Wednesday, 31 August 2011

WIP a timely revisit.

Last night I'd just hit the 'post' button to send this post to the blog and I saw I had an email from Linda Gillard.  She wanted to put a textile picture on her website that was relevant to the plot in 'Untying the Knot' and wondered if I had anything suitable I wouldn't mind her using. It reminded me that after I'd read the advance copy I'd been inspired to start a little art panel, very much influenced and inspired by the work of Fay, a textile artist in 'Untying the Knot' and the story itself. 


I didn't ever finish it. I had all sorts of directions I wanted to take this little piece in.  In some ways I'm amazed I got this far with it. You see I make hundreds of textile pieces like this...all in my head.  The part of me that has to justify why I make something and then what I do with it and how to store it, stops me from creating more work in this style.  With a lap quilt, mug rug or bag I have something pretty and practical.  The aim of a piece like this is to tell a story. To use threads and textures to create a piece of art that has lots of hidden meanings.  It's not a place for neat stitchery and careful seams. It's a place to take risks, to try new techniques and break every rule I usually follow diligently in other items I make.


The base fabric is several large scraps of calico which I've over laid with strips of one of Chiefs old uniforms, some tartan quilting fabric (because the story is set in Scotland.) and a scrap of silk someone gave to me a long time ago left over from a hand made wedding dress. 

In 'Untying the Knot', the two main characters are divorced. I didn't want the fabric joined neatly. I wanted raw edges to convey that life isn't tidy and neat and sometimes it leaves you raw around the edges too!  I used fine permanent marker to write out some of the wedding vows on silk.

One of the major settings in the book is Tullibardine Tower the 16th century ruined tower house Magnus has decided to restore. It's as big a character as Fay and Magnus, so I wanted it to have a place in this panel too.  Made from hand dyed wool felt it stands on a green velvet hill.  Bits of the hill have been cut away to reveal the layer of chenille scraps and silk throwers waste below and some of the tartan.  I'm not going to explain the significance of this or the knotted threads in the centre because that's a real spoiler for the book! I've used quilted cotton with a metallic sparkle in it to create the idea of night around the tower - cutting the fabric in similar shapes to the pattern on the uniform dpm fabric.

Regular readers will know how I love my fabrics with text printed on them. I used some of my treasured 'Authentic' fabric by Sweetwater for Moda, as it seemed to fit in with the idea this is inspired from a story.  I chose the definition of 'Real' because despite this being a work of fiction it has a very real message about our servicemen (and I don't just mean those in the UK) and how many of them suffer from PTSD, often with devastating results for themselves and their family.  Also despite divorce the love between Magnus and Fay has remained real.


So that's just a little snapshot as to a WIP which I've now decided really needs to be finished. 

I sent Linda a very quick and not great snapshot last night (or was it stupid o'clock this morning?) to see if it was the sort of thing she had in mind (with the proviso no offence would be caused if it wasn't what she wanted or she just thought it was rubbish!)  She put it on her website straight away. You can find it here along with my blog review yesterday.  (I know,WOW!)

If you want to read more about what inspired Linda to write 'Untying the Knot', go to her website here.  You can find out more about her other books here too.

If you want to know more about PTSD do go the Combat Stress website here.  As a society we really owe it to our servicemen and women and their families to understand what this condition is about.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Untying the Knot

  365-282 30 August 2011

I was really excited this morning to find that Linda Gillard's new book 'Untying the Knot' is now available for Kindle. I first got to know of Linda's work through Bookcrossing.  When I was making my hexie charm quilt Linda, a fellow quilter, was kind enough to send me some fabric from her stash to include. (I blogged about it here.)

 Just over a year ago a chance comment on Linda Gillard's Facebook fan page, in response to her posting the first chapter of a new novel, resulted in her offering to email me the draft text for me to read. 

I confess if any other author had offered me a novel of theirs, which I would have had to read via my old lap top, I may have been reluctant.  Spending so much time at work in front of a computer did little to endear me to reading for pleasure on a screen.  However, I'd found all of Linda's previous books hard to put down and having read the opening few lines already, I knew this was too good an opportunity to pass up.  In fact had she offered to have sent me this story written in crayon on rolls of Andrex I'd have said YES PLEASE!

I still remember when the novel arrived in my inbox.  I thought I'd just read a bit, however once I'd started I couldn't stop.  When I finished I emailed Linda to tell her the reason I'd not acknowledged safe receipt of the novel was because I'd been caught up with reading it. Even Linda replied to say: "Wow! You already finished it?!!"

You see "Untying the Knot" spoke to me on so many levels.  The story centres around the relationship between Fay, who makes art quilts and Magnus the war hero husband she's divorced. Their relationship, like so many Military relationships has broken down after years of Magnus suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and channelling his energies into restoring a ruined 16th century Tower House in the wild, but beautiful Scottish Countryside, became the final straw for Fay.

When their daughter Emily announces she's marrying it becomes clear to Fay why this is an unsuitable match.  Magnus too is getting remarried, forcing Fay to confront her history with Magnus and her feelings, before she can fully move into the future...

It's hard for me to tell you more about this novel as I don't want to give too much away.   In this story you will find romance, psychological drama, laugh out loud moments and characters you feel you've known always and care about; all set in an evocative and at times haunting Scottish backdrop.

Priced at £1.90 in the UK or $3.11 in the US  you can purchase this novel for Kindle (and if like me your Kindle is still on your Christmas wish list you can read Kindle books on your pc/laptop by downloading free soft ware.)

Ps. You know how you often open up a book and see thank yous to people from the Author?  You probably wonder who they are and what the contributed? Well, I get a thank you in this book! I know my name in print!!! It's probably the nearest I will ever get to being 'published' !  All because the story of a quilter and her soldier love spoke to me...

Monday, 29 August 2011

241 #2


This girl is on a roll!  My mum is not a bag person. She's been known to tote about a plastic carrier bag with her purse in it rather than use a handbag. Almost all the handbags she does own are hand-me-downs.  So when she asked me to make her a bag in the style of my 241 tote I was a little surprised.  She said she liked blue and she was wearing pale blue and grey today.  I showed her the Amy Butler fabric I bought just the other day and some Kona solids that I thought might work with it.  I started to cut out the side panels from the Hope Valley fabric, only to realise after I'd cut one, I didn't have enough for two. Actually after cutting one I thought it wouldn't look very nice for the sides so I said I'd make the slip pocket inside out of it. 


I used some more Hope Valley for the side pockets. I can't remember the names of the specific Hope Valley prints.


I'll get her to model it when it's day light. Until then excuse the indoors photos. I was just eager to share it with you.   I wonder when I'll get sick of making these bags because already I'm thinking I'd like to make more! 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Grand Day Out

Today my friend S and I went to visit the grounds of this house:


You could be forgiven for thinking I'd popped over the Channel to France and this house is somewhere in the heart of the French countryside. It is in fact one of the Rothschild properties: Waddesdon Manor, in the heart of Buckinghamshire in the English Countryside. It was built in the French Neo-Renaissance style by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to house his large art collection and serve as a stylish place to entertain the fashionable set of the time. The garden is apparently one of the best examples of Victorian gardens in the country.  It has the parterre above, fountains, lots of statuary and a very impressive looking aviary.


More recently parts of it doubled as Buckingham Palace in the film "The Queen" and it's also been used in the feature film 'Sherlock Holmes 2." Today I was there modelling my new  241 Tote.


(Excuse the Captain Caveman hair and grumpy moody face going on in the pic!) This was the first time I'd used my bag and I have to say it was as brilliant to use as it was to make. I can definitely see more of these in my future.  Only what colour to make it in next?

You can see more pictures of Waddesdon Manor in my flickr set here.

Please note: rumours that Chief and I will soon be wearing matching knitwear are completely unfounded. As are the rumours I've not done any making over the last two days because I'm designing my own patchwork quilted waistcoat.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Chiltern Craft Fair

Stormy skies

Today my Mum and I took ourselves off to The Chilterns Craft Fair at Stonor Park near Henley in Oxfordshire.  I forgot my camera so the only picture I have is this one taken on my phone. 

I did indulge with jewellery from Circle and Dash (which I told you all about in this post.)  Some of you may have seen them in person at The Festival of Quilts?

I tried knitting on huge needles.  (why didn't I have a camera with me because that was a kodak moment if ever there was one!) Ingrid Wagner said have a go. I told her I don't knit - I can't knit. Me and knitting = Lots of messiness.  She said - still have a go it's easier on big needles. And I do mean big. Broom handles more like.  It was fun but I don't need a new hobby right now.

I bought a new cardi/jacket from Christine Crane (sorry can't find her listed in the exhibitor directory or a website for her.) At least one friend may read this and say to herself : "Oh you're old enough for craft show knitwear now then?" Normally when we go to craft fairs I admire the hand knitted jackets and cardies and am tempted, despite the understandably high prices. However, I always complain I'm not old enough to be wearing that type of knitwear, however lovely, just yet. 

I also admired lots of linen clothing ideal for layering. I wish I could have got the card or at least the name of my favourite. However the stand was being manned by a bored looking bloke with ipod buds in his ears. He did not say approach me. He did not say come and look at the lovely clothes I have in muted neutrals. He's probably lost the maker a tonne of sales because even the best looking clothes can't withstand a bored looking seller that is sending out  'go away' vibes!  Maybe other halves should be trained before they're let loose selling their other half's wares!  Chief may not be as creative as I am. However, I can guarantee if he was attending a craft fair on my behalf he would be enthusiastic about whatever I was selling. He would no doubt confess he had no idea how I made the item but he'd be still talk it and me up. 

Mum and I indulged in the food tent. So now I'm enjoying a cup of orange and chocolate green tea bought from here  whilst having a chocolate ginger from here and watching the rain hoping it will clear up for tomorrows day out!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Advice needed!!!

Mug Rug and Goody Swap inspirations - Things catching my eye at the moment. 1. patchwork pouch, 2. cat pouches, 3. Solids quilt challenge, 4. Ringo Pie Sunlight for Marit, 5. Flower bearing birds, 6. Rug Mug Swap, 7. Finished rainbow mug rug, 8. Brit Quilt Swap - Fabrics?, 9. Bubble Pouch, 10. There's a rabbit in the garden!, 11. Better shot - Finished MMM bookshelf mini-quilt, 12. DQS10 Mary on Lake Pulaski, 13. Turtle Pot Holder, 14. Bunnies, 15. little, 16. Needle felted chickadee - finished  Created with fd's Flickr Toys

I completely forgot to show you the mosaic I made for inspiration in the Mug Rug and Goodies Swap being hosted by Fluffy Sheep. It's all a bit random but the colours and design spoke to me and along with information on my flickr profile I thought it might give my partner/s a good start of my likes. 

I actually have the day off from work today and had planned to go off to a craft fair but as it's in the middle of a field and the weather forecast is rain, rain and then some more rain I've decided to go another day. So far today has been all about the housework.  So nothing new to show you creatively. 

However, I do need some advice.  I am getting more and more enquiries from people who would like me to make them stuff - particularly bags like these.  This brings up two concerns I have which some of you might have more experience of. 1) How on earth do you set about pricing what you make which is both fair to you and the purchaser. I am hopeless at trying to put a value on my work.

 2) is it a head ache to start your own business selling your own hand made goodies? with all that entails - letting the tax man know, working out the value of  stock you've already purchased and would effectively be 'selling' to the business, starting to fill in self assessment forms.  Now maybe I'm over thinking it. Maybe some of you will be thinking: What I was supposed to register as self employed and tell the tax man because I have an Etsy shop?  The trouble is when your day job involves you thinking about just these kinds of things for someone else's business, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees, when you want to start from scratch doing it yourself! I keep thinking that as much as I'd like to be running my own little creative venture, it's going to end up requiring more admin that it's worth. 

So any advice from those already doing it would be much appreciated. 

If you are fortunate to be having a long weekend this weekend enjoy!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

241 Tote - My Yummy New Bag!

Few things creatively give me quite the satisfaction as making a new bag.  For a while now I've been seeing 241 Tote's popping up over flickr and blogisphere.   After seeing this post though I went and bought the pattern from Anna over at Noodlehead.  I'd just ordered some Aviary in a different colourway with a mind to make myself a bag.   Having read the pattern I realised I had no suitable interfacing.  The pattern suggested using Pellon SF 101 so I popped along to here and looked through their interfacing until I found one equivalent to Pellon (which I think is hard to find in the UK?). The interfacing arrived today along with a reel of quilting thread to quilt my Spring Greens quilt. 


 Also in the mail today was this fabric I bought on sale from Sew Me Happy.  The blues are all Grand Bizarre by Patty Young for Michael Miller. The other random fat quarter is from Amy Butler Soul Blossoms range and the solid is a Freespirit solid in Royal.   


The blue fabric was bought with a bag in mind and so I decided to start cutting and make a 241 Tote.  Unfortunately it was dark when I finished so the pictures have been taken indoors. I'll try and get some better pictures outdoors tomorrow.


I have to say I not only LOVE the style of this bag. I LOVE the pattern.  This is the first time I've gone out and bought a bag pattern and I'm so glad I did. The instructions are clear. The pattern pieces easy to print out at home and that interfacing has given the bag a lovely structure and stability.  The pattern has a version for zipped pockets; I preferred this version with just external pockets.


It's really fun using different fabrics to add interest to the unusual shape.  I think the hardest part for me was top stitching down where the central area joins the side; and that was just a fiddle rather than a difficulty. A confident beginner could easily tackle this bag.  I'd say a couple of evenings or a very long afternoon and you can have a lovely new bag. I am greedy. I already want more in different colours!

And did you notice I have nothing negative to say - no criticisms. No bits that went wrong or are wonky.  I am completely and utterly happy with this bag.  So next time you fancy a new bag do consider this pattern

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

10 things I learnt today

1. Do order your zips from this shop on Etsy. Good value, quick service, little extras and lots of choice.


2. Don't try spray basting on the patio when there is even the slightest breeze.  Especially if that breeze turns into a gale...with rain.


3. Do check your quilt bundle for the spray baste can when you rush inside quickly. Rather than go rushing around the garden in search of the rain. 

4. Do remember to take something soft to kneel on when spray basting on the patio because concrete is hard on the knees.

5. Do use a tutorial like this one for making a zippy box pouch if you've not done so before because it is easier than working out calculations yourself.

6. Do use this material for your lining your zippy pouches when you want them to be moisture proof but not  bulky. It sewed a dream and wasn't as slippy as I thought it might be.

7. Do use scraps of nylon lining material to make binding like covers for your exposed seams.


8. Do think about using a fusible wadding type interface to add extra bulk and shape when making a boxy pouch and using medium weight fabric.

9. Don't use up scraps sewn together and mis matched sections of cheater prints or similar to make a boxy pouch. It will be really noticeable when the pouch is finished and every thing will look wonky when it isn't.


10.  Do smile about the good and bad because tomorrow is another day and you will learn new things then too.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

DQS 11: Received!

Today has been rainy and grey and not at all sunny. That is until I came home from work to find my DQS11 quilt had arrived all the way from sunny Arizona.  Made by OhJennyMae it was like having some sunshine in a parcel! 


I've been really drawn to the x&+ block lately - even contemplating a quilt of these blocks made from scraps.  So I was over the moon to see some of my favourite fabrics had been put together for this quilt and in such yummy colours. Of course there are some elements which I love about scrappy quilts: how big scale designs can look completely different when utilised in small pieces and also how a treasured fussy cut piece can come into it's own amongst scrappy 'friends'. 

I love that Jenny fussy cut the HR camper van and included it. I've been thinking about camper van's a lot lately as Chief would love a camper van or similar vehicle to go off travelling in - and I'd been thinking how fun, if he did get one, it would be to make quilts to go in it! 

I got a bit over excited looking at this. I have sent my mum deaf in one ear by screaming too loudly when I spotted this built into one of the blocks:


I confess I am crap at labelling. I have good intentions, but they always end up looking like they've been made by a not very bright 10 year old.  This label is pieced into the back of the quilt.  The details are embroidered on more of that lovely lined paper effect fabric, also used in the binding. 


If I wasn't lucky enough with that I also got some yummy Farmdale. I have been coverting those chickens forever and the brightly coloured apples. 


So all of a sudden it's raining, although sunnier than ever!  Can't wait for my next swap and I hope my partner loves the quilt I made her as much as I love this!

Ps.  Thanks for all your comments on how many quilts is too many. I have now decided I don't have nearly enough quilts and desperately need more pillows, table runners, table mats and bags while I'm at it.  I just knew you'd all have the right answer! ;-)

Monday, 22 August 2011

HAL update and a question about quilts: when is too many?

It's gloriously sunny so it seemed like an ideal time to take my hexie quilt for the HAL outside so you could see how it's slowly growing.

Hex-A-Long progress so far...

I'm pleased with how it's progressing, but I suspect it won't be finished this side of Christmas. This is probably less than a quarter of the size it needs to be and even when it's all pieced I'll need good weather outside so I have a large enough space to baste it.  All that's got to be done before I can even think about quilting and binding.

Across the Sea Quilt Along

A more achievable quilt might be either the lap or baby sized quilt in the Across the Sea QAL which I've just joined.  Sorting out my FQ sized cuts at the weekend made me realise I have far far too many with no definite purpose in mind and this might be a good stash busting project.  I've already decided that my fabric has to be housed in that chest and not in other places as well so that will mean using up stuff before buying more...not just finding somewhere else to home new purchases.

This brings me onto a question about quilt giving/making that I hope you will help me out with.  I wonder at what point I will have too many quilts. I actually don't have that many' However, every time I make a new one Chief asks what it's for. The subtext clearly being: Another Quilt? Why do you need another quilt. I feel caught between wanting to try out new block/quilt designs and reluctancy to just make quilts for the sake of it.  

In an ideal world I'd have a tonne of friends and associates having babies and in need of a baby quilt.  They are great ways to try something different without committing a lot of time and fabric and seem more manageable than, the more useful double bed sized quilt - which I confess terrifies me on so many levels! And unlike a mini quilt they have a more practical side to them.  I had considered giving quilts as Christmas presents, as a lovely lap quilt on a cold winters night would be my idea of bliss. However, I really have few likely candidates for quilts. The last thing I'd want to do give them to someone who had no idea of the value in terms of raw materials - let alone appreciate how much of my time and love had gone into it. 

A friend suggested making with a view to selling. However, I feel at this stage there are too many people out their doing this already - and doing it far better than I could and it would become a huge pressure.

How do you all reconcile the volume of quilts you make? Do you have friends and family begging you for quilts or do you make baby quilts just in case there is a sudden rush of babies born around you? I'd love to hear your thoughts before I become to guilty to make any more new quilts.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


I was going to call this post 'Eternal Happiness from the Eternal Maker' and whilst that part is true (more about that in a minute) today has also been a sad day.


In 2010 and 2009 my annual trip to Bournemouth with my Niece and Mum coincided with the Bournemouth Air Show.  Last years trip was a wash out with really bad weather which stopped most of the flying on 3 of the 4 show days.  This years Air Show started last Thursday and I was glad I wasn't in Bournemouth, as much of the area we visit was under 4ft of water, after flash flooding.  They had to cancel that day of the air show.  Today after the Red Arrows did their display one of the Reds had an issue and crashed near a river close to Bournemouth Airport. Unfortunately the pilot did not survive the crash. The Reds are a great symbol of all that is good about being British.  My niece absolutely loves watching them and sitting on a beach on a sunny day with clear blue skies, watching them twist and turn above the sea and do their signature red heart never fails to bring a lump to my throat. So it didn't feel right to just go on about all my fabric loveliness today. 


RIP. Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging.

The fabric I ordered on Thursday. Yes, Thursday, from Eternal Maker, arrived today.  It was beyond lovely to have this little bundle of prettiness in my hands.


The fabric in front is a nylon material I think might make a good lining for wash bags.  I have some more greens to add to my string greens quilt and some other fabric destined to be made into bags for Christmas/Birthday gifts.  Seeing how nicely everything was folded inspired me to go through my stash and re-home it all in a chest of drawers.

As you can see I made quite a lot of mess in the process of sorting!  At least now three of the drawers are full of fabric goodness. The first drawer is filled with fat quarter sized cuts. Some have been cut into and some were larger/odd sized cuts. 


I always thought I didn't have that much fabric compared to some. But I think this is a more than respectable stash!  Most of which is now stored by colour. At the far end though I have my It's a Hoot by Momo stash - destined for a quilt for my mum and what's left of my Mendocino stash.


In the next drawer I've organised all my larger cuts of material (1/2 yard and above), solids and other substrates like voile, cord and flannel.


The next drawer houses my interfacing, odd cuts of wadding, vintage clothes that I intend cutting up for projects and a bag of scrap wadding for stuffing pin cushions etc.

This leaves me with two small drawers and one large one to fill. Well once they've been emptied of their current contents. In fact I will have another major sorting job to do because this chest was full of other stuff that now needs a new home. But at least my fabric is all together. I can see what I have and won't have to move a tonne of plastic crates to find an elusive fat quarter.  Eventually I'll relocate this chest into the dining room which doubles as my sewing room.  I don't entertain that many people very often so it seems to make sense to relocate it there.

Hope you're having a good weekend!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Lace Making: Speciality Bobbins

Some more bobbin eye candy for you today.  A lot of bobbins made today - even the elaborate ones -have origins in designs that date back several hundred years and like quilt block patterns do, retain the same names.


This is an unspangled 'jingles' it has a couple of wooden rings that move about the main shank and 'jingle'.


They are no different in size to the other plainer bobbin types.  This may look like a regular bobbin below. However, it's not...


...Inside the body of the bobbin is a tiny brass bobbin. You can see them through the window created by carving bits out of the bobbin.  This is a 'Mother and Babe' Bobbin - sometimes called a lantern Bobbin because of the way you can see into the bobbin. 


I also have a lantern bobbin with seed beads which move up and down when you move the bobbin.


One of my favourite of these speciality/novelty bobbins must be the Cow and Calf, which is another Mother and Babe type bobbin.  From the outside the bobbin looks like a regular wooden bobbin.  You can see it in the 3rd picture I've posted. It's the one on the far left with blue seed bead spangle. When you pull apart the bottom of the bobbin it relieves a tiny wooden 'calf'

The spangles on this bobbin and it's pair (the mother and babe above) are known as bird cage spangles, which are a traditional way of spangling and slightly fancier than the regular beads you'd find on an antique bobbin. In fact most common were plain glass beads, square lamp work beads and sometimes round 'evil eye' beads said to protect the lace making from bad luck.

I have mentioned you can get all kinds of bobbins made from wood and bone. You can also find bobbins made from other materials like glass (which I don't have) and metal.  I do have a pair of brass bobbins; they are not the greatest to work with so I don't think I'd want a pillow full of them. The bottomn brass bobbin is a style called 'caterpillar' as it's got a caterpillar shape to it.


You can find more bobbin pictures in my flickr set here.

Next time I'll talk about patterns, prickings and the first piece all beginner lace makers make.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Start of a New Quilt

String Greens

Do you remember when I showed you a bundle of fabric that I'd pulled for a new quilt? Well, today I got started on making it. I have loved the look of quilts built up of a range of different sized strings across the width of a quilt and wanted to make one for ages.  I've also been drawn to the colour green.  So I gathered together all my green fabrics and started cutting strings. As I mainly had fat quarters I would need to join two sections together for lots of the fabric to make a continuous strips. Originally I'd been going to join two strips of the same fabrics. Then I changed my mind and decided to mix and match.  The mix and match strips are interspersed with continuous strings of varying widths.  I've named this quilt already - 'String Greens' a play on the phrase 'Spring Greens'. I could have had the top pieced this afternoon if I hadn't run out of different green fabrics.   So I felt obliged to go and buy more fabric in order to finish this.  That is the only reason. It has absolutely nothing to do with this:

Late night fabric porn

Absolutely nothing to do with visiting the  Eternal Makers new website a few days ago. Absolutely nothing to do with creating an account and making use of their wish list feature to pin fabrics and sundries that I really really liked. Absolutely nothing to do with having no will power.  Honest.

I haven't found a fabric website that has had this effect on me for some time. I've not used them before. I had heard of them and seen some lovely photos of their real shop interior. Only I found their old website difficult to navigate around. It was hard to find stuff. I didn't bother placing an order. It was easier else where. The new website is a whole different kettle of fabric fish.  I actually had palpitations as I browsed. It was late at night and I felt like I was doing something illicit like watching porn. 


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Midweek Catch Up


A family friend's birthday is this Monday coming.  We didn't know what to give this person.  I am all for making at least an element of the presents I'm giving.  I had originally thought about a mug rug, only the recipient is not likely to get the whole concept, so I thought a coaster might be a better option.  I bought a couple of mugs first, so I could pick fabric to co-ordinate and ended up using some Annie's Farm Stand by Lakehouse Dry Goods.

These were very quick and came from this book.  They are the first project I've made from the book because I'm not a big fan of making projects in books. I much prefer quilting books for quilting inspiration.  I have good intentions about making projects, but something will distract me and I'll be off on another project of my own devising! 

Did you notice I had a little make over? I think I might change it more often!

Blog Header

Thanks for everyone who made suggestions about what I should call my other half on here. I can't really start calling him anything 'husband' related because we are not married. (And he's far too old to be referred to a boyfriend!) I had brainstormed things to do with his rank, but that's not something you can easily shorten. Then I remembered that he has a nickname at work to do with his position. "Chief". Whilst people below him call him 'Sir' and people above him often address him as 'Mr', He's most often referred to as 'Chief.' So that will be good enough for here too.

Also, after mentioning the Springetts in yesterdays post, I found that whilst they are no longer selling bobbins you can still buy books and patterns from them here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Bobbin Lace Making: Some history and a bit about Bobbins

Today, at work was the annual meeting with the accountant. He's a lovely man. He'll hence forth be known as 'Granny Doom' because there is nothing like a post meeting chit chat about other people's financial planning for the future and the global economy right now to leave me feeling depressed by my own current financial strategy, of sticking my head in the sand and hoping I'll never get to retirement age because I can't actually ever see me being able to afford to retire. Does this worry anyone else out in blog land or are you all super rich and/or too focused on getting your hands on the latest must have fabric?

Anyway, when I'm depressed I need a little eye candy and frivolity to get me back in my usual cheery vibe.  So I thought I'd blog a bit about bobbins. These lace making posts are hopelessly disorganised. Although bobbins are essential equipment - at least that's what I told myself every time I bought another pair! ::wink:: ::wink::

The kind of lace I know how to make is called Torchon Lace. It's a good starting point because you only have to master two stitches and its simple design isn't time consuming to produce (when you know what you're doing - for me lace making is not a speedy process.)  It's one of the oldest lace types there is.  It has often been referred to as beggars lace as it's not fancy and it's quite robust.  It became popular in the UK in 19C when home workers found huge competition from machine made lace.  They had two options: they either made fancier lace that the machines couldn't replicate, (which was mainly financially prohibitive) or they found simpler lace they could turn out quickly and sell to the mass markets.  Torchon was ideal for the latter and this is largely what workers in the East Midlands of England chose to do.  Many counties developed their own distinct style. Bedfordshire Lace, for example, falls within the East Midlands area, although the lace made there looks quite different from other Torchon patterns. 

In my last post I mentioned using wooden bobbins rather than plastic. If you do have to use plastic the things you have to check for is that the head is smooth and of a good shape to not allow the threads slipping or snagging. Having said that I've got some beautiful bobbins - very well made and they seem to be forever slipping their threads. It gets frustrating.  I could make lace using the cheapest bobbins I have and the most expensive and show you each piece of lace and I guarantee you would not be able to pick the one using high end bobbins or cheap ones. Things like tension when making the lace, the thread used and your accuracy are what makes good lace.

Old lace makers did not have fancy bobbins. Bobbins were essentially tools and would have been made from local fruit woods.  I bought these bobbins at my first lace day. These are vintage bobbins.  You can see where some of the designs have worn away from the constant use.  These are not particularly fine examples. I was about 15 at the time and this was what my pocket money would run to.  Fine examples of vintage bobbins go for high prices. Particularly ones made of bone with fancy designs.  As lace makers worked from home and weren't tied to particular suppliers they were often given bobbins as 'sweeteners' by suppliers looking to buy their lace.  Most commonly though husbands and boyfriends would carve bobbins for their women and some would inscribe, burn or nail pins deep into the wood to create names and inscriptions.


I quite liked the idea of family names and commemorations on bobbins so have quite a few different styles. The ones below for example commemorate my 18th and 21st Birthdays. The pyrography inscription is done in a spiral around the bobbins and the spiral is picked out in tinsel inlaid with a fine brass wire.  The spangles are garnet beads as garnet is my birthstone. I actually LOVE spangling bobbins. It is far better than making the lace to me!


These bobbins were made by The Springetts. They are my all time lace making hero's. Christine taught lace and wrote books on the subjects. (And if you are going to go and make this kind of lace I urge you to trawl ebay for her books because they are the best lace books for beginners and children I've come across.) Her husband David made the bobbins. They would sell at Lace Fairs and by mail order. I'm not sure if the company is still trading because I seem to remember them retiring and selling on the business about 10 years ago.  I could rarely resist being tempted by their bobbins as you can see!


I spangled all these myself with the exception of the acorns ones which were sold ready made with matching wooden acorn beads.  They made all kinds of bobbins styles: Pyrographed, plain and carved wood, painted, tinsel inlaid, wire wrapped and also moe unsual novelty bobbins - more of which another time.

The also made bone bobbins which were more expensive.  Traditionally bone would have been a good choice for bobbins as it didn't tend to wear as quickly as wood. My most expensive bobbin is a bone Springetts Bobbin. It was a birthday present from my mum.  It's a Scottish Themed Bobbin because my Mum wants to be Scottish and is partial to anything from Scotland (In fact I suspect if she could wake up in a tartan wall papered room, with heather under foot, to the sound of bag pipes she'd probably be deliriously happy!)



...that carved thistle is inset with an amethyst.  I should also point out my hands are quite small. If you've never seen a lace bobbin before, believe me they are not big items. 

I'll end this post for now. I have plenty more bobbin and lace making things to show you next time.  If you want to see some more bobbin pictures go to this flickr set as I won't post every single picture I took with each post.
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