My early lockdown and the retreat that never was.

Earlier this year when Covid was this rather strange and worrying virus but would surely be contained on the other side of the world…. I got that one wrong….I was planning to go off on a sewing retreat. My bag was packed, supplies gathered with just a few more to pull together and some hard decision-making about what to take and what to leave when it came to fabric. I had also finished most of my swap items which again had been safely packed away. But then the weekend before the retreat at Folly Farm pictured above with the Threadhouse team of Jo Avery and Karen Lewis the phone rang at two in the morning.

You know a phone call at that time is never going to be good news, at best it’s a wrong number. I answered it to find out that my son had broken his humerus just above the elbow while arm wrestling! They had been killing time before some key boxing match which started at 5am and in fact only lasted 45 seconds! The pointlessness of male sporting events never ceases to amaze me.

There’s no point in taking this sort of news anything other than this reasonably calmly but I could see all my plans for that weekend, the weeks ahead and of course the retreat fading away. But it was much worse for my son, apart from being in a lot of pain, he had to be settled downstairs because it was the only seat we had in the house where he could remain upright and allow his broken arm to hang down. He does a lot of weightlifting and it was generally agreed that the nursing staff had never had to do a cast quite as big as the one on his upper arm! But that of course was quite painful because of the sheer weight of it. But to cut a long story 8 weeks in and the verdict was the bones were not healing and he had to have an operation to bolt everything together! In effect our lockdown started early!

Although I couldn’t go to the retreat I wanted to ensure at least the swap items got there. The ones that were finished at least.

With the name badge I always struggle here as I’m not that good at quilting in miniature. It didn’t help that the lady I was making it for isn’t on Instagram so I had no real idea of what her tastes were. So I rather boringly went with the design and I used a couple of years ago of paper pieced flying geese. I chose liberty on the basis that most quilters are fans of it.

I was also room sharing with a couple of long-standing retreat friends Kate and Marianne. We’ve always swapped smaller items. This was an entirely selfish make of mine. I’d had the Tub family pattern for some time and had seen some beautiful ones on Instagram and I was itching to make one.

For Kate it was a pink confection with Amy Simibaldi fabrics which I know she likes.

Marianne is a bit more tricky. She tends to like bright strong colours but I don’t know what would suit her particular home. In the end I chose cotton linen mix with the word Maker on it which is very much what Marianne is. She both knits and sews and makes a lot of beautiful crafted items particularly accessories. I chose a screen print of Karen Lewis, who is one of the tutors on the retreat.

It was very touching to receive a large package of items kindly brought back from the retreat by Mary who lives pretty much around the corner from me! I received this lovely gifts from Kate and Marianne.

The needle case is Kate’s and she must be psychic because I am for ever casting around for needles at some crucial moment as a child about to leave the house with a button needing repairing or a tear or whatever. It’s already filled with needles!

Marianne made this pod which is a well-known design but by reputation quite tricksy because it’s got this curved pod like bottom. It’s beautiful I will be very useful. It’s even got a special cat fabric in the right colour.

I also received in the post this time the most beautiful pouch, a Angela Hoey design, from Charlotte. It brought home to me what I’d missed at the retreat however because Charlotte is somebody I have emailed and chatted to in the virtual sewing world many many times and I was looking forward to meeting her in the flesh but it was not to be.

She had used denim and then beautifully quilted it for decorative effect. And yes there were also cats in some of the fabric choices. It is what I like most in a pouch study with some structure so very practical but also beautiful and in this case personalised for which I’m very grateful.

One of the highlights of the retreat is the Saturday evening prize draw. Everyone gets a prize gifted by a sponsor. Well I think I must’ve got one star prizes as it was a selection of sewing items from Beyond Measure. This small business which is mostly online is run by Grace who I’ve met a number of times now. Well what a grand selection. Indeed the items are way better than my standard of sewing deserves! Here are a few to show you…

Obviously retreats have had to be abandoned but at least this one snooked in before the Covid restrictions. I just couldn’t be there to enjoy it! But in the scheme of things so many plans have have to be unmade and rethought. So many changes but at least I had some time, at least initially, for some creativity and I must get on and capture that and also that very unusual phase of strict lockdown.

A rather late review of 2019…and what next

This blog has been sadly neglected of late but the end of the year and beginning of a new decade has inspired me to review last year and think ahead to this year. And yes I know we are halfway through February!

While the blog posts haven’t been that regular, sewing continues……. and looking back over the past years, I’ve got into the habit of reviewing  the previous year under the headings of the good, the bad and the ugly. There is always more good than bad or ugly but a bit of reassessment of what has gone well and what hasn’t is no bad thing. Nor is having a plan, however vague, going forwards.

So to the good of 2019

The items I have enjoyed making the most



Oddly enough the things  I’ve loved making and have proved so useful in keeping me on track are these scrap pouches. All credit to Tori Smith #cloudtori for the inspiration, hers  are far more exquisite but I love these bags which are quick, easy and effective. A blog post to come….


The quilt of which I’m most proud


Now this quilt would miserably fail under the heading of ‘the quilt I most enjoyed making’ but I loved this design idea and thought it doable with templates etc.  I mocked it up on TouchDraw and it looked good.

But in reality the template curves weren’t precise enough and there was much resewing to get the quilt top to lie flat.  And letting you into a secret, this quilt is currently sandwiched between two sheets under a heavy Indian rug in my bedroom going through more flattening!

The idea for this unusual treatment was when I received a quilt back from the Modern Quilt Group. When I sent it in for exhibition it was less than perfectly flat, but thanks to it being kept in a box weighted by all the other quilts on top, it arrived back beautifully flat!

But that aside I like the colours  and design. I might enter into it the Festival of Quilts.


The quilt I most enjoyed making



I love curves, that is no secret. So when the Modern Group Challenge announced that the theme was to make something inspired  by a 19th century coverlet I was delighted to find it had curves. Needless to say curves had to feature and  I did improv curves which are easy and quick.

What was interesting about this year’s annual challenge was that it was thrown out to all the sections of the UK Quilters Guild and was shown at the Festival of Quilts.

It made for an interesting display, they were all so very different. I think mine was the brightest of them all! It was also the first time I had entered a juried competition but in saying proudly mine was selected this must somewhat tempered by the fact they had very few from which to select!



The Bad


My organisation skills

My sewing room continues to be messy and disorganised. Having said that the pouches mentioned above mean that crucial things like Siblings Together  Bee blocks are safely kept under control but the sewing process is a mess. And my large working surface cluttered and inefficient. Oh dear maybe the new year will inspire me.


My calendar management


Nicky Eglinton with the Group Siblings Together quilt to which we all contributed 

I spent the entire year thinking that our holiday clashed with the Festival of Quilts, the UK’s biggest quilt show. So I didn’t bother to enter anything and put it out of my mind. A blog post literally the week of the FoQ mentioned the dates and to my amazement I’d got it wrong, I had one day that I could go.  The problem was we were asked, after we’d booked the holiday a year before, to move it back 2 days and thereby creating a window of opportunity. I could only go for a few hours but go I could and did. The best thing was seeing Nicky Eglinton above with the Group Siblings Together quilt


The rising tide of Siblings Together Quilts as WIPs


I hang my head in shame here. I think  I have some  9 sets of blocks, some of which are quilt tops I hasten to add! The problem is, in respect of my motivation, we have been a bit of a victim of our own success. There is no desperate need for quilts  in the here and now as we have enough for this year’s camps. So that vital push isn’t there. But some will be 2 years in my possession by this summer and that isn’t good enough. So this will be the spring and summer of assembling quilt tops and quilting them.


And finally the Ugly


It has to be this little pouch tray, looking in particular at the one on the far left.

In a vain effort to be more organised and to combat a work surface that’s slopes ever so slightly so everything rolls off, I like having trays to put essential things like seam rippers, pin cushions  etc. by the side of my machine.

Bonnie Hunter, one of my favourite  bloggers, mentioned this pouch as being similar to a shop bought one she had. I made it from  scraps and as you can see whilst it’s OK as a small tray, once zipped up it doesn’t sit squarely and has openings so things can slip out. And let’s be honest it looks plain ugly!  I made two others to slightly  different dimensions and not so scrappy and they are better, particularly the end one on the right but I’m still  on the hunt for the perfect side tray….

Ugly but much loved

In my review of two years ago the item that won the ugliest award was this.  It was entirely because my leather handles looked ridiculous and try as I might I couldn’t remove them.


Its part of a free pattern by Anna Graham of Noodlehead fame called Little Treasures and actually this design and the smaller curved trays are lovely, I just didn’t read the pattern properly.

Well it seems that my cats don’t think it is ugly at all and it has become a favourite bed of my daughter’s cat Bella.  It lives on my daughter’s bed and Bella loves to curl up inside. So it just goes to show that what is someone’s ugly is someone’s favourite!


What next?

A good question….

I have a Modern Quilt challenge quilt I need to finish by the end of March

I would like to finish off a quilt I started last year and even got to a finished top but my daughter suggested it would look better being hung the other way. And she was absolutely right. Unfortunately there are a lot of directional fabrics so it needs major surgery…..

Another granddaughter of a friend has been born so there is a baby quilt to make.  But new mum is a London fashion stylist/buyer  so I’m having doubts…..

And the old perennial of trying to work tidier and more efficiently. In my dreams….