Thursday, 9 December 2010

Off the Rails!

Off the Rails is the name of my new quilt (see more photos of my finished version here), not my state of mind. Well, not quite. It's been pretty busy at work for the past couple of weeks. I'm still trying to catch up after a couple of days off with the 'flu. The students are facing a number of end of term deadlines which means lots of questions and reading of drafts for us lecturers. I am looking forward to a long Christmas break - three weeks on the other side of the world with Mr Q's family and friends. I can't wait to switch off my phone, stop answering my emails and relax in the warmth of a Queensland summer.
Before that, I promised you a quilt pattern so here it is....

Off the Rails quilt pattern

Fabric Requirements
This pattern uses 2½ inch wide strips of fabric. You can use pre-cut 2½ inch strips such as Jelly Rolls or cut your own strips if you prefer. One Jelly Roll (40 strips) will make a lap quilt 48 inches by 60 inches. You will also need 3 yards of (42 inch wide) fabric for the backing, and ¾ yard of (42 inch wide) fabric for the binding.

1. Cut each 2½” strip into three, to give three pieces each 2½” wide by approximately 14” long.

2. In order to stay organised while you are sewing the blocks, make two piles. On Pile A, place two identical 2½” x 14” strips, and put the remaining strip on Pile B.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for all 40 strips.

Sew the blocks 
4. Take two identical 2½” x 14” strips from Pile A and sew them either side of a different 2½” x 14” strip from Pile B. Press both seams in the same direction. Use a variety of fabric combinations to make a total of 40 strip units. 

5. Neaten one end of the resulting panel, and then cut into two 6½” x 6½” blocks. Make 80 blocks in this manner. 

Assemble the top 
6. Referring to the quilt assembly diagram, lay out your blocks in a pleasing arrangement alternating horizontal and vertical rail blocks as shown. Blocks are arranged in 10 rows of 8 blocks each.

7. Sew the blocks into rows. Press the seams of alternating rows in opposite directions so that they don't add too much bulk when the rows are sewn together.
8. Sew the rows together.

9. Prepare the backing fabric by cutting two pieces of fabric each 54 inches by the width of the fabric. Join them as shown in the diagram below.

10. Layer the top, wadding (batting) and backing fabric.
11. Tack (baste) the layers together and then quilt as desired.
12. Trim excess wadding (batting) and backing.
13. Cut binding strips. Cut 7 strips 2½” by the width of the fabric.
14. Join binding strips to form one continuous length.
15. Attach double fold binding using your favourite method.

Lawson and Lotti

Monday, 6 December 2010

Christmas is coming...

...and I've finished a quilt. I pieced this quilt a couple of years ago from Moda's Christmas Past fabric line. It sat unloved and unquilted until I added some holly leaf quilting and added the binding last week. Mr Q loves it and so do I. I've finished it just in time to snuggle under in the run-up to Christmas. We need all the warmth we can find at the moment - it is unseasonably snowy and icy in our neck of the woods. Brrrr! Poor Mr Q - being a native Australian he really feels the cold (and also believes that Australia should be winning the cricket).

I am thinking of putting together a tutorial for making this quilt. It uses exactly one jelly roll of fabric and is quick and easy to put together. I'll dust off my pattern-writing skills and see what I can come up with.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Everything is coming up roses

 I've been having a little break from tatting snowflakes and have been tatting roses instead. This first attempt uses Jeanne Lugert's 3D rose pattern in size 16 Ancora Prestige thread. It is constructed from a long chain of split rings which are then gathered up by pulling a thread through the picots. I like the effect although it is perhaps a little bulky in the centre for my taste.

Next up is a rose inspired by Krystle's flower pendants and earrings which I love. This one is tatted in Yarnplayer's snowflake thread in size 20. I think I'll be experimenting with this design a little more. I like how it turned out and it has increased my confidence with making lock joins.

Finally, here's a design from Yarnplayer's Up and Tat 'Em pattern book which I completed in size 20 black Flora thread with Swarovski crystals. I'm planning to put this on a cord and give it as a Christmas present. This was my first foray into using paperclips to keep picots open until needed. I am enjoying learning all these new skills.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Please be seated

My sister and I have a number of things in common..... We both have dark hair, enjoy the outdoors, and share the same parents. We also both like handmade items, along with secondhand and vintage homewares. When we spend time together, we like nothing better than scoping out junk shops, markets and craft fairs. A couple of years ago, my sister unearthed a pair of IKEA arm chairs for a bargain price at a charity shop. The frames were sound but the bottle green covers had seen better days. This week I finally completed the new seat covers that I had been promising her. Here is the first one newly installed.

Also this week, I learnt a new tatting skill - the self-closing mock ring - and used it to complete the floret snowflake from Jon Yusoff's Tatted Snowflakes Collection. I love this pretty little snowflake, and a self-closing mock ring is so much easier to make than to say!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A load of old tat

Just one piece of tat, actually, and it's only just completed. This is Eileen Stafford's snowflake tatted in size 20 Lizbeth thread. I like the way that the long chains overlap each other. Also on show today are two quilts that have been finished for a while but which I have only just managed to photograph. The first was inspired by the colours of the winter landscape in the Scottish Highlands - I call it Highland Fling. The second is a quilt I designed to use large-scale fabrics that don't deserve to be chopped into tiny pieces. This particular incarnation of my "Room with a View" quilt has Japanese style fabrics in the "windows".

Highland Fling

Japanese Windows

Monday, 15 November 2010

Sitting pretty

About 18 months ago, I told you about this chair that I picked up for a bargain price on eBay. The style, with wooden slats and a reclining back, is known as a Morris chair, so I thought it was only right to use William Morris fabric (also found on eBay) to make covers for it. Despite being designed over 100 years ago, I think the big scale and graphic style of this fabric give it quite a contemporary look. I went for the black and taupe colourway so that it will sit happily anywhere in the house - at the moment it is in the corner of the dining room, where I like to relax with a cup of tea and a good book. I'm sure it'll look even better when the ancient patterned carpets are finally sent on their way to carpet heaven (or hell!).

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Something to show at last

I've finally finished a piece of tatting! It's been a while since I've picked up the shuttles and when I did, this fella was still attached, looking a little forlorn and crumpled. It is the "Eleventh day of December" snowflake from 24 Snowflakes in Tatting by Lene Bjorn tatted in size 20 Lisbeth thread. I plan to make more from this book over the next couple of weeks, although they will not be in order - I'm going to get Mr Q to choose his favourites instead. The only problem is, he has a knack for picking out the trickiest designs.

Along with getting on with some tatting, I've been restocking my etsy shop with some old favourites and some new designs. This psychedelic cushion cover might be made from my favourite fabric of all time! I'm almost tempted to redecorate my whole house so that this cover would look at home! Talking of redecorating, Mr Q and I have booked a date for our new fireplace to be fitted in the living room. I'll show you some before and after photos as soon as it's done.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Tea for two

There's definitely a chill in the air. It may be time to put summer clothes away and get the knitting out. I'm not a fan of short days and cold, damp weather but I do like Sunday teatimes complete with homebaked goodies. Today we had a big pot of tea, homemade scones, homemade plum jam and clotted cream. Slurp! For those of you wondering what clotted cream is - it is the southwest of England's greatest export - delicious, thick cream with a crust on top. I could eat it with a spoon from the tub, but that's probably because I myself am an export from the southwest of England and it reminds me of home. Mr Q learnt about clotted cream on our first trip to Devon together about four and a half years ago and has never looked back.

We deserved today's cream tea. This morning we were rudely awakened by a large chunk of ceiling collapsing in the hallway. Several hours and lots of cleaning later and the hall and stairs look ok again (if you don't look up, that is). We've been waiting for the roofer to repair the roof for a few weeks now - perhaps this will help us move closer to the top of his list.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Home and away

Being an Australian, Mr Q thinks that holidays in England are exotic. I'm not convinced but I like to indulge him, so we have just returned from a fabulous (and somewhat exotic) week's holiday in East Sussex, where Mr Q and I indulged our love of all things old (and my love of all things floral). We stayed in a very cute and well equipped little cottage that had previously been a cart shed, and spent our days exploring castles, palaces, towns, beaches and gardens. Here are a few of our highlights...
In order of antiquity we visited the battlefield where the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066; Bodiam Castle (complete with fish-infested moat and charmingly calligraphic graffiti); Great Dixter Elizabethan house and Christopher Lloyd's justifiably world-famous garden; the Prince Regent's extravagant Royal Pavilion in Brighton; Rudyard Kipling's home; the Kent and East Sussex steam railway; Sissinghurst Castle Garden created in the 1930s; and the fabulously modernist De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill which currently has Anthony Gormley sculptures inhabiting the rooftop terrace. It was ace! I feel relaxed, rejuvenated and revitalised (and full of culture).

For the horticulturally minded amongst you, here are some pictures of Great Dixter and Sissinghurst gardens.
I loved the exuberant planting schemes at Great Dixter, although they were tricky to photograph successfully. Mr Q found the planting a bit too chaotic for his tastes, but I was thrilled by the juxtaposition of colours and shapes. Like jazz, he said. Exactly, I said. My favourite part was the Exotic Garden. Mr Q preferred his cappuccino. Oh, the irony.

The gardens at Sissinghurst were more formally arranged, with huge yew hedges dividing the space into individual "rooms" which contained relaxed but more colour-themed planting schemes. Here are a selection of the oranges, greens and pinks on show.

What a wonderful way to spend a week. My head is full of colour inspiration.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

New beginnings

I feel as though I've been in a bit of a creative rut recently and whilst my sister was staying with me last week an idea came to us that might help end my creative drought. My sister has been working through Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal and has found that having instructions on each page has allowed her imagination free reign and has helped prevent "journal block". We thought that we would try our own take on this idea - my sister is going to set me tailor-made tasks that will help me achieve some of my creative goals.

The first challenge that she has set is to create a brooch using buttons. My first idea is inspired by dominoes and liquorice allsorts - not something I've ever though about in the same sentence before! I've glued together several layers of coloured felt and then sewn on mother of pearl buttons.

My second idea uses fabric left over from my bridesmaids' dresses three and a half years ago. My original plan was to sew a few small black buttons into the centre, but I think the sparkly pewter coloured beads look better instead.

I have a third idea that will use several subtly coloured shell buttons sewn onto linen with decorative embroidery stitches around them. I'm enjoying the challenge and I feel as though I am justified in ignoring some of the housework in order to try and kickstart my creativity.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Home again!

After 27 hours of travel, I am back home. Mr Q met me at Manchester airport, and the cats met me on the doorstep of our house. I am tired but happy. It was a successful trip and we have collected several hundred fossils - mostly snails and sea urchins - which will help in my research and in my PhD student's project. I was anticipating trouble at customs and had made sure that I had all the paperwork in order, but no-one raised an eyebrow or asked any questions about the large number of tiny well-wrapped packages in my hand luggage.

I enjoyed my last day in Australia - I spent it wandering around Melbourne. I went to the botanic gardens, took photos of Flinders Street Station (apparently my mum learned about it while studying geography at school) and managed to find time to visit a beautiful yarn shop, Woolbaa, in Albert Park where I found Jo Sharp yarn and pattern books to bring home as a souvenir. I also rushed across town on the tram to stop at one of the best quilt shops I've ever been to, Patchwork on Central Park, in Malvern East. Although the fabrics were predominantly from US and UK manufacturers, they had a fabulous selection of modern, bright, funky designs.

On the long trip back (I watched 7 movies!) I did a little tatting and crochet. I'll sew the ends in and then I'll be able to show you the tatted snowflake that I've been slowly working on.

I'll be back in Australia again at Christmastime with Mr Q, visiting his family. It'll be my first Christmas in the southern hemisphere and the first time Mr Q has been home for Christmas in ten years. His mum is already planning Christmas dinner!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Just my point of view

All the fossil work has been done and I've spent the last few days driving from Adelaide to Melbourne. I knew it was a long way - but it really is a LONG WAY. We stayed overnight in Mount Gambier and then in Lorne, stopping off at a couple of quilt shops and scenic spots along the way. After battling the wind, the rain and numerous tourists, I managed to get quite a few pictures of places along the Great Ocean Road, including the twelve apostles (some of which are shown in the photo). It really is a beautiful part of the world. In Lorne, we ate very well at The Maple Tree and Moon's Espresso Bar and visited Erskine Falls. Just two more days until we board the plane for our long flight back to the UK. I'm not looking forward to the flight but I can't wait to see Mr Q and my two cute kitties again.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Up a creek without a paddle

I've spent the last few days visiting fossil localities along the mighty Murray River. I love the landscape here - the river cliffs, the vegetation that looks so alien to a girl from the northern hemisphere. The birdsong sounds so different too - the morning chorus here is a symphony that surprises and delights me - full of whoops and whistles. And the birds themselves are spectacular. I've seen sulphur crested cockatoos, galahs, pelicans and many others that I haven't had a chance to try and identify. I can't get over how different it all is, and then I return home to my rented cottage in the evening and am surprised all over again  - the television is almost exactly the same as in the UK - Dr Who, Silent Witness, Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders. It's a small (and crazy) world!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Down under

I've been off the radar for a while - marking exam scripts, attending lots of end of year meetings and leading an undergraduate fieldclass to Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. Now I'm spending three weeks in Australia, again for work. Today I spent the day at  Maslin Beach, south of Adelaide, studying the Tortachilla Limestone and its fantastic fossils. Fun times! As you can see, the scenery is beautiful and the weather was fabulous. I can't believe they call this winter.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Extreme Quilting

Mr Q and I spent part of this weekend with my sister Kath. We visited a couple of antiques and collectables fairs where I scored a cute vintage blue and white polka dot apron and a big box of vintage buttons. We ate yummy food, courtesy of my sister and assorted restaurants and tea shops. And in between all this I sewed down the binding on this storm at sea quilt which I started piecing nine years ago, unquilted and requilted a couple of months ago and then promised to Kath.
The last couple of feet of the binding were sewn in the Tree Cathedral in Milton Keynes - this is an area of parkland with trees laid out to mimic the gothic splendour of Norwich Cathedral. While I stitched furiously, Mr Q took panoramic photos with his iphone including this 360 degree view within the cloisters (Kath and I had to keep moving!)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

New Wave Quilt

A few months ago, I discovered Elizabeth Hartman's blog Oh, Fransson! Among her many beautiful quilts and tutorials, I found the fantastic New Wave quilt pattern. With friends expecting a new baby I adapted the pattern for a smaller size and set to work with Heather Bailey's Fresh Cut fabrics. I thought I had plenty of time but Amber was born very early. I finished the quilt at the weekend and it will shortly be on its way to its new home - delivered before Amber was due to make her appearance in the world. I really hope she and her parents will like it.

The front

The back

A close-up of the quilting

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival

After a bit of a quilting hiatus over the past couple of years, I have recently come back to it. In the time I've been away, blogs have multiplied dramatically and since my return I have really enjoyed looking at the wonderful quilts (and other crafts) that are being shared on blogs around the globe.

For the Blogger's Quilt Festival, I am sharing this quilt that I made about 4 years ago. It is called "Firestorm", but it may equally remind you of leaves against a crisp autumn sky or coral polyps in shallow tropical seas. It is completely pieced, including the L-shaped thin fuchsia borders which proved a bit of a challenge. Quilting was done in a range of metallic and rayon threads, using a variety of free motion patterns and some couched threads in the dark central patches.

And the story behind the quilt? Not long after I'd met Mr Q, he suggested that I make a blue and orange quilt. I fancied trying my hand at curved piecing and so the two ideas collided. I remember sitting with my Dad, picking out the fabrics together and sewing up some test blocks. Between us we decided on the third fabric selection.

1st attempt

2nd attempt

3rd attempt

I decided to enter the quilt in the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham that year, but plans were derailed when my Dad died very suddenly. Finally, I managed to finish the quilt and it just made the deadline for the Festival - with Mr Q and I speeding along the motorway to Manchester to drop it off at a quilt collection depot with minutes to spare. The final picture is of my Mum and I at the Festival of Quilts in 2006 in front of my quilt! It didn't win any prizes but it was exciting to see it hanging there! It now lives on my office wall at work, where my students often comment on it. Some even ask if they can take it home with them.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The postman rings twice

I'm at home today, working through a stack of marking. It's not my favourite part of being a lecturer, but even dream jobs have their downsides. Happily, the postman chose today to deliver the book I'd ordered - Knits Men Want. As you can see, it's currently on the table waiting patiently until I can escape from the marking long enough for a quick read. I have even made a cup of tea in the hopes that I won't have to wait too long! Just a quick flick through has justified the purchase of this book - simple timeless designs with lots of options for different weights and types of yarn.  I've been thinking of knitting something for Mr Q recently, but he is quite difficult to please and I have struggled to find something he'd like.

I have forayed into "Knitting for Mr Q" territory before, but after the amount of time I spent knitting it, I wish he'd wear it more. The article in question was a stripy jumper from a Jaeger leaflet - that's the image from the book, not my own Mr Q. I made it in the suggested colours, approved by none other than Mr Q himself. He was happy. I was happy. Until a thoughtless friend flung a spanner in the works with just 6 small words uttered within earshot of Mr Q. "It's a good job he's colourblind". Well, his confidence in wearing the multicoloured stripes was destroyed. He was convinced that the whole world was laughing at him. I hope Knits Men Want will help repair some of the damage.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Can you spare a minute?

Monday was a public holiday and Mr Q and I (together with my visiting sister) took the opportunity of visiting a National Trust property - Erddig in North Wales. It was very busy but very enjoyable. I particularly liked some over-the-top Chinese wallpaper in the one of the bedrooms and I think my sister's favourite bit was lunch in the restaurant! The gardens were beautiful too. They included the most perfect apple blossom on some of the oldest apple trees I've ever seen.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


Some time around Christmas, my mum bought an embellisher machine. She'd seen them and thought they were cool. I'd seen them and thought they were cool, but thought they were out of my price range. So mum bought one for us both to share and left it at my house for me to play with. Thank you, Mum, you're the best! Here are the results of my first playtime...
I call this first one "Ignition Sequence Start". There will be embroidery and beads added before it's finished.
I'm intending to embroider daisies on this "lawny" one. The base is part of an old cardigan which had seen better days and could only have been salvaged with leather elbow patches. I am a scientist, but I think that would be taking geekiness just a little too far.
This third one reminds me of rock formations or Australian aboriginal designs. It is also needle-felted onto old clothing - this time one of Mr Q's jumpers which met an undignified end in a laundry related incident. Oops!

Also today, I spent time in the garden digging and planting potatoes and onions. I think I'm going to have to add some quick cropping plants too - I am not known for my patience.