Sunday, 29 August 2010

Progress on a WIP

My shopping at Festival of Quilts seems to have spurred me to new efforts to complete some WIPs.  I did promise I would finish something started each time I wanted to start a new project...
This is what I've done today.
It's the final block in my Lynne Edwards' sampler quilt project which has been going on for quite a while.  I love the Mariner's Compass but have been very nervous about doing it.  I'm happy enough with the foundation piecing but haven't set the compass into the background very well (my excuse is that I was running out of concentration by that point), I will re-do it.
I still have to put together all the panes for the Attic Windows block and two blocks, Bear's Paw and Tumbling Blocks, need some background fabric.  To inspire me further I have laid all the blocks out on the guest bed so that I can consider the layout each time I go in there.
What do you think?
I have to decide on sashing and borders, backing and quilting, but I can see the end of this quilt.  It is destined for our bed so my intention is to finish it before the weather turns really chilly.
You can see some of the other blocks here:  Log Cabin September 2009Drunkard's Path September 2009, May 2010,    Couthouse Steps January 2010,  
and here is the post of some of the fabric arriving, back in August last year!

Japanese Style in Unexpected Places

I bought this Jansport backpack in TKMaxx in Norwich last week and adore the Japanese-style stitchery and origami peace crane decoration on the lovely purple bag.  Just had to share!  Such simple pleasures make life good.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Current Global Swaps

Any member of Global Piecers can suggest a swap and organise it for the rest of the group.  Members can join in a swap or not - but we only receive if we give! 
At the moment we are coming to the end of our first Fabric Postcard Swap which Carol has masterminded for us. 
Some have already committed their creations to the postal system ("nude" or in envelopes according to their faith in the service) and others should be on their way around the globe by 15th September.  There was no specific theme and it will be really exciting to see what has been created and to decide how to display the cards.  I'm thinking a mini-washing line with those small craft clothes pegs might be fun.  These are the fabric postcards on their way from Teresa, adorned with vintage embroidery, I wonder which is for me?  The postcards I made are at Online Quilting.
Throughout the year we have had a Birthday Fat Quarter Swap.  We have a database showing our favourite colours and stitching techniques and when our birthday comes along every other member of Global Piecers who has opted into this swap sends us two FQs in fabrics they think we will love and a birthday card.  I have just had my birthday and it was wonderful to receive a whole series of delightful packages from my quilting friends all over the world with lots of gorgeous fabrics and some additional goodies too sometimes (optional but very much appreciated).  This is what arrived from Sal this morning:
I think everybody has enjoyed the Birthday Swap and I'm sure all the Global Piecers will join in again next year.
Our next swaps will be an Autumn/Fall block swap, a Christmas block swap and a Secret Santa swap.

Thread Tangle Nightmare

I have been having a nightmare with my sewing machine and then found this on Yahoo Answers.  I've put it here for my future reference and to help anyone with the same frustrating nightmare - why didn't I learn this before?
This works beautifully, no more tangles and frustration.  I am a happy sewing bunny this morning :) 

Question:  What's wrong with my sewing machine and how can I fix it?

When I run it, after a couple seconds the thread gets screwed up and jerks and then basically creates this huge snagged tangle on the bottom side of the fabric and I have to rip everything out, and re-thread the needle etc. It takes forever to get anything done when this keeps happening every five seconds after I've rethreaded.
Is something misaligned in my machine? and what can I do to fix it?
Answer:  from Kay at
Most likely, you're just starting your seams incorrectly, but let's do the whole bit...

1) Take all the thread off of/out of the machine. Completely. Spool off the spool pin. Backlashed thread can cause some strange symptoms.

2) Using your manual, and a brush and vacuum (NOT COMPRESSED AIR!) clean the sewing machine as best you can. Oil all the oiling points with sewing machine oil (not 3 in 1 or WD40).

3) Put in a new needle of the proper type and size for the fabric. If you have no idea of what to use, a size 80/12 universal point needle will work with most fabrics. Make sure the needle is correctly inserted... backwards needles give you no stitching or skipped stitches. Dull or slightly bent needles produce really strange symptoms, too.

4) Rethread the sewing machine from scratch, leaving about a 4" tail of upper and lower thread after you've fetched the bobbin thread up through the needleplate. Make sure you thread with the presser foot UP, which allows the upper thread to properly enter the upper tension.

5) If you 've been playing with the upper tension, set it back to 4 -- that's normal tension for most fabrics and most stitches.


Each and every seam you start from now on, you'll do this:

1) Raise the presser foot and place the work under the needle.
2) Use the handwheel on the right to lower the needle into the work.
3) Drop the presser foot.
4) Grab the ends of the threads (both bobbin and top) and hold them in your left hand behind the foot. Don't let go.
5) Take a couple of stitches
6) Drop the thread ends
7) Sew normally.

What's happening is that the loose tail of upper thread is getting sucked back into the bobbin case area when you start to stitch, and then the upper thread starts making a birdsnest on the bottom of the fabric with more upper thread that it captures in the next few stitches. Eventually it jams the bobbin and your machine stops. If you're unlucky, it also breaks the stitch finger and you've got a repair bill.

I charge my sewing students a quarter every time I catch them making rats nests at the beginning of seams. It rarely costs them over $2 to learn    Kay

Friday, 27 August 2010

Rust-Tex Koi

I've been looking at the Rust-Tex website since enjoying their display at Festival of Quilts and found this lovely piece of work, Koi.  Here's the detail of one fish: 
I can't seem to find the name of the artist but here are the notes:
During the winter months I am driven from my outdoor dye studio by snow and low temperatures. I spend winter using the fabric I rust dyed in the summer. These koi were stenciled onto a fat eighth of Rust-Tex using a commercially produced stencil. I used the colors Bronze and Pewter from the Lumiere line of Jacquard brand fabric paints.  11"x18"
There is more to enjoy here:
I found this so inspiring I thought you would enjoy it too!

A Day of Surprises

I went for a walk with my grandson, Wills, this morning to take all our bottles to the recycling bank and he spotted this amazing bracker fungus on a tree in the village.  I only had my phone with me but took this picture.  It is really large and so rich and velvety and seems to have a whole range of creatures living under the shelter of it.
Then getting the washing in this afternoon I spotted this incredible moth, it showed flashes of orange/buff as it flew away and I believe it was a Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes) but I'm happy to be corrected on that.
On a non-nature note I had a wonderful surprise today when my daughter, Sara, and smaller grandson, Sam, arrived here to go out to lunch, with my big boy, David, in their car.  Wow, smiles and hugs and tears, it was so great.  He's up from London for a few days and wanted to surprise me, he certainly did that, I was a very happy Mummy.
Lunch at Townley's in East Kirkby (good, home-cooked meals and a fantastic on-site butcher).
David with his nephews.
Sam in his Uncle David's shoes, with Grandad for support!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

How Did Global Piecers Begin?

The origins of our little group stem from another swap group, Fiona Marie's Great Global Christmas Swap.  Fiona Marie organises an annual festive swap to promote worldwide quilting friendships and to raise some money for children's cancer charities.
Last year I was paired with Sal and previously she had been partnered with Twila and so our group grew.  Sal has visited the South Dakota contingent and I met up with Katrina when I was in New Zealand.  Sadly Sal and I have failed to meet up twice, once we didn't meet in Sydney and then we didn't meet in England - third time lucky I hope.  We exchange frequent emails, "chat" on Facebook and send each other goodies once in a while, just because we want to.

As now is the time to sign up for GGCS I wanted to promote it here and encourage you to give it a go, great things come from small acorns.  Who would have thought that eight quilters across the world would be having lovely swaps and developing wonderful friendships?  Today I received two parcels of fabric as we have a birthday Fat Quarter Swap - what could be better than fabric arriving from the other side of the world?  We are currently organsing swaps for the rest of the year.  I'll post the details of what we are doing and would appreciate your thoughts.

What is the Great Global Christmas Swap?
Patchwork quilting and stitching has a global following and the Great Global Christmas Swap is about making
the acquaintance of a stitcher from another country, who shares your passion for this craft, and exchanging a
small gift.  The theme of the 2010 Great Global Christmas Swap is “Bag a Fat Quarter for Christmas”.
How do I join?
You will be able to register from August 2010. Visit the swap page at for more
What happens next?
You will be matched with a stitcher who has registered from another country, and sent their contact
details. You will also receive a link to a Swap web page with FREE patterns supplied by Natalie Ross In
Stitches, House on the Hill Pattern Co. and Bronwyn Hayes of Red Brolly Designs. Previous swap
patterns designed by Kookaburra Cottage, Leanne’s House, and Bronwyn Hayes will also be available to download.
Registration fee is $NZ15 ($US11: €8.50 ) Payment can be made securely online using most major credit cards or Paypal. $NZ1 from every registration will be donated to Camp Quality (Christchurch branch), an organisation that brings fun and happiness into the lives of children living with cancer.

Festival of Quilts 2 - My New Kimono

This is the kimono I bought from Susan Briscoe at the Festival of Quilts.  You can see why I was tempted, it is so "my colours".  In fact Susan's entire stand seemed to be draped in the tones of autumn, wonderful golds, oranges and rusts, all shimmery and silky and gorgeous and complemented by Japanese traditional indigo blues.  I'm not sure how I escaped with buying so little actually.

The kimono Susan labelled as,
"1930s meisen silk kimono - may be blended with other fibre"
and I'm more than happy to take her word on that!  I've found two definitions for the fabric/style:

meisen : The "meisen" style silk kimono was the most popular garment at the beginning of the Showa era. It is very different from fancy Furisode or other formal kimono, but this is one of the kimono which people wore everyday at home. The people over 60 years old feel so nostalgic seeing this kimono. The principal characteristic of meisen is its interesting surface decoration made by pre-dyed threads. As the fabric is woven the surface decoration appears as a shimmering, soft-edged pattern. The technique is related to earlier methods kasuri (ikat), in which threads are resisted before dyeing and weaving, and e-gasuri ("picture-ikat"), a Japanese innovation in which threads are resisted, rather than direct-dyed, with the use of a stencil.
Because of the events such as World War I and the Kanto earthquake( 1923 ) there was an intensified demand for silk garments, and as the result, by the beginning of the Showa period, the production and popularity of meisen kimono was at its height. Meisen kimono were affordable, durable, smart attire for everyday wear loved by everyone.  

Meisen fabrics are strong, amazing silks made from the cocoon of the silkworm. Meisen pieces are highly collectible as they were only made from the 1920s -1950s.

This is a length of silk that I could not leave behind.  I am thinking of using it as an obi with this kimono, or with the gold one I bought in Tokyo in May.  I shall have to have a trying on session and get your opinions, but for the moment I am just stroking it and admiring it.  As well as the wonderful colours it has such a great texture, beautiful.

New Blogger and Website

You might remember that when I was in New Zealand earlier this year I visited a great quilt shop with Michelle and told you there would soon been a website and blog. Well, it has finally happened. Claire has set up a website for her shop, Cinnamon Lodge in Hawera, Taranaki, and she's started a blog too, Cinnamon Girl. I'm sure there will be loads of inspirational posts reflecting Claire's own style so do pop over and welcome her to Blogland please, she's lovely.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Karin Hellaby Creates Pineapple Blocks

This is a great method of creating pineapple blocks that we enjoyed Karin demonstrating at Festival of Quilts.

Fabric Postcards, Improving

I have so many ideas fighting in my head after Festival of Quilts that I hardly knew where to start this morning.  I put away all my purchases and tidied my sewing room a little and then decided I needed to start and finish a complete piece of work today.  I have recently joined the British Quilt List Postcard Group and am having a little swap with the co-ordinator, Claire Scott, before I get going on any of their full swaps.  Inspired by Gail Lawther's New Zealand quilts and my own time in that wonderful country I decided to make a postcard which would be the "Final Day at the Beach this Summer".
I enjoyed looking at some of my photographs over a nice cup of mint tea and then created this:
It's much more successful that the ones I made with a card backing, this one has iron-on pelmet vilene as the middle layer and I applied the fabric to a base of muslin.  The edges are not as good as I would like but I'm getting better.  I hope it survives the postal system.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Festival of Quilts 2010 - Quilts to Inspire and Delight

These are some of the quilts I admired at Festival of Quilts last week.  I have taken the notes from the Twisted Thread Catalogue of Competition Entries.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did and I congratulate all the entrants for their wonderful and inspiring work.

This is "A Moment In Time" by Sue Rhodes of Heathfield, The fabric was hand dyed and screen printed cotton sateen, pieced bargello-style, with machine trapunto and free machine quilting.  A sea-lily falls onto an ancient sea bed, breaks, and becomes enclosed forever, trapped within fossilised bands of rock strata.
Below is "The Snow"  by Sue Hunt of Solihull, and a detail of the quilt,  Hand printed, pieced, hand and machine quilted.  I took photographs of my garden in the snow, also Edward Elgar's piece "The Snow" words by Alice Cooper.

Next I admired the Winner of the Quilters' Guild Challenge the theme of which was "Summer In The City".  This is by Cherry Vernon-Harcourt of Saffron Walden, A whole cloth quilt, Procion dyed fabric.  Screen printed and scraped with discharge paste and procion dye.  City coastal lands are the inspiration for this quilt.
Birgitta Debenham of Dorchester appealed to my love of Japanese textile style with this wonderful piece, "Seven Stars", Whole cloth shibori: stitched resist, pole warpped and painted with metallic fabric paint, machine quilted.  Applied beads and pailettes.  Cotton/polyester batting.
Detail of "Seven Stars":
Coats Crafts sponsored a showcase of quilt "Diversity in Europe" and I liked this piece by Svava K Egilsson of Iceland called "Magic-Bridge".
My next quilt to share is rather an unusual choice for me but I thought it was wonderful in detail, softness and concept.  It is Jennifer Hollingdale's "Button Up", linens and cotton shirting, recycled pieces of clothing, vintage button cards, buttons and tape - scree printed images of buttons, cut-up, reassembled, machine pieced, hand quilted and applied, buttoned together using rouleaux loops, 118 x 118 cm.
Here is a little closer look:
Finally, a quilt that was of special interest and a particular source of inspiration for me as I will be visiting Marrakech later this year. If only I am able to create something as wonderful as Pauline Barnes of Sutton Coldfield's "Marrakech", Hand dyed fabric, Thermolam, various fabric incl. sheers, matallics, silk etc.  Print, apint; applique, quilting, and stitching all by machine.  The buildings are covered - inside and out - with tiles, plaster work, filigree, mosaics.  An abstract look at this 'busy' architecture.

Festival of Quilts 2010

I've posted about my visit to the Festival of Quilts at Online Quilting, both about the wonderful quilts I saw exhibited there and about the various purchases I made (well, it's rude not to isn't it?) and here I want to share the Japanese goodies I brought home from Birmingham.
My first stop was at Susan Briscoe's stand where I bought some lovely vintage kimono fabric pieces which I am going to use for some fabric postcards, all gorgeous autumnal leaves on a sashiko background (hopefully).
I've never made a doll but I couldn't resist this kimono-clad doll kit from Step By Step Patchwork Centre.
And I negotiated for two free FQs with the purchase, I feel a bag coming on!
There were other trade stalls selling Japanese fabrics but I have to say I was surprised at how much variation there was in both price and quality.  It was worth having a good look (and feel) around before settling on what to buy and I'm very happy with what I brought home.

I enjoyed seeing this Japanese-inspired jacket in the exhibition, I hope you can see the detail in the photograph.  The garments, "Gifts 'Round the World'" by Elizabeth Shapland  included curved piecing, applique, beading, hand-quilting with speciality threads and Japanese-style knotted insert strips.
A great find came at the very end of the day, just as I was heading towards the exit.  A stand filled with Japanese fabrics, all half metres, all £3 each.  On the stand were a young couple from California who come over to Festival of Quilts each year.  A shop in Chichester also stocks some of their gorgeous Japanese fabrics.  It's The Eternal Maker and is, of course, on my must visit list now.
It was difficult to select just a few fabrics (and they could only take cash so I was limited) but I was inspired by the indigo and terracotta quilt on display on the stand and so I went for these:

Festival of Quilts 2010 - Part 2

I promised to share my Festival of Quilts loot with you so here goes.  As I am a little partial to textiles Japanese I did veer towards traders that were offering such goodies.  In fact so much so that my friend Trish started to tease me, just a little, "Look, there's some fabric called "Tokyo"...on that stall".  I had a great time at Susan Briscoe's stand (which was high on my list of those to visit) and then, as we were heading for the exit I found a wonderful array of Japanese fabrics that I was totally unable to resist - last minute impulse buys, brilliant.  Please head over to my other blog for Japanese eye candy and links later this week.
Not all my purchases were oriental though.  I "needed" to stock up with wonderful Aurifil thread and as soon as I saw Alex Veronelli across the hall I made a beeline for the gorgeousness of their threads.  I bought the absolutely fabulous Rose of Sharon collection by Sharon Pederson. 
 Isn't that a divine set of colours?  I use Cotton Mako' 40 weight for most things, Aurifil say:

Cotton Mako' 40
Ideal for Machine Quilting , it is a little heavier to show off the quilting stitches. This is the "universal" thread weight in the Mako' range, perfect for quilting, as it is a little finer than the Mako' 28 "Quilting" thread it is great for ditch stitching and fine detail work, while still having sufficient definition to look good when you want the thread and stitching to show. Available on 1000 metre (1094 yd)  green plastic spool holder. 

I also bought a large cone of a basic grey and some delicious variegated threads, mmmmmmmmm.  Love this thread.  It is expensive but it stitches smoothly and finely with little lint and fluff, well worth the extra cash in my opinion. 
My next port of call was at Art Van Go, a wonderful supplier of all things fabric art, dyeing and messy.  This is more Trisha's area, she does exciting, embellished, experimental work, but I want to try my hand at dyeing - I haven't done it since I was a primary school teacher and my whole class made Dylon tie-dyed, underwater-themed cushions.  The choice of powders and potions was a little overwhelming so I made a selection from the "starter" kits and am now waiting for a dry, warmish day to get outside and take steps into this new and interesting area.  Of course, faced with all the goodies available I couldn't stop at one kit so I now have
Procion MX Dye Starter Pack
Contains six mixing colours in red, yellow and blue
as selected by Ruth Issett. 200gms Urea, 6
Pipettes, foam brush and easy instructions.
(Washing soda/soda ash, salt and Calgon also
11103 £15.95

Indigo Starter Pack
Indigo Vat 60% grains and Hydros, plus gloves, mask
and complete instructions. Will make an Indigo Vat of
15 litres or more.
14103 £9.00
'Peeznkarat' Cyanotype Kit
Create beautiful permanent blueprints on fabrics
and other surfaces. Chemicals to treat approx. 1m
natural fabrics. Instructions included
17101 £7.25
I was delighted to meet Gail Lawther who has recently published a wonderful book about her series of New Zealand quilts called "Glimpses of New Zealand.  We had tried to get a place on her workshop but, unsurprisingly, they were sold out on the day booking opened.  Instead I bought Trish and I the kit 
which we would have used in the workshop and we're going to have fun working together to create our own interpretations of Gail's New Zealand seascape wallhanging (far left on the book cover below).
Of course there was fabric, what were you thinking of me?  Not as much as I expected to buy actually but, apart from the impulse Japanese fabrics I was buying for planned projects - impressed?  I bought this selection from Quilt Essential for an autumn block swap:
and these from Doughty's for a Christmas block swap:
and then I was off my list and seriously into impulse buying!  The first was a doll kit and I don't even make dolls, but she was wearing a kimono, what could I do?  Especially when I cheekily bagged two free FQs with the purchase from Step By Step Patchwork Centre!  
 The second was this:

 Can you tell what it is yet?
It is mulberry bark.  I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with it but I just wanted it.  I love the look of it, the texture and the colours and it wasn't expensive (£2.50 for that piece) so how could I resist?  There's a little more about it here at 
Here is one of my final purchases, gorgeous eh?  I'll put the rest at Sashiko Started It later on so do pop over there and enjoy.