Wednesday 30 June 2010

Sweetest Sweet Peas

It wouldn't be summer for me without some sweet peas growing in my garden, and a little bunch to be picked each day and enjoyed where I'm working. Every year I buy a few plants and look forward to the first flowers. They only like one particular spot in the garden, so that's where I put the bamboo sticks wigwam every year and love the moment when the first sweet scented delicate petals open. And sometimes I even give a little bunch away - tied with string or with a cone of paper and bit of ribbon - my favourite kind of bouquet.

Monday 28 June 2010

Strawberry Season

We had strawberries in the garden this weekend, in glass dishes with creme fraiche, and on a carrot cake for someone's birthday. Our homegrown strawberries have been nibbled by mice or birds, but there is a little plant of tiny alpine strawberries that is almost ripe and so far untouched by nibblers.

I often include strawberries in my work, painted, stitched or appliqued, and I realised just how many things I have around with strawberries on. A lot. I've always loved them and I doubt I'll ever tire of them (though I must admit that eating-wise I now prefer raspberries!)

Sunday 27 June 2010

Little Bears

I always think little toys look even more cute when there are several pictured together. I made these small bears from cotton fabrics using the pattern in my Cross Stitch Keepsakes book. I made them originally from pale coloured linen with cross stitch decoration - or you could add a child's name or birthdate. (The template is so simple that they are made quickly and have lots of possibilities for decorating.) I then made a few little bears from printed cotton fabrics - they are nice to match to a quilt as a special gift.

Now I'm working on a different creature - can you guess what it is?

Thursday 24 June 2010

Memory Keeping

Now that I've started my own blog I realise what is so special about blogging. It makes you mindful of all the little things you look at and have around you, it gives you a reason to record them both for yourself and others to enjoy. So the sweet flowers in a jug, the beautiful berries in a bowl, the one gorgeous rose in a thrifted tea cup all have a new significance and meaning. It raises your awareness of all the interest and beauty around you which I thought, as a designer I was fully aware of already, but this has made me enjoy everything more.

I loved reading other people's blogs for a long time, and I love that each person's is different as their own character shines through. I wanted to share my love of crafts with others, and to have a place to add my own visual thoughts, but I'm truly surprised how it has enriched my view of my little world and the things that surround me. How it heightens the beauty I see each day as I take photos. Amazing.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

See How They Grow

I've been growing herbs for a long time, because they are so easy and I use them a lot in cooking and to make herbal teas. I draw them too, occasionally, for a book illustration or a card. This year the herb garden I planted a few seasons ago is beginning to fill out and look pretty.
I was rinsing out the tomato tins for recycling when I thought they'd look nice filled with herbs, so planted a few up (after we, well Mr P, punched holes in the base) - we'll see how they grow.

Monday 21 June 2010

Button Love

Bright buttons, pictured together with a project I made for a magazine, and part of my button collection looking like sweets in a colourful, shiny tantalising way. I became hooked on using buttons with my cross stitch years ago when I first discovered Mill Hill buttons which were hard to get in the UK at the time. Now I also love to use tiny pretty Just Another Button Company buttons to highlight a theme in my stitching, or to make a colour accent. Both makes of button are now easy to buy in the UK and many other firms produce similar ones too.

I also like to use good old plain buttons, in pretty colours, which you can get in big packs from crafts shops. Someone once gave me a relative's old needlework box which had lots of antique linen-covered shirt buttons and an ancient lozenge tin of mixed old buttons that were so evocative of the past and other people's lives.

The little cross stitch design features tiny rose buttons - it is from my book Cross Stitch Keepsakes which has plenty of buttoned projects.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Red and white and sunny all over

Such sunny days, with slight breezes are perfect for drying quilts. These are my Shoo Fly block quilts, made a few years ago, and I still love the red and white combination. I like making simple pieced quilts - so soothing to just hand stitch something easy while watching a film or chatting. I also like the simple shapes repeating over and over, and the look of the folded quilts piled together. Also, of course, they are extremely useful to keep us cosy when the days are not so sunny and the breezes not so gentle...

Friday 18 June 2010

First Copy

There's probably nothing more exciting for an author than seeing their book in print for the first time. The other day that most exciting of padded-envelopes-with-publishers-name-on arrived in the post. Although I'd worked on the pages for months, going over the proofs by myself and with my lovely editor Lin, and although I knew exactly what was in this book - it was still thrilling to contemplate actually seeing it printed and bound as a proper book. I wasn't disappointed when I opened the packet - David & Charles Publishers had done a wonderful job of making my book look lovely. The team behind the D&C crafts books is full of talented people who contribute a range of amazing skills and I'm grateful to be working with them. For now I can just quietly enjoy looking through the book and remembering making the projects in it - the doll's quilt, the toy rabbit, the bunting...stitching, patchworking, sewing, drawing the step instructions and the templates and making the charts....I enjoyed it all. I'll write more about what's in Simple Sewn Gifts when it is published at the end of August.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Blue Boats

I fell in love with this Cath Kidston fabric when it came out last summer, and was lucky enough to be given this piece for my birthday last year. It made me think me of Cornish holidays as a child, the bright blue of the sea, and the vintage style design on heavy cotton fabric reminded me of long ago holiday cottage curtains. I wanted to make a summer tote bag with it, but at the time was too busy sewing projects for my next book. (More about that soon). But the other day, despite the work I've got on my desk, the chores piling up, and especially the sweet new baby granddaughter I need to go and cuddle every day - I found time to sew this bag and I love it! I added some recycled fabric labels to the inside, a phone pocket and one or two buttons. All set for the seaside now - not long to wait.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

What's in the Bag?

Just a partly pieced quilt , sorry Raggy - nothing for you to eat.

Sunday 13 June 2010

I Heart Quilts

This is my quilt cupboard - that's what I call it anyway, as it's a place to store away some of the quilts I've made, but still see the fabrics. I made the heart from leftover scraps of patchwork fabric, a strip of selvedge and some cross stitch sampler motifs on white linen. I still love samplers, having designed and stitched a huge number over the years, but at the moment I like finding different ways to use cross stitch with other textiles. I mostly make applique quilts, or simple charm quilts made with small random squares. It's the colour combinations I most enjoy putting together - at the moment fresh and bright with a lot of white, in the past I was into dark and folk arty homespun quilts. I really like adding embellishments to my quilts, like patches and buttons and little fabric loops or bits of text or embroidery.

Friday 11 June 2010

Rose Garden

This is probably my favourite time of year in our garden. The roses are just opening and looking so beautiful against the fresh green leaves and the blue sky, and their scent is so sweet and delicious. I love to see them cascading down in the garden, and then to bring some in to the house, placing them in all kinds of different containers, from proper vases to tiny recycled jam jars to brighten up odd corners and fill the air with their gorgeous fragrance.

Thursday 10 June 2010

London Calling

We took a quick trip to the city last month, mainly to visit the V&A's wonderful exhibition - Quilts 1700-2010. It is a stunning and fascinating exhibition, with so much to see (and think about afterwards) and lots of inspiration for designers like me. I treated myself to the beautiful book you can see in the photo, Quilts 1700-2010 Hidden Histories, Untold Stories edited by the exhibition curator Sue Pritchard, as well as a few little sewing souvenirs to embellish my own quilts.
I always return from a trip with lots of other souvenirs, like tickets and postcards, leaflets and receipts and sometimes I make a little scrapbook to keep them in along with photos of the trip. This time I made a quick mini scrapbook with two postcards of London as the covers - just punch two holes at the left hand edge, add paper pages in between and cut to size, then tie up with ribbon.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Getting Crafty

Some of the crafting magazines I design for give their readers a big package of gorgeous craft materials with each issue. The designers work with the same kit, creating projects to inspire creativity and fill the magazine with colourful ideas. I love to open a new kit and see what treats are included. The picture shows a cross stitched flower project in the middle of being stitched (on my rather untidy table). The flowers were made into cards with ribbons, beads, sparkly sequins and paper embellishments - such a crafty way to spend the day.

Tuesday 8 June 2010


I really do like to be beside the seaside - the old song could have been written for me. I love the sound of the waves, the blue blue blueness of the sea and sky, the little harbours with hand painted signs about ice cream and boat trips, shops filled with brightly coloured beach toys, and beaches filled with shells waiting to be discovered (by me).

This little cross stitch boat was part of a project for Crafts Beautiful magazine who I work for regularly. I design all kinds of projects, using some cross stitch and a variety of other media like paper crafts and fabrics. I loved using bright colours in this design and finding pretty dotty papers to match the little boat.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Starting Something

At last I'm going to start a blog and it's so exciting. So many fact so many that now I'm starting I don't know where to begin...
Maybe by showing you this Flower Pot Cushion. I used fusible web to iron on the applique pieces, then blanket stitched round the shapes in matching - or sometimes contrasting - colours, then I added hand stitches to make stems and leaves, stitched on a few lazy daisy flowers and French knots and a couple of buttons.
I made another little applique picture of just one flower pot and put it in a simple white frame.