Vintage notions

I’ve recently been helping my parents declutter and in the course of clearing up found these notions which used to belong to my grandma. The packaging is wonderfully evocative and I know I’ll be using the needles and threads for my own projects.


Amish with a twist

Two years ago I returned to quilting after a break and started this blog. The first post was about a quilt top I’d finally got round to finishing. Now two years later the whole quilt is finally finished. Once I’d basted it I really enjoyed the quilting which consisted mainly of lots of diagonal lines in different coloured embroidery thread.

I love the result and will take inspiration from the colour scheme for future quilts. I have already made one quilt from the leftover fabric.

Rotating solids

A lexicographical interlude

When not quilting I work as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary and I’m very pleased that ‘fat quarter’ has been added to the dictionary for its most recent update.


The earliest example we have found of the word so far is from a 1983 advert for a Texas quilt shop.


The fact that ‘Fat Quarters’ is in quotation marks suggests that it might be a relatively new term. A first date of 1983 is plausible as quilting in the States experienced a lull in the mid-twentieth century before a new surge of popularity. With this revival the emphasis was less on utility quilts which made use of leftover or worn fabric and more on buying new fabric in order to make quilts from scratch. It is not surprising that the sales concept of a fat quarter emerged around this time.

The Festival of Quilts 2017

Yesterday I went to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birminghan. Here are a few of my favourite quilts from the show.

As in previous years I did wish for more hand quilting. All-over machine quilting in one repeating pattern seems to be very popular, but it doesn’t always go with the patchwork. The quilt below has been hand-quilted.

This quilt plays with log cabin in a very pleasing way.


I love the bright solids and sensitive machine quilting of these quilts.

This quilt is by Victoria Findlay Wolfe who had a gallery at the show. All her quilts were wonderful and you can see more here.


I like the quilted hexagons in this quilt.

Here are some more traditional quilts. The hexagon quilt was amazing. I’ve included my hand in the picture so you can see just how tiny the individual pieces were.

This quilt combines lots of different themes.


And this quilt uses fussy cutting to great effect.


I like the way the striped Kaffe Fassett fabrics have been used here to create secondary patterns.


Finally here’s a tribute to one of the gloved volunteers who will show you back of the quilt when requested.


I also did some shopping, although I like to think I was fairly restrained! Here are some Dutch chintzes that I’ve been wanting to sew with for years. The designs are very traditional and the nice Dutchman who ran the stall said he’d been coming to the festival for forty years.


I also bought some sashiko-themed fabric from EuroJapan Links.


Finally, I decided to buy a special ruler to experiment with more adventurous blocks. I had a nice chat with the proprietor of the Quilt Room who also gave me free book, written by her and her daughter, which contains patterns for quilts which can be made with it.


A Kraftwerk quilt

I recently went to see Kraftwerk perform a spectacular 3D show in Oxford, and it was lovely to be completely swept away for a few hours by the music and the videos.

As we were waiting for the concert to start I realized that the image projected on the red stage curtains would make a good quilt. This is the result.


It was quite difficult to decide what to quilt on the expanse of red fabric. In the end I went for lines and diamonds, intended to evoke the images of sound waves which appeared in some of the videos.


A final typographical interlude

Having set and printed a poem during my letterpress course, I next wanted to try something more challenging. A dictionary entry seemed perfect as it is justified and contains different fonts.

One of the first things I discovered was that there was no bold Caslon, the typeface I was using, so I needed some other way to make the dates, which marked the start of a new quotation, stand out. In the end the instructor found a Gill typeface for me to use. It turns out that bold wasn’t used much before the 19th century and first became popular with dictionary makers for whom space is at a premium.

The entry I chose to typeset doesn’t yet appear in the OED, as I wanted to print something which hadn’t been published before. I also liked the contrast of a 21st-century tweet rendered with the technology of the past.


A second typographical interlude

I’ve nearly come to the end of my letterpress course and have successfully typeset and printed a poem.

Here the type is secured in a frame, called a chase, ready for printing. The pieces of wood are called furniture and the whole thing is tightened with expandable quoins (the first picture shows four quoins, but I discovered that was two too many!).

I felt I’d done a pretty good job of typesetting but the proof revealed several errors!

In terms of typesetting, a poem like this is fairly straightforward. So I next decided to set a dictionary entry, the subject of a future post.