Thursday, 30 June 2011

Wisbech Rose Festival

I have had a lovely day out today and, although I'm feeling a little weary, I want to share it with you.  We went to Wisbech, the Capital of the Fens, for their annual Rose Festival.  This began in 1963 when local rose growers sold rose buds to raise funds for the restoration fund at St Peter's Church.  Now all the churches in the town work together with local charities, schools and arts groups to put on a wonderful festival that lasts for four days and which includes flower festivals, craft stalls, music, art exhibitions, church services and a parade of floats.  We were blessed with good weather today (although some of the clouds were ominous) and so here is my photographic trip to Wisbech:
 Some of the craft and charity stalls in the gardens of the church of St Peter and St Paul
 The delightful Georgian Crescent built in 1816 by local builder and speculator, Joseph Medworth
North Brink and the River Nene.  
18th century merchants and landowners built their elegant mansions along the north and south banks of the river.
Thomas Clarkson was one of the early leaders of the Abolitionist movement and was born in Wisbech where he was the Headmaster of the Grammar School.  This memorial to him and his work in bringing about the end of the African slave trade stands on Bridge Street. 

Here are some of the wonderful flower displays and arrangements.  The theme was "Milestones" and this first one was about the discovery of gravity by Sir Isaac Newton.

There were arrangements for each of the main wedding anniversary themes.  This pink confection is for 20 years, the China anniversary (which we'll reach this October, hint hint DH):

 and this lovely blue display celebrates the Sapphire anniversary for 45 years of marriage:
The next two displays that caught my eye (mainly for that lovely Singer sewing machine) were recalling milestones in the home:

We had to eat of course and, as well as wonderful cream teas, strawberries and ice creams on offer in the churches and marquees around the town, the local pubs and cafes were doing a great trade and were all decked out with flowers.  We ate lunch in the beer garden of the Hare and Hounds on North Brink:

Finally, can you believe this?  I found a quilt exhibition!!  Also on North Brink was the Friends Meeting House, the building designed by Algernon Peckover in 1854 which replaced the original Quaker Meeting House which was created from two adjoining thatched cottages on the site in 1711.  The Quaker Quilting Exhibition included work from about 1899 to the present and these were the quilts that spoke to me most strongly:
 The Peace Demonstrations Banner by Norwich Quaker Quilters
 Baskets of Chintz by Chrissie Hawkes, 1996
 The Abolition of Slavery Quilt by Freedom Quilters, 2007
 Janie's Secret Quilt, owned by Edith Green, c.1899
Finally, more flowers.  These beautiful orchids commemorate the people of the Wisbech area who gave their lives in the Far East between 15 February 1942 - 15 August 1945, either in captivity or in action.  The tablet was dedicated by members of The Singapore Club, Wisbech.
Thank you for joining me, I hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Out of this World - BritQuilt Swap done!

My quilt for the first BritQuilt Swap is all parcelled up and ready to go in the post tomorrow.  As you know this has been an interesting challenge for me.  Lime and purple are not really "my" colours but my partner likes colour and so I was happy to give it a go.  I enjoyed foundation piecing the background cloth and then going a bit mad with the embroidery stitches, beads and buttons to decorate the quilt.  It grew out of a postcard swap I did to represent the piece of music by Gustav Holst called The Planets Suite and so I've called the quilt, "Out of this World". (It's much more square than it looks by the way)  Here are some close-ups of the details:

Today I received this most wonderful quilt, from Plum.  She offered it as a giveaway on her blog after making it in a stay at home round robin and I was the lucky person who has it to stay at my home.  I've taken a few photos to show some of the lovely detail.  Look at that little girl and the hill she has to climb, it speaks to me.  Thank you Plum.

I had a very excited phone call from DD this morning to say she's got flowers on her French beans.  She is so enthusiastic about her new garden and I'm delighted that she's having success.  To be able to go and harvest something you've grown and then eat it is one of life's sweetest pleasures.  She's blogged about her gardening here and is doing a happy dance!
I'm doing a happy dance too as I had a meeting with Tina today (I met her at the Quilters' Guild AGM in Exeter in April and discovered we live about six miles from one another) and we are going to start a new quilting group in Sibsey in Lincolnshire.  The first meeting is going to be on Tuesday 20th September so please email me if you're local and interested.  All the quilt groups nearby are full and have membership waiting lists and so we hope there is room for another group.  It's early days of course but we have lots of ideas for workshops and activities.  We're hoping to have a trader at our first meeting, and cake!

Monday, 27 June 2011

My Weekend - But No Photos

I managed to forget my camera so have no photographs to show you but here's a progress report anyway.

On Friday I went to my quilting group, Mustard Seed Quilters, and finished my swap quilt for the BritQuilt Swap.  It has to be in the post on 1st July so that was a bit close for comfort but it met with approval at my group so I do hope my partner is going to like it.  I'll post about it and the one I receive in the swap all together when I have my camera.

On Saturday I went to a Quilters' Guild fun day in North Walsham.  There were lots of people there and the usual attractions - Barbara from Sew Creative was the trader, there was bring and buy, lots of quilting magazines going for 50p each, a good raffle and Steve from The Sewing Machine Centre was there (which was my main downfall!)  As well as the opportunity to eat cake and chat with quilting friends there were two lovely workshops.  Margaret Currie taught us how to make fabric flowers and brooches and then Heather Hasthorpe taught us how to fold an origami box, first in paper and then in fabric.  Photos will follow.  I was also very honoured when a fellow quilter asked me to show her how to do sashiko stitching and she made a lovely start to her sample piece.  I got the last of the cherry blossoms made and stitched to my Mount Fuji quiltlet so it just needs backing and binding but there's no sewing going on here today.  For those of you used to higher temperatures this will sound pathetic but we in the south of England are currently baking with temperatures of 32C and it's getting more and more humid and stormy, not a day for picking up a needle.  A little gentle weeding in the shade and a lot of sitting down with a cooling drink is what I'm up to today.  What are you doing?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

In The Top Three

Excellent news,go here and read all about the Unfolding the Quilts project, it's through to the top three.  More votes will be needed from 2 September, please, and thank you to everyone who voted in this round.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Twin Needle Tutorial and More

Many of you have asked me to share the twin needle method of attaching bias tape.  This was taught to us at the "Vistas of Japan" workshop by Gail Lawther.  In her books and pattern packs she shares some ideas for attaching the bias tape with ordinary stitching and also with decorative embroidery stitches.
  • Twin needles are available in a variety of widths and the important thing is to get the right width for the bias tape you'll be using.  With Gail we used quarter inch fusible bias tape (from Clover) and a 4/80 twin needle and stitched with a very small zigzag.  This created a pleasing slightly raised faux trapunto effect. 
Looking on the internet I've found there are also twin needles available for using with metallic threads - this could be a whole new area of experimentation!
  • The twin needle goes in your machine just like an ordinary needle and then you need two reels of cotton of the same colour and weight (or of different colours of course, more room for experimentation).  Most machines have additional spool pins for this but if your doesn't wind two bobbins with thread and put them on your spool pin with the threads going in opposite directions.  
  • Thread the machine almost as usual, check your manual.  With mine I need to omit the last thread guide with one thread.  With some machines it is possible to thread either side of the tension discs. 
  •  Use a presser foot that allows you to see where you're going!  My machine says use the plastic T foot. 
  • Then carefully try the machine out, not by pressing the foot pedal but rather by gently turning the handle.  If nothing crunches you're good to go - on a practice piece first.
Gail's method sounds remarkably straightforward but I think we were all terrified of it.  However, it turned out to be remarkably straightforward!
Now straight is the keyword here, applying the bias tape in curved lines is what is naturally wants to do, being bias tape. 
Applying it straight takes a bit of practice -
  • press with the tip of the iron at the beginning and then at the end of the line you're following and then press between those points.  
Sewing round corners is a whole new skill.  Applying the tape with the iron is fun, it turns corners rather neatly, but twin needles don't pivot! 
  • When you reach a fold (and make sure you are sewing so that the folds have their "back" to the needle so that the presser foot doesn't nestle in the fold), 

stop and raise the needle.  Then turn your work a little, keeping the needle on the inner side of the turn in the same place,
then take another stitch and repeat until you're on the straight again.  Gail described it as being like those marching bands at tattoos where the people on the outside end of the line have to run while those at the inside end just march on the spot and the whole line revolves.  Does that help?

Practise and have fun, I think this stained glass method could be appearing quite a lot in my work. 
Thanks Gail.
Clover fusible bias tape is a horrific price in UK.  You can make you own (yeah right) or you can get a friend who's visiting USA to bring some back.  I'm trying to find a reasonably priced source....any suggestions?

I also want to show off my lovely cherry blossoms that I've added to my Mount Fuji quiltlet.
The flowers are a development of the Suffolk Puff (or yo-yo as it's now commonly called) with the puff pulled in towards the centre several times and then a scattering of beads added in the middle, cute eh?  This quilt is nearly all done now (I hope I'll get it backed and bound at quilting group on Friday) and I'm pleased with it.  I'm intending to make another of Gail's patterns in the Japanese series, possibly the Japanese Sand Garden.

British P&Q magazine have recently started a blog and are planning to have some special quilty goodness in cyberspace.  There will be blog buttons for all those talented bloggers out there who produce such wonderful material that is featured in the magazine....that's you Lynne and you I have such star connections, or who blog about articles they have liked or prizes they have won. There'll be some special blog giveaways - please spread the word and watch this space! Look out in the magazine too for hints when you need to check out the FB page!

Finally for today, here's the quilt I'm making for the BritQuilt Swap - I hope this will be finished on Friday too, it's due in the post at the beginning of July.  It has been very interesting for me to work with these fabrics which aren't "mine" at all but I have had some praise for the quiltlet and hope my partner in the swap will like it (or at least be kind).
That's all for today, I'm off to watch Wimbledon.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Last Chance to Vote

You have just under an hour to vote for the "Unfolding the Quilts" project - click on the blue button to the right.

This is what the QGBI say about it:

In a world of smartphones, laptops and e-readers, quilting might seem like an outdated tradition, but the art form is thriving thanks to the efforts The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles and the recently opened Quilt Museum and Gallery in York. Displaying the Guild’s collection of more than 800 historic and contemporary quilts to the public for the first time, the Museum and Gallery opened in 2008 and is supported by a large team of eager and passionate volunteers.
National Lottery funding has enabled the museum to employ a full-time education officer and part-time volunteer organiser and offer an extensive volunteer programme, recruiting and training up to 80 people at a time. The volunteers, who come from a variety of backgrounds, help out through stewarding and assisting with exhibition changeovers, education workshops, conservation, displays and administration. “The volunteers benefit in many ways,” says The Guild’s Chief Executive Liz Whitehouse. “They learn about the collection, can practice their sewing skills and make new friends.”
The quilts on display at the museum are both a work of art and a fascinating slice of domestic history. “We have some on display that have a real story attached,” Liz says, “like the quilts made by the Canadian Red Cross for displaced British people in the Second World War, or the quilt made for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee that the maker had to give to the landlord in lieu of rent.” These sit alongside bold pieces of contemporary quilting.
The dedication of the volunteers has been crucial in helping the museum to set up a successful education programme that has so far reached over 7,000 people, teaching practical sewing skills and the history, art and craft of patchwork and quilting. The museum works with both children and adults including young mothers, people recovering from mental health issues and elderly people in care homes. “Quilting is very therapeutic,” says Liz. “People have always been interested in making things. Now that so many things are done on a computer, quilting gives you an opportunity to use a different mindset and use your hands to make something beautiful.” 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Friday Night Sew-In: Late!

This is a very late post for Friday Night Sew-In as it's now a wet and grey Sunday morning here in the Fens.  On Friday I was very weary so I didn't actually do a lot of stitching and have nothing to show you.  I did read a quilting magazine and clean my sewing machine ready for a visit to DD on Saturday though.

Yesterday I made a fairly early start for a day with DD working on her bedroom.  We made drapes to cover her shelves and hanging spaces and although we didn't get finished she's very happy with the progress we made.  We also covered her dressing table stool with a new fabric which looks really good but I was in trouble as I sat on it first!!  Saz's aiming for a rich, luxurious atmosphere in her room which is her oasis of calm and a place to escape to and relax (except when DGS gets into the roof space and causes panic).

Today is Fathers' Day here in UK so I'm off to phone my Daddy and see what he's been up to recently.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A New Kid on the Blog

Sorry about that excruciating post title, I couldn't resist!
My DD, Sara (Saz),  has just started a blog and I just want to introduce her to you and I hope you will go over and support her.  As you know she has the wonderful Sam for her son and is doing a great job of bringing him up and doing all sorts of other amazing things too, I'm very proud of her.  Her blog is called Tulips and Cherry Trees and I can promise you there'll be lots of pictures of my wonderful GS Sam.
In case you just can't wait...Sam stayed with us last night as Saz was doing a Latin exam today, I couldn't resist taking his picture when he'd gone to sleep, bless him.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Quilting Is Good For Us, part 2

There's more about quilting being good for us here:

I hope that made you smile.  Now back to my workshop with Gail Lawther...

We arrived on Sunday and Gail got us working almost immediately.  We chose either the Mount Fuji picture or a lovely Japanese boat on a lily pond for our project and she gave us the other pattern to take home so that we could have a pair of quiltlets eventually.  We started by piecing the picture with an easy one step reverse applique method and then applied bias tape to give the stained glass effect to our quilts.  This is Gail holding up my quilt before I'd got started with the bias tape and she gave me the ultimate compliment, she said she liked my version better than hers!  Wow, wow, wow, I did a happy dance I can tell you.
While we worked Gail constantly moved around the group of 15 ladies, helping and advising where necessary and in the case of this photo below getting a little frustrated with one sewing machine!  It happens to us all.
We did stop for lunch but felt as if we worked flat out all day.  We worked at our our pace with Gail calling us together for mini teach-ins on various aspects of the project.  One of these was how to apply the bias tape and then sew it into place using a twin needle.  What a fantastic technique.  It works really well and gives a slightly raised effect, like a piece of trapunto work, very nice.  In fact I think I learned more techniques in this workshop than in any other single workshop I've attended and I was shattered at the end of the day!
This is my friend Ros with her quilt, as you can see she chose the pattern with the boat and lily pads.  Didn't she get a fantastic piece of fabric for her sky?
Finally, here we all are with our almost finished quilts.  For most people finishing will require adding folded fabric flowers (we learned four different styles during the day) and some handquilting and then applying the backing fabric and stitching the binding, not many hours work at all.  I love it when I'm able to make good progress during a workshop, so much better than ending up with another UFO!
By the way, some of the Kiwi quilters who worked with Gail during her visits to New Zealand and in particular to Symposium in Queenstown earlier this year asked me to pass on their greetings which I did, I have to tell you she was very chuffed!
To finish here is the glorious photo of Mount Fuji that inspired my fabric choices for this quilt.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Quilting Is Good For Us, part 1

A report was recently published online that makes interesting reading but probably won't surprise us.
Emily L. Burt, Postgraduate Student and Jacqueline Atkinson, Professor of Mental Health Policy, have looked into the connections between health and craft hobbies and report:

"Results: Cognitive, emotional and social processes were uncovered, which participants identified as important for their wellbeing. Participants found quilting to be a productive use of time and an accessible means of engaging in free creativity. Colour was psychologically uplifting. Quilting was challenging, demanded concentration and participants maintained and learned new skills. Participants experienced ‘flow’ while quilting. A strong social network fostered the formation of strong friendships. Affirmation from others boosted self-esteem and increased motivation for skill development. Quilts were often given altruistically and gave quilting added purpose." 

I had a weekend supporting all of those results as I attended a Lincolnshire Quilters' Guild Area Day and a workshop with Gail Lawther.
We arrived to find slight panic as the hall was in some state of disarray with no kitchen and a lack of tables but the "keep calm and sew on" spirit kicked in and we were all making new friends as we sat closely together on the tables that were available.
We had a lovely little Cathedral Window workshop, an inspiring "show and tell" and a very generous faith lunch, further confirming my belief that quilting and cake is a great combination - maybe I should do a study on that <VBG>

I got a lovely surprise when somebody said, "Hello Lis" 
and it turned out to be the lovely Julie who writes at Mixed Media a blog full of exciting things, do pop over and say "hello" to her.
After lunch it was time for the guest speaker, Gail Lawther, and she delighted us with her Glimpses of New Zealand talk, showing us all of the quilts in her series and telling stories related to them and, of course, to her times in NZ.
This is Gail speaking about the wallhanging that represents Rotorua and all the wonderful colours created in the geothermal pools there.  And then, what a delight, we were allowed to touch the quilts and get a really close look at all Gail's wonderful and varied techniques:
There was, of course, plenty of opportunity to open our purses!  Gail had brought her books and patterns, there was a wonderful sales table courtesy of the Lincolnshire quilters, and there were two traders with a wonderfully tempting selection of goodies including Fabric Freedom jellyrolls.  Do you know that these are made in England, contain 10 more 2.5" strips than other jellyrolls and are considerably less money?  What's not to love?
Making our way home after the day we couldn't stop talking and DH did sterling work in not only producing a wonderful meal for Trish, Ros and I but also smiling through a whole evening of quilty talk - I think the wine helped.  Thank you Al.
Tomorrow I'll share our workshop with Gail in which she taught us her stained glass window technique.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Brooch Swap

I've been taking part in a lovely little swap organised by Susie at Flowerpress
I posted off this kanzashi brooch (with a few extra goodies) at the weekend to my swap partner who is in Australia, I hope she likes it.
Today I received this lovely butterfly brooch from Cath at Chunkychooky.  I photographed it in the garden as I thought it looked so incredibly realistic.
Thanks Cath, it's lovely and so right to wear at this time of year in the northern hemisphere.
Susie has set up a Flickr group for us all to post photos of our brooches so pop over there to see what else was made, there's an amazing selection of techniques and so much talent on show.  Thanks Susie, it was great fun.....what's next?
PS Please don't forget to vote for the Quilters' Guild "Unfolding the Quilts" project, I've added a button on the right that takes you straight to the voting site and lots more information - overseas votes count too :)

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Africa? China? No, just sunshine in Norfolk, England

The African Fabric Shop came on safari to deepest Norfolk today and so DH took me to visit them and I treated him to a delicious piece of cake to say thank you.  I wonder why quilting, fabric buying and yummy cake are such a good combination?
Also on safari was Sally Chang's Chinese textiles.  There was a wonderful selection of Chinese brocades and lots of indigo dyed pieces using both shibori style tying and stitching and a batik style resist dyeing using bean paste.  My purse just flew open of course and I got straight to work on this little runner when I got back this afternoon.  Here it is in situ

and here's a flat shot.  Sally doesn't seem to have a website but her email address is sally.warb at

Once the sewing machine was warmed up I got going on this piece which is for the Brit Quilt Swap.  The colours are right out of my usual choices but I'm enjoying working with them.  I started with just the limes and purples but then I found the Amy Butler for Rowan "Peacock Feathers" fabric and it seems to bring everything together.  So far I've used foundation piecing to create this striped background cloth for the quilt.

I'm going to be adding this batik and also some handquilting and possibly some beady madness too, I'll see how it pans out but I just have a message for my secret swap partner who I hope is reading this:
After this weekend it will be too late to tell me you hate lime and purple!  Shout now if you don't like what I'm doing.
I hope that wherever you are you're having a great weekend - we have amazing sunshine here, I was actually out in my cossie yesterday, covered in high factor cream and feeling as if I had been mysteriously transported overseas, bliss.