In Pastel

Hello!  Hope all my lovely arty crafty friends are well? I’ve gone to ground lately as you may have noticed…several changes in my medication over the last couple of months have resulted in a serious lack of concentration and I’ve achieved very little that I’ve thought worthy of sharing. But I am still here and have most definitely been missing this little studio space and thinking about you all.

Last night I felt the urge to do some drawing. They’re just pastel sketches in an A3 sketchbook, but for the first time recently I felt like I really wanted to make something, rather than just go through the motions.

Self-portrait in pastel. A3 sketchbook. © Stephanie Boon, March 2014

Self portrait

This one is probably my favourite out of the ones I did (I love the textures). It was about the 3rd drawing in – the others were ‘warm-ups’ and ended up in the bin. (I’m not precious and like to think it’s good editing!)

Self-portrait in pastel. A3 sketchbook. © Stephanie Boon, March 2014

Self-portrait – detail

I was given these wonderful Unison soft pastels a couple of years ago and I don’t think I’d use anything else now. There’s a fantastic array of colours and I love the way that you can lay one colour on top of another and it sits on the surface without losing it’s luminosity or blending into the colours beneath.  I really must remember to get some fixative though, or hair-spray – my drawings get smudged to nothing the way I keep them sometimes :/ Unison have a good Facebook page too, if you’re interested.

Pastel self-portrait 'Black Hole',  © Stephanie Boon, March 2014

Black Hole

This one was just mucking about with some ideas that I might develop. Might…

Pastel self-portrait 'Black Hole (detail)',  March 2014

‘black Hole’ (detail)

I wasn’t that excited by the overall image, but I do really like some of the details. And the last one? The concentration was going by then!

Pastel self-portrait 'Woman with hair hidden',  © Stephanie Boon,  March 2014

‘Woman with hair hidden’

Hope to be back soon.

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Show and Tell

Meet Janie: she’s a knitter.  It’s been a life-long hobby and sometimes those knitting needles move so fast without her even looking at them I wonder if she’s actually human!

Janie Knitting at the Norway Inn. © Stephanie Boon, 2014


We’ve been friends for a very long time and meet up once a week for a catch up and crafty ‘show and tell’ session. The meeting place usually involves an old pub, lunch and a coffee or two, maybe a cider in the summer. In the winter months we like to find somewhere with an open fire where we can while a way a couple of hours sewing and knitting. It can be a bit disappointing, like yesterday when we got to the Norway Inn and the fire wasn’t lit. A real fire does add to the ambiance of a crafty session! It makes you feel like you’re in some past century where life was slower and simpler. Probably.

This week Janie amazed me with her forward planning: she’s started knitting Christmas stockings already! She’s using a Debbie Bliss pattern in the lovely book The Knitter’s Year, 52 Simple Seasonal Knits. There are all kinds of small projects from scarves and cushions to slippers. It’s full of inspiring photos and the patterns must be pretty well written as Janie’s knitted several things now.

Jane Knitting a Christmas Stocking at the Norway Inn, Cornwall, Jan 2014. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Janie’s stocking underway

I have no doubt that by the time I see her next week this one will be finished and she’ll be on to the next one!

As for my show and tell, well it’s actually something Janie asked me to run up for her: a pillow cover in some Sanderson fabric she had. I’ve finished the front with some outline quilting and machine embroidery, just got to sew it all together now, so that’ll be another one ticked off for next week :)

© Stephanie Boon, 2014, Dandelion Clocks quilting detail

Dandelion Clocks

© Stephanie Boon, 2014, Dandelion Clocks quilting detail

Machine embroidery / quilting detail

As for sewing in the pub, I reckon most of my hexie quilt has been done on Thursday afternoons! I’ve got the coloured border on all four sides now and I’m gearing up for the appliqué borders next. But I’ll save that news for next time.

I’m still struggling a bit with keeping on top of things, and the new medication I’m on just seems to make me sleep the whole time, so I hope you’ll bear with me as I try and get my blogging life back together. In the mean time I’ve been trying to exercise a bit and get some fresh air and you can read a bit about a walking challenge I’ve just taken up on my other blog Narrative Self. Come and see some pictures of the beautiful place I’m lucky enough to live in! Not much hope of getting out and about this weekend though; we’re in for torrential rain and gales. I hope you have some lovely things planned, maybe the bad forecast will inspire me to get on with those borders!  Speak soon.

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Bordering on

Well hello folks!  Long time no see, did you have a good Christmas and New Year? I’ve been thinking about you all and how rude of me it was not to wish you seasons greetings, so let me wish you all a very happy and healthy new year! 2014 already, can you believe it?

I had yet another bout of illness in the run up to the festivities and seem to have spent rather a lot of time sleeping, even picking up a needle and thread was exhausting and I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I felt like I had nothing to show or share and just hid away from the world. Things seem to be becoming clearer now though and I feel like a little hedgehog coming out of hibernation, my little nose just sniffing the air around me…like something out of Beatrix Potter! It feels lovely to be thinking of old and new friends again and I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to very much.

Grandma's Flower Garden quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Time for borders

As for me, I’ve been thinking about a couple of sewing promises I made to myself in 2013, projects I intended to finish. The two main ones on my agenda were to finish the two quilt tops in the photo above and, despite a lot of illness last year, I’m pleased that although they’re not finished they’re pretty close!

Summer Blues quilt top, © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Summer Blues double bed quilt

My Summer Blues nine patch quilt now has flying geese borders around three sides and the final border is put together ready to go on as soon as I have some stamina!

Half square triangles in the corner of a quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

The border goes on

I’d run out of fabric to make the border so had to buy more, but was lucky enough to still find some in the same designs that I bought when I started this quilt 4 or more years ago! It’s a great way to tie in the border with the nine patch squares, but in true scrappy style there are new fabrics in there too, like that golden yellow for example.

9 patch quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

The border tucked into the end of the bed

I love the way the border looks at the end of the bed. Once it’s quilted (er, in another 4 years?!?!) I plan to bind it with a plain, off-white like the sashing. I think my favourite part of the border is the little half-square-triangle nine-patch corners – I love them!  I made them up from the small triangular scraps I had left over after cutting out the flying geese. How do you make your flying geese units? I made mine with two squares and a rectangle so that I didn’t have to stitch along a cut bias. They’re not perfect but they’ll do just fine – I just want to get this quilt finished so I can move on to some more interesting designs. One of this year’s sewing goals is to start and finish the hand quilting! So my motto is going to be ‘keep it simple’…

Half square triangles in the corner of a quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Half square triangles in for the border corners

Another goal is to get this hand sewn English paper pieced grandma’s flower garden quilt finished too. Originally it was going to be a lap quilt, but now I think I’ll add some deep appliqué borders so that it fits comfortably on a double bed. I’ve  finished a row of black hexies right round the outside edge and have started to add a colourful row of prints. My plan is to then add another row of black before adding the border. I don’t know what the appliqué will be like yet, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to try on a larger scale and there’s so much inspiration out there. Have you seen Kim McLean’s work? It’s fantastic and on her blog Glorious Applique she has some great tutorials for the needle turn appliqué method if you fancy giving it a go.

Grandma's flower garden quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

Grandma’s flower garden

What’s on your list for the coming months? Anyone else out there working on some borders? I’d love to hear about them if you are!

Happy new year :)

Linking up with Work in Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced – check out the blog for more great wip.

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Even astronauts quilt!


“I don’t hand-sew all that much on Earth”,  Karen Nyberg

This has got to be my new favourite quote of all time, ever!!!!

This is definitely one for the super-geeks: Karen’s making patchwork in space! Her out-of-this-world-made-in-space star block will be part of a star quilt celebrating the 40th International Festival of Quilts in Houston next year and you’re invited to submit a block for it too!  You can find out a bit more here on

Boy has it got my mind whirring!  What would you make?  And, if you had to make it space, you know, zero gravity, no sewing machine…what do you think would be most troublesome about the task?!  Threading a needle? I have enough problems with that here on Terra Firma! I think I’d probably be most worried about stray needles and pins puncturing my colleagues – or their space suits, eek! I’m pretty lackadaisical in the dropped pin department – I figure I’ll find them again when I need them. Something tells me that wouldn’t be the case on the International Space Station, haha! Can you imagine “Houston we have a problem: Boon’s forgotten her pincushion”!

Ahem. Something tells me it’s time for a cup of coffee.  Will you be giving a star block a go? I’m pretty tempted :)

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Burn, fabric, burn!

Oh yessss! I like a bit of fabric burning now and then, don’t you?!  Ummm, it’s just me isn’t it?  I can tell from the dumbfounded silence…

© Stephanie Boon, 2013. Polyester-cotton burning

Burn test: polyester-cotton

Why oh why would you burn lovely, precious fabric?  To find out what it’s made of, of course! Huh?  Yes, seriously, you can determine the composition of fabrics with a very simple burn test. You didn’t know that?  Welcome to my world: I’ll show you how!

You might think you don’t need to know how, it tells you on the roll in the store, right?  Well, yes it might do, but if you’re like me and you love scrappy quilts (see this scrappy cushion I recently made), your fabric can come from anywhere: shirts so old the label has washed away, a half a metre picked up in a charity shop here and there, unmarked remnants from your fabric store, gifts from friends…stuff you have no idea what its made of. Sound familiar?

© Stephanie Boon, 2013. stack of cotton and polyester cotton fabrics

Can you tell the pure cotton from the polyester-cotton?

Why does it matter?

The fabric looks good, it’s the right colour, the right pattern and will go really well with all those other lovely quilting cottons you’ve collected, so why not go right ahead and add it to the mix? Because without having some clue as to what it’s made of you won’t know how to care for your finished quilt or how that piece of fabric might affect the appearance of your quilt a few years down the line.

This little scrap might need careful hand washing or it’ll disintegrate quickly, or perhaps it will need ironing at a much lower temperature than the cottons, or maybe it has some wool content and will shrink to nothing if you put it in the machine. If it’s a poly-cotton mix you might find it ends up with lots of unsightly pilling after a bit of use – would you really want that on something you’ve spent months, maybe even years making?  If it’s for a dog basket you might not worry, but if it’s a crib quilt for a new baby, or something you hope will be cherished for years to come, it suddenly becomes important.

Knowing the fabric composition will give you confidence in the care of your quilt and how it will continue to look after use.

How do you do it?

Burn it, burn it! Ahem. I’m going to assume you’re planning to make your quilt in pure cotton fabrics, which is the usual material we use. You think the unknown fabric looks like cotton, and feels like cotton, but you’re not really sure, so to test for pure cotton, here’s what you do:

Cut a small piece of fabric a couple of inches square. Hold it with tweezers or nail scissors over a metal draining board or tin foil (have some water in the sink just in case!), then hold it over the flame of a match or a candle.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013. Fabric burn test.

Burning a piece of pure cotton

This is what you are looking for

If it’s pure cotton it will:

  • smell of burning paper
  • burn evenly with an orange flame (see the picture above)
  • have light grey smoke
  • leave dark grey ash
  • when the ash is cool if you rub it between your fingers it will leave black marks like charcoal and crumble away to nothing very easily.
© Stephanie Boon, 2013. Fabric burn test.

Cotton ash rubbed between the fingers leaves a charcoal-like residue

If there’s some polyester in the composition it will be very sticky as it burns (you can prod it with a cocktail stick to find out, but you can also see it ‘bubbling’/melting if you look carefully) and when you rub the ash between your fingers it won’t leave any marks. It will also burn much more quickly with a more acrid smell and darker smoke.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013. Fabric burn test.

Ash of polyester-cotton rubbed on the fingers is much ‘cleaner’

If there’s another natural fibre in the composition like wool or silk you should notice the smell of burning hair and it will be more difficult to light. You’ll also notice that it burns itself out.

Linen will burn like cotton, but more slowly. It can be difficult to tell a linen-cotton mix from a pure cotton with the burn test, but this particular mix is acceptable to me so I don’t worry too much.  (I know the fibres will have similar laundry requirements and appearance to any pure cotton fabrics I might be using, so I don’t think there’s any need to get hung up on it.)

I learnt the burn test at school (we’ll gloss over how many years ago) and  it gives me more confidence about whether to incorporate an unlabelled fabric into a quilt or not.  My biggest hate is polyester – I just can’t stand that pilling, and if I can eliminate it I will!

Will you be giving it go?  Let me know how you get on – and be careful, I don’t want to hear any stories about burning your hair off or calling out the fire brigade because your kitchen’s on fire!

Have fun and happy burning sewing!

PS you can find more of my quilty tips in the column on the right :)

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That orange feeling!

It gets me every autumn: orange! I just love it! It’s my favourite colour and my favourite time of year, and this year the autumn light has made the colours so spectacular around here that I think they’re seeping into my bones.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013, Sunset at Chapel Porth, Cornwall, 24.11.13

Chapel Porth, Cornwall

Kim and I watched the sun set at the beach last night; there was a nip in the air, but it didn’t deter the surfers from making the most of the waves. It was spectacular and I felt so lucky that we just happened to go out for an unplanned Sunday walk and got to watch this unfold.

Then there have been the woodland walks with golden leaves to crunch through.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013, Autumn leaves.

Golden leaves

Not forgetting to pick some up to look at in closer detail and study with a paintbrush and watecolours at home.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013, Autumn leaves., watercolour and gouache on paper.

Under the spotlight

And all this autumn colour seems to be pouring into the Christmas gift making too: check out this tea cosy and coasters!

© Stephanie Boon, 2013, Patchwork tea cosy in orange colours.

Time for tea!

These little tea cosies are easy to design and make, here’s how I did it:

Make  a Tea Cosy

  1. Measure the girth of your teapot (much like you’d measure your waist or hips!), divide the number in two and add 1 inch, then measure the height and add an inch and a half. Make two pieces of patchwork to these measurement in your preferred design (I love the simple postage stamp design of this one).
  2. Make a paper pattern based on the height and width of your patchwork,  simply curving the top edges using something like a plate or a compass.
  3. Cut out two top layers from your patchwork, then cut off a half inch strip along the bottom of your pattern and now cut  2 inner layers for the lining from a cotton fabric that you like and two pieces of wadding.
  4. Make a rouleau loop hanger  (follow the link to my tutorial)
  5. Quilt the patchwork to the wadding (excluding the backing/inner) x 2, ensuring the top edges meet (the patchwork fabric will be half an inch longer)
  6. Pin the rouleau loop at the centre top, on the right side of the patchwork, with the loop going towards the centre and the ends towards the seam
  7. Place the two patchwork pieces right sides together and stitch a quarter inch seam right around the three sides, leaving the bottom open, remove pins, press and turn right side out
  8. Place the two inner lining pieces right sides together, pin and stitch a quarter inch seam as above. Press, but don’t turn through
  9. Place the inner over the top of the outer, so that the right sides are together and pin together around the base (note that the wadding won’t be in the seam)
  10. Using the free-arm of your sewing machine, stitch around the base of the cosy, leaving an unstitched gap of about 3 – 4 inches, turn the cosy through this gap and close the gap by hand with a slip stitch
  11. Push the lining inside the outer, press so that the wadding is at the bottom edge and finally top stitch around the base through all layers, including the wadding. And That’s it!


© Stephanie Boon, 2013, Patchwork tea cosy in orange colours.

The lining – this is a fab seersucker that I was given, so fresh and jolly!

I also made some matching mug rugs to go with this tea cosy. I sewed  simple 9 patch squares for the tops and  stitched them together using the instructions for making up mug rugs in this tutorial.

© Stephanie Boon, 2013, Patchwork tea cosy in orange colours.

Drink with cake!

I think it’s going to make a lovely gift and I can’t wait to give it to someone special…I very much doubt there’ll be any cake left to go with it though!

Back during the week with more quilty goodness to share , ’til then Happy Stitching :)

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Waves of inspiration

Well hello, here comes the weekend already! Onwards and upwards with Operation Get Christmas Presents Made here! Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

A few months ago I was inspired to give the Ocean Waves block a go after seeing a version in Densye Schmidt’s excellent book Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration and then this totally fabulous borderless quilt that Ann from Fret Not Yourself finished earlier this year (I can’t tell you how much I love the sense of movement Ann created with her wonderful colour placings – the eye just dances around catching those reds and oranges amongst all the calm blues –  I could look at it for hours!)

Ocean Waves © Ann Brooks,

Ocean Waves © Ann Brooks, Fret Not Yourself (Click on the image to go to Ann’s inspiring blog)

My own efforts weren’t quite what I was hoping for! For all my quandaries about my limited stash collection I’ve actually been given/collected a number of worn men’s shirts over the last couple of years which I think will look really good in this design. So I got my pencils out and planned a quilt for a single bed knowing it would be quite a lot of work and thinking that maybe I’d take a year or two (or four!) to complete it, as I’d want to hand quilt it. So I duly made a start and although my first two blocks were a bit clumsy they were passable enough. The next two were better quality,  but over all I wasn’t happy with the finished size (they came out much smaller than I intended) and decided I’m going to make them a good few inches bigger (around 10 – 12″ perhaps instead of the 8″ these finished at; more experiments to follow). So I put them to one side and forgot about them whilst I got on with other projects.

© Stephanie Boon 2013,  Ocean waves patchwork pillow/cushion Centre detail with blanket stitch patch and buttons.

Ocean Waves pillow

Then earlier this week, as I was wracking my brains about what to make for a particular male of the species (aren’t they always the hardest to make for?!) I had a bit of an epiphany, dug out these 4 little orphans and put them together to make this lovely soft cushion. And I’m over the moon – giving it away might be harder than I thought! I made a modification to the traditional design by adding an appliqué patch to the centre: there was a pretty big white space slap bang in the middle and I felt the centre really needed to have a more interesting focal point than that! It was also a very handy solution to covering up the fact that my four blocks didn’t quite meet up together in the middle either, but I’ll gloss over that bit and focus on the positive outcome instead, haha!

© Stephanie Boon 2013, Ocean waves patchwork pillow/cushion Centre detail with blanket stitch patch and buttons.

The centre panel

As I was needle turning the patch in place I was thinking about Victoria Gertenbach’s Work Quilts series (also check out her wonderful blog The Silly Boodilly) and thought maybe it would be fun to emphasise the utilitarian quality of the shirtings, so I embellished the patch with blanket stitch and buttons and gave the opening on the back a shirt quality too. Pleased indeed! (It doesn’t happen very often for me, so please bear with me whilst I bask in the glow of ‘success’!!!)
© Stephanie Boon 2013,  Ocean waves patchwork pillow/cushion Centre detail with blanket stitch patch and buttons.

The simple back

So it’s not just a gift to cross off the ‘to make’ list, but something that reminds me of the people that wore some of the shirts, quilters that inspire me and part of the quilting tradition I love: waste not want not :) Good times!


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Orphan blocks no more

Hey there! How are you? It’s been a bit stop-go ’round here lately and I’m trying to accept there are some things I’m never going to finish. But, that doesn’t have to be negative, right?!

For instance, I know I’m never going to finish the quilt I started with Amy Smart’s Virtual Quilting Bee, much as I’d like to. My quilting mojo was interrupted by too much illness and I’ve just lost momentum. So now I’ve got 6 blocks hanging around that are far too pretty to be shoved in a box and forgotten about, but there aren’t really enough of them to do anything substantial with either.

Enter Christmas. I love to make all the gifts I give to family and friends, which means I can often be making 20 odd things each year. So how handy is it when you’ve already got 6 cute blocks ready to burn a hole in your to make list?! Hmm, I thought to myself, 6 blocks could become 3 wee table runners… Here’s the first one hot off the machine:

© Stephanie Boon, 2013 Patchwork an quilted table runner.

2 blocks down, 4 to go!

The palette is fresh and spring-like and that block on the right is my absolute favourite of the 6 I made. It’s called Tilt-a-Whirl and you can find all the details here. Here’s a close up:

© Stephanie Boon, 2013 Patchwork an quilted table runner.

Detail of the Tilt-a-Whirl block

The other block I used in this runner is called Make It Do, which you can see in the picture below. I free motion quilted (fmq) this piece, which is the first time I’ve done that in a loooong time!

© Stephanie Boon, 2013 Patchwork an quilted table runner.

Make It Do

And, boy do I need some practice! But that’s another great reason to work on small projects isn’t it: you get to practice different things without too much time commitment.

The other two runners are currently works in progress and I decided to try setting the blocks on point to give them a bit more width. I forgot that it also gives you some darn stretchy edges to work with (and I ran out of starch, doh!). Still, it’s looking okay so far, so fingers crossed! I think I’ll fmq around the pink roses, but I’m not quite sure how I’m going to approach quilting the rest of it – any ideas? What would you do?

© Stephanie Boon, 2013 Patchwork an quilted table runner.

On point blocks

Well, I’m off to stitch on that final border, so if you’ve got any quilting ideas let me have ‘em!  And don’t forget to share what else you could do with orphan blocks – how have you used yours?

Linking up with Freshly Pieced.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

(click the image to discover lots of other quilty works in progress this week.)


Happy stitching :)

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Hi, I'm Stephie

I'm so glad you've alighted at my creative space! I love to share all things quilting and drawing and I hope you'll stay for a chat. It'll make my day if you leave a comment, I love to get to know people, so don't be shy, come say hello!

Free pattern: Gingerbread Man embroidered quilt label. © Stephanie Boon, Dawn Chorus Studio, 2013

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6 Pointed Star English paper piecing patchwork tutorial. © Stephanie Boon, 2013

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