Rings Around My Valentine

img_8990It’s hard to come up with something different to make your husband each year for Valentine’s Day, but he likes the more easy-to-see-firsthand love and care that goes into something I’ve made specially for him. This year I wanted to celebrate how many years we had seen together and how, despite the ups and downs we’ve had, nothing has changed. We are still best friends that love each other’s company and can talk to each other for hours, about anything.

I thought I might make something with rings and I wanted to try some mini piecing, so I bought the templates for a miniature Double Wedding Ring design from Paper Pieces. img_8997When it arrived my heart sank. Each piece was about 1 cm square. How was I going to wrap fabric easily around those and stitch them all together. I decided to make a larger pattern but after I had made several 5 cm pieces, I went back to the tiny ones. I wanted to showcase a wedding ring, not a lifebelt.

The pattern I bought was for six rings that entwine but I only wanted to make two. It was going to take far too long to make the whole thing and in any case I wanted a more modern take on the traditional design. img_8994I decided on two half-rings and numbered the parts I might use, so that I could separate out the right number of templates and accompanying pieces of fabric.

I decided on dark blue fabric for one of the rings and a lighter, more ‘feminine’ colour of turquoise for the other, to add variety in colour as well as tone. I chose a different pattern for each piece of fabric I used (which were repeated in each ring). The shapes were so small, I thought they would work together as there wasn’t much room for a colour clash.

I love that the range of dark blues I chose had tossed patterns of frogs and snails to suggest lines from that old nursery rhyme “what little boys are made of”..while the turquoise fabrics were flowers and paisleys “all things nice”.



I thought it might be fun to try working with linen but it looked rather dull by itself, so I put a brightly patterned fabric, also with a pattern of rings, behind it, allowing it to show through. img_8991Then I tackled the tiny pieces. I sorted out the three different shapes, the tumbler shapes that made up the curves and the two shapes that ‘edged’ each curve, which then met the kite shaped pieces. The holes in the shapes in the picture below show needle holes from the basting stitches I made to hold the fabric to the template and to minimise fraying.


The two ring shapes didn’t come out quite as I had planned. I wanted one to be much shorter than the other and to cross  each other nearer the top. However I started in the centre with the kite and edge shapes. I did thins mainly because once covered in fabric they all looked very much like each other and I knew I would get confused. I wanted to get them done while I remembered what they were. The trouble is, that beginning in the centre set the pattern for the rest of the curve and I ended up with two horseshoe shapes.  There’s nothing wrong with that as they represent luck but the result was not what I originally had in mind and had got excited about making. As I completed the shapes I had to stick a pin in each one to stop it moving and adhere it to the background, hedgehog style, because pinning it in the normal way distorted the tiny shapes.

Once I had stitched down the tiny pieces, I quilted long utility stitches around the circumference of the rings with turquoise and yellow embroidery thread and added a couple of ‘sparks’ in the centre of each. Then I put it in a frame to sit on his desk.

I did make a piece of board to stitch the backing to, with a view to keeping the piece stretched and the linen taut in the frame but realised that, out of the frame, the piece would be always be stiff (unless I unstitched the back and took the board out); not quilt-like at all. I wanted it to be a quilt, in or out of a frame, so I left off the backing board. This means the centre does bulge slightly towards the frame but it just looks like two rings sitting on a little cushion. I can live with that.

He likes it and that’s the main thing, eh?

So here is the result:


I didn’t have any suitable paper, so I wrapped it in bubble wrap and then in cloth, Japanese style, and added a tartan ribbon. I think I might wrap more gifts in cloth, it gives them a wonderfully soft and friendly feel.

So, until next time…Happy Valentine’s Day, People!



Illustrating a Poem with Fabric


The poetry collection I received from Ann

Today I have a story that I want to share with you. It began at the beginning of September last year, when a poem by Ann Gray was featured on a poetry blog that I follow: https://anthonywilsonpoetry.com.

The poem was completely my sort of poem, the sort I get excited by, the sort that bulges with stuff it doesn’t say, yet is deeply affecting. It was from a poetry collection called ‘At The Gate’, so I went in search of a copy. The only one I could find was on Amazon for £60! Well, I didn’t have even a quarter of that to spare so I wrote to the blogger (Anthony Wilson) and asked if he knew where I could get hold of a copy I could afford. As it happened he knew the the poet and, after asking her permission, let me have her email address so that I could buy one directly from her. My email messages always have a few lines of information about me at the bottom of the page; the addresses of my blogs, Facebook and Pinterest pages and I can only gather that she must have been interested enough to check them out.  However, imagine my surprise  and delight when she responded saying:

“What I would like, which might sound a bit strange, is not to be paid, but for you to make me a little gift….I’d like you to read the book, hopefully you won’t weep too much, and choose a poem that speaks to you and make me a little something in exchange.”

 Oh my, I thought, I have a commission! And she’s paying me in poems! (I know it was really the other way around).

I read the book of poems from cover to cover as soon as it arrived and began to think about which poem I would choose. It was hard. They were moving, deeply personal poems and I began to realise that no fabric design that I could manage would reflect the depth of meaning needed to do any of these poems justice. I looked for something concrete. There were dogs, guitars, hollyhocks, pines and, one of my best loves, Indian runner ducks. These small things I could reproduce but there was another thing and it got in the way. The poems brought back my own sense of loss, not only of people but of whole other lives. They spoke of songs I had loved, places I had lived, road names, bridges I knew. They expressed raw parts of me, too. I couldn’t put those into my sewing.


‘Fox’ Anne’s poem on page 27 of ‘At The Gate’

I went on looking. I was reading ‘Fox’ when another of Ann’s poems came to mind. It was one that I read while I was waiting for the book to arrive, when I was searching the Internet for other poems by her; one that I had loved so much. And, although it wasn’t in the collection she had sent me, it wouldn’t go away. It sang to me, over and over, its song of love and hope and faith and resilience. This was what I wanted to put into my sewing. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Here is the poem:

My Blue Hen

by Ann Gray

I sing to my blue hen. I fold her wings
against my body. The fox has had her lover,
stealing through the rough grass,
the washed sky. I tell her, I am the blue heron
the hyacinth macaw. We have
a whispered conversation in French. I tell her
the horse, the ox, the lion, are all in the stars
at different times in our lives. I tell her there are
things even the sea can’t do, like come in when
it’s going out. I tell her my heart is a kayak
on wild water, a coffin, and a ship in full sail.
I tell her there is no present time,
an entire field of dandelions will give her
a thousand different answers. I tell her
a dog can be a lighthouse, a zebra finch can
dream its song, vibrate its throat while sleeping.
I tell her how the Mayan midwife sings each child
into its own safe song. Tonight, the moon holds back
the dark. I snag my hair on the plum trees. I tell her
I could’ve been a tree, if you’d held me here long enough.
I stroke her neck. She makes a bubbling sound,
her song of eggs and feathers. I tell her you were
a high note, a summer lightning storm of a man.

My Blue Hen is reproduced here with the kind permission of the poet.

I wanted to immortalise this Blue Hen and her companions and put them forever out of


My working designs and patches

the reach of any fox. So I began my task. I made some drawings, chose the fabric and made photocopies of patterns that suggested the stitches I wanted to make.

The birds’ bodies are made of fabric wrapped around a piece of thin interfacing (instead of paper in the usual English Paper Piecing way) but rather than being pieced and the papers removed, the wrapped bodies are sewn to the blue background fabric, applique style, and then surface embroidered. Once all the surface stitching was complete I created a mini quilt by adding a layer of cotton wadding and some backing fabric and quilting the layers together.

In the past all my stitches have gone through all the layers at once to keep them well ‘glued’ together, especially if the piece is to be washed. Most of my stitching was on the surface this time because I thought it would be difficult to sew through the extra layer of interfacing inside the birds. That left me with the possibility of the centre of the piece bagging, once I had stitched around all the frame of the piece. I got around that by silhouetting each bird with large quilting stitches in dark blue and by adding a couple of drifting feathers. I won’t repeat this in future though, because the interfacing was softer in situ than I expected it to be and I missed the silhouette of the piece that appears on the back when all the stitches are visible.

The hens’ running feet were another potential problem, too small to paper piece and too jagged to needleturn a hem under, at my level of experience anyway. I settled on making them from felt and stitching around and over them.


Little felt feet

I wanted the backing fabric to have pacing foxes on it, to keep them well behind the hens and unable to catch up and I loved the one I chose initially but it was too white, too stark.


I just love these ear-twitching, prowling foxes

I wanted something that would blend with the colours on the front, so I had to find something else. I chose something softer, though here the foxes here look a little too innocent:


The back of the mini quilt

After I had sewn it all together I added a label, and gave the piece a title taken from the penultimate line of the poem.

I finished it in the middle of January 2017 having emailed Ann from time to time to let her know it was progressing, albeit slowly. At no time did I reveal what I was making or which poem I had chosen. After a while I began to worry that I had not kept strictly to our agreement, that I hadn’t chosen a poem from ‘At The Gate’. I told her that if she was in the least disappointed by this, I would make another one.

I posted the finished piece to her last Friday (January 27th). Less than twenty four hours later she was opening the package at the other end of the country, and this is what she saw:


A Song of Eggs and Feathers

She has told me she loves it. I’m so glad. And grateful too, for such an opportunity.

Do read more of her work.

‘My Blue Hen’ was shortlisted for the Forward best single poem prize in 2015. You can read more about it at http://www.forwardartsfoundation.org/  where there is more information about Ann and the inspiration behind the poem, as well as links to readings. Her collections include At The Gate (Headland, 2008), The Man I Was Promised (Headland, 2004), Painting Skin (Fatchance Press, 1995). Her poems have been selected for the Forward Prize Anthology in 1995 and 2008, and she was commended for the National Poetry Competition in 2010  She has also been a guest on  Arvon courses and a tutor at Ty Newydd.

Until next time…

New Thoughts on English Paper Piecing

Happy New Year Everybody!


My ‘Tulips and Roses’ baby quilt, the last one I made in 2016

I love the new year, seeing it stretching ahead of me, so full of potential.
I can’t believe I have been blogging about English Paper Piecing for a whole year! OK, there have only been one or two posts a month, so that’s not really very many, but when you sew by hand you can’t post a whole lot faster, because it takes ages to complete things. If I am to post more, this year may be more about works in progress that I return to at intervals. We’ll see how it goes.

So what have I learned from my year of posting?

I’ve learned:

  • To hand quilt using ‘Utility’ or ‘Big Stitch’ quilting, which is much more fun than you would ever expect.
  • Several basic embroidery stitches and oh, how I love them!
  • How to use stencils and I adore them. I got some wonderful ones for Christmas.
  • How to thread the sewing machine that my kids bought me two years ago. Well, it’s a start!
  • That the secret to combining colours and fabric patterns in a quilt is to work with fabrics that DON’T match each other. This is because individual fabrics have to read differently from each other to show up in the composition. This has been a recent revelation since, like many of us, I tend to select fabrics that blend. This has led to predictable, safe looking quilts and I want excitement in them!
  • My tastes have changed rapidly as I have learned. I collected fabrics and patterns furiously when i started, only to find these tame and uninteresting now that I am bursting with my own ideas.

I’ve decided:

  •  I much prefer to use cotton rather than polyester batting for all of my quilts. It drapes beautifully and is easy to hand quilt.
  • Craft fairs are definitely not for me.
  • It might be ok to use my sewing machine just for borders and binding.
  • Although the craze in English Paper Piecing at the moment is all about fussy cutting for La Passacaglia and Millifiore quilts, or Lucy Boston quilts, these are a least a progression from simple hexagons. They do look amazing and, like most EPP quilts, require countless hours of hard work but I long for something more pictorial and hope it will come, eventually. I feel quite alone in this but will see what I can create without straying from the basic technique.

‘Town Square’ mini quilt on a small inside window sill

I’ve come to understand that:

  • Craft fairs are expensive to set up and you need to commit to several if you are to get a return on your initial investment.
  • Handmade things cost more than anyone is prepared to pay for them.
  • People might like them but that’s not the same as wanting to buy them.
  • The market out there seems more conservative than the ideas I have and want to share, so I haven’t been as adventurous as I want to be. That has to change.
  • None of this actually matters because I sew to please myself first and foremost, because it brings me knowledge and new skills as well as peace and joy into my life… though of course I love it when someone tells me they like something I’ve made


    My children’s pillowcases got the most compliments

And what of this year? I definitely want to:

  • Discover much more about how colours, tones and shades work in fabric compositions.
  • Finish at least five of the larger, more traditional quilts that I started a couple of years ago. Perhaps I can add a new twist to them.
  • Experiment with plaids and stripes and improvised patterns.
  • Move on from simple patchwork towards applique, especially stuffed work.
  • Learn how to print and dye my own fabric and make my own stencils.
  • Work on creating some fabric pictures based on my Indian childhood.

BUT FIRST I have to finish making something for a poet, who kindly gave me a book of her poems in return for illustrating one of her poems.


Anne’s moving collection of poems

I have the fabric and the ideas and photocopies of my sketches and I’m ready to begin.


Scraps of this and that, ready to sew

With Christmas and New Year out of the way and all the extra washing and putting away that comes with it, at last I can get on and finish this project.
I hope to have a post showing it to you alongside the poem but I will have to ask for her permission first.

So, until next time……

Adventures with Quilt Stencils


Prym ‘Curls’ Stencil

I thought stencils were for people who weren’t creative, that stencils gave you a template to use if you couldn’t draw, or were useful for those times that you needed dozens of repeat images to be the same each time. I could see myself using a stencil on a wall but not on a quilt.

The first quilt I made was a tied quilt but then I wanted to learn how join the layers with tiny quilting stitches. The next few quilts I made reached the quilt sandwich stage, with all the layers carefully basted together, but then they began to collect in a cupboard. How was I to quilt the borders, let alone the great yawning centres? Was there a pattern that suited a particular design of quilt? It all seemed so daunting.

The answer, to begin with, was Big Stitch Quilting. I was introduced to this via an online Utube quilting tutorial (Hand quilting techniques for beginners (on perle cotton) by the Australian quilt designer, Sarah Fielke, and it was a revelation. I still have to master the tiny quilting stitches that have been traditionally used for quilting but I’m taking my time over those. In the meantime I was happy outlining borders and images in bold running stitches, using variegated embroidery threads, and couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it after months of being afraid to try anything.

I wanted to do more. I wanted patterns, repeated images, tiny motifs, more variety! So, I began to consider stencils. I decided that although I could draw, the set pattern in the stencil would allow me build my sewing confidence until I was ready to draw freehand onto the quilt surface.

I had no idea where to begin. It didn’t occur to me that there would be different sizes of stencil for borders and all over patterns for centres. I just found an interesting pattern that didn’t cost too much and gave it a try. The first one I bought was a Prym ‘Curls’ stencil and I quickly realised it was much too big for the narrow borders I was making. Not to worry, I thought, I’ll just combine the two, big stitch quilting in narrow borders and stencils in larger areas and I’ll use the same Perle 8 embroidery thread for both. It seems to work.

About the same time as I was beginning to explore stencils, I discovered a pen that I now practically worship. It is a blue EZ quilting water soluble pen.You draw on the quilt top, inside your stencil, making thin, turquoise blue lines. Then you remove the stencil and stitch along your drawn lines. When you have finished, you give them a spritz with water and all the blue lines under your stitching, disappear. Well, blow me over with a feather! How’s that for magic?

Hot on the heels of those two revelations came another: A single stencil pattern could be used to suggest more than one thing. The Curl Stencil could be used for ANYTHING with a slight curl in the pattern such as smoke, or waves, or a paisley pattern AND by altering the pattern, using just a part of the pattern, or leaving out some of the inside or outside lines, the stencil could be used in more creative ways than you’d ever imagine.

In the quilt below, ‘House in the Country’, the smoke coming out of the house chimney has been made from the Curl stencil:


In ‘Coastal Cottage’, below, the same quilt stencil has been used to suggest waves:


The next two stencils I bought were flower designs, one a tulip and one rather like a row of petals. The petal design was used to create the pattern in the ‘garden’ of ‘House in the Country’, above, and also in the two golden borders in the mini wall quilt, below.img_8752

I also used it on the mini nine-patch blocks in my ‘Roses and Tulips’ double-nine-patch quilt. In the close up, below, you can see the design has been altered to suggest an ‘Orange Peel’ quilting design over the centre block, where each petal meets in the middle. On the block either side I’ve used the tulip stencil but, similarly, a single side of the tulip could be used elsewhere to suggest leaves, raindrops, faces in pointy hats, or whatever else your imagination creates for you.


I’ve recently bought a whole series of stencils in different sizes from The Stencil Company at  http://quiltingstencils.com/ in the States and they arrived in the UK yesterday. My daughter is  collecting them from the post office for me and bringing them here on Christmas day. I can’t wait to try them out.

Stencils can also be found in the UK at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/, https://www.cottonpatch.co.uk/ http://www.paulinespatchwork.co.uk and  www.threadsandpatches.co.uk. They are inexpensive as they are just thin plastic though of course there is postage to pay as well. There are dozens of patterns and images available and sizes range from 3/4″ border patterns up to large images of 5-8 inches.

I hope this post might find its way to someone who is feeling daunted about making a start with quilting stitches and/or using stencils. It’s all enormous fun. Just jump in! If you have any questions I am happy to help if I can.

So… it’s only a week to Christmas. Yikes. It’s getting a little colder but it’s mainly grey, wet and mushy along our Scottish country lanes.

Till next time…..


Braving the Craft Fair


Setting up the night before. On the stage behind the tables is what will become Santa’s Grotto.

The  Winter Fayre  has finally been and gone and it feels wonderful to have the pressure off and to do something other than sew for a while. I have been sewing every day, all day, for the past two weeks and my much-pricked and calloused fingers need a rest. In spite of that, I am already thinking about what I want to make next.


The High Street, Newton Stewart, Scotland

The stalls for the Fayre were set up in the main hall in the town, spread out over two floors, with food, alcohol, sweets, jewellery, up-cycled furniture, baby clothes, wood and fabric crafts and a Santa’s Grotto for the kids. The tables  were quite close to each other, arranged in a circle around the edges, and around the centre, of the room. They were quite small, about 6ft x 2ft. I didn’t have a great deal of stock but I needn’t have worried as there was barely room for it all on the table.


Tablecloths are added and people begin to arrange their goods.

We were given the opportunity to set up the night before, which was really helpful. There was a lot of carrying to do, up and down stairs but there was no need to rush and we still had time to add finishing touches the next morning before opening time.

I took a friend with me for company, moral support and to take the money while I wrapped and packed. We arrived early, before the road outside was closed to traffic, and enjoyed browsing at the stalls and chatting to stall holders before the doors opened to the public at 10am.

The hall had felt cold the evening before so we both wrapped up in woollens, only to find, with all the radiators blasting out heat and all the visitors in the room, we were too hot. I think I must have looked rather pink to any passer by.


My stall, looking a little cluttered

I am sorry to say my stall didn’t do well at all, though I was not the only one. There were a few long faces at the end of that day, trying to work out the cause. In my case I think it might be for several reasons: What I make is mainly decorative. It doesn’t have a function other than to give pleasure and with the economy the way it is, people probably don’t feel they should be spending out on things that are not useful. Perhaps it feels too frivolous. Also , it’s all hand made, so although I keep my prices as low as I possibly can, you wouldn’t be able say any of it was a bargain.  I didn’t get the impression people were buying for Christmas, either.  Perhaps it was a little too early. Most of the visitors were young families and older people but there was a smattering of couples and a few men on their own.  A number of older ladies (and one man!) said lovely things about my work and appreciated the time it had taken. They probably have no idea how much their kind comments meant to me.


‘Christmas House’ wall hanging.


‘Coastal Cottage’ mini quilt


‘Haste Ye Back’ wall hanging to have by your door, reminding you to come home soon.

As this was my first fair, I didn’t want to spend out on fancy display racks and fairy lights etc, so perhaps the display was a little unexciting. At one end of the stall I stacked three boxes of different sizes, wrapped in Christmas paper, and sat a house on the top and one or two at the edges. I placed a white saucepan rack at the other end and displayed some accordion houses on each of it’s layered ‘shelves’. I had a small basket of brooches, a larger basket of little houses and a Christmas paper lined box of fabric tree decorations. Then my mini quilts were scattered between each of these. I would have loved something to hang my quilt hangers on but ended up pinning them to the front of the tablecloth.

If I was going to do this sort of thing regularly, it would be worth investing in something better but I had already spent more than I wanted to on business cards, paper and plastic bags, tags and twine and the cost of the table itself. As you make money selling your goods, you can buy more to improve your display, I suppose.

I’m not sure that craft fair selling is for me.  Although I enjoyed talking to the stall holders who were so friendly and supportive, they did suggest that you have to  be prepared to try several venues because interest varies from place to place and time to time. It was a long day. It took a fair time to set up and pack up. And it doesn’t do much for your self esteem if most people’s eyes slide over your work and they walk on by.

I might try online.


‘Heart in the Hills’ unframed fabric picture

First, I am going to take time out to recover and then reconsider. I am going to sew a few things for friends for Christmas and a few things for me; for fun. That should take me to the end of the year and then….well, we’ll see.


Till next time……

Little Pieces of Scotland

Hello again,

img_8655Just a quick post to show you another two of my small quilts with a Scottish theme. The first is called ‘Deer in my Garden’ and is a variation on a log cabin design with some added surface embroidery. Our garden has so many fuchsia coloured flowers appearing throughout the year that this seemed an appropriate colour to choose in a festive design from Moda, with a touch of gold from Lewis and Irene, for Christmas. It’s just 7″ (approx 18 cms) square. I may add a small quilt hanger so that it can go on the wall.

The second quilt, ‘Thistle Cottage’ is larger: 14″x 10 1/4 inches (approx 36 x 26 cms) and uses fabric from one of my favourite designers, Lewis and Irene, for the house walls, roof and border.Quite a few of Lewis and Irene’s themed fabrics suit our Scottish landscape. This one is quite muted, a lilac grey with touches of pink and green which I have echoed in the quilting stiches. I found the black, red and lilac plaid fabric with tossed Scottie dogs (also by Lewis and Irene) irresistible and just had to have one of the dogs peeking out of the window.img_8651There were two leaf designs already printed on the part-striped, dusky pink piece I chose for the background so I decided to embroider around them. I was going to add a plant pot but decided I prefer them just as they are.

My first Winter Fair is getting closer (19th November) so I’m moving onto a set of tall Christmas houses now and a larger, floral quilt which is not at all Christmassy but is so pretty and cheerful. It’s always nice to have something you can use all year round.  I have so many new ideas of things to make for the fair but time is beginning to run out on me. It surprises me how much I need for the day, so much more than my little creations, and I have been writing huge lists of stuff I need with me from paper bags and tags to sticky tape and staples.

When I post after the Winter Fair, I will not be sewing as frantically and will have more time to photograph the various stages of what I am making, something I have not done much lately. Perhaps I will have some photos of the Winter Fair to share with you. I also want to post more on techniques in English Paper Piecing and to sum up what I have learned on my quilting journey this year.

Till next time….





A Tartan Twosome

Hello again,

img_0932We have glorious colour in our garden at the moment and here are two mini quilts to match. These are the two tartan inspired mini quilts I promised to show you in my last post. I have been a while finishing them because I have about twenty different projects on the go at one time. I tend to do bits on one and bits on another, partly so I don’t tire of any one design and partly to give my fingers a rest from quilting too many at a time.  I have a local craft fair coming up in the third week in November so I have been working hard at building up stock. I am pleased to say I have a whole stack of accordion houses, tall wall houses, house  brooches,  house quilts, ( mini, small and medium sized) and a couple of crib sized ones all ready for a new home.

The two quilts featured here are my first attempts at using cotton tartan and ric-ric trim (spelt rick-rack in the States, I believe).

img_8658The first mini quilt I have called ‘Dog Star’. The tartan is a warm brown, yellow, soft red and olive and I have given it a burgundy trim. There is a black star, in a star print, in the top right hand corner among a series of small quilted stars and a dog at the bottom left hand corner, basking in the glow from the stars. If the dog looks familiar, it’s because he appeared in one of my earlier posts (‘The Humble Square’)  on using basic shapes to create people and animals. He wasn’t very happy languishing in a plastic box so thought I might as well make good use of him so I put him on this quilt where I hope he might get some love.Here’s a close up:img_8478

The above photo and the one  below show my basting stitches before I start quilting. The one below shows how I put the three layers together (the back the front and the batting in the middle) and then baste from the centre outwards. I make a cross from top to bottom and side to side and then go out to each corner. This keeps the quilt top really secure while I quilt. I don’t want to worry about it moving and ending up with uneven borders. After quilting, I trim the batting to the quilt edge and turn backing fabric ( 1 inch) , folding it once  (to a 1/2 inch) and then again to meet the edge, hiding the top of the ric-rac between and stitching it all down together.. img_8477

‘Dog Star’ is quite a small quilt, only 23 x 25 centimetres or 9 x 9 1/2 inches.  I have used quilting thread here for the first time but I don’t think it is as successful as using embroidery thread for big stitch quilting. I feel my stitches here are not big enough to be called big stitch quilting and not small enough for the understated look that traditional hand quilters manage so well. Still, it’s early days and I’ll be getting plenty more practice. 

img_8662The second mini quilt is even smaller at 20 centimetres or 8 inches square.  (I have called this one ‘The Bothy’. Here is Scotland  bothy is a small cottage style house, originally intended for farm labourers, now just a basic shelter left unlocked or abandoned in fields or on mountainsides, and available for any passer by to use. This mini quilt uses only a little tartan, the same tartan that I used in Dog Star, as a part frame at the edges.  The centre, background fabric has  a red spot on tan that echoes the colours in the tartan and the this time the ric-rac trim is black. I wanted the quilt to suggest a partly enclosed field with a small house in the corner. I quilted straight across in the manner of a ploughed field but added small fly stitches at the edges to suggest some greenery beyond the field.

 In the first quilt I put the trim on the outside, so for this one I thought I would try putting it on the inside. It was very tricky getting it to go around corners. I looked for videos on Pinterest and was struck by how many showed you how to add trim, but not around corners, or posted that it was easy to bend around corners but the photos sliced off the corners, as if they didn’t want to show the not-so-good? result.  One person said you should turn the ric-rac over at the corner and proceed with it  until you reached the next corner and turn it again. I tried that but found that this method created a lump at each corner. The best way seems to be to coax it around the corner, letting it form a small raised ‘loop’ in the corner and then wriggle the loop into place and sew it down. It was a much easier process going around the outside of the quilt. I don’t think I will be using it on an inside border again in a hurry.

Here is the back of The Bothy. img_8680I let the quilting show through but kept the embroidery stitches to the front surface. I felt they might wear more easily at the back and make it look more cluttered. I wanted a simple, clean look. It could be more even but some irregularity is to be expected when you are not using a machine.

The back of ‘Dog Star’ shows just the basic outline of the stars and the dog. Surface additions such as the dog’s back leg and ears don’t show up.img_8657

I have two more Scottish themed quilts to show you in my next post and, as these are now completed, I can add them to a new post as soon as I get a moment to photograph them.

 In the meantime, here is another photo from my much loved garden. See, the sun does shine in Scotland even in November.  Till next time…..


A Dolly Daydream

Hello Everybody,


Doll’s quilt, approx 5 x 6 inches or 13 x 16 cms, made up of one-inch, squares

A ‘Dolly Quilt’ was once just a quilt for dolls. Now the term has come to mean doll-sized quilts made by modern quilters who have given them a great many more uses.

What is wonderful about contemporary doll sized quilts is that they are both practical and versatile. They can be completed fairly quickly and inexpensively and allow a quilter to try out a range of patterns and techniques before moving on to something larger.

They make great gifts and can be posted easily. They can be used as seat covers, chair backs and table toppers or made into cushions, runners or laptop protectors. They can line baskets or drawers, show off a vintage doll or teddy, protect the top of an antique chest, become a soft mat for jewellery on a bedside table or commemorate a special occasion. They make great wall decorations, either in a frame or hanging from a quilt hanger. And they can be as tiny as a postcard, the size of a single traditional quilt block (about 12 inches square)  or a little larger, around 27 inches (68 cms).


Soft toys love to lounge about on a quilt

Trying out a single quilt block is much easier on the pocket with fabric costing more each year and allows you to experiment with traditional patterns, contemporary designs and ideas of your own without work on the singe project becoming time consuming and tedious. It is also a great opportunity to experiment with tiny piecing, such as the 1/4 inch hexagons or 1 inch squares that are currently popular.

Having enjoyed this little quilt  that I intended for a doll, I thought I would try one of one of these trendy dolly quilts; an excuse to try making a whole row of houses rather than a single house : ))

You’ll be glad to know I won’t always be making houses. It’s just that I have a Christmas fair coming up in November and want to build up a stock of what I want to be best known for:Houses. Next year I plan to tinker with a range of quite different ideas.

I chose one of Moda’s floral charm packs  (Dogwood Trail) for my Dolly quilt and picked out a range of soft pinks and blues with a little watermelon thrown in. img_8455The houses were individual pieced and sewn together, then the tiny triangles added in between the rooftops, and then the whole row sewn to the houses above. The inner border was made from some scraps of (what is by now vintage) Laura Ashley fabric I had left over from the 1980’s.  The back and binding is the same fabric as the ‘sky’ between the houses. The finished size is 11 x 10 inches  (28cms x 25 cms). I really wanted to quilt in little door openings and chimneys with running stitch but the first two houses I did looked uneven and somehow cluttered the quilt with detail, so those stitches had to come out and I started again. I used a heavier duty quilting thread in this quilt, which is quite wiry, unlike the much brighter Pearl cotton embroidery thread I often use, because I didn’t want the quilting to be overly visible.

Here is the back:


His Nibs is testing the quilt for softness

I have two more dolly quilts in the pipeline, English paper pieced and appliqued tartan dolly quilts and, amazingly, only one has a house on it. They are almost done and I hope to post them shortly.

Until next time…


Something in the Cabin?


The traditional log cabin block layout. Image via all-about-quilts.com

As I love quilted and embroidered houses it stands to reason that one of my favourite quilt block designs would be the Log Cabin. Tradition has it that it is meant to represent the logs of a cabin built around a central hearth, which is often represented with a red fabric square in the centre. I came across an interesting article by Jane Hall (dated 2004) online, describing the history and possible origin of the log cabin. You will find it here:


It makes fascinating reading. Today there are a huge amount of variations on the original design: offset logs, swirling logs, thick and thin logs, half logs, half log skew and so on. The more I looked at these patterns the more I began to see pictures in them and feel that it might be permissible to create a variation of my own. For example, in the one below I see a girl in window with shutters, perhaps high up in an old American barn.

Barn Window

Image from Pinterest via picasaweb.google.com

In this one I see steps up to the front door of a house, perhaps someone sheltering from rain in a doorway. Or a dog on a temple step in India.

Perfectly Uneven

This and the following patterns are via Pinterest, from a book entitled ‘101 Log Cabin Blocks’ but I can find no author or other attribution given.

In this one I see Alice falling into the rabbit hole:

Rabbit Hole

in this one, an avenue of trees:

Avenue of Trees

and in this one  a garden shed with a cat in the window, up to mischief.Get the idea? It’s like finding pictures in the clouds, only you do it with quilt blocks.

Petite curved log

I turned around the logs on the  right hand side, so that they would resemble the slats of a wooden shed and put the most mischievous  cat I could find in the ‘window’ in the centre hearth area.


Then I embroidered on a climbing vine and added some flowers.


and ended up with this:


At first I wanted to embroider on a spade handle leaning against the shed but eventually decided there wasn’t room; that it would make the whole thing look overworked. I am not sure my idea was entirely successful but I am trying out a few more of these to see what I come up with. They may just end up as UFO’s (unfinished objects to non-quilters!).

Last week I managed to finish one of my UFOs. Hurrah! You may remember it from a previous post, ‘Ah Those Liberty Squares’? It had been hanging around for a while as I couldn’t decide how to quilt it. The large centre area needed something holding it down here and there and I was nervous about messing it up but it turned out OK in the end. Here it is:


‘House in the Country’

Until next time…


The Hut on Butterfly Hill


This sample block is from http://www.azpatch.com/ via Pinterest but is not the one I used.

I have always wanted to try making an American traditional School House quilt,  so, after a brief period of R&R after having my stuff on show in a shop, I am trying a few things like this for fun.

I read somewhere that you should never use fabric that was too representational like brick work fabric for the side of a house but I wanted to give it a try and see what I thought about that. I wouldn’t use it again. It does give a harder, flatter look. The whole effect would be much more natural with a neutral background perhaps with a suggestion of bricks embroidered on,  or with just a simple, more unexpected print. It’s OK, though. I can live with it.

There are a number of School House patterns with small differences; I chose the simplest. Here it is once I had wrapped fabric around most of my paper pieces and tacked them. IMG_8099The blue fabric I chose for the background, which I thought was pure cotton had a stretchiness to it which proved to be a nightmare when I used it to back the quilt and will be avoiding anything like that in future. I did consider using the blue in the open window and door to suggest a derelict hut but when I tried a sample it looked rather dull. I wanted the inside of the hut to have a sort of magical glow to it.

I started by sewing all the house pieces together.IMG_8104Here is the back (below) It always looks pretty untidy. You could even up all the folded over edges if you wanted to but the back won’t ever be seen so it doesn’t matter really.IMG_8103

After that I added the sky and then the wide border of  butterfly fabric that would frame the house and give the quilt it’s name. (The butterfly fabric is from the ‘The Botanist’ fabric range by Lewis and Irene that was launched this year)IMG_8107I had cut out the pieces of the frame and begun to sew them onto the hut before I realised that I should have paid more attention to the pattern so that none of the butterflies were cut in half. It isn’t a good look. Lesson learned.


I didn’t have any more fabric so I couldn’t start again but I did have an idea that might provide a possible solution to the problem.

IMG_8223I cut out a few butterflies from the scraps of left over fabric and attached them to fusible web, planning to applique them on to the quilt to cover the half butterflies. Perhaps even to have one flying past the window. I though it might give the quilt a 3D look. However, I decided it would be too fussy in the end and didn’t use them.

I always get very anxious about making the quilt sandwich and the quilting because I am afraid I’m going to ruin what I’ve already done but it inevitably ends up being the bit I enjoy the most. I suppose it’s because it’s the most creative. For this quilt I mainly used running stitches, in a reddish brown, around the house and the outer edges of the house and the border.  I couldn’t think  of what to put in the gap between the outer edge and the hut that wouldn’t detract from the butterflies but felt it needed something. So, why not more butterflies? I added a different style of butterfly to each of three corners, in two colours. I felt that might draw the eye away from the seams and half butterflies. Does it work? I’m not sure.

Here is the finished quilt” It’s thirteen and a half inches square.


and here is the back:IMG_8216I love how you can see the shape of the house and the quilted butterflies in the little stitches coming through from the front.

So that’s my first ever School House. I have two more in the pipeline as well as some new takes on a Log Cabin, one of which I hope to show you very soon.

Till next time…..