Stash buster for a good cause

So I am really pleased to have found, and joined a community on Facebook called Quilts for Care leavers (Q4CL ) we make quilts and gift them to young people leaving care.

A lady never discusses the size of her stash !

It’s a well known joke among quilters, we all have a stash of fabric and it’s probably bigger than we know; it’s certainly bigger than our loved ones realise.  Who has not sneaked fabric into the house without admitting it to our other half?

Lately I have been thinking about my stash, I’ve been buying and setting aside fabric for years, and now in my 60’s I realise I will never have time to use all that fabric to make quilts or even have a purpose for them.

So I am really pleased to have found, and joined a community on Facebook called Quilts for Care leavers (Q4CL ) we make quilts and gift them to young people leaving care.  It means I can use my stash; piecing blocks to my heart’s content, and never have to make a complete quilt. If you would like to join us you can find us here:

 The quilts made are called “hugs“; made longer than they are wide so they can be wrapped around the shoulders and worn without dragging on the floor. They are intended to be a means of warmth and comfort, perhaps even more necessary in these times of fuel poverty.

Each month a member will propose a “block of the month” (BOM) and set out the instructions for how to put together the fabrics and the size of the block, so that all the contributed blocks will fit together.  Each contributor can make as few or as many blocks as they choose, and send them to the organiser, the person who proposed the block.

 I don’t know if the organiser then puts the quilt tops together themselves, or whether there are teams of people waiting for the incoming blocks.  I’m not sure how the quilts are put together or quilted, no doubt all will become clear in time.

Group members can also create their own “hugs” either just the quilt top then donated to be made into a quilt or they can donate finished quilts.

I contributed to the BOM for January 2022.  So far 4469 blocks contributed; 28 hugs made and counting.

I contributed to the BOM for February 2022.  So far 3237 bocks contributed will make 34 Hugs.

 And I contributed to the BOM for March 2022. Numbers not in yet.

I’m looking forward to the BOM for April,

I’m still working from my scrap box, and picking out scraps from my mother’s stash; at 90yrs old, she doesn’t sew anymore, and she is happy for me to raid her stash whenever I want. Mum would be happy for me to take all of her stash, but where on earth would I put it?

I can’t say I’m having sleepless nights about the size of my stash…yet, but I don’t want to have to strengthen the rafters to take the weight of my mother’s stash, after all she was sewing before I was born, and her stash is impressive, even though she’s been retired for 30 years.  

My block for the Covid Commemorative Quilt

I wanted to give a clear shout out for Social Care, I knew that many contributions would be thanking the NHS, I was going to stand up for the many key workers in Social Care who also went above and beyond during the Pandemic.

What do you do when a planned week of leave is promised cold, wet weather?  I always have a wet weather plan. I spent calm, quiet mornings sewing. As a longstanding member of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles I was invited to contribute a block to the Covid Commemorative Quilt; a collaboration between the Quilters’ Guild and Bernina who make very fine sewing machines.

The remit was to “create a block which reflects your thoughts on the pandemic and the recovery from it… commemorate a loved one lost…the NHS…a key worker … (or) just be a ray of optimism as we emerge”

I wanted to give a clear shout out for Social Care, I knew that many contributions would be thanking the NHS, I was going to stand up for the many key workers in Social Care who also went above and beyond during the Pandemic.

Taking the ‘ Shout out for Social Work’ logo as my design, I resized and printed the logo so that it would fit the piece of calico provided. To ensure all the blocks contributed are the same size, and will go together effortlessly, the organisers very cleverly gave clear and strict instructions. My design must fit inside a 6 inch square centred on the 8 inch calico square provided and must use somewhere in the design a piece of the small 4 inch square of print fabric provided.  Spotty mustard print, its not my thing but the idea is that it will tie each block to its neighbours in the finished quilt.  

Holding the design and the calico up to the window allowed me to check the size was right,  I traced each element of the design onto Bondaweb (it’s a kind of double sided iron on sticky tape for fabric) ; and ironed the elements of the design in place. First mistake, I ironed on the hand first then realised the thumb should be on top of another element. I had to carefully peel it off, just the thumb, and iron it again over the speech bubble.

 That mistake then decided the next step, as the quilt will be for display rather than use, I thought I might get away with raw edges, but having peeled back the thumb it looked a bit shaggy, so now I needed to embroider the edges to stop them fraying.  Thank goodness my sewing machine does a tiny and very neat blanket stitch.

The machine embroidery threads , I have dozens of them, which I bought in a big bag full for £5 in a local charity shop, I do love a bargain. The hand embroidery threads I’ve had tucked away for years, and the fabrics all came from my scrap box, so I didn’t spend anything putting this together, even the bondaweb was borrowed from Mum, she’s 90, and doesn’t sew anymore.

Finally the words are hand stitched, not because I have any skill in that respect, I just wanted to put something of myself into my block, rather than it all being the work of my sewing machine.

Each contributor is also encouraged to say a few words about their block, this is my explanation:-

The NHS received a great deal of well deserved praise for their herculean efforts during the Pandemic, but they weren’t the only group of people who worked tirelessly throughout to keep the country safe.

Being a Social Worker, I want to give a shout out for Social Care, and the people who worked in very difficult circumstances. Some working from their homes, isolated from their supportive community, with fewer and fewer resources to call upon.

 Others left their homes and isolated themselves from their own families, to support the most vulnerable.

These were dark days; so for everyone in social care who spent the time of Pandemic trying to keep vulnerable people safe, supported and out of hospital, a heartfelt Thank You. “

Charitable donations are welcomed to the BERNINA fund-raise for NHS Charities Together , you can do so here

Advent Calendar

Traditionally, (I’m talking about my childhood in the 1960’s), Advent Calendars were a just paper, or card, the little windows had no chocolate or treats behind them, only a little picture and I remember the excitement of seeing what might be behind the little door each day.

I finished this in January of this year; I’d found the Advent Calendar panel, bought years ago, in amongst some Christmas fabrics when I was looking for something else.  I decided that although I’d not get it done for Christmas, Advent was almost half way through, I’d start and plan to finish it, a stitch in time, so that I could hang it for Advent 2021.

It’s just a panel, which has the printed background and a strip of pockets, which are to be cut out and applied to the same image on the background fabric.

 Each pocket was cut, the raw edges turned and I tacked the edge down so that I could see the slim gold line at the edge. The plan was to topstitch the pockets onto the backing with a gold thread, but I didn’t like the effect, so I unpicked the ones I’d done and topstitched in a matching thread. 

 I also considered topstitching in various thread colours to match the colour of the pocket numbers, but that was beginning to look messy, that didn’t work either.

Once the pockets were sewn on, there needed to be more quilting to reduce the puffiness where the pocket were not placed.  I just picked out motifs in the same matching cream thread. Mostly these were hand stitched, because they were fiddly and in some cases too near the pockets for the machine foot to sew without pushing and pulling the fabric.

 I was determined not to buy any more fabric for this Advent Calendar project.  Seriously I have enough fabric to sink a ship. So I found a piece of ivory fabric with a gold and black motif in the Christmas box, which was not quite wide enough, and added green borders to make it fit the back. 

 The reason I chose green, (I’d rather have used red) was so that the edge at the front would match the edge on the back and any wobbliness or misalignment would be less apparent.  It worked and I’m happy with it. There was also enough of the green to make a hanging sleeve.

So the Advent Calendar was finished… well almost.  Traditionally, (I’m talking about my childhood in the 1960’s), Advent Calendars were a just paper, or card, the little windows had no chocolate or treats behind them, only a little picture and I remember the excitement of seeing what might be behind the little door each day.

 I didn’t want to just drop a sweet or wrapped chocolate in each pocket, I don’t need the calories anyway, and I couldn’t guarantee to have the self -discipline not to go chocolate rustling late at night, nor trust the beloved not to do so either. So what to put in the pockets?

As I took down my Christmas cards at Epiphany I began thinking about those little pictures behind the doors on my childhood Advent Calendars.  Would an image on its own be enough?  I cut a number of cardboard squares, small enough to fit into the pockets, each with a Christmassy image, Robins seem to be well represented, but then I like Robins.

That’s where I left it, the Advent Calendar with a temporary hanging cane and a string to hang it by and the pockets full of little squares of Christmas card.

Last month I rooted out the Advent Calendar from its resting place and began thinking about how it should be finished.  I wanted a wellbeing theme, something positive to think about each day, something maybe to do for my wellbeing.  My Niece has an Advent Calendar, which she made from downloaded materials from Calm Moment you can find it here, ( )

 I printed the 24 wellbeing suggestions from the Calm Moment Advent Calendar cut them approximately square and folded each one diagonally twice, tucking it into the pockets on the Advent Calendar. I also searched Pinterest for Christmassy quotes, printed those very small and glued one to each of my little squares of Christmas card.

 Through Advent I will have a Christmas affirming quote and a wellbeing suggestion for every day and not a calorie in sight.

The only thing is… The hanging arrangements still don’t work for me, I need a metre or so of gold cord, and a stick  (with knobs on,) that I can paint gold., and tie the gold cord to. Inevitably even with my best efforts, it wasn’t ready in time for Advent. Shoot me! I’m still working full time and looking after my old Ma, and we have to keep a sense of proportion.  I’ll go into town on Saturday and buy gold cord, the stick I have, knobs are on order, (wooden beads actually) and all will be complete before Advent is over, honestly!  

A Scruffy Little Bear

I thought maybe making this scruffy little bear could help me; having something to do and to think about would maybe help to get my sewing mojo back, and I could learn something new.

I’ve not really been in the mood for sewing lately certainly not quilting and yet I recently found a need to sew for the solace it brings. My Beloved and I are heartsore and bereft. The Boy has left home! On the day he was coming to collect all his belongings, I spent the morning packing up his things, trying not to cry. The hardest thing for me to swallow was he wanted his childhood teddies. He has moved out and come home again a couple of times, but I guess its really final when they take their childhood companions. He really has left home this time. I’m fairly sure there are toys of mine still tucked away at my Mother’s house which I still think of as “home” but I have my childhood teddy Bear.

Once the packing was done,  and while I waited for The Boy to arrive, I needed to find some calm. I settled down to listen to a podcast “ Bearly Begun, episode 4. ” (you can find it on Spotify or )

If you are familiar with the BBC One TV program The Repair Shop you will know the two ladies who repair soft toys, not just bears, on that programme.  (If you don’t know The Repair Shop you are missing a delight, seriously it’s one of the best , I wouldn’t miss it, everything about it is wonderful, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are not in the UK, I think you can find it @netflix.

The Bear Ladies had a project to suggest to their listeners, a free pattern to make a little teddy bear called Scruffy Duffy, well that nearly set me off crying again… Scruffy is the name of The Boy’s bear, which I’d just packed up and said goodbye to, remembering the times I’d read bedtime stories to The Boy and his Scruffy bear. My Stepson and I had first bonded over making paper hats for his teddies from ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’ by Conn and Hal Iggulden, when he was 7 years old.

Scruffy little Bear in progress

I thought maybe making this scruffy little bear could help me; having something to do and to think about would maybe help to get my sewing mojo back, and I could learn something new. So I downloaded the pattern, ordered the bits and bobs required to put it together, found a piece of fabric from my stash, and began.

Scruffy Duffy belongs to The Teddy Bear Ladies, if you are interested in making one you can find the free pattern here, and images of bears which have been made from the pattern can be found on their Pinterest account, there is also an instagram account where you can follow The Teddy bear ladies.  Do watch them on The Repair Shop too.

So what did I learn while making this Scruffy Little Bear?

I learned that my hand sewing could do with more practice, that I’m not good at judging a half centimetre seam allowance by eye, but if you mark the seam allowance on your thumbnail, that works.

I learned that I’m not good at stuffing soft toys, but practice may make perfect, and a pencil helps.

I learned how to create a cotter pin joint; again practice may improve technique, thankfully I have some round nose pliers in my kitchen drawer.

I learned that mohair, despite being more expensive than free fabric from my stash, may have been a better choice, and the pile would likely cover a multitude of inaccurate stitching sins.

I learned that I have arthritis developing in my thumb joints, and that I need varifocal glasses.

Most importantly and with much reflection, I learned that you cannot keep your children close, they will leave home and you have to let them go with an open heart.  I just hope he will let us know where he is and what he is up to, that he will come and see us occasionally.  And if he does decide to join the Army as he says he will, perhaps he’ll need a foster home for his beloved childhood friends, Monty and Scruffy, I do hope so.

An Owl quilt for a dear friend

All I needed was some freezer paper and an iron, how difficult could it be?

I have a dear friend who likes Owls, or “Wols” as she calls them, so when I came across this remnant of fabric being sold at my quilt group meeting I just had to buy it. I didn’t know what I would do with it but I knew I would come up with something. An Owl quilt, a lap quilt, a comforter, a virtual hug, that my friend could use whenever a hug was required and me not there to offer it.

owl quilt
a lucky find

The first challenge was to cut out each Owl with as much fabric as possible surrounding the centre medallion, cut each one with the Owl dead centre in the medallion, and each the same size. The background fabric was too random to give me any help so I devised my own template using a piece of clear plastic  packaging. The circles were asymetrically placed so I needed two squares to fit them into, to “fudge ” a best fit with the centre of the medallion. The outer edge of the template I lined up by eye, given the background pattern was random I knew it wouldn’t cause me too much problem if it was slightly off the grain. In any case I don’t think it was printed entirely plumb with the straight grain of the fabric.

owl quilt
transparent template

Next challenge, there were only 10 complete Owl medallions, and no way of buying more, I had to come up with a design which would make a lap quilt, at least a metre square, and quickly, I wanted to give it as a Christmas present and it was well into November when I began. While I was cutting out the medallions, I was reminded of an old nursery rhyme about a wise old Owl.
owl quilt
Happily its 8 lines long so I could alternate each of 8 Owl medallions with a line of the poem in a plain fabric, but what fabric? I went to the fabric shop thinking cream, and came home with blue, it often happens that way, when I get to see the fabrics together what I had in my mind’s eye just doesn’t work and so I always have plan B.

owl quilt
what to put with it?

Challenge three, how to apply the lines of poetry to the fabric? My handwriting is not good enough. My hand embroidery is even less appealing, not to mention how long it would take me to hand embroider each one. I could have used machine embroidery but I wasn’t convinced my machine would do a good job either, and centring the text would be a nightmare. I did however have a plan. I’d read on Pinterest a number of articles about printing onto fabric using an ordinary household ink jet printer. All I needed was some freezer paper and an iron, how difficult could it be?

owl quilt
perfect…ish, not quite central

The plain fabric was cut slightly larger than the Owl medallions and the printing planned to be in the centre and then trimmed down to the right size leaving a little wiggle room all round in case the centring wasn’t accurate.

Waiting for inspiration to arrive, making cushions

I don’t remember learning that trick or how to thread a needle or set a knot in thread with a twist and flick of finger and thumb, but I can.

I have to admit I still have not completed a project I began months ago, making cushions for my garden furniture.

easy cut to fit
easy cut to fit

Partly lack of time, partly lack of inspiration, the cushion I made for the bench looked a little plain, amateurish, I’m still not sure whether to button it to pull the fabric tight,give it more character and a more professional look or just leave well alone. If I do button it I will have to button the chair cushions too.

Bench cushion: easy envelope closure
Bench cushion: easy envelope closure

I wanted to be able to fasten them in place with ties. Initially I was going to use the spare fabric to make ties but was worried the fabric was too thick, and would not be effective, I decided to use tape. Turquoise tape was my first thought but impossible to find, so I bought cream, on a market stall in Clitheroe, from a little girl helping out her Mother, or perhaps her grandmother during the school holidays. She didn’t understand measurement in yards, so I had to translate for her, and she didn’t know how to wind up the 6 yards of tape to put it in a bag. She began to wind it round her hand but then it got so tight she could not get it off and had to begin again. The stall holder and I both laughed at her struggles, and her nonplussed little face. I watched the stall holder show her how to wind the tape round her splayed fingers, and then close her fingers to simply slip the tape bundle off her hand and into the bag. It set me thinking about how many skills we have that we don’t even recognise as skills, which we do without thinking about and have no memory of ever learning. I don’t remember learning that trick or how to thread a needle or set a knot in thread with a twist and flick of finger and thumb, but I can.

cream tape for ties
cream tape for ties

I wanted the cushion covers to fit well and the cushions to look plump, To get a tight fit of the cover I decided rather than make the cover tight and then struggle to get the cushion in, I would make it loose, and then finish it with an “Oxford“ edge , two rows of top stitching round the edge, making the cushions appear wider, allowing for the slight raised edge of the chairs; while at the same time giving a neat tight fit and a plump appearance.

This cushion cover won’t come off to be washed, but I think I can put each in the washing machine as needed.
The fabric was cut on the generous side to allow about an inch of fabric all around. A narrow seam sewn on two sides with the tape caught in the seam close to the back on both sides, facing in, so that it is on the outside when complete. To close the back seam I tucked the raw edges in and tacked the opening closed, having put in the cushion pad. The top stitching would close the back opening. I tacked around the edge pulling the edges out and positioning the cushion pad at the same time so I had the same amount of spare fabric all round.

finished with an Oxford edge
finished with an Oxford edge

Now comes the difficult part, using a zipper foot, because I would have a lot of bulk on one side, I stitched around once; at this point the cushion cover still wasn’t tight. Going round again a quarter inch closer required a lot of effort, the cushion pad had to be pressed flat with my fingers to allow the presser foot to run over the fabric so close to the pad, and my stitching is a bit wobbly, but the finished article looks OK. One down, three to go, making cushions is easy. I might have them done before the clocks go back at the end of British Summer Time.

Looks Dapper
Looks Dapper

finished the embroidery… now what

I didn’t want to use the wrong red for the borders, it would niggle me, forever.


So now I have finished the embroidery on this piece, I need to decide what to use it for, I have two embroideries each a different size. I think I want to make one cushion from the two pieces, so I need to size them up. Putting wider borders on the smaller piece and a narrower border on the larger piece, but a definite border on each.
I already had a piece of plain red, but it was a little too dark, not a good crimson like the gingham; having put so much effort onto the embroidery I didn’t want to use the wrong red for the borders, it would niggle me, forever.
So off we went to my local fabric shop hoping but not expecting to find a good match… I was in luck, not only did I find a fine crimson 100% cotton fabric which was an excellent match, I also found a bolt of 100% cotton blue and white gingham £2.99 a metre in the sale, I bought the lot, £15 for 5m of fabric, bargain!

see the border fabric to the left
see the border fabric to the left

That morning we had planned to go to the Lake District, on a recce to find suitable holiday accommodation , but we opened the curtains to sunshine and hailstones…big icy chips of frozen rain, so the trip was off. To cheer myself up and remind myself that spring really is just around the corner I took my camera out to the garden, to find a few spring flowers.

cherry blossom
cherry blossom

spring is going to be earlier this year than it was last, I hope.


A new technique; Broderie Suisse

Then I began something more ambitious …

Bargain: embroidery hoops
Bargain: embroidery hoops

I recently bought a collection of embroidery hoops, £2 for 5 at my local charity shop. I’m making a collection, not that I do embroidery you understand, the idea was to use them to showcase some of my beautiful fabrics, the ones I can’t bring myself to cut up, by using the hoops like picture frames and hanging them in groups on the wall of my studio.

showcasing favourite fabrics
showcasing favourite fabrics

See this one with a piece of patterned silk which my mother gave me.

everything I need
everything I need

I also had two pieces of red and white gingham, which had been languishing under the lamp table beside the sofa since Christmas, it had been used to wrap small gifts and being an avid recycler I could not bring myself to throw it away.

Then on Pinterest the other day I stumbled upon Broderie Suisse, (or chicken scratch) and thought….hmmm.

first attempt
first attempt

Embroidery silk… no problem, I have a large tin full under the bed… backing, because the gingham is a bit flimsy… no problem, I have some old sheet which will do… embroidery hoop… what size? I have plenty in varying sizes. Working from the photographs I found on Pinterest, because most of the tutorials are not in English, I made this little heart shaped embroidery.
Then I began something more ambitious …

lets try something on a bigger scale
lets try something on a bigger scale

When it is complete, I think I will make it into a cushion, perhaps a hop pillow, or a sleep herbs pillow, with herbs cut from my own garden, and dried.

My lost fabric materialised too late.

a number of lost treasures which had fallen down the back, a few socks, a scarf, and my precious stash of special fabric. So that was an unexpected piece of good fortune.

The fabric which I had been seeking for months, the fabric I wanted to use to make a quilt for a good friend of mine, it turned up the moment I gave up seeking it. Isn’t it always the way? A cupboard which usually stands at the bottom of the stairs, and holds that part of my stash which I’m not planning to use any time soon, needed to be moved.

We had invited my parents to join us for Christmas dinner which meant the dining table needed to moved to the dining room from the sitting room where it normally lives ( long story, don’t ask), and the two arm chairs which normally live in the dining room, had to move to the sitting room.  The Christmas tree which would normally be put up in the dining room, would not fit in there this Christmas, so we decided to set it up in the hall; the only place it would fit was the spot where the cupboard was standing.

The cupboard clearly had not been moved for some time, and once moved there were a number of lost treasures which had fallen down the back, a few socks, a scarf, and my precious stash of special fabric. So that was an unexpected piece of good fortune.  ( Note to self, clean behind furniture more often.)

Turned up at last
Turned up at last

This is a charm pack of squares, which I need to put together with another bought fabric to tie them all together, and an accent colour to brighten them up a bit, I originally thought of using the terracotta fabric I’ve placed them on but it isn’t right, it just isn’t looking good, so I might see if I can find a mushroomy grey beige for sashing, and a guacamole or mushy pea green for the accent.

Hurry up, Christmas is coming

so I put the fabric aside in a safe place till I was ready to begin….but where?

For months now I have been searching without success for a stash of fabric I had put aside to make a quilt for a friend for Christmas, I had planned to make it last year but ran out of time and energy, so put the fabric aside in a safe place till I was ready to begin….but where? I can’t find it anywhere, and I guess even if I did now, I would not have time to make even the simplest quilt. I even pulled out one of my UFO’s and considered finishing it for her but decided not, I love her dearly, she deserves her own quilt conceived and made specifically for her, in her colours. It doesn’t have to be now and it shouldn’t be rushed or ill conceived, besides I am still having ideas about it, so clearly it is not yet a done deal.

£2.99 Oxfam, Kendal
£2.99 Oxfam, Kendal

However I am making something for her, her own stocking. I found in a charity shop some weeks ago a printed panel for a Christmas stocking, and bought it for £2.99, I guess it would have been £5 to £10 pounds or more to buy in a quilt shop.
I cut the two sides apart and cut out the shapes with a centimetre seam allowance, it needs to be greater than a quarter inch because I will use the seam allowance turned in on itself to neaten the seam. I will sew it at 5/8ths and this will ensure no white will show at the edge.

press before you sew
press before you sew

I cut a lining from a plain white fabric I had to hand and a piece of wadding for each side, and sewed all three together along the top edge the front and the lining right sides together, with the wadding on the back.

not a wadding sandwich
not a wadding sandwich



Then the wadding was trimmed back as close to the seam as possible , and the printed panel flipped over so that the wadding is now in the middle. I neatly pinned the top edge then tacked it to ensure the lining did not roll out and show above the printed panel. I will top stitch when it has been tacked together to keep the top edge stable.

stabilise the top edge
stabilise the top edge


Having tacked all three layers together I am now in the process of quilting the layers together with a gold machine embroidery thread to add a little Christmas sparkle.

a little sparkle to be added
a little sparkle to be added