Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Waaaay back in January, I had a lovely day at the quilt show in Ardingly. I had never been before but it is quite handy for me to get to and coincidentally, the Bluebell Railway is about five minutes away, so my boys were happy for the day and I was happy for the day! It's quite a small fair but that I meant I had time to browse at lesiure, especially once the coach parties had left by early afternoon.

My eagle eyes spotted a pile of delicious looking quilts and I headed over for a nosey.  It happened to be the stall of a lady called Carolyn Forster and some happy chatting informed me that she has written several quilting books and I was very interested in her title, "Quilting-on-the-Go".  Now I don't know if you've heard of this before but I had heard of quilting-on-the-go, I just didn't know anything about it.  Inspired by Carolyn and her quilts, off I went armed with her book and a reel of hand quilting cotton.

I devoured the book from cover to cover, drooling over the photos and projects.  There are some lovely ones and projects for all abilities.  I was pretty taken with the "Turkey Tracks".

I was rather ga-ga over the "Scrap Baskets".

But I knew that to tackle this new technique, I had better not try to walk before I could run!  I had particularly liked one of the quilts Carolyn had with her, it had lots of fabric in from the "Dear Betty" range which I liked and even happened to have a stack of at home which I'd won courtesy of Fat Quarterly.  Nothing stopping me then!

Now I actually started this project right away but I haven't done anything further on it since at least before we went on holiday in April.  Life, gardening and particularly the builders, have got in the way but this week, I decided I needed to find more time for quilting again.  I'm not happy if I'm not sewing.

So today, I dug out my pile of abandoned blocks.

You may be able to see that first I make up the pieced top, a nine-patch with a border.  They're pretty large, I'm not going to measure but I think probably about 16".  The construction is refreshingly simple, I seem to recall I got through the first two series of North and South whilst making these!  I then make a sandwich, just as you would with a regular quilt, but this time I do it with each block.  The idea is that this makes the project portable so you can bung your 16"ish block in your bag wherever you may be going, and fit in a spot of hand quilting.

Well this, dear reader, was music to my ears.  I like nothing more than a hand quilted quilt, you can't beat that old-fashioned puckery look.  You can't achieve the same effect with machine quilting as it's just too hard to get your machine to do certain fiddly patterns without driving yourself bonkers.  However, whilst I have hand quilted dolly quilts, I haven't quilted a large quilt and nor do I think I would (or could).  This for me then, is perfect.  My main love is machine sewing so I get to do that to piece the top of the block.  They I get to practise hand quilting on a manageable scale and...I can do it on-the-go!

Here's the back of the block.  Hmm, liking that hand quilted look.

In my pile, I was chuffed to see I have amassed quite a few finished blocks.  They're easy to quilt whilst sitting in front of the tv of an evening or on a short rail journey.

The magic occurs when joining the individual blocks together, again a mixture of machine and hand sewing.  Yes, I probably should wait and sew everything together once all the blocks are finished but I was dying to have a go!

My fabric palette was quite eclectic, that's the look I was going for; somewhat scrappy, bright and colourful.  Sort of thrown together (with much behind-the-scenes deliberation, of course!)  There's the Dear Betty, then, some ditsy floral Cath K, some 1930's repro fabrics, a bit of gingham and polka dots. I laid out my "buffet" of squares as I usually do, the cutting did take some time but I wanted to have a lot to choose from for each block to get that scrappy look.  There's not many on my buffet now as I've pieced quite a lot of blocks.

So, I'm going to need to get chopping again.  Not a problem? (Cue: gratuitous stash shot.)

Oooh my giddy aunt, I then remember that months ago, I treated myself to some fabrics to use in this project.  They are by Denyse Schmidt, goddess designer of the much coveted '30's style ranges "Katie Jump Rope", "Flea Market Fancy" (so popular it sold for silly amounts on Etsy once it went out of print but has happily been reprinted this year), "Hope Valley" and so on.  (Please allow me my little obsessive fabric ramble.  Thank you.) I seem to recall that this range was produced solely for retail in certain budget stores, Spotlight in Australia and Joanns in the USA I think, but of course, anything is possible with the www.  My lot came via Etsy from a super seller in New York and arrived in five days.

It feels like Christmas Day.  Sigh.

Anyway, fabulous fabric fantasies over, here's some I produced earlier!  I've just joined four blocks together to practise the technique. I don't think I want to leave all the joining until the end as that's not exactly the riveting bit, IMHO.

Oooh, Im liking it.

And just to prove that I really have been "quilting-on-the-go"...

Bothered by funny looks?  Not me!

(Please excuse the lack of links but I am not about to drive myself insane with this new Blogger format which will not let me do links.  There's always Google- or another search engine of your choice- eh?)

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

1940's Style

The weekend saw us making our now annual trip up to Bewdley to attend the 1940's event at the wonderful Severn Valley Railway. We love it here; it's a beautiful part of the world and a really good preserved steam railway. Add in the chance to step back to our favourite period in history and a super time is pretty much guaranteed. Even the sun shone!

This weekend has it all, including some fabulous vintage shopping.  I was really fortunate this weekend to find several 1940's dresses, a coat, hats, and so on.  I was rather like Mr Benn, I left our lodgings in cosy warm 1940's clothing as the forecast was not good and emerged from the changing room to blazing sunshine, so decided to keep on the pretty blue floral silk dress and gorgeous felt hat with pretty flowers.

The photos have uploaded in the wrong order and I lack the time to rearrange them so I'm just going to let them do their thing and hope you enjoy them, working out the story for yourselves.

The railway is hosting the same event this coming weekend so if you fancy it, get yourself to the Severn Valley for a wonderful time.  Toodle pip!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Vintage Sewing

The weekend saw us having our customary mooch in our beloved Bridport in Dorset.  We were there very early to take the car into the garage and the threat of gloomy weather meant the street market was not as busy and buzzy as usual.  It was still most enjoyable, however and the weather actually improved as the day went on.  Wandering along with a bacon butty for breakfast, we bumped into Rachel and her family, holidaying in Lyme Regis.  I know Rachel as a customer from vintage fairs and always think of her as the "blue lady" as she is always in blue and buys blue things! Happy hols, Rachel.  Small world, eh?

The fact that many of the regular stall holders hadn't turned out meant some new ones had been able to secure a pitch  Some of the stuff was pretty junky but of course, in between the junk, one is possibly going to find treasure if one but looks hard enough.  There waiting for me was something I'd longed hankered after.  Possibly too much time had been spent looking for just such an item on eBay, sometimes watching them go for too much money, lacking their accessories or worrying how I was going to get the certain extremely heavy item safely to my doorstep without costing an arm and a leg.

No need to have done all that because there she was, waiting for me...

...amongst all the junk!

Reader, meet Norma Novum, my new-to-me vintage sewing machine.  I would guess she's actually a 1950's gal.

A rainy Sunday afforded me the perfect opportunity to get to grips with my new friend.  I plugged in the lead, flicked the switch and with baited breath, on came her light!  Sadly, Norma lacked her instruction manual but I pretty much know my way round a machine and had her threaded up in no time.  A tentative foot on the pedal, and whirr, off went Norma producing a spectacularly truly straight straight stitch!

I cannot mislead you and tell you I there and then whipped up that pretty patchworked item on Norma's machine bed (in fact, I made that last week to house my latest gadget).  In need of some cloth to try out Norma's stitching, it was however, a prettier sight for the photo than the old painting rag Mr HH found me in the shed.  I need a stash at the cottage?

I discovered that Norma had a little swing-out drawer hidden in her base and therein squealed, admittedly rather childishly, at all the metal bobbins and original feet within.  The feet have little labels attached to tell me what they are, each little bit of string attaching each label a different colour.  Golly, you can't imagine how much pleasure this brought me.

Ah, Norma, how could anyone pass you by for a measly £18? Not I!  

Norma and I are going to have some adventures, I can see.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Charming Chelsea Flowers

Well again, I am very behind with my blogging but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to record this year's visit to Chelsea Flower Show last month.  It's been lovely to look back over these snaps and reflect on how very lucky we were, really the only week of decent (and indeed it was glorious) weather we've had.  I was late in deciding to go because of the bad weather, so I was only able to get an evening ticket which afforded me a quick dash round the show.  Luckily, I have been a few times so I have a good idea of what I want to see though I was gutted when I watched the tv coverage to see I'd missed the gorgeous work hut created by Kaffe Fassett.  No, I didn't manage to nab some groovy transport like this to get me to the flower show, it was just the train and the special flower show bus!

In we go then, dodging the ticket touts who are always after your ticket.

The grounds of the Old Chelsea Hospital make a wonderful backdrop though I'm sure not all visitors actually realise it is there, I know I didn't for a few years.

I was decidedly underwhelmed by the large show gardens this year.  Too much hard landscaping for me and not enough pretty planting.  Any plants tended to be the obligatory green/white/purple mix.  It's always difficult to get near enough to see them, you really just have to be patient - and determined.  I looked at most of them briefly and got fed up of seeing all the City types with their champagne flutes, invited by the sponsors, posing inside the gardens and getting in the way.  I paid to see gardens not people, thank you.  Oh dear, get off your soapbox, Hen.  

Here are a few snaps of some of the passable ones, anyway, people cropped out!

I was really looking forward to seeing this garden with the retro caravan but I'm afraid I didn't really love this one, either.  I most liked the curtains.  (It took me ages to get a shot without loads of people going in and out of the caravan, of course.)  I thought a lot of the planting was very wild looking this year, not in a pretty cottage garden sense, and didn't look much different from the weedy uncultivated patch at the bottom of my garden!

Good to see  a tribute to Her Majesty in her jubilee year.

The new area of "Fresh Gardens" was a massive disappointment.  They were all so very modern, loads of hard landscaping not enough plants (again).  Is this meant to be a garden?

Let's find something better, shall we?  I've probably given you the impression Chelsea was a big disappointment this year.  It really wasn't, even just wandering round, especially on such a glorious evening, is a pleasure.  Yes, the show gardens were not my cup of tea (they might be someone else's, of course) but the floral pavillion never disappoints.

Stunning peonies...

David Austin's new rose for this year, oh golly, I adore this but how many peachy/pinky many-petalled roses does a girl need?  Hmm, maybe just one more?

The delphiniums are always statuesque and superb.

Peter Beales' Roses stand always looks just gorgeous and smells heavenly, too.

The displays were certainly impressive...

I always really love these hyacinths and marvel at their perfection, mine are always floppy (I think they put slim wires inside?)  Again, they smell amazing.

Let's not forget that Chelsea is also about shopping.  ONE DAY, I will have my dream greenhouse!

Also, these bronze boxing hares, pretty please.  Don't they look beautiful amongst those meadow flowers.  This is the sort of "wild" I do like.

I was blown away by this lady's paintings which I'd not seen before.  So much detail, so beautiful, gorgeous colours.  Ohhh, I'd like one of those too?

Very much!

There was even a smattering of scrumptious vintage to keep me happy though the prices were somewhat out of my league.

Finally, as I rushed off to catch the last show bus, I found my favourite thing of the show.

I don't need to explain why, dear reader, do I?

If you get the chance, go go go, it's an opportunity not to be missed.  You can't please everyone, can you (and I'm pretty darned choosy!)