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Tuesday November 3, 2020



I was inspired by Kaffe's lecture - and truth be told, simply by Kaffe himself - to try and make something of, (or complete), a piece of patchwork I started when I was at college.

At that time, I did a great deal of sewing, making most of my own clothes. And being one for the "Grand Project" I decided to use remnants to start on a lifetime project of an English paper-pieced hexagon scrap quilt such as I had seen in museums. What you see above is as far as it got. By the time it hibernated I was thinking on a smaller scale and decided I might make it into a kind of mob cap shower hat - but it needed to be slightly bigger.

Roll forward half a century, and I ran across the little package above (complete with a reel of tacking cotton and a needle) and took a photo to chuckle over, and sent it to my friend in Canada - we had met in Cambridge in 2016 and subsequently joined forces at the NEC Quilt Show that summer.

This tiny work had originally lived with all my scraps from that era, but at some point in time I passed the bag of scraps (sans hexagons) on to my then teenage step-daughter as she had an interest in using them to make bags. I never realised until this year, when they emerged from deep cover, that they had clearly been passed back to me at some point. And this was enough to inspire me to take up the baton again for the Grand Project.

I completed the last round of the original shape and then planned out a quilt to cover a blanket - a loosely woven packing blanket, thus continuing the "recycle and re-use" concept. I need 18 roundels, which is pretty daunting, especially since - once complete - they each need to be surrounded by a common background colour. However, I have completed 10 of them in a relatively short time, so I am hopeful it might finally become a proper quilt.


You can see I have been able to find many of the original scraps to make the centres of each shape look the same, gradually getting more free format as I work outwards on each one. I have to say they are not colours I would choose in designing a quilt today, but it has been such a delight remembering each fabric, and what clothes I made from them when I was in my early 20s.

Posted on November 3, 2020 at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Friday October 30, 2020

Kaffe Lecture


Today I attended a Kaffe web lecture sponsored by the Cotton Patch - part of the remote delivery offerings "Beyond the Festival of Quilts".
I thought he was terrific, covering many of his design interests, (quilting, knitting, needlepoint, pottery, mosaic) exhibited through commissions, his own house, his collections from around the world - and perhaps more surprisingly: jigsaws.
Many thanks to him, and to the Cotton Patch for supporting this endeavour.

Posted on October 30, 2020 at 3:38 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Saturday October 24, 2020

Kaffe's Pyramid Quilt


Having started in earnest around mid-June, I finally completed the cot quilt (and we managed to deliver it before a second lockdown).
As I said, I had to substitute some of the fabrics required in the original design from 2002, but one splendid piece of luck was finding the Handarbeitshaus and Museum, who were able to supply enough of the original Ombre Stripe OS05 for the edge and backing which really sets it off I think, and would have been really hard to substitute.

I was then left with the final challenge (for me) of stitching the all-over "random" pattern, which was supposed to be done with free-motion machine quilting. I won't say how I achieved it in the end, but after a few pathetic attempts, I decided I had neither the time nor the inclination to perfect my skills in this area. After far-from-free-motion work on the machine, I was quite satisfied with the result.


As a final note, I had to laugh, as I managed to create another problem by quilting with some "Pale Pink" Coats Sylko cotton thread. I have a lot of threads, and rarely buy new ones except included with the fabric and pattern when starting a new sewing project. Quilting takes a lot of thread so inevitably the reel ran out. It was only at this point I realised that Sylko has not been available for donkeys years, and buying more was not a trivial exercise - most sellers charging a premium for "vintage" items.
A truely revealing experience.


Posted on October 24, 2020 at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Friday July 17, 2020

Kaffe's Baby Pyramid Quilt


With more time on my hands, I am slowly digging through all my "started but not finished" projects of the past 20 (and more) years, and thus rekindled an interest in patchwork. I have a couple of would-be quilts with a large part of the donkey work complete - more on that later - but because of a new baby in the family I decided to continue a cot quilt which, in my head at least, I started sewing in about 2002; the pattern is included in the second Rowan Westminster Quilting Book from that era.
My idea had been to work on it slowly with hand quilting (easily transportable while travelling to and from France) but in fact, I had done little more than collect the fabrics I needed, so I started from scratch with paper-piecing the tiny triangles. I was planning to use the small left-overs from other Rowan projects and I squeezed in as many as I could find in my box, but I was missing a few key fabric designs which are no longer available and had to substitute - a skill I am not good at, but needs must...

You can see the patchwork is firmly underway during lockdown on a sunny day in the garden.

Posted on July 17, 2020 at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Sunday May 12, 2013

MayDaysArtsTrail 2013


We spent the day on Hayling Island - we had a great lunch at the Olive Leaf pub and restaurant, and made a brief foray out on to the beach - but it was a bit too bracing to stay long - or even "at all"!

The main reason we were there was to see Lou's open house. She had a lot of her "students" work on show this year - including a memorial room dedicated to Sheila's work - from which you can gather that Sheila is no longer with us. Since I still find it rather hard to believe, let alone accept, I can't really say much more than to let her work speak for itself.





Posted on May 12, 2013 at 5:53 PM

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Sunday September 30, 2012

Brilliant Bags


I made this lovely little hand-quilted purse from left-over Amy Butler fabric, which I used to line another bag (see below). It was meant to be a much smaller purse to fit into the bag but I had some difficulty finding just the perfect frame, and while looking came across these lovely retro frames, which I just had to have. I still had a purse in mind, though these are really evening/cosmetic bag sized, until the last minute when I decided to use up all the left over fabric and make a bag for a spindle. (Yes, I know it looks like a spectacle case but that's because you can't see the scale.)
I have also bought a frame with red clips, and so now I am planning another spindle case - maybe felted fair-isle knitted fabric - as I have so many spindle projects that could potentially to live in cases....
I've little experience with bag construction, but from this one, I think the top should be more gathered to better fit this type of frame, (I had little choice here as I was limited to my remnant), and the side slits should be a little deeper. The bag is a bit too stretched when opening it. Other than that - I really do favour clip closures over zips for knitting or fibre - so ... perfect.

I also completed the original bag with its lining. This is really Felicity's bag. She crocheted most of it and then lost interest, so I have finished it off, and added handles and lining.


Posted on September 30, 2012 at 10:07 AM

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Sunday July 29, 2012

Bourne Quilters

This weekend saw Sheila frantically busy with the Bourne Quilters biennial exhibition. It was a fabulous event with a huge variety of wonderful entries - many of them were themed projects and yet each individual entry was entirely original and so utterly different from one another. I took a huge number of pictures but am limiting myself to those that caught my eye as inspirations to make something.


This Mackintosh inspired panel is very appealing. It captures the design, but is at the same time made very simply, by choosing the right fabric, and using applied ribbon. I particularly like the use of actual quilting on the white background; again, it looks deceptively simple - a pattern of straight lines - but I think in practice, keeping those lines dead straight shows the skill of the quilter - anything slightly off would show up very badly as this is the only decoration on a plain fabric


I always associate quilting with Christmas somehow, so the "Christmas Room" had great appeal. This place setting is quite delightful, and yet created from simple (yet precise!) shapes using lovely fabrics.


The fashion for random bunting continues. I like this, as you can easily use up odd triangles of suitable festive fabric and the lettering is a gold fabric that is fused (not sewn). In this case "Happy Christmas" but applicable for any occasion.


Posted on July 29, 2012 at 6:11 PM

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Sunday April 25, 2010

Grace is the beauty of form.

I spent yesterday at the V&A taking in both the Quilts exhibition - ancient and modern - and "Grace Kelly: Style Icon", which showed how her wardrobe evolved from that of a stylish actress to royal princess.

In the latter, we were able to see her film costumes, dresses made for her trousseau and wedding, as well as the later French haute couture of the 1960s and '70s. In 1955 Grace Kelly first met Prince Ranier wearing a cotton dress made from a McCalls pattern of the day (albeit not hand-sewn by herself - she had modeled for McCalls spring catalogue for that year) but going forward as Princess she easily embraced the haute couture gowns by her favourite couturiers Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves St Laurent.
I loved the outfits from the 1950s - envisioning myself on all of them (!). The dresses were inspirational and made me want to go home and start sewing immediately! The 1960s fashions were a little less appealing to me, based on simpler straighter lines - though the Mondrian dress is always striking (I think M&S even had recent version of this type of 1960s design).
Of course, they have their own beauty, which she was well able to carry off with her height and slender figure -
GraceHair.jpg - and rather despite the bizarre 1960s rigid hair styles, bolstered by hair-piece additions, (which were a fairly normal feature even in less formal hair dressing at that time).
In the 1970s, the fashions moved favourably for an older Grace (in my opinion) but these are my least favourite - probably because this was the sartorially unsatisfactory era of my youth ("the decade that taste forgot"). The exhibits were more formal dresses: long, floaty, layered (visualise Abigail's Party); they showcased wonderful colours and fabrics.
As the exhibition pointed out, Grace's appeal for the masses in the 1950s was that she wore clothes that any girl could have worn - even to meet a Prince..... and I think I follow the masses here....

The quilt exhibition was quite different in atmosphere; the lighting was kept low to protect the items, making it seem mysterious and almost sacred. Many of the quilts on show featured applique and embroidery - picture quilts, symbolic, incorporating religious texts, or commemorating people or events. But I have to say, I preferred the traditional pieced and quilted exhibits - some of which were surprisingly ancient yet in excellent condition. The Bishops Court Quilt, shown below, dates from around 1690.


One coverlet was unfinished, and was on display so that the front and back could be viewed with the paper pieces used in the construction on show. The papers can provide important historical evidence for dating quilts - the one on show used old receipts and ledger papers.
The 65 quilts on show were mainly from the V&A's own collection but also included a number of new works by contemporary artists, which were on loan - some commissioned especially for the show. It could be argued that some of the newer works were not "quilts" at all - they more explored the term as an artistic concept. For me, quilts represent safety and comfort, and I did not take to being challenged by cutting edge art forms. I liked Sara Impey's "Punctuation" - a silk machine-quilt poem of fragmented phrases. However, my favourite of the modern works was Tracey Emin's bed (no - not the bed but "To Meet My Past" 2002) - neither the artist nor this work could really be said to represent safety and comfort, but I found it poignantly pleasing.


Quilts: 1700 - 2010 runs at the V&A until July 4th, and
Grace Kelly: Style Icon runs until September 26th.

Posted on April 25, 2010 at 8:26 AM

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Thursday December 3, 2009

Amnesty Card Campaign


While I had my sewing things available, I decided to respond to a request from Amnesty International to send them a supportive Greetings card - explicitly not religious. The fabric piecework card took me longer than I had hoped, and I think the point of it was the accompanying donation - but I was quite satisfied with the use of my time.

I chose to send mine in support of the women of Zimbabwe, having attended the Everywoman Awards ceremony for 2009 at the Dorchester in London yesterday. Some of the recipients pointed out that not all women enjoy the same status as we do in the UK - and also how fragile that status can be, as has been proven in other countries where changes in government have caused astonishing reductions in status almost overnight.

Posted on December 3, 2009 at 12:08 PM

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Saturday November 21, 2009

Christmas Decorations


For about a year I have been collecting milk bottle tops to make a Christmas Tree decoration, based on one that I saw George's Mother had made a couple of years ago. My kitchen drawer is teeming with the things, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to get on with the project.

The tops are covered in fabric and sewn together to make the shape you want. [Someone suggested you "could make other shapes as decorations- not just for Christmas!" - and this is true - but only, I would venture to suggest, if you have very bad taste. Somehow all good taste is suspended for the Christmas period.].

I padded the tops with a little piece of fleece material, which I stuck to the top with a dot of glue, just enough to hold it in place during the construction. I then cut a circle of fabric 4 inches in diameter; which I sewed round the edge with a running stitch, using the thread doubled. You can then draw up the thread tightly, covering the top with the fabric, and enclosing the fleece padding. Secure the gathering thread with a couple of stitches on the back, take the thread to the edge and leave a long tail when you cut it off. You can use the tails to do the catch stitches on the back to hold the shape together. I did not put any finishing the on the backs of the tops as I thought the gathering looked quite neat, even with the raw edges of fabric.


You sew the tops together to make the tree shape, and then have fun embellishing the tree with beads or gliterring stones. I sewed a ribbon hanger on top to hang the decoration on the wall. You can make a larger tree by simply adding rows to the pyramid part, and you can enlarge the "pot" section in proportion, if necessary.

I took all my bits and pieces along to the Guild meeting last week (it was Christmas themed) and although I think this is quite old hat, many of them were very interested and have since made their own trees. I think a lot of people have a collection of tops intended for charities that have since refused to take them. Once you have made a collection it's hard to stop and discard them all.

When it came to it, I found I had only enough tops to make 2 trees. One for myself and one destined for my dear friend in California.

If this is all too late for this year, my helpful suggestion is that you make these little craft projects in the early part of January, when it's quieter. They can then be packed away in the Christmas boxes ready to leap out and surprise you with your own forethought next year, by which time you are too busy to think of anything else other than how to fit the over-sized turkey into the oven, and how to fit all your many relatives around your dining table such that they can still have enough mobility in their arms to eat said turkey, (or is it the other way around?).

Posted on November 21, 2009 at 8:26 PM

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Friday October 9, 2009

Knitting and Stitchery Show 2009

This year the main exhibit in the Alexandra Palace entrance hall was the impressive: "Casting Off...A Coat for a Boat!".


Textile designer Ingrid Wagner was lead artist and on this amazing community project which was created with the help of contributors hailing from the North East region as well as internationally, and with the support of The North East Maritime Trust.

Every section of the boat exhibit provided fascinating detailed works of knitted art.


All the poor little fish caught in the nets - though they look cheerful enough about it!


And spot the rats leaving the (hopefully not!) sinking ship.


Fewer photos overall than in previous years indicates how interesting it all was and how busy we were looking around.
I would have liked to take photos of some of the artist's work but of course that was mostly prohibited. I did enjoy one artist who made delightful fine ceramic mugs, jugs and other items, which looked as though they were made of paper, and charmingly painted with floral (and other) designs. Hard to describe without a photo! However, she had already sold all her stock on only Day 2 of the show.

My first item on the agenda for the day was to hand in my completed Macmillan Blanket at the Knitter Magazine stand. That done we were free to roam, observe and buy!

As to our purchases: we saw Fi Morris and Sheila was very smitten with one of her patterns; we had to order the (discontinued) Wendy wool for it when we got home. I am very glad I did Fi's workshop to understand her specialist techniques for when I get round to knitting it! I bought some bargain Sirdar Peru and Patons Misty - yet more cardigans; some lovely beads for Christmas gift necklaces; some earring attachments to supplement my Alison-made stitch markers (I use them all the time and never have enough); and Italian sock wool for... never you mind what.

Posted on October 9, 2009 at 11:49 PM

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Monday January 26, 2009

Getting ahead...

While packing away the Christmas decorations, I resolved that this year I really would make my planned quilted Christmas cushion covers (from the vast collection of Christmas fabrics I have been amassing over the years for this very project*). As I admired the cheerful "quick" cushion covers I made in 2007, I realised how great it was to be able to simply decorate the house in Advent, and not have the mad dash of trying to make decorations at the same time as all those last minute gifts. It occurred to me that I should make my patchwork before the decorations were stored away - maybe while still feeling a bit Christmassy.
So here they are - doing a twirl before joining the others in the box.


It took me a day of messing about with the fabrics before coming up with these (rather conventional) designs - and that with the aid of some books - plus I had to buy a couple of extra neutrals to properly blend in. On top of that, once started, I got carried away with the pleasure of it all, and I did actually back and quilt the patchwork, and finished the covers off with a zip.
So:- I'm ready. (Well... ready to disguise my cushions anyway).

I made the pieces using the foundation method that I learnt on a Rowan workshop. I was very smitten by this technique, though, Sheila, (with whom I went), has no time for it at all. It suits the way I work very well. The pattern is drawn on a paper, you put your patches roughly on the back of the paper, then sew through the front, following your accurate lines, and voila! ...perfect seams.


You have to put very little effort into the preparation of your pieces, but the result produces those lovely crisp corners. In fact for very narrow angled corners, (such as in Kaffe Fassett's flag designs), this is really the only way to successfully execute them. Each time when I turn the papers over, I am astonished anew at how perfect the patching seems to be. (Any imperfections seen here demonstrate how sloppy a worker I am!).

Sheila has relented somewhat on papers; she recently did a workshop on machine Sashiko, where she used the technique of sewing through a design on paper to produce the simple embroidery on a fabric underneath. The fancy thread, (which can be relatively thick), is wound onto the bobbin, so the pattern comes out on the very bottom of your layers. Originating in Japan as a form of mending clothing, sashiko is usually done with white thread on indigo fabric. Maybe more on this another time!

[*Note: didn't even make a small dent in the Christmas fabrics...]

Posted on January 26, 2009 at 10:53 PM

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Friday October 10, 2008

Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitchery Show 2008

This entry is a little late but here we are at last at the Knitting and Stitchery Show.


The entrance exhibit this year was a knitted coral reef that everyone could contribute to - you could knit something while you were there and hand it in to be added to the "organic" entity.


Here's my attempt to capture the whole reef - there's a popup to try and give you a better idea - but it was really lovely - showing both skill and artistry.

Our first item of the day was a "fusing fabric" workshop, which involves burning translucent coloured synthetics to make patchwork "art", using soldering irons. I enjoyed it a lot - not sure I will be investing in a new craft but I may join Sheila one day and have another go using her equipment.


Then we were off to visit our favourite stalls - I purchased some grey tweed Aran from Texere Yarns, some silk and cashmere in sea greens and blues, buttons to match, and some beads for my next River Rock scarf. More of these in future entries, no doubt.

1 Texere Yarns

2 Black Hills (UK)

3 Sailors Society Hats

4 Sailors Fancy

5 Heritage Jars

6 Helping Hand

7 Young Designers

8 Young Designers

Posted on October 10, 2008 at 6:17 PM


Thanks for posting the pictures of the "coral reef." I was curious about it, as I'd seen it mentioned in a knitting magazine. It's great to be able to get a good look at it!

Posted by: Cathy in Va. on October 20, 2008 1:51 AM

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Thursday December 27, 2007

Quiet time

All my guests have gone, leaving George, Deborah and I to enjoy a peaceful time together scoffing wonderful cold meats and left over trifle. It is very quiet at work as well, so there has been much sitting in front of a comfortable fire, and admiring our perfectly proportioned tree (heaven knows how we got such a nice tree after a fraught and depressing evening at a DIY store in the week before Christmas, where they had decided, with 7 days still to go, that Christmas was over and it was time to remove all signs of the festival, leaving everything in total building site disarray! Anyway - we did - and it's lovely).


I received lots of really inspired gifts. Sheila gave me a set of hand made oriental table mats - a real labour of love - they are lovely and we used them throughout Christmas.


My sister gave me extraordinary blue and pink pastel Argyle Wellingtons; George's sister gave me a Debbie Abrahams knitted bag kit;


Alison gave me a great book of vintage sock patterns taken from old Weldon's magazines, (published in an era preceding Stitchcraft); and George, tired of my finding myself short of projects while in France produced the following:


I hope everyone else enjoyed themselves as much as I.

Posted on December 27, 2007 at 9:00 PM

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Friday October 12, 2007

Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitchery Show 2007

We had a fantastic time at the show, as usual. Probably a bit more laid back than usual, and less of a buying frenzy. We worked out that we have been going every year now for 8 years - so probably accumulated enough stuff!

We started the day with a workshop about rag rug making. It was great fun and I am quite smitten. It is something I've been interested in for many years, but always concerned about starting a new hobby. However, as new hobbies go, there is no huge outlay on materials or equipment, you can almost start right away....
Here was what we achieved during the class.


Having said that, we did both buy Hessian (the ideal is to recycle animal feed sacks - but neither of us has access to that sort of stuff!), and Sheila bought a hook and a bodger. The more expensive shuttle tool is something I intend to look for during my holiday with Alison, as it may be cheaper in the US.

On this stall - the Shuttle -


I found some bargain priced Tana Lawn. Alison has been interested in getting some Liberty Tana Lawn for some time now but it is astonishingly expensive. The colours were all lovely but mostly tiny flower prints in blue shades - so I was delighted to find this somewhat retro print example in colours that will suit Alison.


See the extended entry for photo album of the show.

Click on the thumbnails to page through and view the pictures.

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Braid - ducks

Rag Rugs

Bead flowers

Bead flower


Jewellery Beads



Knit a River

Relax and Knit


Posted on October 12, 2007 at 11:38 PM

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Sunday July 15, 2007

Sweet dreams and flying ants

I finally finished off the July Pattern of the Month and it feels a very nice weight to wear - especially in this weird weather.
Stepping outside this evening you can actually breathe in the water vapour. I was going to liken it to some tropical country, but really that's outside my experience - the closest I can describe it is going into one of the humid greenhouses in Kew Gardens. This afternoon it went from bright sunshine to being so dark as to seem like a winter evening, then the classic moments of stillness prior to the wind getting up and a huge thunderstorm and yet another astonishing downpour of rain - the garden paths were flooded in a moment. I had to check on the blackbird's nest in the wisteria outside the kitchen window, (although quite what I could have done to assist is doubtful), and found that she was sitting right over it protecting the chicks; with rain drops that large and heavy it must have been like being bombarded with buckets of water. I find it amazing that they nested there at all but... all week she has been dashing in with beaks full of worms to a chorus of delight from within.

hook_roll.jpg With the left-over fabric snippets from POM (above) I made a holder for my crochet hooks. Not my best piece of work - but functionally long overdue. I am hoping that my hooks will now gravitate towards it from all the places spread round the house where they have been hiding... My next mini-roll will be to house my sets of double-pointed sock needles.
cushion.jpg While the red thread was in the machine I made two quick Christmas cushion covers - I bought the fabric in the sales in January but never got round to making it up. I always want to change the decor at Christmas but with all the other priorities I never seem to have time for much decorating, so now I am well ahead of the game.

After all these little items plus a few mending and alteration jobs (broken zips etc) the weekend seemed to slip away. Despite "poisoners weekend" (a definite sofa TV experience) I don't seem to have done much knitting - I am somewhat dispirited, having had to undo the inch I had knitted on the cricket sweater and start again - after I got that far I realised I was knitting a Möbius * strip, having twisted the welt somehow - and this, even after checking extra specially carefully as I am so aware that this can happen!

* For some reason, when I learned about Möbius strips at school, the examples always seemed to involve "ants walking along a strip" - which also seems appropriate today, as it was typical "flying ant" weather - and they fulfilled all expectations in coming out in abundance. I did wonder if they would care to come in and try out Lloyd's cricket sweater......

Posted on July 15, 2007 at 10:03 PM