Friday, 28 November 2014

Christmas is coming!

So my husband asked me a very silly question this morning..."What do you want for Christmas?"

Sewing things!

There is so much I don't have! For instance, I've been doing this quilting lark for nearly two years now and only ever used a six and a half inch square ruler!

So, seeing as he asked, lol, I've suggested a six by twenty four ruler, a twelve and a half inch square ruler and a jelly roll ruler. Oh and a EZ Flying Geese ruler.

I've wanted (needed) these rulers for ages, but never got them. Cutting long lengths of fabric has always been slightly haphazard with my lowly six and a half inch ruler, but I always, somehow, made it work. Squaring blocks has also been temperamental.

But the best thing about this hobby, is that there is always something you can buy a quilter. 

Craftsy were having a Black Friday Sale, so I also treated myself to a new class. Magical Jelly Roll Quilts with Kimberley Einmo.

I love a jelly roll! They're so pretty, but I'm always unsure of what to do with them, apart from a jelly roll race quilt. So if any of you guys have a favourite pattern to utilise a jelly roll then do let me know!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Needleturn and Smooth Curves

I've finished the first block of my Baltimore Album Quilt. Here it is:

I am happy with it, but I did run into a few problems that I need people's help with.

First I had to use needleturn applique, a technique I'd never used for. This happened because I forgot to trace reversed images, so my freezer paper pieces were on the wrong side of the fabric and I wasn't prepared to waste the fabric by having to recut! So I used white marker to trace around the freezer paper pieces and used needleturn, instead of pre-hand basting the pieces.

The stems were no problem. I cut them on the bias and turning them under with the needle worked well because the curves in them were so long and so gentle. But the other pieces, some of the leaves, the flower heads and the vase were all difficult, because no matter how often I turned under the fabric, I would get pointy bits on my curves that wouldn't flatten out.

The reverse applique was okay, though the yellow vase fabric showed through the green stems underneath, so I'll need to add some interfacing or something to stop that happening on other vases.

Does anyone know of any good YouTube videos or blogs that show how to do tight inner and curves with needleturn?

The only videos I can find use hearts to demo and I can do hearts by pre-basting. Lots of videos are machine sewing or pre-basted pieces, or lovely long, slow curves. I need a video or instructions on how to do inner and outer curves that are quite tight that use needleturn.

Can anyone help?

The other thing I don't like, is that my 'invisible thread' is dark grey, so the stitches show on the yellow fabric, but not the others and I'm now waiting for some 60 weight thread in matching colours to arrive.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Baltimore Album Hand Applique

So, I've been hard at work the last few days, working on the start of a brand new quilt, which, quite frankly, will probably take me ages, because it's all hand applique.

This was the book I was waiting for:

It has 25 baltimore album block patterns in and I'm doing them all to replicate the quilt. I love hand applique! And I blame Mimi Dietrich for having such a wonderful way of teaching applique on her Craftsy class, Hand Applique Made Easy, for getting me into this!

I bought my fabrics, two greens, two reds, a gold and a royal blue for all the applique pieces and I hunted everywhere to get 60 weight thread for the sewing in those colours, but I could only get the invisible thread, so I'm using that. 

To start, I drafter the outline of the pattern onto freezer paper and then ironed the pieces onto the wrong side of the fabric, only then realising once I'd cut them all out and ironed them on, that they were now a mirror image! Rookie mistake!

So I outlined the freezer paper with white marker instead, so I didn't lose all the pieces I'd cut out and used needle turn applique instead.

This is what I've done so far. 

I love nothing more than just sitting sewing, listening to my podcasts or music and shutting out the rest of the world.

Thanks to everyone who contacted me about the Sewing As Therapy post!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sewing as Therapy

I have a chronic illness (MAV), the details of which I won't bore you with, but you could always Google it, if you were interested. One side effect of having a chronic illness sometimes is depression. Depression occurs because all you can see are the long years ahead of you, suffering in the same manner, without a break and you think, "heck, can I do this?"

Today, is one of those days for me. MAV controls so much of what I do and as I won't ever escape it, I sometimes worry about the future. I have four children, the eldest 15, twins of 14 and a ten year old with ADHD, ODD and autistic traits similar to Aspergers.

That's a lot of hard work. My husband does a lot and without him, I'd be completely lost. Our home life would not be as great as it already is and I reallydo appreciate all that he does for us.

But sometimes, despite chronic illness, you have to find something you can yourself that will lift your mood. Something that will let you forget the pressures of the day and allow you to relax and think about something else.

Sewing does this for me. Sewing allows me to forget how ill I feel, or how crappy the day is and allows me to get creative. To feel the fabric in my hands, to admire the beauty of its pattern, or colour, or the way it will go with another fabric. I love to sew a seam and see a beautifully straight line, or the fact that the stitches are hidden completely. I love it when a project goes right and I create something so beautiful, or exquisite, I'm happy to just sit and admire it and think, "I made that".

Sewing is therapy for me. It's therapy for a lot of people. The art of taking a needle and thread and using it to piece together an item is soothing and relaxing and calming. (As long as we don't go wrong and need to use the old seam ripper!)

I can't imagine NOT sewing. I can't imagine someone saying to me that I could never do this again. That would kill me. Maybe not physically, but the devastation would be pretty bad.

Today is a bad day. So I will sit and handsew my applique and know that in an hour or two, I will feel better about everything. My mood will lift and I will probably be embarrassed that I have written all of this.

But I felt that this was important to share. This is what sewing means to me. It is not just a hobby. It is not just something for me to do. It is a passion. It is a need.

And it keeps me going.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Baltimore Album

It's nearly Halloween and my youngest wants us to recreate this in our front yard.

So, I'll be busy carving pumpkins, whilst I wait for my book on Baltimore Album quilts to arrive.

I lurve Baltimore Album quilts and I'd love to sew one. As I love hand sewing and doing applique, I figure this will be a labour of love. I've bought some size 9 sharps needles and tested them out. They're fine enough to sew with and easy to thread, without leaving holes behind in the fabric. I've got a beautiful mixed blue jelly roll, because I want to do a Baltimore Album in blue and white, similar to this one below:

...and I've bought some special thread. 60 weight, so it's really fine and 3 ply so it's strong. Again, I've tested it and you really can't see those invisible stitches.

I'm hoping to try to design some of the blocks. The ones I've come up with so far are just nice designs, using hearts, vines, leaves and circles, but I've read that each 'album' is meant to signify something, so if I wanted to do, say, a Hayling Album quilt, I could use boats, or maybe oysters because of the old oyster beds, or maybe a house to represent the old brick-making industry.

I can't wait to get started as there's nothing I like more than to sit in front of the TV and sew by hand.

In other news, I went to my monthly sewing group at Island Piecemakers. We had a sewing evening and we all sewed a quilt kit from Jan Holeman. Jan uses pleats and folds in the fabric to create texture in her landscapes and this was my attempt.

I'm not 100% pleased with it, but as it was my first go with a new technique, I can't complain that much!

So, have you ever worked on a Baltimore album quilt? What are your thoughts on hand-sewing?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sewing Room Spider

It's Autumn here in the UK, so it's spider season. Wherever you look, there's a spider. They're on my car, IN my car, all over the house, in the garden, spanning pathways, in the house, in places you don't expect!

But there was one place that I thought was safe, but I was wrong.

My sewing room!

This is my sewing room spider.

He's rather large and he appeared one evening as I was using the window as a light box. Imagine my squeals when I noticed he was there (I have real bad arachnophobia) I mean, look at the size of his fangs!

And he is common garden spider. But apparently, according to the helpful BBC news website, the South of England is being invaded by tube spiders and false widows. False widows look like black widows and can give you a nasty bite, but tube spiders hurt. People have lost hands to a tube spider bite. They're much bigger and much more scary.

I haven't seen a tube spider yet, though there are false widows living in our garden shed (a place I never go!)

Thankfully, there's nothing else in my sewing room. But I do have to put up with the eight-legged one staring at me like I'm lunch each time I use the window.

So what about anyone else? Do you have a visitor in your sewing room?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Great British Sewing Bee (Part 3)

Episode 3 was a bit of a letdown. Regarding celebrities whom I'd never heard of before. Well, two of them anyway.

Our host for the evening was Anita Rani (???) the two celebs I DID know were Timmy Matley, (lead singer of The Overtones) and Helen Lederer (comedienne) the other 'celebrities' were Gemma Cairney (Radio 1 DJ ???) and Kathryn Flett (apparently some sort of critic???)

The first challenge was to make a man's tee shirt. Timmy and Kathryn did quite well, Helen had a good attempt, whereas Gemma's was a little sad looking. She made a much better headscarf which she wrapped her own hair in half way through.

The second challenge was to take a prom dress and make it into an outfit for someone else. Gemma did nothing to the dress. All she did was find some African print fabric she liked in the haberdashery and wrapped it over the top (for 2 hours?) Helen added some pink netting over the navy blue skirt and cut into it and made some attempt at changing the dress below. Kathryn made a gusset in her dress skirt and attempted some strange bunny outfit short pants combo and Timmy added a swathe of fabric to the bodice of his dress and won the second challenge too!

For the final challenge, they had to make an outfit from their childhood. Gemma told us she'd once worn this dodgy hat as a child, so inspired by that she was going to make a cape. Kathryn also made a cape that was inspired by red riding hood. Helen made a delicate little girls party dress that was very pretty and Timmy made the Michael Jackson Thriller jacket out of pleather.

Once again, Timmy's outfit was judged the best and he won the show.

It's been an interesting show with celebrities and right at the start of episode 3 as they introduced us to Anita Rani, we got a sweeping shot of the area where the sewers do their stuff. The carpet was in a shocking state. Lumps and bumps in it all over the place as if it had only been rolled into position and not stuck down. I'm amazed health and safety didn't have a field day with that!

I love the Great British Sewing Bee. Can't wait for it to come back to our screens. And, as ever, I yearn for the day when they will make something else apart from clothes.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Great BritishSewing Bee (Part Two)

The second episode was last night. Sara Cox, DJ, was presenting and the guests were Pam Ferris (Call The Midwife), Gaby Roslin (lottery show presenter apparently), Louie Spence (Pineapple Dance Studio Owner) and Mark Watson (comedian).

For the first challenge, they had to make some pyjama bottoms with a drawstring waist. The design was chosen as it only had two pieces of fabric, so was considered easy for the celebrities, none of whom had sewed before, with the exception of Pam who mentioned she'd done it 40 years ago, but she'd not seen her sewing machine since.

Well it became very obvious that sewers, like elephants, don't forget! Pam was amazing! She made a gorgeous pair of pyjamas using a child's dinosaur print. Louie, despite his frantic, over-the-top I-will-react-to-every-innuendo-i-can approach, made a very neat and sedate (for him) pair of navy pyjamas. Gaby went for a silver glitter ball effect fabric for her PJs and Mark? Well....Mark used a red fabric and was the only one who couldn't put these two bits of fabric together despite the two hour time limit. The PJs he presented wee very sad to behold, but at least he tried and Patrick and May, the judges, were very sympathetic and kind, suggesting he was using a Vivienne Westwood approach.

For the second task, they had to make over a child's onesie into an animal outfit. They all set about this task with huge enthusiasm, though Louie list it half way through and his ladybird outfit suddenly got hacked into and he decided to make it into a leotard instead.

Mark went for a zebra fish, but decided that sewing wasn't his thing, so he wrote a poem instead! Gaby made some weird reptile/dragon cross over with pretty eyelashes and Pam excelled herself yet again with a rooster outfit.

For the final challenge, they were asked to make a skirt that conveyed something personal from childhood.

Gaby made over an old tablecloth and appliquer bits onto it to celebrate her favourite story of Alice In Wonderland. Mark made a nude look skirt with a pair of red spotted pants on top aka Superman, being influenced by his favourite story of the Emperors New Clothes. Louie made a ra-ra skirt, simply because he'd always wanted one and Pam? Pam excelled yet again with a gorgeous skirt that the silhouette of the London skyline on it, from Peter Pan.

Pam won, obviously and I would love to see anything more that she makes. If she hadn't become an actress, I wonder if she would have become anything special in the design world? She was amazing. Amazing actress, amazing sewist, amazing lady.

Great second episode!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee

Here in the UK, we have a programme on BBC One, called The Great British Sewing Bee. It's presented by Claudia Winkleman and two specialists, a May Martin from the Women's Institute and a Savile Row tailor called Patrick Grant.

Sewers compete each week to sew three items. The first item is a piece of clothing selected by May and Patrick, say, a woman's blouse. They then have to choose a fabric from a vast selection and choose from the haberdashery as to how they might want to add to the pattern.

The second challenge is the sewers are given an item of clothing, like a mans shirt and they then have to change it to something, like a child's outfit.

The third challenge is usually the longest, about five hours, and they have to create a dress for evening, or a suit, or something that needs a lot of work!

The series of sewing bee hits us once a year and even though they don't cover quilts or patchwork, they just stick to clothes, it's a really lovely show.

We also have Children in Need in the UK, who's mascot is Pudsey Bear. Children in Need is a charity event held each year on television where they raise money for children.

These two programmes have been combined this year and there are three special programmes of Sewing Bee this week. The first was on last night.

The celebrity sewers were Edith Bowman, a DJ, Wendi Petersen, a soap actress, Dave Myers, a celebrity chef, and Dr Dawn Harper, a TV doctor. I really hoped that they wouldn't mess about and they would try their hardest and they did! All items made in the celebrity Sewing Bee are to be auctioned off, so everyone tried very hard.

I was very impressed by their efforts. Dawn definitely won the first round, I thought Dave ought to have won the second round and I really hoped Wendi or Dawn would win the third with their stunning retro dresses!

Wendi won with a 1950's inspired dark green dress and she was thrilled. It was good to hear the celebrities enjoyed their times behind the sewing machines, something they'd never done before.

The next two programmes are on Thursday and Friday, so I hope to report back on those too!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Working on a Custom Order

Hello everyone! I've been busy working on a custom order for one of these.

It was designed by Janine of Rainbow Hare and is a fabulous little pattern I picked up from Etsy now, before anyone tells me off, the pattern maker has given anyone who has bought the pattern, permission to make and sell to order, as long as we attribute the designer. Which I have, and do.

It's a lovely little pattern. The pages and pages of instructions scared me the first time I made it, but now I can put it together, in order, without having to refer to the instructions except to check measurements, of course.

I was selling this item for £45, but I've had to increase my price. I'll tell you why.

£45 was a figure that I plucked out of the air. It seemed a good deal and I didn't want people to be put off buying the item, just because it was too expensive. But since making it a few times, I've come to realise, I've been selling myself short.

So, I looked at fabric costs, wadding costs, threads, felt, needles, having to buy new pinking shears for the bunting, the HOURS of quilting, the HOURS of handsewing all the windows and doors. The machine piecing, the finishing touches, not to mention the cost of electricity. 

If I paid myself minimum wage just for the hours it took to put this together (not the fabric or wadding costs), then it would come to more than £45. 

So, now on my Etsy shop, the caravan cover is priced at £70 plus P&P. This is still way under what it should be, but I don't want to price myself out of the market. Hopefully, I will still get orders and I can continue to keep making this lovely cover.

So what about you? Have you ever undersold one of your items? Have you had to significantly increase the price? 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Love Quilts UK (Part 2)

So, I mentioned in my video log a couple of posts back, that I was going to be working on a charity quilt for Love Quilts UK.

I'm nearly done! I've just got to handsew the binding, which I live to do, as islets me switch on my quilting podcasts and listen to those as I sew.

I had a few problems with the quilt as I was putting it together. I used 3" strips in between blocks and 3" squares in a darker pink where all the strips met. That worked fine and I expected it to. If you cut accurately, these things should go together without a problem.

My problem came when I had to do the outer border in princess fabric. I needed two long strips and the two shorter strips for top and bottom. Only when I measured the fabric, it was too short and too narrow to cut them all in a single piece! So I had to put two pieces together. But due to the nature of the fabric pattern, it's wide spacing, to allow the pattern to flow, I had to do a lot of pasting and cutting, so much so, when it came to the last piece, I didn't have enough fabric for the "flow".

Hate it when that happens. There was no more of the princess fabric, so I had to use pieces that wouldn't match up with the pattern. I did the best I could and the quilt still looks great, I'm just annoyed that I know there's a fault in it.

I know Emily won't notice (the little girl for whom the quilt is being made) but I'LL know it's there!

Then I had to make the quilt sandwich, which I spray basted for the first time and that worked well, but I really dislike the wadding that they use. It's lumpy and bumpy and you can't always get a flat quilt, like you would if you used Heirloom wadding, but hey, ho, it's a charity and so i can understand why they'd rather not spend precious money on expensive wadding.

So there we go. It's nearly done. Pretty in Pink. I hope Emily loves it and that it brings her comfort, wherever she may go.

Monday, 6 October 2014

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

Typical UK weather here today. Gale force winds whipping round the house, battering the trees and torrential rain hammering down.

Welcome Autumn.

A friend of mine said it was good sewing weather. What do you think? Are you a fair-weather sewer? Preferring to sit out in the garden doing a spot of hand-sewing? Or do you like to be tucked up warm inside with your machine and getting on with projects whilst the weather is atrocious?

I'm a bit of both I have to say. All weather is sewing weather!

I've been busy this weekend doing the quilt top for my Love Quilts UK quilt for the beautiful Emily. I've pieced all the squares together and added sashing. It was only when it was put together did I realise the border fabric would have to be made up of pieces sewn together to make the long strip, then because of the wide pattern on it, I had to be really selective over which strips I cut, so that the pattern matched and flowed. Never had that problem before. Now I've just waiting for my batting to arrive, so I can make the quilt sandwich.

The last two quilts I've put together, I've used 505 basting spray instead of pins and I may be late to the party, but the spray is brilliant! So quick and easy to do. I didn't mind pinning, but it usually got me all sweaty and bothered as I had to keep crawling over the floor to do it properly.

505 may be expensive (at £6.99 per 250ml) but it's worth every penny.

I've also been busy hand-sewing some hexies whilst I sit in the car waiting for my kids to come out of school and so that's steadily growing. It's about as big as the front car seat, so far, so I'm happy with that little project. Everyone at school is used to seeing me sitting there sewing and I usually get left undisturbed which is good!

And nearly a thousand views of my blog! Thank you so much everyone!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


For the first time in a year of quilting of sewing, I did something yesterday that I never thought I'd do.

I snapped the needle in my sewing machine.

It was all my fault! Instead of having the multipurpose foot on my machine that it arrived with, I'd got on my quarter inch foot. Then stupidly decided to do a blanket stitch without thinking.


So then I had to go in search of the needle packs I knew the machine had when I bought it. Where had I put them? The tub where I store my fabrics? Hmm, so I dug everything out, prompting a sort out of my stash, only to discover the needles weren't in there.

Hmm. Where oh where...ah, yes, in the small storage compartment. Of course. Only to discover that I had five different packs and had no ideas of what a standard needle was.

I worked it out through a process of elimination, but it's made me realise how sadly lacking my needle knowledge is.

I am determined to enlighten myself. Anyone know an easy way?

Monday, 29 September 2014

Hatched and Patched 'Some Kind of Wonderful'

About a year ago, I saw on one of the FB pages, a quilt completed to a pattern by Hatched and Patched.

It was lovely and whimsical and I fell in love with it straight away. It was called, 'My Favourite Things' and I just knew I had to make my own version.

I ordered the book from abroad and it soon arrived and I hungrily devoured the pages. There were so many wonderful patterns in the book, apart from the quilt! There was a sewing case, a needle book, a pincushion, pillow, heat bag, door  hanger, table runner, bag, coin purse, travel document holder, shoe stuffers, eye mask....!

By Anni Downs, the book is beautifully produced, written, with clear instructions.

I ordered some cream fabric for my panels and went through my scraps to find good fabric to make the pictures for the panels. I had a jelly roll of creams and beiges, mushrooms, taupe, soft pinks and peppermint greens, which would help create all the accent blocks and patchwork pieces.

So far, I'm about half way through making the panels. It's a project I do in between other projects I get asked to do. My spare moment project. And I'm loving it! I can't wait to finish all these panels, so I can start constructing the quilt top properly. And best of all, this will be a quilt for me! Not to be sold, not to give away. This ones just for me!

So what is your spare moment project? What do you keep coming back to, when you're not working on something else?
I'd love to hear about them.

(P.S. I got such great feedback for 'Regatta' [see last post] and so many likes on Facebook, for it! I'm so thrilled, as it was a new technique. Thanks to all for their feedback and those of you who got in touch privately. Many thanks!)

Saturday, 27 September 2014


Below, is my first shadow applique piece, called 'Regatta' that I have for sale for £30 plus P&P.

The story behind it, is that I live on a small island called Hayling Island, just off the south Hampshire coast. We're sandwiched between Portsmouth, Chichester and the Isle of Wight.

We're always surrounded by boats, especially during Cowes Week, when the sea is brimming with a cornucopia of sails, bobbing about on the wide open blue.

'Regatta' is inspired by this week and is my view across the water from Hayling, looking to the Isle of Wight, with the soft greens of its rolling hills.

I used 100% cottons in a shadow applique technique, overlaid with crystal organza. The binding was hand stitched, which I love doing to finish off a quilt. I feel it gives a much more professional finish.

Let me know what you think. What views are YOU inspired by, where you live? I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Shadow applique

                             (My 'Wisdom, Hope' crazy quilt)

Above you can see my finished Wisdom, Hope crazy quilt, which is going by the front door. It looks great, I'm so thrilled with it. I've not thought to take any close up pics, so you can see the detail of the hand embroidery, but it is there! When I showed my older children they were intrigued by new things they spotted each time they looked at it.

Last night, I went to Island Piecemakers, a quilting group on Hayling Island. I've been going for a few months now and they meet up once a month. It's such a busy and popular group, that I'm still on the waiting list to become an official member, but hopefully that might be soon.

Last night, they had Jane Andreoli, The Accidental Artist, as guest speaker. Jane brought numerous samples of her work in shadow applique and oh my goodness, I have come away inspired. Jane showed us how to use every scrap of fabric, so nothing need get thrown away (not that I ever do throw away fabric!) but now I have an excuse to keep even the tiniest pieces.

She mentioned she uses crystal organza to cover her pics and mentioned it was cheap and yes it is. I went on eBay last night and you can get 25m of it for £4! So I ordered some! Along with some 505 basting spray, another item I've never used before, so I'll be doing a review of that at some point.

Talking of reviews, I've been asked to review some machining products by a nice lady in America who represents one of the sewing companies I contacted, so they'll be along soon, too!

Such a great day, yesterday!

Jane showed us how we could create abstract pictures, free-flowing images, or something more constructed. She doesn't plan her pictures, or sketch them out, she just goes with the flow and really had created some amazing landscapes, especially the one she did of the Canadian mountains, it was absolutely stunning! Currently, she's having a go at portraiture.

So I have my organza or order, my basting spray and I have a big bag full of scraps. Today, I'm going to sort through them and arrange them into colours, so they'll be easier to use when my ordered items arrive.

Oh, and at the top right of this page, I've created a poll. Do take a moment to answer the question. The winning result will then feature in a future blog post!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Wisdom Hope Quilt

By my front door, there is a space on the wall. We used to have a beautiful picture by Gary Hodges on there - a pencil drawn pic of two elephants with their trunks entwined called 'Friends'. But I decided that this needed to come down, so I could hang one of my quilts.

I decided to do some crazy quilting. I like crazy quilting because it's very similar to foundation paper piecing, only a bit in reverse. There's no paper, but there is a muslin foundation.

I used the pattern that came with my Crazy Quilting Craftsy class, from Allie Aller, but used the first, straight cut flip and sew. Then I dug out my much-too-large bag of scraps to try and use up some of it. I decided I'd do four blocks and I wanted to fussy cut the central piece.

I had some wonderful fabric that had lots of inspirational words on it and picked out the two that meant the most to me. These being 'Wisdom' and 'Hope'.

I very quickly pieced them together and began sewing some hand embroidery on them yesterday. I've still got a lot of embroidery to do, but I'm very pleased with how it all worked out.

This quilt will be a nice decoration by my front door and I hope it will spark off some conversation with my neighbours!

So how about you? Do you have your pieces on display in your home? Which room are they in? Or are you kept so busy making stuff for everyone else, you don't get time to create for yourself?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Craft, Show & Sell

It's not enough these days to be good at quilting and sewing. If you want to sell your items, you need to know how to stand out from the crowd, how to be professional, but most importantly, how to create that word of mouth about your business.

A while back, I went to my recent Hobbycraft (a large retailer for mixed crafts in the UK) and found a book that piqued my interest. It promised to show you how you could create a small, home-run business from whatever craft you did.

I hurried to the till with this precious item and was thrilled to discover it was one of their 'Top 10' picks and so I qualified for a £5 gift card too!

Priced at £12.99, my hubby offered to pay for it as part of our wedding anniversary gift! Double bonus!

The book is written by Torie Jayne who produces home-made craft items for the home and garden. It is a beautifully laid out book, full of fresh, crisp pages, excellent photography and pleasantly laid out chunks of information. It has a very easy to read format and covers everything you might need to help you start up a business from home crafting.

This book teaches you about how to set up your workspace, from storage solutions to organising your work area and creating a space that is soothing and motivational and personal to you. It covers how to create mood boards and inspiration boards, how to create your own brand and logo for you to use online and how to get out into the marketplace.

Torie lists places to sell, from craft fairs and village fetes through to Etsy or Folksy (if you're from the UK) and how you can set up a blog and use social media to work for you.

It truly is a book worth the money and leaves you full of ideas. Remember, you may be a great crafter, you may have quilts that make people 'ooh!' And 'Aah!' But if people don't know about you, or how to find you, you won't get any repeat business. You won't get customers recommending you to their friends and family.

Be sensible. Be organised. Make a plan.

If you have any hints and tips on how you went about organising your home crafting business, then please don't hesitate to leave a comment and share good practice with your fellow crafters!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Crazy Quilts!

So, I decided to try my hand at a little crazy quilting, as I had a bag full of scraps that I needed to use and this seemed the perfect technique to do that!

I followed the technique as set down by Allie Aller, in that you use a muslin (calico) back cloth that had been stabilised by some iron on interfacing. By doing this, it allows your blocks to stay flat and creates an easier surface to do your hand sewing/embroidery on.

Now, as my piece for the National Quilt Show uses crazy quilting, I can't show you any pictures from that, but I did find some lovely pictures in the book, The Quilter's Bible (reviewed in an earlier post). So the pics below are from that. Copyright is theirs.

Personally, I used a selection of 100% cottons and batiks. I've never used batiks before, but they were really pretty and I can understand why some quilters use them exclusively.

I'm not sure which part of the crazy quilting I enjoy the most - the fabric selection, the designing, the making up of the block, or the handsewing.

I know I love seeing the end result!

So what do you like about crazy quilting? Have you tried it? Does all the handsewing put you off? Perhaps you'd like to show me something you've made? Please send me your comments, I love to hear from other quilters!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Dear Jane

Dearest Jane Stickle...

Creator of the well-known Dear Jane quilt. I first started working on replicating your quilt over a year ago when I was new to quilting.

Yes, new to quilting. Foolishly, I decided to work in row and number order from A through to M.

Even now, all this time later, I have only done row A and the start of row B.

However, now, I am much better at quilting than when I first started and even though row A was one of the trickier rows for a beginner to start with, I made some decent attempts not really knowing what paper piecing was, or foundation paper piecing.

But I know now. And I'm better at what I do. So what I'm going to do Jane, is throw out the squares I've done so far (yes, throw them out!) because they weren't good enough. I'm going to use a colour theme in blues and whites, because I think that will look beautiful. I'm going to use the help from the Dear Jane Website and the wonderfully helpful That Quilt Website to complete my Dear Jane.

I've not put a time limit on it. But I'm going to do it properly. In your honour. Because you did it all by yourself, without help, without computers or internet help, or rotary cutters or sewing machines. (Though how you did still amazes me)

And one day......I will post it up on here for the world to see.

Love Louisa x

(Are you doing a Dear Jane? How far along are you? What have been some of your favourite blocks?)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Fabric Waste

Waste, I hear you cry? No such thing! Even the tiniest scraps can be used for something!

And yes, that's true and I have a big bag of scraps to prove it!

No, what I mean is, does it irk anyone else that when you're making a new quilt or design, the pattern asks you to cut strips at certain sizes and then when you trim, you slice off a big chunk that's not to be used? And you're left with an oddly sized piece of what used to be beautiful fabric and you can't imagine how you'll use that off-cut for something else?

It really annoys me!

Some fabrics are just so pretty and cutting them up awkwardly really gets my goat. I hate fabric wastage. Here, in the UK, you pay upward of £10 a metre for 100% cotton and in these times of austerity! I want to use all of that fabric! not waste most of it! chopping it up into unseemly shapes.

This is why I loved my brick wall design quilt. No wastage at all!

So what about you? Do you not mind? Or do you like to get the most from your fabrics?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Quilt Shows and Competitions

Do you go to quilt shows? I do. I can't resist them. If there's one near me, then I'm there! All that inspiration...all that prettiness...all that fabric!

Every year in the UK, we have the National Quilt Championship at Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey. This show is a veritable smorgasbord of beautiful quilts, notions, stalls, workshops, fabrics, ideas, you name it, it's there.

People can submit their quilts for different categories - cot quilts, king size, art, miniature, rookie, etc. and I always love wandering about, seeing which quilts have earned a place ribbon and trying to see why the judges voted for it above the others.

But more than anything, after being into this biz we call quilting for two years, it's made me feel like I can enter. Either the Rookie category (first quilt entered into a competition) or perhaps a miniature (I love miniature quilts!).

So I've been trying out ideas lately, seeing what works for me, are there particular fabrics or patterns I want to use, or should I design something unique? I've never designed much myself before (except for those Xmas boxes) so I started messing about.

I've still not settled on a firm idea (and I don't want to give away too much here!) but I'm narrowing it down. I have until May 2015 to enter my work.

So what about you? Do you enter competitions? Have you placed anywhere? Tell me about it! Or, if you don't enter, why do you make that choice? I'm interested. Let me know.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

What Do You Listen To?

This question came up on Facebook the other day. What do you listen to when quilting/sewing?

I have to say, it really does depend on what I'm doing.

If it's a machine pieced quilt and I'm constantly using my Singer, then I have to say, I don't listen to anything. I need to concentrate and if I had music on in the background, then my mind would start focusing on the lyrics and singing away with them (I don't have a great singing voice!) would stop me concentrating on my work and I'd end up being best friends with my seam ripper again.

BUT! If I was handsewing, or working on something that doesn't require the machine, I have to say that I listen to podcasts.

There are two podcasts that are my absolute favourite and they both have lots of episodes, so there's plenty to listen to and the two ladies in question are frequent podcasts, so I don't run out!

The first is 'Quilting...For The Rest Of Us' by a lady named Sandy. She has a wonderful voice and chats away like she's in the same room and it's your best friend talking. It's great! There are so many things she's involved in and like me, she does Craftsy classes, too - though Sandy also does classes that are nothing to do with quilting - and you get to hear about them too.

The second is 'Katie's Quilting Corner' by a lady named Katie, obviously! Again, she has a wonderfully chatty approach and she shares her news and product reviews and WIP and also has a website where you can see pictures and get free pattern templates and examples of what she's working on, that you hear about in the podcast.

I love listening to these ladies. They're like old friends.

So tell me! What do you like listening to when you're quilting? Are you a podcaster? A music listener? Or do you prefer silence? And if you listen to podcasts, which ones? Please share!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Foundation Paper Piecing (Part 2)

So last week, I received a custom order to make three large cushions for a lady in Nottingham. She wanted colours that would match her wallpaper and her new sofa.

She emailed me pictures of both and we decided on a mix of browns and creams. She also wanted some sort of connection to the sea. She'd always fancied living in a bungalow by the sea in her retirement, but that had never happened, so I could I do my best?

Of course! With a commission you really need to listen to what the customer wants. That way, when you deliver, your customer is hopefully thrilled with her product and tells all her friends.

Word of mouth is a powerful thing.

So! Because I'd been messing around with foundation paper piecing and the Craftsy class had covered making a Mariner's Compass, I decided to make one, putting all my newfound knowledge and skills into creating the design (I am also going to make an anchor and a ship's wheel).

And you know what? They turned out perfect! I took my time, made sure my points were sharp, that I pressed the pieces correctly and the compass was just beautiful.

I'm so thrilled with FPP and love working in that manner. I think it may just be my favourite way to quilt at the moment!

What is your favourite quilting technique and why?

Foundation Paper Piecing

It's been a mixed week. My Dad was down for a visit and though we managed to go out to a few places, he was more than happy to just be seated in front of the television with a cup of tea!

My MAV (migraine associated vertigo) gave me a few dizzy moments, so I found myself stuck in bed for a few hours and feeling the need for something educational, I signed up to a Craftsy class, Mastering Foundation Paper Piecing with Carol Doak.

I'd always been quite vague about FPP. I'd previously tried to do some on the blocks for my Dear Jane quilt, but because no-one had ever shown me how to do it properly, I'm bumbled along, doing what I thought was right to get the end result. Occasionally I had success, but sometimes it was just plain wrong!

So, I listened to Carol and oh my gosh. Now I know how to do it! Trim. Sew. Press. It was so easy! As long as I did all the prep, pre-cutting my pieces and labelling them, following the numbers and trim, sew, press, then it was a piece of cake! Needle tests, pinning, machine basting - it was all such a revelation! So I tried a couple out for myself in three inch blocks and though still not tip-top perfect, I'm thrilled with how they came out!

I looked on Facebook to see if there was a group or page just for FPP and there wasn't, so I've taken the liberty to start one here. I do hope you'll go take a look, Like it and maybe post a pic of your work. OR! You could post a pic here, or tell me about what FPP you've been doing!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Seven day vacation

So apologies, but it looks like I'll be on vacation for seven days starting tomorrow.

My dad is coming to stay and the spare bed has been set up in the only room in the house in which it's possible to put him and -yep, you've guessed it- it's my sewing room.

Dad is 76, quite arthritic and unwell and it would be wrong, whilst he's here, to go off and do some sewing, or turf him out his room where he's also got a couch and a TV, so that I can use my machines...

....SO I won't be sewing for a few days. Unless I get to do some handsewing, so the box from the car will come out and sit in the lounge where I can attempt some paper piecing in the evening.

Obviously, I won't be updating the blog for this time, but if I do - or if you're worried about missing the next blog post you could always follow me on Google + or subscribe to my posts! It would be nice to have some followers!

Pretty please?

Stats show me that the blog gets visited a LOT by people all over the globe - USA, UK, Canada, Poland, Germany, Cyprus and South Africa, to name a few. A lot are returning visitors and lots are new, too. 

Thank you to everyone who returns or who views this blog for the first time, I really hope you keep doing so and continue to join with me on my journey as a quilter and sewer.

Is there anything you'd like to see me cover on my blog return in seven days? All ideas -sewing related- will be considered. So let me know! I'd love to hear from you. Do you want me to add podcasts to the blog? Video tutorials? A YouTube channel?

Let me know! I really believe in all of us crafters sharing ideas and experiences. There is so much we could learn from each other.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Christmas Boxes!

Yesterday, I mentioned the Christmas boxes I'd be making for the craft fair.

I'd had a look around the internet, saw some boxes I liked the look of and then worked out how to make them.

There was a bit of trial and error. I've never tried to work something out before like this, I've always followed instructions or some semblance of a pattern, but I thought, "it's a box, how hard can it be?"

Very, it turns out! When you're new at this, you can make silly mistakes. The first square I cut was too small. I cut a 7" square initially and then when it came to sewing off the corners, I sewed off too much and my first box almost had no space for putting stuff in at the end!

So I cut a larger square, quilted a pretty pattern on it and cut smaller corners into the design and I'm quite happy that it came out okay!

Let me know what you think. I'm very happy with it and now I've got the basics down, I'm thinking of ways to add bits to it.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Christmas Boxes and Craft Fairs

There are two days left of the six week break and it's busy, busy, busy here!

I have four children and three of them are at secondary school and as usual, we're doing the last minute panicking, trying to find PE kits that somehow seem to have disappeared into an elusive sports kit Bermuda Triangle.

Tomorrow will be my eldest's fifteenth birthday and I've got family coming all day, the day after, three of them go to school, one goes to the dentist for a filling and my father arrives for a weeks stay. In between all of that, I've got four articles to write, revisions to complete on Book Two and Christmas Boxes to make for my first ever Christmas Craft Fair.

I've never done a craft fair before as a seller of wares! I've always been a browser, a buyer, a wanderer between stalls. And I'm anxious to make my first one a success.

I've got some quilts as my larger items, a few bags as medium items and I'm currently making quilted Christmas boxes as some smaller items, but what else would be a good idea?

Tree ornaments? Little purses? What would be a good idea? Have you had an item that traditionally has sold well?

I'd love to get some feedback. Perhaps you could suggest prices? I don't want to undersell my product, but neither do I want to set the price too high.

Can people haggle at craft fairs or they generally buy at the ticket price?

As you can tell I'm a complete newbie. Please let me know your thoughts!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Hand Sewing

So, when I'm not at home, I'm stuck in the car somewhere, waiting for someone (usually my husband who can talk for England to anyone!) then I like to do some handsewing.

I find sewing by hand very calming, even though I'm not great at it! I'm yet to master how to hide my stitches sometimes, but I'm getting better and I just tend to think of all those on view stitches as showing you all my hard work!

I have a box in the car. A very pretty pink box, with a swirly patterned lid and in it are all my oddments for handsewing!

A myriad of needles and pins, small scissors, tape, paper pieces in hexagons and diamonds, basting thread, sewing thread and hundreds of precut pieces that should keep me going for months!

I began with hexies (one inch) and sewed them together completely the wrong way! I just assumed they'd interlock and they do in one way, just not another, so that project needs unpicking and restarting. But that's okay. I'm not perfect, we all make mistakes and when I did this, I'd only been sewing again for a few weeks after a thirty year hiatus!

So instead, I started on diamonds. I love working with these and I'm making a completely hand-pieced Falling Star quilt, using a mix of black, navy and purple for the night sky and brilliant gold for the stars!

So what about you? What hand piecing have you got on the go? Are you working to a pattern or just sewing for the hell of it? Tell me what you're up to and all commenters will be in for a chance of winning a hand dyed piece of fabric (6.5 x 8.5 inches)with an inked tree on it, created by Maureen Thomas!