Posts Tagged ‘quilting’

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…



Something old, something new…

November 22, 2014

Recently a friend asked me whether I could make her a cot quilt for a baby girl. I’m no expert, but have made a few quilts now, and she’s just beginning to learn and didn’t feel confident enough yet to make one for a present. She didn’t need to twist my arm, although I have lots of other calls on my time just now; quilting is always a pleasure and a welcome retreat from the stresses & strains of everyday life. She wanted me to use new materials, and I happened to need to take a trip down west, so off I trotted to the lovely Becca’s Fabric Larder and ran riot with her budget. I need to point out here that making a quilt with new fabric of decent quality isn’t a cheap exercise; you can find fabric much cheaper, but will it stand up to the regular washing an item in constant use will get without shrinking or shredding? I actually prefer to use old, pre-used fabric, which is pre-shrunk and often of much higher quality than anything I can afford to use that’s available now. However, I do go to local quilt group stash-sales, and sometimes pick up bits other people haven’t used at affordable prices, and two of these fitted in with the other fabrics rather well, so they got used too.

Anyway, having over the last few years invested in some good-quality secondhand tools, after much patient watching, stalking & last-minute-bidding on Ebay, I was able to cut, piece, back, quilt & bind a 3′ x 4′ raggy quilt in a little over 4 days, alongside general family & business activities. Becca didn’t have the batting I wanted, but I was lucky enough to find a king-size portion online that someone else hadn’t used & was selling for less then half the price of buying new, including postage; it’ll do 4 cot quilts and a few bags too. And when it came to the binding, I wasn’t able to find anything ready-made that went with the fabrics I’d used. But at the market on Saturday, I was offered a deal I couldn’t refuse, by one of the house-clearance firms; three boxes, one containing filthy vintage handbags, one containing vintage clothes, and one of fabric scraps, for £10.

There are 15 high-quality leather handbags in the first box, including a Prada bag. Well worth cleaning up; they’ll earn that £10 back, and a fair bit more! Enough decent clothes in the second to keep me from clearing the clothes rails in my shed for a while, and in the third, some excellent fabric, including a length of pristine pure wool tweed, worth over £10 on its own. But what clinched the deal was spotting some dusky pink glazed cotton, just exactly the right colour to bind the quilt, easily enough to make a number of bias cuts. Imagine my surprise on getting it home and finding that there were two generous pieces, already cut on the diagonal – and two more blue pieces, cut just the same – they’d clearly come from a quilter’s stash! So I gathered my courage and cut my own binding; to my surprise it wasn’t hard, and I won’t be scared to do it next time. Anyway – quilt finished, washed, tumble-dried to fluff up the raggy bits, and handed over.

Raggy cot quilt

Raggy cot quilt


But there were bits left over… another friend had recently asked me to find her a knitting needle roll, and as she’s been kind enough to give us 3 beautiful budgies over the years, I thought I’d like to make her one to say thank-you. So the little left-over bits got themselves made up into this one:


Knitting needle roll pieced from small scraps

And then I realised that the friend who’d asked me to make the quilt had a birthday, the very day that I was handing the quilt to her! And she’s rather fond of yarncrafts too, so the bigger leftovers, along with a few other scraps, were whisked up into this one:


Big scrappy needle roll, with space for scissors, patterns etc.

So, I may have had to spend some money on all this (although it wasn’t actually my money anyway) but I have to say I’ve had so much fun with a  few bits of fabric that in my mind, at least, it was money well-spent!





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!

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

Busy busy busy!

September 3, 2009

Just in case you were wondering where I’d got to, I’ve been a little busy, preparing firsrtly for tonight’s Transition Wimborne meeting (7.00 pm at the CLaRC) secondly for Saturday’s Bournemouth Vintage Fayre and thirdly for the Dorset County Show on Sunday where I’ll be demonstrating something (not 100% sure what yet) with my Guild, the Dorset Weavers, Spinners & Dyers. So I’ve been polishing up some of my little old beauties in the hope that they’ll find themselves loving new homes, and using up some of my bountiful supplies of reclaimed fabric & yarns. I now have 3 “Extreme Crochet” shawls to offer, including one that I’m tempted to keep, but musn’t as I already have too many shawls!

Extreme Crochet strikes again!

Extreme Crochet strikes again!

And then there’s the quilt/bedspread/throw… I was given a 1970’s duvet cover by its original maker, who told me to “make something with it!” She’d got some way through making a Grandmother’s Flower Garden hexagonal quilt & got bored, so she appliquéd it to a candy-pink polycotton duvet cover, which had become bobbly & worn over the years. But the patchwork was still in pretty good condition, so I cut it off the polycotton and appliquéd it onto some red velvet which came from a pair of gigantic curtains that smelt somehow of hotel – well-washed, of course! – and “tied” it with snippets of old lace. It wouldn’t have looked right just plonked onto the velvet, so I framed it with some deep modern lace I was given on Freecycle.

Stitching the patchwork & lace onto the velvet...

Stitching the patchwork & lace onto the velvet...

That sounds straightforward, but until you’ve painstakingly stitched around the outside of several hundred little hexagons, you don’t realise quite how fiddly it is! But the end result is quite stunning, IMHO, as a bedspread or as a throw; I just wonder whether anyone will want to buy it…

Makes a good bedspread?

Makes a good bedspread?


July 31, 2009
Oh my word, I've won something!

Oh my word, I've won something!

…I’m really rather proud of myself! Joint recipient of the Balqama trophy in Recycled Materials… I can’t quite believe it. But I’m very happy about it anyway! And also that all three of my other entries received “Highly Commended” status. Well chuffed, surprised & delighted, in fact. And the judges kindly said they hoped I’d make more of them. I do wish I’d finished the charkha in time to show it, because as far as I remember there was nothing else like it there, but oh well, maybe next year…? And I already have some other ideas for practical handmade recycled items…

More practical recycling - one of my denim aprons...

More practical recycling - one of my denim aprons...

Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, ohmigosh…

April 7, 2009

Slipped down to the Tip yesterday in a spare 10 minutes, Monday often being a good day after people have decluttered their attics at the weekend. Nothing obvious, so I climbed up to look in the Metals, and there, not 12″ from my hand, lay a very tatty industrial Singer… naturally it leapt straight into my arms. I could see a gigantic cracked motor and a rusty old footplate, which would be no use to me even if I could have taken them; was there anything else? A few moments anxious scanning revealed a bag of bits including the (broken) bobbin winder, and a thread stand out of reach, which Lee kindly hooked out for me. I grabbed anything else loose that might be vaguely sewing-related, and ran off, a mere 10 minutes late for my next appointment, hyperventilating gently…

It’s a Singer 96KSV7 from 1940. 96s were generally fast tailoring machines, but this one looks as if it’s been adapted (SV meaning Special Variant) to use heavy threads & thick fabrics, as it has a tension knee-lift and a higher shank than the only other 96 that has passed through my hands. There was a bit of very thick strong thread trapped in the shuttle race, and it has a massive needle fitted. Upholstery, maybe? I seem to have picked up most of the correct bits, and a few totally random ones too, but now I will have to find a treadle table to fit her, as I think this might well be the all-round heavy-duty machine I’ve been hunting for for my planned workshop. She stitches beautifully, from fairly-small to a gigantic 4 stitches per inch, and has reverse. I wonder how she’ll like quilting? There’s plenty of room under that massive arm.

When something like this falls into your hands, you know it’s just meant to be. I knew I needed to part with my 1895 Singer 15 Light Industrial (probable) sailmaker, as I know someone who needs it more than I do and will use it regularly to do something well worth doing. I’d been wondering how I was going to replace it for the little heavy-duty stuff I need to do, but someone up there was ahead of me, as usual. Now, what colour do you think she’d like to be next?

A real find...

A real find...

And bagged again…

September 10, 2008


Waiting is hard…

August 5, 2008

…but until my jigsaw is back from the menders, and it stops raining, we can’t finish the bale store. There are 5 pallets waiting to be transformed into a store for bales of hay & straw and a little “woodshed” to store logs etc. for burning. I appealed on Freecycle for some corrugated bitumen roofing, and was given some offcuts from someone’s new shed, which are absolutely perfect for the job. Anyhow, I shall just have to get on with some indoor creative recycling instead.

I’m a Morsbagger ( which undoubtedly qualifies as creative recycling, but it’s not my only way of enjoying myself with a sewing machine. I like rescuing elderly sewing machines from our local Recycling Centre (aka the Tip) Freecycle groups and Ebay too, if they stay at rock-bottom price. Most get sent off with Tools With A Mission to Uganda, for someone to earn a living with; a few stay with me and one or two get sold on to raise funds to rescue more. However there is virtually no secondhand market for bog-standard machines (which are the most useful ones as you can still get parts for them) because they were made to last, and most of them did! And most people here prefer electrical machines… it’s nice to feel that something I can so easily do can give someone elsewhere a bit of hope and self-respect, as well as preventing the waste of a machine that still has plenty of working life left in it. I also love to make patchwork quilts, bags and other items with reclaimed textiles; it’s astonishing what people throw out. Not long ago I came across 7m of pure dupion silk in a skip; I’m still wondering about the story behind that, as it smelt strongly of seawater, which has now faded. Our local Scapstore is a great source of very cheap fabric too, mostly offcuts from interior designers & upholsterers.

Josie's quilt

Josie's quilt, made partly from my old maternity & working clothes.

Mending things should qualify as recycling. I was given a rather nice cantilevered sewing box the other day; it was missing a couple of screws and washers, which cost me a few pence at the local hardware shop. Now it’s back in working order I can use it to store some of the massive collection of lace, ribbons, bindings and other snippets of haberdashery that my mother had squirreled away over the years. My older daughter and I are happily embellishing bags and hats with it, but it may take us some time to use it all up! One day I’d like to make my living running a recycled creative textile workshop, but I’m not in the right place to do that just yet.

Ah well, time to go & restore some order to my temporary workshop, which has been rearranged for a game of Cluedo (with a secondhand set, naturally!) on a rainy summer holiday afternoon…