Saturday, 24 September 2011

So Sludgey

It's Autumn, my dear readers, there can be no denying it, can there? The sunshine we've enjoyed this week has certainly softened the blow that my favourite season has passed already, quick as that inevitable flash.

There are some compensations though, aren't there? Still beauty all around, if you but look hard enough. In the garden, we are awash with apples with their delightful rosy hue and sweet, crisp flesh.

There is still the odd rose (my favourite, David Austin's Jubilee Celebration), and interesting brambles, teasels and seed heads.

Maybe it's the nature around me which has turned my usual sewing practice on its head? You may recall that sludge and I are sort of old friends, albeit a tad begrudgingly ( if you fancy, read here, here and here) but this year, I am embracing sludge like no other.

My bedside reading is consisting entirely of books like these...

I have become quite obsessed with the "prairie style". This is music to my dear sister's ears who has long been in bed with sludge and is an avid dolly quilt maker. The books above are all by the talented Kathleen Tracy who also has a lovely blog. She mainly creates doll quilts and her books go into some of the interesting history of the American Civil War and prairie life. There's nothing I like more than a book which combines sewing and history; heaven.

Like Squirrel Nutkin, I've started to surround myself with Autumnal, prairie-style goodies (he being a hoarder but not necessarily into prairie style?)

And so I have had fun this week working outside my normal comfort zone, going small and sludgey. Working on such a small scale, means I have been prepared to change my usual way of quilt making. I have been hand basting the quilts in advance of quilting, rather than pinning them as usual.

Then I have even been hand quilting them! Maybe you can just pick out the pretty leafy border design on this quilt?

I cobbled the design of this first quilt together myself. "Bow tie" is a very traditional design, often seen executed in 1930' style fabrics, but here in sludge with an added border. The whole quilt measures 13" by 15 3/4". You know, looking at it, I'm not sure if it isn't a bit mean to condemn it as sludge. In fact, it has a right old mix of fabrics: a bit of charity shop dress, some Liberty, some modern prints, along with all those repro Civil War designs.

I then turned to one of Kathleen's books "The Civil War Sewing Circle" to run up this scrap squares quilt. It's a little bigger at 17.5" x 22.5". I did find the hand quilting on this a bit boring in the end, just going back and forth in a criss-cross fashion, but cannot deny that I like the effect very much. Somehow it just seems right with these quilts.

Goodies then. What did my beady little eye spot in Bridport which just had to come home and be part of my very own sludgy sewing circle?

Oooh yes, that fabulous little Singer sewing machine had to be mine! Talking of sewing accessories, Kathleen Tracy came up trumps again with her pattern in "Remembering Adelia" for a traditional housewife needle case. These were used by ladies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to hold their sewing supplies. They were also carried by soldiers during the American Civil War, often made for them as a sentimental token by a loved family member back home.

I think these are a fantastic practical idea, no sooner had I made one than I made another for my sister. The chance to ummm and ahhh over five different fabrics for one project is an opportunity I certainly relished!

So that is how my new Autumnal header came into being.

And I must confess, I already have yet more sludgey quilts and things to show you soon. The Hen is on a veritable sludgey roll...


  1. Love the new header, and the little quilties. I just looked at those books at the Exeter Needlework Show today.
    Julie xxxxxxxxx

  2. Ooooh I love those quilts, and your new header is great! Remembering Adelia is one of my favorite books (I made the quilt on the cover.) Yours are turning out lovely. Happy sewing!... I'm off to check out Kathleen Tracys' blog.

  3. What a lovely post!
    I love your hand quilted border on your little quilt.
    And I, like your sister, love 'sludgy' quilts, and I have to say that I do think the name suits them too, even though they are beautiful :o)

    Thankyou kindly for sharing those books, I'm going to hop over to Amazon when I've finished this and look them up! I so love the prairie style, sewing and history -just brilliant :o)
    Your little Singer is a beauty, and so are your new sewing purses :o)

    Have a fantastic weekend Hen,
    Kindest regards,
    Donna x

  4. What lovely fabrics! And I love the little bunny! :)

  5. What a pretty post, your quilts are lovely, the colours are so Autumnal. I think your new header is great, have a fab weekend.
    twiggy x

  6. My goodness, I never thought I'd see sludge taking over the Hen House! What sweet results though. I'm thinking about some smaller quilts to practise piecing more complicated designs (other than my favourite squares). I love the needle case too. Just right for presents. I'm thinking in spring colours here as we are awash with blossoms and bulbs blooming. XXX

  7. Hen, can you please take pity on this Yank & explain the term sludge as you are using it in relation to your quilts. I can't believe that such a gross term could apply to any of those pretty quilts you made. I looked back at the links where you used the term before, but I still don't get it. I guess we're just not speaking the same English in this. Thanks.
    Kathy (former quilter)

  8. What beautiful colours and photos. you always make me feel inspired.

  9. Lovely photos, love your new header, and what a pretty little machine!

  10. Really interesting post Hen, I loved the sewing case you made too, but I'm afraid those fabrics don't do it for me. Reminds me too much of 1970's Laura Ashley and a childhood lacking in bright colours.


  11. Hi, I Like your Autumnpost....although some words I had to translate ( sludge??)
    Little house on the prairy-was my favourite book and tv program.I made some prairystyle-dresses for my dolls when I was young.
    Also now I like my old little house( in the polder)
    Wish I could quilt too.....maybe must try it once.
    We also have a lot of apples and pears in the garden at the moment......and SPIDERS!

    autumngreetings from Holland, Fleur

  12. That was interesting. My Dad had a "hussif" i.e. housewife, nowhere near as pretty as yours. It's still in my Mum's sewing box, which I have; a grubby calico pouch with an overlapping front, a scrap of khaki to hold needles and the pouch is full of different coloured scaps of yarn, mostly from wool that has been unravelled and left over from reknitting; socks I guess. He carried it while he was in the British army (1943 to 1952) so he could darn his socks.

  13. Hi Hen - i think this may be my first comment though i am enjoying checking out your blog and archives. Lucy has inspired me to want to crochet, and you to sew! Wonder if you can comment - iam a complete beginner and they have little mini sewing machines for £59 in John Lewis that do i think 8 stitch types - wondering if its worth the investment as i dont know how well i may do, or is it worth getting a slightly more expensive one? Want to make basic clothes, bags, maybe quilts. I love your colours and pretty fabrics btw.

  14. HI Rachel,
    Sorry I can't reply direct as I don't have your email. I would really REALLY try to go the extra mile and save up/ask for as a joint gift a better sewing machine. I saw the ones in J Lewis on Friday and they look like a toy machine to me! I always advise buying from a local sewing shop, where you can get advice on how your machine works, take it back for service, buy accessories and so on, it;s worth a few extra pounds. My sewing machine man recommends Janome as the best quality value machine. My bet is you will soon outgrow that mini machine and it will have been money wasted. With a "proper" machine there is always a good second hand/trade-in market if you want to trade up in a few years (as one who has been there, you may well might!) Happy sewing.
    Hen x

  15. I have no idea what a sludge quilt is and Google failed to help!
    But I love the little Singer, My MOther used to have a little black one but the colour of yours is lovely.

  16. Thank you so much Hen for your thoughtful and prompt reply - you are right, and I will start saving now! So excited about the new world of sewing to explore! Will follow your blog with great interest! Rachel F x

  17. Loving your new sludgy phase! ... somewhere in this messy house I have my 70's Laura Ashley quilt... from memory it involves a lot of browns & sludgy greens....lizzie xx

  18. Like you I am not a great fan of sludgy colours, but your talent in putting these colours together is superb! Love your banner.

  19. Oh goodness, where to begin.

    1. the Singer! It looks just like my Singer Sew-Handy. It was a present for my 6th birthday (making it 55 yrs old now) and I used it for many years until I graduated to a grown-up machine. I still have it.

    2.Sludge? Please elucidate. Merci.

    3. US Civil War fabrics. I am addicted to them, and have many many many fat quarters (readily available in Canada), because I am working on a Dear Jane quilt, which, to no one's great surprise, I'm calling "Jane's Addiction." If you are unfamiliar with Jane's quilt, you're in for a treat, but be warned. If you get stung, you're in trouble.

    4. I recognise some of your USCW fabrics from my own stash.

    5. Dear Jane can be reached at

  20. Lovely new header & the machine is fantastic! :) x

  21. As usual I am gobsmacked at your output, where do you find time for 'life', you know... washing, ironing, cooking, reading a newspaper and so on.
    Lovely quilts. Small is beautiful, will you downsize to one twelfth? I have a couple of these, with individual hexagons the size of a tiny fingernail. A pain in the backside to make up, but so impressive looking, and the inhabitants of my dolls house are very happy with them!

  22. I love readong your blog posts, your photographs are always so inspiring, making me want to rush to fabric stack and start something new.

  23. Hi Hen,
    Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comments...I had to smile re the dressing gown! Small world!!
    Its funny how we can feel settled with a look that feels comfortable and 'our own', only to be sidetracked and to discover a whole new look we hadn't previously considered... My business began with the sludgy/primitive/folk art/ muted colour palette and also the prairie look that the Americans(obviously!) do so well...I will email you personally later, as I don't want to be seen as advertising on your blog...I have some books I bought way-back-when, that if still available on Amazon, you might find useful and enjoyable.
    Talk to you later,

  24. Hi Hen,

    Thanks again for another inspiring post! I too love this time of year with the 'Harvest Festivals' and the colours! so lovely.


  25. have come over to the dark side...funny how autumn does that to quilts, I've dug out the sludge I started working on last Winter and haven't felt excited by since and am cutting another...I do enjoy the hand sewing that does indeed go so well with sludge,though,with the new kitten, this is taking my life in my hands.

  26. I love the new Autumnal header Hen and I'm loving the 'sludge'!! I agree with Louise, it is very reminiscent of harvest festivals.
    Jo xx

  27. The thing is, it isn't any old kind of sludgy, it's your kind and that makes a BIG difference! Your work is beautiful as ever, and it is good to try new things. I must admit that anything that makes me think of Little House on the Prairie is good by me. The little needle case is so beautiful! I love the hand quilting too


    I noticed your new header straight away, I love it very much, as well as your background colour. Everything is gorgeous.

    I second your sewing machine comment, some of them are very flimsy aren't they? I prefer my old one to my new one which can do more stitches etc but it just isn't as strong as my old one and that is really what you need. So many people get into trouble with their sewing and it really isn't them at all but the machine.

  28. Dear Hen, the traditional housewife needle case is such a nice idea! A pretty little gift for good friends. Thank you for showing us. Kindest regards


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