Friday 18 December 2015

Tula Pink-Green Quilt

I've only managed two quilts this year - one finished in January and now this one in December.  What a nice way to bookend 2015.

This is my second quilt-as-you-go quilt and I'm more and more enamoured of the technique as time goes by.  Last time I quilted each block as I went.  This time I quilted complete width strips (two blocks by ten).

I used random lines so that the effect wasn't spoiled by the quilting not meeting up at each join.  

The benefit of sewing entire batting strips together instead of individual blocks is that I only ever had to sew two thicknesses of batting together and avoided having to sew pre-joined blocks, like I had to in my last project, below:

There's a place called Pink Green in Worcestershire and every time we drive past the signpost my son has hysterics :).  In honour of Tula Pink and a place so amusing it always brings a smile to my face I dub this 'The Tula Pink-Green Quilt'.  It's just taken up residence at it's new home, with my little brother. Happy birthday you old git!

Monday 16 November 2015

Works in progress - Quilt-as-you-go

I've got three quilt-as-you-go bed quilts under construction at the moment.  The first is Tula Pink-heavy and I'm quilting it onto strips the width of the finished quilt.  Each full-width strip is two blocks wide. I'm using irregular straight lines so that when the strips are sewn together I won't have the added worry of matching the lines of quilting.

The second and third quilts are twins.  A total of 84 machine appliqued blocks go to make these babies.

I've done all the appliques and have started the mammoth task of quilting each one onto it's batting square.

First I pin the block onto it's batting to stop it moving around.  Compared to basting an entire quilt sandwich this is easy peasey lemon squeesey.

The beauty of quilt-as-you-go is that a) each individual square is sooo much easier to handle than an entire quilt, and b) that I can undertake machine quilting that I would never be able to attempt on my cheap and cheerful domestic machine - for example this pictorial quilting:

It's so easy to stop in the middle of the block, pull your threads through to the back of the wadding and tie them together say in the knowledge that no one will see the knot once the backing is in place!

I've also been able to play with echo quilting:

And with lines that do not cross the applique:

I've had all sorts of fun!

The Tula quilt will be finished soon (hopefully) whereas the applique quilts will be with me for quite a while longer.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday on

Friday 16 October 2015

New Home Card

I'm not one for card making - the materials are expensive and the results (or at least my results) can be a bit iffy.  However...I'm on an economy drive (with Christmas galloping towards us at great speed) so i decided that I'd use stuff I already had and attempt to make a really personal New Home Card for my best buddy and his husband.

They've just moved from South London to Leicestershire and I'm going over for lunch tomorrow so I needed to crack on with my card.  I can't pretend it's great art, but it is a mini portrait of their house so I'm hoping they'll overlook the faults.  Hey, they're too polite to be rude so I'm sure they'll say they like it even if they don't!

The original...just LOOK at that garden.  I wonder if they want a lodger?

Thursday 9 July 2015

Lavender & Geranium soap tutorial

I adore handmade cold process soap.  My first ever blog post was about soap (see it here) and it is a way of creating something truly luxurious that you can use every day.

Most of the soap you buy in shops is overly processed detergent rather than the glycerine rich skin-feast you can make for yourself.  You can make it to your own particular dermatological requirements and, of course, you will always know exactly what is going on to your skin.  

Although soap making is completely do-able at home you have to respect the fact that the magic ingredient, sodium hydroxide, is dangerous.  Don't attempt to make real soap with young children around and always follow the golden rule: DO NOT POUR THE WATER ON TO THE SODIUM HYDROXIDE.  Soap making is part art, part science and part magic.  Feel the creative flow, dress like a lab technician and follow the spell recipe to the letter!

There are plenty of books of recipes out there and once you know the sciencey bit you can actually create your own very easily!

Soap is created when fat/acid molecules collide with an alkali/sodium hydroxide. The resulting (al)chemical process is called 'saponification'.  Each different type of oil needs a certain amount of sodium hydroxide to 'saponify'.  Too little and the resulting soap is too soft and will go rancid easily.  Too much and your soap will be harsh and irritating.  But fear not!  There are plenty of recipes out there on the internet and in books.  And if you do want to make your very own special recipe you calculate the correct amount of sodium hydroxide using the power of maths (hoorah!) or a lye calculator (try this one from or soapcalc).

It's possible to spend many a happy hour researching the properties of all the different soaping oils and then many more deciding what additives will enhance your soap and make the kind of bar you want.  You can add shea butter, honey or pumice.  You can add natural or artificial colours, synthetic fragrances or pure essential oils.  Whatever you want from your soap you'll need to research it.   Certain colours won't remain true and certain essential oils will affect the colour or texture of your finished product.  Trust me, that's all part of the fun!

The following recipe is one of my favourites,  It's from

This is an excellent book by a UK soaper.  I wholeheartedly recommend it although there is one teensy tiny printing error - it tells you to always pour the water onto your sodium hydroxide.  NEVER do this!  As misprints go, it's a doozy.  It also contains a lot of recipes using lard.  As a vegetarian it made me feel a bit queasy to be honest but there are plenty of lard-free recipes and by her second book (Gourmet Soaps Made Easy) she'd become a vegetarian herself and ditched the lard entirely.  On the plus side, lard is cheap and easily available to UK soapers.  

This is Melinda's basic recipe, minus her choice of fragrance, colour and texture. It makes a hard, long lasting bar that is quick to make because the beeswax speeds up 'trace'.  

283g distilled or spring water
113g sodium hydroxide (Caustic Soda) – Boots sell it. *since I wrote this post Boots seem to have changed their sodium hydroxide to a weaker formula.  Buy it from soap suppliers to be sure it's strong enough.
849g olive oil
57g beeswax - pellets are easiest by far, or if you're lucky enough to have a piece of raw beeswax grate it or you'll be here forever.

up to 45ml (3 tablespoons) essential oil(s) - I've used lavender (2 tblsp) and geranium (1tblsp) because they're my favourite!  This is my personal addition to her recipe - she tends to use smaller amounts of essential oils.  
2 heavy duty plastic or glass jugs
electronic scales with tare function
rubber gloves
2 sugar thermometers
Melting pot / large saucepan
soap mould – silicone or tuppaware box or lined (greaseproof paper) wooden mould, no metal!
Plastic, silicone or wooden spoons / spatulas
rubber gloves

WEIGH 375g water in one jug.
weigh 143g sodium hydroxide in second jug or small plastic box.
Weigh oils directly into the saucepan.

Weigh out  your essential oils into a glass and put clingfilm over the top to stop evaporation.
Pour the sodium hydroxide into the water – slowly, stirring all the time with wooden or silicone spoon. NEVER PUT WATER ONTO Sodium Hydroxide! It will bubble up like a volcano! The mixture will give off nasty fumes so avoid breathing in – do this in ventilated area.

When dissolved put cling film over and set safely aside safely away from cats or kids.
Melt the oils over a low heat – you're not trying to heat them. When only a few small lumps remain you can turn heat off and the rest will melt.
Prepare your mould(s).  Silicone moulds should be alright as they are but wooden moulds will need to be lined with grease proof paper.
Use the sugar thermometers to find when the temperature of both Sodium Hydroxide solution (lye) and oils cool down to between 40-45c.

I use long glass laboratory thermometers so I can just leave them in. If temperature range is different is easiest to either heat up oils a smidgen or cool them down by putting the pan in a sink of cold water. They don't have to be exactly the same temperature but within this range.

Slowly pour lye solution into the melted oils (off heat) and stir briskly in.

Best method is to use a cheap stick blender now as can save you hours of stirring! A few blasts with the blender can make trace happen very quickly, especially with this beeswax recipe.  Don't go mad with the blender or it might become so thick you'll have to scoop it out into the mould - I speak from personal experience!  If you do get over excited the soap will still be usable but it may not be as attractive when cut into bars, or, as happened to me, it set into layers as I was putting it in the mould so when it was ready to use weeks later the bars had a 'fault line' and broke in half.  I still used it but it wasn't much good as a gift.

Trace is when the soap mix changes colour and thickens. Like thick custard, if you dribble a bit of mix onto the surface it leaves a 'trace' – geddit?!

Give a good (but quick) stir for good measure then add essential oils and any colours – cocoa powder is good – then stir them in well. Quickly pour into moulds and use a spatula to scrape all soap mix out – it makes the pot easier to clean as well as avoiding waste.

If your mould doesn't have a lid cover it in a layer of cling film and be careful to keep it upright. Wrap in blankets or old duvet for 24 hours to harden.

Wearing rubber gloves (as is still caustic!) unmould after 24 hours and cut into bars. Don't leave any longer as it will be very hard to get out of mould and becomes harder to cut!  In other recipes using softer oils it's often a good idea to leave it for 48 hours. The first time I made this recipe I did and it was nearly impossible to cut.  I use cheese wire or a sharp kitchen knife on a plastic chopping board.

Leave for 4-6 weeks to cure, preferably somewhere warmish and circulating air will help the bars to harden.
Test if is ready to use by touching tip of your tongue on a bar. If it tastes like soap it's ready – if it's 'fizzy' leave a bit longer.

I test all soap on myself before I distribute it among friends, family and my linen draws :).

UK soapers will find it easiest to find small quantities of soaping ingredients in supermarkets or on ebay where kind individuals, possibly subsidising their own soap habit, can be found selling usable quantities of things like shea butter or cocoa butter.  Other suppliers I have used are:


Glimpse of an old friend

I caught sight of an old friend the other day.  He was peeping out of a window looking rather dashing :)

This is what he looked like when I knew him...
He seems very happy in his new home.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Magpie Instinct

I've been distracted by this for a while:
Graham Thomas, love of my life.

Sceptred Isle
And can you blame me?  I'm a rose-a-holic and it's happy time in my garden right now!

Just to keep my crafty hand in I've been playing with some beautiful, shiny semi-precious beads.

Onyx, rose quartz and chalcedony.

Hematite, tigers eye and chalcedony.

Amazonite and chalcedony.

And here is the gorgeous and talented Helena Marlinspike wearing some raw emerald earrings I made her.  Catch up with her beautiful work here in her Etsy Shop, Marlinspikeart.
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Wednesday 13 May 2015


I've been so snowed under with works in progress that I haven't had time to blog about them!

Here is a Tula Pink-heavy quilt top that's *nearly* finished.
I love all the leafy, new-shoot, springy greens.  The majority of these blocks are made with Tula's 'Prince Charming' and there are a couple of liberty prints in there left over from another project.  

And then there's the two identical bed quilts that require a LOT of applique and a LOT of thread!
I've become a real whizz at satin stitch after appliqueing 672 petals - I'm halfway through now, so only another 672 to go!  Yay! :-/

I'm also still working on the English paper pieced throw quilt for my parents

and a tee-pee! 

I've also had some work done on my house and that involved moving the entire contents of my sewing room into my son's room for a week.  Still, it meant that I was able to get some much needed shelving up at the same time.

It's not a perfect system, but at least I can see where everything is.

As an added bonus my two sewing machines, Joan and Pearl, have their own shelf now.

My garden has also lured me away from my sewing to-do list...

What's not to love about cowslips?  This one has self-seeded into my lawn and I've mowed around it because it's so sweet.  

Spring is a wonderful thing!  

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.