Braving the Craft Fair

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘Christmas House’ wall hanging.

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‘Coastal Cottage’ mini quilt

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‘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.

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‘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…..

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A Dolly Daydream

Hello Everybody,

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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).

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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:

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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?

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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:

http://www.womenfolk.com/quilt_pattern_history/logcabin.htm

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.

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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.

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

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and ended up with this:

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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:

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‘House in the Country’

Until next time…

 

The Hut on Butterfly Hill

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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.

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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.

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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…..

 

 

Here be Monsters and Tiny Dancers

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Our children’s bookshop in the centre of Wigtown

Hello Everybody,

I haven’t posted for a while because my recent sewing projects have been showcased in Curly Tale Books for the whole of the month June, giving me (and my sore fingers) a rest for a few weeks.  Above is a photo of this children’s bookshop that also sells toys and gifts, home decor, greeting cards and lots more.  I was given a little table in the centre of one area of the bookshop for my display and had just enough to put on it. I had to put a fabric covered box and a small easel in the centre to prop up the items that were not free standing.

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Photo by Jayne Baldwin of Curly Tale Books

It’s been a good exercise. I have learned a lot about display and pricing and adding decorative tags; what to do and what’s best not to do. Only a few days to go now until the end of June and then I will be thinking through what I have done and plan to do next. There is a local craft fair coming up in November and it is my plan to have a table there. It will be my first craft fair but I feel I need these two testings of the market before I consider opening a shop on Etsy or Folksy, or, alternatively, decide to just go on making things to give away to family members. I have other plans too, more arty plans that move away from patchwork towards fabric painting and fabric manipulation; fabric pictures rather than fabric objects. I’ll see how it goes.

I know I have sold a row of houses and some brooches, people have taken my business cards, I have had many more views on my Facebook page and I have had some lovely comments. It’s clear that there are people that love this sort of thing and those that don’t much like the hand made look (and how much it costs) and I can quite understand that. The main thing is that there are some people  that love it and that’s good enough for me.

Having my work in a shop for whole month has been a much appreciated opportunity for me and it was never about what I could sell as much as about getting ‘out there’ and learning from it. The feeling of being exposed and judged has been more stressful than I imagined but as I get more accomplished and gain confidence in what I make, I hope that feeling will disappear.

I really love my business cards.They are tiny, just 2 3/4 inches  by 1 inch (approx 7cms x 2 3/4 cms). I got them from https://www.moo.com and they show snippets of my work on one side and details of how to contact me on the other. It’s been easy to punch a hole in some and attach them to my work, sometimes with care instructions behind on a strip of paper the same size as the business card.IMG_8034

 

After my last post I worked on my house theme a little more, appliqueing a series of houses onto pillowcases.  I went for three styles in different coloured florals.

Two designs went up and down the housewife’s end and the third went across it. The difficulty I had with the larger houses was keeping the them straight. Even though I pinned them they moved while I was sewing them on. I don’t like to use too many pins as they often leave marks but I need to think of a way to get around this problem.

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Houses use Moda ‘Dogwood Trail’ fabrics

I also finished the two ‘Tiny Dancer ‘log cabin blocks that I started a while ago. They are intended as a pair of unframed fabric pictures, so the wadding between them is thinner than usual. I did press them when I finished but wish I hadn’t because I preferred the all over puckering that they had previously.

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I get nervous about the quilting stage and often put it off for while and yet I always end up enjoying that the most, once I have decided how I am going to tackle it.

One ‘Tiny Dancer’ block was meant to be the reverse of the other but when I came to quilting the second block (above left)  the ‘logs’ on one of the pale sides were shorter.  This was because although the pattern of the fabric was reversed the initial log pattern was not. This meant that the quilting design I had done on the first block would have overlapped each other at the edges on the second. I had to quilt over the patterned area of the block and, as a result, the quilting doesn’t show up as I had wanted it to. Lesson learned: Two blocks that are intended to complement each other as a pair should be planned and considered at each stage as a pair and not as two individual blocks that are set together afterwards.

This is what the back of each block looks like IMG_8025It’s interesting how some quilting patterns lend themselves to tidy backs while others don’t. The little cross stitch in the centre of each block make a pair of random lines on the back that I don’t care for . However, I felt it was important to secure the middle of the block to the background in some way as it is much larger than any of the logs. It was hard to come up with something the would not distract from the dancer or make the whole thing too fussy.

I have only a few days left in the shop but have decided, even at this late stage, to introduce some houses for children which I am hoping to finish over this weekend. I have chosen some fun fabric

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Moda’s ‘Hello Friend’ Fabric

from Moda for one set of houses that I think some little girls would enjoy and I have also begun a series of  as yet unfinished  houses from Makower’s ‘Little Monsters’ fabric range .

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One Jolly Monster house, just tacked for now. I still have to stitch a ‘frame’around the window and door and sew the houses together

These are made in the same way as my other sets of houses, fabric wrapped shapes that are sewn together in my usual accordion style. I have gone for several differently shaped houses in rows of threes and fours.

I find that the shape of a roof can be tricky. I used to wrap the roof fabric around the the house shape and secure it inside but having a house shape at the back and the front, with a roof wrapped around each, meant I was joining four thicknesses of fabric. With these houses I have appliqued the roof shape onto the front of the house with a less bulky result.

So that’s it for now. Looking ahead into July I want to try out some American Schoolhouse designs as I’ve wanted to do some for so long and I have found a new way to interpret a log cabin block that gives some quirky results. Then I think it might be time for a  crib size quilt or maybe some painted and/or embroidered houses, or….

Until next time….

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Put a Wee Bitty Tartan on It

IMG_7670Continuing with my current ‘House’ obsession, I decided to try my hand at making some House Brooches and that it might be fun to start with some tartan ones. I used to think brooches were just for jacket lapels and  although I own quite a few brooches I have been given as gifts, would never have considered myself a brooch person.  However as I was making these, I started to think about other places they could be pinned; not just jackets and bags but hats, curtain tie backs, lampshades, decorative cushions – and realised they could be pinned to any fabric background that that invites a temporary pop of colour. And why not a pop of tartan?

I was particularly excited about making house brooches because I could imagine a row, a whole street of little brooches, IMG_7688pinned on a jacket like a crop of medals; a row of cottages or a cityscape travelling across a weekend bag and the thought of it made me smile. Unlike a lot of brooches these are quite robust, in that they are soft and flexible, can be bent and just pop back up again. They are also washable. Of course the embroidery threads could catch on anything jagged, so I am working on decorating my houses in ways where this won’t be a problem. Fabric paints here I come….

I began with houses just an inch tall and then moved on to larger ones of two to two and a half inches. IMG_7683After adding a door and a window the large ones still seemed too ‘naked’ somehow, so I started adding a few flowers and stems.  Then I wanted to try adding vines and painting flowers, so I made some wider. (Three inches wide but still two and half inches tall).  I thought these might be a bit big but there seems to be a trend in big brooches at the moment, so perhaps they are OK.

They are surprisingly simple to make; only using small bits of tartan at front and back, a spot of interfacing between, a little flourish with the embroidery needle, a stitch all around the edge and few more stitches to secure a pin onto the back. IMG_7673Despite that, the smaller they are the more fiddly they are to hold and decorate. I also learned, after making the first few using co-ordinating colours, that the tiny ones really needed to make use of more brightly coloured threads if they are to stand out on a coat or a bag (for example, the one on the right in the photo below, rather than the one on the left.

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You haven’t heard from me in a while because I have been busy sewing like crazy for the first sales of my crafts in a local shop throughout June. I have been worried about not having enough stock and enough variety of stock available, so have been burning the candle at both ends trying to get through what I had planned months ago and fallen short of achieving.

I have ideas to do so much more in tartan but I’m surprised by how difficult it is to find good quality attractive, varied tartans in 100% cotton in the UK.  The best (i.e. authentic) tartans are wool but I found wool too hard to work with. It frays easily and doesn’t hold creases, both of which is a nightmare when making tiny things using the English Paper Piecing technique. I have come across some tartans in polyester/cotton and perhaps I should try some of those. There are also some lovely ones available in brushed cotton which might be good for  wintery, Christmassy designs. I do love working with cotton though, so I am sticking to a mixture of cotton tartans, when I can find them, and cotton plaids (checks and mock-tartans) which are more fashionable and therefore more readily available.

Tomorrow I am off to join in the last day of this year’s Spring Fling. Spring Fling is a contemporary visual art and craft event that ranges across Dumfries and Galloway here in South West Scotland throughout the bank holiday weekend each May. Close to a hundred artists and makers across the region open their studios to the public while a variety of art projects take place in various venues outside these as well. I look forward to it each year and try to cover a different set of studios and events. Last time I went west. This year I’m going east. Yesterday I went to a new local craft fair which is to be repeated at Christmas. Thinking it would be good to give this try as it was so close to home, I have booked myself in for a table at Christmas. Excited by this but also getting the “oh no, more manic sewing!” tremors too. IMG_7698

By the time my next post appears, all my little creations will be for sale in a shop and I do hope people will pop in and, whether they choose to buy or not, that they give me some useful feedback. When you first start out, you don’t know what people will like or would prefer to have. I guess you need quite a bit of time and experience before you figure that out. Anyway I hope to be able to tell you a bit about the experience and how it goes.

Till next time……

 

A House with Love in It

“A house with love in it, is where we stay”, my dad used to sing along to an old 78 rpm record of his. I think it was. My parents did everything together, always looked out for each other and as a result my home was a secure and happy place.

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One of the houses I grew up in, in India

Is this why I love houses? I don’t know. I have lived in so many of them through the course of my life, all kinds: flats, maisonettes, penthouses, cottages, black and whites, plaster and lathe and new builds, both here and abroad, though I didn’t live in any one of them more than five years. The house I live in now is the longest I have lived anywhere.

I love moving house, the packing up and unpacking, the smell of fresh paint, the anticipation of a life somewhere else, looking out of smaller or larger windows onto unfamiliar views. Most of all I love the way that every house causes you to live your life in it, differently. The layout and position of the rooms; how warm or cool they are; how much light they let in; what you can see out of them; this influences what you put in them, how you spend time in them and how much you choose to be in them.

Perhaps like most children one of the first things I drew was probably a house, with a door and a couple of windows, perhaps a garden with the sun shining. Many years later, when I lived in Singapore, I began to be interested in real houses especially the colonial houses and enjoyed photographing as many examples as I could.

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The black and white colonial house I lived in, in Singapore

Here in Scotland I have begun drawing houses again. I love the ones with stone walls, low roofs and little, symmetrical, windows.

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A house in Newton Stewart high street, Dumfries and Galloway

I notice the chimneys in particular and how large they are, often taking up one whole side of a building. I didn’t grow up with chimneys, so I find them fascinating. Does anyone else out there take photos of chimneys?

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Chimneys in Wigtown

 

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More chimneys in Wigtown

When I started sewing recently it seemed obvious to start making houses, not only to add to quilts IMG_7257and pillowcases but tall houses that you can lean on a mantel or hang on a wall, tiny stuffed and embroidered houses and house ‘cards’ to send friends to welcome a new baby or for a house move.

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One of my Tall Houses. This one is called ‘Keyholder’

However, the ones I have enjoyed making the most are accordion houses, ones that stand up by themselves, a zig zag row of houses that you can place on a shelf or window sill and that will, hopefully, make you smile.

For now I have made only a few designs but I have plans for so many different ones. I never seem to tire of them, as if all the best things about all the houses I have known and loved are stitched into their seams.

I began with this prototype,IMG_4483 a little row of tartan houses only an inch high, with the windows and doors glued on. After that I was hooked. Since then I have moved on to a range of sizes. They are all double sided, some have chimneys and they come in multiples of three, four or five houses in a row. There are tiny medieval houses, plaid houses and houses in bright cottons.

I’m excited to sell you that these will be selling in ‘Curly Tales’ book and gift shop in Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway, during the whole of next month (June 2016) and I hope some of you will pop in for a look. I would love to hear your comments.

Till next time…..

Ah, Those Liberty Squares.

 

IMG_7258Liberty fabric is oddly affecting. I’m not sure if it’s the mix of colours  or the profusion of flowers, the tiny prints or the soft, yet crisp, feel of the fabric  but lately I have been slightly obsessed with the idea of making mini quilts with with 1 1/2 inch (4 cms) Liberty squares. I haven’t posted in a while because I have been working on three mini quilts  with Liberty fabric and I had hoped to post all three together. However, as usual, other stuff has got in the way and the last quilt is taking longer than I planned. The first , below, I mentioned in an earlier post when I was ‘auditioning’ the squares against a grey background and considering this  pattern.

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‘Chequerboard’

It’s just a simple chequerboard  pattern but with the middle squares placed on point to make it more interesting. It’s fairly small, just 12 1/2 inches x 10 1/2 inches (that’s approximately 32 cms x 16 cms).  I thought it might be too fussy with a border so didn’t add one.  Do you think it would look better with a border? The quilting is just a running stitch ‘in the ditch’ with a pink variegated thread which means some stitches are dark pink and some very pale.

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Quilting ‘in the ditch’

For the second mini quilt pattern, called ‘Circle of Friends’, I chose a blue Japanese fabric and quilted it in the same way, this time with a blue variegated running stitch.

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‘Circle of Friends’

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A luscious Liberty paisley on the back

I added some pink and lilac running stitches around four of the squares. I chose a paisley Liberty fabric in plums and blues for the back and border but I’m not sure how successful this has been as doesn’t have the body that the regular quilting cottons have. This quilt is even smaller, just 9 inches square (23 cms) but might look nice under a vase of spring flowers.

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Use as a Table Topper?

The third, unfinished, quilt I have named ‘House in the Country’ . This one is also on a grey background but has a Liberty house in the centre and an inner border of Liberty squares before an outer grey border. It will be about 16 inches square (41 cms) when it is finished thought at the moment it is only 12 inches (30 cns) square. I haven’t decided how I’m going to quilt it yet. Any suggestions?

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‘House in the Country’

I love houses on quilts. I think it’s because I have lived in so many houses over the years and it’s so interesting how different types of houses and different arrangements of rooms can cause you to live your life in different ways.

Before I make any more  quilts this size, I am trying to think what what they might  be best used for. They would need to be more ‘arty’ to be used as fabric pictures. The wadding is not heat resistant, so they would be no use as place mats. So, apart from a small table topper as in the photo with the jug above,  perhaps an  antique doll or much loved teddy bear could sit on one as a way to display it.

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Anyone got any other ideas?

Till next time then…