Friday, 29 June 2018

Improvquilting - a phrase most suited to me!

I have been following the most amazingly inspiring hashtag on Instagram recently, so I wanted to explore it myself and show you a few images that have inspired me recently, as it is just SO full of inspiration and fantastic colours and patterns.


It can literally mean anything you want it to mean - quilting with no particular plan; using scraps or randomly chosen fabrics; playing with composition or picking a theme to try to work around.

It has also inspired me to try something a bit out of the box - a colour palette that I don't usually use (well, slightly out of my range but not all that far if I'm honest!). I pulled out scraps and leftovers from other projects, sewed them up at random and put them together.  It's not quite finished yet, as I'm now concentrating on using it for a machine quilting pattern sampler, but you can see a few sneak peeks here...

I started by using leftovers from two or three of my recent projects and cutting them into strips and connecting them.  Using the 'Trip Around The World' technique I put the strips onto the central flowery fabric. It has turned into something that looks a lot more complicated than it really is. 

 Once it was all together in one piece, I was a bit underwhelmed with the colour mix, so I decided to add a bit of orange and yellow into the mix before I put it together and started quilting.

Now I'm experimenting with the filler patterns, using freehand machine quilting, so I don't have a finished article just yet, but I will let you all have a look once I'm done.

Here are a few images of quilts that came out of this hashtag and were the ones to inspire me to do my own thing...

I just LOVE the bright plain colours of this one, and the large blocks that are unapolagetically uneven and in your face.  It just seems so happy!

A post shared by Leanne (@shecanquilt) on

Mr_happy_accidents is one of my favourite instaquilters as he uses the medium in a very modern way, cutting, adding, quilting, framing different bits to draw your eye to different places.

 The colours on this one are a world apart from the ones I am usually drawn to, but it has a very calming feel to it, with the muted colours emerging from the black and white as if they are shy.

A post shared by Amanda (@mandyandydesigns) on

So as you can see, the idea behind this word #improvquilting can be interpreted in so many different ways that it is almost a quilting world in itself.  There are no patterns here, only your imagination, random picks, following a thread to see where it takes you.  This is what I love the most about quilting.  There is a tradition to it that cannot be denied, but there is also a bright new take to it that blends almost seamlessly with it but can be a breath of freash air for anyone tiring of traditional blocks.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Orchard Yard

Well, this is a bit of a change.  Looking back, I can see that I have been woefully bad at updating this blog and I'm going to be working on that.  I have more time to be thinking about it at the moment, as I have now opened my own little artists' studio and teaching space.  

We had a rather large life change last year - I handed my notice in at my school admin job, and after a few discussions between family members, things are rather different now to what you may have seen on my previous blog posts.  

We have moved house.  

But not just to another house in the town, and not just to another town.  We have moved the length of the country, from Kent to Dumfriesshire.  Not just as a small family though - both my husband's parents, and my mum and step-dad have also moved up, so we have a great little family unit up here.  I also discovered that a friend from school is not running a charity in Carlisle called the Oak Tree Animals' Charity, which is only half an hour from where I am living.  This became a bit of a fantastic opportunity, as they were converting a set of stables called Orchard Yard into small craft units and I was asked if I would like to take one.
So, fast forward a year from when we moved, and I now have a gorgeous little studio unit, in the most relaxing peaceful countryside corner of Carlisle.  It is on a larger site with a Tea Room, a nature trail and land that you can wander round and talk to horses, goats, cats and dogs.  Seriously, if you are anywhere nearby I recommend coming here - it's only 5 minutes away from the M6 in between 2 villages called Cumwhinton and Wetheral, a few miles away from Brampton, which is where Carlisle Airport will be opening soon.  What a find!

Anyway, I now come here 4 days a week, for my own textile practise and to teach people sewing, patchwork, quilting and machine embroidery.  It's just idyllic!  In Orchard Yard we have a Massage Therapist; CL Body Therapy

a lovely little boutique shop called Jens Den

a Silver Jewellery maker; Lapwing Silver 

and the Tack Shack, an outlet for second hand tack that is surplus to the Charity's requirements.  

I now teach sewing, how to use a sewing machine, patchwork, machine embroidery and anything else you might want to know about (within reason!).  I run group workshops on the Oak Tree site, and I can bring the workshop to local groups as well, such as a WI meeting or a quilting group.  I'm so happy to finally be set up doing this - it's been my aim for many years now, and it's just fantastic to have my own space!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A little bit of a change.

So...  I haven't been here for a while.  Because this happened...

That was ten months ago, would you believe?

This is what a difference ten months makes...

Well.  Now she is starting to sleep for longer in the evening I have finally managed to sit down and think about blogging.  Anyone that manages to write articles or blogs while they have a newborn really has my respect - My velcro baby didn't really give me much of a chance at the beginning, and for the last few months I have been revelling in my free evenings and not really thought about writing.

I have not managed to do much sewing.  I have managed to finish 1 item in the ten months since she was born, which was a christening present for a friend's baby.  And that was already started when I decided to do it for her!  Anyway, this is it... (excuse the bad photo)

Apart from pining over my lack of sewing time, We have been spending time together as a family, going to the woodland that my mum owns.  She bought it to keep beehives on, but there's much more to it than just an apiary.  We have a 'campsite' that has been designed and made by my husband.  He has made a table with a canopy, a firepit and other useful bits and bobs.  We can go out there for a walk, for an afternoon or (as he often does, but I haven't since the baby was born) for a couple of days if you bring enough water with you.

If you are interested in seeing what my hubby does in is spare time, mainly bushcraft, leatherworking or motorbike related, please take a look at his blog:

 Yep, that's us, with baby in a connecta, which is a soft structured baby carrier, commonly called a 'full buckle'.  We absolutely love our connecta.  Without it, we would not be able to take baby out to the woods.  To get to the campsite we have to go down quite a steep path, sometimes with lots of mud.  There is absolutely no way we could get a pram in - the Land Rover my parents own sometimes can't even go down the access road.  I can comfortably wear her for an hour or two whilst walking the dog and she is obviously comfortable, as she often sleeps through the majority of the walk.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Absence, sickness and a worthy cause. Has anyone heard of Hyperemesis?

This is a short off-topic post to update people on why I've not been around for such a long time.  I haven't even managed to get into my sewing room to tidy, play with fabric or even switch the computer on for about 3 months.  Which is, incidentally, the length of time that I have been growing a baby for so far.  Which is fantastic, as we've been trying for 4 years to get past the 9 week stage. 

However, the reason I've not been around is that I've had ridiculous sickness.  Everyone's heard of morning sickness.  Not everybody though has heard of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG for short), which is much more serious and is the reason I have been flitting between a hospital bed and my mother's sofa.  Loosely translated, it just means 'extra sickness during pregnancy', but the latin makes it sound much closer to the severity that it actually is.  I was in hospital from week 5 to about week 8 or 9 (I actually can't remember, the weeks have all blurred into one by now) on a drip and unable to even drink sips of water, let alone eat anything.  I was home for a few days and back in a couple of times, by which point the drip sites were all used up and I was having trouble even allowing them to try and put one back in.

I have to say an amazing thank you to my mum, step-dad, mother- and father-in-laws for looking after me all this time, and even more importantly sometimes, walking the dog for me while I was unable to stand for more than a minute without being sick.

Today is my first day on my own.  I finally feel well enough not to rely on my mother to bring me food and drink, and look after the dog on my own (after my lovely husband has walked him of course). I have reached 15 weeks today.  I am one of the lucky ones, as many women that have HG do not get respite this early on.  Having researched it, I was fully prepared for it to carry on past 20 weeks and possibly even for the entire 9 months.  I don't know how I would cope with that, but many women do. 

It's a bit of a hidden illness because the poor women that have it cannot even get out and about to be seen to be ill - they just have to hide away in bed or on the sofa.  Many lose touch with their friends, and I can understand why.  It's almost impossible to keep in touch when you are constantly afraid that the said friend will turn up with perfume on, or smelling of coffee, or will be excessively sympathetic just when you are at an emotional low and can't cope.  Also, just looking at a phone or computer screen can make the sickness worse or bring on a vomiting session, so even responding to text messages can be almost impossible.

If this sounds like hell to you, believe me, it is.  So when I came across a charity that is all about supporting women with HG, I got all excited and have been using their support network to help keep me sane, reading blogs, getting advice etc.  It is a charity called Pregnancy Sickness Support, based here in the UK.  If anyone would like to help them raise money to spread awareness in both the public and medical professions, please follow this link and pledge some money, or even just offer support if you have been through it yourself.

Thank you all, and rant over. xxxxxx

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Mystery Solved!!

Behold!  My Mystery Quilt by Julie Coney is finished.  It's only taken me 2 years... (quirkyjules@gmail.comif you're interested in buying the pattern for your group)

Everyone else in the quilting group managed to finish theirs in order to show it in the summer show last year, but I got to the sandwiching stage and there it stuck.  I have now finished quilting it with lovely swirly vines, and after rejecting a couple of fabrics for the bindind, finally decided on a good old plain Kona cotton from Robert Kaufmann.  It looks fabulous, I don't know why it took me so blooming long to do it!  It'll now be my own personal tv snuggly quilt, rather than the one on the sofa to save it from the dog (which has huge holes in it, bit enough for the dog to walk through after he ripped it up playing with a stone).

I should really put a full sized picture up, but so far I've only managed to take one of it drying after its first wash...

But here are some photos I took during the quilting process as well...

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Housewarming edit...

I caved. I didn't like the quilting I did on the housewarming quilt, so I decided to enhance it. Instead of ripping things up and starting again, I thought I would add to it instead. I really like some of the stuff I did with a double needle and how it looked like it swirled (even though it had a hard time doing corners), so I though I'd try and make it look a little like that. I basically went over the same pattern I did before, but intentionally not going over it carefully, and in fact making it wander and go bigger and smaller and generally put more movement into it...

 It also means that I did this after the binding was put on, and I really liked the effect I got when I sewed over the binding as well in order to connect things without having to break the thread and sew any more ends in...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A Housewarming

My latest project is done.  I've been making a housewarming present for one of my sisters, and fantastically, when I asked her what colours she would like, so it goes nicely in a particular room, she said that her sofa was blue and her kitchen was green, so I could pick which one I wanted and work accordingly.

So I looked through my stash and came across the collection of charm squares that I won from Quilty Magee, which is both blue and green and beautiful in equal measures. It's also pretty close to the colours of fabric I seem to stash for no reason, so with a bit of searching,  found some perfect additions to make it (I thought) into a reasonable sized present.

I did a disappearing 9 patch with them, and got as far as making something that was nowhere near as big as I'd expected.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take measurements as I was doing it, so after going through my stash to find more fabrics to add to the ones I'd already added, I did the same sort of size again, but with an estimate as to the size of squares, because I'm useless and can't remember the last thing I measured, ony a few minutes ago.  Doh!

So I ended up with one section, plus 5 more strips of an almost equivalent width.  So how on earth to make them fit?  After a bit of head scratching I decided to undo the first bit I did to half the size, then place the strips in between and at both ends to make a long strip, then fold it in half and sew down the middle.  This made it a quite acceptable 1.3m long and about 60 cm wide. This means that it can be used as a sofa throw or a table runner/table cloth depending on what they want to do at the time.  And with it being a disappearing 9 patch that I made up by adding stuff on the side, none of the blocks are the same, so having unpicked, folded and cut it is not really noticeable because nothing matches anyway!

The quilting on top isn't great, but it was quick.  I don't know why, but this project was getting on my nerves, even though I was enjoying piecing it, and I love the colours.  I'm also giving it to her on Sunday, so I didn't want to agonise over things, only to not be finished in time (which I'm sure she's expecting anyway...).  The binding was actually bought for the mystery quilt, but the colours didn't go quite as well on that as I thought, but were perfect for this one.

I'm going out now to cuddle a sick ferret.  Wesley has been losing weight and appetite recently and we don't know why :-(