Saturday 30 July 2011

Calling All Quilting Nerds - Bletchley Park Quilt Competition - yes, really.

Bletchley Park is holding a Quilt Exhibition in February 2012.

It’s organised by the Quilters’ Guild (of the British Isles) and it was featured in British Patchwork & Quilting, and on a Yahoo! quilting group, but as I don’t spend any time with either really, I missed it.

Sadly, the deadline to enter the “Secret Messages” Category was April.  I would have loved to enter that,

BUT there’s still time to enter the ‘Open’ Category Quilt Competition.  The deadline to send in your application is November 30th, with final submission of quilt on 31st January.

Here's some background info ...

You can download the application form here:

“You may take your inspiration from the parklands, architecture, exhibitions or collections to be found at Bletchley Park. We are looking for quilts that reflect the history and work of Bletchley Park."

Here’s a little nerdy inspiration (click pic to go to my set on flickr)


And a little outside inspiration (click pic to go to my set on flickr):


Bletchley Park is a really fascinating place.  Eisenhower said that without Bletchley Park and its cryptographers, WWII would have lasted another two years.  The stories of the people who worked there are fascinating and poignant.  The place itself is magical. 

The echoes of genius reverberate everywhere you wander …

So, what’s stopping you?  Are you up for a challenge?  I love a challenge :)  … I had my brainwave today and now I just have to work out how to make it real!

Backstitch LouLouThi Giveaway Winner!

Yay!  It's Saturday ... I love Saturdays ... sigh

It's time to see who has won a metre of Anna Maria Horner's lovely Loulouthi from Backstitch ...

Mr Random Org has Spoken:

Congratulations to Alyce B !!  I hope you love your Saturday too :)

Thanks to everyone who took part, and to Backstitch for donating the lovely fabric!

Bletchley Park - Hexie Seedhead!

Today I went to Bletchley Park - a hothouse of nerdy creativity during WWII - it's all cryptography and Enigma machines and great whirring cogs ... check out my nerdy set here if you're interested.

However, the real joy was that this mad boffin world was cradled in a place of exceptional natural beauty. A wonderful lake, a moth eaten old croquet lawn, beautiful trees.

I'll be posting more about Bletchley v soon .. but for now let's just marvel at the fact that even the seedheads are nerdily mathematical ... *sigh ...

Tuesday 26 July 2011

tart & brush up

With all these new beginnings I reckoned it was time to soften the look of my blog a little.   I wanted to remove the emotional pain of the last year, while leaving any creative pain intact!

This was the old header:

pings and needles nerdy creativity

It captured my mood perfectly when I first designed it.  Those scissors on the right were the hospital scissors that we used to trim my brother’s eyebrows while he was in hospital.  When the nurse went to throw them away I asked to keep them.  They travelled with me while I quilted.  They don’t belong here anymore. 

I like how the pin connects to the'g' in pings ... I wanted the colours to reflect Brighton a bit more too ..

I’ve changed the fonts around as well … I felt that there wasn’t enough white space.  I like a clean blog!

So, what do you think?  Do you like the new header?  Is the font easy to read?

I’m still playing around, but I’d love your feedback …

Monday 25 July 2011

The Fabric Market Place - And a Giveaway - Yay!

I meant to post this at the weekend … whoops!  I got all carried away with me hexies and jam making and the like …

The lovely Emma, from It’s All About The Fabric has launched a great new website - The Fabric Market Place.  Think of it as a kind of etsy/folksy kind of affair, with the brilliant specialisation of being only for fabric related items! 

I have to say, having had a real dig around as one of Emma’s beta-testers, that I think it feels like there’s so much to explore and to utilise.  I find the other seller sites quite tricky to browse efficiently. I think this site has enormous potential. 


I’ve got a whole load of destashing in mind that I was just going to put up on e-bay or folksy.  Not now.  Emma has inspired me to spend a little ruthless time with my stash while I'm on hols.

It’s extremely early days for the marketplace, so don’t expect a heap of content. It’s a bit like house-hunting. You have to imagine it with your furniture in it. I think this site will build and build.

Now, to make things even better, Emma’s having a little giveaway to celebrate for a FQ Bundle of Happy Mochi Yum Yum! (Obviously I’m not entering, as I just won some at Lily's Quilts!)

So get on over there if you want a chance to win, the giveaway closes on Wednesday 27th July, so you've only got 2 days ... but make sure you take a look a the fab(ric) marketplace too … When I’ve organised my de-stash I’ll let you know!

Jam Today

Well, that was a bit of a roller-coaster of a weekend! Deep thanks for the lovely comments and emails, they were much appreciated.

Anyway, today is a new day, in a new phase … and for some reason that meant I just had to make …

Raspberry & Rose Jam
This couldn’t be easier.  It takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. 

All those pips contain pectin which helps it set.  I actually use equal parts preserving and granulated sugars, but it really doesn’t matter what you use.

If you want pipless jam you've got to sieve and that takes time.  This is quick, full of pips, with a whisper of rose ... and really really good. 

  • Equal weight uncooked fruit to granulated sugar 500g fruit yields about 2 normal size jars of jam
  • 1 capful rosewater/essence  delicate whiff of rose - you can hardly tell it’s there. 
  • knob of butter to help stop a frothy scum.  You can just skim it off
  • heavy/thick bottomed pan - or preserving pan, obv.
  • 2 flat baking trays - 1 lined with foil.
  •  saucer

  • Preheat oven to 150 & chill a saucer in the fridge.
  • Spread sugar evenly over surface of foil-lined baking tray.
  • Warm sugar for 7 mins, remove from oven - should be lightly coloured NOT toffee!  Do it before you cook the fruit - it’s easy to forget it’s in there until it’s too late …
  • Rinse jam jars and put on tray in bottom of oven (to sterilise)
  • Heat raspberries slowly over low heat, just to warm through
  • Whack up heat and boil for 3-5 mins … add knob of butter (if using)
  • Get jam jars out of oven and set to one side
  • Remove fruit from heat, add sugar stir stir stir until sugar fully dissolved, return to high heat and boil boil boil for 5-10 mins.
If you like a soft set, it’s ready to go if, when you scoop up a spoonful and then let it drip back into the pan, the last few drips are stretchy and clingy. 
Or ... you can put some on a chilled saucer and if it wrinkles when you push it back, it’s ready.  I think this is a great technique with other fruits but it gives a harder set with raspberries …
  • Be careful not to get burned by popping bubbles!
  • Ladle into jam jars, seal with wax discs if you have em, otherwise just screw on clean lids.
The best thing about this is that even if you get it slightly wrong you are still left with something delicious.  Stir it into natural yoghurt, use it for baking, freeze it … lots of options.

So, how was your Monday?  Did you stray from your usual routine? 

Sunday 24 July 2011

Not Grieving, But Mourning

I couldn’t let today go without mentioning my brother because he is the reason this blog exists.

He died a year ago today.

Or yesterday, if you go by day of the week … let’s not go there ... I tend to remember 'the day'.

It can be confusing.

AJ, I miss you. 

You’d love all this blog stuff.  You’d be posting deviously witty comments. We’d be having fun.


While I was pondering whether to post this, I realised something pretty extraordinary.

He is the reason that YOU, dear reader, are here too.

Who ever you are. How ever you got here. When ever that is. 

Small pebble, big ripple.

All Hearts on Deck …

If you’re after the Loulouthi by Anna Maria Horner giveaway it’s over here - runs until 29th July -

Caroline over at Serenity Quilts is appealing for some heart blocks to make up into quilts for Cancer Research …

I know we’re all busy people - kids on holiday, life in general, not to mention time online, some of us in bees and QALs and such like, but it really takes no time to run up an 8” applique block, bung it in the post and know that you’ve helped someone, somewhere. 

I’m now going to get up from the computer and make a heart block … see you in a tick!

You can watch the test card and listen to some funky orchestral moozak if you want …

35 mins later … 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …. back in the room …

I had time to make coffee too, waiting for the iron - I love the stupid pleasure I get from multitasking domestic minutiae while maintaining hopeless chaos most of the rest of the time!

Here’s what I did:

30 minute freezer paper   bondaweb heart applique
      1. cut 8” square from white or neutral fabric
      2. cut heart template from freezer paper (ordinary paper will do - just draw round it)
      3. piece 2 x 1.5” strips
      4. cut strip to 1.5” lengths & RS down on ironing board
      5. lay bondaweb over pieces (don’t breathe!) & iron
      6. iron freezer paper to RS of block & cut out heart - remove fp.
      7. peel off bonda backing & iron to square block
      8. whizz round with a bit of blanket stitch - it’s the one thing I really love RoboSew for having!
      9. stitch across the rows … I used a fancy stitch as
        I never usually use them!

      10. use up the scraps to make it a pair!

Job done.

I couldn’t resist bondawebbing a few diamonds, while I was at it!  … just for a little hexie fix, you understand …

Coffee still warm too!

So, if you’d like to help Caroline, read more here and leave her a comment so she can send you her details

… or leave a comment here and I’ll pass them on … Either way, please make sure you have reply-to email enabled on your profile!

Cancer touches us all, in some way, at some point in our lives.  It’s good to do a little something.

Saturday 23 July 2011

moving on to solids

I’m having a very quiet and thoughtful weekend, so I felt like surrounding myself with peaceful, bundles of calm,in the shape of solids.

I’ve always been keen on solids … but my first forays into quilting last year were pimped by ebay and I just went print crazy!  It’s not so easy to find solids here in the UK but thanks to Mandy @ Simply Solids & Alice @ Backstitch, things are looking up.

I thought I’d bang on about Klona Cottons a bit more.  I’ve been using them for a while now, and as I said in yesterday’s post, I like them.

I think they are slightly coarser than Kona, but that could just be the dressing on them.  They stitch, iron and wash beautifully and soften up a fair bit when washed.  I’ve had such fluctuating quality in Konas when I’ve bought from the US that now I buy the majority of my Konas from Mandy @ Simply Solids and they’re and always consistently tip top reliable, but for me Kona also has some tonal gaps and Klona fills them …

Alice at Backstitch has started putting together some fab ‘Hurricane’ Solids Bundles (she also does great print bundles too)

I have to confess that I’ve only ever won a bundle of fabric in blog giveaways, I’ve never actually bought one, but these babies are pretty tempting, pay day end of the week … yay!

Howzabout this lovely Full Bundle ..?
a FQ set of all 41 colours ... woot! 
I love the hunter green and the cardinal red - they’re quite dry and fierce.

idFile (1)

I'm weak at the knees for this pastel bundle ...   Me?  Pastels?  Yeah, I know, but trust me I have some and they're gorgeous ... The light lilac (6th down in the bundle) is to die for. 
I have an incredibly geeky quilt I’ve been planning in my head for about two years, using pastels and white, that I’m now nearly good enough at sewing to attempt! 

idFile (3)

I really like the neutrals too ...

Quite often I have trouble truly matching greys, Konas tend to be warmer, with more red in them and that doesn’t always work with other, cooler greys in some prints … These greys are bluer in tone.  I’d love if they brought out a really dark charcoal grey.

I love to use fabrics like Osnaburg and unbleached medium weight calico (UK) - I think it’s known as muslin in the US?  I get so confused living in two fabric zones … online and offline! 

It works really beautifully with linens or linen blends - I’m using Osnaburg for my Feel the Fear HST Echino quilt (oh the WIPs!)

Sometimes though, calico & Osnaburg can be just too coarse for other fabrics.  The seeded natural (bottom of the neutrals bundle) is a great alternative.

Do go take a peek at the bundles over at Backstitch

Anyway, tell me, are you a pre-bundled bundler? Or do you just buy your own little selections?
What are the disadvantages or advantages of print bundles - do they make us lazy or provide inspiration? whadjathink??

If you’re after the Loulouthi by Anna Maria Horner giveaway it’s over here - runs until 29th July - note: PLEASE don’t ask for other fabrics.  It’s a giveaway for Loulouthi ONLY!  

Friday 22 July 2011

The Lucky Streak Pay it Forward with Backstitch Loulouthi Giveaway …

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>This Giveaway is Now CLOSED!<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  

Hello lovely Readers - if you've popped over from Lily's Quilts then welcome, make yourselves at home and have a good snoop around ! If you're a regular visitor, nice to have you back - that colour looks great on you, have you lost weight?

I’ve been a very lucky girl recently …

First of all  I won this great bundle from Fat Quarterly …
  …then I received this wonderful angel quilt from Lynne @ Lily’sQuilts for the BritQuiltSwap  
… and I won this The Farmer’s Wife Pony Club book giveaway @ Lily'sQuilts
  … And then I won some Happy Mochi Yum Yum at Lily’sQuilts too ! (not to mention some Aurifil thread too!)

Truth be told I'm a little embarrassed, but I’m not going to apologise for my luck (trust me, there's enough dark stuff in my life to balance it out!) I am going to pay it forward though …

loulouthiThe lovely Alice at Backstitch has offered you lovely readers a chance to win a metre (in any combo you like) of Anna Maria Horner’s new LouLouthi line …

I like some of the prints in this line a lot, although it’s not in my usual comfort zone by any means.   I'm slowly learning how to look at a large print and see how it would look cropped and pieced.  It's not easy for me unless I actually have the fabric in my hot little paws.

You should really check out The Enchanted Bobbin's wonderful hexies using Loulouthi here.  There's a lady who knows how to use a print!

I definitely need some of that blue and yellow Coreopsis for my 4x5 bee quilt …

Backstitch is one of my regular payday visits …  Such lovely service - speedy, wrapped properly and tied with ribbon ... this is something that really makes a difference to me.  I hate when I just receive fabric shoved into an envelope with no packing note or nuffink.

I love their Klona cottons – the texture is different from Kona and the colours are different too.  It’s not the biggest range in the world, but there are some really goodies, so I use both brands to complement each other. 

It’s really good value, at only £5.50 a metre.


P1040609_800x600You can get a swatch card
for about thrumpence too …

… this is what I did with mine …
it flutters in the breeze, lovely …


What’s really great is that they send out update swatches too
–  note to self: sew these onto swatch flag before I lose em!

So, yes, back to the giveaway ….

You can choose a total of one metre OR two half metres OR four quarter metres from the lovely LouLouthi line by Anna Maria Horner. 

For one chance to win all you have to do is leave one comment telling me

(a) which Loulouthi fabric/s you would choose
PLEASE DON'T ASK FOR OTHER FABRICS! This is a LouLouthi line giveaway!! 
Your entry won't count!

(b) what denominations ("1 metre of Coreopsis" or "1/2 metre each Coreopsis & Buoyancy")
(c) what you'd use it for, if you won

(Please make sure you tell me all 3 things in the same comment or it won’t count!)

For a second chance to win, tweet, blog or tell the postman about it and let me know in a separate comment …

For a third chance,  leave me another comment to tell me if you're a follower  .....

Yay!  Go feast your eyes … and Good Luck ...

Giveaway closes midnight (UK time) Friday 29th July ... international entries welcome!

Thursday 21 July 2011

QAYG Hexalogacabin - a cunning plan - quick tute


Funny really how things come full circle (or in this case, full hexie).

This weekend will be the first anniversary of my brother’s death.  Not the cheeriest opening to a tutorial, I grant you, but I mention it because that time in my life was what started me sewing again, out of necessity for focus and displacement.

For my Summer Hexalong project I wanted to maintain some form of connection to the paper piecing that I was doing exactly this time a year ago

I love hand sewing and I haven’t been doing enough of it recently.  I find it calming and rhythmic and the crafty equivalent of tea and toast on a cold winter’s day.  So far I’ve been machining my hexalogacabins, but that’s no good for a portable project, or for the vibe that I want to pursue at the moment

Back in October 2010 (I had only been sewing & blogging for about two months) I had this brilliant idea to make a double sided quilt using paper pieced 1” hexies with the batting stuffed inside … (I’d never even heard of QAYG at this stage, so I thought I’d invented it! LOL )

I ended up using all the hexies for pincushions, but the idea stayed in the back of my mind …

Ripple dissolve to now and Lily’s Quilts Summer Hexalong

I finally found the blog post that inspired me to do this in the first place - Lee at Freshly Pieced has a lovely tutorial here …  I didn’t alternate the sides on mine, I just went straight round.

So far you’ve seen these two blocks … thank you for all the lovely comments here and on flickr, btw … click on pics to go to my quick tute

I did get a few questions asking how I was going to join these little lovelies …


As Baldrick would say … I have a cunning plan.


When I saw these fab hexies by Silly Lil Doe I filed em in my brain along with all my other hexie plans …  She used a great tutorial here (I don’t have these templates, so I improvised and cut mine from template plastic …)

This is my quick tute to show you how easy it is to QAYG a hexie! 

(I cut my backing fabric 1” larger than the hexie/batting.)


At last I have a properly portable project … If I sew up a whole load of hexalogacabins in advance I can just sandwich and join the little darlings at my leisure, wherever I may be …

Hmmm, talking of sandwiches … off to make tea and toast and go back to bed with a book on this wintery summer’s day!

Do let me know if you give it a go …

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Scrappy Hexacabinalong – Quick Tutorial



I’ve made a couple of these hexagon log cabins now, as part of LilysQuilts Summer Hexalong

This one from yesterday uses strips that are uniform in size (1.5”).

They are sooooo easy to make, and if you choose different sized hexies for your central piece you can really get some variety going! 


I received my Happy Mochi Yum Yum winnings from Lily’sQuilts today and I couldn’t resist having a little play.

Vicky, aka Patchwork Queen (my lovely BritQuiltSwap partner) asked me if I’d used a tutorial, but I hadn’t – I just busked it, so I thought I’d make a quick tutorial for anyone who fancies making these … they’re easy peasy lemon squeezy and a grrrrreat way to use up your scraps!

This tutorial is aimed at everyone from absolute beginner up - no meaningful measurements here … You can choose whatever size hexagon you want as your central piece and just build from there until you get to your finished size.

If you want them to fill a square block, just keep going until oversize and then trim … If you want to square them off with a white background, that’s easy too … just a couple of triangles and rectangles to add …

I hope the following tute is clear – I’ve numbered each stage so that if you just want to right click and save em they’ll be easy to view.  It's not difficult, so you should be able to make one in just a little longer than it takes you to read this!

Have fun!


Happy Hexing!  Don’t forget to check out Lily'sQuilts for the Hexalong, or take a peek on Lily’s flickr page at all the lovely stuff people are making and join in the fun  …


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