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!






A Quilter’s Conundrum


I had three very short hours to visit the Festival of Quilts (FoQ) due to remarkably poor planning on my part. Coming back from holiday on the Wednesday and then going off again on the Saturday was not clever.

Now the FoQ is the premier quilt show in the UK and runs over 4 days, with something like 800 plus quilts on display, special exhibition areas  as well as a vast number of retail opportunities. It’s huge. Most go for the full day and many go for two days. Me I had a very frenetic three hours to catch as much as I could. So my conundrum was what to squeeze in in such a short time and what to leave out.

Well for starters the principal attraction for me is the modern quilt section of the display. Last year I entered this quilt but this year time was just too short.


There were so many wonderful quilts. I particularly enjoyed seeing those of people I know or follow. Especially those quilts I have followed block by block on IG


Like this one by Nicky Eglington.




Another example is the quilt above called Circles by Heather Hasthorpe. Sorry the lighting is so bad Heather.

Heather’s co-conspirators in the Modern Quilt Group of the UK’s Quilters Guild, Helen Howes and Helen Butcher had these beautiful quilts entered as well.


There is no doubt being technically very competent as these quilters are  in addition to having a good design eye makes for a very impactful quilt. I particularly liked this one by Abigail Sheridan de Graff.  The addition of the apple green really makes it stand out. But the precision is amazing, that tiny block in the middle is 3/4” square. It deservedly got a highly commended .



These others caught my eye. Apologies for the photos the NEC maybe very convenient for me at least geographically but it has very poor indoor lighting .


Modern Love pieced by Jo Avery and quilted by I’m afraid I can’t remember…..


This one above is by Jo Westfoot who is one of the Siblings Together Bee members


And finally I always try to choose a quilt that I’d like to take home and for me it’s a toss up between this one below by Sophie Zaugg and…



…. this one by Sarah Hibbert and quilted by Christine Perrigo. This quilt is well travelled having  been to America for quilting then home to the UK to go back to the US  again for Quilt Con then home again.



This one above was the overall winner of the Modern Quilt section and is by Mary Palmer. It has very skilful quilting which must’ve taken forever given the size of the quilt and the number of words picked out by being the relief to very dense quilting.

F8C61FDC-2F2B-4000-8703-21E63A880FD4I flitted through the Traditional category and  I particularly liked this quilt by Trudi Wood.  She writes a lot of patterns for magazines and has an eye for design that packs a punch without necessarily being too tricksy or time-consuming. That’s my type of quilting!


The key display this year was to celebrate the tercentenary of the 1718 coverlet. A coverlet is basically a quilt without the wadding in between. In fact just what I could have done with this hot summer.

This is the oldest surviving quilt in the world. It is in fact so delicate that it is shown only infrequently and has now been tucked away carefully in storage for a break. For goodness sake, it even had its own bodyguard! Not that I could really imagine any quilter desperate enough to peel back the plastic protective layer and wrap him or herself up in it.

If I’m honest I was rather underwhelmed, it looked threadbare and faded. Mind you after 300 years I guess most of us would!

FDCB32ED-6F72-446D-9C9B-6E90A1E428F0I’m sure skill went into it and those same skills 300 years later went into producing some beautiful modern versions. Now these I did like, not least because I’d never have the stamina to complete one.  My favourite of these was this one. You can see from the one behind how different they were. This was by Deborah McGuire.




As to all the shops I’m afraid other than a quick flick through I only stopped at Beyond Measure and bought some bias binding and some buttons from Grace who is another Bee member. I’m very partisan! Hardly the haul of the century but I’m really trying hard to use what I’ve got… My mum would be pleased!



Function over form


This is probably my key design mantra. Obviously if you can have form and function so much the better, but given the choice I would always choose function.

We once stayed in a very swish modern styled country cottage, all monochrome and stainless steel kitchen with a huge island unit made from an old butcher’s block.  Modern blended with tradition. All nice in theory but the only problem was that the butcher’s block was very misshapen through time and use and as an island unit it was completely useless because anything put on it would just slide off. Many an item of crockery got smashed as a result. This is the perfect example of form over function…. it looked good but was wholly impractical .

Getting ready for our holiday, I was reminded we had struggled last year to identify our very boring and standard black/navy suitcases. I’d made fabric luggage labels before but they were prone to being torn off. The hair bobbles weren’t securely sewn on.


I had the idea to use some orphan blocks I’d made using Kona colour of the year three years back called Highlight, an almost fluorescent yellow, presumably named after the highlighter pen of the same hue.


At the time I’d been playing with circles but with no real purpose in mind. So I was left with two blocks. It struck me that they would make great bright luggage labels. Of course in an ideal world they would have been made a few days prior to our departure but life has been very frenetic so the morning of our midday departure I was found sewing these up which is why functional they maybe but not exactly my finest work!!! I sincerely hoped I didn’t meet any keen quilters…


After a bit of resistance from one of the 15 yr olds they got attached and I think worked very well. The only failure was that two of our four checked suitcases went awol….  British Airways left them behind despite us checking in early and being a direct flight.

To be fair to be BA I was pinged a text as we landed in Johannesburg that two had been left behind and we had an interesting debate about which two would be the best to be left behind. I know in theory you should mix belongings amongst all cases to avoid this situation but that would never work with my lot.

As one of the teens was only dressed in t shirt and shorts we mutually agreed he had the greater need as it gets cold in South Africa at this time of year and then I said best if mine arrived as my 15 year old daughter could share my clothes. She looked appalled at the prospect! But BA agreed and those were the two that randomly arrived. The others were mightily relieved that their bags arrived not too long after.

This was written at the airport on the way out but I had insufficient Wi-fi anywhere to load pictures and send off. What a great holiday – I was for the first time outridden by my children, they just wanted fast and furious and whilst I joined them occasionally, I opted for more steady canters on this beautiful black Friesan called Albida. And looking at my riding clothes – definitely function over form! Look at those filthy boots!


Review of Quilt Finish Along Q2 and Plans for Q3

Reviewing what I said I hoped to finish in Q2 this year I was surprised to see, despite the last few fallow weeks, that I was quite productive. And what I thought was my solitary creation of June was in fact not strictly true with a couple of finishes in early June.

This is the usual Q2 montage showing successes and failures.


So item 2 was finished and is a Thread House Retreat bee for Siblings Together. Incidentally this was the time, a couple of months ago, when I had a lawn and not a parched prairie! The UK is going through a very hot and extended dry period.


Item 3 was another quilt for Siblings Together this time from left over blocks.



Item 4 was a bag for one of the children that has come over from the Chernobyl region for a hoiday in N Wales. The lovely Jen organises us each year to make bags and table toppers. Look at that lovely green grass…..sob



Item 5 a baby quilt for a friend’s first grandaughter



Item 6 is another bee quit this time another Thread House Retreat Bee quilt, in fact the second quilt from this block as I had so many sent from my kind bee mates.




Now to Q3. Part of the time we are away on holiday but if I can get some free time I should be able to get back on track. So I’m going to be ambitious…..


1. is a ST quilt by Bee 4.  This is getting a bit overdue  The problem was it needed a fair few extra blocks.

2. This is another ST quilt by Bee 2 this time. I have the blocks though again a few extra may be needed

3. This quilt top needs to be quilted. I think this could be a favourite

4. I’m determined to crack on and get this pattern made of Aneela Hoey called the booklet pouch

5. A bit of an experiment this one. A scrappy Robbing Peter to Pay Paul design but hopefully modernised

6. I need a replacement quilt for the kitchen  I like these first few blocks for their 3d effect