"This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive." - Alice Waters

Last Sunday was Stitch Gathering, the wonderful day retreat organised by Jo Avery of myBearpaw, in Edinburgh. It is always a full day of fun, with great classes and company and it's always over too soon. I was there teaching a class - something a little different, more on that later! - and also had the opportunity to take a class. As someone that relishes learning and trying new techniques it was very exciting. And oops... I've started a new quilt!

Now, as I type this, something has occurred to me. For the first time I did not have the overwhelming anxiety I've had before every social occasion/journey/outing/time being around other people that I've had for the past three years or so. It could be because life has been extra crazy busy and I didn't have time to stress, though I suspect that's disbelief talking because those negative/anxious thoughts shout really loud. Mental health is fluid, with ups and downs - I am under no illusions but right now it does feel that gradually all those things that previously felt SO difficult just aren't. Usual worries like 'have I got everything?' and 'will people enjoy my class?' were fleeting and manageable. Thoughts like 'I can't do this' and 'I don't want to do this because of x,y,z', which would usually flood my brain, didn't take over. I know I batted a few of them away, they weren't non existent but they were quiet and didn't feel real. Anyway I'm taking that as positive and, however I may feel in the future, it feels nice that there wasn't a dreaded build up and it was all enjoyable!

At Stitch Gathering, Jo asks us to create a 'ticket' and each year these are swapped between participants. This year it was an 8" hoop, which we could stitch and embellish as we liked. It was fabulous to see them all hanging together and a nice variety of hoop art! Here's a closer look...

For my ticket I made an English Paper Pieced 'Feverfew' block from The Seedling Quilts by Jodi Godfrey, using scraps of some of my favourite fabrics. 

I hand appliqued it to a piece of Essex Linen, with some hand stitching around the centre of the viewfinder and a few french knots between the petals to finish it off. I used strands of Aurifloss and it adds a nice texture.

Unfortunately I completely spaced about creating a closed back for the hoop and hope whoever took it home forgives me! I do find that hoops have a habit of loosening though and this is generally my favourite way to finish them because you can adjust the tension and easily remove the work if you decide you want to use it for something else or swap it out. I also added a label to the back because labelling your work is important!

This is the beauty I got to take home! Made by Anne using a machine embroidery pattern from Urban Threads. I LOVE the colours and this hoop drew me in. I actually had taken a close up picture of it before we drew raffle tickets because I was inspired by it. The steampunk vibe is cool and the little details are so pretty. I had to give Anne a huge hug because I was so thrilled to receive it, she was quick to tell me it was a machine embroidered pattern, as though somehow she didn't deserve praise but I know these things aren't always so simple and still she picked that pattern, those threads, took the time to stitch it out and it's perfect for me! It's whimsical, strong and for me it embodies growth, creativity and energy. Thank you Anne!

The morning was a real treat, as I got to do Jenni Smith's class - learning to hand stitch a Manx Log Cabin. This traditional method is unlike anything I've done before. I RIPPED fabric, using parts of my hand as a guide for measurements and it was scary, thrilling and brilliant!

I'm close to finishing my first block, not even close to perfect but I don't mind that at all. I had so much fun making it that I'm absolutely making a whole quilt (blanket? it has no wadding?!) of these blocks. You can add wadding in between but it seemed easier without and honestly I like the idea of a lighter weight quilt/blanket. For the stitches I have doubled 50wt thread, they are visible on the back and I only had grey thread with me so that's what I'm using. It may be that I use different fabrics for the back of each block and so the thread colour might change for each block but then this totally has a traditional vibe and the handmade, make do and mend use scraps look is what I'm embracing!

In the afternoon it was time for me to teach. The 'Just My Type' class was an idea I had to encourage people to play with fabric, ink, stamps, crayons etc. Really it is a way to merge my love of fabric and stationery! 

I have used rubber stamps on my work before, for labels and incorporated in my piecing. To take this further I played around with stamping larger pieces of fabric, which I will ultimately cut up and use in projects. This one is stamped and then stamped again immediately below to create a shadow effect.

I have lots of pens, my favourite are the Pigma Micron and the brush pens both by Sakura. They are permanent, archival ink and can be heat set on fabric with an iron. This is the brush pen and Cherish by Madonna lyrics.

Everyone that came to the class had a good play! There were some fabulous creations, all very creative and it was great seeing so many people embracing my suggestions and running with it!

Hopefully these will turn into wonderful projects, in fact Carina already has...

Special thanks to Jenny who quickly whipped me up this emergency name badge as I had forgotten to wear one and this was far better than the pathetic one I had created on scrap fabric with a pen!!

Of course there was a little shopping as well. I could not resist this gorgeous design by Lisa Dolson and this will be my next non quilting project once I've finished my current cross stitch. It will be nice to do some embroidery and this design makes me smile. 

I'm looking forward to working on my satin stitch and filling it up with texture.

Here are some examples of Lisa's gorgeous work that she had with her:

It would be impossible for me to resist Lucy Engel's fabric, I have a growing collection and adore her prints. These are from her latest collection Sticks and Stones and the colours are amazing!! I recommend following her or checking out the website, the prints are handmade and limited. Warning, they are addictive!

We all know quilters are kind, lovely folk and I was welling up when beautiful Poppy presented me with this Hello Kitty Liberty fabric. She is so thoughtful, she remembered I liked it and brought it with her to give me. I mean this is hard to get hold of, I think she said she got it in Japan but it's a blur because I was a bit stunned. I know that might seem silly to some people but it's really very special to me, that she would even think of sharing - not only because it's awesome - but because she knew I loved it so much, I am really touched. Thank you Poppy ♡

Finally to top off a very amazing day, the goodie bag! Filled with wonderful treats, this Bewitched style fabric is perfect for October and I am excited to create with it all. Thank you to all the Stitch Gathering sponsors: @aurifilthread @sewmotion @nicolajdodd @todaysquilter @lovequiltingmag @michaelmillerfabrics @duckeggthreads @rileyblakedesigns @freespiritfabrics @blendfabrics @lewisandirenefabrics @dmc_crafts and @dashwoodstudio. And of course thank you Jo for organising another truly brilliant Stitch Gathering day ♡

Also I must mention and say thanks to my friend Jane, who drove us up to Edinburgh on Saturday and back down on Sunday. You are such an amazing woman and I loved our road trip, thanks for all the laughs, wisdom and being excellent company my dear!

This weekend I am doing more teaching, check out this page if you're interested in taking a class. And don't forget to join in with the weekly Saturday Night Craft Along, you can find out more over on my instagram!