Welcome to my ramblings, my version of a blog. I intend to update it just to tell you what is happening craftwise in my life.
Something that has been around for a long time but there seems to be even more of them in the past year, or I just happen to have noticed them more, are Stitch or Sew A Longs (SAL’s), Crochet A Longs (CAL’s), Knit A Longs (KAL’s), then there are the Block of the Months (BOM’s) which include mystery quilt ones and then finally there are subscription boxes.
It seems that every craft or wool company is doing some sort of distanced group activity or subscription idea, just look for them on the internet and there is almost something for everyone. If looking for block of the month – type that in, not like I did – which was type BOM’s – which apparently is a Bill of Materials!!!
I can really see why they have become so popular especially in the last year, as a reaction to everything that has been happening. There haven’t been the visits to the craft shops – and I mean the fabric, yarn and just general craft shops – these are very social spaces, most crafters are very social people (there are a few of us, like me, that are happy to craft alone). Go into a good independent craft shop and people will want to chat, talk about what they are making and why, talk about the fabric, yarns or patterns – interact. It’s the same thing with groups, classes, exhibitions and shows – it all fulfils a social need. And none of that has been happening.
Something A Longs, are a social thing, ok most are through social media (and that’s the thing – social media is about being social) being part of a group – even if you don’t know each other, physically, you are connected by all sewing/knitting/crocheting along to the same pattern over a number of weeks – possibly in the same colour and then posting photos on social media of how you are all doing. And it isn’t just confined to a small area, like classes or groups – that all have to be within easy access of a meeting place – Something A Longs are worldwide and far more inclusive than physical groups that meet. Something A Longs can be very inspiring, and I can see why so many craft bloggers, manufacturer, sellers, magazines are creating more of them.
I often see adverts for up and coming A longs, for some reason especially the crochet and knitted throw ones catch my eye, and I think yes, I would like to do that, so far this year Attic24 Meadow blanket CAL at the beginning of the year – in Stylecraft Special DK, then more recently the Black Sheep Wools A Day Out KAL – in Stylecraft Special DK and finally the Sirdar Sweet Blossom Blanket CAL in Hayfield Bonus DK. But then I really look at them and I think I don’t like that colour included or I’m not sure on that part of the design, then sometimes the cost!!! Although a lot are free patterns. And then finally, and the biggest reason is, I look at the big pile of work I have on the go and the list of things I really want to try and I think NO!
No, Sarah, you really can’t start anything else!! On my hooks at the moment, I have a TOFT dragon and also my big Granny Square using up yarn blanket/throw. Is there a difference between a blanket and a throw?.... and on my knit pins I have a scarf. So, yarnie things I think I have enough on the go, and I also have a idea/plan for a knitted throw for my winter project and a couple more scarves I have designed and I would like to weave a panel for a bag…
Then there are all the Blocks of the Month’s and quilt kits on offer – go to any online quilt shop and there are masses to chose from. They really are an online/kit version of going to a quilt class and making a block a week!
And finally, subscription boxes, they come in so many forms, for learning new crafts, extending skills - knitting, cross stitch, embroidery, painting, jewellery making, crochet, yarn and fabric based and even food based – you name it and there is a subscription box for it. Again, I have looked at a few and the Craftpod one interested me, with their quarterly themed boxes, but there are soo many out there. They seem like a lovely idea, a beautiful, packed box of goodies landing on your doorstep and then having everything you need to make in one box, with instructions. But I will resist. Although Laura, now she has got the crocheting creatures bug – especially the TOFT ones, has subscribed to their dye one!!! And I am soo looking forward to seeing what arrives!!!
For me, it really comes down to, I have far too many things on the go or waiting to be finished or even waiting to be designed and started!!! And I tend to design and work my own things – I only occasionally (TOFT animals) work from other peoples’ patterns or designs.
But if you aren’t like me….then there are some brilliant things to join online and extend your social online craft life.
Ps. The difference between a blanket and throw is… a blanket is made to fit on a bed, so is bigger. A throw is smaller, often hand made and is a more decorative item that goes on the backs of sofas and ends of beds and finally there are Afghans – they are handmade either knitted or crocheted!!!! I just had to wander off and find out…….
If you read my Rambles on a regular basis or see my posts on Facebook, you will probably have realised that I have a thing about Tulips!!!!
Ever since I had my own garden and started to take an interest in gardening, I have liked tulips – I have always preferred them to daffodils. Daffodils are just too big and yellow!!! Although in reading garden books this last year I am rather taken by Narcissus Tete a Tete!!! It’s small and elegant – I might grow some for next Spring!
Tulips come in soo many colours and I just like the shapes. I liked them, but they were just another flower that was around. My love of Tulips, that is a more recent thing and can be firmly laid at Tony’s door!!! It’s all his fault!!!
A number of years ago Tony had to go and work in Holland for a week on a project. All he saw was the office and his hotel room. On the way home, in the airport he decided to buy Laura and I some gifts – mugs, one with tulips on and the other in blues with Dutch houses, small wooden tulips and a tulip fridge magnet and keyring clogs. And that sort of started the tulip love!!!
When we stopped in Amsterdam on a cruise, I bought a load of bigger wooden tulips (that are in a Denby jug on the windowsill and make me happy as I walk past) and then when we went to Rotterdam, the following year I bought some more. That made me start to look at real ones to grow, in buckets in the back garden and from there its grown and grown.
I have used tulips a number of times on Quilted postcards but in the last few years I have created even more – plain tulips and also ones coloured in with Crayola Crayons. And from there I have made bowl fillers. And a journal quilt with a single tulip and a Dutch house quilted on the background.
Lewis & Irene bought out Tulip Field fabric – with tulips, windmills and mice (no clogs) on and I just had to have them all and make myself a quilt, (pattern is available in the Your Turn area), which usually sits on the back of my workroom chair but does go on our bed when the tulips are in flower, so part of April and May. And this year I made Tulip Mania wall hanging – using up some of the leftovers from the quilt.
This year I asked Laura to stitch for my Mother’s Day present a Blackwork tulip, just a single tulip in a hoop, but this led us to creating a Triple Tulip coloured blackwork picture (pattern is available from our Etsy store). And Laura also cross stitched me a tulip!!! And Tony gave me Lego tulips to build!!!
And Tony has given me the Grow Your Own Tulip kit from TOFT – it may be a while till it ‘flowers’!!!
So, you can see that tulips have sort of become a ‘thing’, I have bought a couple of books on tulips and started to research different ones so that I can have tulips flowers for even longer!!! Next year I want more buckets of them, Black Hero, Black Parrot, Amazing Parrot, Foxy Foxtrot, Negrita, Sarah Raven….. the list goes on, how to choose? So sorry, but I will be going on about them even more next Spring! Friends have started to send me links to tulip events or photos!!! We have also had a ‘tulip war’ between Tony and Laura to see who can take the best photos on their phones!!!
My tulips are still flowering and I am still making Laura and Tony come and admire them!!! But I know they are coming to the end but as I really want to keep the Tulip love for a while longer I am gathering lots of my tulip themed creations and my mantel display for May is …..tulips!!!
PS. I think I would like to do a trip, sometime in the future, maybe in a year or two, to the Dutch tulip fields and tulip festivals in Amsterdam…..
I have been aware for years that we all learn in a different way, I was taught at college about learning methods and how to write training manuals (a long with lots of other things, including wines but only old-world ones!!!), I have taught patchwork & quilting for years and run craft demonstrations. And I have helped teach Laura to speak and read and then through out her school taken an interest and encouraged her, where I am able. We had a division of knowledge – Tony did mathematics, chemistry and physics, and I would be the History, geography and English literature!! The languages and music side she just got on with it!! Even when she was doing her BA, we would discuss things and I was her sounding board – and I am still doing it with her MA – I know things about some weird stuff!!! The black death, silk routes, treason….
I know that Laura absorbs information and especially dates after just reading it once, I also was very aware that she reads huge amounts and reads very quickly, devouring words, in half the time of most of us. But the thing I hadn’t realised, until last week was how she learns!
At Christmas we both, Laura and I, got TOFT crochet kits. Laura had seen mine and wanted to learn to crochet. After Christmas she tried, with my help and also watching the very good TOFT videos, to learn to crochet, but it just didn’t click!!! She just couldn’t understand how to do it and she couldn’t get the hang of holding the hook and yarn – I did think it wasn’t helped by the fact that she was learning to crochet right handed when she is completely and utterly left handed!!!
She gave up but has been saying that she wanted to try again.
Last week Tony bought me another crochet kit – Cro your own Tulip from TOFT, he thought I would love it as I do have just a little thing about tulips!!!!!!!!! He also got me the new book Ocean by them.
Laura began to look at the book, she disappeared into the sitting room and quietly read it and pulled out the kit for crocheting a turtle in chunky yarn and crocheted away. Laura learnt to crochet through reading, for her the best way to learn is the written word!!! It’s not being shown or looking at videos – it’s from a written explanation!!!
I really find this hard to understand and I am sure a lot of other people would as well, I haven’t come across anyone learning a practical craft like that before. Yes, I can and do learn through reading but for something practical craft based like crocheting, then I find that the written explanation on its own wouldn’t be enough, I learn by pictures/photos or seeing it done in videos. I have also learnt by people showing me, but often I am better sitting quietly and just doing something by looking at pictures. Often with dressmaking I don’t read the instructions – I just look at the pictures!!!
Having this lightbulb moment of how Laura learns, suddenly explains her thinking and why she does so well in certain things – how she got an A* in GCSE Physics, when she didn’t have a proper teacher for most of the course and the one that they ended up with couldn’t speak English (she wouldn’t talk to us parents at Parents evening as her understanding of English was soo limited – apparently she was the best of the applicants for the post!!!). Laura read all the Physics books for the course and even borrowed the teacher’s version, she learnt it through reading it, not being shown or taught.
How Laura learns is probably very unusual, most of us learn through visually and physically seeing and aural explanations. It is one of the reasons that people go to classes – especially for patchwork and quilting, or any craft, the other big reason is social.
The way I learn has very much shaped the way that I teach and demonstrate, and also write patterns. How I write instructions and patterns has changed over the years, with new technologies and as I have got more assured in how I want to write them. Today’s instructions are a far cry from when I started teaching and even very different from 12 years ago. They still are short (hopefully) clear points, detailing each stage, I have been criticised by a couple people for making the instruction too simple and too many points. I add in my personal tips and lots of photos (rather than the hand drawn diagrams), like my books they are how I really wish all patterns and instructions were written!!!
It is Spring!!! And I think it is possibly the Season I like most! It’s the time of the natural world re-awaking, longer hours of sunlight, plants starting to come up. Every time I walk round the garden, I see something new shooting up, from the bulbs in the pots – just tiny little green shoots, to the new rose bushes I planted a few weeks ago, to the ferns by the water feature and of course all the hostas!!! And then there are the tulips!! I think you have probably realised by now (if you have reading my Rambles) that I love tulips, and I so enjoy watching them peek above the soil in the steel buckets in the back garden and then grow tall and form bubs and waiting to see them burst into flower.
It just feels more positive and brighter. My creativity levels seem to rise, ideas are running round my mind – too many, I am just plucking the odd one out and running with it. Others get sketched into my book – ahh!! Could ramble off in that direction but no I will continue on with the Seasons theme and come back to creative books, ideas sketching, journals, planners and the Commonplace book!!!
I think we have been lucky this year, yes, it is still chilly, but it has been sunny, lovely bright days with a soft blue sky first thing in the morning and beautiful coloured sunsets – not the strong colours of mid-summer but more softer baby pink and blues with apricots and delicate peaches.
So, far we haven’t had many rainy days, or even too many showers here on the outskirts/borders of London. I know this isn’t the same for all of the country, here we seem to have very different weather from a lot of the country or even London or Essex, it never seems to be as wet, cold or snowy here!!
As I have got older I have began to ‘see’ the seasons more, understand the natural rhythm of the world – the circle of life!! And appreciate it and be inspired by it.
Spring – March, April and May, the time of rebirth and new growth, the soft greens, white of snowdrops, yellow of narcissus from the creamy yellow to strong egg yolk yellow, the blue/purple of grape hyacinths and the pinks of the blossom trees. Finally, to the burst of colours of tulips. The brighter, longer days but still with the chill of winter, so I can still wrap up in my scarves, sheepskin boots and throws and quilts.
Summer – June, July and August, I am not so much of a summer person, I am not a person that likes the heat of the sun. The early mornings when the world is cooler and quiet are my favourite time of day, time to sit and have my morning coffee and just see the beauty in the world, how things are growing and look at the colours, and there are a lot more colours with all the plants and flowers (and if everything I have planted this Spring grow and flower my garden will have a lot!!!). Creatively the summer, June and early July are about finishing off bigger projects and working on smaller pieces.
Autumn – September, October and November, as I have written in a Ramble last year, I have a love/hate relationship with autumn, I love the colours – the world explodes with oranges/golds/reds (not ones I use in quilts or my home, but I still find them beautiful) and I can get back to cosy jumpers, sheepskin boots, scarves and throws – layers!!! It is a very creative time with the new term and then Christmas, always lots to do…
Then we come to Winter – December, January and February, I have always found these months ‘harder’ creatively but also just getting through the darker, colder days – I want to hibernate. I can understand why we have Christmas/winter celebration in the darkest month of the year. Nature does ‘sleep’ through these months to reawaken in the Spring with new a burst of energy and I guess that is in a way what I do, I have learnt to allow my mind time to relax, work on a project that keeps my hands busy, from knitting or crochet to a hand stitched quilt or embroidering but doesn’t need to much thinking!!!
Then with Spring….. ideas come thick and fast, so which idea do I work on next?!!!
Easter means different things to different people. We aren’t formally religious, none of us go to church or follow any set religion and yet Easter coming after March equinox, the first day of Spring and the clocks going forward feels like a time to mark Spring and the natural world ‘rebirth’ after winter dominancy.
Everyone and every culture have their Easter traditions, I think many have been lost in the commercialisation that has happened to all occasions. I am not anti-commercialisation or consumerism, but I do feel that many of our ‘holidays’ have been taken over and the meaning and really the sentiment behind them have been lost in the need to spend lots of money and create fabulous Instagram worthy photos of the ‘perfect’ life, which only adds to the stress for some people.
For me, Easter is my second most make heavy time, after Christmas. What I mean by that is Easter is when I make ten Quilted Postcards to send out and I also tend to make something small to add to my Easter display. I constantly, throughout the year, make Quilted Postcards and bowl fillers and small pieces of fabric/embroidery art for our mantel shelf display and/or presents/cards for birthdays, anniversaries or just to say hello to special people. This is nothing new, ever since Laura was little and we had craft afternoons we have created bits for different occasions.
At Easter, over the years, we, Laura and I have decorated eggs, drawn pictures, made shaped and iced biscuits and then as Laura grew older and moved away from creating. I have transitioned into stitched Easter and Spring creating as stitching is more my thing and now Laura has discovered her love of embroidery and the house is filling up with even more stitched bits!
So, I have sent out my Easter Cards, the mantel shelf display has an Easter theme with Quilted Postcards, hoop art and bowl fillers, all with eggs and bunny themes, it even has some fabric carrots!!! And an Easter rag and ribbon wreath is hanging in the porch!!
And we are set for our only Easter weekend tradition – Laura’s sweet and present hunt on Sunday!!!
Laura, when a child, didn’t like chocolate!!! And so, we started hiding plastic eggs filled with sweets, in recent years Haribo’s, round the house with clues for her to find her Easter present!!! Otherwise, we have no traditions and even that has changed over the years as she has grown up.
Whatever you do this Easter weekend, following old traditions or creating new ones, I hope that you have an enjoyable time.
As you may have realised flowers, as the new book is Quilted Postcards The Flower Edition, are a big source of inspiration. Flowers, plants, landscapes all figure a lot in everything I create from postcards, to quilts and embroideries.
I love wandering around gardens, big gardens and certain ones stand out in my mind as great inspiration, the ones that we have lots of photos from… Anglesey Abbey – ahh! The Himalayan birches (they are very strokable!!) and the dahlia border…., Hidcote and Sissinghurst of course, but also Hinton Amper and I love Scotney Castle – it’s not just the garden but the old castle is just magical. And then there is Calke – possibly because this is a place we have been to a few times each year, that the gardens are somewhere I know.
I used to think it would be lovely to have a big garden, but in reality big gardens need a lot of love and attention and I am sure that I wouldn’t have time to do a big garden and also needlework – it would have to be one or the other, or have a team of gardeners!!!!
In summer I potter out in our garden for a few minutes each day, I walk the garden, taking in the beauty, seeing what is growing, deadheading and weeding as I go. I will often just sit, first thing in the morning before most of the world has started, drinking my breakfast coffee taking in the calm and peace.
Our garden, is a bit of a garden of two halves – the left where it is shaded and damp and I have it planted with climbing hydrangea, a laurel, a couple of euonymus and ferns, all plants that can take the shade, we also have a couple of water features on this side. The left hand corner by the back doors never gets the sun, this is where my pots of hostas give me lots of shades of green (and is snail paradise!!!), my chair is in this oasis of cool green.
The right hand side, gets sun, well in the summer months. In winter nowhere in the garden gets any sun, when we have it! In the Spring the sun just reaches the top of the fence on the right hand side and as we head for the summer it comes further into the garden. This side has a ribbon of gravel by the fence and this is home of loads and loads of pots and containers.
Up to a few years ago the predominate colour in the garden was green, I would add a few pots of summer bedding for colour. A lot of the green and interest was from the pots of box bushes, we had over ten of them, just in the back garden and then more in the front garden. They were in different sizes and shapes. A few had been growing for over 25 years and many of the others were cuttings from the original two I bought. But the box moth found them and I battled for three years to stop the infestation but in the end after a lot of time and frustration I lost the battle and all of the boxes except for three tiny cuttings had to be destroyed, they had been eaten to pieces….
Over the last couple of years I have gone with sempervivums (houseleeks) and sedums. I started with one plant that I pulled out of my aunt’s garden years ago – it grows in the gravel, which didn’t have as many pots on it, till one day I realised I didn’t have as many – in fact I only had a couple of them left, I then discovered the one huge one in the mouth of our big old tortoise!!!! Hence why I grow them all in containers – mostly steel buckets as the tortoise can’t knock them over and I like the look of them.
But sedums and houseleeks are low growing and I realised in the autumn that I was missing my green evergreen shrubs and bushes and I had already decided that I wanted more colour and monthly interest, I was missing my ‘fix’ of flowers and plants and their scents – ahhh to walk through a rose garden, looking at each flower and sniffing their lovely smell, or rubbing past a plant and releasing their scent. I was missing visiting big gardens and also I was working on all the flower postcards…
Being me, I don’t just jump into buying stuff, I slowly work round to it, I research and read, bought a few books, trawled through websites, made lists, crossed off plants – many don’t like shade, others won’t grow in containers. Till I have a list of plants and flowers I would like.
We have made a start on buying some, I have started with a few, two scented roses, suitable for containers, a hebe, a couple of bay bushes, scented pelargoniums, and a buddleia. My best friend for my birthday bought me a set of dahlia tubers all suitable for container growing!! I have also got some sweetpeas to grow!!!
So, my project of revitalising and adding monthly interest has started….. pots to plant, containers to move around, interest and ‘tableaux’ to create…….so much possible inspiration ……
As I have said in a previous Ramble, I worked as a bookseller, this was before Laura was born and so a long time ago… well over 22 years ago!!!
I worked in a local family-owned department store which was quaint, idiosyncratic, and very old fashioned, some days it did feel like we were on the set of ‘Are you being served’!! Buyers were the demi-gods, they had their own dining area and had to be addressed by their titles – so mine was Miss Smith and she was the buyer of books and toys.
We ordered books two ways, from publishers direct or through a wholesaler. With the wholesaler they were for the fiction titles, both paperback and hardback. They sent a big catalogue of all the titles that they held, and we would make up an order and send it through to them – we would have to go to the office and ask them to fax it through. Every month we would get a small catalogue/booklet through with the new releases for the next month and we would go through, tick what we wanted and how many.
The other way we ordered books was with rep’s from publishers, we didn’t see many rep’s but there were a few, some you looked forward to coming – David & Charles and also the Usborne one!!! Others were not so much!!!
The David & Charles rep was just a nice man, that we, Miss Smith and the three of us, that worked on the department just enjoyed seeing, it was an added bonus that he had such lovely books. David & Charles were based in Newton Abbot in Devon and had originally started out publishing transport books and then had gone into other areas.
One of their big authors was the British artist David Sheppard, he did fantastic wildlife paintings (we have one of his books) but he also did paintings of steam engines (I’m pretty sure my father-in-law has a few, as he used to make working model steam trains – I’m not talking little Hornby type but sit on size.) David Sheppard’s paintings are extraordinary, they make you feel like you are really there. I think they were the first real paintings/art I can remember looking at and properly seeing. From then on, I started being interested in art.
The other thing that David & Charles did was craft books. At the time cross stitch was having a big revival and the British ‘name’ at the time was Jo Verso, she did lots of books, with lots of patterns. Looking at the books now, they feel very much of their time but for many of us they were our road into the world of cross stitch and other forms of embroidery.
The other big book was Lynne Edwards The Sampler Quilt, this was a British quilter writing a book!!! A lot of the books, quilting and other crafts were American imports, they were very ‘American’ – homesteads and plains American – fly the stars and stripes!!! Apple pie and baseball!!! But Lynne Edwards wrote as a teacher with a book that was really good to follow, the instructions were clear and there were lots of photos of finished quilts.
As a teacher myself, The Sampler Quilt book was one book I always recommended to my class to buy, if they wanted a good starter book, again it was a book of its time, the techniques in it seem a little ‘old fashioned’ now, with the hand applique and quilting. But at the time it was how we worked. The blocks used are still really good for learning and building patchwork skills, it’s a book that is still relevant for today’s beginners. From my point of view the photos of finished quilts were brilliant. The same patterns had been used, but Lynne Edwards pupils had chosen their own fabric and also were the blocks would go in the quilt, this made every quilt look different and these quilts were very real, made by normal quilters and so they weren’t perfect, and beginners could relate to them.
At a time when we didn’t have all the social media and technology like EQ (Electric Quilt design software), the inspiration and pictures of quilts came from magazines (mostly American) or books and The Sampler book was brilliant!!! It allowed you to see how different colours and fabrics can make one quilt look so totally different.
Looking at the book and the updated expanded version The Essential Sampler Book, it makes me want to teach a sampler quilt, I really enjoy working on them, I guess because each square is different, and I don’t get bored!!!
The other rep and company that was good was Usborne, I don’t know if you know the company, but they did really good children’s book – Farmyard Tales were a favourite in this house and helped Laura learn to speak and read and where the ’thing’ about yellow ducks comes from!!!! And both of those are completely different ‘rambles’ and at the moment I am not going down those paths…..
Back to Usborne, they had books that were easy to sell, on huge number of topics and they also did really good learn to knit book. When someone asked for a recommendation or a book for a child, there was usually something in the Usborne range that would fit the bill.
There are so many books in this house that were bought when I was a bookseller and there are loads of books that I have bought since…..
As I am sure I have mentioned we have a lot of books in our house, on shelves, in boxes and in piles…. And as I am sure you are all aware, we published a book in 2020 – Quilted Postcards – ‘Little Quilts of Creativity’. This fulfilled a long held dream for me – to publish a book!!!
I have no idea why I had the dream to publish a book and originally the dream wasn’t a craft book, I wanted to write fiction but….it morphed into wanting to write a craft book.
For someone that struggled to learn to read and can’t spell (and please don’t ever ask me to read something out aloud from book, paper or anything like that!!! Totally can’t do it…. I stopped reading to Laura when she was about five, when she started to correct me!!!) I love books, I would read most things including cereal packets…
When I was at school, I wanted to work in a library, but it was at the time of cut backs and closures and you needed a degree to be a librarian and I was told I wouldn’t get into university and so I was directed towards catering as I was really good at cooking!!! So, that is where I headed and ended up hating food.
Then I ended up working in a book department of a local department store. And I loved it, books, books and more books…. The whole craft book market was totally different from today’s market, this was the early 1990’s, and there just wasn’t the craft books around. The main publisher for craft books, mainly cross stitch and also Lynne Edwards Sampler Quilt book was David & Charles, I still have a lot of these books on my shelf – along with their art ones!!! (I almost rambled off in the direction of David & Charles, their history is interesting! But back on track…) Search Press also did art and a few embroidery book – these were slim books on specialist subjects – How to draw Trees! Slowly other companies began to publish craft books and books began to be imported from America. The whole book selling world had begun to change, supermarkets sold paperbacks and cookery books and big chains like Waterstones arrived. It was around this time, 1999/2000 that I left bookselling for haberdashery and yarn selling!!!
A constant throughout the years has always been my quilt making and other crafting, whether that was teaching or demonstrating, I have always designed and passed on my knowledge. And with Tony’s pushing I eventually sold designs to Popular Patchwork magazine. This was really hard work for me, trying to write the instructions within the parameters that they wanted. I know when I write instructions for my teaching that I put a lot of information into them. I use short sentences and lots of illustrations – originally drawings, now photos (how technology has changed the way we work!!!). I write my instructions how I really want them to be in books and magazines, with all the information, with the hints and tips, clear and concise!!! But writing for a magazine you have to leave so much out, condense down and assume that people have a certain amount of knowledge. Back when I was sending work to the magazines, Laura was too young to have the role she does know – of taking my words, making sense of them, editing and correcting them!!!
Quilted Postcards – ‘Little Quilts of Creativity’ was born out of wanting to write a book, the type of book that I wanted from other craft books, full clear instructions, lots of hints, tips and knowledge and lots of photos. One of my pet hates with craft books is the patterns when it says enlarge by 200% - what and how do you do this?!!! I wait for Tony to be free and ask the former photocopier Engineer and technical person to do it!!!
Our book is also a product of the era, where technology allows us to self publish without all the big thing of actually finding a physical publisher, paying out huge sums to physically print it and then either market it ourselves or pay to have to have it marketed.
The world of Amazon, print on demand and technology, websites and social media have revolutionised the publishing world. For me the new world is brilliant – I have fulfilled my dream, published a book and it’s selling!!! (OK not in massive amounts, but it is selling)
It may be hard work, designing and creating the postcards, doing the instructions, photographing them, working on layout, colours, editing, pricing and the million and one other things that have to be done. There is so much to do and think about…. we have done it!!! Once….
And we, Tony, Laura and I are going to be publishing Book No. 2 very, very soon. Yes, we are mad!!! But we have the bug…
(PS, I have never formally been diagnosed with dyslexia, (that is an impossible word to spell, it’s like lingerie and fatigue!!) but I have read different things, tried the online tests and yes, I am probably dyslexic and also dyscalculic (that’s even worse to spell and I have no idea how you say it!!!)!!! But that’s a whole new Ramble….)
According to my husband I don’t have a romantic bone in my body!!!
Ok, I don’t like or go in for the big traditional romantic gesture – a dozen red roses are just creepy to me – even one red rose is creepy, there is nothing romantic or love related with a red rose. They are death and blood and I really don’t like them, as you might of gathered. I also can’t see the point of paying out a huge amount of money on February 14th on a bunch of overpriced, short lived, out of season flowers!!! And why should you only be romantic on St Valentine’s day?
Nor do I like going out for a posh, expensive meal, or like champagne (or prosecco) or want a long weekend in Paris. Been there and although it was a nice city, I can’t in any way understand why it is considered the city of love or lovers!!! I much prefer London or York and if I am going to have a long weekend in a city then there are other places I would like to see – like Edinburgh. And don’t even suggest a spa day…..
If all of that makes me unromantic, fine, I’m unromantic!!! But for me being romantic isn’t about one over commercialised day, it’s about everyday – showing by everyday small gestures that I love him, cooking him dinners he likes (and I don’t!!!) is just one thing – doing things for him, letting him know he is very important to me.
Creating bits to give to him, made with love, from a quilt with hexagon hearts for our 25th wedding anniversary to Quilted Postcards on special days or just because I want to……
Love is the small everyday acts
Love is a handmade quilt to hug you in love and comfort
Love is a hand knitted scarf
Love is knowing when to give someone their space
Love is small and everyday, all year.
Romance is for books……
PS I also haven’t got the shopping gene, which is probably a relief to him!!! – I really can’t stand shopping!!!
It has been ages since I started on a new quilt – the last quilt I designed, stitched and finished was the duck quilt for Laura’s 21st birthday in August last year!!!
There are lots of quilts or rather bits, parts or tops of quilts in my workspace, waiting for me to finally get round to finishing them. I have a couple that I have looked at and thought yes, this is the next one to finish when I have time, but I haven’t found (or made!) the time, I have been working on other things. I will finish them!!! Really!!!
But I have started a new quilt!!!
With the ongoing situation and not being back in the physical classroom, I really felt that I wanted to support and help the members of my classes (those that were in my class when it suddenly shut in March 2020). Since September we have been uploading to the class section of my website back catalogue patterns – and I have a lot of them (over ten years worth!!!) but I wanted to do a bit more and so have started a fortnightly online Microsoft Teams meeting – this is turning into a learning curve and things change each time and we (or rather Tony!) are looking into other ways and methods of doing this.
I am never going to be completely comfortable with being an online teacher and I am really not sure about doing instructional videos, but we are living in different times and so we all need to adapt.
Back to the quilt, I wanted to create a quilt, simple, clean, in the style that I enjoy – that I can teach/explain how to make in the online class. I love Nine Patch blocks, from the simple Nine squares stitched together to the more complicated designs, of squares and triangles and I had a couple of Charm Packs just sitting in a box!!!
Although a simple basic Nine Patch would be lovely, I tend to usually combine them with other blocks, but if I used the method for the Disappearing Nine Patch design ……. 40 charm pack squares would make four blocks, add borders to each block, quilt and put together, to create the centre. And then add more borders and corner squares – from the four left over Charm squares and you have a quilt….
Ok, it’s not really that simple……
I realise that not everybody is like me, that for many it is not simple or easy to design and make a quilt. Long before I actually start to make a quilt, I visualise it, it’s there in my mind – this may not be the finished quilt, the design may change and evolve when I start sewing, as the design, fabric and quilting ‘talk’ to me.
But all the quilts start off being visualised, this may suddenly pop into my mind but other times, it may bubble away, changing and growing over weeks or even months. Eventually when it feels right the design will go down as a rough sketch with notes and sizes on it. I also work through in my mind the steps of how I am going to make the quilt.
Only when everything feels right, do I go and find the fabric and then start the actual quilt making process.
I have found all the fabrics, sorted, stitched, cut and stitched together to create the four Disappearing Nine Patch blocks, put the borders and on and started to quilt. For this quilt I wanted to do ‘slow’ quilting – Big stitch quilting. In the last few years, most of the quilts I have created have been machine quilted using my walking foot but I just felt with this one, whether it is because of all that is going on in the world or the time of year, or not having the pressure to finish the quilt and be on to the next section or design that often comes with teaching, I just wanted a slower hand stitching for this quilt.
And so I am slowly quilting, trying to do big stitches, to quilt with small stitches is so ingrained in me!! It’s actually a bit of a challenge to go bigger!!! But it is lovely just sitting and getting into a rhythm, It’s calming and mediative…. Forget the world, just focus on each stitch.
PS I have another Charm Park in my box and this one is going to be a machine pieced and machine quilted – quicker quilt to make…… more on that at sometime!!!
This is the rewritten, shortened by miles (well by Laura) Ramble!!!
I tend to write my Rambles over a week or so, I keep coming back, rewriting, adding and taking away bits and they Ramble away. The version of this one, Rambled on and on and then I asked Laura to read it, it had morphed into over 1600 words!!! Rather too long…..
So, here goes with a shorter edited version.
We are living through a weird time with lockdowns, restrictions, Brexit and general gloom and doom, time of mass information at our fingertips. We have survived and we will continue to.
Over the years I have read a few things on ‘staying positive’ and coping with life, and now lockdown. I read them, occasionally scoff at them – do these people live in the real world!!! And sometimes take just a small nugget of advice from them, I have found my own form of coping.
There seems to be a basic five things that I have taken out of all these things, exercise and nature, I am grouping this together as they sort of go hand in hand. List the positives and concentrate on them and what you can do. Limit the negative things. Follow a routine and finally be kind to yourself….
I have, for all of my adult life, found exercise, well walking which I never really considered exercise but apparently is, to be beneficial. Walking, and we are talking about a brisk walk, is a time to think and work through things. I have for years, when I have just got stuck in a problem or design, don’t know what to do, felt frustrated – gone for a walk.
We walk in all weathers, wrapped up in the right clothes and just go, we pound the roads. I do miss going out into the countryside and walking but we live in suburbia and so it’s the roads. One day we will go back to the countryside. In winter I have always tried to get out in the day, at least a few days over the week for a walk, to see the daylight, especially on the bright chilly days – it’s good for vitamin D, but it is also good for lifting the spirts.
Nature is part of walking, for looking at all the things that are growing, even the weeds along the pavements. The local park, or the odd hidden green spaces, like the church yard have become even more important over this year. There are trees and nature, you can just escape from the world of houses, pavements and cars!!! For me, my garden is also my green space, to watch things grow (and occasionally die!!), to battle the snails… find peace and space.
List the positives, I don’t physically write down the positives in a journal, I just make a point of mentally looking for the positives, through the day. Take today, a cold very wet grey day, which doesn’t appear to have any positives, after all I am going to get a bit damp when I go for my walk!!! But the positives are I am in the warm, my family are home, safe and well and I have lots of creative projects to work on plus the rain is making pretty patterns on the window!!!
The phrase ‘stop and smell the roses’ is something I keep in mind. I just stop and find something, even something small like a snowdrop or hellebore flower, a beautiful frosted spider’s web, a pretty pattern on the shell of those snails eating through my plants, a lovely square of good quality chocolate to saviour, the pattern in the clouds, to feel, see, taste, each small positive can make a difference.
Part of staying positive is limiting the time spent on the negatives, be that social media, the news, all the things that are showing the doom and gloom and that can make you feel sad, stressed and anxious. It can be also limiting the time spent interacting with people, family and friends that create anxiety or negativity.
Routine, I like my routine and having set time to do things. It certainly helps me to get up in the morning. I could, especially in the winter just curl up and do nothing, sink into a hibernation but with my routine I get through each day. Building an activity into my routine – like doing an hour’s cross stitch or 15 minutes crochet means I actually make the time to do these things, without the routine I would put things off and just wallow. I often hear ‘you get sooo much done’ said to me, it is because I have a routine, getting things done or made gives me a sense of achievement, an uplift of spirit, a sense of purpose. I have learnt not to set too many tasks, to try to be realistic about the amount I can do or to beat myself up if I don’t get everything done in a day, week or month, that just creates negativity!!! But I am not a slave to my routine, I can take a ‘holiday’, it can just be a day to do something different.
Be kind to yourself – this last one has been something that I have taken years to understand and learn to do. I am, probably the harshest judge on myself, be it my weight, fitness, what I have done each day or my creative work.
I was especially hard on my creative work, I would pick out all the faults in my quilts, the small mistakes that no one would see, I would compare what I do to other creators. Tony would make me stand six foot away and say can you see the faults? But it didn’t sink in till about ten years ago, I read an article by a top flight creator/teacher that said she had learnt to accept the faults and also to teach her pupils to stand away and look at their work from a distance, if you can’t see the slight wobble or points not matching and nor can your friends (without you pointing them out), accept them, look at the quilt as a whole, take pleasure in the beauty you have created. It is also learning and accepting your strengths and building a style of creative work that is your own.
Being kind to yourself is accepting who and what you are, not judging yourself against other people and their views, we are all different. Being kind is saying today isn’t a good day, I feel sad or anxious, acknowledging it, saying to those around you that you need space and doing something for yourself, even if that is just having ten minutes to sit in a quiet place and just breathe, doing something that is for you and good for your spirit and soul.
I am an individual, different from other people and I am content to be me, I know my strengths and weaknesses and what I need to do to cope with the world, I have learnt to ask for help, and accept what I can and can’t do. The world is scary, confusing, stressful and worrying, I take one day at a time….
Wishing you a healthy and creative 2021!
2020 was a different year and for many a very difficult year, so many things happening, situations constantly changing, in a way it felt like the year ‘didn’t happen’.
For me, the year was a time to draw into my home, relax, unwind, revaluate what I have been doing and where I want to be going, both personally and also on the creative front. It allowed me to find my creative feet and my passion for designing, to rediscover skills I had forgotten and start new things. I hadn’t realised how much I needed to stop and take the step away from patchwork and quilting, to re-find my enjoyment of designing and making quilts.
I have made a few decisions about what I want to do to re-balance my creativity. I am a patchwork quilter, and this is what I teach, but I also need to have time to do other creative projects, one thing feeds of another and more ideas and designs spin around my mind!!!
I had been struggling with my teaching and quilts, it had been taking a huge amount of my time, I didn’t know where I was going or what I should be teaching, I was trying to please everyone. I have had time to think and work out what I really love and really enjoy with quilts and from this I have decided that I will stick to teaching those areas. Laura and I took part in an Instagram prompt posting over a week and one of the prompts was ‘Top Tip’, there was loads of things we could have said, from measure twice, cut once, buy the best you can afford in equipment but the thing we went with was ‘Love what you do’. and this sums up how I feel about not just my teaching but all my creativity. By loving what I do, I have far greater enjoyment in making it and I give more to the project and I am better at it.
I guess you could say my style of quilts are based on the traditional quilts and textiles, either pieced or applique but I tend to blend/mix both styles but using modern methods of making. I love using different techniques, machine applique, hand embroidery, piecing, hand and machine quilting, all mixed together. I enjoy creating by the quilting-as-you-go method, in sections and easy to handle pieces, that you can make into other bits like cushions, runners or bags or you can substitute other designs to change the look or use. And with machine quilting, although I can do free-motion I far prefer and enjoy walking foot quilting.
So, going forward into the new calendar year 2021, I am going to stick to these types of quilts, be they big or small. I am going to embrace and work on the styles I like best and not try to please everybody I teach. I hope that all those coming to my classes, when we eventually return to the classroom will, enjoy creating quilts of this style.
I am going to balance my time, so that I have days to work on my Quilted Postcards and projects related to them, and there are two that I am working on!! more on them later in the year.
I also am going to set time to design more embroidery projects with Laura, to stitch up and sell the patterns. And also, to create Laura some skirts in the style of those from the late-Victorian/Edwardian walking skirt and also the 1930’s and 40’s. We have a whole pattern library of books that I inherited from my Grandmother to adjust and work from and as Laura can’t find what she wants, and I can make them (if I make the time!!) then that is another project for us.
I also want to complete other craft projects and try new things…. there is a whole world of things creatively I haven’t even touched yet!!!
Time to put into action all those classes and courses at college and work that I did on, efficiency and time and motion, to allow me to allocate my time to all I want to do in the right way and keep the balance between all the elements of my creative life……