Dancing in the Secret Garden

Well I’ve got my dancing shoes on….

In February when I had a couple of weeks off I decided to concentrate on getting my Secret Garden quilt finished. This is a gorgeous design by Andrea of Raggedy Ruff Designs, I bought it as a BOM kit ages ago, I did the first block and then bottled it! I think at the time that first block also seemed so busy and bright I was having second thoughts about it…but having counted up just how many Raggedy Ruff kits I have, I decided to give myself a stern talking to and crack on with it! I have to add at this point….I absolutely love it now!!

The final block was the central one with a view into the garden and a cat sitting washing himself. Whilst he did look like a cat I had many years ago, I decided instead to try and incorporate our three dogs which we had up to the last couple of years.

I found some old photos of the dogs wandering down the back lane which was the perfect pose for them, it also helped me to get the size right, as the difference between Rosie the golden retriever and Lucy the bichon frise was huge. When Lucy came down the garden she would peer round the wall at the bottom of the steps, looking very cute, so I pictured her looking round the door. Andrea makes the designs look so relatively simple…it’s not!! My respect for Andrea as a design was already high, it’s now through the roof!!

I drew an outline of the three dogs, traced it onto freezer paper and found some batik which was the right colour. I cut them out and stitched round the edge with my usual gutermann thread. I then carried on with the rest of the block.

Once all the flowers were stitched I turned back to the dogs. I tackled Zach first, using a dark blue/grey/purple thread to give his shape and a bit of detail. My only issue with Zach is that he was a smooth, glossy coated dog and the batik has frayed very slightly as I’ve stitched near to the edge and he looks a little straggly…but I can live with that!

Lucy had a curly coat, a bit like a poodle, so I just did lots of curly stitches in a variegated off white. I did all the eyes by hand with French knots as I didn’t trust myself to do such a small black spot.

Rosie was a big fluffy lump, I used a variegated sandy thread initially, but it just looked a bit flat, so I added some highlighted areas. Both her and Lucy just didn’t seem quite right, I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. I slept on it and it came to me overnight, they needed more of an outline. I outlined them both in the same dark brown, grey thread which was quite a bit heavier than the original outlined thread. It made all the difference. It would have been better to outline in the heavier thread first and then have the feathery detail over it to soften it a little, but on the whole I’m happy.

Having finished the final block I could start to put the quilt together. I trimmed the stabiliser from the back where possible and stitched the top and bottom blocks on. I’d already stitched the two sides blocks together but I added another buddleia flower and a couple of blooms where the delphiniums met. I also added a few stems over the join to give the continuity.

Here’s my completed quilt top…

I’m well chuffed with it, I just need to quilt it now, I have a few thoughts on how I’m going to do that but I think I’ll mull it over for a bit longer.

If you fancy making one of these quilts, do follow the link to the Raggedy Ruff website. She’s just about to start a new Block of the month, the quilt looks gorgeous, and this time as well as the written instructions like I’ve always used, she’s also made videos of the making of each block, so you can see how she does it more easily.

Posted in embroidery, Machine embroidery, Quilt-a-long, Quilting, Raggedy Ruff Designs | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Staying Home HQAL

Well I’m quite excited this morning as I’m pretty close to a happy dance, not quite, but close!

Three weeks ago when I last shared this quilt (which I started in 2020, hence the name) I was nearly at the end of the fourth row, so six blocks and sashing to go…

After a few nights in front of the fire with a quilt on my knees, I’ve quilted another four blocks. The heart shaped key-hole is quilted round the edges of the applique. The butterfly in the bottom right at the moment just has the branch quilted, it doesn’t seem much but I think with the square quilted just in from the edge too it’s just enough to hold things together, the alternative was to quilt round all the flowers and the butterfly wings…you can probably tell this is my least favourite block of the quilt!!

So all that’s left to quilt is the house block and the embroidered block on the left of the bottom row together with their length of sashing. Hopefully in three weeks time I’ll have quilted and bound it and be dancing round my sewing room!

Hand Quilt Along Links

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyMargaretDebNanetteSharonKarrin, Daisy, and Connie

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the links to see what everyone has been stitching.

Posted in Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Magnolia Stellata

One of my favourite trees in the garden is my magnolia stellata, it’s dainty white flowers brave the early spring weather to put on an amazing display and their scent is beautiful too.

When I started my garden textile book it was inevitable that one of the first little embroideries I did was of my magnolia…

I’m mounting these smaller embroideries in a sort of crazy patchwork background to make a page for the book. The last one I did for geraniums ended up quite bright but this one wanted a quieter feel to it. I found some soft green/grey fabrics that blended nicely with it. I also found in my box of linens a little scrap of vintage linen, I trimmed it a little and used a Frixion pen to write the words, it’s to be hoped this book doesn’t get cold as it took about three attempts before I was happy with the letters, so they might all reappear !!! I chose a range of threads which I thought would work, the butterfly is cut from some leftover apron fabric, it just worked colourwise.

I started by stitching the white linen in place with a simple running stitch. This held it nice and secure for stitching the letters in back-stitch. Whilst I was stitching the butterfly motif on I was mulling over different ideas for the border embroidery. I decided I wanted something to bring out the white of the embroidered flowers.

I started by embroidering a branch which curled round the sides. I then started embroidering magnolia flowers in the basic white DMC thread. To start with they were actually half the size, but I felt they needed to be bigger and more dainty too, so I stitched another layer of petals, curving some outwards, using the B5200 DMC thread, which I don’t often use as it has a different feel to it somehow and usually looks too white, but it was just right for this.

I felt it needed a little something on the righthand side. I remembered my idea to put a liberal sprinkling of bees through this book so I embroidered a little be and it’s flight path.

Another page stitched, I’ve probably got about three more of these mixed pages to do, I need to prepare one ready to have as my handbag stitching project.

Posted in embroidery, Garden, Stitching my Garden, Textile Books | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

The Elusive Kingfisher

My walking buddy and I have walked many miles along riverbanks, especially the Wharfe from Otley upstream to it’s source, but we have never seen even a flash of a kingfisher. It seems at times that the world and his wife have seen one, in places we have frequented too! We have even spent several pleasant afternoons in the bird hides at Adel Dam after I had read that kingfishers breed them…not a sausage!!

River Wharfe, home of the elusive kingfisher!!

She has a big birthday this month so I suddenly had an idea when we were on our way home last Monday after yet another unsuccessful trip to Adel Dam, that I would stitch a kingfisher, after all, it might be the closest we get to one!!

I looked at a few photos on line, trying to decide how to tackle this, particularly as I had less than a week to stitch it in. I then remembered that there is a kingfisher on one of the quilts by Raggedy Ruff Designs, there is actually a couple, but the one which was just what I was wanting was part of a quilt, so I bought the pdf pattern for that particular block.

Quilt block by Raggedy Ruff Designs

As it was just going to be a small piece I wanted to hand embroider it rather than machine embroider like in the design. I traced out the kingfisher on it’s log onto freezer paper then rummaged through my batik scrap box for kingfisher colours. I keep the smallest scrap of batik for these designs as often you do only need say an inch square of a certain colour. I found some gorgeous ones that were the perfect colour and even had dots on them like a kingfisher wing.

I played around with background fabrics and in the end chose two batiks which I stitched together for the water and the foliage.

Andrea’s designs on Raggedy Ruff are gorgeous, she layers up the fabrics and then machine embroiders them. When I’m machine stitching them I usually use a tiny dab of fabric glue to hold the different layers in place whilst I secure them with an outline. This time I decided to stitch them one layer at a time, I really didn’t fancy trying to hold three layers in place whilst I back-stitched round. I stitched the area that would be seen in neat back-stitch, and just tacked the rest of the piece in place, as you can see from this first piece…

Once all the layers for the wing, head and tail were in place I could start embroidering it.

Unfortunately from this point on I got carried away with stitching and didn’t take any progress photos! It took me a couple more evenings to embroidery the bird and then another to do the log and the background.

I had a rummage in my threads collection and found some beautiful thread in a sort of peacock blue that I think must be silk thread as it feels gorgeous and has an amazing shine to it, I used it for the lower wing beneath the sequins and also the seed stitches on his head. Even on the photo you can see the shine. the green variegated in his tail was similar thread, I think I must have got them in a mixed pack as I only had about a metre of each.

I hesitated over the sequins as to whether they would be too blingy, but with the beads in the middle and the stitching across I like the effect. I think I used three different shades of orange for the feather and fly stitch on his breast. They do have very bright red/orange feet, this one looked very bright on the spool but a little less so when stitched!

I used metallic threads for the fish, these are machine ones which were actually OK to stitch with – I’m not a lover of stitching with metallics!

The design had little pieces of green batik for the moss, I felt it would be much too fiddly to hand stitch so I used a variegated thread, a little thicker than DMC which gives a nice chunky effect.

I stitched a simple running stitch on the water and my kingfisher was complete.

I picked a simple frame from the stall on Otley market and completed my present.

Today it will be winging it’s way to it’s new home.

I loved stitching this, it was also a useful exercise in hand-embroidering these designs, so if you love Andrea’s designs but don’t fancy the machine embroidering…just hand embroider instead!

Posted in embroidery, Raggedy Ruff Designs, Walking | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

Stitch-a-Garden SAL

Apologies for the late arrival of this post, I’ve been glossing all day! We’ve got two new settees arriving on Wednesday so I thought it would be a good idea to decorate the lounge beforehand. When I unexpectedly had a weeks annual leave it was too good an opportunity to miss, so I’ve spent the past week emulsioning walls and ceiling and today I glossed all the woodwork. Glossing is not my favourite part of decorating, but it’s done…just the rest of the house to do!!

I’ve been painting during the day and sewing at night time, mainly embroidering two pieces I’ll post about next week. Friday night I suddenly had a bit of a panic that I hadn’t done anything on my garden embroidery, even more of a panic as I actually thought it was Saturday night!! So, two evenings work and I’ve made some progress. This was my garden three weeks ago…(and three nights ago!!)

My first bit of stitching was to turn that wandering stem into a meandering clematis, I then decided the main bed was full enough and turned my attention to the pond area. In the exuberant foliage in the photo below there is a pond!!

There are no seasons in this garden so I have the bright red flowers of the late summer flowering crocosmia next to the late spring flowering iris, I have the bright blue flowers of the brunnera which flowers in spring, next to the summer flowering geranium and rogersia…I do like a bit of artistic license!!

The pink flowers with yellow centres are going to be the wild roses I have along the back fence. As they’re very simple five petalled roses I tried to do them with a French knot in the middle and petals from little straight stitches, I stitched one (on the left) before I changed my mind as they were going to come out too big. I’m now surrounding the yellow French knot with a few stem stitches which is better size wise, though it doesn’t have the simplicity of a dogrose, I think it will have to suffice.

The big leaved green plants are hostas, once I’ve done the roses I might add a few alchemilla mollis or geraniums along the pond edge and then I’m almost done.

I feel I’m making good progress really with my garden book, I have quite a few pages stitched now so I’m starting to plan how I’m going to put it all together.

This SAL is organised by Avis of Stitching By the Sea, we each post our progress on our chosen progress every three weeks, so please follow the links to see what everyone has been stitching.




Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long, Stitching my Garden, Textile Books | Tagged | 14 Comments

Cross-stitch needle-case

Carole requested a post about my needle-case so here goes, I aim to please 🙂

I made this back in 2019, the front is just a sewing themed mini sampler, I like purple so I used purple linen and then found some fabrics in my stash to co-ordinate with it for the cover. Size-wise it’s about 6″ not quite square!!

The pages are made from Cool Crafting wool felt which is a nice weight. I was limited by what I had left over from making a coat for a rabbit (Luna Lapin!) so I’ve got two pairs of double pages which make four pages about 5″ square each. I also have one page at the front which has a strip of quilting fabric either side as the felt wasn’t big enough, there is also a smaller piece of felt stitched to the back cover as another page- I was using what I had to the max!!

I didn’t want to label them just with words written on tape so I labelled the pages by decorating them according to the type of needle. The first page which has a strip of patchwork down the side is for quilting needles. I stitched on novelty buttons of sewing machine and a reel of thread together with a scissor charm for the dress-making and general sewing needles. There is an ‘M’ embroidered on the embroidery needle page.

The page for cross-stitch and tapestry needles has my initials and the date counted on linen. The beading needle page has beads on it!The last page is for specialty ones that don’t fit in anywhere else, such as curved needles.

I find it helpful to be able to sort needles like this, it really depends on how many different types of needlework you do, some people organise them by size too, I don’t tend to go by numbers when it comes to size, I just look at the needle as to whether it’s big enough for the job!

My needlecase is still well used four years on, I find it much easier than having lots of different packets to look through. If you would like any further information just leave a comment.

Posted in embroidery, Serendipity, Sewing, sewing room | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Sewing Room Declutter

I’ve had a few disturbed nights recently as I’m changing over medication, so rather than sitting feeling sorry for myself I’ve pottered in my sewing room, nibbling away at the Sewing Room Declutter Challenge, 21 days of sorting and tidying!

Day 10 was pins and needles. I have all sorts of different pins and needles, different ones for different types of sewing, embroidery ones, machine ones, quilting ones…and lots of types within each area. Luckily I do have a sort of system to try and keep order!

Machine needles are in a labelled box in the top drawer next to my sewing machine, I bought it from Pattern Trace and I do like it, you may have spotted it in a photo when I was sorting threads. I can easily see what kinds of needles I have in stock, there’s a little bit of velcro in each compartment too to put a used needle on.

The purple needlecase also just in the photo is where I keep different types of hand sewing needles. I made it a couple of years ago, I have a different felt page for beading, cross-stitch, embroidery, general sewing and specialist ones such as curved needles.

For pins I have two large pincushions, Mary the Hippo and Scottie the dog, they both started life as a soft toy entry in Otley show. I have one on my cutting out table and one next to my sewing machine. I like them as they are so big I don’t have to concentrate where I’m stabbing the pin! The pins move from one to the other, I use the pins on the cutting out table and then whilst I’m sewing they gradually get stuck in the sewing machine one, when one fills up I swap them round.

Spare hand needles tend at the moment to be stuck in either one but at the top of the head – I can’t quite bring myself to stick pins on their faces!!I do have plans for a third ‘pin-cushion’ which will just be for needles, seen as I fell for a kit at the Knitting and Stitching show last November – well it’s a sewing machine shape!

Day 11 was measuring and cutting stuff, rulers, tape measures, boards…

I had a little clear out of tape measures I didn’t like a month or so back, I still have four which may seem a little excessive, but if I throw some out I’m bound to accidently cut through one the following week! I did check their measurements as tape measures do stretch or might not be that accurate, but all mine passed that test. They all hang on my pegboard, they are much better behaved since I moved my sewing room round, they used to take every opportunity to slither down the gap behind my sewing table, lying there like a tangle of snakes!!

Large quilting rulers are also hung on my pegboard where they’re easy to reach but safe from breaking. Small rulers are in another drawer unit by Creations by Rod on ebay. As well as the embroidery bobbin drawers I also asked him to make me one with shallow drawers. This is actually the basic drawer unit for knitting needles, it’s deeper than the others, being the full depth of the Ikea unit. I asked Rod to make it without any inserts, so just eight shallow drawers. I have one with dies in on magnetic sheets, one with quilting templates, another with triangular rulers, one with those free motion quilting rulers, another with rotary cutters, one with boards such as an A4 fixed blade cutting board and one with all my standard quilting rulers! It’s conveniently positioned under my cutting table so everything is handy.

My most commonly used rulers are the 6.5″ square and the 9 x 6″, in fact when I checked them over I decided that a new 6.5″ one might be a good idea with a Hobbycraft voucher I’ve just received as mine is pretty chipped in the most used corner. I also have a 1/4″ ruler, a 2″ ruler and a 4.5″ square…I could slim down some of the contents of these drawers, but they all fit nicely into the drawers so I may as well keep them for now.

I’m now over half way through the declutter challenge, though it’s taking me a lot more than 21 days!!

Posted in sewing room | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Declutter continues

The latest daily challenge to declutter my sewing room certainly took more than a day! I’m doing the declutter challenge from Karen of Just Get It Done Quilts, each daily prompt is on youtube, I think there’s 21 challenges with the idea that you start on January 1st. I was very late getting to the party, I didn’t hear about it until February. I’ve been working on Day 9 but it’s taken quite a while as it’s all about threads…of any sort!!! As I sew, quilt and embroider, I have rather a lot of threads, all different types…

Sewing thread; reels are stored on open racks on my pegboard, a couple of years ago I bought a box of 60 Guterman threads, random colours, as it was such a good price. I have them on the pinboard sorted by colour. It has been helpful having a wide range of colour as invariably I have a thread which will match fabric enough. Overlocker threads (the big cones at the top) have been sorted too, some of them were very dusty, which doesn’t do your sewing machine any good. I realised it was just the top row that was really dusty, so after dusting them I rearranged them and put a sheet of plastic over the top row, it’s not noticeable but it will hopefully protect them a bit.

Bobbins for my sewing machine are in their own little box in the drawer next to may machine, I’m not often that fussy to perfectly colour match the bobbin thread, I have a few colours which I use alot, greys, off white. Any part bobbins which I couldn’t see myself using I pulled the thread off .

Embroidery threads; I have rather a lot so it has taken a while to organise. A few years ago I treated myself to some storage units by Rod’s Creations on Ebay. He makes them himself to order so you can change the design to make it work for you, size-wise they fit perfectly into the Kallax units from IKEA. I have two of these, five drawers in each, all but one drawer is embroidery thread! One drawer has the feet for my sewing machine in, it works brilliantly as I can see all the different feet easily and it’s just behind me when I’m sewing. One day I’ll get round to painting the drawer fronts!

Hand embroidery threads are stored in these drawers. I keep the DMC in numerical order and special threads are organised purely by colour as that is often how I choose the thread and use it. A couple of years ago I treated myself to a set of Pip and Chip bobbins, I love them! Each acrylic bobbin is printed with the number and colour. Over the last couple of days I’ve also sorted out my spare skeins of DMC, I inherited a few when we cleared my mum’s house and someone on facebook recently was selling 100 skeins for about £30…so I’ve a few spares now! I’ve put them all together in a box with a notebook listing all the numbers so I can easily check if I have a spare when one runs out.

I used to keep all other embroidery threads in a large pretty box. I realised however because they were in a bit of a tangle, I rarely used them, I couldn’t really see what I had. I sorted these out and wound them all onto spare bobbins. The drawers are all organised by colour with the bobbins laid on their side so I can easily choose which one I want. A few months back when I was winding it all on bobbins I also had the idea of stitching a small sample of each kind of thread with a description and who makes it. I’m hoping that if I want to buy some more I can identify which thread it was.

Machine embroidery and variegated quilting threads such as the ones I use for the Raggedy Ruff quilts are all in a bit of a jumble in a pretty box, I do have a plan though…Karen (who set the challenges) mentioned making trays out of foam board. I don’t fancy a board tray when they’re in such a pretty box, it’s like a shoe box shape which I really like, it’s just one of those you get from TKMaxx. I saw somewhere on social media someone making boxes out of fabric and a stiffener, covering them a bit like using the backing of a quilt to fold over and bind. The four sides can then easily be slip stitched together. I’m finishing the quilt first, then I might try and make one.

My sewing room isn’t looking any tidier at the moment but I’m sure I’ll get there! I hope Day 10 is a bit easier!

Posted in Home, Serendipity, Sewing, sewing room | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Staying Home HQAL

I’m making steady progress with my Staying Home Quilt, which is lucky as at 4am one morning after my op I couldn’t sleep, perused somewhere on social media and found myself pressing ‘buy now’ for a Block of the Month’ quilt starting in March or April! More of that later!

Anyway, three weeks ago I had just started the fourth row of blocks…

…well I’ve now nearly finished that row with just the right hand house to stitch. I’ve kept the quilting very simple on the embroidered blocks so the embroidered block with the flowers just has a circle quilted round it, echoing the inner circle of the one with mini hexagons on.

Six blocks to go and I’ll be ready to bind this quilt and dance a happy dance! Maybe not next time but hopefully soon 🙂

My next project is by designer Natalie Bird of The Birdhouse Patchwork Designs, I’m pretty sure she was the designer of the block above with the little hexagons on. It’s called Owl and Hare Hollow quilt and it’s got a lovely mix of embroidered blocks and English paper pieced blocks. It’s actually published in the Homespun magazine which has just been published in Australia. This did cause me a little panic as one reason I bought this BOM was that it started in March/April, which I thought was just nice time to have my Staying Home Quilt finished. However it’s clearly not anticipated to reach the UK for another month or so, so time to breathe and sort some fabrics out. I’ve basically bought an annual subscription to the magazine through the quilting shop in Truro called Coast and Country. Having seen some of the blocks on facebook I’ve also just ordered the paper piecing pack from Coast and Country too, there’s an awful lot of those mini hexagons!!

In the meantime I’ve plenty of other projects to keep me busy!

Hand Quilt Along Links

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyMargaretDebNanetteSharonKarrin, Daisy, Connie, and  Cathie 

I’m also linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the links to see what everyone else has been stitching and quilting.

Posted in Quilt-a-long, Quilting, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Secret Garden Quilt

I’m back at work this week but I made good progress with my secret garden quilt over the last couple of weeks. I’ve stitched another two smaller blocks which go above and below the entrance to the garden, these were quicker as not only are they smaller, but they less densely appliqued. We get long-tailed tits in the garden, they’re tiny little birds, a bit comical looking, they tend to be in small flocks of say a dozen birds. We see them flitting from shrub to shrub through the garden until they reach the feeders…

I realised after I had stitched everything down that the blackbird didn’t have anything to perch on, his leg was meant to reach the leaf below. I decided my blackbird could be standing on the path, so I added some feet and I think he looks fine.

I decided to join the two blocks on each side, so I had to trim as much of the stabiliser as much as I could. The stabiliser is there to support the fabric when you’re doing a lot of dense stitching or when the fabric isn’t quite heavy enough. Before quilting it ideally needs trimming back. I used my duck-billed scissors round the sides and then my applique scissors further in. This is what the back looked like after I’d gone round the edge…

Yes, it’s pretty messy! As I’m sure you can imagine, trimming is not a job to be rushed! I try and also trim any dark threads that are likely to show through at the same time. After a bit of work this is what the back looked like.

I find the block presses a lot better after the excess stabiliser is removed. I stitched the two sets of side panels together, I need to add a little stitching over the seam so I don’t have stems hovering in mid air, I might add another buddleia bloom and a hollyhock flower too.

I laid out my two sides with the top and bottom ones and I’m really pleased with it. I’ve just got the final central block to do, which actually doesn’t seem to have as much applique on. I’ve just to decide what animals to put on it. I think I’ll cut out some dogs and see how they look, three could be a bit excessive!

In case you’re wondering, the quilt is about 27″ square when it’s finished, it’s a decorative wall quilt rather than a bed quilt. If you love the style of these quilts do have a look at the Raggedy Ruff website, she’s got some beautiful designs.

Posted in Machine embroidery, Quilting, Raggedy Ruff Designs | Tagged , , | 7 Comments