All posts by Val Jones-Hughes

Finished in February II

Story Cushions

The first Story Cushion I made was The Very Hungry Caterpillar cushion it’s in the blog for April 2014. You can see it here.

It had been in the making a lot, lot longer. It was actually the catalyst to my long path to free motion quilting and to my beginning patchwork. I had the idea for the cushion and realised it was something I would need to actually learn. I was lucky, I found a great teacher in Kate Higgins and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just before Olivia’s 2nd birthday she became obsessed with very same Very Hungry Caterpillar story so…… on to the net to order fabric and cushion number 2 was on the way.

The panel and the foods fabric were soon cut and the book pocket made.

The caterpillar and butterfly were outlined with this amazing multicoloured cotton thread. I love this and have it in several (rather expensive-but-worth-it) colour ways, this one is ‘primaries’, there must be around 50 colour ways.

Next it was on to the quilting and I have to sing the praises of another sewing thread here. I kept reading about this thread, it was everywhere; it was on just about every professional blog I read; it was in magazine articles; on pinterest; everywhere.  You really can’t miss it and I decided to stop ignoring it and invest in this Aurifil. I bought mine from Barnyarns, simply because I’d had some freebees from them and they really seem to know about thread.                               I am converted, it is ultra smooth and it doesn’t break and I really have to say it’s made a huge difference to the flow of my free motion work. I’m totally sold and don’t think I’ll go back to quilting with anything else. I only regret not trying it sooner!

So it was caterpillar quilting  for the caterpillar side








And butterfly quilting for the butterfly side.



Now there was one more thing. I’d made two story cushions and I have three grandchildren and although Heidi had the cushion that matched her quilt it’s not a story cushion with a pocket for a book!

So cushion number three. It could’t be the same as Dougie’s,  I didn’t need a particularly good imagination for that bit of sibling interaction! So here is what my search led me to choose.


Once again I outlined the motives and then stippled in between on the outside of the pocket.  But this time the  top half was plain/plainish  so I decided to write on that.

After sketching out a couple of font ideas this was my choice. Think I might use it again, simple but effective I think.

I can’t believe how quickly these two cushions came together. The first one took me so long. The quilting was so much easier, having a new machine since I first began has helped a lot. The Pfaff is so much more controllable and the Aurifil is a great find. Mostly of course its all down to experience and I must say that is pretty satisfying really. I think these two are destined to take up residence in the girls’ teepees where they both enjoy having stories read to them and where hopefully, in the future they will curl up to enjoy a book themselves.

Finished in February


It’s a great British tradition to complain about the weather and in January and February this year there was plenty to complain about. One of my favourite ways to keep reasonably fit is to walk in the glorious countryside around here. This January I regularly found myself paddling or sinking to my ankles in mud. In February it was the turn ‘The Beast from the East’ and storm Emma and general biting cold winds that upset us so much.

But – and it’s a very positive but – there was no golf, no gardening and so – there was a lot of sewing time.

Enough time to finish Olivia’s  just-about-begun quilt, a story cushion for her birthday and a story cushion for Heidi just so that she didn’t feel left out.

And enough time for a few little projects along the way. The red scraps made their annual appearance just before Valentine’s day.

Olivia’s quilt had been an embarrassingly long time in the making. I was in the middle of making Dougie’s Quilt when we went on one of our long trips to Spain and I decided that while we were away I would hand appliqué the elephant patches. So far so good.

Well when we got back it was summer.  Summer = golf + gardening = very little sewing. Then of course came the autumn and it was all stops out to finish Dougie’s quilt in time for Christmas. So the little elephant quilt was the no.1 priority for January. It was easy to piece together with yellow, grey and white patches to match her bedroom.



It needed a little bit of planning to get the balance right before piecing and once that was done 



the next step was simple and speedy and I soon had the batting and the yellow and white pin-spot backing together and ready to quilt.

I wanted a quilting design to fit in the yellow, white and grey squares, the elephant squares would just have simple outlines.  Here’s what I call ‘the pink claw of quilting’. My quilting gloves are actually cotton gardening gloves that have a fantastic bobbly surface perfect for ‘getting a grip’!

Now the next bit is worth posting, I’ll know where to find it rather than having to think really hard to remember it. I don’t have any idea why, but the sequence for binding around the corners  just won’t lodge itself in my brain. So here it is – in pictures.

and in words:

  • having pressed a diagonal fold at the beginning of the binding (see last photo) sew the double thickness binding strip leaving a 5cm tail at the start, using a quarter-inch seam
  • stop a quarter-inch from the corner, secure and break thread
  • fold the binding strip 90º to the right
  • fold the binding strip back on itself level with the edge of the quilt.
  • sew across the folded edge stopping and turning the corner a quarter-inch from the edge. Do this on all corners
  • trim and tuck the end of the binding inside the folded tail  before sewing the last 5 cms.

The   corners turn back really nicely and it’s on to my favourite bit, sitting quietly folding the binding over and hand stitching to finish the quilt.

I hope Olivia enjoys her quilt, if she’s like Dougie and Heidi it will become her relaxing quilt probably becoming part of the soft furnishings of the teepee we gave her for Christmas – which leads nicely on to the next project  … Story cushions’ But that’s for another day.

Dougie’s Quilt


In September Dougie started school, we did feel lucky to be involved in his first few days. With staggered starts to school there were days at the very beginning of term when we had him to ourselves and went off to visit gardens and farms and be given the  ‘Dougie’s guided tour of Bristol Zoo’. He was a very bossy guide!  We took him into his fabulous, ultra-modern, beautifully equipped ‘learning zone’ (previously known as a classroom) at the start of sessions and picked him up at the end.

Five birthdays, five photos.


At the beginning of December he turned five.

That’s FIVE years old. Five birthdays.

Five parties, five photographs!

Five years!


It was high time that I finished the quilt I had begun in January and that I should give it to him at Christmas.  The idea and materials for the quilt went back to a visit to the annual, autumn West of England Quilt Show with my daughter.  We spotted this pattern and as it was going to be my first big appliqué project I was more than happy for some help. This was going to be quite an undertaking.

I was keen to get started but there was Christmas sewing in the pipeline so it wasn’t until January that I tentatively began cutting the pieces for the vehicles. My plan was cut and prep in the evenings while watching TV. So I began to trace shapes on to the freezer paper and rough cut them and I could very quickly have been drowning in tiny pieces of paper. The easy solution was an envelope for each vehicle.  I have to admit that I still struggle with the orientation when I’m doing this job and it didn’t help that each row of vehicles changed direction.

Eventually I had chosen and cut the fabric pieces for the first two vehicles and a set of traffic lights and had wisely made the decision  

to raw edge appliqué the pieces. The fabric edges should rough up quite nicely with wear.

 I was immediately pleased that I had invested in this ‘Steam-A-Seam’ freezer paper. Pieces can be moved around, after the backing has been removed, which made life a lot easier and meant less likelihood of multiple annoying and time-consuming mistakes! I’d definitely use it again for a similar project. Bit more expensive but well worth it.

It was really enjoyable seeing each vehicle coming together and every bit of progress was very satisfying but there were things about my organisation that would make working easier.

There were a lot of fabrics lying around and I seemed to spend a lot of time sorting through them making sure I had a good variety of colours and patterns so eventually I made a washing line of fabrics to choose from. It did make that part easier and speedier.

Since this was my first big appliqué project I decided to match my thread to the fabric (less obvious wobbly sewing of tiny parts was called for) so this meant numerous reels and matching spools. There were a lot of them and they were messy and easily knocked off the table to roll around the floor and come undone.

Another of my pastimes came in handy here. Golf tees are now my way of keeping cotton reels and spools together, it works really well!

Dougie’s first visit during the early stages of making threw up a glaring omission to the range of vehicles. There was NO fire engine. Not a fire truck, nothing with a tower ladder, a turntable ladder, with a hydraulic platform or stabilisers, no airport crash tender. No fire fighting apparatus what-so-ever. This was a BIG omission and had to be rectified. A fire engine was quickly designed in the style of the other vehicles, simple it may be, but Dougie, a four year old expert in rescue vehicles was satisfied!

There were times when progress was painfully slow, there were other, smaller projects to fit in sometimes. We, as usual, went off on our travels on occasion, Spain, Turkey, New York and Anglesey were somehow fitted into the itinerary in 2017. The garden, my other passion, could not be put on hold. So there were times when it was not just slow.

On one of our visits to Bristol Dougie asked: ‘Nain, how’s my chillax  quilt getting on?’ Chillax quilt! He cracks me up, he loves to have a quilt when he has a relaxing time watching TV or just chilling on the couch, hence the ‘chillax’, he’s been using one that me and my daughter made together a few years ago but couldn’t wait to have one of his own.                                                             

On one of their visits here Dougie asked; ‘Nain, how’s my quilt coming on? Would you like me to help you?’ We did some cutting out together but he soon decided I could manage without him! Shame it wasn’t more straightforward really.

Inevitablely mistakes were made. Some were easily put right possible to adjust. But then there were others that had just gone too far and just had to be left as they were.

A car going in the wrong direction, for example, just has to become ‘Spot the silly driver!’.

At long last, some time in November the quilt top was finished, 72 vehicles, at least 6 pieces each, signage and an additional two rows of traffic light spots trimmed and ready to sandwich.

I have to say here that I am so pleased to have Aberdashery back, under new management and with quality stock growing back to capacity. I’ll always miss Jane for her good advice and easy manner but it is a consolation that the business survives. The town somehow didn’t seem complete to me, and many others, without that very special shop.

So I was able to just go into town and buy wadding and backing quickly and easily, no driving anywhere or waiting for delivery. Simples.

On to the quilting. Most of all it had to be quick and by definition, simple, I had just a couple of weeks for quilting and binding, while also continuing with all of the other million Christmas preparations that don’t seem to come to an end until the mince pie, carrot and Santa’s sherry are put ready on Christmas Eve.

So it was straight lines with squared looping that really didn’t take very long at all. My only worry now was the red and white striped fabric I had chosen for the backing. I had pre-washed it and the water was a bit pink. Would it run on to the white quilt top? I think I put about 5 colour catchers into the washing machine, just in case the colour ran. It didn’t, phew!

We had a lovely Christmas with our Aberystwyth family but it was the in-laws turn to have the Bristol family, so on the day after Boxing day we set off to have a toned-down second Christmas in Bristol. The present opening was as exciting as ever and I decided to leave the quilt until late in the day.

Every moment spent on that quilt was worth it when Dougie opened it up.  his face was a picture and he lay down and hugged it. He had known it was coming sometime but he loved the surprise of actually having it.

It was a little while before he got up and began to examine the quilt and look at the vehicles and comment. He loved it and he said ‘I didn’t know Nain, I didn’t know.’

He examined it carefully and got wrapped up in his old favourite blanket and his new quilt before going off to enjoy playing with all the new toys with his sister and cousin.




When bedtime came, with a full house and a necessary sleepover in his sister’s room Dougie hunkered down with his makeshift bed half in and half out of Heidi’s teepee (last year’s Christmas present), snug and comfy, and with his Furby, under his new quilt.




Over the next couple of days I tried unsuccessfully to get a picture of the cousins together and all looking at the camera at the same time! Unfortunately it turned out to be a bit like herding cats!

But we had a great time together. Oh and by the way, it was ‘year of the dolls house’ for the girls.

Be my Valentine

Another Year, Another Valentine

It was that time of year again. The eve of Saint Valentines day. Time to shut the door of my workroom   and rummage through the bits and bobs. Especially the red bits and bobs.

I’m usually drawn to hearts and this year was no exception. I love using buttons  and the button box (who am I kidding, I do mean button boxes, jars, the odd drawer, oh – and an old leather collar box) is often the first place I turn to.

This year I started by making a stuffed white cotton heart then, from the above mentioned collection I chose a whole variety of white buttons. The only thing they had in common was that they all had four holes so that I could make the  KISSES.        Then at some point I decided it needed one red button. I attached it to the card with yet another button.

There was an unexpected design fault this year! The card was just a little bit unbalanced. It collapsed on to its front no matter how I tried to stand it up. No time to make an improved version though, as usual it was a last-minute make.

Here are a couple of  previous years’ makes.

Christmas Sewing 2016 Two

Countdown to Christmas

Kits have never really been a choice for my sewing projects. I suppose somewhere deep in my psyche using a kit is ‘cheating’. I certainly have always gone through the agony and ecstasy that is the whole process of design, make, review.

Until November 2015 that is. The West of England Quilting and Textile Show was held in the University of the West of England; the University where my daughter studied and now lives a stones throw away from. It would have been rude to ignore it!

There were some fabulous quilts on show

and the stalls were just too tempting by far! Shows like this can make a serious dent in my bank account.

                                                     I bought some kits.

First up were the  Advent Calendars. We had been thinking about them. Thinking about them; looking at them on Pinterest; imagining how they would fit into our Christmas decor and just how we wanted them to be used. There certainly were plenty of kits on offer at the show and after walking around looking, eating lunch, discussing the pros and cons we decided that we would indeed go with the kit option. One for each of the three little ones in the family.

We chose two panel calendars with pockets, a decorated tree and a Christmas village scene. The third one would be a set of 24 Scandi style mini Christmas stockings. All of the kits we chose were from Makower, they have a huge choice.

We knew that the calendars would have to wait for Christmas 2016 to make their debut, there were other projects in the pipeline for 2015.

Christmas came and went 2016 just whizzed by and suddenly I had a very small window of time slotted in between returning from Spain at the beginning of November and the long-awaited and hugely anticipated trip to New York on November 22nd.

I’d made a promise so the pressure was on. The cutting began, the little pockets were soon made up and sewn on to the background, the sandwich was made up and backed with Christmas fabric from Aberdashery.  Oh, and there were loops to add along the top edge to hang the calendars on a length of dowel.

I decided a little bit of quilting was needed and just outlined some of the shapes on the panels. The final job was to add a little bit of Christmas sparkle.This came in the form of Pinflair Glitter Wands in gold, red and green. They are available in good craft shops or from numerous online outlets.

Once the panel advent calendars were complete it was on to the Christmas stockings. These were really simple. cut them out, sew them together, snip the curves, turn and press,  make a loop for hanging from red ribbon and sew that into a top seam. Done!

I chose a red satin cord to hang the Advent stockings.

All that remained was to pass on the two panel calendars to my daughter and the stockings to my son  … and just for this year I added the gifts to put inside. I like to think of them becoming part of the Christmas tradition and excitement in both houses as the children grow.

All in all I was fairly impressed by these kits they are quick and easy, there were printed instructions on the panels and I have since found there a You Tube videos if you should need them. And I still felt a creative buzz making them.

I was also taken by some of the small quilt kits at the show and I came away with two of those as well. I’ve just started on one of them so watch this space!


Unrealistically Optimistic Quilter

Christmas Sewing 2016


I’m not going to call this a New Year resolution, for one thing it’s much too late for that. But I am determined that this year it will be back to keeping up with the blog. So I’m going to start with my Christmas 2016, or maybe that should be 2015, sewing.

I started these star placemats before Christmas 2015 and we did use the first six of them then. But when I first embarked on the project I was determined, ambitiously perhaps, that we would have enough to use if all the immediate family were here. I decided that twelve was the ideal number. Ten placemats and two extra, perfect.

I was going to complete the whole set in January but as always priorities changed. Christmas 2016 was a long way in the future!

Back to November 2015! Foundation piecing was, and still is, a challenge. It’s still very much a case of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway!’ I had seen a variety of the foundation pieced stars made up and loved the Christmas Makower Scandi fabric that year and my vision was for a perfectly Scandi set of table mats. Red and white Christmas star perfection!

Puzzling endlessly over piecing orientation  and overworking my seam ripper was by no means part of the perfect vision. My project planning is nothing if not aspirational! The header for my ‘Quilt Inspiration’ Pinterest board is after all ‘Unrealistically Optimistic Quilter’!  Having a good run at making up the stars would leave me feeling I was really getting to grips with the piecing – then a gap in working would have me back to staring blankly at the pattern, the orientation of the fabric and the scribblings I had made over the original copy.

There were a lot (really) of points to get right. To say some are better than others would be an understatement. Now I really do have a sense of achievement having finished. Okay I know they’re not perfect, I know that the number of mismatched seams far outnumbers those that line up just right but I am more than happy with the overall look of them on the table and they certainly shout ‘Christmas’ loud and clear.

I quilted along all the individual points of the stars, you can see that clearly on the reverse. That was a very calm and soothing conclusion to each star and very satisfying. Then I completed each one with binding in red and white Christmas fabric.

Not all of it in the same range unfortunately but I actually like the fact that they are the same but different! January 2017 has seen them finished and I hope that they will grace the Christmas kitchen table for many years to come.


Nappy Stack

IMG_0070_2With just a week’s notice my son invited me to go to his partner’s baby shower.  The second thought to cross my mind (the first,  ‘Ooh, lovely’) was to wish I hadn’t rushed to give them the Retro Orchard Puff Quilt!IMG_0037




But it was only a fleeting thought and based only on the time remaining to complete a gift to give on the day.  I had a few ideas, one of them being the Nappy Stack I’d seen on Pinterest. So I set about searching. I found lots of lovely possible gifts but no sign of the very one I wanted.

It took just a little while for the light to dawn and for me to realise the language barrier issue! For Nappy Stack read Diaper Stack.  Of course! As soon as I re-worded my search there it was.                                And,1827-Diaper_Stacker-1 hey presto one click and I was on the Sew 4 Home site.  You can sign up for a weekly email from Sew 4 Home and I remembered that was where I actually first saw this. There are some great projects on the site and you can pin direct from the email link so it’s easy to keep the projects you like the look of.

This one caught my eye initially because grey and yellow are the nursery colours. As it happens I’ve been stashing away a little collection of yellows and greys ready for a quilt. I chose some Michael Miller ‘Here Kitty Cat’ fabric and some Riley Blake grey and white chevrons. I also think it’a a pretty nifty idea and much nicer than just having packs of nappies hanging around the nursery. I’m a sucker for idiosyncratic storage.


So, here is all the fabric cut and ready to sew.  The instructions on the Sew 4 Home tutorial are really clear and every step is accompanied by a clear photograph. Excellent! They also add links to  technique tutorials like sewing curves and making piping. Useful if you come across things you haven’t done before.

Opening for the hanger hook.

Basically the stack is made in two parts: the top hanger cover and the bottom sack. There are some fiddly bits, like the opening for the hanger hook in the top section, and of course, that piping.

The binding might have been a bit of a fiddle too but for my recently purchased Estone biased binding makers. imagesThis was the first chance I’d had to have a go with one of these and although the pattern didn’t call for bias it was magic for folding the binding evenly. Cheap as chips at £4.20 for a set of 4 sizes! You push your binding strip through and press it as it comes out folded at the other                   end. No more burned fingers!IMG_0064_2Here’s the main body part with the binding sewn on and the pockets in place.IMG_0066_2And here’s the top part with the hanger inside.IMG_0068_2And here’s the nappy stack complete with nappies, wipes and creams in the pockets.

Wooden hangers from ‘Hangerworld’!

Oh! Just one other thing. You will need a child’s, preferably wooden, coathanger. I didn’t have any so it was a case of thank goodness for Amazon and next day delivery, we have a handy family subscription to Prime. Living out in the sticks brings shopping challenges so it’s worth having.  Who would ever have imagined there is somewhere called ‘Hangerworld?

Nonnie had organised a lovely baby shower for her sister.  And there was an amazing cake made by her sister-in -law.  It made me giggle.IMG_0071

Here is the link to the tutorial on Sew 4 Home. I know now exactly where to find it. I’m going to need it, I’ve already started a second one at the request of my daughter.



Here is the second Nappy Stack. Made with two fabrics from the lovely Nature Trail collection by Bethan Janine for




Dashwood Studios. They consistently come up with fabrics I adore, in colours that just make my mouth water.






And a pic of the binding in the making. Next time I do it I’ll add a decent sequence.

Please leave a comment, it’s good to know there’s someone out there!


Have you ever completely ruined a perfectly good woollen jumper? I’ve done it once or twice! When Jeff first retired and took over the laundry he did. I remember one of my jumpers and one of his. I wish I’d kept them.IMG_0043Here’s my latest shrinker. This time it was deliberate! You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to really shrink something when you’re trying. Easy-peasy when you are doing the laundry in a hurry and in goes your woolly  then you take it out and aargh, dolly sized!

Reading about felting I found that the garment should be at least 80% wool. When I decided this cardie was past it’s best I checked it out and it was 70% wool.  Mmm? I gave it a go anyway and it actually felted up really well with a hot wash in the machine. Apparently you can improve the felting by taking it out and putting it in cold water and then back into a hot wash. The temperature changes enhance the process.

I cut it up like this

And sewed it together like this

I found the felt really easy to manipulate when I was sewing the strip to the circle, being used to working with cotton which is quite unforgiving.  To get the rib and collar to the right shape I pinned it first and cut it when it was in place to get the tapering right and to place the buttonholes. I thought the fabric was quite thick but the lovely Pfaff managed perfectly.

I turned the brim out and pressed it into shape then sewed the original buttons on with a little bit of contrast. And there was my new hat.

I was meant to be quilting my juicy jelly quilt this afternoon, this was  a bit of a spur of the moment whim. It was great fun.  Now am I going to wear it or use it for storage?

Retro Orchard Puff Quilt

IMG_0036The first ever Puff quilt I made was for my own first baby well over

How home photography has changed in the digital age!
How home photography has changed in the digital age!

30 years ago. We had a crib that had been in the family for many years and I wanted to update it. I have no idea now where the original idea came from but I obviously liked the look of it. I still do. The quilt was used for both of my children and for my nephew and niece when they took up the family crib.

Then when my daughter was expecting her first baby a puff quilt was the first thing she asked me to make and we chose fabrics to match the colours of his nursery. It was one of the first things I made on my return to sewing. Very fitting I think!

Dougie's Puff Quilt
Dougie’s Puff Quilt

Well now that my son and his partner are expecting their first baby, our third grandchild, I thought I would make this a bit of a tradition. I’m sure I can rely on my daughter to carry it on!                                      This time we know we’re waiting for a little girl and I chose a favourite fabric from my stash.  I’m often inspired designs from Dashwood Studios and like all ‘fabricologists’  I  just occasionally, sometimes buy fabric and wait for the right project. That was the case with Retro Orchard by Wendy Kendall, it was a 2014  collection so I’ve had it a while.IMG_5457IMG_5453

I added a hot pink pin spot for my backing fabric to the collection..

There are so many great tutorials on Pinterest, (here’s a link) I’m not going to add to them, but I’ll just share the general process.

I’m in the habit of keeping a (very scrappy) journal of my makes so it was easy to decide on the size. 8 x 12 puffs, with each puff being cut to 3.5 inches. IMG_5459I used an old white cotton sheet for the back of the puffs, making each backing square 0.5 inch smaller than the tops. I am still cutting my way through sheets inherited from my mum and mum-in-law, it will be the end of an era when I’ve used them all up, maybe some of mine will be ready for recycling by the time they are. Never throw away a cotton sheet.



So I started my 96 puffs, sewing by day and stuffing and pinning watching TV in the evenings. Some was done in Mel’s sewing class and some at home.

The pile grew quickly and soon I had a bag-full waiting to have their fourth side sewn and be joined together. I had to keep reminding myself to make the seam less than a quarter-inch.

IMG_2239I decided the design should have the four prints running in diagonal lines and began sewing the puffs together in four squares using a quarter-inch seam. This should have meant that the original seams wouldn’t show but the puffiness makes it difficult and many a seam had to be re-done and I had a few broken fingernails – don’t ask!

IMG_2245Pretty soon there were 12 rows and 8 columns all sewn together and then there was a bit more tidying up of seams before cutting the backing and making the binding. For my last puff quilt I wrapped the backing round to self bind but this time I decided on a separate binding. I used the recently learned method of turning the corner. IMG_0038

Now this is worth a tutorial so next time I do it I’ll make one. It’s a method that makes a lovely neat mitre easily!


I wanted to secure the puffs to the backing but I’ve never found a IMG_0039way to keep the joined puffs perfectly square so stitching the ditch would be a hideous messy, lumpy, bumpy  business so I hand sewed them together by just catching through the layers in between alternating puffs and making little four -petaled daisy shapes.IMG_0037It’s a great size for a crib, pram or pushchair and is comfy enough for a newborn to lie on for floor time. Here’s a very new Dougie on his.IMG_0157

IMG_0042I could think of uses for it rolled too.IMG_0040

It’s an easy make, comfy and cosy, and could be any size.  I hope I get the opportunity to make more!

Heidi’s Quilt

IMG_5422I’ve been missing from here for such a long time. Nothing blogged since the spring and we’re almost into a new year! It isn’t that I haven’t been busy making, more that I’ve been even more busy with other things.

Since my last blog I spent two months in Spain and survived the annual walking holiday with my sister – this year in the wonderful north Lake District. I’ve added new beds to the garden and visited gardens up and down the land. But most of the ‘busy’ was being in Bristol in the first few weeks after our lovely new granddaughter  was born. We felt so blessed to be able to spend so much time with our family at such a special time and we were more than willing to make ourselves useful helping. And of course totally smitten by our latest little addition.

I have been making, but just not blogging. Most of the makes were little ones, squeezed in-between travels and the intention to record them just never became a reality.

Just as we arrived back in the country in November I lost my mum which stopped me in my tracks for a while and nothing much happened around here, I found myself spending a good deal of time with family, quite rightly. But I had promised Heidi a quilt and I had begun back in the summer and I found it a solace to return to finishing it.

Bethan had decided IMG_1950on a fab, subtle colour scheme and we set about finding fabrics in grey, coral and mint. Nothing could have filled the brief better than Bonnie Christine’s ‘Hello Bear’ for Art Gallery Fabrics.  The bears are gorgeous! I love the quality of AGF cottons, they are just lovely to work with and appear to go on looking like new for many years. The range is a large one and we narrowed it down to eight designs with the addition of a solid grey.

imagesNext was the search for a pattern. I’d bought Allison Harris’ ‘Growing Up Modern’ some time before and liked the look of a number of the quilts. We settled on ‘Sparkle’. We loved the design and the  classic hourglass blocks suited our fabric choices.                                                       Allison’s directions are spot on and the book starts with  some really good tips for novice and experienced quilters alike.

Cutting and peicing the top went along quite speedily, there were opportunities for chain piecing the half square triangles, which helped move things along nicely.

The clear instructions and accurate measurements meant that the top was soon done.IMG_1957

And then I added a border in the peachy coloured ‘follow me’.


So, top done but no plan for the quilt back so there was an opportunity for a little diversion. We were having a little nursery chair reupholstered and it seemed to calling out for a cushion! Enter a template for a huge dresden plate borrowed from my sewing class.

Now, I have made a dresden plate block before but it was small and not brilliantly executed. However, as usual, once a plan has entered my head I have to make it come to fruition. So pleased I did. I love the cushion!



Randomly ordered piecing for the dresden plate.





On both sides



Next to add the centre and a backing. my favourite for cushions is a lightweight cotton domette. Not too thick or heavy, just enough to give a little bit of substance to a cushion.

IMG_1990I used one of my favourite stitches, a running cross stitch, to quilt the fabrics.

A little bit of piping around the cushion top was all that was needed to finish it off.






The colours  are perfect against the silver grey of the chair, just what we wanted.


Back to the quilt back. I decided I had enough of the fabric left to make square patches and enough of the ‘follow me’ for a border. Simple.  I just about got it done before we headed of on our travels so I had to leave putting the quilt together until our return.

I free motion quilted with a simple loopy line, or rather two simple loopy lines. One in mint and one in coral.IMG_5426

And made a labelIMG_5423

So Heidi’s quilt was finished before Christmas and very nearly coincided with her moving into her big cot in her own room.IMG_5420IMG_5428

Unfortunately I don’t think that the photographs of the finished quilt do the colours justice. It was grey and raining here what felt like every day throughout November and December and the photographs had to be take indoors in poor light. I didn’t do a great job. Maybe I can add a few more when the I’m in Bristol in the sunshine    –   In the meantime I’ve begun the planning for my next baby quilt.   A Nains’ life is a busy life – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!


Pedal Pushers Beach Bag

From Capel Bangor to Aguadulce


We didn’t spend a lot of time on the beach on our most recent trip to Spain and we didn’t ride our bikes down to the sea as often as usual either, but I did carry everything I needed to the beach in Aguadulce in the bag that I made  in Mel’s class in Capel Bangor.

Back in Capel Bangor in pale and watery March it looked almost too shockingly bright but on a sunny Spanish beach it wasn’t a bit out of place.

Well, the connection is not about cycling at all but the lovely Moda ‘Pedal Pushers’ fabric designed  by the mother and daughters Jung that caught my eye in the days before we started making Mel’s brilliantly designed, multi-pocketed bag.

Here’s the whole 1950’s inspired ‘Pedal Pushers’ range:product-collageIt was, of course, the red and aqua end of the range that caught my attention. A combination that always draws my eye.

The mini-patch, quilted back pocket shows all of my selection with raspberry ‘Wicker’ and sky ‘Floral Crest’ as my main fabrics.

I had a real sense of satisfaction putting the bag together, putting a range of skills to use, getting the inner and outer pockets in place and finding that everything fitted perfectly – thanks to Mel’s clear instructions and direction of course. Left to my own devices it probably would have been assembled and reassembled numerous times!


And as always our group worked happily and supportively; having lots of fun and, on occasion, really getting down to some serious work!


And when it came to going downIMG_1905 2 to the beach in sunny Almeria with all the necessary paraphernalia my bag was light and easy to carry and not just a brightly coloured beach bag but a practical, organised super-bag. Oh! And the soft padding meant it also served as a soft place to lay my head!

I think my beach dress just serves to prove a point about my current colour preferences!

And just look at all these pockets -perfect!

Thanks Mel!

Time for UfOs

UfO Number 1

Aboriginal Dots

IMG_1851It’s only just over a year since I began this sampler quilt. Quite a short time in the long line of UfOs waiting in line in my workroom really!

It was the first thing I made when I was over the moon at finding Mel’s class. It was the first thing I made after I discovered the joy and the temptation that is the wonderful Calico Kate shop in Lampeter.                              Lampeter or Llanbedr Pont Steffan, or  locally known as Llambed, this quiet Mid-Wales town is the smallest university town in the UK but more importantly for quilters it is the home of Jen Jones’  Welsh Quilt Centre (find them here on Facebook)

Unknownand the most amazing collection of fabrics ranged across twelve mouthwatering rooms at Calico Kate.


This little sampler quilt was also my introduction to the mysteries of foundation piecing. At the time I hadn’t a clue about this particular wonder of patchwork and as I began to find out I realised it may be quite a challenge. It is!  A challenge that I’ve loved and will continue to develop. Thanks Mel!

The Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter has hosted the talented and inspirational Kaffe Fassett as a speaker and tutor on more than one occasion. I was totally blown away by the colours of the Kaffe Fassett Comes to Wales Exhibition when I visited. He has been a knitting and weaving hero for me over the years and now here I was quilting only to discover his amazing quilts.IMG_0773

IMG_0774So it’s only fitting, of course, that Calico Kate stocks a good range of Kaffe Fassett fabrics and since then I have used a few. But for this project the focus was on the piecing so when I chose I went for a limited range from the Aboriginal Dots collection. Like all of his fabrics it comes in many hues but the ocean, teal and silver appealed to me on the day;  I added some of the shot cottons from his range and a fat quarter given to me by Mel.

We made a block each week and I think the only one that wasn’t new to me was the nine patch. I learnt a lot about points and pinwheels  and about half square triangles –  including that they are known as HSTs and are the basis of many more complex blocks.IMG_0807

 I made my first log cabin blocks; a large one and four minis that became the four quarters of a larger one.                                                             I can’t imagine ever tiring of making a new block for the first time, it can be frustrating, baffling, exasperating and totally troublesome but it makes me happy and if I’m not satisfied with the outcome I’m compelled to make another!1460154_10151992301369098_1348956163_nWhen all the blocks were pieced and the top complete I sandwiched the wadding and the back and even began quilting by ‘stitching the ditch’ and trying out some free motion on the sashing but then I was distracted by the quilt I was making for my sister’s 50th birthday (see the post here). More to the point I wasn’t happy with the stitches wandering  in and out of the ditch and so it slipped down the priorities until one day I began unpicking. Somehow over time I got better at staying in the ditch and eventually the next stage was complete.IMG_1853


Stitching in the ditch – a few wobbles but nearly there!



This week in a pre-holiday rush it suddenly became imperative that I finished at least one UfO before leaving and this was it.

I trimmed the edges, made a random binding strip from the scraps and hey presto, finished! IMG_1852IMG_1854Hooray!

Peg Bags

Exactly a year ago last week, February half term, me and my sister and our sisters-in-law  met up for a girls day out in the lovely little seaside town of Aberdovey.


We drank coffee and talked; we

walked along the sea front and talked; we ate lunch in one of the pubs along the sea front …


and talked and browsed every one of the little shops and talked!

In one shop we talked about peg bags, well the conversation had to have a few mmmm…..  exciting topics, didn’t it?  There were some pretty ones there and my sister-in-law commented that she needed a new peg bag. Well you can probably imagine the outcome. I, of course, said ‘Don’t buy one, I’ll make one’.  Sister-in-law  2 says ‘I’d like one too.’ Not a problem. Well, such an easy thing to make! I knew I’d be making at least 3. And thinking about it I needed one as well. Make that two, our caravan peg bag has seen better days.

But even I didn’t think it would take me a year! I thought about it. I thought about it a lot. I planned and I looked at them on Pinterest, I even made a dedicated peg bag board!                                                                   From my Pinterest board (click through to take a look at them all):

I love the vintage shoulder bag one from Marmalade Rose blogspot; the washing line appliqué from ‘Aiming for swan like’  really appealed to me and the button hanging idea from ‘Love me sew’ got me thinking about alternatives to coat hangers. The Cath Kidston bird house was one of the commercial ones I thought was fun.

I was very dedicated to the idea of making them; I sourced the right sized hangers but never quite got around to ordering them; I became extraordinarily interested in examining them whenever I saw one in a shop and I contemplated how I wanted them to hang.

Well I’m pleased to say that the planning was worth it and at last I have a design that I really like and that is easy to make and that has a hanging system that I’m really pleased with. The trigger hook means that the bag doesn’t come off the washing line no matter how hard the wind blows, and it can blow here on the West Wales coast!


I bought two different types of hooks, the round ended ones are the best.

The Prototype: Making the front.                                                                                     The opening is just the right size and in just the right place.

I bought a broom handle and found trigger hooks in the farmers stores, there were no eyelets there so I turned to trusty Charlie’s Stores.IMG_1762 I did get Jeff to cut the broom handle into sections for ease and speed and when the sewing was done to help screw the eyelets in. The compressed wooden broom handles are extraordinarily tough!




Here is the first finished  peg bag.



The only adjustment to the design was to shave a quarter of an inch off the dowel. I’ve made all the bags I’d planned and they have been quick and easy.



If you are in need of a new peg bag and  would like to make this one I’ve added a tutorial here.



Annali Inspiration

IMG_4956Among my Christmas presents this year was  a treasure chest from one of my lovely friends. Inside were lots of yummy foody things. All locally produced. There were speciality mustards and marmalade, a raspberry couli and a strawberry and  kirsch jam produced just at the top of our road and we’d  never tried it! There were holly leaf  Sarah Bunton Chocolates made just by the narrow gauge train station at Devil’s Bridge. We often take visitors up there so I’ll definitely be calling at the shop in future. There was a lovely little pot, and (how well my friend knows me) a fat quarter of Annali teal floral. 


Now as it happens I have had  some of this lovely Dashwood Studio range by Stephanie  Thannhauser  in my stash for some time. This new FQ was just the inspiration I needed to get busy with it.


I also wanted to try a Lynne Goldsworthy design I’d spotted in ‘Love Patchwork and Quilting’ magazine (issue 16) and this fabric seemed just the thing.  I needed a bit more than I had for my plan to make a bed runner and cushion covers  and turning to my stash again I found some pieces of Eloise Renouf  ‘Bark and Branch’ left from a previous project and I chose one for the sashing and one to add to the piecing for the runner. I’d think about the cushions later.

Bark and Branch

So Honeycomb Hexies’ it was to be then (find the template here). Let the cutting begin.

The design for Honeycomb Hexies looks quite complex but Lynne’s instructions combined with the diagrams and illustrations were great and there wasn’t too much work for the seam ripper. I did get carried away on my first row and was merrily adding hexies as if I was making a full size quilt, but I think that shows that the design was simpler than it looks.

The half-hexagon, sashing and triangles were pieced in rows, then mirrored by a second row. Once the rows were pieced they were sewn together  in pairs and then the whole top put together. It was a really pleasing process and I loved seeing the pattern emerging.

Here is the runner pinned ready for quilting.IMG_1719

When it came to the cushion covers I decided on one central hexagon with a border in a grey multi and the sashing fabric. IMG_1733

Because this was more of  a feature block I tried matching the join in the two halves. It’s not a bad job but it was fiddly so two matches was enough thanks!

I found the multi-grey in the sale in Aberdashery, I used another for the cushion backs.




IMG_4959The quilting needed to be simple, I’m still practicing but I think it’s getting a bit more even overall. Here’s the reverse, simply because it shows up better.

There are so many great designers and quilters out there. Suffolk-Garden--1024x717Dashwood  Studio have some great fabric designers on their books, I’ve recently bought FQs of another great range, ‘Suffolk Garden’ by Brie Harrison. So exciting. They’ll definitely bring the garden into the house.

I find myself following some terrific blogs from designers who generously share their work.  Lynne Goldsworthy is one of these. Find her at Lily’s Quilts  where she has posted lots of tutorials, among them another great hexie quilt, ‘Hexagon Park’. I’ll certainly be following her fabulous blog as well as looking forward to her contributions in LPQ. So much to look forward to!

Tee Time

AberystwythGC3I do love our golf course, it’s a  great course and the views are stunning. I really am still determined to get to grips with this challenging, frustrating and totally stimulating game but at this time of year with the north wind blowing straight off Cardigan Bay sewing is definitely my preferred option.

Jeff, on the other hand only needs a gap in the clouds and a slight lull in the wind and he heads off kitted out in thermals and with waterproofs at the ready.

And now with IMG_1725the latest little creation from my sewing machine.

Jeff had the idea  for a micro fibre ball cleaner but I knew there would be some golf themed fabric out there. There is!

Our first attempt was a pocket with a sealed end, but one muddy outing on the course highlighted  a fault. The pocket quickly became a pocketful of mud! Type 2 is open ended and it works perfectly well.

Easy to make just a tube of micro fibre inside a tube of golf-themed cotton (so far I have two designs) with tidily bound ends.

Quick to make with micro fibre fluff being the only problem, it was everywhere; all over my clothes and my sewing table and under the plate on my machine needed careful brushing.

But on the course it’s great, fits in your pocket and is much easier than the traditional towel hanging from the bag and getting in the way.

That’s my Clover mini iron in the first pic. A thoughtful present from my son (prompted, I’m sure my my equally thoughtful, quilting, daughter. I love it and recommend its time-saving simplicity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Or so I’m told….. I’m sure I’ll get to try it out soon.