Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Playing with colour

We both create and use hand dyed fabrics in our textile work and one of our favourite techniques is painting with thickened dyes, often using resist marks, to produce unique fabrics.

Is there still time for tea?  Hazel

As we don't have a dedicated print studio we use portable print boards, balancing them either on trestle legs or the table top.  This gives us a padded work surface at the correct hight which makes the whole process much more enjoyable and prevents back strain.

If you want to make your own portable print table here's how:

you will need:
    • a piece of chipboard (approx 1.5-2cm thick) cut to a manageable size - this is a balance between what you can lift and store easily (and get in your car), and a big enough piece to allow a reasonable size fabric to be printed - eg  1.2m x 80 cm would allow you to get 2 fat quarters or 1/2m fabric on it, but you might be happy with smaller than that (don't use MDF - it is very heavy!)
    • enough synthetic material such as felt or old synthetic blanket (smooth) to cover the board on one side with a 5cm overlap all round (we use two layers of felt, but blanket is thicker so one layer would probably do). Synthetic is important - this layer provides 'give' and something to pin into, but mustn't retain moisture and get soggy as cotton would.  (needle-punched polyester wadding would work, but not the old 'fuzzy' type. eg - polyester felt £2.99/m)
    • staple gun

Position the  board centrally over the felt or blanket and staple the overlap evenly to the back of the board - Start in the middle at the top, then middle bottom, then opposite sides, then work evenly round till it is all attached and stretched firmly and evenly.

Then all you need is a drop-cloth (old cotton sheet, piece of drill or calico) to absorb excess moisture and keep the board clean, and you're set up for printing whenever you want to.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The bear necessities of life?


Whilst we were upstairs teaching FMQ, downstairs there we strange body parts being sewn and stuffed....Keep on Sewing Retreats had it's own bear nursery!  

Senior midwife (!) was Simon Webb of Bunkerline Bears and over the weekend he helps many bears come to life.  

He'd also brought a few along with him and these were successfully adopted too!

Here's a couple waiting to go to their new home....

I wonder if Simon and his bears would like to visit us in Hampshire sometime soon?

Monday, 18 April 2016

Keep on Sewing!

If you read about our visit to the Forge Needle Museum you may have just been wondering what on earth we were doing in Worcestershire.  In fact we were teaching at a residential sewing retreat based at Hillscourt, Crofton Hackett.  Organised by Pam Neave, Keep on Sewing retreats are a long established and hugely successful with many of the stitchers coming time after time! 

We had two different classes on offer, Terry was introducing her class to the basics of free motion quilting whilst my group were taking the technique several steps further.  Unfortunately not many pictures due to someone ( who, I have assured Terry, will remain nameless so no one will 
know it's her...)  not only leaving her phone in the room but also not switching off my camera resulting in a flat battery.

However I did manage to take a few with my phone ( once I'd unearthed it from under a pile of quilts)  
The 'taking it further' group were making a series of identical small quilts using different techniques to see how they compared and what effects were achieved.

Based on my 'Afternoon Tea' series, everyone chose their own style of teapot and cup and used fabrics from their own stash.  See Karen's beautiful red china in the photograph above?  That's because she'd already been shopping at the InStitches sales table!  Great choice Karen!

Betty added extra detail to her tea set using a free motion stitched deign of her own, 

whilst Jean used some batik fabrics she had bought from Hannah's Room on the first morning.   

Take another look at Karen's picture,  see the white quilting gloves she's wearing? They're 'Machingers' and I too treated myself to a pair from Hannah's Room, .Just brilliant for the FMQ job, giving you fingertip control without being cumbersome or bulky.  Easy to put on and take off they can be machine washed and I highly recommend them; they're going to be great when it comes to quilting my quilts for Festival of Quilts this year!

I did manage to photograph a couple of pieces of work by Sue, who'd been in Terry's group.  Inspired by the patterns she had learned Sue bought a couple of our kits and got busy after dinner one evening. That's the beauty of a sewing retreat....someone else does the cooking and washing up, leaving you all that lovely time free for sewing!  Here's Sue's sari silk scarf she made

and while she was waiting for it to dry she whizzed up three sari silk brooches too!

If you like the look of them then come along to our stand at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC, Birmingham this August ( more about that in future blogs, when we know more details) as we shall have both kits on sale.

I managed a little project of my own as well one evening

Based on the 'Sweetpea pods' pattern by Joan Hawley and measuring 4"x6" this clever little bag showcases my free motion quilting pattern and is useful too!  I am hoping we shall have some for sale at Festival too as well as some kits for you to try out yourselves.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Thousands of uses for millions of needles

We're up in the Lickey Hills for a few days teaching at a residential sewing retreat ( more about that later!) and found ourselves with a free Friday morning.  It was also raining (nothing new there then!). So we took ourselves off to visit here:

I've often seen it mentioned in magazines and thought I'd like to visit it one day.   Today was that day!

There was even a  welcome ambassador, who, on this occasion, was asleep on the job...

The museum was also hosting a small exhibition called Sew Small bythe Miniature Needlework Society international.  Most of the work was 1/12th scale and amazingly intricate, definately not for children to play with!  We were particularly taken by this pair of knitted mice, all 1 1/2 inches tall.  

Have you still got a Dean tape measure lurking at the back of a drawer?  I'm sure have have several, different coloured ones from my dress making days.

There were also vintage adverts for different types of scissors and

thimbles too.  But we were there to see the needle making process. Who knew there were so many different types?  Think of a job and there seems to be a needle to fit!

I've not really given much thought to my humble needle, but there are at least 10 stages in the needle making process and that doesn't include the inspecting, packaging and labelling.  

Made in pairs (as they still are today) needle making was a time consuming and complex processes with needle pointing the most dangerous but highest paid. Each step was manually done, usually in a workshop but sometimes completed by outworkers at home - often by the women and children.

I wonder if everyone had this as an interview test?

There was lots of information and exhibits from darners to


book binders and

intricate displays of everything else inbetween - surgical needles (gulp), fishermen's hooks, needles for making horses' tack to name a few.

And this tin?  Nothing too exotic, but I now know that cotter pins are for holding your pedals on your bike!

On our way out I spotted this rather smartly decorated sewing machine.  Does anyone still use a hand cranked machine I wonder?

If you fancy visiting the museum then all the details can be found here: