Author Archives: Admin

Hand Dyed Fabrics

I love hand dyed fabrics – the way they look, the textures, the variety of  tone and hue.  I love the mess and the result.  If you look at my earlier blog on dyeing you’ll see what I mean.

I have attended a workshop recently on Natural Dyeing.  It was really interesting to see what plants could be used, the different mordants and the various processes.  It is amazing that one plant can create so many different colours just by using different mordants.  A mordant is a product that helps the dye bond with the fabric.  Typical mordants would be alum, iron and copper.

Previously I have generally used Procion dyes – and have loved using them.  But, what do you think?  Would you prefer natural dyes, with their uniqueness and variety?  Or chemical dyes where you can more readily guarantee colour and light-fastness?  Please let me know!

Autumn Term Patchwork classes start this month

Over the summer I have been busy writing the lesson notes for the Autumn Term Patchwork classes.  It’s lots of fun, but also quite scary as well – because I want to be sure that people will understand what I write, will enjoy what I am teaching but most of all will gain confidence and achieve something special.

The lesson plan for this term is quite interesting – we will be making a block which goes by the amazing title of “Original Harmonic Convergence” – Gosh!  What a title!  It was devised by a super Texan quilter and musician, Ricky Tims.

The design involves taking 4 pieces of fabric, cutting them into different width strips, putting them back together, turning it through 90° then doing it all again!  Very simple, but amazingly effective.

rainy day harmonic convergence

Harmonic Convergence

I made one some years ago, but actually made 4 panels and put them together then appliqued umbrellas over the top and added quilting to represent rain falling onto the umbrellas.  It is still one of my favourite quilts.

The gold of the sun is the centre of the quilt.  I made 4 blocks the same, then rotated each so that the gold made the centre of the whole quilt.

If you fancy making a quilt like this then there are still a few spaces on the Autumn term course – come and join us!

VIP day – great success

Today I had a wonderful lady as a student for my VIP day.  She has always wanted to have a quilt on her bed, to match her decor, but has been unable to find anyone who would accept her commission.

She contacted me and told me what she wanted to do and we planned a day for her to achieve it.

In one day, she has been able to make a complete quilt top, learning about colour choices, tone, auditioning fabrics and using a rotary cutter along the way.

She did say that I had worked her hard!  I think she was going home for a hard-earned glass of wine!

She has booked a day later on in the summer to complete the quilt – I can’t wait to help her achieve this wonderful goal

Log Cabin Patchwork

Amish Inspired Log Cabin Patchwork – Straight Furrow

The work that we are doing this term involves making lots of log cabin patchwork blocks.  Sometimes it can be hard to remember which way to press your seams – so here is a helpful picture!

Press all your seams away from the centre and towards the log

Press all your seams away from the centre and towards the log

You either want to press all your seams away from the centre, or press them open.  Don’t press towards the centre as you will end up with some very bulky sections.

It can also be a bit tricky to remember which log to sew first  in each row.  Look at the previous row – which is the shortest log?  That is the side you are going to attach your first log in this round.  Follow this pattern around, finishing with the longest log – the side which has no seams running through it.  This will ensure that you keep going in the right direction.


The shortest log is on the left of the image – stitch that one first.

Learning something new – Binding a quilt

This weekend I have been very busy with some gorgeous fabric hand-dyed and blockprinted by Jamie over at Colouricious.  I decided to use a new (to me) technique of binding a quilt and want to share that with you.

Ricky Tims has the most AMAZING technique for doing machine stitched binding – not a single hand-stitch in sight!  You can get the know-how by watching his DVD Grand Finale but I took a few photos as I was going along, just to give you an idea.

You need a pintuck foot (not a piping foot) and an edge foot, perle thread and water-soluble thread – well there was my first challenge!  I did have water-soluble thread, but as for the rest …… my pintuck foot was actually a foot for adding cording and my perle thread was ………. lord knows!  So with a zipper foot, a ditch-quilting foot and some fine piping cord I did what I could!  This technique involves inserting a fine piped edge between the binding and the quilt top, and actually stitching the binding onto the back of the quilt, before machining it into place from the front.

Interestingly, you create the piping and binding for each individual side, rather than as a continuous piece.

Binding fabric, piping fabric and cord

Binding fabric, piping fabric and cord


Stitching piping cord into piping fabric using water-soluble thread

Stitching piping cord into piping fabric using water-soluble thread

Attach piping to binding fabric

Attach piping to binding fabric

Fold and press

Fold and press

Can you see the very fine piping on the left-hand edge?

Attach to the BACK of the quilt top

Attach to the BACK of the quilt top

Fold to the front, mitre the corners and then stitch in the ditch between piping and binding.

Fold to the front, mitre the corners and then stitch in the ditch between piping and binding.

back view

back view

True – you do get a line of stitching visible on the reverse – and Ricky’s is much neater than this.  But what a fantastic method!  Hand-stitching a binding can take SO long on bigger quilts, so this is a great method.

This is just a taster, so do get his DVD and learn it for yourself – and besides which, I just love his explanations and his way of talking.  He is a great quilter and has done some great DVDs and books – check him out!



Making progress on the patchwork quilt

The fabric has been dyed and cut, and I have begun putting it together.  I am using this small patchwork quilt as a teaching tool for my classes this term so am making it step by step so that my students can see how it all comes together.  It’s really rather lovely sharing its growth with them.

As this involves 20 identical patchwork blocks, we are chain piecing.  It is a really useful technique.

Chain Piecing really does what it says on the tin!  I started with all the hearth squares (magenta), adding the shortest pale blue log, stitching straight from one to the other.  When all 20 are done, cut the joining thread.  Then add the next log to all 20.  The real joy of this method is that it is hard to lose track of where you are and put the wrong colour on the wrong side!

All the blues are around one corner of the square and the purples are diagonally opposite.  12-RIMG0037

The blocks have gone together beautifully and I love the colour combination.

RIMG0025This is the 20 blocks stitched together in the “Straight Furrow” patchwork design.  I had this pinned to my sitting room wall (yes, I did say pinned – with drawing pins too!)  I loved looking at it!

The next stage was to add the inner border and then start piecing together the outer strippy border.

RIMG0030  RIMG0037  RIMG0038  Sadly my pictures are not of very good quality, as I am just taking snaps as I progress, and the light varies hugely – but I think you get the general idea!

Today is the day to make the first cut!

Today is the day to stop looking at my beautiful hand dyed fabrics and start cutting them up!  Does anyone else find it hard to make that first cut into a piece of fabric?

2-RIMG0025Well here they are – looking beautiful, don’t you think?  I do like the way that they look together so I am very excited by how they will work within my quilt idea.  I know that in an ideal world I will have sketched out ideas, and auditioned fabrics and colours, but I am very much a “just leap over the precipice and see” sort of person when it comes to making quilts.  It’s an adventure and shouldn’t be over-analysed at the planning stage.

1-RIMG0027Well, I managed it and got my trusty rotary cutter, ruler and board out and made that first cut.  I have cut the hearth squares out of the magenta and just a couple of strips of each of the other colours ready to build the log cabin blocks.  I know some people like to do all the cutting at one go, and be very precise over cutting individual pieces but with log cabin I prefer to cut strips and trim to size when I have added them.  How do you make your log cabin blocks?  Can you just spot the safety pin on the left hand side?  I have pinned the strips of each shade together with a safety pin and then joined all the safety pins together on an extra bigger pin so that  I won’t lose any pieces – let’s see how that works!

Well, have to go out now – a friend is having a book signing and I really want to go and pick one up – “The Lazy Optimist” by Martin Gladdish – I think it is going to be one of 2013’s best business books.  Get a copy and let me know what you think!

I’ll let you know how the sewing goes later!

Lovely colours for Patchwork

Last weekend I was able to give myself the excuse to do one of my favourite things – dying fabrics to create pieces of gorgeous colour.

I was preparing for the forthcoming class, where we will be making an Amish-inspired small quilt or wall hanging.  The Amish traditionally use plain fabrics that would have come originally from the remnants of their clothing – blacks, blues, dark reds etc.  Depending upon the specific Amish community, different colours would be used – some communities might use purples, others might use muted pinks or golds.  Some would not use much black – this is scope for a whole blog post of its own!

I realised I had no muted solids – fabrics that are of that plain, subdued range.  And I really didn’t want to buy any more – there’s barely space to move for fabric as it is!

So I got out some of my calico and after much consideration chose to dye using pure magenta, indigo and a mix of magenta and turquoise.

Look at the results.


You can see the three shades of magenta/turquoise at the top, the pure magenta over on the left, and the indigo in the bottom half.

They had been rinsed but not yet washed – when the colour would change, but hopefully not too much.

Working with turquoise is always tricky as it never takes as well as other dye colours.  I had originally remembered that and so put extra turquoise in the dye-bath.  Then panicked because it was VERY blue, so added a little more magenta.


5-RIMG0028After a good wash in the machine this is what we now have!  Actually the true colours are a little stronger than you can see here and although I have to admit to being a tad disappointed that they are not so much what I had in mind, they are very lovely shades!

The adventure with dying fabrics is always to be open to the possibilities and not to have expectations that are too fixed.