Here be Monsters and Tiny Dancers


Our children’s bookshop in the centre of Wigtown

Hello Everybody,

I haven’t posted for a while because my recent sewing projects have been showcased in Curly Tale Books for the whole of the month June, giving me (and my sore fingers) a rest for a few weeks.  Above is a photo of this children’s bookshop that also sells toys and gifts, home decor, greeting cards and lots more.  I was given a little table in the centre of one area of the bookshop for my display and had just enough to put on it. I had to put a fabric covered box and a small easel in the centre to prop up the items that were not free standing.


Photo by Jayne Baldwin of Curly Tale Books

It’s been a good exercise. I have learned a lot about display and pricing and adding decorative tags; what to do and what’s best not to do. Only a few days to go now until the end of June and then I will be thinking through what I have done and plan to do next. There is a local craft fair coming up in November and it is my plan to have a table there. It will be my first craft fair but I feel I need these two testings of the market before I consider opening a shop on Etsy or Folksy, or, alternatively, decide to just go on making things to give away to family members. I have other plans too, more arty plans that move away from patchwork towards fabric painting and fabric manipulation; fabric pictures rather than fabric objects. I’ll see how it goes.

I know I have sold a row of houses and some brooches, people have taken my business cards, I have had many more views on my Facebook page (here’s the link:  and I have had some lovely comments. It’s clear that there are people that love this sort of thing and those that don’t much like the hand made look (and how much it costs) and I can quite understand that. The main thing is that there are some people that love it and that’s good enough for me.

Having my work in a shop for whole month has been a much appreciated opportunity for me and it was never about what I could sell as much as about getting ‘out there’ and learning from it. The feeling of being exposed and judged has been more stressful than I imagined but as I get more accomplished and gain confidence in what I make, I hope that feeling will disappear.

I really love my business cards.They are tiny, just 2 3/4 inches  by 1 inch (approx 7cms x 2 3/4 cms). I got them from and they show snippets of my work on one side and details of how to contact me on the other. It’s been easy to punch a hole in some and attach them to my work, sometimes with care instructions behind on a strip of paper the same size as the business card.IMG_8034


After my last post I worked on my house theme a little more, appliqueing a series of houses onto pillowcases.  I went for three styles in different coloured florals.

Two designs went up and down the housewife’s end and the third went across it. The difficulty I had with the larger houses was keeping the them straight. Even though I pinned them they moved while I was sewing them on. I don’t like to use too many pins as they often leave marks but I need to think of a way to get around this problem.


Houses use Moda ‘Dogwood Trail’ fabrics

I also finished the two ‘Tiny Dancer ‘log cabin blocks that I started a while ago. They are intended as a pair of unframed fabric pictures, so the wadding between them is thinner than usual. I did press them when I finished but wish I hadn’t because I preferred the all over puckering that they had previously.


I get nervous about the quilting stage and often put it off for while and yet I always end up enjoying that the most, once I have decided how I am going to tackle it.

One ‘Tiny Dancer’ block was meant to be the reverse of the other but when I came to quilting the second block (above left)  the ‘logs’ on one of the pale sides were shorter.  This was because although the pattern of the fabric was reversed the initial log pattern was not. This meant that the quilting design I had done on the first block would have overlapped each other at the edges on the second. I had to quilt over the patterned area of the block and, as a result, the quilting doesn’t show up as I had wanted it to. Lesson learned: Two blocks that are intended to complement each other as a pair should be planned and considered at each stage as a pair and not as two individual blocks that are set together afterwards.

This is what the back of each block looks like IMG_8025It’s interesting how some quilting patterns lend themselves to tidy backs while others don’t. The little cross stitch in the centre of each block make a pair of random lines on the back that I don’t care for . However, I felt it was important to secure the middle of the block to the background in some way as it is much larger than any of the logs. It was hard to come up with something the would not distract from the dancer or make the whole thing too fussy.

I have only a few days left in the shop but have decided, even at this late stage, to introduce some houses for children which I am hoping to finish over this weekend. I have chosen some fun fabric


Moda’s ‘Hello Friend’ Fabric

from Moda for one set of houses that I think some little girls would enjoy and I have also begun a series of  as yet unfinished  houses from Makower’s ‘Little Monsters’ fabric range .


One Jolly Monster house, just tacked for now. I still have to stitch a ‘frame’around the window and door and sew the houses together

These are made in the same way as my other sets of houses, fabric wrapped shapes that are sewn together in my usual accordion style. I have gone for several differently shaped houses in rows of threes and fours.

I find that the shape of a roof can be tricky. I used to wrap the roof fabric around the the house shape and secure it inside but having a house shape at the back and the front, with a roof wrapped around each, meant I was joining four thicknesses of fabric. With these houses I have appliqued the roof shape onto the front of the house with a less bulky result.

So that’s it for now. Looking ahead into July I want to try out some American Schoolhouse designs as I’ve wanted to do some for so long and I have found a new way to interpret a log cabin block that gives some quirky results. Then I think it might be time for a  crib size quilt or maybe some painted and/or embroidered houses, or….

Until next time….


Put a Wee Bitty Tartan on It

IMG_7670Continuing with my current ‘House’ obsession, I decided to try my hand at making some House Brooches and that it might be fun to start with some tartan ones. I used to think brooches were just for jacket lapels and  although I own quite a few brooches I have been given as gifts, would never have considered myself a brooch person.  However as I was making these, I started to think about other places they could be pinned; not just jackets and bags but hats, curtain tie backs, lampshades, decorative cushions – and realised they could be pinned to any fabric background that that invites a temporary pop of colour. And why not a pop of tartan?

I was particularly excited about making house brooches because I could imagine a row, a whole street of little brooches, IMG_7688pinned on a jacket like a crop of medals; a row of cottages or a cityscape travelling across a weekend bag and the thought of it made me smile. Unlike a lot of brooches these are quite robust, in that they are soft and flexible, can be bent and just pop back up again. They are also washable. Of course the embroidery threads could catch on anything jagged, so I am working on decorating my houses in ways where this won’t be a problem. Fabric paints here I come….

I began with houses just an inch tall and then moved on to larger ones of two to two and a half inches. IMG_7683After adding a door and a window the large ones still seemed too ‘naked’ somehow, so I started adding a few flowers and stems.  Then I wanted to try adding vines and painting flowers, so I made some wider. (Three inches wide but still two and half inches tall).  I thought these might be a bit big but there seems to be a trend in big brooches at the moment, so perhaps they are OK.

They are surprisingly simple to make; only using small bits of tartan at front and back, a spot of interfacing between, a little flourish with the embroidery needle, a stitch all around the edge and few more stitches to secure a pin onto the back. IMG_7673Despite that, the smaller they are the more fiddly they are to hold and decorate. I also learned, after making the first few using co-ordinating colours, that the tiny ones really needed to make use of more brightly coloured threads if they are to stand out on a coat or a bag (for example, the one on the right in the photo below, rather than the one on the left.


You haven’t heard from me in a while because I have been busy sewing like crazy for the first sales of my crafts in a local shop throughout June. I have been worried about not having enough stock and enough variety of stock available, so have been burning the candle at both ends trying to get through what I had planned months ago and fallen short of achieving.

I have ideas to do so much more in tartan but I’m surprised by how difficult it is to find good quality attractive, varied tartans in 100% cotton in the UK.  The best (i.e. authentic) tartans are wool but I found wool too hard to work with. It frays easily and doesn’t hold creases, both of which is a nightmare when making tiny things using the English Paper Piecing technique. I have come across some tartans in polyester/cotton and perhaps I should try some of those. There are also some lovely ones available in brushed cotton which might be good for  wintery, Christmassy designs. I do love working with cotton though, so I am sticking to a mixture of cotton tartans, when I can find them, and cotton plaids (checks and mock-tartans) which are more fashionable and therefore more readily available.

Tomorrow I am off to join in the last day of this year’s Spring Fling. Spring Fling is a contemporary visual art and craft event that ranges across Dumfries and Galloway here in South West Scotland throughout the bank holiday weekend each May. Close to a hundred artists and makers across the region open their studios to the public while a variety of art projects take place in various venues outside these as well. I look forward to it each year and try to cover a different set of studios and events. Last time I went west. This year I’m going east. Yesterday I went to a new local craft fair which is to be repeated at Christmas. Thinking it would be good to give this try as it was so close to home, I have booked myself in for a table at Christmas. Excited by this but also getting the “oh no, more manic sewing!” tremors too. IMG_7698

By the time my next post appears, all my little creations will be for sale in a shop and I do hope people will pop in and, whether they choose to buy or not, that they give me some useful feedback. When you first start out, you don’t know what people will like or would prefer to have. I guess you need quite a bit of time and experience before you figure that out. Anyway I hope to be able to tell you a bit about the experience and how it goes.

Till next time……