Sunday, 4 June 2017

Request for help

If anyone 40 and under is interested in helping out on some research about sewing, please check out Naomi's blogpost,

It can be children and young people as well and isn't limited by location so anyone around the world is more than welcome to participate.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year Intentions

I've decided I don't like the word resolutions - they always seem to be about giving something up so I'm using intentions instead.

I've totally neglected this blog, but I don't want to shut it down. So my intention for the year is to give it another go and see if it can help me stay in touch with my creativity as that was its original intention when I started it.

It was a great way to connect with the quilting work and I made so many virtual and real life friends with it so I have a real emotional attachment to the idea of blogging. However over the last 2 years I've posted 5 times! Thats not enough.

I can make all sorts of excuses about why. Life, Instagram etc but they are only excuses. I have been blogging in a different format as I launched my professional website in 2016 and blog on there. Obviously thats focused on counselling and therapeutic topics and I have just posted one about the New Year which got me thinking about this blog.

Last year was a year for me of massive change, I lost two siblings, I found two I didn't even know existed. I connected with family on my Dads side for the first time, I refused to have contact with some family members. Its all been so over the top, even soap operas would look at it and say it was too much!

Along with started my new business and new job its meant that my creative side has suffered and I need to connect to it again which is why I want to set a small manageable goals of blogging once a month. Just to keep me moving and hopefully having something to share with you.

I'm going to pull all my quilt tops out of the piles they are sitting in during the week and see what I can do to get some finishes done. Watch this space.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Judges comments

I am recovering from a lovely weekend at Festival of Quilts. For the first time I entered two quilts into the show and have comments. Its only the second time I have entered any show and last time didn't come with comments.

Lets put it out there, criticism can hurt, but I thought it would be interested to explore the comments I got and how I am receiving them.

The first thing to work out is why you put the quilt into the show - was it to win or was it something else. For me, of course I would have been ecstatic to win but it wasn't my motivation. Basically this was the first year FOQ had a Modern category and I really wanted to support that and showcase what modern quilting really is to the many people that don't get it.

Unfortunately, I didn't read the small print and only found out after I had entered them that you couldn't have two quilts in the same category. So I had to find an alternative for one of them.

I changed this one and put it into Pictoral as I call it City Sunset. It was made from scraps a couple of years ago and after I turned it round I saw the cityscape and fell in love with it. It was all very improv and when I made it I wouldn't have dreamed of it ever going into a show. The binding was chosen because it was on the floor in my sewing room and when I put it next to the quilt I loved the contrast. Its completely the "wrong" colour and a print in a solid quilt but I adore how it frames it and always have. It hangs above my bed and I've missed it a lot. (ps it is rectangular, its just a dodgy angle)

The score and comments are as follows

"Good use of colour in the centre panel, maybe the design composition is too conventional"

"Nice warm colours. Binding is out of place"

Clearly they don't like my binding, but I didn't do it to please them. It pleases me immensely. I was really surprised that it fit the category/theme rules as it wasn't ever planned for it.

Overall, these were better than I expected based on the fact it was a complete improv piece, made with no design composition in mind and no idea it would ever go into a show.

The second quilt was even more interesting. When I made the top I was it was very unplanned and part of a challenge. I was also doing a lot of processing on the theme of loneliness at the time as it was coming up in my work and it came out in the quilt. Each New York Beauty block represents a person and how they are connected to others. However by the time I came round to quilting it I knew I was going to put it into the show. I still didn't have a quilting plan though until I actually started.

"There are some inventive aspects to this design -  but maybe just a few too many competing for attention?"

"A very innovative and successful combination of material. Artistic!"

"A good example of modern quilting (word I can't read). Interesting use of negative space."

These ones really amused me because they are all so very different. One judging marking needs attention what another puts as excellent. And it proves how subjective it all is. Can I learn anything from these if I was really focused on making a quilt to please judges in a show? Not really. So what can I learn? 

That if I make a quilt to please myself completely then I get a great deal of pleasure from that. If I share it with the world, why could I expect everyone out there to love it as much as I do? But some people might and that is really rewarding. But if I let pleasing others be my driver I won't be happy with the process of making it. 

And remember one of my favourite quotes

Saturday, 25 June 2016

I didn't mean for it to be so long since I blogged

I am honestly shocked now that I've been to checked. I have thought about posts I wanted to write over the last year but didn't get around to them for various reasons.

So I haven't blogged but to be contrary I don't want to let this blog go. Its been something so important to me and through it I have become friends with many many wonderful people. Some I still only know virtually, but I've had the pleasure of meeting so many in real life.

I know other forms of social media are taking more of my attention and I post all the quilts I'm working on still on Instagram (I'm @ShevvyLondon there as well in case you didn't know. I have been sewing in fits and starts. Some months lots, some months none at all. I even finally managed to make a top for myself!

But there has been other stuff going on that I needed to work on. Family stuff.

My family saga would be extreme, even for the crappiest soap opera and some of the plots that make others switch off do actually happen to me.

This years story has been a life changer. Literally.

I found I have have twin younger sisters by my Dad. I didn't think it was possible to loath that man any more than I already did but it turns out I can. If anyone is still reading this blog and wants to tell me I shouldn't hate the man who fathered me, please don't.

The contact with the girls has been shocking, upsetting and dredged up a lot of the past. Its a bit of a minefield because of all the other people involved and dealing with their responses.


Its also been wonderful and joyful and honest and healing and its shown me what strength I have and what love I am capable of and how I can still after all the crap in my life be open and vulnerable.

And I'm so grateful to have the chance to get to know them. Even if its only via Skype and msgs as we are in different countries. But roll on the summer when I will be meeting them face to face.

So thats some of why I haven't blogged. Will I keep it up again? I can't say. What I want and what I do are two different things.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Dear Angela

Dear Angela

I hear you are interested in quilting so I thought I would put a bit of info together for you along with the bits I sent you.

First – welcome to the fabric side. I hope you find as much pleasure in it as I do. I was interested for years, but only threw myself into it in earnest about 7 years ago. It has inspired my creative juices, challenged my skills, expanded my friendship groups beyond my wildest dreams, and been therapy in dark times and a drain on my bank account. I love it.

What is quilting?

From a technical point of view Patchwork is sewing bits of fabric together into a design. Then that piece of fabric is layered on top of some sort of wadding and another piece of fabric is underneath. Stitching the 3 together is the quilting and then the finished product can be used as a quilt, but also other things, a bag, a wall hanging or even clothing.

All of the patchwork and quilting parts can be done by hand or with a sewing machine and you will in time find what you prefer. Starting by hand gives you some time to explore designs and fabric without investing in a machine.

The basics

You need some way to cut up fabric, a design and some way to sew it together into a pleasing pattern.

I prefer cutting using a self healing mat, a rotary cutter and a ruler. I’m rubbish at cutting with scissors and this is the quickest for me and the most accurate. It’s not cheap so try a few bits with scissors first being investing but they do last a long time. An example of a package deal is here.

For hand piecing, you can either sew freehand pieces together or use what is known as English Paper Piecing (EPP) which means you cut out paper templates first, baste the fabric around them and then sew them together with a topstitch. There are loads of tutorials and designs online so it can be hard to know where to start so this is a useful one from Jo.

I haven’t used a glue stick and tend to baste with any old thread. But this leads to the thread question.

What sort of Thread?

I am a fan of a brand called Aurifil and I’ve sent you a spool. Thread has a weight measurement and the thickest threads are the lowest numbers. Aurifil 50wt is a nice fine but strong cotton thread and it works well for me both hand piecing and in the machine. However over time you might experiment and find other brands work better for you, there is no right and wrong, just personal preference.


Quilting weight fabric is cotton but it tends to be little bit thicker than some you would use for clothes. It’s intended for bedding after all and to last for a long time. There are all sorts to choose from and new prints come out all the time. It’s a massive industry and so the big designers put out a couple of ranges a year for a limited edition. Again, in time you will find what you like but it is this area that is particularly addictive.

I like working with prints but also solids. It’s my personal choice. I am a sucker for some designers and others don’t do anything for me. Some of my favs are Tula Pink, Anna Maria Horner and Pat Bravo.

If you go to one of the big American fabric shops you will get a feel for just how big a market it is, the Fat Quarter Shop has nearly everything! Oh, but the way if that sounds an odd name for a shop there is a really good reason. Quilting cotton tends to be sold in Fat Quarters. If you take a yard in the US or a Metre here and cut it into half and half again each piece is a called a fat quarter.

They usually sell for around £3-£3.50. If you spot some for more than that it may be that they were wider than the usual before the cuts so you are getting a lot more fabric, they are made from something more than cotton or it’s a rip off! You will find cheaper as well. Some will be great value, especially for quilt backs. Ikea has a good reputation for basic fabrics that work brilliantly well as backs.

I tend to buy online although John Lewis can be good as well. My two fav shops are ones I know the owners for and they are all lovely. The Village Haberdashery and Simply Solids.

I've drifted off on a bit of a tangent I think.

What sort of Design?

For EPP you can anything although the smaller and more complex obviously the harder. The two basic designs I love best are very traditional. The 9 patch is just squares but depending on how you colour it all sorts of secondary designs can be seen.

The log cabin is featured in one of the books I send you. It gives you a taste of the variety you can get with just rectangles.

If I was only allowed to use one block for the rest of my life I would go for the log cabin as I wouldn't get bored with the variety.

What to put in the middle?

I now use cotton wadding and I've sent you enough to do a small cot quilt or cushion. I buy by the bolt but for a long time I used Polyester because that was the easiest for me to get. It’s sold in John Lewis and Hobbycraft but the cotton I order online. Again, if you read a lot you will see lots of views about what is best but what is most convenient for you is a good starting point. Don’t worry about getting sucked into things being done a certain way.

Its also possible to skip this layer completely, a lot of people use fleece for the backing which provides a lot of warmth and means you don't need wadding.

By the way, the US call wadding batting in case you get confused.


I've mentioned a couple of times different views and opinions so let’s expand a bit more. There are a lot of really experience people in this community who have tried everything and they know what works for them best and have really valid reasons for it. Most of them are happy to share their experience in a genuine and open way. But, like any group of people there are always those who are more dogmatic. We refer to them as “the quilt police”. They appear to find safety in only doing things in an “approved” way and will be very quick to tell you how you “should” do something even if you weren't asking. Thankfully they are few and far between and if you encounter one just smile say thanks and move on.

The vast majority of the community as I said in the beginning are lovely, generous, funny and welcoming. Well, that has been my experience anyway.

There are guilds you can join formally with the Quilters Guild in the UK the biggest or the new kid on the block is the Modern Quilt Guild which is an international group that has developed out of social media in the last few years. I’m the President of the London Modern Quilt Guild and getting to know so many fabulous quilters in real life is a joy.

There are also groups that meet up locally that aren't part of a wider guild. Google your area and you might find something.

Social media is a big thing. I started with this blog which is very neglected lately. I also am on Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest as ShevvyLondon although I hardly ever use Pinterest. There are quilters on all of these although Flickr has messed around so much with its format it’s not as popular.
You will find lots of free tutorials, giveaways and swaps as you get further into social media so I highly recommend it.

An example of the generosity of this community is the books I've sent you. These are a small sample of an enormous amount of books that were donated to our guild from the estate of a quilter who passed away if the hope they could be of use to new quilters.


The last thing to cover briefly is the quilting part itself. This can be as simple or complex as you want. Done by hand it can use find thread but also thicker to give a different look.

By machine you can use the basic straight stitch to straight line or make different designs. Older books talked a lot about stitch in the ditch which was putting the quilting line in the point where the patchwork seams met on the top so the quilting line wasn’t visible. You can do this or deliberately make the quilting visible.

There is also something called Free Motion Quilting which is a method of using your sewing machine with the feed dogs dropped so you free draw the design.

The Machine
Which leads me to a machine, a quilter has different requirements to a dressmaker when it comes to a sewing machine so give yourself a bit of time before making that investment.

However, there are a few things I think are must haves to make life easier:

· Needle down – this means that when you stop you can have the needle stay in the fabric
· Needle threader – just makes life easier
· Thread cutter – when you stop stitching there will be a button that cuts the threads
· Feed dogs can be lowered – if you want to Free Motion in time
· Throat space – this is the empty space in the middle of the machine to the right of the needle. When machine quilting the bigger the better as the size of quilt you make will be limited by how much you can get through this space.
· Drop in bobbin – very personal preference. The bobbins in some machines go in the top which I find easier, I can also see when the thread is running out.

Again, I have a brand I like but then I haven’t tried many. You will need to try if possible before buying but the brand that works for me is Janome.

All of this is just a starting point – have fun with it and any questions, feel free to ask. Come and visit our guild if you want and also in August there is the Festival of Quilts at the NEC.

I’m going on the Sat and Sun so if you want to come along let me know and we can arrange to meet.

I could say loads more, but that probably enough for now. Have fun.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Scraptastic Tuesday

Its been ages since I joined in with Nicky and Leanne's linky party which celebrates scraps in all their glory.

This quilt came out of last summers Fat Quarterly Retreat. We were randomly assigned groups and made a quilt from fabric we had brought. Funnily enough I and another member of the team had brought almost the same fabrics. We chose a rail fence and managed to get a top completed in one evening after the afternoons classes but we were left with lots of scraps which I then brought home.

I used a log cabin in principal in that I sewed pieces in a round however because of some of the sizes of the scraps its not that obvious. Some were sewn together to form a centre and others to form the outer strips.

To complete I eventually decided on a figure eight quilt design as the top was too busy to do something clever with. That business means it is very forgiving to the quilting which is rather organic in nature.

Check out other fantastic uses of scraps over at the linky.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Long time no blog

I'm really finding it hard to get motivated for blogging. Over the last few months I've had a general feeling of being blocked. You know that hard to describe feeling where nothing feels quite right but you can't pinpoint what is wrong and it has impacting my creativity. It's been a struggle at times to do things, but I am forcing myself to get on with projects as I think that will be the way for me to break through whatever this block really is.

I went to check what work I last showed on here and was surprised it has been over 3 months since my last post. I guess finding the mojo for writing posts is also stuck behind my block.

Despite all that I have been getting things finished and that includes a lot of mini quilts.

My friend Shay won my giveaway and asked for a mini that was pink and cholocate. I've wanted to do a log cabin that curves since years before I actually started quilting and this seemed a good time. This may well be a block I do again as I love how the two sizes of strips create the curve.

Over on Instagram where I am also ShevvyLondon I joined the IGminiswap. I've not really done much swapping but I decided I would give this a go as I felt having a deadline would be a good motivator and force me to get on with something.

I was delighted to get my real life friend and member of the LMQG Amanda as my partner and I felt I had a good handle on her taste. I brought it to a meeting show and tell before sending it to her and I was very amused by her comments. She asked outright if it was for her and I had to dissemble, but I didn't want to lie to a friend so I think she guessed.

This weekend I made an angel mini for the swap as well as a member has been led down. I went back to one of my favourite blocks, the 9-patch but took it smaller than usual and based it on 1.5 inch strips. I don't usually put blocks on point but I really loved this one and again I can see a full sized one in my future.

I've joined another IG swap, this time Ukminiswap and my partner was less specific so I decided to challenge myself with a colour palette that doesn't appeal; purple really isn't my thing. I'm not a fan of triangles either so that added to the challenge.

While making another quilt I ended up with a load of bright solid scraps so went for it with some improv piecing and came up with one of my favourite ever pieces.

Another favourite, also made from scraps from another quilt, this time using Oakshott solids is this one. It's a bit bigger than a mini and now resided above my bed.

I think that is it for small quilts for the last few months. Although I did get one more, this is the quilt I received as part of the Igminiswap from Sandra. Isn't it wonderful? Lovely improv curves, just perfect for me.