Improv string diamonds


This is a very long-standing work in progress. It began at least a couple of years ago, inspired by a quilt linked up to Scraptastic Tuesday made of strips of fabric (strings). This monthly link up is a very good source of ideas for what to do with the ever mounting scraps that threaten to break out of the glass containers on a regular basis. These strips of blue and green scraps were sewn on to A4 paper. This was partly because I like the diamond formation they make when assembled  but frankly mainly because at any point in time I have an equally large mountain of A4 paper waiting to be shredded. Using them was a way of killing two birds with one stone.


Every so often  I would add to these paper-based blocks as the right colour scrap strings got generated. It took up masses  of room in my WIP drawer because of the paper backing and I wanted a decent size quilt. To make room I did make a concerted effort to finish the blocks and assemble the top to at least eliminate all the bulk of the paper.  So the top got made back in the autumn.



It’s been on my quarterly finish along for too many quarters but eventually it’s been completed.


I have to say this is not my finest finish! I did, I suspect what most people would do, which is fingerpress  and not iron the strip seams.  What this means of course is that when you take the paper off sometimes the blocks aren’t as flat as they could be. Furthermore when you  join rectangles together and not square ones you are using a different seam allowance, not the standard quarter inch. I also very unwisely used some very loosely  woven fabric that I had leftover from making table mats.  Some of the seams needed redoing. On the basis that quilting can sometimes mask these deficiencies I choose a large loopy style and free motion quilting on my domestic sewing machine. This did help and disguise some of the puffiness. To make up I decided to handstitch the binding so it would be as neat as possible and then to my horror I found this ….


Skye closely  inspected the problem but what to do?



Patching the gap was my last resort because although this is patchwork of course I don’t think I could’ve repaired it in line with the strings –  it would’ve just looked like well patched!!  Closer inspection revealed that the problem had been that the top was not sufficiently well basted to the batting and when it was quilted it moved from the edge and caused the problem. Fortunately removing the binding and undoing the quilting then with a bit of a stretch it could be  repositioned and rebound. Leaving this …


Its certainly proved a popular quilt in this house and with still chilly evenings I have found it draped over a child on the sofa as I’ve been taking my time to hand stitch the binding only to be quickly removed so it doesn’t get dirty.   It does remind me though that we need another quilt in the lounge and this time a large warm one so that’ll be on my quarterly finish target list for Q2.

Up against the wire this is a finish on my FAL Q1 2017. 

Also linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation


The Thread House Retreat



Some of you may have heard of The Thread House retreat. The Thread House  is a joint initiative between three prolific and very talented quilters here in the UK – Lynne Goldsworthy, Jo Avery and Karen Lewis. All of them are individually hugely influential in the modern quilting world and have teamed up as The Thread House to undertake a number of initiatives one of which is a retreat.

There will be many a UK quilter who has looked at blogs of their US cousins with some jealousy. Retreats seem much more common there than they are here.  In the U.K.  they are few and far between. But I’ve always fancied going on one and when the Thread House  advertised their first ever and it was within an easy journey of where I live it was a bit of a no-brainer. However technically I wasn’t there! It’s complicated.  But I had a great time ‘not being there ‘.

It was held at a fairly basic but very charming conference centre in the foreground below, set in beautiful countryside which meant some great walking on the doorstep (I’m a Fitbit fanatic). The sessions were really excellent and run by the trio. They are all amazingly talented and genuinely warm people that really made the weekend go with a swing.


IMG_5538But on top of that the thing that amazed me was the sheer talent of all my fellow quilters. We were doing things like screenprinting and lino printing as well as sewing and they were just such a very creative group – it was fantastic to see and of course put quilters together it’s a great mix.



There was a pouch swap. I made a double sided  Lola pouch using the free butterfly paper-based templates by Lilly Ella. I had won a scrap bag of Karen Lewis’ fabric and it was the perfect opportunity to show them off. That combined with some sparkly Essex linen made a good looking bag though I say it myself!!


In return  I had this wonderful travel pouch which Kerry had made. I had lusted after it when she blogged about it  and planned to make my own version but I was lucky enough to be the recipient. She made another zip bag and filled it with lots of goodies.  Did I say quilters are a generous bunch?


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We also did badge swapping. Here are mine for Rachel. I made two as I wasn’t really happy with the first, not that I was ecstatic about the second one either!!

IMG_5223And in return I had this absolutely stunning badge made by Rebecca together with a very cute pin cushion gifted by one of my room mates Sam(antha). Wouldn’t like my mother to think I was involved in mixed room sharing…..


On the basis that I will go next time (although the tickets will go like hot cakes) and this time officially then I’m going to have to up my game when it comes to badge making. I think the problem was I was trying to make it small like a normal size conference badge but most were larger and more effective because of it.

I also made gifts for the three people I shared with and went to my trusty framed purses filled with Aurifil.


So to next time…. a chance to escape and create.  Watch out for the Thread House newsletter….

The pouch was a FAL Q1 2017 finish.




Kind of weird


One of the unexpected pleasures of me making  quilts is getting the reaction of my teenage children in particular my 14 year old daughter. The boys I’m afraid either give me platitudes and or in the case of the 14 year old say something outrageous just to wind up his poor mum. He’s a 14 year old boy, what do you expect!!! But Anna is more considered and not given to easy platitudes, she likes being honest but is sweet enough not to want to hurt my feelings… So when I brightly ask her opinion there’s a heavy pause while she weighs up her response.  These are always priceless and useful when I have to come up with a name for the quilt because it’s going to a quilt show so this quilt is called [It’s] Kind of Weird.


This quilt is destined for the display area that the Modern Quilt Group of the UK Quilters’ Guild have been given at this year’s Festival of Quilts, the biggest and most prestigious festival of its type in the UK. This is quite a big deal and the pressure is on to fill it with hopefully inspiring quilts to  engage and enthuse the largely traditional quilters that go to this event. The tireless organisers led by Kate Percival have set the theme of Cottonopolis, which I have to say I’d not heard before, but is the nickname given to Manchester in connection with its cotton manufacturing  past. The sub theme within that is the music and musical groups of Manchester.

There are a growing number of challenges to members of this group with I guess the aim to fill this large area to the brim! Well I’ve done my bit. The main challenge relating to Mancunian music  requires you to make a 24″ square quilt based on a given  music group band and/or their song. Those up for the challenge, to give them plenty of potential for inspiration, were each given the name of two Manchester bands and two of their songs.

For my first quilt the band was Oasis, and yes I had heard of them, and the song title Cloudburst. I made this quilt blogged here


I’ve chosen to make another quilt simply as a back up and if there is space in the display area. I wanted to reuse this particular pattern which is the January block by Liz  Harvantine and had a blank wall at home  that I want filling. So it is a very expedient quilt and certainly not just made  for this quilt display   To be frank that was the driver I then had to work out quite how this quilt designand fabric choice would fit in with my music band The Chemical Brothers, and no I hadn’t heard of them or their particular song.

Well looking at the earlier version I made a couple of years ago…


… struck me that the middle motif looks a bit like a flask on its side of the type you would typically find in a chemistry lab. Yes I agree it’s a bit of a push! But with the use of fabric with chemistry symbols on it I thought it would do just about fit the name of the band. Okay, hands up, there is no reference to the brothers but give me some artistic license please!


When I made this pattern before I was relatively early in my quilting journey and I did it in an open class with Joy Edgington of New Pastures  Quilting.  This proved a wise decision because you do need to both cut and then sew the curve quite accurately for all the elements to match up when you put the 4 x 12″ blocks together. Joy, as a quilting teacher of many years standing,  had the expertise of knowing what to do to make these pieces fit together.   But rather smugly I thought two years on with at least three or four curved quilts under my belt making this quilt should be a much easier task. So I was somewhat confounded to find that my beloved curvemaster foot, which normally helps me achieve curves without pins, proved useless. It eventually dawned on me, and it really should have been a much quicker thought process that it proved to be, that the problem was using batiks.


Using batiks in quilting rather divides the quilting world. There are those that love their multi tones  and often brilliant colours and others that don’t. I’m probably more in the latter category and as a consequence do not possess any batiks. But of course these Alison Glass’  modern handcraft range  are batiks but their very modern and fresh style is in contrast to most batiks I’ve come across  so I’d forgotten. The thing with batiks, I have since discovered, is that they generally have a much firmer weave and are therefore quite stiff. They don’t take to being pulled and stretched when doing a curve in the same way as other cotton fabrics. But they do have one very major plus. They are marvellous to iron and make wonderfully crisp edges and folds so for precision piecing I’d imagine they would be very suitable

Once I had sussed this the obvious way forward for me was using glue. My new best friend is sewline glue sticks. It proved very easy to get accurate curves without pins. The only downside is that it does make that seam thicker because of the adhesive and the quilt when finished being pieced needed to be washed to get the glue out.

To justify the theme of The Chemical Brothers I used the chemistry equation fabric in both a mottled white and grey positioned so it looked like liquid in the ‘flask’ and another fabric with symbols on it that looked vaguely reminiscent of chemistry symbols from my ‘O’ level Chemistry which I passed by a whisker donkey years ago.



I took the opportunity to include some fabrics I love for their subtle interest and quirkiness.  A piece of London map fabric which shows the route I take (well almost) to my parent’s home, some olde world map fabric and some map contours.  That latter fabric which whilst I love from a distance looks if the material is creased and folded in on itself. And my favourite ‘Maker ‘ fabric.



To get the quilt to feel balanced I cut and placed the pieces up on my design wall. The outer pieces were cut over sized. Understandably the quilt display organisers want the quilts to be exactly the right size so I built in some wriggle room.


In the end whilst there was some remedial work to do on a couple of the blocks to ensure the curves met reasonably smoothly it wasn’t too major.  Overall I was pleased with the accuracy.

IMG_5487But smugness aside when looking for quilting inspiration at other quilts made with this block  I came across quilters who have made full-size quilts including 56, yes 56, of these blocks all beautifully connecting. I am absolutely in awe of that as that would take me for ever – it would be a truly epic quilt.


linking up with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation and Amanda Jean at Crazy MomQuilts

TouchDraw and scraps



My scrap jars were once again fit to burst and with the need to reduce some pressure before they shattered I decided that  as a high priority my next project must include scraps. The stars aligned as it is scraptastic Tuesday next week and I  wanted to make at least one if not two table toppers for Jennifer who last year started  a wonderful initiative of making bags and table toppers for the children that come over from the region of  Belarus and Russia impacted by the Chernobyl disaster. It’s  a long standing charity that provides month long holidays for children from this region. Jennifer thought it would be a great idea, together with the organiser, to give each child a handmade tote bag and a table topper to take home with them.

Last year I made these items. I’d like to do the same and I suspect the bag will also be made of denim as it proved quite a successful make. Even my daughter approved, not enough to have one of her own of course, but she said it was okay!



I know the deadline isn’t until June but I don’t like it being too tight and this gave me a perfect excuse to play with scraps and make something for Jennifer.  I dug out a selection of pink and lilac scraps, so much not my personal colour choice, but I was intrigued to see how they would work with this design.

It’s a design I copied using an ipad app called TouchDraw that allows you to do as it says which is draw by touch.  I have long wanted an ipad tool to play with shapes and designs with the ability to colour them in. For some reason I don’t enjoy drawing with felt tips on paper. There is of course the Grandaddy of all quilt design tools which is EQ 7.  This is incredibly powerful and I know it’s used a lot by serious professional quilters but by all accounts, as with any sophisticated software, mastering it is a very steep learning.  Abigail of Cut and Alter has  recently purchased a copy and is making great progress but she is an altogether more superior quilter than me and has a very creative and original design edge. I just wanted to play and didn’t want to invest the time in something as sophisticated as EQ7 or for that matter the c£150 it would cost!  I was therefore intrigued by Lynn Galsworthy of the Lilys Quilts who showed me at the recent Thread House retreat, along with others, how she uses TouchDraw, a real bargain at around £10, to do all her design work including submissions to magazines.

It’s so much easier to learn something like this when somebody can show you. Lynn patiently demonstrated the sorts of things that can be done with it so that even when you’re left to your own devices after the event, you know what the app can do, so it’s just a question of remembering how. Anyway after a play and I came up with these.




It was then easy to prep a pattern and very quickly paper piece these blocks. All scraps so yes the pressure on those jars has diminished a little…. for quilting I went with my trusty masking tape which makes it easy to get straight lines. I have tried a hera marker and I know many people like this for straight line quilting but I had read recently that sometimes you can make too much of a mark such that it won’t come out but the problem for me is I can never quite see clearly enough the guide lines where of course yellow masking tape is hard to miss! I do love the texture on this one and of the design I think is quite effective and very quick.



I do love the texture on this one and of the design I think it’s quite effective and very quick to do.



Linking up with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation, Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts and Nicky and Leanne at scraptastic  Tuesday. 

The wrong sex…

I have a young friend who is pregnant. It’s quite unusual for me now to have friends who are pregnant – simply a generation thing. Most of my peers have children on the verge of adulthood or grown up and flown away. But  with a few exceptions, they have so far resolutely refused to have children. Mind you I’m hardly an example of early parenthood as I was 39 when I had my eldest but not entirely through  choice.


So back to Monika this was a great excuse to make a quilt and I duly bought on sale some very reasonably  priced fabric for a blue quilt. I fancied doing a very simple hst quilt rather like the signature quilts of Rita of Red Pepper Quilts.    I’d always liked Elizabeth Hartman’s Pacific line and there was a special offer at new to me online fabric retailer Olive and Flo Handcraft.  I would have ordered two charm packs but I had the last one, but also had some lovely fabric from that range for the backing and a nice blue stripe.  It arrived beautifully wrapped, with a handwritten note from Saira, just lovely.



In fact the stripe was such a nice width and I do make a lot of  blue quilts that I ordered more and added in some April Rhodes Observer fabric. Such lovely muted colours… and of course beautifully wrapped again….


Why was I so certain it was a boy? It’s just that Monika was so sick with this pregnancy and wasn’t with her first child a girl so I was pretty confident. Even to the point that getting the top done was going to be One Monthly Goal for Patty of Elm Street Quilts.  But then the text…


Of course it’s wonderful news whatever the sex, not all pregnancies, sadly, end happily so it was a happy text just it rather scuppered my sewing plans… Yes I do have some pink fabric  but  possibly not enough for a girl’s version. I will be going back to the planning board on that one. So my One Monthly Goal for March will instead be to quilt this top which has been hanging around too long (as you can see from the Autumnal foliage) and deserves to be finished off.



Silk ties



img_5422Kim of Persimon Dreams has another Project Quilting theme this week which is well dressed men. This theme has to be interpreted in a quilt form. I always check out the theme to see whether it sparks anything and then if it does think ahead whether I have got the time to actually make something within the allotted week.  Well this week when I was mulling over the theme and thinking of well dressed men I was reminded that in the loft there was a box of my late husband’s ties. Not all of them by any means. He had a typical working wardrobe of dark charcoal suits and smart ties to meet UK corporate expectations and that combined with a bit of a tendency to hoard there were dozens and dozens of ties. But I kept the ones that I liked the most and were silk thinking that one day they might come in useful. It became very clear that as our two sons weren’t going to want to wear them (I have offered them up on the rare occasion they have to wear suits but they look appalled) so I felt it okay to dismember some of them and see what fabric I’d got.

To be frank I am a bit ambivalent about using clothes from family members that have died. On one hand I think it can be very touching, literally, as a momento of that individual but on the other hand is it mawkish? I have kept a lot of Nigel’s old shirts, not his work shirts that were uniformly white, he wouldn’t wear anything else, but his casual shirts and I have attempted to make a quilt with them but for a variety of reasons it hasn’t been completed. That ambivalence again. But with this challenge I thought it would be something small, given the time constraints, and it would not use too much of the material if it didn’t work out or I just didn’t like what I made so why not?

Then looking at the ties in more detail I noticed that they were all very similar. No one could ever say that Nigel was cutting edge when it came to fashion! Nor me for that matter. And if I’m honest many of those ties would have been bought by me so that rather consistent dark red with the occasional blue was very much the norm. So I tried to select the ones that had the most contrast.


You can see from this picture of Nigel taken at our nanny’s wedding in 2006,  the year before he died, he’s still sticking to his favourite deep red!



Then to choose the design. I decided that sewing silk together would be quite difficult.  I’m so used to sewing with cotton which sticks nicely to each other that slippery fabrics are a bit of a nightmare. So I thought the best way forward was a paper-based foundation block.

Going through the patterns I came across one by flying parrot called the kite block. It’s a free craftsy pattern.  I liked the fact that it was quite minimal in design, that it would show off the fabrics but not too gaudily. I chose a plainish background fabric. I’d normally go for a patterned one but I wanted it to be quite minimal looking and crisp.

This is what disembowelled ties look like and the amount of material you have left is quite substantial.



I pieced the blocks in batches and pre cut the individual pieces for speed and accuracy.  For once I was very organised and the 18 pieced blocks came together quite quickly. The silk was a bit tricky but being foundation pieced made a big difference oh that and glue! When a seam was being particularly difficult I used a glue stick to secure it. Not text book I grant you but it worked!!


With the quilting I wanted it to have simple texture to go with the stark design. I did a fake trupunto effect by putting behind each piece of silk an extra piece of wadding in that skewed L shape then just quilted the outline.


I couldn’t resist some ghost shapes…  I love how the silk shines in the sun.



Well there is plenty more material – as I say ties generate a fair bit. And I’ve had the satisfaction of another box  being emptied from the loft even if most of it has found its way to my sewing room!

Linking up with Project Quilting, My Quilt Fascination and Crazy Mom Quilts