How to make a simple patchwork quilt part 1 – Working out the size, design and fabric needed.

My Thursday evening sewing ladies are making their very first patchwork quilt. Patchwork quilts can take a long time to complete which often makes it quite a daunting task to even start for beginner sewers and some intermediate sewers. There are lots of different design you can choose from and if this is your first quilt the design really is everything in terms of success and enthusiasm!
Here is a selection of quilts I’ve made over the years…

quilt 01

This quilt is the first one I ever made and I started it when I was 18 and finished it when I was 20. It’s a king-sized quilt and made entirely from hexagons and the design is a well-known traditional patchwork design called ‘Grandmother’s flower garden.’ It was far too ambitious a project for me to do as a first quilt as the hexagons are small and have 6 sides to sew especially as I didn’t have a sewing machine when I started it and half of it I actually hand sewed! I admit to loving and hating this quilt in equal measure in the 2 years it took me to make but as it’s seen me through university, living on a boat for 3 years, picnics with my family –no 3 son is sat on it in the photo – and it currently spends its winters on our bed keeping us warm. It’s now 19 years old and I love it!

quilt 02

This quilt I made as an example of my work to use at craft fairs. It’s made from lots of recycled fabrics and I used white squares with appliqued cupcakes on to add design and interest. The flower border breaks up the white squares and I added a wide pink fabric border to finish it off. I like to add borders to my quilts as I think that just like a picture frame pushes your eye to the main part –the picture; I believe the fabric border does the same with the patchwork design.

quilt 04

This quilt is another appliquéd quilt and I used my sons’ old baby grows and cot bed sheets to make it. I cut the sheets into squares and from the baby grows I cut hearts and hand sewed them onto the squares using blanket stitch. This took forever and if you have a machine that does a blanket stitch I would advise you to use it!

quilt 03

This quilt was made for a customer out of her fabrics and I have to say it was one of my favourites as I wouldn’t have ever chosen the colours myself but having made it both Hubbie and I said we loved it and would have it on our bed!

quilt 05

This is a quilt made as a surprise for my eldest son whilst he was away at his grandparents. It was a whirlwind to get it finished before he came back but very much worth it to see the look on his face when he saw it on his bed. This was made from cutting long strips of fabric and sewing them together as one long length. This is a technique favoured by people who make ‘jelly rolls’ quilts (Moda is the company that make the pre-cut strips) and has become very popular of late as you can made fabulous quilts very quickly so they really suit a beginner.

I love making quilts and the people I’ve made them for have always come back and said how much they like them so I hope you have as much fun making yours as I do mine!

For our quilt we are going to make a simple one using large squares. This is easy to do and won’t take too long but will also teach you the very basics in making quilts so you can then go and learn other techniques to add to your design.

Fabrics to use

Choose fabrics that are or ‘equal weight’ this means that the fabrics are similar thicknesses so you wouldn’t have denim with a thin cotton fabric. I use cotton fabrics as they wash well and are good quality so last for a long time. You can upcycle special fabrics you already have, use your children’s old clothes but also add in new fabrics at the same time. It really is up to you what you’d like to use.

I wouldn’t use stretchy fabrics as once cut they can lose their shape easily which makes them also difficult to sew. Whilst this isn’t impossible it has hard for beginners to work with stretchy fabrics.

I have my material now how much do I need?

We are going to make a single quilt measuring 140cms x 200cms. I like my quilts to hang over the sides of the bed and definitely cover the duvet. A normal single duvet is 120cms x 200cms so I’ve added another 20cms to make sure this happens. You will need a template of 22cms x22cms to cut 70 squares of your fabric. I collect used cereal packets  and make my templates out of them and once used they are then kept in a box for future projects. Draw a 22 x 22 cms square on the cereal packet then cut it out making sure you stick to the lines as closely as possible as even if you are slightly off the line the size won’t be quite right. Using squares of this size will give you the finished quilt size of 140cms x 200cms – taking off 1cm each side of the 22cms x 22cms template square for the hem.

So that’s part 1 of the tutorial. I’ve explained what we’re going to do, what design we’re going to follow and what you need to get started with your quilt.

Cutting out the fabrics does take quite some time but there are pre-cut fabrics available should you wish to buy them.

Part 2 next week -working out the design of the fabric squares and making a plan to follow to make sure the design is followed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thank God my eldest can read!! (Or ‘Who needs Sat Nav!!’)

Today we all got in Merry (our new mini) and drove off down the lane very excitedly for our first big adventure together. Actually it wasn’t that being in Merry was necessarily the big adventure it was more the fact that Merry doesn’t have a Sat Nav and I’ve come to over rely on it in the past few years to get me anywhere in the car. Hubbie had downloaded the ‘Tom Tom’ Sat Nav on my phone and I had printed off the directions from Google maps so we were all ready. Adventure or not: we were prepared…

As we pootled our way down the lane the Sat Nav confidently spoke its directions and the boys all started doing impressions of the voice telling us to ‘take the next right’ in that rather BBC announcer voice that made us laugh. As I turned out of the lane and drove up the hill I noticed the Sat Nav was quiet and when I glanced down I found that it had gone grey meaning it had lost its GPS signal. Now I’m no technical geek when it comes to all things new but I did have a sneaking suspicion the mobile Sat Nav wouldn’t work as when I run I use an app that measures time, distance, calories burned and all that jazz and it, more often than not, doesn’t work due to losing the GPS signal. It catches up with me after a minute or so so I don’t let it worry me but this is quite major when you need to know whether you are turning left or right and you need to know it NOW!

I got the printed off directions and tried to read them. I know this was a) totally dangerous and b) totally illegal so I quickly handed them to my eldest Ollie for him to read to me. Now Ollie has never seen a set of directions (though he has been orienteering several times) and there was his harassed mum handing him 2 pages of A4 and saying ‘Start from number 5!!’ He found number 5 and read it out to me and off we went again. The Sat Nav added its ‘two penneth’ when it found us again but this became quite infrequent…

As we made our way onto the motorway I talked to Ollie about the motorway signs, about how they were blue and that each exit was called a junction and this number could be found on the left hand square on the sign. He pretty soon became very good at reading the directions, telling me then looking out for them on the signs and when the GPS came back but thought that we were in a housing estate to the right of the motorway even managed a sarcastic ‘well I don’t think that’s right…’

As we headed out of Bucks (the internet and mobile phone twilight zone county) and into Oxfordshire the GPS steadied and we were more able to rely on it again. Ollie looked at the directions less and we started to chat about Dr Who, Harry Potter and Warhammer. I pointed out landmarks on the way saying that’s that how I learned to navigate my way around when I was younger and that we didn’t have Sat Nav or mobile phones to help us. I told him about the time that I was on my way up to have my wedding dress fitted in a town past Manchester and that I had to find my way up using no motorways (they all seemed to have heavy traffic) and that I used a map and had absolutely no problems. I knew my home county –Berkshire – like the back of my hand and could get to new places using the knowledge I had from old places I’d been and joining up the dots (roads) in between. Yes I was proud of my sense of direction, he could tell…

…but where had it gone?

Since I have had a car with a Sat Nav I have been lazy. I haven’t bothered to look around me and see where I was travelling, looking for landmarks that would help me either find it again or at the very least find my way home when I’d got to my destination. I’d simply pushed the buttons, accepted the destination and off I went.

Moving to our new home last year meant that we moved to a new county and it was also rural –the quaint English country roads that surround us are beautiful but have virtually no road signs to anchor you into actually knowing where you are. If you get lost, you stay lost for quite some time until you stumble on a village or kindly looking local who can point you back in the right direction. When we moved I thanked God for Sat Nav as there was no way I would have found my way back home once we’d left it to find the supermarket, local town and parks.

Although I say that I have a friend who moved to the same area as us at the same time and her car didn’t have sat nav. She used a map and notated everything she needed to know for future journeys on the map. She had no trouble finding us –although others with Sat Nav did and even scolded us sometimes about how ‘difficult we were’ to find. She found all the new play places, car parks, shops that she needed and never appeared to get lost. I didn’t realise how great this was until it was way too late.

Not only did my friend find her way round very quickly but she started giving directions like a local pretty soon too. She’d say ‘Ooo I wouldn’t use that road, it’s never very quick’ or could be heard to confidently give directions to other new mums to new places whilst I just stood in awe. She couldn’t understand it when she tried to tell me where something was and I didn’t know ‘where the soft play was that it was next too’ was as I’d never looked about me as I used to find my bearings. She not only knew our new area but she hadn’t lost any of her old skills as I had. Bugger, that’s a double whammy.

So now I’ve ‘de-skilled’ myself in relying too much on my Sat Nav I need to claw my sense of direction back. Ollie was great today and because he can read in the car totally saved us all. I didn’t have to pull into laybys to look on the directions to find out where the heck we were, he just told me and then found the signs. He even remembered the roundabout with the ‘McDonalds on!’ and told me because of this he knew we were on the right road.

All those years of ‘Biff, Chip and (bloody) Kipper’ were worth it as today I could have kissed each silly named one of them. My son can read which meant he could tell me where I should be going. I just need to make sure that I turn the Sat Nav off to use a map or printed directions as this is a) much more fun because we talked and b) much more useful in teaching Ollie and the boys how to find their way about.

Posted in Family, The random thoughts of me, Things to do with your children | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

how to be a knight 1

We’ve been looking at ‘How to be a Knight’ this week and the boys decided that the first thing you needed as a Knight was armour. We read books about knights and Tobes and Hen thought that anyone without armour couldn’t really call themselves a knight so I popped off to the local supermarket and got some wine boxes as these are the perfect size for them and it wouldn’t need to much hacking with a pair of scissors.

Here’s how we made them…

I cut the back and front off the wine boxes.

how to be a knight 2

I cut a semi-circle out for their head to fit through and also to shape it round their neck to make it more comfortable to wear. I then cut 2 long rectangles to use as shoulder straps and also to attach the front to the back.

how to be a knight 3

I used double sided sticky tape –great for the boys to peel off as it is a little difficult. Tobes found it way easier than Hen.

how to be a knight 4

We attached the straps as per the photo.

how to be a knight 5

Not the best photo (it is hard to show something that needs two hands when you are taking your own photos!) but I then manipulated the straps through my hands to soften up the part that goes over the shoulder. This makes it curve rather than stick out.

how to be a knight 6

The boys then stapled the straps on to add security. (It also gives another fine motor skill for them to use their hands for)

how to be a knight 7

Here’s the cut out armour.

how to be a knight 8

We then drizzled white PVA glue all over the front part of the armour and the boys used their hands to spread the glue about – they LOVED this bit!

how to be a knight 9

We then rolled out the tinfoil and stuck it onto the glue card. This was great for the boys to estimate how much they’d need, measure against the card and also judge their success.

how to be a knight 10

They folded over the tinfoil and then spread glue on the other part.

how to be a knight 11

I’d had a play with the tinfoil previously as I wanted to see if you could indent the tinfoil with a pattern. The richer knights, to show their wealth, had lots of decoration on their armour and this was something I was keen to do with the boys.

how to be a knight 12

Here’s Tobes using the wrong end of a paint brush (it’s rounded and blunt enough to leave an impression other things may rip the tinfoil) to add his own decoration. He wanted to be a very rich knight so he took a while!

how to be a knight 13

Here’s my very scary knights on their trusty steeds (bikes!). You’ll see that Henry has no tinfoil on his armour and that’s because he wanted to be the black knight and was very happy with his armour just the way it was. They can get their armour on and off by themselves so whilst this isn’t the most sophisticated costume it is one they’ve made themselves and they can use totally by themselves.

how to be a knight 14

Knights need to practise their skills and so do my Knights…

how to be a knight 15

…so I set up a ‘jousting’ target for them to ride their bikes up to and knock down. This was great fun and they spent ages playing together. I love Tobes’ tongue sticking out in concentration!

They had great fun making these and have been using them a lot I think because they are very proud of what they’ve made. Ollie now wants one for himself (he’s 8!) so we’re on the hunt for larger boxes for him.

We’re next going to be looking at the chivalry part of being a Knight so I think my next blog will be on how we get on with that.

See the boys in action jousting below!

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Paper Craft 5 – How to Make a ‘Chatterbox’

How to make a ‘chatterbox!’


Take 1 page of an old magazine and fold it as in the photo…


Fold the top rectangle over…


Rip the rectangle off. Now you’ve made a square with your page.


Open out the square and fold up the bottom right hand corner to the middle as in the picture.


Fold in the other corners to meet in the middle.


Turn the folded page over and then fold up the bottom right corner into the middle as before.


Fold all the corners in, as before, too.


Fold the square in half and press the crease.


Fold in half and crease again.


Open out and slide your finger into the pockets.


Here’s what it looks like with fingers in all the pockets.


Take your fingers out and place it on a table and write the colours on each of the flaps. (You can use different coloured pens or different words if you’d like)


Turn the paper over and mark numbers 1-8 on the triangles as in the picture.


Now here’s the fun bit! Under the number flaps write little forfeits for your chosen person to do. I’ve got ‘Make a funny face’, ‘Tell a joke’ and ‘Do 10 star jumps.’ You can make them as complicated or as simple as you’d like.


Now here’s the fun bit! Under the number flaps write little forfeits for your chosen person to do. I’ve got ‘Make a funny face’, ‘Tell a joke’ and ‘Do 10 star jumps.’ You can make them as complicated or as simple as you’d like.

Posted in Things to do with your children, Tutorials | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Paper craft 4 – Flowers

Here’s how to make a bunch of flowers using leftover magazine paper…


Take apart an old magazine…


Take 1 sheet of paper and cut it in half…


Roll it up starting with the widest part of the paper.


Cut a little bit of double sided sticky tape and put it on the edge of the paper. (You can use ordinary sellotape doubled over to make double sided sticky tape)


All rolled and stuck. The first stem.


…the second one is finished.


Get another page from the magazine to make the petals.


Fold it in half.


Fold it in half again.


In half again…


…and in half again!


Draw a petal shape on the folded paper and cut out.


Here’s the cut out petals.


Here they are arranged very prettily (see I am easily distracted!) You get a lot from one cut.


Take one of the petals and put a little bit of the double sided sticky tape on it.


Stick another petal to it and add another bit of double sided sticky tape and keep adding the petals.


Here’s a flower head all made.


Take a button and add double sided sticky tape to the middle of the flower.


Stick the button in the middle of the flower head.


Take the stalk and add more double-sided sticky tape ready to stick the flower to it.


Here’s the finished flower!


You can make lots out of one magazine with different coloured buttons for the middles. Cut the stalks to different lengths to have different height flowers and you can also vary the size of the petals to make larger and smaller flower heads. If you’re feeling like you’d like lots then you could make your very own flower shop for your little ones. Add prices, a till and some play (or real) money to have a different sort of play shop. Or you can just use them as decoration in your home as I have; these are now in my workroom hanging from the window!

Posted in The workroom, Things to do with your children | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Bum cream? I salute you!

When I was in hospital after having my first son a kind lady popped her head round the door and handed me the bounty pack (in Britain all mum’s are given a plastic bag full of leaflets and ‘stuff’ from companies promoting their goods. Some of it’s good, some of it’s rubbish) in which I delved in to have a look and see what it was all about. There was a free nappy –very clever pampas to get us all hooked from day 1 as I’ve never really used anything else! – leaflets about anything from breastfeeding to depression and just at the bottom was a tiny pot of cream in a little grey tub with a bright red label and white writing. This cream was to become my friend and a very good one at that…

Sudocrem is an ‘antiseptic healing cream’ which, as I’ve found out, can be used just about anywhere on your body that you need to be mended. We’ve used it for chapped lips, sores on hands and knees, rashes and also sore baby bottoms. Although the boys never got proper full on serious nappy rash just occasionally they became red and sore so the cream was slathered on. You quickly learn with Sudocrem that you need a cloth next to you when you apply it, or at the very least a wet wipe, as it’s so thick in consistency that it coats whatever it comes into contact with making your hands, lips, knees and their bottoms bright white with a greasy texture. Once you’ve applied the cream to a wriggling baby without anything to wipe your hands with you learn about the cloth and from then on it’s always at hand.

We’ve used other healing creams but none seem to do the job quite as efficiently or quickly as after application and a night’s sleep the problem almost always seems to have gone and for that it’s fabulous. No more sore lips, red knees or bottoms. In our house it’s called ‘bum cream’ as that’s where we started using it for the boys and as each new boy has arrived the older ones knew what the ‘bum cream’ was, where it was kept and they could go and get it for us in times of need. I also know of other families where they children knew where it was and several have had a very happy 10 minutes covering themselves in the thick white cream as it’s fab for making mohicans and other sticky up hairstyles. It’s great for smearing down walls and it’s amazing to put on the carpet and build mini sculptures with as that thickness lends itself perfectly! Oh yes parents, be warned, the fascination for the cream isn’t just for you as your little will have a curiosity about it too…

It’s been known as the ‘bum cream’ for as long as we’ve had children but it’s now moving on to being used for grazed knees and sore lips (I say sore lips but really with Henry it’s the bright red ring that surrounds his lips caused by him licking them in the Winter) which, if you put it on at night, makes the soreness go by morning. The only problem being is that as we’ve called it the ‘bum cream’ the boys are now looking at it with a mixture of repulsion and confusion as just why on earth would mummy be putting stuff that should go on their bottoms onto their faces?? I’ve tried to re-introduce the bum cream as healing cream but they do look at me like I’m nuts.

I’d recommend this cream to any new parent. Well, I say parent when, in fact, anyone could use it. I’ve even known a lady use it on her horse’s nose as it kept getting sores and it worked pretty well there too. So really it should be; when healing is required, this cream will do the trick. I just wouldn’t start calling it ‘bum cream…’

Posted in Family, The random thoughts of me | Tagged , , | 10 Comments


Those that have been wronged (or even have a perception of being wronged) quite often say ‘oh well, what goes around comes around’, and ‘it’s Karma’ both meaning that eventually the person who wronged them will get some sort of just deserts and something bad will happen to them. Karma is a safety net to keep us all from going over and just punching someone when they’ve annoyed us as whether we are spiritual or not the idea that bad things happen to us and nothing happens in return (did I say return? I think I meant revenge) makes us feel awful and we do get a huge sense of comfort by the idea of Karma. Karma’s great. Someone annoys me or is awful to me but one day, even though I may not be there to see it, they will get what’s coming to them for being nasty to me. Unless you’re the one having a dose of Karma thrown at you…

When I was younger I wasn’t really a model student though I certainly wasn’t the most rebellious in the class. Occasionally I would join in with those causing a kerfuffle but generally only in a ‘safety in numbers’ kind of way. I have been part of a class that was known as ‘the terrible 1B’ that apparently no one wanted to teach. I know we were terrible as this was shouted at us by a rather scary welsh history teacher whilst we were all waiting outside for our class to start. He made the boys get into press up position and us girls stand with our hands on our heads. We had supply teacher after supply teacher but I remember 2 out of the many. Mrs Anderson and Mrs McDonald.

Mrs Anderson was a lady who clearly looked after herself as I remember her with immaculate blonde hair and she was always well dressed. She couldn’t quite control the ‘terrible 1B’ but came back day after day to have a go. Maybe she thought she would crack us or maybe she thought each day was a knew day that couldn’t possibly be worse than the last but now having been a supply teacher for a year before graduation I salute her silent determination. One particularly memorable lesson was when she bent over and her pearl necklace broke releasing tens of tiny little pearls everywhere, all over the floor. Now, as an adult, I would rush over to help collect all the pearls but then as part of the terrible 1B I just sat and laughed at her wildly patting her chest and saying ‘oh my, oh dear!’ as they went all over the floor. She wasn’t the worst teacher though that accolade should be reserved for the wonder that was known to us as Mrs McDonald.

Like I said having been a supply teacher I know it’s hard work. To take a class for a lesson or a day that you know nothing about and they know nothing about you is amazingly fraught with danger. Walk in slightly nervously and they will smell your fear and leap on it with relish. I had a class in a rough area of Reading that appeared to be behaving until I asked them to go back into class from the playground. Once I’d done this they knew I actually couldn’t make them so they sat down and refused to move. After 10 mins I had to admit defeat and go and get the Head who absolutely bollocked them (you could in those days) and off back to class they went. I have no idea how she made them do what she did but they were never any more trouble to me after that. Mrs McDonald was one of those quite, nervous looking ladies who you knew only did supply teaching as a way to pay the bills as there was no way anyone would really I want to come back to teach us ‘1B-ers’ but she did and we were awful to her. One lesson we sang ‘Old McDonald’ until she went out to get one of the Welsh teachers to shout at us to be quiet. When he came in we all stopped as his mere presence was enough to silence us all –it also might have something to do with him putting us in press-up position or making us stand with our hands on our heads till they ached -which was surely illegal? Again though there is one particular lesson that I remember when we just hummed. One single note that slowly everyone joined in. At first she tried to ignore it then she walked around saying ‘stop it!, Stop it!!’ and then she began manically trying to listen in to each table to see it the person sitting behind it was humming, which of course they weren’t as we stopped as soon as she came anywhere near us.

1B were awful. We were awful. I was part of the awfulness.

Many years later after a stint at Music College, a year out and a teaching degree I found myself at a Catholic School for my first job. It was an extremely high achieving school with very high standards and I was in my first year having an issue with a boy who had learning difficulties. I’d tried most things that I knew to help him but felt that he needed a bit more than my teaching degree could offer so a meeting was called with the local special needs coordinator from the local education authority. I was looking forward to this meeting as I wanted to help the little boy so when the day came I had all my evidence ready and all my thought and observations ready to share. I popped into the staff room to make myself a quick cuppa before going back to my classroom. I strode over to the kettle at the back of the room, put it on and as it began to boil I heard a familiar Scottish voice. Stunned in my tracks I listen more carefully and stared at the wall above the kettle. As the kettle boiled I realised who the voice was. It was that of Mrs McDonald…

I made my coffee and went to sit in the corner of the room alongside Mrs McDonald (with a few other colleagues in between so she couldn’t see) my Deputy Head who I was good friends was next to me and I leaned over to ask who that woman was and what she was here for. My Deputy Head replied ‘Oh that’s Mrs McDonald, she’s here for the meeting with you regarding your special needs chap…’

I said under my breath ‘oh my God…’

She said ‘Are you alright? What’s the matter?’

I explained (bearing in mind my deputy had interviewed me and had commented on how well I came across, how personable I was and they were very much looking forward to working in a team with me) that at school she was a supply teacher and not a wonderfully good one and how I was in a class that terrorised her for a few lessons.

She thought this was hilarious and started giggling.

‘Well, that’s going to be an interesting meeting for you. Have you changed much?’

I said no that I looked virtually the same and still had that very unusual not easily forgettable name…

She said she had to go back to her class but muttered something about wishing she could be a ‘…fly on the wall.’

I gulped stood up and slunked out of the staffroom back to my classroom.

Mrs McDonald appeared in my classroom and we chatted about the boy and his mum came to join us. During the meeting she seemed very much in control and came up with some great strategies and ideas in which to help the little boy. She gave no hint of ever having met me before and kept up a professional façade to the very end. I don’t know if she actually did realise who I was and I never saw her again to pluck up the courage to ask but I had had a large, well thought out and particularly uncomfortable dose of Karma that landed right in my classroom.

I’ve longed believed in what goes around comes around both as a way of making sense of other people’s actions and as a comfort that if you push an awful thought out into the ether then it will come back to you in some way. Maybe Mrs McDonald didn’t need to say anything because seeing how uncomfortable I was (oh and I was) may have been enough. She may have thought that seeing as I hadn’t turned out to be the reprobate that I was clearly showing an aptitude at school for then I really couldn’t really be that bad. Or she may have actually forgotten who I was because the actions of a stupid teenager who thought they were cool really didn’t make that much of an impact on someone who worked with teenagers’ day in and day out. Maybe that was really where the Karma could be found.

We laughed about it in the staffroom at the end of the school day. I say we but really I mean the staff laughed at me and I was teased for a few days afterwards but in the many years that have passed I have often thought of Mrs McDonald and wondered where she ended up. I was sometimes a prat at school and I got what I deserved. She was quite a lovely lady by all accounts; I hope she did too.

Posted in Read about me, The random thoughts of me | Tagged , | Leave a comment