Mental Health Awareness Week is 14th – 20th May here in the UK (photos explained at the end of the post!).
Did you know that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue and 5% of the world’s population currently suffer from depression? That’s 350 million people!
I’m sure, like me, you have either experienced some form of mental illness in your life, or know someone you care about who has.
During a particularly low point in my life, I started seeing a counsellor, who recognised that after seeing to my husband, my children, my home etc. I did nothing for myself. She introduced me to the notion of ‘play’ and asked me to name one thing that I used to enjoy doing when I was younger. I said sewing!
She encouraged me to reclaim this activity that gave me so much fulfillment and joy, and so I enrolled in my local college to study in City & Guilds Textile & Design.
I can honestly say that getting back into a creative environment and learning how to ‘play’ again, was instrumental in my recovery from depression.
That was 12 years ago, and little did I know then, that I would be teaching others how to release their creativity and learn how to ‘play’ and enjoy life again.
My first experience of teaching patchwork and quilting was to a group of women with various mental health needs (depression, self-harm, addiction, domestic violence, grief, bi-polar disorder, cancer survivors, eating disorders to name but a few). For 2 years I saw first-hand the therapeutic benefits they experienced after only a few short weeks of sewing. One lady in particular, old before her time, stooped with low self worth and heavily reliant on a walking stick, made her first patchwork cushion and within 6 weeks was coming to class without her stick and walking tall!! Like many others, learning a new skill within a caring community, and having something to show and be proud of, elevated her self-esteem and ignited hope and positivity in many areas of her life.
Seeing the wonderful benefits sewing was having on these ladies’ lives ignited a passion in me to encourage others to let go of negativity, worry, anxiety & perfectionism, even if only for a few hours a week, and discover the healing and therapeutic powers of sewing.
It’s encouraging now to see emerging evidence from neuroscientists and doctors that support what we sewists already know – that sewing (& crafting) is good for our brains and mental health!
The authors of the ‘Sew Your Blues Away’ blog have written an informative article about this here. They say:
“In short, mentally engaging movement (sewing) helps to break the cycle of negative thoughts, as well as allowing the brain to recover and improve by generating newer, healthier brain cells. Specialists state that an engaging hobby is often more effective than just taking an antidepressant, which typically targets only one neurotransmitter. While sewing not only heals, it also improves the brain’s resistance to future bouts of depression by reminding our brains that we have an impact on the world around us.”
So not only is sewing mentally good for us, it is helping our brains physically too! How cool is that!
This article from 2014 explains not only why crafting like knitting and sewing are good for our brains, but why crafting with others is so important too. Check it out!
And I’m sure the ladies who come to my classes will testify to many of these benefits (& more!) too! We certainly have a lot of fun together!
Now my work as a sewing tutor is my passion, my calling and it has gotten me through some of the toughest periods of my life. I’m so privileged to get to ‘play’ everyday as my day job. But of course, turning a hobby into a business means I needed to find a new hobby!
At the moment I’m learning about photography, and I enjoy getting out into nature and noticing details that I would otherwise miss had I not brought my camera along. In the busyness of this modern world I’m trying to literally ‘stop and smell the roses’! (I hope you have enjoyed the pics I’ve shared here.)
So as we focus on Mental Health this week and bring this once taboo subject into the open, let me encourage you to find something that returns to you the same enjoyment, fulfillment and escapism that playtime once did. Let yourself be absorbed by creativity and fun, and released from the stresses and demands of life!
We have just had a wonderful bank holiday weekend here in UK. And what made it so wonderful? The beautiful sunny weather!
I spent the bank holiday Monday in Florence Court, Enniskillen, with 2 of my girls, having lots of photo fun, and enjoying this wonderful National Trust house.
It was a beautiful day, learning all about the women (upstairs and downstairs) in Florence Court’s history.
Also this week, the current issue of Quilt Now hit the shops, and in it you can find my Octosaurus Rex Quilt, designed for Makower using their Rex Collection of fabrics.
This quilt design is full of secondary patterns, and the larger Placement print is perfect for fussy cutting.
Here’s what I wrote as my source of inspiration:
“I live not far from the Giant’s Causeway, a 60 million year old formation of multi-sided volcanic stones. So I thought it would be fun to design Jurassic sized shapes around these cute dinosaur fussy cuts and fabrics. The Octagon blocks slot neatly side by side just like the stones at the Giant’s Causeway!”
There is a lot of piecing in this quilt, and it is a decent size at 60″ x 72″. However you could easily reduce the number of blocks and make a smaller quilt for a younger dinosaur lover!
So if you have a little one who is mad about all things Jurassic, then these fabrics are your perfect choice!
You can see the full collection here, and my Octosaurus Rex Quilt pattern is also available via the Makower UK website.
Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend!
I had a fun few days with my best quilty buddies, up a mountain, with glorious sunshine and sheep for company (there may also have been lots of cake and buns)!
There was lots of sewing done too, but alas I can’t show you that just yet.
What I can show you is a summery table cloth I made for the May issue of Pretty Patches magazine.
The clever peeps at Tilda Fabrics came up with a beautiful collection earlier this year called Bumblebee.
If you are a regular visitor here, you will know how much I adore Tilda fabrics. And this collection is no exception. Ditsy flowers and some of my all time favourite colours together – what’s not to love!
So when Pretty Patches offered me a bundle of Bumblebee to work with, I jumped at the chance!
I wanted to keep the design large scale to let the fabrics do all the talking.
Also, to maintain some drape, I didn’t use wadding, but simply ‘bagged’ the top and backing together.
One of the reasons why I love Tilda fabrics so much is because of their vintage vibe (and I love all things vintagey!). So a lacey trim around the edge seemed a fitting finish.
All I need now is for the summer sunshine to return for a little al fresco dining on my new table cloth!
I love Chevron quilts! They are simple to make and are so versatile in providing many different designs.
One of the simplest ways to make chevrons is using half square triangles, and with clever fabric placement, or mixing up your fabric ‘values’ (low volume, high volume) you can achieve all sorts of wonderful patterns.
When the editor of Popular Patchwork sent me her mood board for the April issue, the colours were earthy and saturated and I saw a glimpse of a chevron pattern in there.
So I pulled out all my Kona solids that fit the brief and went to work designing a chevron inspired quilt.
For me these colours represent transition – moving out of a long dark winter and into the new life of spring. Little hits of prints mixed in with the solids are like those glimpses of colour and growth you see coming out in the garden at this time of year.
I wanted to break up the continuity of the half square triangle chevrons with narrower rows, and so designed a simple foundation pieced template for these. If you’ve never tried foundation piecing before, this would be a great, non-threatening project to start with!
Foundation piecing is a little more time consuming than normal piecing, but it’s definitely worth it to get those crisp, sharp points!
The organic wavy quilting lines create a sense of movement through the angular peaks and troughs of the chevrons. And I backed it with trusty Ikea Numbers cotton.
The magazine also includes a double page feature on how to style a room around Chevron Heaven! What a neat idea!
The April issue of Popular Patchwork is in the shops now!
Hello everyone, we are well into Spring here, and the April issues of quilting magazines are hitting the shops!
In keeping with the Spring theme, I designed a birdhouse wallhanging for British Patchwork & Quilting (April issue).
One of the things I love about Spring is the sound of chirping birds in my garden. I had this cute birdhouse fabric in my stash, (Sugar Hill ‘Birdy in Pink’ by Tanya Whelan) and I drew inspiration from there. Can you see little birdhouses in the fabric? That got me thinking about the little birdhouses in my Woodland Friends quilt.
So a few template alterations later, and I had the basis of a spring-time wallhanging.
Before fusing any of the shapes to the Essex linen background, I quilted the background in a grid pattern, with calico behind the wadding. (The finished wallhanging is double backed, which means after all the other applique is complete, a pretty back of more cute ‘Sugar Hill’ fabric is attached.)
Satin stitch applique is one of my favourite ways to applique, and luckily I had a fat quarter of fabric with love birds printed on it. I simply cut these out, bondawebbed them to the birdhouses and stitched round them.
The lettering required a little more thought. I enlarged a cursive font of the word ‘sweet’, transferred it to fabric and got it satin stitched in place. I knew I wanted a contrast in the lettering of ‘home’ so I drew the words on with a water soluble pen and free motion sketched over them.
I’m really digging curvy corners at the moment, and shaping the top corners on this wallhanging removed some excess negative space which better balanced out the proportions of the design.
Some standard quilt binding and a few hanging tabs later and voila! A Birdhouse wallhanging to welcome Spring into your home!
The wallhanging measures 19.75″ x 16.5″ and it made front cover of British Patchwork & Quilting magazine. Woohoo!
I support 2 charity quilting groups – Bee Blessed and Siblings Together.
This means making different blocks for them each month, which is a non-demanding way of supporting these wonderful causes.
Here is a wee round up of my recent bee blocks.
In Bee Blessed, we were making Woven blocks in pastels for September …..
…. and Wonky Cross blocks in ‘male appropriate’ colours for October.
In Siblings Together Bee 2 I got to set the block for September, and requested Canvas blocks, in any 2 colour-ways. Here are what I have received from the other ladies in the bee:
I only need to make 5 more blocks, and after putting it out for consultation (asking a few sewing friends on FB!) it was decided that I should make the remaining blocks in purple, yellow, pink & green!
October’s blocks in STB2 are these fabulously scrappy 16″ blocks. These were so much fun to make, because they were scrappy (my fav) and the irregular improv angles meant they were super quick too!
So that’s me up-to-date with my bee commitments!
And it’s half-way through October already! So I’ll leave you with a few of my recent Autumn pics!
We have enjoyed an Indian summer here, but temperatures are starting to drop and I’m feeling the need for an extra layer!
So just enough time to show you my last ‘summer’ quilt.
This is imaginatively called the ‘Scrappy Strips Quilt’ (‘it does exactly what it says on the tin!’). Scrappy quilts are my all time favourite, and I had so much fun one weekend delving into a pile of scrappy strips and sewing them together.
The coloured strips are of varying widths and very little thought went into what strip got sewed on next. I don’t even like all of the fabrics in this quilt, but I LOVE the finished look. That’s the magic which happens when a little bit of courage and random fabrics get mixed together.I love making strip pieced blocks. I used 2″ white strips through each block, but that’s pretty much where the uniformity ends!
The quilt is currently in the September issue of British Patchwork & Quilting Magazine, and measures a decent 66″ x 77″. I could easily have gone bigger, I hardly made a dent in my scraps!
So it’s goodbye summer, and hello beautiful Autumn!
The particular corner today was Rowallane House and Gardens, owned by National Trust.
A truly inspiring place with the ‘all time’ best climbing tree ever!
Not too many bees around yet, but here are some ‘bee’ blocks I’ve been making.
First up, Corner Log Cabin blocks for Siblings Together Bee 2. The special request from Charlo on these blocks were reds, blues and greys. Another boy quilt perhaps?
And the Bee Blessed Blocks for May are Sarah’s Frame Box Blocks (try saying all of that after a glass of wine!).
Sarah has written a brill tutorial for these super quick and scrappy friendly blocks here. And to see more about the wonderful ladies behind Bee Blessed, see some rare footage here. They are doing an amazing job, and blessing so many people and families. If you can support this great work by making a block or two I know they would love to hear from you.
How are you all doing? Every now and then we get a glimpse of summer here, and my garden is loving it (that of course means my grass is growing faster than the weeds!!).
I’ve been beavering away on some secret squirrel stuff, can’t wait to tell you all about it soon!
In the meantime, I’m so excited to share with you my modern Attic Crosses Quilt, commissioned by Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine (my first with LPQ).
Photo courtesy of LPQ
This is also my first quilt made entirely of Kona Solids.
The talented peeps at LPQ had a hand in choosing the solids. They are Iron, Dusty Blue, Wasabi, Silver, White and Dusty Peach on the back.
I forgot to take my own pics of the quilt before sending it off, so that’s another photo-shoot I need to do when I get the quilt back!
The June issue of Love Patchwork and Quilting is jammed packed with trendy designs, including a stunning hexie quilt by my super-talented friend, Svetlana.
Grab your copy in the shops now (but pay for it first!).
P.s. thank you to everyone for joining the discussion about pattern gradings in my last post. I have enjoyed all your comments and am taking your feedback on board. If you didn’t get a reply from me, it means you are a ‘no reply comment blogger’ and your email address doesn’t register with your comment.
I tried to capture the light on the limited features in my small garden.
Isn’t light so inspiring, and seems to make everyone feel much more positive! One of my daughter’s names means ‘bringer of light’ and she does just that, every day!
And here are a few more leaves to tell you about!
Photo courtesy of Sewing World Magazine
This is my Applique Leaves Cushion in the current (May) issue of Sewing World, out now!
Applique can be a little intimidating for novices, especially when thinking of satin or blanket stitching the edges.
‘Raw edge applique’ is a great way to introduce new shapes and pictures to your quilting.
This pattern uses bondaweb to fix the stem and leaves in place, and simple top stitching close to the raw edges completes the picture. No special foot needed, no changing the stitch settings on your machine. Simple, fun and quick!
So if you’ve never tried applique yet, why not have a go at raw edge applique! The possibilities are endless!
It was a typical spring day here today! Sunshine and showers!
Our walk along the beach was what you would call ‘bracing’! But no matter the season, there is always beauty to be found.
Back in the warmth of the indoors, let’s talk table runners!
Photo courtesy of British Patchwork & Quilting
This is my Drunkard’s Path Table Runner and Mats set, as featured in the April issue of British Patchwork & Quilting.
The inspiration for this design came from the lovely Aylin, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person (love our blogging community!). Aylin very kindly gave me permission to develop this design further, following the beautiful cushion she made.
The curves are achieved by using an age old patchwork technique called ‘drunkard’s path’. This is a modern twist, and I love the many variations the Drunkard’s Path units can create.
It is important to cut out the templates accurately when tackling curved piecing, but if you have a Sizzix cutting machine, you are guaranteed speed and accuracy! The Drunkard’s Patch Sizzix dies don’t come cheap, (you need 2 dies to make up the DP unit) but in my opinion they are well worth the money.
There are several ways to sew curves, and as with any technique you haven’t tried before, I recommend practicing on some fabric scraps first. This pattern explains the ‘no pin’ method of sewing curves, which may seem daunting at first, but it is much quicker than traditional methods and you quickly get into a rhythm with it.
So if you love sewing curves as much as me, pick up a copy of BPQ today!
Edited: This pattern is now available to purchase from here.
Despite the rather damp and dull day today, it’s so lovely to officially start spring!
February may have been a shorter month, but it was a busy one for me!
Mostly sneak peeks here again I’m afraid, and one or two of these not made (but published) in February. But I will tell you about them all in time.
And here are my bee blocks for February:
L-R: Brit Bee R4 block for Ceri; Hedgehog blocks for Anne/Siblings Together Bee 2
So that’s my round-up for February!
And before I go, a wee shout out for donations of fat quarters for my bloggy friend Sheila, who is raising funds for Yorkhill Children’s Hospital in Glasgow, and a special little girl called Beth. You can read more about Beth’s story and Sheila’s fund raiser here.