Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Quilts in the Wild: Exploration of a Hashtag

The very fact you're reading this blog post means you know a quilt sandwich from a ham sandwich. An interest in quilting and access to the internet will have probably lead you to Instagram or Facebook where the popular #quiltsinthewild or #quiltsinthegarden can be found.
Quilts have been around as long as people could sew fabric in layers for extra warmth. They have comforted us for centuries and are more synonymous with cosy fire sides and guest beds rather than rocks and forests. Surely this makes the quilt a domestic animal?

So why #quiltsinthewild? The earliest I used this hashtag was January with a quilt I had made for my sister, I held it up in my garden for my husband to dutifully capture, but I was by no means an innovator of this term. Inspired by some of the quilters in the US I was riding the crest of a wave that had started in 2013 with a seemingly random post. A year later Jaybirdquilts posted an actual quilt in the wild or at least outside and not on a bed.by November 2014 we were starting to see quilts held up with snow around and mountains forming a magnificent backdrop.

A Beautiful Contrast?

Is this the same as the Sunday Supplement fashion magazines showing a Supermodel in a supermarket or a grubby stairwell? After all these sort of 'fish out of water' images are used by high end fashion photographers all the time.

The Kardashian sisters were lambasted (and celebrated in equal measures) by the media for appearing in skimpy bikinis and posing in the snow. Are our show-off quilts the fabric equivalent? Here in the East of the UK we had heavy snowfall in March 2018 (when the Beast from the East came over from Russia) and for this avid quilter it was an excuse to get some wonderful contrast shots...who could resist a 'cosy' quilt viewed with a foreground of icicles? Or in a homemade igloo (certainly not me!!  All of these shots can be found on www.instagram.com/finecityquilting

#quiltsinthewild - A Practicality?

So far we've concentrated on the whimsy of a quilt being an entity that could be even considered to have domestic or wild habitats - what then could realistically lead to this hashtag becoming one of the more fun quilting hashtags to follow on Instagram?
Lighting is the first practicality of taking a quilt outside, you can't really beat natural light.  Some of my funniest moments as a Quilter who uses the medium of Social Media often are the moments in the depths of Winter where the sun has come out enough on to wet grass and I've ran out with a plastic bag and grabbed a quick picture of some EPP I'm working on.  I like to think these little moments of silliness make other quilters smile - they probably make my neighbours laugh!
Secondly the space..to get far enough back that you can photograph your whole quilt is not something we can all do in our homes and who wants to get the kid's toys out of the way or make sure there's no underwear on the floor in the background!  The outdoors suddenly feels like the sensible option.

Social Media...Expectation V. Reality

Could it be simply that our interiors are not what we consider 'gram-able', i.e not good enough for the 'gram (instagram)? Not fitting in with the social media expectation of perfection?

I was lucky enough to spend a gorgeous week with my husband and children in Interlaken, Switzerland last summer. There was a small pontoon which people queued to sit on in order to get their friends to take a photo of them sitting alone at the end of, as if captured having been captured having a private moment in such serenity. The reality versus how it was being represented on social media was hilarious. Also funny was how you could really have it to yourself at 7am (trust me, camping with two young children you tend to experience most of a holiday from very early).
Is this what we are doing with our quilts, bowing to other's expectations of perfection?

            Expectation                           V.                                     Reality

#quiltsinthewild: A Gallery

A final consideration is that Quilters are Artists...we may not always have a white wall to hang our quilts against or the money or backing to hold or enter a show.
One thing nearly all of us have is a phone and access to the internet and that has lead to us realising that the one thing we all have in one way or another is the great outdoors. I've seen quilts on beaches, quilts on rocks, quilts in forests, quilts draped over lifesaving towers, bridges. City quilts, country quilts. Long suffering partners being wind whipped by flailing quilts.
The hashtags #quiltsinthewild and #quiltsinthegarden gives us all the opportunity to be curators in our own galleries, to exhibit on social media platforms that we are able to share with anyone who's interested.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

What is Quilting?

Since starting my online fabric shop Fine City Quilting one of the questions I'm often asked is;

 What is Quilting?

You may have seen a quilted jacket or call the duvet you sleep under a quilt -  so what is quilting?

Well quilting is the process of sewing together layers of fabric in order to make a thicker, warmer layer. 

Three layers are usually used and often referred to as a quilt sandwich:

1) The Quilt top (the pretty patchwork layer you can see)

This layer can be as simple as a single piece of cloth (a whole cloth quilt) or hundreds of pieces sewn together.

2) The Wadding

Wadding can be made of a variety of warm materials making up this padding layer - cotton, cotton mixes, bamboo, polyester or wool.  At www.finecityquilting.co.uk we stock cotton and bamboo (which is excellent for allergies).

3)  The Backing

Plain solids such as these Sew Simple Solids are perfect for an economical quilt backing, but plain doesn't mean boring.  With the current trend for solids on the patchwork top layer, you may prefer to contrast and use a fun print on the backing of your quilt...

  Tip: using a print on the background may help to disguise any quilting mistakes, whereas a                 solid as backing could really show off your skills!

Once the 3 layers are basted (temporarily fixed together) either with a basting stitch that will be later removed or safety pins or an adhesive spray, the quilt sandwich can be quilted by machine or by hand.

Hand quilting with a needle and thread (make sure you're using a Quilting Needle, they're sharp) is sewing a running stitch through the three layers to secure them together.  This can be achieved with a stab stitch or rocking stitch.

Hand quilting as seen above is distinctive and can definitely make an item more personal.  It is a contemplative task which is slow and rewarding.

Machine quilting provides faster results but can be fraught if things don't go to plan.  Unpicking is harder.  Straight lines and gentle curves can be achieved with a walking foot like the section of a wall hanging below.

For anything that requires more curves, you'll need a Free-motion Quilting Foot, also known as a Darning Foot or Hopping Foot.   With this many effects can be achieved like the examples below.

Friday, 8 March 2019

International Women's Day

International Women's Day is here again, time to hear some idiot say
'When is International Men's Day then, eh?' (November 19th incidentally), joking aside this is an opportunity for Women's rights to be examined, brought under the spotlight and for people to remember that the battle for equality still continues.

This time last year I made a wall hanging to raise awareness.  Last year's theme was 'Push for Progress'.

Over the next few months the theme weighed on my mind.  What had pushed for progress?  Certainly not politicians or industry, the Equal Pay Act is 9 years older than me and I'm nearly 40 and yet there is still a gender pay gap.  For me the answer is in the way you're reading this now - the Internet.
What else has given people ways to meet, ways to rebel, ways to protest whilst remaining anonymous.  The phrase keyboard warrior is often used and that fascinated me.  
In the wake of  #metoo this was a way for Women to stand together...to say 'that also happened to me and I was sad and internalised it but now I see how many others it's happened to I'm angry and I want change'.
Gradually the idea of my quilt was born.  I entered it into the Festival of Quilts 2018 at the NEC in Birmingham.

I was proud that people stopped to read what it was about, why I'd made it.  I stood in front and my husband took a photo of life imitating art.

Since that day I've started my own business Fine City Quilting and a sewing group for parents and carers called Sew Tired.  I remember many years ago writing my dissertation on 'The Rise of Entrepreneurial Women', and discussing the many issues that have contributed to the rise such as childcare,  the glass ceiling and gender pay gap.  In 2019 the theme for today is #BalanceForBetter, so lets make 2019 the year we keep an eye out for discrimination, speak out when we see it but also celebrate achievements.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Sew Tired

No not a complaint but a new group for parents or carers in Norwich!

This week sees the first session of Sew Tired, a group that will meet fortnightly in Norwich with the aim of giving parents or carers (with or without their children) a chance to be creative in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

We've all been there....it's ANOTHER early morning with your baby (whatever age that baby might be!), the start of a new day.  Your creative juices are flowing...'Nap time' you say to yourself, 'I will make something/get started on that drawing/finish that scarf/cut out that pattern...but nap time doesn't always happen and in all honesty when it does there's often (horrifically often) housework to be done.  Then nap time is over.  
'Tonight'..you think to yourself, 'tonight, I will get a tray prepared so as soon as they've gone to bed I can get one with what I've been really hoping to achieve'.  But guess what?  You're exhausted and food needs to be prepared, eaten and quite frankly there's probably something awful on TV that is all you can face.

Before you know it, the hobbies that make you YOU are feeling like they're falling by the wayside.

Obviously there is joy in every precious day spent with your baby and it whizzes by before you know it, but whilst you're looking after them, making a small amount of time to keep yourself happy is equally important.  

People often discuss whether the transition from 2 to 3 children is the most stressful but quite obviously its 0 to 1 (or 2 or 3 - hats off to the Mum's of multiple pregnancies!).
If sewing or being creative in any way is your bag then maintaining that can be a very healthy choice.

This first session will include some English Paper Piecing, one of my favourite patchwork methods.  Hopefully I can convert some of the attendees!

If you're a Norwich parent and fancy getting involved search for group Sew tired 💤
or email me for more details - venue has car parking a plenty and baby change facilities  It's £5 per session and coffee and cake is provided to fuel us 😊

By the way if you're admiring my rather super logo - check out the very talented Sally Franks, she worked fantastically with the brief given!

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Love me a sew along

💗  I do love me a sew along, I've said it before and I'll say it again, whilst the internet has undoubtedly brought many ills to the world it has also brought groups together who have a shared love.

The first time I got involved was The Splendid Sampler and personally it's that BEING PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER that really touched me.  I had two babies under two but being a determined sausage I managed to (most days) get them napping at the same time. Of course I took joy in my babies and every change that they were going through and still do, but I found the satisfaction of getting my weekly block completed gave a little nod to my own self worth.
I would share my blocks on the website and then gradually a Facebook group was set up and I would share in that medium.  Here were other quilters who didn't know that one of my sons had cut a first tooth and the other was starting to talk.  Here my small achievements or funny stories of misread instructions were taken just for my own and not linked to my progeny.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself in the throes of another sew along....enter the #fussycuttingsewalong
Now I was not on instagram for the first but having read about it on it's creators website https://naomialice.co.uk I sure as heck was getting involved for the second!

Last time hexagons took centre stage but this time small diamonds making up six point stars are the focus of learning and showcasing different methods of fussy cutting.  Below you can see a few of mine so far:

These are shoddy workmanship indeed compared to some of the crackers to be found over on Instagram.  I implore you to follow the #fussycuttingsewalong to really appreciate what can be done.

I took the opportunity to ask Naomi how much love has been put in and come out of the fussy cutting sew along and quite rightly she questioned 'how do I measure it?'

Obviously I took the opportunity to suggest on a lovely new cutting mat from www.finecityquilting.co.uk

It's clear that this sew along is a real success and due to the effort put in by it's creator and participants, as with every sew along there are skills to learn and friends to be made - get involved!!

Friday, 11 January 2019

How do you make Beeswax Wraps?



All of you. Brilliant.  Lets get going then...

You'll need - Fabric (approx 1 Fat Quarter), Beeswax, string, pegs or buy a kit from the gifts and kits section at  ↴


also you'll need some sort of spreading device, I used an old paintbrush.

1.  Preheat your oven to 180F (160F fan) and get a baking tray ready.

2.  Tie some string up as close to the oven as possible and get some little pegs ready.

2.  Cut your fabric with pinking shears for pretty edges. Now a quick note about fabric choice...I'm not saying pre-wash but you need to make sure its a quality cotton that is colour fast, cut a few different sizes - think about what you want to use it for.

3. Line your tray with grease proof paper or foil and pop your fabric in, sprinkle beeswax lightly over it.

4. Pop it in and check after a few minutes.  When it's ready the cloth will look soaking wet, use your paintbrush or spreader to ensure all the fabric is covered.  Carefully remove the tray from the oven and peg up to dry.  You will get hot wax on your fingers at this point unless you wear gloves.

5. Enjoy being a smug eco sandwich wrapper.  

** Your beeswax wrap will last about 3 months - some careful people manage to make them last 6-12months!  You can clean them with water and gentle soap.  
To wrap around food, fold as you would cling film and hold you hand around the wrap, it will soften the wax and you can mould it over the top of a bowl or around an item.
When your wrap is tired and old it can be added to a compost bin, it will biodegrade. If you have a fire or bbq you can wrap it round wood for a decent fire starter**

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Christmas Tree Bunting

It may be controversial in some circles to have your decorations up before advent....but you can definitely scratch that festive itch by making some!!

It's always been on my to do list to have a stall at a craft fair and so when the opportunity presented itself for the Christmas Fair at my sons' School I thought why not...a sentiment I never repeated once the reality of making bits and bobs that people who know me will have to walk past and buy or ignore *gulp*

Its a week and a day away now and those who know me well will be right in thinking that I've probably got a lot to do.

However, this is a fun bunting you can make easily and quickly.

1.  Make your templates, being the scavenger I am I used an old birthday card and a magazine cover.  The card was useful as its already folded in half.

If you're not confident making your own, you can follow this link to a pdf to stick to card and cut out.

Christmas Tree Bunting PDF

2.  Now pick your fabrics.  I chose 4 complimentary greens and one Christmas Fabric.  Now use the larger tree template to cut your material.  Fold your fabric in half, right sides out with the tree 1 on the top.  Cut around the template in a big curve...this template is just to make sure you have enough.

3.  Now lay tree 2 on top of the fabric and pin in place

4.  Sew all the way around your tree with machine or by hand and unpin template 2.

5.  Trim approximately 1cm from sewn line with pinking shears for a lovely tree like edge.

6.  Choose or make some bias binding and cut roughly 2m.  Fold it over so you've got two neat edges so you can tuck the top of the trees inside as seen above and iron gently.  Starting in the middle pin one tree in place and then measure equal distances to each side and attach your other trees.  I put 6 inches between each of my trees. 

7.  Sew from one end of your bias binding to the other securing all trees in place.

8. Et Voila!  Sit back and enjoy your festive smugness..