Another week already?! Where did last week go? Whoosh! A new era began in our house last week as Kim, my 16 year old son, started 6th form college. His first day at school seems like yesterday. I have such mixed feelings: excitement and possibilities for him and for me a growing sense of anxiety of his impending flight from the nest, albeit 2 or 3 years away! On the last days of his summer holiday we decided to do something fun and went on a day trip by train to Exeter. I thought I’d share some of the photos of this beautiful provincial city with you today.
One of my favourite nearby cities, Exeter’s about 70 miles or so away and takes a couple of hours to get there by train, but the first thing I saw when I came out of the station made the journey worthwhile immediately!!!
Inspirations Handicraft Shop. Right next door to Exeter station! (Photo taken on our way home at about 7pm, which is why it’s closed!)
Inspirations is a fabric and yarn shop stuffed to the gunnels with quilting goodness! Mindful that Kim really wouldn’t want to spend hours in a quilt shop I had a quick (for me!) scout round. There were some treasures to behold! I was exceptionally good though and picked up just one fat quarter of a beautiful Liberty Art Fabric and a metre of freezer paper to play with.
My hoard! One fat quarter of Liberty Art Fabric: Rajah in red
I made a mental note of everything I want to go back for! Sadly the shop doesn’t yet have a website where you can buy online, but if you know what you want and they have it in stock they will post an order. Their details are here or you can email email@example.com. There was an awful lot of fabric choice, as well as thread and everything else you might need, so don’t be shy about contacting them.
I was in a very good mood as we headed off into town! We decided to wander around the old part of the city first, just mooching about, taking it all in. Here are a few pictures to give you a flavour of the city.
Exeter Cathedral, West Front
The Cathedral is part Norman, part Gothic and there’s been a cathedral on the site for nearly a thousand years (I find these sort of facts difficult to get my head around sometimes!). The architecture takes your breath away, my few snap shots on a wet, grey day don’t do it any justice at all! There’s a green around the cathedral dotted with tall, full trees, bounded by some wonderful buildings.
Kim’s favourite building was covered in Virginia Creeper
Old slate hung facades have such wonderful details (quilt patterns anyone?!)
And buildings on the main street make you feel like you’re in another century
After a some sight seeing we went off to explore the much newer Princesshay Shopping Centre, where Kim spent way more time in the Apple store than I did in the fabric shop (not fair!!!). After a pizza it was time to head back to the train station, but there was enough time to pop into Northernhay Gardens before sunset. It’s the oldest public space in England and the red Roman city walls lined the section we wandered through.
City wall, Northernhay Gardens
And we got one last burst of colour before we left to catch the train!
It was a lovely late summer day-trip and if you ever happen to be in Devon in England I highly recommend a visit. I’m really looking forward to incorporating the fabric I bought into something quilty to remind me of our day! Do you have quilts with fabric in that remind you of places you’ve been? It seems like a great idea to me.
Come back tomorrow for something a bit more crafty – do you remember the artist card swap I told you about? I received one in the post yesterday and look forward to showing it to you – it’s very sweet! Hopefully I’ll have some progress to share on the one I’m making too…ummm best get away and get on with it then, ha!
Back soon, happy quilting!
My August Rain scrappy blue string quilt top is done, woohoo! This week I’ve finished it up with some borders to frame the centre panel and make it just a little bit larger all round.
After the rain
I took these pictures on one of my favourite paths down to the beach but I didn’t manage to get a photo of the whole quilt before it got too dark. I hope you enjoy these ones as much as I do though.
I absolutely love the Kaffe Fassett ‘Poppies‘ fabric in the border, it’s a dream to sew with and compliments the blue strings perfectly. It’s like seeing rain drenched flowers once the clouds have gone – and they make me seriously happy!
Detail of the border
Since I’d foundation-pieced the strings onto a fine muslin it seemed like a good idea to add muslin to the back of the borders too. I thought this would make a consistent weight right across the quilt, which should make it easier to quilt by hand. It also means I’ll get the same sort of ‘light-density’ and won’t be able to see the batting/wadding through the borders and nowhere else.
I have big plans for the quilting: big stitch! When I get round to it (a few other projects to get on with first) the quilting will be diagonal across the centre panel to emphasise the rain and perpendicular to the edges of the quilt in the border. Nice and simple, although I’m thinking about using various coloured perle threads in the borders to echo the scrappiness of the centre. For some reason I can’t get ‘monbretia orange’ out of my head!
I can’t wait to quilt this, but I’m forcing myself to get some other projects moving first. But I’m so excited about about making the binding for this one - I’m sure it’s going to pull the whole thing together and can’t wait to see it happen. Which part of a quilt project do you get most excited by? For me I think it changes with every project, but for August Rain - definitely the binding!
So what are you up to this weekend? I had a great day in Exeter today with my son (more on that in the next post) and think we might head over to Falmouth to see The Tall Ships on Sunday before he starts college next week – eek! Whatever you’re up to I hope you have great fun and manage to fit in a bit of quality stitching time too!
Linking up with Finish Up Friday with Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts. It’s a great site run by a lovely lady – with some gorgeous, colourful solid blocks going on in her latest post Goodbye Summer (noooo don’t say that!!!!).
Back soon, but don’t forget you can join us on Facebook too – lots of inspiring things for you to discover every day on the Dawn Chorus Studio page, from colourful images to fabric sales and events - pop on over and say hi!
Hello lovely friends! Thanks for coming by today to see the finished centre panel of my scrappy string quilt top! Ta-da!!!
I don’t know what you expected, but it’s really not what I planned at all! But that’s the wonderful thing about this sort of quilt, you never quite know what you’re going to get. My initial idea was to go with a diamond layout because I love all the secondary patterns you get, but does this look like diamonds to you? No! So, what happened? I finished up the blocks at the weekend and as I was digging through my blue scrap basket looking for suitable size pieces and patterns I realised that the blocks were becoming less ‘contrasty’ as time had gone on. Basically I’d run out of the dark blues I’d started with! When I laid them alongside the earlier blocks I’d made I just wasn’t happy with the distribution of lights and darks I could get, so I tried some other layouts and nothing really grabbed my attention.
I work on the floor, not for lack of a design wall or wall space (although I do lack wall space!) but because it’s something I’ve always done, whether drawing or quilt-making. The great thing about working on the floor is that you can walk around your design and see it from a completely different perspective – ‘flaws’ jump out at you when you see your design from a new point of view for the first time. Much like people say you shouldn’t publish a blog post (or whatever) until the following day when you can read it again with fresh eyes (does anyone really do that?! No, but I often wish I had!!!). It’s easy enough to turn a drawing upside down on the wall, but I really don’t fancy moving 60 odd quilt blocks upside down when it’s simpler to lay them on the floor and walk around them! Mind you, there is another way… another ‘trick’ is to look at your design in a mirror: you stand with your back to your work on the wall and look at it in a mirror that you hold in your hand (it doesn’t have to be a big mirror!); you’ll see your design with fresh eyes and anything you don’t like or ‘doesn’t work’ will become pretty obvious.
So, there I was sitting on the studio (er kitchen!) floor, shuffling blocks around in the dull, grey light listening to heavy rain falling and ruminating on what to try next when it suddenly hit me: one of the layouts I’d tried before had reminded me of rain, or a child’s drawing of rain anyway.
I did a quick reshuffle of the blocks and looked at it from every side until it finally felt right. I concentrated the darker striped blocks at the top of the design fading to lighter ones at the bottom. I noticed a few blocks had a strong green hue that reminded me of rain drenched grass, fresh and bright, so I grouped them together towards the bottom. After what seemed like hours of fiddling about it eventually came together in about 10 minutes!
It rained and rained and rained today!
The panel is made up entirely of scraps donated by friends, old shirts, and odd scraps from previous quilting projects. None of the patterns and colours were ever planned to go together and there’s quite a diverse range from modern polka dots to old fashioned florals and the odd novelty print too. It goes to show what a ‘waste not want not’ approach to design can do, so I recommend holding on to any decent quality cotton fabrics you might come across, because at some point you’ll have enough for a scrappy quilt in the truest sense of the word.
Next?! My overflowing red/pink scrap basket.
I also recommend cutting your scraps into useable shapes and strips as you accumulate them – it was a pain in the backside having to dig though baskets of scrunched up fabric in the most random shapes you can imagine. Ironing is not my favourite past time and this storage ‘method’ necessitated rather a lot of it! The Sassy Quilter recently had an interesting article on how to store scraps if you’re looking for a more organised way than mine. I’ll be bearing Paula’s tips in mind when I sort through my next basket.
In the mean time I’ll be making a border for this quilt. It’s a great size for a lap quilt, but I’d like it to be just a tad bigger for extra wraparound comfort! I want the border to act as a frame for all the scrappiness so decided to buy some new fabric to make it simple and cohesive. I spent about £23 on the three fabrics below: a quarter metre of the orange, 30cm of the floral and 1.3m of the blue grid. I might even have a little left over for the scrap baskets if I’m lucky!
Fabrics for the border from l-r: Moda, Kaffe Fassett (Poppies) and Makower
I’m quite excited about the border and made a start on it this afternoon, so pop back on Friday when I plan to have the whole quilt top finished and ready to show you, woohoo!
I’m linking up with Work in Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced and, for the first time, Let’s Bee Social with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts - pop on over to say hi and see what else has been going on this week; looks like people have been pretty busy!
Until Friday, happy scrap sorting!
It’s all very exciting here in the studio. Ok, I lie, but it will be very exciting once I get going on the Artist Trading Card swap! In the mean time, I’m getting excited thinking about it. I was lucky enough to find out about the swap in time to join in and was recently allocated a swap partner, eek! The idea is that you make a textile card about the size of a business card and send it to your partner, who could be anywhere in the world. You’ll then receive one in return (though not necessarily from the person you sent yours to). It’s a bit like some mail art projects I’ve taken part in in the past. The theme for this swap is ‘getting away from it all’ and I’ve got about two weeks or so to come up with the goods. Undoubtedly I’ll leave it ’til the last minute as usual but I’m telling you now so that you can nag me about it, haha!! Take a look at some of the cards people made last year over in the Flickr group; it looks like a lot of fun was had!
I wonder if any of my lovely friends have taken part in such a swap – or a quilt block swap? I’d love to hear about it if you have – what were the highs and lows? Anything I should be aware of? (Please don’t say “meeting deadlines”!!!!)
Finally today, here’s a random picture of some actual sewing I have done! Well, appliqué that’s in progress at any rate…any guesses as to what it might be?!
Jingle bells, jingle bells…
I think I may be getting delirious now! Time to get on with that string quilt I mentioned yesterday – back tomorrow with some photos and an update.
Until then, happy sewing!
Well just where did last week go?! I’m not entirely sure what happened, but there was a big birthday and exam results involved, oh, and even some fabric!
Last weekend I was whisked off on a ferry to St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly for a fantastic day out with family. Kim’s auntie and uncle spoilt us rotten and if ever you’re looking for a way to make some special birthday memories this is it. The Isles of Scilly are only 28 miles off the mainland here in Cornwall, but it feels like a different world. It’s a really inspiring place and I’d love to go back with a sketchbook and some paints one day!
A rose between 2 thorns! Kim and his Auntie Linda and Uncle Stewart
The ferry (in the background) has a reputation for giving a rough ride because of its flat bottom – people around us were obviously feeling a little worse for wear, but thankfully we arrived on St Mary’s with stomachs in tact because our first stop was lunch!
Dramatic skies on the coast path – we managed to stay dry!
Lunch with a fabulous view
On a recommendation from Tim, who we met on the ferry, we headed around the coast to Juliet’s Garden, where we watched heavy rain clouds blow in across the bay and out the other side! It’s a bustling cafe/restaurant with a great menu and fantastic views. Agapanthus light up the place even under dull skies. But the rain clouds soon blew over and we were treated a glorious sunny afternoon; the sandy beaches quite literally sparkled.
The harbour, St Mary’s
Blue skies over The Castle
It was a magical afternoon and to top it off we had a fairytale view of St Michael’s Mount (Penzance) on the way back:
St Michael’s Mount from The Scillonian ferry
As if all this wasn’t enough Kim gave me a selection of wonderful Kaffe Fassett fabrics too! He ordered them from The Cotton Patch and assures me they’re all his own choice, which makes them all the more special. When I put them together in a quilt I’ll undoubtedly think of him and our wonderful trip with Linda and Stewart. A most special way to mark a half century indeed!
Red/pink Kaffe Fassett Collective charm pack from The Cotton Patch
Kaffe Fassett Collective quarter yard cuts from The Cotton Patch
Kaffe Fassett Collective quarter yard cuts from The Cotton Patch
Towards the end of the week there were more celebrations when we found out that Kim had done well in his school exams, which means he’ll be going on to 6th form college to do his A-levels in a week or so’s time. He’s growing up so fast and I’m so proud of him I could burst!
With all the celebrations I didn’t manage to get too much sewing done last week, but I’m really pleased to say I managed to finish up the string blocks for the blue scrappy quilt this weekend! Come back on Wednesday to see the work in progress - you never know I might even have a finished quilt top by then! Maybe.
See you Wednesday, until then happy sewing!
A festive flower garden!
Festive things at this time of year? I know, I know it’s terrible! But I’m finally realising us quilters need plenty of time if we’re going to get things all sewn up for the big holiday in, ahem, four months’ time! So this weekend I tried out some new needle turn appliqué patterns: hearts, flowers and birds with a Scandinavian feel. (Still loving these Henley Studio ‘Scandi’ fabrics - follow the link for more details, but for a more scrappy feel I’ve mixed in prints from Moda too.)
Each patch finishes at 3.5″ (9cm), so they were really quick to sew, even by hand. I love needle turn appliqué, it’s really relaxing to do and so much easier than you’d think – I can’t believe how quickly the weekend disappeared sewing these! If you fancy having a go at this type of appliqué why not try out one of my free mug-rug patterns – there’s a simple guide in each one.
A pair of birds
I’m not sure which of these new motifs if my favourite yet – the bird or the flower design; which one do you like best?
The full monty!
I’m stitching them together to make a border now – and I might be able to reveal what the border’s actually for at the end of the week if things keep going well, so fingers crossed!
Stitching them together.
Before I head off for a run (apologies for the heavy clouds forming, I’m pretty sure it’s my fault!) I thought I’d show you these lovely heart and bird ribbons supplied by Betty and Lily - they have some gorgeous festive ones too if you’re feeling in the holiday mood (reindeer, reindeer!)! Hop on over to their Facebook page to check them out and give them a like!
More folksy birds!
Happy sewing and see you later in the week
Hello world! Hop on for today’s quilt tour! I received an email from the lovely Paula at The Sassy Quilter last week asking me if I’d like to join her on her blog hop travels around the world and of course I said yes please! It’s a great hop, not least because you get to meet some great quilters, but because it reveals a little about each quilter’s creative process, which is really fascinating.
Saffron Fields (finished in 2010)
Well, what can I tell you about myself that isn’t already on my About page?! Hmm, that’s a tricky one, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that one of my earliest scars is from a sewing machine! I was about 6 and stuck my finger under the needle as my mum was sewing, “what’s this?” I asked. Judging by the scar I think she made several stitches through my finger, but all I remember is the copious amount of blood!!! I can’t recall not being able to use a sewing machine though, so maybe she taught me after that!
I’ve been lucky enough to have spent most of my life making art (I have a Masters Degree in Fine Art), but I’ve been sewing just as long. Over the last 7 or 8 years I’ve really concentrated on patchwork and quilting and it’s going to stay that way – I’m addicted! I’ve finally found a way to express myself through stitch that seems natural and comfortable.
So what am I working on?
It’s not in my nature to work on one thing at a time, so I have several things on the go, not to mention the volumes of ideas still in my head! Looking back over the last few years though it seems I generally have a couple of large projects and numerous small ones that I’m working on at any one time. At the moment I’m hand quilting a double (twin) bed quilt that I’ve called Summer Blues; it’s an old project I’m desperate to get finished so that I can move on! (You can read more about it here.) My other large project is my grandma’s flower garden bed quilt, which is on the back burner while I get on with Summer Blues.
Summer Blues bed quilt with lots of Kaffe Fassett fabrics (started over 6 years ago and still in progress!)
Small projects include this growing string quilt (it’ll be lap quilt size) and numerous cushions/pillows (I love making these as a way to test ideas and techniques).
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Found, Wall Hanging 2013 (exploring appliqué, machine and hand embroidery)
I think that what I bring to my quilts is an artist’s eye for colour. I hate using pre-cut packs, I think they really limit my creativity – I don’t want someone else’s idea of fabrics that compliment each other, I want to find my own. Finding my own ‘quilting voice’ has taken me a while and is one of the reasons I want to get these old projects done and dusted so that I can really move on. One of the things that’s dawned on me lately is that I can draw, and so many quilters lament that they can’t, so I’m excited to explore appliqué as a way of making things more ‘me’. Of course I also love to include hand stitching on just about everything I do – I feel so connected to the process, it’s personal and intimate. But it does mean that ideas can often take some time to come to fruition!
Why do I create do what I do?
It’s about process. I love every step of the way from idea to completion. Making something with my hands is intrinsic to the process; I don’t want to just have an idea and let someone else follow it through, for me ideas develop through the making – creating something is a decision making process and it’s not something that ever ends. The piece you’re working on might come to a finish, but the ideas you have and the decisions you make are carried on to the next project to explore. I’d stitch, sew, create even if no-one ever saw what I made - I just have to do it. It’s who I am, as trite as that sounds!
Machine and hand embroidery (this wren became my logo!)
How does my creative process work?
Nothing’s ever in a logical order for a start! I think I’m beginning to find my focus, which is ‘place’, and colour is the medium I use to convey my feelings about it. I’m a very ‘outdoorsy’ person and I love to run and walk trails, especially where I live in Cornwall, and I want to capture the essence of what I see and feel around me. A simple example is the lap quilt at the top of the post. Saffron Fields captures a little bit of place for me. Here in Cornwall the fields are small (it’s too hilly for anything else) and they’re bounded with stone walls. At various times in the year the fields are yellow with rape or golden corn and they’re often scattered with bright yellow wild flowers. This was an early example of me trying to reference that in a quilt, just taking the idea of small squares and the colour yellow.
Another example is a quilt I started last year for some very special people (and it’s somewhat late!). It’s about the visual memories I have of a trip to Peru – the colour of the earth was like nothing I’d ever seen before, the shapes of the mountains, the rock, the hand dyed and woven textiles… in my mind it’s fused into this wonderful rich earthiness that I wanted to capture. I started the process with sketchbooks and photographs and if you’re interested you can see some of the development of this quilt in Playing with blocks of colour and Peru – finally a quilt in progress.
Dirt road, Peru, 2003.
I’m aware that this has become a much wordier post than I intended, so I’ll finish up by mentioning the very inspiring work of some of my favourite quilters: Ann Brooks, Victoria Gertenbach and Sujata Shah – their work has given me a framework where hopefully, one day, I might also fit. It’s that cusp between art and design, expressed through the medium of colour and stitch that really excites me. So please head on over to Victoria’s blog The Silly Boodilly and Sujata’s blog The Root Connection to see their beautiful quilts.
Finally, it’s with great pleasure that I hand the blog hopping baton over to Ann of Fret Not Yourself. Ann is an amazing quilter and her eye for colour and pattern take my breath away. I love the way she can take something like a simple ‘trip around the world‘ block and develop it into a unique and complex design that really makes it her own. Her skill and experience show in abundance, yet never a more humble, generous blogger are you likely to meet!
Thanks again Paula for inviting me to take part, and dear friends do make sure you visit The Sassy Quilter too, because Paula is just that – sassy, fun and completely full of energy and enthusiasm for this wonderful thing we all love to do. (And she has some great tips for beginners, giveaways and a quilt-along too!) Thanks for reading and very happy creating!
From ‘The Art of Needlecraft’ (1930′s)
I was quilting away on Saturday night on my Summer Blues quilt, by hand, and was pretty mortified when I put my needle into the ditch along the sashing to have the seam suddenly fray apart on me. I’m not sure whether I’d clipped it too close or not sewn a 1/4″ seam in the first place, but either way I was cursing my poor craftsmanship! After a good telling off it was time to decide what to do. Rather than rip it all out and add in a new piece of sashing (this would have been more work than I think the damage warranted) I decided to follow the ‘make do and mend’ principle that’s embodied in the history of patchwork and quilting. As I was thinking about it, I realised that here was an opportunity so share something I hope you might find helpful too. I’m sure frayed seams aren’t that common (unless you’re a slack a seamstress as I appear to have been!), but sometimes when you’ve been working on something for years, or things get moved around and the weave is perhaps a little loose, it is possible for fraying to happen.
Here are my tips on how to mend and make it do!
Asses the damage
How large is the frayed area?
In this instance I felt it was relatively minor, but could obviously get much worse if I didn’t sort it out now. The frayed area was about an inch along the seam on the white sashing strip.
Where on the quilt is it?
Would a repair be in a conspicuous area, in the centre of the quilt for example? The area I needed to mend was close to the border, so would be hanging along the side of the bed and not that conspicuous at all (phew!).
The place that needs darning is along the top edge of the blue nine patch, close to the border of the quilt.
Deciding on the best way to repair it
I think I had a couple of choices in this situation: to stitch a patch over it or to darn it. I thought a patch would be far more conspicuous than a darn, so decided to go for that method.
Beginning the darn
I made a few vertical stitches from the blue fabric into the more stable area of the frayed white fabric before I undid a few quilting stitches beside it. Next I made running stitches under and over the vertical stitches, just like weaving (the picture above shows the beginning of the darning process). Obviously this doesn’t look particularly neat, so what I did next was to roll the seam over the darn as neatly as possible and then blind stitch it in place (it’s much easier if you put a hand underneath the seam and hold it in place with your thumbnail as you stitch with your other hand). Rolling the seam like this gave a very minor distortion to the straightness of the seam (as you can see below), but it looks a whole lot neater than seeing the darning!
Rolling the seam after darning
The next stage was the more fiddly part of the operation! I had to unpick some of my basting and quilting stitches in order to see the back of the darned seam. As you can see from the picture below, the fraying is quite close even after darning. The best way to stabilise this is to iron on some light weight fusible Vilene, which should stop it fraying any further.
Stabilising the back of the seam.
After the repair I carried on quilting along the ditch, through the Vilene, which will hold the repair in place and stop excessive movement in the area.
Frayed seam? What frayed seam!
From a distance you can’t see it at all, even if you know where it is; hanging from the side of the bed I doubt it’ll ever be seen again! What could have been a disaster (and I might have treated like one once upon a time!), has been minimised and stabilised. So if you ever find yourself faced with such a problem, don’t just put all your hard work back in a box and forget about it, take a bit of time out, add in some patience and ask yourself “can I make do and mend this?”. You’ll probably be really surprised at what you can achieve!