April’s Siblings Together block for Bee 2

At this strangest of times of uncertainty and for many, real financial worry and stress, I think a particularly simple but hopefully effective block for this month of April for members of Bee 2. I’ve seen it used on a number of ST quilts and they always look good. I’m sorry my brain is not up to originality at the moment!

I keep trying to explain to my children that they are living through an historic time. I suppose Brexit was too but it got soooo boring towards the end, we nearly all lost the will to live! This period of time is certainly not boring and the most over used word of now is ‘unprecedented’! My children remain unimpressed……

Anyway to the block for this month. As I said it’s really easy for that sort of brainless activity which I find very soothing at times like these. Not that of course times have been exactly like this….

So to the blocks themselves, I would like you to make 4 please.

Two blocks need to have a centre of blue or green with bright white borders and the other the reverse with a green or blue border and a bright white centre.

The measurements are as follows.

You will need for the white border block

2 x 8” by 3” strips of bright white

2 x 3” square of bright white

And 1 x 3”square blue or green

For the green/blue bordered block it is the reverse

2 x 8” by 3” strips in a green or blue fabric

2 x 3” square in green or blue fabric

1 x 3” square of bright white

Please admire my new pristine ironing mat. It won’t be like this for long I assure you!

Sew together as shown below

And hey presto a block…..

Can you please trim to 8” square.

I have to say these were chain pieced and they come together so fast and no need for careful matching. My sort of block!

Here’s what the overall effect will be.

As always any queries don’t hesitate to get back to me. Thanks everyone and take care.

A Large Tote bag for a Sewing Retreat


In preparation for my fourth Thread House Retreat one essential make was a large tote bag. For those who’ve been to a retreat or really any sewing experience away from home then you will know just how much stuff needs to be taken. Not quite the kitchen sink but sometimes you feel that’s needed as well.

I have never successfully cracked this. I always end up with multiple bags that all get messy however much I try to be organised. Last year on retreat was the worst however.

I had the ‘bright idea’ of using one of those bags you get when you buy pillows with the see through panel. You can see it at the front of the pile of stuff that went last year. As you can see the cats were very intrigued and wanted to be on the action!

But it was a disaster! It was so floppy that everything heaped at the bottom and then it looked dreadful to boot. I cast my eyes round at all the other tote bags and mine fell way short.

So this year it was a priority to make a bag that worked. It needed to be large and structured so it stood up and looked smart as well.

Using a typical shopping bag from Morrison’s I tested whether the size would work with what I needed to take. The size worked well. Of course I could have just taken this bag but it’s a sewing retreat for goodness sake, I would have been drummed out!!



I used some stiffish upholstery fabric I had bought as a remnant. I had just enough linen lining fabric although one of the side pieces had to be constructed Frankenstein style. So everything from stash so tick for that.


I used headliner, the poor mans Annie’s Soft and Stable, as interfacing. I didn’t have enough fabric for the base in either the lining or outer fabric but in any case I didn’t want to use fabric. The floor at this retreat gets absolutely filthy. Honestly if I were a cleaner there I’d cry every time I went to work. The problem isn’t messy people it is the chalk chippings surrounding the conference centre. It’s always wet at this time of year and people track in white residue. I didn’t want that on my new bag’s bottom! I had some vinyl in stock for just this purpose and it worked a treat.

I didn’t use a pattern but winged it. Now this isn’t meant to be a tutorial but for those used to making bags this is a really very simple construction. It will also serve as a useful reminder to me if I want to make another.

For the outer shell I cut 2 times 18.5” by 15” for the front and back and then 2 times 8” by 15” for the sides. And the same for the lining pieces but I reduced these measurements by .5” for a snugger finish. The outer vinyl base was 8” by 18.5” and the inner base .5” less on each side. I also cut out headliner pieces the size of the outer pieces. This made a bag with a finished height circa 14” and width around 17.5”. It’s big!

I used .5” seams. I glue basted the headliner to the outer pieces. The 4 outer pieces were assembled and sewn from the top to the bottom on each side but leaving the last .5” unsewn at the bottom.Then I sewed the base to the outer pieces. It’s probably best to mark where the .5” comes so you don’t sew too much or too little.

The inner lining is sewn exactly the same way but with no headliner.

You now need to join the outer and inner bags. So to do this the outer shell is turned inside out so the right side is on the inside. And the lining is also turned inside out and placed inside the outer bag so now the right sides should be facing each other. Sew round the top of the bag leaving a 8” gap along one of the long sides. Turn the bag inside out and sew along the top sewing up the gap.

Then sew down the edges as shown in the picture below. This makes a nice rigid edge and keeps the bag upright. However for the first time ever my sewing machine could not cope with the thickness. Even needles for Jeans broke. But I persevered….

I used the vinyl for handles which was a doddle as it doesn’t fray of course.

It is more than large enough and I enjoyed filling it with all the items I needed for retreat as I gathered them together. There were some great workshops to attend but each needing a kit of supplies.

But disaster struck more of that in the next post…..shall we say it never got tested!

March Siblings Together Bee 7 – improv flying geese

I’ve been watching the beautiful creations of people who are currently doing a sew along of the improv triangle blocks from Nicholas Ball’s recently published book Inspiring Improv. These are a few of mine.

It got me thinking that we could do something a bit similar but make them more about flying geese than triangles. So here are the blocks I would love you to make

Now I don’t know the method advocated in the book as I haven’t bought it so I use a method I know for inserting triangles. Feel free to do your own thing and if you hate improv and you like precision sewing just do flying geese using your preferred method, but please make sure it fits the block size and design.

I would like 2 blocks please of improv triangles in a flying geese formation. But note please, as in the picture above, I need one block where the geese are flying left to right and the other right to left.

As to colours I’m going for blues and greens and bluey greens, but no limes or yellowy greens please. As to neutrals, very low value grey/white neutrals please. I initially tried some stronger neutrals as you can see at the bottom of the photo below but they were distracting. Mind you, I used that fabric with the crosses you see in front, but the wrong side. You can use prints or solids.

You can, if you wish, use neutral scraps. I have drawers of scraps so they were my first port of call. Alternatively use a strip of neutral 4” by 16”. But please use 3 different neutrals for your strips.

For the 6 triangles cut squares/rectangles/or triangles of the colour fabric around 3” to 5” for the base and 3” to 4” for the height.

Now to the block itself. Place the coloured square (or precut triangle) over the neutral thus.

This is going to be the first triangle to the left side so please remember to ensure there is at least a couple of inches of neutral to the left of the triangle.

Then cut as shown

Discard the pieces you don’t need

Then flip the triangle over

Sew that seam and iron

Now sew the other seam leaving you with a triangle inserted into the neutral strip. To ensure you have enough seam allowance at the top of triangle you just need to make sure there is bit of a dog ear at the top. But if points get lost ca la vie!

Trim to 3.5” by 15”. Remember to ensure that gap at the end is at least 2”

When doing the second strip I found it helpful to lay the first strip I made above so I could get the placement of the triangle correct.

Then repeat for the third strip but again please ensure there is at least 2” to the right of the end triangle.

As I’ve said you can use scraps and can make a scrappy strip as I’ve done here below and then just cut into it as above.

Your triangles can be precise or skewed. Whatever takes your fancy. They can extend up to the top of the strip or finish lower. If you want them to finish lower, as with the triangle in the middle strip in the picture below, then you need to cut and sew one side at a time. And also unless unless you are using solids which can be flipped over you will need a longer strip to start with.

Now to assembly. As you complete each strip stagger the triangles so with one block they slope left to tight and other one right to left.

Sew them together. You should end up with a block 9.5” by 15”.

In terms of setting I plan to make a ‘lead goose’ as you see in this picture which will go over the top of your two blocks to give that wonderful chevron shape that geese make.

I’m hoping you enjoy making these blocks and the finished design will be effective. Thanks very much and as always any problems please get in touch.