Sewing Room on the Surface

Over the lockdown I started to reorganise my sewing room, I had a move round about 18 months ago but somehow it never quite felt right. The layout just didn’t quite work. This time I took everything out and started again! I hoped to show you photos of a picture perfect sewing room, you know, the sort you see on instagram, however I realised this was never going to happen – this is as tidy as it gets!!

The room is about 9′ by 14′ from memory, it has a slanting roof at one end and east facing windows. It was these windows that gave me a bit of a light bulb moment with the layout…

I’d always instictively put my sewing machine in front of the window for maximum daylight. I realised however that as it was east facing, I got very little direct sunlight, I invariably have the main light on if I’m sewing so potentially I could get just as much natural light through the door to the landing where there is a large south-facing velux window.

Moving my sewing table to the opposite wall meant I could have a long stretch of storage with a big cutting out table, it also meant the radiator wasn’t blocked by storage!!

I love my long storage wall, I already had two Kallax units from Ikea, I ordered two drawer inserts (I put in a big order to Ikea!!) which gave me four drawers, two are full of lace, two have even weave fabric in – a drawer for 32 count and a drawer for 28 count.

The two wooden drawer units are made to order by Creations by Rod, I ordered the floss drawers first with it’s five drawers compartmentalised for floss bobbins. The second unit is a custom built one, it’s the size designed for knitting needles (deeper- it’s the full depth of the Kallax unit) without any inserts, so just eight shallow drawers. I use it for dies, quilting rulers etc. The central drawer unit is also from Ikea but I’ve had it about 20 years,it needs repainting and labelling now. Usefully it’s on wheels, so I can easily pull it out to access the extra storage of rarely used or bulky things behind the Kallax units.

The cutting out table is topped with two wide Limmamon desk tops from Ikea, I need to get my son to attach some supporting wood to the wall at the back as they are much wider than the Kallax. For Christmas last year I got the wool pressing mat which I love, and for my birthday I got the A2 cutting mat- I like practical presents! The cutting table is about 32″ tall, which I find a comfortable height for cutting out.

The other end of my cutting table has a large cupboard with my fabric stash in – well, my dress-making stash anyway – I’m quite proud of being able to fit it in one cupboard!! I just need my son to screw the doors back on.

At the far end of the long wall is my computer desk, tucked out of the way of the early morning sunlight, with the ubiquitous mug of tea ever present! The lovely yew wheelback chair was my mum’s, it’s very heavy and doesn’t move easily, but I love it.

For my sewing table I ordered two Alex drawer units and another limammon top, these tops are 150 cm by 75cm so they give decent working station. Ten more drawers for storage too…

It’s also handy for the pegboard behind. I made this several years ago and I still love it – not sure how I ended up with quite so many embroidery hoops though…

…and my scissor collection is every growing too!

My quilting stash is now in the tall chest of drawers…

…on top of which are two Ikea mini drawer units I’ve had for many years, these also need repainting and labelling again as I keep different stuff in them now.

My final storage is on a set of shelves, patterns in baskets are vaguely sorted into dress, tops, bottoms – vaguely! Over the years I’ve collected lots of these strong cardboard storage boxes from TK Maxx, lots of shapes and sizes, different designs but they’ve all got peacocks on to give a bit of a theme, they’ve got all sorts in – the insides of my sewing room will have to wait for another post!!

So now you know where I hide most of the time.

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Bethlehem Embroidery SAL

It’s three weeks since I last shared my Bethlehem embroidery, this is the one I started at a workshop by Deborah Mullins at Fabbadashery last year. The design is inspired by the style of embroidery from Bethlehem. Deborah spent a few months in Palestine when her husband was there on a sabatical, she spent her time studying the different regional styles of embroidery. Bethlehem embroidery was always considered the finest.

Our version is stitched on a heavy hand-felted background, with calico and canvas behind to give it stability, it’s pretty thick. Three weeks ago I was plodding round the outer border with chevron stitch…

Well I’m still plodding round, but I have done a little detour too…

I remember the chevron stitch in the middle took hours in class, and obviously this one is probably three times the length, I wanted to do it before I started filling in round the spirals togive me a feeling of the space I had to fill. However it has gone on and on…and on! I decided to have a break and fill in the centre bit.

I’d been debating how to fill it in, Bethlehem embroidery is pretty densely stitched, lots of couching and satin stitch from what I can gather, but I didn’t want to detract from the central spiral.The couching is also usually stitched in one continuous length, I decided in the end to do a sort of meandering loop round the edge which I could mold into the space available, I used a variegated blue perle thread which had come with the kit provided on the day….

I then started to look at filling in the triangular shapes under the outer spiral border. I’d thought about leaves, or hearts, or circles…I looked on Deborah’s website and a few seemed to have stitched hearts here. I tried with some finer orange perle thread, but the hearts just looked bulky and messy, so last night I unpicked them. At the moment I’m wondering about a more stylised heart – a sharp cornered one, or even just a triangle. This is what is taking the time with this piece – deciding what to do!!

So this is my progress so far…

Hopefully by next time I’ll have had some bright idea of what to do – it doesn’t help that one of our doctor’s is Palestinian and he is keen to see it – no pressure then!!

This SAL is organised by Avis of Stitching by the Sea, we’re small group of stitchers and we post our progress on our particular piece every three weeks, there’s a huge variety of projects, so please follow the links to see how everyone is doing…

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

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…Walking on Roman Roads

There’s still a lot of evidence around England dating back to when we were invaded by the Romans. Many of the roads they laid out are still in use as routes today, some major trunk roads, others little more than tracks. They stand out a mile on a map as they are as straight as a die, Fosse Way, Ermine Street, Watling Street…we walked along Dere Street in Northumberland when we walked St Cuthberts Way a couple of years ago…


In between Addingham and Skipton is a track known locally as the Roman Road. Having consulted the internet, there was a road there which was part of the route from Ilkley to Ribchester, however Lidar imaging shows the Roman road to follow a slightly different route. That said, it’s still an ancient track over the hills between the two places.

My walking buddy and I decided to walk along the route. We got the bus to the lovely village of Addingham and then spent an hour trying to find the right footpath out of the village – it was just off the map!! In our defence it is quite a big village!!

By the time we were back on track we were ready for our first break – Greggs sausage rolls!

As you can see it was a glorious day, blue sky, white fluffy clouds, perfect for walking – we were meant to walk it the week before but when we woke up that morning the rain was coming sideways! So glad we postponed it!

It was a steady climb out of Addingham and up to the old track, we took our time and enjoyed the views. From the top you have a great view down Wharfedale with Ilkley and Otley (where I live) somewhere in the distance.

This route is part of the Dales Highway, a path which runs 90 miles from Saltaire to Appleby along the higher moorland paths. We’re quite tempted with this walk sometime as we do enjoy walking across the tops. The views are worth it…

Just before we started to descend into Skipton we had a great view going up the valley. Sharp Haw is clearly in view, we walked up there a couple of weeks ago or so, it’s the shapely little conical hill on the horizon on the left.

Altogether we walked about eight miles, so a good stretch of our legs and plenty of time to chat or just enjoy each others company.

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Walking on Roman Walls

Last week we spent a lovely few hours mooching round York. York is a beautiful city, full of history, I never tire of wandering round it’s streets.

As it was a nice afternoon weather wise, we decided to walk some of the city walls. York has more miles of intact city walls than any other city in Britain. They date back to Roman times, some of original Roman walls remain but most of what we see today is 12th to 14th century. The walkway is about 6′ wide and about 13′ high. Some of the walls have railings down the exposed side…

…other stretches of the wall don’t, which is somewhat unerving for people like me with no balance, so we walked along the base of some stretches.

We walked by Cliffords Mount, or York Castle. This was built in the 11th century, the darkest part of it’s history is that in 1190 150 local jews were killed there, they were surrounded by a mob and killed each other or committed suicide to avoid being killed by the mob.

York minster dominates the city, it is an awe-inspiring cathedral to visit, it’s one of those huge and beautiful places that makes you feel very small! The craftmanship is amazing, when you consider every stone and every piece of wood would have been carved by hand.

York is full of snickets and alleyways, cobbled street and medieval buildings. Stonegate and the Shambles are probably the most well known. The Shambles was the street where all the butchers were, it’s a narrow street anyway, but many of the buildings are of the style where each floor is bigger than the one below. There is one spot where from the top floors two people can shake hands across the street…

If ever you’re in the area York is a wonderful place to visit, just to mooch round the streets and soak up the history. We had a lovely time and the sun shone too, always a bonus on a bank holiday!

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Tuesday’s Totter Round the Garden

The garden is still looking full at the moment but autumn is clearly on it’s way, I’ll have to start the big tidy-up soon. There’s not a huge amount of flowers, but there’s a few…

Down by the conservatory door I have silver leafed shrub which goes by the wonderful name of perovskia, otherwise known as Russian sage, I always think it looks like it wouldn’t like my soil but it’s been there quite a few years now, it has lovely intense blue flowers, a bit like a mixture between lavender and catnip…

Up in the autumn border the rose called Lark Ascending is doing it’s best to flower, the clematis has also produced some last minute blooms and the rudbekia is brightening up the bed with it’s deep yellow flowers.

The foliage is starting to take over from the flowers for interest in the garden. The clematis which climbs up the arbour is a lovely lime green at the moment…

…and the cotinus cogghria is a lovely wine red. I can never get a photo which really shows what a gorgeous colour this shrub is, it always seems to look a little dull, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, just think of a glass of claret!

Further along the same bed is a pheasant berry, or leycesteria. It’s quite a spreading shrub which does need taking in hand occasionally, but in the autumn it has these gorgeous purple bracts dangling down.

Even further round the lawn, in between the roses, is a wiegela and a spirea, for most of the year they play second fiddle to the roses, but as the roses fade they provide a bit of interest with variegated leaves and pink flowers.

Yesterday we finally interred my mum’s ashes in the Garden of Rest at her church, I picked some roses from the garden and found just enough to make a pretty bunch, though really they were getting past it – I did feel a bit like a bridesmaid shedding petals where ever I went! The smaller tangerine coloured rose in the middle is called Port Sunlight, it’s from a rose bush I found unplanted in her garden when she went into a care home. I added a few geums and a bit of foliage, the roses smelled lovely. My mum would have loved them, in fact she would have got her paints out straight away and painted them!

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August Wordplay

Yesterday I finished the wordplay for my Anthea Calendar fabric book for August – just in time as the new design for September is due to be released tomorrow! This is the SAL by Faby Reilly, each month there is a seasonal flower design and then I’m doing a wordplay about that month to go with it. It was meant to be a record of the things I’ve done and events of the year – what a year to choose!

Augusts design is very pretty, it’s lisianthus and hydrangea…

The first half of August wasn’t good, but things settled and this is the wordplay I’ve just stitched…

1st August is Yorkshire Day when we celebrate all things Yorkshire! I often think Yorkshire is one of the most patriotic counties in England, though patriotic may not be quite the right word – we are very proud of our county and of being from Yorkshire.

Sadly 1st August was also when we lost our beautiful golden retriever, Rosie. She was 13 years old and we felt life had become too much of a struggle for her.

It hit us particularly hard as it came just a couple of weeks after losing my mother in law. The quote at the top is from a poem by Elizabeth Frye called ‘Do not stand at my grave and weep’. It’s a beautiful poem which was read at my mother-in-law’s funeral.

Having got the sad bit’s over, the month improved!!!

It was my birthday on the 28th, I had a lovely day – I had my hair done, and did some sewing, my daughter was up for the weekend and my son popped in too. I got some lovely presents, including an A2 olfa cutting mat for my sewing room and a special pair of scissors which are hopefully on their way, some dress-making scissors hand-made in Sheffield here in Yorkshire. On the 31st my children took me to Betty’s for breakfast. Betty’s is a group of very nice cafe’s here in Yorkshire which are well known for their cakes and pastries – especially their Fat Rascals! We’ve got one in Ilkley, my daughter used to work there for a Saturday job so she know what to order! Birthday breakfast’s at Betty’s has become a bit of a tradition!

Lisianthus is the pretty pink flower in the design, I’ve got a cream hydrangea which has been flowering beautifully and a soft blue one which resolutely refuses to flower!!

Petrichor, I love that word! Petrichor is the wonderful smell of rain on a hot day, it’s such an evocative smell. Apparently it isn’t the cool rain on the hot earth (as I always thought), it’s actually the oils the earth gives off in anticipation of the rain. MY OH says it’s one smell that takes him straight back to his childhood in Australia – the other being the smell of mosquito coils!!!

We often see red kites circling around, they’re stunning birds with 5′ wing spans. They were heading for extinction when a breeding program was set up in Harewood, just down the road from here. It was so successful they have gradually spread up the dale. They’re fairly common round here now but we still say ‘Ooh look, there’s a red kite’ every time we see one, a bit like seeing rainbows!

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In August it was the Yorkshire Festival of Story, it’s usually a live event up in the pretty town of Settle in North Yorkshire. Due to the pandemic they went on line instead. I really enjoyed it, I listened to several talks, each was an hour long. I listened to talks about trees, about Anne Bronte, Tracy Chevalier talked about her book on the people who embroidered kneelers for Winchester cathedral, I listened to the Yorkshire Shepherdess…there was all sorts to listen to. I thought it was particularly good that they offered them free but asked for a donation, so you could give what you could afford. I’m hoping next year they will have an on line presence again as Settle is too far to travel for a one hour talk.

When I showed you ‘August’ a couple of weeks ago I was trying to decide how to make it up into a book, really I just didn’t fancy a small back-stitch edge round every page. Well, I gave myself a bit of a talking to and started edging them. I’ve made it a little easier for myself as I’m stitch the back-stitch over four threads instead of two, it made it a lot quicker and I’m hoping it will still give that nice crisp finish I got with my stitch sample book a couple of years ago. The back-stitch is used to whip-stitch the pages together. I’ve cracked on nicely with just three pages left to do before I’m up to date.

I did discover a bit of a bloop with August – though the way my brain was I’m amazed it came out at all!! When I came to stitch round it wasn’t measuring up right, I realised it’s stitched on 28 count instead of 32, so it’s a little bigger, probably not noticeably as the months aren’t going to be seen next to each other. However, it will cause a bit of an issue when I come to stitch the pages together as there’s one less stitch on each side. They may sound insignificant, but when I’m planning to line up the stitches for whip-stitching…well put it this way, there will be a lot of fudging!!

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Smalls of the month

It was June when I last showed you my seasonal display of cross-stitch smalls, I know because June’s smalls were still out a week ago! July and August went by in a bit of a blur with things going on at home, changing my smalls seemed the least of my problems!!! Luckily with the new month and new season my brain fog has lifted and I feel more my usual self…so here’s September’s smalls!

I’ve put all my autumn ones out – goodness knows what I’ll put out in October and November! I turned the two cross-stitch boxes round to their autumn side, the one on the left with a very cute squirrel is the Zoe box, a SAL by Faby Reilly a couple of years ago, the one on the right is a Betsy Morgan design I did about three years ago.

The pretty autumn wreath is another Faby Reilly design, it was a freebie a couple of years ago, the other autumn one with the blackbird on was a SAL on Thea Dueck’s facebook page. The pretty daisy pillow was a kit I was given a few years back.

The September pillow is from the Snowflower Diaries Joy to the World SAL, I stitched most of these a couple of years ago but I still have November and December to stitch! The jug of flowers was a mini kit I bought at Bonds, which used to be a lovely old-fashioned, rummagy sort of haberdashers in Farsley, sadly it’s now closed.

Hopefully I’m now back on track with my seasonal smalls- it’s just been one of those years!

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Stitchbook Collective

In August I finally finished the last workshop in the Stitchbook Collective series by Helen Bellingham of Untangled Threads. It’s been a great experience and a huge learning curve as I tried techniques and products I’d never even heard of! We made several samples each month and I chose two (usually!!) to go in my final sample book, so I had twenty four samples on thirteen pages…all I had to do was make it into a book…

Helen provides calico pages to stitch the samples on which have five little tabs down one side for binding, it’s a lovely technique, I watched her video on how to do it, but first I needed to make covers and add something for the front and back page – I’d stitched my samples in so they were opposite each other.

I played around with various left over samples but I was finding it difficult to suss out the size I needed at the same time. In the end I decided to make a pair of calico covers first which I could then decorate and pop a stiffener inside. I found some lovely buttermilk coloured calico in my stash which was perfect. I made a simple sleeve just a little bigger than the sample ones. Initially I just left a hole for turning, but I soon realised if I was going to add a stiffener I would need one side open, so out came the seam ripper!

With the size determined for the covers it was much easier to work something out. On the front I used a sample of faux chenille stitched onto two pieces of hand-dyed calico. I just used simple running stitch and cross-stitch…

On the inside cover I simply added a label. These were made by my friend – she has a little business on facebook called Quirky Birds. This was one of 25 labels on a mixture of fabrics, printed with random quotes, all for £6, a bargain! I thought this one was quite apt…

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

I decided to use what I think is called Bosal to stiffen the covers, it’s a bit like a very firm, thick interfacing, one side is fusible, it’s used in bag-making. I cut a piece to size, slotted it in so the fused side was on the inside and iron it. It’s worked very well I think, all I had to do then was slip stitch the top together.

The first page uses a sample of gel plate printing, I titivated it with some tulle ribbon, blue lace, some buttons and a bit of stitching. Initially I was just going to include one of my labels, but I decided I really ought to initial and date it, just for the record!!

For the back cover I used another label “Out of limitations comes creativity” together with some more hand-dyed fabric and a bit of running stitch….

On the inside I used two samples from the rust-dying experiment,the buttons are little mother of pearl ones stitched upside down. The back page has a joomchi sample with just a circle of running stitch.

With everything stitched I just had to put it together. The idea behind the tabs is that a spacer is used inbetween each one such as a bead or a pretty felt ball. I had some fairly small wooden beads which I had earmarked for the job but when I tried them it would have been two bulky – bearing in mind that I have a thrirteen pages plus the covers, even taking into account the bulkiness of some samples. I started rummaging through my bead box and found some small very pale mauve beads, they work perfectly. I used some beading thread and a very long needle which Helen had provided in a kit I bought previously. On the front and back I decided to use little mother of pearl buttons to start and end each row of beads. I love the effect of the beads as you’re leafing through the book.

I’ve put together a bit of a slide show of the various pages and samples in my book, if you want any more detail click on the tab to the right which says ‘Stitchbook Collective’ and all the posts should come up.

I can highly recommend the Stitchbook Collective, the workshops are still available and I think she is planning a new series next year. It certainly pushed me well and truly out of my comfort zone – I was definitely a neat and tidy embroiderer before, not a raw edge in sight!! Whilst I still enjoy the neat and tidy way, I also enjoy the more free and easy style as well now!

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Cottage Garden Quilt HQAL

Three weeks ago I’d just started a new project, my vintage quilt has been put to one side for the time being as I wanted something fresh and easy to sew. I spotted the Cottage Garden Quilt book on facebook before it was even published. I ordered my copy in advance through Fabadashery in Halifax, it was there that the author, Kathryn Whittingham, ran quilting workshops and included was a quilt-a-long for this quilt. It’s beautiful!

Three weeks ago I’d just started an embroidered block of three chickens…

Well I finished stitching round the chucks and added flowers and grass, it looks really cute. There will be another narrow border round thisblock, then it’s finished. The instructions are to actually hand-stitch the whole quilt, apologies but I’ll hand-embroider, I might even hand quilt, but I’m machine piecing it!

Enthused with how this one turned out, I cracked on with the quilt…

First I stitched a little daisy, I love this one, it’s so fresh and pretty. It’s going to be in the middle of a star block, it’s only little, about 2×3″. I’ve used the tiniest scraps for some pieces – the yellow centre is a scrap from a sunflower on some bee fabric. It’s just stitched with back-stitch, french knots and stem stitch.

Next I stitched a tulip which will also be in a star block. I wasn’t sure about edging with back-stitch at first – I’ve always used blanket stitch with raw edge applique, but I reasoned with myself that it was no different to using the machine to embroider on a block, the fabric was already secured with bondaweb.

Finally I stitched a pretty heart, this will be on a 2.5″ square in the centre of a log cabin block…

I’ve pulled a selection of pretty floral fabrics from my stash – I bought a lovely set of fat eighths a few years ago for a different project which never happened, at the Harrogate show last autumn. I added to it with this quilt in mind, so I have a nice selection of soft reds, pinks, blues and greens,hopefully it will make a very pretty quilt.

I’ve almost finished another block, then I need to make the blocks up and embroider another couple of blocks and the first row will be complete.

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.

Kathy, Margaret, TracyDeb, Susan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, Gretchen, Daisy, Connie, Monica and Sherrie

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday.

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Anthea Calendar SAL

I’ve just finished the August design for the Anthea Calendar SAL, this is the year long SAL by Faby Reilly with a suitable flower themed design for each month. They’re all beautiful!

This month the flowers are lisianthus and hydrangeas. It’s a design which is based on the Lizzy needlecase design which I stitched as a SAL a couple of years or so ago…

…oops, more like 2017!!

I’ve got hydrangeas in the garden, a beautiful white one which I’ve had a couple of years, and also what would be a beautiful soft blue one if it ever decides to flower!!! I’ve had it probably over five years, tried different positions, it still refuses to flower!!

Anyway, this months square is really pretty. I particularly like the part border with the eyelet stitch and beads, however it did cause me issues…

Having completed the main cross-stitch at the bottom I didn’t fancy my odds at trying to count the linen threads to stitch ‘August’, so I stitched the eyelet border next up the right hand side…only I miss counted on of the gaps!!! I didn’t realise until I’d almost finished the whole design when I stitched the left hand border and it stopped one stitch out!! As the offending stitching was the second one up I could undo it and move it down one, it’s still in the wrong place but at least it looks like it’s in the right place!!

I’ve just got my wordplay to stitch now, hopefully it won’t take too long this month.

I’m making these into a textile book, my original plan was to stitch it together a bit like my stitch sample book…

…however it has crossed my mind that this book is going to be a lot thicker, with twelve double page spreads rather than seven or eight. The pages will only be about 6″ square so it might end almost a cube! I am wondering about framing each design with a pretty floral cotton to make it 8″ square, this would have a couple of other advantages as it would save me having to back-stitch round 24 pages in order to stitch them together neatly, it would also lose the issue that I found before that with even weave linen the count on the weft is not exactly the same as the count on the warp, this causes problem when you come to stitch the pages together. It would also be a lot quicker as I could stitch a lot of it on the machine…I’m still mulling it over, any thoughts welcome!

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