Preparing for our Weekend Away

Our quilting retreat weekend at The Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton is at the end of this week, and we’ve been preparing the projects we want to work on.  Tracy has cut out all of her pieces ready for sewing (so organised) while I’ve been pulling together a collection of fabrics to make a start on a sampler quilt.  I have Barbara Brackman’s ‘Civil War Sampler’ on Kindle, but I decided there’s nothing like a hard copy for ease of use, so I bought the book as well.

Angie has taken a laid back approach to it all and had decided to wait until the weekend arrives to be inspired.  At our last sewing group she did narrow her choices down to just a few, but In the meantime she’s been having a big push to finish all her UFO’s.  She bought a fabulous ladder display unit to hang her quilts from, and I think that’s been part of her motivation to get going.

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I’ve taken out the Medallion quilt, President’s Pride, which I began while on our last retreat in November, to try to get that up and running again.  All it needs is the last border of 4½” shoo fly blocks sewn on all the way around and then it’s ready for batting and backing. I seem to have the attention span of a firefly at the moment with so many UFO’s at all stages of development it’s time I set my shoulder to the wheel too.

We’ve been having a bit of fun making some bags to hold our equipment.  One of them is from a pattern I found on Craftsy called the Bionic Gear Bag.  It’s as eccentric as it sounds, but it really is a clever thing with loads of zip pockets, a fold down ‘tray’ at the front and some nifty little accessories to go with it.  One of them is called a Dumpling Dish but it reminds me more of a Cornish pasty when it’s zipped up.

Not long to go now….  I can’t wait.  (Tracy’s had her suitcase packed and ready for days!)

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Barbara’s Cushion

Barbara joined our group as a complete rookie.  She cheerfully admitted she’d never done any serious sewing but was fascinated by some of the projects the rest of us were working on and wanted to have a go herself. Her first ever piece was a hand sewn snowman she completed from scratch, learning to do blanket stitch along the way and getting a feel for working with fabric. (She’ll hate me for showing a picture of it, but by the time she sees it it’ll be too late.)

When Barbara purchased her sewing machine from DC Nutt in Bloxwich it was a leap of faith for her, as she’d only had a little practice on some of ours.  We all pitched in and taught her the basics of how to operate it, and it wasn’t long before she was sewing a passable quarter inch seam. I taught her how to sew a small change purse, and the result turned out pretty good, although I do wish I’d planned it better. (I’m not really much of a teacher.) Luckily, Angie was on hand to keep the train on the tracks.

On our day out at Malvern, Barbara picked out some lovely Rose & Hubble fabric and Angie helped her choose some more in different designs and shade of blue to complement her purchase. It was Liz who steered Barbara in the direction of a disappearing nine patch project and taught her how to properly rotary cut.  By the time I went on holiday she’d sewn her nine  patches together.  While I was away she cut, rearranged and sewed her blocks then Tracy helped her make the ‘envelope’ closure for the back of her project.

I received an email from Barbara telling me she’d finished her cushion, and she attached a picture.  Unfortunately, due to some international gremlin in the works, I was only able to see a tantalising top inch of it because the picture wouldn’t open properly.

What makes me proud is how our little sewing group pulled together to help Barbara develop her skills, and I’m very pleased to reveal her first proper sewing project.  A  delightful blue cushion that I’m told now resides on the back seat of her car for all the world to admire.  I can’t wait to see what she makes next.

A Memory Quilt for Len

Irene and Len are longtime friends of Angie’s mom, and Angie herself knows them well. Sadly, Irene passed away at the beginning of this year.

It’s a special time in the grieving process when a surviving partner can bring themselves to part with their spouse’s much loved possessions, but now Len has begun to quietly rehome some of her chattels where he thinks they may do most good. Irene was a seamstress of the old school and, knowing she is also a sewist, Len has given a bewildering collection of fabrics and notions to Angie along with an impressive old sewing machine.

Angie told us all about this at one of our regular sewing group get togethers. She then showed us a lap quilt she has made from the plaids and tweeds she unearthed in the donated fabric stash. She plans to give it to Len soon to keep him cosy this coming winter. I cannot think of a more wonderful way to commemorate Irene than the thought that has gone into the making of this beautiful memory quilt.

Summer Progress

While Angie’s been relaxing at her Welsh hideaway she’s been catching up on her hand sewing. She really is a wiz with English paper piecing and uses up all her offcuts making hexagons and such, so it’s economical too. I think it’s a great way to make the most out of every scrap of leftover fabric and the results are just beautiful.

Not to be outdone, Tracy has completed a pretty quilt top. It’s just two colour ways in shades of white and turquoise and looks really effective. I can’t wait to see her finished quilt.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy making lots of small work, like bookmarks, pouches and little baskets, which we hope to sell at upcoming fundraising events in aid of Cancer Care and MacMillan Nurses. This little project is ongoing so I’ll post more about it as we progress

I’ve finally finished the binding around my vanity sewing case. I’m not all that happy with the result as the top and bottom tend to bow inwards. Again, I think it’s all to do with the foam batting which seems to have a life of it’s own.

I’m in the process of making some fabric bins so I can conceal the piles of batting and interfacing I’ve amassed. I decided to use a different technique with the remainder of my foam stuff. I cut the batting half an inch smaller all round than the size of the fabric, so that when I brought the sides of the bin together I just had to stitch through only the fabric to secure them. To add strength and definition I rolled the seam allowance in on itself at each side and covered it with a binding. The bin still bows out a bit, but I think it kinda works.

Currently my waddings are jammed in plastic carrier bags and stuffed under the sideboard. It’s not a pretty sight. I intend to make some floppy lids to top off the bins later, but for now I’ve just covered my first one with a piece of fabric. I have to say it already looks much better, so I best crack on with a couple more.


…link to All is Vanity

A Little Bit of History

I take in museums and places of interest all the time when I’m on holiday, but I never seem to get round to visiting the ones that are near my home.  I live in the Black Country, once the industrial heartland of England, whose grimy factories were built on the rich seams of iron ore and coal found beneath the earth in the 1800s. There are plenty of places here that celebrate the legacy of those times and that I’ve never been to. One of them is the Museum of Cannock Chase.

The museum mostly celebrates the lives of the coal miners and the mining industry. Our little sewing group found it fascinating although we didn’t visit because of the exhibits but because the venue was hosting the Cannock Chase Quilt & Embroidery Festival.

It was an enchanting little festival with a beautiful collection of quilts on display, all made by local enthusiasts. Considering it was the first time the festival was being held there were a surprising number of fabric and notions stalls too.

I purchased some needles from a stall run by John James Needles of Redditch and discovered that the company has been producing high quality needles of all types since the 1840s, and Redditch was once know as the ‘Needle Capital of the World.’ All made possible by the high quality steel being manufactured close by in the Black Country.  Small nuggets of history like that become kind of personal when they’re so close to home, don’t you think?

Angie and I succumbed to purchasing a few bits of fabric which we didn’t need but absolutely had to have. Tracy bought a complete handbag kit, ‘The Juberry Messenger Bag,’ designed by Julie Betts from the Juberry Fabrics stall. She got to work on it straight away and the end result is a fabulous looking bag that only took her a couple of evenings to complete. Which reminds me I’d better get on and make my travel bag soon. I bought the fabrics at Uttoxeter way back in April and haven’t even made a start yet.

Angie’s Album Quilt

I’ve been waiting for this little beauty to be finished so I could photograph it. The blocks were done, but Angie was waiting to find just the right shade of fabric for the large outer border. I think the deep mauve she eventually decided upon is perfect. It really brings out the soft muted colours of the centre pieced blocks.

The quilt is the Album Quilt, and is a lap quilt taken from a pattern in Kathleen Tracy’s book, The Civil War Sewing Circle. Quilts evoking this period of American history are Angie’s absolute favourite to do.

Since the blocks are the stars of the show, she’s sewed a minimal amount of echo quilting so as not to detract from them. I have to say I simply love it, and it’s definitely a pattern I must get around to trying for myself.