Thursday, 31 March 2011

Flowery Love

A strange thing has happened: the sun has come out! After a decidedly dismal start here in the capital, there have been some pleasant spells for the middle of the day, I ventured outside to find it was really warm. I was also beyond pleased to see these beautiful little blooms...

Way back last Spring, I picked up a little pack of auricula plantlets from the sale section of the outrageously gorgeous Sarah Raven catalogue. They looked pretty sorry for themselves when they arrived in the post but amazingly enough, I actually managed to separate the plantlets out and plant them. I say this as I have been known to buy plants and bulbs and never get round to planting them. I found just the right collection of old terracotta pots in the garden, already looking suitably interesting, vintage-y and adorned with lichen. I did as I was told and put a smattering of gravel on top of the soil but Mr Squirrel Nutkin has upended the pots many times over the Winter so the floor is now littered with little stones, as opposed to the pots.

Despite this and the fact that they have looked very uninteresting indeed for a year, and that a lot of snow sat on them in December, these auriculas are hardy little devils and seem to quite like neglect - the perfect plant for yours truly! I adore these plants, gaze at them lovingly at the Chelsea FlowerShow every year, and who would ever have thought, now I have some of my own!

Well, sorry about all that over-the-top auricula love, back down to earth and here is this week's quilty ta-dah as it feels like it's becoming a weekly thing.

I started this quilt waaaay back. The idea for the pattern came from a magazine but I changed it a bit and added borders and corner stones. The blocks in the centre are a mixture of full-on blowsy roses, little nine-patches and rail fences. I finished the top but then left it languishing for months. I had thought about giving it a soft microfleece type backing, went so far as to buy it, but it just didn't feel right. One day, I found Vorey-Puss had made a bed in the pile of fleece which sort of seemed like a sign! I see other people make quilts in this way, without batting but with a fleece blanket backing, joined envelope-style and without binding, I truly think they look very nice but something of the purist in me can't get away from traditional quilt making.

Sometimes all that sandwiching and taping and pinning and hand binding can seem laborious but in truth, it's mainly a pleasure.

This quilt top has been made largely from Jennifer Paganelli fabrics, she produces fabulous fabric ranges in the most delicious of colour palattes. I have added a Tanya Whelan rose border which I love and think goes well.

I was in my local fabric shop recently when I spotted a new bolt of pretty ditsy floral cotton and bought a few metres on impulse, but in the back of my head, this quilt top was in my mind. I think it looks really beautiful on the back, with a feature panel of the pretty rosy fabrics.

The binding is from the Jennifer Paganelli range and is just the ticket, I think, hand sewn of course, no cutting corners with machine sewing!

It is quite a sizeable quilt at about 52" square and has a cosy batting inside. I spent some time quilting it, both in a criss-cross pattern through the centre of the quilt, then outline stitching in the ditch around the borders. The problem is that I have pretty much fallen in love with this quilt but I'm sure my intention in making it was hopefully to sell it!

Oh dear!

I was tidying in my den and fortuitously came across the name patch which as you can see, I made last October. Just shows how long I have dithered over this project but I am glad, as the end result is worth it.

I have decided to see if anyone else loves this quilt and wants to re-home it as I know I have many more quilts in my mind that I want to make and will probably fall in love with too, and it really is such a pleasure to have people buy and enjoy my quilts as they do. Therefore, it's waiting for a great new home here .

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Good grief, where does the time go? It feels like forever since I've dropped into my little blog and so much has been happening. Even the Munchkin has been busy, in his new playroom, putting primer onto the board for his Hornby layout. This moment had to be recorded for posterity!

Meanwhile, I trotted off to Bromley after much eBay searching, to purchase this. Loopy?

In a rare moment of calm, considering all work and no play makes Hen a very dull and knackered girl indeed, I treated myself to an outing to Northcote Road in Battersea, no trip there would be complete without visiting my favourite shop, Living Vintage, which I have blogged about several times before. The pile of eidys had me spellbound and as I remarked to the young lady working there, I would have liked to just fling myself into them with gay abandon!

The cushions were beautiful, too. I could rest my weary little head on those?

What seems like many moons ago (maybe it was?!) there was Red Nose Day and I whipped up a couple of batches of chocolate muffins to be sold at school. The Munchkin did try one first, for quality control purposes. Ah, the might of a choccy muffin to ensure a bit of good behaviour never ceases to amaze.

Last week, I had a visitor of the best kind, one equally obsessed with sewing, patchy stuff and quilting, my partner-in-crime: my sister. We had a fabby week of adventures, visiting the Country Living Fair in London, my local sewing shop and taking a trip by rail to Lewes to its great flea markets and of course, the patchwork shop. Well, we had to work off all that cake somehow.

On the way to the Country Living Fair in Islington, on what was a fabuously sunny day, we wandered from the main drag as I had a feeling a certain shop was nearby. I had not visited since they had moved to these new premises and being in the area, it seemed rude not to! Ahhhhh, where else but mecca of knitters, Loop...

If this window display doesn't tempt you inside, showcasing as it does the work of the super Julie Arkell and a bevy of delectable woolly goodies, nothing will! Gimme that green mini chest of drawers, too. Pretty please.

Inside, it is equally wonderful and everything the window promises it shall be. There are now two floors of sewing and woolly delights. Hope you have big pockets though, as this beauty doesn't come cheap!

I fondled longingly the most stunning coloured cashmere, I am indeedy a fan of a bit of cashmere, but it had to go back. I mean, I can't even knit and I've sort of gone off crochet!

You can't fail to be inspired here though, a visit cheers you no end, to be surrounded by achingly beautiful things whether you buy them or not, is a special thing and the staff is as lovely as the merchandise.

Back at the ranch, paint brush duly wielded, things are looking up for the little eBay-bought Lloyd Loom cabinet (£4.99), and the Munchkin's lair as a whole...

A lick of blue-y paint, some spotty fabric leftover from the '40's chevron quilt backing, et voila. Under the glass, I've placed some vintage cigarette cards with suitably boyish themes and some original railway luggage labels. Oh, I was no 1 mummy (only for) that day!

His room is looking better by the minute, just the small matter of the desk and wardrobe now. Might I catch my breath first?

As if all that is not loopy enough, a certain fourteen year old furry senior citizen stunned me one afternoon by scaling the old apple tree. I really didn't think he had it in him. Goodness me, Charlie Boy! If you could have heard the racket...

Lucky old Charlie Boy though, he certainly knows how to make up for his adventures and have a well earned rest.

Me? Well, there's a special event coming up and the sewing machine is smokin'! More of that next time...

P.S. Might I say a big thank you and a hello to my followers, old and new. We've reached a not-so-little milestone! Who would have thought it...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Weekend Goodies

Well aren't we enjoying some glorious sunshine at the moment? The weekend was equally lovely down in the West Country, so much so that it made taking snaps of my new cushions a little tricky.

I decided it was time for a little update. During the six months it took us to purchase our cottage, I got sewing in earnest, in fact this was really what got me back into sewing full time. I made all the curtains and a lot of cushions, mainly from Cath Kidston fabrics. These have been added to with various vintage embroidered ones over the last few years. A few of the Cath K patchwork ones were looking a little shabby (when will men learn you put the cushions behind your back rather than under your rear?!) and the look was a little busy, so I have been on the look out for some proper vintage fabrics for a while.

This gorgeous rosy barkcloth came from Lizzie and didn't need any more adornment. I just love the design and the texture of the cloth. I think it had been a curtain and I used the reverse side of the fabric as it was actually much brighter in colour, the front having faded (though most attractively).

This lovely barkcloth came from Donna and I similarly decided to let the fabric take centre stage and go for a simple design. But I think cushions must have buttons (or a zip), either front or back; envelope openings may be easy but allow the fabric to pull in different directions meaning they look creased and unattractive. Most sewing machines nowadays have fantastic button hole foot attachments and will even sew the buttons on so there are no excuses! I have a few bits of these gorgeous fabrics left so I may make up a couple more cushions for the impending Vintage & Handmade Fair (9th April), if I can bear to let it go.

Saturday morning, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around a very bustling Bridport street market. On spotting this little chap, he had to come home. He's ever so furry! He's now come back home to live in London where Charlie Boy, that large ginger tom cat, has made best friends with him and basically sleeps on top of him. Poor Ted!

I also found this. This year, I haven't found a calendar that I like for my den, so I resort to finding out the date on the computer. No need now. I spotted this dinky rotating desk calendar, so for £3.50 and with that fabulous green paint, it had to be bought. It's now on the desk in my den so if only I remember to change the date each day, all shall be fine!

A while back, we bought some gorgeous knitted Fair Isle goodies in Bridport and I managed to get in touch with the lady who made them and asked her to make a jumper for the Munchkin. On Saturday, it was finished and ready for collection. Doesn't he look marvellous, a proper 1940's lad!

Such a clever lady, don't you think?

She also makes these woolly socks, I snap them up whenever she makes them as they are the warmest, cosiest socks I've ever worn. Ahh, after all the driving and mooching earlier in the day, it was time for a rest in front of the fire.

Style must always come second to warmth and comfort in my book!

Edit: For all those of you who have asked, the Radio Times thingy is indeed a linen cover, hand embroidered way back when, bought for me by my sister. I've since seen a couple of others so they must have been quite popular at one time.

Monday, 21 March 2011

1940's Quilt Love

Way back in the new year, I was faced with one of my most favourite things: the opportunity to start a new quilt. There's little more exciting, I'm sure other quilters out there will know what I'm nattering on about. Oooh, which pattern, which fabrics, what size, how to quilt it, how to bind it. So many decisions, each one entirely delicious.

I had a look through my quilting files for inspiration. These house photos I've taken from various sources, extracts from books or mags which my quilty partner-in-crime (my sister) has sent to me, print-outs of free patterns from the 'net and so on. My favourite quilting mag is the American Mc Calls Quilting (this can waiver each month, of course!) and I am always keen to see which vintage design takes up the last page of each issue. You are able to go onto their website and download the pattern for free which indeedy I had done and filed away, when this 1940's beauty had caught my eye.

And so off I went, on a project I've picked up now and then between other things. I'm pleased to say I finally finished it just last week (come on, two and a half months is a long time for me). Sunny day? Must be a ta-dah then!

The bright sun is really making the colours POP!

It's enjoying a little flutter in the breeze! It's quite a large quilt, 56 blocks which are about 9" square each. It only just fitted across my quilting table. The floral fabrics are entirely vintage from the 1940s-'50s and the chevrons are in modern plain cottons (Moda's Bella Solids, vintage inspired colours) and dots, some vintage and some new.

It was a pretty easy design to execute, made up of the ever-versatile half square triangle. I used every feedsack design I own, some have much brighter and zany patterns than the vintage cottons I normally sew with, so it was good to be able to use them. Whilst I love the designs on feedsacks and so do give in to temptation sometimes to buy them, they are a bit trickier to sew with than modern cottons because they are more loosely woven which gives more room for movement (which you don't want, you want your blocks nice and square), particularly here where triangles have bias edges and are more likely to distort. Sellers love to describe them as "tight weave" but I can say from experience, a feedsack is always going to be loosely woven compared with a modern cotton. I used plenty of spray starch to try to get them to keep their shape.

The back is a modern polka dot cotton which I think captures the spirit of the era, and the binding is a solid red quilting weight cotton from The Cotton Patch (nice weight but frayed a lot along the edges, I found).

I quilted each block simply in the ditch with a walking foot but then felt the quilt needed more. So I quilted within each "diamond" created by the intersecting spaces between the chevrons. This was not the easiest task as I was working from the middle of the quilt, stopping and starting often, and having to rotate the quilt constantly which is a bit of a pain with a quilt this size. But in the end, it was done of course, the frazzled nerves soothed by getting up from the quilting table and having frequent breaks, and I was pleased I had done it!

Finally, the little name patch was sewn on so that wherever this quilt should one day end up, somebody will know it was made by me in good old Blighty in the year 2011. My sister thinks up whacky names for all her quilts but I am more boring and so I just went with the straight forward "1940's Chevron Quilt"!

Now all that remains is to enjoy it...

...and move onto the next project, of course!

(The design was featured in the July/August 2010 issue of Mc Call's Quilting, the free downloadable pattern is available here.)

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Colourful Inspiration

On my adventures to the market this week, I was happy to pick up very cheaply some lovely Springy flowers, ranunculus and anemones, which are some of my favourites. I think the flower colours of the moment are dictating my choice of fabrics for sewing, too. I couldn't be more pleased about that! Be gone sludge.

I've been slowly adding to my stash of gorgeous 1930's reproduction cottons, the next best thing to sewing with vintage, certainly more affordable! When I made this cushion last year, it caused a little ripple of delight. It happily went off to be rehomed straight away with a lovely fellow V&H Fair lady (hello!), but I had some disappointed customers thereafter. Much as I thought it was lovely, it was time consuming to make so it's taken me a while to get round to making some more.

This technique gives you the look of painstaking English paper pieced hexagons, (many of you knuckling down with your own will know they have to be hand sewn), but by cutting half hexagon shapes, you can then piece by machine. So yes, it is much quicker than hand piecing but not as quick as patchworking squares, for example. I lay them out on a piece of mount board (all mod cons here!), to get a pleasing arrangement...

I am hampered a little, space-wise, by some rather large ginger furry friends!

There was also the not-so-small matter of the cake I had to decorate for Sunday which made making the cushion feel like, well, a piece of cake! (Sorry!)

But finally, it all came together, pretty cottons, delightful Springy colours, cute designs, all hand tied with lustrous perle cottons onto cosy quilt batting.

Oh dear! I love this! It is really very pretty and very me! It looks very nice, nestled there on that bed...

I inevitably had quite a few strips of the pretty fabrics left. I have put the longer ones to one side for another project but there were lots of dinky pieces I couldn't just throw away.

Oooh, a bit of mini log cabin maybe?

You see, I needed a pin cushion to have up in my quilting room...

Goodness me, I so enjoyed myself, log cabin-ing away, that I have made a pin cushion of gargantuous proportions!

I have resigned myself to the fact that I must be satisfied with the world's largest pin cushion; meanwhile, the decidedly desirable hexy cushion awaits hopefully here for a new home...