Friday, May 29, 2009

Feathers - non-bird variety!

Whilst still on the subject of birds, am still plodding on with my feathers a la Patsy Thompson. 
Practise, practise, practise is Patsy's mantra - but mine seem to be getting worse. 
I'm probably rushing - and didn't use water soluble thread on this trapunto feather - which I should have done.
I used some cheap old calico I bought years ago which was inclined to pucker, whereas I understand that cotton sateen is what the pro's use and gives better results. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!.
Have had to send to US for some cotton sateen as no-one appears to stock it in UK. Could only obtain it in white so will have to dig out my dyeing materials from the shed and have a dyeing session at top of garden whilst weather holds out. I use a microwave for dyeing small quantities. 
Hari Walters Book - "Exploring Machine Trapunto" is excellent.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Watching the birds - feathered variety!

We have enjoyed watching the coming and going of the birds this past week. Lots of activity with starlings/sparrows/blackbirds and bluetits plus the occasional pigeon in the garden.
Even spied a great spotted woodpecker munching on a fatball the other day - which caused great excitement - was desperate to photograph it but my camera was, for once, not to hand - typical! 

Lots of starlings showing their babies how to eat. Much squabbling.  Blue-tits about to fledge any day now.  We sit with eyes glued to the nesting box but I bet they'll flee the nest when we're not around - as happened last year.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Twin needled Feathers, Patsy Thompson, & priorities . . .

Now that I've discovered Patsy Thompson (website on side bar)  -   cannot understand why have I not come across this talented lady (Queen of Feathers) before - a well kept trade secret(?) and much as I want to perfect my feathers,  I'm afraid Patsy's fabulous feather-stitching is having to take a back seat for a while. A matter of priorities. 
A shame as I planned to experiment using twin needles for the feathers. Twin needle FMQ vermicelli was used on my Singing Garden quilt and I liked the effect. Can't see any problems with twin needled feathers, providing I take my time, but unfortunately will have to wait. Intend to put Patsy Thompson feathers on the winter version of SG quilt which at the moment is a pile of blocks.

Stephen was very poorly in the night and I am waiting to call the cancer nurse at the surgery when it opens  - in 10 minutes. The district nurse is due to call this afternoon, but he cannot wait that long, given his present condition.
Stephen was not at all well yesterday afternoon and evening - too weary to watch his beloved football - sat in his armchair, wrapped in blankets.  
Had a series of extremely high temperatures accompanied by rigors and heavy sweating in the night which left him very weak and listless. 
I shall be so relieved when my daughters arrive tomorrow as my youngest is a nurse - ex midwife - and she will know what to do and take charge, whilst my eldest girl is very cheerful, practical, and helpful.  Not seen them since January, tho' they telephone daily.

This house is certainly short on cheer at the moment.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Golden Feathers . . . first attempt . . .

My Very First Feathers - a la Patsy Thomson . .

Have admired old fashioned quilts with their meticulous feathers and envied the quilters who made them.  Tried marking out complete feathers in an attempt to stitch lovely shapes - but to no avail.
Finally - by accident - came across Patsy Thompson a few weeks ago. 
(click on side bar -
Purchased a number of her DVD's -  sat for hours glued to the set, whilst Stephen rested (he watched some of them - found them relaxing). 
Played and replayed the videos - making sketches as I gazed with awe at Patsy's seemingly simple methods.  She is a first rate tutor and you will learn a LOT!
I have just about filled my notebook with drawings of feathers. 
Reached a stage - this afternoon when Stephen was sleeping - and felt confident enough to try reproducing a feather or two on a spare piece of bright yellow Michael Miller fabric. 
This 'golden feather' sample piece is my very first attempt at drawing feathers with a topstitch needle and different coloured embroidery threads on fabric. 
I think I've made a fair start - apart from wonky feather which had a mind of its own - and learned one lesson - that adding a contrasting colour emphasises faults or wonky curves - and that one has to be careful when choosing thread - both colours and weight - as Patsy explains in her DVD's.  
Must perfect my feathers before attempting clever additions and thus avoid making same mistake again.

Reverse side . .

Wonky feathers - will do better next time . . contrasting colours emphasize faulty stems.

Next step - practising leaves and vines . . .

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Weary . . . .

Stephen has dragged himself around these past 2 days. Not slept for a few  nights and very weary during the day. For the first time he actually said, "I don't feel at all well" whereas he usually manages to put on a brave face.   He slept all this afternoon and evening, in a big armchair, wrapped in a large rug. Took some paracetamols and went to bed. No appetite at all today.

Stephen took a pill last night to help him sleep. I looked it up on the internet and it states it also acts as an antidepressant. This may be the reason he felt so drowsy and weak today  - tho' I thought he was weary and his complexion a tad yellow yesterday.  He finished a course of steroids 3 days ago which may have some bearing on his present state of health.
He's going to talk to the oncologist tomorrow. Let's hope the doc can make Stephen comfortable.
Today was worrying.

Sampler Quilts for Beginners . . .

Some experienced quilters are apt to be dismissive about sampler quilts, but I think they are a first rate vehicle for teaching the craft of patchwork, applique and quilting to beginners.

It was Barbara Olson who said, "the framework that quilt blocks provide is a safe place to explore the creative process."  I heartily agree with her as far as beginners are concerned.

She goes on to say that "students can experiment and break the rules within the safety of the framework" which is what I encourage my students to do as you can see from the quilts pictured below.

We had some good times and plenty of laughs over the months. Much ooh-ing and aah-ing over each other's work.
All the quilts will be finished by end of August.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quilts made by GPQ students on my Beginners Sampler course this year - on display at Bilsborrow Exhibition.Some are work in progress.

Sleep problems . . .

Stephen was awake for most of the night - having had numerous night sweats - looked exhausted, was very depressed and extremely grumpy this morning when I took him his early morning tea.

One can understand his grumpiness - given his illness, and I usually try to let it flow over me - but he was particularly angry this morning and, as I keep repeating, feel helpless tho' I do try to assuage his anger by being extra nice, but it doesn't always work, so I back off and 'do' something domestic, perhaps light dusting at waist level for example!

I made an appointment for him to see our GP this morning in the hope the doc can prescribe something to allow him to get some rest at night. 

I think the bottom line is that Stephen is frightened - as would most people wouldn't they, given the extent of his cancer?

Mr L - bowel specialist at Hope Hospital -  said yesterday that it was too early for Stephen to think of a colostomy (bag) but to continue with the present regime of drugs and, of all things, Senna -  which rang a bell. 

I can still remember being woken every morning at 5 a.m -  in a Kings Lynn maternity home (1953) having given birth to my first baby - with a cup of hot Senna tea.  
Tho' foul tasting, it certainly did the trick!! Hope it works its magic with Stephen.

Talking of my first 'baby' - she is coming up from Gloucestershire on Saturday to stay with us, and my youngest 'baby' is coming down from Edinburgh the same day. They are going to stay for a few days.  I cannot wait to see them, as it's been 4 months since we last met.
They are good cheerful girls - coming to help and support their mum and hopefully make Stephen feel a trifle better.

If I envy anything or anyone, it's people who live close to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  
I think it is one of life's pleasures to be amongst your family - especially in times of need.  
I miss my children with all my heart and can hardly contain my excitement about seeing the two girls on Saturday - not forgetting my lovely 16 year old grandson who unfortunately has learning difficulties but has a loving nature and is my sweetheart.

My son lives in the Highlands - married, with 4 children and lives a busy busy life with lots of calls on his time, so I only see him periodically when I can get up to the Highlands or he can manage to come down here. 

With hindsight, I think one of the hardest things in life is to stand back and let your children 'go'.  This is something I have made myself do all their lives. Encouraged them to be independent and free to live their own lives - with some reservations and some guidance during their teenage years - but certainly no interference in their adult lives. They've all done well and, I'm glad to say, are well-balanced, happy, and successful adults.  It's been very hard at times to take a back seat when they marry and set up home with a spouse.  Was determined not to be an interfering old mother-in-law!

I'm sure many folks will have had similar experiences when their children up-sticks and leave the family home for careers, partners, and pastures new. It's called the 'empty nest syndrome.'

It would appear that the more you educate and push your children to achieve - the further away they have to live -  being very little in the way of work in a small village.
Sometimes I wish the girls were living around the corner - or my son was living in the next avenue.  
Would mean great happiness for me - but perhaps not as satisfying for them. 
Ah well . . .  dream on . . . 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happier Days . . .

Bowels . . .

Stephen is spending the day at Hope Hospital in Manchester  - seeing the bowel specialist, Mr L. 
He's hoping something can be done to relieve his present unpleasant symptoms. 

I feel so helpless, as there's very little I can do to make things better, apart from providing loving care. 

It requires the services of a top specialist like Mr L, who was originally going to operate on the bowel to remove a tumor, in January, but an MRI scan taken 3 days prior to op revealed new tumours in the liver. It was deigned too dangerous to operate and Stephen was put on palliative treatment.
His first bout of chemo proved disastrous, causing a heart attack and several seizures. Subsequent chemo has proved ineffective - which brings us to the present unhappy situation, of attempting to deal with distressing symptoms in order to make Stephen's life as comfortable as humanly possible.

I cast my mind back to happier days - a few months ago - December - when we drank to the future - and there was hope. . .

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Stephen read an article this morning about Major Phil Packer who, in spite of losing the use of both legs as a result of a rocket attack whilst on duty in Basra, managed to complete the 26.2 miles of the London Marathon - taking 13 days in which to do it.

Now that's what I call GUTS, he said.  I think every one of us will echo this sentiment.

You can read more about Major Packer by clicking on his website ( situated on the side bar . . . . and leave him a congratulatory message . . . . 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Journey towards the light." by Stephen.

"Do not go gentle into that good night - rage and burn against the dying . . ." by Stephen - from a poem of Dylan Thomas.

Out of my comfort zone. . . .

Stephen would like me to reproduce these two paintings, that he recently completed, in fabric.  
Hmm . . . 
I ask you - where should I begin? 
Was just beginning (tentatively) to venture out of my comfort zone - starting with feathers  . . . . 

The only person I can think of who could successfully reproduce these paintings in fabric would be Barbara (no relation) Olson whose quilts are breathtaking in their intricacy.

I shall gird my loins . . . . 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We visit the Hospice. . .

Stephen had an interview with Prof MB at our local Hospice yesterday to receive an in-depth assessment as to his present and future needs. I accompanied him.  It was a sad business and I cried at one point during the interview, realising this was the beginning of a slippy slope . . . or, as Stephen says,  "where I collect the ticket."

I'm not sure how/when we shall use their facilities as we have to wait for the official letter of approval re Stephen's needs.

It was very quiet.  Stephen fluttered his eyelids when shown the lounge in the day care unit containing about 8 patients of differing ages - sitting in a row - in silence, most with heads down - looking very much as though they had given up. 
Very depressing to observe, tho' the 2 nurses in the dining area were cheerful enough.
No activities were being held whilst we were there - but perhaps our visit co-incided with holidays and suchlike, or perhaps there was no demand for them yesterday.

We'll have to make a few visits on different days before we can properly judge and mustn't make criticisms until we know exactly what is on offer. 

Stephen is certainly not ready to sit and nod aimlessly - and I will do my utmost, with every bone in my body, to make sure he doesn't end up in that state.

He put his arm around me as we left the building - we looked at each other - and cried.


Sunday, May 3, 2009



I have, in the past, run workshops on "Know your Sewing Machine." 

First task for students was to create a 'sampler' of all the stitches on their sewing machines, using different needles ranging from Universal, Topstitch, Twin and Triple (yes, triple) needles of different sizes for pin tucks plus Flange needles for delicate lace and Broderie Anglaise Heirloom sewing. 

Stitches were extended/ decreased - top / bottom tensions loosened and /or tightened. 

Needle positions changed - stitches overlapped - patterns opened up.  

Experiments were done using different weights/types of threads, including metallics.  

I included smocking by machine if there was time - but by 4 o clock we'd all usually had enough and staggered, drained, out of the workroom.  

Ex students still come up to me and remind me of those days.  
Make remarks such as, "'Babs - I'll never forget that sewing machine course you used to do - it was absolutely exhausting - and was too tired to make my husband's tea when I got home!" 

Followed by, "WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO DO ANOTHER ONE?"    Hmm . . . . . .

Provide the Guinness -  and I might!

Have posted just a few of my own samples (above) to give you some ideas - with remarks pencilled beside each group of stitches as a reminder.


TWIN NEEDLES give ribbon effect to echo border ribbons..but practice first!