Christmas gifts

97C63443-51BB-4415-A1DA-8CF9FFF8F81FI’d like to say that my desire to give some hand sewn gifts was entirely altruistic and focused on the particular likes and dislikes of  the recipients in mind. But, unfortunately, that wouldn’t be true! It’s more like I fancied making these particular items and I was going to fit gift to recipient regardless!

First off was the Devon Pouch by Svetlana Sotak. I’ve made many zipped pouches and gifted a fair number. My favourite design to date has been the Lola pouch also by Svetlana.  This was a gift I made early this year…


But the Devon pouch has become my go to pouch of choice. I like the two zips and the chance to fussy cut as you can see with this swallow.

B538CD2F-99B3-48DD-AD63-66630FA14B5EThe pattern is as ever clearly written and easy to follow.  It comes in two sizes.  The swallow one above is the larger size which has a gusset then a smaller version without. In fact I made a mid sized version as another option and just a case of tweaking the sizes to get an in between size.

168721EE-9D36-40C6-825C-F5CE0C8010B6F96AC34C-9950-4FEA-A5A3-89F6FF5A1348 The pound coin is to give a sense of their size. There is something very satisfying having a bit of a production line going. My two nieces have received these albeit with one in Cambodia she won’t get it until she is back from holiday.  The little purse has gone to my Big Issue seller, a very sweet girl.

The Fold Up Stitched Folio organiser designed by Aneela Hoey which I covered in this post went to the friend who I introduced quilting to in the summer.



Next up were these two shopping bags.



The ones I’d made myself have been so useful and though I say it myself attractive compared to my normal tote bags. Although to be fair my normal tote bags are the  branded plastic canvas bags, usually a virulent yellow or orange, so anything would be more attractive!

This uses a linen cotton mix and a navy home dec fabric for the bottom section. I went with front and back panels being cut 18.5” by 18.5” square. The linen mix was c12.5” and the dark blue base 7”. They make good sized bags. Both are lined with zip pocket interiors. These were gifted to friends, friends who pretty much have everything. Well certainly now their lives will be even more complete!

And finally another tray but using a new to me design. It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster, being made up of a number of tutorials for fabric box containers. I used Peltex 70F a heavy weight fusible interfacing to give it good structure. It worked well.


This is for the cats to put all their toys in. Obviously it will be me putting their toys in there but  it’s like having young children all over again with toys strewn everywhere! It will be useful for them to be all in one place but accessible. The cats didn’t appear very grateful but it’s often pulled off the shelf so it’s in use. Which incidentally is more than their other principal Christmas present this cat tree.

F70FD1F2-2EEC-40E4-8314-0F07FF9E6EB6The theory behind it is that it provides cats with mental stimulation because to extract the dry food they have to poke their paws through the holes in each layer and push the food so they drop down to the bottom and then get eaten. It’s become very obvious that they have been bred for  beauty and not brains….

Did I get any quilty presents? Well I did get some some for myself. These crochet scissors.

FC852615-DBB7-41F9-829C-A1393E16DBC5These are marketed hard and I succumbed but the reviews had been good. And yes this runner still needs the binding stitched down but at least the wonder clips are a Christmassy colour.

Linking up with Finish it Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts

2017 review of highs and lows and a look at 2018.

I am joining in with Cheryl and Yvonne’s Linky parties. Cheryl’s looking back at the Best of 2017 and Yvonne’s looking forward to Goals for 2018 I enjoyed doing this last year – a chance to reflect during the quiet days between Christmas and New Year of what has been done and what might be coming up for 2018.

2017 Review

Like last year I’m not going to focus just on the best or favourite makes but also a more critical look at what didn’t work so well. I like a bit of analysis and self critique. I should add that this is solely in the interests of learning as opposed to beating myself up when things aren’t perfect. Indeed I’m not one to overly dwell on my failings, which of course just maybe a failing….

Starting with the obvious…

The most ‘liked’ quilt


According to social media both on this blog and IG, my quilt, Division, made for The Festival of Quilts came out top in terms of views and likes. I think that is at least in part because FoQ causes a flurry of social media activity and if your quilt is reposted, as mine was, on a few sites including a magazine then it just escalates. But I was pleased with the quilt and I see it every day which gives me pleasure. But it was a slog….

My personal favourite quilt

This was really difficult as I’ve loved a lot of the quilts that have come out from my sewing room. For the reason given above my favourite wasn’t Division, just too much agonising and trying for perfection. I’ve settled on two.



This one is a favourite because my mum helped me make it and it now lives in the front lounge.  It’s simple but effective but also used a vast selection of blue/grey scraps.

And finally this quilt is another favourite which lives on the spare bed in the sewing room. Another scrap quilt.  Again it’s simple but effective and I love sleeping under it when mum comes to stay.



My favourite Charity Bee Quilt

I’m in two charity bees for Siblings Together (for more on this wonderful charity see the tab above).  I don’t make all the blocks of course just come up with a design and pull it together.  There were quite a few this year but my clear favourite is this quilt – the Lake Cabin Quilt by Rachel of Stitched in Color. For a variety of reasons this included blocks from both bees so there are some 30+ contributors to this quilt.


My  favourite non quilt make

This was an easy decision. I love this sewing caddy from a design by Aneela Hoey. Not the easiest of makes but so useful and again something I love seeing everyday.


A close second were these trays. More info on my post here. Again a blend of attractive and functional. I need more of these. Designed by the very talented Anna Graham


My least favourite quilt

Now this is a great example of how quilting can make or break a quilt.  I loved the quilt top which is based on Katie Pederson’s clever design. It uses just two blocks and is a great scrap buster. But the choice  of a decorative stitch on my Pfaff wasn’t a successs. I think the very regular curves against the free flowing design doesn’t  work. If I had my time again I’d use the same Free Motion Quilting design on the plus quilt above or just straight lines. But I guess if you don’t try these things you don’t learn.


My least favourite non quilt make


Oddly this came from the same pattern as the trays above. I don’t really know why it hasn’t worked other than the leather handles were too long so I shortened them and it just looks botched, which it is. It’s also floppy although I’ve used the recommended interfacing.  I’ve since cut the leather handles off but just can’t get the rivets out. I might get either of my strong boys to have a go… It is still useful as you can see.

My best new experience of an organised swap

I signed up for my first ever IG swap for those that participate in the # Saturday night craft along.  This seemed quite straightforward and proved to be rather fun. Best of all I got to know a couple of new IG virtual friends starting with Natalie @sewmuchtolearn who made for me the most unique 3-D cup and saucer with perfect attention to detail -shall we just say it involved cats !


And then Stacey @craftylilmouse for whom I made in recognition of her love of dogs and a nickname of mouse the following items. In return she sent me the most gorgeous handpainted decoration.


I shall very much enjoy watching the creative makes of these two very lovely and talented creators.

My best tip(s)

I’m always on the hunt for good tips and most I’ve gleaned from the Internet.  Well firstly buying a 60mm rotary cutter. I wish I could remember the blogger who recommended this  but like me she thought that a 45mm rotary cutter was sufficient but I think was gifted a 60mm version. But it cuts full width fabric quicker and certainly great for cutting through layers, including batting when you are trimming a quilt as the blade is deeper. I’m converted.

The other revelation are audible books. For a period, years and years ago when I was driving a lot for work I would borrow taped books from the library. But of course everything has moved on. A number of quilters mentioned audible books. There are times when I don’t want distraction but other times when there is mindless sewing involved it’s good to have something else going on.  Through trial and error I’ve found that the audible books I get on with best are those that have a context that I’m familiar with like a police crime drama. There’s a certain formula to these, you know what I mean, dead body (not too gory I hope), impossibly handsome/attractive Police Inspector with quirky sidekick, the usual twists and turns,  another body or two, heavy handed politically motivated police chief and then the surprise denouement! So all in all you haven’t got to think too hard. They are also a wonderful accompaniment to tidying my sewing room. which neatly leads me to….

My abject failure

This is a picture of sewing room as it is right now.


This is not by any means the worst it has looked but it is still not a pretty sight. This was a goal for 2017 to keep my sewing space tidier and be more organised. Well clearly I failed on that one. I have tried both with the trays above which have helped and this lovely slim drawer filing cabinet for my scraps

9E4579F0-8D50-4A4C-AD04-304D6BDA1FDD….but the mess I create when in make mode is pretty full on.  I’m beginning to wonder whether this is just something I have to accept and be very, very grateful I have my own space on which I can shut the door.

2018 Plans

Looking back at last year’s plans, they proved largely to be a work of fantasy….

I had planned to finish my Glitter quilt. I did not make any blocks at all…

I had planned on being more organised when I sew, well that didn’t work,

I had planned a safari themed quilt which is still just an idea

and I thought I’d continue doing the monthly challenge of One Monthly Goal but I fell out of step with that

but  I did do the Quarterly Finish Along, obviously planning for a quarter is easier and I did enter a quilt to the Festival of Quilts  so my planning for 2018 wasn’t an entire work of fiction.

For this year I really would like to do the following

  1. Actually make some more glitter blocks to add to these made in 2016,


2. I’ve got a baby due or at least a friend has a grandchild due so a quilt is needed.

3. I would like to do another quilt for Festival of Quilts. On this latter one I’ve never made a quilt solely of solids so I may combine those two. I’ve some ideas but nothing concrete.

4. More charity sewing is a fixture and quite a few extra blocks need converting into quilts

4. And finally most important goal is to enjoy myself and continue to follow and create what inspires me and then share it here.  Thank you so much for reading my posts. If you’ve got to the end of this, congratulations and you deserve a cup of tea or your drink of choice! And thanks for your comments  I wish I was better at responding. To a happy and productive New Year.






Winter Illusion Quilt




This is the border fabric of a newish range from Dashwood called Norrland by Bethan Janine. I liked this fabric the first time I saw it. OK the bear isn’t very English but us Brits who only see snow rarely get very sentimental about snow fall and snow scenes and this lovely fabric had it all. In fact it’s hard to find a Christmas card or image that doesn’t contain snow somewhere.  Here in  middle England we had the first significant snowfall the other weekend we’ve had in years and whilst it was lovely to walk in and changed the garden overnight…..




… the stark practicalities of disrupted traffic, failed refuse collections, icy roads and pavements soon begins to pall. So the romantic versus the practical impact of snow is very much a two sided coin.  But focusing on the sentimental side and back to this fabric originally  I was after a Christmas fabric for some place mats and I thought these would go down well and suit the décor in the kitchen. But this fabric got side tracked and ended up something else completely

A number of things came together.  The annual mini quilt  Challenge of the Modern Section of the Quilters Guild is themed on Fooling the Eye.  What a great theme but actually I found it quite tricky to find an idea that fooled the eye enough but I could live with up on the wall. While illusions are interesting to look at I don’t find them particularly restful indeed some look so wrong that they seem out of balance.  Mind you having said that just casting my eye round the room I’m sitting in, no fewer than 4 out of the 8 pictures in the room are out of kilter so clearly I’m living with imbalance all the time!

Anyway I came across an interesting idea of taking a fabric and then completely changing the design by deliberate cutting and piecing, a method called the One Block Wonder. One such example had incorporated  the original fabric so you could see quite how different they looked, hence the illusion it was two fabrics but in fact just one.

Update: Annie who has commented below mentioned that the original idea for the One Block Wonder came from a book of that name by Maxine Rosenthal in  2006. In fact together with co author Joy Pelzman they wrote other books on the technique looking particularily at cube illusion quilts. They are all still available. I found this charming interview with Ms Rosenthal  at the start of a QAL hosted by Jen of Quilter in the Closet    She has this great mantra that she enjoys making complicated quilts that are actually easy to make. Couldn’t agree more with that sentiment!

An example of this technique is given below. This comes from a great website about this technique and gives you the chance to upload fabric and see the transformation without all the hard work! The first picture is I would say of a pretty ghastly fabric…


But when cut and pieced it becomes altogether different


The plan had been to try this method back in the summer and I wanted to find some truly ugly fabric to transform into a thing of beauty.  I must surely be one of the few people who have ever been to the Festival of Quilts, the UK’s largest quilt show, actively looking for ugly fabric! And no I didn’t find any!

The transformational effect is achieved by very carefully placing six layers of fabric on top of each, matching up the pattern  and then cutting it in strips and then cutting those strips into equilateral triangles. In Linda’scomment below she’s made the clever suggestion that in her experience hand basting the layers makes for better accuracy. I’m sure it would counter the inevitable shifting of fabrics as you slice through six layers. In full this is what Linda suggests

“The best way I’ve done this is to use a #7 Millner’s needle (it’s long and thin but sturdy) to pierce a notable point in the fabric – leaf tip, heart point, something you can identify in every layer. Run a thread through all the six/eight motifs in the layer and tie a knot off. Use a new thread each time you baste a new motif. I baste every four inches or so … after the first few, the layers start to line up and it gets easier.

Sounds like a tedious process but it doesn’t actually take long … and you get much more accurate cuts.”

Thanks Linda if you need more info Linda is happy if you want to contact her on Lindaschiffer (at) gmail dot com

49F101D7-09D3-416C-96E6-98206288FD8D So having cut 6 equilateral triangles they are then sewn back together to get a hexagon.

The fun doesn’t stop there.  When you sew them together they can go in three different ways because there are potentially 3 corners to act as the central point. So 6 equilateral triangles when sewn together can look this different



I had great fun selecting which looked best and sewing them up. I wanted to have these hexagons, reminiscent of snow flakes around the original fabric.

DDDC9121-5926-4C3D-8033-194FB1D9F3F5.jpegThen I thought I would copy an idea of another instagrammer @sheilamcdonachie of using the original fabric like it was an attic window block. In other words looking at the scene as through a window  with the judicious placement of grey strips.  I tried to mock this up with grey strips to see what worked best.


I settled on the lighter greys. Then to mitre them to get that 3D look. The trickiest bit by far was ensuring the strips were all equal in width/depth and an evening was spent producing this…



…and another chunk of time making it fit the square hole in the middle. Well points had to be sacrificed..


I went with simple quilting, with or despite the help of Skye, as there is a lot going on in this quilt but I wanted to emphasise the hexagon shapes.


There’s a double layer of woollen batting to give it texture but I cut a hole out of the top piece the size of the snow scene  to give the hexagons the appearance of being in front with the scale and perspective of the  deer and view as seen through a window in the distance.



Now of course the question is will people see the double illusion – both the two distinct designs but from one fabric and the window.  Not sure, but as a Christmas snow scene it will at least stir the sentimental side of those, like me,  who love the idea of a snowy landscape provided they are safely in the warm!


Linking up with Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation and Amanda Jean Crazy Mom Quilts.

Project Linus Quilt

7878EDC7-CE5E-48D2-B65C-1155536E6F4FI don’t normally go in for children’s  themed fabric even when making quilts specifically for children. I suspect that’s because my children are of an age along with their cousins and peers that a themed quilt would be deeply uncool. A few years back it would have been different with cry’s for Thomas the Tank Engine pillows or Telly Tubby Quilts but not now.

So what’s with this quilt depicting what I guess must be images from a book in just about every home with young children, The Hungry Caterpillar? Well it goes back to a sewing day organised by Joy Edgington of Pastures New Quilting and star of a new sewing channel on the U.K. Network. Joy taught me the basics of quilting and I shall always be grateful. She is the local Project Linus coordinator collecting I think up to 100 quilts from across Birmingham for this wonderful cause.

Joy used to run sewing days to piece and quilt these quilts.  It was a huge logistical nightmare coordinating quilters, ironing fairies, refreshments, fabric and supplies, publicity etc etc. But from the quilters perspective it was great fun all bashing away either using our own fabrics/ patterns or using fabric supplied. The couple of quilts I made were these.



Joy, to save her sanity, has now gone for a monthly regular sewing sessions. That regular  commitment sadly doesn’t  work for me but I still like to make a quilt for Project Linus.

One of the speakers who came last year to tell us a little about what happened to some of the donated quilts, was from the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.  They give quilts to newly admitted children on one of their wards to cuddle during their stay and then take them home. It’s hugely popular  and a great way of settling in the child. The speaker said one little boy who was very nervous was immediately drawn to a Hungry Caterpillar  quilt because it was something familiar. So when I saw some panels going for a song at The Fabric Guild I snapped them up

We owe the staff at BCH a large vote of thanks.  Both the twins had birth defects and had to spend time in that hospital . Nothing too concerning, ‘routine and common’ were  how their medical issues were described which we found reassuring words, but nevertheless it required altogether some 5 or 6 hospital stays between the pair of them.  My daughter’s procedure was just one 2/3 day stay but her twin had to have multiple stays – everyone of which he absolutely loved. He talks of it fondly even now. I think he loved the attention he got, and they are exceptional nurses, but also I think he just enjoyed having my undivided attention rather than vying with his siblings. We always had a fun time, injections aside, when he would scream the ward down.

I was going to make two quilts with these panels but they weren’t quite big enough. Better to make a reasonable sized quilt for a toddler or preschool child who would know the story than two smaller cot size quilts of babies who wouldn’t.

It was the simplest of quilts to make and I bought some coordinating fabric from the range and added a border to pull it together. The quilt took an evening to make. Then equally simple cross hatch quilting to keep it cuddly. I used a Hera marker for the cross hatching and it worked well. But I found it had to be laid on a hard floor and the only decent sized floor of that type that doesn’t have heavy furniture is the entrance hall, perfect for this sized quilt but more of a struggle for a larger one.


It was such an easy make but sometimes something that requires very little brain or creativity for that matter is just the ticket.  It’s finish coincided with the largest snowfall we’ve had for years (which compared to many of you at 4”/5” inches deep would be little more than a dusting but here in the U.K. this was exciting stuff) I couldn’t resist getting a snow picture  but the sharp eyed will notice that the binding has yet to be sewn down but I knew if I waited until that was done the snow would be long gone.


Linking up with Kelly My Quilt Infatuation and Amanda Jean Crazy Mom Quilts


Swapping comfort zones!


I’ve heard a lot about IG swaps and a number of people I follow participate in them and produce some amazing items both in quality and number for their swapee (is that a word? Almost certainly not but you get my drift). Most appear absolutely delighted with both the giving and receiving.  But I’ve also heard horror stories of people putting in huge effort in their gifted item and receiving either something that’s obviously been made without a thought for the person’s wishes and taste or worse still, nothing arrives at all. Rumour has it that there is a black list that circulates amongst the marvellous people who coordinate these things of swappers who are ‘no shows’.

So I’ve never participated but I was tempted by what was presented as a small swap for those who participate in the Saturday Night Craft Along on IG. This is an IG link up of people who are crafting on Saturday evening and who share whatever they are working on. It’s fun and informal and hosted by someone in each geographical zone. Lucy of Charm About You hosts it here in the U.K. and lives up to her sewing name by being a very gracious and generous host. It is my ambition one day to sew all 18 hours or so from when it opens in Australia to when it finishes in the US. In my dreams… too many people in my house wanting to be fed or given lifts!

Anyway these hosts organised this anonymous swap with about 100 participants. It’s not actually a swap in the sense that you make something for someone who in return makes something for you. You make for the person assigned to you, in this circumstance Stacey, @craftylilmouse and someone else is assigned to make for you. In my case that was Natalie of @sewmuchtolearn.  As I say this was all anonymous so noone knows who is making for whom until you receive your parcel which adds to the fun.

The swap was well run. It was very clear that the items should require no more than 2/3 sessions to make and extras should have a value of less than £8 in U.K. sterling.

People were asked to produce mosaics of things they liked/colours/style. Here was Stacey’s which she posted early on which helped enormously.



Stacey also helpfully added she likes pastel colours, floral, fun and cute fabrics, mustard and pink  being favourites.  Now this definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I don’t as a rule sew with pastels and cute fabrics or designs but that’s the challenge! Stacey has a dog Millie who took centre stage. She had included an image of a daschund and I remembered the Elizabeth Hartmann design Dogs in Sweaters. I thought that might work  – it’s a cute design, it’s a dog and although not the same breed I could use Millie’s colouring and of course with a pastel coloured sweater!



It was quite agonising choosing to make for someone else. I tried to match up the colours to ones she posted and decided that a cushion might be a good idea. I scaled the picture down as it’s quite a large dog pattern. I put a zipper in the back so it can easily be removed or used as a wall hanging.


0AE690EA-B410-4FC2-91F8-77154E619220As for the extras I remembered I’d got some very cute mouse fabric to tie in with Stacey’s nickname of Mouse and made up the see through pouch from Aneela Hoey’s new book. I thought it would be perfect for holding some of Stacey’s card supplies.


And together with a cute sloth fabric in Stacey’s colours and some other pastel fabrics the swap package was good to go….

You can imagine my relief when a) the parcel arrived and b) she loved it and said some very sweet things.

What did I receive I hear you ask? My swap person was  Natalie at @sewmuchtolearn. Natalie had this mosaic to go on…



Well all  I can add is that Natalie in fact doesn’t have sew (sic) much to learn at all as she made the most unique and beautiful of items, a 3D cup and saucer using fabric from the Wonderland range of  fabric from The Rifle Paper Co  which I’ve loved from afar. It looks a tricky make but beautifully constructed and is in pride of place on the dresser. It’s a pity it has to share the space with my son’s hairdryer and hair gel as he has no mirror in his room. I must reclaim that dresser particularily now.



Its an absolutely perfect choice of fabric, all themed around the tea party in Alice in Wonderland and of course I consume vast quantities of tea. There’s even a cat in the mix! Look at that clever and thoughtful detail when you peer inside the cup, the grinning face of the Cheshire Cat looks up at you from the bottom.


Looks just like Felix in a wicked moment, OK maybe it’s more of a grimace than a grin….



But clearly Natalie has been a very effective stalker of my IG account for all the good reasons! And I can now use the posh tin of Betty’s Tea which Natalie sent me to round off the experience. It’s absolutely delicious by the way and I’m not looking forward to going back to PG Tips! There is also a variegated thick thread from Aurifil to play with one day which looks fascinating.

All in all it’s been a very enjoyable swap.  Yes more agonising than I anticipated but satisfying and fun at the same time.  And of course two new IG friends!

6F8573A2-4C73-4A20-9701-D6593751BC31Linking up with Lorna, Sew Fresh Quilts

PS Look what Stacey sent me as a thank you. It arrived today the most beautiful  handmade card and this really sweet hand painted cat key ring. It’s way too special to bear the brunt of life with my keys so I’m going to make it into a Christmas tree decoration.