Category Archives: Stitching

Now for May’s challenge

Well now I at last have my May version  of our ‘urban’ challenge, even if it’s almost a month late! This is entitled “The old and the new”, and is inspired by the sweeping away of old fashioned terraced housing and disused buildings, to make way for high rise housing. Whilst the new housing may be more efficient than the older version, I find them impersonal and sterile, compared to the friendly neighbourly feel of the older type of housing.

Close up views:


Now all I need to do is to design and work my next urban challenge piece, and since it should be ready for the end of June, it looks as though it’s going to be late again!! I think I need to snap a few photos around  town to get a bit more inspiration, and I’m hoping that not one but two pieces will spring from my brain, so that July’s piece will also materialise. (Springing into action isn’t really my brain’s best feature!).

I thought I’d also share my latest piece for the ‘Fifteen by Fifteen’ group. You may recall that we’re producing work in which follows a single theme to produce a series, and that my theme is seed heads.


This piece is based on Nigella seed heads (also known as Love-in-a-mist). For this one I tried to use flimsy threads and delicate stitching to create a misty feel (you may be able  to see this is the close-up view). For a change, I actually have an idea for my next piece, and have started work on it, so maybe I won’t be rushing to finish near the deadline.

Here’s hoping that I’m a bit more productive in the next few weeks. (Joan)






May’s challenge

Continuing with our challenge to produce a monthly urban landscape, I thought I’d share the one I completed for the month of April. The reason I’m not sharing May’s effort? – yes, you’ve guessed it, I haven’t done it yet! So this month I’ll be needing to make two urban pieces, because I’m enjoying this challenge, so I don’t want to give up on it.

 I called this one “There were potbanks among the houses” – and it reflects the fact that in the not-too-distant past there were indeed streets of terraced houses with potteries at their ends. At one time, the landscape of this area was dominated by bottle ovens, and of course workers lived cheek-by-jowl with their places of work.

This piece was created by printing calico with a commercial stamp depicting little houses. The shape of the bottle oven was cut from dyed kitchen paper, and the whole piece then overlaid with transfer printed organza. I hand-stitched at random some of the house shapes, and again added little curtain and window details to some of the houses. I added a few impressions of cobbled streets with running stitch.

 This close-up may show a little more of the detail.

We’ve had a bit of excitement in our little world over the past few weeks, when we participated in a textile fair at a local gallery. After a bit of frenzied preparation, where we found pieces we’d forgotten or fell out of love with, and pieces that we’ve produced recently, we eventually felt that we had a nice mixture of work to show. We used some of it to stock a little stall, and other pieces were wall-hung as part of a larger exhibition. As well as receiving many lovely comments, we sold a few small pieces, and Margaret also sold one of her larger ones.  All in all a real confidence booster.

My latest piece for the ‘Fifteen by Fifteen’ group has also been completed and was part of the reveal which as posted online yesterday. We are currently working a series of pieces based on a single theme, my theme being seed heads. This time I have based the piece on Nigella seed heads (also known as Love-in-a-Mist). see what you think:

close up view:

I’ve added this one to my ‘Fifteen’ gallery page in the tabs above, and you can view the whole group’s pieces at

Now to get on with two months’ worth  of our urban challenge.









Little things

Thought I’d catch up with some of the little things I’ve been doing lately (as my mojo has gone missing when it comes to more ‘considered’ pieces).

This first one is my March version of our ‘urban’ challenge (and yes, I know it’s almost the end of April, but the next one is underway – honest).  I’m calling this one ‘The canal at dusk’, and again it is inspired by the old factory buildings and potteries in our area. There are many disused and in-loved workings along the canals, but somehow they keep drawing me back (just call me weird!).

The one I’m working on now (for the end of April) is a bit more abstract than this one, so watch this space.


I find that when I’m working out how to start a piece, I ‘twiddle’ with scrap fabrics, and this next picture is the result of my latest twiddling. I think that not having an idea or design to work to, and using up bits and pieces of fabric that aren’t precious, gives me a certain freedom and therefore I find twiddling a very relaxing pastime (and it stops me from feeling guilty that I’m not stitching).



Next I can share with you my latest piece for the Fifteen by Fifteen group. As you’ve probably guessed this one is called Poppy. You can see the full reveal at


Finally, I’d like to showcase this little bag, to give my friend Margaret a bit of  recognition and thanks. She kindly gave me this because I liked it so much, and she thought it wasn’t very good. I don’t think she gives herself enough credit – what do you think?

See you soon (Joan)





Seeds and Urban

I’ve settled on an urban theme for our latest challenge, and I’ve now completed two small pieces. We decided we’d complete one a month, and use a size no larger than 12″ in any direction.

urban-month1aThis is my first piece, which was based on one of our local potteries  (which some people may recognise from the TV program Pottery Throw down). It was meant to be much more abstract than this, but somehow I got sucked into getting the shapes of the buildings correct. I used assorted fabric pieces, including some rust-dyed pieces, cut to shape, then overlaid these with sheers, and finished it all off by adding hand stitched details. In the end although it isn’t what I was aiming for, I think it’s something I can probably build upon for one of my future pieces. Overall I’d say ‘satisfactory, could do better’!

urban-month2aMy second piece is a little more along the lines of what I was aiming for. This time I decided to go for more of a landscape view, and I like it much better. I used the same rust-dyed fabric for the sky and cut a piece of card to the shape of the industrial skyline, which I used as a template for stencilling the darker colour. I pieced fabric scraps together for the ‘ground’, and drew the lines of my design with a fine black pen. Then I covered the whole thing with a transfer printed sheer fabric to give some colour variation, before hand-stitching over the drawn lines and filling in all of the details.

I have to confess that I’m having a bit of a love affair with coloured sheer fabric at the moment, and with layering these with other fabrics to give depth, colour and interest to pieces. I used this method in my latest piece for the FifteenxFifteen group, which is the first in a series of pieces which will be based on the theme of Seed Heads.

jbFor this one I used several layers of sheers which were coloured with transfer inks, and incorporating positive and negative shapes using a paper resist in the shape of honesty seed heads. Of course I’ve added hand-stitching both for the details and for the quilting – this is my favourite way of working. The series will consist of five pieces, and I am hoping to use a different technique in each – so maybe I should try hard to use more machine stitching in one of the pieces. The only thing is that I so enjoy hand-stitching, and I consider it to be far superior to my machine stitching (which I don’t feel very confident with). I suppose I will never get better at machining unless I practise more, so I really should make an effort with one of the series, but I can’t guarantee that the pleasure of the needle in the hand won’t win out!


First challenge of the year

abstract-trees-3In my last post, I noted that Margaret and I challenged each other to produce something using two pieces of fabric we’d dyed at a recent workshop. I usually have trouble completing challenges (life gets in the way), but this time I finished, if slightly late, so I thought I may as well share it. It’s a bit on the abstract side – but then so am I.

Our next challenge is to interpret a landscape in a minimalist and quite abstract style. I had the idea of using an urban/industrial starting point for my landscape, rather than a ‘traditional’ countryside, which I’ve interpreted many times in the past.

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I took some photos of a local pottery works which I’m very fond of, and that I’ve thought of using before but never got round to it……however……. now that I’ve done some preliminary sketches, I’m thinking that it may be too ‘flat’ for a landscape.


So now I may have to revert to a traditional landscape, such as this one that I took last autumn while out walking. Decisions, decisions!!



End of the year

I’ve been busy this last few weeks, but mostly with Xmas gifts that I haven’t been able to share with you, on the off chance that my family and friends (who would receive them) should read this blog! There have been other things too – so quite a lot to catch up on.

saqa-late-autumn-moorsFirstly I decided to enter a small quilt (only 7″ by 10″) into the SAQA Trunk show. SAQA is a quilting group that I joined a few months ago and have been in awe of the quilts produced by its members. SAQA is a quilting group based mainly  in the USA, that I joined a few months ago and have been in awe of the quilts produced by its members. I felt as though I was there somewhat under false pretences, and not up to their standards, but I’ve plucked  up courage to enter my piece and just see what happens next! I know that it’s arrived in the USA, and now I think it joins other touring entries to be exhibited in various venues across the USA. I think that this now gives me the confidence and courage to maybe enter other pieces into future SAQA shows.



golden-age-of-steamThen of course, I needed to keep up with my other on-line group, Fifteen by Fifteen. The quilt was to be finished by the end of November, and the theme this time was ‘Motion’. I’ve included the picture in my 15×15 gallery, and I think it’s probably self-explanatory.


On the home front, I’ve finally finished the hexie-quilt that I’ve been working on for most of the year. This was always going to be a gift for my son, who’d asked for a quilt some time ago. I would like to show you a wonderful picture of the finished piece, but I was working on it almost up until Xmas, and consequently the light was not good enough to take a decent picture (winter can be very dismal and dark in this part of the world). Here are the best pictures I can muster  – my son loves the quilt by the way!

quilt-1 p1080880 p1080884

I was also asked to make some ‘rustic’ Xmas decorations for a friend, and a small picture by a family member, so I’ve also been busy with both of those. The picture shows a selection of the type of felt decorations I made, and they do look effective when hanging on her tree – they’re very cheerful at least. the picture was one of my ‘scrappy’ creations – sourced from my copious bag of off-cuts and other interesting bits, that I love to work with.


trees-3  trees-1

So, as you see I haven’t been idle (just quiet). In the meantime Margaret and I also had a lovely dying day with Jo Hill, and produced a lovely stack of dyed fabrics to tinker with. We’ve challenged each other to produce something with at least two of the fabrics. Our original deadline was to have this ready for Xmas, but needless to say, I missed that – although I believe Margaret has finished hers. I asked for a ‘stay of execution’ until New Year, and I at least now have something underway – to be  revealed at the next blog update!!!






Scrap-bag work

Thought I’d better add my latest update, after Marg’s excellent contributions. I’d like to say that I’ve been really busy stitching away, but in truth the sunshine has tempted me outdoors too much lately.  One of the things I love to do is play around with scraps of fabric and ‘stuff’ that I save in my copious scrap-bag. This is something I tend to gravitate to when I’m stuck on something, need new inspiration, or just don’t know what to do next! So of course, when I’d been distracted by hiking and outdoors, this is where I turned to re-motivate myself – and it’s no surprise that what I came up with were two landscapes. Here they are:

scrap-bag 1     scrap-bag 1 close

scrap-bag 2    scrap-bag 2 close

Most of the rest of the time when I’ve sat down with my needle has been spent completing my latest challenge for the FifteenxFifteen group. This month the challenge was Architecture, and my piece is called ‘The architect’s sketchbook’ and I’ll add it to my gallery of 15×15 images (in the tab above).

architecture - jb

Our hiking has been mainly in our usual haunts around the nearby Peak District and we’ve also been away to the Lake District for a lovely family holiday.  So, just to show where I’ve been whilst playing truant from stitching, here are a few of my favourite distractions!

Peak district – wonderful weather:-

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Lake district (not such good weather, but lovely anyway) :-

IMG_2882 IMG_2880 IMG_2845

Now – what next!!




It’s been a while since my last post, and my excuse this time is that I haven’t really had anything finished since the last time I made an update.   The exception to this is that I have finished another piece for the Fifteen x Fifteen group – this one was on the theme of ‘circles’, and you can see it in my gallery tab (above).

IMG_2585Now I need to confess why nothing else is finished, and this will show you exactly how my ‘butterfly mind’ works! As you know I was working on my hexagons, and I was loving doing these, and now I have the basis of the quilt top, but I need to cut and stitch some more hexies, as a border, then back it and quilt it. I don’t know about you, but making the top is the bit I enjoy most, and the quilting is the less exciting part – so of course, I’m making excuses to myself, that I need to do other things.


Well, happily Margaret suggested that we adopt a theme, and create some pieces based on that. That meant that me attention was of course taken up with the new theme, and the quilt put aside again. We chose “Connected” as our theme, and my starting point was nuts and bolts (which I did have some pictures of), and things which physically connect things together. I studiously started off using a sketchbook to map out some ideas, and of course, in my case, that soon went by the wayside a bit, as I started getting bits of fabric and threads laid out in front of me!

I started with this little piece :

IMG_2587 IMG_2586  – which you may not think has anything to do with nuts and bolts, but it did look like some of my pictures!! I liked this and started laying out more bits of fabric and things that I liked, and these became my next sidetrack –

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As you ca see, they involve some needle-felted fabric that I’d done some time ago, cut into the squares that I needed. the only trouble was that one of the squares was the wrong colour, so I decided to work on it a bit, and needle-felted some more bits onto it. This made me remember how much I enjoyed doing this, and when I was fishing about for fibres I found a half-finished piece that I decicded to fiddle with : –

IMG_2582 – not sure that I liked this so much, or what I’m going to do with it, but I do like doing this, so I continued, and found some wonderful wool, that I think will make a good landscape.


So now – I have a selection of unfinished pieces!! So what do you think my next move was ? – I went hiking!! – well you need to make the most of the sunshine, don’t you?!





Treasures and Triptych

Well, as promised, I indulged in retail therapy at the Stitching show at the NEC. Part of the pleasure of purchasing is spreading out the treasures afterwards and looking at them as a collection – so feast your eyes at part of the haul:

P1080639Of course, I have no idea what I’m going to do with this, but my goodness it was fun to get and even better to look at!






In my defence, since the show I haven’t had much chance to think of designs and new work, because I’ve been working on a quilt for the Uttoxeter quilt show (taking place 22-24 April at Uttoxeter race course). I designed the piece as a triptych, and at last it’s finished and ready to send in to the show.

The piece is called ‘Through the woods’ and shows birds at the top of a tree, bluebells and undergrowth beneath the trees, and a hare at the edge of the woods looking in. I have to admit that the design grew out of the dyed fabric, rather than the ‘proper’ way around (where the design is made then the fabric found/made to fulfil the design).  My way of working is usually this way around, and as you can see by my haul of treasures, I get seduced by a piece or collection of fabrics, then my imagination goes into overdrive. I often wish that I could work the ‘proper’ way around, and believe me I’ve tried, but in the end it’s hard to fight your natural instincts!

Anyway, I don’t know whether the final result was worth the brain exercise, but since the exhibits are judged, I’ll get a set of comments back from the show, and they may indicate that I really shouldn’t work my way around, and instead I’ll have to persevere with the ‘proper’ way of working!! See what you think.

through the woods - full


through the woods - 1  through the woods - 2  through the woods - 3




Lampshades and Trees

This week started with a very exciting lampshade workshop by Jo Hill. It was exciting for me in any case, because I’ve been wanting to learn how to do make a lampshade for ages now. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and Jo took this picture of the set of finished pieces.

lampshade workshop - mar16


This one is mine, and as you can see, it’s already in use. The lamp stand was made by my father who worked in brass, and although it may not be pretty or modern, it is a treasured object! lampshade 3

Since spring seems to have arrived in this neck of the woods (though that may be tempting fate, and we could be plunged back into winter next week), it’s been nice to get out and about on those lovely blue-sky days this week. We haven’t been doing any major hikes as my other half is under the weather, but we’ve seen some wonderful scenery nevertheless, and the bright sunlight has made for lovely pictures – at least I think so. Perhaps some of these will find their way into some future textile pieces, in one format or another.

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This weekend Marg and I will be going to the Stitching show at the NEC for some retail therapy! We’ve decided that we suffer from the sickness that means that whenever you see wonderful fabrics, threads and other do-dads, you must have some, even if you already have stacks of ‘stuff’ that you never get round to using. Anyone else have that sickness?? (Joan)