Thursday, 19 January 2017

5 top tips for the best beginners patchwork books

I'm often asked to recommend books for someone just starting out, so in no particular order, I'm going to list what I think are the best beginners patchwork/quilting books - hope you enjoy my selection!  They're all available from amazon uk -  if you want a closer look just click on the photos.

Beginner's Guide to Quilting: 16 projects to learn to quilt
Elizabeth Betts
Learn how to make beautiful quilts with this comprehensive guide to patchwork and quilting for beginners.
First Time Quilting: The Absolute Beginner's Guide: There's A First Time For Everything
Editors of Creative Publishing
Learning how to quilt has never been simpler! Enjoy this beginner's guide that takes you by the hand like a personal instructor and teaches you how to quilt. 

Quilting for Beginners: A Start-up Guide to Creating Your First Quilt
Anna Audley 
It is often said that quilting is both a skill and an art. While selection of patterns, designs, colors and fabrics to put together a piece will test the artist in you, following the multi-step process is a skill, like no other. This book explores the different facets of quilting and throws light on each step you will need to undertake in the process.

Beginner's Guide to Free-Motion Quilting
Popular blogger and designer, Natalia Bonner, illustrates her instructions with detailed photos that make it easier to get beautiful results on your home sewing machine.

Quilting for the Absolute Beginner 
Search Press
Cheryl Owen's guide is the ideal tool for the complete beginner to quilting. Step-by-step instructions and the spiral, hands free format enable you to practise and master each technique more easily. The book covers all the quilting equipment and tools, terminology and techniques, and includes a selection of attractive simple projects specially designed for the beginner. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Online Trolling

Now, this may sound like an odd topic for a needlework blog, however do bear with me! More and more over the last 18 months or so I have noticed a disturbing trend in, well let's say 'less than supportive' commenting on social media.  Back in the dark ages, when I first made the move into textile teaching, Facebook wasn't heard of and neither was Twitter.  Classmates were supportive of their fellow students and, if they were asked for a genuine opinion, they gave it in such as way as they would like to receive it themselves - constructively and with kindness.  Now don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to pass them off as the 'good old days' - there were of course disagreements and issues between students studying together in a class.  People are very different and their people skills also vary substantially.  Some boast, some complain, some like to 'lord it' over others which can make other classmates want to avoid them like the plague.  However all of these face to face issues felt substantially more honest than some of the unpleasant and sometimes downright nasty comments I sometimes come accross on Social Media now.  What makes someone think it is clever or impressive to disrespect the work of another?  OK - it may not be your taste and it may be very basic, when somone is just learning, but does this give you the right to say something, often under the cover of annonymity, that is hurtful, rude or just downright nasty?  I don't think so.  When someone posts work on, for example, Facebook, or has sets up a blog for their sewing, they are putting their heart and soul onto the page. 

Please let us all remember that everyone has to start somewhere and, if they receive rude or hurtful comments early in their creative journey, they may give up not just on their textiles, but also on anything else creative from that point on, believing they are simply 'rubbish' at it or even worse, taking it as a personal attack and becoming depressed because of it, with their self confidence affected for life.  All because someone wanted to look 'big' when they made that supposedly clever sarcastic remark. 
We tend to think that it is the 'odd few' who make remarks like this online, but actually figures suggest that a third of US citizens have trolled someone - meaning that a commenter has crossed the line by deliberately trying to upset one or more people. Interestingly trolling is more prevalent in older internet users. You can find more 'fun' facts at the address below, but can I make a plea to everyone who uses social media to spare a thought for how other may be affected before they post - treat others as you would want to be treated yourself.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Tea and Newsletter Time!

Goodness, what a rush it was this year getting the Winter Newsletter together and out. However it is now done - just the email letting everyone know it is available left to complete.

I have to be honest and say that the job was made a little easier by a huge mug of my absolute favorite Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea (yes, I know I'm a heathen having milk in it!) and a couple of mince pies (Homemade? Not a chance - Lidl actually and really the best mince pies I've had for a long time - lucky I bought 2 boxes).  Okay - I admit it - whilst there were actually 2 mince pies in the photo, I also had another 2 later on, making a grand total of 4.  Who eats 4 mince pies back to back?  Bad Girl!! I richly deserve the heartburn that is sure to follow........

So back to the Winter 2017 Newsletter. This time we have for you an in-depth article on using Facebook, the history of Christmas traditions, a look at the state of the UK's Creative Industries plus the usual book corner and whats on sections.

I really hope that you enjoy it and also that you have a wonderful Festive Break.  See you in 2017 - we're back in the office from 3rd Jan.

Monday, 31 October 2016

The Modern Quilt and Quilters

I've just been looking at some of Pauline Burbidge's work - she has just put up a one person exhibition at the International Quilt Study Centre and Museum (IQSCM) in Nebraska, USA. It will run from the 14th October 2016 until 25th March 2017. Do let me know if you're lucky enough to be visiting Nebraska at this time and need your bags carried, won't you?

This is an artist I have admired for a long time - she has  been in the forefront of quilt making for many years now, but has continually broken new ground so that her designs are still very modern and unusual, having constantly evolved to keep them fresh and interesting.  Having a modern house myself, traditional quilts tend to look majorly out of place and I'm sure this is the case with many other people. So much so that I rarely feel inspired to make quilts now, except for sampling or presents, as I simply know they won't look right in my modern (some may say stark!) environment.

So Pauline's quilts give me hope that it is possible to quilt AND do it in a modern way that fits in with todays decor trends. I do hope they inspire a new, younger generation to do the same?
Do go to her facebook page to take a more in-depth look at 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Giving Credit Where it is Due

You know when we all walk around historic properties and wonder 'who made that'? Wouldn't it be nice to know more about the pieces which interest us and the people who made them? 

The Quilters Guild have undertaken an oral history project to record the making of quilts. Every quilter has a story to tell about the quilts they make. Quilts are made to celebrate, remember, for healing or therapy, as art or simply for pleasure. Talking Quilts is saving the stories of present day quilters by recording their narratives, practices and experiences, creating a national collection of quilters’ stories, including sound and video recordings, photographs and transcripts.

You can search for quilters in a particular region of the UK, or just dip in if you like the look of a finished quilt.

Hopefully this project will lead the way towards giving our craftspeople more credit for the special things they make and save the information for posterity.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Opus Anglicanum Exhibition at the V&A

Opus Anglicanum (meaning 'work of the English') are usually, but not always, religious embroideries.  They are made of pure silk, pure gold threads and employ, amongst other stitches, a method called underside couching which means that the whole piece is worked from the reverse.

When you consider the instruments the male embroiderers would have had at their disposal  - iron needle anyone? - it is astonishing that they managed to produce such detailed and impressive work.  

Most of the pieces were worked to commission in the London area and at one stage it was the centre of embroidery for the medieval world.  Sadly all that came to an end when the Black Death plague  in 1346 wiped out nearly all of the embroiderers working in London at that time. Sadly the skills were lost and the London master craftsmen never regained their previous prowess.

The V&A have 100 of these masterpieces on display until February 2017, although you will need to book and pay for a ticket to see them.  More details from

Friday, 7 October 2016

Capability Brown 300th Anniversary at Berrington Hall

I was really pleased and surprised when my husband and I visited the National Trust's Berrington Hall on the way back from holiday this week to catch the Embroiders Guild Capability Brown exhibition there.  I hadn't known it was on (if truth be told our main reason for the stop was a cuppa and a stretch of the legs). We are members of the trust, and will often plan our stops around their properties when travelling. I have found when doing this that some properties really stand out - not necessarily for their history or beauty, but for the warmth, knowledge and friendliness of the trust's staff and volunteers. Berrington had this in bucketfuls and what was intended to be a short comfort break quickly turned into a 2 hour visit. The chap on the gate walked us onto the right path to show us where to go, telling us about what was on that day and highlighting things we may want to see. Once up at the house we had a great talk in the dining room making the house history really interesting and accessible. In every room we were welcomed and engaged in conversation. So finding the guild's exhibition was really the icing on the cake - I especially liked the teacup trees.  Do try to visit if you can; it really was worthwhile and an absolute pleasure. The guild's exhibit is on until the end of this month.

"Berrington was Brown’s final landscape project. Here he created a parkland and estate with vistas and views within the larger landscape. Like an embroiderer creating texture and form he manipulated nature and as one contemporary commentator remarked ‘so closely did (Brown) copy nature that his works will be mistaken for nature."

For more details visit the site at