Sunday, 15 May 2016

What a difference a year makes!

Well it is a year today (15th of May) since I sold my share in the shop. And what a year it has been! It was a bit frightening to let go of the safety net that was a regular place of work, regular hours and regular income, but I felt that it was time for me to move on to new challenges.  VAT returns and stock control just wasn't floating my boat and could never leave me enough time to be creative. So I held my breath and took the plunge. 

Now a year on I can reflect to see if it was the correct decision. Heck yes it was. Since then I have hardly stopped. I have had the opportunity to visit the Houston Quilt festival and Quilt Market, meet fabulous people at the Great Craft Extravaganza, Winter Crafting and Crafting Live, work closely with creative people across the craft industry and educated more crafters through TV. 

Linen and Lace Magazine is now a big part of my life (we are working hard on Issue 3) and I have just finished 10 projects for the Prima Makes magazine. I love the creativity that brings. I even get to be Artist In Residence this month in Winchester. Sometime a leap of faith is all that you need to start a enormously exciting and rewarding period in your life.

I am hugely greatful to all of you who have supported me over the last year, Paul, my family, friends and crafters who continue to watch and comment. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A place to create - welcome to my studio!

Goodness me I hadn't realised how long it has been since my last post. This year has been flying past at breakneck speed and I have been hanging on :)

So what have I been up to? Well I have continued doing shows for Create and Craft where I get to share knowledge and tips with a huge number of people at a time. It is great fun and it is amazing how many people I meet out and about who have started stitching after watching the shows.

I have also been working on magazine projects this month - with 10 Christmas projects just completed for Prima Makes magazine, projects for Create and Craft club magazine currently filling up my work table and 20 projects for the next Linen and Lace magazine sitting on my design wall. Crikey! I feel tired just talking about it.

I often get asked how I can make so many projects and still get some sleep? Well the answer is that I have a fully optimised work space. It is a room where I can go and work, but once I have finished I can shut the door and get on with other jobs. Being able to leave jobs half way through without having to put it away saves time and effort - two savings which make a big difference over time.

So here are some pictures of my sewing haven! It is a double bedroom with en suite which is hidden away on the top floor of our house which makes it very toasty this time of year.

The long kitchen work surface hides storage behind curtains. The shelves are filled with boxes keeping oodles of sewing loveliness in check. I use a planner table for my sewing machine and main cutting mat, with another mat on the work surface for easy photography. The laptop is constantly on as I try to keep on top of the paperwork :)
I spend a lot of time in this room - and therefore the TV and the kettle (hiding behind the laptop) are also vital pieces of equipment. The quilts on the back set of shelves are samples for shows (the rest are out of site in the hallway) and the fabrics in the boxes below are fabrics from suppliers for samples and demonstrating. I keep these separate from my own stash to avoid temptation :)

So here is the real stash....

Should I be worried??? My lovely Paul helped with the thread storage and it reduces the danger of buying duplicates because all the colours are visible. Once I sorted out my threads I found I had about 20 different spools of white thread - this way I can make sure I use them before I go and buy another one.

Here is my design wall pinned to the wall behind my door. It lets me display my quilt designs as I work on them. It helps me choose quilt layouts and play with colour placement, as well as see the whole design come together in front of me.

So there you are - this is where I spend much of my days, though it doesn't always look this tidy!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Getting scrappy in 2016

I'm not a great one for new year resolutions.  They invariably fall by the wayside once the empty party wine glasses are cleared away. But this year I have made a quilty resolution to get my scrap addiction under control. Like many sewists, I hate waste and so save the smallest pieces. Now is the time to use them up!
So my challenge has begun, and with two sewing machine 4 day deals already this month , I aim to spread the word. So I started with a scrappy book cover using the fancy stitches on my trusty Brother FS130QC. 

This is the journal cover version that I made on air over a number of shows using scraps of Floral Demin fabric by Craft Cotton Company and contrasting red fancy stitching. A perfect gift for someone special! 
These are my scrap boxes full of scraps - and these are the boxes I am planning to empty! I showed these on my Tuesday show - and many viewers are posting pictures to my face book page with their personal versions. How exciting!

But because it is me - there needs to be a quilt in there somewhere - so I have started my own Scrappy Star Quilt. I designed the block myself and use the foundation piecing method to create the star. This star is made from 4 smaller blocks. These will then be stitched together with 1 inch wide strips. I cant wait to get a bit of free time to get on with it! 
So this may be one new year resolution I can keep :)

Monday, 23 November 2015

My Antique Quilt

On my recent visit to Houston for the quilt festival, I happened by a stall called Mulberrry Lane Quilts covered in a stunning array of antique quilts.
I couldn't resist pausing, and underneath a pile of gorgeous quilts I found my new favourite thing - my now named 'Houston Scrappy Quilt'! It was love at first sight - and I really couldn't resist!

Very little is known about my new acquisition! It was delivered in a battered suitcase by a man to Mulberry Lane Quilts at a show in a sorry state. He thought it was made by his great Aunt - but didnt know any more. Carol - the antique quilt guru - thinks the fabrics used date it to about 1920 with some being older than that. This suggests that much of the fabric was preworn.

Those lovely guys at Mulberry Quilts worked their magic on what sounded like a stinky, grubby  bundle with their special cleaning and preserving process, and brought forth this gorgeous crisp clean quilt that looks almost brand new. It shows its age in some places, with some wear to the binding, and one of the fabrics in particular has not fared too well. But then I don't expect that I will be looking so so wrinkle free once I am nearly 100 years old!
 A bit of binding damage - though this appears to be single layer binding rather than the double we often use so it will alway be subject to more wear and tear.

Slight damage on some of the blocks - but this just makes me love it even more!

This is completely hand made - and the stitches are so delicate. It is all hand pieced and hand quilted - and when I look at the quality of these stitches I get a little catch in my throat. Thinking of the time and care that went into these stitches all those years ago - and now they have made their way into my home. It is a shame that this unknown person put all that care into this piece of work but never signed it. Did they think that this was 'just' a quilt, that it wasn't important? They probably never imagined that it would last long after they were gone, or that it would travel half way around the world. Though to be fair, if it were signed and dated I probably couldnt have afforded it.

 The block design is so simple, and yet so delicious!

Detail of the hand quilting in the sashing. It is very faint because it is white thread on white fabric but it is so neat!!!!

I have plans for this quilt - I want to make a replica in modern fabrics and you will probably see it on a future Create and Craft show! Who knows what the next stage of this amazing quilt will hold!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Keeping Busy and Out of Trouble!

I feel really guilty that I have missed posting in September and October completely! Where does the time go?

Well it has been busy! The biggest thing since my last post was my trip to Houston, Texas for Quilt Market followed by The International Quilt Show. My what a feast!

So that was almost 10 days of quilty loveliness.

I hope to share a few pictures as the weeks go by. But here is a little taste of Houston!

Between the two shows I had a day to myself - and so I took a cab across town to NASA Johnson Space Centre. For a science geek like me it was AWESOME! This is the obligatory space shuttle selfie - and Yes, that's really really big!!!!

Of course I balanced it out with a trip to HobbyLobby on the way back for a bit of a fabric fix!

I see 2 new dresses in my future!

I was very lucky with the weather that day because it was the only time I really saw the sun. A hurricane on my first weekend and tornadoes on my second meant that my game attempts at keeping dry with a brolly nearly resulted in a comedy 'Mary Poppins moment' so I just put up with the frizzy hair and soggy clothing and got on with it!

But the quilts more than made up for it. There were stunning things to look at as far as the eye could see! This one was one of my favourites. It is called Bouquet of Hearts by Dora Tovar Pachnowski from Lack Jackson, Texas. It is hand appliqued and all the parts  are made up of heart motifs. I loved it! The picture really doesn't do it justice.

Here is a closer picture showing a bit more detail - including the lovely free motion feathers in the blue border. Stunning!
Another quilt I loved was this quilt called Landstriche - Swaths of Land by Brigitte Morgenroth from Kassel in Germany. The clever use of colours takes the humble log cabin to new heights! How very clever.

I will keep sharing more pictures that I took during my trip - and hopefully you will enjoy looking at them as much as I did! 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Events just keep coming!

Once I sold the shop I really wasn't sure whether work was going to flow to my door, or form a small puddle at the end of the garden. As it turned out, it came gushing forth in a way that was both exciting and terrifying . It is gratifying to know that all those hours sewing and working silly hours was going to pay off. Now I finally get to live my dream - teach all over the place!

So the first big event I have attended this year was the Festival of Quilts where I was demonstrating a fantastic new range of fabric cutting dies created by the amazing papercrafting company Tattered Lace. This new range of Linen & Lace deep dish dies are certainly making an impact, and I have had a brilliant time introducing them to quilters at the NEC. I hope to be able to show more of you at the WI Centenary Fair in Harrogate in September and through shows on Create & Craft.

I will also be paying a return visit to Harrogate in October when I am thrilled to be invited to teach workshops for the Great Create show. This is the Fully Kitted English Paper Piecing Pincushion I will be teaching on Friday 2nd October at 11.30am - 1pm & 1.30pm til 3pm. So if you fancy giving EPP a try without the hassle, then book a place and enjoy a bit of light sewing!

I will also be teaching my Vintage Button Brooch workshop at 9.30am - 11.00am on the same day - so there will be much dashing around between sessions. Again the class is fully kitted, so you don't need to worry about bringing anything with you - except your creativity!

I also have a few more classes coming up at Bee Crafty - with my simple Machine Embroidered bag class on Saturday 22nd August.

You could also join me on this fun Freeform Class on Friday 16th October where you will learn design techniques to help you create your own free form quilt designs.

So as you can see there is plenty there to keep me busy :)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

English Paper Piecing Tutorial

I have really got into hand sewing in general over the past few years, and now I am totally in love with English Paper piecing.

A traditional type of quilting that is certainly making a come back - EPP is often a starting point for new stitchers because it is simple and extremely portable. A pile of hexagons or diamonds stuffed in a plastic folder take up no space at all in a travel bag - and is my holiday project of choice! In fact - it makes me a far more sociable stitcher even at home because I can stitch in front of the TV instead of tucked away in my sewing room.

This is a tutorial to make a small block which you can then turn into a pin cushion. You can omit the last stage and simply applique it onto a background and use it as a block!

It is a fabulous way of using up all those scraps - and this little lot is all made with left over Tilda bits and pieces. Why waste a single inch???

  • 19 paper hexagons
  • 6 inch square of fabric for pin cushion backing
  • Scraps of coordinating fabric (4 x 5 inch squares from Spring Lake Tilda Charm pack were used for this sample)
  • Handful of stuffing
  • Threads – contrasting for basting and a matching thread for sewing together
  • Needle
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Paperclip

Make the hexagons

You can buy precut paper pieces or cut your own from recycled paper. Cut your fabric pieces at least ¼ inch larger on all sides than the paper piece. This extra fabric will be folded over the paper pieces to make a hexagon exactly the same size (see Fig 1).

 Next, baste your fabric around the paper. Use a paperclip to keep the first fold in place and then gently fold the fabric edge over the paper template. (fig 2)

Tie a big knot in the end of a contrasting thread (so you can easily see to remove it later) and place a stitch on the fold. Keep the thread taut as you stitch the corners – you want to keep the fabric tight to the template. (See fig 3). You can buy fabric glue sticks that remove the need for stitching but I don't really have any experience of these.

 Continue folding and stitching all the way around your hexagon until all the sides are secured. Fig 4

  Baste 19 hexagons in total and lay them out as shown in figure 5

 Now you are ready to begin sewing the shapes together. Take two hexagons and put them right sides together. Then, using a small whip-stitch in a matching thread, sew the pieces together. Be careful to just catch the very edge of each fabric piece with your needle. You don’t want to sew through the paper templates.

Continue sewing all the hexagons together, one seam at a time. The stitches should not be visible from the front (fig 7).

 Once you have sewn all the hexagons together, press the blocks to set them in place. Carefully remove the basting stitches and take out the papers to use again. 

Pin Cushion

To turn your block into a pin cushion, place the block and the backing fabric right sides together. Do not trim the backing fabric yet. Sew all the way round the block (a sewing machine will stitch a good strong seam).  The trim the backing to be slightly larger than the hexagon block (fig 8).
Cut a small hole in the centre of the backing fabric and turn the whole thing through the hole. Poke out the corners and press again. Stuff, and stitch the hole up. Now add pins!

EPP as blocks

These are all hexagon and 60 degree diamond templates appliqued onto a backing fabric so that they can be used on a variety of different projects. They would make stunning quilt blocks or bordered to make larger cushions.

Start now and you will have a fine stash of them to give away for Christmas presents - all made with the little bits we would normally throw away!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Quilters Tape - what do I need it for?

There are lots of products on the market set out to trap us unwary quilters into parting with our hard earned cash, only to sit in our sewing box for ever! After a while we get a little savy and begin to ask the question - What do I need it for? Quilters tape is one of those items! So you may ask, why do I need 1/4 wide masking tape? As a question I am often asked - I thought I would just tell you one reason why I use it!

I find it perfect for marking out quilting lines when I don't have a marker handy, or I am afraid to mark the fabric. Here I have used it to make a 1/2 inch 'echo' line around the inside of the block (where you echo an existing line - in this case, the seam). I have also marked a diagonal line from one side of the square to the other. While I am confident to 'eyeball' 1/2 inch from a seam, a large diagonal space can be tricky - so I take no chances.

This is low tack tape so it wont distort your fabric when you remove it. You can even sew over it a little bit and it still safely puts away (though don't get too carried away :) )

This is what it looks like once the tape is removed. So easy and so effective!

So next time someone asks you what you can do with quilters tape - you have at least 1 answer :)

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

What's in a Wadding?

Increasingly, people are asking me about wadding! It is an integral part of quilting - and can really affect the resulting quilt.

As it happens I am presenting a show on wadding/batting for the US Create & Craft channel - so I thought I would share my thoughts. By the way - what we call wadding is known as batting across the pond - the two terms are interchangeable!

Question - what do the different methods of processing mean?

Needle Punching

  • This is where fibres are needle punched or dry felted together to create uniform layers that are strongly fused and creates a soft drape.
  • The more the fibres are punched together, the denser the resulting wadding.
  • Needle punched wadding requires very close quilting - often with stitching no further than about 4 inches apart.
  • The needle punched fibres are easy to glide a needle through ad so is perfect for the hand quilting enthusiast.

Needle Punching with Scrim

  • Scrim is a lightweight sheet of stabiliser that is needle punched into the wadding as it is formed.
  • It adds strength and durability, and supports the final item when it is washed after completion. 
  • This stability also allows for quilting much further apart, allowing stitching lines 8 - 10 inches apart. 

Thermal Bonding

  • Thermal bonding is used for fibres like polyester or wool. Needle punching for these fibres can cause fibre migration (or bearding) where the finished wadding has a 'fuzz' and can easily show through the resulting quilt.
  • Thermal bonding is where a small amount of 'low melt' polyester is mixed in with the wadding fibres and then passed through a warm oven to melt them together.
  • Thermally bonded polyester has a higher loft (height) and is very light weight and 'poofy'! This can add real dimension to the quilting and adds real definition.
  • Thermal bonding in high loft wadding often requires a stitched area of 4".

Question - Should I pre-shrink?

  • Some wadding will shrink depending on the fibre content - and this is usually noted on the packaging so make sure you keep a note once you have removed it from the packaging.
  • 100% cotton & cotton blends tend to shrink the most. This can be used to create the 'antique' look that many quilters desire by washing AFTER the quilt has been completed.
  • If you do not want to achieve this affect, you should pre-shrink.To pre-shrink your wadding, submerge in warm water (not hot) and soak for 20 minutes. Gently squeeze out excess water by rolling it in a dry towel. Be careful as wet wadding is very fragile. To dry your wadding, lay it flat or put in a warm dryer for a short time. 

Question - What are the different varieties of wadding and when are they best used?


Polyester has many advantages for the quilter:
  • It is lightweight and durable - it will spring back into shape no matter how many times it is washed.
  • Washable by hand or by machine.
  • It is good for those with allergies because there are no allergens in it.
  • Inexpensive and available in a wide range of lofts & thicknesses.
  • Higher loft wadding are great for showing quilt stitch definition.
  • Bags and items of haberdashery that are used often.
  • All items that require frequent washing.
  • Good thermal properties so great for cold weather quilts!
  • Children's play mats - though not recommended for babies (you should only use 100% cotton for baby quilts)

100% Cotton

This is a firm favourite with quilters who like the antique/heirloom look and the pleasure of working with pure cotton. It has been used since the earliest days of quilting and is still hugely popular today.
  • It is soft and can be quilted with a lot of detail. 
  • Washable by hand or machine (on a cool wash).
  • Great for hand quilting.
  • Cotton wont melt if you put a hot pan on it, so is great for table runners, place mats etc.
  • Thin and low loft
  • Breathable
  • Ideal for giving your quilt that heirloom look, as it shrinks (about 3%-5%) and wrinkles the first time you wash it.
Perfect for:
  • Heirloom quilts.
  • Summer quilts as it is light and breathable.
  • Competition quilts

Cotton/polyester blend

This is the best of both worlds!
  • The light low loft feel and breathability of cotton with the durability and safe washing of polyester.
  • Popular blends are 80% cotton/20% polyester and 60%cotton/40% polyester.
  • A blended material is a good choice for quilters who are unsure which batting is the best for their quilts. Cotton and polyester blend batting is typically less expensive than pure cotton but pricier than completely polyester products.
  • Just about anything!


  • Wool is the warmest of the waddings on the market and is the best choice for quilts which are used in damp and cool climates as they are able to absorb moisture.
  • It is too warm for Spring and Summer use.
  • Wool is popular with both hand and machine quilters.
  • It is lightweight and retains it's loft though out the life of the quilt - making it popular with art quilters.
  • It can attract moths if not stored correctly.
  • It can be tricky to wash - and should NEVER be tumble dried!
  • It is a pricey option!

There are other waddings available on the market - including bamboo and silk. Eventually, the choice of wadding is personal. It can be based on how you plan to use the finished quilt, how you want to quilt it, what look you want it to have or how much money you can afford to spend.

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!