Summer Memory Quilt Project

My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. He is now in a Southport EMI care home and has settled in well. He still knows me and I visit often when I’m here. Even though we are keeping his flat, I thought it was time I cleared out some of the stuff he’d been hoarding for ever.

In amongst the bedding I came across some old sheets that I remembered having on my bed as I child.

old cotton SheetsThey were threadbare in the middles and a bit yellowed in places but the edges were still pretty good. So I decided to make a summer memory quilt that will remind me of my childhood every time I come to Southport.

First I needed a sewing machine as mine was back in Southampton.



I thought something elderly was quite fitting for the fifty-year old fabrics I was using.

Summer memory quilt

So here’s how I did it.


The quilt measures 70″ x 76″, which fits a standard 4’6″ double with a 10″ overhang on the sides and bottom.

For this I needed 90 x 8 1/2″ squares made up of

  • 45 x green stripe
  • 23 x sprigged fabric
  • 23 rose-print (fussy cut so I had a rose in each square)

You will also need 4 metres of cotton batting or curtain interlining (much cheaper!) and a white sheet for the backing.

  1. Join the squares in rows of nine alternating the green stripe with the floral as shown in the photograph. Ensure four of the rows rows finish with a floral square at each end and the remaining five have a green stripe square at each end.
  2. Lay your rows out in quilt formation until you are happy with the arrangement.
  3. Press all the seam allowances of row 1 to the left, those of row 2 to the right, row 3 to the left and so on until all rows are pressed.
  4. Join all the rows together, slotting the seams together at the little step (produced by pressing the seams in different directions). This is your quilt top.
  5. Press these joining seams open.
  6. Press the quilt top on the right side, ensuring that you don’t dislodge any of the seam allowances on the wrong side.
  7. Press and lay the backing sheet on the floor.
  8. Cut the batting or interlining to size, joining by butting the edges together and using a loose hand stitch. Lay this on top of the backing.
  9. Lay the quilt top, face up, on top.
  10. I quilted my piece, using a walking foot, 1/2″ in from each long vertical and horizontal seam but any quilting you choose will be fine. Or, if you don’t want the struggle of getting the rolled up quilt through your machine, use buttons!
  11. For the binding cut 4 x 4″ strips, 80″ long, from the green striped fabric. To avoid the risk of the binding looking a bit skewed, if it wasn’t quite square, I cut the binding with the stripes going across the strip instead of down.
  12. Fold each strip in half widthways and press.
  13. Pin one strip to one of the outer edges of the quilt, lining the raw edges up with the raw edges of the squares. Stitch 1/2″ from the edge. Trim all the excess backing and batting off flush with the raw edges of the squares.
  14. Pin and stitch a second strip to the opposite edge.
  15. Now flip the binding over and press. Fold under so it touches the stitching you joined it with. Press and pin.
  16. Attach the other two strips, leaving a 2″ overhang at each end. Flip over the binding and press. Turn in the overhang then fold under, press and pin.
  17. I machined round my binding, 1/8″ from where it joins the quilt, but it was tough stitching over the corners. Hand stitching will give it a softer finish.

Summer memory quildetail2I really enjoyed making this quilt. There’s a lot of sheets left over and next time I might add some old photos printed onto fabric.



Give Cushions a Chance

I’m halfway through Book 5 of my ‘How to…’ series of craft books. The working title is ‘How to Design and Make Fabulous Cushions’ although that may change, as they usually do..

But, believe it or not, this blog post isn’t a sales pitch, it’s about my thoughts and sympathies for the humble cushion.

Cushions don’t even get a bad press. They’re more or less ignored. Lined up by the hundreds in department stores, dumped in trolleys and baskets, taken home, placed artfully on the matching sofa and never really noticed again – until it’s time to change the colour scheme.

As I’ve been writing, I’ve begun to realise that cushions don’t have to be dull, boring and unnoticed. They can be used for more than slouching, sleeping and receiving dribble. They can be fun, interesting, educational, inspirational and informative.

They can convey your feelings about your favourite possessions…

'Don't Mess With My Camper'

‘Don’t Mess With My Camper’

They can remind you of a favourite place…

My Favourite Tea Shop

My Favourite Tea Shop

They can remind you of those that are no longer with you…

A family photo quilt

A family photo quilt

They can remind you of your holidays…

What I Did on My Holidays

What I Did on My Holidays

They can remind you of where you used to live…

My Childhood Home

My Childhood Home

But cushions can also be an education aid for children and those with disabilities. At the Industrial Museum where I volunteer, we regularly have visits from groups of deaf/mute children and their carers. Children like this only have touch as a means of communication and, as I was told by several of their carers, tactile cushions and soft toys are an invaluable education aid.

So as I work through my book, I will be rethinking the role of the cushion and its place in modern living. If you have any ideas or thoughts on how cushions could take a more active role in our lives, I’d love to hear them.

All my craft books are available on Amazon in eBook format, and, by the end of this week, in print format. You can find details of these and get lots of free sewing tips and videos on my website at

How To Dye Your Own Fabrics – Why I Dye

Why Do I Dye?

I have been teaching machine sewing for over twelve years and have been dyeing my own fabrics for most of that time, both for my students and for my own creations.


My nearest, decent, fabric shop is an hour’s train ride away. They sell a wide selection of plain and printed fabrics in most of the well-known ranges, but often I cannot find exactly what I want. This is no reflection on the shop, but since I have discovered fabric dyeing, shop-bought fabrics seem pale and uninteresting. They just cannot deliver the zing that my home-produced, procion-dyed fabrics can.

The variety and intensity of the coloured fabrics you can produce are entirely under your control.

Wall hanging for the local Brickworks Museum shop

Wall hanging for the local Brickworks Museum shop

A Whole New World of Colour

When you visit a fabric shop, or even buy on-line, your choice is limited to whatever is on offer. But once you get the hang of dyeing, you can create whatever colour you want and even a good many that you didn’t want – at first…

One of the most exciting things about dyeing is the element of surprise. When you’re not in need of any particular colour and you just allow yourself to experiment, you will be amazed at what you can come up with. Some pieces you may not like at all, but you can change them. If you’re using a good quality fabric – and we’ll get to that in a minute – you can overdye any that are not quite your thing, until they’re just right.

A Safe and Easy Process

Dyeing is not difficult. There are chemicals involved, and a fair amount of mess, but with a bit of care and attention to detail, home dyeing is easily achievable by almost anyone. Very little specialist equipment is required and you probably have most of the general equipment already. Anything you don’t have can usually be picked up cheaply at a supermarket or discount store.


Commercially-dyed and printed fabrics are expensive and, as long as labour prices in the Far East continue to rise, the price will keep on rising. High quality mercerized cotton fabric, ready prepared for dyeing and printing (PFD), if you buy it in lengths of at least 10 yards (or metres), can work out at less than half the price, per metre, than commercial fabrics. And it is usually 60” wide; instead of the traditional 45” width of those you buy.

I buy my dyeing fabric, in 60m bolts, from a former mill town in the North of England. I am not under any misapprehension that it is woven there any longer, but it is heartening to be able to buy it in the same country!

Initial outlay for dyes and chemicals, can be quite expensive, but you need only three basic primary colours to begin with, and black. I say begin with, but I have been dyeing for over five years now and still only buy basic primaries and black. I may buy a different shade of primary occasionally to mix things up a bit, but I still prefer to experiment with mixing my own colours rather than buy ready-mixed.

The Procion dyes I buy are very economical and a little goes a long way, as you will find when you start to clean up after a dye session.

All the other equipment you will need is cheap and readily available, if indeed, you don’t have it already.

So give dyeing a go – you’ll love it!

This post is an excerpt from my new eBook ‘How to Dye Your Own Fabric’. If you’d like to get the book for yourself I’ve given you the link below:


How to Get Started in Free-Machine Embroidery – Laundry Bag Project

In this post I’d like to share one of my favorite projects with you – a stylish and useful laundry bag. This project is great for practicing applique and free machine embroidery and, if you customize it with your family’s names – you might even get them to put their laundry in it!

Laundry bag1

Make this fun laundry bag in any colour or size you want. If you want to make one for everyone in the family, why not personalise it with their names?

Washday Laundry Bag

 You Will Need

1/2m strong cotton fabric

Fabric scraps for washing appliqué

Fusible web for washing appliqué

Machine embroidery and polyester thread in black

2m cotton cord

Embroidery hoop

Hand-Dyed Fabrics

A range of hand-dyed cotton fabrics are available from

Machine Setup

All seam allowances are 1/2” (1.25 cm) unless stated otherwise.

A 2.5mm stitch length is used throughout except for the addition of appliqué images.

A standard zigzag foot is used throughout unless otherwise stated.

To Make Your Laundry Bag

Cut Your Pattern Pieces

1        From the cotton fabric, cut 2 x rectangles 19” (48cm) x 16” (41cm).

2       From the remaining cotton fabric, cut 2 x strips 2” x 20”.

Appliqué your Front Panel

3       Choose one of the rectangles to be the front panel and lay it on a flat surface with one of the shortest edges at the bottom.

4       Measure 8” from the bottom edge of each long (19”) side and mark these points.

Marking position of washing line

5       Using a dressmaker’s curve or curved ruler and some tailor’s chalk, draw a curved line between these points. This will be the position of the washing line.

6       On the paper side of your fusible web, draw an assortment of clothing or soft toys you might find on your washing line. These do not have to be artistically correct – have fun!

7        Roughly cut out each shape.

Note: If the recipient has a favorite toy, pyjamas or t-shirt, you could make one, or two, of the pieces a similar shape and color.

8       Choose the colors of your washing items from your fabric scraps and iron each piece.

9       Referring to the instructions for the brand of fusible web you are using, fuse each clothing shape onto the wrong side of your chosen fabrics and carefully cut out.

10   Arrange your washing with the top edges just slightly below the curved line until you are happy with it.

Placing washing items on line

11     Fuse in place.

12    Refer to your machine instruction manual and set your machine up for machine embroidery, fit an embroidery or darning foot and thread the top with black embroidery thread and the bobbin with black polyester thread.

13    Hoop your fabric, so a number of complete washing items are encircled (this will depend on the size of your hoop). Ensure your appliqué is on the recessed side of the hoop.

Hooping the washing items ready to embroider

14   Embroider around each article of clothing, adding details as required.

Embroidering washing items

15    Add pegs to each clothing item or toy.

16   Refer to your instruction manual and set your sewing machine for normal stitching. Fit a standard straight stitch/zigzag foot to your machine and using a 3mm length straight stitch, stitch several times over the line marked earlier for the position of the washing line.

Add your Writing

17    Using a ruler and tailor’s chalk, draw a straight line connecting the two ends of the washing line.

18   Mark the central point of the line and from this point, draw a box 7” x 3”, so the bottom 7” edge of the box rests on the line. Your embroidered word, whatever you have chosen, should fit inside this box, but if you are using a longer name or several words you may need to increase the size of the box accordingly (and the size of your hoop!).

Marking position of writing box on laundry bag

19   Now, on a sheet of paper, draw out the 7” x 3” box and write the word you are intending to embroider inside in a neat copperplate. Try to ensure there is an equal amount of space above and below the word.

20  Once you are happy with your word, trace over it a number of times with your finger as described in the previous section.

21    Place your front panel in the hoop, centralising the box as accurately as possible.

22   Set your machine for free machine embroidery as before, and embroider your word. Don’t worry if you go off a little here and there, this will only add a little homemade charm!

Embroidered Laundry bag word

Assemble your Laundry Bag

23   Place the bag front and back panels right sides together and pin round the two sides and the bottom.

24  Set your sewing machine for a 2.5mm straight stitch and stitch round the three sides.

25   Diagonally clip the two bottom corners.

26  Press open the side seams.

27   Turn over ¼” all round the top of the bag and press.

28  Turn over another ¾” and press again.

29  Place some pins at 90 degrees around the top of the bag and stitch close to the lower fold. Turn the bag right way out, pushing out the corners.

30  Now stitch together the two 2” strips along one of their short ends and press the seam open. Trim the length of the strip to 32”. This strip will be your cord casing.

31    Turn in ½” on each short edge of the strip and press.

32   Turn in ¼” on each long edge of the strip and press.

33   Using tailor’s chalk, mark a line 2” below the top edge, all the way round the bag.

34  Starting at the right hand side seam (with the front panel facing you) pin the pressed strip, with the raw edges facing the bag, all round the bag, finishing back at the side seam. Try and place the seam, in the pressed strip, at the rear of the bag.

Placing of cord casing on laundry bag

35   Stitch all round both long edges of the cord casing about 1/8” from the edge, working a few reverse stitches at the beginning and end of each seam to secure.

36  Apply a piece of sticky tape to each end of your cotton cord to prevent fraying while threading it through the casing.

37   Using a large safety pin, fastened to one end of the cord, thread it through the casing and knot the ends together securely. Remove the tape as fraying is limited by the position of the knot.

The bag looks better filled, so get your family to fill it with their laundry!

This project is from my eBook ‘How to Get Started in Machine Embroidery’. If you’d like to buy the book, which has all the instructions you’ll ever need for free machine embroidery as well as more projects and ideas, Here’s the link:

How to Make a Living From Crafts – Part 4 – Group Sessions and Parties

In these posts, I want to share some of the main points of my ebook, ‘How to Make a Living From Crafts’ with you. The book is available on Amazon and I’ve given you the link at the bottom of the page.

You can also catch my trailer video at:

Group sessions – (sewing sessions that is!) are a great way to earn some extra income for your craft business and a great way to give customers a great day out. The traditional hen night where everyone gets roaring drunk and makes a fool of themselves seems to be becoming less popular. Lots of hen groups are looking for themed days where making or doing something as a group will be a day to remember instead of a day forgotten the next morning… I have had several hen parties of between 6-10 people come along for a full day on a Saturday. One group made a couple of  patchwork squares each which I then helped them join into a wedding quilt for the bride. One group wanted to learn how to make Roman blinds so they could help the bride furnish her new home.

How to Make a Living From Crafts has this to say about Group Sessions:

You might also be able to offer special rates for groups or parties of friends. Offering workshops to readymade groups has many benefits. You will instantly have a full class, which has saved you a lot of time and advertising costs. The members of the group already know each other and are likely to tell other friends and groups. You may even find that some of the group want to join your regular weekly sessions.

But it doesn’t have to be a special occasion. Some groups of friends just want to get together and do something different from their usual hobbies. I had one group of upholsterers who, deciding they wanted one afternoon a week doing something other than cover chairs, booked a 6-week session on curtain-making.

I’ve just given you a flavor of my book ‘How to Make a Living in Crafts’ in my posts as it is too long to reproduce completely but if you want to buy the book in it’s entirety, here’s the link:

Front Cover3

If you’re in the US:

or if you’re in the UK:

How to Make a Living from Crafts – Part 2 – Weekly and One Day Workshops

So you’ve been making and selling. But it’s hard work, often for a little return. Customers are so demanding, they don’t know what they want and when you give it to them, they’re not happy.

So why not teach?

Here’s what I say in ‘How to Make a Living from Crafts’

the musician can teach music in addition to performing, the photographer can teach photography in addition to taking and selling photographs, the artist can teach painting, the baker or confectioner can teach cooking or sweet-making, the jeweller can teach silver-smithing, in addition to selling jewellery, and the stitcher can teach sewing in addition to selling cushions or quilts. This last example is the one I shall be concentrating on in this book but as you can probably see, the same principle can be applied to lots of other craft related businesses.

Teaching can bring you a regular income by offering regular weekly workshops or one-day courses. It can also bring you a constant supply of repeat customers.

Weekly Workshops

If you decide to teach sewing, your main business will probably involve teaching your skills to beginners and improvers on a weekly basis. Showing your students how to get the best from their sewing machines and helping them to tackle projects of their own choice is very rewarding for both of you.

A family photo quilt made by one of my students

A family photo quilt made by one of my students

I recommend that you keep your workshops small – less than 10 people. This ensures that each student receives the individual attention that they need to complete their projects. It ensures you are not run off your feet and it also means that you are offering a superior service when compared to the local college or evening class who will be charging a similar price but will usually have larger numbers of students. Many of my customers are people who have tried college sewing workshops (when they existed) but found that if they weren’t demanding (and loud) enough they hardly saw the tutor!

One-Day Workshops

You could also offer one-day workshops in specialized subjects, such as embroidery or cushion-making. In a one-day workshop, it is a good idea to have everyone making the same thing and to produce written instructions so the more confident in the class can carry on while you help those most in need.

One-day workshops will not always generate repeat business; but, if those who have attended the workshop have enjoyed themselves, they are likely to keep an eye out for future workshops and bring their friends. They may also decide that, after having a taster of your workshops that they would like to join a weekly class and become a regular customer.
One day workshops can generate a significant amount of income and, if you are prepared to offer several a month, this will make quite a difference to your business.

A one-day workshop project in progress

A one-day workshop project in progress

Most of my one-day workshops were filled with my weekly workshop customers who often brought a friend! They loved their weekly sessions but relished the idea of making something in a day – and they liked the buffet lunch too!

I’ve just given you a flavor of the book in my posts as it is too long to reproduce completely but if you want to buy the book in it’s entirety, here’s the link:

If you’re in the US:

or if you’re in the UK:

How to Make a Living from Crafts – Part 1

How to Make a Living from Crafts

Here’s an excerpt from the first part of one of my craft eBooks – hope you find it useful.

For over twelve years, I’ve been running Time4me Workshops  from my home in Hampshire on the South Coast of the UK. During that time, I have often been asked for advice on how to start a business making crafts and running workshops. This book is my response to those requests and I hope it will encourage you to follow your passion and turn your hobby into a business.

Assessing the Opportunity

This first part will help you decide if you’ve got the skills to teach and if there is any real potential in a business like this.

Making a Living from Making

Many people turn their interests and hobbies into small businesses by making things and offering them for sale. These include, artists, writers, photographers, bakers, confectioners, jewellers, knitters and stitchers. But to make enough money from making you need to be both good at what you do and good at running a business.

Cottage cushion

When I visit craft fairs, I always make a point of talking to stallholders and ask how they are getting on. Most, in the spirit of the event, will say that things are going well. But when pressed will admit that they are not making a living from their business. Many don’t even cover their costs.

Craft sellers often tell me that they cannot charge what their items are worth, that they don’t charge for their time or that people won’t pay any more. Many more tell me that they love what they are doing and aren’t interested in making money from it.

Making a Success of Crafts

Making your living by making things is always going to be difficult, even for the best craft business, and in order to stand a chance of success, take some time to consider the following principles that I have learnt from my own, and other peoples, mistakes.

1. Charge a realistic price for your goods

2. Make high-quality items

3. Make unique items

4. Make something practical

Finding New Customers

The main disadvantage with operating a business that sells craft items is that you have to find new customers every day – there are few repeat customers, especially at craft fairs.
If you run your business online, via a social media site or online shop, there are many ways to get your items seen by the public but getting them to buy can take a little more time and effort.

Keeping Hold of your Customers

Wouldn’t it be good if every customer became a life-long regular customer? And what if every customer found you even more customers? That would offer real stability to your business. In fact, it would thrive and grow exponentially. You could spend less time and money on advertising and doing more of what you enjoy.

Teaching as a Sideline (or a Mainline)

Many crafts people discover that they can achieve a stable regular income by teaching other people to do what they do. There are many people out there who want to be able to make things – people who wish they had paid more attention in crafts lessons in school and young people who didn’t learn traditional skills from their parents. If you have developed your skills to a point where you can make high-quality goods, then you probably also have the knowledge to teach others.

I’ll share more about teaching crafts in my next post…

Front Coverblog

I’ve just given you a flavor of the book in my posts as it is too long to reproduce completely but if you want to buy the book in it’s entirety, here’s the link:

If you’re in the US:

or if you’re in the UK: