Retreat offerings






Another great retreat was organised by Jo Avery and Karen Lewis  down on Folly Farm, a small conference centre on a nature reserve near Bristol. I’m afraid re-entry into real life is always hard after a relaxing weekend away but I shall relive the highlights so it lasts just a bit longer.

First the swap items….

This year there was a storage pot swap and the usual name tag.

Starting with the name tag, after frankly a disappointing name tag I made for Rachel last year I was determined to improve on that.  It seemed, looking around at the others that those on a lanyard were bigger and offered more scope. This year I was making for Eveline who wasn’t on social media so I couldn’t stalk her so went with a modern style and hoped for the best.  I was more pleased with it this year and she was delighted.


My own badge is this very sweet and beautifully made lilac and cat concoction made by Jane. A perfect size and design.


As to the storage pot, I was making for Marianne @marianneoloughlin who I was also rooming with.  She has modern tastes so went with these modern hexies and Caroline Friedlander fabric for the base and scraps of blue on Essex Dyed Linen. I filled it with a few sewing bits and pieces.


As to my pot I received this beauty….



There’s a funny story about it. An IG friend I was looking forward to meeting at the retreat was Catrin @patshycatrin. Her full on life with 3 young children and working in the family business means sewing has to take a back seat. Catrin had planned free time the days before to prep for the retreat but family illness took over and that time got swallowed up. An IG post from her saying she doubted she’d be able to make it as she had so much to do led me to offer to make the storage pot which she kindly declined. I realised why when the swap took place because I was the person she was making for and she clearly couldn’t give me back my own storage pot!

Catrin showed this beautiful quilt she made with blocks from a number of us for Siblings Together



Catrin is happy for me to share the link to the pattern for this great block  here.

All these swap items are so lovely to use and remind you of the talent and generosity of friends. So I was thrilled to receive this beautiful needlecase from Kate @katew131. Kate is hugely talented  and is starting to write and publish patterns. One to watch…


And finally these three fabric trays for my room mates one of whom @helen_steele_029 has started screen printing and I used her designs for her tray.



What did we do? Well aside from eat, laugh and socialise there were four workshops  but Jo and Karen were relaxed if you wanted to factor in free sewing so I did just two which worked well for me. Both were with Kerry of @verykerryberry.

One workshop was on small accurate piecing. Kerry was the perfect person as she makes exquisite small blocks. She’s also a very capable teacher and seems to intuitively know when you need help as she toured round the room. Undoubtedly the success of these retreats is down to the hosts and teachers who aside from being very talented are delightful.

Now this was a workshop I needed as I’m not accurate. There were some excellent tips like going forwards, backwards and forwards again when rotary cutting to stop drag, cutting on point for the 4 hst out of two blocks method to avoid bias and using shorter stitches. And my output….. two 6” blocks which took me on average 2 hours each…. so not quick makes….. I used my small liberty stash to go with the trad designs.



The other workshop was also with Kerry this time on paper piecing of a kitchen three piece. I chose the kettle. If I’m honest I am probably not to complete the others but hope to use the block in some way. But arriving late because of sickness at home with one of the children I enjoyed catching up with others as I slowly pieced this. There is no question that as pleasurable as sewing in company is that it definitely impacts on productivity.


in terms of free sewing time I got a start on a couple of new projects.


In amidst all the sewing and chatting being on the doorstep of beautiful walks I couldn’t resist early morning walks and making use of some of the free time for fresh air. The weather wasn’t great but mild and dry enough for some good walks.


Back in real life it’s great to be home and ensure the children are still alive and as happy as teens can be. They had had to do their own lunch so I arrived to find 3 hungry people and takeouts were definitely the order of the day. I shall get back to the reality of cooking again but first to put everything away if I don’t get too distracted by everything I brought back.


Home fires burning.

CDBD6017-C92C-4000-A324-EA66CA9EE5C6.jpegIn these colder months as much as I enjoy sewing, I enjoy being warm and comfortable more. I’m lucky to have a dedicated room for sewing and whilst not massive it’s big enough and works for me.  Best of all I can close the door on the mess! The picture below will cause my mother’s eye brows to rise as it is a complete lie, it virtually never looks like this.


The problem is the room is chilly and this is not because I leave the velux window open. It does have a large radiator but the room sits under an uninsulated eave and isn’t the most inviting when the log burner is on downstairs in the lounge. Frankly the option of leaving the cosy warmth of that room for a distinctly colder room is not appealing. The solution? Of course to bring the sewing machine downstairs and set it up in the lounge.

I really don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this before. It was triggered by a friend’s foray into furniture restoration and showing me all the bargains she got from EBay. Admittedly the best bargains were the ones where collection was the only option which of course makes sense. She had bought beautiful chairs, well potentially beautiful in their pre restored state, for a few pounds each.

I figured out that I could fit a console table against the window which would easily accommodate my small Pfaff Passport machine. Well one browse on EBay found a number of options. I wanted a simple, dark finished table but reasonably light in weight so I could move it easily.

Like my friend it wouldn’t bother me to make a reasonable trip to get it but fortunately I found one only 30 minutes drive from Cirencester where I was due for a 90th birthday party. So it all worked out beautifully.


Its a sweet table. Yes a fair few marks but nothing ghastly and for the princely sum of £16 I really can’t complain. I’d have a whole load more marks if I was over 100 years old!


I could ask Gill to restore it but there will be that usual tussle over me wanting to pay for her time  and she refusing. Perhaps we could do a swap, I make her something and she does the table. Or more appealing she shows me how it’s done! Either way it can wait. But it does need a cover so the marks don’t get worse. The Passport has a soft base which I don’t think would scratch but there might be friction marks so a sewing mat was needed.


I had a whole bunch of left over half rectangle blocks from this quilt which lives in that room. It was a no brainer  to use them and making up four diamonds and it was almost big enough. A scrappy border and the top was finished, just the quilting to do.


Let’s admit some parts of quilting are boring with times filled with endless sewing and manoeuvring of fabric, particularily at the quilting stage. This table runner is one such example not helped by the close quilting I wanted I knew it was going to be a long job. It was not helped by being backed by headliner fabric, a thin foam material used for lining the interior roofs of cars. It’s quite firm but flexible. It gives  good stability for the finished article  but of course is more difficult to handle when sewing. But having the opportunity to sit in the warmth and catch up on television made for a very pleasant evening. I’d been recommended the US drama Homeland many, many times but was daunted by just quite how many hours of television that meant watching but it was a perfect accompaniment. Good drama, subtitles and a relatively easy but pacy plot was perfect for watching with one eye on sewing the other on the plot.


Of course it had to be inspected by Skye and I’m afraid she found it wanting. I like the cover very much and will use it although only when sewing as I like the dark wood finish but I forgot the lesson I should have learned with this table runner….. wavy borders.


Thanks to blu tack you can’t see the waves but they are there. I had failed to measure the borders and precisely add them. The same with this table runner I chose to preserve the points of the diamonds rather than precisely put on the border. I’m midst a medallion quilt which is entirely borders really  I must remember this lesson!


Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts

Triple pouch – a lesson in humility

C4BCE8D7-D159-4DDF-877E-A6BBEA7EE415if I’m honest I have more zipped pouches than I could possibly make use of in many life times….. then why make another? Well there is the challenge of a different design, particularly this rather clever 3 pouches in one, there’s also the fun of joining in with a group of enthusiasts who are working their way through each project in Aneela Hoey’s book sewing Stitched Sewing Organisers and for me the best outcome is a finished handmade item I can gift. And I have a 90th birthday coming up, not my own although at times living with 2 teens and a 20 year old, institutional life like that of this lady in her beautiful and comfortable residential care home has its appeal. No cooking for a start.

Gifting a pouch like this solves that problem of finding a present for a person who already has more than enough but when you feel you can’t turn up empty handed. I’m fully expecting her to gift the pouch to a younger member of her large family but it is the thought that counts.

And that leads me on to the conundrum of saying it is handmade by me.  I have no problems in actually owning up to it, it’s just that neither do I want to appear to highlight the fact as if I’m seeking additional thanks.

I’m in this position with this pouch I gave a dear friend for whom her labrador is her world.

img_5071It was a Christmas present so she’d have opened it with her family but something she said the last time we met suggested she thought I was ‘clever to find it’. Now that would have course been the perfect time to say actually it was stencilled and made by me specifically for her but it was a comment she made mid stream another story and I just couldn’t return to it without me appearing needy and requiring approbation! The knots we get ourselves into…… of course the answer is to get some little handmade tags like these but then it’s an extra job sewing them on…


Anyway back to this pouch, the Sew Along on IG for projects from this book gives advice and tips, well sadly not enough advice and tips to steer me successfully to a finished triple pouch. Making another triple pouch sits with a number of other things I will never do again which includes pot holing  and western country dancing. The former is just plain terrifying and the latter I was such a miserable failure!!

Now I’m not blaming the instructions or diagrams, admittedly there could be more of the latter  and I prefer pictures to hand drawn diagrams. Indeed I’ve succesfully done a number of makes by Aneela Hoey but not this one. The advice was just to do exactly what the instructions said and I still think I did that  but obviously not as intended because when I turned it out for the magical reveal I found I’d got 5 internal pockets not 3 and…


…. and the two outside pieces weren’t attached to the zip


Now I certainly hadn’t got the will to unpick and retrace my steps partly because I then re read the instructions and I still couldn’t see where it went wrong and of course I went wrong twice. I know I’m not good at seeing how things fit together and was always appalled if the children had toys with multiple parts to assemble. But I haven’t been sewing as long as I have not to learn a bodge or two. So a few minutes later and the zip was properly secured and having 5 pouches is fine!  OK the zip ends are a bit more bumpy than they should be but this one I’m keeping and in fact will be taking it to Thread House Retreat to compare with a friend’s who clearly did get it right.  This does of course mean I’ve got to go for plan B for that birthday present I need. Next time I’m sticking to Svetlana Sotak’s Devon pouch.


This is a Q1 FAL finish first blogged here.

Q4 FAL wrap up and Q1 FAL targets

So Q4 turned out to be quite productive and out of 7 items 5 got finished. In fact if you allow for the one that got done in the first few days of the New Year that takes it to an all time record of 6 out of 7!!

Here’s the usual montage and links back to the posts.


1. Lake Cabin Quilt


2. Sewing Folio


3. Bow tie quilt


4. Soulful quilt


5. Project bags


6. Hourglass quilt 3


7. Fail…..


So to Q1. Oddly I don’t seem to have as many long term WIPs waiting to be done as I thought which is probably a good thing. I have plenty of things I’d like to have a go at and new projects in mind but they are not covered by the Finish Along which is targeted at projects on the go and not a twinkle in your eye.

This is my montage…


In more detail

1. Using 4 left over blocks from when I was Mama for Siblings Together Bee 4 (ST) as the start point for a medallion quilt

2. I’ve partly cut out a triple pouch from Aneela Hoey’s new book.

3. I recently made a coin quilt to use up blue scraps. I’ve a fair few strips left over and again they will form the foundation of a quilt for ST.

4. I came across this beautiful paper pieced block during a sort out. It is wasted sitting in a project bag so I plan to make it into a table topper for Jennifer who collects items for the children who come over from Chernobyl for a holiday to take back as presents.

5. Inspired by a free Irish Chain type quilt pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop and the fact I have thin strips of scraps galore this is the start of a baby quilt.

6. And my oldest WIP. It’s appeared before in these montages and I really don’t know why I don’t get it finished but this quarter I will. Guaranteed, if only to stop me from having to trail back through thousands of photos to find the image to include in the montage!!  It will also provide a welcome relief from all those blues/green quilts

7.  And some left over quarter log cabin blocks for another quilt for ST.

My Soulful Quilt


My favourite room in the house is our lounge. It’s not grand or particularly big and it’s certainly not stylish, filled as it is with an eclectic assortment of furniture from a cheap IKEA cabinet to a 1990’s music system which is  never used. But it’s a place that’s relaxing and where as a family we gather when my teens venture out of their rooms, having raided the kitchen first of course.  Although if I’m honest the biggest draw isn’t so much my company as the log burner, the best home improvement I’ve ever done. The room has a resident quilt but in the words of no 2 son it’s too thin and too small and that was when he was a foot shorter! It’s the quilt below, a lovely design by Lunden Quilts.


So a new larger and warmer quilt was needed. And I’m hopeful with this new quilt no one will be complaining! Although they are teens so they will….

The room has a terracotta rug chosen by my late husband which I love and will see me out. So everything colour wise is geared round that and it makes for a warm look.  But it’s not the most popular choice of colour for modern quilting fabrics. Last year, however, a range called Soulful by the talented and prolific designer Maureen Cracknell  came out. Just the perfect colours of apricot, reddish terracotta and complementary warm neutrals.


The problem was no one in the U.K. stocked it or at least anything like the full range. But I had the bright idea of ordering it to arrive at our holiday destination in the US. Well Hawthorne Threads, or probably their carrier, did us proud as we were staying at a remote ranch in the Rockies that’s only open in the summer. But it was waiting for us. I wish I’d ordered more as US prices are so much cheaper.

Now I know many quilters avoid using complete ranges prefering to mix and match but I wanted an harmonious collection of fabrics and certainly don’t have the skills to get this sort of blend of colours and tones. In fact there is another fabric from a different range snooked in there, Wonderland by Pat Bravo. I wanted the scrappy look but there’s only one cream neutral in Soulful so I wanted another to blend in.

I particularly like Maureen’s fabric designs. She tends to have warmer palettes which in my multi beige home go well. This is a mini quilt using her Fleet and Flourish range.



As to design I decided to use my Accuquilt half rectangle die. So easy, so accurate  and makes sewing up the blocks a cinch to the point you don’t even need to trim them as the dies cut off the corners so no dog ears and the sizes are spot on.

It is an expensive bit of kit at c £250 and the dies £30 plus but for a stress free quilt you can’t beat it. I know some guilds buy one as a shared resource.

One quilter who recently bought one was expressing on her blog her disappointment that she hadn’t got the dies to cut for a particular quilt design. I think with respect that’s the wrong approach with an Accuquilt.  The die sizes are what they are, so unless you buy them all and that would be very, very expensive, then your design needs to start with what size dies you have. This quilt is a perfect example. I wanted a quick and straightforward sewing project for a quilt destined for a friend’s child but eventually it went to the collection of quilts for Grenfell Tower. With accurate sewing and helpful notches these drunkard path blocks needed no trimming. Such a time saver.


I searched around for some half rectangle designs and settled on this one by Melissa of Happy Quilting. The multiple pegs are because we had Storm Eleanor passing through and underfoot it’s a quagmire.



As its been such such an easy make I’ve just been plugging away at it for the last 3 or 4 months. It’s been an easy one to pick up and drop as something else comes along. But this quilt is supposed to be keeping us warm and January and February are often the coldest months. It has a wool batting and a flannel backing and feels very cosy.  So having had the top finished a couple of weeks back I grasped the nettle after Christmas and finished the quilt.  This one certainly has some heft to it and having had it draped over me for a couple of hours, as I stitched down the binding, it’s definitely warm. I bet we now have the warmest January and February on record….


Linking up with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social, Kelly from My Quilt Infatuation and Amanda Jean from Crazy Mom Quilts..