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…..



Here be Monsters and Tiny Dancers


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.


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.


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.


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


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 .


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….


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


Chimneys in Wigtown



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.


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.



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.


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.


‘Circle of Friends’


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.


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?


‘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.


Anyone got any other ideas?

Till next time then…


Once Upon a Swallow

I am fortunate in that I live a stone’s throw away from Scotland’s smallest theatre, the ‘Swallow Theatre’ in Whithorn.IMG_5818 It was run from its beginnings by a man who became a good friend. When, at the end of last year, he decided to pass the theatre on to new owners, I wanted to make him something as a thank you for his friendship and generosity and for the happy times my husband and I spent at his home and in the theatre.

I decided I had to make a swallow, perhaps a pair of swallows flying, gobbling up our little Scottish midges in mid air, perhaps a fabric picture, or a wall quilt.  It’s certainly taken a good while to finish it, three months longer than I had intended and during that time it’s been through a few changes. It did begin as a pair, one bird slightly below the other and flying horizontally towards this one but it felt too big. I didn’t want to  use up his whole wall!  I made it smaller.IMG_7127 I didn’t like it. It got unpicked and redone and unpicked again. Then I became anxious about being able to get it right at all so I had to put it away for a while and then begin again.

By then it had morphed into a single swallow in a much reduced piece of fabric that I had to make even smaller to fit the quilt hanger I had planned to attach it to. So, it’s not as perfect as I wanted it to be but it got done as best I could get it done.

All the fabric I used, except the little red scrap at the bird’s throat, was from Janet Clare’s ‘More Hearty Good Wishes’ which seems appropriate. I created the binding by using the backing fabric brought around to the front, mitred the corners, and used blue embroidery thread to echo the shape of the bird and to make fly stitches to quilt it. IMG_7137The fly stitches are meant to represent the little flying insects that the swallows like to eat when they are on the wing. They do look a little like letters and perhaps, in hindsight, they should be smaller, but I didn’t want a dotted effect, either.

I sewed a sleeve on the back for the hanger. On previous mini quilts I made the sleeve quite slim but then almost had to screw up the quilt to get the hanger in and out easily. IMG_7139This time I made it wider but I think the best solution is somewhere between the two. I felt it added a thickness to the top of the quilt that was unnecessary on something so small. You can see how the quilting stitches create the shape of the bird on the other side. I added a label later, too, on which I embroidered the name of the recipient and the date.

I have a wonderful book called ‘The Quilter’s and Patchworkers Stitch Bible’ by Nikki Tinkler which not only describes a variety of different quilting stitches and where they are best used, but actually shows you what the stitches look like on the back of your work, so you can choose the ones most appropriate for the pattern and fabric you are using. I can’t recommend it enough. Until next time…..

Here is my finished swallow: I hope he likes it.


Through the Attic Window

The popularity of the traditional ‘Attic Window’ quilt block seems to have waned in recent years and although there are some newer and more modern geometric variations, these are missing the three dimensional quality that made the block so interesting.


‘Something Fishy In the Attic’  from Quilts for Baby by Ursula Reikes p 46.

The traditional block is designed to give the impression of looking through a window either from the inside looking out, (at a night sky for example) or from the outside looking in (at a cat in a room beyond for example). Here is a picture of a page in Ursula Reikes’ book showing a school of clown fish behind the nine Attic Window blocks of her quilt. You could also have single objects appearing to sit on the ‘shelves’, like a variety of seashells or toy boats and so on…

I thought it might be fun to try an Attic Windows block using  the English Paper Piecing technique. The best thing about this technique is how easy it to put together; there is no need to worry about mitred corners or adding half square triangles at the corners as machine quilters seem to have to do.

You need only three paper pieces for your Attic Window block. You can draw your own template, or find one online. It should look like this one and it can be any size that suits your pattern:


Template from EQuiltBlocks.com found on Pinterest

Some time ago I started collecting some ‘ocean’ fabrics of my own, because I loved the idea of looking into an aquarium and seeing fish  or seahorses or mermaids.

I discovered some Makower fabric that gave what I was looking for: Mermaids for my feature fabric


Fabrics by Makower except ‘Full Moon Lagoon’ (sea fronds) by Andover fabrics.

and some clams, shells, waves and seaweed for the complementary fabrics. You do need to have light and dark toned fabrics to accentuate the depth of your ‘window’.

I began with the large square which would hold each of my mermaids and began to cut out a set of nine mermaids, one for each block in my quilt.

IMG_7099You can use a see-through acrylic template or one with an empty centre, like the one on the right here, IMG_7104to allow you to centre your square over the part of the fabric that you want to showcase. This is called Fussy Cutting. I cut out the squares adding an extra half inch to each side, which will be needed to fold under my paper piece.

Once these were done, I cut out fabric for the two edges of the window, one light (for the base) and one darker (for the side), remembering to add the half inch of extra fabric to fold under. Then I wrapped them around each of the shapes and tacked them into place. This was the result:

IMG_7111You will notice that in Ursula Reikes’ picture, at the beginning of this post, there is a white frame (called sashing) around each block which further emphasises the window effect. And, if you look at my photo of the paper template I used, above, you will see open strips on the inside where the wood of my desk shows through. You can add strips of dark fabric here too, as a sort of inner frame, which will have a similar effect of creating depth.

So that’s it really. Now all you have to do is sew the bits together and make as many as you want in the size that you want.  I have an idea that this block would make a wonderful ‘I Spy’ travel quilt for a child, with a different set of objects fussy cut and inserted into each window. Here is my finished block, which is 6 inches square (or 15 cms) The tacking, or basting stitches as they are called, and the papers they hold in place, can be removed as soon as you have sewn the block to another one, or added sashing or a border.


Till next time…..





Something Bengali in the Border?



Are you familiar with Kantha? 

Kantha is a type of embroidery that originated over 500 years ago in Bangladesh, parts of West Bengal and other eastern states of India. The word Kantha, pronounced’kahn-taa’ means ‘rags’ and it’s function was similar to our Western tradition of patching articles in the home. Poor Bengali women took their old pieces if cloth and sewed them together using a simple running stitch, to make double sided whole quilts (without wadding) to keep their family warm.Grandmothers would also stitch these for their grandchildren as the quilts were said to have talismanic properties, keeping children safe. These days, Kanthas are also made for the export market using vibrant, repurposed sari material, for the rest of the world to enjoy.

Lightbulb Idea!

I am always looking for something different to incorporate into an English Paper Pieced quilt, so, I thought, why not Kantha? I have been exploring different ways of creating EPP borders lately (and have begun a Pinterest board just for borders at https://uk.pinterest.com/tartansanta/quilts-epp-border-ideas/) and so I decided to experiment with a simple running stitch borrowed from Kantha and incorporate this into a design for a border.

How to Begin:

Draw a panel on a white piece of cloth, remembering to add 2 pencilled frames around it. The inside line is the fold line where it will be wrapped over a piece of paper. The second pencil line shows where to cut to leave enough fabric to fold behind the panel. Then draw your pattern. I drew a cat chasing a rabbit. I used a mechanical pencil, not the best idea, because when I wanted to erase a part of the cat’s face, it left a mark on the fabric. IMG_6797 I have a disappearing pen but the lines it makes tend to disappear before I have finished stitching. I now realise that if I must erase a pencil line I need to rub down into the area that will be stitched over and avoid rubbing into the background. Lesson learned.

I put my piece of cloth into an embroidery hoop and began outlining the rabbit, Bengali style, using a simple running stitch.IMG_6800 I worked away from my body in the traditional way, loading my needle with three or four stitches before I pulled my needle through.

Other Possibilities:

Rather like Japanese Sashiko stitching, Kantha includes many other decorative stitches based on the running stitch, usually seen in pictorial work like wall hangings. I was born in West Bengal and have one of these in my hall. It’s one my mother bought, years later, in Bangladesh. It shows a much greater range of stitches than those found on Kantha quilts:


Next Steps & Experiments:

Back to the EPP border: I wasn’t sure how small or close together to make the stitches so I tried making the stitches smaller and closer together on the cat than on the rabbit.

IMG_6801  The larger stitches were much easier and I think they look better but the trick is to get the stitches evenly spaced. One I finished the outline, I started filling in the bodies of the animals. In the rabbit, I stuck to running stitches going more or less in the same direction but experimented with some going in different directions in the cat. I tried two different colours of embroidery floss (3 strands) in the rabbit, one to outline and  one to fill in, but used all the same colour in the cat.



This is the first time I’ve done this and it obviously needs more practice. I can already see what I could do better but it’s fun and easy enough to be worth a try, and if you had animals like these chasing all around your quilt edge, would anyone really be looking hard at all the stitches? If using running stitch as a filler seems a chore to do in a long border, try small stitches like seed or rice stitch as fillers.

Finishing Off:

I added some grass, took the cloth out of the embroidery hoop, cut out the panel along with its seam allowance and wrapped this over a rectangle of paper the size of the inside frame marked in pencil. Then I basted it all the way around (you can see these basting (tacking) stitches in the picture above. Now it’s ready to become part of a border in a quilt.

Worried about Drawing?

If you are worried about your drawing, as many people are, please don’t be. I am sure you could create a cat, house or tree out of simple shapes, or a series of shapes like moons and stars, or trace a design from an embroidery pattern. The possibilities are endless.

Till next time…….