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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!

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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.


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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!!!







In October I went to a patchwork class with the ultimate goal of making a quilt in sections, making a different block design per month and quilt that individual block and eventually be able to join all the different blocks together.

I do make quilts of the patchwork type, but they are not precisely pieced and I wanted to do patchwork ‘properly’.  Not to be….  I realise that I haven’t the patience to get the patches exactly aligned.

If you take a look at the bottom of the vase, you will be able to see part of one of the finished squares, which I have now bound and am using as a type of place mat.


Moving on …………

Joan and I recently attended a dyeing workshop with Jo Hill, who is a textile artist working from home.  Jo is a member of the Gallery 12 at Eccleshall.

There were just four of us and we had a lovely day. It was good to be with like minded people, who all agreed that whatever we are able to sell, it really only ‘feeds our habit’.  We all admitted to having enough fabrics,  dyes, stamps and stencils etc., etc., to sink a ship.

These are a few of the fabrics once washed and ironed


Nothing like my usual palette, so I’ll have to give some thought to how I use them, although Joan has challenged us to create a piece of work, any size, using 2 pieces from those we died and have it finished before Christmas!  We’ll see.

Thanks for reading, be back soon.



Belgium and Holland

Had a lovely break recently in Belgium and Holland, taking in the International Quilt show in Maastricht. We took in Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp, before heading to Maastricht for a few days. The weather was kind, which meant that we could do all of the sightseeing and walking that we had planned. We travelled by train, which was an excellent service, our only problem was that we missed one of our connections (our fault) – I would recommend this method of travel to anyone thinking of taking a European tour. The evenings in Ghent and Antwerp were cold, still and beautiful, as you can see below.

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Of course the quilt show in Maastricht was also one of the highlights of the trip. It was nice to catch up (if briefly) with some of the other members of the Fifteen group who were also there. As an international group it isn’t often that our members are in the same place at the same time. I’ll show you a small selection of some of my favourite quilts from the show, though of course there isn’t room to show many here.

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I always come away from quilt shows feeling that I’m raring to go, full of enthusiasm and ideas, and ready to start on a big project. However, once I arrive back home and I’m faced with a blank ‘page’ I always feel daunted. If only that “show” feeling lasted a little longer!! Well, anyway, I’m now plodding along with a couple of small projects, and trying to finish my big hexie-quilt as a Christmas gift, so at least I’m doing something. Perhaps I’ll start a ‘serious’ piece in the New Year. We’ll see!



Here comes autumn

I’ve noticed that autumn has started to sneak in ‘under the wire’ just lately. There are a few leaves starting to gain their party colours, but not in any numbers yet, but the countryside is starting to look mellow, and the afternoon light has taken on a golden tinge. The colours always inspire me, and start me thinking about warm fires and hand stitching We have enjoyed a few walks around the Peak District (our local patch), and I’ve tried to take a few picture – see what you think. Perhaps some of these will turn up in new designs (watch this space!)

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I would like to tell you that I’ve been really busy with my sewing projects … but I would be lying! My major achievement since I last wrote was to finish my latest Fifteen x Fifteen quilt. It was  on the theme of ‘Botancials’ this time, and I chose to base the deign on the seed heads of Teasel and Sweet Cicely (see below and in the ‘Fifteen’ tab under my Gallery pages).


It’s not what I started out to make, but then my pieces seldom are!

I was at a loose end after this one, and slightly hindered by a back problem so I didn’t want  to start anything big at the moment. I decided I would try and work on one of my (many) unfinished pieces. Whether it was the thought of the moors, or the coming of autumn in my mind, I’m not sure, but I picked up this bit of hand-stitching that I got disillusioned with a few weeks ago. It doesn’t seem so bad now that it’s been hiding in the bottom of the sewing basket for a while, so I’m going give it a second chance (I’ve given it a stern talking to and told it that it needs to behave this time!). Let’s see what happens next.


Once the back is better, I have a couple of big projects that I want to get started on, but those are still in the planning stage, and you know what happens to the plans of mouse and men. However one of them will be a Christmas gift (sorry to be the one to bring up that word), so I can’t get sidetracked too much – hopefully I’ll let you know how that goes.


Janet Bolton Workshop

In an earlier post I said I would say more about Janet’s workshop that a friend and I attended in Lampeter, Mid Wales in July.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the slow pace of the day, enjoying the hand stitching of patchwork pictures.  Janet is a lovely, gentle lady with quite a sense of humour, which I think her work portrays.  In preparation for this workshop I had done a piece of work, which was a little ‘workshop’ featured in Janet’s latest book,  ‘Fabric Pictures, A Workshop with Janet Bolton’, see  below.


Whilst I really like it, I am conscious of the fact that it is not really ‘my’ work, so I tried to do something more ‘me’ in the workshop, see below

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This piece I do not like, it seems too contrived and hasn’t got that naive quality I associate with Janet’s work.

I have done a few more, trying to find my own style, but I don’t feel happy with them.

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This is from a drawing I made some while ago and it is all turned applique, a slow stitching method but because of its’ sometimes outlines, I think it is more in keeping. I’ve added the sketchbook page ..

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I had to do another sketch which simplified the shapes for the turned applique..

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So, not all our work turns out as we would like, but it is always worthwhile having a go.

Until next time, happy stitching,


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:

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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).

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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) :-

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Now – what next!!



Jenny Wren

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that our little wren, which had been flirting about all over the garden for a couple of weeks, had not returned to her baby chicks .  By now, it was about 7pm and we were getting a bit concerned.  Help from the internet told us that sometimes the nest is left for a  while by the parents in the hope that the chicks will leave the nest and also that towards twilight the chicks would stop chirping and go asleep. We checked about 9.30pm and sure enough, all was quiet.  Sigh of relief.

The next morning, about 7.00am the chicks were madly chirping and there was no sign of our wren.  We phoned Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, who said they would get someone to call and check the nest and if necessary take the chicks away for care at their centre.  In the meantime, it would be beneficial to try and feed the chicks with small caterpillars, spiders and the like!!  Whilst my husband rushed off to the pet shop to buy some mealy worms, I scouted round for caterpillars, but found only one, as they had to be very small ones.

During his absence, one of the little chicks fell from the nest.  I managed to put it in a shoe box, but sadly this one did not survive.

Peter was quite successful in locating the nest entrance, finding two baby wrens and feeding them mealy worms, no small feat.

The man from Staffordshire Wildlife Trust collected the nest about 11.30am and took it away to their centre, saying that we had done a good job in keeping the survivors alive, adding that we could check on their progress tomorrow, which we did and they had both survived the night and were doing well.

I wrote this little poem in remembrance:-

We really thought it wouldn’t be long
Before we’d hear your cheery song
But we waited and waited to no avail
And your dear little chicks began to wail
We sought some help from The Wildlife Trust
Swift action and care was surely a must
To save the lives of your chicks so sweet
With their bright yellow beaks and enormous feet
So wherever you are, be it close or afar
Know that we’ll keep our doors always ajar
In the vain hope of hearing your shrill little songs
And seeing your nest just where it belongs

and here is a photo, albeit not a good one, of the chicks

Jenny Wren

Be back soon.