Nebbits and cat problems


When I had an HR job in a factory many years ago, a sick note came in from a rather wiley shop steward with the reason for his sickness absence as  ‘Nebbits’.

Now no one could ever have describe this guy as a new age man and he made it very clear that having to deal with a woman in negotiations etc. was very demeaning and was  just against the proper order of things. So I knew that this was his way of throwing the gauntlet down and the very last thing I was going to do was ask him what nebbits meant.

I rang the site medical department. These were the days of huge industrial sites employing many thousands that had fully equipped medical facilities with doctors and nurses at hand. But despite their undoubted expertise they’d never heard of the condition. I checked with my team and rang other HR people but I continuously drew a blank and then determined to crack it, it struck me –  nebbits was short for  nether bits in other words rear end problems. Well poor Felix, our grey Tonkinese cat, had similar trouble and proceeded to lick the offending region, which I’m quite sure my shop steward couldn’t have done,  to such an extent that that region became quite bald of hair.  As a consequence Felix, aside from a course of pills, pain killers and a probiotic, had to wear the dreaded cone of shame. Does this picture remind anyone else of the handmaidens in The Handmaids Tale?




I’d made Skye a fabric cone when she was spayed a few years back using the cheap plastic cone she was given by the vet as a template. She didn’t like it but it worked and must have been more comfy. I tried that one on Felix but it was way too small. So it was just a case of making a new one and just extending the pattern to make it longer.  I used headliner as wadding to give it more structure. Then to secure it I added some buttonholes.

Now my machine does beautiful automatic button holes but it failed here. The extra thickness meant that the automatic buttonhole foot couldn’t cope so I made some pretty rough and ready ones just using a zig zag stitch. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone  to have a close look at the sewing but it worked a treat.

But it never rains but it pours because Bella having been spayed also had to wear a cone to stop her licking her wounds. But of course she fits Skye’s cone perfectly. I can’t work out whether she looks cross  because of the after-effects of the anaesthetic or she’s just cheesed off with the cone, I suspect the latter!


But cross or not it does look comfy here doesn’t it


In fact because of complications with the operation she had to wear the cone for 10 days poor thing.

If you have pets and want to make something similar then using a plastic cone as a template or make a cardboard version just to check the size, it’s really easy. I used the earlier cone I’d made.


I just cut out a 2 pieces of fabric preferably something soft like flannel or fleece then a third piece as the wadding, chose the stiffest you have. Rather like a bag it needs to have some substance otherwise it will just drape over the head rather like a headscarf.


Sew round the outer edges leaving the neck unsewn so you can turn it out. With fleece in fact I left the outer curve unsewn and just oversewed the outer curve as you can see above.

For Felix’s flannel one I now had an open edge.  I guess you could hand sew this closed but I used shop bought bias binding.  I didn’t worry that it was all a bit rough and ready and the binding, because of the sharpish curve, was a bit twisty.  Needs must, but careful hand sewing might have given a neater finish. On the other hand I like the two tone finish it gives.

And then the need to secure it to your pet.  We found attaching it to a collar helped so I added a three straps to hold the collar. They need to big enough to allow the buckle to thread through.


And then the button holes. You can use safety pins although that would worry me and occasionally the cone has to come off as eating can sometimes be a challenge. Velcro strips can also work and that’s what I did on the fleece kitten version but with an adult cat or dog who will be stronger and more agile something stronger is needed. Well that’s been my experience.


You can of course buy soft pet cones and I suspect they are very good but if you have the supplies and you like making things for the people and pets in your life then this can work very well.

I’d like to think my cats were grateful but I fear not….




Siblings Together Bee 4 – January block, clean and cool


Happy New Year everyone and so sorry this is a day late. I thought I’d checked all my Mama commitments for January but this slipped through….

Anyway this  is a block I’ve wanted to play with for a while. It’s been sitting in my Pinterest quilt pictures for a few months and it always struck me as a great design for an older teen boy provided the colours were kept cool and clean. So in effect I have minimised the colours and kept it to a very restricted palette  and mixed in lots of greys and whites.

Do feel free to play with the contrast between the two fabrics  in each block. You can see from examples in the top picture in one I’ve gone for minimal contrast in others fairly strong contrast.

In terms of that restricted palette…. just dark, medium or light grey, white, they can be prints or solids. If you do want to mix in a bit of colour as I have done then can you please keep to yellowy greens. The colour of the fabric in the block I’ve made is an olive.  Knowing how subjective colours are I’ve put a picture below showing on the left bluey greens that  I definitely don’t want and over on the right yellowy greens that I do. In the bottom picture I’ve even put a muddy gold colour  which I think works well.



It is the simplest of blocks, but certainly when road testing designs  with my teens  they like very simple graphic  designs  more than complex blocks ! Well if you are like me trying to restore the house to some sort of normality after Christmas then simple is good….

Anyway for each block you will need

4 rectangles   5.5” by 4” in one fabric

4 rectangles 5.5” by 4” in another fabric.

Arrange in a chequerboard fashion and sew together with a scant 1/4” seam.


You should end up with a block 14.5” by 10.5” . Please trim to this size

Any problems or concerns please get in touch.

Many thanks

Review of 2018

Its that time of year to look back given the watershed that a New Year presents. I’m joining Cheryl for the Best of 2018 linky party for her annual link up of a review of the year and will grapple with the future in another post.

It’s been a year of two halves sewing wise.  First year pretty full on, second half rather arid.  Through circumstance and the vagaries of life sewing got pushed to the back burner in the summer. And once on the back burner I found it hard to bring it to the fore with time and brain deficiencies!

Looking backwards, and I hope Cheryl doesn’t mind but I’m not just going to focus on the best as I like to be a bit more retrospective so I will be looking at the good, the bad and the ugly. Lets start with the Good.

The Good

1.My favourite finish

I’ve chosen two.


This one above I love because of the colours and while I suppose it’s my own design in reality I made it up as I went along. Yes I did start with some graph paper and realised that for a medallion quilt multiples of 3 worked well but as to the rest it was a bit of a gamble but it paid off and this one will be heading to Siblings Together. Most of the corner and centre blocks were made by ST bee members.


The next one is the table topper I made my Mum for her birthday. I saw it in place when we were down at their’s for Christmas and I have to say it looked very good.

2. The blog post with the most comments


This post with a Royal title I’m guessing  might have been the key here. Perhaps it attracted more viewers? Anyway lots of insightful comments and again much interest in the design. This is the third quilt I have made using the block from the free quilt design Fieldcrossing by Elizabeth Olwen – more details in the post.

3. The post with the most views


I suspect it was the hint of wickedness in the title of this post.  It reminds me of trying to get the attention of our in-house lawyer on a particularly boring share plan question. After many emails, which he completely ignored, I sent one with ‘Sex Scandal’ in the title of the email and he answered it  instantly!

4. My most useful make



After yet another request to look into my bags at airport security this was made. Mind you it’s  yet to be tested. I may just get stopped because I look dodgy.

5. The quilt my family like the best


This lives in our lounge and being large, backed with flannel its a favourite with all of us as I am forever having to refold it.  Obviously re-folding is a skill my children have yet to learn.


The Bad

6. My greatest failure


This was the triple pouch from Aneela Hooey’s book Stitched Sewing Organisers. Don’t let me put you off the book, it’s excellent but this one defeated me.  Yes it got finished but I had to hand sew a raw edge and discovered a fourth pocket, which apparently wasn’t a mistake. It takes masses of material and is useful but, and its a pet hate with me, not all the pouches are  secured with a zip so things can slip out.

The Ugly

7. My least favourite quilt.


This is a good example of both the highs and lows of quilting.  I loved the experimentation and in many ways I liked the final top but dislike the quilting which is underwhelming. Now I could add more quilting lines but I used a variegated thread which on the plain fabric looks like it’s  marked or stained! I could unpick it but can’t be bothered and I’m not sure I like that strong blue colour anyway.  But on the plus side I learned loads but I wish I knew what to do with it!

8. The quilts I would have like to have made

And finally a tribute to two very prolific, talented and inspirational quilters whose originality and creativity have produced these beauties which are deservedly heading off to QuiltCon, the juried modern quilt show. They each have multiple entries but these are my favourites.  Eclat by Sophie of Luna Quilts, is simply stunning it was at the UK Festival of Quilts this year and Geometry by Jayne of Twiggy and Opal, beautiful, clever and entirely made in solids which I find a challenge.  I can’t recommend their blogs enough.


I’m back to sewing which sounds vaguely like a threat. But with a month of being limited in what I can do because of eye surgery and then the frantic run up to and then post Christmas switch off I’m determined to crack on and a baby quilt is on its way for a prem baby born just before Christmas. I will give some though to what next….









Birthday present


When I started out quilting a few years ago or so my mum, although fully supporting my new hobby and indeed a very experienced dressmaker and talented sewist herself, made it clear that she herself wasn’t that fond of quilts and that I shouldn’t go to the effort of making one for her. Personally I think this sort of clear upfront statement would solve a lot of family angst!! By contrast my dear late mother-in-law, was always saying, when asked her opinion, she didn’t mind and you were left never really sure what she wanted!  So I was a bit surprised when mum asked for a mini quilt mat to put on her side table in the lounge. I was free to choose the design and the only stipulation was the colours should blend with their white/grey/muted green decor.

With the time I have more limited at the moment for quilting, a mini quilt was perfect, something to get my teeth into but it wasn’t going to be too pressurising. And of course colours aside I could choose what I wanted to do and the top of the side table was a very convenient 12.5” square.


Mum had admired a paper pieced star designed by Esther  I’d done way back and I settled on that but I then remembered it would need to lie flat and with all those seams coming into the centre it is hard to avoid a bit of a lump. A lump that may just tip over a cup of tea. So with that in mind I chose a design from Quilter’s Cache where the centre point had minimal  seams.


Next to fabric choice. I settled on a variety of toning fabrics to suit their decor  and then copied someone’s idea to photocopy the sections with the fabric swatches glued on to ensure the fabrics  were correctly positioned

I used headliner as wadding as it gives the quilt more substance and makes it less floppy. Floppy is good for quilts but less good when you really want a sturdy fabric mat.

As you can see it’s now in pride of place and being put to good use.


As an aside another birthday request was a second quilt for my 21 year old. This will take much longer to pull together as there are a number of Siblings Together quilts much higher up the queue, but I thought I would  present him with a selection of fabrics for him to pick the ones he liked the most. A family friend who dropped round with a card and present, looking at the modest stack of fabrics, marvelled at ‘how much fabric I’d got.’  I had to smile, little does she know…..




Siblings Together Bee 7 – November block Warming up for Winter


This is the Bee block for November. It’s a lovely simple block and one of those blocks that looks so much better when in a crowd of blocks. I was inspired by Carole of @therunninghare who made a quilt around the time I was first starting out in 2015, and I just loved it. I thought it looked really complicated and way beyond me. If you look on her Instagram feed around that time you’ll see it, I think it’s called a quilt for Eleri. Carol choose to make hers  in a mixture of greens and blues.

But with this being made on Halloween evening (going to the wire!)  I’ve gone for these warm peach and deep orange colours.  For this quilt I’d like similarly warm colours taken from the colour wheel below where the arrows are. It can be a solid or a print and the neutral can be any low volume. I’d prefer just two warm coloured fabrics per block. So one print/solid for the half square triangle and one for the cross.


For one block and I’d like two please…

Low volume/neutral fabric
Two warm coloured fabrics either print or solid like mustard, orange, red, warm yellow, etc which contrast with each other

To make 4 HSTs
2 times 5” squares of the first warm coloured fabric
2 times 5” squares of a neutral/low volume fabric

For the central cross
2 times 4.5” squares of the second  warm coloured fabric
1 times 4.5” by 12.5” of the second warm coloured fabric

Scant 1/4” seam throughout

Use whatever method you prefer for making unfinished 4 1/2 inch HSTs. The sizes above assume you pair low volume with a coloured fabric and sew two lines down the centre line and cut. As per the picture below. I’m sure if you try really hard you’ll be able to have wobbly lines like me!


Now sew the block together as in the picture below.


It really is as easy as that! As you can see I was a bit lazy and made enough HSTs for two blocks but don’t feel you have to do that.

I had company tonight. Forgive the night time pictures but Bella is growing. She dutifully welcomed the Halloween tricksters and went down a storm with them.


Bella’s quilt

img_1549This was not meant to happen. I have resisted having a third cat for some time, I didn’t want more work, more worry when we can’t find them and generally the view that two  is really enough. But I hadn’t taken into account pester power, and as a mother of three I really should have.

My daughter and I had gone to see a friend with kittens, all sold, but I knew it would ramp up the request for a third. They offered to set aside a kitten out of their next litter due next summer – they breed Norwegian Forest cats, which trust me are truly huge.  Of course she didn’t want to wait until then and the silver/grey tabby colorway she wanted may not materialise then anyway. So my daughter cajoled, persuaded, coerced etc etc me to have one sooner and in the end  I relented but on certain conditions. One, it had to be a friendly, two, I could name it and finally she had to take an equal share in the care of all three cats. To be fair she does most of the feeding and caressing based on the fact that as a teen she is more sedentary than me!  But of course she doesn’t touch the litter trays and lets be honest that’s the worst bit of indoor cats  not is she will have to.

After much viewing of kittens on line this little one was picked on and fallen in love with. She is a Scottish Fold hence the funny ears.

To my eye, while  I wouldn’t say it in the words of my son that  she  ‘looks really ugly but cute at the same time’, the ears and flat faces aren’t quite my thing. But she is a sweetie and very affectionate.


The name is my attempt to redress the balance. I applied the same psychology of the catering company at a factory at which I once worked.  It was a metal bashing company in the Black Country in the West Midlands with a typical canteen selling mostly greasy meals and chips with everything. It was at glorious time when I could eat anything and still be slim.

The new catering company rolled out almost exactly the same menu but used adjectives ahead of the meal title to entice customers so fish and chips became tasty battered fish  and crunchy chips, ham and chips became succulent ham and thin cut chips, chicken curry, delicious spicy chicken curry.  I was much taken with this and as indifferent cook adopted this and before placing food on the table I would preface it with tasty or delicious or succulent in an attempt to talk up the quality of the meal. So Bella it is and in the eyes of my daughter, who gazes at her much like a mother looking at her new born baby, she believes she is a beautiful cat.


But on the plus side, and what would life be if there wasn’t a plus side, it did give me a chance to make a quilt for her. Every cat in this household as well as human has had at least one quilt made for them….

I  initially dug these flannels but they looked so drab.


Bella needed something prettier. I had recently bought some Liberty in a sale and at c£8 per metre you can’t complain. It was just perfect teamed up with a double thickness fleece backing. It makes a really cosy blanket.


As to the other cats they didn’t exactly put out the bunting when we got home and both are decidedly miffed. Based on previous cat introductions I’m hoping they will settle down but for the moment they are both sulking…..

September block for the Threadhouse Retreat Bee


This month’s block for The Thread House Retreat Bee is a variation of a quarter log cabin. These blocks, on point, I think look very special. I’m not entirely sure exactly how I will use them in the final quilt but I’m confident my  friend Pinterest will guide me. If you have any ideas do please let me know.

As to the logs I’m really very relaxed about the width so this is perfect for scraps. And if you are like me I always seem to have oblong strips for scraps.

I’m looking for blues and greens, any shade, any value, print or solids. But ideally not too floral, I’m going for a masculine look.

To make these blocks, and I’d like two please,  start with any size coloured square up to 3” max. Then start to build round your logs on two sides,  which as I say can be any width.  I’ve started both these with a white set of logs but you can have the white logs anywhere as you build your log cabin, just not on the outer edge or the centre square


There are only three rules to keep to please 1) include two sets of white logs as you can see in my examples, preferably 1-2” width, 2) ensure the white logs aren’t the outer logs and finally 3) keep going and trim at 9.5” square.

I’m not the most accurate sewist and after bitter experience with very wobbly logs I tend to square off after each round as below. I find using a square ruler with a 45 degree line helpful.


And that’s really it.  I hope you enjoy making them. As always if you have any queries please contact me.


Welcome to Bee 7 – September block

8D72019E-E998-438E-A6C5-A8445D8EF1F7We have had another wonderful response to this year’s IG recruitment campaign for more members for the Siblings Together Bees. Enough as it happens, not just to top up the existing Bees, but to create a new Bee 7. This is all very exciting and welcome to being founder members, so thank you for signing up.

I’m going to be nice and gentle for the first Bee 7 block. I’ve chosen a free pattern by Andy Knowlton who blogs at A Bright Corner. It’s called Charming Lucy which reminds me of Lucy Brennon @Charmaboutyou who hosts Saturday’s Craft Along on IG. If you don’t already, do join in the fun on Saturday evening, if you are not out on the tiles of course!

As it is a new Bee I thought I’d just talk about perfection. This is a much overrated concept in my opinion. If the charity wanted perfect, uniformly quilted and sewn quilts then I guess any number of high street stores could have provided them. What they do love receiving are our beautiful handmade, imperfectly perfect, quilts.

Now I have shamelessly pinched that last phrase from the front cover of super talented fabric and pattern designer Karen Lewis’ new book Wasi Sabi.  A great book by the way. But it perfectly summarises the beauty of hand crafted items, all unique and special. If you are like me, you are reasonably accurate using a sewing machine,  but in my case far from technically perfect, so points get lost, seams get misaligned etc.  But  trust me no child/young person will notice or care. Nor will your mama.

The block is from a reasonably straight forward pattern and can be found here.  That takes you to the blog page and then you need to click through to get access to the actual pattern. The pattern gives you cutting instructions for an entire quilt, so to cut to the chase, you will need for the three blocks I’d like you to make, 12  x 5” squares with 24 x 2.5”  white squares which get snowballed onto each corner then joined to make a squarish circle!   I’d like the white squares to be a solid bright white but the squares  a range of blues and greens. They can be all blue blocks, all green, pale blocks, strong colour blocks or an absolute mix. Your call but the more variety the better . The wonderful variety of fabrics just makes for a magic quilt.

Now many of you I know, having had a sneak look at your IG accounts, are very experienced and could quite possibly make these in your sleep! But I assume when I write up blocks that members are at the other end of the learning curve  so am reasonably clear about ‘how to’.  Please skip this if you have snowballed more corners than you have thrown snowballs! But please ensure you trim the blocks to 9.5″ square before sending them to me.

Take your 5” square and place a 2 1/2” square on one corner. The pattern itself is also clear on this technique.


Either draw a line on the white square from corner to corner or press it so you can see a line. I actually put a bit of tape on the machine bed and sew along that but each to their own.

Now sew just to the right of your diagonal line, nearest the corner of the eventual finished block   as below .


Do the same to the opposite corner


Cut away the excess fabric taking care not to cut away your new white corner! Take time to admire my far from pristine ironing cover.


Iron back the new white corners and then trim to 5”. You now have one of the four you will need to sew a squarish circle as in the finished block.


The last job please, apart from posting on IG if you have a public account, is please trim blocks to 9.5″ square.

Many thanks and if you have any queries please come back to me.

Looks complicated but isn’t – Siblings Together Bee 4 September block

F5FBF85E-927A-452F-AA2D-30D0C8D3C47BThe best blocks are those that look tricky but are in fact just clever cutting and putting back together. This is a block called Disappearing Hourglass 2 coined by the wonderful Jenny Doan of the Missouri Quilt Company fame.

I make no apology  for taking inspiration once again from Jenny. I doubt if I’m the only novice quilter who found her clear, well presented video tutorials as their first introduction to the world of quilting both educational and inspirational. Compared to many other quilters out there who do video demos, despite their extensive  knowledge, the pace and or delivery means half way through you begin to lose the will to live! But Jenny’s light touch and good pace means she is very watchable.

Anyway I came across a quilt on Pinterest and followed the link back to a video tutorial. For those who prefer to read instructions here are the block details.

Firstly to colours, non floral blues and greens please with a white bright solid background. I did think it would look good with a more varied background, grey, light blue etc. My teen advisers thought differently.

Anyway for the two blocks requested you will need 2 x white 10” squares and 2 x 10” squares of blue or green solid or prints.


Put the white and one coloured squares wrong sides together and sew round on all sides a scant 1/4”. Then cut corner to corner as below.

861A0684-DCA0-41B7-BBCD-0438D733F6DDNow open them out and press and then  reassemble as below and stitch together. When sewn it should be 12.75” square


A9CE3164-F86A-4730-9A25-2B5FF1364DF2Now you need to cut this square to make nine equal squares. To do this measure from the vertical centre line 2 1/8th” and cut and then 2 1/8th” from the vertical centre line on the other side of the line and cut. Then do the same two measurements from the centre horizontal line and cut.  See pictures below

BB01BE3C-1665-41DB-85FE-98983CD783EDNow to twizzle the pieces to get the design.

Firstly take each corner and turn 180 degrees as below

0E3341DD-85EE-4733-9AAF-FF5CBD76DCABThen turn the centre square by 90 degrees.  It should look like this

EA863A86-08A3-49CE-95EE-F24A4E1A7B3EAnd then sew the pieces together.

Is it only me that tends to lose track as I take the pieces  off the mat to chain sew them together. Somehow I sew the wrong side – I certainly did that with these blocks! Thank heavens for camera phones when you can take a quick snap of the unsewn block so you can check it as you go along.

The finished block should be 11.75” square or close to that but the block has a fair bit of give in it so I can pull and tug if the size is slightly out. It won’t be the first time…

Any problems or queries please let me know.


Quilting Rules…..

D0A2A76D-5118-4E72-BA9F-BEC06F398E04Well quilting certainly hasn’t ruled this summer. I’m afraid over the last couple of months I’ve done precisely three bits of sewing.  One was a ripped seam on my 15 year old’s shirt, you can guess whether it  was the boy or girl twin. It was all the way up from bottom of the shirt to the arm hole, I really don’t know how this was done and in fact I don’t want to know either. It will doubtless involve some unacceptable behaviour at school. The other was making 4 luggage labels and now finally some proper sewing with this Two in One pouch from Aneela Hoey’s book Sewing Stitched Organisers.

The problem has  been that I’ve been preoccupied with a knotty issue at one of the organisations with which I’m involved.  As with problems of this type there have been hours of meetings, phone calls and discussions. Interesting but soooo time consuming.

Its also gardening season. I was once a very keen gardener but I’m afraid it’s more of a chore now albeit I’d admit to a satisfying sense of accomplishment when it’s done and the garden looks half decent. Although thanks to a very dry summer it has not looked even half decent.  My lawn became yellow and very dead looking, as with everyone else’s . Nothing, I know, compared to countries where months without rain is the norm and the constant drought causes huge problems.

I can see why people get out of the habit of making things and even when I have had some free time I haven’t, as I would usually do, race to get to the machine. But after an embarrassing encounter with security at Heathrow and a sew along, run by Stacey of #craftylilmouse and Zena #mycreativelypottylife of Aneela Hoey’s book to inspire me, I made  this pouch out of these fabrics.


So back to rules and my embarrassing experience of today’s strict air travel requirements.  I remember a time when I would routinely book air travel under the name of Jenny even though on my passport it was Jennifer. For years there was never a problem until  I remember it being an issue on my return from the US and only with much tutting was I allowed to travel. But today, for very good reasons everything has to be just so, for which I’m grateful, but still forget to comply.

So once again I’m stopped at security after my hand luggage have gone through the x ray machine and have been found wanting. The children look bored but resigned because this happens every. single. time.


I have to join a long queue to have everything taken out and get inspected with all sorts of handheld devices, wipes taken, tests on little machines and so on. It wouldn’t have been so bad but the offending items were these motley plastic bags, one of make up and the other a travelling first aid kit. I should have, of course, removed them.


There is no privacy in this upending of your bags’ contents. It didn’t help that behind me in the queue was this immaculate woman dressed to the nines with hand luggage to match.


But next time it will be different.  I will be proud to remove my two in one pouch, reveal the contents via the see through pockets and not be stopped. Time will tell. They may just stop me because I look dodgy!


And another rule? I really don’t know why it’s taken this long to work out that binding with a horizontal design like this (the top fabric) is the way of madness…..


I was so pleased when I’d finished this pouch. It looked attractive and functional but I rather glossed over the uneven binding.


I had a look at other versions of this pouch on IG and saw how beautiful the binding was on others.  I know envy is supposed to be the thief of joy but that aside I knew the bumpy misaligned binding would irritate me so it had to be redone. But with the bulk of the corners it’s nigh on impossible to keep to parallel linear lines matching  the pattern. It looked better after a lot more effort on my part but I won’t make that choice again. Yet something else to remember, but a useful lesson – solid, or reads as solid for my binding next time and certainly nothing grid like!