Birds on a string

Not real ones! Mum bought me, as a Christmas present, Carolyn Forster’s ‘Little Quilts and Gifts from Jelly Roll Scraps’, along with a pack of batik jelly rolls in greens and blues. So I thought it would be nice to make something from it for Mum for her birthday, and I liked this decoration, like ones you see in a gift shop, with three stylised birds. Not that I suppose she has a great need for birds on a string, but never mind!

The book has pages of templates for the patterns, thought for some, including the body for the bird, the templates are reproduced at 50%, but I found my village shop has a photocopier so that was okay. (Took me about half a dozen attempts to position it correctly, but we won’t go there).

The pattern calls for a certain length of three jelly roll strips to be sewn together, using the usual quarter inch seam, then the body template drawn and sewn round on the back of the fabric, with a gap at the bottom for stuffing later.IMGP1875 outline

I’m not that handy with a sewing machine but surprisingly only had a couple of re-does.

Then it was cut out about 1/4 inch from the lines, turned inside out and stuffed, the hole then whip-stitched closed. The seam of one came open because I stuffed it too hard, so that had to be re-done.

before stuffing

I did enjoy choosing the fabric, all of which came from my stash – the dark blue from the batiks Mum gave me, the rest just fat quarters I fancied! I think all the ones from my stash are Makower. I was particularly chuffed with the fabric with little birds making up a bigger bird.

The wings are created from another template, but are sort-of quilted, not stuffed. The two pieces are placed front-outwards either side of a piece of wadding, then the template sewn round and the end result cut round with pink shears. I think I cut mine too close to the sewing line, if there was a next time I wouldn’t do that.


This fabric came from the short-sleeved top I sewed last year (or was it the year before?), I only used it once, on the wings of one bird, but I had to feel like I was making a stab at using leftovers!

The wings were attached by sewing a button on and then using a doll needle to go right through the body of the bird. I had great fun choosing the buttons, though the ones with cherry blossom style tree branches on probably cost more than the rest of it put together (slight exaggeration)!

The hardest bit was pushing the cord through. Choosing the right width of cord and beads online was tricky, the cord didn’t go through the eye of the doll needle so I had to use a tapestry needle, get it just through, and then my husband got the point with pliers and yanked. My heart in my mouth in case it ripped a huge hole in the whole thing. I’ve since bought a mattress needle, which may do the trick were I to make any more, but I don’t know. Also angling the direction the cord went through so they hung more or less horizontally was a learning curve, the first time I did it I pushed through vertically, but of course the head is heavier so it pointed steeply forwards, so that I had to be taken out.

I’m pleased with the end result, it was a good project for part of the week’s holiday I had, and most importantly, Mum claims to like them!

bird string 1bird string 2

I only hung them by the window to get enough light for a photo, or they’d fade, and I know they aren’t at the window in their new home.

Farmer’s wife 9-block cushion and visit to the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show

This week I’m visiting my family in sunny Northumberland (it actually is at the moment, too). Left hubby at home because he’s allergic to the large hairy mutt, and as a side issue is also at work.

Large hairy mutt contemplating mischief

I got the train and Mum and Dad picked me up from the station late on Thursday night, then had Friday to wind down, and on Saturday Mum and I got the train to Edinburgh. I actually spent all of Friday until about 6 p.m. working hard on quilting the Farmer’s Wife cushion cover I sewed for my brother (who was out at work on Friday). By dint of staying up late in the week leading up to coming home, and taking the project to work so I could do some at lunch times, I’d done the quilting along the sashes and then around the shapes on four of the five blocks, and sewed the top and bottom edges of the back onto the front before I set off for my parents’. The last bit was because I have the sewing machine set up in my flat and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use Mum’s machine and didn’t fancy sewing the whole thing together by hand. Friday evening we first tried to get Mum’s old sewing machine to work, then we gave up and after dinner I stayed up til midnight sewing the back of the cushion on by hand. There is a theme here akin to the Christmas cushion cover and my aunt’s quilt – I need to organise my time better!

Here is the end result (complete with squint central square!). I don’t the off-white is so bright in real life, the flash / sun makes it look over-exposed. I’m glad I spent time doing the extra detailing on the back.


The photo below was taken late on Friday night, when the dim lighting showed up how quilting round the shapes gives them more depth in certain lights. On the other hand, I would like to do free motion quilting in a fancy design all over it, but alas I don’t yet have those skills!


Saturday was fun! We got there early (the trains were only at 8.33 or 10.20 and then we had to get from the train station to the bus station and get the shuttle bus out to where it was being held, which was a half-hour ride, so definitely worth getting the early train). We had a good look at all the stands, and the displays of knitting and quilting. Also some textile art for sale to people who can afford original artwork, but the detail in some of them was incredible so an art collector would be spending their money well. It wasn’t as busy as the one I’ve been to in London, which was a good thing, but still busy enough that there were some stalls where you had to negotiate your way to try and see what was for sale. There weren’t as many fabric stalls as I’d have liked, but then I’d already decided not to buy much as I’ve got a substantial stash at home and I now know that these shows aren’t really the place for bargains, more to see what’s out there (and even then, many online stores have more extensive ranges). Japanese fabric seems to be on the up, and there was a stall selling good quality Japanese fabric. Felting also seems to be popular and there were some fantastic creations on show.

I bought a kit to make a box from Japanese folded patchwork, which I’ve started because I didn’t have time to cut pieces for an autumn quilt block to bring with me, so it’s good to have a project to do here (though I do have knitting which I brought with me). The company’s called Euro Japan Links Ltd. It’s a 5-inch box with no lid, made from 5 squares. As well as the instructions, they give you the dark red fabric which is the backing to each square in this kit, wadding, and 7 squares from which you choose 5, which is good, and I bought two more fat quarters from their stall that I thought I might use in the box, or if not will use another time because they’re navy and cream so useful colours. Whether I’ll make the box successfully is another matter!

IMGP0652I also got a lovely little embroidery kit, which will be a new endeavour for me because I don’t do embroidery, just cross stitch, which I don’t think counts, but the autumn picture’s gorgeous so I hope to do it well. I got a few fat quarters, from a stall selling 4 for £10, mainly because I liked the dark blue but then spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding on another three to blend. In the end I found two to blend and got a random third that I think will match with a red and white check I have back in the flat.

Oh, and Mum kindly bought me a new pair of sharp little scissors because my current ones are quite blunt (and weren’t even fabric scissors to start with)!

Not loads but that’s good because I have to carry them back on the train, and have plenty projects to be getting on with and don’t really need anything else. But it was a good day out. Mum got a kit for knitting a teddy bear made from knitted patches which she’s started already, so I’m looking forward to seeing the end result of that one day! So long as the dog doesn’t get his paws on it, of course…


Safe to say that trying to put the plane journey to good use by crocheting snowflakes was not a success (and this was the best of them!)snowflakeI found the thin crochet thread hard to work with, and it was really difficult to see what I was doing. I’m going to try again with knitting wool and a thicker hook, but probably not for a while as I’ve lots of other projects ongoing.

But while in  Washington, although I decided against going to the Textiles Museum because I was told it’s mainly photos and not so good since it moved location, I did come across nice examples of textiles work both historic and modern.


19th-century quilt in the National Museum of American History

IMGP0181Amazing beadwork on a vest made by a member (or members?) of the Cree peoples in Canada, c. 1920 (National Museum of the American Indian). Just one example of many.

Carpets designed by Erbil Tezcan and hand-made in Afghanistan using traditional techniques and natural dyes: close-up of  one and a distance shot + 3 close-ups of another. He is one of the artists helped by the British NGO, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, founded at the request of the Prince of Wales and the President of Afghanistan ( and whose work is on display at the Sackler Gallery. I loved the colours and detail, and that they are made by hand by craftspeople.

Patchwork colours inspiration at Dumbarton Oaks!

New fabrics

New fabric bought at the quilting show – most for autumn quilt, but a few for a spring quilt that’s on my radar as a ‘to do one day’ project and for which I’m collecting pretty fabrics in pinks and greens when I see them (trouble is my enthusiasm for fabrics will have me collecting too many different patterns again); also a Christmassy one of course! I love Christmas fabrics but don’t actually have any plans for them. For the current quilt, I wasn’t sure about the birds when I bought them (it was on a 5 fat quarters for £10 stand) but I’m using a square as the centrepiece of the latest block and now love it. Cutting it carefully so as not to have a headless bird though! I saw that some of the fabrics are heritage ones, recreations of old fabrics from the US, one labelled as a 19th-century one (I think the darkest green one you can see here). They’re lovely and I wonder if the bird one is one of them. I can’t really identify it, and wonder if it’s an American species? The pinecones are a bit whacky (you can’t really see, but there’s a gold thread in it) and a brighter green than anything else I’ve got so will be hard to match up, but I’ll get it in there somewhere!