Warm colours in February

This week, in the studio, I have been working hard on a lap-sized quilt in warm colours of peach, orange and aqua to off-set the grey February weather outside. The quilt will use all those colours as solids, plus the four colourways of my ‘Flowers from Kirkcudbright’ print collection (click here to go to my Spoonflower studio where you can find these fabrics). I used the dark version of this print in the bag I blogged about previously (click here to see).


I have made the quilt in response to a Mystery Quilt Sudoku Challenge designed by Lesley Coles which appeared in four successive issues of the magazine ‘The Quilter’, which is the members’ magazine of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles. Lesley devised a complex quilt based on the sudoku number puzzle. It proved quite as challenging as one of the paper-based sudokus I have occasionally attempted in the newspaper! Here’s the first row, comprising three complete sudoku puzzle grids.


The quilt, which is a largish lap-sized quilt is now finished and bound. These mystery Sudoku quilts will be shown at the Quilters’ Guild conference and Annual General Meeting at Torquay at the end of March, so I’m looking forward to seeing the other quilts.

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I have been a member of the Quilters’ Guild for several years and can really recommend this. The QGBI has a number of ‘Special Interest’ groups too, such as the newly-formed ‘Modern’ group that you can add on to your general membership, so there really is something for everyone.

QGBI is divided into regions, each of which has a regional magazine.


Living in Durham, I am part of Region 15E, the North-East, and our region is very active with two regional days a year, several workshops and other ‘quilty’ activities. If you would like to join the Quilters’ Guild,or to find out more, click here .


Pins and pincushions

In April last year, I paid a visit to Jenners, the famous department store in Edinburgh, Scotland, which was once known particularly for its fabrics and haberdashery. Now it has just one modest haberdashery department. However, in that department I found a very splendid pincushion (marked down in the sale, what’s more). I do like a nice pincushion! This is a good size and really sturdy.

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I had been thinking about the pins I use and so proposed this topic as the subject for an article in Popular Patchwork.  It appears in the March 2017 edition of the publication and you can see the reference to this, down towards the bottom of the cover, as in ‘Amanda Ogden shares the story of her pin obsession’.


I became very interested by the strong resemblance of very old (for example Romano-British) pins to the ones we use today, and so included some of these in my article. The editor Elizabeth Betts writes:

Recently, I have been slightly obsessed with following the finds of mudlarks on Instagram. In case you have never heard of the term it is a nineteenth century word given to people who look for items on a river bank. It used to be a job, and not a pleasant one I would imagine, but now history enthusiasts and collectors go treasure seeking. The mudlarks I follow search for items around the River Thames and recently one posted a photograph of some Tudor pins. They looked beautiful. Utilitarian, damaged and aged, I cannot help wondering whose workshops they came from, what they would have helped make and how they ended up in the river. I searched for more images and found lots of examples of pins found along the banks of the Thames from medieval times onwards. I am slightly squeamish, but tempted to book onto a tour, imagining it to be like beachcombing but messier! If you are intrigued to read more about pins then turn to page 48, where fellow historical sewing fan Amanda Ogden shares some of her finds, and has also designed two handy pin cushions for you to make – perfect if you are spring-cleaning your sewing supplies this month.

Near the top of the cover under the flag MAKE, there’s a reference to ‘A circus pincushion’ which is the first of the two I designed: it’s a larger table-top ‘Big Top’ shape in suitably traditional circus colours. The second is a useful wrist pincushion, for which I employed a starry white on red theatrical-looking fabric, like the kind that might be made into clown’s trousers, or a tight-rope walker’s costume!

Durham Quilting? North Country Quilting?

My quilt group is called ‘Durham Quilters’, so-called because we all quilt and we also all live in or near Durham in the North-East of England.  Every now and again, we do something extra, like this week when seven of us booked our usual room, but on a Saturday in the day-time (instead of our usual weekday evening), in order to get to grips with designing a whole-cloth quilt.  By ‘whole-cloth’ I mean a quilt made from a single fabric in which all the design element is provided by hand-quilting (or in the case of ‘strippy quilts’, the background fabrics are two alternating wide bands of coloured cloth). There is a long and strong tradition of this kind of quilting in our area and it is often referred to as ‘Durham Quilting’. However, this is perhaps somewhat inaccurate and a truer description would be ‘North Country Quilting’ as the quilting patterns typically seen in County Durham are also found all the way across to the North-West of England. Other areas have their own distinctive patterns, for example those found in Welsh quilts.

For many people, Amy Emms was the archetype of the North Country Quilter. I am happy to have on my shelves this book (which I highly recommend) about her life and her craft. She was not only a practitioner, but also a teacher who passed on her skill to many in this area. You can see her photograph on the cover of the book and examples of her beautiful work, featuring several different quilting motifs round the outside of the photo.

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So on Saturday, we seven armed ourselves with tracing paper, squared paper, set squares, compasses, ruler, pencil, rubber and waterproof pen and gave ourselves six hours to make a start on our quilt design. We  also took along resources to show and share, including two wonderful vintage North Country Quilts and numerous books, magazines and templates. This was a self-help session but we did have Gillian with us (click here to see a photo of Gillian) and she showed us how to draw round a coin to make the traditional feather pattern which is seen so often in North Country Quilts. In the old days before the introduction of decimal coinage, it would have been a six-penny piece for the smaller circles and a half-penny piece for the larger ones.  I settled on a penny and a ten-pence piece and this is my feather shape, drawn on tracing paper with pencil first (to allow for rubbing out of less than curvy curves!) and then inked in with waterproof pen. I drew the feather to fit neatly into a 6″ by 3″ rectangle (approximately 15cm by 7.5cm), to help with the planning of my quilt.

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The fan, which also measures just under 6″ along the two straight sides, would look rather good in some corners…

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Several of my fellow North-Country Quilt designers are aiming for double and king-size quilts. My more modest goal is a cot quilt size. I have come across all manner of different sizes for ‘cot quilt’ and have plumped in the end for a convenient 36 x 48″. Convenient for me, that is, so I can count in sixes and twelves when designing! I shall be using inches throughout. I used some squared paper to help me, drawing up a scale version of my quilt as I went. I use squared paper a good deal when I design quilts. Although I use computer software for other purposes (like designing fabric – click here to see some designs) I am wedded to pencil, squared paper and a rubber for working out what my quilts will be like. This squared paper is ruled in 5mm squares as it happens, but that was irrelevant as I simply allowed one square to represent one inch. So the rectangle representing my quilt was 36 squares by 48 squares. This meant that I could sketch out the rough design of the quilting motifs as I selected and traced them. Here is a glimpse of part of it, in which you can see the drawing-in and rubbing-out, as I changed my mind.


In the centre, there will be a traditional wreath shape – I love this shape!

North Country Quilts wreath.JPG

I want to have a scallop-shell pattern for which I just need a semi-circle. There is a beautiful altar cloth with a large scallop-shape design in Durham Cathedral, so that seems an appropriate one to include.

North Country Quilts scallop.JPG

There will also be plain 2″ radius circles. Maybe just circles in a row, or possibly circles which overlap (a ‘wineglass’ pattern), but there’s no final decision on that yet.

North Country Quilts circle.JPG

I naively thought that armed with my scale diagram and my full-sized motifs, I could just go ahead and mark the design out onto my fabric, but my expert friend explained that if you have made a mistake in your calculations, it is then very difficult to correct it. Ah, yes. Thus the next step is to draw up all the motifs, full-size, in the correct place, on a large piece of tracing paper which has the dimensions of just a quarter of the quilt, so in my case 18″ across by 24″ high. This quarter can be flipped horizontally and vertically to provide a tracing for each of the four quarters of the quilt. I am using this small light-box, which is proving extremely useful for the tracing of motifs at this paper stage and will come in handy again when it comes to tracing onto cloth.

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The hand-quilting expert who I met last year (click here to see that post) marked her fabric out with pencil, so I plan to do the same. I’m excited…

I have already sent a February 2017 calendar page (featuring one of my fabric designs) to those who have asked for one. ‘It’s cute!’ is how one of the recipients responded – well I did go for a Valentine’s theme.  For your free calendar page, fill in the reply form below and I will send you a PDF of the February sheet and add you to the list for the upcoming months.


Pretty Fabric Bag and Calendar

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This week I have been stitching a pretty fabric bag, based on one I developed for a class last year. As you can see from the ‘bag contents’ strewn about, it’s a small bag, just about the right size for a night out, a party or a wedding. It’s quick to sew up and it only uses two fat quarters of fabric, that is to say two contrasting pieces of material, each 21 x 18″ (53 x 46cm).

For this bag, I used my own ‘Flowers from Kirkcudbright on black’ for the outside and a rich aqua colour for the lining.

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Kirkcudbright is a favourite holiday destination for us and the owner of the house where we stay has a superlative garden. The flowers in the print are based on a drawing I made from a plant in one of her borders, last time we were there on holiday. Click here and here if you would like to see the other colourways.

The only other materials needed for the bag are a reel of matching thread and a large button. As an inveterate searcher for such items in charity shops, I always have plenty to choose from. I really liked this one, though I have no idea at all of its provenance or age:

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I have written up the instructions for the Pretty Fabric Bag on the Instructables website, so you can make one yourself. Click here to see them. These are FREE.

And speaking of things that are FREE, I am just preparing to send out calendar pages for February 2017 to everyone who asked for one last month. The February calendar page is A4 size and includes a design taken from one of my fabrics. February’s includes quite a lot of pink and has a spot of romance about it, with a nod to St Valentine’s Day. If you haven’t already signed up to receive calendar pages from me during 2017, please fill in the contact form below.  Looking forward to hearing from you!

Fabric design work this week

Spoonflower is where my fabric designs are stored in an online studio. Click here to go to my studio, called ‘Amanda Jane Textiles’.

Each week, Spoonflower issues a design challenge and this week’s was ‘desert animals’. I did some research and made a list of different animal species, but really it had to be camels. They are such splendidly different creatures and having seen and experienced how their extraordinary feet work on shifting sand, I really wanted to draw one. I have other fabric designs that feature creature families, so I decided to do a mother and baby. Here is the art-work in progress.


I felt they deserved a palm tree too.

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And here is the finished design.

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‘Mama camel and baby’ fabric design by Amanda Jane Textiles

The design will be available from Spoonflower in about a week’s time and they print on a wide variety of fabrics, so there is something for everyone.

Fabric brooches & beautiful clothes

Last week was quite a week. As I mentioned in my last post, my quilt was on the cover of Popular Patchwork (click here if you missed it!) which was a lovely surprise. However later in the week I headed off the the Durham central post office to pick up a parcel. I wasn’t expecting a delivery, so was somewhat intrigued. Inside was a paper copy of Sew News, which included this article:


I was so pleased with how the brooch (one of two) was styled – so pretty.  My article included instructions about using vintage fabrics to make brooches using a variety of techniques and also gave advice on handling old materials. Sew News exists as a paper magazine and as a digital (on-line) publication. My contract specified that I would receive a paper copy of the piece I wrote for them and here it was:


For more about the magazine, go to www.sewnews.com.

In my last post, I mentioned my month by month calendar for 2017 and there is still time to get a free calendar for January which includes one of my textile designs (January’s is ‘Fireworks in the Alps’). Just fill in the contact form and I will send you the January page as a PDF and you will get another page in time for February and so on.

And now for the beautiful clothes. For the whole of 2016, I have been following with great interest the work of a young friend of mine, Lydia, who has created over the twelve-month period all  the clothes she needs, with the intention of having a completely new wardrobe and getting rid of all her previous clothes. This she has now done and the new clothes are simply gorgeous. Lydia is trained in garment construction and tailoring, but has a high level of skill in surface pattern as well, so many of the pieces she has made are very decorative. I recommend to you a close examination of all the posts in her blog starting right back in January 2016. You can find her at www.mademywardrobe.comI have a visit to her studio in Bristol scheduled for next month and I just can’t wait…


Happy New Year!

My New Year greetings are somewhat belated this year as I spent the first half of January in India – I will be writing more about that in due course. I am writing this post on Monday 16 January, sometimes referred to as ‘Blue Monday’. To cheer you, however, I have exciting news and a small gift…read on.

On the way back from the airport I called in to a large nearby supermarket to pick up  the February edition of Popular Patchwork. Somewhat thrillingly, the quilt I designed is not just inside – it’s on the cover!


‘Winter Roses’ is made of fabrics in reds and creams, with a roses print at the centre of each block. I had a lot of pleasure making it, so I am delighted others will be able to make their own version.

I would also like to offer a small gift with this post, to thank you for reading my blog. I have created an A4 diary page for January, which features a seasonal design from my fabric collections which is yours FREE. Please fill in the contact form below and I will send you a PDF of the page for January ready for you to download and print. I will follow this up with a new page at the start of each month this year. (Yes definitely at the START, there will be no more of this shilly-shallying!) I look forward to hearing from you.

Putting up a Christmas tree

How many people does it take to put up a Christmas tree? Well, a fair few when it comes to the large-scale tree in Durham Market Square:


The effort was absolutely worth it – the market square looks just beautiful at night:


My village has a tree too, which I love:


And there’s one in our house:


With the Amanda Jane Textiles ‘Christmas Tree Skirt’ round the base of course!


On that note, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas. Plus I want to send out a special note of thanks to everyone who follows this blog. You know who you are and I am grateful to you. If you are reading this and would like to join them, so you get a copy of each post as soon as I write it, please press the blue ‘Follow Amanda Jane Textiles’ button lower down this page.



“I’m doing patchwork all the time…”

No, that’s not me talking, with reference to the title (although it’s true of me too). In an earlier blog I wrote about visiting Mandy Pattullo at her studio in The Hearth, Horsley (click here to see it) and recently I was there once again to interview Mandy for ‘Popular Patchwork’ magazine. It’s been a big year for Mandy, who recently published her first book ‘Textile Collage’. Here’s a glimpse of the article:

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The whole interview can be found in the January edition of ‘Popular Patchwork’ which is out now.


It’s been a pleasure working with the editor Elizabeth Betts, pictured on the title page. And at the bottom of the page,there I am, listed as a contributor.


And here’s the bio:


At the back of the magazine is the preview for the February edition, which mentions a black and red quilt ‘Winter Rose’ which I designed. Look out for ‘Popular Patchwork’ from 13 January 2017.


How to layer up a quilt (the #100 days, 100 blocks quilt)

As I mentioned earlier, this autumn I took part in an Instagram quilt challenge to make a quilt block a day, each to be taken from Tula Pink’s book ‘100 modern quilt blocks’. The challenge began on 17 August and concluded on 24 November, so it was quite a considerable commitment. One block a day had to be uploaded on to Instagram, which was part of the point for me as I wanted to become more familiar with this wonderfully immediate mode of communication. It was fun seeing the same block, made in a myriad of different prints and colours, being posted on the same day from locations all over the world.

This week, I finished putting the quilt top together. There are 10 blocks in each row and 10 rows, with sashing strips and corner-stones separating out the blocks. There is a  narrow purple band around the whole thing and then a six-inch border of the same fabric as the sashing strips. Here it is hanging from the banister which at the edge of my mezzanine studio.


This is a large quilt: 92 x 92″ (234 x 234cm), so I knew that layering it up was probably going to be tricky. In the event, it went quite well.  Here is how I did it.

1. I ironed the quilt top and the backing fabric really thoroughly. Then I moved the sofas aside in our living room, which has a wooden floor. This give me just enough room to lay the quilt out flat, and the wooden planks gave me some straight lines to work with too! I taped the backing fabric to the floor with wide masking tape, ensuring that the material was pulled really tight. The fabric for the back was joined down the centre and the pieces on the sides were joined at the mid-point. These seams gave me a mid-point on each side. DSC_0027.JPG

2. I folded the wadding neatly into four  and laid it on the top right-hand quarter of the backing (with the folded edges of the wadding facing in towards the quilt).DSC_0032.JPG3. Then I put on a mask, because breathing in glue (in any form) is a potential health hazard!DSC_0030.JPG4. I lifted the top edges of the wadding and folded them back so that the top one-eighth of the backing fabric was exposed. I sprayed this with a temporary adhesive for fabrics (I used the 505 brand here).DSC_0033.JPG5. Then I folded the wadding back down. With my hand on top of a single layer of wadding, I smoothed the wadding onto the backing in that one-eighth area of the quilt.dsc_0036                6. Next, I re-folded my wadding into the neat shape I began with  (see photo 2). Then I folded the shape upwards to expose the next eighth of the quilt. I sprayed the backing, then folded the wadding back down on to it and smoothed the bottom single layer of wadding as before. By now, one quarter of the wadding was attached to one quarter of the backing.DSC_0035.JPG7. Then I sprayed the next eighth of the backing (working downwards), and then unfolded, and smoothed the wadding onto the backing. Finally, I did the same again with the last eighth, which meant half the wadding was joined to half the backing.

8. The left-hand side of the quilt was easier to manage, as there was now only one layer of wadding to deal with. I sprayed a quarter of the backing at a time and smoothed the wadding onto the backing.dsc_00349. Once all the wadding was attached, I laid the quilt-top on top of the wadding, right side up. I then folded the quilt-top down the centre line, so the top lay folded, right sides together, on one side of the wadding.DSC_0040.JPG10. I attached the quilt-top to the wadding at the top and bottom with a quilter’s pin, ensuring that this point aligned with the centre point of the backing beneath.dsc_004111. Then I sprayed the wadding  which was to the left of the quilt-top, from the top to the bottom of the quilt and reaching across one eighth of the total quilt. Then I opened out the folded top and smoothed it onto the sprayed area.DSC_0042.JPG12. Once this was flat, I folded back a strip one-eighth of the quilt wide, from the top to the bottom of the top, sprayed the wadding and then re-folded and smoothed this part of the top. The other half of the quilt was done in the same way (steps 11 and 12).DSC_0044.JPG13. Once the process was complete, I pulled up the masking tape from one edge only. Then starting at the mid-point of that side. I tacked along the edge. I started at the centre point and worked outwards ensuring that the border was completely smooth. The three remaining borders were treated in the same way.DSC_0047.JPG14. Here is the finished item draped over a sofa while I tidied up! The whole process took two hours.DSC_0048.JPG