Everybody loves a Cosy Blanket

With all the wonderful weather we are having in the UK at the moment, there is nothing better than sitting under a nice cosy blanket or quilt, with a warming cup of tea and a good book or a great movie. I love blankets; they can really make your home feel…. homely. If you are in a rental they can make even the ugliest sofa beautiful and they can also become a wonderful heirloom to pass down the generations.

Blankets can be made from anything, knitted or crochet, patchwork, quilted, woven, plaited the possibilities are endless. Blankets of all kinds have such amazing history.

Mariner’s Compass Quilt, Pennsylvania c.1840/1850

Take the American quilts for example. After the War of Independence, American cotton manufacturers found it difficult to compete with European and British imports and textiles were expensive so small scraps were used in geometric shapes to create quilts. By the mid 19th century designing a patchwork quilt had become one of the major forms of domestic folk art. Traditionally an American girl should have up to 12 quilts in her ‘hope chest’ with a 13th being her Bride’s quilt. Quilting blankets became a major social event with ‘Quilting Bee’s’ taking place where pioneer women who lived far apart would meet up (Betterton 1982: 7-8).

Another wonderful type of blanket is the Welsh Quilt or Carthens. All are woven on a Dobby loom, two different pieces of cloth being woven together to form a double cloth. These are heavy blankets weighing over 2 kilos. The most recognisable of Welsh blankets were made across Wales from C18th. Some are still produced at the few surviving Mills such as Rock Mill Capel Dewi , Middle Mill sova and Tregwynt in Pembrokeshire. (http://www.welshblankets.co.uk).

I love making blankets of all kinds and so am sharing a few of my creations here with you so you can see my eclectic love of craft. I will never be able to choose one favourite crafting method, every time I look in a book, read a craft magazine or browse another crafters blog I find a new technique I want to try out and end up loving. Crochet, patchwork, quilting are all methods I love. I am not a great knitter and a blanket would probably take years not days. My next aim is to learn more about weaving. My mum can both spin and weave so I may have to go to her for a few handy tips to start me off.

First to crochet.

My first crochet project

The above blanket was my first ever crochet project. I taught myself so that I could teach a friend. I found it incredibly difficult as I am left handed and therefore have to reverse all of the instructions you find in books. The left handed crafter is definitely at a disadvantage when it comes to craft books and guides. This blanket I started and just kept adding to it and ended up with a huge double blanket but I was so happy with it and it now has pride of place on my sofa.

The current crochet blanket project

This second one is still a work in progress. I found it in a magazine and loved the pattern so much that I decided to make it. It is great as you can use all your wool odds and ends as no two squares have to be the same so very economical!

A crochet Present

Third is a blanket I made my parents for Christmas, I love the colours together.


A Personal Memory Blanket

This is one of my favourite blankets I have ever made. I made it in January this year for my sister Emma’s 30th birthday. The idea is that of a memory quilt. I cut out 30 squares of different fabrics, some with meaning such as the tartan of our school kilt, some of Emma’s old clothes and some of my grans fabrics and then embellished them.

Our school kilt tartan

Some square have embroidery with significant words, dates and occasions.

Embroidered Personal Details

Others have photographs printed on or appliqué.

Felt Storm Clouds and Ballet Shoes

I left a few plain as I didn’t want to overload it. It is a warm blanket as inside is a layer of wadding and it is backed in a plum coloured cotton. It fits a double bed so pretty large but I wanted it to make an impact when I gave it to her.


Personalised Quilted Blanket

This blanket I was commissioned to do as a present for a baby. Both the pillow and the quilt are personalised with the little girl’s name. The client said that I could design the blanket myself with anything the only instructions being that it had to be pink and girly, hope fully the finished blanket achieved this. I loved doing this project, I think creating something with a personal touch that you know someone will treasure is such a wonderful thing for a crafter or artist.

Has anyone else made a blanket or quilt? What is your favourite crafty method? Let me know your latest blanket project.

If you are interested in commissioning a blanket please feel free to contact me to discuss it further, I am always happy to hear from you.

A few References

Betterton, S 1982 Quilts and Coverlets London:L Butler & Tanner Ltd

Kort, E 2008 Wisconsin Quilts: History in the Stitches Krause

A wonderful website and business about Welsh blankets run by Jane beck. Although not a weaver herself, she is interested in the social history associated with the industry, there is so much information on the website so take a look. http://www.welshblankets.co.uk

An interesting little article about the Whitney Blanket http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/g_IeloABTraJ_FvU0m1elg

How to make a photo frame jewellery display

This is a great way to display some of your jewellery. It is so simple and easy to do and looks beautiful with your earrings and brooches hanging off it. It took me about 1 hour to make this small one but if it is your first go just take your time and have fun. They make really nice presents as well.

You will need:

What you will need

• A photo frame of your choice, make sure that you can remove the glass as you don’t need this and sometimes the glass is glued to the frame which you don’t want. Always be careful when handling glass and dispose of it or use it responsibly.

• Polyester or cotton wadding – enough to cover the frame with about an inch on all sides (see instruction 2 below)

• Cotton or fabric of your choice the same size as the wadding

• Ribbons, buttons, beads and trimmings etc

• Cotton thread

• Needle

• Pencil

• Thick card

• Scissors (and pinking shears if you have them)

1: To start, remove the back of the frame and take out the glass.

Draw around the photo frame backing onto your card

2: Place the frame back on your card and draw around it so that when you cut it out is fits into your frame. Then cut about ½ cm smaller on one length and one width so that it is now slightly smaller than the frame back.

3: Use the card to measure the wadding and the fabric (remember to cut them both about an inch wider than the card on all sides). I used pinking shears to cut the fabric so that it won’t fray.

4: Place this card on top of your measured wadding making sure it is central. Then using your needle and thread secure it to one side of the wadding and proceed to sew through alternative sides of the wadding like a corset so that it fits snuggly around the card. I normally start with the width as it is the longest side. Make sure the card stays flat as you don’t want it to warp, so don’t pull the thread too tight, keep the tension nice and even. Do this all the way to the bottom, then knot and secure your thread and cut it.

Sew the wadding on either side in a zig zag pattern around the card

Continue sewing all the way from top to bottom

5: Do this exactly the same length ways. You should end up with your card wrapped in the wadding, nice and flat on the front and with lots of cross over stitching on the back. It doesn’t have to be overly neat as no one will see the back just make sure it is secure. Put it into the frame to make sure it fits. We cut the card slightly smaller than the frame to allow space for the wadding.

Sew the wadding tightly and smoothly both length ways and width ways

Place the wadding wrapped card smooth side down onto the wrong side of your cut out fabric

6: Do exactly the same with the fabric. Place the wadding wrapped card on top of the fabric in the centre and proceed to sew in the sides in the same way as you did with the wadding, crossing over like a corset (instruction 5).

The back with both the wadding and the fabric

7: When it is secure, turn it over and it should have a nice padded flat front. Place this into the frame again to make sure that it still fits with no bends in the card, if there are you have sewn too tightly and you may have to undo and start again.

Pick your decorations

8: Now we can decorate. Use any ribbon or lace you have and sew it anywhere you like. On mine I have sewn a pretty floral ribbon on the base. At the top I have sewn 2 thin ribbons. They are securely attached on either end but on the front they are only attached where the beads are so that they are loose in between. This way you can hang earrings off of them and the beads give it nice decoration.

Place and sew your decorations

Attach thin ribbon with beads, leaving the ribbon loose between them

9: Once you are happy with the decoration put the finished card into the frame and put the back of the frame into place and secure it. Turn it around and there you have your very own photo frame jewellery display. You can now have it standing on its stand if it has one or hang it on your wall.

You can make these in any size you like. I have some big ones that I use for display at my fairs and to photograph my brooches I make. Just have fun and experiment.

Little and Large displays

Ordsall Hall Summer Garden Party

This past weekend on 1st July I was at the Summer Garden Party held at the beautiful Ordsall Hall in Salford. I found out about this event from the blog site http://www.collettecostello.co.uk

The last time I went to visit Ordsall was in 2009 just before they closed it for refurbishment; it opened again May last year (2011). This Garden party was held for the first time last year and so this year I decided to apply for a stall and luckily got a place.

Typically, when I woke up in the morning it was tipping it down with rain. I swear I have a weather curse when it comes to attending fairs. My first ever craft fair back in February was the one day it snowed, and nearly every other one so far this year, it has rained, but I was not to be put off.
When I got there at 11am it was spitting and really windy but we all set up regardless, unsure of whether anyone would turn up. As we were getting our stalls ready, I heard the strange sound of bleating sheep coming from somewhere, not the normal sounds of Salford. They were setting up a pen with sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and ducks for kids to come and see and handle so hopefully with all the different attractions it would be good.
There were about 10 craft stalls selling a range of products from glass to photographs and knitted items. There was a great array of different crafts and no two were the same so as the visitors walked around they would have a brilliant choice of products to buy.

Some of the stalls at the fair

I was really happy with my stall and I think it was my best lay out to date. I recently brought a large wicker basket to keep my fabric in and decided that I would bring it to put my cushions in and it worked brilliantly. It got them off the table where they normally take up a lot of room.

My new wicker basket

My Stall

The fair opened at 12pm and the first few people trickled in. As the day got going a lot of people came through and it turned into a really great day. The weather still wasn’t brilliant and it was freezing stood still but it was worth it. It was great to talk to lots of different people and I got loads of lovely comments about my work. The first thing to go was one of my embroidered needle cases which I had only finished the day before. My owl doorstops were also a great seller.

My new hand embroidered needle cases

There were people working for the hall dressed in Tudor costume wandering about with buckets collecting donations towards the hall, people selling strawberries and cream, homemade chilli and a tent showing you how to make little wands with willow. Inside the hall was a brass band which we could hear from outside and lots of events for the children to enjoy. As expected the sun came out as we were packing up but it finished off an enjoyable day rather nicely.

A little bit of history for you.

Ordsall Hall is a Grade 1 listed historic house in Salford, Lancashire. It dates back over 820 years, the oldest parts still surviving today date back to around the 15th century. It is one of only 8 comparable grade 1 listed timber framed buildings in Lancashire and is one of the finest records of construction techniques and materials of its kind in the North West of England.

The Great Hall Window

Today I went back to get a few more photos for this blog and luckily I was the only visitor there and got a guided tour of the house by one of the fabulous volunteers. It was truly fascinating and you can even go up into the roof space which you couldn’t before and see all the wood work and timber frame construction. It was first the family seat of the Radclyffe family for over 300 years and when they sold it in 1662 it has since been a working men’s club and a church hall among other things. The building was brought by Salford City Council in 1959, and opened to the public in 1972, as a local museum. They have done an amazing job since I was last at the hall and hopefully they get lots more visitors through the doors, I definitely recommend it and it is free entry.

Door detail showing the old and the new

If you want to find out a bit more about Ordsall have a look at these sites:

• The official Salford Council website: http://www.salford.gov.uk/ordsallhall 
• A brief history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordsall_Hall 
• Textile artist Rosie James was commissioned by Salford City Council to create a textile artwork to hang in the Great Hall. For the Ordsall Tapestry she used machine stitch, screen-printing, appliqued recycled fabrics, digitally printed fabrics and some computerised machine embroidered elements. It incorporates images of the local people of the Ordsall area alongside the historic characters who once lived in the hall. It is a wonderful piece: http://www.salford.gov.uk/rosie-james
• You can even go on a ghost hunt at Ordsall hall: http://www.hauntedhappenings.co.uk/ghost_hunts/Ordsall_Hall.php

Bovey Tracey Contemporary Craft Festival


My Craft Festival guide a little dirty after falling in the mud!

The Contemporary Craft festival in the small Devon town of Bovey Tracy on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, has been going now for 9 years. I have wanted to go for the past couple of years but haven’t been able to but this year I finally made it.


The Craft Festival entrance with very ominous black clouds.

My parents live in a neighbouring village so I had a perfect base. The festival runs for three days (this year 15-17 June) and is crammed full of some of the most amazing artists of all kinds, weaver, potters, furniture makers, silver workers and so many more.


Emma with some amazing life size wire sculptures

I went with my mum and sister not knowing quite what to expect and ended up spending nearly 5 hours wandering around looking at all the nearly 200 exhibitors.


The many cards I picked up

Everywhere you looked there was another amazing stall and it was a lot of fun despite the rain. They ran a large kids craft tent for them to have a go at various crafts including weaving on a loom. Other workshops were going on in various tents including mono printing and a demonstration of glass blowing.

Some of the work was absolutely stunning and my definite favourite of the whole day were the pictures by wirework artist Helaina Sharpley, her work was truly beautiful. Her work incorporates everything related to tea and tea drinking http://www.helainasharpley-wirework-artist.co.uk/ I wanted to buy every piece.

I managed to restrain myself from buying much and settled for getting two copies of the wonderful Selvedge magazine and two cards from ceramic and enamel artist Janine Partington http://janinepartington.co.uk/ .


Emma (my sister) brought a lovely bowl from Jane Booth http://www.janeboothceramics.co.uk/site/


 My mum got a pretty planter and saucer from Penny Simpsons Country Range. http://pennysimpsonceramics.co.uk/ .


For lunch we went to the Bovey Devon Guild of Craftsmen for lunch. http://www.crafts.org.uk/ I always love going there, loads more crafts and art from 250 South West based makers. There is also a lovely cafe serving delicious local food. It is housed in an old mill building with the wheel still in situ.


The water wheel at the Craft Guild

The Guild was founded in 1955 by Devon based furniture-maker Edward Baly and a group of enthusiastic people who wanted to promote the best in local craftwork. From the original 18 the Devon Guild of Craftsmen has now over 240 members of the best crafts people in the South West.  We go almost every time I visit my parents and I never get bored as there are always new exhibitions taking place.  The next is ‘Reaching For Gold’ (30th June – 2nd September) and has links and inspiration from the Olympics.

There are so many things to do in the surrounding area and after a bit of lunch one of my favorite things is to head up to the moors and walk to some of the wonderful dramatic tors.


Haytor Rock, just up the road from Bovey Tracey in the beautiful Dartmoor National Park

I will definitely be back to the Craft Festival next year and this time I will be saving up my money so that I can splash out on whatever treasures I find.

Lino Print Inspiration

I had such a positive reaction to my lino cut tutorial I posted earlier this week. I hope that I have inspired a few of you to have a go for yourselves. To give you a bit of inspiration I have found a few prints to show you from some of the amazing sellers on Folksy. These are all one tone prints like the one that I did, I hope you like them.

This beautiful spring daffodil print Billet Doux by Emma Higgins.


I love the striking colour of this flower print by Art by Jools Yasities

Such a simple but very effective balloon design by Anne Thomas of thelinoprinter

The effect of the light in this woodland print is so amazing even in just a black and white print by Vanillaa

This little badger print is so cute by Nina Martel of Martell Mundo

Something a little more abstract by Alison Gibson of SkyBlueView Jewellery and Art

These are just a small selection of the different types of one tone lino prints that you can create. If you love the images produced from lino cuts but are not ready to become an obsessive lino printer yourself why not check out these wonderful artists and many more on Folksy http://folksy.com and support British handmade.

How to create a lino cut

I first learned how to make lino cuts during my art GCSE and loved the whole process.  It is a cheap way of creating your own printed images.  Once you have the basic equipment you can start creating images straight away.  You will need:

Lino blades and handle (you can buy these in a pack of 10 different shaped blades for different effects)

Block printing inks (I started with just black then I got red/yellow/blue and then mix to create other colours)

Lino board

Brayer (Roller) (I have 2: 1 x 2” and 1x 4”)

Glass Sheet to roll out ink

Paper/fabric to print on


All of these are readily available in many art and craft shops and places such as EBay where you can get a lot of 2nd hand equipment.  Living near Manchester I get a lot of my stuff from Fred Aldous on Levers Street, I can spend hours in their basement and they have stuff to suit every art and craft need.


To start you need an image.  I used a photograph of St Peter Port in Guernsey I took whilst on holiday in April.  I picked out a few interesting buildings and simplified the image.  Although when you have done a few prints and practiced you can start to get more detail but to start I would choose a simple image with few details.  This image I then trace with a heavy pencil and then transfer to the lino board by pressing heavily down on the back of the tracing paper, like taking a rubbing.


Once you have your transferred image you can start using the different blades to cut into the lino board (it is good to have a play around on a small piece of scrap lino board to get a feel for the different blades and the way they cut).

I normally start with a fine pointed V shaped blade for the finer lines and then a larger scoop blade to remove larger areas.  You have to be very careful and confident because once you have removed and area you can not put it back! Always cut away from your hand and never put your hand in front of the blade to steady the board.  I have cut myself with a lino cutter before and it is not nice and it hurt so much I fainted but as you can see it didn’t put me off and I haven’t done it since!



I normally cut little by little and keep checking against my drawn image. You do not have to always cut deeply into the lino as it will hold very delicate lines scratched onto the surface. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to imagine how it will print so I sometimes take a quick rubbing over what I have done and it should give you a good image and you can continue cutting away.

Once you are happy with the image, trim away the excess lino board as you don’t want it interfering with your final image.  You are now ready to print.


I use a large piece of glass from a picture frame to roll out my inks but anything with a smooth washable surface that you don’t mind getting a little stained will work.  It is surprising how little ink you need for a print (depending on the size of your image) though it is a fine balance as too little and your image will not be clear and too much it will seep into the cut out areas of your lino cut.  You will very quickly learn to judge by eye the right amount.  Now use the brayer (roller) to roll out the ink.  I normally roll it out side to side and up and down.  You only need to spread it out a little and listen for the ink to make a tacky sound which means it is ready to apply to your lino cut, making sure it is covering all of the brayer.  Then roll onto your lino cut, you will see your image quickly appear.




You can print the image in 2 ways.  I have the paper or fabric ready on the table with newspaper underneath and place the inked lino cut on top and use a clean roller to help press down on the image or you can have the inked lino cut face up on the table and place the paper on top and use a spoon to rub in little circles across the image.  Make sure that you press down on the image as once you have taken the lino cut off you can’t put it back to repress but you can always re-ink and do it again on a fresh sheet if you are not happy. If the image is not exactly right you can always cut a little more away from the lino cut. 



Just mess around and have fun. Try with different colours or maybe add a different lino cut like a collage.  You can even print onto fabrics like the ones I have printed on Linen below.  I hand painted the houses using fabric paint.  I made the t-shirt for my husband as he liked the image so much.  I used Speedball Fabric screen printing ink that you iron to fix to the fabric so that it can be washed.  You roll the ink in exactly the same way as if you were printing on paper.  Natural fabrics work best such as cotton and linen. 



Why not have a go and send me a photo of your finished project and I will feature it in my blog.

Visit my Folksy shop to see other lino printed gifts.







The handmade Union Jack

I have officially joined the craze of the Union Jack today. I have made and listed my very own Union Jack Cushion on my Folksy shop:


Flags have always been popular and especially as a tourist anywhere you realise the amount of merchandise out there from mugs and fridge magnets to tea towels and every school girls favourite, the eraser. This year especially with the Queens Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics being held in London the demand for British inspired products is massive.

The handmade market is definitely not new to the use of the Union jack image but recently there has been an explosion in the variety of products available. There are some truly beautiful creations out there from the very traditional to the more unusual colour combinations. There are products to suit every taste.
This is a gorgeous creation on the miss mustard seed definitely would be a statement piece:


I think sometimes when we use an image that is so well known and loved we can forget the history behind the image. The flag combines the crosses of England and Wales (The cross of St George), Scotland (The cross saltire of St Andrew) and Ireland (The cross saltire of St Partick). The Welsh dragon does not appear as when the first Union Flag was created in 1606, Wales was already united with England and no longer a separate principality.

The origins of the flag can be seen from the standards used in warfare such as by the Roman Legions and the Middle Ages where flags were used as heraldic devices in battle to distinguish the sides. Later during the early 17th Century it was customary and then a legal requirement for ships to carry flags designating their nationality.

Some of my favourite designs from Folksy:

Designed by Suzanne Orme this is a beautiful stained glass Union Jack:

A lovely little pocket mirror to carry around with you by Rebecca Miles:

A lovely cushion with alternative colours designed by Lydia Brearley:

A quirky mini inspired cushion by Stacey Clarkson:

A few days in Guernsey

I have just got back from a lovely few days with my husband and his family in Guernsey in the Channel Islands.  They have all been going for a long time and this was my 3rd trip with them.

  A big highlight for me is the very short flight, just 30minutes from Southampton.  I really hate flying so the shorter the better, though every time we have flown to Guernsey so far we go via Jersey so have to land and take off twice per journey.  This time it was a straight through though the the landing was not good, a little bit windy.

Guernsey is a beautiful island.  It reminds me of my home in South Devon where I grew up.  Rolling green hills, very narrow lanes, sandy beaches and gorgeous coastline.


Even though we are only there for 3 full days we managed to pack quite a lot into our days.  We went for a few coastal walks and as always I was a little snap happy, taking pictures of everything.  On the first day we did a walk along the coast at L’Ancresse Common.  I found a really great seat that looked out to the sea.


Guernsey’s capital is St Peter Port, it is a beautiful port that has been in use since Roman times.  It has loads of history and is lovely just to wander around.  A favorite cafe of the Bishop family is Dix Neuf, which is nice to stop at after a bit of shopping and have a coffee.  It is a pretty port with a mix of architectural styles rising up the hills overlooking the harbor.  It also has a lot of really expensive looking boats.


Another great place to visit is The Little Chapel. It was built by Brother Déodat who started work in March 1914. His plan was to create a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes in France.  It is decorated with seashells, pebbles and colourful pieces of broken china.

 Holidays always go so quickly and this was no exception but I enjoyed every minute of it.  


 I found the trip really inspirational and have got so many ideas for paintings, prints and textiles that I don’t know where to start.  I think that the sea is a perfect subject for the summer so there is a beginning.  My mind tends to want to do everything at once so I think I need to sit down with some of my photos and my sketch book and see where it takes me.



A Sunny Sunday Craft Fair

Yesterday I attended a craft fair at the Last Drop Village near Bolton.  It is a lovely venue, a collection of Georgian farm building which have been made into a hotel and spa with a tea shop and gallery.  My lovely sister Emma came with me to help me out though I think she spent a lot of her time in a queue getting cups of tea.

I met a lot of really lovely fellow crafters and in particular Lynn Holland who does the most lovely illustrations including her cute Doodly Birds collection.  Check out her wonderful blog where she has been kind enough to include a photo of one of my cake stands that she brought off me yesterday.  There is also a link to her Etsy shop, full of wonderful goodies.



I love this wedding guest book, perfect for the coming wedding season: http://www.etsy.com/listing/93139600/hand-ilustrated-wedding-guest-book

Yesterday was the best I have done at a craft fair to date.  The last two were definitely more of a learning curve but were still invaluable experience.  Yesterday was the first time that I got my selling hat on a got to grips with properly talking to people and interacting and not waiting for people to ask me things.  I can be a very shy person but I really enjoyed bantering with customers and fellow stall holders and getting more confident and it definitely makes a huge difference to sales.  Also a big tip is standing up, don’t sit down when customers come over it makes a huge difference, it is easier to interact with people if you are on eye level with them.

I have woken up today feeling really good about getting going with my crafty business and planning where I go from here so watch this space……

A Great Folksy Blog (and I’m in it)

This week I was included in Alexis Johntson Ormolu’s blog. Each week on a Friday she chooses 9 sellers from the Folksy site and shares them with the world. It is a great way to see some of the talented British sellers on the site. This week I was lucky enough to be included with my embroidered coffee pillow: http://folksy.com/items/3099422-Coffee-Break-Embroidered-Cusion

It is such an amazing confidence boost to know that someone has seen an item you have made and thought that it was good enough to be included in their blog so thank you so much to her.

You can follow her lovely blog and see this weeks Folksy shops: