Sunday, 30 September 2012

Constant change is here to stay


  I finally get my head round Windows Vista and my laptop dies!
Once again I'm up to the eyes in muck and bullets,
grappling with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010.
They've got a fight on their hands.
I'm determined to make Windows and Office
do what I want and not the other way round!
This card from my 'New Man' card range sums it up.
 I do feel like booting the thing into space sometimes.
Life imitating art, or what!

Just an example --

Was a bit concerned about some emails that went AWOL in the transition
but decided to take a positive view and opened Outlook Express thinking 
'Ooh, goody - a fresh start!'
Then fourteen thousand old emails
 dropped into my inbox.
Fourteen THOUSAND!!! 
The whole shebang was due to the default email setting
being IMAP and not our former POP3.
If you're none the wiser, join the club!
For the same reason, they took absolutely ages to delete,
and I almost lost the will to live when I found them in the
'deleted items' box and realised they had
 to be turfed out of there too.....

That's when I decided to log off... 


Monday, 6 August 2012

Ee, by gum - there's nowt so queer as folk...

...but if you're not from Yorkshire, say -

'My goodness - people are strange!'

We celebrated Yorkshire Day in grand style this year!

Yorkshire legends!
From t' left: Hannah Hauxwell, Compo, Hardcastle, Norah Batty, an offcumden
from over t' border, and Reg Mellor, world champion ferret-legger.

Reg does a nice bit of dry-stone-walling for t' middle ot' table.
None o' this fancy flower-arranging lark...

That's reet grand, Reg!
We'll dig up a bit o' peat bog next year instead o' that green towel

Norah's not happy to have the ferret in the house,
even if it is sealed in Reg's trousers.
"But ah'm goin' for t' ferret-legging record!" says Reg.
"Ah've already done five hours 'n' twenty minutes!"
"I don't care," says Norah.  "It's not what we want to see when we're cooking!"


Yorkshire pudding! 
"Lovely wi' Bingley bangers, mushy peas and onion gravy,"
says Hardcastle, "an' some Old Peculier ter wash it dahn.
I'm vexed that some folk are supping wine. It just i'n't right."

Norah and Compo start to worry that the mushy peas are already fighting back...

A grand night!
Should've got a photo of the Yorkshire curd cheesecake
 we had in t' finish-up, but I forgot.

Bet you think I'm making all this up...
Wonder if Reg'll be defending his title in Richmond, Virginia this year?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Things that lift the spirit -

- and soothe the soul...

A Glasgow University study claims that quilting is'uniquely' good for us!
 Quilting, they say, provides benefits beyond those of physical
and outdoor pursuits. It stimulates creativity, lifts the spirit
brings people together, encourages friendships,
and as we plan, measure and stitch, exercises lesser-used bits of
the brain and brings order to our thoughts

I'm sure knitters would claim the same on all those fronts too -
but, hey - let's hear it for quilting!

Quilt-Expo-Couvertes, Saulnierville, Nova Scotia 2011 - wish I could see this year's efforts!

Saw this photo on Joan's Ouvrages d'une Acadienne blog.

Quilt-Expo-Couvertes 2012 starts today July 30th
 in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia
 - if you're in the area, do see it for me & take pictures!

July 30th - August 3rd

To read the Glasgow University report click here

Friday, 20 July 2012

Underground Railroad Sampler Quilt


This 'Underground Railroad Sampler' by Eleanor Burns
was my first shared quilting project - and it's been so much fun!

It's thought that slaves escaping from America's southern states
were guided to freedom by signs hidden in quilts they found
slung over fences or windowsills, seemingly to air. 
The patterns and colours were thought to hold directions and
 warnings to help fugitives reach the safety of Canada.
Quilts airing on a fence were a common sight, so neither the plantation
owner nor the overseer noticed anything suspicious

Some do question whether quilts were used in this way,
but what isn't in doubt is that a lot of people
risked their own lives to help others find freedom.


Finding the pattern was easy - group leader Jenny ordered it from the internet. Finding the fabric might be trickier....

Civil War fabrics are hard to find in the UK because tastes are different. 
We do order from the US on the internet - but tax and postage are a killer!
I'm not a fan of buying fabric I haven't seen and touched.

Buying from a single range produced by a manufacturer
you already know seems the best way forward, but,
having said that, I do love an element of unpredictability,
and would not want to go the 'range' route every time...

Anyone identify with this?

Looked for UK suppliers on the internet and found a couple who
 had odd bits, but we struck it lucky at Patchwork Chicks,
just twenty miles away in Barrowford.
Great to find that the girls are into the Civil War over there!

Charged with choosing the fabric, a few of us crossed
the Pennines into Lancashire.
Yardage worked out, money in hand, we walked purposefully
into the shop - and got totally sidetracked.
Too much to take in! Too many quilts, bags, wall-hangings...

Finished hyperventilating and got down to business.
Chose Moda's  Warm Memories range
 by Kansas Troubles

The group loved it too, thank goodness!
Such a responsibility parting with someone else's cash!

Fifteen patches of varying difficulty, fifteen volunteers keen to have a go

Group leader Jenny organised the distribution of patterns and
 fabric, and it was exciting to see some absolute
beginners and some who hadn't quilted for a while getting involved.

Fancied doing the Bear's Paw block
Loved the fabric choice, and it was so nice to make!

Folks, it was square - honest!
The camera does a fish-eye thing...

A number of people began searching the net for
supporting info and found some fun patterns - more on that later!
Books about the era were passed around, including one about
activist and former slave, Harriet Tubman.
 After escaping the slavery into which she was born, she rescued
 more than 70 slaves using the network of antislavery activists and
safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

It's a fascinating story - check it out on

Harriet (born Araminta) is the Minty mentioned in the notice below

Friday, 13 July 2012

Virtual quilting - great fun!

I laughed when I visited Judy Butcher's Virtual Quilter blogspot
 and read that she uses her computer to design
 'way more quilts than I could make in several lifetimes'.

That makes two of us! Most of my designs will
never make it to the sewing machine -
but it's such fun playing on EQ6!

But here's one that just might get made...

Passing round photos of the tiled frieze in St Pancras station,
a friend said, 'I can see this as a quilt - but where do I start?'

St Pancras is a spectacular London landmark.
Opened in 1868, it was recently renovated & extended
 at a cost of £800 million
St Pancras Railway Station - the exterior
The Victorian tiled frieze and ironwork
Photo: Steve James

Look at this beautiful detail hidden in the rafters!
detail of part of the frieze
Photo: Steve James

Set to work redesigning some of the standard EQ6 blocks.
Wanted to get the feeling of these Minton tiles
not just a carbon copy.
Opted for batiks, simply because they glow.
Was right out of my comfort zone in terms of pattern and colour

Added a block border to recreate the feel of the bricks,
and here's the result.
Still needs a lot of work...

'It's awfully complicated,' said Jill, faintly,
'but I do like it!'

I like it too - and if it never gets made, that's OK -
I've had my fun!

Monday, 9 July 2012

When peace like a river attendeth my way, or sorrows like sea billows roll...

Am lost for words this week.
 We returned from holiday last Monday
to hear that a dear friend had lost her only son in very tragic circumstances.

What can one say? 
We're just praying that God wraps her
in his love and comfort

The Quilt by Susan Lordi
Willow Tree Figures

Friday, 22 June 2012

Old Wives get it right -

- again!

When my mum died, thirty-four years ago this month, her home was
 packed up by Pickfords and everything - including the coal box below -
was shipped across the country to us.

Today it sits next to our coal-effect gas fire, still
full of the nutty slack my mum dug out of the
coal house all those years ago.

You're probably thinking I'm 'Nutty Slack' for keeping coal
 that we don't need and can't use for more than a third of a century.
 But that would be the short-sighted view

'Some day,' I thought, 'that coal will come in handy'
And I was right. Today, this little heap of dirt is our pension plan.
The idea was sparked by a little flurry on Facebook -
someone had discovered the amazing regenerating
power of a lump of coal on a limp lettuce -

and, suddenly, baby-boomers were remembering how their
mums revived a tired old butterball lettuce by putting it
 in cold water with a small piece of washed coal and - voila!
 - an hour or so later it emerged as crisp, fresh leaves.


Dragons' Den - here we come!

Our plan is to break the coal up into 1-inch cubes and
sell it to the public as the Next New Thing. 

With a bit of careful wording we could
have every pensioner in Britain sitting in a
lukewarm bath with a cleverly-marketed cube
of nutty slack working its magic on their tired old bones.

Today Britain - tomorrow the world!

Order now - stocks are limited...


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Super quick!

Progress on the quick scraps!

Loved this project from the Summer issue of
Primitive Patchwork Magazine!
It's such a simple block, but so cleverly cut - I just had to try it.

With a few quilt projects in the pipeline, I decided to cut the pattern down
 and make a nine-block quilt using some of my scrap fabrics.
This would give a centre layout measuring 33" x 33".
Reducing the borders to 1" and 4" to suit these proportions
would give a finished quilt measuring 43" x 43". Cute!

First job - join two pairs of 6.5" squares together...

Next - sew them together to make a 4-patch square...

Measure 4" either side of the centre line and cut off the two side strips.

My June Tailor Shape Cut ruler came into its own
when I was cutting all the squares and strips.
Such a useful bit of kit!

After sewing the cut strip from the right onto the left side of
the block, and the left strip onto the right of the block,
I turned the block 90 degrees and repeated the process -

- measuring and cutting 4" from the centre seam once more,
and sewing the cut strips to the opposite edge.
Results below!

Just a little - unsponsored! - plug for the June Tailor ruler...
I dithered over buying one of these for ages before parting
with the cash, but it's up there in my top five quilting aids.
I did a 2-minute demo at my quilt group the other day,
and they ordered one for the group toolbox right away.
It makes cutting strips, diamonds, triangles or hexagons so easy!
Check out this YouTube link for a demo

Anyway - back to the blocks!
Here they are, all sewn together.

I've got a cream crackle fabric for the 1" border and a
brown/cream pattern for the 4" border.
Not sure about the binding...
I was thinking of either using the border brown or
 joining scraps left over from the blocks. A scrap binding
would make it genuinely scrappy...

What do you think?
Suggestions welcome!   

Monday, 11 June 2012

Can a crafter be a minimalist?

I recently heard a friend say  
that she ruthlessly gets rid of anything in her house
that hasn't been used or worn for a year.
'I'm a ruthless minimalist' she said.

 As a born collector, I was really impressed, and wanted
a little bit of that ruthless minimalism to rub off,
because, frankly, collecting can get really silly...

Just to give you an idea -
I've brought a full carrier-bag of Belgian conkers through customs,
because they were bigger and better than ours:
I've a vast wine cork collection - and they weren't even good wines!
I have the National Collection of paper napkins.

In the mid-'90s, a dozen ornamental gourds, some corn, and a
few dozen autumn leaves came home from a holiday and 
fifteen years later, most of them are still showing up in
Fall 'happenings' around the house.

The leaves only bit the dust last year, but the corn is fine
and the gourds got a new lease of life with a coat of acrylic paint.

My minimalist friend reluctantly agreed that these were okay
because they actually fell inside her 'use within the year' rule.
 What sent the eyebrows shooting above the hairline was
hearing I'd ironed all the leaves in our hotel room before flying home.
Seemed sensible to me - but that's when she
suggested I should see a doctor.

But, hey -

And there's nothing we collectors like better than a
good rummage through stuff...

Choosing bags of buttons at Bits&Bats - great fun!
Obie's Quilt store, Lancaster County PA

Obie's - or Death by Falling Fabric
More photos of this Tutankhamen's Tomb
of quilting on Bonnie Hunter's blog
Obie's again

This part of my stash looks almost modest doesn't it?
But there isn't room for a breath of air in there,
and this cupboard is just the tip of the iceberg...

If you're looking for storage, I can really recommend these IKEA
cupboards and sliding drawers - they're fantastic for organising
your fat quarters and notions.
Are Crafting and Minimalism compatible?
Not right now!
What would help is to increase the creative output 
to match the collecting input. 
Anyone identify with this?

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Quilters of the world - unite!

Sorted! (well, almost...)

I'm constantly amazed by how creative, motivated and productive
quilters are - and how willing they are to pass on insights and tips!
It really makes you want to branch out and try something new.

Was particularly inspired by two blogs recently -

Kay (Quilts+Color) inspired me to clear my sewing room for action -

Sorted!  Well, this corner of one drawer at least...

and Kathleen (A Sentimental Quilter) made me launch out
more boldly into scrap-matching. 

Result -

1. Fabric for a scrap quilt sorted, washed, pressed, cut out and ready to sew,
2. A lovely pile of prints unearthed for my grandson's quilt
plus a blending border and binding fabric found at The Skep 
Love the Skep - the girls there are great! 

So - a good afternoon's work. Very happy!

Scrap quilt - more later!
Many of the fabrics in both these quilts were found at the Skep

fabrics for Meyer's quilt + the 2 in the pic below & a lovely red border
Just right for a little chap born in time for the Queen's Diamond
 Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics! 

Plus his mum really likes these colours...


Monday, 28 May 2012

54 down - 18 to go...

Only 18 blocks left to quilt - hurrah!


Seems months - it IS months! - since Esther cut the
 batting (wadding) for her Odeon quilt and we sent it
to be machine basted 
I can't recommend enough having the layers
tacked together by machine, particularly if
you're a hand-quilter with bad knees or a bad back.
It's worth its weight in gold!

 My quilting friends offered to do a Team Baste, bless 'em,
but some of them aren't good after leaning
 over a table, so this seemed a very good option.

By the way ... 

Look at this lovely little stained glass wall hanging -
A perfect match for my quilt, or what?

It's by Shards of Glass and I found it on Etsy last week. 
Couldn't believe how similar it was in colour and style

"EQ - what?"
Those who've never seen Electric Quilt 
 in action might be interested in a brief view of how
 the programme helped me design the Odeon quilt

For the basic layout I chose a 9-block by 8-block
horizontal grid and added vertical sashing and a border

Next I added quarter log cabin blocks,
inserting them right across the grid and flipping some
horizontally to get a mirror image.
Colouring the block is easy - just the touch of a button.

EQ comes with libraries of blocks, fabrics, applique
 patterns and basic quilt layouts, and new fabrics are
added free every month.  You can also download
 ranges you like direct from the manufacturers website.
For OdeonI just used library fabrics that were roughly
the colours I wanted and refined the choice later.

EQ6 planning page

Esther wears jade a lot and loves browns and creams,
so those seemed a natural starting point. I've never used batiks,
but the more I thought about the more it seemed the way to go.

Bought most of them at the wonderful Web Fabrics at
Purcellville VA,and then trawled the web to match a
 lovely gold scrap I found in my stash.
  Must've looked at HUNDREDS of sites, but eventually found it at
Batiks Etcetera in Wytheville VA and had it shipped to the UK.
The fabrics shown in this layout are not batiks, but
they gave me the yardage needed in each colour

Number of patches and yardage
EQ6 is great - it works out fabric yardage (above) and prints
rotary-cutting patterns, templates or foundation piecing patterns.

Rotary-cutting diagram
Templates with 1/4" seam allowance added

foundation piecing template preview

These were the final fabrics

My grandson's quilt (see Something old - something new)
has applique in it.  If you're interested I'll add a post with
a few pics to show how the applique design tools work.

Would love your feedback -
it's so nice to meet people through comments!