Wednesday, 28 September 2011

revisiting an old friend

Back in August 2010 I introduced you to Backstitch, an online fabric store based in the UK that was just in it's earliest of early days.

Alice was a busy lady - she had a brand new baby and a brand new business.

Shall we go back and see what she's up to these days?

Yes, let's....

So, a year on and what has changed in the Backstitch store?

There are still sewing patterns for all abilities, but the range has grown (rather like Alice's baby - who is now a toddler!) In stock (amongst others) are patterns for childrenswear by my mate Shelly (otherwise known as Patterns by Figgys), absolutely amazing (and I'm told really quite beginner friendly) patterns by (new to me) Jamie Christina (I can't begin to tell you how much I want this dress in this fabric), the blogging sewist's favourite Oliver and S (I've never heard a bad word about these patterns - people really do rave about them and how awesome they are).

The bundles have grown too. The cocktails are still present. Which makes me super happy (a bundle of fabric named after a cocktail - what could be better?) and the range of fabrics has grown too. Alice's style seems to be bright and cheerful. Actually, it seems like she went shopping and picked fabrics especially for me. Which is incredibly nice of her. Just look at the fantastic range of yummy fabrics

Last year she had a small selection of Klona cottons, a slightly heavier weight cotton in a variety of plain colours. This year she has the full range in stock. That's over 40 different colours. She's even made swatch cards with a snippet of each colour for easy matching. Klona white is my go-to pure white solid. I prefer it to other solid whites if I need a full on bright white. It's great. I actually really love klona cottons in general. They're priced well, they are really nice to work with and you can finger press them and the pressed fold stays put. Perfect for a slightly lazy patchwork presser like me.

Just check out this quilt by Judith, made with a klona hurricane bundle. Amazing, right?

Single girl quilt_0032

I used klona white for the background on this quilt. It worked beautifully with the light and silky liberty tana lawns. 


So there you go. A little over a year on and Alice is doing great. Go and check her out, she's really helpful and ever such a nice person. You can also keep up to date on what's going on in the Backstitch world by following the blog.

Monday, 26 September 2011

can I sign that for you?

What in the heck is THIS?


Someone's been photoshopping, I presume...'s a listing on Amazon for it.

It must be real.

And you have NO idea how hard it was to keep my mouth shut. No idea at all. I've almost let it slip a few times, or secretly snuck pictures out of what's coming but then I knew I'd get told off by the others and instead I've buttoned it.

But I don't have to any more, because alongside my really, reallyREALLY good friends I've written a book.

A Fat Quarterly book on quilting! You can read all about it here.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

planning and plotting (or what Katy did next)

planning and plotting

Now the Hexy MF is getting quilted I've been missing hand sewing. I've been busy with some dresden plates for pillows and stuff but it's not the same as good old fashioned English Paper Piecing.

So, I've been plotting what to do next and I quite fancy some full on fussy cutting mixed with a variety of paper templates. I've had a pattern drafted for a while but not settled on perfect fabrics...until now.

Silent Cinema by Jenean Morrison is PERFECT for fussy cutting - all those medallions and clever little details. I can't promise this will be a quick project (after all, the Hexy MF took well over a year) but with the nights drawing in and more time being spent sat on the sofa watching TV (as well as the flights to and from Houston next month) I should be able to make a really good start on this project. If I could just decide which colourway to start with.

By the way - in case anyone is interested, once I get the Hexy MF back I thought I'd write up a pattern for it, and pop it amongst my other tutorials, so you can make your own. I need it with me though, because I have no idea how big anything is, or how many hexes I it'll be a little while before that happens, but it will come. Promise.

In the meantime - I'm off to cut out some template plastic and start fussy cutting some big ol' hexes.

Friday, 23 September 2011

it took too long...

...for me to finally get around to quilting and finishing the Little Apples quilt top I started back in May. It's only small, and basting and quilting it took literally 2 hours tops.
Julie's pattern called for borders, and this was my stumbling point. I had intended to use the polka dots on the back as a border, but the more I looked at it the more I liked how the stars disappear off into the edges. I struggle with borders. Given the choice, for the most part, I won't use them. Some quilts need a border. Others don't. Most of the quilts I've made haven't had borders. I guess that tells you I'm not a huge fan (what about you? Borders? No borders?)

little apples firecracker

I said it when I first started this quilt, but just to say it again - this quilt pattern is awesome. So easy to read, so clear, so very worth buying. There's a list of all Julie's patterns and where to find them right here.

little apples firecracker

I had just about finished the binding last night when my husband said he'd like to take the quilt to his friend today for their new baby. Which meant I had to quickly stitch up a label for it. My embroidery skills leave a lot to be desired. Heck, it's the thought that counts, right?


Quilt deets -

Firecracker quilt pattern by Julie Herman/Jaybird quilts
approx 35 x 50" (I forgot to measure it, so I'm guessing by how it laid on my kitchen table)

Fabrics - Little Apples F8 stack (with leftovers) by Aneela Hoey for Moda (available here)
              Essex linen by Robert Kaufman in white
              Backing - I THINK it's a Michael Miller dot, but I've had it for the longest time so I'm not
              certain. It's very much like this one but these Grinch dots would look cool too, I think.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

interesting reading

This post by the girls at Ink and Spindle has sparked a fair amount of discussion online. I particularly enjoyed reading Adrienne's post on her $600 baby quilt (and reading some of the comments left by the blog readers of both Ink and Spindle and Adrienne). It makes interesting reading and if you haven't taken the time to check out both posts, I wholly recommend you do.

all finished!

I don't make quilts to sell.

et voila!

Despite people (non-quilters, non-crafty) telling me I should.

fruit pastilles

All too often I give quilts away (all of the pics here are quilts I've made to give away).

French General Fat Geese

Mostly to people I love enough to know they'll appreciate them, and the cost, time, and effort involved.

dream on

Someone asked about buying this quilt once. I gave a (low, in my opinion) value of $500 after discussion over coffee with some quilty friends (fortunately I happened to be sat in Starbucks in Salt lake City at the time for Spring Market, so I had plenty of friends to ask the opinions of), because that was what I would have been happy to receive in return, it covered my costs (just about) but not my time so much. I also felt like if I'd asked for more I'd have been valuing myself too high. In hindsight that's a little silly. I still don't really feel like a 'proper' quilter though, more like I'm playing at it and getting lucky. One day someone will realise and point me out. (Of course, a 'proper' quilter is impossible to define, I make up my own ridiculous hurdles in life, I'm like that.)


I didn't hear back (I wasn't surprised). I was kind of happy they didn't want it, because I really love that quilt.

Sometimes I make quilts for new babies and don't get much of a response from the parents. That really irks me. I could go to the Gap and buy a few onesies. I could buy you a rattly bear. I could spend literally a few bucks and have a gift boxed stack of stuff for you. But instead I make you a quilt, because it shows I care about you and want to welcome your child into the world with a hug. If I'd given you a cheque for $600, would you appreciate it more? Yeh, probably. But then I wouldn't be as true to myself. When my oldest was born my auntie made her a quilt. We still use it in the car for cold mornings. I should go get that quilt out and show you. Remind me. It's dated now, but it was the most useful and most beloved gift of all. That was well before I had even thought about quilting.She spent time, effort and a lot of energy in making that quilt for Grace. That makes it a priceless gift. So much nicer than a onesie. Or a cheque.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

a juicy pair

pillow peek

I said it before, but I'll say it again....I am LOVING these fabrics. I'm head over heels about them. Especially when I happened upon the perfect solid (ish) fabrics to pair up with them.

Curio Grunge by Basic Grey in Butternut and Asparagus for the tumbler pillow's border and binding and my current favourite solid alternative from Timeless Treasures shipyard organic. I can't remember if it's grey is definitely grey. It just has a blue/denim look to it. (heads up - the whole organic screen collection from Timeless Treasures is on sale right now at Fat Quarter Shop. I'll leave some for you to buy, ok? I'm nice like that.)

pear tree pillows

I have another dresden plate ready to applique onto it's background and then some itty bitty scraps to make into a 4th pillow. You could say I'm obsessed.

Pear Tree by Thomas Knauer is coming soon - I'll let you know when it starts shipping to stores (should be November time - just in time for Christmas!) Both Lola Pink Fabrics and Fat Quarter Shop are going to stock the full line.

Monday, 19 September 2011


Just a little heads up - I've been fiddling about with my blog layout and added a page up there above the posts and below the blog header with a few tutorials.

There's this quilt....

et voila!

this one....

Fit for a Princess Quilt

tumbler pillows like these.... (including a template you can print out)


a christmassy wreath (it's not far you know, less than 100 days)

Fabric Covered Wreath

as well as a (photo heavy) binding tutorial you can download and print off and a very simple (but fun for the kids) felt notebook cover.

I'll add more to it as I go along, but it's nice to have it all in one place and easy to find, don't you think?

If you use any of the tutorials I'd love to see what you made (I'm nosy like that!)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

the best job ever

Yesterday I took a (quite long) drive down to Lowestoft to Claire's shop, Patch Fabrics, to teach 6 lovely ladies how to make a tumbler cushion.

My thinking was that in a full day's workshop everyone would hopefully end up with a finished quilted cushion and learn the absolute basics on how to make a quilt, from choosing fabrics, through cutting, piecing, basting, quilting and binding. Plus, I love cushions and I find them much more useful than a mini quilt or table runner.


Everyone was absolutely brilliant and went full throttle into their projects.


We started a teensy bit late, so ended up over running a little but everyone was desperate to finish up (except poor Elizabeth whose husband and daughter came to pick her up so she'll finish this beauty off at home with some guidance via email from me).


I hope everyone had as much fun as I did, because it was a really lovely way to spend the day.

patch fabrics workshop

Claire has even invited me back after Christmas to teach a class on jelly roll quilts. If anyone is interested in coming along, I'll post details closer to the time.


All that the ladies need to do now is spend an evening sat in front of the TV hand stitching the binding onto the back of their cushions and they're all done! And hopefully hooked on quilting, because, let's face it, it's addictive.


Friday, 16 September 2011

a tumbler in a pear tree

One of the massive benefits of the quilting community I am part of is that when my friends get a fabric designing gig they send me some stuff to play with.
I 'met' Thomas before he had even made a quilt. He hadn't designed fabric. He was the new kid on the block. Then he did some playing about with designs and they were really good. So good that Andover picked him up and said' we'll print your stuff!' (or whatever they say when they take you on as a designer) At Spring Market this year his designs were on paper and we oohed and aahed over them.

I think quite often when it comes to printing, fabrics lose the initial wow of the digital colours. Pear tree isn't as bright as I thought it would be, which I actually prefer. It has a washed or faded feel to the colours, they're less digital or computer generated. They have a lovely softness to the tones that reminds me of being a kid and the faded flannel sheets we used to have on our bed at my Grandparent's house.
The fabric feels really nice too. These have been washed (by Thomas before he mailed them to me), so they've lost the starchy crisp feeling that new fabrics have and they've now got an almost vintage feel to them. The cotton is weighty, not thin at all, but not too thick either. It sews really beautifully, and cuts really nicely too (I tried with both scissors and a rotary cutter).

a tumbler in a pear tree

I'm taking this little tumbler pillow in progress down to Patch Fabrics with me to show the folks that are coming to my workshop tomorrow. I'm also making a couple of dresden plate pillows to go with the tumbler and I'll switch out my regular pillows on the trunk that I sit on to hand sew and have a little Pear Tree themed decor in my house. I'm really quite excited by it!

Pear tree by Thomas Knauer for Andover is coming to stores in November. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

busy start


It's only Tuesday but I need to get right on the horse and ride it hard this week.

The summer slowed me down and my to-do list is looking pretty horrendous. So, all the jobs that I had on hand at home are getting nailed so I can spend the whole of next week locked in my studio and getting on with things that have waited since before the Summer break. Oops.

The little firecracker quilt I started making with Aneela's little apples fabric way back in May is now quilted and I have to sew the binding on to the back over the next night or so. There are a few babies due amongst our friends at the minute, so I think that will go to one of them. It's such a sweet line. (By the way - little apples is shipping now, you can find it here).

I also finished up the skirt using Melody's giant bee fabric. I ended up making mine a few inches shorter than the pattern. Yep. I'm slutty like that. This was my first ever time following a pattern and making something to wear. I once made some boxer shorts, but they weren't hugely successful and I completely made it up by cutting round an old pair.

I learned a few things...

  • read the pattern really well
  • measure yourself a few times
  • try the thing on to see how it fits at every possible stage (don't wait like me til the end and realise it was a couple of inches too big. That's a bit silly)
  • read the pattern again (because you'll have forgotten what you're supposed to do)
  • ignore your oldest child telling you it's the ugliest thing she's ever seen and wear it anyway
  • when someone asks if you made your skirt, be proud and say 'hell yes, I did. Now, am I cool, or WHAT?' and strut off (no-one has asked me yet, because I only finished it an hour ago)

bee collage

I have to say, I'm pretty damn proud of that little skirt.

I also made something secret that I can't show you but you can so tell what it is by this sneaklet peeklet....

Sneak peek

And, I packed up this little quilt to be raffled off at a fundraiser my twitter friend Kristy has organised on behalf of her daughter Kitty.

You can find out more about the fundraiser and why she wants to help out here. In fact, I urge you to go and read up on why she wants to raise money for the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital.


All in all the week is starting with a gallop. I'm feeling tired out already.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

10 years

10 years ago. A whole decade has passed but the shock of the images and the effect it has on me is still as strong.
Nothing before or since has the same effect as that day. I still feel my eyes prickle and my throat tighten whenever I see a single image of the day the towers fell.

I was coming home from town, in a taxi with Grace when my husband called and told me to listen the news, that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre.
I got home and turned the TV on just as the first tower fell and sat watching the news in shocked silence for the rest of the day. We had been there less than 4 months previously. Grace had run around by the fountain (in the fountain too) at the World Trade Centre for a while and we rested our legs as we did the whole tourist thing in NYC.

Let's hope there is never another day like that day. And that we never forget those that lost their lives.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

tie me up

a quicky

12" blocks - they come together so fast. Add on a border and you have a queen size quilt super pronto.

The deets...

  • Queen Size quilt
  • 82" x 94"
  • fabrics used - peacock lane by Violet Craft for Michael Miller, Just Dandy by Josephine Kimberling for Robert Kaufman, Smirk grey Dot by Kyla May for Timeless Treasures.

Spot the spooky demon dog....

quilt invader

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

sanity restored

Don't get me wrong - I love to spend time with my kids I just find myself struggling a little with my sanity by the time they are almost back to school after the summer break. Maybe if I had a 'real' job where I left the house in the morning and didn't return home 'til the evening a couple of days a week it wouldn't be quite such a struggle. Honestly, I feel guilty if I spend any time in the studio when they're off school. I guess the whole 'woman's place is in the home' mentality is fully stamped on my brain. I am a little bit 1950's housewife, I'll confess to that. When I had children, because I was fortunate enough to not have to work I didn't work. I chose to be a homemaker and mother and I took that role super seriously. I do take that role super seriously.
Today, though, is the second day back to school. I'm going to break my daytime sewing rules and hand stitch in peace and quiet (hand sewing is usually only reserved for evenings, in front of the TV, it's decadent to hand sew during the day).

And I'm going to fully devour the peace and quiet. (Yesterday I just had to spend the day recovering from the Summer, you understand, don't you? Plus clean my house and do the laundry that has been piling up for the past I don't know how many weeks).

Sunday, 4 September 2011

sewing for boys


Sewing for Boys is a new book published by Wiley and written by Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage. I love these 2 girls - they met on flickr and live across the country from each other, but maintain a business. How cool is that? I met them both in Salt Lake City this Spring Market and they're the funniest pair ever, such cool ladies. You'd think to meet them that they lived in each other's houses all the time, they're so tight, so alike and funny together. It's no wonder they've written a book that flows as well as this one.

The book is jam packed (24 projects) of patterns especially for boys. Let's face it, there are books galore for little girls' clothes but the little boys' patterns are not so easy to find. Or they're a bit twee, or a bit too simplistic (reversible pants, appliqued tees - you know the kind of thing). Sewing for Boys is completely different - it's beautifully laid out with really clear illustrations, separate paper patterns and instructions that are easy to read and comprehend. Little things like where the right or wrong side of fabrics are discussed it's in bold capitals. Little things like that are invaluable to someone like me, because I am a skimmer and I don't read instructions very well.


The book is laid out in sections, with clothes for different seasons and has a great range of types of pattern, from simple pants for beginners, to a more complicated looking winter coat for the more advanced sewist. (My favourite is the hooded jacket - that is far too cool for school).

Plus a fantastic pattern for real PJs, ones with buttons and all the gorgeous details you would expect in a pair of classic 'grown up' PJs. They'd be amazing in some wintery flannel for christmas (do you put your children in brand new PJs for christmas eve? Is that just me?), and a flannel robe that is classed as a beginner level, so it must be simple. Yep, my understanding of clothes patterns is pretty much limited to zero - but the instructions look like it's not rocket science, and when I showed Brioni she said it looked simple too, in fact Brioni got really quite excited about the whole book and is planning on using it to make a heap of stuff for her little one.

The patterns go up to age 7, from baby size, so you could quite easily start as a true beginner with a newborn and become a total expert after a few patterns and still find use for the book for a good few years to come. One of my friends is pregnant right now and if she has a boy I'm buying her this book for her baby shower.

24 projects - that's a lot.


It's out now and you buy it from here (with free worldwide shipping). Or your favourite local bookstore, of course.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

a first

first time for everything

I've been envious of people that make their own clothes for the longest time. By rights I should be able to. My mother used to make my own clothes as a child, so I remember the whole paper pattern, chalking out the lines, her huge dressmaking shears with shiny blades and black handles, pinning and being measured a million times process but before I'd gotten old enough to really care about making clothes my Mum had gone back to work and I never asked her how to do it. She hasn't sewn anything in a long time. I don't think she'd remember how to really.

So when Melody brought out Ruby Star Spring and mentioned the possibility of a Bee Skirt, I was sold. I bought a metre of fabric from the Eternal Maker when I was at the festival of quilts and resisted the temptation to turn it into a pillow.

At 14.18 today Melody tweeted this link. In the hour and a half (almost) since then I've printed the pattern, taped it together, measured myself (and realised my waist has grown a little this summer. Hmm.) and cut out my pieces. Yikes. Now I'm a little bit scared to actually sew anything and I need to buy a zipper because the only ones I have are the clunky kind, not the invisible kind. But I've started, so I'm pretty pleased. I think it'll probably annoy me that my skirt won't be all evenly matched with the fabric repeat, but I figure I can most likely live with that when I'm swishing about in a skirt with 2 giant bees on (front and back. Oh yes.)

the first cut

Thank you for all of your wonderful offers to help with Sarah's and my project for Amy. I'm wading through emails, I'll get back to you shortly if you had a question, I promise. The link for Dan's fundraising site is here if you could help at all. Thank you so much for everything - this community we are part of is amazing and giving, and both Sarah and I are overwhelmed with your kindness. If you'd still like to join in, details are here. Thank you xxx

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