Monday, 27 April 2009


Snakeshead fritillary botanical name fritillaria meleagris. Also come in white and is also called chequered lily in the U.S. I believe.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Journal Quilts

I've got my Journal Quilts (for the Contemporary Quilt Group) done safely inside the deadline.
To remind you, my theme for the year is "steps", and each of the first four features feet in some way.

In March I began the redecoration of the house with the bathroom and loo: easy rooms or so I thought (especially as I'm not going to do any tiling myself). Looked drab with just paint and tiles and fully tiled wasn't an option, not with one curved and four irregular Edwardian walls. Wallpaper seemed sensible and I found a pretty but fairly sophisticated blown vinyl washable paper. And yes it did have a large repeat but hey I work with fabric so that isn't a problem.

Two days later and I was tearing my hair out - or I would have been if it hadn't been stuck firmly to my scalp with wallpaper paste. The paper didn't stick to itself and didn't allow for overlaps: eventually I did manage to fudge it so it looked OK but the air turned blue in the meantime and the cats hid under the bed. And fudging involved the bottom corner of the loo with a thin line of acrylic to disguise a narrow gap (and it did work thankfully).

So inevitably, I had to use the experience for my journal quilt: it's my first experience of doing a full year's worth and I want to record actual events wherever possible. Here's the finished item:

I've used hand-dyed felt and wadding for the main fabrics (two layers for the shoes) and bonded print fabric to tissutex for the wallpaper. The whole thing's machine stitched and quilted, with fancy yarn couched with a zigzag stitch round the edge. The wallpaper is 3D which I haven't done much of before.

The April one celebrated (if that's the word) minor surgery to remove a distorted and ingrowing toenail. I'd been told to sit with my foot up (I'd managed to steal the footstool back from Pepper when he wasn't looking) and was beginning to get bored (why is it than I can sit for ages doing nothing if there are things I really ought to be doing, but the moment I get told I have to do nothing I get restless and want to be doing things?). Turning over ideas for a journal quilt, I realised that the foot with the bandaged toe was pretty well the right shape for a JQ, so out with the sketchbook.

The first version was too close for comfort and rather too gruesome (especially after I'd stitched through the edge of my finger sewing the bandage on and got real blood on it):

So I decided something less realistic was needed, and came up with the idea of a blue foot. The actual foot for this one started not from the sketch but from me drawing round my foot and I think I had the pencil leaning in slightly, hence the elongated shape, emphasised by the fact I gor the ankle in the wrong place:

This one was pretty straightforward to make: the print fabric based on Gaudi seemed to work well with the shape, giving it a slightly art deco feel, and the spirals on the blue fabric seemed to go along with this. Straightforward fused applique, edges with satin stitch, and with details drawn in freehand using a triple (stretch fabric) stitch which gives a chunky line. Plus pale blue scrim folded and stitched for the bandage. All finished with satin stitch edging - all a great improvement on earlier attempts at satin stitching.

The first group of four together look like this:

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Easy Little Gems

You don't have to be an expert to make a Little Gem: this is an example of a quiltlet that can be made by a beginner, or anyone with limited time.

This is one of three Little Gem Quilts I made for the Quilters Guild Tombola at the Festival of Quilts 2009 (see previous post for details)
The secret of making an attractive little quilt without having to have extensive quilting skills lies partly in choice of fabrics. It's worth using interesting fabrics because you get interesting results and with Little Gems being so small (A4 size) you can experiment with fabrics and still have plenty left over for another project, so it's a good way of trying out ideas about combining colours/prints and so on.
So the first stage is to audition your fabrics: if you're a perfectionist who can take three weeks over this, set a time limit.
There aren't many short-cuts which include coffee-breaks but this is one. When you can no longer see the fabrics for looking, leave them out and go and have a cup of coffee somewhere where you cannot look at them. When you come back you will see instantly what works and what doesn't.
After you've removed the cat, that is:

The next stage is to decide how to divide up the surface of the quilt. I like asymmetry (it also helps to make a very simple design look more interesting/complex). There are many ways of producing a sort of balanced asymmetry (of which more in a later post) but a useful one to start with is to divide into approximate thirds, which will give you a vertical division of between 3 and 4 inches.

Cut an oblong of one of your more interesting fabrics in the chosen width or a little wider (plus half an inch for seam allowances) for your narrower section and a length somewhere in the region of two thirds of the length of the finished piece (don't worry about exact - approximately eight inches works well) plus half an inch seam allowance. Add on narrow strips of fabrics that blend or pick up individual colours (small prints, solids or less defined patterns are useful for this) until you reach 11 5/8 inches (or a bit more - it can always be trimmed back later): stitch together using a quarter-inch seam allowance.

For the larger section cut one or two pieces of more interesting fabric the size you want, plus narrower strips of toning or contrasting fabrics. Join together to match the length of your first fabric strip.

Decide how you want to arrange your two strips of fabric, and whether they need a further strip down the middle ot not. Press each strip, pressing seams to one side, going one way on one strip and the other way on the other. Either join your two strips of fabric together as they are, or join to a vertical strip. Press again.

Cut a fabric backing slightly larger than a piece of A4 paper, plus a piece of wadding the same size. Lay your Little Gem on top, and then either pin or stick the layers together using a spray fabric adhesive such as 505. Quilt in any way you like. Free-machining is good but if you feel nervous about that, straight or gently-curved lines with a normal foot is fine too.

Place your Little Gem on a cutting-mat and place an A4 piece of paper on top parallel to the edges. Using the paper as a guide, placing the ruler on the paper and lined up along the edge of it, cut to trim to size. Make sure the paper is lined up on the cut edge(s) before cutting each side in this way. If you don't have a rotary cutter you can pin the paper to the Little Gem and cut round the edge of the paper with scissors.

Finally bind the edges (see Little Gems website for links to sites telling you how to do this).

Have fun with it - it's a great way of experimenting with fabric-combinations!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Little Gems

For anyone who doesn't know by now, Little Gems are A4-sized quilts, being made in aid of the Quilt Museum in York, for a tombola at The Festival of Quilts in August. This is being organised by The Quilters Guild of the British Isles with particular input from one of its sub-groups, Contemporary Quilt, of which I am a member.

I had planned to make a few to send, but I ended up getting hooked. First two I made earlier - my first attempts at doing "arty" quilting a couple of years ago:

Next, one I made last summer, one of several on the theme of bubbles: this one has been cut down from a slightly larger piece, and is cut back applique with free machine quilting:

Together with friend Chris, I'm working on a session on Little Gems for my local quilt group, Night Owl Quiltmakers, in Leeds and thought I ought to try and expand the range of Little Gems that I had. The first uses a collection of quirky folk-art cat fabrics I have in my stash and is simply a collection of squares of different sizes:

Next I experimented with free-pieced squares and oblongs from my hand-dyed fabric stash:

And next, strip-pieced base with fused applique, attached with free-machine stitching and FM quilted:

From there I moved into print fabrics with the following view through a window:

There will be more - at present I am having loads of fun playing with print fabrics and asymmetrical compositions - of which more later! In other words, Little Gems are addicitive, and enormous fun. Above all you can use those precious fabrics you've been saving and try them out on something small so you'll have plenty left for later! Try them for yourself: you don't have to be a member of The Quilters Guild, or even British, to contribute.
More information at:

Saturday, 4 April 2009

It's a ...

coral - a brain coral to be exact (you can see the resemblance). A Number of people got the right answer: Jan's was the first right answer with coral; Mags Ramsay was the first with the full answer of brain coral and also provided extra information (know what you mean about starfish Mags - once found an undamaged whole one on the beach near Bamburgh and put it on the wall near our holiday cottage to dry out - you can guess the rest!). That bit was easy - so goody bag to each of those. The two most interesting was more difficult but eventually settled on Nearby Tree's new government road system to prevent traffic congestion which made me laugh out loud; and Aischa for nearly making me lose my tea with stomach turned inside out! I don't have emails for Nearby Tree or Aischa so if you like to email me with details of where to send and preferred colourway I'll get goody-bags to you by next week. (email address on my profile page).
There was a serious side to this. I'm fascinated by the patterns you get in nature, and the way these patterns recur in different places. Helen Parrott's talk at the Contemporary Quilt AGM really got my ideas churning and I dug out the following:
Close-up of patterns on a stone in Whitby churchyard;
A drawing I did a while back of a savoy cabbage;
fungus on felled timber in Wytham Woods.
The photograph below, taken by my late husband, has a different kind of patterning but just as fascinating: