Sunday, 28 May 2017

Manchester Quilting Bee ~ quilt drive

In the amazing way that quilters respond when people need love and comfort, there is now a quilt drive Manchester Quilting Bee calling for hexagons to make into quilts for those affected by the recent attack in Manchester.

To see all the details please click here. My friend Michelle is collecting them and you can find the address to send them to on the post pinned at the top of the facebook page ❤ If you are in the US then you could contact @madebychrissied via instagram as she has offered to collect hexies.

You can download the hexie template here - it's a 5" hexie measuring across from the flat edges, point to point is 5 3/4" and each side measures 2 7/8".  They need a 1/4" seam so the finished hexie is 4 1/2". You can send plain hexies or pieced/embroidered if you wish.

*edited to add - if possible please appliqué your hexie to a 6 1/2" square of fabric to make piecing easier!

It is a wonderful way to show our love for those affected and do something positive. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Manchester ❤🐝

preface - It's not an easy thing for me to write, we are so thankful that our family is safe and I realise how fortunate I am. I know there are atrocities all around the world, I realise people live with worse daily. This is just my experience, this is what I am going through and this is my space to write about my life, which usually consists of sewing but right now I need to release. 

I am writing this post with such a heavy heart. On Monday 22nd May there was a horrendous terrorist attack in my home city of Manchester. The details have been all over the news, there's no need for me to reiterate, in fact it is time for me to stop obsessively reading it.

When I found out what had happened I woke my husband up, I cried and we witnessed the aftermath and reaction together. We were heartbroken.

photo credit: Dick Vincent

My thoughts have been with the families that lost their loved ones, the many people still in critical care and all of those that attended the concert. In the days since I have felt so many emotions, as I'm sure others have. 

The next day the police investigation began and it has been very close to home. Literally my home town, the places I go with my family, the schools, the streets, the areas. I heard the first controlled explosion and initially thought it was another attack. The sirens became a constant background noise, the helicopters circling overhead (some of which are media no doubt). All the emergency services doing their very best, working around the clock to keep us safe. I am so grateful, truly, but it's filled me with anxiety. 

Telling the kids was hard. We were honest, explained what had happened, my husband stressed the importance of looking at the helpers. They were sad and I'm still not sure how it's affected them. My youngest had a bad nightmare and maybe that's her processing it.

It wasn't easy to leave them at school, would they be safe with what was going on? With the police around I felt like they were but what a strange and scary scenario. And there was still panic in my head.

I have been numb. It's been a week where I literally haven't done anything beyond what was needed for the children. I have picked up my sewing each day and sewn for a few minutes in silence but I haven't felt like doing it. I have cried quite a lot. I donated money to the justgiving campaign for the families of those killed and injured, if you would like to donate please click here. We attended a vigil at a local church. I have thanked those I personally know who are working hard in the hospitals. I have spoken to my wonderful friends and lovely neighbours.

This is the worst atrocity in Manchester in my lifetime. I was there when the 1996 bomb happened, working in a sports shop. I was 16, it was my Saturday job. I was evacuated, saw the explosion and had mild PTSD. Thankfully there were no fatalities that day. All I know is how much that affected me and I can't begin to imagine how everyone that was there on Monday must be feeling. The repercussions will be felt for a long time.

No one I knew died or was injured, all the people I know of that attended came home safely. I feel like I don't have the right to feel so sad or so lost.

There is a feeling of hopelessness, a sense of longing to be able to help somehow. Anger about what has happened. Such sadness. Fear. Questions about how this can happen. 

So much of what I want to say is political but that's not what this is for. I will just say that radicalised ways of thinking are not representative of Muslims or the Islamic faith and I hope this tragedy doesn't tear communities apart. We should stand together. As we did in the vigil held in the city centre, or the incredible acts of kindness and responses from neighbouring cities and around the world.

I have lived each day waiting for my family to be together. Thankful and grateful we are.

Today I want to try to crawl out of my own darkness. I will never forget this and I need to carry on.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

2017 Finish-A-Long ~ Meet the Global Host Team ~ Judith

Hi everyone, my name is Judith of Just Jude Designs and it's my turn this month to tell you a little about myself as one of the 2017 Finish-A-Long hosts.

I was born in Northern Ireland, and apart from 7 years living in England, I have lived here all my life. I currently live 5 minutes away from where the famous RMS Titanic was built in Belfast 1911.


I started sewing when I inherited my Nanny Maud's singer treadle sewing machine at the age of 11. I had already been crocheting clothes for my dolls from the age of 9, but now I could sew them blankets too!

When I started high school (11) I took Needlework. On my first day, I walked into the Needlework room and saw it was filled with electric sewing machines, but tucked away in the corner was a Singer Treadle machine! I pleaded with the teacher to let me use it, and then spent the next 3 years making garments on it! The start of my happy place!  

I continued sewing on my Singer Treadle, teaching myself naive patchwork from recycled clothes, curtains and scraps. (I still love working with recycled textiles today!) I made my first little quilt, a pram quilt, when I was pregnant with my first daughter (1995).


2 days before my 3rd daughter was born, I turned 30, and my family bought me my first electric sewing machine. I'd been sewing for 20 years and had never used an electric machine! I fell in love with my Brother machine, and then upgraded to a Pfaff Quilt Expression a few years later, which I still use today.


When my youngest daughter started school, I went 'back to school' myself, studying City & Guilds Textile and Design. I thought it was time I learned how to sew and quilt properly! My motivation for taking this 2 year course was therapeutic, a kind of 'play therapy', recommended by my counsellor to overcome depression. It worked!


I finished and passed my course and was invited to teach patchwork to a group of women with mental health issues at a local community centre. I didn't even know how to teach patchwork, but I overcame my nerves and quickly started on a new passion for teaching and inspiring others to love patchwork too.


For 2 years I taught women suffering from a wide range of mental health problems and saw first hand the therapeutic benefits they experienced after only a few short weeks of sewing. One lady in particular, old before her time, stooped with low self worth and heavily reliant on a walking stick, made her first patchwork cushion and within 6 weeks was coming to class without her stick and walking tall!! Like many others, learning a new skill within a caring community, and having something to show and be proud of, elevated her self-esteem and ignited hope and positivity in many areas of her life.

Over the past 10 years I have continued teaching in different venues, running my own programme of classes and also teaching for others. I also design quilts, cushions and bags for a number of UK based quilting magazines, and sell my patterns via my website, Etsy and Craftsy.


As a sole trader it is important for me to connect with other creatives, both professionally and personally. Being part of the quilting blogging community for the past 6 and a half years has been a hugely positive and affirming experience for me, and it has been my privilege to be a part of many bees, swaps and charity groups.

Brit Bee 2012  

If you have made it this far, thank you! Thank you for taking the time to read this and being part of Finish-A-Long 2017.


Friday, 12 May 2017

polaroid pouch ~ animal wisdom

You may have seen these polaroid blocks if you're following me on instagram, well I made a couple more and turned them into a zip pouch! What follows is a mini tutorial of how to stamp text on fabric and also a little explanation of those words.

The fabric used for fussy cutting is Menagerie, Indian Summer by Sarah Watson. One of my favourite prints. I picked out a few animals to fussy cut and the sketched design of the print works really well for the polaroids. I used Paint Dot, Paper Bandana by Alexia Abegg for the background. Such pretty dots and the colours are just perfect.

I have 'written' on polaroid blocks before (I don't like that empty space) - embroidered text - but I just didn't have time for that. I needed something quick and so turned to stamping. The same method I used to stamp my initials on the bottom of my Everything In It's Place Bag.

It requires a rubber stamp alphabet, the kind you can get from stationery or craft shops. Each letter is an individual stamp - clear stamps with an acrylic block are definitely the easiest to use because you can really see where you are placing the letters. 

To use them you simple peel the letters you need from the plastic backing and 'stick' them to the acrylic block to spell the word you want to stamp. I used a Memento Dew Drop Ink Pad, a really nice sized ink pad for the small letters.

Then to make the letters waterproof and also more even I went over them with a fine Pigma Micron pen. The 02 was the perfect line width for my letters. Finally it's important to heat set the ink with a dry iron.

*I managed to spill water on 'strength' (hence the smudging) while ironing the piecing before using the micron pen so do that sooner rather than later!

So why did I stamp those words?
I like surrounding myself with things that make me smile, positive images and words. I have a book Animal Wisdom by Jessica Dawn Palmer, which is all about the myths, folk stories and traditions that surround the animals. I looked up the bear, owl, fox and racoon, then chose the words that most appealed to me. The ones I feel are important, mean something and I want to always be part of me. It will just give me a reminder and boost when I see those words.

I would like to be a more adaptable person, I struggle with change a lot and it has led to anxiety.
Physical strength is important to me but also inner strength and mama bear strength.

Honesty and instinct come fairly naturally but I sometimes silence my instincts and that leads me to not be honest with myself. Doing my #100daysofsilentsewing project is really helping me to focus more on my instinct and the silence is so calming.

I chose a lining fabric I love, a Suzuko Koseki print:

And I picked a two tone zip, it's hard to capture the colour of the zip but the coral / yellow is so fun! It ties in well with the whole vibe I was going for.

I quilted round the polaroid blocks with navy 28wt Aurifil, simple straight lines that work as a frame.

Now I have to go and find something else to stamp!

linking up to finish it up friday at crazy mom quilts

Monday, 8 May 2017

2017 Finish-A-Long ~ Meet the Global Host Team ~ Sandra

Time to learn a little more about another team member, the lovely Sandra...

The 2017 Finishalong has a global team of hosts, and one by one they are introducing themselves in the "Meet the Host" posts throughout the year. Now I am NOT a Finishalong host, but I have the honour (!) of being the person behind the Finishalong Instagram and Facebook accounts (Social Media Director). And in that role I have been asked to introduce myself, too.

If you are meeting me today for the first time, you are very welcome to my blog Studio Sew of Course, where I share my quilts and other stitching, as well as glimpses of my garden and the area where I live.

Who am I?

My name is Sandra, and I was born and raised in The Netherlands. And before you think, "tulips, clogs, and windmills" that is not quite how it is living there. I never lived in a windmill, for one, though I lived in many places!

However, I did cycle every day to school at the other end of town - yes, everyone does cycle in The Netherlands! And in my student days I even went on a cycling/camping holiday to England with friends.

And I did not wear clogs... until I started doing a lot of gardening at our first proper "adult" house in Kent (UK). They do take some getting used to, but are perfectly warm and dry, and so easy to slip in and out of!

I also LOVE cheese, any cheese! And nowhere can you find such a wide selection of cheese as in The Netherlands, I think.

I studied at the Agricultural University in Wageningen (NL), and thoroughly enjoyed living in this small university town. Cycling all over of course! I spent a half year doing my internship in New Zealand, and eventually ended up with a MSc degree, and a future husband just months before he finished his studies and left to do a PhD abroad.

And so started my international life... Following my heart, and his work opportunities, we lived in many countries for relatively short periods of time. From three months to five years in one place, we lived in many different countries, in between coming back in The Netherlands for a while as well. And now we have ended up in Ireland, and have lived in this house longer than anywhere I have ever lived...

my first quilt, completely hand stitched
Growing up, I was often crafting, learning crochet and dress making from my mother, knitting from a neighbour, and many other crafts from magazines and books.
In England I came across my first patchwork quilt, and from then on I needed to learn how to make them. Beginner's classes started me of with drafting blocks, making templates and hand sewing (no rulers and rotary cutters at first!), followed by more classes, workshops, books and magazines, always wanting to learn more. A visit to a quilt exhibition has me peering closely at the way certain effects have been achieved, even now, so many years later. I just LOVE to learn new things!

Moving so often, quilt making also gave me an opportunity to find new people and make friends wherever I went. In some places it took a while to find out about them, but always I did find some group or other of friendly and welcoming quilters. And soon enough I was teaching quilt making, too.

Then in 2012, I started a City & Guilds Level 3 Certificate course, and as part of that we set up a (private) blog to share notes and work between us students. Which led me to start reading blogs, and starting my own blog soon after. Since I have a compulsion to stitch and sew (I sew, of course!), and fill the blog with my creative works, its inspiration and anything that takes my fancy, I named it Studio Sew of Course, and followed by being "sewofcourse" for all social media. I am very active especially on Instagram, but can be found elsewhere as well if you are so inclined.

Of course, I learned so much again in the course! The range of techniques covered in City & Guilds is enormous, and the design process poses challenges of its own. The course includes many, many samples and small projects, as well as five main items to be made, see my City & Guilds page for some of it.
Since the course my way of quilt making has changed, too. I have always been easily tempted to try something new, but now I'd try anything. And of course I made the most wonderful friends!!

In all those years I mainly hand quilted my quilts, not having a lot of confidence to use my domestic machine for quilting. This has led to a rather large number of half-quilted quilts, and unquilted quilt tops! Then I discovered the Finishalong a couple of years ago, and joining in has helped me to reduce the number of WIPs to a more acceptable amount. I also got a lot of practice in machine quilting as part of the City & Guilds course, so my confidence has grown somewhat. Now I have to just put it into practice some more... and remember to quilt with a less stops and starts - I hate tying in a million threads! Machine quilting may help finish some of my projects a bit quicker.

What's next?

My current Finishalong list contains some rather varied projects, and is not in danger of being finished any time soon. Besides, there are more projects in the house that haven't even made it on the list (yet). I can see my list grow longer before it will get any smaller! I do like the idea that I am working to finish those quilts, but I won't be beating myself up over it. And only projects I still like are making it onto the list in the first place.

I still teach a weekly quilt group in our local library, and we hold a yearly exhibition of our work there, too. They have a great exhibition space!
I am also working on another pattern or two (my few available patterns can be found on the Patterns page), I have plans to improve and extend the blog/website, and ideas for several new quilts are being turned over in my head... I have also been editing quilt patterns for several people over the past few years, too, and hope to do some more of that. I just love to puzzle on the quilt maths, and improving pattern instructions.

Besides that, I have a part-time job, we have three boys (13, 18, and 22), and a large (and rather unconventional) garden:

And I love going on walks and taking photographs (these are from last weekend):

One thing is for sure: I won't be bored for a long time yet!!