Welcome to my ramblings. I intend to update it just to tell you what is happening craftwise in my life.
Love & Hate
Autumn is with us and I have a love/hate relationship with it. When it is bright and sunny the light is lovely, there can be a lovely soft haze to the early morning, with droplets of water making things look interesting, especially spiders’ webs, they look absolutely magical. Spiders webs can be creepy, especially if they have a big fat spider in the middle! Daddy long legs are totally creepy – think it’s the legs and wings together!!! But spiders webs are an amazing work of art, the construction and shape and with droplets of water or frost they are really beautiful.
The misty mornings give way to warm sunny days and the colours of the trees are changing from the deep green of summer to the yellows, oranges, rusts and reds of autumn. As long as it is dry the leaves make a lovely carpet of colour across the pavements. But if wet they just make a mushy, slippery brown mess that I really hate and are treacherous.
Living in suburbia I don’t get to see the large drifts of autumn colours, I have to make do with the small areas of autumn colour in my garden, from the hostas and ferns, and from the trees over the local park. Also, we are lucky in this time of social media that we can enjoy the full colours and beauty of autumn through photos that are posted – The National Trust post some stunning photos!
But if the days are rainy and grey then they are just totally miserable and horrible!!!
With autumn comes the feel of being able to create cosy feel in our home, with quilts and throws and candles (both real and electric!!), the mantel shelf display goes all deep colours and leaves, mugs of hot chocolate piled with cream and mini marshmallows, of cuddling our mugs of teas and coffee to warm our hands (well, Laura and I do this!). We can go into our warm cosy clothes and our big boots – ahhh! Its so lovely to go back to wearing my sheepskin boots (from Celtic & co). To be able to wrap scarves and feel hugged!!
But on the other hand, I have to turn the lights on earlier and earlier and I know that the winter is rushing towards me. The shorter, dark days start to affect me, I want to curl up, hibernate like my tortoises. Yes, I probably do suffer from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.
So, yes, I love autumn in some ways, but in others I hate it.
These rambles can go off in any direction, but that is just how my mind works!!!
Laura and I were talking about Silk roads and how trade, even in medieval times from the East has played such a role in everything from textiles and patterns to food.
I do find it incredibly fascinating how things that we tend to think of as British – the paisley shawl, aren’t! These amazing woven shawls were made not only in the Scottish town of Paisley, hence the name, but Norwich was also famous for them. They were only really fashionable for about seventy years in the early part of the 19th Century, with the fashion for crinolines the shawls were over five-foot square.
The shawls they copied originated in Kashmir, but the paisley tear drop design goes back further from India to Persia. As do so many patterns that we see and use. The Kashmir shawls were hugely expensive, Paisley and Norwich with the introduction of the Jacquard looms were able to make cheaper versions in wool, silk and cotton, the patterns could be woven all over in many colours.
Machinery, like the Jacquard looms changed lives, not just the huge ways of working (in factories) and living (towns and cities and the horrors of the slums) but how patterns were used in cloth, the mass market was introduced.
The industrial revolution and (as Laura calls it) social history is an area that I find interesting, steam engines, mills and looms, whether that is Arkwright’s cotton weaving looms or the big carpet weaving looms – they are fascinating, the designs and also the cleverness of the mechanics. I am hugely thankful that I don’t live in those times, or have to work in the horrendous conditions, the noise and dust, but they still fascinate me and how they changed our world.
Years ago, before Laura was born (& she is 21!!), Tony and I had a holiday in the south west, on a drizzly damp day we booked ourselves on a tour of the local carpet factory, to learn about carpet making history and they reproduced replica carpets for historic places using the old methods. I guess we weren’t the usual type that they got on the tours – and for that tour we were the only people booked on it. The lady running the tour started with the usual dumbed down version, but quickly realised that we were really interested, from the designing and archives, sourcing of the yarns, to how the jacquard looms run with the punched card system, and the final finishing. We were shown things not usually on the tour, talked to the workers and over ran the tour time….. but we really enjoyed it and learnt so much.
Many, many times, visiting places we have found people prejudge us, we don’t look like the typical visitor (we used to get it loads at NT places!!!), so please don’t judge a book by its cover!! I love history, design and textiles, how they are made and the machinery that powered the nation and trade and Laura is a total history nerd (as long as it is pre 1600!!!) but Tony is technical, he looks at things as an engineer – how it works and he has an incredible eye for things – which he captures in his photos….
Back to looms, simple basic rigid heddle looms. I weave as a hobby, it is something I do because I enjoy it, I love the idea that this craft goes back forever. From, in my case, commercially produced yarn and the simplest type of loom and plain weave I can create a piece of fabric – a scarf/wrap/throw or a piece to make up (with cotton fabric) into a bag. For me, the weaving that I do, isn’t about fancy stitches or creating the fancy designs that they produced on the jacquard looms – but a simple, mediative back and forth, using the colours to create a pleasing harmony, sometimes the inspiration are the yarns, other times its landscapes.
Sometimes simple is better…. Be that in my weaving or in my quilts.
PS, I love the word warp – you warp up the loom, in Star Trek the Enterprise had warp speed …… (sorry!!! it makes me smile)
I follow a lot of different creators and makers - yarn and fabric manufactures, quilters, knitters, crocheters, embroiders, artists and also museums, gardens and the National Trust.
And there is often themes that keep appearing, over this weird year there has been a lot about the need for gardens, growing things and green spaces and craft, being able to create, for mental health and general wellbeing.
Another theme in the knitters world is socks!!! I am constantly seeing socks, apparently they are a great portable knitting project – so there are pictures of socks being knitted outside and at the seaside, also there is numerous absolutely beautiful sock yarns. Socks seem to be a thing of love and gifting, people gift socks as an act of love!!!
Years ago, when I was a haby and yarn buyer, we didn’t have sock yarn, people didn’t knit socks, then suddenly Coats Craft UK, introduced Regia sock yarn and a range of clear welly boots! Regia was hugely big on the continent, knitting colourful socks was big in Europe. I brought in the starter range in a few colours and also a pair of clear wellies (in Laura’s next size!!) and asked my Mum-in-law to knit up a pair in the rainbow version of the yarn. The wellies and the socks went on display to promote the pattern and yarn and then eventually Laura had the wellies and socks – they were really pretty. But they never really took off as a thing.
Mum-in-law also knitted a few pairs of welly socks for Laura and I, my big problem is no matter what socks I wear in wellies, they are never warm enough in the winter and also they ‘walk’ off, when I finally manage to pull the wellies off there are huge long floppy ends to the socks. This has been all solved when Tony bought me a lovely new pair of blue with stars on wellies from Joules and lovely fleece boot liners – warm feet and they don’t move!!!
Come forward about fifteen years and socks – hand knitted ones seem to be a huge thing… I think there are some lovely patterns and beautiful yarns but socks don’t do anything for me, socks aren’t love or a gift I want to make!!!
Possibly it’s because I really don’t like feet, I would really prefer people to cover their feet!!! I have really, really wide feet (and narrow skinny ankles!!!) and so I have real problems getting shoes or boots, and I absolutely hate my feet being touched!!! So, no, socks aren’t my thing, even if they are pretty and meant to keep your feet nice and warm and cosy, I will stick to my sheepskin house boots and clogs from Celtic & Co, heaven!!! They are so warm and comfortable – I suffer with hugely cold feet and since Tony bought me these my feet are toastie and warm. And both Laura and I have bedsocks…
For me, love is a scarf, it is a sort of hug!! I have loads of scarves, thin ones, thick ones, pashminas, wraps - shop bought, crocheted, knitted and woven! A crocheted or knitted scarf is a very portable project, it can be created in hugely different range of yarns. I have yet to work out a scarf I really like in patchwork and quilting but I am sure one day I will manage it!!!
To Make Or Not To Make?
Over the last week or so I have seen a number of various articles and bits on my feeds about ‘who to make things for?’ and also about Christmas present makes. For those that create, be it in fabric or yarn, you have already, probably, started on making things.
I really start on my present making in October, September is the planning month. I don’t actually make presents for many people. Making anything is a big investment of time, love, energy and of course money.
Over the years I have learnt to say No! It is really hard to learn to say no, it isn’t something that comes naturally, but for my own sanity I have learnt to.
No, to people who ask me to make them things, these are the people that think that it is easy for me to ‘knock up a quilt’, I will pay you – yes they will pay me, but not the amount that a quilt would really cost in fabric and time. If I explained that a single bed quilt can cost over a £100 in fabric, wadding and don’t forget the thread and then add my time to create it – that I would charge depending on the design between £300 and £500 they wouldn’t believe me or want to pay me that much. Those people, I don’t even explain to, I just say No, I don’t take orders.
Then there are those friends and family that I have made things for or would like me to make them something but I know that they wouldn’t appreciate it properly or just have never had the curtesy to say thank you. I am not wanting the full hand written thank you note, as was expected of me when I was a younger, we don’t live in that world anymore, but a text message just to say thank you, we got the gift, would be nice.
So, when I am thinking about present making, I have a few questions I ask myself.
- Have I got time?
- Will they like/use the gift?
- Do they understand the time that goes into making a gift? – I don’t want to make a cushion for someone only to have their muddy dog sit on it – unless I have made it for their muddy dog to sit on it…
- Do I want to invest my energy and love into creating a gift for this person?
If the answer is yes, I do have the time, yes, they will like and use the gift and yes, they will appreciate and understand the time that goes into making the gift then I will make it.
The last question is often the hardest to answer, a lot of what I create for gifts has mental energy and love created into it, it’s a very personal thing. If I am going to create a scarf/wrap, be it crochet, knitted or woven, or a quilt, then I think about the person, certain colours, themes match to certain people. I will go hunting for the right pattern, fabric or yarns that match the mental image, then I will create the scarf/wrap/quilt. For me scarves/ wraps/throws and quilts are about love, hugs of love, they wrap around you, keep you warm, you can snuggle into them.
So, the answer to To Make or Not to Make? It is only for a very few, sometimes it may be something smaller – like a mug rug, sometimes it may be a bigger present like a quilt, often it is a Quilted Postcard or a scarf, but lots of thought goes into each gift.
If you do follow me on Facebook, you might have noticed that books play a big part in our life, not just me but Laura (and Tony with his editing). This month’s mantel shelf display is book based, a celebration of something that we love.
Books are everywhere, especially in Laura’s bedroom (nicknamed the library!!!), her bookshelves are full of her history books in chronological order, but bookshelves aren’t complete without other bits and pieces, hoopart, bowl fillers, ornaments, Harry Potter wands. The rest of her books are in boxes and more boxes, in front of the bookshelves. Then on the landing are the fashion and history of fabric books, and a few art ones. The shelves above my sewing machine in the workroom are stuffed full of craft books, art, cross stitch, knitting, crochet, patchwork and quilting, double layered and crammed with lots of other bits.
In the sitting room there is a pile of books on the hearth waiting to be read or just because I don’t know where to put them! And then in the kitchen is the gardening and of course the cookery books. We really have run out of space!!
For someone that struggled to learn to read, my love of books is probably odd. At junior school I had to do the ‘walk of shame’ across the playground to the remedial reading hut, this was really a shed, next to the toilet block. The infants and junior school I went to was a Victorian school, the classrooms were round the hall and many had windows overlooking the playground, so those that had to go to the remedial reading hut were seen by over half the school, making that walk. I eventually learnt to read, but I appeared to miss out on a whole chunk of books – the only children’s classic I ever read was Heidi, a lovely hardback version with beautiful pictures.
For many years, reading and books were just something I did at school, I struggled, especially with reading out load!!! I just can’t do that…. and my handwriting and spelling are terrible – Laura goes through everything I write, editing it to make it understandable!!! It wasn’t till my late teens that books, fiction books became something that I loved and I would read whenever I could. At one point I wanted to be a librarian, but I was told I wouldn’t get the A levels to go to university and so I ended up in catering!!!!
After a few years I began working in the book department of a Department store, I loved being surrounded by books, choosing the books to be stocked, advising on books, especially the children’s books, Usborne books were brilliant. My love of books really took off, craft books especially, David & Charles published a fantastic range cross stitch and embroidery books (and books on steam trains!!!) – bear in mind this was the early 90’s and craft books were new, we didn’t have a lot of money but when I had spare then I would buy books….
When Laura was born, she was immediately introduced to books from a tiny baby. Books were just part of her life, I would read them to her. ‘Each Peach, Pear, Plum’ had to be read every lunchtime – eventually the book was covered with pureed food and all stuck together. Every afternoon I was home from work, we cuddled up and had a reading session, bedtimes Daddy had to read a Farmyard Tales book (this is where the yellow duck started!!). Books and reading were part of her speech therapy sessions. Laura has always consumed huge amount of books, she reads….. but Laura likes physical books, whereas for fiction I love my Kindle!!! Laura has had to admit defeat and have fiction on Kindle as she doesn’t have space in her bedroom for many more books and she has prioritized her history books….
But what I am saying is books are hugely important for us, design, craft, art, gardening, cookery and historical fashion books, they are source of information and inspiration. If I want to draw a tulip I will go and look at my gardening books and the Tulip book, we will pick them up time and again and look at them, flip through looking at things.
One of my long held dreams was to publish a book, which as a family we have done, self-publishing means that we have created the book I really wanted, from the photos, layout to the amount of details in the instructions. I still pick ‘the book’ off the shelf and look at it and think did we really do this……
Threads In Time
If anyone asks me then I will always say I create patchwork quilts, but I also do or have done a lot of other crafts: cross stitch and embroidery, knitting and crochet, basic weaving and I have tried lace making and tatting. The common thread with all the things I do is that women have been creating beautiful and necessary items for their families or to make a living for centuries. I feel the threads connecting me back to all the generations.
I guess you could say I am a traditionalist! I want to keep the old methods, designs and ideas alive and make them part of the conversation of crafts of today, I’m not saying that I want to stick to the past and we shouldn’t move forward, that we should keep each craft as a museum piece, frozen in aspic – no, thank you!!!
Take patchwork and quilting, the first thing I was taught was hexagons, how to draw them (please don’t ever ask me to show you, being maths, it was just a nightmare! Thank goodness for Tony and modern technology!!!) and then how to sew them. The first thing that I teach to new starters is to make a hexagon pin cushion by the traditional English Paper pieced method. This to me is the most quintessential English patchwork there is … centuries of women have saved their precious pieces of silk and cotton and created beautiful coverlets and quilts, each tells its own story in the fabric used. When I sew hexagons I think back to those women, most not known, some like the Brontes and Jane Austen are known, but each and every women has sat and sewn and thought about their life, family, hopes and dreams while stitching. I create modern hexagon quilts, the hexagons are hand sewn, but in a modern fabrics and arrangements and I combine the traditional with modern.
With so many traditional pieced patchwork designs there is a history behind the block, the names give clues – think about the Log cabin block – it represents hearth and home, safety for those creating new lives in harsh places and we think of it as an American design, add in the way those blocks are put together and you have further names – barn raising, sunshine and shadows … But the history of this design dates back centuries before the American quilts right back to the Egyptians!!!
Quilting is a totally separate craft, hand quilting, not that I do it very often anymore, is almost a form of mediation, the rhythm of the stitches. Years after I started quilting, I discovered that my family came from Durham, they were miners. Durham quilters were renown for their skills, along with the Welsh, I just hope that some ancestor was one of those highly skilled Durham quilters. I mostly machine quilt with my walking foot but I still create in the vein of these talented ladies.
I am fascinated with the history, backstory and the visual meanings of all the crafts that I do. From where the designs originated, Blackwork embroidery came to England with Catherine of Aragon, but the designs have their roots in the Moorish rulers of Spain, following the thread back to Middle East and Indian subcontinent. The same thing with the traditional crewelwork (Jacobean embroidery) but I will take these ideas and designs and work them in a modern way or a quilt design, hopefully capturing the meaning.
With every craft there is a backstory to read and understand and to feel the links with the past and all the women that did them, from weaving, think the Scottish plaid and modern Harris Tweed, to knitting – Guernsey and Shetland knitters, to lace makers and patchwork, quilters and embroiders. We walk in their footsteps and carry on down the path of these crafts, adding to the layers of history…
By this I mean – neutrals and creams, white, blacks and greys.
I know, these aren’t on the colour wheel and they aren’t colours according to some but to me they are colours.
I guess neutrals and creams are the same range – think natural calico. I absolutely love natural calico (or USA muslin) this isn’t the tough hardwearing fabric of school craft aprons, I am talking about the beautifully soft and evenly woven natural fabric that the more it is used and washed, the softer and more strokeable it becomes. By many, it is considered a utility fabric and some people are sniffy about using it in quilts, thinking it can only be used in bags and aprons, or as a toile for dressmaking. I buy a good quality (fine) calico, both unbleached (natural) or bleached (white), I use it for the backs of almost all my quilts and sometimes for my utility quilts* I use it on the fronts. I so like the colour that much of our house is painted in natural calico!!! It’s an ideal backdrop colour to all the other colours that we add into our home.
White – crisp & clean – white printer paper, woodwork or clean white line dried bedlinen! I use a lot of white fabric, bleached calico for the backs of quilts and the back of Quilted postcards, and then white on white fabrics for the background of a lot of my quilts. The white on white fabric like Makower Essential or Kingfisher fabric – Get back! are the ones that I prefer and use for background fabrics – I find plain white a little harsh, almost too white and plain!!! Whereas the white patterns on white background fabric are softer. They also come in cream on cream, white on cream and a few other colours. As I have said before I like self-coloured patterned fabrics more than plains – I do still use plains but if I can, I will use the blenders.
Blacks and greys – the little black dress, the essential wardrobe colour staple!!! Are seven black cardigans too many??? Grey the colour of a wet English winters day. I guess for many black should be kept away from patchwork as its dark and depressing but for me, it’s a colour that I find incredibly useful, it’s a shade that goes with every other colour, it can be used to make black and white quilts and if you just add a hint of another colour it changes, it can calm a quilt down or pull it all together – like with a bright batik quilt. I prefer a blender black – like Lewis and Irene Bumbleberries or Makower Spraytime, Linen texture or dimples.
As for greys, I guess I only started to use them a few years ago, when suddenly greys exploded onto the market, it was the replacement for the ivory cream range of colours – go and look at a paint chart to see just how many shades of greys and off whites there are, not just the ones of the shelf but all those that can be mixed! Never mind 50 shades of Grey try nearer 150!!! I actually find it quiet hard to find shades of greys that blend and match together, its ok if you only want one or to but anymore and there are so many shades of greys – pink based ones, or blue based or green based. Actually its similar with blacks, depends on the manufacture which shade of black there are and they really are very different, I always over buy when I am buying black fabric for a project because even with the same manufacturer batches can be different.
Just rambling along looking at colours, a few things have come out, I like all colours (maybe not orange so much!!!), I use them all but rarely as one shade, for me colours are about lots of colours and shades all working together to create a harmony and each working together to create a whole, be that in a quilt or quilted postcard or around our house. I don’t think you should think in terms of one colour and one shade – well I can’t I work in technical colour!!! Think a wild flower meadow or a bed of dahlias, all the hues and shades, the rainbow, just look at nature……
*By utility quilts, I mean the quilts that I make from scraps and off cuts and are to be used anywhere, that will be washed and washed and washed till they are faded, thin and well worn. They are for use in the garden, on days out, on the floor or chairs for young children, dogs or cats to cuddle in. They are quilts that I don’t worry about getting dirty or having repeated washings!!!
Green, Blue & Purple
These are my favourite colours and are the ones that I associated with Tony, Laura and I! I don’t know why I associate the colours with us, I have thought about it, whether it is instinctive or to do with our birthdays/star signs and the colours and stones that are linked to them – I don’t know!!
Tony was born in early September, a Virgo and his stone is Sapphire – blue (yes, I do know that sapphires can be pink and other colours but when you say sapphire most people will think of blue) – from the softest pale blue through to the deep dark blue/black. A lot of his t-shirts are blue and it brings out the blue in his eyes!!!
Laura is born towards the end of August, she is a Leo, but on the cusp so she tips into Virgo. Her birth stone is peridot – pale yellow/green. She likes pale green colours but wears dark blues or blacks. I am currently crocheting a blanket/throw in blues and greens for Laura and I tend to weave her scarves/wraps and bags in the blue and green colours!
My birthday is in February and so I am an Aquarius, making my birth stone an amethyst – purple!!!
I don’t read or take much notice of horoscopes, I don’t really see how all of that works, as we are shaped by our genes and experiences in life. But they say that the traits of a Virgo are practical, observant, logical, perfectionist and organised and I will say that I see those traits in Tony, he has the eye for the detail, and it has to be correct. He was a perfectionist with the book and also with this website.
I am the opposite in many ways and the traits for Aquarius are artistic, off beat, nonconformist, original (think this means eccentric!!!) and independent!!!
Back to colours, even though I really like these three colours, looking round our house, I don’t actually use them all that much, not on their own. I use all three colours in with others.
Blues – I immediately think of sky. I have a lot of blue fabric from pale through to midnight, a whole drawer that is stuffed and overflowing!! I have made a star cot quilt in pale blue and two matching bed quilts for twins – blue stars for the boy twin and the pink stars for the girl twin. There is a flower (I do seem to use flowers a lot in my quilts and embroideries) quilt in pale spotty blue over the bannisters but overall there isn’t much blue in the house, except in clothes, I have a lot of blue scarves!!!
Green, is foliage and trees!! I have a lot of green fabrics, especially for the creating landscapes – Quilted postcards, Journal quilts and also wall hangings, I keep all of those in a separate bag with the sky blues, stone and path colours, it just makes it easier than going through lots of drawers to find the fabrics that I need and also have a lot of them!!! The green drawer is already over flowing!!! I am always looking out for greens, especially small self-coloured prints and blenders, when doing landscape work you can never have enough greens, be that in fabric, crayons or stranded embroidery thread or even sewing thread ….. I use greens a lot in quilts for leaves and also joining strips, it’s a colour that goes with so many other fabrics.
Purple, amethyst!!! And I do have pieces of it!!! Time and time again purples, fuchsia and red-violet, all pop up in my quilts – from the Floral quilt inspired by the Rose of Sharon design, through to Laura’s hexagon quilt (which only took me 18 years to make!!!) through to my scrap quilts. I don’t have a huge amount of purple fabrics, I used to have a lot more but as I have used them and gone to buy some more, there just, at the moment doesn’t seem to be the shades of purples that I want and like.
Purple does pop up around the house, in our bedroom, with the head board, boxes on top of the wardrobe and in the curtains and small accessories – vases, fabric box, wooden tulips… the other room that has touches of purple is the kitchen, the brita filter, my mugs and the candles in the silver candelabra, empty gin bottle with lights in! Our china is purple/blue….
Then a lot of my bits are purple, phone cover, Kindle cover - both its case and the protective fabric case, my purse and numerous scarves and also a couple of handbags!!! I also have a fair bit of purple yarn!!!
For me, greens, blues and purples are calming, soothing colours, I think of trees, grass, skies, water and heather, forget-me-nots, tulips, campanula - nature, wild or gardens.
Red, Orange & Yellow
After my last ‘Ramblings’ I got to thinking, I fell down a few rabbit holes, or would it be better to say I rambled off down a few lanes – I love walking and so don’t mind, my main problem is I have no sense of direction and it is rather apt that I just mentally ramble where ever it takes me!!! bit like going for a walk and getting us lost – thank goodness Tony has a brilliant sense of direction!!!
Well, I got thinking about colours, and how I feel and think about them more…
When I think of red as a colour, I think of Pillar box red or red roses – which I find totally creepy!!! Red roses remind me of blood and death, certainly not romance….. which in ancient times red did represent blood and fire!
With orange I think of the fruit!!! And with yellow, I guess I would say yellow ducks or dandelions!!! Or even egg yolk!
I would instinctively say I don’t use red or orange and I only use a very pale yellow but….
When you look at the colour wheel and shade cards - red covers red, orange-red, blue-red and magenta, then red slides into orange from the orange-red, through orange, yellow-orange, orange-yellow, golden yellow into yellow. And when I look at the colour cards and think of all I create and the stuff we have round the house, I realise that yes!!! I do use reds, oranges and yellows.
Starting with reds, I don’t often use a pure shade of red, although in the sitting room we have a Lego London bus and a VW camper van in red!! And we have touches of red around the house, in mugs and wooden tulips! I tend to go to the darker shades of red, the garnet, berry, wine, claret and burgundy (why are so many colour names based on food and drink?) Over the years I have used the darker shades for Christmas quilts, but the last one I made in the Makower Scandi fabrics was in a brighter shade, I just like the Scandi colours (neutral, grey and red) and the patterns. I tend to use reds when they are part of a fabric range – like the Scandi or the Tilda one used to make a hexagon quilt, again it was mixed with grey…
Magenta is the red colour that I use the most – I forget it’s listed in the red range, to me magenta and the pink shades are completely different colour!!! I use this range of shades a lot, from pale pink through to the bright shades, in quilts as flowers and for the joining strips. I also use a pink pen to tick when I have completed a task on my planner – not a red!!!
Pastel pinks, with pale yellows, greens, blues and lilac are colours I have used time and time again, for baby quilts through to adults, the soft shades all work together and sometimes I will create a quilt with stronger shades of magenta, yellow and orange – like Laura’s Owls or the daisy quilt – inspired by Gerbera daisies.
Looking round our home, yellow seems to be mostly the centres of flowers on quilts or yellow ducks!!! In the bathrooms, on Quilted postcards and just the odd one dotted here and there!!!
When I look at my fabric stash, the reds, oranges and yellows only fill one drawer, I don’t have a huge amount of them but the thing I have noticed is that I have moved away from plains over the years and I prefer blenders and small self-coloured pattern fabrics.
The thing that goes hand in hand with creativity for me is Colour!
Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain
Or Ruby, Amber, Saffron, Fern, Sky, Izzy and Heather! (this is Laura’s version remembered from the Rainbow Magic series of books!!!)
Colour is something that is all round us, we all react to different colours in different ways and have our favourites and colours that we instinctively don’t like. Around the world and in different cultures colours have different meanings.
Colours speak to me – I love looking at a tin of coloured pencils, from lemon cadmium through Imperial purple, Grass green, Copper beech to Chinese white! The names given to colours provoke the shades and feelings.
A DMC stranded embroidery cotton shade chart is beautiful – so many shades…..
It was one of the things I loved about running a haberdashery and wool department the colours – ribbons, sewing thread, embroidery cottons and all the yarns, even the buttons and zips! Soo many and soo much colour and I was surrounded by it!
I think my love of colour has grown as I have got older, I have got more confident and I use more colours in my creativity. I still have colours that I instinctively go to – blackberry, violet, lavender, amethyst, damson, cranberry and heather and then add in white, silver grey and black and that’s my favourite quilt colours! (For clothes black!!!) But in the last few years the colours that I have around me has changed – at the moment on our bed is a quilt made from a Hoffman Bali pop and does it ‘pop’ with colour – fuchsia, oranges, lime green and purple, it is teamed with cushions in similar colours and then thrown over the headboard is a reindeer hide, that we brought back from a trip to the Norwegian Fjords!!! But in a few weeks I may change it for the heart hexagon quilt in shades of grey, the quilts and cushions change with my mood – that’s why most of the walls are painted a plain ‘natural calico’ colour, the colour is in the accessories, from quilts to cushions, ornaments to Le Creuset mugs on the shelf in the kitchen.
Our home is not co-ordinated, it has grown organically into a hodge podge of colours and things, that we like and want to display, from stitched pictures of mine and Laura’s to Tony’s photographs, it’s not sleek or minimal but it is us! The cost of the item isn’t the important thing it’s the look and the feeling that we get from it, on top of the fridge is a framed stitchery done by Laura of teacups, displayed with it are empty Whitley Neil gin bottles with strings of lights inside in the same jewel tones as are in the stitchery.
The colours are what draws us in and in recent years our house has got a lot more colourful!!
When I am teaching, I will often ask new starters, ‘without thinking tell me your favourite colour and then the one you least like’, the answers are fascinating. When a number of the class are working on the same project, the colours that each person choices are so different and they make the design look so different – I like to see them all lined up and they spark lots of conversations about colour and sometimes make people think about moving away from their ‘safe’ colours. Colours are a personal choice and a creative choice, they can change the look and feel of a quilt.
We all see colours in different ways and react to them differently, take a moment to look at a flower or a leaf and see just how many colours and shades make it up.
Laura follows a number of different people on Youtube, either historic costumers or book nerds!!! One of those that she follows is Cathy Hay - she is creating a copy of the Peacock Dress that is at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire (National Trust). This stunning but sadly faded and tarnished dress was made by the House of Worth in 1902 for Lady Mary Curzon. But one of the videos she has done is about creativity, ‘But what if you not creative?’.
This led Laura and I onto a big conversation about creativity and different types of creativity, not the first time we have talked about this!!!
I often hear in my class, I’m not creative like you.
No, you might not be creative like me, but then I think we are all creative in our own way, everybody is creative, just in different ways. I do feel that our society doesn’t understand/value creativity, and creativity covers so many areas, not just the sewing that Laura and I do, but music, art, baking, gardening, website design…….
Cathy Hay feels that there are two types of creative people convergent and divergent. Convergent is a logic form of creativity, those that look at a project and want to make it, copy it. Divergent use more imagination and start with one idea and just explode into others.
It’s an interesting way of looking at creativity. If you take Laura and I, then Laura is a convergent creativity – she is logical, mathematical, follows a pattern and single idea – she loves cross stitch and blackwork, both set patterns and forms of working, but then she also loves Crewelwork and that isn’t logical and mathematical! For Laura crewelwork is as much about the historical ideas behind the work, the patterns and designs that have passed down from Tudor times. She will be the first to admit that she doesn’t do random, when she had to embroider seed stitch on a flower – randomly – it didn’t come naturally to her.
But I have found this time and again with teaching some people and I usually find that they are very logical and mathematical – maths teachers, bookkeepers and accountants, can’t DO random, they like and work better to an ordered design, they will usually prefer pieced patchwork designs – like nine patch designs.
I am on the other hand a divergent creative – I start with one thing and just go off in other directions!!! I am not logical and certainly not mathematical, I am not good with following a pattern, especially a written one. I make my own ideas and don’t do rules… sometimes it is really hard to keep focussed on one thing, the thing that I should be working on!!!
I do wonder how much of my creativity is instinctive and how much is learnt?
For instance, if you ask a child to draw a tree in a field, most will have a green field, with a tree with a brown truck and green top and the sky will be blue, one shade of colour for each piece. Once in a while you will get that ‘gifted’ child that will draw the tree with more colours and details.
If you said to me to draw that tree in a field I will use a bucket full of colours – different greens, with fawns, yellows, blues and reds for the field, the tree trunk and branches will be greens, browns, greys and the leaves will be fifty shades of green, well maybe six or so and then finally the sky will different shades of blues.
When I am out on a walk I ‘see’ all the colours and the shapes – that is just how I see the world, in shapes, patterns and colours, but I don’t know if that is instinctive or something that I have learnt over the years. Talking to Laura about it, she doesn’t – she has to look and then work out the colours and shapes – it’s not instinctive but in twenty years time, if she designs and creates more of her own embroidery works will she instinctively learn to just see all the shapes, patterns and colours?
As I have said I often hear in my classes someone says ‘I am not creative’, yes you are!!! You have chosen your fabrics and colours, you might be following a pattern I have written up, but you are choosing which pieces of fabric to put where and the layout, often you will ask, ‘can I just change this?’ – yes it’s your work, your creativity, I don’t mind and I like to see what you create.
Even with knitting or crochet, following a pattern, making something, you are being creative, you are making it in the colour and yarn you like and want. And all handmade things will be different, each of us works in a different way and creates something personal to us.
Whatever you create, we are all creative!!
Shapes and colours that caught my eye when we were out for a walk!
We should have been on a Mediterranean cruise for the last two weeks, a complete break from work, but I am totally hopeless at doing nothing and relaxing! So, I always take something to make with me, for the last couple of years it has been a crochet project, as I have found I can do this anywhere and I don’t need to wear my reading glasses to do it (meaning I can sit on our balcony with sunglasses on and enjoy the sun!!!).
As the cruise has been cancelled for months, Tony cancelled most of his holiday and he has only had this week off, to relax, not that we have been able to sit out in the garden as it has been raining. I decided to take a week off from most of my creative sewing projects, I haven’t touched any quilts!! I have done a little cross stitch and crochet. My aim was to finish building the tree house that Tony gave me, months and months ago.
Tony’s big relaxing thing is building Lego models, now Lego is no longer the simple square and rectangle bricks of our childhood, these are complicated! We have Star Wars stuff, Apollo rocket and lots of vehicles – including a VW camper van and a London Bus. Tony has also got Laura into building bits, usually Harry Potter based and for over a year I had Hogwarts Castle on our kitchen table!!!! Since she doesn’t use her desk that has moved upstairs onto it. Now I have a roller coaster instead!!! As you do…
Tony knows of my love of trees and he decided to buy me the Tree House kit, I started it at the beginning of the year, but only got a bit of the trunk done, Tony and Laura make it look so easy to build this modern Lego but I really have to concentrate!!! It’s a bit like a 3D jigsaw puzzle and I am hopeless at jigsaws, I think my shape and spatial abilities are lacking!!! I am certainly not logical or mathematical like Tony and Laura, but each to their own. I decided that as this was our holiday I would spend this week building and finishing my tree house…..
And after a lot of ‘help I can’t find this piece I need’ and ‘I don’t understand where I am meant to put this piece’ and Laura coming to ‘help’ her poor Mamma, its finished!!!!
I have enjoyed doing it but I am also really pleased I have finished it, its amazing what can be created in little bits of interlocking plastic bricks and other shapes.
And now it’s time to get back to creating things in fabric, yarn and thread……..as Christmas isn’t that far away….
Down The Rabbit Hole
In this house we use the saying Down the Rabbit hole an awful lot, from Alice in Wonderland, going down the rabbit hole after the white rabbit and falling into a weird and odd world, full of twists and turns and you never are quiet sure where you will arrive.
Each of us in our own way fall down the rabbit hole. Tony falls down them all the time with work – he is working on a procedure or task and this leads him off down another and another, finding more anomalies and problems…..
Laura falls down history rabbit holes, she comes across a name, usually after reading something to do with medieval history and from there she traces and follows their lives, families – the more complicated the family tree the more fun Laura has.
Me, I fall down design/idea ones!!!
Sometimes these rabbit holes just end up with me surfing the web and looking at photos/pictures and loosing time, time I should be doing something else!!!
On other occasions I end up down holes discovering new and interesting things – like Anna Marie Garthwaite, a designer for silk weavers or Marianne North, a fantastic Victorian painter whose work is displayed at Kew Gardens, the book on her work is on my wish list!!!
And then sometimes the rabbit holes end up with me creating drawings and then designs and this is the case with the ‘Library Window Seat’ journal quilt that I have created.
Up to now the journal quilts that I have created have always been landscape based, design ideas from Quilted Postcards ideas, that need a bit more space. They are machine appliqued and then further embellished with hand embroidered plants and flowers.
The ‘Library Window Seat’ is different, it is from Laura and I talking about books and ideal reading places, visits to Stately homes and their libraries and window seats and the rabbit holes of reading quotes!!! All jumbled around and out came this design….
There are a couple of other ideas running around my brain that need further thought and research ….. I wonder where these rabbit holes will lead me……
Quilt As You Go
I have finished another quilt - The Rose of Sharon quilt in blacks and greys. Like many of the quilts, it started out as a demonstration piece for my classes, how to hand applique and also showing the embroidery on the design. And like so many started pieces it got put away in a project bag to be finished whenever….
And the whenever was this month. I completed the final squares for the centre. Hand appliqueing the black was hard on the eyes, I had to have my stronger reading glasses and good natural light, so a job for during the day. In fact, the black fabrics used for the applique and the joining strips aren’t plain blacks, these I found are too solid black! I have used blender ones – Makower Dimples and Makower Essentials mini leaf pattern in black. They no longer do this one or the darker grey version, which is a real shame.
Originally I had thought that I would applique the borders with flowers but once the centre was together I decided that I wanted to machine piece the border. I wanted a more ‘solid’ looking border to frame the centre and also I like mixing florals/applique with machine pieced designs. Like most of the quilts I design this quilt is quilt-as-you-go, made in twelve pieces and joined together.
Quilt-as-you-go has been around for years, it is a far easier method of working than making a whole top and then layering with wadding and trying to quilt as a whole on a domestic machine. There are some designs that can’t be made using quilt-as-you-go like double wedding ring but there are a lot that can. Quilt-as-you-go is my preferred method of making, not just personally but also as a teacher, for a beginner to create a square and finish it isn’t as daunting as creating a whole quilt! I can create my quilts in pieces, from the applique or piecing through to the quilting and then when the pieces are finished put them together.
I was taught a method of quilt-as-you-go over 30 years ago, (Carolyn Forster’s book Quilting-on-the-go, 2007, explains this method) it is fiddly, not something I taught to beginners because it was so easy to not get a really good finish and there was so many stages to it, it needed a lot of patience. I did teach it to the more experienced, in the Spring/Summer of 2010 I had been teaching a butterfly quilt with this method. When one of the ladies I taught returned in the Autumn of that year, she gave me a single sheet of printed instructions that her daughter in Canada had given, while over there on holiday, with a new method that they were using. She was struggling to understand it, it was just written instructions, no drawings or anything, could I show her how to do it?
I went home, read the instructions, panicked, read them again and then went hunting online, I managed to find a couple of videos, but really nothing else. I then played and worked out what the instructions meant. I then made some tweaks, that made it easier to do and that’s it I haven’t looked back since!!!!
In short, you create your quilt in pieces, be it applique or pieced, hand or machine work. You make your pieces, then you layer and quilt them. When you have made a section, you then join them together with joining strips (my videos explain how I do the joining, step by step). With the Rose of Sharon quilt, I made the centre four squares and joined them together. I then made four borders and corners squares. I joined the two side borders to the centre. Then I put the corners squares onto the other two borders before adding these borders to the quilt, then I added the binding and the quilt is finished. Have a look at the photo of the back of the quilt, you can see the sections clearly and the joining strips.
I find this method so simple to do and to teach, and you can make any size quilt, from a cot to a full king size quilt – all on your domestic machine!!!!
In all the years I have been doing the diary, which has now turned into the Ramblings, I have always kept it about what I am creating and making, I don’t tend to go off into other areas or more personal stuff.
But I think know is a good time for me to be a bit more personal, I am an introvert and I am not a confident person, I am a huge worrier, small things can easily turn into a huge mountain of worry for me. I am terrible before holidays or going out for the day. Luckily, Tony understands and is a massive support and over the years I have found ways of coping and lowing my anxiety levels, craft and creating are a huge part of this. I will always take something to do, be it a bag of hexagons to be tacked or at the moment crochet!
I have always found the winter months (November through to March) and especially Christmas a really hard time, I just want to curl up and ignore the world, if the days are grey and miserable then I find it hard to get motivated, no matter what is on my planners.
I do love planners and lists, I have a household planner with all the weekly, monthly, three monthly etc jobs, there is the meal planner and then on my work desk is the creative and teaching planner. Plus I have lists for everything….
I have been better over the winter months since I have worked from home, on brighter days I go out for walks, get light and just exercise, walking has always a great way to get my brain in gear, make plans, sort through things time.
But my biggest stress relief is being creative, from designing and creating quilts and Quilted Postcards, to weaving and crochet. But at the end of last year and the beginning of this, I got creative block – I just found that I was really struggling to create new ideas or designs, to work out how to create things. Which wasn’t good!
I know a lot has happened in my life, over the last few years and I guess I needed to have a break, step back, let myself process all that had been happening. I possibly wouldn’t have given myself the break I needed if we hadn’t ended up in Lockdown.
Through January and February, I mostly found I was working on weaving and my Granny square blanket as I really didn’t need to think about doing them, my hands where busy. When I had the energy then I was making the final few postcards, no designing needed as they had been done ages ago. Then we went into Lockdown, working on the book was a big focus and fulfilment of a dream. But since I have just not pushed myself, there is no goals, time limits and I have been working on either finishing quilts started in classes as demonstration pieces or other pieces, cross stitch, weaving, crochet, bowl fillers and the odd postcard, if I don’t want to do them, then I will read, do some housework (I really like cleaning!!! But not ironing), gardening or cooking – there’s no pressure to do things. I am slowly feeling more positive and getting my creative side back, I am starting to think of ideas and what I want to create next.
Sometimes you just have to give yourself time and space……
As I promised in my first ramblings, here is more about the two quilts that I finished in April.
The first was my Tulip Fields quilt. I really wasn’t going to start any more quilts… really! I have loads in the process of being finished and I had teaching work to think about but………Lewis & Irene, the fabric designers regularly post about new ranges and when they are coming out and a few months ago I saw the Tulip Fields range of fabric being showcased. As many of you might know, I love tulips and so, you can imagine that I was interested to see the patterns and colours. Tulips, windmills and little mice (no clogs!)
A big stockist of Lewis & Irene fabrics is Wool Warehouse, I have used them for wool, fabric and haberdashery supplies and they are very good. I went and had a look at the Tulip Fields range – fifteen fabrics and five coordinating Bumbleberries – I do like that the coordinating fabrics are on the same page, they weren’t out at the time I looked and so I made a note in my planner to order when they were out.
Fifteen is a lot of fabrics to use in a quilt, I had been thinking about the pattern I used for my ‘Conversation Quilt’ and then for Faded Glory Quilt, but neither felt right. I kept coming back to a very bad picture I had taken of floor tiles in the Royal Delft pottery in Holland, with a bit of reworking of the layout I finally came up with the design I used, which would work with the fifteen fabrics and then two coordinating bumbleberries – I could have gone for the bright colours but I thought the neutral ones are more me and they would show off the fabrics better.
It was a very quick and easy design to cut and piece together. Then I had to design the quilting, the fabric was the inspiration – it had to be a tulip!! I wanted it to look like I had scattered tulip flowers all over the top!!! I quilted them in four variegated threads that matched in with the colours of the tulips in the fabric.
Once all the nine squares were finished, making up was simple as it is a quilt-as-you-go system of making. And my quilt was finished, it hasn’t been used on our bed yet, it is still folded over the back of my workroom chair, so I can see and stroke it!!!
(Laura says I use far too many !!!! and so I am trying not to use as many!!!)
The second quilt I finished was Nowhere Near a Thousand Pyramids. One of my afternoon class had seen a picture of a Thousand Pyramids quilt in a book and she wanted to now how to make it, as she was thinking about it for her next project and asked me to demonstrate it. The only ‘set’ of fabrics I had that all worked together was a pack of fat quarters in Andover Trinkets range that I had got as a magazine subscription and had been sitting in the cupboard for a while. I made up a couple of rows and did the demonstration in class (the lady decided it wasn’t a design for her – she decided to do a Trip Round the World quilt!!), then it got put in a project bag to be finished when I had time. I had time in April.
I finished the centre, creating a panel of pyramids. I had a crisis with the quilting, I had imagined doing a fairly complicated continuous line square quilting pattern in the middle and then a ‘frame’ in a matching design round the square, all quilted in a variegated green thread. Because of the colours it was impossible to mark the design straight onto the fabric. I draw the square onto stitch n’ tear, tacked in the centre and started stitching, I did a quarter and thought I would tear away a bit of the paper and see what it was like – horrible!!! I totally disliked the design and the green thread didn’t work. At this point the panel was still on the machine, needle in the fabric, but it quickly got taken out and the stitch n’ tear removed and carefully unpicked all the quilting. I quick press and ……. I left it for that day to allow me time to think.
In the end I quilted in black thread and along the edges of the pyramids.
The borders were easy, I knew I wanted to do a floral design and Accuquilt Go! Round flower was the ideal flower to work for the design, quick cutting and sticking and then machine applique/quilting and the borders were ready.
The corners I had already decided to do in squares, they just worked with the whole design and I had just enough fabric to do them. It was just a matter of putting all the finished pieces together and another quilt finished.
It has gone off to its new home…
And onto the next quilt to be finished for me….
My first "Ramble"
Welcome to the new website, with it we are going to have a change on me posting stuff, waffle, blurb, ramblings… Gone is the monthly diary instead will be this ramblings. Because of the new design and complicated technical stuff (Tony’s area) it is easier to add posts and pages. So, I will be rambling when I have things to ramble about!!!
As you have, hopefully seen, we have self-published The Book! This has been a project that was started over five years ago, every time I started to work on the designs and making the postcards, life got in the way!! At the end of last year, I decided I had to really work on it, or give up, which Tony and Laura wouldn’t let me.
I finished all the postcards, designs and instructions just before Easter and handed all of it to Tony and he spent his weeks holiday, photographing and creating the book, with Laura and I holding spot lights, writing out information and reading through numerous proofs!
Even though its my name on the front of the book, I couldn’t have done it without Tony or Laura, this is a family creation.
On other things I finished the Tulip Field Quilt and also Nowhere Near Thousand Pyramids Quilt in April, more of them on another ramble, I think. Plus some Quilted postcards, hoop art embroideries, bowl fillers and a wired leaves wreath!