Getting Scrappy!

I’ve had a very satisfying week – and it’s not over yet! The final push to prepare for the reopening of the pop up craft shop in town is underway. Due to open next Wednesday there will be around 40 local crafters (including your’s truly) setting up displays in readiness over this weekend. We have moved to a smaller, brighter, unit within the shopping centre (malls) and this has provided new challenges. The majority of us will be displaying our wares on long narrow wall spaces, 64cm wide by 2.9m tall (25″ x 9’6″). That’s really not enough space to adequately display a quilt so, with permission, I’ve downsized, there will now be tote bags and pot holders alongside table runners and my first pattern for sale.


Two new tote bags and three pot holders ready for All Our Own Crafts, Basingstoke 🙂

So satisfying to finish five items in just four days! Specially lovely as our daughter was home for a few days and settled down with her crochet while I played with fabrics – good times 🙂

Where do the scraps come into this tale? Well! For a start I’ve created some more scraps with all this cutting and stitching! But more significantly I have put into action a dream project, namely creating a ‘scrap vortex’ quilt a la the Queen of Scraps, Amanda Jean of crazymomquilts. Amanda Jean issued a series of blog posts back in 2015 initiating an informal quilt along, encouraging us all to dive into our scrap bins. I have an on-off relationship with scraps, sometimes saving them, sometimes not. Having been inspired by the Scrap Vortex posts I’ve been diligently keeping my scraps (even sorting them into brights or ‘traditionals’ as I go). Knowing I’d be making a succession of small projects I decided this would be the time to start the scrap quilt. An added brain wave was to sew the scraps together ‘leader and ender’ style – I’ve never made a leader and ender quilt either so ‘two birds with one stone’ and all that… (Special thanks to Katy of katyquilts for explaining what a leader/ender quilt is!).


The usual look of my ‘leaders and enders’ (the little scraps of fabric used at the beginning and end of a line of stitching to help ensure the first stitches in a seam are nice and strong and to save thread at the end of stitching a seam).

It was only when I opened up the box of bright scraps that I realised just how tightly packed they had become! After just one rummage the whole lot had exploded out of the box all over the floor next to my sewing station!


The exploding scraps! :-O

As you can see in the photo, I keep my freezer paper and rolls of interfacing in a funky bin… Humm… Time to tip out the rolls and throw in the scraps!

Perfect! I can just lean down from my sewing chair, have a rummage, find a couple of scraps to stitch together – my leaders & enders and scrap vortex all in one quilt is under way. Of course, the temptation to put rubbish in the bin of scraps is very strong and I have caught myself adding little bits of thread to the scraps!


The scrap bin solution! The tub on the side contains the scraps I’ve pulled out and decided not to use in this particular quilt.

As I detach the scrappy leaders and enders from a length of chain piecing, I just throw them into a little basket next to my machine.


The leaders and enders destined to become my scrap vortex quilt.

As I’ve already indicated I have enjoyed making the bags and pot holders – in fact I cut out another bag and three more pot holders this morning. As I’ve been stitching, setting prices for my wares has been in my mind. Like many crafters I tend to ask too little for what I make. Honestly, how many of us get anything like a living wage from selling our crafted items once the time taken to make each item is taken into consideration? This year I am using the Design Trusts ‘Dream/Plan/Do’ planner journal to try and think about what I do with more of a ‘business head’. It’s been illuminating and sobering. On the one hand I have really gained by thinking through exercises around business issues such as identifying my core values, setting three main goals for the year, marketing and *oh! boy* finances. I really don’t have aspirations to run a true business, my ambition is to make my hobby/obsession self-financing. Here’s the rub: as I was stitching and calculating returns on prices I found myself looking at mis-matched points in a seam and thinking, “Well! For that price, people can’t expect perfection.” This thought was in direct conflict with one of my heartfelt core values: ‘skillful, quality workmanship’. Which makes me think that under-valuing an item for sale is not just financially detrimental to the maker but can have a negative impact on work ethic too. Hardly a revolutionary conclusion, but I share it because I was surprised that, even in my little world of commerce, being undervalued could so unexpectedly affect my attitude to what I’m making and the levels of satisfaction I gain from the process of creating.

A quick re-think was required and it was a relief to acknowledge that doing a ‘task’ to the best of my ability is the surest way to find satisfaction whether that be in creating for the fun of it or making products to sell.

Linking for the first time with Leanne at Scraptastic Tuesday and (very appropriately) with Amanda Jean for finish it up Friday with no less than five finishes under my belt – whoop! whoop!

Have a great weekend.



Posted in Bags, Scrap Vortex Quilt, Selling craft | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

How does my garden grow? (1)

Just as an aside: Those of us in our fifties and beyond agree that the weeks, months and years all fly by far faster than they ever used to. My question is, ‘As that is the case, how come Winter seems to last twice as long as it ever used to?’ Being cold and trying to get warm and snug have now become tiresome, bring on the warm weather 🙂 Soon, please!

We’ve had some tantalising warm(ish) days dotted through the more typical cold wet ones, Winter is loosing it’s grip but fights back with blasts of icy Arctic wind or storms straight off the Atlantic.

Out and about there are hopeful signs of Spring; flowers, a few daring leaves, the birds are collecting nesting materials and the hours of daylight have increased significantly.

Those signs of Spring are spurring me on to think about sowing seeds and to getting on with making the quilt I’ve entered into the Gardener’s World category at the Quilts UK show, Malvern, in May (eek! not so far away now!).





So, the exclusive, big reveal, the first four blocks are complete and the second set of four are under construction. Drum roll…


Gardener’s World corner blocks

I’m doing my best to be methodical, finalising the block designs and cutting instructions as I go; neatly storing the print outs, after scribbling reminders and notes, in a folder. Here’s hoping my very organised daughter will be impressed with my system when she visits next week – even if the sewing room is a bit of mess and we have to scrape layers of ‘must sort this outs’ off the sofa bed before we can sit, stitch and natter!

Linking with other quilters via Lorna’s Let’s Bee Social.




Posted in Garden, Gardener's World Quilt, Projects, Quilt Blocks, Quilt Design, Works In Progress | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

DrEAMi’s take over!

Another two week gap between blog posts! The first week of the two was filled with patchwork and quilting activity, the second has been about other activities with patchwork and quilting shoe-horned between.

So, rewind two weeks and I was busy preparing notes for the beginners patchwork and quilting class at Purple Stitches. Four lovely ladies signed up to follow Viv’s specially written pattern. I decided to join in the stitching fun; purchasing eight pretty fat quarters from the shop and rocked up on Saturday ready to guide and help out where needed. We started by practicing rotary cutting before cutting out all the 5″ squares required for the design.


Beginners Class underway. Viv’s quilt is on the wall next to the ‘Frozen’ panel.

We then moved on to setting up sewing machines to stitch the perfect scant ¼” seam. Concentration levels remained at maximum for much of the afternoon; all we could hear was the hum of sewing machines and the hiss of the iron! Next class we will be piecing all the rows together before measuring, cutting and attaching the borders and cornerstones.


My version of the Purple Stitches Beginners Quilt – rows ready to be stitched together.


The final five stripy hearts

A few days before the class I had another great day out with stitching friends at Brown Candover. I took the stripy hearts fabrics and made the remaining five.

After lunch I turned my attention to a Moda mini charm pack. This has been sitting in my stash for a couple of years and I pulled it out on a whim, cut three width of fabric strips from a white on white print and threw them in a bag on the morning of the quilt day. I stitched the 42 squares to the strips of fabric, pressed the seams towards the ‘Mixologie’ fabric squares and then cut them apart. Next I paired them up and made 21 four patch units – it was a great opportunity to practice the spinning seams method so clearly described by Beth in her recent tutorial 🙂

Twirled four patch seams

Four patch seams lying neat and flat after being ‘spun’ 🙂

At home I had fun rearranging the blocks on my design wall, settling on a 3 x 7 block formation, measuring 12½” by 28½”. Once sewn together I rooted around and found a suitable size piece of Hobbs 80/20 wadding and cut a rectangle of calico for the backing. I used an off-white thread to quilt a grid through the white squares and found a white fabric with small orange and yellow dots for the binding.


Mixologie table runner

This project definitely counts as another DrEAMi (Drop Everything And Make it) – in fact it is quite revealing just how frequently I divert from the planned quilt list! I fear most diversions have more to do with procrastination than pure creativity – but at the end of the day I have the satisfaction of a fresh project to  enjoy even though the to-do list is shaming me with its indelible deadlines!


‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ named with reference to the red ‘hearth’ at the centre of each log cabin block. (Handy having our tallest child living at home!)

Probably the log cabin quilt should be recorded as a DrEAMi too! After all it was started on a whim and bears no relation to the to-do list! (I got the borders added after a visit to Sue at Nature’s Threads.) Although I have been away from home quite a lot this week, I did fall into the sewing room on Thursday evening, quickly piecing a backing for the quilt and cutting a chunk out of a kingsize roll of Hobbs Heirloom 100% cotton wadding. On Friday morning I snuck back to my sewing machine and used the walking foot to stitch wavy diagonal lines across the quilt with a dark gold Aurifil thread. I added the binding later in the day and have decided to keep the final fixing down of the binding as a hand stitching project.

My VENTURING continues on three fronts: 1. the classes at Purple Stitches; 2. the production of a quilt for Quilts UK, Malvern – I have submitted the registration form and continue to learn how to use EQ7 to produce the pattern;


First block of the Gardener’s World quilt printed out from my EQ7 pattern – how chuffed am I? 😀

3. notification of the re-opening of the pop up craft shop has been exercising my brain as the new venue gives just a 64cm (25″) wide display space to each crafter…

Linking with Myra for Finished or Not Friday and with Sandra for DrEAMi! Linky #2 (Whoops! Missed the deadline but still a fun link to visit!).

Hope you are having a relaxing and creative weekend.




Posted in Computer Software, Fabrics, Learn, Piecing tips, Quilt Design, Tablerunners, Venture, Works In Progress | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

‘Move along please’: 4 projects on the go!

Like London buses my projects tend to arrive together… after a long wait! Over the past two weeks of blog posting silence I have been jumping between four different projects.

Project 1: I have a finished quilt to report 🙂 This disappearing nine patch lap quilt began life as a quick project way back in June last year. IMG_1116The stated plan was to make a simple quilt top and use it to break through my reluctance to take my free motion quilting skills from practice squares to a real quilt. Hum! Seems I stalled! The prepared quilt sandwich hung around in the sewing room, then moved from the spare bed to the top bunk and back again. Fear of using fmq on a more recently completed quilt top took me back to the disappearing ninepatch. I began by stitching a grid of stabilising stitching, echoing the patchwork pattern. Then anxieties arrived, ‘Oh! No! I still don’t want to do the fmq and maybe it will look odd with the straight line quilting?’ Anyway, as you can see from the following photos, I got over myself, drew out on paper a continuous line quilting pattern that would fit in the charm squares of the quilt, set up my machine, put on some music, had a cup of coffee, took a deep breath and went for it – not quite ‘peddle to the metal’ (you know me, s-l-o-w-l-y does it!) but finish it, I did.


‘Fireside Glow’ – named for the colours that reminded me of embers still giving off heat once the flames have died down.


The mix of walking foot and continuous line free motion quilting

The experience of doing free motion quilting reminded me very much of learning to drive. Early lessons found me all disconnected and unable to coordinate feet and hand movements – gears crunching, bunny hopping, the lot. But after some lessons movements became more coordinated and I could let my attention drift to the road conditions as well as actually keeping the car moving (how do driving instructors have the nerve to sit next to inattentive learner drivers?). As I set off on the free motion stitching of this quilt I realised I’d had enough practice for skills such as stopping midway through a run, re-positioning my hands and then re-starting on the same smooth line to have become second nature 🙂 I started to enjoy being able to coordinate the speed of my hand movements with the speed I was driving the needle 🙂 Then, after about half an hour, I found my concentration wandering – just like when I was learning to drive – the coordination failed and errors started creeping in. It’s at this point that tiredness takes over and realisation dawns that a massive amount of concentration has gone into the maintaining of that smooth travelling along the road or across a quilt. The skill isn’t yet ‘natural’ or intuitive, there is much more driving/quilting to be done before the skill becomes innate.

This is my year of VENTURE and I’m proud to have ventured out of my walking foot comfort zone and used free motion quilting 🙂 The quilt, named ‘Fireside Glow’, is now listed in my Etsy shop (another VENTURE!).

As a foot note I have to confess that within a few years of passing the driving test I lost my nerve and haven’t driven since. I am determined not to give up on free motion quilting!

Project 2: A second quilt using the tube method of cutting and piecing. All pieced, including the backing, pinned ready to quilt. Thinking an all over, meandering, quilt pattern would compliment the misty look of these fabrics: this thought was the motivation behind venturing into free motion quilting Project 1 as a build up to getting a larger quilt under the machine needle.


Log cabin blocks on the design wall

Project 3: This log cabin quilt top came about as a reaction against all the time I’ve spent on the computer writing class notes and grappling with quilt designs on EQ7. I rediscovered some left over 2½” strips from a log cabin project, delved around in my small stash and came up with enough fabric to make twelve blocks each measuring 14½” unfinished. Most of the fabrics have a William Morris theme and I was pleased to find a little piece of a red Moda French General fabric to use for the centre ‘hearth’ of each block. img_3058A day spent making these blocks was good therapy 🙂 I will need to make a quick trip to Nature’s Threads tomorrow in the hope of matching the red for a narrow border around the blocks, not sure about the colour for a wider second border… or the binding … and maybe I’ll need some backing fabric too…


Project 4: The cause of some of my feelings of computer overload! I selected these lovely fabrics on a trip along the Thames Valley to Wallingford, home of Village Fabrics. The plan is to use them to make the quilt I’m VENTURING to enter into the ‘Gardener’s World’ category of the Quilts UK show, Malvern, in May.


As I am so s-l-o-w, it is about time the fabrics found their way to the cutting mat, maybe I shall have to resort to a paper and pencil pattern alongside the EQ7 design if I am to stand any chance of meeting the deadline?

Despite not posting here for nearly  two weeks I’ve continued to enjoy reading and learning from many enthusiastic quilting bloggers – links to tips and news can be found on my Pinterest board ‘Pins of the week’ (updated every Tuesday – or there abouts…)

Linking with Myra for Finished or not Friday and Amanda Jean for Finish it up Friday.

Have a great weekend,


Posted in Projects, Colour, Civil War quilts, Log Cabin, Quilting Techniques, Quilt Blocks, Venture | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A new DrEAMi quilt blog linky

So, OK! It’s very late Tuesday evening and I’m writing Monday’s post… I took the photos and had the sentences forming in my mind but somehow never got down to writing… 

Look what found their way onto my design wall! I was looking at these and thinking, ‘Hum! I shouldn’t be working on this project!’ And then I discovered Sandra of Musings of a Menopausal Melon (what an excellent blog name :-D) has set up a new linky for just such a situation. She’s calling the linky ‘DrEAMi’ – Drop Everything And Make it! – and is inviting quilters to share with her their stories of unscheduled project diversions (the linky is scheduled for the last Saturday of the month and stays open for the next month).


The story of these heart blocks is not straightforward, are you sitting comfortably? Then, I shall begin. Last November I began searching for quilt patterns on Etsy. There were two motivations for this search: 1. why wouldn’t I be looking for quilt patterns?; and 2. I was doing some research before attempting to write my own quilt pattern. I found Julie Taylor’s Mack and Mable pattern,  ‘Take Heart – A Quilt Pattern for Jelly Rolls’, promptly paid for a pdf download and within seconds was able to read through the instructions (which, by the way, are very clearly written, with excellent photos and requirement lists and piecing charts for making five different sized quilts). Also on-line, I found some discounted jelly rolls and chose ‘Cherry on Top’, by Keiki for Moda and some additional, on sale, fabric from the same range. A few days later I received an apologetic call from the on-line retailer saying the jelly roll couldn’t be found, would I like a layer cake instead? Rather than rethinking all my fabric choices I made a rash decision and said, ‘Yes’. Julie’s pattern is based on cutting 12½” strips of fabric to construct the hearts. Hum! Layer cakes are 10″ square, it was coming up to Christmas, I quickly filed this whole mis-match under ‘too difficult’. Then panic struck on 21st December: the next day was scheduled as a sewing day with friends, I needed a project! Out came the graph paper, pencil and eraser and I set about adapting the pattern. My strips were cut 2″ wide and 9½” long and the corner squares that form the triangles at the top and bottom of each heart were re-sized accordingly. At the end of that sewing day the blocks, half completed blocks and cut strips were bundled into a plastic folder and abandoned until last Thursday – the first sewing day with friends of 2017.

I should have left the bagged-up project alone when I returned home but it had it’s hooks in me. I confess I took down the current project from the design wall and stuck heart blocks, bits of heart blocks and strips of layer cake fabrics up there instead *BLUSH*, working away at the blocks whenever I had a chance over the weekend. I had to do some hard thinking on Monday: in the end I set myself the goal of completing the partial blocks and sorting the remaining strips before putting the rogue project away and getting on with what I should have been doing!


Strips all arranged ready to become heart blocks. Hopefully this photo will remind me of the plan the next time this project distracts me!

There is no doubt about it, with so many ingenious patterns and beautiful fabrics, diversion and distraction in the world of patchwork and quilting is unavoidable!

Linking with Sandra for DrEAMi! 

Judy for Design Wall Monday

and Lorna for Let’s Bee Social.



Posted in Blogging, Fabrics, Projects, Quilt Blocks, Works In Progress | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments