Journal Quilts a la Quilted Bird…

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I joined a quilting group and one of the ladies there brought her Journal Quilts to show the group. Journal quilts capture a moment in time just like a normal diary but this time in pictorial form and obviously using fabrics!  We were set a challenge to create a ‘page’ for the month of April.

There are competitions held challenging people to create journal pages around particular themes. The ‘Contemporary Quilt’ Group is a member of the Quilters Guild and set journal quilt challenges every year. You can see some of their work here http://www.contemporaryquilt.org.uk/sets-of-2012-journal-quilts.html

There are no hard or fast rules (that I am aware of!) you can use any medium, embellishments, create them daily, weekly or monthly. Your only limit is your imagination and your fabric stash!

So I got my thinking cap on and thought about what I wanted to capture and that’s when I thought a travel journal would be apt! I love to travel, and all our spare monies go towards planning our next trip!

Capturing our memories in quilt form seemed like the logical step for an avid stitcher like me!

Blog photo Bergen Norway

Last September we had the privilege to cruise Norway’s Fjords and one of our stops was Bergen, it was very beautiful if not a little wet! The weather was changeable all day but when we were looking at one of Bergen’s most famous vistas, a Rainbow appeared. This has stayed with me since and hence my first Journal Quilt interpretation

Whilst my design is not a faithful interpretation it captures the bits I loved the most, the scenery, the varied colours and of course that rainbow!

Bergen Journal Quilt

I layered fabric scraps and fastened them using Fusible Interfacing (Bondaweb or similar) Some fun Liberty fabric was used to make the rainbow with glass beads to catch the eye. I also used a mixture of hand embroidery and machine stitching to create some added features.

It was really good fun to do and I hope to one day capture a moment from each of my holidays and perhaps get more adventurous with my fabric choices and embellishments!

Here’s to future Journal Quilt Entries a la Quilted Bird!

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Bear Paw, Stitching pains and the Great British Sewing Bee…

I’ve been a bit quiet on here of late, but that doesn’t mean sewing has been far from my thoughts!

A while ago I attended a course at Hometown, this time to learn how to free motion quilt using my sewing machine, scary stuff! Anyway this course enabled me to do a few things, firstly machine quilt obviously! and I have since machine quilted two quilts that have been lying around as UFO (Unfinished Objects) for quite a while! So now all that’s left is to bind them, so lets say they might be UFO’s for awhile longer!!

Secondly the course led to me making a new friend, who also has a passion for crafts and also like me wanted to join a local quilting group! Yup I am taking it to the next level… Hence the Bear Paw, the name of the quilting group I have joined and very exciting it is too. It is lovely to spend evenings with fellow quilters and share ideas and tips!

I hope that this will spur me on to make new things and push myself to broaden my horizons! Watch out for future post on Journal Quilts!!

Last week also attended the Knitting and Stitching Show in London, more fabric I hear you cry??? Of course!! As part of the day I took part in an embroidery lesson, it was good fun but a little frustrating trying to get the wool threaded onto a needle!! I think I must have spent 20 minutes of an hour lesson just trying to do that. But I am hoping that I can use the technique in some future work, so watch this space!

As well as the usual stalls etc there is always an exhibition of work and it is always humbling to see other peoples quilts. They were amazing and some must have been true labours of love.

Kensington and Chelsea-20130316-00102

All in all it was a good day out and helped to make the fabric stash even bigger than it was!!!

Finally I need to mention something VERY exciting! You’ve seen the ‘Great British Bake Off’ on the BBC, well now the BBC are venturing into the world of sewing with a new series called ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ seeing contestants pulling together sewing projects to be crowned Queen or King Sewing Bee champion! Claudia Winkleman will be the host of the series with two industry experts on hand to judge the competitors efforts!

Exciting times!! The series starts on Tuesday 2nd April on BBC 2 so make sure you tune in!!

Well that’s all for now folks but watch this space for more projects yet to come!

My Hometown and Hometown my Local Fat Quarter Supplier!

All over the county independent shops are starting a revival; kitsch, quirky, interesting, unique and vibrant, Rochester High Street is almost entirely occupied by independent retailers. Twice a year an influx of visitors arrive from all over the world for the Dickens Festival, with the Christmas one being particularly manic!

Dickens Christmas Festival

My Hometown is also home to Hometown, the quilt shop the place where I first learnt the dark art of cutting fabric and piecing it all back together. And a name that appears all too frequently on my bank balance!! Full of bright and vibrant fabrics, the shop is a haven for local quilter and it is always busy with people stocking up on supplies, Hometown is one of my favourite places to go. It is the one shop where I am known by my name and I must admit that makes me feel part of the community.

Hometown

A frisson of excitement was greeted at the news that Hometown was on the move! After  5 years of occupying a wee space on Rochester High Street, Hometown would be moving! But breathe easy its only to a couple of doors up, to an even bigger space HURRAH!!! At the last course we all talked about what it would be like, how big the workshop space might be and obviously that there might be even more fabric!!

Last week was the grand opening, I popped down on the Saturday in desperate need of some wadding and some fabric that wasn’t quite so desperately needed 🙂 It was bright and early but the shop was already buzzing with lots of nosy quilters like me, eager to see the new digs! And we weren’t disappointed! The shop is huge with plenty of room for us to all move around without annoying each other and so light and bright!

Hometown Mark 2

Armed with my wadding and some new fabrics I really didn’t need, I chatted to fellow quilters who were equally enthralled with the new shop. Needless to say the new shop is a success and I can’t wait for the next course to see the new workshop space!!

Pesky Unfinished Craft Projects!

We all have those ‘Unfinished’ projects in all walks of life, but in crafts it is endemic! We always start off with the best intentions, make lavish purchases of fabric or other supplies and start all gung-ho!

This often happens when I decide to ‘branch out’ and make something ‘different’. For example the below bag, I had never made one before and I had lots of this really nice fabric with berries and strawberries which I thought would do nicely for the back and the inside. So I started with marked enthusiasm, getting to complete the inside and the outside sections in a couple of hours. I made one handle and then for some unknown reason got bored or scared and stopped!!

Unfinished project finally completed

Utter madness! I was so nearly there, anyway long story short, I found it this a couple of  weekends ago and the fabric I had cut for the second handle, so on my day off I set to finishing this ‘Unfinished Craft Project’ I had started 8 or so months ago!!

Though I have to point out that not all ‘Unfinished’ projects are so easy to complete!

Take that (stupid) cross stitch project I started which is on the smallest point you have ever seen, sewing 10 crosses takes an age and you cant even tell if you’ve actually put the thread through the right hole… so it wasn’t long till it was thrown on ‘that’ pile!

Patchwork Quilting, although easily my favourite craft, always seems to stop at the same point! The sandwiching and quilting bit! I love choosing fabrics, cutting them up and putting it all back together but I’m not a huge fan of the quilting bit (ironic I suppose!), which means I have about 4 quilts on the go! Well 5 if you count that one I started and then couldn’t be bothered to finish!! See it’s endemic!

A couple of weeks ago I went on a free motion quilting course and I think it might be my Salvation! When I was brave enough to actually do it on a quilt, it took no time at all to completely finish it! Now I have great plans for my other waiting quilts… shame about that sandwiching bit… Well there’s always something!!

Tea Please…A Fabric Blackboard?!

Imagine my excitement when I discovered that there was such a thing as chalkboard fabric!!! Yes it is a little sad, just how much excitement but all the same, it is pretty awesome!!

I bought mine from ebay, a fat quarters worth cost me around £7 but I figured if I cut it up I could make quite a few blackboards (family & friends beware, guess what’s coming to your home soon!)

What I love is that you can be as creative as you like! My friend just before Christmas was looking for mini pegs so that she could hang her Christmas Cards up on string which got me thinking… what about a section where you could hang a photo, then where to put the chalk, so that spurred on the idea of a pocket, before I knew it I had an idea of what I wanted to achieve in my head!

Last week I mentioned those gorgeous fabrics I bought from Spoonflower including my own designed fabric and thought this would be the perfect project to incorporate some of those in!

So two dragons stand proud next to the postcard pocket, guarding the chalk!

Fabric Blackboard Tea Please

And finally the top which has our surname initials and in the middle a section of my own fabric!

It took me an afternoon and was immensely satisfying to make. Visit my ‘How to make your own fabric blackboard‘ page above for details of how to make your own!

The great thing is, is that it can be as long or as small as you want and well anything goes!! Show off your embroidery, create separate blackboard fabric sections, applique… the options are endless.

What was the first thing to be written on the board? It has to be the most said phase in the house…. ‘Tea Please’ !!!

Tea Please!

Spoonflower and a world of endless possibilities!

So last year I took the plunge I designed my own fabric! I have always wanted to do it but thought it would be expensive to do so. Not sure what started me off, but one bored evening I started googling. A habit that always ends in money being spent!!!

That’s when I discovered http://www.spoonflower.com, a company based in America that allows ordinary quilters and artists to design and print their own fabric at a reasonable cost. What they also allow you to do is sell your own designs so others can buy your designs too. There are thousands of designs available for purchase from a huge range of subjects from Birds to Monsters to Urbanscapes. I spent hours browsing the site seeing what others had done and working out whether this would be a costly venture!

The trouble is now that I had finally decided on designing my own fabric I needed to make up my mind what design to make! I love cityscapes and in 2011 I designed a fabric postcard which was a simple black outline of a sun with an apocalyptic sun.

Fabric Postcard of Cityscape

To turn your design into fabric all you need to do is upload a file in either a JPG, PNG,  SVG, AI, GIF, TIF, or EPS file which basically means anyone can do it. I took a photo of my postcard and then in Paint I adjusted the picture. Including making my sun more dramatic. Any blemishes in the picture need be worked on as they will appear in the final product as they work exactly from your file. You can find out more about how to make your own fabric on Spoonflower’s website under FAQ’s

Surprisingly a Fat quarter retails at just $11 for Kona Cotton which is around £6/7 depending on the exchange rate, which when you consider its your own design that’s not bad! And the shipping costs were minor (a few pounds) considering how far it comes. Now to make it really worth it, I suppose you ought to buy other fabric at the same time…

So I bought 3 other designs from various people, the best thing is everytime you buy someone like you is making money, which is lovely to support. I chose an Amsterdam themed fabric, Chinese Lanterns and some awesome Dragons.

It took about 3/4 weeks to reach me but I was beyond exited when I got it and the results are as below! I opted to mirror my design and made it smaller than the original postcard size. I haven’t decided how I am going to use it yet, but have a city inspired quilt design in mind.  Its a little trippy but I love it and I am so proud that its all mine 🙂

the finished design

I should point out that Spoonflower don’t just do fabric but also do Wallpaper and  Wall Decals, lucky I don’t live in my own house or I might be wallpapering as we speak!

So what are you waiting for?? Go forth and create!

Meet George the bare bear!

George has been a fixture in our office for a number of years and when I joined the team he was naked… now I should probably take a moment to clarify that George is a bear! Our mascot was originally dressed in a small t-shirt but it had gone walkabouts and he was left rather bare.

All the other bears laughed at him, proudly displaying their t-shirts for all to see, so one weekend George took a trip home with me and returned with an outlandish outfit which he could wear with pride

George's first outfit

Here George is rocking the colours of our logo, Orange and Purple, on his return he hid in a tree (well office plant) with a note for his original owner, saying he had visited Japan and was inspired by their dress sense.

Once I start something….

So on the  next visit to mine, George returned to work dressed in a glorious Christmas outfit this time complete with matching trousers!!

George does ChristmasAt Christmas George becomes the Office ‘Fairy’ and takes pride of place at the top of the tree, I love these fabrics the cute Christmas puddings on the top and the little Rudolphs on the trousers are awesome. As always George’s outfits are made from left over fabric from other projects, in this case the year I made 6 Christmas stockings aghhhhh!

So finally last year George’s latest outfit was designed as a dual celebration, the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics!

George Jubliee

The front of George’s outfit was a celebration of all things British… though if you look carefully George’s outfit as become a little bit of a tribute to The Sex Pistols! And no outfit made last year could miss the biggest Sporting event ever to take place on our small Island, the Olympic Games! So the back of George’s outfit paid tribute to the year we hosted the Summer Games.

George Olympics

George loved rocking this outfit out and about particularly when the Olympics came to our home town via the torch relay

George watches the torch relay torch relay

So now it is 2013 and George needs a new outfit but I am not sure what outfit to make for him, he has become a demanding customer and a permanent fixture in our office, his new outfit is eagerly awaited…  so I would welcome any ideas you might have!

Extreme Crafting – One day off, One Christmas mission!

Yesterday I had a Craft day, a few hectic weeks meant that I hadn’t done any crafting for ages so I felt the urge to create!!

So I set off on a mission, Christmas is coming and I wanted to make cards, baubles and bunting! Early on this year I made a giant fabric advent calendar that my Husband and I have filled with surprises for each other We are big kids at heart! (Today I got an Albus Dumbledore Lego keyring 🙂 )

I was inspired by bright vibrant colours this year. Hot Pink and Neon Green!! I first bought the Polar Bear fabric from Robert Kaufman this summer at a quilt exhibition and it got me started on a whole host of bright Christmas fabric. It took me ages to find the neon pink fabric to bind the calendar but I persevered!

Advent Blog

Thursday I left work and whilst watching Kirsty’s Vintage Home, I began what was to be an ‘Extreme Crafting’ session lasting a couple of days. I first set to work on the bunting. Creating the word CHRISTMAS using fusaweb to sit alongside some of the leftover fabric from the advent calendar. Halfway through creating the letters I remembered that you have to draw patterns backwards DOH!

Luckily Christmas has a lot of letters that look the same backwards i.e H and A…. Phew!! On Friday I woke early (well early for a day off) and set to work finishing the bunting adding glittery white buttons to weigh it down so it doesn’t blow about in the wind too much when we put it on the balcony.

Blog Bunting

This was then followed by Bauble making, I confess not all of these were made today!! Let’s not go over board but they are fun and really easy to make. My thumb however is a little purple and sore from sticking all the little pins in!! The fabric used in all of these are left over from quilts I have made this year. Including a circus and a sea themed quilt, that’s not very Christmassy I hear you say??? Well if your tree is anything like mine, it’s a mish mash of all things pretty and collected on our travels, so not sure anything looks out of place!! 🙂

Blog Baubles

Each one is individual and would look great on any tree!!

Then finally onto the Fabric Christmas cards again using the same psychedelic fabric! I love the reindeer fabric, here I put a small red glass bead to accentuate his shiny nose!! I hope they are well loved when they find themselves new homes.

Blog Postcards

After all that crafting I am exhausted and apparently I have worked some muscles I didn’t know I had.  Well that’s it for this Christmas I think, back to creating more quilts I think… On that subject, I might have already purchased more fabric… Well you know me!!!

The Quilted Bird goes to Iceland

So not quite a quilting related post… or is it?

To celebrate the arrival of a fairly big birthday, we upped sticks and flew to Iceland for the weekend in search of the elusive Northern Lights. Always been on our list of things to do and with the massive IcelandAir campaign that can be seen just about anywhere you look, we thought we’d take the opportunity to see if we could catch them!

Friday we took in the sights of Reykjavik, the World’s most Northerly capital. For that evening we were booked on to the Northern Lights tour, wandering around the city we over heard one of the locals talking to some English tourists telling them the weather has been bad and that the Lights haven’t been seen for a while and not only that, tonight there was to be a BIG storm! Eeeekk

Well he wasn’t wrong… huge gale force winds blew in, sweeping us and everyone else off their feet. Needless to say the tour was cancelled, much to our disappointment. But we made sure that we were booked in for the next night just in case.

Saturday – My Birthday 🙂 and Golden Circle day! We were booked on a tour to visit the Geysers, Gullfoss Waterfall and Pingvellir National Park. Iceland is stunning (if not a bit cold in gale force winds!) the craziest moment was when the waterfall spray turned to ice, hitting our faces and making all the tourists look incredibly red faced!!!

The Geysers produced the biggest wow moment, curiously amazing and always accompanied by ooohs and ahhs from those watching. They were certainly worth the trip. Finally we had a walk through Pingvellir national park which was stunning.

I’ll admit our eyes were on the sky quite often in the day, watching for clouds and hoping for good fortune! When we returned to the hotel that evening we were overjoyed when we saw the tour was on!!!! 17 coachloads of tourists went out that night, however we had plenty of warning from our guides that the Northern Lights were Nature’s most temperamental phenomena and we might not see them.

Eagerly I spent the journey looking out the window of the bus, when I saw something, a faint streak of green across the sky, I pointed it out to my husband who agreed it looked like it was the Lights!! Hearing us the couple behind us, very excitably yelled ‘We can see them!’. The whole bus was calling for the driver to pull over!!!

And so there they were dancing in the sky, not as vibrant as the pictures you see but still an amazing sight to behold. There was something spiritual about the way they move and dance across the sky. I should also say that the Milky Way was also visible in all its glory, I have never seen so many stars. It was an awesome way to spend my birthday and I realise I was very fortunate to see the Lights in all their glory!! Alas no photos, those Lights are hard to catch!!

Before we flew home on Sunday we stopped off at the Blue Lagoon, a surreal but great experience all the same! It was freezing outside, we all ran to the lagoon and then gingerly stepped into the warm water. It was so weird to be in a hot pool whilst the air around us was so cold, but you didn’t feel it (well not until you get out that is!!)

It was the perfect ending to one of the best holidays I have ever had, a weekend of many firsts and natural wonders.

I can’t leave it there though, I started by saying it wasn’t a quilting related post but actually I couldn’t go somewhere and not purchase some fabric!!!

Yep you guessed it, I found a fabric shop in Reykjavik and purchased some blue fabric, fitting I think for an Icelandic holiday… Now to start yet another quilt, something inspired by my holiday I think!!