I’m so pleased to finally be able to share this project…for me it’s very much been where a love of knititng and sewing and embroidery and of course wool has all come together….
You might remember, back in November I wrote a couple a couple of posts on here about my love for wool and for knitting, how during the past year I’d been on a bit of a knitting adventure and had been knitting with various different British Breed yarns, not really to do anything with them, more of a get to know you, how do you do sort of thing….all this really can be laid at the door of Knit British podcaster Louise Scollay…her podcast has really inspired me to look for local yarn and to find out a bit more about the yarn I use….this background and story to my knitting has really fed my story/need to know addiction….whether it’s patchwork (so and so’s auntie Flossie had this leftover from a pinnie, this was a pair of pyjamies, this scrap was from one of my dad’s shirts etc) or knitting (what’s the breed, the story of the shepherd/ess, who bought me my needles and what do I use as stitch markers….)
Waffling aside, November is also Wovember…a month long celebration of wool and how wonderful it is….most of the focus tends to be on yarn and fibre, knitting,spinning, felting and the sheep…Wovember 2015 was such a revelation for me, it really opened my eyes, and by the end of the month I was very much all about the wool. So I was very excited thinking about Wovember 2016 and wondered how I could give the organisers a thank you.
Earlier in the Autumn I’d been in touch and asked if they would like a prize for one of their competitons, and I’d be happy to make a bespoke made knitting needle-wrap made from and lined with all wool fabrics…..
Various Wovember competions take place including one on Instagram, all set up by Louise and Felicity (Felix Ford)…you needed to add #wovember2016 to your pictures…you can see the amazing photos just here ….
I’m really lucky becasue we have an amazing fabric shop in Norwich called Anglian Fashion Fabrics on Magdalen Street and they often have very limited runs on the most beautiful wool cloth….and I happened to pop in when they had some hand woven Donegal tweed…..
I had to wait until the winner was announced and then got in touch with the lovely Sherrie @woollykindknits (this was her winning picture…) and asked her what sort of wrap she would like…Sherrie lives in the US so this was all done with text messages rather than being able to chat with her on the phone…in the end we decided to go for a wrap for her dpns…she has possibly one of the largest collections I’ve heard of though I think Evaowl could possibly come in very close….
Once I’d drafted a pattern for the wrap that would not only hold all the needles Sherrie has at the present, but which would also allow space in case she buys some more….I cut the fabric and embroidered particular areas of it using a selection of vintage wool threads, mostly crewel-work yarns for the fifties.
I tried to highlight the tiny flecks of colour that is worked throughout the Donegal tweed cloth….the sprigs of embroidery were worked in small areas on every side, as I felt that would be like little surprises whenever the wrap is opened……
As well as choosing Donegal tweed for the wrap I also bought a very lightweight wool cloth for the lining….this is a slatey grey/blue colour which complimented the tweed.
The wrap was sewn so that there’s room for two rows of needles, the left hand front pocket is designed to fit both 6 and 7 inch needles….and then the pocket behind fits the 8 inch needles.
The wrap is kept closed with a piece of vintage leather thonging, and folds over quite snug so it will fit nicely into a knitting basket.
I was starting to fret a little as it was a bit slow in arriving, and thought it might have got lost in the post so was all about to make a second one but I was worrying over nothing as I had a lovely message from Sherrie this morning saying it had arrived safely and was already full of needles….
Huge thank yous to the inspiring team at Wovember, for encouraging me to learn all about the woolly wonderfulness that is just on my doorstep, and big hugs and thank you to lovely Sherrie who was so patient while I sewed so slowly….
Over the Summer I was able to combine my new found love of knitting alongside my older love of sewing….previously when I’d attempted to do any knitting it had been on 12 inch or even 14 inch straight knitting needles, but since trying out the wonders that are interchangable circular needles my heart has been rather taken with them however it did seem that tips and cables were soon scattered about in almost everyroom…. over the Summer I started making needle wraps where I could store all my interchangeable needles together ..I’m rather a fabric horder so I had plenty of materials with which to tinker …..I made a couple and sold some to very kind friends and found I really enjoyed working to their specifications….I also made some wraps for double pointed knitting needles too as I had a rather large collection of those as well (many thank yous to lovely Isla at Brit Yarn who sent me no end of beautiful wooden ones she wasn’t using)…..
Something I’d not initially thought about was the different tip length for needles, mostly I like a short needle tip but other friends have said they like longer ones or more often…half and half….. but none of the cases or wraps I’d seen were made where you could store both types of tips so a bit more tinkering was in order…..what I had wanted to sew though was a wrap that you could store all your needle tips, cables and a couple of other pieces like a needle guage and some short stubby needles for when you’re knitting softly flowing cables……
Most of the fabric I have in my stash is more often than not special in someway to me…perhaps it’s the same floral print I had in my bedroom curtains when I was little, a cushion or chair cover from an elderly friend or relative or it’s a fabric I’ve found in the bottom of a box at a car boot or flea market, one that makes my heart all skippy ….and while these all make me happy I’m aware other people have equally special fabrics themselves……while I’m happy to hoard fabric or notions, I really love being able to make it into something that I will use, so I see that cloth and get all those memories every day with every touch…..
Last year my lovely friend Anne gave me an old wool coat that had been her mums, sadly it had a really bad tear so would have been a bit difficult to repair however she thought the fabric might be useful for me…..so I used it to make her a series of needle wraps and a big knitting bag to keep them all in…….the fabric was nice but not very interesting so I embroidered small wild flowers over it in vintage crewel yarn……when she opened her gift she straight away recgonized the fabric, and said “it’s mum’s old coat”, pressed it to her face and sighed “ooh, it still smells of her”….to which we then had to blow our noses because we got a bit teary.
So while not really a comission that was such a meaningful make because that fabric meant such a lot to one of my friends……she’s pretty sure it would have been her mum taught her to knit so seeing and using that wrap everyday holds a whole lot of memories…..
A more recent commission has been for my friend eva, one wrap very sensibly is for her (fixed circulars this time so it was made with deeper pockets) and then 2 long wraps were made for a couple of her friends which were designed for interchangables…eva didn’t want the space made for a needle gauge but instead wanted them filled with spaces for lots of tips and while similar in construction ended up looking quite different because of the fabric used…..
Last year when I started knitting I began listening to a couple of podcasts (KnitSonik and Knit British) and started reading all the wonderfully woolly and sheepy articles on Wovember…..both podcasts and woolly articles really lit such a fire in my heart, on days when my knitting was mis-behaving I was able to put it aside for a little while I’d listen or read…and then return back to my yarn and pointy sticks a little bit more relaxed……
Anyway, I’m very grateful to Felicity (Felix) Ford and Louise Scollay who both do so much hard work preparing for all that is Wovember and I wanted to show my appreciation in some way so I emailed Louise and offered a bespoke wool wrap as a prize for one of their competitions…..so I’m very excited to say I will be making a special, custom made, all wool fabric, needle wrap for the winner of the Wovember Instagram competion…..the winner will be announced today over on the Wovember site….(if you look for #wovember or #wovember2016 you’ll see some beautiful knits, wonderful sheep, and some amazing woolly goodness going on…a real celebration of such an incredible fibre) ….
I’ve bought some beautiful hand woven donegal tweed especially for this and have some very fine weight wool cloth for the lining…..over the holidays I’ll be working on this special bespoke wrap to suit the winners needle specifications and will be posting progress here and on Instagram (yes, I’ve finallly bought a phone that has a camera)…..thank you so much Team wovember for your wonderful enthusiasm for wool and for all the interesting essays and features on the Wovember site….if you’d like to help support Wovember there is a little donate button at the bottom of the Wovember site page.
One of the things I like so much about using re-purposed pieces of fabric left over from old clothes, family stashes when people used to dress make or odd/old curtains and cushion covers when an elderly relative moves house is all the memories and stories that are woven up and remembered each time you touch or see that cloth….having pieces of fabric all folded away means they can often get a bit neglected or just forgotten about…I love having a rummage through some of my scrap bags, pulling fabric down off shelves, and when I use them in my work I’m always reminded of the people who gifted me so much of my fabric hoard….remembering funny stories and loved ones whose faces I’m not going to see again are part and parcel of all the thoughts and time that go in to my patchworks and quilts and that is really special for me….those sentiments are something that I try to put into other pieces I make, whether it’s hot water bottles that are lined with soft and warm brushed cotton (like our nighties used to be made from when I was small) or tiny Christmas Stockings that are all full of dreams and anticipation even when they look empty……
This year while I’ve been knitting, I’ve been listening to a lot of knitting podcasts, time and time again when people talk about learning how they’ve knitted, more often than not it’s been their mum, grandma or nanny or an elderly aunt that has been there for those first wobbly steps…listening to a lot of knitting interviews made me think about my own knitting journey and my bag of scraps and handed down fabrics…..
I’d already been making wraps and cases for my own sewing clutter and knitting needles and thought this was a nice way to use fabric that owns our hearts with it’s memories, remembering the people that teach/taught us our craft who aren’t always still with us to thank… ( I hope that makes sense…soemtimes what is so clear in my head and heart comes out as a very rum jumble)
I’ve mentioned my friend Anne on here a few times before, she’s an awesome knitter and a wonderful friend, for the past some years now she’s been gifting me with beautiful hand knitted socks and from time to time she turns up with a bundle of fabric and goodness knows what else for me to re-purpose and sew with…. last year she bought over a lovely wool coat though sadly rather badly torn, it had been her mum’s and she wondered if it would be of any use to me…. the fabric was nice and sturdy but it wasn’t very soft so I didn’t think it would be suitable for hot water bottles …but I tucked it away until this Summer when I made her a series of needle wraps to keep all her knitting needles in and a big project bag to store everything together….
I used some vintage crewel wool to embroider a series of flowers over the fabric to add a little interest to what was otherwise a rather sobre coloured cloth…
Anne is a wee bit older than me and has been knititng for all her life, she can’t really remember learning to knit but is pretty sure it must have been her mum who taught her….. anyway when she un-wrapped the present she knew straight away what the fabric was, and held the wraps to her face, breathing in the scent of mum which still lingered on the wool cloth…. it can get me quite throat lumpy and chest achey when I use fabric that holds all those memories and happy thoughts…..
I’ve also had a couple of commissions for wraps this Summer, working with two awesome knitters so the wraps would cover everything they required…..this one went up to Scotland to lovely Claire who is an awesome knitter of beautiful shawls and cardigans….along the front row are spaces for needle tips and some are sewn short so she can store both short and long tips. The fabric was mine and is some that my friend Sasha the toy maker gave me…..
And this wrap was made for Eva in Italy, (she lives near Trieste so hope that it’s not too cold there already)……Eva likes her dpns and said she had a rather large collection of them in all sorts of sizes, so the wrap is made up of 3 layers of pockets…..the front row can hold the shortest little old Brittany dpns and cable needles and the back pocket can fit anything up to ones 20 cm long….the tweed fabric wasn’t vintage but was a beautiful pale and watery blue.
Yarny temptress Isla at Brit Yarn is currently running a British Yarn sock kal on Ravelry and she’s got one of my wraps to gift as one of the prizes, I hope whoever gets that one likes it…..I’m really enjoying this kal, first up as it’s organized by Isla it’s all about using British yarn, it doesn’t have to be sheep woolly (it can be alpaca alpac-ery or rabbity angora) but the yarn does have to be British, personally I think it’s great seeing all the different woolly yarns that people are using, quite a few I’m already now familiar with (like Blacker Classic and WYS Signature) and there are ones I’ve heard of but not yet tried out (like The Knitting Goddess’s Brit Sock or her Wensleydale/Shetland blend*) … all these are available from Brit Yarn where Isla has sourced a wide range of British yarns for everyone’s budget….but I’m also scribbling down new names that I’d not heard of before that are all woolly and sheepy…. and then the patterns….so many I’d not seen before though I think Claire’s Gotland socks using Blacker Yarns Tamar have been my favourite, closely followed by these…….best of all though is the incredible support knitters offer each other, and the advice and suggestions given to help each out.
I’ve also got wraps and rolls for sale in my Folksy shop….if you’d like to commission your own wrap or needle roll I’m more than happy to discuss your needle requirements, whether you’re a dpn lover or prefer a circular needle……
*a very exciting review will be shared soon thanks to the lovely Knitting Goddess Joy.
I’ve mentioned my friend Sasha on my blog a few times now, I love her colourful creations and happily pile up empty chairs or sofas around the house with her handmade cats and rabbits…. walking into a room full of these never fails to brighten up my morning and it’s only because our house is quite small that I don’t have more of them…(I’ve even got them in the bedroom and my work room too)……
Each creature is completely unique so is a real treasure as Sasha makes them by hand using vintage fabrics from all over the place, more often than not there’ll be just enough fabric for one lone toy….which was the case with this lovely rabbit, the soft grey corduroy is so fine and she said it was a handful of scraps, but just enough to make a face, paws and feet…..
What I’m so excited about is that finally you can contact Sasha online…..she doesn’t have an online shop (yet) but does at least have a facebook page where there are photos of a small selection of some of her amazing makes, and you can contact her directly there….previously it was just a case of finding her at a few random craft fairs throughout the year so I think this will be much easier if you’re interesting in buying one of her beautiful creatures.
This lovely grey bunny is one of her very latest makes and I would happily have given her a home. I love those delicate doiley cheeks and the hand stitched floral ears…..
Like I say, I already do have a fair few of Sasha’s beautiful creations….and as you can see I’m not the only fan of her work in our house…….this is one of our sofas. When we have guests I quickly lug all of these upstairs so there is room to sit as it’s a bit rude to expect people to sit on the carpet….the orange cat is huge, he’s about 4ft something tall. He was one of Sasha’s very early makes but I think he’s great…there are also toys on here that I’ve had since I was right little, and a much loved elderly auntie knitted the bear in the orange dress (she even has lacy edged knickers on)….from time to time Bernard decides to cuddle down amongst them, he’ll throw a few on the floor to make room for himself and then just sprawl out quite happy….and often a good bit of time goes by before I realize where he is.
Another favourite from my personal collection is this gorgeous rabbit, she’s so glamourous. When Sasha first showed me her I just fell in love…..Her little fur jacket is a vintage dolls coat…I always think she looks like she’s off to a fabulous party where it will be just full of amazing people….she’s quite large, a good two foot as she’s got quite long legs….she also makes me think of music hall girls with those pink silky cheeks.
All the face details are carefully embroidered with antique silk floss and vintage threads, in the past Sasha used to use lovely old buttons for eyes but I think she even embroiders those nowadays too……
And these are some other toys she made from a few years back, they all live upstairs and keep me company when I’m sewing….it’s been really amazing seeing Sasha’s style evolve slowly over time, I know she always laughs when she sees some of her earlier toys on display here but I thik they’re brilliant.
All of her creatures are made by hand and more often than not are dressed in vintage doll’s clothes or are wrapped in delicate scraps of antique doileys or cloth. Sasha doesn’t really do bespoke or custom pieces to order as the fabric she carefully chooses to use to sew the toys is already very unique as it’s been brought from flea markets and brocantes, antiquey type shops and carboots and it’s pretty much impossible to then make doubles of anything made…..sometimes her toys come with beautiful vintage accessories like painted beds or prams but sadly she says these are becoming much harder for her to source.
My most favourite toy she’s ever made though is my darling Miss Enid……in part because she was a present from my boyfriend but I also know Bernard adores her….if we ever had a fire Bernard would be tucked under one arm and Miss Enid the other….I love it when he snuggles up with his head in her lap, all purrs and contentment.
I hope you’ll pop over and say hi to Sasha, and have a gander at her beautiful makes. As well as cats and rabbits she also makes ribbon cloud mobiles and very pretty bunting which would be ideal if you are decorating a nursery or bedroom and want that vintage aesthetic…she also makes the most incredible swan cushions but I’m not sure if she has any of those left for sale.
I love old fabric, all time softened and a bit sun faded, it always conjures up memories and stories when it’s hand me downed or even found in a dusty box in a charity shop or car boot when I then get to wondering who did this belong to, what did they do…..some of the most treasured fabric I own is pieces of a pink and white sheet that belonged to our Nanny C, and some fantastic red and white fabric that originally was a chair cover belonging to my dear Joyce’s mum……I’ve bought familiar looking curtains not quite being able to place them, to be told later by my mum they are the same as the ones that hung in my bedroom when I was little…..everytime I look at these fabrics I can’t but help remember moments and times spent with people I’ve loved…
Other special fabric has been gifted by friends old and new, and while I could keep this all stored away and kept for best or fancy, I much prefer to use it, to be able to see and handle it day to day when I’m sewing or knitting….looking up from a sewing a tricksy hem or sighing when I’m having to un-knit a row (or two or three) when I’ve not followed a pattern properly, my eyes can rest on these familar fabrics and a little wave of reassurance and comfort helps to make me feel calm again.
A few years ago I made some knitting needle rolls for some beautiful wooden Brittany needles from my boyfriend’s mum and dad, the needles are really special and every time I use them I think of Kathy and Phil, and wanted the fabric in the roll to be equally dear to my heart.
Now I’m knitting with different styles of needle, double pointed ones which look like you could have someone’s eye out with if you’re not careful and ones where you can change the tip size to the length of cable, I thought it was about time I made some rolls and wraps to keep all these new types of needle safe and in one place.
While I was making the rolls and wraps for myself I was thinking about some of the podcasts I’ve been listening to this year, namely the Shiny bees one…often when Jo aks the people that she interviews who it was taught them to knit they reply it was a granny, nanny, elderly relative or their mum and I began thinking how I love seeing the fabric that is special to me when I’m working….. while Nanny C could knit (she’d knit brightly coloured little squares that a neighbour would sew together into blankets for the local old people’s home….Nanny C was still doing this in her early eighties) I don’t remember her ever showing me how to, or if she did I was pretty bad at it….a great aunt did try to teach me but my hands were always hot and sticky, and the stitches would get tighter and tighter, painfully squeeking as they pulled over the needles and dear Joyce was always out in her garden to bother about knitting or sewing …..so while when I knit and am quiet I’m not quite remembering them teaching me to knit and purl and pass one over, the fabric wraps are familar prints and textures and helps recall the laughter and chat, cups of tea and tins of biscuuits I associate with them.
As well as making wraps for my own ever increasing collection of needles, I’ve also made a few for my Folksy shop….at the moment there are two styles….the first one is designed for those pointy and pokey double tipped needles….they have two rows of pockets inside and are long enough so they’ll fit needles up to 20 cm. They also have a wide space in front where you can tuck in a needle gauge and the pockets at the other end are sewn shallower so you can store your cable needles in them and they won’t slip all the way down. These will also fit skinny types of crochet hook such as the Brittany ones.
When you want to store your needle roll away, it rolls up like a jam roly poly and is kept secure with either a length of velvet ribbon or a piece of vintage leather thonging.
The other design is a longer needle wrap and these are made with a front pocket that has been divided into lots of sections where there is room to store your different needle tips as well as a needle gauge. The three far right spaces are a bit shallower and are designed to store your cable needles. The wrap is deep enough that there is also room for short needles (for lace shawl edgings) or the odd crochet hook.
The two pocket lengths behind are divided into three so there is plenty of room to store loose cables.
The wraps fold over on themselves and keep all tucked up and secure with either a length of velvet ribbon or a piece of vintage leather thonging.
Both designs of wrap have long flaps inside that cover all the needles so stop anything from flying out or getting lost in your bag.
I’ve really enjoyed making the needle wraps as sewing is very much my first love and it’s been nice to incorporate my interest in knitting with fabric and thread.
As well as the ones listed in my Folksy shop I’m more than happy to work on bespoke wraps and rolls to fit your own particular needle requirements and with your own fabric if you have some that holds a special place in your heart.
In the past I’ve made memory quilts which were pretty special to sew and I guess these are a bit like that…..
I’m currently working on a few more styles which I hope will be ready to appear in the shop over the next week or so along with a couple of designs for project/workshop bags and pockets.
After having both my head and heart proper turned over the past some months by the joys of knitting, the last few days have seen me pottering about in my work room, mostly it’s involved tidying up, sorting out, but there’s also been some sewing…..One area of tidying that needed to be taken in hand were my needlework books, they’d started to spread out around the house, a small pile here, another few there… so I tried to gather them up all into one place…there’s been a couple of new additions to the sewing reference library, they’re all oldies but goldies.
On Friday I saw 3 different editions in just one charity shop of this classic, it’s such a great book and was one of the very first sewing books I ever bought. There’s a few different printings but it’s pretty much the same information inside each time. It’s a really great book for beginners and it also has plenty of information for more confident sewers too. As well as explaining how to draft (draw up and design) a pattern it then explains how the garment is put together, with chapters covering pockets, collars and a a very thorough easy to follow section on button-holes.
A little while back I bought the More Dress Pattern Designing by Natalie Bray, I’d already bought the Dress Pattern Designing book by her years ago and had been on the look out for the sequel ever since but it’s one of those books that is hard to find or is really expensive…I must confess to a squeal of happy when I spotted it on the shelf of a local charity shop, an absolute bargain at £1.99…….it might seem a bit daunting to a beginner at first look but it’s certainly worth buying it if you see it cheap… all Natalie Bray’s books are so well written and as they were first written in the sixties there’s plenty of “vintage” lines/shapes to the pattern drafting.
Possibly a more easy to follow book for a beginner is Clothes by Margaret G Butler…(this is a 1975 copy) inside it’s full of helpful information about fabrics, threads, patterns, how to cut out, how to lay patterns on fabric….the chapter on zips and buttonholes is especially well written and has plenty of clearly drawn illustrations with easy to follow instructions….it’s handy to have if you’re working from a commercial pattern and aren’t really sure of some of the techniques…there is also a nice section at the back of the book about how to care for your clothes including laundering and repairs. There’s no photos so it doesn’t feel dated and the information inside is very sound.
Another two recent purchases (both bought for less than a posh coffee) was Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book and Complete Needlecraft by Agnes M Miall.
The Mary Thomas book is such a wealth of embroidery know how, it dates from 1936. The subject headings contain a bit of back ground information including some history and then the instructions on how to work the type of embroidery (it also includes quilting, patchwork and smocking) are very clear and easy to follow….there aren’t many photographs but it has lots of clean and well drawn illustrations.
Complete Needlecraft covers a much wider range of needlecrafts (including dressmaking, repairs, knitting and crochet) and has quite a lot of photographs (including a rather scary looking crochet bra) but no drawn illustrations. The copyright is 1945 and has a Book Production War Economy Standard brand inside, however it doesn’t read as make do and mend book in the slightest as there are suggestions for some rather swishy items inside.
Okay, I know this isn’t a sewing book but it’s another classic by Mary Thomas…..I nearly did a little dance of joy when I found this beautiful 1948 edition of Mary Tomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns…it’s very nicely written, pretty clear and reasonably easy to follow, but I must confess it was the charming illustrations that made me smile so much all the way up to the till with my money….my favourite and there are so many inside I love…( the stocking stitch /garter stitch illustration, the puppy with the un-ravelled knitting, the squirrels popping nuts into a stocking hanging onto a tree,the college professors having a quarrel over their knitting……) has to be this young girl winding her yarn off from the antlers of a reindeer…in real life it probably wouldn’t work but makes for such a sweet image…I’ve seen more modern day printings of the book for sale online but I don’t know if they have the illustrations in or not….
The knitting patterns are written out as well as having a little chart so if the instructions seem a bit complicated then the chart might make things a bit clearer….there’s also a very helpful texture index at the back which suggests some stitches which suit particular garments or knits..
One of my favourite past-times is having a nose around and poke about in odd corners and dusty boxes in charity shops or bric a brac shops, sometimes I come away all empty handed and that’s fine but other times I manage to pick up a gem, often for very little money and which becomes a much valued addition to my library or hoard of haberdasheries. The above items were all sourced for very little money and generally I find the quality of older pieces to be a lot better than what I can afford to buy new.
The zips were a real bargain, although I only bought one at first as I wanted to check for rust (because the zips were all in their original packaging it wasn’t possible to check without undoing and tearing the cellophane) but it was all fine so the next week I went back and bought a few more….the zips are metal and the teeth are nice and strong. They also run nice and smooth (which I was a bit concerned about at first)…the colours of the fabric are very nice…peacock, glen green, sage green are just some of the ones I ended up buying.
I prefer to do a lot of my sewing by hand and mostly use vintage Sylko Dewhurst thread as it’s such good quality, it’s brilliant for both hand sewing and machine sewing, the thread slips through the eye of a needle so easily. While the above threads aren’t that brand, they are all still nice to use, and I’ll often use a finer cotton to use as a tacking thread….I also prefer using vintage needles as I find they are a bit stronger and seem to be finer, and sharper….
I love little packets of vintage bias binding, sometimes it comes with thread in a matching colour (not something companies tend to do nowadays)…depending what I’m sewing I might carefully wash and then press the binding before using it as sometimes it shrinks and then will make the seam it’s sewn to pucker up a bit…if what I’m making isn’t going to be washed then I don’t worry….
As well as having umpteen charity shops nearby I’m also lucky enough to have a wide circle of friends and family who’ll gift me bags of buttons, threads and sewing what nots…even my accountant has given me small bags of leather thonging and embroidery silks, bindings and lace trimmings…..I’d like to say everything is tidied away and is in it’s place…hmmm, for the most part that’s probably true but there are still little tins and and suitcases that hold an assortment of haberdasheries from all over….From time to time I like to empty a box of notions and doo dahs out onto my work table, more often than not I’ll find something I’ve forgotten all about and which can get me thinking about who these little treasures used to belong to…inspiring me with thoughts of a new dress or skirt….
Last May I wrote a rather lengthy piece about what I’ve found to be really essential when I make my patchworks…I hate that a lot of people seem to think you need to be super rich to make a quilt, okay, it would be wonderful to have big pots of money and to just buy everything all in one swoop but that’s never been a situation I’ve found myself to be in. For the most part, I’ve bought the pieces I use slowly, in dribs and drabs…some fancy shmancy pieces of equipment (like gridded rulers and fabric shears) were bought for me for my birthday or Christmas (which makes using them extra special), but most of my quilts were made without a lot of flashy stuff.
I had a message the other day from Buttercupandbee regarding my quilts, and well, you know what I’m like, there’s never a short answer with me (I see it as being thorough)….but it reminded me of my original post and thought it was time for a follow up.
This is a break down of what I use to make my quilts once I have a patchwork top ready to work with…first up I’m a hand quilter and while I have made one quilt using a machine, I really do prefer to use my hands..(but if you like making them on a machine then that’s great, I’m just saying it just wasn’t for me). I don’t live in a particularly big house so there isn’t the space to store more than a couple of quilts. Nor do I have the funds to make an unlimited amount so the fact each one takes me a good while is a positve thing to me….If a quilt takes me a couple of years to make then that’s okay, I’m fine with that….obviously the ones I make for commissions don’t take as long as that but there’s still a lot of hours in all those stitches…the real pleasure for me is in the handling of the fabric, finding an inner quiet time in those tiny stitches….the rhythm and motion of the needle passing through the fabric, joining pieces of patchwork into a whole and then later embellishing with quilting……
As I say, funds for quilts that are made for our home are quite limited…the biggest spend after fabric for the patchwork top tends to be on the wadding but I’ve found that buying wadding in bulk (I buy a kingsize pack of wadding and then cut it down into smaller pieces) works out excellent value for money…..next comes fabric for the backing, then thread and needles and a quilting hoop, something to mark your pattern out with and something to draw around like a template….anything extra is just that…extra.
I try to keep all my quilting/patchwork tools and equipment together though there are bits and bobs that cross over from one sewing box to another…but while you’re making your patchwork top you might like to keep an eye open for the items you’ll need later to make your quilt…it’s surprising how often I’ve seen a quilting hoop in a charity shop or beautiful vintage needles at a flea market….and if you’re making a quilt for you or for your home, then vouchers for your birthday to spend at your local quilt shop will help toward the costs of wadding and backing fabric. I think a mistake people can often make is to feel that you need to buy everything all at once…I think it’s much better to buy slowly, and if you’re lucky enough to have friends that quilt they’ll probably be happy to lend you things so you can try them out first.
Marking your quilt
You can buy special silver pencils or chalk pencils from quilt shops to mark up your quilting design. Both of these wash out really easily. I don’t get on so well with the silver pencils myslef and prefer a white chalk pencil. When I’ve made very small quilts I’ve marked the quilt in wash out blue pen but I don’t recommend this for larger projects as the pen can become permanent if left for a long period or is exposed to sunlight….regular HB pencil isn’t generally suggested to use as the graphite rubs off against your hand which then brushes against the fabric making the quilt become rather grubby..however, I’m not going to say I’ve never used it because I have, but I do need to wash all my quilts as soon as they are finished (this also helps the fabric scrunch up and look a bit “time softened” rather than something I’ve just made as well as sprucing it up)…..Not that long ago I read in a recently published book to mark up your quilt using tailor’s chalk…seriously I would not suggest this as tailor’s chalk is waxy and it doesn’t always wash out properly. I’d also suggest getting a top quality pencil sharpener from an art suplies store to keep the pencil tips sharp (cheap ones always seem to chew up the “silver lead”/chalk inside).
Depending on your quilting design you can also use strips of masking tape, (although I tend to buy big reels of it from a local Ironmongers as it’s cheap as chips from there, you can also buy skinnier versions from quilt suply shops)….you just stick this to the patchwork and quilt either side of the line and then it just whips right off, you should be able to use it a couple of times before all the sticky has gone….it’s quite handy for quilting squares or diamond shapes in the middle of feathered circles….and you can stick it diagonally across the quilt, and quilt along like that, though you’ll need a sturdy ruler to guide you so the line is kept super straight (or spread your quilt out flat, and tie and pin across a piece of thread across the corners, then run the tape along the thread line.)
You may prefer to get fancy and want to quilt cables around the edges of your quilt, if so then I’d suggest buying some quilter’s plastic, you can buy this in A4 packs or in A3 size sheets ( I buy the sheets as they work out better value for money and last me ages)….but you can also use the plastic to make a bar for baptist fan quilting.
Wadding or Batting
I prefer to use a pure wool wadding from the Tuscany Collection by Hobbs…it’s not cheap but it hand quilts beautifully, and when washed carefully gives a wonderful drape and lightness to your finished quilt. I’m happy to spend the extra money this wadding costs as it is so wonderful to work with.
I also use cotton wadding and find that quilts up really well. I tend to use it more on notebook covers and small projects rather than bed quilts but if you wanted to make a Summer quilt and were on a bit of a budget then that would work beautifully. Most quilt shops sell this on a big roll so I don’t know a brand name, however I’ve bought cotton wadding from 3 different places as it’s all been about the same so I think it’s quite generic.
I don’t use synthetic waddings as I find the fibers seem to resist the needle, and it’s much harder to make my stitches. I think it’s a bit of a false economy to skimp on a good wadding, okay I know you don’t see the wadding but the time you spend working the quit, if you’re constantly fighting with your needle then it becomes a chore not a pleasure….I also find it doesn’t really “flop” like a wool wadding (I like a quilt that flops over the edge of the bed, corners forming soft folds)….instead it sort of just sits there
Also because I’m a cheap skate and don’t like to throw anything out….I often sew small pieces of wadding together to make a larger piece…when you make your quilt you get left with strips from the side, rather than throw these away I just save them until I’ve got a few and then just slightly overlap the pieces and then sew them together with a slanted tacking stitch.
American muslin/quilting calico
For the most part this is what I’ve used to back several of the quilts I’ve made…it’s available in really generous widths so you could buy a couple of metres to back a quilt with it without having to join the fabric and have any distracting seams….it tends to come in two colours, bleached and un-bleached..so white or natural. It’s not the prettiest fabric in the world and I know most quilts in more modern quilting quilts seem to use printed fabrics for their undersides (this is what I’ve done in the above picture) but if you’re on a budget then using this will help save a fair bit of money, also your quilting will show up much clearer on a plain background…it also holds dye incredibly well so you could also dye some and just wash it a few times before basting your quilt together.
Generally I wash all my fabric for quilting before I begin sewing with it, and I make sure to wash the muslin/calico too as it does shrink up a bit. There isn’t a particular brand of calico I favour, I just ask for American Muslin at my local quilt shop, however don’t ask for English Muslin as that’s cheesecloth and isn’t suitable to back your quilt. American Muslin is also a lot softer than dressmakers calico so I find it’s best to buy it from an actual quilting shop.
If you wanted to make a wholecloth quilt (a quilt which doesn’t have a patchwork top but instead is a single piece of fabric which is then beautifully quilted) then this is the fabric you’d want to use.
When I’ve had a long break from quilting I find it can take an hour or so for me to get my rhythm or quilting mojo back…I’ve always have a play/sampler quilt to feel my way back in to the motion of the stitches…this is often just a couple of pieces of American muslin with some cotton wadding inside (this is a perfect way to use up those wadding scraps you’ve saved and sewn together), basted together and which I can just randomly stitch until my fingers become familiar to the motion of the needle again. It doesn’t have to be very big, mine tend to be about 18 -24 inch square “quilt sandwiches”. It’s not meant to be a work of art or anything, the stitches aren’t made to be perfect, it’s all about you finding that needle,fabric, fingers rhythm again…..and when you feel your stitches are nicely consistant, then you start back on your quilt project, tucking the scrappy sampler away for next time…they can end up getting pretty heavily quilted, and in the past when I feel I can’t quilt them anymore I chop them up for cushion stuffing….like I say, they aren’t pretty, and aren’t designed to be admired or anything, it’s like scribbling with a new pen on scrap paper, encouraging the ink to flow….
I really like using Star brand hand quilting cotton, it’s incredibly well priced and makes for very nice quilting. It’s a bit thicker than regular quilting cotton so is a bit hard to thread really tiny needles (such as Clover Black Gold) It’s quite hard to source in the UK and I’ve only seen it available in a few colours (although mostly I prefer to quilt in an ecru shade or grey) but I’m told it’s widely available in the US and Canada.
However, I also like Gutterman hand quilting cotton. It’s finer than the Star brand so it’s easier to thread your needles, but is a bit more expensive. It’s available in a really wide range of colours. I always use proper hand quilting cotton and don’t touch the synthetic threads.
If you’re quilting a patchwork top made with brushed cotton then you could also try using coloured button thread by Gutterman, it’s thicker but the brushed cotton isn’t woven so tightly as regular quilting fabric so it doesn’t damage the weave. This is what I used on a very early quilt I made (actually it was a pair of quilts for two of my nieces, just large squares of brushed cotton hand sewn together and then I quilted rows of heart/star motifs on them…) it’s also what I use when I’ve made quilts for the cats…(which were made from an old pair of pyjamas and some plaid shirts)
Quilting needles are often called “quilters between” but sometimes it just says “quilting” on the packet. The needles are short, and slightly stubby. They need to be nice and strong to go through all the layers. (unlike the straights or applique needles you use for the patchwork, those are super skinny and a bit longer.)
Depending on what I’m quilting I go on and off different brands of needles, mostly I prefer the tiniest little needles imaginable, the sort you’d expect the mice in The Tailor of Gloucester to have used on those buttonholes…but I appreciate these aren’t for everyone. Some brands sell little packets with a selection of quilting needles in them, and while you may not end up getting on with all the different sizes, it gives you the chance to try out and find what feels comfortable for you ….also, don’t expect to find the teeniest needle comfy the first time you quilt…like most things, it takes a bit of practise and when I started quilting I prefered a longer needle to what I like to use now.
Millward and John James are both good basic brands, you get about 20 needles for around £2.00, you really want to store them in-between sewing in a needle case as the quilting needles are so short they’ll soon disappear to be forever lost if you push them into a pin cushion.
I’ve also used Clover Black Gold which are very very tiny and skinny, they probably aren’t so great for a beginner and they are very pricey, the last ones I bought were £4.50 for 6 needles, but they are super sharp. (their applique needles in this range are excellent)…from time to time in brickety brac/flea markets I’ve been able to pick up Blue Dorcas vintage quilting needles, these are my all time favourite and never cost me much. Always check for rust though if you look to buy vintage needles for your sewing (I like using them as I find they are stronger and sharper than modern needles)
If I’m quilting something small, anything less than a foot square I’m not likely to use a quilting hoop, I still baste it the layers with thread but find I can handle the fabric better without a hoop, but when I’m working larger than that I find using a hoop makes things a lot easier…and there’s much less chance of you quilting yourself to your work (it’s incredibly easy to catch a dress or skirt fabric on to your quilt when you don’t use a hoop…I speak from exprience)…a quilting hoop is bigger than an embroidery hoop, it’s also fatter, generally about an inch thick.
A hoop will help give the right amount of tension to your work as you quilt it…some people like their work to be held super taut like a drum, I prefer a bit more slack, but there isn’t a right way or wrong way, it’s what feels right for you.
I’ve got 2 different sized hoops, a couple that are 14 inches wide which I tend to use for most of my quilting, and a bigger one that is 18 inches wide and which I don’t use quite so often, even though I’ve got what I think must be freakishly long arms (cardigans and coats never seem quite long enough to my liking and cuffs often sit well above my wrist bone) I find the 18 inch hoop quite hard to manoeuvre when it’s in my lap….I imagine it would be perfect for quilting feathers and cabling when you need lots of space to maneuver and perhaps I’ll do some fancier quilting like that again when I quilt up “dear ethel”.
Some years ago when I made a huge sampler quilt that my mum now has, each of the blocks in the centre was quilted with a different pattern, cabling ran along the sashing and a double or triple cable ran over the flying geese border. Using the hoop helped me focus on each block as I quilted it without being distracted by what was happening in other parts of the patchwork. It’s nice to do fancy things like that for other people but I rarely bother for myself though I’m thinking “dear ethel” deserves it.
My favourite hand quilting book is The Essential Quilter by Barbara Chainey….it was recommended to me by the lady who taught me to quilt and I’ve not found better for the basics….it’s very clearly written and easy to follow. The only downside is that the quilts in it are a bit dated and fuddy duddy looking in my opinion but the workmanship is amazing. In the back of the book are some simple shapes which you can trace or photocopy to make templates to quilt around.
And as I mentioned in my patchwork essentials piece, I’ve also got a book which was like 25p or something from a car boot simply called Patchwork. It’s part of the traditional needle arts collection and is written by Diana Lodge……it covers a nice range of patchwork designs and although some of the colours and fabric choices aren’t really my cup of tea, the information inside is very sound.
And to be honest that’s it, little extras like fabric grips have only come much later in my quilt making. I do use a thimble but just a regular sewing thimble… I’ve seen fancier ones in shops but I get on fine with the one I have. I also a little velvet strawberry needle sharpener that was from the Royal School of Needlework, this was bought with birthday money from my dear friend Joyce so now she’s psssed away it’s become very dear…but a cheaper one filled with emery will work fine to keep your needle tips sharp. (note, if you do buy the Clover Black Gold then don’t sharpen them, the emery removes their black coating)….for me a quilt is all about time, slow stitches rather than a fat purse in which to go wild at a local fabric store with.
If you ever get the chance there is a fantastic collection of quilts at The American Museum just outside of Bath…the collection regularly rotates what’s on display. There are some really breathraking quilts on show and may of them incorporate scraps and would have been made with what was to hand.
I’ve just updated my Folksy shop with some of my botanical embroideries…..these have all been inspired by my walks over the marshes and meadows that are just a 5 minute walk away from where I live……in the Summer the pastures are such a wealth of colour, full of wild flowers, dragonflies and the sound of bird song……bright yellows and pinks, patches of blue and sprinklings of white stitch-wort which sparkle in the grass like tiny stars.
Embroidering these even on the most murky and dreary weathered day I’m reminded of morning walks in warm sunshine alongside the river…there are a few benches where you can sit under the dappled shade given by alder trees and in the past I’ve taken books there to read or have taken small pieces of patchwork to sit and sew…..since I’ve started knitting though I’ve been thinking of going there this year with needles and yarn….it’s beautiful and quiet there, from time to time there’s distant rumble of trains but for the most part it’s a precious haven…..
These project bags are made from soft European linen and are hand embroidered using vintage embroidery silks and threads…..they’re all fully lined using a selection of vintage fabrics. I’ve sprinkled some Norfolk lavender between the linen fabric and lining, this should help keep moths at bay (and your knitting smelling nice)…..they’re perfect for keeping your special knitting or crochet wips safe and sound as well as looking pretty….but you could also use them to tuck things into if you’re off on holiday jaunts.
I’ve also listing some glasses cases, the two pictured above are made from a beautiful soft vintage wool tweed in a lovely warm apricot. The fabric was some my friend Sylvia gave me and I’d hoped there might be enough for a dashing 1930’s cut waistcoat but sadly not….. These are lined with a vintage brushed cotton with a floral print. The embroidery is all by hand and is sewn using vintage tapestry and crewel wool.
This beautiful woollen cloth made me think so much of those no-nonsense tweed skirts worn by Miss Marple (especially The Margaret Rutherford version) and I wanted to incorporate a little bit of the English countryside (the embroidered flowers) with the practical-ness of keeping ones glasses safe…I always like making things can be used and appreciated rather than being put on a shelf and just looked at…there is something about touch and being handled, being used that gives hand made such a charm and uniqueness.
These are designed to fit a medium size pair of glasses, sadly they won’t really be big enough if you have what I think of as “Deirdre Barlow” style glasses…..
As well as sewing some using vintage tweed, I’ve also made some using authentic Harris tweed and some in a lovely modern green wool which is full of tiny flecks of sage, grass,mustard and gold.
I’ve also lowered the price of my embroidered peg bags, I’ve got two left and once those have gone that will be it as far as they are concerned……they’re both fully lined with vintage fabrics and are made from beautifully soft Witney wool blankets, then hand embroidered with a pattern of sprigs of lavender using vintage crewel and tapestry wool…it’s up to you if you use them as a laundry/peg bag (I won’t come round and tell you off if you chose to use them for something else).
I think that’s been one of the fastest, flying by weekends I’ve known in a while….I just looked at my watch and was like how is that the time already…..most mornings I’m up pretty early (anywhere between 5.30 and 6) but I felt so completely shattered yesterday after doing the Spring fair in Holt yesterday (thank you again Ruth for all your hard work in organizing it) I forgot to set my alarm so slept right through til about 8 o’clock which is a proper lie in for me, and getting up late (and still feeling right tired) has meant I’ve felt behind for most of the day…..anyway I had a nice day in Holt and it was lovely to see some familar faces who popped by to say hello.
As I mentioned at the end of last week I’ve now listed some new pieces in my Folksy shop…more will be added in the next day or so but I thought these would be of interest if you’re buying presents to celebrate Spring……..
First up is a selection of children’s coat hangers….these are some of my favourite pieces to make….I’ve been using the bunny face motif now for more years than I care to remember…it started out adorning egg cosies, has been a brooch, a hair slide, and has appeared along the top of some baby blankets amongst other things.
The coat hangers are made from vintage Witney wool blankets so are lovely and soft, (oh Witney wool blankets how I love you) …..they come in a range of colours including cream, a raspberry pink and a gorgeous orangey red. The bunnys and carrots are made from 100% pure wool felt and are hand sewn (even those tiny cheeks are sewn by hand)….then the hangers are filled with Norfolk lavender.
They look very sweet hanging up behind a bedroom door or from the architrave, especially when they’re displaying a party frock or a wee pair of dungarees….I also find it’s much easier to be tidier and to hang things up when there is a pretty hanger to hand.
I’ve listed quite a selection and have left it up to you which two to chose if you want to buy a pair. (Previously I’ve sold these as singles but the postage seems to cost so much for one that it makes more sense to buy two as that second one is pretty much pence then to post).
The second Easter item (though like the hangers you can use it all year round) are these draw string bags made from a soft primrose yellow vintage fabric with bunnies and ducks on it…..the bags are fully lined with a bright yellow floral print and measure about 10 inches by 15 1/2 inches.
They’re a nice size so you could use them to hold a selection of chocolatey Easter treats….but they also hold a book more than comfortably so afterwards could be used as a library book bag, or to hold soft toys and treasures…..
The drawstring tie is pretty sturdy so these can be hung up from door hooks or coat racks if you want to use them as tiny PE bags for ballet class or just somewhere to pop in bits and pieces when bedroom floors need a quick tidy up of toys.
Along with the bag is a little floral embellished egg cosy…I grew up in quite a chilly house (and to be honest most of the houses I’ve lived in since have been pretty parky too, and egg cosies and tea cosies were part and parcel of cold kitchens)…..I made these a few years ago and am selling the bag and egg cosy combined at a somewhat cheaper price than some of my other pieces.
As a little Easter treat, I’m also including a free Mystery gift which I’m sure will appeal to Bunny lovers.
If you order in the next day or so then these should all be with you before Easter, after Wednesday then you may not be so lucky but I’ll try my best to get anything posted out on the day it’s ordered.
Both the hangers and the draw string bags are also pretty handy if you’re in the middle of Spring cleans and tidy ups…
Hope whatever you did this weekend, you had fun and got to enjoy a little Spring sunshine.