12 blocks use the same 8 HST and 1 square, but they are all different layouts.

Twinkle Star Acrylic and Easy Heart Acrylic
The twinkle star was for the blocks and the easy heart was for the applique and marking the free motion quilting shapes inside the blocks. Huge fun!

EZ Petal Ruler
This is so bright and summery, and perfect for my spare bed where it is destined to go between classes!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Yay! I have a thread stand!!!

Not so long ago I posted about my new tidy sewing room with newly organised fabric shelves and sorted threads. Well it is still tidy, but the promised thread stand proved to be a bit more complex.
I purchased a lovely new stand from the knitting and stitching show this year and eagerly awaited delivery.  It was to hold 120 threads which (I am embarrassed to say) isn't all of them, but it is a start. Anyway, when it arrived I excitedly took it home and Paul carefully installed it beside the fabric unit. It looked lovely so I prepared to fill it only to discover that it didn't fit a single spool of thread in my collection.  Disaster! Who makes a thread stand with spokes measuring 12mm? So afternoon a quick telephone call, they sent me another stand will 100 spokes which only measured 8mm. Result.
So that one arrives, and nothing fits. Arggggh. Paul could see that I was a little perturbed and so offered to help. And on Sunday he took the afternoon and made me a stand.
Well, repurposed the old one! Step one - cut all the spokes off.
All gone!
I didn't photograph the process of cutting and sanding 120 6cm long pieces of doweling! 
Then he drilled 120 iddy biddy holes, and then carefully glued all those little spokes into the holes.
Doesn't it look good!
And so here it is - all finished and full of thread, and doesn't it look great. Paul really is a lovely chap! I didn't want to tell him that this is less than half of my thread stash - so he may have to do it twice more!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Play time - a workshop with Faye Gagel-Panchal

During the summer I took a day off to enjoy a number or exhibitions on for Peterborough Artists Open Studio. It was a chance to enjoy the work, and chat to many innovative artists who open their homes and work studios to members of the public so we can have a good rootle around!
Some artists gather together in one place, including churches, shops or restaurants. In one such place (Stibbington Church)  I found the work of Faye Gagel-Panchal which is unique! She works with paper, fabric and paints to create stunning works of art drawing reference from her extensive collection of saris and Indian textiles. She creates layer of texture over many months, and then seals it behind numerous layers of varnish until they resemble pieces of enamel. She creates small fragments, all the way up to large canvases.
I loved her work so much that I signed up for a workshop in her kitchen. Myself and my friend Sarah went for two sessions over two weeks. I was going to create a canvas and Sarah  was planning to create a fragment.
Week 1 we created a design based on her selection of saris. They are stunning.
This purple one was the source that I chose. 
I then created a design using some of the images. I covered a canvas block with handmade paper and then cut out my design elements. I chose a paisley centre with a border around two edges.

I then used gold to outline the elements.
We left it there and took our stuff home to dry. It was suggested that I started building up some layers of paint in the week before the next workshop, which I did - though a little tentatively.
The following week we went back and the real fun started! I used beads, glitter and layers of paint to create my design and add texture. I carried on working on it for weeks and once I was happy with my design I could start building up the layers of acrylic gloss mediums. With 24 hrs needed to dry between each layer it has taken weeks to create a gloss finish. I'm afraid the picture isn't great because the finished piece is quite glossy and so the flash plays merry heck with the picture quality.
 I am delighted with the results, and now I need to find somewhere to hang it. It was a really freeing experience making this piece. Much of the work I do now has to be precise by its very nature, so being a bit looser was fun. Faye is a great teacher with a huge amount of talent and an ability to draw work out of you without you even noticing, and you even get cake! Now that's what I call a bargain :)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Keeping busy on October!

Well October has proved to be a very busy month - no change there :). In my family, October is the month for birthdays! Mine comes first on 9th October (a date shared with John Lennon - a fact I was thrilled to find out when I first discovered the Beatles in my early teens, though sadly long after he had already passed!). Then we have my brother's wife Julie's birthday on the 15th, my brother Simon is on the 24th, and my youngest brother Tim is on the 26th. So we have a long family tradition of drawing a birthday out over the whole month - which is great because it means that I have over a week of celebrating to go!
The festivities started for me on the 9th October with a night out in our local pub with some lovely girls from my WI - who helped me commiserate my old age of 42 over a glass of vino! Just the ticket so thanks Jane & Julia! Then the next day Julie & I headed to Ally Pally for the Knitting & Stitching show for 2 days of workshops, shopping and general gorgeousness! And guess who spent ALL of her birthday money - plus a few pence more!
My main objective of the show was to sort out some storage for my overflowing sewing room. Recent influxes of sewing machines from Create & Craft had led to a very really danger of shelving collapse and so something had to be done. Sewing machines (even borrowed ones) need somewhere safe to live. So the very rickety shelving had to go and has been replaced with good old billy bookshelves from IKEA. Next followed literally weeks of ironing and refolding my fabric stash so it all fits on my new shelves! It looks marvellous, but I didn't realise quite how much I had - eek! So next I needed to deal with my threads - currently residing in 6 boxes so I can never find the colour I wanted. And the show came to the rescue! I was interested in playing with some light weitgh sewing machine threads and so made my way to the Wonderfil stand and invested in some Invisifil (which I cant wait to get to grips with!). As I was talking to the lady, I mentioned my storage issue and she showed me one of the wall mounted stands that they sell. Blooming fantastic! It was just what the doctor ordered. And delight of delights - it was delivered yesterday! So after the purchase of some raw plugs - here it is! And doesn't it look fab next to all those lovely fabrics! Hopefully I can keep it all this neat!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How your garden grows!

It is often interesting to look back at pictures from the past and see how much the garden has changed!

Now that the seasons are definitely changing, I thought that I would post some pictures to remind myself how far we have come!

We moved into a new build in May 2010, and we started working on the garden in May 2011.
It was very much a blank canvas, and we were a little lost as to where to start! But we have settled into a routine where we create a big project each year, and it is finally starting to come together.

Here is my Dad helping make the first bed! He is planting our cherry tree next to the garage.

It was later joined by a morello cherry tree and this year it looked like this:

Those cherries make the best cherry gin liqueur in town :)

The following year, we decided to build a pond. Here is the picture from April 2012 - the wettest April for donkeys years!

It was a complete mud fest! But great fun all the same. And at least with all that clay at the bottom the pond shouldn't ever leak!!!

Here it was by the end of that summer - settling in nicely:

And here it is today. It has become a home to fish, dragonflies, water boatmen and all manner of squigglies! We are yet to attract any frogs or newts but we wait and see!

You can see the cherry tree bed in the back ground. We call this the "suicide bed" because so many plants have given their lives over the last five years to make the soil good enough for plants to survive. Planting in solid clay is certainly a challenge - even with the addition of sand and a LOT of mulch!

This is the view of the pond from the new patio - this years project! The pear tree is a new addition and we are patiently waiting for our 4 pears to ripen!

Last year we decided to build a summer house. After much bargain hunting, we found one we liked and that came in on budget, and so it was duly ordered and delivered.
Paul and Dad laid the base, and some very nice men with a big saw built the summerhouse!

Jack soon made it his favourite spot!
This year we decided it needed a patio so that we could sit outside it, as well as inside it. So once more, Paul and Dad to the rescue!

So now we have a lovely patio on which to sip our gin & tonics :)

So now that was in place - we needed to think about some new beds around the edge of the garden. We wanted to have more 'views' as we sat in the summerhouse - so in went a new bed down the left hand fence with a nectarine tree in it!

We also wanted beds at the top of the garden. We planted a eucalyptus tree, and Jack could not resist helping!

Maisy was pretty interested too!

 So this is what it looked like at the end of that day after much sweating and swearing....

and this is what it looks like now!
It has filled out a bit - and I have added a rambling rose that I hope with grow up the side of summerhouse. It is obviously very much a work in progress!

On the other side of the summer house we have extended the bed and I sowed a lot of wild flower seeds. Paul recons that they are weeds but I like them - I call it my wildlife bed! It has the second of my apple trees - and this one is a cooker! I made a fab pie with the 4 apples we got off it this year.

So there we are! Nearly up to date. The eagle eyed amongst you would notice the arch leading nowhere, but it is acting as frame for two of the lovely rose bushes we were given as engagement gifts. The plan for next year is to make all of that side of the garden into a flower bed, with a path running from the archway up to the patio - hopefully crossing a little stream using the bridge that Paul has built me! Whether our spines are up to all that digging solid clay will determine whether that happens - but at least we are making a start!

I planted 250 spring bulbs around the place at the weekend, and now I am really looking forward to seeing how it all looks in March next year!