Anyone missing Christmas?? For me it seems to have gone by in a flash. This Christmas was the first in many that we decided to stay home, just us four. It was quiet and peaceful, and we spent days-on-end just lounging around indoors with a roaring fire, taking it easy and working on a fab puzzle I found in a local shop. I say ‘fab’ because it depicted a craft store!! Full of fabric bolts, ribbons, trimmings, buttons and… cats!
I’m not usually one for puzzles; they take up a lot of time and space, and I would struggle to fit this in at any other time of the year. But Christmas was perfect for this. And it was brilliant fun for all the family to get involved and to have it completed just before the festivities came to a close. The puzzle is still rolled up – I know I will have to break it up at some point, but I can’t bring myself to do that just yet!
Now that Christmas is all done and dusted, I’m looking forward to what this year will bring – one thing I’m really excited about is my first quilt along.
The quilt we’ll be working on is one I started a little while ago. I called it ‘Happiness’ because it is bright and features some of my favourite fabrics. Some I had stashed away waiting for the right project, and others I had kept the minutest of scraps because I loved them so much.
As explained previously, every month this year starting in January (a little later in the month), I’ll post the instructions to make one block of the quilt. Some of the blocks are repeated, so when all different blocks are covered, I’ll move on to the border, backing and then quilting. If you sew along with me, you should have a finished quilt in late autumn.
Of course, you can piece along with me and make a similar quilt to mine, or you can make the blocks and come up with your own version. There are no kits for the quilt, simply because the fabrics I used were from my own personal stash, and as I said before, for some I only had the smallest scrap left!! But you can choose to use similar colours to mine, or choose a completely different colourway. The idea is that it’ll be a bit of fun.
You can do on your own or with friends; you may wish to make one as a gift or to keep for yourself, or even to donate to a worthy cause. I know some of my Melony Patch Facebook followers have said they might make it as a Project Linus quilt – what a fab idea!
I haven’t actually finished the quilt yet… so I can’t show you a picture of the finished item!! The top is pieced and what is left to do (as always…) is the quilting, which I will do by hand. I’m hoping that if I start fairly soon with this, by the time I come to writing up the last set of instructions, my Happiness quilt will actually be finished!! How happy would that be?!
If you are planning on taking part in the quilt along, please feel free to share your ‘in progress’ photos with me! It’d be great to see how you’re getting on!
When I first started my blog I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out – I didn’t know if I would have enough to write about and didn’t really have a plan! But I started writing and just kept going. In my mind I thought I’d write one blog post a week… but as we near the end of the year, I’m amazed at myself for having written 60..!
Although I have written mainly about my adventures in sewing and quilting, I have also written about my ups and downs and my thoughts on life. It’s been like a little diary, but one that I’m sharing!
So to summarise the year, I have listed below the posts I have published according to quilt or activity. I hope you’ve enjoyed following my journey.
Here’s hoping 2019 will be full of more creative fun!!
I’ve always enjoyed spotting quilts in movies and on TV, so it was only natural that once I started my blog, I would write about my ‘quilt spots’ on the big and little screen. I have enjoyed writing my regular feature, maybe even more than some of the movies I’ve ended up watching!!
There are plenty of lists out there with names of movies where quilts are seen or featured. My quilt spot is not like that. It’s a review of movies or TV series I’ve watched, either by myself or with my family, where a quilt has appeared.
I don’t go out of my way to watch movies where I know a quilt will be featured… I know, for example, that ‘Stepmom’ has some wonderful quilts in it; the last time I watched this movie must have been over a year ago as I haven’t watched it since writing my blog. Likewise, ‘How to Make an American Quilt’ is another one I know features quilts (obviously!!) and one I should watch again at some point.
But as this post is a summary of all the movies and TV series I have watched where I’ve spotted a quilt or two, it is a bit of a list – but if you would like some narrative or background to why we watched these films or programmes, what was spotted, and some form of critique, then please click on the links to read more.
I hope you’ve enjoyed following my ‘spots’ this year and invite you to join me in spotting more in 2019. Remember to share these with me by leaving a comment on my blog.
It may just have been the calm before the storm (i.e. Christmas!), but today was bliss. An impromptu day off work, just before the festivities, which gave me plenty of alone time to wrap up Christmas presents.
There I was sitting on the floor of my living room after dropping off my youngest at school, a fire going, Christmas tree lights on, Christmas carols playing on our ‘Alexa’, luscious cup of coffee, and presents and wrapping paper strewn across the floor. It was peaceful and heavenly…
And all that will change from tomorrow midday, when the schools close early ahead of the Christmas break, and it will be all rush, rush, rush and go, go, go with the kids and all the other preparations for the Big Day.
Of course, I am looking forward to it… but I’m also looking forward to waving goodbye to this year and welcoming in a new one. I already have a number of things I’m looking forward to, exhibitions to see, performances with my choir, and of course, the odd quilt project or two.
Although I couldn’t have been in a more festive mood or setting this morning whilst wrapping the presents, my mind kept wondering to a new quilt I have planned, thanks to some gorgeous fabrics that arrived a few days ago. Bursting with flowers in pink and purple hues, my plan is for a spring/summer quilt, and I already have a name in mind ‘Flower Burst’. (Not very festive!!)
I have to control myself though. I do have Christmas to look forward to first, as well as a number of other quilts to finish before cracking on with a new one. But the truth is, I can’t help it. It seems that when I have some ‘me’ time, this is what my mind decides to do… think of new projects!
One thing is for sure, I’ll be busy from tomorrow, and super busy in the New Year!!
Hope you all have a peaceful Christmas. Till next time,
I’m super excited to offer my first ‘quilt along’!! And it’s completely free! And very easy! The design I’ve chosen is perfect for beginners as well as the more experienced who want an easy pattern to use up little scraps of fabric. So… what’s not to like? And what better way to start a brand new year??
I’ve called my quilt ‘Happiness’ as it features some of my favourite fabrics… some I’ve been squirrelling away (intact) ‘waiting’ for a perfect project to use them on, and for others I’ve kept the minutest bit of scrap as I loved the fabric so much. Who can relate?
So every month starting from January, I’ll post the instructions to make one block of the quilt. Some of the blocks are repeated, so when all different blocks are covered, I’ll move on to the border, backing and then quilting.
If you quilt along with me, you should have a finished quilt in late autumn.
So, make sure you receive details of when the posts are published by signing up to/following my blog.
November was an OK month for ‘quilt spots’; I spotted two and usually that would mean it was a good month, but I’m rating it as ‘OK’ as one of the movies I watched didn’t make for pleasant viewing.
The movie I’m referring to is ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. This movie was critically acclaimed and was nominated for, and won, a number of awards, so I was looking forward to seeing.
But it was uncomfortable viewing as I found myself disliking all the characters, although at some point each of the main characters did have some redeeming characteristics. As it’s still quite a ‘recent’ movie, I won’t go into any detail. The quilt was spotted in the main character’s daughter’s bedroom. If there is one message to take away from the movie, and one that is repeated a few times, is ‘hatred begets hatred’. So true.
And if this is the case, then goodness and kindness should beget goodness and kindness…
Which leads nicely onto my next ‘quilt spot’, in the series ‘The Good Place’, no less, a comedy about the afterlife in which good people end up in ‘the good place’ (a type of heaven) and bad people in ‘the bad place’ (some sort of hell)… only it’s not as simple as that.
In Episode 35, two of the main characters, Michael and Janet, visit Doug Forcett who is thought to be the blueprint for how to live a good life on Earth in order to end up in ‘the good place’.
Doug is a sweetie – he cares for people, animals and the planet (although he is a bit extreme… drinking his own urine to save water and getting rather distraught when he accidentally kills a snail…). His house is lovely, and of course, his bed is covered with a gorgeous patchwork quilt!!
Well, I guess us quilters knew that all along… if you want to end up in ‘the good place’, get quilting!!
What have you spotted recently? I’d love to know. Leave a comment below.
Will you be able to sneak in some quiet time to do some crafting or quilting this Christmas?? It might be hard, given that this time of year is so demanding on our time. But one thing I know for sure is that at least I’m going to try!
The last few weeks have already been busy with Christmas ‘do’s’ (doesn’t it seem like Christmas starts earlier every year??) so I haven’t had much time to work on my latest quilt ‘O’ Little Town‘. But today, hey presto, I managed to add the backing (with hanging sleeve!) and have pegged it to the front of the quilt.
This means it’s now ready for quilting! Which is something I plan to do over Christmas… I won’t be hidden away in my sewing room though. I plan to hand-quilt this quilt, sitting in my new rocking chair, by the open fire which has finally been cleared of the remnants of a bird’s nest which had been preventing us from using it earlier.
Did I mention my new rocking chair?? Take a look at the little beauty I picked up in a local antiques shop – it’s from the Arts & Crafts era and the woodwork, I think, is stunning. I think it may be a child’ chair, as it is quite small (and when my youngest sits on it, I reluctantly think, “Yeap, it’s the right size for you…” But I won’t tell her that!)
For now, it’s perfect for me! And for the room, which isn’t huge. I’ve already enjoyed a little bit of hand-quilting whilst sitting on it, finishing a little Christmas tree wall-hanging I’ve also been working on.
So my scene is set. Roaring fire, warming drink, chocolates, Christmas quilt, sewing basket, rocking chair, girls playing or watching telly, Christmas tree full of decorations and lights, and a smile of my face.
Aaaah… it’s definitely starting to feel like Christmas!!
And on that note, I wish you all all the best for the festive season!
It’s a simple, charming and very-easy-to-make little patchwork Christmas Tree decoration. I hope you enjoy making it!
This pattern will enable you to make three small decorations measuring approximately 4” x 3”.
For three decorations, you will need:
Christmas Tree – one piece of spotty fabric measuring 6” x 5”
Tree trunk – one strip in dark green measuring 5” x 1.5”
Background – one piece in white measuring 14” x 6”
Borders – three pieces in stripy fabric measuring 4” x 6”
Backing – three pieces measuring 5” x 4”, in either of the above fabrics
Ribbon – one strip measuring 12”
All measurements in these instructions include a seam allowance of 0.5″ (unless stated). Fabric quantities have been calculated with this in mind. If you prefer to work with a smaller seam allowance, adjust the measurements accordingly.
Cut out the ‘tree top’ and ‘background’ shapes in their corresponding fabrics, following the templates provided, making sure to add the seam allowance before you cut the fabric. Position the tree template as indicated in the diagram (below), to cut three tree tops from the piece of fabric for the Christmas tree. With taylor’s chalk or pencil, mark points A and B on the right side of the fabric (Photo 1).
With right sides together, sew the ‘tree top’ to the left ‘background’ piece along the diagonal side, making sure points A on both fabrics are aligned (Photo 2). Once sewn, press seams flat and trim excess. Repeat for the other side ensuring points B are aligned (Photo 3).
To make the tree trunks, cut two strips measuring 1.75” x 4.5” from the background fabric. Sew these background strips to the trunk strip so that the trunk strip is in the middle; press seams open and trim excess. From this strip cut three ‘tree trunk’ shapes each measuring 1.5” high.
Sew the tree trunk piece to the tree top piece (Photo 4), making sure the centre of the trunk is centre-aligned to the top of the tree (either do this by using a ruler, or by folding the pieces and finding the centre). Press seam open and trim excess.
For the borders, from each piece of border fabric, cut four strips measuring 1.5” x 4” (stripes should run across the shorter width of the rectangle).
Sew the side borders first; press seams outwards and trim excess. Next sew the top and bottom borders (Photo 5). Press seams outwards and trim excess. This is now the front piece of the decoration.
Next, cut about 4” from the ribbon strip, fold it and centre it on the facing side of the top border, with the loose ends pointing upwards. Tack loosely (Photo 6).
Place the backing fabric on top of the decoration top, right sides facing, and sew both pieces leaving a 2” gap for turning. Trim excess fabric and corner points (Photo 7), and turn inside out. Press and slip-stitch opening. Repeat for the other two decorations, hang on tree and enjoy!
Draw the template using the measurements indicated in the diagram below. Remember to add your seam allowance before cutting out the fabric. With a taylor’s chalk or pencil, mark points A and B on the right sides of the fabric, and join the points when sewing the pieces together.
STOP PRESS: In December 2018 I’m giving away 5 original kits to make the little Christmas tree decorations, as pictured above, to followers of my blog. The winners will be selected at random on Sunday 9th December. So if you like this pattern and would like to keep up-to-date with my adventures in quilting and crafting, subscribe to my blog and good luck! Mel x
Why not try different colourways? It’s a great way to use up scraps of fabric and to tie in with any decor!
Please note these decorations are not toys.
Please respect the copyright of the designer. The design, instructions and diagrams are copyright of the designer, Melanie Vincent. You are free to use this pattern as long as you are not making any financial gain from it. Enjoy making and gifting!
You can also enjoy my other free patterns on my blog:
There is a lot I am grateful for. My family, my friends, my work. And I am thankful for these every day. With Thanksgiving approaching, although it is not customary in England to celebrate this occasion, I have been thinking of other people and things I am grateful for, and with this in mind, I will have my own personal celebration of thanks.
Those of you who follow my blog may have realised that this year has not been the greatest of years for me for a number of reasons. Although I don’t delve into matters – after all, my blog is mainly about my sewing and quilting adventures – I have hinted at issues that have troubled me and darkened my days.
I have tried to keep myself occupied and, as well as already being a super busy working mum, I continue to sing with my choir and have also recently taken up playing netball with some of the mums from school.
And then there is of course, my quilting. This year, in particular, I have found my quilting and sewing a real comfort and I discovered that, without realising really, it was a form of ‘creative therapy‘.
Designing and creating patchwork quilts brings me such a lot of joy, as does sharing my designs with others. And it is with this in mind, that I wish to thank someone who is no longer with us and who gave me the confidence to create and write-up patchwork quilt projects – the late Di Huck, co-founder and first Editor of British Patchwork & Quilting magazine, who passed away a few years ago.
I remember the first time I spoke to her. I had an idea for a project and she was so encouraging, inviting me to submit my idea. It didn’t matter to her if I prepared the project in inches or centimetres, if I had digital diagrams or hand-drawn illustrations. Her easy-going and relaxed manner was a breath of fresh air, and in my mind, I visualised a huge door being open for me.
It’s thanks to her really, that I continue to design and write-up projects for others to enjoy. So this year, I say thanks to Di – wherever you may be – I am so grateful to you for being someone who said ‘yes’ to me.
Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving…
As a thank you, I will post my first published project as a free pattern on my blog. Keep your eyes peeled – it will be coming soon, in time for Christmas!
There were a few ‘jobs’ that needed doing in my sewing room. A massive clear-out was one, moving a small wall unit to create more hanging space was another, and then there still is the matter of a new floor.
I’ve kind of tackled the first one. Well, I had. But I seem to have a knack of accumulating stuff… the minute I get rid some old magazines for example, I end up with a batch of new ones that need storing somewhere.
And fabric – although I’ve been raiding my stash recently, I still seem to have an inordinate amount. It’s like the fairy tale ‘The Magic Porridge Pot’ (one of my all-time favourites) in which the magical pot keeps making more and more porridge, and ultimately results in the porridge spilling out of the house, down the road and into the town… I think my fabric containers must have the same magical properties!
But when I finish a clear-out, I do feel better and I enjoy the ‘extra’ space I’ve created (which is probably why I think I have room for more things!)
The second item on my ‘to do’ list was moving a small shelf unit where I display a variety of containers with ribbons and small buttons. I realised that by moving it slightly to the right, I could create enough space to hang another of my quilts. A very simple change, but one that has had a massive impact on how I feel about my sewing room.
I can now display two quilts on my walls and the result is that it feels even more like a little haven. My sewing room is my space where I can sew, relax and sometimes just hide away from the world for a few minutes.
This small change in my room prompted me to change the pictures hanging on our landing, again so I could hang another quilt. In this space I will display quilts according to seasons. At the moment I have my ‘Friendly Scarecrow’ quilt hanging up, as it’s a celebration of harvest time and Thanksgiving.
The other item on my list is replacing the flooring. This I have not done yet – and I can see that this will be one job I’m going to put off for a while as the thought of having to move all my stuff out in order to lay down new flooring fills me with dread!
However, for now, I’m happy with the small changes I’ve made. It’s surprising what a big effect they have had on me. It makes me realise that we should never underestimate the big impact small changes can have.
Till next time!
The patterns and/or kits to make the quilts featured in this post are available for purchase through my Melony Patch shop:
And by ‘heart’ I mean ‘centre’ of my new Christmas quilt – ‘O Little Town‘. I love the simplicity of this design, and have really enjoyed piecing it together as I’ve approached the piecing in a different way.
What’s different to other quilts I’ve designed, is that after piecing the blocks that are paper-pieced, the other pieces that were cut to make the blocks fit together, were done in a very relaxed manner. There were no fixed or predetermined measurements – I simply laid down the paper-pieced blocks – the star, trees, church and houses – and decided how large or how small the ‘joining’ pieces had to be.
The effect is rather higgledy-piggledy which fits perfectly with the simple design and the homespun feel of this quilt. Now all that’s left to do – as I quite often say here on my blog (!) – is to sew the border, add the wadding and backing and do the quilting. Not much then!!
I would like to think that I could have this finished in time for Christmas, but the run up to the big event is always so hectic with events at school, work, friends as well as the choir I’m in, not to mentioned getting the house ready for the festivities!!
Can I fit it all in? I’ll definitely try. Keeping busy keeps me happy and focused on things I enjoy doing. How about you? Are you working on a quilt or other creative project you’d like ready for Christmas? Let me know!
It’s been another good month for quilt spotting in movies; maybe not when it comes to quantity – as they are only two spots – but definitely when it comes to watching movies I enjoyed.
As you may know by now from reading my ‘quilt spot’ blogs, movie watching in our house is usually a family matter – we tend to choose movies that everyone (and by this I really mean the kids…) will enjoy. Which means that my ‘quilt spots’ are usually limited to movies aimed at little kids (my youngest’s choice) or horror movies (my eldest’s choice). I guess it goes without saying that when I do spot a quilt in one of these movies, it’s a joy – a little serendipitous moment, and one to be celebrated!
This month has been slightly different. First of all, I went to the movies with a friend to watch ‘A Star is Born’ – ever since seeing the trailer a few months ago, I’d been desperate to see it, and it didn’t disappoint. The songs are amazing and the soundtrack has become my new play list when quilting. Sorry ‘The Greatest Showman’ – you have been (temporarily) replaced!
I love the story – I remembered it well from watching the Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version when I was younger – and think Bradley Cooper and especially Lady Gaga (doesn’t she look amazing more au naturel??) have done an outstanding job in bringing the story up-to-date with the times.
Imagine my surprise when I spotted two, yes two, quilts in the movie!! In the house of Jackson Maine’s (Bradley Cooper) long time friend. In his daughter’s room there is a little patchwork quilt on the bunk bed, made up of little colourful square patches, and then there is, I think, a quilt hanging on the wall. I can’t be sure though, so maybe I only ‘spotted’ one quilt. But as quilts seem to have a certain format – be it shape, size, colour, pattern – what is hanging on the wall looks to me like a quilt. Of course, it could be a poster of some sort, but I don’t think so. It’s in the background of a shot that focuses on the main characters, so it’s not easy to see what it is, but it looks like applique ice cream cones?
Nevertheless, this was was ‘ooooh!’ moment. Luckily the scene is in one of the trailers so I managed to get a screen shot of it to post here! Let me know if you think it is a quilt, and if so, what it’s of!
The other ‘spot’ was in ‘The Help’ – another of my favourite movies. I have seen this movie a number of times, but this month I watched it with my youngest. She loved it too – there are many important lessons to be learnt from this movie, so it was quite an educational film for her to watch. One of my all-time favourite lines in it, and one that I now often say to my girls, is ‘I is kind, I is smart, I is important‘. I know it may not be grammatically correct, but the message is what matters here.
The quilt I spotted was in Minny Jackson’s (played by Octavia Spencer) humble home, where most of her kids sleep in one bed. They have a well-used patchwork quilt to sleep under. The scene is dark, so it’s hard to see the details of the quilt, but it looks hand-stitched, the colours seem faded, and it’s probably made from bits of fabric left over from dressmaking or the like. How I’d love to get hold of this prop and learn more about it’s history and the maker.
Quilt Spot The Help
Quilt Spot The Help close up
That’s it for this month! Have you spotted any quilts in movies or on TV? Do let me know by leaving a comment below.
“Tell me something girl… Are you happy in this modern world? Or do you need more? Is there something else you’re searching for?” And so goes the song ‘Shallow’ from ‘A Star is Born’ with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. I saw the movie a couple of days ago and LOVE the new version of the story, especially the music.
Apart from listening, and singing along, to the soundtrack non-stop today whilst working on my new Christmas quilt ‘O Little Town’, there isn’t really much to connect the movie to my quilting – apart from ‘a star being born’ (patchwork style) – so you may wonder where this blog post is going. So here goes… the opening lines of the song ‘Shallow’ do speak to me, and it seems my new quilt, as it slowly progresses, is a translation of a number of thoughts going through my mind at the moment.
It’s not that I’m unhappy living in ‘this modern world’, but I sometimes wish modern life, or life in general, would place more emphasis on things that really matter – family, friendship, honest work and kindness. In my new quilt, with its simple design and homely feel, I hope to convey these thoughts.
This has certainly been a good month for ‘quilt spotting’ in movies and on the telly!
First up are two children’s films, ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Bedtime Stories’. I remember going to see ‘Labyrinth’ in the cinema when it first came out… Well, I say ‘see’, but I actually didn’t see any of it… I was a teenager at the time and, to be honest, I was ‘busy’ with my boyfriend…
So this time was really the first time I sat through and watched the whole movie. I’m pleased to say that I don’t think I missed much all those years ago… with apologies to all the ‘Labyrinth’ fans out there – I understand this movie now has a ‘cult following’.
In my opinion it’s one of those movies that could do with a remake. The story in itself isn’t bad though; the main character Sarah wishes for her baby brother Toby to be taken away by the Goblin King, and her wish comes true. The baby is transported to another world where she then follows to search for him. It’s through her adventures in this labyrinth that she realises how much she loves her brother.
There are two quilts I spotted in this movie. A small hexie quilt folded over a chest at the foot of the double-bed in Sarah’s dad and step-mum’s bedroom, where baby Toby has his cot, and another one, made up of simple square patches, in Sarah’s room.
The hexagonal quilt in Labyrinth
The quilt in Sarah’s room in Labyrinth
Making wishes come true was also a central theme in ‘Bedtime Stories’, where the main character, hotel maintenance man Skeeter Bronson, played by Adam Sandler, realises that the input his nephew and niece have into his bedtime stories makes them turn into reality, and by trying to influence their input he can try to make things in his life go his way. It’s a funny story about the power of having dreams and working hard to make them come true.
I have seen this movie a number of times as it’s one of my kids favourites. Somehow I never noticed the quilts before. Both kids have the same quilt – so not sure if these were handmade or not, or made the same for both kids. It looks like the quilts are made up of large square and/or maybe rectangular patches with fabrics that feature rectangles and linear shapes.
Patchwork quilt in Bedtime Stories
Patchwork quilt in Bedtime Stories
And the last movie we watched this month which featured a quilt, was ‘Wonder’. At least it looks like a quilt – it’s folded at the foot of the bed of the main character’s, Auggie, sister. This is an AMAZING story about a boy, Auggie, who was born with a genetic condition that affects his appearance. Having been home-schooled for most of his life, he enters mainstream education for his fifth grade.
The story tackles a range of issues, but at its core, it’s about wanting to be accepted for who one is, inner strength and belief, and the power of friendship and family. There are some inspiring quotes throughout; my favourites, which I have heard before, are ‘You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out’ and ‘When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind’. I absolutely loved this movie and it’s a definite must-see if you have not already seen it.
Finally, a ‘quilt spot’ on the telly!! On ‘Grand Designs’ no less! This has to be one of my favourite programmes on the telly and there are so many re-runs on the various channels that are now available, that if I’m stuck for watching something, I can be sure I’ll find an old episode somewhere by flicking through the channels (not something I’m usually keen on doing…).
What I enjoy about this programme is learning about what the people featured want to get out of the design they have come up with, and how hard they work to make it a reality. I may not always like the finished construction, but I can appreciate what it is they wanted to create and achieve.
This time, however, the episode I watched was from the latest series currently being shown on Channel 4. The couple featured wanted to create a modernist house based on one from the 1980s classic – though never one of my favourites – movie ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’. There are elements of the design I really like – the huge window panes that offer fantastic views over the countryside, and how the house blends in effortlessly, and surprisingly, into its natural surroundings. But what really caught my eye were the two quilts in the children’s rooms. Again, I love how traditional crafts like patchwork quilting can work so well in modern surroundings, adding greater warmth and charm to the interior.
Screen shot from Grand Designs
Screen shot from Grand Designs – the boy’s room
Screen shot from Grand Designs – the girl’s room
Have you spotted any quilts on the telly or in movies? Let me know by sharing your ‘quilt spots’ below!
It’s not too early to start thinking of Christmas… is it?! No, of course not. But to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t really planned on making ANOTHER Christmas quilt this year – I have so many already. The truth is, I simply LOVE Christmas, especially Christmas quilts!
And I have SO many other projects in the pipeline that need to be completed. Remember my ‘Home and Garden’ quilt? I haven’t really progressed with that one, as I’m waiting for some fabric to arrive. Also, I have another design which I haven’t mentioned before – ‘Flower Burst’ – for which I’m also waiting for fabric to arrive.
Of course, I could always complete the quilting of my ‘blue flowers applique quilt’, but I usually like to hand quilt in the evenings, whilst watching TV. It’s not really something I do on my precious sewing days, which tend to be on a Friday when I’m not working.
So I was getting itchy fingers; I don’t like waiting… and I felt I just wanted to get cracking on with another project. I flicked through my ‘sketch books’ to have a look at ideas I had already pencilled and came across quite a few which I would like to complete at some point. But the one that grabbed me was my ‘O’ Little Town’ design. I had sketched this a few years ago but I thought now would be the perfect time to bring this design to life.
One of the best bits is, of course, selecting the fabrics I’m going to use. The ones I’ve chosen are old style country fabrics, with some Civil War prints thrown in too. I’m getting a warm fuzzy feeling just thinking about them!!
O’ Little Town sketch
O’ Little Town fabric selection
It will be a paper-pieced quilt and today I spent the day preparing the templates for the star. I created these using the software QuarkExpress, which is used for desk top publishing – it’s software I’m used to working with from my editing/designing days.
I took my time with getting the measurements and proportions to my liking, and tried a number of variations of the same design. This part of the design process is crucial. It’s only through trying things – trial and error – that you get to know what you like and what works.
I’m pleased I managed to settle on a final design and to print the templates on foundation paper, ready to be sewn next week. Whether the quilt will be finished and ready to use this Christmas, who knows! But I’m enjoying the process and that’s what matters most!
Are you making something for Christmas? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
I love my fabric scraps… and my buttons and trimmings… and all the other bits and bobs I have in my little sewing room. I often feel that my room is like a little haberdashery, full of all sorts of goodies ready for me to use whenever I need to. Which is great, but what is even greater is when I can combine this love of fabric with my day job.
Some of you may know that I work for an environmental charity on a project that encourages people struggling with mental health issues to engage in nature conservation.
This weekend, the charity is holding its big annual event to showcase to the public what we do. Each project will have a stand with information and activities for the public to get involved in. There will be so much to see and do, especially for the little ones. It’s a great feeling to work for an organisation that is doing so much to encourage us to look after our natural environment as well as each other.
On our stand – the Wellbeing stand – our activity will be ‘Stick People’. I can honestly say I had so much fun making these. I can’t claim it to be my own idea – I did some googling and pinteresting (lovely new verbs!) and came across it.
You really don’t need much make these little people… Oddly shaped sticks make for more interesting characters and then all you need are bits of scrap fabric, ribbons, buttons, etc, to decorate your little stick friend.
There really is no need to buy new fabrics or ribbons or other items to make them. I simply ‘raided’ my scrap store picking out fabrics and trimmings that kids and grown-ups may like. Funnily enough, despite all the scraps I have prepared for the event, my scrap boxes still seem to be full… (!)
Before decorating your stick, carefully slice off a little area where you can draw on a face. I used a whittling knife, but any sharp knife should do the trick. Obviously, if doing this activity with young children, make sure it’s the grown-ups who are using the knives. I then used Sharpie pens to draw on the faces.
I used PVA glue to stick the fabrics, ribbons, buttons and ‘hair’, making each stick a unique character. Once the glue has dried, you can either use some air drying clay to create a little base for them, or simply place them in flower pots or pen pots.
Stash of ribbons and pom poms
Sew much lovely fabric!
The result is quite cute – don’t you agree? And of course you can decorate them to tie in with the seasons or celebrations like Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc, so it’s an activity that can be done all year round.
Today, my youngest daughter is bringing home a friend to play with after school. Guess what I’m going to propose we do??!
I hope you all have a lovely weekend. Till next time,
It may sound a bit obvious, and even a little silly, but one of the things I love about patchwork quilting is the patchwork itself, and how bits of fabric are sewn together to make amazing patterns and compositions.
Another thing I love, is that if the odd rip or tear appears, it can easily be ‘patched up’ or repaired, especially if you still have some of the originally fabric left, and even if you don’t, you can make the new patch a unique feature of the quilt. It needn’t seem out of place.
On one occasion, I accidentally snipped a quilt top I had been working on for 10 years! My heart almost stopped when I realised what I had done. I felt so silly for carelessly cutting some fabric with my sharp sewing scissors while the finished – yes, it was finished – quilt top was draped over my lap… Really? Why did I do this?? But my initial fear was soon replaced by the quick realisation that I could easily fix the tear by patching it up and turning it into a little feature. I still had plenty of the original fabric left, and it was just a matter of cutting out a patch with a matching pattern and then sewing it on carefully. The finished patch looks good and I’m really pleased with the result.
Flower patch to hide the tear.
Block with the ‘flower patch’ – can you see it??
Similar instances have happened over the years with curtains and other items… I should endeavour to be more careful in future.
I sometimes wish other things in life could be so easily fixed. I have been quiet of late, you may have noticed… and it’s not just because it’s been the summer holidays when most of my free time is spent with the kids, but also because I have had a lot on my mind. It seems the dark clouds that were hanging over me at the beginning of the year are back to haunt me. I have my own rips and tears, but unlike those on fabric which can be easily patched up and sewn over, those in my heart and mind cannot. I know time will heal, but the scars, like the stitches, will still remain.
I seem to be on a bad ‘Quilt Spot’ run… Not only did I not spot any quilts on screen last month, but it’s been the same for August… So this month, my ‘Quilt Spot’ is slightly different, and it’s not of quilts spotted in movies or on TV, but of a visit to an old castle in north Wales with an interesting, and poignant, history (and where I did spot a quilt!).
The castle was Penrhyn Castle in Bangor. A fabulous building described by the National Trust (who manage the property) as a “19th-century fantasy castle with spectacular surroundings”. And it is indeed a masterpiece of architecture and design. This was not the first time I had visited the castle though. The first time was back in 2007, and at the time I was intrigued to see it as that year marked the 200th anniversary of a very important event in British history, and I knew this property’s past had links to that event.
The event was the passing of The Slave Trade Act in 1807 which made the slave trade illegal throughout the British Empire. The connection of course was how the family’s wealth was created. Brief history: the castle standing today was built between 1820 and 1833 by architect Thomas Hopper for George Hay Dawkins Pennant, who inherited the estate from his second cousin Richard Pennant, an anti-abolitionist, politician and businessman who had made his fortune largely from Jamaican sugar plantations worked on by slaves.
Knowing this definitely puts a different spin on things. What looks beautiful aesthetically on the outside is marred by its ugly core. One wonders how so few could have enjoyed the pleasures and opulence generated by the unjust hardship endured by so many.
It seems no expense was spared in Hopper’s design. The craftmanship is second to none, and everywhere you look the quality of the workmanship is evident. I was in awe of the fine details I found in the stonework, woodwork, textiles and furniture. But I wonder if these details were lost on those for whom these items were created. Did they appreciate it??
This year the castle is hosting an interesting art exhibition by Welsh author Manon Steffan Ros titled 12 Stories which has been described as “a creative response to Penrhyn Castle’s past, present and future”; it touches on the castle’s connection with slavery. There are some interesting pieces, but my favourite is the one celebrating William Wilberforce’s famous quote: “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know”. Very moving.
My girls enjoyed touring the castle, going up winding staircases and marvelling at the grandeur of the library, dinning room and the bedrooms (and learning an important lesson about slavery). And it is, of course, in one of the bedrooms where I spotted a quilt!! Looks like a Star of Bethlehem pattern, but from a far there is no telling when it was made. If anyone knows more about it, please share your knowledge by leaving a comment.
I left feeling very moved, again. But this time I was pleased that there was an exhibition that delved into the castle’s past, highlighting parts of history that some might want to forget. As Manon says “There is a strong need in the Castle to tell the real stories, and not to leave anything out”. So true. We need to remember past errors so that they may not be repeated.
Have you been to Penrhyn Castle? What are your views? I’d love to hear them. Also, do let me know where else you ‘spot’ quilts. I’d love to hear of your sightings!
This year I found myself going to the festival on my own. It’s usually a family affair – my eldest enjoys coming along with me (mainly for the Quilter’s Guild tombola!) whilst husband and the little one do something else nearby – sometimes, they have even ventured inside! But despite not having them with me this year, it was a fantastic day out – and it felt like a real (and rare) treat to do something on my own, taking my time to look at the quilts on show as well as leisurely visiting the stands looking for goodies.
As always I take photos of the quilts I find inspiring – the ones that grab me have something that I find different, unusual or interesting. This year these included ones that had non-traditional shapes, interesting textures, clever use of colour, innovative techniques, or incredible amount of fine work and attention to detail. Below is a gallery of some of the exhibits I found inspiring. I have captioned the title of the work as well as the creator’s name – if you share these, please ensure the creator is credited.
Of course, it’s not all about the exhibits, but also a good opportunity to meet up with people, buy essentials (as well as non-essentials!!) and simply have a good day out. I came away feeling inspired and ready to get going with more projects. Every year I think, I MUST enter a competition… perhaps next year I will!
Did you go the festival – what did you like about the exhibits this year? Please share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment below.
Till next time,
Jo Avery – A Month in the Country Sampler
Jo Avery – A Month in the Country Sampler (close up)
Jo Avery – A Month in the Country Sampler (block detail)
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross (block detail)
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross (block detail)
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross (block detail)
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross (block detail)
Sharon Elliott – Moroccan Lattice
Sharon Elliott – Moroccan Lattice (close up)
Sharon Elliott – Moroccan Lattice (detail)
Christine Seager – Simply Spring
Christine Seager – Simply Spring (detail)
Tara Glastonbury – Pages Diptych
Marion Goodrich- Spot On
Marion Goodrich- Spot On (corner detail)
Marion Goodrich- Spot On (detail)
Marion Goodrich- Spot On (balls)
Philippa Naylor – Circuit Training (winner Miniature)
Philippa Naylor – Circuit Training (winner Miniature) (detail)
Mary Mayne – Give me the Time (winner Quilter’s Guild challenge)
In terms of ‘quilt spotting’ I’m sad to say that July was a disappointing month. However, all else was great!! With school over for the summer holidays, I took the girls to Spain for a couple of weeks to spend time with my family. So July was pretty good and a lot of fun!
And I did watch the odd movie and TV series, but couldn’t spot a quilt anywhere. Perhaps more surprising is that I didn’t spot any in Riverdale – a teen drama TV series based on the characters from the Archie Comics. This, of course, is my eldest’s choice – the series is a massive hit with kids her age (12), and I admit, I love it too, especially the quirky characters. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting any of the quirkier characters to have quilts in their rooms, but Betty Cooper? The stereotypical wholesome girl-next-door… Every time she appears on screen in her room, I study it closely, thinking, surely there’s got to be a quilt in there somewhere! Surely she would have one? Or not? Please feel free to discuss. I’m baffled every time I watch it!!
So July passed with no spottings and as I write this, we’re already into August. Tonight I find myself on my own – kids are away, husband is away, and I’m looking forward to chilling on my sofa, tucking into a pizza and watching a movie. MY choice this time!! And it’s ‘The Shack’. I hadn’t heard of it before, but after coming across the music featured in the movie, and finding out about it, I was really keen to watch it, and knowing that the rest of the family would not be too keen, I thought I’d save it for a night when it’s just me. So tonight’s the night. Surely there’ll be quilts in this movie? I’ll let you know next month.
It’s the end of the school year which means SUMMER HOLIDAYS as well as… presents for the teachers. And teaching assistants…
I know it can be difficult to choose the right gift for a teacher: I’m sure there are only so many mugs, flowers and chocolates they are happy to receive. With this in mind, I have tried, as much as possible, to make something for the teaching staff ever since my children started school. I hope the gifts are appreciated! Of course, everyone’s tastes are different, so it is always a bit of gamble, but the thought is there.
A few years ago, I made the small patchwork bag charms which I offered up as a free pattern on my blog. And this year I’ve made little pouches which can be used for make-up or pencils, or other little things. Whenever I make these gifts, I make a little batch of them so I have extras I can give away, and also keep!
The pattern to make these will be available on my blog soon (once I’ve written up the instructions), but for now, I’ll leave you with some photos of the pouches.
A few weeks ago, when I radically changed the design of my new quilt, from straight geometric shapes to something a little more ‘floaty’, I thought it wouldn’t take me as long to complete as if I had stuck to my original plan. Not that that was the reason for changing the design.
Inspiration had come to me during one of my early morning walks, and on getting home, while the ideas were still fresh in my mind, I drew some quick sketches and decided on something more relaxed, simple and more in tune with how I was feeling at the time.
The quilt now features a scattering of applique flowers with blue petals and hot pink centres, and the title of the project has changed to ‘Applique Flowers’ – not very imaginative, I admit, but it is just a working title.
However, I had’t realised how long it would take me to get going with the new design. Perhaps it isn’t really the fault of the design itself, but more to do with how busy things have been lately, leaving me little time for my sewing.
Not that I’m complaining – the last few months have been busy in a good way, with lots of social commitments and events. And this weekend is a mega busy one, with my youngest performing at her first ballet recital on Saturday – I have learnt a lot about ballet buns and stage make-up and I’m still slightly nervous about doing her hair and make-up tomorrow morning even though we’ve been practising all week (!) – and on Sunday, I’ll be performing with my choir (funnily enough in the same theatre where my daughter will dancing the day before) and I have a full day of rehearsals and sounds checks, etc, before doors open to the public.
I digress… back to the quilt. I’m slowly making progress, and I think I’m probably half-way there… All the applique flowers are complete; what’s left now is sewing the blocks together, adding a border, adding the wadding and backing, and then there’s the small matter of hand quilting… which isn’t small at all…
It’s likely – given that the school holidays are about to start, and as a result I won’t have much time for my sewing projects – that I’ll still be working on this quilt well into the autumn…
But for now, I’ll enjoy the summer with my young ladies. Similar to the advice given in the poem “Babies don’t Keep” by Ruth Hamilton (1958), in which the last verse reads:
“The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”
I will put my sewing to one side and enjoy spending time with my children who are growing far too quickly! My flower quilt will have to wait; unlike my girls, it can be a slow bloomer…
After the high I experienced last month watching the ‘Alias Grace‘ Netflix series in which quilts and quilting were an integral part of the story, I feared June would disappoint me. Indeed, even though we watched plenty of movies at the weekends, it wasn’t till the last weekend in June that I spotted a number of quilts on the small screen.
Again, viewing choices were dominated by what my children wanted to watch, so… ahem… no judging please!! On a positive, as I always say in my Quilt Spot blog posts, it’s a joy to see quilts on the screen, especially when it’s unexpected.
So June’s spotting are as follows:
‘Ice Princess’ by Walt Disney Pictures- my seven-year-old’s choice! A typical feel-good movie about a young girl Casey who is a top student with great prospects but who wants to become a figure skater. Typically, the mum, Joan, is against the idea – she wants her daughter to go to Harvard, just like she did; the ‘popular’ girls at school don’t like Casey – especially Gen who is already a figure skater; and the coach she finds, Tina who happens to be Gen’s mum, can’t be trusted… I wonder why?! But all changes…
There are two quilts I spotted in this movie – a pretty and traditional nine patch (?) quilt on Casey’s bed and what seems to be a crazy patchwork throw on a chair in the lounge.
Casey’s bed quilt
Casey’s bed quilt – close up
Crazy patchwork throw
Next movie, was, ahem ahem… ‘Annabelle: Creation’ – my 12-year-old’s choice. I found this movie absolutely terrifying and screamed a good few times. It’s a prequel to ‘Annabelle’ which we watched in February, and is about the doll maker and the orphan girls who come to live in his house. There are plenty of beds each with pretty throws on them, though not all are patchwork quilts.
And lastly, my choice ‘Good Will Hunting’ – a movie which I’ve seen a number of times but which I thought would be a good choice for my 12-year-old. However, I had forgotten how much swearing there was… This is another feel good movie, about a young man, Will, from the ‘wrong side’ of town who is a mathematics genius but works as a janitor at M.I.T. His love interest, Skylar a medical student at Harvard, who he meets in a bar, has a small quilt at the end of the bed, featuring the maple leaf pattern.
Since viewing ‘Alias Grace’, I’ve been thinking about why quilts are featured in movies. In productions like ‘Alias Grace’ or ‘How to Make an American Quilt’ or ‘Stepmom’, quilts are central to the story line, but what about in other movies? Are they just merely props thrown in to make a scene look good, or are they carefully selected so that they convey something about the period or characters in the story? And if they are, what is it that they are trying to say?
I once read an article about some quilts which featured in a movie set in the 1800s, but a close-up of one of the quilts revealed that it had been machine-quilted! This of course was spotted by an avid quilter! Also, in the much-loved TV series from the 1970s and early 1980s ‘Little House on the Prairie’, I read that the quilts featured were from the Depression era – not that I would have known that, but I knew they were not typical of the 1870s and 1880s which is when the series was set. If quilts are to be placed in a historical setting, they need to be accurate to the time period featured. Surely?
I feel I’m on a new path of discovery, as I’m itching to find out more about how and why quilts are chosen as props. No doubt I will share my findings with you.
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled and do let me know what you ‘spot’ this month! Share your ‘quilt spots’ and thoughts with me by leaving a comment below.
Following on from my recent Alias Grace ‘Quilt Spot’ special, I felt that I wanted to write a little bit more about the parts of the story I enjoyed the most. Please note that this is not a scholarly article – merely a collection of my thoughts on, and extracts from, parts of the story I enjoyed the most.
There is so much literature out there on the quilts and quilting references and meanings in Alias Grace, as well as other novels by Margaret Atwood, that if you wanted to read something a little bit more academic or in-depth on the subject, you will not be disappointed: there are plenty of articles out there to satisfy your curiosity. A quick Google search will return plenty of interesting reads and I have listed some below at the end of this blog.
As I said in my earlier blog, for me there are three ‘quilting’ moments that really stand out in the story.
Three quilts before marriage
The first is when Grace tells Dr Jordan that her friend Mary Whitney had once told her a girl had to have three quilts before she considered herself ready to marry:
“Mary said that a girl did not consider herself ready for marriage here [Canada] until she had three such quilts, made by her own hands; and the fanciest ones were the marriage quilts, such as the Tree of Paradise and the Flower Basket. Others, such as the Wild Goose Chase and the Pandora’s Box, had a good many pieces, and took skill; and those such as the Log Cabin and the Nine Patch were for everyday, and were much faster to make.” (Chapter 6 ‘Secret drawer’)
Earlier in the story, Grace is sewing a Log Cabin block, and she recollects what Mary had told her:
“A Log Cabin quilt is a thing every young woman should have before marriage, as it means the home; and there is always a red square at the centre, which means the hearth fire.” (Chapter 5 ‘Broken dishes’)
I know the Double Wedding Ring quilt is a very popular choice to celebrate a marriage, but I wonder if it’s something brides make for themselves, or if it’s given as a gift to a newly wed couple? I also wonder what sort of quilt I would make in preparation for marriage (if I was still young and unmarried!). Something that evokes love and happiness I would guess, and knowing me, it’d probably be my own design. Perhaps something along the lines of a project I recently started – Home and Garden. What three quilts would you choose?
The next moment is when Grace likens quilts to “flags hung by an army as it goes to war”, and goes on to explain why:
“…when we’d hung a half-dozen of them up on the line, all in a row, I thought that they looked like flags, hung out by an army as it goes to war.
And since that time I have thought, why is it the women have chosen to sew such flags, and then to lay them on the tops of beds? For they make the bed the most noticeable thing in a room. And then I have thought, it’s for a warning. Because you may think a bed is a peaceful thing, Sir, and to you it may mean rest and comfort and a good night’s sleep. But it isn’t so for everyone; and there are many dangerous things that may take place in a bed. It is where we are born, and that is our first peril in life; and it is where women give birth which is often their last. And it is where the act takes place between men and women that I will not mention to you, Sir, but I suppose you know what it is; and some call it love, and other despair, or else merely an indignity which they must suffer through. And finally beds are what we sleep in, and where we dream, and often where we die.” (Chapter 6 ‘Secret drawer’)
I had never thought of quilts as warning flags, so this passage really struck me. I’ve always thought of quilts as items that are full of emotion – I was going to say love, but realised quickly that that was not what I meant – but not items that evoke caution.
When we stitch, we pour our thoughts and feelings into the fabrics we are working with, and as well as the thread that binds the pieces, in goes our tears and sometimes our blood (from pricked fingers!). There is a little piece of us in each quilt we make.
Quilts are like flags on a bed
Grace and Mary airing quilts in the yard
Grace’s own quilt
At the end of the story Grace finally gets to sew a quilt for herself. As she had mentioned earlier in the story when asked by Dr Jordan, she tells him that if she were to make a quilt for herself, she would choose the Tree of Paradise.
“On my Tree of Paradise, I intend to put a border of snakes entwined; they will look like vines or just a cable pattern to others, as I will make the eyes very small, but they will be snakes to me; without a snake or two, the main part of the story would be missing. Some who use this pattern make several trees, four or more in a square or circle, but I am making just one large tree, on a background of white. The Tree itself is of triangles, in two colours, dark for the leaves and a lighter colour for the fruits; I am using purple for the leaves and red for the fruits. They have many bright colours now, with the chemical dyes that have come in, and I think it will turn out very pretty.
But three of the triangles in my Tree will be different. One will be white, from the petticoat I still have that was Mary Whitney’s; one will be faded yellowish, from the prison nightdress I begged as a keepsake when I left there. And the third will be a pale cotton, a pink and white floral, cut from the dress of Nancy’s that she had on the first day I was at Mr Kinnear’s, and that I wore on the ferry to Lewiston, when I was running away.
I will embroider around each one of them with red feather-stitching, to blend them in as part of the pattern.
And so we will all be together.” (Chapter 15 ‘Tree of Paradise’)
I’m still baffled as to why she would want to include fragments from Nancy’s dress and her own prison nightdress. These were difficult times for Grace, when her future was uncertain, but perhaps by including them in her final quilt she puts an end to that chapter of her life and is ready to begin a new one. Or perhaps… she is making her very own warning flag… beware of Grace… A running theme throughout the story is one of doubt and trustworthiness, is Grace the victim or the villain, is she telling the truth, the whole truth? The narrative of the story leaves you gripped to the end.
Other passages I enjoyed
Of course, there are many other quilting references I enjoyed and listed below are some of my favourites:
“There is talk of a new Sewing Machine for use in the home, which would do exceedingly well if it might be cheaply produced, for every women would wish to own such an item…” (Chapter 4 ‘Young man’s fancy’, letter from Mrs Jordan to her son Dr Jordan)
“I kept my head down, I did not look at him, I worked away at my quilt blocks, for the quilt I am making for the Governor’s wife, there are only five blocks left to be finished. I watched my needle go in and out, although I believe I could sew in my sleep, I’ve been doing it since I was four years old, small stitches as if made by mice. You need to start very young to be able to do that, otherwise you never get the hang of it.” (Chapter 4 ‘Young man’s fancy’)
“There is a little verse I remember from a child:
Needles and pins, needles and pins, When a man marries his troubles begins.
It doesn’t say when a woman’s trouble begins.”(Chapter 5 ‘Broken dishes’)
“…the other quilt was called Attic Windows; it had a great many pieces, and if you looked at it one way it was closed boxes, and when you looked at it another way the boxes were open, and I suppose the closed boxes were the attics and the open ones were the windows; and that is the same with all quilts, you can see them two different ways, by looking at the dark pieces, or else the light.” (Chapter 6 Secret drawer)
This is a quick little project which is perfect for gifting… and also for using up fabric scraps!
These little patchwork bag charms make lovely homemade gifts. I made some with my girls a few years ago to give as thank you presents for their teachers at the end of the school year. My girls enjoyed getting involved – the youngest choosing fabrics and buttons, and the eldest taking part in some cutting and sewing.
The finished bag charm measures approximately 3.5” x 3.5”.
You will need:
2 strips measuring 4” x 1” (for the top and bottom borders)
2 strips measuring 3” x 1” (for the sides)
1 piece of background fabric 3” x 3” Backing fabric 4” x 4”
2” of ribbon for the key ring strap
Scrap bits of felt for the flower and leaves
Wadding Key ring
This week’s update on my sewing projects is short and sweet. Mainly because I haven’t had much time to think about what to write! The day has literally flown by!
I thought my new design – I’m calling it ‘Applique Flowers’ for now as a working title – would be quick and easy to piece, as the design features large square blocks – mainly cut from the same fabric – and applique flowers. So in my mind I was thinking, easy piecing, and easy ironing-on the petals. But I should have known better – in my experience things usually take longer than planned. Perhaps I just underestimated how many petals I had to cut!
Nevertheless I had a brilliant – and happy – day. Starting off with a lovely walk around the village after dropping off my youngest at school, followed by a relaxing mid-morning coffee, and then it was down to work whilst listening (and singing along) to country music.
Me on my sunny morning walk
Beautiful view from my village
I felt joyful and carefree, and perhaps – I have to admit – a little unfocused; which could explain why I made the odd mistake!! Turns out I ended up cutting far too much fabric – making more blocks and petals than I needed to, and ironing on petals on to blocks that didn’t need any…
Oh well… I have to confess I’m a little worried that I may not have enough fabric left for other things I had in mind… but there’s no point in crying over spilt milk, or in this case cut fabric.
I’m sure the extra blocks will come in handy at some point – perhaps I could add them to the backing as a design feature, or I could make a cushion or bag, or something else?? As I keep saying, fabric is never wasted!! These blocks will have a purpose.
This is a ‘special’ quilt spot as it’s just about “Alias Grace”, the Netflix adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s book of the same name. I didn’t spot any other quilts in movies or TV in May but, even if I had, I think I would have kept this quilt spot as a special one, just because the series was such a joy to watch, and the number of quilts on show, and the quilting references, were so numerous as well as being an integral part of the story, or at least of the main character’s Grace Mark’s character.
I knew the series had become available on Netflix, and when it was first announced, I recalled how much I had enjoyed the book when I first read it in the late 1990s. However, I had quite forgotten all about the quilts and quilting references, probably because when I first read it, I wasn’t into quilting, so all references to quilting didn’t mean much to me at the time.
However, it was after I wrote my April 2018’s Quilt Spot, that one of my Melony Patch Facebook followers commented that she had spotted a few quilts in the Netflix series. And that was like a light bulb moment for me. Of course!! I remembered Grace was always busy sewing, but I hadn’t remembered it was quilts she was working on.
Of course this meant that I just HAD to see the series and also that the book – which I had kept after all these years – was coming with me on our family holiday.
I thought the series was brilliant – brilliant adaptation, brilliant acting, brilliant sets and costumes, and of course AMAZING quilts. It’s such a joy to see quilts on screen – don’t you think??
I was utterly mesmerised by Grace’s ability piece together a log cabin block, using tiny stitches, sometimes without even looking at her work, whilst relating her story to Dr Jordan – and also sometimes sewing by candle light.
I’m tempted to give this a go to experience how this might feel. I might sit myself next to the fire place, with all the electrics turned off, not look at my sewing, and see how I get on!! I’m guessing my stitching will not be as tiny, even, or straight as Grace’s – but I think it’ll be fun! Who’d be interested in doing something similar??
But back to the series and the book, there are three stand-out parts for me (when it comes to quilting).
The first is when Grace tells Dr Jordan that her friend Mary Whitney had told her that all girls should make three quilts before they’re married. I think this is an interesting notion that women had to have these items in their bridal trousseau and wonder when this tradition died down. There’s something romantic about the notion of making household furnishings in preparation for your married life.
The second is when Grace describes quilts as flags of war. I had never thought of quilts as flags – warning signs – beware of the bed, it’s where indignities happen, where you face your first struggles in life, and also where you face your last moments of life.
And thirdly, when Grace finally completes the quilt she has made for herself. I can understand why she wants to add the serpent to the design, but I’m still baffled as to why she’d want to include fabrics cut from Mary’s petticoat , from one of Nancy’s dresses, and also from her own prison nightdress. Well, I can understand wanting a piece of fabric from a dress that belonged to Mary – after all, she had been a good friend. But Nancy’s dress, and her own prison nightdress? These are parts of her life that I would wish to forget. They are, nevertheless, important parts of her life, perhaps even defining parts, so maybe that’s why. Referencing this quilt, the series (and book) end with the haunting line ‘And so we shall all be together.’
Much has been written about the meaning of the quilts and of the quilting references in “Alias Grace” – a quick Google search will come up with some interesting results. I may well write another blog post about this.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable series, as well as being a brilliant read… again!
Have you seen the series, or read the book, or done both? What are your thoughts on the series/book? What were your favourite bits? And what do you make of Grace’s final quilt? I’d love to know – share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment below.
I usually only have my Fridays to work on my quilt projects, as I work the rest of the week. But this week, due to car trouble – which saw me stranded on my way to choir practice (sob sob) and which meant I couldn’t go into work the following day – I ended up with an impromptu sewing day. I always try to see the positive in any situation, so this extra day to myself – no matter how it came about – was a good thing!
Recently, when on holiday, I had been toying with ideas for a new quilt. I have some organic fabric which I’ve had for a while and was eager to use them in my new design. I quite like the geometrical quilt designs I’ve been coming up with lately (Serenity, Golden Glow and Through my Window) and so was keen to do something similar.
So on Tuesday I got busy designing, cutting and sewing. I made up some of the blocks but I finished the day feeling not very pleased with it all.
Today has been different though. Whilst on my long walk around the village after dropping off my youngest at the school, and feeling inspired by the beautiful sunny morning we were blessed with this spring day, I decided to radically change the design I had in mind. (Not that it’s really radical (!), just a departure from my original design!)
Out went all straight lines, square and rectangular blocks in favour of big applique flowers, each set within simple, uncomplicated square blocks. Somehow the design seems more in tune with the way I was feeling this morning and with the relaxing vibes that come with spring and summer. I also think this design makes the most of the prints in my chosen fabrics.
There’s still a way to go yet. But today I feel happy with what I’ve accomplished, and I can say that I’m really looking forward to progressing with this design. Of course, the ‘redundant’ blocks will be kept; you never know when they might come in handy!
Do you have a similar story to tell? Do let me know by sharing your thoughts and leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
There’s nothing like a break to recharge your batteries. And that’s just what I got from our recent family holiday to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. With the kids now being a little bit older, I could comfortably lie back and relax on a sunbed while the girls were splashing in the pool. I can’t remember the last time I did that – probably before children. So this for me was a real luxury and I thoroughly enjoyed taking advantage of it.
I also took advantage of the indoor pool in the resort. In the afternoons, when the outside pools were full of kids and their parents (and inflatables of all shapes, sizes and colours), the indoor pool was empty. And it was bliss to sneak away and steal a few moments to myself – the water in the indoor pool was slightly salty so it was very easy to lie on my back and float away peacefully…
I also got to read a book! And again, I can’t remember the last time I did that on holiday. Probably, again, before children. But perhaps I should say re-read a book as the book I read was one I had read in the late 1990s, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. I remember how much I enjoyed reading it at the time, but this was before I was into patchwork quilting, so when I first read it, all the references to quilting meant nothing to me.
It was after writing my April 2018 Quilt Spot, that one of my Facebook followers mentioned that she had spotted a few quilts in the Netflix adaptation of the book. And that jolted my memory – of course I remembered the main character Grace Marks was always busy with her sewing, but hadn’t remembered it was quilts she was working on.
This meant two things. First, the Netflix series was a must-see, and secondly, the book – which I still had after all these years – was coming with me on holiday.
We watched the series over a week and my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it; the quilts were stunning – but more of that to come in my Quilt Spot for May 2018 (I know it’ll be a little late given that we’re now in June, but I have been away…!).
Needless to say I had a great holiday. Usually I say a holiday was great if the kids had fun, as when kids are happy, parents tend to be happy too. But this time, not only did the kids have a brilliant time (and it was lovely doing so many things and going on so many exciting excursions with them), but I did too, doing things that I personally enjoyed. And it felt good. This was much needed after not the best start to the year.
I also came home with a new silver thimble which has the island’s symbol engraved on it. I’ve come back from holiday feeling refreshed and re-energised, and ready to start a number of quilting projects. And of-course I’m looking forward to using my new thimble. It will always remind me of these happy times.
This is a quick little project which is perfect for gifting… and also for using up fabric scraps!
These little patchwork bag charms make lovely homemade gifts. I made some with my girls a few years ago to give as thank you presents for their teachers at the end of the school year. My girls enjoyed getting involved – the youngest choosing fabrics and buttons, and the eldest taking part in some cutting and sewing.
The finished bag charm measures approximately 3.5” x 3.5”.
You will need:
2 strips measuring 4” x 1” (for the top and bottom borders)
2 strips measuring 3” x 1” (for the sides)
1 piece of background fabric 3” x 3”
Backing fabric 4” x 4”
2” of ribbon for the key ring strap
Scrap bits of felt for the flower and leaves
All measurements include a 0.25” seam allowance.
Piecing the bag charm
Following Diagram 1, sew the side borders to the background fabric and press. Next sew the top and bottom borders and press.
Adding the flower
Using the templates in Diagram 2, cut out the flower centre and leaves from bits of felt. (The numbers in red indicate the measurements. If you have difficulty printing the template at the correct size, you can alternatively draw a 1.25″ diameter circle, and for the leaves, a leaf shape roughly of the height and bottom width as indicated below.)
Following Diagram 3, position the leaves so they are centred against the background fabric, making sure the bottom of the leaves are lined up with the top edge of the bottom border.
Using a brown thread, sew the leaves to the background fabric with running stitch running along the centre of the leaves. Also add a vertical stitching line for the stem, running from the top edge of the bottom border to about the centre of the background fabric.
Next sew the flower centre and button, so that they are centred within the background fabric.
Adding the backing and strap
Following Diagram 4, lay the backing fabric right sides up.
Fold the strip of ribbon in half and place on top of the backing fabric. Position it along the top border about 0.75” from the right edge. Decide how long you would like your strap and move the folded ribbon up or down accordingly. Tack it in place.
Next, place the front of the bag charm right sides down on top of the backing fabric, and sew all around the inside, 0.25” in from the raw edge, leaving about a 1” gap for turning.
Trim corners and ribbon strap overhang, and turn right side out. Use a prodding tool to push out the corners.
Next stuff the bag charm with some wadding so it’s nice and plump, and when happy, slip stitch closed.
Add the key ring and it’s ready for gifting!
I hope you enjoyed this project. Let me know if you have any queries and if you make any of these charming bag charms, let me know! I’d love to hear of your makes and also see some pictures! And don’t forget to sign-up to my blog to receive regular updates on my quilting adventures and freebies!
Designed by Melanie Vincent, June 2018. Please respect the designer’s copyright. The design, instructions, diagrams and photos are copyright of the designer. You are free to use this pattern as long as you are not making any financial gain from it. Enjoy making and gifting!
You can also enjoy my other free patterns on my blog:
Although I have a fantastic fabric stash, it always seems that I need more! I know it’s a joke among quilters that you can never have enough fabric… but it’s so true! It seems that no matter what you buy or how much, when you come to work on a project it quite often is the case that you never have ALL – whether the range or quantity – of the fabric you need.
And recently, this, again, became very clear to me, when working on a new project, and I simply didn’t have the type of fabrics I was after… And my local (and one remaining quilt) shop is quite small and isn’t able to stock a huge range… Still it’s nice to pop in now and then to see what they have and the ladies there are always very helpful and knowledgeable.
It goes to show that when you come across some fabric that you like, you just have to buy it, JUST IN CASE you might need it in the future! At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself! (Now… I better do some fabric shopping…!)
However, sending off ‘Through my Window’ feels different. Yes, I’m happy that it’s complete, and that my instructions are all written up and that the diagrams have been drawn. But this quilt represents a difficult period in my life, simply because that’s what was going on at the time of piecing it.
Working on this quilt has given me a lot of comfort, as it’s given me something creative to focus on, but I know it will also be a reminder, forever more, of those darker times, hurt and worries. I wish I could package that all up and send that in the post – that’s one package I wouldn’t mind getting lost!
I often wish our society placed more value on love, honesty and commitment, in all aspects of life. Perhaps to some these values may seem archaic, but to me they are the foundations of a meaningful life.
“Through my window, I can see
A world of wonder there for me.
And in this world, I will find
My belonging and peace of mind”
It’s a little message to myself, to remind me that there is always hope, and that things can get better. Funny how when I designed the quilt, based on the fabrics I chose, what came to mind were the views and hues from my window in late winter, when spring is just around the corner, and the coming season – with all the beautiful flowers and vibrant colours – is waiting to burst into life. Mirroring in a way my life at the time, and where I am now – through the darkness I will find brighter times. Sometimes all you need is Hope and Faith.
I have documented the making of this quilt though my blog posts, which I have listed below).
A few months ago I was so determined to get going with my new quilt idea ‘Home and Garden‘ that I almost forgot how many other things I had to do first, like finishing the Pirate Quilt, writing the instructions for it (which are available free here), adding finishing touches to my ‘Through My Window‘ quilt, and the list goes on… All these had time constraints, I must add, which meant I had to get them done. Otherwise, I would have been quite happy to dabble in another project. But it seems my eagerness to get started came too soon and my thoughts were, perhaps, a bit premature in that respect.
So, I’ve been busy, though not with sewing. But with a lot of writing. And a lot of calculating.
Did anyone else realise when they started quilting, how much maths is involved? I sometimes think you need to be a bit of numbers genius or some sort of maths whizz kid (or adult in this case) to get your head around cutting instructions and estimating fabric quantities. Especially in the UK – we tend to buy fabric in metres but when we come to cut our fabric we work in inches!
When I started quilting, I used the Metric System, because I grew up in Spain and that’s what’s used there and that’s what I was used to. I hadn’t realised that most quilters use the Imperial System.
One of my early quilts, which I made for my eldest daughter when she was just a toddler – A Child’s Nautical Quilt – was featured as a project in British Patchwork and Quilting magazine in 2012, and the editor back then was quite happy to publish my instructions in centimetres. It was a popular project and I made up kits to sell via my Melony Patch Etsy shop. It’s been years since I ran out of kits, but I still sell the pattern, and to this day, it is one of my most popular designs; every now and then I see quilts people have made using this pattern.
It was just the other day that a lady from Canada got in touch with me after buying the pattern in my shop. She asked if she could have the instructions in inches. I nearly fainted!! But after I composed myself, I thought it would be a good idea to do this so that more people feel able to work on this project.
But it’s not as simple as it might sound. You can’t just do a straight conversion. For example 10cm is 3.93701 inches… Who is going to cut THAT?? Not me! So you have to round up or down the figures; I decided to round up and down to the nearest quarter inch.
Luckily the templates in the pattern for the various shapes (whale, fish, starfish, sailboat, float and lighthouse) were all full size, so it didn’t really matter if I had designed theses in centimetres. But the blocks those shapes were in, had to be changed.
Nautical quilt lighthouse block
Nautical quilt fish block
Nautical quilt whale block
So there I was (ALL of last Friday), busy with my calculator converting cm to inches, rounding figures up and down, and trying to make all the blocks fit neatly together. It was like working on a jigsaw puzzle, and can honestly say it was a mammoth task. But now that it is over, I’m so pleased I’ve done it. Instead of re-writing the instructions, I’ve written a set of guidance notes on to how to use the original instructions and templates if working in inches, and these will be offered to those buying the pattern via my shop.
Sadly, there was no sewing today either. I’ve been busy writing up the instructions for ‘Through My Window‘ quilt – and I’m hoping to get this all done and dusted by the end of next week so I can send it off to the magazine. My calculator is out, my head is swirling and I need a break now!
‘Through My Window’ – working on the instructions
And on that note I bid you all a good weekend! (Anyone watching the Royal Wedding??)
As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week (in the UK) next week, I thought I’d write something about the work I do, rather than one of my customary blogs about patchwork quilting.
As some of you know, my day job is working for a nature conservation charity on a project that encourages people struggling with mental health issues to come out onto our nature reserves, get involved in practical conservation work, go on nature walks and, on occasion, do a nature-based craft.
There is plenty of research to show that these sorts of activities can be beneficial to your wellbeing and can help reduce levels of stress and depression. Although I am mainly office based – providing the background support to make sure the project runs smoothly – I quite often go out with the groups. Needless to say, I LOVE those days!
And yesterday, was one such day. We went to a small forest north of Swindon which has been established on what used to be a landfill site. It’s amazing to see how nature has reclaimed this once unloved patch of land and how it’s now teeming with wildlife.
Our base for the day was a small clearing in the woods where logs had been laid down in a circle to provide a seating area, and as we sat down to drink our teas and coffees – made with the Kelly Kettles – we had a swarm of dragonflies dancing above our heads and a little smooth newt poking its head out from within a crevice in one of the logs to join our company.
After our drinks we got down to the task in hand, which was making mallets from a small tree we had cut down earlier. After some simple instructions we all got working on our pieces, some in groups, some on their own, some chatting, some keeping to themselves. Some made mallets, some made mushrooms.
At the end of the day we all laid down our creations – and what a wonderful display it was! It’s amazing to think that all of this was done from scratch in just a few hours, within a supportive group setting, with people who have become friends. Everyone can go home feeling proud of what they have achieved, and feeling good about themselves.
It was a lovely day, and I feel very fortunate to have such a special job. (I also got to drive the minibus, which I was very excited about!)
But the day did not go by without a reference to sewing. A few days ago I ironed my work trousers. Bad mistake. The setting was too high and I somehow managed to melt the water repellent fabric. Not wanting to throw away what was otherwise a good pair of trousers, I decided to put my creative sewing skills to good use and covered the offending hole with some pretty hand-made flower patches, which caught the attention of some members of the group!
Next week I’ll bring you an update on how I’m progressing with various quilting projects, including completing the instructions for ‘Through my Window‘ and updating instructions for my ‘Child’s Nautical Quilt‘ – which I created back in 2012 when I used the metric system. I’m updating these to include measurements in inches (!) – it’s what I’ve been doing for most of today and all the number crunching and conversions are driving me a bit bananas!
As promised in an earlier blog post, here is the free pattern for my Baby Pirate Quilt. This is a fun and bright little pirate quilt perfect for the little boy (or not-so-girly-girl) in your life. Easy to piece, it also makes an ideal gift for the newborn baby of a loved one or of a dear friend.
It’s pirate themed simply because I’ve used pirate-themed labels fabric (* if you’re not sure what ‘labels fabric’ is, see image at the end of the blog post), but the same design can work equally as well for any labels fabric, or indeed any pictorial fabric.
The instructions below are based on the labels I had, which were roughly 3” square. The finished size of the quilt is 28” x 35.5”. If your labels are a different size, you may wish to alter some of the measurements, and your quilt may end up being a different finished size. However, even if your measurements are different, you can still follow the instructions below to guide you through the piecing process. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me (before cutting any precious fabric!) by leaving me a comment.
Enjoy and feel free to use as you wish!
Please note that if the quilt is intended for a baby, please follow current safety advice which is that babies under one year of age should not sleep under a quilt – for younger ones, this little quilt can be used as a buggy blanket, wall-hanging or play mat until old enough to use on the cot/bed.
BABY PIRATE QUILT
Labels fabric – you will need 12 labels
Range of patterned fabrics in colours to coordinate with the labels. I used six different fat quarters. (You could equally use remnants from your stash!)
White fabric – allow one yard
You will also need wadding and backing fabric – 28” x 35.5”
All measurements include a seam allowance of 0.25″ unless stated.
Cutting white sashing strips and borders
Cut the larger pieces first. From the white fabric cut:
8 x (2.5” x 6”) for sashing between the label blocks
3 x (21” x 2.5”) for sashing between the rows
2 x (2.5” x 28.5”) for inner side borders
2 x (25” x 2.5”) for inner top and bottom borders
2 x (2.5” x 35.5”) for outside side borders
2 x (32” x 2.5”) for outside top and bottom borders
Put to one side.
Cutting the patterned borders for the label blocks
For each label block you will need the following border pieces:
2 x (2” x 3.5”) for the sides
2 x (6.5” x 2”) for the top and bottom
For each label cut the border pieces from the same fabric. As there are 12 label blocks you will need 12 sets of label borders. I used six different fabrics, so I had two sets in each fabric.
Put to one side.
Constructing the label blocks
Cut out the labels you wish to use from your labels fabric. I cut my labels 3.5” square to give a finished sewn label size of 3”. Make sure your label is perfectly centred before cutting it out.
Next, sew the side border pieces to the label. Press and trim any excess.
Then sew the top and bottom border pieces (see Diagram 1).
Press and trim each label block to measure 6” x 6”.
Repeat process for the other 11 label blocks.
Sewing the quilt centre
The quilt centre has four rows each featuring three label blocks.
Position the 12 label blocks on a clean surface in a 3 x 4 arrangement and arrange the blocks in a way that pleases you.
Once happy with the positioning, sew rows of label blocks together using the short white sashing strips (measuring 2.5” x 6”) between each label block. (See Diagram 2)
Repeat process for the other three rows.
Next sew the rows together using the white sashing strips measuring 21” x 2.5”. (See Diagram 3)
Press quilt centre.
Next sew the inner white borders (measuring 2.5” x 28.5”) to the side of the quilt, press, and then sew the top and bottom inner white borders (measuring 25” x 2.5”). (See Diagram 4)
Constructing the inner patchwork border
To construct the inner patchwork border, cut a range of rectangles from the patterned fabric, measuring 2” wide by lengths varying between 2.5” to 4” and sew these together in no particular order to make up two long strips measuring 2” x 32.5” for the sides and another two measuring 2” x 28” for the top and bottom.
First sew the patchwork border to the sides of the quilt, and then sew the top and bottom patchwork border, and press. (See Diagram 5)
Outer border and completing the quilt
Next sew the outer white border to the quilt. First sew the side strips (2.5” x 35.5”) and then the top and bottom strips (32” x 2.5”). The border strips are wide enough to create a narrow 0.25” border to the front of the quilt and a 1” border at the back. (See Diagram 6)
For the backing, you will need a piece of backing material and wadding measuring 28” x 35.5”.
Lay quilt down, with right side facing down, and place wading and backing on top, with right side facing up, making sure both are centred, and baste all layers. Quilt as desired – I very simply hand-quilted around the labels and just within the edge of each label block and just within the inner patchwork border. (See diagram and photo below for the full quilt layout)
For the back, fold border in half and under to conceal raw edges, cutting excess fabric at the corners. Slip-stitch all around border and corners making sure stitches do not pass to the front of the quilt.
Remember to add a label with your name and date, and enjoy!
Melanie Vincent, May 2018
Please respect the copyright of the designer. The design, instructions and diagrams are copyright of the designer. You are free to use this pattern as long as you are not making any financial gain from it. Enjoy making and gifting!
April was not a great month for ‘quilt spots’. In fact, I only saw two (!) movies in which I spotted quilts. Astonishing really, as I watched plenty of films, especially with the girls being off school for Easter and having more family time together.
Anyhow, first quilt spot goes to ‘The Amityville Horror’ (2005) – a remake of the classic horror movie based on true events and featuring the most sinister-looking house that anyone could have designed. (Those attic windows!!! Argh!) As is always the case with these movies, I find it a joy to catch a glimpse of a quilt, this time on the couple’s bed. It had a chunky, home-made look to it, featuring earthy colours very typical of the 1970s (which is when the movie was set). However, the design itself seemed more modern, consisting of largish square and rectangular patches and… it appeared to be hand-quilted! (Yay for hand-quilters!) I liked this design and have a feeling it’ll inspire a future project.
Second quilt spot goes to the 1990’s now-slightly-unfunny-and-out-dated comedy ‘In and Out’ starring Kevin Kline as a teacher who is ‘outed’ as gay by a former pupil. His unsuspecting fiance has waited patiently for three years to get married before they engage in any intimate relations, and the pretty pink traditional patchwork quilt on her bed just adds a touch of innocence and naivety to the grown woman’s room.
I also watched one of my all-time favourite movies, ‘Out of Africa’. Though I didn’t spot any quilts, there were plenty of gorgeous African textiles decorating walls or draped over furniture. Since visiting Tanzania in 2013, I have been thinking of designing a quilt inspired by my visit. I’ve nothing sketched yet – it’s all in my mind. However, I think it might be time to put pencil to paper and get some ideas down!
So although I haven’t ‘spotted’ much this month, I have been inspired by what I’ve seen, and hopefully May will bring more of that!
I’m excited to say that I’ve managed to finish the little pirate quilt I started working on a couple of weeks ago – as I mentioned in my blog post from last Friday, it’s a gift for the newborn baby boy of a good friend of mine. I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out and I really hope my friend likes it too. It’s a typical boy’s quilt: bright and happy featuring cute pirate-themed illustrations in traditional ‘boy’ colours, blue, red and white.
I always find it slightly amusing how so many items for little boys feature pirates. As if they would make good role-models!! For kids, pirates are always portrayed as adorable and amicable characters when in reality they were vile creatures and to be feared! Who would seriously want their kid to grow up to be one?!
Nevertheless, their appeal is timeless and it seems they will always hold a fascination with young ones. When I was a little girl, I was captivated by stories of the notable Pirate Blackbeard and vowed one day to find his sunken ship laden with treasure! That’s unlikely to happen now, though I do enjoy diving, especially in the Caribbean, and have seen the odd shipwreck. No galleon though, and definitely no treasure!
For now my adventures are in quilting, and my treasures are my children.
What a glorious spring day it’s been (and still is as I write this!). Sitting in my sewing room with the windows wide open, today I opted to have no music, and nothing to sing along to, so I could simply listen to the birds tweeting and chirping whilst I hand-quilted away.
The peace was only broken briefly by the school children next door while playing outside during break time – but, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this sound! It’s happy and full of excitement, energy and life.
Today I’ve been working on a baby quilt for the newborn baby boy of a good friend of mine. It’s quite simple in design and features pirate-themed fabrics from my stash. At some point I will write up the instructions to make this little quilt, which can be used as a pram blanket, play mat or wall-hanging, and will publish them on my blog for free.
I love making quilts for babies and children. I’ve made quite a few over the years for my own children and for those of family and close friends. I hope these quilts will stay with them beyond their childhood years, and, who knows, maybe one day they can be passed on to their own children.
I’ve nearly finished the quilting – I just have a little bit more to do around the border; then it’ll be sewing the hanging sleeve and the label. As you may know, I like to add a little poem or phrase on my labels; for my children’s quilts I tend to write something like this: “Made with love for NAME. May this quilt always bring you comfort and joy”.
This has made me think about what to write on the label for the ‘Through my window’ quilt. I thought I had this all figured out: “Through my window: Through my window, I will find, a life, a purpose, peace of mind”. I had prepared the label and ironed it on to the back of my quilt. I felt quite happy with it. But after showing a friend, I have my doubts. She said, “that’s a bit deep” and it got me thinking…
Yes, it is a bit deep. I wasn’t in a good place when I made this quilt – I remember feeling very down and my outlook felt a bit gloomy. I won’t forget how I felt when piecing this quilt – quilts have a funny way of reminding you where you were when you pieced them, and what was going through your mind at the time. So I don’t really need to convey that information on the label itself. I now think I want something a bit more positive. Since those ‘darker’ days, I feel things are brighter, and I would like the label to convey that positivity as a way of capturing that momentum. It will, however, still be true and authentic to myself. So the label has come off, and a new one will soon be sewn on!
There’s nothing I like more when I’m quilting than to sing along to some of my favourite songs. And at the moment – whilst piecing the blocks for my latest project ‘Home and Garden‘ – this seems to be the complete soundtrack of ‘The Greatest Showman’, which I’ve been listening to NON-STOP (!).
I absolutely love this movie, and I’m baffled as to why it got so heavily criticised by the critics. (Well, what do they know?!) For me, it’s a brilliant story, well acted and the songs, well they’re just superb, like “This is me” – is this not the best inspirational song EVER?
I saw the movie recently with my seven-year-old and we’ll be going again in just over a week to the sing-a-long version. I. CAN’T. WAIT. And neither can she!
But singing is not something I do just when quilting. In fact it’s quite a big part of me. A few years ago, when I was very low and not in a good place, I decided to join a local choir. I remember feeling a little apprehensive about going along to the first session, but I was soon put at ease and it was so much fun. What I remember most about that night, is that although I was absolutely shattered by the time I got home, for the first time in ages, I fell asleep with a big smile on my face. I felt so happy!
There’s a lot of research to prove that singing – as well as taking part in other activities, like sewing or nature conservation, can be good for you, so if you’re feeling down, I would strongly suggest thinking about taking part in these sorts of activities.
In fact, it will probably just grow…! I know it’s a joke among quilters that you can never have enough fabric… but it’s so true! It seems that no matter what you buy or how much, when you come to work on a project it quite often seems that you never have ALL – whether the range or quantity – of the fabric you need.
I’ve always thought I had quite a good stash, but when piecing my new ‘Home and Garden’ blocks, I realised that I didn’t really have the types of fabrics I wanted. And my local quilt shops – well ‘shop’ as one sadly closed down recently – is quite small and doesn’t really stock a huge range… Still it’s nice to pop in now and then to see what they have and the ladies there are always very helpful.
Still, it goes to show that when you come across some fabric that you like, you just have to buy it, just in case you might need it in the future! At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself! (Now… I better do some fabric shopping…!)
We met, had fun, travelled, had fun, made plans, got married, had fun, moved to the country, had children…
It might not be perfect, we might not be (metaphorically) where we thought we would be when we started this journey. But we’re here. It’s not always rosy; it’s not always easy. There have been ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups, sometimes just long periods of downs, but there are always the highest of highs along the way. It’s my life, my family… and I love it and love them.
Pictured below the ‘Home and Garden’ paper-pieced blocks I’ve been sewing this week.
What did you watch on the big or little screen in March? And did you spot any patchwork quilts?? It seems my viewing consisted, again, mostly of horror movies… (my eldest daughter’s choice for our movie nights…)
Still, I always think it’s nice to see patchwork quilts featured in these types of movies – they are, for me, unexpected pleasures. So, in March I ended up watching Poltergeist, the 2015 remake, and Insidious. Both feature families with young children, and in both the children have patchwork quilts either on their beds or displayed as wall-hangings. I particularly liked the cowboy themed quilt in Insidious which featured stetsons, cowboy boots and cacti.
I wonder why so many quilts are used in these types of movies? Perhaps they add a homely and innocent touch to the sets which can then accentuate the horrors that are about to be unleashed on the unsuspecting family? I really don’t know – what are your thoughts?
My viewing in March wasn’t all doom and gloom though. I also watched one of my all-time favourites, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I had not noticed the quilts before, but this time, with my ‘quilt spot’ head on, I caught a glimpse of the quilt on Ruth’s bed… it’s a dark, sad scene, as you will know if you’ve seen the movie, and it’s hard to see clearly the design of the bed cover, but it’s unmistakably a quilt.
I have to say that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this movie. I’ve watched it so many times, and always cry at the same bits. For me it’s about the power of friendship; how your true friends are the ones who pull you through the dark times, and who are there to support you no matter what. Friends are so important – I know I couldn’t do without mine.
Here’s hoping April’s viewing will include a few more uplifting movies! Till next time!
Now that I’ve nearly finished my Through my Window quilt (yes, I finally decided on a name!), and with my Golden Glow* quilt on the cover of the current issue of British Patchwork and Quilting magazine (sorry, I just had to mention that again as I’m STILL OVER THE MOON about this!), it’s time for me to explore new ideas for future projects.
I’m toying with the idea of going back to paper piecing for this one. For those who don’t know what paper piecing is, it’s basically sewing bits of fabric to a foundation paper which features the pattern you are sewing. A number of my quilts have featured this technique. In fact the diamonds in Golden Glow* are constructed in this way.
My girls are away this week for part of the Easter school break, spending time with the grandparents, aunties, uncles and their beloved little cousin. So… I’ve had a few hours to myself to work on my new project. At the moment it’s unimaginatively named ‘Home and Garden’ but fear not, this IS just a working title and something I can use to name the folder where all the documents for the designs, templates and photos can be saved on my computer.
This quilt is going to be a real stash-buster, and one where I’ll be using tiniest bits of fabrics that I’ve been saving. Whereas as my previous two quilts have featured a limited number of fabrics, this one will be a riot of colours and fabrics.
What I like about the flower block I constructed today was that in places I used (almost) microscopic pieces of fabric… using scraps I had stored away for ages. Thankfully I have one of those magnifying craft lamps which made the job easier – not sure how I would have managed without one today!
There was something quite pleasing and therapeutic about constructing this block; the tiny pieces I was sewing made me work slowly and carefully to avoid mistakes, and just really taking my time. (There was also something quite nice and appealing about the little pile of off-cuts and trimmings that grew as I went along.)
The next block I’ll sew will feature trees and after that I’ll construct the house and heart blocks. If all goes well, I should have these done by the end of the week, before picking up my little ladies and spending quality time with them.
I don’t usually work on Fridays – as you know, because it’s my sewing day and I mostly write about my sewing exploits – but today, I did.
And it was for a good reason: to help promote a new Wellbeing Project we are running in the military town of Tidworth, south east Wiltshire. This is what I do as my day job – working on a project that provides nature-based activities for people struggling with mental health issues. A colleague and I met with medical professionals to explain what the programme is about and how they can refer patients to us. The project was well-received so we’re hoping to get lots of referrals in the coming weeks.
Of course, this means I have nothing sewing-related to write about today! So instead, I’m posting below an abridged version of the blog I wrote for work this week about the work we’ve done in the market town of Devizes, central Wiltshire, which gives you a taster for what the project is all about! (You can view the original blog post with photos here.)
As always, I love to read your comments, so if you have any thoughts you’d like to share, please do by writing a few lines below.
Here’s wishing you all a happy weekend!
A Year at the Orchard and Old Cricket Field with the Wellbeing Group
It’s amazing what a team of dedicated people can achieve. Across the county groups of volunteers are hard at work all year round to ensure Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves are in tip-top condition for wildlife to thrive. And it’s not just Trust nature reserves where these efforts are being made.
The grant gave the West Wiltshire Wellbeing group the funding needed to transform the site into a wildlife haven. Project officer Nick Self had a clear vision from the start – to manage the orchard and to sow wildflowers on the old cricket pitch so both would become attractive habitats for wildlife, and to generally make the site a more inviting place where visitors can stop and enjoy nature.
Thanks to the group of dedicated participants – who were out in all weathers, come rain or shine – the old cricket field now boasts a wildflower corner bed, sown with seeds from the Trust’s flagship lowland grassland nature reserve Clattinger Farm. Seeds of corn cockle, corn chamomile, corn marigold and field poppy were planted, and it was amazing to see last summer how this once plain corner plot was teeming with bees and butterflies soon after the flowers had emerged.
The flower bed is neatly framed by low-lying hazel hurdles which were also constructed and installed by the group. To the side of the field, by the trees, there is now a beetle bank which the team created using the turf that was removed from the pitch to make way for the flower bed; this is now home to all sorts of wonderful creepy crawlies. The remainder of the cricket field will be kept as open space for local people to enjoy.
In the orchard, participants have been replacing diseased trees with Wiltshire varieties such as Roundway Magnum Bonum. The team have also installed two picnic benches, both wheelchair friendly, which they assembled and installed and which will provide a welcome resting point where visitors can sit down and enjoy the surroundings. Orchards are fantastic and important places for wildlife: pollinating insects explore the flower-rich grass between the trees; butterflies like the brimstone, orange-tip, red admiral and tortoiseshell feast on nectar in the fruit blossom; old trees and areas of dead wood provide homes for lichens and beetles; whilst apple windfalls provide essential meals for redwing, fieldfare and fox in cold weather.
Last October, the team held an Apple Celebration event, where local people were invited to come along and help pick apples for juicing and bottling to make the Trust’s very own apple juice (and also take some home for themselves!). Up to one-third of the crop was picked, leaving plenty of apples to provide winter feed for wildlife. The day also featured activities like apple pressing, dipping apples in chocolate and peeling the longest peel competition – all of which proved to be very popular with the youngest visitors who came along to the event.
As well as celebrating all things apple, the event was very much a celebration of what had been achieved on the site by the Wellbeing participants. The Wellbeing Programme has been running in Wiltshire since 2008 and provides nature-based activities for people struggling with mental health issues.
We all know the saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’… but in this case, the whole orchard is providing a source of immeasurable benefits, not just for wildlife but for people’s wellbeing too.
It’s often said that you need a lot of patience to be a patchwork quilter. I believe this is so true. Creating a quilt can take such a long time that you need to have the mindset to keep going and see any creation through to the end. And even then, who doesn’t end up with UFOs?? (For those who aren’t familiar with how this term is used in the quilting world, it refers to ‘unfinished objects’, meaning all those quilts and quilt blocks that have been started and never finished for a variety of reasons.)
These days I usually only have one quilt that I’m actually sewing or piecing, and this one will be my main focus, though at the same time I will also be toying with ideas for future quilts and will often start making sketches of designs and researching fabrics and colours schemes. I might also be working on a quilt that I’ve just finished, typing up instructions, putting together kits, etc. Working this way means that I aim to complete the sewing of a quilt within a few months.
I do, however, have a quilt that took me about seven years to complete. I had borrowed ‘The Quilt Sampler Book’ by Lynne Edwards from my local library. It was soon after discovering patchwork quilting, and after making my first and very simple quilt made up of 10” squares, I had read somewhere that making a sampler quilt was a good way to try out different sewing techniques and styles. However, I wasn’t too keen on all the blocks featured in the book so I decided to focus on the blocks I liked and make a quilt just featuring those ones.
The result is my ‘Garden Sampler’ quilt, a double bed quilt, which features ‘Drunkard Path’ blocks in white and blue to represent the sky and clouds, a ‘Grandmother’s Fan’ for the sun, ‘Log Cabin’ blocks to represent the ground, ‘Spider’s Web’ blocks for… spiders webs, and various appliqué flower blocks. I started the quilt in 2003, when I lived in London. Parts of it travelled with me when I accompanied my husband on business trips to Japan and the US, and I finally finished piecing it in early 2010.
Once it was complete, I laid it on the bed and felt an enormous sense of achievement. I couldn’t believe that I had finally finished it! The intervening years had been quite eventful, so I wasn’t going to be hard on myself for not finishing it sooner – between 2003 and 2010 we had moved out of London, bought a house in the country, I started a new job, and then we were blessed with the arrival of our first child in 2006.
But now that the quilt was laid flat on the bed, a thought suddenly daunted me. The quilting… I thought to myself, it’s going to take another seven years to quilt it, especially as I wanted to do this by hand.
It’s then that I remembered a little piece of advice I read in another quilting book – sadly I can’t remember the name of this book – but it basically said that even if you only do five minutes sewing a day, you’ll be five minutes closer to the finish. And armed with this knowledge, I was determined to sew every night, even if I was extremely tired and even if I found this a little difficult given that I was heavily pregnant with my second child. But I did it. And I finished the quilt in just two weeks. Sometimes all it takes in quilting, and in life, is a little patience and perseverance.
I’m not afraid to admit that I jumped up and down like a little kid at Christmas when I opened my subscription copy of British Patchwork & Quilting magazine and saw my Golden Glow quilt featured on the cover of the April 2018 issue!
I had not expected this at all – it was a happy moment and one which put a huge smile on my face at a time when I needed it the most. I’m also not afraid to admit that I rather love the name I choose for this quilt – Golden Glow. For me it sums up brightness, happiness, optimism, hope and all the good and possible things in life, like shining a light in the dark.
I’m busy now putting together some quilt kits for sale through my Melony Patch Etsy shop, so do pop by if you’d like to buy!
Golden Glow on cover of British Patchwork & Quilting magazine
And now onto my latest quilt, Blue Leaves. Progress this week has been good… and I’m happy to say that the quilting IS COMPLETE!! Yay! Yay! And double Yay!
I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I’ve managed to do this in just a few weeks with everything else that I’ve got going on. I’m also really happy with how it’s turned out. The quilting stitches are almost invisible to the eye as I choose threads that closely match the fabrics used, but the texture the stitching has added is GORGEOUS to the touch and so soothing! The quilting is more visible on the back and I have added a photo below so you can see this.
Now that I’ve finished the quilting, I’ve ironed out all the wrinkles and the next few steps before it’s completely finished will be to slip-stitch the border, sew on the hanging sleeve and add a label… And here lies a problem…
I usually write the name of the quilt on the label, followed by (sometimes) a short phrase or poem relevant to the quilt. And of course I add my name and the year the quilt was finished. I’m still debating what name to give this quilt – as you know the working title I’ve been using is Blue Leaves, though following a comment made by my eldest daughter, who thought the blocks resembled windows, I wondered if something like ‘The view from my window‘ or ‘Windows‘ would work better. (By the way, my husband said the quilt reminded him of computer coding and computer ‘mother boards’… but I’m happy to say that I’m definitely not taking those suggestions any further!!)
Here’s the thing – I have already decided on the phrase to go with the quilt, which goes like this:
“Through these windows I will find,
a sense of purpose and peace of mind”
So what do you think? What name shall I give my quilt? Do let me know by leaving a comment below – your help is still needed!
It’s been a heavy-going week at work. As some of you know, I work for a wildlife charity on a project that encourages people struggling with mental health issues to get involved in nature-based activities.
I am not a mental health professional, and neither are my colleagues. Our backgrounds are more in wildlife conservation and project management. But over the years, we have all received training to become more aware of these issues.
Last year I attended a Mental Health First Aid course, and this week I attended the two-day ASIST course. For those of you who don’t know, ASIST stands for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. Going forward I hope I never have to put into practice what I have learnt this week, but I feel more confident now than I ever did before that I will know what to do in such an eventuality. In fact last year, prior to this training, I dealt with such a situation, and looking back now, without knowing at the time, I had actually put into practice all the skills I have learnt this week.
All participants had the opportunity to introduce themselves and say a little bit about what their experiences were with regard to suicide. It was very emotional and I shed a number of tears as people recounted their stories. Whilst I’ve been sat at my sewing machine today working on my Blue Leaves quilt, I kept thinking of the people I met this week. I am in complete awe and wonder at how strong these people are, to come through such difficult situations where they thought there was no other way out, and to talk so openly and honestly about their feelings and experiences.
It goes to show that we can never tell what someone is going through, or what they have been through, just by looking at them; it’s reemphasised for me how important it is to be less judgemental and how we could all do with a little bit more patience, understanding, kindness and respect.
Phew! Sorry for the heavy-going post! I’m hoping that by next week I will have finished my quilt and will be able to post some pretty pictures of the finished item! And on that slightly-more-lighthearted note, I wish you all a good weekend!
This is a question that is very much on my mind at the moment, for various reasons.
One, is that when I design a new quilt, what might look good on paper might not work so well on fabric, but I only find this out after I’ve sewn a few blocks of my original design. I know I’ve mentioned this before when writing about my Golden Glow quilt, which went through various design stages. But are these sewn pieces wasted? I don’t think so, again for various reasons.
First of all, and perhaps most importantly, without going through this stage of ‘trial and error’ I wouldn’t have come up with a design that I was happy with; secondly, the bits of sewn fabric can be put to all sorts of uses – they can be kept for use in a scrap quilt or a small project, perhaps a pouch or coaster; or thirdly, if the same fabrics are being used in the final quilt, the trial pieces can be used as a tester blocks to try out different colour threads for the quilting or to try out different styles of quilting stitches.
Two, is that quite often when cutting up fabric, we make mistakes… at least I know I have!! However, we are just human and it’s part of our nature to make mistakes. I have lost count of how many times I’ve cut up the wrong size – sometimes because I wasn’t focusing (probably because I was being interrupted by one of my little ladies!) or because I didn’t include seam allowances (Argh! This is such an annoying mistake!). I have also made a mistake when writing up instructions for a pattern… and I still feel gutted about this. But are these cut pieces wasted? When you think of it, the very nature of patchwork quilting is to sew up patches, so is it the end of the world – OK, that’s a bit dramatic – is it a waste of fabric or money to have made that mistake? I don’t think so. I would say keep the fabric and use for another project, or make the piece larger to the size required by sewing another piece to it!
Despite saying this, if you do have fabric you feel particularly precious about – perhaps because it was expensive or a gift – I would always go by the old adage “measure twice, cut once”.
What are your thoughts on this? What have you done with wrongly cut fabric? Have you ever followed cutting instructions for a pattern only to find out that the measurements were wrong? And how did you feel and what did you do about it? I’d love to know – please share your stories and comments below.
It seems that Wiltshire – and the rest of the UK – has come to a complete standstill because of the weather. As everyone knows in this country, the ‘Beast from the East’ is hitting us hard; we are experiencing blizzards and temperatures haven’t risen above freezing for the last few days.
The kids are, of course, loving it. My girls have been at home for the last two days as their schools have had to close. And today, whereas normally I’d be sewing away at my machine, I’ve been out playing with them, throwing snowballs and sledging; it was REALLY cold but so much fun!
I still managed to squeeze in some quilting time, and I’m pleased that I’m making progress on my Blue Leaves quilt. Last week I felt a bit daunted by the thought of how long it was going to take me, but throughout the week, and today, I’ve managed to steal a few minutes here and there to work at my machine. And it’s paying off; last week I had 18 blocks left to quilt, and now I’ve only got six to go! Yay!
However, I think this weekend might be a write off for sewing; I’m looking forward to spending more time outdoors with the girls, or simply staying in with them keeping cosy watching movies. I’ll still keep my eyes peeled in case I spot any quilts on the telly, and if I do I’ll be sure to let you know in this month’s ‘quilt spot’ which I’ll post towards the end of March (see my ‘quilt spot’ posts for January and February).
Here’s hoping you all have a nice weekend; stay safe and warm!
What have you been watching this month? Since starting my ‘quilt spot’ blog, it’s clear that my viewing choices are not necessarily my own, but are heavily influenced by my family… so please… no judging me!!
First of all, McMafia (the series I was watching on BBC 1 and which I referred to in January’s quilt spot) came to its unsatisfactory, and wholly predictable, ending. On the plus side, I was pleased to see more of the quilt in the couple’s bedroom. The long scene gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at the quilt; I absolutely love the contemporary design and the colours used. I managed to get a screen grab to post here – what are your thoughts on this quilt?
And from there we move on to my family’s choices… First up, The Hobbit – my youngest daughter’s choice for a Friday night. I have watched this movie so many times, and I love it, but somehow I never really noticed the wonderful patchwork coat Bilbo Baggins wears at home. OK, so it’s not a quilt as such, but the patchwork is pretty cool! Though you wouldn’t catch me wearing one!
Next, my eldest daughter, who is now 12 and who is going through a ‘horror’ phase. Reluctantly I watched The Descent and Annabelle. The Descent is about a group of young ladies on a caving adventure which goes horribly wrong… I’m not spoiling anything by saying this; it is a horror after all so it’s unlikely to end ‘happily ever after’. The only good thing about this movie for me was the brief glimpse in dim light of a patchwork quilt in the cabin where the women spend the night before their expedition.
And from there to a possessed doll, Annabelle. I found this movie so scary that it literally made me jump, spilling my hot cup of tea all over myself and the sofa… The only redeeming factor for me? The patchwork quilt the mum-to-be, and main character, sews for her newborn. A little later in the movie, the finished quilt is seen a number of times, being used as the baby’s play mat and snuggle blanket.
Another movie we started watching but never finished – as we decided it wasn’t suitable family viewing – was Cruel Intentions. Again, the only nice thing about this movie was the traditional quilt seen hanging in young Cecile’s bedroom.
I’m hoping next months viewing will be more pleasant for me… What I have enjoyed though has been how patchwork quilts crop up in unexpected places and in all genres.
Have you spotted any quilts in movies this month? I’d love to hear from you – do let me know by leaving a comment below.