Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Terrific Twinwood

So how was the Bank Holiday readers (or just the regular weekend for non-Brits?) Pretty dire on the weather front but hey, we're used to that! We decided to treat ourselves and go off on a little family jolly, not too far, a couple of hours away, North of London to a small village called Clapham, near Bedford, home of Twinwood Farm.

Twinwood Farm is famous for a few things. During the Second World War, it was home to an RAF base, more of a training station for night fighters of the larger RAF Cranfield nearby. Sadly, it has also achieved notoriety for being the place from where the plane which was to take Glenn Miller to his death departed on its flight to France. It now houses the Glenn Miller Museum, yes him, the man responsible for the frankly marvellous hits such as "In the Mood", "String of Pearls", "Little Brown Jug" and so on. He was appointed Band Director of the US Air Force during the Second World War and was stationed only a couple of miles away from Twinwood Farm, he ran his radio station and recorded much of his music in Bedford and performed a concert for the troops at Twinwood Station in 1944.

Nowadays, it is also known for the three-day festival it puts on each August Bank Holiday, a tantalising mix of live music, shopping, eating and observing, vintage-style, of course. Formerly called The Glenn Miller Festival, it now tends to be known as just "Twinwood". Well, (for the very first time,) Twinwood here we come!

We stayed for the first two days of the festival and I'm so glad we did! We only booked our tickets the Monday before the festival but by the time we bumped along the farm track on Saturday morning, all tickets were sold out. It is reasonably priced at £27-ish, (price depends when you book and for which day), considering what is on offer and the live entertainment. I took absolutely oodles of photos so I've collated them into a few mosaics to show you (don't forget you can click on the mosaic to enlarge the photos).

Twinwood is over a relatively large site but it is very well organised. You were shown where to park, there was a bus to take you to the entrance of the arena, plans and plenty of sign posts to show you what was going on where and at what time and phew, plenty of loos (well, these things are important) and not forgetting camping. For those bonkers enough to do so!

(Plan of the site borrowed from here.) The weekend's events are dotted round this site, with two main outdoor music arenas, oodles of stalls and a few foodie outlets (my one gripe, there weren't enough and they were largely junk food), museums housed in old military buildings and some clubs which opened only for night time events (also in old huts). Marvellous! You can't beat that for setting the tone and creating a great atmosphere!

Mosaics then. This is a general one, giving you a little taster of all we remember of our weekend at Twinwood.

That bit of blue sky (yes, it did appear between the torrential downpours, must take wellies next year), is showing you a Mustang jet which flew over.

Shopping then, yes, there was plenty of shopping, from stalls selling fine vintage clobber, military uniforms, new retro-clothing and shoes (some nice, some dubious and some wildly over-priced), vintage housey bits 'n' pieces, to utter junk pretending to be vintage, it was a pretty good shopping experience (but not as good as the Southbank's vintage marketplace in my humble opinion). A few bits were bought but overall, with a burgeoning vintage wardrobe, we're getting choosy (and could do with getting thinner!)

Poor Munchkin, you're thinking, being dragged round all those stalls by his awful parents! For starters, he rather likes a vintage mooch and came away with yet another Fair Isle for his collection, but he got his just rewards and there was no dragging him away from the stunning cars on display.

As if there wasn't enough shopping, music to listen or dance to (or cider/ale to drink, tough work), there were some excellent informative displays to enjoy. There is an Aviation Museum on site which had a recreation of a 1940's sitting room and kitchen and there was a whole raft of smaller rooms kitted out variously with true period items as a haberdashers, bakery, grocery, Land Girl's potting room, medical room and so on. There were some wonderful items to see and read about.

The special exhibition for the festival was on the subject of CC41, the government's rationing scheme for clothing (and furniture) which began in 1941. Finding the CC41 mark on an item is the Holy Grail for vintage collectors. Being rationed, the items are relatively rare but were well made so have survived. A group of ladies were re-enacting make do and mend, crocheting snoods and berets which were for sale. Hats off to them for a really fantastic display, we were drooling at seeing so many CC41 goodies in such excellent condition.

Once the grey matter could absorb no further information, it was time to head for the arena or the hangar to listen to some really fantastic live singers and bands and watch the folks jive. The music started in the morning and went on until roughly midnight. There was something for everyone, it really was top notch entertainment. There were several wooden outdoor dance floors and despite the rain, people jitterbugged away! Two clubs also opened up in small huts in the evening which had great cosy atmospheres (sadly too late for us to stay).

Ah, Twinwood, despite the cold and the rain (and the junk food), what a delight. Rock 'n' roll on next year!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Groovy Baby!

Oh dear! With this gloomy, rainy weather, we're hardly ending August and entering the Bank Holiday on a high note, are we? Good job then, that after the disappointment of yesterday's "the postie came and you were out" card, that ding dong went the door bell this morning and there was Mr Postie with a very large box for me. Oh happy days! You see, I had a good idea of what might be coming in the big red van, courtesy of the lovely folks over at Accuquilt.

Have you seen this new innovation before? It seems to have made quite an impact on the quilting community. I saw the Go cutter at the Festival of Quilts recently, in fact it had been on my mind since I saw them last year. I chatted with the very nice American lady on the stand who suggested I got in touch with the Accuquilt folks and they kindly offered me a "Go!baby" cutter to trial and share with you here on the ole' HenHouse blog.

The idea is simple: the Go!baby is a die-cutting machine so instead of cutting all the necessary pieces for your quilt top either by hand with scissors and templates, or with a rotary cutter and mat, you let the Go!baby do the work. It is both a time saving device and a highly accurate way of cutting your pieces, as we know, the greater your level of accuracy, the better the quilt and I have found, the more pleasurable it is to make. There's nothing more annoying than trying to cobble together pieces which don't fit exactly and ending up with a less than perfect result.

There is a very wide choice of dies (that's the black coloured item in the photo above), these are the cutters, you combine the die with a mat (which can be used for any die and is the transparent board above) and away you go. I chose three dies to try out and was most keen to go at it with the tumbler die. The tumbler is a very traditional quilt design but would be very laborious to cut out using a template and scissors by hand. I don't do laborious!

First, you need to cut your fabric to fit the shape you are cutting out, so it will fit on the die and there will be minimal wastage. For this die, I found it ideal to cut the fabric 9" wide by 11" long, that way, the fabric can be folded in two before being fed through the Go!baby cutter. Have I told you the best thing about the cutter? It seems it's very popular with the more junior members of the household! Reader, I have an apprentice!

My apprentice (aka The Munchkin) found that it was easy to layer up two lots of fabric, so in fact, we were cutting through 4 layers of fabric at once. The results were nigh on perfect, the need sometimes to snip the odd stray fabric thread depending on the fabric being cut and the number of layers, but by the end, we pretty much felt like Go!baby pros! As you can see from my able assistant, you place your fabric on the die, position the cutting mat on top and by the turn of a handle (I suspect the Apprentice likes this bit most), the whole lot goes swiftly through the cutter and comes out the other side. The first go took a little bit of force, I guess because it was a new machine but from then on, it was very easy to whizz through with little effort.

Imagine the Apprentice's delight when out come perfect tumblers! All this and the promise (ok, bribe) of a bit of pocket money too!

We found there was very little waste, such that there is, is in a pile to be sent to my sister who loves working on miniature quilts and is always a willing recipient of my odds and ends, the smaller the better! (We cut 12 tumblers in this instance and had the wastage you can see in the photo below).

I would say in about two hours, we had a very large pile of tumbler pieces, in fact we had cut 154, all in beautiful 1930's style fabrics. They are mainly Japanese by Lecien and Atsuko Matsuyama, with a bit of "Red Rose Farm" thrown in for good measure.

The Accuquilt folks made it easy for us by even including a pattern for a tumbler baby quilt on the packaging which accompanied the die. So, we've cut out our pieces and I'm raring to go!

I think the cutter comes into its own for shapes like this. I'm happy enough cutting basic squares and strips by hand (though I wouldn't rule out using the Go!baby), but for more complicated shapes which need to be drawn round then cut out with scissors, this system is undoubtedly a God-send. It's also brilliant for those who find using a rotary cutter and mat too hard on their hands and wrists as this system requires less effort or pressure on those body parts.

There's loads to mooch at on the Accuquilt website, you can even download a die wishlist which seems a very dangerous (but desirable) option to me! I can see my Christmas list starting early! You can also download 22 fabby quilt patterns to use for free just by giving your email address. Have a gander here for the free downloadable patterns and lots of inspiration.

Just before you start hating me and thinking I am the spawniest girly in the world for having this fabulous goody for free, hang fire and watch this space because you'll get your turn, my dear readers. What was it my mum told me so frequently when I was a nipper, "all good things come to those who wait". I believe it now, I certainly didn't then!

Now, I have 154 tumblers to sew together and you can be sure I'll be showing you the result very soon. Have a faberoony weekend!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


That's how it is round here, one minute there aren't many blog posts or indeed many "ta-dahs" then along they all come at once! In truth, I wrote this blog post yesterday and I am hoping it has published today (yikes) because I'm actually going to be on a train up North when this posts (it will, it will, I have faith!)

First though, there has been a crime in the Den on a grand scale.

The perpetrator is one "do I look like I care?" Mr Vorey-Puss who has found himself oh such a cosy bed in my freshly washed and ironed collection of vintage embroidered tea cosies. Aaarrgghh!

Looks like Rabbity has found himself a bed, too.

Get off, Rabbity! (Isn't Rabbity just the cutest thing? I love his funny little face and floppy ears.) Out I go with my latest quilt to take the obligatory "washing line snap". And what do you know, there's Vorey. He has a nose for a cosy bed, does that cat. (What cat doesn't?)

This is a little smaller than many of my quilts, more suited to a throw for a sofa or chair though it is big enough to top a single bed. I think it would look just the ticket on a plain sofa.

You may have recognised if you are a bit of a fabric afficionado, that the fabrics I've used for the quilt top are by Tilda, the Norwegian company which produces books featuring very cute sewing projects and then has a line of sewing and crafting goodies to match. The top is pieced from 5" squares largely with an appley green and raspberry red colour scheme (bought for me by my sister, isn't she nice). The fabrics span several of their ranges including the most recent, featuring that fabby pink/green on white stylised flower print that looks a little like an Orla Kiely design.

I added in some green and pink tiny polka dots and also some green and claret coloured batiks. It is one of those quilts which looks much better made-up than it did on the design board (what design board?) I am really pleased with it, probably because my favourite colour combo is pink and green.

Most excitingly, because this quilt is 40" wide, I could splurge and use a gorgeous backing fabric which is indeed a delightful rosy design by Tanya Whelan I've long been cosseting in my stash. It really makes this quilt with its simply pieced top. I wish more designers would produce wider backing fabrics so that I could use this sort of fabric on the back of my quilts more often. You see, to back a quilt of the larger size I usually make using these 44" wide designer fabrics, would take at least 3.5 metres of fabric, (needing two widths joined across the quilt), and now prices here in the UK are scaling £12 per metre, I find that hard to justify.

Just what has happened to the price of cotton? I went to my local sewing shop on Saturday and fabrics for which I was paying £3.50 per metre eighteen months ago have rocketed to £5.50. I bought the plain white cotton I needed and nothing else. Thank goodness for my stash (phew, finally a reason to justify its existence!)

I've used another Tanya Whelan fabric, this time white with classic red stripes, to provide a fetching binding. There is a little vintage embroidered name patch.

This "Raspberry and Apple" Quilt (the name makes me think of crumble!*) is awaiting a new home in my blogshop. Perfect for cosying up on those Autumn nights heading our way. It is dark here now by about 8.30pm. Oh, how I hate dark nights. Thank goodness for roaring fires, hot chocolate and cosy quilts!

Well, it should be a while before another quilty ta-dah comes along. Thank you for indulging two days' posts with quilty ta-dahs and sales patter. Even if you're not in a position to purchase, I hope you've enjoyed the snaps and maybe even taken away some ideas to make quilts of your own. In fact, I know this is true because some of you have been kind enough to write and tell me so. Thank you, lovely people.

*A traditional British pud which has a cooked fruit bottom layer, traditionally apple or rhubarb, topped with a "crumble" mixture made by rubbing together butter and flour and mixing in sugar, then baked in the oven and chomped with lashings of thick yellow custard! Oh, I need one...

Monday, 22 August 2011

More Hanky Panky!

Last week, my mum and dad came to stay which was rather lovely, especially as my mum came armed with pretty, vintage-y goodies which she'd been stockpiling for me. One was this fabulous bakelite beehive. Most of you probably know that this is a knitting needle gauge. I've wanted one of these for ages, not because I can knit(!), just because I love them, so I was very chuffed. There's no-one like your mum, is there? I've seen them in gorgeous pink and green colours too, so now she has a further mission.

Now, did any eagle-eyed readers spot what was behind the little beehive vignette? Do you remember this rather fetching number, the quilt I started at the cottage using the vintage-style handkerchief panels combined with lots of log cabin piecing?

It has actually been finished a while but I'm just finding the opportunity to show it to you. Ta-dahhh!!!

The hanky panels are utterly divine, I think.

I could spend some time debating my favourite but I doubt I'd get it down to just one!

With the co-ordinating range of cute ditsy-flowered fabrics, I made log cabin squares and as the panels are set on point, I even ended up log-cabin-ing the side and corner setting triangles. No more log cabins for me for a while!

I backed the quilt with scrumptiously cosy pink cotton flannelette and quilted the panels a quarter of an inch either side of the seam lines using a pretty pink variegated thread. I confess that I parked the quilt for a good week while I pondered the binding (and started something else!) The main quilt has such a lot going on I didn't want to add another busy floral, my usual polka dot looked just wrong and I didn't want a solid because I wanted the binding to look pretty against the solid pink backing. In the end, I went for this pale blue gingham which I cut on the bias so that the lines form an attractive criss-cross pattern. A bit more work than cutting on the straight of grain as one would normally but I like it very much. A pretty vintage embroidered label was the finishing touch.

Ah, pretty quilt, quite quite special but wave it a fond farewell I shall. It won't be adding to the toppling piles of quilts I have reserved greedily for myself but is currently in my blogshop waiting a new home. I will get lots of pleasure seeing this beauty go off to pastures new to be cosied up and become part of a new family's memories.

I can't help thinking a certain ginger furry friend would get quite excited at the sight of it so I had better spirit it away somewhere safe. Don't go feeling sorry for Charlie-Boy though, this week he has added a patchwork Cath K mini-cushion as a pillow to his bedding!

It's a hard life! The Hanky Panky Quilt can be found here.

Thursday, 18 August 2011


Now where were we? Ah yes, we were all shopped out and were off to look at the real-life quilts at the NEC's Festival Of Quilts. Sister is ready and looking fetching alongside a pretty diamond-pieced number with scrumptious Kaffe Fassett fabrics. There's something about his colours, they just glow.

A few prize winners, then. Here is the winner of the best traditional quilt category. I appreciate it's a bit hard to see the detail from this photo and it was one very huge quilt. Somebody put a lot of effort into that one.

Something a little quirky and fun was the winner of the group quilts category, "", featuring some lovable meerkats. This quilt was made by eight ladies from the same patchworking group as my sister and was a real achievement as a lot of the ladies had worked on techniques out of their usual comfort zone and managed to bring the project together coherently.

Loved the little bits of humour and the attention to detail.

Keeping to a similar theme, being feline-mad, I loved this one as each of the "most wanted" furry friends had a name and a description of their crime, such as "seen loitering under bird table" or "stole the cream"!

Please excuse me that I can't tell you who made each of these quilts. One criticism I have is that the name of the maker or any details of the quilt, other than the name, is not displayed by the quilt. Instead, you have to buy a copy of the programme, which I didn't do as I don't think it's that interesting for £6. I think that's rather mean-spirited, it is £14 a day just to get in after all. As such, I can vaguely tell you that there was a display area (non-competitive, I think) which featured these largely pinky quilts taking Jane Austen as a theme.

On the whole, they were quite modern in feel. I rather liked them, being very pink, of course, and this one featuring Liberty fabrics...

This one featured rather lovely quilting and beautiful sumptuous fabrics...

The little appliqued love letter was a cute finishing touch.

Back then to some more of the competition entries. The colours of this quilt really glowed and the quilting was pretty fine, too.

Just look at those quilted feathers in the border triangles.

I was taken by this one which had been made largely out of old shirts donated to the quilt maker. Such an attractive colour palette, I think.

This one was pretty amazing and had been made by a Dutch lady (the Dutch seem to make very fine quilts). The sampler panels had been embroidered by the quilter's elderly mother and I think it may also have included some treasured family fabrics which had memories attached to them.

This unusual quilt received a judge's commendation in the modern quilts category. You may not be able to see clearly from this photo...

...but it was made up of knitted and crocheted panels. Great texture!

Couldn't resist including this shot of a traditional hand-pieced hexy quilt (Grandmother's Flower Garden). Wow, how long must this have taken to make!

Moving on to the miniature quilts category, and some of these were quite mind-boggling, they were so tiny.

We thought this flying geese quilt was really well executed. How to attain such perfection on a minute scale?

Loved this one, Liberty fabrics and beautiful colours, that says it all! Just shows quilts don't always have to be complicated.

Now I do love a bit of mixed media and admired these quilts for some time. This one comprised long panels featuring spoons and happy days, vintage embroidered cloth!

It also had a panel of hand-pieced cathedral windows in very pretty colours.

Here is yet another lovely quilt, featuring lots of vintage trimmings and bits of fabrics.

You could enjoy that one for a good while, I think.

Finally, there were two areas featuring exhibits by museums. One was by the quilt museum in York with simply stunning Victorian crazy patchwork quilts but sadly, no photography was allowed and rather annoyingly, they were not even selling postcards (lost business opportunity!)

There was also no photography allowed in the exhibit by the American Museum in Bath. Their quilts were stunning too, (I must visit this museum), and I took this photo well outside the quilt area so you can get a flavour of how beautiful these antique quilts were. They were in wonderful condition, too.

Ah, I feel quite tired after that. But very inspired...