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 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.
For the most part, I’ve bought any special 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 a friend 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 also tend to quilt quite small stitches but I think stitch size is very much a matter of personal choice.
I don’t live in a particularly big house so there isn’t the space to store more than a couple of quilts. If a quilt takes me a couple of years to make by hand 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……
But this is just what I like, what I find to be my essentials… What another quilter thinks will probably be quite different depending on the type and style of quilting they do.
As I say, funds for quilts that are made for our home are quite limited…the biggest expense tends to be the wadding becasue I like to use a pure wool one, 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 more economical but it is still pricey……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…. I think a mistake people can often make is to feel that you need to buy everything all at once or everything has to be bought new.
I think it’s much better to buy slowly, repurpose where you can 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 myself and prefer a white chalk pencil. 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 use them although I only press very lightly, but I do 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…personally I wouldn’t 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 supplies 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, ( I tend to buy big reels of it from a local Ironmongers as it’s cheap as chips from there)….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.)
I’ve also got a couple of hera markers which are made from plastic which you score on the fabric against a ruler. They look a bit like a butter knife (which you can also use though be careful there isn’t any chips or rough bits on the blade) and I used to have a lovely hera made from bone but managed to lose it. You can also get wooden ones and I’ve also used wooden tools that are used in clay work, again pressing the ‘blade’ against a ruler to score a line on the fabric.
You may prefer to get fancy and want to quilt cables around the edges of your quilt, if so then you can buy plastic sheets that are A4 and 3 sized but you can also use plastic from yoghurt containers and certain packagings…. you can also use this to make a bar for baptist fan quilting.
Wadding or Batting
When I have the money I prefer to use a pure wool wadding by Hobbs…it’s expensive but it hand quilts beautifully, and when washed carefully gives the most wonderful drape and lightness to your finished quilt. I’m happy to save up the extra money this wadding costs as it is such a delight to work with. Wool wadding is warm in Winter but it is also light for Summer as it actually weighs less than cotton. It only needs washing if it gets dirty, and then I bundle my quilt up in the washing machine, put it on a gentle wool cycle and allow it to dry outside draped over a rotary line.
I also use cotton and cotton/bamboo blend wadding. Though I tend to use it more on smaller projects like wall hangings, book covers, project bags rather than lap quilts or big bed quilts but if you want to make a quilt and were on a bit of a budget then it is a good second choice. 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 and it has all been about the same so I think it’s quite generic.
I save all my pieces of wadding and regularly sew them 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. You can use these in smaller projects but I have also used them in a larger quilt. So basically you get to use every last bit of it and it doesn’t get wasted.
However if you don’t want to buy new wadding/batting you could always use an old wool blanket that’s worn thin for the wadding which will give you a lovely warm Winter quilt. This is also really good for pot holders and oven gloves. You won’t be able to make the smallest quilt stitches as the wool in a blanket is denser than that used in wadding so you might find yourself needing to use thicker thread like Sashiko or top stitch thread and a thicker needle (darning ones are good if you can’t find the Sashiko ones). You can also use brushed cotton fleece like what is used for sweatshirts or you could stitch together old sweatshirts and jogging bottoms that have seen better days, or old fleece sheets that have bobbled a bit to make a batting for lightweight Summer quilts that you can take to the beach or fling over the sofa. Large wool cloth scarves/shawls from charity shops stitched together also make a good batting.
Generally I find synthetic waddings seem to resist the needle, and it’s harder to make my stitches. If you’re constantly fighting with your needle then it becomes a chore not a pleasure to sit and hand quilt the stitches so I’d rather look for natural fibre alternatives at a car boot or charity shop than buy a new synthetic wadding from a shop. But when my funds have been limited and I needed to use what was to hand then I’ve quilted with old duvets (between 1-4.5 tog), and used pieces of polar fleece fabric as wadding though I had to go up a few needle sizes when I quilted them.
Different battings/waddings will give different effects, some will plump up and be nice and lofty, some will drape and be nice and squishy, but never feel that you are doing something wrong just because you are using different materials to those you might see in books/blogs/quilt shows/social media etc.
I think it’s a good reminder to sometimes tell yourself that it’s up to you what you want to quilt with, no one is going to come round and stop you. In the past, the majority of quilts were made with what was at hand and quilt shops that sell all the fancy stuff are relatively recent where as quilts have been being made for hundreds of years.
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….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 books seem to use printed fabrics for their undersides (this is what I’ve done in the above picture) but I like how quilting stitches show up really clearly on a plain background… American muslin holds dye incredibly well so you could also dye some if you’d rather it a different colour
Generally I wash all my fabric for quilting before I begin sewing with it, and I make sure to wash the muslin/calico to soften it before sewing. 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 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 as the plainness of the fabric would really highlight and show off the pattern of your quilting.
You can also use old bed linens for the quilt back, the only downside to these is they are woven quite tight so they aren’t always as easy to quilt as the American muslin but it depends a lot on how small you want your quilting stitches to be. Charity shops and carboots are great for sourcing pretty vintage sheets and tablecloths for not much money.
But you can just as easily make the back from fabrics that have been pieced together in a patchwork effect. Having it made from bigger pieces will make it a bit easier to quilt than if you are making it from lots of very small pieces as the seams of the fabrics add an extra thickness that has to be sewn through.
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. 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.
(Updated to say that Star brand has possibly stopped being made, but YLI quilting thread is very nice as is the hand quilting thread from Empress MIlls)
If you’re quilting a patchwork top made with brushed cotton then you could also try using coloured button thread or top stitch 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)
I know a lot of people also like to use Sashiko thread for quilting and this is available nowadays pretty much everywhere.
Traditional 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 preferred a longer needle to what I like to use now.
If you are using a thicker thread like the button hole/top stitch/Sashiko then you will need to use a larger needle.
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 though are excellent but again, expensive)…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)
In an ideal world I would live somewhere where i could have a big old wooden quilting frame but I don’t so…. but I manage fine without.
If I’m quilting something small, anything less than a foot square I’m not likely to use a quilting hoop, I still like to 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 experience)…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 know a lot of people baste with safety pins and quilt their layers without a hoop so while I find I need one for my quilting, you may find otherwise. It does depend a bit on the type of quilting stitches you want to make.
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 manoeuver 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.
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 and mostly just use a regular metal one from nannys workbox that is a bit of a loose fit, I wrap a bit of scrap cotton fabric around my finger tip to protect my finger nail and it also helps with the thimble sweating (I find the thimble gets warm which I don’t like the feel of)… My dad made me a couple of little leather ones which were really comfy but I managed to lose those in a house move. I’ve also gotten on well with shop bought ones, preferring the all leather ones to any with bits of metal in them, but they are a bit pricey.
I also have 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 no longer with us 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 breathtaking quilts on show and may of them incorporate scraps and would have been made with what was to hand.
Most important though, please don’t think you need to have a lot of money to make a quilt, at the end of the day all a quilt is is layers of fabric stitched together. It shouldn’t be something that only people with big purses and endless pockets are able to make. I remember that I found it very daunting when I first started quilting, like I was the poor relation and felt ashamed that I wasn’t able to buy metres and metres of fabric brand new, but then I got to wondering why was I thinking like this and began to think of the possibilities and opportunities in using fabric and fibres sourced from other places.
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.
The past few days have been a right old hive of busy-ness, my first craft fair of the year is on Saturday over at Holt, it’s been organised by lovely Ruth of Glory Days and I’m travelling there with my friend Sasha (who makes those gorgeous cat dolls and cheery rainbow ribbon clouds)….everywhere here there are piles of makes in various stages, along with strands of embroidery thread and tapestry wools as I sort out what needs what to be worked on to be finished in time……
Over the years I’ve found it’s more time efficient to work on a few pieces at a time, that way I don’t need to keep getting out and putting away the bigger pieces of equipment, but when there’s a craft fair due I set up little stations around the house (my work room isn’t huge) so I can have my sewing machine out along side the ironing board, and then any handsewing and embroidery is all done upstairs.
My favourite part of making is the hand work, embroidering and embellishing, finishing off or just plain sewing patchwork, having the cloth soften as it’s handled, fingers brushing over the stitches and guiding the needle…there’s a connection there that I don’t feel when I’m using my electric sewing machine but I’d still be a bit lost without my Bernina, it’s not a flashy one, just a 1008, a proper work horse of a machine. Without it I’d not be able to make half the things I do, fat layes of wool blanket slide along under it like a dream…
However things like my botanical embroidered lavender bags are all worked and sewn by hand, inspired by wild flowers from my walks and from hidden corners in my garden . They aren’t a 5 minute make but are very satisfying to stitch, and the combination of curved edges and hand-sewn softness, the weight of the lavender, all feels very comforting when placed in the palm of your hand.
I’ll also be bringing along a selection of tiny flower posy brooches made from a variety of vintage and new wool. These are some of my favourite things to make and each coat,jacket or cardigan I wear seems get adorned with one very quickly.
Each year I always try to have a bit of a re-think about what I’m making, not so much a change in style but questioning whether I still enjoy what I’m making, some pieces are very fiddly but give me pleasure to sew them, other pieces which weren’t time consuming but gave little enjoyment have fallen by the wayside. If I don’t love it, or want it myself, then I don’t make it…
As well as bringing along new makes I’ll also have a small Sale section of pieces I don’t tend to make anymore, I need to create a bit of space where I store stock so there’ll be some proper bargains. I’ve also got some little kits to make your own notebook cover as well as packs of pre cut squares and an instruction sheet to make your own hand sewn patchwork…. I’ve also made up some bags of fabric scraps which are ideal for said patchwork or other tiny projects.
As this is a Spring Fair just before Easter/Ostara I’m also making some special limited edition Spring themed items which would be perfect for Easter treats, any left over from Saturday’s fair will get popped into my Folksy shop on Sunday.
Probably one of my most popular makes has been my hot water bottle cosies….super thick and made from pure wool Witney vintage blankets they’ll keep your toes warm all through the night….as it’s still been a bit chilly here in the evenings I’ll be bringing a few of those along with me as well…. I know a couple of ladies who have told me how they use the cosies they’ve bought from me to keep their nighties in……
The cosies are all lined inside, no seams on show, the bird applique is all sewn by hand and uses pure wool felt.
I always enjoy doing fairs, I’m not able to attend as many as I’d like as I don’t drive and have to rely on public transport or the kindness of friends, but it’s always nice to get out and about, chatting to people who stop at my stall, seeing repeat customers and hearing about who got what at Christmas and which purchased as gift items were then kept for themselves (these confessions are always whispered then followed by a quick look around them and then much laughter)…..it’s also good to get feed back on new makes and if people miss things I no longer sew to sell
The fair is on from 10 until 4 and it’d be great if you’re able to pop down and say Hi. If you read my blog then introduce yourself, say hello, don’t be a stranger…….Ruth has told me there’ll be plenty of home made cakes available so you won’t go away with a hungry tummy……
It seems like a very long time since I’ve wrote anything on here about my quilting…I’m afraid my head has been rather turned by an appreciation of all things woolly. Bags of sheepy scented wool is tucked to the side of the sofa and the dining table has had to make room for my blocked swatches. Knitting needles of all sizes and varieties while not quite yet being found in between the sofa cushions do seem to be breeding and I find them in odd places (mainly because I pick them up and then put them down again in a silly place before they are tidied away properly.)…even Bernard has gotten in on the act, half clambeirng into my lap while I knit, he likes to smell the wool as much as I do.
However, quilting and patchwork will always be my first love…taking a little break from sewing has made me appreciate them that much more and I know I’m not alone. Some of the most looked at/referenced pages on my blog is a little series/tutorial I made showing how to baste a quilt and to mark it up and quilt it using the baptist fan pattern…..it’s a very traditional pattern and while it is a bit more timey to work than just squares or diamonds, I think the finished effect is always worth it.
It’s easily my favourite quilting pattern and while I would like to incorporate some feather quilting into a top piece at some point I’m not sure about quilting a whole quilt that way..unless I make a wholepiece quilt, which is made from a one very large piece of fabric, no patchwork is really involved, just quilting. If you live near Bath then I’d suggest a visit to The American Museum as they have some wonderful quilts, including some very beautiful wholecloth quilts….it’s lovely to go there in the Summer as their gardens are stunning and by all accounts their tea rooms are good too.
When you make a patchwork top, the more pieces that are in your patchwork the more little seams there are, it’s really easy to not take this into account when you then go to quilt it….it’s another reason really why I like the baptist fan pattern so much, it’s very forgiving to little bumps in the fabric created by the folds and seams of the patchwork, and it helps blend the patchwork underneath together….harsh lines of patchwork seem to soften and blur under the gentle curve of the repeating arc.
Even if you’re a beginner to quilting this is such a lovely pattern to sew, any little wobbly stitches (which are what makes hand-made so full of charm and becomes so dear when it’s passed down) are soon lost as your hand grows confident and your stitches become more regular in size.
The brown patchwork is part of a big quilt that I made for my boyfriend’s 40th birthday (though he was 41 when he got it)…the fabric for the patchwork is Japanese linen and cotton, the weave is quite loose and isn’t really ideal for quilting as it frays like the devil. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cut the fabric into too many pieces as it would just fray away, so kept the patchwork very simple and kept the cutting of the fabric to a minimum. However, I went to town somewhat on the quilting, each arc is about 1 cm apart so it’s nice and dense. In all I spent about a year quilting it, and it used nearly a mile of quilting thread……the little ripples in the fabric are formed by all the tiny hand stitches which I think helps to soften the curves….they make me think of water ripples.
I also used a variation of the baptist fan pattern when I made the quilts for Peggy and Pearl. When you’re working with the arc it’s a very natural movement for your hand to make and after a while I sort of drift off while quilting…not falling asleep but I can get completely mesmerized by all those tiny stitches….it’s very relaxing and time can pass by very quickly.
I find it a bit easier to thread up a whole load of little quilting needles before I begin and then as each thread finishes there’s a new one to take it’s place….it stops the “flow” of my quilting from being too interrupted and it also helps me keep track of how much thread I’ve used in any period of time.
As well as looking lovely I really like the feel of the quilting, all those ribs in the arc feel wonderful when you rub your fingertips over them…it’s like the fattest corduroy. All the tiny gaps between hand sewn stitches pucker and helps your finished quilt top to drape and flopse.
One of what I think has been my nicest photos of my quilts was this view of the quilting and patchwork pinned up on the washing line…Spring sunshine coming through and the seams of the patchwork are more like faint ghosts, like old building lines and earthworks that you can see when you look down from a plane….the gentle lumps and bumps, curves and wobbles become very sensual, a slow wave of stitches rippling out across the quilt.
There’s several variations on the design but they can all be worked using the same easy to make plastic guide (I’ve found these before in old sewing boxes where they’d been made from metal and like a fool I’ve put them into charity shops as I didn’t know what they were….) and you use the same back and forth movement with your hand to quilt…..
When I finally get around to quilting my “dear ethel” quilt (she’s just having a rest at the moment, though I’d like to get all the patchwork completed on her this year…as to whether that’s achievable with this new found love of knitting we’ll have to see) I fully intend to quilt her with a baptist fan design……I’d really like to piece together a flying geese border for her and then cable quilt the edge (I’ve done that before in a big quilt that my mum has, it looks really nice and is lovely to run finger tips over and trace the cables.)
When our friends in Norway had their little boy Ivo I made him a quilt from scraps that one of my sisters gave me (I say scraps but there was enough fabric to have opened my very own fabric shop….she’s very generous and I was right royally spoilt). Both the patchwork block and the quilting were very traditional but the colours were bright and modern, a combination I’ve seen a lot in Scandinavian design books.
It’s not a quilting design that works too well on anything very small, I’ve tried it on notebook covers and you couldn’t really see it clearly, but I made a case for my computer (which is what I turned the quilted squares into that I used for the tutorial) and that was about 24 inches by 15 give or take a little…but really it’s a design that works best if it’s allowed a bit of space to spread and ripple out, and a bit of time to allow you to sew it…..as I’ve mentioned before when I’ve written about my hand sewing (and I’m going to repeat myself here from an earlier post so apologies if you’ve read this before)…..for me, the absolute pleasure of hand sewing patchwork and quilting comes in the constant touching,holding and handling of the fabric, and the slowness and time in piecing the pieces together. The time spent is important, each stage takes time, which is such a precious commodity nowadays but it’s often overlooked when the quilt is all finished…. it’s a very guilty pleasure.
I’m still busy putting finishing touches to pieces I’m making for tomorrow’s Green Party Christmas fair at Chantry Hall…..this is a last little round up of the Christmas stockings I’ve been embroidering over the past couple of weeks…..as I said yesterday these are probably my favourite thing to make.
I’ve tried to keep the embroidery and over all look of the stockings pretty simple as I wanted them to have that nice vintagey, nostalgia feel about them…..
Where some of my other stockings have a pom pom trim sewn around the top, I thought these really worked best left as they were, and apart from the velvet loop at the side, all the materials used to make them are either vintage or re-cycled/re-purposed…the main body of the socking is made from vintage blankets which has been embroidered with vintage tapestry and crewel wool, and inside I use brightly coloured fabrics which started life as bed linen or skirts and shirts to line the stockings.
It’s surprising what can be fitted in to the stockings, traditional gifts are always a good idea so chocolate coins and pepermint sticks, a couple of little oranges…small toys or puzzle books…..penny whistles and kazoos perhaps not the best option if you are going to be hearing them toot toot toot around the house in the early hours…..(when I take the photos I stuff the stockings with socks or balls of wool and I’m always amazed at how many I need to shove in to make them nice and plump looking.)
I’m a big believer in stockings for all, and certainly not just for children….I don’t think it matters how old you are, the antipation of a stocking all lumpy and bumpy is quite exciting and I love seeing the ones we fill for my boyfriends’ family all propped up waiting for them to take them home….(and in case Sharonn is wondering…Bernard is very good, he rarely knocks them over to inspect the contents….)
I like theming stockings for older friends and family, filling them with bits and pieces contected with someone’s hobby, a mix of little treats they might not ordinarily buy alongside cheaper pieces they’ll use all the time…..
This is one of the stockings I made the other year with a selection of haberdashery items….everything fitted in the stocking apart from the book with room to squeeze in some edible gifts too….we often have a tin or two of brightly wrapped chocolates on hand to use to fill out stockings or the advent calender if it’s been a two window day in the office.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ll be at The Green Party Christmas fair tomorrow (5th December) which is at Chantry Hall (just behind Wagamama’s Restautant) and the fair is on from 11 to 3 in the afternoon…. and if you can’t make that one I’ll be down at Norwich Art’s Centre the following week at The Clutter City Christmas Fair.