Friday, 18 August 2017



The idea for nostalgia came when I was waiting at Heathrow to board a flight to go to a funeral in South Africa. Normally I am super organised and have everything to hand that I might need, but on this occasion, I had forgotten to pack a notepad. I was already at my gate so no chance to buy a   notepad, but the young man next to me passed me a small piece from his notepad and I started sketching the idea I had in my head.  When I unpacked my bag on my return I found the paper and positioned my magic mirrors to see if I liked the design and then enlarged it onto a foolscap paper. I still liked it so then enlarged it onto a piece of paper cut large enough to be the same size as the quilt is going to be (I buy paper by the roll for this purpose). I had to make some minor adjustments to get the scale right and then started adding background ideas onto the paper. Mostly I stick to what I have drawn out but sometimes I need to make adjustments as I have a tendency to draw far too small and detailed which when stitched out will be too small for the scale of the quilt. Once I am happy with the overall plan, I use a lightbox to transfer the main elements of the design onto the quilt top, using a blue water erasable pen. On a dark fabric, where the blue won't show up, I use a Bohin chalk pen with fine point in white.

Initial sketch on notepad

Doing a rough sketch onto A4 size paper
Enlarging onto full size paper to check scale using rulers
Drawing main elements full size
Adding in feathers and experimenting with infills
Drawing the background design in to figure out best placement

I often get asked "How long did it take you?" My answer usually is "Until I am not enjoying myself anymore".  It does not matter how long it takes to make a quilt. I once started a quilt and got fed up with the borders that did not meet in the corners the way I wanted them to. I did not enjoy it, so I put it away. I discovered it a few years later and could not believe I gave up so easily, unpicked it and redid it, it worked out perfectly. Probably because I could look at it with fresh eyes and had picked up a little bit more experience in the meantime.  And I loved working on it until it was finished. Now if anyone asked me how long I had worked on it, my honest answer would have to be about 5 years, yet it was a machine pieced quilt for a bed, with minimal quilting, done on my domestic sewing machine.  But when I say that I worked on a quilt like this one for 4 months, there are either looks that say incredulous or others that are horrified. It does not matter, as long as you enjoy it. You do it because you want to do it, show me a quilter that ever has made a quilt because they did not enjoy it or did not want to do it, we choose this hobby or job because we like it or love it.  Therefore it does not matter how long or short it took. 

Main elements marked onto quilt top
Back of quilt: First all main elements and border lines are stitched, then feathers are stitched out

Adding feathers and piano key borders
Adding detail to piano keys to add depth

Quilt from the back: Outline of main elements as well as feather border and piano keys all stitched 

Quilt from the back after twisted continuous lines have been stitched out

Back of quilt showing ruler work done today

Trying out size of infill, in this case far too small, drawing with fine draughting pencil can be deceptive

Back of quilt showing back ground infill stitching

Quilt on the front, showing scribble quilting to highlight and outline feathers, deciding if colours are balanced

Adding the coloured infill stitching  

Beaded piping all stitched

First edging stitched on

Adding the beaded piping by hand

Hand stitched the second piping on
 I have used silk in ivory that I bought from a wedding dress fabric shop in London, for the quilt top. The piped edges and beaded piping are all stitched in silk from the same shop.  For the back I have used a silk duvet cover that was bought years ago in a sale in Harrods. I have used the other half of the duvet cover as backing on another quilt 'Lords and their ladies' (see separate post) and just love how it looks quilted. I have used silk wadding with high loft polyester wadding on top.  The variegated thread is Magnifico, I also used Glide threads and for the infill quilting used Microquilter and Infisival threads.  It was quilted on my Handiquilter Avante, freehand, using rulers for the main elements.  The feather border was marked using a stencil but I have customised the feathers to my own style so they are not all uniform.

'Nostalgia' front view

Showing detail of stitching

Detail of edging
I am also frequently asked what my quilts are used for or who they were made for. This quilt was made as a gift as commemoration of a special event. The recipient has not been told and will not be given the quilt for a while.

'Nostalgia' was my entry for the World Quilt Show in New England this year and I have just found out today that it has been awarded FIRST place in the traditional category.  I am obviously over the moon. Not sure I am going to be able to sleep tonight.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Studio back in action

I can't believe that I have not posted since I moved in! But it is perhaps not a surprise. My first priority after sorting out bedrooms, was to get my studio back up and running, but Oh, so many boxes!! And things just stuffed inside them. I had some overhead lights put into the studio and removed the funny, useless porthole style wall lights that did nothing for my sewing. A television was installed, so that I can watch/listen to something while I work and then the walls had to be made good again, so my decorator spent a couple of weeks in there too. New curtains were made and hung and then finally, I could get all my sewing stuff together in one place again, for the first time since last November.
I bought and built a new desk and some wall units from IKEA and then the sorting out started. I am still not totally organised, there are still some boxes around, but I will get round to sorting them out early in next year.  For now, I just need to try and catch up and get to grips with my Handiquilter again.

Quilts hanging off blanket hangers in the store room just off my studio

I have also been busy with renovations in the bedrooms upstairs and some large trees have been removed from the garden, increasing the amount of light that shines in through my studio windows. My garden is currently being redesigned and the works on this will start shortly.

Southwest Corner of garden when I moved in

Same corner after trees removed and new fence panels added

There have also been 2 new additions to my family, Lyra, who is now 18 weeks old and Jinx, who is 10 weeks old.  They are both Miniature Schnauzer girls, but not related. I have been spending most of my days on the kitchen floor, watching them and training them and playing with them.  They are so cute and totally adorable.  Smokey was not impressed when Lyra arrived, but by the time Jinx came, he was totally used to it and seems to tolerate Jinx more than Lyra. Lyra and Jinx plays together all the time, very rough sometimes and I have to stop myself from interfering and stepping in, but when watching them, I have realised that Jinx, although less than a third of Lyra's weight, is actually quite feisty and daring and will certainly in no uncertain terms let Lyra know when she has had enough.  Their training continues, walking is a bit difficult at the moment as Jinx is not allowed out yet, Lyra can go on short walks but Smokey needs longer walks. I am working on it.

Lyra and Jinx
Lyra and Jinx likes to sleep together

Festival of quilts
I volunteered as a judging angel this year and spent a day shadowing and helping the judges before the show opened. What an amazing experience. I have enjoyed it so much that I have signed up to do the Quilters Guild Judging course, which starts in October and takes 2 years to complete.  In the meantime, I hope to be accepted as a judging angel again next year and will keep volunteering until I have qualified.

World Quilt show 2016
Just after I got back from FoQ, I had the most wonderful and unexpected news that my quilt "Kutch Diamonds" have won a second place in the World Quilt Show in the traditional category.  I feel so honoured and can hardly believe it.  I entered "Kutch Diamonds" as I just did not have time to make a quilt specially for this show.  It will now go on tour to several shows in the USA before returning to me around March next year.  My friend Lynda Jackson, the UK Handiquilter Educator, entered her quilt Cappuccino Dreams into the same show and won a highly commended.  It seems to have been a really good year for the UK with so many of our quilts winning awards. When congratulating the winners, one of the contestants called us Team GB! I like that!

Kutch Diamonds at World Quilt Show

My ribbon, Second in traditional category 

Fitness on holiday
I took 2 of my children with me on an activity holiday in Croatia in August, where we did kayaking, canoeing, rafting, walking and cycling. I surprised myself by how much I loved the kayaking, also the canoeing, but cycling was not so much fun.  Perhaps if I was just a bit more fit, I would enjoy it more, but by the time I had reached 17 kilometres, doing steep uphill and downhills, I had decided that I am not enjoying it and that this was supposed to be holiday and fun, so I gave up. My kids enjoyed the holiday so much that they have asked if we can do a similar style holiday next year, so I am going to have to work on my fitness.  So, the plan is to start running. I have bought new trainers and downloaded apps on my phone to get me started.  Now I just need to pluck up the courage to get out there and give it a go. Hopefully I will be able to take Lyra with me when she is a little bit older. She has a lot of energy and seems to really enjoy running.  But first, I need to get myself off this couch!

Proud mom
I hope he does not mind, but I am so proud of my oldest son, who is now a Master of Science majoring in Natural Resource Management at James Cook University in Cairns.  He has now moved to Darwin, where he will be doing a PGCE.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Quick update

As the title says, this is just a very quick update.

House move
Yes!  I have now got the keys for my wonderful new home. It took a while, but I have the removal firm booked for Monday.  They will be doing all the packing and relocation but not the unpacking. Then on Tuesday, my very BESTEST bestest  friend, Alan, will be coming to dismantle and move and reassemble my Handiquilter for me in my new studio.  I have an electrician coming round on Wednesday to see what my lighting requirements are and hopefully that will get sorted in early June. In the meantime, I will concentrate on getting my studio up and running as soon as possible. It may take a while as some work needs to be done, channelling through the walls, then making good and then redecorating, but certainly my quilting machine should be back in use in time to finish off two quilts that I would like to enter into the Festival of Quilts this year.

The view from my new studio...unfortunately lovely Gothic mirrors have gone

Steps to my back garden from the studio, planning on making a living wall garden on that brick wall

I can see lots of pots with plants on those steps in a few days 

New studio space before previous owner moved out

And there is a lovely storage room just off the studio...hmmm....fabric?

"The happy quilt" renamed "The journey"
In the meantime, I have finished quilting this quilt but decided to rename it as it was finished under such sad and the most unhappy time of my life. "The journey" seems to suit it better too. All the blocks are hand sewn reverse appliqué blocks. Until I started this quilt, I have never done this technique, and in a moment of madness I decided that I may as well perfect the technique, so decided to do all 196 blocks in the book "Dutch treat" by Judy Garden. Most  of the blocks were sewn on car journeys, train journeys and coach journeys, on trips away with my husband, with my family and also on quilting holidays. I stitched all the blocks together before I separated from my husband and I was so grateful that at least all the piecing was done during happy times. "Quilting is my therapy". Now how many times have you heard a quilter say that? Do you ever take them seriously? Do you think they are just joking? I started quilting 16 years ago, after I had lost my baby, Damian. It wasn't really quilting, more piecing, but it got me out of the house and meeting up with others who needed time out from whatever was going on in their lives. I needed it then. It was my therapy. In difficult times it was my escape and my happy place. It gave me a purpose and made me feel valued. With recent events in my life, when I felt I had lost all hope, and purpose, and I had no motivation, I could pick up this quilt and stitch just one block at a time. Sometimes I was happy with the quilting, other times I hated what I was doing and didn't like the block or the design of the quilting, but I forced myself to finish the block. I felt like I had lost my touch, I resented that my quilting had become so important in my life, wondered if in fact it had replaced what should have been most important in my life, my family. And I resented that and didn't want it. My family was all that mattered to me and if I had to give up quilting in order to have my family back, the way it was before, I would gladly have done so. Then one day, I realised, this is not true. My quilting never has replaced my family, never have been more important. I had turned to my quilting because of the problems in my life that I could not deal with and could not face. I hid behind the quilting, it had become my place of calm and where I could switch off and just be.  It was my therapy.
So, after all this time, I realised that not only had I journeyed from not knowing anything about reverse appliqué to becoming quite skilled at it (not always easy and some blocks had to be redone in order to look decent) , through so many journeys and holiday trips, but this quilt has also seen me through some of the happiest times in my life, then through some of the most desolate and dark times to slowly coming through to a place where I can see light at the end of the tunnel.  My journey is not over, I still have a very long way to go, but this quilt tells the story of part of my journey.
I still have to do the binding on this quilt, it will be the first project to be finished in my new home. I  have entered it into the Festival of Quilts. It is not a competition quilt, it never was intended to be a competition quilt, but it is nevertheless a quilt I am very proud of and happy to display for others to see. I started off a complete novice at this technique and finished I feel as accomplished as I will ever be at doing reverse appliqué. It was worth the effort, worth unpicking and redoing all those blocks that did not quite turn out nice enough.  Will I ever do another reverse appliqué quilt like this one? Probably not, who is to say?  Besides, there are so many other techniques still to learn and master. Maybe one day.

Work in progress on borders

The back of "The journey", still work in progress

"The journey"
Hexagon quilt
Although I have not been able to sew at all over last few weeks, I have made some progress on my hexie quilt. And once I am nicely sorted out in my new home, I will be starting to sew in the evenings again and will make some more progress, although I am starting to realise that hand sewing might just have to be what I do more of in the colder months. When we have daylight till late at night, I need to get going in my garden.

Only the yellow star point to add before filling in with big diamond shapes

Green Radiance quilt
I  still do not have a name for this quilt! All done now apart from adding the hanging sleeve and label. I even managed to find some little seed beads that were just the right shade for adding to the binding. Very pleased with how it has turned out.

My new garden
My new garden is a total blank canvas. Lots of shrubs planted along the boundary fence, with unimaginative grass areas. The garden is not huge, but big enough that I can do something really special in here. I am already working on a layout and design, and will hopefully be getting the hard landscaping done in the very near future. Will keep updating as I make progress.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Life moves on

Life moves on...
It is now 4 months since I have separated from my husband and I am slowly coming to terms with my new life. I have had so many people contact me and wish me well and offering me support, that I have been totally overwhelmed by it all. You never know how much people care for you until you are in a situation like this. I could not have coped without all the support I have had from my friends and family. I have a new routine now to my daily life, I do a lot more exercise than before and I love how I look in all my new clothes...yes, I have lost a LOT of weight and it has boosted my confidence no end. I took up yoga and actually manage to do stuff I never thought in a million years I would be able to do. I have signed up for a marathon walk for Breast Cancer and really look forward to doing that with some friends.
I have also found the perfect house for my needs. It is just the right size for me and have the most amazing basement studio room with light flooding in through huge big glass doors. I have made an offer on the property, my kids love the house, but there is a bit of a stumble block to securing it. Keep fingers crossed for me, I will update here if and when I have news.

Quilting again
Yes, after the first few days of forcing myself to quilt, through all the shaking and heart palpitations, I have made it. I am back to normal and have been quite prolific.

The first quilt I loaded was this little wallhanging which I call "Lady". I made it for my hairdressers called "Rapunzel" and they are hanging it up in their office. I am so happy that they like it.


I then loaded my next Radiance silk quilt. It has not yet got a name, I am still working on it. I originally designed it as a wholecloth, but when I pulled the fabric off the shelf, I just kept thinking about adding different colours with the olive green, so the appliqué was added and I am so happy with how it has turned out. It was lying on the floor one evening so my youngest daughter and I could look at it. I have been wondering which colour to add in the binding and thought that brown would be quite subtle. I asked my daughter who was busy reading at the time, she looked up and without a moments hesitation said 'brown' so brown it will be. I might still use the pattern for a wholecloth, but that will have to wait till I have finished a few more UFO's first.

 I currently have "The Happy Quilt" loaded on the machine and am some days quilting whole rows of blocks (14 in a row), and on other days just 1 block. There is no rush, I am just enjoying deciding how to quilt each block as I come to it, and with 14 rows, I will be working on it for some time yet. For now, I am just quilting using a cream colour thread, then, when I get to the end, I will start adding some coloured thread in.

The back

Working with silk
I now know why I have been putting off sewing with silk! I started this project about a month ago and is now a bit stuck as not all the diamonds are exactly the same size. The design I had in mind is therefor not going to work anymore, so I am putting them aside for the moment, whilst I await the lightbulb moment.

The Harvest 
I added a chocolate brown border on the still life but was not happy with how flat it looked, so got out a bit of paint and had a lovely evening of designing and painting the border design on. I am hoping to add even more depth once I start quilting it. This will be the next project to be quilted once I have finished The Happy Quilt.

My hexagon quilt
Still working on it when I have time in the evenings. I seem to be far more out and about these days though and often is just too tired by the time I get home to start thinking about sewing. But spending time with my friends is just so rewarding.  And this was never going to be quilt in a day or a month or even a year. But watch this space as I intend having it finished in time to have on show at the Festival of Quilts in 2018!

The pattern

Quilter's Guild "Moving on" exhibition at Knit and Stitch show at Olympia, London
The briefing for the exhibition was that you had to produce a quilt with the colour purple in.  Photos of your quilt had to be submitted for approval before it was accepted. I was so excited when my quilt was accepted and even more excited when my daughter said she would come with me to see it in the show on Mother's day. We arrived just before lunch and as she has not had any breakfast, we sat and had our lunch first and then it was a dash to get to the corner where the quilts were on display. What a wonderful surprise to see my quilt hanging just perfectly and even more exciting when so many people stopped to look at it and ask questions about it. Finally I can show some photos of "When purple is the favourite no more"

Oh, look at me, carefully colour co-ordinated with the quilts on the wall and the carpet. My glass frames are purple by the way

When purple is the favourite no more

World Quilt show
My quilt "The trouble with magenta, hot or not" have arrived back home after months of touring around the USA. Guess what came back with it? A rosette that I am incredibly proud of. I am already planning how I can display all my rosettes in my new studio.

Now this is what makes life exciting!