Archive for the ‘patchwork’ Category

Why wouldn’t you…?

August 8, 2016


It was crumpled up inside a plastic bin-liner at the market on Saturday, but something about it caught my eye… on closer inspection, it was part of a quilt. And looking closer still, probably part of a painstakingly hand-made quilt; the only machine-stitches I’ve been able to find were those joining the backing piece. It cost me part of £3, along with a number of other items.

At some point, someone has hacked a fair bit of it off, hopefully to do something intelligent with; I think it was probably king-size to start with and is now about 4′ x 6′; the pattern has been interrupted both lengthways and widthways. They’d left one edge with the original binding, zig-zagged roughly down another, but left the last two raw. An interrupted project, from an unwanted gift, maybe? At first I thought it was probably one of the lovely Marks & Spencers’ Indian-made quilts, but when I realised that the piecing was all hand-stitched as well as the quilting,  I decided that hand-made was more likely.


Anyway, to cut a long story short, I knew I’d have some suitable plain fabric to make a quick American-style binding with, in a not-unsympathetic colour. So I bought it, and told the stallholder (whose wife knows her quilts & exactly what they might earn them) what I was planning to do with it. As I walked away I couldn’t help overhearing,  sotto-voce, “But why would you…?”

Why wouldn’t I?! If I were making a quilt (well, I usually am!) it wouldn’t be my first choice of colours or styles. Far too much like hard work! But the colours fit into my draughty little living room like a hand into a glove. Binding’s not hard, and doesn’t take long; it was done by Sunday evening, sitting outside in the sunshine, fitted around other everyday tasks. And I absolutely respect the work and the skill that’s gone into this one, even if it’s just a remnant of what it once was.

I love being surrounded by, and using, lovely things that have been made with skill, care and love, which have often survived the tests of time. And I love “rescuing” things that others consider beyond consideration. Sometimes I use them in “upcycling” projects, sometimes I sell them on, but sometimes they just make themselves at home here…


Rescued from an old, stained linen petticoat…



Ideas, ideas…

February 2, 2013

I’ve spent several happy hours hacking up 99p charity shop shirts over the last few weeks, with another quilt in mind, and will be posting a tutorial soon on how to cut up & re-use a shirt with least possible waste, along with some ideas for the “what-on-Earth-can-I-do-with-this?” bits. But some of the last batch were made from such pretty fabrics that one or two other ideas started to creep into my mind. However I’ll need all the shirts I’ve currently got, and more, to complete the current quilt top, so I went looking for more, but sadly it seems that the gods of charity shopping are not currently viewing this project with favour – there were no 99p rails out anywhere and precious few shirts under £3.99. So I started looking at other potential sources of inexpensive fabric. Not that there are many left now, sadly…

Anyway, most shops still seem to let unmatched pillowcases go for 50p, provided they put them out at all – oddments like that don’t fit with the High Street ethos, really – and some of them, usually the older ones, are made from fairly decent & attractive fabric, even if many are terylene/cotton mixes. So I dismembered a couple to see what I’d got. They are usually cut from one wide strip of sheeting fabric, selvedge to selvedge, overlocked along both long sides. If you’ve ever tried to unpick a 4-thread overlock, you’ll know it takes hours and there isn’t much fabric under there anyway, unlike a stitched seam. So I just cut the seams off, very close to the stitching, and ironed them flat. Then I kind of got to wondering whether there might be enough fabric there to make little pinafores… and the answer is, that provided you don’t mind about matching the pattern, or need them to flare out much, then yes, there is. This is my first effort, yet to be tried out on a real child; I suspect I haven’t made the armhole deep enough but that’s easily rectified next time around. In theory it’ll fit a 3-4 year old, but whether one would be seen dead in it remains to be seen! I will report back once I’ve pressganged a passing child, and if it’s a moderate success, I’ll post a tutorial as I make up the next one! And if that’s of much interest to anyone, I might just make up a few in kit form, and see if anyone would actually buy them…


Catching up…

November 8, 2012

Sometimes you just need a few quiet days to catch up with stuff… it’s amazing how much chaos can vanish, given a few hours to tackle your UFOs. A UFO, for those of you who are more organised than I can pretend to be, is an UnFinished Object. At any given time I will have several hanging around, waiting for an unbroken run of time & inspiration to get them done & off my back. One of these has now been done and another is well underway, and would have been finished last night if my treadle belt hadn’t broken just as darkness fell.

A minor UFO!

This quilt came to me in two pieces; I found it in a local charity shop (henceforth referred to as CSs) just after I’d promised a young friend a quilt for their birthday. It’s a commercially-made one, although it’s hand-pieced, probably in India, and had been cut in half & hemmed to make two small singles, probably for two small boys. The two halves were being sold for dog blankets at £2.50 each… just so happened that I was cutting up a pile of blue 99p CS shirts to make patchwork pieces, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to “cheat” and try to join it back up again; couldn’t help thinking it would be rather wasted on your average pooch. I doubt I could have done it invisibly and actually I didn’t even want to try; every quilt tells a story, as they say, and being divided & joined back up again is part of this quilt’s tale. It lies flatter than it looks on the washing line!

The other project that’s awaiting some concentration-time is the blind for DS2’s window, which is half-finished, but I hope to have done by the end of today. This time I did buy the main fabric new & complete, to fit in with his colour scheme, but everything else is reclaimed, and much of it from the same old blind that I made DS3’s one from. Leftover fabric will be made into cushions; I found two brand-new cushion pads at the Tip a couple of weeks ago, still with their price tags on.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to try to dispose of more stuff than I bring back; a large load went off with the jumble collectors yesterday, and a boot-load of genuine rubbish went off to the Tip. And I only brought one small item back; a little vintage wind-up travel alarm clock. If it doesn’t work properly, I’ll cannibalise it for steampunk-style jewellery, but so far, it does, and very well too, so I might just have to sell it on as is…

And editing to add: treadle belt changed, blind finished & hung, and one cushion completed. The other may take some time; the front will be the same, but the back will have to be painstakingly pieced out of about 8 tiny leftover scraps…

A major UFO – adding a touch of warmth to a very masculine icebox-bedroom!

Let it rain!

October 13, 2012

Because my chickens now have a roof over their heads again… I spent yesterday re-roofing their run. They’ve been paddling in the mud for long enough! And what’s more, thanks to Freecycle and a very kind lady down in Poole, I have two more of them, and I’m getting beautiful multi-coloured eggs again.

When we first started keeping backyard birds, one of my great joys was collecting the deep brown, pink, blue & white eggs from our much-loved Marans, Faverolles, Araucana & Hamburgh chickens. But over the years the laying flock had dwindled down to 3, two Warren-type hybrids laying perfectly pleasant but very ordinary light-brown eggs, and one gigantic Buff Orpington laying “tinted” (pinkish) eggs when she isn’t broody. There are just two Pekins left, also laying little pinkish eggs, but one of them is raising chicks just now. 2-3 (and possibly a half) eggs a day doesn’t go far between 7 of us! I’d meant to do something about it early this summer, but missed the boat; I wanted a couple of “Chalkhill Blue” day-olds, but didn’t have a broody when they were hatching, and when I did, they’d finished hatching for the year, so she had to make do with some Freecycled eggs and now has two Polish X Frizzle chicks, one of which may not be male.

Anyway, a dear friend had to move earlier this summer & gave me her solitary surviving Marans, Mollie, who lays splendid deep-brown eggs; she was the only survivor of a dog attack. Then a couple of days ago there was an advert on Freecycle from someone desperate to rehome her flock as she’s about to have a serious operation & won’t be able to care for them. I didn’t see the advert until 6 hours after it was posted, so didn’t hold out much hope, but to my delight she contacted me the next morning & said I’d be welcome to take on a couple of them, including – a Chalkhill Blue! So that evening I hurtled down to town & collected two baffled chooks – the other one is a White Star – who now rejoice in the names Faye & Bianca. As my separate accomodation is already occupied by the broody, I had to pop them onto the roost with the others; I was expecting trouble next morning, but I didn’t get it. The new girls were a bit shy to start with, and there was a little bit of posturing, but within an hour they were all dustbathing together and by the end of the day I had two light-brown, one pinkish, one blue and one pearly white egg! And they now have a run that should keep the worst of the weather off their feathers, and a shed that’s stopped letting in water now I’ve revamped the roof. Amusingly, the inside is lined with a red vinyl poster announcing “VIP Marquee” courtesy of the Dorset Scrapstore…

Glorious technicolour eggs!

But it can rain with impunity now for other reasons too. I’ve had a couple of influxes of goodies; one from the local charity shop that sells me the craft-related things they have’t been able to move on themselves, and some interesting items from the tip, as well as some lovely 1950s curtains from the 50p house-clearance stall on the market. I’m going to be busy for days next week, sorting things into saleable & usable, washing things & Freecycling the bits I can’t use. And then there was the very successful raid on the charity shops down in the conurbation, where they evidently do still believe in 99p or £1 rails for the stuff that hasn’t sold; I picked up 9 100% cotton striped gents shirts to slice up for quilting & other fabric projects. So I’d be glad to have an excuse to spend some time indoors; I could even possibly use some of the beautiful threads that were muddled up in the “unsaleable” batch from the local charity shop (pictured below) and the wonderful vintage needles (with decent sized eyes!) that came in a box from the Tip… I may be gone for some time!

Even more technicolour threads!

Startled but rather pleased…

September 8, 2012

A few weeks back I picked up a big, heavy bag of what I assumed were vintage curtains as part of a job-lot that I paid £10 for. I have since revamped & sold on the main item from the job lot at a profit; not a magnificent one when you consider the time & expertise that I put into it, but still worthwhile. So anything else I can either sell on, or use myself, from that job lot, is pure gain.

I’d bunged the bag of fabric into the porch whilst I finished updating DS3’s bedroom. Vintage curtains do sell on my stall, albeit not for very much; ’tis all grist to the mill, though, as my mother would say. I used to take the header tapes off them & sell them on as lengths of fabric, but so many people told me that they were going to make it into curtains (again) that I decided it was easier just to leave them be & let the buyers cut them up if they want to. Anyway, yesterday I hauled the bag out to investigate further…

You could have knocked me down with a feather; it contained two large pairs of very-acceptable cream & terracotta cabbage-rose Laura Ashley linen/cotton curtains, complete with tie-backs & pelmets. They show no signs of ever having been used as the fabric is still crisp & there are no fingermarks, dust or fading; there are a few plastic track hooks, but I suspect that they’re far too heavy to hang from a plastic track in daily use; the big pair are well over 3m wide each at the hems & both pairs are 230cm long. So possibly they came from a show-house & weren’t liked, or someone tried to hang them from a track that wasn’t strong enough & they were swiftly replaced by something lighter? It’s not a current pattern, but the closest I could find on their website (Baroque Raspberry) in the larger size, lined, with tie-backs, would cost £990 a pair!

It just so happened that I had recently bought fabric to make new living room curtains; I made some about 8 years ago & decided I hated the pattern about 7½ years ago, so it was high time to replace them. But I wasn’t totally sure about the new fabric, although I’d paid £9.90 a metre for it; the night before last I actually dreamt I had made it (with some other scraps) into some curtains & blinds for the kitchen, which completely changed the look & feel of the kitchen in a positive way, making it feel much less of a left-behind 80s “farmhouse” style & more of a deliberately-retro country kitchen. So that fabric isn’t going to go to waste, because the Laura Ashley curtains are perfect for the living room windows & the conservatory doors; it would be very hard to find anything to suit the space better. I have a feeling there’s enough there to do the front door, as well, if I halve the big ones widthways; they’d cover both gaps more than comfortably. As our ceilings are quite low for an old house, the pelmets would be de trop so they’ll be deconstructed & turned into cushion covers, which will take a bit of jiggery-pokery or possibly patchworking skills. The only money I’m going to have to spend is on acquiring some new curtain rings, which isn’t going to break the bank. Needless to say, I will check that my favourite suppliers down at the Tip don’t have any first!

So although I’m trying to be very strict with myself about bringing unnecessary items into the house, sometimes, just sometimes, my magpie instincts do work in our favour.

Edited to add: needless to say my favourite suppliers did indeed have exactly what I needed, and one of the big curtains has now been split into two, shortened slightly and is gracing the conservatory doors. Pic duly added; door & frame yet to be painted. Total expenditure now £3, £1 for two curtain poles complete with rings & £2 for some metal hooks on the market this morning.

At last…

March 9, 2012

I’ve finally thought of a way of using cuffs! On my rare days off, I haunt the charity shops of Dorset, raiding the “Reduced” rails for cotton shirts & pyjamas to turn into patchwork fabric. You can get some very decent fabric, in reasonable quantities, for £1 that way. I’ve worked out a way of slicing them up so that you get the maximum quantity of usable fabric, plus a quantity of “seam yarn” for rag rugs etc., from each garment, depending on how it’s constructed. But I’ve always struggled with how to use the collar & cuffs & generally ended up popping them into my scraps-I-really-can’t-do-anything-with bag. This goes off to a charity shop, where they get paid for rags by weight; every little counts!

But today I cracked it; I found a nice “Next” pink striped needlecord shirt for £1 on Monday, that you’d have to have an incredibly slender & well-sculpted figure to wear. I could see straight away that it’d make several stunning fabric hearts, or possibly needlecases; maybe some of each. As I was cutting it up today, the cuffs fell together onto the tabletop in such a way as to remind me I’d lost my glasses case recently, and suddenly I could see how I could make them into one, very quickly & easily. And 20 minutes later, my glasses had a new home! It even has a useful little pocket on the back, too, that I’m going to make a tiny matching mending kit for. Will post a “how-to” sometime after weekend!




Been MIA for a bit…

August 29, 2011

…and “missing in ACTION” it certainly has been. My feet haven’t touched the ground for the last couple of months, but it’s been great. You know you’re actually reaching people when someone walks into your shop and the first thing they say is, “Aha! That’s the very sofa itself! I read about that on your blog!” And indeed she (and her husband too) have spent some time cosily esconced on said sofa, over the last few days, weaving happily away on their new-to-them peg loom and cutting rags into strips.

I’m just beginning to find my feet now and find a little time for writing – which is just as well, as I have an article to write before going off on holiday. It may seem a little perverse, trotting off on holiday just when things were getting off the ground, but believe me, I need it…

I’ve been surprised and delighted by how I do seem to have found a real gap in the market; people are genuinely pleased to find affordable stuff and somewhere they can just try things out. They may already be expert-level at, say, P&Q, but wanting to have a go at crochet, without committing to weeks of lessons or a jumper’s-worth of yarn. Or professional cardmakers who’ve always wanted to try their hand at knitting. I’ve done a whole lot of wet-felting, too; seems to be the one thing everyone wants a go at, even people who’ve done it many times before!

Here’s a link to a nice tribute from one of my friends – great to see you last week, Carrie! – and here’s one to our local newspaper’s account. And below is something I made earlier… it’s great to have some time & space just to sit & make things, and a good excuse to do so!

It’s been a while…

May 22, 2011

…because I’ve been busy. Very very busy, in fact, in the nicest possible way, because there suddenly seems to be a lot of interest in what I’m doing, So I’m taking the plunge & have rented a small workshop/shop in the centre of our little town, to open up; website to be set up over the next few days.
I’m really excited but there’s a lot of work to do; the unit needs painting & some other stuff like hot water & flooring sorted out, and I’m trying to source just about all the fittings secondhand, recycled or reclaimed, with one or two exceptions for electrical safety’s sake. There’s a side room for my VintageCraftStuff, and also some gallery space to display our own creations and those of other local crafters. There’ll be human-powered sewing machines & spinning wheels, giant knitting needles, inkle looms, spinning & felting supplies, handspun yarn, and reclaimed fabric, yarn and buttons for sale, and of course, books and magazines… open for retail Mon-Fri, 11-4 pm.
The idea is to run FREE lunchtime “craftalong” sessions – bring your sarnies, or buy something yummie & inexpensive from the Riverside Cafe next door, and sit & stitch/knit/crochet/whittle – whatever, as long as it’s creative! – for free in good company, anytime from 12-2 pm. Then 2-4 pm will be inexpensive have-a-go themed workshops, probably about £4 per person including materials (if it can be done) on simple basic stuff – cardmaking, scrapbooking, bookmaking, wet felting, needlefelting, learn to spin/knit/crochet/stiitch – and there will be expert workshops in the evenings & some weekends, with more advanced tutors. Everything will be small scale, partly because of space limitations but also because it’s nicer & easier to learn that way.
There’s a little garden space at the back to grow a few dye plants, herbs & flowers in tubs & baskets, and sit & stitch or spin in the sunshine on nice days. The river runs right outside the door, so it’s a very green & natural space for a town-centre location.
So I’m really, really busy trying to sort all the background stuff like insurance, website & fittings out right now. I’ll post again just before we open, so wish me luck, watch this space & plan to come & visit us when you’re down this way!

I promised…

January 26, 2011

…that the next one would be made entirely with recycled materials. And here it is! Old seersucker tablecoths, and a couple of shirts, to be precise. All gleaned from charity shops or the Tip; the batting is a fleece baby blanket that someone had no further use for, although it was as good as new & could easily have been donated to a charity shop. But it wasn’t…  The thread (two colours only) was rescued from old sewing machines or sewing boxes & was still strong, the backing & self-binding was a length of calico that used to line our kitchen curtains and the ribbon came from a whole roll that turned up in a Freecycled sewing box.  It’s a cot-size “strippy-raggy” quilt, for want of a precise description! Fun & very quick to make, but also very textural & soft from a baby’s point of view.

I had fun with the machine quilting, as you can see, and tried out lots of different “patterns”. Some were much easier than others. Bear in mind that my 1909 Jones Medium treadle is extremely easy to use, but only goes forwards and doesn’t automatically adjust stitch lengths or automatically do anything at all except look cheerful!

All in all I’m rather pleased with it & may have to make several more – if only because I now have a big bag of seersucker strips in a wide variety of colours!

Recycled resources?

January 8, 2011

Strippy quilt front

Here’s a conundrum – is this cheating, or not?

I’ve always felt that quilts should be made from scraps, offcuts or fabric that’s otherwise unwanted; going out & buying fabric to make a quilt seems to make a mockery of the spirit of the artform. My head knows that quilts made from fresh fabric will last longer, that there’s no shortage of it, and that by buying in your fabrics, you’ll get exactly what you want, or near enough. But still… as practical recycling goes, a patchwork quilt made from recycled & reclaimed fabrics is one of the ultimate achievements, as well as being a lovely warm thing to enhance your home or wrap around yourself on a cold winter’s day. So my heart thinks all patchwork quilts should be masterpieces of the recycler’s art. This conviction of mine is probably why I have several bags full of partially-made quilt tops that have somehow ground to a halt or hit a metaphorical buffer one way or another, whilst I wait for the right fabric to turn up. Sadly, at least one intended recipient has actually passed away whilst their quilt has remained unfinished… it’s a good job she never knew I meant to  make her one.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, just before Christmas I was lucky enough to sell some items I had only just realised were surplus to requirements. I’d also spotted what looked like a very quick & easily-achieveable method of piecing a quilt top whilst idly following links from one crafting blog to another. Having some spare funds kicking around in my PayPal account, I took the plunge on New Year’s Eve & bought myself a “stripper” or “jelly roll” which arrived very quickly. I sat down with it at 9 pm on Tuesday evening; by the same time on Wednesday I had a completed “strippy” quilt top as well as having done all the normal household tasks for the day. And by Friday evening it was machine-quilted, bound & finished! It’s not a grand job but it’s functional & quite pretty & I’m pleased with it. I’m also ready to get out my cutter & start cutting strips from  my mountain of reclaimed fabric; this method is fast & very, very do-able. I love looking at art quilts & fantastically complex pieces of patchwork, but I know I haven’t really got the patience – or, in fact, the spare time – to tackle a project that’s going to take hours of calculations, months of work, & completely accurate piecing and stitching. But fast & furious is immensely managable…

So – my justification is that by buying this fabric, I’ve broken through a barrier & realised that making useful quilts doesn’t have to take months., if not years. And I do feel that in a sense, it was at least done with recycled cash, since the funds came from the sale of other craft items. If I can ever find the blog again, I’ll post a link to how it’s done so that anyone else who’s always meant to “have a go” can do so; if I can’t (and I’ve been looking for it all week) I’ll post a “how-to” as another page.  And the next quilt will be made with recycled fabric…

Strippy quilt - back view