In and out the dusty bluebells…

We have thoroughly enjoyed a family outing to Micheldever Wood, Hampshire. The Wood, between our home town and the county town of Winchester, is famed for the beautiful carpets of bluebells spread out below a canopy of fresh green beech leaves.

Walking through the bluebells brought to mind the children’s song ‘In and out the dusty bluebells’.

The British Library has a short film clip dated from 1951 of children playing the circle game associated with the song.

Theories about the origins of the song are varied. The first documented record of it is from 1898 but the song must pre-date that by several if not many, many years. The song may have been a warning against wandering alone among enchanting bluebells as the magical beauty of the woods would rouse the Fairy King who spirited away trespassers. Alternatively the ‘master’ may have referenced the hiring fairs where labourers were employed for the year by a tap on the shoulder (although this type of hiring happened more usually in the Autumn rather than the Spring) or the ‘master’ may have been Death himself tapping his victims from behind – this could date the song back to the plagues of Medieval times. Strange how many of our seemingly innocent nursery rhymes and playground songs have originated from folklore or dark times in history. There is an interesting article about the myths surrounding bluebells on the History Girls website.

Thankfully we can use the gasp-out-loud beauty of bluebell woods to bring to mind the Creator, and enjoy the peace a simple colour palette infused with the hope of fresh beginnings brings to heart, mind and soul.


Ending 2020 with a Patchwork Rainbow

I’m happy to have my first Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilt finished in the year I began making it – just! The monthly hunt though a box of scraps of the prescribed colour gave me a sense of making progress through the topsy-turvy year of 2020. The simple nine patch blocks fit together in a 10 x 12 layout measuring 60″ x 66″. The backing is an extra wide text print and I created the label in my usual fashion using a computer print out, light box and permanent marker.

I stitched two sides of the label into the binding and finished the project by hand stitching the remaining two edges to the quilt back. The binding fabric is from the Solstice range by Sally Kelly @sallykellyfabric . I felt I was committing a crime by cutting this beautiful fabric into binding strips but the rainbow of colours on a dark blue background make it just perfect for the quilt!

In the end I chose to echo quilt a gentle curve across the quilt following the flow of the patchwork pattern. The echoes are 2½” apart so the quilt drapes well and feels cuddly 🙂 I used three different colours of Aurifil 40wt threads – 2314 across the yellow & orange sections; 2520 across the red, purple & blue sections; and 2902 across the aqua & green sections.

My final quilt of 2020 🙂 It feels appropriate to have ended with a rainbow, symbol of hope in the Bible, and a natural phenomena which moves us to look up in wonder. Before Christmas I shared thoughts on Advent as a season of waiting. The sense of waiting continues with the transition from this year to the next bringing few tangible changes. This morning I read a reflection by Mark Meynell* which included the thought that there are two types of waiting: passive ‘rainy day’ waiting; and active ‘house-guest’ waiting. I’m going to make a conscious effort to make my ‘stay at home’ Tier 4 existence a time of active waiting. Not necessarily making quilts (although there’s bound to be some sewing room action!) but a time of expectant waiting. Instead of staring at the rain and wishing it would stop I intend to be preparing for when the sun breaks through a gap in the clouds and a rainbow arcs overhead.

Rather than wishing you ‘Happy New Year’ (which may sound hollow to some and wishful thinking to others) I will instead go back to the theme of Advent: a sure hope in the promise of everlasting light that can never be extinguished by the darkness. Two thousand years ago John wrote with confidence, ‘… the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining’. Jesus is the name of that light and He’s still shining! Amen


* Mark Meynell, Colossians & Philemon For You, The Good Book Company

Saturday Quilting Bring and Share (236)

Welcome to Saturday Quilting Bring & Share – arriving in your inbox fashionably late on a Sunday! I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy some sewing time over the weekend. Bring along your project and share in the inspiration, news and thoughts from members of our Worldwide Quilting Community. You can join in by clicking on the links below and leaving a message in the comments boxes at the end of the blog posts you read. Thank you!

My sewing time has been taken up with two projects that have deadlines. The gift for my parents is coming along, just the binding to hand stitch in place and the runner will be complete. The second project involves working towards a magazine deadline – so ‘secret sewing’ for the time being 😉 Both projects need to be completed before the end of this coming week.

The magazine accepted my quilt pattern over a month ago but came back asking if I could make a cushion cover to match. Thankfully I had fabric left over from the quilt so I agreed. I had to design a fresh pattern as the block design used for the quilt didn’t scale down well onto a cushion. I tested the pattern by making a cushion cover using fabrics from my scrap bins. As each stage of the cushion-making process passed the ‘pattern test’ I repeated the stage using the quilt fabrics for the magazine. I quilted both cushion fronts with in-the-ditch stitching between the nine-patch block units before adding large ‘stay-stitches’ around the edges.

The stay-stitching around the edge of my test cushion front. Can you spot the seams in the light fabrics? I had to piece two of the light squares – very satisfying to use up the very last pieces of a fabric scrap!

Once the stay stitching was in place I switched to free motion quilting to stitch a super-quick meander across the cushion fronts. I’ve finished the cushion for the magazine 🙂 The test cushion will be an addition to our living room decor once I’ve hand stitched down the binding but that is low on my priority list for now.

Here are the links to a few of the blog posts that have sparked my interest this past week. I hope you find plenty of inspiration. Make a cup of your favourite beverage to sustain you as you traverse a rabbit hole or two:

Over at Quilt Musings there is an inspiring blog post about using a skill building patchwork pattern book. Learning to achieve accurate seams and piece perfect points certainly does take practice. Following a pattern that is designed to grow skills and at the same time use up stash fabrics that have proved hard to use or no longer make your heart sing is a great way to grow patchwork quilting confidence and make space for new fabrics 🙂

Sounds like Izzy really enjoyed the process of making her latest quilt. Isn’t it great when a project comes together better than expected even when the original plan has had to be changed due to a stash deficiency?

Rebecca’s got a Christmas squirrel project underway! You know how sometimes there comes a moment when a project bursts from the back to the front of your mind and refuses to go away until you’ve dropped all other projects, rushed around getting the supplies and made the darned thing? 😀 If you follow Sandra at Musings of a Menopausal Melon you’ll know she has a monthly link up for anyone has had a squirrel take over their sewing time – yep! squirreling happens often enough to have it’s own dedicated link party!

Jan has brightened up a blank wall by making single blocks from three different patterns. Cutting and piecing the blocks gave her an opportunity to test her understanding of the patterns. The quilted blocks look great up on the wall.

Leanne has shared a sparkling star in a star block design as her contribution to the Quilt Block Mania thread. She shares some possible colour and layout variations which look very interesting. I’m always intrigued by the secondary patterns patchwork blocks can create.

Sandra is celebrating her quilt design being featured on the front of a magazine. The design features shadowed arrows. I especially like the way Sandra has changed the direction of her straight line quilting and added in a few extra designs to add interest and compliment the arrows facing in different directions.

Allison Harris shares her latest scrap quilt. This one is made entirely of Hourglass Blocks. Her post contains a link to her free, comprehensive, printable Hourglass tutorial.

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. It’s a season not just to count down to Christmas Day but to re-orientate our focus to the person of Jesus. John the Baptist was born a few months before Jesus. Following John’s birth his father, Zechariah, gave a prophecy about his role in preparing people for the coming of Jesus. The prophecy ends:

…because of God’s tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.’

Luke 1:78-79

I’m following the Advent page on my Church’s website, there’s a mix of reflections, interviews and some information about up-coming events at Church too. You are welcome to dip in and scroll through the daily posts 🙂

Happy Stitching!


Quilter’s Color Quest: Stash Challenge

The Quilter’s Color Quest is drawing to a close and I have a bit of catching up to do! The Challenges set in August by Rachel Hauser of Stitched in Color revolve around stash fabrics. The final chapter in her book , The Quilter’s Field Guide to Color, is all about ‘Working in Cloth’. There’s a wealth of thought provoking advice about evaluating a stash of fabric and how to categorise fabrics by style which helps identify personal preferences as well as how to destash unhelpful fabrics and how to build a stash that will be ready to use when the creative urge stirs.

The first part of the stash challenge is to distinguish between helpful fabrics (simple pattern, one colour, tone-on-tone or solid) and limiting fabrics (multicoloured, large scale or novelty print).

I had a sort through my scrap boxes , selecting nine fabrics that to my eye meet the criteria for being ‘limiting’ fabrics.

Next I had another rummage and found helpful fabrics to sit along side the limiting fabrics. (I realised too late that I’d turned the Challenge on it’s head as I should have been selecting fabrics and proving them to be ‘helpful’ by pairing them with tricky limiting fabrics!)… Anyhow these are the pairings I made:

A helpful fabric to the right of each limiting fabric.

The Quilter’s Color Quest has been such a boon for me through all this pandemic craziness: A series of short, absorbing tasks; learning about colour whilst handling lots of fabric :-); with the promise of a super scrappy Bear Paw quilt at the end.

Picking up the August Challenge today has been a bit of life-saver. Well! ‘Life-saver’ is an exaggeration, maybe ‘mood-saver’ would be more to scale. I’ve read posts by other quilty bloggers who have struggled with the pro-longed social restrictions and found their creativity dwindling. For some reason that’s the place I’ve landed in just lately. This was brought home to me this morning when I pinched my thumb nail between two hard surfaces – ouch! Tears sprang to my eyes. Then I started to cry. I realised the tears and the crumpling of my face had nothing to do with my thumb hurting and everything to do with all the emotions swirling around in my head through this strangest of years. So, I had a cup of tea (as we Brits do!) and disappeared into the sewing room to sort out fabrics for the Quest Challenge! I also put away the FMQ quilting project that wasn’t working – no point testing my resilience at this point, we know it would end in tears and/or rude words!

There is a popular hashtag on Instagram that I often use: #quiltingismytherapy I can truly say patchwork quilting has been a great restorative therapy for me today.

Having worked on the Color Quest Challenge and made some Bear Paw blocks I am ending the day feeling far better than I did at the start. Helped in no small part by my daughter’s prayers and a loaded phrase that pops up in the Bible with reassuring frequency, ‘But God…’ We try so hard to sort things out, plotting and planning events with a particular purpose in mind, forgetting or ignoring the fact we are not in charge! Today I read Paul’s speech to the Jews in Antioch,

Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead…. We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus…

Acts 13:28-32

There is no promise in the Bible that we will not have to face great hardships, maybe injustices too. Joseph certainly experienced some deep lows in his life, spoiled by his father, his brothers plotted his murder before selling him as a slave, he rose to a position of trust only to be falsely accused and imprisoned. Eventually he become Pharaoh’s right hand man, all so that he could give aid to his family in time of famine, saying to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (The history of Joseph is given in Chapters 37-50 of Genesis.)

I hope you are not struggling at the moment. If you are then don’t lose heart. If at all possible take a little step towards creativity – the simpler the project the better 🙂 I do believe creativity is a core part of our being – we are made in the image of a creator God – we function better when we have a creative ‘outlet’, even more so if we can share our creativity with other people.