Gallery of Lockdown Quilts in Progress



Swallow babies peeking out of their nest in our carport


Hello Everyone!

I don’t know where I got the idea that summer was going to be more relaxing than winter and that with Lockdown there would be stacks of time to finish things. Things are busier than ever, not just with sewing but all the other stuff going on. My husband is on holiday and painting the indoor window frames. Hmm, need I say more?  My Runner duck has sprained a leg and is  unable to walk, though she manages to hop around quite well. My Pekin duck, Lily,  (pictured) has cut her foot so she is confined to an indoor pen  until it heals.  She is quacking non stop, calling to the others outside. Both of them are on anti-inflammatory drugs so I can’t sell their eggs. I hate throwing them away.


Lily, saying “Get me out of here!”

I had a similar ‘pen’ set up indoor when they were babies, so I could keep an eye on them but then they had only tiny, unfeathered scraps of wings to flap. Lily however, has managed to flap up a storm of sawdust all over the room. She is in here for just three days but it will take as long to clean it up when she is back outside.

On a happier note we have been getting lots of lovely fruit from the garden, strawberries, cherries and apricots  so far that seem especially fat and juicy this year

We had two pounds of cherries from the greenhouse this year. This was taken about a week before they were ready.

I mentioned, in an earlier post, that I have been doing two online textile art courses, sewing for various assignments in addition to my mini quilts for these blog posts. I did get behind for a while but I’ve had to catch up quickly as the first,  year-long, course (‘Exploring Texture and Pattern’ with Sue Stone) ends on July 15th. Only one last assignment to do for that one, now.

The second course, which is a ‘Stitch Club’ run by has no deadline but we are given an assignment by different artist each week, (plus accompanying video and workbook)  for a period of three weeks. Then we have a rest week before it begins again with a new set of artists. I hope to tell you a little about the assignments and what I have learned, in future posts.

This post is mainly about the mini quilts that have reached the quilting stage during Lockdown but are not yet complete. They do look rather messy with temporary basting stitches in bright pink holding them together and ragged bits of batting sticking out the sides. However, once they are quilted and the binding is added, they should look a whole lot better. These are all intended as mini wall hangings and all but one feature the Scottish ‘bothy’ or small cottage.

The first is Thistle Jam:

‘Thistle Jam’

I’d like to work more with cotton tartans but as they are so hard to find in the right weight, I am settling for fabrics and scenes with a Scottish theme.

The next one is ‘Geese Flying Over’ This is a traditional American quilting block, of the same name, that I have altered to allow more room for the flying birds. I love to watch them flying over our house and if they are low enough you can hear their sound of their wings.

‘Geese Flying Over’

The third,  ‘Among the Daffodils’ was begun early in the year but wasn’t even pieced  in time for Spring. I have enjoyed using fabric that matches the theme in some of my recent quilts, because it reminds me of this area at different times of the year, but I intend to move away from that now and create my own backgrounds. I can’t decide whether I should add some windows to this little house or just let the honey bees stand in for windows. Does that work?

‘Among the Daffodils’

The fourth one, ‘Snowdrops in March’ is another one I had intended to have done by Spring. Conifer branches do grow low to the ground so the stump isn’t visible but I wonder if these trees would look better with a small stump, as in the Daffodil quilt above. What do you think?

‘Snowdrops in March’

The last one, below,  is another traditional American block called ‘Windblown’. I have included fabric that suggests thunder clouds, tossed blossoms and scattered showers and intend to add swirls of quilting to mimic the wind.  I do like black and white quilts with small pops of colour. Once again, a  pattern in the fabric stands in for windows in the house. This is something  I have not done previously and I can’t decide whether I like it enough to leave it that way.


In addition to the above ‘quilting ready’ projects I am continuing to piece two other quilts, which I will show you once all their rows are sewn together. And, annoyingly, I have sewn the borders on wrong in “Little Kitties’ below, so they will need to be unpicked and redone. You are supposed to sew them on in a particular order and for some reason, I didn’t. Lesson learned.



‘Little Kitties’


Soon I hope to have a post on transferring an image onto your quilt and one on the American schoolhouse block, which I have always found so charming.

So, till next time….take care of yourselves as we move slowly out of lockdown.


A Duck, More Ducks and Some Sewing

I had this ornament before Daisy, my black and white cat, brought in a duckling. Prophetic, eh?

I have discovered that ducks and sewing don’t really mix, even though they may give equal pleasure. One makes you a whole lot wetter and muddier.

My life has been duck-full lately. I stopped sewing for a spell in the garden. When was that? April? I gardened happily until June when my cat brought in a duckling and deposited it,  unhurt, on the living room floor.  You may remember me mentioning this in passing in one of my earlier posts (EPP Loves the Hexagon).

Baby Maple that Daisy, my cat, brought to me

My little duckling has turned into a beautiful female Mallard with all of her mature colouring. She is aptly named, Maple.

My grown up Maple

When she was five weeks old I decided to buy her a friend, a lovely Aylesbury duck which I was certain was a female. I called her Alba.

Then one day, a couple of weeks later, when I opened the shed door for a moment to put a tray outside, Maple flew out of the open pen,  through the small space above my head and into the sky. After a couple of days and assurances from several people that she would not return, I bought another Aylesbury duck, a female friend for Alba, called Lilly.  Maple, I decided, was a wild duck after all. I had simply taken care of her until she was ready to go out into the world.

In the meantime, I had been having doubts about Alba. If she was female she should have had a well developed quack by 9 weeks but all she had was a croak. I had Lily delivered by the seller, so that I could ask advice from someone more experienced. And Alba, it turned out, was a male. So now I had a mum and dad. Not really what I had in mind, originally.  After Lily’s arrival, Alba began showing off , becoming quite skittish and bossy, so he has been renamed Bossy-Boy. And it suits him perfectly.

Bossy-Boy is at the back, Lily in the front.


But that’s not the end of the story because, no sooner had my Aylesbury pair settled in together, Maple returned. I couldn’t believe it. She came sauntering down the garden path and led me a merry dance around the garden before she let me pick her up. She was very hungry and thirsty and seemed happy to be returned to the pen. She has become more and more tame over the weeks since and clearly loves being part of our duck community.

So that’s my duck story. But not the end of it, I’m sure.

Dismayed to find it was already August, I thought I had better get some sewing done. Usually I do one quilt and finish it and then think about starting another but I thought I would try a different approach this time.

‘Monarch of the Glen?’ I plan to embroider over the stags head as well as hand quilt the surface.

Having got so behind I thought it would be a good plan to complete a series of mini quilt tops, all the same size, one after another and finish them later.  I could do this more quickly which would make me feel as if I had made good progress. I decided to do three Scottish themed ones and a couple of fun ones. All of them are based on traditional, out-of-copyright blocks, re-imagined for my own purposes.

‘Dog Log’, a variation on the traditional Log Cabin block


‘Liberty Square’. The house shapes that circle the square will be more obvious as houses, with windows and doors, eventually.

It was a good idea but didn’t really work. Too many of them needed small changes and when you have half a dozen quilt tops needing little changes, it doesn’t do much for motivation. I must say that I would recommend buying paper pieces if you can afford them. I make my own templates and because I am not a maths whizz, they are always slightly inaccurate. The bought ones are a breeze to put together and you don’t have to spend ages tweaking a block that is not quite square, or has a wonky triangle in it somewhere, and so on. I make my templates, not just to save money but because my ideas don’t always have standard shapes to fit them.

‘Harbour Side’ – a take on our Scottish seaside communities, little boats in a harbour with tartan accents.

‘Close Community’. Two tartans meeting around 4 neighbouring houses (still unfinished)

Followers of my Facebook ‘Forest Moor Designs’ Page, will have seen these five new mini quilts already, so apologies for that, and  I am afraid that, even though I have lots more cut out and ready to go, I have done nothing since. I am hoping this blog post will motivate me to have something more to share soon. I have about twenty (all 8 inches square) to complete, before I move on to something new.

Just a couple more things:  I framed one of my mini quilts to see how it would look in a frame. This is ‘The Wind in the West’: 

Not too bad, but in future I will make the quilt to fit the frame and not the other way around. That will ensure that borders don’t show and triangles don’t get chopped off (lesson learned).  Also, I have a new logo for my sometime-soon-to-be-opened-I-hope shop on Etsy. Someone said the font is not very clear, and I agree, so my daughter and I are working on that. I do love the way the crosshatching looks like little sticks in a forest, though.

So that was what I did in August but I am determined to have a few more mini quilts to show before the end of September.  I have also been thinking how lovely it would be to have two Indian Runner ducks when my husband gets around to enlarging the pen….  ; )

Till next time……

Update – Work in Progress

Hi Everybody,

This is just a short post to show where I have got to with my Scottish themed quilts in progress. I’ve added little bits to three of them and they are now ready to square up, surface quilt and embroider and then bind. Seems like a long way to go still but they are looking a little more promising than when I last posted. These will be the first to be finished and then there will be another two to follow.

First up is my black and white ‘Wind in the West’ mini quilted picture:


All I have done to this is to add a window and door to the cottage, appliqué  a strip of fencing around the edge of it and pop in a running rabbit (bottom right). I think its’s about ready to quilt now. I’m not sure whether to add a touch of colour or keep it all black and white, or grey . What do you think?

The second one has had a lot more detail added now:


The cottage has chimneys as well as a door and window and a series of conifers have sprung up around it which I hope gives the scene more depth. I haven’t  decided whether to outline some of the ‘hills’, and continue the quilting lines from one hilly square to another, or to quilt tree shapes here and there. That might mean the quilt ends up being called ‘Into the Woods’ instead of ‘The Glen’

Then there is my mystery quilt. Are you any the wiser? The clue is probably in the crown:


I shall probably outline-quilt the surrounding squares and rectangles and add some surface embroidery, especially across the seam in the heart and around the edges of the crown. I have stuffed the heart, so that it sits proud of the rest of the quilt because, for me a meaningful heart has to be one that is full.

Ok, time for the big reveal. Ta-da! This mini quilt is a representation of a Luckenbooth, that very old, traditional form of jewellery, usually a brooch and usually wrought in silver, that originated in Edinburgh in the early 1500’s. The design is a heart, or a couple of entwined hearts, sometimes with added gems and almost always topped by a crown. The brooches got their name from the stalls that popped up along  The Royal Mile (Edinburgh’s High Street), a patch of which become known as the “luckenbuiths” or locking booths out of which merchants traded. Although the  Luckenbooth was originally a brooch, as time went on the same motif has been used in various traditional and stylised ways, to fashion rings, pendants, charms, earrings and bracelets.

Here is a simple, inexpensive one I found on Ebay, sold by the jewellers Alexander Castle in Glasgow:


As you might expect, the Luckenbooth was a love token, given as an engagement ring might be today but also presented to new-born babies to bestow love and protection. They were also handed down through families from mother to daughter. I found one among my mother’s belongings after she died, a gift from my father almost half a century before.

I wanted to celebrate this lovely Scottish emblem and the sentiment it has carried with it for so long. Maybe my little quilt can be yet another means of sending love down through a family.

Till next time……





Design, Composition and Play

IMG_0075Hi Everybody,

I have lots of English Paper Piecing works in progress but nothing finished as yet, probably because I am trying to do too many at once. Why can’t I just finish one thing and then move onto the next?

The main reason for this post is to begin a series of experiments inspired by a book I have, entitled Art Quilt Collage by Deborah Boschert. In her third chapter she talks about design and composition and offers eight Design Guides to use as templates and a checklist to help “strengthen your composition skills” once you have completed them. She also suggests combining some designs and offers variations on a  theme.

The first one I decided try is One Amazing Line.


Deborah’s example of a possible line. Could it be a profile?

She convinces me that I can make a whole mini quilt by focusing on a single line. It can be placed anywhere in my piece of fabric, can be wiggly or not, can represent words, or suggest a profile.

I made my line using a variety of square and tumbler paper-wrapped shapes (to take me around corners) from fabric scraps, and joined them together to make a wriggly line.


my little pieced sections of the snake – all numbered

I thought it looked rather snake like, so I gave it a head and the suggestion of a tail. The collection of browns and greens made me think of a grass snake. I didn’t have as much of the background fabric that I wanted to use, to allow it to move from one corner to the opposite corner as I had originally planned. However, that would have made the whole thing quite large. It was meant to be an experiment using scraps after all. It didn’t make sense to use more fabric than I needed, or to buy more. So I appliquéd my snake onto a long, narrow strip of olive green fabric that I liked. It’s much more olive than the picture below suggests.


Snake in progress. Only one ladder so far but you can see another drawn on.

The snake looked as if it needed more definition on this background so I added black embroidery (stem stitch) between the pieced sections that make up its body, around it’s head and all along the bottom of it’s body, to suggest shadow. I didn’t do it at the top because I didn’t want to outline the snake. It would look too heavy.

I began to think of the snake as a metaphor for life, how people start at one end and work their way to the other, moving on through each ‘stepping stone’. This reminded me of the ‘Snakes and Ladders’ board game I played so often as a child, so I decided to add some random ladders and the suggestion of a snake appearing and disappearing at the top corners. And to use a grid to quilt the whole composition, as in a board game.

I found some leafy fabric (where I felt my snake would feel right at home) to back my quilt, and I chose Vilene VLH630 fusible fleece to use as batting. This is a low loft fleece suitable for medium weight cottons and for top stitching  and it felt as if it would keep my project thin enough to frame as a mini art quilt if I liked it enough.

When it is complete, Deborah suggests rotating your composition because often it can look better another way round: So, what do you think? Will this turn out to be better?

IMG_0080 2

I never like my creations while I am making them. They look so ugly when they are tacked/basted, with lines drawn on and none of the colour and texture they will turn out to have. It’s amazing to witness their gradual transformation. We’ll see how this looks when it’s all done, in a later post.

Another project that is not far from completion is a soft-toned mini quilt of a bunny and a basket. Why I am putting bunnies and baskets on quilts in the run up to Christmas is anybody’s guess. I just wanted to use up some scraps of pastel fabrics.  I thought it would make a pretty nursery picture but maybe it is too suggestive of Easter.


I have finished the piecing but it is still basted (tacked) and the appliqués are not sewn down. The bunny has no tail, but he will have, eventually (you can see it pinned on to the top right hand corner of the backing fabric. The backing fabric has stags on it. So pretty. I love it, even at this part-done stage, but then it’s not my design. It is closely based on one by Merumo from that I found on Pinterest, which is in turn based on a traditional quilt block.


‘Antique Fair Basket’ by Merumo

I am working on another of Deborah’s Design Compositions called Third Plus (post coming at some point in the not too distant future) as well as a second long and narrow composition which will make use of organza fish, metallic thread and Kantha stitching, none of which I have used on a quilt before. But more of these two projects later.

So, till next time….

Rings Around My Valentine

img_8990It’s hard to come up with something different to make your husband each year for Valentine’s Day, but he likes the more easy-to-see-firsthand love and care that goes into something I’ve made specially for him. This year I wanted to celebrate how many years we had seen together and how, despite the ups and downs we’ve had, nothing has changed. We are still best friends that love each other’s company and can talk to each other for hours, about anything.

I thought I might make something with rings and I wanted to try some mini piecing, so I bought the templates for a miniature Double Wedding Ring design from Paper Pieces. img_8997When it arrived my heart sank. Each piece was about 1 cm square. How was I going to wrap fabric easily around those and stitch them all together. I decided to make a larger pattern but after I had made several 5 cm pieces, I went back to the tiny ones. I wanted to showcase a wedding ring, not a lifebelt.

The pattern I bought was for six rings that entwine but I only wanted to make two. It was going to take far too long to make the whole thing and in any case I wanted a more modern take on the traditional design. img_8994I decided on two half-rings and numbered the parts I might use, so that I could separate out the right number of templates and accompanying pieces of fabric.

I decided on dark blue fabric for one of the rings and a lighter, more ‘feminine’ colour of turquoise for the other, to add variety in colour as well as tone. I chose a different pattern for each piece of fabric I used (which were repeated in each ring). The shapes were so small, I thought they would work together as there wasn’t much room for a colour clash.

I love that the range of dark blues I chose had tossed patterns of frogs and snails to suggest lines from that old nursery rhyme “what little boys are made of”..while the turquoise fabrics were flowers and paisleys “all things nice”.



I thought it might be fun to try working with linen but it looked rather dull by itself, so I put a brightly patterned fabric, also with a pattern of rings, behind it, allowing it to show through. img_8991Then I tackled the tiny pieces. I sorted out the three different shapes, the tumbler shapes that made up the curves and the two shapes that ‘edged’ each curve, which then met the kite shaped pieces. The holes in the shapes in the picture below show needle holes from the basting stitches I made to hold the fabric to the template and to minimise fraying.


The two ring shapes didn’t come out quite as I had planned. I wanted one to be much shorter than the other and to cross  each other nearer the top. However I started in the centre with the kite and edge shapes. I did thins mainly because once covered in fabric they all looked very much like each other and I knew I would get confused. I wanted to get them done while I remembered what they were. The trouble is, that beginning in the centre set the pattern for the rest of the curve and I ended up with two horseshoe shapes.  There’s nothing wrong with that as they represent luck but the result was not what I originally had in mind and had got excited about making. As I completed the shapes I had to stick a pin in each one to stop it moving and adhere it to the background, hedgehog style, because pinning it in the normal way distorted the tiny shapes.

Once I had stitched down the tiny pieces, I quilted long utility stitches around the circumference of the rings with turquoise and yellow embroidery thread and added a couple of ‘sparks’ in the centre of each. Then I put it in a frame to sit on his desk.

I did make a piece of board to stitch the backing to, with a view to keeping the piece stretched and the linen taut in the frame but realised that, out of the frame, the piece would be always be stiff (unless I unstitched the back and took the board out); not quilt-like at all. I wanted it to be a quilt, in or out of a frame, so I left off the backing board. This means the centre does bulge slightly towards the frame but it just looks like two rings sitting on a little cushion. I can live with that.

He likes it and that’s the main thing, eh?

So here is the result:


I didn’t have any suitable paper, so I wrapped it in bubble wrap and then in cloth, Japanese style, and added a tartan ribbon. I think I might wrap more gifts in cloth, it gives them a wonderfully soft and friendly feel.

So, until next time…Happy Valentine’s Day, People!



Illustrating a Poem with Fabric


The poetry collection I received from Ann

Today I have a story that I want to share with you. It began at the beginning of September last year, when a poem by Ann Gray was featured on a poetry blog that I follow:

The poem was completely my sort of poem, the sort I get excited by, the sort that bulges with stuff it doesn’t say, yet is deeply affecting. It was from a poetry collection called ‘At The Gate’, so I went in search of a copy. The only one I could find was on Amazon for £60! Well, I didn’t have even a quarter of that to spare so I wrote to the blogger (Anthony Wilson) and asked if he knew where I could get hold of a copy I could afford. As it happened he knew the the poet and, after asking her permission, let me have her email address so that I could buy one directly from her. My email messages always have a few lines of information about me at the bottom of the page; the addresses of my blogs, Facebook and Pinterest pages and I can only gather that she must have been interested enough to check them out.  However, imagine my surprise  and delight when she responded saying:

“What I would like, which might sound a bit strange, is not to be paid, but for you to make me a little gift….I’d like you to read the book, hopefully you won’t weep too much, and choose a poem that speaks to you and make me a little something in exchange.”

 Oh my, I thought, I have a commission! And she’s paying me in poems! (I know it was really the other way around).

I read the book of poems from cover to cover as soon as it arrived and began to think about which poem I would choose. It was hard. They were moving, deeply personal poems and I began to realise that no fabric design that I could manage would reflect the depth of meaning needed to do any of these poems justice. I looked for something concrete. There were dogs, guitars, hollyhocks, pines and, one of my best loves, Indian runner ducks. These small things I could reproduce but there was another thing and it got in the way. The poems brought back my own sense of loss, not only of people but of whole other lives. They spoke of songs I had loved, places I had lived, road names, bridges I knew. They expressed raw parts of me, too. I couldn’t put those into my sewing.


‘Fox’ Anne’s poem on page 27 of ‘At The Gate’

I went on looking. I was reading ‘Fox’ when another of Ann’s poems came to mind. It was one that I read while I was waiting for the book to arrive, when I was searching the Internet for other poems by her; one that I had loved so much. And, although it wasn’t in the collection she had sent me, it wouldn’t go away. It sang to me, over and over, its song of love and hope and faith and resilience. This was what I wanted to put into my sewing. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Here is the poem:

My Blue Hen

by Ann Gray

I sing to my blue hen. I fold her wings
against my body. The fox has had her lover,
stealing through the rough grass,
the washed sky. I tell her, I am the blue heron
the hyacinth macaw. We have
a whispered conversation in French. I tell her
the horse, the ox, the lion, are all in the stars
at different times in our lives. I tell her there are
things even the sea can’t do, like come in when
it’s going out. I tell her my heart is a kayak
on wild water, a coffin, and a ship in full sail.
I tell her there is no present time,
an entire field of dandelions will give her
a thousand different answers. I tell her
a dog can be a lighthouse, a zebra finch can
dream its song, vibrate its throat while sleeping.
I tell her how the Mayan midwife sings each child
into its own safe song. Tonight, the moon holds back
the dark. I snag my hair on the plum trees. I tell her
I could’ve been a tree, if you’d held me here long enough.
I stroke her neck. She makes a bubbling sound,
her song of eggs and feathers. I tell her you were
a high note, a summer lightning storm of a man.

My Blue Hen is reproduced here with the kind permission of the poet.

I wanted to immortalise this Blue Hen and her companions and put them forever out of


My working designs and patches

the reach of any fox. So I began my task. I made some drawings, chose the fabric and made photocopies of patterns that suggested the stitches I wanted to make.

The birds’ bodies are made of fabric wrapped around a piece of thin interfacing (instead of paper in the usual English Paper Piecing way) but rather than being pieced and the papers removed, the wrapped bodies are sewn to the blue background fabric, applique style, and then surface embroidered. Once all the surface stitching was complete I created a mini quilt by adding a layer of cotton wadding and some backing fabric and quilting the layers together.

In the past all my stitches have gone through all the layers at once to keep them well ‘glued’ together, especially if the piece is to be washed. Most of my stitching was on the surface this time because I thought it would be difficult to sew through the extra layer of interfacing inside the birds. That left me with the possibility of the centre of the piece bagging, once I had stitched around all the frame of the piece. I got around that by silhouetting each bird with large quilting stitches in dark blue and by adding a couple of drifting feathers. I won’t repeat this in future though, because the interfacing was softer in situ than I expected it to be and I missed the silhouette of the piece that appears on the back when all the stitches are visible.

The hens’ running feet were another potential problem, too small to paper piece and too jagged to needleturn a hem under, at my level of experience anyway. I settled on making them from felt and stitching around and over them.


Little felt feet

I wanted the backing fabric to have pacing foxes on it, to keep them well behind the hens and unable to catch up and I loved the one I chose initially but it was too white, too stark.


I just love these ear-twitching, prowling foxes

I wanted something that would blend with the colours on the front, so I had to find something else. I chose something softer, though here the foxes here look a little too innocent:


The back of the mini quilt

After I had sewn it all together I added a label, and gave the piece a title taken from the penultimate line of the poem.

I finished it in the middle of January 2017 having emailed Ann from time to time to let her know it was progressing, albeit slowly. At no time did I reveal what I was making or which poem I had chosen. After a while I began to worry that I had not kept strictly to our agreement, that I hadn’t chosen a poem from ‘At The Gate’. I told her that if she was in the least disappointed by this, I would make another one.

I posted the finished piece to her last Friday (January 27th). Less than twenty four hours later she was opening the package at the other end of the country, and this is what she saw:


A Song of Eggs and Feathers

She has told me she loves it. I’m so glad. And grateful too, for such an opportunity.

Do read more of her work.

‘My Blue Hen’ was shortlisted for the Forward best single poem prize in 2015. You can read more about it at  where there is more information about Ann and the inspiration behind the poem, as well as links to readings. Her collections include At The Gate (Headland, 2008), The Man I Was Promised (Headland, 2004), Painting Skin (Fatchance Press, 1995). Her poems have been selected for the Forward Prize Anthology in 1995 and 2008, and she was commended for the National Poetry Competition in 2010  She has also been a guest on  Arvon courses and a tutor at Ty Newydd.

Until next time…

New Thoughts on English Paper Piecing

Happy New Year Everybody!


My ‘Tulips and Roses’ baby quilt, the last one I made in 2016

I love the new year, seeing it stretching ahead of me, so full of potential.
I can’t believe I have been blogging about English Paper Piecing for a whole year! OK, there have only been one or two posts a month, so that’s not really very many, but when you sew by hand you can’t post a whole lot faster, because it takes ages to complete things. If I am to post more, this year may be more about works in progress that I return to at intervals. We’ll see how it goes.

So what have I learned from my year of posting?

I’ve learned:

  • To hand quilt using ‘Utility’ or ‘Big Stitch’ quilting, which is much more fun than you would ever expect.
  • Several basic embroidery stitches and oh, how I love them!
  • How to use stencils and I adore them. I got some wonderful ones for Christmas.
  • How to thread the sewing machine that my kids bought me two years ago. Well, it’s a start!
  • That the secret to combining colours and fabric patterns in a quilt is to work with fabrics that DON’T match each other. This is because individual fabrics have to read differently from each other to show up in the composition. This has been a recent revelation since, like many of us, I tend to select fabrics that blend. This has led to predictable, safe looking quilts and I want excitement in them!
  • My tastes have changed rapidly as I have learned. I collected fabrics and patterns furiously when i started, only to find these tame and uninteresting now that I am bursting with my own ideas.

I’ve decided:

  •  I much prefer to use cotton rather than polyester batting for all of my quilts. It drapes beautifully and is easy to hand quilt.
  • Craft fairs are definitely not for me.
  • It might be ok to use my sewing machine just for borders and binding.
  • Although the craze in English Paper Piecing at the moment is all about fussy cutting for La Passacaglia and Millifiore quilts, or Lucy Boston quilts, these are a least a progression from simple hexagons. They do look amazing and, like most EPP quilts, require countless hours of hard work but I long for something more pictorial and hope it will come, eventually. I feel quite alone in this but will see what I can create without straying from the basic technique.

‘Town Square’ mini quilt on a small inside window sill

I’ve come to understand that:

  • Craft fairs are expensive to set up and you need to commit to several if you are to get a return on your initial investment.
  • Handmade things cost more than anyone is prepared to pay for them.
  • People might like them but that’s not the same as wanting to buy them.
  • The market out there seems more conservative than the ideas I have and want to share, so I haven’t been as adventurous as I want to be. That has to change.
  • None of this actually matters because I sew to please myself first and foremost, because it brings me knowledge and new skills as well as peace and joy into my life… though of course I love it when someone tells me they like something I’ve made


    My children’s pillowcases got the most compliments

And what of this year? I definitely want to:

  • Discover much more about how colours, tones and shades work in fabric compositions.
  • Finish at least five of the larger, more traditional quilts that I started a couple of years ago. Perhaps I can add a new twist to them.
  • Experiment with plaids and stripes and improvised patterns.
  • Move on from simple patchwork towards applique, especially stuffed work.
  • Learn how to print and dye my own fabric and make my own stencils.
  • Work on creating some fabric pictures based on my Indian childhood.

BUT FIRST I have to finish making something for a poet, who kindly gave me a book of her poems in return for illustrating one of her poems.


Anne’s moving collection of poems

I have the fabric and the ideas and photocopies of my sketches and I’m ready to begin.


Scraps of this and that, ready to sew

With Christmas and New Year out of the way and all the extra washing and putting away that comes with it, at last I can get on and finish this project.
I hope to have a post showing it to you alongside the poem but I will have to ask for her permission first.

So, until next time……

Adventures with Quilt Stencils


Prym ‘Curls’ Stencil

I thought stencils were for people who weren’t creative, that stencils gave you a template to use if you couldn’t draw, or were useful for those times that you needed dozens of repeat images to be the same each time. I could see myself using a stencil on a wall but not on a quilt.

The first quilt I made was a tied quilt but then I wanted to learn how join the layers with tiny quilting stitches. The next few quilts I made reached the quilt sandwich stage, with all the layers carefully basted together, but then they began to collect in a cupboard. How was I to quilt the borders, let alone the great yawning centres? Was there a pattern that suited a particular design of quilt? It all seemed so daunting.

The answer, to begin with, was Big Stitch Quilting. I was introduced to this via an online Utube quilting tutorial (Hand quilting techniques for beginners (on perle cotton) by the Australian quilt designer, Sarah Fielke, and it was a revelation. I still have to master the tiny quilting stitches that have been traditionally used for quilting but I’m taking my time over those. In the meantime I was happy outlining borders and images in bold running stitches, using variegated embroidery threads, and couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it after months of being afraid to try anything.

I wanted to do more. I wanted patterns, repeated images, tiny motifs, more variety! So, I began to consider stencils. I decided that although I could draw, the set pattern in the stencil would allow me build my sewing confidence until I was ready to draw freehand onto the quilt surface.

I had no idea where to begin. It didn’t occur to me that there would be different sizes of stencil for borders and all over patterns for centres. I just found an interesting pattern that didn’t cost too much and gave it a try. The first one I bought was a Prym ‘Curls’ stencil and I quickly realised it was much too big for the narrow borders I was making. Not to worry, I thought, I’ll just combine the two, big stitch quilting in narrow borders and stencils in larger areas and I’ll use the same Perle 8 embroidery thread for both. It seems to work.

About the same time as I was beginning to explore stencils, I discovered a pen that I now practically worship. It is a blue EZ quilting water soluble pen.You draw on the quilt top, inside your stencil, making thin, turquoise blue lines. Then you remove the stencil and stitch along your drawn lines. When you have finished, you give them a spritz with water and all the blue lines under your stitching, disappear. Well, blow me over with a feather! How’s that for magic?

Hot on the heels of those two revelations came another: A single stencil pattern could be used to suggest more than one thing. The Curl Stencil could be used for ANYTHING with a slight curl in the pattern such as smoke, or waves, or a paisley pattern AND by altering the pattern, using just a part of the pattern, or leaving out some of the inside or outside lines, the stencil could be used in more creative ways than you’d ever imagine.

In the quilt below, ‘House in the Country’, the smoke coming out of the house chimney has been made from the Curl stencil:


In ‘Coastal Cottage’, below, the same quilt stencil has been used to suggest waves:


The next two stencils I bought were flower designs, one a tulip and one rather like a row of petals. The petal design was used to create the pattern in the ‘garden’ of ‘House in the Country’, above, and also in the two golden borders in the mini wall quilt, below.img_8752

I also used it on the mini nine-patch blocks in my ‘Roses and Tulips’ double-nine-patch quilt. In the close up, below, you can see the design has been altered to suggest an ‘Orange Peel’ quilting design over the centre block, where each petal meets in the middle. On the block either side I’ve used the tulip stencil but, similarly, a single side of the tulip could be used elsewhere to suggest leaves, raindrops, faces in pointy hats, or whatever else your imagination creates for you.


I’ve recently bought a whole series of stencils in different sizes from The Stencil Company at in the States and they arrived in the UK yesterday. My daughter is  collecting them from the post office for me and bringing them here on Christmas day. I can’t wait to try them out.

Stencils can also be found in the UK at:, and They are inexpensive as they are just thin plastic though of course there is postage to pay as well. There are dozens of patterns and images available and sizes range from 3/4″ border patterns up to large images of 5-8 inches.

I hope this post might find its way to someone who is feeling daunted about making a start with quilting stitches and/or using stencils. It’s all enormous fun. Just jump in! If you have any questions I am happy to help if I can.

So… it’s only a week to Christmas. Yikes. It’s getting a little colder but it’s mainly grey, wet and mushy along our Scottish country lanes.

Till next time…..


Little Pieces of Scotland

Hello again,

img_8655Just a quick post to show you another two of my small quilts with a Scottish theme. The first is called ‘Deer in my Garden’ and is a variation on a log cabin design with some added surface embroidery. Our garden has so many fuchsia coloured flowers appearing throughout the year that this seemed an appropriate colour to choose in a festive design from Moda, with a touch of gold from Lewis and Irene, for Christmas. It’s just 7″ (approx 18 cms) square. I may add a small quilt hanger so that it can go on the wall.

The second quilt, ‘Thistle Cottage’ is larger: 14″x 10 1/4 inches (approx 36 x 26 cms) and uses fabric from one of my favourite designers, Lewis and Irene, for the house walls, roof and border.Quite a few of Lewis and Irene’s themed fabrics suit our Scottish landscape. This one is quite muted, a lilac grey with touches of pink and green which I have echoed in the quilting stiches. I found the black, red and lilac plaid fabric with tossed Scottie dogs (also by Lewis and Irene) irresistible and just had to have one of the dogs peeking out of the window.img_8651There were two leaf designs already printed on the part-striped, dusky pink piece I chose for the background so I decided to embroider around them. I was going to add a plant pot but decided I prefer them just as they are.

My first Winter Fair is getting closer (19th November) so I’m moving onto a set of tall Christmas houses now and a larger, floral quilt which is not at all Christmassy but is so pretty and cheerful. It’s always nice to have something you can use all year round.  I have so many new ideas of things to make for the fair but time is beginning to run out on me. It surprises me how much I need for the day, so much more than my little creations, and I have been writing huge lists of stuff I need with me from paper bags and tags to sticky tape and staples.

When I post after the Winter Fair, I will not be sewing as frantically and will have more time to photograph the various stages of what I am making, something I have not done much lately. Perhaps I will have some photos of the Winter Fair to share with you. I also want to post more on techniques in English Paper Piecing and to sum up what I have learned on my quilting journey this year.

Till next time….





A Tartan Twosome

Hello again,

img_0932We have glorious colour in our garden at the moment and here are two mini quilts to match. These are the two tartan inspired mini quilts I promised to show you in my last post. I have been a while finishing them because I have about twenty different projects on the go at one time. I tend to do bits on one and bits on another, partly so I don’t tire of any one design and partly to give my fingers a rest from quilting too many at a time.  I have a local craft fair coming up in the third week in November so I have been working hard at building up stock. I am pleased to say I have a whole stack of accordion houses, tall wall houses, house  brooches,  house quilts, ( mini, small and medium sized) and a couple of crib sized ones all ready for a new home.

The two quilts featured here are my first attempts at using cotton tartan and ric-ric trim (spelt rick-rack in the States, I believe).

img_8658The first mini quilt I have called ‘Dog Star’. The tartan is a warm brown, yellow, soft red and olive and I have given it a burgundy trim. There is a black star, in a star print, in the top right hand corner among a series of small quilted stars and a dog at the bottom left hand corner, basking in the glow from the stars. If the dog looks familiar, it’s because he appeared in one of my earlier posts (‘The Humble Square’)  on using basic shapes to create people and animals. He wasn’t very happy languishing in a plastic box so thought I might as well make good use of him so I put him on this quilt where I hope he might get some love.Here’s a close up:img_8478

The above photo and the one  below show my basting stitches before I start quilting. The one below shows how I put the three layers together (the back the front and the batting in the middle) and then baste from the centre outwards. I make a cross from top to bottom and side to side and then go out to each corner. This keeps the quilt top really secure while I quilt. I don’t want to worry about it moving and ending up with uneven borders. After quilting, I trim the batting to the quilt edge and turn backing fabric ( 1 inch) , folding it once  (to a 1/2 inch) and then again to meet the edge, hiding the top of the ric-rac between and stitching it all down together.. img_8477

‘Dog Star’ is quite a small quilt, only 23 x 25 centimetres or 9 x 9 1/2 inches.  I have used quilting thread here for the first time but I don’t think it is as successful as using embroidery thread for big stitch quilting. I feel my stitches here are not big enough to be called big stitch quilting and not small enough for the understated look that traditional hand quilters manage so well. Still, it’s early days and I’ll be getting plenty more practice. 

img_8662The second mini quilt is even smaller at 20 centimetres or 8 inches square.  (I have called this one ‘The Bothy’. Here in Scotland, a bothy is a small cottage style house, originally intended for farm labourers, now just a basic shelter left unlocked or abandoned in fields or on mountainsides, and available for any passer by to use. This mini quilt uses only a little tartan, the same tartan that I used in Dog Star, as a part frame at the edges.  The centre, background fabric has  a red spot on tan that echoes the colours in the tartan and the this time the ric-rac trim is black. I wanted the quilt to suggest a partly enclosed field with a small house in the corner. I quilted straight across in the manner of a ploughed field but added small fly stitches at the edges to suggest some greenery beyond the field.

 In the first quilt I put the trim on the outside, so for this one I thought I would try putting it on the inside. It was very tricky getting it to go around corners. I looked for videos on Pinterest and was struck by how many showed you how to add trim, but not around corners, or posted that it was easy to bend around corners but the photos sliced off the corners, as if they didn’t want to show the not-so-good? result.  One person said you should turn the ric-rac over at the corner and proceed with it  until you reached the next corner and turn it again. I tried that but found that this method created a lump at each corner. The best way seems to be to coax it around the corner, letting it form a small raised ‘loop’ in the corner and then wriggle the loop into place and sew it down. It was a much easier process going around the outside of the quilt. I don’t think I will be using it on an inside border again in a hurry.

Here is the back of The Bothy. img_8680I let the quilting show through but kept the embroidery stitches to the front surface. I felt they might wear more easily at the back and make it look more cluttered. I wanted a simple, clean look. It could be more even but some irregularity is to be expected when you are not using a machine.

The back of ‘Dog Star’ shows just the basic outline of the stars and the dog. Surface additions such as the dog’s back leg and ears don’t show up.img_8657

I have two more Scottish themed quilts to show you in my next post and, as these are now completed, I can add them to a new post as soon as I get a moment to photograph them.

 In the meantime, here is another photo from my much loved garden. See, the sun does shine in Scotland even in November.  Till next time…..