New Quilting exhibition, Rheged Gallery – a picture post

Last week I made a flying visit to Cumbria to see the New Quilting exhibition at the Rheged Gallery.

New Quilting exhibition - Rheged Gallery, Penrith, Cumbria

New Quilting exhibition – Rheged Gallery, Penrith, Cumbria

Over 70 quilts are on display and 30 quilters have contributed quilts for the exhibition.   There is so much to see – traditional designs, modern quilts, detailed hand quilting, elaborate machine quilting, 3D works, quilts that look like maps, ones that look like travel posters, free cut quilts, improvised piecing and appliqué.  There are even some quilts from the early 1900s on display.

New Quilting exhibition - Rheged Gallery, Penrith, Cumbria

New Quilting exhibition – Rheged Gallery, Penrith, Cumbria

One of my quilts features in the exhibition and here it is on display, yay!

A Life in Film quilt - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

A Life in Film quilt – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

And here is a closer look at the quilt, titled “A Life in Film”,  that I made for my nephew.  It features Polaroid blocks that highlight aspects of his life – growing up on a farm, his love of basketball, a special trip to the zoo, his love of chocolate cake, to name but a few.  I know he’ll love snuggling under it when reading or watching TV.

A Life in Film quilt - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

A Life in Film quilt – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

But enough about my quilt.  Here are some of my highlights and favourite quilts from the exhibition.

Cologne Cathedral quilt by Greta Fitchett - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Cologne Cathedral quilt by Greta Fitchett – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

I loved this quilt of Cologne Cathedral by Greta Fitchett which represents a scene reflected in other buildings.  Those lines between the blocks are really skinny and must have been so difficult to get straight.  It reminds me of photographs made from contact sheets.

Coming into Land quilt by Alicia Merrett - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Coming into Land quilt by Alicia Merrett – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

This was another of my favourites, by Alicia Merrett, showing a pilot’s view of a country landscape at night, with an air strip on the right hand side.  The quilting really helps to accentuate the contours of the landscape and I love the bright colours of the houses shining in the dark.

Sweet City quilt by Marita Lappalainen - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Sweet City quilt by Marita Lappalainen – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

This quilt by Marita Lappalainen made me smile.  Recycled fabrics and crochet pot holders feature in this work of an imagined city.  She said that she wanted to make something “fairy tale like, childish and fanciful”.  I’d say she has nailed it.

Detail of Bitter Pills quilt by Sara Impey - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Detail of Bitter Pills quilt by Sara Impey – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

This quilt, Bitter Pills,  by Sara Impey was especially thought-provoking.  It is a whole cloth quilt featuring free-motion embroidery.  The juxtaposition of the bright colours of the capsules against the “bitter pills facing society” serves to heighten the power of this work.

Detail of Log Cabin quilt made in 1900 - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Detail of Log Cabin quilt made in 1900 – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

This shows the detail from one of the quilts, made in 1900, that is on display.  The quilt is quite large – certainly large enough for a double bed – and must have taken hours to hand sew all those tiny seams.

Detail of Blue Cabin quilt by Joy Salvage - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Detail of Blue Cabin quilt by Joy Salvage – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

A modern day version of a log cabin quilt was also on display.  This one is by Joy Salvage, a young quilter in her mid 20s, and features log cabin blocks where each of the logs are only 1/4 inch wide!

Detail of After Boro quilt by Janice Gunner - Rheged Gallery - New Quilting exhibition

Detail of After Boro quilt by Janice Gunner – Rheged Gallery – New Quilting exhibition

I’m a great fan of scrappy quilts and I loved this one by Janice Gunner.  The colours she has chosen and the lovely hand quilting have transformed old fabrics (often rags) into something beautiful.

I could go on and on about the quilts but really, the best thing is for you to see them for yourself.  The exhibition runs until 23 April and is well worth a visit.

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Bergamot marmalade

Like Ida in the film, Love Is All You Need, lemons are my favourite fruit and like her, I really can’t imagine the world without them either.  (This film, along with A Good Year, is one of my guilty pleasures and both are perfect for this time of year when the days are short and dank and the nights are long and chilly).  Let’s face it, lemons are so useful.  Equally at home in savoury or sweet dishes and even in the odd cocktail (G&T anyone?).  Or there is the healthier option – add a squeeze of lemon juice to a cup of hot water for a great way to start the day.

One of my Christmas presents was this fabulous book by Helena Attlee.

The land where lemons grow by Helena Attlee

The land where lemons grow by Helena Attlee

Part history, part travelogue, part horticultural guide, this book covers the history of citrus fruits in Italy. Written in a gentle, conversational style you will find yourself effortlessly learning about all things citrus whilst longing to pack your bags for a holiday in the sun.

I had been reading the chapter on bergamot and wishing for smell-a-vision. The next day I came across these gems in the supermarket. Yes, these golden orbs  are real bergamot fruits from Italy.  Bergamot is the outcome of a natural cross between a lemon and a sour orange and the best are grown in Calabria.

Bergamot oranges fruit

Bergamot fruits

Bergamot can be used in many ways.  The essential oil is a staple in the perfumery industry and is also used to flavour Earl Grey tea, giving it that distinctive scent.  Of course Bergamot fruits can be used in cooking however I chose to make marmalade with mine.  A quick search of the internet found a number of bloggers who had shared recipes for bergamot marmalade .

David Leibovitz has a recipe for bergamot marmalade.  He includes some handy tips such as “don’t use a food processor, as that will make the marmalade muddy”.  Advice that I ignored entirely (sorry, David) and he is quite right.  Using a food processor does result in muddy marmalade (I had no choice having cut my strips a little too thick).  But who cares?  It still tastes great.

Giulia Scarpaleggia writing as Jul’s Kitchen also has a recipe for bergamot marmalade, based on David’s recipe, along with more information about Helena’s book.

However it was Victoria’s recipe from Bois de Jasmine that I used. Victoria is a trained perfume specialist which is how I first came across her blog – searching for information about a particular perfume.

I followed Victoria’s recipe faithfully although I didn’t bother blanching the fruits first.  I was also saved the trouble of putting the seeds into a muslin bag as there was not one seed in my fruits (is that normal?) and I used the food processor.  Next time I’ll take the time to chop the rinds more finely before cooking.

Bergamot marmalade

Bergamot marmalade

The citrus flavour really livens up a piece of delicious sour dough bread toast.  However it is quite unlike any other citrus marmalade having what some have described as a floral or incense-like aroma.  To me, it smells of heaven and tastes divine.  It is sunshine in a jar and the perfect antidote to the grey, cold weather of mid-January.  Definitely banishes those winter blues and will have you dreaming of sun-drenched beaches on the Amalfi coast.

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Field of Light at Waddesdon Manor

Last night I went to Waddesdon Manor again – this time with my camera which I had forgotten the last time (face palm, as my niece would say).  My purpose in going was to photograph the light installation by world-renowned artist Bruce Munro.

Named Field of Light, the installation is made of 9,000 lights “planted” in the Manor grounds.  During daylight hours they looks particularly uninspiring.

Field of Light – daytime

Once darkness falls however, they light up and take on an ethereal beauty.

Field of Light at sunset

Each globe cycles through subtle changes in colour.  In one case moving gradually from golden yellow…

Field of Light – golden globes

…to bright turquoise.

Field of Light – turquoise globes

The lights cover a large area near the Aviary and appear to stretch for miles.  To my mind, they look like fields of bright coloured tulips…

Field of Light

Or city lights seen from afar.

Field of Light landscape

It is a really beautiful exhibition and sadly is only on for a few more days.  It finishes on 2 January 2017.

Field of Light scene

Catch it if you can…and don’t forget to take your camera.

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A great gift for that hard-to-buy-for person

I’m been wracking my brains thinking of Christmas gifts that might appeal to that hard-to-buy-for person, or the person who has everything, for the fussy person and the ones who just don’t know what they want (let’s face it, we all have at least one of these types on our lists).  The last thing you want to get them is something that they will stuff in a drawer, or worse, re-gift to you next year.  So my suggestion is this – cupcake toppers that you add to your own cakes!

Wait, hear me out.  Who could refuse some delicious cakes – perhaps they’re shop bought or you’ve made them yourself with some help from the kids – topped with luscious buttercream and some WOW cupcake toppers.  Your cupcakes will be beautiful to look at, yummy to eat AND no need to find space for extra stuff.  Plus they will be handmade which will make them just that little bit more special.

Here are some lovely designs for you to consider.  Teachers, dads and granddads would love cupcakes decorated with these cheery Santa and reindeer toppers.

Cupcake toppers - Santa, presents and Rudolf

Cupcake toppers – Santa, presents and Rudolf

Friends who like all the trimmings would delight in these cute pudding and robin toppers (just so you know, the pudding and robin are made from chocolate flavoured fondant for extra tastiness).

Cupcake toppers - Christmas pudding, trees and robin

Cupcake toppers – Christmas pudding, trees and robin

Or what about these adorable snowman and polar bear toppers?  They would certainly put a smile on someone’s face.

Cupcake toppers - snowman, snowflakes and polar bear

Cupcake toppers – snowman, snowflakes and polar bear

The ones I like best however are these ones, which will look like a little painting when presented in a cupcake box.  First up, a scottie dog playing in the snow with a snowman.  How cute is that?

Cupcake toppers - snowman and scottie dog

Cupcake toppers – snowman and scottie dog

Scottie dog again, this time posting a letter to Santa.  I hope Santa gets it in time.

Cupcake toppers - letter box and scottie dog

Cupcake toppers – letter box and scottie dog

And my favourite – bright lights welcoming you home on a dark, snowy evening.

Cupcake toppers - snow scene

Cupcake toppers – silent night

All these designs will be available at my table top stall at the Frost Fair in Thame (it’s on 1 December between 8pm and 10pm at the John Hampden School if you are in the area).   And if you’d like something custom-made to reflect the interests of a special someone, then do contact me.  I look forward to seeing you at the Frost Fair!

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Heart quilt – work in progress

I’ve been wanting to make a heart quilt for ages and finally decided to take the plunge.

The pretty aqua and pink floral fabric below is the one that I chose as the starting point for my quilt.  I then selected other fabrics in co-ordinating colours of pink, green, warm grey, aqua and bright navy.  Most fabrics were from stash however I did need to purchase a few more (as if I needed an excuse).

Fabric selection for heart block quilt

Fabric selection for heart block quilt

Here are the fabrics that I chose.   They look very light and pretty with a really summery feel (the dappled sunlight only adds to the effect).

All blocks were made using the heart tutorial by Cluck Cluck Sew.  I made the 10 inch block size and separated them with 2 inch (finished width) sashing.

Footprints on my heart

Footprints on my heart

This block is one of my favourites.   It has tiny footprints as part of the fabric design.  For me, it is a visual image of the old saying – “Some people come into our lives and leave.  Others leave footprints on our heart and we are never the same”.   I didn’t notice this when I selected the fabrics so this is one of those happy accidents – love those!

Heart quilt front

Heart quilt top

And here is the finished quilt top – finished size about 60 inches square.  Photographed on rather a dull, grey day however it still retains its prettiness.  If you look closely, you’ll see that I substituted one of the navy fabrics for another with more white in it which I think works much better.

Half square triangles

Half square triangles

When making the heart blocks, I also took the wise advice of Jeni Baker.  In her last newsletter, she recommends making half-square triangle blocks from the off-cuts as you make each block.  Initially I was going to save the cut off triangles in a plastic bag, knowing full-well that I would probably never get back to sewing them together.  Doing them as I went along means that I now have a stack of half-square triangle blocks ready for another project.  Win-win!

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Chocolate crackles! Yum-my!

Any fellow Australians out there will immediately recognise chocolate crackles.  They are a staple birthday party treat, along with fairy bread, mini sausage rolls and frog in a pond (not as awful as it sounds – this was a chocolate frog in green jelly).

Chocolate crackles

Chocolate crackles

Chocolate crackles are quick to make and can be made well in advance.  Because there is no baking involved, chocolate crackles are also a great, easy recipe to make with small children.

Here is the original recipe from the Kellogg’s website:

Ingredients

250gm Copha
4 cups rice bubbles/krispies/pops
1 cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup desiccated coconut

Mix rice bubbles, icing sugar, cocoa and coconut in a large bowl.
Gently melt the Copha, let it cool slightly and stir into the other ingredients.
Spoon mixture into paper patty pans and refrigerate until set.
Makes 24.

Having promised to make chocolate crackles for a recent event, I was horrified to find that Copha (solidified coconut oil) is unique to Australia and doesn’t have an equivalent in the UK.  What to do?

Thankfully I found another recipe (from Green Gourmet Giraffe, which she got from The Sydney Morning Herald) that uses chocolate instead.  Phew!  Here is the alternative recipe.  I’ve added in weight measures for the dry ingredients as Australian cup measures are slightly larger than UK or American ones.

Ingredients

200gm milk chocolate
100gm dark chocolate (I used one that was 54% cocoa)
3 cups (90gm) rice krispies/pops
1 cup (80gm) unsweetened desiccated coconut

Mix rice and coconut in a bowl.
Melt the chocolates together – I did this in a bowl over a pan of simmering water however it could be done in a microwave.
Pour the melted chocolate over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spoon mixture into paper patty pans and refrigerate until set.
Makes 16.

Now that half-term is coming up, this would be a good recipe to have up your sleeve if the kids get bored, or if you need a quick make for school fetes or parties.

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Memories of childhood Polaroid patchwork quilt

Here at last is the quilt that I exhibited at the recent Festival of Quilts held in Birmingham.  It is called Memories of Childhood because I felt the little fabric pictures perfectly capture the joy and innocence of being a child.

Memories of childhood Polaroid quilt

Memories of childhood Polaroid quilt

With over 80 different fabrics used for the Polaroids, there is so much to discover in this quilt.  One hundred Polaroid blocks are featured in the quilt and no picture is repeated.  There are birds, wild animals, cats, dogs, insects, boys and girls playing, mythical beasts and much, much more.   This “Blast Off” block even glows in the dark!

Polaroid quilt detail

Polaroid quilt detail

You can see more detail In an earlier post  of some of the Polaroids before they were pieced into the quilt.

All the blocks are tilted to give the impression that the Polaroids have been randomly strewn across the quilt.

Polaroid quilt detail

Polaroid quilt detail

I love these Polaroid blocks.  They make a great i-spy quilt for rainy day games.  And imagine the stories you could make up with your children using these little blocks as inspiration.

The back of the quilt is just as lovely, featuring this fabulous print of scooter boys and girls by Aneela Hoey.  It has been carefully pattern matched for a seamless finish and the red and white binding (also by Aneela Hoey) frames the quilt beautifully.

Memories of childhood Polaroid quilt back

Memories of childhood Polaroid quilt back

At 61 x 62 inches (155 X 157 cm) it is the perfect size for picnics, cuddling on the sofa, a cape, a den, a bed or thrown over a chair.

The quilt is made from high quality 100% cotton quilting fabrics, wadding and thread and has been professionally long-arm quilted (the pattern is called cool beans) to make it sturdy and durable.   Warm and snuggly, this is one of my favourite quilts.  Definitely one to be played with now and a treasured heirloom for the future.  I’ll be listing it for sale via my Folksy shop very soon.

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Log cabin patchwork coasters

At the end of September my friend Emma is running a coffee morning to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.   A special event at her coffee morning will be a raffle of lovely handmade items made by local crafters.

Raffle contributions were asked to have a kitchen theme.  I drew a blank on what to make until I saw this quick, fun tutorial that Jeni Baker featured in her latest newsletter (I definitely recommend subscribing.  It’s a great read).

Log cabin quilted coasters

Log cabin patchwork coasters

This set of six cute coasters was made entirely from scraps from an earlier quilt.  The only change I made to the tutorial was to fussy cut the centre squares thus highlighting a kitchen related image – the fabric collection is called Milk Cow Kitchen (Moda) which explains the pictures of cows and milk bottle tops.

Log cabin quilted coasters

Log cabin patchwork coasters

These sweet coasters would look fab in a county kitchen or a rustic kitchen or any kitchen really.  To be in with a chance of winning these or any of the other lovely prizes, check out Emma’s Just Giving page and help support this worthy cause.   Good luck!

Baby boy Polaroid quilt

A new baby calls for a very special gift and what could be more special than a gorgeous  baby quilt.  

My latest obsession is definitely Polaroid blocks.  I love them and don’t they make a fabulous baby quilt?   Here I have fussy-cut my favourite fabrics to produce a quilt perfect for the new man in your life.  Each of the blocks has then been cut to make them slightly wonky, as though the Polaroids have been tipped from a box onto the quilt.  

There is so much to discover in this quilt.  You’ll find a boy riding a scooter, a fierce ninja, a tiny snail, a cute dachshund.  There is a crow peeking from the bushes, some ghoulish skeletons and my favourite, a scary tyrannosaurus (RAWWRR!).

 

Baby boy photo quilt

Baby boy Polaroid quilt

This little quilt, being approximately 27 by 32 inches, is the perfect size for a baby.  It is soft and supple and therefore great for cuddling baby.  It can also be a play mat, changing mat or pram blanket when the baby is little.  

Quilting detail on baby boy Polaroid quilt

Baby boy Polaroid quilt detail

Even better, it can be folded and rolled small enough to fit into a bag so the quilt can go wherever they go.  Once your baby boy gets a bit older, the Polaroids will make for fun games of i-spy or for story-telling.   Use it as a wall hanging, as a colourful addition at the end of their big bed or thrown over a chair.  

Backing on baby boy quilt

Baby boy quilt reverse

The backing in Kona cotton teal looks great against the binding – a sweet seedling print by Denyse Schmidt.  

Being made from 100% cotton makes this quilt so easy to care for.  Just give it a short, cold machine wash and dry it flat in the shade, or pop it in a dryer on a low setting.  It will come out as good as new.  

This quilt will make a wonderfully versatile and practical gift for any baby and will soon be available via my Folksy shop.  

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Regent Street lawn quilt

Often simple is best.

Start with a couple of charm packs (I used Moda’s Regent Street lawn) and two metres of a solid fabric (I used Bella Solid in off-white).

Fabrics for Regent Street charm quilt

Regent Street lawn quilt materials

Cut the solid into 124 individual 5 inch squares.  Sew the charm squares and solid squares together randomly into 16 rows with 13 squares in each row.  Then sew the rows together.

Regent Street lawn charm pack quilt

Regent Street lawn quilt

As you can’t always find a fence tall enough I had to photograph the finished quilt hanging sideways.   The quilt is 72 inches by 58 inches which is easily big enough for a single bed or as a large throw for the sofa.

Here is a close up showing the backing and detail of the quilt.

Regent Street lawn charm pack quilt detail

Regent Street lawn quilt detail

The lawn fabric is beautifully soft and silky giving the quilt a luxurious feel.  And the long arm quilting in Curlz adds a lovely texture.

This quilt design is based on the Lazy Daisy pattern by Jeni Baker.  It is a easy, simple pattern that is perfect for beginners.

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